Thursday, September 30, 2010

Rain

This has been a rainy week here and its been a long time since we've had rainy weeks. It was a long dry summer and we lost some new white pines that had only been planted last spring in the back yard. And we had large brown spots all over the yard that are only now clearing up after a little TLC and the sprinkler. So rain is not unwelcome.

The rain is always a bit melancholy to me. The sound on the roof and windows is like the low hum of an electric bass or the slow cadence of a marching band. Its rhythm is sometimes loud and pounding but at others its just a gentle background noise, soothing and calm. Its easy to sleep in on rainy day and its equally easy to turn in early when the rain is filling the night air with its urgent sounds. As much as its needed, it can also be unwelcome. It makes any trip out of the house an ordeal of jackets, coats, umbrellas, and bags. And there are certain things one just doesn't do when its heavy and unrelenting.

We needed the rain and I'm glad its come. I'm equally happy that its gone for now. Day to day life is just easier without the rain.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Cars

Growing up in East Hampton meant that cars were really important. When we were young our friends were all within walking distance, but when we got older our cars were our freedom. There was no public transportation here so we had to find our own way around town - if we were really lucky we had friends who had their own cars (I didn't), and in my case my mother would occasionally let me use hers for an evening at "the library" or to visit a friend. Once we were juniors and seniors in high school our lived revolved around cars.

I remember some terrifying rides with guys who drove too fast and drank too much. In those days no guy could imagine a girl driving their car for them - they were too macho for that - and there was never a "designated driver". It was crazy when I think about it now. No wonder every couple years there was a horrible accident, usually with with multiple deaths, involving teen-agers. I still remember them all.

Being old enough to drive myself meant safer, saner rides and it also meant my circle of friends could expand to include the entire town, which was unheard of before that. I discovered a whole group of great friends who lived in Montauk and in my senior year we took turns spending Saturday nights in Montauk and the village. I had a good group of friends who stayed pretty close and we all had parents who were more than happy to have us hang out at their houses. So one weekend we'd be out in Montauk playing pool at someone's house, the next in the village at my house or someone else's watching TV or going to a movie. It was a great year, and our cars were our lifelines.

I was scared to death when my own kids started driving. The back roads can be treacherous out here, especially in the winter. But I also knew how important it was for them to be able to get to their friends homes in Springs or Amagansett. Growing up in East Hampton means that cars are really important.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Dark

The days are getting shorter now and by 7 its pretty dark out there. I miss the long days but at the same time, I like feeling as though its OK to be home and settled in for the night. There's something about daylight at 8pm that makes me feel as though I need to be productive and busy rather than watching TV or taking a nice long bath. So the shorter days do have their benefits!

Soon enough we'll be turning on the gas fireplace and snuggling under the faux fur throw on the living room couch. We try not to turn the heat on until November and October becomes a real test of our resolve, especially near the end. The older I get the harder it is to hold off! But with the new solar panels cutting our electrical bill way down, there's plenty of motivation to keep the gas bill lower too. The longer we can go without turning on that thermostat the better.

We don't use a lot of power in our house. With just the two of us here there isn't a lot of need for electricity. I rarely use the oven anymore and the washer and dryer are used only once or twice a week. It's a far cry from the years when I did a load if laundry every day and ran the dishwasher sometimes twice - after lunch and again after dinner.

But, the darkness has descended and winter is closing in. I think the electric and gas companies are more than happy to see it come. So as the shadows fall in the early evening and the sun lies lower in the sky, the bills will climb. And I'll be snuggling up under the winter throws that we leave all over the furniture all winter long.We have learned to be hardy people!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Home

I've been in Pennsylvania since the middle of last week visiting my daughter and her family. The area where she lives, known as the Brandywine Valley region, is beautiful and autumn is a great time to visit as their trees begin changing before ours do and their farms are still more plentiful, although sadly they are disappearing at an alarming rate there as they did here years ago. They are close to Amish country and seeing the horses and buggies as they clip clop along the local roads is somehow more charming and natural in the fall than at any other time. It just seems right and they bend into the scenery like part of the foliage. In some places you can smell the farms when you get out of your car, the mild aroma of manure mixed with newly mown hay and fall produce. It reminds me of growing up in East Hampton when the farms were everywhere and harvest was a special time.

Today I'm heading home though and I'll miss the people I'm leaving behind. Its always a pull for me because the ones I love live in both places. When I'm home I miss the ones here: when I'm here I miss the ones at home. It's one of the sad things about modern life that we tend to move so far away and sometimes I wish we still lived as we did 200 years ago, marrying locally and staying put unless so possessed with wanderlust that the gold rush or whaling ships beckoned. Life was hard then, but the people we loved were all right there, helping us get through it together. There's something to be said for that.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Walls

Going to yard sales really brought home a point recently about how East Hampton is changing in a not-so-friendly way. We went to two homes on Conklin Terrace, which was always a blue-collar, friendly street with modest homes and open yards where neighbors spoke to neighbors and everyone looked after each other. Most of the village was like that when I was growing up and we often walked through yards to get between streets, thinking nothing of the idea of "trespassing". No homeowners seemed to care - they knew who we were so if we misbehaved they knew who to go to! My but times have changed.

