Category Archives: Westport life

Signing Up A Thief

Lawn signs — which really should be called “traffic island signs,” but that takes too long to say — are an easy, cost-effective way of advertising a political campaign, non-profit fundraiser, school play or sports tryouts.

Plenty of Westporters don’t like them. They clutter the landscape. Plus, many individuals and organizations ignore town regulations governing their placement and duration.

But one person really hates them. He (or she)* deliberately removed several signs from the North Avenue traffic circle at Long Lots Road. Others were taken from Bulkley Avenue and Greens Farms Road.

We can’t tell whether the vigilante took signs for non-profits, candidates, or both. All the evidence is gone.

Well,  not all. The metal frames remain.

The traffic circle at Long Lots and North Avenue.

That’s a deliberate act.

You can love the signs. You can hate them.

But you can’t take them.

And you sure can’t take them, leaving only the frames behind.

That just advertises you’re a jerk.

* Though for some reason I’d bet anything it’s a guy.

Thanksgiving Feast Is On The Marc

It’s one of Westport’s greatest traditions: the Community Thanksgiving Day Feast.

For decades, it’s happened organically. Members of the sponsoring Saugatuck Congregational Church — and many others — sign up to bring food, or help elsewhere. Over 200 people show up, alone and with families. There’s music, fellowship and fun.

Every year, many hands help create Westport’s Community Thanksgiving Feast.

Sometimes there are tweaks. Sign-up Genius now makes it easier to assign tasks. When a fire rendered Saugatuck Church unusable, Christ & Holy Trinity stepped into the breach.

Last year brought a big change. Marc Weber and Anthony Miami took over the turkeys.

Plus the stuffing, gravy, potatoes, salads, vegetables, desserts — everything about the meal from, well, soup to nuts.

They were not simply volunteers. Weber owns OnTheMarc Catering. Miami is executive chef of the Inn at Longshore.

These guys are pros.

Marc Weber

Five years ago Weber — a Culinary Institute of America graduate who began as a private chef, then grew his business to include clients like the Warehouse at FTC, Audubon Greenwich and Hudson Loft — partnered with the Longshore Inn.

He works all over Fairfield County, Westchester and New York City. But he lives in Westport.

And he wants to give back.

He’s on the board of an organization that helps local families find volunteer opportunities. At Longshore, he works with non-profits like Sunrise Rotary and Tiny Miracles.

His mother — a philanthropic adviser — emphasized the importance of “skills-based” volunteerism: contributing not just money, but talent and expertise.

Last year for the first time, Dan Levinson and Monique Bosch of Main Street Resources coordinated Westport’s Thanksgiving Feast. They asked Weber to help. He and Miami fed nearly 300 people, at very low cost.

“We know how to do it,” Weber says simply.

This year (Thursday, November 28, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.), they’ll do it again.

Once again, they’re doing it gladly.

“I was so impressed by the number of families who volunteered,” Weber says of last year’s event. The first selectman helped serve. High school kids transported food from the Inn.”

That’s right: Now, the food is cooked off-site. It’s a big step up from the former potluck-type planning.

The annual Interfaith Thanksgiving Feast draws hundreds of people.

Of course, Weber and Miami can’t do it all alone. Westport Rotary, the Senior Center, Gillespie Center, Homes with Hope, the Unitarian Church, United Methodist Church, Bedford Middle School and Coleytown Elementary School all participate.

So do over 80 volunteers. They decorate, set up, greet, serve, clean up, even drive attendees who need transportation.

Monique and Dan hope for the usual donations of turkeys from Stew Leonard’s, pies from Temple Israel,  bread from Sono Bakery and s’mores from Westport Boy Scouts. Other generous donations traditionally include floral arrangements from Westport Garden Club and greeting cards from Coleytown Middle School,

Somehow, it all comes together. It’s a true community feast.

But now the turkey and trimmings are prepared by true pros.

(To volunteer at Westport’s Community Thanksgiving Day Feast, click here. If you need a ride, call the Saugatuck Church: 203-227-1261. For more information, call Monique Bosch: 203-858-8829.)

Signing Off On The ’19 Election

As election season heats up, Planning & Zoning Commission member Chip Stephens sent this email to all political parties in town: Democrats, Republicans, Save Westport Now and the Coalition for Westport.

