I Hate the Hamptons
I’ve been to the Hamptons once in my life—a summer weekend in 2014. The Hamptons are a vacation spot, so you would think that people would go there to relax. Nope. Those are some of the most uptight motherfuckers you have ever seen in your entire life.
I ended the previous essay with:
Don’t sweat the small stuff. Everything is small stuff.
The Hamptons are a place where nothing is small stuff, where every slight, every indignity, every setback is the actual end of the world. The Hamptons is perfect-land where everything is supposed to be perfect, and when it’s not perfect, people lose their minds. Look, I’ve been to about every rich neighborhood in America, and even in Los Angeles or San Francisco, I’ve never seen people wound as tight as they are in the Hamptons.
I actually was there because I was DJing a pool party. I got there early, and was helping set up, and I was tasked with going to the fish store to get some fish. This, apparently, was some fancy world-famous fish store that had been featured in all the glossy magazines, but it didn’t look like anything special to me—a small, low-slung box of a building that would be utterly nondescript in any small town in America. More on this in a second—every small business in the Hamptons is the best in the world, featured in all the glossy magazines. I should take these assholes to Hog Heaven in Pawleys Island, get some pulled pork out of the buffet and slide around on the grease-covered floor.
I go inside, and it’s what you’d expect—a bunch of fish in display cases. I take a number, and get in line, and the guy in front of me, some pencilneck in his late 60s, waits maybe 30 seconds—probably less—before he decides he’s not getting the attention he deserves and goes behind the counter and into the freezer to scream at the poor Mexican guy for being too slow, forgetting for a moment that pencilneck has a phone number in his bank account and the Mexican probably can’t find a place to live anywhere near his place of work. Having worked on Wall Street for nine years, I have seen rich people behaving badly before, but this took it to another level. Later that night, I was out in East Hampton and saw two people get into a fuck you screaming match over…a parking spot. They almost came to blows. Imagine going on vacation and being that unhappy all the time. It’s what’s happens when you take all the world’s assholes and cram them out on the tip of Long Island like face cards in a six-deck shoe.
The Hamptons, more than any other place in America, is a place where you drive around and ooh and ahh at the houses of centimillionaires and billionaires. Life is filled with pecking orders—my cats have a pecking order—but the level of dick-measuring and one-upsmanship in the Hamptons is just off the charts. This hedge fund guy has that house over there. This private equity guy has this house over here. So-and-so had a down year in his fund and has to sell his place. Jesus. You know, one of the great things about Lehman Brothers, at least the equities floor, is that most of management lived in New Jersey. New Jersey has its own hierarchy, with Summit and Short Hills and Chatham, but it is a lot less pretentious than Westchester or Greenwich. New Jersey is downright blue collar next to Greenwich, with its satin bathrobes and velvet slippers. I lived in New Jersey, and we didn’t go to the Hamptons in the summer. We went to Manasquan, which back then, was solidly middle-class. These are not real people who live in these places. If you grew up poor, you would never buy a house in the Hamptons, because you still wouldn’t be accepted, and there would be no point. We’re talking about generations of dynastic wealth.
The Hamptons has something of an arts scene. Funny about the arts scene in the Hamptons. The Hamptons are filled with “artists” and “writers” who have the luxury of being artists and writers because they have a phone number in their bank account. Now, in the arts world, it is sort of a badge of honor to be poor, and there is a long history of affluent artists being excluded from art or literary circles because they are too wealthy. They never struggled. So I would be sympathetic to a writer in the Hamptons who was good but was having a difficult time getting published. But not that many people are good. I think there is something about struggle and poverty that produces better art. These people are a bunch of poseurs and dilettantes.
A few months ago, I was watching 60 Minutes and they had a piece about Ina Garten. I’m not a food guy, so had only heard about Ina Garten tangentially, but I knew about her Barefoot Contessa show and all that. What I didn’t know was that she got her start by opening her store in the Hamptons. Of course. If she opened a store anywhere else in the country—anywhere else—nobody hears about Barefoot Contessa, no matter how good it is. There is something about opening a store in the midst of the richest enclave in America that confers special advantages. I have no idea what breaks she got along the way, but my guess is that she met her literary agent and film agent by virtue of having a store in the Hamptons. And yes, she worked hard. But winning the geographic lottery has a lot to do with it. A lot of life is hard work, but a lot of luck is being in the right place at the right time. If I worked at Merrill Lynch instead of Lehman Brothers, I don’t have a bestselling book. I recognize that, and I hope she does, too. For every Ina Garten are a million chefs who are toiling in anonymity.
Please keep in mind that I am no class warrior. Au contraire. I am in the process of building the second-biggest home in the nicest neighborhood in the Myrtle Beach area. I get a lot of mileage out of writing about my lower-middle class upbringing, but I am no longer lower-middle class. I am surrounded by rich people. And I often find myself in a position where I am defending rich people to the class warriors, because the truth is that rich people are by and large some of the nicest people you will ever meet. But not the Hamptons. The Hamptons are indefensible. You might think Beverly Hills is even more disconnected from reality. It’s not. Beverly Hills is a postage stamp, and once you step outside it, you’re in LA proper, and you’re dealing with real people with real problems. In the Hamptons, you can be insulated and out of touch to a degree that exists nowhere else in the United States. And there is nothing worse than an out-of-touch rich person. Of course, when you make some money, what do you do? You move to a nice neighborhood with a gate to keep the riffraff out so you don’t have to think about the fentanyl epidemic that is happening downtown. Everyone does this. You live in a gated community and you go to the grocery store in a pneumatic tube. Being out of touch is the goal. Hell, the real super-rich people get out to the Hamptons by helicopter. The people with only $20 million have to sit in traffic for four hours.
It all comes from the idea that when you get rich, everything should be perfect. Well. After dinner the other night, I was making myself an iced coffee, and spilled the iced coffee and the creamer all over the fucking place. On the counter, on the floor, on the cabinets. Huge mess, took 30 minutes to clean up. Then my wife got out a spray bottle of bleach and accidentally sprayed my shorts, ruining them. Then I couldn’t find my can of ZYN, and my low-nicotine warning light was on. Plus, my left ear was blocked up and I couldn’t hear shit. Within the span of an hour, four annoying things happened to me. But you have to have perspective. No matter how rich you are, you can’t stop bad shit from happening. You know what movie that’s from? Ex Machina, when Oscar Isaac’s hot Asian robot spills shit everywhere during dinner.
I sincerely hope everyone who reads this gets stupidly rich, and I sincerely hope it doesn’t make you lose touch with reality. It is harder than you think.