Times of Smithtown

Tim Krompier will headline the event.
Join the Smithtown Performing Arts Center, 2 E. Main St., Smithtown for a Lovers of Comedy Night, a night of laughs with Governor’s Comedy Club, on Saturday, Feb. 11 at 8 p.m. Featuring Tim Krompier, Olga Namer, Debbie D Amore, and Rachel Williams. Tickets are $45 per person, $40 members includes open bar of beer and wine. To order,  click below: 

Tim Krompier (Headliner)

Tim Krompier

Comedian Tim Krompier has been entertaining audiences in New York City and all across the country with his original autobiographical style of comedy for several years now. Having headlined in comedy clubs, theatres, and showcases across the country, and with weekly spots in New York City and Long Island; Tim Krompier has blossomed into a stand-up comedy maven.

In addition to performing stand up on a nightly basis, Tim is now an executive producer of morning shows services for Premiere Radio a subsidiary of iHeartmedia. You can hear his writing and his voice work on stations from New York to L.A. and even Canada.

As you can see Tim is no one trick joke pony. Adding to his performance repertoire over the last several years Tim has become one of the premiere host/moderators in the country after teaming up with Mills Entertainment for their very successful “Back Lot Project”. The Back Lot Project is a live screening of classic films followed by an interview and Q&A session with the film’s star.

To date Tim has interviewed such celebrities as Carey Elwes (The Princess Bride) Molly Ringwald (Sixteen Candles) Christopher Lloyd (Back To The Future) Barry Bostwick (Rocky Horror Picture Show) William Shatner (Star Trek) John Cusak (Say Anything) John Cleese (Monty Python and The Holy Grail) and most recently Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo (Christmas Vacation).

Olga Namer (Featured Act)

Olga NamerOlga Namer is a stand up comedian who performs regularly in clubs around New York including Governor’s Comedy Club , Gotham, Stand Up NY, The Stand and The Comic Strip. Olga is the 2018 winner of the Ladies of Laughter competition and has toured with Chelsea Handler, and the late Gilbert Gottfried.

Debbie D Amore (Guest Spot)

This Long Island Wife Mom & MeeMa, longtime resident of Lake Ronkonkoma and Licensed Real Estate Agent has been seen at Governors, McGuires and Mohigan Sun. Most recently Debbie proudly made it to the Top 13 of the 2022 Long Island Laugh Off. You may have seen her in the Jerry Seinfeld Show “The Marriage Ref” with hubby Mario which not for nothing she doesn’t want to talk about it ever. Additionally she is an active member of Long Island’s Regional & Dinner Theater community for over four decades performing and directing in such shows as “Nine”, “Last of the Red Hot Lovers”, ” Saturday Night Fever”, “South Pacific”, “Fiddler on the Roof”, “Over the River and Through the Woods” and the dinner show “Fat Frankie’s Birthday” just to name a few. In fact this is not her first time on the Smithtown Stage. In 2004 she appeared as Sister Hubert in the sensational Musical Comedy “Nunsense” (No worries though tonight she will leave her Nuns Habit & clicker at home). One of her proudest moments was being cast on the Broadway Stage at the Neil Simon Theatre in 1997’s Tony Award winning drama written in 1955 by the legendary Arthur Miller “A View From The Bridge”. Of course it wasn’t talent that got her that gig though. Ask her why, she’s happy to explain.

Just for fun visit Debbie at www.youtube.com/debbieskitchen

Rachel Williams (MC)

Rachel Williams

Rachel Williams is a stand up comedian from Long Island, NY who started her comedy career right out of college. Now you can catch her performing stand up almost every night all over the city. She’s been on SiriusXM and was a part of the 2022 New York Comedy Festival. See all her most recent work @wachelrilliams on all social media platforms.


The Vietnam memorial in Bill Richards Park in Hauppauge. Photo from Town of Smithtown

By Daniel Dunaief

The first day Kevin O’Hare arrived in Vietnam, a bullet flew over his head during reverie. Vietcong fighters regularly targeted the assembled morning crowd of soldiers who stood in formation to honor the flag.

Kevin O’Hare
Wayne Johnson

“That was a shock,” recalled O’Hare, a resident of Kings Park who is a retired sales director for RJR Nabisco and who served in the army from 1966 to 1968. “I jumped in the bunker as fast as I could.”

