08/31/14 12:00pm


Our house is quiet. Eerily quiet.

Now and then I hear a sound from the bedrooms upstairs; a bang, a thunk or a ca-clunk. But whatever’s making noises above my head is either a raccoon or a ghost. Our most recent occupants have vacated the premises and we are, once again, home alone, just like countless others who hold their breath and cock their heads — the standard pose of empty nesters — when they stop to listen to the phantom echoes. (more…)

07/29/14 2:00pm
COURTESY PHOTO | One Day in History comes to the Havens House on August 2.

COURTESY PHOTO | One Day in History comes to the Havens House on August 2.

If history teaches us anything, it’s that plenty of people on Shelter Island love it.

That’s why the Historical Society’s annual “One Day in History,” put on with the help of 100 volunteers, attracted nearly 400 people last year and promises to enthrall at least that many again this year on Saturday, August 2. (more…)

12/03/12 10:06am

The columnist wonders why getting out of town never gets easier.

It takes me longer every year to pack our motor home for the trek that leads us snowbirds from Shelter Island to Key West.

This year our RV had been serviced, our house was ready for the winter and the proof-of-insurance cards for the RV and the car it tows were under a magnet on the refrigerator a full three weeks before our departure date. There was no excuse to not do it right this time. And yet — once again — as I sit here typing, I can hear my traveling companion rummaging around for his good belt. If he asks I’ll say what I always say, “Oh, it’s here. Somewhere.“ But I know it’s not.

No matter how much time I have to get ready for a trip, it’s just never enough.

What happened to me? I’m the woman who could travel anywhere on a moment’s notice. “Paris? Sure, let me grab my toothbrush.”

Here‘s a perfect example circa 1976, Virginia: My husband was at sea and I was fixing breakfast for our two preschoolers when another navy wife called and said that our husbands’ ship was going to dock for three days in Florida. She was flying on a plane that was to leave in less than three hours and when that plane taxied down the runway, I was sitting in the seat beside her.

During the span of time between her phone call and take-off, I’d managed to shower, dress and convince my neighbor, the over-worked and perpetually tearful mother of three preschoolers, to add mine to her mix (they were so small, I figured, she’d hardly notice them in all the chaos.) I packed clothes for me, clothes for them, then raced the boys to the house next door so fast their four little feet never even hit the ground.

“Kiss kiss. Mommy loves you. Be nice to Mrs. Westbrook, she looks like she’s having one of her nasty migraines.” And … I made it to the airport with a half-hour to spare.

But I don’t operate that way anymore. I need three days just to plan an excursion to Riverhead and it takes me 45 minutes and 10 trips back and forth between the house and car before I ever leave the driveway.

Phone? Yes. No. Go back and get it.

Bathroom? No. Yes.

Out to the car. List? Yes. No. Go back and get it.

That’s why I was relieved to have so much time to get ready for this year’s trip.

When I was whining about packing up, a friend said “I know what you mean. I hate packing for a vacation.”

Vacation? Pardon me, but this snowbird stuff isn’t like that. When you go on vacation you take sunscreen, “50

Shades of Grey,” and a party dress; not a vacuum, the crock pot and the entire contents of your medicine cabinet.

A veteran of many snowbird excursions told me that she prepares by placing items into piles. “You’ve got your yes piles and your no piles,“ she explained, “Yes goes with you, no doesn‘t.” I used her method and made yes-no piles throughout the house of clothes, shoes, belts (!) and kitchen items. There were yes-no piles of important papers, foods, books, medicines, everything. I was so pleased that I’d finally discovered a workable system.

I will admit to feeling kind of uppity when we finally hit the road. Never before had I been so organized, nor had the packing up process ever been so painless.

The flaw in my system wasn’t apparent until our second day on the road when my husband pulled out a pair of paint-spattered denims with the baggy seat.

“I didn’t mean to bring those!” I said, wondering how they managed to jump from the no pile to the yes one. The next pair of denims had paint spatters and acid holes (and a baggy seat.) It was then that I realized what I had done, not with just his pants, either, but with nearly every well-sorted pile. All the rejects are with us, here, in Key West.

And the proof-of-insurance cards? Yeah. They are safe. Under a magnet on my refrigerator. On Shelter Island.

