Like many caffeine junkies, Keurig’s single-serve coffee machines eventually found their way into my heart. Shopping for K-Cups became routine. It seemed there was an endless supply of roasts from around the globe to try. But, at some point, the cost began to add up and the selection was exhausted. And short of replacing the Keurig with a traditional coffeemaker, there’s no way to leave the K-Cup club once a member. That’s where the My K-Cup Reusable Coffee Filter came in. The options are limitless once again. Found some must-try, fresh-ground beans to brew at home? No need to break out the old coffee machine and make a whole pot, just fill up the reusable K-Cup, hit brew and slurp down some wake-up juice. Amazing this simple device is not more widely known.
No apple cider I’ve ever had quenches my thirst like Richters. It’s the perfect blend of sweetness and tartness with just the right proportion of liquid so that every sip has a crisp hint of autumn. The apple groves are up on a rolling hillside off Pulaski Road in Northport and the mill is in a barn to the side. When my sons were very little, I used to drive up there to enjoy the view of eastern Suffolk while they napped in their car seats and I munched on a fresh-picked Macoun and washed it down with a swig of cool cider. Now that’s bliss you can taste.
Those with an unhealthy television obsession like myself undoubtedly know about the gains Netflix has made since bursting upon the scene several years ago. Netflix no longer relies on just deals with TV and movie studios to populate its streaming service. It is now investing in its own original content, the most notable being Emmy-nominated House of Cards, starring Kevin Spacey as Rep. Francis Underwood, a conniving lawmaker with a thirst for power. Netflix quickly found success with another original, too, Orange is the New Black, chronicling the life of a married-woman-to-be whose past relationship with her drug-dealing girlfriend got her a 15-month prison sentence. Sucks for her, but great news for the rest of us. We feel like we’re locked in the slammer with her, trying to lift her spirits along the way. Like the rest of Netflix Originals’ lineup, this dramedy is worth binging on.
Imagine waking up one morning to discover every single Bob Dylan album ever recorded sitting there, waiting for you, at the foot of your bed. Which would you rock out to first? His 1962 self-titled debut? A lil’ Freewheelin’ action, perhaps? Some Blonde on Blonde? Containing every full-length studio and live release in Dylan’s official Columbia Records canon, including two discs of non-album singles, B-sides and assorted other rarities—spanning more than 50 years—this is the mother lode, my dear friends, the must-have, definitive set. This beast drops as a CD box set and limited-number edition harmonica-shaped USB Nov. 5 and sets the table for Vol. Two, slated for release next year. That monster will include the entire Bootleg Series! This is a real-life “Bob Dylan’s Dream”-come true. (Leopard-skin pill-box hat not included, unfortunately.)
ENJOY LONG ISLAND RESTAURANT WEEK
Running Sunday, Nov. 3-10, this annual blessing offers amazing deals on outstanding meals all across the Island. Feast on a three-course prix-fixe dinner for $27.95 per person, all week long (Saturday up to 7 p.m.). Bring the family, a loved one, or treat yourself to these special, price-is-right feasts! Check out www.longislandrestaurantweek.com to find participating restaurants and the perfect match!
GOOGLE “MEDIEVAL LAND” & “GAME OF THRONES”
Master comedic spoofers Bad Lip Reading have transformed the brutally dark and violent HBO super show into a medieval theme park—“Medieval Land Fun-Time World,” to be precise—and this is the absolutely hilarious trailer for the movie. Because winter is coming, dear friends. Winter is coming.
SPREAD THE WORD
November is American Diabetes, Lung Cancer Awareness, Native American Indian Heritage, National Healthy Skin and National Family Caregivers Month. Reflect upon these issues and those suffering. Support local efforts to combat these diseases, further these causes and spread the word about the ongoing challenges so many are still facing. Raise awareness. Lend a hand. Join the movement.
ORDER A MOJITO
Why? Do you really need a reason? They go down smooth, linger on the tongue for just a bit, are minty—and they possess this magical ability to transport you to a far-away beach somewhere not cold. This limey cocktail also has the power to actually taste better when shared with friends and loved ones. There are primo restaurants and bars across Long Island whose expert staff can whip up one of these (and any other) sweet elixirs. But who’s the best, you ask? The best bartender, the best bar or the best mojito? All three? That’s up to you! Go to BestOf.LongIslandPress.com and vote for your favorite today before time runs out!
PLAY DEER HUNTER 2014
The iPhone and Android smartphone game is taking users by storm, though it’s not for the faint of heart. Flush out rabbits and an assortment of other creatures (more than 100 animal species are represented) while traveling the globe in search of the most prized and exotic game. Go it alone or join friends in global cooperative challenges. But look out, these critters bite back!
WATCH CAESAR & OTTO’S DEADLY XMAS
LI filmmaker Dave Campfield’s comedy-horror has been racking up awards at festivals across the country and drops Nov. 19 on DVD at Blockbuster and Family Video. Head down to 112 Video World in Medford for its release party and see what all the hubbub’s about.
SMELL THE BACON
We knew the time would come when the most genius iPhone and Android app would be invented. It is here. There’s now a plug-in attachment that releases the scent of bacon whenever you get a notification. The “Scentee” attaches through the headphone socket and comes equipped with capsules that are released whenever you desire—say when your significant other sends you a text message or your alarm clock goes off. Yes, you can now truly wake up to the smell of bacon, every single day! Without the grease! But then there would be no actual bacon. Someone needs to create an app that makes that.
DOWNLOAD BLACKBERRY BBM APP
BlackBerry devices may be on the verge of extinction, but the cell phone maker did find a way to make a splash by rolling out an iPhone and Android app for its wildly popular messaging service, BBM, satisfying former “CrackBerry” addicts who jumped ship to other smartphones but lamented losing BlackBerry Messenger. Relive the BlackBerry craze!
NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution Mission (MAVEN) launches Nov. 18, becoming the first mission to explore the Red Planet’s Martian atmosphere. The launch of the 5,410-pound spacecraft will be streamed live. MAVEN should reach Mars in September 2014 for its one-Earth-year-long quest. To view the liftoff and learn more about this historic voyage, check out www.nasa.gov/maven and www.lasp.colorado.edu/home/maven
Suffolk County SPCA officers responded to the home of a Miller Place resident who surrendered a 2-foot long alligator after missing a prior “reptile amnesty day” to gather any scaly critters kept as pets. Points lost for harboring the monster in the first place, but kudos for coming clean—unlike those who’ve let loose the 18 other gators in parking lots, streams and backyards across the Island since September 2012.
