Letters to the Editor
To the Editor:
As owner of the building which houses the Bunch of Grapes Bookstore, I would like to thank the incredible firefighters of Vineyard Haven, Oak Bluffs, and Edgartown for their outstanding work during the fire at my building. I also want to thank the police department, EMTs, and selectmen of Tisbury for their great work and support to the firemen and the other businesses in town.
My heart goes out to Austin Racine and Katrina Yekel for their loss of their new business at Cafe Moxie. I am overwhelmed and deeply appreciative of the outpouring of sympathy and support I've received from the entire Island community.
To the Editor:
Ten years ago Ann Nelson told me that my job as manager of Bunch of Grapes would be to 1) serve the community, 2) be there for our employees, and 3) to make money. For seven happy years, I tried to do just that. Along the way we won "Bookseller of the Year," something no other bookstore in a town with 5,000 residents has managed, for obvious reasons.
So, with the fire still burning, I feel the need to thank Ann and Jon, her son and successor as owner of the store. I want to thank her for the opportunity she gave my family to move to the Vineyard and to be of some small service to the community here. I have many memories of the store I will always treasure, and I know I am not alone in that. I'm sure Ann and Jon have barely begun to think about what the future holds, but it feels like an era has come to an end.
Bunch of Grapes was a truly exceptional store. Very few owners would have retained their commitment to selling books first and foremost in the era of superstores and the Internet. I used to hear complaints about the prices, but the truth is the store paid big city rents year-round, paid its employees better than most mainland stores (I know, I managed three independents and three different Borders), but only had big city sales for three months of the year. And that's not to mention the many donations and sponsorships the store happily gave to various Island institutions.
The Nelsons could have found many ways to make more money, but they retained their commitment to providing the Island with the best bookstore finances allowed. And I thank them for that every bit as much as I thank them for the personal opportunity they gave me.
Ann, Jon, we all share your pain. Thank you.
To the Editor:
First call 911, then grab the fire extinguisher. Never try to put the fire out yourself, without first calling for help.
To the Editor:
This is an open letter to Keith Lockhart, Boston Pops Orchestra members, and absolutely every one else connected with the Boston Pops organization,
Katie, Todd, and I are still absolutely aglow from our incredible experience with you over the past month. We feel we have a collection of marvelous new friends, and we miss you all already. We very much look forward to seeing you all again in August here on Martha's Vineyard.
First of all, as active members of a local nonprofit (Bravencore, http://bravencore.org/index.html ) that supports and fundraises for the Martha's Vineyard Regional High School performing arts department, we thank you for conceiving of and executing the Pops High School Sing-Off. This event is a fabulous way to provide opportunity and inspiration to High School students involved in the arts, as well as highlighting the importance and value of the arts to all students in our public schools. At a time when so many public schools across the nation are struggling to preserve arts departments in the face of budget cuts, having the professional arts community reach out and support the upcoming generation is especially important. Your event also brought together a large group of particularly talented and motivated kids who had an amazing experience meeting and working with each other. None of them will ever forget their experience, and I think some long-term friendships were forged.
Secondly, you were without exception a wonderfully kind, friendly, helpful, supportive, and inspiring collection of people. You provided wonderful role models to all the kids who made it onto Symphony Hall stage over the past month. For many of them I am sure it was a first personal exposure to the best in our nation's arts community, and for them to experience your kindness, dignity, caring, and awesome talent and dedication was every bit as important as the chance to win some recognition for themselves.
Finally, I thank you for the incredible experience my own child had with your organization. The growth I saw in her over the past month - artistically, emotionally, socially, as well as in her self esteem and belief in her self and her gift, has been priceless. The doors for her future that have been opened through the opportunity and recognition you provided are invaluable. Thank you each for being who you are, and for sharing yourselves with us.
Gabbing and driving
To the Editor:
In one day, I was almost crashed into twice and came as close to being run over once as I care to be. All three incidents had one thing in common, the drivers of the vehicles were on the phone.
I am not a fan of the distracted driver laws that target just cell phone users, but I think that if common sense shows itself to not be working then perhaps a few well placed citations would. Driving while using the phone is all too common and for the most part a harmless, if not foolish, way to drive one's car. But there are a few places on this Island where a driver's undivided attention is needed. Five Corners in Vineyard Haven, the blinking light at Barnes Road, and most streets in downtown Oak Bluffs require more than average attention to avoid an accident.