It seems that every time a house changes hands now in the village two things happen. First, it's either torn down and rebuilt or it's completely transformed from its original form to become a huge home on a tiny lot. No one seems to want simple ranch houses anymore and for whatever reason they expand in amazing ways. Second, they become like small fortresses with walls of green or fencing, everything short of a moat to keep eyes and bodies from entering inside its space. One house we went to had a wall built from the edge of the house to the property line, forming a solid barrier. Another had a wall of arborvitae with a solid gate, effectively making the house invisible from the street.

I grew up at a time when neighbors frequently walked over to talk to one another, easily crossing lot lines easily to have a friendly chat. I'm not sure if this need for complete privacy is a result of so many city dwellers moving here, tired of the hustle and bustle of their former life and longing for peace and solitude, or if its a sign of the times in general, with everyone wanting to be alone. Either is sad. I have no desire to close myself off from the rest of the world and the fact that my front yard is open for all to see is just one sign of that.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

North Main

Living "down hook" as the oldtimers used to say made me an interesting local growing up. I lived in the village, but not "upstreet" like the people who lived on Dayton Lane or Mill Hill. I lived on the south side of the tracks but only barely so it really didn't count. There were no children in my neighborhood so we hung out with the kids on Talmage Lane and further down Accabonac. I didn't feel like an "upstreeter" and yet I recently was referred to as an "uptown girl", which made me laugh out loud. Christie Brinkley may have been an uptown girl, but not me! We lived with bare wood floors and threadbare carpeting until I was in Junior High School and I was lucky if I got new underwear for the new school year. Most our shopping was done at Brill's under the bridge and my mother wore the same winter coat for twenty years.

So, although I lived within walking distance of the commercial core, North Main Street was really my neighborhood. My mother hopped at the IGA (as I still do) and Libert's was the barbershop my brother went to. Brill's, Moltisanti's Appliances, and the little luncheonette were places we frequented. We rode our bikes to the luncheonette and bought Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and Millie the Model comic books at a dime a piece. And if we were really lucky we had money for an ice cream cone, but that was rare.

There wasn't much traffic in front of our house then because not many people lived past Floyd Street. And those that did walked. We had plenty of walkers! Today on a busy summer weekday we have total gridlock in front of the house. Hard to imagine that back in the day! We rode our bikes on Montauk Highway, crossed easily where we needed to, and never worried about being hit by a car! In fact, when I was in elementary school I often walked down the sidewalk along Montauk Highway to Hackett's Garage where I'd cross to visit my friend Naimy who lived on the other side of the highway. I can't even imagine doing that today as an adult!

North Main was a quiet little street then but of course everything was. Change is inevitable. Sometimes for the better but sometimes not. I still wish I could walk over to North Main and shop in Brill's. But then again, there aren't many merchants like Bob Brill around anymore either...

Friday, September 24, 2010

Shadows

The sun is moving lower in the sky these days and the results are beautiful. I rode down Egypt Lane the other morning and half the Egypt green was still in the dark at 8am while the shadows of the trees reached out across the rest creating long fingers of dark green on the brightly lighted portion of grass. Daylight had come but the sun was low in the sky and shadows still covered much of the ground.

The evenings are equally pretty with the low sun creating beautiful patterns across the street from my house on the village green. As much as I hate to see the days getting shorter, as the temperature cools and the sun begins to drop in the sky I like watching the shadows play along the roadways and the fields - and I like settling into my house for the warmth of the couch and a nice comfort meal of homemade soup or chili. Autumn is a time of shifting our mindsets to home and hearth and the shadows seem to point the way.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Walking home

Talking about the drug stores reminds me what a great walk home I had from school every day. Of course it was hampered by the fact that I had to carry a load of books which weighed a ton - no one used back packs in those days - but I often stopped at stores along the way to get out of the cold or just to window shop. I attended the school on Newtown for six years, from 7th through 12th grades. So I walked down Newtown, left on North Main, just past Doc Edward's house where I'd cross over to the windmill, and down hook to my house on Accabonac. I had lots of great shops to pass along the way: Ross Jewelers, where I'd often stop to look longingly at the pins to be monogramed, or the ID bracelets, or the charms - whatever happened to be in vogue at the moment that I didn't have! I could stop at Fifth Avenue Fashions - especially if the new season's styles had just arrived - or at Rowe's to look at make-up I wasn't allowed to wear.

Sometimes I was lucky and someone with a car would come by and take pity on me. If it was two boys, one would hop out and I'd sit between them on the front bench seat. If it was a friend's mother I'd climb in the back to be dropped off as they passed my house on their way to the Springs. We never qualified for bus service because we lived just inside the 2 mile limit and that walk could be pretty cold in the winter, especially with the short skirts we wore. The Hook Mill hill was brutal when the wind would whip down Montauk Highway. If my mother took pity on us she might show up in front of the school and that was always a pleasant surprise but normally only happened when it rained.

It wasn't a long walk and it certainly didn't hurt me to make it - but I became quite good at finding rides home through those years. By the time I got into high school and friends actually had cars to bring to school, I rarely walked home anymore. And when I did I rarely did it without stopping somewhere along the way.

I'm thinking soon there won't be books to carry home. Everything will be downloaded to iPods or iPads - or whatever - and walking home will be a breeze!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Drug Stores

I think its amazing now when I realize that there were two large drug stores right on Main Street - Rowe's Rexall and White's. We could actually park in the village in those days and run in to buy a prescription easily. No race to get back to the car before time ran out and no struggle to find a spot close by.

Actually, I spent more time in the drug stores when I was a bit older - about 13, 14, and 15 to be exact. Because suddenly my friends and I had to know exactly what the latest make-up trend was and we needed to be up-to-date on the best face creams and moisturizing lotions. We were suddenly thrust into adolescence and drug stores became our Nirvanas.

Seventeen magazine was our lifeline to the outside world in those days and when Twiggy appeared on the cover we analyzed every bit of her face. She had dark eye liner - was it black or brown? She had a bright blue shadow - and lots of lip gloss. I remember inspecting the Bonne Belle lip gloss at White's and wondering if it would have the same effect as the more expensive brand I couldn't afford. My mother would never allow me to wear make-up, but lip gloss I could get away with. Since I was old enough to baby-sit I had some spending money and it was easy to conceal a little lip gloss in my purse to put on when I got to school. All the girls met in the big bathroom on the main floor and we lined the mirrored wall comparing lip gloss and teasing our hair higher than we dared walk out of the house with.

In the summer we had to stop at one of the drug stores for tanning aids. We bought cocoa butter by the stick to smear on our faces and even tried the very first version of self-tanners that came out, turning our skin a lovely orange color. Baby oil was a favorite to take to the beach - yikes! No wonder there is a skin cancer epidemic in my age group!

We loved the 1 cent sales at Rowes, but White's seemed somehow more luxurious to us. We went there for make-up and might buy a piece of candy from their specialty candy counter to eat on the way home.

How simple our lives were then, and how complicated we thought they were!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Main II

Another favorite spot on Main Street was the 5 & 10, of course. Because that type of store was heaven for a child!

I remember along the left side of the store was a series of wooden bins with small toys. If I had a nickel or a dime I had my choice of things to buy. I could pick up a small bracelet, a nice rubber ball, or maybe a yo yo. There were toy soldiers and water pistols. There were jacks and tops, noisemakers and wind-up toys. It was such a fun place!

My mother would shop there for our shorts and tees - there and Brill's under the bridge were the best places for everyday clothes. (If I needed a dress we'd go to the Carousel Shop for that.) We could also buy anything we'd need for a birthday party from favors to crepe paper streamers for decorating. We bought the paper plates and napkins, the candles for the cake, and the paper surprise balls to set by each place setting.

Between the 5 & 10 and Marley's, just about anything a kid could need would be found. When school started we headed to Marley's for our loose leaf notebooks and dividers, pens and pencils, and composition notebooks. The only other places we ever needed to go were the drug stores, but that's another blog for another day. Right now I just want to think about the Christmas decorations at the 5 & 10 and how mesmerized I was by those shiny glass balls and boxes of tinsel. And then, when Frank Brill bought the donut making machine...well...what a great place that was.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Main

Newtown Lane was a great place, but Main Street was even better.

I loved the shops on Main Street when I was a kid. I went to Marley's for gifts when I had a birthday party to attend. I stopped into Pot Pourri to see Tessie if it was my mother's birthday because she would always have something in my price range (or so I thought! I think her prices changed with the situation...). Mom shopped at the Trudy Shop for her wardrobe and of course Village Hall was right there so when we needed to pay our taxes we'd stop in there. And there was the hardware store and two Drug stores and the 5 & 10 - places to buy everything we could possibly need all within walking distance of home.

The most exotic and fascinating shop was Mrs. Epstein's where seeming chaos reigned. It was a huge dry goods store where tables were piled with jeans and work pants and boxes lined the walls on shelves that went to the ceiling. Mrs. Epstein seemed ancient to me - she must have been in her 60s when I was small, buy she dressed in long skirts and wore her gray hair back in a bun, so she looked more like someone in their 90s might today. She walked slowly, hunched over and bent, and was always covered head to foot in dark clothing. And she was a merchant in the truest sense of the word. She knew every single piece of her stock and she knew every customer. If I were to go in and tell her I needed a shirt for my mother, she would push the ladder to the exact spot, climb up the steps and pull out a box which would have her size and style in. She was never wrong. You don't get that kind of help Macy's!

Now those were the days!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Newtown

A photo posted on Facebook recently set off a long series of comments from locals, all nostalgic for the East Hampton of our youth. It was a picture of a small boy getting his hair cut at the Libert Barbershop on North Main Street. The conversation began there but quickly traveled to Newtown Lane where one of the other barbershops was located - there were three in the village actually: Libert's, Dragotta's, and Vigneri's. It seems rather amazing that there were so many in such close proximity, but in those days many people walked for something as simple as a hair cut, and most commerce was centered in the village. I know Rana's was in Amagansett, again on Main Street, but anyone from Springs either had to cut their own or travel for a clipping!

