I Go For A Row In the Dark and Ponder The Donald


This was all I could see as I rowed out of Little Bay

This was all I could see as I rowed out of Little Bay

By Cecil Hoge

On the morning of November 9th, 2016, I decided to go for a row. What perhaps would make this unusual for most people was the fact that at the time I went, 5:15am, it was still pitch black and about 45 degrees Fahrenheit. Most people do not go rowing at that hour or in that temperature, but I am a little strange and going at that time in that temperature is not unusual for me.

Many people would think that it is quite cold and perhaps dangerous to go when it is dark and relatively cold, but I paddle or row almost all year around and about the only thing that stops me is ice or driving rain or driving snow. To be sure, I was not wearing a short-sleeved knit shirt with someone’s nifty logo or a bathing suit. Rather I was wearing a new Duluth Grab jacket, good gloves, warm socks, comfortable Croc mocs and fleece lined pants. When I go rowing, I am as snug as bug in a rug, warm and toasty, ready for a relaxing and energizing and warm row for an hour or more.

You might have noted that November 9th, 2016 was the day after Donald Trump was elected our 45th President of the United States. That’s true. And I will say that The Donald was on my mind. I had stayed up a good portion of the night before watching the election results. Around twelve the night before, when the outcome I dreaded was about to occur, I decided to get some rest. That worked until about 4:30 when I woke up, flipped on the TV and confirmed what I feared all along. Donald Trump had been elected President. That was the end of possible further sleep, so I decided to get up, have a cup of coffee with my wife who always gets up very, very early, ruminate a bit with her on the fate of the world and then go for a row.

Before heading out into the dark, I poured another cup of coffee into a special spill-proof stainless steel coffee mug from Starbucks that keeps my coffee nice and hot and I headed out. As mentioned, it was almost pitch black when I got to my dock, although I could make out the shadow on the dock that was my boat. In touching the plastic seat of my rigger arm rower, I could feel it was completely soaked with a cold dew. Fortunately, I keep a dry seat cushion in a small waterproof boat locker on my dock, so it was only necessary to pull it out and place it on the wet plastic seat. With coffee safely on board, I slid my rowing kayak off of my dock and sat down on my nice dry seat cushion. I was ready to head out.

The first thing I noticed on this dark and chilly fall day was the fact that there must have been a lot of Canada geese around. Somewhere in the dark I could hear them squawking and flapping away. I was not sure just where they were, but that quickly became evident when I kept rowing and several hundred birds started squawking in an increasing crescendo and then began to take off, flapping their wings, squawking and quacking as they became airborne. It sounded like a 747 taking off.

As I rowed into Setauket Bay the faint image of the sky, trees and landscape began to emerge

As I rowed into Setauket Bay the faint image of the sky, trees and landscape began to emerge along with the lights of some houses

I kept rowing on. I am used to noisy geese and a multitude of other birds. As I came out of my bay and headed into Setauket Bay (the next bay over), I could see light beginning to brighten the back of the bay. It was still dark, but now I could see some slight awakening of the sky and some lights from houses. Above you will see a picture of that.

Rowing out through Setauket Bay towards Port Jefferson Bay, I began to think, for the first time clearly, about the momentous events that had taken place the night before. Unlike most people, I had anticipated that Trump would win. I had calculated that there was a vast sea of discontented voters out there and that Trump had managed to channel into their fears and their dreams. Whether Trump knew or understood or felt their pain was perhaps something different, but what was clear to me, is that he had identified their pain and had locked on to that discontent as a movement, as he quite truthfully said. So, no matter his motives, I knew Trump had recognized the discontent in the electorate, the economic angst that affected the majority of voters and had bent that to his own purposes.

As I came out into Port Jefferson Harbor, the sky began to become more visible

As I came out into Port Jefferson Harbor, the sky began to become more visible

As mentioned, just after I had woke up at 4:30, I had checked out the latest election stats and by that time, the game was over and Trump had won his long march to the White House. What would he do with his victory I wondered? I had my own doubts and fears about that. Now, out on the bay, alone in the dark on that quiet chilly morning I had some clean air to breath, some hot coffee still in my cup and some time to ponder what the new Trump Presidency might mean.

To me, for sure, it was a sea change in the world. In my own mind, it was a tectonic plate that had shifted and somehow re-oriented all the world. What that meant, where it would lead, really was impossible to say in early morning light of that new day.

So what I fell back on was the campaign promises that I had heard Trump repeat time after time and I tried to speculate where those promises might lead. Now, I know that many of things that I worried about, other people deliberately voted for. With that in mind, here are some of the things that I was worried about:

Tariffs – Having been all my life an importer of goods to the United States, I have always believed that trade is good, not just for me, not just for our company, but for our country and for the whole world. To me the interchange of goods is important in itself and the access to good value products at reasonable prices that would not be available otherwise is also important. I know that trade often results in dislocations of technologies and in the loss of jobs here in the United States. That said, I have always felt that the benefits coming from trade are greater than the harm done by trade.

And here I would like to make one important personal point, in my own particular case, we have never been a manufacturer of goods, so we never closed a factory in order to buy cheaper goods overseas. And that is simply because we never had an actual factory to manufacture things. Rather, we have always imported unique good quality products that simply would not be available in this country otherwise.

By the same token, I know many companies that did have factories in this country, that did move their production overseas and did end up firing American workers. So, first and foremost, I can say that it is desirable to keep as many factories here and to keep as many people working in factories here as possible. That said, I am terrified that raising tariffs on foreign goods will kill existing business without creating new factories and new jobs in this country.

As some of you know, in the first year of the Great Depression, we did institute a wide range of tariffs on foreign goods and that resulted in many other countries instituting a wide range of tariffs on us. This was the Smoot Hawley Tariff Act of 1930 which raised tariffs on over 20,000 different kinds of imported goods. The full results of this act are still debated by economists today, but most economic historians believe the Smoot Hawley Act greatly deepened the worldwide depression, caused a collapse of trade around the world and resulted in millions of people losing their jobs in this country and around the world.

Of course, that was a long time ago and we do live in a different age. I do not believe that history repeats itself exactly but I do believe that things that happened in the past can happen again in some different form in the future.

Now, I know Mr. Trump is thinking to use tariffs as a negotiating tool. But tariffs are a blunt instrument and sometimes the results from an action are different than the results you anticipate.

I will cite Obamacare as an example of this. President Obama and the fact that the outgoing administration anticipated that they would get enough young people signing on to Obamacare to pay for the older people who would also sign on to Obamacare. But they guessed wrong and their numbers were off. Specifically, they got far less young people signing up for Obamacare and far more older people signing up for Obamacare. As one administration official said, it seemed that young people preferred to drink beer rather than sign up for health insurance. The result of this miscalculation was that Obamacare was a financial disaster, that costs for health are rising sharply and that this miscalculation  probably helped Donald Trump get elected President.

I am afraid of the same kind of miscalculation about tariffs. When we announce new tariffs on other countries (after all, how else will they believe us), I am afraid other countries will announce new tariffs on us. That, I think, could lead to a trade war and a collapse of trade around the world. I would like to repeat that in the past this actually happened when we last announced tariffs on other countries in 1930. So there is a precedent for this actually happening.

I also think that tariffs would raise the price of many imported goods coming into the United States. And that could mean that the cost of many, many things we buy goes up… in example, the price of shoes, shirts, coats, cars, food, oil, steel, vegatables, fruit and many, many other things. Having been to China many times, having seen their economy as recently as a few weeks ago, knowing that they too are suffering from many of the same problems we are, I wonder if they will sit meekly by when Mr. Trump announces he is putting tariffs on products coming from China?

Perhaps, China will say, go ahead, make my day! If you do, we will also impose tariffs on products coming from the U.S. And one more thing, maybe, it is time to cash in on those little pieces of paper you call bonds. That’s what I fear. I know this is a fear only, and I also know that we need to wait to see what actually happens.

I would like to report that the day after I went rowing, November 10th, Bloomberg reported that while stocks have risen in the last two days, bonds have sold off sharply and that long-term interest rate of 30 year bonds has gone up dramatically in just the last two days. Those of us who remember the 1970s, probably remember that bonds sold off almost every day for several years throughout the Carter administration and this resulted the prime rate going to 12 and half percent. At that time, people had trouble getting mortgages at 14% to 16% annual interest. Let’s hope that is a part of history that is not repeated.

In the same Bloomberg program talking about declining bonds and rising stocks, Bloomberg interviewed a lawyer from Hogan Lovells.

The lawyer being interviewed was asked what promises could Donald Trump legally make good on. Somewhat to my surprise, the lawyer said with the executive powers that Congress had granted the President, Donald Trump could, without consulting Congress or the Senate, immediately impose tariffs on Mexico, China or any other country he chose of 45% or more. The lawyer went to say that the new President could also cancel Nafta or any other trade agreement presently in place and finally, he could also cancel Obamacare and our treaty with Nato. In short, this lawyer said President Trump could enact many of his promises by the end of January. That would indicate that we should know just how serious President Trump is about his campaign promises pretty soon.

But tariffs, Nafta, Obamacare, Nato are not my only concerns:

The Wall – I know that Donald Trump is great builder and he has built hotels and post offices and skating rinks and apartment buildings in many parts of the U.S. and around the world. So Donald Trump probably knows how to build a wall better than anyone.

That said, I am dubious that Mexico will pay for it, as President elect Trump has promised. I can see Donald announcing 35% or 45% tariffs on Mexican goods and no doubt that will produce some revenue for the US, but if Mexico also institutes tariffs on our American goods going into Mexico, like I-phones, like computers, like American cars, like America steel, like American copper, like American wheat, perhaps the tariffs instituted on both sides will reduce the sales of goods on both sides and perhaps the revenues from the announced tariffs will disappear as imports and exports collapse.

And then there is the little matter of the cost of the wall. Let me try to give you an idea of what that might be. I happen to have a little wooden fence that I need to replace. It is about 30′ long and 4′ high. I recently asked a local builder what he would charge me to replace my 30′ wooden fence. My local contractor said he would do it for $3,000. That was cheap, he assured me. Of course, my 30′ fence is only 4′ high and made of wood. I know for sure that Donald Trump is going to build a really beautiful wall and that wall is going to be at least 30′ high and 1989 miles long and, I am guessing, it will not be made of wood.

So, let’s do a little math: 4′ into 30′ is 7.5 times. So if my wood fence was 30′ high and 30′ long, it would cost, if all other things were equal, $22,500. Now there are 5,280 feet in one mile. That means there are 10,501,920 feet in 1989 miles – I have a powerful calculator that can figure these things out. Are you following me? Now if I then divide 10,501,920 feet by 30 feet, I get 350,064 30′ x 30′ wall sections. And then if I multiply 350,064 by $22,500, I come up with the calculation that it will cost $7,875,000,000 to erect a 30′ high wood fence. Of course, I think Donald Trump would select a different material. And while I know his preferred material is gold, I am guessing in this case the Donald would settle for steel, either powder coated or stainless steel.

Now, I do not know how much more a stainless steel or powder steel powder coated 30′ wall 12″ thick (I am guessing Donald would like it to be at least one foot thick) would cost more than a 30′ high wooden fence. I am gonna say that will cost at least ten times more, making the cost for the beautiful Mexican Wall $78,750,000,000. And when you think about it this really is that much. I mean that is less than the yearly sales of Amazon. That’s doable, isn’t it? Well, yes, but I think we have add a few other costs.

It seems to me that this beautiful wall will need some high tech cameras and lights for surveillance. Let’s say one camera every 300 feet, so if you have a border of 10,501,920 feet, that means you are going to need 35,000 cameras and lights to scan the wall night and day. So let say our President gets a good deal with Amazon or Best Buy and each camera is just $300, including installation. Well, that’s an another $10,500,000 for cameras. That’s still chump change.

But of course, these 35,000 cameras and lights will have to be plugged in which means we will need some electric. Here, our President could go solar (I am not sure that would be his choice, but who knows), but there is an upfront cost for installing solar panels to power 35,000 video cameras and lights. Let’s say that is another $10,000,000. That puts us at $78,795,000,000. That’s still doable.

But someone is going have to look at the video the 35,000 cameras spew out. Presently, we have about 20,000 custom officials patrolling the Mexican border. So lets say we need another 20,000 folks to review the videos that 35,000 cameras spew out and help catch any offenders and let’s say each person costs the government $30,000 a year. Well, that’s another $600,000,000 a year. So now we are getting close to $80,000,000,000 for the first year of the wall. And of course, I am not talking about on going costs for electricity, camera replacement and payroll costs. Those costs would on for as long as the wall is standing.

It is still not big number stateside, but for Mexico? It happens I looked up Mexico’s Gross National Product for 2014. That was a record year. It was $1,294,690,000,000 or a little over a trillion dollars and $80,000,000,000 is only about 6% of their Gross National Product. So, if you believe what Trump says, Mexico is going to be happy to give us 6% of their gross national product. Me, I am worried that Mexico may not pay up and we may get stuck with the $80,000,000,000 cost, not to mention the yearly ongoing cost for maintaining and patrolling our beautiful wall.

Of course, I may must say that my method of calculating the cost of the wall may be flawed, even if it seems pretty solid to me. Whatever, it is a big number and somebody, Mexico or us, will have to pay it.

Tariffs and paying for the wall are only two concerns or I have doubts I have about other things that Trump may do.

I am skeptical he will send 11,000,000 Mexicans back to Mexico, especially if he is also asking Mexico to give us 6% of their gross national product. It seems to me taking back 11,000,000 Mexicans might be kind of expensive. For that matter, gathering them up and just putting them on a bus might be pretty expensive. Let’s take a crack at that. If you gathering up 11,000,000 and 60 people and their stuff fit in a bus, you need 183,333 buses to carry them back to old Mexico. Let’s say is the cost $300 on average to find each illegal Mexican and let say we make a deal with Greyhound Bus to pick up and transport each Mexican for $60 each. That would mean it cost $360. per Mexican to send them back to Mexico. Again, this is only what my father call a guestimate, but if it was correct (and I see no reason why it is not), that would mean that somebody would have to pay $3,960,000,000. Since I do not want to pay this, I am hoping that the Donald can use his deal-making power to get Mexico to cover the 4 billion dollar or so cost.

Thinking about, I am wondering 35 or 45% is enough of a tariff. Maybe, we need 60%.

Then there is the matter of replacing the Obamacare Healthcare System. I can understand that the present system is a true catastrophe, but I am just wondering what we will replace it with? Will more or less people have insurance? Will patients with pre-existing health conditions now have to pay extra for their pre-existing health conditions? In an interview with 60 Minutes, our President Elect has said he try to make sure pre-existing conditions are covered. I am still a little dubious this will actually be practical.

And what about taxes? Will corporate taxes really go down from 35% to 15%? I would love that, especially if I are going to have pay a 35% to 45% to 60% tariff on the goods we import, I am going to need a tax reduction.

I can only hope the Donald is telling us the truth on taxes, because I have the feeling we are going to need help to pay for some other things.

I cannot say if my doubts and fears are realistic. I can only say I have doubts and fears. It certainly is too early to make any prediction of what will actually happen and I do believe he was legitimately elected and we have an obligation to let him take his best shot at fulfilling his promises.

Fortunately, most of my thoughts and doubts and fears, drifted out of my mind as I rowed out into Port Iefferson Harbor. There I was greeted by a new dawn, a bright red sky rising above an all beautiful horizon. The view that stretched out before me was almost enough to make me forget my doubts and fears. You can see the picture below. In the meantime, I leave with an old nursery rhyme:

Row, row your boat,

Gently down the stream,

Merrily, merrily, merrily,

Life is but a dream.

November 9th, 2016, 6:05 am - The Dawn of a New Day is Upon Us. Red sky at night, sailors delight. Red sky in morning, sailors take warning,

November 9th, 2016, 6:05 am – The Dawn of a New Day is Upon Us.
Red sky at night, sailors delight. Red sky in morning, sailors take warning,


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My Hospital Visit

This is where I went!

This is where I went!

By Cecil Hoge

A day after returning from a recent trip to Asia, I fainted in the bathroom and managed to smash my right leg in a couple of places. My wife, who was concerned to see me fall and lose consciousness for a minute or so, insisted that she call the doctor. It was my guess that my fainting was a simple case exhaustion after a 9 day trip to Asia and a cold that I had caught, but my wife thought it was best to be prudent.

From there things went downhill fast. She called my doctor who was not available and ended up speaking to his assistant. The assistant said I should go straight to the Emergency Room and get checked for a stroke or a heart attack. Well, I didn’t think I had either, but my wife is a determined woman who believes in the edict Doctor Knows Best. I don’t, but I also know arguing with my wife over such things is a losing game. Hence, in a very short time, I found myself on the way to the emergency room.

On arriving at the ER , the admitting nurse, a sandy-haired and somewhat balding young man, asked about 3 questions and then called a “code orange” situation. That means that I may have had a stroke. I did not think this was necessary, but it certainly made me feel well-attended.

Immediately, I was whisked into the ER holding room to have blood tests, blood pressure, X-rays and, shortly thereafter, a Cat Scan taken. The attention, though not requested, was quite impressive. Nurses rushed around bringing water, taking vials of blood, hooking me up to an IV and presenting me with a turkey sandwich and a nice plastic receptacle to pee in. Multiple doctors and nurses came in to ask my name and birth. I proudly recited both with lightning speed. I knew their intentions were good and it was their job to ask the same questions time after time. And, true to their profession, they asked my name and birth date about 25 times.

It was only after about an hour of various tests and 10 vials of blood being taken that they announced that I would be admitted to the hospital for observation. I tried to argue that this was unjustified. My arguments were listened to respectfully and then denied. They said a Dr. Roth had determined that I should stay the night for observation. According to a nice young doctor lady named, Dr. Cooper, Dr. Roth was an excellent neurologist and also a very nice lady.

The fun did not stop there. They went on to say that I also needed an MRI of my brain and an Echo Cardiogram of my heart. I could see this was going to be a very exciting day. Personally, I would have preferred to stand up, walk out and leave, but several new doctors arrived to tell me what an imprudent thing that would be. At this point, I was comfortably enscounced on a hospital bed and my wife, who had back and knee issues plaguing her, decided to go home for a short break. After about an hour of munching on my turkey sandwich and drinking some water, some guy showed up and rolled my hospital bed to the MRI room.

There I got onto the MRI Table, put on earplugs and a MRI helmet to cover my brain. Soon I found myself inside the glorious machine which made an incredible racket. I tried to imagine that I was listening to some new, atonal guitarist like Slash or Motörhead, although if it was Slash or Motörhead, I am pretty sure they also wore earplugs. Anyway, after 28 minutes of banging, knocking, screeching, grinding, beeps, bells, dongs at the highest possible decibels, I emerged from the tin can, had the earplugs and helmet removed and was told by a trim Korean lady that the agony was over.

Almost immediately, I was whisked out of the MRI room on my roller bed and told the next stop was the Echo Cardiogram room. A young lady came and then rolled me off. It turned out to be a busy day in the Echo Cardiogram Room, so I was rolled off something called the Nuclear Room. There, in a corner behind a curtain, the nice young lady smeared some goo on my chest and took something that looked like a pestle for pummeling garlic, but was not, since it was metal and had an electric wire sticking out of it. Then she pushed the metal pestle against my chest and began to pummel me for the next 20 minutes while looking at a computer screen. She was kind enough after the procedure was finished to say that she saw nothing bad that she could tell. Of course, she said dutifully, the pictures from the Echo Cardiogram would have to be reviewed by a cardiologist.

After that the real excitement began. I was wheeled to my new home…room 314. There I found a gentleman named Orlando in the next bed with his daughter sitting by his side. A curtain separated out two beds and my bed was next to the window while Orlando’s bed was nearest to the door. For a while things went pretty well. I didn’t hear or see Orlando even though he was in the room with me only a few feet away. His daughter seemed to be pretty jovial, asking her father to think of the medicine a nurse was trying to administer as vodka. That seemed work well as long as his daughter was around. However, things went south once she left.

The first thing I noticed was that Orlando had some kind of bowel problem. This became evident as a succession of nurses came to change his clothes and wash him up two or three times. From the smell of it, I judged the bowel problem to be of the solid variety. And I could tell by the offhand comments of the nurses that they were, as is perfectly understandable, getting fed up with the mess up and clean up routine of Orlando.

Pretty soon a special ringer nurse was brought in. At first I thought he might be a relative, but I finally realized he was a late night nurse brought to help out with the more difficult cases. Pretty soon Benny (that was his name) was doing his very best to take care of Orlando. In doing so, Benny noticed I was watching Fox News about the election. While Fox News is not my favored media, I, being just back from Asia, was eager to catch up on all opinions of each station, so I was moving back and forth between Fox and CNN, soaking up their diametrically opposed opinions. I have to say, horrifying or not, the Presidential Election of 2016 is really interesting.

