Tags Posts tagged with "Tom Manuel"

Tom Manuel

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The historic building that houses The Jazz Loft on Christian Avenue in Stony Brook. Photo from WMHO

Tom Manuel, founder of The Jazz Loft in Stony Brook, is always grateful when someone comes along and offers a helping hand, but during the pandemic, his gratitude is overflowing.

The Old Stone Jug, above, prior to being moved to its current site in 1940. Photo from Tom Manuel

Before New York State’s mandatory shutdowns, the Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation awarded The Jazz Loft a grant in the amount of $40,000 to match funds coming from local resident and patron Dan Oliveri.

The money is being used to renovate the southwest section of the basement, which is under the Old Stone Jug area of the venue. The undertaken has been dubbed Project Coal Bin, Manuel said. While the basement dates back to 1941, the Old Stone Jug was built in approximately 1770. The grant also covers equipment needed to archive information.

“What’s exciting is it’s going to be a multipurpose space where the grant was designed not just to redesign the space but to outfit it as an area that will be used for our archiving,” The Jazz Loft founder said.

He added that the Stony Brook University Department of Computer Science worked last year to design the computer programming for the archiving, which will open up doors for other grants in the future for additional archiving and preservation.

“It’s amazing how a group like the Gardiner foundation could allow so many great things to happen even indirectly after their grant is done,” he said.

He called RDLGF a lifeline for nonprofits and a “blessing for people on Long Island.” The admiration is mutual.

Kathryn Curran, right, and The Jazz Loft founder Tom Manuel, left, in the Count Basie Garden. Photo from Tom Manuel

“The Jazz Loft is an exceptional organization that engages the community on many levels,” said Kathryn Curran, executive director of the RDLGF. “The adaptive reuse of their historic building brings new and inventive life to this early structure celebrating the history of jazz through performances and art and artifacts.”

While the grant process was lengthy, Manuel said it was an excellent experience for him where before the pandemic he sat in on a grant-writing workshop given by Curran, and was able to exchange ideas with others. He said it was inspiring to learn about grants and the bigger picture of the longevity of nonprofits and the history of Long Island.

“After a while you realize, wow, it’s not so much about me writing this grant anymore,” he said. “It’s about The Jazz Loft being here for 100 years. This is about being responsible with what has been entrusted to me.”

Manuel also praised RDLGF for the funds they granted to nonprofits during the pandemic. Curran said the board was aware of the new problems nonprofits faced in 2020, and in June the board members approved a limited reimbursement grant to historical societies. The grants were intended to help organizations cover expenses during unscheduled closings. In total, RDLGF awarded more than $63,000 to help pay bills over a three-month period.

As for Project Coal Bin, Manuel said work began a couple of months ago. He indicated before major construction could begin, the old drop ceiling had to be removed in the section of the basement, while the plumbing and the electrical system needed to be updated. Manuel said when a person is downstairs and looks up, the hand-hewn beams of the Old Stone Jug are now visible after 80 years following the removal of a plaster ceiling.

The section of The Jazz Loft is called the Old Stone Jug due to its facade and was added by philanthropist Ward Melville, who moved the structure from its original location and made it an addition to what was once the original Stony Brook firehouse. It was then used as the Suffolk Museum, the forerunner of The Long Island Museum. Before it was moved, the Old Stone Jug, through the decades, was utilized for town meetings, operated as a tin shop and was used to store molasses jugs.

Manuel said they named the new section of the basement the Coal Bin after a former establishment in Southampton called Bowden Square. The owner Herb McCarthy’s mother would cook southern food and play jazz music for Black patrons in the basement, called the Coal Bin, during a time when Southampton was segregated.

Manuel said renovations in The Jazz Loft basement are projected to be completed before the end of the year.

Harlan Fischer, above, stands by two of several pieces of artwork displayed in his Setauket office. Photo by Rita J. Egan

Setauket recently welcomed a new financial services office to the area, but the company’s president is no stranger to the Three Village community.

Fischer along with his Branch Financial Services associates Stephanie Gress and Kristen Domiano. Photo from Branch Financial Services

Harlan Fischer, president of Branch Financial Services, recently moved his offices from Smithtown to Setauket. His business, which was located on Route 111 for 25 years, and before that, for 21 years in Hauppauge, has now found a home at 21 Bennetts Road.

