This Curve Needs Sharpening

In these murky days—with no single authoritative source of facts that everyone can agree to rely on, with no consistency in messaging from all the different levels of government, with almost every media platform spinning events to suit their constituencies and society further atomized by Twitter and Facebook—one thing is still crystal clear: our nation is suffering in the throes of a horrifying illness, and millions of Americans are in horrible pain.

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Morning wave, north wind. —A. Botsford Photo

 As has been observed many times already, the inexorable spread of the novel coronavirus and the terrible toll it has taken has pulled back the curtain to reveal all too many broken systems originally created and developed to take care of all of us, all too many ragged tears in the social contract established by the Constitution to protect all of us and our individual human rights.

Just as Covid-19 poses the greatest threat to those who are vulnerable because of underlying medical issues, the virus seems to be taking a greater toll on the U.S. than other countries because we have been weakened as a nation by our fear-driven divisions and an immune system compromised by the underlying issues of unyielding systemic racism and ever-widening inequality. 

If any value can possibly be ascribed to the coronavirus pandemic, it might be in the opportunity for learning provided by this latest, hideously painful demonstration of how far, and for how long, we have fallen short. Sadly, history doesn’t offer a lot of hope: plot a random graph from slavery to Watts, Detroit and Newark, the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Miami, Rodney King in Los Angeles, Timothy Thomas in Cincinnati, Michael Brown in Ferguson, and Freddie Gray in Baltimore—to name only a few of the most notorious points on a bloody horizontal axis—and the learning curve is sickeningly flat. Can anyone wonder at the despair that engenders? 

The desperate battle to flatten the curve on the spread of Covid-19 and the first efforts for our nation to begin to recover—medically, economically, socially, culturally and spiritually—have made it clear that the only way to succeed is to band together, learn as much as we can, agree on a course of action, and to stand fast against a common foe. 

If we demonize each other, if we fail to pay attention and learn from our mistakes, if we fight over tactics and objectives, the enemy wins. Simple as that. If we cannot recognize that we are not each other’s enemy, but that systemic racism and its bloody byproducts are the enemy of us all, we can have no hope of steepening the learning curve so that we may rise above our common foe and vanquish it forever.  

There is a lot of brokenness in our world right now, and there is also incredible strength, expertise, resourcefulness, and fighting spirit. Now the time has come for healing. We can take our cue from the first responders and front line workers who have bravely shown us the way. It will not be easy, it will require some sacrifices, and it will take a long time; it cannot happen overnight. But healing cannot happen at all—for our nation, for our planet, for our species—until or unless we come to understand for once and for all that we are all in this together. Divided we fall. 

And so it goes in the days of the novel coronavirus today.

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Socially distant fishing. —A. Botsford Photo

The Mayor’s Corner: Inching Open
This week’s letter to Quogue residents from Mayor Peter Sartorius leads with an assessment of where we stand in the gradual, phased reopening of stores, services and recreational activities as our pandemic summer seeks to find its groove. 

The Mayor pointed out that details on which things can restart when and under what circumstances are available at the NY Forward website:  https://forward.ny.gov/. Meanwhile, after noting that barber shop and hair salon services will be available again under Phase Two, Hizzoner couldn’t resist a bit of ribbing: “So the time during which you will have an excuse for looking shabby is quickly diminishing.”

He was clearly feeling equally jocular when announcing that dentists were permitted to open at the beginning of this week: “So there are no more excuses for putting off that root canal procedure you need.” 

As for information about government services, the Mayor noted that the DMV is putting its operation in gear again; for details, click here. He also provided instructions for anyone taking advantage of the 21-day extension (to June 22) for paying Southampton Town taxes. Payments made during this extension period should be mailed to: Suffolk County Comptroller, 330 Center Drive, Riverhead, NY 11901.  

On the Covid-19 front, the Mayor urged residents to pick up the phone when caller ID shows the number 518-387-9993, or the screen indicates that the caller is “NYS Contact Tracing.” The call, which is confidential, signifies that you may have been exposed to someone who has the virus. As with all things these days, it’s important to pay attention. What you don’t know can lay you low. Pick up the phone.     

On the local front, the Mayor addressed: the need to continue wearing a mask or other face covering in public spaces; the rules prohibiting dogs at the Village Beach from May 15 to September 15; increased numbers of young cyclists on village streets and helmet requirements for those under 14; and the correct response to finding baby deer left unattended by their mothers during the day (leave them alone).

