Photo Challenge #247

We pass it a million times: the iron statue of a buck, on the Post Road.

But — because it’s a bit hidden by shrubbery — we don’t always notice it. (Click here for the photo.)

Some “06880” readers thought it was at Terrain. Seems like it should be there, with all the other plants and such.

But it’s not.

It’s at Mitchells — the upscale clothing store, diagonally across the street.

I have no idea why it’s there. But Mary Ann Batsell was first with the right answer.

If anyone knows the back story behind the Mitchells buck, click “Comments” below.

Click “Comments” too if you know where in Westport you’d find this week’s Photo Challenge.

(Photo/Dan Woog)

With iPads, Kids Overcome Cancer

Life was not always easy for David Gottschalk.

During his 15 years in Westport, his daughter spent time in Norwalk Hospital. In 2010, his father and mother-in-law died of cancer.

Despite his grief — and his busy work at a hedge fund — in 2011 Gottschalk searched for a way to give back to the town he loves, and the hospital he relied on.

With the help of an accountant and lawyer working gratis, he formed a non-profit: KIDSovercancer. The goal was to buy iPads, for children in extended hospital stays.

David Gottschalk presents an iPad to Dr. Vicki Smetak, chair of Norwalk Hospital’s Pediatrics Department.

Gottschalk did not realize that any technology donation must go through a rigorous approval process. “Kids will get in trouble sometimes,” he notes. “The hospital had to see a real purpose for iPads in their pediatric wing.”

Because they were new devices, the hospital added necessary protocols. Gottschalk was good to go.

His initial donations were to Norwalk, Yale, Danbury, Bridgeport, Greenwich and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Hospitals. Soon he added other states, including rural hospitals where youngsters may not have had access to technology before.

Gottschalk promised contributors that every penny KIDSovercancer received would go directly toward iPad purchases. There are no administrative expenses — not for shipping, IRS filings, nothing.

“It’s much more than entertainment,” Gottschalk notes. Hospitals use the iPads to teach youngsters about their illnesses, and as a distraction tool during small surgical procedures.

An iPad is a welcome distraction for youngsters in hospitals.

Eight years later, KIDSovercancer has sent tablets to over 56 hospitals, in all 50 states. An average of 100 children use the iPads a year in each hospital — a total of over 11,000 kids.

Gottschalk calls the project “the most satisfying thing” he’s ever done.

Of course, he can’t do it alone. He needs everyone’s help. Contributions to KIDSovercancer can be sent to: 606 Post Road East, Suite 515, Westport, CT 06880.

Pic Of The Day #887

Crossing Canal Street … (Photo/Larry Untermeyer)

… and heading to Assumption Church on Riverside Avenue (Photo/Les Dinkin)

Signing Off On The ’19 Election

As election season heats up, Planning & Zoning Commission member Chip Stephens sent this email to all political parties in town: Democrats, Republicans, Save Westport Now and the Coalition for Westport.

“Let’s see if it works,” he says hopefully.

As P & Z enforcement officers, Al Gratrix and I have worked hard to keep illegal signs at bay. We try our best to keep legal signs, like campaign signs, in proper and legal places, and hope to keep campaign signs away from restricted areas.

Here are the simple rules we hope all will respect:

  • Please do not place where signs will block traffic views
  • Do not place within parks or beaches
  • Schools are restricted, but some do not enforce; placement is at your risk
  • Do not place on state or interstate roads (during the past few years, the state has removed these signs weekly)
  • Try not to trash the public-sponsored gardens
  • Try to limit 1 sign per intersection
  • Finally, try to practice civil signage: Don’t place your sign directly on another’s sign. Instead, offset your sign, or move it a few feet away.

NOTE : P & Z will not remove campaign signs. Please don’t call the office; it was not us.

Every year, a few people who don’t like signs or are just bad apples take signs down

Look around where a missing sign was. Often you will find it lying nearby. If state crews removed the sign, you may find it in the sand shed in the state truck property across from Sherwood Diner. (You are allowed to reclaim your signs if they are there.)

Please use common sense, as if it was your property. It is your town, so please try to follow the rules.

Thanks, and good luck to all,

Meanwhile, alert “06880” reader — and Westport voter — Matthew Murray writes:

So who’s Joe?

(Photo/Matthew Murray)

I can’t tell whether he’s a Republican, Democrat or from Mars. It has me intrigued, but I’m not going to vote for him.

He is also quite prolific with his sign placement — though every corner is a bit much.

Can Capitalism Survive? Westport Students Explore With An Expert.

