Your Turn

Rosh Hashanah. METRO photo

By Rabbi Paul Sidlofsky

Rabbi Paul Sidlofsky

Though Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, the High Holy Days, are late in our secular  calendar, they will soon once again be upon us. I am honored to have been asked to bring  words of greeting at this important time from my family, from Temple Isaiah and from  my own heart. 

One message contained in the High Holy Day liturgy is that at this time of year, our  destinies are determined. On Rosh Hashana it is written, and on Yom Kippur it is sealed,  who will live and who will die, and what will become of us in the year ahead. 

To be honest, this is not a statement that many of us believe literally. We may not think  that our destiny is pre-determined. But the message still is significant. We realize that there are times in our lives that do determine what happens to us. Even the liturgy we read states that our actions can help alter the outcome of what is to be. 

Whether or not we are participating in the Jewish holy days, let us all. as human beings,  realize the awesome nature of our ability to affect our own lives and the lives of those  around us. This can happen in many ways, and is different for each of us. Yet one  privilege we all share is exercising our freedom to vote. 

Rabbi Joel Mosbacher of Temple Shaarey Tefila in New York City wrote the following  during a previous election year: “In our traditional morning blessings which we call Nisim B’Chol Yom, ‘Daily Miracles,’ we offer gratitude for being free. As American Jews, we do not take for granted the  tremendous gift that we have in being free and enjoying the freedoms that every  American has. This is a freedom that Jews have not always been afforded. What a gift we have to be Jews living in America today, with the right to express our opinions and raise our voices through voting.” 

With the gift of freedom comes responsibility. This message applies to all Americans and indeed to all free people. In this spirit, I want to encourage our exercising one of our  fundamental rights and privileges. Here are some easy steps to follow: 

Register to vote: Check to see if you are registered to vote and if you are not, register online today. 

Mark your calendars to vote: on Tuesday, November 8. 

Make a plan to vote: Finding your polling place by visiting nyc.pollsitelocator.com or vote.org. 

We give thanks for our freedom, and for being gifted with the privilege of voting. May  we all make good use of this precious gift, this year and in years to come. 

Best wishes to the Jewish community, and to entire community, for a shana tova u m’tuka, a good and sweet year; one of joy, health and freedom. 

L’shalom.

Rabbi Paul Sidlofsky is a rabbi at Temple Isaiah in Stony Brook.

Trophies from previous Port Jefferson Hill Climbs. Photo from Robert Laravie

By Robert Laravie

One always wonders if it a good idea to open an email from a name you do not recognize. In early April of this year one came in from Caroline Carless. I almost thought it was an email version of the robocalls I receive about extended auto service coverage —  you know something like “Don’t be left carless…extend your car warranty.” In a weak moment I decided to open it.

It turned out Caroline was from SW England in Dorset and she must have found my contact information from the promotion of the 2021 Port Jefferson Hill Climb. She stated that her companion, Colin Burnett, collected three handled cups and she had two trophy cups from the 1911 Port Jefferson Hill Climb. They were acquired over 20 years ago at a Lawrences auction in England. She felt it would be best if they were returned to Port Jefferson.

A photo of W. J. Fallon driving in the 1911 Hill Climb from a 1911 trade journal The Horseless Age. Photo from Robert Laravie

Together with Chris Ryon, the Port Jefferson Village Historian, we researched the event numbers on the cups. One was No. 14. It appears event No. 14 was won by W.J. Fallon. Fallon was in real estate and one of the organizers of the hill climb and drove in a few events. He posted fastest times in the two amateur classes he entered, one for cars from $1200 to $2000 he won in a Corbin, in 34.56 seconds. The other for cars $2001 and over he won in a National in 25.30 seconds. Don Herr, in a National was overall fasted of the day in an event called the Free- For- All at 21.31 seconds, just beating out a Knox driven by F. W. Belcher at 21.57.

The event number 15 trophy has engraved on it “Presented by Mrs. C. B. Zabriskie.” A little more research in the Port Jefferson archives and on line revealed that Mr. C. B. Zabriskie was an executive with the Borax Company. He lived, when not managing the mining operation in Death Valley, in New York City and in his summer house in Belle Terre on Woodland Road. Zabriskie Point in Death Valley is named after him as well as a Michelangelo Antonioni movie of the same name, but that’s another story.

Thanks to the generosity of Caroline Carless and the collecting passion of Colin Burnett, the Port Jefferson Conservancy will have the trophies back in Port Jefferson and will have them on display at the Port Jefferson Village Center at 101-A East Broadway during the annual 1910 Hill Climb on Saturday, Sept. 24 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. 

