Sweet Potato Beats the Yarrow Root

IMG_5382I’ve never been much of a gardener. And I haven’t been to the car races since 1973. But when the list of events at the Ag Fair read: VEGGIE CAR RACES, I really wanted to see this. Perhaps, I thought, Veggie Cars would be a wave of the future.

I had no idea what to expect, but I think it might have been something . . . grander.

Here’s the deal: You got to pick your vegetable. Corn (still in the cob), sweet potato, radish, white potato, and something else that I do not believe I have even eaten (or missed out on). There were also bananas for contestants who preferred fruit.

IMG_5384Then you picked your wooden wheels. The nice woman attendant stuck metal rods into your corn/sweet potato/radish, etc. at appropriate intervals, then screwed on the wheels. A wooden ramp was propped up to about a 45º angle and had three “lanes.” Once you had a competitor (or two) and his or her veggies (or bananas) were ready, the cars lined up at the top. When I watched, there was a yarrow root vs. a sweet potato.

Ready, set, go.

It was not exactly the Daytona 500 or even the old Riverside Park Speedway (can’t believe I IMG_5383remembered the name of that old one in Agawam), but . . .

The race was on. It only took a few seconds, but it was Sweet Potato all the way. No prize was awarded to the winner; then again, there hadn’t been an entry fee, either.

And you know what? It was terrific. Soon, more kids liked up. The veggies raced, laughter rose, competitive natures between brothers, sisters, friends blossomed—all without the use of electronic devices. They had a blast.

Such was my introduction to the Ag Fair on the IMG_5385Vineyard. I really liked the sheep shearing, but, best of all, I think I liked the miniature horse that stood motionless in one of the barns. I think he would have loved the Veggie Car Race, too. He might have liked to have some wheels screwed into a homegrown carrot or a big, juicy apple.

Yup, I love this island.

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I meant to post this a week ago . . . but got busy! Sorry!

Thurs. Sept. 1st, 7:00pm

Here I go again with a little shameless PR.

If you are on-island this Thursday at 7:00pm, please join me at the Edgartown Library! I will talk about my latestJeanStone Photo book, VINEYARD MAGIC, and, of course, I’ll toss in a few anecdotes about my old ones, and then we will eat cookies. Sound good?

So join me! Please! The library has an big, beautiful events room to fill now.

Oh, and here’s my new pic, to help you find me.

This Place Rocks.

The other day I needed to do some reading—research for a new book I’m writing. It was hot inside my little house, yet I didn’t like the thought of closing myself into an air-conditioned space at the library on such a gorgeous day.

IMG_5377And then I thought about the Harbor View Hotel on North Water Street, or rather, I thought about its porch. Something about that porch intrigues me. It is nearly endless, with its iconic chairs that move gently in the breeze, beckoning their guests (and sometimes passers-by like me) to take a seat and enjoy the picture-postcard view of the lighthouse and the harbor and the serenity all around. (Actually, the porch and the whole hotel became a highly visible character in my latest book, VINEYARD MAGIC, but that’s a different story.)

I decided that, yes, the Harbor View was a perfect place to work. I gathered my research materials and meandered across town. I parked in front (A parking space! In Edgartown! In August!!!). I climbed onto the porch, slipped into one of the amazing rocking chairs, and acted as if I belonged there.

Oddly, as you can see in the photo here, no one was around. I would not have minded company, but it seemed that everyone was at the beach (or perhaps they were stuck in traffic at the Triangle or Stop ‘n Shop). The only folks I saw were those who pattered in and out of the front door of the hotel, juggling their coolers, kids, shovels, pails, and blankets, their happy laughter bouncing in the air. They didn’t stop to chat, though . . . they kept their eyes fixed across the water on the long shoreline of Chappaquiddick that awaited.

So I sat there, rocking and reading, for nearly two hours. I accomplished more than I had hoped. And when I was between chapters I realized that in my next life, or in this one at a later time, I would very much like to be a concierge at the hotel. Maybe next week I’ll stop by Human Resources and fill out an application.

In the meantime, I’ll be glad to just do my work while sitting on the porch. Hopefully, they won’t find out and want to charge me rent.

www.jeanstone.com

They’re Here!

The fabulous new MV license plates have arrived, and I couldn’t be happier! With an early bird opportunity to select my favorite number (yup, this one is mine, no doubt about it), and a small donation to Martha’s Vineyard Community Services (the place that keeps the island ticking), over 1,000 applications had been received, which was more than enough for the special state-issued plates.

IMG_5378Hooray!

But this is not an ordinary RMV story. (Surprise!)

