As I pulled up the December edition of At Quaquanantuck in preparation for putting together the first post of 2021, I read the first line and realized, sadly, that I might just as well start the January column with the exact same sentence:
If there is one thing that everyone can agree on these days, it might be this: These are dark days.
The only qualifier might be that, in the wake of the events of January 6 and as the pandemic continues to surge, these first days of the new year are ostensibly even darker.
And yet. And yet.
As the northern hemisphere tilts inexorably back towards the sun, there is a tiny bit more daylight every day. Despite the many obstacles to production, delivery and mass inoculations that must be overcome, the promise of vaccinations for all allows a shaft of light to penetrate the Stygian darkness of a coronavirus pandemic still raging out of control; a scourge that continues to cripple not only the economy but also our cultural and social lives as well as our confidence in the abilities of so many different communities to fully recover.
Although it might be a bit harder to make out in the fog of despair surrounding the breaching of the Capitol by a violent mob last Wednesday, there is some glimmer of light to be seen in the belated acknowledgement in at least some quarters that the presidential election was legitimate and that the fomenting of lies and disinformation for political gain almost inevitably and invariably leads to dire consequences.
It is devoutly to be hoped that there is now sufficient light to allow for a peaceful transition of power next Wednesday and an end to the political gamesmanship and internecine warfare that for too long have kept us from applying all our energy to surmounting the growing, monumental challenges facing our nation and the world. Certainly there should be enough light now to clearly reveal the damage done and to show us, finally, that we cannot hope to prevail until we allow our opinions to yield to facts and agree to act not in the service of our own particular point of view but in the best interests of our country as a whole, and all its people.
Following the global Y2K anxiety on the eve of its birth, this century suffered a traumatic infancy with the terrorist attacks of September 11 in 2001 and their aftermath in seemingly interminable warfare. Around the world, its childhood was marred by ethnic cleansings, civil wars, unprecedented refugee crises, and the economic collapse of 2008.
As climate change continued to accelerate, the century’s early teenage years were marked by the rise of celebrity culture empowered by the internet, smart phones, and mainstream and social media, turning politics into a mirror of some of the worst elements of high school: power based on popularity; the tribalism and branding of the jocks versus the nerds and raucous fan mentality; the identity crises; the fearful struggle to “fit in” and the bullying and isolating of the “other.”
Adolescence is always a minefield, and so it was perhaps predictable that 16 to 20 would be tumultuous years for this young century. Seen from this viewpoint, painfully, it’s not surprising that warnings about the danger of a global pandemic went unheeded. And now the multitudes of horrors and tragedies of the pandemic—and the fragmented, disjointed and conflicted response to it—are shining their own peculiar light on so much of what is broken in the world today, precipitated or exacerbated in large measure by all the dysfunction of the century’s early years.
This month, the century turned 21. As with young people reaching their majority, it is beyond unrealistic to expect an overnight shift into responsible adulthood. Still, for democracy and yes, humanity to prevail, we can—we must—all work together to provide the kind of illumination and example that will provide the clear view we need to find a more mature path forward.
And so it goes in the days of the novel coronavirus today.
QHS Sponsors Illustrated Talk on History of Refuge
Going with the most timely near the top, At Quaquanantuck is delighted to report that two of the village’s most beloved institutions are teaming up for an illustrated Zoom talk on the “History of the Quogue Wildlife Refuge” today, Thursday, January 14, at 5 p.m. EST.
Established in 1934, the Quogue Wildlife Refuge has a fascinating history, beginning with ice harvesting for the international refrigeration market and a nationwide waterfowl conservation movement.
In this virtual program, Wildlife Refuge Environmental Educator Cara Fernandes will tell the story of the sanctuary’s wild past and the changes that have taken place over the past 86 years.
Readers can register in advance for this program by clicking here or clicking on or visiting https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZYrfuGvrT0rHtzT_zcFYffzrXhMMJ-kFf-P. After registration, a confirmation email will be sent with information about joining the meeting.
