Author Archives: Dan Woog

Cribari Bridge Swings On Sunday

If you’re sitting in a line of cars while the William Cribari (Bridge Street) Bridge slooooowly opens and just as slooooowly closes, letting a boat pass underneath, you’re probably not a big fan of the 133-year-old, last-of-its-kind-in-the-country span.

But if you’re strolling around on a lazy Sunday morning, the longtime ritual can be almost magical.

The hand crank on the William Cribari Bridge. It’s used now only if the mechanical crank fails.
(Photo/Tom Feeley)

That’s what happened last weekend. Jonathan Kaner was filming a campaign video for 1st Selectman Jim Marpe. He saw 3 men fishing on the banks of the Saugatuck River.

Suddenly, a police officer came by. The men greeted him.

Turns out, they’re the bridge opening crew. They were there to allow a small boat to go by.

Kaner’s tripod was already set up. He filmed the bridge opening and closing.

It took awhile, of course. So he sped up the video — 8 times.

Except for the boat. It cruises underneath at normal speed.


No S***! Permanent Port-o-Potty Plants Self In Town

Port-o-potties are a necessary — if not particularly lovely — part of our lives.

We see (and use) them at construction sites. There are a few at Wakeman Fields. Every year for the fireworks, dozens are trucked in to Compo Beach.

But we seldom see a portable toilet just sitting, all by its lonesome, by the side of a regular road.

Yet that’s where this guy has been, for weeks — perhaps months.

A curious (nosy?) Westporter has seen it for a long time now. It’s on Nyala Farms Road — the little cut-through that connects Greens Farms Road with the Sherwood Island Connector, just north of the Bridgewater office complex.

That may give one clue to why it (the port-o-potty, not the hedge fund) is there.

“It’s on the stretch where limos sit — often with engines idling — in hot and cold weather,” says the alert “06880” reader who stopped by the john the other day.

To take a picture, mind you.

Not to use the facility.

(If anyone knows why this particular port-o-potty is there, click “Comments” below. Snide political remarks will be removed!)

Now On Sale: JD Salinger’s “Catcher In The Rye” Westport Connection

Everyone knows F. Scott Fitzgerald spent the summer of 1920 in Westport.

Much less known is that another author — equally important — came here 30 years later.

And finished one of the most famous books in American literature right here in town.

JD Salinger

The man was J.D. Salinger. The book was Catcher in the Rye.

Now a small piece of that big event is up for sale.

Amazingly alert “06880” reader Seth Schachter spotted a letter and envelope for sale on eBay.

Neatly typed by Salinger in his rented home — postmarked May 30, 1950, “Conn.,” with the return address “Box 365, Westport, CT” — it’s sent to Joyce Miller, a staffer on the New Yorker.

It’s described this way on eBay:

A phenomenal letter in which Salinger alludes repeatedly to the piece he is working on and his deadline. Little did he know at the time he was completing what was to become his landmark title, “Catcher In The Rye”, which he finished in 1950 while living in Westport and was published in mid-1951. From referencing his typewriter ribbon, to his self-inflicted deadlines he elates in a Holden Caulfieldesque persona: “Sharing my brand-new silk typewriter ribbon with you. The Supreme sacrifice. Some men covet Cadillacs, home in the country, etc. With me, its typewriter ribbons” “Another forty hours and I’ll probably be done. I doubt if I have the whole things ready by Saturday, though. There’s no special hurry, actually, but I’m forever imposing mysterious little deadlines on myself” “My mind’s hopelessly single tracked, and I’m quite a little bore when I’m working on a script” “… I can finish typing up the book at my parents’ apartment gracefully enough” JD continues to write a jubilant, playful and suggestive letter to Joyce Miller who was on the staff of “The New Yorker” in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s, when J. D. Salinger was publishing stories in the magazine and working on his novel, “The Catcher in the Rye”.

In the spring of 1950, when Salinger was living in Westport, Connecticut, and Miller in White Plains, the two developed a close relationship whose clarity is not completely understood. These were complex years for Salinger, post the trauma of World War II, in the throes of writing his infamous novel “Catcher In The Rye”, while serial dating extremely young women. Salinger’s MO would often find him platonically romancing woman for years but upon the introduction of physical intimacy, would become disinterested and end the relationship. It was during this period, circa 1949, that at least one of this known relationships later came to light, that of Jean Miller, age 14 in 1949 whom he had a 5 year platonic relationship up until the very end which resulted both in intimacy and the end of the relationship. We know through a recent series of letters that this may have been the case with yet another, including that of Joyce Miller.

