New York City was covered in august sweat, drunk and stinky from the summer heat. The subway rats could barely move, unimpressed with gluten-free organic pizza crusts from Whole Foods. The rats reluctantly relocated their sly long tales from heated tracks into conditioned subway cars, leaving their cool tales hanging next to smelly feet of their grumpy humanoids — the New Yorkers, tired and cranky and so utterly unimpressed with the state of the world. The infamous Pizza Rat got on the A- express train heading to Howard Beach and dropped itself into the Broad Channel.
My frenemy Nikki found a summer sublet in East Hampton. She generously extended her invitation to me — to spend a few days with her for a frenemy price — $50 a night. What the Hell? I pondered. It’s either I will go to the Hamptons in my new shades and show off my new bikini top and most importantly bottom, or I will melt in our Bed-Stuy apartment, cluttered with beer cans, shedding cat, and two roommates married to an Xbox.
I packed all the necessary items and sunblock into my North Face backpack. I put on Levi’s jeans shorts, white tank, leather sandals and headed to Midtown East to take Hamptons Jitney. Nikki was hiding under an exaggerated black hat reminiscent of the Italian cinematography in the 60’s, La Dolce Vita. Her hands had a tight grip on a large travel bag, half her size. Inside was a summer collection of designer dresses and heels and bags. All this was part of the Mission Possible — Finding Prince Hamptons. We got on half empty Hampton Jitney, taking different seats, far from each other.
At dusk the bus dropped us off at the East Hampton Village. We took a nice walk past old historic colonial houses, charming mills and inns, turning into a peaceful suburban lane, surrounded by tall majestic oaks. The star-lit sky made it easy to find our house, hidden under a canopy of trees. A dog barked friendly behind the door which was left unlocked. The owner of the house, a widowed senile granny greeted us coldly from the couch in the living room, waving her stick at us. She looked like a huge stale donut morphed into the couch.
“Hello, Nikki. Did you bring the all the money for rent? I want all the money today.” she said. Despite being weak and being unable to get up without a stick, she put all the force to accentuate the urgency to pay the full rent immediately. Nikki handed her crispy bills and we went upstairs to our designated space — two tiny rooms painted in blue and pink colors and a tiny bathroom designed for a small person or perhaps even a midget. Despite its size, the rooms were almost charming, filled with handmade quilts and pillows and Christian theme miniature statues. It had that Dr. Leo Marvin’s home country feel from the movie What About Bob? But the most precious thing it could offer was an uninterrupted silent night.
I woke up to dog barking. At 9am Nikki appeared in front of me fully geared up, decked out — from head to toe. She was wearing floral dress, jewelry and pink lipstick. Her baby blode hair was impeccably styled. I showed her my thumbs-up. I got up, rinsed my face in a barbie-size doll bathroom, put on 7 For All Mankind denim shorts and a white tank. “Let’s go, find cawfee, breakfast and then hit the beach?” I asked.
The Maidstone Inn, a boutique hotel located in a 19th century colonial style house was only a few streets away, on the way to the beach. We walked in casually, projecting confidence. It was an upscale inn, scandinavian inspired design. Impressive. The rocking chairs on the patio were covered with Arctic reindeer fur rugs. The servers — white men dressed in black tuxedos were standing behind the tables of breakfast buffet. Nikki and I reached for the large fancy plates and moved towards the food nonchalantly.
“Good morning”, said the young pleasant server. “Would you like quail eggs with duck confit?” “I certainly do,” I said all smiles. Nikki followed me giggling. If there was a quality that we both shared — it was certainly — that — an almost childish, restless urge of getting ourselves into adventures. Impersonation was a skill we’d been mastering relentlessly thanks to our paying-the bills-side-gig of being a dancer. But impersonating a wannabe at clubs — that artificial plastic money-making chick wearing a fake blonde straight hair wig was annoying and boring. I could never get why so many men preferred ‘Blancas’. But the truth was that the real me rarely made the real money versus the other me — a mediocre actress with fake blonde hair, striking a pose…
“I hope you are enjoying a stay with us.” The waiter said.
“I most certainly do,” I said. “We are making a new episode with Anthony Bourdain next week, so I am enjoying a short get-a-away with my girlfriend.” I said pointing at Nikki. Nikki approached me with her plate, nodding approvingly and adding two cents with her heavy russian accent, “Es-ss, Es-ss, vi a-a-a here on va-kei.” We took our plates outside on a patio and plunged our booties into rocking chairs covered with decadent animal fur. It was a nice comfy bourgeois setting with green trees on the side. It would have been an idyllic scenery, had it not faced an old cemetery across the street. It was an ironic reminder, that after all, you can’t f — -k money or your social status. There was a couple next to us. Her — a young blonde, dressed in designer silk dress, holding a long-haired dachshund in her arms. Him — a substantially older man, holding a cup of coffee, wearing a white crisp shirt, a dark jacket, blue jeans and polished shoes.
“Ricky, don’t forget that we’re going to a party tonight,” the blonde said anxiously.
