Greenwich Gossip

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

All That Glitters...

Yeah, I know, it should be "glisters", not glitters, 'cause that's what Shakespeare wrote in "The Merchant of Venice." But hardly anyone uses "glisters" anymore; the word has been abandoned as surely as the USA abandoned the gold standard on this date 73 years ago. So what does this historical tidbit have to do with the price of beans in Greenwich today?

Well, everything, actually. When FDR criminalized the private ownership of gold by American citizens and recalled all the gold coins in circulation, our currency no longer had any objective value. Rather, it was backed by "the full faith and credit" of the United States - whatever you may choose to think that means. Can you take it to the bank? Well, you really don't have a choice.

The Gold Reserve Act, passed 73 years ago today, effectively devalued the dollar to 69.3% of its value the day before. And the dollar has continued to fall in value ever since.

On April 4, 1933, you could walk into any bank in the country and obtain a one-ounce gold coin with a face value of $20. The next day, FDR signed Executive Order 6102, and the landscape changed forever. The Order did allow a private citizen to keep up to $100 in gold coins, but anything over that had to be sold back to the government. Which on this date in 1934 raised the official price of gold to $35 per ounce. Hence the overnight devaluation.

Let us suppose, dear reader, that our grandparents has been smart enough to put aside those five double eagle $20 gold pieces in 1933. And that you and I went down to the bank today to get them out of the safe deposit vault. What would they be worth today?

Well, gold this morning is about $650 per ounce, so multiply that by 5 and you get $3,250. But wait - weren't most of the gold coins returned to the Treasury melted down into ingots? Yes, they were. So there's also a collector's premium that attaches to these coins. If our grandparents had happened to put aside bright new uncirculated coins of 1931 or 1932, they each would easily be worth $30,000 or more, for a total of $150,000+. If they were lucky enough to put aside scarcer dates or mint marks, you and I could easily be holding a million dollars' worth of numismatic treasure.

Well, we all know that our grandparents weren't that smart, or that lucky. And that's why we tend to eat beans more often than filet mignon.

By my reckoning, just the bullion value of that $20 gold piece is now 32 1/2 times higher than it was in 1933. I'm no math genius, but to me that seems to suggest that today's dollar is worth only about 3% of a 1933 gold-backed dollar. Ouch.

Well, I suppose that anyone who bought real estate in Greenwich in 1933 has made out pretty well, since, like gold, the price has gone up many-fold over the decades. But I doubt it has matched the increase of those uncirculated garden-variety 1931 or 1932 gold pieces, which have enjoyed a phenomenal 150,000% appreciation (well, they're worth over 1,500 times as much as in 1933 - did I do the percentage math right?).

What's the moral here? Our amazing shrinking dollar is worth only 3% of its gold-backed forebear. Gold has proven a much better investment, as has local real estate. But the "full faith and credit" of the United States has fallen by 97% over the past seven decades, and is still on the way down. Tens of millions are missing or misspent in Iraq, say today's headlines; and that's just a drop in the bucket. One thing is certain: the dollar's value will continue to decline in the months and years ahead. And that will surely affect the price of beans in Greenwich.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

"I fear for my life..."

Thus spake one local resident, speaking of traffic safety - or the lack thereof - here in Greenwich. The full quote runs as follows:

"[There are] way too many people speeding, running stop signs and traffic lights. I fear for my life when I'm driving or walking."

That about sums up the sorry state of traffic enforcement in this town. Many's the time your scribe has been driving up Stanwich Road or Lake Avenue, observing the 30 MPH speed limit, and some jerk in an SUV blows by him at 50 or 60, cell phone to the ear. Double yellow line? What's that? Stop signs? They're for peons. Traffic lights? They don't apply.

Your scribe has written before about crime in Greenwich (the safest place to commit murder in the entire USA), but it now seems time to focus on the enormous crime wave that is raging unchecked on nearly every street and road in town. Stand on any corner of Greenwich Avenue and watch how many people drive by chatting on their cell phones - within inches of the traffic cops who are supposed to be upholding the law even while they try to prevent vehicular manslaughter by making the cars stop for pedestrians. Stand on the Post Road, and watch how many red light runners go by in the space of five or ten minutes. Pick a stop sign in your neighborhood and stand there, camera in hand, ready to capture the lawbreakers on film. And then try calling the cops.

Most of them will just laugh at you. A few may promise to send what they call a "nastygram", which informs an errant motorist that someone has observed them breaking the law. But don't expect them to do much else.

It's quite clear, dear reader, that motorists in this town flout the laws for one very simple reason: no one seems to care. I mean, maybe you do and I do, but we're a small minority in a large community of lawbreakers. And we have no enforcement powers.

If I were Jimbo Lash (and boy! am I glad I'm not!!), I would use my powers as Commissioner of Police to get the cops out on the roads where the most frequent violations - not to mention accidents - occur. A patrolman could pay his own salary for a year by staking out North Street, or Riversville Road, or any of the other unofficial speedways in town. Why, just a week or two ago, your scribe was tooling down North Street when two motorcyclists came roaring by in tandem at about 70 MPH. Back in their dust was, believe it or not, a lone police cruiser, but the cop never had a chance. He didn't see them split up and turn off, and kept on going down to the Post Road with his useless lights and sirens. There he was joined by other cruisers, and they all sped off towards Port Chester in pursuit of - nothing. Just like the Keystone Kops of cinema fame.

No wonder the motorcyclists and SUV drivers come to Greenwich for their joyrides. It's the safest place around (so to speak), since the odds of being caught range from infinitesimal to none. Thanks, Jimbo - you're doing a great job as police commissioner. Aren't we lucky to live in Greenwich, folks? Er...those of us who haven't been run into or over, that is.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Greenwich Avenue to Become a High-Crime Area?

