Cracks in the Glass
Over the years, my brother-in-law Ed has amassed his own sculpture garden which populates his extensive back yard on Hither Lane. To me, the center piece is a funny looking thing. From a distance, it appears as though a reclining figure with a pot belly was resting mid-air over three flower pots, small all the way to the left, medium in the middle and larger to the right. Upon further inspection, the miracle reveals itself and one can see a long rectangular pane of glass supporting the figure. The three “pots” might be its three legs because it is they that provide the true support to the recliner. Upon closer examination, the defect is noticeable on the left portion of the glass, directly beneath where the ankles and feet would be. There are a series of cracks in the glass. Significant cracks. One wonders how the structure has survived for so long bearing such an insult. But survive it does, like a wounded beast, hardly giving a second thought to the not insignificant damage. And what caused this damage?
I can tell you this piece has borne these ugly scars for some time now. At least into the first decade of this century, my two sons and I were having a whiffle ball game in the yard and this sculpture was our version of the famous façade at Yankee Stadium. Whiffle balls were being swatted towards the grand facade but I can tell you, “We didn’t do it!” The glass had cracks then and even more spidery slivers have appeared since.
Still, no collapse.
Ed says that perhaps the impact or vibration of regular lawn mowing caused the cracks. His wife Magda suggests that years ago, unruly groundhogs traversing the field are to blame. This and other pieces were originally purchased by Evan M. Frankel, long time East Hampton resident, developer, wildlife protector and village patriarch. When Evan died in 1991, my brother-in-law purchased some of his garden sculpture, including this piece. He and Magda called it “The Bridge,” a romantic and allegorical name.
Its real name is “The Aqueduct,” and the artist who created it was named Menashe Kadishman, an Israeli artist who passed away in 2015. Ed would like to donate it to a museum but no one appears ready to take on the risk of possibly destroying the work by moving it. Ed says that any slight correction might shatter the glass outright, thus bringing down “The Aqueduct” once and for all. Not that the glass couldn’t be replaced. It could, but at some expense!
Back in ’91 when Ed purchased this piece, my wife Rebecca and I had already been coming out to East Hampton on a regular basis. Our oldest son, Henry, was six and our youngest, Philip, had just completed his first year. So we remember the trip out to The Hamptons when it wasn’t as heavily touristed as it is today. Oh, it was still crowded, always busy during the summer when we would come out for a visit. New York State Route 27, Sunrise Highway, the highway to Montauk, was always a deterrent to any consideration of finding a residence out here. That and the fact that I had secured employment in Westchester County.
We took on 27 and the endless caravan of vehicles beginning from where the two lanes of 27 narrowed to one at Hampton Bays and stretching all the way to Montauk, past Southampton, Water Mill, Bridgehampton, Sagaponack, Wainscott, and finally arriving in East Hampton, where 27 turns a sharp left at Town Pond. Hours and hours on that road. Always trying to calculate the best time to beat the rush. Going and coming.
No, the traffic was a deal breaker for permanent residence. I struggle to get from Point A to Point B on time as it is. I marvel at how where I live right now…no traffic! I go out on a Friday evening or during the day on Saturday and all too often, the road is mine.
Imagine that, East Hamptonites!
But we came anyway, often several times during the summer to visit Ed and Magda. Hell, I proposed to my then-hardly-a girlfriend Rebecca right there in the parking lot at Waldbaum’s on Main Street. It’s not Waldbaum’s anymore. Nor is it the A & P which assumed the spot when Waldbaum’s ended. Now its “Stop and Shop.” Right there in the parking lot, Rebecca met me on my first trip to the Hamptons. She herself was a recent arrival, visiting her sister and brother-in-law, from a life spent in Belgium and France. I had taken the trip from my parent’s home in Maryland. Who knew that the Hamptons was such a schlep from Manhattan? The bus trip was endless with a connector in Riverhead. I was on my way out to propose to this Belgian girl whom I had known for possibly a total of seven days over six years. How did this happen? Don’t ask. That’s for another story.
I can recall the absurdity of my situation as I waited for the bus in Riverhead. I can also remember listening to the Yankee game on the deli radio as I nurtured a cup of coffee, contemplating my future. A utility player on the Yankees named Fred “Chicken” Stanley cracked a grand slam. The announcer went wild. “Fred ‘Chicken’ Stanley has just socked a grand slam!” he bellowed. I took that as a positive sign.
“Do you think we could be married?” I think that’s how I put it to this young foreign lady as we embraced in the Waldbaum’s parking lot and I turned her around and around and around. She smiled and said “Yes.” “Really?” I asked, “You mean you will?”
These days what with the congestion in that part of the lot, both of us would have no doubt been pummeled by any of a number of vehicles blindly cascading through and around the area I hastily selected for my proposal.
Both sons rode first bikes, trikes, red in color, in front of Ed and Magda’s place on Hither Lane, “My first bike!” each proudly announcing, gifts from uncle and aunt. We often trekked around the block to “Snowflake” on 27 where Henry always ordered the vanilla cone with sprinkles. He still orders the same, sprinkles and all.
But “Snowflake” is gone now, as is “Gracie’s,” the rest stop in Manorville where we would usually purchase a hotdog or two before commencing the grand slog along Sunrise Highway to the Hamptons. “Gracie’s” is defunct, a bank replaced it. Gone too is “Brooks” the pharmacy in town which reliably supplied us with suntan lotion and the other bathroom items we had forgotten to bring along on our trip. Today it’s a Citarella’s.
I am admiring the chair lift Ed has purchased so that he can make it up the fifteen steps to his bedroom in his East Hampton home. We’ve managed through all these decades and endured. The marriages survived. The children have grown. My thick head of hair, the main mane I proposed with, a distant memory. The teeth seem to wear down first, no matter how well you brush; I am experiencing some significant (and expensive) dental work. I wear a hearing aid now as does Ed. Ed is twenty years my senior and most of his friends and colleagues are gone. I am just arriving at that bend in the road of life.
These days I take a nap most every afternoon, the fatigue as dependable as heavy traffic on 27. I feel it coming on and with the rest of the day in view, am faced with a dilemma. How does one get in a short nap at that time of the day when out and about? The answer: find a library, get to the magazine section and voilà! A comfortable chair. The chair collects me, I close my eyes and let the world go for twenty minutes. Then I’m ready for the next round.
I am admiring the white lilacs Magda has planted in her garden just to the right of “The Aqueduct.” How fragrant they are! Have they been there all along? Why am I just now noticing them? The row of weeping willows that once greeted visitors to Ed’s sculpture garden with a such an elegant curtsy, are gone, quickly dispatched by Sandy’s fury in 2012.
The in ground granite pool was built years ago, before even Henry was born. “Couldn’t afford to do it that way today,” Ed says. “Do you know how much it would cost?” The backyard at Hither Lane is immaculate, the aforementioned regular gardening has seen to that. It still invites us to come and play. And in the midst of it all, there she lies, “The Aqueduct,” our bridge from past to present, stubborn, exultant, resilient, steadfast, cracks and all. It can’t be easy for her to carry on, but like a good long marriage, she does.