Sunday, October 31, 2010

Reflections on All Hallow's Eve

October the 31st, and it was a Sunday. There was nothing spooky or spiritual about the dogs deciding that 5.55 a.m. was the start of the "pagan" festival. Trust me - the combined weight of three labradors (the fourth was in another room) is a bouncing alarm clock that no one can ignore. Once up, everyone's up. It's a simple canine equation that is impossible to deny.

In my sermon this morning I admitted that I had tried, in thought and preparation, and with a little humor, to splice together the gospel story of Zacchaeus (he who climbed a sycamore tree to see the Lord) and the unavoidable theme of this weekend. The modern American expression of All Hallow's Eve, namely Halloween. I stated:

I find Zacchaeus more interesting than "ghoulies and ghosties, and long leggedy beasties, and things that go bump in the night." And, of course I do, but even as I spoke those words, that old and anonymous Scottish ditty, I started to have deeper thoughts about my denial. Because I am interested in those "ghosties." I have to be as a result of my own experiences, and those of my late father, also a priest.

Ghosts. Ah! People can step up and ask,"Do you believe in ghosts?" My answers are always ambiguous, for the very word "ghost" is culturally loaded. Others, mainly rigiliists when it comes to religious matters, will assert that as a Christian (and a priest, to boot) I must deny such notions. Then I remain quiet, and remember that line in the Nicene Creed that we believe in a God who is God of the "visible and invisible."

So, over the next few days, in this season of All Hallows, I am going to write some more. These will not be ghost stories, but they will be narratives from my own experiences and those of my father. I invite all to comment and add to these humble pages, which try to be honest in what they tell.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

On, but shortly to be Off Cape

I have spent the past few days on the Outer Cape. Not in my beloved Pamet River valley, for complex reasons, but in a tiny beach rental on the Truro/Provincetown town line. I have been reconnecting with old trails and places, as well as discovering the new. And out of necessity seeing the Outer Cape through new and creative eyes. Having taken over 200 photographs and pages of scribbled notes, perhaps you will allow me to share this time with you over the next week and more. (Typed on my Blackberry so please excuse errors.)

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Is it a bird? Is it a plane?

No, it's a cloud. (Photograph taken this week from the Montauk Highway.)

Thursday, October 14, 2010


As one who now visits Riverhead almost on a daily basis I am disappointed. There are only two places in this county seat (population 27,860, 2000 Census.) to drink decent coffee. And the first of these is Seattle's Best Coffee in Borders bookstore. But this afternoon the place was full to overflowing. I blame it on the local hospital staff and students, otherwise excellent people until they keep me from my cappuccino with extra shot. The other place is Starbucks in the Tanger Mall, a sprawling open-air shopping plaza some two miles from the center. There, or should I say here the coffee is excellent, but the place has no inside seating. So today I am forced to sit outside at a Tanger steel table on a Tanger fixed steel chair, where the Tanger umbrellas are furled for the season, the Tanger piped musak is blaring, and it is just starting to rain. At least I now have company...

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

A Day at the Beach

The Hamptons Film festival was reaching its final reel. With the invasion of cinema luvvies and dahlings, their hangers-on and the great unwashed public trying their best to look and behave in an avant-garde way, it was definitely a day to get out of town. Sandi had a business meeting in Westhampton Beach, and so it was a perfect opportunity to have a family day out. Westhampton Beach is a village within the town of Southampton, with a population of a little less than two thousand souls. It is not to be confused with the neighboring Westhampton Dunes, two lines of large, ugly and crowded beachfront houses with a year round population of eleven. (2000 Census.) No, Westhampton is a compact and delightful place, and great fun to spend a few hours doing nothing in particular.

As you drive west along the old Montauk Highway through the leafy properties of Quogue you might be forgiven for thinking that that Westhampton contained little more than the usual collection of hardware and gas stations, a Walbaum’s supermarket (oh, please!) and the string of cheap pizza joints that define so much of commercial Long Island. But take the road south (signed “Beach”) and you will have a pleasant surprise. With a plush tennis club and high privet hedges the landscape changes within a short distance. Turn left at the Episcopal Church (Saint Mark’s. which has a commanding Baptist-style architecture) and enter Main Street.

To describe this two-hundred yard long street as “old-town” USA would not be an exaggeration. Quaint and old clapboard, stucco and shingle buildings line both sides, and occasional alleyways invite you to explore the shops that are tucked away. Of course the whole thing is designed to appeal to the visitor, but once you get into that way of thinking you actually start to enjoy it. (Besides, if you wanted hardware and car tires, not to mention pepperoni on thick crust, you should have stayed on the highway.) And then you start spending money, which is what they want you to do in the first place.

It’s not all sweet service however. I wandered in search of a cup of coffee and found Goldberg’s Bagels. The advertised iced coffee sounded good and I ordered a medium cup, except that they had no ice. No ice? But it’s iced coffee. It is chilled! It’s delicious! It wasn’t.

The architectural gem of Main Street is the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center. Built in 1932 as a large screen cinema the old style building has undergone many incarnations and usages before being turned into a state-of-the-art facility in the late 1990s.

And lunch? Nowhere better than the Post Stop CafĂ©, the pub at the east end of the street. Now this is a building with a colorful history. Built in 1914 as the first “free standing post office” it collected and dispatched the mail until 1941 when a replacement modern building was opened. Enter the Schramm sisters. Later that year Hattie and Nettie Schramm, the daughters of Max, a local entrepreneur, opened a stationery store which also sold fireworks in the back room. They were bought out in 1947 by one Myram Straw (with a name like that he must have worn boater and bow tie, surely) who continued the same line of business until the US government declared fireworks illegal. So what did he do? Well it was Mrs. Straw actually, who opened a “Luncheonette” which fed locals until 1958. That changed hands and name, and again, and again, but the place remains an eatery to this day. And a rather fine one too!