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Gristmill: Lights Over the Harbor

Wed, 07/05/2023 - 18:14
Bennett Greene

It’s been a while since I missed out on Fourth of July fireworks entirely — and unpatriotically. This year, what can I say? It’s harder than ever to get around.

Of late the family has taken in the pyrotechnics fired off over the North Sea Fire Department Carnival, traditionally the best one, what with that great beer tent. Or, as my 15-year-old daughter said of her visit Saturday night with friends, “Since when do they sell wine at a carnival?” (Answer: When they know what they’re doing.)

My favorite fireworks memory — make that my second favorite — has me floating on my back off Long Beach in 2001, having just arrived back here after a bunch of years west of the Mississippi. A fine spot to see the lights over a distant Sag Harbor.

There’s something unnerving about being in the water in the dark, and, sure enough, there came a splash like a keeper-size hunk of glistening fish flesh in the midst of feeding.

It was only some fitness nut doing his late-night laps the length of the beach. 

In September of that year that and every other idyll was over, leading, naturally, to an influx of new residents out this way. In the past I’ve noted the surprising number of people brought here by Southampton College, once seen as a none-too-challenging landing spot for kids with some money but checkered academic pasts.

The college is what drew my own family here, to the short dead end that is Green Street in Sag Harbor, to be exact — to teach, not to study, back when hair was long and the hi-fi was the most important thing in the house. It turned out there was no tenure forthcoming, but still, the deal was sealed.

Nine-eleven, though, was something else altogether, demographics-wise, and I happen to be well acquainted with a certain someone who was working in the Nasdaq building that was then next door to the towers, and lucky to get out alive.

Speaking of landing spots, she was fortunate to have one at her mother’s house on North Haven, and there found some time to regroup, go back to school, what have you.

Long story short, the following summer my future wife and I grabbed a beat-up old kayak and paddled from a rocky North Haven beach over to the harbor to watch the fireworks, surrounded by all manner of pleasure craft, dwarfed by a few yachts. When it was over, they laid on their horns in appreciative salute.

And that was my number-one July Fourth.

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