Recent Stories: Columnists

Jack Graves
October 19, 2017
So (cough, cough) we are encouraging more burning of coal, while China, they say, is about to take the lead in the manufacture of electric cars.

So (cough, cough) we are encouraging more burning of coal, while China, they say, is about to take the lead in the manufacture of electric cars. 

What’s wrong with this picture; haven’t we always been the presumptive leader of the world — the can-do society, no challenge too great, all for one and one for all, leading the charge into the future? 

Can’t imagine an end to America’s hegemony? History can. It’s always been about ebb and flow. Often nations conspire against themselves, as we seem to be doing. Yes, we are, in certain respects, free, all well and good, but of what value is this freedom if through it we come apart at the seams, if our vaunted freedom leads to fissures rather than to a shared purpose?

David E. Rattray
October 19, 2017
There was no reason to doubt the caller, even though he would give only his first name. I had heard a story second-hand on Tuesday that a whale had become tangled in a gill net off the Atlantic Avenue Beach in Amagansett and hoped to get someone on the record who had seen what happened.

There was no reason to doubt the caller, even though he would give only his first name. I had heard a story second-hand on Tuesday that a whale had become tangled in a gill net off the Atlantic Avenue Beach in Amagansett and hoped to get someone on the record who had seen what happened. 

Instead, the eyewitness phoned and told me the story, saying he did not want to be identified in the paper but that I could go to the beach and see for myself. The whales were still there, he said, coming up every couple of minutes to breathe. 

Helen S. Rattray
October 12, 2017
You may have been pleasantly surprised, as I was, on Friday when the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons. Doing so in effect recognized its 468 member organizations in 101 countries around the world.

You may have been pleasantly surprised, as I was, on Friday when the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons. Doing so in effect recognized its 468 member organizations in 101 countries around the world. 

However, no one I know was in the mood for celebration at the time, given that President Trump had just said the United States would “totally destroy” North Korea and Kim Jong-un, its supreme leader, had responded by saying he would “definitely tame the mentally deranged U.S. dotard with fire.”

You might say that peace advocates and the leaders of these two countries are on opposite sides of a seesaw. Does the future depend on who weighs more?

Jack Graves
October 12, 2017
They say that half of life (maybe more than half) is showing up. Well, I have been showing up, but the teams I’ve expected to cover have not.

They say that half of life (maybe more than half) is showing up. Well, I have been showing up, but the teams I’ve expected to cover have not.

On a recent Saturday, I went to what I thought would be a rugby game at Herrick Park only to find the field empty, not even lined. “What’s become of the rugby club?” I said later in a message left with my usual source’s machine. No answer. Perhaps he’s away. 

It was the second time this season I’ve gone to Herrick expecting to see a game only to find no one there. 

Carissa Katz
October 12, 2017
As of two months ago, I live on an island on an island off an island. Deep in the Mashomack Preserve, our house is separated from the rest of Shelter Island by a two-and-a-half-mile driveway, making it one of the most remote spots you could live in these parts. The quiet is quieter than anything I’m used to, the nights darker, the sunrises and sunsets more remarkable.

As of two months ago, I live on an island on an island off an island. Deep in the Mashomack Preserve, our house is separated from the rest of Shelter Island by a two-and-a-half-mile driveway, making it one of the most remote spots you could live in these parts. The quiet is quieter than anything I’m used to, the nights darker, the sunrises and sunsets more remarkable.

David E. Rattray
October 12, 2017
I popped Facebook open this morning and was surprised to see a video advertisement featuring Jeff Bragman, who is running for a place on the East Hampton Town Board.

I popped Facebook open this morning and was surprised to see a video advertisement featuring Jeff Bragman, who is running for a place on the East Hampton Town Board. With the sound off, it did not make all that much of an impression, but it registered, which is probably the point. Jeff looked relaxed and confident in his blue button-down shirt as he walked in a wooded setting, presumably somewhere in town.

Scrolling down, I saw a photo of Rick Drew, an East Hampton Town trustee seeking re-election, holding a huge striped bass he had just caught from a paddleboard off Ditch Plain. In the text accompanying the image, Rick made a pitch for why he wanted to stay on as trustee. Definitely no Russian hackers involved here.

Helen S. Rattray
October 5, 2017
Forty-eight curious people went to Block Island on Monday to learn about Deep­water Wind’s turbine installation there. Hearing about this expedition, and learning that the group also had gotten to tour the island and stand on the bluffs high above the site where the electricity comes ashore in a cable, I was, I admit, rather jealous. And it made me wax nostalgic.

