Tags Posts tagged with "Leah Dunaief"

Leah Dunaief

Regina Miano and Karen Romanelli, pictured with publisher Leah S. Dunaief, accept the Reader's Choice Award on behalf of the Long Island Museum in Stony Brook. Photo by Beverly C. Tyler

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

As many of you know, because we have been publicizing it and because it created a bit of a buzz in town, we recently had a reception at the Three Village Inn for well over 100 guests. The purpose was to celebrate the winners of the Readers’ Choice contest in which their customers voted these select businesses the best in their business categories. It was a relaxed and fun evening where everyone seemed delighted to be there and party together and, in some cases, even to do business with each other. We had our talented videographer filming the proceedings.

What you may not know is that the video, with the winners walking the red carpet to accept their awards and to explain how they got into their respective businesses, is now up on our website for viewing. Just go to our website tbrnewsmedia.com and you will find the window, labeled TBR Readers’ Choice 2019 Reception Videos, on the top right-hand side of the home page. When you click on that, it will open to reveal a choice. You can just watch the film in its entirety, fairly long, or by clicking on the prompts you can bring up the playlist and advance to any one of the recipients or hopscotch throughout the video. You can also pause anywhere to watch the rest later or to share.

I hope you enjoy this second look if you were there — or perhaps first look if you weren’t — at this jolly community event, which we will make an annual. It is an index of some of the best businesses in the local area and, I hope, an encouragement to shop locally.

We are now clearly in the events business. Readers’ Choice was our third theme, the other two being the longstanding reception for People of the Year, our 44th, coming up March 22 at the Three Village Inn, and Cooks, Books & Corks, our other annual event, at which we have delicious tastings from local restaurants combined with books presented for sale by local authors. “Corks,” of course, refers to the libations that accompany the meals. CB&C will again be held in September at the Bates House in Setauket.

Now you might be surprised that we have wholeheartedly embraced the events business. It certainly is a wonder to me. We started our professional life here on the North Shore of Long Island as a community newspaper. I liked to write, didn’t like to be edited up the line, as I was when I was working at Times Inc. in New York City, loved the villages and meeting residents, and felt we had something to offer that wasn’t already here. Over the past four-plus decades, we have taken pride in advancing the interests of our hometown, communicating the news, issues and entertainment offerings, and strengthening the sense of community. We have also struggled mightily to stay afloat financially so that we could do all those things.

We all know that newspapers — and other news media as well — have been totally disrupted by progress. The publishing industry has changed; retail, the backbone of newspapers, has been disrupted by the digital world, and we have had to grow and change, too. Those who resist change are left behind.

So just as we are now in the moviemaking business (“One Life to Give,” prequel to the Culper Spy story — be sure to see it when it screens next as it’s quite a story and will make you proud of where you live), and the video business, we can assert that we are in the events sector. These activities fit with our mission to inform our residents because they offer something of interest, and they enhance our sense of community. They also help us to do our main job of relaying the news and to pay our bills. Therefore, we are beginning to plan for our next event, Rising Stars, and you will be hearing and reading more about that soon. Please stay tuned.

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By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

This coming Monday my husband and I would have celebrated 57 years of marriage. Except we won’t because he died 32 years ago, just shy of our 25th anniversary. This means that I have been unmarried longer than I was a wife, which makes me something of an expert-of-one on the subject of marrying or being single. It also explains my riveted reading of “They’re More than Happy Not to Get Married,” in the Sunday Styles section of this past week’s New York Times. Say, what?

First, we ought to consider how the idea and institution of marriage have incredibly changed over the last century. Indeed, we have lived through a marriage revolution. I was 22 when I became a bride, considered young today. At the time, my mother told me just before the ceremony, as she was helping me get into my gown, that “I had just missed being an old maid.” After all, she was entitled to that perspective since she married in 1925 at 17.