The Head of the Harbor resident and his wife of almost 47 years, Olivia, are known for their involvement in the art community across the North Shore, and both are familiar names at The Jazz Loft in Stony Brook. For the past three years, the couple has sponsored a monthly concert series at the music venue and museum, which is currently closed due to the coronavirus.

Loft founder Tom Manuel said the Fischers were its first donors. The musician still remembers the day in 2015 when he was in Stony Brook village performing to raise money for the renovation of the venue’s future home. He said a man with a dog walked up to him and they began talking about jazz. The man turned out to be Fischer.

“I was just thinking, ‘Wow, how interesting that there’s this guy that kind of digs what we’re trying to do,’” Manuel said. “Little did I know he’d already read about us, and he came there on purpose. I just thought he was passing by.”

He said Fischer gave him an envelope with a check inside, but Manuel didn’t open it until he was home, thinking it was maybe worth $50. Later he opened the envelope and found the check was for $1,000.

“My eyes were as big as saucers,” he said.

The Jazz Loft founder said that with Fischer’s interest in jazz and the couple’s love of art, the venue is a perfect match for them.

“They’re doing it because it’s a passion,” he said. “It’s not just that they’re looking for a place to make a tax-deductible donation.”

Fischer and his wife’s philanthropy goes beyond The Jazz Loft. While the financial adviser spends the day discussing finances with clients — people from all over Long Island as well as 26 states — his interests lie elsewhere when the workday has ended. Both he and Olivia through the decades have developed a shared love of art.

Fischer said, for him, it began after a 1988 car accident when he was hit by a drunk driver. He realized he could have been killed, and up until that point his life was mostly about work.

“All of a sudden it got me in touch with my mortality,” he said.

“All of a sudden it got me in touch with my mortality.”

— Harlan Fischer

He was talking to his physical therapist who told him about the Rotary club. Not only did he join the organization, but he also went on to become the president of Smithtown Rotary from 1997to 98. Through the Rotary he became involved in various community projects, but when a friend told him how the Smithtown Township Arts Council was looking for a board member, that’s when he found one of his true passions. Fischer told his friend he knew nothing about art, but it turned out the board was looking for a businessperson like him. Fischer decided to join and a year later became its president.

During his five-year tenure, he said he learned a lot about art, thanks to Norma Cohen, who was director of the council back then. He and his wife began collecting artwork, especially contemporary studio art glass pieces that fill the couple’s Head of the Harbor home.

Olivia Fischer said the couple’s interest in art grew together and the two began raising money for various organizations, including hosting fundraisers in their home.

Through the years, the Fischers have been members of many art organizations as well as sponsored many events. Among their philanthropic activities have been being members of The Long Island Museum’s Directors Advisory Circle and sponsoring the East End Arts Music Masters Mentorship Program for high schoolers. The financial adviser is also a former board president of the Art League of Long Island, and in 2000, he was named The Times of Smithtown Man of the Year in Business.

In addition to their work in the world of the arts, the Fischers have rescued dogs and are in the process of adopting their 11th one. In late 2018, the Town of Smithtown recognized them for their $7,600 donation which enabled the Smithtown Animal Shelter to build a dog park that bears their name, the Olivia and Harlan Fischer Recreational and Development Park. The Fischers have also backed Little Shelter Animal Rescue’s annual Pet-A-Palooza in Huntington.

Fischer, who is in his early 70s, said he feels 10 years younger and has no plans to retire, especially in his new office that features some of his art collection. He added that he’s fortunate to work with good people too, which helps with leading a busy life.

“I can’t ask for more than that,” he said.

Success and enjoyment in life are something he believes people find when they feel passionate about what they are doing. He also believes in good timing, which has become a common theme in his life not only with finding ways to give back but also in his career life.

After spending four years in the Air Force and almost a year in Vietnam, he wound up in retail despite having an engineering degree from Northeastern University. He was running the Levitz Furniture & Showroom in Farmingdale when he told someone he no longer wanted to be in retail, and it was recommended he consider the financial field.

