Letters to the Editor: 05.22.14

Our readers' comments

Shakespearian Challenge
    May 14, 2014

Dear Editor,
    I am a sixth grader and I recently participated in the Shakespearian Oratorical Challenge at Springs School. I would like to state that even though all the participants who performed soliloquies did very well, it was only the tip of the iceberg of what Shakespeare has written.
    From my experience I can’t wait to read or (better yet) see more of Shakespeare’s tragedies and comedies. I never tire of hearing his words or performing his lines.


Meaning of Freedom
    East Hampton
    May 19, 2014

To the Editor,
    For more than 230 years our military has provided a stronghold against our enemies. Our soldiers fight and die, not for the glory of war, but for the prize of freedom. The heart of America is freedom, for us and for all nations willing to fight for it.
    Yes, the price is high, but freedom is a wealth no debt can encumber, so we choose to remember the past because the payment for forgetfulness is dear.
    But what of the soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen whose life blood has bought the liberty of our nation? They are all different, yet shared a sameness that is deeper than the uniform they wear.
    They were men, women, black, white, Indian, Hispanic, Catholic, Jew, Protestant, and a hundred other variations and combinations. What is important regardless of race, creed, color, or gender: They were Americans.
    We mark this special day by celebrating the legacy given to us by their service while grieving their absence from our lives. It is by observing Memorial Day we ensure their memory and spirit did not die. Be it in a wheat field in Gettysburg, a beachhead in Normandy, a frozen hill in Korea, a jungle in Southeast Asia, or the Arabian desert sands of the Middle East.
    Memorial Day is not a holiday or a time for political photo opportunities.
    To remember our fallen once a year is not enough. The widows, widowers, fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, and children remember every day.
    Today I ask all parents, teachers, and everyone to instill in the coming generations what these one and a half million men and women have given them. Teach them the meaning of the word freedom and to appreciate the blessing of freedom and to recognize the power and virtue of the sacrifice these men and women have made for them.
    God bless our troops, God bless America.


Without a Voice
    Sag Harbor
    May 15, 2014
Dear Editor:
    In the five months that PSEG-LI has been the manager of the Long Island Power Authority system, we have seen higher utility rates, an increase in LIPA debt, and a total disregard for community concerns in places like East Hampton and Port Washington. We are now saddled with a utility based in another state without effective oversight of its operations on Long Island. LIPA is now nothing more than a shell corporation. The newly created $5.5 million State Department of Public Service-LI can do nothing more than make recommendations to LIPA and PSEG-LI. My greatest fears when I voted against the so called LIPA Reform legislation in 2013 are being realized.
    Who has the regulatory authority to protect electric utility consumers on Long Island? The answer is nobody.
    During this year’s state budget process, the State Assembly’s budget proposal included an initiative which I co-sponsored that would create the State Office of Consumer Utility Advocate. Unfortunately, the proposal was not included in the final state budget. However, we still have a chance to pass this legislation before the state legislature adjourns in June.
    Currently more than 40 states and the District of Columbia have an independent state agency that represents the interests of residential utility customers. New York is one of few states, and by far the largest, without such an independent office. Consumers in New York have been left without a voice and real representation when it comes to utility services.
    The state office of the utility consumer advocate would serve as an independent advocate and appear on behalf of New York consumers in state and federal regulatory proceedings, as well as judicial review proceedings concerning rates and conditions of public service utilities.
    The utility consumer advocate would be appointed for a term of six years, similar to the chairman of the Public Service Commission. This would allow for actual independent action on behalf of residential consumers without the concern of removal for such action.
    In other states where such an office exists, residential consumers have seen drastic savings in comparison to the actual amount of funding that goes to these offices. California’s Division of Ratepayer Advocates has lobbied more than 200 times on behalf of California consumers and saved them over $4 billion in rates and increases avoided. In fact, it is estimated that for every $1 spent representing and advocating on behalf of California’s public utility customers, the average customer saved $153 per year.
    Now is the time to create a consumer advocate with the power to give New York utility customers a voice at the table and save them a considerable amount of money when it comes to the utilities they use every day.

    New York State Assembyman

A Wonderful Gift
    May 17, 2014

Dear Editor,
    I read “New Home for Dramatic Memorial” in last week’s Star. What a wonderful gift “Dark Elegy” would be to our local community. While this incredible sculpture was birthed out of Suse Lowenstein’s pain from the loss of her son Alexander in PanAm 103, it is greatly symbolic of the global terror of terrorism but also the power to heal.
    I grew up coming to Montauk for summers until my family relocated here in the 1980s. My husband and I chose to make it our full-time home almost 10 years ago, months before the birth of our first son. Giving our children a childhood with the many treasures that Montauk beholds was a priority to us. But by and large, we are an insulated community, and raising kids here requires extra work to help them understand that a world exists outside of Montauk. This moving memorial will not only honor those touched by terrorism, whether living locally or globally, but it will also give so many parents the opportunity to have a different kind of conversation with their kids — one that embodies pain and suffering but also courage and triumph. It could surely prompt kinder and more compassionate future generations.
    What a true honor it would be to have “Dark Elegy” donate this level of global thinking and culture to our precious town.


