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.

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.

Pepe was Here.

hh_sba_skunkIt’s been a quiet evening. I’ve been sitting in the living room, drinking tea, watching a movie, playing Words with Friends. And now, it has happened without fanfare or warning: the unmistakable, slow-rising, scent of . . . skunk.

I have learned that skunks are indigenous to the Vineyard. Like a lot of people, they seem to like it here. There once was a campaign to name the species the island’s official bird. Don’t know how that worked out.

They’re bigger than most birds. Up to 18 pounds. My research says they’re born blind, and that they wind up with lousy eyesight but terrific hearing. So, if they can’t see the cars coming on Edgartown–Vineyard Haven Road—especially around dawn or dusk—you’d think they at least could hear them soon enough to get the heck out of the way. It would help avoid snarky answers to the riddle: “What’s black and white and red all over?”

As someone who spent years in western Massachusetts, not far from active farms, I am no stranger to nature’s scents. (Think dairy cows.) Sometimes your eyes sting so badly it’s easy to forget that it’s organic, so it must be good for us.

I’m not sure how much good the skunks are, though, especially since they are primary predators of the honeybee. If we had fewer skunks on the Vineyard, perhaps we’d solve the problem of global bee extinction.

The whole time I’ve been writing this, the aroma has grown stronger. I’m not sure where the culprit is: my backyard, across the street, maybe in the village. Like the sounds of the waves, the scent can carry.

I’ve actually only seen a few live ones. Once while I was on a restaurant patio a big one casually waddled past as if he were one of the waitstaff. Another time I was walking to my car and, apparently, so was Pepe.

I hold no grudge against the skunks, and feel a little sad to learn that their lifespan is a mere two to three years. Which is probably a sign that I’ve adapted to my environment, and that, like them, I like it here.

I think I’ll make more tea now; maybe play another game. And I really should close the window. Maybe that will help.

1,000 Clams

1,000 clamsI blame too many years in advertising for the fact I am a cynic. But as a diehard copywriter, I admit there’s one thing I still admire: great ad copy.

“Why didn’t I write that?” I’ve moaned more than once when I’ve seen or heard or read a fabulous, on-target headline attached to a great concept: Just do it. Maybe she’s born with it. Guess what day it is? You know the ones: They call up an instant image, evoke an instant feeling, spark an instant interest in the product.

It’s been a while since I’ve seen a great one. Until the other day.

Subscribe to the VINEYARD GAZETTE and we’ll give 1,000 CLAMS . . .

It turns out that for each new subscription or renewal, the Gazette will donate 1,000 clams to help preserve the island’s coastal ponds. Fabulous, indeed.

Oh, sure, some folks might be disappointed not to get a mug or another tote bag. (My favorite has always been the free calendar with a one-year renewal.) But I think idea of the clams is brilliant, not only as a marketing hook, but also for its environmental effort.

The ad piqued my interest. I researched old Gazette articles and learned that quahogs (pronounced co-hogs, for those not in the know) are now thought to be the “longest-lived animals on the planet” since, a few years back, one was found off the coast of Iceland and determined to be 405 years old. Hmm. Not sure I’d want to pop that one into the chowder.

I can’t find any reference as to how “clams” began to connote “money,” but I suspect it’s connected to “wampum,” the supposed form of currency in 17th century America that was crafted from the purple and white shards of clamshell remnants scattered across the island beaches after seagulls have jack-hammered them for lunch. (Yes, I’ve mentioned that before.)

But I digress.

I don’t know the name of the copywriter who came up with the ad or which actually came first: the idea to donate clams or the clever headline as a marketing tool. But I’d like to send a big Hooray! for a job well done.

I also renewed my subscription for another year. (Good marketing, like good writing, deserves positive results.) When I finished, I clicked “Submit.” Then I shut down my computer, drove to the bookstore, and bought my own calendar.

On the way home, I stopped at the seafood market.

I know what I’m having for Dinner.

