Islander's Blog

Archive for December, 2009

Goodman’s Gam

Thursday, December 31st, 2009

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I have never believed in making New Year’s resolutions. In most instances, people that make promises to do better, don’t. Then they feel guilty about not living up to their dream(s). Why would anyone want to set themselves up for a downfall? Better to start something and make it work (it doesn’t have to begin on 1/1/10). Without the big build-up of a resolution, there’s little downside should it fail, and an ego boost if it’s successful. The latter is more satisfying.

There is one resolution I’d like to see our town and county officials make. This goes for Congress as well. Start trying to work on behalf of your constituents, instead of dumping on the opposition. I think we’re all tired of slash-and-burn politics. Doing the right things for all of our citizens would be a welcome step towards the future.

Nantucket board members (all of them) are unpaid, or paid a pittance. I wish people on committees were there solely to do right by townspeople. Generally they are, but in many instances the power to govern is their abiding passion. When another member fails to fall into lockstep, that’s when the fireworks begin. Citizens are often given short shrift when addressing the officials. Public service means just that, serving the public.

To say 2009 has gone by in a flash is a good thing. This past year shapes up to have been the worst economic situation most of us have ever experienced. In a way, this may be our salvation. Both Nantucket and the United States were living too high on the hog and we needed a touch of reality. To be fair, a lighter touch would have sufficed.

Nevertheless, the penny-pinching most people have had to endure may help us start living within our means and not trying to run up credit cards to the limit. In some ways, this small sandbar has had it harder than many spots. I don’t include the rust belt in this case. Much of our green comes from tourism and well-to-do folks with vacation homes here.

When funds are low, people either don’t vacation, or they cut back on the amounts spent on their holiday. Nantucket isn’t Seven Flags or Disney World. We are an island, and paying to transport a family here for a week is expensive. That doesn’t include a place to stay, food and any type(s) of entertainment.

Then there are those second-house homeowners. As things have gotten rough, the well-to-do tighten their belts. In most cases, extraneous items are trimmed. The house repairs may be put off for a year or two, and dinner out every couple of days is limited to once a week. Less spending by cutting back on local services is badly hurting locals in the construction and food-service areas, not to mention less tax revenue for the town.

The upcoming year may not be an improvement over the recently departed annum, but I’m hopeful. I figure it couldn’t get any worse, and besides, those Wall Street moguls were given immense bonuses. Some of that ought to filter into our local economy. At the least, they could hire someone to slap a coat of paint on their shingled palaces, and go out to dinner twice a week.

When I moved to the island, there was little winter work. Work that was available didn’t pay all that much. The difference was that living here was cheaper by far than it is today. That, and people here were used to getting by with less. Nobody minded having less, because we weren’t used to excess.
If you live here, it becomes immediately apparent that everything other than scallops costs more than the mainland. What we do have over everyone else are beautiful beaches, moors, the ocean, and people who celebrate one another. Nantucket is a true community. There aren’t too many of them around any more.

I’m looking forward to 2010 and all of the good things to come. No matter what comes our way, we’ll weather the storms, be they economic, political or social. To live here you have to be willing to dig in, grit your teeth and smile in the face of whatever comes our way. Nantucket will be fine. We always are.
Goodman’s Gam appears weekly in this space and monthly in The Inquirer and Mirror.

Waterfront News

Monday, December 28th, 2009

Nice morning out scalloping today. I grabbed a few shots while I was out there.
– Martie Mack writes the Nantucket Waterfront News blog.

Goodman’s Gam

Thursday, December 24th, 2009

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Looking out over the back yard I spy scrub oak intertwined with rampant grapevines, crushed under the wet and now frozen snow. I had gone to bed on Saturday evening with a rain/snow mix coming down and awoke to four or five inches of white stuff covering everything in sight. The scene was perfect. Nothing marred the purity of a white blanket laid upon us.

