Pic Of The Day #1688

Compo Beach cannons (Photo/Karen Como)

Unsung Heroes #217

Grateful — and surprised — “06880” reader Gina Ryan writes:

I had the most wonderful surprise tonight. I was having dinner by myself at Spotted Horse in Westport, when my server informed me that my entire tab was taken care of by another patron of the restaurant.

I sent my thanks — only to find out that the person had already left. The server told me it was a Terri Priori (if I understood the name correctly).

It meant a lot to me. This week has been challenging. We had Thanksgiving 4 days earlier, on Sunday, because my 3 young granddaughters would d be going away to spend holiday weekend with their father. My paramedic son and ER daughter-in-law were working on Thanksgiving. I had a quiet day, but relished the long phone calls I had with a son, daughter, brother, and sister.

I was feeling kind of down on Black Friday. I went to the movies, window shopped on Main Street, read for a while at the library, then went to the Spotted Horse for dinner before going home to an empty house.

My spirits were lifted by the kindness of the person who noticed me, and decided to gift me with dinner. I usually perceive myself as being invisible, so I was shocked at the generosity.

I would like my benefactor to know that I am giving an amount equal to my tab to Homes with Hope. I am truly grateful to live in this kind and generous community.

Gina, your benefactor is an Unsung Hero this week. But so are you — for paying it forward so thoughtfully. Now, if every “06880” reader could do the same: what a wonderful Westport this would be!

Roundup: Humane Society, Holiday Trees, “Christmas Carol” …

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Looks like the Connecticut Humane Society will be moving from its longtime Post Road digs, just east of Compo Shopping Center.

“Good Morning Wilton” reports that that town’s Planning & Zoning Commission approved an application for new headquarters at 863-875 Danbury Road (Route 7).

Specifically, the Wilton P&Z’s unanimous votes permit a charitable organization to operate on residentially zoned property.

Humane Society executive director James Bias called it “a big night for pets and people of Connecticut. We are thrilled that the application for CHS’ new animal resource center in Wilton has been approved, and very thankful to the town of Wilton. We are also so grateful for the supporters who believe in creating this new safe haven for pets in need and are with us every step of the way.

“This is a moment to celebrate, but of course, there is a lot more work to be done to bring this project to reality. We are excited to get started on the next steps.”

(Click here for the full story. Hat tip: Sal Liccione)

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They’re lit!

The Westport Downtown Association’s 12 holiday trees — each decorated professionally, and themed to a different non-profit — will delight shoppers from now through New Year’s.

The organizations include Filling in the Blanks, Wakeman Town Farm, Westport Young Woman’s League, Westport Fire Department, Homes with Hope, Christ & Holy Trinity Church, Aware, CLASP Homes, Westport PAL, Westport Bookstore, and MoCA Westport.

This tree — one of a dozen, courtesy of the Westport Downtown Association — is at the corner of Church Lane and Elm Street.

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It’s a Westport Country Playhouse Christmas!

“A Merry Little Christmas Carol” — based (of course) on Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” — will be performed live on Monday, December 13 (7 p.m.). It’s available too for on-demand streaming, from December 16 through 19.

Part ghost story, part celebration, the show based on the classic novel with Ebenezer Scrooge, Tiny Tim and the Spirits of Christmas Past, Present and Future is the newest offering from WCP’s Script in Hand play-reading series, and Playhouse Radio Theater.

Click here for tickets and more information.

Bah humbug!

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Yesterday’s Roundup gave an incorrect date for the Westport Farmers’ Market’s Holiday Artist Market. It’s this Saturday (December 4), from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Gilbertie’s Herbs & Garden Center.

The Artist Market takes place in 3 open-air greenhouses, and features a wide array of one-of-a-kind handcrafted gift ideas. Food trucks will be on hand too.

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Today’s “Westport … Naturally” photo shows the late-November view from Giina Ryan’s home office window.

She says,  “In a few days, after the leaves drop, we will see the loading docks on the back side of Stop & Shop for the winter.”

(Photo/Gina Ryan)

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And finally … Singer/producer/composer/actor Lou Rawls was born today in 1933. He died in 2006, age 72.

 

Positive Directions: 50 Years Of Substance Abuse Service

In 1971, a new organization — the Alcoholism Council of Mid-Fairfield County — was created to address an old yet persistent problem. It served as an important information and referral center.

Over the years, the Council broadened its scope to include other substances, and added services like counseling and recovery.

Its name changed too: first to the Alcoholism and Drug Dependency Council, then Positive Directions: The Center for Prevention and Recovery. Today it’s Positive Directions: The Center for Prevention and Counseling.

