The distance between East Hampton and Southold is about 21 miles, and I am happy to say that despite the proximity, the latter has not been Hamptonized. Of course, even if you are traveling by ferry, it can take more than an hour to reach one town from the other.
Since I am spending a lot of time at our new place in Greenport, I am getting to know the neighborhood, and it’s a pleasure. Like Southampton, the hamlet of Southold was founded in 1640 as one of the two first English settlements in New York (beating East Hampton by eight years). Like the South Fork, the area is not quite the country anymore but has a rural feel, with concentrated areas of congestion and expanses of open land — although those on the North Fork are, to everyone’s satisfaction, larger than those remaining in the so-called Hamptons. Southold, also to everyone’s satisfaction, is not home to designer-label clothing stores or to busloads of tourists looking for celebrities.
I got off the beaten track one day last week while running errands and found the things I needed in a pharmacy and hardware store in the core of Southold — sunglasses of the sort that fit over your regular lenses, an electric cord for my husband, and plastic shower curtain rings and wooden hangers for me. These are, of course, the sorts of mundane items you can also find back home in the business districts of East Hampton and Southampton, but it would be rather more of a struggle at this time of year.
You need to steel your will for a foray into a South Fork hardware or drug store, and the sales force could be expected to be understandably rushed. The salesman in Southold was friendly and made me feel comfortable or, you might say, as if I had magically been transported back into the 20th century, when relaxed chitchat at the cash register was part of the daily experience.
East Hampton will always be home, but I must say there is something to be said for not having to plan for a trip to the supermarket as if you were planning for a trip to the farthest reaches of Antarctica. When I was done buying my sundries, I even managed to make a left turn onto the main road in Southold without taking my life into my hands.
North Fork locals, I’m sure, feel just as we did a couple of decades ago when the crush of second-home owners and weekenders was getting out of hand. Shush, they would say if they knew I was talking about this in print.
You didn’t hear it from me.