A resident of Port Jefferson, Robert Laravie has been a member of the Port Jefferson Harbor Education & Arts Conservancy for the last seven years. 

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II at the South of England Show in Ardingly in 1984 which our writer attended. Photo courtesy Mid Sussex Times/SussexWorld.co.uk

By John Broven

It was like a “JFK” or “9/11” remember-where-you-were moment when the news broke Thursday, just after 1:30 p.m. EST: “Queen Elizabeth II has died.” For this Brit expat, it was a big shock even though she was 96 years old. Only two days before, she had held the “kissing the hands” ceremony with new prime minister, Liz Truss (C). 

John Broven Photo by Diane Wattecamps

It became clear the queen’s loss was being felt far beyond the United Kingdom as tributes poured in from every corner of the globe, signaling the enormous impact of a 70-year reign during which she performed her often centuries-old duties with wisdom, dignity, gentle good humor and an essential mystique.

The new King Charles III, her son aged 73, caught the moment when he said in a statement, “I know her loss will be deeply felt throughout the country, the Realms and the Commonwealth, and by countless people around the world.”

I am a member of the knighted Mick Jagger-Elton John-Paul McCartney generation (where did I go wrong?). It was Jagger who summarized our thoughts when he tweeted, “For my whole life Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, has always been there.” And now she isn’t. The second Elizabethan era is over.

The queen’s death Sept. 8 in Balmoral, Scotland, has been covered extensively by the media. Briefly, she was born in Mayfair, London, on April 21, 1926; married Philip, Duke of Edinburgh her pillar of strength on Nov. 20, 1947; became queen of the U.K. and other Commonwealth realms on Feb. 6, 1952, also head of the Church of England; was a working mother with four children including Charles; and owned a string of corgi dogs and racehorses through the years.

Such basic facts obscure the sweeping social and economic changes she saw in her reign, without revolution or revolt, from postwar austerity and the Swingin’ ’60s through to post-modern Britain, even as the sun set on the old British Empire. Soon the currency notes, coins and postage stamps bearing her likeness will be phased out and replaced. 

Personal reflections? My first big memory was in relation to the death of Elizabeth’s father, King George VI, in 1952 while she was on a trip to Kenya, East Africa. I was in Mrs. Vidler’s class at Polegate Primary School, East Sussex, and you could hear the proverbial pin drop when we were told “the king is dead.” A dark February Wednesday morning became even darker. In our childhood grief, we had no idea nor cared that the queen’s first prime minister was Winston Churchill. She was only 25 when ascending the throne. 

The coronation did not take place until June 2, 1953, but what a glorious affair it was with celebrations in every city, town and village. Some 20 million viewers were able to watch the glittering, expensive ceremony from Westminster Abbey live on television, with many households including ours buying their first TVs, in black and white.

As Jagger indicated, the queen was a constant, whether for the annual Christmas televised message that highlighted her strong Christian faith, the State Opening of Parliament, Trooping the Colour, the Royal Ascot and Epsom Derby horserace meetings, or various other occasions. 

I saw her in person twice, both during my management spells at Midland Bank, Haywards Heath, West Sussex, in the 1970s and ‘80s. The first occasion was when she visited the neighboring headquarters of the Royal Commonwealth Society for the Blind. Imagine my surprise when I was walking to my car after work and, with nobody else around, she passed by me in the royal vehicle with no motorcade or security guards in sight. I swear she gave a little regal wave. The next time was when she presented prizes at the South of England Show in Ardingly, where the bank’s meet-and-greet pavilion gave us a ringside view. There was a majestic aura that seeped from her as she beguiled everybody at the agricultural showground — as she did elsewhere in a long lifetime of public service.  

King Charles III 

What of King Charles III, who represents continuity and has made a promising start to his reign. An often unfairly misunderstood man, he has been ahead of his time on environmental matters, wildlife preservation and climate change. His views on architecture were more controversial if personal. On a different level, his image was severely dented by the disastrous marriage to Diana, with whom he had William now heir to the throne as Prince of Wales and current-U.S. resident Harry. Charles married longtime flame Camilla Parker Bowles in 2005 and she is now queen consort. Time has gradually healed the British public’s disdain toward them both.

It is not widely appreciated that Charles founded the Prince’s Trust. For a while I was a trust business counselor in Ashford, Kent, and can attest to the value of the scheme for young entrepreneurs. Another factoid is that he has been patron of The Goon Show Preservation Society. The website noted, in the spirit of the groundbreaking 1950s comedy show, that “we would like to thank Prince Charles for agreeing to be our patron and look forward to the coming years with trembling socks.”