Though it has impacted countless lives during its half century in Westport, Positive Directions is still one of the most overlooked health services in town.

“People don’t know about us. Or they have misconceptions,” says executive director Vanessa Wilson.

“We’re not just about treating substance abuse. Preventing substance misuse and promoting mental well-being among youth is a large focus of our work.”

The non-profit partners with groups like Westport’s Department of Human Services, the Westport Prevention Coalition and Norwalk Partnership to gather data, coordinate meetings and provide training.

Positive Directions runs a psychiatric and substance abuse outpatient clinic for adults and adolescents. led by 9 clinicians and 2 medication prescribers, as well as one-to-one peer support groups.

Positive Directions staff.

The pandemic aggravated what was already a community-wide problem.  A treatment fund was created during COVID for clients with financial hardship, In addition, free virtual recovery group meetings run weekly. A free support group for teachers struggling with anxiety due to COVID was added last year.

As Positive Directions has evolved, so has its outreach. A social media campaign spreads awareness of its mission and message in ways unfathomable in 1971 — or even 2001.

For example, TurningPointCT.org is an online mental health and substance abuse resource, created by and for area young people. It’s a forum for connection and support, via social media.

Positive Directions continues to evolve. A recent focus is on problem gambling.

Much has changed since Positive Directions began, half a century ago. But much has not.

Westporters and our neighbors continue to struggle with alcohol and substance abuse. More than ever, we need resources to help with addiction and recovery.

We need a positive direction. And — by whatever name it’s called — Positive Directions continues to lead the way.

(For more information about Positive Directions, click here.) 

Pic Of The Day #1687

Church Lane welcomes the holidays (Photo/Katherine Bruan)

“06880” Podcast: Rev. Alison Patton

Whenever a minister moves to a new church, there’s a story.

The story was particularly intriguing when Rev. Alison Patton came to Saugatuck Congregational Church.

It’s one of our oldest congregations. In fact, the meetinghouse was where Westport was founded — from parts of Norwalk, Fairfield and Weston — in 1835.

Even more intriguing: The new pastor did not actually have a church to preach and work in. It was closed for rebuilding, after a Thanksgiving fire that nearly burned it to the ground.

What impelled her to take on that challenge? What has she learned about Westport in the years since? Why is social justice so important to her church, and to her personally? What drives her interfaith work in Westport?

Those are some of the topics Rev. Patton and I discussed in the latest “06880” podcast. Now — thanks to the Westport Library– you can hear our conversation. Just click below.

Roundup: COVID Ornaments, Carissa Schumacher, Holiday Market

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Marley Brown is an enthusiastic, creative junior at Staples High School. Her most recent project: designing a holiday tree ornament to commemorate the development and distribution of COVID vaccines. It can hang for years to come, a reminder of the trials and triumphs of the global pandemic.

She and her family spend nights and weekends sticking labels on vials, stuffing plastic baubles, and tying ribbon to create the cute decorations. They are available with Pfizer, Moderna or generic labels.

Marley has already sold hundreds of ornaments all across North America, via Etsy, Facebook and Amazon.

She’s earning money. But she’s paying it forward. Marley donates some of her profits to the Ehlers Danlos Society. She and her mother suffer from the genetic connective tissue disease, which makes her joints prone to injuries and dislocations.

Click here to purchase ornaments — and help find a treatment for EDS.

One of Marley Brown’s COVID vaccine ornaments.

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I stopped reading the New York Times story about a California spiritual adviser who receives messages from the dead after the 3rd paragraph (when I learned she charges $1,111 an hour — she “likes the synchronicity”).

But several “06880” readers read on. They learned — deep in the story — that Carissa Schumacher — the high-priced medium to stars like Jennifer Aniston, Uma Thurman and Andie MacDowell — was raised in Westport.

She was a member of Staples High School’s Class of 2000 (and earned All-FCIAC status as a cheerleader). She went on to Brown University, where she majored in cognitive neuroscience.

After learning of our high school (and college) connection, I re-read the article. It’s actually pretty interesting. Click here to see.

Caarissa Schumacher meditates in the Elfin Forest. (Photo/Michelle Groskopf for the New York Times)

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The Westport Farmers’ Market is all about shopping local. So it’s natural for them to hold a special Holiday Artist Market this Saturday (December 4, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Gilbertie’s Herbs & Garden Center.

“Local artisans don’t experience supply chain issues the way big box stores do,” notes Lori Cochran-Dougall, executive director of the Farmers’ Market. “If there was ever a year to spend, support and give local, this is it.”

