At Large

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Life is stressful enough without holidays. Beginning tomorrow and packed into every day until the year ends, parties, dinners, dances, concerts, gifts, decorating, cooking, kids, cousins, parents, grandparents will all multiply till they wring yelps of psychic pain from even the blithest spirits. It is the background music for the holiday season.

Really, it’s no wonder. How can any ordinary human deal with the demands of the next few weeks, especially when you consider that off-Island there is a wretched supplementary catalogue of worldwide woe.

There are the wars, the drones, the nuclear proliferation, the refugees, the deficit, Obamacare, the filibusters or the lack of them, typhoons, tornadoes, blizzards, the real estate market, the tippity-top in the stock markets. It’s a world of worry.

Then there is the contempt in which we are held by sadists, totalitarians, bombers, cave-dwellers, the globally faint-hearted, and the fanatics here and abroad. There are the politicians, all baying about how off track everything is. It’s miraculous that any of those clamorous Eeyores can manage to put one foot stumblingly in front of another.

Worst of all, here it is Thanksgiving, and we will just have to find a way to deal with the good will and the holiday spirit that’s about to belabor us.

Right off the bat, there’s the Friday shopping kickoff for Christmas gift buying. I don’t know what to buy for anybody. I haven’t given it a thought. When I’m wandering around Hyannis Mall Friday morning, I just know I’ll miss every one of the great bargains. That’s stressful.

Plus turkey choices. They’ve multiplied. Once, the sure bet, the only choice was the Butterball, self-basting, laced with chemicals and salt, with an installed pop-up that tells you when it’s done. Once it’s in the oven you can turn your attention to the marshmallow yams. But, it turns out the Butterball will make a buttball out of you. Low stress, but it’s high fat. Today, you want a free range turkey, an organic or a holistic one and you want to soak it in a brine. Prep time expands, lifetimes may or may not.

I read Jane Brody’s Personal Health column in the New York Times every Tuesday. She’s up on everything and full of common sense. I figure if I pay attention and don’t miss a column, I’ll find out just in the nick of time what I absolutely have to stop — or start — doing or eating or thinking to evade the deathblow that I’m assure is lurking in my lifestyle.

“What many doctors fail to take into account,” Ms. Brody has written, “is the effect of a constant or off-repeated outpouring of these hormones on physical well-being. It is now known, for example, that undue stress inhibits the responsiveness of the immune system, especially the natural killer cells and macrophages that are the first-line warriors against infection and foreign invaders like cancer cells.”

It’s just what I always feared.

“Chronic stress,” she added, “can also raise blood pressure and blood sugar, constrict major arteries and interfere with normal digestive processes. These effects, in turn increase the risk of hypertension, heart disease, strokes, chronic reflux disease, diarrhea or constipation, and insulin resistance, the precursor of Type Two diabetes.” She’s not just talking about that Butterball in your fridge or on your sofa. Finally, Ms. Brody gives us a break, “But enough of the bad news.” Amen, I say.

Ms. Brody counsels pre-planning, no procrastination, delegating some of the work, and being realistic about what you can accomplish. She sounds like my mother, no, like my Aunt Agnes.

Her advice is nothing if not harshly realistic. “Grin and bear it,” she writes. “For those people you have to see but would rather not, like the aunt who is always telling you what to do, the brother-in-law who brags incessantly or the cousin who regales you with details about every one of her ailments, either ignore them or try to take them less seriously. See if you can find some humor instead of annoyance in the situation.” She does not mean making fun of the tiresome relative.

Exercise can help. “Try an hour’s brisk walk with one or more friends five or more days a week; your body and your mind will be ever so grateful.” Alternatively, you can get needed exercise by turning on your heel and fleeing the aunt or the cousin or the brother-in-law. If nothing else, it will get you out of the house and into the clear air.

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There is a scrim of highly detailed statutory language and a trail of legal opinions and court holdings stretching back 30 years, all of them pretending to be the last word that settles the question of whether the Wampanoag Tribe may open a gambling parlor on its property in Aquinnah. These opinions, whether conjured by a lawyer in a federal bureaucracy’s office of legal counsel or handed down from the bench, carom across the geography of the issue of Indian sovereignty, as it pertains particularly to gambling. But, after all, if the Wampanoag tribe begins to develop a gambling enterprise on its Aquinnah land, the question will not finally be settled until the United States Supreme Court says it’s settled.

Last Thursday, a few days before the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) decided whether to change its leadership, Cheryl Andrews-Maltais was nice enough to write a description of her persistent efforts to get her tribe admitted into the fraternity of Indian gaming enterprises.

“I had a very nice call with Governor [Deval] Patrick this morning. He was so gracious. We spoke very briefly about our respective perspectives and that he was committed to having intergovernmental engagement, not only on this issue [gambling] but also moving forward on other issues we face. I truly appreciated him reaching out, and I was grateful for the opportunity for us to finally speak. I’m looking forward to continuing to develop a stronger relationship with the state.” The governor apparently knows how to deliver a gracious stiff arm to a pesky office seeker.

Ms. Andrews-Maltais added several self-congratulating words she hoped would attract voters to her reelection bid, but what strikes one about her note is the gulf that remains between the Wampanoag tribe’s gambling goal — a key plank in her reelection platform — and the state government’s aversion to the tribe’s interests. Like so much else in this saga, gambling dreams seem built on sand or on clay cliffs, not bedrock. Anyhow, Ms. Andrews-Maltais’s record of accomplishments and her gambling ambitions are moot, because her opponent, Tobias Vanderhoop, won the election.

If you’ve the patience for it, wander with me along the trail that began 30 years ago Friday, when the Wampanoag tribe, the town of (then) Gay Head, the non-resident taxpayers of Gay Head, settled their long litigation. Both Congress and Massachusetts had to implement the terms of that Settlement Agreement in legislation, which they did. The federal recognition of the Wampanoag tribe and then Congressional passage of the Wampanoag Settlement Act followed.

The state law embodying the Settlement Agreement says that, “Except as provided in this act, all laws, statutes and bylaws of the Commonwealth, the town of Gay Head, and any other properly constituted legal body, shall apply to all settlement lands and any other lands owned now or at any time in the future by the tribal council or any successor organization.”

In 1988, Congress passed the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) to define the authority Indian tribes had over their gambling ventures. As regards the Settlement Act, the question was whether IGRA superseded or otherwise impaired the specific terms of the settlement. If it did, gambling on Indian lands in Aquinnah would be subject to the cooperating jurisdictions of tribe and state. Aquinnah’s rules would not govern.

