Sunday, September 1, 2013

The other half

A (comparatively) short entry in the middle of a holiday weekend with more than a few things on my mind:

I am not up at the vintage races at Lime Rock. I could be; in a different case I would be. As it is, and in part as explanation to some friends who may be wondering why I'm being so damn weird this weekend, please understand that this has not been an easy couple of weeks. I've been all over the city for a bunch of teaching interviews to no great effect so far, on a violent emotional up-and-down between the peak anxiety and excitement in each meeting and the letdown that follows, especially as time slides on without any responses. And there have been no responses, and as Tuesday is the day that teachers are to report to their schools there's a sense of the clock running out. And I'm still coughing, and I just feel more than a bit flat. It's not a very happy weekend.

So the idea of going to watch a bunch of people have fun in a bunch of lovely old racers surrounded by a bunch of people driving another bunch of generally cool, often vaguely affordable old cars right now doesn't jibe with my mood at all, especially given the sense that I would be right in there with everyone if just one of these interviews had gone just a bit better somehow. Instead, the preference is to stay clear of all that because I know it will ironically just be a ridiculous downer. (There's precedent for this: when I lived upstate I went to Watkins Glen for one of the vintage races. I lasted about two hours, fell ever deeper into a major funk, went back home and mowed the lawn.)

So instead I've been staying close with Wonderful One and her mom, getting out and around a bit. Driving has proven to be therapeutic, especially with them in the car. (It's also precluded the presence of photos in this entry; trying to simultaneously drive and take snapshots with an iPhone is borderline dangerous.) Out to Jones Beach just to be in the sun and sea air for a while Friday afternoon; yesterday with a bit more time and ambition to Montauk Point.

Part of the fun of heading out to Montauk is that one is forced to travel through that alternate universe that is the Hamptons, that notorious enclave of absurd wealth at the far eastern end of Long Island, a place whose presence in the collective consciousness far exceeds its diminutive physical stature.

Seriously: The Hamptons are basically a stretch of Colonial-era small towns not unlike a lot of those in the Northeast that lie along a single narrow road, with modest farms (corn, pumpkins) and the occasional vineyard in between. Nothing that exciting, nothing too profound through most of its history.

Yes, this is a bit like saying that Beverly Hills is a suburb of Los Angeles. It's not so much the function of how things were for three hundred something years as much as it is the current sense of things. With that in mind, a brief primer on the reality of driving a car in the Hamptons:

- Traffic is miserable. Especially on a holiday weekend. Everyone is on the same road as you, facing the same intersection in Bridgehampton that was never intended to manage a fraction of the traffic it now faces regularly, because that's the only real road. You will crawl. Be sure to travel with patient, good-humored passengers if possible.

- Cars that are impressive in normal life become boring in steady repetition. The Maserati Granturismo seems to be this year's favorite among the well-heeled. Seeing (and hearing) one is usually an event; seeing ten per hour gets to be a bit dreary. You will lose track of your Ferrari count, Porsches will attract little more than a sideways glance, BMWs will become invisible. (With occasional exceptions for us obsessives. Word to the 928 GTS driver: Ausgezeichnet, man.)

- Corollary to the above: You will impress no one with your choice of wheels, and you will be upstaged constantly. Your formerly panty-dropping M3 convertible is a non-entity next to one of those Granturismos. If you have a Granturismo, you'll park two down from a 458 Italia. And so on until you think you've reached the peak, in which case you better hope you're not there when Peter Kalikow goes for a drive in his LWB California Spyder. Which he did.

No, if you're going to go driving in the Hamptons with a sense of consciousness, go for something that either expresses discreet enlightened dignity (diesel Golf) or bohemian charm (Alfa Spider). Dare to be different. Whoever had that Citro├źn 2CV had the right idea, although it may have been Billy Joel.

- Bring cash. At some point you will want to pull out of the slog of traffic to find a cup of coffee or a lobster roll or a muffin or so on, and you will find that in spite of the monstrous net worth of the ambient crowd there are a lot of places that don't care if you're waving around a Centurion card; it's cash only. Feel free to use the ATM that may be there if you're less cautious about your bank info than we usually are. Prepare to wait, because a lot of those people in traffic with you will have had the same idea.

- Get all the way out to Montauk Point. It's a total break from the excesses of the Hamptons, and one of the most interesting shores in the country. Going up to the lighthouse may or may not be worth the $9 admission by your own reckoning, but the surrounding park is a rough-hewn delight.

Not sure what's in store for today. Maybe time to stay in a bit, sort papers and so on, try to rest this cough out of my system. Longer post in the works for later.