The Home Team / The world’s 10 nicest people (Part 3)
OK, it’s naughty and nice time. On second thought, ‘tis the season; why don’t we just stick to nice?
Note to reader: My original “World’s 10 Nicest People” column appeared in this paper in 2001. I didn’t do a sequel till 16 years later (November 2017). After that one was published, a bunch of readers suggested I turn it into an annual feature. Which I’m willing to try. Unless people start campaigning to be included. I think we’ve all had enough campaigning for the century.
Mario the Barber
Mario’s been cutting my hair — what little that’s left, that is — for 31 years. He was also the go-to guy for my three sons — Matt, Greg, and Robby. His old shop, Mario and Mike’s, on the corner of the Post Road and Maple, was a Westport institution. When Mario moved to Fairfield Barber Shop, which he now runs with his son Marco, I went right along with him. Mario’s always so upbeat you’d think he just won the lottery. The only thing that bothers me is that even though he’s older than I am, he still has a fuller head of hair than a hormonal teenager.
Trevor the Bartender
He’s the man behind the taps at The Perfect Wife tavern, our home-away-from-home in Manchester, Vt. As soon as he spots us, he pulls down my personal mug from the ceiling hook, draws me a Guinness, and pours my wife, Carol, a Cab. Then he brings us up-to-date on the local scuttlebutt, and tells us what’s good to eat. Sadly, The Wife closed down in the fall, but good old Trevor moved up Route 11 to Seesaw’s which, I assume, will now become our new home-away-from-home. Because of Trevor.
Lynn the Pharmacist
You try staying on your feet all day behind the pharmacy counter at Walgreens, helping one impatient customer after another, and keeping a smile on your face. Lynn manages to do this, and has been doing it for years. She knows the answer to every dumb question you can ask, knows how to save you money, and greets all her regulars by name. Lynn rocks.
“He’s a bulldog,” the Jaguars manager said of Mike, who was then a 12-year-old teammate of my 10-year-old son Matt in Westport Little League. And he continued to be a fiece competitor years later when the two of them were teammates again on the Staples Wreckers baseball team. When Mike was in his early 20s, I seemed to bump into him everywhere I went in town, and we’d always have laughs about the “good old days.”
Last weekend, my two older sons and their wives ran into Mike in Austin, Texas. Daughter-in-law Kelly, herself a past “10 Nicest People” winner, texted me: “He needs to make your next list!”
You got it, Kelly — Mike’s in.
Annamaria at Frankie & Johnnie’s Steakhouse, NYC
Alright, another bartender. Don’t judge me. Annamaria is a jewel — warm, charming, and gracious. Since Frankie & Johnnie’s is a prime theatre district spot, she’ll ask you right away the time of your show, and then will make sure your food and drinks come out accordingly. She’s also a savvy theatre buff, and will give you an enthusiatic review of any play if you ask for it. Carol and I were so enthralled by Annamarie, we wanted to return her kindness — so when we found out she was dying to see “Come From Away,” we got her tickets for Christmas. We couldn’t have done it for a sweeter, more appreciative person.
Stephanie the Barista
A smiling ray of sunshine, and an stalwart member of my beloved Starbucks Westport Post Road crew. I inadvertently left Stephanie off my previous list, and then spent the rest of the year calling her “the 11th nicest person.” But now, we’re gonna make it official. Here’s to you, Stephanie!
Stacey and Niki
Years ago, I’d pop into Elvira’s Deli and Pizza from time to time when I used to walk Ricky the Beagle along Soundview, but I didn’t become a “regular” till we moved down to Compo Beach last spring. Now, my morning routine begins with a fetch session with Kemba on the beach, followed by coffee and a fried egg sandwich served up by the dynamic duo of Niki and Stacey at this Westport landmark. Could there be a better way to start the day?
Jack Riley, proprietor
Jack has been running Greens Farms Spirit Shop since ... forever. And I wouldn’t dream of going anywhere else to keep my house well stocked. Jack and I go way back to our Westport Little League coaching days, and believe me, he knows everything about this town. Not to mention, about wine and whiskey. Jack and the young dudes who help him manage the shop always put a smile on my face. Then again, it is a liquor store.
Zeke the Handyman
How can this guy always be this happy?
“Zeke, could you carry this 500-pound bureau up to the second-floor bedroom?” Zeke smiles. “Sure, no problem! You watch!” There is nothing Zeke can’t do, and nothing he’s not happy to help you with. You just get the feeling that every day is the best day of his life. Love you, man.
Gabe is one of my youngest son Robby’s closest friends, and has been since they were skinny little tykes playing rec basketball. When Gabe stops by, you feel like he actually enjoys hanging out with the old folks (that would be me and Carol). And when the rest of the twenty-somethings are getting ready to go out and party, Gabe would just as soon stay back and watch hoops on TV. When I grill, he’s my sous-chef. Easy-going. Good-natured. Chill. So what if he used to pick on their friend D when they were all little kids?
There it is. This year’s list. Sugar plums for all!
The Home Team appears the first Friday of every month. Keep up with Hank’s adventures on his blog, “Beagle Man,” on the Westport News website, at blog.ctnews.com/beagleman. Email him at DoubleH50@gmail.com.