I love inviting friends and family to come stay with us at our place in Sag Harbor. But when you open your barn doors to others, you welcome more than overnight guests. You invite their idiosyncrasies, obsessions, repulsions, demands and talents. Last summer featured a lineup of noteworthy characters.
The Marinator-a city dweller-is ripe for a weekend in the country simply so he can get his hands on a grill. Having experimented and perfected a new marinade, he volunteers to bring a bottle of it with him. Fresh off the Jitney, he pulls out the liquid from his pack, shaking and admiring its viscosity like a chemist. Throughout the day, he gives hints of its secret ingredients, often providing clues and making us guess. “It has a splash of this liquor, named after a Tennessee distiller from the 1800s.” Late afternoon, the Marinator smothers the chicken and ribs and preps the grill. Others leave to see the sunset, but he declines, preferring to stay back and watch the pieces soak up his seasoning.
The Hotel Holdout
Accustomed to amenity, this guest is used to staying at five-star properties. He demands the finest in accommodations, activity and service, or at least a respectable B & B. Months in advance, he writes to reserve a queen-bedded room with a garden view for the weekend. I inform him that our guestroom has a double-bedded futon and is overlooking the driveway. In his follow-up correspondence, he asks about a mini-bar, an ice bucket and whether we have The Food Channel and CNN.
“Our fridge is the size of a mini-bar; it has a small freezer with ice trays; we don’t have a TV.”
“No TV?” he gasps. “How do you fall asleep?”
“We read,” I say.
“What about a robe and slippers? Do I have to bring my own?”
“We have big beach towels and flip-flops that you can use.” He snarls.
On Hotel Holdout’s first night with us, I pass his room on the way downstairs. He has hung a Do Not Disturb sign from his door. I wouldn’t dare.
The Launderers are on a mid-summer odyssey when they arrive at our place for the weekend, bringing stories of their travels and bags of laundry. “Mind if we run a load?” they ask upon arrival. “We’re down to our swim trunks!”
“Of course not,” I say, all host, proffering up the gallon of detergent.
Before I know it, one load becomes six-it turns out their nine-month-old wears cloth nappies! I curse their eco-sensitive behavior until I am struck by the alternative: disposable dirty diapers that we would have to cart back to the city-we are weekenders who don’t pay for garbage pick-up. I’ll take the hiked-up water bill.
Awkward Day Guest
Awkward Day Guest arrives by train, car or foot. It’s unclear how, but he simply materializes one Saturday afternoon. He carries a bag that could hold just a towel and swimsuit, or include toiletries and a change of clothes for the evening too. He mentions other friends in the area, but I suspect he came to see just us. Over a recent email or text or phone conversation that I can’t recall, I may have said, “Call if you’re ever around.” But he may have taken that to mean, “Come visit whenever you like.” As the sun sets, his plans become increasingly vague. He makes casual mention of meeting people for drinks, dinner, clubbing, but takes no initiative to get in touch. “Feel free to stay for dinner,” we say, sensing he hasn’t eaten in a while. Halfheartedly, Awkward Day Guest agrees, acting like he’s just being courteous. After dinner he makes no move for the door. At midnight, I put clean sheets on the bed. The next morning, he joins us for French toast that he eats while remarking he should save his appetite for brunch with someone A and someone B. After finishing his stack of battered bread, he takes a long sip of coffee and inquires if he could catch a ride back.
Despite being close friends, The Fixers work hard for their room and board, blowing through my to-do list and solving things I have yet to identify as problems. They tackle everything from rewiring an old floor lamp previously headed for the dump (her), to disabling the dead-awakening drier buzzer (him), to re-stoning a path to the outdoor shower (her), to setting up a projector in the barn for al fresco movie viewing (him). When time permits, the Fixers frequent yard sales to fill in the gaps in our eclectic furnishings. “We’ve come across an old set of school chairs that I think will work with your farm stand table, presuming we take a handsaw to the legs,” she calls to inform me early one morning while I am still in bed. “I can paint the seats glossy red to match the rattan chairs I restrung for you last week. If we can get the seller down to $60, should we do it?”
The Lobster Lover
Lobster Lover is committed to eating the large crustaceans multiple times a day, days in a row. By day, he samples lobster rolls in the area, but night is when he really gets his seafood on. One afternoon, he picks up half a dozen two-pounders at a seafood purveyor and proceeds to extol the virtues of grilling over steaming. A few hours later we gather in the kitchen to witness Lobster Lover’s legendary hypnosis technique. One by one, he rubs the lobsters’ foreheads, lulling them into a deep state of relaxation, then gently moves their limbs into a lobster baddha konasana (cobbler’s pose), if you will, lining them up two deep, like yogis, on the kitchen counter. They remain this way, tranquil and unsuspecting, until our biggest pot is brought down for a quick par-boil. At Lobster Lover’s command, the men parade the lobsters outside to the picnic table where they hack and whack the clawed creatures in preparation for the grill.
Lobster insides fly in all directions, splattering their skins and soaking their shirts green. For the next two hours, we grill, we butter, and we eat. At midnight, when the lobster crackers and mini forks are down in their resting positions, I gather the towels and tees that wear evidence of the recent massacre and cry, “Last call for lobster load!” At this, Lobster Man licks his lips and tussles his beard, no doubt looking for one last piece of sweet meat. “I’m good,” he says, peering down at his moist sweatshirt with pride. “And I think we have enough left over for a lobster scramble in the morning.”