Forty-eight curious people went to Block Island on Monday to learn about Deep­water Wind’s turbine installation there. Hearing about this expedition, and learning that the group also had gotten to tour the island and stand on the bluffs high above the site where the electricity comes ashore in a cable, I was, I admit, rather jealous. And it made me wax nostalgic.

I haven’t been to Block Island in a relatively long time, but I think it is fair to still call it idyllic. In the days when we did a lot of sailing, we anchored in its safe harbor in good weather and bad (and once, after a prediction of possible hurricane-force winds, deciding not to risk continuing home after a cruise).

Jack Graves
October 5, 2017
I read that Francis Bellamy, the Baptist minister, and socialist, who wrote the Pledge of Allegiance, which first was recited in 1892, had wanted it to read “. . . one nation, indivisible, with equality and fraternity for all” before thinking better of it, given the weight of anti-woman and anti-black sentiment at the time.

I read that Francis Bellamy, the Baptist minister, and socialist, who wrote the Pledge of Allegiance, which first was recited in 1892, had wanted it to read “. . . one nation, indivisible, with equality and fraternity for all” before thinking better of it, given the weight of anti-woman and anti-black sentiment at the time. 

Thus “one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

“Under God” was added in 1954.

David E. Rattray
October 5, 2017
At the end of the season in 1909, Frank B. Wiborg had a $261 balance due to Strong Bros. Livery Stable. This I learned from a tattered, cloth-covered ledger that was in the office attic.

At the end of the season in 1909, Frank B. Wiborg had a $261 balance due to Strong Bros. Livery Stable. This I learned from a tattered, cloth-covered ledger that was in the office attic.

There are any number of old records like this around The Star. My grandmother Jeannette Rattray was a local historian, having prepared what stands for East Hampton’s only official genealogy. Knowing this, people with ancient documents stopped by from time to time to see if she wanted them. From the quantity of material she left when she died in 1974, it is safe to say she wanted it all.

Helen S. Rattray
September 28, 2017
A longtime reader of The Star has given me a copy of pages from an 1839 diary kept by a Long Island woman named Maria Willets, which describes a seven-and-a-half-day tour she and her husband, Stephen Willets, took in August that year, more than 175 years ago, from Westbury to Montauk and back.

A longtime reader of The Star has given me a copy of pages from an 1839 diary kept by a Long Island woman named Maria Willets, which describes a seven-and-a-half-day tour she and her husband, Stephen Willets, took in August that year, more than 175 years ago, from Westbury to Montauk and back. 

The typewritten transcript of the diary (I would love to see the original) uses correct English spelling, although the place names are largely archaic. Maria draws vivid pictures of the appearances of landscapes and villages, but doesn’t record much about the people with whom they take tea, dine, or find accommodations. East Hampton, for example, is simply a “pleasant village.”

Jack Graves
September 28, 2017
“Don’t play it again, ’Nam,” I said to Mary as we agreed we weren’t up to watching what I’m sure is a very well done, years in the making Ken Burns documentary on the Vietnam War.

“Don’t play it again, ’Nam,” I said to Mary as we agreed we weren’t up to watching what I’m sure is a very well done, years in the making Ken Burns documentary on the Vietnam War.

The lessons should have long ago been learned, though, admittedly, they probably need learning again, the most important being not to act rashly lest you (and many others) get burned. 

David E. Rattray
September 28, 2017
A group of us were on the beach Sunday night watching the sunset over the hills across the bay as a sound like thunder rolled across the water. Because it was not quite dark, our assumption was that it could not be fireworks, and no distant sparks could be seen on the horizon, and some among our group of picnickers assumed the end was nigh.

A group of us were on the beach Sunday night watching the sunset over the hills across the bay as a sound like thunder rolled across the water. Because it was not quite dark, our assumption was that it could not be fireworks, and no distant sparks could be seen on the horizon, and some among our group of picnickers assumed the end was nigh.

I am only half-kidding. Though I declared that it was likely the rumbling had come from a festival finale in Greenport, someone pulled out a cellphone to check if the North Koreans had attacked Connecticut.

Helen S. Rattray
September 21, 2017
Because Helen Harrison is an expert on 20th-century Ame­rican art and has written about it, her latest book should not have come as a surprise. On the other hand, what would your reaction have been upon first encountering her first work of fiction, a paperback novel called “An Exquisite Corpse,” with a cover drawing of a figure wearing a dark mask with a chicken foot on one leg, a boot on one hand, and an umbrella in the other? Surprise!

