A woman pulls into a gas station in Bridgeport and asks a guy: "How do I get to Danbury?"
The guy says: "Plead guilty."
Thank you. I'm here all week. That was my first ever Danbury joke, but I'm going to need more of them because the Hat City is currently making a case for itself as Center of the Universe.
John Rowland used to claim his hometown Waterbury was the Center of the Universe, mainly in the sense of its playing Bethlehem to his Evil Baby Jesus.
And former Courant writer Greg Morago used to claim the same distinction for West Harford because it was so perfectly positioned between the leading and trailing edges of American life.
But right now, Danbury is all that and a bag of chips, to use the type of incredibly-hip-15-years-ago locution favored by its mayor, Mark Boughton, who recently tweeted "Holla" in manner that left us agreeably puzzled about whether he was trying to be cool or was aware that he isn't.
Boughton also loves to tweet lyrics — although none of them are ever connected to the astonishing array of musical talents who have called Danbury home, including Marian Anderson, Laura Nyro, Charles Ives and Felix Cavaliere of the Rascals. Would it kill him to tweet "Can you surrey? Can you picnic?" Or "Life could be ecstasy; you and me endlessly grooving." (For years, I thought that was "and Leslie" and wondered who she was.)
Boughton is now officially testing the waters for a run for governor. His announcement last week coincided with an explosion of publicity surrounding Danbury's other principal source of fame: its federal prison.
The trendy Netflix series "Orange Is The New Black" is, effectively, set in the Danbury prison, and its creator, Piper Kerman, took to the op-ed page of The New York Times Wednesday morning with an eloquent denunciation of a plan to disperse Danbury's women inmate population to other penitentiaries where they would rarely see their families.
By afternoon, the feds were hitting the brakes on the plan and promising to review it.
This was good news (sort of) for "gifting table" ringleaders Jill Platt and Donna Bello, who were given stiff sentences the day before. Platt and Bello would report to Danbury — if it's still a women's prison — later this year, for sentences of 4.5 and six years, respectively.
Yikes. I realize theirs was nothing more than a Ponzi scheme served with crustless cucumber sandwiches. I also realize that they enriched themselves at the expense of other people who took losses they could not afford. There's a name for people like that: "Unprosecuted Wall Street Mortgage-Backed Security Traders."
Do you seriously think any of the people who brought our economy to its knees in 2008 are going to do six years anywhere tougher than a villa in Curacao?
Danbury houses more than 1,000 women, and Kerman argues persuasively that many of them could be punished less expensively in other environments where people do not slash each other with shivs made from ballpoint pens. (This happened there last November.)
The feds want to turn Danbury into a men's prison, which is what is used to be back in the days when it held an all-star cast of the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, Ring Lardner Jr., the Berrigan brothers, G. Gordon Liddy and Robert Lowell. Leona Helmsley did her time there, and miseducated hip hop star Lauryn Hill is there right now.
With such an illustrious (albeit federal) prison in his front yard, Boughton should have things to say about incarceration. During his campaigns, Rowland complained bitterly that Connecticut "coddles prisoners" (until he became one). As governor, he gleefully exported Connecticut prisoners far from their families to a tough supermax in Wallens Ridge, Va.
Maybe Boughton should add his voice to the chorus of U.S. senators opposing the idea of sending inmates far from children who, as Kerman wrote, "still need and want their moms."
I sense a charm offensive from the GOP. Boughton is irresistibly goofy, and Sen. John McKinney, already in the race, is an all-round nice guy. If these guys are channeling their inner Jimmy Fallons, they can even show a little mercy to prisoners and their families.
Colin McEnroe appears from 1 to 2 p.m. weekdays on WNPR-FM (90.5) and blogs at http://courantblogs.com/colin-mcenroe/. He can be reached at Colin@wnpr.org.