12/18/11 3:37pm
12/18/2011 3:37 PM

Heading south. Lots of North Forkers think about that this time of year. Perhaps for a holiday visit with grandchildren in Virginia; a tour of lovely, old and temperate Charleston; or, if they’ve got weeks of time, North Forkers might choose to bask on Florida’s beaches. All sounds good in mid-December.

There is, however, one kindly chap who, when he thinks about traveling south, thinks North Fork. Really. Our North Fork is more than 3,000 miles south of his very northern home. I’m talking about Santa Claus.

Now Santa has been traveling south every winter for many years. He and his reindeer must be exhausted. After all, they’re not as young as they used to be. Also, I heard Santa has to remove his boots every time his sleigh passes over an airport. That alone is discouraging.

So, since Santa is such a sweetheart, I thought we could help him out. Meet him halfway, perhaps, and carry his gifts back to the North Fork. That way Santa could return to the North Pole sooner and everyone would be happy. Maybe not Ms. Claus, but I don’t want to start any rumors.

Question is this: Which North Forker would head north to meet with Santa? I suggest Scott Russell, our town supervisor, accept applications for the job based primarily on how far north the applicant had previously traveled. Experience counts.

I, for example, have been to Alaska. But that was in a warm July, when native Alaskans showed me their home-grown tomatoes and went swimming every summer day. So I really have no experience with northern snows. I didn’t even see Sarah Palin, so I couldn’t get a recommendation from the lady who used to be Alaska’s governor. I believe she’s traveling around the Lower 48 but I’ve never seen her on the North Fork. Therefore, much as I would have enjoyed assisting Santa, I knew I must search for other North Forkers who had more experience in cold climes.

When I met Dennis Kedjierski of Greenport, I thought I’d found the ideal applicant. He looked strong enough to carry Santa’s gifts and he had an easy way about him, just like Santa. And he’d been to Alaska.

But alas, Dennis said he felt a sense of “isolation” in so many parts of that northern state. And Dennis made mention of how few roads he had seen in Alaska. Most folks appeared to travel by seaplane. Somehow I got the feeling Dennis prefers the convenience of Main Road and the comfort of North Fork neighbors.

Way east in Orient lives Berit Lalli, but she used to live way north because she was born in Sweden. So she must have some experience with snow and ice. I do know this: Berit warms every heart with gladness when she talks about all the Swedish pastries she bakes. By the way, you can sample some of those treats if you attend the fairs and festivals at her Greenport church. Maybe even meet Berit.

You know, much as Berit might be a good candidate for Santa’s helper, I think we’d better keep her right here on the North Fork. Winter is cookie/cake time in these parts and we can’t afford to have Berit out of her kitchen.

How you gonna keep her down on the farm? That’s the question I asked myself after chatting with Gekee Wickham of Wickham’s Fruit Farm in Cutchogue. I’d stopped by the farm for apples and Gekee and I started talking north.

Gekee’s been to Norway, where she “shivered,” and to Russia, where she and husband Tom honeymooned. Listen to this. Gekee has actually flown right over the North Pole. Seems she was flying from the USA to Singapore and right down below was the Claus home. Gekee said she didn’t see Santa himself but Rudolph’s nose was distinctly visible.

Well, it’s obvious there are a number of North Forkers who’ve been far north. If they all submit applications to Super Scott, the guy will have one tough job deciding. Maybe he’ll need a committee to help. After all, they have to think about whether a candidate is allergic to reindeer, whether the candidate can fit in a chimney and how many pit stops a candidate needs while traveling around on a winter’s night. But committees work so slowly. Santa’s gifts might not arrive till spring.

Wow! Guess we shouldn’t fix what isn’t broken. We’ll just let old Santa do his job, as he has for years, with a generous love. And to all a good night.

Ms. Lombardi is a resident of Cutchogue.

12/03/11 11:49am
12/03/2011 11:49 AM

“Pull up a chair. Can you stay for supper?”

Delightful words at any time, but especially on a chilly winter night. In December, at the start of the freezin’ season, North Forkers begin some serious cooking. No more salads and sandwiches, ice cream and iced tea on the back porch. This is meat and potato time in a warm, cozy kitchen.

