Category Archives: Organizations

Y’s Men Pivot In Pandemic

It’s hard to imagine a more active, involved — and social — group than the Y’s Men.

So it’s hard to imagine any Westport organization impacted more by COVID than the 400-plus seniors who hike, bike, play bridge and backgammon, sing, enjoy classical music, work with computers, discuss investments, and hear interesting speakers on a local and global topics every week.

The Y’s Men will not let a global pandemic keep them down. Though their in-person meetings are limited, they’ve adjusted, adapted and pivoted.

These are indeed wise men.

Like many members, president Bob Mitchell calls the group “a very important part of my life.” A member since retiring from a career in banking and IT in 2014, he appreciates both the variety of activities and the camaraderie.

Since the coronavirus struck, he says, “we rewrite our playbook every day.”

Bob Mitchell, Y’s Men president

Thursday morning general meetings were always convivial. After Coffee An’s coffee and donuts, members enjoyed speakers. Senators, congressmen, CEOs, authors, entertainers — packed audiences heard them all.

In-person sessions were replaced by podcasts. Among the guests: 1st Selectman Jim Marpe, Board of Finance chair Brian Stern, “Live at Lincoln Center” producer Andrew Wilk, Dr. Robert Altbaum, CNN anchor Alisyn Camerota, golf pro Kammy Maxfeldt, realtor Alex Chingas and “06880” blogger yours truly.

The speakers series has now transitioned to Zoom. Every week through Christmas is booked, with guests and topics ranging from the history of the White Star Line to Westport’s downtown and Department of Human Services.

Mitchell notes one upside of virtual meetings: the chance to hear from people like Basil Hero. The author of that book about lessons learned by 12 men who went to the moon, he’s a former Westporter now living in San Francisco. That makes an in-person meeting tough — but a Zoom session easy.

A Y’s Men Zoom meeting.

The Y’s Men usually take the summer off. This year, groups like the Book Club continued to meet, virtually. The biking and walking groups got together for actual bike trips and walks — socially distanced, of course. Tennis players were active too; soon, they’ll move indoors.

The Bridge Club did not meet. But they’re starting now — virtually, of course.

“We are committed to keeping our members active, involved and social as much as possible — whether face to face or not,” Mitchell says.

Y’s Men (and wives) enjoy a socially distanced get-together at Compo Beach. (Photo/Molly Alger)

COVID did more than derail many Y’s Men’s plans. It also took the lives of 3 members.

One was a hiker. Group friends walked and met in his honor this summer, at Sherwood Island.

As the Y’s Men gear up for another year — one unlike any other, but filled like all the rest with events and activities — Mitchell invites any retired or semi-retired man who lived (or once lived) in Westport or Weston to join. Click here for more information, or email president@ysmenwestportweston.org.

Roundup: JoyRide And STAR, Short Film Festival, More


Many Westporters spin. Many support efforts to help great causes.

Now JoyRide and STAR Lighting the Way are teaming up to raise money for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

A spin class this Saturday (September 26, 12 to 1 p.m.) will help fund STAR programs — and all donations will be matched 100% by an anonymous donor.

This is a great opportunity for new spinners, experienced ones, and everybody in between. It’s an inclusive, no-judgment opportunity.

The cost is $50 per rider, payable to STAR at the door. Space is limited; click here to register.


For 9 years, Nancy Diamond produced the “Short Cuts” festival at Garden Cinemas.

The Norwalk art house theater has closed. But the series soon goes virtual. Its new sponsor is the Westport Library.

The dates are Thursday, October 8 and Thursday, November 12. Both “festivals” run from 7 p.m. to 8:45.

As usual, Nancy will introduce 5 short movies curated from the Tribeca Film Festival. Afterward though, there’s a remote talkback with 3 of the films’ directors. They’ll be live — and around the globe. One is in Switzerland, another from the UK, and a third all the way in Brooklyn.

Anyone can watch at home via computer, or cast onto a big-screen TV. They’ll also be shown on the Remarkable Theater’s even-bigger Imperial Avenue parking lot screen. There’s room for 70 (socially distanced) cars.

