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Prime Times

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By Elissa Gargone

Elissa Gargone

If there’s one thing we’ve gained during this prolonged period of sheltering in place and social distancing otherwise known as the pandemic, it’s a deep appreciation for human interactions. Whether brief and in person as you say hello to your letter carrier, or digitally through a Zoom call with family or friends, these contacts make us feel good. They perk us up, stimulate our hearts and our brains and can brighten almost any day.  

Human beings are social creatures.  From the beginning of time, our connection to others has enabled us to survive and flourish. Spending too much time alone can leave us vulnerable to social isolation and loneliness, not to mention related health problems such as cognitive decline, depression, and heart disease. Fortunately, even at this time, there are ways to counteract these negative effects.

During the warmer weather, few of us hesitated to get outside for socially distanced get-togethers or walks, but winter’s chill presents another challenge.  While we can still bundle up for a walk or chat outside, most of us are more confined overall. Even so, getting out occasionally to be in the semi-distanced company of strangers can be invigorating.

Fortunately, our experience during COVID-19 has taught us some valuable lessons by further opening our minds to the great world at our fingertips through our keyboard, key pad and remote control device. At Jefferson’s Ferry Life Plan Community, we’ve strengthened our friendships and our resolve to stay in touch with the people in our lives, even if we have to step outside of our comfort zones.

While some people had an initial resistance to the digital world, most have come to eagerly embrace it and become adept and enthusiastic users. We’ve also adapted to using a number of the limitless apps available, from Zoom meetings to ordering take out, and from downloading podcasts to accessing art performances and information. We even have our own Jefferson’s Ferry app for the added convenience of fitness classes, entertainment, food and more from our devices.

Wherever you reside, social and digital media can introduce us to a whole new world of teachers, friends and entertainers. For many, Zoom, YouTube, FaceTime and TikTok have been a lifeline, keeping us connected with family, friends and even next door neighbors by providing laughs, new ideas, visits to nearby and faraway places and endless how-to videos. 

For the uninitiated, Zoom and FaceTime allow people to connect in real time video to socialize, hold meetings, go on a video excursion, and take classes. If you haven’t seen a loved one in a long time, FaceTime and Zoom are akin to a miracle. YouTube offers a vast compendium of content from performances to cooking and fitness classes of every description, and so much more. 

Your local library is a remarkable resource to entertain, educate and elevate emotional well-being. You can connect with fellow readers, travelers and lifelong learners through Zoom meetings and access an endless array of programming.   A phone call to the library or a visit to its YouTube channel can help you get online and get going to enjoy hours of fabulous programs and opportunities. 

Visit www.livebrary.com to access eBooks and Audiobooks (all you need is a Suffolk County library card) and go to your library’s website to explore its many offerings from the comfort of your home or bundle up and get out to experience nature, history and your overall environment in person on a beautiful winter afternoon. 

Either way you’ll experience a no or low-contact adventure in your own backyard. While we may be living through a time of more “at home time,” a whole world awaits at our fingertips. Make sure you take advantage of it. 

“Adventure isn’t hanging off a rope on the side of a mountain. Adventure is an attitude we must apply to the day to day obstacles of life.” — John Amat

Elissa Gargone is vice president of sales and marketing  at Jefferson’s Ferry Life Plan Community in South Setauket.

This article first appeared in TBR News Media’s Prime Times supplement on Jan. 28, 2021.

METRO photo

People want to grow old gracefully and maintain their independence as long as possible. There are many decisions to make as well as information to wade through to ensure needs are met and proper care is received through one’s golden years. Individuals, caregivers and families may find that a few helping hands along the way can be invaluable.

