Most of the folks fortunate enough to be sheltering in place in Quogue are seizing every opportunity to get outside, responsibly socially distancing as they stretch their legs and expand their appreciation of their surroundings and, perhaps, their imaginations and their compassion for all those who are risking everything and doing their utmost to turn back the onslaught of this pandemic.
Escaping confinement can also mean escaping our attachment, however briefly, to the screens and devices that blessedly provide a lifeline to vital information, self-improvement, culture, and connectivity to friends and loved ones and associates scattered around the wide world.
One of the joys of this connectivity is the ability to share random bits of wisdom, humor, and arcana with a few friends or, via social media, with thousands of others. For example, many in Quogue have by now read—and indeed taken some comfort from—the following “letter from F. Scott Fitzgerald, quarantined in 1920 in the south of France during the Spanish Influenza outbreak”:
“It was a limpid dreary day, hung as in a basket from a single dull star. I thank you for your letter. Outside, I perceive what may be a collection of fallen leaves tussling against a trash can. It rings like jazz to my ears. The streets are that empty. It seems as though the bulk of the city has retreated to their quarters, rightfully so. At this time, it seems very poignant to avoid all public spaces. Even the bars, as I told Hemingway, but to that he punched me in the stomach, to which I asked if he had washed his hands. He hadn’t. He is much the denier, that one. Why, he considers the virus to be just influenza. I’m curious of his sources.
“The officials have alerted us to ensure we have a month’s worth of necessities. Zelda and I have stocked up on red wine, whiskey, rum, vermouth, absinthe, white wine, sherry, gin, and lord, if we need it, brandy. Please pray for us.
“You should see the square, oh, it is terrible. Weep for the damned eventualities this future brings. The long afternoons rolling forward slowly on the ever-slick bottomless highball. Z. says it’s no excuse to drink, but I just can’t seem to steady my hand. In the distance, from my brooding perch, the shoreline is cloaked in a dull haze where I can discern an unremitting penance that has been heading this way for a long, long while. And yet, amongst the cracked cloudline of an evening’s cast, I focus on a single strain of light, calling me forth to believe in a better morrow.
F. Scott Fitzgerald”
Alas, the internet giveth, and the internet taketh away.
At Quaquanantuck admits to being taken in at first by this “letter,” maybe because there is more solace accessible if the piece were authentic and I really wanted it to be true. On second reading, though, the punch from Hemingway and the hand washing reference that followed rang over the top satirical and anachronistic. At that point, the ability to find out almost anything via Google came in very handy.
According to Reuters.com, the “letter” is in fact a “parody written by American author Nick Farriella for the humor site McSweeney’s earlier this month. The text is clearly identified as such at the bottom of the original online publication and now at the top: ‘NOTE: This is a work of parody and is not an actual letter written by Fitzgerald.’”
“‘It was never intended to be taken as real,’ Farriella told Reuters. ‘I’d like to think that people have responded to the optimistic sentiment of the message. That in these seemingly dark times, the line of true and untrue was blurred by the need for hope. I think that was something that was at the core of Fitzgerald’s life and work, an unwavering faith in better things to come.’
“The title of Fariella’s piece, ‘This Side of Paradise: A Letter from F. Scott Fitzgerald, Quarantined in the South of France,’ which is not included in most social media posts [sharing the “letter”], refers to Fitzgerald’s novel ‘This Side of Paradise,’ published in 1920.
The pandemic of 1918-1919, known as the “Spanish flu,” was the deadliest pandemic of the 20th century. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the control efforts worldwide for this pandemic were limited to “non-pharmaceutical interventions,” including isolation, quarantine and limitations of public gatherings.
As of March 19, according to Reuters the text had been shared at least 2,800 times on Facebook and at least 1,355 times on Twitter. And no doubt thousands more times since then. And, courtesy of the (for better or worse) global binding of the internet, the phenomenon is not limited to the U.S.
According to the popular debunking site polygraph.info (produced by Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty), the site Yandex.ru, the Russian equivalent of Google, “yields more than 2 million current results when searched for the Fitzgerald quarantine letter [translated into Russian language]. A few are debunking stories, but most are postings that take Fariella’s satire as really having been written by Fitzgerald.”
