Six Days In August
I decided to take a few days off from work to clean out my apartment having moved into with my girlfriend three years prior. I hate moving and would much rather leave everything behind, much like the army after losing a war. The following then occurred:
While procrastinating away on Day One, I was thumbing through the real estate ads in Dan’s Papers looking at properties listed at $5,000,000 and above. There is nothing like sitting in the summer’s morning sun sipping from a mug of coffee and considering such listings. I am partial to the ads that picture disappearing pools. It was then that I stumbled upon a writing contest that Dan’s was running for works of nonfiction. My interest was immediately piqued, as I have always wanted to be published in a free magazine and it also seemed like an excellent way to avoid cleaning out my apartment.
The rules were simple enough: a work of nonfiction with meaningful references to the East End. I was stuck right out of the box. Having attended NYU years before it became the academic powerhouse it is today, I had to check the meaning of nonfiction, which it turns out is stuff that is not fiction, fiction being the exact opposite. Discerning between the two sounded like a trick question, until I looked that that phrase up: “A complex question, trick question, multiple question or plurium interrogationum is a question that has a presupposition that is complex. The presupposition is a proposition that is presumed to be acceptable to the respondent when the question is asked.” By this time, I was ready for a nap that lasted for the rest of the day.
Upon opening my eyes and pouring another cup of coffee, I realized that Dan’s was not likely to have any fact checkers, especially for a contest with only a $25 entry fee attached. I could write about almost anything and get away with it, just like at my years at NYU. And, as for the rule that my essay include “references to the East End in a meaningful way,” here was my chance to really say what I thought about the roundabout on Scuttle Hole Road. You only get one chance in your life at something like that. The stage was now set and I decided to take off the balance of the day, find parking a mile or two from the beach and sit with the windows rolled down, knowing that the Atlantic Ocean was not far down the road. The underpinnings of my essay were set.
Day Three started with another cup of coffee and a bagel from Goldbergs. It’s not that I don’t like Schmidts and Citarella or sitting with my laptop open at Starbucks hoping that Christie Brinkley will walk through the door for a smoothie and ask if she could share my table. However, Goldbergs reminds me of my youth back in Queens, long before I ever heard of the Hamptons. Far Rockaway and Jones Beach were as far east as I went in those days. Now, Hampton Bays is about as far west as I go. Goldbergs represents a bridge between those worlds. What beautiful imagery. How could Dan’s turn that down. Imagery is like that.
The anxiety started to build on Day Four. I wondered if God felt the same way when day 4 of creation loomed. He came up with the sun, stars and the moon. I had practically nothing down on paper worth a damn. I felt like General Ulysses Grant, drunk, broke and feverishly working on his memoirs to be able to leave his family something of value as death approached, like so many hopeful authors. As things turned out, his book was a hit. If only I had been a Civil War general instead of a student with the draft deferment. I downloaded his memoir onto my Kindle and spent the rest of the afternoon sipping coffee and reading about the Battle at Vicksburg.
Day Five started with great anticipation, as I remembered a story from my thirty years living on the East End that involved one of its more successful farmers. I happened to be at a real estate closing that involved the sale of land to the farmer. Several other parties were there with varying interests from tax free exchanges to brokerage commissions. The potato and farm fields of the Hamptons have become worth millions over the decades, a fact previously unknown and which I am proud to report here for the first time. The farmer attended the closing in overalls and waited as the hour grew late and the sun began to set. There was a discussion underway that seemed to go on forever regarding a survey line. Back and forth went the arguments, when the farmer finally got up, shoved his hands into his overall pockets and announced he was going home to dinner. Discussions promptly stopped and title closed. If only I had been a farmer with land worth millions instead of a student with a draft deferment.
That story reminded me of another farmer, who used to lease extra land land here and there to grow his crops. He often planted over the property line onto the adjacent property, thereby necessitating an affidavit or two over the years that he did not lay claim to any land adjoining his. I once had to obtain one of those affidavits from him and he gladly showed up to sign one. I asked for his driver’s license, but if he had one, he did not know where it was, simply shrugging his shoulders as a form of ID. Knowing him well enough, I accepted the shrug and he signed the affidavit and commented that he just couldn’t often tell from the seat of his tractor where the property line was. I replied that he was lucky that he never seemed to come up short of the line.
And, then there was the time that a Topping asked me to go ice sailing, or was it racing, with him, although we had just met. Not liking sailing or ice, I politely declined. Nobody has asked to me to do that since and I probably should have taken him up on his offer. It would have made me a better rounded person.
My mind was then flooded with other memories. During my years in the Hamptons, I have eaten Japanese food the next table over from Alex Baldwin, waited on a Deli line with Roy Scheider, stood next to Christie Brinkley and Cindy Crawford at polo events, walked past Joseph Heller having lunch, and watched Alan Alda shoot a movie in Sag Harbor and Jack Nicholson doing the same in East Hampton. Alan Alda once told me at a grocery store that my then baby son was cute. I have crossed paths with famous authors and Julie Andrews in my years here. She and I took a few moments to sing a medley of tunes from the Sound of Music and My Fair Lady. At least, that is how I remember it. Nathan Lane was kind enough to give me an autograph, recently, and perhaps, my favorite Hampton perq has been meeting Anne Bancroft’s sister, Phyllis, who is a great person in her own right that looks and sounds a great deal like Ms Bancroft did. If only I had been Dustin Hoffman when they were casting for The Graduate.
If the Hamptons seem stressful at times because of the high powered summer people and the higher powered year round people, they are, but interesting nonetheless.
God created birds and fish on day five. I decided to get some shrimp for dinner.
That brings us up to date, Day Six, and the end of my essay. How to close?
The Hamptons are very much like the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty, although not as tall. When you live around them long enough you stop seeing them. We should not take them for granted. I have now lived here half my life. My children grew up here. They attended a one room schoolhouse here and a great emerging private school (it was cheaper in those days). I have failed here, found those that could help me here and have survived here. I live happily here amongst loved ones and good friends and others that would just assume see me move somewhere else..
When General Grant closed his memoir, he stated: “I am not egotist enough to suppose all this significance should be given because I was the object of it.” I’m not sure what he meant, either. But, it sure sounds better than anything I could come up with.
And now it is time for a day of rest before I clean out my apartment.