Click here to read about the films, and order tickets.


And finally … today is the first day of fall. Happy equinox!

Roundup: Shorefest, Trader Joe’s, Fall Fashion, More


Yesterday’s “Shorefest on a Roll” — Friends of Sherwood Island’s reimagined, socially distanced annual fundraiser — was different than the usual lobsterfest.

It was also wonderful, fun, and made even better by spectacular weather.

Board members Cece Saunders and Steve Axthelm produced the clever, all-ages event. Riding in cars through the 232-acre state park, families listened to a podcast while enjoying kites, disc golf, music, and getting a purple martin education.

At the last stop, they picked up lobster roll dinners, courtesy of Westfair Fish & Chips.

Click here for a full report, and tons of photos.

Lobster roll dinners, at the end.


That’s one small step for a man. And one giant leap for faster checkouts.

Trader Joe’s has all registers open, for the first time since COVID struck in March.


The other day you worked out, at Main Street and Church Lane’s Fitness & Wellness Expo.

This Saturday, you can show off your new look. The Westport Downtown Merchants Association is sponsoring a Fall Fashion & Beauty Day.

Merchandise will be displayed on sidewalks — meaning there’s plenty of room to walk around in stores too. And despite the name, all downtown merchants — not just fashion and beauty retailers — are invited to participate.

All of Main Street, Elm Street and Church Lane will be closed from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Local merchants not on those streets are being offered spots, so there’s plenty to see and do. Of course, masks and social distancing rules apply!

 


World peace comes to Westport.

That’s the name of the next MoCA Westport exhibit. It opens October 8.

Works in the show reflect “the culture of identity, and the divided and fractured political climate of America’s past and present.” The multi-media exhibit includes photography, sculpture, video, site-specific installations, works on paper, and protest art.

The group show features local and world-renowned artists, highlighting contemporary media culture, the criminal justice system, and the relationship between science and religion. 

Westporters include illustrators Tracy Sugarman and Naiad Einsel, and photographers Spencer Platt and Richard Frank

Local politicians, and experts on climate change and the media, will be featured in panels throughout the exhibition. It runs through January 17.

For more information, click here.


And finally … today is the International Day of Peace. Enough said.

 

Roundup: Old Dominion, The Sun And The Moon, More


COVID kept the live audience away from last night’s 55th annual Academy of Country Music Awards at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville.

But a nationwide television audience watched Old Dominion walk off with 2 huge awards: Best Group and Best Song (“One Man Band”).

Country music may not be huge in Westport. But we’re hugely proud of Old Dominion. Lead guitarist Brad Tursi is a 1997 graduate of Staples High School, where he was known not as a musician, but as a soccer star. He’s in the far right in the clip below, wearing a flannel shirt.  (Hat tip: Claudia Bradley)

He’s the first musician shown, in the official “One Man Band” video too:


Staples High School sophomore Phoebe Miller took this picture yesterday evening. She says that smoke from the wildfires out west has drifted far east. It blocks the sun’s rays, making it appear much larger and more orange than usual.

(Photo/Phoebe Miller)


This news will brighten your day:

International Observe the Moon Night will be celebrated in Westport (and everywhere) on Saturday, September 26. The Westport Astronomical Society says the annual worldwide public event “encourages observation and appreciation of the moon.

“All are invited to observe the moon, learn about NASA planetary science and exploration, and celebrate cultural and personal connections to our nearest neighbor. All you need to do is look up!

This year the moon will be just past 1st quarter – a great phase for evening observation.

If the skies are clear, the WAS will open the dome to its observatory on Bayberry Lane. Telescopes will be available.

The WAS adds: “The giant satellite has been our constant companion for 4.5 billion years, and viewed by every human who ever walked the Earth. It’s one of the solar systems’ most remarkable objects, and is quite likely a major reason that life even exists on our planet.”

Amazing full moon at Compo Beach (Photo/Michael Tomashefsky)


Seen at Compo Beach. Beware!

