02/03/13 6:00am
02/03/2013 6:00 AM
A Bushmaster M-4 semi-automatic, similar to the one allegedly used in the Newtown school shootings last week.

A Bushmaster M-4 semi-automatic, similar to the one allegedly used in the Newtown school shootings.

So I have this old, rusty, single-shot, 20-gauge shotgun sitting in the corner of our bedroom, awaiting its fate.

What to do with it? Leave it where it lies, indefinitely? Attempt to melt it down in the burn barrel out back by the garage? (No, that would be against all sorts of laws, including those of nature.) Sell it through this newspaper’s classified ads? (No, can’t do that because the paper no longer accepts such ads, even for “antique” guns.) Or perhaps eBay? (No, “actual firearms” can’t be listed for sale there either.)

What to do with it? Hey, I have an idea: Why not encourage local police departments to implement gun buyback programs similar to those that have been so successful around the nation, particularly in the aftermath of the Newtown school massacre.

This is basically how they work: Police departments set a place and time where and when guns of any sort — from single-shot derringers small enough to fit into the palm of your hand to the sort of multi-round assault rifle used to mow down elementary school children in Connecticut — are turned in voluntarily, with no questions asked. Those turning in the guns are compensated — sometimes with cash, but more often with gift cards that can’t be used to buy another gun — and the unwanted guns are properly disposed of by the cops.

I very much doubt that buyback programs here would generate the quantity of guns produced in big city programs, if only because our populations are so much smaller by comparison. But any gun taken off the street is a gun that won’t figure in an accident or an act of violence, such as the tragic shooting in Flanders this weekend, and that’s a very good thing.

Skeptics routinely disparage them as “feel good” programs that do little to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the criminally insane, but that’s not the only objective. As The Trenton (N.J.) Times editorialized after that city’s recent gun buyback program: “They represent an opportunity to safely dispose of old and malfunctioning firearms that could mean death in the hands of a child. We regulate the disposal of appliances, of paint, of outdated medication lest they spill destructive chemicals. It’s logical to be as conscientious about the clearing away of potentially deadly instruments.”

This week I have surveyed the chiefs of police in Southold, Riverhead and Shelter Island, asking them if they would support such a program in their towns, and I will let readers of this column know their responses as soon as I receive them. The Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department used to buy back guns, but that program was discontinued when the grant money dried up, according to the department’s public information office.

And time is wasting, as they say, with recent reports in this newspaper about unprecedented sales of guns and ammunition in the wake of the passage of New York State’s tough new Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act.

Meanwhile, a reader of my December column on gun control has pledged $1,000 to help implement such a program in Southold Town. And depending on the response we receive from the police chiefs, the former Joan Giger Walker and I will pledge another $1,000.

I wonder how many other community members would be willing to make small pledges to get the guns off our streets.

And if you’re wavering on this question, please take to heart these words of ex-New York City policeman Howard Martin of Manorville, as quoted in this newspaper last week: “Behind every tree, every window, every door there is a gun. It is the one thing that keeps America free.”

And bloody.

12/22/12 7:58am
12/22/2012 7:58 AM

A Bushmaster M-4 semi-automatic, similar to the one allegedly used in the Newtown school shootings last week.

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

— Second Amendment to the
U.S. Constitution 

“I’ll give you my gun when you pry it from my cold, dead hands.”

—National Rifle Association
bumper sticker 

So the Bushmaster M-4 semi-automatic carbine that fired 11 lethal bullets into the body of a 6-year-old last Friday in Newtown, Conn. was legally purchased and licensed by the killer’s mother. Oh, isn’t that reassuring.

And where will it happen next time — and there will be a next time, there’s always a next time — a nursing home? Or the halls of Congress? It’s not a question of when, only of where.

This madness must stop, and it’s perfectly clear to me where we must start. And it’s not with better mental health screening or with better security in schools or, as some idiots have suggested, with arming school principals.

We must start by banning the ownership of semi-automatic (and automatic) weapons by private citizens. Period.