At Last GR
At last. —Ginny Rosenblatt Photo

The fifth item on Hizzoner’s list of local items came as quite a surprise to At Quaquanantuck: a ringing endorsement of this column and a recommendation for residents to sign up for the e-blast that goes out each week with a link to the latest post. 

Such is the Mayor’s influence that within minutes of his email going out and throughout the day on Wednesday, more than 150 village residents wrote to At Quaquanantuck requesting to be put on the email list. So, first of all, thank you, Mayor Sartorius, for your kind words and for raising awareness, unbidden, of this weekly community column. 

Next, I’d like to welcome all the new readers. If you’d like to get a feel for the column beyond what is included in this one, just scroll down and you can see every post from the most recent ones all the way back to the beginning in January of 2017. 

I hope that you enjoy the column and that you understand that it is intended to reflect our beautiful community back to itself, and therefore welcomes contributions of news and social items about families and organizations; photographs—of events, landscapes and seascapes; and comments, about issues of local interest, or what’s in the column or what isn’t and you think should be. 

Also, this columnist is admittedly not skilled in either website administration or mass email protocols. More than a few readers have noted in the past that they stopped getting the weekly emails, even though they had not unsubscribed and I had not taken their names off the list. Should you not receive the weekly email for whatever reason, you can always just go to www.AtQuaquanantuck.com on Thursday and you will see the most recent column.    

While it seems unlikely at this point that there is anyone in the Village who is not getting the Mayor’s letters, readers who’d like to receive Hizzoner’s email blasts can send an email to ABuhl@villageofquogueny.gov and ask to be put on the email list. The other way to see the most current, and all the Mayor’s letters, is to go to www.villageofquogueny.gov and click on Announcements. While on the Village website, be sure to check out the home page for other news and Covid-19 updates.

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Sentinel. —A. Botsford Photo

Quogue School Budget Vote
The Quogue School Board of Education has completed drafting, and held a Zoom public hearing Tuesday on the proposed 2020-2021 budget, which represents a 1.82 percent tax levy increase over this year’s budget. 

As a flier from the School Board pointed out this week, the proposed budget achieves a number of significant goals: remaining within the 2 percent tax cap; maintaining all existing academic programs; providing new opportunities for learning in the areas of outdoor education, STEAM, literacy, technology; protecting the community’s investment by maintaining the school’s infrastructure; and providing funding for unanticipated expenditures and mandates related to the Covid-19 crisis, giving the Quogue School the best chance of keeping schools open next year. 

Estimating the impact of the proposed budget increase on taxpayers, the flier also offered the example of a home assessed at $1 million, whose owners would see an estimated tax increase of $33.14 per year, or $2.76 per month. 

Considering that the Quogue School is one of the pillars of our community, consistently rated as one of the best on Long Island and in all of New York State, At Quaquanantuck encourages all qualified residents to vote to approve the proposed budget, and also to cast a vote of confidence for Malcolm McLean, who is running unopposed for another three-year term on the board. 

All residents are likewise encouraged to vote to approve the Quogue Village Library operating budget for July 2020-June 2021. As At Quaquanantuck has averred many times, these two institutions represent two complementary chambers of the educational and cultural beating heart of our village, and deserve all of our support. 

Voting will be by absentee ballot only this year. Ballots have been mailed to all qualified voters this week and must be returned by Tuesday, June 9.

QA Bench KL
Quogue Association President Lynn Lomas and Vice President Mac Highet are encouraging village residents to set a spell on the new bench the QA installed at the corner of Old Depot and Scrub Oak. —Kathy Lomas Photo

 Quogue Association to the Rescue for Weary Walkers
Ever alert to the needs of Quogue residents and desirous of enhancing their quality of life, the Quogue Association has once again stepped up with a gift for us all. Beyond maintaining a sufficient supply of toilet tissue, perhaps the one thing that village residents currently have in common in the days of the novel coronavirus is a routine of regular perambulation.
One issue confronting strollers on some routes in our village, whether they are new to the practice or longtime trampers, has long been: is there a place to sit, a place to rest and contemplate the natural beauty and many other blessings of living and walking in Quogue?
Now, thanks to the Quogue Association, there is an answer to that question for anyone whose route includes the southeast corner of Old Depot and Scrub Oak Road. A lovely new community bench has been installed at that spot and now, in the words of the Quogue Association announcement, “beckons weary walkers to take a rest under the trees.”
At Quaquanantuck once again offers thanks to this wonderful civic organization for continuing to anticipate residents’ every need. 