Anyway, Benny, in between trying to calm down Orlando, started to ask me questions about the election. Who did I think would get elected, Benny asked. I said I was afraid that Trump was going to win. How could he win, asked Benny, Trump hates everybody.

Well, I agreed that Trump did seem to hate everybody, but I still said that I felt that he might really win. For a while Benny and I had a nice conversation on the state of the world and for while, things the room were pretty quiet.

Around 7 pm and while Orlando was still relatively well-behaved, the good Dr. Roth, the lady neurologist, showed up to say that she had looked at my Cat Scan and my brain MRI and had found nothing out of the ordinary. She went on to say that she really no idea why the nurse called it a code orange situation because she could see no evidence from the tests results she had seen of a stroke or of brain damage. That was good news to me and we had nice little conversation about what happened, how I fell, what parts of my knee that I bruised and how it is good to check if you have had a stroke. After about 20 minutes of this nice conversation, she drifted out the room on her to other patients, who no doubt had more pressing needs.

A little after the nice lady Dr. Roth left, Orlando decided to up his game, just as Benny and I the beginning to get into a further conversation on politics. Not only was Orlando asking Benny for more cleanings and more changes of clothing, he was beginning to tell Benny that he had not checked into the hospital and it was all a big mistake. I could see that Benny was having a tough time dealing with his new problem child.

But Orlando, who turned out to be very obstreperous 92 year old man, was not content to leave it at that. You would not think that a 92 year old man could be that difficult, but Orlando was not to be underestimated. Pretty soon Orlando was trying bribe Benny to take him to a hotel and claiming he had been kidnapped. Benny bravely tried to reason with Orlando that it was his own family who had put him in the hospital.

But Orlando was not buying that for a minute and pretty soon he calling out loud for the police to come and rescue him. This went on for a good two hours with other nurses coming in and frantically and Benny and the other nurses trying to reason with Orlando. All efforts failed and Orlando kept up cries of “Help” and “Police”. Again, you would be surprised at the strength and persistence of Orlando.

Now, since Orlando was a 92 year old guy, his voice and physical strength was not as great as a 40 year old man. That said it was enough to keep 3 females nurses and Benny frantic with trying to reason with him and trying to restrain him and trying to keep up with his mess ups and clean ups. Finally, in consideration of the fact that I was an innocent victim who just happened to be in the same room, the nurses had a little pow wow and decided to move me to the only empty room on the floor, room 304. I was very grateful because the cries and antics of Orlando were beginning to wear me down.

As I was being wheeled out, I wished Benny good luck.

Benny was not optimistic.

“Oh, no, I am going to die tonight,” he said as I was being I wheeled out of the room.

I found out, just as I was leaving, that Benny was working overtime, so it was probable that Benny had not much sleep.

I left Orlando and Benny to their pain and was rolled off to the relative quiet of room #304. Here, I kind of struck gold because I was the only human in the room. Considering the fact that this was a very busy night in Mather Hospital, another fact that I learned as I was being wheeled away, I was really lucky to have a room of my own.

This is the wall in my room. If you look closely you can see my recorded blood pressure and heartbeat taken at 8:30pm

This is the wall in my new room. If you look closely you can see my recorded blood pressure and heartbeat taken at 8:30pm, after my TV got working again.

Shortly after getting to room #304, the nice nurse who had rolled me over, came to check in on me. I am guessing she was in her late 50s and, after asking her a few questions, I found out she had been working in Mather Hospital for about 20 years. She was concerned to see if I was now comfortable and she checked on how the various hookups to the portable monitor I was wearing, took my blood pressure, pulse and temperature, all of which were normal. She was concerned to see if the TV in my room was working – it was not – and she promised to call the TV company to make sure they got it working.

I complained about the IV that was still in my arm, even if it was no longer connected to anything. My nice nurse said they could take that out because you never if they might have to administer some medication. I didn’t like the idea of having a catheter sticking in my arm, but there seemed to be no way around having it.

The nice nurse went out of her way to apologize for the behavior of Orlando, saying that it must have been stressful listening to Orlando protest his situation. I said that I thought it was probably far more stressful for the nurses, her, Benny and the other two nurses, having to deal with cleaning and changing and restraining and trying to control Orlando.

Sometimes the patients get that way, especially, the elderly. she said. And then she said something exceedingly strange which made me have some sudden and genuine sympathy for Orlando.

“You know in Florida they don’t give colonoscopies to patients over 75. I don’t know why they give prescribe a colonoscopy for patients over 90. You know, he had a bowel prep. So his bowel problem was caused by the bowel prep that he was given. That’s why he had to be changed so many times.”

It was then that I realized that it was kind strange to order a colonoscopy for a 92 year old man. I mean, what was the point? If the test was negative, what would they say? You can go home. If the test was positive, what would they say? You got colon cancer and maybe you will die. If you are already 92, you probably know you do not have many years to live. So, again, I could not help but wonder why Orlando was having a colonoscopy. I can hope there is some logical reason for that.

Anyway, I was grateful to the nurse for being kind enough to come back and check in on me and give me this somewhat strange information on the plight of Orlando.

I mentioned before that my new room was relatively quiet and that is true. By that I mean, I did not have to listen to the croaking cries of Orlando as he endeavored to get released from the hospital. So in that sense, the room was much quieter. However, after a few minutes in my room, I began to really notice all the other sounds and the spectrum of different noises was truly impressive. There bells and beeps and humming sounds coming from both the various machines in my room and the machines just outside my room and just down the hall.

It seems that in a modern day U.S. Hospital all the patients are hooked up to some kind of machine. Now I was relatively free, being only hooked up to a monitor that kept track of my heartbeat, my CO2 content and my blood pressure. And my monitor was relatively quiet. It only beeped and binged a little bit. In my room, was another monitor that seemed to be a general monitor somehow connected to all the other patient rooms. And if a patient pushed the little button to call a nurse, it would start beeping. And if nurse didn’t come, it would start beeping louder and more frantically and if the nurse did not come for a longer time, the decibel level would increase with each minute.

It was then that I realized that my room was really not as a room meant for patients, but rather it was designed as a nurses station. However, on nights where all the rooms on the the hospital floor were fully occupied, this nurses station was occasionally used as a patient’s room. Hence, my good luck in having my own room.

All this probably meant that this particular room might have been somewhat noisier than the other rooms with patients in them. I say somewhat noisier because in truth all the rooms were inherently noisy, mostly because the many patient were all hooked up to different machines that beeped and whistled and hummed and droned and moaned and whined and made noises that the most brilliant digital musician could only dream about.

Now, by this time it was about one o’clock in the morning, and because evening had set in, there were very few sounds of nurses and doctors on the floor. This made the noises from the various medical machines and equipment really loud and really dominant. And while I was trying to go sleep, I tried think think of what that really like. I came up with the idea that trying to sleep in that hospital room was like trying sleep on the inside of a pinball machine while a pinball game was being played.

So imagine, if you can, a man on a hospital bed inside of a pinball machine with the pinball bouncing off of different parts of the pinball field and a very active and enthusiastic pinballer pushing buttons frantically trying to knock the pinball around my bed while the pinball bounced off of different stations, making maximum decibel bell sounds with bings, and dongs and sirens going off. In short, it was impossible to sleep.

This was not improved by the fact that a nurse showed up at 2am and 6am to take my vitals and several more vials of blood. I suppose this what a modern hospital in the U.S. is. I could not help but wonder to whose benefit all this was? Was it to the benefit of the electrical company powering all these beeping and binging and ringing and buzzing machines while happily charging for the needed electricity, or to the benefit of the makers of all these wonderful high tech monitoring machines keeping track of all the vitals of all the patients, or to the benefit of the nurses and doctors who occasionally looked at the data continuously streaming out these machines, or to the benefit the patients whose vitals were being monitored while they trying to get some sleep among all this clamor.

I did not go around floor and ask each patient if they were able to sleep, so I do not know for a fact who got sleep and who did not. I can only say that I think you would have to be in deep coma to get some rest on that hospital floor.

As you might understand, by the time the morning rolled around and sunlight began to flood into my beeping and binging room, I had long made up my mind to get the hell out of there at the earliest opportunity. So when the nurse brought in the tray with the long dead pears in little cup of goo juice, the Raisin Bran cereal with warm skim milk and the decaf tea which tasted like warm oak leaves, I announced to the nurse that I wanted to her to call my doctors and tell them I wanted to get released as soon as possible.

At first the nurse said it was up to the doctors to decide when I would be released and that they might decide they needed a few more days to observe my condition. But I was ready for nurse because I had used my sleepless night to good purpose. I had gone to the trouble of reading through the nice booklet they provided on patient rights and I immediately pointed out that points #11 and #13 permitted me to refuse all hospital services and to be advised by the doctors of all the reasons that was a bad idea and to then leave the hospital. So, I told the nurse, unless the doctors can give me some actual and valid reason not release me, I was determined to be released that very morning.

Now, this may make you think that I was just as much a trouble-maker as the 92 year old Orlando that I mentioned earlier, but no, I was far more diplomatic. I said I really would like my doctors to sign off on this, to say that it was perfectly all right to leave because after all, after taking a bunch of tests, they found nothing wrong.

Anyway, this approach got the attention of my nurse and while she was very much saying doctors know best, she was still sympathetic to my wish to get released. So she went off to consult one of the doctors who was now coming onto the floor to make her rounds. Soon, a nice young Indian or Pakistani lady Doctor (I preferred not guess which country since the two countries seem to hate each other) came in to try to persuade me that this was unwise. First, she tried to persuade me that I had stroke.

No, I said, I have already had a nice visit the night before with the good doctor Roth. She said my Cat Scan and my brain MRI were both normal and showed no evidence of a stroke.

“Hummh,” said the lady doctor, “Well, we are worried you might have had a heart attack.”

“Why?”, I asked, “Did my EKG or Echo Cardiogram show evidence of a heart attack?”

“Well, the EKG was normal, but I did not know you had an EchoCardiagram. I will have to check that out.”

I told the young lady doctor, who I am sure was trying to be a professional and as responsible as possible, that I was pretty sure my EchoCardiogram would be normal if my EKG was. After all, I had no history of heart problems, I get checked every year for heart or other problems, I don’t take medications, I exercise regularly, I have normal blood pressure, heartbeat and temperature. I then went on to say, if the doctors can tell me one good reason to stay in hospital longer or take other tests, I would listen to that, but if all the tests they had so far were normal, after a Cat Scan, a brain MRI, an EKG, EchoCardiogram and God knows how many tests on the 12 vials of blood I had already given, I am going call this fishing expedition at an end and insist upon leaving the hospital.

The good lady doctor was not happy by this, especially when I asked to get the doctor to review all this in the next two hours. She went off shaking her head in dismay. She had, by the way, beautiful black hair and I was only able to guess that she was either Indian or Pakistani and, as mentioned previously, one has to be careful about suggesting either these nationalities since they hate each other with a passion. And of course, she could be some other nationality. Whatever, she seemed to be a fine young doctor lady, who was a little too prudent for my taste, but no doubt well-intentioned.

As luck would have it, the needed doctors to approve my release did show up around 11am and they did come by. They were headed up by the good Dr. Ahktar. Now with a name like that you think he looked like a terrorist from the Middle East. Not this Dr. Ahktar, he looked more like Princeton graduate. Under his white cloak, he wore snappy collegiate sweater vest, spoke the most fluent American and seemed to have a sandy complexion and sandy hair to go along with his All-American look.

He seemed like a truly nice guy, although he did reiterate that they would love check me out a little more. In any case, he did admit it was true that all the tests they conducted were completely normal and there was no real reason to keep me in hospital any longer. In the end, he signed a release and extracted a promise from me to see my regular doctor within four days.

With great relief, I left the hospital, went home to recoup from the beeps and buzzing and ringing and dinging and binging that seemed to inhabit my head for several more days. How anybody can actually rest and recover in a hospital is beyond my understanding. I can only hope that there is good scientific reason for all the machines and all the noises in a hospital.

In the allotted four days, I did schedule an appointment with my regular doctor, Dr. James Kelly. He kindly saw me, asked what happened. When I told him it was his assistant who recommended me to go to the hospital.

“That’s the best thing you could,” he said, “If you come to our office and for some reason do have a stroke, it will probably be too late to help you. You did the right thing.”

Dr. Kelly then took my temperature, my pulse, my blood pressure, listened my heart, looked in my ears and in my mouth.

“Everything looks normal,” he said.

I asked Dr. Kelly to tell me what the blood tests the hospital conducted told him. I had brought along the hospital report that they gave me when I was released.

“Let’s go through that,” said Dr. Kelly, taking a look at the paperwork that I gave him.

He then went through the 25 or so test results listed on the paper. After stating each test, he ended with two words:

“All normal.” The only thing that was not quite normal was cholesterol level.

“This really isn’t pertinent to these these tests, but your cholesterol level is really good – 117 over 56.”

I was glad to hear all of this. I then told Dr. Kelly that I thought my passing out and hitting my knee on the bathroom floor was probably the result of being tired from my trip to Asia, having a cold and taking Contac.

No doubt, that was what it was, said Dr. Kelly. He then went on to volunteer this:

“You know, years ago, when I went to church as a kid, every Sunday, someone would faint in the church. And what did they do? The priest would give whoever fainted some water, tell them to sit down in a pew for 20 minutes and then send them home. That was it. It was a different time.”

That reminded me that I had fainted in church on two separate when I around 14.

“It’s all the lawyers.” Dr. Kelly volunteered, “That’s why the doctors give you all these tests. If there were no lawyers or they just put a cap on liability insurance, they would give you half the tests and you have been out of the hospital in less than two hours.”

This led to a different track. I had come to my own conclusion that giving me all these tests must be pretty expensive. I was thinking $10,000 or $15,000 for the day I was in the hospital and the various tests I was given.

I asked Dr. Kelly what he thought the cost for my visit might be. He did not hesitate to answer.

“$25,000 to $30,000,” he said, “And you know, it goes on all day long, every day, people coming to the ER, getting all sorts of tests done, most them just because the doctors know if they do not prescribe the tests, they will be sued by the lawyers. The system is broken and I don’t see it getting fixed.”

I left the good doctor Kelly on that note. I must say this experience, both the visit to the hospital and my talk with Doctor Kelly set me to thinking.

As far as I can tell Obamacare or whatever system we put in place of it, just does not have a chance to ever be reasonable in cost. Nor is it likely to ever offer patients the best possible service. Our system almost seems setup to subvert that from happening.

I can say without question that I think it was important to check out what happened to me. It is no stretch of imagination to think that I might have had stroke or even a heart attack, especially for a man of my present age (74). So clearly it is important to check out some health event and see if it is serious. And certainly doing this without questioning and as fast as possible, is also equally important.

That said, the system a patient is confronted with today is clearly vastly expensive and vastly over-protective. There must be, there should be, a better and less expensive way to quickly and quietly determine if someone is having a stroke or a heart attack without the fear of thousands of lawyers suing for and against what happens or what did not happen. It is truly a broken system.

One can only hope a better way is found forward in the future.


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Hoge’s Horehound Honey

This is a Healthy Looking Customer of my Great, Great Grandfather

This is a Healthy Looking Customer of my Great, Great Grandfather

By Cecil Hoge

My father told me that his great grandfather, one William Hoge, sold honey in England. I never paid much attention to this story until one day my wife came across some information about that business. She found it on the internet. It seems that nothing ever dies, it just goes to the internet. There she found reproductions of some old ads from my great, great grandfather’s business that he ran in the late 1800s.

It turns out that he must have been a great marketing expert of the time because here it is almost 150 years later and somehow reproductions of his advertising efforts are on the internet. In looking at the poster shown above and the ad shown below, a couple of things are evident. He seems to have believed deeply in his product. He talks about his horehound honey in the most glowing terms.

This is an early testimonial ad of my great, great grandfather from the late 1800s

This is an early ad of my great, great grandfather with testimonials from the late 1800s

In the beginning of the advertisement above, my great, great grandfather talks about the “Bee Pasturage.” I gather that he got his honey from California, which at the time must have been an ideal place to harvest certain kinds of of honey. He starts in his advertisement by explaining what a wonderful location California is for bee cultivation:

“New countries, where the natural luxuriance of plants is not checked by the grazing of domestic animals, are particularly favorable to bee culture, and when Hoge first visited California, he found it one sweet bee-garden throughout its entire length, north and south, and all across from the snowy Sierra to the ocean.”

Today if you visited those same areas, I am pretty sure you will find things have changed, that the entire length of California is no longer “one sweet bee-garden”. But I guess when my great, great grandfather first visited California it truly was.

Listen to my great, great grandfather’s description of what must have been the pure and pristine wilderness of California at the time –

“Wherever a bee might fly within the bounds of the virgin wilderness – throughout the forest, along the banks of the river, along the bluffs and headlands fronting the sea, over valley and plain, and deep leafy glen, or far up the piney slopes of the mountains, throughout every belt and section of climate – bee-flowers bloomed in lavish abundance.”

I can only wish it were so today. I will grant there are some areas of California that probably still fit this description.

My great, great grandfather goes on to wax even more poetic –

“During the months of March, April and May, what is known as the bee belt of Southern California is one smooth continuous bed of honey-bloom, so marvelously rich that walking from one end to the other, a distance of more than four hundred miles, your feet press more than one hundred flowers at every step.”

Here again, I think William Hoge might be surprised by the same stretch of territory today. I would think he would have to walk over many highways and streets and parking lots to get to any places where he crushed one hundred flowers with every step. But one hundred and fifty years ago, it must have been something like that, before the discovery of oil, before Hollywood, before vast housing constructions, before super malls, before high rise buildings, before vast warehouses and factories feeding and servicing the needs of more than twenty million people presently residing in California.

But my great, great grandfather’s description of California bee country in the 1870s does not stop there –

“Extending far out in the vast prairie, its unbroken bosom is often found to be one perpetual carpet of horehound flowers, lasting from spring until autumn. All the seasons are warm and temperate, so that honey never ceases to flow from this plant, which yields a profusion of blossoms almost unequalled in the vegetable kingdom. We can judge of their luxuriance, when there grows upon a slender unobtrusive little bush upwards of 3000 blossoms five-eights of an inch in diameter. Each of these are reservoirs that yield them of a wonderful remedy in the world for the cure of coughs, sore throats, sore lungs, & c. – horehound honey. These miniature laboratories stamp with faultless certainty this honey with a color and flavor peculiar to itself.”

William Hoge then ends his love poem to his honey with the following:

“The work of the honey-bee is to gather the sweet treasure so divinely prepared, and bear it off, saying to suffering humanity, “Eat! It is the soul of the Blossom.”

I have written many an advertisement in my time, but I am amazed by the beauty and majesty of my great, great grandfather’s advertising copy.

This is a copy of another ad by my great, great grandfather in the November, 1884 issue of Harper's Magazine

This is a copy of another ad by my great, great grandfather in the November, 1884 issue of Harper’s Magazine

Not only do the old poster reproductions for Hoge’s Horehound Honey, like the one at the beginning of this article and just above, show healthy people endorsing his products, his testimonial ads would go on, after romancing the benefits of bee culture, to talk about the health benefits that his horehound honey brings to opera singers, actors, statesmen, clergymen and everyday people. Citing the health benefits his product brings, these testimonials must have been powerful persuasion for those days. Here a few examples:

The ad relates that the Lord Mayor of London had purchased 6 jars of Hoge’s Horehound Honey, which had been “well-recommended to him.”

But that is only the beginning of many praises from customers. A Prima Donna of the Day, one Marie Rose-Mapleson, is quoted as saying, in the stilted lingo of the day:

“Gentlemen, I have much pleasure in stating that I consider your “Horehound Honey” the most wonderful remedy I have ever tried, possessing properties which are nothing short of marvelous, for the cure of affections of the throat and chest. I shall never be without a bottle of Horehound Honey.”

Now that is a testimonial. I am not quite sure what affections of the throat and chest are, but whatever the are, they seemed to go away with some of my great, great grandfather’s honey. And if you look closely at the first picture above, you will see that the smiling lady  (whose name is E. Darren) has written in her own handwriting that considers Hoge’s Horehound Honey to be an excellent cure for hoarseness.

Then there is the testimony of one Louise Liebert who states,

“Dear Sirs, I have the great pleasure in bearing testimony to the excellence of your “Horehound Honey” for the throat and the voice. I have used, and use it now at intervals, as I found it, for my voice, of great value, and therefore, I can recommend it from my own experience, especially to singers.”

But the the good grades just keep coming in. A Geo. M. Smith states,

“I was troubled for a long time with a bad cough, which I feared was becoming chronic. I used your “Horehound Honey” and gave it a fair trial. I am happy to be able to tell you that it quite relieved me, and I recommend it as a certain cure.”