O’Hare, who shared memories of his time in the military, wants to ensure that others have an opportunity to reflect and appreciate the soldiers who served during the war amid a time of civil discontent in the United States.

In 1966, the hamlet of Hauppauge created what O’Hare and others believe is one of the first tributes to those serving in Vietnam. The “Vietnam Era Hauppauge Honor Roll” memorial sits in Bill Richards Park near Suffolk County’s H. Lee Dennison Building off Veterans Memorial Highway and will soon add plaques with the names of O’Hare and navy veteran Wayne “Mickey” Johnson.

Officials have considered the possibility of moving the memorial, O’Hare said, although he would prefer that it remain in the park.

Close calls

O’Hare’s near miss during reverie was one of several other times he could have been severely injured or worse, including two incidents when mortar landed without exploding outside his tent. “They were duds,” he said. “If they had gone off,” said the 78-year old father of two and the grandfather of four, “I wouldn’t be here.”

In April of 1967, O’Hare was in a bunker with five other men. A mortar round came in and killed three of his fellow soldiers.

At another point, a man approached O’Hare with a bag. As he got closer, the man tried to strap the satchel around O’Hare. Two infantry men assigned to protect O’Hare saw the exchange and shot the man before he could plant explosives that would have killed O’Hare.

So, what made this American soldier worth an attempted assassination?

Boosting morale

Bob Hope with Joey Heatherton

Initially a mortar man, O’Hare’s experience with the Soupy Sales comedy show in New York prior to his tour of duty attracted the attention of army brass. Officials asked O’Hare to help run the shows for the United Service Organization, or USO.

Started in 1941, these shows entertained troops stationed overseas and gave them a taste of home half a world away. The entertainment “took them away from the war,” said O’Hare, “even for two hours. They looked forward to it.”

In some ways, the shows were the antidote to people like Hanoi Hannah, a radio broadcaster from North Korea who chided American troops, suggesting that their girlfriends back home were cheating on them or that they were fighting an unjust and unwelcome war.

The USO shows featured Hollywood stars, who were determined to bring their talents to members of the military who might otherwise feel disconnected from American life or who might be physically or emotionally wounded. Seats in the first 10 rows for these often crowded shows were reserved for the wounded.

O’Hare worked with celebrities including Bob Hope, an entertainer who hosted the Academy Awards 19 times.

Hope, who later became an honorary veteran for visiting the troops starting in World War II and ending with the Persian Gulf War, was eager to visit the wounded in the hospital after his show, O’Hare recalled.

Crazy hair and a helicopter ride

Comedienne Phyllis Diller, who was famous for her wild hair and self-deprecating stand up routines, also traveled to Vietnam. During Diller’s visit, O’Hare recalled, the army arranged to transport her in a Huey, a helicopter with a single blade. Nervous about flying in a small helicopter, Diller asked O’Hare if he could help her fly in the larger Chinook, which has two blades.

After receiving the approval of senior officers, O’Hare strapped a chair next to a pole in the Chinook. Sandwiched between the cue cars on one side of the helicopter and her clothing on the other, Diller rode in her preferred helicopter.

Before she returned to the United States, Diller drew a self-portrait, with spiky hair and a smile on her face and signed her name for O’Hare.  “That’s the craziest autograph I ever had,” O’Hare recalled. It wasn’t, however, the last.

Legendary actor and future head of the National Rifle Association, Charlton Heston, who played Moses in the 1956 film The Ten Commandments, also made the long trip to Vietnam to entertain the troops. On his last day before returning the states, Heston chatted with O’Hare. Heston, who autographed a program for O’Hare, asked him when he would return to the States. O’Hare recalled being nervous speaking with the intense and direct Heston.

Kevin O’Hare meets actor Charlton Heston during the actor’s visit to Vietnam in 1967.

“When you get back,” Heston urged, “you’re going to see my new movie.” When he returned to the States, O’Hare saw the film Heston mentioned: Planet of the Apes.

In addition to working with celebrities including five winners of the Miss America contest, O’Hare coordinated shows in between these high-profile visits. He kept a list of the people who could play instruments. When he found out about a drummer, a guitarist and others who could play instruments, he formed a band that provided live performances.

O’Hare also helped bring a show to the Black Virgin Mountain near Cambodia. For his work bringing that show to the troops, O’Hare won the Bronze Star.

Respect for others

While the Kings Park resident appreciates the recognition, he knows, despite escaping serious injury and death in Vietnam, that he had a considerably easier experience than many of other members of the military.

He recalled the terrible job of “tunnel rat” that the smallest and lightest men had to perform. Once the Americans found some of the tunnels built under their bases and scattered throughout the country, the tunnel rat had to try to flush out the enemy. The Vietcong left scorpions, tarantulas and snakes for the Americans. Seeing the disadvantage of fitting the profile for this job, some servicemen tried to gain weight quickly so they wouldn’t fit in small tunnels that often became death traps.

Since he left the army, O’Hare has continued to try to serve some of his fellow vets. He sits with vets and talks at a bagel store. He has also helped restore monuments like the one at Bill Richards Park, so people don’t forget the service and sacrifice of other Long Islanders. O’Hare is also the president of the Citizen’s Police Academy. 

For his consistent and enduring contributions to the community, O’Hare has won several admirers. “Nothing is too much work for him,” said Legislator Leslie Kennedy (R-Nesconset). “He does more than 20 or 30-year-olds. He’s a rocket.”

Proud of his service

Wayne Johnson on the amphibious ship USS Hermitage in 1970.

A navy veteran who served from 1968 to 1972 and a 1967 graduate of Hauppauge High School, Wayne “Mickey” Johnson is excited about the prospect of seeing his name alongside those of other members of the community who served during Vietnam.

Johnson would like his grown sons to see his name on the memorial along with those of some of his high school friends.

“I’m proud of my service,” said Johnson, who spent two years stationed in Puerto Rico and two years stationed on the amphibious ship USS Hermitage, which included a six month stint in the Mediterranean.

Johnson, who is a resident of Patchogue, said his father, Vandorn Johnson, served in the navy during World War II and the Korean conflict.

Johnson, whose brother shares a name with his father and is preparing the additional plaques, said he knows his father would be pleased with his service.

Johnson said he doesn’t mind if the memorial moves. “Wherever it is, I’ll find it,” he said. “I couldn’t be happier to be on it.”

Pixabay photo

The Suffolk County Police Department has observed a recent uptick in stolen vehicles and now urges residents to take precautions.

Detective Richard Marra of SCPD offered a brief history of the crime phenomenon in a phone interview. While vehicle theft cases have been recurrent, the detective noted that the crime is relatively preventable. 

“Ninety percent of the cars that are stolen are probably stolen because [drivers] leave the key fobs in the car,” he said.

Marra said the police department first noticed the trend about three years ago when an organized out-of-state group started targeting luxury models.

“We had a group of guys coming out of New Jersey, mostly from Newark, and they would go to the more affluent neighborhoods,” he said. “They’d come in a van, walk down the street and look for any kind of foreign car.”

Thieves often sought out vehicles with the mirrors folded open. This, Marra said, was an indicator that the vehicle was unlocked. 

If the key fob was left inside, they would easily steal the vehicle. If not, they may rummage through it for hidden valuables.

“Three years ago, it was crazy,” Marra said. “It slowed down a little bit in the last eight months, but we still have a lot of thefts of cars because the key fobs are left in the car.”

The SCPD detective said that the New Jersey bunch often resold their stolen cars on the secondary market. In a highly coordinated manner, they would steal the cars, drive to New Jersey, remove any GPS trackers and then prepare them for international shipment.

“When they had a container ready, they put them on the container, and it was usually going to South Africa,” Marra said.

While the group from New Jersey had targeted luxury models, some vehicle thieves are less interested in the car’s resale value than its utility. 

Marra said some would use the vehicle to temporarily transport drugs or steal catalytic converters, then discard it. While victims of this variety of theft often retrieved their stolen cars, its condition could be irreversibly impaired.

“The ones that are taking just any car — anything that happens to be left with the fob in it — may drive it around for a day or two and then leave it somewhere,” he said. “Sometimes it’s destroyed, sometimes it’s not, but most of the time it’s not in the shape you left it in.”

The spike in vehicle theft follows another auto theft crime that has hit the county, the theft of catalytic converters. [See story, “Catalytic converter theft on the rise in Suffolk County,” TBR News Media website, Feb. 26, 2022.]

