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Saltaire Summery
By Hugh O’Brien

Wow! We got a dock house! And not just any dock house. A brand-spanking, recently used, pre-owned, whitish aluminum palace formerly on wheels. Far out. Well, maybe not far enough out.

All right, maybe I’m going a little bit overboard, you’ll pardon the expression, but as temporary solutions go, we are fortunate that this is, well, exceptionally temporary. Not that the structure (to put the most polite appellation upon it) is all that bad, but neither is this the sort of thing I think most people envisioned as the first sight to greet unwanted visitors just off the boat. After all, Saltaire has a reputation as a land of snobs and snoots to maintain, and we simply can’t keep to those standards if we’ve got this big metal box with windows stuck out on our half-finished dock.

Personally, and the anecdotal evidence gathered from sojourns to the Yacht Club to swap anecdotes with other townspeople confirms this, I believe most people actually liked the unadorned dock look. A lot of folks thought the dock had actually been enlarged, it looked so vast and empty down at that far end without an interfering building. They had space to spread out, bring their wagons, load their luggage, see and embrace family and friends, watch the picturesque craft ply the gentle waters of the springtime Great South Bay, gaze at the soft crimson sunsets and the long, lingering twilights that give rest to the spirit and solace to the soul, the special gift of the season granted to all God’s children, and could murmur a silent prayer of thanksgiving to have been allowed to witness, and enjoy to the fullest, all that Nature and the Creator had intended for the pleasure and benefit of Mankind.

Then, we got this thing.

Okay, it’s only there because it does serve a purpose. Even with the amount of rain of late, it hasn’t been too bad, sitting out, waiting for the ferry—if you’re arriving you don’t duck into the dock house anyway, you get home as quickly as possible —and temperatures have generally been mild and the rain not usually too hard or soaking. But this is only spring. The major worry was what would happen down the road, in September and beyond, when things cooled off and the wind was no longer a soothing zephyr but an icy, stabbing, face-chapping torment. What then, huh? Oh, sure, the Village could have left the area open, given you a nice view, but come the first really inclement blasts and suddenly people would be huddling together, crying out, Oh please, please, a dock house, we beg of you! and demanding an inquiry from the Suffolk D.A. as to why the village had forsaken its responsibilities and, in lieu of providing succor, had instead created suckers. Well, the V.O.S. didn’t need that on its conscience, or its judicial schedule. Hence, the house.

It must also be noted that we did try for nicer, more inventive shelters. For a while it appeared we’d be given a completely new and untouched gazebo, of all things, built for an off-island party who for some reason didn’t take delivery, and which it seemed we could get for free and place out there for the rest of the year. Granted, this posed a problem in that, as an open-air structure, it would offer only modest shelter from rain, hail, snow and the August locust infestation (the realtors will love me for that line), and none at all from the aforementioned winds of any type. However, man’s genius remains unbounded—we didn’t get to the moon, to paraphrase Winston Churchill, because we are made of sugar candy—and we had reached a tentative solution of sorts, with plans to install roll-down plastic sheeting that could, you know, be rolled down when bad weather struck or animals attacked, and the money we’d get from selling video footage to the Fox Network of the people trapped inside this gazebo gizmo would have paid for the plastic in one storm. Class, all the way. Unhappily, the gazebo deal fell through, and if there’s one quality you don’t want in a dock house, it’s that it falls through.

After that, suggestions were bounced around the Village Office like so many trustees, centering mainly on erecting or acquiring a pre-fab of some sort. (“Pre-fab”? Shades of George Carlin: what, it’s fabricated before it’s fabricated? Fabulous.) I personally liked those Costco things, with the ramps and windows and even flower boxes, plus barrable doors—you know, you close them, then put this big wooden board into the slot across both doors to prevent anybody from breaking, uh, in. That particular feature would warm the heart of Vlad the Impaler himself (if you don’t already know about his predilections concerning guests invited to his castle, don’t ask), but we’d need at least two for proper accommodations and they were probably a bit beyond our budget. (Of course, any pre-fab would have been recycled for other uses later, like an equipment shed or beach chair storage unit or village jail once we get peace-officer status.) Devising our own, less Costco, more cost-effective fabbies was also mooted, but in the end, we were able to acquire our oblong lightning rod; and now our marina can once again shine as the envy of marinaphiles to the far corners of the G.S.B. I mean it—that aluminum can really shine, given the proper lighting, or lightning.

So, now you can sit out on the dock, or go inside the trailer itself (the entry is being reconditioned to add a ramp for easier access and subtract an excuse for potential litigation), and get a real feel for what it must be like to visit a construction site: everything but Edgar the night watchman with just six months left before his pension, and Moose and Rocco on hand to oversee the interests of their employers. The village, however, in its foresight, did budget $75,000 to hire teens to sit around out there on deck chairs eight hours a day, simulating no-show jobs, to complete that hard-hat, building zone, Sopranoesque atmosphere, making the new dock house feel at home. But don’t get too used to it.

Come next spring, there’ll be a really new and more adaptive dock house permanently affixed in the space. The Planning Commission is already hard at it, soliciting plans, blueprints, computer simulations and bar napkin sketches from local architects, builders and people who just like to draw, to come up with a suitable, Saltairian-style design for the new building. I’m submitting a Colossus-of-Rhodes type plan, you know, something straddling the basin that people can climb up in to get a better look at the Alphonse D’Amato memorial courthouse across the bay, so nobody go swiping my idea. The reward for the winner’s labor and imagination? Only the satisfaction he or she will derive from knowing that the edifice that graces our harbor will be their work, as they envisioned it, done solely for that purpose, with the benefit others receive from it merely an ancillary good. (Yeah, a little too Ayn Rand-ish, isn’t it?) Ah, but isn’t it everyone’s dream to be the fountainhead of some new enterprise? Of new ideas that will expand the knowledge of man, show him the limitless possibilities of the universe? To create, to think, to strive ceaselessly forward? Without mixing in (and up) phrases from Tennyson and Conrad and Richard Matheson?

