Category Archives: Categories

COVID-19 Roundup: Aspetuck Preserves Are Open; Senior Shopping Hours Abuse; Facemask Donations; Norwalk Hospital News; Store And Resources Information; More

Gotta get out of the house? Unless you’re quarantined, we all do. Safely, of course.

All 44 of Aspetuck Land Trust’s trailed nature preserves are open; click here for details. Visitors are welcome. Please don’t park in the street; leave your dog at home — and keep your distance from others.

Enjoy — and take this “06880” challenge. When you’ve visited all 44, let us know. No cheating — proof required!


Several readers report that the early-morning “senior shopping hours” at Stop & Shop and Stew Leonard’s are being abused by a number of people “clearly not in their 60s or older.”

The hours are meant for people in that high-risk group to shop when crowds are lighter. “06880” urges all readers to play nice. We are all in this together.


Kudos to Westporter Jenna Brooke Purcell. She spent her day (carefully!) collecting extra face masks from private homes, and getting them to medical personnel, first responders, and others who need them most. (Hat tip: Frank Rosen and News12 Connecticut)


Norwalk Hospital has opened a drive-through collection site for pre-screened people suspected of having COVID-19. It’s in the parking lot by Stevens Street and Elmcrest Terrance.

It is not a testing site; it is a place to give a specimen sample for a test. Testing is done offsite. The collection site is only for people who meet all of the following criteria:

  • Called the doctor’s office and had a consultation
  • Based on symptoms and other information provided, the doctor ordered a test
  • Scheduled appointment at the collection site.

For more information, click here.


A reader reports that her regular mammogram screening appointment was “pushed out” to June, by her radiology group. She is in a high-risk group, and is scrupulous about her testing regimen. She was told that postponing tests are “a directive from the state.”

She called her breast surgeon. He told her that was not true; the decision was made by her radiology group, and other radiology facilities have followed suit.

If any readers know of any breast cancer test sites that are open, please reply in the “Comments” section below.


Our Town Crier — Betsy Pollak’s awesome site for local goods, services and happenings — has posted a very comprehensive list of resources for kids and parents to do at home.

It includes arts and crafts, games and puzzles, baking, online educational games, science experiments, singing, stories, safe and educational sites for teens, indoor games and trivia. Click here, and enjoy!


Savannah Bee Company says: “It has been a tough decision to stay open downtown as well as to be one of the only holdouts in our neighborhood, but the call was made because of the remarkable healing properties of the products we carry. It is our hope that we can help our loyal customers in some way to stay as well as possible for as long as possible. We are open in Bedford Square from 12 to 5 p.m. for pre-paid curbside delivery until further notice.

“We offer a wide array of highly effective nutrient-rich products to help boost the body’s natural immunity during the health crisis. They include plant-based honey soaps, anti-oxidant rich Saw Palmetto and local New England honeys, fortifying bee pollen & royal jelly supplements, healing lotions and anti-bacterial and anti-microbial propolis throat spray.

 


Also open for business: Westport Hardware. They have curbside pickup — and they’re even quicker than Amazon!


Westport School of Music is offering online lessons. Adults, teenager and younger students are learning piano, violin, viola, cello, bass, flute and voice via Zoom, Skype and FaceTime. Click here for more information.


The Chess Club of Fairfield County — which runs all Westport elementary school programs — is offering a free online “intro to chess” course. It’s taught national master (and 3-time Connecticut champ) Ian Harris.

It’s for ages 8 – 13. Each session is 45 minutes, at 3 p.m. Space is limited. Click here to register.


This is a particularly difficult time for our homeless, hungry and vulnerable neighbors. Homes with Hope continues to need food for its pantry and meals. Click here for all details. To make a monetary donation, click here.


It’s been quite a week (and it’s only Thursday).

Need a drink? I sure do!

Fortunately, just about every liquor store in Westport is open. They’ve got curbside service and delivery too.

Call ahead for hours and details. Then raise a glass (or two)!

A typical crew. This group’s at Kindred Spirits & Wine, next to Stop & Shop.

 

 

 

 

 

Restaurant Curbside Service: The New Normal

Last week — aka “several lifetimes ago” — I got a press release from Pearl at Longshore. The restaurant had a new executive chef. That week, he’d introduce a new seasonal menu.

I don’t run press releases. But I knew that Pearl had recently renovated its interior and made other changes.

That made for a perfect “06880” story: the challenges facing a restaurant with a very good reputation, in a location that for many Westporters is out of sight most of the year.