The polygraph.info site offers this English translation of a post by Twitter user @stalingulag on March 21: “Sure, people used to be able to sit through a quarantine. They stocked the proper supplies. And now? Canned meat, pasta, toilet paper. Such a degeneration!” That tweet had received more than 3,400 likes and 600-plus retweets as of March 22. Hundreds replied with images of their own impressive stockpiles of alcohol. Ah, mother Russia!
Noting that the original Farriella post on McSweeney’s came with the advisory that it was a parody and not an actual letter, the polygraph.info account of the phenomenon observed caustically: “But don’t let a flat-out warning get in the way of the internet.” A thought to remember when considering social media disinformation applied to elections.
Can the Internet Save Us?
To be clear, At Quaquanantuck recognizes the critical value of the internet, artificial intelligence, smart phones and other devices, and AI enhanced technology in taking on the pandemic and, most importantly, in supporting all the medical professionals and truly essential workers on the front lines trying heroically to swim against a tidal wave.
While there are hundreds, if not thousands, of websites devoted to all things coronavirus at this point, At Quaquanantuck would like to share a few of the most important ones here that readers can click on right in this column or copy and paste into their browsers to visit and learn more.
One of the most valuable sites for readers who want to help at this time of great need would be the landing page created by New York State for all offers of assistance, coronavirus.health.ny.gov/get-involved-how-you-can-help. The top of the landing page is for medical professionals who want to pitch in, but scrolling down reveals opportunities for companies, manufacturers, and individuals to help with urgently needed supplies and support.
The get-involved page is not only for readers who want to join the fray, but if anyone should contact you or your office with an offer of assistance, please direct them to the link. And remember that one of the best ways individuals can help is to take responsibility for not getting infected or, if asymptomatic, inadvertently spreading the virus.
Fighting the Battle on Our Doorstep
Locally, the Quogue Village website, www.villageofquogueny.gov/, has a wealth of information and helpful links on the home page, and more resources and updates by clicking on the Announcements page, accessible from the home page or by clicking on villageofquogueny.gov/polAnnouncements.cfm.
On the home page, for example, visitors can learn details of the new Southampton Town ASAP (All Seniors Assistance Program) system, which has enlisted the support of local merchants who will accept prepaid phone orders for groceries, pharmacy needs and other essentials. The Town will deliver those orders to seniors at no cost; call 631-702-1777.
In addition to providing more information on local resources and a copy of Mayor Peter Sartorius’s latest email to village residents who have opted in to the Quogue email plan, the Announcements page has news on the start of the village’s Spring Leaf Pickup program, which commenced on April 1 and as of this date is going ahead as planned. Details in next week’s column.
Importance of Stringent Social Distancing
Swinging back to the national front, readers who want the most up-to-date projections on hospital resource use as well as deaths caused by the virus should visit (and bookmark) www.covid19.healthdata.org.
The Centers for Disease Control Coronavirus (COVID19) Resource Guide can be found at www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index. For resources in Suffolk County, visit www.suffolkcountyny.gov/Departments/Health-Services/Health-Bulletins/Novel-Coronavirus.
Quogue Library Goes Virtual; Book Club Meets April 5
As even the most tech-averse among us must acknowledge, navigating the new rhythms of the stay-at-home life seems to demand a working knowledge, and downloading of the Zoom app. With discussions and webinars sponsored by the Quogue Library shifting over to the virtual realm, library staffers have asked that all those who wish to participate feel comfortable working with Zoom for a remote meeting.
Access to a computer and/or smartphone, along with internet access, is required; anyone in need of assistance with Zoom setup is asked to email firstname.lastname@example.org and library staffers will help you out.
As noted in last week’s column, the Quogue Library’s Adult Book Club will meet virtually to discuss Elizabeth Strout’s “Olive Again” on Saturday, April 5, at noon using the Zoom app.
Book club members will be able to see and hear each other in the discussion of this sequel to “Olive Kitteridge” by Elizabeth Strout. Allowing people to connect in a virtual space, Zoom provides a great way to build community and connection in this time of social distancing.
Anyone who would like to join the discussion in this video conference is requested to email email@example.com to get directions on how to participate.
Coming up on Friday, April 10, at 7 p.m., the library will present the first in a series of Zoom webinars collectively titled “Explore the World Below Sea Level with Fish Guy Photos.”
