Category Archives: Environment

Adam Bernard: Beastmode Beats Cancer

Adam Bernard’s first job was at Torno Hardware. “I carried large bags of manure,” he remembers.

He’s always been a hard worker. The young Westporter started martial arts at 7 years old, and worked his way through various belts at Fred Villardi’s Fairfield studio.

He had not enjoyed writing — until he learned how, at Fairfield Prep (Class of 1996). He honed his journalism skills at Hofstra University, then started as a Connecticut Post sportswriter before turning to his first love: music.

Bernard covers the indie scene, discovering new talent “in tiny venues with sticky floors” watching up to 100 bands live each year. He wrote 14 national magazine cover stories. (“I interviewed Katy Perry before she kissed a girl, and 50 Cent before he looked to get rich or die trying,” he says.)

Adam Bernard (Photo/Krystal Leleck)

All the while, he continued martial arts.

In January of 2017, his instructors told him he was ready for his 5th degree black belt test in June.

Three weeks later, Bernard was diagnosed with testicular cancer. It had already spread to his lungs.

Four days after that, he had surgery. He has nothing but praise for his oncologist, Dr. Edward Duda.

Bernard was undeterred. “I looked at it as an aggravation,” he says. “I’m fortunate that testicular cancer has a great cure rate.”

His chemotherapy regimen was “super-aggressive.” But Bernard kept training — at Villari and CrossFit — 6 days a week.

Because chemo affected his blood, he could not hit things — or be hit by them. That’s not easy for a martial artist. But he adapted.

Adam Bernard, at his dojo.

Every Memorial Day, CrossFit does a brutal workout. Bernard finished — wearing a 20-pound vest.

Two weeks after finishing chemo, Bernard took his black belt test. He passed.

The next day, X-rays revealed a tumor was still on his lung. “It was not the Disney ending I wanted,” he says.

He kept going after his second surgery. He competed in the CrossFit open. Today, Bernard is healthy.

And he’s the author of ChemBro: Embracing Beastmode to Beat Cancer.

“People told me I had to write that book,” he says. “I didn’t think I was doing anything special. But someone said, ‘Most people aren’t like you. They hear cancer, and assume the worst.”

He also realizes that some people are uncomfortable talking — or reading — about testicular cancer.

“If I can be open about my story, and help someone get over embarrassment so they’re tested early before it spreads — like mine did — and they can have some semblance of control over their life, that’s great. Having some power in your life is huge.”

It took another year for Bernard to find a publisher. But when the owner of Dreaming Big Publications — a cancer survivor herself – read his pitch, she was hooked. She liked his story, his optimism — and his humor.

ChemBro came out in early September. Quickly, it zoomed into Amazon’s Top 100 list of motivational/self-help new releases.

“I want people to feel the vibe, the point of the book — to find the warrior spirit inside themselves,” Bernard says. “And I want them to lead a healthy lifestyle.”

Every morning now, the newly published author walks to CrossFit to trian. He’s looking forward to the day his dojo reopens, so he teach martial arts live rather than online.

He looks forward too to returning to live music venues — the stickier the floors, the better.

Meanwhile, he’s doing his best to get his new book in the hands of people who could be inspired, or educated, by it.

“If you told me 5 years ago I’d write a book about beating cancer, while earning my 5th degree black belt — well, I wouldn’t have known I was ready for everything,” he says.

“But I was.”

(To order Chembro: Embracing Beastmode to Beat Cancer, click here. To read Adam Bernard’s blog, click here.)

Roundup: Census, Bloodroot, Shorefest, More


As the 2020 census continues, Westport’s self-response rate is 76.2%. That’s well above the rate for the state of Connecticut: 69.4%. (The figures include responses from all known addresses.)

Officials urge anyone who has not completed the census to do so. Census data informs how billions of dollars in federal funds are distributed for health clinics, school lunch programs, disaster recovery initiatives, and other critical programs and services for the next 10 years.

Click here to complete the census response. Click here to see Westport’s response rate. (Hat tip: Peter Gold)


The Westport Farmers’ Market has offered great, healthy food for more than a decade.