A letter written in September of 1997, by Michael J. Anderson, the acting Assistant Secretary of the Interior, distinguishes between the obligations incumbent on the Wampanoag tribe, under the terms of the Settlement Agreement and the subsequent legislative and Congressional acts that embodied those terms, and the IGRA also, should the tribe decide to begin a gambling venture in Fall River, on land taken into trust for the tribe by the Secretary of the Interior. There, the governance would be joint, Mr. Anderson concluded, between the tribe and the state of Massachusetts.

On the Indian lands of Gay Head, it was different. The Anderson letter acknowledges that the settlement agreement grants jurisdiction over Indian lands in Gay Head to the state and local jurisdictions, that is, the town of (now) Aquinnah.

In 2012, a dispute arose between the tribe and the town over a shack, built on the Wampanoag tribe’s Cook Lands, without a town development permit. Ron Rappaport, Aquinnah town counsel then and now, examined the long record of the agreement, the acts of the legislature and Congress, and the legal disputes, and he reminded the Aquinnah selectmen in a letter that the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts ultimately held that “… the tribe expressly memorialized a waiver of its sovereign immunity, with respect to municipal zoning and enforcement, by agreeing in paragraph three of the Settlement Agreement to hold its land, including the Cook Lands, in the same manner and subject to the same laws, as any other Massachusetts corporation.”

Mr. Rappaport concluded that “the tribe has no authority to conduct gaming activities in Aquinnah.”

Remember the 1997 opinion written by Mr. Anderson, the acting Assistant Secretary of the Department of the Interior, the one that distinguished between Wampanoag tribe gambling enterprises on Indian Lands in Aquinnah (Gay Head) and doing the gambling on property acquired in Fall River. Now comes the Department of the Interior, in August 2013, this time the office of the solicitor of the department, Michael J. Berrigan, associate solicitor for the Division of Indian Affairs. Mr. Berrigan has a very different take on the issue. He writes, “It is this office’s opinion that the Settlement Act did not divest the tribe of jurisdiction over the Settlement Lands and, therefore, the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) applies to such lands. Further, IGRA impliedly repealed portions of the Settlement Act related to gaming.”

The straw argument that Mr. Berrigan fells several acres of trees to rebut is, he says, that the Settlement Act and the federal and state legislation that implemented its terms, prohibited gambling on Indian Lands in Aquinnah. Of course, it prohibited nothing specifically, including gambling. Rather, it required the Wampanoag tribe to observe state and local laws in whatever the tribe wanted to do — including, although Mr. Berrigan scampered around the Mass SJC decision on point, to build a shack.

Finally, there is the opinion promulgated by Eric Shepard, acting General Counsel to the National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC) and celebrated by the former chairman of the Wampanoag tribe. Mr. Shepard concludes that IGRA does apply to the Aquinnah Indian lands that belong to the tribe. That’s so, he finds, because the tribe has “sufficient legal jurisdiction” over its settlement lands, although it does not have exclusive jurisdiction.

Mr. Shepard quotes Mr. Berrigan, who concluded that the Wampanoag tribe exercises governmental power over its lands, a must under the IGRA, because the tribe “is responsible for providing a full range of services to the tribe’s members, including education, health and recreation, public safety and law enforcement, public utilities, natural resources management, economic development, and community assistance” on the tribe’s Aquinnah lands. Mr. Shepard did not understand that most of these services are actually furnished by the town of Aquinnah or other Island providers.

Summing up, in this corner Mr. Shepard (NIGC) and Mr. Berrigan (Department of the Interior). In the other corner, Mr. Anderson (also from the Department of the Interior) and Ron Rappaport, Aquinnah town counsel and the only one of these gentlemen who has actually litigated issues related to Wampanoag sovereignty — successfully for the town, and by extension the Island, one should add.

Oh, I’ve left out the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, which has explicitly upheld the jurisdictional claims of the town of Aquinnah and the state of Massachusetts.

This is a roly-poly pudding of opinion, bureaucratic tension — much of it within the same department of the federal government — and a community in search of a payoff. The outcome? Well, it’s a gamble.

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Without examining the history of the training regimen that was instituted early in our marriage, I can report that the keys to its ultimate success were patience, firmness, repetition, repeated demonstrations, and pop quizzes, both multiple choice and essay type. That’s what did the trick. Plus, you need a good teacher, and in that way, I’ve been blessed. Educators of all sorts will appreciate the strenuousness of such an effort and sympathize with my mate. Ultimately, you need to learn to wag your tail. That’s the time-honored signal that you’ve been wrong, that you regret it, and that here is the visible acknowledgement of those two admissions. Plus, you do it on the floor.

I suspect that the demands of marriage, and especially the educational diligence incumbent on the female partner may explain some of the mildly encouraging news we’ve heard about marriage, the institution, recently. The Centers for Disease Control regularly survey the centuries old infection that is marriage, today transformed into a modern union with a wide variety of options. The CDC reports that there were 2,118,000 marriages in the U.S. in 2011, or 6.8 percent of the total population of about 311,000,000. In 2000, there were 2,315,000 marriages in a total population of about 282,000,000, or 8.2 percent. But, the 2011 percentage share of the population tying the knot annually, though lower than it was a decade ago, has held steady since 2008. We are holding our own.

There have been big changes during the last half of the 20th century. We delay marriage till we are older, cohabit for some time before marrying, and end first marriages with divorce about half the time. Among women, 68 percent of unions — often called committed relationships — formed in cohabitation, and generally these events occur in one’s life at about the same time as marriage did in the past. Researchers often study these two types of union together to measure the durability of first unions.

In 1995, 50 percent of all women’s first marriages ended in separation or divorce after 20 years. In 2002, surveys found that about one-third of men’s first marriages ended in divorce after 10 years. There are many factors that influence the likelihood of divorce from a first marriage, including educational attainment, employment status, and premarital cohabitation. Researchers survey marriages between partners aged 15 or older.

Married couples account for slightly less that half the total of American households. That’s more married couples than in the past, but a smaller percentage of the total number of households. Marriage as the backbone of American households has been in a slow but steady decline, as a percentage of total American households, for several years. That doesn’t mean that Americans have turned their backs on the noble team sport, but there are alternatives, more acceptable now than they were a few years ago, and divorce, plus the overall aging of the population, contribute to this sad trend.

Generally researchers have found that women and men who cohabit with their future spouse before first marriage are more likely to divorce than those who do not, but the most recent research suggests that this link may be weakening, largely because cohabitation is more common than it was, so it spans contributors such as age, education, financial security. Young, poorly educated, and financially insecure folks who cohabit before marriage have a tough time staying married when they take the plunge.