There was never any question that I would marry. Pretty much all of us in my class expected to marry shortly after graduation. The only question was whom we would marry, and the answer was usually whoever we had been dating — usually chastely — for the preceding couple of years. And we certainly wanted to have our children before we turned 30 and, as women, our reproductive prospects began to dim. One close friend even married before senior year ended and was already pregnant as she crossed the stage to receive her diploma from the college president.

It was the same expectation for men. My husband-to-be was in his last year of medical school. Yup, time to get married. We followed the script, set down by our respective parents and society. The one or two people we overheard saying that they didn’t want to get married or to have children were dismissed as simply being odd. Looking back on it now, it took courage to make either declaration in most of the 20th century.

Welcome to the 21st century, where marriage is considered something of a quaint option. Living together? How romantic! Been together 10 years? You must like each other. Have two children together? How nice. No one thinks to call them by a derogatory name. There is no shame in their unmarried parental state. Oh, decided to marry after these many years? Lovely. Your younger daughter can be the flower girl, your son the ring bearer.

In fact, according to the NYT article written by Hilary Sheinbaum, we’ve gone even further from the centuries’ old norm. Many women are opting out of relationships and finding they prefer to be single, is the latest word on the subject. “Instead of moping over singledom or aggressively trying to find partners with arbitrary deadlines in mind, they are declaring to be happily unmarried and proudly find solace in living solo,” she said. This is despite the many dating apps, matchmakers and sometimes astonishingly frank and graphic love advice out there in magazines, books or Google. And despite raging hormones.

“When you’re not seeking partnership, you are in a very relaxed calm inner space and generally more comfortable with who you are,” said Carla Manly, a clinical psychologist who specializes in relationships and self-awareness and was quoted in the Times. 

“A lot of times in relationships, you need to make sacrifices. You don’t have any sacrifices to make when you are on your own. You make all the decisions,” said Genesis Games, another therapist. 

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, as recently as 2016, 110.6 million U.S. residents at least 18 years old were unmarried. That is about one-third our population. Women made up 53.2 percent of that number. Many of them might agree with that sentiment.

So, being the self-proclaimed expert on the subject, how do I feel? Yes, being in complete control of one’s own life, at least as far as relationships go, has its satisfactions. It makes for a wonderfully selfish existence. Best of all, however, is to have a choice. 

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

This is a happy tale about a lifesaving rescue that particularly pleases me. It must also have pleased The New York Times since the paper gave it a full-page spread under the National news banner this past Monday. The hero is an unlikely 71-year-old retired computer programmer and labor economist named Carl Butz. A fourth-generation Californian, he was aware, like the some 300 other residents of Downieville in the mountainous northern countryside, that the local newspaper, the state’s oldest weekly, was folding with the retirement of its publisher. We know that newspapers across America have been dying, especially in rural areas, and this Sierra County town, like a movie set preserved from the Old West days, was about to become the latest “news desert.”

Downieville’s weekly, The Mountain Messenger, was founded in 1853 and was as constant a fixture over the years as a Thursday is in every week. Mark Twain wrote several articles for the paper that were “a few unremarkable stories,” according to the Messenger’s former publisher, Don Russell, who had run the paper for nearly 30 years and read Twain’s stories on microfilm before he sold it to Butz. “They were awful. They were just local stories, as I recall, written by a guy with a hangover.” Twain was reportedly hiding out there from the law, or so the legend goes.

Then one night Butz, a recent widower, was watching “Citizen Kane” on cable, and had an epiphany. “I can do that,” he decided. He made a deal quickly with Russell, who was a good friend, to pay in the “four figures,” plus assuming some of the paper’s debts, and he never looked at the books. Russell told him he was “a romantic idealist and a nut case,” because the paper was a losing proposition “and someone who would want it would be crazy.”

So why did he do it?

In a letter to the readers of the first edition, Butz explained. “Simply put, the horrible thought of this venerable institution folding up and vanishing after 166 years of continuous operation was simply more than I could bear.” The newspaper was “something we need in order to know ourselves.” The rest of the residents felt the same way, apparently, and the editor of an online news site in town said, “It was devastating for everybody that we were going to lose The Mountain Messenger.”

