Greenwich Gossip

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Exorcism, Greenwich-Style

Your scribe had occasion to drive past 10 Dairy Road yesterday. As local readers may recall, this is the house in which Andrew Kissel was murdered in a most foul and grisly manner. The Greenwich Gestapo is on the case, of course, which means that whoever did it will undoubtedly get away with it - just as every other murderer in this town has done. Only when the State took over was Michael Skakel brought to justice, and of course A. D. Wilson drove to the station after shooting Jack Peters and turned himself in, so the GG can hardly take credit for that. Other local murderers, like the person who killed young Matthew Margolies, continue to walk around scot-free.

Well, the Dairy Road house was sold recently, albeit for rather less than it might have fetched without the gory history. The new owner, obviously aware of its past, has apparently decided to exorcise all traces of the Kissel episode. How? Not by bell, book, and candle, but by stripping the house down to the bare exterior walls. It's a skeleton of its former self; you can see right through it.

Your scribe had been wondering how a new owner might deal with the house, and, while surprised at what he saw, thinks that this procedure makes sense. Presumably when the work is completed it will be a completely different house, with different rooms and a different layout. It seems mildly curious that the new owner has kept the outside walls, but maybe that was easier than trying to get a demolition permit for the whole thing.

In any case, although Andrew Kissel's shade may walk unquietly while his murderer continues to walk free, it will not be able to haunt the house in which he was killed. The house in which he lived and died has simply ceased to exist. And that, gentle reader, is how to perform an exorcism here in Greenwich.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Don't Believe Everything You Read on the Internet

This morning I was trying to research on-line the history of the Greenwich Armory, which sits downtown at 230 Mason Street. The only thing I could find was a press release from former First Selectman Dick Bergstresser on the Town's website trumpeting the fact that the new police headquarters would soon be located there.

Well, as we all know, things didn't turn out that way. But someone researching the history of early 21st century Greenwich might be forgiven for thinking that they did. Because that's the only offical document I could find in cyberspace about the building. It reads like this (click on the link below):

Welcome to the official Town of Greenwich Connecticut Web site

All very official and definitive-sounding. But all very wrong.

Earlier today I was writing a post about piranhas. No, dear reader, I wasn't exactly thinking about the Town of Greenwich at the time, but my experience proved a salutary lesson which has become the title of today's post. I was writing on the fly, you see, and couldn't come up with the exact spelling of the p-fish's name. So I guessed "pirhanna", and then went to Yahoo! to do a spellcheck. I got dozens of hits, and thus presumed (wrongly) that I'd spelled the p-fish correctly. Shortly thereafter, my mistake was gently pointed out to me, and I made haste to add the following addendum to my post:

(Color me embarrassed.)

In my rush to post my penultimate comment, I did an over-hasty spellcheck on the p-fish.

I typed my typo "pirhanna" in the Yahoo! search box, and was rewarded with the following hits, among many others:

"Yahoo! Answers - are pirhanna fish easy to own?" [No, I did not make this up!]

"Pedro the Paranoid Pirhanna" [A cute poem about a p-fish who fears being eaten even as he eats one of his mates - rather amusing.]

Well, I thought to meself, thought I, the word doesn't look quite the way I remember it, but apparently that's the correct spelling. And went on to write the rest of the post.

Let this be a lesson to all who fail to CONSULT THE DICTIONARY!!

Having thus performed my mea culpa, I thought I would share this contretemps with all of you as part of my penance.

OK, you may ask, so can we ever believe you again? After all, dear scribe, you too are on the Internet.

My reply, gentle reader, is that I made a spelling mistake. Embarrassing, to be sure, but not an error of fact. I take great care to be sure that the facts in this blog are accurate, and to make clear that the opinions expressed are my own (unless specifically attributed to someone else). So yes, you can continue to rely on what you read in these pages.

However, what you may read on the Town's website is clearly another matter....

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Flying Fingers, Dancing Feet

About fifty souls came to Christ Church last night for what was quite possibly the organ concert of the decade. Acting music director Geoffrey Silver, in conjunction with the highly-talented James Kennerley, have organized (as it were) a series of six "Lenten Organ Meditations". The first of these took place yesterday, and it was a doozy.

The soloist was Mark Williams, a twenty-something British prodigy who relinquished his post at St. Paul's Cathedral in London to pursue what he calls a "freelance career". Being in this country for a recital at St. Thomas in NYC, he was easily persuaded by his friends Geoffrey and James to come to Greenwich and play for us as well.

The tireless engineering whiz Neil Bouknight hooked up a camera by the console, and fed the video to a projector and screen set up on the chancel steps. Thus everyone had an organ-side view of Mark's hands and feet as he performed. And perform he did!

