Photo Challenge #362

It’s rare that a Photo Challenge stumps nearly every reader. Including Andrew Colabella.

But last week’s did.

To be fair, it was very tough. Gabriela Bockhaus’ image — an old-fashioned mailbox marked “North Pole Post” — hangs on a Wright Street tree. (Click here to see.)

Most Westporters never drive past it. And if they do, they’re probably cutting between Post Road West and Kings Highway North — in other words, zipping by.

Only Rummy Lynch and Harris Falk nailed it.

(Kudos do go to Dave Eason, who was technically correct for his answer: “On a tree?” And Fred Cantor gets points for his clever guess: “Christmas Lake Lane?”)

I hope this week’s Photo Challenge is easier. If you know where in Westport you’d see this, click “Comments” below.

(Photo/Diane Bosch)

Roundup: Holiday Stroll, Kids’ Vaccine, Larry Aasen …

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New merchants are signing up every day for “06880”s first-ever Holiday Stroll.

It’s next Saturday (December 11), 4 to 7 p.m., downtown.

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.

Among the special shopping offerings:

  • 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.
  • Garlic knots at Joe’s Pizza.
  • Spend $150-$250, get 10% off. Spend $250-$500, get 15% off. Spend $500 or more, get 20% off at Kerri Rosenthal.
  • Sorelle Gallery offers festive beverages to sip while browsing artwork, plus a giveaway. Sign up for their email list and select a free print, while supplies last.
  • A free gift to children who stop by The Toy Post between 4 and 6 p.m. Saturday (they close at 6).
  • Buy one, get 1/2 off of Whip Salon brand products
  • 20% off all holiday items at Westport Book Shop.
  • Adult holiday beverages and 10% off a full-price purchase to anyone mentioning the “06880” blog at Nic + Zoe.
  • Hot chocolate at Le Rouge ChocolatesRye 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).

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Meanwhile, earlier next Saturday — from 10:30 a.m. to noon — Westport Book Shop sponsors its own first-ever Winter Family Fest. It’s on Jesup Green, right across from our favorite used book store.

Kids will enjoy snowflake-themed crafts, games and story reading (indoors!). There’s hot chocolate and goodies for all too, courtesy of The Porch @ Christie’s.

The Family Fest takes place on Jesup Green, across from Westport Book Shop.

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Yesterday’s second COVID vaccine clinic for 5-to-11-year-olds was another hit.

Kids and their parents poured into the Staples High School fieldhouse, for their second dose. Westport Weston Health District, school district and Westport Community Emergency Response Team personnel handled the crowd efficiently. Youngsters were excited to receive another jab. (Their parents were too.)

One protester stood near the entrance. Whitney Krueger (photo below) held signs reflecting her belief that not enough information has been provided about the vaccine.

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Today is Larry Aasen’s 99th birthday.

He heads any list of great Westporters — and not just because his last name is first.

A World War II veteran and Westport resident since the 1950s, he’s had a long, distinguished career serving our town, in politics and many other ways. In 2018, Larry was the Memorial Day grand marshal.

He’s also the author of 4 books about his beloved home state, North Dakota.

Larry’s wife, his beloved Martha, died in October 2020. She was 90. They had been married for 66 years.

I know all of Westport joins me in wishing Larry Aasen a wonderful 99th birthday!

Larry Aasen, with his books. (Photo and hat tip/Dave Matlow)

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The inaugural Chris Frantz Emerging Artists concert — produced by the Westport Library and Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce — was a hit.

Last night, 200 music lovers enjoyed Lulu Lewis and The Problem with Kids. The next concert will be announced soon.

The Problem with Kids, at the Westport Library’s Trefz Forum last night.

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For 2 months, Netflix has been filming “Mr. Harrigan’s Phone,” all around the area. The Stephen King thriller stars Donald Sutherland and Jaeden Martell.

The most recent site was Sherwood Island State Park, by the old stables. Intrigued beach-goers spotted tents, trailers and lights near the wood last week.

Preparing to shoot “Mr. Harrigan’s Phone.”

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“Extraterrestrial Life: Are We the Sharpest Cookies in the Jar?”

