August 30, 2006
Are you a Georgican or a Georgican't?
Summers in East Hampton are some of my earliest memories. I remember never finishing a game of Scrabble with my father either due to my lack of skill, his humorous antics in mid-play, or getting too hot in the midday sun. I remember discovering the water in my aunt's pool was potable, having swallowed half of it in my first swimming lesson. I remember being horrified at the concept of my favorite ice cream place, Snowflake, going out of business, only to have it reopen under new management the following summer, something which has become a disturbing pattern. The one static aspect of all these years has been the same spot on Georgica Beach.
A definitive quality of East Hampton life is beach allegiance. Earlier this year I was alerted that a close friend from school lived nearby me during the summer. Shocked, I promptly asked why we'd never seen each other. When I was told it was suddenly so obvious — she's an Indian Wells person. Though we could share so many similar anecdotes about all the same places, our experiences were ultimately drastically varied. It's amazing the difference a few miles of sand can make.
On beaches, a clan mentality seems to take hold. Families and friends flock together to swim in the ocean, chat or in many cases just bake in the sun. Alliances are drawn due to the placement of blankets and whose children were drawn to play together when they were three. I have several such friends. The boys with whom I once boogie-boarded are now the ones who point out the nearest, or in many cases, the smallest bikini. Sometimes these, too, become fixtures of summer life. One such curvy blonde, known only to us as "Magenta," seems timeless, having always appeared athletic and young, despite the passing of years. My close friend has never spoken to her, yet pines every time she fails to come to the beach. In summer, logic need not apply.
Someone once told me they didn't see what was so great about sand, it was just an unimaginable number of tiny rocks. I suppose if one had grown so jaded to the soft, warm ground they might take it for granted. As in all such cases, however, its loss reverberates. My fellow Georgicans know what I'm talking about. Since the spring, the beach's right side has eroded away. The once proud volleyball net lies crippled, half its footing devoured by the hungry surf.
This scourge has had many theoretical causes. From the rational, such as irresponsible sea walls to the craziness of communist plots, it seems all affected have their own opinion. My favorite was told to me by a friend of a friend with the most serious of expressions: "It's Hezbollah trying to mess with all the East Hampton Jews." Though some have deserted, the vast majority of this soil's natives have tried to cope as best they can, crowding together and refusing to admit defeat despite a shipwreck occupying several yards of premium swimming space threatening to impale hapless children. I both admire and subscribe to this mentality.
As the days have gone by, and as my seating has gotten progressively higher into the dunes, I find myself smiling. Even with its dwindling surface area I became emotionally invested in this beach a long time ago. The ocean, non-environmentalist landowners, Soviets and Middle Eastern guerrilla forces can never deprive me of the freedom to sit where I please. As long as an inch of sand remains, I and others like me, will never surrender the shoreline we love.