Just what makes up a good North Fork winter supper? Well, I’ll dig in first. An old favorite of mine is a pork and sauerkraut casserole my mother used to make and I remember enjoying it ever since I gave up those little jars of Gerber baby food.

Anyway, the browned pork chops are baked with the sauerkraut. I add lots of caraway seed and a chopped-up apple. Truly a meal to warm body and soul. Especially with mashed potatoes.

Now here’s Greenport’s Florida Jones Mealy. Even her name, Florida, is warm and sunny on a cold, cold day. Florida’s special winter supper is ham hocks with lima beans. Good stick-to-the-ribs stuff. Add baked sweet potatoes and you’ve got some sweet eating. Florida says you must have homemade cornbread with this meal. So you can soak up the gravy. I really like the cornbread part. Only I’d save my cornbread for breakfast the next morning. Toast it, then butter-and-jam it. That’s winter heaven in the a.m.

During the summer it’s easy to spot our next chef. She’s found running the farm and the farm stand, Farmer Mike’s, on Main Road in Cutchogue. But in winter look for Dorothy Konarski in the kitchen of her home right next to the farm stand.

And what does Dorothy cook on a night when the flakes are falling thick and fast? Roast pork is what the family anticipates. With luck, a green bean and carrot combination accompanies the pork. Oh, and I forgot. Dorothy suggests a steamy hot carrot soup to begin the meal. I’ll let you in on one of Dorothy’s secrets: She uses some apple cider in that soup.

Room for dessert? A creamy tapioca pudding is Dorothy’s offering. Always a hit and even more so when made with a bit of coconut milk.

If you’re out early in the a.m., most likely you’ll spot winter cook Laura DeMaria, who lives in Mattituck and works at Carquest, also in Mattituck. Laura drives all over the North Fork, delivering parts to auto repair shops where hapless car owners hope for miracles.

Still, Laura has time to cook. Especially when teenage sons Marc and Zack will be at the table, hungry for supper. The boys have a few favorites. One is lentil soup. Laura uses a recipe given her by her mother. Mom recipes are always the best. If not lentil soup, then it’s split pea soup with ham. Laura says both soups freeze well, though there’s usually little left when the boys eat.

On a really cold day, Laura warms the kitchen with a roasting chicken in the oven. No time for making stuffing? Here’s what Laura does and I’m gonna try it. Cut an onion in half and put it in the chicken cavity. Makes the chicken soft and sweet, says Laura. Well, that’s better than hard and sour. By the way, I met one of Laura’s sons. He’s a senior at Southold High School, a tall and healthy-looking guy. Must be Mom’s cooking.

Bet you thought every winter-weather cook on the North Fork was a woman of a certain age. No way. Shake hands with Pete Kreppein, a Cutchogue guy in his early 20s. Pete admits to cooking since he was in junior high school. Now a college sophomore up in really cold country Albany, Pete says when he gets the chance to cook he makes a great chicken and rice casserole that he serves with green beans. His lasagna, he claims, is delicious, too. No wonder the young man has such good grades. He’s eating the right stuff.

I wonder about his desserts, though. Any time of year it has to be ice cream. Speaking of cold, on winter weekends, if Pete comes home to the North Fork, he grills outdoors, first clearing away a patch in the snow. You know, I think my sons need to hear about Pete.

Guess we’re at the end of the menu. But come again for supper in just about any North Fork kitchen. In winter dark and deep, you’ll find a taste of happiness.

Ms. Lombardi is a resident of Cutchogue.

11/14/11 9:34am
11/14/2011 9:34 AM

I like to think of myself as a forward-thinking gal — after all, this column is titled “Forward Living.” But sometimes I yearn for the “olden days.”

When I was a kid, we had a family pharmacist — didn’t everyone? “Doc” was our go-to person. If we scraped our knee, Mom sent us to Doc. In the ‘50s, before mass production of drugs became the norm, the pharmacist compounded a good deal of medicine. (I still get a gag reflex when I recall the foul-tasting cough syrup Doc concocted.) Along with our prescriptions, Doc dispensed sound advice, free of charge. Funny, Mom said his advice was the best medicine.

