Directing Us Home
January 3, 2022
To the Editor:
Last week’s thoughtful article by Dr. Joshua Potter about this lingering pandemic convinces me more than ever that our nation is on a spiritual journey. The virus continues to make our everyday terrain unfamiliar and unsettling, and like all spiritual journeys, we will either emerge with strength and resilience or we will return to our country weakened by conflict and fatigue.
The question before us is when do the twists and turns come to an end? How do we get back to America, or perhaps, get back the America we love, in some recognizable form? The wilderness we are in presents no shortcuts.
One of the best-known spiritual journeys in the Bible is the trek taken by “wise men” — astronomers — who observe a star marking the birth of the prophesied King of the Jews. They set out to Jerusalem and then to Bethlehem to worship this Christ Child. But obstacles appear before their journey home is completed. The evil King Herod is plotting to find the child in order to eliminate what he perceives as a threat to his throne. God warns the wise men in a dream, and so they do not divulge the child’s whereabouts and choose a different path home.
I believe that God is directing us home, but that we should be prepared for the road to be different than we expect. And we should be working now to ensure that the home we return to is one we want to live in. It really isn’t policies and politics alone that will restore us; it will be the ability of each of us to do the right thing by ourselves and by others in this ordeal that will either put us on the right path to a renewed, unified, compassionate America – or we will stumble out of our wilderness without having learned very much.
Through whatever source we have for spiritual strength, I believe we can hear the healing, guiding, correcting nudges that will help us learn the lesson of this spiritual journey. The more we practice what we know to be right, the more it becomes part of who we are. And so we can be encouraged that we will find our way back, but by this new and better road, and to a new and better homeland because we bring priorities this crisis has taught us.
The virulence of the disease, and the persistence of resistance on the part of those who refuse reasonable mitigation measures, are the adversities that are part of completing this spiritual journey. They too have things to teach us, but they should not distract us from what we can do within ourselves to fight this spiritual, as well as public, health battle.
It is encouraging that some experts are peering down the road to a time when Covid-19 can be less of a crisis and something we manage. I believe this is not just because of vaccines and treatments, but because of how our nation has stayed intact so far due to the sacrifice, their compassion, and resilience of people who are listening to their better selves, responding maturely and doing the right thing in the medical field and in other areas of life.
Never doubt that God may let changes in our world be the thing that changes our hearts. Those who are walking the talk and living by their deepest inner convictions in spite of the challenges are the people God will use to walk us back to the America we really want to be.
REV. CANDACE WHITMAN
First Presbyterian Church of Amagansett
East End Treasures
January 2, 2022
We all owe a deep debt of gratitude to Richard and Rosanne Barons for their two decades of dedication to our local architecture and material culture. They have helped us to see, value, and better understand our own history, identity, and sense of place on our eastern tip of the Island.
Without Richard, would we ever have navigated our way through important and valuable projects, such as the restoration of the Thomas Moran studio and house, the Dominy shops, and the Gardiner Mill cottage, to name the most obvious?
It was our mother, Sherrill Foster, a former East Hampton Historical Society director decades ago, who first told us about two wonderful new historians who had arrived at the Southampton Historical Society, Richard and Rosanne Barons. She eagerly joined their history-reading circle. Along with the art and architecture they love, Richard and Rosanne are true East End treasures.
We will miss their professionalism, deep knowledge, and the engaging way Richard has of telling the story of our unique coastal community to us, linking past to present, helping us to protect, care for, and value what we have.
MARY FOSTER MORGAN
JONATHAN SHERRILL FOSTER
All Is Good
January 3, 2022
Dear East Hampton Star,
If I can slip my left wetsuit bootie onto my foot, all is good. I am 20 minutes late joining a group of paddlers raising funds for Heart of the Hamptons.
The water has its brilliant quality of being water — supportive, salty, and an ever-changing surface.
Almost a dozen paddlers stroked their way to the northwest, laughing, talking, and driven on this gray-sky day by the need to nourish others.
Thank you, Todd, for organizing.
The New Year
December 31, 2021
Hope all enjoyed a healthy, merry Christmas, and may the new year bring everyone a happy, healthy, and wealthy new year. May this Covid vacate the world and peace ring in the new year.
To our military, Godspeed.