“Let’s see if it works,” he says hopefully.

As P & Z enforcement officers, Al Gratrix and I have worked hard to keep illegal signs at bay. We try our best to keep legal signs, like campaign signs, in proper and legal places, and hope to keep campaign signs away from restricted areas.

Here are the simple rules we hope all will respect:

  • Please do not place where signs will block traffic views
  • Do not place within parks or beaches
  • Schools are restricted, but some do not enforce; placement is at your risk
  • Do not place on state or interstate roads (during the past few years, the state has removed these signs weekly)
  • Try not to trash the public-sponsored gardens
  • Try to limit 1 sign per intersection
  • Finally, try to practice civil signage: Don’t place your sign directly on another’s sign. Instead, offset your sign, or move it a few feet away.

NOTE : P & Z will not remove campaign signs. Please don’t call the office; it was not us.

Every year, a few people who don’t like signs or are just bad apples take signs down

Look around where a missing sign was. Often you will find it lying nearby. If state crews removed the sign, you may find it in the sand shed in the state truck property across from Sherwood Diner. (You are allowed to reclaim your signs if they are there.)

Please use common sense, as if it was your property. It is your town, so please try to follow the rules.

Thanks, and good luck to all,

Meanwhile, alert “06880” reader — and Westport voter — Matthew Murray writes:

So who’s Joe?

(Photo/Matthew Murray)

I can’t tell whether he’s a Republican, Democrat or from Mars. It has me intrigued, but I’m not going to vote for him.

He is also quite prolific with his sign placement — though every corner is a bit much.

Stop The Presses! Bikers Stop At Stop Sign!

“Drivers never give us any room!” Westport bicyclists complain.

“You never stop at stop signs!” motorists counter.

It’s not fair to paint either group with a broad brush.

Here’s proof — at least for one side.

This afternoon, a group of riders stopped at the Hillspoint Road sign by Elvira Mae’s.

And — just to show that’s how they roll — they sent a smiling selfie to “06880.”

(Photo/Gary Julien)

If You’re Thinking Of Living In Westport …

… then this Sunday’s New York Times has a story for you.

We’re the subject of this coming weekend’s Real Estate section feature. Sometimes a neighborhood is featured; other times, a village or — like us — entire town.

The piece begins with a story about a British couple with 3 young daughters. They rented in Old Greenwich, but found it very “finance-driven. They wanted to be part of “a real community.”

The New York Times map of Westport.

Westport — with its “scenic waterfront, proximity to New York City and variety of restaurants, as well as its international contingent and cosmopolitan atmosphere” — offered “ nice balance of diversity, understated successful people and enough of a European vibe.”

1st Selectman Jim Marpe then touts Westport’s “global mind set,” along with the arts, education, abundant recreational facilities and — according to the Times — “2 downtowns.”

One of our downtowns serves as the main image for the New York Times profile of Westport. (Photo/Jane Beiles for New York Times)

“The lifestyle here caters to a range of interests,” Marpe says. “And to high expectations.”

Marpe notes, “We live in a place that dates back to the very start of this country. There is a sense of history here, but we are firmly focused on the future.”

The rest of the piece includes information on Westport’s geography and neighborhoods (I learned that there’s an area known as “In-Town,” which is “within walking distance of the main downtown”); the housing mix (there are 8,818 single-family houses, 104 multifamily homes, 546 condos in 21 complexes, 292 rental apartments in residential and mixed-use buildings, 4 affordable-housing complexes with 217 units, and 1 building with 36 age-restricted cooperative apartments); the price range ($350,000 to $22.5 million, with homes under $1 million selling fastest and waterfront properties listed at a premium).

An aerial view of the Saugatuck River.(Photo/Jane Beiles for New York Times)

There’s also this, headlined “The Vibe”:

From “The Twilight Zone” and “Bewitched” to the current sitcom “American Housewife,” Westport has long been cast as an affluent suburban backdrop for television. Stereotypes aside, the town blends a laid-back ambience with year-round cultural offerings, high-end shopping and dining, and a slew of outdoor activities.