While my sons were growing up, I had a similar relationship with our pharmacists, Barry and Kenny. Not only did they know my family, they knew of the skeletons hanging out in the closet. By then, compounding drugs was less common, but good advice was still doled out free of charge. Once, when my son Jeff came down with a nasty infection, Barry opened the pharmacy after hours to fill his prescription.

But, alas, all good things end. The mom-and-pop pharmacies gave way to big box pharmacies. Still, one could establish a decent relationship with the pharmacist. Sure, they don’t know the nitty-gritty stuff of my life or the skeletons in my closet (probably a good thing); however, I’ve found them accessible. The drawback? It seems that once I developed a relationship with a pharmacist, they transferred to another store.

Our new prescription plan mandates that we use a mail-order pharmacy for our ongoing prescriptions. Recently, I used their online service and requested a prescription renewal. By email, I was informed that there were no refills left, but they (the pharmacy) would get in touch with my doctor. A couple of days later, I checked online. The notation stated: “Prescription refill in progress.”

Fast-forward one week. No prescription; first warning bell.

The following day, I received this email: “Your prescription order is eight days old, and the provider has not responded to our request, rendering your prescription null and void. Call your provider.” Muttering some non-printable expletives, I called my medical provider.

The nurse in the doctor’s office assured me that the prescription was sent on the day I requested it from the mail-order pharmacy. I called the mail-order pharmacy; they checked their records and nada. More warning bells.

Who was to blame became a moot issue. While my prescription was floating around in cyberspace, I was running low on medication. I contacted my doctor and he, in turn, called in a 10-day supply to the local pharmacy. Unbeknownst to me, the mail-order pharmacy found the doctor’s original prescription and attempted to fill the order. This maneuver resulted in the prescriptions canceling each other out. Yikes! The warning bells turned into full-blown siren.

I called the mail-order pharmacy and followed the endless prompt instructions. While waiting for a live person, the automated voice kept repeating, “We really want to help you.” You know what that’s like!
Finally, a live person. “Ms. Iannelli, tell me what happened.”

Despite my best intentions, when I began explaining my plight, my frustration gave way to anger (screaming sirens can do that). The customer service representative admonished me, “Ms. Iannelli, this is not my fault.”

“Listen,” says I, “I don’t give a d… who is at fault. Fix it.”

Long story short. I received a small portion of the prescription from the local pharmacy and the mail-order pharmacy sent the rest.

I have nothing against mail-order pharmacies and, usually, their system runs smoothly. That is, until there’s a glitch in the chain of command, then patient beware.

Can you understand why this forward-thinking gal sometimes yearns for the olden days? But methinks the olden days are just that. And, folks, from my vantage point, they ain’t coming back anytime soon.

Ms. Iannelli is a resident of Jamesport.

10/31/11 5:01am
10/31/2011 5:01 AM

I had this idea: Let me get a small and mature dog, seven to 10 pounds, so I can travel in good company and not be alone in wild places like Tierra del Fuego or Paris, France. I couldn’t take my dog Nina to Paris; too big to be allowed on the plane in the cabin with me. Plus Nina hates motorcycles of any kind and size, and Paris is where you’ll find them, sputtering and coughing all day long.

I called my friend and dachshund breeder for 55 years, Robin Gianopoulos, in Stony Brook. “I’ve got the dog for you,” she said. “A show dog I’m retiring, Ida Mae.” That’s how a love affair began.

Next morning I left Orient for Stony Brook with the mixed emotions and anxiety a blind date might provoke. Will Ida Mae like me? Will I like her? Am I her kind of guy? Robin welcomed me in the midst of barks and furry tails, long-hair and smooth-hair dachshunds having free rein of the house, encircling me, friendly but cautious in our first minutes of discovery. And there she was, Ida Mae, quietly observing me from the height of the couch in the living room. Her status in life, and in this house, was well established and secure. She belonged. Yet her life was about to change. Robin took us for a walk. Then she suggested Ida Mae and I go for a walk alone, just the two of us. We walked. Ida Mae was calm and inquisitive. Back at the house I asked Robin to hold Ida Mae so I could take pictures. Ida Mae was both strong and delicate. She had a powerful chest but she was petite, with fine features and the most adorable little face you ever saw. Her eyes expressed both sadness and mischief.
“Let me think about it,” I told Robin.