That’s the provocative title of the Westport Astronomical Society’s next virtual lecture. Harvard professor Avi Loeb speaks via Zoom (click here) and YouTube (click here) on December 21 (8 p.m.).

PS: No one know the answer. But I do know this: If we were the smartest beings in the universe, we wouldn’t have to ask.

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Chris Robison — noted musician, teacher, gay rights activist and a longtime Westporter — died this week. He was 73.

Born Harold Alton Meyer in Wellesley, Massachusetts, Chris made his mark in the New York City rock ‘n’ roll scene of the 1970s as a member of the New York Dolls, Elephant’s Memory, Steam and Stumblebunny. He was also a music teacher here for over 30 years.

Chris recorded with John Lennon, Keith Richards, Papa John Phillips and Gene Simmons.

With Elephant’s Memory he toured with Aerosmith, Rare Earth and Billy Preston, and played a Circle Line tourist boat gig — hosted by the Hell’s Angels — with Bo Diddley and Jerry Garcia.

The New York Dolls toured Japan with Jeff Beck and Felix Pappalardi. A crowd of 55,000 jammed Tokyo Baseball Stadium to hear them play. Click here for a longer “06880” story on Chris’ musical exploits.

His family says, “His relentless passion for artistic expression and civil rights will be treasured for years to come.”

Chris is survived by sons Dexter Scott of Brooklyn and Tiger Robison of Laramie, Wyoming; sisters Laurel Meyer of Wellesley, Wendy Woodfield and Marilee Meyer of Cambridge, Massachusetts; brother Bruce Meyer of Camden, Maine, and 3 grandchildren.

A memorial service is set for this Tuesday (December 7) at MoCA Westport, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Chris Robison

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If every business was as well landscaped as Tiger Bowl — well, they’d all be featured on our “Westport … Naturally” page!

(Photo/Ellen Wentworth)

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And finally … Chris Robison led quite a life (see his obituary above). We honor him here with these videos.

He was not in “Steam” when they recorded their signature (and only) hit (in Bridgeport). The band did not even exist; “Steam” was just studio musicians.

But the label wanted a tour. Chris joined the group that played 28 states, in a  grueling 3-week tour of 1-night stands, TV shows and festivals. They shared the bill with Bob Seger and MC5, among others. “Steam” played all original material; the only obligation was to start and end each set with …

His next gig — with Elephant’s Memory — included this 1974 song:

Then it was on to the New York Dolls. They were a key influence on later punk, new wave and glam metal groups like the Ramones, Blondie and Talking Heads.

Later Chris formed his own band, Stumblebunny, which toured the UK and Germany with the Hollies.

He recorded solo, too.

Thanks for the music and the memories, Chris!

Book It! A Remarkable Local Market Story.

Remarkable!

The Remarkable Bookcycle — Westport’s free and mobile library, started by Jane Green (yes, the Jane Green) and now kept rolling by others — is back where it belongs.

In front of the old Remarkable Book Shop.

The 3-wheeled library pays homage — in color, logo and spirit — to the remarkable (upper and lowercase) store that sat, for 3 decades, happily on the corner of Main Street and Parker Harding Plaza.

Folks of all ages came from all over the area to sit in comfy chairs, read, and — yes — shop locally.

The Remarkable Book Shop then spent a few unhappy years as a Talbots. Now it’s back as a local shop — called, of course, Local to Market.

The Remarkable Bookcycle, outside Local to Market. (Photo/Chris Marcocci)

Westport’s little free library has left Compo Beach — where it summered — and Bedford Square, where it most recently resided. It’s now parked perfectly on the patio outside Local to Market.

Chris Marcocci, the owner of the food/coffee/gift/gift basket/and more shop — who gives a portion of sales to (of course) local charities == has agreed to keep the bookcycle fully stocked.

So drop on by. Pick up a book. Drop one off.

Then shop locally. Just as so many Westporters did at that same spot, for years.

Pic Of The Day #1691

South Beach at dusk (Photo/Tomoko Meth)

Roundup: More Mitzvahs, Heating Help, Gaby Gonzalez …

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Yesterday’s “06880” lead story yesterday celebrated the works of members of 4 Westport synagogues. They’ll be honored December 12 by the Federation for Jewish Philanthropy of Upper Fairfield County, as part of their annual “Mitzvah Heroes” celebration.

