The last time I was in Europe I had hauled a cheap backpack around and ate La Vache Qui Rit (Laughing Cow) cheese triangles (you can buy them at Stop & Shop, so much for authentic French fromage). I showered sporadically and never stepped foot in a real restaurant. Now I’m all grown up with more sophisticated expectations, so I’m trying to whittle down a list of good restaurants in Paris and in Prague that will make up for what I didn’t get to experience as a student.
Also, we are looking for some more unique and off track museums to explore. We want to intersperse some more esoteric museums with the biggies like D’Orsay and the Louvre.
Anyone ever take a bike tour in either Paris or Prague? Or have experience with the rental bike systems in either city?
Got any advice for Danielle? Got a question for readers? Comment online or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you’ve only got a day or two to spare, a long drive can feel more like a waste of time than a refreshing trip off Island. But that doesn’t mean you have to stay at home this February break. There are plenty of destinations around Vineyard Sound that only take one quick trip by boat or plane. Get packing, because getting off the rock just got much easier.
How to get there: You can take the Steamship Authority (SSA) ferry if you want to bring your car along, but the Patriot boat to Falmouth offers a free shuttle service that will bring you to the Falmouth Mall or Falmouth Plaza (might as well get some shopping done while you’re in America). One way tickets are $12. (patriotpartyboats.com).
Trip time: About 30 minutes.
Where to stay: The Sea Crest Beach Hotel in North Falmouth offers a Cape and Island resident rate, starting at $79 per night. The heated indoor saline pool and jacuzzi await guests who have been missing out on a good soak this winter. (508-540-9400; seacrestbeachhotel.com).
Where to eat: One of our editors once missed the boat because she couldn’t leave Falmouth without getting chinese takeout at Peking Palace (508-540-8204; pekingpalacefalmouth.com). Another swears by a Mexican meal and a margarita at Anejo (508-388-7631; anejomexicanbistro.com).
What to do: If you like learning about the marine wildlife around the Vineyard, visit the seals and other critters at the Woods Hole Science Aquarium (aquarium.nefsc.noaa.gov). If your family spends a lot of time at the Ryan Family Amusements arcade in Oak Bluffs, take them to the Ryan Family bowling alley in Falmouth. (508-540-4877; ryanfamily.com).
Insider secrets: “Flying into New Bedford is such a gem, it’s an easy flight because Cape Air is the only airline in the airport. The car rental is right there, so we see a lot of people pick up a car and get their shopping done at the box stores. Another little known secret is the Airport’s restaurant, the Airport Grille, is fantastic. It’s sophisticated but comfortable, there’s always great entertainment and excellent food. We see people fly into New Bedford just to eat and fly home. (508-994-7455; airportgrille.com).” — Trish Lorino, Vice President, Marketing & Public Relations, Cape Air & Nantucket Airlines
How to get there: Book a Cape Air flight from the Martha’s Vineyard Airport (MVY) to New Bedford (EWB). Flights start at around $55 each way. (capeair.com).
Trip time: Approximately 17 minutes.
Where to stay: Cozy up with the whole family at the Davenport House B&B, a well-reviewed Jacobethan architectural gem just a ten minute walk from downtown. Rates range from $95 to $150 a night, but there’s only three rooms to choose from. (bbonline.com).
Where to eat: The Portuguese restaurant Churrascaria Novo Mundo, which boasts the “holy grail” of barbecued chicken, was featured on the Food Network show “The Best Thing I Ever Ate.” Go see if you agree. (508-991-8661).
What to do: If you like fishing, join a free tour of the Whaling National Historic Park, which explores the same whaling industry that captivated Herman Melville. Our editors thought the Seamen’s Bethel — described as the “Whalemen’s Chapel” in “Moby Dick” — was the highlight of the tour. (nps.gov/nebe). If the winter weather has you feeling cooped up, get moving at Carabiner’s indoor climbing center. (508-984-0808; carabiners.com).
Insider Secrets: “Packed in January just as much as July, beloved local hotspot LoLa 41 is open for dinner nightly and lunch from Monday-Saturday. Staying for the long weekend? Check LoLa out on Sunday Nights for buy one get one Sushi Sunday. This Presidents Day weekend, chic boutiques are opening their doors for huge savings. Word on Washington Street is that Milly & Grace has $400 dresses on sale for just $60. Saturday nights during the off-season mean DJ nights at Pazzo. This mid-island restaurant turns into a dance party with DJ’s from all over the globe. Best part? No cover. Shows start at 10pm. Take a Sconset Bluff Walk tour on the east side of the island. While out there, make sure to get a shot of Sankaty lighthouse. (lola41.com; millyandgrace.com).” — Holly Finigan, the Nantucket blACKbook
How to get there: Book a Cape Air flight from the Martha’s Vineyard Airport (MVY) to Nantucket (ACK). Flights are only about 20 minutes and start at around $45 each way. (capeair.com).
Trip time: Approximately 20 minutes.
