Plenty going on around these parts with Presidents Weekend on our doorstep. And it bears mentioning that a combination of economic and social forces seem to be moving up the start of high season preparations and overtures to this holiday weekend, which is almost a month earlier than the traditional opening bell, sounded when local St. Patrick’s Day parades step off.
Time was, the first flurry of summer rental seekers would descend on the East End in the second week of March or so, wearing something green so they could blend in with the locals, check out the parade, and then make the rounds with real estate agents in hopes of getting first pick of the most desirable rental properties for the season to come.
But, just as with yard sales, the savviest among them soon realized that they’d have a better chance of securing the choicest houses, best access to the beach or town, or best deals if they came out before the rest of the crowd, all dreaming of a tony (or “affordable”) Hamptons summer address. And what better time to get a jump on the competition than a long holiday weekend?
So now, before the first snowdrops pop up, the return of robin redbreast or the start of flounder season, the first signs of spring tend to be Mercedes, BMWs, Audis and luxe SUVs cruising through the residential sections of East End villages and hamlets and stopping in the driveways of houses still in hibernation.
What is lost, unfortunately, in this sign of a healthy seasonal economy to come—and in the multitude of sales, deals and, yes, school and family vacation plans that attend this and every other holiday—is the original reason and basis for setting a specific day aside: so that the entire nation may take time out from their labors in order to contemplate, honor and celebrate individuals or groups of people who have shaped our national history and in so doing have shaped the history of the world.
With no clear consensus on where, of if, an apostrophe belongs, Presidents Day is not, in fact, a national holiday under that title. The federal holiday celebrated on the third Monday of February and established in 1885 is still formally titled Washington’s Birthday (observed), in honor of our nation’s first president.
George Washington’s actual birthday was February 22, 1732. Abraham Lincoln—our 16th president and perhaps the most universally revered after Washington—was born on February 12, 1809, and for years one or both presidents’ birthdays were celebrated individually on the actual dates in many states.
The point being that the generic title Presidents Day—used to cover the conveniently narrow spread between the birthdays of two great Americans while also ensuring that they are honored equally and neither is slighted—was never intended to celebrate U.S. presidents generally, as a class. It’s about Washington and Lincoln (some would add in Jefferson, whose birthday is in April) and there are very good reasons for singling out these exceptional leaders, just as there are very good reasons for honoring with a holiday Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Here’s an idea: At Quaquanantuck would like to propose that students in middle school through high school be required to pass a test, of graduated difficulty, on the lives and presidencies of Washington and Lincoln before being allowed to take off the third week of February every year.
Pop history quiz for At Quaquanantuck readers: Who said, “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” (Answer at the bottom of this week’s column.)
Back to Quogue in the present day. With the Oscars coming up a week from Sunday, on February 26, it makes sense to put films first this week.
For starters, on Saturday, February 18, it’s time once again to join friends, neighbors, and other cinephiles for an evening of fine food and a terrific film at the monthly Film Feast at the Quogue Library.
This month’s selection is a film with no Oscars to its credit but still a lot to recommend it: “Bullitt” (1968), directed by Peter Yates and starring legendary sensitive tough guy Steve McQueen.
This splendid movie is described by iMDB this way: “An all guts, no glory San Francisco cop becomes determined to find the underworld kingpin who killed the witness in his protection.” In addition to McQueen—who would be enough all by himself—the cast includes such notables as the incomparable Jacqueline Bisset; Robert Vaughn as a politician of questionable character (is there another kind?); Norman Fell (Dustin Hoffman’s landlord in “The Graduate”); Robert Duvall; Georg Stanford Brown; and Vic Tayback.
The film also capitalizes on the hilly streets of San Francisco for a chase scene in which McQueen’s Mustang 390 GT gets airborne repeatedly at speeds up to 110 mph. Filmed three years before “The French Connection,” the 10-minute chase with almost impossibly long edits is considered one of the greatest of all time.
The feasting begins at 6:15 and the film will be screened at 7:15. As always, admission is a beverage to share and a dish that serves at least six. Please note that there is an additional $5 fee for out-of-district participants. Best to call the library at 653-4224 to let them know you’re coming and what food you’re planning to bring.
As has been mentioned a few times previously in this space, the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center is screening the German film “Toni Erdmann,” a nominee for Best Foreign Language Film, on Friday, February 17, at 7 p.m., Saturday, February 18, at 4 p.m. and 7 p.m., and Sunday, February 19, at 4 p.m.
At Quaquanantuck saw the trailer for this film a few weeks back at the PAC, and it looks very funny and also quite intriguing in its examination of the lows and highs of a contemporary father-daughter relationship, and the lengths that a parent will go to in order to re-establish a connection with an adult child.
Next weekend, before the gold statues are handed out, the PAC will be screening this year’s Oscar nominated live action short films on Saturday, February 25, at 4 and 7 p.m. and Sunday, February 26, at 4 p.m.
Visit the PAC at www.whbpac.org or call 631-288-1500 for information and tickets.
The short films aren’t being shown on Friday, February 24, as they typically would be in the winter World Cinema schedule, because the stage belongs to East End favorites Gene Casey and the Lone Sharks that night. Should be a great show.
With no presidential history test to stand in their way, Quogue School students and faculty will enjoy a mid-winter break next week, starting Monday, February 20, and running through Friday, February 24.
During the break, the Quogue Wildlife Refuge will once again be offering the popular Winter Wildlife Camp for kids age 5 to 11, running from Tuesday, February 21, through Friday, February 24, with sessions of different duration offered. The morning session starts at 9 a.m. and ends at noon; the full-day session also starts at 9 a.m. and runs until 3 p.m. each day.
Both sessions of the camp provide three hours of immersion in wildlife, education, and an abundant amount of what the folks at the Refuge like to call “fun.”
A hike and a craft will be offered each day, so parents are asked to dress all campers for the weather. In addition, all campers should bring an individual snack and drink each day, plus lunch for those kids who are signed up for the 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. extended session.
In addition to other activities, children will be able to feed and handle some of the animals that live in the Nature Center.
The morning session fee is $45 per day, or $150 for the four-day program. The extended session fee is $90 per day or $330 for the four-day program. Registration and payment are required in advance; call 631-653-4771. For more information, visit www.quoguewildliferefuge.org or call 631-653-4771.
This week’s three-course $38 prix fixe and $6 street food special on Friday and Saturday, February 17 and 18, at the Inn Spot on the Bay will feature the flavors of Sweden. For more information, visit www.theinnspot.com, or call 631-728-1200.
At Quaquanantuck encourages readers to send in news and notes of interest to Quogue residents, even if geographically at a remove from our beautiful village. And please tell friends and family who enjoy Quoguish things to email AtQuaq@gmail.com and ask to be put on the mailing list, or just to visit AtQuaquanantuck.com and feel free to follow.
The answer to this week’s pop history quiz is Abraham Lincoln.