Ruth Rogers

…with blue eyes and garbage skills


THE BOYS cruise up and down in their cars here all night. They think if they do it often enough, they’ll magically get laid,’ says Jack, sitting on the porch of the American Hotel, drinking a kir. It’s dusk on Main Street. The hotel is just down the road from the Paradise Grill, where John, Lou and the Captain drink their coffees at 7am. This is a terrific little inn: great food, fine drink, but not fancy, not the type of place Ivana Trump would drop by.

By Sag Harbor standards, it is a temple of style, and thus a meeting place for some pretty classy visitors, local writers and artists, such as Jack, who is a painter. And for the poseurs and ‘sans socks’ who meet in the bar to peruse pretty models standing on the heels of their sneakers. Around Sag Harbor, baring your heels is this year’s fashion. Who knows why, who cares? By sundown, at the American Hotel, the mating rituals have begun.

The summer, astonishingly, is already more than half gone. It has been hot again, and noisy, rain clattering, dog howling. Sleepless in Sag Harbor, I figure it’s better to pass the time drinking dry martinis at the American Hotel, and who knows, maybe running into some guy, maybe running into JFK Jr]

John Kennedy Jr was spotted once, over the road in Sagaponack, and ever since half of New York City has been prowling the area looking for him. But then sightings of JFK Jr are as common as Elvis; he is America’s Princess Di.

‘Is that him?’ a friend asks.

No, it is only a man with a smooth tan, wearing lizard loafers and a brocade waistcoat over his T-shirt; his friend has on jeans so exquisitely pressed he walks as if there are eggs in them. They sit down and light up big cigars. At the American Hotel, where smoke-ins are held in winter, a cigar is not merely a cigar. It is a style appendage and, given the way these guys puff and preen and wave the enormous smokes as the girls go by, a tool in the romantic rites of summer.

Across the street two lithe young men are painting the liquor store, their shirts off. A couple of summer widows, like characters from John Updike, gaze at them. It is very hot.

Jack, an old Sag hand, reminisces about meat loaf with mashed potatoes at the Paradise that had a hole for the gravy. One of the Cigars comes over to greet him. We are introduced; he does not remember that we have met several times.

No JFK Jr. No boys of summer. Not even a Cigar Jock. I turn to the personals in Dan’s Papers. All the men seem to be ’26’, ‘Christian’ or ‘5ft2’. Later, sitting in my garden where heat has bleached the hydrangeas the palest blue, mosquitoes feed on my ankles and I consider the men I have already encountered this summer: there was Brett, the lanky man from across the street, who put in the air-conditioner during the first heatwave and commiserated over losing the bike; Detective Mackey, the red- headed cop who failed to find the bike; and Paul, the cheery plumber who fixed the toilets.

Chris came from Good Neighbor appliance repair service to fix the dishwasher. It broke again. We had the kind of spat usually reserved for the long married (‘Why can’t you come here first?’ ‘Do you think you’re the only customer on my list?’). I said Sag Harbor was not very friendly. Where are you from? he said. New York City, I said. He came that afternoon and fixed the thing.

To be frank, I am not in the dumps just over men, but because of the garbage. What good is a guy with a big cigar and no socks in Sag Harbor, anyway, when what you really need is someone who can recycle garbage?

Recycling is worse than celibacy in Sag Harbor. Now I am a householder with many lovely house-guests, all, however, given to consuming huge amounts of food and drink. Which means bottles: wine, Evian, San Pellegrino, Diet Coke, Diet Orangina, regular Coke, regular Orangina, Snapple, apple juice, orange juice and seltzer, not to mention Baby Zach’s bottles. And all the bottles are different colours and there are newspapers and I can’t remember if you put milk cartons with food, but here, in my house the colour of Hershey bars, you have to put foodstuffs under the stairs in a sort of cage in case of rats. Rats]

I realise what’s been eating me: I don’t want just any man. I want a witty, charming, intelligent man with fair hair, blue eyes and garbage skills.

It is dark now. No one is coming. I make for the American Hotel and another martini, but everyone has gone, and only the boys in their cars are out, cruising, up and back . . . I return home, along Madison Street, past the man who sits on his veranda under a single yellow light every night, reading. As I approach my house, a big moon pops out from behind a tree and I see it: something wonderful has happened: some marvellous man has entered my life after all. A godlike figure from Suburban Sanitation has taken away all the garbage.

Sleepless in Sag Harbor no longer, I drift off thinking about the Artists and Writers softball game next week. Will I meet JFK Jr at this legendary event? Is it even possible that, as rumour has it he did once before, big Bill Clinton will step up to the plate?



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