Validated the Sacrifices
    May 17, 2014

Dear Editor,
    I would like to speak of an experience I had this week and thank a very special couple who live in Montauk. My name is Lisa DeVeglio and my husband, Bob, and I, along with others, do events with Wounded Warrior and Freedom Fighter Outdoors, where we bring wounded veterans to Montauk to go fishing.
    This year we decided to bring four vets and their spouses to Montauk for the music festival. Different folks around town donated discounted hotel rooms, meals, skeet shooting, and passes into the opening party at Gurney’s. On Friday, after we had a delicious breakfast, we headed over to Suse Lowenstein’s memorial garden, a garden created for all victims of terrorism.
    I had contacted Suse a few weeks ago telling her of our plan to make it part of our itinerary, and she was thrilled. I didn’t tell the veterans anything about it. When we arrived there, Peter and Suse came outside to greet us and talk about the garden. The veterans were in awe. Suse explained the whole story, and she and Peter spent two hours with these men and women, explaining, answering questions, and giving them an incredible tour of her studio and their beautiful grounds.
    The veterans were all so interested in the whole story, and one of them said to me it was the highlight of the trip. He couldn’t believe that not only were they so gracious to open their property to the public to view this incredible sculpture, but they spent a lot of time with them, sometimes bringing them to tears, sometimes making them smile or laugh, but always making them feel that what they did for their country was so important and appreciated.
    These men got a close look at a family affected by terrorism, and it validated the sacrifices they made for their country. They were so grateful to be invited to view the garden, and couldn’t stop talking about it. I know it will leave a lasting impression on them, and if they ever come to visit Montauk on their own, they will visit the garden again. We were so happy by their reaction and will continue to bring wounded servicemen and women by to visit.
    I want to remind everyone that the garden is open to the public every day from 10 a.m. to noon, and if you haven’t seen it, it is a must-see! It would be terrific if the garden was in a more public place so that everyone could have a chance to experience it.
    Thank you to Suse and Peter for opening your property and sharing your experience with these great guys!


To Lockerbie
    East Hampton
    May 19, 2014

    Suse Lowenstein has created a most provocative work commemorating the loss of her son in 1988. In viewing the macabre, lifeless, yet animated writhing masses of suffering bodies, I am horrified and devastated. I can’t quite understand how this mother felt at that moment in history. The sadness and sense of hopelessness is especially apparent in the forefigure, crawling slowly toward her long, painful death.
    The impact of this work is so powerful that I feel it will be a loss to the world’s community to install it in so isolated and specialized a community. I fear erence it deserves, especially when the drunken hordes once again descend on Montauk in the summer seasons.
    I pray Ms. Lowenstein finds a way to transport this memorial to Lockerbie, Scotland — a truly magnificent pairing. It seems to cry out for a relevance and purpose it may not find by choosing the wrong site.
    Godspeed to Ms. Lowenstein in her quest to ensure the work is in an appropriate and spiritually powerful site.


Safe and Peaceful
    East Hampton
    May 19, 2014

Dear David:
    The town trustees are the guardians of our beaches. Last year it was clear that action was required to deal with the drunken and unruly behavior stemming from the consumption of alcohol on the beach, particularly Indian Wells beach. There is clearly a need for collaboration between the trustees and the town board to solve this problem.
    Last week I attended a trustee meeting during which Supervisor Larry Cantwell’s proposal of a ban on alcohol within 2,500 feet in either direction of the east and west road ends at Indian Wells and Atlantic Avenue beaches was being discussed. The trustees rejected this recommendation in favor of a shorter distance, namely 500 feet. (Many might argue that this is too close to areas where families and children gather.)
    There is room for compromise, and the details can be tweaked, but what bothered me was the frivolous attitude of some of the trustees; they acted as though this was a subject for jokes. The fact is that this is a serious matter that requires serious attention. If lifeguards are distracted by loud and raucous revelers, they are hampered in their job of protecting the public.
    We need many levels of town government — the town board, the trustees, and code enforcement — to work together to provide town residents as well as visitors a safe and peaceful environment when enjoying our beaches.


