Tags Posts tagged with "Nicole Galland"

Nicole Galland

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– Illustration by Kate Feiffer

Nicole-GallandBemused readers ask novelist Nicole Galland for her take on navigating the precarious social landscape that comes with living on the Vineyard. Nicole, who grew up in West Tisbury, is known locally as the co-founder of Shakespeare for the Masses at the Vineyard Playhouse. Her combined knowledge of both this island and the world’s greatest melodramas compels her to help prevent unnecessary tragedy wherever possible. Trying to untangle a messy Island ethics or etiquette question? Send it to OnIsland@mvtimes.com.

Dear Nicole,
Sometimes I wonder if people on the Island are confused about the difference between a library and a community center. I know that libraries serve a variety of community functions these days, and the days of tiptoeing through the stacks lest one incur the wrath of the steely-haired librarian are a thing of the past, but shouldn’t people know that lengthy cell phone conversations, running children, and screaming babies are not appreciated? What’s a polite way to ask people to shut it off, speak softly, or take it outside?
Confidentially yours,
Shhh

Dear Shhh:
Here’s the most effective way I’ve ever seen to end an unpleasantly loud cell phone conversation: Sit next to the offender and act as if you’re the person they’re talking to — respond to their comments, make eye contact, give them a comradely nudge, etc. It will completely freak them out. They will get off the phone fast. But then they will (understandably) light into you, and cause more disruption than their original phone call did. So don’t try this at the library/community center. Wait for summer and try it at State Beach.

(I just wanted an excuse to remind everyone of summer, since it is January on Martha’s VIneyard.)

Here’s a more appropriate answer: Even though the nature of libraries has evolved recently, they still contain remarkable beings called librarians. No only have libraries changed, but so have librarians. They are no longer steely-haired stack stalkers. (Out of respect for old-school librarians, I must put a shout-out to Nancy Whiting of the old WT library, who won Most Awesome Librarian of the Galaxy Award back in the 1970s and gets to retain the title for eternity.) The new breed of librarian has evolved into a state of awesomeness. You’re a civilian when it comes to balancing quiet and community at a modern library; these guys are experts. (They are also experts in lots of other things. Have a conversation with one, and ask them what they do. What you see at the checkout desk is barely the tip of the iceberg.)

So it’s really a very simple answer: Talk to the librarians. They are the arbiters of what’s appropriate and what isn’t. If you think a situation needs fixing and they don’t, then you may need to adjust your expectations of libraries in the 21st century.
That’s my take.
Nicole

 

Illustration by Kate Feiffer

Nicole-GallandBemused readers ask novelist Nicole Galland for her take on navigating the precarious social landscape that comes with living on Martha’s Vineyard. Nicole, who grew up in West Tisbury, is known locally as the co-founder of Shakespeare for the Masses at the Vineyard Playhouse. Her combined knowledge of both the Island and the world’s greatest melodramas compels her to help prevent unnecessary tragedy wherever possible. Trying to untangle a messy Island ethics or etiquette question? Send it to OnIsland@mvtimes.com

Dear Nicole:
We have annual February houseguests. Believe me when I say that we appreciate them for coming to visit us in the winter – it’s a sign of true friendship. The problem is, they seem to know we are desperate for winter companionship and we sometimes wonder if they might be taking advantage of our social solitude. We first noticed it with the food. They eat all of ours and never hit the supermarket to resupply. Then there’s the heat. They crank it up to tropical.  They’re going to be here soon and we’re looking forward to their visit. We’re wondering, however, if the rare off-season visitor should be handled with extreme care, or if it’s okay to ask them to help out and give us some money to help pay for the higher heating bill?
Confidentially yours,
February

Dear Feb:
Yes, visiting in February rather than August is certainly a sign of true friendship. You know what else is? Consideration and common courtesy. The unspoken but universally understood premise of house–guest–ness is that the guest at least OFFERS to help out in some way. This has nothing to do with Vineyard etiquette – it’s pretty universal and is true (I hope) even if you’re visiting your mother.

It is frequently the case that the host deflects the offer, and needs or wants absolutely nothing from their guest except his or her presence. (This is often the case when you are visiting your mother.) Doesn’t matter – the offer should still be made. This guest/host ritual is pretty fundamental. Even if your intention is to spoil your guests while they provide nothing, part of the pleasure is in saying, “No, no, that’s fine, really,” when they make the offer. You can’t do that if they don’t make the offer – it’s inconsiderate of them to rob you of showing off your magnanimity.

So, in an ideal world, where your guests were classy, they’d offer to help out in some manner. They haven’t done that. Asking them bluntly for money isn’t really classy either, though. Even if you have the kind of relationship where you feel you can do that comfortably, discuss it with them well before their arrival, so they aren’t in for a rude surprise when they get there. Also, be gracious enough to let them feel like it’s a choice they’re making spontaneously, rather than a demand you are issuing. This allows you to practice that time-honored Vineyard skill of benign passive-aggressiveness.

For instance, “Our heating bills are really out of control this year, so we’re keeping the temperature at 60 and wearing lots of sweaters. We’d offer to crank it up while you’re here but it would really blow our budget. Sorry about that. But don’t worry, we have plenty of sweaters you can borrow.”

Perhaps they’ll offer to help defray the cost of a warm interior climate. Perhaps they won’t, and will simply borrow your sweaters. Perhaps they won’t come at all. In that case, use the heating-bill money you save from their not-visiting to go to Key West for a week or something. That could be even nicer than February house guests.

And for the record, there’s not that much social solitude in the winter. If anything, it is the time when friends can connect on a meaningful, satisfying level, without the bustle and rush of summer. If you have so few year-round friends that you are desperate to have inconsiderate houseguests, you might need to get out more.
That’s my take.
Nicole

***

Dear Nicole:
I was taking a walk in the woods and saw a woman with a dog approaching me. I am nervous around dogs and I called out to ask her to please put her dog on a leash. She said the dog is friendly and that I shouldn’t worry. I told her that I would still appreciate it if she put the dog on a leash. She acquiesced, but then when our paths did cross, she growled at me. (The dog was fine, it was the woman who growled.) Was it wrong of me to insist she leash her dog?
Confidentially yours,
Walker

Dear Walker:
Legally, dogs should be on leashes in most public woodlands (there are some places where they are allowed off-leash at certain times of day, especially in winter). But on the Vineyard, let’s be honest, this law is observed more in the breach than the observance (to quote the Danish prince dude) and it very seldom causes problems (except some troubling dog-chicken encounters, but chickens aren’t prone to go for woodland walks).

So it was not wrong of you to insist she leash her dog. It is perhaps understandable that she resisted it; it’s probably seldom that such a request is made of her and she may have been surprised by it.

But I am surprised (and disappointed) to hear she “growled.” In my experience, dog owners are eager to demonstrate that they are responsible members of the community. They realize they can be scofflaws because no harm comes of their law-scoffing, and they want to reassure non-dog-owners that this will continue to be the case. More than that, most dog-owners of the going-for-a-walk-with-your-dog variety are generally excellent human beings (I am biased) and, I would think, are genetically disinclined to be unfriendly or growlish.

Come to think of it, If it ever happens to you again, you might want to be proactive on this front. Ignore the growl (nothing good comes of reacting to the growl) and just say, as perky and friendly as you can manage, “I really appreciate how responsible most Vineyard dog-owners are – thanks for being one of them.”

People are less likely to growl if they are being appreciated; they are also less likely to act like entitled jerks when they are complimented for not acting like entitled jerks.
That’s my take.
Nicole

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Shakespeare for the Masses returns this week with “Richard III.”

From left, Jill Macy, Peter Stray (blindfolded) and Brian Ditchfield perform at a past Shakespeare for the Masses performance. – Courtesy of Sally Isenberg Cohn

Shakespeare. Stilted? Sour? Stumped? Not at Martha’s Vineyard Playhouse. The creative comedic duo of Nicole Galland and Chelsea McCarthy ignite their seventh season of  Shakespeare for the Masses with the tragic antihero’s political drama “Richard III” this Saturday and Sunday.
Shakespeare for the Masses has successfully introduced winter and summer audiences to the complex poetry of Shakespearean drama since 2008. Nicole Galland directed Chelsea McCarthy in the first amphitheater performance of “Hamlet,” and over the past six seasons, Ms. McCarthy has become a full-time co-creator and co-director. “Our process begins with the text,” says Ms. Galland. “About 40 hours of editing the narrative, and lots of back and forth of figuring out the devices to render a play user-friendly to people who don’t typically ‘do’ Shakespeare.”

Chelsea McCarthy and Mac Young wield swords at a past Shakespeare for the Masses performance. – Photo by Nicole Galland
Chelsea McCarthy and Mac Young wield swords at a past Shakespeare for the Masses performance. – Photo by Nicole Galland