The paper’s publishing software, Butz learned, was from the mid-1990s. There was no website, no social media platform. The only other employee, Jill Tahija, has been with the paper 11 years and takes to work her small black-and-white dog, Ladybug. Tahija’s
business card reads, “She who does the work.” 

The paper relies mostly on legal notices, from the county and other government offices, which bring in about $50,000 for the bulk of its revenue, has about 700 subscribers throughout the county and a print run of 2,400. “I’m not going to lose a million dollars but I know I’m going to have to subsidize some of it,” the new owner said. “My daughter is already aware that her inheritance is shrinking.”

Butz’s first edition was filled with the usual complement of local news stories: a supervisor’s meeting, wildfire prevention, the upcoming census and a local poetry competition. Russell, meanwhile, was on vacation with his wife, driving his RV up the coast — probably his first time off in three decades.

Downieville has become a popular destination as an old Gold Rush town at a fork of the Yuba River in distant western Sierra County. It has a corner saloon, one-lane bridges over the river, and the newspaper is located in a second-story office above a beauty salon on Main Street and next to the fire department, whose sign on the door reads, “Oldest volunteer fire department west of the Mississippi.” Gold mining and sawmills were once the economic engine. Now it relies on mountain biking and fly fishing. And the paper is a repository of the county’s history, with its vast archives. 

Carl Butz has become to the The Mountain Messenger what Jeff Bezos is to the The Washington Post: A savior who cares who we were and where we are going. 

I understand him.

Image from YouTube

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

This was the week that was. And what a week of atypical news it was. Let’s start with the coronavirus and its progression toward a pandemic. The global death toll stood at 492 as of Wednesday morning, according to NBC News, and confirmed cases top 24,000 in mainland China. More than 185,000 people are currently under medical observation, Chinese health officials said. Hundreds of U.S. nationals were removed from locked-down Wuhan and have arrived in the United States, as two more rescue planes landed at Travis Air Force Base in Northern California. Passengers will be quarantined for 14 days before being released. So far, there have been 11 cases in the U.S. Trailing China with confirmed cases are Japan with 35, Singapore with 28, Thailand with 25 and South Korea with 19. But the virus has definitely spread beyond Asia and has been found in Germany, France, Britain, the United Arab Emirates, Sweden, Finland and beyond. There are even 10 passengers with the virus from a cruise ship quarantined off the coast of Japan. Another cruise ship, with 3,600 aboard, has been quarantined in Hong Kong. 

While there is talk of work on a coronavirus vaccine, health professionals agree it will take up to a year before such a vaccine would be available to the general public.

A traditional news event with an unusual twist was the president’s State of the Union address Tuesday night in the House of Representatives that had voted to impeach him. Extreme partisanship was on display at the start when President Donald Trump (R) did not shake hands with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D) — second in the line of succession to the highest office next to Vice President Mike Pence (R). Then the speaker tore up a text of the speech as the cameras were rolling immediately at the end of the president’s talk.

As residents listened for the results of the Iowa caucuses, the first indication of voter sentiment in a presidential election year, the new app relaying the results that the Iowa Democratic Party planned to use broke down, and those trying to log in or download it had no training for the task. Fortunately, there seems to be paper backup for the votes, but it takes time for the voting cards to be counted by hand. According to partial returns so far, still only 71 percent, former Vice President Joe Biden is trailing the other three leaders: Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, and the youngest candidate at age 38, has a slim and unpredicted lead over Sen. Bernie Sanders followed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Even as people await the final results, the scene is now shifting to the second voting site and the first primary in the nation, that of New Hampshire.

Back in Washington, the vote in the Senate to impeach the president was another historic and unprecedented news item. The partisan wrangling in the House and Senate between the two major parties has been constantly on display throughout the impeachment hearings the past months. The drama was put forth with an eye to the coming elections and promises a hard and bitter fight from now until November.