From the first notes of Bach's Fantasia and Fugue in G Minor, it was clear that Mark was the master of Greenwich's finest organ. Making full use of both the chancel and gallery divisions, he made the organ sound, as one listener put it, "better than it ever has before." His virtuousity was stunning to behold: fingers and feet flew over the five keyboards with dazzling dexterity. Playing some of the most difficult works in the organ repertory, Mark made it all seem incredibly easy. He defined, in a word, what the Italians mean by "sprezzatura".

Mark is probably the best organist who has ever played in Greenwich - and since we've had many extremely fine organists in this town, that's saying a lot. At the wine and cheese reception afterwards, your scribe asked James and Geoffrey who was the best organist in Great Britain, and they immediately replied, "Mark, of course." Which made your scribe feel as though all the superlatives that had been running through his mind along with the notes of the organ were validated. How often is it, dear reader, that you are confronted with something so extraordinary in its brilliance that you have almost no basis of comparison in all your prior experience? That's how it was for your scribe last night, and it was nice to know that musicians far more talented than he felt the same way.

One wishes the church had been packed to hear this rare performance. Certainly, if your scribe could turn the clock back 24 hours, he would now be making numerous telephone calls to various friends who would have loved to have been there. But there is no way to call back yesterday, or bid time return. One can only be thankful for the privilege of having been among those present at this splendid shining moment in the musical history of our Town. Thank you, Mark, and may God bless you and your talent throughout the days and weeks and months and years to come!

Thursday, February 22, 2007

The Eleventh Commandment, Greenwich-style

Ronald Reagan was the author of the so-called 11th commandment: "Thou shalt not speak ill of a fellow Republican." He'd obviously never been to Greenwich.

A few years ago, as Jimbo Lash was first getting his hands dirty in politics, a three-page document in the form of an Excel spreadsheet began to find its way onto the faxes of some of the Republicans in town. A cover sheet addressed to "Dear Greenwich Republican" read, "Please read the attached grading of local Republicans, recently prepared for and with Jim Lash."

At the top of the document were a series of abbreviations: "P - Principled / C - Other"; "D - Dangerous"; "HI - Highly Intelligent / I - Intelligent / A - Average / S - Stupid". You will note, dear reader, that all of the letter codes make sense except using "C" for "Other"- oh, my, do you think that "C" perhaps originally stood for "Corruptible"? Well, it *is* the opposite of "Principled", so that's probably a good guess. But wait - could a fellow Republican possibly be considered corruptible, let alone stupid? Ronald Reagan must be rolling over in his grave.

For the list that followed did in fact include the names of most of the active Republicans in Town, including members of the Republican Town Committee and elected officials. Each name received from one to six ratings, suggesting that there were a number of "raters" who participated in this effort. Who, one wonders, were they? The cover sheet supplies us with a clue:

"...please note the absence of certain names: Erf Porter, John Raben, Ed Dadakis, Bill Nickerson, Lloyd Hull, etc. Wonder why?"

Well, throw in Jimbo himself, and you have a total of six names that did not appear on the list of prominent local Reublicans. Could they be the mysterious "raters"? You may draw your own conclusions, gentle the cover sheet clearly invites you to do.

OK, let's get to the nitty-gritty. What kinds of comments did these "raters" make, and about whom did they make them? Perpend, and read on....

Fred Camillo was for several years the local party chairman. One might think that the "raters" would be kind to him. Were they? Well, of the six ratings Fred received, three of them regarded him as a "friend", and three as an "enemy". He was unanimously rated "C", and "D", and "S". Ouch! Unprincipled, dangerous, and stupid. Ronald, thou shouldst be living at this hour!

But wait, there's more. Each name also had a verbal comment placed next to it. Fred's read like this: "Flatter him and he'll tell our lies for us." Hoo, boy, what does *that* tell you about these party insiders, these "raters" of their fellow Republicans? "Our lies"?! Is that how they view themselves? Apparently so.

Let's move on. Bob Tuthill, long-time RTC and RTM member, fared no better: "Flatter, Flatter, Flatter. A blowhard." Republican Registrar of Voters Ronnie Musca garnered this comment: "Likes to imbibe. Needs friends." Mary Ferry, Chairman of District Five: "Useful for propaganda." David Hopper, the Town's Probate Judge: "Remind him who his friends are. He who giveth can taketh away."

Sort of like the way your scribe's breath was taketh away the first time he read this document. What a mish-mash of nasty, mean-spirited, vicious comments! For shame! Is this what the inner circle of Greenwich Republicanism is all about?

Listen to some of the other comments these "raters" made: "Make him think he is more important than he is"; "Keep him stupid"; "A good gofer, when made to feel important"; "Appeal to her sense of Republican duty/loyalty. Keep her in the dark"; "Eunuch"; "Make her feel stupid to talk"; "Easily persuaded. Not important"; "A hungry animal"; "Ambitious. Will betray her grandmother"; "Muzzle him"; "Give her enough rope...."