I remember my brother walking to Libert's, but it was probably about the same distance for us to go to Dragotta's. To me, Newtown Lane was the most wonderful place to be and I would have gone there. Among my earliest memories are "play dates" with my friend whose parent's ran the dry cleaning shop there. I could walk from home and since both her parents worked in their shop, she spent her Saturdays in and around Newtown Lane. Since parents rarely drove us anywhere, we usually hung out with people who lived nearby and in my case, that was kids who lived in the village. Proximity made friendships.

It was a magical life to me! We wandered in and out of stores talking to shopkeepers, all of whom knew exactly who we were, of course. We even wandered out back to visit the horses in the barn next door at Percy Schenck's. We could feed them carrots - or hay from the loft. I think often of that beautiful open field when I pull into 66 Newtown to drop something off at the seamstress there. I doubt old Percy could have imagined what sits there now.

But the best thing about being on Newtown for any length of time was the chance that the fire whistle would blow, because that was the most exciting thing of all. When that happened, nearly every shop door would fly open and men would run from every direction to the firehouse. Within moments the trucks would be flying out the big doors and racing down the street in one direction or the other. Many of the merchants lived over their stores so their wives would simply go down the stairs to take over the cash register - or the door would be locked and when they got back they'd re-open. My guess is it would have been perfectly safe for them to leave the door open - not likely anyone would come in and take anything!

The shops along Newtown were all small and local - Lou-Ann, Speed King's, Ross Fanning Jeweler, the Carousel Shop - it was a typical downtown for a small community in the 1950s. I don't think those places exist anymore - everyone shops in malls and plazas - but it was a wonderful place to be on a Saturday. It's where all the action was!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Photographs

Last weekend I wandered through the exhibit at Clinton Academy that the Historical Society mounted as a tribute to the 100th anniversary of the East Hampton Star. It was a walk through my childhood as it turned out and I left feeling pretty nostalgic for the East Hampton of my youth.

The exhibit featured enlargements of photographs which came from The Star's archives. Some were very old, of course, and I certainly can't remember life around here 100 years ago. But many were from the 1950s and 1960s and I not only remember the photos appearing for the first time in the newspaper, but remember the people and events that prompted them. There was the photo of The Pelican, a fishing boat, which went down off Montauk in the fall of 1951 with over twenty souls lost. I wasn't born until 1952 but I feel as though I remember it because it was referred to so often during my childhood, as in "...make sure we have enough life jackets - remember the Pelican!"

Then there were some events that I remember well - like the Health Department's raid on Grey Gardens, and the "Halt the Highway" campaign. How amusing now to realize how iconic the Beales have become and how misguided those anti-bypass warriors were! Hindsight is a wonderful thing and few, unfortunately, are gifted with foresight.

In any case, no matter what your age, there are photos to delight your eye and tickle your memory. If you get the opportunity, make sure you stop and check them out.

Friday, September 17, 2010

False hope

I realized last weekend that Labor Day and the days that followed gave us a real sense of false hope. It was so quiet and peaceful here all week that I'd started to feel that sense of "home" again - like the crush was over and we were finally in our own space. Then the week-end hit. Oy vey!

I don't mind the streets being a little more crowded than usual, but when the TCOs go back to college so no one is around the help at the crosswalks, and the same volume of traffic traverses Main Street, its a disaster. I was so hoping we were really in a better place!

All that said, and now that it's Friday, I'm feeling a little anxious, I'm still enjoying this fall weather. The days have been outstanding and the temperature is ideal for me. I like closing windows at night and opening them in the morning, and I love carrying a sweater around in case the air is chilly. But I know "they" are returning today and that makes me want to stay at home and hide.

The best part of autumn is we know we have all week to get things done. If we need to hibernate in our homes for Saturday and Sunday we can deal with it because come Monday they'll be gone and we can venture out again to a friendlier, quieter place. But oh, the weekends!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Itch

I've been itching lately for a vacation.

My husband and I have been married 35 years now and I can count the real vacations we've had on my two hands. When we were younger the only time we were able to have real vacations were when my father took us on cruises, which he did three times. They were wonderful gifts for a mother with 4 little ones at home and I treasured every chance to get alone with my husband and be reminded of what it was I had fallen in love with in the first place. That's an easy thing to forget when you're busy with children and totally involved in your busy life, not to mention dealing with the issues of every day life. But every few years we were able to take a nice week away and be a couple again and I've always been grateful for those times.

As the kids grew and went off to college there were too many expenses taking precedence over a vacation. We had college tuitions to pay, home repairs to make, and a business to keep running. Our vacations consisted of mostly long weekends visiting family or friends. When we were going to be celebrating a big anniversary we saved for years to take our kids and my mother on a one week cruise and that's a wonderful memory. It made me envious of the people who are able to do that kind of thing every year because it was so special. That was five years ago now and I'm itching to get away again.