A little bit of relief was provided by the annual football contest, the Super Bowl, this past Sunday evening. For those who watched, the fourth quarter provided much excitement and an intensity that blocked out even the loudest grim news. Three cheers for the 24-year-old quarterback, Patrick Mahomes of the Kansas City Chiefs, who brought his team back from defeat and became the youngest winner of both a Super Bowl and a regular season NFL (2018) MVP award.

Then there is Harvey Weinstein and the trial that, for me, is too much in the news. The constant stream of rape details that are being eagerly reported is a nauseating backdrop for the aforementioned news. There will undoubtedly be a movie.

Speaking of movies, the Academy Awards, popularly known as the Oscars, are coming this Sunday, and they should provide distraction from the heavier events. And isn’t it interesting to learn from a recent news article, that there are probably more than 10 million American nudists? See, you can find happy news if you just try. 

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

Here is our first invitation for you in the new year. You are cordially invited to a lovely reception at the historic Three Village Inn in Stony Brook village next Wednesday, Feb. 5, from 6 to 8 p.m., during which time we will honor the first prizewinners of our TBR Readers’ Choice 2019 contest. Tickets are $60 a person. Last year we asked you to fill in a questionnaire telling us your favorite businesses and professionals in some 100 categories, ranging from accountant, attorney and acupuncturist through the alphabet to winery, women’s clothing, yoga studio and veterinarian.

We supplied you with an entry form, a full page in our six newspapers — and only in our newspapers rather than on our website and social media — to encourage you to pick up the newspapers and see what you have been missing if you have only been reading us online. That meant you had to mail in or bring in the completed entry forms to our office, an added task in this age of transactions routinely completed over the internet. Most of the entries were mailed in via the U.S. Postal Service, what we have come to call “snail mail.”

We didn’t know what to expect.

To our delight, we received 2,525 nominations over the course of the weeks the contest ran. After we tabulated the responses from Huntington, Greenlawn and Northport, Smithtown, Kings Park, St. James and Lake Grove, Port Jefferson and Port Jefferson Station, Sound Beach, Rocky Point and Miller Place, Yaphank and Centereach, Stony Brook and Setauket and more, we were delighted to publish the winners in a special supplement at the close of the year.

Now we are celebrating those “No. 1’s” at the aforementioned reception next Wednesday evening. In addition to the individual businesses and services, we are celebrating much more. We are proudly calling attention to the fact that retail is not dead. That newspapers are not dead. That the Post Office is not dead. That communities, of which businesses are a central part, are vibrant. And that shopping locally is an important part of our residents lives.

I think we made a point. Several points, in fact.

Now comes “Thank You.” Thank You to all who took the time to express their appreciation for their favorite businesses, business owners and managers by sending in the entries. Thank You to those business owners and professionals who faithfully serve their clientele — the winners and the many who were also nominated but perhaps lost by a vote or two. We are mentioning the latter group in this week’s issue with their own supplement. And Thank You to the fabulous staff of Times Beacon Record for the many hours they put in to tabulate the results, design and send out invitations and certificates, field calls asking for information and countless other tasks, including selling advertising in support of the effort to salute local shopping.

So consider these two supplements — the winners and those also nominated — as lists of preferred local establishments whose services come recommended. And think of others who might have been improperly overlooked but who can be voted in for the Best of 2020.

While you are thinking, come to the party. There will be music, lights, camera, action and, of course, food. A red carpet will be provided for the winners to walk on as they come to the podium for their framed certificates. They will be videoed and then shown on our website for the next couple of months, photographed and appear in subsequent editions of our newspapers and otherwise be toasted. 

Best of all, this is another chance for the community to get together and enjoy each other. We, as the publishers of the community newspapers and digital media, work to enhance the sense of community in the areas we serve. This is the first of several events we plan to offer you this year.

We hope to see you, our readers, the winners, those also nominated, the many who sent in the nominations, and other members of the neighborhood at the party. Valet parking will be provided. Go to our website, tbrnewsmedia.com, or call us at 631-751-7744 and order tickets now. Thank You. 