(Photo/Les Dinkin)


Crank up The Machine!

The final Supper & Soul drive-in concert of 2020 features The Machine — a longtime internationally touring Pink Floyd-style band. The event — co-sponsored by the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce and Westport Library — is set for Saturday, October 3 (7 p.m., Imperial Avenue parking lot.

Tickets for the always-popular event are $150 per car (5-person maximum. They go on sale tomorrow (Friday, September 18) at 10 a.m. Click here to purchase.


And finally … in honor of International Observe the Moon Night (see above):

Roundup: Cribari Bridge, Senior Center, Wildfires, WTF, More


Stay away from the William F. Cribari Bridge today. The Saugatuck River span is closed through 3 p.m., for inspection. Use alternate routes!

William F. Cribari Bridge — stay away today! (Photo/Sam Levenson)


Registration for Senior Center October-December classes is underway for Westport residents. Non-residents can register beginning Monday (September 21).

The Senior Center also announces upcoming events:

  • Parkinson’s Support (Sept. 23, Zoom, 10:15 a.m.)
  • New to Medicare (Sept. 24, 5:30 p.m.)
  • Summer Concert Series: Harpist Wendy Kerner (Sept. 25, Zoom, 1:30 p.m.)
  • Caregiver Support (Sept. 30, Oct. 7 and 21, 10 a.m.)
  • Bingo (Oct. 1, with delivered lunch (Pct. 1, Zoom, 1:15 p.m.)
  • Just for Women (Oct. 1, 3:30 p.m.)
  • Walk to End Alzheimer’s (Oct. 11).

For more information, click here, call 203-341-5099, email seniorcenter@westportct.gov/seniorcenter.


Smoke from the wildfires out west have reached Westport. This was the scene yesterday evening, at Compo Beach:

(Photo/Stephen Raffel)


COVID has canceled many traditional activities. But not Oktoberfest!

Wakeman Town Farm celebrates outdoors on Thursday, October 8 (5:30 p.m.).  Chef Alison Milwe Grace cooks up a great German meal (with a veggie option for non-meat eaters). Bring a sweater or jacket and your favorite German beer or adult beverage. Click here for details and tickets.


Teaching has always been stressful. During COVID, it’s exponentially tougher.

To help educators de-stress, Positive Directions has launched a Teacher Support Group. Trained counselors lead discussions Wednesdays from 7 to 8 p.m. via (of course) Zoom. The cost is $40 per session. Email amiceli@positivedirections.org, or call 203-227-7644 for reservations.


With kids back at school — meaning more than half the time, they’re learning at home — parents may need a private office.

Serendipity Labs — the on-demand workspace at 55 Post Road West — offers a complimentary private day office for all new inquiries. It’s available weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Serendipity memberships include high-speed WiFi, complimentary coffee, spacious common areas, guest reception and concierge services. For details click here, call 203-979-4084 or email mburns@serendipitylabs.com.

Serendipity Labs, 55 Post Road West


Classic movies continue this Saturday (September 19, 8 p.m.) at the Remarkable Theater. Earthplace co-sponsors “Raiders of the Lost Artk.” Click here for tickets and more information.


Speaking of movies: Ethan Hawke will direct a new movie about the lives and careers of Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward. The project has the blessing of Woodward — now 90 — and the actors’ family.

The film is expected to focus on their 50-year marriage, including their decision to raise their children in Westport rather than Los Angeles. (Hat tip: Johanna Rossi)

Joanne Woodward and Paul Newman.


And finally … today would have been B.B. King’s 95th birthday. He died 5 years ago, but the thrill of his blues guitar will never be gone.

 

Roundup: Woodstock, Teachers, Movies, Music, More


Last week, Peter Gambaccini saw that TCM was running the director’s cut of “Woodstock.”

Peter was there in the Catskills hills, 51 years ago this month. Now in his early 70s, he was not ready to sit through all those hours of music and more (particularly not Ten Years After).

