Category Archives: Totally random

100 Cows

Alert “06880” reader Robin Moyer Chung is the editor/writer for Westport Lifestyle magazine, and a lyricist, book writer and blogger. Her musical, “The Top Job,” is produced around the world.

She and her family recently had a profound adventure. She writes:

Crossing Thresholds is an organization that works with local leaders to create 3 schools in the Kibera slum in Nairobi, Kenya, and a high school north of the city. They also organize trips to educate volunteers, who build and maintain these schools and interact with the students.

A school in Kibera.

I was ambivalent about writing about our trip. I knew people might accuse me of virtue-signaling, slum tourism, or voluntourism. But I’m okay with that. Call it whatever you’d like, just please keep reading. These are stories that need to be told no matter how we label them.

My only real hesitation was traveling halfway around the world for philanthropic purposes instead of focusing on vicinal needs. But a story about the Masai tribe reminded me that we’re all citizens of the world, and geography should not dictate our charity.

Robin Chung, reaching out in Kibera.

Kibera is roughly the size of Central Park, yet home to an estimated 800,000 to 1.5 million disenfranchised nationals. The government doesn’t “recognize” this rancid bit of land: they provide no electricity, water, sewage or police protection for residents.

Watching my children follow an armed guard down an uneven alley, cautiously stepping over rivulets of trash and sewage, brought the inhumane conditions into sharp focus. I thought images in movies and magazines had inured me to slums; I was wrong. The real brutality of poverty is a slap in the face.

Kibera, Kenya.

Yet within these hellish few miles, punctured with disappointment, clogged with desperation for survival, flickers an inexplicable hope. What tinders this hope is beyond Western reason. But there it is.

As a group we painted classrooms, scrubbed floors, carried firewall bricks, managed art projects, taught students games, and surrounded ourselves with dozens of children who craved our attention and affection. Every evening we returned to the hotel spent, hot and dusty.

Connecting halfway across the world: Robin’s son True.

Visiting a home in which these children live is an important part of the trip, to understand how poverty informs their lives and development. My oldest son requested that, after the visit, I not deliver a parental soliloquy about how lucky we are relative to these Kenyans. How he intuited my plan, I have no idea. But I relented.

This home is the size of 2 parking spots, typical for families of 7 or more. We crammed in. The renter, a woman, held her infant and told us she has 3 more children, but no husband.

Her home was full, with only a sofa nailed from wood planks, a chipped coffee table, and one mattress. Thin floral sheets hung from the ceiling and covered the sofa, masking the rusting metal walls and cheap wood.

Her “kitchen” was a brazier, a pot, and a few plastic dishes on a shelf. When she has money she makes gruel of flour. water and maybe a few vegetables. When she doesn’t have money, they don’t eat.

The dusty town.

It’s not unusual for a single mother to pour alcohol into her baby’s bottle so they sleep all day. Then the mother leaves home to find day work. If she works she can buy food; they may both survive. If she doesn’t, mother and child starve. Statistically, girls sell their bodies at age 14 to earn money.

We left the home quietly, shaken by her life and surroundings. No motherly monologue necessary.

But like I said, they have hope. They believe, despite living among dunes of rotting trash, that life will uptick. Even in the filthiest reaches of the slum, residents keep their clothes clean and fix their hair. They smile, greet us with Christian blessings and name their children Grace, Joy, and Sunshine.

Robin’s son Ty, and friends.

Slum residents are primarily descendants of Kenya’s many tribes. One of the largest is the Masai. Carter related a story of his friend Shani Yusef, a tribe elder:

Masai are famously resistant to modernization. Many live on earth too worn to yield significant vegetation. They work hard, beading jewelry and carving sculpture for tourists while raising herds of thin cows which are their currency.

Given their scant finances and isolation, Shani is one of the few Masai who has access to international news. On September 11, 2001, he was horrified to learn of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York City, a place he had only read about.

Shani gathered the Masai elders. After a few days of meetings, to help the people in a city few of them had heard of and none of them had seen, they decided to donate 100 of their cows, or roughly 30% of their wealth.

One hundred cows.

RIP, Raymond Lewis

Raymond Lewis died in 2001. He was just 24 years old.

I don’t know him. Nor do many other Westporters.

But today, plenty of people are talking about him.

The other day, a headstone appeared outside 1 Main Street. That’s the entrance to PoP’TArt, a pop-up gallery in the space previously occupied by Calypso. For many years it was a small spot outside the original Westport Public Library, at the foot of the Post Road. In the 1960s, when it was a favorite place for scruffy teenagers who (supposedly) used and sold drugs, it was called Needle Park.