I've been blessed in my life with a wonderful family and nice home so I'm not complaining about what I don't have. But every so often, I get an itch and I want to just get in the car and drive to the Grand Canyon, or fly to California to see wine country. I want to see Hawaii and I want to walk through the Vatican. I'd love to rent a villa in Tuscany and wander through the Prada in Madrid. I imagine driving through the English countryside and sleeping in castles in Ireland. It's a wanderlust I can't deny.

Mostly that means I'm so ready for a real vacation.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Montauk

About this time of year I start yearning for a drive out to Montauk. There's something about the autumnal air and the light of September that just makes me long to stand at the point and look out at the vastness of the sea spread out in front of me. It reminds me of the poem I learned in Mrs. Webb's sixth grade class "Sea Fever" : "I must go down to the sea again, to the lonely sea and sky, and all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by..." I stand at the edge of the world out there and it's a wonderful place to be.

I've never lived in Montauk but I still feel as though I'm "going home" when I make the drive. With a great-great grandfather who took care of the lighthouse for 33 years and a great-grandmother who spent her entire childhood living in that light (not to mention her brothers who died there), it somehow seems like the old homestead and I like walking in their footsteps and thinking about the life they lived. Their closest neighbors were Montauketts and the artifacts they passed down speak to those friendships, like arrowheads and beaded purses. I wish my grandfather was still alive so I could visit the lighthouse with him and hear his memories of visits to his grandparents there, but alas, I never had that opportunity. So many things slip through our fingers when we're younger simply because we don't know enough to grab them.

I try to pass little nuggets of information along to my grandchildren when I get the chance, hoping some day they'll remember and appreciate the knowledge of their great-grandparents and others who came before and paved the way for them in life. I don't think any of my own grandparents thought that way and I wish they had. I still have so many questions.

So Montauk is calling. Maybe this week I'll heed the call...

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Mother love

I was watching TV the other day and saw Whoopie Goldberg talking about the recent death of her mother. As she talked about her mom, she lamented "I wonder if anyone will ever love me that much again". It brought tears to my eyes to think how right she was and while my own mother has been gone almost 4 years now, that ache of lost love is still so painful.

I thought I could never miss my mother any more than I already had in the two years following her death, until I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009. Throughout the year following that horrible day, I thought about Mom every single day. I missed having her to talk to, to cry with, to just listen to me. Most of all I missed having her to give me advice. I wanted her to tell me to be strong and everything would be OK because I know that if she said it I could, and it would. I wanted her to cry for me because I knew if she cried it would be OK for me to cry. I wanted her to make me soup when I was sick from chemo because only she made it exactly the way I longed for. Most of all, I just wanted her to hold me. Because I knew that in her arms I would find peace.

Just writing all that has made me cry and now I sit here bawling like a baby - the same way I did the night she died.

Whoopie was right. No one will ever love us as much as our mothers do.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Reality tv

The weather has cooled, Labor Day weekend is over, and East Hampton is beginning to feel like "home" again. And none too soon. I'll be grateful for the anonymity we'll soon enjoy and more than happy to give up the heat that we endured over this particular summer.

One of the things that most annoys me during the summer is the constant attention on celebrities and wealthy visitors that makes the rest of the country form this skewed view of what it's like out here on the East End. Earlier this month as Hurricane Earl approached us there was a cartoon in Newsday that showed the television reporter announcing that "...there's been a run on pellegrino, tarragon lobster salad, kobe beef and soy milk!..." and the couple watching the TV noted "They're panicking in the Hamptons..." I'm not terribly ignorant but I admit I have no idea what "kobe" beef is - and I've never even tasted soy milk - and I don't know those people in "the Hamptons" they're referring to. We were too busy putting our own deck furniture away to think too much about putting up supplies. But the stereotype is there and it annoys the heck out of us regular people out here.

Someday someone will do a nice movie or television show or magazine article about the real East End of Long Island. It will focus on the people who fish the waters, run the businesses, clean the beaches, and mow their own lawns. It will show true locals who were born and raised here, trying hard to make ends meet and stay in this beautiful place that their ancestors discovered long before the rich and famous decided to make it their summer playground. And it will show the rest of the world that there are real people here who work hard, honor their roots, care for their surroundings, and usually buy hamburger. Now that would be reality tv!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Marilyn

As I mentioned yesterday I watched a great old movie last week - "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" - which took place in the great era of travel by boat and train - a time when mystery connected women and men and their relationships. There's not much mystery left in such things anymore and that's a shame, although I have no desire to return to those days depicted in the movie.

But the real joy of that old chestnut was seeing Marilyn Monroe at the very top of her game, as sexy and talented as she possibly could be, almost innocent in her voluptuousness and sweet in her naivety. She was truly one of a kind and a victim of her own beauty in so many ways. In this movie she shines both musically and physically, and she is beyond sexy. Which really makes me wonder.