In God and country,
January 1, 2022
The Colorado wildfires that devastated a suburban neighborhood near Boulder should give homeowners and municipal planners here pause. As reported in The New York Times, this was not a forest fire but a suburban and urban fire.
The fortress mentality that has been slowly gaining steam here has caused homeowners to overplant their property lines with double or triple rows of hedging, often with little knowledge of the plants involved.
We are already seeing how those cute little fuzzy trees planted two feet apart for instant effect, when neglected and not maintained can, one day, grow into monsters that block the sky as well as suck all charm from our neighborhoods.
The worst culprits are Cryptomeria, Leyland cypress, and other species that are fast growing and weak-wooded. If there is not enough space between them so that they can fully develop, the inner branches die, and with litter build-up, can be a hazard in a drought. Trees that grow to 50, 60, or more feet belong on mountain sides, not in neighborhoods like ours.
There is no question that there will be droughts in our future — and there will be plenty of tinder.
December 31, 2021
I read your editorial “The Coming Redevelopment Wave” with a feeling of sadness about what will become of our beloved East Hampton Town. The pressures facing this town board are enormous, and what is most important will be the people who are chosen to sit on town-appointed boards.
As each year passes I watch all the appointed boards function in their capacity to make decisions about our community. Do they ask the intelligent questions of applicants? Are they appointed because one of their friends sits on the town board or do they have justifiable knowledge and pro-environmental credentials? Many appointees are learning on the job and not even aware of the zoning code laws. East Hampton doesn’t have time for a learner!
The one optimistic part of your editorial was the hiring of the new head of the Planning Department, Jeremy Samuelson. Maybe 2022 can start with a shining light as an outstanding pro-environmental person is hired to lead the Planning Department.
I knew Jeremy Samuelson when he was head of the Concerned Citizens of Montauk and I knew him to have had an extremely capable evaluative eye on redevelopment. With Jeremy as director and Brian Frank, head environmentalist, the Planning Department should bring a welcomed change in development to East Hampton.
December 30, 2021
Your excellent editorial titled “The Coming Development Wave” ended with “. . . it will also be up to the public to let their local governments know they are watching and that they care what happens to the places they love.” With that in mind, I looked through the online edition of The Star for notices of public hearings that might bear watching. I was unable to find them, called The Star’s office and was told that the online edition does not publish notices of public hearings. Would it be possible for the online edition to include these notices in the future?
December 31, 2021
Before I suggest how the town should be updating the “smart” lighting code, as well as the planning board guidelines, and the town’s own lighting practices, I’d like to suggest how each of us as individuals can do our part to help reduce light pollution by using energy more wisely.
First, use exterior night lighting where and when you need it for safety: Walkways and doorways and use motion sensors (they even make light bulbs with motion sensors so you don’t have to change the fixture). Especially useful are “bug” lights in an amber color to reduce the impact on night-flying insects. They will be less likely to be gathering at your doorstep. And we see better at night with warmer color (low Kelvin) light bulbs.
Second, consider shutting off tree lights. Trees that are lit up into the winter months do not go into dormancy and suffer die-back. Also, birds are less likely to nest in lighted trees, and “up” lighting will throw birds off course during migrations.
Third, if your neighbor’s lights are causing glare across property lines (illegal) and light trespass, remember that they probably did not install the fixtures themselves and may be unaware of the issue. Invite them over to look back at their house. Most intrusive lights can be re-aimed downward or shut off when not in use. There is no reason for most lights to be left on all night long. Exterior lighting by itself does not make a home safer, especially when no one is home. Two independently timed interior lamps will make a home look less inviting to an intruder, along with motion sensor-activated exterior lighting.
Next week I’ll outline night lighting best practices for the town.
International Dark Sky Association
January 3, 2022
To the Editor,
Curfews and access restrictions will not end the torment, solve health and safety concerns of residents, or lessen the burden on our environment of over 31,000 non-essential flights (January to November, 2021).
Curfews force operations into hours that the airport is open, times when many want to enjoy the outdoors. During the town’s earlier attempt to mitigate noise with restrictions, East End residents continued to file noise complaints. Some aircraft operators flew anyway, ignoring fines for violating curfews, and then sued the town. Similar restrictions at other United States airports and internationally have not proven a lasting success.