Coming up on Saturday, January 16, from 6 to 8:30 p.m. will be the sixth annual installment of the “Light the Night Winter Trail Walks” at the Refuge. The rain date for this social distance program with masks required will be Saturday, January 30.
Adults and families can call the Refuge at 631-653-4771 to schedule an arrival time between 6 and 8:30 p.m. for a self-guided, peaceful stroll through the gently illuminated forest trails. Masks and social distancing are required; flashlights are not permitted during the walk.
The fee is $15 per person, or $10 for kids 12 and under; payment is required at the time of reservation.
Current (2021) members of the QWR can enjoy the same social distance program on a night set aside exclusively for them on Saturday, January 23, also scheduling arrival between 6 and 8:30 p.m. Call the Refuge at 631-653-4771 to set up arrival time and make payment. And all should be sure to check the Events page of the QWR website (quoguewildliferefuge.org) regularly for all the details on such programs as: a Full Moon Night Hike (social distance program) at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, January 27; Winter Birding with Group for the East End (social distance program) at 10 a.m. on Saturday, January 30; and the All About Groundhogs (Zoom) program on Tuesday, February 2, at 4 p.m.
Quogue Market Still Rocking Gourmet to Go
Following up on their successful catering service for holiday dinners and the introduction of Gourmet to Go prepared meals to carry out, the fine folks at the Quogue Country Market are continuing to expand and switch up the menu offerings.
General Manager Pete Gragnano and Chef Mike Nicholson are now sending out regular “what’s in the case” emails with details on what Gourmet to Go specialties are available. The January 11 eblast, for example, listed two Soups of the Day, cabbage and chicken and vegetables, and a range of Gourmet Meals to Go with all the trimmings, including chicken pot pie, beef stew with a buttermilk biscuit, miso glazed Chilean sea bass, brisket and gravy, rotisserie chicken, and Italian meatballs, to name only a few.
Also on the menu were a Pasta of the Day (penne alla vodka with prosciutto); two Healthy Options (grilled marinated chicken breast and a Vegetarian’s Delight); a Hot Pressed Panini (Philly cheesesteak); a Double Star Sandwich (smoked salmon and cream cheese on a bagel with red onion and capers); two Quiches in two sizes; and separate soups and sides. You get the idea.
Those readers who are not already on the Market’s email list can sign up to receive the menu by emailing email@example.com. Missed the email or don’t have access to the menu? Call the Market at 631-653-4191 and they’ll let you know what’s available.
If ever there was a season—or a year—for treating yourself to delicious meals and comfort food that you don’t have to prepare yourself, this is probably it. Enjoy!
Though Theater Is Dark, HTC Is Still Celebrating
The Hampton Theatre Company made the happy announcement last week that the accomplished musician, writer, filmmaker, longtime producer of the Quogue Quips at the Quogue Field Club, and man about town Roger Moley has graciously accepted an invitation to join the company’s board of directors.
A longtime supporter of the HTC, Roger has joined members of the company for a number of staged readings, including December’s “Miracle on 34th Street,” and worked with director Diana Marbury on the selection of projection images used to set different scenes in the 2019 production of “Ken Ludwig’s ‘Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Adventure.’”
Expressing deep and heartfelt gratitude, the HTC board also announced the tremendous success of the company’s end-of-year appeal, noting that by their donations large and small patrons have now ensured that the HTC will have a future when restrictions are finally lifted and actors and audiences can safely return to the theater.
Meanwhile, in this time when the theater is dark, the members of the company are keeping busy and exploring any and all avenues for continuing to make theatre. Patrons, theatre lovers and the merely curious are urged to check out (and “like”) the company’s posts on Facebook (@hamptontheatre; facebook.com/hamptontheatre); Instagram (hamptontheatre; instagram.com/hamptontheatre) and YouTube (youtube.com/channel).
