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“Peace Now!” — Back Then

January’s Women’s March on Washington sent news commentators scurrying back to the Vietnam War era for numerical comparisons.

And “Democracy on Display” a couple of months ago in downtown Westport rekindled memories of the day a similar demonstration took place there.

It happened on October 15, 1969. Part of a national “Moratorium to End the War in Vietnam,” Westport’s protest was largely youth-driven.

Staples students streamed out of school. Led by Westport police, and joined by teachers and junior high students, more than 1,200 marched down North Avenue, turned right on Long Lots, then onto the Post Road all the way to the YMCA.

The cover of Staples’ 1970 yearbook included photos from that fall’s Moratorium march, in the form of a peace sign.

They wore black armbands and sported doves of peace. They carried American flags, and chanted “Hell no, we won’t go!” Counter-protesters drove alongside, cursing them. A few threw eggs.

Massing in front of the old Bedford building — the only part of the Y at that time — a crowd that swelled to 2,000 heard speakers, including Temple Israel’s Rabbi Byron T. Rubenstein, denounce the war and demand peace.

The other day, a remarkable video of that Westport moratorium surfaced.

Guy Northrop — a Staples senior — shot 17 minutes of the march, with a Bauer Super 8 camera. Eleven minutes survive, and have been posted on YouTube.

The video — nearly 50 years old — shows with remarkable freshness the power of that protest. It also serves as a unique time capsule. Much of Westport has changed since then. But much has not.

As America prepares to celebrate Memorial Day, it’s important to remember that our democracy remains strong for 2 reasons.

We have a great military.

And the men and women in it sacrifice every day, so that we can speak our minds.

 

(Hat tip: Mary Palmieri Gai)

A Farmers’ Market Tale

Today, the Westport Farmers’ Market begins its 12th season.

Its growth — from tentative beginnings in the Westport Country Playhouse parking lot, to a vibrant, beloved and very popular Imperial Avenue Thursday tradition — is remarkable.

A typical scene at the Westport Farmers’ Market.

Every shopper, farmer and vendor has their own story about what the Market means to them.

But none is more remarkable than this.

Each week, the Bridgeport Rescue Mission selects men to pick up extra food. They bring the produce, bread and more back to the center, where chefs make meals. They also offer recipes to folks who pick up the food that’s not cooked.

The honor to be selected to gather the goods is reserved for men who are winning their battles against alcohol or drug addiction.

Two helpers from the Bridgeport Rescue Mission pick up produce at the Westport Farmers’ Market. (Photo courtesy of CTBites.com)

“These guys are great,” says WFM director Lori Cochran-Dougall. “We get to know them well. They’re so supportive of our staff and the vendors. They stay, they help us break down the tents, they do so much for us.”

Last year, one man came every Thursday. He was excited about graduating from the Rescue Mission. But he worried he might not find a job.

At the end of the market season last November, he still did not have one. Cochran contacted a few area restaurants.

One hired him. But she didn’t know it …

… until a couple of weeks ago, when she and her husband went out for dinner at a Barcelona group restaurant.

The man approached her. He told her he was working there.

He added that he goes to church every Sunday. He has his own apartment.

And he got married.

Joyfully, he showed her pictures of his new life.

As Cochran left, the restaurant manager pulled her aside.

“All he keeps saying,” the manager said, “is that the Farmers’ Market gave him hope things would work out.”

Raise Funds — And Upper-Body Strength — For Kids

Westporters know that every day is different at the Levitt Pavilion.

One night there’s a rock group. The next night, a military band. Then comes a comedian, followed by Klezmer musicians. It’s Ed Sullivan on steroids.

But on Sunday morning, June 4 (10:30 to 11:30), the Levitt stage will be taken over by regular people of all ages.

Doing push-ups.

It’s the 8th annual Push Against Cancer for Kids. Individually and in teams, everyone is invited to bang out as many push-ups as possible.

Last year’s Push Against Cancer drew a wide variety of ages and sizes …

The only catch: You have to be sponsored. Friends, family members, colleagues — all pledge money, based on how many push-ups you can do.

