Extra! Extra! Adam Kaplan Performs At The White House!

The Easter Egg Roll is a 137-year-old White House tradition.

“06880” records are incomplete, but next Monday’s event might mark the 1st time a Westporter has performed at the largest White House gathering of the year.

Adam Kaplan – a 2008 Staples grad — will be part of the cast of “Newsies,” his Broadway show, performing on the “Rock ‘n’ Egg Roll Stage.”

Adam Kaplan (carrying a fellow actor on his back) strikes the same pose as shown on the Nederlander Theater door. This shot was taken the day the poster went up.

Adam Kaplan (carrying a fellow”Newsies” actor on his back) strikes the same pose as shown on the Nederlander Theater door.

He’ll be joined by DJ Fussyman, Diggy Simmons, Fifth Harmony, MKTO, Sesame Street and “So You Think You Can Dance” All-Stars. None of that means much to me, but I’m sure it does to the thousands of little egg rollers and their minders, who will pour onto the South Lawn.

This year’s event features sports and fitness zones, cooking demonstrations (including Bobby Flay), and classics such as the egg roll and egg hunt, plus storytelling and (cue “Newsies”) live music.

And you thought nothing ever got done in Washington!

Westport Library: A Home And Haven For All

Last week — as part of the Westport Library’s nomination for the Institute of Museum and Library Services’ National Medal process — users were invited to share stories, videos and photos on the IMLS Facebook page.

Many did. The library appreciated all the shout-outs. 

But this may have been the most meaningful:

This Library is like having an educational center and cultural center, technology learning center and more… in the heart of our town.

With only laptops, coffee, books and food to sustain them, families huddled together for comfort in the Westport Public Library.

With only laptops, coffee, books and food to sustain them, families huddled together after a storm in the Westport Public Library.

They are the first to invite people in when storms have left most of the town without power… right down to having a smiling greeter at the door welcoming people in saying, “Come on in; we have power!”, and proactively setting up extra tables and power strips, and making all who come through the door feel welcome.

It is a place where people from the homeless shelter (within walking distance) come, read and participate in events and activities. They also are welcomed by the staff, which enriches their experience.

I myself come here to do research, or for pleasure reading, or free classes. I’ve made use of the library in both good times and bad, having at times lucrative consulting work and at other times been near penniless. But I am able to come to this dynamic, beautiful library, well-staffed with amazing wonderful people, to use free first-come-first serve conference rooms to get on my laptop and cell phone to take a phone and screen interview, which helped me be successful in applying and interviewing for new work.

After many years of using the library as a “normal” patron, there was a period of time (just less than a year) where I had been “under-employed,” as a result living in my car. No one (or very few) in town knew this, as I kept it secret, but this library provided warmth, intellectual opportunities, vibrancy (and internet access) during that difficult time.

The Westport Library provides a warm home for all.

The Westport Library provides a warm home for all.

I have been working steadily the past several years and moved closer to my work, but I consider Westport “my library.” I make a small donation every year without fail, even having my company match it this year.

Needless to say, I love the Westport Library! Thank you.


Keeping History, Adding Excitement To Saugatuck’s West Bank

Bobby Werhane graduated from Cornell’s hospitality school. But he’s the first to admit he wasn’t really into the industry.

A finance major, he did “what every Cornell lacrosse player does,” he says. He went to Wall Street.

It was the summer of 2001. The economy was not great. He got a job with a “chop shop boiler room financial firm,” and an apartment in a brand-new high-rise on Chambers Street.

One morning a few weeks later, he heard a loud crash. He looked outside his window, and saw what he thought was a Cessna piercing the World Trade Center.

Bobby Werhane

Bobby Werhane

He went out on his balcony overlooking the Hudson, and called his father. While on his cell, he saw a plane banking hard to the left. Seconds later, it slammed into the other Twin Tower.

