This summer will go down, in my opinion, as the one in which the affluent finally burst the South Fork’s seams — and maybe the North Fork’s, too.
Plenty of part-time residents here, or year-round summer people (as a friend described her own tribe years ago), are down-to-earth members of the middle class who live in relatively simple houses on wooded, quarter or half-acre lots. But from all appearances the East End is being defined by those who have redefined luxury in multimillion-dollar houses, used only occasionally, and those who are ready, willing, and able to put down six figures for a short seasonal rental.
Tickets to glitzy, big-name benefits are selling like hotcakes, I’m told, but it seems to me that many of those who are so visible here are generally uninterested in hearing the specific problems and concerns of the community: the growing need for food pantries, the effects of the recession on the town, not just the nation.
The Hamptons are where you see people at play, intent on making the most of what their money can buy; are they really fiddling while Rome burns, or is this a misapprehension? (Maybe, on the hush-hush, the visitors you see arriving via mega-yacht or strolling about with strings of luxury-goods shopping bags draped from their wrists are, indeed, making donations to, say, Meals on Wheels or the volunteer fire departments . . . but why do I doubt it?)
Only the first week of August, and the pace gets more frantic. The gourmet markets are more crowded than ever, even though prices are astronomical. The number of standing-room-only events at Guild Hall has surprised its tab-keepers. And, as the tabloids like to report, more young partiers are heading to Montauk, where the scene has overflowed from one really hot spot to everal others. Everywhere you look another gallery has sprung up, so I suppose artwork is selling. There’s not one pop music festival but a couple, not one glossy magazine, but, well, you count them.
We had a family party in the backyard on Sunday. I had thought about keeping up with the Joneses, of going to our finest food shops for goodies. In the end, though, it was turkey burgers and hot dogs with a few salads for good measure, along with a birthday cake from King Kullen and cupcakes from Duncan Hines.
One of my children, a grown man now, pointed out that there were three generations out on the lawn. He was nostalgic, he said, as he watched one of the youngest of us off by herself trying a few improvisational yoga positions. Can you remember, he asked me, when you were a kid and lolling on the grass was what summer was about?