Well, that's just a sampling - there's lots more in the same vein. Time does not permit, dear reader, to share them all with you. But you get the idea. Do you remember the "Wicked Bible" of 1631, in which the seventh commandment read, "Thou shalt commit adultery"? Well, naturally that version would have been immensely popular here in Greenwich, founded as it was only a few years later. And now, in our own 21st century, we have apparently updated the eleventh commandment to read, "Thou shalt speak ill of a fellow Republican." Makes you proud to live in this wonderful town of ours, doesn't it?

And isn't it great to have a First Selectman who governs with the assistance of these helpful "ratings"? If your name is one of those on this list, at least you know exactly what he and his cohorts think of you. Always nice to know where you stand, isn't it?

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Let the Good Times...Mosey?

Yes, folks, last night saw the annual Mardi Gras celebration at Christ Church (that's "the Church of Christ" to those of you who listen to the World's Gassiest ChuckleHead, aka the feckless announcer at WGCH radio), but it was a far cry from earlier times. Attendance was less than a quarter of the usual, and the Chubby Checker Twist Contest was cancelled for lack of entrants. One imagines there were enough leftover pancakes to last between now and Easter.

There were a couple of cameos by members of the clergy, but your scribe did not see any of them sit down to eat - they came and went rather quickly. There was the usual Rector's gumbo soup, but no Rector to oversee its preparation. The always-popular costume parade by the children of the parish was a non-starter - there were hardly any children to be seen. Of those that were, I would give the palm to Buzz Moore's pixie-ish daughter Susie, who looked smashing in a snazzy reddish-purple velvet pantsuit outfit with slashed cuffs that went in every direction as she raced around the room.

No, dear reader, the Pied Piper had not made off with the children of Christ Church; their parents had. It's school vacation week, you see, and almost everyone has gone west to look for snow, or south to look for sun. No doubt by this time next week the youth of Greenwich will all be back looking bronzed and fit from their time on the slopes or the beaches.

Meanwhile, Lent has now officially begun, not that that means very much in these latter and rather pagan days. In this town of privilege and wealth and entitlement, you will not find many people giving things up for this season of penitence. No, dear reader, most will continue to act and drive as selfishly, eat and drink and party as heartily, and spend as obscenely and lavishly as the other 325 days of the year. After all, it's the Greenwich Way.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The Power of the Blog

Apparently someone at Town Hall, or perhaps several someones, may be counted among the lurkers on this blog (hi, Jimbo, are you there?). Your scribe had occasion to drive through Bruce Park over the weekend, and thus is able to report that someone has found the "off" switch for the ugly lampposts that he complained about the other day. The eyesores themselves are still there, but at least they're no longer illuminated 24/7.

Meanwhile, it appears that Phil "What Computer?" Russell has recently moved his offices from Lewis Street to a suite across the street from Town Hall. Somehow it seems appropriate that all the rogues and rapscallions in Town should concenter their activities in one area; makes it easier to keep an eye on them. Or will they just feed off each other and make things worse for the rest of us?

Phil's former space appears to have been taken over by the local broadcaster of hot air, radio station WGCH. Never up to the standards of a decent college campus station, WGCH seems to have stumbled further downhill since the move a couple of weeks ago. The news announcer, Tony Something-or-other, misprounounces some names, makes up others, and pollutes the airwaves with people whose very names cannot be mentioned in polite society. Yesterday, for example, we had to listen over and over again to the Phil "What Computer?" Russell story and "his client William Tate" at "the Church of Christ." Talk about bush league! Even though Tony S-o-o shamelessly plagiarizes from the Local Rag every day, he still can't get things straight. (Not that the Local Rag is a paragon of correct reportage, but at least they usually manage to spell their errors correctly.)

So where can one go for the news in this town? There used to be a rumor back in the days of First Selectman John "Curly" Margenot that the Yellowwich Time was published in the basement of Town Hall, but that, dear reader, was merely a canard. I checked out the basement myself, and saw no evidence of any newspaper activity. Then, as now, the YT continues to manage to screw up all on its own, without any help or guidance from outside sources.

The answer is that one pretty much has to learn the truth or falsity of any "news" on one's own. That is one reason your scribe publishes this blog; y'all remember II Esdras and George Washington's codicil, don't you? We all need to get our crumbs of truth out there, so that somehow the total picture will emerge over time. And we should be grateful that the Internet and the blogosphere make the job a lot easier than it was in Ben Franklin or Tom Paine's day. Where would we be without people like the AuthorBabe and her blog, Saramerica - "America the way it should be," as she puts it? So, gentle reader, blog on; or at least learn that you cannot believe everything you read in the Local Rag or hear via the local air pollution. Ask, probe, go to the source - these are the best ways to find out what's really going on in this town of ours.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

The Other Shoe Drops...

Your scribe, as y'all must know by now, is pretty much fearless when it comes to calling a spade a spade. Did anyone catch the dark hint posted earlier about the disappearing laptop in the Christ Church/Bob Tate situation? It was suggested ten days ago by your omniscient local historian that the said laptop was very possibly taken by one of the church's lawyers and deep-sixed. I wondered briefly if Phil Russell would try to sue me for libel; but then I realized he'd only be calling attention to himself if he did.