Because Helen Harrison is an expert on 20th-century Ame­rican art and has written about it, her latest book should not have come as a surprise. On the other hand, what would your reaction have been upon first encountering her first work of fiction, a paperback novel called “An Exquisite Corpse,” with a cover drawing of a figure wearing a dark mask with a chicken foot on one leg, a boot on one hand, and an umbrella in the other? Surprise! 

Jack Graves
September 21, 2017
So there we were in Pittsburgh, my eldest daughter and I, and she said why not go by the old house I had told her my mother and I had lived in, when I was 10 and she was 34, beginning again after a painfully sad divorce.

So there we were in Pittsburgh, my eldest daughter and I, and she said why not go by the old house I had told her my mother and I had lived in, when I was 10 and she was 34, beginning again after a painfully sad divorce.

Three families lived in that house, at 5649 Northumberland, in 1950, the Bonavoglios upstairs, the Busicks downstairs — I think he was the super — and my mother and I in the middle, at the head of an impressive staircase, my bedroom on the landing side of some Japanese screens behind which my mother took refuge. 

Isabel Carmichael
September 21, 2017
I think of the 24 years since I moved full time to the South Fork as a coming home of sorts . . . the first one in 1993, the second one more recent.

I think of the 24 years since I moved full time to the South Fork as a coming home of sorts . . . the first one in 1993, the second one more recent.

Until I was 4½ I had lived in Paris, mainly with my mother and brother and various family friends. Then we came to New York and lived with my father above the most wonderful French bakery on Madison Avenue and 86th Street. My brother, David, and I enjoyed dropping water balloons on the heads of passers-by. I went to P.S. 6 for a year and hated it. My mother took David to the sculpture classes for children at the Museum of Modern Art. He produced amazing sculptures in clay. 

David E. Rattray
September 21, 2017
A week ago Sunday at Accabonac Harbor for a picnic, I announced to a friend that I was going to set off to search the shoreline for Native American stone tools. I had gotten excited about the prospect looking at images from the Montauk Indian Museum of arrowheads and other things picked up on the beach here and there. “I’ll be back shortly,” I said.

A week ago Sunday at Accabonac Harbor for a picnic, I announced to a friend that I was going to set off to search the shoreline for Native American stone tools. I had gotten excited about the prospect looking at images from the Montauk Indian Museum of arrowheads and other things picked up on the beach here and there. “I’ll be back shortly,” I said.

Seven minutes later, by my friend’s estimation, I was back, a white-quartz triangular tool about the size of a half-dollar in hand. I was pleased, but puzzled. It was an astonishingly beautiful thing, but was it legal for me to have picked it up?

Helen S. Rattray
September 14, 2017
East Hamptoners, both full and part time, are in a heightened political frame of mind these days, which doesn’t seem to be quite so true in Southampton. This may be due to the Democratic primary that took place on Tuesday, while there was none next door.

East Hamptoners, both full and part time, are in a heightened political frame of mind these days, which doesn’t seem to be quite so true in Southampton. This may be due to the Democratic primary that took place on Tuesday, while there was none next door. 

Evidence of passionate political concern can be found in the marches held here in protest of  various actions of the Trump administration. It also can be found among the rank-and-file Democrats in a group known as East Hampton Resist and Replace. 

Jack Graves
September 14, 2017
“What is truth,” Lisa’s father asked me at East magazine’s party at the Golden Eagle the other day.

“What is truth,” Lisa’s father asked me at East magazine’s party at the Golden Eagle the other day.

“Beauty,” I said.

“And?”

“Ugliness too. Truth’s beauty and ugliness, I’m afraid.”

“And what is the ugliest thing that you can think of?”

“At this moment? Trump?”

“That’s it!”

I had passed the test. We spoke after that of our fathers and lamented wars and tyranny and dark, ego-enslaved psyches from which, it appears, little in the way of enlightenment can come.

Taylor K. Vecsey
September 14, 2017
We all have those special places. Places we go for respite or rejuvenation, where we relax and unwind. Places where we seek refuge from a storm. St. Thomas is that for me, but last week a storm found the island and wreaked havoc.

We all have those special places. Places we go for respite or rejuvenation, where we relax and unwind. Places where we seek refuge from a storm. St. Thomas is that for me, but last week a storm found the island and wreaked havoc. 

