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In yet another county-airport skirmish, Dukes County treasurer Noreen Mavro Flanders is not processing airport invoices, airport official claims.

The Martha's Vineyard Airport Commission is seeking payment on overdue bills. —File photo by Nelson Sigelman

Martha’s Vineyard Airport Commission (MVAC) chairman Constance Teixeira said that Dukes County treasurer Noreen Mavro Flanders has refused to process invoices the airport authorized for payment despite a preliminary injunction Dukes County Superior Court Associate Justice Richard J. Chin issued August 7 ordering her to pay duly authorized airport bills

The 17 invoices, totaling approximately $42,000, are for routine airport expenses, and are either approaching overdue status or already overdue.

“We received communication from the county treasurer that once again, and despite a direct court order, she was refusing to process airport invoices for payment,” Ms. Teixeira said in a statement read at an airport commission meeting Friday, November 21.

Under strict state and federal funding rules, airport revenue may only be used for airport-related aviation projects. Though there is no legal requirement to do so, the county-owned airport hires the county treasurer to process airport bills, an arrangement that funnels airport revenue into county coffers.

Airport manager Sean Flynn told The Times in a telephone conversation Tuesday that the airport is evaluating additional legal action, which could include filing a complaint asking the court to hold Ms. Mavro Flanders in contempt of the preliminary injunction, or negotiate an out-of-court resolution to the latest dispute.

A woman who answered the phone in the treasurer’s office Tuesday morning told The Times that Ms. Mavro Flanders was unavailable for comment. Asked if the treasurer was in the office or could be contacted later, the woman repeated that the treasurer was unavailable for comment.

Payment procedure

The county treasurer takes a unique approach in order to calculate how much of her office’s time is devoted to airport affairs. Rather than an hourly rate, the office calculates how much to charge the airport based on invoice inches, according to Mr. Flynn.

He said the county treasurer allocates the airport’s share of the county’s total cost for accounting services, by measuring the length of submitted airport invoices, including invoice pages that have nothing to do with billing amounts, against non-airport invoices.

Mr. Flynn is authorized by the airport commission to approve bills for payment. He said he is frustrated that Mr. Mavro Flanders duplicates the effort of his staff to verify and approve invoices every month.

Mr. Flynn said that in an attempt to make the process more efficient and less costly, invoices now include only the necessary information for Ms. Mavro Flanders to process the bills. “She has been provided with cover sheets which show previous balance, previous amount paid, current charges, current due, and total due,” he said.

Mr. Flynn said he reviews each invoice to make sure the charges were incurred by the airport, and that the charges are accurate, in accordance with his legal and fiduciary obligations. “This is in no way an attempt to be secretive, as to what we’re paying various vendors; this is just to streamline the process to meet all requirements, so that we are providing enough information, but not duplicating effort, not doubling the amount of effort,” he said. “We’re trying to use current technology, current ways of thinking, and not staying with a process that is antiquated, just for the sake of staying with an older process. There are accusations we’re attempting to be secretive. That is absolutely not the case.”

Deja vu all over again

In a series of emails to Mr. Flynn, Ms. Mavro Flanders said she was not refusing to make the payments, but reminded the airport manager that there was insufficient detail in the invoices, a point Mr. Flynn disputes.

She said she would file a formal public records request for the bills, if necessary. As of Wednesday, November 19, the disputed bills had not been paid, according to Mr. Flynn.

The county treasurer’s insistence that the airport provide invoice details and her refusal to process law firm invoices approved by the airport was one of the subjects of a lawsuit filed by the airport commission on July 9.

In his August 7 decision, Judge Chin wrote, “In sum, the County Treasurer believes that she has the legal authority to refuse to pay invoices which have already been duly approved by the MVAC, to obtain privileged and confidential communications between the MVAC and its attorneys without notice to and without the consent of the MVAC, and to release those privileged and confidential communications to the public at large.”

Judge Chin rejected the county treasurer’s claim that invoices approved by the airport commission for payment were lacking detail required by state law.

“Where the MVAC is not using any of the county’s funds to pay its invoices for legal services, it may expend its funds without the county’s oversight,” Judge Chin wrote. The invoices “are not so deficient in detail that they fail on their face to comply with the statute.”

Judge Chin issued a preliminary injunction in favor of the airport commission, and against Ms. Mavro Flanders. “The county treasurer is enjoined from refusing to pay invoices duly approved for payment by the MVAC,” he wrote in his decision.

Judge Chin based his ruling on previous court decisions, state law, and legal documents known as grant assurances which the county approved in exchange for millions of dollars in state and federal funds.

In fiscal year 2012, the airport paid the county $103,396 for accounting services, according to Ms. Mavro Flanders. In fiscal year 2014, the airport paid the county $102,994. In May, just before the end of fiscal year 2014, she said she expected to pay a similar amount for that year.

The seven members of the airport commission are appointed by the elected members of the seven-member county commission. By statute, the airport commission is solely responsible for the airport.

Designed with the help of town’s firefighters, it’s a step toward the future.

Left to right: 1927 Mack custom, 1952 Mack custom, 1985 Ford Pumper, 2015 KME Rescue. – Photo by Sara Piazza

On November 1, the Edgartown Fire Department (EFD) received delivery of its newest piece of equipment, a 2014 KME Rescue Pumper built by Bulldog Fire Apparatus, which they designated Engine One. Packed to the gills with the latest technology and firefighting equipment, the truck will be the department’s go-to vehicle for responses to vehicular crashes, fuel spills and other calls for assistance.

The new Edgartown fire engine. – Photo by Michael Cummo
The new Edgartown fire engine. – Photo by Michael Cummo

It carries 700 gallons of water, almost 50 gallons of specialized firefighting foams, and its onboard pump has a maximum output of 1,500 gallons per minute. It has the ability to “pump and roll,” sending water at a fire while the truck is moving, unlike older trucks, in which the driver had to disengage the drivetrain in order to power the water pumps. It even has a bumper-mounted water nozzle controlled by a joystick in the cab.

What makes this truck special, however, goes beyond its sheet metal. It is the latest apparatus to serve as what is perhaps the EFD’s most storied engine company and a vehicle whose design and specifications are the result of over a year of hard work by a select group of Edgartown Fire Department members. What’s more, the truck represents a new direction for the department in the way that it approaches its fundamental mission.

Andrew Kelly was part of the group of Edgartown firefighters who helped design the new truck.
Andrew Kelly was part of the group of Edgartown firefighters who helped design the new truck.

The new vehicle perpetuates a tradition at the EFD. It is the latest in a long line of Engine Ones that have proudly served the town, and for proof of this history one needs to look no further than the small building adjacent to the fire station itself. Occupying the two bays at the Edgartown Fire Museum are two retired Mack fire engines, one built in 1927 and the other in 1952. Both served as Engine 1. The elder vehicle is a Mack custom fire engine, delivered in 1928. “Mack brought a demonstration truck to the Cape and to the Vineyard, and a committee recommended to the Town of Edgartown to buy it,” said retired Captain Richard Kelly, who served on Engine One for many years. That truck served as a front-line engine until 1952, when it was replaced by another Mack, this one assembled in Ocala, Florida. The ’52 featured major improvements over its predecessor, such as a roof and doors. That truck was replaced in 1985 by a pumper built on a commercial Ford chassis. That vehicle, like its replacement, was designed by a committee of EFD members and some readers may be familiar with it as a staple of Christmas in Edgartown parades. It has also responded to countless emergencies over its 29-year career.

The new Engine One may be continuing a tradition, but it has been designed from the ground up with a keen eye on the future. A committee of Edgartown firefighters and officers spent innumerable hours over the last several years poring over every detail of the truck’s configuration.

“We looked to see what was available, but there was a lack of flexibility in design,” deputy chief Alex Schaeffer said.

A dead space was used to add three more seats.
A dead space was used to add three more seats.

One of the department’s major requirements was that the truck had to have as short a wheelbase as possible. This followed a design feature from the most recently retired Engine One, whose short overall length allowed it to get down windy dirt roads and through tight corners when no other truck could. But despite its smaller length, the truck still had to fit everything that the department needed, a task not every manufacturer was able to meet.

