Summers during college – 1986-1988 – I had one of the best jobs one could ever have: working at a beach – on the Atlantic Ocean. It was called Dolphin Beach and it was right on Dune Road, the main drag through that ran through the barrier beach – essentially a small, narrow strip of land – a barrier island – that was between the Atlantic Ocean and Long Island itself, smack in the middle of the Hamptons.
It sounded like a great gig: taking $10 from out-of-town folks to park in the dirt lot next with beach access (if you were a Southampton town resident and had the sticker on your car you got to park in the paved lot for free). I got the job thru a good friend of mine, who set me up to meet the guy who would be my boss, on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend. I remember it was windy and early – about 8:00 or so in the morning – when I got to the empty parking lot to wait for the guy who was going to hire me.
I’m standing there, alone, when a late-model Cadillac Seville comes cruising in. A thin, and very tan middle-aged guy gets out of the car. He’s wearing a Speedo swimsuit, flip-flops, a linen shirt and had a bunch of gold chains hanging off his neck and addresses me:
“How ‘ya doin’? Are you Charlie’s friend?”
“Yes indeed” I probably replied.
“Good. I’m Tony Lentini…nice to meet you. Come with me”
And so we – me the blond college kid, probably wearing jeans and a sweatshirt – follow Tony the Italian dude in the Speedo up the parking lot, over the dune to the beach, and to a small, square building. Unlocking a side door, he tells me to bring the 4′ x 4′ piece of plywood that’s inside the dark room. It’s the sign for the parking lot, white, with “PARKING $10” painted in big letters on it. I grab the sign and follow Tony back down the small dune trail, and walk thru the dusty, dirt parking lot. It’s windy, I’m carrying the wide sign over my head, the occasional gust catching it and affecting my stride just a bit. We walk all the way to the end, to the chain link fence gate at the corner entrance of the lot, real close to Dune Road.
“Put the sign there,” Tony says, pointing to the fence post. I put the sign down lean it on the fence post. Tony looks at me and says, matter-of-factly, “that…is the hardest fucking thing you’ll do all day.”
I quickly realize I’m going to dig the job and enjoy working for Tony. He looks at me, digs into the top pocket of his linen shirt, grabs a roll of various bills, tells me to charge everyone $10 to park and that most people are assholes and will complain about the cost. They can risk a ticket if they want to park in the town lot without that sticker, he says, and the ticket is a lot more than $10.
We discuss how busy that Saturday might be – its a holiday weekend but its cloudy and only in the 50’s at that moment – and Tony tells me he’ll be back around “lunch time.” That’s cool, I thought, and realize he must like me to already leave me alone with a bunch of cash. There was no cell phones back then, and I didn’t even have to fill out any sort of job application, either. This is going to be a cool gig, at the popular Dolphin Beach. Tony gets in his car, waves and drives away. As the dust from the parking lot subsided I saw his license plate, to this day it’s still my favorite personalized plate: