Authors Posts by Holly Nadler

Holly Nadler

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It's wedding season, a time for love stories on Martha's Vineyard.

“A Martha’s Vineyard Love Story,” by Kathleen McGhee-Anderson and Skip Finley. $19.95 at Howasswee Shop, Aquinnah; Edgartown Books, Edgartown; and book-signing events. amvlovestory.com.

“Reunited: When the Past Becomes a Present,” by Ann Vincola Votta. Paperback, 242 pages. $11.62 from Amazon.com, reunitedalovestory.com, and appearing soon in Island bookstores.  

A whole bunch of famous, colossally successful writers have never been able to write great characters of the opposite gender. For instance (let’s just say it without getting into a fistfight), Hemingway, Robert B. Parker, and, oh dear, we need a woman — shall we put forward Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, or is Frankenstein perhaps the best male character of all time?

Closer to home, Vineyard and Venice (California) screenwriter Kathleen McGhee-Anderson had an idea for a love story set over the past 50-odd summers amid the elite African-American community of Oak Bluffs. She knew she could bring to life the female protagonist without a hitch, but decided to go for the gold of the male point of view, and asked her friend Skip Finley, writer and media exec, summer visitor to the Island since 1955 and year-round Oak Bluffs resident since 1999, to tell it like it is for the young man of the saga.

Thus was a great collaboration born.

The story begins in the iconic Summer of Love of 1967 when the Four Tops sang, “I’m standing in the shadows of love, I’m getting ready for the heartaches to come.” Dale Eden, student radical, is dragged kicking and screaming to Martha’s Vineyard for the valid purpose — or so say her parents — of extracting her from the perils of “the Movement.” But there’s a major glitch to her parents’ plans: Kaylan Warner, bad boy extraordinaire, a cocky New Yorker with Island roots, is no one’s idea of a good match for the gorgeous and good Dale.

Nor are the fates so hot on the idea.

As much as Dale and Kaylan share a deep-down-to-the-bone passion for each other, other attachments, and family pressure, and life itself — that thing that famously happens when we’re making other plans — all combine to throw a spanner into the works. Through ’72, when the Temptations have “sunshine on a cloudy day,” all the way through the Stylistics’ “Betcha by golly, wow!” of the early 2000s, the reader is rooting for these two star-crossed lovers to put on their aprons and start acting like Donna Reed and Robert Young setting up house together, only with both of them bearing briefcases.

It fell to McGhee-Anderson originally to sketch out the clever plot. Both writers provide vivid characters and winning descriptions of the Vineyard: “It was already warm that morning, you could smell the hot sun on the tar, the gentle salty breeze coming off the Nantucket Sound, the newly cut grass and something indefinable, maybe the wild roses that were starting to bud on the trellis outside.” (McGhee-Anderson). “Most of the Gold Coast neighborhood houses (the Cottage City part of town) had been built in the late 1800s. None had air conditioning but with the windows open on a hot night you could catch enough of a breeze for them to be tolerable.” (Finley).

Not surprisingly, the lady author sets the tone for romance while the gentleman, whom most of us know from his irreproachable Oak Bluffs town column for the Gazette, unleashes a new hot rapper side to his writing, with sizzling language for the libidinous Kaylan. When his co-author asked for male input, she got it in spades.

You can buy copies of “A Martha’s Vineyard Love Story” at Edgartown Books while supplies last. Over the course of the past summer, Mr. Finley and Ms. McGhee-Anderson held several book signings at Cousen Rose Gallery in Oak Bluffs. Watch for it next summer, when a second printing will deliver the best beach read to be set on these shores in a long time.

Reunited

There’s a second tale of romance, this one a memoir, entitled “Reunited: When the Past Becomes a Present” by Ann Vincola Votta, about two kids turning to grownups, also with summer ties to the Vineyard, who meet and greet over and over again until at last all roadblocks are cleared and these original high school sweethearts are, well, as the title says, reunited.

The story behind the Vincola/Votta nuptials was juicy enough to make it into the wedding-announcements section of the New York Times. Ann and Alan met in 1956 as 7th  graders in Yonkers, N.Y. They were popular kids with a promising future ahead of them; Ann — for reasons having something to do with a cute boy in her freshman class at college — broke it off with Alan in 1961. That would have been the end of that, had they not rediscovered each other, thanks to the sleuthing wonders of Facebook. As they hooked up again decades later, they found themselves more in love than ever. They triangulated this love on a Charleston to Martha’s Vineyard to Sarasota loop, and tied the knot, which should have been wound up tight back in the ’60s, in March 2010.

At the very least, “Reunited” is a morality tale about sticking with the one you love back in the day. Alan, shaken and stirred by Ann’s sudden breakup, made a pair of disastrous choices in the marriage department. Ann’s one marriage was less than amiable. Both have children, with greater and lesser degrees of parenting success, and family mismanagement runs strong in both their stories. On a more favorable front, both made gains in their professional lives, Ann with a master’s in administration, and with an antiques store on M.V. called Tisbury, and Alan as a franchise owner and a naval officer.

For everyone who enjoys happy endings (and that category may consist of the whole of the human race), “Reunited” is a memoir to take on vacation when the weather forecast is none too bright and you neglected to pack your full-spectrum lamp; that’s how much it might cheer you up.

For two car-deficient broads to burn rubber on Beach Road?

Holly Nadler with her son Charlie, standing; Trina Mascott (Holly's mom) behind the wheel of the Fiat Cinquecento. (Photos by Michael Cummo)

As a citizen of Martha’s Vineyard, I live car-free. I avoid the term car-less because that implies a lack. Homeless, brainless, like that. Ever since the fall of 2001, when my yellow Dodge Dart died and I put it on the barge of defunct junk that leaves the Packer wharf, I have cycled and ridden the buses, and I walk. I walk a lot.

Holly on the Cinquecento.
Holly on the Cinquecento.

It helps that I don’t go out much. Tell me about a wonderful potluck supper in Chilmark with Venetian maskmakers and Tanzanian giraffe wranglers, and I’ll suddenly recall I’ve got to read Chapter 7 of “The Brothers Karamazov,” a book I’ve been meaning to revisit since my sophomore year in college, and that I’ll probably re-finish during my last gasps at Windemere.