Where to stay: The Jared Coffin House won a TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence in 2013, and has a great library where guests can kick back and enjoy an afternoon snack. Our editors say their brunch is killer too. Rates start at $135 per night. (jaredcoffinhouse.com).
Where to eat: Though you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, the cool wooden sign at Brotherhood of Thieves will draw you in. Our editors say the hearty — but local and organic — food and fresh draught beer will make you stay. (508-228-2551; brotherhoodofthieves.com). If you’ve been missing Morning Glory Farm in the off-season, Nantucket’s Bartlett’s Farm serves up similar fare and vibes. (508-228-9403;bartlettsfarm.com).
What to do: If you like tossing frisbees at the Riverhead Disc Golf Course in the State Forest, the Nantucket Disc Golf Course will be a fun and scenic challenge. (nantucketdiscgolf.org). If sampling the latest brews at Offshore Ale is your idea of a good time, take a tour of Nantucket’s Cisco brewery, winery, and distillery. (508-325-5929; ciscobrewers.com).
Last February, at the invitation of friends, my wife and I left cold, gray Martha’s Vineyard behind and traveled to Barbados, the easternmost island in the Caribbean, for one week of blue water set against an azure sky, an endless pitcher of rum punch, fried flying fish basted in spices, and plentiful Bajan hospitality.
I caught one fish, a small needlenose creature called a garfish. But an encounter on the last day of our stay provided me with one of the more memorable fishing experiences of my life, and there was not a fish in sight.
Our trip was not intended as a fishing vacation, but I have a firm rule: never travel to any destination where the air and water temperature are both above 80 degrees without a fishing rod. I also packed a Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby hat, to give away when the time seemed right.
The Derby embodies the Vineyard spirit of community, the natural beauty of our shoreline, and the exciting fishing that makes our Island unique. Each entrant in the month-long fishing contest receives a hat emblazoned with the Derby name, the date 1946, the year the contest started, and an image of an arching striped bass, a fish emblematic of the currents that swirl around our Island.
I have acquired quite a collection of hats over more than 25 years of fishing the Derby. Years ago, I realized they make great gifts to take along on trips and the recipients enjoy receiving something unique to the Vineyard.
Our winter escape to a warm Caribbean island was an anomaly. We had never been beach people in the conventional American sense, content to baste in the hot sun in a semi-comatose state. For years, our trip planning revolved around our daughter, now 22, and school vacation. Several years we went to Maine, one year to Montreal. There was a trip to London and one to Amsterdam. The common thread, intended or not, was always cold, damp weather.
When the opportunity to go to Barbados presented itself I needed to convince my wife Norma that there was something to be said for getting closer to the equator in February. She was resistant, wondering what we would do, but agreed. Once in Barbados she rarely left the white sand beach and bath temperature water.
We flew from New York and arrived that afternoon at the house of our hosts located a short stroll from Gibbs Beach on the west coast of Barbados, in the parish of St. Peter. We dropped our bags and went to the beach.
My second cast I hooked a fish on a one-ounce, green Spofford’s needlefish, a lure that is irresistible to many Vineyard species, including striped bass and false albacore, and had lost none of its fish attracting abilities over the long flight south. The garfish was not big but it was interesting in its appearance with a slender snake-like body, and long, beak of a mouth with sharp, needle teeth, hence its alternate names, needlefish and sea needle.
I like to walk along the beach and cast every 50 yards or so. It is as much about the activity, walking and listening to the sea wash up on the sand, as it is about the likelihood of catching a fish. On Barbados, outfitted with a light spinning rod and a small bag of lures, wearing my favorite tan Derby fishing hat against the bright sun, the fact that I was fishing at all proved to be an easy conversation starter with the wide range of people I encountered on my lengthy strolls. Many wondered what I expected to catch. My answer was, “I have no idea.”
The local fishermen who motored along the beach in wooden skiffs, cast net at the ready, had no doubts about their quarry. It was a type of bait fish we would call sprat. “They’re very quick, you only get one chance,” one Bajan fisherman told me as he gathered his net on the beach into neat coils.
The government of Barbados supports fishermen through a series of government operated markets where locals, chefs and bolder visitors go to purchase day-caught fish. The market closest to our residence was more like a stall, where mahi-mahi sat in ice bins, and hefty Bajan women with toothless grins cleaned and packaged flying fish, an island specialty. Several times over the course of the week I made my way to the market to watch the give and take of Bajan commerce.
The centerpiece of the action was a man who went by the name “Smokey,” a no-nonsense fish cutter who was ruler of the domain. On order he would pull a mahi-mahi from the bin and fillet it on request after which he named the price. Smokey had a reputation. He was said to not be particularly friendly.
Perhaps. But I was intrigued watching him clean mahi-mahi, peeling off the skin after several deft cuts, and on my multiple trips to the market he answered my questions, even if he did not smile.
“It’s not as difficult as it seems,” Smokey said about his method. “You just have to do what comes naturally.”
Fishermen on Barbados as on the Vineyard keep to their own schedule. “Some guys will go out in the morning,” he said. “Some guys go out at night and come in in the morning, 7 am, but you won’t find me here that early.” Not a smile punctuated his remarks. Ever, to me or anyone else. I had my man.