Marra indicated that catalytic converter theft has fallen off substantially in recent months due primarily to coordinated arrests conducted with the federal government.

For residents to protect themselves from vehicle theft, he said there is a simple solution — taking their fobs with them as they exit their cars. 

“If people would take their key fobs with them and never leave them in the car, I’d say 90 to 95% of the car thefts would go down,” the detective said. “You just have to keep your keys in your pocket instead of leaving them in the console or the glove compartment.”

He added, “I know it’s nice to just jump in and drive away — but then everybody could jump in and drive away.”

The Setauket branch of Investors Bank will close in February. Photo by Rita J. Egan

Many Investors Bank customers will soon find an empty building where they once traveled to take care of their financial matters.

Last year, Citizens Bank, headquartered in Providence, Rhode Island, acquired New Jersey-based Investors Bank. While Investors’ doors remained open to customers, the process of the merger began in August as investmentaccounts transferred to Citizens, and in October, mortgage loan services transitioned from Investors to Citizens.

According to the Citizens website, the merger will “offer Investors’ customers an expanded set of products and services, enhanced online and mobile banking capabilities, and more branch locations, along with a continued commitment to making a difference in our local communities.”

While the East Northport location on Larkfield Road will remain open doing business under the Citizens name, the Investors Commack location on Jericho Turnpike will close Feb. 14. The Huntington branch on Main Street and the Setauket location on Route 25A will close their doors for the last time Feb. 15. All three due-to-be closed branches have Citizens operating nearby.

Nuno Dos Santos, retail director of Citizens, said the banks located in Commack, Huntington and East Setauket are less than 2 miles away from the Investors branches that are closing.

“As we continue to integrate Investors with Citizens, we have been reviewing customer patterns and branch locations to ensure we are serving customers when, where and how they prefer,” Dos Santos said. “As a result of this review, we will close the Investors branch locations in Commack, Huntington and Setauket.”

Current Investors employees have been encouraged to apply for positions at Citizens, according to a company spokesperson.

Stock photo
Suffolk County Police Officer Glen Ciano. File Photo.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, Suffolk County Police Commissioner Rodney K. Harrison and Commack Fire District Commissioner Pat Fazio joined Susan Ciano, widow of Suffolk County Police Officer Glen Ciano, and representatives from New York Blood Center during a press conference on February 3 at the Commack Fire Department to announce the 13th annual blood drive named in memory of Officer Ciano on Saturday, Feb. 4.  

 There has been a chronic shortage of blood supplies in New York since the pandemic and blood supplies remain below the ideal five-day safety level. Types O-, O+, B-, and A- continue to hover at less than two-day levels.  

The annual event is held in honor of Officer Ciano, who was responding to a call when he was killed by a drunk driver in Commack on February 22, 2009.  

 The blood drive will be held at the Commack Fire Department, located at 6309 Jericho Turnpike in Commack, on February 4 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.  For more information, call 631-499-6690.


Abraham Lincoln presenter Garry Rissman heads to the St. James Community Cultural Arts Center on Feb 12.

By Tara Mae

Legacy is where man and myth intertwine. More than a summation of his best ideals, the heritage of President Abraham Lincoln’s humanity takes the stage on his birthday, Sunday, Feb. 12 at 1 p.m. when he visits the St. James Community Cultural Arts Center in Celebrate St. James’ latest Living History event.

Garry Rissman, an Abraham Lincoln presenter, is the conduit for the 16th president. His interactive presentation will consist of scenes from three different plays in which Rissman inhabited the role, a monologue from the movie Lincoln, a game, and an audience Q&A session. 

Abraham Lincoln presenter Garry Rissman heads to the St. James Community Cultural Arts Center on Feb 12.

“Many attendees are history buffs and their questions display their knowledge of the historical figures. So far, the Living Historians have been great — they really assume their character — costumes, persona, mannerisms, etc. They are knowledgeable and able to answer audience questions. You would think you are actually in [the historical figure’s] presence,” said Celebrate St. James President Patricia Clark.

Historical re-enactors and living history interpreters showcase an amalgam of artistry, history, and theatricality. They make the past present, facilitating scenarios in which audiences are not simply observers but rather cooperative collaborators participating in the presenter’s paradigm. 