I made plans to chat with owners Marc and Lois Backon on Saturday. By then — just a few days later — life had changed dramatically. But the Westport couple were upbeat about the future. Pearl was still poised to forge ahead. I got ready to write.

Pearl at Longshore’s dining room is now closed.

Two days after that, things changed even more dramatically.

With restaurants restricted to curbside takeout and delivery only, Pearl joined dozens of other Westport establishments in a new world order. I figured my story was as old as last week’s news.

Yesterday morning, a very generous reader offered to use her credit card for dinner for me at — what a coincidence! — Pearl.

It was an offer too good to pass up. I gratefully accepted.

I checked out the menu online. At 5 p.m., I called it in: thyme-roasted salmon, with a side of crispy brussels sprouts. They said it would be ready at 5:30.

I preferred 6:15. They were happy to accommodate that. I should just call when I got there.

At 6:15 sharp, I pulled into the nearly empty lot. I called.

Moments later, David Donnelly — one of the managers — opened the door. He came out. Wearing gloves, and keeping his distance, he set the bag down. (Technically, I guess that makes it “step-side,” not curbside.)

I drove home. I enjoyed the very tasty (and healthful) salmon and sprouts.

Salmon with baby beets and top, shaved asparagus, Mt. Shasta wild rice and dill champagne sauce; brussels sprouts with crispy chickpeas, tzatziki and smoked paprika.

Would I have enjoyed it much more inside, sharing one of Pearl’s new booths with friends, or outside in one of the comfy chairs they installed a couple of weeks ago?

Absolutely.

But that’s not a choice now. And if enough Westporters take advantage of takeout dining, there’s a much better chance that Pearl — and other restaurants all around town — will be here this summer, to welcome us back in.

(For a list of restaurants and markets serving curbside meals, and/or delivering, click here.)

Happy “06880” Anniversary: The Sequel

I got an email this weekend from a semi-alert reader.

“Sorry I missed your anniversary donation request,” he wrote. “I’ll contribute next year.”

Um, thanks. But you don’t have to wait.

“06880” is not an airplane. You don’t get left behind, if you’re still in security during takeoff.

I know there’s a lot going on in people’s lives. Between work, family, and washing your hands every 6 minutes, stuff falls by wayside.

A number of readers have donated already, to support this local blog. Thank you all — you rock!

Meanwhile, this gentle reminder: If you wanted to support “06880” but haven’t yet, there’s always time. (Unlike Saturday night, when we lost an hour.)

You can donate by PayPal or credit card: click here. It’s easy, safe — and you don’t even need a PayPal account. 

Checks can be mailed to: Dan Woog, 301 Post Road East, Westport, CT 06880. Put “06880” on the memo line. It won’t do anything for the IRS, but it may help you remember at tax time why you sent me something.

I’m also on Venmo: @DanWoog06880. Thank you!

Town’s COVID-19 Forum: Many Questions. Lots Of Answers. Much Unknown.

A small, well-spaced-apart crowd was joined by many more online participants this afternoon. They gathered, in real space and cyberspace, to hear from experts about the looming threat from COVID-19.

The Westport Library event — called “a forum in the Forum” by 1st Selectman Jim Marpe — provided plenty of detailed information. Presentations were clear and cogent; questions were wide-ranging and thoughtful; answers were direct and honest.

It was a powerful display of active, coordinated town leadership on many levels, and a reminder that good government has a powerful place in society.

1st Selectman Jim Marpe (far right), and today’s COVID-19 panel at the Westport Library.

The key takeaways, from Marpe, Westport Weston Health District director Mark Cooper, fire chief and director of emergency management Robert Yost, Westport Public Schools health services supervisor Suzanne Levasseur and others:

It is virtually inevitable that COVID-19 will come to Westport. It’s not a matter of “if,” but “when.” Our population is too mobile, and the virus is too relentless. In fact, it may already be here.

Town officials — including the 1st Selectman, Health District and public schools — are in constant contact with the state and CDC. Conversations are frequent, ongoing and productive.

There are dozens of “what-ifs.” No one knows how many people will be affected or how. Planning is taking place to cover many scenarios.

The best precautions include rigorous hand-washing, frequent cleaning of surfaces, and careful monitoring of surroundings and contacts. Plus, self-monitoring. And save face masks for health care providers and people who are already sick.

