02/14/13 11:13am
02/14/2013 11:13 AM

Yes, it’s true, ladies and gentlemen! You have arrived at our annual Academy Awards contest column, wherein readers of same are challenged to pick the winners of the 85th Academy Awards, which will be revealed on ABC-TV on Sunday, Feb. 24. 

Once again this year, due in no small part to a couple of friends who are members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, I have seen all 10 nominees for Best Picture. (Well, to be perfectly honest, 9 1/3 of the films; more on that below.)

And if you can hang in there until the end of this column, there’s a challenge awaiting that could win you a $100 gift certificate to the Mattituck Cinemas.

But first, my picks:

BEST PICTURE—“Les Misérables” is the film I could not make it all the way through. (It was, in fact, miserable.) I’ve always had trouble with dramatic musicals (see 1962’s “State Fair,” with Ann-Margret and Pat Boone crooning in their underwear when normal, red-blooded people would have had other things on their minds), and Russell Crowe’s croaking forced me to admit defeat long before the credits rolled.

Conventional wisdom might indicate Spielberg’s “Lincoln” for the top award, and my personal favorite was “Zero Dark Thirty,” which turned off some moviegoers because its core is a procedural about an obsessed CIA analyst who won’t quit in the hunt for Osama bin Laden. But this contest isn’t about who should win, but who will win. And in that case my vote goes to “Argo,” director Ben Affleck’s engaging, if somewhat predictable, retelling of another CIA-based tale. Note: With the exception of “Les Mis,” “Lincoln” and “Life of Pi,” which was a tad too fantastic for my taste, I really (really!) liked the seven other finalists.

BEST DIRECTOR—And the winner is: Spielberg, mostly via default because neither of the real best directors, Ben Affleck or Kathryn Bigelow (“Zero Dark Thirty”), was nominated.

Longshot: Michael Haneke (“Amour”) — because he got the very best out of his lead actors, 82-year-old Jean-Louis Trintignant and 85-year-old Emmanuelle Riva. But when asked by a friend if I liked the film, I emphatically responded: “No, it’s way too depressing.”

BEST ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE—And the winner is: Daniel Day Lewis (“Lincoln”). You may safely bet the ranch on this one. If ever there were a prohibitive favorite in this category, it is Mr. Day Lewis. His bravura performance as our nation’s 16th president actually outshines his earlier bravura performances in “My Left Foot,” “There Will Be Blood,” etc.

Longshot/Should Be: Don’t even bother.

BEST ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE—And the winner is: Jessica Chastain (“Zero Dark Thirty”). She may be young, but she’s building an impressive body of work, including in “The Help,” “The Tree of Life” and “Take Shelter.” And there would have been no “Zero Dark Thirty” without her riveting performance.

Longshot: Jennifer Lawrence (“Silver Linings Playbook”). Like Chastain, she’s young and previously overlooked. But as with her 2011 performance in “Winter’s Bone,” this one may be a tad too dark and too quirky for the decidedly conservative Academy members.

Honorable Mention: Quvenzhané Wallis (“Beasts of the Southern Wild”), who was 5 years old when this movie was filmed, and is the youngest actress ever nominated for this award.

BEST ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE—And the winner is: Tommy Lee Jones (“Lincoln”). This time, his deadpan delivery, bloodhound eyelids and southern inflection work to perfection as Lincoln’s vice president.

Longshots: Alan Arkin (“Argo”) and Robert DeNiro (“Silver Linings Playbook”). Both of these old pros chew up the scenery in engaging but predictable roles.

And the winner should be: Phillip Seymour Hoffman, but not for his performance in “The Master,” for which he is nominated. Rather, for his performance in “The Late Quartet,” an outstanding ensemble piece roundly snubbed by the Academy.

BEST ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE—And the winner is: Sally Field (“Lincoln”) in a brave performance as Honest Abe’s somewhat-unsympathetic mate. It’s also the safe pick, me thinks.

And the winner should be: Helen Hunt (“The Sessions”). Speaking of brave, what other 50-something actress would consider a role that requires her to appear in the buff for what seems like most of the film?

And now, the chance to claim that $100 gift certificate. All you must do to win is locate this column online at suffolktimes.com and be the first to post a comment below naming the most winners in the six categories cited above — having done so, of course, prior to the Sunday, Feb. 24, airing of the Academy Awards broadcast. Sorry, but in the event of a tie, the value of the gift certificate will be divided by the number of winners. But once again this year, popcorn is included.

