Authors Posts by Holly Nadler

Holly Nadler


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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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2 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.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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 — 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

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 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!

Not too big, not too small…

In the home of Anna Edey, tendrils and blossoms fill the air with fragrance. — Photo by Michael Cummo

No two people are alike in their sense of the perfect-sized home. And over a lifetime, our needs change as families expand, then shrink. Sometimes the waist-band of a home is let out once again as an elderly parent is taken in or a post-graduate needs time to explore new options.

These days, for so many of us concerned about our poor besieged planet, our priorities have shifted from showing off to maintaining a decent, honorable, non-glacier-melting carbon footprint. This too dictates our sense of what defines a Just Right House.

The Too Big House — the trophy homes that dot our Island — are on their way, let us hope, to being sneered out of existence, much the way the seaside mansions of Newport, Rhode Island’s, gilded age were derided as white elephants.

On the other end of the house-sizing spectrum these days, an idealistic movement is afoot to patch together — usually it’s a DIY job — a house so conveniently tiny, one can place it on the back of a flatbed truck and move cross-country with it. This only works for individuals with zero degrees of claustrophobia, and this narrows (no pun intended!) the field considerably, although hats off to anybody giving it a try.

Three sets of householders on Martha’s Vineyard, out of a wide population of people who’ve found similar satisfaction here, shared their Just Right homes with the MV Times this month.

Anna Edey wanted to live in a greenhouse

The iconic Anna Edey, pioneer in the Island’s long march towards organic gardening with her greenhouse, Solviva, built her house on an expanse of dewy emerald acres in West Tisbury in 1980. She raised two daughters here, both of whom come back for visits with their children and, all the while, the home has breathed in and out around the original chatelaine without an inch of its indoor space being wasted.

The absolute miracle of this enchanting warren of skylit rooms is its total sustainability from solar panels to composting toilets.
The absolute miracle of this enchanting warren of skylit rooms is its total sustainability from solar panels to composting toilets.

“I especially wanted to live in a greenhouse,” she says under the pale morning light of a ceiling-length skylight. Indeed, everywhere one looks, tendrils and blossoms fill the air with spring fragrance. Originally she’d needed to prove she could grow fruits and vegetables indoors. “For four years I had the most persistent tomato plants, big around as tree trunks. There were avocado branches pressed up against the skylight as if they had fists trying to break higher. It was crazy!”

Eventually the cultivation of food transferred to the Solviva greenhouse on the acreage below. Nowadays Ms. Edey grows only flowers and herbs in her home. Her favorite spot is a claw-foot tub set into the far corner of her narrow solarium in an Eden’s bower of geraniums and begonias. The Swedish weaver has a positive libido for color and aesthetics and every cranny holds something exquisite — a rose-hued Tiffany lamp, a copper bowl of salmon-pink roses, paintings, stacks of coffee table books, and vibrant Persian tribal rugs strewn over hardwood floors.

Ms. Edey has added a studio and an office, but the domestic sphere by itself factors down to a cosy 1,500 square feet. The absolute miracle of this enchanting warren of skylit rooms is its total sustainability, from solar panels to composting toilets with a filtration system, to her beloved Nissan LEAF which she tops off herself at home.

And let us not end this discussion here: For more fascinating information on this way of life, pick up a copy of Ms. Edey’s book “Green Light At The End Of The Tunnel: Learning The Art of Living Well Without Causing Harm To Our Planet And Ourselves.” Included are designs for similar sanctuaries (as Ms. Edey calls them) of 600 to 800 square foot patterns.

Tom and Jaye Shelby wanted a just-right life

Jaye and Tom Shelby (aka The Dogfather) bought a snug house in the Campground with just enough room for them (and their dogs).
Jaye and Tom Shelby (aka The Dogfather) bought a snug house in the Campground with just enough room for them (and their dogs).

Educator Jaye Shelby and Tom Shelby (aka The Dogfather), with an empty nest in Manhattan and Rockland County after their three grown kids followed their bliss to other corners of the country, purchased a small Victorian cottage at the western edge of the Campground in Oak Bluffs.

