Authors Posts by Jack Shea

Jack Shea

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Marlins beat Tigers 12-7 for minor’s title.

The A's swarmed the mound after winning the Little League crown. — Photo by Michael Cummo

The A’s rode the bat of Hoffie “Big Papi” Hearn and the glove of Tobey Roberts to become the 2015 Martha’s Vineyard major Little League champions, with an 8-7 comeback win over the scrappy Red Sox on Saturday afternoon at Penn Field in Oak Bluffs. Earlier in the day, the Marlins, led by three hits and five RBIs from Eamon Savard, took the minor league championship by a 12-7 count over the Tigers.

Big homer erases deficit

Hoffie Hearn hit a three-run homer in the bottom of the fifth inning to help the comeback A’s erase a 7-4 Red Sox lead and tie the game 7-7. The decisive run for the A’s was set up when Matt Moore singled, then moved to second and third on groundouts and stole home.

Hoffie Hearn celebrated after hitting a game-tying home run. — Photo by Michael Cummo
Hoffie Hearn celebrated after hitting a game-tying home run. — Photo by Michael Cummo

Max Porter pitched two shutdown innings to preserve the win for the A’s in a classic Little League contest that featured stellar, heady play from two very good teams.

While Hoffie’s Papi-esque late-inning bomb over the right field wall was the offensive difference maker, the A’s are also thanking center fielder Tobey Roberts, who made three insane diving catches, two on successive plays, to keep the surging Red Sox off the board in the middle and late innings.

Before the game, veteran Umpire Larry Johnson said he’s seen an upgrade in the caliber of play in recent years, which he ascribed to the Island’s baseball coaching talent: “You can see it. These kids are better prepared; they can hold their own anywhere, and that’s a result of the coaching they get,” he said.

Mr. Johnson called balls and strikes and colleague Bill Vrooman had a busy day umpiring the bases on a sun-dappled Saturday that reminded us just why baseball is America’s pastime.

Liam Marek of the Red Sox smiles after reaching second base. — Photo by Michael Cummo
Liam Marek of the Red Sox smiles after reaching second base. — Photo by Michael Cummo

 

The major league championship game lived up to Mr. Johnson’s assessment with steady defensive play, aggressive baserunning, strategic play, and clutch pitching and hitting from both squads. The matchup featured the second-place A’s (9-7 regular season) against the “Cinderella” Red Sox (5-10 regular season), who beat the (14-1-1 regular-season) Cubs three days earlier to advance to the championship game.

The Red Sox went up 2-0 in the first inning on Aiden Marek and Owen Mettell RBI singles before Max Porter got one back for the A’s on a RBI groundout. The Red Sox added another in the second on Aiden Rogers’ sacrifice fly on a double-saving catch by Oliver Lively, scoring Jakie Glasgow, who had led off the inning with an opposite-field double, a good piece of hitting off Nate Porterfield, who was bringing the heat on Saturday.

Jack Lionette lays down a perfect bunt. — Photo by Michael Cummo
Jack Lionette lays down a perfect bunt. — Photo by Michael Cummo

 

Both teams scratched to manufacture runs off both the A’s Nate and Sox pitcher Jason Kurth. They bunted, moved runners up, each team using groundouts and sacrifice flies to score. Each team also had a runner thrown out at the plate.

With the A’s leading 4-3 in the top of the fourth, the Red Sox strung together a series of base hits to take a 6-4 lead in an inning that looked like it might be bigger before two A’s relays nailed a runner at the plate and A’s second-sacker Jack Lionette ranged into short right field to track down a pop fly. The Sox added a run in the fifth on a sac fly by Micah Vought on a line drive headed for the right-centerfield alley before Tobey Roberts made a running catch, taking away extra bases.

Shortstop Chris Ferry, center, reacts to his team winning the 2015 title. — Photo by Michael Cummo
Shortstop Chris Ferry, center, reacts to his team winning the 2015 title. — Photo by Michael Cummo

 

Tobey would rob the next hitter, Jakie Glasgow, on a sliding catch of a low line drive to keep the score at 7-4 and set the stage for the A’s fifth-inning offensive heroics. In the Red Sox sixth inning, Tobey would rob leadoff hitter Aiden Rogers, catching a frozen rope at his shoe tops in a one-run game.

Marlins sink Tigers

The Tigers roared out in the first inning, scoring four times after two outs, on a combination of timely hitting and plate patience, turning five walks and two singles into four runs.

The Marlins wasted no time in response, rattling four hits and two walks of their own to knot the game at 4 in the bottom of the first, including two RBIs on a single by Marlin’s pitcher Eamon Savard to help himself.

The Minor League champs: Front row, left to right: Gunnar Graham, Declan McCarthy. Back row, left to right: Tysean Thomas, Eamon Savard, Mason Mercier, Wyatt Nicholson, Kert Kleeman, Faith Thigpen, Cole Lambert, Christian Turner, and Luke Sherman. Coaches, left to right: Steve Savard, Spencer Thigpen. — Photo by Ariel Thomas Photograph
The Minor League champs: Front row, left to right: Gunnar Graham, Declan McCarthy. Back row, left to right: Tysean Thomas, Eamon Savard, Mason Mercier, Wyatt Nicholson, Kert Kleeman, Faith Thigpen, Cole Lambert, Christian Turner, and Luke Sherman. Coaches, left to right: Steve Savard, Spencer Thigpen. — Photo by Ariel Thomas Photograph

These two teams finished the season in a tie for first place, with the Marlins getting the No. 1 seed by virtue of winning the season series against the Tigers. And for four and one-half innings, the teams kept umpires Noah Richards and Mike McCourt hopping as they traded rallies, with the Tigers going up 5-4 on an RBI single in the second from Micah Simmons.

The Fish thrashed back with four of their own to take an 8-5 lead after two innings, with key hits from Faith Thigpen and Eamon Savard. The Tigers cut the lead to 8-7 in the third on Nathan London’s long single that plated a pair.