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By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

The impeachment trial of President Donald Trump in the Senate was not the cause of Blue Monday this week. An idea first introduced to the world in a press release in 2005, Blue Monday was named the most depressing day of the year. Typically, the third Monday of January, but it can be the second or the fourth, Blue Monday is the confluence of several downers. We can certainly guess what they are.

For starters, there is the darkness and the weather. We are in the first full month after the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year. That, combined with the traditionally coldest month, makes for a lot of storms, gloom and shut-ins. Even if we are fortunate, as we have been so far this year — there haven’t been so many storms — we know they are coming.

Then there are the holiday bills. This is when credit charges begin arriving, along with their urgency to be paid. We had a wonderful time, for the most part, during the celebratory days of December. Time to pay the piper.

Right around now is also when our New Year’s resolutions begin to fade. Reality sets in with an awareness of how truly hard it is to break bad habits. Easier to slip back into the old ways, especially as a treat during the awful weather.

As we look ahead into the new year, there are no big holidays to anticipate — nothing larger than St. Valentine’s Day, a Hallmark holiday after all. And then there are the coming taxes. Property tax deadline has just passed, emptying our bank accounts but April 15 will be coming up faster than our savings might grow. Not all of us get refunds — quite the contrary.

So here are five things we can do to offset the alleged challenges of the season. They are proposed by a Buddhist monk in his book, “Love for Imperfect Things: How to Accept Yourself in a World Striving for Perfection,” and they speak to self-care. Haemin Sunim, who has taught Buddhism at Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts, according to a recent article in The New York Times, goes beyond the obvious advice of exercising, eating well and getting enough sleep.

First, start by taking a deep breath. As we think about our breathing, it becomes deeper, giving us a sense of calm no matter what is happening around us.

Next comes acceptance “of ourselves, our feelings and of life’s imperfections.” When we struggle to overcome difficult emotions, the struggle intensifies. But if we start by accepting those emotions, allowing them to be there, the mind quiets.

Writing is a third suggestion from the monk. This one, of course, speaks to me. Write down what is troubling or what we need to do, then leave the load on paper and get a good sleep. The list will be there and help to direct our actions in the morning. I have found this therapeutic when I wake up in the middle of the night herding a multitude of thoughts. I keep a pen and pad on the bedside table and I offload the burdens. In the morning, if I can read my writing, I can usually figure out how to proceed.

Talking is also important. How do I know what I think until I have heard what I’ve said? Somehow talking out a situation makes it clearer. There has to be a totally nonjudgmental and trustworthy friend who will listen, of course.

Last on the top 5 is walking: “When you sit around thinking about upsetting things, it will not help you. If you start walking, our physical energy changes and rather than dwelling on that story, you can pay attention to nature — a tree trunk, a rock. You begin to see things more objectively, and oftentimes that stress within your body will be released,” the monk said.

Even if we have no issues at the moment, we certainly feel better after taking a walk.

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By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

Thank heavens for Prince Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. Because of our fascination with the British royal family, despite having cast them off more than two centuries ago, they pushed out newscasts of assassinated terrorists and a tragically downed civilian airplane from the top spot with their own declaration of independence. As we watched and listened, they said they wanted to “carve out a progressive new role” for themselves while remaining in the royal family but would step back from being senior members “and work to become financially independent.” They also explained that they would spend part of the year living in North America.

Wow! Sounds like trying to be a little bit pregnant.

Why are we so interested in this? Could it be that over the 20th century, the royals have become human? Perhaps they might be viewed as a proxy family for us all. Who doesn’t have a ne’er-do-well uncle in their midst? Or trouble with an in-law? And certainly surprise at a rebellious child who isn’t following in the family footsteps?

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The first to go rogue was Edward VIII, who famously gave up his throne for “the woman I love”: Wallis Simpson, an American socialite divorcée from Baltimore. The rules were still strict then. To withdraw was to leave, and that was that. Then came Princess Margaret, whose love for a married commoner, Peter Townsend, was not permitted to proceed, but she retaliated by dancing out of the base paths the rest of her life.

