Tunnel Vision: Lighting Up Downtown

For 7 years, “Tunnel Vision” has been an intriguing — if overlooked and undervalued — part of Westport.

In 2014, artist/photographer/civic whirlwind Miggs Burroughs hung 16 lenticular images in the passageway between Main Street and Parker Harding Plaza.

Miggs Burroughs, in his “Tunnel Vision” creation.

Looked at one way, the photos — showing Westporters connecting with each other, each one changing depending on your viewing angle — turned what had been a damp, moldy Clockwork Orange-ish walkway into a tourist attraction.

Looked at another way, it reminded us that we are all connected.

Looked at a third way — today — it’s clear that the 16 hands, symbolizing love, friendship and community — need a bit of freshening up.

The lights have burned out the artworks’ colors. The photos need to be reprinted. The tunnel needs a new vision.

A restoration campaign is underway. Artist Mark Yurkiw says that Norwalk lighting designer Gary Novasel is helping procure the proper new lights. Duggal — an immigrant from India, who printed the original art — is ready to help again.

The cost is $12,000. Click here to donate, and for more information.

For special tour, click below:

BONUS MIGGS BURROUGHS NEWS:

The artist’s “Signs of Compassion” project from 5 years ago — another lenticular images project, this one combining Emily Dickson’s poem of that name with  Westporters using its words in American Sign Language — is headed to Montefiore Hospital.

The Bronx institution just acquired all 30 images. They embody the hospital’s mission of healing and compassion, and will be displayed permanently on site.

Roundup: June Snow, Safety Fence, Downtown Lights …

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That old saying about New England weather — if you don’t like it, wait a minute — is spot on. Still, it doesn’t usually snow in June.

If you’re Netflix, you make it happen. For a couple of weeks, a crew has filmed “The Noel Diary” in a residential neighborhood. It’s a Christmas (as in 2022) movie, so a bit of ingenuity is needed.

Here was one scene, yesterday. I’m sure it will look more realistic 18 months from now.

On screen, and in real life.

(Photo/Molly Alger)

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Meanwhile, summer is actually almost here. That means more folks walking, jogging, biking and driving past the former Positano restaurant on Hillspoint Road.

For over a year, permit violations have halted construction on what was to be a private residence. The building — half-finished, swathed in blue, surrounded by weeds — has become a neighborhood eyesore.

A security fence now encloses the property. That makes it safer.

But now it looks worse than ever.

(Photo/Dinkin Fotografix)

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The Westport Downtown Association’s GoFundMe campaign was a success.

The organization has installed more lights along Church Lane — including the Patagonia and Urban Outfitters buildings.

Next on the lights list: Main Street.

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Jim Hood lives on Compo Beach. Is that where his dog learned to swim? Or does it just paddle instinctively? Who cares? Here’s today’s “Westport … Naturally” photo.

(Photo/Jim Hood)

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And finally … today is Flag Day. Long may she wave, proudly and brave!

 

EMS Is Here For Us. Are We Here For Them?

If you’ve never needed Westport Volunteer EMS — whether at home, out and about, or in an ambulance — consider yourself lucky.

Your time will come.

And whether you have or have not, if you’ve never considered where the funding for this volunteer service — including its 3 ambulances, and every bit of equipment — comes from: The time has come.

Read on. Then pony up.

Established over 40 years ago, Westport EMS is a neighbor-to-neighbor organization. Over 100 members give almost 20,000 hours of their time each year, staffing ambulances. They come from all walks of life. (Because they love Westport so much, some are from out of town too).

Some — but not all — of the 2021 Westport Volunteer Emergency Medical Service crew.

Nearly every call includes a paramedic — very rare, especially for a community this size. Response time beats the national average (and have you seen the traffic in town lately?).

So how much money comes from the town budget?

Almost $0.

EMS is not funded by taxes. The yearly budget — around $1.3 million — is almost entire self-funded. That pays for 7 full-time staff members, 1 full-time Norwalk Hospital paramedic, and other costs like buildings and insurance.

Westport Volunteer EMS — the volunteer arm of the official town agency, run by the Police Department — raises all money needed to buy equipment supplies. That’s everything from Band-Aids (true!) to ambulances (which are substantially more expensive than bandages).

WEstport Volunteer Emergency Medical Service pays for all equipment in an ambulance …

A fully outfitted ambulance costs over $300,000. WVEMS has 3. They should be bought new every 8 to 10 years. For a variety of reasons, all must be replaced soon.