Then there is the further words of one G.F. Black,

“Having suffered for many years with irritation of the throat and chest, I never found any remedy to relieve the irritation until I purchased a bottle of your “Horehound Honey,” which I did a few days since. I want to inform you it had a wonderful soothing effect, affording relief at once. Please send me one dozen bottles and oblige yours truly.”

Now I come from a long family line of advertising men. My grandfather, Huber Hoge, had his own advertising company, called Huber Hoge Advertising, founded in 1919 in New York City. My father continued this tradition and had his own advertising agency called Huber Hoge and Sons Advertising at 699 Madison Avenue late forties and early fifties. And my brother and I still continue to produce advertising in many different forms…print ads, videos, banner ads, Google Adwords, catalogs, etc. all of that said, it seems my great, great grandfather was ahead of us all already in the marketing world of the 1880s.

My father was a man who knew the value of marketing. In his time, he sold an amazing array of products, from ladies dress forms to fishing lures, to dance lessons, to pocket adding machines, to live roses you could plant in your garden. To promote fishing lures, he developed a tank with water in it. It had a little motor on top that dragged a fishing lure around in a circle. That showed the swimming action of the lure. That worked so well he increased the number of displays to 3 tanks with water and 3 little motors dragging around 3 little fishing lures, each showing the swimming action of each fishing lure. That worked so well, that he developed a display with 10 tanks with water and 10 motors dragging around 10 fishing lures.

And that worked really well for some time. He sold over 3,000 of these huge displays – it took up over 10′ of space in fishing or department store and it sold hundred of thousands of lures. Well, everything has its rise and fall and that was also true of my father’s 10 Tank Display. It seemed it had one little flaw – two, if you count the people tending to the upkeep of the displays. The one flaw was that the water tended to become green over time and the lures tended to disappear as algae formed in the tank. Flaw number two was the humans in each store who looked on complacently while the great marketing display, first sold thousands of lures and then gradually turned cloudy and green, until at last all that could be seen was dark green water and ominous looking blob running around in an endless circle. Ah, the best dream of mice and men fail on the smallest details.

DYNAMITE - Handle As Though - That did the trick!

DYNAMITE in LARGE TYPE – Handle As Though in tiny type  – That did the trick!

Speaking of the best laid plans of mice and men, my great, great grandfather apparently had some issue with the Long Shore men of London unloading his Horehound Honey from California. Apparently, the gentlemen at the port were manhandling his honeycombs. As usual, my great, great grandfather came up with an unusual solution. He had his honeycombs packed in wooden boxes, which looked just like the boxes containing dynamite and he marked his boxes in big letters with the word “DYNAMITE”. In small, almost unreadable type below the word “DYNAMITE” he added the words: “Handle as Though”. That apparently solved his damage problem and thereafter his honeycombs arrived from the virgin forests of California in absolutely pristine condition. It takes an unusual solution to solve a usual problem.

Speaking of unusual solutions, my father told me about a unique marketing system my great, great grandfather developed in the 1880s. It seemed his poster and testimonial ads were not quite delivering the growth and sales he had hoped so he struck on a brilliant new marketing system. That was to hire 19 ball headed guys. Each of these guys had one letter painted on their head. So guy number one had an H. Guy number two had an O. Guy number three had a G. And Guy number four had an E. Guy number five had an ‘S. This meant the first five guys spelt the name HOGE’S. And the other fourteen guys had fourteen other letters painted on their heads and when all 19 bald headed guys put their heads together and leaned forward, they spelt HOGE’S HOREHOUND  HONEY.

That still does not tell you what William Hoge did with the 19 guys with 19 letters painted on their bald heads. So here is how my great, great grandfather’s marketing program worked. It seemed in London in the 1880s many of the major theaters were located relatively close to each other. So my great, great grandfather made a deal with several of the local theaters and sent these 19 bald-headed guys around to each of these theaters. The 19 guys would arrive just before the theater curtain was going up, march up on stage, stand is a designated line-up, and then, while the orchestra played some tulmultuous introductory music and announcer said the following:

“Ladies and gentlemen, may we present you for consideration HOGE’S HOREHOUND HONEY.”

At that moment the 19 bald-headed guys would lean their heads forwards an expose the 19 letters painted on their heads.

HOGE’ HOREHOUND HONEY – It must been quite a sight and I would guess it drew a few oohs and aahs.

After the 19 guys did their performance art at one theater, they would walk down the block and go into the next theater and repeat the performance. I do not know how many theaters they did this in, but I gather it was several each night.

I have no statistics on my great, great grandfather’s honey sales resulting from his bald-headed marketing program. I gather for a while his honey enjoyed great fortune and fame and then, like many things, eventually got taken over and merged into a larger food marketing company. I am thinking that the endless fields of bee blossoms once covering California from the north to south from the sea to the mountains have now been mostly over-run by shopping malls, parking lots, city centers, factories, thruways, housing developments, oil rigs and water parks.

I am sure there are still places in California, rural and pristine, where it is true that a man cannot walk a step without crushing a hundred bee flowers, but I am guessing they are pretty rare. I also know if it is true that there is a special heaven for great marketers of the past, my great, great grandfather is there reclining on a lounge chair with a cool tall drink and the buzzing of bees and blooming fragrant flowers all around him.

All of this makes me want to get a bottle of Hoge’s Horehound Honey. If anybody knows where I can find one, please let me know.

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On The Deceptive Beauty of our Waterways


View of Stony Brook Harbor

By Cecil Hoge

The waterways within 10 miles of my house are supremely beautiful. Above you will see a picture of the back bay of Stony Brook Harbor. That waterway is very scenic, with intricate marsh pathways wending off in different directions. Because it is shallow, tidal and heavily reeded with hardy saltwater grasses sticking out of the water, it is not suited for big motorboats dragging towables or knee boarders or water skiers. It is therefore ideal for kayaks and standup paddleboards, especially if you wish to paddle over quiet, scenic waterways without having to hear the sound of outboard motors or negotiate the wake of big motorboats.

If you drive around Dyke Road to get to my house in Strong’s Neck and you happen to look to the right out at the bay as you go by, you will probably also be struck by the great beauty of that little bay, especially if you look at a section that appears to have no houses. In the summer, with the surrounding deciduous trees fully foliated in luscious green, the shimmering summer light sparkling off of tiny waves and gentle summer breeze flitting across the surface of the blue/green water, it can be a sight to behold. A wonderful aspect of the deciduous trees and foliage surrounding the bay is that the surrounding houses, which are so visible and prominent in winter when there are no leaves and no green foliage, almost disappear and blend in with the green trees and foliage.

With Summer Foliage One Would Almost Think Your Are In A Remote Wilderness

With Summer Foliage One Would Almost Think You Are In A Remote Wilderness

If, however, you drive on the same Dyke Road to my house and you look out over the same bay and the tide happens to be low (it empties completely twice a day for four hours at a time), you may notice something else that you may wonder at. And that will be a green cover to the mud bottom of the bay. This too is scenic in its own way and no doubt many an onlooker is equally at ease with that visage. This is green algae growing on the bottom of the bay.

View from my house at low tide

View from my house at low tide – the green algae extends to the other side of the bay

And if,  you paddle or row on a daily basis as I do, you will note that the appearance of the water changes daily and that is often quite different than the view from afar. I happen to live on a small cove that is at the end of Little Bay. As such, it is the last place that the tide and water arrive. Because of this, much of what is laying on the surface of the bay is picked and pushed into my tiny cove. This view, up close, can be unsettling. Often one sees a kind of oily brown scum covering the surface of the water with brown, suspicious glutinous spots and large green blobs of algae.

And when I go paddling, I often find the arc of my paddle or oars being slowed by globs of algae. This was not always the case. When I first start paddling or rowing on my little bay, I did not see algae or hit algae with my paddle or oar. Thirty years ago the waters were clear of algae and while not crystal clear, they were usually clean enough to see the bottom of the bay, even when the 7 to 9 foot tide was fully in.

Another difference that I have noticed over the last 30 years is the steady decline in the number of fish, crabs and minnows that I see each time I go for a paddle or a row. Years ago, the bay I am on was teeming with fish, crabs and minnows. In the spring, male horseshoe crabs would appear, mate with female horseshoe crabs and then die, as is their fate, after mating. This often meant that the bay had floating corpses of horseshoe crabs. And almost always when you went in shallow areas of our bay, you would see living horseshoe crabs working their way over the bottom.

Striped bass would also come into our bay in May and June and sometimes you would see them jumping and splashing everywhere in the bay. In the summer, if you were paddling you would see blue shell crabs swimming in front and behind you. In the late summer, the bay would become crowded with snappers (baby bluefish), jumping and splashing everywhere in the bay. Today none of that happens, although I will admit to seeing a few horseshoe crabs every now and then.

In my cove, in the spring and summer, turtles come in and you can see their heads sticking just above the water. You can hear them plopping their bodies off of the dock or a log into the water when I arrive. And in truth, I have to admit the turtles do show up and they have been present even this summer. By the way, in honor of these turtles, I have named my house Turtle Cove. So not all is in decline.

This summer (2016), I have noticed something new that I do not remember ever seeing. And that is dark reddish brown areas of water as I paddle along. These areas can be quite 75 by 100 feet and they seem to be in my bay, Little Bay, and in Setauket Bay. The areas of reddish brown water appear as you paddle along, with the water turning from a murky dark blue to a reddish dark brown. It is as if you have just paddled across a different waterway where the color of the water is strikingly different. I don’t know what causes this, but I am pretty sure it is not natural. These areas seem to be in different parts of the two bays, so as you paddle along, you find yourself paddling in water that turns from muddy blue to muddy, dark reddish brown. Whatever it is, I do not think it is a sign of healthy bay water.

If you read some of the histories of Long Island, you will find references to flocks of birds flying overhead and darkening the sky for 20 and 30 minutes at a time, to the extent it almost becomes pitch black outside on a sunny day. We still are blessed with many birds…swans, Canada geese, great white herons, great blue herons, egrets, kingfish, loons, ducks and cormorants line the four bays of Port Jefferson Harbor and if they are not there in their previous numbers, they are still there in all parts of the bay. And no doubt they would not be present if there were not some fish and some vegetation to feed on.

There was a local historian named Kate Strong who was alive when we first moved to Strong’s Neck and she wrote from 1937 to 1976 a series of stories about Long Island called Tales of Old Long Island. I read some of those tales and I remember one story where the local residents were complaining about the terrible swimming conditions in Setauket Bay. Apparently, Setauket Bay and the other bays forming Port Jefferson Harbor were infested with lobsters. Not only were these creatures a severe danger to the toes and fingers of local residents, but apparently these creatures served no useful purpose other than being chopped up and used as fish bait. Apparently, the habit of cooking lobsters and considering them to be a delicacy was to take place in the future.

Today our bays are no longer infested with useless lobsters. Each of the last ten years has brought more vegetation, more algae and more murkiness to my little cove and to the interconnected bays of Port Jefferson Harbor. And in each of the last years, I have seen less fish, less crabs and no lobsters. Part of this may be due to a simple fact of declining visibility. Today the waters of our bays are far murkier than they once were. Often when paddling or rowing it is impossible to see my paddle or oar blade even when it just 5″ or 10″ below the surface of the water.

Look closely and you may see my oar just below the surface of the water - It is almost a good day.

Look closely and you may see my oar just below the surface of the water – It is almost a good day.

The waters that lead up to my house were never truly clear and pristine as long as I have lived here. The complex of bays that form Port Jefferson Harbor consists of Conscience Bay, Port Jefferson Bay, Setauket Bay and Little Bay, the bay that my house is situated on. These bays have always been dirtier than the waters in Long Island Sound, just outside the harbor and its connected bays. Over 30 years ago, it was reported that Stony Brook University was dumping raw sewage directly into Port Jefferson Bay and no doubt this fact has continually compromised the quality of the water.

It is my understanding that this sewage is now treated and that treated sewage, not raw sewage, is being pumped into Port Jefferson Harbor. Perhaps, this is creating the reddish brown areas that I am came across recently. It is also my understanding that Stony Brook University had planned to run the treated sewage pipe out into Long Island Sound so sewage, treated or untreated, was being dumped directly into Long Island Sound and not being dumped directly into Port Jefferson Harbor. As far as I know, this has not been done and treated sewage from Stony Brook University is still being pumped daily into Port Jefferson Harbor.

Further complicating the water quality situation of the Port Jefferson waterways is the presence of an oil burning electrical plant in Port Jefferson Harbor. This electrical plant is a large source of air-borne pollution, emitting thousands of tons of soot and chemicals each year into the air according to an article in a local newspaper that appeared some years ago. No doubt some of the soot, the gases and the chemical particles coming from the plant fall back down onto the houses and into the waterways surrounding the Port Jefferson/Setauket area. So, it is fair to say, that I have always known that our waterways were tainted and comprised for at least the last 30 years.

That said, the water quality of our bays has gotten progressively worse despite persistent reports in the local press that it would soon get far better. About 10 years ago, widespread algae has begun to appear. First in little and far between clumps and later in denser and heavier clumps all throughout the 4 bays that comprise Port Jefferson Harbor. As mentioned, this most conspicuously evident at low tide in my bay when you can clearly see green algae growth covering most of the bay. In the spring and early summer, algae gathers in big clumps and floats on the surface of bay. As the summer continues and the various Mastercrafts and other high power ski boats make their rounds around Little Bay, the dense clumps of algae tend to get chopped up into smaller pieces and are dispersed throughout the four bays. Each spring, despite being chopped into little bits by large boats used to tow water skiers, tubers and kneeboarders, the clumps of algae seem to get bigger and denser and spread farther throughout the bays.

I do not know if algae is as great a problem in Stony Brook and Mt. Sinai harbors. Certainly, I can see evidence of algae in these bays at low tide times. These two harbors are just a few miles east and west of Port Jefferson Harbor. My belief is that Stony Brook and Mt. Sinai waterways are basically cleaner and healthier waterways. This is probably because there are fewer houses surrounding those waterways, because they do not have treated sewage being dumped into them and because they have less pollution from the National Grid electrical plant in Port Jefferson. All of that said, all the waterways surrounding Long Island Sound, whether on Long Island or in Connecticut, suffer from various forms of pollution and the two culprits that I just pointed out are by no means a complete list of all the problems inflicting damage on the water quality of my local bays.

When the press writes about the problem of pollution of Long Island waterways, they like to blame one or two causes, although generally they do not usually mention the two causes I just mentioned above. A very popular culprit to blame these days is nitrates coming from our cesspools. I have no doubt this is also one of the contributing causes of pollution in our waterways. Recently, I read an article in a local paper citing the apparent fact there are some 432,000 cesspools in Suffolk County alone. The paper was suggesting that all the cesspools need to be rebuilt so nitrates do not seep into the ground. And I have no doubt rebuilding and replacing all the cesspools in Suffolk County if properly outfitted with devices to eliminate nitrates would help reduce nitrates. The paper said this could be done for a cost of about $8,500,000,000.

Apparently, some of our local legislators are very enthusiast about this solution and I have no doubt why. Eight and half billion dollars is a pretty good contract for somebody and I am guessing it might allow a buck or two to come back to some people who might be influential in  requiring that all cesspools in Suffolk County to be rebuilt and replaced. And while I have no doubt this would prove to be some very good business for some people, I am guessing that it will not solve the total problem of pollution in our waterways. For one thing, replacing all the cesspools in Suffolk County would not reduce the pollution from Stony Brook University dumping treated sewage into Port Jefferson Harbor or from soot and chemicals falling from the sky from the Port Jefferson Electrical plant.

And even if you solved all three of these problems, there are other causes also contributing to the pollution of our waterways. I will cite a few other factors contributing to the problem of pollution…fertilizer and insecticides from homes and farms, gas and oils from automobiles driving down our roads, oil and gas seeping from gas stations and oil storage facilities into the ground water, various forms of pollution seeping into our ground water from our local factories and local businesses. It is not necessary to name names, whether it be bus companies parking buses, some of which drip oil and gas onto the parking lot, whether it be certain chemical companies producing some by products that somehow get into the groundwater, the fact is that eventually any and all chemicals that get dumped onto or fall onto the ground flow into our ponds, our lakes, our rivers, our bays and, eventually, into our ocean.

In short, I think a good case could made that there are dozens, if not hundreds of sources of pollution affecting our waterways. And in truth, this is only a natural effect of putting several million people on an island and letting them go about their business in all the ways that people go about there business.

This the Melville Mill Pond in Setauket - once upon a time is was clear of algae. In the last two years it has become quite literally clogged with algae.

This the Melville Mill Pond in Setauket – once upon a time it was clear of algae. In the last two years it has become quite literally clogged with algae. Shall we change the name to Green Pond?

I would like to cite another local example of what is happening to our waterways. Above you will see what used to be called the Melville Mill Pond. As you can see, it is now completely covered with a bright green algae. In a way, it is still beautiful. The DayGlo green color of the algae blends nicely with the green foliage and the blue sky, so you might even argue that it is still beautiful and scenic.

What I think is kind of strange is that this is a park that people come to walk around and take pictures of each other posing by this pond. In the summer, when many weddings take place, you will see wedding parties, brides and grooms, posing by this little pond, now brightly colored with an almost luminous DayGlo green color. I wonder what they think? Do they think this is what a pond is supposed look like? Do they remember seeing this pond when it was not covered with bright green algae? Surely some of the older people must remember what it originally looked like when swans and ducks and herons went there, when local fisherman used to try their luck fishing for trout and other freshwater fish that used to be in the pond.

I would guess that whatever fish there used to be there are now gone and this little waterway now officially close to dead.

If you go to the website for the Frank Melville Memorial Park, there will mention of the fact that the pond is dying and choked with algae. According to the website, a group of experts has been appointed and they are studying the problem. In the meantime, there is an opportunity to become a friend of the park on Facebook. Well, I hope the experts come to a conclusion soon because I think time is not our their side. I would modestly suggest that a simple, but drastic solution to this problem, would to get some people in a few small boats and literally rake off the algae once or twice a year. I am no expert, but I guessing this drastic solution would alleviate the problem while the experts debate on the best long-term solution to the problem.

I cite these examples of my bay and the local pond because it is clear to me that our waterways are in deep trouble. At the same time, it is also clear to me that not many people are concerned about this problem – I cite the fact of people walking around Melville Pond Park as an example of that. Surely some of the people know what they are looking at.

And I suppose there are many good reasons why this is not a priority in all our lives. Most of us have enough difficulty in just in surviving…getting by day by day, meeting our bills, trying to get the kids into good schools, trying to pay our mortgages and taxes. And while I may point out these problems with our waterways, I cannot in truth say that I am doing anything myself to resolve them. And there is one last point, which is the point I made at the beginning of this article, when we drive around the North Shore in summer, everything is green and scenic, and even ponds clogged with algae look kind of beautiful in there own way.

The reason I bring up this issue is that while it is obviously a local problem here on Long Island, I believe it is also a problem all across this country. Recently, I returned from Orlando, Florida. This year, Florida suffered from some severe algae and outbreaks of red and brown tides n both the east and west coast of Florida. Coming into Orlando by air, one can see the green algae covering lakes and ponds in and around Orlando. This is clearly visible by air. In speaking to some fishermen who were recently fishing on the Gulf Coast side of Florida, they described the red tide that was plaguing that coast as a thick, poisonous goo that covered the bay waters and made fishing nearly impossible. Moreover, it was emitting a toxic gas that actually stung the eyes and made it hard to breath.

It really does not matter what part of the country you go to, whether it be an inland pond or lake, a white water river, a large reservoir, many parts of the country, our waterways suffer to a greater or lesser degree reduced water quality and increased forms of pollution. In many cases, this has had a dramatic effect on the fish stocks in the affected waterways. I mention this because fish is a staple food in the human diet. We are likely to miss it, if it is no longer available.

So the big question comes is what do we do about this situation? Do we ignore it or do we wait for someone to solve this problem or do we allow some politician to require the replacement of all our cesspools, even though that will solve only one part of the real problem?

I would like to mention that while I can visibly see the deterioration of our waterways and while I can point to many visible and tangible evidences of the decline of our waterways, I do not believe this situation is unsolvable or hopeless. There are, in fact, many instances where we have turned around fish declines and reduced greatly the pollution facing some waterways. I would like mention a few notable cases. In the Northeast, where ten years ago the striped bass population had declined severely, by instituting a cap on the number of fish that can be harvested per angler and enacting rules against dumping into the oceans and Long Island Sound, the striped bass population has come back in a big way and the fishery is far healthier than it has been in the last 30 years.

