Philip Perlah Says Goodbye To Westport

Last Sunday’s “06880” post on Christie’s Country Store — aka Vermont — brought this response from Philip Perlah:

After 38 years, it is time to say goodbye to Westport. About 6 years ago we bought a 2nd home in a small town in Vermont. We have now moved in.

Our new town has a population of about 3,000, compared to the 25,000 or so in Westport.

Traffic lights are not merely suggestions.  Actually, we don’t have any traffic lights.

Philip Perlah's new downtown.

Philip Perlah’s new downtown.

There are very few Bimmers and Benzes; more Subarus and pickups (really, really big pickups). Having fewer Bimmers seems to reduce the problems of the entitled self-important. For example, parking is a breeze at the Starbucks parking lot. Actually, we do not have a Starbucks parking lot.

Well, we don’t even have a Starbucks.  But we do have a coffee shop on the green, and an old-fashioned, aluminum diner with Formica tables (narrow — only 1 row of booths and a counter).

But there is a McDonald’s in the next town. And a Shaw’s.

We all remember the Westport Shaw’s –- narrow aisles, dingy, useless clerks. The Vermont Shaw’s has wide aisles and really, really helpful, friendly staff. Like all grocery stores in Vermont, it has an entire aisle devoted to wine.

Our home is on a dirt road (plowed by the town), and a river runs through the back yard. When the wind is right, we are reminded there is a dairy farm a mile down the road.

Philip Perlah's Vermont home.

Philip Perlah’s Vermont home.

We can walk to the town green, which has eclectic shops and restaurants — all locally owned — and a cute library.

The scenery is lovely, and the “vibe” is really mellow and relaxing.

We still have our season tickets to the Westport Country Playhouse, so we were back to see “Nora.” We didn’t miss it one bit.

Next year we’ll subscribe to the Weston Playhouse. As in Weston, Vermont.

A river runs through Philip Perlah's back yard.

A river runs through Philip Perlah’s back yard.

36 responses to “Philip Perlah Says Goodbye To Westport

  1. Gil Ghitelman

    I’m delighted that Philip Perlah has found his nirvana outside the hustle and bustle of Westport. Small box stores lousy internet and cell phone service and dubious home cooking that became mom and pop restaurants when the kids flew the coop sounds quaint. To each his own.

    One point should be clarified however. He refers to “Beamers” when I’m certain he meant Bimmers. The former are motorcycles and Bimmers or
    Yuppymobiles are high priced BMWs driven by motoring enthusiasts. The oversized trucks he observes are required equipment on the awful roads
    in Vermont although I’d be the first to admit I-95 ain’t no picnic

  2. Cheryl McKenna

    Sad to read this as I love Westport and grew up in Exeter NH and do remember that small town feel. Vermont is wonderful and I truly hope you are and will continue to be happy there.
    You make some good points about common politeness …
    We can not legislate good behavior so I do wonder why in such a beautiful place people can not smile and be kind.
    I try to do my part and am perceived as a bit goofy in my cheer…
    I do think all society today is more indepentant less needy of neighbors and that lends itself to a coldness …
    Thoughts?

  3. Beth Berkowitz

    Well good for Phillip. I’m glad he found a place that works for him. Sounds like he found nothing good about Westport recently or maybe in a VERY longtime. It was probably long overdue for him to move on.

    While he points out some downsides to current Westport in his opinion, I think there are still many of us that appreciate the beauty of both past Westport and current Westport. Living in a town with paved roads is one thing I like especially with a lot of snow I would rather not be driving dirt roads no matter who plows them. Also, while I love charming and quaint and miss having the mom and pop businesses in downtown, it’s still lovely to walk around and see friendly people I know even if we are a bit busier than people in vermont. I prefer the beach area to the mountains too, I don’t think his town in VT has longshore or Compo to enjoy.

    Please enjoy your new adventure as we in Westport we continue to enjoy our little slice of (not so perfect) heaven. Although someay find it perfect for them.

