10/22/12 7:00am

RICK SOUTHWICK PHOTO | Garth Griffin, Bob Feinstein and David Doyle on an annual group golf trip to Myrtle Beach. They are the only participants who have been on every trip since the tradition started.

Sports, sports and more sports is what a group of Islanders have been doing for one week every year for the past 25 years.

When it gets chilly up north, 16 to 20 guys have been getting together for a journey to the golf capital of the world, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. The coastal resort town boasts more than 125 golf courses and this band of Islanders somehow found the best for them to play.

This week was the chosen one for the trip this year and it’s the first trip I have missed in 25 years. That leaves just three men (Garth Griffin, David Doyle and Bob Feinstein) who have attended every year.

Since I started writing this column each week, I have tried hard to explain why we play sports and what their benefits are. My reason for writing about this trip is simply to explain how golf can lead to a bond of lifelong friendship. No matter what business you are in, how well you play the game, how much money you are worth or what age you are, just doesn’t matter when you are competing in a sport.

In this Shelter Island-Myrtle Beach group are doctors, lawyers, financiers, police officers, entrepreneurs, blue collar workers, journalists, printers, restaurateurs and even golf pros. Their ages range from 21 all the way to 73, with exceptional players such as Rick Southwick, Gary Blados, Bob Feinstein, John Wallace, Jay Card, Ian Savage and David Doyle. Andy Wilcox and Jay Sessa, great Shelter Island golfers both, were also a part of the group in the beginning.

On the other end, players such as Newton Lamson, Starr Boggs and Garth Griffin have 18 handicaps and the rest of the players are somewhere in the middle. Our group also enjoys the diversity of multimillionaires competing alongside everyday Joes just earning a living. This is the type of companionship that comes out of the sporting world and you see it every time they meet, on or off the golf course.

At least for one week, they get to take a trip back in time when they are carefree kids once more. Nicknames have taken over for real names and they all know who you’re talking about when you say Puto, Dawg, Dirt, Diz, Doogie, Savior, Gink, G-Man, Son, Woo, Prizzle, JC , Junior, Newty and Bobby. While in Myrtle Beach, these guys are playing golf every daylight hour and darkness is usually filled with ping pong, pool, mini-golf or bowling. Every evening, you are told how you stand in the daily, weekly and lifetime standings in putts, birdies and scoring against the rest of the gang.

Another group of younger Islanders including Ken Lewis, Matt Mobius, Cori Cass, Lance Willumsen and Ian Weslek started doing the same thing about 10 years ago and are experiencing the same values of friendship and enjoyment. Since the groups both go down around the same time of year, they are now discussing a Ryder Cup match format.

So find yourself a few people, men or women, and get started in a sport if you haven’t already. You will find that it leads to companionship, health, fun and a better life. You don’t have to make it such a marathon as these guys do but I will guarantee that this sporting experience will rank as one of your favorite things.

It has definitely been one of mine and I have already signed up for the trip with my friends next year.

10/21/12 8:00am

This is the story of my “aided case,” although this was not to ELIH via the Shelter Island Emergency Medical Service. This was to Lenox Hill Hospital on the Upper East Side of Manhattan on the arm of my wife, Jane.

It started the night before, after a dinner of scallops Provençale on a bed of pasta. Pretty good stuff, I might say, for amateurs. Later we retired and, as is my habit, I got up around 1 a.m. to hydrate with some OJ, although I don’t remember getting up to hydrate. The only thing I remember is Jane tending to me. Upon heading back to bed, I had fainted, falling like a sequoia, skull-first into the hallway baseboard, where Jane, having been roused by the thumping sound, found me unconscious and bleeding at a good clip. In these digital days, of course, she took a photo. It looked like a murder scene. After several minutes I came to, we staunched the bleeding, I lay down and she began the ungodly cleanup.

I resisted going to the hospital in the middle of the night and I can’t say exactly why. But by 7:30, we were on our way to Lenox Hill, an easy two-and-a-half block amble to the ER on an exquisite morning. It was quiet there. The greeter, or whatever this person is called, gave us the obligatory pink piece of paper for the basic information. As Jane was filling out the bottom part of the form, the greeter says you don’t have to do that part, and the intake nurse was already coming around from her glass partition to hear our story. I simply wanted someone to look at the gash to see if stitches were needed but I told her about the fainting. She made notations and led us to a bed on the main floor of the ER. She pulled the curtain to shield us from the adjoining bed and returned to her post.

