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Gristmill: UnHampton Blues

Thu, 06/08/2023 - 08:27
Relics of the old days, the really old days, at this year’s Memorial Day parade on Main Street in Sag Harbor Village.
Baylis Greene

East Hampton’s downtown is one only a child of Ralph Lauren could love. And yet it is notable that for all its density of Boutiques Chic, the welcoming John Papas Cafe remains, its ownership transferred without a hitch.

What’s more, just on the other side of that vast parking lot, Fierro’s Pizza happily, affordably still dishes out slices to teenagers, moviegoers, nickel-and-dimers, and generally.

All of which, as a resident of suburban Sag Harbor, er, I mean western Noyac, really sticks in my craw. Because in lieu of a diner or a pizza parlor what’s of note in that village is the void left by a departed kid hangout, the legendary and family-friendly Conca D’Oro, the beating heart of the downtown, which decidedly was not kept going as-is with a transfer of ownership, preferably into the hands of a consortium of worker bees.

And while intransigent old-timers might refuse to let go of their memories of the late, lamented Paradise Diner across the street, down the other end of Main Street is another absence where once trod regular citizenry, the incredibly useful 7-Eleven, this other kid hangout having been for some reason replaced by a weird halfway-stocked knockoff only the seriously hard-up stoop to frequent.

But I’m not one to complain.

The unHampton, Sag Harbor was once called, a designation that applied, if it ever did, back in the days when my now-84-year-old father had his eye blackened at the old Black Buoy. (His fatherly advice: “If that ever happens to you, grab an eight ball and start hitting people over the head with it.”)

Neglected North Sea, slashed through with dirt roads, is the real unHampton. At least now they have a nice new hardware store, and, hell, even there the kids can make use of the fields and gym and courts of the S.Y.S. rec center. In Sag Harbor, when it comes to playing fields, the kids seem to have been stiffed recently by the voting public, one naysayer essentially asking, “What, do any of these kids even go on to the pros?” Which is almost funny.

I hate to say it, but if you choose to dwell on it, the Marsden Street divide could even be seen on an occasion of outward unity, the Memorial Day parade, when the only people you find yourself recognizing are marching, and the better-dressed on the sidewalk appear to be weekenders or city folk, reflecting the further discrepancies of that great American unmentionable: class.

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