IMG_3826I was driving to the post office this morning to collect a bagful of catalogs that surely had amassed while I was off-island for the holiday. That’s when the phone rang in my purse.

Bluetooth notwithstanding, I decided to find a place to park and settle in for a chat. I chose the harbor because sitting by the water is a perfect start to any day.

There wasn’t much to see on this Monday after Christmas: a few pickup trucks in the parking lot; four of five empty boats tied to the pier, barely bobbing on the calm sea; the hazy sun trying to peek through clouds that threatened to turn gray. Weather predictions were for a bit of sleet and freezing rain, the first of the season so no one could complain.

After a few minutes, a small white boat appeared; a young man in full yellow slicker regalia (pants and jacket) steered it to the dock. Two other young men also in full regalia (though they’d selected orange) leapt from the boat and tied it up. Then their work began.

In perfect harmony (They’ve done this before, I thought. Like every day in season), they hoisted one large plastic tub after another from the boat and carried them to two waiting pickup trucks: a silver one, a black one. That’s when I saw the contents: scallops.

Yum.

I finished my call and drove off on my post office mission, very much aware of the decreased number of vehicles on the road (I saw three in a mile-and-a-half), and of the increased number shops that now had CLOSED signs in their windows. I made it to my destination (love all the cards, folks, thanks!), then headed down Upper Main Street back toward home . . . until I reached the fork in the road at the Edgartown Seafood store.

And there it was: a silver pickup that I’d swear was one of those that had been at the dock. Imagine that. And I’d swear there was at least one less bucket of scallops in the pickup bed.

I smiled, pulled over, and snapped this pic (sorry for the gray sky) to serve as a reminder that I should go back around 3:00pm and pick up dinner. I think those beauties should be shucked by then.

Reason #14,327

churchOkay, so here’s Reason #14,327 why I moved to the Vineyard: simplicity.

As most of us know, it’s the holiday season. And though we don’t have a Mall or a Target of even holiday versions of McDonalds’ milkshakes (if they have them, and my old marketing sense tells me they must!), we definitely have the spirit.

Everywhere you go on the island, you are aware of the scent of freshly cut evergreens. Everywhere you go you see sprigs of holly and little trees made of boxwood. You see signs for church fairs and crafts fairs and plates full of homemade cookies in the libraries and shops. You see festive lights along town streets and signs for the Red Stocking Fund that helps provide gifts for island kids.

This is a photo of a church in West Tisbury…note the green wreaths with red bows…see what I mean about the simplicity? A few bells, but no whistles. Holiday spirit without the glitz. It’s infectious, it really is.

Of course, this coming weekend will be “Christmas in Edgartown,” complete with the lighting of the lighthouse, special shopping, carolers, and, yes, more cookies (and hot chocolate). And, don’t forget the parade! I’m hoping that again this year Santa will arrive in a Coast Guard Life Boat on wheels. Hope to see you all there!

The Little Boat

It’s a rainy, windy, foggy, brrr-y day, so I thought I’d post something happy. I chose this little boat. (I actually took this pic a few days ago when the sun was out.)

I have no idea who owns the boat or what it’s used for (clamming? scalloping?), but I’ve noticed it anchored in the same spot in the pond that’s opposite Vineyard Sound on the beach road between Edgartown and Oak Bluffs. It’s been there several weeks now.

I think it’ cute.

To me, it epitomizes this place…it just sits there showing off its very natural beauty – a little tired, a little solitary, but comfortable and well-loved. I’m sure there is a story behind the little guy, like how many miles its oars have been paddled, and how many generations have learned how to fish by dangling a line or two off the side.

I like to think a grandpa and his granddaughter (or, okay, his grandson) have shared nice memories afloat, threading creepy worms onto their hooks, catching a fish or two, unwrapping bologna sandwiches while passing a thermos of hot chocolate back and forth.

Maybe the little boat is sitting, waiting, now for the grandkids to come back to visit. They might not be here until spring, but something tells me this little boat will make it through the winter.

Anyway, that’ the kind of stuff I like to think about on such an otherwise ugly day!