You are in the Hamptons, except you are not really in the Hamptons. The Hamptons is the white aristocracy taking a shit on your dreams from a helicopter. Men tan in their armpits, tan behind their earlobes, receding hairlines and Peroni and SLKs, the kind of accomplished malaise of a people who have never had to mow a lawn.
You are not there. You are in Hampton Bays. Hampton Bays is for the proletariat wading through traffic. Share houses and 30-racks on the train from Penn Station. People eating 7-11 egg salad sandwiches off the dashboard at two in the morning, driving Route 27 home with the windows down and someone asleep in the passenger seat. People who mow their own lawns; people who look like they just came from mowing the Hamptons lawns.
If you could somehow inhabit an ant farm made of bicep and stale pizza crust, here you are, open Sundays only, from 4-8 PM, Memorial Day to Labor Day.
More specifically, you are at the Boardy Barn—bar, circus, human petting zoo, throbbing wet orifice of recklessness and our basest human impulses, dense and swampy, dirt and spilt beer on your ankles, half a thousand people packed against railings and elbows. If you could somehow inhabit an ant farm made of bicep and stale pizza crust, here you are, open Sundays only, from 4-8 PM, Memorial Day to Labor Day.
It has been in operation since 1970—not quite a bar, not quite a club; functionally it is a shaded patch of land. There is an indoor bar and, beneath a red and white striped tent outside, another bar. Everyone moves with the kind of limitless, sunglasses-emoji invincibility of someone peeing in a sink at a house party. It is as utilitarian as a Civil War encampment. Every amenity necessary to preserve this day; nothing more. Plywood and port-a-potties, one-dollar hot dogs, Bud Light pouring unremittingly from every tap in the place, a DJ working through a playlist that is some mix of Uncle's Second Marriage and Minor League Baseball Game, Neil Diamond and Journey and Rick Springfield and every other inescapable 80s hit that sticks in your mouth like a canker sore.
Every girl is named Ashley or Jordan or Morgan. They're all 23 or 24 and roam with a look that is somewhere between "never, in a million years" and "fuck it, whaddaya got?" And to men this is exhilarating. To them, pussy is a low-flying plane, and they're waving their arms on the shores of a lonely island. They'll fuck the mirage, they'll fuck the faintest hope, they'll fuck the drop of sweat on her shoulder blade. This ambiguity, the complete transience of a every interaction, from rejections to comebacks to microscopic conquests, her putting her hand on his chest, telling her friends she'll be right there, this is sustenance. To be perpetually on the brink of everything and nothing. Drunk, hungover, make-outs, standing in the parking lot alone, none of it matters. These are a people indifferent to larger conversations about Hamptons nobility, about noise ordinances, about the plague of new-money audaciousness in Montauk. They are people who don't really have conversations about anything.
If you tip well enough or know the right people, you'll end up with a roll of smiley face stickers, like Mardi Gras beads in their arbitrary regional value as currency. The Miami New Times describes it this way: "Placing stickers on strangers is completely acceptable. Nay, it's encouraged. Feel free to place them anywhere your little heart (or groin) desires. You might make a new friend. Orrrrrr more."
The whole place is an "Orrrrrr more." Men with their hand on AshleyJordanMorgan's ribcage, breathing in her ear, telling her something that is essential in her ear, waiting for the chorus with her like it's lotto numbers, their mother's turn on the transplant list, paternity test results. He's waiting for her to get out of the bathroom now, looking for someone else in the meantime, looking for AshleyJordanMorgans like an archaeologist and a whack-a-moler simultaneously. Making eye contact with her as she walks back from the bathroom, making her retinas seek counseling; looking at her like she was the only girl who ever lived, like he'd been living alone on a distant planet for 18 years after his spaceship crash landed, but now here she is, and she's going to save him. He spills half his beer on her as they weave through the crowd. He wipes his forehead on every absorbent surface in a three mile radius. She is not in love with him but for these seconds he sort of believes that she is. She is smarter than him, more advanced than him, but she lets him pretend.
In a way, every attraction in the Boardy Barn is driven by a mix of curiosity, disgust, and begrudging admiration.
And then he's drifting somewhere else, showing everyone his sunburn, lifting up his shirt in the middle of the crowd, shrugging his shoulders, flexing when AshleyJordanMorgan bumps into him, because maybe she noticed, maybe she's wet now, maybe she can call out of work tomorrow. He's leaning, sipping, waiting, a monument, a shrine to himself, this infinite life of his; pointing at some guy across the room who he sort of knows but doesn't really know. He's chewing gum like the gum stole his mother's purse. AshleyJordanMorgan is omging to her friends about him, she is wondering where he is going, who he is, if he always does this, chewing gum and fucking and sweating, never wearing undershirts, glistening and putting stickers on the bare nipples of strangers without solicitation. In a way, every attraction in the Boardy Barn is driven by a mix of curiosity, disgust, and begrudging admiration.
There is arrogance, but no aggression; every single person simply believes they are the greatest person who has ever lived, tan for the same 10 weeks every year. Feeling the vibrations of hundreds of people who are celebrating their own eminent greatness, colliding with things, physical and metaphoric, feeling the resistance of something against them, liquids and humans and that last flake of apprehension fall away before she lets you suck beer foam off her bottom lip. In the Boardy Barn people don't have a philosophy or a method, they have an appetite. Hungry for the now-ness of this moment, a Sunday in August, the year two-thousand-and-whogivesashit. People relentlessly committed to excitement and this Neverland ride of nonsense that feels absolutely essential when you are immersed in it, and then, four days later, so small it's as if it never happened. Here is an incubator for a people whose every objective, every desire is ephemeral. People living in the in-between. A life in transit. No stakes, no context, no investment. This is your 20s, after all; mistakes and compulsions you hope don't become identities.
You are almost 29, and yet, approaching 8 PM, you are feeling this, too. All of it. The heat, the booze, the sloppy, claustrophobic sincerity of every single person feeling the same exact way at the same exact second. To resist this is to resist the urge to communicate in the big dumb wonderfully primal way you would if you survived the apocalypse, an alien invasion. A campfire dance, kind-of-maybe-not-hating this stranger, because he is in love with the total nothingness of this too. How little it has to do with him, where he's going, where he came from. You don't negotiate with euphoria, you don't communicate with it. It's noise. Josie's on a vacation far away. There's no turning back. Eventually, we all give up and sing the words we know.
Follow John Saward on Twitter.