Tossing off the picturesque image, I shoveled the back deck and stairs. By then, I was beat, and retreated to have lunch and read the papers. After the Pats game was over, it was time to go check on a couple of houses I take care of. Walking out the back door I noted that another three or four inches of snow had fallen, necessitating a second round with my shovel. At least this layer was fluffy, unlike the initial coating that was wet and heavy.

Once I cleaned the ice off the car, it was a smooth ride along our dirt road. I’ve noticed that a snowfall makes rough roads smooth and smooth roads rough. That usually lasts a day or two, after which all of the roads are messy and bumpy. I don’t mind the bouncing, it’s black ice that I fear.

One problem the precipitation engendered was the downtown sidewalks. The main walkways were well cleaned, but side streets received too little attention. What was worse were the crosswalks. Where the snow was piled, the entrances/exits from crosswalks required a step up of a foot or two in some instances.

For agile folks that wasn’t a problem. Older people and those not possessing gymnastic prowess had a tougher go of it. This doesn’t take into account anyone using a cane, walker or a wheelchair. We have most of our curbs ramped for accessibility, yet they were inoperable then, and still are until a thaw takes place.

We are aware of the lack of funds our town is experiencing now. That means using less to get more. Perhaps some merchants in the core district might consider taking an extra fifteen minutes to shovel off a nearby crosswalk.

My favorite downtown Christmas “tree” for 2009 is the one in front of the Federal Street post office. Dressed to look like a P.O. drop box with a wisp of the tip of a tree adorning the top, it’s realistic enough that I’ve watched a couple of people try to deposit letters in it. At least the employees are good at constructing a well-done decoration for the holiday.

The nation’s economy is at a standstill. You would think homeowners might be conserving energy. I’m pleased to report that Christmas decorations on island homes and front lawns appear to be bigger and better than ever.

Year after year, Scott Bamber has been my choice for the Clark Griswold Award (Image here). This Christmas is no different. Every year more embellishments are added to his Friendship Lane yard. Soon it’s going to be time to expand to a larger lot!

Another fine display is found on Fairgrounds Road. The home of Lynda and Ray St. Peter is decked out to the max. Ray’s truck has a pretty fair amount of holiday paraphernalia to boot. Lynda and Ray received an early gift this season, and they deserve it.

If you want to make a tour of decorated yards, here’s my written map. Start by going out Fairgrounds Road, turning right upon reaching Surfside Road. Proceed to Hooper Farm Road and drive to the roundabout, turning around until you’re heading down Sparks Avenue. At the stop sign by the high school, go left and then make a right turn on Bartlett Road. About a quarter of a mile down Bartlett, make a right on Friendship Lane and don your sunglasses.

A couple of hundred yards down the road you’ll crest a slight hill. Prepare your senses for the assault in store. I’d tell you which way to turn your head, but that’s not required even for those wearing welder’s goggles. There are a couple other good displays in the neighborhood as well. They’re trying to keep up with the Griswold’s, er Bambers…
I’d like to wish all of you a Merry Christmas!
Goodman’s Gam appears weekly in this space and monthly in The Inquirer and Mirror.

Goodman’s Gam

Thursday, December 17th, 2009

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As much as I appreciate the Land Back and all they’ve done for our overgrown sand dune, there is no way the town should transfer our beaches to them. At some future time, our beliefs may differ from theirs. Then we’d be in no position for the majority of island voters to control our sandy destiny. We already gave away the dump, and that was a monumental mistake. I certainly don’t equate the Land Banks operations with the questionable way our landfill is, but . . .

Mid December has brought us a pretty fair dose of winter weather. While Nantucket is windy all year, this past month has been extreme, compared to what we’re used to. Over the course of most winters, a monthly blow of 40 to 50 miles an hour is expected. Lately there were at least three instances when the gusts exceeded the half-century mark.

Our precipitation has made freshwater and brackish pond levels a good foot above normal. Then, the puddles on local roads were quite deep in many spots. Friendship Lake was almost two feet deep the other evening when I traversed it. At one point I wondered whether my waders would be required. Snow is the one predicament we haven’t had to face. Yet.

