BRIEF NO. 32
The Wrong/Right Way To Experience Montauk
Project
Tourism
Location
Montauk, NY
Subject
Alt-Tourism
The Wrong/Right Way To Experience Montauk
Words by Greg Rutter. Photograph by Emiliano Granado.

I’m not saying you should dislocate your shoulder. I’m definitely not saying that. What I am saying is that if you have to have a traumatic injury you should dislocate your shoulder. I’m not sure what kind of situation you’d be in where you could decide this sort of injury over that kind of injury. No one wants to have a traumatic injury, of course, but if there’s a situation where someone has a gun to your head or something and says, “Which traumatic injury do you want to have?” you should definitely tell them you want to dislocate your shoulder. I learned this the hard way at the easternmost tip of Long Island. There, in the sleepy little beach town of Montauk, I dislocated my shoulder. It was the height of summer and I was ready to break out my summer whites. This is the high season and tourists have flocked to this little coastal hamlet. Some come for the sun or the laid back, small town feel of Montauk. But what made Montauk’s name is its reputation for some of the best surfing on the east coast. A short 5 or 10 minute drive from downtown is Ditch Plains, a famous surf spot that people from all over the world come to visit. Since I don’t own a board I didn’t plan on surfing, but since I was in Montauk I figured that I should take advantage of the great waves with a little body surfing. While they weren’t massive waves they were more powerful that I had expected, making them fun to get thrown around in. Apparently I pushed my luck a bit too long though because after a couple of thrilling ones late in the day I caught a wave that swept me up over the top and pounded me into a sandbar, my arm outstretched to break my fall. Despite what Mel Gibson told you in Lethal Weapon, dislocating your shoulder isn’t so bad. It doesn’t hurt, like breaking your leg hurts or cutting a limb off hurts or a really bad sore throat hurts, it just feels incredibly uncomfortable, like if you drink too much coffee and can’t get your body into a position that feels natural. But then when it goes back in it feels fantastic, like the relief you feel after you’ve just cracked all your knuckles, only way better. After conferring with the lifeguards, whose insurance barely allowed to give me an ice pack, we decided to call an ambulance. A few short minutes later I was being loaded in,11Thanks to Dan Clark for the Citizen Photojournalism. strapped to a stretcher by two volunteer firefighters; Alan and Jeff. These guys were the best part about dislocating my shoulder.

Since the nearest hospital is half an hour to the west in the town of Southampton they stuck me in front of the rear windows, turned on the sirens and gave me a first class tour of the Hamptons.”- Greg Rutter

Having lived there full-time their whole lives they were rare characters and in between fresh ice packs they imparted what they had come to learn. They told me about how this area used to be nothing but a handful of run down shacks owned by beach bums who spent their summers surfing out at Ditch Plains. There were a few estates owned by old money types, most notably Grey Gardens. But with the influx of Wall Street money into New York City, starting in the 80s, the properties got bigger and the houses got more ostentatious. The towns of East Hampton and Southampton bled into nearby little hamlets to all became The Hamptons, a fashionable party scene for Manhattan’s high society. While this has meant that it’s the official home to fancy summer parties and debaucherous behavior, it has also meant a many well-respected restaurants catering to those summering out here as well as a growing art scene (including the stunning Parrish Art Museum that we passed).

Surprisingly The Hamptons might be best experienced from the back of an ambulance. No traffic, no finance guys passing you in their Audis, and no WASPy tourists trying to flaunt their wealth. Instead, once you tune out the siren, it’s rather peaceful. All you can do is sit back, get your arm into a comfortable position and enjoy the ride.”- Greg Rutter

Jeff drove and Alan was happy to give me all the local gossip; the famous people who were building houses, the strange things he’d seen as a volunteer EMT over the years and what restaurants the locals actually enjoyed. He even pointed out a little gas station where Bernie Madoff had left his credit card so that he didn’t have to stop and pay. After his ponzi scheme collapsed Alan told the owner to hang on to the credit card, but by the time he got back to save it someone else had already walked off with it. I can’t believe I had initially tried to wave off calling an ambulance. I can’t believe I was even bummed to have dislocated my shoulder. Not just because I had no idea that dislocating your shoulder was such a serious injury but also because I would have missed out on this one of a kind tour of this beautiful landscape. I never would have seen the cornfields that stretched into the distance. I never would have seen the simple cottages with their perfectly chosen nautical themed lawn decorations. I would have probably gone to the beach, gotten a healthy sunburn and taken the train back to the city without seeing what most people have to pay millions of dollars to experience.

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