Every year or two, we get a letter complaining about the fact that my articles often overlook the fact that Hampton Bays is a Hampton. There’s some truth to this. When writing about the “Fabulous Hamptons,” Hampton Bays does not come to my mind automatically. What comes to mind are Montauk, Amagansett, East Hampton, Sag Harbor, Bridgehampton, Southampton and Westhampton Beach. Those hamlets, and a few smaller ones—Amagansett, Water Mill, Shinnecock and Remsenberg—are what comprise the Hamptons. And I am sorry if I don’t include Hampton Bays.
“What’s the matter with you?” readers will complain. “Didn’t anybody renew your ‘west of the canal’ passport?” Well, Hampton Bays is a great fishing and cabin-on-the-bay town. But the likes of Madonna, Alec Baldwin and Christie Brinkley do not consider it their playground.
I am sure that I am going to hear about this article too. Even when I mention Hampton Bays. Now you MENTION Hampton Bays they say. But isn’t Hampton Bays’ lack of celebrity one of its great attributes?
What would the locals say if one of these naysayers went off and kidnapped a celebrity and FORCED that celebrity to live in Hampton Bays? I bet they’d run that local out of town for messing with its rep.
But then yesterday I ran into somebody who complained to me about still another village in the Hamptons, a very tony one with lots of celebrities, that is even more isolated and less mentioned than Hampton Bays. It is Quogue.
“We get out to Quogue from the city,” he told me, “and we just stay there. Everything seems so far away. If there’s a play in Sag Harbor, it’s too far. If there’s a gallery opening in Southampton, we think it’s too big a trek. We don’t even like to go to Westhampton Beach.
“And it works the other way, too. We have a dinner, we invite people from Quogue, they come. People from Southampton, we invite them, they say ‘Quogue? We’ll think about it.’ Then they call with a reason why they can’t.”
There is something to this, but I am not quite sure what it is. I pushed the envelope.
“What about food? You have to go to Westhampton Beach for food shopping.”
“We shop in the Quogue Market.”
(You will notice I still have not mentioned Hampton Bays again.)
Many years ago, when I first moved to the Hamptons, there was a night spot that advertised itself as “Bogged in Quogue.” I do not recall the name of the nightspot, but I sure knew where it was. The idea was that if you went there, you were so far away from anywhere you could do stuff, you wouldn’t do otherwise. Like it was Montana. It was a grand concept, “Bogged in Quogue,” and that nightclub lasted many years. There was something to it.
But what is it? I think it might be the road patterns. Most of our centers of town, west of Water Mill anyway, are not on the main highway, but at least you get the impression that you are passing by the northern reaches of the community. Just make a turn south and in ten minutes you will be in downtown Westhampton Beach or Southampton or even Hampton Bays.
That is not the case with Quogue, however. With Quogue, even on the secondary road Montauk Highway 27A, where you pass through Westhampton Beach and East Quogue and even Shinnecock (whatever that is), there is neither hide nor hair of Quogue. It is, in fact, quietly off to the left somewhere, at a spot where you are busy negotiating a big bend in the Montauk Highway heading from East Quogue to Westhampton Beach, and you just don’t notice it. I’ve even passed it by while trying to get to it. Haven’t you?
It could also be Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. For example, people in East Hampton think nothing about driving to Montauk for the evening. It’s 16 miles down the road.
“Hey, let’s head out to Navy Beach tonight for a drink.”
This is a question for Einstein. Here’s the answer. Driving out to Montauk from East Hampton, you have this image in mind of your destination, Montauk, and exactly what it looks like. So you are actually in Montauk even before you get there.
If you drive from Southampton to Quogue, however, you get no such image. What you are imagining is the turn off to the left, which looks a lot like other turns off to the left. You are focused on imagining that turn and not missing it, not on Quogue. Is there a Village of Quogue? I’ve been here since 1956. Maybe there is.
Another factor in this is the deliberately low profile that Quogue keeps. It is not a welcoming place. If you do come into Quogue and are not known to the Quogue Village police, you will, as often as not, be followed by a police car with an officer in it wondering if you are a troublemaker. The speed limit on the main road in Quogue is 25 miles an hour. Exceed it even by half a mile an hour and you will most surely get pulled over.
And at the same time, the people in Quogue themselves, many of them, feel the same way about going OUT of Quogue. What if your car’s in the shop (not in Quogue) and you’re driving a loaner. If you drive out to where your car’s being fixed and it’s not ready, you’ll be pulled over when you try to come back in. It’s not worth the effort.
People in Quogue feel safe, sheltered, cozy, out of it and sometimes lonely. If they get the urge to go somewhere, they wait a while and it subsides. If they want to hold a dinner party, they can invite people from “elsewhere,” but more likely than not their chairs will be empty at the dinner table, while the others are full of Quogians, or Quogites or whatever the hell they call themselves.
This all brings to mind something that happened many years ago on Main Street in East Hampton, at a time when the only season there was much going on was summer. I was visiting a woman who owned an antique shop—she was the head of the Chamber of Commerce at the time—and she was letting me know that big changes could come to East
“There’s no reason at all we should be just a summer resort,” she told me. “I think we will soon be busy in every one of the seasons—spring, summer and fall.”