Recent Stories: Columnists

Jack Graves
May 24, 2018
At the end of a scary article about freelance genetic engineering, raising the possibility that someone might one day not all that far in the future release a killer virus that would wipe out a lot of us, Lawrence O. Gostin, an adviser on pandemic influenza preparedness for the World Health Organization, said, “There are really only two things that could wipe 30 million people off of the planet: a nuclear weapon, or a biological one.”

At the end of a scary article about freelance genetic engineering, raising the possibility that someone might one day not all that far in the future release a killer virus that would wipe out a lot of us, Lawrence O. Gostin, an adviser on pandemic influenza preparedness for the World Health Organization, said, “There are really only two things that could wipe 30 million people off of the planet: a nuclear weapon, or a biological one.”

“There’s a third,” I said as Mary was recounting what Mr. Gostin had said. “Don’t forget asteroids and comets.”

At least if Neil DeGrasse Tyson, whom I’ve been reading lately (and with no little trepidation), is to be believed. 

Jamie Bufalino
May 24, 2018
My plan was to watch the royal wedding from an ironic distance. I got out of bed at 4 a.m., I left my cowlick-afflicted hair uncombed to create the illusion that I had donned a sort of cut-rate fascinator, I adjusted my Twitter feed to receive the snark aimed at the event, and then I turned on the television.

My plan was to watch the royal wedding from an ironic distance. I got out of bed at 4 a.m., I left my cowlick-afflicted hair uncombed to create the illusion that I had donned a sort of cut-rate fascinator, I adjusted my Twitter feed to receive the snark aimed at the event, and then I turned on the television. 

Since I was looking to remain unengaged intellectually, I tuned in first to the coverage from the American networks. CBS had a countdown clock to the ceremony, a CNN camera zoomed in on a dog wearing a Union Jack bandanna, and NBC had an expert weigh in on whether Prince Harry would tie the knot bearded or clean-shaven. (Note: The expert was wrong, the prince kept the scruff.)

David E. Rattray
May 24, 2018
First, Second, and Third House in Montauk were so named, one would think, to commemorate the order in which they were built. This is not so. Nor is Gin Beach called that in connection with Prohibition, as is often assumed. In fact, their origins go back to the early 18th century and have everything to do with cattle and sheep, and nothing to do with construction sequences or illicit liquor.

First, Second, and Third House in Montauk were so named, one would think, to commemorate the order in which they were built. This is not so. Nor is Gin Beach called that in connection with Prohibition, as is often assumed. In fact, their origins go back to the early 18th century and have everything to do with cattle and sheep, and nothing to do with construction sequences or illicit liquor.

Helen S. Rattray
May 16, 2018
For as long as email has been an everyday occupation, I have been in the habit of trying to rid myself of unwanted electronic communications by labeling incoming junk as “junk,” and vaguely sort of expecting and hoping that my laptop email program would eventually catch my drift and start recognizing and blocking the senders.

For as long as email has been an everyday occupation, I have been in the habit of trying to rid myself of unwanted electronic communications by labeling incoming junk as “junk,” and vaguely sort of expecting and hoping that my laptop email program would eventually catch my drift and start recognizing and blocking the senders. I thought I was exercising the patience of Job as I waited for the email program to learn to do this. Somehow, the computer never did catch on, but I’ve been doing this for, oh, maybe 20 years now. Don’t laugh.

Jack Graves
May 16, 2018
‘If I ever get arrested,” I said to Tom McMorrow, who was about to leave us for The Independent, “please say, ‘A 78-year-old man from Springs. . . .’ ”

‘If I ever get arrested,” I said to Tom McMorrow, who was about to leave us for The Independent, “please say, ‘A 78-year-old man from Springs. . . .’ ”

“Or, better yet,” I added, “ ‘A 78-year-old man from The Springs.’ That might cast me in a better light.”

As Henry Haney once said, “It’s all how you look at it.”

Judy D’Mello
May 16, 2018
In 1867, something called the Department of Education was formed in the United States, establishing the notion that providing children with an education is a universally good idea. But in the century and a half since then, it seems we’ve managed to take the 15 years of children’s lives that should be the most fun, carefree, inquisitive, and experimental and turn them into a period filled with stress and a neurotic sense of failure.

In 1867, something called the Department of Education was formed in the United States, establishing the notion that providing children with an education is a universally good idea. But in the century and a half since then, it seems we’ve managed to take the 15 years of children’s lives that should be the most fun, carefree, inquisitive, and experimental and turn them into a period filled with stress and a neurotic sense of failure.

