Hazel Kahan is an “and” person.
She’s a writer and an artist and a traveler and a radio correspondent and she’s searching for similar souls for her new monthly radio series on 89.5 WPKN in Connecticut. The program, “North Fork Works,” which can be heard every first Wednesday of the month at 7:30 p.m., includes interviews with locals and the often multiple ways they make their living.
We sat down with Ms. Kahan at her Mattituck residence to find out more.
Q: Tell us a little bit about yourself.
A: My parents are both Jewish German physicians who left Europe in 1937 before the war broke out, when Jews were no longer allowed to study medicine. They met up in Rome and eventually got married. After they got their medical degrees, they moved to India. I grew up in Pakistan, but it was still India when I was born. I went to boarding school in both India and England, attended London University and received a Ph.D. in psychology in Australia. I lived in Israel for a couple of years before coming to the United States in the ’70s. I moved to Mattituck in 1999.
Q: As someone who has traveled the world, what interests you about the North Fork?
A: It’s cliché to say artists come here because they love the light. That’s only one aspect of why it’s special as a place surrounded by water. When I first moved here from Manhattan, I spent a lot of time walking by the water. You can just walk and walk, not see anybody and begin to understand what water actually means. It’s also special because it’s in such contradiction to the South Fork. It’s a much more modest, down-to-earth way of living compared to the glitzy and rich Hamptons, where it’s as if you’ve moved Manhattan to the South Fork. The North Fork has its own vibe.
Q: How did you get involved at WPKN?
A: I was in a group against the Iraq War in 2007 called North Fork People of Conscience. Somebody heard I was going to Israel to visit my parents and they said to me, ‘Why don’t you interview somebody on the West Bank or something?’ My current producer at WPKN, Tony Ernst, gave me a little MP3 player and I did an interview with a Palestinian man in a village in Israel during the Israel-Palestine conflict.
Q: How did ‘North Fork Works’ begin?
A: I do a monthly international interview series called “Tidings” at WPKN so I already have the relationship with the station. I pitched the show to program director Ebong Udoma. I wanted to interview people here because I think the North Fork is full of really interesting people. What clinched it was learning how Bob Jester became a chimney sweep and how he is also an acclaimed science teacher in Riverhead and volunteer fireman. It almost became to me, “Are you a multiple?”
Q: Why are your guests ‘multiples’?
A: That’ll be a question in every interview: Does the North Fork attract people who do multiple things or does it make them into that? If you think about Manhattan and corporate America, people have one job that exhausts them or maybe a hobby, but it’s a different world. I don’t know whether it’s cause or effect — that’s part of what I’ll find out.
Q: If you were a guest on your own show, what would you want to communicate to the world?
A: Just that I also consider myself a “multiple” person. Unfortunately, I don’t make any money off the other things I do.
Q: What are they?
A: I do art — leafages, where I press leaves and do calligraphy around them. I also do radio and writing. I’ve always written. I’m working on my memoir about growing up Jewish in Pakistan. I don’t count hobbies like knitting.
Q: What does ‘North Fork Works’ mean?
A: It’s sort of a double entendre. It works because people collaborate on a higher level than they would in Manhattan. It works because it’s compact enough that people are very networked.
I also want to talk to people about their work, what they do for a living and how they spend their time. It’s not only about what you do for a living, but your place in the society.
Q: What about the project has surprised you most so far?
A: I didn’t realize how enthusiastic other people would be about this project. I think it’s a secret longing to find out who else lives here. Everybody’s curious about everybody else.