08/22/15 7:00am

With the passing of “Focus on Nature” columnist Paul Stoutenburgh, the recent retirement of Louisa Hargrave’s “The Oeno Files” wine column and the previous semi-retirement of my own “The Observer” column, there’s just one columnist left standing when it comes to continuous longevity of service to this newspaper. (more…)

07/03/15 6:00am
John Williams. (Credit: Marty Heitner)

John Williams. (Credit: Marty Heitner)

If you’ve lived on the North Fork for a while, you probably have driven past it numerous times. It’s at the southwest corner of Front and Fourth streets in Greenport, and it’s currently known as The Captain’s Cottage in its most recent iteration as a rental cottage. But before that the little white frame building was the home of Williams & Company, the advertising and public relations firm, and, concurrently and somewhat improbably, the headquarters of the National SCRABBLE ® Association.  (more…)

03/15/15 10:00am

A confession: I have not been ice boating even once this winter on either Great Pond or Hallocks Bay. And that’s because I’ve been on the North Fork for less than a week between Christmas and today. And therein lies the challenge of writing this column every other week. How can I keep it local and relevant if the former Joan Giger Walker and I, in our so-called retirement years, are away from the North Fork for nearly half the year?

Short answer: I can’t.  (more…)

02/14/15 10:00am
George and John Giannaris at the renovated bar last year. (Credit: Carrie Miller, file)

George and John Giannaris at the renovated bar last year. (Credit: Carrie Miller, file)

Friday, Jan. 30, was an important date in the life of the North Fork. No, it wasn’t Groundhog Day, and it wasn’t the date of another Big Snow Storm. It was the seasonal reopening of the Hellenic Snack Bar in East Marion, and the former Joan Giger Walker and I were privileged to be there for the occasion.

(more…)

02/01/15 7:00am
A car is buried in snow in Orient Tuesday. (Credit: Troy Gustavson)

A car is buried in snow in Orient Tuesday. (Credit: Troy Gustavson)

You kids today have no idea how easy you have it. That, in a nugget, is the first thought that comes to mind as I contemplate “The Blizzard of 2015.”

You call this a “blizzard?” I’ll tell you about a blizzard: “The Blizzard of ’78.” No, not 1878 — 1978! When men were men and blizzards were, uh, blizzards.  (more…)

11/20/14 12:30pm
President Barack Obama talks with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., on the Colonnade of the White House, Nov. 7, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama talks with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., on the Colonnade of the White House, Nov. 7, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

It’s finally happened. After years of near-total philosophical compatibility, Barack and I finally find ourselves on opposite sides of an issue. Up until now, I have agreed with the president on just about every domestic policy issue, foreign policy issue and every issue in between. But now I think he’s making a very big mistake in pushing for immigration reform via executive order.

It’s fairly obvious why he wants to do it this way — via executive order as opposed to legislation. He’s had it up to here with Republican obstructionism and he’s still smarting from the recent mid-term election butt-kicking the Democrats suffered. But he’s chosen the wrong issue and the wrong course of action to (finally!) flex his muscles.

While the objective of immigration reform is commendable, granting amnesty (and Social Security cards and driver’s licenses) to those who have entered our country illegally is at the very least shortsighted. Yes, we are a nation of immigrants, but the vast majority of our ancestors who came to this country did so legally. Giving a free pass to up to five million immigrants who entered the U.S. illegally is nothing less than a slap in the face to those who have abided by the law in the past and those who will abide by it in the future.

Republican leaders in Washington have vowed to “fight the president tooth and nail” on this issue, arguing that they “earned a chance at the polls to write their own immigration legislation in the Congress they will control next years,” according to The New York Times.

And if you think it’s hard for me to disagree with the president, you have no idea how much it pains me to agree with the Republicans. But on this issue, at least, they’re right and he’s wrong. And hopefully he’ll come to his senses before we’re forced to endure yet another partisan bloodbath in our nation’s capital.

There have been two developments in local news this week upon which I am compelled to comment. The first is decidedly upbeat, and it concerns (of course) the state championship won by the Mattituck High School boys’ varsity soccer team.

We’ve had our fair share of great athletic teams on the North Fork in the 40-something years I’ve lived here, and this one must be considered one of the very best. In shutting out their opponents in both their semi-final and final games, the Tuckers punctuated their championship season most emphatically. And the warm welcome they received when they crossed the town line Sunday evening was the sort of small-town stuff players and coaches alike will remember for the rest of their lives.

Development No. 2 could not be more downbeat. Riverhead attorney Tom Twomey’s sudden death at the age of 68 comes as a shock to those of us who have known and worked with him over the years. For many years, Tom was perhaps our region’s foremost environmental advocate, having been involved in almost every important environmental struggle over the past four decades — from farmland and Pine Barrens preservation to the successful nuclear power protests of the 1970s and ’80s.

And although he was involved in partisan politics, he was never overtly partisan or political. His was always a reasoned and diplomatic approach, and he helped move mountains in the process.

The East End has lost one of its most valued leaders with the passing of Tom Twomey — something all of us should remember every time we pass through the Pine Barrens between Exits 71 and 66 on the Long Island Expressway, every time we pass a vineyard or open farm field and every time we pass Hallock State Park Preserve — which, but for the efforts of Tom Twomey, might otherwise be the Jamesport Nuclear Power Plant.

11/09/14 5:00am

When and how did this happen?

When did we so-called baby boomers become Older Americans, coming up fast on age 70?

Those are questions some male friends of a certain age and I found ourselves asking this past weekend during the course of a men-only getaway to a mountainside retreat in the Adirondacks. (In deference to the concept of equal rights, some of our wives and daughters spent the weekend at health spas elsewhere in the New York Metro area.) (more…)

10/19/14 7:59am
Billy McAllister carries the ball for the Porters earlier this season. (Credit: Robert O'Rourk, file)

Billy McAllister carries the ball for the Porters earlier this season. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk, file)

Having just returned from our 50th high school reunion, whence I was reunited with teammates from our undefeated, state championship football team, I am once again ruminating on the relative merits and demerits of the sport. And this rumination is, of course, profoundly influenced by the recent death of Tom Cutinella, the Shoreham-Wading River High School football player who died Oct. 1 following an on-field collision.  (more…)