Zero Tolerance
    May 14, 2014

Dear David,
    Onward! It appears that the local East Hampton Town government entities responsible for our beaches are in agreement: The East Hampton Town Trustees (property management) and the East Hampton Town Board (public safety) are committed to restraining the visiting drunken brat packs that have littered the sand.
    The visiting drunken brat packs have been drawn to Indian Wells Beach in Amagansett. But this summer they will face a creative police deployment (that cute guy may be a cop!) and zero tolerance for trashing East Hampton’s natural resources.
    Visitors are welcome, of course, but it would be best if some stayed home.

    All good things,

Blaming Homeowners
    May 17, 2014

Dear Editor,
    In your May 15 edition of The East Hampton Star, an article written by Joanne Pilgrim, titled “Town May Absorb Corps Bill,” erroneously stated some facts.
    What is typical and truly aggravating about the article is that it blames the homeowners’ lawsuit for somehow stopping progress on the feasibility plan, which is ridiculous. As a matter of record, the plan was authorized by Congress in 1996 and was originally supposed to be completed in 1999. What stopped it from going forward initially was the town’s own lack of cooperation.
    It was re-started in 2002, and was again supposed to be completed in three years, i.e. by 2005.  The initial state lawsuit wasn’t even filed until 2011, nine years later.
    So blaming homeowners, who have pleaded with the town and the Army Corps of Engineers for over 15 years to address and fix this extremely damaging erosion caused by the jetties for the delay, is really an outrageous fabrication.
    Also not stated in the article was that town officials suggested we sue the town as the only way to get any action, and that the town would never put up the money to fix the problem unless it were sued.
    We urge you to address this misstatement of the facts and correct the record in your next edition.


A Regressive Tax
    East Hampton
    May 19, 2014

Dear Editor,
    The rural character of East Hampton has changed since 1998 when the Community Preservation Fund was instituted to protect areas of open space, a benefit to all. Our scenic vistas have been an attraction for newcomers to buy and build homes here. Our town has grown.
    In 1998 a 2-percent tax was initiated on the purchase price of property. The current exemption from the 2-percent tax on the first $100,000 for unimproved property and $250,000 on improved property needs to change. The 1998 exemptions are too low. It increases the cost of home ownership on a $450,000 house by an additional $9,000. Is it still possible to buy a home in the East Hampton of 2014 for under $450,000? The exemptions should go up to $250,000 and $500,000 respectively.
    Let’s not put the squeeze on home ownership in East Hampton!
    Enable working people to both purchase and sell their homes readily in the current market. Until the Community Preservation Fund is modified it will continue to be a regressive tax, hindering such transfers.

    Respectfully yours,
    East Hampton Town
    Republican Committee

Dumping Ground
    May 19, 2014

Dear David,
    I feel like I’m in the middle of a scene from “Groundhog Day” or experiencing an extreme case of deja vu when I read with horror the East Hampton Town Board’s latest proposal to enact an ordinance regarding the parking of commercial vehicles on residential properties. It’s hard to believe that we were discussing exactly the same issue last summer with the hope that the encroaching commercialization of the Springs community would come to an end. But now, instead of talking about enacting an ordinance to prevent the parking of commercial vehicles on residential properties, we are debating what types of commercial vehicles should be allowed.
    The bottom line is that no commercial vehicles should be allowed to be parked on residential properties. Also, no residential property should be used for the outside storage of abandoned, uninspected, unlicensed, inoperative, dismantled, partially dismantled, discarded, or junked vehicles. These are not things that any responsible homeowner wants to see in their neighborhood.
    We could go on forever debating the acceptable size of trucks in a residential community by saying that fishermen and outdoorsmen need these types of vehicles, but the reality is that fishermen and weekend outdoorsmen don’t use box trucks or dump trucks in the pursuit of their hobby. Likewise, abandoned or unregistered vehicles serve only one purpose, and that is a detrimental one as they create an eyesore that diminishes the aesthetic eauty that has always defined the Springs.
    I have heard comments that the Springs is a “working-class” community. Many of us had grandparents or great-grandparents who were immigrants. These people were very proud to be considered part of the working class and aspired one day to own homes that they would meticulously maintain.
    Today, however, the term working class is being used by some to imply that working-class families have no pride of ownership and don’t mind living in a neighborhood that is becoming increasingly blighted and squalid. To the contrary, we are all working-class people unless we are to the manor born, and most of us want the Springs to remain an unspoiled environment instead of a commercial dumping ground.
    The members of the town board have an obligation to do what is best for all of the Springs, including the summer residents who also own a home in the Springs and pay taxes to support the schools and other public services. We must all work together to promote the highest quality of life in the Springs. There should be no place for personal interests or preferences in the board’s decision-making process that predisposes its members to make decisions based on the types of vehicles that they themselves own or park on their own properties. I urge any member of the town board who feels that they cannot make a decision on the merits of this issue without personal bias to recuse themselves from voting.