Editor’s note: Joanne will  be checking in regularly about life on the road, in Key West and on Shelter Island.

07/14/12 7:00am

Is it any wonder that Shelter Island sometimes feels like the unwanted child in a custody battle, getting tossed between the legislative districts of two forks, neither of which really seems care if they get us or get to keep us?

Yes, well, it’s déjà vu all over again! In 1992 — 20 years ago — I wrote a column about being plucked out of the South Fork and handed back to the North Fork, where, by the way, many Island locals felt we always really belonged anyhow. And I can still recall even years before that, when Shelter Island was originally removed from the North Fork and placed in the South Fork state Assembly district, that my mother-in-law was one of many locals who objected.

“We are not South Forkers!” she insisted and resented being lumped with the demographic that drank bottled water back when those bottles were made of glass and who tied their sweaters around their necks instead of wearing them.

“We’re flannel and Timex; they’re linen and Rolex,” she said. “We’re fried fish and Friday night home games; they’re quiche and celebrity softball. We’re Jell-O salad and Heavenly Hash and they’re cilantro and crème bruleé!” She had a dozen more we/they comparisons but by then I had stopped listening.

My mother-in-law vowed that, no matter where the lines were drawn, in her heart she would always pledge her allegiance to the North Fork.

New to Shelter Island then and unfamiliar with the idiosyncrasies of either fork, I didn’t understand what the fuss was all about. But I learned the first time we were invited to an engagement party, on the lawn, beside the pool, in the Hamptons. “Casual,” the engraved invitation said and, silly me, I believed it.

This “casual” party was different from the casual pool parties I’d attended on Shelter Island or anywhere else along the Riverhead-to-Greenport corridor. For starters, the women on the South Fork actually wear what is described in Neiman-Marcus catalogs as “elegantly understated, ideal for casual soirées” on the lawn, beside the pool in the Hamptons. (I added the part after “soirées.”)

My casual cotton dress was purchased through a catalog, too: Sears; and described thusly: “Machine washable, no ironing required.” I wondered what was going to happen to those elegantly understated outfits when people got thrown into the pool, which is what often happens during the second hour of a Shelter Island or North Fork party. That did not happen at the soirée.
This was an early summer party but nearly all of the guests had deep, rich tans, the result of winter in Palm Beach. I had a Florida tan, too, on my scalp, from spending five days standing in lines at Disney World.

Several South Fork guests asked where I came from (how could they tell I wasn’t one of them?) and when I said “Shelter Island” they said, “Oh, Shelter Island. How cute,” and moved on in search of someone higher on the East End ladder.

Another difference between the opposing forks is the type of food served at their outdoor events. There were no disposable foil trays of “serve yourself” sausage and peppers or kielbasa and sauerkraut (all North Fork staples, along with baked ziti and baked beans) on the South Fork.

At the party of my undoing, the hired help proffered paper-doilyed platters of unfamiliar delicacies. I thought I was popping a Ritz topped with grape jelly into my mouth. The jelly was caviar; quite a shock when one is expecting Smuckers. It ruined the lining of my purse forever.

There was plenty of glitz at the party but I thought it was kind of boring. Nobody’s Uncle Joe sat on the beer cooler and played the “Too Fat” polka on the accordion. No one told “remember when” stories or karaoked to all the songs from “Grease!” and no one was tossed, fully dressed, into the pool. What’s up with that?

So now the South Fork is about to welcome us into the fold once again on January 1 as we join its county and state legislative districts, even after hardly missing us when we were taken away last time. Back then it didn’t appear that anyone “over there” cared about retaining custody. At the time, people’s overwhelming response when asked how they felt about losing Shelter Island was “what?”

Except for one golden-haired, golden-tanned, golden-jeweled matron who commented that she had come to the Island once, and found it (us?) “interesting,” but sadly non-Hampton and she didn’t think it (we?) would “blend” with the South Fork.
She, just like my mother-in-law, had her own we/they comparisons (one of them being that when we try to tie our sweaters around our necks we look like we have wool goiters). Her list was long and the next time we are together at a “soirée,” I’ll tell you what the rest of them were. Just don’t stand too close to the edge of the pool!