Greenwich Gossip

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Indian Summer; Lightning Strikes

Today's blog is a double-header. Topic one is the 70-degree weather as Mother Nature taunts us before sending in the winter storms. Carpe the diem, as I've said before.

Topic two has to do not with the weather, but a phone call that came in at 8:30 this morning. I raced to pick up, hoping it might be the SB (we've chatted a few times since last week, including a first conversation of nearly two hours - whee! - but otherwise not much to report on that front. Oh, yeah - her favorite color is green.). It was not she, but the manager of the local supermarket, who informed me that I'd won a $50 grocery card in the drawing they held last week. One of the checkout clerks - who has my eleven-digit shopper number memorized, believe it or not - gave me the entry form and told me to fill it out; I told her I never win anything, but went ahead in order to please her. Well, once again, you never know what a day may bring. Not quite as exciting as meeting the SB, but hardly a kick in the backside, either.

The card is pretty nifty: it's like a prepaid phone card, and works like a credit card - you just swipe it and it deducts the current purchase from your balance. Very cool. And a nice lagniappe for an impoverished author.

Feeling lucky, I went out and bought a $93 million PowerBall ticket. I mean, if lightning can strike once, why not twice? If I win, I'll be up there in the same economic bracket as the SB, and can buy the horse farm next to hers so our kids will never run out of open space. Hey - they say, "a dollar and a dream" - so there's a possible dream for you. And I'm still $49 ahead of the game!

Friday, October 27, 2006

500 Hits and Counting...Who *Are* They All??

Yes, the handy-dandy counter I put on this blog about a month after its inception has hit the 500 mark. These are not all unique hits, I think, but include repeat visits from faithful readers like the AB and the AW, among others. Even I sometimes succumb to the temptation to re-read my own words. But all that still comes nowhere near the number 500....

The obvious conclusion is that there are lurkers out there. They know who they are, at least if they've taken the advice inscribed on Apollo's temple at Delphi, but I guess they don't want to share their identity with the rest of us.

Why is this bothersome? Two reasons, really: first of all, they might be sinister beings such as maleficent members of the GG; and secondly (which really hurts), they never leave comments. Not for the first time, dear reader, I pose to you the rhetorical question: how would you feel if you blogged day in and day out, and no one ever left a comment? The answer, in a word or two: pretty lousy.

Now there: I've written four sentences in a row using a colon in each. How often do you find blogs like that in the world of cyberspace? Dare I believe that this is a cyberspatial first? And if so, what of it?

Well, there you go - three sentences in a row ending with question marks. As you can see, I've reverted to dashes for the moment. If there's a way to do an em-dash on an IBM keyboard, I've never heard of it (on the Mac, of course, it's a snap). So I just use n-dashes, set off by a space on either side. Some people use two n-dashes with no spaces, which also works, but looks a little less elegant, IMHO. Best of all, of course, would be an em-dash with no spaces, but that seems not to be an option on this particular keyboard. What is needed is an update of Strunk & White for the world of blogging so that we can all practice good grammar and punctuation even as we pour out our wisdom into cyberspace.

I guess this is really a plea: if anything in a blog resonates with you, or annoys you, or makes you laugh or cry, say so! This applies not only to this blog (though mostly so), but to all blogs in general. We all crave reinforcement, and it's always nice to know who your friends and/or enemies are. (The AB gets a lot of "non-positive" fan mail, but I'm sure if asked she would say better that than nothing.)

Okay, okay, maybe I'll be sorry I wrote this. Perhaps I will be inundated with vituperation and the feds will start pounding on the door. But even that might make for a good blog, don't you think? What *do* you think, ye lurkers out there - if, mayhap, you think at all? Take a few moments to let the rest of us know.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

24 Hours

Today I thought I'd give y'all a slice of life here in Greenwich, and have chosen the last 24 hours as the tranche du jour, as it were. Consider it a kind of reality show, but in words instead of pictures. The theme (I think) is something along the lines of you never know what a day may bring, which is why it's usually worthwhile to get out of bed in the morning and carpe the diem.

