I arrived into the town of Southampton late in the summer (two weeks ago) armed only with some class-consciousness, a copy of The Great Gatsby stolen from the Hennepin County Library and a rotating cast of photographers. First Laurel Ptak and later Amelia Bauer made the slog eastward with me. Here are our favorite photographs, some seen here for the very first time.
To us, the Hamptons appeared as wild and untamed as they must have to Lion Gardiner when he "settled" the area in 1635. For us, after two whole weekends of work and discovery, the Hamptons bramble had resolved itself into a series of dichotomies. We knew what South of the Highway meant, both literally and sociologically. As opposed, you know, to North of the Highway. We began to see shades of social standing painted on those individuals who lived in Bridge or East Hampton as opposed to South. We knew Richard Johnson lived in the Hampton Bays, adamantly not in the Hamptons. We knew where to be seen, even if we weren't usually seen there. We had witnessed the scions of the dynastic Hamptons families blotto'd and some of the nation's wealthiest individuals with the sheen of sweat and vodka and cream covering their unnaturally smooth faces. Our wrists were rubbed raw by VIP bracelets. Aging idol Billy Joel had crooned to us and Donald Trump had handily dismissed us. Deb Schoeneman had let us into her home and Peggy Siegel had harangued us in a crowded restaurant.
The Hamptons are a perpetual and elongated Meatpacking district on one hand, and a media confab get-a-way on the other, a Monopoly board on the marsh. Now we understand the local code and we know not to ask about money or jobs or plastic surgery or age or where someone lived or whether they rented or if their phone number was a 631 or 283, a 287 or 329. The best questions should not be asked.
As we began to comprehend the Hamptons more, we understood less and less, until finally the East End shimmered in sharp and unknowable detail, an optical illusion. Now that the summer is almost over, when we close our eyes we see Main Street, we see Brooke Shields, we see our one-time landlord Brenda. And though these are things we never want to see again, we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.