Since the population has reached 311 million plus, we can safely assume that the male-female breakdown has endured. And because a substantial portion of the millions of new additions are under 15 and unlikely to have formed new households, we can safely operate on the theory that the total share of households featuring a married couple is about what it was in 2006, when most of the data reflected here was first gathered. So, those of us who’ve invested so much time in marriage and the instructional rewards that go with it may rest easy, knowing that while we may not be making much headway against the current trend, we’re not falling behind at an increasing rate.

Seventy-four percent of Americans were at or beyond the household forming age in 2005. That means the potential number of households might have been 216 million, instead of 111 million, a deficit in speculative terms of almost half. In light of the training available in most married relationships, why haven’t these shirkers stepped up? Lots of reasons, one supposes, most of them perfectly understandable. For example, for those between 18 and 29, members of both sexes may cling to the busy bee hypothesis, buzzing here, buzzing there, sipping here, sipping there, in the sunny springtime of discovery. You know what I mean.

If you are, like me, a member of the married household population, you may be cheering the youngsters on in their reluctance to launch their married lives. The most sensible of this age 20-30 cohort’s members are in school, beginning careers, in the military, moving around, looking for a foothold on the future, and they understand that the time has not arrived for household establishment.

From 30 to 50, there may be a sizable group whose members form, then deconstruct a household. It seemed like a good thing at the time, but it didn’t work out. Maybe they’ll join the married household ranks again, but not right away. After all, statistics be damned, most Americans do marry, and many do so several times. Most have children, and increasingly, most of these offspring, based on their experiences as the children of married parents, delay into their middle age the onset of marriage. The teacher-student model followed by wives and husbands generally has an unplanned educational correlative — a dividend, you might say — in which the parents serve as the teachers and the children the students, learning from their experience to delay, delay, delay.

Now, of course, another reason why the number of married households has shrunk just a bit is that the population as a whole is getting older, which means that one or the other half of the couple at the head of a married household dies. As the population of married couples ages, death visits more often than it does a younger cohort, and the consequence is a household led by a widow or widower, and consequently, no longer one of us. Actually, it’s usually the husband who departs first, a testimony to the fact that the teacher in the wife-husband pair learned a lot more over time than her student.

Yet another reason for the decline in the married share of American households could be exasperation. In my experience, no matter the diligence of the teacher, she can experience terminal exasperation. Often, it’s towel trouble. For instance, it’s one of the mysteries of cohabitation that towels require such diligent management. I mean, you take a shower, you grab a towel. You dry off, you throw the towel on the floor. Next day, you shower, you pick up the towel from the floor, you dry off, you throw the towel on the floor. After several days, you shower, you reach for the towel on the floor where it should be. It isn’t there. You take another, you dry off, you throw the towel on the floor. It’s a time-honored system. I have skills, I can do this.

But, I find out my system is all wrong. First of all, this towel belongs to a certain person, that towel belongs to me. They are both white, I object. How do I know which is whose? Yours is wet, smelly, and dirty. It doesn’t look that dirty. Trust me, it’s filthy.

Why can’t I have a blue towel?

It doesn’t go with the room.

And there you have it, the key to the trends documented by the CDC. I suspect it is towel trouble or some similar educational stand-off that accounts, perhaps all by itself, for the national decline in the formation and endurance of married households. Perhaps the bureau should modify its survey instruments to confirm the hypothesis.

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Updated at 11:45 am, November 7

Through the end of September, including the five busiest months of the Vineyard year, the Steamship Authority carried fewer automobiles to and from this Island and Nantucket, by a bit less than one percent, or 1,334 cars, compared with the same period a year a go. Auto traffic on Nantucket routes was more dramatically off the 2012 pace, down 2.4 percent, or 1.227 vehicles. Nantucket vehicle fares are extremely dear and may be discouraging even the one percenters from taking their Teslas to the distant sandbar. Any way you slice it, these are soft numbers, and the boatline’s traffic has been soft for a decade. If the SSA were a public company, investors would be driving the stock price down.

Just for the record, passenger traffic on Vineyard routes fell .4 percent, or 6,816 people, for the period, while truck (freight) leapt 4.8 percent. Nantucket freight traffic increased at about the same rate, and its passenger traffic jumped 3.5 percent.

Oh, not to worry: despite this modest sales performance, the Steamship Authority’s topline is holding up very well. Passenger revenue is up 3.1 percent, or about $700,000, auto revenue is up 1.2 percent, or nearly $300,000, and freight revenue is up 11.6 percent, or about $800,000. That’s because the Steamship Authority has pricing power — rates will rise again in 2014 — and near monopoly support from state law.

What is interesting about Steamship Authority traffic statistics is that they seem to contradict our impression of how overwhelming the on-Island traffic problem is and how it is worsening. Not to say that it isn’t knotty, at some times of the year especially, and at some intersections and main streets. Of course it is. But with about 17,000 of us here year-round, and because history tells us that the vehicle to human ratio is out of whack in favor of the vehicles, it’s safe to say that we have 20,000 or so cars. Through October this year, there were 302,558 trips between the mainland and the Vineyard, many of them by Islanders, many by folks who live elsewhere but do business here, many by seasonal property owners and summer residents, and some by daytrippers. (A round trip passage is counted as two, so that an Islander’s “vehicle traveling round trip would show up as two auto trips or two truck trips in our statistics, depending on make and model of vehicle,” as Steamship Authority general manager Wayne Lamson explains it. ) By the way, the corresponding figure for Nantucket was about 51,000. Looking at physical size alone, just 45 square miles, half the size of the Vineyard, Nantucket, with just a sixth of the proportionate vehicle load, is relatively innocent of traffic congestion, compared with the Vineyard.

And, over the years, even as we’ve tarted ourselves up in an effort to attract visitors and summer and year-round residents, we’ve complained bitterly about the traffic in the summer. Sometimes we’ve blamed the tourists, sometimes the Steamship Authority, rarely ourselves. But, we haven’t actually done anything about it. Given modest size of the the raw numbers, and forgiving we year-round residents for our contribution to the volume and the mayhem, it seems clear that we ought to be able to do something about the driving experience, which is at times dangerous and infuriating.

One approach would be my tactic back in the 1970s. My ride then was a 1949 Willys Jeep I bought from Justin Welch, the late former sergeant of the Tisbury police. A fire-engine-red beauty, she had a 1954 engine that didn’t quite fit in the engine compartment, so a hole had been opened in the hood to accommodate the breather. There was no top, so you couldn’t drive it in serious rain, the windshield would not stand up to its responsibilities, so the driver was continually pasted with flying insects. And the brakes took life at a maybe yes, maybe no pace. I dealt with congestion by withdrawal, because my Jeep hardly ever ran, despite Binky’s relentless efforts.