Pitching and defense took over and contributed to a turning point in the top of the fifth inning. Marlins’ shortstop Cole Lambert took the mound and walked the first two Tigers, then settled down and struck out the side, preserving the one-run lead.

The Marlins exploded for four runs in the fifth, including Kert Kleeman’s third hit of the game and a two-run single from Christian Turner. Cole Lambert fanned the Tigers in the sixth, recording six Ks in two innings of work.

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“Big wallets and little wallets” add up to $1.3 million at Class Night.

Bella Bennett, the daughter of Beatrice Bennett, announces the recipients of the Beatrice Bennett Great Aspirations Memorial Scholarship Fund winners, Taija M. Brown and Sabrina K. Reppert. – Photo by Siobhan Beasley

Jeff Parkhurst clutched his camera just outside the Oak Bluffs Tabernacle on Friday night. He looked like he was watching a miracle.

The Tabernacle was aglow on Friday night. More than $1.3 million was awarded to Island students.
The Tabernacle was aglow on Friday night. More than $1.3 million was awarded to Island students.

Mr. Parkhurst had just photographed his son, Charlie Parkhurst, a Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) senior, walking off the Tabernacle stage holding his dream in his hands. Mr. Parkhurst was one of five MVRHS seniors who will attend the college of their choice in September with a fully-funded four-year scholarship. Mr. Parkhurst will attend UCLA.

Mr. Parkhurst, his son, assorted Island educators and dignitaries, most of the MVRHS senior class, family, and friends were in attendance at the 56th MVRHS “Class Night” at the Tabernacle, at which dreams of the Island’s young become reality.

At the edge of the crowd, his dad said, “I’m vibrating. We knew he had won the scholarship, but to see it tonight …” Mr. Parkhurst shook his head slowly. “This is massive for us. It changes his life, what he can do. An education at UCLA costs $250,000. We could never have afforded it.”

Charlie Parkhurst’s class is the first at MVRHS to benefit from a unique scholarship concept developed by MVYouth, a group of more than 45 largely seasonal residents who have raised $5 million to put back into the Island community, including scholarships. The MVYouth scholarship team interviewed 12 finalists, picked five (the semifinalists each received an iPad and a $1,000 gift certificate to the college bookstore of their choice), and filled in the financial gaps after other scholarships and grants so that no loans would be required to pay for tuition, board, and books: more than $300,000 in total.

Charlie Parkhurst called me late Friday night, after he had collected his scholarship and hustled over to the Martha’s Vineyard Sharks game to do his job as team statistician (but before going to a graduation party). He will go to UCLA to study economics and entrepreneurship.

“It blows my mind that [MVYouth] is doing this. I was thinking I’m in just the first round of kids who will get to have this. It’s been part of my goal to give back to the Island some day. After what they’ve done, I’m committed to doing well and returning the favor,” he said.

One story among literally hundreds at Class Night, a community tapestry that is rewoven every year, interlacing the critical strands of life here: helping others, remembering the past, planning for the future. If you want to know what this Island is about, go to Class Night.

Earlier in the day, I spoke with David Oliveira, the father of MVRHS grad and 2015 Providence College (PC) grad Alicia Oliveira. He knows both sides of the college tuition coin. On Friday afternoon, Mr. Oliveira put his large hands on the counter at the Edgartown Hardware paint store off State Road in Vineyard Haven, and talked about the financial scramble most families find themselves in.

Ms. Oliveira received an Army ROTC scholarship for most of her $52,000-per-year education at PC. But first she had to get into Providence, and then perform well. “The Island scholarship program got us going. Alicia probably got $20,000, all told, in scholarship money, including Island scholarships. So we got through the first year financially somehow. Then she won the ROTC scholarship, and the Army doesn’t hand them out like candy these days. You have to earn it,” he said. “Without the Island scholarships, I don’t know how we would have done it. We’re grateful,” he said.

Early Friday night, Lucas DeBettencourt walked toward the Tabernacle with his mother Laura and his grandmother. Lucas is a strapping MVRHS sophomore with a slow, easy grin. On Friday night he wrestled with a necktie determined to escape his shirt collar.

For the past four years, Lucas has presented a scholarship named for his late dad, Peter Lucas DeBettencourt, a salt of the earth guy who died 13 years ago at age 43 when Lucas was a moppet. He is comfortable doing this presentation. “I love doing this,” he says simply. His mom said the scholarship is intended to go to “family and friends, kids interested in attending Penn State, Peter’s alma mater, or with interest in architecture, his career. We focus a lot on family and friends,” she grinned, adding, “This is good for him, helps to keep his father’s memory alive for him.”

A big part of the intensity at Class Night is just that, the calling of the roll of past lives and contributions, the Ryan Mones and Herb Putnams, stirring memories and recollections for the hundreds in the Tabernacle, including a handful of people who sit alone in the back, listening quietly.

Mike McCarthy is the director of guidance at MVRHS, and has been the director of the scholarship program and its culture for a long time. “Twenty years ago, we gave out $314,000 in scholarships. This year it’s $1,344,000. MVYouth was big for us this year. And the Louise, Sven, and Betty Ann Carlson Scholarship Fund totaled $100,000 this year. Yeah, it’s both, big wallets and little wallets. It’s just the community which wants our kids to have choices for their lives,” he said. “This community understands that college cost have risen dramatically, that our kids can’t commute to college easily. The community puts their money where their mouth is,” he said. In all, 152 separate donors made 682 separate awards, 466 of them to graduating seniors and 216 awards to recent postgrads, he said.

At the end of the day, scholarships are about training the next generation.

Joyce Rickson, an Island nurse active in the League of Women Voters (LWV), presented a $1,200 scholarship to senior Ellen Reagan. “Our judging involves an essay with the application. We rotate themes between women’s rights, the environment, and political science. This year, our theme was political science. You can tell which kids have a certain passion, and it was gratifying to see this girl is concerned about our government and our relationships with other countries,” Ms. Rickson said.