“We went through several manufacturers, as we had a specific idea of what we wanted, Mr. Schaeffer said. “We didn’t want to settle for something that wasn’t exactly what we needed,”

In the end, the committee and Bulldog were able to tweak the design precisely to fit what was needed. For example, the rear seats were reduced in number from five to three, and those that remained were recessed into what had previously been dead space in order to create a cavernous rear cabin for firefighters to don their gear. Cabinets and storage was crammed into nearly every available space, allowing a huge amount of gear to be carried relative to the vehicle’s size.  “It was fantastic being able to design our own custom piece,” said Andrew Kelly, a member of the design committee and a lieutenant on both the previous and current Engine One.

The firefighters’  took particular careful with the design, not only in the name of responsible public service, but also because the truck represents an evolution in the operations of the Fire Department. Across the United States, volunteer fire departments face difficulties with maintaining their ranks, as an ever-changing economy and an evolving fire service have placed a multitude of demands on those who wish to serve, and this holds true of the firefighters and EMTs of Martha’s Vineyard. These circumstances, requiring multiple vehicles — and multiple crews — for an emergency response, have the potential to create problems down the road.

Previously, car crashes and other similar emergencies required the response of two vehicles: a pumper equipped with water and other fire suppression equipment and a rescue truck carrying specialized tools for technical rescue. Each vehicle had a separate crew and officers. Given potential staffing challenges, it could become increasingly difficult to require such a high number of fire personnel to respond.

The new Engine One is an adaptation to these circumstances: by combining the capabilities and missions of multiple older pieces of equipment into a single highly capable package, the new apparatus allows for more efficient and streamlined resource management. “Going forward,” Lt. Kelly said, “all of our equipment will be ‘mission-specific’ like this piece.”

Demonstrating this ethos is the department’s Engine Two, a pumper acquired in 2006, which is the front-line vehicle for responses to structure fires. Engine One will now be the first out the door to vehicular accidents and other rescue situations.

“Going into this,” Mr. Schaffer said, “we knew this truck will be in service for 25 years or more, and we wanted to build into it the capacity to evolve with the fire service in that time.”

This ability to adapt to the times is vital not only for the vehicles, but for the department itself, allowing it to continue to effectively serve the citizens that it is charged with protecting, now and into the future.

Micah Agnoli was born and raised in Edgartown and graduated from Tufts University in May with a degree in political science. He has been a member of the Edgartown Fire Department since his junior year of high school, when he started as a junior firefighter.

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Members of the Brazilian community celebrated faith and culture at the Whaling Church in October. —Photo by Lynn Christoffers

President Barack Obama took action last week that could lead to protection from deportation and a legal right to work for undocumented immigrants who have been living and working in violation of federal laws on Martha’s Vineyard for many years.

The president’s executive action, long awaited by advocates of immigration reform, and long disputed by Mr. Obama’s political foes, would not provide a path to citizenship for the estimated five million undocumented immigrants who might benefit. It would, in general, allow undocumented immigrants who have lived in the United States for more than five years, and who have no criminal record, the right to work legally without fear of deportation for a limited number of years.

“These executive actions crackdown on illegal immigration at the border, prioritize deporting felons not families, and require certain undocumented immigrants to pass a criminal background check and pay their fair share of taxes as they register to temporarily stay in the U.S. without fear of deportation,” the White House wrote in a statement issued just before the president addressed the nation on November 20.

Help for families

Pastor Joao Barbosa of the Mission Calvary Church in Vineyard Haven said he believes the changes in immigration policy will help many families on the Island. “It brings good favor for people (undocumented immigrants) who are receiving help from the government, the economy of the country itself,” he said. “When a family knows more about the future, they can buy houses, they can go to school, they can invest instead of sending money out of the country. A lot of people were stressed or worried, now they can make more plans to stay in the country. They’re just thankful this is happening.”

Bishop Paulo Tenorio, spiritual leader of The Growing Church Ministry in Vineyard Haven, also applauded the president’s action. “There are a lot of people that will benefit,” he said. “It’s the right direction. We have a broken system. It’s something that needs to be faced in the country. He’s giving a little push.”

Wender Ramos, a U.S. Army helicopter pilot who just completed a tour of duty in Afghanistan, said he is happy for the change in policy, but he said it came far too late for him.

He came to Martha’s Vineyard at the age of 13 with his mother and sister, all undocumented. He is now a U.S. citizen, and his mother and sister have legal status to live and work in the United States, while they are working toward citizenship. While he said the latest change in immigration policy won’t affect his family, he said he faced significant barriers as he grew up, went to Island schools, and then college.

“It’s something we could have used,” Mr. Ramos said. “Back when I was in grade school and high school, it would have expedited my life as well as my mom’s and my sister’s. We always talked about it, saying we wished this would happen.”

Programs expanded

Mr. Obama’s action expands the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that he initiated in 2012. The original DACA program was intended to protect children who were brought into the United States illegally as children. Eligible were children who have been in the United States for at least five years, came as children, were in school or have completed school, have no serious criminal record, were born after 1981 and entered the country before June 15, 2007. Those who met those requirements could apply for a two-year period of protection from deportation, and were eligible for work permits. According to U.S. Customs and Immigration Services, more than a half-million people, or about 95 percent of those applications accepted for review, have been approved for DACA status. In Massachusetts, 6,596 applications were accepted for review, and 5,318 were approved.

Under the latest executive action, children who came to the United States before January 1, 2010, no matter what their age now, will be eligible, and the period of deferred action will expand to three years.

The largest group of undocumented immigrants who will benefit from the president’s executive action are the parents of children who were born in the United States, who are legal citizens. In order to qualify, the parents must register with the federal government, pass a criminal background check, and pay any back taxes. If qualified, the parents can apply for a three-year deferred action, and remain in the United States without fear of deportation. They can also apply for work permits.

The president’s executive action does not provide a path to citizenship for anyone eligible for deferred action or work permit status. A future president could also rescind the executive actions.

ICE changes

The Dukes County Jail no longer holds immigrants in custody based solely on a request from Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to detain an individual. The change in procedure follows a federal court ruling in Oregon on April 11 that ruled that practice unconstitutional.

Previously, ICE issued detainee orders that asked local law enforcement authorities to hold an individual in jail for up to 48 hours while ICE decided whether to take the person into federal custody.

ICE issued detainee orders for a wide range of reasons: ICE simply wanted to talk to the person, the person did not appear at hearing, the person was wanted for a serious crime, or the person had already been ordered deported.

In April, U.S. Magistrate Judge Janice M. Stewart, sitting in the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon, ruled that a detainee order alone is not a legal justification to incarcerate someone. The case involved Maria Miranda-Olivares, a woman who was ordered released on bail by a local court after she was arrested on a domestic violence charge. Local authorities kept her in custody because ICE had issued a detainer. The court ruled that keeping her in custody violated her rights under the Fourth Amendment, and the court allowed the woman to seek damages from the jail.

Immigrants were often held in custody at the Dukes County Jail solely on the basis of an ICE detainee order. This month, Dukes County Sheriff Michael McCormack changed the procedure.

“We are no longer holding anybody on an ICE detainer, if there is no other reason to hold them,” Sheriff McCormack told The Times. “If we get a hit on a detainer, we will call ICE. But if they would otherwise be able to be released, like they made bail, or they were released by the court, if we have no reason to hold the person except the ICE detainer, then we won’t hold them.”

Mr. McCormack said holding people on ICE detainee orders could leave the jail vulnerable to lawsuits.

“The underlying reason amounts to probable cause,” Sheriff McCormack said. “The actual detainer has no charges on it, doesn’t say anything about having enough probable cause to be holding them. The detainer just says ICE has an interest in them. We can’t take somebody’s freedom just because ICE has an interest in them.”

President Obama, in his executive action on immigration, ordered ICE to stop asking local authorities to detain people arrested for minor offenses. The federal government will now only ask local officials to transfer custody of an arrested person to ICE after he or she has been convicted of a felony, or three misdemeanors. ICE will not ask jail officials to detain people, but they will ask local police to notify federal agents when an immigrant convicted of a crime is due to be released.

The president made significant changes to the controversial Secure Communities program, which authorized local jail officials to transmit fingerprints of anyone arrested to ICE where they could be checked against a database.

The Dukes County Jail did not participate directly in Secure Communities, but they did forward fingerprints of everyone arrested by Island law enforcement to Massachusetts State Police. State Police then transmitted those fingerprints to ICE. That procedure remains in effect, according to Sheriff McCormack.