Britain now has a novice king and a novice prime minister, both unelected by the people at large. There are difficult days ahead for a country badly hit by the coronavirus pandemic, the self-induced Brexit debacle, inflation currently running at 10% with soaring energy costs due to the Russia-Ukraine war, rumblings on the Scottish independence front, possible Irish trade confrontation, threatened departures from the Commonwealth and, indeed, concern for the future direction of the monarchy itself. 

Still, as President Joe Biden (D) and First Lady Jill Biden said in a statement, “Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II was more than a monarch. She defined an era.” 

Thank you Queen Elizabeth II and God save the king. The state funeral, combining solemnity with pageantry, will be held Monday, Sept. 19, at Westminster Abbey, London, at 11 a.m. (6 a.m. EST).

East Setauket resident John Broven is subeditor and proofreader in the TBR editorial department and has written three award-winning music history books. He recently edited and contributed to “New York City Blues” by Larry Simon. His three Brexit articles can be found online at tbrnewsmedia.comWith thanks to Mark Dunford, editor of National World, and the website www.sussexexpress.co.uk/heritage-and-retro/retro/nostalgia-3691487

 

Park sitting at his favorite bench in Stony Brook Village. Photo by Barbara Anne Kirshner

By Barbara Anne Kirshner

SWEET 16! A milestone in the life of a teenager-a threshold into exciting adventures on the horizon whether it be college, military service, work, Sweet 16 ushers in all of life’s expectations with parents right there to rejoice and take pride in accomplishments awaiting their child.

BUT what if the Sweet 16 is your precious dog? In that case, 16 becomes a dreaded number foreshadowing the impending end. You look at your little charge and instead of being filled with joys for the future, you are reduced to the dread of that haunting overriding question “WHEN?” When will your companion suffer the ravages of old age? When will our time together run out? When will you experience your last day together and be forced to whisper “goodbye”?

All these thoughts fill me with dread. Park has been the BEST boy, my special little man. I’ve written about how we met; how I was hesitant to take on another dog with two at home already; how he became Park The Christmas Puppy having joined our family on Christmas 2006; how he became my traveling buddy; how strangers marveled at how good he was in his stroller as we toured local stores; and how, on numerous occasions, cars stopped, and people called out, “That is the most beautiful dog I’ve ever seen!”

Park sitting at his favorite bench in Stony Brook Village.
Photo by Barbara Anne Kirshner

Then the day came when my editor asked me to write an article on the 2014 motorcycle exhibit at the Ward Melville Heritage Organization’s Educational and Cultural Center in Stony Brook Village. The curator asked me to come down on July 3, Park’s birthday. I couldn’t bear to leave my boy on his special day, so I asked if he could join and thankfully, Park was welcomed. They were impressed with how good he was as we toured the exhibit and how he let me work just as long as I was in his eyesight.

The curator suggested that Park and I stop off at the Village Green, a lush park-like section fronting quaint shops at the Stony Brook Village Center. Park and I were delighted with this picturesque spot and we rested for the first time on what was to become “Park’s Bench.” That was the first of our annual visits to this special bench overlooking Stony Brook Harbor. Every year since then, no matter what we have planned for his birthday celebration, we pause at his bench — two friends sitting and enjoying a few quiet moments together before the rest of his birthday festivities begin.

Last year Park was paralyzed, having gone down May 15, 2021, through the summer including his birthday. Then miraculously, through constant visits to the vet for treatments, he regained the use of his hind legs in late September 2021.

Now, at 16, his face shows signs of age though amazingly, he hasn’t grayed, but his eyes now lack that playful sparkle once so prevalent and that constant energy is gone. He has a decided tremor that seems to be more apparent with each passing day and lately he’s faltering again when he walks.

Yet I am blessed to have my little man at Sweet 16, to still be able to pet him and look into those loving eyes. But TIME and the BIG question “WHEN” loom large.

When Park decides he has had enough of this world, it will be one of the greatest hits in my life as there is no consolation for the loss of a loved one. The only solace for me comes from an adage from Brandon McMillan of the original Lucky Dog series:

“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”

A resident of Miller Place, Barbara Anne Kirshner writes theater reviews for TBR News Media and is a freelance journalist, playwright and author of “Madison Weatherbee — The Different Dachshund.

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American Jiu Jitsu Centers’ students Joe and Summer demonstrate a self-defense technique. Photo by Rita J. Egan

When my husband told me about a women’s self-defense class on Aug. 22 at the jiu jitsu center where he and his daughter train, I jumped at the opportunity to attend. The fact that it was free to those who signed up before Aug. 22 was an added bonus.

It’s been a long time since I had to avoid unwelcome gestures at bars or being picked up — including physically — by men. Still, with current headlines citing increased crime, including in nearby New York City, it was time to brush up on some skills.