In this spirit, Rissman’s Lincoln interacts with his supporters, engaging with them throughout the program and creating an immersive experience. 

“The audience members who volunteer to read lines in the Civil War plays really feel more involved by being the characters. It is very fulfilling to see them enjoy a living history lecture,” said Rissman.

A member of the Association of Lincoln Presenters for nearly six years, Rissman, who also belongs to the Screen Actors Guild, has appeared as Honest Abe on stage and screen as well as in private and public occasions. 

Not unlike Lincoln, Rissman’s preferred profession is a second career. Whereas Lincoln was first a lawyer, Rissman was initially a working actor. Both roles benefit from a gift of oration.  “I decided that being a living historian was more fulfilling than being an actor in a play with little to no pay and usually no possibility of getting a copy of my performance. I can do things my way,” he said. 

Abraham Lincoln presenter Garry Rissman

Having found his path, Rissman had not yet selected the persona he would portray as he walked it. Initially, Rissman experimented with representing other prominent men of history, but they were not the right fit, so he sought inspiration from his previous occupation. 

Like the five o’clock shadow that eventually yields a full beard, Rissman’s association with President Lincoln grew from portraying him in a play at the Incarn Theatre in Brooklyn to embodying him as a full time job. 

“I was playing Lincoln in a Civil War play from [the] Incarn Theatre when I decided to go to the yearly Lincoln festival in his hometown of Hodgenville, Kentucky,” he said. “I believed that I needed to experience the Association of Lincoln Presenters first hand before deciding to spend the $200 for a lifetime membership.”

Finding resources and community to support his passion, Rissman, who is based out of New York City, embarked on his campaign of traveling Lincoln presenter. While he has been stumping, the staff and volunteers of Celebrate St. James have been organizing innovative programming to facilitate not only its mission of rejuvenating the town but buying the historic building in which it rents space.  

Celebrate St. James resides in the historic Calderone Theatre. Built in the early 1900s, the organization hopes to purchase the building and restore it as a functional theater and creative arts space. Fundraising efforts are in the early stages and the Living History series, highlighting speakers and living history presenters, is a means of spotlighting the town’s robust history and paying homage to its theatrical roots. 

These talks constitute Act One of the organization’s ongoing initiative to engage the public in local culture by invoking the past into the present. 

“Our goal is to bring attention to the history of St. James, which is a hamlet with a very rich past,” Clark said. “We want to revitalize St. James as the flourishing hamlet it once was by bringing the cultural arts to our community to drive economic growth.”     

Clark and members of her team have been inviting living history presenters to speak at their events following successful visits from Mark Twain, George Washington, and Alice Roosevelt Longworth, President Theodore Roosevelt’s oldest daughter, among others. Rissman and Clark connected via the Association of Lincoln Presenters’ official website.

“The historical recreations have become a regular series of events … Living History: Abraham Lincoln is a very family friendly educational/entertaining event and we encourage attendance from families with school age children to see the Living Historians bringing these historical characters to life,” Clark said. 

Other Celebrate St. James endeavors include art exhibits, art classes, senior fitness classes, comedy shows, a virtual book club, various children’s events, a classic film series, and summer concerts at Celebrate Park this summer. 

St. James Community Cultural Arts Center is located at 176 Second Street, 2nd floor (no elevator), in St. James. Tickets to Living History: Abraham Lincoln are $25 per person, $20 for members, $10 children ages 10 and up. The event will be followed by a Q&A and refreshments will be served. For more information, visit www.celebratestjames.org or call 631-984-0201.

The Huntington girls basketball team took on the Smithtown West Bulls Jan. 31 at a home game held at Huntington High School. The Devils emerged the winners of the Division 1 matchup, 49-38.

Huntington now stands 5-11 in the league, 6-12 overall. Smithtown West is 7-8 in Division 1 and 8-9 overall.

The Devils will take on North Babylon in an away game on Feb. 2 at 5 p.m. On the same day, the Bulls will host Northport.

METRO photo

To our readers: We appreciate your weekly letters to the editor. Writing a letter enables vital communication and contributes to a meaningful community dialogue. It is also a safety valve for expressing different, equally passionately held opinions in a civil fashion.

Letter writing can be powerful as the writer broadcasts opinions to the wider public. Here at TBR News Media, our editorial staff shoulders responsibility in channeling that message appropriately.