Our last day on Barbados I took my fishing rod and started out on the long walk to the fish market. I walked past sites that had become familiar, the luxury villas and hotels where vacationing Brits turned from white to lobster red, the rum shop where a group of Bajans hung out laughing and playing dominoes and a long-grounded fishing boat on the beach.
Smokey was cutting fish. “Smokey,” I said, “Do you know where Martha’s Vineyard is?”
It can grow tiring to hear some editorialists genuflect to our specialness. It was refreshing to hear Smokey say he only vaguely knew where Martha’s Vineyard was located.
“Well, it’s an Island and every year there is a fishing contest,” I said, “called the Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby. It’s a very big deal.”
I handed him the blue Derby hat I had packed away one week earlier. “There are only two people on Barbados with a Derby hat,” I said. “You and me.” I waited for his reaction.
Smokey put the hat on his bald, brown head and smiled. “How do I look,” he said with a grin. It was not exactly a Lone Ranger silver bullet moment, but it felt pretty good.
I began walking back up the beach, stopping periodically to cast and linger in the warm water flowing around my bare feet. Suddenly, a young, lanky Bajan who seemed to be about 12 years of age came running up to me and asked me what I was doing. He was smiling, fidgety and genuinely excited. He peppered me with questions and grabbed at the fishing rod, anxious to give it a try.
His actions and mannerisms did not reflect his age and were awkward enough to suggest something else was at work beyond his youth.
He wanted to cast. Luckily, I had enough experience to stay well back as he whipped the lure to the side. I did my best to improve his casting skills without success.
He told me his name was Jadon. I assumed his father was one of the laborers on a seaside project and he was on his own on the beach. We walked together up the beach until we came to a rocky point. It was time to part company.
I told him he could go no further. Spontaneously, and with a huge smile on his face, he jumped up on my back and hugged me. I removed my well-worn fishing hat and put it on his head. “I want you to have this hat,” I told him. “This is a pretty special hat where I come from.”
Jadon looked at me with a huge grin. Then he went running back down the beach waving the hat and yelling for joy.
How we got there
We drove to the Kingston, R.I. Amtrak station (free parking) and caught an afternoon train to New York City where we spent the night with our hosts. The next morning we boarded Jet Blue’s 8 am direct flight from New York City and arrived in sunny, warm Bridgetown, Barbados about 1:30 pm. Six days later we departed on an afternoon Jet Blue flight and arrived back in New York about 7 pm. The next day, to our delight, our car was still parked in Kingston when we arrived at the train station.
The seasons here are like characters in a stereotypical high school television show. Spring is the precocious kid, the early adopter. Summer is the popular kid, the poster child. Fall is the rebellious kid, the one who still hopes to party like it’s July and will skip class to win a daily in the derby. And that’s it. That’s the show.
Oh right, winter.
Winter is the quiet kid, the misunderstood kid. The kid you wish you hadn’t judged right off the bat, because you could have learned something.
We all know quiet doesn’t necessarily mean boring; still…what do people — 30-year-olds, for example — do for fun in the winter?
Andrew Jacobs, 30, lives in Vineyard Haven, but he lives to fish. The Derby is his Super Bowl. Jacobs’s interest in nature is a unifying thread in his life — he works as Laboratory Supervisor and Environmental Technician for the Wampanoag Tribe of Aquinnah.
The downside of such a passion is this existential question that Jacobs asked himself: “When fishing ends, what do you do?”
The answer: hunting. Waterfowl in particular has become a big hobby for Jacobs. “It becomes a social thing too,” Jacobs explained. “Where’d you get it? What’d you use? What are we going to do with it?” Jacobs enjoys unique culinary creations such as Pheasant Pot Pie and Goose Meatloaf. As he described these dishes to a Times correspondent, James Rolston, 30, also of Vineyard Haven, texted Jacobs: “Wanna come over for Venison chili?”
Inanimate objects make for good hunting as well. Brian Hall, 30, lives in Oak Bluffs and is an avid arrowhead predator, walking the beach with his trusty sidekick Ody (short for Odysseus), his purebred American Bulldog. “The off-season is a great time to embrace all that the Island has to offer,” Hall said.
Mr. Hall has a great deal to offer the Island as well. His trade revolves around keeping our most precious resource safe; Hall works as an Operator for the Oak Bluffs Water District. He also heads into his eighth season as head coach of the Island’s Under 15 Lacrosse team and his very first year at the fire department. He aims to spend this winter taking the Firefighter 1 course and the First Responders course.
The enchantment of the land that draws thousands of temporary Islanders during the warmer months does not wane for year-round residents such as Melanie Rankow Prescott of Edgartown, 30. “There is something about the off-season that is just magical,” she said. “We go for walks in the woods and on the beaches. We drive around and go down streets we haven’t been down before to check out the houses and neighborhoods.”
