Author Archives: Dan Woog

“2, 4, 6, 8! We Just Want To Graduate!”

It was a day of activism, for hundreds of Staples High School students.

From 10 a.m. until the end of school, the courtyard was packed. Speeches, poetry, music and more drew attention to the very real issue of gun violence.

One girl said she was told there were consequences for leaving class. “I can’t get a detention if I’m dead!” she replied.

Signs say it all. (Photo/Ali Natalia)

Walkout leaders in the Staples High School courtyard. (Photo/Audrey Bernstein for Inklings)

At 3 p.m., a smaller group of students — bolstered by other Westporters, of all ages — gathered on Veterans Green across from Town Hall.

Politicians of both parties were in attendance. But the students — noting the non-partisan importance of legislation — took charge.

It was their day.

After all, it’s their future.

Staples students look ahead to turning 18 — and turning out to vote.

First Selectman Jim Marpe (far left) and 3rd Selectman Melissa Kane flank Staples students.

Registrars of both parties were on hand to enroll new voters.

“Arms are for hugging,” says the sign.

Former Staples High School assistant principal Lee Littrell (left) and chemistry teacher Bruce McFadden came to Westport to support the activism of current students.

Among the chants from this group of Staples High School students: “No more silence! End gun violence!”

Friday Flashback #87

A local news site reported recently that the Post Road strip mall by North Maple Avenue — the one with Dunkin’ Donuts, a cleaners, tanning salon and much-loved Layla’s Falafel — would be torn down.

Not true. The demolition permit is for the hideous Quonset hut that has hulked behind it for decades.

A paint job in 2010 made it look at least a little more presentable.

So the strip mall will remain. It’s one of our many mini-shopping plazas.

The longest tenant — before sailing away in 2014 — was the Boat Locker. But back in the 1960s, that space was occupied by one of Westport’s first fast-food franchises:

(Photo courtesy of Paul Ehrismann)

KFC — or “Kentucky Fried Chicken,” as it was known then — was not the only quick poultry place in town.

Downtown, in Brooks Corner, Westporters enjoyed Chicken-a-Go-Go.

And yes, as the name indicated, they delivered.

Jack And Neal: They Got (Every) Game

It’s not easy being a high school athlete. Or fan.

You’ve got the ups and downs of wins and losses (and injuries). There’s the pressure of school, extracurriculars, family and social life.

And — thanks to weather, facilities and a thousand other factors — the game schedule constantly changes.

Jack Sharkey and Neal Soni can’t do anything about Xs, Os, concussions, sprains, rain or snow.

They can, however, make following your favorite team a snap.

And they have. With an app.

Jack Sharkey (left) and Neal Soni show off their CT Sports app.

The Staples High School seniors spent 2 months creating CT Sports. An outgrowth of their Building Web Applications class with teacher Dave Scrofani, it’s simple, clear, and tremendously useful.

Users select any of Connecticut’s 183 high schools, and any of the 27 sports administered by the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference.

Fan of Staples sports? Here’s when and where all the spring teams play!

Instantly, you see the schedule, opponent, location, bus time and level (varsity, JV, freshman). The information is up-to-date: As soon as a change is made to the CIAC website, it appears on CT Sports.

You can add events to your personal calendar — along with reminders.

All information is pulled directly from the CIAC site. So why use this one?

“Our interface is much cleaner,” says Neal. “For theirs, you have to choose each parameter separately, each time. On ours you can save features. And it’s much easier to switch schools.”

Visually, it’s appealing too. Neal and Jack added each school’s colors to the site — tedious, but a welcome feature. (They considered using logos. But if they sell ads later, there may be copyright issues. These guys think ahead.)

The potential user base is enormous. But Jack and Neal had no sure way to reach them.

The CIAC helped. They emailed every athletic director in the state, encouraging them to send information about CT Sports to all students, parents, teachers and coaches.

Feedback was immediate — and very positive — Jack says.

A small Google ad at the bottom brings in a few dollars. But the app was not designed as a moneymaker. Neal and Jack hope to use it to build name recognition, for future endeavors.

They’ll create more apps, juggling all their other activities. Jack is president of both the Unified Sports Club and Kool To Be Kind, and is a Top Hat Tutor. Neal is president of Top Hat, and a national taekwando competitor.

Unfortunately, martial arts is not a CIAC sport. But if it becomes one, Neal and Jack will make sure you never miss a meet.

(To download the app, search for “CT Sports: HS Sports Schedules.” Right now, it is available only for iOS devices.)