Nature Corner: More R-Rated Tales of Gastropod Love Life
As regular readers know, At Quaquanantuck’s last installment on the licentious love life of gender fluid gastropods was based on information received from the kindly natural science authorities at the Quogue Wildlife Refuge, who shared their knowledge and helpful links in response to a query about slipper shells, also known, tellingly, as fornicating slipper snails. 

This week, At Quaquanantuck is happy to report that QWR Benefit Coordinator Kimberly Stever once again responded instantly to a question about a snail (see photo) that this columnist had photographed for an email to her in hopes of tapping her vast storehouse of knowledge. 

“This looks very much like either the white lipped snail, or brown lipped snail,” Ms. Stever wrote in her email reply. “They are closely related species and there is an incredible amount of color variation in each species. Both are native to Europe and have been introduced to N. America; neither are particularly harmful to native species (unlike the leopard slug!) as they mainly consume decomposing plant matter.”

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The terrestrial pulmonate gastropod in question, photographed near Ocean Avenue in Quogue, with no prospective mate in sight. —A.. Botsford Photo

Knowing At Quaquanantuck’s prurient curiosity about such matters from past experience, she added the tease: “These guys have super interesting love lives!” And she provided a few helpful links with more details.  

At www.inaturalist.org, At Quaquanantuck learned that “The grove snail or brown-lipped snail (Cepaea nemoralis) is a species of air-breathing land snail, a terrestrial pulmonate gastropod mollusc. It is one of the most common species of land snail in Europe, and has been introduced to North America.”

In its discussion of the white-lipped snail, the inaturalist site starts to get interesting: “This species of snail creates and uses love darts during mating.” Love darts? 

According to Wikipedia, “The process of using love darts in snails is a form of sexual selection. Prior to copulation, each of the two snails (or slugs) attempts to “shoot” one (or more) darts into the other snail (or slug). There is no organ to receive the dart; this action is more analogous to a stabbing, or to being shot with an arrow or flechette. The dart does not fly through the air to reach its target; it is “fired” as a contact shot.”

Significantly, Wikipedia notes that “the love dart is not a penial stylet (in other words, this is not an accessory organ for sperm transfer).” So, At Quaquanantuck wondered, is it more of a Cupid’s arrow?

Another site, www.animaldiversity.org, which calls the “courtship” of brown-lipped snails “elaborate,” makes it clear that “in order to prevent accidental mating between C. nemoralis [brown-lipped] and a closely related species, Cepaea hortensis [white-lipped], the two species have different darts.”

Thoroughly intrigued, At Quaquanantuck pressed on, link after link, finally concluding with National Geographic: “Now, a new study shows love darts can reduce fertility and shorten life spans in darted snails. It sounds counterintuitive: Why evolve love darts if it will hurt the mother that’s carrying your brood?

“The answer probably comes down to selfish genes—the darts are known to discourage the mother from mating again, which means the darter carries on their own lineage. What’s more, the study suggests that damaging the fertility of your partner isn’t such a bad idea if you’re able to fertilize a lot of their eggs. (Also read: ‘Why Sea Slugs Dispose of Their Own Penises.’)

Yikes! And that, dear readers, is a story for another time. For now, many thanks again to Ms. Stever and all the folks at the Wildlife Refuge for all the things they do to keep us all in touch with the many wonders and beauty of nature. 

A reminder that all the June QWR virtual programs and live social distance programs—including Earth Yoga Outside with Amy Hess on Wednesdays at 9 a.m. (weather permitting; pre-registration required)—are now posted on the Refuge website. For details, click here, or visit www.quoguewildliferefuge.org, click on the Programs tab at the top, then click on Events Calendar on the drop down. 

Although the Nature Center and facilities remain closed at this time, the trails at the QWR remain open, to counterclockwise single direction access only, and with adequate social distancing and other protocols required.

And please remember, too, that the Quogue Wildlife Refuge has announced the development of a new “text to donate” app for smart phone users. Since pretty much everyone has their phone with them at all times these days, donations to the QWR can now be made from anywhere simply by texting QWR2020 to 202-858-1233. The new app leads users to a very simple donation form, right on their cell phones. If apps aren’t your thing, consider making a donation at the QWR website, www.quoguewildliferefuge.org. In hundreds of ways, the Quogue Wildlife Refuge is always there for all of us; with all the challenges this organization is facing today, it’s more important than ever before for us to return the favor.

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Low tide reflection. —A. Botsford Photo

Days of Future Past: Tales from the Pandemic of 1918
As promised (numerous times) in earlier columns, this week At Quaquanantuck brings you a charming story, courtesy of the Quogue Historical Society, about the Quogue Coast Guard crew and an offer of neighborly assistance during the pandemic of 1918. 

Just a few years after the titular changeover from U.S. Life-Saving Service to U.S. Coast Guard in January 1915, as the so-called Spanish flu was spreading around the world and across America, members of the Quogue crew pitched in to help the Potunk (Westhampton Beach) crew in a time of need. 

The Coast Guard “surfmen,” as they were known, typically conducted drills during the day, and at night patrolled the shore on the lookout for emergency signals or vessels run aground. For skippers operating without today’s sophisticated navigation equipment, the south shore of Long Island, with its miles of shifting shoals and sandbar, was notoriously treacherous. Coast Guard Stations along the entire Eastern Seaboard were generally sited approximately six miles apart, but in dangerous areas like Quogue and Westhampton Beach, the outposts were closer together.

Coast Guard stations
Map detail showing the location of Coast Guard stations in 1918. —Images courtesy of Quogue Historical Society

During nighttime watches, one member of the crew would walk toward the next Coast Guard Station down the beach until he met a counterpart who had walked about the same distance from the neighboring station. The two then took a break in a shed before heading back, trading brass badges as proof that they’d met.

In bitter cold December 1918, a month after the end of WWI, and just past the peak of the second— and deadliest—wave of the Spanish flu pandemic, three of the six Westhampton Coast Guard surfmen (and their entire families) had been stricken by the flu. To help the Westhampton crew, the Quogue crew, to the east, joined the Moriches crew, to the west, in making “double duty” patrols between their stations. Doubling their usual three-mile round-trip walk along the ocean beach, the Coast Guardsmen walked six biting miles per trip.

William F. Halsey Jr QHS
William F. Halsey Jr. —Courtesy of Quogue Historical Society

The Quogue crew, made up of local men including Howard Hawkins, Frank Ocame, Eugene H. Rogers, and Frank Warner, was led by the newly appointed keeper of the Quogue Station, William F. Halsey Jr. (1886-1966), who had joined the crew in 1901. Halsey had been awarded the highest honor for his heroism during the disastrous wreck of the four-masted schooner Augustus Hunt in 1904, so it is not surprising that he and his crew came to the aid of their fellow surfmen, allowing them time to recover during the outbreak.

Many thanks to Julie Greene and the Quogue Historical Society for this glimpse of life in Quogue in the shadow of an earlier pandemic, just over 100 years ago. 

At Quaquanantuck feels certain that there are other stories out there about our ancestors grappling with a virus that laid low the entire nation. Anyone with anecdotes about their relatives, or photos, or more detailed information about life in Quogue or the experiences of area residents during the Flu Pandemic of 1918 is encouraged to share with readers by emailing AtQuaq@gmail.com

Meanwhile, stay tuned in a future column for the Historical Society’s examination of “Life in the Past Lane.”

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Sunday drive. —Elizabeth Caputo Photo

Quogue Gallery Opens Seventh Season with “Jeff Muhs: Deliverance”
“Jeff Muhs: Deliverance” will be the first show of the seventh season of the Quogue Gallery at 44 Quogue Street just off Jessup Avenue. On view from June 4 to July 2, the exhibition will feature 11 paintings arrayed in the north gallery. 

Known principally for his work as an abstract painter, Jeff Muhs has exhibited in galleries and museums nationwide. He was born in Southampton in 1966 and his father, an artist and third generation hunting and fishing guide, instilled in him an intimate appreciation of the local natural environment. Continually inspired by the light, water and horizons of the East End, the artist’s painting has undergone an evolution from its beginnings—in literal depictions of his environment—to abstraction with a modernist touch. 

According to the gallery, the artist’s use of color is at one with nature; unbridled, allowing the viewer to engage in the light and natural beauty of eastern Long Island. “In my paintings, I exploit and explore natural physical processes such as optics, chaos, gravity, and fluid dynamics,” the artist says of his work. “Through the manipulation of these processes, I create dynamic abstract compositions, using a highly gestural application of medium, where often multiple paintings occupy the same canvas plane.”

