Friday, July 13, 2012

No Sugar, Pleeeeze

Ladies Village
Improvement Society

Today we called on the thrift store run by the Ladies Village Improvement Society. We've been there several times in the past and Anita remarked that their stock was odd for a charitable thrift: books and clothes only. Well, it is East Hampton after all. We supposed that they didn't deign to display the stuff that we see in her normal type of thrift shops: old TV's, broken sofas, exercise gadgets of every description, mismatched forks, and chipped glassware. Well all that plus extraordinary finds of vintage fabric and sewing notions. It's the treasure hunt in which she delights.

I was thinking that we must usually visit the thrift shop equivalent of trailer parks because this East Hampton example was clearly in a different league. Where else can you find the collected works of every east coast literati, signed by the author, and thoughtfully shelved by topic. (Actually you could have found exactly this in the remainders pile of any Borders and often at a lower price but they went bankrupt, whereas LVIS is going strong.)

We rode the bus to town rather than biking from the dinghy dock and it made all the difference. The bus fare is only $0.75 for those who've achieved 60 but even this was a stretch since the bikes are free and we cruisers pride ourselves at being cheaper than dirt. Or perhaps it should be cheaper than water, but more about that later.

No sign but it is a bus stop.
In a moment of giddy extravagance we found ourselves standing on the spot where we thought a bus might stop. Grace, whom we had met in the marine store across the street, kindly walked us outside the store, pointed vaguely across the parking lot, and explained that we should cross the street because the bus runs only one way.

We arrived at this preported bus stop to find no signage, no convenient bench and no one else waiting. It took a giant leap of faith to stand there, especially after we stopped a walker who seemed surprised that there even was a bus in his town. Clearly it is not the transport of choice for most of East Hampton residents, who tend to favor the Mercedes and the Lexus rather than the Suffolk County Transit. To our relief, the bus arrived only slightly late and we were swept along on an extensive tour of the approaches to town with stops now and then.

As for the oddity of it stopping only on one side of the street, the route is a loop so the bus really does only go in one direction. That Grace. Not only does she know her bolts but she's one of the few locals I've ever met who know anything about their buses.

Last year during a Narraganset Bay heat wave we stopped at Port Edgewood Marina, near Providence. After plugging in our little window-unit air conditioner, which lives in the cockpit locker most of the time but gets to peek into the cabin from the companionway now and then, we stepped over its humming coolness and wandered out to a local market – pizza - cheese steak - spaghetti place and indulged in Philly’s to go.

While we waited for our cheese steaks, I struck up a conversation with another diner who was sitting at a battered Formica table next to our similarly vintage example of late century modern. This in turn led to introductions to other tables. The place was chock full of local characters, all friendly and opinionated. We inquired about the bus and they thought it safe enough but full of odd people – as if they weren’t.

It appears that locals never ride the bus but have lots of trepidation about who does. As we strolled back to the boat we both commented on the fun of getting back in touch with neighborhood institutions rather than the boring chain restaurants we have at home. Those Port Edgewood buses allowed us to explore odd eateries from Pawtucket to Warwick, what a treat. Plus, I hope we added to the lore of the odd people you might see on the bus.

After asking the driver, "Get off here for downtown?" at the East Hampton's railroad station and then at another place along the way, we finally pulled up at the head of Main Street, where everyone got off. It couldn't have been plainer than that, which may explain why the driver kept eyeing us. Confused oldersters dressed in tattered clothing are two of the five danger signals, no doubt. Terrorism is on everyone's watch list.
Four thrift stores in one as evidenced by the
obvious signage. 

We cut through a gigantic parking lot -- its size explained by the fondness for brands other than Suffolk County Transport -- and approached the LVIS from the back. To our astonishment they had expanded dramatically adding all sorts of boutiques that specialized in furniture, textiles, glassware, and rugs. Wow. All this is since last year. They had been busy.

The goods smuggled
to Sweet Pea
As Anita exclaimed over fabric and sewing notions and scored a really good embroidery find, I chatted up the thrift lady. She claimed that the shops had been there for years. She explained that the front door led only to the shop that specialized in books and clothing and everything else was here or in the barn.

What a relief to learn that LVIS was just like all the others, though they do draw the line at electronics. Alas, no TV's with rotary channel selectors, no giant CRT monitors from the 90's, no VHS tape players. But plenty of mismatched forks. We'd not been slumming elsewhere after all.

All that thrifting left me famished and we set out to find the ten dollar lunch for two in this enclave of chic shops and five dollar bottled waters that featured NO SUGAR. It seems strange to advertise that a brand of H20 doesn't include sugar. Well it doesn't contain fence posts or beach balls or all sorts of other stuff, but I saw these very words painted on the side of a truck that specialized in delivering bottles of just, water. The copy hastened to add that it included hints of truly exotic flavors like watermelon and sage brush, which made it so much better than plain NO SUGAR water.

I suppose it might even be so, but still. The stuff that gushes out of the hose at the dock and into Sweet Pea's tank is good enough for us. However, as the truck suggested, I think I'll continue my practice of not adding sugar when we take on water.  As for cramming some weeds or watermelon rinds down the deck fill, it might be cutting edge but seems like way too much trouble. I do like the idea of naming our water, though. I wonder if our guests might be impressed by our offering a tumbler of iced Sweet Pea? Perhaps not.

Lunch was two slices and a pinwheel at Fierro's pizza, across from the Waldbaum's grocery store, all for eight dollars. Anita thought the pinwheel, an unlikely looking thing shaped like a cinnamon bun but without the frosting or the cinnamon, a waste since it was mostly dough and no sauce. She helped me finish my second slice, which was quite generous in size and covered with satisfying stuff. No subtle hints of pepperoni and sausage on this pie. They had layered it on thick. It was most filling and left an impressive orange puddle soaking into the paper plate by the time we finished that last morsel. Even better, they had our beverage of choice: water, no sugar. We can be as trendy as anyone in East Hampton.

Tucked away in a corner of the
Mercedes Jeep parking lot.
Indulging in dessert on our eat-out budget was more of a challenge. Rather than hit the gelato bar at $4.50 a scoop I suggested a Latin market that I had noticed on the outskirts of the shops. As we had passed earlier, a fellow had emerged with what was clearly a frozen confection and a satisfied look as he bit into it.

This place was a real possibility since it might avoid all of my five danger signals for an eatery: has a cutesy name, is part of a chain, has laminated menus, accepts credit cards, and the servers introduce themselves by name. Those places are way too tame to be interesting. But a place named Latin Express could be a gem.

Our first whiff wasn't promising. A gem should be redolent with tantalizing smells of spice, cooking meat, or fruit oils. I detected the acrid bite of chemicals overlain by artificial floral hints of shampoo and conditioner. This place smelled like a hair salon. Ugh. Not exactly what I was hoping to find.

Actually it was a hair salon that also offered banking services, bags of snack food labelled in Spanish, and phone calls to South America, among other things. Neat as a pin and clean as a whistle but definitely not a grocery market or an ice cream shop. However, one wall featured a rectangular white chest that reminded me of the freezer we used to have out under the carport when I was a kid.

Inside that freezer of my youth was an assortment of white paper packages labelled steak or ribs or hamburger. Back then we bought our beef on the hoof and paid to have it butchered. Today, that's probably not so prevalent but for my parents it was a cheap way to get lots of hamburger punctuated by an occasional roast. Mother strongly objected to eating all the good stuff first but even so, that last frost-bit layer was always nothing but hamburger. Lots of chili and meatloaf in that.

Lots of colors from which to choose
and red might have been bubble gum.
The Latin Express freezer contained an assortment of frozen cone shaped objects on sticks, each neatly wrapped in its own plastic bag. No ingredient labels. In fact, no labels at all other than the one taped to the front, declaring the contents to be, "Naturalmente Ecuarorianos". Each was undoubtedly laced with sugar. Perfect.

I debated coconut versus mango or lime or red, a flavor of uncertain pedigree, and coconut won. It was a frozen concoction full of juicy shards of coconut meat and sweetened with plenty of nature's own organic sucrose, totally natural and most likely dumped straight out of a 100 pound Domino bag. Simply delicious. 

Perhaps they're called Ricco's
in Ecuador. 

I asked the woman tending the counter what these were called, waving my selection in front of her. She gave me a pitying look and replied, "coconut". First the bus driver and then her. We'd better clean up our act and fast.

At two dollars this find brought us in under budget, sort of. Well it would have had Anita not demurred and gone the more traditional route.

She emerged from Waldbaum's grocery holding a tiny cup of main-stream ice cream, labelled with a cutesy name to suggest Denmark, but manufactured in New Jersey. The carton looked to be laminated and she probably paid with a credit card. Go figure.

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