Greenwich Gossip

Saturday, December 30, 2006

The Eve of New Year's Eve

Your scribe went to the movies last night - something he does not often do, but has resolved to do more often in the New Year. On offer was "The Queen", which is brilliantly acted, IMHO. (Oops - is "acted" le mot juste, or an unpardonable solecism? William Safire, where are you when I need you??)

The story line concerns the reaction (or lack thereof) of the royal family to the death of Princess Diana in 1997, and the efforts of the recently-elected Tony Blair to rescue them from going the way of the dinosaurs. Princess Di was a distant cousin of mine, BTW - some of her ancestors came from the US, so we share a common tenth (or so) great grandfather. The film has brilliant acting [says he, trying again], nicely nuanced tensions, and pretty accurate portrayals, down to the glass of gin in the Queen Mother's hand. The only lack of verisimilitude was a very tall Prince Philip - he's actually rather short, even in his height-enhancing shoes. He always has the photographers make him look tall, but it ain't so. I met him once, and without his shoes he would have come up to about my nose.

It was hard to tell what the Greenwich audience thought of the film. Your scribe kept snorting with chuckles and laughter throughout the movie, but the rest of the audience might have been carved from wood. Did they not catch the subtle British humour? Were they indifferent as to the fate of the monarchy? Did they like the film? Hate it? Why were they there? It was hard to tell.

Usually people in this burg have fairly strong opinions, fairly strongly expressed. So your scribe found it unusual to see such a passive group of townsfolk sitting there like bumps on a log for two hours or so. Obviously more research is needed, so, as stated above, I will selflessly volunteer myself to get out and attend more films in the future.

Time to go and check out the Avenue.

Friday, December 29, 2006

"Fast Away the Old Year Passes..."

Sorry, dear reader, if my sudden penchant for titles in quotes is becoming tiresome. I think it's just a temporary aberration, so bear with me.

As the New Year looms on the horizon, we all tend to take stock of the past and assemble our hopes for the future. 2006 is notable, among other things, for launching yours truly into the blogosphere, but that's probably not one for the history books. Other than that, it's been a truly mixed bag of a year, with the international situation more fraught than ever, and the local scene not all that much better. Here in Greenwich we can be glad of a very succcessful new family business opening on the Avenue (Vineyard Vines), the reopening of the sanctuary at the First Presbyterian Church, and, on a personal level, the end of the AuthorBabe's never-ending divorce and her sudden discovery of new love (she and the NL are off on a cruise to the Bahamas even as I write).

On the downside, the rift between Town Hall and the RTM has widened, Da Vinci's restuarant has closed, and Bob Tate is in jail. As you all know, BTW, it has been famously said that a grand jury can indict a ham sandwich, so low is the level of "proof" necessary (and, of course, there is no opportunity to mount any kind of defense); your scribe, however, is a great believer in the increasingly quaint notion that everyone is presumed innocent until and unless proved otherwise. But in the ever-more paranoid world we live in post-9/11, many of our age-old rights have been jeopardized if not in fact downright abrogated in recent years. Let's add that to the negative side of the ledger.

And even as I write, something else occurs that is emblematic of what's been happening in this town of late: the increasingly rapid decline of civility and respect for the rules. Our town libraries have explicit rules banning the use of cellphones and the bringing of food on the premises. The yahoo next to me has just sat down with a bag of food, and was preparing to dig in when I went over to complain to a librarian. As I returned to my seat, he pointed at me and started to yell about the fact that I had turned him in. The fact that he was breaking the library rules by bringing in his food was not an issue in his mind; rather, I was clearly the one at fault. He continued to yell and be obnoxious, but there's never a security guard around when you need one. Just as when the SUVs illegally pass you going 60 in a 25 MPH zone, there's never a cop there to pull them over. The quality of life in this town, dear reader, is deteriorating at a rapid rate. And I do not see any likelihood that the trend will change soon.

Thus your scribe is not full of rosy optimism for 2007. If the Constitution and the rule of law are being increasingly eroded, and the rules of civility and of the road are being increasingly flouted, where do we go from here? Only downhill, I suspect.

Well, some will say it was ever thus, and there's a certain amount of truth in the fact that each generation seems to believe that things were better in the "good old days." Just ask your parents or grandparents, and you'll see what I mean. But there are, I believe, certain benchmarks by which a civilization is measured - or can measure itself - and it seems to me that 21st-century life in this town and in this country is falling increasingly short of those marks. Am I alone in this belief? Speak up, dear reader, and let me know what you think.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

"The Foolish and the Dead Alone..."

"...never change their opinions." Thus spake James Russell Lowell, whose bon mot is the secret quote in today's New York Times crossword puzzle (sorry if I spoiled the fun for those of you who are still working on it!).

His contemporary Ralph Waldo Emerson made a similar observation: "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds." If I had to guess, I would say that the Emerson quote is the earlier of the two, and the Lowell squib a later paraphrase. But I'm not going to take the time to research it right now.