… and the ambulances themselves. Pictured: Mike Burns, WVEMS president.

The stretcher and loading system for each ambulance is over $50,00o. They are replaced when the ambulances are.

A fly car (paramedic response vehicle) costs $50,000. Westport has 3; they are replaced every 10 years as well.

Also in the budget: fly cars.

A Lifepak 15 heart monitoring device costs $50,000. We have 4. A Lucas CPR device costs $15,000. Westport has 3.

Oh, yeah: WVEMS supplies all their own PPE. You might not have thought about that before March 2020. Now you know that vital equipment adds up quickly too.

Raising money — even as a 501(c)(3), even in a town like Westport — is challenging. Most people assume their taxes cover EMS. They don’t.

More than half of all donations are $50 or less; 83% are no more than $100. WVEMS has, admittedly, not done a good job telling their story to Westporters — including the wealthiest families, who already support so many other good causes.

WVEMS hopes to establish a professionally managed endowment, providing self-funding for vehicle and supply needs. Neighboring towns have already done that.

“Every dollar counts,” says Westport Volunteer Emergency Medical Service president Michael Burns. (Click here to donate; click here for more information, including how to volunteer.)

Burns also encourages Westporters to spread the WVEMS word, to others who might help.

It’s one of our town’s most important services. As noted earlier: If you haven’t needed them yet — one day you will.

Your contribution today will ensure a speedy response — and a new ambulance, if needed — tomorrow.

 

Pic Of The Day #1517

Future Staples High School stars, at Compo Beach (Photo/Ed Simek)

Remembering Dr. Horace Laffaye

Dr. Horace Laffaye died on May 31, in Durango, Colorado. A prominent Westport physician, he suffered from Alzheimer’s disease. He was 86.

Dr. Horace Laffaye

After a long association with a private practice at The Willows, Dr. Laffaye served as chief of surgery at Norwalk Hospital for 22 years. He organized annual symposia for his colleagues, where surgeons shared their professional expertise and socialized at places like Lake George and Bretton Woods, New Hampshire. Golf and tennis competitions were often included. He retired in 2005.

He was president of the New England Surgical Society and the Surgeons’ Travel Club. For several years he mentored physicians’ assistants, as a Yale University professor.

Serendipitously, a patient sought treatment for a polo injury. That reignited a passion for a favorite endeavor back in his native Argentina. For 2 decades Dr. Laffaye played polo at the Fairfield County Hunt Club in Westport, and other venues throughout the Northeast.

After his playing days ended, Dr. Laffaye combined his love of history and passion for polo by reinventing himself as a scholar and author. He authored or edited 9 books and innumerable articles on polo in Spanish and English, adding significantly to the historical record of the sport.

In 2010 he served as a Daniels Fellow at the National Sporting Museum and Library in Middleburg, Virginia. His research led to his  publication “Polo in the United States: A History.”

After retiring to Wellington, Florida Dr. Laffaye assisted the Polo Museum and Hall of Fame in many ways, including adding to the collections of books, art and memorabilia, and serving on the board of directors and chair of the Hall of Fame Nominating Committee.

Dr. Laffaye was comfortable conversing with CEOs, ambassadors, grooms and other staff. He bonded with many through their shared love of polo.

He also loved golf. In his youth he both played and refereed rugby, and met his future wife after a match.

Dr. Laffaye was honored with a lifetime membership in the Sports Car Club of America, after competing in rallies for decades. Late in life he told caregivers “You drive like Fangio,” a reference to an Argentine car-racing idol.

Dr. Laffaye was predeceased by his wife Martha, sister María Teresa and brother Roberto. He is survived by his daughter Gisele Laffaye Pansze (Trent) of Durango, Colorado and their children; son Patrick of Norwalk, and former daughter-in-law Ann Kovarik Laffaye of Phoenix, and their sons; his loving companion in his later years, Mary Boykin of Palm Beach, and numerous nieces and nephews and their families in Argentina.

When he gathered his family for an Alaskan cruise he said, “After I die, my grandkids won’t remember that I was a surgeon or an author. But they will remember that I took them to Alaska.” He was generous, thoughtful and gracious. Even toward the end, his sense of humor and his laughter would emerged at unexpected moments.

A celebration of his life will be held July 24 (noon, Greenwich Polo Club).

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in Dr. Laffaye’s honor for Alzheimer’s research and support programs to Memory Matters, PO Box 22330, Hilton Head Island, SC 29925.