Everyone of all ages should come see ‘Richard III,’” says MJ Bruder Munafo, executive artistic director of the Playhouse. “Especially if you think you don’t like Shakespeare. These ‘readings’ are silly and intelligent and easy to follow and lots of laughs. And really short — around an hour long. So it’s a perfect intro to the Bard.”
Ms. Galland explained that after a lively exchange of Skyping, typing, and navigating the exposition, “we manage to cut the play to an hour, often adding a narrator to relate the backstory, and illustrate the text through pantomime scenes.”
With a deep respect for Shakespeare, Ms. Galland said, their approach allows for an audience to relax, laugh, and experience the play as entertainment rather than an exercise of English dramaturgy: “We keep all the great scenes, famous speeches, but remove all the connective tissue with as much humor as possible.” Then, just as the audience forgets to translate the complex couplets and idiosyncratic iambic pentameter, Ms. Galland says, “we can stop in the middle and have those profound moments; at that point the audience is ready to give us their heart and mind and experience the brilliance of what Shakespeare is.”
“Richard III,” set in 16th century England, opens with the iconic line “Now is the winter of our discontent …” yet few know much more of the antihero who plots a coup d’etat to usurp his brother’s rule and win the throne. Richard is a villain who is both cunning and terribly ingenious, a soul brother of House of Cards‘ Frank Underwood (played seamlessly in Netflix’s hit drama by Kevin Spacey). Like Underwood, Richard addresses and confides in the audience directly, drawing us into his conniving tactics.
Ms. Galland commented on the magnetic quality of her antihero: “Richard III breaks the fourth wall to speak directly to the audience, somehow making us his accomplices. He is that honestly dishonest politician, and given what we are dealing with in D.C., this nefarious character is someone we should know and study.” For Shakespeare, the power politics of royal authority was a theme the master returned to again and again.
Editing Shakespeare is a common yet dicey game, but Ms. Galland and Ms. McCarthy have captured the essence of the theme without sacrificing the essential moments of what makes Shakespeare relevant across the centuries. “This is a fun, enjoyable happening, as opposed to ‘Shakespeare.’ As an Islander, I know how important it is to laugh in the winter. We work with a group of professional actors who can come in, and with only a few hours of rehearsal, make something really exciting happen,” said Ms. Galland.
Ms. Bruder Munafo warmly welcomes the production to the Patricia Neal Stage. “The Playhouse loves providing a free offering on the stage during the winter,” she says. “We started the series a few years ago when nobody could afford a ticket, and the tradition has held. The performers donate their time, the theater donates its resources; and so it is truly a labor of love and goodwill.”
The company that have loyally performed the words of Shakespeare to the new tune arranged by Ms. Galland and Ms. McCarthy are working professionals, actors, and parents. Yet they are true to the tradition of the Swan Theater players, who performed for the common man and the Queen, where the main aim of Shakespeare was to tell stories, relevant and digestible for all.

Political infighting, scheming politicians, love, jealousy, power plays and ruthless egos — sound familiar? Richard III is a man of our age as much as he was in the 16th century, and Shakespeare for the Masses is ready to make the entertaining introduction.

Martha’s Vineyard Playhouse and Shakespeare for the Masses present “Richard III.”
Saturday, 7:30 pm. Sunday, 3:30pm, free. No reservations, open seating.
Martha’s Vineyard Playhouse, 24 Church Street, Vineyard Haven.
www.mvplayhouse.org
The all-Island cast includes Amy Sabin Barrow, Brooke Hardman Ditchfield, Nicole Galland, Jill Macy, Chelsea McCarthy, Rob Myers, Xavier Powers, Molly Purves, and Chris Roberts as Richard.

– Illustration by Kate Feiffer

Nicole-GallandBemused readers ask novelist Nicole Galland for her take on navigating the precarious social landscape that comes with living on the Vineyard. Nicole, who grew up in West Tisbury, is known locally as the co-founder of Shakespeare for the Masses at the Vineyard Playhouse. Her combined knowledge of both this island and the world’s greatest melodramas compels her to help prevent unnecessary tragedy wherever possible. Trying to untangle a messy Island ethics or etiquette question? Send it to OnIsland@mvtimes.com

Dear Nicole:

When somebody asks you, “Can you give me directions to Oaks Bluff?” is it OK to send them to Vinyl Haven instead?

Confidentially yours,

Long-timer

Dear Long:

I’ve got a knee slapper for you, although (for obvious reasons) it works better when told aloud. Many years ago, my friend Gail and I were traveling in Wales, and having gotten hopelessly lost in the middle of nowhere, we went into a little butcher shop to ask directions to our B & B. The woman behind the counter said something like, “Turn left at Penmaenmawr toward Brynllwyn Farm in Gwaenysgor.” I stared at her in distress and asked, “Er, how do you spell that?” at which she grinned knowingly at me and said, in a superior tone, “Exactly the way it sounds, of course!”

Just like the butcher lady, you want to affirm your insider status while enjoying a bit of snarkiness. It’s such a satisfying feeling to assert one’s superior knowledge, isn’t it? It scratches a real tribal itch. Here’s the thing, though: When you handle it in a way that belittles the person you are speaking to, it sort of makes you a jerk. And I know you don’t want to be a jerk, because if you did you wouldn’t have bothered to write to me.

