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Behind me is Barrister’s, and an old Masonic Building that now houses some sort of woman’s clothing store. They’re having a “polka dot” sale. Looks cute. If you’re one of the hundreds walking behind me in downtown Southampton this July 4th, stop by.

Me? I’m just sitting on a wooden bench, donated by Old Town Lodge No. 908. Come to think of it, that’s tied to the Masons. That will be my homework tonight. On this Independence Day, there’s nothing wrong with a little American history lesson, and on eastern Long Island, there’s plenty of it to learn. I won’t forget. None of us should.

I’m not a patriotic sort. Most journalists, wired to be cynics at heart, aren’t. While the rest of my family will wear some combination of red, white and blue, and my little girl, at least, will wave her American flag, the most American I’ll be is my baseball hat. If I’m feeling especially proud of the USA, I’ll wear a Philadelphia Eagles hat. Come on, it’s the Eagle, the American symbol of freedom.

You can stop rolling your eyes now.

Fine, how is this for being positively American: The iPhone is pumping only U.S. artists into me as I write this. Bruce Springsteen is a 4th of July tradition, and as I contemplate ruining dinner by buying a scoop of ice cream at 4 p.m, Green Day, Lou Reed, Eva Cassidy, Keith Jarrett, John Mellencamp and the New Pornographers also play on. Come to think of it, the last of those artists is a Canadian band. That’s alright, I love that country’s ability to keep guns off streets. I’ll let “Sweet Talk, Sweet Talk,” continue.

It’s a great song. We are a great country. Seems reasonable.

Have a great holiday. Be safe. I’m going to go see a friend’s artwork at a local gallery.

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logo_stopandshopMy baby daughter woke up with a fever. Her cheeks were red and her left hand tugged at her ear. So I took her to the doctor, and he prescribed an antibiotic.

So we took the ride to the Deer Park, N.Y. Stop & Shop and picked up the medicine – free of charge. The pharmacist  said Stop & Shop has stopped charging for antibiotics because “so many people are losing their jobs and it’s really bad out there.”

My baby slept half the day away, and with any hope, she will recover quickly. And as any parent will tell you, watching a kid suffer is pretty agonizing.

But the experience at Stop & Shop gave me hope in humanity and in the possibility that some companies still get it, even if other corporations are taking TARP money to pay bonuses.

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goodbyeIt was 1996 and my father-in-law to be introduced me to Joseph Gibbons very simply: “David, Joe, one liberal to another. You guys can talk.”

I still remember that conversation, both of us immediately waxing poetic about presidents he remembered and that I, well, read about. Harry Truman? The common man’s president. FDR? Brilliant. Ushered in a new American era. Jimmy Carter? He had his heart in the right place, even if the administration fell short.

We moved beyond the presidents and their accomplishments to the 1,000 page biography by David McCullough about Truman and the great Edmund Morris books about Teddy Roosevelt, perhaps this country’s first  great environmentalist and monopoly buster.

Over the next few years, whenever I met Gibbons at family gatherings – Gibbons, you see, was my wife’s uncle – we would seek each other out, mainly to confirm our viewpoint, but also to fire off a few  trivia questions and discuss recent Gail Collins columns or New York Times editorials.

But the discussions became brief over time, and though he hated President Bush, his fury wouldn’t last very long. I would help finish his thoughts, and he would nod in agreement. It was the best he could do, as Parkinson’s disease was taking its toll.

Then came President Obama’s victory. That weekend we headed to Connecticut to celebrate his son’s 40th birthday party. When he walked in, I smiled and there was a quick celebratory hug and nothing more. The rest of the day was full of political debate, but he hardly participated.

Gibbons finally lost his battle with Parkinson’s on Feb. 27. But his family has asked people to donate to the Michael J. Fox Foundation. Times are tough, so if you can’t, I understand.

And though it seems bittersweet, President Obama lifted the strict limits on stem cell research earlier this week. The executive order could help find cures for ailments such as Parkinson’s, diabetes and heart disease.

It’s too late for Joe Gibbons and for the 280 people who die from the disease each week. But for the 500,000 Americans who currently have it, time has not run out.

As for you, Joe, I’ll just have to pull for Obama twice as hard.

NOTE: Two relatives say the quote at the top should read “one Democrat to another,” not “one Liberal to another.” Either way, donate to the Michael J. Fox Foundation if you can.

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