Numerous elder care resources are available for those who don’t know where to look. Start by researching the National Council on Aging (www.ncoa.org). This is a national leader and trusted association that helps people age 60 and older. The council works with nonprofit organizations, governments and businesses to organize programs and services at the community level. This is a good place to find senior programs that can help with healthy aging — emotionally, physically and financially. 800-201-9989

At the local level in the United States, the federal government has mandated Area Agency on Aging (www.n4a.org) facilities in every county/city. These agencies can provide information on service programs available to the seniors in the area, as well as financial resources. These facilities give seniors access to volunteers who can take seniors around by car, and some provide meals-on-wheels services. 631-853-8200

AARP (www.aarp.org) is yet another organization dedicated to helping seniors. The comprehensive AARP website offers a host of information on everything from senior discounts to products to health and other information specific to seniors. The AARP also has an affiliated charity that works to help low-income seniors procure life’s necessities. 888-687-2277

The Administration for Community Living (www.acl.org) was established to help older adults and people of all ages with disabilities live where they choose. A network of community-based organizations helps millions of people age in place. 212-264-2976

This article first appeared in TBR News Media’s Prime Times supplement on Jan. 28, 2021.

Cherry Coffee Cake

The month of February has a few important events to celebrate. One such event is Presidents’ Day, which this year will be observed on February 15. Presidents’ Day honors both George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, two influential presidents who were born in February. 

Some may recall a legend about George Washington and a cherry tree, as it’s one of the most popular tales tied to the nation’s first president. The original story has a young George receiving a hatchet as a gift when he is six years old. Young George ends up using it to cut into his father’s cherry tree. After discovering the damage, George’s father confronts him. Rather than lie, George admits to his wrongdoing. George’s father commends him for his honesty, indicating that honesty has more value than a cherry tree.

While no one is suggesting to cut down a cherry tree in February in honor of George Washington, the value of this tale and lesson can be celebrated symbolically with these two tasty recipes, a Cherry Coffee Cake and Martha Washington’s Cherry and Butter Bread Pudding.

Cherry Coffee Cake

Add some sweetness to your breakfast routine with this delicious and easy-to-make morning snack.

YIELD: Makes 6 to 8 servings


Nonstick cooking spray

1 can (12.4 ounces) refrigerated cinnamon rolls with icing

1 1/2 cups (21-ounce can) cherry pie filling

1/2 cup slivered almonds or pecans (optional)


Heat oven to 375 F. Spray 9-inch round cake pan with nonstick cooking spray. 

Separate cinnamon roll dough into eight rolls; cut each roll into quarters. Place dough rounded-side down in pan. Spoon pie filling over rolls. Sprinkle almond slivers or pecans over cherry filling, if desired. Bake 25 to 35 minutes, or until golden brown. Invert onto plate or cutting board. Invert again onto serving plate. Remove lid from icing. Microwave 3 to 10 seconds. Stir icing and drizzle over warm coffee cake before serving.

Martha Washington’s Cherry and Butter Bread Pudding

This recipe is rumored to be our first First Lady’s favorite dessert to make. A firm bread like Pepperidge Farm or Arnold is recommended, and while cherry preserves are used for this recipe, any type of fruit preserve may be substituted. 

YIELD: Makes 6 servings


12 slices white bread

Butter or margarine


10-oz. cherry preserves

4 eggs

2 and 2/3 cups milk

2 tablespoons of sugar


Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Butter an 8 by 8 inch baking dish. Cut crusts from 12 slices white bread. Spread butter on one side of each slice. Arrange 4 slices bread in bottom of dish and sprinkle each lightly with cinnamon. Spread a spoonful of cherry preserves on each slice. Repeat, making two more layers. Beat eggs in a medium mixing bowl. Add milk and sugar and stir until well mixed. Pour over bread and bake for 60 to 70 minutes, or until top is golden brown and the custard is set. Serve warm from the oven. 

This article first appeared in TBR News Media’s Prime Times supplement on Jan. 28, 2021 under Recipe Corner.

Jack Wilson at the piano

By Thomas J. Manuel, D.M.A.

There’s that old saying that, “A picture speaks a thousand words.”

As I walk through the Jazz Loft lately I’m more mindful of the photos that are throughout our 6,000 square foot museum that is sadly idle and quiet these many months. I have some favorites, although they all speak to me in different ways. For me the photos speak stories of my friends and they remind me of our time together, albeit brief. They are also powerful reminders of this great lineage in Jazz that we who participate as musicians are all a part of.

