East End Impact
The Hamptons mean the world to me. For me, the East End of Long Island has been more than a location. More than the sum of its tangible parts. More than sophisticated restaurants, picturesque piers, powdery beaches, elegant houses, and crisp wide open sky. To me the Hamptons are a dream. For me the Hamptons are the light at the end of the dock. In me the Hamptons are part of my identity. I owe where I am in my life now to the time I’ve spent on the east end, every second of which I have, and always will, cherish.
12 year-olds don’t do hardships. They do trials and tribulations, but they don’t really do struggle. And why should they? Their gestation period in the world isn’t over. There is so much that a 12 year-old doesn’t know, so much to which a 12 year-old is oblivious. So much a 12 year old should never have to see. Not in most cases at least. Of course there are exceptions to every rule, even those that I, as the omnipotent and omniscient author, have established. These were rules in the summers of a 12 year-old me, but not in my life. Rules when the school bell peals through your skull for the one hundred and eightieth time and the sun is so intense that it feels like unsolicited acupuncture when you step outside. When you’ve exhausted your capacity for freedom to the point of acute boredom, and all that’s left to do is swim through the unprecedentedly thick island air. When you spend your summers on a borrowed lifestyle.
I live in Great Neck, just a couple hours drive down the road. My soul and my home and my life are in Nassau county, but every summer for the past 16 years my mind has drifted east for a few weeks at a time and I’ve spent the best parts of my summer, and often the best parts of my whole year, every year, in the Hamptons. Over the last 16 years many things have shaken, rocked, and complicated my life on the westernmost end of the Island. My life of J Crew sales, my life on the porsche.com car configurator, of pre-owned Longines watches. My life, which is by no means dire, is not the life of the Hamptons. And though I know people with houses on the east end, it’s not a lifestyle that has ever permeated the homeostasis of my life. I have, via the Expressway, diffused and permeated into its homeostasis. I can find my way into the bloodstream of a way of life that is not my own every summer, which offers a respite from my woes on the west end every year.
One thing has stayed constant through two separations (one that ended in me sending my first grade Flat Stanley to an AA clinic in Florida, and one that began in my having to give an ultimatum to those who were supposed to be my life role models), strained relationships, fluctuating academic performance, and other struggles (those things that 12 year olds aren’t supposed to go through at all). Through all of these less than glamorous things I could forget about my life when I went to the glamorous east. When I could escape to the Hermitage and down bowls of clam chowder at Cyril’s. When I could knock back a plate of little necks with my dad, brother, and grandpa. When I got to dump marshmallow fluff on a cup of cake batter ice cream at Scoop Du Jour. And later on, when there was one less family member at home, one one less member of the Cowen Clan Hamptons Gang, the Ruschmeyer’s white clam pizza, the 30 second walk from the Panoramic to Bernie Madoff’s old house, and morning bike rides with my dad were silver-lined masterpiece memory movies.
Regardless of what happened in my life back west, regardless of spending too much time in the principal’s office, regardless of not learning to read till much too late, regardless of folly after folly, my dream out east was always something to fall back on. Digging holes with my brother in the snarling face of tropical storm Ike to pull myself out of a pit of despair saved me the summer of my seventh year. Skim boarding with sex wax as a ten year old made me giddy and giggle in a way that I had not for almost 10 months. Seeing my grandparents those extra few days in the year brought a sunshine to my overcast disposition. I got to be in an extended lucid dream every year and didn’t have to worry about a goddamn thing and it felt great. I was walking on sunshine and swimming through air. I was invincible for a couple weeks every year.
Once you reach a certain age you’re expected to strut your stuff and show the world how much grit you have. You enter the proving ground and get a fifty pound bag dumped on your shoulders. The invisible, inaudible drill sergeant goes off in your head waiting for you to bend a knee, break down, and cry. He looms over you, just waiting for you to slip up. And when you do, oh boy, you get the shortest end of the longest stick. As I got older these personifications of pressure got louder and louder, the chips I had worn on my shoulder began to stack up and hindered me from success. I began to flounder, fault, fail. I was clawing against an avalanche that my own ambivalence had caused. I needed something to hold on to, something to ground me, something to save me.
What you find deep inside when little is left is remarkable. So, what did a fourteen year-old me find at the bottom when my pockets were shallow and my stomach was bare? When I needed something higher than myself to aspire to? When the short end of the long stick was on its way down again? I found those silver-lined dreams of a place filled with sunshine. I found a gold trimmed present of a memory in a place just a few hours down the road. I found Gurneys and Clam Bar and South Edison and the Amagansett Farmer’s market. I wanted it. I didn’t want it to be a retreat, I wanted it to be a life. I wanted my kids to play on the beach not for just ten days a year, but for as many as they choose. I didn’t want my kids to scantily avoid certain questions about why they couldn’t stay longer, and I didn’t want any child of mine to believe they were living off of a leased lifestyle. I wanted my fantasy to be the reality of those who I would love and cherish for years to come. So with my knee one inch off the ground and sergeant good-for-nothing on my back I decided to rise to the occasion. To pick my self up, dust myself off, and work for a dream. It was this dream, this vision, this place, that saved my young life. I have more to learn and more to know and more to see and more to do. But now, because of a dream, I also have more to be.