Winter in a Summer Town

It’s the end of Grey Gardens, the Broadway musical about Jackie O’s reclusive aunt Big Edith Bouvier Beale and her adult daughter Little Edie Bouvier Beale living in squalor among raccoons, cats, and fleas in their rundown 28-room East Hampton mansion on the beach. Little Edie, with a sweater wrapped over her head and pinned under the chin, begins a little song and dance number.

The renters go home.
The maple goes from crimson to brown.
The beach is empty.
They cover the pools.
The patio umbrellas come down.
Oh God. My God.
Another winter in a summer town.

I discretely take a nip of Grand Marnier from a new petite silver flask and ponder the meaning of Little Edie’s song. Is there anything sadder than winter in a summer town?

When it comes to winter in Rehoboth, a lot of guys share Little Edie’s sentiment and scamper off to “Fort Liquordale” and other warm ports of call. Or, they just stay in the city until the sun and the boys return to Poodle Beach.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’d much rather gaze upon a handsome man in a Speedo than a lumpy down parka. But, I rather fancy Rehoboth when the weather turns raw and the Nor’easters race up the coast from the Carolinas.

If summertime is carnal then wintertime is romantic. Rich soups, bourbon, books, and good conversation. Solitary walks on a Boardwalk free from fat families stuffing their faces with fudge and fries. Snow on the beach. Peeking into old cottages and wishing you had an extra million dollars sitting in your bank account. No traffic.

My little cottage was originally built as a 3-season home, without insulation or heat. Its owners didn’t venture down to the beach in wintertime. But, at some point during its eighty-five years, radiator heat was installed. Most people think I’m nuts when I confess to trying not to use it and profess instead a fondness for my fireplace, a wool blanket, and a cashmere sweater. Hell, I like drafts.

I’m not the only one. I know there are others who would rather shiver in Rehoboth than soak in a germ infested hot tub in Florida. One gentleman, who will remain anonymous, winters over in a house that sometimes gets so cold his poor old pussycat sits under a lampshade with her head against a light bulb to keep warm.

Katherine Hepburn, you ought to know, used to fling open the windows of her Connecticut seaside home to welcome the cold winter air. She savored it. Said it kept her spirit fresh. Her guests didn’t always agree. But who cares about guests…

I’m prone to wishing aloud for harsher winters and for the days when Rehoboth shut down and only the hardiest souls stayed around. Friends who have been coming to Rehoboth since the 70’s are shocked by such pronouncements, pointing out how bleak and depressing the town used to be when all the restaurants closed and you had to import your own food and friends. In the old days, the say, you couldn’t stroll downtown for a cocktail, a bite to eat, or the New York Times. I roll my eyes.

They roll their eyes when I wax poetic about being able to see an abundance of stars in the wintertime sky, reminding me that Rehoboth’s growth into a full-season resort has made me some money in the real estate market. True. But you still can’t see the stars in the summertime.

And, speaking of stars, or wanna be stars, little Edie Bouvier Beale finally got out of East Hampton the winter after her mother died in 1977. She made her way first to Manhattan and then to Miami Beach to pursue a stage career that never took off. She died in 2002.

As much as I’m enchanted with Little Edie and her story, and despite how much I admire her spirit, insanity, and sense of style, I must respectfully disagree with her about one important thing. She had it one hundred percent completely backwards — there’s nothing like winter in a summer town.