Category Archives: People

[OPINION]: Save Turkey Hill South!

The saga of 63 Turkey Hill Road South continues. Built in 1920, it’s one of 4 remaining Mediterranean-style houses in Westport.

Neighbors hope to save it from a proposed demolition. Right now, it’s under a 180-day stay. Lisa Fay appealed to the Historic District Commission. She wrote:

As a resident of the Greens Farms area, and a Turkey Hill Road South neighbor for 8 years, I have witnessed the demolition of many diverse homes in the area, and the subsequent building of new homes that share too many qualities of style, size and lot coverage. I feel strongly that buyers, our neighbors – and our town — need urgently to consider what we are losing by letting these demolitions happen.

Firstly, original homes – particularly antiques – reflect a town’s history, complexity and heritage. Just by driving down Turkey Hill Road, a tourist or resident witnesses the wonderful aesthetic and cultural history of Westport. With each demolition, we diminish our town’s unique character. To make matters worse, the new homes built on these lots share few variations in footprint, roof form, and materials.

63 Turkey Hill Road South. (Photo/Robinson Strong)

63 Turkey Hill Road South. (Photo/Robinson Strong)

Secondly, many antique homes – although some in need of repair and updating – could never be duplicated with today’s costs. Antique homes possess a certain solidity, built from wood from 100+ year-old trees, not particle board. These homes have withstood decades of human life and natural disasters, and are still standing. By definition, this makes them, in some senses, priceless.

Thirdly, neighbors lose yet another year of peace and neighborly culture while living in a major construction zone. My Turkey Hill neighbors and I have withstood countless trucks, dust, dirt, traffic, noise and loss of hundreds of trees from lots that have been clear cut.

Thirdly, these demolitions exact a cost to our environment. Most of these materials from demolished homes end up in a landfill. Can’t builders try to work with what they have to minimize the impact on our environment?

Steps leading to the front courtyard at 63 Turkey Hill Road South. (Photo/Robinson Strong)

Steps leading to the front courtyard at 63 Turkey Hill Road South. (Photo/Robinson Strong)

Lastly, demolishing this home reflects yet another lost opportunity to get our town antique preservation benefits right. While the demolition of any antique home upsets me for all the aforementioned reasons, I sympathize with any seller who is in a situation to sell urgently, without regard to the buyer’s intent. Giving antique owners – and potential buyers – incentive to keep antique homes could help stem the tide of demolitions.

Tax relief could provide such incentive. The Mills Act in San Diego provides an example of where tax relief has helped owners maintain the character of their neighborhoods by encouraging preservation. Owners of old homes sign a 10-year renewable contract to restore and maintain their antiques, and in turn receive a 50% discount in their taxes. If Westport intends to maintain its cultural heritage in part by protecting its old homes, it needs urgently to partner with owners in this respect.

Thank you for your leadership in helping to preserve our town’s heritage and character.

Stacy Bass Shoots 365 Flowers

Years ago, alert “06880” reader/nature-and-lifestyle photographer Stacy Bass had an idea: For the next year, she’d take and share an image of whatever she happened to be doing at noon that day.

It was, she admits, “crazy and stupid.” The project lasted exactly 2 days.

Now, Stacy’s back. Her new idea is much more workable — and beautiful.

She was inspired by Kerry Long. Stacy’s friend and fellow photographer worked on her own 365-day project, shooting images of her young daughter Lucy. Kerry’s photos were “outstanding, stunning and wonderfully composed,” Stacy says.

Lucy Roth (Photo/Kerry Long)

Lucy Roth (Photo/Kerry Long)

Her own children — much older than Lucy — “would not be nearly as cooperative,” Stacy notes. Nor are portraits her specialty.

Stacy wondered what subject matter would keep her interested and motivated every single day, for a year.

Suddenly she knew.

Flowers.

Though she photographs flowers regularly,  as part of garden shoots for magazines and private clients — check out her great Gardens at First Light book — Stacy knew she’d have to stay focused (ho ho) for a long time to find, take and share an image each day.

Stacy Bass. (Photo/Julie Bidwell for Wall Street Journal)

Stacy Bass. (Photo/Julie Bidwell for Wall Street Journal)

But she wanted to try.

Vacationing on Nantucket with her family last summer, she began.

Stacy Bass's 1st flower.

Stacy Bass’s 1st flower.

Nantucket bloomed with flowers of all kinds. When Stacy returned to Westport, she found many more.

The daily challenge proved invigorating. The positive reactions her photos drew on social media kept her going. Friends and strangers thanked her for providing a daily dose of “beauty and positivity.” (Hydrangeas are the crowd favorites.)

