Off The Map

What is this place called, in the picture? Probably the guy in the photo—who looks like a beginner, in the cranky opinion of the old surfer who cast a glance at it in our office—would describe it as Ditch Plains. If it were Ditch Plains, which it’s not, we here at EAST would annoyingly insist that that was wrong, too: There shouldn’t be an “S” on the end of “Plain”; it once was, plainly, a plain, not a plains—like Hither Plain—and that’s what everyone should call it: Ditch Plain. We concede that The East Hampton Star might appear faintly ridiculous in clinging to this distinction, but fuhgeddaboudit: We won’t budge.

The photo was taken in Montauk, it’s true, at a place that surfers who know their way around would probably call End of the Road. Surfers are great namers-of-places: There are surf spots known as Dickie’s—versus Little Dickie’s—and Cavett’s and Warhol’s, Concessions and Kiddie Pools. (Now that we mention it, we think there might actually be two Kiddie Pools. Is Kiddie Pools inside Turtles? Or inside Ditch and Poles? Of course, the poles at Poles aren’t there anymore, but . . . ) We have a major bee in our bonnet about calling things by their real name. We don’t like it when time passes, populations shift, and a familiar place loses its specificity. Noyac is shrinking fast, because home buyers think “I live in Sag Harbor” sounds more lah-dee-dah than “I live in Noyac.” (Don’t believe it? Ask a recent arrival where Long Beach is.) Wainscott has been pressed way north by property-value politics, as has Sagaponack. And old place names (Hayground, Hardscrabble) have fallen out of use altogether.They’ve disappeared. Where have you gone, Divinity Hill? Wherefore art thou, Wompenanit?Google Maps is the great eraser. If you want to know what a place is called, don’t consult Google.

Just ask an old person. You might not get much information out of a cranky old surfer, who will begrudgespeaking aloud his or her favorite spots—sacred place names only to be incanted in sanctum santorum to the smell of incense — but bless their white cotton socks, anyway, for being out there in the actual physical world and maintaining the geographical differences between Point A and Point B.

Top: Montauk Cliffs by Doug Young, a Long Island photographer who specializes in images of food, gardens, and interiors. His work has been seen in Vox Hamptons, Edible East End, and Vogue Entertaining, as well as a host of very stylish cookbooks.