Screw the Second Amendment. We no longer have a “well regulated Militia.” Nowhere is it written that we have a right to own weapons of mass destruction. The guns Adam Lanza wielded last week — and I’m talking about both the rifle and the two semi-automatic pistols — should be available only to military and law enforcement personnel. And the ones already in circulation should be subject to a buyback program like the one that worked so successfully in Australia after the 1996 Port Arthur massacre.

And that’s not all we should do. No one who walks into a gun show should be able to walk out with a new gun. Anyone who purchases a new gun should be subject to a reasonable waiting period — during which his or her background should be properly vetted — before taking possession of that gun. And the vetting doesn’t have to be that complex. In Canada, they require gun purchasers to provide two personal references, which probably would have stopped the obviously troubled Adam Lanza in his tracks … if his mother hadn’t purchased those assault weapons legally. Which is exactly my point. Those guns never should have been available to her.

To do what I’m suggesting will, of course, involve a direct confrontation with those defenders of the Second Amendment, the National Rifle Association. Bring it on. In the wake of this epidemic of mass killings in America, the NRA can no longer be considered viable or relevant. If it doesn’t moderate its position, these treacherous assault weapons must be pried from the organization’s cold, dead hands.

The U.S. Constitution is not, and was never intended to be, inviolate. It has, and it must, change with the times. Government must have the power to regulate assault weapons — just as it has the power to ban smoking in public places or require the use of seat belts — neither of which could have been foreseen by our founding fathers. (Also, see suffrage for women and the abolition of slavery.)

I had hoped President Obama would address the gun control issue when he spoke in Newtown Sunday night. His remarks were sensitive and consoling, but I think he missed, once again, an opportunity to say what must be said. I kept thinking to myself, “OK, Mr. President, but what are you going to DO? Specifically, what are you going to DO?”

If Barack Obama is the man I think he is, the man I hope he is, the man I’ve voted for two times now, he ultimately will be remembered as the president who led the fight to bring some sanity to the issue of gun ownership in America.


08/13/12 8:00am
08/13/2012 8:00 AM

AP Photo/Francois Mori | Shelter Island’s Amanda Clark competed in her second Olympics this past week, doing her hometown proud with a ninth place finish in the Women’s 470 sailing competition.

Why do we love the Olympics so much?

I found myself involved in several conversations on this topic the past couple weeks.

Is it our love of country? Our obsession with sports? Maybe it’s just a great inexpensive way to fill our nights in the dead of summer, when most of our usual programming is on hiatus.

No matter what the reason, Americans were watching the Olympics more than ever before this year, even if many viewers complained that the tape delay in a new social media world ruined much of the surprise.

I watched the Olympics just about every day this year for all those reasons and one more: the personal connection.

When I first broke into this business as a sportswriter nearly a decade ago, a young sprinter in the Southern California town where I worked was all the rage.

Just a senior in high school, some folks were saying she could be the best in the world one day. This weekend, she proved she is.

I turned on my television just in time Saturday night to see a now 26-year-old Allyson Felix win her third gold medal of the 2012 games after failing to capture that precious medal in her previous two Olympic bids.

I got goosebumps as I heard commentator Lewis Johnson announce to the world that Allyson ran her leg of the mile relay in 48.1 seconds.

It wasn’t the only time my skin tingled this Olympics.

Jamel Herring was still in middle school when I graduated high school in 1997, but it still gave me great pleasure to watch a fellow Longwood High grad slug it out in his first Olympic boxing match July 31. Even in a 19-9 defeat to Daniyar Yeleussinov of Kazakhstan in his only match, the Coram native did his hometown proud.

The same can also be said for Shelter Island’s Amanda Clark. She proved once again that you don’t need to wear a medal around your neck for your friends and neighbors to celebrate your Olympic achievements. After finishing 12th in Beijing four years ago, Clark improved her standing in what will be her final Olympics, when she finished ninth in the Women’s 470 sailing competition.

There’s no doubt she’ll receive the hero’s welcome she deserves when she returns to the Island. Of all the young sailors to take an opti out on local waters, she’s the one who went as far as the sport allows, sailing the world and representing her country.

