I’ve been going around this summer in the Hamptons reading chapters of my memoir STILL IN THE HAMPTONS that just came out. Each chapter is about a different person or place or encounter. So I find myself in fields, on street corners, in the woods—places like that. The readings are free. I’ve had as many as 30 people show up to them. And as few as two.
This past Saturday I read a chapter out in front of the big white Coast Guard Station in Montauk on Star Island. The chapter was about Carl Darenberg and his successful attempt to haul what was then the Napeague Coast Guard Station to it’s present spot ten miles away on Star Island in Montauk. He didn’t haul it over the roads. He slid it across the dunes to a barge beached on the sand at Napeague Harbor, put it on the barge and tried to haul it through Gardiner’s Bay with his fishing boat. The fact that we were standing in Montauk in front of it affirmed that the project was a success. What was not apparent were the details. It almost became a disaster. The wind sprang up. The barge began sailing out into the Atlantic. It’s a long wonderful story and about 20 people enjoyed the telling of it there.
A second reading on Sunday in the Deerfield section of Water Mill was a whole other story. The chapter was called “Werewolf Path.” Around 1970, I had laboriously created a road map of the Hamptons that, supported by advertising, could be had for free. I gave out about 20,000 of them a year.
In drawing this map, using other maps as guides, I had found that many roads were just dotted lines without names. Other roads had names, but they were historic and very complicated names. It was hard to fit Eli Brook to Northwest Harbor Road, or Highway Behind the Pond or Three Mile Harbor Hog Creek Road onto my map—but I did manage it. As for the dotted line roads, I thought—who names the roads? And then I thought, why don’t I name them? And so I did. I named one Lois Lane, another Wandering Cow’s Journey, another Uncle Ed’s Romp and another Werewolf Path.
None of these names appeared in other maps published the following year. But then, a few years later, one of them that I had named did: Werewolf Path. It was a quarter mile road that connected Little Noyac Path with Noyac Path. So the chapter I wrote about this explained the circumstances of how this had happened and how I proudly thought this perhaps the most meaningful accomplishment in my life, creating the name of a place on a map for ever and ever.
“Yup. There’s quite a story about a Werewolf who lived there once.”
My reading, of course, would take place at the corner of Little Noyac Path and Werewolf Path right under the Werewolf Path sign. But on Sunday morning at 8 a.m., when I checked the location of Werewolf Path on the GPS on my iPhone, I discovered that it did connect up at Noyac Path, but it no longer reached Little Noyac Path where I had years ago seen it before. It dead ended before it got there. Thus, with about half an hour to spare before the reading, I drove up there to put up a sign at Little Noyac Path letting people know that they’d not find Werewolf Path there. They’d have to drive about a quarter mile to get to the other side of it.
Boy was I in for a surprise. I did find two women in a car at Little Noyac Path there for the reading wondering what happened to Werewolf Path. There seemed to be a woods where Werewolf Path was supposed to be. So I put up my sign on a tree and told them they’d have to drive around to the other side. They asked if they could follow me there. I said sure.
But this brought more surprises. Halfway around, the road turned to two ruts of dirt going through a field. We bounced along going through, only to wind up, regardless of what it said on my cellphone GPS, at the corner of what was supposed to be Werewolf Path and Noyac Path, but was instead in fact Old Sag Harbor Road and Noyac Path. There was a sign reading b Sag Harbor Road. And there was no doubt they were the same road. Somebody had changed my name of it.
What a stunning discovery. I did the reading anyway, signed a few copies of the book to those attending, and then when it was over, said my goodbyes and drove down to the dead end of “Old Sag Harbor Road” halfway back to Little Noyac Path to see what I could see. At the dead end, the road continued on, but now as the entry driveway to a private home. A metal gate was shut and locked across the road. There was an intercom on a stand next to the gate where you could call in to whatever house was in there. There were no trespassing signs, no horsebackriding signs, a private property sign. Surprisingly there was a wooden sign with the first and last name of a man whose home it was in there. I copied down the name and asked Information for this man’s phone number, hoping that I could call him and learn what had happened. But the operator told me it was a private listing. So that was that.
This had been Werewolf Path for at least 20 years. It was on Hagstroms Maps, it was on other maps. It’s on my iPhone map. I went back to the car and looked for it on a new gas station map I had just bought. It was gone. This man, or who owned this property before this man, had bought all this property on both sides of my road and had swallowed up my Werewolf Path. And then somebody had decided to formally change the name of the part of it leading up to this dead end to Old Sag Harbor Road. This information, at least until last Sunday, had not yet filtered down to the good folks who operate the computer maps at Apple.
What happened? The biggest accomplishment of my life is now gone. This chapter in my book now looks like a lie. And perhaps the only people who know for sure what happened are the good folks at the Southampton Town Building Department.
This is being written on Sunday evening. Tomorrow, I call the Building Department and we shall see what we shall see.
By the way, my next reading, this coming Saturday morning at 11 a.m. on August 11, will be of “Manny Quinn,” the store mannequin who for nearly 10 years was a full fledged member of the East Hampton Town police department working 24 hours a day seven days a week 12 months a year. I’ll be out front on the Montauk Highway under the East Hampton Town Hall Sign.
Of course, you can avoid all this nonsense, just go online or to any bookstore and buy STILL IN THE HAMPTONS.