The first installment will be “Exploring Long Island’s Underwater World,” following Chris Paparo, aka the “Fish Guy,” on an underwater tour of LI. Patrons joining the webinar will be treated to outstanding photographs and videos of local fish, crustaceans, mollusks, and other assorted invertebrates while learning interesting facts about those creatures that might be encountered on a fishing trip or a stroll down the beach.
Very important to sign up for the webinar in advance by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. The series includes two other segments, to be offered on Friday, April 17, and Friday, April 24, at 7 p.m.
The Quogue Library website has been updated with a complete list of digital resources and the staff will continuously add new information to its remote resource page. To stay up to speed and for a complete listing of all online library programs and resources, visit the library website at www.quoguelibrary.org. Early and often, as the ward bosses used to say about voting in Mayor Richard Daley’s Chicago of a few years back.
Nature News Continues at Wildlife Refuge; Tune In Today
Building on the success of the new initiative, the Quogue Wildlife Refuge (www.quoguewildliferefuge.org) is continuing with new installments in its twice weekly lecture series for all ages, QWR Nature News (#QWRnaturenews). Offered on Tuesdays and Thursdays, there’s no telling what the subject will be today, Thursday, April 2, at 1 p.m. for those who stream it live on Facebook. Just like nature itself, the Refuge personnel are fond of surprises.
What At Quaquanantuck can tell you is that the fourth installment, offered on Tuesday, March 31, was all about worms. In “Vermicomposting aka Wormy Composting,” Refuge educators served up the long and the short and the ins and outs of these hermaphroditic creatures and how to make your very own worm compost bin. The video of the segment has already been posted and is available on the Refuge YouTube channel, #qwrnaturenews.
The program—the brainchild of Benefit Coordinator and Administrative Assistant Kimberly Stever—offers a unique look inside the Refuge, the passionate individuals who care for it, and the animals who call it home. The education piece is about 10 minutes and then during the last half of the program it goes interactive, with viewers urged to ask questions and answer trivia that tests their knowledge.
For Facebook users who miss a segment, the recording will remain on the QWR FB page as a post that people can continue to view. For those who don’t use Facebook, all videos will be posted on the QWR YouTube channel, #qwrnaturenews, afterwards.
Some Other Sites to Occupy Time, Mind, and Heart
Wrapping up this week, courtesy of a thoughtful and engaged reader trying to make the most of sheltering at home, At Quaquanantuck would like to suggest two very different links that will take visitors through some of the most amazing wonders of nature at one, and into the fascinating world of ideas, art, culture and spirit at the other.
The first is the Kruger National Park “WildEarth” YouTube channel, at www.youtube.com/channel/UCV6HJBZD_hZcIX9JVJ3dCXQ. Here visitors can follow live morning and afternoon game drives and see elephants, lions, leopards, hyenas, giraffes and more with knowledgeable commentary from the guides in real time. A chance to be transported to a real African safari, all while sheltering at home.
The second link is for the 92nd Street Y in NYC, www.92Y.org, which has made its archives available to all. The site is a treasure trove of talks and interviews going back many years with writers, artists, actors, journalists, academics, celebrities and an eclectic array of individuals who don’t fit in any of those categories. There are also live online events every day and classes to take.
For one example, once you’ve landed at the http://www.92Y.org website, type the name of local literary lion and deep thinker Roger Rosenblatt into the search box and then take your pick of dozens of Roger’s lively conversations, interviews, and readings with the likes of poet Richard Wilbur, E.L. Doctorow, Jim Lehrer, Jane Pauley, Alan Alda, and the list goes on and on.
We may be confined to a small space for perhaps an indefinite period, but there is a veritable cosmos available to us just a few clicks away. Now more than ever, when taking it one day at a time has never seemed more imperative, carpe diem, dear readers, carpe diem.
Your Comments Welcome
At Quaquanantuck is happy to provide a forum for civil discussion of village issues and initiatives and welcomes all comments. All are encouraged to share observations, ideas and opinions by writing to AtQuaq@gmail.com.
At Quaquanantuck encourages readers to send in news and notes and photos of interest to Quogue residents, even if the items are being sent from winter addresses or other parts of the country—or the world. Friends and family who enjoy all things Quogue are encouraged to email AtQuaq@gmail.com and ask to be put on the mailing list.