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Columns

Main Street in Port Jefferson empty of traffic on a weekday. Photo by Sapphire Perara

By Sapphire Perera

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a temporary solution for the climate crisis. For many years, people have sought out various approaches to bring down greenhouse gas emissions and improve the environment through renewable energy sources. However, the coronavirus pandemic has proved to be the most effective solution yet. The earth is finally being allowed to breathe. Many scientists are calling this pandemic a temporary solution to the climate crisis but I believe that we can continue to have air with lower carbon dioxide levels, water that is clear and clean and a healthy environment if we all worked hard to change our daily routine. 

Sapphire Perera

The COVID-19 started healing the environment in China: the most polluted country on earth. Due to the forced closings of factories, shut-downs of manufacturing plants and mandatory quarantines for its citizens, there were reductions in coal and crude oil usage. It resulted in a reduction in CO2 emissions of 25 percent or more, which is approximately six percent of total global emissions. Italy was the country next in line to feel the devastating effects of the coronavirus pandemic. However, with everyone in quarantine, Italy followed China in terms of environmental revival. In only a few months, the people of Venice were able to see the fish and the bottom of the canals that were once murky and polluted. In India, similar improvements were being seen. The beautiful snow-covered Himalayas were once hidden by smog but after months of quarantine and a strict curfew, they could be seen by the Jalandhar citizens from more than one hundred miles away; they claim that it’s the first time in 30 years that they’ve clearly seen the Himalayas.

These changes to the environment are being seen all across the world. However, once quarantine ends, the earth will be suffocated by humans once again. To prevent this, I believe that more time and resources should be invested in the search for permanent solutions that would ameliorate the climate crisis. In terms of individual change, I know that there are hundreds of ways for us to stop partaking in the activities that promote the oil industry and fossil fuel industry. For instance, we can stop using cruise ships and motorboats for personal entertainment. According to the 2016 Pacific Standard report, “each passenger’s carbon footprint while cruising is roughly three-times it would be on land”. 

In addition to regulating our carbon footprint through marine activities, we can also start placing more emphasis on alternative sports that don’t require corporate culture producers who promote environmentally unfriendly functions and corporations. Also, while this last one might be a small change, it can have a great impact. This change requires us to use less of our private vehicles to get places, and more of the public transport system. Transport makes up about 72 percent of the transport sector’s greenhouse gas emissions. If public transportation is increased to the point that families are taking buses and trains more than their own cars, we might be able to significantly reduce the percentage of gas emissions that come from driving.

U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s (D-NY-14 Bronx) Green New Deal reinforces some of these ideas and has already shown results through the pandemic. Some proposals in the Green New Deal include high-speed rail, removing combustible engines from the road, upgrading all existing buildings, and retraining coal workers. 

One very important aspect of this Green New Deal is to reduce air travel. Many people find that to be too drastic a step towards fixing climate change, but is it really? According to a Center for Biological Diversity report, airplanes will generate about forty-three gigatonnes of planet-warming pollution through 2050. But with the current travel restrictions and just a few months of limited air travel, we are seeing clouds of nitrogen dioxide begin to evaporate from places above Italy and China. In addition to being less dependent on air travel, we are now less dependent on the coal mining industries. This has resulted in a dramatic decrease in the employment of coal workers; over 34,000 coal mining jobs have disappeared in the U.S. in the past decade. Fortunately, the Green New Deal focuses on training the coal workers in occupations pertaining to renewable and clean energy, and infrastructure. By eliminating the coal mining industry we would be making great leaps in the fight against the climate crisis. 

Ever since the green revolution, humanity has been taking more than they need from the environment. We have abused Earth’s natural resources and expanded into territories that were inhabited by other species. I hope that this coronavirus pandemic has shown us that humanity doesn’t have to behave like a virus. We don’t have to continue worsening the climate crisis but instead, we could learn from this pandemic and start implementing regulations such as limited air travel and increased public transportations. We can turn consumerism to conservation, capitalism to socialism, and industrialism to environmentalism. 

Sapphire Perera is a junior at Port Jefferson high school. The “Turtle Island,” as the name for this ongoing column refers to the Native American mythology about North America existing on the back of a great turtle that bears every living being on its spine.