The Artist Market takes place in 3 open-air greenhouses, and features a wide array of one-of-a-kind handcrafted gift ideas. Food trucks will be on hand too.

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Longtime Westporter John Washburn died peacefully at his home recently. He was 91.

He was born in Pittsburgh to Dr. Stephen and Lois Fellows Washburn, both educators. He received his BS in industrial management from Carnegie Tech (now Carnegie Mellon) in 1952.

One week after graduation he married his high school sweetheart, Olga Dukewich. They moved to Cleveland, where John started his career with Standard Oil of Ohio.

They brought their young family to Westport in 1968, when John joined Xerox Education Group in Stamford as a vice president. Over the course of his career John held senior executive positions with Xerox, Scovill, Mott and GenRad.

In retirement, John served on the board of directors of Physicians Health Services, and as a consultant to the Eastern Companies. He spent many hours dedicated to his beloved Westport community, including as treasurer of both Greens Farms Church and the Westport Historical Society, as a member of the Westport Schools Building Planning Committee and the Westport Conservation Commission, and as a volunteer with the Y’s Men, Westport Library, and at the polls on election days.

John’s greatest joy and accomplishment was his family. He was a devoted husband, father and grandfather who enjoyed life. John loved to sail and kayak in the waters around Westport. He played tennis and golf, swam, and took daily walks in his neighborhood.

He especially loved traveling with Olga to Europe and Asia, and visiting their children and grandchildren. For years John and Olga hosted a spring gathering for their children and grandchildren in Sanibel, Florida.

John is survived by his wife of 69 years, Olga; their children Pamela Washburn (David Boyers) of Los Altos, California, Janice Trentacosti (Charlie) of Austin, Texas; John S. Washburn of Carmel, Indiana, and grandchildren Michelle, Michael, Jordan, JB, Julia, Anabelle and Sophia.  He is also survived by his sister Carolyn Shields of Staunton, Virginia, brother Alan of Monterey, California, and many nieces and nephews.

Services were held at Greens Farms Church. Donations in John’s memory can be made to Westport EMS.

John Washburn

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This handsome guy posted near Longshore for today’s “Westport … Naturally” feature.

He almost blended in with the scenery. That’s the idea, right>

(Photo/Elisabeth Levey)

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And finally … today in 1982, Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” was released worldwide.

Yes, the best-selling record album in history — nearly twice the sales of AC/DC’s 2nd-place “Back in Black” — is now 39 years old.

 

“06880” Sponsors Downtown Christmas Stroll

Newport has a Christmas Stroll. So does Ridgefield.

Why not Westport?

Great idea! So “06880” (the blog) is sponsoring the first-ever Christmas Stroll for 06880 (the town).

The date is Saturday, December 11. From 4 to 7 p.m., downtown will be even more festive than usual.

Staples’ elite Orphenians will sing. Don Memo will provide hot drinks, at 2 locations.

There’s face painting for kids, and an ugly sweater contest for everyone.

Santa will hang out by Savvy + Grace. He’ll pose for photos with kids, who can also drop off self-addressed letters to him. They’ll be mailed back, with a personal note.

Merchants will offer special surprises from 4 to 7 p.m. during the Stroll too. Here are a few:

  • 20% off at Allison Daniel Designs (Sconset Square) and WEST.
  • Free topaz or pyrite crystal at Age of Reason.
  • Something special from Franny’s Farmacy.
  • Spend $150-$250, get 10% off. Spend $250-$500, get 15% off. Spend $500 or more, get 20% off at Kerri Rosenthal.
  • Buy one, get 1/2 off of Whip Salon brand products
  • Adult holiday beverages and 10% off a full-price purchase to anyone mentioning the “06880” blog at Nic + Zoe.
  • Hot chocolate at Le Rouge Chocolates, Rye Ridge Deli and Winfield Street Coffee.
  • Hot chocolate and holiday treats at The Fred Shop.
  • 1 free health and wellness coaching session from Dark Horse Health and Wellness (Playhouse Square; stop by or call 203-349-5597). 

Every July, our “06880” blog party brings people together at Compo. But why wait a whole year? The Christmas Stroll is one more way to celebrate our wonderful community — online, and in person.

See you at The Stroll!

Pic Of The Day #1686

The Westport Country Playhouse, from Winslow Park. Photographer Wendy Crowther says, “There was a great lighting director at work: the setting sun.”

Roundup: Stephen Sondheim, Artists Collective, Sconset Square …

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Among the many tributes to legendary composer Stephen Sondheim, this one caught Veri Krassner’s eye.

Joshua Henry — the Tony-nominated actor whose credits include “Hamilton,” “Scottsboro Boys” and the current film “Tick, Tick….Boom!” — posted a photograph of Sondheim and the cast of “Being Alive” at the Westport Country Playhouse in 2007.