In his hubristic wisdom (or lack thereof), Jimmy Lash, acting more and more like a lame-duck First Selectman, is trying to push through a number of very unpopular changes to the way things are done in this Town. First, he rammed the new police headquarters down our throats (yes, we needed something better, but is a $60 million palace the answer?). Next, he decided to try to evict the seniors from their beloved quarters at the old Town Hall. And now, we learn, he wants to spend $560,000 to install traffic lights on Greenwich Avenue and get rid of the policepeople who have been there for decades, directing vehicular and pedestrian traffic and acting as a visible deterrent to crime on one of the richest streets in America.

Just a few months ago, a policeman directing traffic at the corner of Greenwich Avenue and Lewis Street helped to foil a $2 million dollar robbery at Terry Betteridge's jewelry store. OK, Jimbo probably figures that Terry can afford the loss, or that his insurance company will pony up. Hey, what's a couple of million compared to trimming a few thousand off the Town budget? The latter action helps to keep the mil rate down, even if Terry's insurance rates skyrocket.

Never mind the fact that to amortize whatever fictitious personnel "savings" Jimmy will present to us to bolster his airhead proposal, it will take years to offset the projected $560,000 cost of the three (count 'em - three) new stoplights. He claims his way will free up more police to patrol the Avenue, but no one on the force believes him. They are convinced it is simply a pretext to chop positions from their roster.

And what will John (or Jane) Q. Public think? Will s/he want to see armed policemen walking up and down the Avenue, assuming (dubiously) that Jimbo's claims are true? How much better, dear reader, to keep them at the corners where the traffic can ebb and flow like the tide, in a way that no mechanized stoplight could ever hope to cope with. Traffic duty gives them a plausible reason to be on the Avenue, and in fact as they shift from corner to corner, they do in effect act as a patrol - but a low-key, non-intimidating one.

Things are at the point, gentle reader, where your scribe is almost afraid to pick up the local rag to get his daily horoscope and comics fix. More and more, the headlines scream Jimbo's latest harebrained scheme to "improve" life in our Town. The cops refer to him as "King James", while your scribe has frequently alluded to the imperial presidency of Jimmy Lash. He has made enemies of almost every group in Town, including the RTM. But does he do anything to cut back the bloated bureaucracy at Town Hall? Of course not. Greenwich has the highest per capita number of municipal "workers" of any town in Connecticut, if not the entire country. And I don't mean by just a short nose - the difference is downright obscene. As RTM member Angela Hyland so quotably said the other day, "They have been allowed to grow their fiefdom with impunity."

These "workers" (well, to be fair, some of them *do* work, but if you wander through Town Hall on any given day, dear reader, you may have to look hard to find them) are unionized, well-entrenched, with excellent pay, health benefits, and a generous pension plan. No wonder so many people come to work for the town straight out of high school or college, get some credits on their resume, and then bail out in their early 40's to start a second career. At that point they can "retire" with more than half their salary payable to them every month for the rest of their lives. And you and I have to bear this as part of the cost of living in this Town.

If Jimbo really wanted to do something for Greenwich, he would pare down the civilian bureaucracy in Town. I know, or know of, people towards the top of the ladder who do nothing but goof off most of the day, sometimes carrying on affairs with co-"workers" on Town time and on Town property (one desk in Town Hall is particularly notorious for its extra-curricular usage). Are these people fired for what would surely be a firing offense in the private sector? Of course not. Don't make me laugh. One upper-echelon employee's secretary sued the Town for comp time when she realized she never got her lunch hour because the boss left her in charge when he left for his daily nooners. She got a nice cash settlement from the Town, but the boss in question still carries on, as it were, as before. Is this a great Town, or what? God bless America!

And God help Greenwich. Hamlet thought something was rotten in the State of Denmark; if he lived in modern-day Greenwich he would find it's not just something, but many things that are rotten around here. And the man at the top roils the waters by creating controversial straw issues instead of addressing the real problems. Is he, like Hamlet's uncle Claudius, a part of the rottenness? Or is he merely an ignorant time-server who just doesn't get it? Either way, dear reader, Jimmy Lash is certainly not doing this Town any favors at this point in his career.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

AuthorBabe Back on Map; Takes Local Rag X-Rated

She's baaack! And more irreverent than ever (if possible). The AuthorBabe did her usual bang-up job in her biweekly column in the Local Rag, even taking Yellowwich Time out of its normal journalistic pap PG mode into the X-rated sphere. You go, girl!

Here's the sentence that I had to read twice to be sure I was seeing it correctly:

"So let me get this straight: we’re going to risk 20,000 additional American lives for a strategy that the military commanders on the ground don’t think will work to provide this morally corrupt Administration with a reason to cover their lying asses?"

Ooh, I *like* that. Lying asses! And I don't think we're talking Balaam's pet donkey here, even though he was a talking ass. For one thing, Balaam's ass only spoke the truth, while it seems the AB thinks the Administration's asses do not.

Let's consider (as did the AB's editor, no doubt) what some of the alternatives might have been. Prevaricating posteriors? Nah - no zip there; too namby-pamby. Buccelatory bippies? No good - sounds too much like flatulence. Bullshitting bums? Better - the various puns seem to work well on various levels. But let's face it - as did the AB's editor - lying asses is the phrase juste.

When reached for comment, the AB responded, "Tee hee." Wherever she's been hiding out for the past three weeks, she hasn't lost her sense of humor.

Now, dear reader, for your homework: surf on over to Saramerica and read the AB's column. Your scribe is not the first, nor will he be the last, to say that it should be syndicated nationally. But until it is, you can always read it at the AB's website.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Churches in the Headlines

Seems as though every day one picks up the Local Rag, there's more news about the various ecclesiastical woes in town. Over the weekend the news broke that the Rev. Michael Moynihan had been terminated at St. Michael Church on North Street after fourteen years as its popular pastor. Some $500,000 in church funds cannot be properly accounted for, and the FBI has been investigating "hidden" bank accounts under Moynihan's control. But this is merely the latest whiff of scandal in the local Roman Catholic churchscape; local residents may recall the abrupt departure of the similarly popular Rev. Al McGoldrick at St. Paul's in Glenville not long ago. And then, of course, there was the unspeakable Charlie Stubbs at St. Mary Church on the Avenue, who by rights should be behind bars instead of hidden away in seclusion by the RC seems to be their long-standing custom.

