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Articles by

Phyllis Lombardi

01/09/12 4:08pm

Right now it’s quiet time all over the North Fork. Windows are tightly closed, locked. Some folks even put up storm windows. No question about it. Chill times are here. Quiet times, too, since those closed windows shut out sounds as well as shivers. Funny, isn’t it? A few months back we read of noise problems on the North Fork. Music that’s loud, truck and boat motors running all night, helicopters intruding on peaceful skies. Finally last summer, a noise ordinance in Southold.

But with our windows closed we come to realize that some North Fork noise is not noise at all. Rather it is sound, sound we take pleasure in, sound we miss during the “closed up” months.

For example, there’s a Greenport guy, name of David Pultz. He’s married to Gillian Pultz of the North Fork Animal Welfare League. So you’d imagine Dave’s special sounds would be a woof, a meow, a tweet. Not so. Dave thinks back a few years and recalls two treasures of North Fork sounds.

One is the Greenport foghorn from early misty mornings past. How comforting it was. How secure. Dave said the foghorn sounded from a Greenport shipyard and evokes emotion still.

The other North Fork sound Dave enjoys is the 6 p.m. siren from the Greenport firehouse. Years ago Ed Pultz, Dave’s father, told Dave over and over again, “When you hear that whistle get home for dinner.” That 6 p.m. sound is familiar to so many North Forkers. Tradition ties it to dinner time in homes from Riverhead to Orient. May it always be.

I’ve a North Fork sound bringing me not memories, but anticipation. Early in the morning, certainly well before 6, I hear the Long Island Rail Road whistle as a train rumbles by about a mile away from my Cut­ch­ogue home.
I wonder, as I listen in bed or in the kitchen eating Special K and blueberries, who the engineer is, who the passengers are. Where are they going? I bid them a safe journey each open-window day. In some odd way they have become my friends and I wish I were traveling with them. Not necessarily to Greenport or New York City but to those faraway places with strange-sounding names.

With windows closed, my friends and fantasies fade.

Now hear this. It certainly appears to prove one woman’s meat is another’s poison. There are, on this North Fork, at least two ears that enjoy hearing a tractor at work. Those ears belong to Southold’s Sue Purcell.

Sue recalls “staying over” at her grandma’s home on Ackerly Pond Lane. That road, by the way, was formerly Bowery Lane. The name change must be a story in itself.

Anyway, Grandma Marta Dramm lived next to Diller’s farm and when Sue had a stay-over at Grandma’s the Diller tractors awakened her each morning. Those machines were “big and exciting” to young Sue.

Fully awake, Sue would rush downstairs to breakfast made by her grandma. A breakfast served with lots of milk and lots of love. And outside a tractor welcomed a child to a new North Fork summer’s day.

In Southold still, stop by for a visit with Judy Clark. Perhaps walk in her backyard for a bit. If you’re lucky you’ll hear Judy’s favorite North Fork sounds — sounds unheard through winter-closed windows.

First, the winter leaves, the ones left clinging to branches. Brittle and brown, dried and desolate, they rustle in winter wind. Judy thinks of that rustle as a feeble protest. Leaves refusing to go gently into that good earth. Come spring, those leaves will be gone, their protests giving way to new life.

And then there are the crows. They settle in the woods behind Judy’s home. Noisy, almost arrogant, unlike their shy, smaller bird friends. Crows are smart, too. Judy recalls seeing a TV show explaining how crows use twigs as tools. Watching the crows through snug-closed windows, Judy can’t hear their calls. But her heart responds to remembered sound.

Perhaps that’s what beloved, familiar sounds do best. Even if just in memory, they bring a sense of well-being to January’s pale days and long dark nights. Someday soon we’ll open all the windows.

Ms. Lombardi is a resident of Cutchogue.

12/18/11 3:37pm

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

“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.

11/19/11 3:00am

About this time last year I had an idea. That happens occasionally. Anyway, my idea was this: Lots of roads on the North Fork have winter/Christmas names and I was sure Santa Claus had named those roads. Like Holly Tree Lane, Antler Road and Claus Avenue.