When I pass the photos we have of Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington I look at the youthful faces of my friends, who looked quite different when I knew them, and I repeatedly think to myself, “Wow, how amazing it must have been for them to share the stage and create music together with those giants!”

Louis Jordan as a baby

Born roughly two years apart, Ellington in 1899 and Armstrong in 1901 respectively, both had already lived through the first World War and they would go on to witness the Spanish Flu epidemic, the Great Depression, World War II, the Cold War, and the turbulent 1960s and the Vietnam conflict.

One can read Louis Armstrong’s descriptions of his experience of the 1918 influenza pandemic firsthand as he remembers it in his 1954 memoir Satchmo: My Life in New Orleans. There he says: “Just when the government was about to let crowds of people congregate again so that we could play our horns once more the lid was clamped down tighter than ever. That forced me to take any odd jobs I could get. With everybody suffering from the flu, I had to work and play the doctor to everyone in my family as well as all my friends in the neighborhood. If I do say so, I did a good job curing them.”

Today Jazz musicians and artists in general are experiencing a complete and utter shutdown that literally hasn’t been seen since over a hundred years ago as Armstrong described. The question of course we’re all asking ourselves regardless of what walk of life we come from is, “How do I deal with this? What do I DO?”

One of the greatest American composers, Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington might be of inspiration and assistance to us as it was Duke Ellington who once said that, “A problem is a chance for you to do your best.” Put that little caveat together with some sage words of wisdom from old satchel mouth himself and you’ve got quite the collaboration of ideas— in the spirit of Jazz of course. Louis Armstrong’s own theory on how to solve those problems was that, “If lots more of us loved each other, we’d solve lots more problems.”

The music of these larger than life giants in Jazz continues to inspire us decades after their departure from the stage of life, but if one digs deeper (and ya gotta dig to dig, ya dig!?) you’ll find a type of inspiration that speaks to that deeper place in each of us. It speaks not just to the heart, but to the soul. It speaks not just about happiness, but of joy.

These are truly different things and Duke and Pops were not only in tune with them, they were absolutely vibrating with these truths. In fact, their generation was indeed one that was skilled in navigating problems. When I walk through the Jazz Loft and purvey these photos of youthful legends I can’t help but think about how skillfully, how successfully they fought their battles and wrestled their giants.

Teddy Charles dancing with his sister

Vibraphonist Teddy Charles (actually Theodore Cohen, Teddy Charles was his stage name) had a father who discouraged music and was forced to change his name to gain entrance into the music business because his given name was too Jewish. Luckily his mother who had been a somewhat accomplished pianist and singer who dabbled briefly in early entertainment playing for silent movies and vaudeville encouraged her son’s musical journey. Charles would continue to compose, perform, arrange, record and produce, one of the first quintuple threats in the music industry alongside his pals Mingus, Trane, Monk, Bird, and a slew of others.

Pianist Jack Wilson was so poor that his parents literally couldn’t feed him so he was sent from Chicago at the end of the Great Depression to live with an aunt up north who had enough means to do so. Luckily for Jack there was a piano in the house which became his emotional outlet. He’d later join the army and would be appointed the director of the Third Army Area Band; the first black person to ever hold the position. Wilson would pursue college studies at the University of Indiana and go on to collaborate with Dinah Washington, Sammy Davis Jr., Sarah Vaughan and his trio would become the hard bop jewel in the crown of Blue Note Records.

LLoyd Trotman, in black shirt, with Duke Ellington, third from left

If you pay the Jazz Loft a visit when we’re open again you can gaze upon the photos of others like Louis Jordan, Lester Lanin, Keely Smith, Arthur Prysock and Lloyd Trotman. Without even trying these individuals modeled their values and taught us what really was important. Forged by the struggles of their time they’d go on to become the grandfather of rock n’ roll, pioneering Grammy artists, civil rights workers, and to produce the soundtrack to the American experience during the 20th century. If you don’t recognize the names you’re sure to recognize the tunes: “Stand By Me”, “Let The Good Times Roll”, “From Here to Eternity” “That Old Black Magic” and if you’re old enough, remember “Let it Be Lowenbrau”?

