The Moriches: A Romance
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
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.