Monday, December 31, 2007

Blog Evolution: Stamford Talk Dot Com!

Stamford Talk is just over four months old. To my delight, you can now get to this site by the much simpler address www.stamfordtalk.com. So, it should be much easier to tell your friends about Stamford Talk! Click here to read more.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

1-800-AAA-HELP: Holiday Drinking

“Offer to give tipsy drivers free ride has no takers” When I saw this Advocate headline, I thought, oh man! AAA is offering free rides to intoxicated people and no one is using it? You drunk evil slackers! How could you not call a free service?
I read further and thought, this service seems COMPLICATED! Staff writer Wynne Parry writes: “The program, called Towing Operators Working to Eliminate Drunk Driving, is entering its 18th year... This year, free towing began Sunday and lasts through Tuesday.”

Towing? Who wants a TOW? A drunk person is not going to
a) have the wherewithal to call AAA
b) wait around for a tow truck.
Ever if you’re sober, nobody wants a tow. You want to be magically transported to your house. Driving drunk is closer to that than towing, and drunk people go for the easy choice.

Of course, you’re thinking, Well, the person’s friend should call! However, a host won’t want the embarrassment of a tow truck with its bright lights and the noise of the winch. Even a drunk person won’t stick around for that. I guess you can trap your friend, but those drunks sure can be pushy. And ya can’t lock them in the bathroom from the outside.

I commend AAA big time. I just wonder how we can make this service, or another service, more convenient, publicized, and less of a scene. Because drunk driving is an emergency. We SHOULD call a tow truck. But in society, people drunk drive all the time, and we’re too lenient with our friends. It’s hard; are they drunk, or just enthusiastic? Drunks can act convincingly sober.

Towing does eliminate the problem of people not wanting to have to return to pick up their car the next day. That’s a walk of shame and an inconvenience! But a drunk person might not see the value in that, and even a host or friend might not think to use that argument.

The solution is obviously to not get into the situation in the first place, but you can’t fight human nature. AAA, in the business of helping people, knows this, and we should recognize what a wonderful step they are taking to stop drunk driving. The number is 1-800-AAA-HELP, so pass the word on. If more people know about it, more people will use it.
Click here to read more.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Updates: Mill River Park, Metro-North Mistaken Identity, Stamford News 2008

--I found another Stamford Blog! Blog Stamford has a well-written and very informative post about plans for Mill River Park. One word: KAYAKS!!!!
--Update on the Metro-North incident in which Stamford Police pointed their guns at the WRONG young black man: the Advocate reports that Stamford resident Marvin Speight plans on pressing charges. I still think that's a good idea, as I did in my original post on the subject.
--Also, Stamford Times offers a good year end review of Stamford news.

Note: I'd give you the link to the Advocate's update on the train incident but the link has already expired. Sorry.
Click here to read more.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Celebrities in Stamford, for Real: 2007

I love the Advocate's "The Dish" with Susie Costaregni. I LOVE seeing which celebrities (John Travolta and Robin Williams) dined at Terra Ristorante in Greenwich or Bennett's Steak and Fish House in Stamford (Rudy Giuliani). This week's Dish has an extensive list of 2007 celebrity sightings.

My favorite sighting listed? Spike Lee at Lucky's Classic Burger and Malt Shop in Stamford.

The oddest? The DALAI LAMA eating at Bennett's... with a party of 25. Read this article with hilarious quotes from Stamford residents about the visit.

The Dish is only published every few weeks, and is usually 1/10 the size of this recent article, but it's worth every second! But listen, if YOU see a celebrity, email ME at stamfortalk[at]gmail[dot]com.
Click here to read more.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Bad Drivers: Don't Get Personalized Plates

Um, bright blue BMW M5 with the license plate YRU MAD?
We R mad bcuz u r driving like n a hole.

I don't like ppl who whip by me at 80 mph on the Merritt, on a curve, at night. The 8 of us who u passed really didn't understand why u had to roar by, only to have to slow down right in front of us bcuz the car in front of us wuz going 60. So u were driving with all of the ppl u passed. What wuz the point.

I was just informed that your car cost 80,000 dollars. Good 4 freakin' u. Y don't u take ur car up 2 lime roc and drive on the race track.


Geez Louise. I wrote this post on the 25th, right after we got home from Christmas Part 2. I didn't post it because I had to pack for my trip. I woke up at 4 am on the 26th, flew to MS, then spent the evening wrapping presents for Christmas Part 3. We're taking a break from CP 3 right now, so I can finally get this post up. I anticipate getting back into my routine of google reader and blogging today!
Click here to read more.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Stamford Holiday Shopping Analysis

sgniteerG s'nosaeS, Stamford! I snapped this picture on my 8:15 am shopping spree last Saturday. I sped down to the Michael's/Bed Bath and Beyond complex early, figuring I'd beat the rush.

I drove up and the parking lot was almost empty. I was disappointed. I wanted to beat the RUSH, not every other living being in Stamford. I took the escalator up to Marshall's, ready to freak out if they weren't open. I saw a lady inside with a toddler, thank goodness. I swept around the perimeter of the store and grabbed some mini-Breyer horses for my nephew. Things got a little more exciting at Old Navy. A teenager argued with her mom, a man looked at shirts for his wife, and I tried on a shirt and bought one for my sister and one for myself. Black, long-sleeved.

Despite the uninspiring lack of resistance, I kept my intensity and continued on my precisely-planned trip. I drove the 50 yards from Marshall's to the tiny, coveted CVS/Carter's lot, simply because this was probably my one chance to park there in the next year. Even at 9am, there were only 2 spots left. Like a shopping assassin, I hit Game Stop the minute after it opened, zipped down to People's Bank in Super Stop and Shop (closed until 10am!!!), and finally booked it over to the mall.

The mall wasn't crowded, either. I couldn't understand it. What were people doing at 10am on a Saturday? SLEEPING? In Fredericksburg, VA, or Dover, DE, stores would have been jammed with enthusiastic, wired shoppers. I can only guess that Fairfield County residents were out partying on Friday. If you ask me, that shows a lack of priorities.

Later that day I went to the new fancy glass store on Bedford (I'll tell you about their awesome bracelets later) and Schakolad. I'm hoping the glass store is a harbinger of increased walkable, downtown shopping.

I returned to the mall at 2pm. I saw the throng I expected, but everyone looked stressed, not enthusiastic. Those people missed the best shopping hours, and they were suffering because of it. Sharper Image was a mess. I had to flatten myself against the light saber display to let a man and his kid go by. We left the mall soon after that. Cheap electronics and boxes of chocolate just aren't worth the claustrophobia. I can't even imagine what the Apple store looked like.

I hope your Stamford weekend was as successful as mine. This is my first Christmas day in Stamford. It's going well so far. I'm jetting off to Tupelo, Mississippi tomorrow, where I should have plenty of time to work on this blog!
Click here to read more.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Stamford's Board of Reps Sounds Cuckoo

What a nice letter to the editor! A woman whose car broke down was surprised that so many people tried to help her start her car or just kept her company while she waited for the tow truck. I'll include part of her letter below, but feel free to visit the actual webpage and scroll down forever to find it. You'll also see at least 4 letters from people disgusted that our Board of Representatives spent 5,000 $ to have a consultant come in to teach them how to get along.

Evidently some of them were behaving like total you-know-whats, and this consultant was going to "discretely" meet with the misbehavers. That's bizarre. Isn't there a chief rep to keep the board under control? If our Board members are paid, I'm mad they can't do their job. If they're volunteer, well, I understand why they might be inept. I know we elect them, but I'm not sure if we pay them.

Update: In an Advocate letter to the editor, Stamford Rep Scott Mirkin writes that the board PRESIDENT booked the consultant, and that if the board had voted, he was sure the board would have said a big NO. In other words, blame the leader. I'm ok with that.

I wish I knew someone who could tell me funny stories about the board being mean to each other. My email address is in the right-hand column of this webpage.

Here's the letter from the woman whose car broke down:

Last week, my car broke down in one of Stamford's grocery store parking lots. While I waited for AAA to arrive and provide assistance, I had an amazing experience. I was very surprised and touched by the repeated outreach of people who stopped to see if they could help me.

Even at this very busy time of year, nearly everyone who passed my vehicle tried to lend a hand to get it working again. Some folks just stopped to keep me company or express empathy during the wait. The experience further substantiated the conviction that I've always held, which is that people are good and helpful. I have great faith in humanity, and really believe it's important to do a good deed every day even if it's a small gesture.

Well, I guess it was my turn for payback. Who would have thought that my car breaking down would actually make my day? So just a simple thank you, Stamford, for being the great community that I always knew you were!
Click here to read more.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Guns: Busy on Stamford's West Side

If it weren’t for the newspapers, I wouldn’t know a darn thing that goes on in this town. I know I should be out talking to strangers and finding news on my own, but it’s cold, and sometimes strangers don’t know much. I made a new friend at Towne Fair Tire today, but I bet she didn’t know about Stamford’s latest shooting. I do, because I read the papers. (Love ya, RSS feed.)

