Category Archives: Media

Quaranteen: Young Voices Heard, In Challenging Times

Tori Seiden’s COVID story begins: “It’s been 86 days since I’ve seen my boyfriend.”

She’s a gifted writer. Clearly, calmly, she describes their “long distance during social distancing” relationship. The couple — in their early 20s — go on “virtual dates.” They paint, cook, watch movies, work out, meditate, write journals, learn Spanish and design a dream Minecraft house together, though hundreds of miles apart.

Tori says the experience has taught them a lot about themselves, and each other. It’s brought them closer. They realize if they can get through this, they can surmount any obstacle.

“Of course I want to see my boyfriend,” Tori writes. “But we recognize it isn’t safe right now. So we do our best every day to make the best of things.”

It’s a mature, insightful perspective — and not the kind of story you read every day.

Most coronavirus coverage focuses on case numbers, testing, nursing homes, the economy, parenting, politics, and reopening states. They’re important parts of the pandemic picture, sure.

But what’s missing are young voices.

The Quaranteen Collection fills that void.

The crisply designed, well-written website aims to foster empathy and community — and empower — teens and young adults. Filled with stories of loss, hope, struggle, strength and growth, it’s an outlet for both self-reflection and connection with others.

Quaranteen is a safe, honest space, positive and uplifting despite the harrowing circumstances. Topics range from the impact of distance learning on special education (the writer’s brother is autistic) and the importance of self-care, to the emotions of going back to college — after weeks in isolation — to pack up a dorm room, and leave for good.

One student wrote about the transition back from college dorm life to her childhood home.

“Writing is a powerful tool that offers solace for both reader and writer,” the Quaranateen founders tell teens and 20-somethings. “In these uncertain times, your voice can make a difference in someone’s day and be a source of meaning for yourself. Share your story today; be the hope of tomorrow.”

Besides looking for young Westport writers (click here), the site has a local connection. This spring, a freshman took a writing course that showed him the cathartic power of communication. His professor grew up in Westport.

As his college closed in mid-March, the student and his friends talked about ways they could help other young adults during the coming months. They realized that the reflective process of writing could be invaluable. The idea of a submission-based site was born.

Quaranteen’s founders know that their peers experience a welter of emotions in the best of times. A pandemic makes things exponentially worse.

In the best of times too, young voices are often unheard or dismissed. As the world grapples with a deadly virus, young adults themselves may feel that their problems do not, or should not, matter.

But those experiences and problems are still real. Now — thanks to Quaranteen — anyone facing them can write about them.

And be heard.

A screenshot of the Quaranteen home page.

COVID Roundup: Rizzuto’s; Coffee An’; Plant Sale; More


It’s nice to hear that Westport restaurants are reopening.

It’s also nice to hear that town and civic officials are doing all they can to help.

Rizzuto’s and The Lobster Shack were back in business Friday. Owner Bill Rizzuto says, “our Planning and Zoning people and fire marshal were fantastic. And a big hats-off to Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce director Matthew Mandell, who worked tirelessly to support us all.”

Rizzuto’s offers outdoor dining Monday through Thursday 4 to 9  p.m., Friday and Saturday 12 to 9:30 p.m., and Sunday 12 to 8 p.m. They’re continuing curbside service and delivery too. Click here to order.

The Lobster Shack is open for curbside pickup and delivery Monday through Thursday, 4 to 8 p.m., and Friday through Sunday, 12 to 8 p.m.


Also reopening tomorrow at 7:30 a.m.: Coffee An’!

(Photo/Katherine Bruan)


Aspetuck Land Trust — whose 40+ preserves have provided area residents with healthy, mood-lifting walking trails throughout the pandemic — is sponsoring its first-ever native plant sale.

It’s simple: Order online, and reserve a curbside pickup time. Plants can be picked up at Gilbertie’s Organics in Easton in 2 weeks.

Up to half of the purchase price is a tax-deductible contribution to Aspetuck Land Trust!

