Debbie Tuma lives in Montauk.
So it was surreal for me to be at Sotheby's in Manhattan last month, as they auctioned off John Lennon's song, "A Day in the Life." Lennon hand-wrote the lyrics on a piece of plain white paper in ballpoint pen. He had scratched out several lines and rewritten them, and it was exciting to see the work in progress, in his own scrawled penmanship. The song was part of Sotheby's auction of books and manuscripts, from writers including John Steinbeck, Ayn Rand, Walt Whitman and Robert Frost.
The auctioneer started the bidding for Lennon's lyrics at $300,000. Paddles started waving and phones began ringing at a table of people taking calls from around the world. After a tense six minutes, the song sold for $1.2 million to riotous applause.
It was certainly a day in the life for Joe Reynoso, a 49-year-old financial management consultant from Chicago, who was the seller.
He'd kept it for 18 years, first framing and hanging it on his wall, and then putting it in a safe when friends told him it might be worth close to a million. He decided to sell when he realized it was no fun hiding it in a safe.
I shared my own memories of John Lennon, whom I met in the early 1970s when I was a waitress in Montauk. He and his family rented a house there for the summers.
Lennon and Yoko Ono came into the dockside restaurant one night and, instead of asking for a table on the water like everyone else, wanted to be seated far from the crowds - where I happened to be stationed. I was so nervous I could hardly talk, and my hands were shaking as I carried the plates to their table. All the other waiters and waitresses found a reason to stop by to get a glimpse. Our whole restaurant was abuzz.
Over the years, Ono has continued to show not only her own art but Lennon's, too, at exhibits on Long Island. While interviewing her about these shows a few years ago, I asked her how she and John had liked summering in Montauk.
"We loved escaping out there, to relax and do our artwork," she said. "We spent our days doing artwork and going to the beach."
I turned 30 years old on the day in 1980 when John Lennon was killed. His senseless death riveted me to the core. Every birthday since, I've remembered the iconic artist I grew up with.