Column: Codger’s back

The getaway was sweet, Crone at the wheel, Codger riding shotgun, Cur II supposedly at lookout in the back but already asleep.

The New York Presbyterian eastside medical empire shrank in the rear view mirror. Up ahead, the LIE unspooled, light traffic this Sunday but incessant blinking signs warning of a coming storm.

Codger, in his neck brace, croaked to Crone, “Will we make it?”

“Already have,” she muttered.

Crone drives as intensely as any NASCAR racer Codger ever covered. Little chitchat. Opera on the radio. Codger settled back. He hadn’t been home in 12 days. He had no idea of how much had happened behind his back. Malady, the country of illness, is another island.

The cervical spine surgery seemed to have gone well. The handsome, dashing neurosurgeon seemed pleased with his stapled incision, coming by daily to coo over it and talk about Shelter Island. He’d been visiting for years and would be renting this summer. He had three small children and was interested in Codger’s endorsement of the Quinipet day camp, which Codger’s three grandkids had happily attended.

The surgeon might have been disturbed to hear about the Cobbetts Lane neighbors squabbling publicly over chopped down trees, about HBO’s request to have a helicopter hover over the Island, not to mention that both political parties had dropped bombshell slates for November. Paradise was under siege!

Fortunately, Codger knew nothing of all this at the time, his energies focused on making his feet and hands function again.

For a week in Weill Cornell’s acute therapy boot camp, kindly sergeants made Codger climb up and down stairs without holding the banisters, lean precipitously forward to stand up from a chair (“Nose over toes, nose over toes”), walk backward while batting a balloon, and extract tiny beads from lumps of Silly Putty one-handed.

Codger had little time to feel sorry for himself as he realized that most of the other 18 patients were in worse shape, stroke survivors, dementia victims, older, frailer, blind. Codger’s roommate, a sweet-natured college music student, was so wasted by disease he spent rehab sessions learning to turn over.

Improvement was measured in small increments. Lifting a leg could be a major, high-five victory. It was humbling and inspiring.

The ferry rocked beneath them. Almost home.

Codger was surprised, yet reassured, that Shelter Island life had sailed on without him. He felt mellower than when he had left — maybe because now his prognosis looked promising, maybe because of the meds. He was not so quick to comment sharply on all the news.

The tree fracas on Cobbetts Lane troubled Codger, not because trees aren’t worth fighting for, but because that level of snap and snark raises the heat in this time of incivilty.

A Sagaponack couple bought two parcels of land for a house and their horses and legally leveled a stand of old pine trees. Their neighbors complained in writing. For years they had enjoyed the trees and suddenly they were gone. One used the word “desecrates” to describe what had been done to the neighborhood, another compared it to abortion.

The new owners, in a paid ad, were sarcastically dismissive.

It was all free speech, Codger thought, but the unnecessarily snide tone did not bode well for the coming election, which could be a contentious one.

The Democrats had reached into the past for a former supervisor, Gerry Siller, and to the future for Michael Bebon, an active Community Housing Board member, as a Town Board candidate.

The Republicans fielded Marcus Kaasik, who came close to winning last time, and Julia Romanchuk Weisenberg, a leader in the campaign to make short-term rentals (STRs) relatively unregulated. In the process, the GOP dumped the popular two-term board member, Paul Shepherd, who will run as a Conservative.

Complicating all this is the revelation that the Republicans failed to disclose three years worth of campaign contributions and expenditures as mandated under law. Were they hiding something or was it just sloppy book-keeping?

Just in time, HBO weighed in with a request to use the Island as a location for a night police action, sirens whining, chopper overhead, a hot few minutes in a limited series with Nicole Kidman and Hugh Grant. For three days of noise, traffic congestion and disruption, they were offering $15,000.

Codger thinks that’s a good deal if Nicole and Hugh, while sleeping at local STRs and planting trees with school kids, resolve the Republican funny money story and solve the Shell Beach home invasion murder.

If this is beyond their script, Codger, whose stitches and staples are out as he rehabs with therapists at home, is available to play the supervisor who orders HBO to leave the Island and desecrate the Hamptons where they and their noisy chopper belong.