Formula Stores
    May 19, 2014

To the Editor,
    Ever since the topic of maintaining the look, the feel, the charm of our historic districts by prohibiting the invasion of so-called formula, or chain, stores has been put up for discussion, I have been trying to better define what I think Main Street, Amagansett, for example, would look like if no action were taken. It has been difficult but I agree with Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart when asked to define hard-core pornography in a film under review. He said that he couldn’t, but, “I will know it when I see it.”
   The closest I can get to the effect of a lack of any control is the sad, unaffordable, transient collection of stores in East Hampton where nobody I know has even bought a handkerchief. The almost total disappearance of local stores, particularly on Main Street, with the obvious transfer of profits somewhere far away, and even in some cases the use of imported labor, begin to paint the picture.
    However when one gets down to the details of laying out what law is fair to the public, the landlords, the formula stores, the local economy, and the environment, I began to see how difficult it is to define. Beginning with even the definition of what a formula store is, presents a problem, not to mention items such as appearance, signage, and size.
     As every responsible journalist knows, you have to go to the public to get a reading beyond your view. So I conducted a broad survey (two long-time Amagansett landlords-shopkeepers), and found they were strongly opposed to the resolution. They both felt that “if done right,” my worries were unjustified. I was disappointed in their response but I had to consider it.
    Based on the press, the best I can gather about the near future of this resolution is that it will be watered down to essentially convert the prohibition action to a process where each formula store must apply for a “special permit” from the town planning board. Each request for such a special permit will be the subject of a public hearing. The participation of the public and its comments will be an important factor in the final decision.
    While part of me understands the difficulty of getting a law to leave things as they are, I have come to realize that is not realistic. But if we stay vigilant, follow the proceedings carefully, and make our voices heard we may yet head off the worst.


‘Most Solicitous’
    May 16, 2014

Dear Editor:
    I was deeply disturbed by a letter sent to and printed in The Star some time ago. It concerned the disturbance by the Showtime television group that was here in Amagansett last summer, filming a pilot piece for possible future use. The letter noted all of the drastic problems that had been encountered and endured by our/my community as a result of the filming — general noise, street blockage, poor parking, interference of night lighting, garbage, etc.
     As an inhabitant of this neighborhood and living almost directly across the street from the “damned” location, my experience was totally different. I found everyone involved to be most solicitous in every way. Massive efforts were made to keep the noise level very low, streets to be totally and constantly passable, and trash to be attended to painstakingly. The administrative personnel were professional, friendly, and totally concerned and understanding about limiting any disturbances.
    I understand that additional filming here will be done in the near future and that once again, there are those who object to the project. I find that totally ridiculous and undeserving and only wish Showtime a raving success. I might also mention in closing that little attention has been given to the benefits that the whole community and town have enjoyed as a result of Showtime’s presence here, i.e., the use of our restaurants, use of our hotels, local store purchases, to name but a few.


Night Lighting
    May 19, 2014

Dear David,
    A hearing will be held at Town Hall on June 5 at 7 p.m. to amend our dark sky outdoor lighting code. While we are lucky that the last town board was unsuccessful in dismantling this code, the amendments being proposed will extend the period of time for conformance beyond the 2006 law by nine years. As well, there is a provision being proposed that could open the door to increased sky glow by allowing more “blue light” into the atmosphere. Light bulbs that are more blue create more glare and more skyglow, and cause adaptation problems. Think of the bluish headlights on cars and how much harder it is to see well after passing them. This is especially true for older eyes.
    If any of your readers are interested in letting the town board know their thoughts about misdirected, unshielded, or excessive night lighting, I hope they will come and speak at this hearing. Town Hall, June 5, 7 p.m.

