Montauk by Chris Watson
Montauk, NY. A quaint drinking village with a fishing problem has what most quaint drinking villages with fishing problems have, fine establishments that serve drinks.
One of the finer of those establishments in Montauk is The Dock. A place that has been run by George Watson and his son Chris for twenty million years. Chris grew up around The Dock and now helps keep the locals out and the lights on. When he’s not doing this he is usually dodging requests from Whalebone Magazine to write something nice for the publication. He is usually reluctant as Chris is a busy guy with a wife and kids and an establishment that won’t kick you out for being on your phone. But Chris is addicted to NASCAR and we used this to our advantage by picking up an easy win on a bet about the Brickyard 400 knowing the lead car would have to pit with 2 laps to go, so the agreement was made that we’d forgive the massive debt he collected betting on the race cars if he would write something for The Summer Issue of Whalebone.
To our knowledge Chris hasn’t been watching much NASCAR since that time but here’s the feature he wrote.Multiple times a season I have someone tell me across the bar something along the lines of, “You know I’ve gotta tell you, I’ve been coming to Montauk my entire life (they then tell me how many years) I just love it out here. But can you actually believe I’ve never been in here?”
Years back this exchange struck me as somewhat odd. But now I think I get it. Their Montauk isn’t my Montauk or your Montauk and none of ours is Johnny Gallo’s. We are all here getting something different out of this quirky, small in spirit but actually rather large seaside town.
Now usually that conversation moves along to how they love the bar and can’t believe they’ve waited this long to come in but definitely are gonna start coming now and it’s just that they usually stay downtown or in Ditch or off the Old Montauk Highway or wherever and the Montauk routine they settled into just never brought them to The Dock. And you know what? That’s fucking great. Now don’t get me wrong it is usually one goofy ass conversation but the reason for it is genuine. This town managed to keep us both occupied and entertained enough for however many years that we never crossed paths. Until we did.
My Montauk, the one I think about when I’m away, exists mainly in the Harbor. I live and work there. My wife and I are raising two young boys on the same land my grandparents purchased in the ’50s. My boys tear up the same yard my father and his eight siblings used to. Their mini excavators dig in the shade of the same oak trees my grandma Minx and pop-pop used to sit under every afternoon to celebrate being out of Staten Island for the summer.
We are all here getting something different out of this quirky, small in spirit but actually rather large seaside town.
The bar, and Montauk in general, can get so wild at times throughout the season that we rely on this level of simplicity to ground us. We have our little routine. We walk the docks daily. Hardened commercial fishermen’s faces soften when they see the red mop or the tangled blond curls of my two-year-old bounding down the town dock. The girls at Gosman’s fish market are always happy to fish the largest lobster out of the tank for us to gawk at even though all we ever buy are oatmeal cookies. We get breakfast from Sammy’s food truck because the newly widened beach provides the perfect dump truck racetrack from the jetty on down to the Irish Riviera. On those perfect lazy summer evenings, we return with a picnic and a cooler. Boats are steaming back from fishing or sailing out for sunset cruises and the fading light never disappoints.
We sometimes like to venture out. You can’t just swim in the bay. You gotta get tossed around in the surf every now and again. Need to be reminded of the strength and beauty of the ocean every few days. On cloudy days we like to hike. We might stumble around the walking dunes or head up to Camp Hero to spook each other in the abandoned Air Force base. The boys like parking in Shadmoor to run around the abandoned bunkers before walking the bluffs for lunch at the Ditch Witch because crappy weather means fewer freaks in the Ditch freak parade. Naturally Good takeout is tied into most bank runs downtown. I’m man enough to admit that I’m good for at least one Mcenroe-esque meltdown on the volcano hole at Puff N Putt a summer. The loser always has to buy ice cream at John’s. When we have a sitter we like to mix up dinner locations but always wind up at the Montauket if taking a cab or Topside if we are on our bikes. At least once a summer on these nights I like to stand by the jukebox at Liar’s and close my eyes to truly absorb the music. The unenlightened might tell you I fall asleep. I feel sorry for them. But the best days almost always end in the backyard. The outdoor speakers are turned up. There is a charcoal grill sizzling with steak and corn and Skarimbas’ scallops. Two boys are running with a hose and reckless abandon and then there is my beautiful and exhausted wife smiling over the rim of a fresh margarita.
Now my Montauk may ring similar to yours. Or it might be completely different. The point is: it is all good. Just do me a favor will you?
Have fun, play nice and clean up after your fucking selves.