Despite Queen Elizabeth II’s stalwart traditional life, her children did not follow suit, especially Charles, Prince of Wales, and Prince Andrew, Duke of York. After Charles’ wife, Princess Diana, opened a huge window into the workings of the royal machinery and then tragically died, Charles was able to properly unite with Camilla Parker Bowles and life seemed to quiet down at the palace. 

Then along came the next generation, and rules had relaxed so far that Kate Middleton — whose parents were merely business owners — had met Prince William as students at St. Andrews University in Scotland. She was accepted and ultimately welcomed into the Windsor dynasty with a splendid wedding. Rules and tradition relaxed so far further that Harry was allowed to marry previously wed, biracial American actress Meghan Markle.

And now this. It is a wonder that the queen, at age 93, is still upright. She must surely be uptight. The House of Windsor has gone, in her one lifetime thus far, from an image of rigid control to having its laundry washed in public.

Conversations are going like this. Some are scolding the royal couple for asserting — or at least trying to assert their freedom and appearing to defy the queen. Others are commenting on alleged racism in Britain, as evidenced by racist treatment Meghan has received at the hands of the British press and other members of the upper echelons. Apparently a BBC host “compared the couple’s newborn baby [Archie] to a chimpanzee,” according to an article in The New York Times this past Sunday. Still others would have liked to see the couple work from inside the family and its institutions to improve race relations in Britain much the same way the royal family inspired the courage of the British people during World War II.

For my part, I am frankly delighted to hear and read about something other than “the week the world stood still,” as we waited for Iran’s reaction to the killing of Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani and the extreme partisan reaction that followed. And trying to follow the demonstrations in the streets by irate masses across the globe need constantly updated scorecards. It is a positive relief to follow the trials and tribulations of the royal family, however brief the respite. This is not to say I am unsympathetic to parts of their saga. In fact, we all deal with family uprisings and can identify in such matters even as we are made proud by other actions family members take.

Or maybe I am just addicted from having watched too much “Downton Abbey.” 

The Barnes Foundation

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

During the recent holiday break, we took advantage of the free time to visit two delightful museums in Philadelphia: The Barnes Foundation and the Museum of the American Revolution. The Barnes is home of a huge collection of Impressionist paintings, among many other treasures, and the Museum of the American Revolution, not quite 2 years old, is dedicated to telling the story of our evolution from the historic center of America’s founding.

The Barnes started as the remarkable personal collection of Dr. Albert C. Barnes. Born in Philadelphia in 1872 into a working class family, he graduated from the University of Pennsylvania medical school and went off to Germany to study chemistry. From his work there, he made his fortune by co-inventing a silver nitrate antiseptic, called Argyrol, with a German colleague Hermann Hille. 

Buying out Hille, he ran the A.C. Barnes Company from 1908-29 and in the process started to collect art. Ironically he didn’t much care for the Impressionists until his high school friend and artist, William Glackens, persuaded him otherwise. He sent Glackens off to Paris to buy some paintings, and when the artist returned with 33, Barnes became serious about collecting art and took over the purchasing himself, housing the works at his estate.

Barnes started the Barnes Foundation in 1922, a nonprofit cultural and educational institution to “promote the advancement of education and appreciation of fine arts and horticulture.” The foundation oversees the art, and since 2012 the collection has been located on Benjamin Franklin Parkway in a splendid compound that honors both the founder and the masters whose works lie within its walls and in its gardens. There is even a parking lot on the premises that makes a visit so much easier.

The Barnes boasts the world’s single largest collection of paintings by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, with 181, and ditto for those by Paul Cézanne with 69. There are also 59 by Matisse, 46 by Pablo Picasso, as well as art by Modigliani, van Gogh, Seurat and Barnes’ friend, Glackens. Also in the dazzling museum are paintings by Old Masters El Greco, Peter Paul Rubens, Titian and Veronese. There are sculptures, masks, tools, jewelry, textiles, ceramics, manuscripts and one of the most outstanding collections of wrought iron, some 887 pieces, among so many other multicultural offerings.

