Category Archives: Westport life

Giving Thanks

Thank you.

Thank you to Westport, for being — despite the ease and frequency with which we/I often knock it — a wonderful, warm, creative, arts-supporting, involved and ever-evolving community.

Thank you to all who make it so. As Westport prepares for the future — with new retail and residential developments on both sides of the river downtown, and in Saugatuck; with bridge repairs in various states of discussion and (in)action, and many more changes in store — we are not all on the same page. But in our own way, each of us wants what is best for our town. And, thankfully, we are nowhere near as dysfunctional as Washington.

Thank you to the people I spend so much time with: Westport’s teenagers. You are smart, passionate, compassionate and clever. You work far harder than I did when I was at Staples. You’ve got far more pressures on you than I had. Yet you handle it all with maturity and poise (most of the time). And you do it with plenty of smiles.

Thank you to the readers of “06880.” You are never without opinions, information and feedback. You feed me ideas and photos. You read my words at 5 a.m., noon and midnight. And when I tell you sorry, I can’t post a story about your lost cat/upcoming book signing/daughter’s lemonade stand, you (for the most part) understand.

Those are my thanks, this Thanksgiving day 2015. I’d love to hear yours. And — more importantly — so would everyone else in this great “06880” community. Just click “Comments” below.

Thank you!

I am thankful I live in a beautiful town. I am also thankful I'm not a turkey.

I am thankful I live in a beautiful town. I am also thankful I’m not a turkey.

The Doors In Westport

A relatively new Westporter writes:

I can’t believe Westport allows door-to-door solicitation! It is very frightening to be home alone during the day with young children, and have strangers come to the door.

I have encountered everything from a man selling food out of his truck, to Optimum sales guys who show up at the most annoying times.

This is a concern for many people. I think it is dangerous that our town allows this. Who in Town Hall would we need to petition to get this changed? Thank you!

Door to door

Living in a condo — where we don’t even get Halloween trick-or-treaters — this is a new one on me.

So I went to my go-to guy: town operations director Dewey Loselle. He replied:

We do not have an ordinance that prohibits it. However, we do have an ordinance that requires a vendor to get a permit from the town (selectman’s office) before being able to do any sort of sales/soliciting door to door.

There is a small fee. The Police Department also does a cursory background check before we approve the permit. The permit says there should be no soliciting after 6 p.m. Persons soliciting without a permit may be reported to the Police Department.

There have been questions (constitutional) as to whether religious groups need to get a permit to go door to door, so we don’t make them get permits. Also, we usually don’t require permits for not-for-profits selling fundraising tickets (like for the Rotary).

Thanks, Dewey! Now, if you can take care of those !@#$%^&*s who call every night from “Customer Service,” the (not-Westport) Police Benevolent Union, Kevin the roofing guy…

And yes, I am on the do-not-call registry.

Thanksgiving Feast Returns Home

Four years ago, a devastating fire forced Westport’s Thanksgiving Day  Community Feast out of its longtime Saugatuck Congregational Church home.

Christ & Holy Trinity Episcopal Church opened its doors and heart on extremely short notice. It happily hosted the next 3 dinners too.

This year, the feast finally returns home.

It truly is a community event. Saugatuck Congregational partners with Temple Israel, the United Methodist church and Unitarian Church to produce the dinner.

Over 100 volunteers are needed. They shop, set up, prep in the kitchen, cook, drive, clean up, and handle dozens of other tasks. They’re the lifeblood of the much-loved Turkey Day feast. Click here to see what jobs are available, and sign up.

Donations are welcome too, to defray expenses. Checks payable to “Saugatuck Congregational Church” can be sent to 245 Post Road East, Westport, CT 06880. Put “Thanksgiving Feast” on the subject line.

We have a lot to be thankful for in Westport. The Community Feast stands at the top of any list.

(The Saugatuck Congregational Church Community Feast takes place Thanksgiving Day — Thursday, September 26 — from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. For details, click here.)

A small part of last year's Thanksgiving Feast.

A small part of last year’s Thanksgiving Feast.

Only 15 Days Till Halloween

Patricia McMahon’s dog Maceo and “friend” get ready for the Compo neighborhood extravaganza:

(Photo/Patricia McMahon)

(Photo/Patricia McMahon)

Kevin O’Brien Remembers Needle Park

I’m often surprised how far this “06880” blog reaches. Approximately 1/3 of our readers are former Westporters, living all around the globe. Most have fond memories of growing up here. Otherwise, they would not be interested in what happens here today.

Of course, everyone has a story. It’s important to remember that not all of them are wonderful and rosy.

The other day, I got an astonishing email. I don’t know Kevin O’Brien. Yet his tale — which he allowed me to share — is like nothing I’ve heard before.

But — at least as much as everyone else’s — it needs to be told.


I lived in Westport 45 years ago. After dropping out of Staples High School, my sister kicked me out of her house.

I was a hippie type. I slept in Needle Park [the former hangout — now a concrete plaza — on the northwest corner of Main Street and the Post Road, across from the old YMCA Bedford Building], on a bench in the snow.