David E. Rattray
May 16, 2018
Suddenly, this became dandelion spring. Their pale yellow heads rose one day in numbers like I had never noticed before.

Suddenly, this became dandelion spring. Their pale yellow heads rose one day in numbers like I had never noticed before. Arrayed over the grass on Mill Hill, they appear as stars. They sparkle between the rows at the Wolffer vineyard on Sagg Road. Outside my office window a line of them straggles across the library’s front lawn.

In warmer places, many already have gone to seed. White tufts wait for the wind as younger siblings begin to spread their petals below. 

Helen S. Rattray
May 10, 2018
For as long as I can remember, I’ve had a psychological need to set the household to rights before doing much of anything else in the morning. First I potter around the bedroom, putting a book left willy-nilly on the bedside table back in its place or picking up socks I tossed about at bedtime.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve had a psychological need to set the household to rights before doing much of anything else in the morning. First I potter around the bedroom, putting a book left willy-nilly on the bedside table back in its place or picking up socks I tossed about at bedtime. Next comes the kitchen, tidying away spices neglected after dinner or pots and pans scrubbed and left to dry. I think I am a morning potterer because I always pre-emptively imagine what the house will look like should company drop by, even if no one is expected but family.

Jack Graves
May 10, 2018
This would be the time of year I’d rub neat’s-foot oil into my mitt, inhale the heady smell, and put in a ball and fasten it with a stiff rubber band.

This would be the time of year I’d rub neat’s-foot oil into my mitt, inhale the heady smell, and put in a ball and fasten it with a stiff rubber band.

The mitt now is, as I am, shriveled and stiff, and while there’s little left to crow about, I still sing in the spring.

What’s not to like? Well, the catkins for one, and the pollen for two, and the ticks, but, all things considered, it’s nice to be carried along by the urgency of the season.

Taylor K. Vecsey
May 10, 2018
Now that I’m back traveling the South Fork daily, I’ve come to one very simple realization: The cellphone service out here is really not so great.

Now that I’m back traveling the South Fork daily, I’ve come to one very simple realization: The cellphone service out here is really not so great.

I don’t mean to return and immediately start complaining — those who know me best, please refrain from a snarky laugh. I am really quite happy to be back at The East Hampton Star, which has become my home away from home in my affiliation with the paper, which dates back 17 years. I missed East Hampton, the people, the ocean, and so much more. 

David E. Rattray
May 10, 2018
After a persistently cold winter, the shadbush has at last bloomed. Cloudlike sprays of white flowers are rising briefly here and there on Napeague like fireworks and fading away as quickly, as their gentle petals drop and green leaves unfurl where the sparks had just been.

After a persistently cold winter, the shadbush has at last bloomed. Cloudlike sprays of white flowers are rising briefly here and there on Napeague like fireworks and fading away as quickly, as their gentle petals drop and green leaves unfurl where the sparks had just been.

Spring does not linger on the edge of Gardiner’s Bay. Trees slumber for months, and then get on with their business. There is pollen to release. Fruit must be set. By the Fourth of July, the shadbush’s small, hard green berries will hide among the greenery.

Helen S. Rattray
May 3, 2018
For the better part of the school year, when I was in seventh grade, I went to my Great Aunt Elizabeth’s house for lunch. Uncle Chiel, a formidable presence, had lunch at the same time, and I would watch with shock and awe as he devoured an assortment of strange meats and offals like calves brains. I always was served scrambled eggs and white-bread toast with grape jelly.

For the better part of the school year, when I was in seventh grade, I went to my Great Aunt Elizabeth’s house for lunch. Uncle Chiel, a formidable presence, had lunch at the same time, and I would watch with shock and awe as he devoured an assortment of strange meats and offals like calves brains. I always was served scrambled eggs and white-bread toast with grape jelly.

My aunt, my maternal grandfather’s sister, was a simple woman with a calm demeanor and severely pulled-back black hair. Her English name may have been an inapt translation of Laika, the name we called her. (I just Googled “Laika” and learned that it was the name of a Soviet space dog who was the first animal to orbit the Earth. Oh, well, I loved my Tante Laika.)

Jack Graves
May 3, 2018
Spring began for me over the weekend of April 21 and 22. The weather was the best it’s been in six months, it seemed, and athletic things, all of a sudden, abounded — the Katy’s Courage 5K in Sag Harbor, baseball, youth lacrosse, and youth soccer games at East Hampton High School, and, at the Pantigo fields, Little League’s opening ceremonies — all in one day.