A major exhibition, which sadly will end there this Sunday, Jan. 12, is 30 Americans. Featuring works of many of the most important African American artists of the past four decades, according to the museum’s curator, Gwendolyn DuBois Shaw — herself a famous African American professor at the University of Pennsylvania and a top administrator at the Smithsonian — this collection “explores issues of personal and cultural identity against a backdrop of pervasive stereotyping — of race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality and class.” 

The artists include Jean-Michel Basquiat, Mark Bradford, Nick Cave, Mickalene Thomas, Kehinde Wiley and Barkley Hendricks along with 24 others, and some of the paintings are riveting. This is the 10th anniversary of 30 Americans and the first in the Northeast since 2011 when it was in Washington, D.C. Chatting with other visitors, we learned that many came from some distance to catch up with this exhibit of modern artists and their distinct perspectives.

Did I mention that there is also a wonderful restaurant inside the Barnes?

This doesn’t leave me much space to tell you about the Museum of the American Revolution, more the pity, which is also handsomely housed in central Philadelphia. 

Of particular interest is their first international loan exhibition, Cost of Revolution: The Life and Death of an Irish Soldier, which will remain in place until March 17. By focusing on Richard St. George, born in County Galway to Protestant landed gentry and who became a soldier, artist, writer and extensive landowner, the exhibit tells us much about the American Revolution of 1776, the Irish Rebellion of 1798 — and life in the British army, which St. George joined. There are paintings, many sketches that St. George made himself, artifacts and weaponry in a comprehensive display of history from that era.

By the way, it is really easy to get to Philadelphia from here on Long Island with only a stopover in Penn Station if one takes the trains. If only for these two gracious institutions, it is well worth the trip.

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By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

The year is rapidly coming to a close, and it is leaving us with impassioned thoughts. At this time, probably more than any other in the year, we pray for peace: “on earth peace, good will toward men.” Never in the history of the world were people more united than in this wish. And yet, we are so far from the reality.

Tessa Majors, only 18 years old and on the threshold of adult life, bright with promise, is stabbed to death in Morningside Park in Upper Manhattan. A Barnard College freshman from Virginia, an out-of-towner, was in the park after dark, although it was only 7 o’clock on a Wednesday evening, Dec. 11. Ostensibly the cause was a robbery gone bad. Her death is a personal tragedy for her family, her friends, the neighborhood, the Barnard and Columbia communities and all New York City. I know. I’m a Barnard alumna and my roots are in New York. The murder tugs at my heart. I lived on the Columbia campus for two years, only a short block from the park. One thing I understood: Don’t go into the park at night.

So I have lots of thoughts, lots of questions. Why was she there? Was she not told that simple fact? At the first assembly of my entering class, the president of the college cautioned us about safety in the neighborhood, warned us where to walk and how to be safe. That was a different time, I acknowledge, over a half-century ago, when the city was a more dangerous place. But dark places in any city can be dangerous anywhere in the world. The president was trying to teach us urban smarts. Are the new students still getting that important message on many college campuses? New Haven is not any different, neither is the University of Chicago and wherever there are universities adjacent to neighborhoods that are prone to crime.

“As of Dec.8, there had been 20 robberies inside Morningside Park or on its perimeter this year, compared to seven in the same period last year,” wrote The New York Times. The article continued, “Since June, five people reported being robbed on or near the staircase at 116th Street and Morningside Drive, near the spot where Ms. Majors was killed.” 

Why, then, was the park not better patrolled by the New York City Police Department? That’s what compiling those statistics is for, yes? To send help where help is most needed? This is an issue the NYPD will have to deal with in coming days.

