Man on the Moon Lands in Woods Hole

IMG_1182Those of us of a certain age remember July 20, 1969 for a couple of reasons. First, because it was the day after the media announced that a car had gone off Dyke Bridge on Chappaquiddick. You don’t need to live on Martha’s Vineyard to know the rest of that unfortunate story. But the second happening became something to celebrate: July 20th was the day the first man walked on the moon. His name was Neil Armstrong.

Just before I left for vacation, the “new” Neil Armstrong—a 238-foot research vessel—docked at its prestigious home in Woods Hole. The U.S. Navy owns the ship; they selected the folks at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution to operate it.

Replacing the previous ship, the Knorr (yup, that’s the one connected to the discovery of the Titanic), the Neil Armstrong no doubt has an exciting life ahead. A sister ship to this, the Sally Ride, will soon be docked at Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego. I think it’s pretty cool that ships designed to explore the depths of the oceans are named after those who explored our universe.

When I saw the article in the Vineyard Gazette, I wished I’d known about the landing of the Armstrong ahead of time. I would have loved to witness the grand celebration as the Coast Guard escorted the ship into port. But a few days later, when I boarded the ferry from Vineyard Haven to Woods Hole, I was thinking about my own adventures and forgot to look for it.

My return trip was a different story. It was a bright, beautiful afternoon; I sat by the window on the right side of the ferry (I still don’t know my port from my starboard), determined to catch a glimpse of the new vessel once we pulled out into the harbor. The sun was warm and nice, but I was tired from my time away. While the ferry sat, waiting, for its scheduled departure, suffice it so say, I closed my eyes. When I awoke (remember, I am, indeed, of a “certain age”), we were halfway across Vineyard Sound. I spun my neck as far as it would spin, but I saw only a distant white-and-blue blur of the Armstrong.

Next time, I’ll see it. Unless the explorer is off on another amazing discovery. Or I’ve forgotten it’s there.

Sign of My Times

IMG_5005I love this road sign. Every time I see it on a back road on the Vineyard, I slow down. Even if I’m walking.

It no doubt has been put there to remind island visitors that they now are on vacation, that they have left their busy lives, their hectic jobs, their daily stress back on the mainland. They’ve crossed off the days and have finally made it to the picture-perfect place that they’ve stared at on their laptop screens since the year before. Martha’s Vineyard is their haven; their place to slow down.

But what about the people who live here year round? What the heck do they do when they want to get away? (I know. It’s hard to believe, right?)

Well, some hop the Patriot Party Boat across Vineyard Sound to Cape Cod, then take the shuttle to Falmouth Plaza where they have big stores like Christmas Tree Shops and T.J.Maxx. Some take the bus out of Woods Hole and head to Boston to savor special exhibits at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum or the Museum of Fine Arts.

Others leave for the entire winter: Florida, usually, though some go skiing in places like Colorado and Utah. Others do springtime in Paris, lucky them.

Okay, get to the point, Jean.

Next week I will be on vacation. I will be returning to America, to the place of fast cars and crowded shopping malls, of chain restaurants and gas stations on every corner because everyone is busy going somewhere, doing something in a hurry.

Sigh.

The bottom line is this: Don’t look for a blog post from me next week; not until the week after, when I’m back in the place where I slow down.

A Brand New Vineyard Novel!

vineyardmagiccoverlargeFinally, finally, finally, I finished another book.

The title is VINEYARD MAGIC: It’s a little bit sassy, a little bit poignant, and it offers a playful peek into what can happen when New York City society collides with the “real people” of Martha’s Vineyard. (This one was fun to write!)

The drama begins when three forty-something women rush to the island to try and help their friend LIBBY who has suddenly lost everything: the co-op, the trust fund, the house in Belize, and maybe even the one on the Vineyard, where she is hiding out.

But what began with good intentions (well, almost good intentions), quickly collides when the women find that Libby is beset with amnesia, her husband is missing, and a dead body has turned up in the phlox.