But he tried to time it so that he’d tune in to see some of the Westporters he knew were there (though he never saw them “live”).

In a segment showing people sliding through the mud after a torrential rain, he suddenly spotted Bill Davidson. He was a Staples High School hockey star, and drummer with local bands.

In the movie, Bill had a line about what a “mess” the hillside was. Peter had not seen him in the movie before, so he guesses that was part of the expanded version.

Then — after a brief bit of other business — Pete Krieg and Peter Cannon came into view. Cannon flashed the peace sign at the camera.

They were so close in the footage to Davidson, Gambaccini assumed they’d all gone to Woodstock together.

Nope.

In a Facebook discussion about another musical topic on Facebook, Gambaccini asked Krieg about the weekend. He said:

“I’ve gotten close to Bill in the past 10 years, since he’s the head bartender at Aspetuck Club. It was just last year (50 years later) that we realized we were 20 yards/60 seconds apart on that road, at that moment, at Woodstock.”

Far out!


Phaedra Taft — science coach at Greens Farms and Long Lots Elementary Schools — has received the Connecticut Science Teachers Association award for “Excellence in Elementary Science Teaching 2020.” 

During her 12 years in the Westport schools, Taft has been a leader in the development and implementation of the elementary school science curriculum. She has also played an instrumental role in leading the District’s adoption of the Next Generation Science Standards

In other education news, 2 Westport teachers — Staples High School’s Suzanne Kammerman and Courtney Ruggiero of Bedford Middle School — were featured on a Channel 8 story about teaching 9/11 to today’s students. Click here to see.

Phaedra Taft


The Artists Collective of Westport is helping another arts group: the Remarkable Theater.

They’re collaborating on Thursday’s drive-in movie. “Best in Show” — a biting satire about dog shows — will be shown September 17 at 8 p.m. at the Imperial Avenue parking lot. The gate opens at 7.

Tickets are $50 per car. Click here to reserve.


Westport’s Suzuki Music School is beefing up its presence. New Visiting Artist courses have been added, with Grammy Award-winning instructors like percussionist Joe McCarthy, and subjects including the history of jazz, movie soundtrack composition amd contemporary fiddling.

Suzuki is also streaming more free public events, with jazz pianist Sumi Tonooka and cellist Matt Haimovitz and more. The popular children’s Pillow Concert series continues online, and the Connecticut Guitar Festival returns for a 4th year (virtually this time).

Suzuki’s season kicks off this Sunday (September 20) with a master class by Grammy-winning violinist Augustin Hadelich. Click here for tickets to that class; click here for an overview of events.


And finally … since we’re honoring Woodstock (above), here’s a “trip” down memory lane. In deference to Peter Gambaccini, it’s not Ten Years After. It’s Bert Sommer. He was accompanied at Woodstock by local resident Ira Stone. If you’ve never heard of them — or at least didn’t know they were at Woodstock — well, they never made it off the film’s cutting room floor. NOTE: The Woodstock recording is poor. I’ve also included a studio version (I’m not sure if it includes Ira).

 

 

All That Jazz: Wynton Marsalis Plays In Westport

Earlier this month, Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Jazz Alexa Tarantino Quartet performed at MoCA Westport.

The outdoor concert — properly socially distanced, of course — was sold out, and well received.

Turns out, it was just a warm-up act.

On October 2, the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra Septet with Wynton Marsalis comes to town. The world-renowned trumpeter and composer — the managing and artistic director of Jazz at Lincoln Center — is the only artist to win classical and jazz Grammys in the same year. And he’s done it twice.

The Septet’s program — “The Sound of Democracy” — features new music, played in Connecticut for the first time.

Tickets are on sale now (click here). Proceeds support the museum, and Jazz at Lincoln Center.

Wynton Marsalis (Photo/Piper Ferguson)

Roundup: Sunrise Rotary, Dylan Diamond, Wildfires, More


Every year, Westport’s Sunrise Rotary raises nearly $100,000 from 2 events: The Duck Race, and a wine tasting gala.