Lester, the blue tick coonhound whom the Board of Selectmen banished from the island, received a mention in the Sunday Boston Globe. You may remember Lester as the (attack) dog on Liberty Street whose owners maimed him by removing his voice box. The mention came to light because regulations are being considered to change the commonwealth’s laws concerning dangerous-dog ordinances.

We all know the saying that there are no bad dogs, only bad owners, though certain breeds are more aggressive than others. Some types need more training or attention to acclimate to humans and other animals.

The two other dogs mentioned in the Globe piece were an English mastiff and a Belgian malinois. A malinois is very similar to a German shepherd. The point was made (by an expert on canine behavior) that German shepherds are “wonderful with family members, but are often mistrusting of unfamiliar people.” This reminds me of an old joke. What’s the difference between a mother and a pit bull? Eventually, the pit bull lets go.

A couple of weeks back I was told that a former selectman is about to throw his hat into the ring come spring. Rather than put his alliterative name out, I heard (off the record) that he has the endorsement of the chair of the BOS. Oh, and by the way, he ran against the chair in his last try at the BOS. It’s easy to see why he gets a pat on the back. The old chestnut goes, “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

So far, it appears that the two incumbent members of the BOS, Patty Roggeveen and Allen Reinhard are both going back for their second bite of the apple. Ms. Roggeveen is the most prepared member I’ve seen since Bernie Grossman, while Allen is the odd man out. I say that in the nicest possible way. With Allen there’s nothing but neutrality. He weighs the facts and votes his mind. I’d like to see more of both Patty’s preparedness combined with Allen’s impartiality.

I went off-island for a couple of days this week. Boston was nice on Tuesday, with warm temps, although the following day was cold and blustery. On the way home, I spent a couple of hours at the mall in Hyannis. Unlike other times when it’s close to Christmas, the mall was half full (or was it half empty?). I spotted a total of six Nantucket people in the place.

There’s no question that business is off on the mainland. It looked as if most of the items were tacky, marked up to be sold at a “discount.” I saw nothing appealing to buy. This is the best reason to shop locally. I’d prefer to buy a few meaningful gifts than a bunch of crummy “inexpensive” items. It was interesting to note there were at least a half-dozen shops selling cell phones and various accessories. Apparently, cell covers with wild designs or electric colors are very popular this year.

The only wild color that has my rapt attention is green. Celtic green, that is. The masters of the Garden parquet are on a roll, and look as though they have a chance to go all the way this season. Of course, having said those words, the jinx is in.

On the baseball front, it’s only a little more than three months until the Red Sox will again convene for spring training. Picking up John Lackey and Mike Cameron has already given me hope for the upcoming summer. The possibility of losing Mike Lowell makes me very sad. He’s a star on and off the field.

Last Sunday I had dinner with a friend. Looking through the restaurant guide it quickly became obvious there were few restaurants open on that day of the week. We went to Centre Street Bistro, a spot I used to frequent. Trying to stay out of town during the high season, I hadn’t been there for a while. The food and service were as fine as ever. Not only that, the check didn’t inspire sticker shock.
Goodman’s Gam appears weekly in this space and monthly in The Inquirer and Mirror.

An “Almost” Encounter with Joe Biden

Sunday, December 13th, 2009

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By Leslie Linsley

Hey Joe, come on in out of the cold,” I would have said. It was the Friday after Thanksgiving and the Secret Service cars, all three of them, were parked alongside the front windows of my shop in the middle of Nantucket Island. The vice president was following his usual tradition of spending the holiday weekend with his family on the island. Friends had brushed shoulders with him on Main Street, even asked him to pose for impromptu photo ops, to which he gladly complied. We heard he stopped with his family at the local drugstore soda fountain. Maybe even swiveled on the old-fashioned stools at the counter while his grandkids sipped frappes – right out of a Norman Rockwell illustration. A friend of mine asked him to sign the back of her Obama campaign button, a permanent fixture on her coat lapel. “Would he do some Christmas shopping in my store?” I wondered aloud to the customers who were more interested in the parked SUVs with Washington plates blocking my store windows, than the display of merchandise inside the store.

