If I weren't heading south for a vacation, I would take off for Glen Cove, N.Y. This is a Long Island town of my boyhood, where my father practiced law for most of his life and where I had my first job of bussing tables--a lifetime skill, I have discovered as the father of boys.
Glen Cove revisited would give me once again the pleasures of a simpler side of the Cold War. Glen Cove's foreign policy recently revoked the permits of Soviet diplomats for the city's tennis courts, beaches and golf courses, triggering recreational retaliation by the Soviets against our diplomats. The mayor ended the international fun and games on learning that the Russians' tax-free 37-acre estate, used by the Soviets' U.N. delegation, was a spy nest. Where he's been all these years he didn't say.
It has been reported, too, that on the tennis courts the Russians' sportmanship had a touch of Siberian coldness: when a Glen Cover's ball dribbled off- line into the adjacent court, the Russians would play on and make the Americans retrieve it themselves. So much for "a little help, please" among the superpowers.
In this East-West standoff, the media have descended on Glen Cove as the mayor gives interviews on the town's first-strike capability. Like the opponents of SALT II, he has watched for years the slow Soviet buildup. Passes for the beaches, the tennis courts, then the golf courses. Next they'll want food stamps for vodka.
As an old Glen Cove hand, I have sympathy for the mayor. He's provincial and primitive, but he does work out of a tradition that goes back to the calmer days of the early 1950s, when, instead of Americans and Russians aiming nukes at each other, we could stand up to the commies by directly denying them a Western pleasure or two, starting in Glen Cove.
I was one of the locals three decades ago when the denials began. Our leader, our at-large secretary of state, was a daring motorcycle cop, Officer Timothy O'Neill. In the annals of wild police chases, this safety-conscious and hard- headed Irishman had world-class talents.
When the Soviet dips, returning to Glen Cove after another day of mischief-making at the United Nations 30 miles to the west, raced through town at speeds triple the limit, Timmy O'Neill hid behind the bushes to pounce. No radar gun for Timmy. From the stakeout, he gave not only hot but sizzling pursuit, pulling over the long black limousines with tinted windows as though he had caught up with Lenin himself.
On a summer's evening, Timmy O'Neill pinching a pinko was all the entertainment townsfolk could ask for. We would line Cedar Swamp Road, the scenic route into town in those days, to catch the action. O'Neill's siren, audible in the distance and coming closer at 60 mph--or 70 if the Russians were flooring it--hit our ears and hearts like the high notes of "America the Beautiful."
The joy bordered on the unbearable on those occasions, like May Day, when the limousines were emblazoned with Soviet flags on the front fenders. Timmy wasn't merely a cop nailing another supposedly above-the-law speeder. He was a patriot halting the progress of the hammer and sickle, on two fenders no less.
As we cheered Timmy on, we couldn't help becoming Kremlinologists. Inside the limos were mystery men like Andrei Vishinsky and Vyacheslav Molotov, the cocktail mixer himself. Everyone knew the Russians had diplomatic immunity and threw away the tickets down the road. But the O'Neill style of justice--a slow walk from the motorcycle and a slower writing of the ticket--was punishment plenty.
As the leading as well as the fastest light of the Glen Cove highway patrol, Timmy O'Neill and his motorcycle were like the Lone Ranger and Silver to us kids. We dreamed of being invited into the sidecar of the O'Neill bike and being the ones to motion the Russians to the shoulders of Cedar Swamp Road. We would listen up close as he told Comrade Molotov a thing or two about highway safety and the American way.
The current mayor of Glen Cove is in the tradition of the Timmy O'Neill school of foreign affairs. What he doesn't realize is that the Russians have progressed in 30 years. They have forsworn fast cars. They are no longer highway menaces.
Now they sun on beaches and worry about getting time on tennis courts. This is a plus for America. I can imagine the CIA behind all this, a double agent assigned to Glen Cove with the mission of Westernizing the Soviets into a summer stupor. And now the thickheaded mayor blows the cover. Instead of griping, he should be doing more to distract the Russians. Build them a jogging trail.