Neighbors poured into his apartment. A man was on the phone, talking to his mother in one of the WTC buildings. As they spoke, the building collapsed.

“I was going to be like everyone else,” Bobby says. “That day, my path diverged.”

A Cornell lax alum hired Bobby to run his popular midtown cafe/bar, Local. At 22, Bobby was bitten by the hospitality bug.

He went on to own, operate and sell 8 different restaurants, bars and supper clubs in New York. One was Gin Lane, in the Meatpacking District. Another was Johnny Utah’s near Rockefeller Center. A 3rd — Scarpetta — earned 3 stars from the New York Times.

Bobby learned about the artisan craft of cooking, and locally sourced quality products. But owning rock-and-roll bars did not seem “genuine” to him.

L'ArtusiHis next restaurant, Dell’Anima, created a real family environment. Then came L’Artusi, which really took off.

But Bobby became a father. Life grew more complicated. He asked his partners to buy him out. He used the profits to open Spasso, a small, rustic Italian place in the West Village.

Six years ago, his wife got pregnant again. “The only people we knew with kids lived in Westport,” he says.

They moved to Saugatuck Shores. “It was a beach shack with no air conditioning,” he recalls. “But it was on the water. We thought it was a palace. We loved it.”

They moved again, to Compo Beach. Hurricane Irene deposited 4 feet of water in their home; Hurricane Sandy brought 8 feet. Their 3rd child was due 3 weeks later. The family moved to Coleytown, then Green’s Farms. All along, Bobby commuted to New York.

One of Bobby’s best customers was a principal in Greenfield Partners. The real estate investment firm is headquartered in National Hall. Bobby and he talked about the renaissance going on across the Saugatuck River from downtown. The arrival of Bartaco, the new development planned for Save the Children, the success of Arezzo and more sounded enticing.

National Hall -- and the west bank of the Saugatuck River -- are among the most iconic scenes in Westport. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

National Hall — and the west bank of the Saugatuck River — are among the most iconic scenes in Westport. Even in snow they are alluring. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

“Growing up, I lived in the Midwest, Texas and Baltimore,” Bobby says. “I wanted roots.”

He found them in Westport. Now he’s digging them even deeper, on Saugatuck’s west bank.

Late last summer Bobby opened Neat. He loved the concept of the Darien spot — lovingly detailed coffee during the day, hand-crafted cocktails at night — and brought it to the former Vigilant firehouse on Wilton Road.

Neat uses the long space of the old Vigilant Firehouse well. There's a popular bar, and plenty of room for tables. (Photo/Riscala Agnese Design Group)

Neat uses the long space of the old Vigilant Firehouse well. There’s a popular bar, and plenty of room for tables. (Photo/Riscala Agnese Design Group)

“Restaurants are all about location. And this location is all about history,” he says. “I want this to be a communal place. There’s nothing more communal than a firehouse. And when it was a pizza place (Da Rosa’s Brick Oven), that was communal too.”

On Christmas Eve Bobby opened Vespa, just a few steps away. It’s on the ground floor of National Hall, occupying the space that once was Zanghi, and then a real estate office mortgage company.

Vespa’s location is even more important than Neat’s. National Hall dates back to the mid-1800s. For well over a century it served Westport as a bank, meeting hall, the very 1st site of Staples High School, and a furniture store.

In the early 1900s, National Hall (seen here from the intersection of the Post Road and Wilton Road) was one of the most important spots in town.

In the early 1900s, National Hall (seen here from the muddy intersection of the Post Road and Wilton Road) was one of the most important spots in town.

It fell into disuse though, and sat abandoned for years. In the 1990s, Arthur Tauck rescued it from the wrecking ball. He turned it into an upscale hotel (and donated the old-fashioned lamps lining the Post Road bridge).

Bobby opened up and brightened the ground floor. He envisioned a sophisticated menu — but also a place where anyone could hang out at the bar, enjoying a bowl of homemade pasta.

He’s succeeded. Vespa is lively. It’s fun. The food is superb. And there are special touches, like a traditional “Italian Sunday supper.” (From 4-8 p.m., the food — antipasti, salads, chicken, fish, whatever the chef comes up with  — just keeps coming.)

Vespa is warm and inviting. This view is toward the Post Road, where it meets Riverside Avenue.

Vespa is warm and inviting. This view is toward the Post Road, where it meets Riverside Avenue. (Photo/Riscala Agnese Design Group)

There have been speed bumps. The horrendous winter kept many Westporters from venturing out. Some  folks don’t realize there is plenty of parking, across the street and in the Save the Children lot.

But Bobby keeps smiling. As soon as  the weather clears, he’ll put tables outside. The very cool Vespa vibe will move outdoors, making the west side of the river even more exciting since — well, the mid-1800s.

How neat is that?

Giving It Up For St. Baldrick’s

Most kids would do anything to make sure their hair looks cool.

Some would do almost anything.

So when they hear about an important fundraising event that involves sacrificing their hair, they say, “Go for it!”

The Westport Family Y gym buzzed today. That was the sound of clippers, as hundreds of youngsters got shorn.

Taking it all off, in the Y gym.

Taking it all off, in the Y gym.

It was all part of the 11th annual TeamBrent St. Baldrick’s Celebration.

The idea is simple: Participants raise funds to fight childhood cancer. In exchange, they give up their hair.

The Y was behind the effort 1000%. There were opening ceremonies, a DJ, head painting, complimentary T-shirts, hats and photos — and free use of every part of the facility.

A selfie to remember.

A selfie to remember. (Photos/Scott Smith)

Before today, TeamBrent — named for a 6th grader who, after a dozen surgeries, 6 rounds of chemo and 2 stem cell transplants, has survived Stage 4 neuroblastoma — raised $3.4 million for St. Baldrick’s, and $7.3 million overall.

After today, that figure is waaaay higher.

When we tip our cap to these kids, all we see is something beautiful.

Oh My 06880 — Photo Challenge #13

Sure, last week’s photo challenge was easy: the “foot washer” drain at the Compo Beach showers, next to Joey’s (click here to see.)

I figured after the winter we had, everyone deserved a break. And a glimpse — however fleeting — of summer.

This week’s photo challenge is waaaay harder. Alert “06880” reader Adam Stolpen had the idea; super “06880” photographer Lynn U. Miller took the shot.

Click “Comments” if you know where in Westport this image is (and the sculpture it refers to). If you’ve got any memories of the late Jerry Kaiser — send those along too.

(Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

(Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

Frank Bruni: “A Generation Of High School Kids Throws Darts At The College Dartboard”

An overflow crowd filled the Westport Library yesterday, to hear Frank Bruni talk about college admissions.

Go figure.

The award-winning New York Times journalist — who has covered presidents and popes, served as chief restaurant critic, and now writes a wildly popular Sunday column — was here to talk about his new book.

Frank Bruni bookIt’s called Where You’ll Go Is Not Who You’ll Be: An Antidote To The College Admissions Mania. On this topic, of course, Westport is one of the most manic places on the planet.

Bruni, who is 50, grew up in an area similar to Westport — a place that could give us a run for our (college-leads-to-Wall Street) money.

But even though there was an implied competition back then, based on college stickers on the backs of cars — and even though Bruni joked about going to a school (the University of North Carolina) supposedly less prestigious than those of his siblings — he said things today are far, far worse.

Which is why he wrote his book.

Bruni said that as he realized he knew so many contented and accomplished people — and that they’d gone to an enormous range of colleges — he understood that all the admissions talk has been focused on the wrong thing.

“We should focus much more on how students choose and use college, than on how to get in,” he said. “‘Success’ comes not from where you go, but from figuring out a school’s landscape, and how to till it.”

