Booksink's HamletHub Fri, 17 Nov 2017 12:12:01 -0500 My Life Off the Post Road: Remembrance Day

I couldn’t help but think of movie references as I walked through Stratford throughout November, increasingly a sea of bright red poppies. They were pinned to lapels, mostly, but they appeared entwined on wreaths, strewn in shop windows, and in print on posters. I thought of Dorothy and her entourage skipping, wading, and then dozing amongst them in "The Wizard of Oz." Or of Roger Daltry injured and crowned by them in "Tommy," where he and his father were both, in their own ways, victims of WWII.

It felt different to be in a country that experienced war on its own soil. I don’t mean to minimize the suffering of US veterans and their families. But I know that some of the older people I see every day here might have walked through smoldering London rubble, turning over fallen bricks, looking for charred family members. The other night after a coed extracurricular football match on the pitch outside the Shakespeare Institute, we sat in the local pub for a beer. One of the players, well into his 70s – who, with a cold, played far better than I – told us of bombs destroying the football arena in his home town of Manchester during WWII.

I bought a blue poppy-festooned wristband, a metal lapel pin, and the classic, ubiquitous cutout paper version from various uniformed people, both very young and very old, who stationed themselves around town to collect donations to support wounded veterans.

I wore them proudly when a friend who lives in the Cotswolds invited me to attend a Remembrance Day service in the chapel of her teen twin’s prestigious private school. I’ve known her for 20 years, having met her shortly after her husband transferred to work in the States for a while. As seniors, the twins had important roles representing their class and the Army and Navy in the event.

They welcomed me to their 600-year-old home the evening before, where I half expected Mr. Darcy to join us. Jane Austen herself may as well have painted the scene with her words: sheep graze in the distance just below the square golden oolitic Jurassic limestone church tower. The woodstove in the original fireplace ensured that the stone floor below my feet stayed nice and toasty, and the low, broad wooden beamed ceiling prevented too much of that heat escaping overhead. Dinner was home-cooked and delicious.

In the morning we donned our Sunday best, and of course, our poppies. The school (or “college,” here) was a 40-minute drive to a town whose Georgian architecture sat in stark contrast to the Tudor buildings that surround me in Stratford. The college chapel, built later than their home but earlier than most of the buildings in the States, filled quickly but stayed chilly. Its intricately patterned, soaring ceilings greedily kept the heat to itself high up above where we sat. The slate beneath my feet refrigerated my toes.

Parents and alumni settled, many in neatly pressed, meticulously fitted military garb. Their chests proudly displayed an array of medals hanging from multi-colored ribbons. The sight of them brought tears to my eyes in thinking about what they had to do to earn them.

The choir filed past us in floor length robes of red that matched the poppies. They ranged in age from about seven to 47. The youngest boys and girls were too short even to reach the shelves on which they were meant to rest their music.

The students seated themselves, sombre in either their school uniforms, or those of the military branch they represented. They all rose to the seriousness of the occasion with reverential decorum.

The sun escaped the morning clouds during the service to illuminate the chapel through vibrant stained glass windows. The two-story pipe organ provided a dramatic musical backdrop to the choir’s delicate voices. Wreaths were laid, hymns were sung, and words of acknowledgement and appreciation were read. The service’s pomp and gravity underscored the sacrifice made by generations of the day’s honorees. Those who lost their lives in WWI received special notice in recognition of the century that had passed since that war ended.

I felt gratitude for having been invited to attend the emotional convocation. It was an honor to join with the others to honor those who lost their lives in service. Based on my experience of and observations on this, my first Remembrance Day in the UK, I feel reassured that there is no risk of these veterans’ efforts on their country’s behalf ever being forgotten.

]]> (Diane Meyer Lowman) Local Writers Fri, 17 Nov 2017 04:19:29 -0500
Celebrate Small Business Saturday with Marilyn Singer at The Hickory Stick Bookshop

Beloved Children’s Author Marilyn Singer will be signing copies of her books at The Hickory Stick Bookshop on Saturday, Nov. 25 at 2 p.m. in celebration of Small Business Saturday. Her latest book, "Feel the Beat," is an irresistible book of poems about dancing that mimic the rhythms of social dances from cha-cha to two-step. This event is free and open to the public. If you are unable to attend, you may reserve a signed copy of "Feel the Beat" by calling (860) 868-0525.

Marilyn Singer has crafted a vibrant collection of poems celebrating all forms of social dance from samba and salsa to tango and hip-hop. The rhythm of each poem mimics the beat of the dances' steps. Together with Kristi Valiant's dynamic illustrations, the poems create a window to all the ways dance enters our lives and exists throughout many cultures. This ingenious collection will inspire readers to get up and move
Included with the book is an audio CD of the author reading each poem accompanied by original music from composer Jonathon Roberts.

