Come Labor Day we are just plum Hamptons-ed out.
Not another fundraiser, not another flown-in burrata delicately drizzled with basil infused EVVO preempting a pan seared branzino, not another Alec Baldwin, Billy Joel, Edie Falco, Nathan Lane or Sarah Jessica Parker sighting, not another paddle for charity board race, spin class, juice bar mash up or Surf Club infraction will cure us. Like the handiwork of many conscientious summer gardeners come late August, which seems to run amuck in a mangle of tomato and zucchini vines gone wild, the last days of August wear down even the most committed trend-followers to a late Sunday evening bumper-to-bumper purgatory crawl on the westbound lanes of the Long Island Expressway.
It’s just about this time that the natives get restless for a return to The East End. They edge out of their driveways and make a rogue trip down Main Street to see if the exodus has begun. Snappers begin to flood the bays as baitfish lure them close to shore and restaurant crews begin to count the days to Tumbleweed Tuesday. Horse trailers flank the green pastures of Sayre Park in preparation for The Hampton Classic, a Labor Day sendoff, where just four weeks earlier a billowing white tent flooded in sky blue vodka lights lured an excess of 1800 for cocktails and Hamptons-inspired finger foods at The Taste of Two Forks annual soiree.
In a whirlwind, the season has passed like beach sand coursing through our collective sunbaked hands. As you shake out your beach towels and toss the flip flops into the back of the closet for yet another year, take note of the rising tide that’s been gathering at our dusty heels…
Weekly headlines tell a tale of a rising death toll on our highways and back roads. An uneasy discomfort was sounded over pop-up surf camps from Old Town to Ditch Plains, and the über-trending night spots dividing Montauk’s Jersey Shore types from its Tribecca transplants have replaced drumming circle tensions which took the spotlight in Sagaponack just a summer or two ago. No worries if that doesn’t cover your pet peeve — we’ve also had our full share of parking hassles, anti-helicopter noise rallies, shark sightings, and party-house shake downs.
For the growingly cynical, this summer’s excesses are pushing the boundaries beyond the ‘we/they’ 50-yard line into an end zone that borders on flinty disturbance. One headline reads: “Are August Visitors The Rudest Of The Lot To Invade The Hamptons?” – prompting a rash of comments depicting the very battleground they are deploring – as opinions on both sides straddled the ‘you need our money so put up with our rude behavior’ division line. This sort of tinder box reactionary assault reduces discourse to outrage on both sides as August veers head-down on its way to the finish line.
Let it be said that we feel this way at the end of every August, though this one appeared to be hyper-charged from the start. The weather didn’t help with its relentless humidity drenched sunshine that fogged the reading glasses, which did little to aid searching texts while waiting on line for a juice smoothie at Provisions. That was after you spent 25 minutes looking for a parking space in the village before you just drove back home, parked the Jeep in the driveway and hoofed it back down Madison. Blame it on the economy, which maintained weak vital signs forcing the otherwise globe trekking adventurists to test their prowess on Georgica Pond, Napeague Harbor, Sammy’s Beach and Long Beach. Hey, they paid the going rate for their lobster rolls and little necks too.
The local papers find themselves in a sticky wicket as they try to thread a needle between supporting summer tourism and reporting on the August onslaught that hits many merchants and support staff like a tidal wave. The posting of an impromptu protest sign at the rotary on Scuttlehole Road last week posed a poignant observation – “Our Children Can’t Eat Your Money!” – it asserts, “No Farms No Food!” A heart wrenching cry against yet another conversion from farmland to summer estate in a region where what was once a lifestyle has become glossy magazine editorial backdrops to trendy fashion ads. While on Twitter “Hamptons Born” Joe Schwenk gains over 4,000 followers for sending out humorous missiles exposing the ridiculous requests of his “hedgie” clients.
Bad behavior aside, we have turned out in support of all the politically correct, pay-it-forward conscience and fund-raising must do events from the Animal Rescue Fund’s Summer Beach Ball to the Peconic Baykeeper’s “Celebration of Our Bays.” We have rallied support for our presidential candidates when Mitt Romney and Joe Biden came to town – albeit Biden arrived two hours late after they cleared traffic at the bustling Friday afternoon beehive that is East Hampton airport. An appreciative nod went out to James Taylor who kept his cool, gallantly resuscitated “You’ve Got A Friend” to a wilting attendance under the sweltering August sun as Biden’s motorcade eventually made it to the Ocean Road residence of Ellen Chester and Matthew Mallow in Bridgehampton.
It’s just beyond the human pale to be able to inch along the Montauk Highway for more than an hour and 20 minutes to get from Southampton to Amagansett without taking matters into your own hands and risking life and limb to cross over traffic to pick up the a hunk of Mecox Cheddar and summer peaches. It makes us all a little aggressive.
Just about every social exchange in The Hamptons, come late August, tests your patience, conviction and civility, whether you live here or not — which says more about how our modern lives are high wire acts that crave some down time to just chill, untethered and carefree — if we could all just afford it…
A former news editor, essay writer Christine Bellini is an editorial consultant who spends a good deal of her time pondering the cultural curiosities of The Hamptons from her Sag Harbor tree house.