When I was a child my mother took me to see the Wizard of Westport. After that experience I slowly became aware that Westport was a magical place.
What is it that makes the place so magical? It has lot to do with the people that inhabit it but the place itself is magical as well.
The movie stars that hang out here make it magical. Paul Newman was and is larger than life. The cool thing is that the stars that have come here aren’t here to work, they’re here to live. In Westport regular folk are movie stars or famous musicians. Unlike like Hollywood where people want to be seen–our stars are just getting milk or walking at the beach. One time I bumped into Meatloaf at the Pizzeria. Michael Bolton I once saw hanging out in front of Oscar’s, drinking coffee. I bumped into Paul Newman waiting in line at the Fine Arts Theater. A couple of my friends know Keith Richards personally.
The schools are magical because they foster creativity and the teachers are great. If a kid is good at music—well, we have program for that. The school newspaper wins awards every year. The high school has a great radio station. The town is, basically, set up for kids. If a kid is weird—well, they fit right in. A kid can be a life guard or into science. Maybe a kid isn’t into anything except for just being a kid–and that’s OK too. I had some really good teachers like Tom Jockers, he gave me the only A I ever got at Staples—that was magic. Another magical teacher I had was Mr. Rudd, he had a wonderful sense of humor. I had a great soccer coach at Long Lots, Mr. Woog, he is like a magician in his ability to portray the essence of the place with his writing, I read his stuff everyday because it makes me feel at home, I can relate to it.
The river is magical on many levels. If I go downtown I always see the river. The interesting thing is that it’s always at a different level. It can be really low, practically mud and then later on its dangerously high or right in the middle but never exactly the same. Before the gold office building was built at Gorham Island we used to hang out on the rocks and jump into it on hot summer days. You can drive a motor boat right up to the library. The rowers are like magic how they appear on the surface– without making a sound. You can look across the river from Parker Harding and dream about the Famous Artist School with it’s teachers such as Rube Goldberg or Norman Rockwell. We have fantastic bridges all over town. The metal turn-style bridge at Saugatuck, all lit up at Christmas, is a sight to behold. You can have a few drinks at the Duck and then jump off the highway over-pass into the river at high tide, gotta be a hundred feet. Or you can hang out under the bridge at Underhill.
Long Shore is magical for it’s beauty. Never swung a club there but just driving through is always an experience, open to the public. It offers so much; ice skating, tennis, swimming or the sailing school. We had our old wooden sailboat docked there when I was a kid. It’s our personal gateway to Long Island Sound.
Westport’s brushes with history seem very much like magic to me more and more as I get a little bit older. Whether it be the ending of the Pequot War or visits from George Washington there is so much history all around us. It was historic just last summer when Obama, as if by magic, landed at the beach in his helicopter.
The talented novelists who have written here number in the hundreds, maybe thousands. It’s just that place to be–a quick train ride to NYC. The beach offers more activities than could reasonably be listed in a blog posting. The seasonal changes are stunning; if being thrashed by winds, bathed in light or dumped on by snow. Just kicking around town doing errands you can feel the magic all around.
The way we treat our homeless population is magical. Most days they eat gourmet. I personally know homeless men and women who travel here to live from all over the state because the conditions are so amenable.
All the development is getting a little nauseating however. Oops, wrong post.
As a kid wandering through the strawberry fields or the apple orchards on the Post Road I couldn’t help but wonder, about everything. However, looking back now it all seems like a fairy tale. I didn’t even know at the time that Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page had each performed at the high school auditorium. But it only makes sense because Westport is like that. It can surprise you. Westport is like a dream, but when you wake up it continues. We’ve made some mistakes like turning downtown into a sort of commercial mall but one can still eek out a little of that small town flavor, sprinkled about the multinational conglomerates. And you can still walk through the Baron’s South and wonder about Baron Walter Van Langerdorf and his secret laboratory on the hill looking over downtown—for now.