The other metropolitan area tragedy at the top of the news at the moment is the slaughter of four innocent people in Jersey City Dec. 10 by, according to reports, a couple of heavily armed drifters. While those investigating the murders are not saying much while they work on the case, there seems little doubt that this was a hate crime directed specifically against both the police and one segment of the population: Jews. Why do people hate? Particularly why do they hate strangers, people they don’t even know? It’s a question as puzzling as why people would ever want to kill each other. For bigotry to be so strong as to result in violence is unfathomable. For that matter, why conclude that just because people are different, they should therefore be despised? In fact, they might be thought of as more interesting for their differences.

Which brings me back to my original thought. If everyone is praying for peace, why is there war? Why is there violence? Why is there bigotry? Why is peace so elusive? Is peace, real peace, impossible because of the makeup of humans? Will there always be a Hitler and a Stalin, a Napoleon, Vikings and an Attila the Hun?

Still, let us pray for peace, however hard to imagine. Let us keep this idea alive before us as a goal someday to be realized. Let us work to make our world less violent, less filled with hate, less bigoted. Maybe the operative word is “less?” That we surely can do.

Harbor Ballet Theatre's 'The Nutcracker'

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

Sometimes I think how lucky I am to live here. One of those times was this past week when my life was greatly enhanced by what is around me. Now I don’t want to come off as a Pollyanna. There are also times when I’m not feeling so lucky — as when the property tax bill arrives, which it will shortly and with a new total that includes a compounded increase. Fortunately, I only have to think about that twice a year but, on the upside, I can appreciate regularly the advantages of village living.

I will share with you what happened last week, in chronological order. On Wednesday, Dec. 4, I went to an Emerson String Quartet concert at Stony Brook University’s Staller Center. The Emerson is a world-famous act, whose upcoming performances are heralded on large posters in front of Lincoln Center in New York City. But I don’t have to go into the city to hear them play superbly on an evening. And I don’t have to pay exorbitant prices to park my car or spend many minutes looking for a distant parking place. 

Here, I can park in the adjacent SBU garage for free — one of my favorite four-letter words. I also don’t have to drive two hours to get to the concert site and then two hours back late at night. In a matter of minutes, I can reach the campus, park the car and be in my seat waiting for the illustrious four to walk on stage and begin to play. I can return home without traffic in similar fashion. And the cost of the tickets to hear one of the most honored classical music groups on the globe? Little more than half of that charged in the Big Apple. After such a performance, I return home serenely happy.

That was Wednesday. On the Friday, I walked and rode along the pitch black roads of Old Field South, moving from house to house for the Three Village Historical Society’s Candlelight House Tour. The harrowing driving in the maze of streets that make up that development, built by tycoon Ward Melville starting in 1929, was rewarded by the bright lights and cheer inside the homes open for a walk-through. The homes are artfully decorated and several members of the society tell us about the history of each. All of that is donated for the sake of the organization. And did I mention the food? There are tidbits and wine at each stop on the Friday night event, supplied generously by local restaurants. There were six houses, plus Old Field Farm, on the fundraising tour, which ends with lots more food and drink at the Old Field Club. It seems like half the community turns out for the festivities.

In the interests of full disclosure, I have to confess that while I love history, with its stories and larger-than-life people, I am also an incorrigible snoop when it comes to checking out the insides of people’s homes. One can tell so much about those that dwell there and also get a couple of decorating ideas for one’s own abode.

Then Sunday afternoon I capped a visit to the Dickens Festival in beautifully decorated Port Jefferson with a performance of that holiday favorite, “The Nutcracker.” This one was presented by the Harbor Ballet Theatre and the talented students of Amy Tyler School of Dance, with the help of a trio of marvelous New York City professionals. For 10 years straight I saw “The Nutcracker” at City Center in Manhattan. It was a holiday tradition as I was growing up, but I had not seen the ballet since then until this thrilling show. I was reminded all over again how charming a ballet and how much I love Pyotr Illyich Tchaikovsky’s music.

A quick trip then to the grand tree lighting on the Stony Brook village green, and then back to my living room. I say, this was not a bad way to spend a weekend, all nasty cracks about the sterile suburbs aside. Yes, I enjoy the delights of the city, but they are hard to compare with the comforts of home.