“Timing is everything in life,” he said. “Just being at the right place at the right time and saying the right thing. You make a right turn instead of a left turn, your whole life can be different.”

Interim President Michael A. Bernstein with podcast guest Thomas Manuel, founder of The Jazz Loft. Photo from SBU

Stony Brook University recently launched its first-ever official podcast, “Beyond the Expected,” to highlight the expertise and contributions from outstanding members of the SBU community. 

SBU leaders and personalities host guests whose stories exemplify the diversity of the SBU community and thought and the global impact of their scholarship. “Beyond the Expected” offers compelling interviews and insightful perspectives from members of the Stony Brook University community and beyond who are deeply committed to contributing their time, talent and solutions to the most pressing issues in the communities where they live, work or play. 

The 30-minute show features rotating podcast hosts, beginning with inaugural host Interim President Michael A. Bernstein who kicked off the podcast series by delving into compelling discussions with members of the campus community who are making a great impact on the lives of others. 

Through teaching, research and discovery, scholarship, engineered solutions, diversity, public-private partnerships and philanthropic relationships, these new episodes of “Beyond the Expected” podcast interviews will bring this to life. “Stony Brook University faculty, staff and students put their heart and soul into their work, which elevates our regional economy and contributes more broadly to areas such as environmental sustainability, health care, and social and cultural identity,” said Bernstein. 

“This podcast will showcase their drive and diversity as we learn about what inspired them when young, and what they’re doing now that helps make Stony Brook the great community partner that it is today,” he added.

Some of the inaugural featured guests and topics of discussion on the “Beyond the Expected” podcast include:

Professor Abhay Deshpande on the evolution of nuclear science and his involvement in planning for the Brookhaven National Lab-awarded development of the Electron-Ion Collider.

Dr. David Fiorella on cutting-edge approaches to interventional brain surgery and new services he has brought to Long Island, helping save lives of stroke victims.

Jazz Artist-in-Residence Thomas Manuel on the origins and historic relevance of The Jazz Loft, the song that got him hooked him on jazz and a memory of his best performance.

Dr. Sharon Nachman on the safety of immunizations and vaccines and insights on the 2019 novel coronavirus.

Dr. Carolyn Peabody and second-year MSW student, Meesha Johnson, on the 2020 Census and getting the Native American population in Suffolk County counted.

Actor, director, screenwriter and author Alan Alda, visiting professor and founder of the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science in conversation with Alan Inkles, director of the Staller Center for the Arts.

“Beyond the Expected” podcast is now live and can be downloaded and subscribed to on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Radio Public and Google Podcasts. One can also check out the vodcast on YouTube.

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The Jazz Loft recently acquired bandleader Xavier Cugat’s musical collection. Photo by Rita J. Egan

A St. James resident’s inheritance has become a treasure for a local museum and music venue.

Among the museum’s current exhibits are singer Keely Smith items. Photo by Rita J. Egan

Recently, John Diana, a periodontist and clinical assistant professor at Stony Brook University School of Dental Medicine in the Department of Periodontology, donated the musical archives of renowned bandleader Xavier Cugat to The Jazz Loft in Stony Brook. Tom Manuel, the Loft’s founder, said the collection contains many of Cugat’s original manuscripts.

Manuel added that manuscripts like the newly acquired ones include various musical notations.

“That’s incredibly important because that means the music can be performed again, and that means, in many ways, the music can live on,” he said.

Diana is the only child of Robert W. Kasha, who was the pianist in the Sammy Kaye orchestra in the 1940s and ’50s. He said his father went on to become vice president of Willard Alexander Inc., and the theatrical agency had many of the big bands on contract. When Kasha met Cugat, he made an offer to purchase the bandleader’s name, music and rights to the band, and Cugat accepted the offer.

The periodontist said his mother, who used the stage name Ada Cavallo, was a singer, and she became the conductor of the band after his father gained the rights.

“Also, being Latina, she instilled the Latin rhythm required of a Latin band,” Diana said.

His father would play piano in the ensemble, and the New Xavier Cugat Orchestra was together for nearly 20 years, according to Diana. He said his parents traveled with the group numerous times to Japan, and both were inducted into the Big Band Hall of Fame in West Palm Beach, Florida.

