September 13, 2017


As summer ends…

You clean out the cabana of all the jetsam and flotsam of the shimmering hot days of summer, 2017 -- the old party remnants, the scattered beer caps and empty condiment jars from joyous reunions and teary goodbyes. You send your kids off to school with new clothes and shoes a size bigger and you are left with broom and shovel in hand to sweep up the sandy debris of another season warehoused in memory as the cruel pages of the calendar turn toward fall and the ice storms of winter.

Treasure your blessings.

This year the melancholy was slammed into perspective by three killer hurricanes, a never-ending political maelstrom out of Washington, and local news that makes you just stop and realize that if the change of season gives you the blues, remember it beats dressing in black for real tragedies that you are not experiencing.

As the steel centipede of foreign cars driven by the beautiful people inched home to nouveau riche Brooklyn and old, monied Manhattan past the multi-million dollar mansions of East Hampton on September 7, they never saw the 5' 4", 100 lb. body of a pretty young homeless woman named Hallie Ulrich lying on the side of the road in a remote part of town.

Hallie Ulrich had just completed her 22nd summer in her sad brief life, sprawled in the green grass on the anonymous shoulder of Alewife Brook Road, north of Terry Road. Hallie Ulrich had a distinctive tattoo of a wise owl on her right wrist and another tattoo of two interlocking rings on the inside of her upper left arm.

These were the human hieroglyphics that helped police identify her.

The official police press release read in part: "East Hampton Town Police requested assistance from Homicide Squad detectives. . . The victim's death does not appear to be criminal at this time."

Once upon a better Hallie Ulrich summer, someone loved her enough to give her a roof over her head, and to surely cheer and applaud and wipe a tear as Hallie walked in cap and gown to receive her diploma from Pierson High School. Someone who cared certainly congratulated her when she made the dean's list at prestigious Pratt Institute in Brooklyn where she studied for a noble life as a promising artist from the gorgeous seaside town of Sag Harbor.

Two years later the dawn of East Hampton broke over the "undomiciled" Pratt dean's list girl's lifeless body and all the things Hallie Ulrich might have been – an accomplished artist, a loving companion, a friend indeed, a devoted mother -- ended in a heartbreaking pile on the side of her final road of life as the curtain fell on her last summer in the Hamptons.

"We are not treating it as a crime," a Suffolk County Police spokesperson told me on Sunday.

But, of course, when someone so young and smart and talented fails to blow out 23 birthday party candles it feels so wrong and tragic that one feels that a law of nature has been violated.

"Her family has been notified," a SCPD homicide detective told me. "That's the most I can tell you."

Any of a thousand things can lead a person astray to homelessness and death in the budding springtime of life – a traumatic experience, two missed paychecks, a broken heart, deep depression, a fragile mind, substance abuse, a slammed door.

Hallie Ulrich, in Facebook photos, looks full of smiles and play and laughter, posting things like: "Hello friends! Follow the Hooke Sculpture Gallery on Instagram! And stop by anytime if you want to see some lovely artwork and listen to Edith Piaf!" Edith Piaf was famous for singing about love, loss, and sorrow. The two indelible interlocking rings tattooed into her young flesh suggest Hallie Ulrich once loved and was loved by someone special.

But it looks like Hallie Ulrich died alone.  

So as summer ends think of Hallie Ulrich, think of her family that will mourn and bury her, think of the poor cop who found her, and that someone special who surely did love her once as you feel wispy as you clean out your summer cabana and close up the pool and get ready to dry dock your boat.

In a Facebook post from August 1, 2014, Hallie Ulrich quotes a line from a song called "Oh Love" from an album called Be Held by Ayla Nereo: "Oh Love! Tearin' us apart from the inside out so we can see ourselves from the inside. . ."

That verse ends with these poignant lines that might serve as an epitaph for Hallie Ulrich: "Oh Love! Tearin' me apart from the inside out so I can see myself from the inside/ And might be causin' pain/ And might be coming home/ And might be sayin' this is all you asked for."

As summer ends…

To comment on Sand in My Shoes, email denishamill@gmail.com.

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