Tag Archives: STAR Lighting the Way

Roundup: Kayak Thefts, Hurricane Ida, School Calendar …

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Kayak threats from Compo Beach — first reported on “06880” in July — continue.

Mousumi Ghosh is the latest victim. Her red Eddyline Equinox is gone from the storage area. She writes:

“We are devastated. It was one of the few recreations that we were able to enjoy as a family during the last year, not to mention the cost to replace it.

“I was away for a month for a family emergency. It could have happened any time during August.

“From speaking with others, I am discovering that this is not an isolated event. Many believe that crime is on the rise at the beach. Neither the police nor Parks & Rec are hopeful that the kayak can be recovered, or that there is much they can do to help.”

If anyone sees it (the rack emblem is #39), please call Westport Police. Meanwhile, another victim contacted “06880,” suggested security cameras. They’re installed elsewhere at the beach already. Perhaps it’s time to extend their range.

Kayak racks at Compo Beach. They look lovely — but they’re not secure. (Photo/Lauri Weiser)

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Among Wednesday night’s Hurricane Ida flood victims: The Toy Post.

The store at 180 Post Road East (near Imperial Avenue) has no flood insurance. They’re offering 50% off anything wet. (Hat tip: Jonathan Alloy)

Part of The Toy Post’s flood.

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Sure, you can have a January-to-December calendar. But in Westport — where the rhythm of life is attuned to the school year — you really need the Public Schools’ September-to-September version.

Plus, it’s decorated with artwork by local students, from kindergarten through 12th grade. Some very impressive stuff there!

And: It’s a fundraiser, for the Westport Public Art Collections. Paintings, photos and more hang in every school and municipal building in town.

Click here, then scroll down to order. The cost is $20 (pick up) or $23 (mail). It’s available too at ASF, Colonial Druggists, and the Westport Library.

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For many years, the small shop on Maple Avenue South was Mario & Mike’s barber. Then it became Bill’s. After that, Salon Juljen.

Now it’s vacant. A sign says they’ve moved to Southport. No word on whether a new hair place — or some other business — will move in to the mixed commercial-residential building. (Hat tip: Chris Grimm)

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It’s been 2 years since CLASP Homes’ last in-person, inside event.

But the Westport organization — which serves people and families with autism and developmental disabilities — is returning to live fundraising in a big, fun way.

Band Central brings the best of Motown and soul to a benefit concert (October 15, 6:30 p.m. Fairfield Theatre, Company).

Click here for tickets, and more information. To volunteer, email rhammond@clasphomes.org.

In other CLASP news: Throughout September, the Westport Book Shop will exhibit the works of 4 participants in its art program. The used book store is on Jesup Road, across the green from the library.

CLASP art, at the Westport Book Shop.

 

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Another organization serving people with disabilities — STAR Lighting the Way — has good news too.

A grant from the Drew Friedman Arts Center will help them provide art classes to people with intellectual and developmental differences. The 6-week sessions cover a range of mediums — including photography, watercolor, acrylics, collage, dance, improvisation, acting and more — and engage local artists.

Some have already begun, at One River Art School in Westport.

Artists — including Drew Friedman Arts Center director Miggs Burroughs (far right) and STAR officials.

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Carl Addison Swanson’s 49th book has just been published. And it’s already been optioned by HBO.

A husband whose wife dies after a botched birth delivery stalks the guilty doctors and nurses — slowly and methodically.

Click here to order, and for more information.

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Today’s “Westport … Naturally” feature shows a praying mantis. Peggy Lehn spotted 2 of the cool-but-creepy-looking creatures on her garage.

(Photo/Peggy Lehn)

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And finally … today is the 80th anniversary of the birth of Tompall Glaser.

Though less well known than his fellow country “outlaw” singers Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and Jessi Colter, he had quite a career before dying in 2013.

Among my favorites: this decidedly tongue in cheek tune from 1976.

Roundup: Run For RTM, Boat Storage, Senior Golf, STAR Jobs,

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Want to run the town?

Or at least, help pass budgets, review board and commission decisions, and weigh in on matters like plastic bags and the Vietnam War?

The non-partisan Representative Town Meeting (RTM) does (or has done) all that, and much more.

36 members are elected to 2-year terms, from 9 districts. All seats are open, in the next election.

Westport residents interested in running can pick up a petition at the Town Clerk’s office. You  need 25 signatures from residents in their district to be on the November 2 ballot. 

The Town Clerk’s office will supply a district map, and list of all voters. Petitions are due September 14.

Questions? Contact town clerk Jeffrey Dunkerton: 203-341-1105; jdunkerton@westportct.gov.

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No, you were not alone.

Air quality in Westport was poor last night. The culprit — as some suspected — was the wildfires ravaging the West. Particles have traveled thousands of miles, and are affecting our East Coast town.

Here’s a view from Compo Beach:

(Photo/Betsy Pollak)

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Last night was also a mess downtown.

Water gushed into the street from construction work at the former Banana Republic on Main Street. The Fire Department responded promptly.

Main Street, yesterday. (Photo/Isabelle Taglia, Coleytown Middle School 8th grader)

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Starting November 1, Westport’s Parks & Recreation Department will offer winter boat storage at Longshore. Residents can store boats on their trailers in the gravel lot (Lot F) through April 15.

Space is available for 24 boats up to 24 feet (including trailer). Five more spaces are available, for boats with up to 32 feet. Rates are $720 plus tax for up to 24 feet, $960 for tax for the longer vessels..

Spots are first come, first served, for Westport residents only. For an application, email rgiunta@westportct.gov. (Hat tip: Fred Cantor)

A beautiful summer sight. But where will you store our boat this winter?

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Congratulations to Marc Lasry. Besides being a hedge fund billionaire, the Greens Farms resident owns the Milwaukee Bucks. Last night, they won their 1st NBA championship in 50 years.

Marc Lasry (right), after the Bucks won the NBA championship. (Screen shot photo/Fred Cantor)

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Speaking of sports: Leela Narang-Benaderet just made history. The 1988 Staples High School grad is the first Westporter to qualify for the US Senior Women’s Golf Open. She did it last week, with a 76 in the qualifier at Greenwich Country Club.

Over 400 golfers — most of them pros — competed internationally to earn a spot. Leela may have the easiest travel of all: The event will be hosted by Brooklawn Country Club in Fairfield. Mark your calendars: July 29 to August 1. (Hat tip: Patty Kondub)

Leela Narang-Benaderet

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More competition news:

Vivek Kanthan is the US Rotax Max Challenge karting champion. The Westport 7th grader — who attends Pearson Online Academy, due to his travel schedule — won 7 of the 12 races in this year’s series. He will represent the US at the world championship in Bahrain later this year.

The final race was at New Jersey Motorsports Park last weekend. Sweltering heat, humidity and track temperatures of 103 degrees made the already exciting final round much more intense.

Karts reached speeds of 70 miles an hour. Vivek overcame a strong challenge to win, by just 0.08 seconds.

Vivek Kanthan, at the winner’s podium.

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STAR Lighting the Way has received a $20,000 grant from Fairfield County’s Community Foundation. The money will help people  with intellectual and developmental disabilities find work, through STAR’s My First Jobs program.

STAR’s customized employment program for people with disabilities leads the state in job placements and hours worked. A team of job developers, employment managers and job coaches work with individuals, and networks with businesses, to create job opportunities, supervise training, and find locations to host classes in life, social, arts, and recreational skills.

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Parking’s reserved. So — apparently — is this spot atop the sign, for today’s “Westport … Naturally” photo.

(Photo/Daniel Hoffman)

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And finally … today marks the 160th anniversary of the first major Civil War battle. The First Battle of Bull Run, near Manassas, Virginia, ended in a Confederate victory.

In 1990, Ric Burns’ astonishing 9-part PBS miniseries brought the war — in all its glory and greed, courage and cowardice, epic sweep and tiny details — into American homes. I watch it every few years, to try and understand this momentous event in our nation’s history.

Perhaps the most memorable segment of the entire series was Sullivan Ballou’s letter to his wife. Written a week before the First Battle of Bull Run, it provides viewers an astonishing combination of love, eloquence and historical perspective.

Jay Ungar’s haunting “Ashokan Farewell” — a heart-rending violin duet with Molly Mason — makes this the most impactful three minutes you may ever see and hear.

Everyone Onto The Porch!

Westport’s newest hot spot opened its doors yesterday.

And its porch.

From 6:30 a.m. till dark, The Porch at Christie’s was packed.

The Porch at Christie’s co-owner Bill Pecoriello, on the porch.

Neighbors, contractors, middle and high school kids, folks from across town — all headed to the Cross Highway bakery/café/ice cream stand.

They loved the breakfast specials, bowls, paninis, wraps and baked goods. They hung out on the porch (of course), and played cornhole on the grass.

But that’s only part of the story.

“We have 3 pillars: food, community and purpose,” says Bill Pecoriello, who with his wife Andrea own The Porch.

The food speaks for itself: high quality, affordable prices, everything from bagels  and egg sandwiches to crumb cakes, cookies, freshly turkey and roast beef, flatbreads, farro and salmon teriyaki — plus “fun snacks” for kids, like hot pretzels with dipping sauce, pizza pops and Belgian-style waffles.

Not to mention great J. Foster ice cream.

The Porch ice cream stand.

The community part is important too. At a soft opening for nearby residents on Saturday, newcomers from New York met 50-year residents. When the Pecoriellos turned off the lights, people were still socializing on the (of course) porch.

“Commuters, teachers, students, landscapers — everyone is welcome. There’s something for everyone, 7 days a week,” Andrea says. “Hello Friend” signs and t-shirts are everywhere. Half the employees are Staples students.

But “purpose” may be the most important pillar.

The Porch is the Pecoriellos’ second venture into providing opportunities for those who often lack them. Inspired by their 3 children’s volunteer efforts while at Staples High School, they founded Sweet P Bakery. The Norwalk non-profit teaches baking skills to people with disabilities — then hires them.

The Porch purchases baked goods from Sweet P. (The muffins, cinnamon buns and more are made in Norwalk, but finished at the store. The aroma alone will sell dozens a day.)

The bakery features sweet items from Sweet P.

They have also hired a dozen people with physical and developmental disabilities. They work the counter, serve as greeters, and help in other capacities. They’re trained and supervised by an educator.

That’s not all. The Pecoriellos — whose Sweet P bakery has partnered with STAR on a baking class — hope to sell paintings and more, made by STAR clients. And they’ve talked with Westport Book Shop (which also employs people with disabilities) to paint unsold books as decorative items, sell them, and split the profits.

Speaking of paint: You won’t find a more pleasant place to work (or eat) (or hang). The interior of what was most recently Chef’s Table is bright and new. Staples grad Jess Spector painted a mural on the side of the building, where extra chairs invite even more sitting.

The fresh, new Porch interior. (Photos/Dan Woog)

It was hard to tell yesterday who smiled more: the customers, employees or owners.

The Pecoriellos have worked hard for nearly a year to make their vision come true. Andrea described it as the kind of place where, “if I was on vacation somewhere in New England and saw this, I’d say, ‘If this was in Westport, I’d support it every day.'”

They’ve created that vibe, for sure.

And they’ve done much more.

During the soft opening, a man with a special needs son stopped by. He’d moved to Westport for the school system’s opportunities.

Seeing people with special needs greeting customers, and serving them, he thanked the owners.

Then he said, “Today, I see a future for my son.”

PORCH SWINGS: The Porch at Christie’s is open weekdays 6:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Saturdays 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sundays 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The ice cream stand (adjacent to the store) is open weekdays from 2 to 8 p.m., weekends noon to 8.

A weekend-only brunch menu features babka French toast, pancakes, scrambles and more.

Online ordering is coming soon, through the website (www.theporchatchristies.com). QR codes will be available outside for customers who are still uncomfortable indoors; orders will be brought out.

Westport filmmaker Doug Tirola made a documentary about Sweet P Bakery. It plays on a loop near the baked goods. Another film is in the works, about the long history of the store — founded in 1926 by Christie Masiello.

Andrea and Bill Pecoriello: the visionary Porch owners.

Roundup: Staples Players, Waxx Vaxx, Stop Sign …

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Excitement is building in the Staples High School auditorium. The curtain rises this Thursday (and Friday, and twice on Saturday) for the first Staples Players live production in 14 months.

David Ives’ “Words Words Words … and Music” is a truly funny series of mini-plays (with 2 mini-musicals to boot). But even though each audience is limited to only 300 seats, tickets remain.

It it because the show is unfamiliar? Perhaps there’s residual pandemic fear (click here to see the precautions taken). Maybe audiences have forgotten just how professional-quality Players’ acting and music are.

Whatever the reason: The program needs community support. For 63 years, that support has sustained Players, and allowed it to thrive,

Westport cherishes the high school acting troupe. But Westporters may not realize how important it is for all 300 tickets to sell out for each show (Thursday, Friday and Saturday, May 20, 21 and 22 at 7:30 p.m., and May 22 at 2 p.m.).

“Words Words Words … and Music” is laugh-out-loud funny — and very family-friendly. Young audiences, in fact, are the future of Players. They’ve missed a year of shows, so this is the perfect time to bring them back.

Click here for tickets and more information. See you at the show!

Sophie Rossman, Benny Zack and Samanath Webster in “Words Words Words.” Fully vaccinated actors will perform in clear visors. (Photo/Kerry Long)

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The CDC’s head-turning elimination of mask-wearing for vaccinated people raises a good question: “How do I know if someone is vaccinated?”

Staples High School Class of 2009 graduate Mike Bowen has a way.

Bowen — aka Mike Waxx — owns Illroots brand. It branched out from music and videos to apparel and footwear. For a while, it’s offered a custom apparel “Shirt App” in the App Store.

Users can create their own t-shirt or hoodies. They choose the design (including pictures from their iPhone library), then add text and stickers.

So what’s the Waxx/vaxx connection? You can design a shirt like this:

Or — better yet — add a photo of yourself getting your shot.

Then wear it proudly the next time you stroll — mask-less — into Trader Joe’s.

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A 185-foot sailboat drew attention yesterday, as it anchored dramatically in Long Island Sound just beyond the Compo Beach cannons. Several “06880” readers sent photos of the luxurious craft.

Westporters are reminded of the yacht that anchored near there several years ago. Rumors — never confirmed — were that it belonged to Eric Clapton, and he was visiting Keith Richards in Weston.

(Photo/Matt Murray)

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Yesterday’s Roundup included a photo of a handmade poster hung beneath the stop sign on Clinton Road, at Fillow Street.

It said: “Stop! Kids live here!”

Here’s the back story, courtesy of Erika Brunwasser:

“Few stop, many ‘pause,’ and a bunch fly through without even pausing.

“I have 2 little girls, ages 2 and 5. It’s scary and unacceptable. I called the police several times and asked about a flashing light, a speed bump and a sign to monitor speed. I’ve been told none of these are possible.

“They promised me that someone would monitor the area. This happened less a handful of times. The other day I sat in my front yard screaming at people, and realized I needed a better plan.

“I brought in the help of my next-door neighbor, artist Lilie Fortino (who was raised in Westport) to make a sign. We put it up Saturday evening. It made an immediate difference. Everyone has stopped (if only to glance at the beautiful sign — that’s fine with me). It worked.”

It shouldn’t take a sign and a stop sign to get drivers to stop roaring through residential neighborhoods (or anywhere else).

But if that’s what it takes — we’ll take it.

Lilie Fortino and her 1-year-old. Erika Brunwasser and her children. SLOW DOWN!

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Speaking of yesterday’s Roundup: It also included mention that Sarah “Fergie” Ferguson would read The Sly Fox of the Mind — a children’s book by Westporters Brooke Olstein and Lee Scharfstein — on her YouTube channel, “Story Time with Fergie and Friends.”

Click below to watch. It’s a wonderful book — made even greater when read in the Queen’s English.

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Speaking of books: Financial journalist and author Michael Lewis will be interviewed by noted former New York Times writer Lisa Belkin.

Lewis’s newest book, The Premonition: A Pandemic Story follows 3 main characters – a biochemist, public health worker and federal employee – as they confront COVID, and find that the response from the US government is woefully inadequate.

The event is June 15 (7 p.m.). Click here to register.

Michael Lewis

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Speaking of entertainment: This is a week of animated adventures and classic comedies at the Remarkable Theater.

The Imperial Avenue drive-in features:

  • “Zootopia” (Wednesday, May 19, 7:45 p.m.)
  • “Minions” (Friday, May 21, 8 p.m.)
  • “Happy Gilmore” (Saturday, May 22, 8:30 p.m.)

Click here for tickets, and more information.

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The Westport Woman’s Club’s 6th annual Art Show this Saturday and Sunday (May 22-23, 2 to 6 p.m.) features an all-star list of 14 area artists. They include Nina Bentley, Amy Bock, Trace Burroughs, Susan Fehlinger, Judith Orseck Katz, Tom Kretsch, Susan Leggitt, Kerry Long, Michael Ledner, Carole McClintock, Bernard Perry, Jon Puzzuoli, Katherine Ross and Jo Titsworth.

Plus light snacks and wine, of course. It would not be an art show without them.

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Everyone at Staples High School knows Laura Blair. She runs the copy machine room, and is a tireless fan of Wreckers sports teams.

She’s also one of STAR’s greatest fundraiser. For years she has participated in the non-profit’s annual Sherwood Island walk. Funds help serve hundreds of area people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

This year’s STAR Walk is virtual. But Laura is working as hard as ever. So far her team has raised over $6,000 — more than half of her $12,000 goal.

“Stars” are just $1 each. Click here to help. To learn more about STAR Lighting the Way, click here.

Laura Blair is a fundraising STAR.

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Today’s “Westport … Naturally” photo is from behind the pro shop, on the Longshore golf course:

(Photo/Tom Lowrie)

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And finally … was Eric Clapton really on that yacht off Compo years ago?

 

Roundup: Granola Bar, Pruning, Pups, More

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When COVID hit, restaurants needed fast, to-go-friendly food. The Granola Bar scaled back their menu.

Many customers missed their oatmeal and turkey chili.

Great news: They’re back!

So is the kids’ menu. And the expanded bakery now includes cookie dough brownies, plus paleo and traditional chocolate chunk cookies.

There are specials each week. Coming soon: a robust catering department.

The Granola Bar has closed down their  pop-up taco bar. But more evening pop-ups will be announced soon. Follow @thegranolabar on Instagram for details.

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Pruning a tree, and raising a dog.

They’re all in a day’s work — well, 2 — at Wakeman Town Farm.

On February 8 (7 p.m.), master gardener/composter and Westport Garden Club civics chair Nathalie Fonteyne Gavrilovic offers the fundamentals of pruning. She’ll cover techniques, tools and timing. Click here to register.

On March 8 (7 p.m., Zoom), Dr. Jessica Melman discusses diet, crate training, vaccination schedules, flea/tick/heartworm prevention, common house hazards and more. She’ll answer questions too.

It’s perfect for all the new pandemic puppy owners. Click here to register.

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As a junior on the Boston College women’s rowing team, 2018 Staples High School graduate Brooke Schwab has spent more hours than she can count on the erg machine. It’s the workout rowers love to hate.

But today (Tuesday, January 26), she’ll erg 100,000 meters — with joy (and sweat).

A usual BC workout is 2,000 meters — 5,000 tops. These 100,000 meters — equivalent to 63 miles — will take 10 to 12 hours to complete.

The goal is to raise money for pancreatic cancer research, through the Jimmy Fund and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

She’s honoring a close family friend, who was diagnosed last year at just 18.

Brooke is doing the heavy lifting — er, rowing. To do the easy thing — contribute — click here.

Brooke Schwab

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Published today: “The Attributes: 25 Hidden Drivers of Optimal Performance.”

Author Rich Diviney — a 1991 Staples High School graduate — is a retired Navy SEAL commander. In 20-plus years, he completed more than 13 overseas deployments — 11 to Iraq and Afghanistan. He was intimately involved in the SEAL selection process, whittling a group of exceptional candidates down to small cadre of the most elite.

His new book examines what it takes to be those optimal performers.

Diviney was often surprised by which candidates washed out and which succeeded. Some had all the right skills yet failed; others he might have initially dismissed rose to the top.

Seemingly objective criteria did not tell him who would succeed in the toughest military assignments. It is just as hard to predict success in the “real world.”

Diviney explores the lessons he’s learned about attributes –including cunning, adaptability, courage, even narcissism — that determine resilience, perseverance. situational awareness and conscientiousness.

He shares stories from the military, business, sports, relationships and parenting.

Click here for more information. (Hat tip: Celia Offir)

Rich Diviney

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Many Americans honored Martin Luther King last week. STAR Lighting the Way is celebrating him all year.

The non-profit — which serves people of all ages impacted by intellectual and developmental disabilities, and their families — is collaborating this year with Open Doors Shelter and Person-to-Person. Together, the organizations will address local food insecurity and hunger.

Volunteers will collaborate with STAR clients to prepare, deliver and serve hot meals to Open Doors Shelter, and collect non-perishable food to deliver to Person-to-Person.

The first meals were prepared by chef Luis Solis, owner of Don Carmelo’s. Dessert came from Sweet P Bakery in Norwalk, founded by Westporters Bill and Andrea Pecoriello. Both institutions are longtime STAR cooking class supporters.

The initiative was launched on the MLK Day of Service. Officials lauded a $20,000 grant from The Arc-US and AmeriCorps, to help the effort.

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Karen Veronica — founder of Bread & Roses, the AIDS care center in Georgetown — died yesterday at her home in Ohio.

Her path to helping hundreds of people — at a time when many communities turned backs on them — began when her ex-husband contracted AIDS.

She, his lover and her 2 teen-age daughters — students at Staples High School — cared for him during the 18-month illness that kept him bed-ridden until his death in 1988.

Her grief turned to activism. Bread & Roses opened the next year. Click here for Jarret Liotta’s story on her impact from the New York Times.

Karen Veronica

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Bernie Sanders continues to hang around town.

Now he’s waiting impatiently for the start of Westport Country Playhouse’s 2021 season.

(Meme courtesy of Bruce Miller)

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And finally … today is Australia Day. (Well, it is still January 26 in the US. In Australia, it’s already tomorrow.)

The holiday marks the 1788 arrival of the First Fleet at Port Jackson in New South Wales, and the raising of the British flag at Sydney Cove by Arthur Phillip. Aboard the ships: 750 British prisoners, and 250 military men.

 

Roundup: Justin Paul, MoCA, STAR Award, More


Justin Paul already won a Tony Award for “Dear Evan Hansen.”

Now the 2003 Staples High School graduate has an Olivier too.

On Sunday, the show — which opened in London last November — earned 2 prestigious Laurence Olivier Awards. They’re the British equivalent of Tonys, for plays performed there.

Paul and his writing partner Benj Pasek were honored for “Best Original Score.” “Dear Evan Hansen” was also named Best New Musical.

The ceremony was originally scheduled for April, in Royal Albert Hall. After COVID, it was postponed to Sunday. Most of the ceremony was pre-taped, at the London Palladium. Click here for full details.

Justin Paul (Photo/Dan Woog)


Stress levels are high leading to Election Day. Even after voting, many residents will no doubt feel anxious.

So how about feeding your soul with some art? “World Peace” — the current exhibit at MoCA Westport, a multi-media show including photography, sculpture, video works and art that address the culture of American politics will be free, and open to the public, on Election Day (10 a.m. to 3 p.m.).

Just show your “I Voted” sticker (or mention you voted by absentee ballot). Click here for more about the exhibit.

MoCA is also hosting an Election Day workshop for children and teenagers, featuring voting-related projects related to the show. There are 2 sessions: 10 a.m. to noon, and 2-4 p.m. Click here for details.


For nearly 70 years, STAR Lighting the Way has provided services to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and their families.

Services include education, after-school and summer camp programs, behavioral interventions, advocacy, job training, residential support, and much, much more.

STAR is a shining light in Fairfield County. I am honored, through “06880,” to spotlight so many good things the organization does.

So I was especially proud to receive this year’s “Media Partner of the Year” award from STAR. The handsome glass award sits on my desk, a reminder of what a wonderful community we are all part of.


Among Martha Aasen’s many passions, Martha Aasen was particularly loyal to the Westport Library.

To honor the longtime civic volunteer, who died last week at 90, the library as created a Martha Aasen Memorial Fund.

Contributions will help fund ongoing programs and projects. A plaque near the daily newspapers will honor her commitment to the community. Click here to contribute.

Martha Aasen and her husband Larry.


Brittany Berlin graduated from Staples High School in 2012, and Georgetown University 4 years later.

She began a corporate career, then began a blog to share her passion for wholesome recipes accessible to people with food allergies and specific dietary concerns. The Banana Diaries features goodies with a healthy twist.

Simon & Schuster just published her first book. Baked with Love includes over 100 allergy-friendly vegan desserts — all developed and tested by Brittany. She took all the photos too.

Click here for details and ordering information. (Hat tip: Nathalie Fonteyne)


Sure, it’s another in what seems like a series of endless gray days.

But the sun shone (briefly) the other day. And Lori Lustig snapped this gorgeous reminder of why nothing — anywhere! — compares to autumn in New England:

(Photo/Lori Lustig)

And finally … in honor of Justin Paul’s Olivier Award:

 

Roundup: JoyRide And STAR, Short Film Festival, More


Many Westporters spin. Many support efforts to help great causes.

Now JoyRide and STAR Lighting the Way are teaming up to raise money for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

A spin class this Saturday (September 26, 12 to 1 p.m.) will help fund STAR programs — and all donations will be matched 100% by an anonymous donor.

This is a great opportunity for new spinners, experienced ones, and everybody in between. It’s an inclusive, no-judgment opportunity.

The cost is $50 per rider, payable to STAR at the door. Space is limited; click here to register.


For 9 years, Nancy Diamond produced the “Short Cuts” festival at Garden Cinemas.

The Norwalk art house theater has closed. But the series soon goes virtual. Its new sponsor is the Westport Library.

The dates are Thursday, October 8 and Thursday, November 12. Both “festivals” run from 7 p.m. to 8:45.

As usual, Nancy will introduce 5 short movies curated from the Tribeca Film Festival. Afterward though, there’s a remote talkback with 3 of the films’ directors. They’ll be live — and around the globe. One is in Switzerland, another from the UK, and a third all the way in Brooklyn.

Anyone can watch at home via computer, or cast onto a big-screen TV. They’ll also be shown on the Remarkable Theater’s even-bigger Imperial Avenue parking lot screen. There’s room for 70 (socially distanced) cars.

Click here to read about the films, and order tickets.


And finally … today is the first day of fall. Happy equinox!

Roundup: COVID Testing, College Help, Gatsby in Connecticut, More


A reader writes:

“I just got myself and my kids tested at St Vincent’s Medical Center drive-thru at 47 Long Lots Road.

“I called 860-972-8100 this morning, got an appointment (no symptoms, no suspected contact, just routine — I wanted a baseline before school starts).

“We drove straight over (they are open 8 a.m. to noon). There was no line, no cost, just a gentle nose swab. They said results would be available in 3-5 days. We got ours in 1 day!

“Boom! Easy! In my opinion, we should/could all be doing this before school starts.”


Since 1952, STAR Lighting the Way has helped people of all ages impacted by intellectual and developmental disabilities live full, independent  lives.

They’re now launching a broader multi-lingual program for children experiencing, or at risk of, developmental delays. It expands services from birth through age 5, with additional options for children up to 8.

It includes direct coaching intervention by licensed occupational, physical, speech and behavioral therapists, and special education teachers; developmental evaluations and consultations; transition to school support; group activities (birth to age 5) like feeding, movement, play and music groups, plus additional services (6 to 8) including behavioral supports, assistive technology, translation and family supports.

For more information, email Barbara Fitzpatrick (starrubino@starct.org), or call 203-855-0634.


There’s a new college counseling service in town. And the counselors are not even out of college.

Nishika Navrange and Genevieve Demenico are 2019 Staples High School graduates. Both are products of the entire Westport school system. They were presidents of Staples’ Science Olympiad team and members of numerous honor societies. They attend NYU and Georgetown Universities (right now, online). So they know high school — and college.

Through Zoom and outdoor, socially distanced meetings, they offer essay help (“it’s a narrow way of writing, and we help keep the student’s personal voice,” they say), Common App advice, and counsel on where to apply.

Because they know students at “nearly every popular school,” Neshika and Genevieve can connect high schoolers with current collegians, for a personal connection and even (when they resume) a college tour.

For more information, email ctcollegeconsultants@gmail.com.

Genevieve Demenico and Nishika Navrange.


“Gatsby in Connecticut” — the video by Robert Steven Williams chronicling F. Scott Fitzgerald’s time in Westport, and its impact on his classic novel (with Sam Waterston as the writer, and voiceover by Keir Dullea) — is now available to rent, download or buy.

It’s available on Amazon Instant, iTunes, Google Play, Vudu, Fandango Now, Vimeo, Microsoft Xbox and YouTube, and via most cable providers. Click here for the trailer.

And click here to read an insightful review from The New Yorker. (Hat tip: Fred Cantor)


And finally … what was the most popular song of 1920, the year F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald lived in Westport (as noted above)? It was “Swanee” by Al Jolson — shown here in what to our eyes, 100 years later, is jarringly inappropriate blackface.

Roundup: History Museum Stays Closed; MoCA Reopens; Main Street; More


Cultural institutions are reopening around Connecticut. However, the Westport Museum for History and Culture will remain closed.

Executive director Ramin Ganeshram says it’s not because they want to. Instead, she wrote in an email to members, “we have to.”

One reason: the “antique building with small rooms and an aged HVAC system” lacks the air filtration or cross-ventilation needed to host more than 1 or 2 visitor at a time.

In addition, a “major structural failure in the center of the building that was left unaddressed for many years and exacerbated by aspects of the way the building was used” will take “a lot of time and a lot of financial resources to ultimately fix.”

However, Ganeshram said, the COVID closure has allowed staff to “fix both the structural failure and work to save collections and archives that had not been properly assessed, catalogued or preserved for many decades.”


MoCA Westport is reopening. The big day is Wednesday (July 8).

In anticipation, they’ve released a short film showcasing the current exhibition: “Helmut Lang: 41.1595° N, 73.3882° W.”

The video from Douglas Tirola and 4th Row Films offers a first-person experience of walking through the exhibition, and provides background on Lang’s inspiration for the works. Click below to see.


Last night was gorgeous. The temperature was just right. It was Friday — the start of the weekend.

It was the perfect night for a picnic, meeting friends, or sunset watching at Compo Beach. It hardly mattered that there are no grills or picnic tables, and the concession stand is closed.

Nearly everyone heeded the social distancing signs. Many wore masks. And nearly everyone seemed grateful to be outdoors, with other people, again.

(Photo/Dan Woog)


The Main Street planters are all in place. The Westport Downtown Merchants Association project was created to provide more room for shoppers.

This was the scene yesterday morning. Come on down — there’s plenty of space!


Speaking of flowers: This week’s Westport Garden Club #Friday Flowers decorations are at Nevada Hitchcock Park *the corner of Cross Highway and Weston Road).

Two great factoids: The park honors Hitchcock, a founding member of the club. And the flowers — from the gardens of Andi Turner, Janice Yost and Topsy Siderowf — are pollinators. This is National Pollinator Week.

(Photo/Topsy Siderowf)


Meanwhile, the Pop’TArt gallery downtown had a low-key opening last night for its new “Scheherezade: The Shapes of Stories” sculpture exhibition. It will be up for the next month.

It’s outdoors — to the delight of at least one young, budding art lover.


When COVID forced shutdowns and program closures, STAR went to work.

For the past 68 years, the organization has provided services and support to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and their families.

During the pandemic. STAR’s 45-minute Zoom classes kept clients and their loved ones connected and involved.

Westport participants have included Yvonne O’Kane, who taught cupcake decorating; artist Miggs Burroughs, State Senator Will Haskell, and Wakeman Town Farm. There’s been live music too, along with virtual dance parties.

Kudos to STAR, for this innovative, important programming — and to all who help make it work. Click here for more information.


And finally … Happy jUNe Day!

COVID-19 Roundup: Westport Rocks, German Blues, Mystic Market, Meditation, STAR And More

Jen Greely and Lindsay Weiner rock!

In more ways than one. Their new project — Westport Rocks —  spreads joy all around town.

The women encourage everyone to paint rocks with colorful, encouraging messages — then leave them for others to find.

But that’s not all. To share the spirit, they’ve created “virtual gathering spaces” for everyone’s creations. Before leaving your rocks, take a photo. Then upload them to the website, Instagram and Facebook page.

It’s a community project — and one that entire families can enjoy. For more info, email westportctrocks@gmail.com.


On Sunday, I posted a wonderful video of 1970 Staples High School grad — and Seattle Opera star — Stephen Wall lifting up his neighbors with beautiful Italian opera.

Now Stephen sends along this clip of his former Smoke bandmate — and ’71 SHS alum — Jeffrey Dowd. He’s spent the last 40-plus years singing opera around the world, from his home base in Germany.

Here’s his important (and funny) message on social distancing. It’s a new spin on Fats Waller’s classic song. And no, Fats never sang opera.


The Gillespie Center needs 23 meals a day — but they no longer have access to the kitchen they use.

Fortunately, they’ve teamed up with Mystic Market. The great Saugatuck spot makes all the meals, each day. They’d love to donate them all — but unfortunately they can’t afford to.

Fortunately, with their new app and website, anyone can help. You can buy 1 meal for 1 person; all 23 meals for a day; all the meals for a week — even all the meals for a month.

Click here for the website. Choose “Takeout” as if you’re ordering; then scroll to the meal donation section.

To order via the app (easier): download the app, search for “Mystic Market Westport.” Just look for the “Meal Donation” button — the one with 2 hands holding a heart (below).


Among the many Westporters who have reached out to others in the pandemic: helping people with intellectual and developmental disabilities through STAR.

Chef Lisa Finn from Wakeman Town Farm, Yvonne O’Kane, Miggs Burroughs, MoCA and Zumba Westport YMCA all offer virtual classes via Zoom for STAR participants.

They — and the entire STAR staff — are grateful. For more information (including how to help), email jthompson@starct.org.

Miggs Burroughs teaches art by Zoom.


Dr. Allen Levy is a psychotherapist, clinical social worker and modern psychoanalyst. He has been in private practice since 1978, the last 20 years in Westport.

He has long offered free meditation classes in Bay Street office. Now he’s providing them, via Zoom, to the community (Fridays 12-1 p.m., Mondays 8-9 p.m.). They appeal to spiritually minded people, as well as professionally minded scientists.

Dr. Levy also offers psychotherapy sessions through Telehealth. For more information on his meditation classes and therapy sessions, click here.

Dr. Allen Levy


This time of year, the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce usually gears up for big events. Now they’re busy rearranging them.

The May 31 Dog Festival has been pushed back to October 4.

The May Supper & Soul is canceled. The next one is set for November.

The annual First Citizen Award gala dinner will be held in the fall, instead of June.

All in-person networking events are being run virtually.  The first one is next  Thursday (April 16, 9 a.m.). Click here for details.

Slice of Saugatuck, meanwhile, is still on as of now. Save the date: Saturday, September 12.

For more Chamber information — including their list of restaurants and markets that are open for curbside and/or delivery — click here.


Around town, there seems to be some confusion over what “social distancing” means. Six feet apart should be pretty clear — even on an outdoor walk.

Need a photo? Mary Sikorski provides one. Just follow what these guys are doing on the Longshore golf course:


And finally, give it up for the awesome O’Jays as they offer both an inspirational message, and the greatest bell bottoms in the history of fashion: