Islander's Blog

Archive for January, 2010

Waterfront News

Thursday, January 28th, 2010

Today’s Commute
– Martie Mack writes the Nantucket Waterfront News blog

Goodman’s Gam

Thursday, January 28th, 2010

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We’re burned through most of January and it feels as if New Year’s Eve took place last week. I still hear people wishing others Happy New Year. Some of this may be wishful thinking on their part. Feeling good about the future won’t make it take place more quickly. But, I’ve always believed that a favorable outlook is preferable to being depressed about what might be ahead of us.

I am hearing some good news from people in the construction trades. There are homeowners calling workers up for projects in the near future. This spring may not be as busy as years gone by, though there is going to be enough work to keep most of us gainfully employed. As usual, once we get well into spring, there will be the usual phone calls from homeowners wanting work done . . . yesterday.

Over the past few weeks I’ve had several conversations with friends and acquaintances regarding to how slow it is around the island. All have had the same basic responses. We are happy to return to a quiet winter. Now is when we have the time to see one another and take a breather in preparation for the upcoming spring and summer. For a while (the past decade or so), it felt as if there was no time off from the crush.

I see that town counsel Paul DeRensis is considering running for the Massachusetts State Senate (I&M story here), to replace Scott Brown who is now our new U.S. senator. Unlike Mr. Brown, I don’t believe we’ll be seeing Paul as a centerfold in Cosmopolitan.

I took a ride last Sunday, hoping to find a pond and do a little fishing. As I said in my first column (Fishfinder), the best thing about fishing is that you see things other people don’t. On this day, there wasn’t any fishing to be done, because there was skim ice on the seven ponds I visited. I did have some interesting experiences while visiting the spots I’d normally be wading.

The first stop was the North Head of Long Pond. Nothing was happening there. Across Madaket Road, I noticed paths through the thin ice, while at the end of each icy trail, large white birds were head down, feeding on aquatic plants on the bottom. I don’t remember seeing that before.

From there I went out to the Second Bridge. One open spot was miniscule, and there were no birds or other wildlife to be seen. The ocean end of the pond was in a similar condition, though there were a few lonesome ducks milling around a small opening in the ice. Driving to and then across Massasoit Bridge, I drove beyond Sheep Pond and then toward Clark’s Cove (the west side of Hummock Pond).
On the way there I looked out at fields covered with golden brown grass. This kind of terrain makes me think about the way idle, desolate wheat fields appear after the harvest. Above them, there were four hawks gliding to and fro, while surveying the open land for an afternoon meal.

My next stop was Wannacomet (Washing) Pond. I did my first (island) freshwater fishing here. It was one of the more pristine spots back then. Today, it’s a trash dump. This was the sole low point in my afternoon. There weren’t just the beer cans one sees tossed alongside roads everywhere these days. Construction debris and household trash was scattered about in several places. Picking up a couple five-gallon buckets of others’ garbage was disheartening and I continued on.

From there it was a short hop to the North Head of Hummock Pond. Looking out at the cliff over by Ram Pasture quickly banished the bad thoughts I’d had a few minutes before. What was surprising was not seeing dogs or people along the top ridge. I had seen close to a dozen vehicles in the parking lot when I had passed that way. There was another hawk there, working the shoreline to my right. Dipping to within a couple of feet of the wind-battered cattails, it looked as if hunting on a cool, sunny day might be play, rather than survival.

I traveled over to Hummock Pond, by Bartlett’s fields and from there to Miacomet Pond. I noticed at least a dozen bundled-up golfers out in the parking lot, so I’m guessing the links were full up. Golf isn’t my game, but I give anybody credit for getting out and enjoying a wonderful winter day.

The one constant I observed at every pond I visited was how high the water levels were. There is no drought on-island. Some basements must be oozing moisture right through their foundations about now.

Tuesday is Quentin the Quahog Day. Should he drool out of the right side of his “mouth” we are done with winter. Otherwise, it’s six more weeks of the same old, same old. No matter which side the briny juice flows, my prediction is at least six more weeks of cool, windy weather to luxuriate in, until things around here begin getting crazy.
“Goodman’s Gam” appears weekly in this space and monthly in The Inquirer and Mirror.

Goodman’s Gam

Thursday, January 21st, 2010

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Most, if not all of us, were bombarded with phone calls, television ads and I even received a text message in the recent U.S. Senate campaign. Whatever the effect on your psyche resulted from this media bombardment, the voters turned out in droves. A month ago, I was sure there would be few people at the polls on Tuesday. I was pleased to be incorrect.

I may not have agreed with your choice, but voting is an important part of being a good citizen. This election was a financial boon for print, TV and radio folks, coming at a slow time of the year. I won’t miss the incessant palaver of pundits all day long. Now, it will soon be time for local candidates seeking town elective office to begin seeking our votes.

Now we have a new U.S. senator, Scott Brown. He wasn’t my choice, though I wish him and his constituents (all of us) well. All I want is a representative who works for us, not the party they belong to. Partisanship is killing this country, and it’s obvious to see, right down to our local boards and commissions.

I was sorry to hear of a broken blade on the Bartlett Farm windmill. Wind energy is one of the ways we will be able to conserve petroleum, gas and coal needed in the future. Tide power is further down the road and I believe it is an even better source for Nantucket and other saltwater venues.

This malfunction out at the farm is a good example of why the Nantucket Sound wind farm frightens me. I worked at a house that had a well-functioning windmill about 25 years ago. That is after the first windmill they erected had internal problems a number of times. Eventually they got it right.
Then we have the bladeless windmill on Vesper Lane. It worked for a very short time and then the thing helicoptered right off its tower and landed close by. It was replaced, though I’m not certain if it worked after that. Regardless, it hasn’t turned in a couple of decades.

We had the property out by Bartlett Farm that turned out to be a good tax dodge by the people who put windmills in there. I’m not sure whether they generated much (if any) electricity in the short time they stood there. For years after that, I remember the rusted-out remnants lying by the side of the road. I’d rather we not have to deal with that sort of situation in Nantucket Sound.

I like the idea of wind power. My question is whether a huge farm in the sound is going to hold up to the elements, and are we going to save money from this proposed project. There are several more problems I see with this idea and they have absolutely nothing to do with NIMBYism. It’s simply not the right place for what may end up being a hazard to airplanes, boats and birds. That doesn’t include it becoming a junkyard in the near future. We’ve seen that here already.

I was sorry to hear of the layoffs at Nantucket Cottage Hospital. The staff is wonderful. None of us want to hear of friends and neighbors on island losing their jobs. This is tied in with a downsized economy and it hasn’t helped that many (more every year) uninsured people use the emergency room as their primary care physician. That’s not the sole reason for their deficit, there are many factors contributing to any modern health-care facility.

As I was driving out toward Madaket a couple of days back, there was a huge red tail hawk sitting 10 feet up in a tree surveying the field in front of it. I felt it was similar to what many of us are doing at present. We’re looking at what’s in front of us and waiting for something new and hopefully good to appear.

The last remnants of snow have melted and with more sun than clouds, getting outside is more comfortable than it was over the past month. I don’t believe for an instant that we’re going to experience great weather for the next few months . . . but it would nice were it to happen, if even for a week or two. If it’s decent on Saturday, I have a date with a freshwater pond.

Another way to vacate the house this weekend is to attend the Zumbathon at the Nantucket Boys & Girls Club. It’s a fundraiser for the Nantucket Emergency Food Pantry, plus it will help some folks lose pounds gained over the holidays, and get in shape. Betsey Minihan and Suzanne Davis are certified instructors and the agility and energy they exert is amazing to watch.

A few months ago I attended a fundraiser at the Legion Hall and was amazed at the high-energy workout. Zumba is a dance routine set to Latin rhythms. To attend Sunday’s event ( 3-5 p.m.) you need to show up at the B&G Club with $15, exercise gear and be ready to work your buns off. For more information, call Debra DeCosta at (508) 280-2813.
– Goodman’s Gam appears weekly in this space and monthly in The Inquirer and Mirror.

Goodman’s Gam

Thursday, January 14th, 2010

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A front page-piece in the I&M regarding the Jared Coffin House really caught my attention last week. The main building is closed, due to fewer rooms being rented over the winter months. I’m not the least bit surprised by this. For several years the JC House has cut back on a number of amenities formerly available from past owner/operators Phil and Peg Read.

The manager says that they are doing some painting and refurbishing over the winter months. That’s all well and good, but there are other reasons all is not well at the corner of Centre and Broad streets. Christmas decorations that used to adorn the landmark have been minimal, not welcoming as in past decades. The industrial-looking sign on the fence out front, saying they’re closed, should never be able to pass HDC approval.

Without food service (except for Chinese for a couple of summer months) why would one opt for staying in the main hotel in the off-season? The loss of the dining room is one strike and disemboweling the Tap Room is a large loss for both the hotel and the entire community. Not having in-house food service might be one clue as to why business is slow.

The Tap Room was a warm, cozy spot to settle in for a nice lunch, a solid dinner, or a late-night libation with friends. Many nights there was live music and on most Wednesdays, the Board of Selectmen had their second meeting of the evening in those confines. When I first moved here, there were two places in town to go to at night in the off-season: the Jared Coffin House and Cy’s. At least we now have a Cy’s back on-line. The Tap Room is empty, the lights are out and nobody’s home. What a shame.

A few months back several people e-mailed, wrote and spoke to me complaining about the new water tower on Wannacomet Water Company land off the Polpis Road. Now I heard a gripe about the new tower in Sconset.

I’m not totally happy with these new edifices dedicated to the overuse of our ground water. I believe that huge houses and the attendant sprinkler systems have fueled the need for huge tanks towering over our landscape. Wait until summer-dwellers return and see immense structures on the horizon. How many letters to the editor will pour in complaining of the towers that they themselves wrought?

Please don’t forget to vote for a new United States senator next Tuesday at Nantucket High School. The polls are open from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m. For those folks who need an absentee ballot, you have until 5 p.m. Friday to obtain one from the town clerk’s office. Monday is Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Town offices will be closed and by then it will be too late to get an absentee ballot.

This is an important election and most voters seem to be unaware that it’s even on the horizon. There are three candidates on the ballot, with Martha Coakley, a Democrat; and Scott Brown, the Republican, vying for Ted Kennedy’s former seat. There is Joseph Kennedy, a Libertarian running as well, though he’s far behind the pack.

All three of the candidates have very clear differences between them, so this ought to be a fairly easy choice for citizens who are up to date on the issues. Martha Coakley appears to be a little less liberal than Ted Kennedy was and Scott Brown is more conservative than former Republican senators from the Bay State, and is a Bush/Cheney throwback. Joseph Kennedy has some ideas that sound good, but as a Libertarian (polling in the single digits) a vote for him (in my mind) is equivalent to a non-vote.

Once again, the Atheneum is getting the short end of the stick when it comes to receiving money from the town. By law, Nantucket (and every other municipality in the commonwealth) must fund a library. Around here, we get off with paying approximately one third of the budget for a facility that serves our community with services which go far beyond what many libraries offer.

Today the numbers of people using the Atheneum have increased by 11 percent, while the town is paying them at a level barely above that in former years. The library could lose their accreditation from the state if funding from the town is insufficient. I know times are tough right now, but this is one area that shouldn’t be cut as it would greatly impact so many islanders.

Our school children need the Atheneum, as does the general public for research, use of computers, lectures, movies and the simple pleasure of reading a magazine or a book. We need the Atheneum. If you haven’t been there lately, go in and take a look. You’ll be impressed.

From everyone I’ve spoken with, cutting back on the number of summer specials has met with great approval. Quality over quantity would make all of us feel better. I think about the money a SS is going to cost the town (in reality our insurance carrier) for his insensitive comments to some kids a couple of years ago.

Taking away some of their (already) minimal powers is a smart thing to do. What we need are ersatz cops to give directions to lost tourists and call the real gendarmes when trouble arises. With a couple weeks of training, they aren’t equipped to make sound, on-the-spot judgments in most cases. Either get some more full-time peace officers, or use the SS as hall monitors. Hall monitors, it is.

The Nantucket versus Martha’s Vineyard football game is back. On Nov. 20, the Whalers will be stomping grapes over on the other island. The following year, they’ll do battle here. A one-year hiatus without the Island Cup contest was more than enough.

Saltwater licenses are now going to be required for anglers, beginning this year. Click here to register. It’s simple, takes no time and the best part is that it’s free (this year).

The Patriots lost and lost badly last week. They never looked as if they were really in tune on Sunday. In five weeks, pitchers and catchers report to the Boston Red Sox spring training camp. Four days later the rest of the squad will join them. On March 3 they’ll play their first Grapefruit League exhibition game. Between that, the Celtics and the Bruins, we have something to look forward to. I’m ready.
– Goodman’s Gam appears weekly in this space and monthly in The Inquirer and Mirror

Waterfront News

Sunday, January 10th, 2010

We experienced an extreme high tide last weekend. All the finger piers in the Boat Basin were completely submerged. I grabbed some shots.
Martie Mack writes the Nantucket Waterfront News blog

Goodman’s Gam

Thursday, January 7th, 2010

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It’s early January, there are another 10 weeks of winter left and it feels as if we’ve already had enough cold and snow for the entire season. It could be worse. Think about people in parts of Florida and the Deep South. They’re experiencing weather rare to the area and are unequipped to deal with it.

When there’s snow in places below the Mason-Dixon, few snow plows are available to clean up the streets. Plus, people in southern climes are not used to driving when it’s slippery. The first time I drove in snow (North Carolina, 1966) there was a half-inch on the ground and on the asphalt. Cars were going off the road, accidents were common and I was more scared of the other vehicles than the snowy roads. I feel far safer here.

In a normal winter we don’t begin to see much road damage from ice heaves until springtime arrives. This go-around there are quite a few divots along Surfside Road, particularly in the neighborhood of the schools. Hummock Pond Road has a good share of eruptions, too. Patching them now isn’t going to last long, not to mention the town has little funds to fix them at any point in the near future.

I was pleased to see that National Park Service has approved that Nantucket Sound is eligible to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places. This came about when two Native American tribes asked for the designation because of its cultural and spiritual significance to their people.

My belief is simple. Nantucket Sound should be protected for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the Native Americans’ concerns. This country needs more protection of our natural resources. I’m not anti-green when it comes to wind-generating devices. I am opposed to them being situated in an area chosen to evade paying rent.

If all of the electricity was going to be directed to Nantucket, the Vineyard and last of all, Cape Cod, I’d still be against the site of the project. As it stands, there’s no guarantee we’d be the beneficiaries of this wind-generated manna. The voltage would be sold to the highest bidder. If someone would like to place these immense towers in a spot where there’s little traffic on the water or in the sky, I’m all for it.

This is all about the money for the developer. He stands to clear a cool $250 million in tax credits right from the get-go. His last project (turned down) was an oil-fired, electricity-generating plant in South Boston. This gent certainly is an example for a greener world. Put these towers where I don’t fish, boat or fly by in an airplane and I’ll be the first to endorse the idea.

Once again, town clerk Catherine Flanagan Stover has come through in the clutch. She had decided to cease selling hunting licenses. The town has decreed that town offices should cut any nonprofit services. Hunting licenses produce no revenue for us, and they take up valuable time for the town clerk and her two assistants. Catherine will still be selling the licenses until either the state has a way to obtain one online, or a private entity on-island takes over the service. Thank you, Catherine.

Many of us watched the hockey game between the Boston Bruins and Philadelphia Fliers at Fenway Park on New Year’s Day. It was an exciting game, with the Bruins coming back in the last few minutes to tie the score, and then win in overtime. Seeing the greenest baseball stadium wreathed in white snow was beautiful and thrilling at the same time.

Now for the Nantucket connection . . . A.J. Mleczko, former gold and silver Olympic medal-winner on the U.S. women’s ice-hockey team, was invited to skate on the ice at the Fens on Monday. A.J. brought the youngest of her brood, 2-year-old Sam. Sam was on skates but isn’t a polished hockey player (yet). A.J. will be doing the color commentary for women’s ice hockey next month at the Vancouver Winter Olympics.

On a nepotistic note, if you pick up a copy of the January edition of Bon Appétit, there is a six-page spread of recipes from my brother Andrew Chase and his co-owner/chef Erwin Schrottner and their New York restaurant, Café Katja.

If you don’t care to respond here, feel free to e-mail me at dgoodman@nantucket.net, phone me at (508) 228-4325, or write to P.O. Box 1263, Nantucket, MA 02554. Should you wish to speak to me in public, please be kind. You know how fragile I am. Stay well.

– Goodman’s Gam appears each Thursday by noon at www.discovernantucket.com and www.ack.net, and monthly in The Inquirer and Mirror.