She proved to us once again that anything is possible, so long as you set your sights on getting it done.

Maybe that’s what makes the Olympics so special: The feeling that one of us can do all that.

Here’s to hoping we can carry on with the Olympic spirit long after these London games have passed.

Every one of us is longing to accomplish something. Now seems like as good a time as any to say goodbye to the tape delay.

Grant Parpan is the executive editor for Times/Review Newsgroup, publishers of the Riverhead News-Review.

07/31/12 8:00pm
07/31/2012 8:00 PM

KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO | The NOFO Rock & Folk Fest at Peconic Bay Winery was one attempt to bring live music to the North Fork.

At the risk of stirring up some of those old “Troy has South Fork envy” complaints that arose many years ago when I compared downtown Greenport unfavorably to downtown Sag Harbor, this week I wish to discuss the distinct differences between Long Island’s two forks when it comes to presenting live music.

At its most elemental level, it comes down to this: How come the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center is so vital but Riverhead’s Suffolk Theatre remains stuck in neutral several decades after it was first proposed as a performing arts center?

Or why does East Hampton’s Stephen Talkhouse nightclub consistently attract nationally acclaimed performers while North Fork venues present mostly local talent.

Call me negative, but when I think of live music here I think mostly of what might have been. Like the several hundred hearty souls who attended the East End Arts Council’s Delbert McClinton concert at the Talmage farm on Sound Avenue in Baiting Hollow.

Or the disappointing turnouts (to me, at least) at the first two NOFO Music Festivals at Peconic Bay Winery in Cutchogue — although festival organizer Josh Horton has a more upbeat interpretation of that experience, as expressed in his comments below. Or the suspension for one year of the Riverhead Blues Festival, followed by a 2012 resumption that left the sponsor, Vail-Leavitt Music Hall, thousands of dollars in the red.

There have been some limited successes, of course. Like the short-lived rock and roll shows promoter Preston Powell once brought to the movie theater in Greenport. Or the generally low-key musical performances that have become standard at North Fork vineyards. (Said one wag I surveyed on this question: “It’s just that those bands all work for less than $200.”)

Or the live music offerings of The Arts in Southold Town — although even that volunteer-based organization was forced to disband in part because of the rigors of presenting.

Also on the plus side of the ledger, says East End Arts executive director Pat Snyder, is “the success of Winterfest Jazz on the Vine, which drew an estimated 7,500 people to the North Fork in the dead of winter. Even though vineyards were not built for performance,” she continues, “we make the best of it (along with a really good glass of wine) and enjoy world-class music. Last winter we had at least six Grammy-winning or -nominated musicians. The audience came from well beyond the Suffolk County borders. I believe it’s a matter of knowing who we are as an area and leveraging those qualities.”

What it comes down to — most of the people I’ve spoken to seem to agree — is geography and demographics.

Geographically speaking, Westhampton is much more accessible to the hundreds of thousands of potential customers who live in Brookhaven and Southampton towns. What’s more, as another friend points out, somewhat defensively, “While North Forkers will readily go to the South Side for stuff, those people often feel like they’re taking their lives in their own hands to come north.”

Demographically speaking, there’s significantly more wealth and a younger audience on the South Fork. The kind of wealth, in the form of corporate sponsorships and individual donations, that can help underwrite operating losses at the performing arts center in Westhampton.

And the kind of audience that most likely will sell out upcoming shows for such big name acts as Rufus Wainwright, Joe Walsh, Pat Metheny and k.d. lang. And with ticket prices ranging from just under $100 to just under $150!

Price resistance is definitely a factor here on the North Fork. One-day passes to the NOFO Fest approached $50, and even at that comparatively low level there appeared to be resistance. That’s one of the reasons why NOFO will be reconstituted this summer as a concert series instead of a multiple-day festival.

Still, organizer Josh Horton chooses to place a more upbeat spin on the change of plans, saying it’s “not grounded in the difficulty of producing live music initiatives.” Nor was he discouraged by the response to the first two festivals.

