This year, the leaves out east waited until mid-November to show their brightest colors. In years past, Larry Penny, who was at the time at the helm of the East Hampton Town National Resources Department, would say that leaves’ colors in the fall had to do with the amount of rain during the summer. Then he mentioned average temperatures and all sorts of other factors. Whatever, they sure are beautiful right now before Thanksgiving.
Decades ago, I used to take my daughters up to Pinkham Notch, New Hampshire for a Thanksgiving feast at the Appalachian Mountain Club facilities there. We would do a pre-meal short but strenuous hike, and then feast and spend the evening playing games in the game room with the other guests, usually with a big fire roaring in a huge fireplace.
Every Thanksgiving Day is special because we stop to reflect and give thanks and appreciate what we have. I have been and now am very blessed. There was a decade when things were not so spectacular. It was during this time I learned a truer meaning of Thanksgiving.
When you write, report, and cover the east end you witness the real stories. For example, while doing a story on iconic singer Gene Casey, when asked about his fondest memories, he said it was showing up at the homeless shelters unannounced with his guitar just to sing for “the folks there.” Another time I volunteered to attend a homeless shelter prior to Thanksgiving at the East Hampton Methodist Church on Pantigo Road across from the Post Office. What a life lesson I had that night seeing the true angel’s work of the volunteers there. I remember thinking how with a year or two of bad luck almost anyone could end up in one of these shelters.
It was at this time I was separated from my family geographically and emotionally via divorce and family business implosion. Come Thanksgiving I really had nowhere to go. Each year of that dark yet enlightened period I was invited to join a family as their guest. I came face to face with the hearts and souls of the real local folks of the east end.
One year, Ingrid Lemme, then Social Director of Gurney’s Inn at the time, invited me to the Thanksgiving feast they were having at Gurney’s. I was invited because I had done some writing for their Gurney’s Quarterly. Gurney’s CEO Paul Monte had a great sense of community and actually invited a host of folks in my situation and put us at one big table. I sat with these locals because, quite frankly, we had nowhere else to go and at the time most likely could not afford to attend such a feast. Chip Monte supervised the whole feast and Paul Monte gave a short prayer of thanks. I still recall that dessert spread. I am not sure if the new management of Gurney’s continues this tradition the Monte family started.
My last Thanksgiving living in Montauk, I decided I wanted to cook a turkey at home. It seemed my whole adult life I had never actually personally cooked a turkey. My landlord/roommate had family plans but promised to come back and share some of the small turkey with me. I never realized until that day how long it took to cook a turkey in the oven. Then this actually happened. Before the turkey was properly cooked, we ran out of propane gas and the oven shut down! The turkey was not yet cooked enough to be safely eaten. I stuffed it into the microwave oven and nuked it. Unfortunately, when we went to eat it, it was of horse saddle leather quality. We ate some of it, laughing and saying it wasn’t quite Gurney’s quality.