Articles by

Phyllis Lombardi

10/27/11 1:00am

Thinking about getting married but can’t seem to find the right guy or gal? I’ve got some news. If you can wait it out for just a couple of weeks, there’s some help coming to the North Fork. That help is a good old-fashioned matchmaker, name of Dolly Levi.

Now this Dolly Levi will be available to all North Forkers Nov. 11-13 and 18-19. She’s here courtesy of Riverhead Faculty and Community Theatre and will meet you at Riverhead High School. Actually, she’s appearing in “Hello, Dolly,” a musical detailing Dolly’s adventures. Dolly has such a big heart I’m sure she’ll meet with you after a show should you desire her matchmaking magic. Who knows? You might be settled into domestic bliss by Thanksgiving.

Believe it or not, there are some happily married folks on the North Fork. I’ve even met a few. They’ll be going to “Hello, Dolly” not for a consultation but just because they like musicals. Matter of fact, I’ve heard some North Forkers sing and I’ve seen some North Forkers dance. They’re pretty good. But most of us are not so talented and sing and dance only when we’re alone in our kitchen. That’s why we enjoy seeing the good stuff on stage.

For example, Denise Balzaretti has a favorite musical and can be found humming some “Bye Bye Birdie” songs in her Cutchogue home. Denise especially likes one of the Birdie songs, “What’s the Matter with Kids Today.” Remember? “You can talk and talk till your face is blue, but they still just do what they want to do. Kids.”  Now I say nothing, absolutely nothing at all, is wrong with kids today, though Denise vehemently disagrees. She says kids should work harder. You know, that may be true of all of us.

But even Denise didn’t work all the time. She told me her mother and her Aunt Margie began taking her to Broadway musicals when she was only 9 years old. That’s the kind of work I like, Denise.

There are some Birdie lyrics I like, too. “Gray skies are gonna clear up, put on a happy face.” There’s the tough-it-out musical outlook that’s seen this country through some pretty hard times.

Forget bye-bye and say hello to Bob Kuhne of New Suffolk. Get him talking about music and he’ll tell you all about that rock band he played in when he was 18 or so. He was the guitar and keyboard guy and said the band appeared in “places” in Nassau County. Of course, I asked him what places and Bob’s reply was generic: “Bars.”

Now, however, Bob and his wife seek out musicals on Broadway and in theaters on Long Island like Mattituck’s North Fork Community Theatre. Bob’s favorite is “Phantom” — not, Bob said, to be confused with “Phantom of the Opera.”

The music of “Phantom” is “much, much better than the music in ‘Phantom of the Opera,’ ” claims Bob. Well, that’s an opinion some North Forkers may disagree with. But I have to give Bob this: There are lyrics in “Phantom” that seem to sum up the very essence of music.
“You are music, beautiful music, and you are light to me.” To a lover or to life itself, music illumines.

As for me, I recall to this day the joy I felt seeing Rex Harrison and Julie Andrews in “My Fair Lady.” And, of course, every high school musical my daughter appeared in quickly became very special. Especially “Fiddler on the Roof.” You look at your children and, yes, swiftly go the days.

But there is one bit of music and lyrics from the musical “Oklahoma” that has always moved me — more so as I get older: “We know we belong to the land, and the land we belong to is grand.” Whether that land is the North Fork or the whole darn USA, what could say it better?

Well, we’ve danced and sung our way to the finale. Before the parade passes by it’s time to plan for a couple of glorious hours with Ms. Dolly Levi. Then, right after the show, just walk straight up to that wonderful woman and sing out what’s in your heart. “Hello, Dolly, well hello, Dolly, it’s so nice to have you back where you belong.”

Ms. Lombardi is a resident of Cutchogue.

10/08/11 12:43pm

For everything there is a season. And on the North Fork, the yard sale season is a long one. From early spring until a few weeks from now, when folks start thinking storm windows, we put our stuff out on lawns, on village greens, in driveways. Then it seems just about everyone stops by to browse, perchance to buy.

Know what caught my attention recently? A yard sale on Main Road in Cutchogue. Those who ran the sale, members of Old Town Art and Crafts Guild, gave it a name: Trash to Treasure. That sounded fine till I thought about it a bit.
I imagine there’s no trash at a yard sale. Every item is a kind of treasure — if only for its history. Who first owned it? Where was it made? How far has it traveled? What memories does it evoke? Why, the history of our lives and times might well be read in yard sale items.

