The Wild Stallion
There one day, gone the next. Footprints and tire tracks trailing through flawless snow, and vexatious vacancy, left onlookers and passersby in a state of perplexity, disbelief, and astonishment. It seemed it had been there forever or as long as anyone could remember. Landmark, attraction, and emblem, it served as a symbol of Quogue and the Hamptons. For years it stood its ground, tall, strong, majestic yet graceful. A life-like statue of a wild stallion running freely across an open plain, known to local villagers as “Quogue Horse”. The town buzzed with rumors and curiosity as one question remained unanswered. Why and where had it went? Ideas were plenty but there was only one answer. Detectives were hard at work searching for an explanation.
The year was 2004. The turn of the millennium had come and gone bringing about new technologies and fads from camera phones and Myspace, to printed tees and low-rise denims. The nightclub business thrived as thousands of young-ins, captivated by the allure and adrenaline of mindless partying, obliviously overindulged to the point of bewildering belligerence.
It was the end of a profitable season for owners, tenders, and staff. Warm summer evenings, filled with loud music and assorted alcohols, were few remaining. Fall was descending upon eastern Long Island. Leaves changed colors as days became shorter and cooler. In a matter of weeks school would be in session and kids in their twenty something’s would abandon beers and booze for books and backpacks.
Labor Day weekend drew in crowds of diehard youth who squeezed into sweaty smoke filled saloons, standing room only, for one final hurrah. Some staggered to the dance floor in a debauched daze, other’s the patio and gaming areas. Floors, tables, and bars stood showered in stickiness from spilled drinks and Jell-O shots while windows, mirrors, and doors were smudged with fingerprints and cheap lipstick. Once-white walls wore muddy foot prints and splatter and carpets and upholstery became bestrewn with burn marks and ashes from cigarettes and cigars. The air was permeated by colognes, perfumes, and the pungent odor of liquor and tobacco that lingered well past closing. Disc jockeys dropped tunes at deafening decimals drowning out desultory drunken chatter and doltishness.
Those were the days. The days of youth and innocence, where having fun was my main responsibility. I never went clubbing but could give a distinctive description with amazing accuracy and attention to detail. From the time I was 14 my parent’s absterged assorted establishments, cleaning up after weekends of wildish wastedness, where I spent sizable segments of several summers. I helped occasionally but often bathed in the sun basking in the beauty of nature.
I loved the outdoors. It beckoned forth my creativity and inquisitiveness. I sometimes sat on the patio, eyes closed senses indulged, imagining myself in a faraway paradise. Warm rays and open air against my skin. Whistling wind, swirling through the cattails, carrying the faint aroma of fragrant blooms and the sea. When it was quiet I could hear the distant roaring of the ocean. I frequently binged on berries from the blackberry bush enjoying their fresh bittersweet sapidity. An artist, I fell inspired seduced by my surroundings. It was an amazing area for writing, practicing music, and my occasional attempts at drawing.
Khaki clad drunkards and their stiletto shod companions, riddled with intoxicants, hobbled haphazardly, stumbling through exits into the night as different dipsomaniac arrived in droves. Bouncers shined flashlights into the faces and I.D.’s of incipiently inebriated incomers upon admittance. Boisterous buddies burst into bafflegab engaging in erratic acts of insipience. Some, superfluously smashed, fell quickly qualmish leaving puddles of puke in their wake. Few hours remained until the crowd would be dispersed unknowingly for the night…for the season…forever. As fast as it began it was ending.
I sat soundlessly, slowly sipping my seven eleven super-size Slurpee savoring each swig. Little did I know it would be the last time I would watch the “poster jerks”, as my mother called them, decorate the patio with banners leaving behind a trail of strings and staples. The last time I would hear the sound of clanging bottles, the scooping and pouring of ice, as bar-backs stocked the bars. Supper sizzled in the electric frying pan and was soon served. I ate at the bar with my parents unaware that would be “a last” too.
