07/27/13 8:00am
07/27/2013 8:00 AM

FILE PHOTO | A dog chases his owner in Orient during last week’s heat wave. They ended up swimming together under the causeway with the man’s two daughters close behind.

My son sent me a text the other day. As usual, he employed an amazing economy of words.

“I don’t remember this.”

“This” refers to summer weather in Washington, D.C., which he apparently does not recollect, although we lived there during his preschool years. He’d come into the townhouse after racing around the courtyard with his little buddies, face flushed, breathing like a racehorse, with T-shirt and shorts looking like they were spray-painted on.

TIM KELLY

TIM KELLY

His folks were wise enough to keep to the front door’s air-conditioned side and wise enough to move north. Much later, he and our lovely daughter-in-law’s career paths took them back to our nation’s capital, covered each July and August by a dome of equatorial heat and rain forest humidity. At this time of year the place is a swamp, infested not with gators, but guys in Brooks Brothers suits and Cole-Haan shoes, especially on Capitol Hill, a swamp in the non-meterological sense as well. Those creatures can be just as ill-tempered, and far more dangerous.

Last week we might as well have been back on the Potomac’s sodden shores — where the temps reached 98 with a heat index of 105 — what with the week-long heat wave and the back and forth dash from AC’d vehicles to AC’d buildings. And that makes me cross, vexed even.

As much as I’m not on speaking terms with the sun, it’s usually quite effective to slather up or cover up or simply wait for sundown. Except when you slather up and the stinging, burning sunscreen drips into your eyes. I’ve piped in many a parade where folks wondered why I looked like I’d just downed a glass of month-old milk.

You can dress in layers when it’s cold, but when Herr Heat comes to town there’s only so much you can take off — for legal and aesthetic reasons, that is.

Been to Florida twice, and if there’s never a third time that’s fine by me. Well, unless one of the offspring springs for a trip to Disney or the Universal theme parks. Wouldn’t mind seeing that Harry Potter thing, but not in July or August.

Perhaps there’s a genetic component to this aversion to heat. Some years back, at the beginning of an anniversary bus tour through Ireland, the guide intoned, “See that bright yellow thing in the sky? Take a good look now, for you may never see it again.” It being June, the weather ’twas grand altogether, as they say over there. Sunny and in the 70s when we rolled into Dublin, which is as far north as Newfoundland. In St. Stephen’s Green, not far from Trinity College, young people dotted the grass like dandelions in May. That’s hot for Ireland, where the highest temperature ever recorded was just under 92 degrees.

Ninety-two? Get outta here, will ya?

Over the years I’ve had to employ a number of heat-deterring strategies. During high school, my room had a 1920s radiator stuck in the full open position. You could pan fry a two-inch-thick T-bone on that thing during cold snaps. The answer? Grab a sleeping bag and head up to the attic.

Had a summer job at the Bohack’s (yes, that’s a real name) supermarket in Westhampton Beach and, walking back from lunch one day, spied this guy on an empty lot selling water bed mattresses — just the mattress — for 20 bucks each. He had me at “Hello.”

I unfolded it in the back yard ’neath a venerable Norway maple’s spreading canopy and stuck a garden hose in it. In no time we had a poor man’s trampoline for the nieces and nephews and a usually cool place to sleep for Uncle Tim. Since it was chlorine-free, the water tended to get a little gross late in the season, but as the plastic grew more opaque with age, who cared? You just didn’t want to be standing there in the fall when it was time to unscrew the cap.

My preoccupation with the State of Maine is based in part on the Pine Tree State’s summer climate, which can get hot, but not D.C. hot. It always seems to cool off at night, especially near the water. January to April? Don’t want to talk about it.

So what’s the answer? Sit by the AC tuned into the Cartoon Network until the pumpkin-pickers’ eastward migration heralds autumn’s arrival? Not a bad idea, actually.

