Category Archives: Totally random

Prince Philip: The Westport Connection

The death last week of Prince Philip at age 99 brought back memories for Jim Marpe. A quarter century ago, he spent 2 hours with the queen’s consort.

Marpe was not yet first selectman, so this is not a Town Hall-meets-Buckingham Palace story. Still, it’s a good one.

In 1996 Marpe was a partner with Accenture, the management and technology consulting firm. His British partners asked if he would introduce the prince to the leadership team of the major New York global bank that was his client, to help encourage their further expansion in the UK.

The meeting took place when Prince Philip was in New York.

Marpe recalls that while he and the other guests were briefed on a certain amount of protocol, he was pleasantly surprised with “the relaxed demeanor of the prince, his genuine engagement in the presentations and discussion, and a self-deprecating sense of humor.

“He knew what he didn’t know, but seemed anxious to learn,” Marpe says.

Prince Philip (left) and Jim Marpe. “You don’t shake a royal’s hand,” Marpe notes. “You just kind of clasp it.”

While this was more than 20 years before “The Crown,” and a year before the death of Princess Diana, Marpe was aware of the royal family’s “challenges,” and the prince’s propensity for making “tone-deaf” remarks.

Nevertheless, Marpe says, “our time together felt like a normal, friendly business meeting, and our conversation was comfortable.”

Reading the obituary this weekend, he noted that Phillip’s (as well as Queen Elizabeth’s) great-great-great-great-grandfather was King George III. The monarch was responsible for the British landing on Compo Beach, and the subsequent Battle of Compo Hill that is commemorated by our Minute Man Monument.

“That’s another Westport connection” with the British royal family, Marpe notes.

Sidd Finch, Sports Illustrated And Westport: The Back Story

It’s April Fools Day.

I may or may not have tricked you this morning, with my Keith Richards-teasing post.

But that’s nothing compared to what Sports Illustrated did on April 1, 1985.

The magazine — at the time, a must read for sports fans everywhere — published a cover story on Sidd Finch.

Sidd Finch. George Plimpton wrote that he liked to pitch with a boot on one foot, the other barefoot.

He was — according to writer George Plimpton -= a New York Mets pitcher who threw an astonishing 168 miles an hour. He was a Harvard graduate. He practiced yoga and played the French horn. He was a recluse.

He also did not exist. It was a hoax. (The first letters of each word in the opening paragraph spelled out “Happy April Fool’s Day.”)

But so much about the story seemed real. Including Sidd Finch’s dorm room at Harvard.

In reality, it belonged to Rob Hagebak. He was a 1982 Staples High School graduate — and the stepson of SI’s deputy art director, Westporter Rick Warner.

And that’s the God’s honest truth.

Sidd Finch/Rob Hagebak’s Harvard dorm room.

(Hat tip: Ted Gangi)

 

Roundup: Easter, Daffodils, Dragon …

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Westport is getting ready for Easter weekend.

A Sunday sunrise service is set for 6 a.m. at Compo Beach, between the cannons and the pavilion. It’s co-hosted by 4 churches: Saugatuck, Greens Farms and Norfield Congregational, and United Methodist. All participants are asked to please wear masks!

Also on Sunday, Saugatuck Congregational will hold a “drive-in” worship in the parking lot, at 10 a.m. The service — featuring live music, drama and Easter reflection — will be broadcast to car radios. Sit in the comfort of your car, or bring a beach chair and “tailgate.” The service will also be livestreamed on Facebook and YouTube. Click here for details.

And tomorrow (Good Friday, 11:30 a.m., Branson Hall), Christ & Holy Trinity Episcopal Church will screen the choral piece “The Last 7 Words of the Unarmed.” It will be followed at noon by an intergenerational neighborhood walk. Following a liturgy of Stations of the Cross, it will focus on racial justice and reconciliation. Participants will make a small loop around downtown Westport, stopping at various locations to pray and reflect.

Easter sunrise service, 2018. (Photo courtesy of Rev. Alison Patton)

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It’s April — and that means National Distracted Driving Month.

The Westport Police Department is joining with the Connecticut Department of Transportation Highway Safety Office in a month-long “U Drive. U Text. U Pay” campaign.

So put down your phone — this month, and every month. The first offense will cost you $150. Then it’s $300 the second time. And $500 for the third and subsequent violations.

But if it gets to that point, you shouldn’t be driving at all.

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The daffodils all along Prospect Road are blooming beautifully.

And if you know someone who has been bullied — or helped prevent bullying — they’re yours for the taking.