All proceeds go to the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp, the program for children facing severe medical challenges.

An anonymous donor will match all funds raised by everyone under 23 years old (up to $25,000).

… and both genders.

Paul Newman founded the Hole in the Wall Gang camp nearly 30 years ago. This year, Westport-based Newman’s Own Foundation is helping out.

The Westport and Danbury Police Departments are all in too.

Opening ceremonies begin at 10 a.m. A Hole in the Wall Gang camper, now in remission from cancer, will deliver an inspiring speech.

DJ Sean McKee — aka Big Daddy — will motivate the push-up participants. He has a great reason to help: He’s a 2-time cancer survivor.

Westport Police Chief Foti Koskinas (5th from left) and his entire force are strong supporters of the Push Against Cancer.

Last year’s event drew over 400 people. They raised $79,000 for the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp.

Organizer Andy Berman’s goal this year is $100,000. The cost of a week at the camp is $2,500 — though all services are free to campers and their families. So Berman hopes to raise enough money for 40 kids.

How many push-ups will you contribute to the cause?

To register, or for more information, click here. Questions? Email andy@mentalgritfitness.com 

Barnes & Noble Throws Itself A 20-Year Bash

When Tricia Tierney was hired as Barnes & Noble’s Westport community relations coordinator 20 years ago, the bookstore had just replaced Waldbaum’s in the Post Plaza shopping center.

It moved there from smaller digs a few hundred yards east — where Pier 1 was (until recently) located.

Much has changed in 2 decades. The toys and gifts section grew exponentially. Children’s books got their own separate section. The music department saw the decline of CDs, and the resurrection of vinyl. Something called a “Nook” took over the front of the store.

To celebrate 20 years in the same location, Barnes & Noble has remodeled. Music area walls have come down. Comfy chairs — which vanished a while ago — returned. The Nook tables are gone.

Overall, it looks and feels much more open.

Barnes & Noble, after remodeling.

Tierney has seen other changes. In the beginning, she spent much of her time arranging author readings.

J.K. Rowling was here in 1999 to promote her 2nd Harry Potter book. “It was like having a Beatle,” Tierney recalls. The line wound around Purple Feet. Rowling sold over 1,000 copies — and looked every child in the eye.

J.K. Rowling in Westport, nearly 20 years ago.

Martha Stewart spoke several times. Julie Andrews, Christopher Plummer and Frank McCourt appeared too. (Full disclosure: So did I.)

These days, there are far fewer author readings. Tierney now has a different job — community business development manager — and is more involved in book fairs, and school and business events. (GE moved to Boston, but still orders books for meetings through the Westport store.)

Tierney has developed strong relationships with area educators, in both the Westport and Bridgeport school systems.

Saugatuck Elementary School staff members, at a Barnes & Noble book fair.

The “community” in Tierney’s two titles is important, she says.

“From the start, we wanted Westport to know that we were part of the town — not just a big corporate store,” she says. “We still do.”

She is proud that when people hear where she works, they exclaim, “I love Barnes & Noble!”

Tommy Greenwald

This Saturday (May 6, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.), the store marks its 20th anniversary in Post Plaza. They’ve planned special story times and crafts for kids (including a make-your-own instrument activity). Young musicians will play. Wakeman Town Farm will bring animals. Food trucks — and a frappuccino bar — add to the fun.

And even though author appearances are now rare, local writers Tommy Greenwald, Michaela MacColl, Hans Wilhelm, Ramin Ganeshram, Christine Pakkala, Elizabeth Menke and Elise Broach will greet readers and sign books (12 to 2 p.m.).

Sure, Barnes & Noble — along with the internet, other technology (including the Nook) and many other factors — helped drive small, locally owned bookstores out of business.

But the Westport store has been an important part of our community for more than 2 decades. They’ve showcased local talent, supported tons of town causes, and helped many organizations raise money (holiday wrapping, anyone?).

On Saturday, Barnes & Noble celebrates that remarkable achievement.

Youngsters enjoyed Barnes & Noble’s Harry Potter trivia event last year.