The US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management previously identified this area south of Martha's Vineyard as available for wind energy development. BOEM redefined the area in June, 2012, and the amended area is shown on the map.

Four leases for 742,000 acres of sea south of Martha’s Vineyard — an area roughly the size of Rhode Island — will be put up for bid at a wind power auction on Jan. 29, 2015.

If leased and developed by the power industry, the area has the potential to provide wind-generated electricity to 1.4 million homes, according to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, which announced the auction date Monday and pitched it as part of President Barack Obama’s climate action plan and efforts to reduce carbon pollution.

The area stretches 33 nautical miles from north to south and 47 nautical miles from east to west and is the largest offshore wind tract in federal waters in the United States.

Twelve companies are qualified to bid for the project, which is farther out to sea than other wind projects, such as Cape Wind, in development off the shores of Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

Deepwater Wind New England, which has plans to build 200 offshore turbines to the north and west of the tract, is qualified to try for the larger plot. EDF Renewable Development, Energy Management, Fishermen’s Energy, Green Sail Energy, IBERDROLA RENEWABLES, NRG Bluewater Wind Massachusetts, OffshoreMW, RES America Developments, Sea Breeze Energy, US Mainstream Renewable Power (Offshore) and U.S. Wind are all qualified to bid.

Known as the Massachusetts Wind Energy Area, the plot 12 nautical miles off the coast could support between 4 and 5 gigawatts of generation, according to BOEM.

If the area was built out to the maximum extent, generating a total of 4 gigawatts with 5 megawatt turbines, the acreage could contain about 800 turbines, according to BOEM spokeswoman Tracey Moriarty.

The area far surpasses the Cape Wind tract in size. Long in planning and tied up in litigation, Cape Wind is still in the process of attracting investors for its plan to be the first offshore wind farm in the United States, building 130 turbines in Nantucket Sound.

The New England Fishery Management Council, responding to an earlier version of the area in 2012, said it is used by trawlers and gillnets seeking out cod, flounder and monkfish, as well as hydraulic clam dredging, squid and herring trawling, and lobster trapping.

The Massachusetts Audubon Society also raised concerns about impacts on birds. BOEM said it adjusted the area to exclude “an area of high sea duck concentration, as well as an area of high value fisheries.”

The size of the Wind Energy Area is more than four times the size of Buzzards Bay.

To date, BOEM has awarded seven commercial wind energy leases for the waters off the Atlantic coast, including non-competitive leases for Cape Wind in Nantucket Sound and an area off the Delaware coast. Competitive lease sales have generated more than $14 million in high bids for more than 357,500 acres in federal waters, according to BOEM.

Earlier this month, Gov. Deval Patrick said he expected the federal auction would occur in December.

The average monthly household bill is expected to rise by about $30.

Watch those numbers...rates are going up next month. – Photo by Michael Cummo

Brace yourselves, Islanders. Electricity rates are slated to soar 29 percent beginning January 1 for households and small businesses, NSTAR announced. The increase was approved by the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities on November 14. For the average household that consumes 500 kilowatt-hours/month that means an increase of roughly $30 a month, at least until July 1, 2015, when rates are adjusted again.

Cape Light Compact PricingResidentialCommercialIndustrial
November 2014 Prices8.892 cents/kWh8.892 cents/kWh7.752 cents/kWh
New PricingResidentialCommercialIndustrial
December 2014 — July 2015 meter reads15.371 cents/kWh14.300 cents/kWh20.070 cents/kWh

The rate hike actually originates with Cape Light Compact (CLC), the municipal buying group from which NSTAR buys electricity for distribution to customers. Whatever CLC charges NSTAR for electricity is passed on directly to the customer, with no profit for NSTAR.

Cape Light Compact consists of 21 towns and two counties on Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard. The Compact said its mission is “to serve our 200,000 customers through the delivery of proven energy efficiency programs, effective consumer advocacy, competitive electricity supply and green power options.”

CLC has awarded a three-year contract to ConEdison Solutions to supply residential power to NSTAR. Starting with December meter reads, the Compact’s price will be 15.371 cents per kilowatt hour for residential customers, according to CLC, versus 8.892/KWh last year.

Mike Durand, NSTAR’s spokesman, compared the relationship of CLC to NSTAR with that of Amazon to Fedex. “If you buy an item on Amazon, you pay Fedex a shipping charge to receive the item. If Amazon raises the price on that item, Fedex doesn’t raise the shipping charge. We’re the Fedex in the rate increase.”

Two harsh winters, particularly that of 2013-14, explain the 29 percent rate spike. “It’s partly retroactive cost recovery for CLC and partly anticipation that prices this year could be as bad as last year,” said Stefan Wallenberg, CLC’s power supply planner.

On the edge
Vineyarders, along with other New England consumers, pay some of the highest electricity rates in the country. Add to that a seasonal economy with a labor force that is largely year-round, and the effect of the price rise is exaggerated.

“Thirty dollars doesn’t sound like much unless you are already dealing with the Vineyard’s high costs and seasonal job fluctuation,” said David Vigneault, Executive Director of the Dukes County Housing Authority (DCHA). “It’s just loading more straw onto the camel’s back.”

Betty Burton, President of the Vineyard Committee on Hunger and Coordinator of Serving Hands and the Family-to-Family food programs, was shocked to learn of the price spike. “So many of our customers are already living on the edge, I don’t know what they will do,” she said.

A year-round wage buffers the jolt, but does not eliminate the need to rethink a budget. It may mean fewer movies or skipping that longed-for dinner out.

Cynthia Hill of West Tisbury said it will likely mean that “I reduce the gigabytes on my Internet hot spot, and Salty and I will probably select a less expensive package from our satellite TV provider.”

With any solution to New England’s energy crisis at least several years away, the only immediate way to mitigate the impact is with energy savings. Both CLC and NSTAR are urging customers to avail themselves of their free energy audits that will show consumers how to save energy and lower costs.

“Energy efficiency is the single most important way to offset energy costs,” said CLC’s Stefan Wallenberg, making the pitch for the group’s energy assessments, which include giveaways such as LED and compact fluorescent bulbs, caulking against drafts, and rebates ranging from 75 percent to 100 percent for insulation.

Gas fuels hikes
The roots of New England’s energy crisis are in the region’s addiction to natural gas, which became cheap as U.S. production ramped up following the discovery of huge natural gas deposits in Pennsylvania, exploited through the controversial process known as hydraulic fracturing or “fracking.” As cheap gas flowed into the domestic market, consumers moved quickly to switch their heating and air cooling systems from dirtier oil to cleaner, cheaper gas. So did power generating companies.

Demand for natural gas soared, but the pipeline capacity for getting it here did not. Today, almost 50 percent of the region’s electricity is produced by natural gas, up from only 15 percent in 2000. Pipeline capacity has not changed in 20 years. The bottleneck drove up gas prices. In the queue to buy natural gas, consumers take precedence over generating plants. If there is not enough gas to meet peak heating demand — as happened when the polar vortex hovered over New England last year — power companies are forced to produce electricity using more costly fuels, usually stored oil.

No answer in sight
How Massachusetts and New England solve the energy crisis is now the big question. More pipeline or go alternative?

Three projects for new or expanded natural gas pipelines are under discussion, but there is also strong opposition to pipelines from conservation and alternative energy advocates, to say nothing of people living along the proposed pipeline routes.

Governor Deval Patrick rejected, after initially supporting, the Northeast Direct pipeline proposed by Kinder Morgan to bring an additional 800 million to 2.2 billion cubic feet of natural gas through rural northwestern Massachusetts toward the Boston hub.

“It wasn’t just the pipeline itself, but the idea proposed by the Kinder Morgan to have the public pay for it via a tariff,” said Peter Shattuck, Director of Market Initiatives for the Acadia Center, a research and advocacy organization for energy conservation, alternative energy sources and climate change. “Instead, the Governor formed a commission to do an in-depth study of diverse energy sources.”

Of the three proposed pipelines, only the Algonquin Incremental Market, known as AIM, has been permitted. Scheduled to come online during 2015, it will add 350 million cubic feet of capacity to an existing pipeline coming from New York through Connecticut to lower Massachusetts.

“It will create some relief,” Mr. Shattuck told The Times, “but how much natural gas do we really need?