The lack of crowds and tanning weather also helps encourage favorite indoor activities. “I love to cook,” said Prescott. “I am the happiest in my kitchen all day on Sundays trying out new recipes and having my sister, brother-in-law and [their] baby over for dinner.” Prescott also serves as Treasurer for the Edgartown Board of Trade and is on the committees for the MV Food & Wine Festival and Pink & Green Weekend.
After several years in Boston, Michael McCluskey of Vineyard Haven, 30, has returned to the Island to help out during some difficult times. “We’re all loyal to our friends and family here,” said McCluskey. “[That's] how the Island is.”
Mr. McCluskey is an Education Support Professional (ESP) for the BRIDGE Program at the Edgartown School and has found a happy balance between his professional and personal obligations. “What I really enjoy right now is working full-time and getting things done around the house that help my mom out,” said McCluskey. In his free time, McCluskey enjoys getting together with friends to watch sports, play games (Cards Against Humanity is a current favorite around the Island), and catch up on “Breaking Bad.”
The calm of Vineyard winter is a great setting to transition into big life changes. Oak Bluffs residents Nic Korba, 30, and his wife, Mary Pietrocarlo Korba, 30, relocated to the Island in June and have just welcomed a daughter, Ivy Lynne Korba, born on December 2. “The winter is a great time to be here,” said Mr. Korba. “There are minimal distractions and we can focus on being parents.”
The couple relocated to the Island in June and dove into Island life immediately with new jobs; Mr. Korba works at RE/MAX on-Island and Ms. Pietrocarlo Korba at Martha’s Vineyard Community Services. While becoming parents has been their main focus over recent months, Ms. Pietrocarlo recently joined a book club and the pair enjoy going out to dinner; a big favorite is the Double Garlic Pizza at Offshore Ale.
The Korbas have discovered that parenthood is a great way to expand one’s social circle. “The MV Family Center at Community Services is a great resource,” said Ms. Pietrocarlo Korba. “There’s a playgroup for when Ivy is a little older and it will be a nice opportunity for us to meet other parents.”
Throughout all the silence, and all the shivers, and all the snow, it’s important not to overlook winter. The summer might be our livelihood. It might build our legacy. But winter is our time.
Charlie Nadler grew up on Martha’s Vineyard and graduated from MVRHS with the class of 2002. He lives in the Los Feliz area of Los Angeles where he works in the film and television industry and regularly performs stand up comedy. He visits the Island as often as he can.
When we asked friends to tell us their idea of the perfect winter Martha’s Vineyard Day, we were overwhelmed with (and thrilled by) the responses. Some are really specific and you can find them on a map, and some are more general, but — we think — just perfectly describe what it is we love about living here. Email us your perfect day for any season at email@example.com.
Little House and Lobsterville
There are certain winter days on M.V. when the snow has melted and the sun is shining and the chill air is clean and so crisp that one understands perfection. I am curled up beneath a quilt, slowly awakening to the aroma of smoky Lapsang Souchong tea my husband brings me. I linger in bed sipping my tea and reading a good novel of adventures in foreign lands. Patiently, I dress in layers of corduroy and wool and set out to the Little House to brunch with women friends from all corners of the Island, all ages and sizes and nationalities, we gather to celebrate living. Then I venture up-Island in the truck with my husband and our dog for an exquisitely long walk on Lobsterville Beach where we contemplate the majesty of the sea and the treasures buried in the sand. Later, at home, I cook kale soup, enchiladas suizas, and bake a fruit pie (recipes garnered from Morning Glory Farm Cookbook, Edible Vineyard magazine, and Kaylea Moore’s suggestions) while listening to my husband reading the latest chapter in his book (I am his greatest fan). The family comes for a Sunday family feast — son and daughter and daughter-in-law and the cutest grandchild ever. After a scrumptious meal, catching up on news sprinkled with philosophical exchange and laughter, I play and read with my grandchild while the dishes are miraculously cleared and cleaned. Then I am ready to cuddle under covers again, re-count gratitude for living in a beautiful community with blessings of family and friends close by, and slip off to dream of travel and adventures in exotic lands below the equator.
-Lynn Ditchfield, director, Adult and Community Education of Martha’s Vineyard
A wintery dip
I imagine most people pick August, going to the beach and being outside, but my ideal day is New Years Day. Every January 1st, for the past eight years, regardless of the weather, a couple of families and mine have gone swimming on Lambert’s Cove Beach. It started as two families, me, my wife, Kim, and my daughters Clea and Signe, with (photographer) Wayne Smith and his daughter, Willoughby, and son, T.T.
The Smiths were over on New Years Eve and someone threw out the idea, even though it was incredibly cold. Since then, the number’s grown. David Vigneault and his wife Sarah Vail come with their daughters, but only one of the girls, Willa (who’s in junior high) swims. Little Ava comes and watches. Last year, there were about 20 people there, and a bunch of our friends come every year to watch.
You gotta swim. Those people in Boston, most of them go up to their knees and come out. You gotta dunk. You have to swim around. We insist on full immersion. But we don’t hang around too long. If you want the sensation of your heart pounding a foot out of your chest, this will do it. But the vision of shock and horror on the faces of your children when they go in is worth it.
