Not today, Hemingway
“Call me Ishmael…..pretty cool way of life out here…..everyone just kind of does their own thing…..” Written by Matt Mackey on his last day in Montauk and of his life.
Ernest Hemingway once wrote that every true story ends in death. Well Ernest Hemingway didn’t know Matt Mackey. Matt Mackey was taken from his friends and family much too early at the tender age of 23. His story was one that is all too common in Montauk. In June of 1990, Matt was a new fisherman, shy on experience but fierce with enthusiasm. He went to work on a boat called the New Age. In his first week, he got caught in the nets and taken out to sea. His body was never found. It was a blow to many, but hit the hardest were his friends from high school known as the Gang. The Gang had all met in elementary through high school and were an extraordinary close band of brothers. Little did we know that something so tragic could turn into something so galvanizing. What we didn’t realize then but learned every day after, is that the Atlantic Ocean could take our friends body, it could not take his spirit or touch his soul.
Matt fell in love with Montauk right upon moving there. He lived upstairs of a great little harbor bar called ‘Fishtales”. It seemed appropriate enough because Matt was prone to larger than life story telling. That what was made him so magnetic to so many back then, his way of making everything seem just a bit bolder than it really was. He was the salt and color of our lives. With his passing, we thought that would end, we were wrong.
A tradition started a year after Matt’s passing, one that continues 25 years later. On the anniversary of his death, the Gang makes our way to Montauk for a weekend to remember. You would think that attendance would dwindle after so much time but it never does. It is because Montauk has become a symbol of the love and loyalty that we feel everyday for our blood brother. We see him in the beaches and the bluffs of the Atlantic. We feel his presence in the sunset at the Montaukett Inn. From Gosman’s to the Memory Motel bar, our affection for Matt shines through. It is something that Matt instilled in us, and the town of Montauk brings out every year. There is no way to Google Matt Mackey, there is no YouTube of him, but there will always be Montauk. I know can I comfortably speak for the members of the Gang when I say a heartfelt thanks to Montauk for making him happy as he “slipped the surly bonds of earth to touch the face of god”.
Some things hit you harder than others. Realizing that Matt Mackey has been gone from us longer than he graced us here on earth sure is one of them. It makes you draw a breath and think about things with a bit of perspective. With that perspective, I can happily realize that Matt Mackey has not left us for even a second. His presence is felt every day . He is every laugh I have because he always made me laugh. He is the warmth of the sun because he could bring that into any place he came upon. He is the infinite embodiment of friendship, something as strong as oak,, that has lasted the tumult of growing up and now old. His memory beckons to a different time and adds hope to a future shining brightly on the horizon. When we last saw him, he was young, tanned, happy, and on his way. His looks screamed summer and his smile could light up an Alaskan night. They say that youth is wasted on the young, but they are wrong. It is a time capsule that we can always look back on and know our brightest selves. Matt Mackey is the best parts of all the people who love and miss him. He is the idea that friendship is not fleeting, it is a life time of joy and consideration. Matt Mackey is eternal, just like I believe friendship is. In Matt Mackey, we have all found the best part of ourselves. We mourn him, but much more than that we celebrate him. So this June for the 25th consecutive year, we take to where Matt last lived. The Gang from the class of 1984 at Ward Melville High School will make our pilgrimage to Montauk, New York. We will go to honor our brother, and to remember all the good times we had with him. We will make new memories to keep alongside the old. We will do this with Matt in our hearts. Always.