Before investing, we need to continue reducing demand and look at other sources of energy such as wind and hydro, Mr. Shattuck said. Offshore wind projects are maturing due to advances in Europe, and hydro power from Quebec or the Canadian Maritimes offers another abundant, renewable resource. Some of these projects could be online as quickly as any of the proposed pipeline expansions, he added.

The third project is Access Northeast, proposed by Northeast Utilities (NSTAR’s parent company) and Spectra Energy. It would expand existing pipeline capacity in increments of 200 million cubic feet up to two billion cubic feet. Its target service date is November 2018. Mike Durand says the project has not even reached the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for review yet, but “customers won’t pay for it.”

What next?
The spotlight is now on Governor-elect Charlie Baker. During his campaign Mr. Baker opposed the Northeast Direct pipeline and supported Hydro Quebec as a renewable energy source. He also emphasized energy efficiency and proposed a sales tax waiver for energy-efficient appliances and upgrades. Another of his ideas was a LED lighting rebate for businesses and homeowners to encourage the transition from traditional lighting to LED lighting.

“No one knows precisely what the energy system of the future will look like…but it will look quite different from the pipeline- and power-plant heavy system we have now,” Mr. Shattuck and co-author Jamie Howland write in a recent issue of Commonwealth magazine. Although unsure how Governor-elect Baker will proceed with the Patrick study commission, Mr. Shattuck is nonetheless optimistic because “we were hearing good things in the campaign.”

Mr. Shattuck added, “We need to kick this [natural gas] habit rather than pursuing another pipeline fix that would further tie us to the price volatility of a single fuel and make it harder to go clean in the future.”

Matt Beaton, newly appointed by Mr. Baker to be energy secretary, told The Times the new administration will seek a “balanced approach” that includes natural gas, wind, and solar. Asked how Mr. Baker’s administration will work with the energy study commission created by Governor Patrick, he said, “We need to listen to everybody so we can form our own perspective.”

For more information on energy-saving tips and energy assessments, see websites for Cape Light Compact website and NSTAR: capelightcompact.org/chillyourbill and nstar.com.

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Gifts made only on Martha’s Vineyard.

When the last beach ball is deflated, when we’ve waved our last farewell to the summer visitors, when we’re already debating which restaurants are still open, there is still a wealth of creative talent on this Island. We poked our noses into festivals, co-op galleries, and pop-up shops to examine who is doing what for the holidays. And, more important, where can we get some?

Heidi Feldman, Martha’s Vineyard Sea Salt

Martha's Vineyard Sea Salt is now available in five varieties.
Martha’s Vineyard Sea Salt is now available in five varieties.

It started with a bag of chips. “Our shiitake [mushroom] operation failed because of all those moths and caterpillars that descended on the Island,” says Heidi Feldman. “I was sitting in my car outside of Alley’s eating a bag of vinegar and sea-salt potato chips when I realized nobody on the Island was making sea salt. I started asking around, and Curtis [Friedman, her husband and business partner at Down Island Farm] started asking around.” They started making test batches on their kitchen stove, but decided to use solar-powered evaporators to keep fuel costs down.

That was in 2013. Now available in five varieties and several package sizes, Martha’s Vineyard Sea Salt is ubiquitous on the Island, used in five Island restaurants, in products for five Island companies, and sold in 20 Island stores. “It’s a sun-dried, premium-finish sea salt,” Heidi explains. “It’s 60% saltier than normal table salt.”

The couple have great plans for the holidays. In addition to their current retail outlets, like Juliska, Not Your Sugar Mamas and LeRoux, their products will be featured at the West Tisbury Farmers Market and many holiday events. “We’re doing all kinds of salty gifts for the holidays,” Heidi boasts. They’re putting together combinations that will include products from other Island creatives, like Scott Campbell’s clay spoons and bowls. “Everything will have an Island theme,” she says. “Everything that’s included will be from the Island.”

Martha’s Vineyard Sea Salt/Down Island Farm products are for sale at West Tisbury Farmers Market (Saturdays, 10 am-1 pm), Vineyard Holiday Market on Spring Street in Vineyard Haven (this weekend through Christmas), Juliska, LeRoux, Cronig’s, Morning Glory, Rainy Day, Not Your Sugar Mamas — check website for complete listing. 508-560-3315; downislandfarm@gmail.com; mvseasalt.com.

Teresa Yuan, decorative wreaths

When Teresa Yuan can no longer landscape, she makes decorative wreaths from flowers and vines she dries herself.
When Teresa Yuan can no longer landscape, she makes decorative wreaths from flowers and vines she dries herself.

“I’m a very creative person,” Teresa Yuan says, her voice ringing with enthusiasm. “I can’t just sit still.” A landscaper under the name Yuan Gardens during the three growing seasons, Teresa continues her involvement with nature over the fourth. Using flowers and vines she dries herself, she constructs wreaths in many sizes, shapes, and colors. And they’re not just for the holidays. Scallop shells share space with ocean-blue hydrangeas and sunshine-yellow roses. Mini crabs cuddle up with dried sage and a big red gingham bow. These are Island-themed to the max, and much more durable than you would think. “If you keep them out of the sun, they can last four or five years,” she says.

A native New Yorker who came to the Island in 1978, Teresa is also a painter (her work is currently showing at Kennedy Studios) and has taught cooking classes. Flower drying was a trial-and-error process when she began. “You can dry too early,” she explains. “And you can pick too early.” Now her basement is hung with bunches of drying flowers, herbs, and vines, and the hum of dehumidifiers. “I just love flowers,” Teresa says. It shows.

Teresa Yuan’s wreaths will be available at the Vineyard Holiday Gift Shop on Spring Street in Vineyard Haven, and by appointment at her Edgartown home studio. She also takes custom orders for fresh holiday wreaths. 508-627-8428; yuangardens@gmail.com; teresayuan.com.

Sue Fairbanks, glass bead jewelry

Sue Fair makes beads.
Sue Fair makes beads.

Brave: That’s the word that comes to mind when speaking of Sue Fairbanks. Brave for buying an RV upon retirement to travel the country. Then brave to pick up a portable hobby that uses flame and hot glass. Sue’s stock-in-trade is lampwork beads — those glass globes that Pandora made so popular. She creates them in sizes that range from ¼″ to 2″, and in many color and design combinations. Some are etched to resemble beach glass, but most are pop-your-eye shiny.

It wasn’t easy learning the process, and there were a few minor injuries along the way. Sue explains, “I have never burned myself with the glass, but on the rod called a mandrel [around which the bead is formed]. I would heat up the mandrel before I put the glass on it, then realize I didn’t have the color I wanted to use, so I’d stand up and move, forgetting that I was holding a hot mandrel in my hand. So I would loosen my hand, and it would slide, and I’d grab it at the hot end.”

The process itself, even when not dangerous, is complicated. Learning how much flame to use with how much glass and for how long is a matter of trial and error — a product of experience and patience.

But it would seem that the growing pains Sue suffered were well worth it. She sells a lot of inventory over the summer in the festivals and flea markets, and her jewelry will be available over the holidays at several Christmas markets.

Sue Fairbanks’ jewelry will be available at the Featherstone Holiday Flea Market, the Vineyard Holiday Gift Shop on Spring Street in Vineyard Haven, and at Moonstone in Vineyard Haven.

John Duryea, Krug & Ryan Co.

“I love my knives,” John Duryea admits, and “they’re the best thing for the knife,” he says fondly about the two butcher-block cutting boards he uses in his home kitchen. “Any other kind of cutting board damages the knife. I am a home cook, for sure, and they get used quite a bit. These are chef-quality. End-grain. The best kind.”

John began producing the handcrafted, hardwood end-grained butcher-block cutting boards in the winter of 2007, when he was asked to be in three wedding parties and a guest at three more. “That’s six wedding gifts,” he exclaims. He was working in construction, and things had slowed down for the winter. “I made these as wedding gifts to start with,” he recalls. “Here we are, seven seasons later, and I’m doing this full-time.”

The products are butcher-block-type boards, painstakingly cut and assembled. “Not many are being made this way,” John says. “It’s the old-school way of doing it. There was a lot of trial and error that winter of 2007.”

The boards come with a 20-year warranty and instructions on how to maintain the board. Krug & Ryan’s customers range from younger people who are also faced with buying wedding gifts for their friends to 40- to 60-somethings who love their kitchens and love to cook.