I don’t offer that as a solution. But, there are solutions. The new Roundabout is one. It’s a smooth apparatus and it decongests traffic, slows it down, and makes it safer. We had to subdue our no change, not us demon to make it happen, and that took a decade, but here it is.

Another is the proposed overland connector between State Road, Vineyard Haven and the Vineyard Haven-Edgartown Road. Tisbury voters will have a chance this month to revisit the issue. They rejected it when they considered it earlier. It’s a good example of a way to unsnarl traffic in one area — downtown Vineyard Haven and Five Corners — by offering the motorist whose destination is not downtown Vineyard Haven a chance to bypass the crowds.

Another is the redesign of the Old County Road-State Road intersection, which doesn’t choke drivers but has proven itself dangerous to less crafty drivers among us. By the way, I’m sure it is not bedrock thinking among traffic planners that intersections and traffic patterns should be designed in the style of a nexus such as Five Corners, to test the drivers that use it for their flair, ingenuity, aggression, and craftiness. I wouldn’t argue for a minute that year-round Island drivers have not, through years of Five Corners practice, honed their driving skills to a level comparable to those possessed by circus aerialists, but is it fair to ask the elderly, the youthful innocents, and even visiting drivers trained in New Jersey to attempt the passage? I don’t think so.

Then there are bike paths — not really bikes-only paths, but multi-use paths. The ones we have are terrific, the path along Sengekontacket Pond, in particular, is actually splendid. But, we could build more. Why have we stopped?

The traffic problem is of such a modest magnitude that we can get our arms around it, and because growth and change are inevitable, we should.

This column was updated to correct an error in attributing the reported traffic figures. The figures were Steamship Authority statistics for the period January through September 2013, not January through October. The update also adds an explanation by Wayne Lamson, Steamship Authority general manager, of how the Steamship Authority counts auto trips. Mr. Lamson emailed the writer after reading the column this morning. DAC

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This week’s column is the 780th installment. I began spouting off this way, at Molly’s suggestion, in the first week of November 1998. I had been committing a weekly editorial for several years before that and do still, but she said they often sounded bossy, and the subjects were boring. (Wives throw what Wally Backman, speaking about Hall of Fame right hander Nolan Ryan, called “good hard cheese.”) Why don’t you write something more varied and occasionally fun, she said. You don’t want readers to think you’re a bossy, boring person. (Was she saying that I should try to trick them?)

So, since the first week in November 1998, I’ve added between 1,500 and 2,000 words, taking the Editorial and At Large together, to the weekly MVTimes output, one part bossy and boring, the other, well, you’ll have to decide. I’m not pretending that all the words were fresh and new. Words, images, similes, metaphors, and all the rest are completely recyclable and consequently earth friendly. And anyway, it’s never about the words so much as it is about the way you string them together and whether, when you’re all done, they say something.

Readers, referring to At Large, sometimes say, Oh, I loved that thing you wrote, maybe two weeks ago, what was it about? I have no idea. The subjects of this weekly criminality have been so many. They’ve run from dogs, the odd cat, to children, to friends, admirable but now dead, to ice skaters, newspapermen, budgets, sailors, wood splitters, books, painters, admirable young people, dope and alcohol abuse, traffic jams, weddings, graduations, words, newspapering, the Yellow Pages, podiatry and politicians, hurricanes, admirable old people, astonishing young people, love, to judges and police, to cyclists, to music and funerals and birds, Christmas parties and ice cream, to sailboats and ice boats, tides, water temperatures, no’theasters, miscreants, malcontents, the insufferably happy and, to be honest, whatever happened by. The list goes on and on, and if readers can’t remember a column they read and liked, I say, welcome to my world.

More often folks ask, how long does it take you to write one of those things? The answer is, naturally enough, hard to pin down. Sometimes, I suspect there’s an intervention, not divine certainly but probably karmic. When that happens it’s an hour, tops. Like butter. Sometimes, nothing karmic going on and in the grip of deadline desperation, it happens a word at a time. Think Portnoy’s father. Nothing moving.

Usually though, it’s like getting dressed in the morning. You go into the closet. I’ll take that blue shirt and those tan pants, the gray sweater and the brown shoes. For me, it’s shall I take that blue shirt or the other blue shirt, those tan pants or the other tan pants. I’ve a long list of potential topics in the Reminders app on my iPad, but cramped and inelastic as I am, while the topics vary, the approach usually doesn’t. I long to embrace change, but it’s so unfamiliar. The typical grappling on such occasions will run anywhere from two hours to a week and a half.

Lots of people ask, how do you come up with stuff to write about? As you may have guessed from the list above, there are a lot of fish in the sea. I don’t think that these questioning neighbors — some I know pretty well, some I don’t know, at least right off, but they’re awfully pleasant — have been torn by uncertainty for weeks until we collide in front of the heirloom tomatoes or at the post office. It’s a surprise for her as it is for me, and she takes the opportunity to put the question. On such occasions, one usually sends out scouts frantically looking for hoofprints or broken branches, some clue about who it is and what to say to start a conversation. Don’t these tomatoes seem both expensive and misshapen, I might offer. My fellow shopper, taking an unexpected tack, says, in effect, never mind tomatoes, what were you thinking when you wrote that thing about how your daughter gets phone calls from boys and you intercept them? I can’t believe you think that you can keep an eye on a teenager’s friendships by monitoring phone calls. Were you trying to be funny? (I don’t answer, because there is absolutely no face-saving answer to that question.) What about Facebook or Twitter or Instagram? That’s what they’re using to communicate, and that’s what you should be writing about.

(Pardon a moment’s interruption here. There’s that word “thing” again. People are always saying to me, I loved that “thing” you wrote. I hated that “thing” you wrote. I didn’t understand that “thing” you wrote. Did you really mean that “thing” you wrote? How can you mean that “thing” you wrote? Where do you get the ideas for the “things” you write? Now, I’m sure there’s a better word for those “things,” though I can’t think of what it is right now. But, it’s not “thing.”)

More than anything else, what I should have written about is the most common suggestion from friends, neighbors, and readers. Unfortunately, they tell me what I should have written about after I wrote what I wrote. It would help if they worked a little harder and made their suggestions in a timely way. But, thinking a layer or two more deeply, an awkward problem reveals itself. Suppose these kind, interesting people, blooming with ideas, had suggested a topic and I had failed to step up to it, wouldn’t that make our future rendezvous, wherever in Cronig’s or at the dentist’s office it occurred, terribly uncomfortable?