There has never been another person like those mentioned prior. They were men and women of deep faith, undying love, tenacious conviction, profound insight and constant hope. They taught us that it can be easy to quit during difficult times without a strong and proper foundation, and in doing so showed us that hard work and living ones truth can build that foundation to withstand the hard times.

Their’s was a deeper message not to let anyone think less of you because you are young— to be an example to all in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, and so much more. Their example was one of seeing our problems as wondrous opportunities to do better, and most of all, to show love. They were, in a word, JAZZ. And if Jazz were a person, we’d all be a better person our selves for having them in our lives.

Tom Manuel

Author Tom Manuel is a Jazz historian, music educator, trumpet player and Founder and President of The Jazz Loft, 275 Christian Ave., Stony Brook. For more information, visit www.thejazzloft.org.

This article first appeared in Prime Times, a supplement of TBR News Media, on Jan. 28, 2021.


Billy Collins

By Melissa Arnold

The written word has the ability to stir up emotions in ways little else can. Whether it’s a collection of zealous love poems, a thought-provoking novel or the adrenaline rush of a favorite song on the radio, words are powerful. 

Like many Americans, essayist and novelist Roger Rosenblatt is heartbroken over the intense and sometimes even violent divisions in America today. 

“I was really concerned with how ready people are to argue and fight with one another,” said Rosenblatt, who lives on the East End. “And I started to think, ‘Can I make a difference here?’”

Alice McDermott

An idea came quickly, and Rosenblatt fired off a letter to friends, former students and colleagues, all of them writers in some fashion. His message: Let’s come together and use our talents to encourage unity and peace.

A few days later, he had dozens of enthusiastic responses. The result is Write America: A Reading for Our Country, a free, weekly online event hosted by Book Revue in Huntington. Beginning Feb. 1 and continuing through September, authors from around the country and all walks of life will read from their work, share their thoughts, and take questions from viewers.

Book Revue last partnered with Rosenblatt in the fall, when they held a celebration and comedic “roast” for his 80th birthday. Event coordinator Loren Limongelli said they were thrilled to hear from him again, especially with such a wonderful idea.

“Roger has gathered artists from all ages, races and backgrounds to bridge the divide in our nation and reach people with the reminder that we’re all human,” said Limongelli, who will emcee the series. “We’ve had unwavering support from the community during the pandemic and we want to give back to them by providing really exciting events with well-known authors.”

The growing list of participants runs the gamut from up-and-coming authors to award-winning and nationally recognized writers, including Billy Collins, Rita Dove, Major Jackson, Alan Alda, Alice McDermott, Amy Hempel, Natalie Diaz, Tyehimba Jess, Paul Auster, and many more. 

“I wanted to make sure we had representation from all parts of the country, different kinds of people, and different types of writing as well: poets, novelists, essayists, women, men, people of color,” Rosenblatt said. “They got it. Writers are generally private people and we joke that they shouldn’t let us out, but there was a unique opportunity here to do some good. We feel like we have a responsibility to reach out to the public.”

The writers were encouraged to read from works they feel are healing and inspiring for all people, regardless of differences in politics or opinion.

Alan Alda

Suffolk County local Alan Alda has spent the latest part of his career immersed in the art of communication. He has written memoirs and books exploring how we relate to one another, what’s most important in life and why it all matters.

“I think it’s great that Roger has opened a door for writers to be able to make their own special contribution to national healing through their writing,” Alda said. 

“I’m not sure what I’ll be reading yet, but I have my eye on a description I wrote in my last book of the day mortal enemies took an impromptu day off from killing each other.”

Novelist Alice McDermott recalled that in his letter, Roger said that while writers don’t make many observable changes in the world, they can make a little noise.

“Is this important? I think so. Our public discourse of late has made it so easy for us to dismiss and to vilify one another, to silence and to degrade,” she said. “Maybe we can help to restore, even temporarily — we are human, after all, and full of flaws — the way we speak about and think about and even feel about our world and one another.”

