Monday, April 30, 2007

Ode to a Carbonated Beverage

Ask Mr. Long Island By Michael Watt

I attended my first college fair as a parent earlier this week and quite frankly I went in there thinking, “If nothing else, I should be able to get a column out of this.”

Alas and alack: After hours of trying the only thing I can come up with is, “Boo hoo my kid’s going off to college. Now I feel old because it seems like just last week I was going off to college and blah blah blah.” Nobody wants to read that and I certainly don’t feel like writing it.

As I contemplated what else I might want to write about, however, I poured myself a tall glass of seltzer. Now there’s something worth writing about: seltzer. It just sounds funny.

I love my seltzer. I can drink it all day and it doesn’t make me nauseous or jumpy or stupid like so many other beverages I can name. Right now under my desk is a case and a half of the stuff and I don’t have to count the bottles after I’ve been out of the house for a while to determine if my impressionable young sons got the urge to “experiment” and “explore” in my absence.

It’s fun to drink, too. If I drink a big glass quickly, for instance, I can almost always count on a huge belch ensuing. Sometimes all you need to break up your day and/or lighten the mood is a good belch. As my son Max likes to say, “Some things never get old.”

It can be a pain in the neck to order in restaurants, though, especially when I’m out with a group of friends (like that ever happens) or at a business dinner (more likely). Most folks order something cool or adult sounding, like “I’ll have a glass of Chardonnay,” or “I’ll take an unsweetened Iced Tea.” When it comes around to me I order my seltzer and for some reason I almost always have to repeat myself. Sometimes I think they think I’m saying salsa, which wouldn’t make any sense for obvious reasons. It doesn’t matter, though, because invariably they bring me club soda anyway.

Now, not too many people know that there is a difference between seltzer and club soda, primarily because not too many people care. I know I didn’t know, or care, until I was in my late teenss. I was filling in as a bartender at a Bar Mitzvah when one of the party attendees asked me for a seltzer. Not knowing (or caring) I poured him a club soda. He called me on it and when I asked – probably in a not-very-nice-way – what the difference was, he was kind enough to explain that seltzer has no sodium in it while club soda is rife with the stuff. He also explained that seltzer is Kosher and club soda is not. Unfortunately he explained this to me after several other party patrons were served club soda thinking it was seltzer.

Is that a big deal? Let’s put it this way: You don’t know guilt until you’ve discovered that several very nice folks may have to spend a few extra days in whatever it is Jewish people consider hell because their paths crossed with a brash, unthinking Gentile.

Seltzer can also be a pain because it’s not something most folks have on hand. I have gotten into the habit, therefore, of bringing my own seltzer with me on those rare occasions when I get invited to someone else’s home. You can just imagine how impressed my hosts are when I whip out two liters of “Vintage” or “Zazz.” Nothing screams “cheapskate” and “oh, this ought to be a laugh riot” like store-brand seltzer. (Don’t even get me started on what it’s like to show up at an all-night poker game packing a night’s supply of seltzer when everyone else is lugging in 12-packs of beer. Let’s just say I’m lucky they let me sit at the table).

Being a seltzer aficionado beyond the tri-state area can also be problematic. Anytime I go away on a business trip, for instance, the first thing I do when I get to my destination city is head to a local convenience store to stock up on the stuff I forgot to pack – a toothbrush, matching socks, a re-charger for my cell phone, etc. I also like to buy the basic food staples - bananas, chocolate and cookies - I need to get me through the next couple of days. I would get some seltzer, too, but for some reason seltzer does not exist west of the Hudson. I am sure it is just a coincidence but my rule of thumb is, “If you can’t find any good bagel places in the neighborhood then there’s not going to be any seltzer on the supermarket shelves, either."

Drinking seltzer does have its advantages. There are no calories, for instance, and I have never consumed excessive quantities of the stuff and then surrendered to the urge to call an old friend collect in the middle of the night. My only hope is that my older boy embraces my passion for seltzer when he goes away to college because it seems like only yesterday I was going off to college and I can tell you now the carbonated beverage I wrote odes to back then was definitely not seltzer.

Thank for you for reading this column.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Storm Damage at Davis Park, Fire Island

I just thought you might like to see some photos of the recent damage to the Davis Park area on Fire Island.

Although none of the homes were totally swept away by the waves, many were damaged and need to be moved or reinforced. Some may have to be torn down.

Here above is just one photo, but you can follow the link to see a slideshow of addtional photos.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Our First Storm Scare of the Season

Aaron Stein, Long Island Insurance BY AARON STEIN

This past weekend, Long Island and the surrounding areas got our first scare of this season. For those who don't realize it, we are already in the beginning weeks of what is considered hurricane season for our part of the world.

Here in Nassau and Suffolk counties, we got pretty lucky this past weekend. New Jersey was not so lucky and they continue to dig out of the mess. This was a nor'easter, as opposed to a tropical storm. There are a couple of things that were different. One is that it came from over the middle of the country, as opposed to tropical storms and hurricanes, which originate (strangely enough) in the tropics, out over water.

So that means that our deluge of rainfall was preceded by a bunch of snow being dropped on the middle part of the country. Usually they are laughing at us when we get hit by a tropical storm, because those rarely make it far inland. Once they do go over land, they quickly lose much of their strength.

The other thing that makes nor'easters so treacherous, especially here on Long Island and in the sort of inverted coastal corner that is the New York metropolitan area, is that the wind comes from a different direction than what is normal for us. Typically, our winds are the 'prevailing westerlies'. (Wind is named for the direction where it originates). That's why our weather patterns usually run from west to east. So if it's raining in central Pennsylvania, most times you can watch as the weather forecasters tell us how long it will be until that reaches us.

Even in this nor'easter, it came from the west relative to us. But the wind is from the northeast instead of the usual west. That means that to a certain extent, these high winds are blowing water in towards our south shores as they circulate around the storm's center! That's why nor'easters can cause heavy flooding even though it might not seem, walking out into our back yards, that things are all that horrible.

Let's hope this does not portend a more active hurricane season here on Long Island. In the past few weeks several more major insurance carriers have stopped writing in Suffolk County. The markets that are open are getting more expensive. And a couple of bad storms could really cause a crisis. We shall see.

As always for more information please visit our web sites at and

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Just a reminder...

photos by Alida Thorpe

Just a reminder to stay off the dunes while visiting Fire Island.

The dunes protect the beaches and the shores of Long Island. If you walk on the dunes or let your children play on the dunes, the grass is disturbed, and the sand will blow away in a storm.

Fire Island is our barrier beach and protects us in many ways!