But there’s a 5th Westporter too — from Congregation Beth El in Norwalk.

Stephanie Gordon has been a shul leader since 2007.  A lawyer professionally, she focuses her volunteerism in 2 areas: working toward “tikkun olam” (repairing the world), and improving her congregation

Committee work at Beth El includes Membership, vice president for Education and Fundraising, and the Board of Trustees and Executive Committee. But she’s hands-on too, from decorating the sukkah to greeting congregants on Shabbat.

For years Stephanie was part of Norwalk Open Doors’ shelter and kitchen crew. She then stepped up to lead. The pandemic notwithstanding, Stephanie continues to plan healthy menus, shops, recruits volunteers, and leads meal prep and service. 

Stephanie Gordon

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This winter could be one of the most expensive on record. That’s scary news for neighbors who already have trouble heating their homes.

The Westport Warm-Up Fund can help.

The initiative helps hundreds of Westporters with home heating expenses — thanks to others who donate.

Tax-deductible contributions can be made online (click here) or by mail:  Westport Warm-Up Fund, Department of Human Services, Westport Town Hall, 110 Myrtle Avenue, Westport CT 06880.

For more information — or to request help — call 203-341-1050, or email humansrv@westportct.gov.

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Gaby Gonzalez — the state champion Staples High School girls soccer star — has been named to the All-New England team.

Next fall, Gaby will play at Cornell University. It’s familiar territory: both her older sister Mia and father Jack played for the Big Red.

Congratulations, Gaby!

Gaby Gonzalez

 

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Human beings are not the only living things in Westport enjoying holiday decorations.

Chickens in this Hillspoint Road coop do too.

They also are happy that chicken is not a traditional Christmas meal.

(Photo/Matt Murray)

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Late-autumn Compo Beach reeds frame today’s “Westport … Naturally” feature:

(Photo/June Rose Whittaker)

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And finally … on this day in 1988, Roy Orbison played his final concert. The country singer with an astonishing, angelic, operatic voice — who had a 2nd career with the Traveling Wilburys — died of heart failure 2 days later, at 52.

0*6*Art*Art*0 — Week 87 Gallery

We’re back — this time with a very cool needlepoint.

That’s the whole idea of our Saturday art gallery. Whatever your age and level of experience — professional or amateur, young or old — this feature is open to everyone. In every medium.

All genres and styles are encouraged. Watercolors, oils, charcoal, pen-and-ink, acrylics, lithographs, macramé, jewelry, sculpture, decoupage (and now needlepoint) — whatever you’ve got, email it to dwoog@optonline.net. Share your work with the world.

“Happy Chanukkah” (Amy Schneider)

“Window Sill” (Karen Weingarten)

“Passing Seasons” needlepoint (Diane Yormark)

“Holy City Silver Night” (Brian Whelan)

“On the Ball” (Lawrence Weisman)

“A Clear Cold Day” (Larry Untermeyer)

Stephen Sondheim’s Westport Years: Helping Lee Strasberg, Cleaning Latrines

The Stephen Sondheim stories keep coming.

A recent New York Times story notes that the composer was famous for writing letters. Sent to “students and professionals and fans, they were thoughtful and specific, full of gratitude and good wishes, each on letterhead, each with the elegant, sloping signature that’s familiar now from the Stephen Sondheim Theater marquee.”

One of those notes — written very early in his career — has a Westport connection.

In the spring of 1950 Sondheim graduated from Williams College, and was accepted for a summer apprenticeship at Westport Country Playhouse. He replied to managing director Martin Manulis (below).

He apologized for his delay in responding to the offer , said he would not need a room as he would be commuting from his parents home in Stamford — and asked for a delay of 12 days before starting.

He wanted “a few days’ rest before transferrin from the ivory tower of education into the cold, cruel world.”

The Playhouse agreed.

More than 50 years later — in preparation for a Playhouse tribute to him, hosted by Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward — Sondheim was asked by the Times about that letter.

“I just wanted a week off,” he said.