Choose from pollinator herb variety packs; pollinator garden kits; mailbox garden kits; shrubs and trees, and eco-type plants (plugs) for containers and gardens.

Prices range from $9 to $80.

Click here to order. To join a webinar this Wednesday (May 27, 10:30 a.m.) about the importance of planting natives, click here, then scroll down.


What’s a Sunday without former FDA commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb on “Face the Nation”? At least this week his live-remote hometown got a shout-out on the chyron. (Hat tip: Alan Shinbaum)


And finally … sing it, Dionne!

Everyone Into The Pool!

It’s something I’ve noticed on my daily bike rides around town: Lots of people are building swimming pools.

Ginia Bellafante noticed it too. The New York Times‘ “Big City” columnist jumps in to the phenomenon in a story for this Sunday’s edition.

With camps closed, and many people realizing they’re not going anywhere for summer vacation, the itch to swim has skyrocketed.

After noting the beach turf wars between cities and suburbs, Bellafante turns trenchantly toward pools.

Throughout Westport, backyard pools are already open.

You know what’s coming.

Midway through the story, she writes:

Traveling farther down the coast to Westport, Conn. — Cheever country — the pool obsession is no less frenetic. If you want a pool in Westport, you need a permit from the town’s building department. The number of requests has jumped this year, with 10 coming in just the past two weeks. Michele Onoforio, who works in the department, found herself really taken aback when she got three separate calls about aboveground pools recently.

Were people really that desperate? “I hadn’t seen one of these requests in 10 years,’’ she said. “I didn’t even know the protocol.’’ An aboveground pool in Westport is like a bag of Sun Chips on a table at Per Se.

Westport is one of many aesthetically pleasing places where affluent New Yorkers fleeing the infection have decamped. Some have chosen to move permanently. “The New Yorkers all want pools, and the inventory is very low,’’ Suzanne Sholes, a real estate agent in town told me. The houses that have them receive multiple offers both on the rental and sales sides despite the catastrophes afflicting the economy.

Just thing, for New Yorkers looking to leave the city.

To the rest of the country, Westport is now the town with a super-spreading party, drones that almost picked out social distance cheaters, and now a swimming pool shortage.

Something to think about, as you lounge by the water this holiday weekend.

(To read the entire Times column, click here.)

After 46 Years Of Marriage, A Look At Life And Love

In this time of death and grief, it may seem odd to recommend a book about death and grief.

But “Just One More Song: Conversations With My Wife After Her Death” should sit atop any reading list.

Herbert Appleman kept a diary for 15 months after his wife Dee died. It’s not the first in that genre — but it may be the best.

Appleman — a Westport author, playwright, lyricist, composer, documentary producer and professor of English — is a gifted writer. But his book is more than a soaring exploration of love and loss. It’s an ode to marriage — and a robust look into a married couple’s bedroom.

Through children, careers, moves, and the inevitable ups and downs of 46 years together, he and Dee made joyful love. It’s not the kind of thing most widowers write about. But he does it insightfully, beautifully, gracefully — and with plenty of passion and pride.

That’s not to say it came easily. Appleman began writing shortly after his wife died. But the words did not flow naturally. It took years before he felt comfortable reflecting on their long life together.

When he did, he ended up with way too much. He eventually cut two-thirds of his words. But the process helped him realize how fortunate he’d been. “My marriage was so much better than I’d expected, or seen with others,” he says. “It was a privilege to relive it.”

Allowing himself to delve into memories, and recreate them, was “a pleasure in and of itself. And of course there was joy in letting the larger world meet someone I felt was the most remarkable person I knew in my life.”

His only apprehension, Appleman says, was his son’s reaction to so much intimate material. But he told his father, “You and she were always so affectionate. It didn’t come as a surprise you had the sexual life you did. I envy you! It should be in the book.”