This morning was my day to go to the registry and get my new plates. I pulled myself together early and packed a few essentials: ice water, a book I’m reading for the Edgartown Library book group, a notebook, pen, much-needed glasses. I was, after all heading off to the island RMV and, well, sometimes there’s a wait. ☺

I arrived around 9:30, gathered my daypack, and headed inside. I stood in the middle of the open room and surveyed my surroundings. Aside from one young woman who stood on the opposite side of the front door, no one was around. Not a soul. It seemed she was sorting license plates.

I stopped, turned back to the door, and rechecked the HOURS. I thought the office might not open until 10:00, and that someone had left the door unlocked. Either that, or it was a holiday. Where were the lines? Where were the people parked on the long benches? Where was the click-click of the Take-A-Number machine?

The young woman turned to me. “May I help you?” she called from across the room.

“Um,” I replied. “Yes. I’m here to pick up my Vineyard plate?” I said it as a question because I had begun to wonder if, instead of the RMV, I had wandered into the Twilight Zone.

The young woman, whose middle name, as is happens, is Jean, smiled. “I can take care of you.”

Three and one half minutes later I was out of there with my new plates. Wow.

But not so fast. When I got home and put on the new plates, I noticed a small flaw in the front one: someone at Walpole State Penitentiary, or wherever it is that license plates are IMG_5379now made, had failed to paint the “J” in “JUN,” which I guessed stood for “June,” the month the plates were actually made. It was a small glitch, but it made me smile to think that I will renew the registration in UN of next year.

Well, nobody’s perfect, I suppose. Not even the RMV. But kudos to the Vineyard office!

Who were Yours?

After a brief trip, I returned to the island Tuesday afternoon, grateful that the crossing was uneventful and the weather had turned cooler and that I could put my feet up and say, “Ahhh . . . home.”

IMG_5373But as I turned on the TV to await the evening news, a familiar voice rang out: “She had a little trouble with her dismount but she looked strong in the warm-ups . . .” I sat up straight and smiled. The video showed a young woman in sparkly pink Spandex, flipping and twisting and then—yay!—sticking her dismount. I had inadvertently tuned in to the U.S. Women’s Olympic Gymnastic Trials; the announcer’s voice belonged to Tim Daggett, 1984 Olympic gold medal gymnast.

Full disclosure: I am not, never was, never wanted to be a gymnast. In third grade I sucked at climbing ropes, doing cartwheels, standing on my head. I was better at making up stories, which back then were called “daydreams.” (“Jean! Stop daydreaming!” my mother or my grandfather or Mrs. Smith, my teacher, often barked.)

Today my daydreams are called “fiction.” From the time I was eight or nine, I wanted to write. But if it hadn’t been for a few important people, including Tim Daggett, who knows what might have happened.

I believe that all types of incredibly supportive, inspiring people step into our lives—people beyond our families and our close friends—who, amazingly, think we are capable of reaching our goals.

I met Tim through a business connection, helped him with some marketing projects, and ended up co-authoring his story, DARE TO DREAM (Baker Books 1992). It was my first published book, which was unbelievably exciting. But even more important, while working with Tim, I became influenced by his unwavering determination, his ability to, as he might say, “have a dream and do whatever it takes to make that dream come true.” In 1994, thanks in large part to Tim’s inspiration, my first novel, SINS OF INNOCENCE, was published (Bantam Books).

Later, I attended a lecture at Smith College given by Kurt Vonnegut. His theme focused on the teachers in our lives: he closed by asking how many in the audience had been inspired/encouraged/motivated by a teacher. Most of us raised a hand. Vonnegut then asked us to turn to the person on our left and reveal the teacher’s name. I turned my head. “Miss Carroll,” I said without hesitation. She had been my ninth grade English teacher. And she’d encouraged me—really encouraged me—to write. And write. And write.

So this year when I watch the Olympics, I will think of Tim and Miss Carroll and a few other special people. I will remember that without them I would probably not have 19-and-counting published novels.

What about you? Who were your greatest inspirations? Have you thought about them . . . and maybe thanked them lately? Do it! It feels great. Best of all, sparkly pink Spandex is not required.

Enjoy the Olympic Games!

Land Ho!

IMG_3734
I’ve left the island, heading to America for a bit. I’ve heard there’s less pollen on this side of the water, so stay tuned.

Oh, and as for that aroma of skunk I endured a couple of weeks ago? It turns out that the little guy (or girl…I didn’t get close enough) was living under my deck. Here’s hoping he has relocated by the time I return. And has carted the family off with him.

Until then, may your lazy days of summer be filled with happy reading and include a favorite from my Vineyard collection (brace yourself for another The Summer House_approvedword from our sponsor): THE SUMMER HOUSE!