Today’s Stamford Times reports a shooting on Stillwater Ave, on the West Side. West Side, again! Don’t you ever sleep? A young man was shot twice in a drive-by. (Drive-by? Am I really saying that word?) Fortunately he's OK, as OK as you can be with a bullet wound in your abdomen, poor guy. There were two other gun-related incidents on the same night, Dec. 18. In one, a man on Hope St. threatened his girlfriend with a gun. In the other, police arrested a guy with a stolen pistol and 15 rounds in the Vidal Court housing complex.

I haven’t heard of Vidal Court, so I google-mapped it like I always do for big crimes. Google maps didn’t turn up any Vidal Courts, but on the listings near Vidal Sassoon, I saw a little link that said “West Side of Stamford - Wik...... The different sections of the West Side including Vidal Court, Fairfield Court…”
Wikipedia on West Side Stamford? I’ve read general info on Stamford, but would Wikip. have such specific info on one little ‘hood? Indeed, the info was there… but is it bad that the entry made me want to laugh?

“The West Side of Stamford, Connecticut is one of the poorest and most violent sections of the city. It is located north of the Waterside neighborhood, west of Downtown and east of Greenwich, Connecticut. The different sections of the West Side including Vidal Court, Fairfield Court, Spruce Street, Friendship Building and the infamous Southwood Square (formally known as Southfield Village)…
The West Side has had a problem with violent crime for years. "Despite efforts to curb it, the area is still a breeding ground for drug dealers, and gangs, such as the Bloods, the Crips, the Merrell Avenue Posse and the Haitian Posse," according to an April 2007 article in The Advocate of Stamford. "A shootout last year [2006] between factions of the Crips that left two people injured spurred a citywide police sweep called Operation Clean Streets."

Infamous! Haha! This sounded ridiculous to me, like it was a spoof. “Most violent-“ are we in East LA? Who wrote this? Words like “Crips” and “Merrell Avenue Posse” sound absurd to me. Then again, maybe my incredulity shows that I am disconnected from that part of the city. I’m not denying that violence happens right next to my la-la life, but I’m sorry, “infamous” is WAY over the top. If it were infamous, I would have heard the words “Southfield Village” at least one time in my five and a half years in Stamford, four of which were IN Southfield. Sigh. I guess I have to go do some Wikipedia-editing.

The Times article ends on a depressingly ominous note: “Cooney said it is unusual to have so many gun-related arrests in one night. "We are concerned," he said, "and are reminding our officers to wear their vests."

You have to appreciate the work our police do. I bet they see a very different Stamford than I do. I’d like to see more of Stamford beyond say, Margot Café and Wine Bar and my grocery store.

Yesterday's Advocate reports that on the night before October’s almost-murder near Pellici’s (also on the West Side), police had “responded to reports of gunfire in the Vidal Court housing complex on Merrell Avenue.”

West Side, you are busy, restless. In the past few months, you’ve had:
An almost-murder on Stillwater near Pellici’s
On the night before the almost-murder, gunfire at Vidal Court on Merrell Ave, which is right off Stillwater.
Last night’s arrest of a stolen gun in Vidal Court
Murder of Gregory Rowell- very sad- near Stillwater.
Last night’s drive-by… on Stillwater.

Stillwater, this is not a good fall and winter for you. And you have an elementary school on you.
Click here to read more.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Funny Stuff Distill'd 4 Short Attn. Spans

I have to love Stamford when I read lines like this in the paper:

"When 61-year-old Jan Hlywa collapsed at 1:30 a.m. Sept. 23 at the Holy Name of Jesus Christ Church after dancing the polka for five hours, Judge and McAllister beat paramedics to the scene to find the man unconscious and without a pulse."

Dancing the polka for five hours, good God! Who does that? What 61-year-old would do that? Were there others dancing that hard for five hours straight? Frankly, that's just reckless.

This line was from an Advocate article titled "Stamford police recognize work of 3 officers" by Jeff Morganteen. Who knew such a dull title would contain such a funny tidbit? Clearly the author saw the humor in the situation, because he included the polka info, so shouldn't the headline have been a little sassier? How about "Polka Attack Thwarted by Stamford Cops"?

I only checked out an article with a boring title because I do this blog. How many others will skip it because they think it’s about a recognition ceremony? Let’s take this as a reminder to let our headlines do more work for us.

Recall a recent Stamford Times headline: “A Bear Scare: Bear exhibit pulled from City Hall.” That got my attention right away. My heart leapt with excitement: an animal at city hall! I pictured patrons screaming and cops in blue uniforms conquering the bear.

A millisecond later, the word “exhibit” brought me back to reality. A real bear wasn’t there. Of course not. That would be silly.

But that headline, for a second, made me imagine a fuzzy bear inside the cold marble of 888 Wash. Even after I realized it was just an exhibit, I still wanted to read about the scare.

No one wants to read about recognition ceremonies. They want to hear about bears and the polka.
Click here to read more.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Cameras Watching Stamford Residents?

I only clicked on this Advocate article because it mentioned my home state, but I think it addresses what could be a hot local topic: SURVEILLANCE CAMERAS IN STAMFORD NEIGHBORHOODS!

Stamford is one of a few cities that are considering putting cameras in high crime neighborhoods. Philip Berns, a Stamford rep., is speaking at a conference in Va. about issues that arose when cameras were proposed in Stamford.

When the proposal was discussed in Stamford, there was opposition. (I don't know by whom; the article just said "opponents." Maybe it was board members.) Arguments against included concerns that cameras could easily be abused and used to observe and gather info on even those who aren’t breaking laws. Not everyone in a high-crime area is a criminal, as I pointed out in my post about Southfield. Those who supported the cameras admitted that cameras are useless unless law enforcement can keep up.

The Board of Reps. approved the cameras for use in February, but the cameras don’t appear to be coming to Stamford soon. Board members haven’t come up with general policies and procedures on how the cameras will be used. The article includes what I think is a scathing/funny comment about Berns by Public Safety and Health Committee Chairman Richard Lyons : "He's served 26 months, and now he's an expert on what works in our community? We haven't even used the cameras yet. I question the issues and ideas someone can partake when they haven't even been used yet in our community." I love the drama, love it. But, much like Whole Foods, this is something Stamford residents need to speak out against if we’re against it.

Here’s what I think. I’m against crime, duh, but I’m not sure cameras are the right way to go. You have to admit that FILMING PEOPLE IN THEIR NEIGHBORHOODS is rife with potential abuse. Sure, they’re filming “crime,” but they’re also going to film people arguing with a spouse, kids sneaking home at ungodly hours, and people having affairs. Can’t you imagine a rogue cop using info about people’s private lives to threaten and coerce them into doing things? If I knew a cop had info that could destroy my personal and professional life, I might just be tempted to do anything he told me to.

What kind of crime are we talking about anyway? I assume the crimes they’re looking for are drug-dealing and… car theft? I have no idea. I don’t imagine there are a lot of assaults taking place in public places in Stamford. And, if they’re only filming public areas, like streets and parks, don’t you think people will just move their crime indoors? What are these cameras for, exactly? Anyone? Anyone? Do any of you have a better understanding of this than I do?

By the way- Berns is speaking at a U.S Department of Homeland Security conference, about ways to protect privacy rights. I’m NOT sure how crime in Stamford threatens the security of our “Homeland,” (could the language GET anymore old-fashioned?), but I’m no expert. I’m sure our government agencies know what they are doing.
Click here to read more.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

New Stamford Bar and Grill: Mackenzie’s!

SCOOP: There’s a new bar and grill on High Ridge where Onyx used to be. It’s only a little over 2 weeks old, but it was jammed both times I went.
MY TAKE: It’s new, there are kinks-ola to work out, but this area needs this place, so let’s… make it work!!!!
LONG VERSION: Last week, I was informed that a new place had opened up where Onyx Bar and Grill used to be. "Stamford Talk research! Let's go!"
We drove up and saw the sign: Mackenzie’s. Oh! Maybe Mackenzie’s in Old Greenwich decided to expand their franchise! When we arrived the first time, on a Friday at 6:30, the bar was packed and jovial. Tables were full and people were queuing up at the door. "Let's stay," I said.
A harried-looking man, maybe the owner, came up to pacify the waiting patrons.
Me: "How long have you been open?"
"This is our first night, if you can believe it!" he said with a crazy look in his eye. Then I saw a woman send her burger back.
“Let’s go,” I said.

We ended up going to another cozy pub, Fireside. However, I’m looking for a place with better-quality, healthier food, so a week later, we returned to Mackenzie’s. I saw cars heading down to the parking lot in the back and thought, Oh man, this place is gonna be full. Fortunately, our friend had gotten there already, so we sat down and felt luckier than everyone else.

I perused the whole list, passing over the expensive (19-30$-ish) fish and beef entrees. If I’m paying that, I want to be in a nice place like Siena or Ocean 211. Salads were under 9 $, but you can add meat for an extra 5 or 6 bucks. They have a little section called “comfort food,” with pot pie, fish and chips, etc. We all got soup, the boys got burgers, and I went for the fish and chips. Why not, I’d just had Colony Pizza and two beers for lunch!

