Category Archives: Library

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.

 

 

Honoring Ann Sheffer: Queen Of Arts

If you’ve lived in Westport for any length of time, you know the name Ann Sheffer.

You may know her work with the Westport Arts Center. Or the Westport Country Playhouse. Or Westport Historical Society. Or Westport Library.

If it’s related to culture — and Westport — Ann is involved.

Last Saturday, the WAC honored her as its “Queen of Arts.” (Pretty clever: The event was their annual fundraiser, with a “Wonderland” theme.)

Ann Sheffer in her role as "Queen of Arts."

Ann Sheffer in her role as “Queen of Arts.” (Photo/Helen Klisser During)

The tribute included a 10-minute video, produced by Westporter Doug Tirola’s 4th Row Films. Plenty of boldface names appear, like Senators Blumenthal and Murphy, Jim Himes, Maxine Bleiweis, Miggs Burroughs and Gordon Joseloff, along with Ann’s brother, son, daughter, grandkids, and husband Bill Scheffler. (They met sitting next to each other alphabetically in a Staples homeroom, then re-connected 25 years later).

There are some great lines, including Miggs’ “her canvas is Westport, her palette is everyone in it.”

In whatever capacity you know Ann — or even if you’ve just heard her name — this video is well worth watching. It’s Westport — and Westporters — at their finest.

(If your browser does not take you directly to YouTube, click here.)

Clive Davis In Westport: From Janis And Springsteen To Lorde

After  nearly 6 decades in the music business, there’s little that surprises Clive Davis.

Yet when the 6-time Grammy winner, Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee and discoverer/promoter of megastars ranging from Janis Joplin and Aretha Franklin to Whitney Houston and Jennifer Hudson sits down for a public conversation with Rolling Stone‘s Anthony DeCurtis, Davis never knows what he’ll be asked.

Clive Davis - The Soundtrack of My Life hcThe 2 men co-authored The Soundtrack of My Life, a memoir about Davis’ long, astonishing life in the music business. They’ve done the Q-and-A format a few times before, and it’s always fascinating.

Westporters get their chance to see it this Friday, May 2 (7:30 p.m., Bedford Middle School auditorium) — for free. It’s part of the Westport Library’s Malloy Lecture in the Arts series.

Davis has plenty to talk about. An orphan who earned a full scholarship at New York University and went on to Harvard Law School, he rocketed from general counsel at Columbia Records to presidency of the company.

He discovered Joplin at Monterey Pop. He’s worked with Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel, Arrowsmith, Alicia Keyes, Simon & Garfunkel, Miles Davis, Rod Stewart and Kelly Clarkson. His influence has extended from Columbia Records to Arista, J and now Sony Music.

Recently, I pretended I was DeCurtis. I asked Davis a few questions, like how he’s managed to stay fresh in a career that’s spanned Janis Joplin in the 1960s, and American Idol stars like Hudson today.

“I love the industry, or else I wouldn’t still do this,” he said. “Music is a natural passion for me.” At the same time he’s combing through tapes and videos of old Whitney Houston, he’s excited about signing The Voice’s 18-year-old Avery Wilson.

Davis still mourns the premature death of Houston. He is proud of discovering the crossover artist — who sold over 200 million records worldwide — and helping her develop her natural creativity.

Janis Joplin had a piece of Clive Davis' heart.

Janis Joplin had a piece of Clive Davis’ heart.

Joplin’s career also ended far too soon, Davis said. In just a couple of years, he took her from “Piece of My Heart” to “Me and Bobby McGee.” He regrets never knowing what “that voice and unique talent” could have accomplished had she not died at 27.

Davis was on hand at the beginning of Springsteen’s career, too. The executive “stood back in awe” as the Boss honed his performance skills. Ever the businessman, Davis is now in awe of Springsteen’s “great concert grosses.”

Of course, no music industry mogul — not even a Hall of Fame honoree — is infallible. Davis passed on signing John Cougar Mellencamp, believing him to sound too much like Springsteen.

Davis always called that a big mistake — until Mellencamp told him he was right. “I auditioned for you way too early,” Mellencamp said. “At that time I was very heavily influenced by Bruce. Rest easy.”