What they don’t often ask – I suspect they are too polite – is, what makes you think anyone wants to read what you write? To that question, I have the answer. I don’t. I just like doing it, and I’m lucky enough to have the chance to do it.

Plus, as Russell Baker said, “yesteryear’s swashbuckling newspaper reporter has turned into today’s solemn young sobersides nursing a glass of watered white wine after a day of toiling over computer databases in a smoke-free, noise-free newsroom.” And, I ask myself, who’d want a sentence of 15 years to life like that? Or, as my older son often says, you don’t want to be that guy.

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We worry about young Islanders who need houses they can afford to buy or rent. We fret about clean ponds, open space, pollution-free ground water, unspoiled views, traffic jams and insufficient parking. All important, but let’s talk about what lies ahead for Vineyard boomers.

Apparently, what lies ahead is more work and dramatic change in many Massachusetts communities, the Vineyard not excepted. Boomers are at retirement age. Many of them are leaving careers that have formed the foundations of their lives. But, for many others, retirement may be delayed, because of the Great Recession and its lingering diminishment of economic possibilities and because they are livelier, healthier, and inured to their working lives. In turn, the extension of boomer working lives will affect the prospects for following generations trying to rise. Still, like the Greatest Generation in its time, the boomers have dominated, often callously, the national life, and in unanticipated ways, they will continue to do so.

“Boomers appear ready to redefine retirement by delaying their retirement past the current norm and to work at least part-time even after they retire. They will reverse a trend of many decades toward earlier and earlier retirement. The change in their views on retirement seems to be rippling through the generation, with younger boomers expecting to retire later and to work after retiring in greater numbers. For at least 39 percent, the expectation that they will work is not a choice but a financial necessity.”

This sketch of the future course of so many of our lives appeared in MassINC, a journal whose mission is “to develop a public agenda for Massachusetts that promotes the growth and vitality of the middle class. We envision a growing, dynamic middle class as the cornerstone of a new Commonwealth in which every citizen can live the American Dream. Our governing philosophy is rooted in the ideals embodied by the American Dream: equality of opportunity, personal responsibility, and a strong Commonwealth. MassINC is a non-partisan, evidence-based organization. We reject rigid ideologies that are out of touch with the times, and we deplore the too-common practice of partisanship for its own sake. We follow the facts wherever they lead us.”

MassINC surveyed baby boomers in a project conducted in cooperation with Princeton Survey Research Associates International, with funding from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts. Obviously, Blue Cross and other insurers and health care providers are interested in the future of the huge boomer segment of the population.

For those of us in that aging, accomplished, and demanding demographic, the survey describes an uncertain and even anxiety-ridden final few decades for many boomers who hoped for more, and more delicious, rewards. For the Vineyard, it suggests that cold weather, the high cost of living, and especially of housing, and inadequate savings during the boomer boom times, when we were spending rather than saving, may lead to a transformation of the Island demographic.

“As boomers age, they also face a number of decisions about where to live. If their future unfolds as they expect, Massachusetts stands to lose a lot of boomers to other states. More than one-third of boomers (35 percent) say they want to leave the state for their retirement years. This translates roughly to 650,000 people, or 10 percent of the state’s population. While some degree of retirement migration is to be expected, the sheer size of this generation makes their exodus worrisome.”

This prospective trend may be mitigated somewhat here because of the decades-old habit of seasonal homeowners choosing to make their retirement lives in their summer houses — perhaps not through the first quarter of the year but certainly during the other nine months Still, many Island boomers have significant financial resources, mostly in Vineyard real estate. To realize the value of those assets, they’ll have to sell. Then, the question will be, where to go.

“Clearly, some factors — notably, the weather — are beyond any policymaker’s control,” MassINC’s survey observes. “Traditionally, retirees have moved from colder to warmer climates. While some states have launched campaigns to attract retirees, it would be a stretch to imagine Massachusetts as a magnet for retirees from other states. But the state’s civic, political, and business leaders should think about ways to make the Bay State more retiree-friendly, especially in regions of the state that are more affordable, so that Massachusetts boomers do not feel compelled to leave. Efforts to make Massachusetts more affordable, not only for boomers themselves but also for their children, must be part of a strategy to keep boomers, since proximity to family and friends is a key attraction. Making housing more affordable, however, raises a thorny issue. The typical amount of money that boomers have saved for retirement is modest. At the same time, more than three-quarters of boomers are homeowners, and most have owned their homes for some time. Given the steep increases in housing prices, many boomers have accumulated a significant amount of equity in their homes, and it follows that they are counting on this equity for their retirement nest eggs. Is it possible to make neighborhoods affordable so that the children who grew up in them can afford to live there as adults, without disturbing the nest eggs of their boomer parents.”

That accumulated equity has taken a post-recession hit, but prices here and elsewhere in Massachusetts have begun to regain lost ground in the past two years. The need many boomers have to see that equity recapture levels it had achieved six years ago contributes significantly to their persistence in the labor force, reduced though it may be.

MassINC’s survey is a timely alarm for Massachusetts leaders, and it is familiar stuff to Vineyarders. But, familiarity aside, efforts to address these looming issues require a more broad-based search for solutions than Islanders, well-trained in the protection of the natural environment but unenthusiastic about economics, jobs, and cost-saving strategies, have been prepared to undertake.

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This weekly column is approaching its 15th anniversary. Over these long — for you, I expect — fun- filled — for me, no question — years, I have returned to this great, nagging question several times. It is a serious matter, an important public proposal of a progressive nature. It is not a mere week-to-week commentary on civic affairs. Rather, it is a forward-looking suggestion meant to distinguish our community from so many others.

My proposal is necessarily derivative of practices common elsewhere. Connecticut is the nutmeg state, is it not? New Hampshire’s official motto is “Live Free or Die.” The official state bird of Massachusetts is the seagull. (Or is it? Well, if it isn’t it might as well be. They’re everywhere, nasty birds, and the mess they make if your boat is moored in an area where they like to fish, well, it is unspeakable. Pretty soon, it may be the Canada goose, whose year-round population may soon grow large enough to hire a lobbyist to get the Great and General Court to repeal the seagull and install the goose. But I’ve gotten off the point.)

The point is that states all have official this’s and that’s, and I think the Vineyard should have an official something too. Back in the 1970s, when we agitated about seceding from the Commonwealth and even the United States but didn’t do it, there was a popular design for a Martha’s Vineyard official flag. Of course, it had a gull on it, if I remember it correctly. But it never caught on, and it never was officially adopted by anyone in authority.