A kind young policeman sometimes checked on me to make sure I hadn’t frozen to death. I had just turned 17.

"Needle Park," circa 1970.

“Needle Park,” circa 1970.

Across from Needle Park was a diner. Early in the morning, rolls were delivered. If I hadn’t eaten in a while, I’d pilfer one.

I sometimes panhandled for change at Needle Park. If I got 25 cents I’d get a huge slice at Westport Pizzeria. When I wasn’t lucky I used kitchen packets and hot water to make “tomato soup.”

I was 6-1, 140 pounds. I often went days without eating.

I volunteered at the telephone hotline crisis intervention center in the Y basement. Seasonally, I worked directing parking at the Westport Country Playhouse.

Kevin O'Brien celebrating Christmas in Westport, 1970.

Kevin O’Brien (center) celebrates Christmas in Westport, 1970.

We had a group of mainly homeless friends we called The Family. I miss friends like Susan Burke and her sister Sarah, and Helen “Cricket” Wooten, none of whom I’ve seen since then.

Two other friends were Dee Dee and Marie. They occasionally used heroin, which was everywhere in Westport. I would like to find either of them.

For a while we rented the upstairs and attic at 35 Post Road West, across the foot of Wright Street.

We sometimes hung out at Devil’s Den, and imagined the dragon/troll that lived under the bridge.

There were seemingly a lot of aimless, homeless kids back then. Celebs like Paul Newman and many more never stopped or tried to help any of them. I never understood that. They were all very charitable, just not in their own hometown where kids really needed help.

As tough as life could be, especially in winter, I loved Westport and have many fond memories. I guess it’s the difference between experiencing all that at age 17 and 18, rather than age 62.

I’m brokenhearted to see what happened to Needle Park (on Google Maps street view). I’m glad the pizzeria is still there, even at a different spot. On a visit in the ’80s I left notes written on paper plates for lost friends on the wall behind the counter, but never heard from anyone.

Kevin O'Brien, in the Navy.

Kevin O’Brien, in the Navy.

Eventually I left Westport and returned to Florida. A few years later I enlisted in the Navy. After 10 years of senior enlisted service I was given a meritorious commission as an officer.

I retired from the Navy in 1998, was elected to city council, and became vice president/director of operations for an international corporation in Georgia. I later retired for good, and moved to North Carolina.

I’m planning a visit to Westport in a couple of weeks, on the way back from a road trip through New England. Having developed some serious health issues, this is a bucket list trip for me. Westport is a chief stop. God bless Westport.

I guess I’m living proof that a homeless, aimless kid living on the street in Westport can turn out okay.

Seen In Green’s Farms: Maseratis And Roadkill

An “06880” reader living in Green’s Farms is stupefied by the drivers who roar through her neighborhood. Every day, cars race past at excessive — and dangerous — speeds.

Commuters drive particularly fast, she says. Through routes to the Green’s Farms train station, like Turkey Hill South, are “accidents waiting to happen.”

The area has also become a preferred route for folks taking Maseratis out for test drives, from the new Post Road dealership. “You can imagine,” she says.

Roadkill — including deer carcasses — are a common sight.

“The area is still called ‘Greens Farms,’ after all,” the reader notes. “It has a fair amount of open space, with an amazing amount of natural wildlife running around. Drivers should slow down and look around. It’s a beautiful part of town!”

Green's Farms' narrow, hilly roads are perfect for a Maserati test drive.

Green’s Farms’ narrow, hilly roads are perfect for a Maserati test drive.

She believes this problem goes beyond speed. “It reflects a mindset of those who fly through neighborhoods in which they have little or no investment. They often have no concern for their impact on the safety or concern of others who live in the ‘transit corridor.’ Can you say selfish?”

She wonders if other roads in Westport have similar issues. South Compo, Roseville and Bayberry are possibilities.

“How are they monitored by the police?” she asks.

The reader would like more signs, speed bumps, and enforcement. She understands the police have other priorities, and “it requires continual calls and reminders to get a patrol car to set up.”

So, “06880” readers: What do you think? Has our reader pinpointed a real issue? How has your neighborhood been impacted by speeding? What are the root causes, and what can be done?

Click “Comments” to weigh in — and please use your full, real name.

From Brooklyn To Westport: Life In A Changing “Hometown”

Antonia Landgraf was born and raised in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn. It was a tight-knit Italian neighborhood — like long-ago Saugatuck, perhaps — and she loved it.

Her grandfather — born on the same block — was a mailman. Her grandmother worked in a school cafeteria.

Her parents worked for the government. They lived on the bottom 2 floors of a brownstone, and rented out the rest.

In the mid-1980s, yuppies began to move in. Bodegas and religious artifact stores gave way to crêperies, boutiques and bars.

“The good part was there were nice restaurants and shops. Not everything was a chain,” Antonia recalls.


A “Farmacy” has probably replaced a pharmacy in Carroll Gardens.

Real estate prices rose. Some renters were priced out. Antonia’s parents and grandparents owned their property, and benefited.

Many of her friends stayed in Carroll Gardens. On Facebook, she reads their comments about the changes.