So I stopped at the Trash to Treasure sale and looked around. Just as I thought. There, on the very first table, was a pre-1920 Victrola. A windup Victor Talking Machine. That’s exactly what was printed on one of the Victrola’s wood panels.

I told the Victrola’s owner, guild member Anne Engelhardt, that I recalled a Victrola just like hers. Back in the 1940s, my across-the-road friend Marilyn often asked me into her home, where we spent time listening to some old guy named Caruso. He was pretty good, according to Marilyn’s parents, but Marilyn and I were more interested in someone much younger named Sinatra.

On to the next table. Here I met Riverhead’s Gayle Wagner. Most of Gayle’s offerings were clothes and I paid special attention to a blue denim jean jacket Gayle called “vintage.” According to Gayle, it was fashionable in the 1960s. This particular jacket had the original price tag still attached. I don’t remember what that price was but I do know Gayle sold the jacket for one dollar. Some buy. I’m wondering if people can be described as “vintage.” If so, I guess I qualify.

Then to a table, actually several of them, belonging to Ginny Kuhne of New Suffolk. Ginny must have come to Trash to Treasure via truck, she had so many items displayed. For example, just in case I planned on making a crepe paper costume for Halloween, I could have purchased a 1952 book of patterns put out by Dennison’s. I remember working very close to that “party store” on Fifth Avenue in New York City back in the late ’50s. Kind of a predecessor to Michaels in Riverhead.

On another table Ginny had three black velvet skating skirts, brand-new, from Lord & Taylor. Ginny said they dated to the 1940s and I believe her. I know I really wanted one of those skirts when I ice skated on the lake in Flushing’s Kissena Park. But my mother ignored my pleas and dark brown leggings were the dowdy substitute. Oh, well.

And look over there. Ginny had full-page laminated ads for a late 1930s Borden’s product called Hemo. Back then a pound of it cost 59 cents. Add a spoonful of Hemo to a glass of milk and you could “pep up your step.” Now in the ’30s I was pretty peppy and never did taste Hemo. But I did enjoy seeing featured in Ginny’s ads several early Borden friends. Their names? Elmer the bull and Elsie the cow. Those two had several offspring: Beulah, Beauregard and the twins, Larabee and Lobelia. I have a suspicion Elmer and Elsie drank plenty of Hemo.

Just before I moved away from Ginny’s tables, I spied some large photos framed quite elegantly. Each photo showed a stylishly dressed man or woman from the 1800s. How stern and severe, how prim and proper they looked. Ginny said such photos were in demand. They are called “instant family” photos and when hung in your living room can add luster to your family tree. I’ve start searching around for a Joshua Chamberlain look-alike photo. He was a pretty cool guy and my Civil War hero, a guy I’d be proud to have in the family. No luck yet, but I think the North Fork will come through for me. Just about everything is stored in our attics.

I left Trash to Treasure with lots of memories and more than a few treats from the bake sale table. After all, 1940 or 2011 — a brownie is a brownie and an oatmeal cookie will always be meant to be dunked in a cup of cold milk.

Ms. Lombardi is a resident of Cutchogue.

09/21/11 1:28pm

It’s not a happy ending. The last page reveals Borders bookstores nationwide are closing. That, of course, includes the Riverhead store, where, over the years, thousands of North Forkers have browsed and bought.
Seems the chain failed to keep pace with electronic technology. I can relate to that. It takes me 20 minutes to set the microwave clock each and every time the power goes off.

No matter. The story here is books. I’m pleased to say most North Forkers get their very own books from many sources in addition to Borders. On our fork there are several small independent bookstores. They’ve served us well for years. Then there are the other book suppliers, some a bit unconventional, but all geared to keep us turning pages.

For example, I volunteer once a week at a Greenport thrift shop. Clothing, pots and pans, toys — all kinds of stuff, including shelves and shelves of books. Over time I’ve gotten everything from cookbooks (100 ways to prepare meatloaf and still all mine taste the same) to Margaret Truman mysteries, to Thoreau’s “The Maine Woods,” to a biography of Teddy Roosevelt I’m in the middle of right now.

My husband, on the other hand, spreads out catalogs of books on the kitchen table and orders his reading by mail. From one of his favorite catalogs we’ve dozens of books, from aviation history (I like that Glenn Curtiss guy) to steam railroads (Durango & Silverton is tops, I think). Just say that whenever a book catalog arrives in our mailbox, my husband drops from sight for hours.

Out East Marion way there’s a very fine gent, Dr. Bill Emerson, who claims he gets “95 percent of my books at yard sales.” And I’m sure Dr. Bill has a good number of books because he’s a professor at Queens College. A math professor! That’s pretty impressive. It’s possible I’ve seen Dr. Bill at yard sales. But I doubt it. Unless he’s looking for fabric, too. Does he quilt, I wonder.

Now I figure if Dr. Bill buys lots of 30-dollar books for one or two dollars each, that’s a whopping savings each year. Like maybe $28 saved on each book purchased. See how good I am at math? Perhaps Dr. Bill could find me a position in the math department at Queens College.

This next book spot might very well be reserved for readers over the age of 21. Because the “help-yourself-to-a-free-book” rack is just inside Peconic Liquors in Cutchogue. Folks drop by to donate books or select a book and the whole North Fork community benefits.

On a recent afternoon I spent a half-hour browsing through the books and saw quite a variety of titles — from “A History of Western Political Theory” to a few romantic novels by Phyllis A. Whitney to some scary stuff by Stephen King. All these are guaranteed to keep readers in good spirits.

Let’s not forget North Fork libraries. Book sales are frequent and some of our libraries even have their own “bookstore.” You can purchase books, for example, at Southold’s Book Cottage or at Riverhead’s Yellow Barn.
And listen to where Jane Minerva, retired Cutchogue librarian, gets many of her books: The reuse area at the town solid waste facility in Cutchogue. Jane’s home contains packed floor-to-ceiling bookcases. Jane claims she never gets to dust all those books. But she does read them and that’s what counts. Matter of fact, you’ll find bookcases, lamps and comfortable chairs at the reuse area. Everything needed to enjoy a book.

Well, here we are. Electronic reading devices seem to be taking over and we’re told someday a child will ask the incredible question, “Mom, what’s a book?” But for now, let’s not worry. North Forkers will continue to fill their homes with books because they know a book in hand is worth two on a screen.

Ms. Lombardi is a resident of Cutchogue.

08/21/11 2:19am

Anything goes on the North Fork. You just have to get the right permit. Building permits, parking permits, get-rid-of-your-garbage permits — we’ve got ’em all. And, so help me, you can get a Seasonal Guest Disposal Permit at Southold Town Hall. Even a Guest Disposal sticker. All you need is $25.

Now I know and you know said permit will allow a vacationer in Southold to use the Town of Southold Transfer Station. Fine. Let’s keep the North Fork garbage-free. But, ladies and gentlemen, just think of an alternative use for a Guest Disposal permit and sticker.

The North Fork is indeed a magnet for summer visitors. Rightly so. We’ve marvelous beaches, super farms and vineyards, great biking and hiking, fine restaurants. Who could ask for anything more?

Well, all these visitors have to shower and sleep somewhere. We certainly don’t want harried, haggard tourists wandering about from Riverhead to Orient. So it’s only logical that many of these visitors will park their cars in the driveways of North Fork relatives and friends — and stay for a week or more.

No denying North Forkers are hospitable. And yet there comes a time when even North Forkers are “guested out.” That’s when the Guest Disposal permit and sticker acquires a secondary use of primary importance. I’m suggesting a North Fork host/hostess discreetly place a Guest Disposal sticker on a guest room mirror. It seems an admirable non-confrontational way of saying “time to go home.”

Just what might drive an even-tempered North Forker to purchase a Guest Disposal permit and sticker? I’ll respond with one word. Actually it’s the word that comes immediately to mind when I look at the clothesline in my neighbor’s back yard.

That word is towels. North Fork guests mean lots of towels. Beach towels, bath towels, damp towels left on bathroom floors and on top of the washing machine. Towels abandoned at the beach or hung on the clothesline overnight only to be drenched in a hard rain. Towels used to soak up a grape juice spill or an oil spill out on a boat. And no more towels in the hall closet. That’s when exhausted North Forkers might just as well throw in the towel and display the sticker.

As for me? It’s the noise that does it. Not just noise the visitors might make, but even the noise I try not to make. If guests sleep till 10 a.m. and I’m up about 5:30, how in the world can I be quiet for more than four daylight hours? I can’t turn on the washing machine, talk on the phone, play a tape, vacuum the floors. Even cleaning a pot at the kitchen sink makes noise. Just listen sometime. All this because the visiting folks were out late the night before and they need their rest. Well, so do I. Where’s that sticker?