In another rather curious example of how waterways and fisheries can come back, in Lake Erie and Ontario where the waters had suffered from chemicals been dumped into these lakes, where algae had become common and where there was great concern that zebra clams would get into the waterways and clog up the harbors and halt the workings of dams and electrical plants, the zebra clams did succeed in getting the waterways and did expand and become endemic throughout both lakes. What was the result: strangely those two lakes became far cleaner and the fish populations, which had been in severe decline, came back and began to flourish once again. Why? Because it turns out that zebra clams filter water faster than almost any kind of shellfish and where their populations explode, their ability to clean the water also explodes. And today, the fishing is better in those two lakes than it has been in the last forty years and the lakes are far cleaner. Go figure.

In the Delaware River, where that river had been the dumping ground of various chemical and industrial factories built up along the river, new environmental rules greatly reduced the number and quantity of chemicals dumped into that river and today many parts of Deleware River are far cleaner than they have been in over 50 years. In fact, trout fishing, which had been almost eliminated in parts of the Delaware, is today also better than it has been in 50 years in many areas.

The lesson in citing these examples is that waterways can get better, just as they can get worse, fisheries can get better, just as they can collapse, new species can alter and improve the health of a waterway, just as some species or life forms, such as algae, can destroy a waterway.

My belief is, if we are to make real progress about this problem, we will have to delevop dozens and possibly hundreds of solutions to it, not just one or two. I do not think there is one silver bullet that will solve all the problems facing our waterways, but I do think a wide variety of different approaches and solutions can, when taken together, greatly improve these problems. I would also like to say that whatever the solutions they will have to be applied on a local bay by bay, river by river, pond by pond, waterway by waterway basis. Why? Because each waterway is different and each waterway may have to be addressed differently to solve their specific problems.

I would like to suggest some partial solutions to the waterways of Port Jefferson Harbor. Certainly, I think we will need to restrict and reduce the amount of chemicals being dumped into those waterways. In a number of cases, this has already been done, with rules    requiring 4-stroke motors and rules outlawing and banning certain chemicals. I am guessing that more has to be done in a variety of ways. New types of chemicals for washing clothes, for cleaning floors, for fertilizing gardens and farms, for killing insects have to be developed that are less toxic and less harmful to the environment.

And yes, better cesspools have to developed that reduce the seepage of all the chemicals we put into waters, whether from our homes, our factories or from our farms. I doubt it is practical or possible to mandate the replacement of all our cesspools, but it is probably practical to mandate that new cesspools have new controls on them and as old cesspools have to be replaced, to replace them with more efficient cesspools that better contain all waste materials we put into them.

I think towns surrounding the bays of Port Jefferson, should take an active role in re-introducing oysters and clams and other shellfish that can clean our waterways. The fact that clams and oysters and other shellfish naturally filter and cleanse our waters should be artificially stimulated, meaning we need active programs that plant and tend to the introduction and cultivation of shellfish in our waterways. I would like to cite the fact that at one time the Great South Bay provided 75% of all the clams served in restaurants in America. I would like to cite the fact that during the 1800s and the early 1900s there were over 10,000 oyster bars in New York City alone. Simply reintroducing the shellfish that were in our bays and waterways could go a long way to cleaning up our waterways.

Unfortunately, I believe it probably goes beyond just planting oyster and clam seed beds. Those oysters and clams will have to be tended to and active aquaculture farms will need to be set up. This probably means setting aside in our waterways areas where this is actively done and setting up a system to tend and monitor the development of shellfish.

I would like to suggest a controversial concept which I think could help the specific waterways of Port Jefferson. At the present time, these waterways have only one inlet to Long Island Sound, I think if one or two additional inlets were created it would allow the waterways of Port Jefferson Harbor to better clean themselves. I am sure that there will be homeowners who will be concerned that these same inlets could let in more water during hurricanes and storms. Probably so, but I believe in the long run it would be healthier for our waterways of Port Jefferson to have two or three inlets, rather than just one.

Sometimes, this kind of solution is provided by Mother Nature herself. On the South Shore of Long Island, a new inlet was opened up a few years ago, courtesy of Hurricane Sandy. In the case of Port Jefferson Harbor, I think it would take a really large and violent hurricane. I would prefer a man made solution.

I would like to suggest another controversial idea that could better clean the four bays that comprise Port Jefferson Harbor. At present, Strong’s Neck is a peninsula of land sticking out between Little Bay and Conscience Bay. If a water passageway was cut through from Little Bay to Conscience Bay and a small bridge was built to allow homeowners to get to their homes on Strong’s Neck, I believe the both Little Bay and Conscience Bay could better clean themselves and all the waterways of Port Jefferson Harbor would be cleaner and healthier.

I also think think selective dredging could help our waterways to better better clean themselves and better allow clams, oysters, crabs and fish to thrive in our waterways. Dredging, of course, is a dirty word and no doubt the process of dredging poses potential harm to the waterways it is being done in. An important concern is where the dredged material is being dumped. At this moment, the State of New York is threatening to sue the State for Connecticutt because Connecticutt wants to dredge its harbors and rivers and dump the dredged material into Long Island Sound for the next 30 years. It is believed, probably correctly, that if dredged materials were dumped into Long Island Sound for the next 30 years, it would do great harm to Long Island Sound.

I do not know what the proper solution to the dredging problem is, but it seems clear that all of our waterways tend to silt up over time and these silt deposits also tend to contain chemicals of all kinds. I am thinking some creative solution needs to be brought to this problem, such as taking the dredged material and creating some kind new kind of cement with it. Or maybe we can dump some of the dredged material on certain selected landfill  areas and create a new ski resort or a water park or something else unique and beneficial.

In this vein, I would like to turn to the problem of algae. I understand that in France they are making certain kinds perfume from algae. I do not know what is in our algae, but I am guessing it is useful for something. Maybe, it can be made into a new kind of less toxic fertilizer, maybe it can be used to make a new kind of concrete, maybe it can be made into a new kind of super food. I do not know, but I am guessing it can be used and made into something.

If so, then algae could be harvested once or twice a year and the gathered material made into something useful and then maybe our waterways would clearer and the green pond that I showed picture of might become a clear and open pond teaming with fish and frogs and turtles and and birds and other wildlife once again. I suppose reading this, it might seem like a wild and impossible idea, but algae is a form of life and I think we may be better able to re-purpose it than to just let it cover our pond, lakes and bays.

You might ask why am I taking the trouble to make what may seem like rediculous suggestions. I am thinking we live on an island. I am thinking in the not so distant past we have lost electrical power for various periods of time, in storms, in blackouts, in hurricanes. In the past, we have never lost power for much more than two weeks, but as little as three years ago, we all saw what damage a storm like Sandy could do. And while that storm did quite a bit of damage, it should also be recognized that a full blown hurricane, if it was ever to hit us head-on on an incoming tide might do a great deal more damage.

And of course, that is only one threat we might face in the future. We all remember when the World Trade Center buildings came down. We all have heard of the danger of a dirty bombs. What if, for example, Long Island lost power and access by car and truck to Long Island was not possible for an extended period. What would happen? There are, at last count, something over 3,000,000 people on Long Island. What if all 3,000,000 people had no power, not for a few days, but for a few months? What if there was no access on or off Long Island for an extended period of time?

My guess is that people might really miss the fish, the shellfish, the crabs that they are already missing. At that time, they may wish they paid a little more attention to the deceptive beauty of our waterways and had done something to restore the health of the fisheries that used to surround us.

UPDATE 9/22/16 – “State to fund Setauket Harbor Improvements”

That is the headline from a September article in the The Village Times Herald. This article goes on to relate that the Cornell Cooperative Extension had just done a study of Setauket Harbor and had “turned up troubling results.” The article went on to quote Laurie Vetere, chairwoman of for the Setauket Harbor Task Force “that Setauket Harbor has significant water quality issues caused by road runoff from rain water flooding into the harbor after storms.”

This was interesting and encouraging to me since it named a new obvious culprit – runoff of chemicals from storm water – and it did not say the cesspools was the sole culprit, although they obviously contribute to the overall problem.

The article went on to say that Setauket Harbor had secured a one million dollar grant from New York State, which is to be divided three ways:

1. Half of the one million dollars will go to the improvement of dock.

2. Forty percent ($400,000) would be used on storm water improvements.

3. The remaining $100,000 will be used to remove silt that has accumulated in the harbor and it water sources.

It will be fascinating to find out:

1. If this money actually gets turned over for use in Setauket Harbor.

2. What specifically the one million dollars accomplishes.

In any case, it is an interesting development and I hope that it accomplishes some actual good results. I would question what $500,000 improvement to the Setauket Harbor Dock will accomplish? I find it hard to believe that will actually improve the water quality of Setauket Harbor. Perhaps, I am missing something? I would also like to know what specifically will be done “on storm water improvements.” I am curious – will there be some sophisticated filtration system set up on all the storm water drains leading into Setauket Harbor? If so, how will these be maintained? One would guess that any filtration system could be become clogged. Finally, it would interesting to know what happens to the $100,000 of silt that is dredged up. Where will it go?

A last point to this hopeful new development is to mention again that Setauket Bay is only one of four bays comprising the Port Jefferson waterways. That leads me to ask two last questions – will the one million planned to be spent on Setauket Harbor, benefit the three other bays directly connected to it? Or will any improvements resulting from the one million dollar investment be overwhelmed by storm water chemicals and other forms of pollution flowing directly from other three bays flowing directly into Setauket Harbor?

Inquiring minds want to know.

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My Old Boss, Dan Rattiner, Founder of Dan’s Papers

Early Dan - I think when I met him he sported a mustache

Early Dan – when I met him he sported a mustache

By Cecil Hoge

In the year 1967, I managed, after six years of work, stress and partying, to graduate from the University of Virginia. My first act, after the 6 years, was to invite 6 of my fellow college friends and 1 college girlfriend (a very pretty and pert blonde young lady, named Penny Zetterstrom) to come visit my family’s summer house in Southampton.

My girlfriend was the first to leave after about 10 days of young love, she came to the rightful conclusion that I was not ready to make the big commitment and so she, with tears in her eyes and the summer wind in her hair, departed back to the University of Virginia determined to be, as she told me, a super woman. The problem was that I was not ready to be a super husband and so we parted with the clear understanding young love does not always work out.

Soon thereafter some of my other college buddies began to drift away, determined to take up the reins of life and go out and find a career. After three weeks that left me and Rich Miller, the last of my college buddies, alone sadly pondering our possibilities. We felt we were just not ready to get out there and find a career. One evening, after one or two or maybe more beers, the solution began to come into view. I had boat, Rich had motor, and after those facts became obvious, we decided we could merge our assets and become clam diggers for the summer. And that is what we did for the next three months.

I have written about that experience and in this blog you will find a story of that wonderful summer, but that is not the subject of this article. This article is about my old boss, Mr. Dan Rattiner. Before telling you about Dan, I have to tell you a little bit more about Rich.

At the end of the summer, with cool September breezes beginning to blow, Rich made his move. He would get into the banking trade, head down to the Caribbean, manage the assets of wealthy islanders, buy a sailboat and live happily ever after. That almost happened, Rich did go into the banking trade and he did buy a sailboat. After getting the sailboat, he decided he liked sailing more than banking and changed his career to the sailboat delivery business, delivering exotic sailboats to all parts of the world.

That left me in Southampton with my family closing their summer house and me at 6s and 7s. That is a British term meaning my life was in disarray and confusion. Fortunately, the confusion cleared fairly quickly when I happened to pick up a copy of the Southampton Summer Day. That was a free paper that was being given out in barbershops, museums and bars. I will let you guess where I found my first copy.

Now this paper was not very impressive at the time. It was 16 to 20 pages long, tabloid in shape and form, mostly in black and white type with some scratchy black and white cartoon drawings signed by a fellow named Dan. There might have been a second color added here and there, to the headlines, to some of the ads. Some of the black and white cartoon drawings were quite humorous and quirky. That was also true of the black and white printed stories. Anyway, this paper had a certain esprit and when I started to read it, I found out it was also written by another fellow named Dan. Putting two and two together, and in taking a look at the masthead I discovered that the two Dans were really one fellow named Dan Rattiner.

At the time, I was trying to figure out how to become a writer and I realized that Dan already was a writer. Now, as mentioned, there was something quite quirky and unusual about this paper. The articles were light-hearted, good-hearted, well-written and sometimes completely false. I am not sure what article caught my incredulous eyes, aliens landing in East Hampton or something like that. Now these stories, some of which were true and some which were complete lies, were all humorous and quirky. I have admit I signed on to the humor as soon as I realized that some of the stories were not really true.

It was then that I got a bright idea. I would submit some stories and ask for a job. That would allow me to stay in Southampton for the winter and there I could develop my skills as a writer. I do not remember just what stories I dug up or exactly what I submitted, but I sent some stuff off to the address on the masthead and addressed it to Dan Rattiner. After a few days, I called the newspaper.

I was surprised when none other than Dan Rattiner himself answered the phone. Apparently, his secretary was off for the day.

I asked Dan if he had gotten the envelope I had sent. Yes, he answered. I asked Dan if he read the enclosed material. No, he answered. I asked if he would he read the enclosed material. Yes, answered. With our conversation at an end, I left the telephone number of our summer house to call back. Dan promised he would.

Sure enough, Dan did call back and he suggested that we meet to discuss the idea of writing for what I thought was the Southampton Summer Day. Dan named a restaurant to meet near East Hampton. A couple of days later I drove out to the restaurant in question. I forget the name, but it was on Montauk Highway, before you get to East Hampton. It was right next to a tank that had been parked there to commemorate something that happened during World War II.

The restaurant, if I remember, was a kind of diner, quaint, but certainly not posh. When I got there, I found Dan sitting at a table. At first I was not sure who he was, but after blundering about I discovered Dan was the youngish looking guy seated alone at one the tables. I should have known because Dan was the only guy seated alone at one of the tables and all other tables were occupied by two or more people engaged in active conversation.

I introduced myself, sat down and pretty soon Dan asked what I wanted to eat. I surveyed the menu that had a bunch of things I didn’t quite recognize. I asked Dan what he was going to have.

“Lox and bagel,” He said.

I was not quite sure what that was, but I decided I would go with flow – it was the sixties, after all.

“I’ll have Lox and bagel,” I said, not quite knowing what I was ordering.

Dan and I had lox and bagels. I had iced tea and Dan had coffee. At lunch, Dan began to give me the history of the Southampton Summer Day. It turned out it was only one of four different newspapers that Dan was printing and distributing. The Montauk Pioneer was the first paper that Dan had started in 1960. After a few years, Dan added the Hampton Beach, the Southampton Summer Day and East Hampton Summer Sun. Circulation was as many copies as he could distribute to various barbershops, retail stores, bars, restaurants and discotheques, and that was usually around 35,000 copies.

In between Dan telling me the history of how he founded the Montauk Pioneer and these other papers, I told him my goals. I wanted to be the F. Scott Fitzgerald of the East End. Dan said that was a fine goal, but one day does not a writer make. It takes time and practice. I was a little discouraged by the word practice. It sounded so prosaic and somehow it seemed to imply work.

I asked Dan what he thought of the stuff I sent. Well, he said, somewhat hesitatingly, it was a little rough, but it showed promise, that’s why he wanted us to meet.

That me left more encouraged.

Going for the jugular, I asked if that meant he could give me a job.

Dan pursed his lips and said yes, he could give me job. The only problem was, he explained, that he did not need a full-time writer on his payroll.

What did he need, then, I asked.

“Well, what I need just now is a newspaper delivery man.”

Dan went on to say that this was an ideal way to get to know the newspaper business and to become a writer in the long run. Dan went on to say he would pay $60 a week for delivering papers and a penny a word for every word he published of mine. A penny a word did not sound like big money to me, but the combination of some firm cash and some extra potential income from writing did sound intriguing.

I had read “Down and Out in Paris and London,” by George Orwell, about how old George worked in a sleazy cafe on the Left Bank that became kind of trendy after a while for no logical reason. And I remembered that old George worked in garret and wrote at night and at odd times when he was not serving Steak-frites and glasses of vin rouge. It seemed to me driving a delivery truck and writing at odd times was kind of the same thing and so, I signed up to become a delivery boy and a writer.

Dan felt kind of good about this and he began to tell me a little more of his history. It seemed that he and some other guys founded the East Village Other in 1965, but after a couple of years doing that, Dan got disgusted with the drug scene that naturally gravitated to that publication and so he retreated back to Montauk and continued publishing the Montauk Pioneer.

At first Dan did it all. He put together The Montauk Pioneer, he set the type, he sold the ads and he ran around Montauk delivering the newspapers. After the first summer, he found that in spite of handing out free copies of the newspaper, he actually made a small profit after all costs. In other words, the ads more than paid for the distribution and printing costs and something was left over.

That experience encouraged Dan to add newspapers. I believe the second paper he started was the East Hampton Summer Sun. After more summers of putting together the papers,  selling the ads and physically delivering, the two papers also made money. By this point, it was becoming a little enterprise. Dan hired a lady to help to put together the paper and a delivery boy. By 1967, Dan had added the Hampton Beach and the Southampton Summer Day. Dan also put together a little business plan and went to the Bank of Bridgehampton and had gotten financing for his expansion. Each and every year Dan was able to show profits, proving to the Bank of Bridgehampton that Dan was a good financial bet.

After we had finished our lox and bagels and as we were walking out the restaurant, Dan said two things to me.

“Your hired,” and “I officially pronounce you a Jew.” This was because I had done such a stellar job of eating the lox and bagel, which, by the way, I thought was very tasty. Who knew lox was actually salmon?

So that began my fairly long association with Dan Rattiner. That winter I delivered the newspapers (I believe there was one other delivery boy doing penance with me) and, in between, I wrote articles for Dan.

One of my first assignments for Dan was writing a Guide Book to the Hamptons. To do this and not shame myself, I retreated to the Southampton library and did some actual research. Among other things, I read a history of Long Island. I was quite surprised to learn, according to the history I read, that there were five Indian tribes on Long Island when the Europeans first arrived and that Long Island was populated by almost 100,000 Indians before the Euros arrived.

I was also surprised to find how tough things could get in Southampton if you had a little too much to drink. Apparently, you were made to sit outside with your head and arms stuck in some kind of wooden clamp and then all the residents could throw eggs and lettuce and tomatoes at you while sat there helplessly stuck. Talk about a tough crowd. I was also surprised to learn after the Spanish American War almost 10,000 soldiers were sent to Montauk to recover from the various diseases they picked up in that war.

I got to throw in some current events, like surfing in the Hamptons or when one of the members of the Lovin’ Spoonful, Sal, got married. I am not quite sure how I stumbled on to this news event. I think I was on my way to the beach club (aka The Southampton Bathing Corporation), when I saw Sal in gloriously striped pants come romping out St. Andrew’s Church with John Sebastion and other Spoonful members in tow, throwing flowers and rice, playing tambourines and guitars. It was a riotous performance and the times they was a changing. Things was happening and I was happy to report on such goings on.

In short, I learned a lot of things about Southampton and Long Island. With the information that I gathered from research and gossip, I wrote the first draft to the Hampton Summer Guide. That was my first big writing job. Other things that I wrote were little blurbs on various restaurants and happenings. A particular event of no particular importance I remember reporting on was about a girl named Wendy, who I named SunBunny, primarily because she was the girlfriend of the other delivery boy and she distracted the newspapers printers in Newark, New Jersey, enough to threaten the potential delivery of the paper, or so I said.


My first article claims the Light-In was a Fiasco

My first article claims the Light-In was a Fiasco

By November of 1967, Dan published the first full article I wrote. This was a great thrill for me. It was in the The East Hampton Summer Sun. The title of the story was “1500 People Stand For Lighthouse”. The subhead was “Rattiner Calls Light-In a Fiasco”. This was not what Dan said, it was what I made up. I went on the report that Dan said there were 3 things wrong with the “Light-In”:

  1. The people were all wrong, there were not enough Hippies, just families with children.
  2. The police were too nice, they did not exhibit any extraneous violence.
  3. The music was all wrong, instead of rock music and flag-burning, a patriotic band played and all the people protesting were completely peaceful, very cheerful and, hence, all wrong.

I went on to say that the only consolation was that $400,000 was raised to save the Montauk Lighthouse. Of course, most of what I wrote was completely untrue, including the bit about $400,000 being raised. But it was true that 1500 people did attend the Montauk “Light-In” and it was actually pretty successful demonstration of support for the Montauk Lighthouse. And, by the way, Dan was successful in drawing attention to the plight of the Montauk Lighthouse, which, at the time, was gradually slipping into the sea.

And finally, as many people know, the Montauk Lighthouse was eventually saved.

I delivered papers that whole winter, but distribution was down because of the season. It was only in the summer months that the full range of drop-offs became evident. One of the things that occurred as a side aspect of delivering papers is that I got to go into a lot of strange places. At the time, head shops and discotheques were enjoying sudden and increasing popularity. Like all businesses in the Hamptons, they were seasonal and enjoyed their best business in June, July and August.