Well. I can wholeheartedly recommend the New Eng Clam Chowder. The fish and chips were a disaster. The burgers: one undercooked, one overcooked. The worst part? Our fries were soggy.

However, I have big hopes for Mackenzie’s. This area needs a pub. That’s obvious; Mackenzie’s is overrun with a variety of people who are eager to be there. I saw families, couples, friends, and lots of guys. I wish entrees were a little cheaper, but that’s life in Fairfield County, I suppose.

I think Mackenzie’s will improve if we give it feedback. They need to realize they are dealing with a clientele that expects good food, and they need to up their game. I’d like you all to go try Mackenzie’s and report back to me. Try the entrees and let me know if they are worth it. If you don’t like your food, tactfully/surreptitiously let them know so they can make it better for the rest of us. That’s what I did, and they replaced it with an OK little salad. Mackenzie’s just needs more practice. They need us, but we need them, so we need to go there, and soon, so they can get better sooner.

I googled this Mackenzie’s and only found it in craigslist ads for cooks. It turns out that it’s “*not affiliated with Mackenzie's Grill Room in Old Greenwich.” I question giving this bar the same name as one five miles away, but hey, if his name is Mackenzie, more power to him. Whatever. I just want good food that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. And by that, I mean over 20 bucks.

I’d definitely take a friend there for a salad and clam chowder, but see, then we’re already running to 15 bucks. Add protein, we’re over 20. Fine. I’ll take under 22 $. But it needs to be good.

You know, maybe Mackenzie’s Stamford needs to visit Mackenzie’s Old Greenwich. But you shouldn’t, because we should be eating in Stamford. I’ll post some more restaurant reviews here. I really, really like food, and I’ve been forcing my friends to eat at new places with me in the name of Stamford Talk research. I’ve hit Brasitas (new to me), Tawa, Fiesta, and Galangal. I’ll be trying somewhere else on Tuesday if my friend agrees.

Grammar note: I know I’m interchanging it/they when referring to Mackenzie’s, but that just feels right. It’s both a business and a group of people. So take that, pronouns!

UPDATE: I went back in January and was pretty happy with the meal.
Cobb salad was huge, which made it hard to eat, but hey, I have no problem with big salads. Husband got the clam chowder (he thought it was too chunky, and I had to agree, but I'd eat it no complaints) and sliders, which were a bit dry. Overall, though, a good place to go for cozy pub food. We went there on Sunday at 430. Giants game was on the screen, table of well-behaved high-schoolers, football fans at the bar- really, what a pub should be.
My one big complaint: the place is a bit small, but I think it's our only pub other than Black Bear, right? I'll deal with M being small.
Click here to read more.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Paper Mache Bear Ejected from 888 Wash!

I'm going to post later today about a new Stamford restaurant, but first I must share (what I think is) a really funny article from the Stamford Times. I think when I tell you the title of the article, you'll see what I mean:

"A Bear Scare: Bear exhibit pulled from City Hall"

A bear exhibit at 888 Wash?
Bears?
Alongside the DMV?
Recycling Bins?
The Senior Center?
The Town Clerk?
And... bears?

Evidently local students made a statue of a giant bear that was part of their exhibit about a book. The problem was not so much the bear, but that the bear was... standing over a person, menacing him. Yeah. In the book, a bully accepts the Native American-inspired challenge of surviving in the wilderness for a year rather than go to jail. He foolishly tries to kill a legendary bear, and probably learns a big important life lesson, besides getting all scratched up. The exhibit also included a synopsis of the book, reflections, and some totem poles.

I’m glad the bully got his due, but I see why City Hall took down the bear statue. Parents said it was scaring their kids. (Although, have you ever seen a kid at 888 Wash? I haven't.) I said the bear was giant, but considering the skill of an average middle-schooler, I assume it was 4-ish feet tall.

The art teacher at Cloonan Middle School expressed outrage, but I'll add a "DUH" to Mayor Malloy's very sensible comment: "No one is seeking to take a bite out of art, but this is not an art museum, this is a public space, and it was scaring children."

I'm all in favor of kids' work being displayed in real life; that's motivation, that's cool! The statue looks really well-made, and the bear confrontation sounds like the crucial part of the book. However, kids need to also get a clue and think about how other people might view things. I feel bad for the kids, but that's real life, and life is about dealing with other people. I know that bear would have scared the CRAP out of my 4-year-old nephew. So, bye-bye, bear.

I love the Times because they write about topics the Advocate doesn't! Nothing personal, Advocate; I gave you props yesterday on your train station/racial profiling article. I love both of you equally, just in different ways.
Click here to read more.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Stamford Police Terrorize Stamford Resident

If you don’t subscribe by RSS to the Stamford Advocate like I do, you might not know that Stamford Police stormed two Metro-North trains on Saturday and pulled off two young black men, in handcuffs. In typical cool Stamford style, the police captain told reporters, “We're right in the middle of something.” Weird! Exciting! I thought. Another post I’m working on (about extremes of rich and poor in Stamford) is taking forever, so I thought, I’ll post about the train station to tide me over, and I’ll call it “Crime? Train Station Drama.”

A Dec. 9 article filed at 7:18am Tuesday describes how police stormed the train— with guns. Passengers panicked when the train pulled up and they saw a crowd of police officers. The train was headed for Grand Central, and I’m sure it was packed with shoppers and families headed in for a fun day in the city.

Before I posted, I checked my RSS feed again and saw a Dec. 11 article titled “No charges filed after Metro-North train search”. When I read that article, my take on the “drama” changed.

What the first article didn’t say is that before they arrested the two men on that train, the cops stormed another train. On that train, again, cops were shouting and waving guns, passengers were screaming, and police ordered a man to face the train doors. The article describes how the man was so terrified by the guns pointing at him that he fainted. That man was Martin Speight, a Stamford resident, and Martin Speight was the wrong guy.

When I read this, first I was sad. Speight’s friend said Speight was so scared that he could hardly follow directions to keep his hands up- and that he was sobbing. Can you imagine taking the train home, or to see friends, and all of a sudden cops are screaming and pointing guns at you? I don’t think I’d ever be the same.

I also felt outraged. A passenger on that train said cops had mentioned a homicide suspect wearing a blue sweatshirt and a black coat, which was what Speight had on. HM. Really? That’s exactly what I wore to chorus rehearsal last night. And, I was probably wearing that on Saturday.

I guess cops were right to grab Speight. He matched the description and cops may have thought he was armed. However, if you ask me, the description “wearing really common outfit and black,” in a city where 15 % of residents are black, isn’t good enough.

What really makes me angry is that police did not even know the name of the man they had wrongly accosted. I’d certainly expect the first incident to be included in the official police report, and I’d sure as hell expect the traumatized person’s name to be in it. It’s a matter of respect. It’s a matter of acknowledging that if you mess up, and terrorize your own residents, you should at least know the relevant facts. Thank God for reporters. It seems like the police didn’t bother. I’m glad reporters did.

Speight is talking about filing a complaint. I think that’s the right thing to do. If that happened to me, and cops didn’t make a big deal about apologizing, I’d want something done. Would you want an apology if that happened to you? I’d want more than an apology, especially after I didn’t get one. I’d want publicity that tells the city what happened to me, and tells the city that police have trouble identifying black suspects. Most African-Americans have black hair, so that variable is out. If you’re black, and the right height, and wearing a black coat, you’re screwed.

Our neighbors shouldn’t have to deal with that.

Here’s some text from the article, which I think is excellent, written by Advocate staff writer Zach Lowe:
Passengers said they were terrified when the armed officers boarded the train. Some yelled "Get down!" as others ducked for cover. Several passengers said officers spoke about a homicide suspect wearing a black jacket and a blue hooded sweatshirt. Passenger Marvin Speight of Stamford said he will file a complaint against the police officers who pointed a gun at him and ordered him to put his hands up because he matched the description. Speight, 28, sobbed as two or three officers ordered him against the train door at gunpoint, said Speight and another witness. The officers did not explain why they singled out Speight and never searched his bag.

Speight fainted and fell onto his back, said his friend, William Foster, who was on the train with him. Once Speight got to his feet, the officers explained why they had acted aggressively and let him go, he and Foster said. Foster said Speight was so intimidated by the guns he had trouble following orders and had to be reminded to keep his hands over his head.

"It was wrong," Speight said. "Even if they were doing their job, it was wrong. It was traumatizing, and it was an experience no one should have to go through." Speight said he has called the NAACP and Al Sharpton's National Action Network.

Police defended the operation and said officers were right to approach Speight if he matched the description of a suspect believed to be armed and dangerous. They could not confirm Speight's account or identify him by name, but said the officers followed regulations. "That would be appropriate under these circumstances," said Lt. Sean Cooney, a department spokesman.