  4. Wanda Tedesco

    Be Happy!

  5. I think the correction of Beamer vs Bimmer is precisely what Mr. Perlah is talking about 🙂

  6. terry branniganBrannigan

    I wonder what the people in Nirvana, VT think about outsiders moving in? I wonder if after a while, when more people choose the same right (to live where they want to live) and select Nirvana, if the natives (or recently relocated) will resent the new comers for corrupting their slice of heaven.

    I also hope every one lives happy and encourage others who resent our town to choose the same path (assuming they have a second home and nothing beyond their control forcing them to stay such as work, aging parents or kids who’s life they don’t want to disrupt). 38 years is a long sentence for anyone to serve.

    This town is changing but so are the times. This place Nirvana, VT sounds interesting. I hope the residents who do not allow a McDonalds in their little hamlet, also don’t travel over to the next town to eat there. I also hope they don’t take their trash to the next town over because a transfer station is ugly.

    What an upsetting post to read. I recently had a serious medical condition and was amazed at the care and support this town showed me and my family. Unfortunately I can’t post the names or generosity shown by this town however I will wager that that it matches anything Nirvana, VT could muster.

    BTW: my family totally enjoyed the 06880 party on the beach.

    • Elizabeth Thibault

      Many current VT residents are actually transplants themselves – plenty of our out-of-state UVM classmates stayed after graduation, while natives like my husband & I left to seek better employment prospects. You’ve got to really want to live there, because in many aspects it’s not that much cheaper than CT. (My MIL dreams of us moving back and has to be reminded that we would face a 40% pay cut, higher property taxes, and houses that still would run us $400-$600k in Northern VT.)
      While there was much good to be found in our hometown, Westport has been pretty good to us and provides us with so many amenities that we couldn’t find there. I have to agree with you, Westport is a good place to be.

  7. Eric William Buchroeder SHS '70

    My friends and relatives who live in VT tell me it is becoming the Nirvana for drugs and drug-related gang warfare. At least in Westport the drug addicts can afford their habit and the only signs of warfare are the demonstrations against it that are almost as old as I am.

  8. I grew up in a very similar small town of 2000, actually on a farm just outside the town. It was in upstate NY, but just over the border from VT, with the Green Mts forming the horizon from the back porch.

    I really enjoyed growing up there. Walking up Main St., everyone knew your name, the only chain stores was the A&P and later Agway, but that was more of farmer’s coop. I worked in a family run grocery store, started on the basketball team and was President of my high school class (68 boys and girls….so the pickings were slim)….all things I would likely never have been able to do in Westport. There was town beach on the famous-for-trout Battenkill River…..however, unlike in VT. over in NY there were few trout swimming with us in the Battenkill as we were down river from a couple of paper mills who dumped God knows what in the river.

    So, all in all, I can relate to what Mr. Perlah writes. VT can be an idyllic place….maybe not so much during Mud Season, followed shortly thereafter by Fly Season…but it certainly works for many. Not for me anymore, but that’s just me. On a visit home last year to my 50th high school reunion, a classmate who now lives in VT wore a tee shirt (it was clean, so that qualifies it as “dressing up” back home) which bore an inscription which pretty much says it all about VT… “What happens in Vermont stays in Vermont…..NOTHING happens in VT”.

    I wish Mr. Perlah continued contentment with his move which I fully suspect will be the case. As for me, I’m staying in Westport.

  9. Kala Namasivayam

    Goodluck to Mr. Perlah in Vermont.

