Category Archives: Westport life

Happy Birthday! “06880” Turns 12!

364 days a year, “06880” chugs along quietly.

A few times each day, I post something: a 5 a.m. feature story. Breaking news. A roundup of upcoming events, new business openings, whatever. An Unsung Hero, Friday Flashback or Photo Challenge. Every night at 9, a Pic of the Day.

I do it all as my contribution to Westport. One day a year, I ask you for a contribution to “06880.”

I do it on the anniversary of my blog’s birth. It began in early March, 2009. In 12 years I have not missed a day of posting — ever.

This man is smiling because he loves writing “06880.” (Photo/Pam Einarsen)

Last year’s “please contribute” story came 10 days before Westport changed forever.

When our schools, stores, restaurants, library, Y — and everything else — shut down, I worried I would have nothing to write about.

Hah!

For the past year, I’ve worked harder and longer at “06880” than ever. I’ve written about how to get COVID help, and how to help others. The pandemic’s effect on people, businesses, the town and the world. I began the daily Roundup and Saturday art gallery.

When WestportNow folded, I added obituaries and a bit of meeting coverage. I hope to do more.

“06880” is now, pretty much, my full-time gig. I spend nearly every waking hour working for you.

You see the stories I write. But there’s so much more.

I conduct interviews and research. I take, find and edit photos. I moderate the comments section. I answer every single email.

When a natural disaster like Tropical Storm Isaias hits, I find a place with power to work. And I keep working.

When Isaias hit, “06880” provided information on road closures, where to get help, and how to help others. (Photo/John Kantor)

I even spend my own money on “06880,” on software upgrades, hosting — and keeping this space ad-free.

Which is why this year, more than ever, I hope you will respond to my once-a-year appeal for donations.

I’m honored that more than 11,000 of you are daily (free!) subscribers. Another 5,000 to 8,000 check in each day, without subscribing.

I love you all. But only a small percentage of you contribute each year.

That means the vast majority of you enjoy my 1,200+ stories a year, and our wonderful online community, for free. You are, to use the technical term, moochers.

So: If you like what you read, please consider supporting “06880.” Click here for details (via credit card, check, Venmo or PayPal) — or scroll to the bottom.

Am I worth $1 a month? $1 a week? Perhaps (my choice!) $1 a day. Choose whatever amount you’re comfortable with. It’s greatly appreciated!

I hope that if “06880” has ever:

  • made you laugh, cry, think or wonder
  • spurred you to go to an event, read a book, try a restaurant or patronize a store
  • helped you meet a neighbor, or connect with an old friend
  • kept you up to date in a blizzard, hurricane, windstorm or power outage
  • made you feel connected to your new town (or the place you grew up)
  • alerted you to a new housing or zoning development
  • provided a forum for you to rant about an issue, rave about a place, or complain about my own personal politics
  • delivered news about a favorite person, place or thing
  • galvanized you to support a cause
  • publicized your event, book, appearance or concert
  • published your photo
  • honored someone you loved or admired, or gave them a kind “Remembering …” sendoff
  • connected you to your hometown from many miles away
  • saved you time or money
  • opened a window on Westport’s history, helped you think about its future, introduced you to someone in town you never knew, or helped you look at someone or someplace in a new way
  • inspired you
  • made you sit up and say “Wow!” (or “Holy f—!”)

you will consider tossing something my way. First-time supporters are joyfully welcomed!

Just a suggestion.

Thanks for 12 great years. I’ll keep doing what I’m doing, whether anyone sends an anniversary gift or not. I’ll still answer every email.

It’s all part of “06880.” It’s my honor and privilege to help share it with you.

You can donate by PayPal or credit card: click here. It’s easy, safe — and you don’t even need a PayPal account. 

Checks can be mailed to: Dan Woog, 301 Post Road East, Westport, CT 06880. Put “06880” on the memo line. It won’t do anything for the IRS, but it may help you remember at tax time why you sent me something.

I’m also on Venmo: @DanWoog06880. Thank you!

Back To The Garden

Joni Mitchell was right. After a winter of snow — and a year of COVID — we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden.

And there’s no better place than the Westport Community Gardens.

There — just a few hoe-lengths away from Long Lots Elementary School — 100 or so gardeners grow fruit, vegetables, flowers, herbs and grasses, in a wonderful array of designs and configurations.

Some are families with young children. Some are folks in their 80s. Some are experienced gardeners; others know little, but learn from them. All form a helpful, happy — and very well-fed — community.

Gardens plots are available to town residents and town employees. After the internal allocation ends March 1, any remaining plots are allocated to the wait list.

The gardens are deer-proof. Water is available.

Grow the tomatoes you’ve dreamed of — or any other fruits, vegetables and flowers you’ve wanted to try.

Families find a home at the Community Gardens. Supervised children are  welcome — and encouraged.

There’s even a bocce court.

Click here to join the wait list. After all: You are stardust. You are golden. You’ve got to get yourself back to the garden.

(Photos/Lou Weinberg)

Love Is In The Air …

… and everywhere else in town.

Happy Valentine’s Day, from “06880” to you!

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Weston’s famous Jolantha (Photo/Hans Wilhelm)

Melting hearts on East Ferry Lane. (Photo/Leigh Gage)

Across from Spotted Horse (Photo/Lauri Weiser)

An essential message. (Photo/Lauri Weiser)

Love is everywhere. (Photo/Lauri Weiser)

Levon (Patricia McMahon)

Julie And Chris Trade Old Hill For New Adventure

Seven years ago, Julie Tran and her husband Chris Ziccardi built a home in Old Hill.

She loves her “Mr. Rogers neighborhood,” and the rest of town. When their 2 foster sons were ready to be reunified with their biological parents in November, Julie and Chris were overwhelmed by support from friends, the YMCA youth program, and Kings Highway Elementary School teachers like Roseann Caruso.

But in a couple of weeks — the day their house sale closes — the couple will leave Westport.

With a 27-foot Airstream Globetrotter hitched to their Ford F-350, they’ll head to … well, they’re not exactly sure.

But Julie and Chris are ready for the next chapter in their lives.

Julie Tran and Chris Ziccardi.

The seeds for their decision took root in the pandemic. Julie is a life coach. Chris is a property technology executive.

As they realized the ease of working remotely, they reassessed their values.

“We thought about our lifestyle, our environment — everything,” Julie recalls.

“We had no idea how long COVID would last. But we knew we wanted sun, warmth, and a lot of land. We want to adopt or foster again in a place conducive to that. We envision a ranch with lots of room, sustainable, a place with solar or geothermal, where we can grow our own food.”

Those places exist. But the only way to find them is to hit the road.

“We’ve been cooped up for a year. We’ve got the travel bug,” Julie says.

Julie and Chris started by examining the “why.” They talked about their core values, and came up with 4: freedom, courage, adventure and love.

Julie and Chris are leaving the Old Hill home they built …

Then came the “what.” What does that look like? How would they do it? The safest way to travel now, they realized, is by RV.

There were a few snags. The couple did not own an RV. Julie had not been camping since she was 10. They’d never camped together.

“It’s a crazy idea,” she admits.

Then again, these are crazy times.

“We don’t know how to do what we’re doing,” admits Julie. “But we know we can figure it out.”

… for the RV they bought.

They spent months watching YouTube videos and joining Facebook groups. They researched and crowdsourced things like what kind of trailer they’d need — and how to back it up.

They learned the difference between campgrounds with electric and water hookups, and “boondocking” in more remote areas.

They’ll “start out strong,” with a bit of luxury and sense of community, Julie says. But they look forward to being alone, under the stars, too.

The adventure starts in earnest this week. They’re driving to Georgia in their truck. They’ll hitch the Airstream to it, and head north again for a couple of weeks.

When they leave Westport for good, it’s on a route with few anchors. Julie and Chris will stop in New Jersey, Florida and Texas to see family. Their only set time and destination is April 1: They must be in California then, for her sister’s wedding.

After that? They have no idea.

They hope to find a place to call home. It may be in Austin. Or Tennessee, Florida or Arizona.

Julie and Chris’ Airstream.

As Julie prepares to leave the town she loves — where their foster children thrived, and she found friends and activities — she has one message for those she’s leaving.

“So many people say they’ll live vicariously through us. But I hope it won’t be just vicarious.

“If you’re inspired by our story but think you can’t do it, imagine yourself on your deathbed. Ask yourself, if you had a do-over for your life, would you do anything differently?”

Amy Feder: Eldercare Concierge

Amy Feder has always found seniors fascinating. At weddings, she says, “I talk to the grandmother no one else pays attention to.”

Helping people is in her DNA. Her father was a child psychiatrist; her mother taught special ed.

Amy found her calling in social work. She earned a master’s from New York University, and is certified as a dementia practitioner and geriatric care manager.

She moved to Westport 20 years ago, and raised her children here. “This town has been so good to me,” she says. “I’ve never felt alone.”

Amy Feder

After working at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, NYU Medical Center, Norwalk’s Family & Children’s Agency and, for the past 8 years, Jewish Senior Services as a care coordinator helping people stay in their own homes, Amy is now a private practitioner.

Her niche is eldercare and aging. She’s in the right place at the right time.

“I was getting calls from friends for help with elderly parents or spouses,” she says. “They needed knowledge, advocacy and support. I became a concierge for eldercare.”

Their questions were real, and crucial: How do I find an assisted living community? How do I talk to my parents about driving? How do I figure out the Medicare maze? I’m burned out from being a caregiver — can you help?

COVID has amplified senior issues. Isolation is bad enough; add the need for conversations about end-of-life care, and Amy has been busy since spring.

She has been pleased — but not surprised — by how well many senior have coped with the coronavirus. “They’re less restless than younger people,” Amy says. “They’re resilient.” Of course, isolation is tough for everyone, at any age.

Sometimes she consults for an hour. Other times she provides ongoing counseling.

Over the past several months, Amy has helped families set up technology for loved ones, to keep connected. She’s found communities where they can engage with others. She’s offered strategies to combat loneliness.

Y’s Men meetings are now held by Zoom. Amy Feder helps seniors and families set up technology, to stay connected.

Always, she listens. Often, Amy notes, “people just need someone to talk to.”

A while ago, she had to have end-of-life discussions with her own mother. They were painful, she admits. But Amy found solace that her mother died with “all of her wishes known.”

The pandemic hastened trends that Amy had already noticed, like telemedicine. She finds the future exciting — for seniors and their families.

She believes Westport is a “great town” for seniors. “The Senior Center is fabulous — it’s closed now, but they still run great programs. And there are plenty of resources all over town.”

Still, she adds, “we could use more senior housing. We’re an aging population, and this is an expensive town and state to age in.”

The Residence at Westport is our town’s first assisted living facility. Amy Feder says we need more senior housing options.

Having had a vaccine, Amy is available for home visits.

“It’s important to engage now and plan ahead,” she says. “No one wants to get into an emergency situation.”

(For more information click here, email amyfeder@optonline.net, or call 917-826-6660.)

Happy New Year

Westport Values Transform A New York Co-op

Earlier this month, the New York Times Real Estate section examined the challenges that coop buildings face during the pandemic.

The lead focused on Lori Levine van Arsdale. She’s the board president of a 5 -unit cooperative near Gramercy Park. Owners there have not always played nice.

Lori is also an 8-year resident of Westport. Her experience here — with great neighbors who look out for each other — has inspired her to make her city residence a more friendly place too.

That was not mentioned in the Times story. But the other day, she talked about it for “06880.”

Lori grew up in New York. She’s owned her co-op for 15 years, and loves the neighborhood.

When she she married her husband Jan 8 years ago, he’d lived in Westport for nearly a decade. They blended their families — she had 2 dogs; he had 2 dogs and 4 kids — and bought a new home. It’s off Park Lane, behind Trader Joe’s.

The van Arsdales (from left): Jansen with Kipper, Stedman, Carolynn with Casey, Jane, Jan with Suki, and Lori.

Many of their neighbors are older than the van Arsdales. Yet right from the start — when a woman brought herbs from her garden — Lori felt welcomed.

Everyone socialized, celebrated birthdays, lent leaf blowers. A neighbor called Lori once in New York, when she spotted an intruder in Lori’s back yard. The Van Arsdales’ stepsons shoveled neighbors’ driveways.

When COVID struck, Lori and Jan spent most of her time in New York. Westport neighbors checked in by phone. One told Lori that her stepchildren — 24, 22, 20 and 18 years old — were doing great. One had offered to go food shopping for homebound neighbors.

“That’s the way living should be,” Lori says. “I wondered why it wasn’t happening in my 5-unit brownstone.”

Owners in the self-managed 1851 building did not get along. When 3 units came on the market, Lori decided things could change. She ran for president, and won.

Lori Levine van Arsdale on the steps of her Gramercy Park co-op. (Photo/Katherine Marks for the New York Times)

She had a long conversation with the remaining owners about working cooperatively, and showing each other kindness and appreciation for all the extra work and effort needed to make their units a home.

She brought her Westport sensibility to the new owners too. Neighborliness became the norm. Her husband shoveled the sidewalk and steps; another owner did the patio.

The co-op bought 2 outdoor heaters for the back yard. They added a table and pop-up gazebo, so people could eat together outside.

“It’s lovely now,” Lori says. “It’s like house living in a communal environment.”

Adapting suburban values to urban living has changed the dynamics of her building. “I’ll never again come home to contentious people,” she says.

She’s changed her views on city life in general too. “This is what everyone should do for someone else. I’ve lived in high rises, where the only interaction you have is with the doorman — not even the people on your floor. It shouldn’t be that way.”

Meanwhile, Lori remains connected to Westport. This is where the family celebrates Hanukkah, Christmas and New Years (it’s the van Arsdales’ anniversary).

“When we blended our family, we wanted everyone to really feel at home,” she says. “We’ve created a home there. Westport has really rubbed off on us.”

Lori laughs. “From the outside, it must have looked like I was living a ‘Sex in the City’ life. Suburbia to me meant Westchester. I always thought Connecticut would be stuffy. But Westport isn’t. It’s charming.”

COVID has caused many city residents to move here, she notes. She hopes they find this to be a great community too.

But — unless they keep their co-op — they can’t bring Westport life back to New York the way she did.

A Holiday Pause

After a slow start, for the past few days this COVID holiday shopping season seemed as crowded as any other.

Today, with Christmas at home and dreary weather, the streets were deserted.

We haven’t seen the Post Road this empty this since the first days of the pandemic.

(Photo/Carolanne Curry)

Tomorrow, it’s back to the new normal.

And The Holiday House Decorating Contest Winner Is …

The lights are all strung. The decorations are all hung.

And the votes are all in. The little drummer boy gives us a drum roll for the winners of Westport’s Parks & Recreation Department Holiday Home Decorating Contest. They are …

1st Place: 1 Quintard Place – The Mirabelli Family

2nd Place: 25 Hillandale Road – The Lozyniak Family

3rd Place: 4 Fairport Road – The Carusone Family

1 Quintard Place — the winner!

Here are other entrants. Stop by and visit (though tonight might not be the best night, weather-wise!).

  • 2 Wilcox Lane
  • 8 Evergreen Parkway
  • 14 Brooklawn Drive
  • 1 Lyndale Park
  • 359 Wilton Road
  • 11 Sachem Trail
  • 57 Bermuda Road
  • 20 Bridge Street
  • 6 Vani Court
  • 1 Yankee Hill Road
  • 2 Hidden Hill Road
  • 17 Buena Vista Drive
  • 61 Bulkley Avenue North

Marpe: Celebrate Holidays Quietly — At Home

First Selectman Jim Marpe says:

2020 has obviously been a unique and challenging year in Westport, the nation, and the world. We remember those among us who have been negatively impacted by this horrible pandemic, and we send them our healing thoughts and prayers.

In their honor, I respectfully request that you enjoy Christmas and New Year’s with only those in your immediate household, foregoing travel and large gatherings. Instead, I encourage you to stay safe and stay at home. By doing so, I’m confident that by this time next year, we’ll again be able to gather together in person to recall, rejoice and reaffirm our holiday traditions.

This Christmas season, I wish you the calm and peace that is at the heart of good will and generous spirits.

(Card created by Bonnie Marcus)

And this year in particular, I hope that you have the chance to slow down and thoughtfully reflect on the true meaning of this time in our collective human experience. To quietly celebrate, and to rest. Perhaps take the opportunity to initiate new traditions in your family.

And to reach out – virtually or physical distanced – to a neighbor, relative or friend who may be alone, in need, or less fortunate. Remember, small acts of kindness can have a huge impact.

However you choose to celebrate and worship this year, on behalf of the town of Westport, I wish you a happy and joyful holiday season with your immediate family.

Please continue to be healthy and safe. The proactive behaviors that you take today will insure that our families, friends and neighbors will be here to happily celebrate what I know will be a renewed and uplifting 2021.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!