Susan Wexler’s mother, Anna Turner, lived to 103. In her later years she eagerly asked extended family members: “What’s new in the romance department?”
Hearing the latest news, the spark of love was rekindled. Her face glowed. Her spirits lifted.
Susan realizes that everyone can benefit from the power of “the romance department” to raise spirits. That’s especially important in these difficult times.
She created “What’s New in the Romance Department?,” a multimedia celebration of true stories of love and romance. It’s a platform for sharing real stories from all stages of life, in multiple genres including animated videos (illustrated and produced by Poppy Livingstone, a talented Staples High School senior).
Stories are written by people willing and generous enough to share them.
Susan will also post “intriguing romantic tales in the news” on the site.
The blog launches with a Senior Center virtual event on February 10 (7 p.m.). Members of the Center’s Writers Workshop will share real-life stories of love and romantic relationships.
Everyone — of every age, with every romantic story past and present — is welcome to join. The evening (just before Valentine’s Day!) “promises to enrich and renew your spirits,” Susan says.
Just as it did for her 103-year-old mom.
(“What’s New in the Romance Department?” is free, but pre-registration is required. Email email@example.com, or call 203-341-5099.)
The Senior Center is filled with fascinating people.
High on the list: pianist Irwin Lebish. A veterinarian since 1954, he is still — in his 90s — a general practitioner at Schulhof Animal Hospital.
That’s not all. He also plays piano with the hands of 20-year-old.
The other day, Dr. Lebish recorded a Holiday Piano Recital — jazz, standards and more — for the Senior Center. He was joined by a young whippersnapper: his son Scott, on bass.
Jim Honeycutt and Nick Pisarro videotaped it all. Click below to enjoy!
Everyone knows about stress eating. But what about stress cooking?
If the thought of making another — or any — holiday meal fills you with dread, click here.
The WestportMoms’ Food Delivery & Catering Guide is filled with businesses that have pivoted during the pandemic to provide — in addition to their usual delicious fare — catering, weekly meal plans, delivery and curbside pickup.
Margie Friedman’s mother Steffi was a well-known Westport sculptor. Her works grace Temple Israel, Earthplace and the library’s children’s section.
Margie — a 1972 Staples High School graduate — is quite accomplished too. Her recently completed documentary, “Orchestrating Change,” tells the inspiring story of the only orchestra in the world created by and for people living with mental illness, and those who support them. The mission of Me2/Orchestra — “me, too” — is to erase stigma, one exhilarating concert at a time.
With compelling characters, striking animation, beautiful music, even humor, “Orchestrating Change” shows what living with a mental illness is really like. The film challenges audiences to reconsider preconceived notions, and empowers those living with a diagnosis.
The film is currently airing on public television nationwide, and is available on PBS Passport for subscribers. To learn moreand read reviews, click here. For the trailer, click here.
The Senior Center’s next quarter begins Thursday (October 1).
Over 40 programs are offered by Zoom: yoga, essentrics, Pilates, tai chi, cardio workout, strength training and dance, and others including history, ukulele, support groups, concerts and more.
Click here for a list of fall classes. To register, click here, then follow the prompts — or call 203-341-5099 weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. For scholarships and othrd questions, call 203-341-5099, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
This past weekend was a productive one, for Westport’s National Charity League chapter. Members collected 1,640 pounds of food, for the Person-to-Person program.
Yoga instructor Paula Schooler has some very cool “Namastay @ Om” t-shirts for sale.
They’re available in men’s and women’s sizes, small through extra large, in black and gray for $20. A portion of the proceeds benefit the Connecticut Nurses Foundation COVID-19 Heroes Fund.
For more information email email@example.com, or call 203-226-6465.
And finally … a little something to get you ready for tonight’s presidential debate.
For more information, click here, call 203-341-5099, email firstname.lastname@example.org/seniorcenter.
Smoke from the wildfires out west have reached Westport. This was the scene yesterday evening, at Compo Beach:
COVID has canceled many traditional activities. But not Oktoberfest!
Wakeman Town Farm celebrates outdoors on Thursday, October 8 (5:30 p.m.). Chef Alison Milwe Grace cooks up a great German meal (with a veggie option for non-meat eaters). Bring a sweater or jacket and your favorite German beer or adult beverage. Click here for details and tickets.