For a detailed list of all award recipients, see the Graduation supplement in this week’s Times.

 

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An open letter to Playwright Neil Simon at the end of the show’s run.

You can catch Christopher Carrick and Jenny Allen in "Not Constantinople" through June 20. – Photo by MJ Bruder Munafo

Neil Simon

c/o Plaza Suite

The Plaza Hotel

New York, N.Y.

 

Neil,

I’m writing you at the Plaza because it’s the only address I could figure out. I thought with the run Plaza Suite had, you probably spend a lot of time there. Wanted to let you know there’s a new kid — Arnie Reisman. You should look at his work.

He’s got this play, Not Constantinople, playing at the Martha’s Vineyard Playhouse in Vineyard Haven, Massachusetts. That’s on Martha’s Vineyard — that Island where lots of writers and artists live. So it’s not like it’s an easy house to play, you know? And he’s doing good business.

It’s the season opener, running since May 29, and it closes June 20, so maybe you should take a plane. Jet Blue has flights from the city. I’ll dig up the box office number. You being you, I wouldn’t be surprised they duke you a couple upfront.

Anyway, back to the Reisman kid. He does a couple things you’d appreciate. First he uses humor to tell a human story that, at the end of the day, isn’t so funny at all. Sort of like a bonus, you know? You come for the the yucks and you get ‘em — one-liners, your witty repartee, and a couple of recurrent sight gags involving car keys and bathrooms.

But you also get what you weren’t expecting — a look at real people wrestling with real-life problems, in this case, growing old in a country and a culture they don’t recognize anymore. In the case of Paul (Damian Buzzerio), that’s literally true. He’s got early-onset Alzheimer’s. He’s also got Lee (Ken Baltin), a very senior hitman, and Stacey (Brianne Beatrice), a bright young hitwoman, looking to put two in his hat. Stacey has an M.B.A., and keeps her killing skills sharp by working days at Goldman Sachs (which Paul immediately recognizes as a department store).

Turns out Paul and his wife, Gloria (Jenny Allen), are living in a senior center in Boca Raton under the federal Witness Protection Program. Paul is waiting to testify against his former employers in the mob, and Lee has been dispatched to quiet Paul, which will also be Lee’s last job before retirement. Stacey, his successor, is there to make sure he gets it done.

The final character is Jack (Christopher Carrick), the U.S. Marshal handling their case. When Jack says, “This is the Witness Protection Program. Protection is our middle name” — and doesn’t realize he’s made a joke — we know our local Dairy Queen has better security than he’s providing.

So, the hitter and the hittee — a couple of crazy old New York kids — hit it off, become squash buds, spend quality bonding time together talking about family values like respect, loyalty and omertà.

You’ll like the dialogue. Reisman writes short, punchy New York rhythms, pretty amazing because he’s from Chicago, which is out past Jersey.

The kid can stitch themes together pretty good. Take the title, based on the song “(Istanbul) Not Constantinople,” written in 1953 after the Turks decided to change the name of their capital. Boom, just like that, after 1,600 years. Hard for people to absorb that much change, to adapt.

And the music. Scenes in Not Constantinople transition with music clips from different eras, ’50s to present day. My personal favorite is the Jim Morrison segue: “No one remembers your name … when you’re strange.” You’re humming it now, right? Evocative. Puts the characters and the audience together through those periods of their lives. Reisman says Director MJ Bruder Munafo gets credit for the music transitions.

Back in Boca, it’s getting to be game time, and we encounter what you might call a conflict of generational value systems. Lee knows Paul flipped to the feds for payback because they unfairly whacked his best friend. That seems right to Lee, so now he doesn’t want to whack Paul. He wants to give him respect. He tells Stacey that by the time Paul testifies, he won’t remember his own name, never mind Mr. Big’s. Stacey is simplistically modern. “Stop thinking. Do your job. He turned. Whack him. And soon,” she tells her mentor.

Now we get to the sweet spot, the part you’re good at, Neil, an honest look at the human condition. After we’ve digested the humor, watched these characters become people we understand and can root for, Reisman’s characters ask us: How do we manage getting old in a world that’s passed us by? How do we live in a world clouded by Alzheimer’s? What are our choices? And does this American society respect and nurture its old people?

Thanks for reading, Neil. Hope you keep the Reisman kid on your radar.

 

Sincerely,

Jack Shea

 

Not Constantinople, written by Arnie Reisman and directed by MJ Bruder Munafo. The Martha’s Vineyard Playhouse, Thursday, June 18, Friday, June 19, and Saturday, June 20, at 7:30 pm. Ticket prices vary; visit vineyardplayhouse.org for details.

 

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This one was a seesaw battle from the get-go.

Red Sox second baseman Atlas Zack looks astonished after making a backward diving catch in shallow right field.

The Red Sox (6-10) moved past the Pirates (3-14) by a 6-4 count in a nail biter playoff game under moody skies at the new Penn Field in Oak Bluffs on Tuesday night.

Owen DiBiaso crosses homeplate to give the Red Sox a lead in the first game of the Little League playoffs.
Owen DiBiaso crosses homeplate to give the Red Sox a lead in the first game of the Little League playoffs.

The Red Sox broke a 4-4 tie in the fourth inning to take a 5-4 lead, then added an insurance run in the fifth for the final tally. Aiden Rogers struck out the side in the Pirates’ sixth inning to nail down the win. The Sox move on to face the league-leading Cubs (14-1) in the next single-elimination round on Wednesday night, in the first week of play on a beautiful Penn Field.

Both teams were in playoff mode, particularly in the field. Both made all the got-to-make-’em plays and tossed in a handful of jaw-droppers.

Nicholas Cranston connects for a base hit in the first round of the Little League playoffs.
Nicholas Cranston connects for a base hit in the first round of the Little League playoffs.

This one was a seesaw battle from the get-go, with Red Sox starter Emily Mello and Pirates hurler Isaac Richards pitching to contact and relying on superb defense that featured a bunch of highlight-reel plays, including a diving catch of a line drive by Pirates third-sacker Felix Colon and a couple of Pedroia-like snatches by Sox second baseman Atlas Zack.

