Tag Archive | "Sag Harbor"

Billy Martin on Medeski, Scofield, Martin and Wood: Not Just a Jam Band

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Billy Martin, John Medeski, John Scofield and Chris Wood.

Billy Martin, John Medeski, John Scofield and Chris Wood.

By Gianna Volpe

Truly groovy tunes are coming to the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center this Saturday as Medeski, Scofield, Martin and Wood take the stage at 8 p.m. to rock the socks off their audience with songs from their new album, “Juice,” released just two months ago.

Billy Martin – drummer of the genre-morphing quartet – took time out of his Thanksgiving weekend to talk with The Sag Harbor Express before the performance:

It seems that every album off “Juice” is ripe for salsa and other styles of dancing. Do people often take to the floor during your shows?

You can always expect that, even if it’s a sitting show, some people will get up and try to dance.

You’re often credited as being the most multi-genre minded one in the band. Where did you learn to appreciate such varying musical styles?

My father was a concert violinist, so he played a lot of classical music and orchestras and New York City ballet and opera. My mom was a Rockette and a dance teacher who taught tap ballet and jazz, so she had me tap dancing when I was very young, and then my older brothers were listening to The Rolling Stones, James Brown, the Allman Brothers, Stevie Wonder and all that music. I was growing up in the 60s and 70s and that music was all seeping in at the time, which was great…When we moved to Closter, New Jersey from New York City, the drums kind of appeared and I just set them up in the basement and started playing them along with our records. In ’74, my dad found me a drum teacher named Allen Herman, who turned out to be sort of a Broadway rock drummer, and he got me started.

How would you define your drumming style?

It’s like speaking a lot of different languages. There’s categories people use – jazz and rock and Brazilian and African and pop and stuff like that – but what I call myself is an experimental musician.

Is that what attracts you to the ‘Jam Band’ style?

‘Jam band’ to me, is just another word for a movement and so I like to use the word ‘experimental.’ Some jam bands aspire to get to that level of improvising and writing and composing and being able to jump around in different genres – and that’s something that we’ve always done in a very serious way.

When we play, we’re very focused and when it comes to playing the “Juice” music, its more tune-based and might even fall more into the ‘Jam band’ thing because I think a lot of jam bands actually have some sort of form; some sort of simple tune progression. I’m not sure because I don’t know what a jam band is, to be honest.

You wrote my favorite track on the album, “Louis the Shoplifter.” How did you do that as a drummer?

I just had this melody in my head – a very simple melody – and I figured I would just sort of sing it to the guys. Modeski had me play a little bit of the piano rhythm and we all just sussed it. A lot of it has to do with how the band grooves together and we have a certain chemistry with Scofield.

What was it like when you first began to play with John Scofield in 1997?

It was great. At first, we weren’t really sure what it was that Scofield wanted to do with us. He had been hearing a lot of our music and became kind of a fan of us and of course we were a fan of his – growing up in the 80s he played with Miles Davis and had really cool jazz rock records – so it was a really cool opportunity for us. He asked us to collaborate and write tunes with him and we said, “You know what – you write the tunes and we’ll interpret them and play them our way” and that was “A Go Go.”

You collaborated again in 2006, but how did you four ultimately become a band?

You know, you start playing live and start to feel a connection and you just know when it feels like a band because everybody gels together. It’s so effortless that you can just anticipate how everything’s going to go – it’s really quite natural. Our relationship and respect for each other – personally and on stage – just works.

Are you working on a new album at the moment?

In February Modeski, Martin and Wood is going to record something live in Boulder, Colorado with a chamber group called Alarm Will Sound. It’s a collaborative, very special sort of project.

Speaking of special projects – as someone who is not only a drummer but an artist who has created album art for the band and the music video for “Juicy Lucy” on the new album – are you working on any special projects right now?

I actually just finished a book called “Wandering” that’s on pre-order exclusively through my website billymartin.net. “Wandering” is a compilation of essays – 22 chapters – on the creative process. It has 30 improvised drawings and it comes with a record. I wanted to share my experiences with others as a drummer with the experiences I’ve had.



Carrot Tasting Goes to the Root of the Vegetable

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Ric Kallaher photograhy

Ric Kallaher photograhy

By Kathryn G. Menu

Colin Ambrose

Colin Ambrose

It all started with a bland carrot.

Standing in his restaurant kitchen garden on the Sag Harbor-Bridgehampton Turnpike in September of 2013, restaurateur and chef Colin Ambrose crunched down a newly harvested carrot fresh from the soil. It looked great—bright orange, long and tapered—but the flavor wasn’t there. Mr. Ambrose, who has been at the forefront of the local, fresh food movement on the East End since his days at the helm of the original Estia in Amagansett in the 1990s, hatched a plan then and there to gather together local farmers, gardeners and chefs in a growing experiment aimed at identifying keys to successfully cultivating different carrot varieties.

And the results were delicious.

Earlier this month, on a cool Wednesday before the first frost, a group of chefs, farmers and journalists gathered at Mr. Ambrose’s Estia’s Little Kitchen for a tasting of raw and blanched carrots produced as a part of this experiment, as well as a variety of composed dishes inspired by the multi-hued root vegetable. Mr. Ambrose had the event filmed, and hopes to make this an annual tradition—exploring various root vegetables with the experts that grow them, but also the East End chefs that serve them, specifically those that support local farms or have their own kitchen gardens.


The concept was simple. Mr. Ambrose ordered a control seed, the Scarlet Nantes Carrot, and distributed it to a select group of farmers. These included growers from poet/farmer Scott Chaskey, the director of the Peconic Land Trust’s Quail Hill Farm in Amagansett, Marilee Foster, a farmer and author who runs Foster Farm on Sagg Main Street in Sagaponack to Jeff Negron, a restaurant kitchen gardener who worked with Mr. Ambrose on his own garden, and who currently works the kitchen gardens at Nick & Toni’s in East Hampton and The Topping Rose House in Bridgehampton. Sag Harbor’s own Dale Haubrich, who owns Under the Willow Organics with Bette Lacina just yards away from the Little Kitchen, was also invited to participate. Each farmer also planted their own choice crop of carrots for the tasting and paired up with a local chef who presented a complete dish with carrots as inspiration.

Bay Burger manager and sous chef Andrew Mahoney presented a bright, light carrot panna cotta. Todd Jacobs, of Fresh Hamptons, also located on the Turnpike, offered zesty carrot fritters with a yogurt dipping sauce. Joe Realmuto and Bryan Futterman of Nick & Toni’s in East Hampton offered Harissa carrots, spicy and blanched perfectly, leaving just a slight crunch. Chris Polidoro, a private chef, offered steamed and lightly fried gyoza, and Topping Rose House pastry chef Cassandra Schupp presented mini carrot cake squares, moist and a nice sweet treat at the end of a row of savory dishes.

Mr. Ambrose, having the most fun with the subject, crafted McGregor’s Fall Garden Pie, filled with braised rabbit, leeks, kale, and of course, carrots, topped with luscious mashed potatoes.

And while the room, filled with friends, quieted as the food was served to satisfying groans of approval, it was when discussing the carrots, and the growing process, that it was most alive.

While Mr. Ambrose is a chef, and a restaurateur with a second Estia—Estia’s American—in Darien, Connecticut, it was on his grandmother’s garden in Whitewater, Wisconsin, that he truly developed a passion for food. Serving fresh, seasonal produce is something Mr. Ambrose has made a priority in his kitchens for over two decades. Five years ago he set out to create a kitchen garden like nothing the Little Kitchen had ever had before, working with Mr. Negron for three years before setting out on his own to tend to vegetables and fruits that make their way onto the restaurant’s breakfast, lunch and dinner menus.

Mr. Negron, who noted that Mr. Ambrose was the chef that gave him his first real chance at developing a formal kitchen garden for a commercial business, said for this exercise he grew Purple Haze carrots for Nick & Toni’s and a White Satin variety as well as a mixed bag of carrot varieties for The Topping Rose House.

Both Mr. Negron and Mr. Chaskey (“my guidance counselor in all things,” said Mr. Ambrose) noted that the Purple Haze variety of carrot has a hue that mimics the original carrot in vibrant bright purple with red and orange undertones. Carrots were then bred to the traditional orange hue, said Mr. Chaskey. Interestingly enough, he added, now at markets and on farms, requests for multi-colored, and purple carrots are on the rise, returning to the roots of that vegetable, so to speak. “Orange is not how they started, but we are going back to that,” he said.

Soil nutrients and composition, as well as seed variety and soil temperature, all play a role in the development of each carrot and the characteristics it will have in terms of its flavor profile.

“Today is November 12,” noted Mr. Ambrose at his event. “And it is kind of interesting to note that we have not had a hard frost yet. That was not part of the plan, but that is what happens with growing.”

Carrots, said Mr. Chaskey, become sweeter after the first hard frost—a seasonal moment that sets a natural timeline for when farmers want to harvest their carrot crop. An unseasonably warm fall, and the absence of a hard frost before Mr. Ambrose’s carrot tasting, led to more mild carrot varieties.

“I know one thing in planting,” said Mr. Ambrose, “If I plan on one thing, another is going to happen.”

“It’s kind of the year before that matters,” said Ms. Foster, talking about prepping soil for planting. “Is your pH where you want it?”

Ms. Foster plants her carrots in a raised bed, tilling the soil with a rototiller to allow for depth, but also greater germination. Keeping the soil damp throughout the growing process, she added, is key.

Once the seeds are set, said Mr. Chaskey, keeping an eye on weed growth is critical.

“Well, we don’t have weeds,” said Mr. Chaskey. “They are not allowed.”

“That is what you have to worry about because carrots take a long time to germinate—sometimes in the spring up to three weeks, so there are going to be some weed seeds that germinate before them, so the most important thing you can do is get ahead of the weeds.”

Thinning out the carrot crop, for size and shape, said Mr. Chaskey, is another choice each farmer must make.

“Then you just stand back, watch them grow, and then harvest.”

Mr. Chaskey said after this experiment he intends to plant the Bolero variety of carrot at Quail Hill next year–a hybrid carrot, although the farm traditionally does try and plant open pollinators as much as possible.

“It grew twice the size and it tastes better and has great storability,” said Mr. Chaskey of the Bolero.

As a chef, Mr. Jacobs, who works with Mr. Haubrich and Ms. Lacina for much of Fresh’s produce, said each season brings different challenges.

“One season, carrots might be great,” he said. “Another they might not be great. No two years are ever alike. We plant and we hope.”