Booklist says, "The beautiful illustrations exude the energy of the dancers as they twirl and spin across the pages, and the happy array of faces reflects the wide range of cultures and traditions that the poems draw upon. The message about how music and dance can unite us is a happy and timely one." School Library Journal calls it, "An absolute delight to read, these poems will have children and adults moving to the beat. A charming addition to poetry and music collections." Publishers Weekly describes it as, "A celebration of the variety and global diversity of dance, and of how it can unite communities."

Marilyn Singer is an award-winning author of more than 90 children's books in a wide variety of genres. She was the 2015 winner of the NCTE Excellence in Poetry for Children Award. She, her husband, and their standard poodle divide their time between Brooklyn and Litchfield County. Kristi Valiant is the illustrator of "Pretty Minnie in Paris," "Pretty Minnie in Hollywood," the Little Wings chapter book series, and "Penguin Cha-Cha," which she wrote and illustrated. She graduated magna cum laude from Columbus College of Art & Design. Valiant lives (and dances!) in Indiana with her husband and daughters.

he Hickory Stick Bookshop is located at 2 Green Hill Road in Washington Depot, Conn. For further information about this event please visit or email

]]> (The Hickory Stick Bookshop) Authors Fri, 17 Nov 2017 03:17:23 -0500
Two Stratford Library Board Members Honored by ACLB

Two members of the Stratford Library Board of Trustees, Constantine "Gus" Chagares and Joseph Janucik, have been recognized by the Association of Connecticut Library Boards (ACLB) at its annual awards presentation. The ACLB Awards recognize outstanding Connecticut library trustees who have made significant contributions to their library and community.

Over the decades, Chagares and Janucik have served in a variety of offices on the Library Board including Assistant Treasurer, Vice-President and President. Janucik has also served many years on the Buildings & Grounds Committee and Chagares has been invaluable as the Chairperson of the Fundraising Committee and a member of both the Finance Committee and Grievance and Negotiations.

Pictured (l-r): Stratford Library Board Member Michael J. Aloi, Director Sheri Szymanski, Constantine "Gus" Chagares and Board President Judith Hampel; Joseph Janucik (seated)

]]> (Stratford Library) Beyond Books Fri, 17 Nov 2017 01:42:11 -0500
Faith has Power: Teaching Preschool, "Bad Kids" and the Election

I spent the last five years working in various forms of early childhood education, and just concluded, over the course of the past school year, working a salary job as an assistant preschool teacher.

Some of the things I’ve learned from working with kids would be either difficult or pointless to convey to my peers – how to keep track of which pairs of shoes belongs to which child in a class of ten, the face a toddler makes right before they pee their pants, or the entirety of the lyrics to the theme song of the kid’s show “Paw Patrol.” But one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is about the distinction between bad people, and people who do bad things.

I have heard it said that no one is truly “bad,” and that people just do bad things with varying frequency. This was probably said by someone who has not taught preschool, because I can assure you, there are definitely “bad” kids, and I have taught them. These kids are scary! They are also, I am happy to report, incredibly rare.

But there is quite a supply of good, or at least okay, kids, that do bad things on a regular basis. In early childhood, they do those things because they are frustrated, confused, or unable to express their true needs.

The problem is, though, you can’t usually tell those kids apart from the bad ones.

I had to discipline the kids I worked with when they misbehaved, because that’s how preschool works. But I had to maintain a positive attitude towards those children after I was finished implementing whatever consequence I felt was appropriate for their actions. I had to keep playing with them, I had to answer their questions, and I had to have polite conversations with them about whatever was on their mind at the time. (If you’re wondering what was on their respective minds, it was usually some combination of princesses, dinosaurs, and the menu for snacktime. I was quick to tell them that my favorite princess is now, and has always been, Ariel from “The Little Mermaid.” But I digress.)

Children are, at the end of the day, people, and there are some children I get along with better than others. But as a teacher, it is imperative for me not to exhibit favoritism, nor to treat the children I work with unequally based on my personal feelings towards them, so I spent a lot of the first four months of the year gritting my teeth and trying to hide my personal feelings towards some of the more badly behaved children in my class.

In particular, if you spoke to me at all during the hectic and beautiful year that I taught preschool, I probably mentioned to you a child that I jokingly referred to as my “nemesis.” The child in question constantly called other children names or instigated them into yelling matches, asked to sit on my lap purely for the purpose of farting on me, pretended to forget the names of everyone in the class, declared loudly on a regular basis “I don’t love you, Mr. Drury,” and once tried to sit on the head of a classmate who was, at the time, still standing upright. (Somehow, no one was hurt.) Dealing with him was quite a hassle, and easily the most difficult part of my job description during that school year.

