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Charity’s Column: Keep Shelter Island boring

After Labor Day, I breathe a sigh of relief, sadness and weariness. They are gone — hooray! They are gone — what will we do now? It’s time to embrace reality, one that is shared by all those who choose to live in a place where you can’t go see Barbie or Bon Jovi. 

We are boring.

The things that excite most people?  We do not have those things. During the summer, I may be invited to a party, and may even “dress up,” although mostly by wearing a somewhat cleaner version of my usual attire. In the Hamptons, people attend galas, and I hear that dressing up and going to them can be exhilarating.

East Hampton has its annual Artists & Writers Softball game, an exciting event that is not studded with baseball stars, but with famous writers and creative people. We have baseball too, the Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League, and this year the Shelter Island Bucks played true to the spirit of the town and avoided too many wins.

Life without all-night grocery stores and the ability to leave between midnight and 5 a.m. is not for everybody. Someone posting recently on a Reddit travel site said of Shelter Island: “We visit every year and get bored like 2 days into the trip. If one of the kids decides he wants something at 8 p.m. … Well the supermarket is closed so too bad! And the ferry doesn’t run 24/7. We had to sleep in our car once because we missed the boat.”

New York tourists flock to Union Square Greenmarket on Saturdays, where celebrity chefs roam the stalls and can be seen sniffing melons and hefting tomatoes alongside the hoi polloi. Last year the Farmers Market in the parking lot of the Historical Society came perilously close to being exciting when a well-known food writer walked through, examining the produce and fish and pausing in front of the mushroom stall to hold court for half an hour.

She was noticed only by a small subset of shoppers, most of whom were trying to catch up with the Reporter’s Community News Editor Susan Carey Dempsey to ask where to get the best sweet corn.

When you embrace boring, nothing is more exciting than sweet corn.

We have crime like every other place, but most of the riveting, dramatic stuff seems to happen elsewhere. Why is a description of a raccoon invading someone’s garage fodder for the police blotter? Because by Shelter Island standards, it’s the most interesting thing that’s happened all week.

If your pulse races for the excitement of partisan politics, Shelter Island disappoints. In 1971, the Shelter Island political scene was as devoid of substantive policy differences between Republicans and Democrats as it is today.

The election that year for town Supervisor pitted Tom Jernick, a Republican, against Lew Price, a Democrat, with Conservative Party candidate David Huschle vying to be a spoiler for the Republicans. In spite of a seemingly permanent Republican grip on local government for much of the 20th Century, it was hard to get anyone on Shelter Island too excited about the possibility of an upset.

The New York Times said of the ’71 race for supervisor, “Even the conservatives admit that Shelter Island will not go promptly to hell if Mr. Price wins. Out here, observers note, political parties on the local level tend to be Tweedledum and Tweedledee, and there is very little difference between Democratic and Republican thinking.”

Ordinarily exciting things become boring on Shelter Island:

1. Night clubs. I’m not sure what a night club is, but I’m pretty sure we don’t have one. Is that like when the Sweet Island Dulcimers get together to play for an hour and then have a potluck? 

2. People-watching. A few regulars do hang out at Stars and watch people walk by on Grand Avenue, but it must be pretty tame unless you enjoy watching dogs.

3. Shopping. Do you binge on shoes?  How about some rubber-soled comfort styles from Bliss’ Department Store? Looking for a sexy new bathing suit? Would a T-shirt work?

We need more visitor comments like this, “It’s a nice place but to be honest I can’t really think of much to do out there.”

Well said.