I told Dennis Fabiszak, the East Hampton Library's director, when we met on the street about a week before Authors Night, that I hoped to talk to Dr. Ruth, and that he could imagine why, I being 82 and a half, but he said she wasn't coming out of Covid caution. Oh well, onward and upward.
I must say, in retrospect, that if the coronavirus were still raging -- actually, I don't think it ever did rage here -- Authors Night would have been a good place to catch it. The tent was so chock-full at one point that it was hard to thread my way to a radio interview with WLIW-FM's Gianna Volpe, who, when I said I wasn't used to being an interviewee, assured me I'd do fine.
Soon I was touting Ev Rattray's "The South Fork: The Land and People of Eastern Long Island" as a replacement for the Gideon Bible in the bedside tables of every hotel, motel, and condo out here. Second homes too, come to think of it. I remember telling him after reading it that it was as if a Montaukett had written it.
I said that coming out here more than a half-century ago from a one-room apartment in Alphabet City whose view gave out onto a funeral home vent had been serendipitous. It was only later that I learned from my mother that the town trustees' first clerk, Thomas Chatfield, had been a forebear. Indeed, I may have been coming home. Emboldened, I mentioned that to members of the Lost Tribe of Accabonac, but was told birth at Southampton Hospital was a prerequisite for membership. Still later, I learned that Thomas Chatfield, like most of the early settlers after whom streets are named, had a household slave, so I decided to no longer press my suit.
Gianna was particularly taken with a column I'd written in February of 1987 in which, surprised by a sudden influx of summer rental seekers one weekend, I said it would be rushing the season to think murderous thoughts, which, God help me, I proceeded nevertheless to do. Six weeks of outraged letters ensued, during which Mary reminded me that in the end I had bent over backward to make feel welcome an Ohioan and his wife who had arrived too late for dinner at Hobson's Choice. I had interceded with Steve Lilja for them and volunteered to show them the sights the next day in Sag Harbor. That, she said, not unremitting antipathy for those from away, had been my point.
Speaking of the Bible, it strikes me as strange that many of those who view humankind as "fallen" would rather that this country's failings be glossed over, or not even mentioned at all, when it comes to teaching American history. The truth should be acknowledged, and shall my friend, my fellow-creature, set us free.