Category Archives: Totally random

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.

World Record Duck Needs A House

Last month, Westport entered the record books.

Dozens of Maker Faire-goers joined in a globally crowd-sourced art and tech project. They created the world’s largest 3D printed duck.

Now they’re figuring out what to do with it.

The world record bird will appear at the Great Duck Race this Saturday (June 1, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Parker Harding Plaza). He/she/it will cheer on much smaller plastic ducks, as they bob along the Saugatuck River.

But then what?

Maker Faire maestro Mark Mathias has put out an APB/SOS. The duck needs a home.

It must be indoors — in a place at least 6 feet tall. (Or 8 feet, if you want to keep the top hat.) Add another 5 inches, if you hang onto the wooden platform too.

Mathias’ best hope is that it go to someone who can display it for others. Wherever that is, it must stay there. Unlike actual ducks, this was not designed to move much.

It could promote something: creativity, art, even a business, Mathias suggests.

He hopes to deliver it to its new home immediately after the Duck Race. The person who loaned the trailer needs it back STAT.

If you’d like the world record duck, contact Mathias ASAP: mark@remarkablesteam.org; 203-226-1791.

Yours for the taking!

Well, It Sure Didn’t Take Long For The Duck To Face Plant Itself This Year

“Sunny” — the enormous yellow duck that serves as great PR for the Sunrise Rotary Club’s annual Great Duck Race — was inflated yesterday on Jesup Green.

Usually it takes a few days — after it’s been moved to the Saugatuck River — for it to topple over.

This year: less than 24 hours.

(Photo/Richard Hyman)

(Photo/Aya Camp)

If you’re wondering: This year’s race is Saturday, June 1 (11 a.m., Parker Harding Plaza). Click here for tickets, and more information.

Pic Of The Day #749

Presented without comment (Photo/Catherine Calise)

Jeffrey Pogue Picks Xis

Alert reader/nationally known tech guru/writer/TV star/proud Westport parent David Pogue writes:

Last year at this time, I wrote a guest post for “06880” about the Hasbro North American School Scrabble Tournament. The huge, 2-day event for kids was in its 16th year. First prize for the middle-school division: $10,000.

The reason: Last year, my son Jeffrey — then a Bedford Middle School 7th grader — and his partner Noah won it.

This weekend, they went back to defend their championship.

The North American School Scrabble Championship competition.

There were reasons for optimism: The boys had had another year to prepare, playing Scrabble online every day and studying lists of obscure words.

On the other hand, their team — the Rackmasters — caught everyone by surprise last year. “They kind of came out of nowhere,” said Kevin Belinkoff, a play-by-play commentator (it’s live-streamed, so far-flung family can watch). “They weren’t one of the favored teams coming in, and did a tremendous job.”

Great! But that meant another “out of nowhere” team could sweep the tournament this year.

And of course, luck is a factor. If you get terrible letters — all vowels, for example— it’s hard to win.

This year’s event was held in a Marriott ballroom in Philadelphia. It did not start well. Jeffrey’s partner, Noah Slatkoff, lives in Canada. Thunderstorms canceled his flight. So Noah and his dad drove through the night — 7 1/2 hours — to get there on time.

Nonetheless, the Rackmasters dominated the 6 games of Day One. They defeated their opponents by huge margins (like 603 to 271!). That’s important, because in the event of a tied record at the end, the total point “spread” determines who advances to the finals, for all the marbles.

Jeffrey Pogue (right) and Noah Slatkoff, in the zone.

There weren’t as many marbles this year. Hasbro had a tough 2018 — the demise of Toys R Us  hurt sales — and cost-cutting affected the Scrabble championship.

The top prize was $3,000, down from $10,000; the venue was an airport hotel instead of a sports stadium, and the opening party was a ghost of its traditional carnival-like self.

Nobody cared. A kids’ Scrabble tournament is a friendly affair, a chance to spend a weekend away from home, running around with fellow word nerds. It still felt thrilling and well-run.

Day Two did not begin well for our Rackmasters. They lost their first game by 7 points — their first championship loss in 2 years. Their opponents (the Scrabble All-Stars) drew some amazing tiles, including 3 incredibly useful “S”s, both of the blank tiles, and all of the high-point ones: J, X, Q, K, and Z.

The Rackmasters’ 1st loss in 2 years was livestreamed.

Our boys were no longer undefeated, nor in first place. Their spirits crashed.

When they won their next game though, their record was 7-1, tied with the All-Stars and another team. Who would advance to the final, against the sole 8–0 team?

Rackmasters! Their huge point spread from the previous day ensured them a place at the big table onstage.

Their opponents — the Dyslexic Manic Shop — weren’t strangers. One boy had been Jeffrey’s partner 2 years ago at this event.

The final game was brilliant. First one team pulled ahead, then the other, over and over again. Parents and players, sequestered in a different room and watching by video, shrieked and applauded each play.

As usual in high-level Scrabble, many of the plays were not common English words (oolite, scry, haj awa …).

As the letters ran out, Jeffrey and Noah faced a tough call. They could play “ixia” for 39 points (as everyone knows, that’s a South African plant of the iris family), or “xis” for 19 (the 14th letter of the Greek alphabet).

