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Saltaire Summery
By Hugh O’Brien

Last weekend I was approached by a distinguished resident of the village who informed me that there had been a mistake, that the market had received an additional shipment of the previous week’s issue of the Fire Island News, and that I should call someone and get the mix-up straightened out. (True story.) No, I replied, it’s just that the paper’s gone biweekly again, so by and by, he’d have to bicycle down to buy our by-line on a biweekly basis only from here on in, and good-bye. This summer’s gone by so fast that I lost track of how soon the switchover was to occur myself (Nicole emailed me a reminder of my week’s reprieve only after I’d submitted the most recent work), otherwise I’d have included a cautionary advisory last column.

What makes things more depressing is that after this issue we’ve got just one more left, coming out the weekend of the 26th, then it’s adieu to the summer of ’06 altogether—well, practically. Little thing called Labor Day still to follow a week later, but then that’s that. This really was the summer that feels not to have happened: we’re still waiting for it to really get underway. Why, it seems like only yesterday I was in court trying to get on the ballot.

So, with some catching up to do and a compressed time frame for alerting everyone to future events, bring on the compression….

Better make that a cold compress, given the recent meteorological unpleasantness afflicting isolated pockets of the northern hemisphere, like the one labeled “ United States.” The heat may not technically have set a record, not everywhere at least, but it was oppressive enough, abetted by the pleasures of constant brownouts–blackouts if you were lucky: at least the suspense was removed. Locally, we never lost power, not even in those big cooling wind and rain storms of the previous week…ah, yes, remember those? Didn’t know when you were well off, did you? Where’s a good hurricane when you need one?

But to get back to the heat: around these parts, it was miserable enough. Relentless sun. Hot. Humid. No breeze. Long dips in the bay and ocean didn’t cool you off. Nights almost as bad, in some ways worse than, days. And still it didn’t end. Drinks arrived with the ice cubes already melted. Ice cream dissolved into puddles on the market floor as soon as it was scooped. Even the cultist groupies renting in town complained about how weird it was in all the heat.

One measure of the toll the heat was taking was the number of unusual items Bobby Chinkel and Jimmy Wilde found in the week’s trash collections that required investigation by various divisions of the Suffolk County Police. We’ll spare you the details, though I’m happy to report that Jim and Bob made some extra bucks selling the storylines to CBS’s “CSI” franchise.

Of course, the masses weathering the ordeal could take solace in the knowledge that the needs of those ordained with the responsibility of running the place were being seen to. Any place with the word “Office” attached to it was a good bet: Village Office, Doctor’s Office, Fire Co. Office, Yacht Club Office: the AC certainly helped keep the march of essential business tramping along in those spots. Large walk-in coolers were also handy, if you happened to work beside one. Fortunately the heat instilled so much lethargy in most people that gathering a big enough crew to man a battering ram to gain entry to these places proved quite impossible, so Saltaire’s brush with a Bastille Day-replay fizzled in the sizzle and we simply muddled through. Sounds like a 1930s ditty out of British Music Hall.

All right, well, things are cooling down, at least the outside temps are, so before further ado a review of some things still to come before this summer, like our recyclables, wraps.

Soccer!

Football to the rest of the planet. Ralph Perlberger’s 8th annual Saltaire Soccer Cup tournament bops away this weekend at the field. Apologies that we didn’t have details in time for the previous biweekly thing, where we could have advertised pre-registration last Sunday afternoon—you could have registered before you registered. No harm done, however, as regular registration is still to come, this Saturday morning, Aug. 12, from 9-9:30 at Broadway, say the signs—presumably alongside the field—a shorter than usual window of opportunity but, what with pre-reg and Ralph’s flexibility no one will be left out in the cold, or, you know, whatever. Teams & schedules will be posted by 10:30 and some of those teams better be on their toes because the first game kicks off at that same moment, 10:30.

Qualifications: you must be 13 or over, with priority given to Saltaire residents and their guests. You must have $15 for an entry fee. You must actually pay the $15. You must also be either (1) male or (2) female, in either order. Oh, you pre-registrants have to confirm your registration on Saturday. Now those signs say pre-reg’s “must confirm participation by phone at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, August 12th.” I assume that means Ralph’s phone, and I also presume it doesn’t really mean you should all call at precisely 9:30, otherwise there’ll be a lot of jammed phone lines and no one will ever get through and the teams will be disrupted. But call Ralph that morning to confirm (going out on a limb, I suppose you could also drop by the registration site and confirm your pre-reg in person—hope that’s okay, Ralph!). Play is Sat. & Sun., winners to be announced in the next and final column. (I trust! Not like the other year, remember RP, when the tournament got rained out so many weekends we ended up printing the winners the following May!? Merely an extended biweekly.)

Next in the T.R. Nature Conservancy series, a live demonstration of reptiles, Saturday, Aug. 19 at 10:30 in the gazebo, I guess the final demo of the summer. Of course, one doesn’t necessarily have to attend a discourse at the local gazebo to encounter reptiles of various stripes, if such a thing is herpetologically correct, but the Conservancy’s nature shows are always popular and cool and considerably more informative than other reptilian encounters. Many thanks as always to the indispensable Chuck Jones for shepherding them through town. Hey! Next year! Live demonstration of sheep. Speaking of which….

July in August

Don’t let all those sirens and bagpipes and xylophones and assorted fifes and marching feet shuffling along distract you from the games, but shortly after soccer commences so too does the Saltaire Volunteer Fire Company’s Annual Fourth-of-July PARADE and hot dog carnival, this Saturday, Aug. 12. Jumping off time, in front of the firehouse, is about 11 or so, just as timely as our version of the 4th of July itself, but worth the wait because this year’s stands to be the biggest and best defile of all. Two, maybe three bands, including a bagpipe corps, turnouts from all our neighboring FD’s, highest quality franks and refreshments, and all FREE! Free, I tell ya! Besides, how often do you get to see both your elected officials and those charged with saving lives and property marching in step on anything? With the top down, yet, just to make it easy for the spectators. The route varies but it’s likely to be B’way-Bay-Atlantic-Lighthouse-Pacific-Bay-B’way to the house again. Hope the reptiles take it in stride.

To anticipate, yes, there will be a pancake breakfast Labor Day weekend, Sunday Sept. 3 to be precise, no pre-registration or pre-digestion, details next issue, pre-weekend.

Oh, Board meeting? Reset for Sat., Aug. 19, 9:00 a.m. Same stuff.

Equally groovy, the annual sunset voyage to the Lighthouse, Saturday, August 26, sponsored by the Village. The L’h will be closed to the public and instead private tours, including to the top, will be conducted for those in attendance; and, as always and inevitably, “light” refreshments will be served at the museum, once the living and working quarters of real lighthouse keepers. No cocktails when you’re out on the rim, please. The boat leaves Saltaire at 6:30 and returns after sunset. I tried to figure out when sunset is on the 26 by looking at the almanac but I’d have to be able to pilot the space shuttle to do the math, so let’s just say around 2030 hours. (Baker could tell you that, plus the tides.) Guest fee is $45 per person, limit of 40, no children please. Visit the local air-conditioned Village Office to pre-register, please. You pre-register and pre-pay before you pre-board the pre-hired vessel. Do we pre-eat our hors d’oeuvres before we pre-fall off the pre-cipice? Anyway, one of the best deals of the summer.

Welcome to the august August medical staff, Dr. John Mordente in residence, as it were, right now through mid-month, to be succeeded by the h&w team of Drs. Salvatore & Lucia Caruana, covering the last two weeks of the month. Round-the-clock medical service for round-the-clock illness and injury. Can’t beat that. Just please no more false alarms at 4:20 a.m.

Awaiting word of Herc Maier, who’s been in Britain most of the summer training for a cross-channel swim this month. Herc’s already swum events in [his] local San Francisco waters as well as other tough spots, so he’s about as ready for the unimaginably grueling demands a Channel swim imposes as one could be, but raising the funds to sponsor his endeavor and arranging all the other necessities are tasks in themselves. We should have reports of John’s hoped-for triumph in time for the last issue. If not, I’ll put out a special edition myself. Yeah, Herc! Great guy.

Meanwhile, the SCAA’s Art & Music Festival passed more or less as usual, the quality and presence of the music making up for a decided shortfall of art. Sorry, but bike baskets, old magazines, TVs, belts, T-shirts and the like don’t quite make it as “art,” and a bunch of salespeople pouring off the 9:30 ferry don’t constitute a “community” festival. Where are the genuine handcrafts and paintings and photographs that used to make up this event? A few such items, to be sure, Jim Wicso’s photos, Wells’s handiwork, but very little more. Luckily, besides the excellent music, there was the Captain Al Watermelon hour, and the bay front sunset picnic – though shutting the Club and cutting off paying members while the picnic was in progress was not a good idea, or handled right. So how about this: just as it appears the Bazaar, for like reasons, is going to be given a rest for a while, can someone have the guts to see how trashy a lot of this so-called festival has become and just quietly, let’s say, edit it in future? Keep the picnic, the music, the watermelon fest for the kids, things like SCAA-specific items (calendars, directories, Wicso’s pics, whatever), but deep-six the flea-market stands and pack ‘em back to Amsterdam Avenue. Now I’ve got the west siders mad at me. But really, it’s about time somebody said in public what an awful lot of people have been grousing about in private. This festival isn’t what it used to be or is supposed to be and it’s about time it was resized to its true community essentials.

Well, while I’m declaiming on local controversies, I was happy to see that the U.S. House at last came to its senses and had its restaurant restore the name “French fries” to that particular delicacy. Of course, you remember the decision to call them “freedom fries”—have you noticed that ever since 9/11 everything official has to have the word “freedom” appended to it; what an unimaginative lot these Republicans are—the product of the juvenile mentality of Rep. Bob Ney, the small-town Ohio nitwit who, it turns out, is up to his freedom cuffs in dirty money thanks to the largesse of Ted Weinrib’s old boss, Jack Abramoff. (Rep. Ney also provided congressmen with a breakfast of “freedom toast.”) I guess now that the war on terror has been won we can go back to familiar usages—“Hey, baby, let’s freedom-kiss” didn’t quite make it on dates, I should imagine—but this whole politically-correct business got me thinking:

None of this is new, you know. Politically, socially, geographically, everybody’s always trying to change names to suit the passions of the hour. If Saltaire got boring I could always take my Liberty Hound for a walk down the Myanmar Road, go to the Inn, order a Liberty Steak with freedom fries or maybe Liberty cabbage, sip a Mumbai gin-and-tonic, finish up with a dish of freedom vanilla ice cream then head back to the Club for an evening of Asian Checkers. Are we having fun yet?

And with the passing this past Saturday of our friendly little sweetheart, Sarah, I’m taking steps at the next Board meeting to officially rename West Walk as—what else?—Abby Road.