I tried everything – discipline, harsher discipline, positive reinforcement, an attitude so falsely cheery that I was sure the children would see through it – but nothing could stop him from causing mayhem wherever he went in my classroom, even as all of his classmates rapidly matured and improved their behavior to a standard far above his.

On one of the last days in the school year, we worked with live butterflies. We had watched the caterpillars crawl around their habitat, drawn pictures of them in their cocoons, and then released the newly formed butterflies on the playground. Three of the twenty or so butterflies that we had in the habitat weren’t flying away, and the children were all asking me why. I didn’t have a clear answer myself, but, as a former science major in college, I felt the need to foster scientific inquiry among my students.

“That’s a good question, friends. Some of the butterflies don’t want to leave, and I’m not sure why. Who thinks they might have an answer?”

My nemesis raised his hand, with a slight frown on his face, and I called on him. “Maybe their wings are broken because I shook the cocoons yesterday.”

I was taken aback. Truthfully, I had forgotten he did as much; in the grand litany of his misdeeds from the day before, absently jostling the container with the cocoons in it was pretty minor by his standards. But he was showing an emotion that I didn’t quite recognize on a three year old’s face, and especially not on his – was it remorse?

This incident occurred pretty late in the school year, so it’s difficult to tell if the (subtle, but positive) change I noticed in his behavior was meaningful or likely to continue. But he went a few days in a row without hitting anyone on the playground, and actually offered to share toys with his friends a few times. He started hugging me more often, and even told me once that he’d miss me after the year ended. (He quickly followed that statement up with a proclamation that he’d miss his other teachers more.) I don’t know what he’ll be like next year, because I won’t be working there anymore. But here’s the point of this story:

I was his teacher rather than one of his contemporaries. As a result, finding ways to deal with his bad behavior was literally my job, and I was forced to keep up hope that my “nemesis” would do better. If I had met him in my personal life, I would have abandoned that hope far earlier and probably stopped spending time with him. But because I was forced to keep working with him for an entire year, eventually, his behavior did improve, if only marginally, as a result of my hope and my desire for a positive change in his attitude.

Faith has power. We don’t often have hope that the people who wrong us can eventually learn to be better. Don’t get me wrong – at some point, cutting out toxic relationships is necessary for everyone. But there’s a big difference in how you see the world when you distance yourself from someone because you are saying “I think you are beyond help” as opposed to saying “I have faith that you can get better some day, but helping you get there is not good for me.”

I opened this piece by saying that there are genuinely “bad people” in the world, and I do think that. But I think the proportion of people that are genuinely “bad” as opposed to misbehaving is comparatively small. It is crucial that we address people in our lives that we know and respect when they do things that make us upset, rather than assuming they are beyond our ability to help and distancing ourselves from them as a result.

I have been doing this more and more frequently in the wake of the 2016 US Presidential election, which has meant having a lot of uncomfortable conversations with friends and acquaintances of mine about racism, religion, homophobia, gender, and systems of violence. It hasn’t always been fun, but it is important to remember that people cannot and should not be reduced to their worst behaviors if we want them to do better and learn from their mistakes. When we essentialize an entire human being as one of the stupid things they have done or said, we inhibit them from growing past that moment.

None of this is to minimize the importance of standing up for yourself. I’m a big believer in the value of self-advocacy. But we live in a world that glorifies meanness, cruelty, and apathy towards others as stand-ins for self-advocacy, and I don’t think cruelty is ever a good thing. We should aim to help people do better when it is possible, and it’s possible more often than one might think. And in instances where people are incapable of improvement on a meaningful timeframe, we should aim to deny them the opportunities and the platform with which to cause harm, rather than aiming to cause them harm ourselves.

I got hugs from most of my students on the last day of school, and my “nemesis” was no exception; in fact, he kissed me on the cheek so many times that his dad and I had to work together to physically pry him off me.

“I’ll miss you so so much, Mr. Drury!” he cried happily.

“I’ll miss you too, kiddo,” I replied. “You’re a good kid.”

 And I meant it.

]]> (Drury McAlarney) Local Writers Fri, 17 Nov 2017 01:33:00 -0500
Great classic films including Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner on screen at The Ridgefield Playhouse

Great classic films including "Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner," "The Treasure of Sierra Madre," and "Grease" return to the The Ridgefield Playhouse this winter.

To mark its 50th anniversary, Academy Award-winning "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" will be screened on Wednesday, Dec. 13 at 7 p.m. Exclusive commentary on this classic film will be provided by TCM Host Tiffany Vazquez. After a 10-day Hawaiian vacation, Joanna Drayton (Katharine Houghton) returns to her San Francisco home with John Prentice (Sidney Poitier), her brand-new fiancé. Although he's a successful doctor and a Nobel Prize candidate, her parents, Christina (Katharine Hepburn) and Matthew (Spencer Tracy), are taken aback when they discover John is black. 

"Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner" examines the reactions of the young couple’s various family members and friends to their relationship. Until the landmark 1967 civil-rights case Loving vs. Virginia, which was decided just five months before "Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner" was released, marriage between blacks and whites was still illegal in parts of America, and Kramer’s film was notable for its willingness to tackle this taboo topic. "Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner" was nominated for 10 Academy Awards, including Best Picture, and collected two Oscars, including Best Actress for Hepburn, the second of her career.

The 70th Anniversary screening of "The Treasure of Sierra Madre" starring Humphrey Bogart will be held on Tuesday, Jan. 16 at 7 p.m. One of the biggest movie musicals of all time, Grease! starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton John celebrates its 40th Anniversary with a screening on Wednesday, April 11 at 7 p.m. In addition, these classics will each be accompanied by special commentary from TCM hosts who will provide insight, background, and more.

The Ridgefield Playhouse is located at 80 East Ridge, parallel to Main Street, Ridgefield, Conn. For tickets ($12.50), call the box office at (203) 438-5795, or visit

]]> (Lisa Barrett) Beyond Books Fri, 17 Nov 2017 01:15:00 -0500
Author Signing with Charles Monagan

Charles Monagan will sign copies of his latest book, "Connecticut Icons: Classic Symbols of the Nutmeg State," at The Hickory Stick Bookshop on Friday, Nov. 24 at 2 p.m. This event is free and open to the public.  If you are unable to attend, you may reserve a signed copy of the book by calling (860) 868 0525.

Charles Monagan knows Connecticut. As the former editor of "Connecticut Magazine," he spent years discovering and describing the people, places, and things that comprise the character of his home state. With this entertaining collection of photos, anecdotes, and little-known facts, Monagan presents his favorite icons – from the hot lobster roll to the Yale Bowl, the USS Nautilus to the Merritt Parkway – and shows native and newcomer alike the independent spirit and local pride at the heart of this great state of Connecticut.

“Here we sit between Rhode Island clam chowder and Manhattan clam chowder without a chowder to call our own. So… I was happy to do my part on behalf of our state’s good name by compiling this collection of Connecticut icons,” Monagan says.

Charles Monagan is the former editor of "Connecticut Magazine" and author of "The Neurotic’s Handbook" and "The Reluctant Naturalist." He lives in iconic Waterbury, Conn.

This event is free and open to the public. If you are unable to attend, you may reserve a signed copy of "Feel the Beat" by calling (860) 868-0525. For further information about this event please visit or email

]]> (The Hickory Stick Bookshop) Authors Thu, 16 Nov 2017 23:20:06 -0500
Stamford Author’s First Book Inspired by his Traumatic Brain Injury

After a 30-foot fall left him with a traumatic brain injury, Alexander Jay Pereira struggled to perform simple tasks. But after years of dedication and practice, he has written his first novel, "A Lonely Aura of Justice," inspired by his experience.

Pereira’s debut novel introduces Charlie, a police officer who was brutally attacked and left with a traumatic brain injury. Through his search for the culprits, we see how he has adjusted to his new reality, gaining insight into the world of brain injury survivors while exploring the mystery surrounding Charlie’s assault. Charlie's experiences are derived from the real-life experiences of his creator.

In addition to his novel, Pereira’s blog explores the realities of brain injury. A thrilling and educational read, A Lonely Aura of Justice is available on Amazon now.


]]> (Lindsay Perr) Authors Thu, 16 Nov 2017 22:30:08 -0500
Theatre Artists Workshop Presents the Classic Comedy "Lovers and Other Strangers" Dec. 8 & 9

The black box theatre at 5 Gregory Boulevard in Norwalk will vibrate with laughter, fun, compassion, insight, and irony when the Theatre Artists Workshop (TAW) presents a staged “Classic Night” reading of the comedy, “Lovers and Other Strangers,” Friday and Saturday Dec. 8 and 9 at 8 p.m., and Sunday, Dec. 9 at 3 p.m. Joseph Bologna and Renee Taylor wrote “Lovers” just as the sexual revolution was getting underway, and the piece still has bold relevance today.

Admission is free, but a $15 donation is suggested at the door to support the Workshop, a non-profit organization of professional actors, writers and directors founded in 1983 by stage and screen star, Keir Dullea.

Directed by Martin West (Westport), “Lovers And Other Strangers” features TAW actor-members Mike Massimino (Easton), Mark Hamilton (New Haven), Melody James (Westport), Samantha Pattinson (Westport), Alexandra Perlwitz (Westport), Frank Piazza (Bridgeport), Katie Sparer (Stratford), Nadine Willig (Stratford), and Clayton Wheat (Norwalk).

