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Gristmill: Not So Local

Thu, 06/13/2024 - 11:40
A 1901 stereograph of links at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point from the Revolutionary War-era chain that stretched across the Hudson River.
Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division

I was hit upside the head with a tricky conversation the other day, the central question being, what is "local"?     

It was brought up sincerely, not to score points, which was itself refreshing, especially since one of the interlocutors has more connections here than a skunk's got funk.     

But then, more pointedly: Did I consider myself a local?     

Not really, was my assessment, despite my lengthy tenure as a student at what in the 1970s and '80s was a very different Bridgehampton School. Despite my father's even longer tenure on the Sag Harbor bar scene, from his blackened eye at the old Black Buoy to his giving Jimmy Smyth lodging at ramshackle Chez Greene at the dead end of Green Street while the guy got the Corner Bar going.     

Not so much, was my answer, and that's because my family chose to leave its ancestral home upstate — upstate to a Long Islander, that is, Rockland County, barely "up" at all, the Suffern area, to be exact — where a French Huguenot stone mason arrived at some point before the Revolutionary War, only his God knows why, and built the forge at the Sterling Forest iron mine, where later a Greene was the foreman as they made the chains that stretched across the Hudson to impede enemy British ships coming from the north to attack the big city.     

Never shoulda left. That's where I would have been "local."     

Be that as it may, another in the conversation had been coming out here for many summers indeed before settling, and for that reason did consider himself and his family to be locals. He and his wife had a novel solution: Those in the 12th-generation crowd, for example, were instead "natives."     

Simple, no? Maybe even useful; easily applied and adopted.     

Where am I coming from on this? Well, I once dared to suggest to a couple of Star co-workers that maybe a recent arrival isn't necessarily a sign of moral failure. (It didn't go over very well.) Maybe coming with the family for a vacation or to see what all the Hamptons fuss is about isn't entirely as loathsome as it's portrayed. (I wouldn't recommend it, but hey, the beaches are still nice.)   

So, I stand corrected. Man the barricades. Stretch a giant iron chain across the Shinnecock Canal. While you're at it, call me a cab, Ramapo Mountains bound.

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