Category Archives: Totally random

Two True Tales

An alert “06880” reader writes:

A man at the Westport railroad station told me: “I left my wallet in my son’s apartment in New York. I just got off here to go back to the city to get it. I hope the conductor lets me on.”

He said he was on his way to New Haven, to help his daughter move into a new apartment. He used to work for an ad agency. He looked like an aging hippie — with shoulder-length hair, a backpack and shorts — but he seemed credible.

I gave him $20. We all depend on the kindness of others, I thought. He asked for my name and address, so he could send me the money. He bought a ticket, and boarded the train.

Train station drop shadow

Of course, I never received the money. It made me a little uncomfortable, as I’d given him my name and address. But I soon forgot about it.

Until yesterday. I saw the same man, again at the station.

He also saw me. He headed to the other end of the platform, and quickly put on sunglasses (though he wore the same distinctive clothes).

A young man give him money, as he got on the train. When I asked, the young man said he’d only given him $6, and “it probably means more to him than to me.”

I hope “06880” is a good venue to let naive people like me know they should be careful — and that some local con artists are pretty convincing.


On the other hand, Molly Alger writes:

I’m recovering from significant shoulder surgery. This afternoon, to regain my strength, I went for a walk. My right arm and shoulder were encased in a sling and wide brace.

As I headed down Roseville Road to the Post Road, a bright candy apple-red convertible, top down — driven by a handsome young man — pulled over.

I figured he wanted directions.

Instead, he asked if I needed a ride.

It’s been many years since a good-looking young man has tried to pick me up. How way beyond nice is that?!

GiGi New’s Caboose Muse

Every writer needs a favorite place.

For some it’s a home office — a converted bedroom perhaps, or the attic. For others it’s Starbucks.

For GiGi New, it’s a caboose.

Since the early 1970s, the red, real train car has sat in the woods off Newtown Turnpike, between the Country Store and Bette Davis’ old house. For anyone driving, biking or walking by, it’s an object of wonder and awe.

GiGi New's caboose.

GiGi New’s caboose.

For GiGi, it’s a special, creative sanctuary.

She and her husband — actor/director Nicholas Sadler (“Scent of a Woman,” “Disclosure,” “Twister”) — moved to Westport in April, with their young son Cooper. They fell in love with the house and caboose, and sent a heartfelt letter to the owner promising to honor and take care of both.

GiGi New

GiGi New

GiGi was already a well-established TV and film writer. In Minneapolis, where she lived during the 2007-08 Writers Guild of America strike, she began teaching her craft. Garrison Keillor became an avid pupil.

She continued to teach after arriving here — first with the Westport Writers’ Workshop and through area libraries, now on her own.

Which  brings us to the funky, not-quite-level caboose, where Gigi works with individuals and groups, and continues writing for TV and movies. (Her current project is in development with Killer Films.)

The caboose is said to have been some sort of “payment” to Alan Abel, a well-known prankster who 40 years ago owned GiGi’s 1847 house. (One hoax: Following the Watergate scandal, he hired an actor to pose as Deep Throat. The press conference drew 150 reporters.)

The caboose was delivered via 3 flatbed trucks, and a crane. It sits on actual tracks, though those were brought in too. Someone had a permit for it — and it’s been grandfathered in ever since.

The interior, from the back of the caboose.

The interior, from the back of the caboose.

GiGi says the caboose belonged to the Pittsburgh and Lake Erie Railroad. One wall is filled with actual P&LE tickets. (They were placed there by HGTV, which gutted the interior, and re-decorated it for one of their shows — click here for the fascinating video.)

However, “DWP” is emblazoned on the side. The letters stand for the Duluth, Winnipeg and Pacific Railway.

That’s just one of the many mysteries surrounding the caboose.

What’s not in dispute is what GiGi has done with it, and what it means to her.

She’s brought in a conference table and desks — including the one she writes at. It faces woods, and a pond. She watches her son at play, along with ducks and deer.

GiGi's view, out the caboose window.

GiGi’s view, out the caboose window.

“If I can’t create here, I can’t do it anywhere,” she says. “This my safe, nurturing little haven. When I sit here, I tap into a quiet place. That’s essential for my writing.”

Like a child’s treehouse, the caboose allows her imagination to run wild.

Her students find the caboose to be a “healing, inspiring, creative” place too.

GiGi New’s writing and teaching careers are going place.

Fortunately, her little red caboose is not.

