Alisyn Camerota Video Goes Viral

As Parkland High School students have spoken about gun violence — drawing the admiration and awe of much of the nation — there has been, predictably, a counter-narrative.

Some people don’t believe young people can be so passionate, articulate and motivated — even after watching as 17 of their classmates were gunned down.

Alisyn Camerota was having none of it.

The Westporter — co-anchor of CNN’s “New Day” — interviewed 2 former Republican congressmen on Tuesday. One was David Jolly of Florida. The other was Jack Kingston of Georgia.

Kingston began by disputing the notion that 17-year-olds can plan a nationwide rally. He believes they are being used by left-wing organizations, to further adults’ purposes.

Camerota pushed back. “I was down there. I talked to these kids before the body count,” she said.

“They had not been indoctrinated. They were motivated.”

Kingston continued to insist that the teenagers were being used. Camerota insisted they were not.

It’s a remarkable 9-minute interview (click below to see). Camerota manages Kingston and Jolly well.

The video has become a microcosm of many debates: about school shootings, gun legislation, and the power of teenagers to change the world.

And at the center of it all is Westport’s newest TV anchor.

 

Pic Of The Day #310

Saugatuck River (Photo/Mark Molesworth)

Unsung Hero #36

On Super Bowl Sunday, alert “06880” reader Beth Saunders asked her husband to run to Whole Foods for cilantro. (You know: guacamole.)

He had just played squash. Not until he left the store did he notice his wallet had fallen out of his gym pants.

He headed back inside. Someone had already turned it in — with $500 still inside.

He told Beth the story. She peppered him with questions.

“Who do you think was so kind? An employee? A shopper? A woman? Didn’t you ask? Who was at the desk? And who carries $500 in their wallet?”

There were still no answers.

So, Beth says, “I’m just throwing out a ‘thank you’ to the universe.”

We don’t know who this week’s Unsung Hero is. But as John Wooden said, “The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is looking.”

Or she.

“I Am …” The Westport Library Photo Campaign. Are You?

In the summer of 2016, over 500 people had their “geek moment” at the Westport Library.

Talented family and portrait photographer Pam Einarsen snapped them, as they held or wore objects identifying their particular passions. The “I Geek…” project portrayed an astonishing array of talents and interests, all of which the library encourages and helps us fulfill.

Among our geeks: human biology, burgundy, Harry Potter, Greek Islands, Toquet Hall, astronomy, break dancing, coffee, archery, knitting, astronomy, the Green Bay Packers, folk music, dragons, baking, and sleeping.

It all ended with a big party. The Great Hall was filled with food, entertainment — and Pam’s compelling portraits.

Now she’s at it again.

This time, when library users sit for their photos, they’re asked for 3 descriptors. Pam’s images, and those self-identifying phrases, are then shared on the library’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages.

David Pogue says “I am a dad. A showoff. A softie.” (Photo/Pam Einarsen)

It’s part of the library’s goal — in the midst of its Transformation project — for folks to imagine how the library can help them, in entirely new ways.

“What are you passionate about?” library director Bill Harmer says the “I Am…” campaign is asking.

“And how can we work together, with you and your passions, in this great new space?”

Mary Brown’s “I Am…” photo on Instagram. She says she is “an art historian, obsessed with music, and a Fireball Island master.” (Photo/Pam Einarsen)

The new library, Harmer adds, is “all about building community, and creating spaces where human beings can interact.”

More photo sessions will be scheduled soon. Check the library website for details.

Hey — it’s me! To find out my 3 descriptors, you’ll have to wait until the library posts this on social media. (Photo/Pam Einarsen)

 

Pic Of The Day #309

Winter break skating at the Longshore PAL rink. (Photo/Michael Winser)

Latest Downtown Casualty: Boca Restaurant

Boca — the Main Street restaurant that, less than 2 years ago, took over the space previously occupied by Acqua — is closing its doors too.

The Mediterranean spot will serve its last meal this Saturday.

