Somewhat like October, April finds the East End in transition. The madness of the summer — and the crowd it brings — is not yet here, but with the warmer weather and brighter days, one knows it looms, lurking somewhere around the next corner.
Having an economy so dependent on tourism and the various service industries it requires tends to breed contradiction. Hearing locals complain about the “summer people” and their poor driving, their lacking manners, and the like, is rather like biting the hand that feeds you. Most of us desperately depend on the infusion of cash the summer brings to local businesses, since the economy out here is one that really thrives only during beach season.
Further, the East End peaks culturally during this time, as the artistic community balloons and the crowds encourage goings-on of every kind.
Is there a way, then, both to object to the insanity of the summer months and embrace the attendant economic and cultural benefits? There must be.
The physical beauty of this place is undeniable. And thus its draw. That we year-rounders sometimes are overwhelmed by the summer rush is just our frustration that this is not a private haven, but one well known for its beaches, its shopping, its niche as a vacation town that has great proximity to New York.
So why not simply come to terms with the fact that having easy access to a cultural metropolis during the lull of winter is going to work in reverse during the warmer months; that traffic on 27, that fender-bender on Main Street, being blocked in when parking is tight at a restaurant — these are unpleasant moments, sure, but are essentially a tax paid to keep the economy creaking along out here during the hibernation of the interim. Like a bear, the East End needs to fatten up over the summer if it is to survive the cold and lonely winter.
Watching the weather improve these last few weeks, the apprehension about incoming traffic is there, but so ought to be appreciation. The cycle must perpetuate itself, the throngs of beachgoers, bar-hoppers, and foodies must reappear. And with them come some of the theater, film, and music events that bring people out here, rather than draw us to New York City, adding a cultural richness to a place that sometimes can seem thin and superficial, especially in America’s collective cultural imagination, where The Hamptons are merely a decadent retreat.
After all, it is the escapist hedonism summer visitors bring that provides such a boon to the economy. The popular image of The Hamptons so many of us love to hate is really a feat of branding, a marketing tool that provides receipts for bars, restaurants, and hotels. We can despise the reality shows and vacation specials set out here, but we might not be as well off without them.
Indeed, if the masses of summer folk were ever to fail to materialize, delight at having the place to ourselves would quickly turn into terror that our angelic retreat was running out of gas.
Matthew Taylor is a reporter for The Star.