He noted how memorable the show was — especially because Sondheim himself was there to see it.

Henry was just beginning his career then. But he remembered Sondheim — and Westport.

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Speaking of Sondheim and the Playhouse: The legendary theater released a statement honoring the Broadway icon. The WCP says:

“During the summer of 1950, Stephen Sondheim was an apprentice at Westport Country Playhouse. He worked in a variety of capacities on 14 shows and appeared in a production of “The Life of the Party,” written by the Playhouse’s founder Lawrence Langner. Many of Sondheim’s fellow apprentices that year continued as theater professionals, including composer Mary Rodgers, film director Frank Perry, theatrical agent Peggy Hadley, and Actors’ Equity officer Conard Fowkes.

“Fifteen years after his apprenticeship, Sondheim’s own work appeared on the Playhouse stage with a production of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum’ (1965). ‘A Little Night Music’ (1975) and ‘Side by Side by Sondheim’ (1978) followed in the next decade.  Most recently, ‘Into the Woods’ (2012) was directed by Mark Lamos, Westport Country Playhouse artistic director.

“’Being Alive!,’ a world premiere conceived and directed by Billy Porter, took the Playhouse stage in 2007, with music and lyrics by Sondheim, who also provided collaborative assistance. The retrospective of Sondheim songs featured Chuck Cooper, Joshua Henry, and Leslie Odom, Jr., among others.

In 2006, the Playhouse honored its illustrious apprentice with a gala tribute performance, “The Ladies Who Sing Sondheim,” with Laura Benanti, Kristin Chenoweth, Barbara Cook, and Patti LuPone, directed by John Doyle.

Lamos said: “The entire Westport Country Playhouse family is deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Stephen Sondheim. I got to know Stephen a bit over the years, mostly socially. He eagerly granted my request to appear in a tribute to Mary Rodgers, who he’d gotten to know while they were both apprentices here. She was our guest of honor when we saluted her father Richard Rodgers at Westport Country Playhouse’s annual gala in 2009.

“Yet when I was directing ‘A Little Night Music’ for Baltimore Center Stage and tried staging a short musical sequence that made no sense to me, I emailed him to ask about it. In minutes, he answered right back. ‘Oh you can cut that. It was something Pat (Birch, the original Broadway choreographer) and Hal (Prince, the legendary director) cooked up, but it’s not needed at all.’

“And just a year ago he graciously agreed to participate in the shooting of a short-form documentary by filmmaker Doug Tirola that celebrates the history of Westport Country Playhouse. In the video clip he wished the Playhouse a happy 90th birthday, then jokingly wished himself the same, since ‘we’re the same age.’ That’s a memory that I find particularly poignant today.”

Stephen Sondheim (crouching, top of photo), during his 1950 apprenticeship. The photo was taken at the Jolly Fisherman restaurant. Also in the photo: future film director Frank Perry (front row, left) and Richard Rodgers’ daughter Mary (2nd row, 4th from left).

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The Artists’ Collective of Westport celebrates the season with a “small works holiday show,” at their Westport Country Playhouse gallery.

An opening reception is set for December 8 (6 to 8 p.m.), with an open house from Thursday to Sunday (December 9-12, 2 to 6 p.m.).

As usual, the works are eclectic, intriguing, inspiring — and fun.

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Sconset Square merchants hosts a holiday stroll this Thursday (December 2, 5:30 to 8 p.m.).

Singers from Staples High School and Greens Farm Academy will entertain. There are events at 5 stores, plus Christopher’s French Crepe Food truck.

At Bungalow, for example, Suzie Kondi showcases her cashmeres and Westport’s Ronit Tarshis her jewels. Christopher LaGuardia of LaGuardia Design Group in the Hamptons will sign books.

Bungalow is part of Sconset Square’s Holiday Stroll.

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Plumed Serpent — the popular bridal and formal gown store in Colonial Green — was damaged in an October fire. It was contained in the front of the store, and no one was hurt.

All merchandise is gone. The store is bare. A sign says “Closed.”

However — thankfully — it’s only temporary. They’re still hosting appointments for current brides, for fittings and pick-ups.

They’re not sure when. But, they assure anxious brides and brides-to-be: They will reopen.

(Photo and hat tip/Molly Alger)

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Today’s “Westport … Naturally” photo features a red-tailed hawk, guarding its prey.

(Photo/Shira Honigstein)

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And finally … on this day in 1777, the first civilian settlement (“pueblo”) in Alta California was founded. Today we know it as San Jose.