How would things be different for Marilyn today? Would she be taken more seriously by today's society and not be as taken-advantage-of as she was during the pre-women's movement Hollywood? Women like Angelina Jolie are admired for their business sense and not seen only as sex-symbols, but then there has never been another woman quite like Marilyn. Watching Mad Men on TV makes me so aware of the challenges women faced being taken seriously and I get angry thinking about the women like Marilyn who had so much more to offer than they were given credit for.

I would liked to have known Marilyn. And I wish she'd been able to really fulfill her promise. What a talent she was.



Saturday, September 11, 2010

Train cases


I was watching an old movie the other day and noticed a woman carrying a matched set of luggage - three pieces - which included something my mother called a "train case". It was a small rectangular box-type piece with a handle, the smallest of the leather set. It set me off on a trail of nostalgia as I was fascinated with my mother's, which was a pretty carmel-colored brown leather and still soft after many years. When the top was opened it revealed compartments in either side which lifted up and out in a sort of accordion fashion, each side having individual places to keep things with lift-up tops made of the same leather with grosgrain ribbon handles to open them with. They were small and I suppose were used to hold make-up and jewelry, and perhaps a couple pieces of lingerie. I'm assuming that because I never saw my mother use hers and I have no idea what women did with them. But I'm thinking if they were called "train" cases it meant that they were the one piece a woman would keep with her on an overnight train trip, the larger pieces going in the luggage compartment.

I guess with travel changing so much over the years following my mother's marriage - first the popularity of car travel and then the ability to travel by plane - the train case became quickly outdated and a relic from the past that she couldn't bear to toss out. It was probably from the set of luggage she bought for her honeymoon and had sentimental value, the rest of the old set long gone in favor of more modern, soft-sided pieces. But those train cases are charming little pieces of nostalgia and speak of a more romantic time, when no woman would be caught without her "necessaries". What a great era!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Breezes

I think one of my favorite things about living on the East End is the wonderful ocean breezes that we get here. I was sitting in my living room the other day and although the thermometer said it was 80 degrees outside, as far as I could tell it was a perfect, cool day because the ocean-tempered air was flowing through my house from front to back, making it feel more like 70. It was delightful.

It reminded me of a conversation I had with my nephew over twenty years ago now. He'd gone out to the mid-west to attend a special camp over the summer and talked about the intense heat. He said he'd wait for the breeze to blow to cool him off and when it did, it was hot. He'd never experienced hot breezes before and he was a bit taken aback by the very idea of it. I explained to him how the air moves over the ocean,which cools it down, and then when it comes onshore here its a little like a natural air conditioner. I've never forgotten that conversation because it reminded me how we take things for granted when we've always had them. For those of us who grew up here, the temperate effect of the ocean is one of them.

September's weather is perfect for me and the breezes cool and delightful. I know some prefer the heat of August and others love the cold of the winter, but for me, it's all about September. And East Hampton in September is never prettier, with the flowers still out and the air diffused with light as the sun hangs a little lower in the sky. This is my month, and my season, and I love it here right now. It's hard to even think about going anywhere else.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Gym

It feels good to be back at the gym after some weeks that I had to take off. Between surgery and problems with my feet, I've spent way too much time sitting in the past month or so and now that I'm back on my regular schedule I'm feeling much better about my health in general. There's something about working out every day that makes me feel as though I'm in good health. That may be deceiving but I feel better when I'm physically active. I feel the difference in my endurance and the way my body works. It seems as though the older I get the more important it is to stay active, using the muscles and tendons that I have, keeping them strong and ready for when I need them. I feel the difference in my knees and my thighs as well as my heart and my brain.

All that said, I absolutely hate exercise. I don't enjoy a single minute of it, from the time I put on my sneakers to when I take them off again. I do it grudgingly and it takes a great deal of willpower to get me to the gym every single day. I do it for the same reason I eat vegetables - I may not like it but I know how important it is.

Wouldn't it be wonderful if they would discover being a couch potato was good for your health? It's on my wish list. Just like sugar being the fountain of youth.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

September morn

When I woke up early last Saturday morning I came downstairs and opened all the windows (which we had closed in case Hurricane Earl decided to make a visit). As each one slid opened the most wonderful cool breeze came rushing into the house, filling it with the glory of a September morning. I love this time of the year.

I love the cool mornings and evenings and I like opening my windows at night and pulling the comforter up over my shoulders to sleep. I enjoy the lack of humidity and the breezes that come in over the ocean. There's a very specific "feel" to September mornings and there's no missing it when it arrives. I don't dread the heat of the day and I'm more than pleased when the weather report is in the 60s and 70s instead of the 80s and 90s.

I could tell Saturday morning that September had arrived and it was dark outside when I came downstairs at 6am. The days are getting shorter and we're creeping towards winter now. Summer seemed to go by in a flash this year, full of wonderful memories and treasured moments. Hopefully, September will hold delights of its own - I know that each day will remind me of how lucky I am to be alive.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Recovery

I spent most of this past week on the couch recovering from some elective surgery and I hated it. Somehow I thought this would be a simple thing to go through - after all, I'd had many more hours of much more complicated surgery in 2009 so this would be a piece of cake, right? Wrong! I was really knocked out by this and found myself thinking "Why did I chose to do this anyway?" But, although it was an elective procedure, it really needed to be done - so it was.

