East End Envy

Written By: Allison  Steinberg

The first time I visited the East End I thought someone had slipped something into my food. I felt high. High like on drugs high; like I was stoned, zooted, fried, hemped, doped, wasted. Like I had smoked something that grew deep in the fields in Thailand or in a snarky lab in Holland or a college kid’s closet in Oregon. I felt somehow simultaneously light-headed yet clear as a whistle. Was the air that clean? The sky that open? The people that friendly?

It took me until my second overnight trip to the East End to realize that the feelings of inebriation were not from the local apple cider spiked with a secretly devilish dash of butter, but plainly because I had shed my New York City stress. I was so relaxed in the East End that I thought I was stoned!

The realization was at once both exhilarating and terrifying. I’m so stressed every waking (and otherwise) moment that the relief of that is so foreign I must be in a chemically-induced altered state. Sad, I know.

How wonderful, though, that just one hour’s drive* from the concrete jungle is this magical place with shoreline and farm and forest. A place where farmers milk goats by hand and sell their churned product like manna from heaven. A place where cars let you in and no one is in a huge rush. A place where “local,” “sustainable,” and “organic” are not marketing jargon slapped on the side of products on the shelf of an overpriced store in Chelsea, but actual real words that describe the food production process on the East End. If you can see the utter where your cheese came from, it’s organic. The East End became a place I wanted to scream from the rooftops about and yet silence myself so that none of the other eight million sardines that shove ourselves in loud, overpriced and undersized apartments would find out about this gem and rush out to ruin this sanctuary.

I’m sure those who grew up in Mattituck or Montauk, Shelter Island or Southampton feel about me the way I do the rest of the city. Who is this city slicker with her dumb aviator glasses, sensible-looking lesbian partner and Zipcar? Why is she invading our zen? I understand how you might feel. We trek out from the city that doesn’t sleep with enthusiasm and rude habits and clog up your roads, drive up your real estate costs and eat all your cheese! I don’t blame you for judging me, even despising me and everything that I signify. I hate me too, or at least what people from where I come from represent. I begrudge the Wall Street yuppies and their arm candy who pile out of coach buses, livers soaked with local wine, their voices raised one decibel more for each vineyard visited. I loath the chain-store-strip-mall-infested, minivan-rampant, Walt-Disney-esque-outlet-plaza world that is the last vestige before you reach the end of the multi-lane frenetic energy of the Island of Long Expressway.

Hitting Exit 73 is visceral. The sky opens up and for the first time in dozens of miles the trees outnumber the cars. It doesn’t matter which way you go at the fork; either is preferable to where you’re coming from.

I have a secret mission to make the East End my home. I promise not to be one of those folks who buy a second or third home and show up only one week each summer and a couple of weekends each year. I can’t afford that. I promise I won’t bring my urban subwoofers or stilettos or screaming poodles. I’m done with all the city noise and pretention.

I don’t expect you to embrace me or accept me immediately. I may be a bit annoying at first. I’ll be the one buying only roadside produce and eating seasonally until I get upset that I can only have strawberries in June. You’ll find me down at the shore basking in the sun in temperatures far too cold to be outside. I’ll be the gal talking in soft whispers with loving intonation to the ducks and the geese and the cows and horses. You may even catch me hugging a goat.

I promise I will calm down after a few months. I’ll settle down into the delightfully slower – ahem, sane – pace and learn how to behave. I won’t just consume; I’ll also produce. I won’t gawk; I’ll simply appreciate. Most of all, I won’t just exist; I’ll learn to live. Because the East End is a slice of heaven on Earth and why wait until I’m dead to enjoy it?

*With no traffic. Ideally, leave early on a weekend morning or after rush hour on a weekday. Otherwise, the trip can take anywhere from two hours to seven or eight, depending on route, destination and your ability to secure a rooftop aircraft that can hover over the Long Island Expressway.