Lobbyists from the National Business Aviation Association and Airplane Owners and Pilots Association regularly attend town meetings, apparently in an attempt to intimidate decision makers.
If the town announces even a temporary closure, some with aviation interests at KHTO have threatened immediate litigation. The board has the right, and is legally able to, use income from operations at KHTO to defend the town against the industry’s lawsuits, should the board summon the courage to close KHTO and repurpose the property for clean, sustainable uses befitting a Climate Smart Community.
There is no route remedy to a land-locked airport. The pilot in control of an aircraft has F.A.A. approval to choose the route flown (primarily North Shore or South Shore route) and much leeway on where to begin the transition on approach to the airport. Minimum altitudes are also flexible under the F.A.A.’s dangerous Special Visual Flight Rules, just ask the folks in Georgica or the village.
Silent flight and carbon-free emissions are years away, so if KHTO remains open, residents who have suffered for decades from aviation noise and toxic emissions will continue to be assailed by aircraft, even with restrictions in place. A little less torture is still torture, with the same anxiety over safety and health concerns.
Despite widespread disinformation on TV ads, the sky will not fall if the airport closes, the economic gain to the town from the airport is small, and there are more jobs and help wanted signs than there are workers here.
If the airport is not permanently closed, and the board gives way to the selfish 1 percent who demand use of an airport, expansion by the current or a future administration could occur at any time; there is no law now on the books to prevent expansion.
We are living with a Code Red environmental emergency, and the town has the opportunity now to restore quality of life, prevent dangerous operations above homes, and protect the environment. Say no to KHTO and keep saying it until the town board acts to protect the majority that elected them and want their quality of life restored and demand that their children’s future take precedence over needless private aviation.
Stunned and Amazed
December 17, 2021
I had Covid in March of 2020. A friend from Philadelphia flew here for an Oregon birthday party and infected several of us. Two and a half days later, I fell hard into fire hose diarrhea and dry heaves. I lay down, fasting and drinking carbonated water for two and a half days, then Covid was gone. I had neither fever nor lung problems. I’ve wondered why Covid was so easy on me, when I was 73. There is only one reason that I could imagine: I have a powerhouse immune system that fought Covid off.
Why would my immune system be different from any other? Why have I been the same weight since I was 20 in 1967? Why do I not wake up several times a night, as many men do? Why have I not needed a doctor, nor ever taken any prescription drugs since I has 20 (except once for bad-water dysentery in Katmandu, 1997)? The answer is the same for all those questions — in late 1967 I left New York City and moved into a macrobiotic commune in San Francisco.
Since then, I have been vegan and not consumed any animal products, nor alcohol (except Champagne at weddings and on New Year’s Eve, and cooking with wine occasionally). That is why my immune system is stronger than average and also why I survived Covid before its vaccines were invented.
Speaking of vaccines, I am stunned and amazed that there is such resistance to being vaxxed among Republicans. Do they think Dumpty is some sort of infallible god? (The G.O.P. has also paid 1.5 million bux of donations to cover Dumpty’s legal fees.) Why copy such a total loser who paid smarter kids to take college exams for him, according to Mary Trump’s book? Dumpty disrespects vaccines and masks. He has the blood of his followers on his hands.
I remember receiving the polio vaccine jab in Sag Harbor as a child in the mid-1950s. No parents were upset. Nobody protested. It was as smooth as silk. Contrast this with today’s situation. The difference is Dumpty’s being anti-science. Although he is not the only reason, the current winter surge is sadly killing so many more, some of which could have been avoided.
There is also another dangerous, dishonest actor on the scene, the tobacco industry. There was a much-ignored British study that found 70 percent of British Covid deaths were tobacco smokers. Overweight Dumpty does not smoke tobacco; if he did, he would not be here today. That makes good sense to me. Why has the British study not been more in the news? Am I seeing a conspiracy theory behind every bush or could it be that the tobacco industry has somehow caused that study to vanish? If that study was discredited, I hope the omniscient East Hampton Star editors can fill in the blanks and inform us here and now. The public needs to know.
Thank you for publishing this letter. Peace now. Be merry!