The Long Beach Boardwalk, after being smashed to smithereens by Hurricane Sandy, re-opened again to the public Oct. 25 following a complete cleanup and reconstruction ongoing since the storm’s wrath. Dozens turned out for the jubilant event, a feat representative of the challenges and rebirth still unfolding across the Island—and highlighting the work that still has yet to be done.
A 57-year-old man and 48-year-old woman from Riverhead have been charged with drug felonies after New York State Police, who had observed the couple acting suspiciously at the iconic Big Duck in Flanders, discovered they were carrying crack cocaine. Really? The Big Duck isn’t weird enough without the hard-core stuff? Should’ve opted for a stroll along the new LBC Boardwalk instead!
The legendary singer/songwriter/guitarist and Velvet Underground founder lost his battle with liver disease, passing away in his Hamptons home Oct. 27 and unleashing a torrent of tributes across the arts and entertainment world. Born in Brooklyn and raised in Freeport, the art-punk poet will forever be remembered for his innovation, attitude, style and raw power—a true pioneer, wordsmith, rebel, outlaw, and a Long Islander who influenced generations of artists and musicians to come. Linger on, Lou. Linger on.
The born-again Christian and youngest B-brother paid another $100,000 in Rockland County Court toward the $400,000 he owes as part of a plea deal for felony tax-delinquincy charges. The former Bio-Dome star, like the Miller Place alligator keeper, did wrong and is repenting. Kudos, we say. Now can you please get your brother to keep his hands off photographers!? Oye!
STANDING UNITED: Long Beach residents form a human chain of hands in remembrance to mark the one-year anniversary of Superstorm Sandy, which devastated much of the City by the Sea. (Joe Abate/Long Island Press)
Cinema Arts Centre 40th “Ruby” Anniversary Celebration
Ticket includes cocktail hour, open bar, dinner, a short film, live music, dancing and a whole lot of reminiscing on the great, great memories that have made CAC such a Long Island institution and regional cultural treasure. North Ritz Club, 274 Jericho Tpke., Syosset. www.northritzclub.com $175; more for reserved tables. 6:30-11:30 p.m. October 10.
Bayville Scream Park
One of LI’s most scariest Halloween destinations, the scream park boasts five bone-chilling haunted attractions, including Uncle Needle’s Funhouse of Fear, zombie pirates and an utterly terrifying haunted house, plus “Not So Scary” activities, such as a pumpkin patch, bouncy house, storytelling, hermit crab races and spooky gifts and treats. Bayville Scream Park, 8 Bayville Ave., Bayville. Bayvillescreampark.com $17.75-$59.75. Fridays & Saturdays, 6 p.m.-2a.m.; Sundays & Weekdays 6 p.m.-11 p.m. Weekends through October 6; Everyday October 11 – November 3.
The musician, Grammy-nominated actor and standup funnyman brings his unique brand of comedy to LI’s newest performance venue. A must-see gig. The Space at Westbury, 250 Post Ave., Westbury. www.thespaceatwestbury.com $25-$41.90. 7 p.m. October 11.
3rd Annual Fright Fest in Mastic Beach
From the ghoulish imagination of the Cultural Arts Guild of Mastic Beach emerges this frightening festival, complete with a parade, local vendors, rides, music, food, drink, crafts, hayrides, games, costume contests and various other Halloween horrors. Neighborhood Rd., Mastic Beach. culturalartsguildmb.blogspot.com Free. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. October 12.
Finch/Dance Gavin Dance
Celebrating What It Is To Burn’s 10-year anniversary, the California post-hardcore thrashers kick off the album’s namesake tour right here on LI. The Paramount, 370 New York Ave., Huntington. paramountny.com $33-$58. 8 p.m. October 13.
Long Island Reptile Expo
Snakes, skinks, turtles, anoles, iguanas, bearded dragons, monitors, frogs—if they have scales, are cold-blooded, slithery or slimy and a little frightening, they’ll be here, among more than 115 vendor tables and hordes of Long Islanders who adore them. Oh, and they’ll be tons of arachnids here, too. Yikes! Huntington Hilton Hotel, 598 Broad Hollow Rd., Melville. Reptileexpo.com $9 adults; $4 kids 7-12; Free kids under 7. 9a.m.-3 p.m. October 13.
Live music, hayrides, pumpkin-picking, produce sales, cider-making—October is definitely here! Benner’s Farm, 56 Gnarled Hollow Rd., East Setauket. bennersfarm.com, price unknown, 12- 4 p.m. October 13.
Barclays Center, 620 Atlantic Ave., Brooklyn. www.barclayscenter.com $47.90-$82.10. 7 p.m. October 16.
Annual Mysterious Museum Halloween Party
Animal presentations, crafts, games, costumes, Boo! Tackapausha Museum Preserve, Seaford, 2225 Washington Ave., Seaford. $5. 1 p.m. October 16.
Emerson String Quartet
The first of three appearances at the Staller Center in the 2013-2014 season, this night’s set will include the Haydn Quartet Op. 20, No. 3, the Benjamin Britten Quartet No. 2 and the Beethoven Quartet Op. 59, No. 1. Wow. Staller Center for the Arts, SUNY Stony Brook, Stony Brook. www.stallercenter.com $46. 8 p.m. October 17
Nineties “grunge” rockers Pearl Jam are set to destroy Brooklyn, just three days after their tenth studio album Lightning Bolt drops. Will they perform popular hits “Alive,” “Black,” Release,” Wish List” and “Daughter”? Lesser-known favorites “I Got Id” and “Footsteps”? What about crowd-pleasers “Yellow Ledbetter” and “W.M.A.”!? Only one way to find out. Barclays Center, 620 Atlantic Ave., Brooklyn. $79. 50-$91.80. 7:30 p.m. October 18 & 19.
The legendary King of Blues will be here on LI. The Paramount, 370 New York Ave., Huntington. paramountny.com $84. 50-$150.25. 8 p.m. October 19.