Back in the day, Staples High School students marveled at the ham radio technology that — thanks to physics teacher Nick Georgis, a ham radio enthusiast — enabled them to talk with luminaries like Senator Barry Goldwater and King Hussein of Jordan.

Imagine what those 20th-century students would think of our 21st-century Westport Library, and teachers like Drew Coyne.

The other day, Advanced Placement Economics classes headed to the transformed library space downtown. There, in the Forum, nearly 175 students teleconferenced with a business and economics writer whose work has enormous relevance for the future of, well, the world.

The project began last spring. AP Economics teacher Rob Shamberg suggested a summer reading text for all incoming students: Steven Pearlstein’s “Can American Capitalism Survive?: Why Greed Is Not Good, Opportunity Is Not Equal, and Fairness Won’t Make Us Poor.”

The Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post columnist and George Mason University professor believes that without trust and social capital, democratic capitalism may be doomed.

Coyne worked with Library staffers Alex Giannini and Cody Daigle-Orians to arrange Pearlstein’s virtual (and pro bono) appearance.

Steven Pearlstein, live in the Westport Library Forum.

Eight sections of classes filled the futuristic Forum. They spent a very interactive hour, engaging with the columnist and professor over the merits and logistics of a universal basic income, his theories on American social capital, China’s economic and political rise, income redistribution and the emerging 2020 political field.

When a student asked about the changes Pearlstein has witnessed since his book was published last year, the author noted the recent Business Roundtable redefinition of the purpose of a modern corporation.

Staples student Cassie Lang — who calls herself and her classmates “stakeholders in the American system” — describes the session as “the best introduction to the Economic course I could have asked for.”

Pearlstein’s talk reinforced what she learned from his book: “opportunity is not equal.” She uses this real-life example: “I doubt that Mr. Pearlstein would have been this accessible if we resided in a less affluent school district.”

Because the library Forum is such an open space, library-goers who are not AP Economics students participated too.

Student Owen Dolan saw his grandmother. They hugged, then watched the presentation together.

Capitalism may not survive. But family ties — and interactive education, Westport-style — sure will.

Pics Of The Day #886

Sunday is the last day of summer. But Compo Beach remains a magnet for many. As the season fades, Lynn Untermeyer Miller captured these timeless images.

Michael Calise, a stand up paddleboarder, and 2 swimmers

Those swimmers took time out to snuggle

No need to reserve a South Beach table

Time to head home …

… while others linger

See you next summer! (Photos/Lynn Untermeyer Miller)

 

Westporters Strike For Climate Change

Scores of Westporters — young, old and in between — gathered on the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge today. They were part of an international Climate Strike effort, raising awareness of the need for urgent action.

Greens Farms Elementary School students Camryn Brink, Charlotte Pendergast, Ella Vitulich and Capri DiVincenzo deliver an important message. (Photo/Alli DiVincenzo)

Over the years, the Post Road bridge has been the scene of numerous political protests. Today’s message was simple: Act now, so that when the youngest protesters are the age of the oldest, they’ll still have a planet to live on.

David Mark Brown adds his voice too. (Photo/Alli DiVincenzo)

Friday Flashback #160

This photo is over 100 years old.

The buildings look different. So does the transportation. The trees are gone; the street is now paved.

But more than a century later, there’s no mistaking the gentle curve of Main Street, as it heads north toward Elm Street.

Some things never change.

(Photo courtesy of Mary Gai)

Liz Fry Swims North Channel; Completes Amazing “Ocean 7”

In April, “06880” reported that Liz Fry successfully swam Cook Strait — the dangerous waters separating New Zealand’s North and South Islands.

That meant she had conquered 6 of the 7 major open water swims worldwide. The only one left: the North Channel, between Ireland and Scotland.

Liz Fry

It’s the most challenging of all: very cold, infested with jellyfish, but no wetsuits allowed.

No problem! Last month, Liz — a 1976 Staples High School graduate, longtime Westporter and frequent visitor to the Westport Weston Family YMCA, where she trains — completed the North Channel swim.

She joins a tiny, elite group of men and women who have accomplished all 7 swims.

Here is Liz’s report.

It’s Monday in Donaghadee. The sun is coming out after heavy fog earlier this morning. I went to the starting point at 5:30 a.m., to send off the 4 other swimmers attempting their crossing today.

It’s hard to believe yesterday at 5 a.m. I was scrambling across jagged rocks to find a clear rock to leave from. It was pitch black except for the lights from phones held by the Chunky Dunkers (the group I trained with in Ireland) at the water’s edge to see us off. Quinton, my pilot, has a quick start. You board his boat, and in 15 minutes you are in the water.