As I drove back to Orient, not one thought came up. But feelings were growing fast. I entered Willow Terrace Lane and wanted to turn around and get back to Stony Brook at full speed, take Ida Mae in my arms and elope to Orient for happiness ever after.

Ida Mae was born in Sarasota, Fla., the “child” of Dr. Thomas, a pioneer vet who developed some of the best miniature dachshund bloodlines. Minis were rare 50 years ago. Ida Mae had two litters. A granddaughter, Violet, is becoming a show dog and winning blue ribbons as Ida Mae did so many times. I have felt parental pride at her achievements. I know it may seem absurd, but it’s moved me more than once. Another granddaughter of Ida Mae is alive and well in Greenport.

Robin had not planned to let go of Ida Mae. In fact, her son had been quite upset at the idea of losing her. He had always assumed that she would stay in the family. But she knew Ida Mae would be pampered in my house. She had read my columns about my dog Lady. As a breeder she keeps about 10 dogs. Ida Mae would be a gift to me.

“Nina, you are going to get a little sister.” Nina wagged her tail. I drove to Stony Brook. No blind date anxieties this time. The excitement of new love.

“If your son is too upset … ”

“It’s all right, Pierre. Ida Mae will get all your attention. I know she’ll be happy with you.”
It was night. I put her carrier in my car, took note of her diet, the hours of her meals, and Robin told me, “She probably will want to sleep in your bed.” And we took off.

Although I don’t approve of driving with a dog on my lap for safety reasons, it didn’t take very long for Ida Mae to settle there in spite of efforts to keep her in the passenger’s seat. Not that safe either. I had just welcomed into the family a very determined dachshund. I have since learned that all dachshunds are like that, determined, brave, opinionated, impossible and irresistible. Ida Mae was 5 years old and not about to transform herself for my pleasure. Nina met Ida Mae. I walked two dogs on Willow Terrace for the first time. I also slept with two dogs in my bed.

In the country, in the city, Ida Mae made friends. Mostly people. Her name was unexpected. “What’s her name?” Ida Mae. They smiled. Nina had to adapt. She was not the only princess any more. I’m sure in the early days Ida Mae missed Robin and nine or 10 other dogs in Stony Brook. But she became my dog. A beautiful dog, long, silky ears, eyes that touched you deeply, made you laugh or moved you to tears. Her short legs inspired her to reach for new heights, somehow finding extra cushions on top of the couch to sit on. She seemed so confident up there. And, can I say it, radiant.

Then I got sick in 2008. My sister Marie-Lise came to the rescue. My friend Nancy had her own dachshund. Three dogs became too much. “Until you get well,” my sister said. I got well. But Ida Mae stayed with my sister. A new love had been found. A few difficult moments between Ida Mae and Beauty Belle, my sister’s black and tan young mini dachshund.

Years went by. Ida Mae was about 7 when my sister took over. While Beauty Belle chased balls endlessly, Ida Mae had other ideas: scattering the contents of bags, uncorking bottles, rearranging the stuff in a suitcase. She was also a dreamer, ate her meals slowly, savoring the food. Beauty Belle was more voracious in her ways. Ida Mae was the most affectionate dog you could wish to have. Nothing delighted her more than being held, your arms wrapped around her compact and tender body. She’d give herself to you, become part of you. I missed this closeness, I missed her warmth when she left my house.

In 2011 my sister was planning a trip to France. I was eager to have a chance to keep Ida Mae for a couple of weeks while Beauty Belle would be paraded in Paris. My parade with Ida Mae would be in Orient. It would be a lovely time together.

My sister praised Ida Mae’s punctuality. She called her “the clock.” Without fail, a few minutes before mealtimes Ida Mae ran to her bowl and waited patiently. She showed the same precision at the “wee-wee” pad, always taking her own length into account. Dachshunds are notorious for missing the mark.

In January 2011 Ida Mae’s visit at the vet is excellent. Her blood work perfect. But in July she doesn’t rush to her bowl at mealtime. She seems less exuberant when I visit my sister’s house. She’s getting old, I think. We try baby food. Not much success. We see the best doctors. They give us hope. She was joyful in the spring. My sister asks, “What happened in July?”