[email protected]

08/09/12 4:00am
08/09/2012 4:00 AM

TROY GUSTAVSON PHOTO | Alex and Jane Boardman with their new brother, George.

In my personal experience, life’s mysterious continuum never was more mysterious than during the past two weeks.

The fortnight began with the devastating news of the untimely death of Jonathan Gould, a family friend who passed at the age of 29. Jon was a funny, engaging and loving boy who grew into a funny, engaging and loving man, and he was well on his way to fulfilling his longtime dream of establishing a career in law enforcement. That he died at an age when many young people’s lives are just beginning was a shock to all who knew him.

The former Joan Giger Walker and I were out of town when news of Jon’s death reached us, and we were struggling to make sense of it at the same time we were struggling with another of life’s challenges: trying to keep up with a 3-year-old and a 5-year-old.

They were in our charge for the better part of two weeks as their mother — our daughter, Anna Gustavson Boardman — was gearing up to deliver her third child at a hospital near her home in suburban Boston.

Normally, in my capacity as an aging American, I manage to catch a cat nap in the late afternoon and go to bed after the late local news (or, more recently, NBC’s prime time coverage of the Olympics), but such was not the case during our most recent grandparenting assignment. The little ones are blessed with boundless energy, and by the end of each day of trying to keep up with them I crawled into bed several hours earlier than normal before falling into a deep sleep.

But along with the fatigue of that week came the joy and wonder of seeing two youngsters discovering life for the first time. They literally bounced from activity to activity, and their sense of joy and wonder was infectious.

And yet. And yet there, lurking in the shadows, was the recent memory of Jon’s passing, which tempered the joy and wonder I was experiencing.

And then. And then daughter Anna said it was time to head to the hospital with her husband, William. The time had come.

So we took the kids on another “adventure” to another playground while their parents began to time contractions. And we fondled our cell phones more than usual as we awaited the news we all wanted to hear.

It came around 5:15 p.m. on Saturday, July 28, 2012. We were eating pizza with the kids in a little joint in Ipswitch, Mass., when the email from their dad arrived simultaneously on our phones: “George Hazard Boardman — healthy and happy. More to folo.”

George is a big (9 lbs., 3 ozs.) and happy (as long as he receives his mother’s milk every four hours or so) child. He cries only when absolutely necessary, and he has been enthusiastically received into his home by his siblings. He has just embarked on his own magical mystery tour, and among the many blessings he already has personally bestowed on his paternal grandfather is the certainty that life does, indeed, go on.

So, rest in peace, Jonathan Patrick Gould. And long live George Hazard Boardman.

[email protected]

06/13/12 9:50pm
06/13/2012 9:50 PM

TIM KELLY FILE PHOTO | A bird's eye view of Plum Island.

Charles Kuralt probably rolled over in his grave last weekend during the airing of the “CBS Sunday Morning” piece on Plum Island.

I tuned in with great anticipation to the report by correspondent John Miller, but it turned out to be a mushy rehash of old news — or should I say old wives’ tales — including the widely discredited theory that Lyme disease originated on Plum Island, author Michael C. Carroll and his spurious “Lab 257: The Disturbing Story of the Government’s Secret Plum Island Germ Laboratory” and even the daffy Montauk Monster conspiracy theory.

I kept waiting for some new news, but there wasn’t any. In fact, Mr. Miller didn’t even bother to mention the strong likelihood that Plum Island eventually will be auctioned off by the government and converted into a wind farm or a think tank or a golf resort or a town/county/state/national park.

Historically, “Sunday Morning” has been one of my favorite programs — particularly when the late Charles Kuralt was the host — but this past Sunday’s edition was uncharacteristically weak. Not only did the Plum Island story disappoint, but it seemed like several of the other segments were aired only to tout books just about to be released by CBS’s affiliated publishing house. It was shameless self-promotion, basically.

If you opted to watch the French Open Sunday morning, you can assess the Plum Island piece for yourself by watching it on our site. And if you end up disagreeing with my take on the program, please feel free to post a comment at the bottom of this column.

