There’s always a point in the late spring here in the city where all conversation seems to turn to points distant. Depending on the crowd one runs with this may include discussion of Amagansett beachfront property or Hampton Bays shares (eight to a room!); the merits of various upstate venues, their relative expense, the Catskills vs. the Hudson Valley and on and on. The possibilities are endless, and it seems as though no one, myself included, wants to stay in the city a moment longer than necessary.
I grew up leaving town on weekends — my father’s golf obsession mandated that he play at least two rounds every weekend, come hell or high water. I suppose it was also considered salubrious, those hours I got to spend trailing after him on the course, or participating in MY sport of choice, riding ponies around a dusty ring for endless hot hours.
And now I schlep upstate at every opportunity, to visit the do-it-yourself nightmare I like to call my home. But just recently it has begun to occur to me that to leave the city for summer weekends is really to miss out on the very finest things the city has to offer.
For starters, half of the people who live here are gone, reducing New York’s population to a size appropriate to her resources. Subways and sidewalks are uncrowded, restaurants have tables (and outdoor dining is in full effect). Movies are shown on rooftops and in parks. In short, the place begins to feel like one of the sanely run social democracies of Western Europe, designed for quality-of-life rather than ease-of-exploitation.
Then there’s the camaraderie — the bonhomie among those who find themselves all in the same escape-less boat. The survivors, they are also occasionally the most committed New Yorkers, those with the means to escape but not the desire to. I think it was my godmother who once said to me, “Why would you fight to live at the center of the world, and then pack up every week to get OUT?” I’m starting to think maybe she’s right — or maybe it’s just the traffic getting to me.
Ironically I just learned that the Native Americans for whom my father’s golf club was named, the Shinnecock, are suing for the return of their “tribal lands,” land including our old house and the golf club itself. They want to build a giant casino on the East End. I’m taking it as a sign, and staying in town.