One last comment: I like the word "approach" in the last paragraph. I hope the Stamford police never "approach" me, especially if they're looking for a white woman with brown hair.
Click here to read more.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Colony Pizza: Stamford's Solution to... Everything

Lunch on a cold December Friday? Colony Pizza sounded good to me, and Colony Pizza did not disappoint. Outside, the street was empty and grey; inside, Colony's bar was bustling, the pizzas were rolling out of the kitchen, and I was instantly happy.

If you like pizza, and you haven’t been to Colony, you don’t really like pizza. When people say pushy things like that, I get irritated, but I’m asserting Colony’s excellence because it’s indisputable. I won’t tell you it’s the best pizza ever, because so much good pizza is out there, but I will tell you, when I see a Colony pizza and it’s not mine, I want to cry.

The lunchtime crowd was enthusiastic, which makes sense: at Colony, you get half of a pizza, all for you. There’s only one size pizza, and it’s the perfect size for two. You have to eat half a pizza. The crowd was 2/3 men, which to me indicates that women either work too hard to justify an hour-long lunch of pizza and beer, or have enough sense in their head not to eat so many carbs in one sitting. Now that I think about it, 3 out of the 4 times I’ve been to Colony, it’s been with guys. (Ladies, head to Colony at noon and sit at the bar.)

Colony is old-school. When we sat down and ordered beers, our waitress said, “And on the pizza?” We were marked as novices when I said, “Oh- do you have a menu?” She turned around, grabbed a menu, slapped it down, and strode off. When my friend asked if they had pineapple, the waitress picked up our (8 ½ by 11 paper) menu, spread it out on the table in front of him, and ran her finger down the list of 11 toppings- none of which included pineapple. I so knew that was going to happen.

We sat in the booth closest to the kitchen and ogled each pie as it sat waiting on the counter. A dozen pies passed by, none of them mine. I really did feel like crying; I hadn't had Colony in over 3 years, and I was hungry. At one point a pizza appeared that was piled high with what looked like… mushrooms??? "What is that?" I said. "I hope there’s not a mountain of toppings like that on our pizza." We watched the waitress carry it to the end of the bar, where commotion and laughter occurred. On her way back we heard her mutter, perhaps scornfully, “Extra mushrooms.”

We got pepperoni and sweet peppers (I feel like crying right now), and on my half, sausage, and on my friend’s half, mushrooms. Three pieces each. I only gave my friend half of my last piece because he had already finished his three, and I didn’t want to be rude. Plus, he weighs 50 pounds more than me, and much as I hate to, I have to accept that I’m a 130-pound girl and adjust my food intake accordingly.

I hate to mention price, because that’s the least important thing about the meal, but for two people, 2 beers each, it was 30 bucks. Did you hear me? 30 bucks. I had a great Friday, and I got some important work done on my blog after lunch. I thank Colony Pizza for that, and I’m writing lunch off as a business expense.
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Friday, December 7, 2007

In the Interest of Overall Traffic Safety

This Stamford Times article is not about Stamford, but I got a kick out of it. Their IT director had to throw himself out of the way of a runaway truck, which then slammed into a pole and flipped over into his yard, destroying his wife's award-winning garden. He called 911, smashed the truck's window, and got the driver out. The article says that his wife was really upset about the garden, but didn't mention if she was freaked out that her husband almost got killed.
Let's take this funny story as a reminder that other people drive like maniacs. In today's snowy weather, Stamford, let's take it down a notch. I don't have a garden, but many of you do come close to mowing me down when I walk my dog.
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Stamford's 3rd Murder: Sad and Creepy

First murder: young man in Cove. Second murder: young woman killed by ex-boyfriend at the Sheraton. Third and I hope final: Young man shot in his car.
According to the Advocate, the Dec. 5 murder occurred on Myano Lane on the West Side of Stamford. That's off Havemeyer Road, which divides Stamford and Greenwich just above Rt. 1. That's right by my NYSC. The shot was fired at 10pm, no one reported it, and no one found his body until 6 am.
Except… I read today's Advocate that a friend called the victim's family at midnight and said he may have been shot. The family called the police and the hospital, but at that point, no one had found the body. Police are now interviewing the caller. I find that mysterious phone call very disturbing.

The little neighborhood where the murder took place is beside the Stop and Shop. SEE MAP. One time, after I went to SandS, I cut over on Catoona to Havemeyer. Wow, I thought, what a dumpy little street! That was a year ago, and that was just my impression, but I never took that shortcut again. Myano is off Catoona. And that's where that poor guy was shot!!! Ahhhhhhh!!!!!! Stamford, what? What?

I’m kind of tracking Stamford crime (not professionally), so I can tell you that the most recent almost-murder happened over on Stillwater, late November, not too far from Myano. A high school student was shot twice, but survived. Stillwater would be just off the right quadrant off the map I drew. (Just googlemap it if you have any questions. It was near Pellici’s, 97 Stillwater Ave., where I had dinner last week.) Oooh I just googled it, and guess what, Myano connects to Connecticut which connects with Stillwater…

To wrap this up: Crime. Police officers are busy. I went to Pellici’s just a few days after they found the high school kid shot on the same street. Approaching the restaurant, there were 3 or 4 police cars blocking our way, and I saw a cop talking to several Hispanic men gathered in a driveway. They were illuminated by the car’s lights. It looked like they were just hanging out, drinking some beers, and the cops either had questions or were investigating something. I was struck by the fact that everyone was calm. Cops: calm. Men: calm, waiting for the cop to come back from his car. The cops appeared respectful, and so did the men.

I saw that and thought, You go, Stamford Police. You’re looking into an incident near where a recent assault took place, everyone is calm, you’re not being racist or rude, and it seems to be going smoothly. You don’t care if you are blocking the road, you’re just doing your job, and I appreciate it.

I wrote in my police survey that what I liked best about Stamford police was their presence. I see them all the time: talking to someone, pulling someone over, walking around an area where I’m glad to see them. This is a CITY, and all types of people live side by side, and having cops around makes everyone feel safe. We all like having someone in charge, some one who can resolve our disputes. I think the Stamford Police are doing a good job.

Note: I did not draw this map to be funny. I thought it would be the easiest way to show you where Myano is. The map is not drawn to scale. Myano is actually a curvy road, and shoots off to the right of Catoona. I just want to give you a general picture.
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Thursday, December 6, 2007

Target Under Attack by Trump Parc?

Today's Advocate article "Target closes after heating breaks down" first seemed unimportant. Why is a heating snafu a big deal? Then I read that the Trump Parc (ah, is that supposed to be French?) construction crew caused it! Does this remind anyone of RBS's dangling crane that caused the evacuation of the surrounding neighborhood? I happened to snap a pic of the TP construction site last week (drive-by paparazzi). I believe the yellow structure in this pic is a crane. In light of yesterday's TP mistake, I'm feeling a little nervous about the proximity of UConn's enormous glass front. Correction: the Dec. 7 Advocate reports that Target neglected the gas line that caused the heating breakdown, but I still feel nervous about that crane. (Click on the image to enlarge if you wish.)

Obviously, corporations who build in Stamford need to be a little more careful. Maybe the headline should read "Trump Parc builders wreak havoc on innocent Target." (Whoa- a pun! I've always hated puns. This is the first one I've ever made.)

And why are Target employees working overnight to raise the temperature of the building? That hardly seems right. The last line of the article reads, "Trump Parc representatives could not be reached last night." Where were they? Not helping out Target! Come on Trump Parc, step up to the plate. This is NOT how we do things in Stamford! Repeat correction: This does not seem to have been TP's fault, and if you read the Advocate article, you can tell that the company building Trump Parc is not happy with Target.

I feel like writing a letter to the editor. I don't think the Advocate will publish it, because I just had one in last week, but maybe it will give them a heads up that this news is part of a larger issue! That reminds me, I haven't checked out the letters to the ed site this week! It's juicy stuff; I'm going to go look at it right now.
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Revisiting Stamford's New Garbage Cans

I've gotta admit, these new trash cans make my sanitation men's life way easier. They're so fast that it's hard to get a picture of them when I'm spying. I keep seeing bumper stickers that say something like, "They raised my taxes and all I got was this stupid trash can," but it's much physically safer for the workers.
Thank God they didn't put Stamford's name on that bumper sticker. I saw it yesterday in Greenwich, and I'd be MORTIFIED if Stamford's name was dragged through the mud for all of Fairfield County to see! I've seen other versions of the bumper sticker, making me wonder who made them, and making me think, maybe you can make your own bumper sticker, and what would I put on a bumper sticker of my own?

The angry letters to the editor about the unweildy-ness of the cans have died down, but I do want to say, my driveway slopes up, and the trash can, when heavy, can be a bitch to handle with one hand. However, it's a good calf workout if I walk backwards. And, I don't have to feel guilty for all the weird stuff I put in my trash can. They do glance in before they hook it up to the truck, but don't seem concerned if you have something unorthodox in there... like another trash can.

So Stamford, take off your bumper stickers! (Say in Reagan-esque, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" voice.)

Oh man, I just put an old rug in my garbage can before I dragged it out to the curb. It froze outside over night, so it's stiff and unrug-like. I tried to hide it under a trash bag to no avail. Still, I predict it will pass inspection.
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Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Southfield Area: Diversity, Boats, Hoods

A reader recently wrote a heated comment on Would You Like a Drug Deal With That? In that post, I wrote about the Southfield area of Stamford, where I lived for four years. My neighborhood was in between a gated community and a run down area. My reader took issue with the word "gated." Other than that, she shares my opinion that SF is a kickass place to live. I've had the Southfield area on my list to write about since August, so this seems like a good time to do so.

Quibble: you have to admit, that little community, I think called Dolphin Cove, is gated; there's a little guard stand. But is there actually anyone in it? If not, I take back the word gated. The intersection by the guard shack was the site of my most spectacular rollerblading wipeout. More about that at the end of this post.

There are three parts of Stamford that jut into Long Island Sound: Southfield, South End, and Shippan. (Zoom in on this map if you want.)
Southfield, the southwesternmost part of Stamford, is officially called the Waterside area, but I call it SF because of Southfield Park. And, I could only see a tiny sliver of water from my window, and only in the winter.

What I liked about SF/WS, as the reader points out, is that it's one of the few areas in Stamford where people of varying socioeconomic groups live in VERY close quarters. I think of the area as having three parts. From south to north:
1) Gated community, in which some houses have their own docks on another inlet. There are a few newish condos, and the Playtex and Conair buildings that bring in a good chunk of (speeding) employees every AM.
2) My neighborhood of families, middle-aged residents, and older people and their renters. I lived in a 2nd floor apt with 2 roommates, above our awesome Italian landlords and their yappy dog. Southfield Park is on the inlet, as are the gigantic Avalon apartment buildings.
3) A popular summer restaurant called Crabshell, a very nice marina, the run-down area by Café Moja, and I-95 and the RR tracks. People call this section the “hood,” but I’ll tell ya, I read the police reports, and most crime is NOT in that area. (It’s in the South End, the West Side north of the tracks, and the Cove area near the Grade A, where my bank got robbed.)

A 2002 New York Times article, about the building of the Avalon complex, describes the area in more general terms:

“Luxury Apartments Open in Former Industrial Area”:
"One of the most diverse neighborhoods imaginable lies between the west branch of Stamford harbor and the border of Greenwich between Interstate 95 and Long Island Sound. A vestige of old industrial Stamford called Waterside, it covers a little more than a square mile, into which are crammed small, well-kept working class homes as well as houses that are falling apart; contemporary office buildings and dilapidated old industrial buildings; tumbledown stores and yuppie restaurants, a marina, $400,000 condominiums, private homes and an affordable housing project called Waterside Green." The article says that the Avalon complex cost $ 60 million to build, and that the houses in Dolphin Cove are valued at over a million bucks.

There are a lot of great areas in Stamford, and I think Southfield/Waterside is definitely one of them. I highly recommend Southfield Park for a weekend visit. It has a baseball field, tennis courts, a playground, and a NICE path along the water. I have a feeling the majority of Stamford is unaware of this park, because the tennis counts are often free.

The rollerblading incident: I’m not a good rollerblader, but Dolphin Cove is a good area for blading because there’s hardly any traffic. So, I roll out of my hood, up to the 3 way stop by the guard shack. As I roll up, so do three other cars. Well, I can’t stop, so I hold out my arms in a grand “STOP PLEASE, COMING THROUGH” gesture. I take maybe three strides, then hit some gravel and TOTALLY WIPE OUT IN THE MIDDLE OF THE INTERSECTION, landing right on my back. Well, the cars can’t very well drive over me, so they have to wait while I look up at the sky for a moment, carefully pick myself up, and roll away. This wasn’t one of those “when you look back on it, it’s really funny” incidents. It was really, really funny at the time.

I don’t fall too much. Since I can’t stop, I don’t go very fast. And, after my “throw self onto grass to avoid high speed descent” on a slope in Darien, I know to avoid hills. I suggest the very flat Cove Island Beach for your rollerblading pleasure.
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Check Out the Library's Flickr Site!

Verrrrrrrrry cool: the Ferguson has a Flickr site! There are photos of the Haitian book Festival, wrestlers from WWE visiting for a book event, and a therapy dog listening to a little girl read. I commend you, Ferg, for getting with the program in a visual, fun way. Our library is making a splash on the modern frontier! Click here to read more.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Weekend: Kwanzaa, Dancing, Santa Rappels

There are a few things happening in Stamford this weekend:
Saturday Dec 1, noon: 11th Annual Kwanzaa Awareness Festival at the Ferg. Crafts, African drumming workshop, candle lighting ceremony.
Sunday Dec. 2 at 1:30: Israeli Dancing with Leng & Yigal at the Stamford JCC, 1035 Newfield Ave. They do many types of dance, from Irish to Salsa to hip hop, so it's really international dancing. All ages are welcome. It's only 10 bucks for four hours of dancing, and they serve refreshments. Beginners start at 1:30, Intermediate at 2:30, ending at 5:30.
Now THIS sounds insane: Sunday Dec 4 at 4:30 pm: Santa Claus is going to rappel down Stamford Tower, the tallest building in Stamford, then walk up Bedford to do the Tree Lighting Ceremony. The Stamford Times has more details and a listing of many more weekend events, from concerts to holiday gift drives to activities at the Stamford Museum & Nature Center. The Times also has a Fairfield County Calendar.
Click here to read more.

AHHHHHHH!!! The Advocate liked my letter!!!!!

I got a letter to the editor published in the Stamford Advocate!!!!!!!
AHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!
My letter is about Whole Foods. I'm proud of myself that I got off my butt and took action after posting that more of us need to write feisty letters!

"To the editor:

A Whole Foods in Bull's Head? ("Plan for Whole Foods advances," Advocate news story, Nov. 21.) Anyone who travels through that already busy intersection knows that plan is misguided.

I'm a big fan of Whole Foods, but four of Stamford's major north-south roads meet in Bull's Head; an enormously popular store will cause tie-ups on the key route that commuters take to work. A trip to the Whole Foods in Greenwich shows the traffic nightmare the store causes on a regular basis.

In a 2000 survey by the Connecticut Policy and Economic Council, 62 percent of participants from Stamford felt traffic congestion was bad or very bad. I can't help but think Stamford's residents' opinions were not taken fully into account.

If the plan goes forward, I hope traffic will enter and exit only on the Long Ridge side of the intersection. That's the only way for Whole Foods not to make that area a mess."
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Thursday, November 29, 2007

Stamford Police Care What I Think

In today's mail I got a survey from the Stamford Police asking about my safety. I was so thrilled to be included; it made me feel like a real member of the community. I had to run out the door, but was looking forward to filling it out, adding a nice note at the bottom about how much I like the Stamford police, and also mentioning that at night, around midnight during the week, the parking lot behind Tigin's is really empty and scary. Maybe add some floodlights, or better yet, a ferris wheel. That would light it up, yet be fun and decorative.

Anyway. Got home from errands and EEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!! Headline in the Advocate: "Police to survey residents"! I skimmed the article. My eyes lit up when I read that I was ONE OF 13,000 residents who got the survey. Yes indeedy. Other 110,000 of you? Losers. Me? Part of the survey. Don't try to influence me; I've already filled it out.
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South End Library Book Group: Awesome

On Monday I sped-read Barack Obama's memoir for the book discussion at South End Library. The book was much better than I expected. Obama wrote it 12 years ago, when he had just finished up being president of the Harvard Law Review, so it isn't a smarmy political rah-rah book. It's a memoir, written before thoughts of Presidency, so it is incredibly* honest and revealing. I only got to p. 70 ish, but I'm continuing to read it each night... at regular speed.

The book discussion was awesome. There were 16 or 17 of us total, the perfect number. I was a little anxious because I was late (got lost), and it's embarrassing to walk into a group that's already seated and talking. Well, I got there, and there was food! The group does a little potluck, um, yum, so I'll know to bring something next time. We got settled and jumped right into reactions to the book. Like the best book groups, people were opinionated but respectful, full of humor, and willing to address complicated issues. The discussion leaders were excellent moderators and kept the discussion lively yet focused. It was like being in a really cool English class.

Obama's book was part of the South End Library's "African and African-American Authors at the South End Branch" series; the next book is Freshwater Road by Denise Nicholas on Dec 17. I don't like fiction, but I'll read it so I can be part of this group again. By the way, the Ferg is retooling their website, so maybe in the future there will be a way for me to give you the calendar link and have the info about the event show up without you having to click dates or links yourself.

If you go to the library, be aware that it's in the CTE Building. When I drove up at night, the place did not look like a library. It was dark out, and the library is set back from the road, in what looks like an industrial building. All I saw was a tall chainlink fence and a blocky building. I was confused, but then I spotted the CTE sign, which the South End library site had mentioned. The library itself is quite cozy.

*When I say "incredibly" honest, I'm not using that adverb (it is an adverb) lightly. I mean to say that it's hard to believe that such a book exists, that a politician exists who would share ideas about himself like this. It's like... I actually know what he believes in. How's that for a novel idea?

Speaking of novels, here's a description of the next book from the Ferg site:
"Celeste Tyree, a young black collegian, leaves Michigan for Mississippi in the summer of 1964 to help found a Freedom School and a voter registration project. As Freedom Summer unfolds, Celeste confronts not only the political realities of race and poverty in this tiny town, but also truths about herself and her own family."
and, "New participants welcome. No registration necessary." It's at 7 pm!
Click here to read more.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Cafe Moja! Seriously! Gunshots???

Cafe Moja, things aren't lookin' so good for ya. First, a dude was arrested for selling drugs at your place. Now, a man shot at the cops outside you... I wanted to try you for lunch, but frankly, you are not persuading me.

Hm.

I'm being light, but there are some disturbing things in the Stamford Advocate article about a man who fired at the police before he was captured:
One, cops were there because of a big fight outside on the sidewalk at 2 am.
Two, cops were hurt chasing the gunman.
Three, a policeman said they had come regularly to Cafe Moja, and that it was "an effort to keep it safe." Good lordy. I appreciate how hard the police work and I don't like that people are messing with them.
Oh well.
That's Stamford. A little dicey in parts... parts that you probably drive through.

Fortunately, police were able to arrest the guy, a 21-year-old from Bridgeport, right away. Thank you Stamford police, for keeping us safe.

Here are some relevant lines from Advocate Staff Writer Monica Potts:

Police responded to a 911 call about a large group fighting outside Cafe Moja, at 320 Greenwich Ave., at about 2 a.m., Dohmann said...

After being handcuffed, Ebron tried to flee but was unable to get away before officers gained control of him.
Three officers were injured during the struggle, including one who may have broken his hand, Dohmann said. Ebron also was injured during the struggle and from falling as he attempted to flee, Dohmann said...

One police witness reported that the dispute began inside the club, and shots were fired inside, Dohmann said. Police are investigating that claim and reviewing tapes from video surveillance cameras inside and outside the club.
A sign on the door of Cafe Moja identifies the permittee as Sean Evans.
"It didn't happen here," Evans said. He would not comment further.
Officers had previously responded to reports of disturbances and fights at the club. Dohmann said.
"It's been an effort for us to keep it safe," he said.
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Monday, November 26, 2007

Discussion: Barack Obama's Memoir

I can't blog long, because I have to finish a whole book before tonight's book discussion at South End. It's Barack Obama's "Dreams from My Father." I have two things to say about this.
1. The book was written twelve years ago, so it's not some goody two-shoe memoir to prove what an angel he is. I respect that it's a book that was written not necessarily from the perspective of, "I better write this in such a way that it makes me look like I should be the President." I gave it a quick skim and it looks like an authentic memoir rather than a, "Here's what I learned growing up that pointed me toward my destiny as President."
2. I'm officially declaring my support for Obama. We know it's going to be a Democrat, and I'd rather see Obama than Clinton. I'm officially "interested" in politics now.
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Sunday, November 25, 2007

New Stamford Mall Set Up: Not Bad

I just had dinner at the P.F. Cheng's at the mall and was very pleased. I mean, it was P.F. Cheng's, but service was great and so was my Columbia Crest Chardonnay for six bucks.
I'm not a big Chinese fan- Pearl East's food (on Summer St.) is OK but the decor is depressing- so maybe I'll go to PFC in a pinch. There was a nice buzz in the busy dining room, and the crowd was slightly diverse, which is rare.
I'm happy with the new mall set up. H&M, Barnes and Noble, no complaints about that. B and N is right by PFC, so if PFC gives you a buzzer to carry while you wait, you can browse for books while you wait for your table. A good marketing scheme all around.
Any other suggestions for Chinese food? Kam Pei in Bull's Head is OK. Maybe there are no great Chinese restaurants in Stamford... I hold Ching's Table in Westport up as my ideal. I think it's called that. I always call it the "Red Door Restaurant" because the facade is red.
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Thursday, November 22, 2007

Music: From Jimmy's to the South End?

A reader left a helpful comment at an older post called "Cold Stamford: No Love for the Music?"

"There is music but it is under the radar...like the singer at Ocean 211 on Saturdays, Jazz band at Tonic on Thursdays, Funk at Chez Jean Pierre on Wednesdays, Summertime band at the Crab Shell..."

First of all, I really appreciate the live music tips. I need to follow up on them more aggressively. I've been lazy and/or out of town.

"Funk at Chez Jean-Pierre?" my husband said. "I can't picture that." Well, I can't either, but I'm desperate. My thought: "Damn, have you seen the prices at Ocean 211? I'll just order a drink." And, where is Tonic? I googled it with no luck.

Second, Grapes are playing at Jimmy's this Friday. I'm in town, so I believe I'll be there. I don't think I've seen Grapes perform, but Charlie, one of the vocalists and guitar players, used to be in Bravo Avocado, a band I liked a lot.

Third, the reader looked to the future: "...I'll agree that there is certainly not one or two clubs booking serious bands. There is room a club like that in all these abandoned warehouses, LI Sound side of the train station, but so far it's all antiques and scrap metal. Some one should put a club where "Go Vertical" used to be..."

Amen. Who do we know that can do this? I read an article about a couple who opened an art gallery in that area. Gentrification... Stamford's SoHo... is it possible? It is possible that this wealthy-ass area will have a place that hip young adults can hang out? Young or youngish, or older; I just mean people who want to dance and listen to music, music other than a (n admittedly good) DJ at Hula Hanks.

Finally, I'd like to have some musician friends. Many of my college friends were musicians, so it's ingrained in my head that I should know people who play live music. This area makes it hard, but I'm still looking. I've actually got a friend who writes her own jazzy, sultry music, and I'm trying to get her to sing at an open mic and let me do backup vocals.
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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Wild Turkeys: New Residents of the FC

I’ve been told I should write about more controversial topics, but all I can say is, Have you seen those wild turkeys?

Most people I ask this question say, "Wild turkeys? I didn't know there were wild turkeys." Or they say, "No.” I believe that answer, because these “birds” are pretty hard to miss.

Here’s the answer I find hard to accept: “I thought they were just turkeys.” Ah, just turkeys? Those dinosaur-looking things that are as tall as me? If you can't recognize them as not regular turkeys, you have a big problem.

Take a peek at this funny and very informative National Geographic article about wild turkeys. Finally, someone else is talking about those turkeys! However, I’ll say that the turkeys in the picture are much shorter and more attractive than the wild turkeys I’ve seen. It makes me wonder if I saw big vultures. Anything is possible in this crazy world.

I've only seen these turkeys in Greenwich, right on the Stamford border. They don’t seem scared by my car; they strolled nonchalantly around someone’s yard both times I drove by. That was near the patch of forest near the Westy storage center off exit 6. On first glance, the turkeys are ugly and a little scary, but I think they are beautiful. I like how they walk around, head high, with an “I don’t give a shit” attitude. The NG article portrays them as nice but proud animals.


My husband said he saw them in North Stamford 5 years ago, and he said he saw them running-- on Thanksgiving. He’s very imaginative, so I’m tempted to not believe him, but he really likes animals, so I don’t think he’d lie about them.

Final note: This pretty turkey, although the website claims it's an Eastern Wild Turkey, looks nothing like the birds I've seen.
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Friday, November 16, 2007

Films and Fair Trade: Nov. 16 Weekend Events

I’m outta here this weekend, but there is a lot going on in the area.

1. Indian Film Festival at UConn Stamford Campus. Friday through Sunday. Cool! I http://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.giflove free movies. Click on calendar for more info.

2. Fair trade sale at First Presby Church on Bedford St. this Sat, 10-4, and Sun 12-3. It’s run by Ten Thousand Villages. From their site: “Working with unemployed or underemployed artisans, we help them bring their crafts and cultures to North America, and to support themselves and their families.”

3. The library has a humor columnist speaking at 1:30 tomorrow at the HB branch on Vine St.

4. Heads Up: Two Mondays from now, Nov. 26, 7 pm. Book discussion at the South End library of Barack Obama’s biography Dreams of My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance. I am so going to that.

5. Heads up next Wednesday Nov 21: Deep Banana Blackout, Toad's Place, 9 p.m. This isn’t in Stamford, but a girl I knew from college used to play sax for them, so I, you know, feel close to the band.

6. Chiara sounds interesting if you like non-boring classical music. It’s in Greenwich, but whatever.
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STAMFORD- I WANT TO GOSSIP, and I want to do it on a chatboard.

I really wish the Stamford Advocate (a reader who grew up in Stamford pointed out that old school Stamford residents call it the Stamford Advocate- thank you very much) had discussion threads. Here's what I'd say in response to a recent letter: "I agree! Who cares if the mayor's son got arrested for drugs? It's his kid, not him! And that doesn't mean he's a bad dad; even if he was, that has nothing to with him being mayor."

Although, you know, that response sounds pretty negative, and I like the Advocate, so maybe I wouldn't say that. I probably would, and then I'd feel bad about it and wish I'd written a more organized post. Here's an excerpt of the letter, which I'm providing so you don't have to go to the Letters to the editor page and scroll down:

"To the editor:
I am a long-time subscriber to The Advocate, and I am writing to protest the coverage of Ben Malloy's arrest for alleged drug possession and dealing (news stories, Nov. 8, 9, 14)...

I think the "above-the-fold" bold-faced coverage of Ben's arrest and rehabilitation in three issues is excessive. On the days you have run these stories, you also have run, on Page 1, several stories that I'm sure are of much greater interest to most of your readers - e.g., stories about taxes, health care, safety in the city - and I find it amazing, and very disappointing, that you chose to let the Ben Malloy story take precedence over all of them...

If you continue to run these stories in the manner used to date, it will appear that you are out to get the Malloy family - whether because you disagree with their politics, or because you're using the son's issues to attack the parents, or for some other reason that has no place in professional journalism. It also will appear that the recent sale of The Advocate initiated a down-hill slide in the quality and importance of the paper, which would be a great loss to the Stamford community..."

I think that last line might be a little dig at the new owners of the Advocate and Greenwich Time, because I hear that right after the sale, they let go of several editors who had been there for a while. Worry about your terrible website, Stamford Advocate, not your writers and editors.
Click here to read more.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Advocate, Grammar, and Me

You grammar and spelling types may have noticed that in the previous entry, I switched from writing "the Advocate" to "The Advocate." That's because I learned that the paper is actually called "The Advocate" and not "the Stamford Advocate." However, I'm reluctant to call it "The Advocate" when there are clearly other Advocates in existence. Frankly, it's a little presumptuous. It's not the Advocate, so it makes me a little mad that to be correct, I have to call it that. You could say that I'm sensitive, grammar and caps-wise.

Speaking of which, I just joined Wikipedia and made my first correction, because in the entry about the Stamford Advocate (or whatever the hell this paper is) it said,

The newspaper and it's sister paper, The Greenwich Time, were sold to Hearst Corp. for $62.4 million in a deal with it's previous owner, the Tribune Corporation, that closed on Nov. 1., 2007.
OK, I'm going to tell you. "It's" is short for "it is." Even if it's the possessive "it," you do not add the apostrophe-s, because that would mean "it is." That is an exception to the possessive rule, and you're just going to have to accept it. It's one of the more subtle yet very common grammar errors that otherwise good grammarians make.

I'm still a little bitter about "The Advocate." If I call it that, no one knows it's Stamford. So do I call it Stamford's The Advocate? That's awkward. This is just one more case of the Advocate messing with my mind. Click here to read more.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Do Local Papers Suck? I Think Not.


I’ll tell you again, the Advocate letters to the editor page is where you should be going to see what Stamford-ites feel strongly about. Often, it’s really, really boring things, which should tell you something about Stamford. Oh shoot- that’s mean. I want Stamford to be interesting; I hope it’s interesting. Maybe a lot of people with lively opinions complain to their friends and don’t take time to write the paper. We need more people writing in with fun complaint letters. Speaking of, I wonder if they take emails to the editor? I bet they do.

This recent letter caught my attention (just barely):

Over the decades, The Advocate has been reduced to a shallow form of its old self. More newsprint is used on things like Connecticut's film industry than the high school graduation rates in the state's urban areas, the over-incarceration of minority youth or the plight of the poor.
I think I’m going to write in saying that this person is wrong. The Advocate does cover that. Sure, it could cover it more, but that would be a really depressing newspaper. I think that would only work if The Advocate also amped up it’s fun factor, you know, balanced that deadly serious stuff with more articles by me on local nightlife and colorful characters. Advocate, I’m available. Actually, they’ve rejected two of my proposed articles, but no hard feelings. Maybe things were hectic with Tribune's pending sale of the paper. They were good ideas, too- but I covered them on the blog.
We all suffer when a vibrant city and region lacks a local newspaper that will challenge and question public officials and keep a watchful, informed eye on issues and trends, interpreting them for the rest of us.
I find politics dull, so I agree with the writer on the need for other people to do the interpreting for me. I know politics are important, but I’ll leave them to the people with the interest and attention span to follow them. I hope those people will report back to me with short yet accurate accounts of the important info, why I should care and what I can do. Seriously, someone needs to do that for this blog. I challenge you to tell me why local politics are interesting. I think papers believe they are doing a good job reporting info, but I need bullet points.

I must warn you, the letter about the paper is the 13th one down; you’ll have to scroll. That three foot long scroll is just one more example of The Advocate's poorly designed web page. It makes me want to cry if I think about it, because they obviously need help. I feel bad that they either can't afford a web designer, or no one is being honest and telling them how un-navigable their page is. I suppose I should write a letter about that.
Click here to read more.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Nov 13- Speed Dating!

Heads up on an interesting event:
Tuesday, November 13- 7:00 PM. Speed dating at Tiernan's Restaurant! ages 39-49, $ 35, and you have to enroll online or by phone. Call Catherine at 203-400-1052 or check out www.cupid.com/predating to register. (I wonder how they ensure you're single? Isn't that kind of creepy?) Too bad it's for 39-49... I wonder how this event would fly with a younger crowd? Click here to read more.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

My NYSC: Through Good Times and in Bad

My NYSC on Commerce St. used to be a ratty gym full of tough guys. You felt like a badass by proxy when you went back to the free weights section. Yeah, I'm doing bent-over rows too, and chest presses, big guy.
The NYSC got completely redone a couple of years ago and now has squash courts and a pool. It's packed at 530 am with high-powered NYC types, pounding away at the treadmill before hopping on the train to NYC or heading over to the hedge fund. I do like that jolt of energy when I go there at 6am (this rarely happens). The Moms take over at 9 am, with yoga and cardio. The gym is almost all women at that point. I'll admit, it's kind of pleasant and mellow.

The place looks great, and the feel of the gym has totally changed. There are good and bad parts to that.
Good
: top-notch machines and at long-last, a towel service. There are no men there who look the scary kind of tough.
Bad: The front desk guy and/or trainers used to get to pick the radio stations, so you didn't have to work out to the generic NYSC soundtrack, which consists mostly of Elton John tunes. How does that make you want to lift weights or do one more set of sit ups? No, sweaty men make you want to do that, and I miss them.
I concede: The generic mix did introduce me to Jojo ("Too Little Too Late"), so the Elton John crap is not a total loss. The pleasant smorgasbord of pre-renovation crowd still comes in around 5, so I see some familiar faces and get to exchange pleasantries, like in the old days when people actually talked to one another. One is a postman and he is so damn cool, and a couple of the other guys are contractors/builders. A couple are from Stamford, and a couple from Greenwich.

The new gym is impeccable, clean and has more energy, but I'm a little nostalgic. No relaxed chatting at the front desk; the gym now has a rushed clinical feel as the front desk people check you in without a glance. If you're interested, I'd try sneaking in. They're usually talking to each other or on the phone, so go for it. I do like my gym better in many ways, but not feeling welcome makes me want to go to the gym less, because there's no one to ask me where I've been if I've been slacking.
Click here to read more.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Parking Complaints and the Ferg

I've been holding my tongue on the topic of parking in Stamford. When I started Stamford Talk in August, I thought, I'll go downtown and take some pics! Then I thought, oh... and park in the Tigin lot and pay 1.00 $ for one hour. Fine, but it's on the northern edge of the main shopping/social area. That's annoying, but like several defensive Stamford Letter to the Editor authors point out, this is a big city and to expect free, central parking is foolish. OK. Fine. I’ll suck it up like you suggest.

However, I've been pushed to edge by the one-hour parking meters outside the Ferguson. One hour? ONE HOUR??? Do they think this is a city of dummies? One hour in the library? I spend at least two! I'd like to be able to park in the spaces along Bedford, in front of the Schakolad and Bradford's and Tigin, without having to stress about how many minutes I'm looking at books. I think if I find a free space, I should get at least two hours.

Case in point: Last week I happily went to the Ferg for the Wed. 12:00 movie showing. Not only was I finally getting myself over to the library for the movie, I was exicted to see a quirky-sounding documentary called "Who the %@^%$ is Jackson Pollack?" I arrived ten minutes early, just enough time to grab a good spot in front of Bradford’s and make it in on time. OH. The meter is for an hour, and the movie is 75 minutes long. I don’t do parking tickets, so I had to pull out and go to the Tigin lot with its tiny spaces where other cars always ding you. I rushed in just in time for the opening credits. Where did all those other people park?

Parking pacifists say, "Parking's not that bad. In any major city..." Well, guess what. This ain’t a major city. If it were, there would be decent public transportation and more things within walking distance. When the parking spaces outside the library only let you park for one hour (ONE HOUR!!!!!) and your only option is to park in creepy Target or the lot behind Tigin, something is off. I’m trying, but walking from those lots in the rain or a very cold day in February… how does that encourage reading???

I'm willing to pay for the Tigin or Hula Hank lot if I'm out for drinks or dinner. I expect to spend money. But to have to spend money to go to the library? That just doesn’t seem right. Nor does having to root around for quarters; many people don’t carry cash, much less quarters. That’s so 1950’s.

What has kept my sanity is the fact that I don't have to return books to the Ferg; I can hit any other branch, therefore avoiding double parking trauma. I don’t mean to whine, but I really want to use the Ferguson, but doing so takes longer than it should.
Click here to read more.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Video Hut's Virtues: Like the Early 90's

A reader posted a comment to my "You're Killing Me, Blockbuster" post. He suggested Video Hut on Hope St. as an alternative to Blockbuster. I checked it out last night. It felt like back in the day- shelves you could see over with easily visible labels. Video Hut may have less movies than Blockbuster, but the shelving is manageable, the guys at the front desk are knowledgeable, and it's locally-owned.
PRO: Video Hut is smaller, but seems to have a wider selection of videos. The owner picks out the DVDs, meaning there are choices that aren't standard hits since an individual's taste plays a role, rather than just numbers.
PRO: Knowledgeable staff. The guys who worked there enthusiastically recommended movies and chatted about them as if they cared, unlike the helpful but clinical BB staff.
PRO: The new comedies are in the comedy section, so you don't have to wade through all the other genres. At Video Hut, I wandered over to the comedy section-and under "new" I saw A Dog Year with Molly Shannon. I remember seeing good reviews of it in the New York Times and People Magazine, and thinking I'd like to see it. Did I see any sign of it in Blockbuster? No. Was it there? Maybe, but I never would have stumbled upon it at in BB's extensive mish-mosh of new movies.
BB has hundreds of "new arrivals" along the wall, but each shelf has 30 copies of a popular movie that stars well-known actors but got mediocre reviews. And, all 30 of the copies are gone. The genres are all mixed together. If you're super-lucky, you might see that movie you wanted... but it's probably checked out. If it's an older movie you're looking for, good luck finding it in the maze of shelves.
SORTA PRO: Video Hut may have LESS copies of the newest hits, but at least there's only 5 copies. You feel more like you have a chance of getting it. When you see 30 copies of a movie and they are all gone, you feel hopeless that you'll ever get it... but maybe that's just me.

Check out Video Hut. Don't have crazy-high expectations; just enjoy it for what it is.
Click here to read more.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Capriccio: Changing Seasons

Even as the weather gets cooler and the outdoor seating at Capriccio's goes away, they still have quite a bit of seating indoors. Go there for light but tasty Italian food. Tigin is cozier, but I think Capriccio's food is more fun and more healthy. I do wonder if there's some competition between the two neighbors on Bedford. I look over at Tigin, and the Irish-ish crowd looks different from the Euro-ish crowd at Capriccio. Light Italian food is very different from heavy Irish food, and so are the portions; normal bordering on small at Capriccio's, and a heaping plate at Tigin. I'll be eating at Capriccio and then heading over to Tigin for drinks, and keeping my fingers crossed that they'll have an Irish band on a Friday! Merci a Yoann LeGoff for just one photo from his many clever flickr sets. This is from a set called "Drinks," and here's another shot that I like. Click here to read more.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Salsa at The Palms

My friends and I hit the Palms one Sunday evening, and the crowd was suprisingly mellow yet lively. (Thirsty Turtle next door was a mob of sweaty people, the dance floor packed.) The Palms has:
Ballroom dancing on Wednesday, 6:30-12 am
Salsa on Thursday- free lessons at 7 p.m. (that sounds really cool and I should add it to weekly events!
Friday, Corporate Happy Hour 5-8 pm (cool! Possible singles location?), followed by salsarengue.
Saturday, Latin rhythms and free salsa lessons at 8 pm
Sundays, Reggaeton at 9 p.m. I guess we were there for Reggaeton. It was a little awkward because my friends and I aren't very Latin, but we danced anyway and had a good time, although we slowly realized that it was all couples... and us. Probably dancing totally wrong. Oh well. Click here to read more.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Library Ho Strays from Stamford

I don't like the word "ho," but there's no other way to describe what I do with libraries. I shamelessly use the part of it that I need, then tramp on over to the next town and take something else from their library. I go to Greenwich, Stamford, and Darien- this shocks many people. How can I do this? Well, I don't know why I am the only one who knows this, probably because I read (or used to until I got this laptop) obsessively: any CT resident with a library card can go to the library in any damn town they want. Did you hear that? You can go to the Darien Library, park easily, and get a book or CD. Small library, great magazine room.

Ever since I've moved to the Northeast, I've worked in Greenwich, so it's been very convenient to use their sickeningly amazing library. I say sickeningly only because now that I have a new alliance to Stamford, the superiority of Greenwich's library angers me. I've also lived in Darien and Norwalk and have seen how their libraries operate. It's not that the Ferguson Library is inferior; it's fine. However, the ease of parking at all other area libraries (even Norwalk!!!) make the Ferguson seem... inaccessible. Absurdly so. I'll complain about parking in another entry.

First, let's say what makes the Ferg amazing. It's not the Starbucks, and it's not the Passport Office, although that can come in handy. No, the Ferg's claim to fame is its used book store attached to the library. I don't know of any used book stores in the area. I'm sure they exist, and it's on my list of things to look into. For now, give all your old books to the Ferg, and scour the ample shelves for new ones for you. I've found some good books there. That little store, run by Friends of the Ferguson, makes around 100,000 a year for the library. So, readers sustain the library. That's pretty cool, but it makes me even more irritated that the city recently proposed cutting library hours (as if the library isn't hard enough to get to) since the library was 100,000 dollars short- on their 8.4 million dollar budget. Huh? Visualize that tiny sliver of the pie chart. Stamford and Mayor Malloy, can't ya throw the library a bone, or tiny pie piece? One with 100,000 dollars in it?

Despite the fact that the Ferg obviously needs you, I still encourage you to try other libraries. The Ferg can't do it all, and the exploration will make you appreciate what the Ferg does offer. (A good selection of books, good ESL and Literacy Programs, cultural events like Italian Heritage Month and the Haitian Book Festival, nice librarians- and I hope you'll discover something else). Thank you to Lanamaniac for her photo of Stamford Library, part of her great flickr set on Stamford.

Here's what you need to know:

First, Stamford:
Ferguson- decent selection of books.
Weed Branch- small but packed full of books; it's right near the Hope St. NYSC. I love it.
Bennett- no clue.
South End- no clue.
You'll find the smaller branches useful. For example, when you visit the Ferg's online card catalog, sometimes the Weed Branch might have the book. And, parking is easier at the three smaller locations. Although I can't vouch for South End parking, I can't imagine how it would be harder than the Ferg.

Greenwich:
The main branch, on Route 1 off exit 3, is stunning. It's hard to go anywhere else after going there. The "new arrivals" section feels almost as big as the whole non-fiction section of Stamford's Weed Branch. There's a nice CD collection upstairs, an art gallery... oh, you get the picture. Great magazine selection with the old issues archived on shelves right there... it's just gross. It's wrong to be so good. However, I go to the Ferg because it's in my town, and I'm trying to make it work.
Greenwich's smaller branches are Cos Cob, Perrot, and maybe one other; they are small but very nice, and may have a book that the main branch doesn't.

Norwalk:
Embarassingly, Norwalk has better parking and as good of a book selection as the Ferg. It's off Rt. 7, first exit. Like the Ferguson, half of the non-fiction books are on one floor, the other half, downstairs. (Greenwich has all non-fic except music on floor one, and all fiction upstairs, which makes more sense to me.) Norwalk's downfall: a very small "new arrivals" section. It is absolutely pathetic.

Darien:
Lovely sunlit magazine reading room and a good CD collection. The book selection is small, but it's near Post Corner Pizza, a personal fave with its chicken souvlaki and crazy-good pizza.

Other info for library virgins:
You can look at the card catalog online, and access your account with the card's bar code. And, if you get a book from one library in the town, you can return it to any other. So, if you manage to get to the Ferg to check out a book, you can return it elsewhere: say, the Bennett branch on Vine, on your way to Border's or Kit's Thai Kitchen, or the Weed Branch on your way to the Hope St. NYSC or the mega-efficient Camp Ave. Post Office.


Dear City of Stamford and Ferguson Library:
You are the only library in the area who does not have free, convenient parking. Dammit. I just don't know how to fix this. I understand that your library is one of the few right in the downtown area, and you are the biggest city in lower Fairfield County (I don't count Bridgeport, because their local papers don't really pay attention to Stamford, so there).
Here is my one suggestion. The parking spaces on Bedford right past the library only let you pay for one hour. Any serious book browser will laugh in your face. An hour to pick books and check out? Let's at least get those set to two hours, and get them to take credit cards, or for god's sake, dollar bills. Does anyone in this world carry 8 quarters? And I mean, anyone in their right mind?
Click here to read more.