I remember a few. There was a head shop next to The Grotto of the Purple Grape, a restaurant between Watermill and Bridgehampton that enjoyed some passing success. The head shop, whose name was Soporific, was run by a young man named Billy who always wore aviator sunglasses, whether in the dark UV lit backroom of the head shop or standing outside, he always had on that pair of aviator glasses. I am sure he thought of himself as a kind aviator, if only in the mind.

The selection of merchandise was eclectic, to say the least. It included water pipes, cigarette papers, state of the art bicycles and brightly colored, extremely comfortable Peruvian hammocks. In the dark back of the inner head shop where UV light ruled was the full selection of cigarette papers, water pipes, bongs and other smoking paraphernalia. Upon on going back there, one was almost always greeted with the pungent and sweet smell of marijuana, occasionally intermixed with the smell of incense. Most often Billy was back there in aviator glasses behind a glass cabinet displaying the wide variety of cigarette papers and water pipes and other smoking paraphernalia. He always smiled.

Outside the head shop, before you entered the dark environs of the head shop, was a really high-tech assortment of bicycles and extremely brightly colored Peruvian hammocks. Sometimes, you would find the young aviator, Billy, proprietor and owner, swinging slightly in the breeze on one of his hammocks outside. Occasionally, when a customer came over to ask a question about one the $600 to $800 bikes (big bucks in those days) Billy would lift his head up and say,

“Yeah man, they are state of the art, I sell top end stuff.” That was usually the maximum sales effort that Billy made, but he would always punctuate it with a sly stoned smile that said to all others in the know that he was in the know.

Whatever his sales technique was, it seemed to work, because Soporific operated successfully for a good ten or fifteen years.

Another place I remember was a discotheque hidden deep in some potato field somewhere between Bridgehampton and Sag Harbor. How to get there, I could not tell you. What its name was, I could not tell you. Basically, you kept going down roads with endless potato fields on either side and eventually you got a dirt driveway and drove down that for a quarter mile and ended up at a large imposing wooden clapboard house and that was the discotheque. Strangely enough, other people found their way to this place and late at night The Velvet Underground, complete with Nico, Lou Reed and the original members, and other trendy, psychedelic groups would play late into the night.

I am still not quite sure how anyone found that place at night. I had found it during the day delivering newspapers. I was never able to find it at night. But with the guidance of my psychedelic cousin, who had powers beyond her age, I was able to find it late at night. But I will tell you without a spirit guide you would never get there and perhaps that was the point.

This was an early version of my clamdigging saga

This was an early version of my clam digging saga

I wrote and delivered newspapers all that winter and the next summer for Dan. Dan tried to get me interested in all aspects of the business, I guess all young business owners do. It is only natural. You want to share the joy, you want to create enthusiasm with your employees, you want to get people to sign on to your program. It is only natural and I can sympathize with this, even if my sympathy took 40 years to develop.

Dan tried to enlist me as a typesetter and there I drew the line. This is one of the big regrets of my life. I consider it on a par with never trying skiing when I had the opportunity. So I did not try type-setting other than a few half-hearted and momentary efforts. The reason being my mind goes faster than my physical movements and so I tended to forget things. In type-setting that meant forgetting to put in certain letters or words…generally I included most parts of most sentences. I still suffer from this disability. It seems that age has not improved my skills. Who knew?

No matter, I was a miserable type-setter for Dan, both in performance and in enthusiasm. In short, I thought it was not my job. Years later, I regretted this very much. Why?  It certainly would never have been something I was very good at. But no matter, it was something that I never properly learned, never experienced and it was the passing of an era. Yes, I did some years later, learn about type, the selection of type, the beauty of type, the subtlety of type, when I started working with a layout artist selecting type. And yes, I did that. But I never did what I should have done, except for a few rare cases. Stain my hands with the type, pick up the type pieces, put them laboriously in place, learn how Luther did it. It is a regret and I feel I owe Dan an apology. Hey, I was stupid.

There are other things I believe I owe Dan apology  for. He introduced me to Elaine K. Benson. I thought nothing of it. She had an art gallery and she wrote a column in Dan’s different papers called “Elaine K. Benson, Her Column”. Well, I did not know it, but that was a kind of guide to future possibilities, but I ignored it.

Along the way, Dan introduced me to people who I had no clue who they were. One lady was introduced to me as Jackson Pollock’s wife. We shook hands. I had no idea who she was. She had sad dark eyes and was somewhat overweight when I met her. In retrospect, if I had known who she was, I would have asked a whole bunch of embarrassing and interesting questions. No matter, the moment is the moment you know to make use of and I did not know to make use of the moment and now it is past.

Late that summer I was not in the mood to give Dan an apology. I felt my life was primarily delivering newspapers and negligibly writing. Dan must have sensed my frustration, because at the end of the summer, he published three stories all at once. This was pleasing and complimentary, but by that time, the summer winds were turning cool and I wanted to move on.

Towards the end Dan ran several of my stories

Towards the end Dan ran several of my stories

So that is what I did. This time, I found a friend who wanted a movie script written and I tried my hand at that. It was not successful. In the process, I got a job in my father’s business (not hard, since I knew someone who was connected). So for that winter, I wrote a movie script that never got produced and made fishing rods for my father that I did get produced. I can say at least I learned how to produce fishing rods.

The next year, I decided to take full advantage of my philosophy degree and so I went and applied to be a writer at Esquire, Newsday and the New Yorker. Let me sum it up and say neither my previous printed history with Dan or my philosophy major impressed anyone who was willing to hire me. Newsday did not think I wrote fast enough to be a reporter (in truth I was a hopeless typist), Esquire thought my articles did not have sufficient weight and New Yorker thought my writing was a kind of joke. So much for my new career search.

Fortunately, I had something to fall back on and fall back on it I did. I went back into my father’s business and a strange thing happened along the way. I kind of fell in love with it. So that is what I did for the next 6 or so years.

Then a strange happened. I went out to Montauk for vacation and I happened to notice that Dan’s different papers had gotten a little bigger. I think they were now running 36 to 48 pages. At the same time, I noticed that things were changing in Montauk. So, without really knowing what I was doing, I wrote a story about Montauk.

I sent the story to Dan, saying I had noticed the changes in the papers, that they had become bigger and that there was more use of color. They were still tabloid in format, but maybe they 36 to 48 pages in length and chock full of ads. And I could tell by their heft that Dan was having some success in selling ads and distributing papers.

Dan did something inscrutable. He published my article without telling me. This led to a new avenue of discussion. Always sensitive to the payment issue (it was not one of need, it was one of pride), I suggested Dan pay me at my old rate…one penny per word.

Silence ensued, but eventually a $60 check arrived, again unbidden, un-heralded, but appreciated.

This started a kind mini career with Dan. I started to send in some articles and he started to print them, religiously paying me one penny per word. I was grateful and this continued for about a year and half.

Then I started submitting stories to Dan that I suspect crossed a hidden editorial border. Let’s face it, Dan’s Papers are not here to change the world and the articles I sent him wanted to. And I will admit it, some were kind of depressing, so you could say he was down on them because they were depressing (I wanted to cover the population explosion and the bombarding of Iraq). Apparently, Dan did not think that was in character with the publications.

Dan composing for a future issue

Dan composing for a future issue

Over time, the publications became one single publication…Dan’s Papers. And so, it became the brainchild of the present creature. Somewhere along the way, Dan got the genius idea or someone got the genius idea to create a color wrap with a color painting for the cover. This was, of course, pure genius because the East End was rife with painters. You name them, they were all here.

I proposed other new ideas…some Dan accepted because they were in his editorial vein. I wrote an article on how my salad dressing was much better than Paul Newman’s and Dan published that. Other ideas fell flat. I knew they fell flat when I would not hear from Dan. I would send in a suggested story and silence would ensue.

I had what I thought was a great idea… I would write a story about the Shinnecock Indians starting their own casino. I had big plans for their casino. It would be right out of Las Vegas but with some special Hampton features. There would be tennis courts, marble side walks, girls would deliver drinks on rollerblades. Slot machines in Lilly Pulitzer patterns would be on either side of the marble walkways. I figured Hillary Clinton would arrange detente with the Indians, New York State and the Casino Industry. There would be a giant surf machine, producing perfectly formed 20′ rollers that super buff surfers could ride all day. The casino itself would be housed in a giant sprawling Hampton’s style mansion with large open porches with roulette tables and slot machines inside and out. Yes, it would be a class act.

Apparently, Dan did not think it was a class act idea.

“Those people are like without humor,” he said to me after I called him up after a month of silence, “They take these matters seriously.”

Maybe Dan was right, but considering the election year we are presently facing (this being the summer of 2016), I could see some added embellishments with Hillary competing to get the Shinnecocks true justice and health care and the Donald building a 30′ high wall to protect Hampton billionaires from the garish new casino in town that the Shinnecocks would be happy to pay for. Oh yes, I could have a lot of fun with that.

In any case, I did not pursue my Shinnecock Indian Casino story further, although I think it still has merit.

In the last twenty years, Dan’s Paper’s became a marketing and literary force in the Hamptons and in choosing the name Dan’s Papers, Dan was able to instill all of the original ethos of his original papers and add extra layers that just made it more successful, like when he added gossip on the inside in South of the Highway or fantasy in about Hampton’s Subway Newsletter and color paintings on the cover and a 24-48 page color wrap on the outside.

About six years ago, I invited Dan to lunch. I suggested The American Hotel in Sag Harbor.

“Yum,” said Dan and a few days later, off we went.

There I asked him what changes in the paper was he surprised by?

Dan thought a while and said, “I never thought gossip would be a part of my newspaper.”

He did not say this with regret, but rather with surprise. I think Dan was being honest in saying that. It was not his intention. It was not his plan. But things evolve, things go forward and I suppose that is what happened with Dan’s Papers.

I know Dan’s position has changed in the community. Dan invited me to the Fortieth Anniversary Party of Dan’s Paper and it was quite impressive. Held at beautiful East Hampton ocean front home, with Billy Joel, Peter Jennings and a whole bunch of other billionaires and celebrities in attendance. Yes, things had changed for Dan.

When I first started delivering papers for Dan, it was often hard to get the various establishments to accept his papers. That is no longer true. Today, Dan’s Papers is a staple of the community, desired in all its different locations. The paper became over a period of years, the leading publication of the Hamptons and I think you can say that this is still true today. No other publication, super glossy or not, comes close. As such, Dan’s Papers is the arbiter of the Hamptons, of the Hampton’s Scene, of that peculiar lifestyle that seems to combine wealth with celebrity.

At lunch, I told Dan my idea for this blog. It was to be a series of stories about myself and my family. I had sent Dan some early drafts of the kind of stories I wanted to post and Dan was encouraging, but somewhat distant on the subject.

“It is a good idea to have legacy and knowing whether you are local or national can be important.”

He went on to say that he had hoped to be national, but it seemed that he was local.

“Dan,” I said, “That is question for the ages, not the moment.”

We left to the conversation there. It has now been a few years since I have spoken with Dan. In the meantime, I have proceeded with this blog.

Dan has continued to be the Bard of the East End. That title was given him by Chuck Scarborough, I believe. Dan much deserves that title.

My father said to me that the people in the Hamptons always change, but the houses do not.

I am sure there are many billionaires and not a few builders who would disagree. To me, the Hamptons has always been a place for the privileged to display their privileges. Originally it was millionaire doings and now it is billionaire doings, but other than that, not much has changed.

Again, there are quite a few billionaires that might disagree, but I think my father was right.

I am sure there are many improvements to the creature comforts offered in the new improved billionaire homes – movie theaters for 60 close personal friends, bowling alleys, indoor Olympic sized pools, helicopter pads, etc., but the truth is that the privileged continue to come to The Hamptons and they always will. And the truth is that my father was right, the houses remain, but the people come and go.

In the case of Dan, he was able to sell his controlling interest in his paper and still continue to write 2/3rds of Dan’s Papers every week. That is a pretty good trick when you think about it. It was probably a good deal for all concerned. Dan was able to offload the heartache and frustration of running a day-to-day business and the new owners were able to get a successful newspaper pre-loaded with a continuous supply of content. It all worked out.

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Growing Up Wet

Before Gray Hair and About 15 lbs.

Before Gray Hair and About 10 lbs.

By Cecil Hoge

I was born and raised in New York City for the first eleven years of my life. Very early on my parents took me to the ocean on Long Island. Sometimes we went to the Atlantic Beach Club. That was a kind of private beach club that was still very close to the city. We could get to The Atlantic Beach Club in about 45 minutes from my parents apartment at 520 East 92nd. If we were starting late then we would go to Jones Beach, which you could get to in about 30 minutes.

My father would drive us out in his green convertible Cadillac. If it was a sunny day, my father would put the top down. That was a fairly intricate job. His convertible Cadillac was not like the digitally driven cars of today. It was necessary to un-snap several levers above the windshield and push a button (a great innovation of that day) to persuade the top to begin its journey up and down behind the back seat. If all went smoothly, there was still some wrangling necessary to snap on a top cover to keep the convertible top down and out of the wind. Once this ritual was completed, we would drive from 520 East 90th to the ocean. My father was very proud of that car.

The Atlantic Beach Club

Even at the age of 4 or 5, I preferred the Atlantic Beach Club because it was less crowded, because it had a convenient hamburger and hotdog stand with tables where you could sit outdoors, because it had a swimming pool that was not too crowded and because the beach was just a short walk to the ocean. I am not sure exactly when my father and mother started taking me, but I would guess it was when I was 2 or 3 years old.

So on sunny summer weekends we would cruise out from East 92nd Street to either the Atlantic Beach Club or Jones Beach and bake in the sun and go swimming in the ocean. From that early age I always remembered that I loved the ocean and the beach. I loved everything about it. In particular, I loved when my father would bury me in the sand and the warm, hot feeling of the sand grains on my small body. From that early age, my father and mother would each take one of my hands and walk me into the ocean. At first I was terrified, but as I grew older and a little bit larger, I became used to the ocean and the waves became a little bit smaller, at least in relation to my size, and I loved to try and catch waves, to dive through waves and to body surf.

My father and his family had grown up summering in Quogue, so he was very used to the ocean and loved to take me in the surf. My mother, an Olympic class swimmer, was born on and around water, so she was also an enthusiastic ocean swimmer.

Occasionally, we would go out to the Hamptons and visit with my uncle who had a house rental in Southampton. This was at a time that almost anyone could afford a house rental in the Hamptons. Today that almost anyone had better be a billionaire. When my uncle was renting, a nice house on South Main Street or First Neck Lane might be two or three thousand dollars for the summer. Today, the same house might be $50,000 or $100,000…for the month! And if you want a really nice house on the ocean, get ready to multiply by 5, 10 or more.

So we can say that much has changed in the last 70 years or so and prices is one of those things. What has not changed is the actual Atlantic Ocean which laps up on the shores of Long Island’s beaches. There is a good 120 miles of oceanside beaches so there are plenty of places for people to go. These days the beaches, all of them, are pretty crowded. It was not so different 60 or 70 years ago.

The ocean was then and is now still pretty clean, excepting occasional occurrences of tar oil and brown algae washing up on our shores. In summer the ocean waters on the East End of Long Island can take on a turquoise blue color that makes you think you are in the tropics. This is because the Gulf Stream sweeps close to the East End of Long Island, making the ocean water, when clear, even more beautiful.

The ocean has its calm days and its rough days. In June, the ocean is still pretty cold. By July, it is usually in the low to middle 70s and it stays that way until October, although the temperature of the air starts to get pretty cool by the end of September. By the middle of September, tropical storms and hurricanes try to make their run at Long Island, but mostly they miss.

Generally there is a good 12 weeks of beach going weather and my father and mother took advantage of that just about every weekend from the middle of June to the middle of September. The trip to Southampton was quite long in those days and surprisingly the traffic was not much better than it is today. The highways were much more limited, so it could take three and half hours to get to Southampton. That meant that most weekends we headed to the Atlantic Beach Club. As mentioned that was my favorite ocean location because it was still quite close to the city and yet not as crowded as Jones Beach.

At the Atlantic Beach Club, my father taught me the fine art of body surfing at about the age of 5. It took me a while to become comfortable with body surfing. At first, I was terrified by the breaking waves, but by the time I was eight I was the proverbial fish. I loved the ocean, I loved the waves and when I finally learned how to body surf, I loved catching waves. When I would come out of the ocean, I liked to bury my body in the hot sand to get warm. If my father was in a good mood, I could usually con him into burying me up to my neck.

My mother, who generally was fond of French food, condescended to introduce me to the hotdogs and CocaCola available at the Atlantic Beach Club. So a good day at the beach included body surfing for hours at a time, coming out and getting buried by Dad in the sand and then conniving my mother to get me a hotdog and a CocaCola after I took a shower. The outdoor shower was not heated, so that could be as invigorating as going in the ocean.

It was on one of our weekend visits to the Atlantic Beach Club that I got to sit on Charlie Chaplin’s lap. I do not remember the event very clearly, but apparently I was running by and he started a conversation asking where I was going in such a rush (it was to the hotdog stand, if I remember correctly). I ended up sitting on his lap for about 20 minutes, jabbering, no doubt, about the ocean and the beach, while my mother also carried on an excited conversation with the famous actor, happy to have the opportunity to speak to a true celebrity. My father told me that Charlie Chaplin found me to be a very exuberant and very well-behaved child. Charlie was half right.


When I was eight or nine, my parents decided to buy a summer house in Bellport, Long Island. Bellport was considerably further out on Long Island, just about 65 miles from New York City, just east of Patchogue. The house was a small two story Cape Cod cottage with three bedrooms. It was about a quarter of mile from the Great South Bay. It was easy walking distance on the gravel road right by our house directly to a small beach on the Great South Bay.

My parents had two friends, Smokey and Ethel, who lived about a half a mile directly on a small point jutting out into Great South Bay. At first I did not like Bellport because it was not on the ocean. To get to the ocean, you had to take a small ferry across to Fire Island where there was the Bellport Beach Club. It was a pretty primitive setup shared by 300 or 400 hundred Bellport residents. It consisted of a strip of little beach with changing closets made out simple plank wood. It had a dock where you landed, a wooden walkway from the dock to the Beach Club. There was a cold shower and the row of wooden changing closets. There was a male or female bathroom that was really an outhouse. Food and entertainment was provided by the hotdog stand, which when it was open, provided Coca Cola, Gingerale, coffee, hotdogs, hamburgers and French fries. You could tell the stand was open when the wooden window to the stand was propped up.

The Bellport Beach Club was a wonderful place if you loved the ocean and sun. I believe the Beach Club is now gone, wiped out by a hurricane or just plain abandoned. There is a place that you can take the Bellport ferry to now called “Ho Hum Beach.” That kind of summarizes what The Bellport Beach Club was like. You had ocean, sun and sand in spades. Some days you also had something else in spades…horseflies. When the wind was blowing offshore the horseflies came in and they could be murderous.

A swimming pool would have been nice, but there was none. There were some simple beach chairs and umbrellas. There was a supply of towels brought out by the ferry each week. Sometimes they were available, sometimes they were not. It was a supply and demand situation. If there was a big demand that day, the towels would run out early. So it was best to bring your own towels, which we did.

I loved that Bellport Beach Club because I loved the ocean. Each day we came, we would spend 4 or 5 hours on the beach, alternating between swimming in the ocean and sunning ourselves on the beach. This was before the time people were sun conscious and when it thought that a good sun tan was truly healthy. Yes, we did use suntans lotions, but those lotions were designed to enhance our tans, not to protect you against the sun. Coppertone was the leading brand of the day.

When we were hungry, we would get a hotdog or a hamburger. If you got too hot, you went into the ocean or took a cold shower. If you got cold, you went back out on the beach and sunned yourself some more. It was a kind of circle of activity.

It was at the Bellport Beach Club that my father almost drowned me. Perhaps, when I was 9 or 10, my father decided to take me into the ocean on a particularly rough day. Being smaller than I am today, I am not sure just how big the waves were. I am thinking they were 5 or 6 feet, but they appeared far larger to me, at least 12 to 14 feet. We went into the ocean in the usual manner. That is, me on top of my father’s shoulders. Now this system had stood us well for many a summer, but as time went on I got taller and heavier and my father remained his skinny, tall 6′ 3″ self. You might say as I got older and heavier we became, as a water going unit, top heavy and with time the center of gravity shifted upward. This meant that we were not the most stable in 2 or 3 foot waves and we were really unstable in 5 or 6 foot waves.

No matter, both my father and I liked a challenge. So we lurched into the Atlantic and for a while things went swimmingly. That is to say we were able to dive through and re-emerge after the first two waves. It was the third wave that got us. I am not sure what happened. I remember re-emerging triumphantly after the second wave only to be greeted by a third waves about four feet away. In short, we were caught in the crosshairs of the wave and there was simply no way to avoid it. It came crashing down on me and my father.

