Sunday, May 31, 2009

How Good Are They?

The Montauk Bake Shop Band well known in Europe as Suddyn is as good as sunny summer morning sitting on a mossy teak bench in the shade of a leafy tree with your best dog, your favorite book of poetry, and a warm, buttery, flaky croissant with a cup of the best coffee brewed in town.


The Montauk Bake Shoppe Band is a quartet of keen, musically sophisticated, good-looking, truly friendly and fun twenty-something instrumentalists and vocalists. By day they work behind the counter and in the back of the amazing Montauk Bake ShoppeThey cause tens of thousands of people to smile with anticipation and sigh with confectionary delight. After dark, with their instruments, they do the same thing for smaller but very passionate East End and Manhattan crowdsThe Montauk Bake Shoppe Band isn’t afraid of lushness, clarity, melody, anthems, crescendoscreative locales and cool productions. One day they’ll put together The Montauk Bake Shoppe Opera album and become rich. The talented confectioners are Alan Steil on vocals, piano and guitar, his brother Jarrett, on vocals and piano, Colin O Dwyer on bass, and Brendan Connolly on drums. Their new recorded collection is called Gravity. It’s addictive, so be warned. 


John Keeshan’s Roses


One of the rarest and most whimsically beautiful sights and smells in Montauk are John Keeshan’s roses, in the mossy red brick garden behind a white picket fence next to his office across from the Chamber of Commerce and a few doors up from the bakery. The roses, direct descendents of the roses from The Little Prince, poke their sexually pink faces over and through the pickets. Early in the day when there are still dewdrops on their petals and the sun is big but still gentle, go to John’s garden, be kind, sniff but don’t touch the tender roses, and enjoy the pretty children of a lively mind.


Mr. Keeshan reports that his troupe of roses for 2009 are well pampered and set to bloom by June 4, or even a bit earlier.



“A name-dropper’s Paradise


In the magazine the writer Douglas Harrington reports that Dick Cavett, the author and television personality, who has lived in Montauk since the 1960s, is somewhat distressed by time’s changes to the hamlet.


“When I first saw it, I thought it could have been some small western town, only with an ocean attached to it. I was amazed to find out it was actually part of East Hampton Town at the time. Regrettably it has become more like East Hampton, with more of the glitterati." 

Mr. Harrington adds: “His [Cavett’s] love of Montauk is palpable as, toward the end of our conversation, he recalled some missed opportunities. “Bette Davis invited me for a weekend once, the Lunts invited me to Switzerland, James Mason, David Niven, I kept turning them down because I couldn't wait to get back to Montauk. I never answered an invite from Ava Gardner, which was a real measure of insanity I suppose. Even though it has become a name-droppers paradise, I miss it so much when I am away from it. I can't wait to get out there, skin cancer risk and all, I love the sun in Montauk, I love the ocean." 


Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The House of Madoff


Bernard Madoff’s house on the beach in Montauk is a barn-like hulk owood situated behind a small stand of trees and shad bushes at the toe of a 90 foot high dune, with just less than 200 feet of sandy strand before the waves of the Atlantic Ocean. For a long time the often-shuttered house was falsely reputed to be owned by Ralph Lauren, which was disturbingly odd. Why would a designer with so much verve and style in his clothing line choose to dwell in a place so somber, ostentatious and so totally vulnerable to being smashed to matchsticks in the next big hurricane? When it was confirmed that Mr. Lauren’s house was actually a safer, cozier place farther up the dune and down the other way, people were glad for him.


Occasionally in the summertime, Mr. Madoff and his wife Ruth and their sons, Andrew and Mark, were seated in a booth at breakfast-time at Mr. John’s Pancake House in Montauk town. Madoff made little impression. A Jewish proverb says, “If you look like a swindler, you can’t be a swindler.”