It had been more than 20 years since I was in a similar class. Before I stepped into the dojo at American Jiu Jitsu Centers on Lake Avenue in St. James Monday night, I only remembered one or two techniques. One is to hold my keys a certain way if it’s dark or I feel I am in danger, and go for a person’s crevice in their neck if they threaten me.

After Monday night’s class, I have a few more techniques in my arsenal.

Led by the school’s Shihan Francine and Sensei Charlie, other black belts and lower rank students were on hand to help with approximately two dozen women in attendance.

The importance of learning how to protect oneself was stressed in the hour-long class. The two head instructors were the perfect match to lead the class. Sensei Charlie is tall and muscular, while Shihan Francine is petite, standing 5 feet 3 inches. Charlie joked during one demonstration that he could bench press three times her weight, but that didn’t stop Francine from being able to push him to the ground while showing the women a defense move.

During the class, Sensei Charlie shared some statistics from Bethpage-based The Safe Center with the students. Among the stats, as far as experiences with attempted or complete rape, 1 in 5 women and 1 in 33 men have reported such cases. The center’s Human Trafficking Department in 2019 responded to 500 human trafficking victims, both adults and youth. Violence also happens in private homes with the center reporting 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men being victims of domestic violence in their lifetimes.

To me, it’s always shocking that while men can also be attacked, more women still find themselves as victims. Living in suburbia for decades, sometimes I forget the importance of being aware of my surroundings and knowing what to do if danger presents itself. Something I was more conscious of when I was a child in Queens or frequently traveling to Manhattan in my younger years.

One of the most important things I learned from the class is the first thing to do, when a person approaches you, is back away. Then maintain a nonconfrontational stance, and say, “Hey, I don’t want any trouble.” At the same time, it’s crucial to bring your arms up, hands in front of your face, to let the person know that you can defend yourself if needed.

Shihan Francine and Sensei Charlie shared several techniques with the women, such as heel-palm, knee and eye strikes. A main technique includes a combination of a kick, followed by a heel-palm strike, knee to the groin followed by a blow with an elbow. One of the most important things stressed was to shout “No!” with each move and to do so loudly.

The sequence and others were repeated several times, and students were able to practice with each other and the black belts.

I enjoyed that combining techniques was just like learning dance choreography, and I found the repetition helpful. 

The importance of repetition was stressed so that the techniques come naturally. Shihan Francine said the sequence of moves wasn’t as important as remembering each of them. One student she knew years ago was attacked on the subway. Even though he only remembered to kick, she said the main thing is that he did something.

The black belts on hand shared advice to remember every day such as walking with confidence, looking people in the eyes when passing them, being aware of your surroundings and not putting earpods in both ears. Facing one’s back to a door or wall when stopping to make a phone call or to text is also important.

Sensei Charlie and his daughter as well as my husband, Joe, and my stepdaughter Summer gave demonstrations. Seeing young teenage girls being able to take down grown men sent the message home that women don’t need to be damsels in distress anymore with proper awareness and a bit of training.

After the class, I reached out to Shihan Francine and she said that American Jiu Jitsu Centers, which was founded by head instructor O’Sensei Joe Puleio, “is always delighted to host free martial arts seminars for women and welcomes the chance to give back to the communities of St. James and surrounding areas.”

Shihan Francine has taught several of the women’s self-defense classes at the school and has seen this empowerment on a regular basis.

“It is great to see new people learn practical defense techniques in under an hour,” she said. “It is even more exciting for me, though, when some of the participants are empowered enough to continue their training and join us on the mat every week.”

She added that there are many women who train at the St. James location: “These ladies continue to practice their skills several times a week and have the strength and confidence to defend themselves against an attacker.”

For more information and the opportunity to take a free trial class at AJJC, visit ajjctraining.com.

Rita J. Egan is the editor of The Village Times Herald, The Times of Smithtown and The Times of Huntington & Northport. 

Pixabay photo

By Warren Strugatch

Warren Strugatch

My late wife Cindy and I made the jazz scene at Harmony Vineyards in the mid-2010s. The venue was marvelous, the music superb. We really dug young Zach, the man-bun styled bassist who held forth from Harmony’s tiny proscenium most weekends.  

Zach — first name, Keenan — stood out as both musician and band leader. Still in his 20s, his solid time evoking the legendary Ray Brown, Zach’s star was clearly on the rise. We’d walk in from the cold and listening from outside the room we’d know, from just a few notes, that Zach was on bass. 