Well, whether or not it's because the feds and/or the Greenwich Gestapo are among the lurkers on this blog, or whether there are other brilliant minds in addition to your scribe's which were able to put two and two together, today's Yellowwich Time carries the gladsome news of Phil's indictment for obstructing justice and destroying evidence in the Tate case. To quote the Local Rag:

"According to the indictment, Russell was acting as attorney for the church on Oct. 9 when he knowingly took a laptop owned by Robert F. Tate, the church's longtime music director, and 'corruptly altered, destroyed, mutilated and concealed it' to prevent federal investigators from retrieving child pornography."

So a crooked lawyer - which is my long-time personal view of Phil - finally meets his come-uppance. I have seen him engaged before in what I would call the perversion of justice, but few around this town ever believed me. Even our State Rep Livvy Floren went running to him after her encounter with Bambi (recounted above) despite my pointed warnings that this was not a good move on her part. I wonder if she you, Livvy?

Anyhow, I think it is safe to say that Phil's long ride at the expense of the local gentry is coming to an end. The court imposed a $100,000 bond, which suggests how seriously it takes Phil's transgressions, even though he probably makes more than that in an average month. The LR doesn't say whether Phil had to surrender his passport, which makes one wonder whether he may try to make a break for it. He could probably live pretty well in some third-world country off whatever he may have stashed away from his years of raking in his high-end fees from town residents...I wonder if the court thought to order him to wear an ankle bracelet to forestall that possibility?

While he will certainly be disbarred if convicted - and he faces up to 40 years in prison if he is - Phil may also be debarred from practicing law in the interim. It looks at this point as though his career is pretty much over. And high time, too, IMO. Karma may sometimes take longer to work than we think it should, but let no one doubt that it does prevail in the end. Even here in Greenwich.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Snow Would Have Been Preferable... the frozen rain we've been getting instead. Just as your scribe said yesterday, the forecasters' dire predictions of a snowstorm were a bunch of baloney - we got maybe half an inch, not even enough to cover the grass - and Greenwich was more likely to get rain instead. So, sure enough, we've been having rain all day; the only problem is that it's frozen rain.

Sleet, to use its other name, is coating the slushy roads and making for treacherous driving. Sensible people are staying indoors. Only the weak-minded, or a few die-hard bloggers like your scribe, are venturing out to risk life and limb. The schools are closed, but it's not really a snow day; you can't make a snowman, or go sledding, or even skate on the ponds. Greenwich Avenue looks like a ghost town. So where is everybody?

At a guess, a goodly portion of the student population may be on their computers, surfing or gaming or IM-ing each other. Others may be watching one of the hundreds of cable TV channels, or catching a movie on DVD. Some (one hopes!) may actually be reading a book.

Which, now that this report has been filed, is what your scribe plans to do.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Let It Snow?

When you've had a winter as devoid of the white stuff as this one, the weather forecasters go nuts when there's even the possibility that we might get more than a dusting. So every radio station in the area seems to have made that their lead story today.

Snow is news? Well, if you live in Oneida, NY, perhaps. But here in Greenwich? Guess it's what the pros call a slow news day. No embezzlements, no robberies, no scandals, no picketing at Town Hall, no bizarre pronunciamentoes by Jimbo Lash...yawn...nothing left to talk about but the weather.

I'm no weatherman, but I can sometimes tell which way the wind is blowing. And today, it's simply not. Nor does the air smell like snow is on the way. Put me in the skeptics column on this one.

Moreover, being close to the coast, Greenwich is more likely to get rain than snow. Not that that would be a bad thing; I can't remember when we last had any precipitation around here. If it were summer instead of the dead of the so-called winter season, we'd probably all be talking about the drought.

So...will Greenwich get a weather event today? Stay tuned. (Yawn) (It's a slow news day.)

Update: The above was written about 10 AM, when the skies were gray and overcast. It's now 1 PM, and the skies are blue and sunny. I think the weatherpeople are full of baloney.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Narnia Comes to Greenwich

As if - we should be so lucky. But I hereby report the quasi-magical appearance of a number of lampposts in Bruce Park that were not there a few days ago. Perhaps Queen Jadis's alter ego, Jimmy Lash, has been tossing purloined bits of London streetlamps around our parkland and they have taken root here.

How to describe them? Ugly doesn't begin to fit the bill. They simply don't belong. Why, in God's name, do we need lampposts in a park that supposedly is only open for use from dawn to dusk?

But that's not all: these lamps appears to be on 24/7. At first I thought they were gaslights, but closer inspection revealed an ugly metal box at the base of each for an electrical connection. Which of course raises another question: has the Town now wired Bruce Park for electricity? Gee, I thought the point of a park was to get away from "mod cons" and to enjoy nature. But now, I suppose, people will be plugging in their boom boxes and DVD players, or charging their cell phones or laptops, exercising their fingers instead of their legs.

