“Oh, that’s easy,” said John Steinbeck. “I’ll write the book report.”
“What’s the book?” he asked.
The book, the high school student related, was “Winter of Our Discontent,” John Steinbeck’s own novel of Sag Harbor.
The Nobel and Pulitzer Prize winning author smiled again. What could be easier?
The son finished the roof, John Steinbeck handed him the book report in good time and he handed it to the teacher.
She gave it an “F.”
I laughed as anyone should at this delightful story.
“You have to write that down,” I said. “You just have to. At least send it to a local newspaper.”
The man blushed, if such could be said to happen in the murky light of Murf’s. No, he said, he “wasn’t a writer.”
So, when I got home, I wrote it down myself.
Today, day-tripping families innocently eat their LT Burgers and drink their ice cream sodas where the Black Buoy’s pool table stood. We should not, however, forget that the steady drinking that supported Sag Harbor’s bar heyday reflected the steady and unmovable financial depression which gripped the village for decades almost from the end of World War II. Thirty years ago, many federal and other historic houses hadn’t been painted in so long that all that was left to suggest paint were old chips clinging to the wood. Ironically, that long economic collapse is what preserved Sag Harbor until its architecture was “discovered” and became subject to the formal rules of preservation.
In this respect, preserving the lore from those very difficult years is integral to the ongoing story of the once whaling village. Yes, I wrote down the better John Steinbeck story, but that was after a night at Murf’s. If all the details aren’t perfect to memory and the man whose lore this story tells happens to see it, I hope he will let me know—or, better yet, write it himself.
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