Instead, he says, “There’s a tremendous opportunity and demand for quality live music. That’s what we experienced with the first two NOFO festivals in 2010 and ’11. But this year, we’re taking a slightly different approach. Instead of being all things to all people over the course of two days,” he said, NOFO will become a concert series that presents national acts in a “more intimate setting.” And at a significantly reduced price.

Case in point: the just-announced tribute to Levon Helm, the recently departed founding member of The Band, scheduled for 2 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 19, on the main lawn at Peconic Bay Winery. It will feature Helm’s daughter, Amy Helm, and the Dirt Farmer Band, which backed up Levon Helm on two award-winning albums. And tickets will be priced at just $20 in advance, $25 at the gate.

So instead of needing to sell 1,000 tickets, as they did with the larger festival, Josh said, they’ll need to sell 200 to 300.

“We want to make sure the focus is on the music,” he said, noting how the “time and focus spent on vendors and additional activities became a large part of the festival and diminished the focus on the music.”

So, North Fork music fans, it’s time to put your money where your mouth is. Let’s start small, with the purchase of a ticket or two for the Levon Helm show. And if that works out, we can start to think bigger, say the purchase and remodeling of the old Greenport Auditorium into a live contemporary music venue that makes the ghost of Stephen Talkhouse wish his Native American tribe had relocated to the North Fork.


07/07/12 7:00am
07/07/2012 7:00 AM

It’s a long road up to Maine, even after taking the ferry.

The shortest route still runs through Connecticut, Massachusetts, a sliver of New Hampshire and finally across the cantilevered bridge spanning the mighty Piscataqua into the Pine Tree State. And it’s another two and half hours to Boothbay Harbor, a small, friendly tourist village hard by the shores of, well, Boothbay Harbor.

At the earliest opportunity after arriving, day or night, me and the Mrs. make a point of walking out onto the footbridge to take in the sights, familiar yet different, of lobster boats riding at anchor, folk sipping drinks on restaurant decks and, to the south, the pines on the island that marks the entrance to the Gulf of Maine.

I know, I know; we have boats at anchor and waterfront restaurants aplenty hereabouts, but there’s just something about that place. Should the folk from Publishers Clearing House rap on our front door with toothy grins bearing an oversized check, one of the first calls we’d make would be to a real estate agent up there.

The second call would be to a Lamborghini dealer, but let’s keep that between us, OK?

And so it was that while I was driving down to Legends in New Suffolk on a recent weekend evening to pick up dinner for the Mrs. — no, I didn’t stay. Picked up, paid and left. No, really — it dawned upon me that many, many folk must get that Boothbay feeling when coming out here.

I know. Duh! Hey, genius, why do you think so many pay so much for their own piece of North Fork paradise? That I had to think about it is evidence of how meself — and I’m pretty sure I’m not alone here — has come to take this place for granted.

So the next time I motored down that road more traveled, I tried to look at it with a visitor’s eyes. Well, a visitor in a good mood. Not one who thinks any stretch of road longer than 150 feet is an invitation to attempt a new land speed record.

Hey look, there’s a small-town firehouse and just beyond a stretch of very pretty houses. Will you look how the road swings through verdant fields and fruitful orchards? That little red schoolhouse is right out of a storybook and if you grabbed a photo of the old weathered barn and the small patch of soil where folk tend to their own row of vegetables it would have to be sepia-toned. And how beautiful a sight is it to see a fleet of sailboats leaving Cutchogue Harbor under the golden sun of a summer evening for the round Robins Island regatta?

Honey, let’s sell the Tribeca loft — Hey, if you’re going to dream, dream big, right? — and get a little place out here. We could swim in clean water, breathe clean air and eat fresh vegetables. OK, you’d eat fresh vegetables. Who needs the hustle and hassle of … OK, you get the idea.

But such flights of fancy are fleeting and few. It’s more likely I’m thinking, “Dammit, why is the gas tank on E? I just recently put in 20 bucks.” Or, “Please, God, don’t let me hit a damn deer.” Or, “If my direct deposit isn’t credited toute suite there’ll be a debit card bouncing all over the shorefront and a restaurant that’ll never let me in again.”

