Category Archives: Politics

Bradley Stevens Paints Washington’s Interior

Like the rest of President Obama’s cabinet, Sally Jewell is gone.

But — at least in the Department of Interior’s Washington, DC office — she will never be forgotten.

That’s because her portrait now hangs there, alongside her 50 predecessors.

It’s a non-traditional painting. And it’s of “06880” interest because the artist is Staples Class of 1972 graduate Bradley Stevens.

A Wrecker basketball star (and rock guitarist) who earned both a BA and MFA from George Washington University in 1976, Stevens is one of America’s leading realist painters. His work — depicting Vernon Jordan, Allen Iverson, Felix Rohatyn, Senator Mark Warner, and dozens of other politicians, financiers, educators, judges and sports figures — hangs in the Smithsonian, US Capitol, State Department, Mount Vernon and Monticello.

Bradley Stevens, at work in his studio. (Photo/GW Magazine)

Bradley Stevens, at work in his studio. (Photo/GW Magazine)

His Sally Jewell commission came on the recommendation of collectors of his work in Seattle, who knew her. Her previous job was CEO of REI, based in that city.

Last April, Stevens met the secretary at Interior headquarters. Over the next 8 months, as he worked on the portrait, they met many times in his studio.

Stevens hiked with Jewell in the Cascades. “Luckily,” he says, the experienced outdoorswoman — who has climbed Antarctica’s highest peak — “chose a more moderate mountain.”

He posed her on the Manassas battlefield in Virginia — near Stevens’ home — at sunrise, to get the right light.

“It’s not your typical government portrait,” Stevens says. “The landscape plays a prominent role in the composition.”

But, he says, because as head of the National Park Service — and because of her love of the outdoors — he thought it was important to paint her in front of Mt. Rainier. It’s an iconic image of her home town, and she’s reached its summit 7 times.

Jewell — who as secretary helped expose underprivileged young people to the environment — asked Stevens to include Youth Conservation Corps volunteers on the trail behind her.

In the portrait, she wears silver tribal jewelry. That symbolizes her efforts to protect Native American sacred lands.

Sally Jewell's official portrait, by Bradley Stevens.

Sally Jewell’s official portrait, by Bradley Stevens.

The painting was unveiled at the Department of the Interior on January 13. There was a big ceremony, with many speakers.

Stevens says, “It was an honor to get to know Secretary Jewell. She is passionate and driven about her work protecting our nation’s lands.”

She is also “a humble and self-effacing public servant. It was never about attracting attention to herself. Her focus was solely on doing the right things for the environment. This experience restored my faith in government.”

President Trump has nominated Montana congressman Ryan Zinke to replace Jewell. A frequent voter against environmentalists on issues ranging from coal extraction to oil and gas drilling, he received a 3 percent rating from the League of Conservation Voters.

 

YouLobby: Staples Grads Power Grassroots Democracy

The Trump election — particularly the aftermath of his inauguration — spurred yuuuuge numbers of Americans toward action.

Amid the marches, rallies and Facebook posts, a common theme emerged: To effect change, people must engage in the political process. Protests are one tool — but actually contacting elected representatives is key.

So who you gonna call?

For folks engaging in their first form of activism — anyone, really — knowing how to reach your legislators is not always easy. (That was true during America’s previous protest movement too: the Tea Party.)

That’s where YouLobby comes in.

The home page of YouLobby.org.

The home page of YouLobby.org.

The website is a 1-stop shop to help citizens contact their senators and representatives. It offers a range of issues — healthcare, climate change, education, women’s rights, immigration, civil rights, the Supreme court, constitutional crisis — to weigh in on.

And it provides a sample call script, for users who can’t find the right words to convey their disappointment/distrust/dismay at the latest news.

YouLobby is the brainchild of Aaron Eisman and Kira Ganga Kieffer. Both are Staples High School 2004 alums; both graduated from Brown University 4 years later.

They took very different paths to their current project.

At Staples, the 3-year Authentic Science Research course (and mentor Dr. A.J. Scheetz) sparked Aaron’s curiosity. He also served as yearbook editor.

brown-logoAt Brown he concentrated in applied math, with a focus in economics. He did biochemistry research at Yale for 2 summers.

After college he worked for 5 years as director of technology at an asset management firm,where he taught himself to code, and manage online data and cloud computing.