Frank Bruni

Frank Bruni

Citing examples from his book, Bruni talked about schools like Rhode Island School of Design (where the founders of Airbnb went), and the University of Waterloo (which produced the most number of graduates with successful Y Combinator venture capital pitches).

Last year, Bruni taught a course at Princeton. Though he was “in some way in awe” of the school, he realized that many students were tone deaf about their place in it, and the world.

One eating club tradition is “State Night.” Students dress, and act, “as if they went to a state school,” he said.

Part of the reason is that high school students in places like Westport hear messages about the perceived differences between private and state schools (and see “rankings” of every private school too).

College pennantsPart of the reason too is that some students spend so much time trying to “get in” that they don’t care much about what happens once they do.

“We have a generation of kids applying to 18 or 20 different college. They’re throwing darts at a dartboard. They can’t understand what all those schools offer. So once they get there, they don’t know what to do,” Bruni said.

Audience members had plenty of questions.

They wanted to know what Bruni thought about the importance of “making connections” at highly competitive schools. (He thinks that students at those college are already on the path to success. “If you’re someone who reaches far, it doesn’t matter which school gave you its imprimatur. You’ll get there.”)

There are plenty of reasons for this admissions mania, Bruni noted — and it’s not only parents who share the blame. Colleges “cynically” take measures to drive down their acceptance rates — like not requiring SATs, or sending information to students who are clearly not qualified — so their yields will look more impressive in the US News & World Report rankings.

The overflow audience at the Westport Library.

The overflow audience at the Westport Library.

Bruni says it’s important for “influencers” — teachers, counselors, anyone talking with students — to change the tone of conversations.

Of course, those conversations often begin at home. “Kids should not feel that where they go to college is a validation — or repudiation — of their parents.”

The crowd was large and appreciative. Bruni’s message was especially important for teenagers to hear. But there were very few of them in the audience.

I guess the sophomores and juniors were at SAT courses.

And the seniors were home, waiting to hear from 18 or 20 colleges.

Orphenians Rock San Francisco

Orphenians have been in San Francisco just a day. But already Staples’ elite a cappella choir has spread their music far and wide.

As their plane landed, the high school students gave thanks to the Jet Blue crew in song.

Yesterday — the day before beginning intensive rehearsals for the prestigious Chanticleer Youth Choral Festival — the students and director Luke Rosenberg toured the area.

There — atop Twin Peaks — they looked down on the city.

Once again, they sang.

(Hat tip: Betsy Pollak)

Surprise! The Post Office Is Too Small!

The brainiacs who moved the post office from downtown to Playhouse Square have finally realized that the present location is just a teeny-tiny bit cramped.

They’ve embarked on an expansion project. That’s the good news.

Post office - interior

The bad news is, the scene above is not substantially different from the way it’s looked for the past 4 years.

Remember “Kunepiam”?

A couple of weeks ago, I posted a story about a strange engraving, on an equally strange door, set in the brick wall that separates the train station parking lot from the lovely Stony Point homes just beyond it.

The engraving said “Kunepiam.” It was surrounded by what look like Native American pictograms, and perhaps settlers.


No one was quite sure where it came from, or what it meant. “06880” readers thought it might have been part of witchcraft; perhaps a Christian symbol; maybe even more modern than anyone imagined. Mary Palmieri Gai wondered if it came from the Native American word meaning “long water land,” which Quinnipiac College was named after.

Yesterday, the Westport Library reference department posted the definitive answer. Most readers may have missed it — they were busy mourning the impending end of Mario’s, just across the tracks — so here is the complete result of what the researchers found.

But first, cue the applause for our library!


We started working on this question a few weeks ago when we saw this post. We are happy to report that “kunepiam” is derived from the Algonquin word “koonepeam,” meaning “thou art welcome.”

