Buster of Harrison Avenue
We searched for a house in Montauk for more than a year. No luck there. The prices of the houses we liked were well beyond our means and the ones that fit into our budget were not very appealing. When our real estate agent found a house in East Hampton that we liked and could afford, we were thrilled. But a new dilemma was now upon us. We began to fear that the possibility of owning a house in East Hampton would put us in a situation that we had not had to consider before: what would our friends think and what would our neighbors say about such a move (especially Margaret, a petty, gossipy woman who liked to generate poisonous stories about any and every resident of our Co-op that she either resented, hated, or simply wanted to harm in some way. We were troubled by the thought that she would spread nasty innuendos that we were pretentious, uppity social climbers trying to elevate above our modest social setting in Queens in order to put on airs as big shot home owners in the HAMPTONS). To us, buying a house in the village of Montauk did not create such a dilemma. After all, movies and other media were filled with commentary and anecdotes about towns with the word “Hampton” in their official title; but these tales did not often include stories about the village where fishermen earned their living; where New Yorkers came to stay in motels lining the fine ocean beaches; or where the Montauk Lighthouse stood as an iconic symbol of American maritime glory. Most commentary about “the Hamptons” was about the glamorous life styles of the rich and famous, about narcissism, excess and elitism. Our second worry was about the reception we would receive when we pulled into our driveway to unload a U-Haul filled with our not very impressive-looking furnishings: we certainly would not look as if we were Hampton Swells. True, the house was not ‘South of the Highway’ (this, in itself, is a very important distinction) but it was located not very far from the house where Jackson Pollock, the famous artist, had lived and painted. So, while we were anxious about what our Queens neighbors might think, we were more concerned that we might be spurned or ostracized as low-end arrivistes.
It was easy to leave behind the snarky gossip and innuendo that Margaret managed to generate once we were packed, loaded, and out on the highway. But there was no escape from what was waiting for us on Harrison Avenue when we pulled our U-Haul into our driveway. Buster was there, on the front steps, almost as if he knew that we would be moving in that day. His overall manner and body language made his attitude very clear: he was extremely hostile; and he made sure that we got the message that he didn’t think that we belonged anywhere near this house as far as he was concerned. He was very emphatic about that.
I hopped out of the car to confront him; I would reason with him, try to defuse his hostility. After all, we now owned this house; he was the interloper; he was trespassing, trespassing on property that was now ours.
When I began to make the case he became even more agitated. I began to fear that he was going to launch a physical attack. Intimidated, I beat a cowardly retreat and got back into the car.
The situation was now absurd, a standoff; much worse than any scenario we could have anticipated. It was obvious that Buster had taken it upon himself to convey the message that we were not welcome. Was he acting on his own? I had to challenge him, to find out what was behind his bluster. I had to find out how far he was willing to go with it.
I got out of the car and approached him again. Only this time I did not utter a word: I simply glared at him, looking him directly in the eye, letting him see how determined I was, even though I was really worried about why he might do. But I was not going to be intimidated; I was going to overcome his challenge and try to enter the house.
To my surprise (and delight) Buster backed down. He even stopped snarling and barking. He was a big, fierce-looking dog with a very nasty temperament but for some unknown reason he must have decided that we were welcome after all: he quieted down, stood aside, and allowed me to enter the house. He then watched as we occupied the house. The real estate agent had told us that the house had been vacant for several months. Buster, who lived just down the road on Harrison Avenue, must have taken it upon himself to assume guardianship.
It wasn’t long after we had settled in that he became a frequent visitor (he especially liked the way I made hamburgers). He liked to lounge around in the living room or his favorite, the kitchen, making himself comfortable, enjoying our hospitality.
After he failed to drop by and visit after several weeks, we asked around about him. We were told that Buster had been put to sleep because of numerous complaints that he continued to bite many of the people he crossed paths with on Harrison Avenue. His owner said that Buster did not like strangers: she said Buster felt that they just did not belong on Harrison Avenue.