Ralph, Joe Biden’s Secret Service (not so secret in our tiny town) driver was taking a break from the cold and windy day while keeping a watchful eye on my large storefront windows for any possible wrong-doing but more likely for a glimpse of the family he was protecting. His earpiece radio was obvious, but he kept up an amiable chatter about the embarrassing event of the recent White House crashers, politely answering my questions.

“Is the vice president allowed to accept gifts?” I asked my new BFF Ralph as I blithely inscribed a copy of my latest book, “A Nantucket Christmas.” “I guess you’d like him to take it back to the White House?” Ralph asked. “Well, he is here at Christmas time and it would be a nice remembrance of his time here,” I responded, not wanting to appear too presumptuous.

I turned away to answer a customer’s question and just like that, when I turned back they were gone – all three cars, Ralph and the other two drivers, a man who I was told was a teacher in another life and a woman who had been a biologist. “They come from all walks of life,” Ralph answered when I asked about the people who get jobs like his. Just as fast as they had arrived, the motorcade that had been flown here in the belly of a cargo plane had disappeared. A call came, they responded instantly. What was I thinking? The vice president would never go looking for his driver, his driver would respond to his call for a pick-up. It was four in the afternoon. It was getting dark. The vice president and his family had been shopping in town for over two hours. They were obviously headed back to the home of their hosts. I imagined a room full of supporters having cocktails and catered goodies out on Washing Pond Road. I had been in his host’s home, even photographed it for another of my books, “Nantucket Island Living.” The day ended uneventfully. I still had the signed Christmas book.

On Monday the streets of Nantucket looked as though a vacuum had come by and sucked up every living body. My store was empty, my assistant was rearranging things and I was on the phone. I happened to look up as a good-looking couple walked toward the shop at a fast clip. Heads bent toward each other they were intent in conversation – only aware of each other. I was looking at their clothing, so out of place on a winter day in Nantucket. He was wearing a dark suit and a purple shirt, no outer coat. She, blonde, casually coiffed and trim also in a black suit with a purple wool scarf wrapped artfully around her neck. They walked briskly by, purposefully as though they had to be somewhere, certainly no time for window-shopping. I was on delay, so into their clothing, thinking “what a nice looking couple, Did they coordinate their wardrobe on purpose?” And in a flash – too late! I knew who they were. I wanted to race after them pathetically clutching my signed book to thrust upon him. But of course I didn’t.

On Tuesday night I watched the television as President Obama gave his speech about ending the war in Afghanistan. I wanted another glimpse of Joe Biden because after my near brush with fame, but all I have is a book that reads on the inside page, “For Joe Biden, Happy Holidays on Nantucket, Leslie Linsley”, that I now can’t even sell!
– Leslie Linsley writes the “Home Style” column for The Inquirer and Mirror

Goodman’s Gam

Thursday, December 10th, 2009

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Is anybody surprised that a board on Nantucket broke the open meeting law? Some members on the Planning Board shared information via e-mails. Because a quorum of board members read said e-mail (and responded), the law was breached. Openly. Normally, what happens (I’m not pointing a finger at any one board, though it takes place all of the time) is that members speak to one another in person or on the telephone.

As long as it’s less than a quorum, the conversation is legal. After two members talk, one or both of them may get in touch with other board members. That way members are telling the truth when they say the open meeting law wasn’t broken. I believe deniability is the word associated with this practice. To my mind there’s little difference when board members communicate in this fashion.

In this case, the offending members made the mistake of putting it on paper, in this instance cyberspace. There may be people sitting on local boards who will say they’ve never done this sort of behind-the-scene disclosure with other members. They are in the distinct minority. I’m not putting people down who sit on boards that speak to one another. It’s natural to do so; therefore the surprise factor was a none out of 10 for me.

The Christmas Stroll was an awfully wet affair, another non-surprise. Just as it always rains after a dirt road is plowed, or we receive gale-force winds once the downtown Christmas trees are decorated. On Nantucket foul-weather gear for celebrations is required. That and waiting for the steamship to run after the February school holiday is over.