Well, it’s Thanksgiving time now and I’ve another idea. Santa obviously didn’t name all our roads. He had help from three Massachusetts guys. That’s right. John Alden, William Bradford and Myles Standish. We’re told there were 53 Pilgrims at that first Thanksgiving feast in Plymouth in 1621 and that they dined for hours and hours. I maintain the Pilgrims ate so well and so much that a few of them decided to take a long walk after dinner and ended up, several days later, on the North Fork.

How else to explain the street names I discover as I travel the roads through towns I love? I believe the walkers began their North Fork sojourn in Laurel. They tarried for a bit in a red-gold treed area and called the spot Harvest Lane, recalling their recent bounty.

Even today, Harvest Lane is red-gold with trees. Homes line both sides of the lane and cold-defying mums brighten most front porches. Appropriately, Harvest Lane runs into Farmveu Road. Full circle.

And there’s a homeowner on his power mower. Perhaps, on Harvest Lane, cutting lawns becomes grass-harvesting. Less of a chore then, more of a blessing.

Now on to North Fork main course names. Back in Massachusetts our three travelers dined on “turkies, fowle, deere and codd.” They spelled things funny in those days but then their clothes were a bit unusual, too. At least I think so. And, oh, North Fork roads abound in Thanksgiving entrée names.

In Riverhead there’s Pheasant Court and Trout Brook Lane. I’d take a helping of each. Heading east you can pass your plate for a serving of Deer Drive in Mattituck or Goose Creek Lane in Southold. Wait a minute. Go back to Riverhead. I forgot Scallop Lane. Never, ever, pass up scallops.

Now east for Rabbit Lane and Oyster Ponds Lane. Both courses are found near Orient Harbor and I’m sure our Massachusetts men sampled the area’s menu.

Me? For a main course I choose Duck Pond Road in Cutchogue. It’s a south/north road ending right at Long Island Sound bluffs and beach. Lots of farms along the way. Truthfully, I saw no ducks, but then it was too chilly to get out of my car and go hunting. Maybe the ducks are all gone, following the Pilgrims back to Massachusetts. Or maybe the ducks went to Central Islip. That’s where the Long Island Ducks play their games. I wonder if North Fork ducks play games, too.

Some side dishes? Coming your way. Try Chestnut Road in Southold for your Thanksgiving dressing or Cranberry Street in Riverhead for savory sauce.

With all this North Fork good eating, I think we need a drink or two. I know there’s a Gin Lane and a Bourbon Lane in Southold — but were Pilgrims aware of such beverages? There’s another Bourbon Street far south, but that’s too long a walk even for a Pilgrim. So I guess we’ll go with Vineyard Way in Riverhead. We’ll drink wine on the North Fork. Besides, Vineyard Way sounds Biblical, just right for Thanksgiving.

Look at the dessert table. Huckleberry Hill Road and Plum Island Lane, both out Orient way. Meanwhile in Riverhead, take your pick. Apple Lane, Cherry Lane, Peach Street. I love walnuts so I drove down Walnut Avenue in Mattituck — a dirt/gravel road that crunched just like the cracking open of walnuts. The posted speed limit was 5 mph. Those Pilgrims knew enough to slow down and appreciate.

I do think I found exactly the spot where our Pilgrims left the North Fork for home. They probably thought it safe to return because their womenfolk had finished cleaning up. So, having named our roads, John, William and Myles started back to Massachusetts, but not before giving thanks again. From a road a bit north of what is now Peconic Bay Medical Center in Riverhead, a road named Amen Corner, they paused and prayed. Now they were ready to face another winter.

As are we all.

Ms. Lombardi is a resident of Cutchogue.

10/27/11 1:00am

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ms. Lombardi is a resident of Cutchogue.

10/08/11 12:43pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ms. Lombardi is a resident of Cutchogue.

09/21/11 1:28pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ms. Lombardi is a resident of Cutchogue.

08/21/11 2:19am

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ms. Lombardi is a resident of Cutchogue.