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

In the crunch of reporting the latest COVID-19 news and working remotely to the extent possible last week, we failed to notice our media company’s anniversary. Last Wednesday marked the 44th year since we offered the first issue of our first newspaper, The Village Times, to the community. 

For me, that is akin to forgetting my birthday; so exciting and memorable were those early days. After incredibly long hours and endless hard work, we had created something that had never before existed and both proudly and nervously had given it to the residents to judge. Would they become engaged or would they ignore our efforts? Would they find what we published to be relevant and important to their lives or would they just go on without us? Such are the thoughts and fears of entrepreneurs.

I was just asked recently why I wanted to start a newspaper. I had to stop and remember what life was like on April 8, 1976, because we were certainly a product of our times. My husband and I had come with our children to live here on the North Shore of Suffolk County largely because of the university. The State University at Stony Brook was just in its earliest years, a medical center was planned, and my husband wanted to practice his specialty, along with a research hospital affiliation, wherever we settled. That’s the way it was then: a physician hung out a shingle wherever he wanted a private practice and began to see patients. 

We were utterly charmed by the picturesque village of Stony Brook, with its quality schools, rich Revolutionary War history, cultural offerings and unending recreational opportunities both on land and on the Sound. After a time, we came to learn there existed a seemingly unbridgeable town-gown split. Thousands of new university hires and students were pouring into the community every year, in some ways upending the peaceful existence of longtime residents, even as they prompted property values to soar. The 1960s were, anyway, unsettling times, with the Vietnam War, assassinations and bursts of protests in the streets. Yet the small villages offered a peaceful and fulfilling existence, it seemed to me, if only there could be better communication between the university and the residents.

I had been thinking, as I worked for Time Inc. in New York City, about what I imagined were the joys of owning a community newspaper: meeting residents, serving their needs for information, providing a “town hall” for dialogue from all points of view, offering opinion through editorials, tracking local accomplishments in the arts, sciences, sports and cultural worlds and strengthening the sense of community for protection and pride.

So when my youngest of three started first grade, I saw my opportunity. I assembled what turned out to be a brilliant and committed team of largely other housewives, sold shares to families in order to capitalize the venture, rented an office on Route 25A in Setauket, and we were off. The thrill and excitement of creating a newspaper to serve a community could fill a book, and perhaps one day it will. There are so many stories, some side-splitting funny, some tough moments, some amazingly stupid mistakes, so many honors and awards for encouragement, and the bottom line: here we are, 44 years later.

Speaking of the bottom line, like so many other small businesses, we are in an unprecedented position now, with our traditional advertisers shuttered and their customers shut-ins. Our revenues have dramatically dropped, yet we feel it is our ethical duty to keep our communities informed of the latest information concerning COVID-19 via print and daily internet, yet our expenses continue. Indeed, we have been designated as “essential,” and we are publicizing every week, at no cost to them, other such businesses that are open, including restaurants and pharmacies.

These are our papers and internet presence. They are also yours. We trust we are serving you well.

Please note last week’s column contained several errors for which I humbly apologize. Please check any information that you might use. My thanks to the readers that pointed out the errors.

Setauket Harbor: In the last decade, Shore Road along Setauket Harbor has flooded approximately a half a dozen times a year, which is more than in the past due to astronomical tides. “All coastal communities will be increasingly impacted by rising sea level, and sea level rise goes hand in hand with climate change,” George Hoffman of the Setauket Harbor Task Force said. “One way to identify the areas that will be impacted is to look at the areas that are now impacted by storms and astronomical tides. All the low-level shore areas in the Three Village community are the most vulnerable. And, they tend to be the areas that we like to go down to, along the shore, such as beaches and docks and harbor areas. It is projected that in the next hundred years as sea level continues to rise that we will see portions of Route 25A flooding during storm events that we haven’t seen before.” Photo by Maria Hoffman

By Sapphire Perera

I haven’t been to school in 13 days and I don’t know when I’m going back. Many of the shelves in the grocery stores are empty, toilet paper is sold out and everyone is self-quarantining. This panic and fear are due to the outbreak of the most current pandemic — the coronavirus, also known as COVID-19. This new strain of coronavirus originated in China and has spread globally. While it seems improbable that there’s a connection between pandemics and climate change, past pandemics prove otherwise. This connection shows us that for every action, there is a reaction.

Interview with Dr. Lisa M. Chirch

Dr. Lisa M. Chirch is a associate professor of medecine at the University of Connecticut who specializes in infectionous diseases.

SP: Sapphire Perera; LC: Lisa Chirch

SP: Due to habitat loss, there is evidence of vector transference between wild animals and livestock. Do you think this will eventually involve household pets, which may be more susceptible to loss of native immunity? 

LC: Good question, and very important to those of us with household pets we adore as part of the family. To date, it is unclear whether viral infections such as COVID-19 can infect dogs and cats, or whether they would become ill if infected. It really depends on the specific organism and how they infect, which tissues are targets, which receptors are used for cell entry, etc. Certainly, the potential for domestic animals to be affected is present, and we should probably be taking similar precautions with our beloved pets as with our family members whom we want to protect.

SP: Extreme changes in global weather patterns are one factor of climate change. With increases in climate change and warmer weather, do you feel that future pandemics will originate in places such as North America and Western Europe instead of Asia and Africa, as they did with the 1918 Spanish flu?

LC: Throughout history, pandemics have originated from sites all over the world. Pandemics originate when humans are exposed to “novel” organisms we have never seen before, exposing populations without immunity. Over time these have frequently been related to the animal/human interface in some way, with organisms “jumping” from one species to another, and in the worst-case scenario, becoming efficient at human-to-human transmission. So, to the extent that climate change drives animals and humans further together, it drives the possibility of further epidemics. Importantly, climate change has more immediate and tangible effects on infectious diseases in humans that have been recently notable, such as the appearance of certain mosquito-borne arboviruses in the southern U.S. (dengue, chikungunya, Zika), and tick-borne illnesses migrating northward as well, with the associated northward movement of the tick species that carry them.

Sapphire Perera

Climate change has made our winters shorter and the weather unseasonably warm. This global increase in temperature is just one of the causes of climate change, and directly affects vectors i.e., disease-carrying organisms such as mosquitoes, ticks, fleas and flies. These vectors spread diseases such as malaria, dengue fever, West Nile virus, and yellow fever which are some of the worst pandemics. The global increase in temperature is driving these vectors further from the equator and into the northern hemisphere. For instance, the United States has seen increased cases of dengue and malaria in Florida, California and Texas. Europe and the U.S. may soon be subjected to the same epidemics that plague people in equatorial climates. In contrast, other regions that usually struggle through the worst of the pandemics and epidemics will see a decrease in the number of outbreaks.

The increase in temperature, rainfall and humidity also creates more breeding grounds for vectors, leading to the easier spread of diseases. This was exemplified by India’s monsoon season from 1994 to 1996. The excessive monsoon rainfall and high humidity in the Punjab region of India led to an increase in malaria epidemics in places such as Rajasthan, Manipur, Nagaland and Haryana. Recent studies have shown that El Niño has actually increased the malaria epidemic risk in India by about fivefold. El Niño scientists have discovered increases in incidences of cholera, Zika, chikungunya, and hantavirus with El Niño occurrences. 

Deforestation is another cause of climate change that brings vectors closer to urban communities.  Sonia Shah, the author of the book “Pandemic,” says in her article in The Nation, “When deforestation threatens the survival of wild species, there are more opportunities for animal microbes to adapt to human bodies.” One example from the many pandemics that we’ve had in the past is the Ebola outbreak. In places such as Central and West Africa, there have been serious deforestation and habitat losses for bats, which are vectors for Ebola. These bats started inhabiting places closer to urban populations which, in turn, increased the likelihood of Ebola outbreaks. Studies in 12 countries have actually shown that it is twice as common to have vector mosquitoes in deforested areas than in intact forests. 

Apart from bringing vectors close to human communities, climate change is introducing prehistoric diseases to mankind. In 2016, the Russian city of Yakutsk saw the outbreak of anthrax during a heat wave in Siberia. The thawing permafrost soil there released long-dormant bacteria and viruses that had been trapped in the ice for centuries. One 12-year-old boy died and at least 20 people were hospitalized from infection. Scientists speculate that more diseases lie beneath the ice and with the rising global temperature, we may see the reemergence of diseases such as smallpox, the bubonic plague and the 1918 Spanish flu.

Since January, there has been a significant universal decrease in social and economic activity. The results from this are astounding. First of all, since there has been slower economic activity, there has been a drop in carbon dioxide emissions. In Hubei province in Central China, there has been a drop in air pollution as the cloud of nitrogen dioxide evaporated in February. Italy saw similar results in its environment pertaining to nitrogen dioxide levels. Additionally, the once-murky canal water in Venice is now so clear that you can see the fish below. In countries all over the world, we are seeing changes like this. Unfortunately, it’s taking a pandemic brought about by climate change to reduce climate change.

Sapphire Perera is a junior at Port Jefferson high school. The “Turtle Island,” as the name for this ongoing column refers to the Native American mythology about North America existing on the back of a great turtle that bears every living being on its spine.

Photo from METRO

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

Welcome to the home office. I have been working from home for years and would like to offer a few tips.

For starters, pets are generally awesome. They can reduce the stress from deadlines and from abrasive calls. Much more often than not, they seem absolutely delighted to see us and to give and receive positive attention.

The wag, wag, wag of a dog’s tail is almost as wonderful as the squeal of a happy toddler when he sees the ice cream on his plate or learns about a trip to the store — ah good times, remember when stores were open? — or to a visit with a favorite relative.

But then there’s the dark side. My big dog offers quiet companionship most of the time. He does, however, have an uncanny knack of barking at what appears to be absolutely nothing outside when I’m on the phone with someone who is coming to the point of a long and deeply moving anecdote.

Nothing takes the professional veneer off an interview with a Nobel Prize winning scientist, the chairman of a department or the head of a medical school faster than the unwelcome sound of a dog barking.

Well, that’s not entirely true. I have exacerbated that dilemma. You see, I thought I hit the mute button on my phone and shouted unpleasant words at my wonderful four-legged companion, only to discover that, in my haste, I missed the button, giving my professional contact an earful of seemingly out-of-my-mind comments. 

So, there are two lessons: Keep your barking dogs far from the phone when possible, and make absolutely sure you push the mute button before breaking character and insisting that your beloved buddy stops barking at the squirrel that tortures him — and you — during important calls.

OK, so the next tip is fairly obvious, but bears repeating. The refrigerator is not calling you. While you’re home, you will undoubtedly have competing impulses that you might not have indulged in at the office with a trip to the kitchen. One of them is to fill the momentary lull between calls, or the period when you might otherwise chat at the watercooler about the latest sports games — ah, remember when we used to watch sports in real time? The kitchen is fine and doesn’t need a visit, especially given the dwindling supply of basic items that might be harder to get the next time you go to the supermarket — ah, remember the good times. OK, you get the idea.

Create signals with the rest of the family, who are home with you or back in the nest to alert them to the most important work-related tasks of your day. If you are on a conference call with people who are signing up for off-site responsibilities for the next few weeks, the last thing you want to do is have someone come to your work space and ask if you’ve seen the blue sock to match the one he’s holding with an exasperated look at your door.

Finally, remember that the kind of things you might say in the context of gossip or jokes don’t always translate through texts and emails. No matter how some emojis might indicate that you’re joking — a winking circular blob, perhaps or a shrugging face — the person on the receiving end of your witticisms might not get it and might not find your brilliance so charming, especially if she’s still upset at the words she screamed at her barking dog earlier in the day.

Photo from METRO

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

Do you feel like you are living in the “twilight zone”? Our current world would make a riveting episode for Rod Serling’s 1960s television series. Here is an example of life imitating art, with our deserted village streets, our closed schools and our shuttered shops. Only residents popping out of restaurants with takeout orders offer signs of normalcy. I keep pinching myself, but nothing changes. This is not a bad dream. This is real.

What to do besides washing our hands? Don’t know about yours, but mine are already chapped from my conscientious response.

For starters, those not in essential businesses or services are asked to stay home. What has been deemed “essential” is interesting: pharmacies, restaurants — takeout only, gas stations, banks and liquor stores. Although we are not on the list, we journalists consider ourselves committed to providing factual information for our communities during these unprecedented times, and we remain at our posts although in a somewhat reduced number to honor the new phrase “social distancing.” For more about how we are functioning, please read the adjacent editorial. We are dedicated to bringing you a regular dispassionate update on the website and of course in the newspapers.