They played the lower-scoring word.

It was strategic. They figured on their next turn they could add an A, forming “axis,” thus harvesting all 8 points of that X tile a second time. That A could also be a part of a new word going down — and landing on the juicy Triple Word Score tile in the lower-left corner.

Ta-da!

That’s exactly what happened. The Rackmasters won — for the 2nd straight year.

It will be their last victory. Next month, Jeffrey graduates from Bedford. As a Staples freshman he’ll no longer be eligible for the middle school division. That’s the main event, with big cash prizes and the most participants. In the high school division, you play alone.

The winners: Jeffrey Pogue and Noah Slatkoff.

It’s time for the next generation of Westport Scrabble champions to emerge. Jeffrey got involved (and met his partner Noah) through Cornelia Guest, a national Scrabble figure. She runs a weekly club at the Ridgefield Library, where she teaches, coaches  and nurtures young players. (Email corneliasguest@gmail.com for details.)

Jeffrey also plays at weekly Scrabble Club meetings at the Pequot library in Southport, closer to home.

Jeffrey highly recommends Scrabble clubs to your kids (so does his dad). It’s a full-brain activity, requiring skills in language, math and strategy. It’s non-electronic and tactile. It’s social. And it’s every bit as exciting as any sporting event.

For Jeffrey there are benefits far beyond prizes, trophies and thrilling weekends in Philly. For the rest of his life, should the conversation ever turn to Greek letters or South African flowering plants, he’ll be ready.

Jeffrey Pogue with his proud father, David.

And The Winner Of That 1978 Bottle Of Whisky Is…

Last month, I posted a story of a unique raffle.

Ian O’Malley — the New York disc jockey, realtor and Westport resident — offered a 1978 Macallan single malt whisky. It’s worth over $4,000.

Ian bought it years ago. He planned to save it for a special occasion. But he put it on a top shelf, and forgot about it. (These things happen.)

He recently found it — and decided not to drink it, but raise funds for a good cause.

His wife Debbie suggested Experience Camps. The Westport-based organization sponsors 1-week camps for boys and girls after the death of a parent, sibling or primary caregiver.

Kids laugh, cry, play, remember the person who died, or forget the grief that weighs them down. They feel “normal,” because everyone there has been through something similar.

Ian O’Malley

When Ian was 12, his father died of pancreatic cancer. Decades later, Ian says, “I would have loved an opportunity like Experience Camps.”

Tickets were $104 each — because Ian is a DJ on New York’s classic rock station, Q104.3.

The raffle raised $13,000. The lucky winner is Mark Mangino from Wilton.

And, of course, hundreds of kids who will have the experience of their lives at Experience Camps.

Northern Lights May Be Seen This Far South

If seeing the Northern Lights is on your bucket list, scrap that trip to the Arctic.

Just step outside tonight.

Thanks to a geomagnetic storm — and clear skies — Connecticut residents may see the rare phenomenon this evening.

Check out these Northern Lights!

The Northern Lights — technically, Aurora Borealis — results from electrons colliding with the Earth’s atmosphere near the North Pole.

But — according to NBC Connecticut — our state is on the “very southern fringe” of areas that may be able to see the Lights this weekend.

Of course, this is not northern Canada or Scandinavia. Among the many differences: We have plenty of light pollution.

So if you’re on the lookout, NBC advises, find a dark area away from street and city lights.

Then look north.

(Hat tip: Chip Stephens)

Word

Daria Maya is a sophomore at Staples High School. But the teenager sure has a way with words.

The other day, she was chatting with her parents. Casually, Daria said that American politicians and the media engage in missuasion.

Daria’s parents, Joseph and Susan — both lawyers — looked at each other. They’d never heard that word. They asked her what it meant.

“There’s misinformation that politicians and the media are trying to persuade me to believe,” she replied. Then she gave Mom and Dad that oh-my-god-everyone-knows-what-I’m-talking-about look.

The Maya family (from left): Daniel, Joseph, Daria and Susan.

So Joseph did the natural thing: He emailed Merriam-Webster.

The dictionary folks were all over it. Associate editor Neil Serven wrote back that they found no previous use of “missuasion” anywhere in their citation database.

It wasn’t in the LEXIS-NEXIS periodicals database either.

There was one hit on a Reddit Bernie Sanders forum — “Cult-like powers of missuasion” — from June 2017. It described another politician.

Digging deeper, Serven discovered that the OED includes the verb “mis-suade” (labeling it “obsolete, rare”). Google Books found examples too, including 2 from an early 20th century Scottish writer.

“At a glance it strikes me as a useful and relevant word that could catch on,” Serven concluded.

“But since we only enter words in the dictionary once they’ve demonstrated established use (particularly in edited media), that work of getting other people to use it is up to you and your daughter.”

So what do you think, “06880” readers? Can we persuade enough people to use the word so that it earns a spot in Merriam-Webster’s dictionary?

Or would that simply be missuading them?

Pic Of The Day #661

An interesting pair of license plates at the St. Luke Church parking lot — and we’re told the drivers did not know each other. (Photo/Kerry Wood-Borner)