“We all had different approaches, but the same goal, which was to put sustainably raised food on the table,” said Mr. Ambrose in an interview after the carrot tasting.

Next up? Beets, said Mr. Ambrose, who wants to spend the next 18 months working on a series of tastings revolving around root vegetables, ending likely with garlic.

“I would like to put together a series of informational videos for potential farmers and home cooks with enough collective knowledge to be able to set a bed, make choices in terms of seeds, learn about the growing cycle.”

“We need to start thinking more about the food we are producing and putting on the table,” said Mr. Ambrose. “Vegetables need to be given greater priority, and grains as well.”

While examining the big picture of sustainable food production, Mr. Ambrose said it just made sense to start at the root.



Sag Harbor Coalition Hopes to Change the Community Conversation on Substance Abuse

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Volunteers Benito Vila and Pierson High School senior Megan Beedenbender apply stickers to cases of beer inside the Sag Harbor Beverage store during the Sticker Shock program put on by the Sag Harbor Coalition of the Youth Resource Center, HUGS, Inc. and the Sag Harbor Police Department on Sunday, November 23. Photo by Michael Heller.

Volunteers Benito Vila and Pierson High School senior Megan Beedenbender apply stickers to cases of beer inside the Sag Harbor Beverage store during the Sticker Shock program put on by the Sag Harbor Coalition of the Youth Resource Center, HUGS, Inc. and the Sag Harbor Police Department on Sunday, November 23. Photo by Michael Heller.

By Tessa Raebeck

Rounding out its first year, the Sag Harbor Coalition remains determined to change the conversation about substance abuse on the East End. The group of parents, school officials and community experts formed in reaction to a 2010-11 survey that, among other findings, reported that students in Sag Harbor abuse alcohol and drugs more than the national average.

“We know, by and large, kids on the East End drink and drug higher than their peers,” Kym Laube, executive director of Human Understanding & Growth Services, or HUGS, a Westhampton Beach non-profit organization dedicated to alcohol and drug prevention, said on Tuesday.

East End minors are using substances more their peers on Western Long Island, in Suffolk County, in New York State, and in the nation, Ms. Laube said, adding the same results have been found by multiple data sources, including a survey conducted by Southampton Town.

There are many factors that contribute to why East End teens are drinking and using drugs more than those in towns across the country, said Ms. Laube, who co-chairs the coalition with Pierson administrator Barbara Bekermus.

“We live in this area that is based on tourism, with this kind of mindset of ‘Come party in the Hamptons,’” Ms. Laube said. “When they see all the adults socialize—[drinking is] the cornerstone of every social activity, from the advertising to the parties to the jet set scene to working in the industry, [and] parents working three, four jobs just to afford to live on the East End—all these different pieces come together and help paint this picture of why it is.”

Combined with minimal local resources for combating substance abuse and a lack of opportunities for positive social activities aside from youth-initiated parties, “all those things really become part of this puzzle,” she said.

The coalition recognizes the factors contributing to underage drinking and drug use on the East End are largely environmental, and thus began their grassroots, locally-led effort to combat the area’s social norms by pursuing community-wide change, rather than just lecturing to children,

“That’s all the coalition is hoping, that we can get people in the community out and involved, so we’re not serving alcohol to our kids, so that we’re providing alternatives to them and teaching them both by action and example that there are other alternatives,” said Benito Vila, who is a director of the coalition along with Sag Harbor parents Carol Kelleher and Thomas Ré.

“We do live in a resort community—our sense of normal is really, really twisted,” Mr. Vila said, adding the coalition is asking not just high school students, but the East End community as a whole, to change its behavior.

Last year, the coalition collaborated with HUGS and the Sag Harbor Village Police Department to bring “Sticker Shock” and “Two Forms of ID” programs to businesses that sell alcohol in Sag Harbor and Noyac.

The second installment of Sticker Shock occurred Sunday, November 23, when the group placed stickers on alcoholic beverages around town advising adults of the implications of buying alcohol for minors. Through its Two Forms of ID program, the coalition encourages local businesses to require two forms of ID, since minors using fake IDs rarely have two of them.

“We know if we are going to change youth behavior, we need to change community behavior and social norms,” said Ms. Laube. “And so the coalition has been working to begin to bring about education and clear, accurate information and programming to both parents and communities, to really begin to increase some of the protective factors and to reduce some of the risk factors associated with young people’s development.”

In collaboration with the Youth Resource Center, last year the coalition arranged for a teenage band to play at Bay Street Theater and for a “pizza and a movie” night at Conca D’Oro. It also helped organize a series of speakers for Pierson parents on substance abuse and advocated for the adoption of Sag Harbor schools’ new kindergarten through 12th grade life skills/safe decision-making curriculum, which includes a component on drugs and alcohol.

Although the programs are local, the coalition’s message is far-reaching: Underage substance use and abuse across all ages is a national health and safety issue.

“For the coalition to be effective, it really needs to raise the fact that it’s not about the law, it’s about common sense—it’s not healthy…It isn’t about your rights, it isn’t about the law, it’s about good community health, allowing our kids to succeed, empowering them, and giving them things to do that don’t involve alcohol,” said Mr. Vila.

Nancy Stewart Bagshaw Encourages Grieving Families to Remember in “Finding Five”

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The cover of "Finding Five," by Nancy Stewart Bagshaw, published by Seagull Books, an imprint of Leo Publishing, and available now on Amazon.com and at Barnes & Noble.