Westport Library Books Alan Alda

He’s best known as Hawkeye Pierce, the wise-cracking, hard-drinking, prank-pulling army captain — and the only character to appear in all 251 episodes of the legendary TV comedy “M*A*S*H.”

But Alan Alda is much more than the star of a fabled television series. He’s a film actor (“Crimes and Misdemeanors,” “The Aviator”), and the writer-director of many “M*A*S*H” shows (including the finale, still the most-watched episode of any network series).

He also spent 14 years as host of “Scientific American Frontiers.” He’s a visiting professor at Stony Brook University, a founder and board member of the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science, and a judge for Math-O-Vision.

Alan Alda

For all that — and because at 81 he remains a compelling speaker and way-cool guy — Alda has been booked as this year’s Westport Library Booked for the Evening honoree. He joins a stellar list of previous award winners, including Tom Brokaw, E.L. Doctorow, Calvin Trillin, Wendy Wasserstein, Martin Scorsese, Doris Kearns Goodwin and Patti Smith.

This year’s event is Monday, June 5. By good luck, that’s the day before his latest book, If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face? My Adventures in the Art and Science of Relating and Communicating will be published. “Booked” attendees receive a copy as part of their ticket.

Despite his many years as an actor, Alda has embraced the science community. Interviewing hundreds of scientists for his Scientific American show, he realized he could help them communicate better.

“I’ve devoted a lot of my life to that,” he told “06880” a few days ago. “When I’m not eating or writing, that’s what I’m doing.”

As an actor, Alda learned about spontaneity and connecting to people. He helps scientists focus on “how what they say is being received by the rest of us. It makes a big difference.”

Science and technology have brought us “far beyond what we imagined was possible,” Alda noted. “And, unfortunately, beyond what most of us can understand.”

But, he said — referring to his two passions — “the arts and science have to come together again. They can make science clear and vivid for us.”

Libraries play a key role. “Offering inspiration and knowledge about both can be the dating site that helps bring them back together.”

So why is Alan Alda — the actor-turned-science advocate — interested in coming to the Westport Library?

“I’m happy to tell people about my book,” he said. “I’m proud of it.”

(For more information and tickets to the Alan Alda “Booked for the Evening” event, click here.)

Pic Of The Day #9

Compo Beach cannons at night (Photo copyright Dave Dellinger)

Plan Ahead. Like, Waaaaaay Ahead.

The good news: The state Department of Transportation is “rehabilitating” 5 miles of the Merritt Parkway — in each direction — in Westport and Fairfield. That means “upgrades” to pavements, guardrails, drainage and “historic concrete.”

Semi-good news: The work will be done “largely” at night. Lane closures will be limited to between 7 p.m. and 8 a.m.

Really bad news: The project will last until August.

No, not this August. Or even next.

August of 2019. A mere 28 months from now.

And that’s just the “expected” completion date.

One final fun fact: The $56.7 million project is being handled by Manafort Brothers, Inc.

Happy motoring!

This Jackass Saw The Trader Joe’s Entitled Parker, And Took Up The Challenge

Anyone who has spent time in the Playhouse Square shopping center — or who (ahem) lives in the condos behind it — knows that parking is a special version of hell.

But today it was even more clusterf—ed than usual.

The driver below invented his own spot. And — according to an alert “06880” reader, who sent a series of photos — he was there from (at least) 1:21 p.m. through (at least) 1:40 p.m. “Probably longer,” the photographer says.

Hey, the post office line must have been especially long. You know, with tax day coming up soon and all.

Here’s another view:

And just in case you want a closeup:

But give the guy* props:

He owns a Maserati!

And — unlike Monday’s Trader’s Joe guy — those are not New York plates.

He bought his beautiful, expensive, I-can-park-wherever-I-want-to car right down the street, in Westport.

* It’s gotta be a guy, right?

Remembering John Lupton

Staples’ Class of 1966 was one of the most politically, musically, artistically, athletically and community-minded group of students in our high school’s long history.