Spring began for me over the weekend of April 21 and 22. The weather was the best it’s been in six months, it seemed, and athletic things, all of a sudden, abounded — the Katy’s Courage 5K in Sag Harbor, baseball, youth lacrosse, and youth soccer games at East Hampton High School, and, at the Pantigo fields, Little League’s opening ceremonies — all in one day.

Mary and I and O’en, our white golden, walked the 5K, though we cheated, cutting off a bothersome half-mile spur along Glover Street, where Andy Neidnig used to live, on our way to the finish line. 

I confessed to Jim Stewart, who took it in stride.

Carissa Katz
May 3, 2018
As the season changes from the calm quiet of winter to the raucous bustle of spring, the nature preserve where I live is teeming with new life.

As the season changes from the calm quiet of winter to the raucous bustle of spring, the nature preserve where I live is teeming with new life. 

Bluebirds and tree swallows are moving into the nest boxes spread around the meadows of Mashomack. Everywhere robins pull worms from the earth. Shockingly red cardinals flaunt their fresh feathers, bright scarlet with new growth. Two weeks ago, a flutter of royal blue and teal caught my eye on the morning drive. At least half a dozen richly colored little birds were flitting from ground to branch — indigo buntings, my first-ever sighting. 

David E. Rattray
May 3, 2018
Surfing out at Montauk Point last week, I was startled when a seal, make that a really, really big seal, popped its bulbous head out of the water just a few feet from where I sat straddling my board. It was a chilly, windy day, with few birds around and even fewer other surfers. I felt alone, and, had the seal been amorous or angry, there was little around other than me for it to take out its urges upon.

Surfing out at Montauk Point last week, I was startled when a seal, make that a really, really big seal, popped its bulbous head out of the water just a few feet from where I sat straddling my board. It was a chilly, windy day, with few birds around and even fewer other surfers. I felt alone, and, had the seal been amorous or angry, there was little around other than me for it to take out its urges upon.

Helen S. Rattray
April 26, 2018
Two small daffodils forced themselves out in the greensward between the sidewalk and a picket fence in front of an old East Hampton house on Main Street about a week ago, and I admire them as I pass by.

Two small daffodils forced themselves out in the greensward between the sidewalk and a picket fence in front of an old East Hampton house on Main Street about a week ago, and I admire them as I pass by. 

The house never seems occupied, and the daffodils have come by chance, which makes me realize that I admire come-by-chance, ostensibly tough blooms more than cultivated ones, scattered or in bunches. I admit to being pleased that there are several kinds of narcissi now in bloom in my yard, and enough to cut and bring indoors. But I enjoy those that have popped up here and there without help (except perhaps from the weather) even more, including some on the lane in front of the house.

Jack Graves
April 26, 2018
“I dreamt I’d won a Peace prize. . . .” “No, no, that was my Peace prize,” corrected Mary, who recently had spent hours straightening out one of my bill-paying gaffes with State Farm, had painstakingly laid the groundwork for a tax grievance, and had raked leaves and edged until she was a physical wreck.

“I dreamt I’d won a Peace prize. . . .” “No, no, that was my Peace prize,” corrected Mary, who recently had spent hours straightening out one of my bill-paying gaffes with State Farm, had painstakingly laid the groundwork for a tax grievance, and had raked leaves and edged until she was a physical wreck.

“Ah, mind and body,” I said. “Actually, you were the one who gave it to me, though you’re right, I should have been the one to give it to you. Dreamlife’s unfair. It was a photograph of my mother with me as an infant . . . blissful.”

“I would like to have a dream like that. . . .”

David E. Rattray
April 26, 2018
On the way to school on Tuesday morning, one of the kids announced that she and a classmate had a plan if a shooter ever turned up.

On the way to school on Tuesday morning, one of the kids announced that she and a classmate had a plan if a shooter ever turned up. They would stash some food and water in a tree in the woods behind the school, which they would grab as they fled for the power lines. From there, they would work their way toward East Hampton Airport, where, they figured, they would be safe.

It is obvious to remark here about the unfortunate things kids today have to think about. Gun violence continues at a tragic rate in the United States, with school shootings now commonplace. But it is also true that for people of my generation, there were fears as well. 