What I have in mind is an official Martha’s Vineyard Adjective. I have done a careful study of the 50 states and nearly 60 English-speaking countries across the world. None has an official adjective. Official flowers, yes, birds, nuts, trees, mottos, yes, yes, yes, and yes. But not adjectives.

At first I thought my purpose would be served by the mere enshrinement of that adjective so favored by so many — especially letter writers — to describe, well, really everything. Thus when we or they referred to that “special intersection” where the collision took place between the pro-and anti-Roundabout armies, or that “special landfill” which is hosting a “special hazardous waste drop-off day” or that “special skunk” found flat on the road, or the tent city erected each summer in the “special scrub oak woods” as housing for summer employees — each such reference would be an official use of the Martha’s Vineyard Adjective.

I even imagined licensing “special” so that if someone wanted to employ it in advertising or even in conversation at the bar or around the house, they’d have to pay a small fee. The money would go to some some responsible and smart custodian — not the Dukes County government — that would be enabled by town meeting legislation to use the scratch to sponsor a Martha’s Vineyard Demolition Derby, like the informal ones we enjoyed years ago, with free refreshments. That would be the sole permitted use for the money.

But then, special, the adjective, has to my ear, and I suspect to yours, become a bit worn out, hackneyed, exhausted by overuse. Too much of a special thing, sort of. The beach is special, the grass is special, the pond is special, the air is special, the taxis are special, the highway department is special, the views are special, even those bloody gulls are special. It doesn’t work any more. It’s too much to ask of one adjective with no official status.

To address this problem, we need a fresh adjective — I almost wrote “special adjective” but caught myself just in time — and, just as important, we must act officially to have it adopted by the seven town meetings in Dukes County. I had thought to get it on the spring town meeting ballots, but it’s too much. We already have plenty on our plates.

What should it be, the new official and exclusive, consecrated Adjective of Martha’s Vineyard? Well, after considerable study, and with the advice of writers of undeniable accomplishment who, although they do not live here year-round consider themselves to have a, er, special relationship with the place, I propose “precious.” (I thought about “darling” or “cunning” but one was all tangled up with romantic love, and the other has a mildly sinister quality. I didn’t want that.) And keep in mind, this is just a suggestion.

Someone might argue — and come to think of it, how about disputative or its cousin, truculent, I hadn’t thought of them, or self-satisfied, or sporty, they’re all on the table — that the difference between special and precious is small, and in some senses you would be correct. But you could not argue that old faithful has escaped the threadbare appearance of a stooped and shuffling adjective of advancing years. It certainly has not.

Precious is sprightly by comparison. It has no common, familiar air about it. It is a modest step up in value from special, and were it to get the official nod from seven town meetings, it would absolutely attract the same sort of whole-hearted allegiance we give to any town meeting proposal that calls for shifting the tax burden from year-rounders to summer property owners.

Informal polling of voters in the Vineyard towns — at least those who were not swooning over the appallingly diminished value of their 401K statements and dreaming of corporal punishment for the 536 puerile elected members of the national government — suggests that precious would beat special handsomely if balloting were conducted today.

I have not investigated opinion on Gosnold, the estranged and mysterious seventh Dukes County town. And it is true that the language of choice among those peculiar Cuttyhunkers — “finest kind,” for instance, for a job well done — has fewer ruffles and flourishes than ours, but who among them, if pressed, would not agree that theirs is a precious island too.

Anyhow, you’ve heard my thinking on this problem. What’s yours. Don’t like precious? Happy with special? Why bother with this at all? Let’s hear from you.

Versions of this plea have appeared in this space several times over the years. DAC

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Last week in this space [At Large: A note to the Commentariat], in addition to a repeat elaboration of the rules for the Comment feature on mvtimes.com, I included two excellent examples of thoughtful, detailed, modulated comments. The idea was to feature them as models of desirable debate among readers interested in subjects treated in news and feature stories published in The Times. They were not meant to be exclusive models. Certainly, Comment posters employ a variety of styles in their posts, some offering more substantial contributions than others. But, here were two well-composed and assertive posts on a timely subject, deserving of celebration as prototypes of one sort of worthwhile argument.

Commenters took issue with one of the two, the one by frequent commenter semmelt. One of them had discovered that semmelt had appropriated language that originated with writers other than himself (or herself). That’s outlawed in the Comment rules, but I didn’t notice the deception when I read and approved the post. It didn’t occur to me to suspect that semmelt, a frequent and aggressive commenter whose views are not widely admired among Comment readers, required strict scrutiny. My customary skepticism may have been allayed by the solid arguments offered by two toe-to-toe commenters on diverging sides of a debate. Or maybe I was just delirious that here were two comments that were neither smart alecky nor facetious, both common attributes that, in their coarsest forms, are grounds for deletion.

The sharp-eyed critics who detected semmelt’s violation were not agnostics as regards the general topic of the two exemplary posts, nor were they agnostics about semmelt and his comment history. They didn’t favor his side of the argument and they disfavored the tone of many of his comments, this one and many he’s posted in the past. Their animus is plain enough, hostility to both his views and argumentation. Semmelt was stupid enough to break the rules and open himself to their triumphant enmity.

Oh well, semmelt’s and farmer5′s posts survive — the former built with a self-inflicted wound — as exemplars of the genre.

But, what is that Comment genre anyhow? It’s not easily defined, nor managed. Indeed, in the online world of general interest newspapers, there is a nagging tug of war between commenters who are contributors, debaters, and self-moderating partisans and the trolls and fools whose participation seems founded on provocation, bluster, and abuse. None of these practitioners is in exclusive possession of the domain. There are commenters who criticize fairly, others with an engaging sense of humor, some with condolences to offer to the subjects of sad stories or congratulations to the subjects of stories of triumphs. The collection, taken in all its fullness, is often rewarding.

But the anguish among online news outlets has to do with the bad actors, whether they are nasties, blathers, or bullies. What to do about them?

Writer Toby Manhire, in an article published on a New Zealand website, described the growing antagonism toward online Comment features this way. “The backlash against online comments continues. Just the other day a post here noted Robert Fisk’s rant against their “digital poison,” together with Brian Edwards’ rage at the ‘democracy of the gutless.’ To their ranks can now be added the Guardian’s beloved Charlie Brooker, who reckons that ‘enabling reader comments is the worst thing to have happened to newspapers since – since the last worst thing that happened to newspapers.’ And something more: actual evidence, from proper scientists. Dominique Brossard and Dietram A Scheuffle, authors of a study published in The Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, call it ‘the nasty effect.’”

Surveying the landscape of the debate, Mr. Manhire finds the other side of the coin.