Then he made a career change, into medicine. Two years working as a research coordinator at Massachusetts General Hospital reawakened his passion for science research, which he continues to do at Brown’s Alpert School of Medicine. He’s in his 2nd year — while also doing research in biomedical informatics. The aim is to use healthcare data to improve clinical outcomes.

Kira was a 4-year writer (and senior co-editor-in-chief) for Inklings, the Staples newspaper. Steve Rexford encouraged her to do investigative reporting, and break stories that might be unpopular with administrators. She co-founded an after-school reading club for girls at Beardsley Elementary School in Bridgeport, and worked for United Way — early experiences in social outreach and community engagement.

A history and religious studies concentrator at Brown, she became passionate about studying evangelicalism and politics. She examines those very timely topics now, as part of Boston University’s doctoral program. In between, she spent 6 years in corporate marketing.

Kira and Aaron, at Staples High School's senior prom.

Kira and Aaron, at Staples High School’s senior prom.

Oh, yeah: Aaron and Kira dated as Staples seniors. They’ve been together for almost 13 years — and got married in 2015.

Over the past few months, politics was all they talked about. They grew increasingly concerned about the health of American democracy; threats to women’s, LGBT and civil rights; the need for universal healthcare; the denial of climate change; the importance of environmental protection and industry regulation; immigration and refugee crises; racial and religious intolerance — you know, all those minor issues.

After the election, the couple began calling their representatives. They attended the women’s march on Washington. It was their first protest, and they were hooked.

“We decided these causes are worth fighting for,” Kira says. “We needed to work to make our country work better, and treat all people witih respect.”

While struck by the massive crowds of diverse people, all standing in solidarity, Aaron and Kira worried that grassroots energy might fizzle out. Driving back to Massachusetts, they talked about the importance of engaging their representatives.

They decided to make a tool to help. They came up with the “YouLobby” name, and when they got home they bought the domain name. Aaron put his coding skills to work. Kira did the same with her marketing talents.

Kira’s mother gave important feedback: She said the daily script made it easy to call.

Two weeks later, they launched.

Kira Ganga Kieffer and Aaron Eisman in Washington, the day after the inauguration.

Kira Ganga Kieffer and Aaron Eisman in Washington, the day after the inauguration.

The website is simple. Other sites do similar things, but without the ease of use, visual appeal and social media presence of YouLobby. A Facebook page sends out daily updates, and the pair use the hashtag #EveryCallCounts on Twitter and Instagram.

Aaron and Kira’s site also offers important bullet-point facts and arguments, and a homepage “Issue of the Day.”

Reaction was overwhelmingly positive — and instant. Within 24 hours, users from 29 states were calling their representatives. Over 500 zip codes have already been entered.

These days, Congress is inundated with phone calls. Citizens turn up in record numbers at town halls and constituent meetings. YouLobby is doing what it can to keep the pressure on.

Democracy is not a spectator sport. And no one knows that better than Kira’s mother.

She had never called a representative in her life. Using YouLobby, she now calls every day.

And the aides who answer the phones know her by name.

Westport’s Day Without Immigrants

An alert “06880” reader — and helpful mother — headed out to Chipotle today. A sick kid at home craved a burrito.

To her surprise, the fast-food chain was closed.

So she drove a couple of miles east, to Border Grille.

That locally owned place was also shut.

How weird, she thought: Two Mexican restaurants, neither serving lunch on a normal Thursday.

But when she got home and read the New York Times, she realized today was not a normal Thursday.

It was “A Day Without Immigrants.”

Border Grill was closed today.

Border Grill was closed today.

The national campaign encouraged foreign-born people nationwide — regardless of legal status — to not work or shop today. The goal is to show the importance of their labor and spending to the U.S. economy.

When she realized what was happening, the Westport burrito-seeker’s mood turned from annoyance to understanding.

“This is an important point to make,” she says. “Our town relies heavily on immigrants who work in our stores, restaurants, lawn services, home improvement projects, etc., etc., etc.”

The Westporter offered to take photos of the closed stores. She headed out again.

She reported back: Chipotle is now open. They said they were closed earlier because of “broiler problems.”

But Border Grill is still closed.

Did you notice any local businesses that were closed today? Do you support or oppose the “Day Without Immigrants” campaign? Click “Comments” to share.

[OPINIONS] State Budget Woes Will Strike Westport Hard

Hartford often seems to be a lot more than 60 miles from Westport. This part of the state is New York-centric. We sometimes think our state capital is Albany.