    Dark Sky Association

Increase Flow
    May 19, 2014

Dear David:
    As we all know, the traffic gets worse each year, especially on Route 27, and ever more so on other roads as drivers seek alternatives. Now, with the long overdue repaving of 27, we will see fresh asphalt, but no diminishing of congestion.
    Generally speaking, the local means of dealing with highway congestion is adding another traffic light, and, although this may increase safety, it invariably decreases flow. In many cases the addition of a single light has led to a seemingly endless backup for miles and hours every day, as at the Water Mill light and Wainscott light, among others.
    I offer the following suggestions:
    1. Expand mail delivery in any villages or hamlets not offering it. We should stop forcing people into crowded areas every day to pick up mail that could easily be delivered. If this were done in Wainscott alone there would be even less need for a traffic light there. (See number 4, right turn only idea, below.)
    2. Shorten light times. Virtually every one that I stop at, which is every red one on 27 from Southampton to Amagansett, allows too much time for the minor artery to empty, thereby clogging up the highway needlessly. Every early morning in Water Mill thousands of people are stopped dead by a light at an intersection for closed stores that nobody is going in or out of at that time of day.
    3. Widen the highway. It has always worked in East Hampton Village. Now it works much of the time since it was done in Southampton. There have to be two lanes in each direction and, yes, through the villages of Water Mill and Bridgehampton and Amagansett also. The space is there, with elimination of some on-street parking on one side and/or expansion of shoulders. No buildings, windmills, historical sites, etc. need be torn down. The wide middle turning lanes already in existence would be unnecessary with a four-lane road. The beauty of the villages would be improved by having better traffic flow. (Again, see East Hampton.)
    4. In several places lights should be eliminated (blinking yellow, maybe?) and those intersections should become right-turn-only ones. No vehicle could ever cross both lanes. At least try this during rush hours. People would quickly adapt to this, as many of us already have. Signal candidates for elimination or modification on 27 would be Water Mill, Wainscott, Bridgehampton (Butter Lane), and East Hampton (Toilsome-Baiting Hollow Lanes), among others.
    5. Variable lane direction. If widening to four lanes is not considered in some new areas, then at least set up a three-lane system with alternating directions allowing for two lanes into the Hamptons in the a.m. and out in the p.m. A computerized electronic system would rapidly become manageable for travelers and greatly increase flow. This was proven during the U.S. Open golf tournament at Shinnecock Hills in 2004. With the extra lane, traffic in that locale actually got better, not worse, during the tournament.
    6. The roundabouts in North Haven and Scuttlehole in Bridgehampton, and the improved signage and turn lanes at Head of Pond in Water Mill work well most of the time. Roundabouts could be constructed inexpensively and with little damage to the environment in many areas. It would be great to see a roundabout at the monument light in Bridgehampton — and certainly more so than a CVS.
    In a nation and an area as resourceful as ours, one would think that we could do better. Please drive safely — as you’re already going to drive — slowly, slowly, slowly, slowly.


Meaker Retiring
    May 19, 2014

Dear Editor,
    Tonight, May 22, 2014, marks a milestone for East End writers. After 30 years, Marijane Meaker is retiring as the leader of the Ashawagh Hall Writers Workshop, an institution she founded. Every Thursday night for three decades, from right after Labor Day to just before Memorial Day, the large conference table upstairs at Ashawagh Hall has been ringed — often double-ringed — with men and women deeply engaged in critiquing each other’s work, exclusively fiction and memoir.
    Marijane has published over 60 books. Many have been translated into numerous languages. Because she’d had trouble as a young writer finding an agent, she became her own, publishing books under pseudonyms in four different genres. Most notably, she published 20 mystery and crime novels as Vin Packer, pioneered gay-themed novels as Ann Aldrich, and became well-known as M.E. Kerr for her 25 young-adult novels. She has been honored with multiple awards.
    In 1983, she decided she wanted to help other writers get published, and so she has, year after year. Our ranks include Vincent Lardo, who wrote his first published book in the workshop. He’s since had six bestsellers. One year, three of our members, Betty Varese, Boris (Bob) Riskin, and the late Jess Gregg, had books published the same season. We’ve had over 20 novels and memoirs published and over 25 others completed.
    The community of writers Marijane has created is remarkable. In addition to our 14 current members, there are scores of past ones. With the weekly format, we get to metaphorically disrobe regularly and are deeply invested in each other’s work. Some of our best friends are writers, including lasting friendships with past members.
    There is no way to adequately give a sense of the scope and depth of Marijane’s insight and knowledge. Her ability to synthesize a dizzying range of factors into a digestible point is breathtaking. “Use what you can,” she’ll say when we’re bombarded with dozens of conflicting notes. And she’s quick to remind the overzealous, “You can’t tell someone what to write.” Her style can be brusque, yet the atmosphere she creates is intimate, safe, and respectful. Her contributions to writers over the years are incalculable.
    We’ll still be meeting on Thursday nights, beginning in September. The class elected me, a 17-year veteran of the group, to carry on. Like all great leaders, Marijane built a foundation that will stand. The workshop, however, will never be the same.