“While many are spitting out the reader-comment Kool-Aid, however, those who speak their minds ‘below the line’ still have a friend in Rob Manuel, co-founder of the splendidly irreverent British website B3ta.com. Yes, there are plenty of foul and intemperate comments to be found, he says, but writers should be willing to wade through it to pick out ‘the good bits.’ What’s more, there’s a kind of class politics at play in bolting the trapdoor on the comments, argues Manuel.

“‘I can’t help but see the class issues here. It’s even in the language and the structure of the page, ‘the bottom half of the internet.’ Like the servants’ quarter in a Victorian house; below stairs. The power structure is the columnist at the top of the page, and the horrible ‘pond life’ (a phrase also commonly used by TV producers) who do it for free at the bottom. Don’t read them, the columnists say. They say nasty things about us. Well of course they say nasty things. They’re given a smaller voice by the class system encoded into the very structure of article (top) + comment (bottom). All they can do is lob word bombs up the page whilst the columnist gets to write out their entire opinion at the top of the page and beam it to 100,000s of readers via a popular news site.

“‘My advice to high profile columnists is remember you are in a lucky privileged position. Writing isn’t dreadfully specific skill — it’s taught to millions via our schooling system. And opinions? Well I’ve yet to meet people without opinions. Yes you are probably quite good at your job and you probably struggled to get there, but it’s a bit like being a successful actor or popstar — plenty of people have the ability few get the opportunity.’”

I confess, newspapering in the 1970s when I began, was a more congenial undertaking, at least from the vantage point of its practitioners. We described our work as a regular conversation with our readers, although in fact it was an extremely one-sided conversation. We told the readers what we knew, what we’d learned, and they occasionally told us what they thought, in letters that we could choose to publish or not.

For better or worse, the world’s not that kind of place any more, and the conversation today, however it develops and however lightly we moderate it, is significantly more authentic than it was in the dimming past. More authentic? Yes. Worthwhile? We’ll see.

Your views welcome.

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The Comment feature at mvtimes.com is useful for commenters and non-commenting visitors.The latter category is, naturally enough, larger than the former. But, I am not complacent. I look for steady improvement in the quality and variety of contributions. There continues to be some bad behavior that has occasioned lots of deletions and a few excommunications. To avoid these going forward, I’ll remind mvtimes.com visitors of some of the terms of our comment policy, and include a couple of good models.

The rules:

“The Times invites comments on news, editorials, features, and other information posted on its site. Comments are not screened before publication. The Times welcomes constructive debate, but not personal attacks on other commenters. Comments that we regard as obscene, defamatory, vulgar, repetitive, intended to incite violence, or unreasonably long will be removed.

“If you find a comment offensive, you may flag it. Repeat offenses may result in removal of posts and revocation of posting privileges.

“Please do not post comments that are commercial in nature or that violate any copyrights.

“Except for brief excerpts from quoted material, comments must be wholly the work of the site visitor.

“MV Times staff members, full- and part-time, as well as regular columnists on the Editorial pages must use their own full names when they post comments.”

On the attack

The terms outlaw personal attacks on other commenters. I find that these occur in two ways, both equally nasty. Some commenters don’t write as well as others. Their grammar is not perfect, neither is the spelling and punctuation. When these participants want to criticize another commenter, they write “You’re an idiot” or “You’re a fool” or something altogether vulgar. Such comments will not be tolerated. Other commenters, just as hateful but more literate, use disdain and condescension to do the trick. Each tactic is an attack, and neither is welcome.

Going beyond

Implicating others, expanding on The Times’ published report with speculation or allegations that were not part of the article as published are out of bounds. You cannot post comments that make defamatory, unfounded allegations, or speculations about the subjects of published articles or — even more egregious — about people not even mentioned in published reports.

Once is enough

We don’t want repetitive posts. Make your observation, reply to another post if you like, but once you’ve had your say, let go. I have to read these things: don’t bore me.

Nobody cares

I’ve had it with the washashore versus longtime or native Islander debate. The labels are meaningless, add nothing to the debate, and never constitute a valuable observation.

Likewise, calling commenters liberals or conservatives. It’s tiresome, contributes nothing to an online discussion and raises questions about the good sense and good faith of the commenter.

Who art thou?

Similarly, the occasional debate over whether anonymous comments ought to be tolerated is pointless. Anonymous postings are welcome. Postings that violate the standards are not, whether you name yourself or don’t.

You’re out

If a commenter’s behavior doesn’t meet the standard, he or she may be blacklisted. Is it permanent? It’s a case-by-case decision. Sometimes the commenter’s remarks are so far out of bounds that the judgment of the participant is in question. Exclusion in such cases may be permanent. Despite the occasional view that the Comment feature is merely a device for nurturing visitorship to mvtimes.com, we know there are other forums for some kinds of comment posts, and we invite commenters unhappy with our standards to use them. For most others, I’m easy to reach, and a conversation in which we agree to abide by the terms of service going forward is enough to effect reinstatement. For me, it’s the desirable outcome.

Now, two examples of model Comment posts

Following are Comment posts to a story about a display of electric vehicles [Cars with alternative power, and plenty of it, September 28]. They are unedited.

farmer5

I noticed the Tesla on display at the Cronig’s parking lot the other day and decided to have a closer look. I should mention that in the past I have been generally lukewarm in my enthusiasm over all-electric cars. After I spent a few minutes talking with the representative from the Tesla company and taking a ride in the car I decided to look further into the company that produces the Tesla S.

I read independent reviews online by several companies including my favorite car mags. I also spent some time watching some youtube videos of the manufacturing plant in California which is nothing short of mindblowing.

The car is beautifully crafted and quite stylish in my opinion but what impressed me the most (besides the acceleration of a hot rod) was the advanced technology in nearly every aspect of the automobile. When I walked away and drove off in my Detroit manufactured truck I felt I had just been given a glimpse of the future.

The Tesla S is an expensive car but the cutting edge technology behind it will no doubt be commonplace in the years to come and the manufacture of an affordable, utilitarian car can’t be too far away in the future. My initial reservations melted away the more I did my research into electric cars. The performance is incredible by any measure. The efficiency of electric motors vs. internal combustion engines is a matter of science and indisputable. Of course there are no emissions of any kind. You often hear the argument that electric cars still cause pollution because the source of power is manufactured from fossil fuels but the amount of fossil fuels burned for each mile travelled is far less because of the efficiency of the motors they use. The range for the Tesla S is a respectable 300 miles without a recharge but they recently debuted a new technique which would allow the swapping out of the battery unit for a fully charged unit, automatically, in 90 seconds.

