It was the rain that woke us up at first, a gentle drumming on the top of the camper. The alarm went off at 6:00 and not wanting to cause suspicion as well as not having a plan, Mabel and I sat in the Arabella just looking at each other. I had wanted to sleep in the rain but didn’t think the first time would be on a side street in a neighborhood; I was hoping for a more established setting. A truck pulled up at 7:00 and my favorite East Hampton cop called out my name to see if it was really me tucked in the silver box outside his home. I felt as the first astronauts must have when they pushed open their capsule door upon splash landing from a moon excursion. Sheri nixed the space theme I originally intended for the camper, no rocket curtains for this kid, but now it would have been appropriate. Kevin was on his way to work and said to park the camper and we would touch base this evening. I pushed the camper into the open spot causing Missy to laugh as they have a gargantuan trailer used for beach camping. The little Arabella would probably sit in it's master suite.
I covered a lot of ground the three full days in Sag Harbor and saw a lot of family & friends. The biggest regret was not seeing everyone I wanted to. My apologies to those I didn’t catch up with. The summer in Sag Harbor is very busy, how’s that for an understatement? I think it would be best to catch up with friends in the off season, maybe January, when the icy winds off Long Wharf keep the City people in the City. Maybe 2018 will see Sheri and me haunting the near vacant streets.
The highlights of the trip:
· Catching up with those I saw.
· Dinner with my cousin Laurie.
· Superica and The Corner Bar.
· The Whaling Museum and touristy things with my cousin Bet.
· Paddle boarding and lunch with Mimi.
· Touring the American legion Building. David you are doing a great job.
· The sunset at Long Beach.
· The Beach in Northwest.
· The familiar feel, despite the changes, of walking down Mainstreet (both upper and lower).
· The hospitality of so many friends (Kevin & Missy and all the others). It is nice to slip back into conversation, like I never left.
The purpose of this trip is to see Everyday America and attempt to speak with people as they go about their lives. Sag Harbor and the surrounding areas are by no means Everyday America. The wealth is astounding, I can only imagine the net worth of the boats docked in the cove, let alone those by Marine Park. The newly built and renovated homes are palace like, and ever larger than seen in past seasons. This of course causes conflict. Conflict between the old and new ways, between local and outsider, between property rights and the good of the community. Summer in Sag Harbor is a playground but not for everyone, remember the bumper sticker “I am not here on vacation!”. A whole community of full timers, those that brave the icy winds in January, are the ones who turn the key to open the store or restaurant. They pull the cord to mow lawns or jump in the ambulance/fire truck to answer a call. They are what keeps the Village ticking; Sag Harbor’s backbone. To the summer resident, this group is here to serve, to make their expensive 100 mile trip from NYC the best it possibly can. To allow them to brag at home, “I have a guy in the Hamptons.….”
I came from this lineage; stocked shelves, packed grocery bags, and cut grass. I grew up with most of the people that now support the Village, keeping it ticking like I said above. So, I was glad to see them and catch up, hear what their kids are doing (one will be a NASA scientist one day, great parenting Lisa!), get the feel like I was sitting in the gym last season, or at the park. I was slowly becoming local again, even if my license plates were a different color blue. It’s because we have history together, a commonality you get from growing up in “The Harbor”.
Sheri & I chose to leave for the Midwest, to start a different life, one that was best for us. We didn’t turn our back on Sag Harbor, we brought that whaler’s spirit of adventure with us. Over the years we have been gone, Sag Harbor is stilled referred to as home, and I am certain that when visiting we will slip back into the old ways, just like we never left. But I will say I am now more Minnesotan than New Yorker, more familiar with the call of the loon than the seagull. More apt to say “let’s go to the lake” than the beach, and remember the need to be “Minnesota Nice.” But that doesn’t mean my veins are entirely void of salt water!
The trip wrapped up on Thursday and I spoke with the Express about a possible story, I am hoping it pushes people to this blog. Arabella drew lots of attention and it might have helped that I took up two parking spots in front of Marine Park and people wanted their bagels. We met a lady who has family in Golden Valley, MN, the kids are students at Hopkins H.S. It’s a small world when you think about it. Mabel was a hit with whomever she met and absorbed the attention with a ladylike grace. When we pulled out for one last look at Otter Pond, the Village disappeared in my side mirrors, the rear view is blocked by the camper. Today felt like a day from my youth, when I would ride my bike to Grandma’s house, the warm sun shining upon a summer of possibilities. That’s how I choose to remember Sag Harbor.
Three ferries were involved on my ride to Connecticut. South Ferry brought me to Shelter Island where I stopped at the cemetery to see my Great Grandmother and Great Aunts. My Great Grandmother became the tax collector when her husband died leaving her with five kids and one on the way. She made the decision to move across the ferry slip to start life anew, I can only imagine her courage as times were tough back then. I picked up Annette Hinkle’s book, Sag Harbor 100 Years of Film in the Village, at Canio’s Books and caught up with her to have it signed. Take a look, Sag Harbor’s history never fails to amaze me. Its available at the Wharf Shop as well. The next ferry took me to the North Fork and I as made my way towards Orient Point I realized the Island, and especially Sag Harbor was behind me and I have a lot of ground, both physically and mentally laying before me.
As I had never boarded the Orient Point Ferry, and my backing skills are still undefined, I parked the car and walked down to the ferry terminal to see what the process was. I was early by about 90 minutes and didn’t want to get stuck before I was to be loaded. After getting a load briefing from the counterperson, Mabel and I walked the docks and spoke with two brothers just back from fishing for striped bass. They have lived on the North Fork their whole lives and I think were on the job as there was an evasiveness when I asked pointed questions. The fishing is better than in the past and they feel the limits have helped the fish population. A charter captain I spoke with rang the same sentiments concerning the limits effect on the striper population.
Time to get into line to load onto the ferry. It was reminiscent of loading a C-5 and I bet the same length, the ferry just wider. I was wondering who load planned the cars and if they calculate the center of balance for the boat. Thinking harder on the subject, I bet they don’t. The ride was uneventful, over an hour of Long Island Sound scenery, Mabel content to sleep in the car. We passed by the submarine base, only one being worked on, its brothers under the sea and then unloaded at New London. I punched the coordinates for the Mystic KOA into the GPS, I stopped using Google, and we soon found ourselves setting up for the night.
Today’s Gratitude: Friends and family that you can always speak to with familiarity, even though time and distance provides separation.