Nah.

Plus, you may get yelled at by someone on the commission who doesn’t like your proposal anyway.

By the way, the house originally arrived on a wheeled platform, which ordinarily it’s supposed to keep for easy removal. (“Easy”: it took a special barge to ship the thing over here, and a long, delicate off-loading operation to roll it onto the dock.) However, having a building on wheels stuck out at the end of a jutting dock, rolling around during, oh, let’s say, a hurricane, might fall short of FEMA’s standards for the preservation of human life. So a quick confab was held at which Village Administrator Mario Posillico insisted upon removing the wheeled trailer platform, and devised ways and means of accomplishing this, making sure the structure was nailed firmly to the deck, and ensuring as well ready removal later this year, in conjunction with the freight people. Quick and decisive action all around. Still, I chided Mario for his failure to take in the big picture. Right now, our courtesy carts are barely sputtering along, if at all, and we have yet to take delivery of the new vehicle being donated by SCAA. If he had just left the wheels in place, we could have hooked the house to the Village tractor or one of the pick-up trucks and towed everybody home from every boat. You just have to be mindful of how all the pieces fall into place around here.

All righty, well, hard as it is to believe, the summer really is suddenly fast upon us, so here’s a run-down of upcoming events, if you’re not too run down to download it and up for it altogether. Last notice: the summer-only Post Office will open Friday, June 23, though don’t bother asking for any delayed mail, it had to be sacrificed this winter when the heating system at the Village Hall failed for three days. Kelly Walter will be your tour guide to the intricacies of the mail room. We already told you that twice-weekly refuse collection has begun, Mondays (Tuesday if a holiday) and Thursdays, with special delicacies such as junk and brush picked up Thursdays only; please, please follow the wrapping and bundling procedures—sounds like a Puritan sex manual—outlined on your green Refuse placards. Haven’t got a set of Village Information placards? Well, better get one, free at the Office, some of the most important information (no kidding) you’ll ever need to survive in this town… or, in the case of our Fire and Evacuation cards, just plain survive.

Speaking of Office freebies, mosquito dunks, formerly mosquito rings, formerly DDT, formerly fly swatters, are now available, in abundance, at the joint, perfect for tossing into newly formed wading pools on your property, or for crumbling into your john, formerly toilet, and flushing into your septic tank, all to strangle the larvaed skeetlets at pre-birth. Follow the instructions or just ask at the desk. Say, “Quick, Mario! The Flit!” and he won’t know what you’re talking about but will point to the jug of dunks and let you fend for yourself. Hell, that’s even decades before my time. Remember, you have to pick up and administer the dunks yourselves. The Village cannot do this. The DEC says that if a municipality gets involved in this kind of program it’s an environmental obscenity, inviting a catastrophe of unimaginable, possibly global, proportions, a threat to the entire ecosystem, with the potential to play havoc with man’s dominion over the beasts, leading to a world which in 25 years or less would be ruled by raccoons. The agency would impose fearsome fines on the Village for such actions, which would severely cut into our lawsuit budget. However, if individual homeowners perform these same actions on their land, then that’s a whole other story, the DEC has no problem there, why, you’d be maintaining a healthy balance of nature, with flowers blooming, bluebirds singing and rainbows arcing all around your perpetually sun-drenched home. DECk the halls.

Meantime…the Board of Trustees will hold its next session Sat., June 24, at 9:00 at the firehouse. Shhhh…. Night bike riding will be discussed…Also the fact that the island is about to fall into the ocean, but first things first. Next day, Sun. the 25th, the SCAA’s annual meeting opens at the same locale, at 10, to discuss and report and accumulate suggestions and gripes and the occasional thank-yous. And for the Club-minded, the SYC’s full-swing summer calendar begins promptly (following its month-long dress rehearsal) Friday the 23rd, with the weekly BBQ, full dinner and sometime lunch service, movies Tuesdays and Thursdays commencing the following week (kids’ 27th, klassix 29th), sailing classes and races shortly after, and something called tennis. Camp starts Monday, July 3, under the venerable Chuck-Ted-Jen vanguard, and in re guards, lifeguard protection will be full time well before then. Last, but never, ever least, Doctor Bob Furey resumes his practice, officially, July 1, kicking off his 30-somethingth year here with day-long office hours (6 a.m. to 10 p.m.), a spider-bite clinic, and the first four splinters removed free, upon presentation of valid coupon. Practice? Hey, after 30+ years, he has it down pat.

Finally, a national observation. This Bush administration will stop at nothing, it seems, to seize the political low-ground for cheap electoral advantage. Needing to deflect criticism from its failures after Katrina, and deserted by its base over the issue of illegal immigration, what does it do to gain advantage? Melds two hot-button, demagogue-prone political flashpoints and, decrying serious discussion of serious issues, goes ahead and names the first tropical storm of the season Alberto. Not Alfred or Allen or Ambrose. “Alberto.” Like anyone believes Tony Snow’s insistence that the name came to Laura one day while shampooing. And there’s more to come: Beyonce. Carlito. Desideria. Eusebio. And so on, right out of the Nogales phone directory. Yeah, real coincidence. Somehow I can’t quite see making a plea for federal relief money telling Congress that Saltaire was destroyed by Hurricane Poncie-Ponce. Still, there’s a bright side, locally. We all have a nifty new construction trailer to hide in.