But decisions made in Connecticut’s capital can have quite an impact on our lives here. With the state budget in free fall, that’s seldom been more true.

Alert “06880” writer Peter Flatow writes:

When people talk about the advantages of living in 06880, our schools and educational programs almost always top the list. Many people move to 06880 for the schools.  We did!

Among the many subjects Westport students study: robotics.

Among the many subjects Westport students study: robotics.

Having great schools requires adequate funding. In the past, both the state and federal (to a much less degree) governments have assisted in funding our school system, through grants and subsidies.

That appears to be changing — and not for the better. Reviewing the educational budget, Westport has over the last 5 years been doing more with less.

Now, with the state looking to eliminate over $1.5 million in grants to Westport, the situation will get tougher.

And while the federal government accounts for roughly 4% of Connecticut’s revenues for schools (8% nationally), who knows what pressures the new administration will put on the State and local school systems.

What does this mean for Westport? Is our biggest asset under attack? If so, what can or should we be doing now? Will local taxpayers just make up the difference?  Will programs be cut? If so, which ones? Will school athletics programs be eliminated? After school activities? Is there a silver lining? If towns don’t get state or federal funding, does that allow them to set their own education rules?

Conventional wisdom suggests that it is best to be proactive. We have an excellent Board of Education. It will be instructive to learn how they view these forces against our top town asset.

Peter Flatow worries about the state budget crisis impact on Westport's schools. Greens Farms Elementary is shown above.

Peter Flatow worries about the state budget crisis impact on Westport’s schools. Greens Farms Elementary is shown above.

Equally alert “06880” reader Bart Shuldman worries about the cost in taxes — particularly to seniors. He writes:

Residents face the serious potential of higher property taxes, or cuts in service and funds to education, as Governor Malloy transfers some costs normally paid by the state down to Westport.

At the same time funds are cut, Governor Malloy is requiring Westport taxpayers to fund 1/3 of the teacher’s pension that was already paid by us, through state income tax dollars. State income taxes will most likely increase, as the governor tries to balance a $3 billion deficit over th next 2 years.

Shuldman’s figures show the loss of $465,334 in state education cost-sharing grants from the state; a loss of $646,975 to cover costs of educating severely disabled students, and a cost to Westport of $5,877,870 in 1/3 pension sharing for the fiscal year beginning July 1. He warns:

If you live elsewhere in Connecticut, a similar negative financial impact will happen to your town.

Give A Little Le Rouge Love

Westport is a community with a heart. Many merchants go out of their way to help worthy causes, large and small.

Aarti Khosla takes that idea one step further.

Literally.

For years, the owner of Le Rouge — the fantastic downtown artisan chocolate shop — has  brought a little love into her devoted customers’ lives.

Now — in honor of Valentine’s Day — she’s launching a “Give a Little Love” campaign. The idea is for all of us to share love, during these trying times.

Stop in at her store (190 Main Street, just below the old Sally’s Place) any time, starting today. Pick up a hand-painted chocolate heart for $5 (a great price!). Her only request is that you share these hearts with unsuspecting folks in our community: a school custodian. Your favorite Trader Joe’s checkout clerk. The gas station guy who fills your tires and refuses money. A stranger at the Senior Center.

These are the hand-painted chocolates that Aarti hopes we'll pass along.

The hand-painted chocolate hearts that Aarti hopes we’ll pass along.

These random acts of kindness are “our way of showing we’re a loving community,” Aarti says.

She should know. As a 1st-generation immigrant, she understands firsthand the importance of feeling welcomed.

As a business owner, she considers giving back to the community a privilege.

And as a citizen, she recognizes the value our individual differences bring to our towns. After living around the world, this is her home.

Aarti Khosla, in her red-and-black-themed chocolate shop.

Aarti Khosla, in her red-and-black-themed chocolate shop.

Aarti hopes you’ll take a photo of the moment you “Give a Little Love.” Then email it to lerouge.aarti@gmail.com. She’ll mount those photos as a “Wall of Love” in her cafe, celebrating our broad and loving community.

“Too often, our differences appear insurmountable,” she explains.  “This year, these differences will become our strengths.”

Aarti has other heart-felt plans. She’ll give dozens of Le Rouge chocolate hearts to organizations in Westport, Weston, Norwalk, Bridgeport and surrounding communities. It’s one more way to show that “love matters.”

In the coming weeks, Aarti will open early on weekends. She invites anyone to come and actually make chocolate hearts with her, to give out.