Not that the Protestant denominations have exactly clean hands, either. A few years back Dick "Hot Sheets" Stearns was allowed to retire quietly from the First Presbyterian Church; time was when he might have been tarred and feathered (if not worse) for his serial adulteries and defalcation of church funds. Your scribe could not believe that the church's session, eager to cover up the problems, asked the congregation to contribute to a "purse" so that Stearns could "continue his theological studies." Talk about hypocrisy! In actual fact, he was put on trial by higher church authorities and came within a whisker of being defrocked. Only the machinations of a hot-shot lawyer (and perhaps the explosiveness of the case) managed to get it hushed up.

Down the street at Second Congregational, something similar occurred when assistant pastor Becky Spencer started carrying on an affair in the church manse with the son of her superior, Mert Rymph. You have never seen a church in such denial, dear reader; but when one member of the church council said, on tape, that "everybody knows it's true," the tape mysteriously disappeared. The late unlamented Reg Jones, polluter par excellence as erstwhile chairman of the executive committee at GE, told your scribe that the tape would "destroy the church", and therefore he himself had destroyed the tape. He learned this trick, no doubt, from his close pal Richard "Tricky Dick" Nixon of Watergate fame.

But Becky Spencer was not punished (here on earth, at least) for her sins; rather she was foisted off on an out-of-state congregation. That's the Greenwich way, dear reader; if someone screws up, we promote them and give them a medal and get them out of town as fast as possible. Then everyone pretends to play dumb about the whole thing. Works every time.

Well, almost. II Esdras and all that; one would think the clergy would know better. Magna veritas et praevalebit should be part of the prayers - and the lifestyle - of every church in this town. Instead, the order of the day is cover-up, three-monkeyism, and the occasional threat or bribe for good measure (favorite tactics of Reg Jones, who bought the 2nd Congo church secretary a condo in exchange for her silence on the Spencer follies).

Thankfully, there is the occasional exception to the Greenwich rule of hypocrisy and denial. Yesterday Bob Tate, the beleaguered former music director at Christ Church, entered a guilty plea to the charge of possessing child pornography. When the judge asked if Bob understood the nature of the charge, Bob answered forthrightly, "I'm sorry to say, yes, your honor." He was truthful and remorseful - probably a first for this town. Six parishioners stood by to make personal bonds for the $500,000 bail; and Bob was allowed to leave jail and enter a clinic in Pennsylvania for treatment.

Sad as it was to read this news, one cannot help but admire Bob for his honesty and candor. In the 36 years he served Christ Church so ably and well, he never once laid an inappropriate hand on any of his charges. I, and hundreds of other choir parents who worked and traveled with Bob, will swear to this. If Bob had human urges - as, in fact, we all do - he sublimated them. In another society, such a victimless "crime" might be looked on leniently by the authorities. But somehow, Bob was singled out; and instead of whining or prevaricating, he stood up like a man and spoke the truth.

Meanwhile, hundreds of active pedophiles carry on unmolested, as it were, by the law. Many of them are clergymen, who are shunted around by their denominations in an effort to hush up their misdeeds. Few if any of them are charged in the courts. When was the last time you heard of a pedophile priest being sent to jail?

Well, this has not been a happy post to write, but your scribe believes that there may be some salutary lessons to be learned here. Do cover-ups work? Rarely, if ever. Those who, like Reg Jones, try to engineer them, wind up dying as miserably as they lived. And those who, like Bob Tate, have used their life and talents to enrich the lives of countless others, will be held forever dear in the memories of those they worked so hard to help.

I am very sad that Bob Tate is now a convicted felon. But I am very proud of the way he is handling it.

Monday, January 22, 2007

AuthorWhiz Turns 28; AuthorBabe Falls Off the Map

Yes, the talented and graceful Diana Peterfreund has turned twenty-eight, and consequently - well, at least subsequently - has done a total make-over of her blog site. The occasion clearly calls for a poem (sweet Blogspot, run smoothly till I end my song!):

A Birthday Ode to Diana

Charge your glasses! Toasts aplenty!
Our Diana's eight-and-twenty!
Here's to her and all her books,
With their clever plotting hooks,
Their twists and turns, their curves and bends,
Telling of Amy and her friends.
For SSG, Sub Rosa, too,
Our congratulations due
We humbly proffer; we can't wait
For Number Three to apparate!
OK, I'm done now - Hallmark's calling -
(To work for them would be so galling),
But before I call it quits,
Or my muse goes on the fritz,
Let us now our voices raise,
United in Diana's praise:
Charge your glasses! Toasts aplenty!
Our Diana's eight-and-twenty!

I'll bet part of her wishes the next book would just "apparate", but hey, Diana, that would spoil the fun - and besides, what would you blog about if books simply appeared at the wave of a magic wand? The weather? Hey - wait a minute - that's one of *my* topics!

Meanwhile, the AuthorBabe has been AWOL from cyberspace for over three weeks - what gives, saraclaradara? Maybe another poem will help:

Where, O where has the AuthorBabe gone,
O where, O where can she be?
With her wit so sharp and her mots so bons,
O where, O where can she be?

Well, either that will bring her back or make her keep on running - time will tell.

That's the news for today, folks. If anyone spots the AB bopping around Greenwich, send up a flare. It's just not the same around here without her.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

The Vanity of Human Wishes

Well-read fans of your scribe's blog will know that he did not make up the title for today's post; credit for that goes to Samuel Johnson, the Great Lexicographer, who published a poem by that name in 1749. His warning to would-be scholars and writers is typical of the monitory tone of the poem (full text at Johnson, Vanity of Human Wishes, 1749):

Yet hope not Life from Grief or Danger free,
Nor think the Doom of Man revers'd for thee:
Deign on the passing World to turn thine Eyes,
And pause awhile from Learning to be wise;
There mark what Ills the Scholar's Life assail,
Toil, Envy, Want, the Patron, and the Gaol.

