Featured Story

Codger’s Column: Alternate vacations

Codger’s old buddy, Crock, has been shuttling in and out of local hospitals lately and visiting him has resuscitated Codger’s own hospital memories and the accompanying feelings of dread, gratitude, helplessness and, yes, freedom. 

Where else could you indulge, guilt-free, a patient’s lunch of cheeseburger, fries, soda and vanilla ice cream? Crone would never let Codger order that at the Islander.

Bad food is not the only attraction of hospital living. There’s no mask ambiguity, one less choice to make. Ever since the mandate was rescinded and the checkout clerks at the IGA unmasked themselves, fewer shoppers have been covering up. Same at the Post Office. Meanwhile, Codger is usually masked; it seems silly to trust people who might not even be vaccinated, especially now as COVID cases tick up with oldsters bearing the brunt of the death toll.

Yet it also seems silly to feel more secure at a hospital, which is filled with sick people and their visiting friends and relatives, many of them, Codger imagines, having recently relieved their stress at crowded parties.

It’s been about five months since Codger’s own last hospital sleep-over, at which time he was coincidentally angsting about the Town Board’s handing off of the West Neck Water District, of which he is a director, to the Suffolk County Water Authority, and the resulting loss of control of some aspects of water use on the Island.

Loss of control? You get over that pretty quick after a night in a bed with buttons you can’t reach. Welcome SCWA!

Between Crock’s most recent two hospital stays were two shining events on the island. Four weeks ago, the Shelter Island Friends of Music presented the local pianist and composer, Bruce Wolosoff, in a dazzling performance that included his own work, which is classical, infused with jazz and blues. Bruce is brilliant at relating music to other genres of art. Codger was enthralled when Bruce discussed “listening to paintings.” 

Codger thinks his life would have been immensely enhanced if Bruce had taught the “music appreciation” classes that numbed him in high school and college.

Two weeks ago, at a memorial at the library for Bliss Morehead, the late doyenne of Island poetry, poems were read and JoAnn Kirkland became the de facto poet laureate of the Island, winning a $1,000 award endowed by Bliss’ widower, Mike Zisser, for a poem celebrating the theme “Delight and Despair.”

Such life-affirming events are even better than being in the hospital for the purpose of temporarily erasing such minor anxieties as the fair and honest distribution of moorings (unless it’s for your boat) and whether the new and renovated hotels and restaurants are going to open in time for the invasion. 

No, not that one, the invasion that comes by ferry. Here, duck and cover refers to a Vine St. special.

Codger has tried to dismiss such anxieties as the changes at East Hampton Airport that may create even more noise than a pickleball tournament, not to mention the continuing divisive diversion of pitting the campaign for better water quality against the campaign for affordable housing. Both are critical although water is life and death, while affordable housing has yet to be clearly defined here. Who gets it? What do you make of “affordable” becoming “community” and now “workforce?”

What about this notion that those who can’t afford to live here should just ship out? That’s an unnecessarily narrow qualification. Codger can think of a number of other reasons to disqualify a residential permit, including the manner in which you made your money. No members of the mafia or private equity workforce allowed.

Meanwhile, Codger was relieved when the Manwaring site was found for the critically needed wastewater treatment system, especially because Klenawicus Airport was thus spared. Shelter Island desperately needs an airfield where 80-year-old pilots can crash safely.

Last Friday, Codger was looking forward to attending an elaborate signing ceremony of the 40-year lease between the town and the Suffolk County Water Authority. All that happened was the reading of a resolution in a dreary litany of resolutions. Perhaps responding to Codger’s disappointment, Superintendent Gerry Siller reminded him that these things take time and there would be weeks before all was signed, sealed and delivered.

When Codger complained to Crock, the old buddy was dismissive. Big deal. I’m still in here. Codger tried to soothe him. All the noisy construction on the Island lately provides another good reason for a hospital vacation. According to the Building Department, there are no rules as to how early construction may begin or how late it may continue. A cheerful voice on the line reminded Codger, “And that’s 24/7.”

Codger’s best advice is try to get a private room away from the nurses’ station.