Can you spell b-o-o-n-d-o-g-g-l-e, dear reader? Important projects in this town, like the desperate need for a decent auditorium for the high school, are being passed over in favor of ugly faux-rustic lampposts in Bruce Park?! Forget Narnia - I think Greenwich is turning into La-La Land.

It is a constant source of amazement to me that someone in Town Hall is constantly looking through the wrong end of the telescope. Or perhaps several someones - maybe this particular absurdity was sneaked past Jimbo Lash while he was out looking for another constituency in Town to alienate. And what's worse, dear reader, is that no one says "boo" to these asinine wastes of taxpayer dollars. Well, except for your scribe, perhaps....


Does anyone else care to join me in booing these ill-considered and ill-conceived lampposts, with their always-on waste of electricity? I guess Greenwich is not exactly a "green" community these days....

Friday, February 09, 2007

Local Rag Daily Poll

Just a quickie to let y'all know that today's Yellowwich Time poll shows the populace is strongly in favor of keeping the cops on Greenwich Avenue. Not that that will probably make any difference to Jimbo.

The annual budget cycle is starting to heat up. It'll be interesting to see how well Jimmy's airheaded schemes do in the next three months. Given the last LR poll, it seems that he doesn't have much of a constituency to work with. Unless, of course, he *does* appoint himself First, selectman...for life, which is how the Roman Republic started down the slippery slope into tyranny.

Thursday, February 08, 2007


I can't think of a title for today's post. The reason is not far to seek: I can't think of a subject, either. So I thought I'd just log on and let the fingers do the walking, or thinking, or typing, or composing, or whatever it is that fingers do.

Someone one said that writing flows down the arm and onto the page, or words to that effect. Must have been someone from the middle of the last century, since most writing these days flows down the arm and onto the keyboard (this post being a good example). In other words, the creative process is often an unconscious, or subconscious, one; and it is certainly true that your scribe will often start a sentence (like this one) without any idea of how it will wind up. The trick, then, is to roll up the sleeves, get comfortable in your chair, and just start writing (or typing, if you prefer).

Pretty soon you'll have to confront the fact that you can't just let the fingers burble on forever, and force yourself to come up with a topic. How about the etymology of the word "burble"? Nah - too easy - everyone knows (or should) that it comes from Lewis Carroll's epic poem "Jabberwocky". What about famous pen names from history? Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, Samuel Clemens, Francois Marie Arouet - these are some of the names that come to mind which you will not find on a title page, though their books are well kn0wn. But we have more important business at hand, dear reader, than mere Trivial Pursuit questions.

"Oh yeah," you say? "Well, then, get on with it." I guess there are several things I want to share with you that I haven't quite come to terms with yet, but perhaps I have dilly-dallied long enough. Ready or not, these are the topoi swirling through my mind today:

1) The letter in today's Local Rag suggesting that Greenwich is becoming a dictatorship. I might not have couched my opinions of Jimmy Lash quite so forthrightly; but now I'm rather sorry that I didn't. In fact, I wish I'd said it first, truth be known.

And the concept is disturbing, because it suggests that my heretofore gentle satire about Town politics is a case of fiddling while our civil liberties burn. A fellow RTM member was quoted elsewhere today as saying that we have "the essence of American democracy" here in town, and suggests it is being traded for a "strongman form of government." Before he goes unquietly into retirement, Jimbo may try to gut the powers and cut the size of the RTM, as payback for our not slavishly enacting each and every piece of legislation he has brought before us. Yes, that letter-writer hit the nail squarely: if Jimmy Lash could become a dictator, I personally have no doubt that he would. And that means that the situation here in Greenwich is perhaps graver than any of us have yet thought.

2) Coupled with that is the number of police cars I have been seeing in my vicinity recently. This phenomenon could be unrelated to my sneers at Jimbo (0ur Commissioner of Police) or Jimmy Wawa (our highly-unpopular chief); or, perhaps, it might not. As I told you, dear reader, I'm still mulling these matters over in my mind, so you're getting a less than fully-baked exegesis on them. But you were the one who told me to "get on with it," remember?

3) Also disheartening is the two-page letter that came in the mail today from Christ Church. It is the first official communication from the church on the Bob Tate situation, and it did not fill your scribe with joy. As I read it, I could distinctly hear the sound of hand-washing in the background.

Remember, gentle reader, that Bob served this church for some 36 years with great talent and irreproachable behavior. As I have said before, I and the hundreds of other choir parents are convinced that he never laid an inappropriate hand on any of his charges. But he is, as we all knew, gay (as are a large number of church musicians); and he has the same human urges as the rest of the planet. Whatever he did in the privacy of his own life was no one's business but his own, IMHO.