John Duryea’s work is available at the Thanksgiving Vineyard Artisans Festival, on his website, and by appointment. 508-388-9999; krugandryan.com.

Sarah Crittenden, silk and dyed wool accessories

Sarah Crittenden has been playing with dyes on wool for 15 years. “With the yarn, I like to do crochet — do different things and use my colors in yarn creations,” she says, “but with silk scarves, it’s all about the colors. Rather than having the color and doing something else with it, the goal is to get the color.” She speaks rhapsodically about madder root and Japanese indigo and scabiosa flowers, about the beautiful turquoise, deep blues and purples, and rosy reds they produce.

Sarah, who, with her “sweetie” Rusty Gordon runs Ghost Island Farm in West Tisbury, grows most of the natural materials she uses to dye her 100% silk scarves. But the dying process seems more fun than work for her. “I have this playful spirit,” she says. “I really enjoy playing with the process and seeing what happens. It’s not that I don’t care if it’s a fail, I just don’t worry about it.” She frequently redyes colors that come out blah, and she’s been known to rip up unfortunate results to use as ribbons for bouquets.

Sarah Crittenden’s scarves will be available at the Vineyard Holiday Gift Shop on Spring Street in Vineyard Haven and at the farm stand at Ghost Island Farm on State Road in West Tisbury.

Alice Thompson, Photos by Alice

An iPhone? Really? Who would think that one could take this kind of quality photo with an iPhone? Alice Thompson of Oak Bluffs, that’s who. “I’m totally intimidated by mechanical things,” Alice demurs. While some people have problems learning how to use an iPhone to make a phone call, she seems to have mastered it as a tool for her art.

“She’s known for having an eye,” says former co-worker Diane Hartmann. “Her work is beautiful.” Alice readily admits it: “I do have a really good gift from God. I like to photograph from my heart and what I’m led to.” The results are stunning, ready-to-frame matted photos in three sizes, and greeting cards that, she says, “sell like hotcakes.” The photos are mostly scenes of the Island and Italy and France, but include some snowy winter vistas that are perfect for holiday greetings.

With the exception of the Vineyard Holiday Gift Shop, Alice prefers to sell in person at the festivals and flea markets, rather than place her work in retail stores. “You know, I really enjoy meeting the people,” she says. “I love the one-on-one contact, so I can tell them the stories behind my photos, as opposed to them going into a shop and picking out a card.”

Alice Thompson’s wares will be available at the Vineyard Holiday Gift Shop on Spring Street in Vineyard Haven and at several of the holiday gift fairs on the Island. She can be reached at  june.cherokee945@gmail.com.

Robert and Debra Yapp, Miles from Mainland

These folks are a natural team. He makes the lamp base, she makes the shade. He pulls together a frame for a mirror, she decorates it. And they both consider their retirement enterprise “an adventure.”

Bob and Debra Yapp of West Tisbury were schoolteachers. She taught mostly third and fifth grade at Edgartown School, and he split his time between the industrial-arts shops of Edgartown and Oak Bluffs. They taught for 68 years between them, sometimes finding ways to combine their efforts into projects for their students. Now retired, they’re working out of their home studio in West Tisbury. Bob creates inlaid-wood home furnishings, and Debra dries ferns, leaves, and flowers to decorate Bob-made mirror frames, trays, and picture frames. “We love working together,” says Debra. “It’s really fun. Especially operating out of our home. There’s really no stress if we don’t sell something. We have the space to do it, the time to do it.”

Her husband concurs: “We have a blast. There’s never a boring moment. We’re always excited about developing new things.”

The old standards comprise a large variety of home furnishings, from a mermaid-inlaid tissue box to a custom “live edge” coffee table — all made from natural materials, found and sourced on the Island. What’s new this year, by popular request, are napkin holders, desk accessories, and wooden deer for holiday tablescaping. And, like the Yapps, all are greater than the sum of their parts.

Miles from Mainland wares are available at Rainy Day in Vineyard Haven, the Holiday Craft Show in Edgartown, the Thanksgiving Vineyard Artisans Festival, and in the Yapps’ home studio by appointment. They are also on Facebook at Miles from Mainland. 508-693-4565;


Celine Segel, CS Jewelry

The method is centuries old, but the product is new as the last second. Celine Segel, late of France, now residing and working in West Tisbury, has brought the ancient techniques of chainmaille to her modern jewelry.

“You might be more familiar with chainmaille from seeing the knights’ armor,” Celine tells us. “It dates back to 2,700 years ago. They’ve found traces of jewelry used by the Vikings and even the Egyptians. They don’t really know how far [back] it goes, but it’s very ancient.”

The process, as she explains it, goes like this: You coil metal wire (gold, silver, etc.) around a rod, then hand-cut it with a saw to create “jump rings” – open circles. Using pliers, you pull the ends apart and weave them into one another. Sounds elementary, but the results can be very complicated — and beautiful. And yet Celine started working at her trade in a very simple way: “I just wanted to make myself a chain,” she says. “I stumbled on the technique and took some workshops, and the rest I taught myself.”

CS Jewelry comes in silver, gold, and coated rings, and ranges from an uncomplicated suspended-pearl teardrop necklace to frantic and colorful Byzantine bracelets. Celine sells a triple-decker coated-wire bracelet that comes in stunning colors. The dilemma becomes, Which to buy?

Celine Segel’s work is available at the Vineyard Holiday Gift Shop on Spring Street in Vineyard Haven and on her website. celine.segel@gmail.com; celinesegeljewelry.com.

Irene Fox, Simple Joy Herbals

Many of Irene Fox’s formulas came about by necessity. She’s a West Tisbury gardener and landscaper, and she suffered the slings and arrows of extended periods on her knees in the brush. “You’re landscaping!” she laughs. “You get cuts and scrapes. Here’s the perfect balm to make for that. You’re landscaping! Your muscles hurt, so I created an arthritis muscle salve. It’s like 20 different herbs that heal and take the pain away from achy muscles. I have dry hands! I want to make a moisturizer.” Soon she was producing for other people and selling at farmers’ markets — the logical venue for such things.

Now her inventory has expanded far beyond the needs of the dig-in-the-dirt set. Every product, from balms to splashes to butters, is made from 100% natural ingredients — even the preservatives. And her market has expanded. “Now it’s different,” Irene says. “Selling at the Farmers Market, you have the full range of demographics. You’ve got people from Washington. You’ve got people from California. You get a lot of people who have not a clue what natural healing is all about, but because they’re at the Farmers Market, they stop and ask what you’re doing. It turns on a lot of people who would never go into a health food store.”

Irene Fox’s natural products are available at Morning Glory Farms, Healthy Additions (Cronig’s), Ghost Island Farm, the Vineyard Holiday Gift Shop on Spring Street in Vineyard Haven, and various holiday events. 508-388-9793; simplejoyherbals.com.

Laura Silber, Demolition Revival Furniture

What Laura Silber doesn’t do: rework or refinish existing furniture. What Laura Silber does do: create furniture and furnishings of her own design made from reclaimed board (decking, siding, flooring) and repurposed hardware. The result is fun, often colorful, and always surprising. Cabinet doors will be fashioned from Victorian metal heating grates. An antique in-door mailbox serves as a drawer pull. Old tin ceiling tiles form a decorative panel on a cabinet.

Laura learned her craft by building her own house. “It’s always surprising to people that I’m a woman and I’m doing this, and I work the power tools,” she says. “I do all the stuff on my own. There’s an assumption that the heavy cutting and heavy labor isn’t done by me. I do, every once in a while, have to call in somebody to hold up the end of the board.”

But there is one man involved. Laura trained under Island cabinetmaker Ralph Braun. “He’s an amazing, amazing, cabinetmaker,” she says. “Because he trained in Germany, he worked with old, old materials and houses. He has an amazing understanding of vintage materials.”

Laura Silber’s work can be found at Vineyard Artisans Festivals, on her website, and in her West Tisbury studio by appointment. 508-696-8475; info@demolitionrevival.com; demolitionrevival.com.

Berta Welch, Aquinnah Wampum

Tourists wear Black Dog. Islanders wear wampum — as do “in the know” tourists.

Some of the best wampum comes almost directly from the source. Berta Welch is a native Aquinnah Wampanoag — the original creators of the coveted purple and white beads. In fact, one of her favorite things to do is correct the misconception that wampum was used as currency by the tribe. “Early colonists of New England mistook the offering of wampum to establish peaceful relations as payment,” she says. “The English assigned value to the beads as currency.”

