Authors Posts by Tony Omer

Tony Omer

Tony Omer
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The Vineyard’s first triathlon in more than 15 years is planned for Sunday, Sept. 11. Participating in the first Vineyard Warrior Triathlon could be the goal you need to get you into the best shape of your life, but you’ll need to start now, as the training can prove intense.

Triathlons, “tris” for short, come in many shapes and sizes. The tri is a swim, a bike ride, and a run of varying distances, in that order. It requires months of training and good eating. Regular swims, runs, and serious biking have to be squeezed in between work and family obligations. A commitment to a tri is often a life-changing experience.

The segments of this triathlon, called an Olympic triathlon because of its distance, are a one-mile swim, a 24-mile bike ride, and a 6.2-mile run. The last triathlon on the Island was an Ironman, in 1994. The Ironman distances are a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride, and a full marathon run of 26.2-miles.

For the first leg, the swim leg, there will be swimmers racing to reach the tall ship Providence, leaving at the gun from Inkwell beach in Oak Bluffs. Once they swim around the ship, anchored about a half mile from the starting point, they will head back to the beach, sprint to mount their bicycles at Waban Park to hightail it through the towns of Tisbury, West Tisbury, Edgartown, and back to Oak Bluffs. Leaping from their bikes, they will then run the last leg to the finish line.

The Vineyard Warrior Tri is the brainchild of Matthew Brackman, who now lives in Sarasota, Florida. Mr. Brackman grew up in Massachusetts and visited the Island as a child. He spent the better part of a summer here in 2002, training for a triathlon, and he has returned many times since.

Almost three years ago, he mentioned to his wife that the Vineyard would be a perfect place for a race, and since then he has been toying with the idea. He has been the co-director of the Florida International Triathlon in Sarasota the past two years, and he is president of Odyssey TriSport LLC, which is in the business of promoting triathlons.

In addition to bringing to the Vineyard the tall ship Providence, from whose deck the swimming leg of the race may be watched, Mr. Brackman has invited top level tri-athletes, including six-time Ironman world champion Mark Allen, who will lead clinics in the days before the race. Mr. Brackman anticipates between 500 and 800 competitors, with registrants from 16 states and Canada already signed up, as of early June.

There will be a children’s no-swim tri on the Saturday before race day at Waban Park in Oak Bluffs. More information and registration details are available online at vineyardwarrior.com. Details of each leg of the race and of ancillary activities will also be available online when they are confirmed. Many volunteers will be required. Mr. Brackman is making a donation to the Boys and Girls Club, which will help organize the many volunteers who will be needed to make the event a success. Contact the club at 508-627-3303 or visit mvbgclub.org for more information and to sign-up.

Tony Omer, an avid biker, lives in West Tisbury. He is on staff at The Times.

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Thankfully, the world did not end last Saturday as some had predicted. Katharine Cornell Theatre (KCT) Concerts would have had to cancel this Friday’s 8 pm concert at the Katharine Cornell Theatre in Vineyard Haven and we would have been deprived of the opportunity to hear the ethereal music of Irishman Laurence Nugent right here on Earth.

Mr. Nugent will be accompanied by Nancy Conescu, an internationally respected guitarist and vocalist. Ms. Conescu has toured Ireland with the group Aontas and is regarded as one of the great voices in the world of Irish traditional music today.

Mr. Nugent is a virtuoso flute and whistle player. His music has a clear melodic quality that only the most grounded and accomplished musician can convey. He grew up in a musical family. His father Sean Nugent was an All-Ireland fiddle champion and leader of the Pride of Erin Ceili Band, one of the top Irish dance bands of its day.

The younger Nugent grew up listening to many of Ireland’s most accomplished musicians. He won numerous musical contests in his native Ireland as a young performer and went on to win the senior All-Ireland Championships in 1994 and 1995. He is an established performer on the Celtic music circuit. Mr. Nugent has performed with many musicians, including The Chieftains, Shane McGowan, Van Morrison, The Drovers, The Green Fields of America, Martin Hayes, Dennis Cahill, and Paddy Keenan.