Don’t need anyone to tell me that while Maine is wearing its summer best now; the bloom is long off the rose by the time January, February and March roll around. Then there’s mud season, black fly season and the invasion of those damn southern tourists from down Massachusetts way.

No doubt it wouldn’t be long up there before I’d be thinking, “Dammit, why is the oil tank on E? I just put in $1,500.” Or, “Please, God, don’t let me hit a friggin’ moose.” Or, “Honey, if you see a guy in a suit with a briefcase coming up the hill fetch my scatter gun.”

OK, so maybe I’d better think twice about calling the real estate people when my ship comes in. Still, what could it hurt to talk with the Lamborghini folk? But let’s keep that between us, OK?

Tim Kelly is the editor of The Suffolk Times. He can be reached at tkelly@timesreview.com or 631-298-3200, ext. 238.

05/19/12 7:00am
05/19/2012 7:00 AM

One of the big challenges we of a certain age face as we approach our retirement years is to keep looking forward, as opposed to behind.

There is a tendency, at least in this camp, to dwell on the past and the small annoyances that accompany old age — like aches and pains, cuts in Social Security and receding hairlines. It’s seems easier for some of us old timers to focus on JFK and Woodstock than on civilian space travel or the Next Big Thing after Facebook.

Thus it is imperative, I think, to force ourselves to set personal goals and/or follow our unrealized dreams, no matter how impractical.

Some of my personal goal-dreams extend well beyond impractical to the neighborhood of insane — like returning to my former college football playing weight or hiking the full length of the 2,180-mile Appalachian Trail. Others, however, are more doable — like learning a foreign language, visiting Machu Picchu or building a cabin in the woods.

It is the latter endeavor that is the subject of this week’s column.

Since my late teens, when I had the good fortune to regularly visit a college friend’s family cabin well off the grid in Jackson, N.H., I have dreamed of building my own cabin in the woods. For many years, I drove my wife and daughters mad looking at remote mountaintop sites between the Carolinas and Canada’s Atlantic provinces, but never did I have the resolve, or the dough, to pull the trigger.

Then, I am pleased to report, our daughter Anna had the good sense to marry a man who owns 90 mountaintop acres about 20 miles southeast of Lake Placid, N.Y. They call it the High Peaks Region, and it’s smack dab in the middle of the six-million-acre Adirondack Park.

In other words, it’s really “the woods.”

So my son-in-law and I made a deal. If he would supply the site at a deep family discount (that is, free), the former Joan Giger Walker and I would assume the cost of building a one-room, 210-square-foot cabin that might serve — when we’re not there or, ahem, “after were gone” — as a guest house or spare bedroom for Anna and William’s expanding family.

And it would be entirely “off the grid,” with no electricity, no water well and no flush toilet. Instead, we would heat and light the place with propane gas, collect rain water in an underground cistern and employ the environmentally acclaimed technology that is the composting toilet. (The end product of which is advertised to be something like dry garden mulch, but I’ll have to get back to you on that.)

There were some bumps in the road in our bid to create our own version of H.D. Thoreau’s cabin at Walden Pond. Wall Street was uncooperative there for a while, and the original construction estimates came in higher than a fully loaded BMW SUV.

But the market eventually recovered and the builder found ways to trim the budget, in part because I volunteered to assist the construction crew — presumably by fetching lunch and spare rolls of toilet paper — and to personally paint the cabin inside and out when the job was completed. (I am, after all, the grandson and son of professional house painters.)

As this is written, they are less than 24 hours away from pounding the first nail, at least figuratively speaking. The drawings have been completed, the permits have been obtained, the site has been prepared and the materials have been ordered.

Let the games begin.

And if you check back here in a month, I’ll let you know how things are going.


04/12/12 5:00am
04/12/2012 5:00 AM

Hey, guys, what’s up?

Yeah, good to see you too, expect for Sammy-Boy over there. Weren’t you supposed to come over and check out that leaky bathroom window, oh, when “All in the Family” was still on the air?

