Category Archives: Library

Library Honors Robin Williams

Robin Williams’ death saddened countless fans around the world.

The Westport Library is honoring the brilliant actor/comedian by screening some of his best films.

This Friday (August 15, 1 p.m.) they’ll show “Good Morning, Vietnam.”

Saturday (August 16) offers a double feature: “Dead Poets Society” (11 a.m.) and “Good Will Hunting” (2 p.m.).

On Sunday (August 17, 2 p.m.), it’s “Mrs. Doubtfire.”

Of course, the library has plenty of other Robin Williams videos in its collection.

Though I’m betting they’ve all been checked out this week.

Robin Williams in "Good Will Hunting" -- one of his best roles ever.

Robin Williams in “Good Will Hunting” — one of his best roles ever.

Thankful For Trees

The driver of a Toyota Camry is thankful for the bank of trees bordering the Saugatuck River, at the Westport Library riverwalk. They kept her from plunging into the water, after she lost control of her vehicle in the upper parking lot.

(Photo/Susan Holden)

(Photo/Susan Holden)

Fortunately, the driver was not injured.

Talking Big Bucks And Milwaukee Bucks With Marc Lasry

There’s no such thing as a free lunch.

But this Sunday at the Westport Library, you can hear — for free — a wide-ranging talk by probably the wealthiest man in a town filled with money.

Marc Lasry. (Photo/Avenue Capital Group)

Marc Lasry. (Photo/Avenue Capital Group)

On August 3 (2 p.m., McManus Room), hedge fund titan Marc Lasry — whose $1.7 billion fortune lands him at #1047 on Forbes’ list of the world’s billionaires — talks about the US and global economy, and the current investment climate.

Lasry — CEO and co-founder of Avenue Capital Group —  will address why good investments are getting harder to find, regions and industries where his firm is finding them, and how they find them.

And — because there is more to life than hedge funds — Lasry will also discuss his recent purchase of the Milwaukee Bucks NBA team, and his hiring of Jason Kidd as coach. Plus Lasry’s interest in politics, philanthropy and comic books.

This being Westport, Lasry will be introduced by fellow resident Arthur Levitt. He’s only the former chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Rick Eason Flies Under The Radar

Rick Eason graduated from Bedford Middle School in June. But the teenager knows aircraft technology, FAA regulations — and Westport skies — like a pro.

Rick has always been interested in electronics. Not long ago, the rising Staples freshman got a drone. His DJI Phantom FC40 Quadcopter is amazing. Equipped with a GoPro camera providing very high quality 2.6K resolution still photographs and video at 30 fps, plus 4 rotors, it tilts, spins and zooms its way over beaches, homes and fields.

Rick Eason and his drone.

Rick Eason and his drone.

Thanks to GPS it holds its position in wind, moves around a center point, and can even return to the exact spot it was launched if contact is lost.

“It’s so much fun to fly,” he says. “It’s so easy and intuitive to control.

“You can get views no one has ever seen before,” Rick adds with pride. “This is not like Google Earth. You can see your house from 20 feet above.”

Or the Westport Library. Here’s a view from Rick’s website that I’m pretty sure is the 1st of its kind:

Library - Rick Eason's drone

Rick’s dad, Tony Eason, installs solar panels. Rick’s drone helps him inspect roofs.

Drones are still pretty new. Rick saw another Phantom at Winslow Park. “06880” has posted amazing videos, taken by another owner, of Compo Beach and Sherwood Mill Pond. But right now they’re rare, and Rick gets plenty of admiring stares — and questions — when he launches his.

Drones are so new, in fact, that federal regulations can’t keep up. Though drones can rise 2000 feet high, the FAA classifies them as “remote controlled aircraft,” with a limit of 400 feet.

Technically, they can’t fly beyond the owner’s “line of sight.” But, Rick says, he can watch and control his drone through the GoPro camera, using goggles or a laptop.

Rick Eason's drone hovers over his front lawn.

Rick Eason’s drone hovers over his front lawn.

Owners need a license to make money off drones. So legally, Rick can’t charge for his photographs and videos. (That hasn’t stopped others from doing so.)

Rick has learned about privacy laws too. “When you’re 30 feet up with a fisheye lens, you might catch someone’s private home,” he says. “If they ask me, I’ll delete it.” But, he notes, “it’s really no different from taking a photograph of someone’s house from the beach with an iPhone.”