And you know the strange thing? Guests make plenty of noise. They run water in the tub and shower just any old time. They’re on their cell phones in the living room, the kitchen, all over the place. Grandchildren, especially, leave the television on when they leave the TV room. After all, they’ll be back in a couple of hours. Again, where’s the sticker?

It’s not towels or noise stressing Cliff and Jane Utz. This North Fork couple (both were physical education teachers at Southold and Greenport high schools) is active, hospitable, curious. Matter of fact, they spend part of every winter roaming around out West. They welcome guests, believe me. And yet, they’re occasionally ready to display Southold’s Guest Disposal sticker. All because of food.

Cliff and Jane eat well and often. But when they want steak at home, guests seem to want pizza at a spot 20 miles away. And while Cliff and Jane generally eat dinner early, guests think 8:30 p.m. is perfect. True, there’s much to keep visitors busy outdoors on North Fork summer days and Cliff and Jane are understanding people. Still, says Jane, “It’s good to get our house back again.”

I suppose we owe a thank-you to the town for putting these permits and stickers into North Fork hands. And yet … after guests have gone and left us lonely, those visitors, in our memories, evoke other responses. We forget the towels, the noise, the late meals. We recall the fun, the friends, the family. I’ll check again at Town Hall. Maybe they have a sticker reading Come Back Soon.

Ms. Lombardi is a resident of Cutchogue.

08/05/11 11:57am

The Titanic, the QE 2, the HMS Bounty. How about the USS Constitution, the Good Ship Lollipop, the Mayflower? Then there’s the African Queen, the Pequod, the Jolly Roger. And every school kid knows the names Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria, the three ships bringing Chris and crew to the New World. Sadly, Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria were used vessels (I should say pre-owned) and Chris didn’t even get a chance to name ’em.

But for the moment let’s forget about Christopher Columbus, Captain Bligh and even little Shirley Temple’s Lollipop. Let’s fast-forward to the North Fork 2011 boating season. We’ve got all kinds of boats, lots of marinas, seasoned sailors and youngsters who fill safe-boating classes. And we have some wonderful boat names. Sorry QE 2, you’re just a runner-up. And Lollipop? You’re licked.

In our search for unusual North Fork boat names, we’ll talk with Mary Anne Huntington. This Cutchogue boat owner sailed Peconic Bay for 17 summers in Impulse, her 22-foot O’Day sailboat, a craft Mary Anne did not name. Impulse has a North Fork history. Previous owners had ventured up the New England coast, especially enjoying Block Island. Mary Anne followed the old sea superstition that it brings bad luck when you change a boat’s name. So Impulse was the craft’s first and only name.

By the way, Mary Anne had a handsome and faithful crew member. Always by Mary Anne’s side in Impulse was her dog, Magee H., a chocolate-Labrador friend.

Now Mary Anne has downsized a bit — no sailboat but a 10-foot recreational kayak. And with a brand-new boat came the opportunity to choose a name. It’s Plan B. I think Mary Anne is one wise woman. As we navigate life, a Plan B is often necessary. Moreover, a Plan B often turns the tide.

This next North Fork boat has an absolutely delightful name. At least I think so. I guess I have to think so because the boat is owned by my Mattituck dentist, Dr. Alex Boukas. I want to remain on good terms with a guy who shines a bright light in my face and comes at me with all kinds of ominous instruments, most of them sharp.

Anyway, in his less aggressive moments, Dr. B. heads out on Long Island Sound with his two young sons. They enjoy the day in a craft named by one of those sons just a few years ago. Fishy Boat. How innocent, how perfect. For the three Boukas boaters do quite a bit of fishing.

Dr. B. said they start out early in the morning, purchasing some egg sandwiches at a local deli before pushing off. They fish the better part of the day. However, there’s always enough time for Dad to tow the boys around on a raft tied to Fishy Boat.
What do the Boukas fishermen bring home? Mostly porgies, lots of them. “We go home and cook up the catch right away. It tastes best then,” said Dr. B. You know, for all his high-tech equipment and his sophisticated technique, it’s good to know Dr. B. is still your basic angler. Fishy Boat indeed!

I hope you don’t mind if I insert the name of a vessel that’s not really local, although in a way it belongs to every North Forker, every American. Out at sea right now, it’s the USS Bataan and it’s the ship my husband and I are most interested in. Aboard it is our United States Navy grandson, Brian Buswell. We email back and forth as if he were moored across Long Island Sound in New London.