As if the three women didn’t have enough of their own problems: CANDACE has a haunting family secret that’s about to crack her world; EMMIE has a super-wealthy husband and a secret of her own (can you say “horse trainer?”); and DEVON has absolutely no good reason why she hasn’t signed her divorce papers. And now, worst of all, the women must learn how to navigate the local island gendarme before one of them is arrested.

Suffice it to say, VINEYARD MAGIC is packed with fun. It’s my 18th novel—the 7th to take place on the Vineyard—and stay tuned, because it’s going to be the first of a new series.

Want a copy? Click here: VINEYARD MAGIC. It’s available as a print book as well as an eBook. Enjoy!

For info about my earlier books, go to my website: jeanstone.com. Most are still available in print (published by Random House and HarperCollins); all are now available on amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com as eBooks. Authors love the Internet!

It’s a Wrap: MV Film Festival 2016

IMG_4857Okay, so it wasn’t exactly Sundance or Cannes, and the outdoor “café” was comprised of hay bales and picnic tables inside a tent that was “heated” against the chilly, up island breezes, but the three-day Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival was a huge hit due to its people—filmmakers, fans, and the folks from Morning Glory Farm who provided fabulous food—and, mostly, to the terrific selection of over two dozen quality documentaries.

Take Wolfpack, for example. A riveting, disturbing, yet oddly inspirational story of six boys who were kept locked up for 14 years in the family’s Lower East Side Manhattan apartment, the film chronicles the boys’ ability to survive thanks to the creativity of their souls and the magic of movies. It won the Grand Jury Prize for U.S. Documentary at Sundance Film Festival last year.

By popular demand at MVFF, the film was shown three times. And, as if it wasn’t mesmerizing enough, at the end of each screening, out walked four of the Wolfpack boys who graciously answered audience questions.

I had a chance to speak with two of them between their appearances. We stood near a bale of hay; they were articulate, engaged, startlingly relaxed, and self-confident. They told me they’d been looking forward to coming to the Vineyard. “JAWS was one of our favorite movies,” Mukunda, the eldest, now 28, said. Good thing they stayed in Edgartown, where much of that film was shot.

It you have a chance, rent the DVD. The ways in which these boys grew and blossomed in an environment that would make many of us simply curl up and die is astounding. It is guaranteed—by me—to make you look at your own life differently . . . and with gratitude.

Though I didn’t get to watch (I sold t-shirts, mugs, and more to a bustling, happy crowd), the films covered a wide variety of topics that included the rising heroin epidemic on Cape Cod; the intriguing story of Anderson Cooper and his mother, Gloria Vanderbilt; and the chronicle of a Sri Lankan man who escaped that country’s civil war with a two strangers—woman and an orphan. Titled Dheepan, the film won the Palme d’Or at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival. Another unique screening was Presenting Princess Shaw, the story of Samantha Montgomery, who, by day, is a caregiver for the elderly; by night she’s Princess Shaw, a soulful singer who turned into a viral sensation.

Samantha/Princess was at MVFF, too. On the last day of the festival, I spotted her sitting on a picnic table bench, staring across the expanse of lawn between the Chilmark Community Center and Chilmark School.

“How are you doing?” I asked.

She smiled wistfully. “This has been such an amazing experience,” she said. “I’ve been trying to figure out if the Vineyard can possibly be a real place. And if the people are real people.”

I laughed. “Maybe we’re just another movie,” I said.

She nodded.

I walked away, completely understanding how she felt.

Independent Gulls and Darned Good Movies

IMG_4785Does anyone out there recognize this little guy? I’ve been told he rides the ferry named the “Martha’s Vineyard,” perches on the deck outside the snack bar, and waits for folks to share the oyster crackers from their quahog chowder. I saw him the other day when I went over to Cape Cod and, sure enough, he consumed at least a dozen crackers right out of a woman’s hand.

Of course, he reminded me of Jonathan Livingston Seagull. Remember that book? If I’m allowed to quote amazon.com here, the story, by Richard Bach, is about “people who follow their hearts and make their own rules . . . who know there is more to this living than meets the eye.” Jonathan becomes symbolic of “the joy of finding one’s own way.”

If it’s true that this gull rides the Martha’s Vineyard, he’s headed in the right direction. This, after all, is a place where free-thinking is applauded, and following one’s heart tends to go without saying.

