I found this essay that I wrote many years ago. Some things haves changed. I live in a larger house now which my husband and I built and run as an exquisite B&B. The cab ride from East Hampton to Clearwater Beach is $30. The A&P has had many incarnations. David's Cookies is long gone. The summer stores are now called "pop-up" shops. And though there are fewer local shops, many more people have discovered how wonderful it is to live here all year round.
I Love East Hampton!
On the bus moving eastward, seeing the transformation from crowding to space as I leave Queens, I watch the traffic, stretch my legs in the aisle, and fade into a magazine. I am a traveler. No requirements, only the rolling wheels beneath me taking me from one place to another.
At the start of my journey, as I put my knapsack and computer on the shelf, a woman in front of me complains, "You hit my seat three times." She turns away. She gets into an argument with the woman seated next to her: "These people come into a bus and think it's their living room." Her neighbor says to her, "Would you mind? I'm reading." Hostility cracks the air. But as the miles slip by all of this changes.
When I disembark in East Hampton, after two comfortable hours of unwinding on the Jitney, I feel completely happy. I decide not to spend 13 dollars on a cab. I knock on the door of the local bus, stopped for a red light. It always reminds me of a bright blue toy. The driver greets each passenger and lets folks off right at their houses. They live in homes nestled into little tracts of green foliage and sandy soil in the back roads of East Hampton. The houses we pass are weathered cedar, old but in decent repair, with yards full of toys, old boats, tools, the stuff of life, and lilacs, impatiens, roses, beach plums, the blooms of the season. All these homes were built before the super rich were here. This place was home to fishermen and farmers. The people on the bus are primarily Black and Hispanic, making their way home after work. They are welcoming and smiling even in the heat of this muggy summer day. One by one they arrive home. They say goodnight to each other and to me.
I close my eyes. I feel safe. Nature is pleased with herself here. Even the town is a celebration of beauty. No wonder artists see it and stay. On a gleaming summer day, the blue of the sky is a painter's dream, a solid wash of ultramarine, a touch of cobalt and white puffs laced with pinks and golds sheathe the town and back streets in joyous light. On foggy mornings the shops are busy with tourists. On beach days all the summer residents take to the ocean and bays while stores, exquisitely tantalizing, drip with expensive furniture, lamps and ceramics, candles and stationery, clothes from Milan, Paris, and L.A., galleries with fabulous and sometimes wacky art (portraits of an artist- unknown to me- in acrylic on pizza boxes, sculptures of imaginary and ugly! animals in found metal.) Expensive, expensive; windows, dressed in diamonds and jewels. Mannequins in brightly printed minis or flowing silks and Italian shoes look out on the nearly quiet, scrubbed street lined with flower arrangements. But on a beautiful day all this cannot compete with the ice cream vendors at the beaches just one mile away. Ah, but at night the town buzzes. Manhattan descends on East Hampton. Bookhampton overflows with browsers and buyers, David's cookies scent the street with sugar and butter, cash registers ring up sales as pockets full of itchy credit cards can't get enough of stuff they don't need.
In autumn, although the light remains dreamy, the pinks and blues turn orange and yellow. Red leaves and Indian corn grace the windows. The mannequins are warmer now, in luxurious woolens, long skirts and tights. Now weekdays are quiet because school has begun, but the weekends are for strollers and window shoppers, pumpkin happy in Pumpkinhampton. The farm stands, just outside of town are costumed for Halloween. Witches and ghosts, mums and cabbages and long fat stalks of Brussels Sprouts share the sunny days with giant pumpkins and crazy looking gourds. They are the stars of Indian Summer.
In winter there is hardly anyone here. The pace is ordinary. The locals, no longer feeling like hicks, no longer stomaching the mixed feelings that come with reliance on tourists' money, shop without crowds at the I.G.A. and A. and P., frequent their friends' local establishments, the few stores that are opened all year round, the movies. Some doors close permanently as stores go out of business only to surprise us next summer with some new, trendy goodies for sale by another entrepreneur.
In spring the big secret is that this surely is the most bucolic time of the year. The winter season is replaced with blooming flowers and newborn spirits, the locals pass and say "hi, hello." But as May turns to June, they run for cover or open their fruit stands and fish farms, their ice cream wagons and fancy delis and it all gets to be a zooey, way way east, New York City gathering place once again. We call it East 937th Street. And of course, there is always a wonderful influx of visitors from all over the world.
Oh. The bus driver is gently shaking my shoulder. "Wake up dear. This is Gerard Drive. Your stop." Last stop on the blue toy bus. Last stop before he retraces his route. My little magical cabin on Gardiner's Bay. I'm home.
- Rosalind Brenner