Doublewide Escapades in theHamptons
By Martin Levinson
I’m a big city guy. Been one all my life . . . till last June. That’s when my wife announced, “For the past 38 years, our entire married life, we’ve been living in apartments. It’s time for a garden. We’re getting out ofQueensand into a house with a yard on theEast End.”
“But Kathy,” I pleaded, “when you buy a house you can’t call the super to fix things. We’re city people. We like doing big city things. Do you really want to give it all up and move way out onLong Island? How about we take a nice vacation. Let’s go toPrague.”
She didn’t buy that idea. What she, and I, bought was a doublewide mobile home that backed a nature preserve in a plus 55 senior community inRiverside, with the comings and goings of deer and wild turkey for entertainment. Kathy said our mobile home would be “training wheels” for a “real” home if we decided we liked living in a home. I breathed a sigh of relief when she told me we were also keeping ourQueensapartment for the time being.
The mobile home had a large yard, looked pretty nice inside and out, and even came with a garage. But it turned out to be much more of a fixer-upper than we originally thought.
We hadn’t hired an inspector before we closed the deal because it was an “as is” sale, the sellers were looking to get out fast, and we were worried if we tarried someone else would scoop it up (the sales price was very reasonable). We also wanted to enjoy summer in the Hamptons ASAP. But for me the biggest selling point was we were getting it completely furnished. This was a big plus because I hate shopping and this spared me from running around with my wife searching for stuff.
After the closing we dined in a fine local restaurant and motored back toQueensfor the weekend to gather assorted incidentals to take back to our trailer, a term some people object to because of the derogatory expression “trailer trash.” But I like the idea of living in a trailer; a form of housing that goes back to the early years of cars, motorized highway travel, and quintessential American adventure. And since we bought a doublewide, with two bedrooms, two bathrooms, and a connected garage that makes the place look like a little ranch house, it was fun to use the term “trailer” with our friends and family and then have them come out and gasp in surprise.
When we got back to our cozy East End Shangri-La the following week, a neighbor asked us, “Who’s putting the new roof on your garage?” When I told him we had no plans for a new garage roof, he replied, “I’d make some plans if I were you, because it’s about ready to cave in and the walls too. Didn’t the former owner tell you?” The former owner had not.
Determined to make lemons into lemonade, my wife opined, “Since we have to put a new roof on the garage and repair the old rotting walls and non-functioning windows, why don’t we convert the space into a garage/artist’s studio. Then I’ll have a nice place to work on my photographs. Don’t worry about the costs. I’ll keep them down.” Okay, I said, trying not to worry about the costs, “since you’ve waited 38 years for a real workspace go ahead and build your studio.”
Kathy hired a fellow who was recommended to us by another neighbor to do the garage conversion job. Problem was, to save time, he built a new garage wall on top of a rotting wood sill. When I told him three other contractors said the job would have to be redone, he said he’d cut out some of the rotten wood and gorilla glue the new wood to the remainder of the decayed timber. Needless to say, we hired a new contractor.
The new guy said to really fix the garage/studio we needed to pour a new concrete floor, put in a new electrical system with town permits, install a new garage door, replace all the windows, and add some skylights. Sadly, the cost for all this far exceeded our original budget. But I looked at my wife’s face, beaming in anticipation of her new garage/studio, and I couldn’t say no—no one could have …