What else?

Certainly don’t check on the value of your stocks if you own any. Better to leave your 401K and IRA out of sight for now. No need to heighten the hysteria. And how long can we bemoan lost work hours, disappearing paychecks or sales revenues that have evaporated, even as our expenses continue unabated? For whatever consolation it may offer, we are all in this together, which means rules will be adjusted. 

The federal government has made some pledges of emergency cash, perhaps within two weeks, to keep the wolf from the door. There may even be subsequent payments. The infusion of such cash should stimulate the economy albeit briefly because it would probably be immediately spent. But for most families, it won’t go that far, which is frightening. Surveys have shown that four out of 10 Americans don’t have enough cash on hand to cover an unexpected $400 emergency expense without borrowing. Since the Federal Reserve has dropped rates close to zero, it is almost painless but always dangerous to borrow. Or perhaps it is an opportunity to renegotiate a loan or mortgage?

It is easy to be afraid. Society, as we have known it, is being altered — by government officials urging us not to touch or even be near each other. We can’t send our children to school, and now child care becomes a huge headache. But perhaps it won’t be because we may not go to work either. At least we can take care of the children. We are advised to maintain in our homes the same sort of schedule as the children follow at school: study hours, physical activity, playtime. More time with our families may be a blessing in disguise. Consider that we are being isolated from each other in the age of the internet, which means access to unlimited educational and recreational sources. The idea of learning remotely and working remotely is now going to be put to the test. There could be opportunity here.

I know this is tough to hear, but being upset doesn’t help anything. If we can calm down and manage the things we do have control over while we wait for the uncontrollable to settle down, we will have a good action plan to see us through these “interesting times.” There are, after all, closets to clean, desk drawers to sort, new recipes to try, books to finally read, movies to watch — even binge on if you have a series like “The Crown,” pleasurable moments to enjoy with family and the certitude that this, too, shall pass. 

This is the time that the Earth slowed down. The frenzy of everyday life is gone. Appointments, lessons, carpools, timelines, plans are all put on hold temporarily. It is a time for us to slow down, too, take some deep breaths, perhaps permit ourselves a nap in the afternoon. The tide has gone out and we can’t pull it back. But it will return on its own and just as strong.

Of one thing we can be sure: There will be a baby boom in nine months.

A scene from 'The Farewell'

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

Three-day weekends are wonderful. When you go to sleep Sunday night, you know you have an extra day of weekend on Monday, and you feel so rich. What did you do on Labor Day? I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.

First I met some old friends at the bagel store and we had breakfast and caught up on summer activities and the latest news. Then I did some work, so I should feel a little bit virtuous. And as a climax to the free time, I went to see a movie with a good friend. Just imagine! Going to the movies on a rainy Monday afternoon. What a treat.

We saw “The Farewell,” and we both loved it. I checked it out first, and it is probably the only movie I have ever seen with a 99 percent rating from Rotten Tomatoes. In spite of having such high expectations, we were not disappointed.

The movie is an independent Chinese film, largely autobiographical from Lulu Wang, with subtitles and speaks to several themes all centered around one peg. I won’t be revealing anything that would spoil the experience for you by saying that the plot revolves around a lie. In fact, at the beginning of the film, we are told that what we are about to see is based on “an actual lie.” The deception is as follows. Grandma Nai Nai is terminally ill, and everyone wants to see her one final time. But the problem is that she has not been told that she has malignant spots on her lungs. Her X-rays reportedly show “benign shadows,” or so she is made to believe. The immediate family do not want her to know the truth about her condition.

Her granddaughter Billi, who grew up in New York City and is thoroughly Americanized, doesn’t agree with that decision. The rest of the family tries to leave Billi behind as they go back to mainland China to visit the grandmother, but she follows anyway and asks the expected questions: “What about her individual rights? Isn’t it illegal to withhold such information? What if she has some last details she would want to take care of if she knew she were dying?”

But no. The rest of the family agrees to enter into a charade in which they act as if the reason they are all coming back to China is to celebrate the marriage of the grandson, who has in fact been seriously dating a Japanese girl for only three months.