Drones are here to stay. Just a couple of years ago, they cost thousands of dollars each — and did not fly particularly well. Now, Rick says, “you can buy one for $300 at Barnes & Noble.”

Rick's drone, inspecting a roof.

Rick’s drone, inspecting a roof.

Rick loves his drone — but he’s already looking ahead. He’s saving up for a gyroscopic gimbal, to keep the camera even steadier than it is now.

Meanwhile, he’s thinking up clever new uses for his drone. At Staples, he might contribute aerial photograph to Inklings, the school newspaper.

And last Thursday Rick was at Compo, for the 2nd annual “06880” party. While the rest of us were eating, drinking and chatting, he was hard at work.

So here’s the “06880” community — 2014-style:

 

Cool Weather For Very Hot Art Show And Book Sale

It’s a Westport rite of summer: Artists and art patrons bake on the blacktop at the annual Fine Arts Festival. Book lovers swelter in the Jesup Green tent, at the library book sale.

It’s a satisfying — if sweaty — search for gems.

This year is different. The temperature is in the mid-70s. There is no humidity. Clouds are keeping crowds away from the beach.

Compo’s loss is downtown’s gain.

Art show culptures frame the Saugatuck River.

Art show sculptures frame the Saugatuck River.

One of 130 artists shows off his work.

One of 130 artists shows off his work.

There is more artwork -- plus food and kids' activities -- on Gorham Island, adjacent to the Parker Harding lot.

There’s more art — plus food and kids’ activities — on Gorham Island, adjacent to the Parker Harding lot.

What's an arts festival without music. Bands play under a tent, next to the Saugatuck River.

What’s an arts festival without music? Bands play under a tent, next to the Saugatuck River.

Some book sale patrons can't wait to start reading what they've bought. Or maybe they're deciding whether  to buy.

Book sale patrons read up before deciding whether to buy.

The Westport Library book sale depends on the services of hundreds of volunteers.

The Westport Library book sale depends on the services of hundreds of volunteers.

Lots of people no longer needed their copies of this book. Lots of others were ready to buy them.

Lots of people no longer needed their copies of this book. Lots of others were ready to buy them.

The Downtown Merchants Association’s 41st annual Fine Arts Festival runs today — Saturday, July 19 — until 6 p.m., and tomorrow (Sunday, July 20) from 10 a.m.-5 p.m., at Parker Harding Plaza and Gorham Island. Across the Post Road, the Westport Library book sale is on today until 6 p.m. It continues tomorrow from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Everything is half-price on Monday. On Tuesday, July 22 (9 a.m.-1 p.m.) it’s all free (donations are accepted).

 

 

Library Dedicates Book Sale To Shirley Land

Visitors to this weekend’s Westport Library Book Sale may be surprised to see Shirley Land there.

The longtime Westport civic volunteer died Sunday, at 96. Among her many accomplishments: She started the book sale 21 years ago, as a fundraiser.

It’s fitting for the library to honor her at the event. Her photo will be posted prominently, in the Jesup Green tent and throughout the adjacent building.

Shirley’s image will be surrounded by over 80,000 items, in categories from “Art” to “Zoology.” There are hardcover and paperback books; vinyl records, CDs and audiobooks; artwork by Westporter Stevan Dohanos; civil rights memorabilia (some signed), from the estate of Westport’s Tracy Sugarman; special collections — even plenty of Playboy magazines.

Shirley would love them all. She’d even smile at the Playboys. Nothing says “Westport Library Book Sale” more than that.

The Westport Library Book Sale runs from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. this Saturday, Sunday and Monday (July 19-21). Everything is half-price on Monday. On Tuesday, July 22 (9 a.m.-1 p.m.) it’s all free (donations are accepted). For more information, check out this website.

Shirley Land. Among her many accomplishments, she founded the Westport Library Book Sale in 1993.

Shirley Land. Among her many accomplishments, she founded the Westport Library Book Sale in 1993.

 

 

Fine Arts Festival Works Out Just Fine

Up in Vermont, Edward Loedding heard the reputation of the Westport Fine Arts Festival: It was a great show, but if you were stuck on Gorham Island, you were dead. It was hot as hell, and very few people ventured over.

So for several years, Loedding did not apply for a spot. Two years ago, he gave it a try.

He was put on Gorham Island — and had a “wonderful” experience. Last year, on Parker Harding Plaza, was even better.