Diana said his wife, Kathleen, was the one who suggested he contact The Jazz Loft to see if they would accept the Cugat material.

“Tom, from The Jazz Loft, was more than kind in accepting the music, and many of the exhibits in his museum were from bands and musicians that my dad booked and knew personally,” Diana said. “I feel, and I believe my folks would feel, that the music found a good home.”

Manuel said there aren’t many places like The Jazz Loft with a museum and educational component, and many people have reached out to them about musical archives they own but no longer have room for in their homes.

The Jazz Loft recently acquired trombonist Benny Powell’s musical archives. Photo by Rita J. Egan

“It’s really amazing that we’re getting these incredibly important — historically important — collections,” he said.

Manuel said every collection is different and may include not only manuscripts, but also photographs, receipts, date books, tour schedules, instruments and more.

Some of the collections The Jazz Loft has acquired through the years have been from jazz trombonists Ray Anderson and Benny Powell and jazz and pop singer Keely Smith. The museum currently has the collection of piano player Jack Wilson on display to coincide with its July tribute to the entertainer.

The collections are rotated throughout the year in The Jazz Loft museum because it would be impossible to display everything at the same time, Manuel said. In October Anderson’s collection will be on display and the trombonist will also be performing at the venue. Next year Manuel plans to display the Benny Powell and Xavier Cugat exhibits.

Manuel said some of his favorite pieces from the Cugat collection include manuscripts that were written while the bandleader was in Cuba, parts are in Spanish, and the paper was made in Cuba.

Diana also had his favorite pieces.

“Being of Latino heritage, I enjoyed it all, but my favorite piece was a newer version of the ‘Peter Gunn’ theme, and from dad’s personal piano archives, his rendition of the classic ‘Laura,’” Diana said.

The Jazz Loft crew will begin sorting through the material from the Cugat collection. Manuel said first everything must be entered into a computer and initially placed in an envelope. Once the memorabilia are grouped together and categorized, the items will be put in archival boxes to help keep them preserved.

Honorees Katharine Griffiths, Andy Polan, Leah Dunaief, Anna Kerekes

The Ward Melville Heritage Organization hosted its annual Jewels & Jeans Gala at Flowerfield in St. James on June 19. This year’s event honored Katharine Griffiths, Executive Director, Avalon Park & Preserve; Leah Dunaief, Editor and Publisher of Times Beacon Record News Media; Anna Kerekes, WMHO Trustee; and Andy Polan, President, Three Village Chamber of Commerce “for their outstanding achievements to the community.” The evening featured music by Tom Manuel and The Jazz Loft All Stars, cocktails, dinner and a live and silent auction. 

Photos by Ron Smith, Clix|couture

From left, Maryanne Vigneaux, Frank Turano, Holly Griesel and Orlando Maione at last year’s event. Photo by Anthony White/ Three Village Historical Society

By David Luces

There’s something about the 1920s that to this day many people are fascinated by. Life during that time seemed like one big party. The Three Village Historical Society and The Jazz Loft plan to bring some of the magic of the time period back for its third annual Prohibition Night fundraiser on June 21.

This year’s theme, titled Booze, Bootlegging and Jazz!!!, will have an emphasis on  bootlegging and speakeasies, also known as blind pigs.

“We’ve been collaborating with the historical society for the past two years [on this event] and I think we’ve hit it out of the park,” Tom Manuel of The Jazz Loft said. “For this year we thought what can we do better.”

Guests will be attending a mock funeral service and given a pass code to access a secret back room party filled with booze and jazz music. The historical society will have a Prohibition era bootlegging exhibit set up where guests can peruse old photos and other items from the time period.

“We really want to try to bring some of that history to life,” explained Manuel.

Tara Ebrahimian, education and volunteer coordinator for the historical society, spent weeks researching the Prohibition era and bootlegging as well as Long Island’s history during the 1920s. In a recent interview, she said her inspiration for the mock funeral came from reading accounts of actual funeral homes having speakeasies and parties in the back of their buildings.

“We want [the event] to be historically accurate,” she said. “We wanted to make this scene for the guests,” she added. “Like you’re stepping into this world, we want them to be fully immersed.”