The cover of “Finding Five,” by Nancy Stewart Bagshaw, published by Seagull Books, an imprint of Leo Publishing, and available now on Amazon.com and at Barnes & Noble.

By Tessa Raebeck 

For those growing up on the East End, beachcombing is as much a hobby as swinging at playgrounds or riding bikes. Children traverse the shorelines for hours, finding beach glass, washed up blue crabs and rare shells, skipping rocks and chasing seagulls.

Exploring the beaches to find nature’s treasures was one of Nancy Stewart Bagshaw’s favorite ways to spend time with her niece, Katy Stewart, a beloved young member of the Sag Harbor community who died in 2010 from a rare form of liver cancer. In her new book inspired by those days spent at the beach, “Finding Five,” Ms. Stewart Bagshaw encourages others to embrace the memories of those who have died, rather than shying away from mentioning them out of heartache and grief.

“I feel as though sometimes it’s an unspoken rule not to discuss those who’ve passed, because I think people are cautious about being hurtful or mentioning something that’s painful, and I think there are the right times and the right places to have those conversations,” the author said Monday.

On the day her niece Katy first went to the hospital complaining of a stomachache, Ms. Stewart Bagshaw found a remarkable piece of beach glass in bright turquoise, nearly as big as her palm with unique ridged markings. She was thinking about Katy when she saw the smoothed glass, the most beautiful piece she had ever seen.

The vibrant sea glass became a charm for Ms. Stewart Bagshaw after Katy was diagnosed with cancer—a connection to her vibrant young niece, who still loved combing the beach with her.

“It kind of morphed,” she said of the sea glass, “and I thought, ‘this is life, you get things that are tough, like broken glass—it can cut, it can hurt—but time seems to smooth that away, and that’s maybe a connection to the book too—it takes the edges off of grief.”

Katy died nine months before her 13th birthday. Anxious and unsure of how best to commemorate that day when it came, her aunt decided to walk the beach, thinking of all the time they had spent combing the shores of Sag Harbor and Riverhead, Ms. Stewart Bagshaw’s home.

While honoring her niece’s birthday with their favorite activity, she found a piece of blue sea glass that matched Katy’s eyes. A minute later, there was a sand dollar, an unusual, exciting find. During that walk, feeling as though her niece was somehow guiding her, Ms. Stewart Bagshaw found a remarkable total of five sand dollars.

She was able to address her grief through the happy memories of combing the beach with Katy, and the sand dollars seemed to be a symbol that Katy was still there with her in some way. She found comfort through the continued appreciation of what Katy loved.

"Finding Five" author Nancy Stewart Bagshaw.

“Finding Five” author Nancy Stewart Bagshaw.

In “Finding Five,” Ms. Stewart Bagshaw hopes to encourage other grieving families to remember those who have died by sharing memories, laughing over happy stories and continuing to enjoy their favorite things, rather than avoiding them out of heartache.

“Connections are what we need in relationships, so if you take time to encourage those and think about those, I think you’ll do yourself such a huge favor, so I’m hoping that’s what people will get from the book,” she said.

The story, which she calls “a little book with a big message,” started as a short assignment in Dr. Erica Pecorale’s class at Long Island University, where Ms. Stewart Bagshaw, who teaches Spanish at the Bridgehampton School, is earning her second master’s degree in literacy. Soon, it evolved into a full story dedicated to Katy and her younger brother, Robert. Published just last month by Seagull Books, an imprint of Leo Publishing, “Finding Five” is already one of the 100 best selling books for social issues on Amazon, and is also available at Barnes & Noble.

But it began on the beach.

“To me, the beach is the best place—the view is never the same any two days, the weather changes, the tide changes, the shoreline changes,” Ms. Stewart Bagshaw said.

Katy Stewart, 12, passed away in 2010 from a rare form of liver cancer.

Katy Stewart, 12, passed away in 2010 from a rare form of liver cancer.

“A lot of the writing process, as far as thinking things through, did take place on beach walks. I thought of how I would begin it on a beach walk, I thought of how I would end it on a beach walk, I decided to connect the five petals on a sand dollar with five things that Katy loved on a beach walk,” she added.

Those beach walks not only helped pin down the vision for her book, they also allowed Ms. Stewart Bagshaw to work through her grief by embracing her many memories of beachcombing with Katy.

The turquoise sea glass Ms. Stewart Bagshaw found when Katy was first sick, which stayed in her pocket through the ups, downs and surgeries, now sits in her window with the light shining through it, a daily reminder of her niece’s own vibrancy.

“She was just amazing, because she was always interested in what people were doing and what they enjoyed and it’s almost like her natural curiosity kind of sparked this [focus in ‘Finding Five’ on] what do people enjoy, just that question, what do they care about?” Ms. Stewart Bagshaw said. “Because it tells so much about a person—when you know what they love, you really have a better understanding of a person. That’s why I want to encourage people to know what the people around them love.”

“Everyone has to individually see what that grieving process is like and go through it as best they can,” she added, “and if they see [‘Finding Five’] as a bridge across a challenge, a helpful tool to make things a little bit easier, then I couldn’t ask for more.”

A Man is Drawn to the Blues

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Jake Lear performs the blues for an enthusiastic passerby on Beale Street, Memphis.