Patrick Jean — who was named manager 6 months ago — spoke frankly tonight about the owner’s decision to end operations.

“Downtown is dying,” he says. “The reason is simple: rents. Landlords want more and more money. It’s harder and harder for a small business today.”

Boca — with a commanding view of the river and a menu featuring food and wine from the coastal regions of France, Italy and Spain — is the latest in a string of Main Street casualties.

The Boca dining room and bar.

Nike, Ann Taylor and Allen Edmonds — all neighbors of Boca — have already announced plans to leave.

“A lot of people are very sad,” Jean says. “They like our food. And it’s very easy parking.” Fourteen employees — in the kitchen and dining room — will lose their jobs.

What will come next?

“Another empty space,” Jean says.

Jimmy Izzo: Customers Are At A Crossroads

In 27 years at Crossroads Ace Hardware, Jimmy Izzo has seen a lot.

New homeowners move in. Jimmy and his staff help with everything they need: paint, mailboxes, garden supplies. He watches their kids grow up. When they get ready to downsize, Crossroads is there too.

It’s got a Main Street address. But — next to Coffee An’ — it’s not exactly downtown. It is, however, the perfect place to observe local retail trends.

Some of what’s happened to Crossroads Hardware is unique to Westport. Much of it is part of a national movement.

No one knows how it all will play out. Not even Jimmy Izzo. And it’s hard to find a more astute observer of everything Westport than the 1983 Staples High School graduate. (Though his father AJ — himself a Staples grad — might give Jimmy a run for his money.)

Jimmy Izzo prepares for the next snowstorm.

“Today we’re an information society,” Jimmy says. “You can pull out your phone, order anything online, and have it delivered to your home within 24 hours.”

That’s true of nearly everything Crossroads sells. Whether it’s a mop — which you can also buy at Stop & Shop or CVS — or a gas grill, customers have exponentially more options than before.

They often buy the most convenient way. Many times, that’s online.

Then they’ll give Crossroads a call. They need help assembling that grill, or they’ve got questions about how to use it.

Jimmy answers them all. He’ll even tell customers to order online, and ship to Crossroads; he’ll put it together, then deliver it (for a price). Customer service is something a local store does far better than the web.

“If you come in for a can of paint, you leave with a bucket, brush and knowledge,” Jimmy adds. “We make sure you have everything you need, even if you haven’t thought of it.”

Crossroads Hardware is the closest thing Westport has to an old-fashioned general store — a place where folks not only shop, but sit around a pot-bellied stove, tell stories, argue, complain, and solve all the problems of the world.

(There’s no stove, but you get the idea.)

Crossroads Ace Hardware, where customer service is king.

Unfortunately, that’s not the kind of place customers look for today.

“Younger people are searching for ‘experiences,'” Jimmy says. “They want to live where the action is. Look at the Avalon in Norwalk.”

Modern families with kids, meanwhile, run everywhere on weekends. Time once allotted to household chores and maintenance is often filled with travel sports.

“Parents are taking their kids everywhere, every weekend,” Jimmy explains. “We used to see them in here on Saturdays. Now they don’t even have time for that.”

Getting the word out about Crossroads — everything from services like tool sharpening, to products like shovels and ice melt before a snowstorm — has changed too.

The local papers are virtually non-existent. Jimmy relies much more on Facebook advertising and posts, and other social media.

A wintertime Facebook post by Jimmy Izzo reminds customers of what to do when bad weather strikes.

The future — for stores like his, and all of downtown — is “unknown,” Jimmy says. He sees empty stores downtown, and less foot traffic. Part of the reason is that old-time relationships — between landlord, tenant and community — have frayed. Many Main Street properties are owned by out-of-town conglomerates.

“Downtown is looking for ‘wow!'” Jimmy says. “The Gap is not ‘wow!'”

He gives Bedford Square — David Waldman’s new retail/residential complex that replaced the former YMCA — an “11 out of 10.” But the rest of downtown needs a spark, Jimmy says.

“Main Street isn’t dead. It’s just trying to figure out what it is.”