Happily, there’s a way to have your insider status and snark it too, without doing any harm to another person’s dignity. In fact, you can even be helpful. When the person says, “Can you give me directions to Oaks Bluff?” say, “Well, I can give you directions to Oak Bluffs … and just so you know, if you’d called it Oaks Bluff to some other Islanders, they probably would have sent you to Vineyard Haven, because some people are like that, if you know what I mean.” If you’re feeling inspired, and want to really assert your insider status in a useful way, you could continue thus: “So if you’ve got other questions, please feel free to ask. North Tisbury is southwest of Tisbury; I can explain why if you need to know. OK, repeat after me: Katama, Wasque, Cape Pogue. You can just say Chappy. No, you definitely do not want to rent a moped. Have a nice visit!” This is a win for you and also a win for the poor ignorant outsider whose experience has now been enriched, not impoverished, by your local superiority.
That’s my take.
Nicole

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Dear Nicole:

It seems like on the Island, if you have to jump-start your car, and you’re afraid of electrocuting yourself, you can stand there with jumper cables in your hand until someone (usually a guy — the one who probably said to you, “I have jumpers in my car …”) offers to help. But the question is, Will I get a reputation as being a damsel in distress on an Island where women are known as self-sufficient Amazons of the jungle?

Confidentially yours,

Jumper

Dear Jumper:

Reputations are funny things. For an Island where everyone knows everyone else’s business, it’s amazing how good we all are at keeping our opinions to ourselves — or at least, keeping them secret from the object of those opinions. It is quite possible that you already have a reputation and you don’t even know it!

The good thing is, you don’t have to worry about that. Amazons (self-sufficient or otherwise) don’t worry about what other people think of them.

Which is healthy, because what other people think about you is actually none of your business. You have no control over it. Period. This isn’t even small-town wisdom, this is basic Dr. Phil mainstream stuff. Decide and behave based on what works for you, not on what you hope might result in some other person’s possibly seeing you some particular way. You’re not (presumably) in junior high.

If somebody thinks of you as the woman who can’t use jumper cables, then even if you learn to use jumper cables, they will probably always remember you as the woman who couldn’t use jumper cables. Period. If you spend the next 15 years trying to impress upon them that you now CAN use jumper cables … well, that’s sort of a silly way to spend 15 years, isn’t it?

So either learn to use jumper cables, or make peace with the fact that you don’t know how to use jumper cables. The first choice is a little more practical, but honestly, either one is fine. If you do end up with a reputation for being a damsel in distress, I’m pretty sure that nobody will hold it against you. We all love opportunities to be useful — thank you for providing us with so many.

That’s my take.

Nicole

Illustration by Kate Feiffer

Nicole-GallandBemused readers ask novelist Nicole Galland for her take on navigating the precarious social landscape that comes with living on the Vineyard. Nicole, who grew up in West Tisbury, is known locally as the co-founder of Shakespeare For The Masses at the Vineyard Playhouse. Her combined knowledge of both this island and the world’s greatest melodramas compels her to help prevent unnecessary tragedy wherever possible. Trying to untangle a messy Island ethics or etiquette question? Send it to OnIsland@mvtimes.com.

Dear Nicole:
I attended a holiday party the other night, but the good cheer quickly turned into a stomach churner for me when the newly separated husband of a good friend walked into the party with a date. And holy ginger martini — I knew the woman! What should I tell my friend?
Confidentially yours,
Shocked in my stocking

Dear Shocked:
Before getting to what-to-tell-your-friend, let’s pause a moment to look at the bigger picture here, which is: this is one of those unavoidable, inevitable, uncomfortable Vineyard Things That Happen Sometimes. Before knowing what to tell your friend, know how to handle yourself. Similar circumstances are likely to arise again, especially in the Holiday Season. Have an action plan.

I recommend taking the long view. This new coupling isn’t going away (probably not right away, at least). Your paths are likely to cross again, and the discomfort will continue unless you do something to abate it.As Iago asked Roderigo in Shakespeare’s Othello, “What wound did ever heal but by degrees?” I’ve been in all three positions you’re describing, and let me tell you — your stomach was probably not the one churning the most.

If you deliberately put forth a positive vibe toward the new couple at the party, then all the stuff that might well have been going on inside of them (defensiveness, fear-of-ostracism, etc.) would be disarmed, and the possibility of harmonious co-existence becomes possible, meaning that over time, the churning will calm. In contrast, if you give her (or him) any attitude at all, you’re setting yourself up for a churn-a-thon. So I hope you were gracious and kind; if you weren’t, I hope you will be next time.

A side comment: I notice your interjection takes the form of a cocktail. As a general rule, cocktails can be very helpful in generating a feeling of goodfellowship, but they can also be the source of more unfortunate emotional expressions. Know thyself, and moderate the eggnog intake accordingly.

Having settled all that, let’s move to the post-party: your friend. If there is some clear benefit to her in hearing about it, then tell her. Otherwise, why mention something that will upset her? That’s worse than gossip. Gossip is oblivious about its cruelty; gratuitously telling a friend something you know will upset them is simply mean.

If you are concerned that she will later hear from another source that you and Those People were at a party together, and will feel put out that you didn’t tell her, try this: find a time in the near future to say to her, “Hey, since this is a small island and all that, I want to hear from you what your preference is regarding my reporting sightings of your Ex and/or his new friend.” Believe whatever she tells you, and act accordingly.

