Stan the Man
I live in Montauk because my parents fell in love with this place 45 years ago. They were looking for a home within a two hour drive from their modest post Korean digs, up island, under the sonic booms of JFK landing patterns. They were beach people, both very attractive people, who looked sizzling hot in bathing suits, who had already clocked hours and days and weekends and vacations times on beaches as close as Coney Island, Long Beach, and Point Lookout, or Jones, or far as the Great Bahamas, Florida, Carolina, Venice Beach, LA, Bolinas,San Francisco Cliffs, Santa Cruz, Capitola, CA or Oregon and Northwest Canada. So, they must have known when they first drove up on Rte 27, in 1970, back when few ventured beyond East Hampton, that they had arrived, at the crest, of the overpass, as one settles down the slope, into town, that this understated, sparsely populated fishing town, the unHampton’s place, was to be their new home. The MONTauk. You know, the place old timers moan and wish Montauk could return to. The OLD Montauk, the familiar Montauk, when die hard surfers slept on the beaches upon which they surfed. (Current visitors are not advised to do this, ever!)
My father passed away in early November. He died at home, up island, in his bed and passed so quickly he probably was unaware that his last request for my mother to adjust his pillow, which she dutifully did, would be his last words. Miss you Dad. Told you we all would.
My Dad, whose spirit lives in the house, he and my mother share with me. To the manor born, I returned here upon their request that I live closer then the 3000 miles I had chosen to move to the other coast, hugging high on a San Francisco Hill. I went from my Billy goat gruff life to that of a seaside sand piper. I returned prodigal daughter. Dad and mom and sis and I were going to grow older together. I got to be near during his last eight plus years and am glad I was around to find with him new humor. Even in his declining days, we could find something to laugh about. A good laugh we felt was always the best medicine, beyond hugs and kisses. Best summer spent was when we decided to watch ALL the Marx Brothers movies together. Most of them watched in Montauk, dad, mom, my son and I. (This exercise is highly recommended!)
When you enter our upside-downside wooden home, nestled in the crook of a curved cul-de-sac, you will see the portrait of Stan the Man, grinning as he stood by the stairs that leads to the full front deck of our two-storied home. He is wearing his captain’s hat. (My grandfather owned a boat which he docked near his private home in Atlantic Beach; my dad never owned a boat, though he talked about buying one once he had completed his personal four bedroom Montauk Manor. This captain’s hat was amongst a zillion hats he owned but one seems in this photo to be a favorite and most appropriate hat to remember him wearing.). At the time of the photo the house he designed was newly completed. I the photo he is the perpetual welcoming host. His exuberant countenance says, “Come in”. He would like to show you around. He has a memory in each and every token he has gathered for his every visit to his favorite haunts in Montauk, the last lot at Ditch, where he hauled his ocean beach finds, or the roundabout he took to get the Block Sound treasures near the Montauket. The anchor. The buoys. The rocks. Oh, the rocks. The boulders. The flat stones. The sparkling rocks. The orange hued rocks. The spotted rocks. The green rocks. The pockets full of rocks. Rocks of all sizes, shapes, density and dimension. He left them around in his home, in bowls, on plates, creating table sculpture, they fall from the oddest books and crannies. Dad had made many trips and had returned with his treasures.
One August, many years ago when I could turn heads when I wore a bikini, I was dating Gaudi, a dashing ballet dancer from Venezuela. Somehow I convinced him to sit on the five plus hour train from Penn Station to meet my folks in Montauk. My dad seemed to like Gaudi, because he took him on an extensive tour of his eighth of an acre property. They both shared an open, expressive gift for engaging in friendly chatter. Stan spoke his New York-ese, Guadi, his blend of Span-English. Gaudi and Dad exuded enough charm to light the oceans sans the need of lighthouse beam. Their spontaneous bromance, inspired my Dad to share with Gaudi every minute detail and tale that was attached to each rock which had been placed by him, on his property. Believe me, there are many rocks. Gaudi learned how this boulder took three hours to dig out, or how that one had caused dad to blow a tire or how these series of rocks were responsible for ruining his transmission. These rocks might have caused the first hernia operation taking that rock out of the … Graciously Stan shared. Graciously Gaudi listened and grinned as each of the tales were retold, and in a way, relived by my Dad in his telling.
Later, in bed, Gaudi admitted to me. “I have met horse thieves. I have met car thieves. But never in my life have I ever met a Rock Thief!”
Stan the Man was himself taken from us last November. I walk his deck and watch the yearly growth of the pines that he had planted to create a natural barrier on one side of our property. I marvel how the Japanese maple spread a little wider this year. I ooh at the marvelous multi-hued sunsets he would have liked to have seen. My Dad worked very hard to remain alive as long as he could. I have a list of at least ten maladies that plagued him in the final days. We would tease him about what condition his conditions were in.
When I spoke at his funeral, I kept my promise to repeat a line from the Marx Brother’s movie, ROOM SERVICE, “He died too soon. Too soon. An hour too soon.”
Farewell our notorious Rock Thief.