Merchants in Montauk town know Madoff and they liked him because he paid his bills promptly and sometimes he proffered a chunk of cash far in advance as a sign that he trusted the merchant unconditionally, as he liked people to trust him. Once a year around the Fourth of July he invited dozens of his Manhattan office staff and some business friends to a sleep-over at a very good local motel.  Mr. Madoff presented everyone with a day at the beach and dinner at the Montauk Yacht Club,  plus a night of world class fireworks in front of his beach house to celebrate yet another good year for the Madoff firm and the independence of the United States of America.  No fireworks are expected for 2009.


One morning not long after the arrest last December, there was a discussion of the startling news among Mr. John’s regulars. It was widely agreed that if Mr. Madoff came in and sat down for breakfast, the waitresses would treat him with their usual flippant grace, and the merchants and trades folk around town would probably recognize him with a hello and might even shake his hand, in a display of neighborly Christian forgiveness.


Where to Spend It

Montauk holds a strong attraction for creatures from the planet Beetlejuice and its many moons. This week the Montauk gravity machine has attracted Denise Greenwood-Loveless, a sculptor from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, who truthfully depicts with her colorful clay statuettes the breadth and depth and triviality of daily Beetlejuician life. She portrays the common folk who have a large fish growing out of their heads; the “noodle” fishermen whose bait is their own forearms and fists; the flat-toothed doggies with striped hides and randomly placed yellow eyes; the famous three-legged graphologist, aptly named Grapholina; various floundery flat fishes with unicorn horns; big male humanoids sitting naked in very tiny boats; sugar bowls named Max; and a zoological garden of Beatlejuice’s organic and inorganic life forms, many of which boast at least two heads and long, crooked, pointy teeth. Her matched set of Beetlejuician turtle hounds are brave and crazy enough to guard the doors of the biggest castle in The Hamptons.


Christos J. Palioswho is and speaks Greek, has combined photography and computers to be able to artfully and skillfully photograph the inside of a bus, for example, from front to back, and be able to reconstruct the entire cabin within the boundries of a big flat picture. It’s geeky, yet good graphic fun. A Greek restaurateur ought to buy it. We had hoped to find out more about Christos when the hoardes of drooling, nubile young women dragged themselves away from his gaze. But they never did.


Denny Wainscott from FrankfortIndiana, carves and inlays gourds. His virtuoso inlaid brass work is admirable. The gourds he chooses are grown in California (he used to grow his own gourds until three years ago when illness cut his tending time). The rich walnut and caramel colors of the gourds are produced by Mr. Wainscott’s six applications of wood and leather dyes. The mathematically gorgeous cutouts and inlays make you want to reach out and hold them, for hours, and Mr. Wainscott encourages this. One holds and rotates the gourd in one’s hands with deep reverence. It is deceptively light. His larger and most complicated gourds are about as big as a 10-pound baby but they weight just ounces; they are the summit of gourd art. One of these gourds costs $12,000 plus. They are gifts for royalty.


An Annoyance: About half of the painters who sell their canvases at arts fairs across the country would not exist if Jackson Pollack’s swirly drippings hadn’t encouraged later artists to lazily let their paint do the thinking. There are Pollack imitators galore, and silly people who will buy them on the national arts fair circuit. The Montauk show had its unfair share. Zero is fair. There were also too many big green apples, etched baseballs, realistic ocean waves, unrealistic ocean waves, sunsets, beady jewelry, and cocktail tables with amethyst geode centers.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Montauk's Fine Arts Festival on the Green

This art show ~ which opens on Saturday the 23rd and runs through Monday the 25th ~ weeds out a lot of the cuddly crap one often sees at seaside art shows and offers for sale works often worth shelling out for and collecting. If the weather is not sunny enough for the beach, this show will be a Godsend and worth the drive out and the time spent. Bring an extra cache of cash because you will surely want to buy something. There will be 72 artists from as far away as Cumbria (in mountainous northwest England), Louisiana, and California. Among them are registered 18 painters, 14 jewelry makers, 9 photographers, 8 mixed media manipulators, 7 sculptors, 4 ceramicists, 3 each of glass workers, graphics/printmakers, and wood workers, 2 people who draw, and 1 digital artist and 1 metalworker.


The artists in the juried show are being offered discounted motel rooms. It may be that even non-artists will be offered the same discounts, if they ask. 

For a full list of Montauk lodging options check out the Montauk Chamber of Commerce 

Summer's Doormats


The summer flounders /flukes, a few as big a nine pounds, are more numerous than many Montauk captains can remember and are biting on worms with a vulgar gusto. If you like to eat a very fine and firm white-fleshed fish (which the Old French used to dismiss as “of medium quality, but not without merit”) then the flounder/fluke (there is no difference between them except monikers)  is well worth hauling in. The six-to-nine pounders are called “doormats” around Montauk, and in Europe they are known as “plaice.” They are flat, diamond-shaped with rounded corners and both eyes set on the top left side of their head. The underside is white.

Flounder/fluke is best eaten the day it is caught, or the hour, if possible. It is relatively easy to bone, or if cooked whole to cut into slices. They can be poached whole or filleted in a court-bouillon of water, milk, salt and lemon slices, drained and garnished with fresh-cut parsley and chives, and traditionally served with plain, boiled Long Island potatoes with butter and parsley in a separate dish. If you are up to create a good sauce, don’t be shy about employing everything and anything in the herb garden, and if you have some first-rate curry powder, use it. Fluke/flounder are perfect for Indian spices.  Baked until flakey with salt, ground black pepper, tomatoes, herbs and onions they are luscious. Gently grilled with a brushing of Gaucho Green Chimmi-Churri sauce and a little olive oil, fresh flounder/fluke are delicious.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Fish Farm

If John Steinbeck came back to life, he’d hang out at the Fish Farm.

Technically, the Fish Farm is not located in Montauk since it is west of the hithermost Hither Hill, where the boundary line is. But in terms of eccentricity and independent-mindedness, the Fish Farm is pure Montauk. People in Montauk call the area Paradise, because there used to be a working menhaden fish processing plant there and it stunk to high heaven.

Fish Farm is located on the shore of the clean, shallow, wide, clear and gentle Napeague Bay. Some of the sweetest chowder clams on earth live on the sandy bottom and grand-daddy chowder clams grow big as bocce balls.

The Fish Farm’s retail business is run by Marie. There is no better place to buy lobsters on the East End: freshly caught and well oxygenated, honestly weighed, sensibly priced, scrappily alive, and if de-clawed in battle they are culled and duly discounted.

The Fish Farm is a running Montauk soap opera and there will be more stories of Marie and her Prince Charming, the sweet and cuddly Dr. Bill, a certified marine biologist who despite his disarming Pepsodent smile and his ultra-refined vocabulary grows on you over the years.

Marie and Bill also raise a fine family of champion Rhodesian Ridgebacks, with tempers as good as that breed gets. Also on the property are great cement water tanks where fish are bred, plus geese, ducks, chickens and roosters, cats, fish guts, priceless old country art signs, and now a provincial French bistro where pottery and packaged foods from France are vended along with offerings from a small French kitchen. You can stroll among the fish vats and lobster boxes on down to a picnic table or two near the bay (it’s nicknamed the Sea Slug Lounge) and watch the water lap and the wind surfers soar. In the evening, The Fish Farm is a prime place to raise a toast to fun and watch the sun wink out at sunset as you wash down a dozen fresh shucked mildly salty Napeague oysters on the half shell with a horseradish cocktail sauce and a BYOB of cold Corona beer.

The Fish Farm is also called Multi Aqua Culture Systems 

Your GPS can lead you there:

429 Cranberry Hole Rd
Amagansett, NY 11930

(631) 267-3341

Montauk Weather: Tuesday was clear and mild after many days of low clouds and occasional small storms. For the next three days the sun may shine; the low eighties is possible by Thursday. At Tuesday noon the ocean waves were reported at 2.3 feet, air temperature 66 degrees, water 57.3 degrees, wind 4 MPH from the northwest, cloudless sky to horizon lines. Sunset 1800.


Anti-snob snobbery is a beloved Montauk character flaw, so the Gosman Family (who own Gosman’s Dock restaurants and markets) paid for an ad in The Easthampton Star [May 14, 2009] that shows the scruffy dog from Wizard of Oz standing beside a wood-slat lobster trap and the words:

Friendly waitresses,

food you can pronounce,

killer views

and plenty of parking. ~

Toto, I have a feeling we’re not in the Hamptons any more.”

The End’s First Montauk History Editor

People named Fields have walked, fished and sailed in Montauk since 1639 or so. William Fields, who can trace his umpteenth Fields grandfather back to the settlement of Gardiner’s Island by Lion Gardiner and his English shipmates, believes that in Montauk are some of the wildest and strangest people on earth. He is an electrical engineer; he has served in the army, fixed the enormous missile-directing NORAD radar during the Cold War; he’s seen the world. His knowledge of Montauk is encyclopedic, and he has a hypothesis that Montauk is weird because of its geography.

If you will notice,” he says, “Montauk is on a point of land that sticks out into the sea like the prow of a ship. In that way it’s like Key West, and Cape Hatteras, Cape May, Cape Cod. They’ve all got something about the people in common, and you know what it is but it’s hard to put into words. I think certain kinds of people are attracted by some unknown power, maybe even electrical, to little hooks of land sticking out into the sea. The people who live in Montauk are so crazy you can only marvel that they can exist in this world, but a lot of them do, mostly by pretending to be normal human beings when they get west of the Napeague Stretch.”

It turns out Bill Fields, who is a home appliance doctor (who makes house calls), knows and loves almost every weird Montauk creature he’s come across. He has agreed to help The End find and tell good Montauk stories, and as a sideline, to let us in on the world of electrical appliances and how to get the best out of them.

He has a bit of money-saving advice for those who have clothing washers in their home: “Use about half or less of the detergent you now use, no matter how little you use. If you get any more than an inch of foam on the wash water, you’ve got too much. The rinse cycle can’t deal with it. Your towels and clothes sop up the detergent and you can’t get it out. It dries on the clothing in the dryer. Next time you wash, you’ll find that even without adding any detergent at all, your clothes have enough soap in them to make an inch or more foam, which is more than enough for almost any wash. Take the tip. You’ll save money and improve the environment.”

Leadership Lesson

"Don't you be put out by anything," the Captain continued, mumbling rather fast. "Keep her facing it. They may say what they like, but the heaviest seas run with the wind. Facing it -- always facing it -- that's the way to get through. You are a young sailor. Face it. That's enough for any man. Keep a cool head."

~ Captain MacWhirr, from Typhoon, by Joseph Conrad

Coastal Botanical Report for Montauk

The great maritime oaks of Montauk are just about fully leafed out. The shad bushes, whose mid-May leaves signal the arrival of shad roe in some of the local small rivers and creeks, are peeking out tender greens. The throngs of tendril-sending shad bushes cover the flanks of the dunes from ocean to sound and twine together to ably provide cover for foxes, rabbits, deer, raccoon, big black rat snakes, salamanders, mice and a few native beach dogs.

With Mother’s Day came the early lilacs, both pale and perfumed French and the less fragrant but intensely colored Greeks. The peonies, harbingers of lazy heat, are plumping up their erotically pink petals inside feathery green flower pods as they soak up any sunshine that gets through the low, cold Canadian clouds and the soupy Atlantic fog. Small, hopeful violets and violas are peeping up their happy purple and yellow faces. The herb garden chives are green stalks with little red fruit globes on top. The emerald moss beneath the Three Sisters oak is virginally soft, a few still yellow forsythia blossoms lay on the grass, and clovers of all families are clustered in lucky clumps from the Montauk Manor to the foot of the Hither Hills. The biggest and proudest of all the spring dandelions are in buttery bloom. Holly bushes are in flowering ecstasy and many red berries are expected, early strawberries are in flower.

The red tulips planted with hope in December now stand about in small battalions. The pussy willows are tall as giraffes. The first seven leaves of the Stupendous Scotch Thistle (the prickliest life form on earth) have shown themselves in un-weeded lanes and native gardens. The Tiger lilies are two feet tall leaves and the irises need an extra week of sun to bloom. The Scotch broom’s pale yellow white blossoms are almost full.