On Monday afternoon, I stopped in for a sandwich at Henry Bremer’s inviting little deli on Main Road in Mattituck. (Bologna and Muenster on a hard roll with lettuce, mayo and mustard.) Searching for a snack to accompany my healthful repast, I went looking for North Fork Potato Chips and was blown away by the variety of chips offered. And the quality, too. I opted for some chips flavored with, among other things, garlic — and they were delish.

And that got me to thinking about what a wonderful company the Sidor family has created and how amazing it is that a once-little enterprise from Mattituck, Long Island, New York, is not-so-slowly but surely going national. When I called them to confirm that fact, I was informed that they’re currently distributing their chips to such far-flung jurisdictions as Texas and Wisconsin. Surely it’s only a matter of time before they’re shipping chips to China.

And that got me to thinking (yes, scattered thoughts are a function of advanced age) about Sea Tow, the once-little Southold company that’s now truly international. And that got me wondering what other local companies have managed to forge national and/or international markets. I’m assuming some of our area vineyards fall into this category, but if you know of other candidates for this distinguished list, please share them by sending an e-mail to [email protected].


And speaking of Sea Tow, I actually got the big man himself, Captain Joe Frohnhoefer, on the phone Tuesday when I called to confirm something I’d heard via the grapevine: that he and his wife, Georgia, are being honored by San Simeon by the Sound Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation at a July 22 fundraiser at Founders Landing in Southold. (Yes, it’s true, Joe said.) For more information or tickets, contact Andrea Parks at 631-477-2110, ext. 252, or e-mail [email protected].

[email protected]

03/15/12 7:00am
03/15/2012 7:00 AM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Joan Zaniskey of Aquebogue spoke at the 'Save the Main Road' meeting Saturday.

Surprise of surprises: The good people of Jamesport, South Jamesport and Aquebogue appreciate the benefits of building a YMCA somewhere in Riverhead or Southold towns. They just don’t want it in their own backyard — specifically on 8.8 wooded acres across the Main Road from Vineyard Caterers in Aquebogue.

Just like the people of Aquebogue didn’t want a YMCA on Tuthills Lane. Or the people of Greenport didn’t want a YMCA on Front Street. Or the people of Laurel didn’t want a YMCA in their hamlet, which straddles the border between Riverhead and Southold towns. (I still think former Southold Town supervisor Tom Wickham was on the money when he suggested locating the Y in Laurel, because it would have conveniently drawn members from both towns and Shelter Island.)

My memory is getting a little shaky at this point, but wasn’t there once a suggestion to locate a new YMCA at the former Grumman property in Calverton? I can only assume it was nixed by the deer and endangered salamanders who camped nearby.

There’s a certain pattern at work here, wouldn’t you agree? And if it were a scientific formula, it would read: YMCA + NIMBY = 0.

I used to think there might be a racial component to some of the Y opposition. I had no hard proof for said theory, just a gut feeling that overwhelmingly lily-white hamlets might be doing their NIMBY thing because a Y would draw people of color from both Riverhead and Greenport, the only local communities with significant minority populations.

But my latest theory holds that age discrimination, rather than race discrimination, is a major component of this naysaying.

Methinks there are just too many of us old-timers living hereabouts to embrace a facility that would cater primarily to children and young families. I’m guessing a 40,000-square-foot senior citizens recreational center on the Main Road — across from a catering hall, a few hundred yards from a major vineyard and tasting room, and less than a mile from several of the busiest farm stand operations on the North Fork — would not be drawing this level or intensity of opposition. Sure, additional traffic is always a concern on the Main Road, but the traffic generated by a Y isn’t likely to have a major impact. What are we talking about here, 20 or 25 cars an hour at peak hours on a road that now must handle 10 times that volume in a typical hour?

Sooner or later, the good folks who have been championing a North Fork YMCA for decades (!) are bound to realize their dream, but it won’t come any easier now that we gray panthers are on the prowl.

No doubt you’ve heard of professional athletes who take their celebrity and obscene compensation for granted. You know, the sort of player who brushes past a little kid who’s holding out a baseball to be autographed without so much as a sideways glance.

Now please meet Heath Bell, star closer for the Florida Marlins Major League Baseball team. That is exactly what our 11-year-old grandson did at a recent spring training workout conducted by the Marlins at their facility in Jupiter, Fla.: meet Heath Bell. And how.