Melissa Ceriale — the owner, with her husband John, of an 8-acre oasis midway down the street — invites anyone who knows people in the categories above to clip a bouquet, and give it to them.

NOTE: Please take them only from the roadway in front of #11, 13, 21 and 25 Prospect Road — and not from the gardens themselves!

Daffodils on Prospect Road. (Photo/Melissa Ceriale)

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In other nature news: Last night, a huge dead tree on the big hill at the south end of Winslow Park, not far from the North Compo parking lot, came crashing down — smack across the walking path.

Bob Cooper says: “I’ve had my eye on it for a couple years, but this was sooner than I expected. It appears the lower end was rotting inside.”

(Photo/Bob Cooper)

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The Westport Youth Commission is one of our town’s great, under-the-radar groups.

Thirty members — 15 students, 15 adults, all appointed by the 1st selectman — meet monthly. They talk about teen needs, plan projects and programs, and (this is huge) provide high schoolers with a great experience in leadership.

Of course, every year members graduate. So the YAC is looking for students now in grades 8-11 (and adult members) to serve for the 2021-’22 school year. Freshmen join a special committee, before joining the board officially as sophomoes.

The appointment process includes an application, and at least one letter of recommendation. The deadline is May 14. Click here for the application. For more information, call 203-341-1155 or email kgodburn@westportct.gov.

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The Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge is the scene for just about everything. Political protests, Memorial Day parades, fishing — you name it, it’s happened there.

Though this scene Tuesday evening was probably a first:

(Photo/Barbara McDonald)

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Aquarion has announced its 2021 mandatory sprinkler irrigation schedule.

They say: “The schedule helps conserve water supplies by reducing overwatering of lawns and gardens through a maximum 2 days per week schedule. The purpose is to ensure that local water supplies remain sufficient for critical needs such as human consumption and fire protection.

“Lawns and gardens can thrive on reduced watering. By encouraging roots to grow deeper into the soil, they’re able to absorb more moisture and nutrients, even during dry spells. Customers may continue using drip irrigation, soaker hoses and hand-held watering at any time.”

The schedule begins today, and is based on the last digit of your street address.

If your address ends in an even number, or you have no numbered address, you can water only on Sundays and Wednesdays, from 12:01 a.m. to 10 a.m., or 6 p.m. to midnight.

If your address ends in an odd, number, you can water only on Saturdays and Tuesdays, same times as above.

For more information, click here. NOTE: Some residents may qualify for a variance. For example, if you’ve installed new plantings or sod in the spring, you arw allowed to water more frequently to help get plants established.

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MoCA Westport’s new exhibit, “Smash,” is dedicated exclusively to the videos of
Marilyn Minter.

It opens to the public tomorrow (Friday, April 2). Reservations are available through the website, On Free Fridays, reservations are not required, and admission is free. Click below for a sneak peek:

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The Westport Library’s Verso Studios are certainly versatile.

Starting April 12 (7 p.m.), it’s the focus of a Video Production hybrid course. The instructor is the Library’s own Emmy Award winner, David Bibbey.

The first 4 sessions are virtual. The final 2 are in-person. Participants will learn how to use professional video and audio recording equipment, lighting, and live switching/recording/streaming equipment. Participants can also serve as live crew for video shoots.

The cost is $150. To register, click here.

Part of the Westport Library’s Verso Studios.

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With all the talk about vehicular traffic on a renovated or rebuilt William F. Cribari Bridge, no one has thought about what would happen if a super tanker got caught nearby.

Evan Stein has it figured out:

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And finally … today is April 1.

 

Roundup: Cribari Bridge, Charlie Capalbo, WTF, More

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1st Selectman Jim Marpe has issued a correction about the state Department of Transportation’s plans for the William F. Cribari Bridge. He says that deputy commissioner Mark Rolfe has not yet reached a final decision on the 5 alternatives under consideration.  In addition, the draft Environmental Assessment will not be released mid-March. It is at least a few months away.

Rolfe says, “The DOT seeks to continue the dialogue with stakeholders regarding this project. One potential solution is for the DOT to restore the existing bridge to a state of good repair and then transfer ownership of the bridge and a segment of Route 136 to the Town of Westport.”

Marpe noted that any DOT recommendation — when it occurs — will be subject to further review and approval.

William F. Cribari Bridge (Drone photo/John Videler for Videler Photography)

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Maple sugar and tree tapping. Kids’ cooking classes. How to raise a dog. The wonderful world of honeybees.

Those are  just some of the offerings at Wakeman Town Farm, in the weeks ahead. The sustainability center contains to sustain all of us, with programs and classes for every age. Click here for details.

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Charlie Capalbo  — the 22-year-old Fairfield hockey player and grandson of Westport writer Ina Chadwick — has been diagnosed with leukemia.

The local Two Oh Three team is helping him, in his 3rd cancer battle.

The Westport-based firm has designed a line of products to raise both funds and awareness. Charlie has collaborated on the design process — a welcome distraction has he undergoes treatment.

The collection — #CapalboStrong — features products that help the community show Charlie that they’re all in this fight with him. Funds from products sold are assist Capalbo’s medical and travel expenses, while at Boston Children’s Hospital.

The collection was launched Sunday, to his network of friends. Hundreds of orders poured in. The Two Oh Three has now launched the custom designs on their full website.

Charlie says, “Seeing people ordering gear with my Capalbo Strong logo makes me feel connected to the outside world– like I know my army of friends and family are with me, even though I can’t see them now due to COVID-19. I’m so excited for this!”

“Our daily FaceTime calls with Charlie have been rewarding beyond words,” says Two Oh Three co-founder and Staples High School graduate Roscoe Brown.

“Constantly updating him on the number products we’ve sold helps remind him just how many people he has fighting along side him.”

Click here for the Two Oh Three #CapalboStrong Collection.

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Bob Stefanowski lost his race for Connecticut governor in 2018. But he’s a winner now, promoting area restaurants during COVID with a series of “Let’s Save CT Restaurants” videos.

His latest features Winfield Street Coffee, with owner Breno Donatti. It was filmed at their Stamford location — not the Post Road West shop — but it’s worth a watch.

Breno talks about the many ways that — despite the pandemic — Winfield Street gives back to the community, from providing meals for the homeless to sponsoring a holiday toy drive.

Here’s the quick video. When you’re done watching, place an order!

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The Staples boys basketball team opened its home season yesterday with a victory over Westhill.

The only way to watch the win was on the livestream. Spectators are prohibited from gyms this winter, in all high school sports.

But the stands were “filled” — with fatheads. That’s the name for cardboard figures of fans. It’s a way to make the gym a little less lonely. It’s also a great fundraiser for the Staples Boys Basketball Association.

How many folks do you recognize in the photo below? Besides (of course) me — directly underneath the “E.”

(Photo/Dan Woog)

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Christmas is long over. But Anthropologie’s giraffe remains penned in, between the store and Church Lane. Animal lovers, please help!

(Photo/Amy Schneider)

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And finally … here’s wishing Ed Sheeran a “perfect” 30th birthday today.

 

Trump Trial: The Westport Connection

I know you’ve been waiting for an “06880” link to President Trump’s 2nd impeachment trial.

Here it is: defense attorney Michael van der Veen grew up on Lamplight Lane, off Hillspoint Road near Old Mill Beach.

Michael van der Veen, in the 1978 Long Lots Junior High School yearbook, “Lion’s Clause.”

After Long Lots Junior High, he — like his siblings — headed to Choate Rosemary Hall. He graduated from the private school in 1981, then went on to Ohio Wesleyan University, Quinnipiac School of Law and Temple University School of Law.

He’s a founding partner of van der Veen, O’Neill, Hartshorn and Levin in Philadelphia.

Which you or I might pronounce, well, “Philadelphia.” When van der Veen called it “Philly-delphia” earlier today, senators from both parties laughed.

The Philadelphia lawyer had no idea why. But he sure had some words for them.

(Hat tip: Kathleen Fazio)

Pic Of The Day #1396

Minerva get ready to snowshoe on Whitney Street (Photo/Molly Alger)

Pic Of The Day #1383

Losing one’s head on Main Street (Photo/Michelle Lieberson)

The Yule Log Lives. Of Course There’s A Westport Connection.

Since 1966 Westporters have celebrated Christmas by gathering together, drinking egg nog, and watching a film loop of a fire burning in a fireplace.

This COVID year — 54 years after it began — the “Yule Log” is more important than ever. With family gatherings smaller, and few options for leaving the house, we’ll take comfort in one old tradition that’s easy to enjoy.

The traditional Yule log …

And we owe it all to a Westporter of yore:  Fred Thrower.

According to Wikipedia — which is usually pretty right, most of the time — Fred was president and CEO of WPIX, Inc.

Inspired by an animated Coca-Cola commercial a year earlier that showed Santa Claus at a fireplace, he envisioned this television program as a televised Christmas gift to those residents of “The Big Apple” who lived in apartments and homes without fireplaces.  This also provided time for employees of the TV station to stay home with their families, instead of working for the usual morning news program.