After, we go back to my house and do a hot tub to warm up. We’re cold. The spectators don’t get to go in the hot tub. They don’t deserve to get in. After, we all hang out and have breakfast.
-Mark Baumhofer, West Tisbury
Walking on Lambert’s Cove beach is always part of a perfect Vineyard day.
-Nicole Galland, author “Godiva”
Friends for soup
One thing which is fun to do for us on a blustery afternoon is to make some soup: either a tried and true favorite like quahog chowder or kale soup, or a new recipe from a new cookbook, and then invite another couple or a few friends to join us for a bowlful and a favorite libation; a fire in the fireplace and some nice music, and it’s mellow time again.
–Ivo and Piret Miesner, Book Den East, Oak Bluffs
ArtCliff and skating
My perfect Vineyard winter day would have to include ice and snow. The morning would be crystal clear, cold, and calm. After breakfast at the ArtCliff, I would head to Duarte’s Pond, or if conditions were exceptional, Tiah’s Cove, for some ice skating. Later, I would make a hearty soup or stew and invite a few friends over for dinner. The evening would end with a steady, light snow falling, bringing the promise of a perfect winter wonderland in the morning.
–Karin Stanley, education and outreach administrator, Polly Hill Arboretum, West Tisbury.
Community dog walk
My idea of the perfect off-season day is a stroll up Lambert’s Cove beach. I love to go there in the off-season when the only people there are walking their dogs, all bundled for the wind. I have spent so many years going there that each time is like visiting various pieces of my past.
-Sally Taylor, Cambridge and Vineyard Haven
Hike to brunch
My perfect MV day: Wake up late. Get together with some girlfriends for a hike up-Island, mimosas, and a huge homemade brunch. Take an afternoon nap, get dressed up and go to dinner and drinks at Atria’s Brick Cellar.
Perfect off-season day includes breakfast at the ArtCliff and kayaking on Chilmark Pond (accessed from the Land Bank property) on a beautiful autumn day. It used to be just slightly more perfect when you could pick up a sandwich at the original Humphreys on your way out there. In the winter, beach walks – on any beach – on the milder days.
-Jennifer Crawford, Oak Bluffs
I love walking on beaches that are off limits in the summer.. My perfect day starts with coffee from 7a, followed by a long walk on a secret beach, coming home to a toasty, wood stove heated house to dine on hearty soup with fresh bread and delicious red wine. What makes it perfect is having my boys in tow, of course, collecting treasures along the way.
-Nevette Previd, owner, Nevette Previd Consulting and Farm.Field.Sea: An Island Culinary Adventure
Cliffs and kale
The perfect MV day off-season-winter would be spent outside, of course. We have all chosen to live here for many reasons, but most of us would agree that this is one of the most beautiful places in the world. Nothing could make me happier than to bundle up and head up-Island for a wonderful walk around the Gay Head Cliffs. Bringing along dear friends or family surely enhances the experience and returning home to a warm fire and an evening game of Scrabble followed by a great meal, which would have to include the kale (still going strong) from my garden. Doesn’t get much better than that.
Perfect MV off-season day: Being trapped on-Island during a big snowy storm where the snow is blowing and swirling so hard you can barely see, and you’re all cozy inside with your animals and a fire in the wood stove.
Ray Whitaker is a man slightly obsessed. He knows about as much about The Beatles, their music and their era, as anyone, and he’s made it his business to share his passion with others on Martha’s Vineyard and afar.
For the past six years, Mr. Whitaker has hosted a radio show called Just Four Guys, which features (although not exclusively) the music of The Beatles. More recently, the mvyradio DJ has launched something called Beatles and Brews Trivia and Tunes at Offshore Ale in Oak Bluffs. On Friday nights, diners and bar patrons can compete in a trivia game while enjoying the music of the Fab Four and their contemporaries.
Just Four Guys, which airs Tuesday at 4 pm on mvyradio.com and replays on Sundays on Beatlerama.com and also at radio.com, includes quite a bit of variety. “It’s kind of rule-less,” Mr. Whitaker said. “It’s not total Beatles idolatry. I love The Beatles, but I have to keep myself interested and branch out a bit.” Recent themes have included bands who have been influenced by Indian raga music, the legalization of marijuana, and the music of other four-member bands such as Pink Floyd.
Mr. Whitaker started mixing up his Beatles and Brews night questions and musical selections as well. What he discovered at the first Offshore trivia night a month ago is that not everyone is as knowledgeable on Beatle-ology as he.
“I hit everybody hard with Beatles — really esoteric questions,” he said. Apparently his audience was stumped. “Now I’ve made it less oriented towards The Beatles. The questions are from the 60s or have some sort of Beatles tie-in. With some of the questions I don’t care if they have any Beatles relevance.”
For example, some questions at a recent contest had to do with the movie “Mary Poppins,” the toy the Magic 8 Ball, and the TV show “The Munsters.” These proved considerably less challenging for participants. However, not all the trivia centers around pop culture. There’s a pretty equal mix of silly and serious. Last week’s questions included “Who was the first African American Supreme Court Justice?” (Thurgood Marshall) and “When did construction of the Berlin Wall begin?” (1961).