I am not sure just how tall that wave was, but for sure it was a lot taller than me and my father put to together. Within seconds we were no longer put together and I found myself tumbling for what seemed like forever underwater. Usually, in a situation where we had been up ended, I was able to pop up to the surface in seconds, but not this time. I just kept tumbling in the deep frothy water and when I finally did come up, I was immediately greeted by a fourth wave which propelled me back under the wave without the opportunity to grab even one short breath.

Things were now getting serious because I was still tumbling under water without any air. After what seemed like hours I did re-emerge for the briefest of seconds and got the briefest of gasps of air before being plunged under again by a fifth wave. Things were now more serious because I was still tumbling under water without air. Worse, I had lost my sense of direction. I started to swim frantically only to hit the sandy bottom. I tried to surge to the surface but a sixth wave came rolling in sending me tumbling once again sideways, upside down, every which way but to the top. I could sense that I was losing consciousness when a hand grabbed my arm and pulled me up. When I came up I saw my father proudly displaying me like a soggy fish. I gasped in some air and realized that I was among the living.

I came to love Bellport and our little summer cottage. In time, I learned to fish with a bamboo pole and a bobber. We used minnows that we bought from the local bait shop or we caught our own minnows with a seine. One day I caught 108 snappers in 40 minutes.

I also learned to crab. We used chicken heads tied to some string which we would throw into the water off of Smokey and Ethel’s dock. The line went out about 15 feet, we would stand on the dock where the water about 3 feet deep below and wait. This afforded a pretty good view of the line and the chicken head. When I saw the line move, I would pull the string back slowly and grab a nearby net that was on a long pole. I would pull the crab up close to the surface and then I would swoop in with my net. If you worked hard at this, you could get a couple of dozen crabs in a couple of hours.

I would bring the crabs back to Eldora, the black lady who looked after me, who cooked my meals and who cleaned the house. Eldora was afraid of crabs so I would have to be the person to put the poor devils in the boiling pot. Of course, they would try to crawl out and Eldora would scream in fright and I would scream in delight.

I did my fishing and crabbing mostly off of Smokie and Ethel’s dock. Smokie was well named because he liked to smoke, something my father did not approve of. Smokie and Ethel were also avid drinkers. My mother was very happy to have Smokie and Ethel around because she was a both smoker and a drinker. So on weekends, we would go over the Smokie and Ethel’s for dinner. It was usually a casual affair with Smokie, Ethel and my mother all having cocktails while my father drank Ballantine Ale, which I always thought was very cool. They would all sit around and talk and drink cocktails and smoke, except my father who stuck to his Ballantine Ale.

One day I learned a far more efficient system to crab off of Smokey and Ethel’s dock. I should say one night because that was when I learned how to catch a whole bushel of crabs in less than an hour. It was a dog stupid, dog simple system. Eldora would shine a light on the water off of the dock and I would swoop down with my trusty net. Some nights, literally hundreds of crabs would come up to the light at a time. All you had to do was swing your net down through the water and then you could scoop up 20, 30 or 40 crabs in one swoop. Eldora would hoot and scream as soon as she saw the crabs. She was terrified of them and she would not touch them, but she was entranced by the crabs.

“There’s they be,” she would scream, “Oh Lordy, look at those evil looking things. Theyse crawling, theyse creeping, don’t you bring them evil looking things near me.”

It was a true love/hate relationship between Eldora and blue claw crabs. I would have to carry the crabs back to the house at night. And of course, the crabs were not to happy about this so they would get busy trying to get out of the bushel basket. How many blue claw crabs were lost on the way home was never known, but we always had more crabs than we could eat. Trust me, I tried my best to eat every single crab, but after the first 20 or so, I would begin to lose interest.

At the house when we got back with the crabs that were still in the bushel basket, we would cook them up. Eldora would scream and yell while I put them in a big boiling pot of water we had for the occasion. The crabs would try to get out, but soon the boiling water would still their movements and then they would turn red. We ate those crabs on the little kitchenette table. We would cover the table with newspapers, get a pile of napkins, some paper plates and a couple of wooden hammers and Eldora and I would go at those crabs. She may have called them “evil looking things”, but she more than happy to eat them evil looking things. That table looked like an ancient battlefield after Eldora and I finally gave up eating as many as we could, with crab shells everywhere and bits of crabmeat flecked all over the table. But those crabs was good.

“Lordy, those evil, foul smellin’ things do taste good,” Eldora would say after twenty minutes of crab carnage.

Eldora was our cook, our maid and my best buddy. I did have a couple of local friends who would come over and teach me the fine art of fishing or of apple stealing. We had local apple orchard down the street and me and my friends would take great delight in trying to steal as many apples as possible, often eating them before their time and getting stomach aches as a result. That never stopped our apple acquisition program, although it did slow down and occasionally disrupt our apple consumption program.

If I was not out with my fellow tiny buddies, all aged around 10 or 12, I was out with Eldora dragging her out to some adventure she did not want to participate in. Somehow around that time, I convinced my father to invest in a small 16 foot boat and a 5 hp. I would gather up towels, fishing poles, crab nets and Eldora and I would motor across the Great South Bay. Now the Great South Bay was the same Great South Bay we took the ferry across. The ferry ride was unbearably slow, about 45 minutes, but the ride to Fire Island in my 16′ foot lap strake boat powered by my mighty 5 hp motor was even slower. Sometimes, it took two hours to cross the Great South Bay.

Now Eldora was not very comfortable with the water. The fact was that she could not swim probably had something to do with her concern about her safety. I never let that bother me. I always convinced Eldora that she had to come with me, that it was her duty to come with me. So Eldora would get into the boat remarking what a great tippy thing it was. But Eldora was a good sport and she screamed only occasionally.

Every afternoon the wind on the Great South Bay would come up out of the Southwest to 15 or 20 miles per hour. That often meant that we cruised over to Fire Island in morning in a dead flat calm and by the time we came back in the afternoon, it was windy, wet and the whole bay was covered by whitecaps. At age 10 or 11, it never occurred to me to think of safety. Most of the bay was only 2 or 3 feet deep and you had to motor very carefully or the prop would get tied up in salt water marsh grasses which covered most of the bay. I don’t remember if we had life jackets. If we did, they were the boxy orange foam block kind.

I have to tell you that one reason I preferred to swim in the ocean and not in the Great South Bay was that the Great South Bay was infested with nasty stinging jellyfish. So we would make the great one or two hour journey across the Great South Bay, Eldora and me. When we would finally get to Fire Island, I would force Eldora to walk with me across to where I could go for a swim in the ocean. Often we landed where there were no wooden plank walkways, only salt water marsh grasses and high sandy dunes. After we made our way through the tall, tough grasses, we would trek over dunes, and sometimes it was a half a mile or more. I would go then for a quick swim and then we would trek back. As you can imagine, Eldora had quite a lot to say about the indecency and hardship involved making this trek.

“Why you have to go this way, can’t you go where there is a walkway. I got sand in my shoes and I got bunions and theyse hurting.”

I would explain to her if we went to the Bellport Beach Club, it was two miles further East and a good extra 30 minutes by water.

“Why it’s 30 minutes to walk across them dunes and them grasses is just tearing at my bunions.” She would say.

Generally, I got my way because I was the captain of the ship and she was mortally afraid I might leave her in the boat alone. Her fears were well justified. One day I took her out to go fishing in the boat. We were about a half mile off shore. I was having a banner day pulling in snapper after snapper with my bamboo pole and bobber. Things was going good and then catastrophe struck. After hauling in a bunch of fish, I went to start the motor and to my horror, my beautiful little 5 hp power motor just rode up on the transom and slipped off. Down it went into the deep. Eldora greeted the catastrophe with a series of death curdling screams.

“Oh, Lordy, we gonna die. We gonna drown. Oh Lordy, this be the end. I knew I should not have gone out with that boy. The horoscope said something terrible was going to happen today and now, Lord, here it is. We are going to die.”

Frankly, I was more concerned with my loss of a motor than Eldora’s screams. Having a level head even at 11, I dropped anchor and decided I was going to dive for the motor. It was not that heavy and it was only about 10 feet deep in that particular spot. Unfortunately, I was unable to locate anything but jellyfish, which stung my legs, my arms, my face, my hands and just about every inch of my body. I persevered for a few more dives into the deep but soon the jellyfish stings seemed to have a cumulative effect.

Before going further let me tell you about the jellyfish that inhabited Great South Bay. They are very pretty, being almost a transparent silver color. They had long tentacles and regularly were two or three feet long. The real nasty ones had some purple blob coloring to them. Their stings were not so bad one at a time, but after twenty or thirty stings, you begin to feel pretty miserable. And if you have the misfortune to swim underwater and run into them with your eyes open, as I have, you can go blind for a week or so, as I did once. Fortunately, since I had previously gone blind from running into a jellyfish with my eyes open, I took great care to close my eyes every time a jellyfish came into view. That made looking for my motor somewhat more difficult and it still did not prevent me from groping around in the deep and being stung 20 or 30 times.

What with the stings stinging and Eldora screaming, I decided to give up my rescue effort to get the motor. That left me with a new rescue effort and that was to get back to shore. Fortunately there was an onshore breeze and, by throwing an anchor ever few minutes about twenty feet towards shore and then pulling it in, I was able to make slow, but steady progress towards the shore. This method took a full 30 minutes to get to shore. Eldora did not stop screaming until I had pulled the boat up to shore.

“Oh Lordy, thank the Lord, Ize back on land. God bless the heavens. I was lost, oh lord, and now I am saved.”

Eldora was only partially right because she had gotten out of the boat and was standing in the shallow water up to ankles. She was holding her two blue sandals decorated with two yellow daisies with one hand and her calico dress out of the water with the other. Part of her hair was hanging across her face, which was now one half hair and one half face. We had come back to land and we had survived. Despite the jellyfish stings and the loss of the motor, I was grateful I had gotten back to terra firma. And I was especially grateful now that Eldora had stopped screaming. And it only took about a week for the stings to stop stinging.

One of my most memorable experiences in Bellport was when a sailing catamaran appeared on the little beach where Smokey and Ethel had their dock. I was crabbing when a 25′ plywood sailing catamaran cruised up to the beach and crash landed on the sandy shore. That caught my eye. I felt a natural gravitational pull towards the catamaran. I had never seen anything quite like it. It had boxy sides created by the plywood construction. As far as could tell the bottom of the wooden pontoons were flat and the sides of the pontoons were also flat, although slanted inward and rectangular in shape. The pontoons did come to a point – a kind of V bow that widened out from front to about two thirds back and then they tapered back to a narrower square end. At the widest point the pontoons were only about one foot wide. At the narrowest point the bow they came to a sharp V. And at the stern of the pontoons they narrowed to about 8″ wide.

Two things struck me about this craft. It was huge. A good 25′ long and at least 12′ wide. The other thing was it had a huge sail and a large jib. It turned out this craft had been built by hand by a friend of Smokey’s and he brought it over to show his new, hand-made masterpiece. He asked if Smokey or anyone else wanted to go for a ride. Intuitively, I got on with Smokey. There were five of us on that catamaran. It took a little negotiation to turn the craft around. Basically, three of the sailors jumped in the bay and maneuvered it around so it was pointing towards Fire Island. The wind caught the sails and I felt the big cat lurch forward.

I heard someone say, “Here we go.”

That was an understatement. We started out slowly enough, about 3 or 4 miles per hour, just getting a hundred feet offshore. And then the afternoon Southwest wind broadsided the catamaran and we started to fly. The amazing sensation was the great surge of speed without the sound of a motor. We just kept picking speed. It was pretty windy day, with a 20 to 30 mile from Southwest. That was strong, but as mentioned every afternoon on the Great South Bay, the wind picked up from the Southwest.

The 20 to 30 mile wind almost immediately propelled us at 15 to 20 miles per hour. Now I was used to my 16′ lap strake boat with a 5 hp engine. That was slow, especially if there was a chop, as there was every afternoon. I was used to my 16′ boat slowing down in the chop, but that is not what happened with this new kind of sailing catamaran. The further we went out in the bay, the faster we went. We just skimmed over that bay. The catamaran hardly leaned, it just listed slightly with the wind and whenever there was a gust it surged forward even faster. I just could not believe it. This was the 1950’s, so I said, “Cool!”

If it was the 1960s, I probably would have said, “What a rush, man.”

Whatever I called it, it was without a doubt the most exciting sailing experience of life. We skimmed across that bay in about 25 minutes and almost ran Fire Island over. Before crashing into Fire Island, we came about and raced back. The return trip was even faster, no more than 20 minutes. That was the fastest I ever crossed the Great South Bay. In Smokey and Ethel’s open Chris Craft, an old classic with a wood deck and sleek lines, it was a good 40 minutes, mainly because you had to slow down in the chop that rose up every afternoon. On the Bellport ferry that went from the town dock to the Bellport Beach Club, it could be an hour and twenty minutes in heavy chop. And in my 16′ lap strake boat with a 5 hp motor, it could be an hour and three quarters or even two hours.

So to skim across the bay without the noise of the motor and only the splashing sound of the freshly painted plywood hull skimming over the two or three foot chop was simply amazing. The only thing remotely like it was riding an iceboat one winter across the Great South Bay. That was just about as fast, but bumpy and scary as hell and noisy as hell. Riding that sailing catamaran was not bumpy or scary or noisy. It was just fast as hell, exciting and quiet.

That was the first and last time rode on the catamaran. Every time I went Smokey’s dock after that experience, I looked for that catamaran to show up. I would ask Smokey when it was coming over. Maybe next week he would say, but it never did. And I never, ever forgot that sailboat ride. It left me with a lifetime love of sailing catamarans that one day I would fulfill.

In Bellport I had my first real experience with the true power of a hurricane. I should have known that this was a truly powerful hurricane because a few hours before the hurricane began in earnest, I walked down to our little beach on the Great South Bay. There was already a 40 mph wind coming across the bay. The whole bay was all white caps with 2 or 3 foot breaking waves. That was impressive enough in itself because most of the bay is so shallow, it cannot really have higher waves.

But what caught my eye was Fire Island. There in the distance (it was about 5 miles across the bay to Fire Island) I could see ocean waves breaking on the dunes. Above the dunes, I could see the ocean spray rise up after each breaking wave. That was really impressive because I knew the dunes were 50 or 60 feet high. I am guessing the waves breaking on Fire Island were at least 30 or 40 feet high. This was before the hurricane had actually arrived. This was early evening. The hurricane was not supposed to arrive until the early morning the next day. This was Hurricane Carol and the year was 1954. I was 11 years old at the time.

For me, a hurricane was a time of extreme excitement.We did not have the weather channel then, but even then radio and tv reports tracked its every movement up the East Coast. It had hit Cape Hatteras and it was headed straight up the coast aiming directly at Long Island. At that young age, it never occurred to me that such a hurricane could be dangerous. For me, there was only extreme excitement and anticipation. In retrospect, that hurricane could have wiped out the town of Bellport and could have washed away my little Cape Cod house. But that did not happen.

Now, having gone through 20 or so hurricanes on Long Island, I can say that Hurricane Carol was easily the strongest hurricane to hit Long Island in my lifetime. Nothing I experienced later came close. Hurricane Gloria, Hurricane Bob, The Perfect Storm and the most recent Perfect Storm, Tropical Storm Sandy were all pretty serious hurricanes or storms to hit Long Island, but Hurricane Carol was substantially worse. It arrived with steady winds of 125 miles per hour and at times, the winds gusted to 145 mph. It was a really serious hurricane and it hit Long Island directly.

Just about everybody in New York realized how serious Hurricane Carol was. Everybody except my father who confidently told me the reports and predictions were exaggerated. My father remembered the hurricane of 1938 and that, in his mind, was the only serious hurricane ever to hit Long Island. He told me, as a young boy, he remembered seeing a 50 foot motor yacht, securely lodged 25 feet up in a tree on a Golf Course. Well, I have no doubt that the Hurricane of 1938 was an extremely serious hurricane and maybe even stronger and more dangerous than Hurricane Carol. That said, Hurricane Carol was surely the second strongest hurricane to hit Long Island in the last 100 years.

But my father was adamant. The weather reports always exaggerated the strength of storms coming. Most of the time they just missed and the reports were wrong. Therefore, my father decided he has going to drive to New York City in the midst of Hurricane Carol when it was raging at its height. And that is what he did. I knew immediately my father had mis-judged the strength of the hurricane. As he went to open the side door to the garage, the door was thrown inward and my father was flung to the floor, just as he was saying what a minor storm it was.

I will say my father was not deterred. He got off of the floor, carefully maneuvered his way out the door and with great effort pulled the door shut behind him. He said few more words just emphasize how minor the storm really was and then he lurched back out the door towards the garage. It did take some time for me and my father to get the door shut, but with my father pulling from outside and me pushing from the inside, we managed it in about five minutes of tussling. Shortly thereafter, I saw my father’s Cadillac pull out of the garage and head down the street. I did not see my father for the next two days. My mother and myself survived fine. The house did not blow away. It did not wash away. We lost electricity about a half hour after my father left and it did not return for another two weeks, but I had a great adventure. I was the master of the house and we did fine.

I later learned that it took my father about 6 hours to make what was normally an hour and half trip. Apparently, he spent a good deal of time dodging trees and electrical wires. The closer he came to the city, the more he found his way blocked by abandoned cars, but my father was serious businessman and he did make it into the city and he might even have gotten some work done. Thinking about this from the viewpoint of the present over-cautious age, it was an outrageously stupid and dangerous thing for my father to do. And certainly, it could have ended in disaster for my mother and myself or for my father or for all of us. In the end, it was just something we all experienced and went through with no one the worse for wear.


By the time I was 14, I started spending my summers in Southampton. Since the divorce of my father and mother was dragging on and my mother’s condition was deteriorating, it was felt that it would better for me to be in the Hamptons with my father, his brothers, his sister and their extended families. And that proved to be a wonderful thing for me, for suddenly I had a whole bunch of cousins and friends to hang out with. So I spent summers in Southampton living in the rental house shared by my father, his brothers and his sister. Since his brothers and his sister were all married and all had kids, that meant that basic operating unit of the house was 14.

Now people came and went so the house was rather like an accordion, sometimes extended, sometimes contracted. During the week, the men of the house, went to the city to conduct their work. The exception to this was Ivan Obolensky, the husband of Barbara, my father’s sister. Ivan was the sole representative of Taittinger Champagne. Ivan spent his week calling on restaurants and other accounts on Long Island and in New York. That connection served us well when the family had parties.

My time and schedule was simple in Southampton. Get up pretty much when I felt like it. Have breakfast and then ponder whether to go to the beach club or the Meadow Club. That depended on whether I thought there was surf. Surf ruled my life at 14. If there were waves, then I went to the ocean. I was a mat surfer by this time, using the Hodgman canvas air mattresses that were sold at Lillywhite’s, the local toy store. These were pretty simple rigs with a rope handle, a bicycle valve to inflate through, the air mattress was rectangular in shape, blue, white and red in color.

Over time I became a truly excellent mat surfer. I could ride just about any wave up to about 14′. Me and my surfing buddies would spend literally hours in the ocean, if there was surf. Not only did we compete to catch the biggest wave, we would try to find ways to wipe out our fellow surfers. The most effective way to wipe out a fellow surfer was to station yourself at the bottom of wave where you thought a fellow friend might come by. Because the Hodgman air mattress had a rope handle at the front, this was an easy target to grab as your best buddy was coming down the side of a really big wave. All you had to do was wait at the bottom of the wave until your best buddy was almost on top of you and then reach up with a stealthy and deft move of one hand, grab the rope and pull down.

The result was truly delightful. The nose of the surf mat at would dive down into the wave and your best buddy would begin a wonderful somersault in which he was completely turned upside down and then the wave would complete its work by driving your best buddy into the sand. It gave the phrase “pounding sand” true meaning. If this was done delicately enough, your best buddy would not see you at the bottom of the wave and he would be beginning the exhilarating thrill of being propelled down the side of the wave, only to find something has gone terribly wrong and instead charging 75 or 100 feet down the side of the wave towards the beach, your best buddy would be tumbling helter skelter in the wave soon to eat sand.

Nothing was more fun and hilarious than to bring your best buddy to doom. It was worth 5 minutes of hysterical laughter. And of course, if you were successful it would lead to retribution by your best buddy. When you are the receiving end of such an insult you quickly realize how little you can do about it and how quickly your fate is sealed, for suddenly a hand would emerge out of the deep, grab the rope every so gently and pull down. Sometimes, you would see part of a face emerge from the water just before disaster strikes. It would always be smiling. And then you find yourself tumbling helter skelter through the surf, soon to be ground into the sand.