GiGii New, peacefully at work.

GiGii New, peacefully at work. Railroad memorabilia are on the rear walls.


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Take The Boat To The Train…

(Photo/Bob Mitchell)

(Photo/Bob Mitchell)

Oscar’s En Francais

Westporters are still adjusting to the loss of Oscar’s.

But around the time the Main Street deli closed — and beloved owner Lee Papageorge died — longtime Westporter Susan Brody spotted this doppelganger in Marseille:

Oscar's in France

The French are known for fiercely protecting their language. Neither “bagels” nor “sandwiches” sound French to me.

As for “Oscar’s” — in any language, that means “love.”

(Hat tip: Eden Werring)

The Greatest International Scavenger Hunt The World Has Ever Seen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tasks fall into 3 categories:

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

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

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

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

Tia Pogue National Geographic photo

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

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

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

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

In Iceland.

Below: Tia Pogue plays a human piano:

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


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

Stumping For Kindness

I often identify contributors to “06880” as “alert readers.”

One guy gets special notice.

The other day, hyper-alert “06880” reader Steve Lunt was walking his dog on the Riverwalk — the lovely path winding around the Levitt Pavilion. (If you’ve never been, you’re missing a true Westport jewel.)

Suddenly, a rotting tree stump caught Steve’s eye.

Levitt Riverwalk - Steve Lunt 2 (2)

 

 

Looking closely, he saw this:

Levitt Riverwalk - Steve Lunt 2

We may never know who put that message there — or when, or why.

Which makes this little story even better.

 

Next Stop: Willoughby?

Metro-North riders were pleased to note that the rail line provided “good service” on March 9.

Metro-North -- good service

Unfortunately, yesterday — when this photo was taken — was August 16.

Rod Serling would be proud.

Guess Who Came To Dinner At Bridgewater Tonight?

A) Donald Trump
B) Hillary Clinton
C) Barack Obama
D) The Chinese Olympic swim team

Answer:

A River Runs Through It

(Photo/Patrick Goldschmidt)

Click on or hover over to enlarge (Photo/Patrick Goldschmidt)

Where Westport Meets The World: The Photos

Last week — in a nod to “06880”‘s tagline, “Where Westport meets the world” — I asked readers who do not live here to send photos of your favorite summer place.

A third of all “06880” readers live beyond this zip code. I thought it would be fun for our ex-pats to share scenes of your current, non-Westport lives.

Many readers responded. Here’s where you live, and what you love. The photos are arranged (more or less) geographically, from nearest to furthest.

Susan Feliciano and her husband Jose are just across the Westport line, in Weston. But they’re not, technically, here, so they count. He travels everywhere — in the past month he’s been in Austria, England and Baltimore; he leaves soon for Beirut, South Korea, Japan and Croatia — so home is particularly important. Susan calls this “our little piece of heaven, our little slice on the Saugatuck, especially lovely right after a summer rain.”

Happy place - Susan Feliciano, Weston 2

Happy place - Susan Feliciano - Weston 1

Bobbie Herman lives in Fairfield, half a mile over the border. Her favorite place is her garden. She spends 2 hours a day working on it. With 2.2 acres, there’s a lot to do.

“But it’s rewarding,” she says. “I have breakfast every morning on the patio which overlooks it, and every afternoon on the screened porch right next to the patio.”

Happy place - Bobbie Herman - Fairfield garden

Bonnie Bradley writes: “17 years ago, after a lifetime in Westport, I came to the town of Roxbury, in Litchfield County. Maple Bank Farm is a treasured destination, right in town. Farmers Cathy and Howie Bronson, of old Roxbury families, provide all kinds of their own vegetables and plants, and even skeins of wool from their sheep.

“Today you can go up the hill to pick their blueberries. Soon, their corn will be in. It seems you never go to Maple Bank without running into friends. That’s Roxbury.”

Happy place - Bonnie - Maple Bank Farm, Roxbury CT

From the other end of Connecticut, Peter Barlow’s photo shows Pawcatuck and Westerly, Rhode Island, separated by the Pawcatuck River (the bridge in the background on the right). Despite being in 2 different states, residents hold joint parades. Pawcatuck is actually part of Stonington, 3 miles away.

Happy plac - Peter Barlow - Pawcatuck CT

Rebecca Wolin says: “I am very lucky. After living in Westport for 20 years I moved to a vacation destination: the Berkshires. Monterey, Massachusetts has 900 residents, but in the summer it grows to 5,000. This is the lake at the end of my road ( I cheated — it’s a fall picture). I live right off the Appalachian Trail, and love it.”