PETER GILL WYLIE
January 2, 2022
In the bizarre opposition to mask and vaccine mandates lies a deeply disturbing paranoia and ignorance. The term “village idiot” — every village in the old world had at least one — applies to someone who is ignorant and stupid and doesn’t know it. America has taken the concept of village idiot and has given it gravitas and widespread acceptability.
Mandates are rules, laws, etc., that define how a civil society functions. They usually derive from a need to avoid chaos and societal damages. For example, when cars were invented anyone could drive a car anywhere, anyway with no controls or limitations. So the potential danger necessitated laws (see mandates). Licenses, roads, stop signs, traffic lights, speed limits, insurance, emission controls, etc. Penalties were enacted against breaking these rules. Life in a free but mandated society.
The mandates around Covid-19 are similar. A present and active danger to the population, 825,000 deaths (more than all of our wars in the 20th and 21st centuries combined), necessitated the two options available for controlling and eliminating the danger. Normally the government would explain the situation to the population and the people would mask up and vaccinate. Not rocket science.
But we are no longer normal the way we used to be. So 35 percent of the population refuses to vaccinate or wear masks, meaning that if another option to control the virus isn’t developed, it will continue to spread and kill people. Thus, a mandate. What else is the government supposed to do?
The analogy to war seems logical. If we are being attacked, and we refuse to shoot the enemy because of who made the ammo or who gave the orders, we get killed and we betray our country. How does not masking and vaccinating help the war effort or does it give comfort to the enemy?
You are either with us or against us? Nothing to equivocate about.
January 1, 2022
I was pleased to see that someone took the time to respond to my challenge to define Build Back Better. I appreciate being enlightened and would like to thank the author. Some of the points mentioned on B.B.B. I find agreeable, but others do not pass the “Pinocchio test.”
The bottom line is B.B.B. is one big socialist program. It cannot financially stand on its own feet, as the Congressional Budget Office has declared. The writer makes some good points regarding B.B.B., such as increasing the SALT deduction and investment in work force training. However, I believe the rest of the author’s comments are seriously flawed and lack common sense. I started writing a detailed response but it was going to take more space than I am sure the paper will allow, particularly on the subject of climate change and all the erroneous assumptions being made to support investment in climate change, so let me be brief.
Tying B.B.B. cost to emotional considerations driven by socialism will be rejected by the American public. Nothing is guaranteed in any investment because of risk and that is a concept that people on the left cannot deal with but conservatives can. It is incredible when people say the rich must pay their fair share when they already pay most of the taxes and so many other people pay no taxes at all. I believe everyone should pay some taxes and take ownership in our country and there should be means testing for all the government programs that are supposed to benefit those who receive them.
I am a patriot, and it is not the government’s job to invest in the private sector to create jobs. It is the private sector that invests in the private sector that works. If government reduced regulations and taxes for private sector investments, job growth would soar, tax revenues to the government would increase, which was just starting to happen during the Trump administration. It is capitalism by private and free enterprise that has driven the success of the U.S.A., not socialism by our government. Just look at the failed financial results of government efforts for the U.S. postal system and Amtrak.
I could go on and on, as the author has thoughtfully done, but the real debate should be should the U.S.A. stay a capitalist country or one driven by socialism? Those that believe strongly the U.S.A. should be driven by socialism and big government spending should spend six months living in Venezuela, Cuba, Russia, or China to see what it is really like. I have spent much of my life working and living outside the U.S.A. and nothing compares to what we have in this country today. We do not need the socialistic B.B.B. The good news is B.B.B. is not going to be approved in Congress, thanks to those people in Congress who are voting with common sense.
January 3, 2022
To the Editor,
In a speech to Congress, President George Bush stated that “Our enemy is a radical network of terrorists and enemy governments that support them.” The speech was given on Sept. 20, 2001, and President Bush, of course, was referring to Al Qaeda.
He could have said the same thing on Jan. 7, 2021, in reference to the pro-Trump mob that attacked the United States Capitol in the hope of overturning the democratic election of Joe Biden and executing Vice-President Mike Pence and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. This was not a spontaneous riot, as Trump claimed. It was organized, plotted, and financed by a coterie of Trump Republican loyalists both in and out of government. In a speech prior to the attack, Trump urged these domestic terrorists (including the Oath Keepers, Proud Boys, and Nazi “militias”) to walk down to the Capitol and “stop the steal” and overthrow the election. Trump reneged on his promise to walk with them. The vicious attack left five people dead.
