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Saltaire Summery
By Hugh O’Brien

The flashcard countdown in Harry Baker’s window is spiraling toward zero, which means that Memorial Day weekend is fast upon us, and with it the start of yet another season (and another, shorter round of flashcards from Harry).

(To explain to the uninitiated: year-rounder Harry puts numbered cards in his window each Labor Day, counting down the remaining days until people begin returning to Saltaire, in the way the condemned of the French Revolution etched scratch marks into their cell walls to mark time till their big day. The cards reach zero on the Friday before Memorial Day, at which point Harry posts a new set, counting off till the arrival of Labor Day and the onset of the winter mass exodus, which for Harry and die hard others is a time of elation, and quite reasonably so. Summer’s is a positive countdown, like waiting for your annual Lotto dividend. But as it marks a season’s end, this Friday’s zero is a cause for regret and vodka, while Sept. 4’s zero will, by contrast, be cause for rejoicing and vodka. Thus, another instance of the symmetry of creation of which Einstein was so fond.)

A similar reference was cited on the wall calendar in the dispatch room of the firehouse, whereon in the square for the 26th someone had wrote, “Their Back.” Fortunately, department members fight fires and save lives much better than they spell.

But first, whilst we’re discussing zero-sum games, a serious and important note on a serious and important matter immediately upon us: FRIDAY’S VILLAGE ELECTION:

As most of you know, the village and board continue to be bombarded with an unending stream of lawsuits about one thing after another; the trustees, in particular, have been sued for just about everything except drawing a breath. An ongoing series of legal actions has been underway over the past month to disqualify the three incumbents seeking reelection—all three running unopposed—from appearing on the ballot. This has already delayed the printing of ballots and disenfranchised a number of people who needed absentee ballots but were thereby prevented from getting them.

At this writing, we do not know whether the three incumbents—Mayor Scott S. Rosenblum, and Trustees Bruce A. Rich and Hugh A. O’Brien III—will appear on the ballot, or whether one, more or all of us will be knocked off by the courts. If our names are on the ballot, we ask for your support when you vote.

But, if any or all of our names are NOT on the ballot, we ask that you write them in the blank spaces provided, for the appropriate office. That’s why I listed all our names above in such a formal manner, because...

IF YOU DO HAVE TO WRITE OUR NAMES IN, please be sure to write them EXACTLY as they appear above—with our middle initials, my III, the whole bit. Otherwise further legal complications may be dredged up in an effort to invalidate the election and thereby throw the entire Village government into chaos. (Of course, do not write in the name of anyone whose name is already printed on the ballot.) Flyers will be handed out election day as needed to explain any ballot questions or complications before you enter the polls, but for anyone reading this space first, and who’s eligible to vote, please be sure what the situation is before you cast your ballot, so you can make sure your vote will count.

Which raises a final vital point: DON’T LET ANYONE INTIMIDATE YOU FROM CASTING YOUR VOTE. Efforts have already been made to harass people attempting to register. Your right to vote can be challenged, but only by lawful means, and you cannot be prevented from exercising your franchise at the polls (the decision on a vote’s lawfulness can only be made later, not when you come in to vote).

Polls are open this Friday, May 26, at the Village Hall, from noon until 9:00 p.m. Your show of support for the candidates will be appreciated, but most important is your show of support for this community.

Who ever thought such a time would come upon this village, and all to no positive purpose? More than anything, it’s just sad.

We do, however, owe a word of thanks to former trustee Frank Markus, for his eloquent defense of the voting rights of our doughboys just returned from the trenches in France, having gone bayonet-to-bayonet with the Bosch. Or which war was it you referenced, Frank?

Which permits us an official welcome home to Lt. Patrick McElhone, USMC, who’s just come back from a second tour of duty in Iraq. Whatever this war is or is not accomplishing, its need or origins aside as matters of dispute, no one wants to see anything other than every U.S. soldier home safely and in one piece. Unhappily, that doesn’t always come to pass. Happily, it usually does, and for us, most happily, so it has been in Patrick’s case.

Okay, onto beach-read material.

First, the water’s too cold, so what are you doing reading up at the beach at all? But if you insist and are there, you’ll notice our lifeguards out in force for the kickoff of the official season, training and staying fit and appropriately guarded under the leadership of chief guard Rich Wilde for their summer’s service. The Market is open and marshaling its resources for another year, so trips to Fair Harbor to ward off starvation are no longer necessary...for the present (hi, Chip; we’ll be back, Jules). Preparations for later-in-the-year things, like camp, are done or nearly so. Don’t get anxious about your mail: the local P.O. doesn’t open until June 23 (through Sept. 7). Twice-weekly (Mon. and Thurs.) refuse collection begins sooner, however, the week of June 12, in case you want to save up. (Recyc’s and other stuff, Thursdays only at that point.)

But the SYC is open, the bar already in service these past two weekends, although the semi-demi-hemi-official start-up comes this weekend, with Sunday’s cocktail party reception for everyone who hasn’t already received a cocktail at some point in the run-up to Mem. Day. Club Management this year is in the hands of a newcomer to Saltaire, Larry Berson, whom most of us haven’t yet had the pleasure of meeting—the better to surprise him when the real harassments get under way. Commodore Carole and crew have cooked up the usual packed and varied season for summer ‘06; members, consult your calendars and come. We’re advised new menus are on offer, with full seven-day-per-week coverage set to start late June; till then, weekend frivolities must suffice.

Oh, in reply to four or five inquiries, sorry, there is no pancake breakfast this weekend. In keeping with the policy of the past three years, the Fire D. is doing just the one, come the day before Labor Day. Take heart: that date arrives ever earlier, the 4th this year (meaning pancakes on the 3rd); not until 2009 do we get the latest Labor Day (7th) to extend our seasonal revelries. How do you like this? Not even Memorial Day yet and already I’m scheduling end-of-season activities. I spend too much time around Harry. But the FD is otherwise open for business year-round, already had a few calls (fire and rescue) so far this year, always around when needed.

We’ll relate the company’s favorite community pastimes, like the parade and such, as the march of the calendar warrants.

Ditto with the SCAA, whose first activity, the candidates’ forum, went off uneventfully on the 20th, and whose next scheduled event is its annual meeting in late June: to be announced, also, as the calendar impends. You can expect a small, ad-free addendum to the directory, containing updates, changes and corrections to the big book, to make its appearance in due course. And we all owe the SCAA a debt of thanks for their generosity in helping the village undertake several projects, about which more detail in a subsequent, cliffhanging column.

Speaking of cliffhangers, a pair of items left over from 2005. I had a piece of lined yellow paper folded in my desk basket out here all winter long, marked “For First Column 2006,” just waiting the return of the solstice—well, almost—to hit newsprint. So here goes:

Softball champs: The Clippers over the Bulkheads, 7-6, the winning run scored in the last inning.

Sand castle competition: Winning adult entry, “Stairway to Heaven.” Winning kid’s entry: “Coliseum.” (I saw both, plus the rest; they were good, and I thought Coliseum was notably cool, particularly as “ Rome” was just about to debut on HBO.)

All bets to be settled in full at the Club this weekend, per agreement. Don’t force us to send Moose and Rocco over to fetch you.

I learned from Frank Braynard that he’s about to embark on yet another seaborne lecture about steamships, this time on the brand new and approximately gargantuan Queen Mary II. Frank, who’s traveled on most of the great and vanished ocean liners of the 20th (and now 21st) century, turns 90 soon and is still going strong. A bon voyage to him and Doris as they notch yet another vessel on their steamer trunks!

(I also spoke with Frank about this year being the 50th anniversary of the sinking of the Andrea Doria, on which Frank traveled and whose sad loss he helped cover as an on-air consultant the day it went down—maybe a bit more about that when the anniversary looms in late July. I keep all my official Village keys on a special Titanic key chain, which I always felt was especially symbolic for this place.)

And as you can’t land ships without docks, a dock update... Temporary decking has, as you can see, been placed on the structure for the summer and fall, while we await the delayed shipment of the final wood-like product we’re shipping in from Guyana. (Okay, we’ve got enough troubles, it’s real wood we’re getting, but it has been delayed owing to there being so many orders and not enough mills to process them. By the way, you might want to fly down and say so long to the rain forest.) A temporary shelter of some sort will also be put up, along with temporary wagon racks. Yeah, this all sounds very tentative, but come late fall the final work will commence and by next summer it should all, dock house included, be something brand-spanking-new, if that’s kinky enough for you. Work on rebuilding the west dock will start in September, with main dock work not resuming until late Nov. or early Dec., after most houses are closed and ferry service is minimal, so as to avoid disrupting most people’s traveling. Someone remarked that the dock looks bigger now. It does, but isn’t; only seems so because there’s no house on it and the boards are a different size. What we trustees call an optical illusion, like the green flash at sunset or our budget process.

Speaking of Boards, come to the meeting this Monday, May 29, at the firehouse public room, starting at 9 a.m. Who sets these times, anyway? Nobody asked me. Nine! We should get combat pay just for that. In any case, this may be your best chance to see legal fireworks until the Fourth of July. Which we have scheduled in this town promptly for July 23.

Oh yeah, and weather experts are forecasting a Category 3 or 4 hurricane for Long Island this year, a la 1938, based on recurrent weather patterns, global meteorological cycles, satellite and ocean buoy measurements, and flood insurance company “grants.” One study did claim there’s a storm cycle that recurs every 68 years, 1938 being the last, yours truly ‘06 being the next. (Whether they studied reports from 1870 or 1802 or 1734 was not mentioned, though I understand that just before starring in “Plan 9 From Outer Space” Criswell predicted one for 2074, which serves to confirm the pattern.) Anyway, unless you believe in the myths of global warming and evolution, I wouldn’t worry too much about this stuff, just stick an extra bungee cord on the garbage can lids, you’ll be fine. Besides, all those guys said the storm will hit Long Island, and need I point out, this is not “Long” Island.

Huh! I mean, really, why all these increases in school spending? Learn your letters and cipherin’, then out the door.

The start of each year always marks the time for a sad but fond farewell to those of our families, friends and neighbors whom we have lost during the past nine months. We’ve mourned them, and written of them, we miss them, but we’ll always remember them with affection and warmth and love, more than with sadness. Saltairians past and present... Tom Keegan, examplar of courage and humor; Daniel Rich, whose determination shines for us all; Talton Ray, gentleman of the first rank; Charlie Shaw, dynamic and generous; Jean Leitner, caring and supportive; Gen O’Shea, every inch the lady; Rita Connelly, tough, fun, gifted; Marietta Kampa, loving and involved; Jerry Cahill, one-of-a-kind raconteur. Each of them enriched the lives, first and foremost of their families, but also those of us who knew and cared for them. Our lives are the fuller, our community the better, for their having lived and worked among us. It is said the Apaches never again spoke the names of those who had fallen in battle, as a sign of respect; but we pay our respects by speaking of those we’ve lost; to keep their memories alive...and, perhaps, to remind ourselves, not of friends who have gone, but of examples we should try to live up to.