Since the sand was just sand and not rocks, there was really never any damage to your body. Just your pride. You just tumbled through the surf, gasping for air, confused by what was going on, but never really hurt. Often you would emerge just in time to be crushed by yet another wave. And if the sabotage was exquisitely done, several waves would crush you in a row. No matter, it seemed that even the biggest waves and the most humiliating spills did nothing to harm you physically, aside from not being to breathe for short periods of time. In truth, all of us admired a good ambush as much as we loved a good ride.

So that is how we occupied our days on rough ocean days. And after we had been in the ocean two or three hours, we would come out for short time to sit on the beach and warm up in the sun. Even at that age, I still loved the sensation of laying directly on the sand and warming up on the toasty granules. For some reason I have never understood, the plague horseflies that sometimes infested the Bellport Beach Club, never affected Southampton. It was if some old stodgy, long dead Society matron stood invisible on the jetty to Shinnecock Inlet, 24 hours day, all summer long, saying, “Halt thou vile horseflies, you are not permitted beyond this jetty. This beaches are consigned to families of good standing and upright moral character, not foul black insects with green heads that consort with horse manure.”

On calm ocean days, we would go to the Meadow Club and play several sets of tennis. And some days, we would hang out as a group, chit-chatting endlessly about inconsequential things, like whose party to go that night, whose house. It was a carefree life and I enjoyed for five or six summers before doing anything remotely serious. Unlike many kids, who when they got to be 16 or 18, immediately took a summer job, I never worked during the summer. No, I spent 100% of my time playing tennis, swimming in the ocean and going out to parties in the evening.

When I was just 14 there were not many parties to go to, but by the time I got to be 16, I came to hang around in a more sophisticated group of kids. Most these kids came from really rich families. I will not name names, but many were the sons and daughters of some of America’s great industrial and financial companies. As such these kids had money on their own. Not only money, but when they came to be 18 or 19, also nifty little sports cars. XKE Jaguars, little Porches, Corvettes, Mustangs, Mercedes Roadsters. Everybody that is except me. I had almost no money and only occasional driving rights to my parents Nash Ambassador. No matter, I hung in with my peers, even if I could not keep with their level of luxury.

One of the things we used to do was go to beach parties. This was a time in Southampton when the west end of Dune Road was just dunes. Today, those dunes are covered with billionaire homes and there is no public access to what were dunes and to the ocean itself. In those days, however, the dunes were wide open and just about anybody could go there. Rich, poor, male, female, young or old, black, white, Asian, green, pink, anybody could park on Dune Road and walk over the dunes to one of the most beautiful beaches in the world.

In the early days, we would bring transistor radios that did not sound great and some beer that did taste great, even if it was not. We would be in somebody’s house, doing nothing, and somebody would suggest going to the beach for an impromptu party and that is what we would do. 20 or 30 of us would mount up in various vehicles, some very sporty and luxurious, others very simple and functional like the Nash Ambassador that I borrowed from my parents and off we would go, first to pick up beer and munchies, and then to the beach, armed with a hopelessly underpowered transistor radio. Whatever, we always had fun, even if it was a long walk across the dunes and a long walk back.

In later days, these beach parties became more elaborate as some of my fellow buddies came into more money, they would hire a band, round up lobsters, hamburgers and hotdogs and get a cases of beer or kegs, depending on the size of the celebration and then we would all migrate to the beach for a real party complete with funky band, sodas and beer, food and snacks. On those occasions we would gather driftwood and light a huge bonfire. Then we would gather round the fire to listen to the band or the radio and maybe even dance on the beach. And sometimes we would go skinny-dipping in the ocean.

Swimming in the ocean naked at night was exciting because you could not really see the waves that well and you felt kind of unprotected and vulnerable. I mean what might happen if a crab went nipping? Another question was the waves. They just rose up out of nowhere and crushed you if you were not careful. Still another interesting aspect of swimming in the ocean at night was the phosphorous, which was all about you and which lit up, like millions of underwater fireflies, whenever you took a stroke swimming.

At the end of each summer, hurricanes would take aim at Long Island and make their run. Often the hurricanes missed Long Island by hundred of miles, but even if they did, there would be days when the surf got really big. Often on these days, because a hurricane was passing by, the wind would shift around to the Northwest or Northeast and you would have an offshore wind.

Now, as many people know, the surf on Long Island is generally small and choppy. Usually you get a Southwest wind in the afternoons and a chop would rise up. The surf could get to 3 or 4 feet, but generally not much higher. And because these waves were essentially wind blown, they would be sloppy, not break evenly and not have a clear defined shape. Sometimes, in the summer, a set would come in and the waves would rise out nowhere from almost nothing to 6 or 8 feet in a matter of minutes. That would be because some waves were reaching us from some offshore storm which could be hundreds or thousands of miles away.

In late August or mid September, when the hurricane season was underway, then the really big swells could come in and they could be 12 or 14 feet under certain conditions. And if there was an offshore wind, the waves would take on much more defined shapes, more associated with the West Coast or Hawaii. The offshore wind would clean up the shape of the waves and they would come rolling in and as they came to rise up and break, with great white wisps of water and mist being pushed back off of the top of the waves by the wind. This was when the waves could be at their highest and have the most defined and clean shape. They were beautiful to behold.

As I and my friends became better mat surfers, we would begin to ride the waves that broke offshore on sandbars a quarter to a half mile offshore. Usually, we would just ride waves inshore. These were short but fast. The waves out on the sandbars beyond the first break, were generally larger, better formed and far more powerful, especially if there was a hurricane within two or three hundred miles. Then the waves could be really impressive.

Getting out to the sandbars where those waves broke took a lot of effort on the old Hodgman air mats because those air mattresses were pretty thick and rectangular in shape. It was not like paddling a surfboard out which cuts through waves far easier and can be paddled far faster. So It was hard paddling surf mats out to the sandbars and getting beyond were the waves broke was even more arduous and sometimes very frustrating. Often as you got close to the big waves a big wave would catch you and knock you back 200 or 300 feet, giving you a long and quite unexpected ride that you really did not want.

To get the ride you wanted, you had to catch the wave at the top of the crest just as it was breaking and ride it all the way down the curve of the wave and beyond. So getting knocked back 200 or 300 feet, when you had not caught the wave as it was breaking was not what you wanted. Again, it was not easy to paddle back and often you would get knocked back towards the shore again and again. The Hodgman surf mats had great buoyancy which floated you above the water, but that also meant the wave could push you back to where you came from very easily. It took a lot of determination and a lot of energy to paddle your way through the break of the waves on a sandbar and beyond where the waves actually broke.

So a great deal of effort was expended in just getting into position to catch a wave. My friends and myself did go out to the sandbar waves whenever the waves were large enough. Once you were out there, it also took time and judgment to catch a wave. You could easily squander all your efforts to get out there on a wave that either was not worthy of your efforts or was more worthy than you realized. On the not worthy waves, you would get a slow disappointing ride that kind of fizzled out. On the more worthy waves than you realized, the wave would break in front of you before you could actually catch it and come roaring down on you and it might give you a fast and very bumpy ride.

Often such a wave would wipe you out, throwing you off the mat and sending it shoreward. And then you might have to swim two or three hundred feet to get to your surf mat. And by the time you did that, you were one tired puppy and you probably reconsidering your judgment to come out there in the first place. Sometimes, if a wave broke just behind you and if you acted quick enough, turning to get into position and then paddling hard to catch the wave, you could get a pretty great ride, even if often had a very bumpy start, bouncing you up and down three or four feet at a time, until you finally landed on the surface of the wave and started to skim down it like you were supposed. That could be a really great ride.

One of the disconcerting things that would occur from time to time was that you would look down and you would notice 5 or 6 sharks swimming below. Now it was generally 10 to 15 feet deep where the sandbars were and most of the time you could see the bottom clearly if there were no waves breaking at the moment. And that was then we would see the sharks.

To fair these were not big sharks and more importantly, they seemed to have no interest us. They just seemed to like to swim below where we were floating. When we first saw these sharks, we tried to figure out how to get our bodies completely on top the 28″ x 42″ Hodgman surf mats. That was not easy. The only successful way to do that was to kneel. That worked for a while but it could become uncomfortable kneeling for long periods. Over time, as we came to realize that the sharks had no real interest in us and we would lay down on the mats, our legs dangling in the ocean water, ready meat for the sharks below.

We found out from our local lifeguard that these were sand sharks and that generally they were harmless. That is not to say that there were not other sharks swimming in the same water who had a more material interest in our body parts. Some years later a Great White Shark was caught off of Montauk. It was 25′ long and apparently had a ready appetite for humans. No matter, we were never molested in our surfing endeavors and no one I knew ever got bitten by a shark or suffered any bodily harm that I know of from surfing the outer sandbars.

One year a hurricane came near the Hamptons and brushed us with 40 or 50 mile an hour winds. The next day I went out and decided that I was going to surf the outer break with a couple of friends. The surf was bigger than I had ever seen it. In shore 14′ to 15′ waves were breaking. Overnight the wind had turned around to the Northeast and was blowing offshore. This had the effect of knocking down the waves slightly and giving them almost a perfect surfing shape. They were majestic rollers rising up and rolling in. There was no chop, only the clean curve of the mountainous waves as they rolled in.

I know by Pacific standards, these were not the truly large waves that sometimes came to Hawaii and the West Coast, but they were truly humongous by East Coast standards. So I and two other buddies mounted up and headed out on our trusty Hodgman mats. Just getting through the shore break took some doing. You had to wade out two or three hundred feet to get to the break and to dive repeated times holding on to your surf for dear life. In doing so, we would have to dive into the waves backward and pulling our surf mats with us through the giant waves. Often the wave would still catch us and pull us back 30 or 40 feet, but we kept at it and eventually we made it through the shore break.

Once outside the shore break we could paddle to the outer sandbar which was almost a half mile offshore. I should at this point mention that the offshore wind had the advantage of aiding us paddling out to the second break, but that was also a terrible hazard. If we got tumbled in the surf and separated from our mats, we could easily have our surf mats blown out to sea by the strong offshore wind. This was not only inconvenient, it was dangerous, because it was highly unlikely we could swim and catch out surf mats. So, if we did get separated from the mats, we would have to make the half mile swim to shore at a time when we were particularly exhausted from our surfing efforts. Fortunately, that did not happen to us. We were aware of the conditions and we held on to our mats literally for dear life.

So out we went, three teenagers, between 15 and 17, paddling to the get out beyond the second break. The second break by the sandbar proved to be far more difficult than the shore break. That was because when you were paddling out, in the ten to twenty feet of water we were in, there was no way to dive under a breaking wave. The idea was to paddle like hell and get out beyond the sandbar break. This was difficult because the waves broke a good 500 feet in front of you. So you could paddle for 50 or 100 feet and then a wave would come rolling towards you. Then you would have to decide. Which was easier. To roll off of your mat and hold onto the rope or to paddle right into the breaking wave and hope it did not take you too far back. I tried both methods. Getting off the mat and holding onto the mat generally resulted in less loss of territory, but both involved losses of territory that you had paddled hard to get beyond.

This process proved so difficult that my two friends headed back, giving up on the effort. But I was made of sterner stuff. There was something in me that would not allow me to quit. So I continued to try and plow my way out beyond where the waves broke. It took me a good 45 minutes of fighting forward, being knocked back and then fighting forward again, to just get beyond that second break, but I finally succeeded. I took a ten minute rest just beyond where the breakers were.

This finally put me in a position to catch a wave. Now I was out just beyond where the waves were breaking I began to realize just how enormous they were. As they rolled, I had the feeling that I was floating over and under mountains. When on top of the rolling wave came, I could see all other rollers coming in the distance beyond, then as the wave passes, I would fall into the valley between the two waves and it would seem like being between two mountains in motion. In front of me was giant wall, behind me was a giant wall. And these walls, rolling under me, rising up and then rolling by. When you were between two walls, it was almost dark in the valley and all you could see above you was blue sky, while the two walls enclosed you, with no sun in the valley.

Somewhere about that time, it occurred to me that this was probably not a very good idea. I was out beyond second break. There was a stiff 20 or 30 mile offshore wind attempting to blow me to England. I had to keep a close watch on the shore to be sure I was not being blown out to sea. I also had to keep a sharp eye on the incoming waves to be sure they were not going to break and not pummel me into the deep. It was a tricky situation because I also knew I had to catch the crest of a wave if was to get a good ride. So I hung out there for almost another 45 minutes waiting for the perfect wave.

And then it came, a Mount Everest among the Himalayas. When I saw it, I was not sure it would even break. Then it started to rise and rise. It was an easy 20′ from the bottom of the wave to the crest of the wave, which was not yet breaking. At that time, I was about 5′ 6″, all of 130 lbs., riding on this 28″ x  42″ surf mat. I turned toward shore and started paddling not sure if I was to far in or not close enough to catch the wave. Meanwhile the coming wave continued to rise up, like some elemental force of God.

I caught the wave about 4 feet from the crest, but the crest had not broken. Below me was the moving 16′ deep valley. The wave caught me, I was at about 60 degree downward angle as I was suddenly propelled down the side of the wave. And then it did something no other wave ever did to me before. It threw me out 20 or 30 feet ahead the wave before it even broke. And then it did break. At first I was still being propelled ahead of the wave, skimming over the surface at a tremendous speed with no apparent form of propulsion. And then the breaking wave broke, the top 8 feet of the wave turning into a 6 foot wall of white foam. The 6 foot wall of whitewater caught up to me and thrust me forward. I had to hold on to that surf mat with all my strength. Somehow I emerged from the wall of white and again found myself skimming over the surface of the wave 20′ ahead of the breaking, foaming white wall, apparently with no source of propulsion.

Soon the source caught up with me and shot me forward again, skimming ahead of the breaking wave, as if carried forward by an invisible force.

This recurrence of the breaking wave catching up with me and then spitting me out ahead occurred 5 or 6 times before the actual breaking wave caught up and carried me forward as I bounced up and down 400 or 500 feet on the breaking crest of the wave. This was, without question, the most exciting ride of my life on an ocean wave and I will never forget it. The terror and exhilaration and adrenalin mixed in equal parts and with fear and joy and infatuation as I raced down the side of that wave.

I have no doubt that the surfers of today experience far more exhilaration and fear and astonishment on the many rides surfers get on far bigger waves, but my ride was before the time people used surfboards widely and for me, at that time, it was the most exciting thing I had ever done.

I spent summers in Hamptons from the time was 14 to the time I was 22. During this period I graduated from a Catholic Prep School, Portsmouth Priory, spent two years flunking out of The University of Virginia, two years getting back into The University of Virginia and two years graduating. This was a fairly standard method of curriculum going to The University of Virginia since it happened to be known as America’s biggest party school. It was also known for having a pretty high standard of academic training, especially if you went to classes. I found the freedom of that school literally too intoxicating, but I was able to get back in and I was able to eventually graduate in Philosophy, a course of learning that proved to be of dubious use in my father’s business selling fishing lures and inflatable boats.

After College

No matter, I graduated and after some sharp career changes – Clam Digger, journalist, newspaper delivery man, script writer – I went into my father’s business. The year was 1968 and that year was the same year that my father purchased an inflatable boat company. His theory was if he could sell dress forms, paint brushes, fishing lures, TV repair books, fertilizer, dance lessons, surely he could also sell inflatable boats. After all, inflatable boats were reasonably small and came in boxes and you could use that new delivery service, UPS, to deliver our boats. He was right.

At that time, my father’s main business was mostly fishing lures and ladies’ dress forms. Of course, there were a few other odd products – AutoCast fishing rods which had an internal spring to cast fishing lures about 30 feet, Lure Glow, a kind of toxic glow powder, that made fishing lures luminous (“Illegal in 13 States” was my father’s brilliant headline copy), Addiators, a mechanical precursor of calculators, that added and subtracted with a hand stylus and now inflatable boats.

Admittedly, it was an odd collection of goods, but my father was a true marketing genius and, one way or another, he found ways to sell all of these odd products. But the moral of this part of the story is that I now found something to get interested in because now my father had this weird inflatable business. One of my first duties in my father’s business was to write copy for a catalog on the boats and get pictures taken of the inflatable boats.

Now for someone who all his life had only known about rigid boats, the whole concept of inflatables seemed crazy. However, after paddling and trying out these boats for a few weeks I began to get the idea. Here were boats you could pack in your car, store in closet, keep in garage, that you could take out, blow up in a few minutes and literally go paddling. It was and still is a whole different concept of boating. The hardest point to get my head around was fact that inflatable boats actually worked and could be used in many different ways.

So I spent some time just getting to understand the new business and the meaning of inflatable boats. The particular meaning to me was that I now had a whole bunch of reasons go boating and to use these new boats. And of course, because we had bought the boat business, I had the boats to do all this.

Well, one thing led to another you might say. I went to work for my father. My cousin, who was not sure what to do after college, came and did a stint in my father’s business. We moved into a little rental house on Lake Panamoka in Wading River. Of course, we brought some of our new inflatable canoes to the house and every evening if it was not raining, we went paddling on the lake. Not long after to moving into that house we met my wife to be and after some little tussle between my cousin and myself, I ended up with a new girlfriend and my future wife, Ginny Whitehead. That proved to be convenient because she lived three houses down from the house my cousin and I had rented. So my future father, mother, brother and sister-in-laws were nearby.

Not long after that my cousin decided he wanted to become a lawyer and he went off to law school in Washington. That left me with the house and my new girlfriend. We got married after a few years, moved to another part of Wading River into a very cool, very tiny house situated on Cliff Road, coincidently over-looking a 100 foot cliff out to Long Island Sound. There again, I brought along my boats even though it was logistically difficult to do, since you had to climb up and down a 100 foot cliff. Eventually I built a wooden stairway to make that somewhat more practical.

As I got more involved in my father’s business I naturally migrated towards the boat business because it gave me an excuse to do things on the water. I started to take the boats out to get pictures and started to write copy for catalog because we had none. Now, I had been an amateur photographer for sometime, but in truth, the emphasis should be on amateur. So the first thing really needed to do was find a photographer. I enlisted my new cousin, Freddy Havemeyer, and he took the first shots of our products on the water. That forced me how to learn to write copy and advertisements.

Having spent all my life inculcated with advertising, I had naturally absorbed something before even starting. As I started working on little ads and little brochures, I learned how to get photographs taken (not difficult, you tell someone to take pictures and then watch them take pictures), how to get ads laid out (you give a layout artist some words and some pictures), how to get catalogs laid out (you give the same layout artist more words and more pictures). In truth there more to it than that, but my father’s business came with built-in relationships with photographers and layout artists. It was not hard to find your way. Start at A and go to B.

Now when it came to my father’s other businesses, I did not find them particularly interesting at first. I came to understand them and to do reasonably good work in them, but they definitely were not my passion. I can’t say that inflatable boats were passion, but they were a whole lot closer. Why? Because doing ads and catalogs for them meant we had to go out on the water, take pictures and use the boats. And as I came to understand and appreciate them better, I began to really like being in the boat business.

Me Running the Chatooga River in Georgia

Me Running the Chatooga River in Georgia

So after meeting my wife in Wading River and moving from Lake Panamoka in Wading River to Cliff Road in Wading River, one thing remained constant. We went out boating. And when we moved to Cliff Road, my wife met a couple who came to be our best friends. I had been in Europe visiting our new French supplier of inflatable boats when my wife told me she met this really neat couple and when I came back I would love to meet them. And that’s what I did.

By this time, I had already been producing ads and catalogs, mostly with the help of my new cousin-in-law, Freddy Havemeyer who became our boat photographer for a while. When I got back, I met the couple down the street, Michael and Joellen Schillaci. And my wife was right. They were a really neat couple. Michael was a Vietnam vet, and presently a spackler in the construction trade. He and Joellen had recently married, she was an art student and a recent college graduate.

I introduced Michael and Joellen to our boats and soon we were taking weekend camping trips. One of our first photography trips was running a river in Pennsylvania in our kayaks.  I told Michael and Joellen about taking our kayaks down the Youghieheny River and showed them the pictures. That was enough to get them interesting in trying river running. Pretty soon we were taking river trips down various local rivers.

It is strange how people influence other people. My wife, who had been making jewelry for a few years, introduced Joellen jewelry design. I, who been getting boat photographs taken for a few years, introduced Michael to photography. One thing led to another and over time, JoEllen started making her own jewelry and Michael started taking photographs. In a few years, Michael became a photographer of our boats and Joellen became a full time jewelry designer.

Running The Farmington River

Running The Farmington River

For the next 30 years, our lives were kind of entwined. We went off for numerous river and camping trips using our boats on lakes and rivers. Michael became our photographer and pretty soon we were organizing river trips and camping trips to take pictures all around the Northeast. My wife Ginny and Joellen started doing jewelry together. Each spring and summer we would go off on these river and camping trips, 10 to 15 people, gathering together boats, food, drink and heading off to the mountains and running a river or setting up a camping scene in which we all participated. It became a kind of lifestyle.