Quogue Library Seeks Input on Winter Programming
Ever on the lookout for ways to tailor services and programs to the changing schedules and priorities of the community they serve, the Quogue Library board and Director Jenny Bloom are seeking input from patrons in order to make sure that programming aligns with their needs.
Patrons who have not already filled out the survey, which takes about 10 minutes, can access it by clicking here, or by visiting the Quogue Library website, www.quoguelibrary.org, and clicking on “Complete Survey” near the top of the home page.
In the virtual programming department, the current schedule continues to have plenty of options. Popular ongoing exercise classes include Pilates on Mondays at 10 a.m. and Sculpting and Cardio Dance for all ages on Tuesdays at 10 a.m., both with instructor Leisa DeCarlo; and Yoga with Jillian for adults and youngsters 8 and up on Fridays at 10 a.m.
Adult programs coming up include: “Tips and Tools to Handle Stressful Times” on Thursday, January 14, at 4:30 p.m.; “3D Snowflake Painting” pre-recorded story and craft video on Friday, January 15; an Author Talk with Krisin Joy Lavin, author of “The Butterfly Promise” on Sunday, January 17, at 4 p.m.; “From ‘The Jazz Singer’ to ‘A Star Is Born’: A History of the Movie Musical” on Friday, January 22, at 7 p.m.; a “Grad and Go Craft: 3D Polar Bear” with kit pickup on Monday, January 25; an Author Talk with Christie Leigh Babirad on Tuesday, January 26, at 4 p.m.; and “Rocking Hollywood: Rock & Roll and the Movies, from Bill Haley to the Beatles” on Friday, January 29, at 7 p.m.
For more information and registration instructions for any of these programs and other children’s programs, visit the Quogue Library website at quoguelibrary.org and click on the program flier on the home page. Remember that new programs are added regularly, so check the website often to make sure you don’t miss out.
Roger Rosenblatt Enlists Writers in a Healing Campaign
About a week after this year’s presidential election, celebrated author and Quogue resident Roger Rosenblatt was growing more worried than usual, which, despite his typical devil-may-care demeanor, is saying something. Two months later, the assault on the Capitol would prove his worry well founded.
A writer and teacher who has always been fascinated by the timeless motivation for setting down words and the uses of writing, he wanted to figure out a way that he and other practitioners of his craft could help build bridges over the ever-deepening fault lines breaking the country apart. The current political, philosophical, economic and spiritual climate—and the American experiment itself—seemed to beg for putting into practice the principles he outlined in his book, “Unless It Moves the Human Heart.”
In that book, which came out of the “Writing Everything” course he was teaching in the Stony Brook Southampton MFA in Creative Writing program, Rosenblatt suggested that the purpose of writing is “to make suffering endurable, evil intelligible, justice desirable and love possible.”
And so on November 11, he sent out an email to several groups of his writer friends and associates; the elisions are mine:
“Dear friends,” he wrote, “What would you think of creating an organization of writers (allowing for that contradiction in terms), the aim of which would be to work for national stability, unity, and inspiration … from what one saw in the demonstrations on the very day of Biden’s election, the country seems to be in for a rough time of noise and clashes. So I was wondering if we writers might consider making a little noise of our own, more like a joyful noise celebrating the best aspects of American life, and shooting down the worst.
“Writers can’t do much that is observable in the world, but we can put feelings into words. And the country may need to be reminded of its best feelings right now, along with the generous and fair-play principles that have allowed the unwieldy republic to survive … and attempt to realize itself again.
“And I don’t mean that we should only preach to the choir (or preach at all). It is equally astonishing and chastening that 70 million people preferred Donald Trump to Joe Biden as President … they belong to the same country as we do, wish it well as we do, and believe in similar standards of decency. They, too, would be our audience, and we should seek out ways to reach them.
