Cyberbullying, Fat-Shaming, and Homophobia on Hamptons “Douche Spotter”

The New York Post had a promising story this morning about a Facebook group created by East Hampton locals dedicated to calling out the douchey behavior of the elitest weekenders invading their hometown.

“Facebook page nails Hamptons D-bags for their bad behavior and maddening antics” the headline blared. This is going to be good, we thought, rubbing our hands together in anticipation. (The Today show thought so too–hosts chatted about the Facebook group on the air this morning.)


Outrageous stories of “citidiots” running amok in the Hamptons are some of our favorites. Take the Twitter account @HamptonsBorn, for instance–where East Hampton local and self-described “house watcher” Joe Schwenk catalogs the bizarre requests he fields on a daily basis (ex: “Drive a poodle back to NYC while owners catch a copter ride w/rich friends”). Love it!

But if you were looking for an equally amusing glimpse into life as a Hampton local you’ll be disappointed by “Douche spotter.” The Facebook group at the center of the Post‘s story is half cyber-bullying forum, half creep-shot repository–with several dozen photos of legitimately frustrating parking jobs sprinkled in for good measure.

It’s hard to tell in most cases what the person pictured did to deserve the brand “douche”–some are ridiculed for having sock tan-lines, others for wearing socks with sandals, and, in one case, for using a motorized scooter. A photo of an old lady walking down the street in the rain is captioned “nice wig douche.”

Photos of overweight folks (at the beach, walking down the street, waiting be served at a deli counter) invoke snickering comments. “Break me off a piece of that!” one wrote about the lady at a deli counter. “That was just gross that day…lol,” read the caption of the man at the beach. “Back breasts!” howled one person who posted a photo of a heavyset woman’s back.

There’s some good old-fashioned homophobia, too! “You know your in the hamptons when you see two faggots riding a tandem bike to the beach,” wrote one member who posted a cell phone shot of two men on a bike. Another photograph of two men sitting side-by-side carries the comments, “How does he have a gf when he looks like a flammer?!” and “He looks like a fudge packer hahaha fuck this ppl.”

Really, New York Post? Really, Today? This is what we’re celebrating?

Even members of the group (there were close to 1,000 of them when the Post‘s story went live, but that number had almost tripled a few hours later) are starting to complain–not that the page’s administrator has any time for that.

“This isnt for sensitive, dramatic little crybabies and everybody is free to express themselves so be gone if you cant handle it,” James Cuomo wrote on Monday. On Wednesday he added: “This site was to have fun pointing out assholes that think they are better than everyone and can do what they want if you have a problem with it then leave nobody wants to hear you complain.”

So, who are the douchebags–the people in the pictures, or the people snapping the photographs surreptitiously from a distance, then posting them on the Internet? Decide for yourself:


The Eastern Bloc

I was standing in Red Square last winter, chatting with a young woman who was patiently answering my questions about life in Moscow. When I finally asked her if there was anything she wanted to know about the States, she blurted out, “Can you tell me, please, what are the Hamptons like?”

OK, Natasha, this one’s for you.

Two weekends ago, I paid my $29 fare and climbed aboard the notorious Hamptons Jitney, which was as you might imagine, choked with whippet-thin, pouty-mouthed Paris-Lindsay derivatives who looked like they weighed 50 percent less than the Vuitton duffels they toted; taut matrons in linen shifts who viewed the free jitney muffin as if they’d been offered a dead frog; and bronzed-to-a-deep-orange hedge fund managers hidden behind Tom Ford sunglasses.

It takes three hours to plow through the traffic and arrive in East Hampton. Three hours of listening to the house-sharers behind me compare the size of their hangovers, three hours of no cell phone calls since the camp-counselor-ish Jitney attendant has announced sternly that calls are limited to three minutes and are for emergencies only.

One can only imagine the cacophony of bragging and whining that led to the imposition of this rule. And in theory I’m all for it. But hey, I’m alone and I’m bored—this is an emergency! So I surreptitiously call a friend and spend a half hour bragging and whining in whispered tones into the phone.

And then suddenly, after an eternity, the bus pulls up across from the Manrico cashmere shop—we’re here! I tumble out, ready to begin my Hamptons adventure. The town doesn’t disappoint: In the space of five minutes, I overhear “How was Prague?” asked by a guy in shorts to a girl with flippy hair. “Amazing,” she replies in the flat, dull tone teenagers employ when they mutter “whatever.” Two minutes later, I listen in on the following: “You know, Mykanos is kind of fun. Oh, you like the south of France? Then you are so not going to like Greece.”

Hello, people! Aren’t you on vacation already? Didn’t you work your whole lives to have a place around here? Why are you so worried about going somewhere else?

It turns out there’s an antique show today, set up on the grounds of a colonial restoration, so I decide to stroll over, past oak trees bearing brass plaques dedicated to deceased East Hampton luminaries. At the admissions table, I hand over $8 to a woman whose fine bone structure and wild red hair remind me a bit of Little Edie Beale, former denizen of Grey Gardens and perhaps the most famous dead Hamptonite of all, though as far as I can tell there is no plaque for her—or her mother.

“Don’t buy it before we see it!” jokes a shopper with a clear plastic Prada tote who recognizes me from Manhattan antique shows. (Her companion is sporting a classic $900 Goyard carryall, one of what seems like several thousand Goyard carryalls I will see in my brief sojourn here.) But there’s not much danger, since I’m taking the Jitney home in a few hours and can’t carry anything larger than an art deco bread box. Outside while admiring a booth featuring case after case of ornate sterling silver knives, forks, and spoons, I become fascinated by another anecdote being loudly recounted: the sad tale of an air conditioner owner whose noise is driving his air-conditioning-less neighbors nuts. Every winter the neighbors stuff objects in the air conditioner’s pipes, monkey with the switch, disable the compressor, and otherwise express their displeasure.

I am smiling at the ingenuity of these overheated Hamptonites when another cry distracts me: “Marv! Marv! I found something really cool!” I’m not Marv, but I look anyway—it’s a footrest with tusk legs and a leopard cushion. Perhaps Marv’s companion wishes to emulate the barstools covered with elephant foreskin that reportedly graced Aristotle Onassis’s yacht?

After the swift purchase of a Pinocchio wall hanging for $15 (who says there are no bargains in the Hamptons?), I walk back to Main Street, a boutique-clotted avenue with miniature editions of Tiffany and Gucci and a requisite Starbucks whose contribution to American life—good, no-questions-asked bathrooms—cannot be overstated. But hey, I can visit Gucci and Tiffany and get a Frappuccino anytime. Instead, I seek out a place around the corner called the Monogram Shop, which offers infant-sized personalized cowl-neck sweaters for future captains of industry. The samples on display are inscribed Hugo, Caiden (huh?), Maxwell, and Blake. (Could Blake Carrington be responsible for the currency of this moniker?)

I pass by many more spots that I am overly familiar with from Manhattan—a behemoth Scoop, the ubiquitous Calypso, Catherine Malendrino, Cynthia Rowley. Though this is a summer resort, there’s a mysterious number of cashmere shops—at least four, and this isn’t even counting Ralph Lauren, who displays his soft sweaters in the company of Victorian lace skirts.

Oh, Ralph. Could there be a more perfect Hamptons figurehead than the Bronx-born Lauren? (OK, sure, he changed his name from Lifshitz, but if your name had the word “shit” in it, wouldn’t you change it, too?) His distinctive message—and one that I’ve always embraced—is that you can dress like a WASP, present yourself to the world as a rich twit, and call your kids Hugo and Caiden no matter what your ethnicity or what depressing hole you originally crawled out of.

So I venture in to see biers filled with sand and a mannequin being held aloft by two tiny saleswomen who are trying to yank a pair of shorts off the thing. “They’re vintage,” one says reverently of the patched and frayed Marcia Brady–esque denim. I’m unmoved by this precious garment—I’ve always felt you should patch your own dungarees—but I do like a small gold-colored skirt trimmed with crystals. Just to be sure, I ask the clerk if 7500 is the model number, but no, it’s the price. The good news is that it’s been marked down—to $1,900.

It turns out this garment almost fulfills that old joke, “For that much money, it must be made of real gold.” The clerk explains that in fact its fabric comes from “some mill in France” and has genuine metal woven into it, “which is why it’s so heavy.” (This is a good thing in a skirt?) Then I notice that this item is also in the window (they made more than one $7,500 skirt?) and is being shown with nothing but a man’s undershirt—guess all the money went for the skirt—and posed next to a bottle of Veuve Clicquot soaking in an ice bucket.

Collette Consignment seems promising—it’s stocked with nearly unused Chanel flats and Goyard wallets purchased and then rapidly discarded by Hamptons ladies with shifting tastes, but the prices are nearly as high as it would be to buy this stuff new (turns out the ladies are not just fickle, but greedy, too). So I head over to the Windmill Deli to buy a bag of chips for the trip home, only to discover that this humble shop (they were never very nice, but still) has been replaced by a bloated, glaring Citarella.

Well, at least I have reading material. My arms are heavy with the free magazines peculiar to rich towns: Hamptons; Hampton Life; Hampton Style; East End Living; Social Life. (All those years growing up on Long Island, I never saw a copy of Massapequa Social Life). By the time we pass Watermill, I have contemplated a $26,995 diamond cuff bracelet featured in a column entitled “Beach Buys” and read not one but two separate interviews with Shoshanna Lonstein Gruss, the ex-girlfriend of Jerry Seinfeld who designs a line of fashions for young women with big knockers and tiny hips.

Now if only that jitney guy would come though with an extra muffin.


‘The Beales of Grey Gardens’

Improbably resurrected this year as a Broadway musical, the Maysles brothers’ Grey Gardens (1975) documented the bizarre home life of two aristocratic shut-ins, Edith Bouvier Beale and her daughter, Little Edie. Living in an unkempt East Hampton mansion, Jackie Kennedy’s aunt and cousin bicker, sing, and play dress-up in a vérité fever dream that plays like Sunset Blvd. rewritten by Tennessee Williams. Disparaged by many critics for its condescension, it was exploitative but also impossible to look away from. Making its debut as a midnight movie, The Beales of Grey Gardens is ess entially leftovers: footage from the original shoot that, not surprisingly, offers more of the same and lacks the first film’s sense of revelation. It’s not clear that we needed another hour and a half of shrill Little Edie’s wan philosophizing and conspiratorial gibberish. But there’s still the occasional moment of terror, as when the psychologically domineering mom castigates her daughter for putting out a fire with an expensive blanket. And when former beauty Edie sings, “You Ought to Be in Pictures,” the regret could break your heart.


Stay Alive

For the past few decades, artist-architects Madeline Gins and Arakawa have been saying that people do not have to die. They are, according to their latest manifesto, Architectural Body (University of Alabama), “unconditionally supportive of life.” Unconditionally means that they do not accept death as a limit on the human condition. On the contrary, they argue that mortality is not only negotiable but even reversible; as architects, they want to create spaces in which death is impossible.

They have not been shy about stating this goal. You don’t exactly have to twist their arms to get them to say, in the words of the catalog for their 1997 Guggenheim retrospective, “We have decided not to die.” Their commitment to this project has led them to abandon conventional poetry and painting for a thoroughly unconventional architecture, for example the in-progress Bioscleave House in East Hampton and the Site of Reversible Destiny, a park in Gifu Prefecture, Japan. In an interview with the Voice, Gins and Arakawa reveal that they have recently been hired to do a master plan for a 200-hectare island off that country’s coast, and have submitted a proposal to the City of New York for a Museum of the Living Body.

People often say that they do not understand this project. What they really mean is that they do not believe it. They do not accept the basic premise that they do not have to die. There’s also the assumption that Gins and Arakawa do not believe it either. Surely, when they say things like “Death is old-fashioned,” they must be speaking metaphorically; they must mean something more complicated than what they appear to be saying, which the rest of us do not get.

In fact, nothing could be more straightforward than the project to which, decades ago, Gins and Arakawa gave the name “reversible destiny.” Or, in a sense, more typical. Isn’t most architecture about preserving life? Architects do not build with the idea that their buildings will be destroyed in terrorist attacks; they design for living. And is eternal life really such an unusual thing for art to promise? Isn’t that, in fact, one of the most traditional values of art? (Certainly that’s the Hollywood theory of what artists are supposed to do—preserving life is Shakespeare’s job in Shakespeare in Love, Beethoven’s in Immortal Beloved—or am I confusing that with the Dracula film in which Gary Oldman also appeared?)

The difference is that the extension of life that art usually offers is metaphorical life, afterlife, second reality. Gins and Arakawa are much more direct—and for that reason, apparently, much more difficult to understand. They don’t mystify anything. They’re not some kind of religious cult in disguise; they don’t use art as a substitute for having a spiritual life. They’re interested in biological life.

“The art world seems to us to be a conservative place compared to what’s coming at us from other fields,” Gins says. She cites stem-cell biologist Stanley Shostak, at the University of Pittsburgh, whose 2002 book Becoming Immortal suggests (among other things) intervening in the immune system of pre-adolescents so that their bodies will be fit for space travel. Arakawa says that Shostak’s research will help lead people “as quickly as possible to a state of being transhuman.”

That’s why it’s misleading, although clever, for art critic Arthur Danto to engage with their work by adapting Pascal’s “wager” argument: “I have nothing to lose by going along with you. Should you turn out to be right about reversible destiny, that will be great for me, and if you are not, then I will suffer no worse a fate than would have otherwise befallen me.” Gins and Arakawa are not running that kind of gambling house; they don’t act like deities who require worship and belief. Unlike a religion, their project can succeed regardless of whether they have a band of followers who believe them; it requires other forms of support, such as “enormous sums of money.”

The rest of us have been a little shy in responding to the claims of this work. We tend to gravitate toward one of two weak readings: either (1) reversible destiny is a reaction against forces in our culture that can be understood, metaphorically or literally, as deathly (e.g., environmental policies that will eventually render the planet uninhabitable); or else (2) by questioning the life-narrative that terminates in inevitable death, Gins and Arakawa are, in effect, creating a wider range of imaginable possibilities. The first reading is based on the familiar premise of Shakespeare’s sonnets: that art preserves some kind of life-energy, and therefore renders both the artist and the model immortal. In the tradition of American poetics following Whitman, the latter reading puts value on possibility itself, rather than on the specific possibility of not dying. Gins and Arakawa recognize the prevalence of these readings, understand that they are motivated by fear, and somewhat reluctantly authorize them as “a less radical way, but for some people, we are given to understand, a less terrifying and therefore more inviting way” into the work.

Architectural Body also makes some provisions for readers like me, whose first response to anything is to laugh at it.

ANGELA: That’s hilarious. Your house is shorter than its shrubbery.

ARAKAWA: [Laughs] I myself find that surprising. Shall we take a walk around it?

This exchange comes from one of Architectural Body‘s most charming episodes, an extended dialogue in which Gins and Arakawa guide two prospective residents, Angela and Robert, around a house. The building is low because it’s turned to the “snail setting,” at which its surfaces adhere closely to the bodies of its inhabitants, but it later develops that the house can be modified, by means of projecting spines, into a “close-to-snail setting” and a more conventional “roomy setting.” At first, Angela and Robert see nothing that looks like a house; then, when they understand what it is that they are supposed to be looking at, which they take to be a “low pile of junk,” they’re incredulous; when they finally enter the house, they are able to do so only in a playful spirit, guided by Arakawa’s laugh. (Gins and Arakawa do have a sense of humor. One of their privileged antecedents is Don Quixote: “[W]hy not build to your own specifications the windmills at which you wish to tilt?” Another is Marcel Duchamp, whom they associate with Frankenstein, “doctor and monster in one.”)

The tone gradually shifts, as Angela and Robert explore the house and start to ask more practical questions (“Where do people sleep? Or take showers? What about cooking?”). By the end of the chapter, they have been completely converted, revising not only their notions of what a house is and how a person should inhabit one, but also their sense of comfort. In this unfamiliar environment, Angela finds herself acting in a way that’s inappropriately comfortable: “What a cozy spot. If you don’t mind, I think I will curl up right here and take a nap.”

Although their conception of writing books may not be as unfamiliar as their conception of building—Architectural Body offers itself up for inspection as an object that appears to be a book—Gins and Arakawa are nonetheless using the book format to perform a related series of explorations. Everything seems to be up for grabs: the cover design, the dedication (“To transhumans”), even the conventions for handling the book. The chapter “Critical Holder” proposes a set of reading exercises in which the volume and shape of the page alter with each sentence: “Now expand [the] page to fit on an 8 x 11 sheet of paper. . . . Scale the image you are holding up to the height of the tallest tree you can imagine. . . . Instead, scale the page up to the height of the room you are in. That’s it then. The top line rests on the ceiling and the bottom rests on the floor.”

Gins and Arakawa never lose sight of their goal. Estranging the act of reading is not conceived as a substitute for reversible destiny, as though a state of critical awareness could stand in for not dying, but registers a more fundamental disruption. Once you give up on the idea that death is inevitable, it’s difficult to take anything for granted.


NY Mirror

Those cynics who are saying the Hamptons are on the wane are as wrong as red wine is with fish. I just took the schlepp out there and found that the place is more crammed with lockjawed rich people than ever; in fact, all along the potpourri-scented streets there are signs saying “Lost Puppy. $1000 reward.” God—imagine if they lost an earring.

I stayed at a Sag Harbor bed-and-breakfast called the Halfmoon Hideaway, where even the kids playing pool in the rec room seemed clean-scrubbed (and extremely rich). The big weekend bash was the one for Jodi Della Femina‘s Celebrity Dish cookbook at the East Hampton house of her famously wealthy dad and stepmom, Jerry Della Femina and Judy Licht. As the upper crusties conspiratorially exchanged pasta recipes, Licht reminded me, “Way before Candace Bushnell, I wrote a column in the Soho Weekly News called ‘Short Dispatches and Quivering Thighs.’ ” Licht’s other stepdaughter looked horrified, so Mama explained, “It was about relationships!” (It’s true—that’s what we called quivering thighs back then.)

It came time for a serious presentation, so we grabbed armloads of hors d’oeuvres and quivered around the podium by the pool. A young beneficiary of the Make-A-Wish Foundation gave a brave speech, saying, “When I was seven, I was diagnosed with bone cancer, had surgery, and lost all my hair.” Yikes—but if you think that was horrible, wait till you hear what her wish was: to meet the cast of Full House!

That night, my wish was somehow to go to Jet East, a high-energy dance barn in Southampton that’s packed with well-heeled singles with no rhythm whatsoever. The tables are reserved for those willing to pay for bottle service, the result being that $2000 tabs are as common as open-toed shoes. That’s two puppies!

The recession hasn’t yet hit back in New York, either. The bottle crowd has even descended on the formerly dorky East Twenties in search of relationships with pricey food in chichi surroundings. A relatively new attraction is Spread, a Miami-esque eatery adjacent to the Marcel Hotel, which is more Marcel hair wave than Marcel Proust. Over world music, you sit on furry cubes and indulge in high-end “teases” and “spreads,” all helped down with Voss water, which our runway-ready waiter recommended as “the purest in the world.” It’s all very aesthetic and striving, and if you order four things, you leave with a bigger spread.

I gave myself a Roofie by going to the party for that frisky, deeply talented Rufus Wainwright at Spa, where I spread and promptly waited for some teases. Rufus has been getting a lot of big-time attention, but he told me, “I still consider myself very alternative. I’m giving the world time.” While he’s waiting, he’s on the bill of that upcoming all-gay Wotapalava tour, which is a sort of Tra-La-Lollapalooza for the queer-as-folk-music generation. Rufus has always been one of them there gays, and even though he freely admits to bouts of slutty dispatches and quivering thighs (selfish digression: You first read about that Andrew Sullivan sex scandal here three weeks ago, thank you!), any semblance of a love match eludes him at the moment. “I want to become a monk or something,” Rufus told me, only half-joking. “Everybody starts to look the same after a while.” Just then, a woman from the Pink Pussycat—who didn’t look like anyone else—offered to provide him with complimentary sex toys, and Rufus laughed and shrieked, “I want them now!” They’ll serve him well in the monastery, along with some Voss water.

Sex props weren’t necessary at Paper magazine’s party at Rialto, where The SopranosDrea de Matteo said Abel Ferrara wanted her to play a character who gets fucked up the ass while sucking dick, but that project hadn’t managed to get off the ground. It sounds better for MerchantIvory anyway. The same mag, scandalously enough, features the edgy portrait paintings of club kid-turned-killer Michael Alig. The verdict? He’s better than Gacy, but not nearly as good as Elke Sommer!

He’ll probably end up at Feinstein’s, which brings back so many stars of yesteryear that I’ve already booked my Britney Spears tickets for 2041. The cabaret’s current attraction is the Smothers Brothers, who’ve kept up their Burns-and-Allen-like act with a frightening imperturbability. As always, the one brother babbles moronically, the other drolly dishes him, they sing a lilting duet, the dumb one fucks up the ending, and then the babbling starts up again. But even if the whole scene is extremely time-warpy (they do “The Impossible Dream”!), it’s fun—and so was meeting legendary singer Keely Smith in a celebrity corner of the audience. I told Keely that I’d heard she was great at, yep, Feinstein’s, and she threw me a mildly steely look and said, “Why didn’t you come see it?” I don’t know—I still consider myself very alternative?

Moving up to date, designer Richie Rich tells me he got an advance earful of a Kid Rock song that trashes Tommy Lee for hitting Pamela Anderson (Rock’s new girlfriend). Gee, if Pammy ever wants to find Tommy again, she should put up signs that say “Sick Puppy. $1000 Reward.”

At the movies lately, you want to slap the projectionist. Shrek is inventively executed and has some great set pieces that keep it from being Dreck, but there’s a hint of lameness to the script, and Eddie Murphy is relied on a little too much to save the day. Moulin Rouge starts impressively, but quickly becomes tiresome in its attempt to stun and dazzle with every fucking frame. The relentless clutter and gimmickry render the movie about as authentic and sexy as a karaoke night in a French theme restaurant. And Pearl Harbor (which I saw two-thirds of) has spectacular war scenes, but they’re just accessories to a three-way love plot so inane it was even better served in Move Over, Darling with Doris Day! The script is so unambitiously written that the characters always say exactly what they mean (“I’m back!”), and the net result feels as if they tried to write in the ’40s rather than about the ’40s. The worst line? In the middle of the bombs-away scene, an American soldier exclaims, “I didn’t even know the Japanese were sore at us!” Oy!

In other lousy news for film buffs, Rockets Redglare, the downtown fixture who turned up in flicks like Big and Basquiat, died last week as a result of various ailments. Rockets had a fascinatingly dark life, which spanned being born to a junkie mom, witnessing his mobster uncle pull off a hit, and begging cash out of his famous friends. His triumph was becoming a quirky star in his own right—one I’ll sorely miss, and not just because he never hit me up for money.

Finally, if you haven’t sold your Hamptons estate yet to pay for scalpers’ tickets to The Producers, you might want to wait. I hear that Roger Bart—who hilariously plays the flaming Carmen Gia—is first in line to replace Matthew Broderick as Bloom. Of course, by the time I get to see the show again, the leads will probably be Cathy Rigby and Aaron Carter—or the cast of Full House!

Neighborhoods NYC ARCHIVES

Attention, All You Simply Marvelous Shoppers!

Right in front of Bridgehampton’s hottest new place to shop, Carol Dobrow’s frisky terrier, Zoe Marie, prances at the end of a leopard-print leash, but Dobrow herself acts nonchalant. “I’m not excited,” she says. Well, then, why is she back at this brand-new K-mart on Nov. 14 for the second day in a row?

“I’m here because it seemed like a good idea to see what they have,” says Dobrow, a former designer with homes in East Hampton and Manhattan. “There’s nothing spectacular.”

Uh-huh. From now on, you can assume that even the toniest inhabitants of the Hamptons will unconsciously prick up their ears when they hear “Attention, K-mart shoppers!”

Back here, she says, to exchange something, Dobrow sets the early fashion pace at what is now the world’s most fashionable K-mart by wearing all black, save for tortoise-shell glasses and leopard-print boots that match her terrier’s leash.

Elizabeth Palacio, who works in real estate in Southampton, makes a different, yet somehow fresher, statement in her leather pants. While pushing a somewhat standard shopping cart containing a beige cat-litter pan, Palacio avers, “I miss Caldor. This is too crowded. The aisles are too close together and the carts are too big.”

Most shoppers here are classy enough to keep their emotions in check, of course. They look dignified as they maneuver for parking spots in the packed lot and they keep tight control over their urge to run from the car to the store. But it’s the Sunday grand-opening extravaganza-how could they not just sneak a peek?

The K-mart (technically one of the chain’s Big K stores) refills the space that was held by now-defunct Caldor. And not a moment too soon. After having to trek to Riverhead since Caldor closed in May for items like toilet brushes and dish-drying racks and decent wastebaskets and underwear-or simply going without-Hamptonites have reason to celebrate. From 8:30 in the morning until long after the sun goes down, hordes pile into the supernaturally bright store.

Most Hamptonites, of course, are just like you or me. The upper-crust crowd-who give the place its reputation-like to talk about K-mart as just the type of thing they hate about “up-island.” Not today. Many are either punch-drunk from the thrill of consuming, or forgetful, or just too giddy to hide their glee. “Just the toy section is bigger than our house!” sings one dad, tugging three chubby blond kids toward the wall of TVs. “Let’s go up and down every aisle!” giggles one 20-something woman to another. “I’m excited about it,” she admits to me, refusing to reveal her name. “There’s tools, bras, food. We were just saying we could go live in aisle four. Where else do you buy a vacuum cleaner?”

A Sag Harbor couple (actors who won’t reveal their names because “we have too many product endorsements that we get paid for” and shouldn’t be caught shopping here) are with their toddler son, methodically filling a cart with new outfits for him. “We can’t figure out what people did on Sunday morning before this,” says the woman, obviously enjoying herself. “Were they in church?”

As far as K-mart being celebrated in the most unlikely of places, she says, “Snap out of it. Martha Stewart’s here!” It’s true: There are four entire aisles dedicated to that East Hampton guru’s line of linens. “Martha’s probably over there right now, stacking towels.”

She’s not. But around the corner from the sheets, in the toy section, sits Barbie, live and in person. Actually, she’s just a young woman, blond and perky, wearing a plastic headband and a puffy, pink gown-kind of like Glinda the Good Witch’s, but more, well, K-mart. “Tell her how much you like Barbie,” one mom tells her daughter. “I like Barbie,” the girl says quietly, sizing up the impersonator. She gets an autographed, Mattel-issue illustration and plods away. Another girl hands Barbie her actual Barbie. The fake Barbie looks confused and asks, “Where do you want me to sign it, hon? On the leg?”

Mia Hamm was scheduled to take over Monday night-the next consumer incentive to get East Enders into the store. It’s probably better for everyone if we can all just pretend that they need one.

Neighborhoods NYC ARCHIVES

The Rubber Match: Beaches Bounce Back

Used condoms are not so much an environmental problem as they are the canary in the coal mine. Back in the 1970s and earlier, New York City’s sewers would routinely flood into storm drains during a heavy rain because its sewage-treatment plants could handle only so much flow.

Now, with more capacity, such overflow is rare, but when it does happen, the city’s latex calling cards are one of the best indicators of spillage here on Long Island shores. Of course, the condoms aren’t recyclable: Only the rings wash up because latex tends to dissolve pretty quickly in salt water.

“For those of us who go out and track things in the environment, condom rings are an indicator,” says Larry Swanson, who sired the Waste Reduction & Management Institute at SUNY Stony Brook. “If we see lots of condom rings, the chances are they’re coming from a malfunctioning sewage treatment plant. If I see a lot of those things, I would contact the city.”

But can the big city be blamed for everything? Not necessarily, according to LI sewage experts.

“We find that weekends are pretty active here, let me put it to you that way,” says Paul Pastore, superintendent and 41-year veteran of the Huntington Wastewater Treatment Plant. “We see an increase in the product you’re talking about, in a variety of colors.” Occasionally, they might clog up one of the smaller pumps at the plant, but generally they’re not a problem. They get screened out onto a conveyor belt and separated for disposal in the town incinerator.

One might think that if condoms are going to end up with the regular trash anyway, one might as well put them in the trash can from the get go. Pastore doesn’t recommend that, but then he’s got a particular bias when it comes to waste.

“The most sanitary way to do it is just to flush them down the toilet bowl,” he says, “because if you put them in a garbage pail, somebody could go into that pail and accidentally come into contact with them. The bag could break open, fly all over the road.” Not to mention that your dog might eat them and deposit them on the lawn next door, leaving your neighbor to guess whether you’re a safe-sex practitioner or the owner of a terrier who’s a mule for the Cali cartel.

The noble diaphragm is reused, just as most things ought to be. But the only latex that gets recycled is paint. Swanson says he knows of no current efforts to recycle or reuse condoms.

For now, it seems, used condoms can be useful only as warnings of environmental degradation. But they can also be a source of inspiration.

A raft of condoms deposited on a beach near Los Angeles served as Aldous Huxley’s muse when he penned “Hyperion to a Satyr,” an essay about class distinction being diminished by the washing of the unwashed masses. Walking along the beach with Thomas Mann just before the outbreak of World War II, Huxley noticed “at our feet, and as far as they could reach in all directions, the sand was covered with small whitish objects, like dead caterpillars.” The essay, it turns out, mourns the loss of such phenomena while celebrating the sewage-treatment plant named Hyperion that later filtered the condoms from the effluent that was pumped into the ocean. “Technological advances have led to the disappearance of some of the immemorial symbols of class distinction,” Huxley concluded.

He might just as well have been referring to the experience of bathing condom-free in East Hampton rather than wallowing in “whitefish” on Jones Beach.