The point of offering you these quotes, dear reader, is that the local radio station today carried brief snippets from Representative Chris Shays and former Greenwich First Selectman/US Senator/Governor of CT Lowell Weicker. Both men mentioned how angry and upset they were when former President Gerry Ford pardoned Richard Nixon. Weicker, of course, had been part of the Watergate hearings, and Shays was just beginning his political career.

In their snippets both men revealed themselves as neither foolish nor dead. Over the ensuing decades, they both had changed their mind, and now believe that Ford's pardon was a statesmanlike thing to do - even though it probably cost him the 1976 presidential election.
[Correction: I seem to have misheard Mr. Shays; he still thinks the pardon was wrong. Sorry for the error!]

Your scribe was also one of those who was infuriated by the pardon and its smell of a back-room deal. And I was still fuming at election time and refused to vote for Ford (which is not exactly the same as voting for Carter, but pretty close). Now, three decades later, I look back through the shenanigans of Bill Clinton and the unfolding disaster in Iraq and wonder why I was so angry. I, too, have now come to believe that Ford did the right thing.

It's interesting to learn today that Ford was against the invasion of Iraq, though he asked that his views not be published until after his death. Given the current national climate, and the understandable lionization of
Ford that is underway as he lies in state, one is tempted to say that this longest-lived of US Presidents has performed yet one more service to his country by dying when he did. His newly-released opinions may help to gel the consensus that Bush's Iraq policy was an enormous blunder, and that it needs to be fixed right away.

WWGD? What would Gerry do? I suspect he would be strong enough to apologize to the Iraqis for ruining their country, and ask that they hold an immediate referendum as to whether our troops should stay or go. If, as one would expect, they asked us to leave, then Ford would probably mobilize every available transport carrier to start bringing our forces home that same day.

And then, one has to wonder...would he pardon George W. Bush?

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

"Don't Just Buy a Mercedes-Benz..."

" a *Greenwich* Mercedes!"

When I heard this ad on the radio last night I almost gagged, but it certainly reinforces the point I was making yesterday about how people come to town to buy anything with the Greenwich label on it. So now you know: if it was purchased in Greenwich, it *has* to be better. The radio says so. (And Uncle Harry, who apparently has a secret penchant for cross-dressing, was thrilled to get his teddie, BTW.)

I guess that's the reason the chain stores fall all over each other in their attempts to outbid the competition for space on Greenwich Avenue. The irony is, of course, that they will not be selling to the locals, but to the myriad out-of-towners who flock like lemmings (query: do lemmings flock?) to town so they can tell all their friends that this is where they shop. And since these particular lemmings seem to have large amounts of disposable income, the chain stores pat themselves on the back for their wise and judicious business decision to locate here.

But wait, you ask: why, then, have so many chains come and gone so quickly in recent years? Aha, dear reader, your question shows that you have grasped the nub of the problem. Lemmings migrate. They are fickle. They are by definition all but brain-dead. And they tend to do most of their shopping between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

That leaves about eleven months in the year when the hapless chain store must pay its outrageous rent, not to mention utilites and payroll costs, waiting for the lemmings to return. For the locals will certainly not be bailing them out in the interim; most of us remember the Avenue the way it used to be, replete with mom-and-pop stores. If we want to go to a mall, we'll head over to Stamford or Port Chester or White Plains - the parking is better, and often the prices are, too.

There are certain storefronts in town that I believe must be cursed. In the quarter-century that I have been observing the Avenue, no business has been able to make a long-term go of those particular locations; the average tenure is about eighteen months, give or take. Why each new tenant doesn't do a bit of market research and find out why its predecessors folded their tents so quickly is a mystery to me; perhaps they just listen to the blandishments of the real estate agents who tell them they simply can't go wrong. And then reality sets in, followed by disillusionment and bitterness. I've seen it and heard it time after time. The Chamber of Commerce buys them a one-way ticket out of town, and then looks around for the next gullible patsy.

So, dear reader, you now know the macroeconomics of Greenwich Avenue. The only stores with staying power are the ones which are still family-owned: Betteridge's, Richards, Bon Ton Fish Market, Therese Saint Clair, Black Forest, Petticoat Lane, Graham's (now the only remaining toy store downtown - the chains have all left), Beam and Barre, Hoaglands, and so forth. And that's the way it should be.

Well, it's time to head out and go - guess where? - to the Avenue to check out the latest arrivals and departures. As I have said elsewhere, you rarely walk down the same Greenwich Avenue twice; as Heraclitus noted a couple of millennia ago, change is the only constant. Even Polaris, the North Star, is shifting; Thuban and Vega have been Earth's pole stars in the past, and will be again. Wonder if Shakespeare knew that when he wrote, "But I am constant as the Northern Star..." - was there some intended irony there? Nah, probably not; 16th century astronomy was light-years behind today's. Anyhow, life is in constant flux around you, dear reader; be aware of that, and make the most of it.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Christmas Present

Well, Santa came to Greenwich this year, just in case y’all were wondering. And for once he didn’t leave your scribe the usual lump of coal. Perhaps he felt that after the Date From Hell my past naughtiness (if any) had been fully expiated, and so moved me back over to the nice side of the ledger.

