The Moriches: A Romance

Written By: Jane M.  Gullong

Just past Mastic and the Shirleys, lined with creeks, coves and the bay, we discovered

the Moriches. It was Memorial Day weekend, the summer of 1978, and we thought we’d

find a modest Hamptons rental by driving out for the weekend and answering some

real estate ads in the local papers. As Patti Smith says, “we were just kids.” Discouraged

and disappointed, I had one last lead – a small ad for a summer rental in Center

Moriches. My partner demurred. We worked in the theater. We belonged in Springs

among the painters and poets we admired. But the price – a now so hard to believe

$1500 for the season – was hard to resist and the details – a windmill with attached

garden – sounded like a dream

It was real. Half way down Union Avenue off a little cul de sac stood the charmed spot.

A windmill it was, lovingly turned into a tiny cottage of kitchen and living room with

the bedroom atop the tower. A separate but modern bathroom was a step away on a

deck outside. The garden was in an evocatively deteriorating greenhouse attached to the

windmill’s base

We were in love. We put a mirror on the ceiling, a chamber pot by the bedside and

began to make it home. He called it enriching the Moriches. I collected green glassware.

He was buying garden tools and stick pins. We bought a boat, a wooden lapstraked Chris

Craft inboard. It was as romantic as the windmill and wanted by no one who had ever

used sandpaper . We set up a badminton court in the cul de sac. We found the path to

the creek then lined it with flowers. We kept the Chase Me Charlie, the boat named

for our favorite Cole Porter song, at the tiny dock . The long quiet ride down the deep

dark creek to the shallow bay was the best part of the trip to the beach. We anchored

near the Moriches Inlet, a challenging nautical adventure for city folk. Anchors

needed both stern and aft were hard to set in the shifting sand. But as a swimmer,

I loved to ride the cold current created by the surging tides in and out of the inlet. We

could cross the dune to the ocean surf and find a huge virtually deserted beach a far

cry from Cooper’s parking lot.

The Italian family next door lived mostly outside in the summers. Their dogs were

outdoor dogs and their Mama cooked over an open fire in the garden where she seemed

to spend all her time. On weekends their son Tony would come in with a boat load

fish and there was always an extra one or two for us. Once he pointed from the

summer afternoon sky to the glistening skin of the fish he held out to me, saying, look,

they are the same. Later that summer, we tried most unsuccessfully to persuade

him to eat the ceviche we had concocted from his latest catch.

We summered in the Moriches during the last years of the true Long Island Duck.

The Montauk Highway hosted at least two farms nearby enough for us to feast our

senses of smell and sound. The smell was manure like but natural, not chemical.

The sound was nothing less than endearing. A rustle, roaring quacking murmering

chorus of little animals. They must have been ranging freely in some way since they

were always out of doors in ear and nose shot. And the best part was that most of

the farms barbecued fresh ducks for retail sale, the perfect summer take out for a

tired Friday night.

Perhaps the biggest Center Moriches surprise was discovering the gay bar down

by the bay. What a place it was, sited at the water’s edge, a large white resort hotel.

The Lindenmere was a last vestige of the Moriches hay days as the Hamptons of

the1930s. While potatoes still grew on most of the East End, New Yorkers flocked to

the hotels along Moriches Bay. The Lindenmere’s days as a gay oasis were not long

lived but came in that halcyon period between Stonewall and the AIDS epidemic.

Customers came from all over Long Island and it was fun, fun, fun with dancing and

teasing on the tables. The management welcomed the neighbors and we were glad

to join in.

By the second summer we had enlisted a real estate agent and were looking for

a place of our own in the Moriches. When we turned into the driveway of Mickey Field’s

place on Paquatuck Avenue in East Moriches, I grabbed my partner’s shoulder and we

were in love again. The house was an English Tudor cottage with a sweeping view of

Tuthill Cove. While we had the house for seven years, it was always known in town

as Mickey Field’s place. He didn’t really want to sell it and readily agreed to hold the

mortgage. We thought he was always waiting for a chance to foreclose.

We forgot completely about the Hamptons. Our New York friends poured in for

weekends. We increased the fleet of boats with a single rowing scull and a catamarin

named The Bidet. We threw white parties – white dress and all white food.

Cod and vicchicoise and white chocolate were featured. Enriching the Moriches

continued with scotch broom and salt hay required for the garden and used furniture

inside and out. Lloyd’s Antique Shop in Eastport was our emporium and no doubt we

helped considerably to send Lloyd’s children to college.

One of the great treasures from Lloyd’s was an 18 piece set of glasses – wine and

cocktail and cordial – each with a green bell and amber beveled stems. We floated

flowers in the gin and named the drink the Moriche.

But speaking of gin, the idyll ended in it. Actually it was vodka that closed in on the

lovely days. When he started to store a stash of bottles in the barn the end was in sight.

Others were discovering the Moriches. Condos were coming. The man who mowed our

lawn said, “So sorry it had to end like this.” Mickey Field was paid off. We had to say goodbye

to the Moriches and to one another.
But while some lovers will always have Paris, we will always have Moriches Bay.