Mike Jahn


I was thinking about the Kardashians. Thinking about this family of orange grifters is a feat not normally accomplished without several applications of Ol’ Red Eye followed by a plump couch to sleep it off on. The Kardashians are, Mom would have said, a perfect example of the rule “you are the company you keep,” in their family’s case, O.J. Simpson. They do nothing, nothing at all, are boring as all get out, and are paid for it. They are like my ancestor on the Yankee side, Obediah, and the seven or eight generations following.

Obediah and his household came from Stratford-on-Avon, England, via Lynn, Massachusetts, staying in the Boston area just long enough to relieve themselves but not long enough to be tarred by the feather of living in the proximity of future Red Sox and Kennedys. They did not come from the place where loiter orange grifters and double murderers.

My ancestors left the place where, if lucky, you might have dug up the sod around Shakespeare’s begonias. They wound up in Southampton, New York, in 1641, becoming one of the first English settlers of the Empire State, which otherwise was chock full of stubbornly prideful Dutchmen and increasingly worried Indians. 

What did they do when they got there? They dug clams. For 10 generations they dug clams and, I imagine, grew potatoes and carved up the dead whales that washed up on the beaches upon which the celebrities who now overpopulate the place turn themselves orange. There were lots of whales to die and wash up on the Hamptons beaches. There were no celebrity sunbathers because, if you think about it, it has not socially acceptable to walk around half or entirely naked until quite recently. There were lots of whales and clams but a decreasing number of, as my newspaperman  father put it, “durn angry Indians whose land was stole.”

After finishing with clams, Obediah’s descendants moved to Sag Harbor and began going to sea and actively slaughtering whales, one of them, my great-great grandfather, acquiring the title “Captain.” That part of the Empire State having become largely rid of Dutchmen, prideful or otherwise, they finally moved west to the town on the Great South Bay that I call Sodom-by-the-Sea. I do not call it that because it’s the place to catch the ferry to the gay parts of Fire Island, but because before the gays came it was notorious for swinging. You can keep yourself quite busy on or near beaches these days.

As for the durn angry Indians, they moved to Upstate New York and opened casinos, which is substantially better than turning yourself orange in Hollywood. So is digging clams, come to think of it.


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