The grandmother, of course, is overjoyed at the prospect of seeing her scattered family return home and of hosting a wedding celebration, although she is not so sure about this Japanese addition to the family. And despite their sad faces and behind-her-back anguish, grandma is persuaded that the return is as presented. She goes about arranging for a bountiful reception for family and many friends.

The Chinese explanation for the deception serves as stark contrast in the film between the cultures: Chinese people aren’t regarded as individuals to the extent that they are so clearly in America, but rather as a member of a family structure and a social community. One’s life is part of a whole, and no one wants to tell grandma that she will soon be leaving this world and bring her sadness in her last days. In China, a diagnosis of cancer means certain death, we are told.

Yet despite the depression felt by the family, their love for their matriarch shines through, and there are the universal family interactions of anger, laughter, grief, memories and regrets. The film is both deeply personal and can be universally appreciated for its sweetness and familiarity.

China has modernized physically. Billi finds that her old neighborhood has been replaced by a forest of high rise apartment buildings, none quite completed yet, and modern highways link the city. That is a measure of how long she has been separated from her roots. But can there be a “good” lie? Billi will effortlessly lie on her phone to her grandma about whether she is wearing a hat to ward off the cold in Brooklyn, but she is deeply troubled trying to bridge the cultural big lie that is at the heart of this film.

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

We pack our cars, suitcases and purses. We bring cameras, camcorders, extra batteries, chargers and cards filled with positive messages and gifts.

At this time of year, we bear witness to the conclusion of one educational course — primary, middle or high school, college or even graduate school — as we and the graduate prepare for the next step.

In between bites from the buffet, we pause for proud pictures with the graduate and we share our admiration for what he or she has accomplished even as we anticipate the next adventure.

Most of these ceremonies involve walking, sitting, standing and cheering, eating and driving. The action takes a backseat to the words and sentiment that mark the occasion. The graduation speakers offer personal anecdotes and words of wisdom, even as they recognize that short speeches, particularly for those eager to fill an empty stomach or discharge a full bladder, are a welcome part of the day.

While we’re milling around, we have ample opportunities to impart our own wisdom, to share encouraging words and to provide the kind of tailwind that accelerates the next phase of life.

So, what do we say? Did we pack our belongings, but neglect to choose from the wealth of words that can fill a sail with air, that can help us feel capable of defying gravity, that can enable us to see through this moment to a magnificent future?

How often do we watch an interview with someone who has accomplished the unimaginable, who doesn’t know what to say or who is it at a loss for words when someone shoves a microphone in that person’s direction?

We have time to consider the right words, to be supportive, and to make our trip to another state or another school meaningful, even if the graduate is too close to the focal point of his or her life to know how to react to the torrent of feelings and thoughts.

We can rely on a Hallmark card, a Thesaurus or a set of clichés to share our thoughts, or we can take a moment to find the right words, in between all our packing, our search for the right gift and our purchasing plane tickets.

Someday, a daughter graduate may be sitting on a plane heading for a meeting in Salt Lake City and may wonder how she got there and whether she can succeed in the next phase. Maybe she’ll recall the moment you took her aside, placed your hand on her shoulder, smiled in her eyes and suggested she paved her own path with perspiration — if she appreciates alliteration.

She may recall how you enveloped her hand in yours when you reminded her that everything, even a moment of weakness, provides opportunities for the next success. Perfection, she’ll recall as she remembers how you accidentally spit on her cheek when you started to speak, isn’t about the perfect achievement but about the perfect effort.

She will recall the moment you told her how much she inspired you with her awareness of the needs of others and with her grace under pressure.

If your graduate is anything like the ones in my family, for whom skepticism and cynicism hover nearby, he or she may roll their eyes and search for a phone to text a friend to ask if the recipient of the message can believe what you just said.

Someday, the graduate or that friend may borrow a word, phrase or idea from the ones you shared, providing fuel to a tank that seemed empty and converting the next impossible task into a reality.

The cover of the first issue of The Village Times in 1976 by Pat Windrow

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

This is a week of celebrations, and it gives me great pleasure to share them with you, our readers. First is the delightful news that Times Beacon Record newspapers won 12 awards for outstanding work over the past year from the New York Press Association this past weekend.