The five separate vignettes that comprise the play explore the wilder shores of love, sex, marriage, family, and New York apartments, with the plot revolving around the wedding of Mike, who’s hilariously getting cold feet before his impending wedding to Susan. The couple has “fixed up” bridesmaid Brenda with nebbishy usher Jerry, who imagines himself a playboy and spends the weekend trying to "score." Meanwhile, Susan's Wasp-ish father, married to Bernice, has been having an affair with Bernice's sister, Kathy, who’s afraid of ending up a spinster. Then there’s Susan’s sister, long wed to ad salesman Johnny, who misses the passion in her marriage, and Mike’s Italian-American parents, Frank and Bea, who are trying to persuade Mike’s brother Richie and his wife Joan not to divorce.

Critics raved about “Lovers," during its 1968 Broadway run, and then again when it became a hugely popular, star-studded film in 1970. The Wall Street Journal called the show, “very funny and engaging.” “A lot of smiles as well as genuine belly laughs," the New York Times said. “Realistic and observant,” said the New York Post.

The Theatre Artists Workshop is the only professional theatre of its kind in Connecticut. Each Monday night, actors, writers, and directors put up scenes, audition pieces, and new written scripts and receive the support and critique of other members, develop work, and hone the craft, and then several times a year share their talents in public performances such as the “script in hand” Classic Readings series. The popular Playwrights Festival is coming up next, in Spring, 2018, featuring original plays written by TAW’s playwrights.

“Lovers and Other Strangers” is produced by special arrangement with Samuel French, Inc.

For more information or to reserve your seat for any TAW event, call the box office at (203) 854-6830, or visit

]]> (TAW) Clubs Thu, 16 Nov 2017 22:25:35 -0500
Books on Stage: "Jingle Bells Batman Smells" Coming to Wilton Playshop

A stage adaptation based on Barbara Park's bestselling book series will run at the Wilton Playshop from Dec. 8 - 10. Junie B. Jones, First-Grader, is super-excited about the upcoming Holiday Sing-Along and Secret Santa gift exchange at her school. Too bad tattletale May keeps ruining all of Junie B.'s fun. So when Junie B. draws May's name for Secret Santa, she comes up with the perfect plan to teach her nemesis a lesson! But will the Christmas spirit of peace and goodwill interfere before she can give you-know-who what she deserves? A hilarious and endearing tale based on the best-selling book series by Barbara Park.

The production, directed by Ginny Ruggieri, features Emma Cenholt-Haulund, Daniella Sallese, Jerry Kowalski, Eli Foodman, Sarah Bates, Mia Cenholt-Haulund, Peter Haynes, Luka Andjelkovic, Connie Sinnaeve. Tickets are $15- $20 and are available online at TICKETS or by calling the box office at (203) 762-7629.

The Wilton Playshop is located at 15 Lovers Lane in Wilton, Conn.

]]> (HamletHub) Readers Thu, 16 Nov 2017 21:18:00 -0500
On the Children's Shelf: Harry Potter Symphony Performed Live

This past weekend, we went to the see the Hartford Symphony Orchestra perform the music of Harry Potter while the movie played on a giant screen. While I agree the book and the movie will always be different (and wonder why they can't just make a 20 hour movie of the story I saw in my head while I was reading), I still enjoy both the book and the movie.
Since my children are new to Harry Potter (as am I), we didn't see the movies when they originally came out in theaters. We have only seen some of them (we have only watched as far as they have read) at home, so we were excited to see the first movie on a big screen.
We arrived at the theatre dressed in Gryffindor ties with our wands ready because when at Hogwarts we must follow the student dress code. Before us hung the biggest movie screen I've ever seen with the symphony orchestra set up below it.
While I knew there was music in the movie, I never realized how much music is used to tell the story. We were all captivated. The movie somehow seemed bigger, besides just physically bigger, as the giant screen made us feel like we were there at Hogwarts with Harry. The live music brought a level of magic to the experience that we will never forget.
If you missed the first movie and want to see the movie adaptation of "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets" performed live by a symphony, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra will be performing in April (more info here).
Photo by Jessica Collins
]]> (Jessica Collins) Readers Fri, 10 Nov 2017 08:45:48 -0500
My Life Off the Post Road: Open Arms

Stratford Upon Avon sometimes seems like a dream. Like a fairy tale. Like a page out of a Shakespeare play. The town is beautiful in its riverside Tudor splendor. Even the regulars who are members of a less quaint segment of the population feel like part of the community.

There are a group of men who congregate at small dock on the bank of the Avon at dusk, just down from the iconic Royal Shakespeare Company, across from the Dirty Duck Pub. To feed the swans. On a recent evening, a dear friend from Connecticut had come to visit me for the afternoon, and we were on a speed-walking tour of our little hamlet. Yup, pun intended.