The Harmony series ended, alas, but we kept running into this bass-playing prodigy around the North Shore. Tom Manuel, artistic director and Jazz Loft founder, entrusted him with the Loft’s Wednesday Night jam sessions. Week after week, Zach organized walk-on musicians into tight, expectation-defying ensembles. Under his direction, the guys on stage sounded like they work together all the time. On any given Wednesday night, you’d hear some of the finest jazz on Long Island. In fact, you still can.

Back in those pre-Covid days we attended delightful concerts put on by the Three Village Chamber Players. Here again was Zach playing Bach, Handel, and Teleman alongside oboes, harpsichords, and theremins.

Soon thereafter, we attended an outdoor concert by Taylor Ackley and the Deep Roots Ensemble, playing Taylor’s unique hybrid brand of prairie swing. Once more, it was Zach on bass.

By now, the man-bun was history.

Between sets, Zach mentioned he’d enrolled at Stony Brook University’s doctoral program in music performance. He said his studies were weaning him from his long-time need for audience approval; he felt now he could more readily play from what he called his authentic self and feel the music was going over with audiences. Clearly, his performances continued to blossom. 

As for getting a doctorate, he felt that would help hone his performances in all genres, while expanding his career options.

As Graduation Day approached, Zach reflected that his enrollment was a wise choice, having raised his appreciation for the nuances of chamber music even as it’s propelled him forward as a jazzman. 

“It’s all music,” he explained in a recent conversation. “I love jazz and I love chamber music. At this point in life and musical progress, I don’t feel there is all that much difference between musical styles. It’s not like jazz is pure improvisation and classical music is entirely written out. There’s substantial structure in jazz and much room for improvisation in chamber music.

He continued, “In fact, jazz really is a kind of chamber music. Musicians listen to each other and improvise together, whether it’s a jam session or a chamber recital.”

At age 34, the Miller Place native finds himself at a musical and personal crossroads.

“I really am at a precipice,” he says. “I face so many transitions. I ask myself: What comes next? Do I move further west and compete for more gigs and opportunities in jazz? Do I get more involved in classical bass playing? Do I pursue a faculty position at a university and maybe relocate to a rural area?”

The self-questioning brings him back to a comment he’s heard at SBU more than once from Ray Anderson, the jazz trombonist, teacher, and philosopher: “Let’s play, let’s have fun and maybe, just maybe, we’ll learn something.”

Zach smiles. “That’s the essence of jazz. Right there.” 

Pixabay photo

By Warren Strugatch

Warren Strugatch

The gorilla suit is gone, but three small tents and a whole bunch of unique carnival games remain, including a giant polar bear hula hoop toss. It’s all up for sale.

Martin G. Greenstein, better known as Uncle Marty, explains:

“The gorilla suit we sold 11 years ago. We had maybe 800 costumes in all. The gorilla was my favorite. We hired helpers to wear the costumes and entertain, do a little magic, things like that. There were lots of interactive games that are still in our basement.”

Here’s the back story. In the 80s, Uncle Marty helmed a go-go business, Event Pros Group, that served clients all over New York and New Jersey. In peak season, Uncle Marty juggled several corporate events at a time plus any number of weddings and bar mitzvahs. He employed dozens of people. His personal style was a mix of easy optimism and unguarded fun; P.T. Barnum meets Walter Mitty.

Tastes change. Entertainers in gorilla suits and polar bear hula hoops fell out of style. Uncle Marty and his beloved wife Dianna, who handles business operations, eventually sold off the costume collection. As they approached their 40th anniversary in the business, the couple began planning their own retirement. They wrote a succession plan but a family dispute got in the way. With no one in line to inherit the business, the Greensteins packed up their inventory and brought everything home to Lake Ronkonkoma.

With big gatherings down because of Covid, Uncle Marty has free time on his hands. He has time now to hone plenty of magic tricks, a long-time hobby. He also wrote a book called “How to Sell the Brooklyn Bridge…, and Other Stuff,” self-published in 2015.

Mr. Greenstein never anticipated a career in events, having dropped out of high school to work. After a stint helping his father at his catering business in his 20s, he saved up and bought a taxi medallion. With his hardcore Brooklyn accent and extroverted manner, he became the quintessential Nu Yawk cab driver. A casting director in the passenger seat took note, leading to a series of small roles in TV commercials.

Remember the Aleve Santa Claus spot? One year, Santa was Marty.

After a few years driving a cab, Marty sold the medallion and used the money to open a coffee shop inside Baron’s Department Store in Smithtown. When Baron’s unexpectedly closed, the Greensteins took their pots and pans and started a catering business. With the embedded instincts of a Catskills tummler, Uncle Marty became a professional smile generator, hosting thousands of social and corporate gatherings across greater New York. He hired young helpers to do interactive games, some of which are now stored in his basement awaiting new owners. 