Not only did Mr. Bell sign Tyler Olsen’s baseball, but he stopped to chat after Tyler said “please” and “thank you” and wished him well in the upcoming season. Apparently, saying please and thanks is not something most autograph seekers do. In fact, the Big League player then asked Tyler’s opinion as to whether he should sign his name for the dozens of other autograph seekers shoving their pens and papers and baseballs in Mr. Bell’s direction, without uttering so much as a please or thank you. Apparently, Tyler’s good manners and good wishes had put him in the position of deciding who else would or wouldn’t get an autograph.

Tyler is a really good kid, and he took pity on the other autograph seekers, making note that they, too, had been waiting for quite some time for Heath Bell to pass by.

But before he signed his name another time, Mr. Bell did something that Tyler (not to mention Tyler’s grandfather) will remember for the remainder of his days. He invited Tyler and Tyler’s dad over to his car and said something like, “Here, I have something for you.” And what he had was a brand spanking new Heath Bell autographed model baseball mitt, which he presented to Tyler without further fanfare.

Now, a professional baseball player who makes $9 million a year gifting a glove valued at several hundred dollars to an 11-year-old kid may not be that big a deal in most circles, but in the Olsen and Gustavson households it is now the stuff of legend.

The Yankees’ Mariano Rivera still is our favorite closer. But when he retires next year, you can probably guess who our new favorite closer will be.

[email protected]

01/18/12 3:41pm
01/18/2012 3:41 PM

ROBERT WATERHOUSE

If you knew you were going to die for certain on Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2012, wouldn’t you be just a little concerned? I know I would.

But not Robert Brian Waterhouse, or so it seems, based on the contents of a letter I received from him this week.

Robert Waterhouse, you will recall, is the Greenport native who twice was convicted of murder, and who has been languishing on Florida’s death row for more than 31 years now. In fact, he has spent nearly 40 of his 65 years behind bars — although, if Florida Governor Rick Scott has his way, Waterhouse won’t make it to 41.

Robert Waterhouse and I go all the way back to 1985, when I traveled to the state prison in Starke, Fla., to interview him on death row. The result was a lengthy Suffolk Times article that rankled a significant number of readers, mostly because we had given “press” to a two-time convicted murderer.

The first homicide took place in Greenport in 1966, when the then 19-year-old was convicted of sexually assaulting and murdering 77-year-old village resident Ella Mae Carter. He was released on lifetime parole in 1975 after serving eight years for second-degree murder in the state prison in Auburn, N.Y.

Five years later, he did it again, although to this day he denies brutally raping and murdering 29-year-old Deborah Kammerer in St. Petersburg, Fla., in January 1980. But he was ultimately convicted and sentenced to death by a jury of his peers, and he has managed, through three decades of appeals, a retrial and various legal maneuvers, to avoid execution.

Up until now, that is. Earlier this month, Gov. Scott ordered that Mr. Waterhouse be executed on Feb. 15, and it seems increasingly likely that will take place on schedule, despite a last-minute bid by his attorney to get the original trial judge to reopen the case based on an exculpatory eyewitness who recently surfaced (31 years later!) and because prosecutors reportedly mishandled original DNA evidence. But the Honorable Robert Beach has ruled against Mr. Waterhouse at every turn over the decades, and it seems unlikely that this 11th-hour appeal will be received any differently.

Which brings us back to the man and his date with the executioner. I know something of his frame of mind because I’ve recently written to him, requesting a prison interview sometime before the due date. And not only did he agree to an interview, tentatively scheduled for Monday, Jan. 30, he also extended an invitation originally extended over 26 years ago: for me to witness the execution itself.

“Nothing very exciting about watching someone go to sleep, but whatever,” Mr. Waterhouse said by return letter dated Jan. 10.

“Now if they were still using the electric chair you might get a real show … I would surely think the hometown paper should get an automatic seat [at the execution], of course.”

As you might imagine, I’ve had some second thoughts about accepting his invitation. It seems just a bit ghoulish to be willingly in attendance at a man’s final hour, and I do not wish to be mistaken as an apologist for the vicious acts he stands convicted of committing. In fact, despite my decidedly liberal tendencies, I do not oppose capital punishment and, imagining myself in the place of Deborah Kammerer’s father, I can see myself embracing the biblical concept of an eye for an eye.

Still, for whatever reason, Robert Waterhouse has asked me to be there when he is put to death by lethal injection on Feb. 15, and I will be, if the State of Florida grants my request.

Troy Gustavson is a corporate officer, and former editor and publisher of Times/Review Newsgroup.

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01/05/12 2:58pm
01/05/2012 2:58 PM

I enjoyed many magic moments over the holidays, but the one that stands above the rest was the hour I spent interviewing Barbara and Paul Stoutenburgh in their Cutchogue home for an article that appears elsewhere in today’s paper. (In case you have not seen it yet, it announces their decision to stop writing their “Focus on Nature” column after 50 years.)

They sat in front of the fireplace hearth, touching hands and completing each other’s thoughts as they answered my questions about their 61 years of marriage and five decades of collaboration on the column.

I had been a little concerned about the interview, mostly because Paul is about to turn 90 next month and I thought he might have trouble reaching so far back in time. But those concerns were quickly dispelled as he returned to the ’50s, ’40s and beyond with sharp recollections of life on the North Fork. And, as always, there was Barbara sitting right next to him, filling in details and doing one of the things she does best: editing.

Paul Stoutenburgh — educator, environmentalist, journalist, photographer, public servant — certainly has the higher name recognition locally, but he is the first to admit that theirs has been a partnership in the truest sense. Whether it was fashioning their little piece of paradise off Skunk Lane, working in tandem as naturalists at the Fire Island National Seashore or fine-tuning the thousands of columns they’ve collaborating on since 1960 (!), they have always worked as a team. Not to mention the collaboration that produced their three children, four grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

I was once a teammate of Barbara’s — when she worked as a copy editor and proofreader at The Suffolk Times after we first acquired the business in the late 1970s — so I have a sense of how much she has contributed to her husband’s life work. And it hit home again when I sent them a copy of the interview transcript, only to have her catch numerous typos, errors of omission and examples of garbled syntax. Apparently, once an editor/proofreader, always an editor/proofreader.

I’m not sure I’m the one to say this since I have not had editorial responsibilities at the paper for quite a few years now, but I’d like to take this occasion to thank Paul and Barbara for the heart and soul “Focus on Nature” has brought to these pages since the middle of the last century, and to wish them well and Godspeed in the next chapter of their life partnership.

Am I the only one who spent the holiday season cuddled up next to the wood stove, catching up on all those paperbacks, hardcover books and ebooks that have been backlogged for months? No, I didn’t think so.

So, without further adieu, here are my highly opinionated holiday season reading recommendations and warnings.

Don’t miss “Steve Jobs,” Walter Isaacson’s biography of the recently departed Apple Computer founder; “The Angel Esmeralda,” short stories by Don DeLillo; “The Sense of an Ending,” the Booker Prize winner by Julian Barnes; and “Just Kids,” poet/rock singer Patti Smith’s reflection on her relationship with artist/photographer Robert Mapplethorpe.

Well worth the time and effort are Joan Didion’s “Blue Nights,” the sad tale of her daughter Quintana Roo’s untimely death; and “Bottom of the 33rd: Hope, Redemption and Baseball’s Longest Game” by New York Times columnist Dan Barry. (If you don’t know his work, I urge you to visit the Times website and run a search for his “This Land” columns. They are uniformly brilliant.)
My to-be-avoided-at-all-costs list includes three books that, for reasons I am unable to fathom, have made numerous “best books of the year” lists. They are “The Art of Fielding: A Novel” by Chad Harbach; “Lost Memory of Skin” by one of my previously favorite writers, Russell Banks; and “Swamplandia” by Karen Russell. You may beg to differ, but proceed at your own risk through these flabby, overhyped offerings.

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12/15/11 4:00am
12/15/2011 4:00 AM

One of the sweet ironies of our winters in Florida is the extent to which our activities here are tied to our lives on the North Fork. (I suppose you can’t live and work in one place for 35 years without having that happen.)

The past two weeks offer a good example. On Friday, Dec. 2, we spent the day in Miami checking out the work of three artists with strong ties to the North Fork — sculptor Michael Combs of the legendary decoy-carving Combs family and artists Ilya and Emilia Kabakov of Mattituck, whose “Ship of Tolerance” public art project had its latest unveiling at the Miami Children’s Museum.

Mr. Combs’ latest works — lifelike wall-mounted animal heads hand sewn out of what appear to be animal hides — are haunting and provocative. His stock has risen so high that the pieces we saw were priced beginning at $21,000. And he’s now represented by a gallery in New Orleans, a far piece from his North Fork roots.

The Kabakovs’ “Ship of Tolerance” is not for sale, as far as I know, but it caused quite a stir the day we were there. It’s a little hard to describe, so let me quote directly from their website:

“The mission of the Ship of Tolerance is to educate and connect youth of different continents, cultures, and identities through the language of art … It is a conceptual piece that is meant to reflect how divergent cultures interpret tolerance and how these interpretations overlap. The ship’s sails are stitched together from paintings by hundreds of local schoolchildren from different ethnic and social backgrounds, and will convey a message of tolerance and hope.” (Go to shipoftolerance.org for additional information and images.)

According to an email we received from “Ship of Tolerance” sponsor and supporter former Greenport mayor David Kapell and his wife, Eileen, who invited us to the unveiling in Miami, the “Ship” has been “successfully executed in Siwa, Egypt; Venice, Italy; St. Moritz, Switzerland; and Sharja, United Arab Emirates. “Following the Miami installation, we will execute projects in Havana, Cuba, in May 2012 and Bronx, N.Y., in June 2012.” (Hey, what about the North Fork?)

Incidentally, the Kapells looked exceedingly fit and fashionable the night we saw them, and hizzoner didn’t disappoint when he took me aside for a quick briefing on the state of the Incorporated Village of Greenport. And I came away from it thinking: Why isn’t this guy still mayor? (He should be.)

The day after meeting up with the Kabakovs and Kapells in Miami, it was off to Florida’s Gulf Coast for a few days of camping at a state park with friends of ours from the North Fork — who shall remain nameless because one of them was playing “hooky.” Once again, our life in Florida was intertwined with our life on Long Island.

And it happens again this week, when we plan to have dinner down here with Jaap and Maryann Hilbrand, proprietors of The Doofpot on Main Street in Greenport and its companion Italian ceramics shop, Maryanna Suzanna on Worth Avenue in Palm Beach.

(One of the ironies of our dual citizenship is that sometimes it seems we have more time for that sort of thing — having dinner with old friends — down here than we do back home, where other obligations often take priority.)

So, then, you may ask: Have the Gustavsons considered moving permanently to South Florida? Short answer: no, never. As Ms. Dorothy Gale of Kansas and Oz has so often been quoted as saying: There’s no place like home, there’s no place like home.

True home, that is.

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12/01/11 4:00am
12/01/2011 4:00 AM

It was a Thanksgiving feast, all right. And I’m not just talking about the ab/fab meal the Olsen and Gustavson clans enjoyed on Thursday afternoon. I’m talking about the moveable feast of activities we experienced over the long holiday weekend.

I suppose such opportunities are available elsewhere, but I’d like to think some of them were unique to the North Fork.

Shelter Island is considered part of the North Fork, isn’t it? I’ve never really known the definitive answer to that question, and I’d appreciate some reader feedback to [email protected]. Opinions, please.

Shelter Island is invoked here because our holiday weekend began there Thursday morning, with the traditional Turkey Day walk at Mashomack Preserve, one of my Top 10 Favorite Places on Earth. The day dawned bright and beautiful, and we were joined by some two dozen friends and their family members who have come to savor this tradition as well.

We came away from the four-mile hike with many indelible images — including low tea on the beach and Baxter Townsend going for a brisk dip in Smith Cove — but the following two stand out:

1. The incredible foresight of original benefactor, Katherine Ordway, The Nature Conservancy and others who successfully sought to protect Mashomack from development in 1980 and

2. the fact that we’ve seen more deer in our driveway in Orient this fall than we’ve seen in 30-plus years of walking the trails of Mashomack. Go figure.

Thursday afternoon was, of course, dedicated to The Family Meal, the highlight of which was the succulent turkey provided by Erik’s Breakfast and Lunch on the North Road in Southold. I’m not normally a big fan of turkey (dry and tasteless, unless deep fried or prepared turducken-style by chef John Ross), but I’d say it might be time to change the name to Erik’s Breakfast and Lunch and Thanksgiving Feast.

Friday’s highlight was the alumni basketball game at Greenport High School, organized to fund scholarships in memory of former GHS students Michael Brown, Cory Freeman and Naquawn Treadwell. There was a lot of huffing and puffing going on out there on the court, but some of the alums still “have game,” as they say, most notably the tight team of ex-players from Mattituck High School and Greenport grads Matt Duell and Ryan Creighton.

Duell, who played on the men’s varsity team at St. John’s University, looks like he still could contribute to many a Division I program. And Creighton, despite the pounds he’s put on since his graduation in 2009, could and should be playing college basketball this winter. That he won’t be is, at least in part, the latest example of Greenport High School’s historic failure to mentor beyond graduation some of its most outstanding athletes.

The sport Saturday was soccer, specifically the Nassau-Suffolk Exceptional Seniors Games at Dowling College in Shirley. It featured two outstanding players from the North Fork — Brian Cassidy of Southold and Austin Scoggin of Mattituck — and they did not disappoint. Scoggin played the entire game in goal and Cassidy helped anchor a stingy defense from his left fullback position.

Fittingly for an all-star game, the match ended in a 2-2 tie, and I predict both players soon will be hearing from one or more of the college scouts in attendance Saturday.

By Sunday evening, when the former Joan Giger Walker and I enjoyed another outstanding meal at The Farmhouse on Front Street, the streets of Greenport had begun to take on an off-season appearance. In fact, The Farmhouse closed for the season that very night, and I suspect many other businesses have begun hunkering down for a long winter’s nap.

It’s a “sign of the season,” of course, but also, I fear, a “sign of the times.”

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11/09/11 10:00pm
11/09/2011 10:00 PM

Even for a news junkie like me, Monday night’s “NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams” was a veritable feast. Where shall we begin?

With the report that Michael Jackson’s doctor had been convicted of involuntary manslaughter? Or the piece on alleged sexual abuse of young boys at Penn State? Or might you prefer Herman Cain coming under fire (again) for alleged sexual harassment? Or, last but not least, the evening news’ closing segment on the Yale quarterback who must choose between his team and a Rhodes Scholarship?

In these trying times, I have deliberately and diligently refrained from getting sucked into the prattle that is the reason for existence of the 24/7 talk/scream shows on Fox, MSNBC, CNN, etc. But I trust Brian Williams to give me the straight story, without any partisan embellishments, and on Monday night he delivered.

In no particular order:

• The Yale QB is Patrick Witt, a scholar-athlete under consideration for a prestigious Rhodes Scholarship. His dilemma is that the date of his scholarship interview in Atlanta — Saturday, Nov. 19 — is the same day as “The Game” in New Haven, Conn., Harvard versus Yale, perhaps the most historic rivalry in all college football.

So let’s get this straight: the Rhodes committee wants him to abandon his teammates and miss perhaps the most important game of his college career in order to attend an interview he’s invited to because he’s a distinguished scholar-athlete?

What, they couldn’t give him a rain check? Or interview him following the game via Skype? I know winning a Rhodes Scholarship is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, but so, too, is playing in “The Game.” That the scholarship committee has put him in the position of having to chose one over the other is simply outrageous.

Brian Williams said Patrick Witt hasn’t yet decided what he’ll do a week from Saturday. But I know what I’d do if I were in his place: tell those Rhodes dudes to stuff their scholarship. Then I’d go out and kick some Harvard butt and sign a multi-million-dollar contract to play in the NFL.

• The real tragedy of the mess at Penn State — other than the victimization of the young boys reportedly assaulted by a former assistant varsity football coach — is the reality that soon-to-be-ex head coach Joe Paterno’s legendary career will be forever tainted by this episode. And so it should be, if preliminary reports that he knew about the alleged abuse but failed to report it to civil authorities prove to be true.

That there might have been an institutional tendency at Penn State to turn a blind eye to signs of pedophilia in the locker room and elsewhere comes as no real surprise. It’s not uncommon, in the world of youth athletics, to see adults in a position of authority taking vulnerable or at-risk children under their wing, and sometimes, sadly, the adult’s motivation is anything but charitable.

• The conviction of Michael Jackson’s personal physician, Dr. Conrad Murray, came as no real surprise. But I was taken aback by the fact that he was handcuffed in the courtroom and remanded to jail without bail until his sentencing, set for Nov. 29. Judge Michael Pastor said Dr. Murray poses a threat to society at large, and that makes me wonder: how so?

Is he likely to roam the streets of Los Angeles, hypodermic needle in hand, seeking to inject unsuspecting pedestrians with Jackson’s so-called “milk,” the surgical anesthetic propofol? Nice try, Your Honor, but something tells me you were just posturing for the cameras.

• Finally, there is the latest chapter in the bizarre saga of that loose cannon Herman Cain. I’m still trying to figure out why this guy is being taken seriously, and a friend of mine had the best explanation yet: Cain is one of us, a plain-spoken, slightly misinformed everyman who’s mad as hell and isn’t going to take it anymore. So what if he shoots from the hip, flip flops on a dime, wings it as he goes? Why, he’s one of us!

I have a personal theory as to why Cain still is on the scene — the leading candidate for the GOP presidential nomination, for Pete’s sake! — months after his 15 minutes of fame should have rightfully expired. It’s because he’s that rarest of candidates, an African-American Republican, and because Barack Obama paved the way for white Americans to view black Americans in a whole new context.

And as for Cain’s latest imbroglio, the one having to do with allegations that he is guilty of serial sexual harassment of women, here again Brian Williams had the last word when he reported that a forth victim had come fourth to accuse Cain publicly.

And you know what “they” say, don’t you? If two is company and three’s a crowd, then four’s an orgy.

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10/27/11 3:00pm
10/27/2011 3:00 PM

We in the news biz have come to call it “The Silly Season.” It’s the period of time that comes every other year between, say, Labor Day and Election Day, during local election campaigns.

That’s when reason, civility and logic are sometimes (or is it often?) put on the back burner for a month or two as candidates for local office vie for supremacy at the polls.

Even the big boys and girls do it, as evidenced by the recent incident in which Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney ended up placing hands on opponent Rick Perry during a televised debate. It wasn’t quite a fistfight, but neither was it particularly presidential.

I was reminded of TSS this week as I read this headline on The Suffolk Times’ website: “Southold supervisor candidates clash at Saturday forum.” So, OK, upon closer reading perhaps it wasn’t as much a “clash” as the Romney-Perry touchy/feely incident, but Democratic candidate Bob Meguin did end up saying: “Obviously, I’m not here to be liked” after he and Republican incumbent Scott Russell engaged in a heated exchange relating to cellphone towers. (For full details click here)

Having covered local elections in Southold for some 34 years now, I have observed multiple examples of TSS. To wit:

• There was the time I wrote about a candidates debate in Greenport (so, yes, TSS, also can be applied to the first quarter of the year when municipal elections are held) and quoted candidate Paul Juliano as saying something like:

“The village has many problems, including crime and drugs and litter, and I hope to contribute to that.” Mr. Juliano probably knew what he was trying to say, but it didn’t come out right, and I knew it.

A more experienced reporter might have “cleaned up” the quote to reflect his real intentions, but I did not, realizing that he might be embarrassed when it was published in the paper. And he was (embarrassed) even more so when the quote was published by The New Yorker in one of those little ironic blurbs that sometimes run at the bottom of a page.

Perhaps not surprisingly, he lost the election and refused to speak to me until he left town several years later. (Another candidate for office in Greenport — who shall remain nameless because he still lives in town — has for decades actually walked across the street when he sees me coming because we had the audacity to endorse his opponent. That’s how Silly and personal it can get.)

• Or how about the time I was assigned to cover Southold Republican Party headquarters at the American Legion Hall in Southold in a year when we endorsed as many local Democrats as Republicans. (Remember, this was back in the day before candidates like Pell, Murphy and Wickham ever were elected, when the other paper, The Traveler-Watchman, actually would have Democrats pose on either end of group photos of candidates so their images could be cropped out prior to publication.)

As I was walking through the crowd that night, I came upon the wife of Republican councilman Larry Murdoch (sorry, I don’t remember her first name), who, when she recognized me, reflexively punched me in the arm with the vigor that only the wife of an unendorsed candidate can muster. It might not have been feely, but it certainly was touchy.

• Finally, Suffolk Times editor Tim Kelly has reminded me of the granddaddy of all Silly Season examples. It came in the politically pregnant year of 1993, when Southold Democrats endorsed the entire GOP slate, including then-Republican point man George Penny, in an unsuccessful attempt to stop the United Southold movement.

Like many of the antics that occur during The Silly Season, it did not work.

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