Note to the Mrs.: If you catch me watching C-SPAN, grab the remote, turn to anything other than the Lifetime or Oxygen channels and throw it out the window. Certainly won’t be goin’ outside to get it.

tkelly@timesreview.com

07/14/13 10:00am
07/14/2013 10:00 AM

SCREENSHOT | In 2009, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart ran a sketch on whether Long Island should secede, a comedic take on some of Long Island’s stereotypes.

Several weeks back the Kellys made their annual trip up to Boothbay Harbor, Maine, a place we fell in love with 15 or so years ago. On one sunny afternoon me Mrs. and daughter-in-law went into town looking for something or other. (I find it best not to ask.) That freed me son and me to, um, cool ourselves with a nice beverage at a little harborside joint called McSeagulls.

TIM KELLY

While sipping our dark and stormys we happened to chat up a gent several seats down as he labored at something on his laptop. He’d stopped for a bite on his way to East Boothbay, and asked if the road he planned to take would get him there. Nope, we said, and set him straight. He thanked us and said he was up from Massachusetts to meet up with his family. Where are you from? he asked us. D.C., me son said. EASTERN Long Island, said I.

Yes indeed, I put a great deal of emphasis on the word “eastern,” which judging from the gent’s lack of reaction carried absolutely no meaning to him. I’m guessing he thinks Long Island is Long Island, east, west or whatever. And that’s the problem.

I may be way oversensitive on this and really shouldn’t give a hoot, but I just hate the idea of being lumped in with what I fear is the less-than-admirable popular perception of Long Island by non-islanders. That’s not without some justification.

A little over 20 years ago the whole country was talking about a nearly 40-year-old Nassau County auto body shop owner — Joey Buttafuoco, of course — who was sleeping with a 16-year-old named Amy Fisher. As bad as that was, it got worse when Ms. Fisher went to the Buttafuocos’ Massapequa home and shot Joe’s wife, Mary Jo, in the side of the head. The media, those SOBs, dubbed her “The Long Island Lolita” and after she got out of jail became a porn star, or so I’ve heard.

OK, I was born on Long Island, in Nassau County, but, hey, not all Long Islanders have big hair and small morals.

Sure, that was a long time ago and I should let it go, but I just can’t. Maybe it’s a case of Irish Alzheimer’s; I’ve forgotten everything but the grudge.

Fortunately, these days the cable TV channel guide is largely a Buttafuoco-free zone. Ah, but then several years ago came the discovery of several bodies, believed to be of people who once worked in the sex trade, apparently dumped not far from the ocean, apparently by a serial killer, near Gilgo Beach in Babylon. Another wonderful reflection on our island home.

Ever watch “The Long Island Medium” TV show? It’s about this woman with hair a flock of chimney swifts could call home without her knowing it and a thicker than tar “Lawng Guyland” accent who claims she can communicate with the dead. Just great. Now “Long Island” is also associated with a person whose daily hairspray usage may be seriously depleting the ozone layer and who takes advantage of emotionally fragile people when they’re most vulnerable.

Now, I’m not a snob, far from it. As I’ve said before, my parents grew up in Yonkers (hardly a hotbed of snobbery, although it was the setting for “Hello, Dolly”) and migrated to Levittown after the war. Later we wandered east to a southeast Brookhaven community where Norman Rockwell would have felt right at home. My current abode is a three-bedroom ranch and in the driveway is a Ford pickup in which I carry my own trash to the dump.

If between bites of his lobster roll our friend from Massachusetts had offered, “You mean you guys are from Lawng Guyland?” No doubt I would have launched into a monologue about living amid wineries and farms, ospreys and egrets, a vacation paradise summer and fall without serial killers or porn stars — none that come to mind, anyway. No doubt he would have signaled to the barkeep “check, please” and me son would have hung his head in shame.