Uncle Marty is 85 now. These days he pours his creative energy into wood sculpting, creating artworks he sells at outdoor shows. Many of his pieces are inspired by traditional Jewish themes. He’s still out there entertaining and doing events every chance he gets. 

“Making people feel good, that’s what inspires me,” he says.

With a deck of playing cards in his pocket, and a resilient bounce in his step, Uncle Marty continues to meet his daily smile quota. As for the tents and the other stuff in the basement: “I’m gonna sell ’em. I’m still busy and I’ll stay busy. Just not with tents.” 

Retirement? Not yet. Who has time for that?

METRO photo

By Warren Strugatch

Warren Strugatch

This past Easter Sunday was my first without my wife Cindy. On the little dining room table that she brought home from Europe, beneath the candy-colored mini-chandelier acquired on the same trip, I set a holiday table. I reheated crab cakes, stirred up some homemade hollandaise, and sat down to a tasty, albeit solitary, meal.  

I celebrated Easter remembering how Cindy made it festive. She made every holiday festive, none more so than Christmas. She celebrated to the max: decorating, cooking, doling out family tales about her resourceful, hard-toiling immigrant ancestors from England, Holland, Germany, and Ireland. 

I come from a Jewish family with roots in Poland and Belarus; Easter and Christmas were terra incognita. I offered immigrant stories too, plus treats like halvah and matzo brei. Of gefilte fish, the less said the better. 

On Easter, Cindy baked ham, broiled asparagus, boiled potatoes, and prepared quiche. The ham she shared with her mother, Patricia, who had come to live with us in Stony Brook. The quiche, the designated vegetarian plate, was for me. The asparagus was for all. I made matzo brei, the traditional egg and matzo casserole.

The memories of those meals and other occasions warm my heart. My beautiful wife died of leukemia in February. Her mother passed away a year earlier from heart disease. I’ve inherited many of their rituals, including Easter brunch and Christmas celebrations. Now they’re my traditions, too.

My mother-in-law Patricia Slattery, who went by Pat, grew up in the fifties on a farm in Huntington. She got a job working for lawyers while still in high school, surprising her parents. She married Larry Smith, a Navy vet returning from the Korean war, and the couple settled in Smithtown. In a way it was a homecoming, as Larry claimed descent from Smithtown founder Richard “Bull” Smith.  

He opened an auto repair shop. She stayed home to raise Cindy and her younger brother Lawrence, then went to work full-time in the 1980s. In the mid-2000s her car was hit from behind while she drove home from work. Pat suffered a stroke, never walked again, and spoke only with much effort.

Soon thereafter, Pat moved in. With nothing said out loud, Cindy became keeper of the Smith legacy. Her family’s approach to holiday celebrations was revelatory. As for me, I grew up in the Bronx and then Westchester, my home resembling a Larry David script co-written with Billy Crystal. You want a holiday? Come for Festivus. We’ll show you how to share grievances! Billy’s six Jewish relatives, hopping from photo album to photo album, alighted on ours. Hey, that’s Uncle Morty!

As Passover often coincides with Easter, Cindy took elements of one holiday and incorporated them into the other. Our first hybrid celebration almost didn’t happen. Cindy, an event planner par excellence, asked me to collect what was needed a week ahead of time. I dug into the boxes I brought from my previous life and found a menorah. What about the matzo? Well, the store was out.

Cindy: “Go find a store and buy matzo. What are you waiting for?”

I went, I shopped, I couldn’t find. The Passover shopping season was over.  Returning to Stony Brook, I opened the front door to the scent of baked ham and cooked matzo. Cindy must have hidden a box and found a recipe online.

“Happy Passover,” she said.

Comedian Debbie D'Amore at the April 15 show. Photo by Barbara Anne Kirshner

By Barbara Anne Kirshner

I usually share my theatre reviews with you, but this time I want to tell you about something a little different.

My husband and I love comedy, especially stand up, but haven’t gone to anything like that in a long time. We decided to try McGuires Comedy Club in Bohemia. McGuires and The Brokerage in Bellmore are sister clubs to Governors’ Comedy Club in Levittown, an institution in comedy that has been around for over 35 years and has featured home grown Long Island comedians in addition to national headliners such as Kevin James, Andrew Dice-Clay and Gilbert Gottfried. McGuires opened in 2017 and quickly established a reputation for bringing some of the finest comedy to Suffolk County for a reasonable price.