John Lupton

John Lupton III was president of that class. He was always proud of that. Throughout his life, he continued to give back — to his classmates, his alma mater, his town, his country and the causes he cared about.

“Johno” — as he was known to his fellow grads, all of whom knew him and he knew in return — died Thursday in Washington, after a long battle with cancer. He was 69 years old.

Lupton was born in Weston, to a political family. His father, John Lupton Jr., was a longtime state senator.

Weston students at that time did not have their own high school, so he attended Staples. He was involved in a number of activities there.

He took his class president duties seriously. At graduation ceremonies, the seniors donated a handsome “Staples High School” sign for the entrance at North Avenue.

John Lupton (left), Class of 1966 president, shakes hands with ’67 president Dick Sandhaus at the sign’s dedication ceremony. Principal Jim Calkins looks on.

A few years ago — decades after leaving — the class paid to refurbish the exterior of the Lou Nistico Fieldhouse at Staples, and added lighting to the current North Avenue entry sign. They also organized their own special scholarship fund through Staples Tuition Grants. Lupton was instrumental in all those projects.

After Staples, at the University of Minnesota, he was a member of the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity.

His professional career was in advertising and sports marketing, in Atlanta. He also served several terms in the Georgia House of Representatives.

Returning to Westport, Lupton was hired as director of the Westport Historical Society.

His interests included baseball, blues music, travel and food.

John Lupton

Late in life he founded PCa Blue. The organization promotes prostate cancer awareness and education through blues music.

Survivors include his son, John Mather Lupton IV, and daughter Laura Adelaide (Lallie) Lupton. His son says, “Throughout his life, he was remarkably outgoing and optimistic. He was an incredibly loving and dedicated father.”

A memorial service will be held at Christ & Holy Trinity Church in Westport in late spring or early summer.

In lieu of flowers, donations in Lupton’s name can be made to his PCa Blue organization (click here).

Building Bridges, From Staples To Syria

Kion Bruno’s mother — eye surgeon Dr.  Aryan Shayegani — is a 1st-generation Iranian American.

Neighbors on their road here in Westport include a 1st-generation Palestinian neurosurgeon, a Pakistani man, and a family that hosted Iraqi refugees.

“They’re all pillars of society,” Kion says. “And they’re all Middle Eastern.”

Kion Bruno

At Staples High School — where the 11th grader is a varsity tennis player, and founder of the squash team — he hears occasional terrorist “jokes.”

“With the current presidential administration, there’s been a definite increase in xenophobia,” Kion says. “We need to bridge the gap.”

He’s doing his part. Along with several others, Kion started a Building Bridges club at Staples. Already they’ve brought in a few speakers: Iranian American women, to talk about their lives in Iran (very similar to the US, Kion says); Palestinian neurosurgeon Dr. Khalid Abbed, who grew up very poor and whose son now goes to Staples, and Tarek Alasil, a Syrian refugee training to be an ophthalmologist.

The group also arranged a Skype call with teenagers in Iran.

Now they’re reaching out to audiences beyond Staples. On Saturday, April 1 (3 p.m., Staples auditorium), Building Bridges will sponsor a screening of “Salam Neighbor.”

It’s directed by Greens Farms Academy graduates Zach Ingrasci and Chris Temple, who lived in a Syrian refugee camp. The film provides an intimate look at that horrific humanitarian crisis.

Congressman Jim Himes will be featured in the panel discussion that follows the screening, along with First Selectman Jim Marpe.

Other panelists include a Syrian refugee, being hosted in Westport; Ali Majeed, an Iraqi refugee who was hosted here and is now training to be a dentist; Claudia Connor, president and CEO of the International Institute of Connecticut resettlement program; John McGeehan of Westport Interfaith Refugee Settlement, and Megan Laney, a Westport native studying in Syria who was evacuated when the war began.

Senator Chris Murphy is sending a personalized video.

The suggested donation is $10. All proceeds benefit local and international refugee agencies and charities.

“Our community has the choice to stand by passively,” Kion says. “Or we can unite, and act to make a difference.”

He and his organization of teenagers have already built a bridge to the Middle East. Now the rest of us must cross it.