The patron in question, of course, was Lord Chesterfield, who ignored Johnson's pleas for financial assistance until the Dictionary was about to appear, at which point he sallied forth to attempt to snag the dedication to which he thought himself entitled. See Johnson's letter to him for a classic example of irony at its best:

Samuel Johnson's letter to Lord Chesterfield

Johnson's poem title came to mind as the New Haven Coliseum imploded this morning at 7:30 AM. Your scribe had watched these towers rise over the city in the late 60s and early 70s, slowly but inexorably blocking out more and more of the sky. Who would have thought that just a few decades later they would be deliberately razed? All that work, all those dollars, gone for naught.

Sorta reminds one of our tear-down passion here in Greenwich. Lovely houses, some of them historic, are destroyed each year so that Wall Street bonuses can create garish, oversized McMansions with no redeeming aspects to their arrogant and boastful facades. If your scribe had to guess, he would postulate that some - perhaps many - of these monstrosities will themselves meet the wrecker's ball if and when good taste makes a return to Greenwich at some future time.

The razing of the Pickwick Arms Hotel still ranks as one of the worst rapes perpetrated on this town, IMHO. And the soulless office complex that replaced it likewise ranks as one of the least successful architectural excresences that blot our local landscape, in the eyes of many locals (including yours truly).

Well, one could go on, but you get the point. Those who built the Pickwick Arms in 1920 thought they were building a landmark for all time. All time, in that case, was a mere 50 years. Today, the hotel is just a fond memory in the minds of a steadily decreasing number of citizens. Yes, dear reader, Johnson had it right: our human wishes and aspirations are as vain and empty as the newcomers who are ruining our town for us. But we can still try to preseve the beauty we have left, and honor the memories of those who strove to create that beauty, whether their works survive or not.

Friday, January 19, 2007

White Stuff

Well, it finally snowed in Greenwich yesterday, and even a bit more this morning. So now we can all tell our grandchildren that we remember the winter of 2006-7, in which a new record for snowless days was set. That and twenty bucks or so should get us a cup of coffee at Starbucks by the time they head off to college to get away from having to listen to us natter on.

But once again it's sunny and warm outside, so not much of the white stuff is left. Remember the old New England winters, when we had to walk two miles through four feet of snow to get to our one-room schoolhouse? Or the blizzard of 1978, when Governor Grasso closed the State of Connecticut and the roof of the Hartford Civic Center fell in? Ah, the days of real winter weather...but I natter.

So your scribe will continue to call this the non-winter of 2006-7 until and unless given reason to describe it otherwise. And, says he, ending on a hopeful note, let's remember that the vernal equinox is less than nine weeks away. That's about as far ahead of us as Thanksgiving is in the past. The days are getting longer, the sun is getting stronger, and spring is just around the corner. So is it time to cock a snook at Old Man Winter?

Perhaps not...what is it they say about letting sleeping dogs lie? Guess I'll wait and see what Phil the Groundhog has to say.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

"Is My Daughter-in-Law Going to Jail?", Part III

Once again the ineffable Smith family graces the headlines of the Local Rag. Readers will recall that George III apparently wants his daughter-in-law, Jen, to go to jail, and that the Smiths are mad at her for taking a million-dollar settlement from the cruise line. A "sellout", they call it. Your scribe still thinks that's pretty good money for a week-long "marriage" that seems to have ended dramatically on the honeymoon, even before the mysterious disappearance of the groom.

The hapless Smiths have twice tried to press their suit in court, and twice have had it tossed out onto the judicial dustheap. After the first failure last November, they refiled the action. But this time there will be no more refilings: the judge has now dismissed the case "with prejudice", meaning that he doesn't want to hear from them again. Sure, they can - and no doubt will - waste thousands of dollars more in a fruitless appeal of the judge's ruling, because they just don't seem to get the message. They are, to use an old nautical phrase, trying to "piss up a rope," and we all know how messy and difficult that can be. All of us except the Smiths, apparently.

So Jen did absolutely the smart thing by refusing to join her in-laws in their bootless venture, and arriving at a settlement on her own. The Smiths may still try to play a spoiler role, even though they benefit to the tune of about $200,000 from the settlement; one gets the sense from George's ill-tempered query that he would cut off his own nose to spite Jen's face. Well, he'll probably try.

So the saga continues, with a status conference scheduled in the Greenwich probate court next week. But the Smiths, with their long history (IMHO) of attracting bad karmic energy, are becoming increasingly marginalized. Even the judge doesn't want to give them the time of day anymore.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007


Today's post is a quickie, drawing on the column "This Day in History" which, along with the comics and horoscopes, constitute about the only reasons to bother to pick up the Local Rag. The news stories, as faithful readers of this column know, are about as accurate as the horoscopes, and the editorials (except for the bi-weekly column by the AuthorBabe) are about as laughable as the comics. 'Nough said.

So here are some events of history for us to contemplate. On this date in 1893 a group of businessmen and sugar planters overthrew the Hawaiian monarchy, the better to enrich themselves. The US of A annexed the islands in 1898; they remained a territory until 1959, when statehood was granted. Ah, the good old days of Yankee imperialism! We just did what we wanted, and let world opinion go hang. Isn't it nice that those days are *are* over, aren't they?

By 1917 we were a little better-mannered. On this date in that year we bought the Virgin Islands from Denmark for $25 million. Still highway robbery, but at least not at the barrel of a gun. Anyone care to figure out the value of these islands 90 years later? Somewhere in the trillions, I would imagine.

On January 17, 1945, Raoul Wallenburg of "Schindler's List" fame disappeared while in Soviet custody and was never seen again. We may never know what happened to this brave humanitarian. How ironic that he survived the Nazis only to become a non-person at the hands of our purported ally, "Uncle Joe" Stalin, who within a couple of weeks would be shaking hands with FDR and Churchill at the Yalta Conference. With Wallenburg's blood on his, no doubt.

Our Supreme Commander in Europe, Gen. Dwight David Eisenhower, made his farewell Presidential address on this day in 1961. Like Washington's advice to avoid foreign entanglements, Ike's has gone largely unheeded. He warned us, as you may recall, about the rise of the "military-industrial complex." Was he able to foresee the role of Halliburton in Iraq some four decades later? Apparently so. One wonders what Dick Cheney's farewell address will sound like.