Soon a doctor, the size and mien of a 16-year-old, appeared and quizzed us in more detail about the previous night’s bloody adventure. I was swaddled in detectors to ascertain the condition of my vitals and he called for a head scan, just to be sure. Instead of sutures, he “glued” the wound shut and I was wheeled up to the CT scan people for a look-see.

After I was wheeled back down to the ER, Jane informed me that I had suffered a subdural hematoma, a pooling of blood on the brain, which does not like that in the least. I was going to be admitted for at least two days in the ICU, for if things go awry with these things you can die. Spoiler alert: I didn’t.

Jane and I ask, nearly in unison: Two days? What about post-discharge recovery? We had a highly vaunted 25th anniversary Mediterranean cruise coming up in a week. Francis (his and other Lenox names have been changed), the neurological assistant who had taken over the interrogation, shook his head and said probably no way. A kind of helpless despair descended. Jane had to go to work. I was wheeled to my fine room in the ICU where the great nurse Gwenda sticks in the IV tube, applies the chest sensors and slips on the inflatable tubes for my lower legs to prevent blood clots. All will be my constant companions, making sleep impossible.

Of course, even if I found sleep, the hourly checks for blood samples, “finger pricks” for blood sugar readings and flashlight scans of my pupils would have made it short-lived. Because I was a “fall risk,” I was confined to my bed; because of my hematoma, I was not allowed food or drink. This went on for two days. On the third day, I was allowed to eat. I was ravenous but two hard-boiled eggs and pancakes that had no known connection to edible food norms? Pitifully, I scarfed.

Each day entailed a new brain scan. They wanted to see stability in the size of the hematoma. If it grew, it would be a drill-and-drain event. I had three good scans and got out of there on a mid-day Friday. But the cloud hanging over the cruise remained dark and churning. My being able to travel was in serious doubt. We had travel insurance so I begged Jane to go without me to ameliorate my guilt for having screwed up this exceedingly important marital trip. She said no way but occasionally would call out the temperatures in Istanbul and Mykonos.

On Sunday, I went back to Lenox Hill and fortunately was able to find Francis. It was his boss, whom I had never seen or spoken to, who was against travel. Delmore, a doctor who had visited me at 6 a.m. one morning in the ICU, had been open to it, given it was a 25th anniversary trip and all, though it was not without risk, he said.

I asked Francis: what if I got a fourth “good” out-patient brain scan on Monday? If you were me, would you go? Yes, he said. Two-to-one for travel!

Monday was frantic, baffling and a touch Kafkaesque, but I got the scan (it was good) and I even got a CD of all four scans so that other neurologists could weigh in, if I was so inclined down the road to get other opinions. Sometimes it works, even in a complicated organism such as a New York hospital. We left for Venice that Wednesday evening.

10/14/12 10:40am

For many who live on the Island year-round, summer is a beautiful curse. I wait all winter and through the rainy spring for June’s arrival, then count the days until Labor Day. Taking on as much work as I can, I feel like I’m missing the whole season. I am trying to make a living in a resort area where the days are truly numbered. I have to consciously stop and appreciate summer with its natural beauty. The overhanging trees offer a peek-a-boo view of sailboats gliding across a placid bay; deepest blue hydrangeas bloom next to a white fence; and a golden-lit sky is perfectly reflected in the water at the end of a hot day.

By the third week of August, my patience has frayed from the crazy energy of too many bodies on one island. Everywhere I go, I’m surrounded by people in a hurry, trying to use every minute of their vacation. My patience with their self-conscious grooviness is also at its limit. This is an island, something they often forget in their haste to transplant their lifestyles here. You can’t buy dragon fruit or Terra Nostra chocolate and everyone doesn’t have to have an 8 p.m. dinner reservation on a Saturday night.

One perfect beach day, while driving to work, I was stuck behind a red Volkswagen Bug convertible with a huge inflatable turquoise tube sticking out the back. I don’t think the driver could see around it. The constant flash of the car’s brake lights at every street made it obvious that he was looking for the shortcut road to the beach and had no idea where he was going. On the way home that day, the same car cut me off as it pulled out of the IGA parking lot.

I know this Island is not the easiest place to navigate. The first year we lived here, we rented a cottage at the corner of West Neck and West Neck. Now that was confusing. On the way home from the Heights post office, I often ended up turning onto Tower Hill instead of New York Avenue. It’s easy to forget that lost feeling now that I’m a local.