We hope writers and readers can regard our letters page as a community forum, a place to express themselves and potentially influence their peers and neighbors. But by necessity, this forum must be moderated to function. When a writer expresses a thought as a fact, we do our best to confirm the information is accurate. If we cannot find the information on our own, we go back to the writer and ask for a source. As journalists, we have an obligation to ensure that the facts cited are verified, that we are not allowing someone to use our letters page to spread misinformation or vitriol.

Often we are asked why our letters do not focus squarely on local matters. It’s simple — we don’t receive as many localized letters as we would like. 

Our editors aim to choose letters that represent a mix of local, county, state and national topics. We also look for a mix of opinions from conservative, liberal and moderate points of view. Letters serve as a form of public debate, and people from various sides of the political spectrum should be heard.

Moderating our letters page, we view ourselves as mediators for the various interests and opinions of the community. By sharing diverse perspectives on a range of topics, we arm our readers with the information and give them the freedom to make up their own minds.

We are asked why certain writers appear regularly on the opinion page. It’s because they write to us often and thoughtfully, and contribute to the public dialogue. We welcome and encourage letters from readers, and we hope to continue seeing new names each week.

Sometimes, we don’t receive a substantial number of letters to choose from each week that gives both sides of an issue.

If readers feel something is missing from our paper — whether from the news or editorial sections — we urge that they write us. We welcome readers’ thoughts — including criticism — regarding our content. Please feel free to react to a recent article or reflect upon life in our hometown. You can comment on an entertaining festival or even chronicle a delightful day spent at the park. The opportunities for letter writing are endless, so don’t be shy. Let your thoughts be heard.

We edit letters not to censor, but to catch grammatical mistakes, for consistency and to protect the media outlet and letter writers from libel suits. We edit for A.P. style, which is the standard in most U.S.-based news publications. We also edit for length and good taste. If a letter runs longer, we may print it as a perspective piece along with the writer’s photo.

As for good taste, our letters page is not the place to bash a neighbor or a fellow writer. There are plenty of instances when one writer will reference another person and their letter, addressing specific ideas in the other’s writings, and that’s acceptable. However, name-calling or denigration are not helpful.

In the past, we have received letters using derogatory nicknames for presidents and other officials and political figures. We do our best to edit out uncivil language.

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So, please send us a letter — see address and formal policy statement to the right of this editorial. We are always interested in your thoughts, especially regarding what goes on in our coverage area.

METRO photo

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

One day, you’re playing with your twin sons at home, running around with a ball on the driveway, calling and waving to neighbors who pass by when they walk their dogs or take their daily stroll through the neighborhood.

The next day, your life changes.

You want to know why or how, but you’re too busy trying to apply the brakes to a process that threatens the nature of your existence and your current and future happiness.

Your son had some gastrointestinal issues for a few weeks. You took him to the pediatrician and he said he’s got to get over a virus.

You wait, hope, and maybe say a few extra prayers, because the hardest thing for any parent to endure is the sickness of a child.

You check on him, day after day, hoping he’s better, only to find that there’s no improvement.

Suddenly, three weeks later, you’re in the hospital, trying to keep yourself, your spouse, and your other son calm while doctors remove a malignant brain cancer in a 5-year-old boy who defines “goofy” and “playful.”

One of our close friends in our neighborhood just started this unimaginable battle against a disease many of us know all too well, although the specific form of cancer varies.

Their babysitter shared the horror of the prior weekend with me outside the window of her passing car, where she normally would have driven both the twins to school.

I heard the story because I asked about the empty car seat in the back, where both boys typically showed me whatever stuffed animals or toys they had decided to bring to school, either for show and tell or because they were carrying an object that began with a particular letter.

As I talked with the babysitter, who spoke in the kind of hushed and dramatic tones often associated with discussions about serious health crises, I thought about how hard it was and will be for the other son. I thought he needed the kind of 5-year-old normalcy that might become hard to find when he’s worried about his brother and the anxious adults around him.

I asked him to show me what he was holding. He had a pink llama, who he said wanted to poop on my head or on my dog’s head.

I told him that my dog wouldn’t appreciate the poop unless the stuffed llama somehow pooped pink marshmallows.

He laughed, flashing all his straight baby teeth.

As I walked home, I thought of all the things my wife and I planned to offer our neighbors. Maybe we’d babysit the healthy son, walk their dogs, help with house chores, bring over food, do anything to lighten the unbearably heavy load.

I also thought about all the scientists at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Brookhaven National Laboratory and Stony Brook University I have known who are working towards cures for cancer.

Many of them know someone in their family, their friend group, their neighborhood, or their schools who, like my daughter’s beloved first-grade teacher, suddenly were in a battle for their lives against a disease that steals time and joy from people’s lives.

Their labs often invite or include family members of people with cancer to staff meetings and discussions about their work, making the connection between what the scientists are studying and the people desperate for solutions.

It seems utterly cliche to write it, but I’m going to do it anyway: we should appreciate and enjoy the days we have when we’re not in that battle. The annoyance of dealing with someone who got our order wrong at a restaurant seems so spectacularly small in comparison. 

We can appreciate that the person who seems like a total jerk for cutting us off on our way home may also be the one racing back to hug his child or spouse after an impossible day that changed his life.

Season 1, Episode 13 of 'The Sopranos'

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

Having been exposed to the pleasure of streaming movies on my “smart” television, I now look for good stories and have caught up with “The Sopranos.” I well remember how popular the series was, running from Jan. 10, 1999, to June 10, 2007, winning all kinds of awards and addicting millions with its 86 episodes. Somehow I never caught up with the drama, but now, thanks to HBOMax, I have turned the family room into a nightly theater and watch as Tony Soprano tries to balance his work “family” and his biological family responsibilities, thanks to the help of an Italian-American woman psychiatrist. 

At the end of the latest installment, Tony, his wife Carmela and his daughter and son are driving at night when they are deluged by a wild rainstorm. Unable to see the road ahead, and with all of them feeling in peril, Tony parks and ushers his family into an Italian restaurant nearby. There, despite the loss of electricity, the proprietor cooks a marvelous pasta dinner for them, which they finally calm down and eat by candlelight, huddled together at a table in the warm and dry dining room. As he is appreciating the spaghetti on his fork, Tony looks up and says to his children something like, “When you think back on your childhood, it will be scenes like this that you will remember,” while the camera fades out.

That got me thinking. Can I recall such scenes from my childhood, when being with my family in a safe place was so comforting?

One of the first such memories for me was of an intense rainstorm in the Catskill Mountains. I was perhaps 5 or 6 and with my mother and sister in a dilapidated cabin, whose roof leaked ominously. After my mother put pails under the leaks, she realized I was frightened. “Just wait,” she said with a smile, “This storm has brought us pancakes.” With that, she took out a large frying pan from the cupboard, mixed together flour, eggs and milk, poured Hi-Hat peanut oil (the popular brand then) into the pan, and started cooking the mixture, as thunder cracked overhead. Almost immediately, the irresistible smell of the pancakes started to fill the rustic room. 

My mother dabbed the extra oil from the dollar-sized pancakes at the stove, put them on a platter on the kitchen table, brought out a bottle of maple syrup, and my sister and I started to eat ravenously. Soon, my mother joined us at the table, and despite the frequent bolts of lightning I could see through the windows behind her head, and the dripping water in the buckets, I felt warm and safe.

The only trouble with that memory: every time there is a heavy rain, I get the urge for pancakes.

I asked my middle son if he had such a memory, and he remembered when we were out in the Sound in our 22-foot Pearson Ensign day sailboat, and the wind and seas suddenly picked up. We had been enjoying a sunny, peaceful sail near New Haven harbor, my husband and three sons and I, sprawled out in the big cockpit, when the unexpected shift in weather occurred. 

With the waves towering around us, we pulled down the sail, put the outboard motor at the stern on high speed, and made for the harbor. My husband, at the tiller, gave each of us a task. My sons were to bail out the water that was flooding the cockpit with every crashing wave, and I was to sit on top of the motor to try and keep it in the water every time a wave pushed us up.

Needless to say, it was a harrowing ride until we finally reached shore and tied up at the marina, onlookers clapping. We left the boat and were thrilled to be on the sand. Drenched as we were, we walked the short distance to the harborside restaurant, Chart House and, laughing by then, had one of the best meals of our lives. 

By the way, if you, too, missed “The Sopranos” the first time around, I heartily recommend it.