Well, that's enough to get you thinking for today, dear reader. Remember, as always, that those who do not learn from the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them. Which is probably a good part of the reason that our foreign "policy" is such a clusterf*ck these days...maybe we need a new national education program, "No President Left Behind"...or is it already too late?

Tuesday, January 16, 2007


No, your scribe has not been to the race track, betting the rent money on horses that are scratched at the post. Rather, he is the somewhat proud, but definitely poorer, owner of a car with a starter that works.

Such was not the case for much of yesterday. In common with many people in this town, I view a car as a machine which you enter, fasten your lap strap, and turn the key, at which point it takes you where you want to go. Simple and effective. Most of us don't need or want to know much more than this.

So you can picture the blank look on your scribe's face when he gets into his car at the Food Mart garage, buckles up, turns the key, and - nothing. Well, not quite nothing: the headlights come on (they're the automatic variety), the dashboard illuminates, the heating fan whirrs; but the engine doesn't make a peep. Not even the clicking sound that can indicate a dead solenoid. Just dead silence.

Clearly it's all just a bad dream. Let's try again. And again. And a few more times. Now I know what they mean by the sound of silence. Not a happy sound, in this case, at least.

In a daze, I wandered over to a nearby store, thinking to call my local service station to give them the news. As I explained my plight at the counter, a woman next to me said, "Let me drive you to the garage." It didn't matter that she was planning to go eastward, and the garage was two miles to the west - she was clearly the angel-in-disguise type, and wouldn't take no for an answer.

What a delight she was! As she drove carefully and courteously along the Post Road, she told me about her daughter at St. Paul's School (her own alma mater), and we quickly established that we had several good friends in common. Meeting that wonderful woman restored my flagging faith in humankind in general, and in Greenwich residents in particular. This, I thought, is the way it's suppposed to be in this town. (Which is why I grumble so much when I encounter the rude and pushy types who have flocked here in recent years.)

At the station I ran into a friend who knows cars. He grabbed a battery pack and a pair of jumper cables, and drove me back to the Silent Wonder. Which continued to perform (not!) as advertised. After half an hour of trying everything he could think of, including reading the owner's manual, he gave up, and we went back to the station.

The manager got my insurance company on the line, and I was informed that a tow truck would be at my car within the hour. So my friend drove me back, and I hung out at the Food Mart comtemplating my fate.

This is what I contemplated: my car had died, but it had died here in town instead of hundreds of miles away. People were being extremely nice and helpful. Food Mart was providing samples of chicken salad and warm poached salmon. It was not raining. It was not cold. All in all, I had no reason to complain.

As I stood outside waiting for the tow truck, friend after friend passed by. Sandy Evans (of Vineyard Vines fame, as you may recall), introduced me to her youngest boy, Chase. Judge Martin Nigro of the Stamford Superior Court paused to chat. Talented artist Ilse Gordon made a cameo. But the tow truck itself was doing a Godot act.

At the end of the promised hour, it was still nowhere to be seen. The parking lot attendant pulled out his cell phone and offered it to me; I called, and was told it would be another 20 minutes or so. "Promise?" I asked. This seemed to catch the gruff towing service operator by surprise. But he did.

As he was as good as his promise. The truck appeared so quickly I almost missed it as I scarfed a bit more of the yummy salmon. And then, of course, the ironic denouement: the tow truck driver got in the car and turned the key - and the car started right up.

So I was able to drive to the station without the ignominy of a tow. Leaving the engine running, I went to tell the service manager I was back at last, and he immediately found me an empty bay. The mechanic drove the car in, turned it off, and turned the key again. It started, of course.

But on the next try it didn't. So he asked me to get in the car while he put it up on the lift to see what was what. "Try it now," he said, so I did. It started. "Booger," he said.

"Try it again." Nothing. I heard a loud clank from underneath, and the car started. "What did you do?" I asked. "Hit it with a hammer," he said - "old mechanic's trick."

But it was clear that the starting motor was on the fritz and needed replacement. I would have to leave the car for an hour or so. So I walked home, puttered, and walked back at the appointed time, only to find the mechanic sitting in the back seat reading my book about Greenwich. Turns out he had a local history question, and was hoping to find an answer in it. Well, there was a partial answer, at least, and oh, by the way, he said, the car was working fine.

So there, gentle reader, is the story of your scribe's holiday. It didn't go exactly as planned, but then, life rarely does. The nice thing about the day was all the nice things that happened in the course thereof, none of which would have happened if the car hadn't conked out.

Was it worth the repair bill of $355? Let's not go there. The day was what it was, and in all candor, if you ask why I enjoy living in this town so much, this was a pretty good example. Sometimes Greenwich can surprise you by showing its better side, and when it does, there is no finer place in the world to be.

Friday, January 12, 2007

"Honey, Would You Mow the Lawn?"

Yes, gentle reader, odd as it may seem for the 11th of January, the sound of the lawnmower is being heard in the land. As your scribe was walking by the Cos Cob fire station yesterday, one of the fire laddies was mowing the small swath of grass by the side of the building. I pinched myself to be sure I wasn't dreaming, but the noise of the mower and the smell of the freshly-cut grass were unmistakable.

There have been flights of geese honking in the skies, circling as though unsure whether they should be heading north or south. More and more trees are fringed with yellow and green, as new growth and buds appear. The non-winter of 2006-7 continues apace.

Quid est demonstrandum? What lessons are we to draw from this? One day the lawnmower; the next, perchance, the snowblower. Life is unpredictable, dear reader. QED.

Thursday, January 11, 2007


Yes, dear reader, your scribe is reduced to twiddling his thumbs while he waits for Town Hall to restore Internet service to all town departments, including the libraries. What was it he said so presciently yesterday? Ah, yes:

Some years ago the library had its own server, but under Jimmy Lash everything has now been consolidated in the bowels of Town Hall. This means that if Town Hall goes down - as happens from time to time - every other town department, including the libraries, goes down as well.

