It's always fun to go back to a place where one spent one's youth, or at least part of one's youth, to see what's changed and what has remained the same. Of course, it's not just the stuff "out there" that's changed, but even more so, it's the person doing the seeing that has changed. Memories fade, things are misremembered or are remembered again for the first time in many years. It's with this in mind that I took a brief two-day drive through the Hamptons after nearly 20 years of being away. Here are some fleeting impressions from my visit.
Having grown up on Long Island, I spent several family vacations in Montauk and the Hamptons, and returned there as an adult in my 20s and 30s as part of various summer share houses in Water Mill, East Hampton and Amagansett.
After reading article after article about how even crusty old Montauk was falling victim to regentrification and overcrowding, I thought I would take a drive out there just before the summer season starts and the hordes descend to take a look at the place for myself.
What I was looking for were signs of local culture that have survived or are newly emerged. I was not disappointed.
One of my first stops was the Lobster Roll in Amagansett on the way to Montauk. Not only did I have fond memories of the place from frequent visits when I had a summer share, but it was fun to revisit the place that had a major role in the excellent Showtime series The Affair. The lobster roll was fresh and delicious (and huge). A great start to the trip!
After lunch, I drove out to Montauk (sadly, Cyril's is gone along the way) to check into my hotel and have a look around town. One place I remember going to is the Memory Motel (no pun intended), a place immortalized in a Rolling Stones song of the same name.
It was as gritty as I remembered it, and there was what looked like two guys repairing their motorcycle inside one of the motel rooms with the door open (probably to let the carbon monoxide out).
Surf culture is still alive and kicking in Montauk, and while Ditch Plains beach was deserted while I was there, the surf shops were open for business.
I also wanted to see what was doing up at Gosman's Dock, which was absolutely deserted...
...except for the locals' bar, The Dock, complete with a creative reimagining of a scene from JAWS.
The fishing vessels at Gosman's were a visual feast, especially the fishing nets and buoys, a favorite photographic subject of mine.
The dock by the nearby Coast Guard station turned out to be another engrossing site.
For a change of scenery, I drove out to the Montauk Lighthouse and Camp Hero next door, which used to be a radar training site after WWII. You can still see the huge rusty radar installation and batteries where they stored ammo, but the beach was wild and beautiful.
The next morning, I decided to pay East Hampton a visit on my way back West toward home in CT. Main Street has as many luxury stores as ever, and even the alleyways are chic...
From East Hampton, I drove over to Sag Harbor, where the New England fishing village vibe is ever present.
On my way back to the Port Jefferson ferry, I drove by the landmark "Stargazer" sculpture in Manorville. I pulled over and jumped out of my car for a photograph. Only after I got home and read about the history of the sculpture did I realize how much drama surrounded it's creation, installation and upkeep. Apparently it was originally meant to be erected in East Hampton, but at the opening party and ribbon-cutting ceremony, the East Hampton Town Supervisor ordered that it not be put up because it was deemed a "sign" that was too large to ever be put up in town under local ordinances. It was then moved miles away to its current location in Manorville.
As I sat on the ferry heading back to Connecticut, I resolved to come back with my family and spend more time on the East End (hopefully again in the off-season). My brief trip there reaffirmed for me that the area is still full of natural beauty and local charm.
For additional selected images from my trip, please visit my New Work gallery.