But her feelings will change over time, so maybe in six months or so check in and ask again. By then, you’ll be running into Those People again at beach barbecue and 4th of July parties.
That’s my take.
Nicole

Dear Nicole:
What do you do when your teenager daughter, who has no visible awareness of her own Jewish heritage yet an acute awareness of her mother’s issues with some Catholic church doctrine, says says she will only go to the Chanukah party if we spend the next year going to Sunday morning mass?
Confidentially Yours,
Dreidel

Dear Dreidel:
First, congratulate yourself on having such a daughter. That is quite the comeback!
Say yes. There are several interesting reasons to say yes. (There are also a few reasons to say no, but they’re pretty boring, so they would make you boring, too.)

She is probably only suggesting this as a strategic move, so you tactically defeat her by agreeing to it. It’s like verbal aikido. Do you really think she wants to go to Catholic Mass for a year? I doubt it. Agree to her offer, enjoy the Chanukah party and then wait for her to change her mind about the Catholic Mass herself. There’s a 99 percent chance that you will not have to go to Mass more than once. She will hesitate before trying that strategy again, without your ever having to play Bad Cop. It’s a win for you with no harm or foul to her.

But let’s say she was serious, even eager, about the Catholic Mass part, and wants to stick with it, at least for a while. That’s great. Exposing ourselves to different religions, to different  ways in which humanity expresses its social rituals, beliefs and ethics — that’s all intrinsically good! Both the impulse and the experience is terrific for her, and the experience (even if no impulse) will also be enlightening for you. It will at least give you some context for those elements of Catholicism you object to. (Plus I hear they serve snacks — sometimes even wine!) If you don’t want to agree to her bargain just because you don’t feel like going to Catholic Mass, then you are basically asking for my blessing to remain tunnel-visioned and small-minded, and I’m sorry but I can’t give you that.

All that said, however: Chanukah is not actually a major Jewish holiday, so a year of Catholic Mass is actually too hefty a demand. She’s clearly in a negotiating state of mind, so negotiate: tell her that a year of Catholic Mass also guarantees at least one Passover, and maybe a Kol Nidre service (that’s the start of Yom Kippur services and should appeal to the teen mentality -— she gets to let herself off the hook for the whole past year’s transgressions). Even at a very generous exchange rate, a Chanukah party doesn’t rate more than a couple of visits to Sunday School.

If she will not budge from her (admittedly unfair) offer, then — and only then — refuse. Not because you don’t want to bother expanding your or her world-view, but because you want your daughter to learn that unfair ultimatums are no way to function in the world.
That’s my take.
Nicole

—Illustration by Kate Feiffer

Nicole-GallandBemused readers ask novelist Nicole Galland for her take on navigating the precarious social landscape that comes with living on the Vineyard. Nicole, who grew up in West Tisbury, is known locally as the co-founder of Shakespeare For The Masses at the Vineyard Playhouse. Her combined knowledge of both this island and the world’s greatest melodramas compels her to help prevent unnecessary tragedy wherever possible. Trying to untangle a messy Island ethics or etiquette question? Send it to OnIsland@mvtimes.com.

Dear Nicole:
I’m a deer hunter. Twice now in the past couple of seasons, I’ve had a youngish (yearling?) doe in my sights, and I haven’t been able to shoot because I find myself wondering if it’s wrong to shoot a deer that young. I don’t want my kids accusing me of killing Bambi. How young is too young?
Confidentially yours,
Softie

Dear Softie:
Legally speaking, the answer to your question is, “There’s no such thing as too young.” As soon as a fawn is born, it qualifies as fair game. In contrast to edible marine life, the (female) deer population has virtually no regulations protecting it — nor should it. There are too many of them. The Vineyard and Nantucket have the highest density of deer in the state. The herds need to be culled. The bag limit is (I’m citing a state website here) two antlered deer per year “and as many antlerless deer as the hunter has valid antlerless deer permits” — which on the Vineyard is four per day. In other words: MassWildlife wants you to kill does. The younger a doe is brought down, the fewer offspring she produces in her lifetime, which is a nonviolent way of helping to manage the population.

But you’re a hunter so you probably knew the legal answer; you’re asking from a more subjective angle. If you — or your kids — have ever eaten lamb or veal, then it’s a romantic hypocrisy to bewail the killing of a young doe. That yearling had a much better life than almost any lamb or calf that ended up on your dinner table (yes, there is humanely raised local livestock, but the supply and price tag mean that’s not a broad-spectrum option yet). If you’re concerned about being humane (an excellent thing to be concerned about), but don’t want to give up the succulence of young mammalian flesh, stop eating lamb and veal altogether, and instead get out there and shoot more young deer.
That’s my take.
Nicole

Illustration by Kate Feiffer

Nicole-GallandBemused readers ask novelist Nicole Galland for her take on navigating the precarious social landscape that comes with living on the Vineyard. Nicole, who grew up in West Tisbury, is known locally as the co-founder of Shakespeare For The Masses at the Vineyard Playhouse. Her combined knowledge of both this island and the world’s greatest melodramas compels her to help prevent unnecessary tragedy wherever possible. Trying to untangle a messy Island ethics or etiquette question? Send it to OnIsland@mvtimes.com

