I’ve been staring at the black tar rooftops of a sunbaked Manhattan all week, salivating over the penthouse plants, the imported olive trees and the misplaced seagrass bending in hot winds.
These verdant oases are depressingly few and far between, daytime ghost towns, their owners out making the millions required to possess them. Living in New York, you stifle the craving for nature, that instinctual need for rolling hills, singing birds, the humanity of a small town. To hell with your pastoral watercolor life. It’s the bright lights, big city for me, you think. But as the 100th semi-truck lays on its horn, briefly drowning out the persistent whine of braking cabs, I decide my city mouse shtick might need a 48-hour reprieve.
Montauk is dead, filled with young and rich investment bankers who think they’re cooler than thcaleir older, wealthier bosses in East and Bridgehampton. Girls in bad dresses and pool heels pack the lines into parties, as though they’d just walked all the way from the Meatpacking District, missing their regular nightclub by a few hundred miles. The Catskills are the new safehaven, where you go when you don’t want to be seen by anyone, save for the smiling tollbooth attendants on your way in, the hippie selling you groceries at the local natural store.
I settle in quick, sinking into the grass like a marathon runner at the end of a race. A firm breeze pushes the trees overhead, rattling leaves while giant ants bite at my skin. Pine tree pods sit on the surface of the pool, the kind I used to mercilessly jab into the bellies of roly-polies as a kid. Next door is a farm where a husband-and-wife team tap maple syrup and bail hail. They raise chickens and sell the eggs from a cupboard near the road, accompanied by a glass jar and the provincial assumption that everyone will pay.
I remember this time.
To live in New York City is a blessing. To leave it is one all the same. My 48 hours evaporate like water on hot concrete and soon enough I am driving back into Manhattan, a super moon sitting over city lights. Traffic swells. Walls grow taller. The tollbooth attendants wear blue plastic gloves and tired frowns. I am thankful for a youth away from this place, sitting on the lawn my parents planted by hand, cooking under California sun, the road trips through New Mexico and the boats to Catalina. But for now this will do. Yes, this will certainly do.– Jenny Bahn