“Summer, a Remembrance"

A Memoir by Liam Sullivan

When I was a teenager I remember sitting in Amagansett with my friend Maria Bowling, who at the time had a summer job at a boutique clothing store called The King’s Mistress.

It was Friday, Fourth of July weekend. We sat on the store’s front porch and watched with amusement the line of cars filtering into town along Route 27. That was the year 1983.

When I wasn’t pouring endless quarters into the Asteroids and tabletop Pac-Man video games at Mellow Mouth, an ice cream shop that once sat on the village green in Amagansett, I worked in the produce section at the Amagansett Farmers Market for Pat and Brendan Struk.

Behind the farmers market was a large cooler truck that housed every herb, lettuce, and leafy green you could imagine. The smell that would emanate out of that cooler truck was one of the greatest smells imaginable. Visiting the truck also provided a welcome whoosh of cold, air-conditioned air on a hot summer day. 

Life at its core is a collection of memories, a thread that runs through our lives. The specifics of everyday life are often lost, but certain memories last a lifetime. Your first love, that summer job as a teenager, a bonfire on the beach with friends laughing, and if the night took a different course, a little midnight skinny-dipping under a voyeuristic moon and universe.

When I was working at the farmers market there would be the usual appearance of famous celebrities. My all-time favorite was Lauren Bacall. 

Ms. Bacall would usually have a large amount of groceries and would need help bringing them out to her car, a big green station wagon with faux wood side paneling. Every time I would perform this chore she would hand me five dollars, a small fortune for a young teenager. I was always tempted to ask her about Bogie, but as locals out here we just don’t cross that line, and I think it’s why celebrities enjoy coming out here; they’re left alone, for the most part. 

I’ve seen Paul McCartney several times over the years. One time in particular was at the Amagansett Library — he was just feet from me, and all I really wanted to say was, “Hey! Ringo!” but of course I didn’t.

Around this time of year, the start of summer, as the sea water warms there is a salty brine smell that flows off the ocean that can only be described as intoxicating. 

Not long ago I came across a word, “topophilia,” from the Greek, which means “love of place.”

Summer transients come and go, but we all know that feeling of a day at the beach, getting a little sun, and then having a great meal of fresh seafood and a glass of cold white wine. Joseph Campbell, who was interviewed by Bill Moyers many years ago for his book “The Power of Myth,” called such moments and places “bliss stations.”

Tag that along with the meaning of the word “Amagansett,” which is an old Native American word that means “Place of good water.” It is indeed both, topophilia and a bliss station, for many of us.

As a child I would make a point of leaving my parents’ home early in the morning and going up to the beach to watch the sun rise. On my first encounter there was a pale moon fading just overhead as a new sun rose above the eyelid of the earth. It is one of those memories I will never forget, a thread. 

In the end it is family and friends that we share these times with. They are fleeting for all of us, one of life’s most existential conflicts. 

Oftentimes, as I walk along the beach, I think of those Native Americans who once brought harvest from land and sea, and the tall ships in full sail that once flowed by along the lip of the ocean’s rim. 

All of us look for a connection, a place that feeds our collective souls, a place where we are not human doings, but rather human beings, in the moment, and free. 

For me Amagansett is that and always will be. The bonfires of my youth are now firmly buried below layers of hurricane-swept sand and dune. But the memories live on, and in the end we’re all just walking memories. 

We learn, we wither, we return vacant to the soil, but for now this is ours, to hold, to nourish, and, yes, to selfishly enjoy the summer in our own way. 

We are connected to those who have enjoyed this land before us, and prior to going gently into that good night we hope that this place will be embraced by those coming up behind us. Topophilia found. 

 


Liam Sullivan, a resident of Amagansett, is the author of “Making the Scene: Nashville —  How to Live, Network, and Succeed in Music City.” His fiction has previously appeared in The Star.