His letter to Miller dated within a year of the publication of “Catcher In The Rye”: “I finished your book before I went to bed last night. I’ve been training Benny to tear people apart ever since. I keep giving him a secret word, but it doesn’t sink in. The word’s “forsythia”, if you are interested … Don’t forget our 11:30 lunch date at the Biltmore Thursday. I’ll be sitting in the lobby. I’ll flirt with you, over my fan” Whether it was Jean Miller in 1949, Joyce Miller in the 1940s and early 50s or later in Salinger’s life, Maynard in 1972, it is believed that Salinger “was having these women replicate a pre-war innocence for him, and used very young girls as time travel machines back to before various wounds. So there’s something immensely heartbreaking about this rather problematic pursuit.” That pursuit, admitted Miller, “raises havoc in the muse’s life … That short story ‘The Girl With No Waist at All’ really represents [Salinger’s interest in] the moment before a girl becomes a woman.”

The mystery of where J. D. Salinger lived in Westport while he put his finishing touches on “The Catcher in the Rye” in 1949 is now closer to being solved, thanks to the release of the first new biography of the celebrated writer in a decade. We now know that Salinger rented a home on Old Road, off the Post Road. “Westport, CT is the birthplace of The Catcher in the Rye”. And the paper and ink, but more important the sentiment, return to Westport until it finds a new home. An incredibly important letter from 1950 pulling together a confluence of relevant points. On this one single page, written just months before “Catcher In The Rye” was published, Salinger’s TLS pulls together life themes from the birthplace of his famed novel. Those of his pursuit of innocence, complexities of his relationships with the opposite sex, while in the background woven through the body of the letter (which interestingly mirrors the writing style of “Catcher”), Salinger demonstrates the dry humor and sense of distaste and boredom of the norm as his protagonist “Holden Caulfield”.

Salinger writes: “Dinner with the Devries last night, over at some Japanese restaurant near the beach. A very nice dinner, but too much shop talk afterwards. Writers, writers, writers. If only we could do our work and then shut up when we’re finished. We talk so goddam much, and we’re such hopeless megalomaniacs. The wives aren’t much help. In fact, they’re worse than the writers. More dogmatic in their opinions. We should all just stay away from each other.” While reading the TLS, one cannot be sure whether “Catcher’s” protagonist Holden Caulfield, or J.D. Salinger himself, wrote this letter.

Bidding begins at $3,500. To join the action — or just see the listing — click here.

Pic Of The Day #126

New York City? Nope: power-washing the Green’s Farms Congregational Church steeple. (Photo/David Squires)

Scenes From A Solar Eclipse

If you still have your retinas, check out these photos from today’s solar eclipse:

The view at Compo Beach, during the maximum coverage around 2:45 p.m. (Photo copyright Ted Horowitz)

Former Westporter Vanessa Bradford takes in the view in Fairfield.

100-year-old Aileen DeLeon checks out the action on a youngster’s phone. (Photo/Frank Rosen)

Watching safely at Compo. (Photo/Amy Schneider)

Custom viewing, courtesy of Randall Hammond.

The eclipse itself, photographed by Dan Johnson.

Now We Know: Summer Is Officially Over

A new store comes to the old Pier 1 Imports:

SRO For Solar Eclipse

The largest Rolnick Observatory crowd since the formation of the universe clogged Bayberry Lane today. Westporters of all ages — particularly kids — headed to the highest spot in town, to watch the much-anticipated solar eclipse.

It was — at least this afternoon — also the coolest place to be.

(Photo/Seth Schachter)

(Photo/Frank Rosen)

(Photo/Frank Rosen)

(Photo/Frank Rosen)

(Photo/Frank Rosen)

A group of Coleytown teachers watched (safely) at Compo Beach:

(Photo/Ted Horowitz)

Meanwhile, Robin Singer had her own special glasses:

John Fogerty Sellout Nears

Tickets are going fast for this Thursday’s John Fogerty concert at Levitt Pavilion. The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame member — who made Rolling Stone’s Top 100 lists of both the greatest guitarists and greatest singers of all time — headlines this year’s gala fundraiser.

Fogerty wrote and sang some of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s most classic songs, including “Proud Mary,” “Bad Moon Rising” and “Fortunate Son.” As a solo artist, he’s known for songs like “Centerfield” and “Rock and Roll Girls.”