Liz Fry (2nd from left) with her crew in Donaghadee harbor.

My crew was incredibly efficient putting on sunscreen and “butt paste” for chaffing. Next thing I knew my cap, earplugs and goggles were on. I jumped in the cold abyss.

I followed the lights on shore and spotlight and managed to avoid many of the sharp rocks, although one got me good. I found a rock that was clear and raised my hand, signaling the start.

It was still very dark. Unfortunately my first hit in a Lion’s Mane jellyfish bloom was in the first 10 minutes. My whole left side took multiple hits as I swam through tentacles, but luckily only one hit across my face.

I felt like Harry Potter. I felt these stings the whole swim, but the pain subsided to tolerable fairly quickly. Salt water is the best medicine. I knew it was only the beginning so I had to keep my head together.

A swarm of jellyfish.

I had my first feed after 1 hour, which is my typical feed schedule.  I don’t usually feed well as I am a sinker and struggle to stay above water. However, with the water so cold (12-14 C) we planned to go with 45 minutes after the first feed.

Calories intake were critical. I asked for and received a lot of advice from North Channel swimmers all over the world. I used all I could remember.

With daylight, my crew helped me navigate around the lion’s manes. Several times when I tried to follow, each person on the boat pointed in a different direction.

The jellies were moving towards me faster than I could swim out of the way, or the blooms were so big there was nothing they could do to help. I slowly slid between the jellies and long tentacles as best I could. My crew was brilliant and saved me from so many hits.

About 5 hours in, the impact of the jelly hits affected my breathing. My inhaler for my asthma provided some relief initially. but later did not help. I could not help to think about Attila who spent nearly 3 weeks in the hospital after his attempt last year.

I stayed close to the boat, just in view of Quinton and the observer who never stopped watching me.

Despite the breathing issue I felt very good. My spirits were great, I wasn’t cold, and my crew was brilliant. At 12:30 we saw the lighthouse. Nora kept the whiteboard filled with well wishes from around the world, from friends and family. This is the first time I have had active whiteboard. It was fantastic.

I am happy she didn’t mention the shark fin they saw around 2:30 p.m. It was likely a basking shark — the second largest, but not a carnivore.  At my 2 p.m. feed Quinton said, “at this pace we’ll be done in two hours.”

With 2 miles to go, a thick fog rolled in. I could no longer see Scotland or the two boats behind us for a few minutes. The only thing the crew could see was the lighthouse, and hear the foghorn.

The fog lifted above the shore, and I saw where Quinton was trying to land me.  I hit the rocks on the shore of Scotland and raised my hands to the sound of the horn. I finished: 11 hours, 13 minutes.

Liz Fry nears the Scottish coast.

As I swam back to the boat, I could only think about how many people helped get me to those rocks. Not just the 6 oceans before, but all the swims and training sessions. I am so grateful to each and every one of you for your support.

To say the ride back to Ireland was full of exuberance is an understatement. Even now it is still surreal.

We arrived back to a large welcome crowd of Chunky Dunkers, who had a beautiful blue cake with the number 7 candle. It was fantastic!

After the swim, Liz reported:

All the Channel swimmers I spoke to said my sleep the night after would be restless, due to the jelly fish stings. They were right!

Despite more antihistamines, the stings fired through the night. I burned up one moment; the next I was freezing cold.

It helped that as soon as I got on the boat, I was covered with shaving cream and scraped with credit cards (expired) to remove the barbs and tentacles from my skin.

No words can express my deep love and gratitude for all who traveled to Ireland to support me in this craziness.

It is impossible for me to adequately thank my family, friends and swimming community that supported me, at home and around the world.

Liz Fry (right) and her sister Peggy, a 1975 Staples High School graduate, at the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland.

Every swim has its own level of stress and emotions, but none more than this.

I was terrified, seriously questioning whether even if I could tolerate the cold, would I endure the venom of the Lion’s Manes and other jellyfish?

I did everything I could to prepare for the worst, but still feared that this last Ocean 7 swim could be truly my last. This fear went away soon after I arrived in Donaghadee, not because the threat was no longer there but because my swims in the harbor calmed my anxiety and brought happiness.

I feel so blessed to have swum the North Channel. So the question always is: “Would I do it again?”

I think my next big swims are to complete the Great Lakes. I’d like to start next summer.

(Hat tip: Debbie McGinley)

Pics Of The Day

A rare photo of the William F. Cribari Bridge: no traffic, in the middle of a normal weekday … (Photo/Fred Cantor)

… but there’s a good reason: one of the lift jacks was stuck. The result: a 4-inch gap between sections (Photo/Austin Brown)