Gramps Has A Ponytail

It’s been more than 20 years since Bonnie Behar Brooks lived in Westport.

But the multi-talented teacher/TV producer/media director’s latest project had its roots here. And — with 16 grandchildren of her own, and 9 great-grandchildren — Bonnie knows it will resonate with her many “grand” friends still in town.

As well as anyone else looking for a fun book for young kids that includes a connection to one of the most noted session musicians in the world.

“Gramps Has a Ponytail” is the bilingual (English and Spanish) story of a young girl who spends her birthday in the recording studio with her grandfather. He’s Bonnie’s husband, Harvey Brooks.

The bassist has played and/or recorded with Jimi Hendrix, Richie Havens, Stephen Stills, John Sebastian, Seals & Crofts, Mama Cass Elliot, Boz Scaggs, Judy Collins, Loudon Wainright III, Phoebe Snow, John Cale, Phil Ochs, Al Kooper, Mavis Staples, and Peter, Paul and Mary.

He’s featured on Miles Davis’“Bitches Brew,” the best-selling jazz album of all time. He laid down some of the most famous lines in music history — including “Like a Rolling Stone” — and his work was the hook on the Doors’ “Touch Me.”

This is the second marriage for both. They were friends growing up in 1950s Queens. But she only dated college guys. He figured she was out of his league.

In the late ’80s, Bonnie contacted Harvey. They reconnected, a bit awkwardly at first. It took a while for Bonnie’s daughters to warm up to this new man. She herself was not ready to commit to a guy who had lived all around the world, and still enjoyed a free, unfettered life.

But they had great chemistry. Harvey moved into Bonnie’s Compo Road North home. Her girls eventually came to love him too. They lived happily ever after, even after 2 moves: one cross-country, the second overseas.

Bonnie and Harvey Brooks

Bonnie was well known in Westport. After teaching at Saugatuck Nursery School, she was one of Cablevision’s first community access producers. Interviews with the likes of Paul Cadmus and Ann Chernow turned into a project now at the Smithsonian. She also produced the first TV pilots for Martha Stewart.

Bonnie served as media director for Bridgeport’s Discovery Museum, In 1988 she created “Rock & Roll: Art and Artifacts,” the first exhibition covering the relationship between art and rock. It included Hendrix’s guitar, the original “Yellow Submarine” model, photos by Annie Leibovitz, and works by Andy Warhol, Keith Haring and Ron Wood.

The exhibit led to Bonnie’s reconnection with Harvey. Their relationship was solidified as she fought breast cancer. She had surgery before the wedding, chemo and radiation right after.

Years ago, Bonnie wrote a children’s book starring her first granddaughter, and Harvey. (At the end of the day with “Gramps” she gets a tambourine, and everyone sings “Happy Birthday”).

She shopped it around herself, without an agent. No publisher was interested.

“I loved my Westport life. But I married a musician,” Bonnie says. In 1998 they moved to Tucson, a music and arts town that promised adventure. Seven years later they moved again — to Jerusalem. Her oldest daughter lives there.

“It’s another adventure. We’ve made a great life here,” Bonnie says. Their multi-cultural neighborhood is “like the UN.”

Bonnie and Harvey Brooks speak to “06880” via Zoom, from Jersualem.

Last year, Tangible Press published Harvey’s memoir, “View From the Bottom: 50 Years of Bass Playing With Bob Dylan, The Doors, Miles Davis and Everybody Else.”

Now they’ve published Bonnie’s book too. Reviews call it “a delightful story told with great illustrations,” “fresh and fun,” “warm-hearted and engaging.” It also fills a small niche: books about music that grandparents can read with their grandkids.

Whether anyone has a ponytail or not.

Pic Of The Day #1561

Canal Road sunset (Photo/Michael Tomashefsky)

Roundup: Bear, Piglet, Poles …

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Westport’s most famous bear is dead.

Westport Local Press reports that “Bear 211” — the black bear tagged with that number by the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, and reported at various sites in northern Westport and environs over the past 2 months — was struck by a car and killed yesterday, on Route 136 in Easton. The driver left the scene.

Click here for the full story.

This was the scene off Weston Road recently. The bear has now been struck and killed. (Photo/Denny Galindo)

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The Westport Public Art Collections includes an astonishing array of 1,500 paintings, illustrations, photos and more. They hang in every public school, and buildings like Town Hall, the Parks & Recreation Department office, even fire headquarters.

But not everyone has access to schools. Town Hall is still pretty much closed. And when was the last time you were at the fire station?

This winter, there’s an exciting opportunity to see 40 or so outstanding works.

MoCA Westport and the Westport Arts Advisory Committee are collaborating on an exhibit, at MoCA’s expansive gallery space.

Two of the works are shown below. As for the few dozen others: well, you’ll have to see for yourself!

“Don’t Judge Me 2020” (Christa Forrest

From Larry Silver’s “Yangzhou, China 1997-2000” collection.

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“06880”‘s favorite Piglet is actually a dog.

Piglet is the name of a deaf, blind pink dachshund/Chihuahua mix. He was rescued by Westport veterinarian Melissa Shapiro. (Click here for a 2017 story.)

She’s just written a book. “Piglet: The Unexpected Story of a Deaf, Blind, Pink Puppy and His Family” will be published August 3. Simon & Schuster calls it “a charming, inspirational memoir about empathy, resilience, kindness, and an adorable deaf blind pink dog.”

Click here for details. And watch “Good Morning America” this Saturday (July 31), for an interview with Melissa. (Hat tip: WEndy Bouthillier)

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It’s a little bit of vandalism: a couple of benches overturned by Ned Dimes Marina, off Compo Beach Road.

But the benches are memorials to real, much-loved human beings. Richard Webb — who says this is the second time it’s happened this month — notes that the perpetrators “might as well be turning over headstones.”

(Photo/Richard Webb)

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Mark Mathias writes:

“As I’ve been walking my dog recently, I noticed wood shavings at the bottom of most of the telephone, power, cable and such poles around town.

“I also recently saw a truck with 2 guys drilling holes in a pole, and wondered if it’s related.

“Upon further investigation, it appears that at least 3 holes have been drilled and then plugged.

“I also noticed a metal tag nailed into each pole saying “Maverick Inspected 2021 Cobra Rod.”

Any idea what this is for?

Nope. But I’m sure at least one alert “06880” reader does. Click “Comments,” to let us all know.

Plugged hole (below) and metal tag (above). (Photo/Mark Mathias)

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These sunflowers graced Peter Wormser‘s memorial service Sunday, at Cedar Point Yacht Club. The architect, cook, outdoorsman — and avid gardener — died earlier this month.

The service was moving and memorable. And Nanette Hausman thought this “Naturally … Westport” photo epitomized Peter’s love of beauty and life.

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And finally … in honor of Melissa Shapiro’s new book (above):

 

“06880” Podcast: Annette Norton

Annette Norton loves downtown.

The owner of Savvy + Grace — the fun, funky gifts-and-more Main Street store — takes every opportunity she can to talk up the shops, restaurants and events that once again draw folks to the area.

She spoke passionately and insightfully about downtown — its past, present and future — along with her recent decision to become a Westport homeowner on “06880: The Podcast.”

Annette’s thoughts will get listeners thinking too. Click here for the latest edition of “06880: The Podcast.”

Screenshot from Annette Norton’s “06880” podcast.

Question Box

Every Westporter — 5th generation or 5-days-ago newbie — has questions about this town.

Who were William Cribari and Ruth Steinkraus Cohen, and why are bridges named after them?

What’s happening (or not happening) with that construction project on Kings Highway North, near Canal Street?

When did 9th graders start going to Staples?

Where were Westport’s 5 movie theaters located?

Why is there a grass median on the Post Road between McDonald’s and the Connector?

How come traffic has suddenly gotten so bad?

Why has traffic increased recently? And who was William F. Cribari?

Time for a new “06880” feature!

“Question Box” will appear occasionally — whenever I have enough to address them en masse.

Readers’ questions can be current or historical, concrete or abstract, deep or shallow.

I won’t know all the answers. But one of our readers probably will.

So if you’ve been wondering something about Westport — how the town works, why we do the things we do, what’s going on — email dwoog@optonline.net.

As your teachers always said, “there’s no such thing as a dumb question.”

Fingers crossed.

Pic Of The Day #1560

Classic Compo (Photo/Eric Taylor)

Baron’s South Meeting Changed To Wednesday

The lead “06880” story this morning — about the future of the Baron’s South property — noted a public meeting set for tomorrow. The purpose of the session is to discuss a potential rezoning of a portion of the land.

The meeting — called by the Planning & Zoning Commission’s Zoning Regulation Revision Subcommittee — has been changed to Wednesday (July 28, 12 noon).

Members of the public can attend the virtual session via Zoom. Click here for the link.

Public comments can be made during the meeting. Comments can also be sent prior to the meeting to PandZ@westportct.gov.

Vegetation surrounds a Baron’s South pathway. (Photo/Wendy Crowther)

Roundup: (No) Traffic, (No) Jumping, (No) Runs …

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Southbound I-95 traffic yesterday evening was bumper to bumper. That’s not exactly stop-the-presses news.

But this is.

Janine Scotti reports that there was no residual backup on any side roads. Greens Farms and Bridge Street, on through Saugatuck: Clean as a whistle.

Nothing unusual on the Post Road either.

She wonders if Waze has updated its algorithm to help us. I wonder if maybe Waze was down.

Fingers crossed for something similar during the next tie-up. Which will probably be a few minutes from now.

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Just a year after SIR Development purchased Roger’s Septic Tanks — and less than a year after the 73-year-old facility was demolished — a new rental complex is open for leasing.

“1480 Post” — on US1, near Maple Avenue South — is the latest project from SIR president Robert Haroun. A trustee of both the Westport Library and Westport Weston YMCA, he’s been involved in building projects at both places.

The 32-unit complex includes 25 market rate units, and 7 designated as “affordable housing.” Haroun says the 1- and 2-bedroom condo-style apartments will attract residents who want to downsize but remain in Westport. Pets are welcome.

The first open house for the leasing office is next Sunday (August 1), from 1 to 3 p.m. Occupancy is available September 1. Click here for details.

1480 Post

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Congratulations (again!) to Westport’s 10U Little League All-Star team.

They won the sectional tournament yesterday in Trumbull, beating North Haven 10-0. The state tournament begins Thursday.

Sectional champs!

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First the Sherwood Mill Pond sign on the way to Compo Cove said “No jumping.”

Then some jokes altered it to read “Jump.”

Now it just says — well, um …

(Photo/Dan Woog)

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“Westport … Naturally” highlights 2 little guys who were not pleased with yesterday morning’s rain.

Still, they found a perfect spot to wait it out, in a Greens Farms garden.

(Photo/Kathleen O’Keefe)

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And finally … today is a musical birthday bonanza. Darlene Love turns 80. Mick Jagger is 78. Bobby Hebb, Dobie Gray and Brenton Wood were all born on July 26 too.

Rather than single any one entertainer out, I’ll honor another anniversary. On this date in 1775, the office that later became the US Post Office was established by the Second Continental Congress. Benjamin Franklin was named our first Postmaster General.

PS: Alex Chilton was just 16 years old when he sang lead on this #1 hit. He and the rest of the Box Tops did not even pretend they were faking it on this show.

[OPINION] Townwide Effort Needed At Baron’s South

Longtime residents and Westport Preservation Alliance founders Morley Boyd, Wendy Crowther, Helen Garten and John F. Suggs are passionate about honoring and saving Westport’s historic structures and open spaces. Over the years they’ve served on many town commissions and committees 

Though Baron’s South — the town-owned property between South Compo Road and Imperial Avenue, not far from the Post Road and downtown — has always been on their radar screen, they are now very worried about its future. They write:

What should we do with Baron’s South?

This question has haunted the wooded, hilly, 22-acre parcel in the heart of town since we acquired it in 1999.

In 2016 it was zoned as passive open space.  Shortly thereafter, an extensive tree removal project took place, and a landscape plan was commissioned but never finalized. Since then, the town has largely ignored the property.

As a result, Baron’s South is rarely visited by the public. The weeds are taller than the deer, and the former pathways are disappearing behind encroaching overgrowth.

Vegetation surrounds a Baron’s South pathway.

In fact, many Westporters don’t even know where Baron’s South is.

Now the Planning & Zoning Commission is considering rezoning swaths of the property for active, organized recreation. This could mean bocce courts, swimming pools, even new buildings.

These are worthy ventures. But aren’t there already plenty of places in Westport to get active? And wasn’t the goal of the “open space” designation to permanently preserve and conserve this unique, centrally located piece of green infrastructure so that all Westporters could enjoy its quiet and natural beauty?

There’s no doubt that Baron’s South needs an infusion of energy. But why isn’t harnessing passive energy the goal?

Let’s form a town and citizen-driven cooperative to direct resources and passive energy toward the restoration and conservation of this incredibly special property. With the guidance of local environmental organizations like Earthplace, Wakeman Town Farm and Sustainable Westport, let’s engage children, parents and grandparents to work side by side to gradually remove debris and invasive plants, install beneficial native plants and trees, create pollinator meadows, improve the park’s many entrances, and build pervious paths to lead us to its interior rooms.

Golden Shadows, the home of former property owner Baron Walter Langer von Langendorff.

Along the way, we and our kids can learn to notice and appreciate the park’s wildlife and beneficial insects, rather than fear them. We can learn the value of native plantings, water conservation, biodiversity, and sustainability. We can come to understand the negative impacts of monocultures, climate change, pesticides and herbicides.

Passive open space requires active management and attention. Re-committing ourselves to this goal is the change that is needed.

As anyone who has ever done yardwork or gardening knows, the work can be as physically challenging as any ball game and as meditative as yoga. Bring your energy, your calm, your curiosity, your children and your save-the-planet sensibilities to bear on this great park.

Let’s save Baron’s South for a better good — the good that comes from quiet places, thoughtful passive-use planning, hard work, and the wisdom of Mother Nature.

The next meeting of the Zoning Regulation Revision Subcommittee takes place via Zoom at noon tomorrow (Tuesday, July 27). The public can participate. To get the Zoom link, call 203-341-1076 or email mperillie@westportct.gov.

(Want to learn more about Baron’s South? Click here for stories from the “06880” archives.)

Wildlife amid the growth at Baron’s South. (Photos/Wendy Crowther)

Pic Of The Day #1559

Downtown painting (Photo/Patricia McMahon)