The original film was shot at Gracie Mansion, the official residence of the Mayor of New York City John Lindsay.  An estimated US $4,000 of advertising (along with a roller derby telecast that night) was canceled on Christmas Eve for the show’s inaugural airing.

Thrower, and WPIX-FM programming director Charlie Whittaker selected the music, largely based on the easy listening format the radio station had at that time, with the likes of Percy Faith (whose rendition of “Joy to the World” is played at the beginning and the end of the telecast), Nat King Cole, Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops, Mantovani, and the Ray Conniff Singers to name a few.

During the shoot, the producers removed a protective fire grate so that the blaze could be seen to its best advantage.  Unfortunately, a stray spark damaged a nearby antique rug valued at $4,000.

The “show” was a ratings success. Two years later a new, less jerky, longer (6 minutes, 3 seconds) version was filmed.

For decades the Yule Log quietly, unassumingly, lovingly thrived.

… and a 3D version.

WPIX is now owned by E.W. Scripps. But the show goes on: tomorrow, Christmas Day, from 5 a.m. to 10 a.m.

The coronavirus has taken so much from us. Thankfully, anyone in the tri-state area can still enjoy this quaint, odd tradition, created by a long-ago Westport neighbor.

And if your family can’t gather here the traditional way, don’t worry. Just grab an iPad, and watch together, virtually.

All you need is Zoom. Just “log” on. Ho ho ho!

Roundup: COVID Testing, VOTE!, Dentists, Kart Racing, More


As the number of COVID cases rises in Connecticut, so does testing demand.

This was the scene today before 7 a.m., at the St. Vincent’s Health Center site. The line of cars stretched far down Long Lots Road.

(Photo/Adam Stolpen)


Remember that “VOTE” sculpture that went up right before Election Day on the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge?

It was created by Westporter Mark Yurkiw.

On Tuesday morning — as voters headed to the polls — this was all that remained:

Mark collected the pieces. He realized the damage did not come from the wind. If that was the culprit, they’d be scattered on the river. Instead, Mark says, all the letters were there on the ground.

He collected them, brought them home, and took this photo:

(Photos/Mark Yurkiw)

He calls this tryptic “Battered Not Broken.”


“Rock Paper Scissors” — the sculpture, not the game — was officially dedicated yesterday on Jesup Green. now that the official ribbon cutting has taken place.

Ann Sheffer — who with her husband Bill Scheffler dedicated the work — eloquently described how the influence of her Westport family encouraged her longtime support of the Westport Library, and how her desire to keep the arts thriving in Westport led to the establishment of the Arts Advisory Committee and the position of town curator (now filled by Kathie Motes Bennewitz.)

Dedicating “Rock Paper Scissors” yesterday (from left): Westport Library director Bill Harmer, town arts curator Kathie Motes Bennewitz, Westport Arts Advisory committee co-chair Nancy Diamond, donors Bill Scheffler and Ann Sheffer, 1st Selectman Jim Marpe. (Photo/Randa Trivisonno)

And one more election-related photo…

Anne Lowrie sent this along. The flag is in her back yard. It struck her as “appropriate for the current times: beat up but still flying.”

(Photo/Anne Lowrie)


The other day my dentist emailed me, requesting confirmation of an upcoming appointment. It prominently noted I’d be charged $50 if I canceled less than 24 hours in advance.

Then — less than 24 hours before my appointment — he emailed again. He had to cancel; his hygienist would not be in the next day.

I assume I’ll get $50 off my next visit. Right?


In early March, “06880” profiled Vivek Kanthan. The 10-year-old Westporter had just launched his (very successful) kart racing career.

A few days later, COVID-19 struck. Suddenly, his spring and summer plans were on hold.

When competition resumed, Vivek was ready. All told this year he competed in 16 races, and reached the podium 12 times.

Next year the young racer moves up a class, and faces even fiercer competition. it begins with 2 national events in Miami. Good luck, Vivek!

Vivek Kanthan, and his trophies.


Sharing a post-Halloween meal on Manitou Road:

(Photo/Francoise Jaffe)


And finally … speaking of dentists:

Old Mill Wedding Proposal: The Sequel

This morning, I posted a photo and story about a guy who waited nervously at Old Mill Beach. He was about to propose to his girlfriend.

Patricia McMahon — who took the photo — did not know whether she said yes.

But —  coincidentally — her husband Matthew Levine’s cousin lives nearby.

Turns out the family was home. They saw the big moment from their deck.

And, they told Patricia: She said yes!

If they get married at Old Mill, “06880” will report that too.

(Photo/Patricia McMahon)