Host John Trueson at the April 15 show. Photo by Barbara Anne Kirshner

McGuires offers a variety of comedy nights. Sometimes it hosts headliners like Joey Kola (May 7) or Don Irrera (June 2). Sometimes it’s a 2-man show like Kevin Brennan and Bob Levy (April 29). Showcases are a popular staple like the All Star Comedy Show and the one we caught Friday night, April 15, Stars of Tomorrow. This showcase attracted us because we thought, who knows, maybe we’ll see the next Amy Schumer, Jerry Seinfeld or Eddie Murphy.

John Trueson hosted the evening’s festivities. Trueson, an obvious professional, energized the audience with his personable banter as he kept the pace throughout the evening, quick and flawless, introducing one comedian after the next. 

I consider stand up a challenging art form and I admire anyone with the guts to get up in front of an audience and try to make them laugh. Most of these comedians joked about themselves and the foibles of their families which made it good fun.

The playlist for the evening was well thought out. First up, Tim Gage, who jumped onstage full of energy and never let up. His jokes were about highly relatable family matters. His observation of, “Have you ever looked at your own parents and wondered what it was that brought those two together?” brought down the house. He poked fun of the school system with his son’s teacher telling him, “Your son’s got ADD, he might be good in sports.” So, he started coaching his son’s little league. “My son made it to first base once; he didn’t know where he was.” The jokes were quick and furious.

Next up was Nick Damadeo who started off, “My wife listed a few topics I’m not allowed to discuss.” He went through the list then concluded, “ Most people don’t give a damn about anything on that list.” He poked fun at his profession, “The doctor said to me you’re a lawyer, aren’t you? Yeah, how’d you know? I can’t find a heart.” Yes, there were lots of lawyer jokes.

Comedians Debbie D’Amore and Chris Road at the April 15 event. Photo by Barbara Anne Kirshner

Chris Roach introduced himself with put on snobbery, “I’m from upper Ronkonkoma.” He had the audience in the palm of his hand with jokes on the pandemic. “I want to pass a new law that anytime anyone says ‘variant’ I want to punch them in the mouth.” And “I’m not going back in the house. I’m going to kill somebody if I have to do one more puzzle.”

Not all the comedians were funny. There was one who was brave enough to let us know this was his first stand up gig and it showed. Another went into political “humor” that received groans. This crowd, like most of us, is done with political humor.

There were only two female comedians and they brought up the end of the billing. Debbie D’Amore, with her engaging smile, makes you feel like she’s inviting you into her living room for an evening of fun. She started by shaking her head saying, “Why do I do this? My friends are retiring and I go to comedy college.” Then she laments, “Gone are the days of the masks. Now I got to shave!” 

Her timing was smooth as she segued from one joke into the next often making fun of her well-endowed self. She quipped about the time she and her husband went to Gurney’s Inn. She shared that he had red trunks, so she went to the resort shop and bought a cute red bathing suit. Only problem was it didn’t support her in the waves; the visual was hysterical. 

The last up was 20-something blonde, Kelsey McKeon who said, “I recently became a blonde and if you wonder if blondes have more fun; with me, I’m a train wreck at any color.”

On the way out, I stopped to congratulate D’Amore. As we spoke, a young woman approached and said, “Thank you for making me laugh uncontrollably tonight.” That about summed it up for me too.

Don’t we all need an escape, a place we can rely on for some laughs? Come to McGuires or The Brokerage or the mother club, Governors. You’ll be glad you did.

Miller Place resident Barbara Anne Kirshner is a freelance journalist, playwright and author of “Madison Weatherbee — The Different Dachshund.”

 

A view of the Town of Brookhaven Landfill in Yaphank. Photo by Erica Cirino

By Erica Cirino

One recent morning, I drove my trash and recycling to my local waste transfer station in Connecticut. I had a single bag of garbage to dispose of, a large bin of recycling, and a few thick chunks of treated lumber leftover from the weekend’s project: building a set of wooden stairs up to my front door.

First, I dumped the recycling down one of two wide rusty metal trash chutes—clang, clang, clang! Down went a cascade of cans, plastic containers, crumpled papers, cardboard boxes, into the dark abyss below.

But what was below? I peeked around the enormous chutes—one labeled for recycling and one for trash—and I noticed each led to an open-topped shipping container meant to be transported by truck, train, or cargo ship. The lumber would go directly into another huge container. As I tossed the bag of garbage down the chute, I asked the attendant, “Where is all this trash going?” Clearly, it was headed somewhere.

“That recycling will go to another transfer station, and the garbage is going to be incinerated in Hartford,” said the attendant. “And the construction and demolition debris is shipped out of state…probably to a landfill in Pennsylvania or Ohio.”