Crossing in a crosswalk is usually safe enough with most drivers being courteous and obeying the law requiring yielding to pedestrians. But my near miss as a pedestrian in a crosswalk came from a local driver gabbing merrily away on her cell phone and who only stopped when she was clear across the marked pedestrian zone, because she could see me out her passenger side window (owing to the position her head was in while talking on the phone).
My company is here on the Island to enhance communications, but I would like to think that the people who are going to be customers make it home safe and sound each day and engage in common sense use of their access to enhanced technology. When misused, every tool of progress becomes a thing of destruction.
We all have a stake in each other's safety. And besides, the towns can raise some quick, hard currency by enforcing the hands-free law at busy intersections. Based on the number of people who violate this one law, any town could balance their budget by the end of the week.
A missing necklace
To the Editor:
Hello, my name is Elizabeth Blom, I'm from Somerset, and I'd like to tell you my story. On Sunday, June 29, I went to Martha's Vineyard with a few friends. We rented mopeds, which at first I was scared to go on. We stopped to go to the beach, and I took my necklace off so the salt and sand wouldn't ruin it. We put it in the glove compartment of the moped. When we were done at the beach we took off for our next destination. It took us a good 10 minutes on mopeds to get there, but when we got there we noticed my bracelet that I also took off was hanging out the bottom of the compartment. When we opened it my necklace was gone. No one else seemed to care, because no one wanted to backtrack to try to look for it.
Now, this necklace means a lot to me because my first boyfriend gave it to me four years ago. It was my first gift from him. We broke up, and I still kept it, and now we're talking again. This necklace meant the world to me, not because of face value, but it had a lot of sentimental value.
So I went the whole day and didn't find my necklace. I really wanted it, so two days later, Tuesday, July 1, I drove by myself all the way to Woods Hole, took the bus to the ferry and the ferry to the Island all by myself. When I got there, I walked to the beach looked around there, then kept walking to our next spot. The walk took about two hours, and I walked on the side of the road with the dirt, sand, and grass. I got there and didn't find my necklace.
I was going to take the bus back, but instead I walked all the way back to double check. I still didn't find my necklace.
I'm writing this story because if you have my necklace or you know who has it or you come across it, I would really like it back. My journey started at Oak Bluffs beach and ended at the Chappy ferry. If you come across a white gold necklace with three white diamonds, hold on to it for me. If you have it or know where it is, can you give me a call at 508-679-8120. I would greatly appreciate it.
Time for you to step forward
To the Editor:
To the person who backed their vehicle into my MG convertible Wednesday evening, July 2, at Atria restaurant in Edgartown - I hope that you read this letter and contact me. Given the amount of damage to my car, you surely must have known that you struck something on your way out of the lot; it wasn't exactly a knick.
I would like you to know two things. First, I took note of the nearby cars when I parked, and second, I acquired patron information from the restaurant for that evening (the reservation list, credit card information, etc.) and have forwarded it to the Edgartown police. It might take some time, but it would certainly be better for you to come forward beforehand.
But what really, really bothers me about this irresponsible and unkind act is that I had only recently acquired this car, which was a classic car in mint condition before you hit it. It was a gift from my mother. She died six months ago, at an early age, of cancer. She had received the car when her mother died, at an early age, of cancer. Do you see where I am going with this? It is a very sentimental car.
To come out of the restaurant and see it smashed up completely destroyed me. I am shocked that you (or someone else in your party) didn't think the right thing to do was to leave a note. Suffice it to say that you have made a very painful situation even more heartbreaking.
Me? I would not have made the same decision that you did. No way. I classify myself somewhere between an optimist and a pessimist. My view is that the world is flawed, but capable of being improved. In other words, I believe the world tends to become better and people aid its betterment. I hope you read this and see good reason to make things better.
To the Editor:
We'd like to publicly thank Tri-Town Ambulance, the Chilmark Police, the U.S. Coast Guard, and the emergency room staff at Martha's Vineyard Hospital for their speedy, professional, and compassionate response when our son was injured in a boating accident last week.
We are grateful that our son's injuries turned out to be less serious than feared, and we are grateful for all the excellent care he received on the dock in Menemsha, during the transfer to Martha's Vineyard Hospital, and in the emergency room. We wish to extend our deepest, most heartfelt appreciation to all came to our assistance.
Jeremy and Jeanette Driesen
To the Editor:
The article that was written on the Farm Neck Cafe [Martha's Vineyard Times, June 22, 2006] mentions that the bread was served with a topinod. The word is spelled tapinade.