“We bought it for the view,” says Mr. Shelby. Who wouldn’t? The two-bedroom cottage faces Sunset Lake across the street, with the commanding vista of Squash Meadow rising high and green beyond it. Adjust your head a mere 20 degrees and you’re staring at the glittering sweep of the Oak Bluffs harbor, arguably one of the world’s most alluring seaports.

Typically, the cottage had declined for decades in the hands of an elderly lady, a situation more congenial to cars than houses. Mr. Shelby explains, “It was falling apart. We had to open it out, insulate it, put in heating, rip out the orange shag carpeting — like that.”

Similar to Anna Edey’s house, the Shelby manse expands and contracts as needed for company. A small downstairs guest room is snugged up against the front parlor. Should all the Shelby crew come for a family reunion — grown kids, significant others, and significant pets as well — then the two upstairs offices — what the Shelbys call their “man cave” and “girl cave” have sofas that fold out to beds. At the rear of this upstairs second floor, Jaye & Tom have their master bedroom under a fairy tale steepled roofline.

An upstairs balcony and a downstairs porch, crammed with wicker rocking chairs, keep the ever-loving view in focus.

And there’s another element of this Just Right House: No mortgage. Tom and Jaye love to travel and, in fact, when you’re friends when them, it’s hard to catch them between trips to the Galapagos, the Turks and Caicos and, this month, the midnight sun of Iceland.

Hmm, must be a connection between the Just Right House and the Just Right Life?

Paul Mohair downsized year-round

Paul Mohair in his downsized kitchen.
Paul Mohair in his downsized kitchen.

New Jersey lawyer Paul Mohair, now director of Edgartown Council On Aging, has lived in houses big and small. His first house here, while not a trophy home, was nonetheless a glam spread, off Tea Lane Road in Chilmark. In the classic year-round Vineyard ritual, he made his nut by renting it out in the summer, and luxuriating in its spacious rooms during the off season.

In the last few years Mr. Mohair decided to settle more organically into Vineyard life. He sold the Chilmark home and took the hugely satisfying COA job. The transition was made smooth by the adorable two-story cottage he found off a rural road in West Tisbury; close to the business district, yet “private and quiet” — his top priorities.

Sometimes a dwelling is designed with perfect feng shui, calculated or otherwise. The cottage is set back from a minimally-landscaped front yard, and a commodious stone patio behind for all of one’s entertaining needs. Indoors the small living space is divided by a long deep gourmet-friendly kitchen, a dining area to seat up to eight people, and a nook with over-stuffed cushions around a low coffee table. The single bathroom is sited downstairs, along with a bedroom.

The piece de resistance lies up a spiral staircase: a second-floor turret room with windows open to every point of the compass. Full disclosure: I lived here myself in the spring of 2010, and I did more writing, reading, meditating, wind-watching and star-gazing from this room than I’d done in the whole of my 23 years of living on the Vineyard (a slight exaggeration, but you get the idea; this room is a creativity-incubator).

Does Mr. Mohair use this tower room for dream-weaving?

Not so much; he’s an outdoor guy, in the sun and rain pedaling his bike the 12 miles into his office in Edgartown (“It’s 8 miles to my girlfriend’s house,” he cheerfully adds.) And what does he do on his days of leisure, you might ask? He makes a concerted effort to cycle 40 miles a day.

Still, the house perfectly suits his own requirements for privacy, charm, comfort and, ah, that quintessential, sublime sense of being home.

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From left: Dylan Riley-MacArthur plays Thomas Nickerson, and Christopher Patrick Mullen the first mate Owen Chase. — MJ Bruder Munafo

American playwright and screenwriter Rod Serling might have summed it up this way: “November 20, 1820. A lone whaler off the coast of South America. A deranged leviathan from the depths of a pitiless sea, and 21 sailors from Nantucket are about to meet their unspeakable destiny.”

It was the doomed whaleship Essex that left port on August 12, 1819. Only two days out, the 20-year-old vessel was battered by a squall that knocked out its beam ends and its top gallant sail, plus damaged one whaleboat and destroyed two others. Capt. George Pollard Jr. made the fateful decision to plunge on.

The Pacific Ocean had been depleted of whales by too many avid harpooners, so the Essex rounded Cape Horn. Other ships’ officers imparted the news that the west coast of South America was also stripped of their prey, but a new hunting ground had opened up 2,500 miles to the west.

Sean McGuirk, Christopher Patrick Mullen, and Wallace Bullock in a scene from "The Whaleship Essex."
Sean McGuirk, Christopher Patrick Mullen, and Wallace Bullock in a scene from “The Whaleship Essex.”

At last the men aboard the Essex found a pod of whales. They lowered their whaleboats to give chase. And…a monster from the deep found them.

Aboard the mother ship, the remaining sailors saw the beast lying far afield, eerily eyeing them. He was larger than normal, at least 85 feet long, huger than any leviathan ever seen.

A whale had never before attacked a ship, but this one charged, pulverizing the hull to stern, knocking the men sideways. And then it submerged, slowly grinding its spine beneath the wood boards with a sound that survivors reported still haunted their darkest dreams decades later.

The creature swam to starboard, turned and charged again, battering the Essex, cracking it like an eggshell. The killer disappeared as the ship began to sink. The men frenziedly removed all the provisions they could find, then took to two of the three still viable whale boats. Capt. Pollard, in the third craft, back from the chase, beheld his vessel buckling under.

“What happened?!” he cried.

First mate Owen Chase replied with typical Yankee tartness, “We have been stove by a whale.”

And this was only the start of the sailors’ Trials of Job at sea.

In “The Whaleship Essex,” New York playwright Joe Forbrich has brought this eye-popping tale to life in a way that reminds us that theater engages each audience member’s imagination. With a trio of golden sails, some ropes, some casks, a movable wooden helm, and a splendid sound and light show from Jeffrey E. Saltzberg and Kyle Kotarski, we fill in the rest as if we’re viewing a Darren Aronofsky3D biblical blockbuster, smashing waves, homicidal whale, an entire ship sinking glug-glug, and all. Directed by fellow New York theater veteran Peter Zinn, the play is opening the season for the newly renovated (and re-named) Martha’s Vineyard Playhouse,

Fourteen actors supply male vigor to the deck of the Essex. When they erupt in sea shanties, their basso male voices fill the air with an aggressive thrust: the polar opposite of the sweet soothing sounds of a Gregorian chant: It’s one of the truly impressive takeaways of this night in the theater.

The play is also packed with powerful reflections on man’s innate savagery, and the ludicrous, greedy, and soul-destroying hunt for fuel, in those days pilfered from whale blubber, now extracted from what sometimes seems like every last spare plot of ground.

The MV Times met up with the playwright on the final dress rehearsal night before last Friday’s opening. As ever when one encounters a cast and crew of theater folk, the high jinx are out of control. We found Mr. Forbrich half-hugging, half-Nelson-ing Mr. Saltzberg. Mr. Forbrich doesn’t walk, he gavottes from the box office to arrange seating for a woman arriving from Mystic Seaport, then bounds back to his interviewer, but not before smacking comically into a wall.

“I can fall backwards in this chair, then roll over and stand up,” he said.

“Oh please don’t!” cried this reviewer who, above all else, harbors a mother’s bleeding heart.

“Okay, I won’t,” he promised, and then we talked some more, and abruptly he knocked himself backwards, the chair smacked the floor, and sure enough he performed a reverse somersault and stood up as if nothing out of the ordinary had just happened.

In 2009 Mr. Forbrich sailed a 16-foot boat he’d cobbled together himself, “before I knew anything about building a boat.” He later apprenticed himself to Gannon & Benjamin in Vineyard Haven. During this maiden voyage he read Nathaniel Philbrick’s book about the Whaleship Essex, “In The Heart of The Sea” and, at one point, he scrawled across a page, “It is my destiny to write a play about this!”

And so it was. The pages piled up while he acted in “Lucky Man” on Broadway with Tom Hanks. He asked Mr. Hanks if he’d play Capt. Pollard in a reading. The movie star agree and our own M.J. Bruder Munafo, artistic director of the Playhouse, happened to catch the event. Mr. Forbrich’s wife, Jennifer Valentine, produced a workshop of her husband’s new play in New York; and the rest is, if not history, then breaking news.

Another reason to flock to the theater is to savor the Playhouse’s refurbishment — double staircases, the scent of new wood, high ceilings, Victorian-style molding, fresh blue chairs, and the stage situated eastwards.

Some Vineyarders are under the impression that the arrival of the renovated Charles B. Morgan in Vineyard Haven was timed to complement the opening of this play. Ms. Munafo responded with a laugh: “If only we had that kind of influence! No, the timing was coincidental, but there’s some great synchronicity at work, wouldn’t you say?”

The single silver lining of the excruciating saga of “The Whaleship Essex” is the fact that it inspired Herman Melville to write the great American masterpiece “Moby-Dick,” astounded as he was by the concept of a murderous whale. Now there’s a second masterpiece to emerge from that tale of woe, and it enjoys its world premiere at the Playhouse from June 21 to July 12.

Theater: “The Whaleship Essex,” Wednesdays–Saturdays through July 12, 7:30 pm. Also a matinee on Saturday, July 5, 2:30 pm. $50; $40 seniors; $30 students. For tickets and more information, visit or call 508-696-6300.

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Miki Wolfe, program director at the Oak Bluffs Library, and host of the monthly Cloak and Dagger Literary Society. — Ralph Stewart

Some people are born to be program directors specializing in mystery clubs at small town libraries. Really? Well, take a look at the career trajectory of Mikaela (known as Miki) Wolfe.

Starting in grammar school year, her earliest dream was to own a used book store. [A close cousin to a library, right?].” And it just so happened a template of that business plan was already in place in her family’s house of avid readers. Young Miki’s mom consecrated their attic to all the books that could be bought, borrowed, rescued, and scooped off the shelves of Warwick, R.I., and stored under the aged rafters. The extended family of dozens of cousins was invited upstairs to choose a book.

“The books were mostly fun kids’ mysteries — Trixie Belden, Hardy Boys, Bobbsey Twins,” Ms. Wolfe said in a recent interview in the meeting room of the Oak Bluffs Library. When I asked her about my own bar-none fave from my youth, Nancy Drew. Ms. Wolfe nodded vigorously, “Nancy Drew is out in graphic novels now and my nine-year-old daughter Riley loves them!”

Up in the Warwick attic, whenever a member of the clan finished a book, he or she entered his or her name on the front page with all the other scribbled names, and returned it to the stacks. Each book contained a history of its journey within the family.

As Ms. Wolfe came of age, her restless sense of adventure carried her off on fancy-free road trips on long bus rides around the country. But eventually she managed to fulfill part of her dream: Settling in Gainesville, Fla., she ran a used bookstore, enrolled in college, and pursued English literature, women’s studies, and social media in libraries and nonprofits. This landed her in a job with Digital Services Library in Gainesville, but her work was heavily immersed in tech training.

“I really longed to do more programming,” she said, adding with her signature grin, “My ambitions were being thwarted.”

She was 36 with a young daughter, and her formative years in Rhode Island left her aching to make a home in New England. She found a job offered online for program director at the Oak Bluffs Library. Like an inspired Meryl Streep, she rehearsed for her coming Skype interview, rigging up lights in her room, finding the right professional ensemble, all the while researching Island life in Vineyard newspapers so she could schmooze about all matters local. She could tell the Skype interview surpassed all expectations, and she was invited to come up with  Riley to scope out a new life for the two of them.

They found a house in West Tisbury and Ms. Wolfe set up shop at the palatial new library at the top of School Street. Various activities spilled from her bag of tricks, but she was most fond of her idea for a Cloak And Dagger Literary Society to meet once a month. She launched with “The Police Procedural” in September. “I realized right away that the heading was too broad,” she said. “I’ll be able to chop and dice that subject into a whole bunch more that fit under the rubric.”

I asked her, “What is it about the mystery that’s so compelling for so many of us? Is it because we know we’ll never be bored? That if people are sitting around a long dining table discussing dahlias, any minute now someone’s head is going to roll, dead, into the Waterford crystal salad plate?”

Ms. Wolfe laughed, “Well, or course there’s that. Buf for me at this very moment, it’s a great way to discover hoards of new writers.”

Ms. Wolfe boasts something of an eidetic memory and, with her trusty laptop, she reels in data quicker than anyone else can snap a stick a gum. A typical mystery club on March 18 bore the witty title, “St. Patrick Missed A Few Snakes.” The director passed out flyers of Irish mystery writers such as Ken Bruen’s “The Guards,” and Louise Phillips’s “The Doll’s House.” Between the program director’s information hot off the screen, and recommendations from the participants, we cobbled together an even richer Irish stew of mystery writers.

Ms. Wolfe follows up each club date with a list of all the new writers we’d found, including others who had just jumped into the pile after all of us had come and gone, but literary leprechauns kept leaping out of her laptop.

Ms. Wolfe believes we pursue mysteries because the form provides a rich and fertile soil for gender issues, sociological trends, and the weighty issues of good and evil, love and loss, all the while having a corpse show up inside great uncle Boris’s steamer trunk from the British raj.

The next Cloak and Dagger club meeting, at 10:30 am on June 17, will explore “With a Little Help From My Friends.” Ms. Wolfe will open the subject up to the great sidekicks of detective fiction: Dr. Watson to the bigger-than-life Sherlock, Archie Goodman for Nero Wolfe and, of course, the charismatic thug Hawk to Robert B. Parker’s Spenser.

Does she think she’ll ever run out of genres? Ms. Wolfe shakes her head. “There are some so vast I’ll have to break them down in various ways,” she said. “The police procedural, for instance. That’s huge. So is the heading of women detectives. There’s a big new market in LGBT detectives! And now there are fantastic mysteries written from all over the world, which give you an added advantage of enjoying an armchair travel weekend. July’s meeting, for instance, will be named, “Darkness In The Land of The Midnight Sun: Scandinavian Crime Fiction.”

Now that’s a dandy set of mysteries to be read in the summer. Take your beach chair down to the high water mark of Inkwell Beach as you read about Detective Wallander tramping through frozen fields at five degrees below zero, Celsius. Don’t forget the sunscreen.

The Cloak and Dagger Literary Society, Tuesday, June 17, 10:30-11:30 am, Oak Bluffs Library. For more information, call 508-693-9433 or visit

The best part of farming at Slip Away was the piglets. — Photo by Susan Safford

The first thing an idealistic and determined journalist does before she shows up for a morning of farm work is to pick out a suitable wardrobe, right down to the most cunning accessories. I decked myself out in an orange jumper that had received enough paint splotches to put one in mind of a de Kooning canvas. In place of muck boots I had my black rubber rain boots with pastel dots — $15 at a New York thrift store. I also popped on my favorite straw bonnet, an eccentric choice for a job involving mud, dust, and manure but, well, what can you do? A favorite hat to a new farmhand is like a binky to a baby.

A sunny Chappy day was perfect for a farming adventure.
A sunny Chappy day was perfect for a farming adventure.

At 8:30 on a recent Monday morning I appeared at the year-old Slip Away Farm on Chappaquiddick to begin my apprenticeship. A little under two miles in from the ferry landing, the nine acres have been cleared across hill and dale, and early crops of spinach, onions, radishes, greens and baby peas shake their booties out of the soil under pristine white tarps. As soon as these first plantings are plate-ready, a farm stand goes up alongside the road and 55 happy Chappy families will show up for their CSA shares, along with everyone else eager for random goodies

Behind the antique farmhouse, I found Lily Walter, 28, tall, thin, with green eyes and clad in faded grey-green jeans. Her two live-in co-farmers are her brother, Christian Walter, 23, and Collins Heavener, 27, a carpenter throughout the work week, making him a Saturday Slip Away wingman. Farmer newbie Kendyll Gage-Pipa, 24, has also been adopted into the fold.

American Gothic redux, at Chappy's Slipaway Farm. Farmer Christian Walter is on the left.
American Gothic redux, at Chappy’s Slip Away Farm. Farmer Christian Walter is on the left.

Christian sat atop a spanky new green Deere tractor, hauling a chicken house that looked charming enough for the witch in Hansel and Gretel to set up her infamous oven inside. Lily guided her brother in his trajectory up one hill and down another; the plan was to reposition the coop so that the 25 hens could set down fertilizer in a new spot — one of their manifold talents — and to gobble ticks and other assorted pests.

Christian invited me to help him lug three sets of scaffold-braced nets down to the hen house.

“Do I look like Arnold Schwarzenegger?” I almost asked him, but when I lifted my side of the first cage — big as a VW bug — it was surprisingly light. We humped all three units down to the hen house, and within moments the red-ruffed Red Stars and the black-and-white Baard Rocks spilled out through their front door for a peck-and-poop party on their new front lawn.

Lily pointed to a set of cabinets built into the coop and suggested I grab a basket and collect whatever eggs the little darlings had deposited in recent hours. But who needs baskets when you can fold up your jumper like an old-fashioned pinafore, and place the eggs in that?

I noticed one of the Red Stars frozen in an odd contortion on a top berth of the egg-laying shelves. Oh, my heavenly stars, she was laying an egg! I felt an urge to rush it to a tiny omelet pan.

Next we filed to the greenhouse, entering a space of diffused white light, redolent of herbs, hummus, sawdust, and the subtle fragrances of impatiens, coleus, and rosemary. We carried out flats of seedlings ready for prime time in the soil: today it was cabbage, onions, and garlic.

I was also allowed to sit on the tractor, although I lacked the nerve to turn it on. I could see myself bouncing haphazardly down the slopes, then hurtling over the road — Evel Knievel on the high ramp — to the astonishment of everyone motoring up from the ferry.

As much as I yearned to dig trenches, lay in sewer lines, and shovel doo-doo, I mostly longed to hang out with the pigs.

There were three of them, 10 weeks old, pink and wriggly and weighing about as much as my Boston terrier. They tumbled, they jumped and cork-screwed around each other, they dashed to and fro as if forgetting what they’d dashed to, then reconsidered, only to dash fro again. But their main activity was rooting their absurdly long snouts into the soil to dig for edibles of suspicious origin, thus aerating the soil and shoveling around all the effluvial nutrients deep where the veggie roots go. Each time these frenzied critters resurfaced, they had dirt up to their eyeballs — a laugh out loud sight — but then, moments later, you’d glance at the begrimed baby pig again and, holy self-cleaning!, its face was restored to its original pinky luster.

I climbed into the pen and knelt on the ground. They dashed over to see if I were, quite possibly, a walking talking Fudgesicle. They sniffed my arm, and even licked it a couple of times, but after seven seconds of ADD-addled curiosity, they charged off again to roister in their turf.

We should all have farms. Why don’t we? Our famous founding fathers were gardeners and environmentalists, every one of them, and they never could have conceived of a world where anyone traveled to a market to buy anything for dinner: dinner was right outside the kitchen door. Methinks we’d worry less about dips in the Dow if we knew we had food from our own green acres — or the acres of Slip Away Farm — to put on the table.

Lily studied anthropology, Christian attended Emerson to find out that he’d rather farm than write the Great American Novel. Collins graduated from UMass Amherst. This is the new demographic of agriculturalists: young creative people who’ve turned their back on the Tantalus of Wall Street and law degrees to get soil under their fingernails and figure out a way to make the world whole again, farm by farm.

Lord knows I’ve now done my bit.