It was getting on to midnight. Three times I had to stop the car and get out, first to check the road sign (in luck! the right road) and twice to discern the numbers posted next to the driveways. I turned down the asphalt drive through an allee (def.: a hedge with funds) of privet. The asphalt became coarse gravel, making a prestigious crunch under the tires. A fox sidled parallel to the hedge and disappeared.
I parked in front of one of the three garages. In one of the two houses there was a light on upstairs, and I rang the bell. No answer, and still none after two more tries. I went to the side of the house, rang that bell. Silence.
Rather than spending the night with the fox, I called.
“Which house are you at?”
“The left one.”
“The big one?”
I was put up in the small one, the “guest cottage” with its three flat screen TV’s, none of which I would be able to figure out how to work. That was okay. You don’t go to the Hamptons to watch TV. I was there, in fact, to work, to help Rob, a real estate developer, get over his fear of water. We would have twice-daily classes in the backyard pool.
One free afternoon Rob gave me directions to one of the fabled beaches. Summertime traffic in the Hamptons is equally fabled, and turning left onto the main thoroughfare was always an exercise in relying on the kindness of strangers. The beach, the glimpse of it I got, was stupendous, indeed. The attendant at the parking lot said I needed a season permit to park.
“How much is that?” I asked her.
“Three hundred dollars.”
I did a quick calculation regarding my one free hour, and decided against it. She said there was a day use beach for only twenty dollars and gave me directions, which I must have misheard, because I arrived at another beach where every six feet was a sign announcing TOWAWAY zone for those autos not spackled with permit stickers, and there was nowhere that I could see to acquire said stickers. Coming from San Francisco we know about TOWAWAY ZONES, so I turned around and headed back toward town and found a park-like athletic complex at the edge of Southhampton. The only other vehicles in the lot were maintenance trucks and a police SUV. Just in case, I parked and approached the policeman. There was something furtive about his response, but I only registered that later as I lay beneath a maple on the grass. Yes, it was okay to park.
Each morning I walked down the lane past a field of rhubarb for breakfast at the Hampton Café. The young waitresses there were remarkably sweet. The same could be said for almost every teenage service provider I met during the week, male or female. Perhaps they thought I might be some hot fashion designer (you laugh!) or a novelist (I am! kinda) or else they are smart enough to know how their bread is buttered.
Maybe it’s a coincidence, or maybe it’s just summer (not here in San Francisco, brrr) but since I’ve been home I’ve seen a lot of articles in the New York Times about the Hamptons, and more specifically Water Mill, the hamlet where I taught. Last week there was a fabulous “art soiree” starring Lady Gaga at the Water Mill Center. Would that I had known. Also there was this headline, “In the Hamptons, Mind Your Manners or Else.” This story was about local blogs that publicize the rude behavior of the “citiots.” And then there was the breathless (with indignation?) reportage about the gala party thrown by Steven A. Cohen at his $60 million estate. He’s the hedge fund manager whose firm SAC is under investigation for insider trading, and who, according to a former employee quoted in a different article, “liked putting a team together and watching them destroy each other.” Mind your manners, Mr. Cohen.
I missed the party with Lady Gaga, but it’s good to be home, although later this afternoon there commences the parade of real estate agents through my home. Last night I dreamed I was standing in the garden along with the other tenants on the court in danger of being displaced when a non-existent sprinkler came on, and one of the agents announced that there was a water bill unpaid from 1993 for which I owed $17,000 in interest.
And I thought I was being cool about this.
If you’re wondering: I got an email from Rob: Still can’t believe I dove headfirst into the deep end. Not sure you understand. Well maybe you do. 🙂