Jake Lear performs the blues for an enthusiastic passerby on Beale Street, Memphis.

By Annette Hinkle

Jake Lear is an impressive guitar player who, despite the fact he was raised in Vermont, Sag Harbor and East Hampton, has a love of (and a talent for) blues and roots music from the Mississippi Delta.

It’s an incongruity that Mr. Lear can readily explain.

“My parents were big music fans,” says Mr. Lear. “I started listening to Buddy Guy and Howlin’ Wolf records around the house — also a little bit of Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughn.”

“It’s what I’ve gravitated toward since I was young,” adds Mr. Lear who picked up his father’s acoustic guitar in 9th grade and within a year, had graduated to electric.

A largely self-taught musician, when he was young, Mr. Lear took some lessons from Sag Harbor-based musician Jim Turner, but perhaps the most defining moment in his musical career can be traced to a single night at the Stephen Talkhouse in Amagansett.

It was Mr. Lear’s 13th birthday.

“Buddy Guy was playing and my dad took me there,” he says. “He had just released his album ‘Damn Right, I’ve Got the Blues,’ right before this. He was driving around in a van and played the Talkhouse before it was renovated. It was really small in there. We were so close. He put his drink on our table and played for three hours.”

“That night it felt like everyone was being entertained,” says Mr. Lear. “That made a huge impression.”

This Friday, it will be Mr. Lear’s turn to entertain. To that end, he will be performing a post-Thanksgiving concert at Canio’s Books in Sag Harbor. It’s a gig that came about thanks to another love of Mr. Lear’s — books.

“I read a lot and I was in there and saw a sign that said they had classes on Dante,” recalls Mr. Lear. “We had been in Italy a bunch of times and my wife was influenced by Michelangelo. It was winter and I thought it was something to do.”

Canio Pavone, the founder of Canio’s Books, taught the course, which was all about Dante’s “Divine Comedy.”

“It was awesome. I loved it and that’s how I ended up there,” adds Mr. Lear. “Canio’s is a great place with super nice owners. I asked if they wanted me to do an in-store performance. That’s how I ended up there.”

It’s been an interesting journey for Mr. Lear and his wife, artist Anna DeMauro. After living in Memphis, Tennessee—epicenter of the blues—for five years, they learned they would soon become parents and decided to move back to the East End to raise their daughter, Lucia, now 19 months old.

“I was doing music full-time and then we decided to move back here,” says Mr. Lear. “All our family was up here. I didn’t quit music, but I’m not doing it professionally now. In Memphis, it was four to five nights a week and some traveling on the road.”

It was also in Memphis that Mr. Lear cut two albums, “Diamonds and Stones,” and “Lost Time Blues” and played regularly for crowds on Beale Street with his band including bass player Carlos Arias and drummer Roy Cunningham.

Mr. Cunningham, who played with blues guitarist and singer Albert King, comes from an illustrious musical family. His younger brother Blair has played drums for the likes of Paul McCartney, the Pretenders and Mick Jagger. Mr. Cunningham’s other brother, Carl, was a drummer too. He died in the 1967 plane crash that also took Otis Redding’s life.

“Roy was a big influence for me,” says Mr. Lear. “He’s passionate about music and performing, and to have someone who’s such a good drummer is amazing. Blues is pretty simple and sometimes it can be hard to find a drummer who wants to play it. Rhythmically he had a sense of it.”

Mr. Lear also drew inspiration for his music from the energy-filled vibe of Memphis itself, the very heart of where the blues originated.

“The scene down there has a lot of heritage,” says Mr. Lear. “The Stax Museum is there, also Sun Records, then there’s the International Blues Society — and the Mississippi Delta is 15 miles away.”

“Mississippi, being hill country, you get music that’s a little more rootsy — almost like one chord blues, more like a country blues,” explains Mr. Lear. “It’s raw in a way, and I had just gotten into it before I went down there. For a lot of players, that’s their thing. In Mississippi you have R.L. Burnside, Junior Kimbrough, Fred McDowell. That music had a big influence on The Black Keys and they took that influence and brought it to a new audience.”

But it was Beale Street, the home of the blues, where Mr. Lear spent a great deal of time making music while he lived in Memphis. Lined with some of the country’s most famous blues clubs and restaurants, Beale Street also has a number of outdoor venues where local musicians regularly entertain the crowds that descend on Memphis in search of it’s iconic sound.

“There are a lot of international tourists there,” says Mr. Lear. “It’s a thriving scene, though it’s a big stop on the tourist circuit. Beale Street is blocked off for traffic. We played street shows on Fridays and Saturdays.”

“It was a completely relaxed environment. No one was telling us what to do,” he adds. “There is pressure to perform, but it’s casual in a way with a lot of freedom.”

Freedom is what blues is all about, and while Mr. Lear writes original songs and lyrics, he admits that much of the emotion of the music comes through sheer improv.

“The fundamentals of blues are pretty simple, after that it’s feel,” admits Mr. Lear. “In Memphis, I learned a lot of different styles from Roy and all the different musicians on Beale Street.”

Though he’s not making music full-time anymore, Mr. Lear is still driven to be a blues man. In the coming year, he’s planning to do some more songwriting and recording, and of course, performing. That’s good news for Canio’s listeners, who, this Friday, can expect some fine examples of post-turkey electric blues.