One more North Fork boat name before we cast off. The skipper of Reel Pilot is just that: a real pilot. Jim Devaney flies for United Airlines out of JFK and LaGuardia but takes his boat out of Jamesport Marina. His crew includes his wife, Elizabeth, who works in Riverhead, and their three youngsters. Meet Jimmy, Katie and Kiernan.

The Devaneys are serious fishermen. But they do take time out for swimming off the Reel Pilot and eating the lunches Elizabeth packs. And yes, they take lots of pictures. That’s good. Years from now when the Devaneys look through their photo albums, they’ll recognize not only Reel Pilot but real joy, real love.

Canoeing a creek, paddling the Peconic, sailing the Sound, no matter. The North Fork is blessed with waterways and with sailors young and old, recreational or those whose livelihood is fishing. One thing most North Forkers have in common? If we have a boat, we name it. We call by name that which we love.

Ms. Lombardi is a resident of Cutchogue.

06/20/11 2:59pm

It’s the strangest thing. My Cut­ch­ogue neighbor had a little pre-Fourth of July picnic last weekend and three uninvited guests appeared. Now this is highly unusual for the North Fork. We’re generally aware of what’s proper and we live accordingly.

Anyway, the three men seemed polite, they were dressed well, if strangely, and they had about them an aura of kindness, concern, even other-worldliness. So Richie, my neighbor, welcomed them to the picnic.

Well, you should have seen the fuss that followed introductions. George, Ben and Tom shook hands with a dozen or so North Forkers, helped themselves to hot dogs and beer, and then sat at a picnic table and began to talk.

First, we asked the three how they managed to get to the North Fork. “Easy,” was the reply. George explained they came by horse. His horse, Old Nelson, was particularly reliable and Ben and Tom had good mounts, too.

Ben, the oldest, was much taken by the women at the picnic. Matter of fact, he secured his silly little spectacles on his pudgy little nose and seemed to concentrate on the ladies assembled. You’d think he’d never seen a woman in shorts before.

Actually, the trio said their visit to the North Fork was prompted by all of our Fourth of July celebrations. They’d read in Times/Review newspapers of the many parades, parties, fireworks displays and religious services from Riverhead to Orient, and George said they were delighted we remembered, we cared.

At that, I noticed several happy picnickers brushing away a few tears. Care? By George, we care. We care more than we can speak or write. Across the years we care in our hearts. Come, George, Ben and Tom. Come with us for an hour or so and see how the North Fork lives and cares. Then we’ll return to the picnic for some coffee and cake.

So into Richie’s car we went. Obviously this was all new to the three visitors and they were so excited. I do think, however, that Ben was more interested in how the engine worked than the speed at which we traveled. Actually, we moved along slowly. Richie is proud of the North Fork and he wanted our guests to understand our way of life. Understanding takes time. It always does.

“My goodness.” This from Ben as we drove west from Cutchogue. “It looks like a church but it’s a library.” Richie explained that’s what the Cutchogue library was originally — a church. And, added Richie, across the road from the library is Cutchogue Village Green. George asked, “Do you have a militia assembling there?” No, George, we don’t, but we have Revolutionary War reenactments, concerts, fairs. All good things.

Richie continued past a few vineyards. Tom, red hair blown wild now, wanted to stop. I think he recalled Monticello. How he loved farming and grape-growing. Perhaps the seeds he sowed in Virginia bore fruit in Philadelphia. On your knees with your hands holding earth, you begin to think. At least Tom did.

Richie continued driving, all the way to Riverhead and Tanger Outlets. I was a little uneasy about this. Would our guests think North Forkers were too caught up in buying and selling? I should not have worried. George, Ben and Tom were worldly men, of course. They knew and loved fine clothing, books, wine, music, international travel. But they’d put it all into perspective. Life and liberty first. Then the pursuit.

Back east now, passing farms, a police station, a town hall, more churches and schools. George talked of his visit to Greenport so many years ago. Interested in horses, he made note of the carousel. OK, so we stopped and went round in circles for a few minutes. It’s something Ben and George and Tom will talk about eternally.

Then on to Orient Beach State Park. We stood on the sand and looked about. Perhaps Ben thought of the years across those waters, years in England trying hard to avoid war. And George. Did he think of hostilities on the other end of this long island? Brooklyn and how the patriots escaped?