Ebrahimian also researched how people spoke back in the 1920s and the lingo used during Prohibition. Re-enactors from Theatre Three in Port Jefferson will be on hand to aid in the immersive experience and will be acting as if they were from that time period.

Sandy White, office manager at the historical society, said she is excited for this year’s event. “It’s going to be a lot of fun,” she said, adding that there will be a garden bar for guests with beer donated by Sunrise Ales and Lagers.

Steve Healy, president of the historical society, said the event is a great way to incorporate history and jazz music in a fun setting.“We want to make history interesting, and I think people have a soft spot for this era. There is something really fascinating about this time period,” he added.

Healy said that besides antique items from the period there will be a 1929 banana colored convertible parked outside the venue. “It’s going to be a fun night and it supports two great local nonprofits,” he said.

Just as booze and parties were synonymous with the 1920s, jazz music was just as important. Manuel’s band, The Hot Peppers, will be playing time period music from mid to late 1920s live music for guests at the event. “We want it to be authentic as possible,” explained Manuel, adding that the band will be playing with instruments that were used to make jazz music back then like the piano, guitar, clarinet and trombone among others. They will also be performing with some vintage instruments.

Manuel is grateful to the historical society for creating a wonderful partnership for the past couple of years. He said when The Jazz Loft first opened two years ago, the historical society was one of the first organizations to collaborate with them.“We wanted to partner with people in the community and each time we’ve collaborated greater and bigger things happen for the both of us.”

Guests are encouraged to dress in period attire and Manuel said he is blown away every year by how committed the guests are to dressing up for the event. “I’ve been really impressed … it has really taken a life of its own,” he said.

The Jazz Loft, located at 275 Christian Ave. in Stony Brook Village, will host the third annual Prohibition Night on Friday, June 21 from 6 to 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $25 adults, $20 seniors, $15 students. To order, call 631-751-1895 or visit www.thejazzloft.org.

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Stony Brook residents Don Estes and Dan Kerr will lead a morning interdenominational prayer service at All Souls Episcopal Church in Stony Brook beginning Jan. 30. Photo from Dan Kerr

Through prayer, a Stony Brook church is connecting further with the surrounding community.

The doors of All Souls Episcopal Church on Main Street are always open for all to pray or to enjoy activities such as its Saturdays at Six concerts, Second Saturdays poetry readings and Shamanic Drumming events. Beginning Jan. 30, the church will offer a weekly interdenominational morning prayer service led by Stony Brook residents Dan Kerr and Don Estes.

“If you start your day with a reading from Scripture, and a little reflection on Scripture, whether its Old Testament or New Testament, it gives you a framework that helps you realize that there’s a bigger picture.”

— Dan Kerr

Kerr, a church volunteer at All Souls, said he starts every day with structured prayer time and believes the new service is a natural progression to what the church has been doing. The congregation connects with approximately 500 people from the community through its events, he said, and many have asked for something such as the new morning service.

“The vision of this is that we have a relationship with all these 500 people, but we’ve never invited those 500 people to come and pray with us,” Kerr said.

He said the prayers and readings they will use at the interdenominational service are ones that all Christians will recognize and all religions can appreciate. Kerr said both he and Estes believe “any day that begins with prayer is likely to be a good day.”

“If you start your day with a reading from Scripture, and a little reflection on Scripture, whether its Old Testament or New Testament, it gives you a framework that helps you realize that there’s a bigger picture,” Kerr said.

Estes, a Methodist who attends Stony Brook Community Church at 216 Christian Ave. and former commodore of Stony Brook Yacht Club, said he was looking for a morning prayer service for a while, so when Kerr brought up the idea, he said he would be happy to help. Estes said starting the day with prayer every day had helped him through difficult times, especially when his wife Judy was battling Alzheimer’s disease before her passing last year.

A retired TWA pilot, Estes said he’s also been inspired by his travels around the world that allowed him to witness others’ prayer practices and his wife’s spirituality. He thinks a prayer group such as the All Souls one helps people figure out how they should be and what the day should be like for them.

“A prayer in the morning gets you started in the right direction for the day,” Estes said.