One terrific example of this will be later this week at the 16th Annual Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival. Started one winter by a man named Thomas Bena who, together with some friends, was “desperate” for some good movie entertainment, the festival has grown and grown. It now showcases award-winning films from places like Sundance Film Festival and Cannes Film Festival, and has a terrific board of directors that includes Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. This year’s line-up includes 30 documentaries, thought-provoking feature films, and comedies for adults and kids.

Packed into four days from March 17–20th, the festival often is a sell-out. If you’re lucky enough to land a ticket, I might be the enthusiastic volunteer who takes it at the door of the Performing Arts Center in Oak Bluffs or at the Chilmark Community Center. (Films will also be shown at the Chilmark School and the Pathways Gathering Space.)

So come on over for the festival. If Jonathan is on the boat, be sure to feed him crackers.

The Travel Section

IMG_4745I was reading the Travel Section in The New York Times yesterday, and came across the “36 Hours” column, for which they select a city or town (arbitrarily? Don’t know), then show readers all the fun things they can do there in, yes, 36 hours.

Yesterday the column featured music venues, shops, restaurants, “watering holes,” and more in Austin, Texas. A couple of weeks ago, it was Pasadena, California, which, in addition to museums and cultural sights, Rancho Bar was singled out as one of the area’s “divey pleasures.” (A friend knows Rancho well and shared several anecdotes about the place, but I’ll leave those to someone else’s blog, not mine.)

Anyway, of course, I started thinking, “Hey! Why doesn’t someone do a profile about all the things to do on the Vineyard—especially in winter?”

I read about half the paper (I save the rest for mid-week), struggled with the crossword, did some work, made some dinner. Then, while awaiting the finale of Downton Abbey (yes, I watched it again), I went on Facebook. That’s where I found the link (below) to an article in The Boston Globe. It does not mention the activities (book groups, lectures, films, and more) at the libraries all around the island, or the amazing community suppers served each night at one of the churches, but it does applaud The Newes from America in Edgartown, one of my favorite pubs. (I think it’s safe to say The Newes has a somewhat different style than Rancho Bar.)

Anyway, here’s the link the Globe article . . . I hope that now my friends will believe me when I yammer on and on about all the stuff to do and that, NO, the island isn’t “closed” in the winter months.

And please don’t try and figure out what my picture has to do with the article. I simply didn’t know what image to include, as I’d already recycled the Travel Section of the Times.

https://www.bostonglobe.com/lifestyle/travel/2016/03/05/you-martha-vineyard/75MH0x4yb4Fy8DNrG7QVWM/story.html

Farewell, Downton Abbey

IMG_4752The shock is beginning to set in. After next Sunday night, the wonderful PBS series Downton Abbey will be history. Done. Only to be viewed again in . . . re-runs.

Enter the Edgartown Public Library.

The building on North Water Street officially closes next Saturday—coincidentally, the day before the final episode of DA airs—as it begins its move to a magnificent, new facility. In preparation for the last hurrah of both DA and the equally beloved library, a screening of the show’s finale was in order, to be followed by High Tea.

Given the tight quarters in the basement of the old place, seating would be limited. The sign outside declared that the event was “Sold Out,” though the price of admission was merely enthusiasm and early registration. About 20 folks scored a “ticket.”

A decked-out gentleman greeted us at the door and presented himself as “Foster, the Butler.”

Women comprised most of the audience. There were a few hats, and I noticed that at least one lady was wearing elbow-length gloves. The room was abuzz with conjectures: would Mary run off with Tom, the former chauffeur? Would Robert drop dead? Would Marigold ever seem happy to be there?

IMG_4753The lights dimmed; the fish tank was unplugged, eliminating both a fluorescent glow and the drone of its filter; our hostess appeared. Good grief, it was Mrs. Patmore! Or was it? Dark hair, not blonde, peeked from beneath her cap. Her apron was cleaner and crisper than Mrs. P.’s. And when she spoke a few words of welcome, she sounded suspiciously like Virginia Munro, who is known to have choreographed more than a few terrific events in the basement.