Jeff Muhs Deliverance
Jeff Muhs, “Deliverance,” Oil on canvas, 62″ by 72″. —Courtesy of the Quogue Gallery

While mandated non-essential business closures are in place, Quogue Gallery owners Chester and Christy Murray will make “Jeff Muhs: Deliverance” available for viewing via the “virtual gallery” located on the gallery website (www.quoguegallery.com)  as well as Zoom showings by appointment. Artwork may also be brought to clients’ homes for viewing by request. And, as they have done in the past, the gallery owners can Photoshop work “into” a space to help clients better understand how a work of art fits into their home environment. Works on view will be available for purchase by contacting the gallery, by phone (203-321-9427) or e-mail, info@quoguegallery.com

As many readers and fans of the gallery know, the mission of the Quogue Gallery is to present a program of artistic excellence by showcasing the work of prominent, mid-career and emerging artists in the modernist tradition. Its core focus is on discovering and exhibiting figurative and abstract expressionist painters who are recognized historically as well as those of great promise whose work has not received the attention and critical response it so richly deserves. 

Since its founding in 2014, the Quogue Gallery’s place in the modern and contemporary art world has been widely acknowledged by the press. The gallery has been featured in many publications, including the New York Times, Dan’s Paper, Beach Magazine, Hamptons Art Hub, Artnet News, Southampton Press, and others. The gallery has also received critical recognition in reviews appearing on Hamptons Art Hub, Artnet News and other outlets. 

Library Keeping Things Lively with Virtual Programs 
A host of great virtual programs hosted by the Quogue Library for young and old coming up over the next few weeks. Registration is now a simple matter via pointing and clicking on the library website. (Detailed instructions below.)

For children age 6 to 11, the library is offering a Quogue Wildlife Refuge Conservation for Kids program today, Thursday, June 4, at 4:30 p.m. 

This program will introduce some ways that youngsters can become greener kids, helping our environment and the animals that live in it. The program will conclude with a recycled craft. Reservations are required; visit www.quoguelibrary.org and click on Conservation for Kids. 

On Saturday, June 6, at 5 p.m. it’s time for the next Zoom installment of the Foreign Policy Association’s Great Decisions discussion program, this week focusing on “Red Sea Security.” 

With David Rowe once again serving as the moderator and Susan Perkins as the facilitator, after a short video on the topic Saturday’s discussion will consider this pressing question: With major nations like China, France, Italy, and the U.S. building large ports and bases in the region, what does the future of the region look like?

International Maritime Exercise 2019
International Maritime Exercise 2019. —Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images

 As the FPA site points out, the Red Sea has remained vital for global trade since the time of ancient Egypt. Once home to the spice trade, the Red Sea now sees millions of barrels of oil a day transported across its waters. With the stakes this high, how important is Red Sea security for global security? Can the region be a place of global cooperation?

Patrons are requested to register early by clicking on the registration link on the Quogue Library website to get the Zoom meeting login and password. This year’s FPA Briefing Book is available for purchase in digital form from the FPA website, www.fpa.org, or by clicking here. The FPA website also has a complete list of topics for this year’s Great Decisions Discussions. 

The Foreign Policy Association Great Decisions Discussion program provides background information and policy options for the eight most critical issues facing America each year, serving as the focal text for discussion groups across the country. For more information, visit www.fpa.org.

Courtesy of the library, Leisa M. DeCarlo has started offering a couple of free Zoom fitness classes for adults in June. First up is a Pilates Mat class on Mondays, June 8, 15, 22, and 29 at 10 a.m. 

Aimed at lengthening and toning muscles with low impact and high result, the Pilates Mat full-body workout uses customized sequencing and “fun” variations to cultivate long, lean lines and a deep mind-body connection. 

On Wednesdays, June 10, 17, and 24 at 2 p.m. Leisa will offer a free library Zoom Dance Cardio + Sculpting class. The library description indicates that “high energy and fun drive this class for a liberating, enjoyable approach to follow-along dance cardio, stretching, and sculpting.” 

As noted above, the Quogue Library has implemented a new procedure for patrons wishing to register for any one of the roster of virtual programs.

Patrons can now go to the library’s home page at www.Quoguelibrary.org; click on the flier image of the program for which they wish to register; fill in the requested information; scroll to the bottom of the page (remembering to check “I am not a Robot”) and hit Register. A confirmation email with Zoom login information will be sent to all registered patrons. 

For more information, visit www.quoguelibrary.org, or contact info@quoguelibrary.org.

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.

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