The Pirates took a 1-0 lead in the first on three singles sandwiched around a strikeout. Leadoff hitter Nick Cranston scored on a fielder’s choice as the Red Sox gloves limited the damage. The Red Sox tied it in the bottom of the inning when Owen DiBiaso scored on an Aiden Rogers groundout. After an Emily Mello single, Pirate third-sacker Colon robbed Aiden Marek of extra bases with a full-extension diving catch on a ball that was smoked.

The Pirates jumped on top 2-1 in the second, and threatened for more, before Atlas Zack tumbled into right field to come up with a short fly ball with two Pirates on base. In their third, the Red Sox struck for three runs. Aiden Marek singled to put the Red Sox ahead 3-2 before Aiden Rogers scored on a passed ball to make the score 4-2.

Back came the Pirates, knotting the game at 4-4 on RBIs from Isaac Richards and Jack deBettencourt in the fourth. A Red Sox double in the bottom of the inning scored Jakie Glasgow. The threat was ended on the play with two great Pirate relay throws to catcher Nico Arroyo, who blocked the plate to tag out a sliding Liam Marek.

The defending champion Red Sox scored an insurance run in the bottom of the fifth. Emily Mello provided some fireworks in that frame, hitting a bomb into the wind that was caught on the warning track in dead centerfield before the Pirates went quietly in the sixth.

The winner of Wednesday’s Cubs–Red Sox matchup moves on to the championship game on June 20.

 

 

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Artist Francis Creney answers questions about his pottery. – Photo by Emily Drazen

Updated June 20

The Vineyard Artisans Festival opened its 18th season last Sunday, showcasing over 70 artisans, including a handful of new exhibitors, at the Grange Hall on State Road in West Tisbury.

Festival impresario Andrea Rogers pronounced herself pleased with the 2015 lineup. “We have a wonderful new artist, John Osborn, who works in natural wood jewelry and does scrimshaw handcarving, which is becoming very difficult to find. Taylor Stone is a very creative young cut paper and book arts crafter and artist. Taylor is an Islander who attended Savannah College of Art and Design,” she said.

Ms. Stone is also a second-generation Artisans Festival craftsperson. Her mom, Lori Stone, exhibited handmade dolls at the festival for several years, Ms. Rogers noted.

“As the season develops, we’ll have additional artists, including the world premier of Island copper artist Clay Edwards on Sunday, June 21. We have entries this season from Ivry Russillo [leather bags], Walker Roman [farm animals], and textile artist Kate Fournier,” Ms. Rogers said.

“We’ll have more than 100 artists participating in the Sunday and holiday festivals this year,” Ms. Rogers said. The Vineyard Artisans Festivals are held each Thursday (July 2–August 27) and Sunday (June 14–Sept. 27) at the Grange Hall between 10 am and 2 pm. Additional holiday shows include Labor Day (Sept 4–6), Columbus Day (Oct. 11), Thanksgiving (Nov. 27–28), and a Holiday Show (Dec. 12), all with extended hours.

Ms. Rogers says her show naturally turns over about 10 percent of its exhibitors each year. “We are always looking for new talent,” she said. One new “find” this year is John Osborn, 83, whose family has been in plain sight on the Island for 300 or so years, and longer off-Island when the first family member stepped off the Mayflower.

John Osborn's signature piece is a scrimshaw map of the Island with each town's boundaries etched and colored. – Photo courtesy of Judy Valentine
John Osborn’s signature piece is a scrimshaw map of the Island with each town’s boundaries etched and colored. – Photo courtesy of Judy Valentine

Mr. Osborn was enjoying himself immensely last Sunday at the world premier of his craftsmanship. The artist displayed wood and scrimshaw necklaces made from Island-sourced materials. Mr. Osborn’ s work began from his wood carvings of whales and baseball players. After carving several small right whales as a necklace for his wife, Judy Valentine, Mr. Osborn began his jewelry work, adding scrimshaw carving along the way.

Scrimshaw is a 200-year-old sailor’s art that used whale bone and teeth on which designs and patterns were etched and inked. Mr. Osborn would have an affinity for the work, given his family owned or operated 15 whale ships out of Edgartown in the 19th century. “Not many people do it by hand today,” Mr. Osborn said. He does not use whale’s teeth or bones for his rare handicraft, but employs a hard vinyl composite used for piano keys. “It’s perfect for scrimshaw hand-etching and inking,” he said.

On Sunday, his work attracted a steady stream of browsers, unaware that they were standing two feet away from a connection with the founders of their country.

“I find the wood on the beach and refine it at home to the proper shape and size, sand, slice, and shellac it,” he said. Mr. Osborn’s signature piece is a scrimshaw map of the Island with each town’s boundaries etched and colored.

His feel-good piece is his own ball cap, with a scrimshaw map of the Island attached to the front, serving as a logo.

Inside the hall, Carol Tripp, a happy wool weaver, was set up in her booth for her 16th year as a festival artisan. “We go from sheep to blanket,” Ms. Tripp chuckled, indicating an array of homegrown dyed and spun yarns, clothing, blankets, coverlets, and linens in natural fibers. She and husband Richard Tripp keep some sheep here in Vineyard Haven and the reminder off-Island, in Lakeville.

“Changes over the years? This was always a high-quality show, which was why we came, but it keeps getting better and better. Quality. Variety. It offers a long season, plenty of opportunities to sell. After all these years, people know it’s a good show, and they come back to shop it year in and year out,” said Ms. Tripp.

“Andrea has insisted on high standards. She juries applicants carefully to insure that the work is done by Island people themselves. Believe me, that’s very important in the high-quality craft business,” continued Ms. Tripp.

“We do pay attention to new talent, perfectionists who keep getting better,” Ms. Rogers said. “Everything needs time to grow. Things don’t just happen without nurturing.”

