Does The Camera Lie?

Last month, a former Westporter returning for her near-60th high school reunion asked “06880”:  “What has happened to our beautiful town?”

She described Main Street as “a disaster…dirty and abandoned.”  She called town property “neglected.”

Before the comments veered off — as they often do here — on tangents like zoning regulations and the redistribution of wealth, several readers took issue with the opinions of our returnee.

They pointed to the beauty of the beach, Longshore, even the people.

One person told her to stay away, and keep her “negative karma” out of here.

Those folks sure won’t like what Marcia Bingham has to say.

The 1960 Staples grad came back a couple of weeks ago, for her 50th reunion.  She’d seen the previous story on our “seedy” downtown.  She walked around.  She didn’t like what she saw.  She bit her tongue.

But then — a few days later — she emailed “06880.”

Marcia said:

The reunion was a terrific series of events.  It was wonderful to be back in Westport after so many years.

However, I was very surprised by the town’s appearance.  Perhaps age has modified my memories, but I remember Westport as a clean, cared-for town.  It was disappointing to see a town with the cachet of Westport looking so unkempt.

I don’t know who is responsible for all the things that keep up a town’s appearance.   Whoever they are, whether it is the merchants, town maintenance or someone else, they have fallen down on the job!

I hope Westport will regain pride in its appearance.

Pretty straight-forward.  One woman’s opinion, sure.

But before you kill the messenger, know this:

Marcia took photos.

She offered proof of what she saw:  overflowing dumpsters, trash in the alleys, crumbling stone walls, faded signs, weeds, branches, general detritus and schmutz.

If you’re tempted to blast her, the way you blasted the previous correspondent, at least look below.

26 responses to “Does The Camera Lie?

  1. She needs to get around more, you can always pick out crummy areas of any town. Last time I was there I thought it looked pretty good.

  2. I hope she’s joking. Does she have nothing better to do than take pictures of a piece of gum on the sidewalk, and a weed growing next to a tree. None of these pictures in any way represent Westport whatsoever. Find the most beautiful town in America, and guaranteed you’ll find a piece of gum on the sidewalk, or even a sign hanging on an electrical pole. This is possibly one of the dumbest ‘complaints’ i’ve ever seen on o6880.

  3. mary ruggiero

    Maybe this “unkempt” look, and I agree with the photographer-writer, is a by-product of having chain stores where there used to be mom-n-pops – who took care of their own properties. Westport cannot lay claim to being beautiful because it has beaches – that is result of geography and nature. What we do with our environment in to our credit or blame. The details make up the whole – and our details could use a brushup.

    • Bravo, Mary! Very keen observation! I worked at Susan Shields when I was about 14 years old and had broom in hand all the time to be sure the store frontage was kept neat and clean. I often clean up when I’m at the beach, and am someone who likes to take action moreso than complain. I think the chain stores and the lack of personal interest in their employees has a great deal to do with it.

      Take personal responsiblity … act … be involved. If I see a coffee cup on the sand at the beach, I pick it up. I’ve even picked up after others’ dogs at the beach – treating Compo like a litter box angers me!! Anyway, I do have to say I find Compo quite special, as I do the Saugatuck River. The river behind Main Street is truly a gift for the eyes and soul!

      If you want Westport to be clean … get cleaning! It’s like when I used to complain about my wait while eating a meatball grinder and pizza … um, you want something to change, change it. I know I’m not “too good” to pick up a coffee cup off the street or do what I have to in order to keep our town looking great! I’ve also barked at people for littering here and there, but that could be the second trimester hormones kicking in. 🙂

      Cheers too all and thank you for keeping 06880 interesting! Dan … thank you for giving me a chance to share my thoughts – yet again!! Westport is really a great place to live. No person, place or thing is perfect (well, maybe the moon). If you don’t like something, do what you can to fix it! It’s good for the soul!

  4. Eric Buchroeder

    Hi Dan,
    This is probably the first time I’ve ever agreed with the posted comments of others on your site that I’ve responded to. I must be getting old 😉

    I was in town for my 40th Staples reunion in August. I was without a car and spent the whole day Saturday walking to places I hadn’t seen in 20 years. Downtown. Willowbrook to visit relatives. The Beach. Greens Farms, Saugatuck and everywhere in between. I couldn’t believe how nice everything looked. If anything, I felt that maybe Westport is one town left in America that people actually still had the time and money to either maintain the area or pay others to do it (probably the latter). This does not detract from the opinions expressed and although the “McMansions” are unbelievably pervasive if there are people who can afford to build them, they IMO don’t do any harm and with the trend in the economy are likely going to be available at a deep discount in the future to some thrifty soul who has the good sense to save his/her money for a rainy day. Could be me if I can stay the course.

    Anyway, although I’ll probably never be able to afford to move back home, I’m definitely looking forward to future visits and your blog helps fill in the gap between them.

    Best Wishes,


  5. Why not stick with the reality instead of ad hominem arguments? Do the pictures lie? Why not deal with the flaws rather than pretend they don’t exist?

  6. Years ago when I worked at the DC law firm Arnold & Porter the iconoclastic Judge Thurman Arnold and I had a conversation where it was clear he was making up the facts as the dicussion progressed. When I questioned him on his colorful story he replied with the perfect line about the way things use to be:

    “The older I get, the more clearly I remember those things which never really happened.”

  7. Seriously, Jeffxs? Are you really disturbed by some weeds (which is a natural occurrence) and fallen leaves (natural, as well)?

    I’m not saying that chewed gum, old posters and the like are nice looking…I just have much better things to worry about. Little things on the ground are the last thing people look at when they care about the beauty of a town. I heard a sidewalk in mainstreet just got pooped on by an overflying bird. OMG it’s so ugly now…(sarcasm)

    • I can’t take you seriously because it is obvious that you did not read my post. You evaded the issue. Are her observations accurate? Does the trash etc. exist? Deal with it instead of trying to minimize the problem. Sloppy thinking like yours is not helpful.

  8. The photographer and Jeffxs are both correct. Cleanliness and attention to detail are the subliminal signals of a well ordered town and society. If the little things are ignored, you can bet the big ones are as well. Somebody ain’t minding the store.
    Terrible? Maybe not yet. Reason for concern and action? Definitely.

    • Reason for concern and action? If we took action on every piece of gum on a sidewalk, how much would that cost us? I know Jeffsx has always been against those huge taxes that Westport has, so why increase them because of some fallen leaves? Of course the pictures don’t lie, and maybe some posters hanging on poles isn’t the prettiest scene, but why waste our time and money? I think our town is plenty well ordered.

  9. Westport, A Nice Place To Live.

    I hope she spent some time to look at what is beautiful and well kept. I would provide her a list things she missed. I do appreciate this ladies “punch list” everybody needs one. The town, merchants, and homeowners should not take for grant Westport, we do need to do a better job in maintaining what a wonderful town we have. But I find it sad Dan that everybody
    that comes back to town for various functions and then you post their comments on the your blog seem to be negative, besides those like Eric who add their comments. Dan do you ever get positive emails/letters from ex-Westporters that you feature on the blog? I know the negative stirs up more controversity and action on the 06880 blog. Which is fun, it gets old and tiresome. I do like the blog, BUT I am just getting tired of hearing from people that have choosen to live elsewhere speak negative about my home
    (constructive or not). Is there an agenda to all this negative feedback?
    It is a beautiful day! Have some fun walking or driving around Westport.

    • Not sure it’s a lot of people. Two people returning for their respective reunions emailed me with their observations. I gave them a forum. I will also give a forum to anyone who emails photos of beautiful Westport — they can use the same “Contact Me With Comments, Tips Or Photos!” link at the top of the blog that the nay-sayers use. (Please stay away from sunsets-at-Compo, however; WestportNow’s got that franchise.)

      In terms of negativity, it’s human nature. People are much more apt to write a negative email than a positive one. It’s easier to criticize than to complain. You should see the private emails I get!

      As for me, I try to balance the positives and the negatives. I’ve posted plenty of stories about the good things in town. But I don’t want to shy away from the less good.

  10. Cynthia McFadden

    Amen to this last comment. I love the town, love the blog but it does seem we have a recurring theme among many articles: What is wrong with Westport? Are we so fragile that we can not take any criticism? Is it an arrogance that seems to run amuck in America that we have to be superior, to be number one, to save the world?? I do appreciate the comments of Jeffxs and the Dude who definitely see the glass half empty but do so in the light of one famous quote: “There are cracks in nearly everything but they allow the light to shine through.” I guess Marcia missed the sunset at Compo or the second hole at Longshore in the morning mist or the flags on the bridge. Odd is her preoccupation with the photo lens. This is one gal that just loves her new hometown.

  11. I cast my vote with Marcia Bingham, Jeffxs, Tom Feely and Mary Ruggerio.
    They have removed their rose-colored glasses and see ( a part of ) of the world as it truly exists. You can love your home town without the need to sugar coat the macadam.

  12. I don’t get the impression anybody’s saying Westport isn’t a great town and a beautiful place. They are simply pointing out [with photos and comments] that perhaps a little tidying up is in order to keep it that way. There is a thin line between a suggestion and a complaint. Self confident folks hear suggestion, thin skinned folks hear complaint. The lady is trying to help the town, not put it down.

  13. The Dude Abides

    Wanna see a picture? Take one of me and my honey picking up trash on
    North Avenue on Sundays. That is Westport.

  14. Last time I checked, there is no such thing as a perfect town.

  15. Westport IS Wonderful

    But, HEY, what is wrong with suggestions for improvement, anyway ? Why is it that the “naysayers should take a back seat” has become the prevailing way of thinking in this town ? Why shouldn’t we who love Westport AND want the best for our hometown be able to express the way we feel ?

    This kind (and sincere) lady didn’t say she no longer LOVED WESTPORT… (as in: Longshore is BAD, the beach is UGLY or the Flags on the Bridge SUCK)…she simply expressed disappointment in what she found when she returned here… and had the PHOTOS TO BACK IT UP. Ever hear the saying “a picture is worth a thousand words ?”

    AND, if you truly love our town, then you would WANT to know that we are putting our best foot forward…for our own enjoyment and pride, and that of our visitors…instead getting your backs up (!)

    I say “GO !” Tom Feeley, Jeffx, Mary, Marcia…and Dan for providing the space…I’m with ya all the way !

    PS. Yo Dude: I’m sure North Ave is bad…but check out the stretch around the beach…more Dunkin’ Donuts cups, soda cans, Poland Spring bottles – and now, DOG POOPS – than you can shake a stick at.

    • The Dude Abides

      WW: Will be down there next Sunday. My point was that Westport is only as good as the people who reside here and help to solve the problems. Most of the problems illustrated could have been solved in the time that the good alumnae had to take all the pictures.

      • Westport IS Wonderful

        DUDE: I totally DIG. Au contraire, I can only IMAGINE the trash you find along North Ave, esp. as it is a HIGH USE route, between the commuters, out-of-towners, contractors, and the zillions of school kids. Mine is not an attempt to undermine the seriousness of your efforts. My message is simply the dirt is DESPICABLE, where EVER it is found around town…I concur wholeheartedly.

        • The Dude Abides

          Oh, I understand. There is a rumor flying around Wakeman Field that on the day her husband died, Joanne Woodward was seen picking up trash along lower North Avenue. To me that is what Westport is all about: people making a difference. You can whine about the government or take photos to show the downside of neglect. That is superficial as a new Hummer. To me, what makes WESTPORT IS WONDERFUL is the people of this town.

  16. Jeffxs, your comment was clearly supporting one side. I wasn’t aiming to answer any of your questions.

    Again, my point was that some trash and falling leaves is the last thing Westport residents should really be worried about.

  17. Linda Gramatky Smith

    Of course I agree that listening to people’s observations of Westport is helpful and we need not take offense. I will look around to see if Marcia has seen things I’ve overlooked.

    BTW, Marcia Yowell Bingham graduated in the class of 1960 (not 50) and so was celebrating her 50th reunion (not her 60th) … along with me! 🙂

  18. John McCarthy

    Prediction: This post will be used by those who want to dramatically change downtown to push for a private-public partnership to manage downtown Westport. How much autonomy would the town retain in such a partnership? What will we lose? What would we gain? What will be the true cost? Has it really come to this Westport?

  19. The objectionable conditions exist because someone created them. They are not visited upon us other than by the choices of some.. Some people, even some Westport residents perhaps, are at fault. Why do some believe that it is acceptable to despoil public places? Spending public monies to clean up the mess, would be a foolish choice. The mess will reappear with regularity and the impulse to act responsibly will not be reenforced.