Many visitors dislike it when thy get stuck on-island. I enjoy the fact that going or coming here might be delayed. Remember when there were but two steamship trips per day in the off-season, and very few commercial airplanes flew to the mainland? The boat went to Woods Hole, a lovely town whose primary feature when waiting for the return trip was a refreshment at the Lee Side.

I don’t believe I’ve ever left the rock in lousy weather. Normally when it’s time to go, the day is sunny and beautiful. Trying to return on several occasions, I’ve had the luxury of staying in a Hyannis motel, without a bathing suit, preventing me from using the best feature of the hostelry. At least most of the other people staying there overnight were acquaintances often seen in the grocery store, lumberyard or post office.

A sign of the times (and it’s a good one) are the bottles of hand-washing liquid displayed at some local businesses. Three that come to mind are the Stop & Shop, Marine Lumber and Mitchell’s Books. If we’re serious about slowing the spread of flu and the common cold, hand-washing is a great way to begin.

I remember the Stop & Shop used to have wipes at the end of the meat counter for when packages leaked juice on your hand. Now, they have a station right as one enters the store. Thank you, and I include shops not mentioned here. It makes sense for a business to offer the liquid. This is an inexpensive way to let your customers know you’re thinking of them and their health.

I looked askance at the Wilkes Square project at first, and then a nice woman told me to dig deeper. I have and am even more opposed than I was the first time around. We don’t need a hotel, parking garage or more boutique shops in our downtown. I seem to remember that local citizens put the kibosh on a downtown parking garage, and we have a large hotel that isn’t finished yet. Does Nantucket need more shops?

This is being called a Business Improvement District. Maybe it might improve business for lessees of new shops, but in the process it will make local merchants lose customers and their till will be less than full. I’m not looking for more “improvements” such as this. If someone wants to improve things, let’s stick to our crumbling infrastructure.

People visit Nantucket for our beaches, sun and cool summer breezes, and the beauty of a small town preserved in time. If we assent to a faux development a block off Main Street, then this cobbled sand spit has sold out to the almighty buck, and it’s being perpetrated by town planners that our taxes pay for.

You’ll hear that the town isn’t paying for this, and doesn’t own the land there. Development by private entities will still cost all of us in the end. You may be sure that some of our taxes will go to a number of services resulting from this. They say they are responsible for pretty much everything, but traffic problems and trashing the fabric of our community are not in their prospectus. Zoning changes will be needed for this, there’s another mess we shouldn’t have to deal with. It’s reminiscent of the Sherburne Commons (soon-to-be) fiasco.

The worst part of this scenario is our loss of identity. This idea translates to a visit to the mainland. Unfortunately over water transport won’t be needed to see the result of this violation of and to Nantucket’s beauty.

I was pleased to see Martha Coakley run away with the Democratic U.S. Senate primary. The best part of the entire night was to see Steve Pagliuca come in last after spending multiple millions of his own funds for 12 percent of the vote. Money can’t buy you love (of the voters). Unless someone finds a skeleton in her closet, our current attorney general will soon be living part-time in D.C.

There’s an old saying that sums up the Tiger Woods episode: “Time wounds all heels.” I never understand why people cheat on their partners. If you’re unhappy and are unable to coexist with them, get out of the relationship . . . and move on.

Now the Patriots have to move on, and get their act together. At the rate they’re going, they’ll have an early vacation after the New Year.

The Celtics have come together and look solid. As do the Boston Bruins.
– Goodman’s Gam appears weekly in this space and monthly in The Inquirer and Mirror.

Goodman’s Gam

Thursday, December 3rd, 2009

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December is upon us, and it seems that the year just began. I suppose time flies when the economy is down in the dumps. 2009 is almost behind us. For many folks the end is a good thing. In my case there were some obstacles, though in the long run I came out with more good news than bad. I’d like to think that 2010 is going to make all of us a little happier than the last 11 months (and counting) did.