Dear Nicole,
I bow hunt for deer. Last year, while I was on stand 20 feet up in a tree, a female hiker came sprinting through the woods. Before I could say anything, she ran right underneath my tree and squatted (I assume to pee). I averted my eyes. Awkward to say the least. I did not make a sound while all this was going on. Should I have said anything? I also carry toilet paper in my backpack to aid in tracking deer. Should I have offered her some?
Confidentially Yours,
Hunter

Dear Hunter:
First of all, I dearly wish you were here in person to explain the statement, “I also carry toilet paper in my backpack to aid in tracking deer.” How does that work? Do you toss a roll onto a stag’s antlers, like a carnival game, and then follow the roll in hopes it will lead to his harem of does? Do you season the roll with eau de mown grass, and leave it lying around in the woods, in the hopes it will attract a cervine herd? Having never been a hunter, I want to know. How very tantalizing.

Regarding your actual question: Generally it is considered déclassé to interrupt someone who is responding urgently to the call of nature — especially if the call is so urgent that they don’t notice a deer stand directly overhead. (Also, gender plays a role in this — the most awkward arrangement of genders in these circumstances is probably a male telling a female he can see what she’s doing.)

However, context is everything. The hiker is in the Great Outdoors and could relieve herself pretty much anywhere, while you are stuck in one particular tree. Once the hiker — however innocently — “marks” the area with human scent, that will have a negative effect on your chances of getting a deer. Not just for those few moments while she is squatting beneath your stand, but probably for the rest of your cold, lonely, uncomfortable tenure in the tree, given that a deer’s sense of smell is even more acute than a dog’s. By not asking her to relieve herself elsewhere, you probably guaranteed yourself a bootless day out with your bow, just for the sake of avoiding a potential passing embarrassment. You are certainly free to sabotage yourself that way, but this isn’t Regency England and acts of secret decency are not trending. Under the circumstances, you absolutely get a pass if you decide to call out to her and ask her to take her business elsewhere.

In fact, it could be argued that alerting her to your presence is the only truly decent course to take. There are a number of complications that could arise from your not letting her know you’re there. If she looks up and sees a hunter (even just a bow hunter who is averting his eyes), she will feel at least as awkward as you already do, if not alarmed. Even if she doesn’t realize at the time what’s going on, this is Martha’s Vineyard, so there’s a good chance that eventually she will hear that her uncle’s plumber’s apprentice’s best friend was bow-hunting last Thursday when suddenly, a female hiker…etc… and she’ll realize, after the fact, that it was probably her, and she will be overcome with a ludicrous semi-embarrassment that she’ll never be able to put to rest. For the rest of her life, she might shudder briefly whenever venison is mentioned. You can pre-empt all such misfortunes by just calling out to her (faster than she can drop trow, ideally) and politely ask her to move along.

I don’t know if you should offer her any toilet paper, though. I suppose it depends on how badly you need it for deer-tracking.
That’s my take.
Nicole

Illustration by Kate Feiffer

NickiGalland-headshotBemused readers ask novelist Nicole Galland for her take on navigating the precarious social landscape that comes with living on the Vineyard. Nicole, who grew up in West Tisbury, is known locally as the co-founder of Shakespeare For The Masses at the Vineyard Playhouse. Her combined knowledge of both this island and the world’s greatest melodramas compels her to help prevent unnecessary tragedy wherever possible. Trying to untangle a messy Island ethics or etiquette question? Send it to OnIsland@mvtimes.com

Dear Nicole:
I am a glutton for gluten and am starting to feel like an outcast here. Is this gluten-free thing a fad gone mad or do we have an island-wide epidemic of celiac disease? I have been accused of being dismissive to people who say they don’t eat wheat. In my opinion, it’s getting hard to take this whole thing seriously. Am I being insensitive?
Confidentially yours,
Gluten Glutton

Dear Glutton:
A little context goes a long way here – do you mean you’re having a hard time taking it seriously when you think idly about all the wheat-free folks you know during the course of the day, or that you have a hard time taking it seriously while you are considering what to actually feed these people?

If the former – hey, it’s your internal monologue, think whatever you like. However, if you want to share your views with others, do it knowing that it might not be GC (Gastronomically Correct) and that chocolate-lover-gallandyou could get push-back. People who feel belittled tend to push back. This has nothing to do with gluten, and everything to do with feeling mocked. (For example, I get pretty snarky when my chocolate fetish is mocked. You don’t want to know what happened after my husband teased me about this photo.)

And remember this handy rule of thumb: if you are judging others, you are likely to be judged on your judging them. As with any topic about which there are very divergent views, it’s one thing to say, “I don’t get it” and another thing to say, “That’s such nonsense.” The first invites discussion/reflection/debate/communication, the second shuts it down. Decide what kind of person you want to be and go from there.