But when a number of computer images were found on his laptop, all Hell broke loose. Even though the laptop itself seems mysteriously to have disappeared, perhaps while in the custody of one of the church's lawyers, a Zip storage disk is apparently now People's Exhibit #1. And so Bob did the manly (yes, manly) thing, and admitted his guilt. He is now in a treatment center in PA.

The letter made me want to wash my own hands. I found it sanctimonious, self-preserving, and casting all the opprobrium on Bob. Wait, you ask - isn't this the same church that recently hushed up a minister's sleeping with a woman he was counselling? And who then stole a dining room table from the Tomes-Higgins house? Is clerical adultery and larceny to be winked at, and a lay person's private sexual behavior to be castigated mercilessly? I must be missing something here, dear reader. I wonder what Jesus Christ would think of such a double impression is that He wouldn't be too pleased.

Well, I still don't have a title to offer you for today's post. Perhaps it's just as well that way.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Jimbo Down and Out at the Polls

Some of you may realize that my heaping handfuls of scorn directed at our First Selectman might indicate that he is not among my favorite people. But lest you think I am a raucous voice in the wilderness, shrilly out of step with everyone else in town, let me share the poll results published in today's Local Rag.

The question posed: Who would you like to see run for first selectman on the Republican ticket?
The answers: Peter Tesei (49%), Sam Romeo (36%), Other (8%), and Jim Lash (7%).

Well, there you have it. Even the mysterious "Other" outpolled Jimbo. I seriously doubt there has ever been an incumbent First Selectman here in Greenwich with such a low popularity rating. Even Sherry Breed, to whom many people seemed to assign personal blame for the collapse of the Mianus River bridge, didn't have as many enemies as Jimbo seems to have.

Put another way, 93% of the respondents voted ABL - anybody but Lash. So I think we can now make official what your scribe has been saying in recent posts: Jimmy is a lame duck.

Which is probably why he's trying to ram through so many wildly unpopular items in his last few months. Knowing that so many people in town despise you gives one a certain freedom of action, and Jimbo is availing himself to the fullest. The headline in today's LR reads, "Keep the Cops" - so apparently many in town agree with your scribe that Jimmy's idea to take them off Greenwich Avenue is one of his more airheaded ideas.

Will any of this slow Jimbo down? Personally, I doubt it. In fact, I predict more asinine behavior from him in the months to come. After all, he's already won the title of Most Unpopular First Selectman in History; why shouldn't he go on trying to show us all how much he deserves it?

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

This and That...

Today's post is a medley of oddments for your erudition/enjoyment/commentary. BTW, why is nobody commenting anymore? Do you think your scribe is spilling all this ink (well, pixels) just for the benefit of you lurkers? For shame! It's time to de-lurk and weigh in on the issues so deftly and thought-provokingly raised in these posts. Unless, of course, you lack the power to think, or even to be provoked. In which case, double shame on you!

OK, end of rant. But it IS disheartening to send out one's wisdom and insight and factoids into the blogosphere day after day and not hear any kind of feedback. People stop me in the street to say how much they enjoy reading my posts, or to say, "Gee, I didn't know that" about a particularly juicy tidbit of local history. So that's reinforcement of a sort; but it would be nice to get some dialogue going here about current issues. Do you want the cops to stay on Greenwich Avenue? Do you agree that Jimbo Lash is an airhead (at times, at least)? Do you care about the ever-increasing level of incivility and egocentric driving patterns in town? If so, SPEAK UP!

(The silence continues to be deafening....)

So I guess I shall please myself today and simply note a bunch of unrelated things that are of interest to me. Maybe I'll even leave a comment for myself telling me how much I enjoyed my blog today. I mean, why not? That's what the comment button is for, after all.

Dates from history for February 6:

George VI died in 1952. He was all of 56 years old, and smoked too much. I fell in love with his daughter, Princess Elizabeth (one of several of my second-grade crushes), who was then on safari in Kenya. She went to bed a princess, and woke up a queen.

Ronald Reagan was born in 1911 in Tampico, IL. I always thought Tampico was in Mexico. He made movies. He became our 40th President. I'll always remember his quip to Nancy when he was shot by John Hinckley: "Sorry, honey, I forgot to duck."

Patrick Macnee was born in 1922, which makes him 85 today. I had another crush on his co-star in "The Avengers", Diana Rigg. But by the time I finally met her in person, her fast lifestyle had taken its toll, and my bubble burst. Which did not, of course, prevent my then-wife from severely criticising me for dancing attendance on Diana and keeping her champagne glass full. She told me about her latest break-up with a boyfriend: to be sure he got the message, she tossed his suitcases out the window of their Paris hotel. Just as spunky as Emma Peel, in the event.

Moving on to today's date I note with interest that a bookkeeper for a construction firm on North Street managed to embezzle some $13 million from the company. Wow! That's not just petty cash. She spread her machinations out over five years, but it's amazing to think that kind of money wasn't missed earlier. Guess it goes to show how much money is being spent on construction in Greenwich these days.

