July 7, 2008

Catch Basin In The Rye
(view the actual web story by clicking here)

Hen Island is roughly 25 acres of what I used to think of as paradise, straddling the entrances to Mamaroneck and Milton Harbors. I could give you the James Michener schtick of how it came to be, the accretions, ebbs and flows of geological and biological forces right down to the molecular level, forged over the millenia. Nah.

Here’s how it came to be, in my headscape. It all started in 1908 with the great Tunguska cataclysmic blast in Siberia. The earth laid to waste in a second by God knows what. Asteroid? Extraterrestrial warp drive miss an oil change? Still beats the hell out of everyone. An area big enough to be seen from space of old growth forest flattened like charred pickup sticks in an instant.

What most people really don’t know is that in that instant, a 25 acre divot of soilbound rock was hurled into the great blue yonder, surfed the jet stream over North America and petered out somewhere over Lake Erie where its glide path put it smack dab on a course that ended at the intersection of the aforementioned Mamaroneck and Milton harbors.

Only three beings saw its approach that night. A three legged dog named Jake and two drunk Indians. The Indians called it “the big rock that doth fly like a hen”.

Word spread faster than the clap through a cathouse thanks to Jake’s unearthly shrieks and alternating whimpers (he being the cathouse’s housepet). The Indians? They always had alternate ways of communicating, drums, smoke, ESP, and other spook waves faster than light.

The name Hen stuck like fish scales to cork. So the Indians really killed two birds with one big stone. They discovered and named Hen Island.

Years passed and while Mother Nature nurtured the island with flora and fauna, humans were busy nurturing rumors. The more bizarre being that (we are now in the late 70s) Jimmy Hoffa was alive and nursing Amelia Earhart through an intricate network of tubes on the island.

It was back in the late seventies (I think) that I set foot on Hen Island for the first time and for the better part of that summer. I was hired to help a painting contractor spiff up one of the summer cottages, commuting back and forth via skiff.

On my first trip out, the sound of the aluminum skiff grinding against crushed sea shells woke me out of a coffeeless reverie. I gathered up sundry objects of the painter’s trade and crunched up the small beach. My first thought was, this place is cool as shit. Shingled cottages, all angles and blistered paint, facing in every direction of the compass, nestled amongst the trees that grew everywhere. No tennis courts here. Just weathered refuges from a mainland that had mercifully receded from awareness. It wasn’t just another world but other worldly.

On that island the words of that transcendentalist anarchist Thoreau made some sense. During the summer the inhabitants of Hen Island could give a collective big green finger to the rest of us. Or, so I thought.

Paint job finished ,I would always look upon Hen Island with a reverence. Rising right there at the entrance to the harbor and as far away as the moon.

So, maybe two weeks ago, I’m watching the tube as some Westchester EPA suit, in a practiced manner , explains to the camera how the human waste that festers (my word) on Hen Island is naturally filtered by mother nature as it wallows into the ground.

I start googling Hen Island. What I find just adds one more shovel full to the crap heap of illusions that I’ve swallowed in my life. Seems there is trouble in paradise.

Hen Island is owned by a corporation named Kuder Island Colony Inc. made up of 34 shareholders. One of them, Raymond Tartaglione, filed a lawsuit against the corporation in state Supreme Court in White Plains last year. He accuses some of the other owners/shareholders of having failed their ecological obligations to the island and, in his suit, describes “the island as home to a mosquito-infected collection of ramshackle cottages with makeshift sewage and plumbing systems that leak into the Sound.” Mr. Tartaglione, who was once ousted from Kuder’s board, was described by the board president as being “disgruntled”, as in, not in step with the board’s direction.

The cast of characters in these allegations includes the City of Rye government and the Westchester Department of Health for starters, who, it would appear, have, so far, endowed the Kuder Island Colony, Inc. and Hen Island with a coat of teflon. Mr. Tartaglione’s entreaties have been rebuffed or ignored by both Rye and the county and finally by the state Supreme Court when a Court Justice threw out his suit earlier this year. Mr. Tartaglione had planned to appeal the Supreme court decision.

I appeal to the reader to absorb the following web site: heal the harbor where I gleaned all of the information regarding Mr. Tartaglione and Kuder Island Colony Inc. The site even throws in some comic (?) relief in the form of Mr. Floatie (a ripoff from South Park), some dedicated soul wearing a giant turd get up.

One question out of a scatological load is, if in fact Hen Island is bleeding all manner of human waste products into the surrounding water, and since such inanimate waste doesn’t give a crap about city and town boundaries, has Mamaroneck investigated these allegations? By the way, when a crack team of environmental investigators were sent to Hen Island and apparently corroborated much if not all of Mr. Tartaglione’s allegations, they were all removed from the investigation and replaced with a new team, headed up by Deputy Health Commissioner Meyerson from the Westchester Department of Health, whose team found none of the violations reported by the first team. Huh? Is this Lost ?

A Final Vision

A full moon, a baleful blank eye gazes down at Hen Island. Scudding clouds threaten. Then, all pure white light with unimaginable soundclap. A lightnng bolt has hit one of the shit pits on the island. A bolt like one that licked the primordial ooze millions of years ago. There is a stirring like back then, but different. A gathering, a pulling together of heft and mass. Rising, now flattening, drunkenly rolling sideways. Turd become sentient. It glistens under moonlight, spreading, sliding to gravity’s siren call, to the murky water. It slips in with one alien, unwavering thought, permeate and taint.

But this neckless monster has no bolts. There are no angry, fearful villagers with pitchforks silhouetted against torchlight. If there were, and yes, we want them to be there, would they know who, and where, is the monster?


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