He calls his wife “a refined, non-show person. She didn’t flaunt her beauty. And it was my great good fortune that she was a wonderful, great lover.”

Herbert Appleman then …

The couple was also fortunate to realize what they had, while they had it. “We joked that marriage got a bad name” in popular culture, he says. “It seemed that all the sex and romance was for single and divorced people. But we found intimacy, love and shared experiences, and they were really romantic for us as married people.”

Of course, “Just One More Song” is not just about desire. Appleman writes lovingly of the couple’s many conversations about nearly everything, and the shared bonds of parenting that drew them together so tightly.

He thought the book’s audience would be older readers — those married a long time, particularly widows. But its appeal is far wider.

A woman appreciated it for its look at marriage “through a man’s eyes.” And Appleman people have given the book as wedding gifts. “They tell me it’s a great guide to a good marriage,” he says proudly.

Now 86, Appleman has enjoyed “an autumnal resurgence.” He’s written a new play or book every year in his 80s.

… and now.

That too is gratifying. His projects “allow me to fulfill the arc of a career I set in my mind many years ago. As long as I have my health, energy and an alert mind, I’ll keep going.”

The big challenge at his age, he says, is to “keep living for the future, and not live too much in the past.”

“Just One More Song” strikes that balance. By honoring the 46 years of his marriage, he gives hope to all who struggle with the present and strive for a better future.

In other words, “Conversations With My Wife After Her Death” is the perfect book for a pandemic.

(To order Herbert Appleman’s book, click here.)

COVID Roundup: Winged Monkey; Thermometers; Playhouse; MTC’s Voice; More


New York’s WABC-TV sent an Eyewitness News team to Westport yesterday, to preview today’s retail reopening.

The report showed empty downtown streets, but offered an upbeat message from Winged Monkey’s Jenny Vogel.

“We’re very excited excited to see our customers,” she said. “Don’t know how it’s going to go. Customers that we talk to all the time, they’re really looking forward to getting out of the house, shopping, going into stores again.

“We do a huge prom, graduation, so obviously we lost a lot of that. Hopefully, even though summer is usually our slowest time, this year maybe it will be a little busier since people haven’t been shopping the last couple of months.”

Jenny was excited to be on the tri-state news. As for Channel 7: They’re not yet back to pre-COVID mode.

They called 1st Selectman Jim Marpe our “mayor.” And they misspelled “Winged Monkey” in the chyron (below). Click here for the full report.


First came toilet paper. Then masks.

The next hot item: infrared thermometers.

Small businesses (between 2 and 100 employees), non-profits and places of worship can request 1 thermometer per physical address. The state will deliver them to Westport; town officials will let recipients know when and where they can be picked up. The deadline for submission is “early afternoon” tomorrow (Thursday, May 21).

To request an infrared thermometer: Small businesses should click here. Non-profits, click here. (Social services and direct care nonprofits should click on this memo). Places of worship should click here.


This distribution will continue while supplies last.

The Westport Country Playhouse doors are closed this summer. But their online presence is as robust as ever. And anyone, anywhere, can join in.

In an effort to “share experiences, exchange ideas, entertain each other, and engage our hearts, minds and souls from our own homes,” they offer “Coffee Breaks” on Thursdays at 4 p.m. Th0se 30-minute conversations begin tomorrow (May 21) with Paola Hernandez of “Man of La Mancha.” Next Thursday (May 28): Rodolfo Soto from “In the Heights.” Click here for details.

There are “Post-Watch Dialogues” too — panels with artists, scholars and community members discussing films that can be streamed at home. This Saturday (May 23, 7 p.m.), Mina Hartong hosts a panel exploring “A Secret Love.” Click here for details.


Music Theatre of Connecticut’s kids’ Voice competition is tomorrow (Thursday, May 21, 7 p.m.). It’s a fundraiser for their scholarship and programming efforts — but they give 10% of each contestant’s proceeds to a charity of their choice.