Even the vets don’t have a clear explanation. We hope, we worry and Ida Mae looks at us pleading for answers. We tell her, “Ida Mae, please get well.” We carry her around like a bouquet, like a gift. More sadness, less mischief in her eyes. She doesn’t bark much now but when she does, my sister says, “Good, Ida Mae. It’s so good to hear you bark.”

How the road to loss accelerates. How did we get here? A visiting nurse for pets, Charlene, comes once a day, then twice, to help hydrate Ida Mae. Charlene is an incredibly caring human being. At her house she prepares special meals for Ida Mae. My sister needs her support. Oct. 6 is a desperate day. I drive from Orient to meet my sister at the Animal Medical Center in Manhattan. I drive against the sun as fast as I can.

Ida Mae is still very pretty. But she’s giving up. I have difficulty giving up. What if we take her home? I ask. “It would be unethical,” answers the vet. “I’ll be back in 10 minutes,” he says.

Our time alone with Ida Mae. We take turns holding her, the way she likes to be held, warmly, closely, to be one with us. The vet comes back. Ida Mae raises her head and turns toward my sister as if asking for protection. My sister holds her tight, caresses her. I stroke her, too, the way I’ve done since that day I drove with her on my lap for her new life in Orient.

Ida Mae, Ida Mae, we never traveled to Paris together, but we went further, millions of miles together. I am not giving up on you, Ida Mae. Our trip will never end. Next week we’ll visit Violet, your granddaughter, at Robin’s place.

Pierre Gazarian is a poet and a writer of one-act plays. Email: pgazarian@aol.com.

10/31/11 3:00am

After our Thursday study group, Mary, the editor of our church newsletter, asked for volunteers to help compile said newsletter. We formed an assembly line and began collating, addressing and folding. Then, we hit a snafu. New to us were the clear wafer tabs that are used to seal the newsletter — and anyone without nimble fingers, or over 45, would have trouble seeing, let alone peeling off, the clear discs.

After some trial and error, we got the hang of it. When the task was complete, Mary remarked, “I hope that everyone who reads this newsletter realizes how much work it takes to get it out.”

Who knows why, but Mary’s words stayed with me. Truthfully, I haven’t given very much thought to the countless folks who work tirelessly behind the scenes. These folks make things happen. Then again, maybe you have; maybe you’re one of them.

I’ve been writing this column for seven years, and still don’t know what occurs after I hit the send button. Shame on me! However, common sense dictates that a myriad of operational steps must be taken before any columns or news stories appear in print or online.

After watching a movie on TV, I never wait for the closing credits to appear before changing the channel. Recently, for the heck of it, I did. The credits rolled for five minutes — editing, original music, casting direction, set decoration, costume design, makeup, etc. These folks are literally “behind the scenes.”

Think about the unseen crews who work for the Food Network. The star has center stage as he struts into the immaculate TV kitchen where the prep work has been done and ingredients placed in little bowls. The chef, with a great deal of flourish, empties the contents of said bowls into the food that’s being prepared, adds a pinch of this, a splash of that and — bam! The meal is complete.

I’ve prepared more holiday dinners than I can remember. If you’re like me, before the guests arrive, the table is set, the wine is chilling and the turkey is in the oven. We cross our fingers and hope that our guests will mesh (some behind-the-scenes family members can make holidays a tad sticky). We probably don’t employ a sous chef, so we spent the previous day baking, chopping, grating, grinding and stuffing.

Prior to the feast, we hit the supermarkets and local farm stands to select our turkey and trimmings. But wait — do we give any thought to turkey farm workers or the drivers who deliver the turkeys? How about the farmers and field hands who do backbreaking labor to bring about an abundant harvest? And let us not forget the folks who keep supermarket shelves well stocked. These folks play supporting, but important, roles in creating our holidays.

Those of us who love classical music are familiar with the works of George Frideric Handel, who composed, along with other masterpieces, “Messiah.” But are you familiar with the name Friedrich Wilhelm Zachow? Neither was I, until recently. He was Handel’s teacher and mentor. Or does the name Henrietta Mears ring a bell? Evangelist Billy Graham wrote of Ms. Mears, a teacher and Christian educator, “I doubt if any other woman outside my wife and mother had such a marked influence on my life.” I didn’t know that!

