Michelle and I just returned from visiting our son, Griffin, on Long Island, NY. He’s up there playing baseball in a summer collegiate league. He plays for the Center Moriches Battlecats in the Hamptons Division of the Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League. Since his birthday was July 4, he wanted us to come up for a visit.
We flew to Long Island on July 3, not really knowing what to expect. Of course, as a Southerner (a more polite way of saying “redneck”, which I am), I had preconceived thoughts of what Long Island would be like, specifically the Hamptons. I’d been to NYC several times before, and I figured Long Island would be kinda, sorta similar. Maybe not quite as many buildings, but…you know…New York.
Boy, was I wrong!
The food is, as one lady told us in her heavy Bronx accent, “to die for.”
And, I almost did.
The Italian food on Long Island was a religious experience. We ate at La Parmigiana in Southampton, a place locals flock to. If you’re lucky, you’ll get to sit at the table next to a picture of John Paul II. The atmosphere and the food combined for an unforgettable meal. We went back another day for lunch…I had the meatball parmigiana sandwich. For dessert, we went down the street to the Sip’n Soda and had ice cream. Wow!
In Center Moriches, I had a pie at Alitalia’s. In redneck vernacular, it’s known as a pizza. Whatever the name, we were treated to an award-winning pizza that was beyond description. The toppings were incredible, and the crust even more so.
The Atlantic Seafood and Fish Market was a place we ate at often. Clams, mussels, lobster, oysters…all were fresh and delicious. Yet, the best thing I ate there was the New England clam chowder. I wish I had the recipe!
Besides the Italian food and the fresh seafood, one thing we noticed was the many “mom and pop” ice cream stands. They were everywhere…and, they were good! Everything is homemade, and everything is organic. At The Snowflake in Riverhead, I enjoyed the special…Red, White and Blueberry…homemade cream with big, fresh blueberries.
I had no idea people lived like this.
Really. There’s no evidence of a down economy in the Hamptons. The only word to describe it is affluence.
We drove from Center Moriches (not a Hampton) to Montauk Point, and as we drove, we passed through Westhampton Beach, Southampton, East Hampton, and Bridgehampton. The signs labeled them villages, as in “The Village of…”.
It’s not every village that you can walk down the sidewalk of Main Street and pop into Tiffany & Co. And, it’s not every village you’ll visit and see a Rolls Royce, a Bentley, or a Masurati driving down the street. Mercedes seemed to be all too common. (In my rented Ford Focus, I believe they knew me to be a tourist and politely moved on.)
The houses ranged from quite impressive to palacial. And, all yards (in some cases, acreage) were bordered by neatly groomed privet hedge (or pay a $1000 fine), keeping the homes almost secluded from the street (and tourists in a Ford Focus).
It seemed that an American flag hung on every front porch or store front.
As we drove from one Hampton village to another, I began to look for a Baptist church. I saw stately, beautiful churches, but none were Baptist. In each Hampton village, there was a Roman Catholic, First Presbyterian, Episcopalian, and Methodist church. No Baptist church.
I told Michelle as we drove on the highway that the countryside – the flora and fauna – of Long Island could well be mistaken for south Mississippi. It’s very rural, and the countryside is punctuated by farms and family produce stands.
Pine trees – not the tall, longleaf pines of Mississippi – were accompanied by oaks and maples. This is good cover for deer and turkey, and we saw plenty of both. I felt like I was in the country.
On Long Island, we experienced the beach at Westhampton and Montauk Point, we saw countless wineries and vineyards on the North Fork, and we experienced a country, Sunday afternoon drive on highways that were bordered on each side by oaks and pines.
The people we met on our trip were incredibly wonderful, genuine, and friendly. They cared for us, visited with us at length, recommended restaurants…we even yelled at umpires together. Most importantly, though, they adore our son.
One thing, though. They talk funny. And, for some reason, whenever I told a Long Islander that I was from Massapequa, they laughed.
A little redneck humor, I suppose.