The season ended as did the establishment not long after, leaving behind a legacy dating back to prohibition; the wall upstairs tattooed with a poem written by the legendary “Twisted Sister” who performed there decades prior when it was “The Mad Hatter”.
After summer few bars remained opened. The air grew gelid. Tourists and visitors left their glamorous getaways and headed home. Children went to school and parents to work. The streets unusually silent and empty except for an arsenal of leaves swirling in the autumn zephyr.
Before long Jack Frost and Old Man winter arrived delivering a hearty helping of snow, slush, and ice. The breeze, now bitter cold, stung against bare skin.
It was December, the holiday season. Store fronts and homes were aglow with Christmas lights and menorahs Hanukah and Kwanza alike. It was a joyous time for sharing with friends and family. A time for spreading love, hope, peace, and goodwill. Unfortunately not everyone knew the meaning of holiday cheer.
Late one night a group of vandals set out to find mischief. Their villainous minds raced with thoughts of destruction as they came upon their target. The iconic horse statue. Before anyone realized, it fell into the clutches of crooks cleverly camouflaged by the cover of caliginosity.
The next morning denizens were disheartened to discover their beloved stallion had disappeared without a trace. It was a Deja-vu of 4 years prior when the original horse had been destroyed beyond repair. Its legs amputated, its massive mangled body on the ground next to them. Now its solid bronze replacement was gone. Hopes and fears were high as people plastered posters to poles and the search continued.
Weeks went by before it was spotted on a roadside in Manorville. Its head severely severed, scarcely short of decapitation. Emptiness encompassed where a forth leg should’ve been.
Donations poured in as news of its recovery spread, but it would be years before it would be repaired and once again stand proudly.
*“On a Tuesday morning in 2010, more than a dozen community members involved in the restoration, including police officers, village officials and workers, gathered near the statue to shovel the snow away from its ankles and officially unveil it. Its newly painted exterior glinted in the sunlight. “They’re not going to push that over,” Detective Fruin said surveying the work. Quogue Village Police Chief Robert Coughlan turned around and shot a glance at the horse. “That’s why his mouth is open” he said. “He’s laughing [and saying], ‘go ahead, try it.’ ”
I’ve wondered if it was the theft and destruction of “Quogue Horse” that pushed residents over the edge. I suppose I’ll never know. Perhaps it had been incessant noise making sleep impossible, drunk and disorderly conduct, and blatant disregard for common decency that drove them to bombard town officials with a cacophony of complaints, closing countless clubs, making the hamptonite nightclub industry a floccinaucinihilipilification. Either way it was end of the party era.
11 Years Later
Most clubs, now obsolete, are torn down or lie vacant in a state of disrepair. New establishments and eateries stand where old ones once flourished as people, care-free, shop and dine unknowing of past phenomenon’s that may as well be part of a parallel dimension or sub-universe. My mind is flooded with emotion and memories as I am brought back to a place left only in retrospect. I reminisce of a time not long ago, it appears has been left behind and forgotten. A time equally near as distant, as small as vast. A time where I looked to the future, as now I look back on the past. It seems that “someday” has become “remember when.” I gaze in recollection as a rendition of “Closing Time” plays inside my head. “Closing time, every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” Yes, I suppose it does.
Through the years much has changed. Many have come and gone. Tales of yester years lend a final glimpse of then and now, as then fades into total darkness replaced by the modernism of present day, and the time approaches where it ceases to exist beyond the realm of imagination. Where there is today, tomorrow, but no yesterday and what once was is no more than a passing memory in a sea of anamnesis. There is however one thing that remains the same, steadfast in a steady cycle of vicissitude. An ode to eternity untouched and unchanged (Or at least almost). Tall, strong, majestic yet graceful. A life-like statue of a wild stallion. Forever and always part of what was, is, and will be.
* Publication: The Southampton Press Jan 6, 2010 11:06