Now it looks like Raymond Lewis’ final resting place.

Except it probably isn’t, of course.

No one knows when or how the headstone appeared.

No one — at least, no one I’ve talked to — knows who Raymond Lewis is either.

If you have any information on this mystery, click “Comments” below.

(Hat tips: Mary Palmieri Gai and Frank Rosen)

Pic Of The Day #940

These boots are made for Woody Lane

Water, Water Everywhere …

As Westport prepares for heavy rain and possible thunderstorms tonight — with  coastal flooding and shoreline impacts from midnight through 4 a.m. — alert “06880” reader JP Vellotti forwarded this text:

His only comment: “Kinda ironic.”

This Is My 10,000th Post On “06880”

It’s not a very good one, is it?

 (Photo by Katherine Hooper)

Pic Of The Day #827

The creature from Burnham Hill (Photo/Seth Schachter)

If You’ve Always Wanted An Ovni Semi-Nuevo, Here’s Your Chance!

Spotted a couple of days ago, on Facebook Marketplace:

 

 

I have no idea what an Ovni Semi-Nuevo is.

Google — which knows everything — was no help. In either English or Spanish.

So I certainly have no clue whether it’s worth $125 million or not.

But I’ll keep an eye out for it. If I see it around town, I’ll let you know.

PS: Interesting, huh, that this is posted on the 50th anniversary of the day men walked on the moon. Cue Rod Serling…

Welcome To Westport(s)! Step Right Up! Book Your Tour Now!

Among our many claims to fame, Westport was once the center of the luxury tour industry.

Tauck — whose founder, Arthur Sr., virtually invented the group tour concept in 1925 — was headquartered here for many years. They’re now in Wilton, but family members still live in town.

Lindblad Expeditions was here too, just down Post Road West from Tauck, before moving to New York. Their handsome building at the corner of Sylvan Road North now houses the Pierrepont School.

Both companies specialize in providing great adventures for high-end travelers, around the globe.

Westport is not one of their destinations. In fact, we never think of ourselves as a “tourist” town.

Try telling that to WestportSTourS.

They use that awkward capitalization, and odd name, for a reason. They offer tours to “FIVE of the Really Great WestportS of the World.”

In case you’re wondering, those Westports are in Ireland, Ontario, Massachusetts and New York.

And of course, Connecticut.

(I had to scroll down pretty far to find the Bay State one. The website — whose fonts, colors and layouts appear to come from the early days of MySpace — lists only 4 at the top.)

But WestportSTourS is pretty excited about being one of the niche-est of all niche travel companies.

They say:

Our Boston-Based staff has visited ALL FIVE (5) of the Westports mentioned here. Not just “visited”, but taken folks with them on Group Tours to EACH of the Westports – one Westport, hundreds of times – other Westports, several times each year.

The other Westports offer attractions like one of the oldest county fairs in the US (New York), canals (Ontario), and a large clock in the central square (Ireland).

On the surface, our Westport does not sound much different from the others. We are all on water (hence the name). Several Westports boast live theater and/or “quaint shops and boutiques.”

Despite the map on the website, Westport, Connecticut is NOT in Westchester County.

But it seems that WestportSTourS really likes our Westport best. We’re featured often on the home page, with photos of our “Rubber Ducky Festival,” holiday lights on the William Cribari Bridge, and colorful flags on the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge. (So what if the website claims that different nations’ flags fly on “International Flag Day, June 14,” which does not exist? That’s American Flag Day. International flags fly on jUne Day, the last weekend of that month.)

Hey — no biggie! I’m sure the tour guides are much more accurate once they actually get here, and take guests all around town.

They’re enticed, I bet, by this info on the website. (I have kept the Trumpian capitalization and breathless text verbatim.)

This is the Westport  that is in the News almost Every Day –

This is the FUN  Westport where there are 80 Restaurants (number changes daily and We do  try to keep track) plus – World-Famous theatre,The Westport Country Playhouse, that dates-back to the early days of Summer Stock and the Straw Hat Circuit – Westport 06880, where there resided more Celebrities than anywhere else in the World (except Beverly Hills) by Zip Code.  Join US.  We can show you just about  EVERYTHING.

Two more views of our town, from the website.

This Westport is the home of the World’s largest Hedge Fund (if that means anything to you ?) and also this is the Westport where the commuter trains to New York City (47 miles to the West) – commuter trains stop 78 times EACH weekday – give or take.       Ask for “Gart”

There is MORE = LOTS more –

Gold Coast – The Tour .  This Tour is available ALL-YEAR.  Groups ONLY – perfect for your Wedding or Party Guests when you want them to see YOUR town – ALSO perfect if you are passing thru Westport on Interstate I-95 between New York and Boston.  YES, you can schedule to arrive in THIS Westport by Train.  YES you can enjoy REAL Salt-Water beaches.