Bloodroot has done the same for nearly half a century more.

The Bridgeport feminist vegetarian restaurant/bookstore — opened in the 1970s by Westporters Noel Furie and Selma Miriam, nurtured by ever since and still run by the indefatigable women — is the subject of a new documentary.

“Bloodroot” premieres Sunday, September 20 (7 p.m.). The film will be shown at the Imperial Avenue parking lot — home to the Remarkable Theater and its partner for this showing, the Westport Farmers’ Market.

The film — about feminism as well as food — is an homage to Furie and Miriam, says WFM executive director Lori Cochran-Dougall. They are longtime supporters of the market, and a mentor to its director. Click here for tickets.

Three local restaurants are offering tailgating options for the documentary.

Terrain’s $50 box for 2 people includes tomato salad, kale falafel and blackberry pie. Click here for ordering information.

Manna Toast’s offering ($20 for 2) includes choice of toast, salad, rosemary popcorn and iced tea. Click here to order.

Kawa Ni’s dinner ($60 plus tax and 3% kitchen share, for 2) includes tsukemono, shaved broccoli miso goma, tomato tofu pockets and a bun bowl. Call 203-557-8775 to order by 4 p.m. on September 18.

(Form left): Noel Furie and Selma Miriam, Bloodroot founders.


Speaking of food: Friends of Sherwood Island — members of the organization with that name, and those who merely love Connecticut’s 1st state park, a 236-acre gem hidden right on the Westport coast — are invited to an important fundraiser.

Shorefest on a Roll rolls out Sunday, September 20. Guests will enjoy a rolling tour of the park, accompanied by a podcast describing its fascinating history and its many features — plus a “lobster roll to go” feast.

The event includes a field of whirligigs, exotic kites, disc golf exhibitions, musical performances and model plane flyovers at the park airfield, all while cruising the loop at 10 miles an hour.

The only stop is near the end of the tour to pick up hot or cold lobster roll dinners. The entire loop takes 12 minutes.

Click here for tickets. Proceeds support Friends’ efforts, including the newly renovated Nature Center, tree planting, maintenance of the vast purple martin colony, and the 9/11 Memorial.


Dog-gone it!

The Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce held out as long as they could. But the 5th Annual Westport Dog Festival — set for October 4, after being rescheduled from May — has been canceled.

That’s the second major event — following Slice of Saugatuck — shelved by the Chamber, due to the coronavirus.

But they’re running concerts both weekends. Terrapin: The Grateful Dead Experience performs tonight, in a sold-out show. Two other shows are slated for October 2 and 3. Tickets go on sale next week. For more information, click here.


And finally … as we remember 9/11:

COVID Caution Closes Coleytown El, Stepping Stones

Superintendent of Schools Tom Scarice sent this notice today to all Coleytown Elementary School families and staff:

The administration learned early this morning that a staff member has tested positive for COVID-19. Given the timing of the notice and our need to follow district protocols with contact tracing, as a precautionary measure, Coleytown Elementary School will be closed today, Friday, September 11, 2020, to students and staff. This closure includes the staff and students of Stepping Stones preschool.

[Principal Jenna] Sirowich and the administrative team will be working closely with the central office administrators, the Westport Weston Health District and our medical advisor to assess the impact of this positive COVID-19 test and begin contact tracing.  We will provide an update to the CES and preschool community later today.

In the interim, our custodial staff will be conducting a thorough cleaning of the building to ensure it is ready for reopening.

We regret needing to take this action and for the late notice but feel it is the most prudent decision so that we can implement the necessary tracing measures.  The health and safety of students and staff are our primary concern.

This was the scene Tuesday morning, at Coleytown Elementary School.(Photo/Stephanie Mastocciolo)

Unsung Hero #158

Alice Ely writes:

As gardens chair at Wakeman Town Farm, I’ve had the privilege of knowing Staples High School senior Teagan Smith since she first volunteered in 2017.

She has stepped up to help the planet in ways large and small for her entire high school career. As a freshman she began with the fall harvest, and kept coming. Year after year, she has been on hand and willing to do any job – which at the farm are mostly dirty ones.

