When John Glynn took a share in a Montauk house in the summer of 2013, he had little idea how it would change his life. “The Hive” was organized by a buddy from Boston College and featured a rotating cast of 31 New York City millennials who descended on the East End to play at this “summer camp for adults.” Between day-drinking at the beach, intense soul-bearing sessions with friends and dancing into the wee hours, Glynn — who had identified as straight — also discovered romantic feelings for housemate Matt and came out.
All the drama is recounted in “Out East: Memoir of a Montauk Summer” (Grand Central, 245 pp., $27), a book that reads like a reality TV show between hard covers. The booze flows freely (Transfusions, Endless Summers and Painkillers are favorites) and there is even a wet T-shirt contest, but it is also a heartfelt coming-of-age story and a fond depiction of a tight-knit circle of friends.
Glynn, 33, is an editor at Hanover Square Press. He spoke about the memoir with Newsday by telephone; the conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
There are so many different beach communities — Fire Island, Provincetown, the Jersey Shore. Why Montauk?
There's a real romance to Montauk. You look back at [millionaire developer] Carl Fisher in the ’20s and the architects who came and looked at the landscape and thought: This could be the Miami of the North. They started building all these Tudor Revival structures, but the Depression hit and suddenly Montauk was left in this half built-up state. Looking at it now, I realize it's kind of an apt symbol for where we all were that summer — in this constant state of becoming. It’s very easy to graft your own dreams onto the landscape of Montauk.
One of the main storylines is your attraction to Matt and coming to terms with your sexuality. Did being in Montauk facilitate that self-discovery?
It was really a safe, supportive place for me to reckon with those feelings. I think I would have gotten there. I would have realized that I should be dating guys and I'm gay. But because of that experience, I was able to get to that point much quicker.
Alcohol plays a big role in the memoir. Is drinking a major factor in the summer scene on Montauk?
That summer, for us, it definitely was. From the outside looking in, everyone’s lives looked perfect — a reflection of this social media culture where there’s almost an obligation to present the most glamorous iteration of your life. But deep down a lot of us were really struggling with some pretty serious things: family issues, cancer, heartache, depression, anxiety, loneliness. Alcohol was the de facto way of helping all of us to forget about that for a moment. I did try to present it without judgment, let the reader see that was the reality of that summer, too. It was a specific moment in time, and it's no longer the reality for us now.
The scene in Montauk has certainly changed a lot in recent years. How much tension was there between the summer people and the locals?
We all had an understanding that we were visitors, that this place did not truly belong to us — that this community belongs to its locals. But then we would hear stories of people doing things that were not in keeping with that, and it felt like: Are we contributing to that just by our presence? At the same time, we've all become friends with a lot of Montauk locals, people who have lived there their whole lives. I do think there is always going to be that tension in any summer destination. The burden is on us, as visitors to, to respect and support the local community.
OK, a Montauk lightning round: Favorite bar?
It was Cyril’s — but Cyril’s is no longer, so now my favorite bar is probably The Point.
Favorite Montauk eats?
It’s a tie between a Duryea’s lobster roll and the calamari salad at Harvest.
Best place for dancing?
The Point, or the Mem [Memory Motel], or the Surf Lodge at 2 a.m.
Best way to get to Montauk?
I’m a train guy. You know you’re not going to confront traffic. If you get there early and get a seat, you can work on the train — it’s not so bad.