The questions are offered up at intervals throughout the evening, beginning at 8:30 pm. The game does not require rapt attention but serves more as a bit of distraction and entertainment while patrons are enjoying the food and atmosphere of the brew pub.
It’s also a pretty informal competition. As Mr. Whitaker said in starting off the evening last Friday, “This is where you just shout it out, and if I happen to see you, you happen to win.” Some participants politely raised their hands while others just raised their voices to be heard above the din of diners. It’s not a very competitive event, partly because of its informality and partly because the prizes are fairly trivial themselves. The restaurant provides tee-shirts, beer glasses, and bottle openers, while Mr. Whitaker has donated some brand-new DVDs from his own personal collection. He’ll generally make the disclaimer that the movies aren’t very memorable — there are quite a few teen-centric selections and quickly forgotten rom-coms.
Last weekend, six members of the Hallock family who had just arrived on the Island became the big winners of the night, collecting two DVDs and a couple of glasses. Prizes aside, bragging rights seemed to be what they were after. Son-in-law John Coleman joked that the family was embarking on a trivia tour of the U.S. When asked the team’s name, he improvised one by combining the titles of the two B movies they had just won to come up with Dark Silence (not a great name for a shout-out trivia competition). The Hallocks have a history of spending summer vacations on the Vineyard but were returning after a decade-plus hiatus.
The Hallocks seemed to be enjoying themselves immensely. Mr. Coleman said that the trivia contest was the highlight of their trip but then confessed that they had only arrived six hours previous and found their way to Offshore on the advice of a taxi driver, not, as he originally claimed, drawn by the allure of a trivia night. They were surprised by the media attention they received. Apparently no one had warned the family that if you visit the Vineyard in the dead of winter there’s a good chance you’ll make front-page news.
Mr. Whitaker has hosted trivia nights at other locations, including the Newes From America Pub in Edgartown and Alex’s Place at the Y. The next teen center trivia contest, which began about the same time as Beatles and Brews, will be Saturday, Jan. 25. According to Mr. Whitaker anyone of any age can attend the Y trivia nights and enjoy free food and prizes such as amazon.com gift certificates and DVDs.
One of the teen center’s best players, it turns out, has been Mr. Whitaker’s 15-year-old daughter, Tessa. Not because she’s been coached or made privy to the questions beforehand, but because she shares many of her father’s interests. “She’s a huge Beatles fan,” Mr. Whitaker said. “She also loves Sinatra and music from the 50s.” Tessa is a singer who got her start in the second grade performing The Beatles’ “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away” at the Oak Bluffs School talent show.
Mr. Whitaker also brings his passion for — and extensive knowledge of — rock and roll to his full-time job as a personal trainer and teacher at the Y. “I feel very fortunate to have gravitated toward a specific demographic: Folks 60 and over, those with physical challenges, and those recovering from injuries,” he said. “I combine all my interests in the Balance of Power and Tune Up classes by playing music that reflects who I am — classic rock, soul, and some metal for the Friday morning class. Since I have a small recording studio at home, I can mix it all together so it fills the length of the class. I try to make my classes and my one-on-one sessions fun — challenging, but fun.”
Okay, here’s a Beatles question from last week’s competition that’s both challenging and fun. A Mondegreen, as Mr. Whitaker explained at Offshore, is a misinterpretation of a musical phrase. He asked which song lyric can easily be confused with the line, “The girl with colitis goes by.” The Hallock family got the correct answer. “The girl with kaleidoscope eyes,” from “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.”
Beatles and Brews Trivia and Tunes, Fridays, 8:30 pm, Offshore Ale, Oak Bluffs. With host Ray Whitaker. For more information, call 508-693-2626.
On Martha’s Vineyard, we were fortunate readers in 2013. As you know, this space is devoted to all things books, especially new books by authors with ties to the Island.
You’d think such a limited focus would produce a thin crop of good reads to recommend. That is not the case, and in fact, the harvest has grown more abundant in the last several years. Likely the yield will continue to grow as a result of several literary conditions related to the Island environment and also to new realities in publishing.
First, the Island is a literary place. We consume all media (two local bookstores, two local newspapers, two local radio stations, six nationally recognized libraries, and three public access TV channels) and particularly print media. The Island’s beauty itself attracts literary types as residents.
And we have our own publishing company, Jan Pogue’s Vineyard Stories, which adds titles of interest to the Island and beyond, and also adds to the buzz and general healthiness of the book business. As Vineyard Stories has grown and flourished, Ms. Pogue has expanded her range of titles and categories. She has also developed an authorship team of writer Tom Dunlop and photographer Alison Shaw, who have created a series of insightful books on Island enterprises, food, and icons.
And as national publishers have shrunk their title lists to feed the bottom line, smaller publishers are taking advantage of the great opportunities to publish really good work. Finally, and equally as important, it seems to me, a fully-emergent social industry of media platforms provides the unknown author a chance to become a viral fave quickly.