    On behalf of the
    Ashawagh Hall Writers Workshop

Story in the Making
    May 19, 2014

Dear Mr. Rattray:
    This is a companion letter to one written this week by Laura Stein on behalf of the Ashawagh Hall Writers Workshop. Specifically these two letters are in recognition of the 30-year leadership given the workshop by Marijane Meaker.
    Ms. Meaker placed an article in The East Hampton Star on Sept. 15, 1983, calling writers to form a workshop to begin meeting the following Thursday at Ashawagh Hall. I was among those who responded, and I have been with the workshop these 30 years. Since the beginning, men and women have come into the workshop, many also leaving after longer or shorter periods of time. There have always been new members, who have provided fresh points of view and styles of writing. Through it all, Marijane has provided consistent, pointed, sometimes sharp comments in critique, joined by fellow members, all with the goal to help writers improve their writing and to help advance their work into publication. It has also been necessary to keep with the vagaries of publishing, and in this effort Marijane has kept up with the changing landscape.
    My comments here are also more personal since I have known Marijane for these 30 years. She and the workshop have provided invaluable assistance to me in my own writing. Additionally, Marijane and I are friends. When I was in the process of coming out as a gay man I spoke with Marijane. She listened attentively. She also, when she judged it appropriate and helpful, invited me to social events of the East End Gay Organization. I met my good friend recently deceased, Ron Fleming, at an E.E.G.O. Thanksgiving dinner, 1987. Mutual friends, Chuck Hitchcock and David Wilt, were also supportive. Marijane, and Chuck, were charter members of E.E.G.O from 1978.
    Marijane and I became volunteer “buddies” for the Long Island Association for AIDS Care, and I subsequently became a pastoral volunteer for LIAAC. Marijane and others from E.E.G.O. such as Sandy Rapp were equally active in support of gay rights, as in sympathetic support of those who were sick and dying in those devastating years. Before LIAAC was even established on the East End, Marijane and a few others of us met at Southampton College to see what could be done to set up a structure of support.
    A writer’s work and life is a solitary business. It’s you and the typewriter, then the word processor, then the computer, but you and the written word and the interior creative process banging out novels. For Marijane, it’s 60 books under various nom de plumes, of which M.E. Kerr is very much known in young-adult fiction. Marijane has said she started the Ashawagh Hall Writers Workshop to create a place for writers to interact with their work and one another, also to keep herself in relationship with writers.
    For many of these years, when I was also the minister of the Amagansett Presbyterian Church, members of the workshop came to one of my worship services on a January Sunday. I was to preach on something having to do with writing. Marijane wasn’t always sure I succeeded in the assignment, but it was all in good spirit, and the congregation welcomed the annual gathering. Afterward, workshop members and spouses had a covered dish brunch at the manse, across Meeting House Lane from the church. Words flowed and mingled in conversation, a story in the making, or the makings of a story to be set down. Then into the cold January air again, and back to work.
    It has been a long and successful run for Marijane, and all of us commend and thank her for her persistent attention to our work. The workshop has elected Laura Stein, Montauk, to succeed her. In the ensuing years we will continue in the strength Marijane built into the workshop.


More Than a Book
    East Hampton
    May 19, 2014

Dear David:
    Two weeks ago, BookHampton sent out an email to friends and neighbors. It alerted everyone to the perilous state of our bookstore. The winter was harsh, the spring soaked, and we have seen with sad foreboding the reality that forever closed the doors of our city colleagues.
    We know that for many of us the wonderful part of BookHampton has been the discovery of new books and the camaraderie of fellow readers. And so we began a campaign to save BookHampton “book by book.”
    The initial response has been profound and touching. Our friend Carolyn at Round Swamp told everyone, as did our Monogram neighbor, Valerie. Word spread quickly, and we found ourselves fielding orders from the wonderful young actress Emma Roberts and her fans and followers. (She grew up reading at BookHampton.) And we heard from old friends at all corners of the map, folks for whom BookHampton is more than a book, it’s the way we cherish our reading life.
    Some folks suggested that we sell other stuff (flowers, chocolates, T-shirts), but you see we’re a bookstore. Our mission is to grow great readers and we have had the best time doing just that — reading to little listeners and recommending good books to book lovers. When our community stops wanting a bookstore — and here’s the harsh term — when we can no longer afford to support a bookstore, we will close our doors and go.
    Have we saved BookHampton? Not yet. Are we fighting to save BookHampton? Yes, very hard.
    This week were introduced to two great ideas: Our friend Alec Baldwin and a fellow we’d never met (!), Ron Kurzon, suggested the same idea: Give the school of your choice (local or city) a BookHampton gift certificate for $1,000. It’s a gift to the school and they can use it to enrich their classrooms’ collections — with their own wish list selections, or in turn give a book/gift to every student in the school. It’s an exceptionally generous way of melding our mission and the schools’ needs. We will post a “wall” of those BookAngels in our windows.
    The second idea is somewhat more modest and an absolute a sure thing. We are all suffering from Amazon Reflex Syndrome, when we want a book and jump for the Internet behemoth. Instead why not see a book and text BookHampton? Our hotline (488-5953) can be texted day or night, every book and any book, and we ship anywhere.
    As our extraordinary community of readers stays with us book by book, BookHampton will fight to stay here.