The Westport Country Playhouse, as it looked for many years.

Sondheim’s summer at the Playhouse was eye-opening.

“You learn about all the intricacies of putting on a play: how many people are necessary to make a moment work onstage, from the writers to the stagehands,” he said.

“At Westport I got to work with non-musicals and have different actual jobs instead of just fetching coffee and typing scripts. Now the best way to learn the theater, always, is to be a stage manager, and one of the great things about the Westport program was that you got to be an assistant stage manager on at least one show during the summer.”

He did that on “My Fiddle’s Got Three Strings,” directed by Lee Strasberg and starring Maureen Stapleton. When the actors started reading, I couldn’t hear one word. You want to talk about mumbling.

He was surprised how many actors mumbled during the read-through. And the reality of watching Strasberg direct was far different than hearing him talk about his craft.

“There is a difference between theory and practice,” Sondheim said.

“To listen to what Strasberg said was amazing. To see it was terrible.”

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).

Sondheim’s apprenticeship covered a range of duties. He — and fellow apprentice Frank Perry, who went on to a noted career directing films — fetched props, sold Cokes, parked cars and “cleaned latrines,” among other duties.

Stephen Sondheim’s association with the Westport Country Playhouse was long and important.

And today, his long-ago letter — with that very recognizable signature — is an important piece of Playhouse momoribilia.

Pic Of The Day #1690

South Compo wreath (Photo/Elisabeth Levey)

Let There Be Lights!

There are many ways to mark the holiday season in Westport.

The lighting of the tree in front of Town Hall is a great one.

1st Selectwoman Jen Tooker did the honors a few minutes ago. She was joined by her father and daughter, the Staples Orphenians, a gaggle of kids, and plenty of Westporters who are glad that — after a COVID-induced year off — this hometown tradition is back.

The Orphenians sang holiday tunes …

… former 1st Selectman Jim Marpe wheeled his grandson Charlie …

… his successor Jen Tooker led the countdown …

… and the 2021 holiday tree was lit. (Photos/Dan Woog)

Tooker’s COVID Update: Continued Vigilance Needed

First Selectwoman Jen Tooker offers this COVID update:

We are fortunate in Westport that the expertise and experience of our health and administrative  professionals is first-rate. Throughout the course of the pandemic, these individuals have played a vital role in keeping us informed and updated.

Westport’s COVID-19 Emergency Management Team continues to monitor and assess the trends and transmission rates in Westport, neighboring municipalities, the state and beyond. It is aware of the potential of strains of the virus such as Delta, as well as tracking the new Omicron variant, and the impact they may have on the community at large.

Like many cities and towns in Connecticut, Westport has seen a recent increase in the number of COVID cases. As of today, Westport remains in the “orange” category (10-14 cases per 100,000 population). It is crucial that we stay vigilant in avoiding the spread of the virus to those at risk.

Vaccinations and Boosters:

All individuals who are 5 years of age or older and live, work or attend school in Connecticut are eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

Health officials urge all who are able and eligible to get fully vaccinated, including receiving a booster shot, as soon as possible.

For more information on vaccinations and boosters, visit ct.gov/covidvaccine. For availability of local boosters, text your ZIPCode to 438829 (GETVAX).

Masking Guidelines:

Westport’s masking guidelines have not changed.

  • Outdoors:
    • Masks are not required to be worn by anyone.
  • Indoors: 
    • Vaccinated individuals are generally not required to wear masks.
    • Unvaccinated individuals must continue to wear masks.
    • Masks will still be required in healthcare facilities, facilities serving vulnerable populations, public and private transit, correctional facilities, schools (public and non-public, when students are present), and childcare facilities.
    • Some businesses, state and local government offices, performance spaces, and certain events, may still require universal masking.

As always, cooperation, patience and understanding are appreciated when visiting Westport establishments and locations where mask requirements remain in effect or where some may choose to maintain a full mask policy for the health and safety of their staff and customers.  

The Emergency Management Team continues its oversight of the pandemic and the effects it may have on the health and safety of all Westport residents, businesses and visitors. 

Again, we urge all those who are eligible to get a booster.

Additional information is available on the WWHD website: www.WWHD.org.