 

Correction: An earlier  version of this story incorrectly spelled Lori Stone’s name as Laurie Stone, and incorrectly reported that she sells handmade puppets. She sells handmade dolls. 

 

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Craftsman Clay Edwards in his West Tisbury studio with one of his finished copper pieces of the Island. – Photo by Michael Cummo

The world premier of Edwards Copper Art takes place on Father’s Day, Sunday, June 21, at the Vineyard Artisans Festival at the Grange Hall in West Tisbury.

A fitting day, when you think about it, since Clay Edwards, 31, of West Tisbury, credits his own dad, craftsman Ken Edwards, and legendary Island craftsmen such as Travis Tuck with mentoring him in life and art.

“I don’t consider myself an artist. Maybe that will come in time. I’m a craftsman,” Mr. Edwards said last Saturday in his studio on Christiantown Road.

Childhood friend Ben Stafford rolled his eyes and shook his head as Mr. Edwards showed an array of copper wall hangings, masks, large detailed seascapes, and Island-image designs (that looked a lot like art) to Mr. Stafford, this reporter, and Times photographer Michael Cummo. The work probably resembled art even to the inquisitive white chicken that wandered into the studio from the yard.

Clay Edwards' copper art will debut at the Vineyard Artisans Festival this Sunday. – Photo by Michael Cummo
Clay Edwards’ copper art will debut at the Vineyard Artisans Festival this Sunday. – Photo by Michael Cummo

Mr. Edwards may see himself as a craftsman because he’s relatively new at this, courtesy of a couple of feet of snow last winter that kept him off Island roofs. It may also be that he works with construction-grade sheet metal copper, thicker than artist’s rolled copper and harder to work.

He uses it because it yields more, well, artistic effect in hue and coloration with the application of heat, and produces deeper reliefs and contrasts when hand-worked with rubber and wooden mallets, like, you know, an artist would.

This man, who shows up as joyous and grateful for his gift, provided some other clues that an artist’s soul resides within:

  • He is less concerned with what we call him than he is about his work and the possibilities it promises;
  • He is captivated by the opportunity to tell the stories of his Island’s culture and its past through his medium;
  • He is, unfortunately, more consumed by creating the work than in assessing its marketplace value, though Mr. Stafford may be of inestimable value in helping to price Mr. Edwards’ work come Sunday. Mr. Stafford was at the shop last Saturday buying some pieces (and bidding up the price of his purchases).
  • He was raised, literally, at the knee of Island artists, including the late Travis Tuck, the best-known weathervane sculptor in the world. Mr. Tuck died on the Island in 2002.

Mr. Edwards uses a process called repoussé (front) and chasing (back) to create his three-dimensional forms from copper sheeting. Simply, he creates elasticity in the copper with an acetylene torch and shapes the image with rubber and wooden tools, using both the front and the back of the surface.

For large copper ‘canvasses,’ like his seascape with fishermen on the rocks and a coming storm driving the daylight behind raised cliffs in the background, the process takes several hundred hours. “I use different oxidants to achieve colors. You can’t use acrylic paints and a brush [on copper], but this piece will last hundreds, maybe thousands of years, long after a canvas has shriveled,” he said.

Clay Edwards creates three-dimensional forms from construction-grade sheet metal copper. – Photo by Michael Cummo
Clay Edwards creates three-dimensional forms from construction-grade sheet metal copper. – Photo by Michael Cummo

“I started when I was a kid, using scraps of my dad’s copper and his nail punch, making trees or what have you,” Mr. Edwards recalled last Saturday. He has maintained the free-form approach, and does not use forms or templates. There are no mass-produced copies of his work. Each piece is unique. “See those wall hangings with the outline of the Vineyard in the middle? Some of the Island outlines show the Island before the Norton Point breach in 2007 and some after Chappy was cut off,” he said. (In April 2015 the breach filled in, linking Chappy or Chappaquiddick with the mainland again.)

“Yeah, I’ve been working with copper all of my life. This is my dad’s workshop, and these tools are older than I am,” he laughed, gesturing at workbenches in the large space. “Copper workers are few and far between, the way the world is going these days, so it’s something to hold on to,” he said.

“I’ve learned from a circle of people, friends, really, like Travis and his son Nelson Tuck, Scott McDowell and his son Ross McDowell, and others. I’ve studied quite a bit of history of this craft, going back thousands of years to King Tut’s mask, which was formed in the same way as this mask was,” he said, gesturing to a nearby mask of a face.

And on it went during my visit, Mr. Edwards retrieving piece after piece of evocative scenes, from a small boy leading a massive ox, the Island’s beast of burden for hundreds of years, to a large-form piece of a woman surfer just under the wave crest.
Pieces that looked like art. Images that stay in your head. Check them out on Sunday and see what you think.

 

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West Tisbury librarian Jennifer Tseng's latest novel is gaining national attention. Photo by Laura Coit

The West Tisbury librarian, poet, and debut novelist drew a standing-room-only crowd to Bunch of Grapes bookstore in Vineyard Haven Friday night for a reading and discussion of Mayumi and the Sea of Happiness, published last month by Europa Editions.

Jennifer Tseng’s first novel has attracted some serious national and international buzz. The Los Angeles Times has it on the newspaper’s list of 22 books to read this summer, and the Boston Globe covered it. Kirkus Reviews, Goodreads (almost 5 stars), and the international online hub the Island Review all loved this intense, complex story about a 41-year old librarian’s yearlong affair with a teenage boy on a small Island off the coast of Massachusetts.
Ms. Tseng coordinates literary events and circulates materials for the West Tisbury library when she is not building a growing body of well-received literary work. Raised in California by a Chinese immigrant engineer and a first-generation German-American microbiologist, Ms. Tseng holds masters degrees in Asian-American studies, has taught Asian-American studies and creative writing at UCLA and Hampshire College, and is active in several literary organizations. Her first book, The Man with My Face, won both the 2005 Asian American Writers’ Workshop’s National Poetry Manuscript Competition and a 2006 PEN American Center Open Book Award. Her second book, Red Flower, White Flower, won the Marick Press Poetry Prize, and included Chinese translations by Mengying Han and Aaron Crippen. She is currently working on a second novel.
Like so many “overnight” successes, Ms. Tseng has spent several decades producing literature that has attracted top-rank literary publishing houses, like Marick Press and now Europa Editions, to her work.
At her reading last Friday night, the audience brought a palpable excitement with them, and rattled off questions about the plot, the heroine, comparisons with Lolita, and comments about the luxuriously detailed language in Mayumi. One audience member, unfamiliar with the book, exclaimed joyously that “this book sounds like How Stella Got Her Groove Back, except it’s set on Martha’s Vineyard rather than in Jamaica,” which generated howls of laughter.
Ms. Tseng told the audience that she had peppered co-workers with questions during the 2½ years spent writing her book. Ms. Tseng admitted to an audience member that she “was scared” that readers would think her protagonist was autobiographical, and then in her wry, self-deprecating style, admitted a library colleague had to explain the term “cougar.” “I can’t believe I didn’t know that,” she said. In a 10-minute reading from Mayumi, Ms. Tseng created a protagonist with a ruthless commitment to self-reporting, to telling on herself in a manner that riveted listeners.
“You know, there was never any question in my mind that we would be sitting here tonight,” Laura Coit, a colleague at West Tisbury library, said on Friday night. ”It feels good just to have witnessed the entire process,” she said. Beth Kramer, library director, said earlier this week, “We love and celebrate Jennifer, and we’re having a party for her at the library on June 27 to which everyone is invited.”

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Who knew beachcombing might be so profitable?

One of the many cases of seaglass kept at C.B. Stark Jewelers. Photo by Michael Cummo.

For years I thought they were depressed, lonely people: heads downcast, trudging slowly along water’s edge. I never intruded — a good thing, because they were not in a funk. They were searching for beach glass.

Some seaglass is plucked from the ocean too soon, when its edges are not properly worn. Photo by Michael Cummo.
Some sea glass is plucked from the ocean too soon, when its edges are not properly worn. Photo by Michael Cummo.

It’s not an easy task to find good beach glass anymore, let alone aged and tumbled red, pink, and orange glass, the ne plus ultra colors of the beach glass business. And it is a business, particularly on this Island.

C.B. Stark Jewelers in Vineyard Haven — and opening their Edgartown store soon  — has been running a front-page ad in this paper, asking folks to bring in jewelry-grade beach glass pieces for sale or to have a custom piece of jewelry made. (The Edgartown store will now be found at 10 Main Street). In Oak Bluffs, Driftwood Jewelry on Circuit Avenue recently staged a grand opening raffle in which customers exchanged quality sea glass for a chance to win gift certificates.

Beach glass jewelry has been a mainstay at Cheryl Stark’s store for more than 40 years. For much of that time, Ms. Stark was able to find enough glass for use in her shop by beachcombing herself. But the Island’s popularity has brought several generations worth of beachcombers, dramatically thinning the supply of aged and tumbled beach glass in desirable colors.

A review of beach glass websites shows us that seaglass quality is rated on a system similar to diamonds and gemstones, based on surface finish or frosting, shape and color. Professionals like Sarah York, Vineyard Haven store manager at C.B. Stark, can spot winners immediately.

“Oh yes, no question about it. We can even tell whether the glass is from Northeast beaches or from the Caribbean, for example,” Ms. York said in a recent interview at C.B. Stark’s on Main Street, Vineyard Haven.

Glass tumbles differently in locales with different topography, she said. “Caribbean glass, for example, has a different finish from Island glass, because it tumbles in finer sand, without the rocks and pebbles we have here,” she said.

The rare deep blue seaglass, is always popular and always in demand.Photo by Michael Cummo.
The rare deep blue seaglass is always popular and always in demand. Photo by Michael Cummo.

“Deep blue is the favored color for Island jewelry. It seems to represent the Island for visitors, particularly,” she said, noting that colors that are no longer used in making glass are becoming rarer and hence more valuable. “Beach glass jewelry is a big contributor to our business, particularly in summer,” Ms. York said.

Shape, color, and finish determine the value of a piece of glass, particularly for expert jeweler Jeff Regan and Island native Elysha Roberts, who make C.B. Stark beach glass jewelry. “We don’t cut or polish the glass. Authenticity is a key element in the appeal,” Ms. Roberts said, noting that the size and shape of the glass determines whether it will show best as a bracelet, pendant, or earrings.

Ms. York said there is great appeal for customers who find a beautiful piece of glass and have it made into a unique piece of jewelry. “Many people bring us glass and ask us to make a piece for them. We work with them to design and craft a piece,” she said. “And we’ve had a lot of interest from beachcombers willing to sell their finds. It’s the luck of the draw really, depending on quality and usability. We may pick only a few pieces, but sometimes, in fact just a few weeks ago, we got a wonderful collection and bought the whole thing. If I had to guess, I’d say we maybe buy 20 percent of the glass we are offered.”

The demand for C.B. Stark beach glass jewelry will likely spike when they reopen their Edgartown store.

Chris Bergeron, a 25-year veteran of jewelry retailing, is reprising his 2005 stint as the manager of the Edgartown location.

“We’ll be carrying the same core inventory in Edgartown as we feature in Vineyard Haven, including original charms and Island bracelet designs created by Cheryl and her partner Margery Meltzer almost 50 years ago. We’ll also feature a high-end line of men’s jewelry and gifts by William Henry, including amazing inlays of natural materials and fossils, pendants, pocketknives and leather bracelets,” he said.

And, of course, the crown jewels — made from beach glass.

Sea glass rarity chart

Here’s an edited version of how experts at eHow rate seaglass:

Grading

  • Sea glass that is graded Jewelry A is frosted consistently and has no chips in the frosting. All corners are rounded and not sharp. Jewelry B–grade sea glass is similar to Jewelry A, but may have some defects or chips. “Other” is the lowest grade of jewelry sea glass. Glass in this category is likely to have more than one of the defects present in Jewelry B sea glass.

Craft grades A and B, while generally frosted, aren’t uniform enough for jewelry. Craft grades are likely to have defects such as cracks, rough edges, uneven frosting, and irregular shapes.

Color

  • The value of sea glass depends a lot on its color. Common colors, including brown, white, green, and blue, aren’t as valuable as rare colors. Sea glass that is red, pink, or orange is extremely rare, because its sources are no longer available. Red, pink, or orange commercial glass was originally made with gold as an additive, and is no longer made. Because of their scarcity, these colors are valuable.

Frost and thickness

  • Frosting occurs as ocean salt and sediments polish sea glass. The ocean acts as a natural rock tumbler, and frosting is directly proportional to the amount of time a piece spends in the ocean. Frosting increases a piece’s value. The larger and thicker a piece of heavily frosted glass is, the more valuable it is.

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How Vineyard summer resident Beny J. Primm pioneered drug treatment against all odds.

Dr. Beny J. Primm stands with his bust by Ogundipe Fayomi during the opening of "Artists Speaking for the Spirits” exhibit in February 2010. – Photo courtesy blackartinamerica.com

The Healer: A Doctor’s Crusade Against Addiction and AIDS by Beny J. Primm, M.D., with John S. Friedman. Published on CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform. 167 pages, hardcover, $30. 182 pages, paperback, $14.99. Available online at amazon.com, and soon at Island bookstores and libraries.

 

The_healer_cover_amazon.jpgRead this book, and you may ask yourself why Dr. Beny J. Primm isn’t a household name in our country, given his influential work in changing social and medical history in the turbulent American 20th century.

He did the tough stuff: finding means for drug addicts to begin recovery in a world that judged addicts as moral failures instead of people suffering from disease. He began the work on New York City streets in the late 1960s and 1970s, a period of unabating social and political upheaval, which makes his story a remarkable page-turner.

Dr. Primm is also an internationally recognized expert on HIV and AIDS, an area of study he pursued given the relationship between addiction and the epidemic levels of infection among intravenous drug users. He has served on the Presidential Commission on the Human Immunodeficiency Virus Epidemic, and has represented the U.S. at numerous international conferences, including the World Health Organization’s conference in Geneva and the International Conference for Ministers of Health on AIDS Prevention in London. Dr. Primm has advised the National Drug Abuse Policy Office since the Nixon administration.

For 43 years he was executive director of the Addiction Research Treatment Corporation (ARTC) he helped found in 1969 in New York; now called START, it is one of the state’s largest nonhospital providers of health and human services. In 1981, Dr. Primm helped establish the Urban Resource Institute (URI) in New York City. URI supports community-based initiatives and social service programs for battered women, the developmentally disabled, substance abusers, and those infected with HIV and AIDS. “Where you have poverty, you will have lots of other pathologies in a community. Particularly violence to women and children. I started URI to ameliorate some of those issues,” Dr. Primm said in a recent phone conversation with The Times.

Dr. Primm wrote The Healer with John S. Friedman, journalist, documentary filmmaker, and producer of the Academy Award–winning documentary Hotel Terminus: The Life and Times of Klaus Barbie. In The Healer, Dr. Primm describes a Depression-era childhood in bucolic West Virginia, then a cultural fast-forward to mighty DeWitt Clinton High School in the Bronx, a basketball scholarship to the first of two colleges, a paratrooping stint for the U.S. Army, then overseas for a medical degree from the University of Geneva in 1959.

His story reminds us that heroes are people we judge to have risen to an occasion, to meet a crisis or a critical need. History tells us that most heroes aren’t born that way but are prepared by life for their ascendancy.

Dr. Primm came into the world during a three-decade American cultural perfect storm. As a boy in Hatfield-McCoy feud country, he watched the Great Depression unfold, then saw World War II as an adolescent African American living in de facto Southern segregation. As an adult medical professional, he learned to use the social radicalism of the ’60s and ’70s to advance his healing agenda.

Talking with him last week, Dr. Primm discussed his life and work in a gentle baritone ‘doctor’ voice that says “I got this.”

“The times were right. I wasn’t a total radical, but I was radical enough to be embraced by most people involved in all sides of an issue. I was able to get along. My paratrooper training was helpful,” he said without apparent irony.

“It was very, very difficult. I started at Harlem Hospital in 1963 as a weekend emergency room anesthesiologist. Lots of emergency cases. My skills were developed from Friday at 3 pm until Sunday morning. Lots of addiction-related shootings and stabbings. One patient with a gunshot wound to his heart almost bled out. While we were treating him, I noticed scarring on his chest. I asked for his charts, and found addiction history and prior stab wounds.

“I thought, Why didn’t we do something about his addictions? We could have saved him from this injury. That was the moment of clarity for me: Nothing was being done, and something had to be done,” said Dr. Pimm.

That would also be the heroic moment for the new kid at the big city hospital, working the deadly weekend ER shift, who would not keep his mouth shut, and wrote a paper on the need.

“I exposed that at Harlem Hospital. We were serving the drug capital of the world. Finally we started something. I was being heard,” he said.

The “something” at Harlem Hospital was an oversized broom closet for Dr. Primm, his assistant and their files. “Then the [New York] city administration heard me. Mitchell Rosenthal [then with New York City’s Addiction Services Agency] gave me some money to do the work,” he said.

Dr. Primm hired Danny Cook, a street-savvy drug counselor, and it was on: scrabbling for funding, overcoming community objections, and finding a permanent home for the fledgling rehab and treatment agency, managing city and borough political turf wars and the occasional sit-in and/or appropriation of unused buildings for rehab and recovery work.

Ironically, Dr. Primm did his work in the same neighborhood three decades after Alcoholics Anonymous founder Bill Wilson fought the same battles and attitudes to found his AA movement. The cultural issue was the same for both pioneers: Addiction was popularly regarded as a moral, rather than medical, issue. “I think that got in the way, but we had a few people who understood that the moral model was the wrong approach,” Dr. Primm said.

By the late ’60s, the war in Vietnam was not only unpopular at home, but politicians knew they were facing the return of thousands of strung-out soldiers. That problem needed solving, and Dr. Primm found himself on an airplane to Vietnam, courtesy of Jerome Jaffe, the Nixon administration’s drug czar, tasked with setting up in-country drug-testing and assessment of the problem.

Dr. Primm did it, and has been held close by presidential administrations since. He rates George H.W. Bush as the most open-minded president with regard to drug policy, and Bill Clinton as having the most productive drug policies.

Beny J. Primm, M.D.: a man who can talk junkies down and speak up to presidents.

 

Cousen Rose Gallery on Circuit Avenue in Oak Bluffs will host a public reception and book signing for Dr. Primm, an Island seasonal resident for more than 50 years, on August 22 from 7 to 9 pm.

 

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The ace lefthander was on hand for a clinic sponsored by the Coogan family.

Bill "Spaceman" Lee talked baseball to kids and parents at the Shark Tank Saturday morning. – Photo by Michael Cummo

Major League baseball pitching legend Bill Lee had a full day on Saturday. From 9 am till noon, the former Boston Red Sox ace lefthander was the star attraction at the grand opening of the Shark Shack, a retail store that sells logo merchandise for the Martha’s Vineyard Sharks amateur collegiate team.

That afternoon he participated in a baseball clinic sponsored by the Coogan family, owners of the Wharf Restaurant and Pub and Rockfish Restaurant in Edgartown.

Mr. Lee, 68, enthralled several dozen young baseball players, coaches, and fans who attended his high-intensity clinic at the Vineyard Baseball Park (Shark Tank), a session that included advice on both baseball and about life, before he hustled off to Fenway Park’s Legends suite to catch up with other former Red Sox players and to watch an evening game between the Red Sox and the Los Angeles Angels.

Mr. Lee, now a resident of the Northeast Kingdom in Vermont with his wife Diana, has lived a tumultuous life of baseball success and iconoclasm. He has been continuously outspoken on a variety of social and political issues over the past 40 years, becoming a nationally known personality outside the sports arena. A teammate nicknamed him “Spaceman” for his otherworldly life perspective, a moniker that has stuck.

A lanky surfer-dude-looking USC grad who burst on the scene in 1969 with the Boston Red Sox, Mr. Lee has always understood stage presence and use of the diamond as a bully pulpit. The Boston Red Sox were reluctantly beginning to abandon the Cro-Magnon school of management when the brash lefthander showed up to drive them, and a lot of the baseball world, out of their conservative minds.

Young baseball players work on their footwork with former Red Sox pitcher Bill Lee. — Photo by Michael Cummo
Young baseball players work on their footwork with former Red Sox pitcher Bill Lee. — Photo by Michael Cummo

The fans loved Mr. Lee, who organized chewing gum–punting contests in the bullpen during games, and was a prime mover in the formation of the Buffalo Heads, a group of Sox players who in 1978 publicly criticized management’s use of the pitching staff.

So much for baseball whistleblowing. The ringleaders, including Mr. Lee, were frogmarched out of town. In his case, Mr. Lee was traded to the Montreal Expos, where he won 16 games the following year. Oops.

He presents an open, booming, passionate persona that delighted — and riveted — his audience on Saturday. No small accomplishment, considering his target audience was teenage boys, an audience typically determined to be cool and unengaged around adults.

But the Island and Falmouth Babe Ruth League players oohed and aahed with the rest of us as Mr. Lee demonstrated a repertoire of heaters, curves, cutters, sliders, changeups, and his (in)famous Lee-phus pitch, which rises slowly and majestically skyward before descending into a catcher’s mitt, often without being hit into the next county.

Mr. Lee won 119 major league games, and at age 65 became the oldest player to start — and to win — a professional baseball game.

We may get to see the Lee-phus pitch next fall. Mr. Lee said he is considering a stint with the Martha’s Vineyard Dogfish, who compete in an over-40 baseball league.

Mr. Lee really taught good baseball on Saturday. “It’s amazing, these pearls of wisdom that drop every minute,” Dogfish player Steve Gallagher murmured. True. More than anything else, Bill Lee shows up these days as an offbeat, articulate, and intelligent performer who uses his physical talent to teach success at life. For example, in mid-windup he advised the assemblage to read The Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell’s 2011 book about the roots of successful people.

As a teacher, Mr. Lee takes the game seriously. “I teach this game from the ground up. It’s like life; you need a good foundation,” he told clinic attendees on Saturday. Along with lower body posture and balance, Mr. Lee emphasized mindful breathing techniques — “Don’t mouth-breathe. Breathe in your left nostril and out your right nostril” — and he demonstrated basic Ayurvedic yoga stretches.

Then on to the mound, where hitters and pitchers got tips. For pitchers: “Establish your landing point in your warmup. Draw a line. Never over-stride it. Reach back as far as you can in the windup. Pronate your wrist so the back of your hand faces the plate, and turn your hand to face the plate during delivery. Pronate. Pronating properly adds 10 miles an hour to your fastball.”

To hitters: “Let the pitch come to you. Don’t chase the ball. Breathing is critical to that practice. The best hitters say that when they do that, the pitch takes forever to reach them. Sounds [counterintuitive], but that’s what breathing and waiting does for them.”

He also had words for every baseball player, regardless of position, that included: “My dad wrote ‘Hustle’ on the fingers of my first glove.

“Don’t alibi. This is important. Never alibi and don’t blame. Someone made an error behind you? That’s what happened; move on. Throw a double-play ball to the next hitter.

“Good communication is the first line of defense.”

Then on to pitching batting practice to young players from 5 to 15 years old, providing thrills to the Harold Lawries and Summer Cardozas of the Island, Babe Ruth Leaguers who got to face a major league pitcher.