TV personalities Jon Stewart, host of “The Daily Show,” and Bill O’Reilly of “The O’Reilly Factor” have opposing political views, but they have one thing in common. Behind their wit, charm and political commentary, they employ many talented writers and research assistants who have the ability to create appealing shows.

Recently, while buying my daughter-in-law a birthday card, I had a eureka moment. Suddenly I knew why Mary’s words have stayed with me. It’s time to declare a holiday honoring the unsung behind-the-scenes folks. Hallmark would simply love the idea, don’t ya think?

Ms. Iannelli is a resident of Jamesport.

10/27/11 1:00am
10/27/2011 1:00 AM

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.

10/20/11 1:00am
10/20/2011 1:00 AM

Back in the day, we corresponded chiefly by postal mail; nowadays we call it snail mail — and it’s no wonder. Technology has equipped us with fast ways of communicating, what with email, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. (Perhaps this is the reason the U.S. Postal Service is going broke.)

Like many folks, I’m inundated with email. I receive a good amount that pertains to my work and the rest can run the gamut, from hilarious to downright disturbing. It’s the latter I wonder about.

I suppose it’s because we’re fast approaching election year 2012 that the same hate-filled emails that circulated in 2008 are beginning to go viral and infiltrate my in-box. Surely I can understand why one may not support President Obama, but why put forth such blatant misinformation? It’s the same old unsubstantiated rhetoric that calls into question the president’s religion, patriotism or country of origin. (And let us not forget the birth certificate brouhaha.)

In August 2011, a claim circulated that President Obama wasn’t wearing his wedding ring in observance of Ramadan. (Ramadan in 2011 was from Aug. 1 to 29.) The email stated in part: “So it’s just a coincidence that Muslims are forbidden from wearing jewelry during the month of Ramadan??? (Think about that one.)” More blah, blah, blah, then, “And how convenient to be on vacation in Hawaii over Christmas so he doesn’t have to have a Christmas photograph of him and his family attending Christmas service.” I received this email at least three times, but who’s counting!

When I lived on Staten Island, I worked with a Muslim physician. We spoke recently and he informed me that Islam has no rule prohibiting the wearing of jewelry during Ramadan. Incidentally, my neighbor was killed in the Sept. 11 World Trade Center attacks, so I get it; but I also get that adrenaline-pumping emotion is a dangerous thing. We’ve got to bypass destructive emotions and think rationally: All Muslims aren’t extreme radical terrorists; likewise, all Italians aren’t cold-blooded Mafioso killers. You get my drift.

I received another gem attributed to historian and author David Kaiser. The email compares the United States to pre-Nazi Germany. It states: “The savior at the time was Adolf Hitler, who also proposed change; how coincidental that President Obama’s platform was change.” Mr. Kaiser notes in his blog, “History Unfolding,” that he didn’t pen this piece.

There’s no law saying we must like the president, so why obsess about his religion or whether he wears a flag lapel pin? Instead, we need to focus on substance and delve into the heart of the challenges facing our nation. And if you don’t agree with this administration, unlike the Hitler regime, we’re free to give our elected officials the boot. Why spend time worrying about nonsense?

Speaking of which, I received an email titled “Spend Wisely.” The message asks us to imagine that a bank would deposit $86,400 in our account daily. We are the only ones who can spend it, and what we don’t spend would be taken away from us. Each morning we would get another $86,400 to spend, but the bank can end the deposits without warning.

This magical bank is time. Each morning we awaken to receive 86,400 seconds as a gift of life, and when we go to sleep at night, any remaining time is not credited to us. What we haven’t lived up to that day is gone forever. Each morning our account is refilled, but the bank can dissolve our account at any time, without warning.

The sentiments expressed in the aforementioned email are quite sobering and hit me where I live. In reality, I squander a lot of time. Not only did I forward this thought-provoking email, but I read it daily.
But, funny thing, this lovely piece, to date, hasn’t gone viral. In fact, I received it only once. Something to ponder, eh?

Ms. Iannelli is a resident of Jamesport.

10/08/11 12:43pm
10/08/2011 12:43 PM

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.