Snapshots: 50 Years of east End Living

Written By: Lona  Rubenstein

SnapShots 50 Years of Living on the East End Did we start on shaky ground? As our bright yellow taxicab carrying our three children, my husband who drove the taxi in the City and me, a lecturer in Philosophy at the City university of New York? I ask because our elderly neighbors were constructing a fence between their Maple Lane in East Hampton property and ours as we pulled into the driveway. They didn’t say hello. Within weeks as I kept our front door unlocked luxuriating on the living room couch — in the security of what would become known as the Hamptons – my boys playing in the yard, and my daughter – the youngest – taking a bath, when the large bulky man walked in and went straight to the one bathroom in the small ranch house we bought fromdon’tremembertheirname (was it the Barry’s). The large, bulky intruder shut the bathroom door. Naturally, I ran out of the house, coward that I am. My oldest son, David, at 12 went in to see if Amy was OK, brave boy that he was. Scott went up the road to get our neighbors to call the police. Neighbors did so and came down to the house, saying to me, “this kind of thing never happened when the Barry’s lived here.” It all worked out, but I remembered most, that quote. And of course what Amy said when I asked her what she thought when the large intruder barged into her bath time. “I just thought it was some philosophy friend of yours, Mommy.” Did my Miami Beach first generation American Mother on a brief visit help me start on a wrong foot start by talking in Yiddish to the bank president? At that time in East hampton they barely knew what a Jew was, let alne understand 18th Century German, which is what Yiddish fundamentally is. So my husband had car terrible accident in the City with a 15 year old in a stolen car, no insurance. I had to go back, pick up more classes had to buy an old and cheap car from DiSunnos in Amagansett and pick up as many classes as I could at Queens College, Lehman College and Rutgers in Newark. I am a terrible driver and Mr. Di Sunno had done the best he could with the old car and its life span. I crammed a ful time schedule into two days, left at Four AM to avaoid traffic and moved into the right and lane at exit 56 to be sure that I could exit at 26 which was Queens College. There was a discovered alternative, a pyramid scheme selling large cookies that made you thin. They were like cardboard. The more boxes you bought, the cheaper they were, increasing your margin of profit. I filled up the garage. People in town were great, buying them. I went everywhere, except door-to-door, stood on street corners, into Town Hall, they were moving except within weeks the scandal was on Chanel 7 TV, that the cookies were a scam, fattening, and the makers were going to jail ro something. For the next 2 years I lived on cookies, which, since they were like cardboard, had an open ended shelf life. No one in town who had bough them, turned me in. They were very kind. Then our up the road neighbor who raised chickens and drank a lot accused our dog of eating her stock and as I said on the phone that Mandy (part Weimaraner given to us by the school social worker) would never do that, as she just then passed by with a chicken in her mouth. We apologized. Mandy would also visit Spring Close restaurant uninvited going from table to table– no leash laws then. She was eventually shot. We asked no questions. I mean n one wants a big black dog drooling at them while they paid big bucks for a Hamptons dinner. I got a job closer to home when the driving became impossible. I convinced Perry Duryea Jr., then Speaker of the NY State Assembly, that if he wanted to be governor he needed a bright, Jewish, intellectual on his waspy upstate staff. It lasted until his failed attempt at same. So, like everyone else in town, I went into selling real estate. I hated doing it, knew nothing about it except paying my mortgage and I cried on my way each day to work. Naturally, over achiever that I am, I was very good at what I hated doing. Showing a horse farm on Three Mile Harbor, and menstruating at the same time, as customers walked ahead with sellers, one of the stallions fell in love with me. I tried to hide behind a tree – a scrawny scrub oak — and called out to the folks who had left me behind as lover-boy closed in. “Don’t move,” commanded the horse farmer property owner. Was he kidding? Back at Maple Lane I saw a car parked in front of our house. I was home alone of course. Kids had walked to High School to see a basketball game. You could do that in East Hampton, back then. Back to t he car parked in front of our house. Natrally I called the police. “It’s the Maple Lane lady again,” I heard the officer say. I was, to be fair, a regular customer. Police came. Yes, well, the person in the car was the young daughter of the Chief of Police who had a crush on one of my boys. Aaaaaagh! Talk about a small town! Then there was the rooster in the yard. Yes, yes, yes, I called the police. By the time they came over, Mandy and Schlomo (dog #2) had reduced said trespasser to a pile of feathers. Always looking for a job, daughter Amy got me a two month summer position as house cleaner at the Southampton almost ocean front summer rental of the Finklesteins, Borough President Andy Stein’s parents. I went to interview and realized my dress was inside out. Without skipping a beat, Mrs. Finkelstein pointed that out to me and hired me as their cook. “Cook?” I exclaimed. “You raised your children on food, right?” she pointed out. I wanted to kill Amy, who was supposed to work there but had a better offer and abandoned me to that job on the very day I was scheduled to start. So on the hottest summer days I served goulash, meat loaf, lettuce and tomatoes, tuna salad (the only salads I knew, pedestrian chef that I was) and some breaded, hot chicken dish, made with milk and sour cream. (The best part of the job was that I was in charge of their two dogs that often stayed the week while Andy and friends came weekends. So, to survive, I started to call good cooks, like Betty Duryea, David Watson’s wife, and use my trusty American whatever cook book. I called Croners (sp?)Market at least three times a day for ingredients as I got the recipes, saying “This is the cook from the Stein residence.” It was a mantra. They had a charge account. I lasted three and a half weeks there. Left the week Shirley Maclaine was to arrive. And would you believe I had gotten offers in the kitchen from the high profile Stein guests to cook for them. Left there in a hurry, but, since I could read and follow instructions my dinners for twenty looked gorgeous and were edible. In so far as real estate job I got, the one I cried before I got to work, I didn’t have a clue as to sub-divisions with lots for sale. And there were many of them back them, that is subdivisions with lots. So in the beginning when I got “ups”for them, or phone calls, I would lament, “Jeez! You just missed it. All sold out.” When listings were mis-stated and I told customer we were looking a house with pool. Of course there was no pool. But I looked anyway and exclaimed jubilantly, “there it is they put the pool with the house next door.” I got away with it. There’s more snapshots that could have happened to me only on the Eastern End of Long Island, like when I flew through a tornado in a two engine plane promoting Perry around the State with women’s groups, and, when he said as to my flying that day with a pilot that wanted to get back to Montauk for a party, “discretion wss the better part of valor, Lona.” But that’s it for now.