May 16, 2007
As anyone knows who has lived in the Hamptons, the beaches have suffered erosion over the years. At times there is a subtle give and take of sand between land and sea and at other times a Nor'easter will come in and completely change the landscape, cutting down to the quick and leaving the shoreline unrecognizable. Yet it is not just the beaches, but a real local way of life that has eroded here as well.
In the midst of a stress-induced frenzy trying to meet deadlines for seven different publications, I snapped. A gorgeous spring Saturday had passed with all its blooming Kwanzan Cherry and Bradford Pear glory and I hadn't even left my chair at the computer. And when I did it was just to head to my homeopath to plead, "I need the herbal equivalent of a double martini, now!"
Normally when people hear that I live in Sag Harbor they say, "Really? Year-round?! Lucky you." I am lucky, but not that lucky because they're enjoying all the things out there I no longer have time for trying to piece together a living.
I decided to try to stop being a sour puss and recreate a day from my youth when I truly believed this place was paradise. I started with the Sagg General Store for a cup of coffee but missed Bob, the previous manager, who knew us all by name and used to take a moment to discuss his acting career. I had borrowed a dog to take to the beach because my beloved Coco isn't with me anymore but noted the signs that indicated soon my four-legged friend would no longer be welcome.
As I drove down the memory lane of Sagaponack I was distracted by vistas, which seemed entirely unfamiliar to me, dotted all of a sudden with huge residences. Which sit empty. Sand castle building contests have been replaced with castle building contests of financial tycoons. The defining feature of Sagaponack used to be Bud Topping driving down the road on a tractor with a smile while now it's a palace with 54 bedrooms (could be a single-handed solution to affordable housing if they'd rent each one out.)
I remember walking down Potato Road and visiting neighbors who lived literally in old fishing shacks, charming clapboard cottages decorated with kites which I thought were heaven. I hope Jim Gingrich who still paints on Gibson Beach captured some of them on canvas.
Starting to feel depressed I stopped by Candy Kitchen. Yee ha, it's still there, and a black and white milkshake can still solve many a thing that ails, although the farmers with their egg and bacon breakfasts have been replaced by commuters with egg white omelets. Reading has always been my passion and I love that the Bridgehampton Library still smells just as it always did and continues its Fridays at Five authors series which I used to attend religiously to remind me of my love of writing but now am too busy writing to get there.
In the Village of Sag Harbor we used to wave to one another as we worked in our front lawns and gardens, knowing that caring for the earth and plants is a rewarding act. Now it seems no one takes care of their own property; it's all hired out. I still try to indulge my rose passion but they tend to die on me now as they dislike my mobile lifestyle, moving around in pots in what we call the Hamptons shuffle where people rent out their homes in the summer to try to help pay the mortgage. There's something ironic about working so hard to pay for a house where you don't even live the best months of the year.
When I tally the joys of living here, I realize they are truly the simple pleasures. Which, unfortunately, no longer seem simple.
Like the prized possession of our ocean beaches the local artists, writers and workers who make the Hamptons special may also be eroded like the sand, and then what will be left? Dirt. Which I am going to get under my nails to feel at home.
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