Almost exactly a year ago, a former colleague of mine, Michael White, penned a column titled “Seven years in community newspapers.” After seven years with Times Review Media Group, Mike was writing his farewell column. He has since gone on to launch his own website, GreaterPatchogue.com.
And after almost exactly seven years of living on Long Island, it’s now time for me to move on.
While I had never heard of the “East End” of Long Island before I came down from Boston for a job interview in May 2009, it truly has become a place my wife and I had hoped to call home for a long time. Ashley and I were married on Long Island. We purchased a house here three years ago. Our daughter was born here and is currently in a day care that we couldn’t be happier with (Kiddie Academy in Wading River, by the way).
But sometimes, life throws you curveballs. The question is: Can you hit them?
With much help from friends, family, coworkers and — most of all — my wife, so far we’ve been able to manage hitting a major curveball thrown my way recently when I started having occasional seizures. I haven’t driven in months and we need to find a place with public transit that will allow me to live independently as an adult.
So, in order to keep hitting that curveball, up to Boston it is.
I grew up in the Greater Boston area and unfortunately my family had never ventured down here before I arrived for my first interview seven years ago. It still sounds funny saying that, too: seven years ago.
I still remember crashing at my friend’s apartment in Brooklyn the night before my first interview out here (and thinking on the way home: Wait, Flanders and Riverside are part of “The Hamptons”?). I remember the brief time my wife and I lived in two different apartments in Greenport — and how damn quiet it was out there in the winter (which was awesome, by the way). I remember jogging in Stotzky Park after we moved to Riverhead, hunting in the woods of Calverton and fishing in Peconic Lake (and how unsuccessful I was at all of them). How, in 25 years, nobody in New England had told me how beautiful this area is, I’ll never know.
Personally and professionally, I’ve certainly been challenged while on Long Island and would like to think I’ve grown a little bit.
We’ve hosted debates that have covered serious issues facing Riverhead and Southold towns. We’ve challenged fiscal policies in Riverhead, Southold’s handling of its own justice court funds and Suffolk County’s frequent treatment of the East End as its unwanted stepchild. I’d like to think we’ve helped make some progress in some of those places.
And the pendulum swings both ways.
To say the least, more than one op-ed and letter to the editor writer has disagreed with our coverage — which I’ve always tried to take into account. While writing this column, I even received a call saying that we should have put an article about helicopter noise in the News-Review a couple weeks ago (we just ran it in The Suffolk Times). I hadn’t considered that — but, looking back, that was at least worth a conversation.
Of course, there were plenty of late-night school board meetings and Town Board work sessions I’ll never forget. Tim Gannon Day will remain etched into my memory, hearing a politician recognize the dedication one of our hardest-working staffers has put in day in, day out since looonnnng before I came here. And don’t get me started on the Tim Bishop/Randy Altschuler recount coverage.
And then there were the people I spoke to and met, who — for some reason — shared their personal stories with an absolute stranger. Just last week a man started crying on the phone — a man I had never met, a man I actually cold-called — telling me the heartbreaking story about the death of his son. And the loss of his daughter two years ago. This week, I also happened to write about a family struggling with infertility who was able to have two children of their own through the generosity of their coworkers. I pass the house of another man almost every day and keep an eye out for his truck. When I wrote a column about him last year — he’s a veteran who received a chair lift — he thought his cancer was coming back. His truck is still there.
As for personal challenges, I’ll leave them as that: personal. But unquestionably, I’ll look back and say that the two best moments of my life happened here — my wedding and the birth of my first child.
Someone at my church was telling me last weekend about how envious she is every time someone she knows leaves Long Island. The grass is always greener, I suppose. And while I wouldn’t call it easy by any stretch trying to make it here as a young family, the grass is pretty damn green here. Keep watering it.