There isn’t a whole lot on this earth that would be worth sitting in three to four hours of traffic every single Friday and then again every single Sunday for 8–10 weeks. Of the things that come to mind, few of them can be printed and the others involve all-you-can-eat mint chocolate chip dreams I have had since I was a kid.
The one thing that always did seem worth it—and now, 40 years since I first experienced it, still does—is driving from New York to the Hamptons, and for me, specifically Southampton.
From the time I was 7, my parents, frugal to their core, made it a must-do annual event for the Cartons to trek to Southampton. Those car trips, although loathsome, were the fabric of our youth and something that kids today don’t get to enjoy. Games like Who Am I Thinking Of, 21 Questions, Punch Buggy and the invariable Dad He’s Breathing on Me Make Him Stop—which was the game most played by my brother and sister and I.
By the time we got to Route 27 and the windows were lowered, you could smell the beach and the day-long freedom it meant. The beach and the ocean stood for something, for good times and great memories, and I have Southampton to thank for that, and my parents, too, for exposing us to that.
The number one iconic landmark for us was always the Lobster Inn. We’d eat there every trip on the second night of a four-day weekend and IT NEVER FAILED TO DELIVER. I didn’t even like lobster, but I loved going to The Inn for the experience and seeing the lobsters swimming in the tank out front. Even I could catch one in there, I always thought.
We stayed just up the street at a place now called the Bentley, and sometimes we stayed at the Wyndham a little further into Southampton. Regardless of where we stayed, it was a special, magical weekend. We all shared one room, meaning five of us lived together, and even that was fun. My dad taught us how to play hearts and poker and bridge in those motels, and we taught him and my mom how to play Handheld Electronic Football.
We always went to Coopers Beach and tried to get as close to the water as possible, because my parents seemed to get some sick joy out of having to move their stuff and all of ours back 25 feet as the tide rolled in. Always the best part of any beach day was pre-dusk—as the beach emptied and the wind blew a little stronger, we would make our way to the lifeguards stand and begin our ascent to the top of the chair with every intention of jumping to the sand below. My kids do the same thing today, and I am hopeful that their kids will, too.
My parents moved to Southampton about 10 years ago because they never forgot how much they loved those four-day weekends. It says a lot about a place for two 65-plus-year-olds to up and move there without telling their kids—and oh, by the way, to a place they never spent more than four days at a time. Either they didn’t want us to know or they just wanted to hide out from us—and what better place to do that than the Hamptons?
Forty years later I too have maintained my love of the Hamptons, and I, like many of you, still love the slow car ride towards Dune Road and trying to figure out who lives in what house and how much they cost. The fact that I am now blessed in being able to host Hanging in the Hamptons with Edwin McCain, a big charity event for my TicTocStop Foundation—which has as its main charter a goal of making life better for kids with Tourette’s—is surreal and something I never could have imagined would happen.
Craig Carton is the cohost, with Boomer Esiason, of “The Boomer and Carton Show” on 660 WFAN. He hosts Hanging in the Hamptons on Saturday, August 8, at 7:30 p.m. at the home of Marlowe and Eric Bamberger in Sag Harbor. Every dollar raised will go toward clinical research and Camp Carton, the only fully funded sleep-away camp for kids with Tourette’s in America. For tickets and more information, visit tictocstop.com.