So when my mother comes to stay for her month of sea breezes after the scorched-earth policy of a Palm Desert August, she mostly falls in with my plan of living la vie sans voiture. But alas, this 94-year-old woman still lusts after a car, specifically a car with herself in the driver’s seat, so she can chew up the macadam like the little old lady from Pasadena — cue the Beach Boys: She drives real fast and she drives real hard, she’s the terror of Colorado Boulevard.

The only reason she’s spared speeding tickets is that cops are beguiled by the date of birth itemized on her license. “This can’t be your age!” they guffaw, forgetting she just whizzed through a stop sign, and moreover, clunked it hard enough to turn it the wrong way.

During our first few summers together, my mom begged, borrowed, and even rented cars from people hoping to sell but willing instead to take the short money.

Surviving the drive, near the Inkwell.
Surviving the drive, near the Inkwell.

But now that I live smack in the middle of Oak Bluffs, it’s easy to walk everywhere, and to catch the bus below Ocean Park, and be driven to worlds beyond worlds. For a while now my mother has bided her vacation time without any car whatsoever, until —

Until last weekend when her grandson Charlie, now living in New York, proposed a 23-hour furlough to come see her. Suddenly we had to rent a car. A car you could hug — my own stipulation — a Smart car, a Mini Cooper, a go-cart. My mom paid a call to that rental place at Five Corners and came up with — ta dah! — a Fiat Cinquecento.

We knew these cars from 1960 when our family lived in Rome and everyone-but-everyone had a Cinquecento. Think of an automobile smaller than a VW Bug. Now picture 9 million of these things buzzing around the Piazza del Popolo at one o’clock in the afternoon. And what happened if you crossed over to the next piazza — the one with the fettucine Alfredo joint? Same thing; another 9 million Cinquecenti.

Once, as we entered a tiny cobbled lane in the ancient city, a gray Cinquecento swooped past us close enough to flatten our toes. My dad lifted his right foot and kicked a hole in the rear flank of the car. The driver screeched to a stop, got out, and made the customary death threats. My dad hustled us into a shop of Florentine leather goods, down the basement steps, up a ladder, and into the safety of an alley with drifts of people’s laundry.

So what did we do this past weekend with this white Cinquecento, with a top that peeled down, insuring a cannoli-sized tan on our heads? Also on the funky side, the drive gear gave us an illusory frisson of wielding a stick shift: As the car rolled, the engine whined like a manual transmission’s, so we tapped the gear. The engine smoothed, until five seconds later it required another tappity-tap-tap. (Later, when Charlie arrived, he demonstrated a place where the drive gear could hang out on full automatic.)

Italian engineering! Cue “Volare”: Nel blu dipinto di blu tap tap!

So what did we do? Errands! A run to the Tisbury Farm Market for Marvin Jones’s guacamole! A dash to the library to return books! Come night, we scanned the paper for a movie: nothing of interest to anyone who’d made it by hook or by crook out of the ninth grade. But what’s this? A Buddhist speaker at the Yoga Barn in Chilmark?!

Off we went. My mom tried to bluster her way out of removing her shoes. I blew my cool by revealing to all and sundry that we decided on this talk for lack of a good movie.

By Day Two, car ownership — however temporary — lost its magic. We drove to Edgartown to dine at the Seafood Shanty, found NOT ONE parking spot, not even way-the-heck down on South Water Street, nor under the shaggy magnolia of an unused church parking lot. Back we circled to the edge of town. We enjoyed a stop ‘n shop at the — golly! what a coincidence — Stop ‘n Shop, before looping up to the airport to collect Charlie (I could swear my mom negotiated the roundabout with her eyes closed).

It was, admittedly, a treat to drive to Vineyard Haven for our last-ever dinner at the soon-to-be-closing Le Grenier. The next morning we “wasted” our car by walking to breakfast at Beetlebung in Oak Bluffs. After that we drove Signore CinqueC. to East Chop to pay respects to our past which includes, over the fence from our old house, the burial spot for our old trusty cocker spaniel.

We dropped Charlie at the ferry, where I restrained myself from wrapping my arms around his ankle as he shuffled off to the boat.

Our final pilgrimage took us to the sweeping view beyond the West Chop Lighthouse where my mom and dad, when they used to visit in the fall, renting both a Tashmoo condo and some clunker car, came to sit and stare at the Sound, the whole time discussing what they’d have for lunch.

Was it worth it? The use of a car that enabled us to do a gazillion things in 48 hours? You bet! But once the novelty wore off, the nuisance factor kicked in: parking, gas, traffic, parking. Two days of driving every 12 months is really all you need to feel truly alive.

Now where did I put “The Brothers Karamazov”?

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The green table came from a friend's storage unit, which Holly then, "painted, stenciled, sanded and left outside for two years; [the] chairs I set out for free in front of A Gallery, painted and put new cushions on them." — Michael Cummo

For those of us who’ve lived a thousand lives in this single lifetime, moved a thousand times, identified more with Bedouin wanderers than, let’s just say, my Grandma Olga who never moved from her house at 12 DuMerle Street in Lowell, we discover that each new abode means empty rooms. And chances are, because we nomads give away more stuff than we ever take in (how else to stay mobile?), each new domicile means we’ll be begging, buying, and borrowing new household gear.

Holly's bedroom, composed mostly of an antique bedframe, a refurbished dresser and a carpet from the Campground flea market.
Holly’s bedroom, composed mostly of an antique bedframe, a refurbished dresser and a carpet from the Campground flea market.

This peripatetic lifestyle goes hand-in-hand with a tight budget. Super-rich people may travel far and wide on their private jets, but they also own property, and whether or not this includes a villa in Antigua, an apartment at One Hyde Square, and a castle in the Inner Hebrides, this real estate is a fancy ball-and-chain. No way can a person in this position feel the sheer wanderlust of the holy fool who starts fresh with each new home.

And that’s where thrift shops, with all their offshoots — yard sales, friends-and-family giveaways, free stuff dumped at the side of the road — come into play.

If you’ve lived in the same place for more than seven years, if you collect and collect and rarely unload any of your domestic goods, and if, moreover, you’ve got forgotten junk in storage (and part of a nomad’s credo is that every item of any value should be used by someone and never tucked away to gather dust), or if — in the most extreme cases — you’re one of those bona fide hoarders, then you’ll fail to grasp how those of us caught up in a migratory lifestyle can sell for cheap or give away our goods like passing out bags of Oysterettes at a clam chowder festival.

But that’s what we do.

The green table came from a friend's storage unit, which Holly then, "painted, stenciled, sanded and left outside for two years; [the] chairs I set out for free in front of A Gallery, painted and put new cushions on them."
The green table came from a friend’s storage unit, which Holly then, “painted, stenciled, sanded and left outside for two years; [the] chairs I set out for free in front of A Gallery, painted and put new cushions on them.”
Here are a few of the scores of articles that over the decades I’ve relinquished:

— My great-Aunt Bertha’s monstrously heavy wooden box of silver wear. The year was 1974, I was leaving New York to return to L.A. to live with a boyfriend, a Beverly Hills lawyer, with whom I’d last for one measly month. I was romantic enough to stash all my belongings inside a wooden trunk. This came in handy when the guy sent me and my Siamese cat packing from his über-conventional ranch house in the Valley.

— An upright Wurlitzer piano bought for $1,800 from a dealer in Falmouth who shipped it to us in East Chop. When my son’s piano lessons ended as he left for college, and the buyers of our house offered a chiseling $400 for the Wurlitzer, I donated it to a Brazilian pastor. He and two parishioners loaded it into a station wagon, which sagged heavily as it bumped from our driveway.

— A queen bed given to me by an heiress girlfriend, with the best mattress I’ve ever slept on, and a princess-y frame of porcelain-and-brass. I donated it to friends who bought a vast Victorian manor, as I set off to a tiny apartment over my bookstore where the bedroom could fit a double bed at best.

— A Picasso ceramic pitcher acquired in ’71 from the master’s studio in St. Paul du Vence. A few years back I sold it on eBay for $1,000 — I needed the do-re-mi.

Get the idea? “You can’t take it with you!” ain’t just for the journey beyond the grave; for the authentic nomad it applies to each and every move that he or she makes.

Mother Nature created a small percentage of us this way. This nutty. This carpe diem-y.

So here are some of the thrift store — and cousins-of-thrift-store — finds I’ve cobbled together for my current apartment in the old deconsecrated Oak Bluffs library, with mansard ceilings and a loft-like ambience, with windows framing gingerbread cottages and luscious gardens. Two steps lead down to an ample bedroom and a dormer bumped out to support high, south-facing windows:

— A pale green dining table with stenciled pink flowers, distressed to a fare-thee-well, its antique French provincial quality cultivated by leaving it outdoors for two years.

— A small table painted with a pastoral scene of sheep, farmhouse, and the ocean, with decorative curly-cue clouds; this precious item picked up for $25 at the Vineyard Haven Thrift Shop, may God bless it for all time.

— A small, sea-foam-green breakfront with glass doors in which only one pane is missing: I sweet-talked it away from a friend in the midst of de-clutttering his Chappy farmhouse.

— An antique scroll-bed bought from a collectibles dealer who decamped before I realized the frame was too small for a modern mattress. I’ve got a regular double mattress squashed down into it, with bungie cords to keep the frame from pulling apart.

For the nomadic decorator, the key tool is an electric sander: Take an elderly item of furniture — an end table, a chair, a desk — paint it any color, sand it to bring out the pentimento hues of times past, as well as lovely wood grains that provide a marble patina, and Bob’s your uncle: all your furniture will be gorgeous.

And, of course, anyone can enjoy thrift shop and yard sale charm without having to pack up the camel and move every three years. There is always a need to replace, refresh, fill in with some new, funky old item (not forgetting sander and paintbrush).

These venues are gold mines of whimsical lamps, gently used slow cookers, baskets and boxes for attractive storage right out in the open, and beautiful throw rugs such as the six- by four-foot carpet I recently found at the Campground flea market, a little girl’s dreamscape of a cut-out doll with tabbed apparel right down to Sunday school frock, overalls, and skirted swimsuit.

I like it better than the Picasso pitcher I sold on eBay and I’m still $955 ahead of the game.

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“Looking Back,” by Shirley Mayhew, Music Street Press, 2014,

In March of 1946, Shirley Mayhew, a West Tisbury resident for the past 65 years, met her husband-to-be, Johnny Mayhew, at a mixer at Pembroke College in Providence.  “The campus, after several years of being dominated by women due to World War II, was being flooded by returning veterans,” Ms. Mayhew writes in her self-published memoir, “Looking Back.”

Shirley, a stunningly attractive young sophomore (one sees this from the photos; the author herself is self-effacing to an endearing degree), attends the mixer to please a far more extroverted friend. When Shirley meets Johnny, a Vineyard native of 10 generations, and an Air Force pilot to boot, they hang together the way two wallflowers will connect in the corner of a crowded room. They stroll into town in the dead of night. He has a girlfriend, and yet they go on meeting. Suddenly the girlfriend vanishes from the picture, and Johnny proposes in a comically laconic way: “’You wouldn’t marry me, would you?’ Without a pause to think it over, I said, ‘Sure.’” Out of this understated beginning arose a lasting marriage with three children, three granddaughters, and six-plus decades of life in what the author herself describes as “the slow lane” in West Tisbury unfolds.

Everyone should live in such a slow lane. Ms. Mayhew recounts her early days as a young bride on Martha’s Vineyard where her new husband followed his bliss by fishing for a living, later expanding to an oyster farm. Later both Johnny and Shirley earned teaching degrees and worked in the school system to support their family.

Ms. Mayhew is a good sport from the very start. She writes, “I married my husband more than 60 years ago for better or for worse — but not for fishing…. The tide and the weather determine a fisherman’s life — and the life of his wife, if she ever wants to see him. The first mistake I made was getting married in September, during the Oscar-season of the Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby.”

The author’s style is engaging as she takes us through Hurricane Carol to her many years on the banks of Look’s Pond, her worldwide travels, and back to her Island again where this wash-ashore is fully blended with her family-in-law’s ancestry. Ms. Mayhew relates how life in the slow lane on this pastoral island includes up-close-and-personal contact with birds of all stripes, a genius raccoon at the bird-feeder, and an overactive mother-and-baby mouse team whose welfare the young Shirley puts before her own.

A fun chapter, Check Stubs Tell All, takes us on a romp through what things used to cost in 1949: 45 cents for shipping a slip-cover from Bloomingdales, a 3-cent postage stamp, $75 to deliver a baby, 35 cents an hour for babysitting, $2 for a bottle of sherry, and $4.14 for a carton — a carton! — of cigarettes, and this in the day when smoking was good for you! The monthly rental for the West Tisbury parsonage across the road from the Whiting Farm was $35.

In an age when so much media attention is focused on what the younger generations are up to, it’s refreshing to hear from articulate members of the Greatest Generation. Their fighting spirit took this country through The Depression and WWII. Its members brought us the odd yet family friendly era of the 1950s — when women were “…eased back into their homes, with propaganda about how satisfying it was to wax your kitchen floors and to get your clothes squeaky clean with the new bleach products.”

From early potluck suppers and guitar musicales with up-Island friends to funny letters from students’ moms  — “Please excuse Billy’s tardiness. He was helping his father catch our pig (they didn’t succeed)” — to eventual granddaughters, one of whom, Katie Ann Mayhew, sang her way to the Boston Pops in London, the memoirist provides a sweep of Island life by demonstrating that the slow lane is filled with stunning moments of incalculable riches such as this one describing two wounded geese who’d partnered together, only one of whom regained the use of its wings: “He would flap his wings alongside her until he was airborne, and when he realized she was not with him, he would return and land on the water beside her… finally Gus took off a final time, circled, but did not return to Andrea. Because all Canada geese look alike, we never knew whether we ever saw him again.”

“Looking Back” will be stocked at the Bunch of Grapes in Vineyard Haven and, when August traffic shows signs of easing up, at Edgartown Books as well. Stay tuned for news of readings and signings: This is a fine gift for family and friends who wonder what we do and how we keep ourselves in the winter unless  — shhh! — we’d just as soon they never knew.

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The Dunn family.

What makes children love to read, a nearly impossible feat in this age when exciting games leap out of smartphones, while earbuds feed music from rap stars? Many of today’s children might not recognize a book if it dropped from a recent Perseid meteor shower.

And yet the love of reading is highly achievable, says Deb Dunn of Chilmark, literacy coordinator at the Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School, and soon-to-be author of an exciting column in this paper called “Read This!” which will help parents cultivate literacy at home.

“Every child can be a reader and a writer,” she maintains.

Deb and I met for coffee on an August Monday at the Plane View Restaurant. For me that meant a (nearly) door-to-door transport on the Number 7 VTA bus, for Deb a car ride from her house up-Island by a route that cunningly avoided all the down-Island mish-mash.

I already knew that natural-born readers, in spite of all the high-tech hoopla, will always be born into the world, just as redheads and butterfly geeks make a small but steady appearance. In my bookstore (Sun Porch Books in Oak Bluffs, 2002–2008), I beheld a regular crew of tots hurtling toward the children’s section.

“He’s passionate about reading!” one of the parents always exclaimed. Of course! That’s why there’ll always be bookstores of one sort or another, and hang the e-book screens that so far have failed to penetrate more than 30 percent of the publishing market.

Deb works primarily with grades kindergarten through six, her stated goal to help reading-resistant students get down to the serious business of sounding out words. “I use rhythm, songs, and chants to help them learn to speed brain and visual processes.”

She sees kids individually and in small groups, and also tries to engage parents in the process (a goal she plans to address in her column). “There are ways to grow vocabulary right from the start. As you carry your infant around with you, you can narrate your day, as in, “I’m buying these blueberries — look they’re almost purple; don’t they smell sweet?” And, hey! check out the Abstract Expressionist painting over there. (Blame the reporter for that last bit, but you get the point.)

Deb continued, “I can’t stress enough the importance of reading to kids at home. I tell parents to be sure they’ve got plenty of books in the house — the library is a great resource, as well as book sales and the book section of thrift shops. Also, for baby gifts, ask for a book instead of yet another onesie!”

Deb, a lifelong passionate reader herself, began reading to her son, Elijah, now 11, in utero. She grew up in New Jersey, attended Clark University in Worcester, and received her master’s degree in education at Lesley University in Cambridge. She went on to teach special education in New Hampshire, and ran an Outward Bound–style brand of outdoor education in the mountains.

She met future husband, Jim Feiner, from afar. The first time they spoke on the phone, she heard bongo drums in the background, and enjoyed this boho element from a man who practiced real estate on Martha’s Vineyard. Their first date took place on Thanksgiving. After that, the two of them traveled back and forth to be together. When Jim invited her to spend a more significant time on the Island, Deb countered, “I’ll just come for the summer.”

We know how summers get stretched out to infinity here. Now she, Jim, and Elijah live in Chilmark. Deb has found that her son’s love of reading flourishes in a domestic sphere that downplays all the techno bells and whistles. A TV cable is nowhere apparent, and at the age of nine, Elijah’s digital games were limited to two on his dad’s computer. Deb has weighed his natural leanings toward non-tech activities — Legos, baseball, joke-telling, and his library of books numbering over 500 — with his natural need to be accepted. Deb recognizes the challenge in a world where third and fourth graders carry cell phones.

“Read This!” will run monthly in the MV Times, starting on September 25, and will include helpful tips for parents to foster a love of reading in their children.

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Geekthelibrary.org comes to the citizens of Oak Bluffs

Riley Wesson and Emily McKinney geek bubble gum at the month-long GeektheLibrary project at the Oak Bluffs Public Library. All photos in slideshow by Eli Dagostino. — Eli Dagostino

“Be true to your school!” the Beach Boys famously urged, and every teen in America at every time in our country’s past hundred-year history has likely expressed this elemental loyalty.

Yet once we’ve grown up, and if we happen to be living on Martha’s Vineyard where each of the six towns has its own quaint infrastructure, many of us pledge allegiance to our library.

A great number of Oak Bluffs folk remember the old library at Circuit and Penacook, now the site of Conroy Apothecary and three adorable apartments owned by the town. There, librarians maintained that the old sagging stacks of books and multiple computer areas threatened to push down the aged timbers. In the early 2000s, a new library was erected on the site of the old Oak Bluffs school gym, now a two-story palace — a Taj Malibrary, if you will — wherein, for its first few years, floor space seemed to outnumber book shelves by a ratio of ten to one.

In the last couple of years, however, people, books, DVDs, town meetings and other numerous events have filled the premises, and the latest month-long project to mark the spot — geekthelibrary — with a gallery of 100 town personalities lining the walls of the meeting room, has tied up the library with a big shiny bow.

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Monina VonOpel. "I geek The Secret Life of Bees." Photo by Eli Dagostino.

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Samantha Chaves. "I geek the ocean." Photo by Eli Dagostino.

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Eli Dagostino. "I geek Porsche Cayennes." Photo by Eli Dagostino.

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Marilyn Yas. "I geek kids." Photo by Eli Dagostino.

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Eric Balboni. "I geek Miranda Sings." Photo by Eli Dagostino.

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Holly Nadler. "I geek pink." Photo by Eli Dagostino.

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Primo Lombardi. "I geek transformation." Photo by Eli Dagostino.

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Miki Wolf. "I geek Tom Waits." Photo by Eli Dagostino.

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Lady. "I geek squirrels." Photo by Eli Dagostino.

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Ruby Saloom. "I geek gremlins." Photo by Eli Dagostino.

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Abraham Sekman. "I geek pop music." Photo by Eli Dagostino.

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Riley Wesson and Emily McKinney. "I geek bubblegum." Photo by Eli Dagostino.

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Dina Maerowitz. "I geek insects." Photo by Eli Dagostino.

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Arielle Hayes. "I geek vintage." Photo by Eli Dagostino.

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Patrice Donofrio. "I geek beauty." Photo by Eli Dagostino.

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Stephen Saloom. "I geek policy reform." Photo by Eli Dagostino.

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Eli Freidman. "I geek space." Photo by Eli Dagostino.

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Kaya Selman. "I geek animals." Photo by Eli Dagostino.

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Kimberly Cartwright. "I geek love." Photo by Eli Dagostino.

The word geek as a verb is so new that you will find only scant reference to it in the online Urban Dictionary. The geek folks at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation who began this nationwide tribute — look it up on geekthelibrary.org — define geek this way: “To love, to celebrate, to have an intense passion for.”

Over the course of a couple of weeks in June, Oak Bluffs library patrons, strolling indoors to browse the new release books or to see if the fourth season of “Modern Family” had come in, found themselves braced by librarian Anna-Marie D’Addarie, program director Miki Woolf, and librarian-in-chief Sondra Murphy to take part in an upcoming gallery of geekers. Willing subjects were asked to show up on a certain date at a specific time to be photographed, and to decide what person, place or thing they wished to geek (after the brand-new verb had been explained to them.)

Some examples: Bill McGrath geeked tandem bicycling, Eric Balboni geeked Miranda Sings (you’ll find her on YouTube), a boyfriend and girlfriend geeked I geek you, 11-year-old bff’s Riley Wesson and Emily McKinney geeked bubblegum and, to everyone’s delight, a big white dog named Lady geeked squirrels.

Some folks channeled their Inner Serious Side: Shelley Christiansen geeked prose, Stephen Saloom geeked reform policy, and Duncan Ross geeked the animal shelter. To illustrate how the process works, this reporter, when asked to serve, thought long and hard about what to geek, forcibly restraining herself from being pretentious — she could easily have geeked Virginia Woolf or The Piazza Navona — chose quite simply and honestly to geek pink.

A number of photographers were solicited for the job, but the precociously talented 19-year-old Eli Dagostino was chosen. Already a great purveyor of portraits, he brought his own sharp tastes to the project: He would film horizontally rather than vertically as the Gates Foundation recommended (they send materials to get the process rolling). He employs two assistants, Sammi Chaves and Carie Everett, also stunningly young, and he insisted on, for the “models,” black attire against a black background — very Rembrandt — with subjects allowed to bring a relic to define one’s geekery; for example, this reporter wore a pink bicycle helmet to establish her devotion to the best color in the universe.

Young Dagostino, who grew up in West Tisbury and graduated from the charter school, deploys soft multi-directional lights which, against all odds, left the many subjects gathered for a launch last Wednesday pleased with their own likenesses. Peggy McGrath, for instance, who geeks languages (she’s bilingual in English and Spanish which she taught at the high school), requested that her poster be kept on file: she’d love to use it for her [eventual] obit!

The hundred faces will stare at all who conduct business in the meeting room up until August 30. Stop round and see a bunch of your friends, possibly family members, and certainly the townies you routinely meet at the post office, in Reliable, and up and down the Avenue. Additional people beyond Team 100 were photographed, and their pictures can be viewed in notebooks resting on tables against the wall.

Meanwhile Mr. Dagostino is off to New York with his fiancé, Eric Balboni of Wareham — they found an apartment at 89th and Amsterdam — to launch the cosmopolitan part of his already brilliant career. (Eric will be seeking a degree in vocal performance at NYU).

And the rest of us? We’re either beaming from our modern day Dutch Masters portraits like a crew of townie burghers of all ages, or waiting for our chance at the next geek festival.

And by the way, the solo definition Urban Dictionary offers for the word “geek” is that “geeks are the people you pick on in high school and who you wind up working for as an adult.”

In other words, they’re still is the noun iteration of “geek.” It took the Gates Foundation and a national network of libraries to turn it into a much-prized verb.

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Filmmaker Victoria Campbell screens her latest film at the M.V. Film Center on Tuesday.

A must-see movie, “Monsieur Le President,” will be screened at the M.V. Film Center in Vineyard Haven at 7:30 pm on August 12.

In January 2010, immediately following the 7-point earthquake in Haiti, Tisbury native Victoria Campbell, an actress and documentary filmmaker, received a phone call from her dad. He told her to fly down to the devastated island, that arriving health workers from around the world required French-speakers to translate their patients’ needs.

When she was 16, Victoria spent a full year with a French family in a small village outside of Avignon, and she was under strict orders not to speak a word of English.

The filmmaker crossed into Haiti from the Dominican Republic. She wore a nun’s habit because authorities, crazed by throngs of foreigners at the border, turned back nearly everyone. The faux nun found a hospital in Port-au-Prince where she was immediately put to work cleaning wounds and inserting catheters.

In the beginning, Victoria had no thought of making a movie, but a camera constantly rolled “tape” in her hands, a compulsive trait of hers ever since she filmed her 2009 documentary “House of Bones,” about the messy emotions stirred up by the sale of her family’s grand old summer house in West Chop.

Victoria’s thoughtful monologue runs through “Monsieur” and, frankly, she had this reporter at, well, not exactly “hello,” but only minutes into the narrative with a stunning description of the moment when aid workers were finally admitted into the country, and the lens of clarity refocuses. Against footage of downed buildings, human suffering on an epic scale, and a child with a bandaged arm being lifted into an ambulance, Victoria speaks of before and after, of the contrast with “that time when everyone cracked wide open in those first four days when black and white, foreigner and Haitian, doctor and patient were all melded together before time closes like a fist, and we’re again reminded of where we stand on the chain of life.”

And then she meets Gaston, a voodoo priest and community organizer seared with a febrile urge to restore his parish. Like magic, he throws up a medical clinic staffed with a doctor and two nurses and, from that point forward, thousands of patients receive free medical care and prescriptions. His larger aim is to build a school, and no one enters his sphere without Gaston — smiling, charming, gallant — putting each to work moving rubble, then recycling that same rubble. Nothing is ever wasted in Haiti.

Victoria returns many times to Haiti to film Gaston, committed to the man’s vision. She holds fundraisers on the Island and in New York where another admirer of Gaston’s, an Italian reporter working in the States, solicits donations from abroad.

And then everything takes a turn to the sinister.

For more information, visit mvfilmsociety.com.

Singing in German and smiling at triumph.

Holly Nadler joined opera professionals (from left, in red sweater) Erika Person, Nora Graham Smith, Sarah Callinan and Glenn Seven Allen. — Photo by Susan Safford

It defies credibility how I get into these jams. For my next How Hard challenge I signed up to take a workshop for aspiring performers of all types, to be taught by internationally revered choreographer and opera director Wendy Taucher of New York and Martha’s Vineyard. I planned to kick-start a monologue in the Spalding Grey tradition (meaning you get to sit at a desk and read from index cards) about me and, um, Anne Frank. (I know, it’s a stretch, but give me time).

Michael Fennelly and Kelly Crandell.
Michael Fennelly and Kelly Crandell.

You’d think that was scary enough, but Wendy emailed me: “Why don’t you come rehearse with some opera singers? We’re gearing up for ‘The Magic Flute.’ Wouldn’t you love to be an opera performer for an afternoon?”

Well, no. Of course, like everyone, I fantasize about opening my mouth and having a rich coloratura emerge, “Il dolce suono…” Who among us who taps “play” for an Opera Hits CD doesn’t, in the privacy of her own home, fling out her arms and allow Cecilia Bartoli to open all the stops?

And yet Wendy issued the invitation as if I could sing.

Here’s a conclusive story about how I unequivocally cannot sing: It was 1968 at the Pasadena Playhouse where I was taking two of my many gap years to study theater arts. A scout for a musical rep company in Laguna caught me in “Twelfth Night” and tried to recruit me.

I shook my head. “I can’t sing.”

“Anybody can sing!” she chirped, offering to drive up to Pasadena weekly to give me lessons.

After the first session, she plunked down the piano lid, and announced, “You can’t sing!”

Holly discusses details of "The Magic Flute" with  Erika Person, one of the "ladies" of the opera.
Holly discusses details of “The Magic Flute” with Erika Person, one of the “ladies” of the opera.

So what was I doing in a rehearsal hall tucked down a long West Tisbury lane, as I came upon Wendy, an upright piano presided over by a tall bespectacled man named Kelly Crandell, another man with a baton, musical director Michael Fennelly, and three gorgeous young women who Wendy introduced to me thusly:

“These are the Three Ladies of ‘Flute’ [as they call it in the biz]. We’re adding you as the Fourth Lady. Ready?”

“I-I can’t sing!” I gasped.

Michael escorted me to the piano. “Let’s just see about that.”

If the following events appear like antic farce where people pop in and out of ungodly situations — just as they do in “Flute” — that’s exactly how it happened: How else do you get a hapless non-singer to participate?

A page of music was spread before me on the piano top, with lyrics highlighted in yellow. Gristly, unreadable German words. Ach du liebe!

The Four Ladies of The Magic Flute.
The Four Ladies of The Magic Flute.

The ladies crowded round with smiling faces: Sarah Callinan, petite, with copper-red hair in a bun, eyes jade green, dressed in a lacy dress over black leggings; Erika Person, with black bangs, wearing a long-sleeved red silk blouse over black leggings; and Nora Graham-Smith, with to-die-for halfway-down-her-back dark blond curly tresses, herself in a black and white polka-dot blouse and, surprise!, black leggings.

Like all elite opera stars, they had studied German, Italian and French, and now they articulated the line we’d be trilling: Strib, ungeheurt, durch unsre Macht! For the uninitiated that means, “Die, monster, through our power.” Say what?

I hadn’t been forced to sing yet (drat! where was that cyanide capsule that spies of the Cold War era used to tuck inside a molar?), but now, just speaking these words was agonizing. Sarah, Erika, and Nora enunciated each syllable sounding like Klingons translating some impossible Earth lingo, all the while beaming at me as if I could now deliver this line as snappily as I could, “Jingle bells, jingle all the way!”

Kelly rumbled the piano keys, nodding at me to sing. Everyone gazed expectantly as I mangled the die monster bar of music enough to make Mozart, thousands of miles away in his grave, not only roll over, but perform a convulsive gavotte.

But here’s the thing: No one shuddered! Wendy simply nodded and slotted me in to pitch my notes to Nora: “She sings mezzo, so you’re all set.”

Was I?

We began. Kelly raised thunderous music. The drama unfolded within the most ferocious part of the story (and I entered into this part of the fray why?) as, sprinting behind Sarah, with Ericka and Nora close behind, we charged at the monster, he for the time being invisible, but scheduled to be played by a ballet dancer. We scampered around him once, twice, then raised our swords (also imaginary for the rehearsal) and jabbed him hard, then dug in our spears, shaking them around to make sure his organs got agitated into a nice green shake.

As we stabbed that bad boy, we sang the “stribe, ungeheurt” bit with all our might (don’t worry, I was basically lip synching here although, admittedly, it’s easier to reach some of those notes when three of New York’s premier opera singers fill the air around you.)

Holly takes notes next to opera choreographer and director Wendy Taucher.
Holly takes notes next to opera choreographer and director Wendy Taucher.

Next we stepped free of the monster mess to chortle, “Triumph! Triumph!” (it’s a German word too — cool, huh?), holding our fists high like Wonder Woman after a similar success.

And then, be still my heart, Wendy stopped the scene, and said, “I like what Holly is doing here. She smiles on the second ‘Triumph.’ That’s the happy moment the Ladies would savor after this victory. We’ll make that a part of the blocking. Thank you, Holly.”

Thank you, Holly? This in the midst of rehearsals with what Michael called “The top one percent of the one percent of opera talent in the country”?

Afterwards I watched rapt as baritone James Martin in the part of Papajeno, half-bird, half-man, and tenor Glenn Steven Allen, a prince from a faraway land, get acquainted over the slain ungelheurt.

The opera is scheduled for August 1, 2, and 3 at Featherstone. Wendy invited me to attend. Of course I’ll be there! I want to see if Sarah, Erika, and Nora smile on the second ‘Triumph!’

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Peter Oyloe stars as Paul Clayton at the Martha's Vineyard Playhouse. — Photo by MJ Bruder Munafo

Playwright Larry Mollin has opened a lost passageway for boomers, to a time that both liberated and frightened the stuffing out of us.

If we’ll recall, those of us who entered our pre-teen years in the early 60s and exited as – most of us – pseudo adults circa 1970, the time was so fraught with its ratcheting up of sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll, that after some silly years in the 70s of disco and literal money- burning via rolled-up bills for snuffling cocaine, we donned business suits and morphed into a new species called “yuppies.”

The whole cast, from left: Jared Weiss, Ereni Sevasti, Jaime Babbitt, Chic Street Man, Peter Oyloe, and Stephen G. Anthony.
The whole cast, from left: Jared Weiss, Ereni Sevasti, Jaime Babbitt, Chic Street Man, Peter Oyloe, and Stephen G. Anthony.

The 60s was never the elephant in the room. There was no elephant.

And then slowly, as the decades buffered us from our youthful stupidities, we’ve began to excavate the kitchen midden of that era, item by item, examining each with a renewed sense of wonder.

First we unearthed the Vietnam War — the tragedy that inspired our elders to make cannon fodder of every last draft-worthy male in our country — as books, novels, and lectures streamed forth. Next we re-discovered hippie attire, marijuana as a certifiable medication and a tame recreational drug, and biopics about 60s icons such as Jim Morrison, Ray Charles, and Tina Turner arrived in theaters. Now, at last, we’ve seized hold of an old relic we’ve avoided because it tugs so fiercely at our heartstrings, we fear it might unravel us.

I speak of folk songs.

For his new play, now running until August 9 at the Martha’s Vineyard Playhouse, and directed with bold polish by Randal Myler, Mollin focuses on a folksinger well-known in his time, now a mere footnote regarded chiefly for his mentorship in the early 60s of that supernova, Bob Dylan.

Born in New Bedford in 1931, Paul Clayton, played by Peter Oyloe, jammed at home with his musical, quarrelsome mother (Jaime Babbitt) and aloof father (Stephen G. Anthony), who divorced when he was 12. The young Clayton followed his bliss to UVA in Charlottesville, where he majored in folklore, mining the hills and “hollers” of Appalachia for forgotten songs.

Jared Weiss as Bob Dylan and Ereni Sevasti as Suze Rotolo
Jared Weiss as Bob Dylan and Ereni Sevasti as Suze Rotolo

By the early 60s in Greenwich Village when he met Bob Dylan, fresh from Minnesota and dying for a break, Clayton had already recorded 11 albums with major record labels. He coached Dylan in the ancient art of “borrowing” from old melodies, making them better with the twist of one’s own talent, then copywriting the new work to gain one’s own royalties. Thus Clayton’s “Who’s Gonna Buy You Ribbons?” (taken from an old-as-the-hills and none-too-commercial “Who’s Gonna Buy You Chickens?”) underwent Dylan’s brilliant rewrite “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright.”

Mollin, within the parameters of our own evolved age, drop-kicks Clayton’s forbidden love for the young and vibrantly hetero Dylan, who bobs and weaves away from all overtures, yet hangs with Clayton until he’s been properly elevated to the spotlight.

At the gorgeously refurbished Playhouse, still redolent with freshly-milled wood, and under the artistic direction of MJ Bruder Munafo, the Village folksinger-cum-protest era is brought to life with no more than a platform, guitars on stands, and a curving screen that shimmers with projections of city lights, newspaper headlines (“3000 Beatniks Riot In The Village”), and backgrounds of the shabby New York streets that housed such iconic nightclubs as Café Wha, Kettle of Fish, and The Gaslight.

A group of talented actor-singers has been assembled: Ms. Babbitt, in addition to playing Clayton’s mother, also incarnates Village den mother Carla Rotolo. Mr. Anthony is both Clayton’s dad and another lost figure of the era, Dave Van Ronk, whose grim homage to New Orleans street life, “The House of The Rising Sun,” was first hijacked by Dylan then turned into a mega-hit by the Brit rock group The Animals, basically — and unintentionally — cutting Van Ronk off at the knees.

Ereni Sevasti plays Dylan’s early-Village-days girlfriend Suze Rotolo, and also the woman who steals him away from Suze, none other than the great Joan Baez. Performer Chic Street Man resurrects another forgotten figure of the Village scene, the Rev. Gary Davis and, whenever Chic joins the ensemble, a new level of soul, blues, and church-style reverence propels audience members to clap in time and shout “Halleluiah!”

Jared Weiss tackles the young, irrepressible Dylan, singing with the gravelly sound that shocked a nation raised on crooners such as Frank Sinatra and Paul Anka, a radical new style that Joyce Carol Oates later described, “as if sandpaper could sing.”

Was the early Dylan a thief and a rotten friend? Mollin makes a convincing case for that. But it wasn’t only gay Paul Clayton who had fallen in love with him. An entire country of under-aged, substance-starved Americans made Dylan a prophet and, later, a rock and roll superstar.

Arguably Dylan’s first ballads were stolen and reformatted, but in swift order he unfurled original lyrics on the level of a modern-day William Blake, such as:

Then take me disappearin’ through the smoke rings of my mind
Down the foggy ruins of time, far from the frozen leaves,
The haunted, frightened trees, out to the windy beach
Far from the twisted reach of crazy sorrow
– Mr. Tambourine Man, 1965

Another star of “Search: Paul Clayton” is musician and composer Fred Mollin, picking away at guitar and banjo in the shadows, and lending rich textures to the production as musical director.

This show will thrill boomers willing to take a dip in the bathos of our youth, and for succeeding generations who’ve added their own unique layers to the midden.

And now let us root in old boxes for Cat Stevens, Donovan, Buffy St. Marie, and Judy Collins on vinyl and 8-track cassettes, then see if we can find machines on which to play them.

“Search: Paul Clayton” 7:30 pm, Wednesdays–Saturdays through August 9. $50; $40 seniors; $30 students. For mature audiences only: sexually explicit, adult language, and scenes that depict drug use. For more information and for tickets, visit mvplayhouse.org or call 508-687-2452.

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Times reporter Holly Nadler checks Marko Ivkovic's ID as security guard Len Clark looks on. — Michael Cummo

In the Mission Impossible series, that nifty little tape recorder — you know, the one that vaporized after the agent listened to it — used to amend its covert operation (like “capture a cell of terrorists protected by landmines and 900-pound tigers”) with the comforting words, “should you choose to accept this assignment… ” This gave the agent an out. Obviously, the agent never opted for the out or there’d be no story that week, but my own recent mission impossible — how hard could it be to work as a bar bouncer? — tempted me to opt out.

Yet, what’s the worst that could happen? I’d tell some sozzled dude who’d punched his friend that it was time to go home, and then he’d punch me? And what was so bad about that? Well, it would hurt like hell. A doc might want to sew my 66-year-old puss back to its pristine condition, whereupon I could cajole, “And how ‘bout a nip ‘n tuck to my jawline?”

It was hard to find a bar that would hire me for a night. I don’t have bouncer on my resume, just writer, book dealer, mom. There’s nothing in there about the ability to kick derriere. I’d dropped round the Lamppost several times, a busy pub with a dozen bouncers patrolling on any given weekend night. The owner wouldn’t say ‘yes’ to me, and he wouldn’t say ‘no’, which pretty much sums up my interaction with men.

I finally found a lovely bouncer to take me on as his sidekick at the Island Bar & Grille. I know the words ‘lovely’ and ‘bouncer’ go together about as organically as ‘pistol-packing’ and ‘librarian,’ but Lenny Clark, 47, with tattoos up and down his arms (and Lord knows where else) like flocked wallpaper, bald with a pointed grey beard, has an air of peace about him like Mahatma Gandhi’s right-hand man.

“I always use diplomacy,” he said in his soft voice. “I never want to get into it physically because bouncers have to pay their own hospital bills. If things get out of hand, we wrest the rowdies to the ground and call the cops. The O.B. cops are fantastic. They come immediately and take charge.”

When I arrived at the bar last Thursday around 9:45 pm, Lenny was not yet there, so I sat at a lonely table beside the wall and watched the scene at the U-shaped bar. I realized this was a wholesome place, with gaggles of girls — all of them blonde for some perverse reason, all of them laughing loudly as girls tend to do when they imbibe a glass of chardonnay. Guys swapped jokes, eyes darting to the obligatory flat screens flashing sports events, celebrity tweets, and subtitles of breaking news, none of which any of us cared to contemplate past sundown.

All the patrons, the three bartenders, and the male acoustic guitar player were under 30. This made me invisible, deliciously invisible, to tell you the truth, because as an earlier version of myself, I feared the bar scene and the constant irritant of young men pestering young women as if they cared deeply, whereas you knew their ulterior motives were salacious to a high degree.

I also had this exhilarating thought that once Lenny arrived and I was put to work as an enforcer, my age would be an asset. To these young people I was, undoubtedly, the vision of Eve “Our Miss Brooks” Arden in the movie “Grease.” I was the principal! If they didn’t do what I asked, I could send them to Saturday detention. I’d get full cooperation just by saying, “Now, children…”

Lenny walked in the door. We sat down so I could download all the scuttlebutt about his job. I learned from Lenny and the manager, 36-year-old Sonu Chhiber, that the only outbreaks of violence occurred at bachelor parties where young men knock back one too many shots and start rumbles with beloved college buddies.

And, yes, the heavy-hitting bars require bouncers with fists of fury. Lenny told me about a friend who worked the Lamppost who took a break one night to grab Thai food at The Ritz. He encountered a crunk customer (I found “crunk” in Urban Dictionary) in the doorway pounding the owner.

Here’s what I thought Lenny said: “So he gave the guy an apricot. It knocked him sideways.”

Me: “That’s so cool that an apricot could do that!” I was thinking of the old 60s Love-ins when we handed out fruit and flowers.

“No, not an apricot, an upper cut.”

At the mellower Island B&G, Lenny keeps customers on the safe side of their drink limit. Bartenders are the first line of defense. Lenny and his two deputies eye the crowd constantly for that flibberty-gibbety look of intoxication, or as those subjects themselves might say, “aniahalation,” They also block already-wasted peeps from entry.

And finally they check ID’s at the door to protect their liquor license from imbibing minors. (Just as a tiny aside, no one carded me; I could have been a 16-year-old with plenty of theater grease paint and a partially grey wig.)

Lenny gave me a task: Stand outside and check IDs. A young man, short, round, with a sweet face and glasses, approached.

“Can I see some ID?” I asked with my best Eve Arden impression.

He handed me his license. No matter how hard I squinted, I couldn’t read it. Shoot! If I remained in this job, I’d need reading glasses on a chain around my neck.

I explained I was a bouncer. He said, “Well, I’ve never seen such a pretty bouncer.”

I threw my arms around him. “Can I adopt you?!”

So that was my entry into the world of security detail. I told Lenny, “You can call me any time,” “Sure, I’ll call you, Holly,” he replied dryly.

So there you have it: Field notes from a hugging bouncer!