My first adventure was at the grocery store, where one of the local librarians was on a car key hunt. She seemed slightly frazzled (well, who wouldn't be? - walking home with several bags of groceries is no one's idea of fun), so I took her arm and suggested we do a walk-through of her path through the supermarket. I will spare you the details of what librarians have on their shopping list; suffice it to say that as we entered the last aisle I asked, "What pockets do you have?" She told me she had already looked in her trouser pockets, so I asked if she had any others. She put her hands in her jacket pockets, and a sheepish grin came over her face. The missing keys were found.

Of course, I ratted her out to her colleagues when I got to the village library a few minutes later, and they gleefully said she had pulled the same stunt there a few days earlier. I guess the changeover to jacket weather has discombobulated her usual pocketing patterns...well, it can happen to the best of us, I suppose. My usual method for finding something is to remember where I saw it last - with luck, a mental snapshot will appear, and with it the missing object. One hopes this method will continue to work as long as the engrams themselves continue to do the same.

While working at the library, I was treated to the sounds of the children's story hour. There was enthusiastic singing about the wheels on the bus and the grand old Duke of York. The toddlers sing the same songs every week, and seem never to tire of them. So many of them want to come that a lottery had to be instituted; the lovely children's room given by my dear friend Josie Merck was being packed to the rafters. I think Josie has probably given more pleasure to more people with her thoughtfulness than just about anyone else in town.

Then it was off to Greenwich Avenue, where I dropped off a couple of 2007 calendars for two young ladies who have been successful self-employed entrepreneurs for many years. It's nice to know that despite the kudzu-like growth of the chain stores in town, there is still room for people like these two women to flourish.

And thence to the main library to pick up copies of Stephen King and Robert Parker's new books. There was an unfortunate article about Greenwich in the Gray Lady - my good friend and erstwhile best man Robert Tate is apparently being investigated by the feds because of "inappropriate material" found on his computer. I have known Bob for over 20 years, and have traveled with him and the choir he directed to England; I would have trusted him with my own son, and in fact did. Should an opportunity arise to be a character witness for Bob, I will endeavor to be first in what I know will be a long of choir parents to attest that he never, ever, laid an inappropriate finger on any of his charges. The sad part is that most personal computers host a plethora of material that some might consider "inappropriate"; would you want the feds looking through your hard drive, dear reader? My heart goes out to Bob, who does not deserve this kind of abrupt end to an extraordinarily distinguished career.

Then it was time for my afternoon drive through the back country to leaf-peep. I filled the tank at $2.53 a gallon - the lowest price in this area for many months. We here in Fairfield Country are the victims of a scam known as "zone pricing", which is just a euphemism for "soak the rich". Many attempts to get the state legislature to outlaw this patently unfair practice have failed; the oil lobby is pretty strong, in case you were in any doubt. Since the price of crude is on the rise again, I decided to fill 'er up, even though driving with a full tank puts a dent in one's mileage. It's like driving with a dead body in the trunk, for those of you who may know that sensation. As for myself, I speak metaphorically, of course.

The leaves are still gorgeous, I am pleased to report. I stopped off at the new Stanwich Congregational Church, where I chanced to run into Don Osgood, who has written a history of the church. Since history is my bag - well, one of them - I bought a copy at the church bookstore for him to autograph. We spent a pleasant half hour looking at the books each of us has written. Yes, dear reader, it was turning out to be a day well worth getting out of bed for.

I then raced over to Round Hill Community Church, where I had volunteered to help set up for the annual Harvest Dinner. But I was behind schedule, and when I got there everything was done. The aroma of the roasting turkeys was scrumptious. I ran into the parish secretary, Lynda, who had been very helpful a few weeks earlier when I was looking for pictures of the church for a new edition of one of my books. She told me I was on her "new best friends list", which was very pleasing to hear. It was thanks to her persuasion that I had signed up for the dinner, and the mouth-watering smells once more ratified the decision to climb out of bed.