Here’s a brief recap of the Yuletide events, as witnessed by yours truly. Greenwich Avenue was a zoo on Sunday, as all the procrastinators came out in force, credit cards at the ready. The vast majority of them were from out of town, eager to pay for the cachet (as they see it) of an item purchased from a chain store in Greenwich. Why they didn’t just go to their local mall is beyond me; maybe they wanted to tell their friends of their frantic search for a parking place, and of the long lines at the cash registers. More than once I saw someone poke a head into a store and then report back to his or her companions, “There’s only a short line in here,” or, “The line’s too long—let’s go somewhere else.” Line-length, rather than the type of merchandise on offer, seemed to be the determining factor as to what Uncle Harry would be getting for Christmas. As long as it comes in a box that says “Greenwich”, who the hell cares what it is, right? I’m sure, dear reader, that Uncle Harry will look very nice in that teddie from Victoria’s Secret—it came from Greenwich, you know.

The only sensible store amidst this madness was Hoagland’s, which closed their doors in the early afternoon. I think Kathy O’Malley was probably appalled by the tidal wave of manic out-of-towners, and gave her staff the rest of the day off. Ownership hath its privileges.

Then it was off to Christ Church for the second of their three Christmas Eve services. Geoffrey Silver and James Kennerley did a magnificent job on the music, which has gone from strength to strength during the enforced absence of Bob Tate; Bob was remembered in the prayers, and I doubt there was a single chorister there who did not recall last Christmas Eve without a twinge of melancholy because of Bob’s inability to be with us. I sat near Geoffrey’s fiancee, Elizabeth Robinson, whose Sekolo Projects (Sekolo Projects : Fighting HIV from the Classroom) raises money to combat AIDS in Africa through education; without Bob and the fabulous music program he has built at Christ Church over the decades, the two of them would never have met. He has made such an incredible difference for good in so many hundreds of lives. That he should be restrained in durance vile while so many real malefactors and lawbreakers walk the streets of this town every day is past ironic: it is moronic. They don’t call it the “criminal justice” system for nothing.

As if to underscore all that Bob has done, Neil Bouknight presented me with a CD of the recent concert performed at Christ Church by the Academy of St. Martin’s-in-the-Fields, conducted by the legendary Sir Neville Marriner. Can you say “world-class”, people? That’s the calibre of the music program Bob Tate has gifted us with here in Greenwich. Neil and his wife Joanne (Joanne is a faithful reader of this blog, BTW—hi, Joanne!) will be visiting Bob next week, but when I asked if I could send along a gift for him, they told me no gifts are allowed. Well, as it happens, Bob has a lot of gifts, and he has shared them freely and liberally with us over the years—and that, thank the Lord, is something that the feds can’t take away.

Then it was on to First Presbyterian, where once again the music was glorious in our newly-reopened sanctuary. Kevin Estes has brought the music program along so far in the few short months he and Jenny have been here that it boggles the mind, while rejoicing the ears and the heart. Bill Evertsberg gave a short meditation on the Gospel of John—you know, the bit about “in the beginning was the Word,” and how the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth. “Words bring to life what has not yet existed,” said Bill, and whether that was his line or someone else’s (the text versions of his sermons are often replete with footnotes), I thought it was a pretty good one, especially for those of us in the writing business. I’m sure J. K. Rowling, who I believe is now richer than the Queen, would agree. (And, BTW, isn’t it nice that they celebrate Christmas at Hogwarts?)

The golden families of our parish, the McWhorters and the Waters, were there in force. Megan sang in the choir, with a brief detour to light the Advent and Christ candles, and Jeremy and Peter were back from their respective hinterlands. Jamey Waters, who starts his Navy SEAL training in February, was there, as was medical student John, our erstwhile Christian Ed stand-in (and a brilliant one he was), and “little sister” Anne the Harvard senior (where *does* the time go?!). We all lit candles at the end and sang “Silent Night” by their glow, just as happened in Austria all those years ago in 1818 when Josef Mohr and Franz Gruber had to improvise after the organ finked out. Can you imagine, dear reader, what Christmastide would be like if it hadn’t? What’s that line about words bringing to life things that did not previously exist? You can almost hear the creative thought process: no organ noise = “Stille Nacht”; but it’s nonetheless Christmas Eve = “heilige Nacht”; and pretty soon you have a full-fledged immortal Christmas carol on your hands. Add a few simple guitar chords, and bingo! a new creation exists where there was only a void before. Ex nihilo, and all that. “In the beginning was the Word....”