He has toured extensively throughout Ireland, the United States, Canada, Europe, and Japan. His CDs (Laurence Nugent, Two For Two, and The Windy Gap, on Shanachie Records) have met with critical acclaim. On them, je was joined by some of the greats of Irish music, including fiddle legends Kevin Burke and Liz Carroll, and guitarist Arty McGlynn. His music is often heard on radio, including A Prairie Home Companion,

He has lived in Chicago since 1992. He teaches at the Old Town School of Folk Music, and in workshops throughout the United States and Ireland.

KCT Concerts continues to bring to the Island the best that there is in Irish music with occasional doses of American folk/roots music. Their production values, while never too shabby, continue to improve and provide us with some of the finest musical presentations on the Vineyard.

The upcoming schedule includes: The Kane Sisters with Edel Fox on Wednesday, July 27; Richie Stearns on Saturday, Sept. 3; The Bee Eaters Thursday, Sept. 22; and Jake Schepps on Sunday, Oct. 9.

KCT Concerts is a nonprofit organization, the result of the hard work and dreams of Gregg Harcourt and Mary Wolverton. It is supported by ticket and CD sales, volunteers, and a grant from the Martha’s Vineyard Cultural Council. KCT Concerts also lends its support to other Island musical productions. For more information go to kctconcerts.com.

Laurence Nugent, with Nancy Conescu, 8 pm, Friday, May 27, Katharine Cornell Theatre, Vineyard Haven. $20; $15 in advance (at aboveground records, Island Entertainment, Alley’s, the Scottish Bakehouse and the Oak Bluffs General Store, or online at ticketsmv.com), free for children. Call 508-693-6237 for information and reservations.

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On Saturday, 615 folks of various ages and sizes and in various states of dress, although mostly in brightly colored tight-fitting riding attire, took off on their bicycles from the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School parking lot to ride around the Vineyard in support of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society’s Accept the Challenge. A 62-mile course was tackled by 318 of the cyclists, 237 rode a 30-mile course, and 60 rode the 15-miler.

Ride organizer Liz Shrawn, who works out of the NMSS Cape office, said the numbers have been consistent for the last few years. “We are on track to reach our goal of $450,000 for 2011, which we exceeded last year.”

Riders pay an entry fee of $35 dollars and commit to raising a minimum of $250. The top fundraiser contributed $25,850 to the total. There were cyclists from 14 years of age to 77. Riders came from as far as California and Miami, Vermont, and Washington, D.C. Many stayed on the Island Friday night and some made a weekend of it. There were 15 cyclists from the Vineyard.

“The Island Boys and Girls Club helped out with logistics on the Island as well as on Island recruitment and awareness,” Ms. Shrawn said. “There were over 50 Islander volunteers.” The Boys and Girls Club receives some of the proceeds.

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Leslie J. Stark, left, and Don Lyons have a not-so-neighborly confrontation. — Photo courtesy of M.V. Productions

“Morning Copy” is a 10-minute short film about two aged men living across the road from each other in Oak Bluffs, with a shared passion to be the first to read the news. There is no spoken dialog but the film has a wonderful soundtrack.

The film stars two local veteran actors, Don Lyons, who is cast against type as a decidedly curmudgeonly old man (he is in fact not decidedly curmudgeonly), and Leslie J. Stark, who plays a decidedly distinguished gentleman, and a recent inhabitant of the neighborhood. Their facial expressions push the storyline as they spar with their eyes, their attitudes clearly defining their territory and intent. They engage in a not-so-friendly early morning battle to be the first to have their morning copy. A change of condition leads to a rather saccharine finale.

There was a time when the young yearned to be writers of novels and poetry, painters, baseball stars, and movie stars. Many now wish to be movie-makers.

The film’s producer is Martha’s Vineyard Productions. It is an Island-based video production studio that first opened its shutter in January of 2010. Brothers Dan and Greg Martino, 20-somethings, have opened the business “To provide a professional and creative production facility on the Vineyard,” according to Dan.