“It’s been a big help to me to meet the challenges of the day,” he said.

“In the morning, our minds tend to be the most clear and free from problems.”

— Tom Manuel

Tom Manuel, president and founder of The Jazz Loft, was pleased to hear the service would be offered.

“The secret of a close relationship with our God is to prioritize our first time each morning in prayer,” Manuel said. “In the morning, our minds tend to be the most clear and free from problems. Setting our course and focus on God is a great way to commit the day ahead to him.”

Town of Brookhaven Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) said she commended Kerr and Estes for joining the community together with prayer.

“This early morning service reminds me of my grandmother who attended Mass every morning,” Cartright said. “Her devotion to starting every day with prayer has had a great positive impact on my faith. Prayer has always been such an important part of my personal and family life. It helps to keep me grounded, and it helps to keep me connected to God. Our faith communities are stronger when we can come together and pray together. Faith is one of the important ties that bind us together.”

The interdenominational morning prayer service will be held every Wednesday beginning Jan. 30 at 7 a.m. The service will run approximately 30 minutes, according to Kerr, and people of all faiths and traditions are welcome to attend. For more information, call 631-655-7798. All Souls Episcopal Church is located at 61 Main St., Stony Brook.

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Tom Manuel, venue founder, shares firsthand account with TBR News Media

A teenager in Haiti learns how to play trombone from the Jazz Loft’s Tom Manuel. Photo by Leah Claire Borrie

By Tom Manuel

The Jazz Loft ambassadors’ annual mission to Haiti to teach children how to play instruments hit a blue note as the capital, Port-au-Prince, erupted with riots.

Elvoi, a music teacher that we had hired, shared words of wisdom with us after our trip. “Everything is OK thanks to God,” he said. “But in Haiti we live day by day, we live one day at a time.”

We had landed bright and early on a Wednesday morning, a six-person team consisting of music educators, professional musicians and an independent filmmaker from California. This was another regular trip under the banner of The Jazz Loft to continue building the music program in a school perched high atop a mountain that is making a difference in children’s lives one day at a time.

One part of The Jazz Loft’s trifecta mission is education, and we felt that our community outreach should stretch further than how we typically define community. Our definition includes thinking globally, and a partnership with True Love Missions, of Stony Brook, and their successful school in Haiti was a perfect match. Thanks to the philanthropic giving of Robert Lourie and Ivana Stolnik in addition to the generous giving which was the result of an annual fundraising concert, the Jazz Loft ambassadors embarked on their trip. Barrels of school supplies, instruments, clothing and food were shipped down in advance and the team packed as much as they could bring as well.

Tom Manuel. Photo by Leah Claire Borrie

Our days unfolded one after the next with early morning rises, hikes up and down the mountain to the school, and sometimes rides on motorbikes which rival any amusement park ride known to man. Relationships were begun or made stronger, and the universal language of music transcended that of English and native Creole. Teaching trombone was interrupted by giving out worm pills and conversations with the school principal and teachers regarding school-book needs were put on welcomed pause to feed quite hungry people. The confines of an article cannot contain nor explain the experience of a trip like this. The art of loving and being so genuinely loved in return can only be experienced by doing it.

Then 48 hours before our departure, a protest march against the Haitian government took place in Port-au-Prince. A day before our scheduled exit protests had turned to riots, and from the school high atop the mountain overlooking the city, we could see two fires that signaled something was wrong. We awoke early Monday morning, Nov. 19, ready for departure but as we assembled something was missing. The sound of Haiti had gone mute. There is an unmistakable sound of thousands of people, motorbikes, trucks and animals all joining chorus in organized chaos as the sun rises, and it had gone silent. In its stead, we heard a natural silence penetrated by the sound of vintage radios projecting singular voices speaking of riots throughout the night that had heightened. The city had been shut down. Schools and all businesses were closed. Our van was not coming, and all vehicles were banned from the roads. A call to the U.S. Embassy in Haiti signaled greater worry as it was closed.