For gala tickets ($275, including a pre-concert cocktail party, premium seating and an after-party); preferred seating tickets ($125) and patron tickets ($95), click here or call 866-811-4111.

“River Of Names”: The Sequel

Dorothy Curran — a co-organizer of the “River of Names” fundraiser that helped bring a 26-foot long, 6-foot high mural to the lower level of the Westport Library — has been following the artwork’s future during the library’s transformation project with interest. She reports:

I spoke directly to Kurt Derner, who installed the mural (we worked together on installation logistics). He is being hired to de-install it as well.

No one is more aware than he of the many risks and loose ends attendant to the project. Happily, he is a very intelligent guy and we had a good talk.

Among other things, he plans to cut down the wall in panels which will keep entire sections intact. However, as he cuts, the margins of the affected tiles are very much at risk. Also, his work ends with the wrapping and labeling of each section. He and Marion Grebow (the tile artist) are very concerned about what plans the library has for then safely packaging, transferring and storing the work.

For the record, the only conversations that those of us who were involved in the logistics of mural installation have had with the library pertain to the wisdom (or lack thereof) of taking the mural down and its planned destination 2 years hence. We were not invited to participate in discussion of the removal, transfer, storage and re-installation logistics.

The River of Names, in the lower level of the Westport Library.

However, happily, thanks to Marion, Kurt and I now are in touch and I will try and provide some quiet coding and logistical help for him. To start, in the River of Names book, on the pullout page the coding system that we used to guide tile placement is on display.

Remarkably, though the print is fine, every name and every word on the mural pullout is legible. The tiles that Kurt believes are most at risk are the bookshelf tiles. Anything that is broken will have to be re-made, but there is no plan or budget in place for that and no agreement with Marion.

Kurt also has told the library that the panels must be stored vertically. As far as we know, they will be placed in what now is the McManus Room: exactly the same floor where the jackhammering will be going on that supposedly necessitates removal of the mural from its existing location for its “safety.” He has no idea how they plan to create or box the panels for storage. Therefore, there may be a change in condition between the time that he removes the panels and the time that they are ready for reinstallation.

The only hopeful news is that, while Kurt indeed is coming to the library on Wednesday, it is “only” for a meeting. No date has yet been finalized for the beginning of his takedown. He is anticipating September.

The library says that the mural will be removed safely, stored carefully, and reinstalled appropriately.

Cleiten And Angelica: An Amazing, Artful Family

Nine years ago — soon after Lindsey Blaivas Levine moved to Westport — she hired a Brazilian couple to clean her house.

She loves learning about people’s backgrounds. Cleiten did not speak much English, but Angelica was eager to chat.

Her great warmth and wonderful work ethic quickly captured Lindsey.

A few years later, Angelica had her 1st child. Worried, she asked Lindsey questions about his development.

Over the years, Lindsey watched with awe as Angelica navigates the Bridgeport school system (advocating for services her son needs) and healthcare  (researching and saving money to see specialists).

Angelica and Cleiten, with their son and baby daughter.

“She is just about the most amazing parent I know,” Lindsey marvels.

“She and Cleiten quietly do whatever they need to to make sure their son gets everything he needs.  Their love and passion is evident in everything they do — even cleaning.”

But Lindsey did not email me because of their son. Instead, she wants “06880” readers to know about Cleiten’s art.

He is self-taught — partly from YouTube — and amazing. He paints murals and makes furniture (“Lillian August quality, if you ask me,” Lindsey says).

A chair and table, designed and created by Cleiten.

She had no idea of his talent until Cleiten showed up a few years ago with a hug Doc McStuffins mural for her daughter.

“He didn’t ask what her favorite character was,” she notes. “He just knew — because he pays attention to everything.”

Another example: He and Angelica stock Lindsey’s freezer with her kids’ favorite Brazilian cheese bread (pao de queijo), and leave delicious fudge yummies (brigedieros) for their birthdays.

Recently, Cleiten was asked by a friend to paint the inside of a Bridgeport ice cream store. “His work is impeccable,” she says.

Cleiten’s ice cream store mural.

Now — to help him get jobs — she’s pounding the pavement.

The owners of Splatterbox were impressed with his work, and will recommend him to clients for murals.

“Cleiten does not know I’m showing his work around Westport,” Lindsey says. (She did mention it to Angelica.)

Oh, yeah: He also customizes sneakers.

If you’re as impressed as Lindsey — and everyone else who has seen Cleiten’s art — and would like more information, email


More of Cleiten’s artwork.