In answer to your query about a sudden outburst of celiac disease across the Island – no, most gluten-free people will not get violently ill and require hospitalization if they encounter gluten. That said, however: Agribusiness has fidgeted with the chemical composition of many grains (and in particular, wheat) over the past 50-ish years, and it may well be that the general population finds certain foods increasingly difficult to tolerate. If you’re not one of those people, then it might be a challenge to feel sympathetic toward them. What a great opportunity for you to practice compassion!

On the other hand, someone else’s food sensitivity should not create an inconvenience in your life. Nobody should assume other people will automatically accommodate their particular circumstances — that’s just plain old narcissism, and the Island isn’t big enough for such egos. Real Yankees carry our own baggage, we don’t foist it off onto other people. So if the person you’ve invited to dinner does not eat wheat, meat, shellfish, mushrooms, eggs, sugar, or foods that begin with the letter M, then they should tell you that well ahead of time, and send you an easy and delicious recipe for something that they can eat, together with some acknowledgement or appreciation that you’re accommodating their needs. Otherwise, go ahead and be insensitive to them. They’ve already been insensitive to you.
That’s my take.
Nicole

***

Dear Nicole:
My son’s teacher moonlights as a waitress at a restaurant we enjoy. I like to tip her generously, after all she’s my son’s teacher. However, a friend that I mentioned this to told me that by tipping her in excess of 20%, I was in effect bribing her. She said I shouldn’t be tipping her any higher than I would tip another waitress. What’s your take, Nicole?
Confidentially Yours,
Teacher Tipper

Dear Tipper:
Whether it’s “right” or not, it is commonplace for people to tip friends or family members who are serving them a little something extra (and this works both ways — a server is likely to do a little something extra when serving friends and family). If you’re tipping her purely because you know her and like her, then you’re simply being human. If you’re tipping her so that she will like you and therefore give your son extra attention or good grades, then you are behaving as a briber would (which doesn’t mean she knows that or will respond accordingly).

If you’re not sure what your own motivation is, try this exercise. Imagine it’s the end of the school year and your son has gotten a lousy grade on a year-end project. You go to that same restaurant and are served by that same waitress. The bill has arrived and it’s time to calculate the tip. Will you still tip her more than 20 percent? If no, then don’t tip her excessively now, because yes, some part of you is (however discreetly) probably trying to bribe her.

Instead, consider the big-picture approach: take that little-bit-extra that you’d otherwise give her, and stash it away each time you eat out. When you have amassed a decent amount, donate it to an organization that strives to achieve better pay for teachers, so that in the future, teachers will not have to moonlight as waitresses. Among other benefits, this will leave their evenings free for grading your son’s papers.
That’s my take.
Nicole

— Illustration by Kate Feiffer

NickiGalland-headshotBemused readers ask novelist Nicole Galland for her take on navigating the precarious social landscape that comes with living on the Vineyard. Nicole, who grew up in West Tisbury, is known locally as the co-founder of Shakespeare For The Masses at the Vineyard Playhouse. Her combined knowledge of both this island and the world’s greatest melodramas compels her to help prevent unnecessary tragedy wherever possible. Trying to untangle a messy Island ethics or etiquette question? Send it to OnIsland@mvtimes.com

Dear Nicole:
My wife has a significant birthday coming up, and she wishes to celebrate by spending a long weekend on a foliage tour in New Hampshire. The dates coincide with the best Derby fishing according to historical records, and I feel certain that I will miss out on a winning fish if I accompany her. Years ago I suggested that we postpone our wedding until after the Derby and she simply ignored the question. What is your advice about asking her to postpone her birthday until October 19th?
Confidentially Yours,
Derbyguy

Dear Derbyguy:
Answer quickly: what’s more important to you, winning the Derby or making your wife happy?

If you had to think about that for even for a nanosecond, then you are such a diehard fisherman that you might as well go ahead and ask her. (If you’re not one, don’t ask her. Really. Not for a “significant birthday.”)

So perhaps the question really is, how will you respond to her saying no? Trust me on this: she will say no. Her ignoring your request to postpone your marriage for Derby season implies either (a) she thought you were joking, in which case she will think you are joking again, or (b) she knew you were serious, and but had to convince herself you were joking so that she could bear to go through with marrying you.

Speaking of her marrying you: if your wedding conflicted with the Derby, then your anniversary must as well. Stop reading this right now, and go buy her a nice card. Avoid any fish imagery. Maybe get her some flowers too. I think dahlias are still in bloom.

Once you’ve done that, I guess you can go ahead and ask her about delaying her birthday. Spoiler alert: She’ll still say no. But at least you’ll have gotten it out of your system.
That’s my take.
Nicole

***

Dear Nicole:
How long should I wait between picking something up at the Dumptique and selling it at a yard sale?
Confidentially Yours,
Rags

Dear Rags:
I can only think of three reasons why you would be asking this question:

One: You are so broke that you are trying desperately, from genuine need, to literally get something for nothing.