 There’s much more on the tour too: the cannons. Positano and the Black Duck (“Definitely a Local Hotspot in Westport as seen  on TV’s Diners and Dives”). Even the “Compo Sailing Team.”

I’ve lived in Westport my whole life. I never knew we had such a team.

Hey, you’re never too old to learn something new. Sign me up for the tour!

After all, as the WestportSTourS website says: “We do All the Work. You have All the FUN.”

(Click here for the landing page. Click here for the Westport page. Hat tip: Elaine Marino)

 

And That Reminds Me: Readers Respond

Last week, I asked readers — those who now live far beyond here — to send photos that remind them of “home.”

Images of a place, a thing, a person — all were fine. Whatever stirs your heart and soul was good.

Submissions came from as far as the West Coast. Here are some of the scenes that — no matter what your zip code — say “06880.”

Stephen Doig says Alki Beach in West Seattle reminds him of Compo (including the rocks) from his 1960s lifeguarding days. I’m struck by how similar the curvature is to the view from Old Mill towards Hillspoint — including the height of the hills in the background. All that’s missing in Westport is a Space Needle.

This scene in Cannon Beach, Oregon reminds Brenda Magnes of Westport beach cottages.

Westport Way — in Laguna Niguel, California — reminded Fred Cantor of his hometown.

John Mirk says Ojai, California reminds him of the Westport he grew up in: “We’re surrounded by orange orchards instead of apple farms, but there is still a nice semi-rural feel.” Every spring he recalls Staples Players, as he builds sets with high school drama students. This photo is from the latest production, “Crazy For You.” He and his wife started volunteering when their son was a high school freshman. Twenty years later, he’s worked on everything from “Guys and Dolls” to “Into the Woods” (both of which Players has done too). John says, “It’s still a thrill every year to see a set take shape on stage, then watch the amazing performances that high school kids are capable of.”

Susan Stevens von Schenk moved to Westport in 1961, and lived there until the late ’80’s. She remembers Main Street, and “all the wonderful stores. It was busy, filled with people shopping and walking around. I have fond memories of the art festival held every year too.” She now lives in Columbia, South Carolina. Every Saturday morning, several blocks of her Main Street are closed to traffic for the Soda City Market. The food, artists and handicraft vendors always remind her of old Westport.

Peter Barlow says: “For decades I enjoyed the Bridge Street Bridge, re-named for Officer Cribari after I moved away. There is something similar where I live now.
The White Rock Bridge is about 2 miles north of Westerly (RI)/Pawcatuck (CT), and my house. This part was originally a railway bridge for a 22-mile trolley line built in 1906. Now it’s a splendid sidewalk with a view. But it’s not easy to get to. There are no sidewalks or even shoulders on White Rock Road.

Brenda Magnes crosses the Bridge of the Gods over Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge a few times a month. She used the William Cribari Bridge over the Saugatuck River daily in Westport — and recalls it every time she takes this bridge these days.

Jeff Booth is no longer a Westporter. But every time he sees this — which he swiped from his movie theater workplace in 1979 — he remembers his home town.

Susan Farewell and her husband Tom Seligson recently moved to Essex, Connecticut. She took this photo at the Pettipaug Rowing Club. It reminds her of the many beautiful sunsets they enjoyed at their Compo Beach house.

For Marc Selverstone, — now of Charlottesville, Virginia — there’s no better reminder of Westport than this truck .

And That Reminds Me …

Of “06880”‘s 12,000 or so daily readers, approximately 1/3 live outside Connecticut. You’re in all 50 states, and every continent except Antarctica.

Wherever you are — and however long ago you lived here, or had some other connection to the town — you still hold Westport close. That’s obvious from what you say publicly in the “Comments” section, and the emails you send privately.

Many of you love your current cities and towns. It’s sure a great big world beyond this place.

But you’re also reminded, from time to time, of Westport.

It looks kind of like the Cribari Bridge in Saugatuck. But this is actually a swing bridge over the Schuylkill River.

So let’s crowd-source those connections. If you live outside Westport, please send a photo of someplace, something or someone that reminds you of here.

It can be a view or vista; a restaurant or store; a street sign — anything that, whenever you see it, makes you think of “06880.”

Email your images to dwoog@optonline.net. We’ll post a selection of your shots soon.