Fearing escalation, being stuck beyond our planned time and worry over our general safety, we explored available options and were getting nowhere fast. Hours passed, our window of opportunity was quickly fading, and our final and only choices were to stay, or bribe the police to give us an armed escort to the airport. As if defying reality — because these things only happen in movies, right? — we were quickly packing ourselves into a civilian vehicle and a police truck. I wound up being the lone person in the police vehicle as there was no more room in the other vehicle. As we drove the final distance to the main drag, I thought to myself, “Am I blowing this out of proportion? Is this really necessary?”

As we hit the bottom of the street, there was an abrupt stop, and machine guns were locked and loaded, and handguns quickly appeared. We turned right, and I was amazed to see nothing but an empty street. Our speed was where the vehicle maxed out, and the sound of walkie-talkies, phones and borderline yelling filled the vehicle. The trip to the airport takes a solid hour and a half typically on a good day, and the main drag is marked by thousands of people trying to sell their wares to buyers that do not exist. Our trip that day lasted roughly 15 minutes.

Piles of debris and tires on fire occasionally blocked the road which we would veer around. Burned out vehicles and damaged abandoned police vehicles marked the journey. At one point we passed a black armored vehicle that moved down the street like a dinosaur.

A young student takes a turn with the trombone. Photo from Leah Claire Borrie

Having made this trip many times, I noticed familiar landmarks. We were getting closer and closer to the airport. The cop to my right was clicking a clave rhythm on the barrel of his gun. I couldn’t help but wonder if he was nervous or if this habit was normal. Ahead, a human-made roadblock of boulders and debris appeared causing the driver to slam on the brakes, fly into reverse and head right, the only other option available, only to be met by another roadblock.

Two police officers got out and started moving the boulders. A deafening sound, unlike any other, crescendoed and two masses of people began to converge from behind from both sides of our vehicles. It’s apparent that fear set in as the cops jumped back into the car, and we rammed whatever was left of the roadblock that couldn’t be moved.

Distance was quickly gained and this all seemed to end in an instant as we arrived at the airport and made our entrance almost seemingly under normal circumstances. Our plane took off an hour early, and within a few short hours we were home. It’s a bizarre reality, to say the least, to go from such contrasting environments in such a short period. The next days in Haiti saw increasing violence. Innocent people died. The New York Times published an article Nov. 23, but little of the drama in Haiti made it to our mainstream news.

In Haiti they live day by day. They live one day at a time. When things settle down, which they will, I will return to Haiti. I will continue to love, because in the end, even if I could move those Haitian mountains, even if somehow I could magically fix their broken and corrupt government, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. Love doesn’t rejoice about injustice but rather it rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, it never loses faith, it’s always hopeful, and it endures through every circumstance. Love makes all the difference and there are many children in a little school atop a mountain in Haiti that I love very much, and they love me. And that my friend is always worth the journey.

The rain stopped long enough Dec. 2 to allow visitors to Stony Brook Village Center to enjoy The Ward Melville Heritage Organization’s 39th Holiday Festival.

The festival marked the second year of the Legends and Spies Puppets Procession led by Tom Manuel, president and founder of The Jazz Loft, and a New Orleans-style brass band. The procession puppets pay homage to former notable Three Village residents. This year, two new puppets featuring the likeness of Anna Smith Strong, a member of the Culper Spy Ring, and William Sidney Mount, a famed American genre painter, were added to the parade.

Santa arrived at 2 p.m. to greet visitors and holiday train displays could be viewed at Wiggs Opticians holiday windows and at the WHMHO Educational & Cultural Center.

The event also included the annual tree lighting and the Promenade of Trees competition, where families and community members decorated some 60 holiday trees, which will stay on display through Jan. 2. The public can vote on the winner, who will receive a $150 Stony Brook Village Center gift certificate, usable in all shops and restaurants.

 

 

Tom Manuel

Making Memories with Music, a special program for people with dementia and their care partners, returns to the Cinema Arts Centre, 423 Park Ave., Huntington on Aug. 27 at 11 a.m. Facilitated by Marcy Rhodes, the morning will feature a performance by The Jazz Loft Trio — Tom Manuel on cornet and vocals, Steve Salerno on guitar and Keenan Zach on double bass. Admission is $5 per person. Popcorn and beverages will be served. Registration is required by calling 631-423-7610, ext. 0.