Hurricane Irma unleashed its wrath on several islands in the Caribbean. While it did not level St. Thomas as badly as St. Martin/St. Maarten, Barbuda, or perhaps even St. John, it is in shambles.

The American news media was slow to report how widespread the damage was in the U.S. Virgin Islands, perhaps forgetting it is a U.S. territory whose residents pay taxes and deserve federal aid. The Weather Channel played the same clip on rotation of palm trees bending in 185-mile-per-hour winds. 

David E. Rattray
September 14, 2017
That’s just what it costs, or so I was told when I got through venting to someone on the Star staff this week about a plumber’s bill that I thought was highway robbery. I’d identify the plumber, but, if what the office wisdom says is true is, in fact, true, everyone is doing it.

That’s just what it costs, or so I was told when I got through venting to someone on the Star staff this week about a plumber’s bill that I thought was highway robbery. I’d identify the plumber, but, if what the office wisdom says is true is, in fact, true, everyone is doing it.

People complain a lot about the price of gas on the South Fork. State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. even sends out reports on a regular at-the-pump survey, which indeed indicate folks here are paying a Hamptons premium. By the numbers, however, the real banditry, at least in percentage terms, lies elsewhere.

Helen S. Rattray
September 7, 2017
It’s the day after Labor Day, perfect for tallying up what was best and what will be most missed about summer. That’s certainly true for me, because I went around saying this summer wasn’t anything much, at least for me. But the night of Labor Day changed all that. This was the summer of grandchildren — and that’s where happiness lies.

It’s the day after Labor Day, perfect for tallying up what was best and what will be most missed about summer. That’s certainly true for me, because I went around saying this summer wasn’t anything much, at least for me. But the night of Labor Day changed all that. This was the summer of grandchildren — and that’s where happiness lies.

It’s fair to say, without remorse, that three of my grandchildren have more or less aged out of everyday activities with grandma. But I was lucky enough to spend goodly lengths of happy times with four of them, who were often at my house this summer, and that deserves a big hooray. It wasn’t any particular thing we did together that brought the smiles but simply watching and listening.  

Jack Graves
September 7, 2017
Reading about the lawsuit former East Hampton Village Police Chief Jerry Larsen has brought against Mayor Paul Rickenbach, a village force retiree, and Richard Lawler, a village board member, I kept saying to myself, “Wait a minute — none of these guys ought to have been doing these things to begin with.”

Reading about the lawsuit former East Hampton Village Police Chief Jerry Larsen has brought against Mayor Paul Rickenbach, a village force retiree, and Richard Lawler, a village board member, I kept saying to myself, “Wait a minute — none of these guys ought to have been doing these things to begin with.”

You want to bang nails, mow lawns, shovel driveways, clean chimneys, or take care of pools, fine, but policemen (or elected officials) providing security, parking cars (or booting them), and roping off sections of the public beach so that well-heeled riparian owners and their guests won’t be discomfited by strollers along the public strand, that’s another.

Joanne Pilgrim
September 7, 2017
Lots of people went to Southampton over Labor Day weekend to do lots of things, but I went to cross over from “the Hamptons” into the Shinnecock Nation, which was hosting peoples of many tribes, and all kinds of visitors, for its annual powwow.

Lots of people went to Southampton over Labor Day weekend to do lots of things, but I went to cross over from “the Hamptons” into the Shinnecock Nation, which was hosting peoples of many tribes, and all kinds of visitors, for its annual powwow. 

It smelled of woodsmoke and sage. Walking slowly around the grounds, the sound of anklebone jingle bells swelled and faded as dancers behind me approached and passed. The vendors sold Shinnecock clams, Wampanoan frybread, Aztec tacos, and Mexican-style corn, mixing and matching cultures.

My heart set to the drumbeats, as it always does, the moment I arrived. 

David E. Rattray
September 7, 2017
Among the mountain of depressing news surrounding President Trump’s decision to end the program that protected from deportation some 800,000 young people brought illegally as children to this country was the observation in The New York Times that when Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals began, some immigrant advocates and lawyers warned against participation.

Among the mountain of depressing news surrounding President Trump’s decision to end the program that protected from deportation some 800,000 young people brought illegally as children to this country was the observation in The New York Times that when Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals began, some immigrant advocates and lawyers warned against participation.

Registration was key to DACA. Applicants had to provide details about who they were, when they arrived in the United States, and where they lived in order to sign up. They were told their information would be secure and never used to start deportation proceedings. That was not good enough for some advocates, who cautioned that the government could not be trusted to honor that pledge.