What am I doing here? Three words: “American Idol” night.

I will indeed have a beverage, my good man, Captain and Coke, with lime. What? No, I didn’t bring a note from my mom. Yeah, that’s real funny. You’ve been hanging out with these jokers far too long. No, I didn’t give up Shirley Temples for Lent. And by the way, Lent’s over, jerky.

My presidential campaign? Um, yeah, I did indeed launch it in this public house last year. Why have I parked by my … self on this stool? Well, let’s say the groundswell of grass roots support didn’t quite materialize. I take some comfort, though, in knowing I’m still ahead of Newt Gingrich.

Hey, didja hear? Santorum is out. I mean he finally realized it’s over. Right you are, it’s been over long since. In his case I guess it’s like when you really slam your toe into something and it takes a while for your brain to register the pain.

No, I don’t have a fat campaign treasury to move to a numbered Swiss account. What I got wouldn’t fill my truck’s gas tank, although a buddy of mine did offer unlimited access to his snowblower this winter, so that’s something.

That’s it, gents. Your’s truly will be following campaign 2012 on the sidelines, just like you losers. And truth to tell, I’m already bored to tears.

I mean, what’s the hot issue? Everything and nothing.

Obamacare? Those who like the prez think it’s great and those who hate him hate it. The Supreme Court is sooooo going to kill it and everybody in D.C. knows it. What’s the political fallout? Nada. Zilch. A big, fat nuthin’. Those who like the guy will see him as victimized by a conservative court and the other side will congratulate themselves for blocking his signature legislative accomplishment.

You remember I wasn’t a big fan of that bill. But I still think insurance companies are run by evil bas… I mean, guys and whoever voted in Albany to allow Blue Cross to become a for-profit enterprise should be shot at sunrise. Or given Mets season tickets. OK, yes, that second option could be considered cruel and usual punishment.

Anyway, it wouldn’t be the end of the world to dump the thing back on Capitol Hill with the message “This time you better get it right, you sons of … guys.”

And what does Joe Sixpack think? Who knows? I don’t hear people talkin’ about it. They’ve got other fish to fry. Like Sammy-Boy over there, busy avoiding me in his Met’s cap.

Hey, what’s deal with these peanuts? Fresh? Yeah, I don’t think so. Were these left over from George Washington Carver’s experiments? That’s Carver, not Carter, you moron. Although as you may recall Jimmy Carter did grow peanuts. And I bet if I found any of his on the storeroom floor they’d still taste better than these.

Yo, does this establishment have something against Chex-Mix or Goldfish?

Huh? What’s my prediction for this year? Well, aside from Santana, the Mets don’t have a … Oh, the election. You just can’t get away from that, can you?

OK, write this down. Here’s what’s gonna happen, as predicted by your beloved Uncle Tim. Yes, dammit, I know I’m not your real uncle, but just humor me, will ya?

The president is gonna get re-elected. No, no, I’m not out of my flipping mind and, no, I don’t work for al-Qaeda or Fidel Castro.
Sorry, I just calls ’em as I sees ’em. But if the president had been on the ballot two years ago — during the height of the tea party thing, remember? — he’d now be on the faculty of the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. I just don’t detect the same level of anti-Obama animosity this time around.

And you gotta admit, Romney hasn’t exactly been Mr. Excitement.

Ah, but you know what else is gonna happen? The GOP will keep the House and gain control of the Senate, which will bring us fully into the time-tested tradition of Washington gridlock. Anyway, what president has ever done anything earth-shattering during a second term?

Forget the red state-blue state map, you heard it here first. What? Uh, yeah, I did pick the Yankees to go all the way last year.
Yes, Sammy, they got their butts kicked in the first round of the playoffs. But, uh, that’s the exception that proves the rule.

But let’s not argue so early into the season. Here, help yourself to the peanuts. They’re really great.


03/15/12 7:00am
03/15/2012 7:00 AM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Joan Zaniskey of Aquebogue spoke at the 'Save the Main Road' meeting Saturday.