Otherwise a great article, and I plan to try the restaurant out.
Ways to save
To the Editor:
Instead of complaining about the high cost of gasoline, Americans would save money, oil, and the environment if they would drive under 60 mph; walk, bike, bus or train to destinations; use cloth shopping bags rather than plastic or paper; drink free tap water rather than water in plastic bottles.
Joseph Sequeira Vera
Oak Bluffs and Cambridge
Monte will be missed
To the Editor:
Thursday, the Island lost a true gentleman when Monte Pearse passed peacefully away.
Never have I been more privileged to call a man my friend. Monte was genuinely a fine fellow who always greeted me with an enthusiastic smile and an attentive moment to ask about how I was doing. You could always count on him for that.
Some people just balance out the world with who they are. Monte gave you hope and faith in people when the world was pulling opinion the other way. Just by being Monte, he made it okay to believe in something better.
We were not close buddies, but I frequently ran into him around Tisbury and somehow I can't shake the feeling that the hole he has left will remain empty. Monte inspired me to live a better life, love a little more, stop a bit more frequently and laugh a little more deeply. I couldn't help feeling that the sun shone a little dimmer after being told of his passing. But I bet if we look at the stars tonight, that we'd swear they looked just a little bit brighter.
To you, Monte. To a life well lived indeed.
Signs of agreement
To the Editor:
It was gratifying to see the number of hands raised in the peace sign as I marched with the contingent of the Martha's Vineyard Peace Council in the annual July 4 parade.
War is not the answer; we need to give peace a chance.
Let the doctor in
To the Editor:
I think it is terrible that the administration of the Martha's Vineyard Hospital refuses to let Dr. Richard Koehler perform operations at the hospital. He is very much needed back here. He has many patients here that have to travel back and forth off-Island. It would be nice to be able to stay on the Island.
To the Editor:
I would like to thank the community that came out to support the visiting Tibetan Drepung Loseling Monks.
The patience and guidance of Jim Novack and ProtekMV insured the two-hour performance at the MVPAC was professional and well run. I'm sure those who attended the four days of sand mandala construction will never forget it.
The Universal Unitarian Church in Vineyard Haven offered heartfelt hospitality and support; hosting meals and offering shelter. Many businesses and individuals contributed food and good wishes, I thank them all.
An Island resident presented the delegation with an antique religious relic that was smuggled out of Tibet long ago. These extraordinary monks chanted blessings in homes, gardens, and studios. Public Radio conducted interviews, Plum TV did an extensive segment. For some reason MVY Radio refused all public service announcement requests. What a shame. All that participated were rewarded with so much.
Thanks to the Island for opening your hearts to these men who are struggling to maintain their Tibetan culture and traditions while exiled in India and Nepal.
For more information, go to their website, www.mysticalartsoftibet.org.
An asset for students
This is a copy of a letter sent to Jacques Gagnon, trustee of the Alexandra MM Gagnon Foundation.
As the second year of the Martha's Vineyard Regional High School's Peer Outreach Program comes to a close, I wanted to again thank you for providing the school with the funding to make this program a growing success.
In September 2007, we recruited 37 new student participants and four new teachers. After two years, we have trained a total of 78 students and eight teachers to be Peer Outreach workers.
This year the training component of the Peer Outreach Program included a two-day Adventure Based Counseling program with included elements on the Ropes Course; our introductory two-day training for new participants that was facilitated by 10 seniors; a workshop conducted by Women's Support Services; a stress management workshop; and a suicide prevention workshop.
This year we added a community service component to the program. We encouraged students to volunteer when several opportunities presented themselves to us. In December, more than 20 Peer Outreach participants volunteered with the Red Stocking Fund, helping to wrap gifts for needy children, we have two student representatives on the Duke's County Youth Task Force and two other representatives on a steering committee with Women's Support Services. Several senior students were asked to facilitate discussions with the Oak Bluff School's Anti-Bullying Congress (which is a student group modeled after our Peer Outreach Program). Within our own school, the Peer Outreach group facilitated the tours for all the 8th graders who will be incoming freshman in September; and we were also asked, by our school administration, to provide tours for the Vice Principal candidates.
In addition to our ongoing recruitment, we also have plans for the fall to work with the Martha's Vineyard Mediation Group, The Alexandra Gagnon Teen Center, and the Oak Bluffs School.
