The subject I had planned to lead my column with this week (baseball) has been preempted by a far weightier one: the death last week in Afghanistan of U.S. Army First Lieutenant Joseph Theinert of Shelter Island. (Joanne Sherman also has asked to take the week off from writing her humor column out of respect to Lt. Theinert’s family.)
As the years continue to roll by with these two wars of ours, who among us hasn’t been guilty of fast-forwarding (if not via our DVRs or TiVos, then via our shortened attention spans) through the grim nightly news from Afghanistan and Iraq? But then something like Joseph Theinert’s fatal encounter with an improvised explosive device snaps us out of our inattentiveness, and we are shocked into remembering just how bloody and never-ending these wars really are.
Our sincere sympathy goes out to Lt. Theinert’s family and friends, and we hope and pray a peaceful resolution of these conflicts can be reached before other families — here and over there — receive that dreaded call in the middle of the night.
The People’s Republic of Oysterponds (to borrow another snappy phrase from Suffolk Times editor Tim Kelly) is back in the news these days in a big way. And as a 32-year resident of Orient, I’m often (well, okay, sometimes) asked what I think about the recent Suffolk County Water Authority dustup and the nascent discussion about Orient seceding from Southold Town to form an incorporated village.
At the risk of having rolls of toilet paper draped over the hedge in front of our house, what I’m about to say is bound to irk at least 50 percent of our neighbors, I suspect. And it also goes against the insight once shared by North Fork planning legend John Wickham (father of former supervisor/councilman Tom Wickham) having to do with the direct correlation between residential density and the availability of public water. (And he showed me a map of western Suffolk to prove it.)
But what Mr. Wickham also said was that local zoning was the ultimate protection against excessive density. And Orient, as far as I know, has the two- and five-acre zoning already in place to rebuff such density. And I just don’t see any future Southold Town Board undoing that zoning, particularly now that the GOP, the party that once featured bulldozer salesmen like Larry Murdock, now scrambles to out-green the political opposition. And then, of course, there is this: Some of us who’ve had Temik and other nasties in our wells really do need a reliable source of pure drinking water.
As for incorporation, I fully appreciate the motivation behind the movement, but I doubt anything substantive will come of it. And that’s because the numbers just won’t add up the way they did in Sagaponack, for example, where incorporation made good sense (and cents) because of the disproportionate gap in wealth between that hamlet and Southampton Town as a whole. Here in Southold Town, including Orient, this is a point in time when we should be talking about sharing services — like, oh, I don’t know, our public schools! — instead of duplicating them.
Finally, a word about baseball. As in the two Major League Baseball games the boys in our family (grandson, son-in-law, grandpa) attended this past weekend in Washington and Philadelphia. It was a hit-and-run trip — two ballparks in two days — and it brings to six the number of MLB parks grandson Tyler Olsen has visited at the ripe old age of 9. (Eventually, he says, he wants to “bag” all 30.)
There were many highlights, but the one I’ll always remember had Tyler dashing 22 rows to the edge of the field to get the autograph of a cooperative San Diego Padre, then dash back 22 rows to his seat, all within the span of about 75 seconds. The kid may never make it to the majors, but he sure is quick.