“Morning Copy” showcases their filming and editing skills. It was filmed in three days using what appears to be natural lighting. The sets are a Campground house in Oak Bluffs, and the press room of the Vineyard Gazette.

The film is tastefully edited and mixed with a wonderful soundtrack. The sound effects made me feel that I was there holding the camera. The beautifully expressive musical score is made up of original compositions composed, performed, and mixed by friends of the Martinos in Dallas.

“It was great working with Don and Leslie. Being the stars that they are we learned a lot from them,” Dan said. “They really embodied the roles and ran with them.”

The brothers are Houston natives. Dan studied filmmaking as well as other graphic arts at The Art Institute of Houston. Greg studied finance at Southern Methodist University (SMU) in Dallas. Dan pointed out that you need both skill sets to make movies.

Dan first arrived on the Island three years ago as an employee of Plum TV and fell in love with the Island. His brother came to visit and agreed that this might be a pretty good place to set up shop.

They specialize in wedding videos, corporate retreats, virtual real-estate walkthroughs, fundraiser videos, event snapshots, etc. Dan points out that they are also aspiring screenwriters, and have written a number of feature length screenplays. They are also currently working to create programs on the Island that will give students a chance to become active in the filmmaking community. They hope to eventually transition into feature length movies.

The film is available to watch on their website: MarthasVineyardProductions.com; at http://player.vimeo.com/video/21452976; or look up their page on Facebook.

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“Rodin’s Debutante” by Ward Just, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Boston-New York, March 1, 2011. $26. Available at Island bookstores.

Neither the French sculptor Rodin nor a debutante inhabit the familiar feeling landscape of Ward Just’s 17th novel “Rodin’s Debutante.”

Mr. Just, a West Tisbury resident, has written another coming-of-age story that has parallels to his Pulitzer Prize finalist “An Unfinished Season,” published in 2004. Both are stories about boys growing up through the 1940s and ’50s, in small towns outside of Chicago. Chicago is the emotional hub of both novels. Growing up, establishing a moral and an intellectual base, happens in the satellite rural/urban towns around Chicago, and the maturing occurs in the big city in both books.

Mr. Just’s masterfully crafted “Rodin’s Debutante” begins early in the 20th century with the story of a wealthy ne’er-do-well son of a 19th century railroad man from just outside of Chicago who prefers little but hunting and long weekends at a local cathouse. On the eve of World War II in what seems to be knee-jerk reaction to his paramour’s desire to have a bust of herself sculpted by the famous Auguste Rodin (1840-1917), similar to one of another woman that sits on a shelf in the house, the boorish Tom Ogden unexpectedly decides to convert his lavish country estate into a private school, Ogden Hall School for Boys. He hopes his school will help eliminate the area’s dependence on New York, London, and Boston and the control he believes they have on the midwest.

Jumping in time to after the War, the story picks up with the young Lee Goodell, the son of a judge and one of a small group of town fathers who shape and control the politics of New Jesper, Ill., a Lake Michigan shore town. New Jesper, the home of Lee’s father and grandfather, was a prosperous mill town, not unlike many New England towns, until the end of the Second World War.

Lee’s safe, middle-class childhood has a few defining bumps: one an eventful encounter with a railroad bum; another, eavesdropping on a meeting of “the Committee,” his father’s surreptitious governing group, while planning the well-intentioned suppression of the story of a heinous sex crime against one of his school classmates.

With the discomfort of the new reality in New Jesper, Lee’s family moves from the small languishing mill town to a suburban Chicago, upscale beachfront community. Lee soon heads off to prep school, Ogden Hall.

Lee is a good student and does well, and a few more defining moments occur at school. After Ogden Hall, he attends the University of Chicago, settling in to the city’s vibrant and sometimes violent South Side. His life becomes fashioned not only by his intellectual experiences at school but also by his encounters with the reality of everyday Chicago life: its hard knocks, politics, and art. He becomes involved in a community service project for a short while, becoming a sculptor and falling in love.

The subtle, prevailing inertial force of the political landscape is the underlying current that moves most of Mr. Just’s stories. It is the unspoken politics of the 20th century, the ever-enabling or stifling economics, that push his stories and give them a historical basis that compliment his vivid re-creations of another period.

There is a prevailing emotional tension in his stories that mostly defies description. It is perhaps the tension of living, of life, as a constant dialectic between the individual and the rest of the world.

Whatever it is, I find him a joy to read. He is a master at creating moods and atmosphere, and interesting characters. Mr. Just does not attempt to spout out the answers, but he lays out the story with beautifully crafted sentences and paragraphs. He uses sentences as though they were fine jewels, at their best when presented subtly and well polished.

This book is about a period in time that many of us experienced, not so long ago in years and perhaps not that far removed from the situations that the young find themselves facing today.

Author’s Talk with Ward Just, 7:30 pm, Saturday, April 30, Bunch of Grapes Bookstore, Vineyard Haven. The author will discuss “Rodin’s Debutante.” 508-693-2291.

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Magician Steve Charette levitates a table, with help from Judy Cronig. — Photo by Susan Safford

Magician Steve Charette, a Worcester native, brought his 40 years of performing experience to the Lambert’s Cove Inn this past Saturday, Feb. 26. Mr. Charette’s masterful show mystified and charmed the full house at the Inn’s second Dinner and a Show evening.

He read minds. Using slight-of hand (or was it just plain ol’ magic?) he made money and many other objects appear and disappear. He levitated a small table. He coaxed a half-dozen willing and somewhat-willing dinners to participate. His warmth and good natured presence, his skilled banter and constant interaction with the crowd had everyone laughing. I think we all walked away wondering how he did it.

Another Dinner and a Show night featuring off-Island comedians is planned for March 19. Reservations are required.

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The Vineyard Youth Tennis 2011 Round Robin Extravaganza held Saturday and Sunday raised $14,852 to benefit the nonprofit organization. “It was a big success,” Executive Director Scott Smith said.

Weekend events included a tournament and a silent auction to benefit the Vineyard Youth Tennis (VYT) tennis scholarship and activities fund.

In the men’s A Doubles, Michael Halisky and Kent Leonard defeated the team of Fain Hackney-Reid Yennie 6-1, 6-3 in a match that provided an awesome display of power and finesse on both sides of the net. Reid and Kent are both VYT teenagers. The team of Ally Moore-Andrew Aliberti defeated Skip Dostal and Steve Mussell in the men’s B final.

The doubles powerhouse of Nina Bramhall and 13-year-old Samantha Potter bested Laura Schroeder and Elizabeth McBride 6-2, 6-4 in the Women’s A Doubles final. In the Women’s B Doubles, Jeannie Holenko and Jill Jackson Champs bested Mollee Lewis and Julie Lively.

The tennis tournament ended with an exhibition match between two highly skilled 13-year-olds, Vineyarder Samantha Potter and Rhode Island native Natalia Pezucco. Samantha came out on top in a third set tie-breaker 6-4, 3-6, 10-5.

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Seventeen years ago hundreds of Islanders volunteered their time and skills to help raise West Tisbury’s Agricultural Hall. It was a massive outpouring of community spirit and support. This past Saturday, the Martha’s Vineyard Agricultural Society celebrated its 17th annual Barn Raisers’ Ball.

The barn was a classic, a huge, old post and beam building deconstructed in Woodsville, N.H., trucked down and reconstructed at the corner of State Road and the Panhandle in West Tisbury. It took many people to reassemble the parts.

People who knew what they were doing managed those who didn’t and worked. There was very little standing around. People with strength helped raise the bents, the frames of the post and beam structure, and people with saws cut planks, People with hammers shingled. Working with the chaotic precision of an ant colony, volunteers scrambled over the frame and the building rapidly came together.

Several Island businesses and many individuals provided and served food to fuel the effort. After three days, when the framing was done and the building was closed up but not yet tight, the roof had yet to be shingled and the floor was not down, the first Barn-Raisers Ball was held on the sandy dirt floor. Johnny Hoy and the Bluefish played.

This past Saturday evening, Nov. 13, the Agricultural Society sponsored the 17th annual Barn Raisers’ Ball, open to all friends and supporters of the Society. Once again, Johnny Hoy and the Bluefish played, beverages were provided, and the front hall was filled with cookies, brownies, pies, cakes, strudels, tarts, puddings, waffles, and ice cream brought by the attendees to share.

The place was packed with people of all ages and most found the beat of the Bluefish boogies too hard to ignore, dancing from the first notes to the last.

A visitor from Vermont said he’d never seen anything like this party. He marveled at the setting, the band, and the age spread of the partyers. It was suggested that he import the concept back up to Vermont if it was “that good.” He shook his head and said, “No this is unique.”

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On Saturday, almost 100 cyclists paid an average of $100 to ride their bikes around the Island in the second annual Cycle Martha’s Vineyard. The event was sponsored by the Rotary Club of Martha’s Vineyard with proceeds benefiting Big Brothers Big Sisters of Martha’s Vineyard and other Rotary charities.

Seventy-five of the cyclists rode 100 kilometers (62 miles), covering most of the Island. After skirting Vineyard Haven, the cyclists headed up-Island where they circled Aquinnah via Lobsterville and Lighthouse Roads. Then they headed back down-Island, passing through West Tisbury on the way to Katama, and finally back to Oak Bluffs, where both rides started. The others rode 50 kilometers (31 miles), from Oak Bluffs to Edgartown via the State Forest bike path and back to Oak Bluffs.

There were a number of rest stops along the way, at Edgartown Bikes, Morning Glory Farm, and a stop manned by Big Brothers and Big Sisters at the Chilmark Community Center. According to one rider, Peter Rodegast, “The day couldn’t have been better for riding, with a beautiful clear sky and temperatures in the mid-sixties.”

The rides began at 9:30 and 11 and ended around 1:30 at the P-A Club, where beer was available, and a pig was roasted and served with all the fixings. Live music was provided by the Island’s own Ballywho.

Event organizer Bill Brown said, “This year we had a better turnout than last year. People were more positive, everyone had fun and we made some money. We will do it again next year.”

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Satsang Lounge originators Misi Lopez Lecube and Lizzy Kent describe their event as “a modern day cabaret series that presents exciting new works by a rotating cast of the best up-and-coming local talents. Artists, musicians, dancers, actors, writers, and filmmakers are brought together on these performance-driven evenings, creating an electrifying experience for the audience.” And indeed an electrifying experience it was.It was a gathering of mostly year-round Vineyarders, mostly 20-somethings and 30-somethings, but with a fair number of refugees from the Sixties. It was a loosely structured and immensely entertaining evening of music, videos, dance, and drama. It was an evening of people making and enjoying art.Inside The Yard’s performance studio, Jess James and Lizzy Kent danced a wonderfully light-hearted piece they choreographed called “Remote Control.” Amy Leonard danced with hoops, Cirque-Du-Soleil-like. Adam Petkus performed a moving original dramatic monologue written by a friend. The crowd was hushed and amused by the drama of the traveling spot of light in Chris Laursen’s animated film “Stars.” Other homegrown videos brought cheers from the crowd: “Lila,” a short film by Janis Vogel, “Supernova Fieldtrip” a video by Chris Laursen and Mikey James, and “Too Many Miracles” by Sam Mason.From the studio to the adjacent barn, the crowd danced inside, spilling out the barn doors talking and laughing. At least three different musical groups performed: “Ton Up Boys” with George Berze, Caulder Martin, Colin Ruel, and Nettie Kent; Alexis Roth sang with Marciana Jones, and Tim Laursen and Gardner Allan’s “Double Rainbow,” Tim playing a cranked-up electric guitar with robot drummers.The music was loud. One of the over 30-somethings, Mark Mazer, remarked, “It was loud in the Sixties and it’s still loud.” But seldom played with more enthusiasm.It was people having fun, making things happen. There is a young, nascent, fun-loving undercurrent of creative life on the Vineyard. It’s just below the surface, about to burst into the open. Bring it on.