Greenwich Gossip

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Michael Mason Midwives MISA

The hugely-important issue of the projected Music Instructional Space/Auditorium, aka MISA, came up for one final vote in the RTM (Representative Town Meeting) late last night. Despite many cost increases over the years because of budgetary delays and rising construction costs, the measure passed. Greenwich High School, which has what is undoubtedly one of the finest music programs in the country, if not the world, will finally have enough classroom space for its programs, and a concert hall worthy of the incredible talents of its teachers and students.

This project has been a long time a-birthing. Multiple votes in its favor by the BET (Board of Estimate and Taxation, the Town's financial authority) and the RTM have suffered the perils of Pauline each time some negative news has surfaced. Everyone knew that Greenwich High School was built on a toxic waste dump, but back in the 1960s nobody cared. Nor did any environmental laws worth the name exist at that point.

Fast forward to 2013, when the soil remediation problem has finally come home to roost, at the cost of many millions of dollars. Even though MISA has all the necessary state and federal approvals, the nattering nabobs of negatavistic nay-sayers were doing their best (worst?) to try to derail the project for that reason.

But last night the RTM convincingly voted one last time to support this all-important project. Simply put, you can't put a price tag on excellence. Greenwich High School embodies excellence in a myriad of ways that the recent dumbed-down "educational" standards imposed by the state simply can't begin to measure, and even the son of Isaac Stern, world-famous violinist, took the podium last night to remind us of that fact. Lloyd Hull, an unsung hero of World War II, spoke of the importance of the GI Bill and of education. Winston Churchill was quoted to the effect that the reason wars are fought is to protect the educational rights of the next generation.

And speaking of unsung heroes: the only reason that so many people turned out for the Town Meeting last night is that one man had the courage to bring the issue to a popular vote. That man is Michael Mason, all-powerful chairman of the all-powerful BET. He and his five fellow Republicans voted unanimously to kill the project. But the the six Democrats on the BET voted unanimously to allow it to go forward. Mr. Mason had entered the meeting determined to bury MISA. But then he called a recess, conferred with his fellow Republicans, and came back to cast the tie-breaking vote, as is his prerogative under the BET rules.

He voted to keep the project alive long enough to send it on to the RTM. This allowed for one more round of citizen input on the matter, and it was overwhelmingly favorable. One could almost feel the the mood in the room swing from 50-50, to 55-45, to 60-40, as each speaker, pro or con, spoke their piece. And finally, just minutes before the midnight deadline, the result was announced: MISA will be built.

And so your scribe would like to propose a huge vote of thanks to Michael Mason, whose personal courage and integrity, despite his own reservations about the project, allowed the matter to be brought to the floor of the Town Meeting. Generations of future Greenwich High School students, and indeed the whole Town, will be deeply in his debt for decades to come. Thank you, Mr. Mason!

Monday, April 15, 2013

It's Well Past Time for the Full Story to be Told About the Ten-Acre Swamp

This front-page piece by Bob Horton in Sunday's Yellowwich Time is at once both heartening and discouraging. Heartening, because someone is finally trying to uncover the truth about the toxic waste dump that was chosen as the site for the no-longer-new Greenwich High School. Discouraging, because of the morass of stupidities and obfuscations that have brought us to this point. For shame, Greenwich!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


Today, December 12, 2012, is the last repeating date for what the "experts" say will be about the next thousand years. That's assuming, of course, that recorded time will continue after the Mayan calendar runs out in another nine days.

Sometimes we fall into the fallacy of thinking that one day is pretty much like another. Today reminds us that that is simply not the case. Each day brings new opportunities, new possibilities, and new challenges. Life is a metaphorical chess game that starts over again every day. Like the proverbial nagging boss, it tells us that yesterday is over and done with—what have you done today? It reminds us that each passing moment is a gift—that's why they call it the present.

It is important, methinks, to keep all this in mind as we start each day. Whatever we think our schedules may hold in store for us, life itself will intrude around the cracks and nudge us in new and unexpected directions. The Gospel of Mark is a perfect example: every time Jesus makes a plan, someone or something intrudes, and things take an entirely different course. As the old adage goes, life is what happens while we are making other plans.

Some people, present company included, keep a running score in their head throughout the day. Did you pay a bill, mail a letter, text an encouraging word to a friend? Give yourself a pat on the back, and kick your score up a notch. Did someone come to you for help, and were you able to do something for them? Good for you. Your day has not been wasted.

And then, rather than counting sheep as you fall asleep at night, you might do a brief performance review of your day. What went right? What didn't? What lessons did the events of the day embody?

Well, most of us won't be around for the next repeating date in the calendar. But let's not frivol away the intervening days. Remember that the calendar itself is merely an historical accident, omitting the year zero, and based on a supposed historical event that probably took place six years before the Year One. In the final analysis, it's not how we label our days, but how we spend them that matters.

Friday, November 02, 2012

Sandy Pays a Visit

Seems that the period around Hallowe'en is becoming a popular time for Mother Nature to play Trick or Treat with the townspeople of Greenwich. Last year it was the surprise snowstorm that brought the area to its knees; this year it was the so-called "Frankenstorm" that played havoc with us all. What's next, an earthquake? Stay tuned.

So how did Greenwich fare this time around? Depends on whom you ask. Some neighborhoods had power back in less than a day. Others are coming up on a week with no electricity, and no idea when they may get it back. CL&P trucks are thin on the ground; in fact, your scribe has yet to see a single one. One begins to think they're as mythological as the minotaur.

On the other hand, the Town's Public Works department has done an admirable job of clearing up a huge mess. Early Monday morning your scribe got in his car to drive to the Western Greenwich Civic Center for a cup of hot coffee. In the 5 AM darkness, the streets leading north from the Post Road all seemed like something straight out of a Hollywood disaster movie. Pemberwick Road was blocked by a huge fallen tree, looming unexpectedly out of the gloom with no forewarning. Back to Almira and over to Weaver. Then a bit of bobbing-and-weaving around other, lesser fallen trees, until suddenly there was a concatenation of wires overhead just about the height of a car's roof. The way underneath looked enticingly clear, but it was obviously a gamble not worth taking. Back to the Post Road. Then it was up Riverdale to Fletcher to Comly, and another stab at Pemberwick. Oops. Big tree down at the top of the hill. Back to Comly and one final attempt via King Street to Glenville Street. Success!

Well, in a manner of speaking. After recounting his adventures to the staff, who were somewhat incredulous that a newcomer had actually made it through, your scribe discovered that the coffee was lukewarm and half a day old. A new pot was put on, which promptly crashed. (How does a coffee pot crash? "It had issues," was the cryptic answer from the staff.) Moreover, the promised wifi (another reason to make the trek) was as mythological as the cyclops. Radio station WGCH was a crackle of static, though WCBS came in loud and clear. Eventually, there was home-made oatmeal with brown sugar and half-and-half, fruit, pastries, and yes, hot coffee. Well worth the trip, all in all.

The Town's Health Department did a good job of providing food and shelter to a number of local residents, some of whom had been there for two days already. They also provided sustenance to the DPW crews who stopped in before heading out to clear the roads. Thumbs up to them!

And thumbs down to WGCH (World's Greatest Communications Hoax), which has been AWOL since Monday night (it's now Friday morning). Probably the most worthless radio station in the country, it is only listened to by most people for school closings and storm updates. And where was it when it was actually needed? Who knows? It was as mythological as Narcissus, who pined away and died of self-love. An apt metaphor.

So among the lessons of Sandy is the knowledge that our local radio station is not merely the bad joke we already knew it to be, but not really necessary at all. The word is that Greenwich resident Michael Metter, the former CEO who resigned earlier in October under a cloud of securities fraud allegations related to a "pump and dump" scheme concerning SpongeBob SquarePants kids' bath sponges (and no, dear reader, you couldn't make this stuff up even if you tried), had given orders not to replace the station's broken generators. His parsimony has served to alert us all to how insignificant a role this communications dinosaur really plays in our communal life, and thus, one hopes, will help to set the seal on its death warrant.

Meanwhile, our local libraries are being overwhelmed by hordes of out-of-towners, bringing their Starbucks and munchies and rude manners into our midst. The parking lot has become like the dodg'em at the county fair as they fight with each other over non-existent parking spaces. The main library's wifi system quickly went down because of the huge demand overload. It's hard to spot a local face amidst the throngs; as Yogi Berra would say, "Nobody goes there anymore—it's too crowded."

Well, another day is dawning. Will it bring actual CL&P trucks instead of mere rumors? Will the 60% of Town that is still without power receive any relief? Thankfully, the post-Sandy weather has remained relatively mild for this time of year, but it's hard to believe that we in Fairfield County constantly have to revert to third-world status on a regular basis once or twice a year. On the other hand, we got off more lightly than many other areas, especially along the Jersey shore. So let us count our blessings, and be sure to thank the many Town workers who performed so admirably on our behalf. Sometimes it takes an event like Sandy to make us realize how lucky we really are.

Monday, October 22, 2012

What Is Happening To Our Civil Society?

Your scribe has been under all kinds of pressure recently to take up his pen and write another blog. But why blog if one has nothing to say? was the standard reply. Until now. 

Suddenly it is becoming apparent that the political scene as we approach the elections has rarely if ever been so raucously contentious at any previous time in our national history. Party labels are becoming everything; informed discussion and rational discourse are out the window. "You're not voting for Obama?! Never speak to me again!" Or, "Do you really think this country can afford another four years like the ones we've just been through? Don't you have any brains at all?!"

More and more, dear reader, that seems to be the level of political discussion that one is hearing these days. It's all about labels rather than issues and positions. "We" are good; "they" are evil. Don't even try to stand on the middle ground: you will be overwhelmed by the zealots on both sides.

This is not the America our forebears envisaged, or even the America in which most of us grew up. We were taught to respect dissent and the opinions of others (however wrong-headed we knew them to be),  and to deal with each other as rational and civilized folk. What is happening to us? Or, worse yet, what has happened to us?

Many writers over the ages have suggested that "civilization" is a veneer, one that can be stripped away when circumstances turn adverse. William Golding's "Lord of the Flies" is a classic example of the genre. Are we, then, beginning to experience such powerful disruptions in our society that its very fabric is starting to fray at the edges, just like the tempers of so many candidates and commentators?

That, gentle reader, may be the real question of what is happening here. The contentiousness of the present political scene may be merely a symptom of a far deeper societal malaise. And if that is the case, harsh words and shrill rhetoric are the last things we need to try to correct and repair the situation.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Yellowwich Time's Sins of Omission and Commission

Really, someone should just shoot the local rag, aka Yellowwich Time, and put it out of its pathetic misery. Day after day it doles out double heaping handfuls of misinformation, execrable writing, and slanted or incomplete stories. Not to mention its policy of blithely censoring things it finds objectionable. It's right up there with the Soviet-era Pravda as a top contender for the worst newspaper in publishing history.

Let's take today's issue as an example. The lead story about last night's RTM meeting calls it "an uncharacteristically expedient...session," lasting some 90 minutes. Oh, really? Can expediency be measured in minutes? Who'd'a thunk it? Do you think someone might have been trying to write "expeditious" but forgot how to spell it?

Or take the story about Ruth Madoff moving to Old Greenwich. This is stale news, having been reported by Chris Fountain in his lively blog, "For What It's Worth," well over a month ago. You can find him at Only when the New York Daily News picked up the story did our local rag sit up and take notice of it.

And for heaven's sake, don't bother to turn to the comics page if you're a follower of Gary Trudeau's Doonesbury cartoons. You will only find recycled pap, brought to you by your pusillanimous editors of Yellowwich Time. For the real thing, you'll have to go visit the web site,

It's a disgrace that we here in Greenwich don't have a decent daily newspaper. But apparently not enough people in Town care to speak out or do anything about it. And if that's the case, well, then, it would seem we get the rag we deserve. And with no one to blame but ourselves.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Spring Springs!

As we here in Greenwich well know, the first sign of spring in Town is the blooming of the crocuses on the hill near the Second Congregational Church, beneath the Civil War monument that now stands atop the hill where once stood our first Town Hall. The yellow ones, always the hardiest and first to appear, are now visibly flecking the hillside, and with today's warm and sunny weather, they will undoubtedly soon be joined by the purple and white ones in the near future.

Generally speaking, the crocuses hold off until March. Once in a while they bloom, and then are covered by a late snowstorm, from which they gradually reappear against a dazzling field of white. Only rarely are they seen this early in the year, and, like the honking of the geese in the early mornings recently, provide us with proof that winter is on the wane and spring is just around the corner.

Well, "winter" is a relative term this year. After the October Surprise that cut power to over half the homes in Connecticut, we've been blessed with an unseasonably mild non-winter. True, there were a couple of cold snaps, but daytime temperatures have been well above freezing for most of the past few months. We've been lucky, having been spared the blizzards that have hammered the Midwest and Europe of late. Which probably means that our turn will come next year.

Mark Twain was right, as usual: "Everybody talks about the weather, but no one does anything about it." Your scribe is guilty as charged. But at least we here in Greenwich can be grateful that we don't want to do anything about weather such as that of today's, except to get out and enjoy it. And with that, I'm outta here!