“In terms of structure, I was thinking of nothing more original or complicated than an interactive Zoom meeting where we might do readings and hold conversations from our homes. If there is enough interest, we could do this once a week …
“Does such a venture interest you? We’d need a name for our group. Given that it’s writers who will be wrangling about this, coming up with an agreed-upon name shouldn’t take us more than a year or two. But assuming we can get a name and set up the apparatus, would you care to contribute to such an effort? Add your name to the list? That’s all you need to tell me now. No further commitment until we see that we really have something.
“I know it sounds corny, but at this tense moment of our history, I think ‘Uncle Sam Needs You’ and me and all of us who try to move the human heart with words. I think we might do some good. What do you think?”
Scores of his writer friends signed on almost immediately, and after working out the logistics and technical considerations, establishing a format and teaming up with a host, Write America was born
Book Revue, the independent bookstore that staged and live-streamed an all-star virtual roast of Rosenblatt on the occasion of his turning 80 in 2020, will host the new series, as outlined in a release going out this week:
“Book Revue, Long Island’s largest independent bookstore located in Huntington Village, announces Write America, a new literary series spearheaded by award-winning Long Island writer Roger Rosenblatt featuring award-winning, nationally-renowned authors, alongside new and emerging writers, in weekly readings and conversation about how books and art might bridge the deep divisions in our nation. The series, which is scheduled to run online on Book Revue’s Crowdcast channel through September 2021, kicks off on Monday, February 1, at 7 p.m. with former United States Poet Laureates Rita Dove and Billy Collins.”
Writers who will be taking part include: Alan Alda, Natalie Diaz, Paul Auster, Amy Hempel, Carlos Fonseca, Grace Schulman, Major Jackson, Garry Trudeau, Vijay Seshadri, Paul Muldoon, Russell Banks, Molly Gaudry, Alice McDermott, Juan Felipe Herrera, Tyehimba Jess, and many more.
“Write America is an organization of writers concerned about the divisions in our country that have evidenced themselves and deepened over the past few years,” Rosenblatt wrote for the Book Revue release. “We see a torn America these days, jeopardizing basic principles of justice, freedom, fair play, and equality.
“These principles are important to writers, felt passionately if shown indirectly. They undergird our poems, novels, essays, memoirs, every form in which we attempt to reach out to our human family through the quiet power of art. A writer’s words are a tacit call for people to gather round and discover or rediscover their connections to one another. Writing makes justice desirable, evil intelligible, grief endurable and love possible.
“In this project, then, we have come together to read our work in the interests of life’s nobler values. Normally, in the course of our profession, we keep our distance. We create, publish, and say with Chaucer, ‘go little book,’ to a remote receiving world. With our readings for Write America we will try to bridge that distance in a gesture of bonding. The nation is injured. We hope to contribute to its healing.”
The Book Revue release also includes quotes from two of the featured authors about the new series.
“A writer’s voice in silent communication with a reader, both seeking to discover what it is we all share,” wrote National Book Award winner Alice McDermott, who will be featured on February 15 with Russell Banks and Major Jackson. “What better way to right a skewed and scattered nation?”
“There are at least two ways to think about language,” wrote Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Paul Muldoon, who will read on February 8 with Francine Prose. “One involves the use of language as a tool, the other involves being used by language. The first allows a politician to instruct the people towards his ends, the second allows the language to instruct the poet—and, by extension, the people—towards its ends.”
Write America will launch on February 1 and run weekly, every Monday at 7 p.m. EST on Book Revue’s Crowdcast channel. All events are free; registration is required at bookrevue.com/write-america-series. A selection of signed titles will be available for purchase with each Write America episode; Book Revue ships worldwide.
The Write America schedule through February includes: February 1, Rita Dove and Billy Collins; February 8, Francine Prose and Paul Muldoon; February 15, Russell Banks, Major Jackson, and Alice McDermott; February 22, Patricia Marx and Garry Trudeau. For more information, click here or visit bookrevue.com/write-america-series.
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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.
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