Two more app functions: Choose one specific sport, or select from every high school in Connecticut.

Pic Of The Day #367

Sherwood Island (Photo/Brant Mozingo)

Students Rally Tomorrow At Staples; Townwide Event Set For Veterans Green

When students across America walk out of classes tomorrow — to commemorate the Columbine massacre exactly 19 years ago, and demand an end to gun violence — there will be a strong Staples High School presence.

A passionate group of students has planned a day of activities. From 10 a.m. — when the Colorado shooting began —  until 2:15 p.m., they’ll fill the large courtyard.

The rally will include student speakers, music, poetry, calls to senators and congressmen, a petition, poster-making, and voter registration.

Students who attend will be marked “unexcused” from class. But, leaders say, that’s a small price to pay for taking a stand on an important issue.

At 3 p.m., Staples students invite the entire town to a post-walkout rally on Veterans Green, across from Town Hall. State senator candidate (and Staples graduate) Will Haskell will speak. There will be student speeches too, along with music and poetry.

“We have a lot to say, and we want our voices heard,” say Brooke and Peri Kessler, 2 student leaders.

“We’re not partisan. But we do want everyone to be educated and informed. This is about our safety, and our future.”

The national walkout — an outgrowth of activism after the Parkland shootings in February — was organized just a few miles from Staples, by Ridgefield High School student Lane Murdock.

Westport Wins Another Award. It’s Not One We Like.

Valerie Seiling Jacobs and Ian Warburg — co-chairs of Save Westport Now — write:

In 2016, Westport beat out 26 towns in the tri-state area for the highest ozone values. Our levels exceeded the National Ambient Air Quality Standard of 75 parts per billion, by at least 10%.

The latest data indicates that things may be getting worse in Connecticut.

Of course, high ozone levels are bad for the environment and our health. They’re linked to asthma, cancer, heart attacks, pulmonary problems, hypertension, and childhood development issues.

Gas-powered gardening equipment — mowers, hedgers, trimmers and especially leaf blowers — now accounts for 5 to 10% of the total emissions in the US.

A town like Westport probably produces about 25,000 tons of carbon emissions per year — just from lawn care. That’s like adding 5,000 cars to our already congested roads. (On a per household basis, it’s like driving an extra 10,000 miles a year.)

One gasoline-powered leaf blower produces more emissions in half an hour than 40 cars idling.

These machines pose other significant hazards. The exhaust streams from leaf blowers, which often blow over 200 mph, stir up fine particulate matter that often contains pesticides, fertilizers, mold and rodent feces. The fumes can take days to settle down, which makes them especially dangerous for children and pets.

Then of course there’s the noise. Most of these machines exceed the safe decibel limits set by the WHO, EPA and OSHA. Some experts recommend creating “safe zones” around schools and parks to protect children from the noise and other pollution created by leaf blowers.

Save Westport Now believes that by capitalizing on new technology and adopting greener gardening practices, we can reduce the threat these machines pose — and still maintain our beautiful gardens.

This Friday (April 20, Town Hall, 12:30 p.m.), Dr. Jamie L. Banks — executive director of Quiet Communities — will lead a discussion on what Westport can do to protect families from the hazards of gas-powered gardening equipment. She and her colleagues have helped other towns around the country adopt best practices to address the problems caused by this equipment.

We’re sure she can help ours.

(For more information, email ContactSaveWestportNow@gmail.com)

Bradley Jones’ Fabulous Functional Narcissism

Psychoanalysts often ask patients to tap into their past.

Dr. Bradley Jones is ready to tap into his own.

Which is appropriate. In his earlier life he was a tap dancer.

Get ready for an encore.

At Staples High School, Jones thrilled audiences in Players productions like “Guys and Dolls” and “The Wizard of Oz.” He tapped in “Oklahoma!”, while for “Dames at Sea” he taught the art to fellow teenagers.

After graduating in 1975, Jones rolled the dice on an acting career. He was soon on Broadway, as a soldier/tormentor/singer/dancer in “Jesus Christ Superstar.”

After a national tour with “My Fair Lady,” he was back on Broadway — big time. Jones played Greg Gardner, and understudied for Bobby in “A Chorus Line.”

Bradley Jones, 3rd from left in “A Chorus Line.”

It was a great 8 year-run. But he spent part of it while addicted to cocaine.

Jones stayed in the show, thanks to rehab and psychotherapy. That opened his eyes to the power of introspection.

When he injured his knee, he took stock of his future. His self-esteem was low. He was a gay man playing a gay character, getting older in an industry that celebrates youth. “I didn’t see a great future,” he says.

So Jones finally went to college. He enrolled at Fordham University — with the goal of becoming a psychotherapist.

Bradley Jones

After a master’s in social work from Hunter College, and a doctoral program in Los Angeles — with psychoanalysis 3 times a week, on the couch — Jones returned to New York.

That was in the 1990s. He’s had a flourishing practice ever since.

Two years ago, a friend asked him to be in a cabaret. “I got sick with the bug again,” Jones says.

Not cocaine. Performing.

Which is why he’ll perform “Dr. Bradley’s Fabulous Functional Narcissism” 3 times soon: twice in May, once in June.

The solo show is billed as

a madcap, thought-provoking story of how an eager-to-please theatre queen survived a decade in a Broadway hit, and overcame envy, grandiosity and even murder to become a respected psychoanalytic clinician … who still knows how to tap and sing!

It “mixes my 2 loves: psychoanalysis and theater,” Jones says.

Part of the show is educational. “I want people to understand narcissism,” he explains. “It’s hard to empathize with narcissists. But they’re in terrible pain.”

Yet, he quickly adds, “it’s done in a cute, saucy, sex, fun musical theater way.”

Jones crams narcissism — plus AIDS, and the real-life murder of his boyfriend — into an hour. Along with (of course) tap dancing.

In a promotional photo for his show, Bradley Jones gives advice to … Bradley Jones.

There are only 3 performances because, as a cabaret show, Jones must do most of the promotion himself. He’s still got a day job.

But what a great, fulfilling job that is.

And luckily, during his June performance, there’s a big psychoanalysts’ conference in New York City. He hopes to see many of them at his show.

I wonder how they feel about that?

“Dr. Bradley’s Fabulous Functional Narcissism” will be performed Friday, May 11 (7 p.m.) and Saturday, May 19 (1 p.m.) at the Laurie Beechman Theatre, and Friday, June 15 (8 p.m.) at Don’t Tell Mama. For Laurie Beechman tickets, click here. For Mama’s tickets, click here. The cover charge for all shows is $20. There is a 2-drink minimum — and Mama’s is cash only.

Pic Of The Day #366

It rained the other day. Predictably, shoppers left their carts everywhere — including in the middle of 2 parking spots. Hey, it’s wet out — let these carts be someone else’s problem! (Photo/Marcy Sansolo)

Drag-gone: The Sequel

Earlier today, I ended my story on the move of Dragone Classic Motorcars from Post Road West to Orange by suggesting the 11,000-square foot property might be the site of a medical marijuana dispensary.

Some readers took me seriously.

I was kidding! It’s directly opposite Kings Highway Elementary School. You’d have to be smoking some heavy stuff to believe that would fly in this town.

But here’s something to consider.

Word around town — from reliable sources — is that a developer has closed on the former classic car showroom. He’s got his eye on the property next door too — where Villa del Sol planned to move.

Why? He wants to build 8-30(g) affordable housing there.

As in, 150 or more 2-bedroom apartments.

The former Dragone property and its neighbor, on Post Road West.

There’s already a plan in the works for the other side of Post Road West — the former “blighted homes” site on the crest of the hill heading downtown. That’s on the Planning and Zoning Commission agenda, for 81 8-30(g) units.

For a while, most Westport zoning battles have been waged on the other side of the river.

Westward ho!

Drag-gone!

After nearly 8 years in Westport, Dragone Classic Motorcars has driven off from the Post Road.

It’s not rent. It’s not lack of interest. The popular vintage auto dealer just needed more space.

A lot more space.

There was 11,000 square feet in the Westport showroom, and another 10,000 square feet in a Bridgeport restoration facility. Vice president George Dragone hauled himself — and Packards, DeSotos, Bugattis, T-Birds and more — back and forth, several times a day.

The Dragone showroom in Westport.

They’re consolidating everything in a 66,000-square foot building in Orange. That’s great news for them.

But not so great for their many loyal Westport customers.

“I hope they’ll continue coming to Orange,” Dragone says. “I still have a lot of connections to Westport. I was just at the Historical Society, in fact.

“But we needed a larger facility. We couldn’t show off our cars the way we wanted to.”

The site on Post Road West, across from Kings Highway Elementary School, has a storied automotive history. The Small Car Company — a Volkswagen dealer — moved in around 1959. Dragone took over from its successor, Saab of Westport.

There’s no word yet on who will move in there. Maybe a medical marijuana dispensary?