The AuthorBabe (an erstwhile commenter who has turned lurker) wrote another excellent column in the Local Rag today, riffing on a trio of out-of-control toddlers who trashed a local Starbuck's while their mommies chatted away with "blithe indifference", according to the AB's eyewitness account. This cameo represented for her much of what is wrong with society today: "...a complete lack of personal responsibility and no respect for others, coupled with an attitude of superiority and entitlement." Right on, AB!

Well, I really enjoyed hearing from myself today, and found my observations to be of great interest to myself. So now I'll post this and perhaps leave a comment for myself...just in case no one else does.

Monday, February 05, 2007

$33.3 Billion Worth of Real Estate?

Yes, folks, that's the total of the latest Grand List in town, in case you wanted to know what all the McMansions are worth. Of course, the total includes what your scribe's precocious grade-school son described to the First Selectman in 1985 as the "ratty little shacks that sell for $250,000"; those same RLS's today are starting to go for north of a million bucks. It also includes about $7 billion of commercial real estate, but excludes, of course, the hundreds of acres of parkland, beaches, schools, municipal buildings, ecclesiastical holdings, and other tax-exempt property. At a guess, if all that were factored in, the Town of Greenwich would be worth at least $50 billion.

Ah, yes, we also need to factor in the three classic types of fudge factors: lies, damned lies, and statistics. Greenwich is known for its low taxes, and ways must be found to keep them low. Thus you will see that the UST building, for example - the future home to dozens of hedge funds, as readers of this blog already know - is listed at $69,421,380. But wait a minute - didn't it just sell for almost twice that amount? Oops. Guess the assessment was wrong.

Likewise, Horse Island, the O'Malley residence off Mead Point, was assessed at $16,488, 710. Do you think, dear reader, that the O'Malleys would seriously consider an offer at that level? Not in your dreams. They might start to listen at $25 million, but would probably not accept anything less than $30 million. And even then, as you would know if you took a look at the Great Estates book published by the Junior League, you'd be getting a bargain.

So what does this tell us? What IS the actual monetary value of Greenwich, Connecticut? We're only talking the land and buildings here; if you want to buy the hedge funds and other businesses located here, they will cost you extra. Does $100 billion sound about right? It's probably pretty close, as of today's date. Not bad, considering the original settlers traded the natives 24 used coats for the town back in 1640.

Just for fun, let's look at some of the other fancier properties in Town, and their latest assessed values. The old Commodore Benedict estate, down next to Indian Harbor Yacht Club, is rated at $21,269,500. Round Island, on the other side of IHYC, is tagged at $16,758,070. That property, formerly owned by Patricia and Frederick Supper of croquet and Palm Beach fame, now belongs to the uncle of the late Dodi al-Fayed; he bought it, so the story goes, in hopes of offering it to Dodi and Princess Diana as their American residence. And sure enough, the tax bill goes straight from Town Hall to the Ritz in Paris, the site from which the couple departed on their fatal ride.

To digress, your scribe is one of those who would have liked to see Cousin Di (we share a common colonial American ancestor) walking the streets of our fair town. My guess is that she would have been a lot more gracious than some of the snooty interlopers who come to shop - and sometime live - here. I'll bet she also would have been quick to tell off Jimmy Lash about his airhead idea of taking the bobbies - er, policepeople - off Greenwich Avenue. Heck, she might even have brought in some real bobbies to spruce up the town.

In case you were wondering, dear reader, why the local country club memberships are so high, consider the case of the Round Hill Club. Their 210 acres were assessed at $47.7 million. Yeah, that's a lot, but if the club ever decided to sell out to a developer, the fifty or so resulting four-acre lots would easily go at $5-10 million a pop. So the Town Assessor is constantly battling with the clubs to try to come up with a more realistic figure; this means the clubs have to hire attorneys to fight their assessments, and thus your monthly bill keeps going up. Well, no one ever said life in this Town would be cheap.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Hedge Fund City

In recent years Greenwich has become home to a large number of hedge funds, which to the outside observer (read, your scribe) appear to be Wall Street's version of the Wild West. Largely unregulated, these funds cater to high net worth individual investors, and can charge them as much as 50% of their annual gains (though 20% is more typical). Which is fine, I suppose, as long as they're making money; on the other hand we've had a spectacular collapse recently of one local hedge fund that bet the store on the price of oil and lost.

According to the Wall Street Journal, in August of 2005 Greenwich was home to more than 100 hedge funds, with over $100 billion in assets under management. Oh, heck, let's just quote part of the WSJ story, which appeared on 8/3/2005:

"If the hedge-fund boom has a capital, it is Greenwich, a ritzy suburb of mansions and gated estates about 30 miles from Manhattan. More than 100 hedge funds -- private investment pools that cater to wealthy investors and institutions -- have set up shop here in the past few years, a sign of the industry's explosive growth. Greenwich-based hedge funds collectively manage more than $100 billion, about a tenth of the total invested in hedge funds world-wide."