Some days were easier than others. About 2 months in, Stacy hit a figurative wall. She wondered if anyone would notice if she stopped.

But the feeling passed. Now that she’s finished, Stacy is proud of her consistency. She’s also thrilled to have tangible proof of 365 flowers, with a beginning, middle and end.

(Photo/Stacy Bass)

(Photo/Stacy Bass)

She’s not quite sure what to do with all those images, though. Fans have inquired about buying a print of their favorite “day,” or of a special date as a birthday or anniversary gift.

Perhaps figuring out how to do that is Stacy’s next project.

(For more information on Stacy’s flower photos, email swbass@optonline.net.)

A collage of Stacy Bass' flower photos.

A collage of Stacy Bass’ flower photos…

...and a collage of all 365 images.

…and a collage of all 365 images.

The Greatest International Scavenger Hunt The World Has Ever Seen

When you or I go on a scavenger hunt, we try to find random but normal items: a menu from a local restaurant perhaps, or the signature of someone semi-famous.

When Tia Pogue went scavenging this month, she created a human piano; showed an alien draining our civic infrastructure, and milked a dairy cow (while dressed in semi-formal attire — that’s her in the center below).

And when you and I go scavenger hunting, we play for a few bucks or a bottle of wine. Tia — who graduates next June from Staples High School — competed for a free trip to Iceland.

That’s the difference between your and my scavenger hunt, and the Greatest International Scavenger Hunt the World Has Ever Seen.

The week-long event takes — as you have already figured — a hefty amount of energy, creativity and intelligence. Tia has tons of that.

It’s genetic. Her dad, David Pogue, is the world-renowned newspaper/TV/book tech expert — as well as a Yale music major who spent 10 years conducting and arranging Broadway musicals.

In early April, Tia saw a Reddit post soliciting members for a GISHWHES team. The group — Team Raised from Perdition — had finished as a runner-up the year before. Members came from across the US, Canada and Brazil; their professions included sign language interpreter and opera singer. All shared a love for creativity, and making the world a better place.

In addition, the hunt combined art, randomness, philanthropy, challenges and fun — all things Tia loves. She eagerly applied.

She had 3 days to do 3 challenges from past hunts, and make an “About Me” video. She was selected from a pool that included many adults.

The GISHWHES event takes a week. Teams race to complete as many of nearly 200 challenges as they can. Participants submit pictures or videos of their work.

Tia Pogue's team proved that aliens are taking job opportunities away from American.

Tia Pogue’s team proved that aliens are taking jobs away from Americans.

Rules are quirky. For example, most videos must be exactly 14 seconds long. Kale was arbitrarily banned.

Tasks fall into 3 categories:

  • Wacky art projects (recreating photographs out of junk food)
  • Random acts of kindness (planting a community garden or donating blood — a large portion of registration fees go to charity)
  • Asking random people for help (requesting that an art museum temporarily replace a painting worth at least $100,000 with a forgery painted by an 8-year-old).

Tia and her team communicated daily, using an app called Slack. She found everyone warm, accepting, interesting. Teammates grew tighter — virtually — and hope eventually to meet in real life.

With the help of her family, Tia completed 23 items.

Several moments stand out. One was when — after many hours — she finished her junk food version of the famous National Geographic cover with an Afghan refugee:

Tia Pogue National Geographic photo

Other team members created a dress entirely out of corn husks, painted a portrait of a live model while scuba diving, recreated a landmark out of sticks and twigs, held a corporate meeting in a sandbox, and did a variety of charitable acts

Tia learned a few things in the process. One is that she’s happiest when she is creative. This school year, she plans to spend a little time each day doing something crafty.

She also learned that her age is not as big a barrier as it initially seemed. She calls her teammates “friends,” even if some are decades older.

Final results will be released in October. If Tia’s team wins, they’ll finally meet each other.

In Iceland.

Below: Tia Pogue plays a human piano:

(To see Tia’s complete team page, click here. For their spreadsheet, click here. For more information on the Greatest International Scavenger Hunt the World Has Ever Seen, click here.)


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Longshore Lighthouse: The Back Story

For decades, no one thought about the Longshore lighthouse.

Yesterday, I published a photo of it as part of “06880’s” Friday Flashback series.

I had no idea that Westporters Dick Stein and Tracy Hinson had just offered an oil painting of that same scene to the town, as a gift.

Dick told official curator Kathie Motes Bennewitz that he found the painting behind an upstairs desk at last year’s Red Barn tag sale. Owner Tommy Nistico asked Dick if he knew where the lighthouse had been located. Dick remembered it instantly from  his youth.

The painting — by artist Harriet Horowitz, who moved from Westport in 1972 — was dusty and dirty. But Dick bought it, hoping it would one day hang in the Parks and Recreation Department office — at Longshore.

He had it cleaned and lightly repaired. Now he’s given it to the town.

Longshore lighthouse painting by Harriet Horowitz

That’s a great story. But there’s one more part.

According to alert “06880” reader Peter Barlow — who sent the lighthouse photo along for the “Friday Flashback” — in the late 1960s a popular Parks and Recreation Commission official ordered the demolition of the lighthouse.

Years later, he admitted it had been a mistake.

The commission member’s name?

Lou Nistico — father uncle of Red Barn owner Tom Nistico, who sold the lighthouse painting to Dick Stein.

Laura Maged’s WEST Comes East

When new shops open here, they often ask for an “06880” shout-out.

I’m happy to oblige, I say — provided they give me a strong Westport hook. It can’t be just “new store in town,” I tell them. Give me something local to sink my teeth into.

I seldom hear back.

Bags on display at WEST.

Bags on display at WEST.

That’s why I’m glad to talk about WEST. The new fashion/art/jewelry/ accessories place on 117 Post Road East (across from Bank of America) cleverly incorporates a Westport sensibility with influences from the “WEST Coast” (and even further west, Australia).

But it also carries the line of a very local designer — Emerson Kobak — who is still just a Staples High School junior. (One more reason to like WEST: The owners discovered Emerson through this “06880” blog.)

The new store is the brainchild of Westporter Laura Maged. A Long Island native who spent many “magical” years in her 20s and 30s in Southern California, she heard about our town after she and her husband moved to New York.

Laura Maged

Laura Maged

The folks she met here seemed to always do intriguing things. The “rich arts heritage and easy style” attracted her. She loved Compo Beach (and the playground), while downtown reminded her of Brentwood.

Laura thought she could “recreate a little of my special LA life here.” Starting in 2002, she did just that.

Now WEST, she says, will be a place where Westport and the West Coast’s “casual, easy lifestyles” mix. Her vision is for “a cool, easy place to shop.”

Emerson Kobak

Emerson Kobak

But while she’s all about bringing the coast vibe east, she’s also excited to team up with Kobak. The teenager studies every Saturday at New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology. She spent this summer in Cornell’s fashion design program, and now adds her line — Emerson Isa Designs — to WEST.

It’s always good news when a new mom-and-pop — or, in this case, “mom” shop — comes to town.

It’s even better news when the owner truly gets the local vibe.

And gets what “06880” looks for in a story. After all, this blog’s tagline is “where WESTport meets the world.”

The Final Kibbe For Kibberia

There are plenty of places to get good, expensive meals in Westport.

But there was only one Kibberia.

The fresh, healthy (and very inexpensive) Middle Eastern restaurant on the Norwalk town line — named for kibbeh, the delicious Lebanese dish — filled a special niche.

Nick Iskandar.

Nick Iskandar.

Owner Nick Iskandar created a wonderful space. He had devoted customers — including nearby office workers looking for great lunch fare — and a strong catering operation.

But tonight Kibberia serves its last shish kebab, shawarma and fantastic lentil salad. His lease expired, and the cost of doing business here grew too high.

Nick told “06880”:

It has been a pleasure being part of the Westport community for the past 3 years. We made a lot of friends here and had a lot of loyal customers who, I am sure, will be upset that we are closing.

I want to thank all our customers and all the people who supported us, especially Dan and the “06880” community who always wrote great things about Kibberia.

I hope to see you at our Danbury location. I wish you all the best.

I will certainly miss Kibberia. It was a wonderful restaurant.

I’ll miss Nick — an exceptionally kind and generous man — even more.

Fortunately, he’s keeping his Danbury location. His customers there certainly appreciate him. Kibberia’s address there is 93 Mill Plain Road.

Some of the many intriguing dishes at Kibberia.

Some of the many intriguing dishes at Kibberia.

Gabby Wimer Digs Mealworms

Growing up in Westport, Gabby Wimer accomplished a lot. At Staples High School she was a 4-year varsity swimmer and water polo player. She played violin, and sang in the choir.

She spent 8 years swimming with the Y’s Water Rats, and helped out with Amnesty International.

But she never took Staples’ popular Environmental Science course. And she had nothing to do with Wakeman Town Farm.

Gabby always figured she’d go pre-med in college. And she was fascinated by the history of medicine.

The University of Chicago seemed a perfect fit. She majored in the history of medicine and global health. She did volunteer work in Rwanda.

