By Hugh O’Brien
Well, look who’s back. Not me. The old familiar paper, though here in Saltaire you can’t buy it at the old familiar stand, or for that matter, at the old familiar store. Nonetheless, it’s nice to be back in print after last summer’s modest catastrophe and an absence in 2013 altogether. Glad to be here.
First, I’m constrained to point out that, as always, except some of the time, I’m keeping a promise I made 11 years ago in these very pages, or at least in these very pages’ predecessors. Back in ‘04 I told you that we were experiencing a summer the length of which we would not see again until distant 2015 — to wit, the earliest possible Memorial Day coupled with the latest possible Labor Day. And so it has come to pass, or will do so assuming a comet doesn’t strike in August. We kickstart the season on Friday, May 22, and wrap up with the homeward exodus on Monday, Sept. 7 — 109 days jam-packed with fun and frivolity and, for all we know, free jam at the food cart. Okay, more on that later. By contrast, last summer we had to make do with a measly 102 days, if Harry’s window countdown was correct. Anyway, point being, I kept a promise given under the especially stressful circumstances of the second Bush administration and now here you have indeed another long summer. And guess what? You won’t have to wait another 11 years for a repeat performance, no. By special arrangement with the Gregorian calendar you’ll be getting another 109-day season in just five years — 2020, a date anyone can clearly see, and just in time for the reelection of the third Bush administration. Ah, the pace of change.
Meanwhile, we have a few more rebuilt walks, including most of what those in the business call “the big one,” Broadway, now sporting a this-year-only roller coaster near the corner of Pomander, pending the construction of the new market. The marina has been rebuilt too; just watch those steps off of Bay and Lighthouse. Unquestionably, though, the most arresting sight all winter has been the piles of several hundred humongous sandbags that alternately graced first our shoreline and now the ex-site of the ex-market. From the ferry it looked like some giant tooth fairy had been depositing her night’s collections in the village, and heaven only knows how it looked from space. However, come fall, some penknives, a few bulldozers and a week or two’s work and all that sand will be spread along Broadway, furnishing a foundation for the incoming Merchandise Mart.
Fortunately, after two seasons of pedaling to where the peddling of wares still flourishes (the Fair Harbor and, if need be, Kismet markets,) once again this year you need only bike as far as the bay front in order to get … well, not dinner exactly, but maybe a bagel, some coffee, I guess the papers, a few snacks to make the long wait for the 8 o’clock boat seem bearable. Like a beacon beckoning the famished straggling into our marina, a brand-spanking pre-old food cart (a Fire Island fi rst) now squats, squeezed betwixt the Yacht Club and Security shack. Yes, no need to lament being parted from city life all weekend. Just like being on the corner of 43rd and 6th, or maybe the parking lot at the Meadowlands. I know, I know, people are making remarks, but hey, next year when it’s gone you’re really gonna miss not hearing those cries of “Next!” wafting over the waterfront.
That about brings us up to date, except we do have an election on Friday May 22, which either will be happening, or has happened by time you are reading these words. This time ‘round has a strong feel of déjà vu for vous to view. The trio of trusty trustee try-outs is Ann Connolly, Alex Chefetz and yours truly, worthy candidates all, if I may immodestly state. And leave us not forget the Honorable Chief Justice, Mr. Frank Markus, heading for an unopposed victory for a third term despite a heavy-spending smear campaign launched agin ‘im by the legions of gangsters, crooks, felons, thieves, rumrunners, perverts and open container violators who have so often felt the thud of his gavel as he mercilessly dispensed his own rough brand of frontier justice lo these past eight years … the Constitution, as he once famously ex- claimed at an unofficial midnight sentencing, be darned. Well, it actually wasn’t that rough a frontier. Anyway, we seem to have a record number of voters registered, so please vote. The new management has promised at least nine issues this year, so plenty of time to relate all the news that’s about to be fitted into print, but before we move forward we have to take a fine look back at the many folks we’ve lost these last couple of years. Of course, we had no paper in which to inscribe our friends’ names in 2013, and had only a sketchy outlet in 2014, so all the more reason to recall those who made life here in Saltaire so enjoyable, occasionally even memorable, for so many years. Space limitations preclude most personal commentary at this time, for which I’m sorry, but I think most of you can fill in the blanks for those who meant so much to you, too.
Since the fall of 2013 we’ve suffered the losses of Dorothy Zizes, Jodi Merchant, Bruce Kahler, David Baldwin, Margaret Elkind Van Gelder, Arthur Ortenberg, Joel Carr, Helen Weinlandt, Pat Corrigan, Mary E. Correa, Peggy Cunningham, Michael Brown, David Jordan, Mike Keegan, Daniel Mindich, Dick Low, Jane Boutwell, Isabel Mount, Randie Malinsky, Kyle Pablo, Will Bennett, Herb Abramowitz, and Dan Holman.
A long list and I do have to add a few observations. Look at these names: besides being people of grace, wisdom and character, they include a former mayor who gave his all for this community; a quiet public-spirited
man of great wealth and greater generosity; a man of immense talents who gave others their chance to shine; a brave and brilliant young man who coped successfully with a lifetime of adversity that would have discouraged less brave souls; a woman of distinction, not least being the longest-lived Saltairian; and so many who were just plain sweet and fun and kind. There are younger friends tragically taken from us too soon. And most heartbreakingly, there’s one in particular whose tormented soul he concealed behind a facade of good cheer, a boundless desire to help others and a seeming mastery of everything he undertook … yet somehow what would have been fulfilling to many wasn’t quite enough for this gentle and extraordinary guy. Oh, Will …
Email Hugh with your Saltaire news at firstname.lastname@example.org.