Monday, August 2, 2010

24 hours in Amagansett

Ah the Hamptons. A place of lore and wealth. At least that's what it had always been for me. My experience with the Hamptons had been through the eyes of characters while I watched the ladies of Sex and the City attend a party, Blair on Gossip Girl plan her next scheme or the Beales of Grey Gardens descend into squalor. As a resident of NYC for a little more than 13 years now, going to the Hamptons is finally something I can say I've done.

My moment came randomly. The executive director of the theatre where I work, hence known as The Boss, for the second summer in a row has taken the month of August to chill in the Hamptons. This year she was able to move in a week early and she invited the management staff to have a relaxing day at the house. None of us thought that my immediate boss would go and the other two guys I work with definitely didn't want to go, but I was desperate to go. Not desperate like "I'll kick, scream and pout" if you don't let me go, but desperate to find a way considering the most convenient opportunity ever, had finally presented itself in my life.

My boss, who is always good to me, found a way for me to be the representative from my department to attend. Excited beyond belief is how I felt. I was going to the Hamptons with friends and getting to stay in what was sure to be a fabulous home.

Departure time between 2:30pm and 3pm on Monday. I joined Ladybird, Miss JJ and Princess Fehr in a CR-V and we began our 24 hours of leisure. We faced the required traffic upon exiting NYC. It's just a fact of life. It doesn't matter at what hour you're departing, there will be traffic. It wasn't major delays, or even minor, just more leisurely than we really wanted for our leisure.

I don't want to make light of the travel or the traveling companions. There was lively conversation and music in that vehicle as we made our way toward the summer destination of many wealthy New Yorkers. However, it was just a lot of I-495 connecting to NY-27 and watching the GPS and reading the Google Maps print out before we finally found ourselves driving in what to me could be any country town in America. Seriously, I looked around at the corn fields and large pieces of empty land and thought of my own home town, Arlington. It made me think about growing up in my small town and how I knew I had to get out of there and live somewhere bigger. I always knew that. Small town life was not for me. The interesting thing is that living in the City, the first thing I think of as a vacation getaway is going somewhere that is reminiscent of the town where I grew up. It's just relaxing and I think there is a sense of safety because it's mental familiarity.

We passed many winery's on our way to Amagansett. That perked me right up. So many winery's, so little time. Upon entering the Town of East Hampton, we crossed into the hamlet of Wainscott. Nothing much to write home about there. Lot's of nursery's with beautiful landscaping. Hydrangeas are everywhere in the Hamptons. I love hydrangeas. Then we find ourselves crossing into the village of East Hampton. The village of East Hampton as well as the hamlets of Wainscott and Amagansett are all part of the town of East Hampton, I'll explain. I did a little research. So it seems that a hamlet is a term people use to reference a community within a town that is not incorporated as a village. A village is an incorporated area located within one town. Therefore, the Town of East Hampton has the incorporated village of East Hampton and the hamlets of Wainscott and Amagansett. Hope that's clear. It is for me now. Anyway, back to Main Street. It is the main thoroughfare of the small village of East Hampton. On either side of the road it looks like part of 5th Avenue and part of 57th Street in Manhattan combined and the progeny of their coupling settled in East Hampton. Cynthia Rowley, Coach, Tiffany & Co., Elie Tahari, Gucci, Ralph Lauren, Hugo Boss, Tommy Hilfiger, BCBG Max Azria, Chloe, Michael Kors, and Tori Burch. There were also many Citarella locations, interesting local shops, and the requisite Starbucks. You just can't get away from the coffee giant's chain of stores no matter where you go. I'm sure there are stores I missed or can't remember, but it was amazing to see them there and to know that at least for the summer months, they can sustain themselves with the wealthy clientele who darken their doors.

This was East Hampton. Many of the homes had names and the lawns were beautifully manicured. Oh, and Grey Gardens is there. Those of you who know me know that the prospect of actually seeing Grey Gardens made my heart flutter.