So the literary feedbag is overflowing, so to speak. As you know, I review only the books I have personally read. So if you have a favorite from 2013 which is not on the 2013 Fave List below, chances are good that I didn’t read it.
Forthwith, in no particular order, our list:
“The Dream Merchant” by Fred Waitzkin. Mr. Waitzkin’s debut novel, an unsettling tale of an old man and a young lover amid the prisons of his past. Mr. Waitzkin is a best-selling non-fiction author (“Searching for Bobby Fischer”), but who knew his first fictional book would elicit such visceral response?
“A Man of His Own” by Susan Wilson. The third in the genre of fiction about dogs from this hard-working Island writer. Her dogs don’t solve crimes or pull Santa’s sleigh. They are dogs living and participating in wonderful stories about people. This one is about three World War II veterans, two human, one canine, and their difficult post-war lives.
“The Accidental Victim” by Jim Reston Jr. Son of the late former Vineyard Gazette owner and New York Times news exec Scotty Reston, Mr. Reston has marshalled the facts as he found them to conclude that President John F. Kennedy was collateral damage in the presidential assassination 50 years ago. Mr. Reston posits that sniper Lee Harvey Oswald’s intended victim was Texas governor John B. Connally, JFK’s limousine seatmate on that November afternoon in Dallas.
“The Tsar’s Treasure” by Martin Bayerle. Former Island resident Captain Martin Bayerle spins us a yarn about his 30-year search for a billion or more in gold aboard the White Star luxury liner Republic, which sank near the Vineyard in 1909. Treasure-hunter Bayerle researched his find in painstaking detail and found not only the treasure but a boatload of pre-World War One political intrigue.
“A Predatory Mission” by Judith Campbell. Latest in the Olympia Brown mystery series. The Rev. Brown is an ordained Unitarian minister with a large dilapidated house, an ardent but polite British lover, and an absolute penchant for finding trouble.
“How the Millennial Generation is Shaping Our World” by David Burstein. Mr. Burstein and his family have been summer folks for generations and Mr. Burstein has taken up the mantle of defending the 17- to 35-year-old generation, which wears the mantle of being the do-nothing generation of all time. Interesting social commentary on how the Protest Generation raised their kids.
“Alphabet Zooup” by Tara Reynolds. Another in a creative series of early and young reader books from Vineyard Stories. Tired of “A is for Apple?” Try this zesty art and fun letter matches for young minds.
“Children Are Diamonds” by Edward Hoagland. Mr. Hoagland’s work generally concerns the human condition. This novel presents humanity at its worst, and best, as a group of African villagers and their aid workers make a run through ethnic slaughter in a self-destructive African country. The horrifics are reported dispassionately through a mercenary turned savior. You will stop reading from time to time.
“Loss of Innocence” by Richard North Patterson. Island resident Richard North Patterson has been sending up mystery winners for a while. Now he’s two books into a trilogy on two Island families. This is the second in the series (“Fall from Grace” is first). The third is in the works. “Loss of Innocence” is a prequel to “Fall from Grace” and explains how both families get to be the way they were. BONUS: we get great texture of the ambient craziness that marked the decade and some great Island insider takes.
“Unthinkable” by Clyde Phillips. Mr. Phillip is a Boston neighborhood guy, a summer Island resident, and a wicked successful TV crime and drama honcho. He can write. This is a mass murder in a San Francisco neighborhood eatery that only gets worse.
The two weekly off-season Trivia Nights on the Island have proved to be popular events. On Wednesdays at The Wharf in Edgartown, and Thursdays at the Portuguese-American Club in Oak Bluffs, dozens gather in teams to try their knowledge in various topic categories from sports and geography to film and music. Sometimes the categories get specific: just last week at the P-A Club there was an entire category devoted to “The Simpsons,” and “Famous Teeth in Movies.”
The Wharf’s Trivia Night, which is free, starts at 8 pm every Wednesday, with pre-registration at 7:30 pm. For more information, call 508-627-9966. The P-A’s Trivia Night on Thursdays starts at approximately 7 pm, and the entry fee is $5. For more information, call 508-693-9875.
Four Vineyard conservation groups conspire all winter long to get us out of the house and onto some of the Island’s most scenic paths. Led by ecologists and naturalists, the walks range from leisurely to vigorous. Join other hardy folk to explore trails, beaches, and preserves that reflect the quiet beauty of the Island in winter.
The sponsoring organizations – Polly Hill Arboretum, Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary, the Vineyard Conservation Society, and the Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank – coordinate locations to ensure that the walks include a representative selection of properties Island-wide on non-competing dates.
Polly Hill Arboretum, West Tisbury
On the second Saturday morning each month, Polly Hill Arboretum, a 70-acre horticultural and botanical landmark, offers a guided tour. According to Tom Clark, Collections and Grounds Manager, Polly Hill’s walks are led by staff members and focus on plants and natural history.
“There are gems in the winter landscape that many of us miss,” Mr. Clark points out. “Our winter walks help people see the highlights of the season – the colorful plants and wonderful bark of the birches and stewartia. We can help gardeners select trees and shrubs that can add a lot of interest to the nine months of the year so often forgotten.”