Teagan Smith, scrambling to help.

It quickly became apparent that Teagan’s passion is sustainability. Eager to learn more, she has been a quick study of the farm’s sustainable practices, such as composting, winter sowing and non-chemical pest controls.

She has educated visitors about what does (and does not) go in recycling. She reached out to officials at the town Department of Public Works, and created her own flyer of creative recycling projects.

As an upperclassman with many interests and responsibilities, Teagan has continued to make time for the farm. This summer she worked as a Save the Sound intern taking water samples, but still managed a significant commitment to WTF.

She set up the farm stand every Saturday morning, showcasing veggies and flowers in beautiful displays that attracted record numbers of customers. She even shows up for 7 a.m. stints on weekdays!

Teagan Smith, at the WTF farm stand.

Her quiet competence and leadership make it easy for a new crop of volunteers to follow her example.

This year she the helm of Staples’ Club Green. We look forward to hearing what the club tackles next.

For the rest of this challenging year — and, we suspect, the rest of her life — the world will look a little greener because of Teagan Smith.

(To nominate an Unsung Hero, email dwoog@optonline.net)

Teagan Smith, down at Wakeman Town Farm.

 

The Yarn Bomber: Molly Alger’s Magical Sequel

One of the pandemic’s bright spots — literally as well as figuratively — is the Yarn Bomber.

Knitting by day, then wrapping trees and signposts in colorful displays, she brought joy to countless Westporters who have no idea who she is.

Yarn bombing at Compo Beach (Photo/Judy Auber Jahnel)

Then she played it forward. She offered a virtual knitting course. For just $50, aspiring bombers got needles, yarn, 5 days of instruction (1 hour a day), videos, online tutorials, and a yarn bomb of their own. 

When I publicized the class on “06880,” Molly Alger leaped into action.

Communicating by email, they agreed she would leave $50 under her front door mat. The yarn bomber would leave needles and yarn on the porch, at a time when Molly would not be home.

They followed up with online sessions. Molly already knew how to knit, but the anonymous instructor taught her how to make a “bomb.” They chatted as they worked. “It was delightful!” Molly says.

She nicknamed the bomber “Pearl” (as in purl, a common knitting stitch).

They chose a tree on Molly’s property. “Pearl” came by at night to help with the installation.

Molly Alger holds a flashlight during the installation.

“It was so much fun!” Molly says. “A beaming bright spot in the midst of the pandemic, and something for my husband and me to enjoy every day on our property.”

Next up: Molly plans to do some yarn bombs for friends.

Looks like this is one pandemic idea that should go viral.

The finished yarn bomb product.

It’s The Law: New Firm Focuses On COVID Employment Questions

Employment law was hot before COVID-19. Now that corner of the legal world sizzles.

If an employee does not want to (or cannot) return to the workplace — because of high risk for the coronavirus, say, or the need to care for a young child who is doing fully remote learning — can he or she be fired?

How enforceable is a waiver acknowledging workplace risks during the pandemic? What about non-compete clauses, at a time when it is so difficult to find any work at all?

You — business owners, workers, everyone — have questions. Saluck, Halper & Lehrman have answers.

Jill Saluck

The new law firm was launched recently by 3 Westport and Weston women. They represent businesses and employees in all areas of employment law. But as a historic pandemic rages, they spend most of their time on COVID-related cases.

It’s not easy. The issues — and laws, and precedents — change daily. But Jill Saluck, Jill Halper and Randi Lehrman are the right attorneys, at the right time.

None grew up around here. They all moved to Westport with their husbands and children, and became friends. They paused their legal careers, to raise families. As their kids grew, they decided to rejoin the workforce.

And to represent it.

“Employment law has been extremely relevant the past few years, because of the focus on #MeToo and sexual harassment,” says Halper. (If her name sounds familiar, it’s because her husband is 1979 Staples High School graduate David Halper. His mother, artist Roe Halper, still works and teaches in the same house where she raised David.)