We arrived at our destination on Scrimshaw Lane and I just felt myself relax as I looked at the house in disbelief. Simply stated, it was sprawling. It was gorgeous. I was overjoyed at the idea of staying for just one night. I couldn't imagine how The Boss felt about staying for a month. One immediately asks the question of, "How can I come back to the City after this?" Of course, we all have to return to the reality of our lives at some point. However, living in that house, surrounded by all those trees and the sounds that emanate from them, paired with the relaxing pool and nearness of the ocean would make returning to normal hard for anyone. I didn't even think about the people who live there year round for whom the beauty I was marveling at was just normal life. An everyday occurrence to be taken for granted.

I was thankful. Thankful to be there. Thankful to be invited. Thankful to work in a facility where the people truly get along and enjoy each other's company. People who get along so well that there was never a question that spending the evening together would be awkward.

The Boss showed us around the house. There were at least 8 bedrooms, with living areas, a kitchen and other rooms thrown in for good measure. Almost every bedroom had its own private bathroom. It was something to marvel at as we made our way through the labyrinth of twists and turns and stairs to levels both up and down. One could easily have gotten lost or confused. My room was off of the kitchen, through a gate, left up a set of stairs, across a small foyer, turn right and pass through the laundry room into a small open space used as a children's play area and up another set of stairs. It was yellow, my favorite bedroom color. It was lovely.

After the tour, I quickly found myself on a plushy lounge chair by the pool with a glass of white wine in my hand and the highly enjoyable Princess Fehr sitting beside me. The stress of the City was gone. We left it somewhere on NY-27. The air was fresh, the sounds were peaceful, the mosquitoes were biting and the OFF! was being sprayed. Oh, and Eliza, the golden retriever, was wet from the pool and constantly ridding her body of the water by shaking next to Princess Fehr and me. A sight that made everyone laugh, every time. Eliza's reason for coming to us was we had made the mistake of throwing her ball, so she kept bringing it back to us. I got wise and started throwing it across the pool to the grass on the other side. It took her a while to figure out where it was and bought Princess Fehr and me some wet-dog-free time. There were moments, however, that I found myself covering up completely with a beach towel to protect myself and my precious drink from the spattering of water as she continued to shake and shimmy next to us. This elicited laughter from the crowd as well. I'm nothing if not good for a laugh.

I can't remember when in I put on my swimming trunks, but let's just say by this point I have them on.

A few more people had arrived and dinner was prepared. We had steak and ribs. That's all I can remember. Oh, yes, we had switched to Pinot Noir Rose by this point. So that's white wine and Rose so far. It's funny, but I can't remember what else we had on the table, by the pool, for dinner.

As the evening progressed we found ourselves in the pool again. We were swimming and diving and jumping. Eliza was big on rescuing. There was a moment where I was using a floating tube and she jumped in the water, bit down on the tube and began to pull it out from under me. She swam to the stairs, climbed out of the pool, and took her rescued tube to safety. This would be something we would all watch until we departed the next day. It was always funny, but there were times when we would only jump in when she was not readily available to rescue us.

There was a small group of us that had moved to the other side of the pool. The side where I kept sending Eliza to get her ball earlier in the day. We had a fire over there and chairs circled around it. We were still drinking wine. I had moved on to regular Pinot Noir by this point. That's white, rose, and red for those keeping tabs. There was a bottle of tequila, as well as other things, being passed for those who wanted to partake. There were huge marshmallows for s'mores. I made at least four myself and then started just roasting marshmallows with chocolate stuffed inside. This was not my idea. I copied it from a co-worker sitting next to me. I remember making two of those. The next day, rumor circled that I had made 12 s'mores. Lies I tell you, all lies. I was inebriated, but not that unaware.

When I went to bed that night, I was still connected to my brain enough to know that I should take a couple of Excedrin and drink some water in order to combat a hangover the next day. I slept like a rock. I barely moved. I knew this because the bed linens were barely ruffled.