We made our way up from the boardwalk adjacent to the RSC, where we’d fed the swans ourselves, and headed toward the Duck and The Other Place. Before we got to the main road, we saw these men surrounded by a bevy of swans, including many cygnets that were just shedding their brown down and coming into their adult white feathers. The swans had come up out of the water for their daily encounter with the group. Several of them were nipping playfully at one gentleman’s beer can, vying for a sip (which they did not get). Others were nibbling out of the open palms of another, and a few were just sitting as the swans waddled around them on their enormous black webbed feet.

“Good evening – how are you?” I asked them. “They must know you all so well to be so comfortable. I see you here feeding them at this time most days.”

“Yeah – they do trust us. I can give them a cuddle,” said the one feeding them.

“It’s really nice of you to feed them,” I said.

“Aye,” said another, “and we’re homeless ourselves. I haven’t eaten anything all day,” he said, but as a fact, not a request.

We chatted for a minute or two more, bid them good night, and then resumed our power walk around town.

Earlier that week, a group of us went to see our extremely talented friend Hannah perform at an open mic night at a local pub. Just before she went on, a bedraggled, dreadlocked man sang a few songs. Of his own composition. Really well. I recognized him as one of several men who sit, some with their dogs, in the same spots daily – outside of Poundland, next to the HSBC Bank, in front of Starbucks – on the sidewalk, with hats or cups out to collect spare change from passersby. His voice was clear, his guitar playing resonant. And the theme of all three songs he played was the same: I am a drug addict, and as much as I love my girlfriend or my singing or my dog, all I want is to get money to do more drugs. I was dumbstruck and sad. He had real talent and had no illusions about himself at all. No subterfuge – and just like the man sitting with the swans – he was brutally honest about himself. It was, frankly, heartbreaking.

The next day Hannah and I almost passed him, sitting with his beige whippet and his guitar, on a pile of blankets just outside of Poundland. But we stopped.

“Hey,” I said, “Wasn’t that you at the open mic the other night?”

He looked up, a bit surprised, and nodded.  “Yeah.”

“Oh, you were really good,” Hannah said.

“Yeah,” I agreed. “You play guitar amazingly! She played right after you,” I said nodding toward Hannah. “You were both so good!”

“Cheers,” he said, and we went on.

So here’s my conundrum. I’m not really sure how to respond to this group of people who I feel are just as much a part of my new home town as any of the other shop owners, Shakespeare Birthplace Trust or RSC staff, or fellow students and faculty members at the Shakespeare Institute that I’ve come to know. They are kind and not aggressive. They are as quick with a greeting and a smile as anyone.

I do not want to give them money, because I suspect – or in the case of the singer, know – that I will only be investing in alcohol or drugs for them. I always mean to bring food but usually forget. Or if I’m honest, just as often, I resist because I’m not sure if they will be insulted if I bring them food, or if they even want it. I am ashamed of myself because so far, I have done nothing, and pass them by like I pass by the rest of the scenery here. I am writing this to out myself and my inaction to date. As a way to motivate myself to do something more. I commit either to remember to bring a piece of fruit with me each day for them, or better yet, to stop in at the town hall, which is only steps from the entrance to the Shakespeare Institute, to see if there is an organization in town that helps to keep them safe and warm and fed that I can donate to. I know that either action will make only a small dent in a big problem, but it’s the least I can do for a town that has accepted me with such open arms.

]]> (Diane Meyer Lowman) Local Writers Fri, 10 Nov 2017 08:39:42 -0500
Essay: The Band America, My Teenager, and Me

It surprised me that my 16-year-old favored the song, A Horse With No Name. Cameron’s budding interest was triggered after hearing the anthem sung by 70s folk rockers, America, while binge watching Breaking Bad. Their sound spoke to him. I was unaware until picking him up from tennis, when the song graced the radio. He knew every word.

"Hey, how do you know this song?” I said.

“I heard it on a show and Shazamed it. It’s by a band named America. You know ‘em? Cameron said.

"Do I know them, I was obsessed when I was your age, but never saw them live.

How ironic that my liking for America now took hold in my son -- a surprising fine thread, linking my generation to his. We shared a love for pop culture and now, a penchant for the same music.

Fast forward to a brisk fall night in New York City, where I'd get to relive my teen years, swaying and singing with my fave trio turned duo.

"You get a VIP bracelet," said the mustached club staffer, stuffed into his polyester shirt. I thrust my left wrist in front of him as he fastened the flimsy, florescent pink hospital-type bracelet. Cameron followed suit, then we were escorted to a shared, center table, bookended by two women and a couple, all seemingly in their sixties. An Ecuadorian Millennial, Alejandro, soon joined us. The stage was 10 feet away, if that. Cameron shot me a seldom-given, approving nod with raise eyebrows. It was our first concert together. Not only was Cameron pumped to see America, he was somehow okay being there with me.

