Community column for Montauk: Week of April 9

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Some of our readers may have noticed a slight shift in tone in recent columns. Perhaps they appeared more educational and less “social,” as our editor calls the chatty stuff. The reason: these were informational columns about some places and services possibly unknown to many in the hamlet and were written well in advance of our recent vacation.

The East Hampton Trails Preservation Society sponsored a hiking trip to Patagonia, a southern region of Argentina, known for its stark beauty with glaciers to climb and vistas of the Andes peaks complete with condors, eaglets and guanacos to be seen and savored. Three of us from Montauk—this writer, husband Ed and Pat Smyth—joined 10 others from the East End for this unforgettable adventure.

The natural beauty offered many challenges to those of us who live so close to sea level and rarely do 12-mile upward-bound hikes, but that was what seemed to add to the unforgettable character of the experience. Many of us were relative oldsters who tested our capacities and found we could achieve new heights, bad pun intended.

It was exhilarating. The trip concluded in Buenos Aires, a most elegant city, very European in its architecture and wide tree-lined boulevards. And, having spent some time at the Museum of Belles Artes, who should we meet at the very steps of the place but Montauk’s liquor store owner Tom Phillips and Liz Rutkowski, our neighbor! They were visiting Buenos Aires for a week. So it appears that no matter how far you travel, you can’t get away from home. Thank Heaven!

Having been gone for 11 full days and nights, a little catching up is in order. Today we’ll be part of a sold-out library bus trip to the Cherry Lane Theater in Manhattan to see two of Edward Albee’s plays directed by the Montauk playwright and starring Montauk actor Lois Markle. What an interesting development. The idea was initiated by Jerry Pluenneke, a close friend of Lois, and developed by the library programmer Carolyn Balducci, who even found a nearby Italian restaurant that will hold some 35 hearty, fun-loving attendees. There’s going to be lots of excited Montaukers on that trip, you can be sure.

We’ve also learned about a grass roots group of 20 friends and neighbors of Chris Carson and Tonia Ries, who sponsored a clean-up of the Navy Road Beach on March 29. With support from Julie Marclay, head of the town Litter Task Force, the Sanitation Department, the Marine Patrol, the Highway Department and the Parks and Recreation Department all offered an “amazing example of inter-agency effort,” said Tonia.

A half dozen members of The Surfrider Foundation helped fill 40 bags of garbage. A member told Tonia that they usually deal with ocean beaches, but “a beach is a beach.” Several dumpsters were required to deal with old junked boats. Tonia and her husband hope to make the clean-up an annual event. What is so good to once again see is the evidence of a caring community at work.

Then there’s the St. Patrick’s Day parade, which we missed. We spoke to Laraine Creegan of the Chamber of Commerce, who felt that things went quite smoothly from her vantage point of ladling chowder. She felt that the parade was well organized with a notable police presence to keep things relatively calm, and was pleased that the 20 restaurants who donated chowder for the Friends of Erin had a sellout, and also that the motels did well.

Others had a different experience. One young mother, standing with her friends, all of whom had young children, told us there were fist fights going on right in front of them, and a baby stroller was knocked over. Another older couple reported that the parade seemed better than last year because of the massive police presence. From what we gather, those responsible worked very hard to overcome the challenges of out-of-control drinkers.

Lots of other good stuff has been going on, including a slide show on Jane Austen’s world, presented by the Friends of the Library last Saturday evening; a piano concert on Sunday and an important fund-raiser for the Montauk Playhouse Community Center.

Given in conjunction with St. Therese Church on Saturday night, it took the form of an Irish musical program, which had been viewed worldwide for the last several years. Called “From Galway to Broadway,” it featured some renowned Irish musicians whose voices made good use of the excellent acoustics in the newly constructed church. We hope co-chairs Joan Lycke of the Foundation and Suzanne Lieder of St. Therese were pleased with the results.

We also want to note the passing of two Montauk residents who were very special people. Herb Fisher, a member of the town’s Ethics Committee and husband of CCOM board member Jean, passed away on March 14. He was a quiet, witty man who had worked hard for ARF’s Operation Cat program, caring for the many feral cat colonies in the hamlet. We had interviewed the well traveled couple, several months ago, and met them socially as well.

Suzanne Gosman was a beautiful lady, a major force in the library for years, and a “noble, gutsy and valued lady,” to quote one of the library staff who knew her well. Montauk will be a different place without her.

And to look forward, this Friday at 6 p.m., the Montauk Observatory will present “The Sun: Our Home Star” at the library. Astronomer Tom Madigan will guide us on a tour of the sun as viewed as our home star. He’ll also talk about the sun’s cycle in relation to global climate change. An observing session will be held at Theodore Roosevelt County Park, if all is well in the heavens.

Bats will not be in the belfry but at the library; they will be the subject of a wonderful program for youngsters in third to sixth grades this Saturday. Called, ?”Bats: Friends not Fiends,” and sponsored by the Cornell Cooperative Extension, the program will see the children building their own bat houses to take home. Registration, a materials fee of $5 and the presence of an adult is required. We’ll bet the adults will have a great time as well.

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