Farther East


You may have read the novel of this title by John O’Hara, who was a heavyweight author back in the 1940s and 1950s, or you might be familiar with the original story: A merchant in Baghdad sends his servant to the market. He returns very frightened, saying that Death had confronted him at the market. He begs his master for a horse to escape, to Samarra, where Death would not find him. Off he goes. The merchant goes to the market and sees Death there, and asks why he had threatened his servant. Death says that was only a gesture of surprise—he had been shocked to see the servant in Baghdad because he had an appointment with him tonight in Samarra.?Bill McGintee, the top public servant in East Hampton, has found himself in Samarra financially, and he is dead politically and can forget any dream of running for Suffolk County legislator. The big question now is, what happens to those who climbed on that horse with him? The only silver lining for the Democrats regarding the money mess at Town Hall is that the next election is still almost 20 months away and perhaps many voters have short memories. Sorry, Dems—not East Hampton voters. At least half of them probably think that Chip Duryea and Chris Kelley ?are still the chairmen of the Republicans and Democrats. Now it is John Behan and whoever is masochistic enough to shoulder a huge burden.?Some of the people I spoke to who were going to the Town Board meeting last Thursday night seemed like they were preparing for a bear hunt. In no particular order, citizens are upset about the diversion of Community Preservation Fund money to cover budget gaps; the woeful financial situation of the town, which will result in reductions in services and/or tax hikes; and the fact that state auditors have determined that a full investigation of the town’s financial decision is warranted. The Spitzer-like question about Mr. McGintee and the budget officer, Ted Hults, is, “What were they thinking?” (Some folks might remember Mr. Hults’s participation in Springs School District’s financial travails in the 1990s.)?There will be numerous consequences from this financial flap. One that occurs immediately to me is that the wackos who have waged a personal vendetta against the supervisor now, unfortunately, have gained a few ounces of credibility. The other is the door is wide open for a resurgence of the Republican Party in East Hampton.?The return of Mr. Behan to local politics was seen by some as a brilliant stroke—he was a proven vote-getter, and he knows how to knock heads to get the GOP faithful to work together. Others saw it as an act of desperation, a reach back into the past to try to clean up some of the political mess that Bill Gardiner left behind. ?The old lion must be licking his chops and feel like Simba in his prime at the prospect of campaigning against the Democrats in 2009. Mr. Behan knows that in politics much of success is owed to timing and luck. In East Hampton, the GOP has just won the Lotto, and the Democrats are footing the “Bill.”?In “Welcome to the United States,” George Bernard Shaw wrote, “A government which robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul.” Right now, even Paul is running for cover.?To other matters. ?Best wishes to Jay Leibell, this year’s grand marshal who will head the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Montauk this Sunday. He is a longtime member of the Montauk Friends of Erin, including serving as its president for 20 years. The only thing odd about this choice is that it took so long. Over the years, Jay was very helpful in providing information about Montauk community activities, and it is so appropriate that he finally joins ?the list of deserving parade marshals.?So, think duffers like me and you will be teeing it up with Tiger at Montauk Downs or Poxabogue? The big buzz last week—set off by an item in the New York Post—was that Woods had purchased the property on Gin Lane in Southampton once owned by Broadway producer Marty Richards for $65 million (worth even more than my Press contract). The Sotheby’s broker who did the deal vacillated between saying that Woods was not the buyer and that she couldn’t confirm or deny because of an ironclad confidentiality agreement. Another possible purchaser mentioned was Ralph Lauren, and a third was, according to a broker at a rival firm, “a rich divorcee who expects a lot of company.”?It is fun to think that with the 2008 membership at the Sag Harbor Golf Club being $360, Tiger could enroll every resident of Long Island to celebrate his new residency in the region. And next year he could helicopter to Bethpage when the U.S. Open is held there, when, if he keeps on pace, ?what could be his sixth consecutive major by then. Makes me warm and fuzzy, it does, to think that my daughter could be his daughter’s preschool teacher, and my son could wait on the Woods family when they choose to dine at the Oasis restaurant after he finishes a round at the Noyac Golf Club.?Forgive me, but I can’t help but reprint this item from Agence France Presse … it’s the added information that is priceless: “A Nicole Kidman swimsuit, abandoned at a Swedish pool, sold in Sweden at an auction for charity on Saturday for $2,500, enough to buy nine cows for poor families in India.” ?I’m reminded of an admonition when I was a kid and was reluctant that night to join the Clean Plate Club: “Think about all the starving children in China.” Given how enormously in debt we are to that country, it’s easy to imagine parents there now saying to their only child, “Think about all the starving American children in Alabama, Alaska, Arizona … and Amagansett.”?

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