The convention was in Albany, and we loved hearing our names called out before a group of more than 300 attendees from weeklies and dailies, paid papers and free, representing communities throughout New York state. The prizes are listed elsewhere in the paper, and I am particularly pleased that they span the two primary responsibilities we carry: good editorial coverage and attractive advertising. Those are our two masters, and we need to serve both well in order to survive.

Speaking of surviving, a major part of the convention and its workshops was concerned with just that. As most of you know, newspapers — and the media across the board — are engaged in a gigantic struggle. Small businesses, long the backbone of community newspapers like ours, are falling by the wayside. Consumers are buying from Amazon and Google. It’s so easy to toddle over to a computer in one’s pajamas and order up Aunt Tillie’s birthday present, have it wrapped and delivered in no time at all, and perhaps even save some money in the transaction. Only small stores with highly specialized product for sale can compete. Or else they offer some sort of fun experience in their shops, making a personal visit necessary. And it’s not only small stores that are disappearing. Stores like Lord & Taylor — “a fortress on Fifth Avenue,” according to The New York Times — are also gone, directly impacting publications like that esteemed paper.

But that is only one existential threat to media. The other is the drumbeat of fake news. The internet and social media have been significantly discredited as news sources. Cable television hasn’t done much better in the public’s regard. Print, which has always been considered the most reliable source of fact-based news, mainly because it takes longer to reach the readers and is vetted by editors and proofers, can be dismissed with a wave of the hand and the accusation, “Fake news!” 

On the other hand, polls show that print is still the most trusted source. And that is particularly true for hometown newspapers, where reporters and editors live among those they write about and have to answer to them in the supermarket and at school concerts.

Which brings me to my next cause for celebration. Monday, April 8, marked the 43rd anniversary of the founding of The Village Times, which began the Times Beacon Record expansion. We were there in 1976, we are here in 2019, and I believe a good measure of success is simply survival. We are still just as committed to the high ideals of a free press — carrying those ideals and passion to our website and any other of our other platforms and products — as we were that day of wild exhilaration when our first issue was mailed to our residents. We will remain so in the future with the support of the communities we serve.

There is one other happy occasion this week. My oldest grandchild, Benji, is celebrating his birthday. When Benji was born, 24 years ago, I became a grandmother. This is, as we know, a club one cannot join on one’s own. One needs a grandchild to be admitted to this lovely existence. And in addition to the joy of watching him grow up into an honorable and talented young man, I have the exceptional pleasure of working with him as he goes about his chosen career of making quality films. It was he who directed and helped write our historical movie, “One Life to Give,” and now its sequel, “Traitor.” It is he who will be the first of our family’s next generation to graduate from college next month.

I am writing this column on the eve of your birthday, Benji. Happy Birthday, Dear Grandson! And I salute your parents for letting you follow your heart. 

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

Wait, was that at me? How am I supposed to know? She’s still waving. I could wave back, but what if she’s waving to someone else. Should I put my stupid hand in the stupid air and risk the possibility of looking stupid?

Yes, this happened to me many times during my adolescence. How was I supposed to react when someone I kind of knew, or maybe wanted to know, was waving in my direction? Sometimes, I pretended I didn’t see the person waving, while I casually looked around to see if anyone near me was responding. I probably looked like I had a neck twitch, as I scanned the area to see if it was safe to wave.

These days, the waving conundrum has taken a different form, especially after we moved away from the tristate area. It appears that the Northeast and Southeast have different rules for waving. In the Northeast, we wave when someone we know well walks by us in the car. If they don’t see us, perhaps we offer a quick and polite tap on our horn, just to let them know we saw them and we’ll likely text or email them later.

If someone we’re pretty sure we don’t know waves, we immediately assume that someone else is the recipient of their gesture — they have a small dog on the loose and we better slow down, or their children are playing a Nerf gun game and might dart into the street. If they continue to wave, we squint for a while, trying to figure out if maybe they’ve lost weight. It could be they’re someone we might have met casually at one of our kids sporting events, or they want us to sign a petition, or even buy a product we’re sure we don’t need because we can’t stand all the crap we already have in our own house.