"My name’s Sean, and I'll be your server this evening," said the lanky, dark haired waiter as he sidestepped the tight alleyway between occupied tables.

We were at the intimate Times Square venue, B.B. King Blues Club & Grill, and had arrived early for an 8:00 show after successfully negotiating the neighborhood’s mayhem. But it was a doable outing -- the room was welcoming, my teenager, portable. We awaited America, a staple in my upbringing, whose songs I first heard as a high school freshman. I’d been mesmerized by their mellow tunes, wafting through oversized speakers at an upperclassman’s party. Cameron, likewise, had been moved by their voices, albeit via Netflix.

Remaining members included Gerry Beckley and Dewey Bunnell as their former partner, Dan Peek, left in 1977, and has since died. Though they hailed from the U.S., the group met as London-based teens, when their fathers were in the Air Force; 2017 marks their 47th year touring together. During the concert, they harkened back to their beginnings at the base’s teen center where they’d jammed, joking that their almost 50-year run wasn’t exactly ‘Plan A.’

In preparation for the show, I'd pre-gamed, downloading the 1975 album, History: America’s Greatest Hits, hoping to relearn lyrics. But I didn't need the reminder. Their timeworn words were a part of me, buried deep within my psyche, recalled and prompted through head-phones at the gym. As I treadmilled, I relished their peppier chart toppers like Don’t Cross the River, lip syncing and walking briskly to the beat. I time-warped to my teenage bedroom, surrounded by checkered wallpaper, where I’d belt out America’s melodies into my hairbrush microphone. I can still hear the distinct click of the clunky 8-track, engaging in my cassette player. I saved the serious songs for later, as their tempo was less workout friendly, Lonely People and I Need You among them. Nostalgic, I was taken back to a simpler time, a time when I kept a doodle-laden diary, wore frayed bell bottoms and the fragrant scent of Gee Your Hair Smells Terrific.

It was five minutes before show time and the club was dimly lit, peppered with the soft buzz of anticipation. Cameron and I ate burgers in haste then sat perched, ready to welcome the opening song. The two stars discreetly took the stage, dressed in jeans; Dewey sported cowboy boots and a black vest, Gerry, his signature white sneakers and an untucked blue button down. Both had silver-tinged, dirty blonde hair, now cropped, unlike the longer, ‘hippie’ length, flashing in the slideshow behind them. Their backup ensemble of three trailed close behind. Our boys strummed and sang Ventura Highway with gusto, as the midlife crowd clapped and roared like the teens they’d momentarily morphed into. We were 14, 15, 16 again, when we’d discovered the signature soft rock that was America. Gerry and Dewey grinned in unison as their widely recognized hit instantly enlisted the audience.

Cameron listened intently, his broad shoulders and chocolate brown hair both stiff, not yet letting loose. He was the youngest audience member, by far, wearing his uniform of late -- a Patagonia sweater, dark grey jeans, Timberland boots -- an oversized cell phone clutched in his hand. At 5’ 7,” five inches my senior, he was more reserved than usual, collected. No showboating that evening, though he let a close-lipped smile form against his olive complexion. I’d term my garb ‘concert chic’: a dark, fitted sweater over crisp black jeans, newly broken-in boots peeking out from their hem, a leather moto jacket to perfect the look.

Cameron quietly absorbed the music and braved sitting next to me -- a small toll to pay to see his heroes up close. Most concert-goers were lost in memories attached to each song, bringing them back to a place, a moment. We compared notes with our newfound friends, asking how many times they'd seen the band. They were shocked it was our first, but equally impressed that Cameron and I had tag-teamed.

What made the night stellar was the gentle salute to our common ground. The music of America brought my teenager and me together, on a Friday night, no less. We spent the evening, side-by-side, not as mother and son, but as folk rock enthusiasts, bonding in awe over cherished harmonies. Our mutual interest forged a sturdy bridge between us, the concert, a lasting memento.

Not only were Cameron and I in sync, America was seamless. Dewey and Gerry were genuine, seemed brotherly, even, without on stage facades; their banter was authentic. As musicians, they didn’t seem weathered or haggard, bitter or inconvenienced, but grateful to be gigging in their 60s. America seemed to have skirted the trappings of fame: the drugs, the scandalous break up and sensational headlines to emerge unscathed, their fan base -- and talent -- still intact. Drawn together as teens over making music, they’d transcended stardom, without succumbing to its downfalls, mastering longevity in the process.

