Codger was reading a new novel borrowed from our wonderful library when he was struck by a passage set on Shelter Island.
A famous 70-year-old novelist with serious health issues is entertaining his 25-year-old lover at his second home when she asks him what to “do out here, in case of an emergency.”
He tells her to call Virgil, the local EMT, who is 79.
Appalled, she asks, ”So … there’s no hospital on the island?”
At first, Codger was also appalled for the young character. No hospital on the island? He remembered it was only a novel, although a very good one, “Asymmetry” by Lisa Halliday. Then he remembered it was true. No hospital on the Island, not even an urgent care walk-in.
Codger’s wife, Crone, is always telling him to concentrate on what he has, not what he is lacking, so he checked out the events scheduled for the coming weekend. He would enjoy the pleasures of Shelter Island before he needed to go to the non-existent hospital.
First up was a Friday Nights Dialogue at the wonderful library, Terry Lucas, presiding, Jocelyn Ozolins, running this show. Gary Paul Gates, a best-selling author and sometime columnist who revels in his anecdotage, would be in conversation with Mollie Fennell Numark, a former Las Vegas showgirl and ballet school teacher who gives celebrated performances for the ages — local school kids and seniors.
Gary and Mollie have appeared together before and bickered over airtime and last words like a sitcom couple. The crowd was amused as Mollie persevered through Gary’s eye-rolls and asides to chatter blithely about buzz bombs in her native Blackpool, performing ballet on roller skates, surviving London’s killer fog (coal dust) and the presence of the mafioso, Charlie the Blade, at her Miami Beach shows. She concluded, “There are always stories behind the make-up.”
Afterward, she told Codger it was important for people to understand that show business wasn’t so glamorous. Codger thought Mollie was glamorous. The good feeling carried him to Saturday night without remembering that there often isn’t even a doctor on duty on the island.
For the third time in a dozen years, the Shelter Island Friends of Music, Forrest Compton presiding, had lured Drew Petersen to the Presbyterian Church. He was 12 years old that first time, already a famous prodigy, but now at 24 he was a big-league concert pianist. Happily, he was a friend of the Friends.
Codger thought Drew and his parents, Joe, an engineer, and Sue, a school nurse, were nicer and more centered than any sports star family he had ever met. They seemed to have come to terms with the blessedness and consternation of having produced a wunderkind.
Drew himself, sweet and thoughtful, a Harvard graduate at 19, said at dinner before the performance that he thought awarding the Pulitzer Prize in Music to a rapper was a fine way of opening people to other than traditional avenues. Codger was enchanted.
Drew’s performance was astonishing in its combination of passion and technical artistry. Codger thought such talent was fittingly displayed in a place of spiritual worship.
Codger woke up Sunday so mellow he never once wondered if there were any nurses on the Island.
On to the Ram’s Head for the State of the Town luncheon, sponsored by the League of Women Voters, Crone presiding.
It was the new Supervisor Gary Gerth’s first appearance at the annual event and the dinning room was packed. Codger never did learn more about the Island’s medical future as Gerth amiably rambled through his career as a Long Island political staffer and slipped around the issues currently facing the town, bolstered by brief reports from Highway Czar Jay Card and Board Consigliere Bob DeStefano, Jr.
But it ended on a nasty note. Gary Paul Gates, apparently still lit up by Friday night’s buzz bombs with Mollie, asked Gary Gerth about his support of the controversial Representative Lee Zeldin, a Trump acolyte.
Codger cringed; as much as he despised Zeldin’s politics, the question was out of place. The event had been clearly defined as a party politics free-zone.
President Crone flew into action, reminding all of the League’s non-partisan mission. At that, Gary Gerth finally showed some direct firmness. He challenged Gary Paul Gates, “if you have the courage,” to call or come talk to him at Town Hall.
He described “walking on eggshells” around state and federal politicians who he needed to work with for legislation and funding that benefit the Island.
There was raucous babble in the room, support for both Garys. When Ann Brunswick marched up to announce, “No Island is an Island,” Codger declared himself Dunne.
He felt achy all over. On the ride home, he considered asking Crone to take him to the hospital. In Greenport.