But there were still two hours to kill before the dinner, so I went home to put on some socks and grab a blazer. I wanted to do due honor to the feast, and also to try to make a favorable impression on the crowd about to assemble. One never knows what a day may bring, after all...oops, already said that, but in the event I think it's worth repeating.

For when I got back to the church hall, the first person I met was a slim blonde, along with her mother and brother and brother's significant other. The SB kindly did a name tag for me, as my handwriting is iffy at best, and a squiggle at worst (the result of skipping first grade, where those skills are reportedly taught).

The SB, like your humble scribe, has been in and out of wedlock more than once. But unlike many who have been through the wars, she was all good humor and upbeat fun. We clicked, and had a wonderful evening. Unwilling for it to end too quickly, we went with her brother and his SO to a local dive for further refreshment. Then it was time to take her home to the back country, where the deer population was kind enough not to molest us (they can do as much damage to a car as a car can do to them). "Turn left here," she said - and there we were, heading down a long country driveway, past barns and stables and messuages and granges and who knows what all. Whoops! It seemed your humble scribe had a major heiress on his hands.

Now, both the former wives came from economically comfortable familes, by which I mean with net worths in the low seven figures. I never took a dime from either of them, but it was certainly convenient that when it came time to part there was no need to talk of alimony. So unlike many of my male compeers who have suffered through divorce court, I was fortunate to be able to cut the economic cord cleanly - twice.

The SB, however, was clearly in a different league altogether. I must tell you, dear reader, if you don't already know, that there is something intimidating to finding out that the cute girl in jeans and a sweater with whom you've been flirting all evening grew up on an estate the size of Liechtenstein. I suddenly felt out of my depth.

The hour was late, so the SB did not invite me in. A quick kiss, and the evening was over. My head was swirling, what with the wine, the yummy dinner, the afterparty, and the shock of driving half a mile from the road to her house. And the kiss, of course.

So here I am the next morning, reflecting (yet again) on what a difference a day makes. People also seem to be looking at me differently today - does something show in my face?

I'm not sure what it says about me that instead of taking more proactive steps I am sitting here at the computer blogging away like there's no tomorrow...and of course wondering what tomorrow may bring. Not to mention the rest of today....

Monday, October 23, 2006

The Shovel Brigade, and Other Pics

Well, a new roll of film has arrived, and I hasten to share some of the results.

You can see that "Skippy" Snickerson is trying to take the shovel at the right away from the chief of police, a battle he eventually won. He has injected himself, in typical Skippy fashion, between the chief and State Rep Lyle Gibbons; in fact, you would never know she was there except for the fact that the second shovel is being wielded by an unseen presence (remember to click on the picture for the Cinemax view). Hers was the seat on the podium that had been snitched by the "Doll", seen above in flaming red (appropriate); between the two of them, the Doll and Skippy have pretty much obliterated Ms. Gibbons, the one non-interloping pol (the new cop shop is in her district). Sing ho! for the life of a Greenwich politician.

The next picture shows what remained of the cop shop the day before. More than three-quarters of the building is rubble; only the corner with the chief's office remains, with a hole in its window no doubt created by a brick. No, dear reader, it was not my brick (I didn't get mine until the next day); it was most likely thrown by one of Jimmy's many admirers who were part of the lopsided votes of no confidence.

And finally, here it the heap of rubble which is all that remained on the day of the ceremonious shovelling:

Pretty ugly, no? - in death, as in life.