“I want to do stuff I don’t normally do,” says Mr. Lear. “I’m going to be playing songs of older blues musicians like John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Howlin’ Wolf, Furry Lewis plus a few of my own.”

Jake Lear performs at Canio’s Books, 290 Main Street, Sag Harbor on Friday, November 28, 2014 at 5 p.m. For more information call (631) 725-4926 or visit caniosbooks.com.

Mass Casualty Drill Held in East Hampton

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Heller_EH Townwide MCI drill 11-23-14_3085_7x

Photography by Michael Heller.

An East Hampton Town-wide Multi-Casualty Drill was held at 555 Montauk Highway in Amagansett on Sunday, November 23. The drill was organized by Chief David King of the Springs Fire Department, and the incident was commanded by Assistant Chief Alan Bennett of the Amagansett Fire Department using standard National Incident Management (NIMS) protocol, involving Sag Harbor, Springs, East Hampton, Amagansett and Montauk fire and ambulance crews, as well as Suffolk County Emergency Services, East Hampton Town Police Department and Suffolk County Aviation Unit personnel. The drill involved three different scenarios which began at 9:00 a.m., and all units were debriefed and back in service by approximately 11:30 a.m.

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Updated Communications Plan for Sag Harbor School District

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By Tessa Raebeck

Seven months after the Sag Harbor School District Communications Committee presented its recommendations to the school board for better communications, Superintendent Katy Graves on Monday, November 17, offered her view of how to best move forward.

In early April, the committee presented a report to the board, in response to feedback from a survey of various stakeholders that found the district needed to improve its communication with all parties, which is now a board goal for the 2014-15 school year. The district had worked with Syntax Communications, a Long Island marketing firm that specializes in public relations for public school districts, in the past, but has not had a contract with any communications company since July 1.

The main recommendations made by the committee were: to improve and expand the district website; to develop a communication manual for employees and establish expectations for constituents; and to hire a communications specialist to “facilitate better communication to all district stakeholders;” as well as to continually assess the success of those recommendations and adjust for ongoing improvements. The committee included five options for hiring a communications specialist, which range in projected costs from $23,690 for a part-time assistant to $74,688 for a full-time communications specialist.

Since July 1, the administration has been gathering information and deciding whether to hire a staff member, as recommended by the committee, contract out services with an outside company, or use a company through BOCES, Business Administrator Jennifer Buscemi said on Wednesday.

At Monday’s board meeting, Ms. Graves said the district would use Syntax through BOCES for the rest of the school year, which she and Ms. Buscemi agreed is the most cost-effective option.

“I’m doing it as fiscally and in as sustainable a model as possible, so my recommendation is to go with the BOCES service, which is service through Syntax,” said the superintendent.

The BOCES contract with Syntax Communications, would, at a prorated amount, cost $26,085 for the rest of the school year, which ends on June 30, 2015.

Ms. Graves said if the district continues with that model in the future, Syntax would hire a specialist locally who would work more directly with several East End school districts, but “this late in the year, that isn’t something we’re going to get.” For this year, Syntax will aid the district on putting out a board of education newsletter, the annual budget newsletter and improving the website.

“Syntax was really gracious enough to give us a prorated rate when they will be providing almost the same exact services they were going to provide” had the contract started in July, said Ms. Buscemi.

The agreement, Ms. Graves said, would also “free up [Director of Technology Scott Fisher] to be doing more with and for students when it comes to technology.”

While the district will work with BOCES for the rest of this school year, the board plans to evaluate communications again during budget deliberations in the spring, and implement a long-range plan. In the meantime, administrators remain cognizant of the ongoing need to improve outreach to school stakeholders.

“We’ve been getting better and better about email blasts, about what goes on the website and, even at board meetings, I think we’ve done a much better job at not only getting information out to parents, but also letting them know the positive things that are happening with their children and for their children in the district,” said Ms. Graves.

Those “positive things” were on full display at Monday’s meeting.

Alexandria Battaglia, CPA, an audit partner at R.S. Abrams & Co., shared the results of the district’s annual audit.

“We issued an unmodified opinion, which is the best opinion you can have; that means it’s a clean opinion, we call it in the audit world. We did note that the reserves did increase this year. We’re very happy to see that the district has come a long way in building that fund balance,” Ms. Battaglia said.

“This is my fifth year on the board and this was by far the strongest, most positive results of the audit, so I just want to thank all the employees,” said Chris Tice, vice president of the school board. “That doesn’t happen overnight—it’s happened, I’d say, five, six, seven years—there’s been an enormous amount of effort and energy…. We’re in the strongest financial position we’ve been in in a long time.”

More good news came from Pierson Middle School Vice Principal Brittany Miaritis, who said the eighth grade’s book drive to help students at the Theodore Roosevelt Middle School in Louisiana has inspired other local schools to join the cause. The middle school was ravaged by Hurricane Katrina and, 10 years later, has a brand new building but hardly any books, materials or supplies to fill it. Since hearing about Sag Harbor’s initiative, students in Hampton Bays have donated some 100 books to the southern school.

“Just from one little implementation here, now it’s all over the East End,” said Ms. Miaritis. “It’s pretty rad and cool that our students are involved in it.”

In other school board news, the board decided to explore the notions of allowing in-season varsity athletes to opt out of gym class to allow for more time for academics, and of eliminating class rank and instead marking students by 25-point percentiles, which many Long Island schools have opted to do in order to encourage colleges to look at students in more depth.