    Weston Playhouse – had never heard of it before, and I heard it twice this week. Staples Players alum, Tyler Jent is in the cast of Chorus Line there. Hope you get to watch the show…

    http://www.westonplayhouse.org/a-chorus-line

  10. Cathy Romano

    I’ve lived in Westport all my life, along with my parents and grandparents. We raised our children here and gave them a good education. Yes we have seen many, many changes, some for the better and some not. But I think mostly for the better. We have grown as a good town where so many people come to live and raise their children. Our town provides for those who need help, rebuilds places like Hales Court, trailer park, the Y, Longshore and buildings down town that need updating. Yes even plans to fix up our beloved Compo. (some good, some not so good).
    We keep our town updated and as safe as possible. Our town employees, firemen, police, EMT’s, and all other town services are outstanding in their service to us.
    I think we as a town respect the past, (look at our fantastic Historical Society) but look to the future and are responsible in our planning. As much as some want to keep Westport a horse and buggy town it is not responsible or even realistic. If we want that we can always drive a few hours to Vermont to get it.
    As for me, I’m not moving!

  11. Peter Barlow

    All these Westporters who seem irritated that Mr. Perlah has defected from their town are missing a simple fact. The population of the town has hardly changed in decades. This means that all the people who have come to Westport in that time are matched by thousands who have left.

  12. Peter Flatow

    I grew up in VT and understand Philips’s comments but he will learn that Vermonters still think of all those who move up to the Green Mountain State as flatlanders and Vermont doesn’t have dirt roads – they are soft roads. When my wife and I go back to visit family or just get away we do get a rush of calm when we cross the border. Westport versus Vermont – they are just different.

    • Elizabeth Thibault

      Going home for a summer visit has some unique challenges – crossing the border also seems to bring a threefold increase of bugs on the front of the car and windshield!

  13. Gil Ghitelman

    In my early morning post, when I’m at my grumpiest, I disparaged Mr. Perlah’s Vermont and I must clarify. The roads and internet service stink and the down home food probably should have stayed there. That said, I always found the people there to be most caring, friendly and thoughtful. One would be hard pressed to find sweeter group of folks. They make New England shine.

    I learned to ski in Vermont and I’ll cherish the memory of walking hand in hand with an early love on a clear star filled night on a mountain road in Stowe belting out “Moonlight in Vermont.” Modesty aside, Francis Albert Sinatra would have come in second to my rendition. I still get goose-bumps thinking about that. Could you blame me?

    Westport is my home and I do wish Philip Perlah well in his new surroundings.

    • Dear Gil,

      While cell phone service is spotty in some areas (the hills); our local, family owned telephone company (that’s a rich family in Greenwich) just installed fiber-optic cable to our house. This gives us broad band service and streaming TV.

  14. Dick Lowenstein

    Who is Philip Perlah?

    • Just a guy who lived in Westport for 37 years and moved to Vermont. Who are you?

    • Eric William Buchroeder SHS '70

      Hi Phil,
      For what it’s worth, your new place in VT sounds/looks great. In 37 years I’m sure you got to experience everything good about Westport and are young enough to do the same in Vermont. Best wishes.

    • Werner Liepolt

      Who are you besides obnoxious?

  15. Jo Shields Dickison

    I Iived in idyllic VT, near Middlebury, in the late 60s and early 70s, in warmer weather, crossing through NH to get to the cabin in West Boothbay Harbor ME (a 10-hour circuitous journey), avoiding southern New England like the plague. But in 1975 I returned to my home state, Westport in particular, with the promise that I would stay for two years, and well, I guess there’s a reason I’m still here…

  16. Nancy W Hunter

    Sounds like a great new chapter for this fellow, moving from a principality to a town. Don’t be jealous.
    Chapeau!

  17. Phil, I too will probably be leaving Westport at some point in the near future–but it will be due to health reasons and I think that, wherever you go, there are always tradeoffs.

    It seems you have moved to a town which unquestionably has more economic diversity, but the population is not as diverse as Westport in other respects.

    I have no doubt there is considerably less traffic, but that generally goes hand in hand with far fewer entertainment and dining options nearby, and fewer job opportunities nearby for those who need to have even a part-time job.