Of course, if we have our defensive curled upper-lip action going too quickly, we might scare away our son’s teacher, our daughter’s assistant coach or a new neighbor who has introduced herself to us four times.

In the Southeast, however, the rules are different. Most of the people in the passing cars wave when I walk the dog. Yes, we have a dog and, no, you can’t pet him even though he’s pulling as hard as he can to get to you because I have to bring him back inside so I can do some writing. I’ve stopped trying to figure out the source of the amicable gesture and I wave back. My son, who sometimes accompanies me on these dog walks, wondered, “Hey, do you know that person?” He is still playing by the rules of the Northeast.

I explained that I wave at every car, even the likely empty parked vehicles in case someone is sitting in them, because that’s what you do here. I told him I’ve conducted my own experiment, where I don’t wave and I see what happens. More often than not, the person slows down and waves even more vigorously, as if to say, “Hey, I’m waving here. Now it’s your turn.”

Kids in the modern era seem to have solved the waving problem. They do a quick head nod, which could be a response to a similar gesture from someone else or it could be a way of reacting to music no one else hears. Then again, they’ve probably figured out how to make a thinner, acne-free virtual version of themselves wave at cartoon versions of their friends.

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

So, what was it like to be in Charlotte, North Carolina, Sunday during the?

For starters, employers warned their staff about heavy traffic around the Spectrum Center and about parking challenges. They suggested working from home on Friday and over the weekend, if possible, to avoid delays.

As a result, for the entire weekend, the car traffic around this manageable city seemed even lighter than usual. People couldn’t drive too close to the Spectrum Center, but it was nothing like Yankee Stadium or Citi Field before or after a game against a heated rival, or even against a middling team on a warm Saturday in July.

The city rolled out much tighter security than usual, putting up fences around a nearby bus station and restricting walking traffic into the outskirts of the stadium to ticket holders only. 

Once inside, I felt as if I had become a Lilliputian in “Gulliver’s Travels.” Men and women of all ages made 6 feet seem like a minimum height for admission. I felt like a kid who sneaks onto a ride at Disney World despite falling well below the clown’s hand that indicates “you must be this tall to enter.”

The clothing choices reflected a wide variety of fashion statements. Some had come to be seen, decked out in fine suits, flowing dresses and high-heeled shoes. Others strutted around in sweatpants and sweatsuits, donning the jerseys of their favorite players.

Celebrities walked among the commoners, much the same way they do at the U.S. Open. Several people approached a slow-moving and frail-looking Rev. Jesse Jackson to shake his hand. Jackson later received warm applause from the crowd when he appeared on the jumbotron large-screen display.

As taller teenagers, who were well over 6 1/2 feet tall, brushed past us, we wondered whether we might see any of them at this type of event in the next decade. They were probably thinking, and hoping, the same thing.

The game itself, which was supposed to start at 8 p.m., didn’t commence until close to 8:30, amid considerable pomp and circumstance.

The crowd saluted each of the players as they were introduced. The roar became considerably louder for local hero Kemba Walker, the shooting star for the Charlotte Hornets who scored 60 points in a game earlier this season.

The crowd also showered old-timers Dwyane Wade and Dirk Nowitzki with affection, saluting the end of magnificent careers that included hard-fought playoff battles and championship runs. The two elder statesmen didn’t disappoint, connecting on 3-point shots that also energized the crowd.

While the All-Star game sometimes disappoints for the token defense that enables teams to score baskets at a breakneck pace, it does give serious players a chance to lower their defenses, enjoying the opportunity to smile and play a game with the other top performers in their sport.

Wade and Nowitzki, who each have infectious smiles, grinned on the court at their teammates, competitors and fans after they sank baskets.

A first-half highlight included a bounce pass alley-oop from North Carolina native Steph Curry to team captain Giannis Antetokounmpo. In the end, Team LeBron beat Team Giannis, 178-164.

The halftime show proved an enormous success, as rapper and North Carolina product — via Germany — J. Cole performed “ATM,” “No Role Modelz,” and “Love Yourz.” The young woman sitting near us knew every word of the songs, swaying, rocking and bouncing in her seat.

I asked her if she knew Cole would be performing and she said, “Of course.” I asked her whether she liked the basketball or the halftime show better. She said she enjoyed both.