Woog’s World: Typically, no day in Westport is typical
There is no such thing as a typical day in Westport. Each is special. Each has its own rhythm, texture, style. Each shows off this town in a different, unique way.
Last Saturday was a day like many others. But it could not have happened anywhere else, or unfolded in any other way.
The YMCA was packed. Playing basketball in the gym, boys got ready for coming seasons. Men tried to recapture seasons past. Downstairs, folks grimly attacked the treadmill, bikes and rowing machines. Thanksgiving was over; the holidays beckoned. There was caloric work to be done.
On nearby Wilton Road — and nearly every other street in town — decorations were hung. It’s a bit early for actual Christmas trees. But evergreens can be strung with lights. Fence posts are draped with wreaths. We’re not really big on inflatable Santas, sleighs on roofs or even crèches. But for the next month or so, Westport at night will be a very lovely place.
One of the loveliest places during the day is the beach. That’s true any season. Compo was quiet last Saturday. Some people walked — the ones who are there every day, and a few new faces showing the scenery off to out-of-town guests. Dogs romped. Meanwhile, at the marina, some laggards hauled their boats — finally — out of the water. They got their money’s worth out of their slip, for sure.
The farmer’s market has moved indoors. Gilbertie’s Herb Gardens on Sylvan Lane South is a brilliant spot. There are fewer vendors than the outdoor spot on Imperial Avenue, but — especially at this time of year —but the variety of good (veggies, herbs, flowers, even maple syrup) is just right. A devoted crew of regulars shows up every Saturday, and last weekend was no exception.
A mile or so away, downtown was lively. The weather was mild, the holidays beckoned, and many stores extended their Black Friday sales. A couple of decades ago — in my mind’s eye, at least — downtown at this time of year was a destination for Westporters. Now its attraction is more regional. Neighbors don’t greet each other on the street; kids don’t hang out at the Y or movie theater (because, duh). Yet the year-long renovation project that’s brought brick sidewalks, nice lampposts and a few benches to Main Street is certainly welcome.
The crane looming overhead is a bit daunting. The open pit that will by this time next year be Bedford Square is not pretty. But Church Street offers both the Spotted Horse and SoNo Baking Company, and the two spots were jammed on Saturday, all day long.
Saugatuck went through its own renovation a few years ago. Now it’s thriving. It may not be a destination for holiday shopping, but it’s an eminently walkable neighborhood. Restaurants were filled — and so was Saugatuck Sweets. The weather was warm enough for ice cream. The candy is always enticing. And the vibe is so welcoming. Saugatuck Sweets has become the place that — years from now — will be the wonderful growing-up memory for Westport kids that the ice cream parlor has become for earlier generations.
Another memory will be — in fact, it already is — the lights on the Bridge Street bridge. For several years now, thanks to Al’s Angels, the narrow span has sparkled during the holidays. It’s one of those little things that make a big difference. It’s one of those things that make Westport “Westport.”
Kids make Westport what it is too. Last Saturday was both a typical and untypical day for many teenagers. Staples High School — recognizing the importance of a family holiday, and the stresses many students feel — strongly encouraged teachers to not give homework, and to push due dates for major assignments to later in the following week.
But ACT and SAT prep classes went on as usual. College application deadlines approached. Tutors kept tutoring. The Westport Library saw its usual teenage crowd.
And its usual all-ages crowd, too. From the quiet reading rooms to the energetic Maker Space; the public jigsaw puzzles to the always-something-different requests of reference librarians; the always-popular café to the surprisingly still-popular DVD racks downstairs, the library was what it is every Saturday (and every other day of the week): all things to all people.
As the sun struggled to break through Saturday, other Westporters did other things. Dads showed little girls how to ride bikes. Moms showed little boys how to skate at the Longshore rink. Grandparents took little kids to playgrounds. Extra food was delivered to the Gillespie Center; trash was hauled to the transfer station.
There is no such thing as a typical day in Westport. This was just another good day in a great hometown.