Village Reaches Settlement With CSEA Union

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The Sag Village Board, which last summer, came to contract terms with its police department union, has reached an agreement with the Civil Service Employees Association, which represents most of its other employees.

The agreement, which is retroactive to May 31, 2013, and lasts until May 31, 2015, will award all CSEA employees with a flat $5,000 salary increase, no matter what their current base salary.

Mayor Brian Gilbride this week said that many village employees are currently paid at lower rates than their counterparts in other municipalities and the raise was an effort to rectify the disparity.

The contract also includes a provision that would require CSEA employees, upon 90 days notice from the village, to switch to a health insurance plan offered by Empire Blue Cross, should the village make that switch. Mr. Gilbride said the village is currently self-insured through a plan administered by the Island Group in East Hampton. The mayor said he expected the village to make the switch to the Empire Blue Cross plan as a cost-cutting measure next year.

Finally, the new contract requires that all CSEA employees submit to random drug testing. Mr. Gilbride said the village has a drug-free policy but has not required the testing before. He said there was no specific reason to require the drug testing now, other than for safety concerns, because village employees operate vehicles and other equipment. “My job is to keep the village safe,” he said.

The village and its union reached a tentative contract agreement on September 14, but the details were not finalized until last month.

At its November 12 meeting, the village board transferred $101,420 from a contingency fund and general fund balance to provide for the salary hikes.

Cormaria Celebrates 65 Years as a Retreat House

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By Mara Certic

In 1949, with just $100 in her pocket, Mother Frances Dunne set out to transform a stately summer home into a retreat for those in need of some peace and quiet. And this Sunday, November 23, Cormaria will celebrate its 65th anniversary of Mother Frances’s dream coming true.

Shipbuilder and real estate tycoon Frank C. Havens built the Victorian mansion atop 18 acres on the waterfront on Bay Street in 1905 when he returned to his hometown of Sag Harbor after making his fortune in California. As the story goes, Mr. Havens wanted to build a summer home on the highest land in the area.

The interior of the house was grand and luxurious. Designed by Tiffany Studios of New York, the interior of the house was decorated with embossed wall-coverings made of leather.

Mr. Havens died in 1917, and that year the house was sold to the Marshall family, owners of the famed Chicago department store, who also used it as a private house.

In 1943, the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary bought the building to use as a finishing school for young Catholic women. According to Sister Ann Marino, the director of Cormaria, the majority of the students were Hispanic girls who traditionally had gone to finishing schools in Switzerland after completing their studies. After war broke out in Europe in 1939, however, many thought it was too dangerous to send their children there for schooling, and so Cormaria became a place of learning.

“Then the nuns decided they would take a risk and open the retreat house for women—we never had retreat houses, we were in education,” Sister Ann said during a telephone interview this week.

Cormaria held its first retreat on Thanksgiving Day, 1949 and hasn’t stopped since. The first retreat was rather small. Sister Ann imagines there were 15, possibly 20 women there.

In 1960, an extension was built to add 28 more beds, and in 1999 there was another addition. Cormaria can now accommodate up to 72 guests. Last weekend alone, it hosted 40 women.

Originally a women’s-only retreat, Cormaria now opens its doors to people of all genders, persuasions and religions. In the early 1990s, Cormaria became one of the first retreat houses to welcome people suffering from AIDS and HIV. It now holds weekend retreats for people in 12-step programs, and in the summer time it holds eight-day retreats in silence.

Cormaria also holds workshops, teacher conferences, and students from Marymount schools all over come to visit and stay.

“But the theme is be still and know your God,” Sister Ann said. “It’s a place for people to stop. We’re living in a world that is too busy and we need to slow down,” she said.

Sister Ann built a hermitage at Cormaria in 1989, and the center also has a chapel, a professional kitchen, a dining room and several small conference rooms. The entire building is handicapped accessible.

Sister Ann believes the future of Cormaria “looks good,” she said. But it has had its  share of financial difficulties, and keeping prices of weekend retreats reasonable—they currently cost $180—can be trying, she said.

“It’s very affordable, and we try to keep it affordable,” she said. When Cormaria first opened, there were retreat houses both on Shelter Island and in Water Mill. Now, Cormaria is one of only two retreat houses on Long Island. Sister Ann attributes the dwindling number of these escapes to not only staffing shortages, but also financial difficulties.

The immediate future of Cormaria may involve some renovations, Sister Ann said.

“The lady on the bay has weathered many storms, and we’re hoping to give her a facelift—she deserves one,” she said.

“We’re not tearing anything down but painting and plumbing,” she added.

“Cormaria is here, it’s a treasure, it’s a jewel in the heart of Sag Harbor. And it’s here for people to come and be still,” she said.

“Every week I get calls from people to pray and we feel we’re really part of the community. People do come, and anyone can come, we never close our doors to anyone,” she added.

“Mother Francis told me when she began all this all she had was $100,” Sister Ann said, “Never in her wildest dreams would she have thought Cormaria would grow like this.”

On Sunday, November 23, at 2 p.m. Bishop William Murphy will celebrate a liturgy of Thanksgiving at Cormaria.


Noyac Hosts Last Tick Talk of the Season

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Jerry Simons discussed tick-borne disease diagnosis and prevention during a symposium at the November meeting of the Noyac Civic Council. 