Surprise of surprises: The good people of Jamesport, South Jamesport and Aquebogue appreciate the benefits of building a YMCA somewhere in Riverhead or Southold towns. They just don’t want it in their own backyard — specifically on 8.8 wooded acres across the Main Road from Vineyard Caterers in Aquebogue.

Just like the people of Aquebogue didn’t want a YMCA on Tuthills Lane. Or the people of Greenport didn’t want a YMCA on Front Street. Or the people of Laurel didn’t want a YMCA in their hamlet, which straddles the border between Riverhead and Southold towns. (I still think former Southold Town supervisor Tom Wickham was on the money when he suggested locating the Y in Laurel, because it would have conveniently drawn members from both towns and Shelter Island.)

My memory is getting a little shaky at this point, but wasn’t there once a suggestion to locate a new YMCA at the former Grumman property in Calverton? I can only assume it was nixed by the deer and endangered salamanders who camped nearby.

There’s a certain pattern at work here, wouldn’t you agree? And if it were a scientific formula, it would read: YMCA + NIMBY = 0.

I used to think there might be a racial component to some of the Y opposition. I had no hard proof for said theory, just a gut feeling that overwhelmingly lily-white hamlets might be doing their NIMBY thing because a Y would draw people of color from both Riverhead and Greenport, the only local communities with significant minority populations.

But my latest theory holds that age discrimination, rather than race discrimination, is a major component of this naysaying.

Methinks there are just too many of us old-timers living hereabouts to embrace a facility that would cater primarily to children and young families. I’m guessing a 40,000-square-foot senior citizens recreational center on the Main Road — across from a catering hall, a few hundred yards from a major vineyard and tasting room, and less than a mile from several of the busiest farm stand operations on the North Fork — would not be drawing this level or intensity of opposition. Sure, additional traffic is always a concern on the Main Road, but the traffic generated by a Y isn’t likely to have a major impact. What are we talking about here, 20 or 25 cars an hour at peak hours on a road that now must handle 10 times that volume in a typical hour?

Sooner or later, the good folks who have been championing a North Fork YMCA for decades (!) are bound to realize their dream, but it won’t come any easier now that we gray panthers are on the prowl.

No doubt you’ve heard of professional athletes who take their celebrity and obscene compensation for granted. You know, the sort of player who brushes past a little kid who’s holding out a baseball to be autographed without so much as a sideways glance.

Now please meet Heath Bell, star closer for the Florida Marlins Major League Baseball team. That is exactly what our 11-year-old grandson did at a recent spring training workout conducted by the Marlins at their facility in Jupiter, Fla.: meet Heath Bell. And how.

Not only did Mr. Bell sign Tyler Olsen’s baseball, but he stopped to chat after Tyler said “please” and “thank you” and wished him well in the upcoming season. Apparently, saying please and thanks is not something most autograph seekers do. In fact, the Big League player then asked Tyler’s opinion as to whether he should sign his name for the dozens of other autograph seekers shoving their pens and papers and baseballs in Mr. Bell’s direction, without uttering so much as a please or thank you. Apparently, Tyler’s good manners and good wishes had put him in the position of deciding who else would or wouldn’t get an autograph.

Tyler is a really good kid, and he took pity on the other autograph seekers, making note that they, too, had been waiting for quite some time for Heath Bell to pass by.

But before he signed his name another time, Mr. Bell did something that Tyler (not to mention Tyler’s grandfather) will remember for the remainder of his days. He invited Tyler and Tyler’s dad over to his car and said something like, “Here, I have something for you.” And what he had was a brand spanking new Heath Bell autographed model baseball mitt, which he presented to Tyler without further fanfare.

Now, a professional baseball player who makes $9 million a year gifting a glove valued at several hundred dollars to an 11-year-old kid may not be that big a deal in most circles, but in the Olsen and Gustavson households it is now the stuff of legend.

The Yankees’ Mariano Rivera still is our favorite closer. But when he retires next year, you can probably guess who our new favorite closer will be.