While your scribe endeavors to speak only truth in his posts, it's a bit disconcerting to be proven right yet again, and so quickly. What am I, a crystal ball? Apparently.

So take heart, faithful readers, and beware! ye ungodly. Magna veritas, et praevalebit, as is written so eloquently in II Esdras. George Washington added his own codicil: "The truth is great, and will prevail - so long as we take steps to make it known." Always liked that, myself. And have found it to be true, as well.

Didn't Washington also warn us in his Farewell Address to beware of getting involved in foreign entanglements? Sigh...I read in today's news that our 43rd President wants to entangle us yet further in the endless morass of his own making. Some people never learn....

So witness for the truth, dear reader, and speak it to power, however uncomfortable or even dangerous that may be. It's really the only way to live. Right, AuthorBabe?

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Banned in Greenwich?!

Your scribe had what the French call a mauvais quart d'heure yesterday, though it lasted considerably longer than 15 minutes - more like a couple of hours, in fact. The place was the Greenwich Library, and the activity was trying to access his blog's website. But it wasn't happening.

"Error - you are not authorized to view this page." "Error - this page cannot be accessed from this server." These were the messages that continuously flashed on the screen. Undaunted, your scribe tried another computer. And another. And another. The results were the same. His paranoia began to spike. His conclusion: "Greenwich Gossip" was not accessible from any computer controlled by the Town of Greenwich. Talk about an Orwellian moment!

Some years ago the library had its own server, but under Jimmy Lash everything has now been consolidated in the bowels of Town Hall. This means that if Town Hall goes down - as happens from time to time - every other town department, including the libraries, goes down as well. This has led to much grousing in recent years, as the dubious wisdom of this move has become apparent to all and sundry; things were obviously better in the days when a library problem was confined to the library, or a Board of Ed problem to the Board of Ed, or a Town Hall problem to Town Hall. But things are as they are, and Town Hall remains the sole providor and self-appointed guardian of Internet access for all town-owned computers.

Fearing he had been "net-nannied" off the board, your scribe sent a distress signal to the AuthorBabe, who as it happens had just deplaned in Detroit and was en route to her hotel (she's a moving target, that AB). His query: was "Greenwich Gossip" still accessible in wider cyberspace, suggesting that the problem was localized in the Town of Greenwich? He also emailed faithful lurker Ed Krumeich (would it kill you to leave an occasional comment, Ed?), who responded that it struck him as "an interference with First Amendment rights" - which is putting it mildly, IMHO.

The next step was to try a Trojan horse approach, and see if "Greenwich Gossip" could be accessed via links from other sites. A Yahoo Mail link produced the error messages. A link through another blogspot site simply refused to open. Finally, a link through livejournal worked! There it was, in all its glory! At least I knew that the site itself still existed.

Well, dear reader, I am writing this post the next morning from a Town of Greenwich computer, and all appears to be well once again. What happened yesterday? Was someone at Town Hall playing games, or was it just a glitch in the mysterious world of cyberspace? All I can tell you is that in the seven months "Greenwich Gossip" has been gracing the blogosphere, this has never happened before; nor was it just a momentary lapse, but a prolonged one. It gave your scribe time to reflect on how preciously and vitally important those First Amendment rights mentioned by Ed are to all of us. And how important it is to continue to exercise them, even if it upsets the gremlins in the basement and/or other areas of Greenwich Town Hall.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

If You Get it in Writing, Can You Take it to the Bank?

Here in Greenwich, the answer is apparently not. Comes now Jerry Porricelli, who before buying a home in Hillcrest Park on the Stamford border half a dozen years ago, went to the office of the Registrar of Voters and asked if he would continue to be a Greenwich voter if he moved there. Since the federal government considers the house a Greenwich address, with a Greenwich Zip Code and Greenwich mail service, they said "yes". In writing. Twice.

That was then. Last Friday, the Board of Selectmen finally defined who could be a Greenwich voter: at least some part of the house must lie in Greenwich. Jerry's house, accessible only through Greenwich, with a Greenwich mailbox and driveway, did not qualify. He and his wife were told they are no longer Greenwich voters.

Wait a minute, you say: what about the age-old doctrine of reliance? Good question, dear reader; let's take a look at that. Here's what it says at (I don't have my Black's Law Dictionary handy):

reasonable reliance: particularly in contracts, what a prudent person would believe and act upon if told something by another. Typically, a person is promised a profit or other benefit, and in reliance takes steps in reliance on the promise, only to find the statements or promises were not true or were exaggerated. The one who relied can recover damages for the costs of his/her actions or demand performance if the reliance was "reasonable." If the promisor says he "owned the Brooklyn Bridge," reliance on that statement is not reasonable. In a complaint the language would read something like: "in reasonable reliance on defendant's statement (or promise), plaintiff did the following…."

Well, Jerry wasn't looking to buy the Brooklyn Bridge; all he wanted was to continue to be a Greenwich voter, as the prior inhabitants of his new house, and all their predecessors, had been. Nothing unreasonable there. Seems to me that he might have a reasonably good cause of action against the town here.

In almost any other municipality, one might expect that Jerry and his wife would have been grandfathered, under the circumstances. But no, dear reader: this is Greenwich, where we defend the privacy of our beaches at enormous legal costs, until we are told clearly by the State Supreme Court that we don't have a leg to stand on. Now it appears that the Board of Selectmen want to take the same approach to voting rights.

One is tempted to think that perhaps Jerry may at some point in the past have looked cross-eyed at Jimmy Lash, our ineffable First Selectman, and that Jimmy is taking this whole thing personally. Why else would he now be trying to unseat Jerry from the RTM (Representative Town Meeting), to which he was elected in 2003 and 2005 from the address in question? Ordinarily, if someone moves between elections, they are permitted to fill out their term. And Jerry hasn't even moved. Is there something ad hominem going on here?

Given Jimmy Lash's modus operandi, which daily earns him more enemies here in town, this would not be an unreasonable conclusion. The politics in this town, never too clean to begin with (remember the past blogs about Lincoln Steffens?), seem to be getting dirtier every day. No wonder a poll in yesterday's LR said that two-thirds of the respondents felt that Jimmy should NOT run for a third term.