The World Famous Glenn Miller Orchestra
Glenn Miller may have passed away in 1944, but his famed orchestra keeps his legacy alive in the world of jazz and swing. Uplifting. Not-to-miss. The Patchogue Theatre, 71 E. Main St., Patchogue. patchoguetheatre.com $25-$65. 8 p.m. October 19.
Long Island Music Festival
Three stages, too many bands to name. Here’s just a few: Gloria Gaynor, Funk Filharmonik, That 70s Band, Wonderous Stories, Southbound Band, Minute By Minute, Rattlesnake Dawn and Disco Nights DJ Rusty. Perry Farrell, eat your heart out. “We will survive, Strong Island. We will survive. Eisenhower Park, Hempstead Tpk. and Merrick Ave., East Meadow. Free. 2-7 p.m. October 19.
Mysterious Village Haunted Halloween
This creepy village will be full of monster scavenger hunts, scary stories, jack-o-lantern carving demos, a costume parade, headless horsemen, tarot card readings, broom making, creepy recipes, the grim reaper, scarecrow-making workshops, cider and molasses cookies. What a combo! Old Bethpage Village Restoration, 1303 Round Swamp Rd., Old Bethpage. www.nassaucountyny.gov $10 adults; $7 children & seniors; children under 5 are free. 10 a.m.-4 p.m. October 19, 20, 27.
30th Annual Oyster Bay Oyster Festival
The largest waterfront festival on the East Coast, it features live entertainment, ships, talented artisans, pirate shows, midway rides, an oyster eating and shucking contest and fireworks (on Saturday night at 7 p.m.)! Oyster Bay Harbor, Oyster Bay. Check out www.theoysterfestival.org for more information, including locations for free parking and shuttle service. Free. 11 a.m.-7p.m. Saturday, October 19 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday, October 20.
The Disney pop trio is out in support of their fifth studio album, “V,” set to drop later this year. No doubt all the teens and tweens in the audience will be swooning to their latest single “First Time.” NYCB Theatre at Westbury, 960 Brush Hollow Rd., Westbury. thetheatreatwestbury.com $59.50-$79.50. 8 p.m. October 20.
Coheed and Cambria
The Paramount, 370 New York Ave., Huntington. paramountny.com $47.50-$85.25. 7 p.m. October 22.
The Colorado-based rockers invade Huntington with a piano-led assault sure to have those in attendance up and dancing (or at least boppin’) all night long. The Paramount, 370 New York Ave., Huntington. paramountny.com $63-$171. 8 p.m. October 23 & 24.
The Academy Award-winning actor will speak and perform and also sign his new children’s picture book “Never Play Music Right Next To The Zoo.” Book Revue, 313 New York Ave., Huntington. www.bookrevue.com 7 p.m. October 25.
Would You Like A Tour? Well here you go. Barclays Center, 620 Atlantic Ave., Brooklyn. www.barclayscenter.com, http://www.barclayscenter.com/events/detail/drake $59.75-$125.25. 7 p.m. October 28.
The Internet comedy sensation is the youngest comedian to record a Comedy Central hour-long special, at just 19-years old. His set combines music, standup and theatrical license in a very unique and entertaining way. Yeah, he’s funny. The Patchogue Theatre, 71 E. Main St., Patchogue. patchoguetheatre.com $25-$30. 8 p.m. October 31.
Did Rafael Edward Cruz really graduate cum laude from Princeton? Yikes, this tiger doesn’t seem to have much left in the tank, judging by his embarrassing filibuster that had him reading aloud from Dr. Seuss’ “Green Eggs and Ham” on the Senate floor. And he even voted for the bill he claimed he wanted to block! But give this slick guy with the wicked grin some credit: Texas’ junior Republican senator could be the most dangerous American in politics today, thanks to his unabashed bid to be the Tea Party’s No. 1 flag-bearer in 2016, while he runs roughshod over our Republicans and screws over the majority of the American people with his fanatical conservative views fueled by deep pockets of the right-wing plutocrats—all the while waving a copy of the Constitution like a hankie. One Sen. Joe McCarthy was enough—we don’t need two. Be gone, you arrogant phony.
In terrorism circles this sociopathic British mum is known as the White Widow. She’s been on the run since 2005 when her husband Germaine Lindsay blew himself up in the suicide bombings of the London subway system that left 26 people dead. Recently, Al Shabab, the Somali cell under the evil influence of Al Qaida according to intelligence sources, praised her on their web site. Now new reports say that this twisted human being was at the center of the devastating attack on the Nairobi mall in Kenya, reportedly directing the cold-blooded killing of mothers and children as they begged for mercy in the aisles and behind the counters. Lethwaite and her cohort perpetrated an act of desperation and cowardice that will never win converts to their cause. But that’s not why she kills, is it? She can run, but she can’t hide forever.
What can we say about the Yankees egregious radio announcer that hasn’t been said before—if not from his own mouth but from others’? His bombastic home-run calls, his tedious tangents that distract from the actual action on the field, and his terrible game-ending coda that is a parody of ridiculous rhetoric, with his long-winded emphasis on the wrong word. Oh, there’s also the “A-Bomb from A-Rod,” the “Melky Way,” ad nauseam. It doesn’t help that his sidekick, Suzyn Waldman, is about as interesting as the hoagie she usually seems to be stuffing into her yawning yap. But the last word has to be his blown call on a Rodriguez fly-ball to right field during a Toronto Blue Jays game. It makes you wonder if he was on hallucinogens that day as he first went into his “it is high—it is far—it is gone” chant. Then he back-tracked to say that the ball had “kicked over” the fence. Finally, probably because the spectators in the stadium were providing a different radio soundtrack that didn’t quite jibe with a Yankee hitting a homer in their hometown, Sterling had to admit, “I’m sorry! I’m sorry! I got that all wrong! I got that all wrong! At the wall Davis made the catch.” OK, so he apologized, but that’s just part of his legacy of lameness. And now Yankees fans stuck listening to him on the radio are supposed to be happy that Sterling is moving his shlock act to WFAN? No way! He should be outta there.