    All our thanks,

The Deadliest Sin
    East Hampton
    May 13, 2014

Dear David,
   Books. My fondest first memories are of being read to, seeing a book, holding a book, learning to read myself. The smell of the library, having my own library card, carrying home a stack of books to get lost in, discover new worlds and people. And the best, building a small home library in my room of purchased books from local bookshops. Receiving presents of books was the best, perfectly wrapped in bookshop paper. Nothing was ordered online, because there was no online. And when there was, we still shopped locally in those wonderful-smelling bookshops with classical music playing and maybe a cat lounging on a stack of books or on the windowsill.
    To one day become an author (I have always been a writer) was my dream. To see my own book among the authors I loved would be the Machu Picchu of the writing world. I did not need to climb mountains or get thrills from high places, I had books, adventures beyond all that. I had imagination and a story to tell. A risk to share oneself in the written word, an exposure, but so worth it. Validation when someone reads your work and likes it. Or it evokes a conversation. Books do that.
    Do we need Books a Gazillion, or warehouse places to buy books? No. These places have become gathering cafes, places in towns where the small-type village atmosphere does not exist. At least people are reading, one could say. But that leaves the independent bookshop in the dust, and no one wants that. We want The Little Shop Around the Corner. We want the mom-and-pops to stick around. A town should have a bookshop. The same as it has a coffee shop or cafe where locals gather and don’t get sucked up into the ether of meaningless consumerism.
    I went just once to 7-Eleven, under duress, only because I was told the bakery in Montauk was closed for the day. It was on the way to my first book signing-reading at the Montauk Book Shop last summer. I was a little nervous and I wanted a cup of Barry’s tea. I’d settle for Earl Grey. I went into 7-Eleven, though I felt a traitor and uneasy under the unforgiving florescent lights. I saw pots of coffee but no tea spout and no teabags. I left with nothing.
     We found the bakery open! I had a soothing cup of Barry’s tea and was ready for my book-reading debut. I am always more comfortable in small shops and small towns. Shopping malls overwhelm me. That’s why I live here. I like small-town life. Not four-lane highways, and Books a Gazillion.
    I love our local bookshops. Canio’s, Montauk Book Shop, Burton’s Book Shop in Greenport, and I used to love BookHampton. It is after all, in my town. As a self-published author, I was not permitted to have my book sold in BookHampton. I committed the deadliest sin. I self-published with Create Space. It is an arm of Amazon and I did not know I would become a pariah by doing so. Am I being contradictory? No. I went with Create Space because other self-publishing companies wanted thousands of dollars to publish my book.    I did my own marketing and purchased the books myself, and lucky I live in this town, because local shops carry my book on consignment. Including Canio’s and Montauk Book Shop. They understood my dilemma. I wanted to have my book read, as a writer. I tried for years to find a reputable agent who might sell one of my books. To no avail. Getting published is harder than getting on “American Idol.” Publishing houses are less willing than ever to take a chance on a new writer. And that leaves a lot of us deciding to self-publish. Would we rather do it the old-fashioned way? You bet.
    Had I known self-publishing with Create Space would cause BookHampton to reject my book as the devil’s spawn, I would not have used them. I am local, my book should be in there on the shelf with local authors. I worked there, for the Georges, who started the shop. My book should be in the window. It was, in a dream I had. But that was shattered in one day.
    I do hope BookHampton can rally and stay open. I am not a grudge holder, but I am not a phony either. I stand up for myself. I walk by BookHampton now, but I don’t shop there anymore. I feel betrayed. I was loyal to them and they tossed me aside for daring to take publishing into my own hands. Sometimes one must. I am not Gwyneth Paltrow. Everyone is not interested in every blip in my world. And I do not need them to be. But I do want people to read my books. I am a good writer. Funny, the day I had my book reading at the Montauk Book Shop, Gwyneth was at BookHampton the same day. Maybe Gwyneth will keep BookHampton in business. I bet she buys all her books from there, like I did for 30 years.
    I will continue to support and frequent small bookshops across this grand country and abroad. I know who I am. Loyal. Money does not impress me. I like shops and people for who they are. Sadly, this community has sold out in favor of the fake and fleeting. Those of us who hang in there are not rewarded for our loyalty. We are here in the dark months and hard times. We do go out in a snowstorm to buy a book. We seek the solace behind the door with the little bell, announcing our presence. Hello, it seems to say, you exist. You are not just a credit card number.
    I miss BookHampton, I am not too proud or bitter to say. I thought we were friends. It makes me sad to walk by it and not go inside. I am sorry I left you. I did not sleep with the devil, I self-published my book. I hope with this next book I have written, the publishing gods smile on me. And I hope East Hampton always has The Little Shop Around the Corner, for all of us. No offense, Gwyneth, but you live in England. I live here.