Like many students, she had no idea where it would all lead. Then, as a senior, Gabby was chatting with 2 friends who had done global health work, in Nigeria and Guatemala.

Gabby Wimer (center), flanked by University of Chicago friends Joyce Lu and Elizabeth Frank.

Gabby Wimer (center), flanked by University of Chicago friends Joyce Lu and Elizabeth Frank.

They identified common problems — and vowed to take action.

They competed for the Hult Prize: up to $1 million, plus mentorship, for start-up enterprises that tackle grave issues faced by billions of people.

Enter mealworms.

The larval form of a beetle — once thought of as a pest — can be baked or fried, for human consumption as a healthful snack food. Mealworms don’t need much water and eat almost anything, so raising them can help improve nutrition in areas that desperately need it.

Mmmmm -- mealworms!

Mmmmm — mealworms!

The women made it to the Hult Prize regional finals, in Boston. They won $20,000 in seed funding, from 3 organizations, including the Clinton Global Initiative University Resolution Project.

In September, Gabby heads to Guatemala. Right now, she’s studying the best ways to farm mealworms in that country.

She’s set up 2 mealworm plots at Wakeman Town Farm. She and steward Mike Aitkenhead are experimenting with different foods found in Guatemala. Banana peels work particularly well.

She’s also testing different ways to produce mealworm powder — roasted in an oven, for example, or barbecued — along with the best grinding methods (food processor, mortar and pestle). Gabby’s colleagues are concocting recipes with tortillas and oatmeal.

The women’s organization is called MealFlour. The goal is for families in Guatemala — a country with the 4th-highest rate of malnutrition in the world — to learn how to build mealworm farms using recycled materials. The mealworms are then dried and ground into a flour that’s more than twice as protein-efficient as beef.

It’s a win-win: Along with nutritional benefits, MealFlour creates jobs. And mealworm farms are small: just one square foot.

“I always wanted to do global health work. But I never knew about mealworms,” Gabby says.

“This is perfect for me. It combines science, sustainable agriculture and public health.”

At first, she admits, “my friends were weirded out. But now they think it’s cool.”

Perhaps they were convinced by Gabby’s delicious mealworm cookies. They taste good, she says.

And — as she and her generation know — bringing sustainable agriculture and public health to areas of the globe that desperately need it is a recipe for success.

Mealworm cookies.

Mealworm cookies.


Click here for “06880+” — the easy way to publicize upcoming events, sell items, find or advertise your service, ask questions, etc. It’s the “06880” community bulletin board!

A Modest Traffic Proposal

News that culvert work will close Compo Road North between Cross Highway and Main Street beginning Monday — for 30 days* — has raised the specter of even-longer-than-usual delays from Coffee An’ to the take-your-life-in-your-hands Main Street/Weston Road/Easton Road intersection. And, of course, on side streets.

Alert “06880” Westporter Chip Stephens has a simple, why-didn’t-I-think-of-that?! solution:

Open Cross Highway to 2-way traffic, from North Compo to Main Street.

This short stretch of Cross Highway is now one-way. Temporarily opening it to two-way traffic could ease construction-related delays.

This short stretch of Cross Highway is now one-way. Temporarily opening it to two-way traffic could ease construction-related delays.

It’s not unheard of. Back when Chip — a 1973 Staples High School graduate — was a kid, traffic flowed both ways there. Now it’s eastbound only.

The temporary fix would not solve all of Westport’s traffic woes.

But it couldn’t hurt.

*Official estimate. If you believe that, I have a North Avenue Bridge to sell you.

Library Geeks Get Ready To Party

As a noted family and portrait photographer, Pam Einarsen knew that a key to great shots is asking subjects to bring objects they like.

So when the Westport Library asked the longtime resident to photograph its “What do you geek?” project, she figured folks would bring their favorite things: dogs, games, sports equipment.

Pam had no idea of the incredible range of things Westporters love.

We “geek” human biology, burgundy, Harry Potter, Greek Islands, Toquet Hall, astronomy, break dancing, coffee, archery, knitting, astronomy, the Green Bay Packers, folk music, dragons, baking, and sleeping.

And that’s only the relatively normal stuff.

Geek - sleeping

Pam’s long project is over. And now — 500+ photos later — the library is ready to celebrate.

On Tuesday, August 30 (5-6:30 p.m.), there’s a free, public “Geek Party.” Everyone who posed for Pam — and everyone who has seen her photos, or wants to — is invited to the Great Hall.

In addition to the geek photos, the event includes improv artists, interactive games and puzzles, and refreshments.

The geek project — designed to highlight the breadth of our community, and showcase the library’s many services — was an eye-opener for Pam too.

