Friday, February 25, 2011

Past Signs

Located on the north side of Route 27 in Bridgehampton, Almonds Restaurant closed its doors at the New Year after a dozen or more years of business. I won't comment on the cuisine for I only ate there once, other than to say that on that occasion they served me something completely different to that which I'd ordered and it wasn't that good.

At some point this month the Almonds sign was taken down and away, revealing the old Woodshed sign on which it had been fixed. And the local conversations began! People started remembering the happy times and meals that they'd had in the Woodshed Restaurant. Do you remember so-and so? And what ever happened to, oh, can't even remember her name now?


There is a rumor..

...that Leo and his barber's chair have returned to a new location. I must investigate and report back.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

An extra shot, please!

Why do I make a habit of regularly visiting places like Starbucks, Seattle's Best and other chains? And why, when in foreign and exotic places (Massachusetts, Florida, Wading River...) do I seek out places where excellent espresso coffee is served in all its forms? It's not an addiction to the ground bean, at least I trust not. Neither is it a need to seek company, for I am content to sit alone with a book or laptop, or even my smartphone for company. It's something to do with drinking cappuccino, but much more. It's about soaking up the sights, sounds and smells that go hand in hand with cafe life. The hiss of pressurized steam, the gurgle of frothers, the slamming of metal; conversations near and far, whispered and announced. And the people. Customers and baristas, and (as I wrote these notes) a tiny man in a blue work-shirt, pince-nez on his nose, repairing one of the machines. And in and among all of these stimuli, these are also places to be still and think...

Mid-Winter Blues?

February the eighth, and after twenty-four hours of bearable temperatures in the 40s the reality of midwinter has now returned with a violent windchill and two days of sub-freezing weather. Diverting on my way home from the supermarket I visited the narrow bays and inlets behind Mecox Beach (see above photo of today's angry skies) - places where I usually launch an early season kayak. The first week of April if the weather is kind and the thermal gear clean! Yet today the ice on Sam's Creek looks to be at least two inches thick, and the gusting winds were blowing the pale yellow reeds down to a most painful angle.

February. It is during this month of the year, with the distractions of Christmas and the New Year out of the way, when I start to get impatient for spring. And anxious to get back to my outdoor pursuits. Kayaking is hardly an option. Hiking is no fun when even the blazed trails are covered in iron-hard ice. Fishing has to wait until May. No, it is the most frustrating time of the year.

O Lord, give me patience. And give it to me now.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Paper Trail

Sitting in Starbucks with my usual small, or should I say "tall" cappuccino, and thinking about writing something in the small notebook that I carry, I found a small, folded piece of paper tucked inside the back cover. Its contents can be summarized thus: The Cheesecake Factory. Table 13. #Party 2. Dated February 20th, 2010. To be precise, 12.19 p.m.

It was a receipt, nearly a year old, from a day when Kate and I spent a time at the Smith Haven Mall, shopping. Well, let me re-write that last sentence. She excelled in shopping, and I excelled in migrating between armchairs, occasionally drinking coffee, reading, and dreaming of a world where corporate retail stores were truly interesting.

The discovery (or was it re-emergence?) of that receipt was a thoughtful moment in itself, as I spent a few minutes trying to recall that day. What stores had we visited? What had we, sorry, she bought? What did we have for lunch? That was easy. We had Cuban sandwiches. What was the weather that day? Was the sun shining? (Who knows, but that is the point of a mall, isn't it? To shield the shopper from environmental reality.) So many thoughts, and happy memories.

From time to time I clean out my wallet and sift through countless such thin pieces of paper. Receipts, mostly extremely boring. Supermarket: Milk, pasta, sausage, tea, bread, lettuce. Hardware store: Glue, paint, floor cleaner. Staples: Printer paper. Is there anything stimulating, provoking or suggestive there? Of course not! But now and then one of those small often crumpled, pieces of paper will emerge from a forgotten pocket or wallet fold. And a happy, human, memory is created by these computer generated printouts. A specific occasion and purchase. A special meal, or coffee, or drink, or calendar. Perhaps I should keep these receipts. Actually I do.

Sad Partings.

There is an empty shop on Main Street. Yesterday I watched as men wearing overalls and carrying clipboards and toolbags moved around inside, pointing to various corners and nodding. They stood where the table carrying five-year-old copies of National Geographic and AutoCar had stood. They pointed to the space where two adjustable, worn upholstered chairs had held countless thousands in their turn. And to the rear door, around which the hot shaving cream dispenser had been hidden.

For Leo has eventually packed up his scissors and razors and left. An unwelcome and enforced retirement, but how can a barber compete with the greed and intentions of those who wish to maximize the profits made on their building. You see, it's easier to cite market forces than it is to cut a perfect sideburn.

Thank you, Leo, for years of haircuts and conversation. A cut above the rest.