No matter. We chose to believe that, indeed, it was Mrs. P., not Virginia. Whoever she was, she pushed a button and . . . ahhh . . . the music began, the long shot of the grounds of the estate and the hind end of the yellow lab guided us toward . . . well, I’m not going to say anymore. No spoilers here. Suffice it to say, if you are a fan, be sure to watch next week.

As for our group, two hours later we watched in stunned silence as the credits rolled. DA was over. A distinct sound of rustling tissues filling the room; sniffs were sniffed; low murmurs were murmured, if that is a word.

The lights came up again. Foster called for our attention. Then he announced: “Ladies and Gentlemen, tea is now being served in . . .” wait for it . . . “the Library.”

Of course it was. Tiny sandwiches, tea cakes, pudding tarts. And yummy tea, poured into a colorful array of delicate porcelain teacups that had once belonged to Virginia’s . . . er, Mrs. Patmore’s mother, and had been rescued from a carton in a basement for this most fitting occasion.

The best part is, as with M.A.S.H, Cheers, and, of course, Seinfeld, I will always remember where I was for the Downton Abbey finale.

Sea Glass and Other Stories

One of my favorite books for writers is Lawrence Block’s TELLING LIES FOR FUN & PROFIT, which taught me it’s okay to make stuff up.

So I do. Take my novel, TIDES OF THE HEARTIMG_4707. Early on, we see an odd young woman named Karin, dressed in a long sarong, aimlessly strolling the beach at West Chop on the Vineyard, picking up colorful bits of sea glass—lots of sea glass—that she later click-clicks whenever she remembers the awful thing she’s done.

I lied. Aside from the fact I never met such a young woman, I knew that the act of her collecting colorful bits of sea glass on an aimless stroll simply would not be possible.

Sea glass is hard to find! Wampum is a dime a bucket but sea glass? Oy.

Over the year, my beach-walking has turned up only three or four pieces, all about the size of a pinkie fingernail: one blue, a few green, one clear piece that was bigger than the others but turned out to be a rock.

Yesterday, however, was a different story.

It was a warm-for-February afternoon. I chose Bend-in-the-Road Beach for its relatively flat surface and its views over to Cape Cod on a clear day.

As I walked, my head, as usual, was bent, my eyes grazing the sand for wampum because as I’ve said before, I can’t help myself. (An ad in the MV Times for C.B. Stark Jewelers of Vineyard Haven says they’re buying wampum; maybe I’ll make my fortune there!) Anyway, I’d brought a bag on my outing because I’m sick of trying to remove grains of sand from inside my pockets. Besides, like with eating chocolate, I usually end up with more than I intended.

So there I was, walking along, eyes peeled, when suddenly . . . suddenly . . . a powder-blue-colored round thing—almost the size of the bottom of a jar of peanut butter—was at my foot. It wasn’t moving, so I decided it wasn’t a living organism. I leaned down for a closer look; I saw that it was frosted, often a telltale sign that what once had been an ordinary piece of glass had since been tossed and tossed by salt water tides and transformed into . . . yes! . . . authentic sea glass!

I said something out loud. I quickly scooped it up. Holy cow, it really was a magnificent specimen! I didn’t dump it in my wampum bag but instead held it safely and kept walking. Not ten feet away was a slightly smaller, but equally lovely, pale aqua piece of sea glass. Then a dark green one, followed by a bright green one, which was the tiniest, but still thumbnail size.

What a day, huh? Karin would have been elated.

I snapped this photo as proof. I put a quarter in the shot to show what my engineer friends would call “spatial relationship.”

I went back to the same beach today, walked almost an hour, bagged a bunch of wampum. I thought I saw a small piece of red sea glass (the rarest, I’ve been told), but it turned out to be plastic.

And that’s the truth.

Pardon my Doornail Cliché

IMG_4674Anyone who lives East of, oh, I don’t know, L.A. perhaps, is aware of the wicked freezing temperatures this past weekend. And few folks will be shocked that my car refused to start.

Sadly, no one knows a car has a dead battery until one is going out. Needing to be somewhere. Having stuff to do.

I had a list. Errands. Not fun, but necessary.

