LONG ISLAND GEESE
By Ed Lowe
About 35 years ago, having caused, and then perhaps inflamed, a personnel problem in the upper echelons of Newsday, I was assigned to work as a general assignment reporter to the Nassau Desk, then held fast by Sylvan Fox, late of The New York Times, The State of Israel and the New York City Police Department.
We got along famously, Sylvan and I, because I thought I had escaped a bad situation with a legendary, big deal editor in the Suffolk office; and Fox thought (rightly) that all he had to do was give me crummy story ideas for four years, which was the length of my sentence, and otherwise not bother with me, unless I bothered with him.
I didn’t know about being sentenced, which still strikes me as strange. I mean, if you want to punish somebody, then let him know about it. Don’t keep it a secret.
Then-Newsday editor David Laventhol told me of the sentence years later, when he was moving up in Times Mirror Corporation, and I was a columnist.
I was poised to thank him, but he interrupted and told the story, and said, “If you tell anyone I said it, I’ll deny it, but you put in me in the position of having to choose between him (the editor) and you.”
I understand it a little better now, I guess, but it seems to me that he would only see a profit in it had I noticed it then.
Confused, I changed subjects and said something I thought amusing about an assignment to determine what individuals on Long Island were doing while the Presidency changed hands from Richard Nixon to Gerry Ford.
I was about to say, “What did the editors think people on Long Island were doing…?” when Laventhol interrupted and said, “You did a good job on that.”
“Know who’s idea that assignment was?”
I stayed stopped. As it turned out, wisely.
“Mine,” he said. “I told them, ‘Send Ed Lowe around to learn what Long Islanders were doing the moment Ford took over for Nixon.’ That was a hell of a job.”
I said, “Uh, thanks.”
Sylvan Fox gave me a host of made up, terrible assignments, but I didn’t know that. I didn’t know they were made up or that they were terrible, like, “A View From Bellerose Terrace,” about the part of Bellerose that was in Nassau County, and, “A View From Lakeville,” which was the same thing, but on the North Shore.
He insisted that I take three days to do them, too. Three days for a half day’s work. I thought I was being rewarded.
The first day I hung around playing pool, drinking beer, and talking with a saloonful of people.
The second day I interviewed people, along with playing pool, and drinking beer. The morning of the third day, I wrote the piece, taking a second lunch hour with (the late) columnist John Pascal, before handing it in.
Meanwhile, Sylvan Fox moved to a bayfront condominium in Copiague, right near my house, right where I grew up, in Amityville, on Great South Bay (If Newsday editors bought property, it was up north, in Port Washington or in Huntington.).
So, when Fox called me, at home, I figured that Long Island was sinking, fast, or that someone at Newsday had told Fox if he wished to know anything about the South Shore, he should call Ed Lowe.
“You’ve got to come over here,” Fox said.
“You’ve got to see what’s outside my kitchen door.”
I’d never been to an editor’s house.
He paraded me through the condominium and to the kitchen’s sliding glass doors. There, outside, was a Canada Goose, right there, prancing, shaking water off himself, struttin’ his stuff, as if he were in Toronto, Canada or Crisfield, Maryland.
“Holy smoke,” I said. “I’ve only seen photographs of them. They use the Eastern Flyway, but they never come near us. Gunners see them once in a while, but I’ve not. They never come here.”
Fox seemed satisfied at his discovery, too.
In the last 35 years, Canada geese have decidedly settled on Long Island. Many have given up migration and surrendered their passports. Their descendents have never seen Canada or the Chesapeake Bay.
They maybe move from the North to the South Shore for the difference in snowfall, but that is it.
They have taken root, have bought property, have had public meetings about when they will open sports fields and when they won’t; they have negotiated playing-times for golf courses, and have demanded signs for busy intersections.
Generations of people and ducks and dogs and birds have no recollection of Long Island without our, “Long Island,” geese.
And, oh, yeah, this year, the 35th anniversary of their arrival at the canals and creeks, the soccer fields and golf courses, the neighborhoods and busy highways, the guys who run the airports have finally noticed them, too. Highly paid guys.
“Look,” they exclaimed at the results of a study four months after a jet airliner pilot landed in the Hudson with shovelfuls of chewed-up Canada Geese sticking out of it’s engines, “Canada Geese. Where they did come from?”