Whew! Ten percent of the world's total right here in little old Greentown. And I'll bet a nickel (yeah, I'm a high-roller, all right) that the amounts stated by the WSJ are much higher now.

Interestingly, this aspect of our town has been relatively low-key up to now. If you didn't know what a hedge fund was (raise your hands, all those of you who don't have millions of spare cash on hand), you might never have known about this particular claim to fame of our fair burg. But it seems that low profile is about to change.

The UST headquarters building, across the street from the Greenwich Library, has just been bought by Antares, a local real-estate investment partnership. And what do partners Jim Cabrera and Joe Beninati plan to do with it? Bingo! - sublet it to hedge funds. Given the pent-up demand for prime office space with a Greenwich address, one expects that they will do very well indeed.

I hope the WSJ will indulge me by allowing me to print (with full credit and atttribution, of course - your scribe abominates plagiarism) a little more of their lengthy article:

"Three of the 10 richest hedge-fund billionaires -- Paul Tudor Jones, Steven Cohen and Edward Lampert -- live in Greenwich. Mr. Lampert, the head of ESL Investments, was recently ranked by Institutional Investor magazine as the highest-paid hedge-fund manager in the world, earning an estimated $1.02 billion last year.... He gained particular local attention in 2003 when he was kidnapped from the parking garage of his Greenwich office building. (He was soon released and his captors caught.)"

I remember reading about that at the time, and wondering what a hedge fund was...obviously your scribe's cash-in-hand position does not qualify him for Mr. Lampert's personal attention.

"Mr. Jones, a former cotton trader from Tennessee who earned $300 million last year according to the same survey, owns a 13,000-square-foot home on a waterfront cul-de-sac. His firm, Tudor Investment Corp., has its headquarters in a mansion in Greenwich that was once owned by Time magazine founder Henry Luce."

Again, your scribe has frequently wondered what lay behind the facade of the Luce mansion these days. Before his recent death, Hank Luce and I would often chat on the New York City cocktail circuit; it was pretty clear that he did not have fond memories of his Greenwich days, as he was not a fan of Claire Booth Luce, who married his father en secondes noces.

It is worth saying here that Mr. Jones is one of our town's more generous philanthropists. While I have not had the pleasure of meeting him personally, I know people who have, and they report him to be a gentleman of the first water. Must be that University of Virginia aura at work.

"Mr. Cohen, who the survey says earned $450 million last year running SAC Capital Advisors, has been expanding his 23,000-square-foot-home with a basketball court, skating rink and enclosed pool, according to town records."

Oops. Methinks that sounds an awful lot like the mansion on the house tour last December that left your scribe cold. Remember the "natatorium", dear reader? Oh, offense meant, Mr. C.

So there you have it, dear reader: you now know what hedge funds are, and why we here in Greenwich will be hearing and reading more about them in the days ahead. Now, let me see, should we all rush out and buy PowerBall tickets this weekend? Nah - the jackpot is only $20 million, which means a take-home net of only perhaps a third of that amount. That's probably not enough to buy us a seat at the hedge fund table. Let's wait for the jackpot to get over $100 million, and then we'll see....

Friday, February 02, 2007

Why Did the Deer Cross the Road?

Well, if it was between October and December, the probable reason was to get a quickie. That's their mating season, and the time of year when half the annual total of deer-car collisions take place. Last year, it seems, there were 86 such encounters in Greenwich, as opposed to a mere 38 in 2005. Are the deer getting randier?

Oddly enough, empirical observation by deer hunters seems to suggest that there are fewer of the critters around these days. Well, I guess you can figure out what that means, dear reader: if there are fewer deer, but more collisions, the logical conclusion is that there must be more cars speeding along our back-country roads. Does that surprise you?

Well, it seems to be surprising the deer, at least, to judge by the rising accident total. One would think they might start to learn to look both ways before crossing the road, but they have apparently picked up on the reckless habits of Greenwich motorists (as expounded upon the other day by your scribe). The general rule of the road around here is: Let the other fella look out - I'll drive the way I want to, and the rest of the world should just damn well clear out of my way. Translated into deer-speak, the equivalent would probably be: I want my quickie, and I want it now, and those blankety-blank humans better not get in my way. Ka-BOOM!! Horny deer meets Greenwich driver, and the result is never pretty.

State Rep Livvy Floren was driving down Sherwood Avenue in Glenville a year or two ago, and was rudely assaulted by one of Bambi's relatives. She is no longer a member of the Bambi fan club, and promptly came out in favor of the town's deer cull (read "kill"). Many in town had opposed it, and in the event it seems that the cull was contrary to the town's own wildlife regulations. However, legality has never been one of the finer points of our town's governance, as faithful readers of this blog are well aware.

In any event, dear reader, you are cautioned to be on the qui vive when you drive through the back country these days. It's hard to say which are the more dangerous: the four-footed or the four-wheeled menaces; but they are both there to be found in increasing profusion. Proceed at your own risk!