State Representative Jonathan Steinberg (left), who co-chairs the Legislature’s Public Health Committee, and 1st Selectman Jim Marpe demonstrate the best way to say hello, COVID-19-style.

If you feel ill but have not traveled to somewhere affected, are not in a high-risk category, or had contact with someone who is ill, contact your health care provider.

If, however, you have traveled to a high-risk area, or are in a high-risk category (elderly or immuno-compromised), contact the WWHD (www.wwhd.org; 203-227-9571).

The Westport Schools are being very proactive. This includes enhanced cleaning; education about the disease and proper hygiene procedures. and monitoring of student health. Nurses are on heightened awareness; there are signs, videos and plenty of soap and sanitizers in every school. Discussions are “ongoing” about things like field trips.

Here are some of the key questions from audience members and online participants — and the answers:

Should people over 60 be particularly worried? Those in this higher-risk group should follow CDC guidelines to limit exposure — particularly people with underlying health issues.

Where is testing being done? Right now, only in hospitals.

The in-person audience was small. But many more residents viewed the forum on the Westport Library’s streaming feed and Facebook page.

How is the Senior Center handling this? Director Sue Pfister said that, thanks to the day and night custodians, “it’s never been cleaner.” There are wipes and signs throughout the building, with an information table out front. “We are operating as normally as possible,” she said. “We are monitoring and educating, without panicking.” Clients are self-monitoring too, and not coming in if they don’t feel well. The staff is making contingency plans for meals for people who depend on the Center, in the event of closure.

Can we trust the CDC? Cooper said the organization is filled with excellent scientists, who are coordinating with colleagues around the world.

Who decides if schools will close? The superintendent — though Governor Lamont could make an emergency declaration. The cause could be infected students or staff, or as a preventive measure to avoid further spread. Daycare centers are also making contingency plans. Marpe noted that because many teachers — and other town employees — live elsewhere, decisions on closing are “complex.” For that reason, they may be made on a regional or statewide basis, rather than town by town.

What about budget implications? Marpe said he and the town’s legal staff are examining the implications of not being able to meet publicly for discussions  — though public meetings are mandated for things like budget decisions.

What about Metro-North? They have enhanced their cleaning procedures — and have seen a drop in ridership. The most at-risk riders should think about using alternative travel methods.

What about restaurants? Owners should check the CDC for checklists. Clorox solutions are the best way to clean. The WWHD will send owners detailed information, if the risk increases.

What about gyms, fitness centers and the Y? They are no more (or less) at risk than other gathering places. Most places seem to be wiping their equipment well; users can do the same.  “Social distancing” is important, as is good hygiene. There is no evidence that the virus is spread by sweat; it is spread through coughing, sneezing, and on surfaces.

What about Westport business with many employees who live elsewhere? Some are encouraging them to work from home. Bridgewater, for example, has taken the virus “extremely seriously.” They are in contact with the WWHD, and have limited travel by their employees.

Do Westport’s first responders have enough equipment? Yost says we have been very proactive. And if the situation goes on for a very long period of time? “Probably.”

Westport’s Emergency Medical Services staff were out in force at today’s COVID-19 forum.

Anything else we should know? Our emergency responders and the Health District are watching everything carefully — and everything else too. “We could have severe weather tomorrow that takes out power to everyone,” one panelist said. “We’re preparing for that too.”

In conclusion: Every action has a reaction. We don’t know what the reaction to all this will be, but town officials are planning assiduously and relentlessly. As for the tipping point of this pandemic: “We don’t know when it will come. But we do know it won’t disappear. We’ll keep watching, offering information, and making recommendations.”

The best sources of information:

Remarkable Guy: The Sequel

When the Westport Museum for History & Culture jettisoned the nod-to-local-history name of its Remarkable Gift Shop — it’s now the much-more-meh The Shop at Wheeler House — it thankfully did not also toss out the Remarkable Guy.

That’s the wooden, Edward Gorey-inspired dancing figure that greeted folks browsing for books, posters and other Westport-themed gifts at what used to be called the Historical Society, on Avery Place.

Remarkable Guy at Westport Historical Society (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

The Remarkable Guy had been exhibited at the WHS thanks to the Kramer family. Sid and Esther Kramer owned the Remarkable Book Shop, a long-lived, much-loved funky bookstore on the corner of Main Street and Parker Harding Plaza, a few feet from Wheeler House. (Westporters know it now as the long-vacant Talbots building.)

