Life is a Potluck Dinner

They liked it. :-)

It wasn’t actually dinner. It was the annual St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church picnic (aka Potluck); it would be held at the venue facility in Sailing Camp Park in Oak Bluffs, and would follow a traditional service. Set atop a bluff, the tastefully rustic building offers a spectacular view of Lagoon Pond, the new drawbridge, and Vineyard Haven Harbor in the distance. The day was bright and sunny; while we were there, a couple of ferries came and went, their gleaming white upper decks dotted with passengers, a statement that summer is almost here.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

I did not have a clue what to bring. I lost my ability/desire/call it whatever to cook sometime in the late 1980s. And for a Potluck? Argh. I usually resort to brownies. Or sugar cookies, if I can add M & M’s and stash some in the freezer.

But for such a beautiful day, I decided to push the nutritional envelope.

I found my answer on the Internet: Slice of Tomato; Slice of fresh Mozzarella; Sprig of fresh basil. Drizzle olive oil over all. Even I could do that.

But while I was assembling (can’t call it cooking) my “dish,” it occurred to me that these events are really like life: when you join any group, you never know what you’re going to get, but chances are, it won’t all be potato salad.

Starting a new job? Your co-workers will definitely be Potluck. Some sweet ones, some tangy, some who might not seem terrific but turn out amazing.

What about School? When I was a kid, every September was a Potluck: The only time I knew what would be at the table was in high school homeroom when the class was alphabetized. I could be fairly sure that Ray Barafauldi would sit in front of me and Molly Briggs would be behind me. (Back then my name began with a “B,” which you’ve probably figured.) My prediction was usually right unless there was a new kid in town or someone had moved away.

As I sliced the mozzarella, I realized that every time we step out in public we step into a Potluck. At the Post Office, the Library, the Supermarket . . . some people smile, some chat a bit; some hold up the line, others seem content to stay in their own little worlds.

But it all works, doesn’t it? The folks at the office, the kids in school, the people meandering around town: If we all were the same, things would be pretty boring. Especially if everyone was a novelist like me whose head lives in make-believe much of the time.

At the picnic yesterday, someone brought salad, someone brought meatballs, someone brought quiche; several brought desserts. I didn’t see any potato salad, but people seemed to enjoy my Tomato/Mozzarella/Basil/Olive Oil concoction. We all helped ourselves to the seemingly incongruous selections—some sweet, some tangy, most, amazing—and proceeded to revel in the cacophony of life.

But wait! I forgot the best part! At two minutes before the service was to start, the woman in charge of the altar things realized she’d forgotten the communion wine. For one horrified moment there seemed to be no answer. Then Father Chip’s gaze shifted to the assortment of desserts that awaited the after-service celebration. “We have red grapes!” he announced. “Fill up the Chalice!” Perfect. I guess there truly is everything one needs at the Potluck table.

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.

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.

Ship Ahoy

So I had this bright idea this morning.

I am heading off-island for Thanksgiving visits, and thought it would be cool to take an early morning shot of the harbor. It always looks so neat just before dawn, with tiny lights of fishing boats gliding across the water and day workers deboarding the ferry from the Cape with their lunch bags and tool boxes.

I didn’t expect the fog would have rolled in during the night.

What you see is, unfortunately, what you get. Or rather, what I get, for trying to fool Mother Nature.

Anyway, once I was on (it’s a smaller boat, Nantucket, this morning – thankfully, I was early so I didn’t have to tuck my car between cement walls, a fate that often happens to little cars like mine), daylight (not the sun) was peeking through, so I took a picture of Vineyard Haven harbor from the top deck, and also a quick one inside the lounge so you could see what life is like between here and there, the Vineyard and the mainland.

Unfortunately, my browser isn’t uploading more than one pic today. Perhaps it’s due to the free WiFi on the ferry. Argh! Sorry.

Happy Thanksgiving to all – I’ll return to blogging Friday, Dec. 2nd. And if you’re headed out of town, drive, fly, or ride safely!

Lunch – YUM

No Fast Food chains on the Vineyard…YAY!!!

I drove to Vineyard Haven to check out the line up of Halloween scarecrows (more about that next time), and along the beach road, there was this sign at Net Results (great seafood place).
Crab Cake sandwich? Like the poor little crab, I was hooked.

It was only 10:00a.m., but I stopped.
Ate my lunch at 10:15.
Worth every bite.
With a slice of tomato, a little lettuce, and a dash of secret sauce.
Not to mention the price.

Life on an island………Ahhhhhhhhh.

Top 10 Things to Do on a Rainy Day on the Vineyard

I have my own kind of Top 10 List. What to do when I’m bored. What to do when I’m happy. What to do when it’s sunny. Today’s selection is What to do when it’s raining, because it is absolutely pouring.
1. Go to the Edgartown Library!
2. Go to the movies.
3. Go to The Newes and sit by the fire with a bowl of soup.
4. Drive up island and look at the Gay Head Cliffs in the rain.
5. Go to the MV Museum.
6. Go to Chappy because it’s fun to be on the little ferry when the current is whipping this way and that.
7. Go to Vineyard Haven and watch the big ferry load and unload. (I admit it. I’m a little weird.)
8. Go to Chilmark and watch them make chocolates. (Then eat a bunch and get a massive sugar rush.)
9. Do laundry. (Bleccch. Can’t believe I said that.)
And the MOST fun thing to Do on a Rainy Day on the Vineyard
(you already guessed this from the picture):
Which is where I will be if you need me.