On Christmas Day your scribe enjoyed the warm hospitality of the local Knights of Columbus, who generously put on a turkey dinner every year for those in town whose families are far away. One never knows what size or shape Christmas presents may take; mine took the comely form of the multi-talented Laura, who flew in from the West Coast to spend a few days with her parents. Laura makes a very comfortable living with an idea so simple that I don’t dare tell you about it lest those of you who could might rush out and copy her; but I will say that words are involved. BTW, the idea itself is simple, but the process involved is not; it so happens that she has a good deal of specialized education, not to mention some hilarious (though perhaps not for her at the time) life experience. Suffice it to say that things clicked nicely between us, sealed by a kiss and a bear hug at the end. She’ll be back East in a few months (or earlier, I hope!), and maybe sooner or later (how does sooner sound, Laura?) she’ll migrate back to the town where she grew up to keep a closer eye on her parents, not to mention your humble scribe.

And so, gentle reader, you now have the broad-brush version of Christmas in Greenwich. God bless us all, every one!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Never a Dull Moment

That's what it's like here in Greenwich at Christmastime. OK, maybe I should say holidaytime to be politically correct, but to do so would not be culturally correct. For the events I am sharing with you, dear reader, are all Christmas-related, and that's simply the way it is. (I exclude the mammoth traffic jams on Greenwich Avenue, which are probably 60-40 Christmas/non-Christmas related, if you include the many worshippers of Mammon who have settled here in town in recent years.)

Herewith a recap of some recent events worth mention: Saturday saw the Cos Cob Library Christmas party, at which Santa Claus made a cameo, and the performance of Billy Balsam: The Musical at First United Methodist Church. Billy Balsam: the book was written by a neighbor of mine about ten years ago, and has become a popular seasonal favorite. A local musician set it to music about six years ago, and accompanied "The Balsamettes" in their clever dramatic representation of the story, complete with numerous ten-second costume changes and the distribution of tiny bells to the children present for their help in one of the numbers.

Ken Kieffer, who could have played a lumberjack in his plaid shirt and bluejeans, welcomed us all, and invited us for hot chocolate and a tree-lighting afterwards. Author Bill Schneider distributed free copies of his book to the children (your scribe somehow managed to qualify) and signed them on request. Pretty nice way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

Sunday saw the return of the faithful (and a few lost sheep) to the sanctuary at the First Presbyterian Church on Lafayette Place. It's been sixteen long months of holding services in a middle school auditorium, and it sure felt good to hear an organ again. We re-consecrated the space (our organist, Kevin Estes, has been distressed to hear some construction workers speaking in construction-worker language, which apparently relies heavily on the the word motherf**ker for description and emphasis), and aside from one candle that refused to light (still too traumatized, perhaps?), it was a wonderful service. Even when the electric company produced one of its frequent outages on the grid, thereby truncating Kevin's postlude, spirits remained high. As our church administrator and chief clerk of the works, Don Hibbard, said, "At least we know the emergency lights work fine." So fine, in fact, that 90% of the congregation never even realized the power had gone out.

Don is the one who stumbled over (literally) the church's 1922 cornerstore as the demolition was taking place last year. Talk about the inscrutable ways of Providence: it had been hidden by new (now gone) construction from the 1950s, and nobody had a clue as to its existence. Don tripped over it, and noticed some Roman numberals on the offending rubble. Inside were documents about the church leaders of the time and their leap of faith in expanding the physical plant, as well as some pristine coins and other memorabilia. Don told the story as part of the children's sermon, and Bill Evertsberg asked them to be thinking about what we could put in the new cornerstone for people in the distant future to find.

Later that afternoon there was "Carols by Candlelight" at Christ Church. Your scribe would love to give a full review of the proceedings, which began with Benjamin Britten's "Ceremony of Carols" as a prelude, followed, of course, by lessons and carols and candles, but is somewhat constrained by the fact that he was running late and didn't get to the service. Next year, perhaps.

Long story short, there is so much to do and see in Town at present that life is anything but dull. If you need additional ideas, surf on over to AuthorWhiz Diana Peterfreund's Favorite Holiday Films listing at her ueber-fabulous website, Diana's Diversions. If I were consigned to a desert island with a laptop that could only access one website, it would be hers.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Pictures of the Season

Herewith some holiday pics from around the town (click on them for the Cinemax view):

Above is a picture of the tree at the Cos Cob Library. Note that the tree is standing straight and tall, while the column next to it appears to be leaning. Curious.

Now it's the tree that seems to be listing. This is at Luca's Restaurant on Church Street, where the Walruses & Carpenters and assorted spouses met for dinner last night.

And here they are, or at least some of them. Our pastor Bill Evertsberg (center) is flanked by his beautiful wife Kathy and Reader's Digest editor John Roberson. Dunno why Bill is looking at John instead of Kathy - unless maybe John is the one telling a joke this time. To the right are Dr. Phil McWhorter of Greenwich Hospital and his wife Linda, who is one of the best cooks in the parish. On this occasion we let Luca and his staff do the cooking.

This is local real estate guru David Ogilvy with his daughter, Field, at the historical society's annual Christmas party. David is a generous supporter of the society, as well as the Land Trust, not to mention just about every other worthy cause in town. Have you ever seen a better picture exemplifying paternal pride?