“Oh what, another party, again? He produced a long sigh, barely moving his lips.
“Babe, it’s the big one, remember? It’s Barbara’s and Steve’s, the Ibiza party on 201 Pantigo Rd! At 9pm.” the blonde said, dropping her daschund. You could hear a tremor in her voice. “We must go! Besides, it’s only thirteen hundred feet from the house.”
Nikki and I, longing for yet another mischief exchanged long glances. Rise by Herb Alpert was playing in the background. It was a beautiful sunny day — a good day to crash an Ibiza party at 20 Pantigo Rd.
When our feet touched the pristine warm sand at East Hampton Main beach, we split, Nikki going for a walk North, and me going for a run South. We got back together to eat clam chowder soup and bathe in the sun. At 5 o’clock in selfie time, after hundreds of selfies and photo sessions, I requested a recess again. We walked at least three miles back to Main street, to Citarella — the only place we could eat at without breaking our wallets.
“So, any idea about the Ibiza party tonight?” Nikki asked, chewing a big piece of roasted chicken.
“Not a biggie. It’s gonna be fun!” I said, winking my left eye, pinching a chickpea from grilled Tilapia. “We are a force of nature. All we need to do is deck out. Red lipstick. Heels and a little bit of luck… ”
Back at the house Nikki was throwing an impromptu fashion show, trying on all the dresses and heels she’d brought with her. She finally picked her outfit — Marc Jacob’s little white dress and uncomfortably high silver Gucci stilettos. Myself, I put on the only dress I had — a long multicolored zig-zag dress with a sharp V-neckline, which I’d bought at Beacon’s Closet — New York hipsters favorite thrift store. My dress was missing a label, so I proclaimed that it was a Missoni dress. I didn’t bring any fancy heels either. But I had a pair of Crocs, which I’d proudly worn in South Carolina swamps and on Bourbon Street. Crocs, the most ridiculed, anti-glamorous shoes in the country. Surprisingly, these were not the ugliest. They were wedges with red leather ankle strap, and looked alright..
They say that in order to Crash a Party Like a Pro you need to show up when the party is in full swing, looking your best and being ready to improvise. At 10 pm we took a cab to 201 Pantigo Rd. There was a private road leading to a two-storey modern mansion standing on the small hill overlooking the Atlantic. We could hear an upbeat roaring in the distance. “Try not to talk, I’ll do the tawking.” I said turning to Nikki. “Maybe, we should get in from the beach?” Nikki asked. “No”, I said, “it’s going to be too suspicious.” We walked into a half open gate, walking down the wide spacious lawn past neatly trimmed shrubs shaped like champagne glasses. At the front of the house, in the white tent the DJ was starting to spin, a few men were setting up the buffet and bar. brought large trays with food. We were finally spotted by a small party of well dressed folks. A tall man in his thirties wearing a tuxedo approached us. “Hello, who are you?” he asked.
“Hi, you must be Steve?” I said, “I am Alexa, an associate editor of Town and Country.” And this is Nikita, an intern from our Swedish office. There was a long pause.
“I thought Barbara mentioning someone coming from Porter,” he said, scrutinizing us from head to toe.
“Alright,” he said, “where is your camera or professional photographer?”
“He was double-booked,” I said , “he is wrapping up a charity event in West Hampton, he should be here shortly.”
“Barbara,” he shouted. “Barb, come here, you have two ladies from Town and Country for the interview.
Barbara, however, was nowhere to be found. “Help yourself with drinks and food, I’ll come and get her.” he said walking away. Nikki and I exchanged long cheerful glances followed by an exuberant high five.
In the tent the DJ was spinning, the champagne was pouring out. The party was made of dolled up young women (predominantly blondes) and three types of men: Wall Street bros with gelled hair, Man Buns trying to looks like Jared Leto and wealthy offsprings looking like they came off the pages of GQ. I went to explore with a glass of champagne. “Who’s this blonde?” I overheard a Man Bun asking another Man Bun about Nikki. Before I walked I away, I heard the familiar Russian accent saying, “Ai em Nikki, Nikita.”
I walked into a big living room reminiscent of the Martha Stewart Living. Huge modern art paintings covering brick exposed walls. Suzuki Grand Digital Piano was standing in the middle of the living room. I went thru the living room and into the back of the house facing the Ocean. A pleasant voice behind me whispered, “Would you like an old fashioned?” Behind me was a good-looking stud. He wasn’t a Man-Bun, his hair was medium length, dark brown. He was wearing a casual orange button down shirt and blue jeans. “I could use one,” I said eyeing him up and down. “I am James.” he said looking straight into my eyes. An awkward and intriguing silence followed before I introduced myself. I was anticipating those social questions aimed at establishing my social status, job status and I lived in a prime location in Brooklyn. Instead, we talked about marine life and overfishing of the ocean and upcoming presidential election. His voice,like smooth jazz was resonating with me. Just as things were about to turn interesting with James and I, a party of Ralph Lauren suits and financial bros showed up and started Q&A and all that social status crap which Holden Caulfield labeled as “phony”.
A tall voluptuous blonde talking in exaggerated Kim Kardashian with self-righteous haute, introduced herself as the reporter from Porter started grilling me about my job. I excused myself saying that I was not interested in discussing anything with her and that I needed a refill. I turned around to locate James the Charming. Too weak to fight back and too distracted to resist, James was swallowed by a collective perfumed cloud of “phonies”. I walked away looking at him with great sorrow. It was that familiar scene, another deja vu — when I am standing at the middle of the platform in Union Square waiting for the Q train to arrive. The R train stops, the door opens and I see a guy, our eyes meet. There’s something about him, I feel radio waves, a warm undertow waking up winter fish. My life may change forever if he gets off. But he doesn’t. Maybe because it’s February in NYC and you can hardly see me because I am bundled up. The train departs, the moment fades forever. (although one time there was a guy named Kennedy who got off at the wrong stop to follow me but that’s another story.) Unlike Nikki, I didn’t have any plans chasing an ephemeral Prince Hamptons because I am way too jaded to buy into that, soap opera, Danielle Steel nonsense.
I had another drink and another drink which didn’t seem too many because fresh ocean breeze and light dainty food were making it too easy. Nikki was nowhere to be found. Occasionally, I’d hear her russian accent. I went back into the huge living room and opened Suzuki Royale. Being well beyond tipsy, I was experiencing an elevated sense of adventure and self-confidence. In those tipsy moments, my forgotten Italian was coming back full force. I’d played music most of my childhood but I’d only minored in piano. And for the last ten years or so Beethoven’s Fur Elise, the most overplayed classic standard was the only thing I remembered. My drunk mind resolved to improvise. I hit the first few chords quietly without drawing any attention. After a minute of warming up, I banged on the piano, starting with Girl From Ipanema and continuing with random improvisation from my head which sounded like it could be dysfunctional attempt of playing Miles Davis or Rochmaninoff — cacophony and jazz at the same time. I was slowly drawing attention. A cute couple came closer. I winked at him flirtatiously, he smiled, she puffed and walked away. More studs with their amicas moved closer forming a circle. That gave me even more edge and momentum, my left hand was convulsing, but my right hand, high on adrenaline and booze kept rolling and running, composing a sketch from my head. I was pretending I was a female version Herbie Hancock or Lyle Mays or Diana Krall who lost her sexy crispy voice. I don’t know how long I was jamming for but when I finished there was a dramatic pause followed by a brief applaud, mostly from studs. I thought I saw James’s face but he kept fleeting. I found myself flirting with a bunch of studs, morphed into one generic reformed Wall Street Man Bun type. Someone poured me another glass of champagne. My eyes were searching for James. Gradually the surroundings turn hazy. I seem to step outside of myself, watching the whole thing. I am self-conscious that I am liquored up.
The camera watches as I go up to that blonde from Porter.
“Guess, what,” I say, “my insider source just told me that Porter has been acquired by AM New York, due to a hostile acquisition, which means Y’all from Porter will be covering the Pizza Rat story and spending mucho time on the A train, running local. No mor Hamptons, Capisci?” She pops her eyes at me, looking terrified. The camera watches as I come up to James.
“Want to get real and weird?” I ask. The camera watches as Barb the host comes to James and whispers something to his ear, looking at me suspiciously. “Nope, says, James, “she’s actually with me, my babe and I, we just like to keep things interesting.” he says, taking my hand. The camera watches as I burst into laughter, waving goodbye to Barb. I am holding James’ hand tight as we come down the hill to the ocean. We take our shoes off. The sand under our feet feels cool and soft. We want to talk but words are escaping us. It’s not the moment. Hypnotized by the universal power of the Ocean, we stare at each other, we gaze into the dark ocean. I take the bottom of my dress, roll it up, take it off, throw it on the sand and step into the ocean. I don’t look back but I feel the intriguing presence behind me. The wave is coming towards me. An ole familiar jazz rock fusion tune stuck in my head, makes me want to write my own tune. Acoustic guitar, electric violin, bass and Esperanza Spalding’s voice. Ideally a viral tune, of course. I keep going deeper into the ocean and then BAM, the big wave comes crushing me, sucking me in. Silence. Nautical silence followed by the drum solo played by waves. I stay inside the armpit of the wave, lingering on the moment, opening my eyes to examine maroon colors of the sand and wave. It’s okay. I am in my element, a strong swimmer, Padi certified diver. BAM and Then It Hits You. I come outta wave like a fish hiccupping. Someone’s hands envelope me sensually. I am stoked to see it’s Him, like a mysterious lego part clicking with me. We go back into the warm Ocean, two octopi wrapping their parts around each other, exchanging salty kisses, riding the moment. Maybe I’ll write a book. No I shall write one. Maybe I’ll see James again. But that’s Manãna. Everything is Manyana. For now I am just a drunk octopus…