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Codger’s Column: Unmasking Shelter Island

Behind his mask, Codger is not smiling.

He is tired of wearing the damn thing and also annoyed at those who pass too close to him bare-faced in the Post Office and the IGA. Codger has his reasons; most of the winter he could count on one hand the number of friends with COVID, but now, on the brink of the season, he has run out of fingers.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has cited the “high” COVID levels in Suffolk County as a reason to start covering up again indoors. Codger would like to blame reckless Bare Faces for the spike in cases, but, like the CDC, he doesn’t really know.

Ever since the former president botched the initial response to the pandemic, sentencing thousands to death, accurate information has not been as available as blame. Now America heads into our second million deaths.

The weekend before Memorial Day, Codger and Cur II strolled along Shore Road surprised at the crowds on the sand and at the Sunset Beach restaurant. Bare faced, of course. It felt like the height of the season already.

Legally, Cur II was still entitled to walk on the beach, but Codger didn’t like the look of the packs of loud humans, biters, humpers, too aggressive for the mild Codger, just provocative enough for the proud Cur II. Stay on the sidewalk.

Codger understands that much of this is symptomatic of the usual Pre-Season Dreads (PSD), of preparing for an invasion that is never quite as bad as the apprehension. Hey, the weather will be better, old friends will be returning, the hills will be alive with the sound of their music.

But something does feel different this year and Codger thinks it goes beyond COVID, Ukraine, an unusually political Supreme Court and the relentless massacre of American schoolchildren as the price for gun fun.

It starts at Town Hall, which should be the starting point for all civic things. A friend recently told Codger that the best thing Supervisor Gerry Siller has done is bring together the people who oppose him.

Codger thinks this may be unfair. Has Siller really brought anyone together? Is he being judged only by his strong-arm, cagey style? Does he know what he’s doing?

Codger does not have the answers. He is willing, however, to entertain the notion that Siller is a man with a hidden master plan he needs to protect from the wealthy provocateurs who have been littering the locale lately with lawsuits and innuendos. Unfortunately, Siller’s style can give the impression he is also a man with a mask.

Siller’s State of the Town address last month was an unusually civil civic event with the supervisor at his genial best. But it still left Codger uneasy. When Codger asked how the dramatic expansion of such iconic hotels as the Pridwin, the Chequit and the Ram’s Head Inn fit into his long-term vision for the town, Siller said that so long as they were following the rules they were entitled to do business. After all, he asked, “What can we do?”

Siller was dismissive when enforcement was brought up. Something for the future. Codger did not find that reassuring. It was what they call on cable news “not a good look.” It made Codger recall those old political maxims  of “follow the money” and “check out the favor bank.”

Like others, Codger thinks the Island seems on a course toward becoming an upper-class tourist destination, $1,000 rooms at the Pridwin and no laws against seaplane taxis to get there. That seemed as indicative as the suggestion that the cap on permissible decibels be raised, a seeming favor bank deposit for events with live music.

So, is all this our fated future, welcome progress, or the Titanic headed toward the iceberg Shelhampton?

Codger has slowly come to share Crone’s credo of “common ground,” especially now when the Island groans under its seasonal weight of day-trippers and retirees looking for a parking spot near the Heights Post Office and of the sometimes competing desires of barbecue people who spend two or three months here and those who send their children to the Shelter Island School.

Sometimes common ground is harder to find than preserved land that might be available for community housing or for sewage treatment when the aquifer is shared by the owners of waterfront mansions as well as the people who clean them.

Just thinking of all this exacerbates Codger’s PSD. No wonder he wears a mask walking Cur II. Spare the dog a frown. And don’t forget the masks along the roadways. Highway Superintendent Brian Sherman is calling for clearing the underbrush that endangers pedestrians, bike riders and motorists alike.

Even the common ground has been masking up.