And here we have the historical society's tree lighting. Heather Cotter, Director of Education, is obviously pleased with the music provided by Santa's helpers; she and the choristers appear to have formed a mutual admiration society.

Thursday, December 14, 2006


Life in this town is never dull, if you know how to scope out the happening events. And Greenwich High School (Go Big Red!) was a happening place last night, for sure.

The venue was the jam-packed superannuated auditorium, and the event was the annual Christmas choral concert. Patrick Taylor, who deserves a knighthood, IMHO, trains these young singers to a degree of professionalism rarely found even at the university level, and they reciprocate by giving him every ounce of talent and concentration they have. It all added up to a stunning performance.

I can only give you a couple of highlights for now. All the male singers were dressed in immaculate black tie, while the girls wore identical matching black gowns. The large Concert Choir sang some traditional and not-so-traditional seasonal offerings, including a striking marriage of Pachelbel's Canon to "The First Nowell". The men's group, the Witchmen, injected their trademark humor into the proceedings, while the women's Madrigals ensemble showed their usual high level of precision and musicality.

But it was, as always, the Chamber Singers who stole the show. This small band of highly-talented and -trained young people is probably one of the finest singing groups in North America, if not indeed the whole world. Their pitch, control, and execution are utterly amazing. Their repertoire would challenge the best professional singers anywhere. And they make it all look so easy!

Their finale was "The Twelve Days After Christmas", a rollicking ballad of what happens to all the gifts when the narrator and his "true love" have a huge fight. In the ensuing mayhem virtually everything hits the fan, except for one drummer drumming that the "true love" decides is a keeper. Whether her testing of the other drummers was a proximate cause of the breakup with the narrator is left to our imagination; suffice it to say that the whole thing was riotously funny.

Then the creaky, old, too-small stage was crammed with all the GHS singers AND alumni choristers to belt out the Hallelujah Chorus. Patrick Taylor gave a brief recap of some of the possible reasons King George II stood at the first performance of this piece (he was late; he had gout and needed to stand; it was time for a bathroom break, etc.), and then mounted a high and rather dangerous-looking trestle arrangement where he could conduct the massed singers and orchestra. (Did I mention that GHS desperately needs better auditorium and practice facilities for its burgeoning music and drama programs? If you live in Greenwich, call Ginny Krob and get your name on her petition!)

I snapped a couple of pics of Patrick on his trestle conducting the hordes, and if they come out you will be seeing them here in the near future. For now, you can create your own visual and audio effects; and if you didn't make the concert this year, I hope you will be there next year.

P.S. Here's the promised picture. As always, click on it to get the wide-screen view. Patrick is by the tall pole for the microphones used to record the concert. You can't see that he is precariously perched about ten feet off the floor, but he is. Clearly the man has a great sense of balance, and I don't mean merely musical!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

RTM Meeting Post-Mortem

Okay, I know some of my devoted readership could care less about the politics of this burg, but I feel a duty to memorialize a modicum of the goings-on for future, as yet unborn, generations of avid blog readers. How's that for a thought to rock your socks: that these blogs we so blithely create and fling out into cyberspace may still be floating around 50 or 100 years from now? Gives a whole new meaning to the term space junk, doesn't it?

I can image some imaginatively-challenged Ph.D. candidate at Yale in the year 2106 coming up with a dissertation proposal entitled "Early Twenty-First-Century Politics in Greenwich, Connecticut as Exemplified Through Contemporary Blogs," or some such. And of course "Greenwich Gossip" will be a primary source for the poor chump, who I hope is turning red with embarassment as he reads these words. But none of us will be around to witness it, dear reader; we'll let the future bury its dead, shall we?

Speaking of dead, Jimmy Lash's third attempt to cram a charter change down the RTM's throat was DOA, even if no one was certain of it in advance. Since a charter change, even one of dubious legality like the present offering, requires a majority of the full membership of the RTM to pass, the magic number for Jimmy and his minions was 115. But since nearly 20% of the 229 membership is usually absent - and last night was no exception - that means a proposal has to garner about 60% of the tally of those present and voting. Abstentions count as a "no" vote, as, of course, does a "no" vote itself.

Jimmy should have known he was in trouble when the committee reports gave him some rough sledding based on the pre-meetings last week. My committee, Legislative & Rules, offered an amendment that would bar the proposed town administrator position from being available to chauffeur the First Selectman's wife (or husband, as the case may be); the draft that Jimmy sent us would have made this perfectly legal had we not in our wisdom forestalled the possibility. Other committees were downright negative on the whole idea, given that Jimmy is supposed to run the town, not some highly-paid administrator.

The problem, dear reader (and dear Ph.D. candidate of 2106), is that the town charter already states that the First Selectman is supposed to be a full-time public official who runs this town; and this, unfortunately, conflicts with Jimmy's lifestyle, which takes him away from the job about one-third of the time, per the Local Rag (LR for short). Aha! Jimmy must have thought to himself: if I wish to be out of town as often as I do, why don't I get the RTM to give me a town administrator who can then do the job that I was elected to do? Problem solved. But some of us viewed his brilliant idea as less than an ideal way to correct his ongoing violation of the charter's proviso that he spend his full time on his job, and said so.