It is time that all Americans should realize that for the first time in our history a democratically elected president, Donald J. Trump, attempted a coup to destroy the very foundation of our nation. It is called democracy. It is of ancient Greek origin from “demos” (people) and “kratos” (rule). One can only hope that the findings of the Jan. 6 House Commission will illuminate the very clear and present danger that we now face and bring all of the criminals to justice.
Cheers and happy new year!
The Year Was 1960
January 3, 2022
Dear Mr. Rattray,
I hope you enjoyed a warm and fulfilling holiday time, surrounded by family and friends, sharing food and drink and good wishes for a bright future. That’s what the season calls for, isn’t it, no matter the storms that come our way, climatic or personal?
There was difficult news for many of us as the year closed out, and our hearts go out to all who suffered, even as we wish them good tidings in the days to come. The Covid thing that keeps stalking us, the numbing of our senses with “breaking news” — of floods, fires, tornadoes, and then, at the five-yard line, we lose John Madden! And at the one — the one-yard line! — Betty White is gone! What the hell!?
Betty White’s passing was personal to me, Mr. Rattray, for reasons neither one of us has ever spoken of. The year was 1960. I was 12, in eighth grade at St. Margaret Mary’s in Rochester, N.Y. Ms. White was 38 then, in town for a weeklong performance of “Oklahoma!,” in which she played the part of Laurey. My entire eighth grade class was taken by our teacher, Sister Monica Mary (and the school bus driver), to see the first matinee performance of the musical at the Eastman Theater. We were all enchanted by the show, which was definitely less disturbing than “The Ten Commandments” starring Charlton Heston. Of course, I was just a fifth grader when that movie came out, and much more sensitive to the Wrath of God. So “Oklahoma!” was sort of a treat. Better still, our class was invited backstage after the performance to meet with cast members and ask questions, if we had any.
I was pretty shy then, Mr. Rattray, so I kept to myself and just observed while other kids were gushing and meeting the cast. Then one of the actors, Ms. White, pointed at me and gestured that I should come over to where she was seated. I looked around awkwardly to see if she meant somebody else, but I was standing alone and she gestured again, so I walked over to the beautiful lady. “Did you enjoy the show?” she asked me.
“Yes, very much,” I answered.
“I’m Betty White,” she said, extending her hand, “and what’s your name?”
“Lyle,” I replied.
“Lyle . . . that’s an odd name, isn’t it? I don’t know any ‘Lyles’.”
“I don’t either. I don’t like it very much.”
“Well I think it’s a perfectly fine name, Lyle, and you should be proud of it! Tell me, what was your favorite thing about the performance?”
Actually, I hadn’t been paying that much attention, so I just blurted out, “Umm . . . the part where the judge says Curly is not guilty and he gets to marry you.”
“Oh, that’s nice, thank you! Well I’m going to be in Rochester for six more days with the show. Perhaps you’d like to have lunch one of those days, Lyle.” I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.
“Well, I have to be in school every day. But I guess maybe on Saturday?”
“Saturday is fine,” Ms. White said and asked it I could meet her at the Eastman Theater at 1 p.m., when she will have finished rehearsals for the evening’s performance. I agreed, happy that she wouldn’t be picking me up at our house on Thorndyke Road. I didn’t want to tell my mom and dad that I was having lunch with a lady from the show — I’d never had a date with anybody before!
On Saturday I rode my bike uptown and arrived at the theater a few minutes early. I waited outside, on the steps, and shortly after 1, Ms. White appeared. “Lyle, I see you made it! I have a car parked in the lot over there. Shall we go?”
This felt so strange, Mr. Rattray. I
didn’t know what was happening, or why it was happening; I just sort of let myself be led to whatever came next. Ms. White took my hand as we walked and a few moments later said, “There it is, that red Chevy. It was rented for me by the company.”
“Do you mind if I drive?”
“Um, no. I, uh, don’t have a license.”
“Of course. Well I’ll be our driver. Now where shall we have lunch? I’m sure you know this area better than I do.” I sort of panicked, because it’s not like I dined out a lot — I was in eighth grade!