Finally, Aarti will donate 10 percent from the sale of items in this “Give a Little Love” campaign to charity. She’ll honor a different organization each month. Aarti is in this for the long haul.

Which causes will benefit? Aarti wants you to choose. Just click “Comments” below to nominate your favorite. Or stop in to the store, and tell her personally.

February is the shortest month of the year. Thanks to Aarti Khosla, this year it will be the most loving too.

Another piece of Le Rouge love.

Another piece of Le Rouge love.

Post Road Protest: 2017-Style

In the 1960s and ’70s, it was the Vietnam War.

Then it was nuclear disarmament. Later, Iraq and Afghanistan.

These days, it’s Trump’s immigration policy.

This morning, protesters were out in force on the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge.

You know — the one named for the Westport woman who spent her life working with the UN, trying to bring the world closer together.

(Photo/Sarah Green)

(Photo/Sarah Green)

 

CNN Covers “White Privilege” Controversy — And Adds A Prize

The Great White Privilege Essay Contest Debate reached CNN this morning.

A few minutes ago, Michael Smerconish interviewed TEAM Westport chair Harold Bailey on his TV show. The segment was long, detailed, fair and balanced.

And — before it ended — the host invited the eventual essay winner to come on the show.

(That should spur entrants from Westport high school students! Interested? Click here for details. To view the segment on the CNN website, click here.)

michael-smerconish-cnn

(Hat tips: Lyn Hogan. Barbara Wanamaker and Lisa Metz)

Kelly Powers: Westport Privilege Meant Straddling 2 Worlds

TEAM Westport’s essay contest on white privilege has sparked plenty of conversation, both on “06880” and — thanks to an AP news story that went viral — everywhere else.

Alert reader and Staples High School graduate Kelly Powers has a unique vantage point. She writes:

It was my first day at Saugatuck Elementary School. I had moved to Westport that summer, and was less than thrilled to enter a new school.

Little did I know I was extremely lucky. The Westport school system opened doors and granted opportunities I could only have dreamed of in my hometown of Port Chester, New York.

Yet instead of basking in my fortunate circumstances, I noticed — and pointed out, without hesitation — that no one looked like me.

Everyone stared. I had kinky hair, a “boys” haircut, tanned skin, and I used alien vernaculars no one seemed to understand. Those who did understand were quick to teach me the “proper” way of speaking.

I’d love to say that I had a remarkable ability at age 9 to deconstruct the stigmatization that was placed upon me. But I didn’t. Instead I answered questions like, “Do you live in Bridgeport?” I watched the confusion as people saw me with my white dad. Then came the next question: “So you’re adopted?”

I’m not denigrating my classmates for their curiosity, nor did I take offense. I’m simply noting that from the very beginning, I learned I would be under the microscope. To escape these confines, I would have to fully integrate into the new culture I was thrown into.

Kelly Powers (center), with Staples High School friends.

Kelly Powers (center), with Staples High School friends.

It didn’t take long to mold myself to Westport’s standards. The only thing I couldn’t mold was my skin color, which proved to be a blessing and a curse. I was just as much a Westport kid as my classmate who got a hand-me-down Audi for their 16th birthday. (I got a Subaru, which could be argued is more Westport than an Audi. But that’s not the point.)

I lived and breathed the bourgeois lifestyle. I expected the world to work with me, never against. Did I notice the bits of microaggression, stigmatization or alienation I endured? No, because I was feeding them. To escape the microscope, I fed into the hegemonic ideologies that form the bubble that encases the town, and more specifically, Staples High School.

I was not surprised to see a Facebook page filled with “mean spirited” (every “ist” you can think of) memes, from Staples students.

The Staples environment is filled with racism. The quicker you accept that, the easier it is to assimilate. For a student of color at Staples, it always proved beneficial to juggle the “us not them” and “them, but not really” outlook.

For Kelly Powers (right), life was not always a day at the beach.

For Kelly Powers (right), life was not always a day at the beach.

“Us” meant being a part of the Westport world, where we complained about having to put our laundry in the hamper for the cleaning lady. The “not them” referred to the other people that who match our skin tone but lived an incomprehensible, and disregardable, lifestyle.

On the flip side, “them, but not really” allowed students of color to pick and choose the desired traits of their racial background when it was encouraged and deemed appropriate by those around them, even if they really had nothing to pull from. It wasn’t uncommon to hear a student of color who grew up in Westport say, “I’m totally afraid of black people, I wouldn’t dare go to Norwalk alone at night,” but then turn around and say, “I’m that loud because I’m black.”