The vote came down to a question of whether Jimmy's lock-step minions could muster the necessary strength, and in the end they fell far short. So far, in fact, that the proposal (which had at least garnered a positive vote in prior attempts, though just short of the required 115) went down in flames by a vote of 91 for, 97 against, and 4 abstentions (which had the same effect as a "no" vote, as you now know). I think Jimmy probably realizes by now that he has made so many enemies in his first two terms as First Selectman that he would be unwise to try to seek a third.

So that, dear reader, is an evening in the life of your scribe, and of the political history of our town. On the spectrum which runs from watching the paint dry to watching the grass grow, RTM meetings fall somewhere in the middle, and last night was no exception. But at least the forces of light and reason prevailed against those who would turn the town into ever more of an imperial fiefdom, with a charter-protected grand vizier to run the government. Yes, Viriginia, we still have democracy in Greenwich; but for a while last night some of us were holding our breath.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

AuthorBabe Saloon

I'm sure y'all have been waiting with bated breath for a report on the AuthorBabe's latest saloon. As faithful readers of this blog will recall, the original gathering was meant to be a salon, but an errant "o" changed all that - permanently. And this time, I am happy to report, there was an abundance of refreshing potables of the alcoholic variety, as well as the remnants of the case of V-8 juice left over from the last (dry) saloon.

Your scribe's offering of a smooth but full-bodied Chilean cabernet sauvignon was pronounced quite drinkable by several of the assemblage, and disappeared quickly. Clearly the centerpiece of the drinks end of the table was an unopened bottle of 12-year-old scotch which had languished an additional 8 years since being smuggled in from Great Britain hidden in a box of books. A couple of us decided it was time to get on with the purpose for which the scotch was created, namely, to be imbibed. Additionally, the AuthorBabe has a new love in her life, and since the bottle dated from the days of the soon-to-be ex-hubby, it was clearly an auspicious moment to use the STB ex's cellerage to toast the AB's new-found happiness. And so, dear reader, we proceeded to do just that.

The AB's new swain, it developed, had been aware of her existence for nearly a year because of her book, but being based in Boston he thought it would be a bit creepy to email her. Imagine his surprise when a comment he made in his blog in September somehow blipped onto the AB's radar screen, and she emailed him! After that, things moved quickly, and the happy pair had a nice long weekend in Boston recently dovetailing an author shindig with their own shenanigans. The AB wrote a long blog about it all, which unfortunately got zapped before she managed to post it; your scribe dubbed it the "Lost Blog", and the AB promptly suggested we work on the film version, to be titled "Raiders of the Lost Blog," coming soon to a theatre near you.

Thus your scribe spent a goodly portion of the evening grilling the AB's swain, both pumping for lurid details (none forthcoming - he appears to be a gentleman) and ensuring his suitability as a potential mate for the AB. Both he and the AB protested loudly and long that matehood was not in the cards at this point, but we all know what it means when the lady doth protest too much, not to mention the gentleman. If I ran a betting parlor, I would lay odds that within a twelvemonth the AB will be sporting one if not two rings on her fourth finger, left hand (as the old song has it).

Frank Farricker and his bride Cathy were there, along with Ed and Beth Krumeich. Ned Lamont had sent regrets, but invited the AB to grab lunch with him sometime soon. The rest of the crowd was a motley crew (crue?) assembled by the AB from her real-time friends and on-line acquaintances. "So that's what you look like" was a comment heard not infrequently from our hostess at the start of the festivities. Trust the AuthorBabe to blur the boundaries between cyberspace and real life.

As FF was plucking the last bits of meat off one of the turkeys he regaled us with stories of his days as an intern in Chris Dodd's senate office. One of them concerned the senator "perving" in the mailroom with a young cutie. Your scribe immmediately questioned whether "to perve" is indeed a verb on Capitol Hill, and was assured that it is. Apparently it is used to describe skeevy behavior on the part of an older man towards a nubile intern. I guess perving is one of the senate's older and more durable traditions, to judge from some recent headlines.

The party was a rollicking success: huge platters of turkey and large quantities of lasagna, oodles of wonderful side dishes and salads, and an enormous trifle that was anything but trifling. The AB's 10-year-old daughter started off the piano playing, and soon people were singing and stomping so loudly that the wall sconces started to flicker off and on. P-A-R-T-Y!!

Being the contemplative sage that he is, your scribe spent some quality time with the AB's precocious daughter and her school chum Colby (not her real name, but her nom-de-fete), who would occasionally leave their computer games to tear through the assemblage like a pair of hyperactive pixies, before repairing back to the quiet of the study. Taped to the AB's computer were the following words of wisdom: "I write because I want more than one life: I insist on a wider selection." To which the AB's daughter added one of her own favorite quotes: "Fairy tales are more true than not, not because they say dragons are real, but because they say dragons can be beaten."

