Woog's World / Holiday shopping list for Westporters
What do you get for people in a town that has everything?
The typical Westporter's shopping list this Christmas -- er, holiday -- season has a mix of items. Some are must-have; others, frivolous. We've been both naughty and nice this year, so we may not receive everything we wish for.
But as we trim the tree, here are a few items we'd like to see under it.
For starters, a tree trimmer. We've let those handsome maples, oaks -- and, yes, fir trees -- stand unattended too long. All it takes is one unexpected snowstorm-- or, these days, a stray breeze -- to send branches tumbling down, ripping electrical wires and plunging us all into darkness for weeks on end. It's clear CL&P isn't coming around to do the job -- most of their crews are up in the Hartford area, now entering its second month without power -- so let's do it ourselves.
A generator wouldn't hurt either. And the time to buy is now -- not when there's a line of 600 people waiting for one, and your wife is reminding you that she told you to buy one the last time the branches fell, which was all the way back last week. A generator provides more than power; it makes you the hero of the neighborhood, graciously helping everyone on the block while indebting them to you basically for eternity.
And while you're shopping at Crossroads or Westport Hardware, don't forget the roof rake. Sure, no one heard of this before last January. But we've entered an era of climate change -- formerly called "global warning" -- and if you think last year's record snowfalls were an anomaly, think again. This year will make the winter of 2011 look positively tropical. I guess I'm just one of those people who sees the glass not as half-full, but as half-frozen.
Speaking of your home, if you have not bought one yet, you might consider adding a high fence to the top of your faux stone wall. Nothing says "Give me my space!" more than a few feet of wood, unless it's a remote-controlled gate.
Or a mailbox with no identification whatsoever. Once upon a time we proudly put our name on our mailboxes: "Jones," "The Smiths," "Kalmaninsky-Sobelsteins." Then it was only street numbers. The new trend is for nothing at all, beyond random bird or similar rustic scene. After all, why should firefighters or EMTs know where we live? So if you ask for a new mailbox this holiday season, be sure it's ordered from WitnessProtetctionProgram.com.
A great gift for the kids is a large playhouse. Actually, large is not the right word. Try "enormous" or "gargantuan." Or perhaps "small South American nation-sized." These are far classier than old-fashioned "treehouses," because today's playhouses come equipped with several rooms, running water and electricity (generator not included). Best of all, your kids will never play in them, so feel free to appropriate yours as a guesthouse or home office.
Provided, of course, that you adhere to all Planning and Zoning Commission regulations. This being a rational, law-abiding state like Connecticut, and not someplace like Louisiana where you are allowed to bring guns to church, or Arizona where citizens are encouraged to shoot aliens on sight, we have rules governing things like the square footage of playhouses. And the height of playhouses. And how closely a playhouse may be placed in relation to other structures, property lines, and trees with overhanging branches that come crashing to earth in the slightest breeze.
These rules are made for our own protection. Just as, for example, we must be protected from the evils of having too many alcohol-dispensing restaurants in close proximity to each other. Such a situation would create too much of a vibrant downtown.
Fortunately, those rules are changing. Pretty soon, thanks to recent zoning amendments, Westport's downtown will be as hip and cool as Weston's. I am not sure, however, where the P&Z stands on backyard playhouse rules. So until then, a nifty holiday idea is a gift certificate for an attorney specializing in zoning regulations. It's the gift that never stops giving.
While we're on the subject of the P&Z, remember that decision this fall denying a zoning change that would have permitted a tall movie theater downtown? Many Westporters want a theater, theoretically, but they don't want it dominating the skyline. I'm not sure how to solve that paradox, beyond suggesting that a great gift is a home movie theater in every home. That way, you'll entertain yourself -- with your own big screen, plush seats and playhouse-sized candy bars -- without ever having to go downtown. You can watch any film any time, day or night, in the comfort of your own, very private home.
Just don't forget to fire up the generator.