“Be true to your school!” the Beach Boys famously urged, and every teen in America at every time in our country’s past hundred-year history has likely expressed this elemental loyalty.
Yet once we’ve grown up, and if we happen to be living on Martha’s Vineyard where each of the six towns has its own quaint infrastructure, many of us pledge allegiance to our library.
A great number of Oak Bluffs folk remember the old library at Circuit and Penacook, now the site of Conroy Apothecary and three adorable apartments owned by the town. There, librarians maintained that the old sagging stacks of books and multiple computer areas threatened to push down the aged timbers. In the early 2000s, a new library was erected on the site of the old Oak Bluffs school gym, now a two-story palace — a Taj Malibrary, if you will — wherein, for its first few years, floor space seemed to outnumber book shelves by a ratio of ten to one.
In the last couple of years, however, people, books, DVDs, town meetings and other numerous events have filled the premises, and the latest month-long project to mark the spot — geekthelibrary — with a gallery of 100 town personalities lining the walls of the meeting room, has tied up the library with a big shiny bow.
The word geek as a verb is so new that you will find only scant reference to it in the online Urban Dictionary. The geek folks at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation who began this nationwide tribute — look it up on geekthelibrary.org — define geek this way: “To love, to celebrate, to have an intense passion for.”
Over the course of a couple of weeks in June, Oak Bluffs library patrons, strolling indoors to browse the new release books or to see if the fourth season of “Modern Family” had come in, found themselves braced by librarian Anna-Marie D’Addarie, program director Miki Woolf, and librarian-in-chief Sondra Murphy to take part in an upcoming gallery of geekers. Willing subjects were asked to show up on a certain date at a specific time to be photographed, and to decide what person, place or thing they wished to geek (after the brand-new verb had been explained to them.)
Some examples: Bill McGrath geeked tandem bicycling, Eric Balboni geeked Miranda Sings (you’ll find her on YouTube), a boyfriend and girlfriend geeked I geek you, 11-year-old bff’s Riley Wesson and Emily McKinney geeked bubblegum and, to everyone’s delight, a big white dog named Lady geeked squirrels.
Some folks channeled their Inner Serious Side: Shelley Christiansen geeked prose, Stephen Saloom geeked reform policy, and Duncan Ross geeked the animal shelter. To illustrate how the process works, this reporter, when asked to serve, thought long and hard about what to geek, forcibly restraining herself from being pretentious — she could easily have geeked Virginia Woolf or The Piazza Navona — chose quite simply and honestly to geek pink.
A number of photographers were solicited for the job, but the precociously talented 19-year-old Eli Dagostino was chosen. Already a great purveyor of portraits, he brought his own sharp tastes to the project: He would film horizontally rather than vertically as the Gates Foundation recommended (they send materials to get the process rolling). He employs two assistants, Sammi Chaves and Carie Everett, also stunningly young, and he insisted on, for the “models,” black attire against a black background — very Rembrandt — with subjects allowed to bring a relic to define one’s geekery; for example, this reporter wore a pink bicycle helmet to establish her devotion to the best color in the universe.
Young Dagostino, who grew up in West Tisbury and graduated from the charter school, deploys soft multi-directional lights which, against all odds, left the many subjects gathered for a launch last Wednesday pleased with their own likenesses. Peggy McGrath, for instance, who geeks languages (she’s bilingual in English and Spanish which she taught at the high school), requested that her poster be kept on file: she’d love to use it for her [eventual] obit!
The hundred faces will stare at all who conduct business in the meeting room up until August 30. Stop round and see a bunch of your friends, possibly family members, and certainly the townies you routinely meet at the post office, in Reliable, and up and down the Avenue. Additional people beyond Team 100 were photographed, and their pictures can be viewed in notebooks resting on tables against the wall.
Meanwhile Mr. Dagostino is off to New York with his fiancé, Eric Balboni of Wareham — they found an apartment at 89th and Amsterdam — to launch the cosmopolitan part of his already brilliant career. (Eric will be seeking a degree in vocal performance at NYU).
And the rest of us? We’re either beaming from our modern day Dutch Masters portraits like a crew of townie burghers of all ages, or waiting for our chance at the next geek festival.
And by the way, the solo definition Urban Dictionary offers for the word “geek” is that “geeks are the people you pick on in high school and who you wind up working for as an adult.”
In other words, they’re still is the noun iteration of “geek.” It took the Gates Foundation and a national network of libraries to turn it into a much-prized verb.