Teaching has always been stressful. During COVID, it’s exponentially tougher.
To help educators de-stress, Positive Directions has launched a Teacher Support Group. Trained counselors lead discussions Wednesdays from 7 to 8 p.m. via (of course) Zoom. The cost is $40 per session. Email email@example.com, or call 203-227-7644 for reservations.
With kids back at school — meaning more than half the time, they’re learning at home — parents may need a private office.
Serendipity Labs — the on-demand workspace at 55 Post Road West — offers a complimentary private day office for all new inquiries. It’s available weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Serendipity memberships include high-speed WiFi, complimentary coffee, spacious common areas, guest reception and concierge services. For details click here, call 203-979-4084 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Serendipity Labs, 55 Post Road West
Classic movies continue this Saturday (September 19, 8 p.m.) at the Remarkable Theater. Earthplace co-sponsors “Raiders of the Lost Artk.” Click here for tickets and more information.
Speaking of movies: Ethan Hawke will direct a new movie about the lives and careers of Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward. The project has the blessing of Woodward — now 90 — and the actors’ family.
The film is expected to focus on their 50-year marriage, including their decision to raise their children in Westport rather than Los Angeles. (Hat tip: Johanna Rossi)
Joanne Woodward and Paul Newman.
And finally … today would have been B.B. King’s 95th birthday. He died 5 years ago, but the thrill of his blues guitar will never be gone.
The Westport Downtown Merchants Association’s 2nd “Art About Town” project includes works from Artists Collective of Westport members. They’re exhibited in the windows and on the walls of many downtown retails — for viewing and purchase.
Art About Town runs in conjunction with the WDMA’s “Art+ Downtown Thursday Nights.” Galleries stay open from 5 to 8 p.m. So do many of the stores showcasing the “About Town” art.
Bonus feature: Many of the artists are there with their work on Thursdays, chatting with customers. Tomorrow they’ll be at Amy Simon, Pop’TArt, Sorelle, Artistex, Catherine H, Don Memo, Fred Sip & Shop, Franny’s Farmacy, Nic & Zoe, Savannah Bee, Savvy + Grace and West, on Post Road East, Main Street and Church Lane.
In addition Manna Toast offers 1/2 off on bottles of wine (5 to 7 p.m.), and Rye Ridge Deli will stay open till 8. Masks and social distancing are mandatory for Art About Town!
Upcoming Senior Center events:
Bingo: Thursday, August 20 (1:15 to 2 p.m.). Virtual Bingo — with prizes! — is offered the 1st and 3rd Thursdays of each month. If you don’t have internet, you can call in from home. If you can’t print cards, the Senior Center will help. Pre-registration is required (203-341-5099). There’s also an $8 lunch for Westport residents — delivered (with 4 Bingo cards) to your home.
Pet Chat: Friday, August 21 (10:30 to 11:30 a.m.). Share pet stories; hear guest speakers. Click here for Zoom ID; password is 4C1Q0H.
Summer Concert Series: Friday, August 28, 1:30 to 2:15 p.m.: Pianist Irwin Lebish discusses and plays selections from “The Great American Songbook.” Click here for the Zoom link. Friday, September 4, 1:30 to 2 p.m.: Violinist and Westport native Healther “L’il Mama” Hardy — daughter of Friends board member Judy Hardy — entertains on Facebook Live and Zoom (click here for that link).
Fall Prevention program: (Tuesday, September 1, 10 to 11 a.m.). Carli Lee Spinola — injury prevention coordinator at Norwalk Hospital — teaches how to prevent slips and falls. Click here for the Zoom link.
Labor Day Drive-Thru BBQ and Online Concert: Seniors and guests can order a BBQ lunch to go; pickup is at the Senior Center on Friday, September 4, 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Socially distance in the parking lot, and enjoy the meal! $8; ordering deadline is September 1. Call 203-341-5099.
Questions? Call 203-341-5099, or email email@example.com.
“Young Shoots” — the Westport Farmers’ Market’s deliciously named youth photo contest — has extended its deadline.
Youngsters ages 8 to 18 have until August 24 to submit photos. This year, because of COVID, they must be taken at home. The goal is to show images of the produce, flowers and prepared foods they and their families buy — and how it looks in their kitchens and dining rooms.
First place winners in each category receive $100; runners-up get $50. All photos will be on display at Sugar & Olives in Norwalk.
Last Friday, Ariana Napier delivered 424 pounds of food to Bridgeport Rescue Mission. This brings her Westport’s total donations to 1,819 pounds of food and personal care items donated. In other words: Donors are just 181 pounds away from reaching 1 ton!
BRM continues to provide twice as many meals and three times as many grocery bags as before the pandemic. The most needed items include:
Canned beans (all types)
Canned meats (beef stew, chili, etc.)
Peanut butter and jelly (plastic)
Snacks (granola bars, power bars, etc.)
Donations can be dropped off at bins in Ariana’s driveway (14 Jennings Court, off Bayberry Lane near Long Lots).
Rebecca Mace reports that the Panera Bread location on Post Road East near the Southport line — shut for several weeks — is once again open.
Yesterday she spotted baked goods on the shelves, someone going in, and a guy eating a salad next to the window.
The Panera Bread near the Southport line.
1968 Staples High School graduate Paul Backalenick has just published his second book. He says, “A good mystery can be a good distraction in these trying times.”
Carrie’s Secret takes place in a psychiatric hospital in the 1980s, as a suburban couple struggles to understand and help their threatened daughter.
The Kindle version of Carrie’s Secrets is just $2.99 on Amazon — and it’s free for Kindle Unlimited member. The paperback is $13.99. Click here for more on Paul Backalenick.
And finally … last night’s Remarkable Theater movie was “The Sting.” In 1973, the film — starring Westport’s own Paul Newman — gave new life to Scott Joplin’s rags.
Earlier today, interim superintendent of schools Dr. David Abbey emailed a district-wide update to all parents.
He noted many examples of how — behind the scenes — the Westport Public Schools are helping the town deal with COVID-19. For example:
The district has transferred “a significant amount” of personal protective equipment to town agencies. School nurses and health assistants have helped organizing and distributing that equipment — hundreds of N95 masks, cloth masks, gloves and gowns — as well as thermometers and office supplies.
In addition to PPE, the townwide science department has supplied goggles for firefighters.
The school district has distributed sanitizing wipes, cleaners and hand sanitizers to fortify the town’s supplies. In addition, they have provided access to equipment for sanitizing emergency vehicles and office spaces.
Collaborating with the Westport Weston Health District and Department of Human Services, school nurses are also reaching out to older Westporters through weekly phone check-ins. Besides checking on their clients physical and mental health, the nurses help them obtain vital supplies like medication and food.
School security officers have monitored athletic fields, to help limit the number and size of gatherings.
Chartwells — the school district’s food service vendor — is providing grab-and-go meals for Westport police officers. The district is also working closely with Human Services to identify and support school families in need of food beyond the grab-and-go lunches and breakfasts that are currently provided.
A number of Westport retailers are doing all they can to stay afloat. They offer curbside pick-up and delivery on items in stock; some even have new spring inventory.
But among their many problems: How can people know they’re open?
Betsy Pollak helps, big time. Her “Our Town Crier” online newsletter is usually chock full of shopping news. Retailers pay to be mentioned.
In true community spirit, Betsy’s latest edition is totally free. Called “Curbside Enthusiasm” (great name!), it offers info, details, hours, links and photos for a ton of merchants: ASF, JL Rocks, Silver Ribbon, Arogya Tea and more. (Click here to view.)
Jennifer Tooker, Melissa Kane and Matthew Mandell helped compile the information.
A 2nd edition is in the works, for Mother’s Day. It’s perfect for restaurants as well as retailers. To be included, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Senior Center has started a YouTube channel for residents to stay active. It includes 39 Zoom courses focusing on mental and emotional health, fitness, creativity and wellness. To register for a class, call 203-341-5099. Click here to sign up for email updates. For more information, email email@example.com.
In addition, the Southwest Connecticut Agency on Aging has developed a helpful guide with plenty of information for seniors and their families. Click here to view.
Staples High School junior Eliza Oren makes gorgeous necklaces. She’s selling them for $10 each. Proceeds go to the Gillespie Center, to help pay for food and other items needed during the current crisis.
She’s already sold nearly $1,000. When she reaches that goal, her parents will match it.
You can Venmo her: @elizaoren. Or you can leave cash in your mailbox; she’ll pick it up. For details, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Need a reminder to wear a mask? Kevin Carroll spotted this, at Weston Gardens:
The other day, Julia Marino put out a plea for ski goggles. They help protect healthcare professionals working with COVID-19 patients.
As usual, “06880” readers came through. Yesterday her mom, Elaine, brought 34 pairs to a nursing home in Milford.
Julia is a member of the US snowboard team. And a gold medal winner in Westporters’ hearts.
PS: The bin will be out again through tomorrow evening. To donate new or used goggles (adult or children’s size): sanitize them with wipes or spray, place them in a sealed plastic ban, then leave them on the front steps at 129 Sturges Highway (near Cross Highway). Questions? Email email@example.com.
Werner Liepolt reports that he recently tried to download a new book, but his Westport Library card had expired.
No problem! The library staff renewed it remotely, and within minutes he was reading. The email is Circulation@westportlibrary.org.
(Photo/Lynn Untermeyer Miller)
And finally — though Rachel Platten did not record “Fight Song” about COVID-19 — it sure is apt these days:
No one likes paying taxes. And almost as bad is figuring them out.
Plowing through all those IRS forms and regulations can be particularly tough for folks without accountants or access to other help.
Fortunately — in conjunction with AARP and the IRS — Westport’s Department of Human Services provides a free, full-service tax assistance program. Special attention is paid to senior citizens, and low to moderate income households. (It is available to all filers, regardless of income or age.)
Tax preparation and electronic filing of federal and state taxes is offered from January 27 (early) through April 15 (really, really late) at 2 locations.
The Senior Center program runs Wednesdays (9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.) and Thursdays (1 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.). Call 203-341-5099 for appointments.
The Town Hall program runs Mondays, from 1:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. Call 203-341-1050 for appointments.
Nationwide, more than 35,000 IRS-certified volunteers help out, at nearly 5,000 sites. Last year, 748 returns were filed in Westport.
Tax forms can be daunting for anyone.
If married, both spouses should be present at the appointment. Taxpayers must bring:
Copy of last year’s federal and state tax returns
Government-issued photo ID
Social Security or ITIN numbers for all taxpayers and dependents
Bank account/routing numbers (blank check preferred) if expecting a refun
SSA1099 if you were paid Social Security benefits
W-2s from employers
W-2G from gambling winnings
1099G from unemployment compensation payments
1099s: bank interest, stock dividends, retirement distributions, broker statements
Receipts for deductible expenses, including real estate and vehicle taxes paid
Verification of the original purchase price of sold assets (home, stocks, etc.)
Receipts/canceled checks if itemizing deductions (charitable contributions, etc.)
Form 1095-A if health insurance was from the Access Health Connecticut Marketplace.
For more information, call the Department of Human Services: 203-341-1050.
NOTE: The “tax assistance program” refers to helping figure out your taxes — not actually paying them. Damn!
Alert “06880” reader, historian and preservation advocate Morley Boyd writes:
In April, I raised environmental and safety concerns about the appearance of a large pile of fill at Baron’s South. The mysterious mound, estimated at roughly 5,500 yards, was discovered in what had once been a meadow dotted with mature trees.
Upon closer inspection I noticed that material in the mound included asphalt, jagged shards of metal, tires, pieces of what appeared to be asbestos cement pipe, plastic containers and the shattered remains of a toilet.
Earlier this spring, Morley Boyd photographed debris in the fill behind the Senior Center.
While erosion prevention netting had been placed across one side of the mound, gullies had formed anyway, and the entire top was exposed. Runoff was visibly headed to drains connected to nearby Deadman’s Brook, a tributary of the Saugatuck River.
Runoff from the fill heads toward Deadman’s Brook.
After learning that the fill had been excavated from a nearby construction site associated with the now completed Senior Center expansion project, I wondered what else might be in the fill. Had it been tested? And why was it there in the first place?
First, I reached out to those whose homes abut the park to see what they knew. After learning the homeowners had been told by the Senior Center project manager that the giant mound was permanent, I made private inquiries about the fill with town officials.
The site of the fill (just south of the Senior Center) is shown by a red arrow (bottom) in this Google aerial image.
When that inquiry went unanswered, the story appeared on “06880.” Shortly thereafter, in reaction to public outcry, the town retained the services of Steve Edwards, recently retired director of public works. He was charged with having the fill professionally tested for the presence of toxic substances.
My concerns proved valid. The recently released toxicology report indicates that the material contains DDT, traces of petroleum byproducts, and a level of arsenic that exceeds state standards for human exposure.
Because of the toxicology report and public pressure, the town has now agreed to remove all of contaminated fill (ideally within the next few months, according to the current director of public works), and restore the meadow to its previous condition.
Morley Boyd says that 6 feet of fill was dumped into the meadow near the Senior Center. (Photo/Morley Boyd)
At Tuesday’s Board of Selectmen meeting, town officials said the tree warden has prepared a replanting plan for the site, including new trees.
In the meantime, residents hope that the toxic pile, which remains fully exposed in the midst of a public park, will be cordoned off to safeguard the health and safety of visitors.
On the whole, this is good news. The town deserves credit for taking responsibility. Still, a number of unanswered questions remain — notably, why did this happen?
The approved site plan for the construction project did not permit the area in question to be disturbed, and the project’s contract included a specific line item for hauling away any excess fill.
Further, many question the wisdom of the town’s proposed plan for reusing the contaminated fill: a parking lot project at the Greens Farms railroad station.
Although the toxicology report — consistent with state guidelines — recommends that the contaminated fill be buried beneath several feet of clean fill if it is to be moved and reused, there is an apparent regulatory conflict.
While state standards for the use of fill are more relaxed, Westport’s are quite stringent. They specifically do not allow the use of fill containing “petroleum based products or materials.”
Since the Baron’s South fill has been shown to contain — in addition to other toxins — chunks of asphalt, it remains unclear how the town can use the fill at the Greens Farms train station and also comply with its own regulations.
If there is any doubt as to whether or not this contaminated fill can be safely remediated for reuse in a public space, wouldn’t the wisest solution be to just dispose of it at a proper facility?
Whatever ultimately happens to the toxic fill, the good news is that a quiet corner of Westport’s “Central Park” will soon return to its natural state. And that’s in large part due to the vigilance and concern of the “06880” community.
With support from a wide range of town officials, the Westport/Weston Clergy Association and — most importantly — longtime residents, the Board of Finance last night unanimously approved $3.975 million to expand the Senior Center.
Dozens of Westporters had written in praise of the project. Finance members seemed moved by the broad support — particularly the emails and letters (many of them handwritten) from men and women who have lived here for decades.
The expansion will add 8,362 square feet to the Imperial Road facility, and add 27 parking spots.
Construction could begin in the fall of 2018.
A rendering of the proposed Senior Center building.
A recent post highlighting one former Westporter’s disillusionment with what his former hometown lit a (predictable) fire in the “06880” comments section.
In response, someone who grew up here in the 1960s — then returned to Westport 10 years ago to live — offered these thoughts on positive changes in over the decades.
Staples. “What a magnificent facility this is now,” the writer says. “It reminds me of a modern college complex. And while going to classes back in the ’60s via outdoor walkways was great on beautiful fall and spring days, it was a pain in the neck in the winter and during downpours.
The fieldhouse and pool, the returnee adds, represent much-improved athletic facilities. They’re used often, by people of all ages.
The Staples High School of yesteryear looked nothing like this.
Levitt Pavilion. “We had nothing like this growing up. A true cultural and entertainment jewel.”
Toquet Hall. “There was no teen center when we grew up,” the “06880” reader notes.
Senior Center. “Was there anything like this back in the day?” No way.
Library. The writer says there is “absolutely no comparison between the old cramped Post Road building and the current location. Besides the far greater offering of books and periodicals, the present-day library is much more of a community center in so many ways. The hours are also much more extensive now.”
The Library looks a lot different from its previous, cramped quarters.
Speaking of hours, stores are open far longer than in the past. This is a function of the repeal of Connecticut’s blue laws, but it’s a change for the better, the reader says.
Restaurants offer a “much greater choice today (and I’m sure most people would add, a great choice of high quality).”
Longshore, including the building housing the tennis pro shop, lockers and food concession, is “a beautifully designed gateway to that section of the club, far superior to the prior run-down building.” Much of the rest of Longshore — the pool, inn, golf course and marina — is also vastly improved.
The person who responded served up this challenge: “If you’ve got a Westport connection going back at least 20 years, what else is better now?”
I’ll start it off: We never had local blogs 🙂
To add your own thoughts, click the “Comments” link.
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