But the damage he leaves behind will continue to fester. IMHO, Greenwich will lose the Porricelli case, just as happened with the beach case, but only after tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars will have been unnecessarily wasted. Can you spell S-T-U-P-I-D, dear reader? Apparently Jimmy Lash can't.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Walking the Streets

No, gentle reader, your scribe is not turning into a streetwalker in the colloquial sense, but rather continues to stroll the thoroughfares of Greenwich in the manner of a 19th-century boulevardier (minus the top hat, of course).

Today's trolling - er, strolling - yielded the ever-affable Neil Bouknight, who reported on his and Joanne's recent visit to Bob Tate, the erstwhile Kapellmeister of Greenwich. Apparently Bob gets so much mail from his friends in Greenwich that his warders have decided he must be some sort of celebrity. Well, yes: he has taught the joys of music to hundreds if not thousands of children in Greenwich, some of whom have gone on to perform on the stages of the Metropolitan and City Operas. And let's not forget all the adults he has involved in music programs as well. If your scribe had to nominate someone as the MVP (Most Valuable Person) of Greenwich over the past 36 years, Bob Tate's name would lead all the rest. And I think he would be elected in a landslide.

All of which seems to matter not to the feds, who have decided that Bob is a menace to society. He is being held, without bail, in solitary confinement. Meanwhile, murderers and robbers and swindlers of every variety make Greenwich the preferred venue for their crimes, knowing that the local Keystone Kops, aka the Greenwich Gestapo, will never lay a hand on them. In fact, offer them a few bucks, and they will even stand guard over your illegal boiler-shop operation, as they did not long ago for Marvin Frankel.

Speaking of the GG, the ineffable chief thereof, James Walters, aka Jimmy Wawa, aka the most despised and hated police chief in Greenwich history (and that's saying a lot, considering the calibre of some of his precedessors, like Peter "Perjuring Petey" Robbins) had the effrontery to greet me as I crossed the street this morning. For once, there was a policeman near at hand, directing traffic, and I immediately asked him to arrest Wawa for his unseemly behavior. The cop thought I was joking. I was not.

But back to our street-walking theme: I am reminded of the incident a few years ago when a member of the GG was arrested and actually forced to resign for patronizing one of the "massage parlors" that occasionally can be found here in town. Actually, I have little doubt that one or more of them are operating even as I write; every few years there's a crackdown, followed by a lull, followed by a resumption of activity, often at the same location. It's hard to believe that the GG are unaware of this, especially when it appears that some of them constitute part of the patron list. BTW, I believe the one who was arrested had overstepped the limits and become a little too physical with one of the "hostesses"; she apparently was not into his brand of sado-masochism. So I think he was charged with A&B, not with being a john. After all, even a Greenwich fille de joie has a right to ply her trade without being beaten up.

OK, where does one take it from here? A riff how how the world's oldest profession is a not inapt metaphor for much of what goes on in this town? A rant on the unequal application of justice in these parts? Another comedy spiel on the incompetence of the GG?

So many themes, so little time. If you, dear reader, have lived in this town for any length of time at all, you will be able to provide your own riffs and rants and spiels. So maybe that's a good place to leave things: your assignment, gentle reader, is to finish this essay with a paragraph or two from your own experiences of life here in Disneyland East. And unless you are brain-dead (which I am sure none of the esteemed readers of this blog are), I am confident you will have a few choice tidbits to add to those of your scribe. Happy writing!

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Happy Spring!

Yes, folks, spring is here in good old Greenwich, Connecticut. It's warm and sunny, and the trees are starting to put out leaves. Your scribe saw a dogwood in bloom the other day on Butternut Hollow Road. Reports have filtered in about forsythia flowering. If it feels like spring, looks like spring, smells like spring...well, then,

It must be time to duck! Mother Nature is no doubt just softening us up for the blizzards ahead. This is, after all, New England, where the weather is as fickle and changeable as a gold-digger's heart. Woe betide those who put any faith in such feminine blandishments, be they those of Mother Nature or the daughters of Eve. See St. Jerome's famous treatise, "Adversus Jovinianum", for more details, including the well-known line, "mulier est hominis confusio." A translation of this (of sorts) can be found in Chaucer's Nun's Priest's Tale, as formulated by Chanticleer: "Woman is all man's joy and all his bliss." Well, Chanticleer was perhaps not the greatest Latin scholar, but he knew how to keep his wife, Dame Pertelot, a happy hen.

So do not be lulled by the balmy breezes of today, gentle reader, for the blasts of winter are sure to come, sooner or later. But take heart: as the poet sings, "If winter comes, can spring be far behind?"

Friday, January 05, 2007

"Is My Daughter-in-Law Going to Jail?", Part 2

Faithful readers of this blog will remember that your scribe happened to overhear these words in the local supermarket as he was toting his groceries out to the car. The speaker was George Allen Smith III, father of the hapless George Allen Smith IV, who mysteriously disappeared on his honeymoon cruise after being kicked in the nuts by his loving wife, Jennifer Hagel-Smith.

To refresh your memory, the rest of Mr. Smith's comment appeared to express anger, and presumably disappointment, that the answer to his question was in the negative. And now comes the news that rather than going to jail, Jennifer will be going to the bank.

The cruise line, Royal Carribean, has now ironed out the settlement terms with Ms. Hagel-Smith. Some $950,000 will go to George IV's estate, of which she is the prime beneficiary; her legal fees of $110,000 will be paid; her token sop of $25,000 to set up a foundation in dear Georgie's memory will be matched; and Dr. Henry Lee's fees of $60,000 will be covered. Not a bad haul for a widow whose "marriage", if such it was, lasted less than a week.

The elder Smiths are upset. It appears that they may try to contest the settlement. Contrary to your scribe, who thinks that Jennifer made out like a bandit, they think a million dollars is way too little. Not to mention the fact that they would get, at most, only a couple of hundred grand, while Jennifer would walk away with the rest.