Berta’s creations are prettier than any shiny coin. Her technique mixes the quahog shell beads with other stones and shells, or she creates inlays of wampum on wampum. Her bracelets, necklaces, and earrings sport a unique contemporary style unlike that of other Island producers.

Ironically, it was her husband, Vern Welch, a native of Rhode Island, who started making wampum. Now it’s a family affair, with their son Giles and daughter Sophia adding to the mix. “We all work in our own styles,” Berta says. The work of all four artisans is featured in the family-owned shop, Stony Creek Gifts, on the cliffs of Aquinnah.

Berta Welch’s work can be found at Allen Farms, Claudia’s in Vineyard Haven and Edgartown, and at Stony Creek in Aquinnah on weekends through Thanksgiving, and by appointment. 508-645-3595; bertawelch@hotmail.com.

Laura Hearn, MV Treasures

“I started because my daughter told me how beautiful I was when I wore earrings,” recalls Laura Hearn. “She was about 2. Of course, it started me wearing more earrings and more bracelets, and that’s what got me into jewelry.” That was five years ago.

Laura’s current passion, leather and bead wrap bracelets, came about because she saw one she liked, but couldn’t afford it. So she bought an inexpensive one and took it apart to learn how to make it.

Her business actually began with making and selling necklaces of knotted hemp: “A friend of mine saw one and loved it, and purchased two for presents. That’s what made me realize I could make them and people could buy them. I was a stay-at-home-mom at the time. This was something I could sell online and in stores, and not have to leave the house and worry about childcare.”

Now her daughter is 7½ years old, and thanks to the Internet — her Etsy shop, and Facebook — MV Treasures has customers all over the world. And because of Laura’s placement in Citrine and Slip 77, she has a lot of Island customers. She’s done custom bridal jewelry, and will create bracelets to order.

508-696-8759; 1Woman2Worlds.com.

Donna Michalski, Aunt Ollie’s Soap

You can’t go wrong with soap. Hostess gift, something for that fussy aunt, your hard-to-buy-for brother, the boss — everyone washes. And if they don’t, we don’t hang around with them, right? Donna Michalski, AKA Aunt Ollie, produces two kinds of soap — melt-and-pour fancy glycerin soaps, and cold-process, from-scratch (using lye and oils) specialty soaps. And she is truly an artist — one could almost say a chef. Many of her glycerin creations are shaped like layer cakes, cupcakes, and candies.  “I learned cake decorating in college and,” she chuckles, “I’ve always been interested in food.”

She began producing soap for profit two years ago when she was asked to make up some baskets for a silent auction. “I had fooled around with soap for myself, then thought, Why not?” Donna recalls. She posted pictures on Facebook, and people began to ask if they could buy it. “Now I paste everything I make on Facebook,” she says.

For now, she’s focusing on soaps with holiday themes — including gingerbread men, Christmas trees, holly, and peppermint — but she also carries a line of Island- and beach-themed soaps, including one that is shaped like the Island. And she’s working on other bath items like fizzies, bars, and bombs.

Donna Michalski’s soaps can be found at the Vineyard Holiday Gift Shop on Spring Street in Vineyard Haven, and MV Florist. She also takes custom orders for showers, weddings, reunions, and other events. She’s on Facebook as Aunt Ollie.508-696-8759.

Randi Hadley, retro aprons

When Randi Hadley of Vineyard Haven moved to the Island in 1981, she brought her sewing machine with her on the plane. She made all of her own clothes in high school (“I was very fashionable,” she confides), and started making aprons about five years ago. And they are clever. Besides being very vintage-looking — some are actually made from vintage patterns — they are reversible. One side is pure retro. Randi uses up to four different fabrics, and buttons with shapes like chickens, teacups, mermaids, or roosters. Some even include wampum.

The other side is plain fabric. “My idea is that you cook with the plain side out,” she explains. “Then, when you’re ready for dinner, you flip it around and you can wear it to the table.” For a final practical flourish, she attaches a hand towel.

But her aprons are not always for the kitchen. “I wear mine out, sometimes,” she says. And customers have been known to hang them as artwork on the walls of their kitchens. They’ve taken blue ribbons at the Ag Fair four years out of five.

Randi Hadley’s aprons are available at Alley Cat in Vineyard Haven, the Vineyard Holiday Gift Shop on Spring Street in Vineyard Haven, and by appointment. Custom aprons can be ordered.508-696-9215.

They're nicer than they are naughty this year.

The Harley Riders of Martha's Vineyard recently raised money for the Red Stocking Fund. They paused to tell The Times what they hoped Santa would bring them. – Photo by Gwyn McAllister

Recently the Martha’s Vineyard Harley Riders completed their annual Red Stocking Run — a ride around the Island to collect money and toys for the Red Stocking Fund, the Island charity that donates food, clothing, and toys to children in need at holiday time. Before they took off, the Times asked a few of the club members what was on their Christmas wish list. Santa reportedly already knows they’ve been more nice than naughty.

Renei “Rainman” Mathieu (president): My wish is that every kid would get a gift. Me — I don’t need anything. Every morning that I get up and put two feet on the ground, I’m good.

Donny Welty: Just being with family.

David “Cricket” Willoughby (vice president): My wish is that the kids all have a great Christmas. That’s why we do this. I think we get more out of it than anybody else — knowing that we’re giving something back to the community.

Sarah LeVesque: Every year my family members make homemade gifts for each other. My husband makes metal art. Homemade I think is best, rather than any sort of monetary present.

Tim Weller: For cancer to be out of my mom’s brain. I’m going home to be with her.

 Mike “Panhead” Fuss: To live up to the blessings I’ve received recently.

Michael DelloRusso and Jeeranan DelloRusso: We wish that all the children get the toys they wanted and they all have a merry Christmas.

Jon Parkinson: I got my Christmas wish. I’m standing in front of it.

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Thanksgiving with a side of sit-com.

Zuma Beach, California, 1979. The scene of the great Thanksgiving mashed potato wars, with Marty and Holly Nadler. – Courtesy Holly Nadler

Thanksgiving is designed with such assembly-line precision — turkey, cranberries, that odd little green-beans-and-mushroom-soup mix —  that it’s hard to imagine any single occasion going awry. But it happens, and those become the fodder for tales we carry forward for all the Thanksgivings of the future. Here are a few gathered from friends, with a final doozy of my own.

Albert Fischer of West Tisbury — hunter, gatherer, photographer and arguably the most popular good old boy on Martha’s Vineyard, when asked if he had any one stand-out Thanksgiving memory, said, “Not really,” then followed that up with an immediate, “Although . . .” Typical somehow of Albert’s field-and-stream way of life, this Thanksgiving started out behind a duck blind. “While waiting for some ducks to fly into the decoys, I passed the time away by opening fresh oysters to eat. My cell phone rang, and my wife in a tizzy informed me that our oven, with a 25-pound stuffed turkey in it had [expletive deleted] the bed.”

Albert headed home wondering how in the blue blazes he could render this roasting, and now, not-roasting bird edible for his 20-plus guests. A legendarily resourceful guy, he phoned an off-Island friend with a summer house nearby, and received permission to finish browning his turkey in her oven. But man cannot live by turkey alone. “I cooked a squash and apple pie on my outdoor grill, and they came out not so bad.”

Barbecued apple pie? Everyone should try it at least once.

If Albert’s tale summons up a rural “All In The Family,” then Rebecca Dopp of Valparaiso, Indiana, who first visited the Island in the early 2000s because she loved the mysteries of Philip Craig and Cynthia Riggs, has a story that’s “Frazier” on steroids — canine steroids.

Rebecca says, “I think of Thanksgiving 2009 [spent in Indiana] as the doggie debacle. When my group gets together it’s always chaotic and, try as I might, I haven’t found a solution, but this one time was off-the-charts crazy.”

Rebecca’s circle consists of seven adults, all of them gathered for the holiday in Rebecca’s 1970s bi-level house with small rooms and no dining area, only an eat-in kitchen. “It’s very claustrophobic,” she admits. “Now, add to that my golden retriever, plus my daughter brought over her Australian shepherd who’s high-strung, always barking, always herding everybody, and a yippy Pomeranian. My son contributed his American bulldog which his veterinarian calls ‘one chromosome away from a pit bull.’”

If this were not enough dogs to round out the very definition of disaster, friends of Rebecca’s heading out of town finagled the favor of accommodating their elderly, arthritic yellow Lab and a black Lab puppy.

Hieronymus Bosch, if asked to paint a canine version of The Last Judgment could not have invented more frenetic visuals. The Lab puppy scored some chicken and dumplings and barfed them up all over the house. A tremendous pile of doggy doo, as if by magic, materialized on the living room carpet. And as the night follows the day, dog fights broke out, one of them with horrific sounds effects coming from the kitchen. “The bulldog had the geriatric Lab pinned to the floor with her massive jaws clamped around her neck.”

Rebecca straddled the attacker. The Lab was unscathed; it was just one of those, you know, doggy rumbles.

And so the Thanksgiving of 2009 progressed. More vomiting, more barks and growls and at one point, during an outdoor bathroom break, the old limping Lab had the good sense to flee. “We found her blocks away. It was a day of doggy mayhem, and every year someone brings it up as ‘The Thanksgiving that literally went to the dogs.’”

And then my friends Ted and Alice McCormack* (names changed to protect the tender feelings of others involved in this story) of Oak Bluffs and Maryland, had a Turkey Day straight out of a “Curb Your Enthusiasm” episode. A couple whose company they enjoyed on MV invited them to trek up from Maryland to spend Thanksgiving on the Island. “We loved the idea!” reports Ted.

Ted, a culinary maestro, offered to bring the turkey. “It was a free ranger already mortgaged from Whole Foods. I brined it and lovingly slow-smoked it. “By a pure stroke of good luck, last-minute ferry reservations had been secured. “We and the turkey were in the car and off to the Vineyard full of joyous anticipation.”

Ensconced in their Island house on Thanksgiving eve, Alice and Ted prepped side dishes to accompany their prized turkey. A phone call came in from the other couple: There would be no Thanksgiving. Something better had come up, a trip to New York to see a grandkid, hey fun, huh? Aren’t you delighted for us? And just so we can still enjoy a catch up visit, come with us tonight to a buddy’s house mid-Island for a pre-Thanksgiving, ‘kay?!

Deflated, Ted and Alice tagged along. The friend, who seemed deflated himself to have extra, unknown company, served luke-warm turkey chili, no side dishes. After the meal was finished Ted reported, “Our host picked up a book and announced decisively that he was going upstairs to read.” And up he went.

And here’s the clincher: The next day the other couple called and “Cheerily asked, since we wouldn’t be needing the whole turkey, could they buy half for their trip to New York?”

The only piece missing from this “Curb”-inflected story is a final gotcha! from the master Larry David himself. How’s this for a final plot twist: From the get-go, Ted and Alice had been aware they may have accidentally left out a key ingredient in brining the turkey, the lack of which could cause severe intestinal disorders in the diners (remember this is purely fictional). They’ve had a call in to a chem lab, but the answer doesn’t arrive until after the friends leave with their 50 percent of the gourmet bird. Ted turns to the camera with a look of “Oops!” that turns to a wicked grin.

My own Thanksgiving story has a certain Rhodaje ne sais quoi to it with everything but Carlton The Doorman. Back in 1980 Marty Nadler (my then future ex-husband) and I lived in a tiny condo on Malibu Beach, and my parents dwelled some 15 minutes up the road in a condo overlooking Zuma Beach. Thanksgiving was organized at my folks for an extended family of 20-plus people.

My mother had started a diet and, being possessed in those days of a bit of a Draconian personality, she sent word to the cooks, namely me and my dad, to eliminate the much-beloved and traditional mashed potatoes. (Hello! Could she simply have eliminated them from her own plate?)

The night before, there came a knock at my door. My dad, dressed in a trench coat and a fedora hat, handed me a bag of potatoes. I was to peel ‘em and slice ‘em and have ‘em ready to go on the morrow.

Well, of course, on Thanksgiving day at their Zuma pad, my mother spied the boiling potatoes on her stove: She’d been darting in and out of the kitchen to make the martinis that only Greatest Generation guys and gals know how to stir. She blew her stack, her coifed red-headed stack, loudly enough that, in the living room, all conversation ceased. My dad grabbed potholders. He picked up the pot of boiling potatoes and headed for the back door.

“I’m dumping these in the ivy!”

Immediately Marty Nadler swooped up the silver platter of turkey which earlier my dad had laboriously sliced and artfully arranged. Marty carried the tray into the living room, to the amazement of all, shouting over his shoulder, “Larry, if those potatoes go out the back door, the turkey sails over the balcony!”

My mother laughed, breaking the evil spell. The day was saved. And my mom’s vow to embark on a diet was vindicated when my half-blind great-uncle Boris (he saw colors and shapes) took his empty glass directly into the kitchen, held it out to the big golden-rod-yellow refrigerator, and asked it if he could have another martini.

My mother was wearing a golden-rod-yellow dress.

Got a great holiday story? A memorable family picture around the table from this Thanksgiving or another winter holiday? Share them with us: onisland@mvtimes.com.

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Ed Hoagland, 82, has two books coming out this year. —Photo by Michael Cummo

Something of a secret here on the Vineyard, Edward Hoagland lives in a lovely old house on a quiet street in Edgartown, lunches at The Anchors, and prowls the town from the courthouse to the post office to the library to the bank, where he spurns the ATM so he can chat up the tellers inside. A shy guy (so he says) who’s been hobbled by a stutter all his life, he shuttles about a bit cautiously these days, but only until he recovers from a cornea transplant and regains a reasonable amount of vision, maybe by his 82nd birthday, late next month. When he can see where he’s going again, he’s liable to head off almost anywhere, something he’s been doing since 1953, when he decided to be a freelance writer. He shares the house in Edgartown with Trudy Carter, his partner for the past 26 years, a licensed social worker who works for Hospice of Martha’s Vineyard.

In the literary world, Hoagland has been as well-known and respected as perhaps anyone else alive, at least in this country, for decades. How many writers can draw on peers like John Updike, Joyce Carol Oates, Saul Bellow, Annie Proulx, Philip Roth, Wallace Stegner, and Annie Dillard for blurbs on the back of their books?

Early this month, he published “On Nature” (Lyons Press), a reissue, with some new material, of his 2003 collection of essays. “The Devil’s Tube” (Arcade), a collection of short stories that spans 60 years, will be released in December. In 2011, when he was 78, he published “Sex and the River Styx,” a collection of essays, followed in 2012 by “Alaskan Travels”(Arcade), a chronicle subtitled “Far-Flung Tales of Love in Adventure” (all true), and in 2013 by “Children Are Diamonds”(Arcade), a novel set amid civil war and massacres in central Africa.

It’s been a run of fertility (his word) that Hoagland is proud to point out, but he also calls it “astonishing,” because he considers it so rare. Why would anyone stop writing, he wonders, unless they had to?

Writing has been everything to Hoagland from a very early age.  “As a stutterer, I was unable to talk to anyone but close friends and my parents,” he said in a conversation last week. “I longed to converse.”


Mr. Hoagland sometimes works on top of his washing machine, to work the kinks from his back. —Photo by Michael Cummo
Mr. Hoagland sometimes works on top of his washing machine, to work the kinks from his back. —Photo by Michael Cummo

Then came the dream of producing a great American novel. “When I was 18,” he said, “I pictured my career like a comet which blazes until you’re 32, and then you’re finished, but your work will be read by later generations.” Not to waste any time, he sold his first novel, “Cat Man,” which he wrote in pencil in the third subbasement of Widener Library, before he graduated from Harvard. It was the first of 23 books so far, along with hundreds of essays and short stories, and countless book reviews. Typically quick to quantify, he said that “Cat Man” ran to 110,000 words, and that he had spent about 11,000 hours on it.

Suspicious that a doctorate and academic life might suck the sap from him, Hoagland headed out into the world, and around it. He walked prodigious distances in New York, hitchhiked across the U.S., spent three months in Sicily, Paris, Greece — wherever a story or his curiosity took him. He’s been almost everywhere, but Alaska and Africa have drawn him back time and again.

