Category Archives: Politics

Roundup: Remarkable Theater, Balducci’s, Post Office, More


The Remarkable Theater was this summer’s surprise entertainment hit. The group — whose focus is bringing a movie house back to Westport — pivoted during the pandemic, procuring an outdoor screen and showing several drive-in films a week at the Imperial Avenue parking lot.

The site is just south of the Westport Woman’s Club — which every year for nearly a century has run the beloved Yankee Doodle Fair. The event spills into the parking lot, and is a major fundraiser that allows the WWC to provide aid to many local nonprofits.

The Remarkable Theater’s premiere event — “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” — was a fundraiser for the Woman’s Club. The other day, Remarkable president Marina Derman (bottom row, right) presented a check to WWC past president Christina McVaney. Watching from the steps above are Remarkable vice president/creative director Doug Tirola and club president Karen Kleine.


Balducci’s filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last night. No word yet on the fate of the Westport location.


A rally Saturday in support of the US Postal Service drew a small crowd to the Norwalk Post Office. Several Westporters attended, including Hallie Picorello (lower right).

(Photo/Carmine Picorello)


And finally … I’ve been waiting for a while to include this. As summer starts to fade, now is as good a time as any.

Roundup: Election Day Ballots, Pink Aid, More


It’s been a long 5 months since COVID-19 struck.

But Election Day will be here before we know it.

In Connecticut this year, an elector can vote either in person at the polls from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Election Day, or by mail (absentee ballot).

The Secretary of the State will send applications for absentee ballots to all registered voters the first 2 weeks in September. Completed applications should be delivered to the town clerk’s office as soon as possible, either by dropping off in the black drop box at the rear entrance of Town Hall, or by mailing to Westport Town Clerk, 110 Myrtle Ave, Westport, CT 06880.

Ballots will be issued by the town clerk’s office starting Monday, October 5 by mail or in person by appointment only. Beginning October 5, completed ballots may be dropped off in the drop box behind Town Hall, or by mailing to the address above.

Click here for more information about absentee voting, checking or making changes to voter registration, and registering to vote.

NOTE: If you have already submitted an application to receive a mail-in ballot for the November 3 election, disregard the additional application you will receive from the Secretary of the State next month.


Pink Aid turns 10 this year. For a decade, the organization has provided emergency financial funding to breast cancer patients in treatment.

Pink Aid began serving women in Connecticut and parts of New York. They’ve now expanded to meet the needs of patients and families throughout the US.

During the pandemic, needs have become even greater. To meet increased need, the group launched a Pink Aid Lipstick Challenge. Participants can “Pucker, Post & Pledge” — and get friends and family to do the same.

Click here to learn more. There are some great social media posts too — including a very sweet one from Courtney Prussin.

One post in particular is really sweet – Westport’s young breast cancer survivor Courtney Prussin and her daughter Camryn created an Instagram reel, which Staples cheerleaders will promote.

If you’re on Instagram, you can see the dance @cprussin31.


This week’s #FridayFlowers project graces Fire Department headquarters. Our firefighters are grateful to the Westport Garden Club.

And, as shown in the photo below, assistant fire chief Matt Cohen and deputy fire chief Mike Kronick  — with all their colleagues — will take excellent care of the arrangment.

(Photo/Topsy Siderowf)


For years, visitors to Burying Hill — and boaters on the Sound — gazed at the sprawling compound just past the beach. It was owned by one of Westport’s most famous (and now Hollywood’s infamous) men: Harvey Weinstein.

You won’t be able to see it much longer. On Thursday, demolition began.

(Photo/Lisa Seidenberg)


And finally … happy 158th birthday to Claude Debussy!

 

Pic Of The Day #1221

First, the Maple Avenue North homeowners hung a large Trump flag in their yard.

Then, says 2015 Staples High School graduate Noa Wind, her friend flew a Biden pennant.

The first family countered with another Trump flag — this one reading “No More Bullshit.”

People slow down to take pictures all day long, Noa says. And, she adds, “it will be a great touch” when kids start heading back to Long Lots Elementary School.

(Photo/Noa Wind)

Roundup: Schools Reopening, Milling Project, Food Scraps, MoCA Bags, More


It’s official: Westport schools will open next month with a hybrid model.

Still to be determined: the elementary school schedule. Those students will still alternate between morning and afternoon sessions, but the original plan — to switch which youngsters are in which session every week — may not be utilized. The Board of Education put off a vote on the elementary schedule, pending a parent survey.

In related news: Coleytown Middle School will not be available to begin reopening until November 18. The first day for students will likely be after Thanksgiving.


Our rough roads are getting a bit better.

The Connecticut Department of Transportation has begun a milling and resurfacing project on 1.27 miles of the Post Road, from the Sherwood Island Connector to Maple Avenue.