Thus your scribe was instructed as well as entertained chez the AB, and rolled down the hill from the AB's backcountry aerie to the tenements of central Greenwich a wiser and happier man than before.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Land Trust Annual Meeting

As part of his ongoing job to keep you abreast of all the latest here in Green-which (as our older residents pronounce Grenitch), your scribe went to the Round Hill Club yesterday to hear the latest on local efforts to preserve open space and foil the developers who would cover every square inch of the town (however you may pronounce it) with McMansions, natatoria, hockey rinks, and what have you. The news is reasonably good, I am happy to report.

Some of the water company's land is being offered to the town as protected open space. The price is still under discussion, but the state has recently passed a law offering financial incentives to companies (and individuals, I imagine) who set aside some or all of their property for conservation. So expectations are that the transaction will come to pass sometime in 2007.

Finances of the Greenwich Land Trust are strong. Long-uncultivated apple orchards are being brought back to fruition, as it were. Two samplings of honey from different Land Trust properties were on offer, and the one I tasted was so good that I had seconds on it rather than trying the other one.

After perhaps the longest meeting on record - there was, by common consent, one speaker too many - we adjourned to the bar. Readers of these pages will not be surprised to learn that the DFH was already there, although she seemed to be working on only one glass of wine at a time, not two. "Hi, dude," she greeted me. "How ya doin'?" I asked, not to be outdone in politesse. Neither of us expected my question to warrant an answer, and it did not, in fact, receive one.

I met the director of Lyndhurst, over in Tarrytown, NY, who informed me that this coming Sunday is the annual free admission day. Likewise, Washington Irving's home, Sunnyside, will be free. At ten bucks (the usual entrance fee) a pop, it should be worth the gas to drive over to Ttown and get some cultcha.

That's a quick summation; now it's off to a funeral. Then later today there's an author party at the Arts Council, followed by another saloon soiree chez the AuthorBabe. Busy, busy.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

House Tour

Just a quick report from the field as your scribe is two-thirds of the way through the annual Greenwich Historical Society (its original name, now changed for reasons unknown to the more cumbersome "Historical Society of the Town of Greenwich") House Tour. I thought y'all might be interested in a brief glimpse of what's on offer this year.

House #1, on John Street, replaced the erstwhile homestead of Jim and Sally Linen. Jim, as some of you may know, was head of Time Inc. back in the day. Usually your scribe views with disfavor the razing of an older house and its replacement with a McMansion, but in this case an exception needs to be made. While large, the new house is not overbearing, and the rooms are cozy and inviting despite the large scale. It was a house to relish and enjoy, and your scribe did both. If he were forced to live in a House Tour abode, this is the one he would pick from this year's offerings.

House #2 is the new home of Tommy Hilfiger. The decor was heavily Warhol-oriented. The house lacked intimacy, and seemed more of a showplace than a home. Your scribe was not impressed.

House #3, on Upper Cross Road, featured its own ice hockey rink, which doubles as a bastketball court in the summer. There was also an indoor natatorium - swimming pool to those of you from the sticks. Said nata-thingy was large, and indeed indoors in an extensive wing of the house that seemed to be heated to excess. I would not want to pay their energy bill for heating the water and the rest of the house. Without meaning to cause offense, this is not a house in which your scribe felt comfortable. I mean, pick a pool or pick a hockey rink, but both...?!

House #4, off Stanwich Road, was impressive for its decor, masterminded by Carol Swift. Hanging in the foyer is a large airplane whimsically festooned with cutlery and other unrelated objects. The owner of the house, you see, loves to fly, and when he does he often ferries children ill with cancer to various places for treatment. He has flown over 100 of these mercy missions, and has been honored for his good works. In addition to aviation-related items, he also collects music boxes and antique Victrolas. Some of the original Edison wax cyllinders still in their boxes with the portrait of TAE adorned his shelves.

Upstairs, the bedrooms were minor masterpieces. The girl's room was bright and cheerful and homey - I loved it. The boys' room had a list of chores and forbidden words, the latter including such things as "shut up" and "idiot". The house exuded a level of caring and love not often found in Greenwich. The children, it turns out, are adopted, and they are well aware of this. No secrets here; everything is open and full of light. Your scribe found a copy of one of his books on the family room shelf, and took it down to sign and inscribe it. He then replaced it, and hopes that the family will not be too displeased at his boldness the next time they pull it out to look up some question about local history.

OK, back on the horse. Still two more houses to view, but I think you've already had the highlights from this year's tour.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

"Is My Daughter-in-Law Going to Jail?"

The time: yesterday afternoon about 4:40 pm. The place: the local grocery store. The speaker: George Allen Smith III, father of George Allen Smith IV, who disappeared on his honeymoon aboard Royal Caribbean Cruises' "Brilliance of the Seas".