Davis is 82 now, but his finger on the pulse of popular music remains strong. He called electronic dance music “not the healthiest trend,” because it has slowed the development of strong voices and held down albums sales.

Clive Davis

Clive Davis

But — pointing to artists like 17-year-old Lorde — he looks forward to the pendulum swinging back.

“I think there are individual artists out there with something to say. We have to make sure the next Dylan or Springsteen will be heard — and with albums, not singles. I think there’s great promise for that.”

Clive Davis will discuss all that — and more — in Westport on Friday. He’ll have interesting answers to Anthony DeCurtis’ provocative questions — whatever they may be.

(Clive Davis’ Malloy Lecture on May 2 is free — but registration is required. Click here for your seat.)

Sam Vail, Fukushima, And Why Westporters Should Be Very, Very Worried

For better or worse, Westporters are experts at the NIMBY game. Cell towers, group homes, a new synagogue — there are tons of good reasons those things should go in your back yard, not mine.

In 1967, we thought we took care of the NIMBY nuclear power issue for good. A utility company’s plan to build a nuclear power plant on Cockenoe Island — a mile from Compo Beach — was defeated (despite many Westport proponents). We now own the rocky isle.

So — as tragic as the 2011 failures at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant were — they generated little concern here. After all, Westport is 6,578 miles — one vast ocean, one large continent — away.

Of course, as “60 Minutes” made clear last Sunday, the disaster is far from over. The crippled plant still releases high levels of radiation daily. It seeps into ground soil, evaporates into the air, and leaks into the Pacific.

Children are particularly vulnerable to radiation. And — because wind and ocean currents know no borders — even affluent, suburban Americans may be at risk.

Sam Vail knows the dangers well. A native Westporter, his career took him to the very same Fukushima plant that continues to spew poisons today.

He is very, very worried.

After graduating from Staples in 1982, Sam learned commercial diving at the Florida Institute of Technology. He joined an Essex, Connecticut company that cut and welded dams and other underwater structures — including power plants.

In 1989 he became certified to work on nuclear reactors. Soon, he was sent to Fukushima. He returned a couple more times. It was lucrative work — but the more Sam saw, the more worried he became about the safety of nuclear power.

Watching news coverage of the earthquake, tsunami and subsequent power plant disaster was “mind-blowing,” Sam said last week. He was about to leave for Costa Rica — he’s now a solar power consultant — but he wanted to talked about what he’s seen.

The Fukushima Daiichi disaster.

The Fukushima Daiichi disaster.

“The first reactor that blew up was the first one I’d worked on over there,” Sam noted. “I knew how bad things would be.”

The more he’s learned over the past 3 years, the more worried he’s grown.

“This is the worst man-made industrial accident in the history of the planet — hands down,” Sam said. “I’m not a physicist. I just helped fix the reactors. But I don’t think they can entomb this. It’s an incredibly serious situation.”

Sam is surprised that — notwithstanding the “60 Minutes” report (which focused on the life of one displaced farmer) — scant media attention has been paid to the ongoing Fukushima crisis.

On Tuesday, April 29 (6:15 p.m., Westport Library), he’ll do his part to raise local awareness. The World Network for Saving Children from Radiation is showing “A2-B-C,” a documentary about the aftermath of radiation exposures.

Cockenoe Island, off Compo Beach. In 1967, it almost became the site of a nuclear power plant.

Cockenoe Island, off Compo Beach. In 1967, it almost became the site of a nuclear power plant.

Immediately after the film, Sam will join a Q-and-A session. Other panelists include Mariko Bender (a Fukushima native now living in Connecticut), and Dr. David Brown, a Westporter and Fairfield University professor who is an expert in environmental ethics and toxicology.

“This isn’t about politics,” Sam said. “It’s about the health of our planet. The particulates are already here.

“Five years after Chernobyl, there was a spike in thyroid cancer and other thyroid abnormalities.

“Well, Fukushima will make Chernobyl look like a tea party.”

Sam applauds environmental organizations that are trying to educate people about nuclear power (including the dangers of not-very-far-away Indian Point).

His library appearance is another way to do that. Sam Vail will be in his home town, half a world away from the Fukushima nuclear reactors he worked on.

But in many ways, Fukushima is also in our back yard.