Next Tuesday (Dec. 8 ) there are two primary races to fill the vacant seat of the late Sen. Ted Kennedy. Most people don’t even know they should be going to the polls the day after Pearl Harbor Day. There are a couple of men in the Republican contest. Few voters have even heard the name of the state senator running against a ridiculous challenger. He ran for governor a while back and was known when he crashed in the middle of a cell phone interview with a radio personality.

On the Democratic side there are four people in the running. I’ll start from bottom up (as to how many votes they’ll garner). The first gentleman is known for his public service and his cousin is a newscaster on a Boston television station. Next comes an extremely well-heeled guy, used to be a Republican and donated $1,000 to the “shrubs” reelection campaign. He’s spent millions of dollars of his own money in trying to win. At least this might be an economic boost for the communications industry.

In second place is a U.S. Congressman who makes it very clear that he’s a Washington “insider.” The winner is most likely to be the only woman in the race. She’s competent, though it seems that a big smile might cause her face to crumble. Be that as it may, the winner of the Democratic primary will run away with the general election. I didn’t use any names, because you’ve already been bombarded with their many ads and phone messages (I’ve received a total of at least a dozen).

Deer season is in full swing and you’ve probably seen a fair amount of blaze-orange outerwear on the street or in stores. As long as the hunters abide by the laws, I’m happy that they’re able to pursue their sport. Filling one’s freezer with free-range venison, while culling the over-sized deer herd on island is a win-win situation.

Unfortunately there are those people who shouldn’t be allowed to possess deadly weapons. I’ve heard of and seen too many household pets that suffered at the hands of morons who shot at anything that moved. In some cases the killing took place deliberately when the so called “hunter” couldn’t find a legal target.

What has occurred around here that makes me happy are the bow-hunters. These people are taking their quarry while learning how to get right up to them. Fewer injured deer to crawl into the brush and die a lingering death. Quite a few guys I know who formerly wielded a gun now use a bow. It’s a bit like experienced fishermen who change from spinning gear to a flyrod. Once you learn to do something, now try to season it.

Watching the news of late was appalling. Black Friday, a term I had never heard used until less than a decade ago, was the big news for several days. It was shocking to see videos of entire families camped out in front of stores, instead of sleeping off their Thanksgiving dinner in a warm bed at home. I could have sworn that Christmas was less about buying, and more about the spirit of brotherhood of men and women.

Another news item that drew me in was the gate-crashers at the White House party. You have to give them credit. They looked the part, and must have acted properly to make it through the checkpoints. The Secret Service ought not to arrest them, but grant them immunity and find out how they pulled this off.

The only people who should pay for this gaffe are the paid protectors. Mister and Mrs. Crasher didn’t have an invitation, period. End of story. That they got through one checkpoint was one too many. What happened to professional peace officers in charge of protection of our leaders? We’re not talking about VP Joe Biden walking down Main Street last week. Nobody needed an invite to talk to him in front of The Hub.

Marine Home Center was ripped off for $12,000 last week. There are several questions that need to be answered in regard to this. Why was the money stashed in a file cabinet, and not deposited in the bank? Even after work hours there are provisions for this. I know there are cameras in there, yet none of them were focused on the file cabinet. It would have been better had they hidden the cash under a pile of papers, and made the thief find it in the dark.

Earlier this week, AJ Mleczko and the entire gold-medal-winning U.S. Olympic Women’s Ice Hockey Team was inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame. Some of you may remember the parade when AJ returned to Nantucket and was presented with a key to Nantucket. AJ was also on the silver-medal team in Salt Lake City. Early next year, AJ will be working on the Vancouver Olympics. She’ll be a commentator on the television coverage of the Women’s Ice Hockey action.

By the time you read this, it’s probably going to be rainy and very windy. For Stroll folks, hope things clear up by Friday. All of you know I’m no longer a fan of this weekend, but right now merchants could use an infusion of cash to weather the cold winter months ahead.
– Read Goodman’s Gam weekly in this space and monthly in The Inquirer and Mirror.