Her subjects ranged from babies to 90-somethings, and included every ethnicity. Pam was impressed with their diversity of interests — and their smiles as they posed with their favorite objects.

This word cloud shows some of the many different things that Westporters geek. The size of the word indicates its relative popularity.

This word cloud shows some of the many different things that Westporters geek. The size of the word indicates its relative popularity.

The Wakeman Town Farm folks brought a chicken. Someone from Earthplace came with an owl. A girl arrived with a beautiful chameleon.

“People looked so happy and proud,” Pam reports. “They were surrounded with things that were meaningful — not just their ‘work.'”

New York Times crossword puzzle editor, for example, did not geek word games. His passion is ping pong.

Some youngsters geeked dinosaurs — no surprise. But so did a 70-year-old man.

Geek - dinosaurs

Some of the portraits were poignant. A woman in her 80s brought teddy bears — including one her husband gave her more than 40 years ago.

Geek - teddy bears

Some were funny. Library communications director Marcia Logan geeks her dog — and her dog geeks tennis balls.

Geek - tennis balls

Pam enjoyed serving as project photographer. She was also the informal host. As subjects waiting for their shots, Pam noticed something interesting.

“Kids and people who could have been their grandparents started talking,” she says. “They showed each other what they’d brought, and shared stories. The interaction was fabulous.”

Westporters geek a lot of things. On August 30, we can all geek the same thing together: a party.

Library geek photo

(For more information on the August 30 geek party, click here.)


Click here for “06880+”: The easy way to publicize upcoming events, sell items, find or advertise your service, ask questions, etc. It’s the “06880” community bulletin board!

Charlie Karp Knows Them Changes

If you’ve read “06880” for a while — or tried to interest me in your Staples High School reunion story — you know I usually don’t post those kinds of articles.

Reunions are a dime a dozen (or at least every 5 years). And every class thinks theirs is the best/tightest/most amazing one ever.

But you also know I’m a sucker for Staples-themed rock ‘n’ roll stories. So this one makes the cut.

When the Class of 1971 met for their 45th reunion this weekend, they (like many other classes) had a live band. This one was very good. It included Grammy winner Brian Keane, Dave Barton, Bill Sims, Rob McClenathan, Julie McClenathan and others.

Among the others: Charlie Karp.

Charlie Karp shares a laugh with Keith Richards. (Photo/Ray Flanigan)

Charlie Karp shares a laugh with Keith Richards. This was not at the Staples reunion. (Photo/Ray Flanigan)

You may know Charlie Karp from his many local bands (including White Chocolate, The Dirty Angels, Slo Leak and the Namedroppers). You may have heard his his work as an Emmy-winning producer of music for sports networks, documentaries, and feature films.

But you may not know his Staples-era back story.

When he was 14 in 1967 — and still a student at Coleytown Junior High School — Charlie’s band opened for the Doors, at their legendary Staples concert.

He was at Fillmore East the next year when it began, and stood on the side of the stage on New Year’s Eve 1969, for the fabled Band of Gypsies concert featuring Jimi Hendrix.

Later that night, 16-year-old Charlie hosted a party at his parents’ Upper West Side apartment. His dad was away — but Hendrix was there.

Not long after, Buddy Miles asked Charlie to play on what became the renowned “Them Changes” album. Charlie contributed an original song — “I Still Love You, Anyway” — and played acoustic guitar.

In April 1970 — while his classmates trudged through junior year — Charlie played with the Buddy Miles Express. They opened for Hendrix at the Los Angeles Forum, in front of a capacity crowd of 18,000.

Charlie Karp (left), playing with the Buddy Miles Express.

Charlie Karp (left) with the Buddy Miles Express.

In 1971, Buddy Miles — with Charlie — opened for Three Dog Night at the Cotton Bowl. That same year Miles recorded a live album with Joe Tex. Charlie joined bassist David Hull (part time Aerosmith player), and a tremendous horn section.

After all these years — there is not enough room here to talk about his career from the 1970s till now — Charlie is still very much a working musician. He teaches guitar and songwriting at his Fairfield studio. He helps his students and other professional musicians produce their own music too.

His latest release — “Endless Home Movie” — is available on iTunes. It comes almost 50 years after his 1st single — “Welcome to the Circle” — with his Fun Band, on ABC Records.

And 45 years after he left Staples, to follow — and reach — his musical dream.

He did not graduate with his class. But he helped make this year’s reunion a very classy one.

(Click here for Charlie Karp’s website.)


Click here for “06880+”: The easy way to publicize upcoming events, sell items, find or advertise your service, ask questions, etc. It’s the “06880” community bulletin board!