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  1. Wealth
April 5, 2010

Hamptons Bohemia at Easter

By Spear's

While the global financial system has been in meltdown, one of the winners has been the Hamptons.

You win some, you lose some.

While the global financial system has been in meltdown, one of the winners has been the Hamptons — particularly the more bohemian bits. It seems that since people have cut down on their international travel, they have stuck closer to home, and the Hamptons has remained a destination of choice.

I’m a prime example: my refusal to get on an airplane and have my work interrupted for more than a couple of days prompted me to decline plans for an Easter in the Caribbean and opt for a friend’s house in Sag Harbor instead.

My earliest memory of Sag Harbor, located on the bay just north of the midpoint between Bridgehampton and East Hampton, is of an annual religious retreat in a convent when I was at Catholic school, and I remember our bus passing many farms and vineyards along the way. While the vineyards and farms are all still there, I have to wonder about their economics now that Sag Harbor has waterfront houses on half an acre of land commanding $5 million. 

I was glad to find, however, that despite all the glitz and money and private docks and helicopter arrivals, the old bohemian traditions are still alive in the Hamptons — and not merely in the form of my scrambled tofu in wholewheat tortilla I was having for breakfast at Provisions on Saturday morning after my long brisk walk along the waterfront. The town of John Steinbeck and Edward Albee still has a real quirkiness.

At the 8:30 a.m. Easter Sunday mass at the only Catholic church in town, I was rather glad to find there was not a single rap star or movie star, but instead a lot of local tradesmen and fishermen with their entire families, little girls in little pink dresses. The priest had all sorts of helpful local announcements, and quite a few seemed moved to hear about a fellow parishioner’s passing two days earlier; many seemed to know him and nodded their sorrow.

The Easter mass was clearly a matter of local community pride, as evidenced by the man who was not a professional singer but had obviously rehearsed his repertoire quite thoroughly.

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He belted out his Resurrectio not merely with gusto, but with an exotic lilt that was unexpected in the words: “Resurrectio, resurrectio, resurrectio, hallelujah.” I listened to both the singing and the little organ accompaniment. “That’s a tango rhythm,” I said to my friend. “Absolutely, positively, tango.”

All the smiling faces were very appreciative, and the priest was keen to shake every person’s hand as they left. No fancy St. Patrick’s Cathedral recessional led by the cardinal here. But my joyous travel back in Hamptons time was only just beginning.

For lunch we went to a friend’s house just past the home of Jackson Pollock and Ella Krasner in an area of East Hampton known as The Springs, more of a nature reserve than the bits frequented by P. Diddy or Steven Spielberg. Somewhere between my convent retreats and my move to London, I went to several parties at P. Diddy’s East Hampton mansion. There were many scarcely-clad girls happy to put on a show in the swimming pool.

My East Hampton hosts this time were an artist-turned-jeweler and a cosmetics executive — and no one jumped in the pool. Instead, we lazed about in the sunshine, enjoying a huge home-cooked feast, while children and dogs played around us. Mind you, the dogs were beautiful Italian Greyhounds, lest you picture mongrels form the local rescue, for bohemian here certainly does not mean unglamorous.

Indeed it’s a badge of honour amongst the members of some of New York’s grander families here to eschew all the nouveau riche hoopla and instead take you for a long walk on a beach and then a tour of the herb garden they are planting themselves. They often have deeper roots here than their mint or catnip bushes and have nothing to prove. And they’re right.

But for me, a recently re-planted New Yorker, it’s the variety of experience and lifestyle here that is the most fun and glamorous of all. Long may it continue. I have a distinct feeling it will.

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