The two frontmen were flanked by newer bandmates -- a bass player who’d been on the bus 15 years, and two younger musicians, a ginger-haired drummer with Clark Kent glasses and an electric guitar player donned in ripped jeans, whose straggly black hair curtained one eye. Cameron had Googled them and conveyed their back stories earlier that day. Together, they carried out America’s California sound, rocking in rhythm.

The band’s final number, Sister Gold Hair, stirred subdued fans, who’d been lulled to their seats after a string of love songs. At its close, Dewey and Gerry high fived a lucky front row few, thanked the audience then exited politely. But we yearned for more; the night seemed incomplete.

After a standing ovation, boosted by the swell of energetic hollers, America reappeared, taking center stage.

“Dewey forgot one,” Gerry said, nonchalantly.

The familiar guitar lick to A Horse with No Name -- their hallmark hit -- was met with hearty applause from fans on their feet, who’d willed their return. It was the song that spurred our going, it was the song that closed the divide between Cameron and me, it was the song of my youth and now, my son’s. A booming singalong ensued. I embraced the encore as America’s timeless lyrics created our collective soundtrack, then glanced at Cameron -- with whom I share almond eyes -- as we bobbed our heads in time.

Photo courtesy of Aline Weiller

]]> (Aline Weiller) Local Writers Fri, 10 Nov 2017 08:30:00 -0500
Monday in Stratford: Screening of "Megan Leavey" at Stratford Library

The Stratford Library’s “Monday Matinees” series continues with a screening of the true-life story, “Megan Leavey” on Nov. 13. The series presents recent, popular films monthly on Monday afternoons at 12 p.m. The film showings are free and open to the public.

“Megan Leavey” is based on the true life story of a young marine corporal (Kate Mara) whose unique discipline and bond with her military combat dog saved many lives during their deployment in Iraq. When she is assigned to clean up the K9 unit after a disciplinary hearing, Leavey identifies with a particularly aggressive dog, Rex, and is given the chance to train him. Over the course of their service, Megan and Rex completed more than 100 missions until an IED explosion injures them, putting their fate in jeopardy. The critically acclaimed film also stars Edie Falco, Ramón Rodríguez, Bradley Whitford and Common. “Megan Leavey” is rated PG:13 and runs 116 minutes.

Movies in the “Monday Matinees” series are shown uncut on widescreen in the Stratford Library’s Lovell Room.  The next film in the series will be “Wonder Woman” on Dec. 11.

The Stratford Library is located at 2203 Main Street in Stratford, Conn. For further information, call the Library at (203) 385-4162 or visit

]]> (Stratford Library) Clubs Fri, 10 Nov 2017 08:05:51 -0500
Book Talk & Signing with Robert Ellis at Pequot Library on Nove. 19

Pequot Library will host international bestselling author and local mystery writer Robert Ellis, author of “City of Echoes” and “The Love Killings,” on Sunday, Nov. 19 from 4 - 6 p.m. His books have garnered praise from authors as diverse as Janet Evanovich and Michael Connelly. The free and open to the public event will Include a 30- to 40-minute author talk, Q&A, book sale, and signing. Light hors d'oeuvres will be served.

Ellis is the author of “Access to Power,” “The Dead Room,” the critically acclaimed Lena Gamble novels, “City of Fire,” “The Lost Witness,” and “Murder Season,” and the Detective Matt Jones series, “City of Echoes” (2015) and “The Love Killings” (2016). His novels have been translated into ten languages and selected as top reads by Booklist, Publishers Weekly, National Public Radio, the Chicago Tribune, the Toronto Sun, the Guardian (UK), People magazine, USA Today, and The New York Times.

The Pequot Library is located at 720 Pequot Ave. in Southport, Conn. For more information, call (203) 259-0346 ext. 15, or visit

]]> (Pequot Library) Authors Fri, 10 Nov 2017 08:02:07 -0500
Sunday in Ridgefield: Jane Austen Celebration Party at Ridgefield Library

Ridgefield Library will host a Jane Austen Celebration Party on Sunday, Nov. 12 between 1 and 4 p.m. in the Morris Wing of the Library. The program is part of the Library’s All About Jane: 200 Years of Jane Austen series that commemorates the 200th anniversary of Austen’s death. 

The party will feature period parlor music performed by lyric soprano Jennifer Groves and pianist Ann Victor, card game demonstrations by Dough Gerlach, sewing demonstrations, crafts, games and more. Members of the Jane Austen Society of North America will also be on hand to mingle and discuss the life and times of the novelist. Tea and cakes will be served. As Austen writes in Emma, “One cannot have too large a party.”

Period costume is suggested but not required. To register visit or call (203) 438-2282.

Ridgefield Library is located at 472 Main Street in Ridgefield, Conn. For more information, visit

]]> (Lesley Lambton) Readers Fri, 10 Nov 2017 07:57:16 -0500