And that brings me to my point here. Because the really positive thing about going through surgery - or any other medical type crisis - is how blessed we feel afterward. I was touched to find flowers at my door when I came home from the hospital. I was happy to have family stop by every day to help me pass the time and take my mind off the discomfort. I was blessed to have a spouse who ran me back and forth to Southampton, as well as helping me change bandages that were in awkward places. I appreciated my comfortable house where I sat for days recuperating, and I was grateful for the lesson, once again, that God has gifted us with amazing bodies that heal themselves and bounce back in astonishing ways - every day a little better - until we're back to our old selves again. It's good to be reminded of all those things and I know I won't be taking any of them for granted now.

Sometimes our struggles can become our finest hours.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Labor Day

Labor Day surely isn't what it used to be. I remember when Labor Day meant everyone was off for the day and nothing was opened - it was a day for the "laborers" of all kind to rest, which meant few trains and buses, stores all closed, no one anywhere having to work (with the exception of doctors and nurses who never had holidays off). In my family it meant a nice long weekend as my father's business would be closed from Friday at 5pm until Tuesday at 9am. There were cook-outs and parties and lots of socializing involved and I looked forward to it every year as the last really carefree time before school started.

Somewhere along the line we've missed something because now it surely doesn't mean a day - or a weekend - off for most people.

Someone reminded me recently that Labor Day used to mean "white sales" - sheets, towels, all sorts of linens were on sale for that weekend. I think it was the 1960s when that started and suddenly the flood doors were opened and Labor Day would forever more mean "sales". Poor laborers! They no longer have Sundays off - its been many years since they did - and they no longer have their own holiday.

Yesterday we ventured over to Riverhead to visit the Tanger outlets because my recent weight loss has meant I don't have much of a wardrobe for the cooler months coming up. It was a picture-perfect day and there were plenty of people taking advantage of all the sales there. Families shopped for school clothes and couples shopped for electronics - the restaurants were busy and the roads were teaming. We went early enough to enjoy ourselves and spent the afternoon relaxing and the evening at home. Today, my husband is at his office working, trying to prepare for a computer switch-over that has to take place for business tomorrow.

Labor Day just isn't what it used to be.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Cleaning

It's been weeks since I've been home for a Saturday and my house is showing the signs of being badly neglected. In fact, if I were to need an ambulance I'd be horrified to have to let anyone inside. This week I've seen plenty of spider webs, and sighed over toilets that need scrubbing, knowing that Saturday would be a heavy-duty cleaning day here. And so it begins. Time for some fall cleaning around here.

I've never made a secret of the fact that I hate housework. I hate cleaning bathrooms especially, but it's a necessary evil and I normally do it here every Saturday morning. Then I do the vacuuming and dusting, getting rid of whatever spider webs have been spun during the week, and cleaning the stove and counter tops. Now that September is here it's time to think about some heavy-duty fall cleaning but there won't be time for that this weekend. I'm still recovering from some elective surgery and I'm somewhat restricted in terms of lifting and reaching, so the basics will be all I do.

I admire women who keep immaculate homes. I have them in my own family - and I fight feelings of jealousy because I know mine will never measure up. But I can't be too envious because I also know its my own choice. It's something I've accepted as a major shortcoming and I have nobody to blame but myself. It's not that I don't love a neat and orderly house because I do. I just don't want to do the work to achieve that goal myself. I'm not quite in the "hoarder" category, but I do tend to hold on to things I should toss and that doesn't help matters any.

Well, this after weekend at least get the place clean enough for healthy living and I guess that's the most important thing. At my age I'm not likely to suddenly change and become the perfect housewife, cleaning and scrubbing the place to death. That may very well be my husband's fantasy, but as with most fantasies, its nowhere near reality.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Whether weather?

I'm writing this post early on Friday morning because I'm not sure what tomorrow will bring. Hurricane Earl is supposed to pass us today and at this point no ones knows for sure what he might do. They're predicting it will pass to the east of us, which is fine by me, but I've been through enough of these storms to know they often make odd turns at the last minute and anything is possible. We may not have electricity Saturday morning so I'll prepare ahead of time and put a pre-dated post in the schedule.

When we were kids hurricanes seemed to be much more common than they are now. My children can remember Bob and Gloria, but that's it. By the time I was their age I'd lived through Donna and Carol, Edna, Belle, and many more that I can't remember the names of. It seemed to be a regular occurrence in the fall and it wasn't unusual for us to miss a day of school due to one barreling up the coast with Long Island in its scope. I remember doing homework by oil lamp and listening to the wind wailing away outside all night long. Every summer Mom made sure the glass hurricane lamps were full of fuel because the season was coming and she wanted to be prepared.