Let me now hasten to reassure you that Greenwich is not as ugly as the three scenes above might indicate. Here is some autumn foliage at the Audubon center in northwest Greenwich:

Now tell me (if you dare) that that doesn't do the soul some good. Go on, click on it! Kinda cleanses the palate, too, after the prior pics. See, dear reader, what a care your humble scribe has for your well-being, that he should let you share the beauty as well as the drab ugliness of Greenwich.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Supersecret Saloon, I mean, salon. (Love that AB's pun so much I can't stop using it.) Actually, the most potent drink offered by the AB was V-8 juice (one of my faves), with nary a drop of vodka to spike it, but that didn't stop the conversation from being as free-ranging as one of Mr. Purdue's chickens isn't. We stayed an hour past closing time, which I guess was permissible given the alcohol-free environment

The guest of honor was Frank Farricker, who is attempting to unseat the ignoble Snickerson. We were all delighted to learn that Snickerson's nickname up in Hartford is "Skippy", and it seems just perfect. He skips votes, walks with a mincing gait, and is as cloying as a surfeit of peanut butter. The widely-traveled AB treated us to an Aussie song about Skippy the kangaroo which seemed to fit right in as well.

Knowing that I would soon be sharing Skippy's nickname with y'all, I asked the assemblage what color best became the epithet. The consensus was lavender - let's see - ah yes, here we go: Skippy.

Frank is an impressive guy, and obviously has it all over Skippy when it comes to credentials and personality. You can learn more about him at Frank Farricker 2006, along with seeing pictures of his beautiful wife Cathy and their 5-year-old twins. My concern was that too few people know about Frank, or even that he is running, so we ran a brainstorming session on how to try to fix that.

Part of the problem with people running for office here in Greenwich is that they tend to be too namby-pamby for their own good. Stephanie Sanchez made a pretty good run some years ago, but someone must have told her to be a good little girl and eventually she would get her turn, because she ran a dull-as-dishwater campaign in a year when telling a few home truths could have gotten her elected. Peter Berg ignored every hot-button issue in the last election for First Selectman, and came off appearing to be the perfect milquetoast. And so toast he became.

In the present cycle, Arianna Huffington has already written Ned Lamont's concession speech for him; its main point is that Ned is being too wimpy and not hitting JoJo "me-first" Lieberman where it hurts. The link: The Blog Arianna Huffington: Ned Lamont's Concession Speech (A Speech I Never Want to Hear) The Huffington Post. Sorry - I'm sure there's a way to shorten links, but I need to check it out with the all-knowing AB.

So we felt it imperative that Frank not fall into the same pit, and I made him promise to refer to Snickerson as Skippy at least once per appearance. I told him that irony and sarcasm and ridicule could be powerful rhetorical tools when rightly used, and that IMHO there would seem to be no harm in letting the electorate know what Skippy's compeers in the state legislature think of him. Will Frank have the guts to do it? Stay tuned.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Night, Night, Sleep Tight...

Today's LR headline lets us know that Greenwich is not immune from the humble bedbug, which has recently invaded our fair town. So far the problem has been reported in three housing projects, but my guess is that, like the bubonic plagues of the Middle Ages, the scourge will spare neither king nor peasant before all is said and done.

Yes, I said "housing projects". Contrary to popular belief, not all Greenwichites live in McMansions, and in fact the town receives a significant amount of community block grant aid each year from the state and federal government. Just yesterday, the state cited two of our elementary schools for racial imbalance - too high a proportion of minority students, it seems. So please take your preconceptions of Greenwich, whatever they may be, and adjust them accordingly. If you are in any doubt as to how to perceive the town, your scribe will endeavor to set you straight. (In fact, I see that as my humble self-appointed task, as if you didn't already know.)

In other news, there will be a supersecret shindig tonight at the Author Babe's house. It has to remain cloaked in mystery lest a certain gatecrasher known in these pages as Snickerson learn of its existence and decide to invite himself to join the party (even though he belongs to the other one). He, like the Doll, has no sense of shame, and is quick to inject himself where he neither belongs nor is wanted. Thus my lips are sealed for the nonce, but I will unseal them tomorrow and let you know about the AB's saloon - er, salon (her pun, not mine).

There - I've added my splash of color for the day. No doubt I will hear from the AB as to whether she likes pink, or prefers fuschia or taupe or lemony snicket or some other color. As for the Author Whiz, her color is more of a dusky rose, I think - not sure this is the right shade, but I'll try it for now.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

In Which Your Old Scribe Learns New Tricks...

As you may recall, I was bothered yesterday by my inability to create "hot links" to the AB's and AW's sites, even though I followed carefully the HTML instructions provided by blogspot. During my subsequent leaf-peeping expedition, the thought occurred (not for the first time in my life) that perhaps I was overthinking the problem. Why not try the age-old (well, decades-old) cut-and-paste technique?

Well, dear reader, if you go back and reread yesterday's now-updated post, you will see that it worked like the proverbial charm. Thus encouraged, I began to wonder how the Author Whiz added various colors to the text in her blog (Diana's Diversions), and pointed the cursor at the tool icons appearing at the top of the "Compose" window. Bingo! - the third one turned out to be "Text Color", and gave me my choice of hues to brighten up my already sparkling but boringly monochromatic text. Whee!

I immediately went back to the "$2.3 Million and Counting..." post in which I recounted the story of Lincoln Steffens and the town meeting called to refute his "libel" that Greenwich is as corrupt a town as any city in the country. Behold the results:

As it happened, the editor of the LR of the time was standing nearby when Steffens made that statement, and challenged him to prove the "libel" on the fair name of Greenwich. The story goes that Steffens called a town meeting, had them elect a respected citizen as the moderator, and proceeded to make his case as follows:

"I will start with the reminder that at the last election you saw me, lots of you saw me, standing in the undertaker's shop, watching you pass through there getting your $2.50 per voter. We both knew that, but I know something you don't know. I know and you don't that while you were getting your $2.50, the Italians were getting $2.75 a vote."

The meeting, attended mostly by old-line Yankees, erupted in an uproar. Was it possible that their gardeners and stonemasons were getting more money than they were? Why, it was a scandal! When the political bosses at the back of the room failed to deny Steffens' charge, everyone knew it was true. The following resolution was offered by Steffens:

"We, the people of Greenwich, in town meeting assembled, admit that we are as corrupt as any community so far exposed in this country."

It passed, dear reader - not without dissent, but it passed.

How about that? Green for the money factor, that drove Greenwich then as now, and red for the embarrassment when Steffens got them to admit their venality. Pretty nifty, no?

So beware, dear reader: your scribe will most likely go on a hot link and color rampage in posts to come. I'll try not to overdo it, but as Oscar Wilde famously said, "I can resist everything except temptation." And blogging.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Cop Shop, Part II

I wanted to add more to my blog about Thursday's event at the cop shop parking lot, but realized I finally had a comment for the first time in what seems like weeks. Why the lurkers out there never bother to send a bouquet or a brickbat I'll never know, unless, like Snickerson, they're looking for something intelligent to say and don't want to admit where they got it.

The comment, BTW, was from the Author Babe, whom in retrospect I wish I'd tried to cajole into joining me for the fun and festivities. Since I have a few more words to add about her, I thought it behovely to start a new post, lest she think she'd already been there/read that and not see the add-ons. (Quick sidebar: has anyone ever seen the word "behovely" in a blog before? Are there any other Julian of Norwich fans out there?)

So here's what I was going to add:

Later that afternoon, after my walk in the autumn woods to restore my soul, I passed by the Author Babe's house on my way back to what passes for civilization in these parts, and saw that her curbside was decorated with political signage. Now, as you may know, the AB is a raving Democrat, but we won't hold that against her in this overwhelmingly Republican town (and cradle of the Bush family dynasty) because she is consistently right in what she says, and damned eloquent to boot. Recently, a Republican lawyer, Chip Haslun by name, wrote a letter to the LR praising her most recent column, which pleased the AB no end. I saw Chip at the grave-digging - er, ground-breaking - ceremony, and he professes not to know the AB personally. I told him the loss was his, and to get cracking on reading her blogs, both the PG- and X-rated versions (saraclaradara and saramerica). His law firm colleague and Democratic candidate Ed Krumeich ( was also there, cracking wise as only he can do from the sidelines; I was not the only person there to find much humor in the situation that unfolded before us.

OK, that's the part I was going to add to the previous post. Please be good enough to consider it added, as I now proceed on to the present to bring y'all up to date.

BTW, the reason I use the portmanteau word "y'all" from time to time is because Author Whiz Diana Peterfreund once blogged about the necessity for such a word in everyday language, and I decided to sign on to her eminently worthwhile cause. (Note that Diana would also qualify as an author babe if the epithet were not already taken; check out her publicity photo from her fabulous novel, "Secret Society Girl", at her snarky, funny, and eerily erudite blog, found at Diana's Diversions.)

Thus your scribe will denote Diana as the Author Whiz, because for a 20-something young snip of a Yalie, she writes the most amazing posts about literature and the writing craft. Back when I was at the Yale grad school, the English department was in the hands of the New Critics and the Deconstructionists; how Diana managed to get a solid grounding in the fundamentals they taught us at Harvard is a constant source of wonderment to me. Check out her post today on FPPOV (look it up yourself in her blog, lazybones!) as just one of many outstanding examples of her breath-taking sprezzatura (you DO have a dictionary, dear reader, don't you?).

Ah, yes, I was about to bring you up to the present, and was momentarily sidetracked by my unbounded admiration for the AW (don't worry, AB, I love you, too!). Today's radio headline is that "the Doll" is taking heat for her brazen display of me-firstism at the not-so-grave ground-breaking; the station even played her whopper so as to shred what little credibility she may have had before. It seems that others also noticed that she had no business being on the dias, and there was a generous comment from the state rep who should have been in the Doll's chair and holding her spade that the important thing was that the project is finally underway. I think I've already told you that the Doll is not really our type, having immigrated from California; her shameless behavior and prevarications are finally doing her in, it seems. Or so we can hope....

Well, the weather is doing its fabulous autumn act again, and the woods are calling...miles to go before I sleep, and all that. Soon there will be pics for y'all to see, as soon as I take the last few remaining shots - maybe you'll be treated to some foliage pics to counterbalance the funny but inherently depressing ones of the local pols and their shovelling act. Later!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Ground-breaking News

Yeah, it's a bad pun. The powers-that-be finally broke ground for the new cop shop this morning, and I finally got my brick from an obliging workman (N.B.: I was not the only one to hop on the souvenir brick gravy train). The brief ceremony, to my eyes at least, was redolent with comedy. You had to know it was an election year because the pols were coming out of the woodwork. Seeing an empty seat on the dais, "Dolly" Powers jumped from the ground and planted her ample sit-me-down upon it. Since the cop shop is not in her district, and the state rep in whose district it does lie was there as well, there were murmers from the crowd at the Doll's brazenness, but she managed to get away with it.

The speeches, mercifully, were brief. The Doll lied outrageously, as usual; her whopper today was that Greenwich has the best police force in the state, when everyone who lives in the real world knows that is far from true. As faithful readers of this blog are well aware, it was, is, and probably shall forever remain one of the most venal and corrupt excuses for law enforcement on the face of the earth (see "Murder in Greenwich", below). But for some reason the earth did not open and swallow her up, even though there was what appeared to be a freshly-dug grave right in front of the dais.

This grave-like creation had been jackhammered out of the pavement, and filled with dirt. Six or eight brand-new spades were standing at attention in the dirt, obviously specially procured for the occasion. When the time came, it was amusing to see the local officials and politicians shovelling the stuff quite literally, instead of the metaphorical shovelling they usually do. The comedy was further heightened by Bill Nickerson appearing out of nowhere just in time to wrest a shovel from the chief of police's hands as the TV crew started to zoom in on the scene. Maybe it was Snickerson's seat that the Doll had purloined, but he sure wasn't going to be left out of the shovelling scene.

BTW, it is pleasant to report that Snickerson has been leaving your scribe alone of late. He apparently is one of the lurkers on this blog, and seems to have taken to heart the not-terribly-flattering (but fully accurate) portrait of him within these lines; he has also helped himself to some of the wit and wisdom contained herein. He apparently was never taught the meaning of the word "plagiarism", let alone the concept for which it stands. Snickerson has also been crashing events organized by his opponent, Frank Farricker, of late; he is not exactly what you would call a man of honor.

Gotta run; more later, and pics to follow for your viewing pleasure.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Time for more pics...

Since we all know they're worth a thousand words, and since it's considerably easier to upload a few of them than to churn out a few thousand words, herewith some views of the Greenwich scene of the past few days (as always, click on the picture for the wide-screen view):

Here we have the cop shop missing about a quarter of its masonry.

And here it's missing about half. You will see more pics of this (and less of the cop shop) in the days to come.

The Greenwich Arts Council held its triennial award ceremony on Sunday. Past recipients have included Barbara Tuchman, Victor Borge, etc. This year's award went to Cynthia Gregory, danseuse extraordinaire. The theatre at Greenwich Academy was full - as you know from a previous post, the town does not yet have a municipal theatre of its own, but will soon get one as the Havemeyer Building is refurbished as an arts center - and we were treated to some fantastic film clips of Cynthia in her heyday. At least one member of the audience (ahem) was converted from a "I can take it or leave it" attitude about ballet to one of "I'll take it!!" Some of the scenes were so beautiful that I had to brush a furtive tear or two from my sentimental eyes. Here is Cynthia onstage at the end of the program (sorry - no telephoto lens on my drugstore camera):

Later, we were treated to a champagne reception and goodies concocted by Jean-Louis of the well-known eponymous restaurant here in town. (Disclaimer: this is not a commercial for him - I can't afford to eat at his multi-star establishment - but merely an acknowledgement of his public-spiritedness.) I snapped a pic of Cynthia and her friend Georgia Tetradis; Georgia owns Beam & Barre here in town, where for the past 25 years the aspiring ballerinas of Greenwich have procured their tutus and accessories.

...well, guess what - the picture function is on the fritz again. Let me get this much into the blogosphere, and try again later for the rest.

Well, here it is at last - the pic of Cynthia (r) and Georgia. Happy campers, both. That completes this blog; starting another one now.

Monday, October 02, 2006

$2.3 Million and Counting....

I thought y'all would be interested in the headline story in today's LR, "Greenwich Time". By the bye, you wouldn't believe how many people, even long-time locals, either put a "The" in front of its name, or an "s" at the end of it, or both. That's why I find it simpler, as well as more descriptive, merely to call it the local rag, or LR for short. It is notorious among the townsfolk for never getting the facts of a story straight, so I hereby offer the following with the disclaimer that I rarely believe most of what I read in its pages.

The story states that the town of Greenwich has spent over $2,300,000 on payments to outside law firms to help in defending lawsuits - and that's just in the past five years. My own legal history with the town, as you know from the last post, goes back considerably further than that. Now, you would think that in a town of ca. 60,000 residents, a law department consisting of a Town Attorney, five and a half assistant attorneys, and a plethora of support staff, would have no problem staying on top of things. But you would be wrong, of course - remember, this is Greenwich, which has more municipal employees per capita than any town in the state, if not the country. (Some people line up at the town trough right out of high school, do their nails and take naps and coffee breaks for the next 4-5 decades, and then retire with generous pension and health benefits - not a bad deal, if you think life is all about creature comforts.)

The LR story goes on to say that the town gets hit with some 250 lawsuits a year. If you factor out weekends and holidays, that's about one per working day. Given my own experience of the town's incompetence, malfeasance, and just plain stupidity, I guess I am hardly surprised. I try to keep my own filings to an average of one a year, and generally tie them to some particularly egregious violation of the law and/or civil rights; but it seems as though others, perhaps having read of my exploits, are jumping on the bandwagon. As Mark Twain once said, "I'm thinking of filing a lawsuit, and am looking around for a defendant." He should have moved from Hartford to Greenwich.

The problem with suing the town of Greenwich is that it's generally a lose/lose situation, at least if you reside in town. The law department will first try to obfuscate you to death, and when that doesn't work, spend thousands of dollars on depositions. Years later, on the eve of trial, they will suddenly start to talk settlement. They will have spent far more on legal fees, both internally and with outside firms, than the amount of the settlement ultimately agreed on. This, my friends, they regard as a victory. To me it smacks of litigational insanity.