Westport is now a highly prized spot on Loedding’s calendar. And he’s happy wherever he’s assigned.

 

"Sunset Barn," by Edward Loedding.

“Sunset Barn,” by Edward Loedding.

Loedding — a very talent photographer and digital artist — will be in Westport this weekend, for the 41st annual Art Show. (He’s in booth #64-65, along the river.) He joins over 135 artists — 39 of them new — showing works in drawing, mixed media, painting, photography, printmaking, sculpture, watercolor, glass, fiber, wood, jewelry and ceramics.

Plus music, food, street performers, face painters, a magician, a balloon artist and mime.

"Don't mime me," this guy said last year at the Westport Fine Arts Festival.

“Don’t mime me,” this guy said last year at the Westport Fine Arts Festival.

Loedding loves it all — especially the art-lovers.

“A high percentage know what they’re looking for, and appreciate it,” Loedding says. “I do 20 shows a year up and down the East Coast, and that’s not always the case.”

A photographer -- and potential customer -- takes a shot of some intriguing art along the river, in 2011.

A potential customer takes a shot of some intriguing art along the river, in 2011.

Westport’s Elizabeth Marks Juviler will be there too. She’s involved in many local activities — Girl Scout leader, PAL cheerleading coach, Young Women’s League president, Historical Society board member, Westport Country Playhouse staffer — but she is also a noted artist.

Juviler has participated in the Downtown Merchants Association’s “Art About Town” event, and sells in galleries and design stores, but this is her 1st time at the summer show. “As a Westport artist who has purchased art there, I wanted to be in the Fine Arts Festival,” she says. “It’s a goal I set for myself.”

Westport — its landscapes, nature and beach — inspire Juviler’s work. Three years ago, she began incorporating recycled newspapers and magazines onto her canvases. She combines headlines, words, pictures and layers of paint to create art that is “a moment in time.”

Scores of artists — and hundreds of art lovers — will have their time this weekend. And whether they’re on the river or Gorham Island matters not at all.

(The Westport Downtown Merchants Association’s 41st annual Fine Arts Festival is set for this Saturday, July 19 from 10 a.m.-6 p.m., and Sunday, July 20 from 10 a.m.-5 p.m., at Parker Harding Plaza and Gorham Island. Meanwhile, across the Post Road, the Westport Library hosts its “best ever” book sale, from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. both days.)

Artists relax near the work on Gorham Island, in 2009.

Artists relax near their work on Gorham Island, in 2009.

Remembering Shirley Land

Shirley Land died last night, surrounded by her family. She was 96.

Shirley’s daughter described her as a “remarkable, kind, upbeat, intelligent, interesting and inquisitive woman. She grabbed life with both hands, and enjoyed it immensely.”  

Shirley was one of the last of a generation of men and women who made a remarkable impact on Westport. In 2008, when she moved to North Carolina to be closer to her family, I wrote a story extolling her virtues. I am honored to reprint it.

As a new generation takes over Westport — altering its physical, political and social landscapes in ways large and small, positive and negative — an older generation fades. Men and women in their 70s, 80s and 90s — the ones who steered our town through the turbulent 1960s; who modernized old cultural icons like the library, and created important new ones like the senior center; who kept the artistic flame burning on stage and in galleries — are moving on.

Some go permanently, through death. Others fade slowly, moving away from Westport into assisted living centers or with their children. That is how things happen in a community, and the world. It is life, and life moves on.

But Westport must remember, and honor, the many folks whose countless hours of service and boundless stores of energy made this place what it was, what it is, and, in many ways, what it will remain for years to come. Which is why the departure of Shirley Land — who leaves Westport next month for North Carolina — cannot go unnoticed.

Shirley Land, loving life.

Shirley Land, loving life.

Land is small in stature — I tower over her, no small feat — but her imprint on our town is huge. Julie Belaga, a former state legislator and candidate for governor, first met her in 1965, when the Belaga family moved to Berndale Drive.

“We were next door neighbors,” Belaga recalled. “From the very start I realized she was a remarkable woman. She was dear, loving, high-energy and every time I turned around she was working on something. The first project I knew about was for underprivileged pre-school children, with Sybil Steinberg, but she went on to work for the bicentennial, the library, the arts — you name it.” Belaga remembered that Land was one of the Westport News’ first EASE columnists.

“Shirley was the best neighbor anyone could have. She was generous and fun. Everyone would be lucky to have Shirley Land as their neighbor.”