The way to survive was to feed the biases, which began by belittling the group of people your peers associated you with. I constantly stoked the fires of prejudice, to stay afloat.

The “us, not them” and “them, but not really” outlook paved the perfect path to shaping one’s identity by the group that was in power: white, privileged, heterosexual teenagers.

I experienced this first hand by constantly being told the way I acted was because of my racial background. However, the real reasons lay locked away. If I ever combated this assumption, I would have been ostracized.

I saw it happen to students of color who called kids out for their prejudice. Not only did I not realize how confining it was to be forced into a tightly woven box using the fabric of essentialism, but they didn’t even realize that it was wrong.

Even though I’m biracial, I was labeled “black.” Even though I’m Italian, I was labeled “ghetto.” Even though I lived in Westport, I was associated with Bridgeport.

Kelly Powers today.

Kelly Powers today.

In the Westport I grew up in, a place people would not dare call anything other than “open, inclusive, and liberal,” these issues simply weren’t discussed.

I believe Westporters are so afraid of the word “racist” because it’s heavy and is seen as a binary. In reality, it’s a spectrum. We all have racial biases — it’s natural for our brains to categorize based on superficial attributes — but it’s not okay to denigrate entire groups of people due to perceived differences.

However, is it fair to expect a group of students who very rarely escape homogeneiy to be empathetic to other walks of life?

We can break this cycle. We must encourage students to talk about it, encourage the difficult conversations, write essays about white privilege, volunteer at a soup kitchen outside of Westport.

It’s never too late to unlearn prejudice. But first you must acknowledge that it exists.

Kyle Mendelson Drives Cross Country, For America

Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell say it. Bernie Sanders and Barack Obama say it too: In these polarized times, Americans should think not about what divides us, but what unites us.

Kyle Mendelson is actually doing something about it.

The 2010 Staples High School graduate is not a politician. He’s not a pundit, or a preacher. He’s just an ordinary guy, wanting to make a difference one day at a time.

Okay, maybe not so ordinary.

At Staples he was known for lacrosse. He played a year of D-I at Manhattan College, then transferred to Loyola Marymount in Los Angeles. He studied political science and social urban policy, focusing on the social causes and psychology of urban gangs. Each summer, he worked as a Compo Beach lifeguard.

Kyle Mendelson and his family, during his Staples High School lacrosse days.

Kyle Mendelson and his family, during his Staples High School lacrosse days.

In 2014 Kyle moved to New York City. He got involved in education reform and after-school programs, through New York Cares and the New York Urban Debate League. He’s now completing a post-bacc year, researching education policy.

Recently, on a run, he heard an interview with Maya Angelou. Her words inspired him to “help, understand and fall in love with the humans who make up this country again.”

He’d already been thinking about ways to become more socially active — without being overly political.

“Ever since this past election cycle began, I think — regardless of political preference — there was a trend to abandon our humanity and citizenry, and separate ourselves into categories.

“It seems like our culture has decided to tick boxes on what applies to them — socioeconomic standing, gender, ethnicity, religion, level of education, etc.”

Kyle hopes to find a way to address Americans as humans, not “divided individuals.”

Which is why this May, he’ll drive across the country. His route will take him through many red states. Along the way — stopping in Phoenix, El Paso, Austin, Houston, New Orleans, Montgomer, Atlanta, Charlotte, Washington, Baltimore and New York, ending in Bridgeport — he’ll meet with religious leaders, elected officials, non-profit executives and community organizers.

More importantly, Kyle will devote a full day in each city to volunteer work. That way, he says, he can “better understand and work, as an American, to help each community improve where it most needs.”

Kyle already has his route mapped out.

Kyle already has his route mapped out.

This won’t be his first cross country trip. In fact, driving across America is one of his passions.

He believes that seeing the nation by car allows each person to “truly understand the complexity of this country. It’s not often displayed in the media or pop culture,” which is dominated by urban hubs of social influence.

It’s one thing to see the broad expanse of America first hand. It’s another to “sit down, speak, meet and work with the human beings in each community to realize we’re all the same — just with different stories.”

He hopes to realize that “we all have our struggles, concerns and stresses. But we are all far more similar than dissimilar. And at the core of our division right now, we are all (for the most part) trying to do what is right and decent for us and our loved ones.”