“With roots as an artists’ colony, Westport remains a creative hub,” The Times continues. The Westport Country Playhouse, Community Theatre, Levitt Pavilion, Westport Writers’ Workshop, Library, and MoCA Westport (formerly the Westport Arts Center) are all mentioned.

Schools get mentioned too, including the district’s #1 ranking in the state (and 28th in the country) by Niche, and Staples’ 7th place state rating by U.S. News and World Report.

Girls soccer: one of the many great activities at Staples High School. (Photo by Jane Beiles for New York Times)

Finally, there’s a section on the “64- to 90-minute” commute (though Marpe notes that more people now come to Westport for work than leave), and a bit of history of the Minute Man monument.

It’s a very fair and balanced picture of our town.

It’s just a week after Labor Day. But clearly, every realtor in Westport has just been handed an early Christmas or Hanukkah gift.

(Click here for the full New York Times story.)

Little Barn, Big Welcome

An alert “06880” reader — and grateful parent — writes:

Like many local businesses, Little Barn gets hit up for lots of good causes. Donate a gift card to a fundraiser? Buy an ad in a program book? Sponsor a team?

Owners Scott Beck and Kevin McHugh always say “sure!”

But the pair go way beyond donations. They’ve made their casual, friendly Post Road restaurant — formerly Dairy Queen, then Woody’s and Swanky Frank’s — what those other places never were: a “Cheers”-like home-away-from-home, where everyone feels welcome any time, and everybody knows your name. (And your kid’s name.)

Enter here for the Little Barn.

Some of their most devoted customers are Staples High School sports teams.

Take last fall’s freshman football squad. The heart of the squad has been together since 4th grade. Parents formed bonds as tight as the players. They all celebrated together after every game.

Many places viewed the enthusiastic group as an intrusion. Little Barn embraced them.

After the final game of the year — when the 9th graders finished undefeated — parent Miki Scarfo warned the restaurant that this gathering would be particularly large.

“Can’t wait to see you!” they said.

Players and siblings filled the back. Parents hung out in front. The varsity coaches and captains arrived, surprising the freshmen. It was organic, free-form and fun — a snapshot from another part of America, perhaps.

A small part of a large Little Barn gathering.

The rugby and wrestling teams have made Little Barn their own too. It’s where coaches, parents and athletes gather before and after competitions; where their booster clubs meet; wherever anyone goes at a random moment, knowing they’ll be welcome.

Little Barn’s support of Staples goes beyond sports.

Some restaurants with live entertainment hire adult musicians. Little Barn gives student bands a shot. The same parents who meet up for athletes pack the place, supporting the teenagers.

How does everyone know to go? When a gathering takes place, parents often send out texts. A group assembles in minutes. They call it “flashing the bat signal.”

Little Barn owner Scott Beck likes the “bat signal” idea so much, his marketing team created this graphic for it.

Little Barn sounds like a throwback to a different era.

But the “bat signal” texts are all about 2019.

Dairy Queen has sure come a long way.

Very Special Family Visits Joey’s

Joey’s by the Shore is one of Westport’s not-so-hidden gems.

It’s got the most interesting menu of any beach place I’ve seen. Joey, Donny and the kids who work there do a great job cooking, handling crowds, and coaxing orders out of kids (and parents) who get to the cash register, look up from their iPhones and suddenly have no idea what they want.

Joey’s crew is also fanatical about keeping the place looking nice, inside and out.

One thing they should not have to do is clean up after customers.

On my way inside Sunday, I passed a family — dad, mom, 3 cute kids — eating at a patio table. The sky was blue; the vibe, wonderfully chill.

This is what I saw when I came out:

The happy family was nowhere to be seen.

Of course, they may have had an excellent excuse for leaving their gross mess:

Perhaps it was their maid’s day off.

Fingers Crossed For Tonight’s Blog Party

Thunderstorms are forecast for today and tonight. Hey — we’ve got our 7th annual “06880” blog party, starting at 6 p.m.!

We’re still set for South Beach — the alcohol-is-fine-except-no-glass-bottles end, furthest from the cannons. Unless, of course, there’s rain and lightning then.

If it rains earlier, we’ll clear off the tables and benches. (If you’ve got an extra folding table, please bring one!) If it rains during the event, we’ll open umbrellas – or scatter.

