By Veronika Carnaby
Fresh off the heels of a week-long stay inNew Jersey, I set out on the open road toLong Island. Any hint of city life had disappeared in a haze as I ventured eastward into the earthy freedom of suburbia with the gang, Mel and Mitzy. If there was one thing we did better than anyone else, that was picking up and wandering out to places we’d never before tackled. Whether cramped in a train somewhere on the outskirts ofNorth Carolinaor roaring on a bus ride across the country, we never failed to forge a path to wherever. This time, we drove clear through to theHamptonsrunning on less than five hours of sleep and a double dose of caffeine.
With Mel powering to a smooth 70 and Mitzy in the backseat, I reclined with my feet on the dashboard taking in all the sights and sounds, the serenity of an eerily familiar place I had yet to set foot in. An air of tranquility struck me as we drove past trees that arked over the pathways in bridge formation, neatly trimmed hedges, and men with leaf blowers scattering about a tornado of flora. Yellow grass valleys toasted under the scorching sun as children chased their shadows. A warm breeze slipped through the cracks of our windows and caressed Mel’s charcoal, combed-over mane and Mitzy’s and mine teased, dark, wavy locks. I stared out the pane for a good half hour, completely tuning out the rocking automobile and all that the other two conversed of.
“This place sure is nice,” I sighed with a dazed stare.
“You got that right,” Mitz told me. “Certainly better than our old caravan days and our city apartment now, huh?”
I said, “It’s a damn shame that it’s two hours out. If it wasn’t, I’d be wandering these streets every day.”
“Ah phooey, Veronika, you say that about every place we visit,” Mel spoke out.
“Well I mean it this time! Look around you and dare to say this place ain’t right. Can’t say it, can you?”
“I dunno about that, but I do know I’m dead tired. Bushed. Do you realize we’ve gone almost a day without food? I say we look for an eatery before I pass out here and now.” And just as we veered intoSouthampton, we spotted a diner decent enough to house us for the next hour or so. We pulled over and made our way in before being greeted by the scent of garlic and wine at the door. Inside, a silver-haired lady leaned on a wooden banister while she spoke with a sweaty lad she called P.J. —he was in charge of wiping the counter under her watchful eye. The floors squeaked as the three of us entered inside.
“Oh, come in, come in.” She rushed over. “I apologize, I did not see you there, but now we’ll get you settled. I’m Roberta. That over there is P.J. Tell you what. I’ll bring you the tastiest pizza in the world. Homemade, but with secret recipe! Stay put!” She disappeared just as quickly as she thrust us in a cushy booth with three sets of napkin dispensers and a spice rack. Then she spun back through the door in seconds flat, in which time I glimpsed in the background to see men twirling and kneading acres of dough as if in some benny-fueled race against time. I expected a half-cold slice of pizza slid down the counter with a cold glare and a double tap at the tab amount, but she instead set a steaming pizza pie before us, wiped her forehead on her apron, and pulled up a chair beside us.
“Fresh from the oven! Eat while it’s hot, come on, come on. I’m just as proud of this recipe as I am of my own culture. Go on now! How are you enjoying the city?” she rambled as we dug in like starving dogs.
Mitz said with a mouthful, “How did you know where were out-of-towners?”
“The eyes never lie. Go on.”
“Can’t complain ‘cept for the fact that we’re pretty beat, but the area is just so beautiful that it makes up for it.”