Still, he has always been drawn to teaching. Between 1963 and 2005, he taught at 10 colleges and universities, from U.C. Davis to Bennington — a succession of part-time jobs that fed his appetite for engaging with young people, but insulated him from the perils of academia, its infighting and endless meetings. Teaching was also a hedge against loneliness, which he calls an occupational hazard for a writer. He simply wasn’t interested in a “tenured position and a swimming pool.” What if Harper’s called and wanted to send him to India, or American Scholar(where he is a contributing editor) asked him to weigh in on geezerdom?

His aversion to entrenchment started early: When he was 12, he announced to his parents that he was a socialist — this from a child of privilege who was brought up on the Upper East Side of Manhattan and in New Canaan, Conn. And he travels light, without a fixed itinerary, often booking only the first night’s accommodation when he arrives somewhere. He prefers to let random interactions and spontaneous decisions help shape the story he’s tracking down.

There’s nothing accidental about Hoagland’s writing, however. He’s kept notes for 60 years before using them, and he never lets up. When he’s home, he works every day for an average of 50 hours each week, just as he did at college in the early 1950s. He writes 20 words an hour on the first draft of an essay, 10 for fiction — and the same on the second draft. On the third, he speeds up to 30 words per hour. He spends three or four days on a book review, about three months on an essay, and up to two decades on a novel.

Because he can’t read right now, he’s off book reviews for the time being, but usually he’s got a review, an essay, and a novel cooking simultaneously, using two identical Olympia portable typewriters. “That way you never lose any time, or energy,” he said. “If the novel’s not going well, I can turn to an essay. … I always tend to have a novel in progress, because I would still love to write a marvelous, marvelous novel.”

One typewriter is on a small desk in his small study, the other on top of a dryer in a narrow hall leading to that study so he can unkink from time to time. “I’ve never used a computer; I wouldn’t know how to turn one on,” Hoagland said, sounding more practical than defiant: Why waste time figuring out to operate a new gadget?

Though the allure of a great novel has never faded entirely, over time he understood that his talents were as an essayist. “My aptitudes were not those of a novelist,” he said. “I didn’t have the memory or the imagination of a great novelist.”

And he wanted to endure. “Passionate, enthralling novels are a young person’s game,” he said. “Essayists live longer: they draw on considered opinion, decades of experience, moderation, tolerance.”

Too many essayists are unable to avoid the restrictions of the form, either in scope or tone, and they end up sounding pedantic. Hoagland managed to avoid this common pitfall — perhaps because he has a great ear, certainly because he’s worked hard at it. It’s because he gets it — that the form is only the framework, ultimately uninteresting without the sheathing, the floorboards, the shingles and the caulking — that his essays are so rich, so unusual.

The typewriter is still Mr. Hoagland's weapon of choice. —Photo by Michael Cummo
The typewriter is still Mr. Hoagland’s weapon of choice. —Photo by Michael Cummo

Two elements in Hoagland’s essays help make them stand out. First is the way he inserts himself, in all his warty glory, into the story, which helps take the sting out of an unsettling, or simply unpleasant, train of thought: If he can go there, maybe I can too. Second, he is a master of transition. His segues are so seamless, at times seeming almost haphazard, that you don’t know you’ve changed gears until you look at the speedometer. It’s tempting to decide he’s a natural, with otherworldly gifts that make it all look easy, like Fred Lynn tending to center field at Fenway.

It’s not always easy reading, however. Sentences can go on, and on, and it can be hard to keep your seat on what sometimes feels like a runaway horse. It can be demanding, but it’s never inaccessible — probably because it’s so precise. And the rewards are absolutely worth the effort. Once you get the hang of it, it’s infectious and affecting, and it’s hard to stop reading, even if the topic doesn’t interest you at first. You know, somehow, that you are in the hands of a master, and that you may miss something amazing if you bolt. Best bet is to relax, appreciate his craft, and let him fly the plane.

Meanwhile, today, Hoagland is worried about the future. At an age when most people look back — sometimes forlornly, often sentimentally — he writes about the present, aggressively pointing out the not-so-wonderful condition of our world, hoping we’ll wake up and take charge, but fearing that we’re hooked on the secondhand realities served up by inescapable technological sops, and thus dispirited.

But he isn’t about to give up, no matter the odds. He loves life too much and he’s too curious. Remember, this is a guy with a handicap that’s partially caused by insecurity who’s put himself in precarious situations throughout his life — exploring rivers most of us have never heard of in Alaska, hitching a ride into the teeth of a vicious civil war in the south Sudan, and creating memorable accounts afterward. So it shouldn’t be surprising that, when asked if he still loves to write or is mostly writing from habit these days, he jumped in: “No! I love it!”

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Geraldine Brooks was one of the judges for last week's National Book Awards. —Photo by Randi Baird

Geraldine Brooks does not judge a book by its cover.

The West Tisbury resident and Pulitzer Prize-winning author actually read, cover to cover, about 200 books this year as a judge for the National Book Awards (NBA).

In fact, Ms. Brooks and a cohort of four other judges each read that many new novels this year from the more than 400 fiction titles submitted for judging in the fiction category for the prestigious literary awards, which were announced on November 19.

The fiction winner was Phil Klay, author of “Redeployment,” a collection of short stories reflecting a variety of human experiences with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Mr. Klay is a graduate of Dartmouth College and a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps. He served in Iraq’s Anbar Province from January 2007 to February 2008 as a public affairs officer.

“‘Redeployment’ was my favorite,” Ms. Brooks said last week in an interview with The Times. “A lot of the books were my favorites, that I had to let go of along the way. ‘Redeployment’ is a remarkable piece of writing and an important book. I think it will last in the same manner that ‘The Things They Carried’ reflected the Vietnam War experience.”

“Phil imagines himself in the heads of people whose [war] experience was different from his, goes way beyond anything he has experienced. I am very interested to see what Phil does next,” she said. “Redeployment” was picked from a short list of fiction works by authors Rabih Alameddine, Marilynne Robinson, Anthony Doerr, and Emily St. John Mandel.

Louise Gluck won the NBA poetry prize for her collection “Faithful and Virtuous Night.”

Evan Osnos, with “Age of Ambition,” won the nonfiction award, and Jacqueline Woodson won in the young people’s literature category for “Brown Girl Dreaming,” her memoir in verse.

The National Book Awards were founded in 1950 to promote the appreciation of American literature of the highest quality. The awards are underwritten by the National Book Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to literary excellence.

Books are submitted for a $135 fee by publishers, including some self-publishing companies, and the qualifying books are sent by the publishers to the judges. The bulk of them arrive midyear, and the judges begin reading them to select a long list of 10 books, then a short list of five books from which the winner is chosen — a gargantuan task of reading, thought, and discussion.

“We divided the entries first through an alphabetic sort by authors’ names, and each judge took a group. You were free to read any other book as well. We wanted to make sure that every entry got a good look,” Ms. Brooks said. All the judges read all of the long- and short-list books.

“There was a wonderful sense of where we are as a literary nation, based on diversity and unifying themes. Many books contained a consoling and redeeming aspect of the power of art. Stories save us in tough times. Survival is insufficient. In one postapocalyptic novel, the survivors take up Shakespeare. In another, a woman translates books no one will ever read. That’s where she finds her solace. In another book, Lila is an itinerant young woman who finds relief in the Book of Job,” Ms. Brooks said.

Ms. Brooks said the selection process was most difficult in the early stages of culling the works. “It was really tough until we got to the long list,” Ms. Brooks said. “Differing literary tastes required more negotiation. When we got to the short list of these worthy books, we agreed to a remarkable degree.”

The NBA board provides guidelines to judges (authors must be U.S. citizens and be living at the time of submission), and the judging group develops its own criteria. “Our criteria said: We are looking for a striking original with masterful craft and beauty of language, free of excess, imaginatively rich and compellingly resolved … a book to reread.… It should be a novel that will stand the test of time, so that when we look back a decade from now … we’ll be proud we chose it,” Ms. Brooks reported.

Ms. Brooks had an idea of the size of her task. “Tony [husband and author Tony Horwitz] judged the nonfiction award several years ago, so I had seen the books piling up when he was a judge,” she said.

Another judge this year was Sheryl Coulter, a Northern California bookseller: “Sheryl said she spent so much time reading this summer that her elbows were being rubbed raw. She went to a skateboard store and got a pair of elbow pads,” Ms. Brooks said.

Basic math indicates that each judge read well over a million words as a NBA fiction judge, not including note-making and discussion about the books. Certainly a labor of love: “I love books,” Ms. Brooks said.