In our family, there’s a Thanksgiving tradition: Before digging in to our turkey, stuffing and other stuff, we go around the table and talk about what we’re thankful for. The key is to go early, so you’re not the 27th person to mention “friends and relatives” or “being here with all of you.” That’s a lot safer than saying, say, “Jared Kushner” or “Al Franken.” Thanksgiving humor is an acquired taste.
But today’s the day after Thanksgiving. It’s a day for leftovers. So here’s what’s left over from what I would have said yesterday, if “Woog’s World” — and Westport — had a seat at the table. And if the question included what we are not grateful for, as well as what we are.
I am not thankful for the crowds that descended last summer on Compo Beach. There were lines at the entrance, lines at Joey’s, lines even to climb on the cannons. But I am not about to draw a line in the sand. I am thankful that we have this wonderful beach, and that we are able to share it with non-Westporters.
I am thankful that when I walk along the (new) boardwalk — and everywhere else at Compo — I hear a Babel of foreign languages, and see tons of people having fun. I am aware there is a balancing act needed to keep the beach safe, accessible, well-maintained and well-run, and I am thankful the Parks and Recreation Commission and Department are doing their best to find that balance.
I am not thankful that this year’s town elections devolved into a local version of national campaigns. There were charges of outside influence, negative comments on websites followed by banning of commenters, even mailings of rivals’ campaign literature with nasty notes. It was like nothing I can remember in Westport, and it left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth.
At the same time, I am thankful that our town is filled with men and women who want to serve. The first selectman is a salaried position (though woefully underpaid); the other selectmen earn a token amount — but every other elected official is a volunteer. We demand a lot of them: time, energy, listening to us bitch and moan from the sidelines. I am thankful to all who step up and into the fray. I am also thankful I don’t have your jobs.
I am not thankful that a 200-year-old structure that provided a little bit of New England heritage near the center of town — the building at the corner of Wilton Road and Post Road East — was demolished, in plain sight and under our noses, under the guise of “renovation.” We had the chance to move it, once, and fix one of the worst intersections in the state. Now we’ll have a new building there, and the same traffic.
I am, however, thankful that plenty of Westporters are appalled at what happened at that tangled site. There are plenty of preservation-minded folks in town, and they’ve been reminded of the need for vigilance and action. Meanwhile, I am thankful that people like David Waldman wanted to help solve the Wilton Road traffic issue, and floated a creative solution (which would have benefited him too, of course). Thanks too to David for his attention to detail and history with his Bedford Square project. He’s proof “developer” need not be a dirty word.
I am not thankful our state finances are swirling down the toilet, and that our budget batters so many Connecticut citizens in so many ways. Cuts in education are particularly tough, and will impact tomorrow’s generations for years to come. Children in our inner cities are especially hard-hit.
Yet I am thankful that here in Westport, we are blessed with administrators and teachers who deliver superb educational experiences in creative, cutting-edge and challenging ways; a Board of Education, Board of Finance and RTM who understand the importance of a great school system to prepare students for the future and to maintain the value of our homes, and taxpayers — those who have students in our schools, and those who do not — who are willing, even eager, to pay for it.
Finally, I am not thankful that in too many places around the nation, our free press is under assault. Charges of “fake news” undermine one of the pillars of democracy. “Fair and balanced” has given way to biased and partisan. In surveys measuring trust, journalists rank right down there with members of Congress.
But I am thankful that for over 30 years, the Westport News has allowed me to voice my own opinions and thoughts in this “Woog’s World” column — and has allowed readers to respond. I write what I want. And if you think I’m a turkey: Just say so.
Dan Woog is a Westport writer, and his “Woog’s World” appears each Friday. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. His personal blog is danwoog06880.com.