WMHC officials tracked down Sid and Esther’s son Mark. Executive director Ramin Ganeshram emailed him that the Remarkable Theater — the new organization that hopes to bring a theater to Westport, staffed by people with disabilities — had asked for the “wooden die cut image.”

She suggested Kramer take it from the museum, and give or lend it to the theater for their events. (It is of course still in the early planning stages).

She noted that because the Remarkable Guy had never been “formally gifted or accepted into the collections,” it was not the museum’s right to lend.

Though the museum did not have the funds to ship the Remarkable Guy to Kramer, who lives in Massachusetts, they promised to keep it safe until he could retrieve it.

Or perhaps, Ganeshram said, he could officially donate it to the museum. Then, however, it could not be lent to anyone, because of insurance complications. She noted, “It is our understanding that the figure was brought to the museum but never intended to be an ‘artifact’ per se.”

Kramer worried that the museum might not treasure the Remarkable Guy.

A solution arose when Kramer’s longtime Westport friend Pam Barkentin offered to keep it in Westport, so it can be loaned when appropriate.

Chris O’Dell — whose O Living Experience builds high-quality, high-efficiency new homes and renovations — quickly agreed to move the Remarkable Guy to Pam’s garage. gratis.

Chris O’Dell (left), O Living Experience owner, and employee Chuck Hilman volunteered to move the Remarkable Guy.

That’s where he sits now, safe and sound.

And waiting to be loaned, to lend a bit of local history to organizations that appreciate and cherish him.

Pam Barkentin is keeping the Remarkable Guy safe for Mark Kramer.

Pic Of The Day #1042

Rogers Septic Tanks, Post Road

76 Compo Road South: Built For Another 100 Years

For nearly a year, Westporters watched the renovation of 76 Compo Road South.

Nestled beneath Baron’s South not far from the Post Road, the beautiful, very visible home had fallen into disrepair after its owner — only the second in its 90-year history — died.

It was a prime candidate for a teardown.

But that’s not what happened.

Teoman Ernamli — a native of Turkey with a steel importing business headquartered in Stamford — lives on Imperial Avenue. Every morning for 4 years, he and his wife walked past it.

76 Compo Road South, before renovation.

“It looked so sad and empty,” he says. “But it had character. We knew there must have been a story behind it.”

There was.

Built in 1931 by Dr. Richard Spector, it had been owned for the last 40 years by Alvin Farans.

“It was so quirky — there was a telephone booth inside. You had to walk through the boiler room to get to the stairs. We loved it,” says Farans’ daughter, Claudia Morse.

The original interior.

Her father did his best to maintain it. But there were issues, like water leaks. When he died at 88, his daughters were sure that was the end of it.

Ernamli had other ideas.

He and a childhood friend, architect Burcin Dinler, had collaborated on 400 projects around the world. None, however, had been in the U.S.

In January 2019, Ernamli invited Dinler to Westport. They shared a vision of “bringing the house back to life.”

Ernamli bought the property. Then he and Dinler went to work.

They looked at old photos and architectural drawings. To make the 1931 house work for 2020 — without losing any of what made it special — they had to learn all they could about it.

A year later, the renovation is complete. It looks nearly the same on the outside.

76 Compo Road South, after renovation.

Inside, it’s an entirely different house. With an open floor plan, plenty of light and all new amenities, it’s exactly what home buyers in 2020 want.

And, says Ernamli, “it’s built to last another 100 years.”

The builder kept the heavy main door, both staircases, main salon, cupolas, 2nd-floor beams, and some blue crystal glass.

The new first floor, including the original staircase and door.

But the interior — with its open floor plan, white oak floors, green-energy windows, state-of-the-art kitchen and bathrooms, sun rooms, French doors and more — is modern. Ernamli also created bedrooms and sitting areas out of previously unused space, over the garage.

One of the 4 bedrooms.

Farans’ daughter, Claudia Morse, was “blown away” by the result.

She doesn’t even mind that some of the quirks are gone. “The boiler room by the stairs is now a closet,” she says. “That’s the way it always should have been.”

“We wanted to bring something new and special to Westport,” Ernamli says, “while keeping its special history. As a somewhat new Westporter, I want to contribute as much to the town as I can. I don’t want to change a lot.”

The new/old 76 Compo Road South home — including pool, gardens, and a completely renovated cottage next door — can be yours for $3,099,000. Click here for details.

Inside the cottage.