So when I turned on the ignition and heard that dreadful . . . nothing . . . I groaned. It was as dead as a clichéd doornail.

AAA no longer services the island. (That’s another story.) But they reimburse you, once someone defibrillates the thing.

A nice man showed up quickly. (Hooray!) He got it going. Then he told me I should drive it for a while without shutting it off.

I’d like to pause to mention this happened here a few years ago when I stupidly failed to turn the car lights off after dark. (I was still getting used to the utter blackness of the nights and was concerned, well, okay, terrified, of skunks.)

When AAA arrived (that was before the “other story”) and solved the problem, I was told to drive my car for an hour. Problem: I’d been heading for the boat. “Not with this car you’re not,” the AAA guy said. Huh? It’s only 15 minutes to the ferry, but once on board, I’d have to shut my car off. The folks behind me might say mean things when we reached Woods Hole and my car couldn’t disembark. (Not sure if AAA serviced the Island Home.) Anyway, I drove in circles around the island for an hour and took a later boat.

Fast forward to this weekend. “But I have errands to do,” I whined after the nice man echoed his predecessor. Then he added, “Well, luckily you’re on the Vineyard. Just leave it running.”

Leave it running? My car doesn’t lock when it’s left running. (Thanks for the safety factor, VW.) Still . . . I had things to do.

First, the post office. I dashed in quickly, one eye peeled on the parking lot where telltale smoke puffed merrily from the exhaust pipe into the frigid air. I made it back before car thieves could arrive.

Next stop, the pharmacy. Unfortunately, the things I needed weren’t by the window. My heart pounded just a bit, but when I returned, my car awaited, nice and toasty, as I’d left the heater running, too.
Last stop: the seafood market. The owner stood inside, peering out. “Let me know if anyone steals my car,” I said. He chuckled, shook his head.

I paid for my clam chowder. On the way out, another woman entered. She, too, was alone. As I got back to my car, I realized she had parked beside me. And she’d left her motor running. With no one else inside.

Moral of the story: This is Martha’s Vineyard, Jean.

Warning: Wherever you are, I don’t recommend trying this at home.

SPOTLIGHT on the Vineyard

IMG_4634Anyone who works at home knows there’s no such thing as a snow day . . . so, though buckets of nasty white stuff are once again blowing around outside with the kind of gusto that promises gargantuan accumulation, I am at my desk. Working. But that’s okay because there’s news to tell!

For fans of the film SPOTLIGHT, tomorrow evening promises to be special. The Vineyard Gazette has a terrific series called “Tuesdays in the Newsroom,” where islanders gather to learn interesting (and fun) bits about the ins and outs of this amazing weekly (twice weekly in season), 170-year old newspaper. On tap tomorrow is a guest speaker: Walter “Robby” Robinson, editor at large at the Boston Globe and head of the now famous SPOTLIGHT team that exposed the horrific story of child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. The team’s work earned them a Pulitzer Prize; their story was captured in the wonderful film SPOTLIGHT, which has been nominated for six Academy Awards. (Robinson’s part was played by Michael Keaton.) I’ve been told he’ll talk about investigative journalism, which should be terrific . . . as long as this blizzard is out to sea and the boat can get him here!

Speaking of Hollywood . . . in other news, a movie is apparently in development about the “Chappaquiddick incident”—that sad and tragic accident in the summer of 1969 when a young woman drowned in Senator Ted Kennedy’s car, as the headlines screamed back then.

I remember it clearly. I even referred to it in my novels a few times, especially in PLACES BY THE SEA, when two of my characters stood outside Duke’s County Courthouse and watched media frenzy as the story played out on Main Street, Edgartown—a scene that wound up changing both their lives. Most folks on the island don’t, or won’t, discuss the topic now. But Hollywood has knocked on the Vineyard’s door again (please, no references to JAWS), and it will be hard to either anticipate or disregard the antics sure to follow.

Enough said from my end. For details, read the Gazette article at: http://vineyardgazette.com/news/2016/02/04/coming-big-screen-near-you-chappaquiddick-movie.

Time to make more tea and get to work. I refuse watch the weather channel that will surely tell me there are sunny skies today in western Massachusetts!