“It’s not like the days when everyone knew everyone,” she says. “That’s ironic, because the first people who came did it because it was a great Italian-American neighborhood, with everyone sitting out on their stoops.”

The oldtimers-versus-newcomers debate is not confined to Carroll Gardens. It echoes in many places — including Westport. Which is where, since 2013, Antonia and her husband have lived.

They moved first to New Jersey, in 2002, because they could no longer afford Brooklyn. Then they had kids. Her husband’s company has an office in Darien. They started looking for bigger, suburban homes.

Antonia and her husband visited Westport on a beautiful September day. The water sparkled under the Bridge Street bridge. Downtown, they walked past the gorgeous Christ & Holy Trinity church, and stopped at the Spotted Horse. “It felt like we were on vacation,” Antonia says.

Moving here has been wonderful. The town is gorgeous. Folks have been welcoming. She could not be happier.

Her 3 sons — the youngest was born here — are busy, and thriving. On the day we talked earlier this summer, one was collecting crabs on Burying Hill Beach. Another was at sports camp. This is their home town.

Antonia's boys have discovered the magic of Burying Hill Beach.

Antonia’s boys have discovered the magic of Burying Hill Beach.

Antonia sees parallels between Carroll Gardens and Westport. Both places are changing. Some longtime residents resent what’s happening. Recent arrivals feel the undercurrent. They try to be sensitive — but this is their town too.

“We moved because of the beauty, the downtown, the historical homes,” Antonia says. Some of her new friends are natives. One of them lives in new construction, she laughs.

“We’re new, but we still respect what there is here, and what there was.” Yet, she adds, Westport is always changing. “This used to be onion farms.”

She followed the Red Barn closing on “06880.” “We went there once. We were not impressed. But I understand it was an institution.”

The same thing is happening in Carroll  Gardens. Antonia pointed me to a New York Daily News story about the demise of a beloved restaurant there.

“It’s not just Westport,” she says. “It’s everywhere. If your secret gets out, that’s it.”

So, I wonder, does Antonia have any message for Westporters of every era, seeking to understand what’s going on here today?

“Not everyone who comes here is not uninterested in the town and its past,” she says.

Antonia Landgraf and her husband understand the importance of the Westport Historical Society.

Antonia Landgraf and her husband understand the importance of the Westport Historical Society.

“My husband and I are very much invested in Westport. We want to contribute to the community.

“We’re not just passing through. We’re here for at least the next 16 years, through high school for our youngest. We might stay here after retirement.

“New people come in all the time. They may be different from those who were born here. But don’t assume they don’t respect all that has made the town what it is.”

Sticking With Poetry

Some folks wander around Westport, waxing poetic about their surroundings.

If you’re on Sturges Highway, you’ll find poetry — literally.

Mark Yurkiw and Wendy Van Vie walk their dogs every day. Around the corner from their house, there’s “poetry on a stick.”

Poetry 1

Anyone is welcome to enjoy the offerings, which change regularly.

Poetry 2

Robert Frost took the road less traveled.

If you’ve got a choice in Westport, try Sturges Highway.

Here’s The Poop On Otter Trail

There must be a special place in hell reserved for people who make a big show out of cleaning up after their dogs — and then (when you’re not looking) leave the wrapped-up crap right where they found it.

They can’t be bothered to walk to a trash can, or put it in another bag and carry it home.

Alert “06880” reader Gus Ghitelman spotted this sign today on Otter Trail, off Imperial Avenue.

Otter Trail

I’m not sure if the blue bag is there to demonstrate what not to do, or if it’s someone’s not-very-subtle response to the sign.

Either way, the practice of not cleaning up your pooch’s poop stinks.


In the biggest defeat for scientific inquiry since Senator James Inhofe looked at rising global temperatures, sea levels and catastrophic weather events and said “Nah,” has used “data and science” to identify the 10 most boring places to live in Connecticut.

You or I might think that meant examining things like beaches, restaurants, library events, art shows and Country Playhouse performances.

You or I would be wrong.

Sam Sparkes

Sam Sparkes

RoadSnacks — more specifically, a boring-looking twit named Sam Sparkes – has decided that the way to determine boringness is by looking at 128 towns with populations of at least 5,000.

They then determined the percentage of folks over 35 (an arbitrary age; “higher is more boring”); percentage of married households, households with kids and people over 65 (for all, “higher is more boring”); median age (“higher is more boring” — a statement that is pretty boring itself), and percentage of young residents ages 18-34 and population density (for both, “lower is more boring”).

Using those plucked-from-the-sky criteria, RoadSnacks — which not only has never been confused with Scientific American, but probably has never been looked at by any human being, because why? — determined that the most boring place in Connecticut is … West Simsbury.

And there in 8th place — following Orange, Essex Village, Georgetown, Northwest Harwinton, North Haven and Somers, but ahead of Old Saybrook and Cheshire — is Westport.

To which, there is only one answer:


(Photo/Terry Cosgrave)

This town is sooooo boring! There’s never anything to do here! (Photo/Terry Cosgrave)