 

293 East: Great Salon Gets A Makeover

As beauticians with a passion for hair color, Shannon Dery and Jen Sollenne are used to helping people reinvent themselves, through fresh new looks.

Now they’ve done the same for their business.

In a town awash in salons, Rick Garcia’s stood head and shoulders above most. From its opening in 1990, the Playhouse Square shop enjoyed a devoted clientele.

“He was so much fun,” says Shannon. “There was a lot of buzz. It was a cool Westport place to be. We all felt like family.”

She and Jen both joined Rick in the 1990s. “He was great about bringing in young people, and training them,” Jen notes.

Jen Sollenne and Shannon Dery.

Rick died of cancer in 2011. at 64. His son Justin took over, and managed it for 8 years.

When the lease was up last summer, he told Shannon and Jen he was moving out of the area.

They looked at each other. Neither wanted to work for a new owner. After more than 2 decades together, they knew what the other was thinking.

“We had a dream,” Shannon says. “We wanted to keep this place going, and keep everyone together.” Many of the staff had been there for years. “But we wanted to update it with a new look too.”

The goal was to keep the salon’s “comfortable, casual, clean” vibe. They also hoped to make it feel “coastal.”

The leasing agent was all in.

The women went to work. They called in favors. They must have a great reputation: Construction finished ahead of schedule.

New look for a beloved salon.

Plank flooring has been laid over the old black and white tile. There’s a redesigned waiting area. Walls and décor are new; so are the sinks, smocks and coffee maker.

Even the name is new. “Salon 293 East” — for 293 Post Road East, the official address — sounds welcoming to all, Jen and Shannon say. It’s fresh too.

293 East opened in September. But they’ve waited till now to have a grand opening.

It was — of course — fun and lively. Longtime customers came. So did Playhouse Square neighbors.

“It’s one-stop shopping here,” Jen says. “We have fitness, food and retail.” Clients patronize those shops too, before or after getting their hair done.

And there’s nothing like having a postal clerk compliment you on your new hairstyle or color.

Pic Of The Day #1028

Sherwood Mill Pond, yesterday (Photo/Michael Tomashefsky)

Sam Gold’s Archives: Apple Bites Back

Sam Gold is an Apple fanboy.

For his bar mitzvah, he chose a visit to San Francisco — and the company’s headquarters — over a party.

His YouTube channel covered Apple the way the British press covers Harry and Meghan.

But Sam’s greatest accomplishment may be The (Unofficial) Apple Archive. Painstakingly and lovingly, using tools like the Wayback Machine, he amassed over 15,000 print and TV ads, keynote speeches, internal training videos and other material — even macOS and iOS wallpapers. The earliest is from 1979.

Previously, the material was posted on his own YouTube channel, and a Google Drive folder. Earlier this month, he uploaded all the video — nearly a terabyte of data* — to Vimeo.

Last week, the $1 trillion company sent him hundreds of takedown notices. Apple had removed nearly every video. Just 200 or so remain.

Sam is a Staples High School senior.

Sam Gold, as a Staples High School sophomore.

The news rocketed around the internet. The Verge — Vox Media’s tech news network — noted:

The takedowns shouldn’t really surprise anyone, since 1) these videos do presumably all belong to Apple, not Gold, 2) companies generally have a duty to protect their intellectual property, and 3) because Gold and Apple have seemingly been playing a game of whack-a-mole for a while now.

First came shock. “Do you know what it’s like getting 700 email notifications on your wrist in like 2 minutes?” Sam asked The Verge, referring to his (of course) Apple Watch. “Your wrist sorta goes numb from the vibrations.”

Then Sam fought back.

“My videos may be down but my spirit is up,” the homepage of Sam’s Apple Archives reads. “Standby please.”

A screenshot of Sam’s home page.

Sam — who has not heard directly from Apple or its lawyers, despite emailing Apples’s VP of marketing communications — told The Verge that company employees, both past and present, have shown “overwhelming interest and support for what I’m doing.”

He understands that Apple “doesn’t dwell in the past.” But, he adds, “public company history preservation is invaluable for their devoted consumer base and researchers alike.”.

Sam would love to work with Apple, to create an official archive.

But for now, he’s figuring out how to get his massive archives back online.

Any copyright lawyers want to help? Email samhenrigold@gmail.com.

As a bonus, Sam will help you with any tech questions you have, for the rest of your life.

*Exactly how much is a terabyte? “A shitload,” Sam explains.

An early Apple ad, on Sam’s archive.