The enthusiasm and willingness of our young participants has allowed this program to gain an overwhelming positive reputation not only within our school community but also within the Martha's Vineyard community as a whole.
Thank you again for your support with this program. It is clear to me that this program has been an asset to our current student population, and I look forward to offering it to students for many years to come.
School Adjustment Counselor
Martha's Vineyard Regional High School
Poor pay for subs
To the Editor:
The AARP sent an email to us retirees inviting our responses concerning how these harsh economic times are impacting on us seniors. This was my personal response.
As a 77-year-old woman, who retired to her family summer house in 1995, here on Martha's Vineyard, after a 30-year teaching career, with pension plus rental income, I imagined myself to be comfortably off. Unfortunately, not so.
I supplement my income by operating my own home as a guesthouse during the summer months chiefly on weekends, and by substitute teaching at Martha's Vineyard Regional High School. Both of these activities I thoroughly enjoy.
The last three years I find myself fearful of raising my loyal tenants' rents, as with their own ever-rising heating costs, they might be compelled to leave. Yet despite my stagnant income, my own costs for insurance, real estate taxes, repairs etc. are skyrocketing. In effect, I am subsidizing my tenants at my own expense. Not good economic sense, but the old adage, " A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush" comes to mind.
To add to this dismal state of affairs we regular substitute teachers, on whom the school depends to replace staff members - who are ill, have personal days, attend conferences, take sport teams off-Island for games or go on trips, etc. - have not seen an increase in our lowly per diem pay for 10 years. This is outrageous since nowadays, our own students working at Stop and Shop or even menial laborers make more per hour than we currently do. So much for our advanced degrees in teaching, social work, law or engineering, or whatever skills and experience we bring to the Island school system. State-qualified substitutes receive $75 per diem; out-of-state receive $70. We arrive by 7:30 am and leave just after 2 pm. Most teachers provide us with definite plans for the day, but sometimes we must improvise. Students enjoy challenging substitute staff since we lack the power to influence their grades.
Those of us retirees who choose to substitute teach enjoy the school ambiance, the students and the hardworking regular staff. The adage "You can take the teacher out of the class, but never the class out of the teacher" strikes a chord for me personally.
However, recently a former Brazilian teacher now a gas station attendant suggested, upon learning my lowly pay, a mere $58 per diem, after deductions, that I join him pumping gas. Cleaning ladies receive at least $25 per hour.
We retirees are also doubly penalized for Medicare costs. We are obliged to pay independently for it yet the school system also deducts daily for the same service. Is this not government double-dipping?
I have just learned from a Toronto Ontario friend with whom I formerly taught, that today substitute teachers there receive $230 per diem. This in spite of the cost of providing socialized medicine for all of its citizens and newcomers, the province is still able to offer a living salary to its substitute teachers, and with the Canadian dollar at par with our U.S.
Many of our Island retired professionals such as myself are now being compelled to leave their beloved homes here for less expensive sites, as costs rise way above their fixed pension incomes.
When our school superintendent tells me that we lack funding to raise substitute salaries, yet offers substantial raises to his administrative staff, it gives one cause to ponder. When President Bush promotes his "No child left behind" mandate, yet those of us responsible when regular staff are absent, receive such a niggardly pittance, it tends to make cynics of us all.
As a former member of the middle class, with two masters degrees, and a principals' qualifications from the largest province in Canada, Ontario, plus 30 years experience behind me, I am humiliated and embarrassed at the shabby treatment we subs receive by our own school administration .
Without us substitutes all extra-curricular activities would cease, regular staff would have to forfeit their preparation time to replace ill, or otherwise absent, members. The teachers' union would be outraged, yet to date, after a miserly previous $40 per diem pay, these last 10 years has seen no augmentation of substitute teacher pay. We obviously suffer from benign neglect.
My son-in-law suggests that it is the economic law of supply and demand. During the winter months, when jobs are scarce here, similar to the plight of migrant workers who accept without question pitiful recompense for their labor and are exploited, so too are we!
We need that bookstore
To the Editor:
When I originally came to the Vineyard, looking to establish myself, a sense of connectedness, I was fortunate enough in 1989 to be employed by Ann Nelson, at her Bunch of Grapes Bookstore. While the pay wasn't great, the atmosphere was highly charged. Along with Ms. Nelson, there were her wonderful parents, the Littlefields, her son Jon, and Dailis Merrill, the store's buyer, himself an Island institution of books and learning.