Write America kicks off on Feb. 1 and will be held live at 7 p.m. Mondays on CrowdCast, a web-based meeting platform. All events are free. Registration is required by visiting www.bookrevue.com/write-america-series. For additional information, call 631-271-1442.


February 1

Rita Dove

Rita Dove & Billy Collins

February 8

Francine Prose & Paul Muldoon

February 15

Russell Banks, Major Jackson and Alice McDermott

February 22

Patricia Marx & Garry Trudeau

March 1

Alan Bergman & Adam Gopnik

March 8

Alan Alda & Arlene Alda

March 15

Linda Pastan, Paul Harding and Juan Felipe Herrera

March 22

George H. Colt & Anne Fadiman

March 29

Kirsten Valdez Quade & Nick Flynn

April 5

Kurt Andersen & Amy Hempel

April 12

Claudia Acevedo-Quiñones & Julie Sheehan 

April 19

Natalie Diaz & Daniel Halpern

April 26

Paul Auster, Siri Hustvedt & David Remnick

May 3

Carlos Fonseca & Rose Styron

May 10

Lloyd Schwartz & Priya Jain

May 17

Patricia McCormick & Michelle Whittaker

May 24

Grace Schulman & Lance Morrow

May 31

Bruce Weber & Molly Gaudry

More dates will be announced with authors … Adrienne Unger, Amy Cacciola, Cornelia Channing, Dar-Juinn Chou, David Lynn, Elizabeth Hawes Weinstock, Emma Walton Hamilton, Genevieve Sly Crane, Gregory Pardlo, Hilma Wolitzer, Jacqueline Leo, Jean Hanff Korelitz, Jennifer McDonald, Jill McCorkle, Jillian LaRussa, John Leo, Joyce Maynard, Jules Feiffer, Kate Lehrer, Kaylie Jones, Lora Tucker, Lou Ann Walker, Richard Ford, Robert Lipsyte, Robert Reeves, Roger Rosenblatt, Vjay Seshadri, Suchita Nayar, Susan Isaacs, Susan Minot, Tyehimba Jess, Ursula Hegi, and Vanessa Cuti. 

This article first appeared in Prime Times, a supplement of TBR News Media, on Jan. 28, 2021.


The Public Libraries of Suffolk County announced last week that it reached a record-breaking 2.7 million eBook checkouts on Live-brary.com during 2020.  This achievement is no surprise to many, as 2020 lead to the increased growth and importance of library digital lending of eBooks and audiobooks while many buildings were closed due to the global pandemic. Live-brary, consisting of 56 libraries in Suffolk County, is one of 102 public library systems worldwide that surpassed one million checkouts.

The Public Libraries of Suffolk County have been providing readers 24/7 access to eBooks and audiobooks for several years through OverDrive and its award-winning Libby reading app.  Reader interest has grown every year.

“This past year, though difficult, Suffolk libraries have demonstrated their commitment to readers wherever they may be through Live-brary’s eBook and audiobook collections providing much needed access to entertainment and learning opportunities,” said Kevin Verbesey, Director of the Suffolk Cooperative Library System.

The highest circulating title Live-brary readers borrowed through OverDrive in 2020 was Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens.  The top-circulating genre, romance, represents the most popular in a vast catalog that also includes thrillers, biographies, children/young adult and more.

The top five eBook titles borrowed through Live-brary’s digital collection in 2020:
1. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
2. The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes
3. American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins
4. Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
5. Educated by Tara Westover

The top five audiobook titles borrowed through Live-brary’s digital collection in 2020:
1. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
2. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
3. Becoming by Michelle Obama
4. American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins
5. The Dutch House by Ann Patchett

Readers in Suffolk County just need a valid library card to access digital books from Live-brary’s OverDrive-powered digital collection.  Readers can use any major device, including Apple®, Android™, Chromebook™ and Kindle® (US only).  Visit https://live-brary.com/overdrive.com/ or download the Libby app to get started and borrow eBooks and audiobooks anytime, anywhere.

This article first appeared in Prime Times, a supplement of TBR News Media, on Jan. 28, 2021.