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Sixty-Something: Finding A Safe Solitude In The Hamptons

T.J. Clemente

"We are all asked to enter into individual states of solitude and safe spacing," Clemente noted. (Photo: TJ Clemente)

The world has changed forever in these last few weeks. Life in the Hamptons is also being severely tested as the national emergency due to the Coronavirus has shut down schools, plays, concerts, parades and even the Stephen Talkhouse - in the name of public safety. People are being told not to mix in groups, until it is deemed safe by public safety officials.

We are all asked to enter into individual states of solitude and safe spacing. Quite frankly what better place to experience this but the Hamptons? Although we are supposed to stay inside, this time of year I must get out for fresh air too. The ocean beaches, the parks, the bays, the back roads are places if you pick the right ones, you will most likely see no one for hours - if at all. Sadly some folks are running around town like it's summer. That's not very smart.

Safe spacing, staying out of restaurants, bars, grocery stores and even churches is never that easy in the Hamptons. Thank God there is like 70 miles of ocean beach to stretch your legs or walk your dog at this time of year where you can still find that solitude.

The villages have many more summer folks around due to the Coronavirus, but if I owned two homes, one being an apartment in the City, I too would go for the bigger space Hamptons home for the suggested voluntary isolation for safety from the virus.

What does one do when indoors?

I once spent a whole winter pretty much alone in a Ditch Plains trailer in Montauk. There was no TV in the bare bones, barely heated trailer and smart phones had yet to be invented. That winter I completed reading a different book every other day. I simultaneously read the complete catalog of Stuart Woods' novels, along with a history survey of American historical figures from Jefferson, Hamilton, Burr, Adams, Jackson, to Lincoln, Grant, including Henry Adams up to Woodrow Wilson and Teddy Roosevelt. It was either the Montauk Library for the history books or East Hampton Village Library for the Stuart Woods novels. I am guessing perhaps almost 100 books. I sat in the same chair, often with just one lamp overhead on.

I ate a lot of takeout from former Montauk Chinese establishment Wok and Roll, and, of course, from Village Pizza. The two papers/magazines I was writing for needed perhaps one article per week each due to the off-season, so I had the time. Money was tight, thank God it was a mild winter, and the place did not freeze over - as it would the next two-three years.

The next summer, while attending Author's Night at the East Hampton Library, I actually ran into Stuart Woods and told him I read his old catalog using that very library.

This spring, while stuck inside, I have cable TV, Netflix, and Amazon Prime, but I think I am going to catch up on that big pile of books on my desk from my neglected reading. I am going back in time when reading was what you did alone and at home.

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