Friday, September 29, 2006

It's Friday Again...

...and once again the week has slipped by without a chance to share my wisdom and insights with the world of cyberspace. News events this week include the opening of Vineyard Vines' classy new showroom on Greenwich Avenue; Shep and Ian were there, of course, and Sandy Evans (formerly of Best & Co.), looking like a sophomore in college who had just stepped off the brothers' yacht, the "Ticonderoga". (Sandy, who I think may be the manager of the new store, is actually the mother of a sophomore in college, as Shep confided to my unbelieving ears.) The store is easily identifiable by the red and green navigation lights at the front door...just sail on in! Remember, red right returning - or you'll miss the door and hit the plate glass window instead.

This is not meant to be a commercial for Shep and Ian's new store, of course, as this column is strictly a medly of opinions (with a smattering of facts thrown in here and there). The point is that y'all should rejoice along with your scribe that the era of the local family business on Greenwich Avenue is not yet dead, and that all the chain stores last Saturday were green with envy at the crowds pouring in and out of Vineyard Vines. In the last year or so, more than half a dozen chains have folded their tents and locked their doors, which to me is a welcome sign that perhaps the Avenue may not turn into an outdoor mall after all. Unfortunately, most of the empty chain storefronts will soon be occupied by other chains, at least until they learn their lesson...which is that the locals tend to buy locally. You will find us in Terry Betteridge's store, not in Tiffany's or Georg Jensen's - we leave those for the out-of-towners, who think that by walking down the street phoning all their friends to say "I'm on Greenwich Avenue" they somehow have a life. They really *do* do this - I kid you not. And no, they do *not* have a life.

In other news this week, the president choppered into town to shake the tin cup, and garnered about $600,000 for Republican coffers. Most of the local political bigwigs, including the governor, pleaded "schedule conflicts" and did not attend; only Chris Shays showed up. I used to be a big fan of his, but in recent days have been revising my opinion. At our July 4th commemoration at Town Hall he located the battle of Yorktown in Vermont, which puts him on a par with the college students in the recent US history survey who thought the final battle of the Revolution was that of Gettysburg. Yikes! Are we becoming a nation of historical illiterates?

The Bush luncheon was at the home of Scott Frantz in Riverside. Actually, Scott is the owner of the "Ticonderoga", though Shep and Ian seem to have what might be termed permanent squatters' rights. No juicy gossip from the luncheon has yet leaked out - to my ears, at least - but if and when it does, you'll probably find it here first.

Last night the Board of Ed voted to vacate the Havemeyer Building, constructed in 1892-4 on land donated by Harry O. Havemeyer, the "sugar king" of the late 19th century. This clears the way for what was the town's first high school to become an arts center, and the long-hidden auditorium and stage will be refurbished for use by local thespians. A green belt will connect Town Hall to the new police station (the old one is being razed today, even as I write). So there are signs of hope and new life on the Avenue, as though to affirm what Heraclites and I have long said, that you never walk down the same Avenue twice.

It's time to head to the PO and stop by to cop a brick from the old cop shop for future, as of yet undetermined, use. More later.

Breaking news (no, I haven't used the brick yet): Quarry Farm is up for sale. This lovely Belle Haven estate was built by the Reynolds tobacco fortune, but for the last 20+ years has been lived in by Diana Ross. Is Diana leaving town, or is she merely downsizing? Enquiring minds want to know, and will start asking around and about the town. Results will be shared, as usual.

You may recall that Diana did some "soft time" here in Greenwich after a DUI conviction in Arizona. The court there allowed her to serve her sentence here, but the curious thing is that the local cops (known in this post as the GG, aka the Greenwich Gestapo) practically gave her the key to her own cell. Did she have a dinner engagement? She was sprung for the evening. Were there no women officers available to chaperone her? She was sent home for the night. Note that male inmates of the Greenwich gaol are not offered chaperones, female or otherwise. Humpf!

So it would not be an unfair inference, dear reader, were you to think that, like just about everything else in this town, justice, crime, and punishment are flexible concepts easily influenced by money and/or celebrity status. You already know from a previous post, "Murder in Greenwich", that this is the safest town in which to get away with that crime, or just about any other. The GG, while relentless in its persecution of those who happen to look at them cross-eyed, is utterly hapless and incompetent when it comes to dealing with real crime.

Just the other day - September 11, as it chanced - I had the honor of having the current chief of police inform me that my car was improperly parked at the lot adjacent to the town's skate park. I had stopped by to look at some bricks (hmm...the theme for the day, it seems) given in memory of some of the victims of that sad day, and Jimmy, who for years has shadowed me in one of the GG's unmarked cars, was as usual trying to break my stones. I did the only thing one can do when being harassed by a crooked cop, which is simply to ignore the said low-life. He circled the lot for another four or five minutes to try to get a reaction, but was wasting his time (and our taxpayer money) as usual. For this we pay him the big bucks.

Jimmy, BTW, is probably the most unpopular chief of police in the town's history - and we've had some doozies. The police union has passed at least two overwhelming votes of no-confidence in him, something like 150-6, but the commissioner of police, our not-so-esteemed first selectman, refuses to do anything about the problem. Just today, an off-duty cop was venting to me about how "f*cked up" the department is under Jimmy, and when I reminded him I'd been telling him and others in the department how bad he is for the past decade and a half, he acknowledged that they now realize I'd been right all along.

Not that his predecessor Petey was any better. Petey assaulted and battered me when I came by the cop shop to pick up an FOI form to take to the first selectman's office, and then lied about it under oath. I sued him, and won $20,000 (not bad for an amateur, hey?). His predecessor, Kenny, used to play hookey on his boat with another officer's wife, and sneak onto the back nine of the local golf course to play a few holes for free. (All this activity was being carried out on town time, natch.)

So, dear reader, you can see that your scribe does not get along very well with the top end of the police hierarchy in town. They say, as you know, that you can tell a man by his enemies...I'm rather proud, actually, of having the right enemies in this town.

The last person who took on the local cops was Lincoln Steffens - things were no better in the first half of the 20th century than they are today. His garage was torched, and he tucked his tail between his legs and left town. Me, I just sue the bastards. It's probably cost the town upwards of $100,000 in legal fees over the past decade or more, and some cases are still ongoing. The last cop who tried to build a career on hassling me ate his own gun last year, and since then things have quieted down a bit. Except for Jimmy, of course.

Well, this is probably boring y'all, and the only reason I got onto the topic was that I went to a tag sale this morning, and the off-duty officer who was directing traffic vented on me as mentioned above. I can hear you asking about the tag sale, and am delighed to tell you that I found a framed pastiche of about a dozen small watercolors of historic houses and buildings here in town. I think the paintings were done about 40 years ago, and they have faded slightly in the meantime, but they are nice to look at, and possibly worthy of inclusion in my next book about the town's history. Gotta check out the rights & permissions & copyright stuff first, though - others in this town may not care about the niceties of the law, but I do.

Well, that's really two or three posts' worth - as you can see, I'm making up for lost time. Time to bail out of cyberspace and rejoin the "real" world, or whatever kind of world it is that you want to call the town of Greenwich.


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