Though much of Fetch this week is devoted to accoutrements needed for long weekends at the beach or in the country, I feel obliged to sing the praises of summer weekends in the city.

During much of last weekend, I was in New Orleans, a city that is notoriously—and often unbearably—hot in the summer. Fortunately, the business community understands the importance of almost frigid air conditioning. I have spent many a happy summer weekend wrapped in a sweater, watching back-to-back movies at the Canal Place theaters on the edge of the French Quarter or having long lunches Galatoire’s, which does not close between lunch and dinner and is by far the coldest restaurant in town. I can think of worse ways to idle away a summer day, but there are still more ingenious options to take one’s mind off the heat. Last weekend, for example, the city emulated the annual shenanigans in Pamplona, Spain and hosted its own running of the bulls. For a brief moment, I wondered where exactly the bulls would be coming from—while we are currently having a big problem with the throngs of coyotes who’ve been flushed out of their habitat by high water, bulls are not exactly commonplace. But it turned out that the bulls were not bulls at all, but roller derby queens outfitted with horned headgear. Before the event, I ran into a huge contingent of men, dressed appropriately in red and white, just dying for the chance to run from the ladies. This is not the kind of activity that takes place in the country.

Now, of course I love the country, and I particularly love it when generous friends with large country houses invite me to come visit them there. So far this summer I am having a particularly good run. In June, I visited my friend Alexander Chancellor at his gorgeous Inigo Jones pavilions in Northhampton, a scant hour and a half from London. As I write, my husband and I are happily on our way to visit our friends Jon and Keith Meacham at the house they rented in Goult, France. I once even had my very own house in the country—a cottage in Bridgehampton shared with my dear friend Helen Bransford. I can no longer remember what we paid to rent it for two summers, but I’m sure it was nowhere near the current prices—and it was certainly nowhere near $5,392,500, the astonishing average listing price for houses for sale in Bridgehampton for the week ending June 29. Our house had Popsicle stick lamps and air so damp and full of allergens that a visiting friend chose to sleep in my car rather than in our guest bedroom. There was a potato field across the road (into which my black cat escaped one harrowing night) and an ancient charcoal grill on which we grilled fresh blue fish and tuna and endless ears of corn.

We went to fancy dress parties in Southampton and casual clambakes in Amagansett and generally had a grand time, but I still got occasionally homesick for New York.  For one thing, many of the people I spent all week trying to avoid weren’t there anymore—they were the poor saps standing in the endless line at the movie theater in Sag Harbor or spending hours of phone time trying to wangle a table at the latest East Hampton hot spot.  Movie theaters in Manhattan, on the other hand, were virtually empty; tables at even the buzziest restaurants were almost startlingly easy to come by. So were theater tickets, manicure appointments, you name it. I’d meet friends for guacamole and frozen pomegranate margaritas at Rosa Mexicano or brunch at Soho’s I Tre Merli. Being a tourist in my own city somehow became the most relaxing of holidays.

So this summer, at the end of my admittedly luxurious country house tour, I plan to spend at least one long weekend in New York. Flights are cheap and so are hotel rooms. As we inch toward August, barely a local remains, yet all sorts of great stuff is going on. This week for example, you can watch 14 different Marilyn Monroe titles in 35 mm prints at BAM Ceinematek. “Hair,” of all things, has returned to Broadway for a limited run of fun free love, and on July 28, the Lowdown Hudson Blues Festival brings Taj Mahal, Vernon Reid, and many more to the World Financial Center for three days of outdoor music.  I actually like the fact that the sidewalks still flash heat back at you late into the night. The Lovin Spoonful got it right with their lyrics to (Hot Town) Summer in the City: “But at night it’s a different world, Go out and find a girl, Come-on come-on and dance all night, Despite the heat it’ll be alright.” Yep, and there might even be a horned roller derby queen rolling around on the sidewalks.

 

About Julia Reed

Julia Reed is a columnist at Garden & Gun magazine and a contributing editor at Elle Décor. She also contributes to The Wall Street Journal, Architectural Digest, and The New York Times, and makes frequent appearances on MSNBC. She is the author of five books, including But Mama Always Put Vodka in the Sangria, Adventures in Eating, Drinking and Making Merry and One Man’s Folly, The Exceptional Houses of Furlow Gatewood.

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