When walking in the Heights on Sunday evenings, I’m often stopped and asked directions to a beach that doesn’t even exist. I’m tempted to give directions like the kids do: Turn right at the first traffic light.

One of summer’s greatest challenges is driving on New York Avenue past the bicyclists riding three abreast — sometimes on both sides — without hitting anyone. I don’t yell out my window, “Hey, this isn’t Central Park!” but I think of it, every time.

Ever since I moved to the East End 25 years ago, the day after Labor Day is my favorite day. A friend calls it “Shelter Island Independence Day.” The weather seems to change on that Monday and people jam the ferries, heading home to their real lives. I know how they feel. For a couple of years, we worked here in the summer and returned to Florida in the fall. I hated it. I yearned to be back on this Island where I belonged.

Looking back on August now, it seems like a distant, hazy memory. Autumn is the most beautiful time of the year, our reward for having made it through the summer. Everything slows down, the frenzy is gone. The kids are back at school with homework and bedtime routines. The world around us seems slightly hushed, rested and recovered from the summer. The air carries that crispness of early fall, barely hinting at the cooler days and shorter nights to come.

I pick up my knitting again, after having put it down over the summer because the humidity made the yarn catch on my sweaty fingers. My sweaters come out of the cedar chest, opening their arms to warm me against the chill of the early morning. At night, I pull the blanket up to my chin for the first time in months. Even though it’s been years since I graduated from college, the beginning of fall makes me eager to learn something new. I sign up for an online class and buy notebooks and folders when my son buys his pencils and binders.

This time of year, pumpkins, gourds and apples are plentiful as the farm stands display their harvests, beckoning you to take time, to pick apples, to walk the fields and choose that perfect pumpkin, the deepest-colored mum.

Forgotten are those lost summer days. “Here I am,” the earth whispers. “You didn’t miss anything.”

10/07/12 11:00am

BOB DESTEFANO PHOTO | Tennis coach Sue Warner takes a practice swing outside Fedi’s.

Although I have watched a lot of tennis, I must admit that I really know very little about the game outside of the fact that it is a lifetime sport.

I also must admit that I always preferred watching womens tennis mainly because each point has a rally. In mens tennis, it is usually watching a serve and it’s all over. I also learned for the first time that our own Shelter Island School has a varsity girl’s tennis team, which sparked my curiosity and I decided to check it out.

The person I had to speak with was someone I see just about every day at Fedi’s Market, Suzie Warner. I am somewhat embarrassed to say that I knew nothing about Sue outside of her cutting my steaks, making my sandwiches or collecting my money. I was surprised to find out that she was quite an accomplished athlete along with being a fully qualified coach who happens to be very passionate about her girls and their team.

Unlike other child stars, Sue herself didn’t start playing tennis until she was 16 years old and then played for East Hampton High School in her last two years. This quick improvement earned her a partial scholarship to C.W. Post, where she played on a team that won the USTA tournament. After graduating, she became certified to teach tennis, her first job was at Sporttime in Amagansett.

Six years ago, she started a program for the girls at the 7th and 8th grade level; two of those girls, Jill Calabro and Lisa Kaasik, remain on the team. Sue’s goal was to someday have a varsity team that would give teenagers a chance to see a better grade of tennis. This year her goal was reached; for the first time, the school had a varsity team. Subsequently, the girls did find themselves competing in a much improved league. If success is measured in learning and having fun doing it, then they are having a magnificent year.

Unfortunately, this season, the team lost two of its star players, Keri Ann Mahoney and Melissa Ames, who played number 2 and 3 last season. Between the two of them, only one match was lost last year. Keri Ann had knee surgery and Melissa decided to play volleyball. One of our ongoing problems in a small school is that we don’t have enough students to play our sports. Sue said she would love to get 10 boys for a team to play in the spring but, as always, there just are not enough youngsters to go around.

I found in scoring these matches you need 10 players and four courts to win a competition. For each game, you have four singles and three doubles with each match getting one point. Playing in our singles matches we have Lisa Kaasik, Serina Kaasik, Corrine Mahoney, Caitlin Binder and Madison Hallman. In the doubles we have Evi Saunders with Nicole Poleshuk, Jenny Case with Brianna Kimmelmann and Jill Calabro with Taylor Sherman.