Shirley Land and her beloved husband Alex.

Shirley Land and her beloved husband Alex.

Westport got lucky when Land moved here in 1961. Immediately, she volunteered at her 3 children’s schools. “That was natural, because this was such a wonderful small town,” Land said. “I grew up in Chicago, and never lived in a small town. Moving here was a wonderful fluke, but it was the best thing that happened to us and our children.”

Mollie Donovan — no slouch herself in the volunteer department — said, “In 1974 the PTA Council took over the Westport Schools’ Permanent Art Collection. My sister Eve Potts, Dora Stuttman and I worked with Shirley on it. She said it would take a year. Thirty years later, it’s still going strong.

“Shirley is one of the most loyal friends I’ve had,” Donovan praised. “Any committee I ever asked her to serve on, she did, from arts shows on Jesup Green to anything for the historical society. Her energy and creativity are amazing.” Donovan also noted that Land ran “one of the earliest exercise groups in Westport” — at her backyard swimming pool.

In 1974 Land was appointed chairman of Westport’s Bicentennial Committee. Throughout 1976 she helped produce a full and wide-ranging calendar of events, culminating with a Grand Ball at what is now the Levitt Pavilion.

In addition, said former 2nd selectman and dynamo-about-town Betty Lou Cummings, “Shirley really made the Riverwalk come true. She was president of the Friends of the Library. She thought having a brick walkway along the Saugatuck River was a wonderful idea, and she made sure it happened.”

Cummings lauded Land’s “Yes, we can do it!” spirit. “She always had a positive answer. Everyone always turns to her because such a good do-bee. She’s made such a difference in our lives.”

Land’s other accomplishments include leading the United Fund (the precursor to today’s Westport-Weston United Way), and co-founding the Y’s Women organization.

Shirley Land

Shirley Land

More recently, Land turned her attention to the Senior Center. She was an original member of the organization’s Friends group, and served on the center’s policy and planning board. According to director Sue Pfister, “Jack Klinge, the president of the Friends of the Senior Center, says that whenever something absolutely had to get done, he asked Shirley. Then he was sure it would be taken care of.”

Land was active in the center’s home-delivered meals program, organized current events seminars and, with her late husband Alex, participated in aerobic chair activities. “She was so loving, committed and devoted to him, particularly in the final years of his life,” Pfister said.

“She is energetic, informative, well-versed, enthusiastic, upbeat and determined,” Pfister added. “If there was ever a problem, Shirley solved it immediately and correctly. She is so well-respected and loved. I’ll miss her — and so will everyone here.”

Perhaps no organization is more closely entwined with Land’s life than the Westport Public Library. “She was involved with everything here,” said director Maxine Bleiweis. “She reactivated our Friends of the Library group and was president of it. She was an employee here, doing public relations, for 11 years, and then she volunteered. She was the first recipient of our Special Friends award, and no one was more deserving of that honor.”

“It has been a privilege to have her energy and positiveness put to use for the library — as it has been for so many other groups and organizations in town,” Bleiweis added. “Her personal strength and her willingness to do whatever needed to be done, for whatever cause she was working on, are inspirations and examples to everyone.”

Shirley Land was not a big woman, but she had a broad reach throughout Westport.

Shirley Land was not a big woman, but she had a broad reach throughout Westport.

Five weeks from now, on March 31, Land leaves the town she calls “so comfortable. I feel so privileged not to have sat in a corner, but to have gotten to know such a diversity of people through so many activities.” She will miss all that — including walking along Compo Beach, an activity she continued with her husband even when he was sick. “We met everyone there, she said. “And together we solved all the world’s problems.”

Land looks forward to living near her daughter Carol in Chapel Hill and getting involved in the rich cultural and social life of the area. However, she admitted, “At 90 years old, this is a long jump to take. The thought of leaving Westport is a little scary.”

Not nearly as scary as imagining Westport without Shirley Land.

(There will be a small service in North Carolina for Shirley this month, followed by a memorial in Connecticut at a date to be determined.)

Nile Rodgers Works The Westport Crowd

Sure, Nile Rodgers’ “Booked for the Evening” honor was last week.

But the video was just posted on the Westport Library’s website. If you weren’t there — even if you were — it’s worth watching.

The musician/producer/composer/arranger/Chic co-founder is as talented a speaker as he is a musician/producer/etc.

