Truth Beauty

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No one knows for sure who is speaking the words in the last line of John Keats’s poem “Ode on a Grecian Urn,” “‘Beauty is truth, truth beauty’—that is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know,” but I like to think it was the urn or history speaking to mankind.

It’s kind of like when my father reminds me, “You live in La La Land,” otherwise known as East Hampton or “Hollywood East.”

East Hampton is known as one of the “richest” towns in the world, certainly in real estate values, yet the median household income was $56,607 in 2000, according to U. S. Census Bureau, the year we bought the business on Newtown Lane and our home.

Of the 1,334 people living in East Hampton Village, 1,242 were white, 115 Hispanic and 19 black or African American and the average age was 48.7. There were 189 renter-occupied housing units and 25 people claimed rent as a percentage of the household revenue. The average rent was $975.

Those numbers seem a little off to me. Obviously, the Census Bureau counts year-round residents and not second-homeowners but it reflects a great disparity in our reality.

By all accounts, the country was living large then but I did worry about the event of a recession and how it would affect our investment.

Because we sell a lot of beauty products, I was told that, even in a recession, beauty products were a safe bet because woman still like to pamper themselves with little things.

Like a nice scented soap or bubble bath, East Hampton was also said to be immune to a recession.

The assumption was that second-homeowners were so wealthy, dips in the market would not hurt them, and in turn, the year-round people who essentially work for them would not be hurt.

Now that we have learned the worse, that there are people who are willing to kill themselves to kill us, and we are now in a war where young men and women lose their lives every day, now that we are living in a recession, when someone asks me how the business is doing, I answer, “Fantastic!”

It’s turned into a joke with my friends and me. Try it. The next time you ask a business owner how they are doing, you will most likely get the same response: “Fantastic!”

Restaurant week is another escape from reality. One can live like a titan, or at least sit next to one. Last week, everyone went out on the town to one of the many restaurants most of us can afford only when deeply discounted.

WordHampton, the public relations firm owned by Steve Haweeli, a former bartender at Nick & Toni’s, started restaurant week in 2003 and, for local restaurants, it’s a week during the slowest time of year.

What some restaurant snobs and cynics consider “amateur night,” others see as a chance to get dressed up after staying home for weeks on end in bleak weather and financial conditions.

“Amateur” would be the last word I would use to describe the person who sat at the table next to us at Nick & Toni’s on our restaurant week date. The man speaking for the table of three, a titan of industry, has dominated headlines throughout the world. He did not care about the restaurant week menu and asked for “the oldest whiskey” available.

At that point, my husband paid the bill and bolted for the door before I could order an after-dinner drink. As superficial as it sounds, I wanted to soak it all in. My husband wanted sleep when I wanted to daydream.

Reality these days is more like being on a sinking ship with another storm coming along. I consider our town’s inevitable property tax hike the storm we can see coming a mile away. It is pretty obvious that a lot of money has been spent throughout the town.

I would feel a lot better having more of a say in where and how our money is spent before it is spent. “Transparency” is a word I’ve been reading a lot lately and I think we need more of it in East Hampton Town government.

I may live in La La Land but I don’t think our government should.

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