Let’s hear it for longevity. I’ve been at The Star for more than 50 years. Yikes. At least I haven’t been at the same desk or even in the same room in the building all these years. And, of course, we work differently now.
In the old days stories were typed on yellow paper rolled into manual typewriters, and we edited with pencils, although they weren’t necessarily blue. We cut and pasted, and it meant exactly that. Blades were involved. I probably cut and pasted more than others, because I’ve always been the sort of editor that juggles thoughts — paragraphs, quotes.
(Although they aren’t needed any longer during the paste-up process, I still keep handy the Hoffritz scissors I bought in the 1960s at White’s Pharmacy in East Hampton, and worry when they go missing. No one misses rubber cement, which we all gave up a long time ago.)
Longevity was in the air when Larry Cantwell, who will be elected supervisor of East Hampton Town on Tuesday, dropped in last week — even though he is running unopposed — to talk about his vision for the town. A handful of staff members were sitting in an informal semicircle when he looked in my direction and laughed softly, almost to himself.
“It’s a Yogi Berra thing,” he said.
I didn’t know what he was referring to, exactly, but I knew just what he meant: We have both been there and done that before. What came to Larry’s mind, he told me later, was one of Yogi’s tortured statements that has become part of the American lexicon: “It’s deju vu all over again.”
Although Larry’s career and mine have followed different paths, parallel rather than intersecting, we both could certainly be considered veterans. I’m still toiling away in the name of independent journalism while Larry, who was elected an East Hampton bay constable in 1975 (at the age of 25), has never stopped being a public servant: He was a town councilman from 1976 to 1982, and the East Hampton Village administrator from 1982 until recently; he also has served on the town’s housing authority and planning board.
One of the attributes that Larry will bring to his new office in January is his knowledge of what went before. I am confident that having been witness to past controversies, and knowing whether and how they were resolved, will serve him well. He will have archival, and institutional, memories to call upon.
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” is an aphorism often heard when government officials are criticized. It wasn’t Yogi Berra, to be sure, who said it, but George Santayana, an American philosopher who lived for almost 100 years from the mid-19th to the mid-20th centuries — gathering wisdom along the way, no doubt.
That Larry remembers the history of this place will be an asset for all of us. He is not likely to make the rookie mistake of replicating the actions of previous administrations, if those actions didn’t work out the last time around, for one thing. However, taking a cue again from Yogi Berra, he might — like many of us who have observed the overwhelming changes of the past few decades — come up hard against the reality that “the future ain’t what it used to be.”