Our success in finding this answer was due to the extra effort made by Lucianne Lavin, director of research and collections at the Institute for American Indian Studies in Washington, Connecticut. She reached out to Carl Masthay, retired medical editor, linguist, and Algonquianist, who in turn reached out to Dr. Ives Goddard, a nationally known professional, senior linguist and curator in the anthropology department at the Smithsonian Institution. He was the linguistic and technical editor for the Handbook of North American Indians, and is a specialist in Algonquian languages.

Here is Dr. Goddard’s answer:

Westport Library logo“If (considering the picture at 06880, Westport, Conn.) you look up “welcome” in Trumbull’s Natick Dictionary [page 343], you find koonepeam ‘(thou art) welcome’ (cited from Josiah Cotton, with no page [1830]). I type “oo” for Eliot’s digraph (rendered “8” in Goddard & Bragdon: Native Writings in Massachusett, 1988). Some knowledgeable person has slightly re-spelled this, perhaps someone at the Bureau of American Ethnology that a letter was referred to. The word is a calque* on the English (“you come well”) but perhaps in use in Cotton’s day. “

[Ives Goddard, pers. com., 25 March 2015. Carl Masthay’s note: “Natick” is now referred to as “Massachusett.” Morphemes**: k-ooni-pia-m ‘you-well-come-animate.final’.]

Mr. Masthay suggested that a small plate be installed next to the stone to help “clear up this issue for eternity.”

Please reach out to us for any follow-up questions or reference questions in general!

– Susan Luchars, Margie Frelich-Den, and Dennis Barrow, Reference Department, Westport Public Library 203 291 4840, ref@westportlibrary.org

*The meaning of “calque”: a loan translation, especially one resulting from bilingual interference in which the internal structure of a borrowed word or phrase is maintained but its morphemes are replaced by those of the native language, as German halbinsel for peninsula. (Dictionary.com)

**The meaning of “morpheme”: any of the minimal grammatical units of a language, each constituting a word or meaningful part of a word, that cannot be divided into smaller independent grammatical parts, as the, write, or the -ed of waited (Dictionary.com)


Amazing. Now all we need to know is:

  • How do you pronounce it?
  • And how did it get there?

Be Careful Out There!

Just because you’re in a crosswalk, don’t think you’re safe.

On Tuesday a woman was struck by a car on Riverside Avenue, near Jr’s Hot Dog Stand.

As noted on WestportNow, one car stopped — legally, as it must — to let her cross. A very impatient driver drove around the stopped vehicle, hitting the pedestrian.

Office workers told WestportNow that the crosswalk has been the site of “numerous pedestrian accidents and near misses.”

The crosswalk on Riverside Avenue, at South Sylvan. It's pretty clearly marked.

The crosswalk on Riverside Avenue, at South Sylvan. It’s clearly marked.

It’s not the only one like that in town.

At the other end of town, the crosswalk between Goodwill and Stop & Shop is notorious for anyone trying to cross over to buy Westfair’s sushi or deli. Drivers who do stop there always worry about getting rear-ended by drivers flying by.

The crosswalk between Goodwill and (shown at the left) Stop & Shop.

The crosswalk between Goodwill and (shown at left) Stop & Shop.

A bit west, the crosswalk by Sasco Creek Village was where popular Westport schools custodian and Trader Joe’s worker Billy Ford was killed in December 2008.

That crosswalk now features a warning sign, with blinking lights. Unfortunately, they’re hard to see in daytime. So they might actually do more harm than good. Pedestrians may have a false sense of security after pushing the button.

The crosswalk where Billy Ford was killed now includes blinking lights on the right. They're hard to see -- but the white markings are not.

The crosswalk where Billy Ford was killed now includes blinking lights (right). They’re hard to see — but the white markings are not.

Bottom line: Pedestrians in marked crosswalks have the right of way. Drivers who see a pedestrian crossing — or about to cross — must stop.

But this is Westport. Our town is filled with Very Important Drivers. So pedestrians must expect the expected.

Like some asshat trying to go around a stopped vehicle, just to save 3 extra seconds.