We don’t really want to single out Edward Telmany, US Coachways chief executive, but it’s guys like him who’ve really taken people for a ride online. This charter bus service based in Staten Island had earned a rather lousy reputation on Yelp and other websites, getting more than a dozen “one star” reviews for reportedly handling its passengers like baggage. But did Telmany want to improve service? Of course not! Like too many corporate execs these days, he no doubt wanted to shoot the messenger, but he couldn’t really do that, at least not legally (so far), so he did the next best thing thanks to the Internet: hiring freelance writers, ordering his staff, and even pitching in himself to spin those wheels in a different direction. According to The New York Times, he posted a five-star review that began, “US Coachways does a great job!” Well, New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman wasn’t on board with that. In fact, his office cracked down on a bus-load of online prevaricators. Telmany’s company ultimately had to pay $75,000 in fines and agree not to stop the deceptions that the Attorney General said were “worse than old-fashioned false advertising.” We think bosses like him should be given a one-way ticket to Palookaville!
DINA LOHAN & ASHLEY HORN
They’re not related by blood—at least as far as we know—but these two unfortunate women do have something in common: Lindsay Lohan. Dina is the misfit mom who’s battling a DWI count after being busted for allegedly driving 77 mph on the Northern State—and she is also facing a foreclosure on her $1.3 million home in Merrick as we reported first in The Long Island Press. Ashley Horn is Lindsay’s estranged half-sister (she’s the love child of Lindsay’s daffy dad Michael) and her claim to fame is that she recently spent $25,000 on plastic surgery to “look like Lindsay in her good days.” For good measure Horn, now 18, made clear to In Touch Weekly that she meant when Lindsay was “around 18, 19 years old.” All we know is that there are some pretty weird genes running around in this loony Lohan circle and we wish it would stop once and for all. Get thee to a nunnery.
Shelly, Shelly, Shelly! You’re making us all meshuggina with your crazy antics. There’s your stonewalling the governor’s ethics commission, your stubborn refusal to reveal your “clients” from whom your personal injury law firm somehow garners some $350,000 annually and your outrageous cover-up of Assemb. Vito Lopez, the disgraced Brooklyn Democrat who couldn’t stop pawing his women assistants. Add to this list of shame the recent discovery of $400,000 stashed in the Lower East Side closet of William Rapfogel, ex-head of the Metroplitan Council on Jewish Poverty, who happens to be married to your chief of staff, Judy Rapfogel, who “knew nothing” about how all that cash got into their co-op. New York could always benefit from some good, clean liberal politics, but not the kind that comes with this tarnished Silver lining.
Okay, so you can always count on the blazing blonde bomb-thrower Ann Coulter to lob some lethal verbal barrage at her political enemies when she’s launching publicity for another one of her horribly misleading right-wing screeds that conservatives lap up like pigs to a trough. But apparently she went a little too far on Fox News for host Sean Hannity—no paragon of selfless virtue either—when she kept using Obama and “monkey” in the same sentence, as in: Russian President Vladimir Putin is “making a monkey out of Obama.” Without her goldie-locks, she’s just another ugly racist out to make a buck exploiting her audience’s prejudices. We blame lefty Bill Maher for making her a right-wing star—and he was just treating her like a joke. Well, this gag has gone on long enough. Throw her books into the remainder bin. She gives reading a bad name.
The chairman of the House Budget committee, Rep. Paul Ryan, makes us long for the Grand Old Party of moderate Republicans. They were fiscal conservatives, of course, but they would compromise for the greater good when it was reasonable. They would never, ever, seek political gain at the expense of the powerless and the defenseless. Well, those poor folks will have to take it on the chin (and in their gut) as long as radicals like Ryan have power. He recently explained that cutting food stamps for millions of unemployed Americans was actually doing them a favor because the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) had become “a hammock that lulls able-bodied people to lives of dependency and complacency.” All that on about $4.45 a day per person. And two-thirds of SNAP’s beneficiaries are children, the elderly and the disabled. Way to shred that safety net, Mr. Vice President Wannabe!
Indiana sports radio host Dan Dakich may know Hoosier basketball inside and out but when he tweeted recently against NCAA football players who dared to show solidarity by wearing the letters “APU”—for “all players united”—on their wristbands and uniforms, he stepped out of bounds. Every honest fan of collegiate sports knows full well that the NCAA is the last vestige of indentured servitude we have in America. All too often these young athletes are chewed up and churned out without learning a lick while earning millions and millions of dollars in TV revenue for their respective schools. The goals of the protest are simple, as The Times reported: to show support for students who joined concussion lawsuits against the NCAA and to stand by players “harmed by NCAA” rules, to show unity for those seeking reform, and to direct a portion of the $1 billion in new TV contracts to guarantee “basic protections” for the college players, in particular “guaranteed scholarship renewals for permanently injured players.” Is that the part that ticked off Dakich? He posted that “it would be great” if all the NCAA players who put the “APU” acronym on display “lost their scholarships!” We wonder if Dakich should have his head examined because his thinking seems impaired.
Fans of armed vigilantes made George Zimmerman their national hero for shooting unarmed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin to death in Florida because Zim had thought the black kid in the hoodie looked suspicious. We’ll never know for sure if Zim was telling the truth about the incident because the only one who could corroborate it was shot in the back. Zim’s defense was that he was “standing his ground,” as the wrong-headed Florida law allowed him to do. But we do know that Zimmerman was acquitted on second-degree murder and other charges, and that his wife Shellie stood by her man during the lengthy trial. Now another side is coming out. Shellie recently filed for divorce, claiming that he threatened her father in law and forced her to lie about the couple’s finances. She pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor perjury charge for lying during a bail hearing following her husband’s arrest, the Associated Press reported. She got sentenced to do 100 hours of community service and a year’s probation. What did Zimmerman get? The 29-year-old “neighborhood watcher” has been busted twice since his acquittal for speeding. The least authorities could do is take away his gun. But, honestly, Zimmerman should be canned for good.
Screams and the explosion of weapons fire pierce the arid desert air as a procession of armored military vehicles edging through suburban Sadr City in Baghdad come under attack by a group of insurgents.
Seated inside a Humvee within the convoy is 24-year-old U.S. Army Ranger Chris Levi. A series of thunderous detonations liquefy a stack of four, 6-inch-wide copper plates, hurling large, molten slugs toward his vehicle at speeds just under a mile per second.