And so, dear reader, one expects that we have not heard the last of the feud between the Smiths and their not-so-beloved daughter-in-law. Look for more juicy developments in the weeks and months ahead as these wonderful exemplars of Greenwich citizenry continue to wash their laundry in public. Your scribe, as always, will endeavor to keep you posted.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Local Rag Copycats "Greenwich Gossip"; Weather Records Fall

One always wonders who the many lurkers who follow your scribe's blog with such avidity may be, and one is now beginning to suspect that the Local Rag, aka Yellowwich Time, is one of the culprits. Today's issue, suitable as are all others for lining the bottom of bird cages, has a front-page story on the weather..."first time since 1877," blah, blah, blah. Old news, guys - faithful readers of this blog read the story yesterday.

OK, to be fair (which the LR itself rarely is), they have included some background on local businessmen like Joe Cosgrove of Gordon's Gateway to Sports in Cos Cob, and Dick Hoyt of Outdoor Traders, located these days on Arch Street. They're hurting, as you might expect. But undoubtedly many other citizens of Town, especially those on fixed incomes, are very glad of the respite in their fuel bills.

Yesterday your scribe mused, "Will we wind up setting some kind of record for the latest onset of the winter snows since time immemorial, to which the memory of man runneth not to the contrary? Seems possible, at least." And today WCBS radio provided the answer: Yes. Today is the day we pass the snowless record of the winter of 1877-8. So here we are, folks, breaking new ground in the annals of time immemorial - something that doesn't happen every day, for sure. And we may be setting some daily temperature records as well before the weekend is out.

I am pleased to report a sighting of the AuthorBabe yesterday, who, sad to say, is not brown as a berry as had been expected. Moreover, her "cement sinuses" - her phrase, as those who have read her recent blogs will know - have now turned into infected sinuses. But she looked mighty fine, for all that, and was a sight for sore eyes (mine - seems that everyone has to kvetch about their ailments, no?). I think being in love is good for her.

Well, to get back to the weather, it seems a sin to be indoors blogging when the outdoors is so warm and beckoning. Maybe I'll head over to the beach....

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

The Non-Winter of Our Discontent

As you know from yesterday's post, your scribe is not exactly gruntled these days. Not really disgruntled; just not gruntled. But enough about internal weather - let's talk about the weather outside.

December of 2006 marked the first time since 1877 when our area had no snow during the entire month. Today is sunny and warmish, and the next day or two will be even warmer. Will we wind up setting some kind of record for the latest onset of the winter snows since time immemorial, to which the memory of man runneth not to the contrary? Seems possible, at least.

Should we worry? At the risk of annoying my environmentalist friends, who might like to see a rant about global warming, I think not. Y'all remember Heraclitus, I'm sure, and his axiom that change is the only constant. The industrial revolution had barely begun in 1877, and I think it's safe to assume there were few if any greenhouse gases in those days. Yet they had no snow that December, either. The French paraphrase Heraclitus thus: "Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose."

Well, yes and no. A lot has changed since 1877, and many things are no longer the same. On January 1, 1877, Queen Victoria was proclaimed Empress of India. The title stayed in the royal family until 1948, when the legend India Imp[erator/trix] was dropped from the coinage. Now India is an outpost of the US telemarketing and call center empire. Yup, things have changed.

On the other hand, 1877 was the year when a popularly-elected president, Samuel J. Tilden, lost the election through parliamentary manoeuvering in the US House of Representatives, and Rutherford B. Hayes walked off with the prize. Hmm...has a familiar ring, doesn't it?

"Swan Lake" had its premiere. The first Test Match between England and Australia was played. Oxford and Cambridge rowed to a dead heat for the first and only time in the history of the Boat Race. Wimbledon saw its first tennis tournament. Gilbert and Sullivan produced "The Sorcerer". And Edison invented the phonograph.

Clearly, there have been a good many things that have happened in the intervening 129 years since we had last had no snow in December. Yet, as Mark Twain said, "everyone talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it." Some things never change. And the weather here in Greenwich remains as unpredictable as ever. So what else is new?

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Same Old, Same Old?

Well, here it is 2007, but it sure feels the way 2006 did. Does that say something about your scribe, or is there a more general truth involved?

It's true that yours truly is in a somewhat grumpy mood today. I ascribe that to an attack of happiness envy, because the recent posts of two of my favorite people are brimming with joy and good news. Diana Peterfreund, the AuthorWhiz, has had a fabulous year - which no one should begrudge her, because she deserves it all, and more - and the AuthorBabe is free of the finally-ex and probably brown as a berry from her cruise to the Bahamas last week with her new love, who appears to have a great talent for towel origami - check it out at her website, saraclaradara. Again, one is truly delighted at her newfound happiness, and there is not an ounce of begrudgment (heck, it's a new year - let's indulge ourselves in a neologism) in my present mood.

But as I walk the streets of Greenwich, the New Year looks depressingly like the old one. The headlines still read like last year's, only worse - 3,000 US servicemen and -women dead in Iraq and counting (see the AB's commentary at Saramerica, her alter ego). Rudeness is still rampant, and on the increase; I suppose I should be glad that the yahoo I encountered last week at the Greenwich Library is a relatively isolated phenomenon, as opposed to the wholesale trashing of the Maplewood Memorial Library in NJ by rowdy students every weekday afternoon (today's New York Times, front page - Lock the Library! Rowdy Students Are Taking Over). Their solution, as the link suggests, is simply to close the doors from 2:45 to 5 pm on school days. Life in general seems, to coin a phrase, to be going from bad to worse. And if all that ain't bad enough, I, your humble scribe, still have no Sailor Boy or The WebMeister equivalent to whom I can grouse when I am grumpy and with whom I can share and enjoy the many good things still left in life. Humpf.

Thus on both the personal and the national/international front it still feels like 2006. We're still saying "Happy New Year" to each other, and will continue to do so for a few more days, but at the moment it sounds like a weak velleity rather than a robust statement of fact - to my ears, at least.

But better a weak velleity than none at all. Happy New Year!