“Well, there’s a place down by the lake called Schaller’s . . . they have great burgers and fries, and their milkshakes are the best.” It was all I could think of.
“That sounds marvelous, Lyle. Lead the way!” I suggested we go through Durand Eastman Park, which was close to the lake, and I could show Ms. White my secret brook trout stream, and Suicide Hill, where I would go sledding with my friends. She seemed to really like the tour, or maybe I just felt better, being in familiar territory. I don’t know.
At Schaller’s, we both ordered cheeseburgers and fries. She had a strawberry milkshake, and I had a root beer float — those are awesome. I think I was surprised at how much mustard she put on her burger — way more than ketchup. And she asked for extra pickles. “I love everything on my burgers, don’t you, Lyle?”
“Yea, just about. But not onions so much.” She wouldn’t let me pay for anything, or even leave a tip.
“Lunch was my idea, Lyle; you’ll get the next one, okay?”
“Um, sure.” I felt so stupid. I mean, the guy should pay, that’s the way it was! We sat in a booth for over an hour I’d say, way past when we’d finished eating and sucking the bottom of our drinks. Ms. White asked me about school and how I liked the nuns. And I asked how she got into acting, did she always know it’s what she wanted to do, that kind of thing. And then it was time to go.
“I guess we should be going. I’ll need to be back in the theater for makeup and costume before tonight’s performance.”
I nodded, “Yes, well thank you for lunch.” I picked up our paper plates, napkins, and cups and took it all to the trash barrel. Back in the red Chevy, Ms. White didn’t start the engine right away. She put her hand on my knee, which caused an unfamiliar sensation. I just stared out the windshield.
“Lyle, do you have any experience?” she asked.
“Well I have a morning paper route, and an evening paper route, and I mow lawns in summer, and shovel driveways in winter. Um . . . “
She seemed to think that was funny; she smiled, shook her head, and we drove away. I’d forgotten to mention that I also collected old newspapers and when there were enough in the garage I would load the trunk of our car, and my mother would drive to this place where they weigh your car with the papers, empty it out, weigh the car again and pay you some money. But I forgot to mention it to Ms. White.
We only saw each other once after that lunch, Mr. Rattray. Ms. White said she wanted to take me to a place called the Other Side of the Tracks, to see the Gap Mangione Trio. I was torn, because I never went out at night unless I was going to a friend’s house to play Monopoly or watch TV, but she promised it would be fun. So I had to lie to my parents. I had to! I told them I was going to Buddy Knauf’s house down the street, which I did not do. Ms. White picked me up at the corner of Thorndyke and Seneca Boulevard, and we drove to the supper club.
I’d never really listened to jazz before, but I thought it was pretty cool. Everybody was smoking cigarettes, like my parents. She ordered a white Russian, which I’d never heard of. And even though the drinking age was 18 then, I was only 12, and not that big, so I ordered a ginger ale. At her insistence we both had beef tournedos with Bernaise sauce, which was way better than Schaller’s hamburgers. I don’t want to say anything else about my time with Betty White — just that she insisted on paying for our meal, again, which was super embarrassing. Then she drove me home before midnight and we hugged in the car and she said it was nice meeting me, and wished me luck in school. I thanked her for everything and said it was nice meeting her, too. My mom was waiting up in the kitchen and asked if I’d had a good time at Buddy’s. I said yea, it was great, gave her a kiss and went up to bed.
I’ve just reread this letter, Mr. Rattray, checking for grammatical errors, and I had to hit myself in the forehead, hard. I realized that I’ve never actually met Betty White! So what the hell was I doing, writing this? And the worst part of it: My one new year’s resolution was to be more truthful! I mean, in my defense, do you think artist Scott Bluedorn ever actually saw a lighthouse growing out of the head of a giant squid? Me neither — and yet he drew a perfect likeness of just that!
Shit. Should I restart my resolution or just let it be another fail? Guess I’ll decide tomorrow. For now I’m just going to send a little prayer and warm wishes to Betty White. Would you like to have some laughing convulsions to start the new year, Mr. Rattray? Then YouTube Ms. White’s “S.N.L.” sketch with Tina Fey (who plays a Census taker). You’ll thank me later.
To Betty, and our special time together in my imagination — cheers!