One answer may lie in business-to-business networking — stores handing out coupons or flyers for other stores, say, or Crossroads combining with a lamp shop for an event that teaches how to wire a lamp.

“You have to give the customer a reason to make your place a destination,”  he insists. “Customer loyalty changes instantly these days.”

The retail sweet spot, Jimmy says, is the customer between 30 and 55 years old, with kids in schools.

But they’re not wedded to Main Street — or even a once-essential destination like Crossroads Ace Hardware.

“With technology today, their options are limitless. No one has to shop in a store.”

But if you do buy that gas grill online, be sure to call Jimmy Izzo.

He’ll assemble it for you.

And then make sure you don’t light your entire yard on fire.

Pic Of The Day #308

Yesterday: View from the Sherwood Island Connector, looking west. (Photo/David Squires)

George Washington’s Hair

Happy Presidents Day!

In what may or may not be a coincidence, this morning’s New York Times tells the story of the latest lock of George Washington’s hair.

And — because this is “06880,” with the tagline “Where Westport meets the world” — the  story naturally includes a detour to Westport.

Our 1st president’s hair was recently found tucked inside a book on the 3rd floor of the Union College library.

According to the Times, Washington did not wear a wig. In fact, he had “long hair that he meticulously coifed every day and powered to look the way many recognize it on the dollar bill.”

I will resist here any comparisons between Washington’s meticulous hairdo, and that of the current occupant of the office.

But I should note that once upon a time, it was not unusual to request a lock of hair from a public figure. The Times calls the practice “the selfies of the day.”

The book that held Washington’s hair was owned by Philip J. Schuyler, a businessman from a prominent New York state family. One of his descendants — also named Phil Schuyler — married into Westport’s Bennett family.

A noted journalist, PR executive and tennis player, he lived in his wife’s family’s South Compo Road home. It was built before the Revolutionary War.

Around the time that Philip J. Schuyler was requesting George Washington’s hair, Phil Schuyler’s Tory ancestors were watching — and aiding — the British as they marched from Compo Beach, on their way to burn the arsenal at Danbury.

Albert Einstein’s hair was even better than George Washington’s.

The second Westport connection to Washington’s locks comes via Jon Reznikoff. The Times calls him “a documents expert in Connecticut (who has) amassed what Guiness World Records has found to be the largest collection of hair from historical figures,” including Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy, Albert Einstein and 2 of the 4 Beatles. (Great hair, all of them!)

Reznikoff takes an agnostic view toward the legitimacy of the hair in the Union College library. “Any relic, just by its nature, requires somewhat of a leap of faith,” he says.

Reznikoff does his relic-collecting in Westport. His University Archives is based on Richmondville Avenue.

Of course — this being Presidents Day — we should note all of Westport’s George Washington connections.

In 1780 the general is said to have discussed war strategy with the Marquis de Lafayette and Comte de  Rochambeau at the Disbrow Tavern (where Christ & Holy Trinity Church is today).

He returned twice in 1789 as president, coming and going on an inspection tour of the Northeast. He spent a night at the Marvin Tavern — located on the Post Road, opposite King’s Highway South — but did not have a bang-up time.  In his diary, he called it “not a good house.”

But I’m sure his hair looked fine.

(To read the full New York Times story, click here.)

Julia Marino Goes For Gold

First there was wind.

Then came the flu.

But after fighting off a disappointing fall in the slopestyle competition, and illness last week, Julia Marino is close to her longtime dream: an Olympic medal.

The Westport snowboarder was 2nd after her first big air run yesterday, then finished 9th overall in qualifying competition. That earned her one of 12 spots in Thursday’s final.

Julia’s jumps — shown around the world — were preceded a day earlier by a special NBC report on her long friendship with Chaihyun Kim. Their journey together began at Long Lots Elementary School, and ended in South Korea.

Click here to see that heartwarming report.

A screengrab from the NBC report shows Julia Marino and Chai Kim reuniting at the Seoul airport.

(Hat tip: Sharon and John Miller)