A Weekend on Shelter Island

We began our trip at twilight in Manhattan. Dark descended overhead as the roads lengthened and the lights lessened along the northern coast of Long Island. Two hours, and a few garlic knots from a neon lit pizzeria later, we steered the car onto a rusty ferry at Greenport. The land loomed like backs of beasts behind the stark white light that illuminated the floating parking station on the ferry and it was the quiet wind that set me free.

Once winding through the shell shaped streets of Shelter Island, the locals fell away, the cars elevated in price, and absurd driving commenced. I may have been compensating for some insecurity, I may also have been driving slowly as if I was lost, because I received a honk and an encroaching tail light situation right there on that 35 mile an hour street. All this leaving me wondering if the driving rules applied differently here. Or was it that people with a lot of money drive in a certain way? Or maybe they had just been out and had a couple of drinks. Or maybe I was the person who didn’t know how to drive… Just catching a ride with a rich and delusional boyfriend who wanted to take his rich and delusional girlfriend somewhere she had never been before.

The weekend was slow and smattered with sun and rain and marked by lightning storms in the middle of the night, lightning storms that danced in a two-beat, that covered the island with inconsistent ominous light. An electric Frankenstein storm, whose sheer force might have brought something to life that had not been alive before.

During the day the streets were mostly empty except for joggers and bicyclists. There are 2,000 people who live on this island and 10,000 people who find a home here during the summer. The island is 12 miles across, four of which make up of a national forest. Prominent trees are oak, pin oak, and silver birch that shimmers in the breeze. Everything is silent and something is missing.

Nothing was entirely visible here, the Italian restaurant, Caci, with supreme pesto, was tucked into a small road with wood surrounding. The waitress gave us a sloshe of extra pesto, despite the hefty cost of pine nuts: good service is worth more than the extra cost of that pesto, even though I didn’t wear a white jumper and my man was not in a polo, we didn’t outwardly exhibit our wealth.

There was a strange golden maelstrom developing at the Sunset Beach bar with the $18 cocktails that looked like gems and couldn’t be passed up: rich for a night, where the British DJ, Nicola Robinson, producer at Earthboogie soothed the bar with energetic and easy mixes. The club was a stew of young Shelter Island crawlers; older Shelter Island “cool parents;” a man who might have been a 70’s porn star with a hefty mustache, sunglasses and his second button undone on his shirt. Cocaine might have been another face of the night as one waitress screamed unnecessarily loudly for her cigarettes from behind the bar to which the bartender responded, “you are a cigarette” with a sigh and a roll of the eyes, as if to say, “I can’t wait until she leaves from the summer… with her habits.” Earlier in the night she spat at a customer that he was a douche and he might have liked it.  

The next morning was the crusty turnover, a slug of a cloud covered overhead and the rain started slow in the drops were the realization that summer was on it’s steep denouement. The long drive home was not one of sadness, but joy: a necessity to grasp at this moment while it’s still hot. Because I could smell the leaves beginning to change. I swear, I could smell it. So, to enter summer’s passing, the first place we went was in town, to The Chequit (che - keet or check it - as a summer local-referred to it) where we ate sandwiches in a colonial building with a view of another colonial building and an announcement board. A series of songs created an ironic atmosphere kin to a kind of oblivious bourgeous, a blindness that is convenient to circumstance:

Doctor my Eyes

Diamonds on the soles of her shoes

Silver springs

These songs titles and lyrics told a story of a small, gold-leafed town that is a masqueraded gated community.

A ride across Long Island wine country. The vineyards have only really developed since the early 2000’s, each held little green grapes along lengthy trestles. We drove along fields before they become highways and a lush, August greenery overflowed over Central Parkway. Before all that, we stopped at Southold beach and watched the sun slice through the clouds as it began to descend. My feet literally slipped into the ocean off of the agate rocks that had been pushed here by the Long Island Sound currents. Shelter Island was a cloud. And Long Island felt like earth again.