The Wiborg Garden
    East Hampton
    May 19, 2014

To the Editor,
    There is an intrinsic problem for anyone designing and installing a new landscape into an old famous property with walls and structures from the past, such as at Grey Gardens or the Wiborg garden recently seen on the St. Luke’s garden tour.
    The more seamless the integration of the new garden and construction elements, the more artistically successful the design and execution of the work, the less visible the achievement itself, and the more believable it is that one is looking into the past at what has always been there.
    The goal of my landscape design work is to create environments that feel natural and right for their place. That was the goal of my work as I envisioned and nurtured the garden at Grey Gardens and at the Wiborg garden when I designed and installed the trees, paths, pool, and arbors.
    The Wiborg garden was billed on the garden tour as an old garden from the days of F. Scott Fitzgerald because of the walls, some columns, and a lovely small cottage left over from what was once a grand old estate.
    But the garden then was not what it is now.
    I began work on the property that includes the remaining parts of the old Wiborg Estate in 2006 and designed the present garden, planting all of the trees both within the walled garden, some dropped over the walls with large cranes, as well as those on the south side of the walls, some 40 feet high. I designed and sited the swimming pool as well as the brick herringbone paths lined with “Italianate” arborvitae to relate to the existing walls, and added a log and twig arbor to loosen up the overall formality.
    To achieve the effect of a sunken garden I broke through the old wall on the south side to a higher level of the property. I then made the completely new wisteria-covered, multi-columned cement and milled-cedar arbor, from which one steps down into the garden and which is now the Gatsby era-like focus of the garden, seen in photos as if it has always been there.
    The problem when designing a new garden in an old estate is that taking credit for one’s work takes away from the very magic that the work seeks to create. But the creative process is part of the story. A slide show of the installation process and final result at the Wiborg garden can be seen at victoriafensterer.com.
    I am very grateful to those visiting the garden who have said such nice things about it and hope that by pointing out the effort it took to reach where it is now doesn’t take away from the adventure of seeing an “old” garden.


To Prevent Falling
    East Hampton
    May 19, 2014

To the Editor,
    My daughter is an executive nurse in elder care. She is always warning me to take precautions to prevent falling. A large percentage of people in facilities for older people are there as a result of a fall. I said to her, “Why don’t you write it down in a pamphlet or book.” She said, “I’m so very busy, you do it.”
    Here are the rules as I remember them:
    1. Focus. Pay attention to each step. Walk not too quickly and not too slowly. Don’t use your cellphone when walking. Keep your cellphone within reach in your pocket.
    2. Watch where you are walking; make sure you are stepping on a smooth, well lit pathway. Avoid slippery floors in kitchens and bathrooms.
    3. Wear the right shoes. Wear comfortable footwear that fits well. Don’t wear flip-flops.
    4. Take extra care on stairs. Stairs are particularly troublesome, especially when going down. Don’t even try going down steps without a handrail or banister. Be sure stairs are well lit.
    5. Bathrooms need extra attention. When bathing or showering, it is critical to leave the door ajar, so if you fall or feel faint someone could enter to help you. It’s a good idea to keep your cellphone or Life Alert nearby.
    6. Limit trips in bad weather. Walking in rain, snow, or any bad weather is not an option, unless it is an emergency and someone is helping you.
    7. Avoid scatter rugs. Little scatter rugs look great, but they can cause falls. Take a look around your house and remove loose rugs. This is very important!
    8. Use aids if needed. If you need to use a cane or walker, do it! Remember, pride goeth before a fall!


Die Waiting
    May 19, 2014

Dear David,
    Here we go again, another I’m mad as hell and will be getting to the bottom of it. So we force the head of the hospital system for the Veterans Administration to retire earlier than his retirement date. This is a joke, right? This man was retiring this year, but the Obama administration is trying to show accountability, so we force him out a little bit sooner.
    During the transition of Obama-Biden, the V.A. told them the numbers didn’t match. It was going on for a while. So what did President Obama do? He goes on TV in 2009 and states his mission: I will cut red tape, slash wait time, expand access, slash backlog to health care. What has he done? He has done nothing to change a culture — no one held accountable, and the systematic process has been papered over with money.
    Plenty of money goes to the V.A., but our soldiers receive long wait times for health care services, long enough that they die waiting. Fake lists exist, and medical records are being shredded. This administration closes ranks around everything to protect President Obama. Or does the president know and does nothing for our armed forces?
    These vets served to protect America, and this is the thanks we give — let them die like dogs with absolutely no care? They deserve the very best we can offer. The bonus money should be given back. Someone higher than the head of the hospital needs to be held accountable. Someone needs to be downright fired, and the president needs to answer for this. When he was told, did he check on the progress or did he and Michele take another vacation?

    For God and Country,