Authors Posts by Tony Omer

Tony Omer

Tony Omer

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Sue and Mas Kimball of Oak Bluffs defended their husband-wife combined age of 120 USTA national championship this past week in Pacific Palisades, CA.

After two tight matches against teams from Southern California, including being down a set and 5-1 in the second before winning 6-7(4-7), 7-6(7-3), 6-2 in the first match and a seesaw semi finals match (2-6; 6-1; 7-5), they cruised through the finals, winning it 6-1; 6-3 against a team they lost to in the finals of the Clay Court Nationals back in May.

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Scott Smith, VYT director, opened the show at the Shephard Artspace last Friday in Oak Bluffs. — Photo by Susan Safford

Stina Sayre’s considerable fashion designing skills were on the runway at a benefit cocktail party and fashion show for Vineyard Youth Tennis (VYT) last Friday evening, July 29, at the Shephard Fine ArtSpace in Oak Bluffs.

Hors d’oeuvres were provided by Herring Run Kitchens. The gallery’s walls were hung with the majestic paintings of New Bedford fishing boat prows by Rez Williams, a stunning backdrop for the introduction of The Stina Sayre Design 2011 Collection.

The clothes were modeled by local women, mostly tennis players, friends, and relatives of most of the attendees. The models’ panache and bravado and not inconsiderable strutting skills made the event in the packed gallery an exuberant and entertaining evening.

The colorful collection of clothes ranged from sophisticated evening wear to tennis outfits. There was a brief but moving musical interlude with a song sung by the accomplished Timmya Allen-Wright. VYT director Scott Smith said the event was a “spectacular success.”

Stina Sayre works from her studio in Vineyard Haven at 43 Main Street. VYT provides free tennis instruction and court time for Island children at its own facility in Oak Bluffs, near the intersection of Edgartown-Vineyard Haven and Barnes roads.

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Children's librarian Nelia Decker, library director Beth Kramer, and literary agent Rosemary Stimola (left to right) were interested onlookers, to say the least. — Photo by Susan Safford

The West Tisbury Library hosted its second “Library After Hours” Sunday evening in the yard behind the library. The spirited crowd was treated to hors d’oeuvres donated by Island caterers and music by Al Schackman, Dan Waters, and Hal Garneau, followed by a main course of short presentations by ten local writers.

The event acknowledged the continuation of the campaign to raise the funds needed to match the $2.9 million state grant to construct an addition to the library.

The authors who spoke were children’s book author Kate Feiffer, historians Robert M. Fogelson, Mary Beth Norton, Paul Schneider, and Ellen Weiss, and historian and biographer Elizabeth Hawes (Betsy Weinstock), local chronicler Holly Nadler, cartoonist and graphic novelist Paul Karasik, comedy writer Marty Nadler, and psychiatrist and author Paul Kramer.

They spoke of the value of libraries in the production of their own work, the importance of libraries in general, and some spoke of the specific importance of the West Tisbury Library to them.

David McCullough, the honorary Chairman of the West Tisbury Library Foundation, and his wife and “editor in chief,” Rosalee, were among those in attendance.

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— Photo by Susan Safford

The allure of our Island is sometimes as much the result of our understanding of its history as it is the beaches, and sun, the quiet walks in the woods, and the refreshing air we breathe. The opportunities we enjoy today are variations on themes first composed many years ago — stories that Susan Klein of Oak Bluffs has spent her life retelling. Thankfully, her stories bring a not-so-distant Vineyard past to life.

A born storyteller, Ms. Klein has charmed young and old alike around the world, on CD, in print, on the radio, and best of all in live performance. Saturday evening at the Performing Arts Center at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School, she presented “An Evening of Storytelling” to benefit Habitat for Humanity of Martha’s Vineyard. Her stories that night were of her childhood in Oak Bluffs, where she was raised by her German mother and a family of Amarals, Islanders of Portuguese decent. Her tales were of love and hope, mistakes and fun, collecting beach plums in locations that were and no doubt still are secrets held as close as any fisherman’s favorite fishing spots, and the mystic art of converting those beach plums into jelly. She told of a time when conservation was practiced without a name, when nothing was wasted, a time before seatbelts, when parking at the beach was never a problem, and when dogs ran without leashes, a time when thunderstorms were quite a bit more than just rain, wind, and lightning.

Habitat for Humanity’s mission “is to build simple, decent housing for families in the lowest qualifying income range.” To date, they have completed eight houses on the Island and have begun work on three more.

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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 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 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

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, 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:; at; 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.