By Mara Certic

As the days get shorter and temperatures drop, East Enders sometimes fall into a false sense of security, believing tick season is over for another cold winter. But with the ever-increasing number of tick-borne diseases and infections, medical professionals emphasize the importance of remaining vigilant against the virulent arachnids all year long.

In response to the growing number of infections, State Senator Kenneth P. LaValle convened a tick-borne disease task force last year to search for solutions to the problem, which is particularly prevalent on the East End. An advisory panel for Southampton Hospital’s Tick-Borne Disease Resource Center has come up with a multi-pronged mission to help reduce the number of tick-borne diseases and infections on Long Island and around the world.

In addition to facilitating treatment and educating medical professions about the various diseases carried by ticks, the panel has been charged with educating the public at several informative medical symposiums.

Jerry Simons, a physician’s assistant at East Hampton Urgent Care, gave the last such presentation of the year, on November 12 at the monthly meeting of the Noyac Civic Council.

Mr. Simons has been treating Lyme disease for almost 20 years.

“I saw my first Lyme disease patient in 1995,” he said at the meeting. Although the disease is named after a town in Connecticut, a lot of progress and discoveries made on Lyme disease happened out here on the East End, he said. “So it makes sense for the tick center to re-blossom here,” he added.

One of the difficulties of treating Lyme and other tick-borne diseases, Mr. Simons said, is figuring out what the exact strain of the disease is. Whereas people in the past have been told to look out for bull’s eye rashes, Mr. Simons noted that 30 to 50 percent of people with Lyme disease do not develop one.

“In 2014, like there are different types of flu germs or Epstein Barr, there are also different kinds of Lyme disease,” Mr. Simons said. Some of the literature says there are four different strains, whereas some claim there are as many as 12. According to Mr. Simons, those strains can then have up to four different subtypes of their own.

In addition to the many strains of Lyme, there are also diseases such as babesiosis, IA, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, ehrlichiosis and, most recently, the Alpha-gal allergy to meat.

“Sometimes it’s a matter of checking for the right germ,” Mr. Simons said, suggesting that anyone with a worrisome tick bite should ask for the Tick-Borne Disease Panel 3 work up, which tests for many different strains and diseases.

“But what I need you to remember is it’s not just Lyme disease,” he added.

Several medical publications have recently suggested that the ticks with the highest rate of infection in the world are those within a 50-mile-radius of Shelter Island.

“If you were in North Dakota and got a tick bite it would be a different story,” he said. Mr. Simons advocates getting treated with antibiotics right away, adding that they can prevent further, more serious problems four, eight or 12 weeks down the line. Also, spending $20 or $30 on early antibiotics could save thousands of dollars on blood work.

One of his pet peeves, he said, is when patients find a tick on themselves and wait to have it removed by a professional.  “You need to remove it immediately,” Mr. Simons said. Once removed, the ticks themselves should be taken to a doctor’s office, where they can determine the type of tick, its sex and whether or not it’s swollen, he added.

Inspecting the offending tick is one of the ways doctors can quickly and more efficiently diagnose patients, he said.

The bite of the Lone Star tick larvae, for example, can cause the Alpha-gal meat allergy and also other diseases in some cases. When bitten by an infected Lone Star tick, the alpha gal polysugar gets into the body. Once the enzyme is in your body, eating fatty red meats can cause a delayed inflammatory reaction, similar to a bee sting, Mr. Simons explained.

Whereas for some, the Alpha-gal allergy affects them only when they consume red meat, others can have reactions to dryer sheets, cosmetics, even lanoline strips on razors.

Recent research has shown people with Alpha-gal have very low glutamine levels, Mr. Simons said. Glutamine is one of the most abundant naturally occurring nonessential amino acids.

“You’re hearing it here first,” Mr. Simons said, “the advice is to run—not walk—to the store and get a big thing of glutamine.”

High doses of glutamine combined with six months to a year without any sort of meat contact could perhaps reverse the effect of the allergy, he said.

“It’s like in the ’80s when we were trying to figure out AIDS and HIV—you’re living in history,” Mr. Simons said.

For more information about tick-borne diseases call 726-TICK, or visit tickencounter.org.

Home Prevention

While ticks are most active from May through July, they will remain active until the temperature drops below 32 degrees. While the pests can be hard to avoid, here are some ways to keep ticks away:

  • Mice carry the most infectious ticks, so removing leaf piles and brush and other rodent retreats will help keep dangerous ticks away from the house.
  • Damminix tick tubes can be used to kill ticks on rodents. The product is available online, but DIY-ers can create the products themselves by putting cotton balls soaked in permethrin into cardboard tubes in mouse-infested areas. The mice, in turn, collect the cotton balls for their nests and the permethrin kills the ticks on contact.
  • Ticks are very unlikely to cross a 3-foot-wide wood chip boundary, so putting one around a house can help keep them away.
  • Ticks of all species apparently hate the smell of lavender; so dryer sheets and sprays imbued with the scent can also repel them.
  • Diluted DEET should be sprayed on shoes once a month, to keep ticks away.
  • Natural repellents, such as Buzz-Away can be applied directly to the skin.
  • Experts suggest spraying yards or lawns once a month from April to November, as well. Organic sprays are available from East End Tick and Mosquito Control.
  • Applying permethrin to clothes will kill all ticks on contact. Clothes pre-treated with permethrin are also available.