Relay: The Biggest Chill

The long holiday season is over, the wind whispered, and the deep freeze is on

    Come back, Stephen Talkhouse, all is forgiven!

    This strange sequence of words was like a whisper in my ear as I trudged along the partially plowed sidewalk on Main Street ’round about midnight on Saturday, still blissfully unaware of the incoming polar vortex and its ruthlessly frigid Arctic air. A whisper, or perhaps the wind. Come back, Stephen Talkhouse.

    The Talkhouse — the establishment, not the man — where I spent an awful lot of hours (and a couple awful hours) over the last 12 months — for professional reasons, of course, mostly — is closed until March. As some of its principals and crew headed to Florida for a Soldier Ride benefit, the nearest watering hole/concert hall/community house to my little apartment was suddenly inoperative. The long holiday season is over, the wind whispered, and the deep freeze is on. Get out while you can.

    I still remember the feeling when Labor Day came to Montauk, and the lines at Gosman’s Clam Bar, where I worked many a summer, grew shorter with the daylight. I remember the subtly shifting hues of the September sky and sea. I can still recall the yearning in a local man’s voice as he noted, almost 30 years ago, the mass exodus from the South Fork at summer’s end. “Back to the city,” he said wistfully. “And you wish you could go with them.”

    After childhood as a year-round resident of Montauk, I used to do just that, clearing out well ahead of Columbus Day. Then I lived in the city year round, and as time passed spent less and less time here. From the outset, the summers in New York were horrible, intolerable, and eventually I couldn’t bear the thought of another, and here I am again.

    Into a second winter in Amagansett, I’ve experienced two summers of the Fabulous Hamptons like I’d never known them before. We all know of the crowds, the traffic. Surely we can all recount all-too-true tales of rude and ostentatious behavior, inconceivable self-regard. Noise, litter, and nowhere to park. Much like New York. . . .

    Yeah, it’s a lot nicer here without all that. The Reutershan parking lot is more accommodating without the Ferrari positioned, by design, to occupy two parking spaces. But these are the desolate days, and April seems a long way from here.

    At the Talkhouse, there was live music. There was recorded music. There were familiar faces, friends, and fun. And now there isn’t.

    So I had to stop in on Saturday. I had to get one more impression, one that would have to last a while.

    It had been a good year at the Talkhouse. I’d seen and heard plenty of great artists, and met and interviewed quite a few of them too. I was recruited to work the merchandise table for a couple acts and made a few extra dollars in the process. I’d performed there a few times with my band, the Hot Pockets, and introduced the indescribably perfect tribute band Lez Zeppelin at their second show of the summer.

    And on Aug. 15, ’–round about midnight, ragged from multiple jobs and just back from an East-Hampton-to-Queens-to-East-Hampton sprint in The Star’s embattled van, I’d had a brief but exhilarating chat with Sir Paul McCartney, as Jimmy Buffett and Angelica Huston stood nearby. How often does that happen?

    Come back, Stephen Talkhouse, wherever you are.


    Christopher Walsh is a reporter for The Star.