The truth about Long Island


My awesome weekend (con’t): Day Two, Saturday, Oct. 31

Here’s the most crucial thing you need to know about Long Island: the North Shore is New England, and the South Shore is New Jersey. Culturally, socially, and mall-wise; when you’re looking for a place to pimp your car, you head for the South Shore. When you’re looking for a landscape in which to take an inspiring all-day nature walk, muse on the transcendental nature of human existance on a fine Fall day, you head for the North Shore.

The North Shore of Long Island is 120 miles long, all of it shoreline on the body of water with the highest number of yachts per capita, the Long Island Sound. Despite its long history of being a millionaires’ playground (from back when a million bucks was serious money) the North Shore is still a bit raw, wild, rural, and reticent. It is the anti-Hamptons.

On Saturday, as fine a Fall day as there ever was, Top Cat and I drove 16 miles east of our little toe-hold on the North Shore to spend the day wandering in the 80-acre sea-side nature preserve called Target Rock National Wildlife Refuge, in a town called Lloyd Neck.  Lloyd Neck was not happy when Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie rented a mansion there this past Spring while Angelina was filming a movie on the Island — Lloyd Neck is the kind of place where yammering for attention makes one too gauche to live on Lloyd Neck. Please. Don’t do that: it upsets the locals. Which I know for a fact.

Target Rock Preserve is named after a rock. A rock called “Target Rock”. It’s a big rock, and it sticks out of the Sound, and it was used as a — wait for it — target, during the American Revolution.  But more about that later.

Because our first stop in Lloyd Neck was to visit my favorite house on Long Island, a house that Top Cat and I had seen for sale when we were in Lloyd Neck last Spring, stalking Brangelina.  We’d taken a wrong turn ( get-away manouvre) onto a private road (onto a side-street to lay low)  and ended up at a dead end (sorry: that’s  cul de sac  in this neighborhood) and discovered my dream house. It is a pristine mid-century “modern” ,  California-esque split-level structure perched in a notch on a cliff above the estuary waters of the Long Island Sound with a 180-degree view of the Target Rock Refuge.

When I saw this house last Spring I wanted to live here, and Spring is my least favorite season. I had to see it in my most favorite season just so I’d know what the perfect house for me looks like at the perfect time of year.

It. Looks. Beautiful.

And as  I was  strolling around the property, peeping into windows and gesturing around the view as if I owned it, the new owner waved hello to me from the living room picture window. At least, I think he was waving hello. He was definitely waving, so I waved back. Friendly, like.

And he invited me and Top Cat to come in and look around.

The new owner is a young man from The City (which, around here, means Manhattan) who had just received the keys to the house from the broker and was taking his first look around as The Guy Who Owns The Perfect North Shore House. And he let me take pictures.

Readers, this is what the Perfect North Shore House looks like:


View of the Long Island Sound from the second-floor balcony-living room. That corner window is two-stories tall:


The other end of the balcony-living room looks like this:


Those floor boards, set on the angle: is that too much or what?  And you can see the staircases over there next to the fireplace, six steps going up to a suite of bedrooms with connecting baths, and another set going down, to a master bedroom with a full-size dressing room — all kinds of shelves and drawers built-in so that you hardly need furniture to mess up the composition of the rooms. Sigh.

This balcony-living room is, as you see, “sunken” all around — the kitchen is six steps up:


Oh, I could write odes to those 1959 shades of blue, the aqua tones of my youth.


(See those cupboards above the low counter?  THAT’S THE REFRIGERATOR!! )  My friends, this is what the future used to look like, circa 1959,  a split-level  built-in space-age composition of wood panelling set off with gem-like shades of astro-blue.

On an Impala, this color was called “Acapulco Blue” (from back when Acapulco was a jet-setter’s playground, not a run-down shopping mall for cruise ships):


Those aqua-colored tiles on the backsplash:


This, my friends, the future was an exciting place, circa 1959:


This is the steel-chrome -wrapped kitchen “control panel” next to the electric range, which you can’t see because the light coming in from the deck with the 180-degree view of the Long Island Sound is shining way too brightly, as bright as the 1960s.

I miss all that, all that mid-century optimism about the way the future used to be, and I love the way it’s all still there in this Perfect North Shore House.

I want to tell you all that I did not spend the rest of the day in an agony of house-envy. I want to tell you that, but it wouldn’t be true.

So we thanked the new owner of my dream house and hinted that we could definitely be in the neighborhood for a house-warming party and we continued on to Target Rock.

Nature is a good antidote for any house-envy what ails you.


So they say. “They” being the people who don’t let you bring in the real medicine.


Seriously. I get it: no cocktails in the woods.

And any way, when I go nature walking, I carry my martinis in a thermos, like any other civilized person.

And now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for, The Target Rock:


Legend has it that British ships anchored here during the Revolutionary War used this rock as a target for  “gunnery practice”, but that doesn’t explain why the bullet holes are on the side facing the shore.


We also caught sight of the rare and elusive legendary Forest Cat of the Woods of the North Shore. . .


. . .who ignored us from the edge of the parking lot at the entrance to the Target Rock National Wildlife Refuge.

And that reminded me that I had 14 cats at home that I hadn’t seen for hours and that reminded me that Home Is Where The Cats Is.

So I said to Top Cat, “Home, James”, which is his real name thank goodness, and we headed down the road to our own Perfect North Shore House.

9 Comments, RSS

  1. Rachel

    What a lovely spot, a very nice outing. Vivian, I have heard you wax rapsodic about many things, but never about the joys of *cleaning.* That house looks like it would require a LOT of housekeeping. You have better things to do, like write and paint. Very nice of him to invite you in for a visit. A nice place to visit, but you wouldnt want to live there. 🙂

  2. Maryann

    I laughed (as usual), I cried (a new experience whilst reading your blog), I remembered. Thank you again. 🙂

    >this is what the future used to look like, >circa >1959,

  3. I was born in “the city” and raised in Locust Valley, to the age of 17, in the oldest house on Long Island, built before the revolution. All this and I love the house of your dreams! And I love reading your blog, have your book (thanks to Rachel) and enjoy that too.

    • Susan Barber

      Just found your work, and fell in love with it! I am also so curious about Sue’s comment. Born in the City and raised in Locust Valley. I graduated from LVHS in 1975. Lived in Bayville til then, and have lived in San Francisco, an island near by, Syracuse, and still Bayville feels like home still…the home of my heart. Love seeing your references to such familiar places! Thank you!

  4. I was merrily reading along, and grinning about the thermos with the Martini’s when lo and behold…”WWoah!!” I exclaimed! The ‘older-wise-one’ by which I mean, husband sometimes named,’BillBoBaggins’ shot across from his desk to stare at the screen, and the brilliant shots of that lovely wild-cat. How wonderfully handsome he is, and how lucky are you to have seen him so close up!! Such a gorgeous fellow.
    Loved the story about your favourite house too. How kind was he to invite you inside? I hope he doesn’t rip out all that lovely old kitchen, what do you think…will he?
    Your biggest fan, ‘Barking-mad English personage’.

  5. Dear Vivian
    I just stumbled across your story on your perfect North Shore House.
    As the new owner that you are referring to I must say how wonderful it was to find you wandering about. You guys were my first official guests Thank you for your kind words and your terrific energy that you brought
    on that perfect Autumn Day. We too fell in love with it at first sight
    You are always a welcome guest and we promise to keep it as close to its near perfection as possible
    Best regards
    Rob Anzalone

  6. Phyllis & Alan Wolk

    We are the parents of Rob’s co-owner and look forward to our first visit. Our home in Solon Ohio is a 1957 mid-century contemporary (similar vintage as is our marriage). It Is also very near a huge park.We understand how you feel about the truly finer things in life.

  7. Jeff Wolk


    I just read your wonderful article about the north shore of Long Island and our new mid century house..You sure know how to make a new owner feel good about the purchase.

    As Rob said you and your husband are always welcome to visit, and thank you for sending me a copy of your book, enjoy the holiday.


    Jeff Wolk

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