If you want to support the team with your presence, I think you will enjoy it. They have two home matches left with one on Friday, October 5 at 3:30 p.m. and another on Wednesday, October 10 on the school courts. Speaking of the school courts, Sue said she wanted to thank ProjectFIT  and Brian Springer for all the work he does keeping them in great shape.

On Saturday, October 13, we wish the best to Lisa and Serina Kaasik who will represent Shelter Island in the conference tournament at the William Floyd School. Let’s keep this lifetime sport going because, believe me, you will find out later the importance it will play in your life.

10/06/12 8:00am

As I get older and creakier, one troubling thing I notice besides an expanding waistline, damn it (back trouble has ruined my gym drill, temporarily, I hope), is an expanding soft spot for people who get caught up in the news.

Editing an Appeals Board story this week, I related completely to the complaints of two people who told the board that their neighbors — who need the board’s approval to expand their house -— keep a lot of lights on at night, spoiling one of the pleasures of country living: seeing the stars in the night sky.

In recent years, I’ve noticed that the younger city folks now buying vacation homes in my neighborhood not far from here love lots of outdoor lights. One neighbor put double floodlights over his garage and aimed them so they illuminate the entire side of our house. That’s where the bedrooms are. Activated by a motion detector, the lights go on whenever a deer walks by, which happens 20 times a day, or whenever it’s windy. Sometimes the neighbors put them on manually and forget to turn them off when they go back to the city.

Subtle comments didn’t help and, frankly, I didn’t want a war with my neighbor so I didn’t push the issue. Happily, they’re putting on an addition that required the removal of the lights.

Next door to that neighbor is a house that a developer turned into a virtual airport when he renovated it a few years ago. It’s on a modest lot but it has bright white lights lining each side of its little driveway. They go on every night, even when the house is unoccupied. Along with lights on stanchions and floodlights on the house, the place is lit up like Luna Park or Kennedy Airport. Forget the moths. I’m afraid it will draw a 747 one of these days.

All the new lighting on our formerly pitch-dark street took a while to accept, much less get used to. I miss the days when a few soft lamps glowed through scattered windows in our dark neighborhood.

As for our light-bothered Shelter Islanders, I don’t know if their complaint to the Appeals Board was reasonable or justified. I don’t know if their neighbors really do keep a lot of outdoor lights on at night and I don’t know how bright they are. But I do know the neighbors made their complaints at a public hearing, at which the public’s business was being conducted, and those complaints are part of the public record.

There are sometimes gray areas in the news business when it comes to reporting on peoples’ personal lives and their private affairs. At the Reporter, unlike gossip rags or Hollywood TV shows, we stay away from that stuff unless there’s a clear and pressing public issue at stake. Issues raised at public meetings are something else. For a small-town community newspaper, they’re the news.

I can’t help feeling some sympathy for the couple who sooner or later discovers that their outdoor lighting habits have become fodder for the web and the weekly paper. Maybe it happens after a long drive out from the city on the LIE on a Friday night, when finally there’s time to sit back and take a look through the Reporter they brought out with them, a week behind the current issue.

“Oh my God,” I can just hear one spouse saying to the other.

And so ends one quiet, happy night back in the country as it hits a wall of angst and anger.

One target for the anger could be the Reporter. Why didn’t we get their side of the story? Why didn’t we give them a chance to respond?

As impossible — and often inappropriate — as that is for us to do with every topic that comes up at a pubic meeting, I understand the frustration and resentment. There just isn’t the time or the staff to do it or the space in the paper to run it. More important, it rarely makes sense to elevate every complaint or charge made during a public discussion or debate to the level of major news requiring full investigation.

Does that mean we should ignore it completely? Should we pretend it didn’t come up? I don’t think anybody wants their newspaper to make Swiss cheese out of its public events and meetings coverage. Our first duty here — a duty that time and staffing sometimes limits us to — is to let people know what happened at a public meeting. If there’s important news that requires further reporting, we’ll do all we can on it in the time we have. But a couple of neighbors saying they have a problem with somebody else’s outdoor lighting isn’t a topic to spend a lot of time on.

It is what it is.

As Supervisor Jim Dougherty commented at a Town Board meeting at which officials discussed a citizen’s public complaint about alleged police intimidation, sometimes democracy — a system that requires open meetings — can get a bit messy. That’s true as well for the news business, which is a vital element of that messy system.