Relay: A Perfect Storm In Montauk

Weird is good

    I’ve become the absentminded reporter these days. And with St. Patty’s Day being celebrated in Montauk this weekend — the unofficial harbinger of the season out here — I’m not counting on Mother Nature to allow me to get my bearings.

    A few weeks ago I found myself thumbing through the dictionary while looking up a telephone number. Two weeks ago I had all my gear ready to go and take pictures of the annual St. Baldrick’s Day that is celebrated at St. Therese of Lisieux. I cover it each year to see the brave men and women who shave their heads in allegiance with children with cancer. I wish I could say I was one of the noble, but as much as I hate battling my hair into submission each day, I am not ready to part with it.

    So I got to the church, and of course found a spot right outside, when I realized my camera was not with me. I tore the Jeep apart because I knew I had it with my stuff, but then remembered I had changed my scarf near the front door, a good five miles from the church, and must have put it down. My parking spot was filled.

    I sped home and, sure enough, found it on the little table near the front door that collects gloves, phone chargers, etc. And since I live very close to the Montauk Lighthouse it wasn’t a short trek. I am one of the last houses on Long Island. Does that make me special or weird? Weird is good; I came from a family of weirdos and married into a family of weirdos. I’m just thankful that my husband and I didn’t have little weirdo babies. But our poor children, they had reason to roll their eyes at us over the years.

    I always thought what my parents did for a living (they were both in the entertainment business) was kind of cool and I learned that kids like weirdo parents. I was even classified by some of my children’s friends as the “cool” Mom; I’ve always wondered if that was a cool thing or a bad thing. When I hear someone’s the cool parent, I automatically question his or her judgment. Not to worry, no drinking or smoking by children was ever allowed at our house. The parents, however, were another story. And that’s another column.

    At home, in City Island in the Bronx, we often had late afternoons that turned into music sessions. If a musical instrument wasn’t available, the kitchen pots and pans would do. And they did; if you have rhythm you can play on anything.

    My father played saxophone and drums, and two brothers played guitar and sang. The meeting of the Hewitts and the Fosters was a perfect storm. The Fosters were musical buffs that performed all over in clubs and at other events, and the Hewitts owned the venue — and a float.

    So on my first St. Patrick’s Day in Montauk as a year-rounder (I would never say local; 41 years later I still don’t consider myself local. A warning to those who spend one winter out here: You, too, might not want to toss that word around too casually) I honestly didn’t know what to expect from my family. Would they be playing pots and pans, using spoons as drumsticks, and cupping their hands to magnify their voices, or would they make me proud of them?

    They came through. I don’t think I’ve ever been more proud of them. The snow was falling and the Montauk wind was doing its thing, but the family brought out the good stuff, the guitars, a drum set, and somehow even managed an amplifier. When they turned onto Main Street that year, the cheers for them were deafening. They rocked that crowd, which, remember, was half or even less than what it is these years.

    I hope my little bit of nostalgia hasn’t bored you, and if it did just drive out to Montauk this weekend. I promise you it will not be boring.

    Janis Hewitt is a senior writer for The Star.