Bedford Middle School 7th grader Ryan Ryan has selected RoomToRead. An avid reader, she credits books with propelling her into theater. She wants girls around the world to experience the joy of stories, and believes that education can propel them to success.

A dancer who has performed in several Westport Country Playhouse “Nutcracker”s, with the Westport Community Theatre and at Art About Town and the Westport Library rededication, she has studied voice and acting at MTC since 2017.

To sponsor Ryan — and vote for her in the Voice competition tomorrow – click here.

Ryan Ryan


And finally … who doesn’t love a little Melissa Ehteridge?!

COVID Roundup: Yarn Bombing; Minute Man Flowers; Masks; Movies; More


Anne Craig is familiar to Westporters. She spent 15 years on TV, as an entertainment and features reporter for Fox 5 in New York, and evening news anchor on New Haven’s Channel 8.

These days Anne is home in Westport with her husband and young kids. But  she still loves telling stories — and tells them very, very well.

This one is about Westport’s mysterious “yarn bomber.” We’ve all seen her (or their) (or his?!) work. Now Anne tries to unravel the mystery.


Two weeks ago, Staples senior Lillie Bukzin learned that Oprah Winfrey was organizing a Facebook Live graduation event — and was looking for videos.

Lillie and her friends Sofie Abrams, Meher Bhullar, Reilly Caldwell, Kate Enquist and Cassie Lang went to work. They wrote a mini-script, and Lillie recorded them all saying “Hi! We are from the class of 2020 from Staples High School in Westport, Connecticut and this how we graduate.” They also threw their Staples baseball caps in the air.

On Thursday, they learned they’d be part of Oprah’s event — which aired yesterday. Click below to see their 15 seconds of fame! (Okay, it’s more like 1.5 seconds. But the video is very cool!

PS: In other Staples/national graduation/famous people news, tonight (8 p.m., multiple platforms) is when former president Barack Obama gives a speech to the Class of 2020. It’s the direct result of a social media campaign spearheaded by Lincoln Debenham, who grew up here and spent 2 years at Staples before his family moved to Los Angeles.

The Class of 2020 may graduate virtually, but together they rock!


The Westport Garden Club had to postpone their annual flower sale. But the 96-year-old organization is growing new roots, with their “Friday Flowers” project. All around town, they’re brightening our days. Here’s one example — at the gateway to our newly opened beach.

(Photo/Ellen Greenberg)


Here’s another interesting shot. David Squires calls this “our new (ab)normal.” Personally, he says, “I prefer the fuzzy dice.”


In month 3 of COVID, you’ve gone through nearly every Netflix, Showtime and Disney title available.

But you may have missed “Batsh*t Bride.” Filmed locally — including Christ & Holy Trinity church, Longshore and Pearl restaurant — the comedy stars Meghan Falcone as a bride who pranks her fiance by saying they should break up. Unfortunately, he feels the same way. Everything spirals out of control from there.

It’s available just about any way you can watch: Apple TV, Amazon, Google Play, YouTube, Vudu, Xbox, FangangoNOW, Hoopla, Sony Playstation Video Application and console, AT&T, DirectTV, Dish, iN DEMAND (Comcast, Spectrum) and Vubiquity (Verison Fios). Enjoy the trailer below; then click here for the direct links.


There’s not a lot to laugh about these days. But people walking past Saugatuck Congregational Church have to smile when they see the signs below.

Too young to know the reference? Google John Cleese and Monty Python.

(Photo/Molly Alger)


And finally … the beach parking lot reopening was timed perfectly with the arrival of actual spring weather. Well done, Westport!

Color Us Westport: Your “06880” Coloring Book

A couple of weeks ago, “06880” put out a call. Readers could help design a fun, creative local coloring book.

The idea came from Mark Potts. The 1974 Staples High School graduate lives in Lawrence, Kansas now, and sent his mother — renowned Westport historian Eve Potts — an article about a coloring book created there.