Even if you’re that hard up, don’t rob other needy people of their chance to get decent free clothes. If you’re done with the clothes, recycle them back to the Dumptique, or donate them to one of the Thrift Shops.

Two: You’ve come up with a rather sleazy way to game the system, and get something for nothing. In which case: Boy, are you pathetic. You’re robbing needy people of their chance to get free clothes. At least confine your unethical schemes to things that don’t harm people in genuine need. Target those with disposable cash. Sell seashells to tourists or something.

Three: As a frugal Yankee, you’ve gotten due use out of an item, and want to continue to wring maximum benefit from your thrift.

In that case, wear it until it’s in tatters. And then return it to the Dumptique because really, who’s going to pay for that thing at a yard sale?
That’s my take.
Nicole

Illustration by Kate Feiffer

NickiGalland-headshotBemused readers ask novelist Nicole Galland for her take on navigating the precarious social landscape that comes with living on the Vineyard. Nicole, who grew up in West Tisbury, is known locally as the co-founder of Shakespeare For The Masses at the Vineyard Playhouse. Her combined knowledge of both this island and the world’s greatest melodramas compels her to help prevent unnecessary tragedy wherever possible. Interested in Nicole’s take on your messy Vineyard-centric ethics or etiquette question? Confidentiality ensured. Send your question to OnIsland@mvtimes.com

Dear Nicole:
I’m a recent transplant and I am fishing in the Derby for the first time. Let’s say I land a huge bass. Then let’s say someone, maybe even a good friend, asks me where I caught it. Am I ethically obligated to be truthful?
Confidentially Yours,
Hooked

Dear Hooked:
First of all, you’re not a transplant, you’re a wash–ashore.

The one inviolable Derby rule is not to elbow your way into anyone else’s turf, on the beach or in the water. That’s why people never leave their primo fishing spot for years at a time, not even to eat or sleep: as long as you are where you are, nobody else can get too close, but as soon as you leave, somebody else moves in, and then you’re the one who can’t be too close.

Anyhow, keep in mind: fish do this thing called “swimming.” They’re biting off Noman’s … until they’re not. They’re practically offering themselves up on the North Shore… until the tide changes.  Your honesty wouldn’t help your friend, or anyone else, find where the fish are – only where they were. In fact, if you send someone to a bogus spot, it could turn out to be a bonanza for him or her.

But that’s not really the heart of your question, which is: Is it okay to lie? Even to a friend? Isn’t that awful? Well, yes, generally… but as you said, it’s the Derby, so anything goes. Even St. Peter would probably obfuscate to throw other fishermen off the scent during the Derby. And as Nelson Siegelman (revered author of the Gone Fishin’ column) assures me, “During the Derby, a fisherman asked where he or she caught a fish is likely to answer with one of four locations:  up-Island, down-Island, the north shore and south shore. (Furthermore…) fishing may be one of the only sports where it may be expected that participants will lie. But just as skillful casting is a talent, lying well requires a certain style so that the person you are lying to does not walk away insulted.”  I know a man who knows a man who caught a 40-pound striper on Chappy… and immediately drove to the Squibnocket parking lot for everyone to see it. By the standards of Derby Shenanigans, that’s wicked awesome. If you’re going to BS somebody, try to top that. Worse case scenario: your friend still manages to hook a bigger fish than you, and buys you a beer.
That’s my take.
Nicole

Dear Nicole:
This is one of those Vineyard Shuffle questions. My summer landlady asked me to leave a day early because her cleaning lady is fishing in the Derby and needs to do the “moving-out clean” the day before I’m scheduled to actually move out. But I can’t get into my winter rental a day early because those summer renters will still be there. Is it ungracious or un-Vineyardy of me to refuse to leave? I want to support anything Derby-related but I have nowhere to go.
Confidentially Yours,
Stranded in Oak Bluffs

Dear Stranded:
Legally, of course, you have a right to stay till the end of your lease. And while it would not be ungracious of you to refuse to leave, it would be very gracious of you to agree to the arrangement. If you want to “do the right thing” by old-school, Vineyard Shoulder-Season standards, consider this:

Anything involving the Derby gets instant street cred. That’s how the Island is wired. If your only hesitation is that you need a place to stay, consider the ultimate form of Vineyard Shuffle: staying on a friend’s couch for one night. Looking unkempt because you’ve been fishing gets the highest marks, but looking unkempt because you’re facilitating someone else to fish is also pretty good.

I don’t know why the cleaning lady had to change her schedule for the Derby, but given that she did, it was pretty cool that your landlady said yes and it would be pretty cool if you said yes, and so by extension, if you need to crash on someone’s couch or guest room and they say yes, that makes them cool too – because it’s the Derby. The more people are involved in the great Derby Chain of Roughing It, the greater the collective Insider Cool factor is.
That’s my take.
Nicole