Happy place - Rebecca Wolin - lake at end of her road, Monterey MA

Geoff Hodgkinson (Staples High School Class of 1964) has lived in Marblehead, Massachusetts since 1964. A peninsula 17 miles north of Boston, population 21,000, it features a harbor at Crocker Park. During the summer, 2000 boats moor there.

Geoff’s 2nd photo is of the historic district: 200 Colonial-era homes, many from the 1600s. The tower in the background is the 1876 town hall. “All in all, it’s a great place to live,” Geoff says. “But I do miss Compo and other Westport spots from time to time.”

Happy place - Geoff Hodgkinson, Marblehead Mass 1

Happy place - Geoff Hodgkinson, Marblehead MA 2

Kim Manchester Shaw writes: “I still refer to Westport as ‘home’, but It has been 30 years since I lived there. My brother and his family now live in our childhood home. It’s a blast to watch my niece and nephews enjoy all of our old Westport haunts as they grow up.

“These days I call Saratoga Springs home: the foothills of the Adirondacks. The photo is of my son, Alex, taken at the summit of Sleeping Beauty on an Adirondack hike last weekend. Tough to beat that view…unless perhaps you are in the 06880!”

Happy place - Kim Manchester Shaw - summit of Sleeping Beauty on Adirondack hike

Jane Davidson Arms (Staples High School Class of 1977) is now in Manchester, Vermont. Her youngest son (shown here) heads off to college in the fall:

Happy place - Jane Davidson Ams - Manchester, VT

After graduating from Staples in 1971, Fran Taylor has thrived in Kentucky’s horse country. She spent many years associated with Keeneland. She snapped the first photo below on Derby Day, while driving home from Louisville. The 2nd is taken from the driveway of her farm in Sadieville.

Happy Place - Fran Taylor - from Louisville to Lexington

Happy place - Fran Taylor - driveway of farm in Sadieville, KY

Tom Siebrasse offers this shot of Big Glen Lake, in Michigan’s Sleeping Bear National Park:

Happy place - Tom Siebrasse - Big Glen Lake, Glen Arbor, MI

Mike Taylor checks in with a photo of Lake Michigan. He’s halfway between Milwaukee and Green Bay. His town of Sheboygan, Wisconsin is a top golf destination; one of 3 US Official Sailing Centers in the country; home of Road America, one of the 3 car racing road courses in the world — and host to concerts partially sponsored by the Levitt Foundation. Having been an original employee of Westport’s Levitt Pavilion — he did lights and sound — he’s particularly proud of that.

Mike asks, “So why is this my favorite summer spot? I loved growing up in Westport and looking at Long Island Sound. But here, sitting on our lake deck, we look at the horizon. It’s like looking at the ocean. The sound of the waves crashing on the shore is awesome. And it’s my home.”

Happy place - Michael Taylor - Sheboygan, WI - Lake Michigan

Last August, Diana and Leonard Zaslow moved from Westport to Bonita Springs, Florida. Here’s what they see every evening:

Happy place - Diana Zaslow, Bonita Springs, FL

Alix Land says: “It’s hard to compare anyplace to Westport, but attached are shots from my home in Portland, Oregon. We get out on our bikes or paddleboards as often as possible.” The first photo shows the Willamette River, just south of Portland. She lives one street away from a ridge overlooking a beautiful golf course. On a clear day, she sees majestic Mt. Hood.

Happy Place - Alix Land - Willamette River just south of Portland

Happy place - Alix Land - OR (can see Mt Hood on clear day)

David Grant checks in from Danville, California — a San Francisco Bay area town of 42,000. The small-town atmosphere — with many unique stores and restaurants — reminds him of the Westport where he grew up. The 4th of July parade draws 40,000 attendees. Dave says: “Excellent schools keep property values strong. Good weather is a constant bonus.” Here’s Hartz Avenue:

Happy place - David Grant, Hartz Avenue, Danville CA

Finally, Mara Barth writes: “While we enjoy living in Paris at the moment (been here since October), we very much look forward to a little time in Westport this summer!”

Happy place - Mara Barth, in Paris since October

There you have it: where Westport meets the world. Plenty of water; mostly small towns; lots of beauty.

Wherever you are today: Enjoy it! There’s no place like home.