Aimless, but Well-Intentioned, in the Hamptons
A rare weekend alone stirred my slumbering sense of curiosity and adventure. I roused groggily from my self-imposed mid-summer “hibernation” on Shinnecock Bay to roadways teeming with cars. These were stuffed with people, umbrellas, towels, floaties, surf and boogie boards, coolers and state-of-the-art sandcastle-building beach gear. Restaurants, stores, movie theatres and gas stations were feeling a glut of cash and New York swagger: sometimes amusing, sometimes not so much…
As I called and texted long-neglected friends to find some camaraderie to fill the empty hours, I heard or read rejection after rejection. I sadly concluded I was on my own. It was Friday, July 17th2015, and the Hamptons abounded with interesting things to do and see. As I drove down Old Montauk Highway from Hampton Bays into Southampton, I noted, not for the first time, the annual 4-day Greek Festival was being celebrated on St. Andrew’s Road. I took the left turn at Southampton’s Stony Brook campus to take advantage of the complimentary shuttle from one of their parking lots to the festival grounds, but found it deserted.
“Oh… is it early enough that I can find parking closer, on-site?” I wondered, silently.
Considering myself very lucky, I drove the few streets eastward and made my way towards the festival entrance. I found a spot up on a grassy embankment at the side of the road and locked up the car. It was a sweltering day; I was dressed in a thin sundress and sandals and my thoughts continued in that same wondering vein: would I see anyone I knew? Was it too warm to dance (a necessity, at the festival)? It was DEFINITELY too early to eat, being only 3 pm, but my mouth watered all the same at the thought of baklava, stuffed grape leaves and spinach pie – in that order! I mentally tallied my funds and sighed, dejectedly. It had been a surprisingly slow two weeks for my massage business and I felt the pinch. Maybe just grape leaves OR baklava… I walked up the stairs and across the lawn, avoiding the lone man seated in a lawn chair on the tarvia, apparently set up as sentry and traffic control.
“Excuse me… Miss!?!” (God love him! I’m 55 and ever appreciative of the myopic, distracted and clueless.) “Are you a vendor?”
I was still reeling from being taken as a “Miss” – not to mention, only recently rejoined with the human race. “Um, are you speaking to me?” I asked, bewildered. “No, I’m not,” I confessed upon a nod of his head. “Why? Is this entrance only for vendors?” Secretly, I worried that my non-vendor status would imperil my clutch parking spot.
“No, ma’am…” (Crap! I’d been steadily moving forward and the jig was up…) “The festival doesn’t open until 4 pm.”
My heart sank. I had a whole hour to attempt to divert myself… how… where?! I’d felt so fortunate to be reminded of THIS! “Is there a restroom in the church I can use?” I asked, with what I hoped was just the right note of girlish charm or grandmotherly dementia – whatever worked. My luck continued: I saw the realization dawn on him that he was being played but, being raised right and a polite youth, he rattled off directions to the facilities and I was in! Pride hath no equal to a woman at loose ends.
I meandered around the booths, which were mostly set up, admiring the crafts and clothing. Wonderful aromas wafted from the food tent and I wished I was hungrier. Not a dancer was in sight; in fact, for a festival about to get underway in less than an hour, it seemed fairly deserted. I found a porta-Jane, legitimizing my pretense and early entry, made another tour around the booths and headed out. I ran into the former girlfriend of a friend as I headed towards my car; she actually WAS a vendor and offered me sanctuary with her until the festival got underway but I declined, feeling restless and ready to move on. Rather than continue to my car, I decided to kill some time and take a walk down St. Andrew’s Road to see where it led. My eventual destination was Amagansett Square, where I hoped to take in the sunset showing of the “Soldier Ride” documentary, but I had hours to wait. I walked almost to the end of the street but, seeing that the road led straight to the Stony Brook parking lots, I diverted onto a field to the right and, miraculously and confoundedly, found myself walking a golf cart track on the grounds of Southampton’s tony private golf course, off of County Road 39. The golfers were just as surprised as I was and the gentleman who “carted” me back to the spot where I’d wandered onto the 4th hole asked how I’d managed to cross the highway. Having walked not very far, I’m sure I still don’t know the answer, myself!
I finally made my way back to my car and pointed it east. As I came to a stand-still in the midst of Friday traffic, I took the opportunity to check Facebook for another possible diversion. It came in the form of local surf music group, Dan Bailey Tribe –and, barely a turn off of 27, on my way to Amagansett – at Wolffer Wine Stand in Sagaponnack. It was now 5 pm and I picked my way, gingerly, between scattered blankets with couples and young families with small children, who picnicked on the cheese, fruit, bread and wine available or on gourmet items packed from Citarella or home. I briefly entertained the idea of liberating my hula hoop from the back of my car but, instead, lazily enjoyed the laid-back, “California” vibe of the band and the vines.
A little after 7 pm, I pulled into the parking lot at Amagansett Square for a delicious and leisurely picnic of my own. No need to pack anything, I ambled into one of my favorite haunts, the Hampton Chutney, owned by my friends Gary and Isabelle. I am always tempted to order one of their Thali specials: a combination vegetarian plate of rice, dahl (a kind of soupy stew of lentils or beans), vegetable of the day and grilled naan bread with a chutney of choice and yogurt. However, I am always seduced by the specialty of the house: the dosa! It is a kind of long, thin, rice pancake filled with grilled vegetables, meat and or cheese, served with a chutney. Irresistable! On this occasion, as on countless others, I treated myself to several ginger-peanut chews to prolong the meal and aid in digestion while I settled in to watch the documentary. Local blues diva, Nancy Atlas, sat in front of me with her son and confided to my query that she would be performing there the next evening at 6, she believed, with legend Jimmy Buffet.
The exuberant crowd hushed as the sun began its descent and the sky darkened enough to begin the film. For the next two and a half hours, we all sat, riveted, by the tale of courage, strength, stamina and determination exhibited by Chris Carney, then a local bartender at the Stephen Talkhouse in Amagansett and, originally, the lone cross-country rider when the first Soldier Ride took place in 2004. While on the Ride, he was joined by a small cadre of disabled vets and the annual Ride was born.
When the closing credits rolled, I searched out my friend, Peter Honerkamp, a Talkhouse owner and one of the Founders of the Ride. I knew he would be in the crowd and I was not disappointed. I intended to tell him how much I enjoyed the film and how moved I became during many moments of viewing. When I approached him, he hugged me and, with barely a break in the conversation he was having, convinced me to participate in the next day’s Ride!
“Meet me at the site at 8 am,” he instructed me, when I informed him that I had neither a bike nor the $40.00 entry fee. “I’ll take care of everything!”
I left Amagansett, excited and a bit daunted at my audacity: it had been 3 years since I’d been on a bike and I’d just agreed to ride thirty miles! “I’d better hurry home and get some rest! It’s going to be an early day…”