Eighty percent of the proceeds are donated to organizations that serve the health, hunger, safety and education needs of adults and children from Stamford to New Haven. The other 20% funds disease prevention, health, peace promotion, education and economic development across the globe.

COVID -19 forced the cancellation of both fundraisers.

To partially fill the gap — and provide safe, fun activities that may also attract new members — Sunrise members collaborated with the Remarkable Theater. They showed “School of Rock” on the Imperial Avenue parking lot screen. The famous yellow duck — and a duckling — were there, welcoming movie-goers.

More events are planned. To learn more about membership, email
info@westportsunriserotary.org. To support charitable giving, send a check to
Westport Sunrise Rotary, PO Box 43, Westport, CT 06881-0043.

Nothing is wrong. The convertible’s driver adjusted its hydraulics, for a comfortable viewing spot at the Remarkable Drive-In.


As a Staples High School student, Dylan Diamond made frequent appearances on “06880.”

At 15, he built an app that allowed classmates to view their schedules and grades — then rolled it out nationally, with hundreds of thousands of downloads.

He followed up with apps that helped skiers find buddies on the slope, and let users book everything from babysitters and yardwork to concert tickets.

Now Inc. has taken notice. He and Wharton School classmate Max Baron have gone all-in on Saturn, a calendar app.

Inc. says “they are working to build community around the calendar in high schools, with a big vision fueling them: to own the time layer of the internet.”

To hear Inc.’s podcast — in which the two discuss “why retention is social, how living together has given the co-founders an ‘always on’ mindset, and what they learned from their early work experience at Tesla and Havas” — click here(Hat tip: John Dodig)

Dylan Diamond, in San Francisco. While still a Staples High School student, he scored a coveted invitation to Facebook’s F8 conference.


How bad are the wildfires out west?

Peter Gold notes that Connecticut has 3.548 million acres.  As of Saturday, over 3.2 million acres have burned in California this fire season alone. In addition, 900,000 acres burned in Oregon, and over 600,000 more in Washington.

“It’s hard to imagine an area almost one-and-a-half times the size of Connecticut burned in just 3 states,” he says.

Battling a blaze in California.


Jane Mansbridge is a professor of political leadership and values at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.

A recent Harvard Gazette story traces her “jagged trajectory” from her youth in Weston, and years at Staples High School (Class of 1957) to her current role as one of the world’s leading scholars of democratic theory.

She loved growing up in a small town. But, she says, she was bullied in Weston and at Staples for being “bookish and a smart girl.”

Realizing that not everyone liked the kind of person she was, or the values she held may have contributed to her later drive to find out more about people who were not like her, she says.

Click here for the full story. (Hat tip: A. David Wunsch)

Jane Mansbridge (Photo/Stephanie Mitchell for Harvard staff)


The porgies are in! This was the scene yesterday, at Sherwood Island State Park. Of course, fishermen always observe social distance.

(Photo/Roseann Spengler)


And finally … On this day in 1814, Francis Scott Key watched a British bombardment of Maryland during the War of 1812. Inspired by the sight of an American flag still flying at daybreak, he wrote a poem. “The Defence of Fort M’Henry” was later set to music. In 1931 “The Star-Spangled Banner” became our national anthem. One of the most famous versions was sung by our wonderful neighbor, Weston’s Jose Feliciano, before Game 5 of the 1968 World Series in Detroit. It was controversial at the time; no one had ever delivered such a non-traditional rendition.

His performance nearly ended his career. But 42 years later — in 2010 — he was invited back to Detroit, to perform it again. This time, the crowd roared.

Photo Challenge #298

It’s clear: The Gillespie Center is an integral part of Westport life.

The men’s shelter — across from police headquarters, behind the old Restoration Hardware (and before that, Fine Arts Theater) and, most intriguingly, around the corner from Tiffany — opened in April 1989. (For the previous 5 years, it was located at the Vigilant Firehouse on Wilton Road, now OKO restaurant.)