But the moneys they dispend come out of taxpayer pockets, not theirs, so they don't really care. The prevailing theory is that it would cost more to settle than to defend the actions; this leads to situations like that in which the town ignored a six-figure offer of judgment and wound up losing almost $10 million in court. Oh, BTW, please note that the legal costs we've been discussing do NOT include the ultimate amounts paid out in settlements or judgments - those come to many millions more.

So no wonder that the rank and file of the GG are upset when they read in the LR that this kind of megabuck outlay is being made with no budgetary control, while their grievances and demands are being ignored by the town. (The fact that these worthies are themselves the proximate cause of many of the lawsuits seems not to have occurred to them, of course.) In any case, the police union has written an open letter to the citizens telling them, in effect, to take back the control of the town budget. Said budget is purportedly the realm of the Board of Estimate and Taxation (BET) and the Representative Town Meeting (RTM), but for lo! these many years the bureaucrats in Town Hall have been treating it as their private piggy bank. No wonder the GG are upset - for all these years, they thought that *they* ran the town.

In the meantime, however, the best way to get rich around here is to "work" for the town, screw up or get laid off, and threaten to sue. You will walk away with a nice five- or six-figure settlement, particularly if you know where some of the smellier bodies are buried in Town Hall. You will, of course, have to sign a non-disclosure agreement, but hey - that means that things will still be rotten when the next opportunist comes by to pick up his or her share. They don't call it the public trough for nothing.

So, gentle reader, you can see that things haven't changed much in Greenwich since the days when "Boss" Tweed and his Tammany Hall henchmen used to live and play here. Or since the days in the early twentieth century when Lincoln Steffens "loafed around home in the old New England town of Greenwich, Conn...I stood on Election Day in the undertaker's in Greenwich and saw the voters file through, getting their three dollars each to support the machine...." On another occasion Steffens said, "I happen to be a resident of Greenwich, Connecticut, and I can tell you that that town is as corrupt as any city in the United States."

As it happened, the editor of the LR of the time was standing nearby when Steffens made that statement, and challenged him to prove the "libel" on the fair name of Greenwich. The story goes that Steffens called a town meeting, had them elect a respected citizen as the moderator, and proceeded to make his case as follows:

"I will start with the reminder that at the last election you saw me, lots of you saw me, standing in the undertaker's shop, watching you pass through there getting your $2.50 per voter. We both knew that, but I know something you don't know. I know and you don't that while you were getting your $2.50, the Italians were getting $2.75 a vote."

The meeting, attended mostly by old-line Yankees, erupted in an uproar. Was it possible that their gardeners and stonemasons were getting more money than they were? Why, it was a scandal! When the political bosses at the back of the room failed to deny Steffens' charge, everyone knew it was true. The following resolution was offered by Steffens:

"We, the people of Greenwich, in town meeting assembled, admit that we are as corrupt as any community so far exposed in this country."

It passed, dear reader - not without dissent, but it passed.

Sounds like something out of Mark Twain again, doesn't it? What really upset the townsfolk was not that they were selling their votes, but that the immigrants were getting a higher price for theirs. Whether the voters that night thought of that as the corruption, or that any sale of any vote constituted corruption, we shall never know; but I suspect that most of them inclined to the former point of view.

As the French say, "Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose" - the more things change, the more they stay the same. Greenwich was founded in what some believe was one of the greatest land swindles in history: Tod's Point and Old Greenwich for twenty-four English coats. One wonders, did the Indians take turns wearing them? Well, it hardly matters; history goes on to record that when the Indians got uppity, they were massacred. Thus the town of Greenwich continued to expand to its present size of some 50 square miles, all without, as far as I can tell, any further payments to the Indians - or those of them who may have been left.

So, gentle reader, ends today's chapter in the history of Greenwich. Who knows what the morrow may bring?