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The hedges of the Hamptons/Across the Universe


I spent the past week in a tiny house on the North Shore of Long Island. This was not the Hamptons.

Oh, we did visit Southampton, where we discovered how to keep a beach exclusive and public all at once. Provide nearby parking only to people with town-resident stickers.

It was otherwise a nice, chi-chi little town with shoppes, some ghastly galleries, and the Parrish Art Museum (more on that later).

One of the smaller hedges in Southampton

The best (or worst) thing about Southampton, however, were the hedges. We passed them on our long walk to check out the beach. Never did I see anything quite like them.

First of all, they were crisply trimmed–not a twig out of place. Everything is in control. Some of the hedge tops pitched to a point at the top like roofs or fence pickets.


Most had flat tops. Right angles were a specialty. Some were trimmed to a slim foot of depth. Some were thicker. But none of these bushes could be described as bushy or natural.

Most remarkable of all, however, were how they towered above the street level about 8 or 10 feet.


I suppose it’s no surprise, given how embarrassed all those people must be about showing off the opulence of their giant mansions and estates behind the hedges! Well, maybe they’re not embarassed, just shy. But they ought to be. The Main Line looks like a miniature train set compared to this. So does Beverly Hills.

IMG_6713 Not the Hamptons

These privets brought me to other fence thoughts when we returned to the little house where we were staying. I began to enjoy the lattice and floats.

Someone taming a privet hedge. Reaching the top requires a scaffold across two ladders. This was not the only worker we saw on such a setup. To the left, the hedge is trimmed. To the right, it is growing wild (sorta).

The upside is the number of people the owners must hire to keep things in ship shape. Here’s a shot of one of them trimming a hedge that has lost its edge.


We were looking at beaches because our place, on Long Island Sound, had a different sort of beach–small, rock-strewn, and calm. We’re Jersey Shore lovers, and we wanted to hear the crash of the waves, feel the sand beneath our feet, and watch the parade of people walking along the shoreline.

Southampton was out because of the parking problem. We were not about to walk four miles with our beach chairs, umbrella and buckets of sunscreen. It took us most of the week to find the nearly perfect beach. I say nearly because of the $15 parking fee and no parade of people along the shore line. All this gave us a new appreciation for the democratic approach to beach access and parking down the shore in New Jersey.

Eddie Izzard as Mr. Kite in Julie Taymor's musical film "Across the Universe," a valentine to the Beatles and the Vietnam War era
Eddie Izzard as Mr. Kite in Julie Taymor’s musical film “Across the Universe,” a valentine to the Beatles and the Vietnam War era

Our vacation had an unexpected high point. Our hosts’ DVD collection included Julie Taymor’s under-rated Beatles valentine, Across the Universe (she’s the director who brought us Frida. I understand some of the reasons why the movie didn’t quite catch on. The name is a loser–hard to remember, even if you know the song from whence it came. Also, this is an art-house movie and a musical. Art-house movie and musical usually are not the sort of things you can say in the same breath. And any kind of musical movie is problematic, due to the naturalistic nature of movies and the level of suspension of disbelief required by musicals.

But once past all that (my son Alex and his girlfriend Lindsey helped us select this one), this movie is terrific. It captures the Vietnam War era–its ping-ponging friendships, its sense that ordinary people had the power to change the world, its wild psychedelia, and its social upheaval.

across the universe mandala1
Still from Julie Taymor’s musical film “Across the Universe” valentine to the Beatles and the Vietnam War era; I love the trippy romanticism of this human mandala.

The movie is visually beautiful, with solarized trippy color passages, puppets, crazy choreography and Eddy Izzard as Mr. Kite.

The acting is charming, the singing and music are riveting, the dancing and choreography are spectacular. It’s almost a week later, and I’m still singing Beatles songs, 24/7, dawn to dusk.