DREDGING UP THE PAST

Back in the summer of ’89 I earned a month-long stint at the Edward Albee Center at Montauk Point. It was an exhilarating and productive time, with a lot of highlights, including being feted at my birthday dinner by Edward himself, along with other attendees of the retreat, and a conversation with The Man in which, after I proudly told him how much I had written during the time I’d spent there, he replied, “Ah, but how much will you keep?” By which, of course, he meant use. I must confess that the answer to that question, so far at least, is zip. The novel I was writing then, a bildungsroman about my boyhood called, “The Ranch,” much of which was penned that summer, has sheltered in my drawer all these years.

But why I’m remembering this at the moment is a period piece I dug out of my writing files while trying to accomplish some housecleaning. I thought it might be interesting enough to share. Dated 7-31-89, here it is:

“There is a lot of privilege out here in this town at the end of a long island. Every other car one sees is either a Mercedes Benz or a Volvo. In fact I suspect everyone who owns a Mercedes Benz also owns a Volvo. And the others! Jaunty little runabouts one sees at the beach: Lamborghinis, 5-liter Porsches, 2 (count them) Shelby Cobras, Saabs, Jaguars, nothing surprises. I myself was picked up hitching back from a dip in the ocean by a sweet red Alfa Romeo. Cadillacs, in this environment, look positively tacky; one wants to sneer. I haven’t spotted a Testa Rossa or an Aston Martin yet, but I’ll be here a few more hours.

“And what about all these Colombians in their pickups, or on foot, who are apparently the gardeners, and change the linen in the motels? Did they arrive at the the bottom of a cocaine shipment, like the prize at the bottom of the crackerjack box?

“Finally, here is me, tooling along on my beat-up, circa-1960 girl’s bike that the chain keeps slipping off of (the only one the Albee Foundation owns that works at all). Ah, now I see: Lamborghini and bicicleta, the relation between Society and Art in a nutshell.”

Twenty-five plus years later, what has changed? Only that the Lamborghini crowd perhaps rules  more directly now, rather than simply from the wings. But with The Donald at the helm, wouldn’t that be much too obvious?

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