It doesn’t seem so long ago that I was at a sleepover in Springs, hanging out with Jesse Rosenthal, Sam Spielberg, Tom Ferris, Mike Hand, Ryan Strubel and Rob Grau. In reality, it was about 20 years ago, but I can remember vividly watching movies in Rob’s basement while in the fifth grade, all of us beating the crap out of one another, trying to stay up as late as possible to illegally watch a movie with nudity on HBO or staring into the late-night abyss of the painter Bob Ross, who had that television show that, for some reason, was hypnotically watchable. “HOW THE HELL DOES HE DO THAT?!! IT DOESN’T MAKE ANY SENSE!” Rob would scream.
Back then we really were such Springs rats. We thought we were so cool, talking about girls who we were madly in love with (and, in some cases, are still in love with). I can even remember Sam Spielberg once describing “the perfect woman” as we debated all night the hotness of the different girls in our class. “Sarah, I’m in love with her. She’s perfect,” I’d say.
“Yes, but what if we added Casey’s legs on Sarah?” Sam would suggest.
The memories of sleepovers with these guys make me laugh out loud as I write this. But I’m also typing with an emptiness inside right now. The reason is that last week, Sam Spielberg, 31, a father, died in a car accident. He was driving along Red Dirt Road, lost control of his car and crashed into the woods.
It feels odd writing that. I feel like he’s still here. How could he not be? Sam is a part of the fabric of Springs. He’s the Spielberg Nursery family. He’s got an adorable daughter.
By the time I hit high school, I started hanging with different people, and for the most part I’d fallen out of touch with Sam. But Sam was one of the few people in my life who I watched become a man right before my eyes. He was young when he had his daughter (by today’s standards in New York, anyway), in his mid 20s, and when I saw him with her it stunned me that somebody my age was a father. There I was, still a child, and Sam a real man.
I just said hello to Sam the other day, randomly at Kmart in Bridgehampton, where he was with his daughter. Although I lost touch with him a long time ago, I always felt proud of him when I saw him. He was always with his daughter, looking after her whenever I ran into him getting a coffee at Damark’s Deli or on Main Street in Amagansett. He gave me a nod and a smile and went about his business, and I laughed to myself because I know every time he saw me he remembered, like I do, growing up together in Springs. But now he’s gone.
Maybe I’m writing this as a kind of therapy. I don’t know. I just pray so badly that Sam’s friends and family can deal with this in their own way and get through it in their own time.