Tom had walked a few feet away from the group. Alone, thinking of what he’d written. A declaration of independence, yes, but more than that. A declaration of devotion, a declaration of love.

“Come on, guys, back in the car.” It was Richie who broke in on our reverie. And you know what? George and Ben and Tom were gone. We searched about the park but with no success. When we returned to Cutchogue we discovered the horses were gone, too.

But we knew we’d had no dream. Our three had other picnics, other places, to visit. They had given us a great gift and now they must travel on.

Let the fireworks begin.

Ms. Lombardi is a resident of Cutchogue.

06/04/11 12:17pm

It’s that time of year. North Fork women, and even some guys, seem to enjoy hanging out. But before you jump to a faulty conclusion — like we’re just a lazy, bucolic bunch — let me tell you we’re not hanging out on North Fork street corners late at night.

Not at all. We’re hanging out in backyards and usually early in the morning. Sometimes as early as 6 a.m. and most often we’re hanging out alone. Our only companions are a basket of wet clothes and a bag of clothespins.

Many North Forkers use clothes dryers in winter only and even then reluctantly. It would be difficult for them to live in a community that prohibited outdoor clotheslines. There are lots of reasons why.

I, for example, just like the way a backyard clothesline looks. Lots of colors — blue jeans, red T-shirts, snowy sheets, pale green bath towels. And shapes — a big circular tablecloth, tiny square washcloths, bright triangle scarves.

There’s a social bonus, too. When I hang out I’ll probably get to talk face-to-face with Denise, my next-door neighbor. She may be hanging out, too, or gardening near the fence separating our yards. We talk about the weather, her children, my grandchildren. Even politics and baseball. I’ve never had a decent conversation with the clothes dryer in my basement. It just sits there looking dumb.

In my quest for fellow North Forkers who are clothespins custodians, I met quite a few folks who are pros. There’s Tina Marie Drake from Mattituck, for one. Tina practically lectured me on the benefits of hanging out. Nothing beats the sun for bleaching sheets and removing stains of all kinds, says Tina.

And, Tina asked, did I know lint in the dryer is really fabric? Well I never thought about it, Tina, but it certainly makes sense. That dryer in the basement can wear out clothes faster than any clothesline can.

But Tina wasn’t all practical. She admitted she is moved when she watches the breezes play hide and seek with the clothes on the line. A kind of poetry.

There’s a bit of poetry in Betty Bresloff, too. Or at least in one of her reasons for hanging out. Betty lives in East Marion and claims the cardinals and blue jays and all their bird pals gather in her yard and sing away as Betty pins the laundry to the line.

Betty believes she inherited a “hang-out gene” from her mom, who had no patience with drying clothes in a noisy machine. Mom sounds like a smart lady, Betty.

Now, a guy who specializes in taking clothes off the backyard line. Gale Alexander lives in Southold and is every inch a determined, independent guy. But when wife Julie, the hang-out lady, sees a storm approaching, even just a few raindrops, she knows what to do. “Quick, Gale. Get the wash off the line.” Julie asks and Gale obliges.

I told Gale he appears no worse for the wear. His clothes are sunshine-clean and he looks rugged and ready for anything. That’s ’cause he’s out in all kinds of weather taking in the wash.

I’d like Gale to meet another guy who excels at the outdoor sport of clothes-pinning. Andy Warkentien lives in Mattituck and enjoys helping his wife, Dorian, whenever he can. Dorian is grateful, though she has one little complaint about her husband’s laundry techniques. Seems he never even thinks of folding the things he takes from the backyard line. You know what I believe? The inability to fold a sheet is a male affliction with no cure in sight.

If things go as planned, the North Fork will have a guy who knows all the clothesline tricks. Trey Ross is 11 years old, lives in Riverhead, and helps his mother, Mary, hang the family laundry “outside in the fresh air.” Trey and his mom have a pulley system, the clothesline stretching between two backyard trees. When I spoke with Mary she was excited about a recent purchase — a whole box of wood clothespins! That’s North Fork.
Call me crazy, but I’m going to talk to the kingpins in the Clotheslines Department at both Riverhead and Southold town halls about a community clothesline for all North Forkers. A clothesline stretched out along Main Road from Riverhead to Orient. Why not? After all, we have community gardens, community theaters, even a community college.

