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.


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!

Santa is Coming! Santa is Coming!

Breaking news. The big guy is arriving on Cape Cod today via Coast Guard Cutter.

Don’t know how they handle it now, but years ago I recall that Santa boated into Falmouth Harbor, hopped into a red BMW convertible (top down), and trekked into town, tossing candy this way and that. It was great fun.

Next weekend, he comes to the Vineyard. Not sure how he gets here from Falmouth (the 6:15 boat? The 7:30? Or does he arrive via Cape Air?), but he’ll parade down Main Street in Edgartown to the harbor on Saturday morning to help celebrate the Christmas in Edgartown weekend.

Can’t wait for that. The whole weekend of December 9-11 has events galore – concerts and crafts fairs and special demonstrations at galleries and in shops; hot chocolate and cookies and, no doubt, clam chowder dressed up in holiday finery. Not to mention amazing gift shopping, if you’ll excuse me sounding like a TV spot.

But more on Christmas in Edgartown later. For now, please enjoy this shot of the freight boat, “Katama”, that I snapped last night at sunset when I headed back to the island from Woods Hole.

A Tree Grows…and Grows…on South Water St.

 It’s kind of a gray day, but I wanted to share this pic of the pagoda tree on South Water St.

Okay, so it’s a tree. But it’s no ordinary one.

It’s actually been here since 1837, when it was brought from China to Edgartown in a flower pot.
I did the math: that’s almost 175 years ago.

Imagine all the things this tree has witnessed – and survived: Hurricanes! Snowstorms! Tourists!

It’s believed to be the oldest of its species alive and well in North America today.

And, yes, it’s been trimmed more than a few times, and, from what I’m told, propped up here and there. In springtime, its buds are a sure sign of on-going, healthy growth; in summer its shade is welcome. In autumn it is beautiful; and in winter it stands tall and, well, not exactly straight, but at 175, I suppose few things do.

Anyway, in these days of here-today, gone-tomorrow, sometimes I think it’s cool to check out things that are just, well, solid.

Prettier than Fiction

No, this is not where I am staying.

But it is an amazing house…right on North Water Street in Edgartown – yes, that’s the harbor peeking on the side of the backyard.

It reminds me of Jill’s house (PLACES BY THE SEA, OFF SEASON), which, of course, I made up.

Or did I?

Anyway, this is indicative of the gorgeous, white, sea captains’ houses in the historic whaling village, complete with a famous widow’s walk on the roof. (Note: I’ve learned that a gloss white, oil-based paint is the norm for the exteriors of the Edgartown houses.)

Now for the good news: this one has a sign in the window reads: For Rent.

So if you’re looking for a great “cottage” for that summer vacation, look no further. This is the real deal.

Excitement at the Chappaquiddick Ferry

It was an interesting day. I was headed to Chappaquiddick for the Book Club meeting, which was to be complete with wonderful cider, pound cake, apple kuchen, and jellies and jams (2 of the women are cleaning out their refrigerators, getting ready to leave the island for the winter).

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Because the meeting starts at 10:15, I left my place at 9:15. I am staying a five-minute walk from the ferry, so one might think you could swim to Chappy faster. ☺

In the mornings, however, there’s always a good line due to construction workers and the smaller On Time ferry that I’ve mentioned before.

I was right: there was a line, but not too long. I expected to reach the (other) island early, which would be great. I could spend some time exploring!

I took my place behind a dump truck that had a small bulldozer on a trailer that was hitched to the back.

Turning off my engine, I surveyed the line: several pick up trucks and panel trucks driven by handsome young Brazilians. One of the drivers was singing what sounded like a beautiful ballad in Portuguese. (I thought it was a love song, and that he must have a lucky girlfriend.)

We waited. Every few minutes we moved up a little. I kept checking my watch. Plenty of time.

Until…until it nearly was my turn. And someone decided that the truck in front of me had to remove the bulldozer. Apparently the small ferry couldn’t hold both the dump truck and the bulldozer simultaneously.

A flurry of activity ensued. One of the workers started up the dozer, backed it off the ramp. There seemed to be some confusion about what to do with it. Several minutes later it was decided the dozer would cross to Chappy without its truck or trailer.

But wait! The story does not end there! (It’s really getting exciting, no? Okay, bear with me.)

The dump truck crossed sans dozer. We were next! The earthmover and me! For some reason, though, it took an extra long time for the unloading and reloading process on the other side. Finally, the ferry began its trek back toward Edgartown and us.

Then everything went really weird. The On Time headed south (which is not unusual to compensate for the strong current). Then it spun around. Not kidding it spun around.

I gulped. I began to reconsider my commitment to the Book Club.

Finally the On Time reached the dock. And the vehicles backed off the boat. “Oh, man,” I thought. “I can’t back up straight. If I have to do that, I am toast.”

Before I could change my mind, the dozer was ambling toward the ferry and I was being waved on. Yikes.

Long story short, I made it. I did however, unclip my seatbelt and rolled down my windows. If they were going to spin this thing I was going to be ready for a swim.

I did not need to worry. Turns out the spinning was because one of the trucks that boarded on the “other side” had needed to back off for a technical reason. I have no idea what the further explanation was. Anyway, there was no spinning on my trip.

I was, however, late for the Book Club meeting.

Town Meeting Tonight!

Town Meeting tonight! Town Meeting tonight!

When I was a kid, my family went to Cape Cod on vacation. I clearly remember going to Provincetown, where a Town Crier – dressed in colonial garb – marched through the streets, ringing a brass bell, making all kinds of important announcements. I can’t recall what he said, but I was mesmerized by him.

I keep looking for a Town Crier to march up and down Main Street in Edgartown now, telling all who can hear that tonight is the Town Meeting at the Whaling Church! (Where is a brass bell when I need one?) Anyway, I’m told that the meeting shall be a memorable experience.

And if the banner itself looks familiar…well, remember JAWS? A eerily similar banner was stretched across the street – practically the same location – announcing the 4th of July Celebration. Yikes. I hope no great whites show up tonight.

Halloween in Edgartown

Just when you thought it was safe to walk down Main Street in Edgartown…along come these fabulous, “frightening”, reminders of the season!

Each year the MV schoolkids create their own versions of scarecrows like the one seen here, and Medusa shown below. (They are judged and prizes follow!) The fun part is to see the awesome creativity behind all the entries. My favorite is a Tin Man – get it? A Tin Man as a scarecrow? Very funny. I couldn’t get a good picture of him, though. Sorry.

Oh, by the way, the Harvest Dinner was incredible. The Chilmark Community Center was packed with people. (It was more fun than the scene in my book, THE SUMMER HOUSE, when the town had to evacuate to the center because of a nasty hurricane.)

The pie was great. But so were the Wampanoag selections of venison chowder, cod with sage stuffing, “journey cakes” made from corn meal, and variations on recipes from this year’s abundant cranberry crop. Yum, indeed.

Best of all were the talks given by a couple of Wampanoag Elders about growing up on the the Vineyard, where their families were sustained by all the wonderful foods and shelter that the island has to offer. Great accompanying documentary film, too. Nice job, Slow Food folks!