Because “probably” didn’t sound too certain to me, I did some of my own investigating. What the attendant didn’t tell me was that the MIRA “waste-to-energy” incinerator in Hartford, Connecticut, which would burn my bag of trash, is located in close proximity to predominantly low-income Latinx and Black communities—which bear the brunt of the incinerator’s pollution burden.

The average person living in the United States creates about five pounds of trash daily. Little trash—especially plastic trash—is actually recycled, compared to how much we waste. This, though recycling and managing waste is exactly what industries and corporations selling consumer stuff tell us to do with items we are done using, and governments have long supported and encouraged it. Recycling sounds good, after all, and hypothetically if materials are reused, they’re not wasted. Right?

Wrong. Instead of being recycled or going “away”—as we expect once we haul our waste to the end of our driveways, or to our local transfer stations—our waste is most often used as a tool of oppression. It is sent somewhere else to become someone else’s burden, at the hands of waste haulers and handlers that operate in contract with municipalities and are supposed to be regulated by the government. Usually, that someone else being harmed is a person of color, an Indigenous person, a person with a low-income, or a person living in a rural community.

Trash, and the serious systemic injustice it drives, has profound effects on the physical and emotional health, finances, and futures of people living on the fencelines of transfer stations, railways, roadways, incinerators, landfills, and other trash-disposal infrastructure in underserved communities in the U.S. and worldwide.

Burning plastic and other waste is a fully toxic operation. Not only do incinerators or open burn of trash release greenhouse gases, they also emit toxic heavy metals, dioxins, particulate matter, and other dangerous substances linked to health issues like cancer, organ damage, and asthma. Then the dangerous ash from these incinerators must be dealt with: it gets dumped into landfills and ponds, causing further contamination of human communities and the natural environment we need to survive.

I learned that the scraps of lumber I’d tossed would be trucked or carried by rail from Connecticut hundreds of miles into rural and low-income parts of Pennsylvania and Ohio—where it is dumped into enormous, poorly-contained landfills.

Landfilled plastics leach toxic chemicals, including hormone-disrupting PFAS and phthalates, and these chemicals have been frequently found in drinking water. That’s because landfill liners are not made to last forever; and are often also made of plastic. Liners leak and tear, contaminating soil and groundwater; older landfills have no liners at all. Landfills emit huge amounts of climate-warming greenhouse gases, expose people to noxious odors and toxic gases, attract nonstop diesel-dump truck traffic, can spread diseases, attract nuisance animals, and reduce home equity.

With so much flammable and tightly compacted garbage crammed together, the trash trains and trucks are very prone to catching on fire. And they do, with catastrophic consequences. These vehicles are loud, large, fossil-fuel thirsty, and wretchedly smelly. They’re poorly contained, sometimes completely uncovered, and often lose trash into nature and neighborhoods as they travel. The U.S. has also historically paid money to ship trash overseas, primarily to China and nations in the Global South—though those countries that used to accept our trash are increasingly turning it away as attention is drawn to the injustices of waste colonialism.

Do you know where your plastic and other waste goes when you throw it away, or toss it in a recycling bin? Few of us are able to name exactly where our trash goes when we bring it to the curb or a local transfer station. We are frighteningly disconnected from our waste—and that disconnect enables people with wealth and power to take the trash we create and use its pollution to fuel widespread racial and class injustice near and far.

It is long past time to recognize that pollution is injustice, and that in the U.S. and around the world, entire neighborhoods are being—and many have long been—overtaken by trash, trash infrastructure, and the myriad forms of pollution that having to deal with too much trash causes. There is no such place as away, and recycling is far from the clean, green cure-all we’ve been taught. Just ask those living on the front lines.

This Earth Day, I urge you to look past quick fixes and false promises, and take a hard look at the truths behind what we waste, and think about why our world needs to waste less. Consider the impact your trash has on others; read more about environmental injustice and take action by standing up for the respect and protection of those communities worst affected by waste—and demand accountability of those people and systems who drive pollution and injustice.

Author Erica Cirino

Author Erica Cirino is the Communications Manager of the Plastic Pollution Coalition. She has spent the last decade working as a science writer, author, and artist exploring the intersection of the human and nonhuman worlds. Cirino is best known for her widely published photojournalistic works that cut through plastic industry misinformation and injustice to deliver the often shocking and difficult truths about this most ubiquitous and insidious material.

This includes her recent book, Thicker Than Water: The Quest for Solutions to the Plastic Crisis (Island Press, 2021), in which she documents plastic across ecosystems and elements; shares stories from the primarily Black, Brown, Indigenous and rural communities that are disproportionately harmed by industrial pollution globally; and uncovers strategies that work to prevent plastic from causing further devastation to our planet and its inhabitants.