After looking under the hood of the Tesla (one finds a luggage compartment where the engine would normally be located) I couldn’t help but think about all the mufflers I had replaced, the valve jobs, the catalytic converters and fan belts, alternators and starter motors I had replaced in my lifetime. Seeing the Tesla made me reconsider the belief that manufacturing in the U.S. was a thing of the past.

And, a riposte

semmelt

The latest round of Tesla wonder came when it reported its first quarterly profit earlier this month. TSLA stock near doubled in a week. Musk then borrowed $150 million from Goldman Sachs and floated a cool billion in new stock and long-term debt.

That’s how we — the taxpayers — were repaid.Tesla didn’t generate a profit by selling sexy cars, but rather by selling emissions “credits,” mandated by the state of California’s electric vehicle requirements. The competition, like Honda, doesn’t have a mass market plug-in to meet the mandate and therefore must buy the credits from Tesla, the only company that does. The bill for last quarter was $68 million. Absent this shakedown of potential car buyers, Tesla would have lost $57 million, or $11,400 per car. As the company sold 5,000 cars in the quarter, though, $13,600 per car was paid by other manufacturers, who are going to pass at least some of that cost on to buyers of their products. Folks in the new car market are likely paying a bit more than simply the direct tax subsidy. Tesla isn’t actually making money selling cars. It’s making money from crony capitalist taxes of people who buy cars from other

companies. And even the customers who buy its cars get paid with taxpayer

money.First, there’s the $7500 taxback bonus that every buyer gets and every taxpayer pays. Then there are generous state subsidies ($2500 in California, $4000 in Illinois—the bluer the state, the more the taxpayers get gouged), all paid to people forking out $63K (plus taxes) for the base version, to roughly $100K for the really quick one.Tesla is still turning a profit, not from customers, but from money being seized from taxpayers to compensate its customers for buying Tesla. But of course everyone gets subsidies so Tesla should also.

Too long, but satisfying still

Each of these examples may be marked down for length, and grammar and spelling are not perfect, but as examples of thoughtful debate, they nourish the Comment collections. Some excellent comments are funny, some satirical, some bitter, some concise, but the goal here is to invite and host the better ones and suppress the dull and the nasty. The oversight of the Comment feature is an art, not a science, agnostic as to viewpoint but always hopeful that the good stuff will overwhelm the bad. With your participation, we’ve seen steady improvement, and we anticipate more.

This column incorporates part of a of column that appeared in this space in January. DAC

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The lunch rooms at my high school were in the cellar. The cellar was a catacomb. I mean, it might as well have been a subterranean burial place. Heavy, fluted, interlaced concrete arches supported a handsome, massive, turreted, marble-floored Elizabethan structure whose classrooms and corridors had high oak, beamed ceilings and tall stained glass windows. The building is on the National Historic Registry. Henry Huttleston Rogers built it in 1905 and gave it to the town, according to Christopher J. Richard, director of tourism for Fairhaven, as “an educational palace to instill in Fairhaven students a sense of the glories associated with learning.” Mr. Richard explains that Mr. Rogers, an oil man whose gifts to Fairhaven were not limited to the high school, brought the best pedagogical thinking of the turn of the last century to bear on the design and construction.

Without question, the best pedagogical thinking of the time did not extend to the dining conditions we teenagers experienced, in the dusky, half light of those sepulchral quarters. Nor was much attention paid to the cuisine. There was nothing palatial about four years of hot dog Mondays, chop suey Tuesdays, tomato soup and canned string beans Wednesdays, and on and on. The lunch ladies were decidedly more flavorful and varied than the menu, and I’m sure they did their best with what they had. It was a long time ago, of course, and whatever we patrons were thinking about what we were given to eat, we were not imagining that it ought to have been more stylish, appetizing, and nutritious, fusing diverse international cuisines — or even that it just ought to have been fresh. We sat, we groped in the gloom for the Jello, a highlight, and 15 minutes later we rushed off to the next class, several sculpted marble-treaded staircases aloft, maybe on the second floor, maybe in the gabled attic spaces. Everyone in those days was lean, not from eating right, but from avoiding eating most of what we were given and trotting up and down those stairs. None of this is to implicate the education we were served, which was superb, or the teachers or the colossal, inspiring building, at least its aboveground parts. All of that was tasty indeed.

Those early 60s lunch ladies most certainly did not win the attentions of international food magazines the way the hard-working founders, organizers, and practitioners of Island Grown Schools do. And none of us in those long ago school days enjoyed wonderful soups, imaginative salads, and no chop suey, ever, the way children in the Up-Island Region’s schools and other Island schools do. Plus, IGS’s beneficiaries all eat in dining rooms flooded with light and air.

And, none of the lunch ladies was named Woman of the Year, at least not in the four fun years I toiled there, the way Noli Taylor, director of Island Grown Schools (IGS), will be later this month. Women Empowered to Make Healthy Choices, a support system for women on Martha’s Vineyard, will announce the award at the Harbor View Hotel in Edgartown on September 29. Ms. Taylor will be one of three honorees.

Island Grown Schools, a part of the nonprofit Island Grown Initiative (IGI), is all about increasing the supply and of course the consumption of food grown in our hood. And IGS set out to bring all the healthful, nutritious food they nurtured into the schools. It was a big development effort, begun in 2007 and requiring the husbandry of enthusiasm among parents, lay and professional school leaders, farmers, and taxpayers. It was not farming work, but it was just as difficult, a backbreaking job of persuasion. Today, IGS works in all seven schools and six pre-schools. Each school has a garden, each uses the food it grows and other locally grown food. At the West Tisbury School, what was a cafeteria has become a fully found kitchen, where good meals are made for the students in the West Tisbury and Chilmark schools. That means that the IGS organization had to realize its goals working within the spending constraints of a regional schools budget.

And, IGS doesn’t just feed the children. It helps to teach them how food is raised and harvested, including especially food that isn’t harvested from the frozen food section of the market or a vending machine, and to prepare it, and to judge the difference between what’s nutritious and what’s not.

The IGS organization has no modest ambitions. “We seek,” their website declares, “to raise a new generation of Vineyarders who are connected to local farms and farmers, empowered to make healthy eating choices, informed about the food system, and engaged in growing food for themselves, their families and community. In school gardens, classrooms, on farm field trips, and in the school cafeteria, we help Island children deepen their understanding of the land, the sea, and the way food connects people to one another and each of us to the wider world.

“We hope to teach our students to: appreciate the farming profession, recognize the difference between the industrial and local food systems, understand the connection between healthy soil, healthy plants, and healthy people, know that everyone can grow food, [and] feel confident in making healthy food choices.”

It’s not school lunch as we knew it 50 years ago. It’s smart food.