The explosively formed projectiles, called EFPs by the troops, tear through his Humvee’s door, slicing its engine and radio mount before eventually splitting off the vehicle’s entire front end.
Levi’s platoon sergeant and a nearby medic rush to the aid of the downed mortar-systems expert from Holbrook.
“I heard yelling about [someone] finding something, and the medic [was] crying and saying he couldn’t find it and that it was lost,” he recalls over a recent lunch. “I kind of turned my head and looked at them—and [the medic] started yelling that ‘he found it—he found it!’ He was talking about my heartbeat.”
For Levi, now 29, narrowly cheating death in Iraq in March 2008 came at a heavy cost. The EFPs claimed his legs and permanently injured his right arm, leaving him with nerve damage and traumatic brain injury. Upon returning home that same year, the infantryman was diagnosed with depression, anxiety and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD.
Of the combined 2.5 million servicemen and women who fought in Iraq and are returning home by the tens and thousands from Afghanistan, 20 percent are coping with PTSD. In addition to the classic counseling methods, to better treat this steady stream of soldiers coming home from America’s longest war, veterans hospitals are increasingly offering high- and low-tech rehabilitative options, such as virtual reality (VR) and complementary and alternative medicine, such as yoga, which experts say can help vets re-acclimate to civilian life.
The goal is to avoid delaying mental health treatment—something that happened to many veterans of past wars, and thus, made it that much more difficult for them to adjust.
“We have group therapy, individual therapy, we do evidence-based treatment with prolonged exposure therapy and cognitive processing therapy,” says Dr. Robert Galak, PTSD unit manager at the Northport Veterans Affairs Medical Center, of the options currently available at the center. “We’re also bringing in some of the alternative medicine strategies that have been very successful. We try to incorporate as many different modalities into the treatment of PTSD as we can.”
“We’re looking at virtual reality exposure therapy,” he adds.
Albert “Skip” Rizzo, associate director for medical virtual reality at ICT, tells the Press he got his inspiration for a VR therapy prototype in 2003, after watching a clip for an upcoming video game called Full Spectrum Warrior released for the Xbox gaming console. This early precursor was originally funded by the Army as a combat tactical simulation.
Adopting game elements and art assets from the Xbox video game, Rizzo’s prototype received glowing feedback, and in 2005, his team was given government funding to create better VR simulation programs for use as treatment tools for returning soldiers.
Rizzo’s programs, dubbed “Virtual Iraq” and “Virtual Afghanistan” use “virtual scenarios specifically designed to represent relevant contexts for VR exposure therapy, including Middle Eastern-themed cities and desert road environments,” he explains.
Vets suffering from PTSD navigate these digital virtual environments and relive the experiences they endured while on the real front lines, helping them deal with the disorder’s triggers head-on, and ultimately, alleviate any related symptoms.
“What we’re doing is basically taking an already evidence-based treatment for PTSD exposure therapy, or prolonged exposure, and we’re delivering it with a virtual reality simulation that allows the clinician to control everything that goes on in the simulation as a way to pace the exposure in a very systematic and controlled way,” says Rizzo.
Patients who were treated with his team’s VR exposure programs in 2006 at a naval medical center at Camp Pendleton in San Diego received good results in their initial open clinical trial.
“Other groups got interested in it and we kept expanding the system and tried to make it better,” he says. “That version that we built there ended up getting distributed out to about 55 sites [across the country].”
According to the clinic’s director, Dr. Mitchell Schare, research in this treatment area initially began at Hofstra in 1998 and has been used with patients struggling with phobias ranging from fear of flying to public speaking. Once implemented, Schare is confident that VR exposure treatment for use with veterans struggling with PTSD will enjoy the same success as the other VR programs already in use at the college.
“I’ve been having various people come and speak to my students, veterans themselves [and] people who treat veterans,” says Schare. “We’ve been watching all kinds of materials, some issued by the government, documentaries on Afghanistan and Iraq, so I’ve been training students and preparing them.”
“We will be absolutely offering [VR exposure therapy] as part of treatment,” he adds.
Levi was among many wounded veterans who underwent VR exposure therapy at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., before it closed its doors in 2011 and merged with the National Naval Medical Center to form the present-day Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.
He is living, breathing proof of its success in combating PTSD.
“There was a person I know that was afraid for his life sitting in any vehicle,” he tells the Press. “They put this apparatus on his head and he was using it to watch himself walk up to a vehicle and then he would sit in [it] and would be able to stop if he wanted to without being in a [real] vehicle.”
Levi credits the program with helping him learn how to drive again after his injuries left him unable to operate a car without special hand controls.
“They had screens on all of the walls in the room that you’re in, and there’s the cab of this little pickup truck, and there’s no back on it and there’s no front on it,” he says, recalling his turn in the VR machine.
“It’s just the cab of the pickup truck and you have the seat and the hand control,” he continues. “You go on a highway, you go into the town, and you learn how to drive—it’s all virtual and it’s replicating reality.”
There are approximately 138,000 veterans living on the Island, second only to San Diego in the percentage of vets among citizens, according to local veterans advocates. Roughly 5,000 LI residents served in Iraq and in Afghanistan.
With U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq last year, LI is now undergoing an influx of Afghanistan vets, with complete drawdown expected next year.
With such a significant sea change in LI’s veteran population, the Northport VA has not only been researching newer technology, such as VR therapy, in treating newly returning vets, but also New Age treatments, such as yoga, for both new and old.
“People are looking for this [treatment], so the veterans are very welcoming of it,” says Richelle Rapaport, a clinical nurse specialist in psych mental health and a board-certified advanced practice holistic nurse at the VA.
Rapaport, who’s been with the VA since 1988, received grant funding that trained 200 VA staff members in Tai Chi, Reiki Relaxation, yoga, guided imagery, reflexology, clinical meditation and aroma therapy two years ago.
Despite their tough and combat-hardened perception, Rapaport says it’s the young vets, especially the men, who do better with these physical modalities combined with elements of meditation and Tai Chi. Overall, it helps both servicemen and women “settle down, focus their brains and reduce their reactivity,” she explains.
“You can be the toughest person in the world, but yoga could still knock you out, man,” admits Levi. “It’s not the easiest thing in the world and a lot of these guys…have no range of motion at all, and then they get injured, and they have a bad back or they have a prosthetic on one of their legs. [Their] range of motion is what’s stopping them from being able to maneuver that prosthetic properly. With yoga, you can control your body and do stretches and breathing. It’s relaxing and it’s fulfilling.”
THE WAR WITHIN
Even with this new wave of treatment options, however, experts agree that returning veterans may still find difficulty adjusting to civilian life, whether because of trouble at home or school, unemployment, or drug and alcohol abuse.
In the same high-tech vein as the VR therapy, VA officials are now also using online and texting services as a means of connecting with soldiers who served during Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.
“More and more younger service members are coming home and our texting program is…becoming much more popular,” says Dr. Caitlin Thompson, deputy director of the Canandaigua VA’s Suicide Prevention Program in upstate New York. “So, the use of new technology is essential, and developing ways to both reach people and to intervene with folks with using this new technology is absolutely huge.”
She says suicide remains an unfortunate reality among PTSD patients. Of the approximately 32,000 suicides per year in the United States, 20 percent are veterans, and each day 18 suicide-related deaths are committed by veterans, according to the VA National Mental Health Service.
The veterans’ crisis line is one of the last lines of defense in helping to subdue this dark trend gripping veterans.
“That’s kind of the linchpin for suicide prevention efforts with the VA,” says Thompson. “In general, it’s known you need to get people out of the immediate crisis, and then you need to follow up with them over time so that they can get the treatment that they need and they can get the support that they need because [it] works.
“We get calls from people who are waking up from nightmares in the middle of the night and just need to talk with somebody, and that runs to people who are standing on the bridge and are ready to jump.”
PTSD is hardly a new phenomenon, but it wasn’t until 1980 that the disorder was even recognized as a medical condition.
Older veterans had therefore potentially suffered for several decades without getting the help they so desperately needed, according to John Javis, chairperson of Veterans Health Alliance of Long Island, a nonprofit that works with veterans, their families and collaborates with other vet groups, including the Northport VA.
“In World War I we called [PTSD] ‘shell shock’—some of the old black and white footage of soldiers after the war show people walking around these mental hospitals just shaking because of being exposed to artillery and being in trenches,” he says. “In World War Two it was known as ‘combat fatigue.’ In other words, a Vietnam veteran [who], let’s say, came home in 1968 with PTSD, well, the field didn’t even really start to name it until 1980.”
Joe Messana understands the difficulties Vietnam veterans faced firsthand. The Hicksville resident enlisted into the military during the fall of 1967 and received orders to deploy to Vietnam the following year with the 90th Replacement Battalion, stationed in Long Binh Post—the U.S. Army’s headquarters.
“These poor guys from World War II, Vietnam and Korea who came home, they didn’t get [treatment for] PTSD,” he explains. “There was no understanding, and they were probably put in a mental institute immediately because they weren’t getting used to civilian life. And this is what happens: you can’t get a guy that’s been in combat in 100-degree weather in the jungles of Vietnam and all of a sudden have him go to New York City on 42nd Street.”
He suggests the same holds true for the younger generation of combat veterans returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan.
“When we were in the service you’d hear about constant combat, the sounds of the jets and the sounding of war,” he says. “When we were there it was one year that we were in combat duty and when we came home there was no such thing as an [off] switch. These kids are coming home and they’re confused, and don’t forget…they’re coming back from a war and some [served multiple tours], there’s no such thing as an [off] switch.”
While the nature of conflict in current wars and those of years past may differ, Galak says the harsh reality of modern combat still takes its toll.
“The changes take place with the change in warfare in Vietnam and Iraq and Afghanistan,” says Galak. “There are no front lines and no rear lines, so you’re constantly under threat of sniper fire and improvised explosive devices. It’s very difficult to tell friendlies from the enemy—they’re under the constant threat of combat 100 percent [of the time].”
There are endless examples of such scenarios leaving permanent, invisible scars.
Levi, the corporal, recalls a flatbed truck carrying eight pipes—each containing a powerful Katyusha rocket—exploding in Eastern Baghdad outside one of the four largest forward-operating bases.
“It was probably booby-trapped, and when the people jumped on they initiated the explosives,” he says. “The amount of damage they did in that confined area was severely intense so…the 80 Iraqi soldiers that were standing around watching this go on were injured by random pieces of shrapnel. Fifteen people were vaporized.”
Levi recalls the only person in the vicinity who was capable of treating the injured was an 18-year-old medic who was new to combat.
“This medic had to [decide] if certain soldiers’ injuries were severe enough where they wouldn’t make it…to the Iraqi hospital, which was about one kilometer away,” he continues.
“In those moments he had to decide how to ration supplies among the injured, and who was going to live or die,” adds Levi. “Their lives were in his hands, and afterwards he was covered in blood and we had to hose him off with water and soap.”
Even with all of the outreach, medical advancements and new treatment options for patients suffering PTSD, the stigma associated with seeking mental health treatment can still dissuade veterans from getting the help that they need.
“There’s still the concern about stigma, and the VA is trying to work to eliminate the stigma of mental health,” says Joe Sledge, Northport VA spokesman.
“Everyone who goes to war comes back affected by that experience,” he says. “They could potentially save themselves years of unhappiness by getting the treatment early. The earlier that they come in, the better off they’ll be.”
Tom Ronayne, director of Suffolk County Veterans’ Services, an organization that among other things, assists veterans with processing claims for benefits, also recognizes the challenges this stigma poses to mental health treatment. Ultimately, he says, veterans are doing themselves a disservice by not seeking help for fear of being ostracized.
“The de-stigmatization of these mental health issues is going to be a game-changer,” says Ronayne. “When we sent them away, they were okay. When they came home, they’re broken.
“We have an obligation to make sure that they’re not only well cared for, but that we support them in any way possible, so that we can ensure that their prognosis going forward is that they’ll be able to move beyond their PTSD,” he adds.
Refusing to allow his injuries to get in the way of his career goals, Levi began working at American Portfolios Financial Services less than a year ago. This past June, he enrolled at Long Island University, where he’s studying business with plans to continue his education during the fall semester.
“I’d like to be a financial advisor,” says Levi. “I’ve already learned a lot [at American Portfolios] and I’ll learn even more at LIU Post.
“Despite all I’ve been through, I know that I can make it if I just go for it.”
October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. There is still much to be done in the battle against this terrible disease. Awareness is key. So use this month as that added little nudge to educate yourself and your loved ones, if you haven’t already, about the value of early detection and treatment, and support those Long Islanders whose lives have been forever altered. Participate in awareness-related walks and other activities that are taking place throughout the month, or visit your local breast cancer nonprofit and volunteer to help.
The line outside Huntington’s Book Revue wrapped around three long blocks on a mid-September Sunday morning as Long Islanders welcomed one of their own, Billy Crystal, in town to sign his new memoir Still Foolin’ ‘Em: Where I’ve Been, Where I’m Going, and Where the Hell Are My Keys?
One of the 1,200 people who waited for hours was Stephanie Garrison-Good, an alumna of Long Beach High School, also Crystal’s alma mater. She was a freshman to Crystal’s senior, but her older brother Larry and Crystal were buddies.
“When my brother was the star of the elementary school play, Billy came up to him and said, ‘Larry, one day, I’m gonna be a big star like you,’” she recalled. “Well, we all know Billy went way beyond that modest goal, but he’ll always be a Long Beach boy at heart.”
Indeed, although Crystal has soared to the top in TV (Soap, Saturday Night Live, and nine gigs as host of the Academy Awards, five of which won him Emmy Awards) and film (When Harry Met Sally, City Slickers, Analyze This), his most personal work was a play in which Long Beach played a central role.
The show, 700 Sundays, was a one-man Broadway tour de force that, along with his signature zingers, poignantly detailed Crystal’s childhood while taking audiences on a nostalgic stroll through the Long Island of the 50s and early 60s.
In his home on East Park Avenue, Crystal and his two brothers Rip and Joel liked nothing better than performing shtick from TV comedy skits, hamming it up for an appreciative audience that included his parents and a hodgepodge of aunts, uncles, neighbors, and the occasional jazz legend. Crystal’s father, Jack, was a jazz concert promoter, and guests at the Crystal household included Billie Holliday, who took Billy to his first movie, and Louis Armstrong.
The play, later turned into a New York Times bestseller, won a Tony, along with the Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Awards for Outstanding Solo Performance. Next month, Crystal is taking the show back to Broadway for a nine-week run at the Imperial Theater.
Despite his many accolades and famous friends such as Robin Williams and Robert DeNiro, Crystal, 65, truly is still a hometown boy who personifies the city’s oft-repeated unofficial motto: “Once you get Long Beach sand in your shoes, it’s hard to get it out.”
When that sand—and sea and wind—wreaked havoc on the community during Hurricane Sandy, Crystal stepped up to the plate in big fashion, beginning with a “spirit raiser” showing of his movie Parental Guidance for Long Beach residents Dec. 10, 2012, and performance two days later at the Concert for Sandy Relief at Madison Square Garden.
His efforts to help those impacted continued this July, when Crystal stood on the first section of the Long Beach boardwalk to be rebuilt and presented his hometown with a check for $1 million ($888,000 was raised at his friend Muhammad Ali’s fundraiser for Parkinson’s disease, with Crystal and his wife Janice rounding it out with their own $112,000 donation). He joked to the crowd, “Don’t spend it all in one place.”
That same day, Crystal recorded a 30-second TV spot touting the city’s surf, sand and shopping, and inviting visitors to come enjoy “just another day in paradise” in the City by the Sea.
Despite the title of his new book, Crystal isn’t fooling anybody. He’s still a nice Jewish boy from Long Island
A battered tree sprouts from the cold tiles in the center of a brightly lit room.
Some of its branches stretch out across the ceiling, tousled in gold and silver fabric, while others lie broken and warped, littering the floor alongside a barrage of wreckage strewn beneath the distorted arch. Tangled green and red wires dangle from its lofty fingers, spilling out onto the floor, where yellow caution tape and orange cones become lost amongst the chaos. A barricade stands shattered atop the clutter, sending a warning to all who walk by of its potential danger.
Poet Steven T. Licardi stands before an anxious crowd circled around him, searching for his spot in the pages of a book. He leans into a microphone. With clenched fists and closed eyes he passionately and enthusiastically casts a spell, mesmerizing all reciting, imploring:
“Apocalyptic sermons filled the spaces between kin and kinsmen, stories of survival told over dancing candlelight. The wind had aided the trees in exacting their revenge, taking men in their driveways in front of their families! But it was peacetime.”
His eyes open suddenly and shoot piercing daggers into those of the audience, while continuing his incantation.
“Splinters of barky skin and limbs peppered the crooks of our community. In spite of all the horror,” his voice gets louder, “Halloween was canceled.”
Studio 5404 sits alongside Merrick Road in Massapequa, surrounded by the South Shore town’s many local businesses and restaurants. Only feet away from its powdery blue and bright red doors is where Superstorm Sandy wreaked havoc nearly a year ago, leaving homes destroyed and lives turned upside-down.
Yet it is here that artists such as Licardi unleash their own fury, bending and twisting the emotional carnage left behind by Mother Nature into something raw, something visceral, something tragically beautiful, something magical. “A Brush With Sandy,” as the exhibit is titled, is replete with powerful photographs, paintings, sculptures, and poetry borne of the disaster in an effort to not only express the human toll of the storm’s devastation through the arts, but to raise money for those affected by the tragic storm. This exhibit is just one of countless creative projects being wielded across Long Island in response to what has so severely wounded so many. From public art murals to paintings, to photographs, spoken word tributes, songs and documentaries, Sandy’s wrath is alive and well, yet transformed into positive, creative works of pure humanness.
It’s also a great way to open up the hearts and souls of those still suffering, those still reeling, though who do not yet know the healing wonders of art.
“The community understands Sandy; they understand what they went through,” says artist and studio founder Lori Horowitz while greeting a steady stream of visitors. “The community doesn’t necessarily understand the arts, yet. So the idea of bringing people out and raising their consciousness about Sandy and then mixing it with the art and inspiration that come from it will hopefully help the community focus on that.”
The studio itself acted as a safe haven for some locals.
“We were just opening at the time,” she says with her hand to her heart. “We got hit pretty badly, but we got oil in here, bedding and food, and had people stay here. We really saw the devastation firsthand.”
