A nice thing to do around 5 p.m. on a late November day is take a walk down one side of Main Street in Sag Harbor and then back up the other. It’s dark out at 5 p.m. Yet the stores are open and bright inside and the big Sag Harbor Theatre neon sign glows mightily in the center of town. Also, many people are out, some walking their dogs, or just as we were, out for a little exercise.
It’s about a quarter mile from Il Capuccino to the end of Long Wharf and then a quarter mile back up the other side to the pizza parlor Conca D’Oro. It’s a lot about window-shopping and meeting people you might know. And, if it’s a warm November night, which it was last Sunday, all the better.
My wife and I parked our car out front of Il Capuccino and got out. We looked in the windows at the Chianti bottles that have been hanging from the ceiling for 40 years or so. Under them, the waiters were setting up for the evening meal. We strolled north, toward the bay.
We stopped in at Fisher’s Furniture to see if they had a little side table we’d like for our TV room. There was a candidate or two, but nothing exactly like Chris wanted. In the end, she wound up with a telescopic metal back scratcher for $7 she thought I would like. We left. We held hands crossing the street. At other times, we walked with our arms around each other’s waists. We’re pals.
We walked past the Apple Bank on the opposite corner and then past the Paradise. Lights were dimmed inside. Over the bar, there was a soccer match on the TV. We walked on.
We passed the art gallery by the movie theatre and I stepped just inside while my wife walked ahead to read the movie posters in the street showcases to see what was playing. Look here, she said. I came over. There was something we decided we’d like to see next week. We walked on.
We passed LT Burger—good smells of burgers, malts and fries emanating out from the booths—and we went down to Schiavoni’s Market, went inside and bought a newspaper.
At BookHampton, we looked through some of the books for sale and I flipped through one at the counter called Goofy Pet Photos, which was kind of funny. I also asked if they had any copies of my books for sale, which they did, and I signed them, which bookstores always like since it helps sell them.
Arriving at Route 114, where it crosses the end of Main Street, I could see beyond the Chamber of Commerce windmill to the end of Long Wharf about a hundred yards further on, which would mark the halfway point of our walk. There were a few lights marking the jetty far off, otherwise the harbor was pitch black. We walked into the crosswalk through the traffic and stepped up the curb where there was a group of about 10 people standing quietly in the small space in front of the town windmill at the beginning of the wharf. One of them carried a sign. At the curb there was a sedan parked with the passenger door open and a woman sitting in the seat sideways, her legs on the pavement. She was typing on a laptop, which glowed green. Coordinating something? A reporter interviewing somebody? They were blocking our way.
It’s Occupy the Hamptons, my wife whispered.
This startled me. We were just out for a walk. We stopped for a moment because they took up the whole space and we couldn’t easily get by. As for them, they were happy to see us. Were we there to join them? A few looked up and smiled. I thought—this isn’t something I want to even think about just now.
After some of them saw we were not going to stay, a few stepped aside so we could continue on. Halfway out we stopped and turned. It’s a beautiful thing to see the lights of this old whaling town glowing on the water in the dark of a late autumn afternoon. On the right is the little beach and bridge to North Haven, with the inlet beyond. To the left were some of the big yachts. The biggest and most magnificent of all was at rest almost the full length of the dock, but other than lights in a single loge, it was dark. Then we walked out to the end of the wharf, where we stopped, contemplated life, then started back.
We finished our walk, walking south on the opposite side of the street past the Japanese restaurant Sen and the American Hotel, where I suggested we go in for a hot cider (she declined) and the Capital One bank (where I suggested we go in to look at the crappy ATM in the lobby) but the bank was now closed, and so it was back to our car. The lights were going off in the stores now. I did look back a few times to see if Occupy was still there. They were.
But I don’t see how this is going to change. Once you create a world economy, with goods moving easily every which way from country to country, you have workers in South America working for $1 a day making things for export you’ll have little likelihood that any factory workers can compete with these wages here.
Critics of Occupy Wall Street say—get a job, get a job. Indeed there are some to be had. But there are very few where you can make enough, in a world of million dollar homes, to live on.
Later that night, back at home, I went up for bed and took my shoes off in preparation for getting into my pajamas. As I did, as I always do when I take off my shoes, it reminds me of the interesting story of their manufacture.
I wear white walking shoes made by New Balance, and I’ve been wearing the same model of them for many years, or have tried to. I find them very comfortable. They are made in Ecuador.
At a certain point, though, the management of New Balance made a decision to move all their manufacturing plants back to the United States.
Before the move, the shoes cost $55. After the move, at first the price remained the same. But they were terribly made. They didn’t fit right and sometimes when I’d try a pair on, because of poor manufacture, the store would have to take out another shoebox and mix and match until a good pair could be put together.
Thinking it through, I decided I’d just learn to live with this. This was happening at that time when Kathie Lee Gifford was found to be making her clothing line in Honduras, where the workers were paid a dollar a day. She didn’t handle this fact well. I would support America no matter how much it hurt my feet.
Ultimately, what happened was that New Balance kept its promise about making everything in America, but there was a cost to it. They came out with a new model, a model as good as those earlier shoes made in Ecuador, but at a price of almost twice as much. I found I’d pay that twice as much to get these really good shoes. But I did think others who used to wear New Balance found good shoes made in South America by other manufacturers at the lower price.
I think America is going to have a choice. We can have the rich living behind walls with the great 99% living in desperate circumstances outside, or we can create a social state where the government provides a safety net by taxing the wealthy and distributing some of the riches of this country to those who are trapped in this new and terrible situation.
People point to European countries for having set up these “socialist” states. And yet, in Europe, you see people living in happy circumstances, well dressed with enough to eat and not terribly concerned about their situation. They may have fewer opportunities for advancement though because the government sees to the redistribution of corporate money to the less fortunate and businesses are not as competitive. That is the trade off.
These are our children, now very publicly occupying America. As things stand now, they do not have prospects. Many are unemployed, even homeless. It is very sad. What future do we want for them?