August: when the East End becomes The Hamptons and we pretty much stay in til after Labor Day

Snark alert: I've been coming Out East (as we say 11 months of the year) since I was small enough to be forced into pinafores and dots while the daughters of trendier parents were wearing itty bitty jeans. There were woods, there were wild beaches, bathing suits were sun-faded and legs were sun-tanned. You could ride (horses, not 4X4s) on the beach and lots of other places. My parents stuck to their liberal principles and politely declined golf invitations out here, but there were still plenty of things to do that didn't involve the arrival of the police.

When I first insisted to Himself that I was going to show him Several of the Best Places in the World With Beaches, he didn't believe me. By the time we reached the pond with swans where the Montauk Highway bends into Main Street, he just gawked. Wait till you see the beach, I said. Wait. Thus did I plant the seed for the purchase of Flintstone Manor (sometimes known as The Little House Off the Expressway).

Just to be clear, this post is about the row of towns, villages, hamlets and unincorporated areas along the eastern end of the south shore of Long Island that have seasonal as well as year-round populations, working East:  Remsenburg, Westhampton, Westhampton Beach, Quogue, Southhampton, Water Mill, Bridgehampton, Sagaponack, Wainscott, East Hampton, Amagansett and Montauk. The last two are separated by a narrow stretch of beach-y land called The Napeague. You can detect traces of the ancient languages of the Earliest Year-Round Residents in some of the place names, and elementary school children still learn the meaning of the suffixes  -ack, -ett, and -ogue. Essentially these all mean Place Where There Is No Mall. Lately they have also come to mean Place Where There Is No Parking. The beaches, however, are one long beach, facing South on the Atlantic Ocean, and even though the towns and villages regulate parking strictly, in the State of New York, the beaches belong to the people, and you can walk, sit, enjoy, anywhere below the high tide mark. You just have to get there. Sign that times have changed irrevocably: no more beach-going at night. Nostalgic sigh.

Remsenburg residents insist that Remsenburg is "not a Hampton" because it doesn't have an ocean beach, among other (less polite) reasons. Quogue is sometimes described as "the un-Hampton Hampton" because it doesn't have a night life. Believe me, this is a plus. Still, leave your house, and it can take time to shake the feeling of having gotten off at the wrong train station.

What I loved:  crafts and antiques fairs where locals emptied attics and trunks for the benefit of local museums and libraries.
What we have now:  professionally run shows where merch is trucked in and shows up again in the winter in Florida if it hasn't sold here.

What I loved: the local jeweler who sold class rings and tightened the clasp on your chain for free.
What we have now: a branch of Tiffany's.

What I loved: fish stores that sold local clams and whatever was caught (including local lobster) at Montauk that morning.
What we have now: lobsters from Maine or Canada, swordfish, halibut from Alaska, and farmed fresh-water fish

What I loved: if you went out to eat, your sitter's older sister or brother brought your food
What we have now: goood evening, my name is Blerim and I will be your waitperson this evening.

What I loved: real Madras
What we have now: the patchwork stuff

What I loved: benefits where you ran into people you actually knew.
What we have now: benefits where you stand behind a rope line and gawk, for the admission price of a trip to France with some 3-star dinners plus wine. Guess which we've been opting for!

What I loved: spur-of-the-moment dinners out when everyone was too sun-baked and tired to cook
What we have now: reservations required 2 to 3 weeks in advance to guarantee an hour wait for a table at a deafening bar

What I loved: worn jeans
What we have now: labels, logos and washes

What I loved: little beach cottages
What we have now: beach palaces with erosion lawsuits

What I loved: the oldest ranch in North America
What we have now: la Estancia del Querido Caudillo

What I loved: studios in the woods
What we have now: McMansions with paved and floodlit driveways

What I loved: farms and endless potato fields
What we have now: McMansions with paved and floodlit driveways

What I loved: galleries showing local art, individualistic clothing shops, goofy toy shops
What we have now: something that looks more and more like strip malls with shingles and shutters.

What I loved: being young
What I'm waiting for: October.

How old were you when you started getting nostalgic? When I was 12, I told my mother that camp was better last summer....


  1. This was a really interesting read. I have never visited the Hamptons but I'm a fan of Ina Garten (Barefoot Contessa). As portrayed in her books and TV show, the Hamptons are idyllic and serene, a veritable Utopia, but the picture you paint here is quite the opposite!

  2. Hi, Louise, Ina's charming food shop is something else I miss! another "victim" of excess prosperity, she sold it to the employees in 1996 to concentrate on tv, they closed in - 2004 or so when the rent skyrocketed, and there's now still another designer clothing store there. Great big brownies were a wonderful treat for patient little kids!

    The beaches and the sky are still infinite and glorious. I guess any beach area gets unbearably crowded at the height of the season. I'm lucky to be able to run out here whenever I need a break from the city during the rest of the year.

  3. Great post! I started getting nostalgic in my late 20's. I missed being able to eat candy bars and not worrying about gaining weight, for wearing a school uniform so I am never standing in front of my closet saying "i have nothing to wear", and for quiet sundays walking around the city, it's so crowded everywhere these days...

  4. Hi, Closet Crisis, yes, I miss eating and drinking whatever I wanted, not needing sleep, on bad days I even miss being proofed!

  5. I loved this post. My husband and I have been visiting a friend in Southampton for the last 7 years or so, and long to be able to afford just a modest cottage-y home there. But as you point out, the whole vibe of the area seems to be more about excess now and less about being relaxed and low-key. Still I dream...good for you for finding a place of your own there!

  6. Hi, Clicquot, thanks for stopping by. I hope you still love the beaches!


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