Jill Halper

Now it’s even more far-reaching. The coronavirus impacts nearly every aspect of employment law: disability rights, family medical leave, OSHA and workplace safety, unemployment, discrimination based on age and pregnancy, and much more.

“This is far more complex than anything I’ve dealt with before,” Halper says.

For example, the firm — with offices in Westport and White Plains — has worked with a private school, as it prepared to reopen. Among the questions: Are teachers “essential workers”? Which safeguards are absolutely necessary, and which are merely important? How do sick leave policies work during a pandemic?

“This is all uncharted territory,” Halper says. “It’s new for employers, for employees, and for all of us. And the federal and state mandates change every day.”

In early spring, most of the questions she and her colleagues fielded involved unemployment: qualifications for benefits, denials of appeal — that sort of thing. Employers and employees wondered about furloughs — a term many had never heard.

Randi Lehrman

These days, Halper says, the focus has shifted to reopening, and the return to work.

There are contract law questions too. For instance: If a construction project or consulting contract can’t be completed because of COVID, is a “force majeure” clause in place? If so, does a pandemic qualify as an “unforeseen circumstance”?

Each of the 3 brings a different strength to SHL. Lehrman is an excellent litigator. Saluck is a strong writer and researcher. Halper calls herself “a good negotiator.”

Though the partners are all women — in a field where law firms often seem dominated by men — they downplay their gender.

“We are just 3 people doing something entrepreneurial,” Halper says. Still, she admits, “it’s good to be role models for our daughters. And sons.”

Pic Of The Day #1231

Dinner at South Beach (Photo/Lauri Weiser)

Roundup: Goodwill, Chadwick Boseman, Native Plant Sale, More


Like most state senators running for re-election, Will Haskell has a corps of helpful volunteers.

They knock on doors. They make calls.

On Friday though, they turned from campaigning to community service.

Over 40 people — of all ages — headed to Westport’s Goodwill. The organization often gets more book donations than they can use. Haskell’s crew plowed through 16 bins, finding over 8,000 appropriate for elementary school children in Bridgeport.

I’ll resist the urge to make a pun like “Good, Will!” (Hat tip: Jeff Wieser)

Sorting through books at Goodwill.


The death of Chadwick Boseman on Friday at age 43 saddened his many fans. It also brought renewed attention to his starring role as Thurgood Marshall — America’s first Black Supreme Court justice.

The 2017 movie “Marshall” was written by Westporter Michael Koskoff — a noted civil rights attorney — and his son Jacob, a Staples High School graduate who is now a screenwriter.

The film takes place in 1941, when a young Marshall defended a black chauffeur against his wealthy socialite employer in a sexual assault and attempted murder trial. Marshall was partnered with Sam Friedman, a young Jewish lawyer in Bridgeport who had never tried a case. Click here for the amazing back story. (Hat tip: Mary Gai)

Chadwick Boseman at the premiere of “Marshall” with Mike Koskoff’s wife Roz and grandson Eli. (Photo courtesy of Darcy Hicks)


Aspetuck Land Trust is staying true to its roots. The non-profit announces its first-ever fall native plant sale. All are grown at Planter’s Choice in Newtown.

The goal is to encourage biodiversity, as all offerings — from perennials to trees — attract pollinators and wildlife.

All come with plans, kits and instructions for all locations, levels of sun and soil conditions. Four landscape partners are also available to help (click here for details).

They can be picked up at Earthplace, or delivered to your home. 50% of each purchase is tax-deductible.

Online orders are open while supplies last, or until September 17. The spring sale sold out quickly. Click here for all offerings.


Westport artist Michael Chait offers an outdoor exhibit today, from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. in the courtyard outside 11 Riverside Avenue.

He’ll show his “fun and kooky experimental videos” on vintage television sets. He pays homage to television’s beginning, and explores where it may be going.

He calls it “Video Paradisio,” and it plays on a continuous 10-minute loop. The public is invited.


And finally … it’s Sunday morning!

 

 

Roundup: WTF Dinner, Sherwood Island, Friday Flowers, More


Wakeman Town Farm’s Harvest Fest is a major fundraiser — and major fun.