Unfortunately, Kyle says, “we often forget that we’re part of something greater.” He hopes to help people realize that we can come together by “just loving, and helping one another through empathy.”

As he drives across the land, Kyle will carry some of Westport with him. Growing up here “110% shaped me into the person I am,” he says.

However, moving here from L.A. the summer before 7th grade was a shock. As his parents drove him around his new town, he looked for homeless people. He was shocked to realize he would not continue to see poverty.

As he got older, Kyle says, “I gained such an appreciation for the fact that I was from a place that was so highly educated and well read, and had a group of people who had powerful influence on the world around us.”

Seeing the economic and social dichotomy between Westport and Bridgeport sparked his interest in political science. Research in his major led him to education policy. Kyle says that “education is the all-powerful tool by which we can empower a community, and help it to reform from the inside out.”

Kyle Mendelson today.

Kyle Mendelson today.

Half of his cross country trip is selfless. The other half is “totally selfish.”

Personally, he hopes to “walk away with a renewed sense of patriotism and love for humans, who just want to love and be loved.”

He also wants to inspire each person he speaks or volunteers with to go and help others, talk to someone with a different background, or better understand that “our divisions don’t make us any less human.”

Even inspiring just one person to do that, he says, may create a ripple effect that “makes the world just a teeny tiny bit better.”

(Want to help Kyle Mendelson help others? He’s raising money for expenses; click here to help. Excess funds will be donated to organizations he partners with along the way. To suggest a community organization or leader for Kyle to partner with — or to join him for a leg — email BeKindDoGood.KTM@gmail.com)

Super Bowl’s Most Controversial Ad: The Westport Roots

On December 8, the script for a Super Bowl ad landed on John Noble’s desk.

The executive director for FIXER Partners — a 1981 Staples High School graduate — says, “It spoke to my core beliefs. That’s incredibly rare in advertising.”

He had just 7 weeks to help produce the spot. That would be a daunting challenge — let alone doing it over the holidays, knowing the audience would be yuuuuuge.

But Noble rose to the challenge. And the ad — for 84 Lumber — became one of the most talked-about in an already-crowded Super Bowl ad environment.

John Noble

John Noble

Fox deemed the ad — depicting a migrant mother and daughter’s long, treacherous journey to America (including a massive wall) too controversial to show.

So Noble and the company — a Pennsylvania-based supplier of building materials —  aired an edited 1:30 version. At the end, viewers were invited to “See the conclusion” at 84 Lumber’s website.

At the end of that 5:44 video, the words “The will to succeed is always welcome here” spoke to both the American spirit, and 84 Lumber’s desire to attract the best employees, wherever they are.

It’s already been viewed nearly 10 million times.

The moment the spot was shown Sunday night, Noble’s Facebook page blew up. Included were “some pretty negative right wing responses,” he tells “06880.”

Patiently, he posted that the spot was not about wide open borders, which “nobody wants.” Instead it’s about “good, honest, hard-working people.”

The big door at the end of the ad is “a visual metaphor for opening our country to those people. We want and need good moral people of all races, creeds and colors in this great country of ours.”

To Noble’s surprise, he engaged in “fairly positive and open dialogue” with some of the naysayers. “It felt good,” he adds.

Noble — whose father was a noted advertising executive — has been producing big commercials for many years. But this was the initial one for the company he recently launched, FIXER.

“It was a heck of a first project,” he laughs.

Building the wall, on the dusty Mexican set.

Building the wall, on the dusty Mexican set.

The University of Maryland and School of Visual Arts graduate cites Bedford Junior High School teachers Ed Hall, Sal Cassano and Barbara Candee as early influences.

“I wasn’t a particularly good student,” he notes. “In their own respective ways, each of those people coached or taught me that I would develop on my own schedule, and my own time. They were right.”

Noble’s mother recently celebrated a half century in the home she raised him in. Whenever he’s back east, working in New York, he stays here.

“Early evenings at the beach with a cold beer, chowing down an Art’s deli combo or a slice of Jordan’s garlic and onion pizza — life gets no better!” he says.

John Noble appreciates Westport — and America.

And he’s glad that he helped bring 84 Lumber’s message that this is the land of opportunity to a larger audience than even he imagined, 2 months ago.

(Hat tips: Ted Gangi, Brian Pettee, Chris Strausser, Russell Sherman and Suzanne Sherman Propp)