Strong’s Neck

After living in Wading River, first on Lake Panamoka, then on Cliff Road overlooking Long Island Sound, I found a new, somewhat bigger house in Strong’s Neck, a part of Setauket, on the North Shore of Long Island. One thing remained a constant – we were still living on the water. This time, instead having lake right outside your back porch or Long Island Sound down a 100 foot cliff, I had bay in my backyard about 100 feet from our new house.

Me in 2015 on a Kayak I Designed

Me in 2015 on a Kayak I Designed

This is the house that we ended up living for the last forty years and it continued what I had been doing since I was about two – that is, it continued my life and love affair with water. Many things have changed over those forty years, but what has not changed is that I still go kayaking or rowing or swimming or boating whenever those activities are possible. Now, you might think that is a June to September activity, but in fact I go boating all year. My only rule is not to go boating when the ice freezes over the bay. That makes January and February often difficult, but even then I usually able to paddle or row 5 or 10 times in each of those months. The rest the year I go more often, usually 5 days a week, weather and tide permitting.

Circumnavigating Long Island.

One the many interesting experiences that I have had over the years was to follow a guy who chose to row around Long Island in order to raise money to support cancer research – a kind of strange quest in itself. Each of those trips took 8 to 10 days to go around Long Island. Why did it take so long? Well, for one thing, Long Island is pretty long – about 120 miles long and about 300 miles to circumnavigate when you go in and out of its many harbors and bays and inlets. For another thing, the guy I was following (Rick Shalvoy was his name), although in peak physical condition, was still human, so the fastest he could row was about 4 or 5 miles per hour. And that was with the wind and tide at his back. On some occasions Rick actually went into reverse when wind and tide were not co-operating.

On those trips I was the support boat and, as such, I carried enough water, food, radios, gas and electronic equipment to complete the whole trip, if I had to. And although I never had too, I had numerous run-ins with the natural elements of nature and I came to have a strong appreciation of how alone a human could be if you got into a little trouble, even if you were just a half mile offshore from a beach crowded with beach-goers. In doing these trips, I came to know and understand and to respect the many different waterways that surround Long Island.

I did that for 10 years in a row and each time it was an interesting and new experience for me. I have written a pretty long story on those experiences in this blog entitled “Circumnavigating Long Island Ten Times”, so I will not dwell on all the gory details, but suffice to say these experiences expanded and enhanced my other experiences in, on and around the water. Long Island, as seen from the water, is, in my opinion, a whole different place than Long Island, as seen from the land.


You may ask why anyone would write such a long article about going on the water? What is important about that? Well, it is important to me and I have a theory about that. This may be where my college degree in philosophy comes into play.

Here is my theory. I think we live in two worlds – the inside world that we work, play and sleep in and the outside world that we pass through and occasionally observe. To me the real world is the outside world. To me the artificial world is the inside world. I believe I get my almost daily exposure to outside world by going paddling or rowing and I believe it gives me another view of the world. It is a view that I believe cleanses me and makes me aware of what is really around me.

Now you can go for a bicycle ride or a jog and yes you are outside, but what will you see? Roads, houses, buildings, driveways, telephone poles, cars, all supporting characters in the inside world. And while it is true you will see houses, boats and other people on the water, you will also see wide horizons and bays and birds and sunny, blue skies and wet, gray days, hot sometimes, cool sometimes, cold sometimes. To me that is the true world.

Of course that experience can be further improved on by taking trips and paddling or rowing or sailing on truly remote and beautiful waterways. And yes, there still is a lot of real world out there. And guess what? You are free to go anytime you wish.

This is very important me. I feel if we lose contact with what I call the real world, we will inevitably destroy it. And if we inevitably destroy it, in doing so we will inevitably destroy ourselves. So I think that is important and should be remembered and understood by all.



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Cecile and Freddy Find Love


by Cecil Hoge

It never occurred to me that it was possible for my friend, Freddy Havemeyer, to fall in love with my cousin, Cecile Hoge. Quite simply, I just never would have put the two together. I would have thought that the two were mutually exclusive.

Frederick Havemeyer the III came from an extremely wealthy and well-known family. His great grandfather and his grandfather had controlled 90% of the sugar coming into the United States. In the 1800s several Havemeyers had been mayors of New York City.

At the time I met Freddy he was not one of those Havemeyers concerned with wealth accumulation. His family’s wealth had been secured generations before Freddy and it was not thought to be necessary for anyone in his family to work. And in fact, no one in his family had worked for 2 generations. Freddy was not a playboy, but he certainly made a good imitation of one.

He drove around in a wonder sports car of the day, a little green Porsche, if I remember correctly. Although this car held just 2 passengers, it had an extremely large motor and sleek undulating lines. When you sat in the passenger seat, it seemed like the hood disappeared and a great expanse of the road was immediately in front of you. Usually, I was not the passenger. That pleasure was reserved for Helene Fagin, a tanned beauty whose lithe figure adorned alternately Freddy’s Porshe or the beach or the pool of the Southampton Bathing Corporation.

Freddy met Cecile in 1969. It was after Freddy and Helene had split up and I remember it was one of the years we were in the Zirinsky house. Our group of families (3 Hoges and 1 Obolensky) had been sharing house rentals in Southampton for over 20 years and Zirinsky house was the grandest one of them all. It had 13 or 14 bedrooms and was plopped down on 2 acres of Southampton’s finest non-beachfront real estate on First Neck Lane, about a half a mile from the Meadow Club.

With 4 families and rooms loaded with aunts, uncles and cousins, this arrangement was not quite legal except for the fact that we were all related. Needless to say, the Zirinsky house was full night and day. As my aunt Helene said, “Even the house guests have house guests.” This was because all members of our families would invite house guests for the weekend who in turn would extend invitations to other house guests.

To say that it was a busy house with odd comings and goings would understate the odd comings and odd goings. This was the end of the Sixties, that exuberant and odd period of time of micro mini skirts and alternative substances. A nice feature of the Zirinksy property was that it had a small cottage in the back where I and my alternative cousins would retire from time to time while the elder members of the family enjoyed the traditional pleasures of the cocktail hour. In short, it was a confused period and a wonderful summer.

If am right, the exact moment Freddy discovered that I had a cousin named Cecile was on the lawn of the Zirinsky house one early evening when we were engaged in our favorite before dinner activity, when several of us guys were sipping beers on the front lawn and throwing a Frisbee back and forth and Cecile came bouncing out of some boyfriend’s car that had just sped onto the nearby driveway. It was unusual that Freddy was there because Freddy was generally not fond of beer or Frisbee, but such were the strange aspects of fate.

Freddy turned to me and said, if I remember correctly, “Who is she?”

Those three simple words marked the nano second when I believe Freddy was smittten by Cecile. I explained she was my cousin. There was some conversation from Freddy asking where she had come from. In this case, I think she had just arrived from the city for a weekend in the country, bringing a boyfriend who was, you guessed it, a house guest. Freddy seemed awestruck that he had never noticed Cecile before, although he vaguely remembered her as that thin, gangly and giggly teenybopper who hung out with Hope Cromwell.

But Cecile, while still thin, was no longer gangly and giggly. She had filled out and had become, as happens with many a young girl, a beautiful young woman. And Freddy noticed.

It seemed like only week later Freddy showed up one day when Cecile happened to be without her boyfriend. And then it seemed like it was only a week after that they started to go out. And then, after yet another week, it seemed to me they became a couple. And after that, Cecile and Freddy were simply inseparable. And within a year they were man and wife.

Now Freddy, being the scion to a wealthy family where no one had worked in generations was somewhat bewildered as to what to do. He tried various things, none of which were designed to actually earn a living. The idea was to find something that was compatible with what he liked and did not break the cardinal rule of the family – Thou shalt not work. It was not easy being a Havemeyer.

For a while he was a captain of a charter boat, but that career waned when he recognized that it was considered part of the job to provide some entertainment for his clients. Entertainment on a fishing boat generally consisted of telling stories about fishing, providing sandwiches and ample quantities of beer. For Freddy, that was a little over the top. Catching giant Marlin way out to sea was fine, even catching smaller, less elegant fish was fine, but feeding and liquoring up his clientele was not what he had signed on for.

So that job ended and Freddy took up another idea. This time he would be a photographer. Freddy decided to do it right. He landed a job as one of Richard Avedon’s photography assistants. Not a bad place to start. So Freddy began working with one of the greatest living photographers in the country.

It so happened at this time I was working in my father’s business and had begun my career in trying to sell inflatable boats. One of our problems was that we did not have any catalog, only a few products and the leftover inventory of my father’s new partner, a Frenchman named Guy Rabion. Somehow it fell to me to write, design and get the new catalog photographed. Since Freddy was already in the photography business and now officially a relative, I asked him if he wanted to be our photographer.

Freddy thought this might be a good opportunity since he had mostly worked in studios and had not done a lot of outdoor photography. I had seen some of Freddy’s photography and I thought he already was a great photographer. So off we went.

I gathered up a gaggle of long-legged female cousins, some male cousins, some college buddies, some girlfriends of theirs and they became our models of the moment. This was a low budget affair. Models got beer or soda and sometime eats. We did pay Freddy some money for his time and film, but nothing up to Havemeyer standards. But considering the fact that it was almost forbidden for Freddy to work and he has interested in getting outdoor experience, this setup seemed to work for both of us.

At first we went to shoot at local bays and beach locations setting up mock camping shots of our family and friends frolicking by the water, in and out of our kayaks, sometimes even trying to ride them in the surf. Since no one was actually working and everybody was not in a rush, we just took our time and spent weeks getting shots other people might get in a day or two.

The pictures were beautiful. Freddy had a real sense of light, of setting up the shot and getting everybody to look like they were happy and not look like it was staged. Cecile acted as Freddy’s assistant, carrying film, cameras and other photography gear, coming over to bring makeup to my cousins who did not want it and adjusting their hair in ways they considered unnecessary.

Miraculously, it all worked. We decided to go on 2 more ambitious photography shoots – one to the Rappahanick River in Virginia and one to the Youghiogheny River, known as the “Yawk” to whitewater fans, in Pennsylvania, near Pittsburg. Our plan was to shoot yacht-tending pictures using our boats on the Rappahanick and whitewater shots of our kayaks running the mighty “Yawk”.

It was on these trips that I came to know Freddy and Ceal as a couple. Ceal was the nickname that Cecile preferred. Freddy and Ceal always stayed close to each other and would whisper little jokes and sweet nothings to each other. They were obviously completely in love.

Freddy and Ceal moved at their own pace and never rushing anything. Often they came after cousins and friends had inflated all the boats and gathered all the props and often Freddy and Ceil arrived after all the “models” had gotten ample warmup time. It was understood, love could not be rushed. And truly all my cousins, family and friends held them in awe because Freddy and Ceal seemed so obviously right for each other.

When we went down to Virginia to take pictures on the Rappahanick River, near the ocean. Mostly these were yacht tending shots, using my buddy Rich Miller’s parent’s sailboat. My cousins and college mates would row and motor around the 40′ sailboat, pretending they were yachting while Freddy snapped pictures and Ceal held props.

In the evening we would go back to Rich’s parents’ guest house, cook hamburgers or spaghetti and drink beer and play Yahtzee. Freddy and Ceal were not the beer and hamburger type. They would drink sparkling water and munch on various kinds of salads. Invariably, Freddy and Ceal would slink off just after dinner to be with themselves. Maybe, they would stick around long enough to make some remarks about the weather.

“Front’s moving in,” Ceal would say to Freddy.

Freddy would look deeply at an approaching cloud bank, “Yes, Ceal,” Freddy would say, “It won’t be long now before the wind shifts to out of the Northwest. It’s going to get cool tonight.”

“Your right Freddy, it’s going to be chilly”.

Those were the words they said, but I knew those words had a whole different meaning for Freddy and Cecile.

Here is what I think they really said to each other.

“Freddy, I love you more than any woman can love any man.”

“I know that Ceal, I will love you always and forever. I do not know what I would have done if I had not found you.”

“Well, it is good thing it going to be chilly tonight.”

“Why, Ceal?”

“Because I am going to keep you warm tonight.”

And then they would smile blissfully at each other and their hands would find each other and in a few moments they would be gone for the evening.

Of course, I cannot say if my translation of their words is accurate, but I am pretty sure my interpretation captured the drift of their feelings.

So Freddy and Ceal would sneak off to be alone with love on their minds and we would play Yatzee raucously late into the evening deleting many a beer.

Freddy and Ceal accompanied us to Pennsylvania to film our efforts to go down the mighty Youghiogheny River. I had never actually paddled our inflatable kayaks on white water, but I figured it could be too different from the ocean surf I romped in every summer. That turned out to be partially right.

We had acquired a customer on the mighty Youghiogheny River, a white water rental company and the owner had convinced me that I had to come down and check out the river and get some pictures. So off we went, Freddy and Ceal, some college buddies with girlfriends, me and my wife Virginia. It was quite a crew, I, my wife and college buddies, their girlfriends, all in faded jeans and Freddy in the fine traditional of Hampton wear, red Lilly Pulitzer trousers, pink knit Alligator shirt and Gucci moccasins, Ceal in mauve summer blouse, white micro skirt and white high heels.

We checked into the local motel which might make a Super 8 proud and headed out for steak, fries and beer. Ceal and Freddy sipped club soda, nibbled on some kind of salad and discussed incoming weather fronts (not really).

The next day we went out to reconnoiter spots to shoot. The Youghiogheny River makes a loop through the little town we were staying in, so it was possible to walk from the put in on one side of the town to the take out about a half a mile away on the other side town. We checked out several spots, everything looked good and then we retired to beer and burgers, except for Freddy and Ceal who sipped club soda and tested the local salads available. I gathered from the expressions on their faces Freddy and Ceal did not think too highly of the available cuisine or frankly, of our enthusiasm for local dining and drinking.

I should have been a little sensitive to the possible pitfalls of this shoot when after lunch we decided to give the river a final look see before goofing off for the rest of day. We went down to river to see what we were subjecting ourselves to. Freddy and Ceal came along, cameras and exposure meters in hand. When we got down to riverside, Freddy took off his Guccis to stick his toe in the water and handed Ceal his camera and light meter. That proved to be a good move. This is where we discovered there are some differences between an ocean beach and a river’s edge.

I didn’t really see how it happened. Freddy was closer to the river and sticking toes into some obviously shallow water. I turned away and heard Freddy say,

“I wonder how deep it is?”

I turned around when I heard Ceal scream. It sounded as if someone had pushed her off the Empire State Building.

“Iiieeeeh!” screamed Ceal.

When I looked to see what the noise was for, I sensed something was wrong, but I was not sure what. And then it dawned on me. Where was Freddy? The only evidence of his presence was some small bubbles on water just out from where Freddy had been standing. Almost immediately Freddy emerged, soaking wet, his Lilly Pulitzer trousers a sad, soggy tale, his pink knit shirt now dripping gallons of water. At first Freddy was not able to get out because he had just come to realize he was in water way over his head – something not easy since Freddy was an easy 6′ 3″ in his bare feet. Then, to the relief of Ceal, he grabbed a nearby boulder and managed to pull himself out.

I was impressed. He had the foresight not to wear the Guccis and he had also handed off his camera and light meter to Ceal. Freddy was not so happy – he was wet, cold and embarrassed – this sort of thing does not happen to Havemeyers. Cecile was just happy that the love of her life was back on the planet.

I should have known that this might be some kind of hint of things to come. The next day started out perfectly. The weather was glorious and we were all ready for our first experience of white water as models. Fred and Ceal stopped by the put in point. Freddy was now showered, dry and looking fit and trim in a new pair bright green Lilly Pulitzer pants handsomely framed out with yellow shirt and, you guessed it, Gucci moccasins.

The plan was simple enough – Freddy and Ceal would walk around to the appointed shoot location which overlooked some pretty nasty white water rapids. We would paddle down the river about a half mile, wait 45 minutes and then shoot down that particular section, which was known to the locals as “the washing machine”.

Freddy and Ceal set off hand in hand, loads of photographic gear slung over their shoulders. We started down the river. The problem with rivers, as I soon found out, is that many spots look almost identical and while I had clear idea in my mind of what I thought was the proper starting point, as I went down the river I soon realized that many spots looked almost the same.

So problem number one was we did not actually know where we supposed to wait for Freddy and Ceal. No matter, we stopped somewhere we thought appropriate, waited 45 minutes, and then resumed our journey. Pretty soon we came upon the dread “Washing Machine”, charged through it, almost immediately flipping our fine inflatable kayaks. Before we knew it, we were in the town, by the take out.

All this would have been fine if Freddy and Ceal had been at the shoot location, ready to capture our haphazard efforts in glorious Kodachrome. Unfortunately, Freddy and Ceal were nowhere to be seen.

To this day, there is some dispute as to who should have been where, but I can only say for sure that Freddy and Ceal did what they thought they were supposed to do and we did what we thought we were supposed to do. I might suggest that Freddy and Ceal could have moved a little faster, but Freddy and Ceal were officially Havemeyers at that point and Havemeyers cannot be rushed.

But no matter, all’s well that ends well. The next day the weather was perfectly fine and we set out, wiser models, wiser white water paddlers and wiser photographer. We even did better going through “the washing machine”. I, myself, made it through at least once upright and 3 other times upright enough, for a few seconds, for Freddy to get a few shots in before I was wiped out. The result was some pretty spectacular white water shots, looking as if some of the paddlers actually knew what they were doing.

The trip to Pennsylvania and the trip to Virginia were times I got to know Freddy and Ceal best. It established in my mind not only when Freddy and Ceal met, but also what a truly loving relationship they enjoyed.

Ceal Havemeyer was active in many charitable fields

Ceal Havemeyer was active in many charitable fields

Now Freddy and Ceal enjoyed a long and successful marriage. Two beautiful children came from their marriage, Charlotte Havemeyer and Frederick Havemeyer, IV. Freddy the third, became a town supervisor and was well respected for his sensible and even-handed judgment in preserving the scenic beauty and environmental integrity the town’s waterways. Ceal went on to develop an unsuspected vocation of helping the needy, something you may not have guessed was at the forefront of her mind.

She became a longtime member of Southampton’s Town Anti-Bias Task Force initiating and pushing forward more fair hiring practices and Spanish-language signage and personnel at Southampton Hospital. She also promoted bus shelters for public transportation and the creation of playgrounds for children.

But that was only the beginning. She led drives to provide food and clothes for various disasters, including Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana and 9/11 in New York. She worked for the preservation of various Southampton landmarks such as the Halsey House and the Parish Art Museum. She helped get local high school students tuition for college. In short, in contrast to the life she could have led, she worked many hours and many years to help the needy and to preserve the character and historical legacy of Southampton.

About a year ago Cecile found out that she had stage 4 pancreatic cancer. I should have known something was up because she gave me call while I was out having lunch. That was unusual because while often had conversation and contact at family gatherings, she rarely called me.

Cecile started the conversation very directly and simply. She wanted to know what kind of cancer my father had. That was curious I thought and then, without waiting for me to reply, she just blurted out the truth.

“Well, actually I am very sick and my doctor wants to know what history of cancer there is in our family.”

That of course came as a big shock. Cecile was not only beautiful girl and woman, she was a very beautiful and dignified lady. I knew she never was tinged with any of our family’s weaknesses. She almost never drank, she didn’t smoke, she ate health foods all her life.

I told Ceal that my father had Squamous Cell Skin Cancer for about 60 years and only late in life did it become serious and fatal.

“Well, that’s clear. There is no heredity connection to his cancer. I am dying. I have stage 4 pancreatic cancer. And there is nothing anyone can do about.”

It was a kind of brusque and brutal way to reveal her own condition, but it was totally honest and totally in keeping with the way she talked. Cecile was not a lady to mince words or to beat around the bush.

Of course, I was extremely saddened to hear about her cancer and I wished her what I wish all cancer patients – that the cancer was not terminal or as severe, that the doctors were wrong, that the doctors would find a cure.

Unfortunately, in Ceal’s case, the doctor’s were correct and Cecile was correct and the cancer did advance and, within a period six months the cancer became fatal.

Ceal persevered through the debilitating agonies of that disease and survived far longer than her doctors had predicted. At first they tried to give her chemotherapy. That almost killed her on the first application. Thereafter, Ceal refused all further medication and methodically went about setting her life in order, finishing her will, signing papers about what to do as death came near, planning her final journey to hospice where sphere could pass away in dignity outside of the constant observation of her family.

Cecile decided that she would not let her children know of her condition until her son Freddy had finished some course of business studies he was taking. She did not want to jeopardize his studies. She wanted it that way.

Cecile lived at home for the first several months of her disease and when the time came sho moved to the hospice she had chosen. She died at the age of 68, having lived a full life, dedicated to her husband, to her children and to the help and betterment of others.

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