Let it go, pal, let it go. Relax and watch some TV. Wait, what’s this show? “Princesses: Long Island.” What’s this? “Chanel and Ashlee drive into the city to meet up with Casey. Joey confronts Amanda after the altercation at the pool party. Casey reveals her past with Erica, and is now trying to put the past behind her for the girls’ upcoming Hamptons trip.”

Heaven help us. Wonder what a three-bedroom ranch goes for in Maine.

tkelly@timesreview.com

06/15/13 8:00am
06/15/2013 8:00 AM

KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO | Ripe strawberries at Patty’s Berries & Bunches in Mattituck.

Did you know that strawberries are the only fruit with seeds on the outside?

Or that strawberries are a member of the rose family indigenous to every continent save Africa and Australia plus New Zealand? Or that if you took the more than one billion strawberries California produces each year and laid them side by side they’d circle the globe several times?

Are you wondering why in heaven’s name I’m prattling on about freakin’ strawberries?

That’s a good question, actually. But as Father’s Day draws nigh, that means it’s strawberry season, a special time for fruitophiles, meself included. Apples are awesome, grapes great and peaches, um, peachy, but none of those seasons are as highly anticipated or cherished as the one that gives us the red, red conical fruit of the Fragaria ananassa plant.

Sure, having strawberries available in the supermarket for most of the winter diminishes the excitement somewhat, like watching “Elf” or some other Christmas movie in August. And when I was a kid, Ma Kelly, born in Manhattan and raised in Yonkers, thought it great country fun to take us little ones out into the middle of nowhere to pick strawberries. To this day I wonder why we were punished so.

There we were, pale skinned and freckled, on our hands and knobby knees in the dirt, scrounging for tiny little berries because the farmer barked at us to stay clear of the rows with the enticing big, luscious, juicy berries.

My mother-in-law lived for strawberry season, punctuating every evening meal during those too-few June days with homemade strawberry shortcake. Over the years, the dinners shrank in size until one year meat and vegetables vanished completely and strawberry shortcake was the only item on the menu.

From what I’m told, no one objected — ever.

But nobody makes a bigger deal about strawberries than the Mattituck Lions Club, which this weekend will put on the 59th annual Strawberry Festival at the aptly named Strawberry Fields, um, field on the North Road. One of the highlights is the naming of a new strawberry queen.

I’m not a Lion, I don’t grow strawberries and I don’t reside in Mattituck, but my family is forever linked with that event.

Ten years ago, daughter Caitlin, then a very serious and studious high school junior, surprised me and the Mrs. by putting her name in contention for strawberry queen. Hey, why not? It’s not like the national beauty pageants that critics love to hate on as sexist, exploitive and demeaning to women. There’s no swimsuit competition and no one expects the contestants to pledge their lives with dubious sincerity to securing world peace. It’s just a fun, little retro North Fork event, a cousin to Riverhead’s equally popular Polish Town queen contest, a key component of the Polish Town Street Fair each August.

And wouldn’t you know it, Cait became a finalist! No, no, I don’t mean to sound surprised. It’s just that it was so out of character for a girl who, at age 9 or so, requested a Tarot card reading at a Renaissance Fair in Maryland and, when asked if she was interested in boys and clothes, deadpanned, “No, money and careers.” The card reader damn near keeled over.

But she donned a long white dress and attended the Lions Club dinner with the other finalists. The young ladies went from table to table introducing themselves to the people whose votes would determine the next queen. Later, each reached into a goldfish bowl and pulled out a question to be answered off the cuff.

When one young lady got “What’s your favorite cartoon character?” I thought this a cakewalk. Then Cait drew her question: “How would you describe a rainbow to a blind person?”

Hoo-boy. Yes, I’m biased (a newspaper editor?) but I think she acquitted herself well. Can’t say I actually heard her response over the sound of me nervously tapping my teaspoon against my front teeth.

Alas, she was not destined for strawberry royalty. Instead, the tiara went to some girl from Laurel. Oh well, she had fun and an interesting experience.