Certain lanes will be closed from 7:30 p.m. to 5 a.m. Work is expected to be done by August 31.


Sustainable Westport‘s food scrap recycling program got off to a great start.

In the first 3 weeks of the project — part of the town’s Zero Food Waste Challenge goal of decreasing residential food waste by at least 25% — Westporters dropped off 2 tons of food at the transfer station.

The site was temporarily closed to enable Department of Public Works staff to assist with cleanup after Tropical Storm Isaias.

Food scrap recycling will resume at the transfer station on the Sherwood Island Connector this Saturday (August 22).

To get a food scrap recycling starter kit, email zerowaste@sustainablewestport.org.

The Paparo family was the first to drop off food scraps for Sustainable Westport’s recycling project.


In other environmental news, Wakeman Town Farm is giving away its precious Brown Gold. The all-natural compost/fertilizer is rich in nutrients from WTF’s organic gardens, select organic veggie scraps, and animal manure.

In other words, it’s really good s—.

It’s also free. Just BYOB (bag or bucket), and haul away a load for your fall garden. It’s outside the red barn at 134 Cross Highway.

Wakeman Town Farm’s Brown Gold. BYOB (bag or bucket).


MoCA Westport is selling messenger bags, as a fundraiser.

But these are not glorified grocery bags, with “MoCA” stamped somewhere.

Made of high-quality material and featuring digitally printed artwork, they feature 10 local artists: Trace Burroughs, Yvonne Claveloux, Bethany Czarnecki, Susan Fehlinger, Jana Ireijo, Amy Kaplan, Susan Leggitt, Fruma Markowitz, Dale Najarian and Jay Petrow.

The bags are $200 each. But the opportunity to carry a handsome bag with great art, everywhere you go — while supporting an important Westport institution — is priceless. Click here to see all 10 bags, and purchase (at least) one.

The bag designed by Yvonne Claveloux.


And finally … on August 18, 1920 — exactly 100 years ago today — Tennessee ratified the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution. It was the 36th (and final) state needed, to ensure that women had the right to vote. Less than 3 months later, 26 million women were eligible to vote for the first time in a presidential election.

 

PO-ed

A few times in the week following Isaias, I got no mail at all.

I chalked it up to the storm. Either no one was sending anything, or it got delayed somewhere along the way.

But after reading stories like this one about problems with the US Postal Service, I’m wondering if my empty mailbox is part of a larger issue.

Nearly everyone in Westport loves their mail carrier. These men and women are devoted, efficient and friendly. They know their routes, they know us, they deliver the mail with smiles and speed.

(Photo/Penn Videler)

Similarly, we love the Westport post office. We may not like its crowded parking lot or cramped confines, but we know we will get excellent service. The clerks answer our questions — from basic to complicated, and often idiotic — with patience and clarity.

Whatever is happening to the US Postal Service has nothing to do with them.

But it’s important to crowdsource this one. So: Has your mail delivery been slower than usual lately? Are there fewer collection boxes around town? (The one near CVS disappeared years ago.) Have you noticed anything else in the past few weeks?

Click “Comments” below. And the next time you see your postal carrier: Thank him or her for their service.

Teen Writers Confront Stereotypes

There’s a reason it’s called a “challenge.”

Every year, TEAM Westport — our town’s multicultural commission — challenges high school students to think hard about an important topic. They’re then challenged to write about it.

The 2020 Teen Diversity Essay Contest prompt said:

In 1,000 words or fewer, describe your experiences witnessing, delivering, and/or being subjected to stereotypes focused on race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, and/or gender identity, and describe the impact that such experiences are likely to have upon recipients. Consider steps that organizations, schools, and/or individuals could take to counteract stereotypes—whether as initiator, recipient or witness.

As always, they responded. The winners include a Sikh American woman, a gay teen, and a blonde girl.

Their writing is honest, powerful, raw. And it is very, very important.

Sahiba Dhindsa — a Staples High School graduated headed to Cornell University — won the $1,000 first prize for her essay “Stereotypes, Stories, and the Worlds We Create.”

Second place — and $750 — went to recent Staples grad Zachary Terrillion for his story, “Stereotypes: Crippling Standards.” He’ll attend Oberlin College.

Third place, worth $500, went to rising Staples junior Tori Holoubek-Sebok. She wrote “Bombshell.”

The awards were presented virtually Thursday night, at the Westport Library. Click here to see the ceremony (beginning at the 6:50 mark). Better yet, scroll down, and read them below.

1st place: Sahiba Dhindsa, “Stereotypes, Stories, and the Worlds We Create”

Stereotypes are reductions. In a culture of compression, stereotypes reduce long, rich stories into a few descriptive words. By the time we realize what stereotypes are and the damage they do, we have already started internalizing the very ideas from which we seek to break free.