Eve thought it was a wonderful, creative way to bring our community — of all ages — together during this crisis.

Artists of all types — professionals, doodlers, everyone in between — were invited to submit a page of their favorite Westport scene. They’d all be turned into a PDF, for anyone to print out and color.

Now — with the help (of course!) of Miggs Burroughs — we present “Color Us Westport.” The 24 page book of historic, iconic and fun spots around town includes contributions from Miggs, Eve, Mark, Kathie Motes Bennewitz, Claire England, Kris Jandora, Penny Pearlman and Melanie Yates.

Click here to download your (free!) copy now.

Claire England, director of operations for Green’s Farms Church, contributed several pages to the coloring book.

COVID Roundup: “Artists In Residences”; Alice In Wonderland; Class Of 2020 Signs; More


Among the many features of the transformed Westport Library, there was this: continuing exhibitions of local artists, in the Sheffer Gallery and other prominent spots.

The library is closed. But thanks to exhibits director Carole Erger-Fass, artist/ designer/jack-of-all-trades Miggs Burroughs, and modern technology, they’re getting even more exposure now than they would have had hanging on the walls.

“Artists in Residences” is the library’s cleverly named, wonderfully executed project. Miggs and Carole conducted 30-minute Zoom visits with Artists Collective of Westport members.

Part interview, part studio tour and part demonstrations of their techniques, each episode is as different as the artists themselves.

So far, 6 of these rare, intimate looks at artists in their “native habitats” have been completed. They feature Nina Bentley, Susan Fehlinger, Emily Laux, Joan Miller, Nancy Moore and MaryEllen Hendricks.

Click below for Nina’s; click here for all, via the YouTube channel.


Staples High School’s Class of 2020 will make history in at least 2 ways.

They’re the first to have senior year disrupted by a coronavirus pandemic. And they’re the first to have free lawn signs distributed to every graduate.

Signs are being picked up this week by all 437 seniors. You may already have seen some around town.

Plans are underway for many more activities for this year’s hard-luck, but resilient and wonderful, class. Hindsight is always “20/20” — but with a bit of foresight, this year’s Class of graduation will be both memorable and great.


Speaking of Staples: The “Seussical” show did not go on this spring. But another great one is on tap — er, on radio — this Thursday.

At 6 p.m. (May 14), Players director David Roth’s Theatre 3 class will broadcast their annual radio play. It’s “Alice in Wonderland.” And if it’s anything like past productions, it will earn a first-place national Drury High School Radio Award. (Staples has won every year since their inception in 2011.)

Entire families will enjoy this production. It uses the same 1952 script that was broadcast nationally, coinciding with Walt Disney’s release of his animated feature. And it features several stars from last fall’s “Mamma Mia!” mainstage.

The class has rehearsed 3 times a week since the school shut down. On Thursday you can hear them live: 90.3 FM, or streamed here.


Speaking of education: Westport Continuing Education has launched Online Learning classes and workshops for adults, teens and kids. Virtual “after school” programs include sports, babysitting, arts, film, horticulture, theater and more. Those for adults include business, cooking, gardening and personal finance. Click here for details.


They were all there at last night’s “Rise Up New York!” telethon: Tina Fey. Andrew Cuomo. Barbara Streisand. Ben Platt. Bette Midler. Jennifer Lopez. Bill de Blasio. Chris Rock. Danny Meyer. Eli Manning. Idina Menzel. Jake

Gyllenhaal. Jimmy Fallon. Lin-Manuel Miranda. Robert De Niro. Salt-N-Pepa. Spike Lee. Julianne Moore. Trevor Noah. Bon Jovi. Billy Joel. Mariah Carey.  Sting.

And Gold’s.

Momofuku’s David Chang said, “It’s impossible to overstate the importance of New York’s restaurant industry. It’s also impossible to overstate the crisis it’s currently facing.”

And then — first, among a number of dining spots — Westport’s popular deli appeared on screens, all around the nation. Chip Stephens captured the moment on camera:


And finally … listen to Peter Gabriel!

COVID Roundup: NY Times Real Estate; Food Pantry; More

At last: a New York Times mention of Westport that does not involve a super-spreading party or surveillance drones.

Tomorrow’s Real Estate section includes a long feature on New Yorkers who — often to their own surprise — are leaving the crowded, now locked-down city for the suburbs (with, they hope, more space and less exposure to the coronavirus).

The story noted that in March and April Westport had 63 new rentals, up from 36 in the same period last year. A photo of the Saugatuck River and National Hall illustrated the piece.

The article mentioned other Fairfield County towns, including “leafy” Wilton and Weston, where the “sluggish” market “may get a boost.” With 2-acre zoning, there is “plenty of rooms between properties, which germ-conscious buyers may appreciate.”

To read the full story, click here.

The Times story included this view of Weston’s Lyons Plains Road (Photo/Jane Beilis for the New York Times)


Staples High School graduate Marc Bailin sends along this photo from Vermont, where he now has a home. It was taken this morning — yes, May 9:

Which brings up this question: If it had snowed like that here, just a couple of hours south — and it was yesterday, instead of today — would Westport schools have had a snow day?


One more Virtual Bingo report: Thursday’s game raised a record $390. As always, winners choose an organization to receive the pot. Maury and Aliza Wind picked Homes With Hope. To get in the game yourself (all are welcome!), email stan@witkow.com.

In other Homes With Hope news, another food pantry collection is set for this Monday (May 11, 2 to 4 p.m.). Non-perishable goods can be brought to the Gillespie Center, behind Restoration Hardware. Stay in your car; pop your trunk; someone will take your donation.


And finally … in 1985, The Alarm requested “hope” and “strength.” They were way ahead of their time.

And The Pulitzer Prize For Explanatory Reporting Goes To …

… Harry Stevens of the Washington Post.

Well, he was part of a team of writers, photographers, researchers and (his specialty) graphic designers who contributed to this year’s prestigious award.

“2°C: Beyond the Limit” — a series on climate change — “fundamentally reshaped the climate debate by showing that extreme warming is not a worry for the future,” the Post said in a story about the Pulitzer. “10 percent of the planet has already warmed by 2 degrees Celsius.”

The paper employed reporting from a dozen global hot spots. The series included “vast datasets to help readers visualize our rapidly warming planet.”

Stevens — a 2004 Staples High School graduate — co-authored a piece about how we know global warming is real.

He posted on Facebook at the time:

The idea that the planet is getting hotter is not based on computer models or some kind of fancy voodoo science. It’s actually much simpler than that: readings from thousands of thermometers, many of which have been around for centuries. When scientists wanted to figure out if global warming was real or not, they went out and collected all those thermometers’ recordings.

My coworkers and I wrote about those thermometers and how they are being used today to monitor a disaster that could scarcely have been foreseen by 19th-century meteorologists, but which now constitutes the single most significant fact about the planet’s environment.

He was involved in all aspect of the story: analyzing temperature data, making maps, interviewing scientists and archivists, tracking down a 3D model of an Alpine weather observatory, framing and writing the narrative, and more. The story occupied most of his time for the first several months after he joined the Post.

Harry Stevens (Photo/ Sarah L. Voisin for The Washington Post)

For other stories, he built the spinning globes that locate where in the world the stories take place, and he created a map for a story about Australia.

“But the series had already been launched when I joined the Post,” he says modestly. “So the credit for the idea and execution goes to my brilliant colleagues.”

If Stevens’ name sounds familiar to Westporters: It is. In March — right at the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis — “06880” profiled his work on the Post‘s interactive, ever-changing simulation of how the virus can spread throughout a population.

His “data journalism” drew worldwide attention. Who knows? That story might draw the attention of the judges a year from now, when they meet to award the 2021 Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Journalism.

(Hat tip: Kerry Long)