Upcoming walks at Polly Hill are scheduled for the following Saturdays: January 9, February 13, and March 13. The walks begin at 10 am and last up to 90 minutes. “The pace is comfortable,” Mr. Clark says, “but the outings are not geared to children.” There are no paved surfaces; the terrain is flat with grass or mulch paths. Plan on rain or shine, but leave pets in the comfort of your home. Walks are free to all.
Polly Hill Arboretum is located at 809 State Rd., West Tisbury. 508-693-9426; pollyhillarboretum.org.
Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary, Edgartown
If an easy stroll on a Wednesday morning sounds like the perfect remedy for the winter wearies, head for Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary on February 10 and March 10 for a 10:30 am departure. Led by Mass Audubon Society Teacher/Naturalist Susie Bowman, Felix Neck’s Senior Strolls offer a gentle 45-minute walk on wide, flat trails followed by a chance to gather in the Sanctuary’s newly refurbished Discovery Room for a warm beverage and conversation.
“We get to see the true lay of the land in the winter time,” Ms. Bowman explains. “With the leaves down, you can observe the undulations – the rolls and rises – of the terrain, as well as vistas that are blocked during other times of the year.”
Tailored to the interests of the group, Senior Strolls offer outdoor enthusiasts an opportunity to observe nature and wildlife with an experienced educator. Ms. Bowman encourages nature lovers to attend, rain or shine. “We’ll meet in the Discovery Room if it’s too inclement outdoors and spend an hour in our wonderful new space,” she says.
Felix Neck offers four miles of trails with varied scenery: woodlands, ponds, salt marsh, and barrier beach. Free to members, there is a $3 fee for non-members. Because it is a wildlife sanctuary, pets are not allowed.
Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary is located on Felix Neck Drive off Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Rd., Edgartown. 508-627-4850; massaudubon.org (look for Felix Neck under “Find A Wildlife Sanctuary” on top left column of the home page).
Vineyard Conservation Society
Now in its third decade hosting guided tours, the Vineyard Conservation Society offers Islanders a chance to explore thoughtfully. Its 2010 winter walking season is dedicated to calling attention to the local effects of global climate change.
“We try to find special properties – those that are privately held or those with conservation restrictions – to share with participants,” says Brendan O’Neill, executive director. “This year we’ll focus on how the Vineyard is affected by global climate change and how we can adapt.”
Walks are scheduled for the second Sunday of each month and begin at 1 pm. On January 10, John Varkonda, State Forest Superintendent, will lead a walk with a public safety theme: exploring the impacts of sea level rise. On February 14, Mr. O’Neill will guide participants on a private Chilmark property abutting Menemsha Hills Reservation to examine shrinking wetlands. And on March 14, Mr. Varkonda will provide a rare opportunity to visit the Christiantown Fire Tower for a discussion about wildfire threats and preparedness.
“Global climate change is for real,” Mr. O’Neill cautions. “We live on an island at sea level, so we’re particularly vulnerable.”
With their 30-year history, Vineyard Conservation Society walks are increasingly popular, averaging about 50 participants, according to Mr. O’Neill. Vigorous in nature, they are family-friendly, free, and open to the public. Pets are welcome on leash at most properties. Held rain or shine (unless extreme conditions prevail), the walks are two hours in duration.
Check the MV Times the week prior for details on where to meet for each walk, or contact Vineyard Conservation Society at 508-693-9588 for more information. vineyardconservation.org.
Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank
Created in 1986 to counter the Island’s building boom, decline in farming, and privatization of once-public property, the M.V. Land Bank has now conserved over 3,000 acres. Off-season guided walks are held on the first Sunday of each month and are offered free of charge to the public. They are family-friendly and pets are welcome on leashes unless prohibited by individual properties. Departure time is 1 pm and duration is from one to two hours.
Led by Land Bank Ecologist Julie Schaeffer, winter walks were originally created to introduce Islanders to new Land Bank properties. “Today we focus on the unique natural history of each property and my goal is to ensure that each participant takes away at least one new piece of information,” Ms. Schaeffer says.
On February 7, Ms. Schaeffer will explore Tisbury Meadow Preserve. Plan on some steep areas and hills as the outing crosses fields and ancient ways.
On March 7, walkers will discover the unusual and challenging terrain of North Neck Highlands Preserve on Chappaquiddick. While she characterizes this walk as “a fun, distinctive one,” Ms. Schaeffer cautions that the excursion features stairs to climb and cobbled beach. Moshup Beach in Aquinnah offers a scenic beach setting for the April 4 walk. And, on May 2, Ms. Schaeffer will guide participants across Quansoo Preserve, utilizing the Sheriff’s Meadow trail region of Quansoo Farm to create a vigorous two-hour walk.
Check the newspaper the week prior to each walk for details on where to meet. Contact the Land Bank at 508-627-7141; mvlandbank.com.
Karla Araujo is a frequent contributor to The Times.