But wouldn’t you know it? Years later that girl from Laurel, Lindsay Lessard — whose mom, Diane, had been queen in 1978 — became family upon marrying our firstborn, Ryan Patrick Kelly.

Since both my kids are redheads and there are strawberry queen finalists and winners on both sides, it’s possible, if not probable, that any grandkids could be “gingers” and perhaps include a queen candidate.

We never did have a priest in the family, or a doctor, but I think Ma’s happy we’ve got at least one queen, and maybe more.

tkelly@timesreview.com

03/17/13 7:00am
03/17/2013 7:00 AM

KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO | Bagpipers march during last week’s Cutchogue St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

St. Patrick’s Day just isn’t the same anymore.

For over a decade the annual celebration of all things Irish — and unfortunately things that have nothing to do Mother Eire (pronounced air-uh, not ear-ree) — meant riding a bus to the Queens-Midtown Tunnel and onto Manhattan’s manic streets for THE parade. The granddaddy of ‘em all, the New York St. Patrick’s Day parade up 5th Avenue in front of hundreds of thousands of people, some of whom are actually not conversing on a cellphone.

That’s the parade any piper worth his salt dreams of. It dates back to 1762 when some homesick Micks and fellow countrymen serving in the British colonial military reconnected to the land of saints and scholars by staging their own March 17 march through lower Manhattan’s narrow streets.

The view from the street is at turns awe-inspiring and terrifying. I played and marched in fair weather and foul, passing St. Patrick’s Cathedral’s imposing Gothic spires, Tiffany’s and other tony shops, the Plaza Hotel and Central Park up to 79th Street. We used to play all the way up to 89th, right to the Guggenheim Museum, but then the city decided it was spending too much on police overtime.

While I think the city looks foolish in its current role as the Sugar Nazi, they heard no complaint from me about loping off those last 10 blocks. Believe me, 30 blocks, much of it uphill, is more than enough.

But I didn’t pipe there last year, nor will I make the march this year. Not sure where I’ll be when this year’s parade steps off on Saturday, on the 16th because the parade is never, ever held on a Sunday, but it’s a safe bet me pipes will remain out in the garage.

The reason is simple. Last year my group, the Peconic Warpipes, fell apart, the victim of internal strife and a lack of interest by many of the senior members. Of course there are other bands out there, including one connected to a Riverhead brewery that rose out of the Warpipes’ ashes, but I have to admit my heart just isn’t in it.

I marched in 10 city parades, in Boston and in dozens of others from the Rockaways to Montauk, but in me sixth decade on this planet the idea of standing in the snow, or rain, waiting for three hours to step off has lost its luster. I am soooooo done with this.

Or so I thought.

That’s not what I was thinking on Saturday as me and the Mrs. watched local dignitaries, Girl Scouts, antique cars, fire trucks, school bands, even a helicopter on a flatbed truck and pipers, of course the pipers, pass us by during Cutchogue’s St. Patrick’s Day parade.

Now I know how a professional athlete must feel when playing days have passed and the view is from the sidelines or the stands. Well, except that I never drew a seven- or eight-figure salary, had multitudes screaming for my autograph, appeared on Letterman or drove a Lamborghini. Other than that, it’s the exact same thing.

The skirl of the pipes grew louder as the bands marched west on Main Road toward the reviewing stand where they stopped, their tartans gleaming in the sunshine of a glorious pre-spring afternoon. They played for the dignitaries and marched off again. That could have been/should have been me up there. Why am I on the outside looking in? Why am I wearing pants? (Knock it off. You know what I mean.)

Then a couple of former bandmates came up to say hi. Great to see ‘em, but boy did it feel awkward.

Soon the horses clip-clopped by, signaling, for obvious reasons, the parade’s end. The crowd dispersed and we walked the short distance home and into the garage. Just before opening the kitchen door I glanced over at the pipes, lying on a cluttered table by the far wall.

Damn, damn, damn.

01/12/13 8:00am
01/12/2013 8:00 AM

There’s a chance you may no longer spot yours truly at the post office, dump or supermarket, all the hot spots that provide most of my opportunities for social interaction, for the next year. I’ll explain.

A few months ago a financial planner I know was waxing knowledgeable about individual retirement investments, particularly how the risk vs. reward ratio should change as the blaze from the candles on one’s birthday grows in intensity. The closer you are to retirement and the more candles on your cake, he proffered, the less risk you should carry in your portfolio.

I have a question: What’s this “retirement” stuff you hear so much about? I’m part of an age class where “retirement” is something other people do when their birthday cake can set off a smoke detector. We, however, will work until we drop or until the Publishers Clearing House prize van, or whatever the heck it’s called, shows up, whichever comes first.

So why might I forgo all my usual haunts? It’s because this investment fellow said he has observed that people who live to 60 have a good chance of making it to 80.

And on New Year’s Day 2013, yours truly hit the big 5-9. I figure that if I don’t venture outdoors for the next 355 days or so, my chances of hitting the big 6-0 will be greatly enhanced. True, that doesn’t take into account a tsunami slamming into the East Coast or a piece of the International Space Station smashing through the roof. Then again, after a year of “Judge Judy,” “The Price is Right” and “Dancing With the Stars” those might be welcome occurrences.

The big 6-0. Damn, Sam. Perhaps its time to expand my portfolio to include stock in Ben Gay, Icy Hot Patches, Extra-Strength Tylenol and that “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!” gizmo. Do they still market “The Clapper”?

Of course this whole age business is relative. First, I have four relatives — siblings, that is — currently in their 60s with one fast approaching 70. And, of course, out here, you’re still a punk kid at 59. A senior discount at the movies or a cheaper cup of McDonald’s coffee? Fuggedaboutit.

Still, I’ve passed several thresholds to old age, perhaps the most startling being the first time a local police officer began his greeting with “Mr.” While many, many years have passed, I still can’t shake the feeling of being a young man in his 20s during the 1970s, driving a rust-bucket worth no more than $150 with questionable tires and a slightly out-of-date inspection sticker, always keeping a sharp eye out for “the fuzz,” who didn’t much like kids with hair to their shoulders.

Then there’s coming across one of the gazillion show biz “news” programs on cable profiling stars I ain’t never heard of — that is, until they get arrested or put out a sex tape. Or so I’ve heard.

Speaking of cable, the kids are grown and out of the house so there’s no one around to hear me wax pedantic about how we only had a 19-inch black & white TV when I was growing up and it only got channels 2, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, 11 and 13 and you’d watch crappy shows for hours because no one wanted to get up and turn the channel and if one of the large vacuum tubes blew out, your old man would take it down to the hardware store and …

You damn kids with your 50-foot flat screens connected to the Interweb don’t know what it was like!

This week offered a more tangible reminder of the passage of time. It occurred while I was fulfilling my assignment to photograph the debate between county Legislature hopefuls Sean Walter and Al Krupski Monday night at Martha Clara Vineyards. People tend to get really ticked off if you stand in front of them as motionless as a mannequin, so a photographer has to hop around all evening. That’s not a problem; what is, though, is sitting on the floor — to keep out of the line of sight — across from the candidates. Sitting wasn’t the problem, actually. It was the getting up, a lengthy process played out in front of 200 people. In my defense, I did keep the groaning and grunting to a minimum and the mics didn’t pick up the snap, crackle and pop from various joints.

Oh, well, ’tis the natural order of things and it’s not all bad. With age comes wisdom, right? Or as the poet Robert Frost said, “The afternoon knows what the morning never suspected.”

Unless, of course, you find yourself saying to your spouse, “Whaddaya mean I just slathered both knees with Crest Whitening rather than Ben Gay?”

tkelly@timesreview.com