We're lucky to live in the village and be on the same power lines as the business district because it means our electricity is up and running within a couple days of any bad outage - I don't remember ever going more than 3 days without it. Friends who live in the outer edges of East Hampton have gone up to two weeks with no water or power and some have even come in every morning and used our shower before work. Now we have an outdoor shower too so it will be even more convenient for friends if need be. I'll simply leave a pile of towels outside on a chair and let them come and go as they please.

If we were hit badly by Earl, it could be a long weekend, but I'm guessing we won't have any more damage from this storm than we did the ones back in March, which left us with all that water in our basement for months. Of course, there are three other storms lined up behind this one so who knows what the next few weeks will bring. Could be like the early 1960s all over again!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Going solar

Those of us who are part of the hippie generation will remember that Earth Day, environmental awareness, and energy conservation are all part of the heritage we hand down to our children. I remember my 6th grade teacher telling us about Rachel Carson's new book "The Silent Spring" and then teaching us about our use of pesticides and the negative things we were doing to the earth - and ourselves - in the process. I remember the first Earth Day when I was in high school, and although hippies get a bad name sometimes, they were largely responsible for our growing awareness of how important is was to take care of our surroundings and become a society of conservation rather than consumption.

When we were newlyweds we experienced the first energy crisis and had to stand in long lines to buy gasoline for our cars, but only on odd or even days that corresponded with our license plates. We put flow restrictors in our shower heads and we started recycling. And then...we became cynical. We watched as other people installed multi-head showers that mimicked the rain forest. We read that all the things we recycled were being thrown together at some transfer station and not recycled at all. And we watched as politics controlled what kind of energy we were able to use. We were a generation of optimism but became one of complacency.

After all these years, and after all the nonsense, we have finally realized an early dream. We have installed solar panels on our roof and are creating energy. Although its not enough to run our house with, it's a small step toward returning to our 1960s roots and suddenly I'm of the mindset that we can make a difference. I've installed new energy efficient light bulbs and I'm trying to find space for recycling my bottles and cans again. And I've stopped buying water in bottles and instead use a metal water bottle at the gym.

They say we all return to our youth in our old age. The fact that I've been longing for a smocked, embroidered shirt, macrame belt, and bell bottom jeans makes me think I must be getting really old...

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Last hurrah

Today is Thursday and we're into Labor Day weekend - the last hurrah of the summer. Cue the angel chorus!

This has been an amazing summer. The weather has been, if a little hot at times, pretty amazing. We had so little rain the grass burned out and we had to water the flowers like crazy to keep them from turning into scorched brown twigs. The heat was sometimes oppressive, but we bought an air conditioner for our bedroom for the first time ever and I slept well throughout the numerous heatwaves. Nothing was rained out - every event on our calendar was attended and wonderful. We had over a month with out out-of-town grand kids in residence and loved ever moment of it. We made s'mores on the beach, collected shells, and laughed at them as they squealed in the outdoor shower or ran away from the surf. We watched as all the grand kids played together and made memories that would last their lifetimes. We attended a family wedding and we did some nice projects around our house, like replacing our deck and renovating a bathroom, as well as installing solar panels as an investment in the future. There were no bad times this summer, and after last summer, which was pretty much a lost year, it was a huge blessing.

All that said, I am so glad its September and this is the last weekend of the summer season. Because now we're in to my favorite time of the year and I'll treasure these days even more. I can't wait to decorate my back steps with pumpkins and start shopping for Christmas. I love, love, love the holidays and the weather in the autumn is the best of the year. I'm ready to pull out my long-sleeved shirts and cozy sweaters and pop on the gas fireplace when the evenings get chilly. And most of all I'm ready to have the freedom to stop at the IGA whenever I drive by and not have to plan around the long lines and silly tourists. I want to run to Southampton in 25 minutes instead of 45 and I want to drive the main roads again so I can stop at K-Mart or King Kullen if need be. And I know for sure that come Tuesday morning it will seem like East Hampton is again our little hometown and the people I pass on the street are friends.

I really can't wait.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Beautiful September

I can feel a sigh escape my throat this morning as the realization sets in that today is the first of September. Because now we are entering my favorite time of the year in East Hampton - the autumn. Oh, I know its not officially autumn yet, but for me, September and the passage of Labor Day is the signal that the best of the year is about to begin. Who would ever want to leave here in September?

It's always a treat for me to see new seasons come along as winter turns to spring, spring turns to summer, and now summer to fall. I like the changes in temperature, I enjoy the new flowers and crops in the fields, I love changing out my clothes so I have a different wardrobe, and I always look forward to the holidays and special events of the coming season. With September comes cooler nights and shorter days, long sleeved shirts and lightweight jackets, and Montauk Daisies in the garden. It's a transitional month where we adjust to the idea of school days and pumpkin patches while still enjoying the blue skies of summer and the warm afternoons in the sun. It's a wonderful month in East Hampton.

Soon the birds will be working along the shore and the beaches will be busy with surf casters fishing for stripers. The kids will be back at school and we'll all start thinking about Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. The light is never any prettier here than in September and I love the way the big estate lawns look in the early morning. If you live here on the East End, ya gotta love September!