A North Fork Community Clothesline (NFCC) would be so much fun. Little kids searching for a missing sock would meet there. Teens would say hello as they checked to see if their T-shirts were dry. Dads? Well, a Riverhead guy might meet up with a Southold friend as they hung up, feeling just a bit uneasy, some baby clothes. And North Fork women? They’d smile and say, “I told you so.” Nothing beats a warm sunny day, clothes hung neatly on the line. Everything, indeed everyone, ready for tomorrow.

Ms. Lombardi is a resident of Cutchogue.

05/23/11 1:35pm

Happy birthday! You’ve just turned 5 and you’re thinking about starting school — getting on that big yellow bus with your 8-year-old brother.

All of a sudden it’s your ninth birthday and a bright red two-wheeler is a gift from Grandpa. Turn around and you’re 16. Maybe a summer job awaits you. And certainly a driver’s license is right around the corner.

Later, so much more sophisticated, you celebrate birthday 35. Now you may assume the United States presidency. But only if you want to.

And then, wouldn’t you know it, you’re in your 60s. You’re hearing words like retirement, Social Security, Medicare. I suppose it’s at this time most North Forkers begin to think birthdays have come and gone too quickly. And wouldn’t fewer birthdays be a good idea — maybe birthdays arriving only every four or five years.

Strangely, a heck of a lot of North Forkers would disagree. Not only do we not have enough birthdays, they argue, they want to give us more. These folks, found in communities from Riverhead to Orient, work tirelessly to provide “a world with more birthdays.” That’s their motto, their motivation. Right now they’re going into high gear. There’s a great big birthday party coming up.

Everyone’s invited, of course. Location? Jean Cochran Park on Peconic Lane in Peconic. Date? June 4 and 5, 2011. Two dates because the party’s a sleepover, if you wish. Guess you know by now this party is Southold Town’s annual Relay for Life (there’s no event planned for Riverhead this year). That’s the American Cancer Society’s way to celebrate survivors, to remember those who have passed on, to fight back with every ounce of strength, with every nickel and dime pledged to beat cancer.

Annual Relays for Life occur all over this wonderful world. Millions of people are involved. But I tell you this. Having participated in the Southold relay for several years (I’m on the Banking on a Cure team from Suffolk County National Bank in Cutchogue), I can’t imagine any relay, any place, any better. By the way, there are more that 30 teams in Southold’s relay.

This year Southold’s Relay is a birthday party with a carnival theme. In addition to the night-long relay around the track, there’ll be all kinds of carnival stuff like rides and clowns. Plus the birthday party trappings.

Yes, you’ll find balloons and food, lots of it. Survivors are even invited to a dinner. This year it’s the gift of Greenport’s Porto Bello restaurant. Dessert? A great big sheet cake from Junda’s Pastry in Jamesport. Cut­chogue’s Chuck and Judi Mogul are heading up the food festivities. The dinner’s held in a monster tent set up in the park.

And what’s a birthday without candles? Not the tiny ones we struggle to blow out after we make a wish. This birthday party has luminaria lining the track after dark. That’s a heart-thumping sight for sure. You know, with one big breath, all North Forkers just might create enough energy to carry away cancer. It’s worth a try. Cathy and Wayne Dries of Mattituck sure hope so. They head the luminaria committee.

And games. A birthday party’s gotta have games. Remember playing Pin the Tail on the Donkey? Put on a blindfold, spin around a few times, and then walk directly to a big picture of a donkey and try to pin a tail where the tail should be. Possibly beating cancer is exactly like this game. It may seem as if we’re going around in circles and perhaps we’re blind, at the moment, to cures. But oh, yes, someday, somehow, some folks are gonna get cancer by the tail and whirl it to oblivion. Gone. Forever. Another donkey off our back.

Every party needs music. And Relay for Life is no exception. From Saturday afternoon, through the dark night, into Sunday sunrise, there’s music. North Fork bands, singing groups, soloists — all entertain. And you know who bagpipes us around the track as darkness descends and luminaria light the way? TimesReview’s very own Tim Kelly. An experience to be cherished always. Sandra Lazar, who works on Love Lane in Mattituck, heads the entertainment committee. What a job that is!

So survivors will don their special T-shirts. Caregivers will be cheered by North Forkers who seem to be cheering for life itself. And those North Forkers raising money for a cure will dance, eat, sing, play games and relay the night away. Email SoutholdRelay@aol.com and join those who know full well “the slightest force can move the greatest weight given sufficient time.” They’ll be walkin’ in faith and with force around that track. It’s only a matter of time.

Ms. Lombardi is a resident of Cutchogue.