Photo Challenge #337

One reader called it “another fabulous crown jewel.” Another said it was a “fabulous spot for a nice party.”

“It” is the small clubhouse at Ned Dimes Marina. Separating scores of boats from the parking lot by the softball field, the low wooden building can be lost in Compo Beach’s beauty.

But it really is a gem. It’s a spot to sit, rest and people-watch. It’s shaded and breezy.

And — though many Westporters don’t know this — the clubhouse is also available to rent, for a modest-compared-to-most-places fee.

Fred Cantor, Lee Ann Bollert, Diane Silfen, Andrew Colabella, Rich Stein, Louis Weinberg, Thomas Siebrasse, Marc Isaacs, Michael Calise, Jonathan McClure and Sue Kane all identified last week’s Photo Challenge, a reflective-type shot by Dinkin Fotografix. (Click here to see.)

So who was Ned Dimes?

He was a former All-New England soccer player at Wesleyan University, B-24 World War II pilot, and Yale Law graduate who practiced his entire career in Westport.

In his 55 years here he was elected to the Board of Finance (18 years, 14 as chair); served as president of the Westport Pension Board; was on the Representative Town Meeting, Recreation Commission, Public Site & Building Committee and Planning and Zoning Commission (alternate), and was a YMCA trustee.

Dimes also chaired Saugatuck Congregational Church’s board of trustees, and was a deacon. He spent 50 years as a Saugatuck Hose Company #4 member (as well as their attorney and trustee).

He also belonged to the Minuteman and South Norwalk Boat Clubs — more reasons (among many) that our “crown jewel” marina is named for Ned Dimes. He died in 2005, age 82.

Meanwhile — away from the beach — if you know where in Westport you’d see this, click “Comments” below.

(Photo/JC Martin)

Roundup: Fireworks, Juneteenth, Gold’s …

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There are no 4th of July fireworks in Westport this year.

But there were pyrotechnics off Compo last night.

A private party — and anyone else down there around 10 — enjoyed a brief display. As in colonial (okay, pre-pandemic) days, they were launched from a barge offshore.

The event was legit. Police inspected the operation earlier in the evening.

But it sure surprised plenty of folks around town, who heard it.

And their dogs.

Fireworks off Compo Beach last night.

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The Westport Museum of History & Culture honors Juneteenth — the commemoration of the end of slavery in the US — with a special walking program on Westport’s African American history.

The June 19 event (2 to 3:30 p.m.). features guides, who will share stories of the area’s Black community from colonial times through today. It’s based on the museum’s exhibit “Remembered: The History of African Americans in Westport.”

Space is limited to 10 people per tour. Reservations ($10 each) are required, Click here to purchase.

Meanwhile, this Tuesday (June 15, 6 p.m.), the museum will showcase objects related to Black history. It’s part of their Tuesday Treasures program, showcasing objects from the collection not normally on public view.

To watch live and ask questions, visit their Facebook page or YouTube channel.

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For over 60 years, Gold’s Delicatessen has been Westport’s go-to place for pastrami, bagels and lox and more.

And though it did a healthy takeout business over the past 15 months, there’s no surer sign that Westport is back from COVID than this: Gold’s indoor tables are once again open.

So go. Have breakfast or lunch. Sit and schmooze. Just like in 2019.

Or 1959.

Gold’s is back! (Photo/Toby Burns)

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It’s one thing to have a national champion rowing team.

It’s astonishing to have two — and both in the same age group.

That’s what Saugatuck Rowing Club did yesterday. Both girls U-17 teams — 4+ and 8+ won the US Rowing Youth Nationals in Sarasota, Florida.

Congratulations to 8+ rowers Mia Kirkorsky (coxswain), and rowers Claudia Chadwick, Elisabeth Chadwick, Hannah Clemens, Maia Freeman, Isabella Furman, Jane Leahy, Janna Moore and Lauren Schramm. All except Isabell and Lauren are from Westport.

In the 4+ boat: Westporters Victoria Bazarko and Rosie Lundberg, plus Ella Casano, Kelly Kennedy and Alexandra Cowan.

Coaches are Gordon Getsinger, Anna Yamamoto and Mike O’’Hara.

Look for them all back soon, on the river. You’ll know who they are by the gold glinting off the sun.

Saugatuck Rowing Club’s U17 8+ boat: national champs!

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What’s better than a dinner of Pizza Pete’s homemade pies at Wakeman Town Farm with the family?

The same event — but without the kids. (C’mon — admit it!)