The Center — named after one of the founders, Dr. Jim Gillespie — had been the home of the Youth Adult Council and Westport Transit District. Long before that, it was a garage for the town Highway Department.

For over 30 years, the Gillespie Center has served as a shelter for homeless men. Run by Homes with Hope, the building includes a food pantry and Hoskins Place, a shelter for single women. The name honors Rev. Ted Hoskins, longtime Saugatuck Church pastor.

35 readers — possibly a record — quickly recognized Helen McAlinden’s photo as the Gillespie Center in last week’s Challenge. (Click here to see.)

The number of correct answers — 35 — may be an “06880” Photo Challenge record. So may be the fact that there were no incorrect guesses. What a tribute to Westport’s embrace of the Gillespie Center!

Congratulations to Matt Murray, Pat Porio, Lawrence Zlatkin, Gloria Gouveia, Mike Hibbard, Cindy Zuckerbrod, Ed Gerber, Elaine Marino, Suzanne Raboy, Rich Stein, Amy Schneider, Wendy McKeon, Peggy O’Halloran, Jan Carpenter, Karen Kramer, Pat Farmer, Molly Alger, Barry Cass, Jonathan McClure, Michelle Scher Saunders, Michael Calise, Ken Gilbertie, Seth Braunstein, Joyce Barnhart, Nancy Axthelm, Linda Amos, Gillian Anderson, John Moran, Vivian Rabin, Susan Yules, Tony Giunta, Pete Powell, Darcy Sledge, Joelle Malec and Bruce Salvo.

Can so many people also identify this week’s Photo Challenge? Probably not. It’s tougher.

So here’s a hint: It’s a former town athletic facility. If you know where in Westport you’d find this, click “Comments” below.

(Photo/Werner Liepolt)

Roundup: Fitness, Virtual Slice, Trash, More


When is downtown Westport not an outdoor shopping mall?

When it turns into a Fitness & Wellness Expo.

That was the scene yesterday. Pure Barre, JoyRide, Row House and Athleta sponsored outdoor classes on Main Street. Vendors like Restore Cryo, Fleet Feet and New England Hemp Farm helped educate consumers. Church Lane merchants added wellness specials.

Everyone wore masks. And if they didn’t have one, the Westport Downtown Merchants Association — sponsors of the intriguing event — gave them one.

Work it!

Among the participants: 2nd Selectwoman Jen Tooker and Police Chief Foti Koskinas, in the photo below:


Yesterday would have been the 9th annual Slice of Saugatuck. It got squashed by the coronavirus — but the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce did the next best thing.

They produced a video, showing the shops, restaurants and people who make up that vibrant community. Whether you’re a newcomer, old-timer or long-gone Westporter, check below for a 6-minute stroll through Saugatuck.

One more Chamber note: They’ve added a 2nd “Supper & Soul” socially distanced tailgate show featuring Terrapin: A Grateful Dead Experience (Friday, October 2; 7 p.m.). Tickets go on sale Monday at 10 a.m.; click here.


Westporter Helen Lowman is president and CEO of Keep America Beautiful. Next Sunday — September 20 — her organization hosts its 2nd annual TrashDash. The goal is for people to create cleaner streets, parks, and waterfronts by “plogging” (picking up litter while jogging).

It will be held officially at Mill River Park in Stamford (the city where Keep America Beautiful is headquartered) — but anyone can join in their own community, wherever it is. Just grab a bag and gloves and pick up litte. You don’t even have to jog!

Click here for more information.


The Westport River Dancers performed at the Rowing Club yesterday. It was a cancer fundraiser for Norwalk Hospital’s Row for Recovery.

Check out these dancing queens (and one king): Debra Montner, Hilary Solder, Eva Grant-Rawiszer, Suzanne Harvey, Jill Alcott Ferreday and Michael Chait. All are Westporters — and they met their $10,000 goal!


And finally … Toots Hibbert, who introduced reggae to the world — died Friday in Jamaica. He was believed to be 77, and was reported to have suffered from COVID-like symptoms. He and his group — Toots and the Maytals — had international hits like this: