Posts tagged “Cow Neck”.

From East Egg to West Egg

I went to see Public Enemies last night in Port Washington. The most direct way to get home to Great Neck is to drive a winding road (quite fatally dangerous in bad weather) down the western shore of Cow Neck (Pt. Wash and Manhasset), around the opening of Manhasset Bay, and back up the east shore of Great Neck.

In The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald gave these towns the monickers East Egg and West Egg. Back then, West Egg was all new money and East Egg was old money. Readers of this novel will surely remember how Gatsby gazes across the bay to see the light on Daisy’s dock in East Egg.

It’s very easy to see how anyone could romanticize this landscape. Even now, there’s something very intriguing about seeing where you live from another place, whether it’s across a body of water or from a plane or a mountain.

A few months ago I discovered that the local library here posted some books in PDF form about the history of Great Neck. One book was a collection of reminiscenses by Mills P. Baker, the son of the man who owned the farm on which my house is built. He had the entire hill, actually. Their old farmhouse is the Village Hall now, and the school behind it is named for Baker’s mother.

It was interesting to read how what is now a 20-minute car trip was about a four-hour carriage ride. It was also interesting to hear how it took hours for his mother to get from the ferry to Manhattan back to Great Neck via trolley, making about a million stops between here and Long Island City.

But one of the most intriguing stories he told was how a pair of sisters just got into a canoe in Manhasset and rowed over to Great Neck, climbed the hill, and visited Mills Baker and his friends. It’s very hard to imagine just getting into a canoe and going to visit your friends.

Americans have embraced the car, and the traffic that has come with it. I recently took a ferry from Manhattan to Red Hook with two friends so we could go to IKEA. The ferry is free, for another few days. It’s probably too expensive for IKEA to afford, and, local residents have found the trip from Red Hook to Manhattan quite delightful. If you know how difficult it is to get from the far side of the highway in Red Hook to a bus or subway, you can see the attraction of going on the water.

There is something very alluring about being near the water. Unfortunately, the average New Yorker doesn’t get to enjoy even getting close to it. Luckily, there’s a nice uninterrupted park going from the Battery all the way up the West Side, and a lot of cyclists, joggers, and walkers do enjoy it. But I get the feeling that so many more people don’t ever get to enjoy being on the water for any significant amount of time–schedules, work overload, responsibilities.

If you have the chance to get onto any sort of waterfront, do it. It’s something that really helps recharge the spirit.