An adults-only event — yes, there’s wine — is set for Thursday, June 24 (7 p.m.). The outdoor event includes individual pizzas from Skinny Pines’ Jeff Borofsky, a bottle from The Grapevine, and live music. Click here for details, and tickets.

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Comedy returns to the Remarkable Theater screen this Tuesday (June 15, 8:30 p.m.). “Bridesmaids” tops the bill. Click here for tickets and more information.

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Jocelyn & Chris — their siblings, so I guess they don’t need last names — entertained an appreciative MoCA Westport crowd Friday night.

The outdoor concert was part of their summer-long concert series. Next: a classical piano concert by Alessio Bax and Lucille Chung (Friday, June 25). They’re married, BTW. Click here for tickets and more information.

Jocelyn & Chris entertain at MoCA Westport. (Photo/Maddy Martin)

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“Westport … Naturally” gets lots of gorgeous shots. This is not one of them.

Sherwood Island (Photo/Molly Alger)

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And finally … missing sit-down meals at Gold’s is not anything like what Charles Dickens’ orphans went through. Still, it’s not celebrate the return of the popular deli’s glorious food.

Paddle For Trash. Then Party On!

Free paddle boats. Free food. Free reggae.

And the river wins.

That’s the plan for next Saturday evening (June 19). Westport Paddle Club — the great kayak rental/lesson/tour place on Riverside Avenue — invites everyone to grab a kayak or paddleboard. The friendly young staff will help you launch (and provide bags and gloves, if needed).

Scour the Saugatuck River for trash and debris. It starts around 5 p.m. — an hour or so before high tide — so you can paddle up with the tide, then drift back with it too. Bring it back (or hand it off to a support skiff) to the Paddle Club-provided dumpster.

Everyone will be back before 8. It will still be light — and time to party. Jr’s Deli & Grille provides the grub.

Westport Paddle Club’s Taryn and Robbie Guimond organized the event. But they’re not doing it alone.

Longshore Sailing School has hopped on board. They’ll donate kayaks and a support boat to clean the south side of the river (below the bridge), and the harbor area. They’ll head to the Paddle Club when they’re done too.

PS: Neighbors can collect garbage along the shoreline too, then dispose of it in the club’s dumpster. Or just leave it on the curb; the club will haul it the rest of the way. But be sure to stay for the fun!

Launch from the dock. Scour the river. Then have fun!

 

Pic Of The Day #1516

Hauling in a colorful boat (Photo/Gene Borio)

Roundup: Flowers, Hiawatha, Yarn …

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Sure, the Town Hall steps and columns could use some refurbishing.

But they look better today, thanks to yesterday’s Westport Garden Club #FridayFlowers decorations. It doesn’t take much to help, that’s for sure.

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Speaking of politics: On Tuesday night, the Representative Town Meeting affirmed the Planning & Zoning Commission’s decision to allow 157 units of housing to be built on Hiawatha Lane.

The decision to settle with the developer — Summit Saugatuck — and put an end to 3 lawsuits seems to be final.

However, Carolanne Curry — a resident of the area, and founder of Save Old Saugatuck — vows to keep fighting.

“SOS will continue  efforts,” she says. “Neighbors will continue to meet and share ideas and concerns. We will continue to do our collective research and telephoning. Motivated more than ever to save this community and keep our homes, we will find other paths to victory.”

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Westport Yarns has plenty of colorful stock. In honor of rainbow month, they host their first Craft with Pride Day next Saturday (June 19).

The shop opposite Fresh Market will have kits for a Pride neckerchief, and a silent auction for a ceramic piece by Jon Puzzuoli.

Auction proceeds — and 10% of the day’s sales — will go to Westport Pride, the town’s LGBTQ organization.

 

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SoulCycle has reopened its indoor Westport studio, at 50% capacity. They’ve redesigned their space, emphasizing safety, comfort — and of course, the importance of cycling for physical and mental health.

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Congratulations to Luke Brodsky and Bradley Sheppard. The Staples High School tennis players completed an undefeated season by winning the state invitational doubles tournament yesterday.

Luke Brodsky and Bradley Sheppard. (Photo courtesy of The Ruden Report)

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The other day, “Westport … Naturally” — well, okay, I — misidentified a Canada goose as a mallard. Hey, it was a long day.

Here is an actual mallard. It’s everything it’s quacked up to be.

(Photo/JC Martin)

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And finally … in honor of the “Westport … Naturally” photo above, here’s proof that as bad a shape America may be in today, we’ve seen far worse before: