My first visit to The Hamptons, that celebrated land of the rich and famous, was in July 2006 for the memorial of a dear friend who’d died in his sleep a few months prior. He and his partner had purchased a small house there and he’d devoted months of his life to fixing it up so he and his love would have a beautiful place to escape the craziness of New York City. The house was understated and elegant, just like Jack had been. Filled with beautiful artwork and rows of Jack’s exquisite pottery – he was a potter, among other things – the house felt alive with Jack’s energy even though he was no longer with us. The memorial was magnificent and worthy of this great man’s impact on all of us in attendance. There was not a dry eye in the crowd as we milled about, eating, drinking, sharing our stories about Jack and remembering a friend we’d never get to see again. At the end of the afternoon, we were each invited each to select a piece of Jack’s pottery to keep in his memory; mine still sits proudly in my living room and I feel his strength and love guiding me every day. It was a beautiful event, but also a profoundly sad occasion, as we celebrated Jack’s life, out there in that sandy, stark, patch of The Hamptons.
The second time I went to The Hamptons, I was managing – and singing with – my band, The Sanghatones. We’d been hired to play reggae for a 4th of July party at a fancy-shmancy to-do on the beach. Famous people I didn’t recognize and had barely heard of (I’m not good on the pop-culture front) milled about, ignoring us and treating us like the hired help. I suppose, on some level, we were the hired help because we had been hired and we certainly helped bring some beauty to the event, but we certainly weren’t an invited part of the mix. When the skies opened up and everyone ran into the house for shelter, we were left with our musical – and electrical – equipment under a small tent to fend for ourselves. In the end, we could no longer perform because of the heavy rain and lightning and so we packed up and called it a night, having already played more than our expected hours. The host, who had hired us, refused to pay us saying we’d taken too long during our 20-minute break and that we were unprofessional. His guests, on the other hand, had commented how much they enjoyed the music as they drank and continued to party, but still we left empty handed. He was just a jerk and we weren’t fancy enough for his taste, apparently. And so it was that, again, I left The Hamptons with a heavy heart and greater dislike for the place.
Then, just this month – July 2014 – I yet again put on my brave face and ventured out to The Hamptons but this time, for a writers conference. As a part of the MFA program I am about to begin in the fall, I attended the Southampton Writers Conference hosted by Stony Brook University on their Southampton campus. At long last, in this land of gossipy lore and A-List legend, I found my people. Surrounded by writers of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, children’s literature, lyrics and plays for the stage and screen, I finally felt at home. We had workshops every second morning and craft talks, mini-workshops and lectures on the other days. Authors read from their published works and did Q&A sessions each evening. Speakers were gathered to discuss tough issues from reporting on warfare to writing through grief and even some of the less contentious issues like the process of adapting YA literature into screenplays and everything in-between. Musicians even joined us to talk about how musicians read and find space in the music for breathing – that session was astounding. We also were fortunate enough to be invited to sit in the audience for the first ever production of The Moth in Southampton. Pure magic. For twelve glorious days, I was in the delicious company of my creative tribe. At long last, I found my Hamptons.