This is a bring-your-own-food-and-beverages event. If you’d like to bring something extra to share, feel free!

We provide the “06880” community — a chance to meet commenters and lurkers. Each year there are oldtimers, newcomers, politicians and normal human beings. It’s a chance to talk, laugh and trade stories about this wild, wacky and only slightly dysfunctional town we share and love.

See you tonight!

We hope.

We’ll be just to the left of this jetty (near the boat and kayak launch). Without the car, though. And probably without the blue skies. (Photo/Linda Gramatky Smith)

“06880” Blog Party Is Thursday!

The 7th annual “06880″ party is almost here!

If you’re reading this, you’re invited.

This Thursday (July 18, 6 p.m.) is the day and time. The far end of Compo’s South Beach — away from the cannons, near the boat and kayak launch, not far from the new bathroom — is the place. (Still confused? See the aerial view below.)

The blue arrow marks the "06880" party spot.

The blue arrow marks the “06880” party spot.

Every member of the “06880″ (aka this website) community is invited. We welcome frequent commenters and lurkers. Folks who have lived here all their lives, and those who moved here yesterday. People who want the Saugatuck bridge to stay the same, those who want a new one, and everyone in between. (Though the party is a politics-free zone.)

The tagline for “06880″ is “Where Westport meets the world.” Next Thursday, that world comes to Compo.

Bring your own food, beverages (no glass bottles!), beach chairs and blankets. We could use a few folding tables, too. Then mix, mingle and enjoy the evening with the “06880″ crowd.

There’s no charge. It’s a “fun-raiser,” not a fundraiser.

A “blog party” — the “06880” version of a block party.

See you Thursday!

(PS: We try to match people who need rides, with those who can offer them. If you fall into either category, please email me privately: dwoog@optonline.net. No promises, but I’ll do my best.)

[OPINION] Westport Motorists Drive Me Crazy!

Alert “06880” reader and frustrated driver Greg Rayner writes:

This marks 20 years of living in Westport. I am a native Californian. I love just about everything here: the beaches, landscapes, culture, dining, library, the people.

But there is one thing we as a community need to work on: traffic etiquette.

On any given day, especially in summer, traffic conditions can be quite grizzly.

Greg Rayner

Many new businesses and several housing facilities have popped up on the Post Road recently, adding to the traffic.

Of course, the conduct of many drivers around town contributes to the problem. and subtracts from the many pluses of living here.

The way we respond to each other in our daily routines very much impacts the overall quality of life in Westport.

Here, in no particular order, are some of my biggest traffic beefs.

“I don’t have time for the blinker”: How many times do I see people not taking the 3 seconds to turn on their blinker, making others slam on brakes or keeping someone from turning because it is not clear if the other person is going straight or not?

“I’m going left so I’m going to drive across 4 lanes of traffic, no matter the delays it causes”: I’ve said it often: You can save time by just flipping around and not inconvenience 20 people as you meander through 4 lanes at rush hour.

“I’m going to stick my car so far out into the lane of traffic that others have to swerve into the other lane”: When someone sticks their car out into the lane of the road, I am much less likely to accommodate them than someone who has the blinker on.

“I’m going to dash across even though others have to slam on their brakes”: Driving is stressful enough without having to slam on the brakes to avoid a collision with someone who could have waited another 30 seconds.

“Hell no, I won’t let you merge because the lane is blocked”: We all see it – road work, a delivery truck, you want to change lanes, you have your blinker on but so few will let you change lanes.

Sure, traffic is blocked ahead. But no way I’m letting you in! (Photo/Chip Stephens)

“Intentional blocking of entrances and intersections”: This can happen accidentally if you misread the flow of traffic, but if I had a dollar for every time I can’t get into the Trader Joe’s parking lot because someone is blocking the entrance and doesn’t care, I’d have a chauffeur driving me around.

“Pedestrians come last rule”: The Post Road can be a death trap. My friend Sharon was killed on the Post Road in 2010. The other day I saw a man in a wheelchair waiting 15 minutes to cross the Post Road. No one seemed to care.

This list is not exhaustive. But I often think about the wonderful community we have. If we’d all make just more of an effort to show some traffic etiquette and be considerate of other drivers, it would certainly make our lovely town even more appealing and less stressful.