Not only did they run a first-class bookstore, they also made you feel like you were welcome in a place where people were important, special. Ann would greet anyone from the local residents to visiting vacationers to her very distinguished authors/guests/friends with the same warm, "How you doing..." and very infectious smile, and often a big hug. It was a place where I looked forward to going to work, and where customers usually found something quite satisfying. There was a good feeling in the Bunch of Grapes.
I was working there in 1990, when my one and only child was born, and was rewarded with the day off, and a beautiful bouquet of flowers and card from Ann and the rest of the staff. It's one of the few times in my life that I can recall receiving flowers. Two years later, in 1992, when Hurricane Bob struck the Island so fiercely, I was still a grape in the bunch on the vine. I remember showing up for work just before noon the day the storm was due to hit, only to find other employees boarding and taping up windows, removing the store's beautiful handcrafted sign from over the doors, and being told that we were shutting down. You knew that there was imminent danger, because Bunch of Grapes hardly ever closed its doors. On major holidays, yes. And natural disasters, snow storms, hurricanes, yes. But it was otherwise always open, usually seven days a week, as a beacon of life on an otherwise often dark and deserted Main Street. If you happened to be in Vineyard Haven, or if you weren't and you had nothing else to do, no place else to go, you could count on the bookstore being open, often until 9-9:30 pm, its windows bright, good music playing, and of course all of the books, cards, newspapers, etc. that make all of our lives special.)
Now the Bunch of Grapes Bookstore will be closed indefinitely. Hopefully, the lights won't be out, the music silenced for too long. It appears that the fate of Cafe Moxie will be much more catastrophic. Time will only, in its own way, answer these questions.
The tragedy of the Fourth of July fire, as a writer and a lover of books, was a personal and private loss for me. My sense of mourning and loss of course extends first to the Nelson family. But as a community the Island has lost, and hopefully only for a short time, an institution, a foundation of learning, culture, and, yes, commerce, from which we all benefited.
I was alerted to the fire around 10:30 am on Friday morning by my dear friend Elise, who I happened to have met years ago at Bunch of Grapes. There was a tone of foreboding in her voice as she informed me that she wouldn't be heading to Vineyard Haven from her up-Island home that day because she wanted to avoid the "big fire." She didn't have more specific information and hung up to finish serving breakfast to her guests. Because my now 18-year-old daughter had spent the evening in Vineyard Haven at a friend's house and hadn't called me at the appointed hour (18-year-olds do that), my sense of concern and anxiety increased. I had a cosmic sense that something was very wrong, that the rest of the day might somehow be disturbing. Then I heard the horrible news on WMVY.
Fortunately, my child soon called, having overslept, and I was summoned to Vineyard Haven to pick her up. When I passed over the bridge from Oak Bluffs heading into Vineyard Haven, I could see the smoke rising. Once I reached Five Corners, I could smell it. What should have been one of the best days for business became one of surrealistic horror. Instead of the happy sounds of cash registers ringing and holiday celebrants bringing the much-needed business, most merchants closed and darkened their shops and left town in what had to be a state of shocked disbelief.
Later that day, unable to contain my mounting curiosity, I charted my daily bike ride through Vineyard Haven and witnessed firsthand the scarred remains of the Cafe Moxie, a diminished and demolished heap of smoking rubble slowly and methodically being loaded into a huge dumpster. What was left for stunned onlookers was the scarred and severely damaged side wall of the bookstore. Despite severe smoke and water damage, the fate of Bunch of Grapes is somewhat less devastating than that of the restaurant. At least, blessings be cursed, they have a shell of a structure from which to begin what hopefully will be its rebirth.
There's rarely a way to explain tragedy, to understand why, make sense out of it all. I guess perhaps there are lessons to be learned by default, and challenges to our sense of resolve and goodness that are called to the fore by this horrible sort of thing. On Independence Day. Our national birthday.
I only hope that the Nelson family, the town of Tisbury/Vineyard Haven, and the Island community at large, locally and beyond, will band together to restore this bedrock of culture and commerce, one which so much of the downtown area depends on and has for so long benefitted from and been interconnected to.
Vineyard Haven has a long history of fires of this sort, the list of which is a subject for another story on another day. For me personally, my spirit will indefinitely be scarred by what I witnessed on July 4. But the goodness that the Bunch of Grapes Bookstore gave to all of us will inspire and inform the initiatives towards its rebirth. This community needs this bookstore dearly.