Mapless in Suffolk

Written By: Larry  McCoy

Let me take this opportunity to thank the many residents of the Hamptons and Riverhead who gave me directions last month (July) while I was meandering around Suffolk County with my wife and two good friends.

Irene and I don’t believe in GPS. We find places the old-fashioned way, using maps, printouts from MapQuest or asking strangers for directions. When a local instructs us to turn left at the second stop light, to keep to the right when the road divides, then adds, “You can’t miss it,” I look him or her in the eye and say, with extreme confidence, “You wanna bet?”

It’s not so much that we think a Global Positioning System device is worthless; both in our late 70s, Irene and I are simply aware that we don’t have the skills or patience to program it properly. Why waste our time punching buttons when we can pester complete strangers? (I’m not exaggerating. We barely know how to use cellphones. Should you doubt that, ask my daughter, son or grandson how many times a week I “pocket dial” one of them. The three have a common policy of ignoring the first two times this happens but after the third call in five minutes they dial me and tell me to knock it off.)

For several years, we have taken summer trips with Mel and Paulette Chase, and this year’s itinerary featured the Parrish Art Museum and the Pollack-Krasner House, places Irene and I had been before but new to the Chases of Connecticut.

We agreed to meet at a hotel in Riverhead, which would serve as our headquarters. Having GPS and knowing how to use it, Mel and Paulette were first to arrive. Big deal. I ask you, would you rather take directions from a voice squawking from a machine or ask for help from a 40-year-old man in Riverhead standing in the Snow Flake parking lot, licking an ice cream cone the size of the St. Louis Arch?

“They didn’t have a bigger cone?,” I asked the guy.

“This is my lunch,” he said.

He thought he knew how to get to our hotel but wasn’t from Riverhead and suggested we ask the people inside at Snow Flake. The directions supplied by a lady working there were almost perfect. I’m pretty sure she said turn right when we got to Old Country Road. After doing that, I discovered she meant left, but after all she was in a Ginger Rogers situation, doing everything backwards, so her right was my left.

After finding both hotel and friends, we went to lunch in Riverhead and then set off for the Parrish Art Museum, telling our travel companions to look for a large chicken barn across the road from a pumpkin patch. (It was a Wednesday afternoon in July, and there wasn’t any traffic on east-bound NY 27, provided you agree that the word “traffic” should only be used to connote movement in a forward direction at a speed in excess of three miles per hour.)

The Chases liked the interior design of the museum and much of what was on the walls and floors. Irene enjoyed watching batches of young kids try to sneak a look into a room with large photographs by Chuck Close of naked men and women.

The following day our destination was the Pollock-Krasner House in Springs where we had reservations for the noon tour. According to Irene’s MapQuest print out, we should run into County Road 41 when we got to East Hampton. Easy for you to say, MapQuest. Four college graduates with a total of 300 years experience on this planet saw no signs for 41 or 41 A or B or Z. Nuttin.

I pulled off at a convenience store and a pleasant man with a good-smelling cigar grabbed my shoulder and told me if I went straight down McArthur Path (or something like that) as far as I could go I would see signs for the Pollock-Krasner House. The man knew his stuff, and, despite thinking we had probably blown the money spent for the guided tour, we got there in time for most of it, including tip-toeing around the splatter room in Pollock’s studio where paints of many colors cover much of the floor.

After lunch in East Hampton, it was back to Riverhead. As we passed the Snow Flake again, the senior member of our group, me, announced “that’s where we’re having dessert tonight.”

After sitting down for dinner at Jerry and the Mermaid in Riverhead, Paulette and I were disappointed to learn that soft-shell crabs had been on the lunch menu but weren’t being offered for dinner. We asked the waiter to see if an exception could be made. He checked, and we liked his answer and the soft-shell crabs.

Before we finished, Jerry, the owner, stopped at our table and explained he didn’t offer crabs as a dinner entrée because he wasn’t sure he had enough. (Two are served at dinner, one at lunch.) Paulette and I thanked him for being flexible and satisfying our craving.

Dessert was indeed at the Snow Flake. I had two pounds of peach ice cream in a cone. Delicious. I approached a couple also enjoying cones and asked “are you from around here?”

“Yes,” the man said.

We exchanged comments on how good the ice cream was before he asked, “Where are you from?”

“Long Island,” I said. It took me a few seconds to realize how dumb that sounded. “Duh. I’m from Long Island. I’m ON Long Island.”

I forgot where I was because this area is much different than Rockville Centre, where I live. Two days of driving by farmland, outdoor produce stands, vineyards, expensive stores and captivating water views left me thinking I was a long way from home, but I really wasn’t.

The older I get the more I catch myself backtracking in conversations and saying “duh.” So be it. We had a good two days, and many thanks again to those Suffolk folks who pointed the way for us. I hope you didn’t shake your head or giggle when you saw me drive off in the wrong direction. We got where we wanted to go, eventually, and enjoyed ourselves along the way.