Monday, July 12, 2010

In and Out

Main Street, Northport, NY

“Home is a place you grow up wanting to leave, and grow old wanting to get back to.”

- John Ed Pearce

During my week in New York, I decided to get together with a couple of high school friends at Gunther’s Pub down in Northport. Since my reunion, I’ve visited people I’d lost touch with a few times a year. On this particular night, I left my children with my in-laws early so I could walk around the old town by myself.

Traffic in the village was heavier than I anticipated. As I circled the two parking lots at the end of Main Street, hordes of senior citizens armed with lawn chairs headed towards the gazebo. How could I forget that there were concerts on Thursdays in the summer?

As a teenager, I hung out in that gazebo, mostly listening to the music of deadheads who graduated a number of years before me, but hadn’t moved on, strumming their guitars and singing. They were the types that would’ve gone (and probably still go) to Gunther’s. It wasn't my kind of music, but it is the sound of the town.

I spent countless hours with friends down in Northport. And when my husband and I dated and then married, we also spent many days and nights there. Until we moved to Cambridge, no matter where we lived in New York City or on Long Island, Northport was our home place. When I visit, especially in summer, I always make it a point to visit.

My son and husband often their hairs cut at the local barber, Oscar’s. The owner, Rick charges $3.50 for adults and $3.00 for children. I guess it’s all about volume. Then we stop at Harbor Trading so my kids can choose candy by the pound. Sometimes we get ice cream at Northport Sweet Shop. And my children love the toy store, Einstein’s Attic, which wasn’t there when I was a kid. Four Star Variety is like a small Woolworth’s but without the lunch counter. Remember those stores? And in warm weather, I take my mother down to the water while my children play in the two parks. One is the same metal playground that I played on when was a child, while the other is a newer plastic one.

There’s a place in town called Otto’s Shipwreck Diner. A director stopped in there once and decided it was the perfect location to film a diner scene for the film “In and Out” with Kevin Klein and Tom Selleck. Did you see it? It amazed me for two scenes, how long the crew stayed in town and how much they changed the town. The Chinese place (that no longer exists) called Wok on the Dock had to get a temporary sign to fit in a Midwest town. And when the film came out in 1997, the diner scene was a decent length, but the outside part lasted less than a minute.,_New_York

For this trip, I finally found a parking spot in front of the bar and walked back down the street to the harbor. On the way, I witnessed a mother gathering her brood and reprimanding them with the accent, “Come awwn!” that sounded foreign and familiar.

I walked along the water and sat on a bench. The whole time, I snapped pictures, capturing what I love about the area. It’s at once like and unlike viewing the Boston skyline. Instead of buildings across the water, there are dots of houses. The Charles River is missing the salty scent of the Long Island Sound. And Memorial Highway behind me is noisier than Main Street. While sitting, it hit me that this October I’ll be in Cambridge for nine years. Northport really is no longer home no matter how often I visit.

And while I miss it, there’s also a sameness to the place and people that doesn’t reflect who I am. But here, I settle into my past and feel peaceful. It’s not my current home, but it will always be home.

I watched the sun set in the sky, and then made my way back up Main Street.


  1. What a beautifully written post! It almost makes me feel like you were writing about MY home. I visited my family this past week and was feeling quite nostalgic about the many beautiful areas of the town that I tend to forget about. I remember the things I didn't like, the reasons I wanted to leave. Those are still there, and some have gotten worse. But there is still so much beauty there, like time stood still. It's also fascinating and heartbreaking to see how things have changed. I can't believe my eyes when I see my old elementary school. Thoughts of touring it again and seeing it through adult eyes juxtapositioned with my childhood memories are bittersweet. It's not truly the same building anymore, so I feel like I've lost my chance.

  2. Another beautifully written post! Your photos made me so nostalgic for summers past in Northport - ice cream at the sweet shop, sitting on the rocks & talking to friends for hours, clam chowder at the shipwreck diner on rainy days & standing in front of the funhouse mirror at harbor trading! I love to smell the sound & sit by the lobster boats, but it's no longer home and not a place I belong.

  3. Lovely post, 'come awwn', can really hear that accent.
    Thats interesting because I was talking about the same topic the other day. Since my parents passed away, I dont really have a physical place called home, but yesterday about 40miles from my original home down by a river where my dad fished in the summer, I had the first sense of home in a long time, must do a post on it.
    I loved the snapshot of your early years, yours sounds very Bruce Springsteen, mine was more 'The Committments' movie. I think home is all about being with the people you love.

  4. I can only agree with what was said above: what a wonderful post indeed.

    It must be interesting to have roots and history in a place, I'm not entirely sure I can imagine it... Though reading this makes it sound interesting.

  5. Thanks for sharing your bit of home with us. The photos are so beautiful! I can smell harbor. Your post was so beautiful.

  6. I love your life... Seriously, I always stop by and I'm in another world, everything around me is silenced and I carefully read every inch of your posts and fall more and love with your stories.

    You my friend are a wonderful writer, and then taking photos on top of it... I feel so lucky, hehe.

  7. I loved In and Out. So funny!

    They filmed Witches of Eastwick near where I grew up and I remember we were all sooo excited as street signs changed etc. We all felt like celebrities.

  8. @ Surfie, I feel the same way when certain things change. We used to get take out clams (or other seafood) 'n chips but that place closed down a few years ago. We appreciate our homes more once we go.

    @ Kathleen, I'm nostalgic from writing the post. I have to make sure to spend at least a week in August because the trips are so short (and the weather doesn't always cooperate) during the rest of the year.

    @ Brigid, it's great to find places that remind you of home. I'm glad you found one.

    As for Springsteen, yep, that's Long Island. But his wasn't my type of music, so I just updated the post. I was a punk/alternative girl. Still am.

    @ Alesa, I lived in New York City until I was nine and then lived there for two years after I got married, so I've always identified with the city. But I actually spent more time tied to the suburbs and this little village. Now I realize it.

  9. @ Lydia, thank you. It was a beautiful evening. I'm glad I almost captured it.

    @ Jen, you're making me blush! It takes the sting out of this morning's e-rejection. Thank you.

    @ LR, I loved "In and Out" too + it was cool seeing places I knew.

    Sometimes I run into filming in Cambridge (Ben Affleck and Matt Damon) and once in the Burlington Mall ("Mall Cop"!) last summer at Crane's Beach in Ipswich (Some zoo movie with the same guy in Mall Cop). I get all excited too, but try to act cool about it.

  10. I love this post! You really give us a flavor of what it's like. Although I wouldn't go for the $3 haircuts, I'd definitely be all over the pound of candy. :)

  11. Beautiful thoughts and images. I love Long Island Sound. It's got so much of the sea in it, but it's calmer, and tranquil. We vacation every summer on the CT coast of the Sound, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

  12. Lovely post. There's nothing like returning to 'home'. It stirs something in all of us. Glad you enjoyed your trip :)

  13. Isn't it wonderful that you love where you live and love where you lived

  14. Beautiful photos! It's funny how going home always brings mixed emotions.

  15. What a beautiful town. I can see why you keep going back :)

    I'm a little weird, I guess, because even though my hometown still feels "homey," it's not home to me. I found my "home" when I went to college. I love it here more than words can say.

  16. What a gorgeous post and beautiful town. It is strange how that the roots of "home" never fully go away. Although, for me, it never fully goes away there are times I feel like a visitor in my home town because I never get to visit it that often and have since found the place my head rests to be more of an attachment. To remove me from Savannah would be like ripping my heart out.
    Wonderful post, I enjoyed every bit of it :)

  17. I love In and Out!!! They filmed the diner scene there? Wow!! My eyes are still rolling at "Wok in the Dock" name. Oh dear.

    And what is it with the pricing of haircuts?!?! I have very long hair and the prices for the same haircut (cut and blowdry) goes up the longer your hair is. I always thought how unfair that was! So yes, it's definitely volume!

    Awww what a lovely trip down memory lane - thanks for sharing the photos and the memories. I felt your peace and equilibrium reading this. It's home but it's not anymore but it will always be!

    Take care

  18. wow I just had a mini holiday....thanks for sharing xo

  19. @ Pureklass, well said. When I come back, it's all familiar and I get right back in the groove, yet I look in from the outside somehow.

    @ Aubrie, the best way to get a $3 haircut is to get crewcut. Anything else, and you're asking for trouble.

    @ Joanne, I love the Long Island Sound too. When I'm in charge of driving, we take the Bridgeport/Port Jefferson ferry. It's lovely to sit on the roof deck. And I went to the beach five times during the trip. So nice.

    @ Elana, thanks!

  20. @ Jemi, well put. It does stir something in us when we return home.

    @ Sheila, how poetic are you? I should see your quote on or

    @ Talli, I'm glad you like the photos. Yes, it's mixed emotions when I return home.

    @ Maybe Genius, it is a beautiful town. I'm lucky to have lived there.

    My husband and I moved to Cambridge because we visited this area when we were dating. We liked it and decided if we ever needed to move, it would be a good place to relocate. When the time came, we did.

  21. @ Erica, I'm lucky because I visit often. I don't get to New York City as much so I forget much of it when I go back.

    I've never been to Savannah, but you make it sound like a place I should go!

    @ Old Kitty, Wok on the Dock didn't last but I don't know if was because of the name or the food. I never ate there.

    Women always get charged more than men for their hair. So unfair!

    I'm glad you like the photos and the sentiment.

    @ e x, hope you had a good mini holiday!

  22. Hi I stumbled on your blog after reading a comment you left at another blog. A group of us run a weekly blog feature called my town Monday that highlights bloggers that post about an interesting place on Monday. Hope you don't mind but I included a link to this post.

    Here are the places you can see the link

  23. @ Travis, thanks. I just commented on the post. I'll check out your blog too.

  24. Oh, this was took me back to my own little hometown and some of the traditions we had. I love hearing stories about 'way back when' and yours sound very lovely (and quite fun). You are quite the photographer, btw. The pics are fantastic! If you get a chance after 7pm, visit my blog....

  25. This was a wonderful post, and I love those pictures, very beautiful :)

    I really liked your quote at the beginning - you really brought out the truth of it with your words.

  26. Looks like a charming waterfront town. The relentless march of progress is busy changing the essence of smaller, quaint places.

  27. My mother used to say that home was where you hang your hat. This location is lovely, and I like those photos of the water.

    Welcome to My Town Monday.

  28. @ The Words Crafter, I'm happy with my pictures too. I do have to confess I pulled the first one from the Internet when I tried to find photos of the movie being filmed there.

    I visited your blog. Thanks for the award!

    @ Writing Nut, thank you. I try to make my quote meaningful to the piece.

    @ Paul C, you're so right about the "relenting march of progress". One of the things I loved about Northport is it's virtually unchanged and charming.

    @ Barbara, I have always lived near the coast, and couldn't imagine having a view of the water anytime I wanted. Salt water is especially reenergizing.

    Thank you for welcoming me to My Town Monday.

  29. That was lovely! I think having roots somewhere is wonderful. I've never really felt that way about anywhere...

    (I entered you in my contest, since you had trouble with the form.)

  30. Beautiful post. I love the glimpse into your life before I knew you.

    Made me nostalgic for where I grew up. Also reminded me that there was a movie made in and around my hometown, which was a really big deal since it's an itty bitty town (but beautiful, nestled in a valley surrounded by redwoods in northern CA) pretty much in the middle of nowhere, but the movie was absolutely horrible! One of the worst I've ever seen. Heartwood, in case anyone is yearning for a poorly acted movie with a weak, predictable story.

    I will watch In and Out for the diner scene. :-)

    Oh, and Jen cracked me up with her comment "I love your life..." Laughed out loud!

  31. Gorgeous post, Theresa. Thank you so much for sharing. I felt I was there with you. To quote Maya Angelou, 'You can never go home again, but the truth is you can never leave home, so it's all right.'

  32. @ Sharon, thanks for entering me in my contest! It must've been my browser.

    I didn't think I had roots since I moved when I was nine, but I guess I do.

    @ Selena, I've never seen "Heartwood", and you're not making me want to see it!

    If you watch the scene, right after they go outside, which is still in Northport. Then they turn a corner and it's fields. Not Northport!

    I'm sure Jen means my take on my life or my written life. She doesn't want to sub for me, does she?

  33. Made me think of where I grew up.
    Thanks for the stroll...
    You're an awesome writer.

  34. What gorgeous photos, Theresa! This is a beautiful post, thanks for sharing with us.

  35. I moved around enough growing up it's hard to tag one place as my 'hometown'.

    I've been back in Iowa now for 12 years and is the only place my kids will remember, so I guess this has become home. I'm good with that :)

  36. Very much a down-home, American town. I love the pictures!

    I may not visit as often as I'd like, and it may have been over a decade since I've lived there, but San Antonio, TX feels more like home than anywhere else. Almost my entire family lives there and I just love being out and about in the city or strolling outside. And San Antonio has the best tacos in the country!

  37. @ Barbra, glad you enjoyed the stroll.

    @ Susan, thank you.

    @ Vicki, having a place your kids call home is nice. My daughter grew up in Cambridge, but my son still thinks of New York as home. We moved when he was three, but he still remembers it.

    @ Amanda, having family around is really nice. And having the best tacos is a good bonus!

  38. Interesting how our perspective on 'home' changes with time. Great post.

  39. @ V.R. Barkowski, I almost missed responding to your comment. Sorry! I like the Maya Angelou quote.

    @ Gabriele, it's a good way of putting it, "our perspective on 'home' changes with time." Thanks for the comment.

  40. When I miss home, Whcih I am now, I go to lets you drive all around the old neighborhood from your computer, or go to almost anywhere in the world.

    Some small towns, and North Korea, are still not included . . . yet.


  41. Love your thoughts on being home. I love being home! The pictures really are beautiful.

    "It's not my current home but it will always be my home."

    Nicely put. Love that.

  42. @ Walter, sounds cool. I'll check it out.

    No North Korea? Shocking!

    @ Tiffany, it sounds like you've been having a nice time at home. And as you said, they're family so they had to let you in.

  43. It's funny. I just wrote a post partly about the instinctive longing we all have for the sense of home. Unlike you, I never actually left my childhood neighborhood. Your post makes me wonder what it would be like to move away and come back after an extended time. Like you said, I'm sure that the familiar places would never stop being a part of me, an extension of self.

  44. What a very fun trip down memory lane. And the quotation at the top of your post says it all!

  45. @ Paul, there are many people from my town who have never left. I have a lot of family and friends who stayed. There must be comfort in the consistency, but there's something to be said for experiencing a different way of life.

    @ Barrie, thank you. Glad you had fun!