Rarefied Air

Written By: Deborah Cortez-Gibson

The excitement builds even before we exit off Montauk Highway at Town Pond. We lower the windows the better to breathe the salt air and feel the ocean breezes. We take a left onto Main Street and the stress melts away, we’re back East Hampton.

Is it the star sightings, of which there are many, that we love? No, I lived in California, I watched George C. Scott film a movie in San Diego, we’ve met many stars over the years at benefits….I am more apt to be thrilled seeing a celebrity cook from Food Network than anyone else I can think of….So, then is it the great food and restaurants with phenomenal views? No. It’s the beach, the star of the show every time. You can take away the famous residents, the amazing food but leave the beach and they will come. Wait, on 2nd thought….leave the Hot Lobster Roll at Lunch…and the beaches.

We hurry to our room , toss our bags in, get the Beach Pass and rush off to Main Beach…born and bred in San Diego, I LIVE for the days at the beach. (Note: Don’t even try to explain Beach Pass to friends and family in California..they don’t get it) Once there, I breathe in deeply, I stare at the water, gorging myself on blue skies and even bluer water. It’s the first place we go when we arrive and the last place as we leave town…every year…I breathe better in East Hampton. I try to tell my husband  we need to move here for health reasons but that falls on deaf ears.

As we hit the East Hampton Starbucks at least twice a day, it’s inevitable we would run into some of East Hampton’s more famous residents. On a gloriously sunny morning we walk in and notice that Alex Baldwin and his luminously beautiful wife, Hilaria are directly in front of us in line. I glance at my husband, he has seen them as well. Alec, while friendly to the staff he clearly knows, doesn’t lift his head or his eyes to make eye contact with any other patrons….Ah…The old if I don’t see you, you don’t see me gambit. I’ve noticed this before in NYC at The Palm. Jon Bon Jovi was seated next to our table, looking anywhere but at us as we leave. Interesting behavior and yet, I get it and I don’t blame them. I am more interested in what the Baldwin’s are drinking, it was green and looked delicious. In what had become a joke, since this Starbucks had made my mocha wrong each visit, I mutter to my husband as they get their drinks, “I bet they make his correctly”. Hubby laughs.

Starbucks is the scene of several vivid memories for us. On a prior visit, I hopped out…well, as much as a person with Scleroderma can hop anywhere, leaving my husband and 2 service dogs in the car. As I open Starbuck’s door, out walks a familiar face. I blurt out, Frank!! Frank Newbold, friend and business partner of Ina Garten and a frequent guest on her show, Barefoot Contessa. A perfect gentleman, he leans down and gives me a hug and says hello. Then, I am mortified, I stammer and explain that he has never met me, I know him from Barefoot Contessa. Extremely gracious, he takes a minute asking how we like East Hampton, etc. Clearly, this has happened before. I get my coffee and as I enter the car, hubby is looking at me strangely, “We don’t know anyone here, WHO was that man hugging you?”. I glance back at Lily and Madigan, they too have their heads cocked and quizzical looks on their faces. I explain, that was Frank….We have Barefoot Contessa on every weekday from 4 pm until 5 pm…Seriously, you don’t recognize Frank? Sigh….

After a day spent in the sun and sand, luxuriating in the feel of sand between my toes, its a like a spa day but better…it’s off to any one of our favorite restaurants. So many places are outstanding. When in East Hampton we almost exclusively eat seafood…I trust it in the Hampton’s, Ohio, not so much. This visit I insist on trying a few new places. Truly, if I didn’t, we would be at Lunch for every meal, the Hot Lobster Rolls are the stuff dreams are made of.

We end up at Beacon in Sag Harbor. I have one indisputable rule while in the Hampton’s, we only sit outside if there is a view…not sitting outside looking at sidewalks, parking lots…by view, I usually mean water. As we are seated I glance behind my husband and see Michael Grim, owner of Bridgehampton Florists and also a frequent guest on Barefoot Contessa. Excitedly, I tell my husband MICHAEL is here! I can tell he is not suitably impressed.

Our habit is to get our coffee each morning and head to Main Beach. To be able to sit and look out over the water and have nowhere to go and nothing to do is beyond luxury. On one of our last days there, we had decided it was time to get our suits on and head back for a day in the sun…as we left the table area and headed to the parking lot, I glanced at the people walking towards us and instantly recognized Frank Newbold and Ina Garten. I immediately and very smoothly, in my opinion, executed a U turn back to the table area and promptly sat back down. I waited for hubby to walk to the car and realize I wasn’t with him and return. When he did saying, “I thought we were leaving?” I cocked my head to the side so we could see Ina Garten and Frank were there, he looked over and sighed, “We’re not leaving yet, are we?” You had to ask? The one show I have watched faithfully since it began…Hubby leans in a whispers “I’ll get a picture on my cell for you.” I shoot him a look that says PUT THAT CELL AWAY and tell him I’m happy breathing the same air…Predictably, he rolls his eyes.

Our days are spent at the beach, eating amazing food…walking around the shops, talking to the very friendly people we meet along the way. What is not to like? Well, actually, there is one teeny thing…the restrooms…Even after visiting every year I am still not used to the shared bathrooms. I was nonplussed the first time we visited and saw the restrooms with a male and female designation on the same door….I do find it a bit disconcerting to be waiting outside the door and a gentleman walks out and I am to go in…disconcerting and maybe a little gross….As our European friends are fond of pointing out to me, it’s the way all restrooms are going….Sigh…

We are back home now…and it is as they say, there is not place like home. I’m sitting outside on our deck, watching the dogs run under our oak and maple trees, trying to decide if I should get in the pool…I catch sight of a few cicadas buzzing around, I can’t help it, I mutter to myself, “I bet East Hampton doesn’t have cicadas, those little beady-eyed buggers wouldn’t dare.”