I was in the room that had an Asian theme. When I found out I would be in that room, it was only natural to me that I bring my kimono. When I told The Boss I was bringing it, she burst out laughing. The kimono story made it's way into the staff meeting so everyone knew I was bringing it. So, when I got up the next morning, I emerged from my room in my kimono. There were only a few people up to appreciate it, but those who were, did. I woke up that morning at 8am. By 10am, with the smell of sausage and bacon in the air, I had to excuse myself from the table. I didn't tell anyone where I was going, I just made my way back to my room and laid on the floor. I was feeling a little queasy. It was weird. I thought I had done a sufficient amount of hangover prevention the night before. I guess I hadn't. I laid in the floor very still. I just thought, "If I lay here very still, it will pass." Eventually, I got up in order to move to the bed. Bad idea. The back of my tongue and throat gave me that old familiar feeling just before I vomit. I ran to the bathroom and found myself hugging the porcelain god. There was the coffee, the only thing in my stomach. I couldn't believe this was happening to me. My first trip to the Hamptons and there I was throwing up with a hangover. What a waste. I'm usually pretty good about knowing when to stop drinking because hangovers are no fun at all. The older I get the longer it takes to recover. Who wants to waste and entire day recovering? Not me, but that's exactly what happened.

Ladybird, came to check on me. You see, no one knew where I had gone. He came into my wing of the house and called my name. I mustered the strength to say answer him. He opened the door to find me laying on the bed. I explained my situation and he laughed a little, told me to feel better and closed the door. I continued to lay there, unmoving. He came to check on me a little later. I was still in the same position. He said that I would never live this down. I smiled as I acknowledged him. I knew that was the truth. First trip to the Hamptons. Everybody knows it. And here I am wrapped in a kimono, laying as still as possible, fighting the need to vomit, while all of my friends are out enjoying the beach, pool, weather, whatever. So smart am I.

I finally felt well enough that I could function outside of the bedroom. I made my way downstairs for the second time that day. All of the people who were scheduled to arrive on Tuesday had arrived. They all knew of my situation. All I could do was keep my dark glasses on and smile. I'm sure there were a few times I shook my head in disbelief that this was actually happening.

Ladybird, asked me if I still wanted to see Grey Gardens and if I felt well enough to do so. I wanted to, so we made our way to the CR-V. As soon as we started driving I had to roll the window down and take a deep breath of fresh air. My stomach wasn't as sure that I was ready for this as my brain was. Once the road got smoother, it was easier for me. We knew the general vicinity of where we were going, but not exactly where. The GPS was a little funky and would not let us put in the address for Grey Gardens. We made our way to Lily Pond Lane and peeled our eyes for West End Road. There on the right was #4 West End Road. That meant that the house, concealed by trees and flowering bushes across the street had to be #3. We backed up the vehicle and though an opening in the trees we could see the porch. There is was. Grey Gardens. I've seen the documentary countless times. I loved the musical and the HBO film. It's such a fabled story of two women who refused to leave their crumbling home. Two women who would rather live without plumbing and with cats and raccoons than give up the only thing that was truly theirs. Two women who had been born into aristocracy and had watched their fortune fade and their friends retreat from their lives. I was struck by the fact that I was actually there in front of the house. It was real. This was actually the East Hampton that Little Edie so despised. Even though I was still a little nauseous, I was so happy to be there and seeing that small glimpse was a highlight of my trip. I wasn't able to get a picture of the house. That is an unfortunate regret, but there just wasn't enough of the house visible. I was there though, and it will live in my memory.

Back to the house, it was time to retreat to my room once more. I needed to lay down and just sleep. I took a nap and felt better still when I awoke. I came downstairs to find food on the table. There were grilled chilled legs, grilled sirloin burgers, pasta salad, and peaches. I managed a chicken leg and half of a burger, as well as, a small portion of pasta. This was good. Finally, after an entire day, I felt like eating and was able to keep it down. There were merely two hours left of our time in Amagansett at that point.

I know that I wasted the entire day due to the previous night's alcohol consumption. I have beat myself up about that. It will just become one of the stories of my life that peppers into the conversation for humor. The story of how I had 24 hours in the Hamptons and spent most of it recovering. Ah well, that means another trip is in order. Maybe this time just a day trip on a train to the village of East Hampton. Maybe a visit to the beach or to the stores that line Main Street. I don't know. What I know is, I was there with friends. They may laugh at my situation, at me or with me, but they are my friends.

The generosity of The Boss is an amazing blessing in my life.

I laughed, I drank, I relaxed, I smelled, I heard, I vomited, I saw, I remember.

Next trip, not as much vino, see the ocean and take a picture of Grey Gardens.