This year’s event (Saturday, Sept 12, 5 to 9 p.m.), is still on. But it’s “reimagined,” to be COVID-compliant.

The dinner features a small number of tables of 4 to 8 friends, spaced out on the lawn, served by masked-and-gloved waiters. There is a 75 guest limit.

There’s an outdoor, multi-course feast by Marcia Selden Catering + Events, drinks courtesy of Tito’s Handmade Vodka (signature cocktails) and Iain and Linda Bruce (wines), and live acoustic music by Henry Jones. Town Fair Tire is the presenting sponsor. Click here for tickets.

Because of limited seating (tables sell out fast!), WTF chefs created a gourmet picnic box, to be enjoyed at the beach, a favorite scenic spot or home.

Each box includes a full meal for 2: Long Island lobster roll, jumbo shrimp with cocktail sauce, classic creamy coleslaw, handcut crisp potato chips with French onion dip, and truffled popcorn. Click here to order.

You can even help Wakeman Town Farm without eating. It costs more than $10,000 a year to feed their alpacas, sheep, goats, chickens, ducks and rabbits. Click here to donate.


We’re #4!

That’s the rank of Sherwood Island State Park on New England Travel Today’s list of 10 Prettiest Beaches in the 6 states. Many Westporters already know how great it is. Others have no clue.

Click here to read the writeup, and compare. (Hat tip: Jon Sinish)

Very pretty indeed! (Photo/Lauri Weiser)


Also beautiful: this week’s Westport Garden Club’s #FridayFlowers basket.

The group honored the hard work of school administrators and staff to reopen the district.

Shown below on the Town Hall steps are (from left) Michael Rizzo, assistant superintendent of pupil personnel services; John Bayers, director of human resources and general administration; Anthony Buono, assistant superintendent of teaching and learning.

(Photo/Kelle Ruden)


Melissa Newman has not yet decided “weather” or not she’ll be on Main Street at Elm at 12:30 p.m. today, distributing her Paul Newman “register and vote” poster. That depends on the skies.

But she’ll be there for sure on Saturday, September 12. In the meantime, here’s another look at what she’s handing out:


And finally … just look at the sky outside:

Roundup: Safe Homes, Mercury Gas, Gulls, More


Now through Sunday (August 30), the Westport Domestic Violence Task Force is collecting supplies for the 2 Domestic Violence Crisis Center safe houses that serve area residents.

Besides providing confidential shelters for victims of intimate partner violence and their children, the DVCC offers assistance with basic needs like food, clothing and personal items, along with counseling, legal services, transportation assistance, children’s advocacy, weekly play-based children’s programming focused on self-esteem, healthy communication, referrals to community resources and economic advocacy, including budget development and assistance with job searches and resumes.

Children living in the safe houses need several items for the new school year:

  • New backpacks
  • Notebooks
  • Pens and pencils
  • Graphing calculators
  • New or lightly used Chromebooks
  • Diapers (sizes 4-7).

To arrange ontactless pickup, email Task Force co-chair Jillian Cabana wdvtf06880@gmail.com.

If you or someone you know needs assistance, call 888-774-2900 or click here.


It’s been a few months. But the renovation project for the Mercury gas station at the Post Road/Bulkley Avenue North corner is done.

It still looks like a gas station. But it’s a lot nicer than the previous version. And the prices still seem lower than most others in town.

Mercury gas station (Photo/Seth Schachter)


Early Tuesday morning, Bart Stuck was walking on Soundview Avenue, toward Compo Beach. He saw dozens of gulls — maybe 100 — circling nearby.

When he got to the garbage can near the Soundview lot, he saw the problem. A gull had landed, then caught its webbed feet on the wooden slats. It hung beak down on the side.

Bart grabbed the 2 feet, pulled the gull up, and placed it on the sand. It shook itself off, then flew away. All the other gulls left too. 

Bart was amazed that several passersby had walked by, and done nothing. He was glad to help.

Let’s hope the next time he has a picnic, the gulls return the favor — and leave him and his food alone.

Not Bart’s gull.


And finally … as Hurricane Laura slams into the US, we’re thinking of everyone in it path.