Nearby, landscape artist and Rockaways native, Michael Schor, is snapping photos of the guests that stop to admire his work.
“It’s beautiful and tragic,” he says, a camera in his hand while gazing at the captivating images. “I got to the head of this block, and realized this mother and her daughter were walking into my shot,” he says pointing at a photo titled “The Silent Walk,” which captures in full horror the brutal destruction that ravaged 119th Street in the Rockaways. “Look how stunning their reflection is in the water. See, when you look at this photo, that is what you tend to focus on,” he says, pointing to the ghostly, haunting reflections of the pair walking through the warzone. “Then you realize [that] only a few feet away, a car is flipped over,” he adds, glancing at a beaten-down navy blue car turned completely upside-down in water on someone’s property.
Schors’ captivating photos of the aftermath have gone viral, and some have been picked up by news agencies all over the world.
“I tried to capture beauty of this craziness from a photo journalistic perspective,” he explains, pointing to another piece, “Rockaway on Fire,” of 116th Street and what was left of Rockaway Beach Boulevard. “There were police signs and stuff, but I needed to get closer to capture this,” he continues. “By the time I realized I was close enough, I started to feel the hair on my arms start to tingle because of the flames. I got out of there!”
A trio of striking paintings further amplify the total decimation of the tragedy from a nearby wall.
“I’m a veterinarian, I own an animal hospital in Merrick, and it was totally destroyed,” says artist Gary Selmonsky. “We had about four feet of water in the place, but it is back now. Lighting, water, and devastation,” he says slowly, pointing to one of his creations. His visions are superimposed atop the hellish backdrop of the aftermath left in the wake of the 2011 Japanese tsunami that literally wiped some communities there off the map. Characters in his works include those shown in the iconic Godzilla movies.
“In the 1950s, 1960s, Japan was scared of all the nuclear experiments going on in the Pacific Islands. One of the reactions of that is they made the Godzilla movies. So when you think about it, it’s sort of like 60 years later, all the horror comes to life.”
Poet John Brennan, of Garden City via Northern Ireland, awaits his chance to recite his creation “The Storm,” inspired by Sandy. He is humbled to have only lost power for 10 days.
“Seanachie,” he says, in soft-spoken brogue. “It means, ‘We are all artists,’ in Gaelic. You see, all artists, no matter what medium, are all gifted. It’s something they are able to tap into. Van Morrison really put it the best. Someone said to him, ‘Jesus, man, how do you write them thousands of songs?’ Van says, ‘I didn’t write them, I tapped into the source.’
“It’s a gift,” Brennan says. “The thing about a gift is, it only works if you give it away, and that’s why I’m here tonight.”
He belongs to The Bards Initiative, a Long Island poetry nonprofit dedicated to using poetry to support the community. The group of poets has done work for causes like breast cancer, autism, and now, the Island’s most recent hurtle, Sandy. They gather here tonight to recite poems from their book, Songs of Sandy, put together by The Bards’ editor, J.P Wagner.
“Songs of Sandy came along as our attempt to have a quick and timely response from the poetry community concerning the disaster and to do our part since our greatest power is our words, and we wanted to do what little we could to raise some money quick for the relief,” says Wagner. “I was without power for only a day, and I spent it writing poems—plenty of which were about the storm. I figured every other writer on the Island must be doing the same thing, so the second I got my power back I called my vice president and co-editor.
“The book filled up the quickest of any book I ever worked on,” he adds. “We were honestly expecting maybe a chapbook of like 15 to 20 poets to respond, but in two week’s time, nearly 50 poets sent in their work.”
Collaboration is something Bards poet Karen Jakubowski, of Massapequa, knows all about.
“For me it was learning how much people care for one another,” she explains. “My neighborhood became a community. Everyone came together. We shared resources, we helped each other.”
“Sandy was a wake-up call to me,” she adds as she awaits her chance to recite her poem “Why Sandy.” “It came to tell us that you can’t live in a place of greed. If you don’t listen, we are going to take it from you.”
And it’s a collaboration, and an undying commitment to translating the divine inner visions which artists experience as bright as day, which fuel such passionate dedication to bringing these creations into this realm.
Lisa Be, an artist and activist from Long Beach, had her entire apartment submerged beneath 4 feet of seawater when Sandy rammed the barrier island Oct. 29. She eventually became homeless.
“The beach met the bay in my apartment,” she says, over the telephone on a recent afternoon.
The 27-year-old is also the co-founder of nonprofit Project Vortex, an arts initiative aimed at inspiring artists, designers, architects and other creatives to use everyday plastics in their works, thus helping to eliminate their disposals in the ocean and other waterbodies, and protecting these invaluable resources in the process.
So, in the wake of the storm, Be petitioned all the public schools in Long Beach to collect any plastic caps or lids they came about on a daily basis, with the promise of pizza and ice cream for the kids. In one month, she collected a whopping 75,000. She and a handful of other artists drilled 25,000 of them into the walls along West Beech Street and Maryland Avenue.
The result is a sprawling, magnetic, gloriously vibrant rainbow tidal wave engulfing the entire block’s corners. She named the colorful public art installment “When The Beach Met The Bay.”
“So visually speaking, as an artist, I just have this recurring vision of cells or circles coming together and attaching,” she says. “I’ve always kind of had that in my mind and seeing it over the years the connection with bottle caps really came naturally. I never had the motivation or the push to just do it. There was also an excuse in some way and the notion down here, I guess returning after Sandy was, like, I have no control over anything so why not just do it right now, just do it already?
“I really can’t explain it. I was just filled with this fire-like energy after the storm,” she adds. “There’s just no more excuses. No one is going to do anything for me. I have to do it myself, and especially, environmentally.”
Back at Studio 5404, that same burning creative fury is apparent. As the night draws to a close and visitors shuffle out, Lori Horowitz stands alongside the gigantic tree in the middle of the room.
The tree represents the devastated reality of so many communities post-Sandy.
But like it, Be’s mural, and all the evening’s creations, there’s beauty, and perhaps even some inspiration, to be had if these same communities all come together.
Studio 5404 Art Space/Gallery is located at 5405 Merrick Road, Massapequa. To learn more about the studio/gallery, including upcoming exhibits, clickHERE. To learn more about Project Vortex, including future projects and how to volunteer, clickHERE.