Nile Rodgers

Nile Rodgers

He describes buying a house in Westport in 1979, after receiving a multi-million-dollar royalty check for “We Are Family” (to avoid New York taxes, among other things).

He hung out at clubs like Backstage and the Brook. Donna Summer and Ashford & Simpson lived here. “It was really, really fun,” Nile says. “I thought, ‘the suburbs are amazing!'”

He talks about being treated at Silver Hill, which earned applause from the large crowd. He’s been sober for nearly 20 years, which got an even bigger hand.

Nile went to Toquet Hall with Madonna (to see if kids were dancing to their music).

But one of the coolest days was a book signing at the Westport Library. They ran out of books — and scurried to Barnes & Noble to replenish the supply.

Click below for the full 13-minute speech. Nile Rodgers makes all of us in Westport feel like family.

 

“43 Questions To Ask” Before Moving To Westport

If you’re a Westporter, something got you here.

Maybe it was a town you once visited, and wanted to live in ever since. Maybe it was recommended by a friend. Maybe you methodically researched every place within an x-mile radius of y. Maybe you’re here because your parents lived here. Maybe even your grandparents.

The longer you’re here, though, the more you realize this town is different from every other.

And the more you realize it’s the same. Because, after all, every town is really just the sum of its shared values.

Yesterday’s New York Times “Your Money” column provided a fascinating look into that subject. In “43 Questions to Ask Before Picking a New Town,” Ron Lieber writes that a “values audit” is a good way of finding the best place to live — better, in fact, than school test scores, short commute or most house for the money.

According to the NY Times, checking out the library is a good way to learn about a town.

According to the NY Times, checking out the library is a good way to learn about a town.

Lieber’s advice is solid. Of course, he got help from experts — like former Westporter Alison Bernstein. (She runs Suburban Jungle, “guiding people to the places within commuting distance of New York City that suit them best.”)

Among the ways to scout out a new town:

Online forums. Check newspaper websites — and local versions of “06880” — to see what’s important in each town. And what are the comments like?

In-person reconnaissance. Bernstein advises parking in front of the nursery school at drop-off time to see who goes in and out: Nannies? Dads? Working moms? And how are they dressed? “If it’s chicks in yoga pants and you want that, great,” Bernstein says. “Just know what you’re getting into.”

Check out the high school to see whether students leave campus after school for team practice or to smoke cigarettes.

It's one thing to look at a school building. It's another thing entirely to see what goes on in and around it.

It’s one thing to look at a school building. It’s another thing entirely to see what goes on in and around it.

Eavesdrop on the sideline of sports games. “What dominates the conversation?” Bernstein asks. “Politics? Work? SoulCycle? Babysitters?”

Caregivers. If you’re a stay-at-home dad, will you feel at home? Will your babysitter need a car, and if so do most people have 3rd cars?

Mental health. “Are the local children garden-variety pot smokers who have a little sex and a bit of angst at a reasonable age, or is something more troubling going on?” Lieber writes, in one of my favorite Times sentences ever.

How do you find out? “Buy an hour of time” from the town’s leading child psychologist.

Summer. Is this a town-pool or a country club place? Does the town empty every summer because most people have 2nd homes?

Potential home buyers should watch a Compo sunset -- but also talk to folks on the beach.

Potential home buyers should watch a Compo sunset — but also talk to folks on the beach.

There are other suggestions too, like looking at the town library’s shelves, and writing the mayor.

I wonder what potential home-buyers will think about Westport, when they follow Lieber and Bernstein’s advice.

Will they read “06880,” and think this is a place filled with rude drivers, and where every old home is a teardown? Or will they think it’s a place that adores its beach, cherishes its beauty, and whose citizens speak passionately on every issue?

What will they think when they see the enormous variety of people dropping off their pre-schoolers? Can they tell by watching that we have a huge population of stay-at-home moms (and dads), and another huge population that rushes off to high-powered jobs?

Will they realize that many of the folks who are here in summer are not the same people who live here year-round — but many are? Will they know exactly who is grilling on South Beach on Tuesday evenings? What will they make of the many languages they will hear on the boardwalk, in Joey’s, at the playground?

Another place to learn a lot about Westport.

Another place to learn a lot about Westport.

Those are fascinating questions. There are probably as many answers as there are Westporters. Click “Comments” (and please use your real, full name.) The “06880” community would love to hear your thoughts.

So would all those other people in the Suburban Jungle, wondering if — and why — they should buy a home here.