Helen S. Rattray
April 19, 2018
What would you do if you unexpectedly found yourself with two hours to kill on a Sunday morning in Manhattan? It didn’t seem civilized to call a friend, before 9 on a Sunday, with my old “flip phone” to ask if I could drop in. Art galleries were not likely to be open yet, and it was too early to go to a movie.

What would you do if you unexpectedly found yourself with two hours to kill on a Sunday morning in Manhattan? It didn’t seem civilized to call a friend, before 9 on a Sunday, with my old “flip phone” to ask if I could drop in. Art galleries were not likely to be open yet, and it was too early to go to a movie.

Chris and I had gone to a party on Saturday night celebrating a book of poetry by his sister Thayer Cory, and a friend had put us up for the night. On Sunday morning, Chris, who is on a committee that chooses the recipients of social-justice journalism awards, bustled off to one of its meetings. It came to pass that I missed the 10:15 a.m. Hampton Jitney, by a minute or two, and the next bus wouldn’t take off for two hours. 

Jack Graves
April 19, 2018
I felt a bit self-righteous — well, a lot self-righteous — the other night when I heard a woman say on the “NewsHour” that Facebook was nothing more than “a surveillance machine.”

I felt a bit self-righteous — well, a lot self-righteous — the other night when I heard a woman say on the “NewsHour” that Facebook was nothing more than “a surveillance machine.”

Mary’s been off Facebook for the past several years too, though, of course, it’s nice to see photos of the grandchildren. Something there is that doesn’t like the internet. It was supposed to bring us together, and yet it has driven us apart — meanspiritedness (often anonymous) and sleaze far outweighing sane social intercourse. 

David E. Rattray
April 19, 2018
Tuesday morning awoke with a snarl. Two raccoons had gotten into the chicken run and were squabbling over something or other, making an indescribable clamor, kind of a blend of exercised chatter, hisses, and a predator’s growl. That roused the dogs, which roused me, and together we ran out to see what was going on.

Tuesday morning awoke with a snarl. Two raccoons had gotten into the chicken run and were squabbling over something or other, making an indescribable clamor, kind of a blend of exercised chatter, hisses, and a predator’s growl. That roused the dogs, which roused me, and together we ran out to see what was going on.

As it was not quite 5 a.m., and there was only a hint of glow in the sky to the east, I could not observe what happened. I heard Weasel, the biggest of our dogs, making attack sounds and a raccoon screeching its answer. Then nothing.

Helen S. Rattray
April 11, 2018
For four days last week I was immersed in beautiful music with the Choral Society of the Hamptons. At concerts held at the East Hampton Presbyterian Church and the Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Manhattan, we were privileged to take part in a rare and rousing work — Rossini’s “Petite Messe Solennelle” — alongside virtuoso soloists, a visiting choral director, and gifted musicians at the piano and organ. It was an extraordinary experience.

For four days last week I was immersed in beautiful music with the Choral Society of the Hamptons. At concerts held at the East Hampton Presbyterian Church and the Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Manhattan, we were privileged to take part in a rare and rousing work — Rossini’s “Petite Messe Solennelle” — alongside virtuoso soloists, a visiting choral director, and gifted musicians at the piano and organ. It was an extraordinary experience.

Jack Graves
April 11, 2018
Walk-off home runs, leadoff grand slams, great pitching, Elroy Face throwing out the first forkball of the season. . . . Is there to be no respite from excellence?

Walk-off home runs, leadoff grand slams, great pitching, Elroy Face throwing out the first forkball of the season. . . . Is there to be no respite from excellence? 

The Steelers, the Penguins, and now, at long last, the Pirates too? Hold, hold my heart. 

Oh, and by the way, not to belabor the point, which I will, but did you notice recently that Jesse James’s nullified touchdown reception versus the Patriots would have counted had the N.F.L.’s recently revised catch rules been in place? He broke the plane, yet we were in pain.

Yeah, yeah, a fellow fan said, but what about the Jaguars? 

“Ah yes, the Jaguars. . . . What about them?” I said, not waiting for an answer.

David E. Rattray
April 11, 2018
It had not been hard to gather up the thin strips that remained of the receipt, despite the fact that the garbage from the two bags had been strewn by sea gulls across the beach access.

From a torn receipt that my son, Ellis, pieced together, whoever left two black plastic bags of garbage on the ground next to some trash bins near the ocean beach in downtown Montauk had paid for dinner the night before at Gurney’s Resort. The bill, for just over $200, was for a party of four that ordered cod, halibut, chicken, and tagliatelle, washing it down presumably with water, as there was only a single club soda on the tab.