The rest of the snatch of conversation overheard by your scribe as he was heading back to his car went like this: "...and he said no, and it made me mad." Tempting as it was to linger over the bananas and hear more, your faithful reporter is not an eavesdropper, and he certainly had no intention of hearing even as much as he did. But now that it has been heard, it needs to be discussed.

A reasonable person might reasonably assume that Smith would prefer to see his daughter-in-law, Jennifer Hagel-Smith, behind bars. Now, we all know it is dangerous to infer overmuch from a brief bit of dialogue, especially without any context of what was said before or after these words. But try as I might to force some other construction upon them, their meaning to me seems pretty much the same as what the reasonable person would think.

Let's back up a bit. Initial reaction here in Greenwich to the news of young Smith's disappearance and presumed death was shock and dismay. The young couple had talked of parenting a George Allen Smith V, and the image presented was of two people very much in love. But then other details started to emerge....

Such as the detail that Jennifer and George had had a battle royal in one of the ship's bars. The local rag reported the following on January 23, 2006:

"Witnesses say Smith and his wife, Jennifer Hagel Smith, were heavily intoxicated and argued in the ship's bar the night George Smith disappeared. Passengers say Smith called his wife names and she responded by kicking him in the groin hard enough to double him over."

Oops. Is it possible that the "marriage" ended then and there? Cyberspace is full of speculation and rumors about what may have happened after that. Jennifer reportedly was found passed out/sleeping in a corridor on the opposite side of the ship from their cabin, while the cabin itself bore evidence of a fight, including bloodstains. Did the mysterious two Russians allegedly present duing the fight at the bar go on to settle matters with George on Jennifer's behalf? Jennifer herself has not been a model of lucidity or veracity in her various statements, according to published reports. Here's a recent post from the website

"She knows exactly what happened. if not, she at least suspects what happened. I've never believed her story and she seemed too removed from it. She should have been distraught; after all, they were newly married and on their wedding trip.
If she didn't know what happened, why would she settle and move to Boston, getting on with her life as though he was just a blip on her radar? Something's not right with her..."

Comes now your scribe with his bag of groceries and his snatch of overheard conversation. What do you think, dear reader? Does George Smith III think that Jennifer is in some way responsible for the disappearance/death of George IV? Be it noted that the two bereaved families are now at legal loggerheads in that Jennifer has accepted some sort of settlement from the cruise line, which the Smiths with their desire to file a lawsuit seem to view as a form of betrayal.

And who said life in the 'burbs was dull?

Monday, December 04, 2006

Change in Nomenclature

Just a quick post to let y'all know that in recent emails the Author Babe has been referring to herself as the AuthorBabe. Since the monniker is hers (though coined by your scribe), it seems only right to follow the AB's wishes in this regard. Therefore, let it be known far and wide throughout the realm of cyberspace that the AB's name shall be and the same is henceforth to be written as the AuthorBabe.

Given under our hand and seal, this Fourth Day of December in the Year of Our Lord Two Thousand and Six, at Greenwich, Connecticut, USA.

How Easy is a Bush Supposed a Bear...

That's what the Swan of Avon said about the reaction of a person "in the night, imagining some fear...." Works for me, although there aren't too many bears in these parts. You gotta go to Jersey to find those.

Anyhow, I just wanted to let y'all know that the disappearance of the FLASH message from the theatre marquis was not in fact due to sinister influences at work, but merely to the fact that the anonymous person who had asked to have it put there had only paid for one day's worth of posting. Fair enough.

This particular theatre has been in the habit of posting personal messages on its marquee for some time. It is possible to drive past and read the words, "Happy Birthday Susie!" or the like; I believe the theatre also hosts birthday parties inside. Can you imagine being little Susie (or whoever) as your mom nonchalantly drives you and your buds down the Avenue and someone (other than the clever mom) spots the sign and shrieks? And then your mom pulls into the curb and parks and lets you know it's party time? Sends a shiver up my spine just to picture the happy and surprised looks on the little darlings' faces.

So that, dear reader, is the story. You, too, can rent space on the theatre marquee if you are so moved. And free speech is alive and well (more or less) in Greenwich. Or so we can hope....

Saturday, December 02, 2006

FLASH in the Pan?!

Something seemingly sinister appears to be afoot in Greenwich. Yesterday, a local cinema proudly displayed the FLASH acronym (Friends of Law Enforcement Against Selectman Harassment) on its marquee, adding a message of support for the men in blue. Today, it has disappeared.

Did First Selectman/Commish Jimmy Lash climb up and take the letters down? Dubious, I think. Did he or the other Jimmy, Chief Wawa, make suggestions or give orders to that effect? Highly probable, IMHO. Free speech is not always protected in this rightward-leaning town.

Even more disturbing, your scribe was told this morning on Greenwich Avenue that some of the police officers themselves have been removing the FLASH stickers from their bumpers. No reason has been given (yet) for this bizarre behavior, but inquiries will be made, rest assured. Perhaps the officers in question have experienced a sudden epiphany of love and affection for the two Jimmies. Or, perhaps, there is some other, less Pollyanna-ish explanation.

To be continued....