From a young age, I faced many stereotypes. It was easiest for me to assume that others’ actions against me were based on stereotypes rooted in my skin color. I failed to see that it was so much more than my skin color. As a young Sikh American woman, religion and race based stereotypes have driven the microaggressions I have faced in my school and town.

In elementary school, I understood that the lack of knowledge on Sikhism led people to assume I was part of a strange tribal religion that forced me to not
cut my hair. I didn’t tell my peers I was Sikh for 11 years to avoid assumptions about my personal life.

In eighth grade, I had a classmate tell me that I should be his slave because my skin was brown. My gut response was to be defensive. I lashed out and told him that he needed to find a better set of jokes.

Sahiba Dhindsa

I was astounded that someone would say that to me. Through self-reflection years later, I still find it difficult to understand the origin of my classmate’s comment. Because I felt so hurt by these words, and I felt so small––that my whole identity lay in my skin color––I started subconsciously internalizing these
ideas. When I described myself, I was the brown Indian girl who was Sikh and that was it. When I saw others, I immediately differentiated them from myself before they had a chance to differentiate me.

I othered myself to protect myself. Every person who was not on my “side” was the “threat”. I started stereotyping my white peers out of my own frustration.

Angry and frustrated that I was required to defend myself, I started seeing them as ignorant, difficult, and uninterested in making social change.

Freshman year, I had a disagreement with a boy sitting a few seats away from me. I don’t remember what the disagreement was about, but I do remember what he said to me: “Trump’s gonna send you back to wherever you came from.”

It was his final statement––a way to shut me up and make me insecure about my skin color and my ethnicity. While I brushed it off in the moment, it pained me to hear such a hateful comment. I had worked so hard to create a place for myself in this community––to feel as  though I was no different than anyone else despite having a different skin color and religious background.

In that moment, I felt that the confidence I had built for all these years was crumbling. Being brown, being Indian, being Sikh didn’t make me any more immune to hate speech. The stereotype that because

I’m brown, I’m not American, and I don’t belong here, has dominated much of the narrative that others had written for me.

Two years ago, for my U.S History final, my group and I did a presentation on the history of Sikh discrimination in America. At the end of our presentation, my teacher asked me about the correct pronunciation of Sikh and the significance of turbans. To others it may have been a normal expression of curiosity, but to me it was more. It was an individual approaching me from a position of inquiry rather than a position of seeking to reduce me for the sake of simplification.

I now realize that this was a turning point in realizing that I did not have to define myself with a few words simply because some of my peers had done so to me. I could take those words and re-write my story and then share it back with others. I could remove those phrases and instead define myself through the rich story I know I have.

Through this, I learned the true power of storytelling. Storytelling is so much more than simply sharing anecdotes and life experiences. Storytelling is fighting against the desire to define someone or something in a few words. Instead, it is a way to allow one to look at people with a nuance that does justice to their spirit, who they are, what they represent, and what they aspire to be.

We live in a world where everything is compressed and simplified. We’ve shortened our words from long phone conversations to texts to comments on social media. We communicate less and less with each other and by virtue of that compression, compassion becomes harder to come by. I knew if I had
gone through this journey of confronting stereotypes and reimagining myself, my other peers must have gone through it as well.

Due to my desire to hear the stories of others and share my own, I created a club called Unity in Diversity with a friend. The club’s aim was to work on minimizing stereotypes through storytelling. Beyond advocacy, the club became a safe space for individuals from varying racial, religious, ethnic, and sexual orientation backgrounds to tell their stories.

I would like to summarize my experiences and ideas in a few ways. First, I hope my experiences serve as a reminder that racism and prejudice based in ignorance is not a thing of the past, even in a community as inclusive as our own.

Second, I want to express how the acknowledgement and support of an educator can make a monumental difference in the life of a student experiencing microaggressions on a regular basis.

Third, there are few things as therapeutic as being able to share your own experience and being heard by your peers and your teachers. We often underestimate the importance of telling your authentic story: a story that has been defined entirely by you. These are the collective stories that change
the world.


2nd Place: Zachary Terrillion, “Stereotypes: Crippling Standards”

Stereotypes are a fixture of human society. Groups always look towards other groups and create pictures of their surfaces before exploring their depths. They are snapshots that have molded entire perceptions. These snapshots in their narrow borders have been hard to escape.

They are often a burden, sometimes a blessing, but for me, they are an ideal to reach. I have always forced myself to fit these societal Polaroids. For better or worse, I have been defined by these delusional struggles.

To begin, what comes to mind when you think of a gay man? Flamboyant? Outgoing? Sassy? It is these depictions that make up most of the representation, whether it be in dated ’90s sitcoms or even recent gay produced works, such as Ru Paul’s Drag Race or Queer Eye, both of which I still adore.

I am not saying these contemporary, effeminate representations are insensitive or even inaccurate, but they are a single story that has come to dominant the gazes of the heterosexual mainstream. They encompass a vision of a “traditional” gay man. How he walks, talks, and acts. To be considered genuinely gay, I must be fabulous and extroverted, just like the ones on TV.

Before I held myself to standards of queerness however, I dealt with standards of
masculinity. I was never one for sports, which can be difficult as a little boy wanting to fit in with all the other little boys. When my parents thrust me into the world of peewee soccer, I rejected the ball and ran about the field, pretending to be a Jedi. My parents, to their credit, realized manly sports were not my forte, and my overactive imagination was put to practical use within the realm of theater, an environment in which many gay people thrive. It was here where
my queer and creative facets came to fruition, as a supportive space was provided for these elements to emerge without fear of derision by society.

Stereotypes and expectations were not a player in the fluidity of improv or amateur playwriting. Still, because of being exposed to such loving communities from such a young age, I never felt the need to speak up for myself. Thus,
my introversion grew, and my burgeoning queerness became withheld, as no reason was provided for it to arise and be defended.

It was a presence in my life but not readily embraced or expressed. It was a strange median between self-hatred and love. Self-tolerance is how I would
describe it.

I expected my queerness to finally manifest in all its rainbow-colored flamboyance in high school. But, like the soccer fields of yore, I was the odd one out. The gay culture present was the same confident, expressive vision glimpsed on TV. Gays who preferred reading in corners or sitting on their phones at the edges of dance floors proved a rare find.

I was not just clashing with standards of masculinity as most gay men do, but also gayness itself. I somehow fit into neither societal trope. I loved to “spill the tea,” I adopted the feminine gestures shows and films so love to emulate, but I also enjoyed videogames and superheroes, familiar tropes of generalized masculinity. I could not connect with others from either spectrum of sexuality, as I seemed to inhabit elements of both, but resided in neither.

Zachary Terrillion

Because of these stereotypical divides, my introversion would soon devolve into social anxiety and immense insecurity, dreading rehearsals and classes that were once highlights of my week. I figured the only way to achieve social success was to emphasize my queerness above all else. To play right into the tropes
society had established for me, even if it did not connect to my personality.

My anxiety peaked the summer before my sophomore year when I attended a sleepaway program for the first time. Here, my plan to play up the gay would take effect. I escalated my flamboyant mannerisms, exaggerated my tone of voice, and emphasized that I was, in fact, very gay.

My earnest attempts backfired spectacularly. My anxiety only worsened by the end of the program, with not a single friend gained and even more insecurity to top. I wondered whether I was genuinely gay or just some poser. Was I worthy of being in the company of Johnathan Van Ness or was I just some guy who liked other guys.

Through all these struggles however, one aspect of my identity that society could not pin down remained constant. That being the creativity that bloomed on the soccer field, theater, and, currently, my writing.

Through writing, I had a voice true to myself, finding a diverse community of people through which I could thrive and depend on. A community discovered not by playing up parts of myself to adhere to the rules of stereotypes, but instead through the expression of my multifaceted truth.

All my interests and traits, both masculine and feminine, could be put into highly dynamic works of prose and poetry. These were pieces that explored the nuances of queerness that the media could not.

Overall, I have never taken stereotypes as villainizing in the conventional sense. I have not suffered through discrimination or oppression instigated by their hand. Instead, they worked to force me into a box, a servant following the will of a director in a performance society mandates.

However, through honing my traits, those too complex and niche to be generalized, these stereotypes no longer must apply. One can discover their truth through distinction in the face of generalization.

We must encourage our marginalized youth to explore the nuanced parts of themselves in order to evade standards and achieve authenticity. Only then, will the maligned snapshots of yore fade away, so more layered, accommodating portraits may come to the forefront.


3rd place, Tori Holoubek-Sebok, “Bombshell”

Blue eyed, blond haired, athletic, female. With just those words you already have a picture in your mind of who I am, or who you think I am. The “dumb blonde” persona is an excruciatingly common stereotype, but one that is often overlooked. Everyone knows of it, yet no one considers it to be a legitimate offense.

Compared to others, it appears to be trivial; merely a lighthearted joke. However the consistent repetition and application of this stereotype, on both personal and general levels, has transformed the label into something with much more substance and impact than many can see.

In an era of political correctness and common decency, it is important to acknowledge that this stereotype in no way is any comparison to those applied with strong racial, religious, or truly hateful undertones. I understand that I am privileged in numerous ways and want to make clear that I would never compare my experiences to the endless number of minorities who face racism and discrimination daily, any member of the LGBT+ community who experience violence or negativity for being who they are, or any other individual who has to live through the hardships of prejudice and hate.

Though all examples, including my own, are instances of assumption and judgement based on physicality, the stereotype that I am labeled with is at a
lower degree than the others, and that should be made clear.

Despite this, being classified as the common dumb blonde is a hurtful label that I have faced my entire life. People repeatedly making assumptions about who I am from the way I look impedes my mindset and the way I view myself.

However, it is not only the direct labeling I experience that makes an impact. The media presence of this stereotype is outstanding and has its own consequences.

Actresses like Marilyn Monroe have been characterized as naive and
materialistic, acting as merely symbols of attraction when they have significantly more substance. Monroe was classified as a “blonde bombshell” and was virtually only cast for parts which represented that. The color of her hair was enough to form her identity and her true self was hidden by the layering of the same character over and over. People began to perceive her as
the characters she played because of the constant repetition of the same persona.

No matter how far her personality strayed from that of a dumb blonde, it did not matter. People saw this stereotype, and transformed it into who Marilyn was.

The overwhelming presence of stereotypes in the media also has effects on its consumers; people can second guess themselves and be overly critical when they are constantly surrounded by these personas.

No matter the stereotype, seeing its representation can prompt insecurities and doubts within oneself. I have often been unsure of my intellect because of these reasons. I see the negativity inflicted on women as soon as I open Instagram; anonymous accounts criticizing models or people of influence, saying that their words should not be taken seriously because they are blonde and therefore incompetent.

Tori Holoubek-Sebok

Often times in my classes I can be confident in an answer, but hesitate sharing it aloud, too afraid of what my classmates or teacher will think of it. The dumb blonde stereotype has created paranoia in my brain, leaving me to wonder if I do embody the characteristics of this persona.

Whether it be in school, at home, or by myself, I am never free from the labels I am assigned. From the people all around me to even myself, my integrity and
intelligence are consistently in question.

In most cases, a family is made up of the people that know you the most, the people who will always support you. Never did I think that those same people would make such a bold assumption of my character. I have always been athletic and have played a variety of sports, but exercise has never been an interest of mine nor something I had thought about until one Christmas day when my grandparents gave my siblings identical coding kits and gave me
exercise equipment instead.

I had never given my grandparents any reason to think that I would want a core exercise ball and a set of weights over the coding sets my siblings received, and yet, that is what I got.

Blondes have been commonly classified as vain and shallow, notorious for only caring about the way they look. My blonde hair represented a stereotype, so I was assumed to be this stereotype and appearance was taken as my main priority.

Meanwhile, I would have much preferred experimenting with coding just like my siblings. This particular occasion prompted a spiral of increasing self awareness in the way that I look and the way others perceive me.

I have since found myself constantly needing to prove my integrity to those around me. In my experience, the application of the dumb blonde stereotype is rarely intentional. Though there are instances of real hostility communicated through stereotypes, I believe that labeling in this manner is most often a subconscious ordeal.

Because of this, reasoning is not the necessary method to eliminate the beliefs in stereotypes Raising awareness of the presence of the stereotypes is. Spreading consciousness is the best way to begin the decrease unfair judgments, because ensuring that people know that these stereotypes exist will prompt them to be conscious of the way they may regard others.

Change can seem like an ambitious request, but all we need is a few people. These people can initiate the process and share it amongst the people in their lives and from there it can take off; going from towns, to states, to countries, the recognition of stereotypes will spread like wildfire.

If globally, and as a community, we can expand our wealth of knowledge and share insights with our peers, everyone will gain a greater understanding of their impact on those who surround them.

Isiais: By The Numbers

Ten days after Tropical Storm Isaias ravaged our town, 1st Selectman Jim Marpe, the Department of Public Works and Westport Emergency Response Team report:

The Westport Fire Department responded to 581 incidents, almost 500% of their normal call volume. WFD also responded to at least 30 carbon monoxide incidents, the first time the department received so many calls of this type. In response, the WFD and the Fire Marshal have been increasing their education and outreach regarding the proper usage of generators.

From 1 p.m. Tuesday, August 4 through 1 a.m. Wednesday, the Westport Police Department logged 230 calls for service. 155 of them came at the height of the storm, 2 p.m.. Over the following 24 hours, the WPD answered 779 phone calls, 284 of them on the 911 line. The department also deployed temporary traffic control signage at around 15 major intersections throughout the course of the storm.

The Department of Public Works cleared 304 tree issues. They continue their cleaning debris from 125 miles of town-owned roadways, in addition to all town-owned Parks and Recreation facilities. The DPW expects to spend 2 weeks cleaning up town property, most of which could not commence until Eversource cleared and de-energized their wires.

DPW’s role is to remove trees and debris from the town’s right of way. DPW is not doing curbside pick-up of yard waste. Residents should not put personal yard waste and debris curbside. The town’s Yard Waste Site at 180 Bayberry Lane is open for personal yard debris. Normal hours are Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.; Saturday, 7 a.m. to noon. Tomorrow (August 15), the yard waste site stays open until 3 p.m.

The Department of Human Services worked around the clock, in collaboration with emergency personnel, to address storm-related concerns from upwards of 400 households. DHS received over 150 calls and emails, and made over 40 home visits for welfare checks and/or provide food service.

Westport’s Department of Human Services brought food, water (and toilet paper) to elderly residents trapped behind this tree on Rocky Ridge Road.

If you have a vulnerable resident in the home, or know seniors who live alone or whose main caregiver is also elderly, register that individual with the DHS. Call 203-341-1073, so the department can proactively follow up with him or her during future emergencies.

The number of town-wide emails and phone calls received is over triple the normal volume. Town personnel collaborated and triaged those responses as quickly as possible. In addition, emergency and general information was dispersed via Nixle alerts, daily press releases, social media posts and through the town radio station, WWPT 90.3FM.

Residents can stay connected with the town by signing up for emergency alerts and press notifications, and following the town on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Residents are urged to preset their radio to 90.3 FM in case of emergency.

As part of emergency incident standard procedures, the Town Emergency Operations Command Team will debrief and discuss the process, protocols and communications that occurred during Isaias. Each member will make recommendations for improved procedures during future emergency incidents.

Marpe adds: “There were many examples of neighbors helping neighbors and people stepping up to help in the midst of the emergency. Most Westporters came together and demonstrated resilience and an inherent capacity to help those around them. I want to express my deepest gratitude to those residents and town employees who exhibited patience, cooperation and understanding under very trying circumstances.”

The night after 98% of Westport lost power, an impromptu concert popped up on Jesup Green. (Photos/Miggs Burroughs)

Roundup: Kayak Tacos, Roads, Library, Remarkable Movies, More


If you’re stressed — and between COVID-19, Isaias, the state of the nation and the world, who isn’t? — you can talk to a shrink. You can take it out on your spouse or kids.

Or you can spend an hour or two on the Saugatuck River, on a kayak or paddle board.

For relaxation (and cost), I’ll take the water. On these hot August days, there is nothing like a leisurely (or harder workout) paddle up toward downtown, or down toward Long Island Sound.

And one of the most popular places to do it is Westport Paddle Club.

The facility — at Bridgebrook Marina, on Riverside Avenue between the VFW and Saugatuck Rowing Club — has quickly become the go-to place for rentals, group activities, and a very popular summer camp for kids.

Now there’s more. Last night was the first “Taco Tuesday” in the parking lot by the dock (near the palm tree).

A taco truck will be there every Tuesday, from 5 to 7 p.m. A nice breeze, the calming river, fun food — you won’t care about the pandemic, a tropical storm, or anything else.

Westport Paddle Club owner Robbie Guimond (left), with employees and Staples High School seniors George Smith and Jack Douglas, at the taco truck.


As of early this morning, 98 Westport customers still lack electricity. That’s 0.78% of the town — meaning Eversource met their promise of 99% by Tuesday midnight.

The utility notes that a derecho storm that caused nearly a million outages in the Midwest caused some crews from those states to be called home to restore power there. Just think of those drives those workers had, getting here and back — and the work they do, here and there.

Eversource says, “at this time, we do not expect this to impact our restoration process” across Connecticut.

However, Jeff Jacobs takes issue with Eversource and the town’s announcement that all Westport roads are now passable.

Kings Highway South is closed just below Birchwood Country Club.

Finally yesterday, a barrier — mostly traffic cones — was erected at the junction of Kings Highway and Treadwell Avenue. There are still no signs or barriers at Post Road West, however, so drivers keep coming. And keep turning around.

Meanwhile, as Westport’s cleanup continues, residents — including David Meth — remain concerned about a utility pole in a very visible spot.

It rests on cables attached to another utility pole across from Willowbrook Cemetery, near the Main Street/Cross Highway split.

“If it crashes, it will pull down all the cables and then some,” David says. “I spoke to 2 Eversource workers nearby. One said he would take a look. The result: nothing.”

(Photo/David Meth)


Today marks the Westport Library’s return to normal — that is, COVID-normal — hours. Curbside pickup is available weekdays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. The building is open for browsing and staff support weekdays from 2 to 6 p.m., and noon to 4 p.m. Saturdays.

Beginning this Monday (August 17), appointments are recommended for the Children’s Library.

A family (or cohort of up to 5 people) will have the Children’s Library to themselves for 30 minutes. If they leave before their 30 minutes are up, walk-ins can book the remaining time.

Click here to reserve an appointment for the Children’s Room.


The Longshore golf course reopened today. The tennis courts will be back tomorrow (Thursday, August 13), after reconditioning.

Some of the damage on the Longshore golf course. (Photo/Brian Sikorski)


Next up in the Remarkable Theater’s remarkable summer drive-in movie series at the Imperial Avenue parking lot: “The Jungle Game” (Thursday, August 13), “Thelma and Louise” (Friday, August 14) and “School of Rock” (Saturday, August 15).

The lot opens at 7:45 p.m. Movies begin around 8:45. Tickets are $50 per car. Click here to reserve a spot, and for more information.

Last night, Darren Spencer and his family made their first trip to the pop-up series. He reports:

“It was a balmy evening in the parking lot with 49 other cars, but you would not have known it.  Tuned in to 90.9 FM with clear audio and a brilliant screen, it made for a memorable evening.

“Thank you, Remarkable Theater, for breathing life into Westport in these uncertain and unusual times, and for turning what used to be unremarkable before the pandemic into the truly remarkable. And to Westport Town officials, I let’s ensure we turn this into a Westport institution every summer for many years to come!”

(Photo/Darren Spencer)


Still need a place to work? Serendipity Labs —  the co-working space which opened at 55 Post Road West just a month before COVID hit — is offering complimentary day passes for the first visit.  Click here to learn more.

Serendipity Labs, 55 Post Road West


Many voters in yesterday’s Democratic and Republican primaries sent ballots by mail. But those who ventured to the one polling place in town — Bedford Middle School — gave high marks to local officials.

Everyone working wore masks. They hand voters plastic gloves. They strictly enforced the 6-foot rule. And — though you couldn’t see them — they did it all with smiles.

It’s not easy voting in the midst of a pandemic, right after a treacherous storm. In Westport at least, we proved we can multi-task. On to November 3!


First, an outdoor volleyball court popped up at the old Save the Children property on Wilton Road.

Now there’s a floating water polo game in the waters off Compo Beach.

Click “Comments” if you know what’s next.

(Photo/Seth Schachter)


And finally … you may not recognize the name Wayne Fontana. The lead singer of the Mindbenders died last week in England, at 74. But if you’re a certain age, you probably remember his signature song:

[OPINION] A Trip Through The Westport Heartland

Alert “06880” reader/curious explorer/noted journalist Scott Smith writes:

Westport 06880 has many blessings. But we don’t have a charming, white-washed covered bridge built in 1880. We also lack a soaring water tower with our name splashed across the top. And a Dollar General store.

These are the chief landmarks of Westport 47283, a small farming community surrounded by miles of corn and soybean fields in south-central Indiana.

The Westport, Indiana covered bridge.

I passed through that Westport recently on my way back from a road trip out West. Eager to leave behind endless Zoom meetings, I settled on a route that would take me to the most COVID-free part of the country – chiefly, Badlands National Park and the Black Hills of South Dakota.

A close encounter with Devil’s Tower across the border in Wyoming and a sublime drive back through the Sand Hills of my native Nebraska were among many other roadside attractions along the way.

Welcome to Westport, Indiana.

I did not spot another Connecticut license plate the whole 10 days. So here are 3 observations for state residents from what’s known as flyover country to some, and the heartland to others.

First, this large part of America truly is a landscape of vast scale and industrial agricultural enterprise. I passed a thousand miles of cropland — mostly corn and soybeans — planted in tight rows extending  as far as the eye could see (or pivot irrigation could reach).

Lush green pastures were dotted with countless supersized rolls of hay destined to fatten up cows for beef. This is the breadbasket of the world, and we should all be proud of that. I know our farmers are.

Yet though the fruits of their labors are so evident, I saw hardly any people working the fields. One 30-foot-wide, GPS-guided combine can cover a lot of ground.

Town Hall in Westport, Indiana.

Using interstates to connect with state roads and scenic byways, I was struck by the vast, beige buildings of corrugated steel roofs and aluminum siding, as large in scope as the mega farming and just as strangely absent of people.

Often they’re depots for Walmart or other distribution conglomerates, with scores of truck bays. The manufacturing facilities stand out with their networks of pipes and conveyors taking in resources and exhaust vents belching things out. Who knows what goes on inside these gargantuan structures, save for a small sign out front that typically sports an acronym followed by “Industries.”

It’s big business to be sure, but not a lot of local jobs, at least of the kinds that kept this swath of America thriving for generations. I passed dozens of small towns with Dollar General at one end of town, and a convenience store (usually with a name like Whoa ‘n’ Go or Pause ‘n’ Pump) selling gas, beer and junk food at the other.

In between, invariably, was a Main Street or “Historic Downtown District” composed of brick buildings boarded up long ago, or given over to a social agency or someone trying to make a go of a curio shop.

A boarded up building in Westport, Indiana.

With ornate facades, and scrolled dates and names of their founders across the sturdy lintels, these landmarks are ghostly echoes of the tin sheds and warehouses on the outskirts of town that long ago replaced them.

Westport 47283 (population 1,379) seems to be doing better than many small Midwestern towns. Though many of the big old buildings are shuttered, they’ve still got a Dairy Queen.

The Dollar General — and Dairy Queen.

The next “woe is Westport” lament I hear about our own town’s retail fortunes, I’ll be thinking of the identical rack of brightly hued ladies and children’s summer fashions I kept noticing stationed outside the front door of the dozens of Dollar General stores I passed driving through these hamlets. If cheap had a smell, I would’ve had to roll the windows up.

This is MAGA Country, to be sure. I drove by Trump stores in four states, including a large, Trump-bespoked RV set up in the parking lot of the Wounded Knee Museum (commemorating a massacre of Lakota Indians by the U.S. Cavalry; think about that). I don’t recall seeing one Biden lawn sign in 4,700 miles, though I was pleased to see a plurality of Black Lives Matters signs on the tidy block in Omaha where my grandparents lived from the 1920s to 1970.

A Trump banner, near the Westport, Indiana water tower. (Photos/Scott Smith)

Point is, the voters in Westport, Indiana, and in all the rural towns beyond, while not large in number anymore, hold more electoral sway than us here in 06880 or in blue states. While I can’t fathom why they’ve put their faith in the poseur populist that is our current President, seeing what they’ve lost and what remains, I can imagine why the fellow in Westport 47283 with the big Trump flag on his front porch would take a flyer on the promise to make his America great again.

Lamont, Blumenthal Visit Westport; Slam Eversource’s “Unacceptable” Response

Post-Isaias, it’s not easy to get to Town Hall.

Avery Place and Myrtle Avenue are shut. Downed wires and trees litter both important roads. Town Hall itself is closed.

But Governor Ned Lamont, Lieutenant Governor Susan Bysiewicz and Senator Richard Blumenthal got there an hour ago. (“I had a police escort,” the governor joked.)

Joined by 1st Selectman Jim Marpe and 3 state legislators, the bipartisan group met first with Fire Chief Robert Yost, Police Chief Foti Koskinas and other officials behind Town Hall, then faced the press and a few Westport residents by the front steps.

In both places, they slammed Eversource’s actions before, during and after the storm.

Or, as more than one said, Eversource’s “lack of action.”

Clockwise from left: Senator Richard Blumenthal, 1st Selectman Jim Marpe, Lieutenant Governor Susan Bysiewicz, Fire Chief Robert Yost, Police Chief Foti Koskinas, Governor Ned Lamont and State Representative Gail Lavielle. (Photo/ Brendan Byrne)

Standing next to the absentee ballot box in the back parking lot, Marpe told the governor and senator that he had taken Congressman Jim Himes on a tour of Westport this morning.

There were plenty of places they could not reach, Marpe said. “Lives are at risk. And Eversource should be in touch with local leaders, so we know what’s going on.”

Blumenthal noted, “Eversource bet the storm would pass us by. They lost the bet. And we’re paying for it.”

Press and Westport citizens surround the governor, senator and other officials. (Photo/Kyle Ehrlich)

A few minutes later, facing a battery of microphones from news outlets around Connecticut, Marpe called the fact that 85% of Westporters still lack power “unacceptable.”

He added, “We need help right away. Our Public Works, first responders and Town Hall staff are working full time to get the town back in shape. AT&T and Verizon are here.

“But hundreds of roads are inaccessible. Lives are at risk. Eversource’s response is totally inadequate. I can’t tell you if 10 trucks are here, or 2, or 200. I have no idea of any time estimates.”

Lamont, speaking next, cited the COVID pandemic. “We hope for the best but plan for the worst. That’s not what the utilities have done.

“Eversource should have been pre-positioned. We’ll hold their feet to the fire later. We will have a tough post-mortem. But right now the house is on fire, and we need (the equivalent of) the fire department. That’s our first priority.”

Governor Lamont speaks at Town Hall. (Photo/January Stewart)

Lamont was “surprised” to get a call from the White House last night. “FEMA will reimburse us 100%,” he said. “But that’s small potatoes compared to the action that’s needed right now.”

Blumenthal noted, “I’ve never seen Connecticut more angry, and rightfully so. No electricity and no internet are matters of life and death.

“There can be no more teasing, no more delays, no more rate increases. Eversource’s CEO is well compensated.” (Bysiewicz said he earns $19.8 million a year.) “But he won’t even come out and meet the press.”

State Senator Tony Hwang and State Representative Gail Lavielle echoed the criticism of the utility.

State Representative Jonathan Steinberg added, “This storm hit Westport like a freight train — and it sounded like one. People say that Eversource’s response is unacceptable. Well, the word ‘unacceptable’ is unacceptable.”

Senator Richard Blumenthal, Lieutenant Governor Susan Bysiewicz and 1st Selectman Jim Marpe at Town Hall. (Photo/Calvin Carson)