    I’m not sure why you appear to be down on chain retail outlets. I feel Trader Joe’s in Westport, for example, fits your description of the Shaw’s you go to in the next town (except I guess for the aisle devoted to wine. But Trader Joe’s does stock a lot of chocolate offerings!)

    Coming back to health concerns, I doubt that there is the same type of variety of medical specialists nearby to you in your new home. And I assume you must be in great health because Vermont’s winters are unquestionably longer and more brutal than in this neck of the woods. I will need to be in a more temperate climate at least part of the year.

    When my mom left Westport, she moved to Manhattan and loves it there–no need for a car, she can walk to museums and wonderful restaurants, and enjoys an array of theater offerings. But she never had regrets about the time she spent in Westport.

    • Nancy W Hunter

      Fred, it’s obvious that the man has a reason to move away, and must be aware of what is available and what to expect in his neck of the woods.
      Let’s just let him be happy, as I hope you will be.
      – Nancy

      • Thanks Nancy.

        One thing I find interesting about Vermont, is that “everything” is available; it’s just not within walking distance. It seems everything in Vermont is “45 minutes away”.

  18. Stephen Axthelm

    Phil, I’m sorry that your regret seems so profound. Times change and it is not always bad. I try to imagine how my grandmother saw it. She was a very positive person.

    My grandmother, my father’s mother, Hermine Axthelm built her house here in 1951. She emigrated from Germany in 1938. She bought her lot from Reg and Dorothy (our Domby) Sentenne, my mother’s fabulous aunt. Herm built the house that she lived in for 28 years and then left to her grandchildren. My sister Nancy renovated it and still lives in on Minuteman Hill. (My grandmother planted a beautiful Japanese Maple that year in honor of my birth and I am so grateful to still see it in my sister’s front yard every time I arrive with my wife Laura and my daughters Emma and Charlotte. We talk about her.)

    I have snapshots and fleeting memory videos of the time. The Minuteman statue was there of course (100 years this year), what a sight for a young boy who had walked down the long hill on the way to the magical Compo beach or the pond across from the Longshore entrance where we skated in the winter. There were no McMansions then but there were mansions. I don’t remember the family but I recall that Domby played bridge at that fabulous pink dream in Terracotta that you can see from just south of Compo Hill Road north of Hillspoint. My mom, Marjorie Kinney nee Axthelm, said in later years “the beach area was wonderful. That’s where all the school teachers lived!” Herm always talked so glowingly of her friend Julia Bradley. I remember meeting Julia (she was an important realtor at the time) and the kindness she showed her friend’s grandson.

    I’ve buried the lead, but Domby was clever as a fox and kind as an angel. She engineered the purchase of the property that yielded Herm’s lot – they bought Minuteman Hill! The road was their driveway. Unless I’ve missed a transaction, they sold the main house that I remember visiting with Reg, a former Army Colonel, to Chief Justice Abe Fortas. They later lived in the Carriage House and then Domby built a house on 1 Minute Man Hill.

    My mom, Marjorie, came to live with Domby, her beloved and delightful aunt, for her senior year in High School and graduated Staples (then in the current Town Hall) in 1939. Domby was as kind and loving to her at that time as she was to her own daughter Eugenie. Eugenie’s awesome son (and my cousin) John created and has run Longshore Sailing School for many years.

    So Phil, I remember that you only had to go to Klein’s to get everything other than food and we loved Peter’s Bridge Market for food shopping. And I can’t say that my young mind took it in but maybe we could smell the great product from the Constantino Farm before they offered it to the town to create the great Wakeman Park.

    I, too will probably leave this town (sooner, or later for sure : )

    But I have seen as many things that we do well, as well as where we fail. I hope (and Dan’s blog is one of the ways) that we’ll strive to keep the character of the community that we love.

    Steve Axthelm

    • Great comment, Steve — thanks for the walk down memory lane. Just one small correction: Your mother graduated from the old Staples when it was on Riverside Avenue (now Saugatuck Elementary School). The current Town Hall is the old Bedford El.

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