Islander's Blog

Archive for December, 2010

Goodman’s Gam

Thursday, December 30th, 2010

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The end of 2010 is at hand. For many of us, the demise of a year is a time to look back and try to come to terms with what and how our life has changed, or not. Having had a couple of life-threatening medical issues, every morning when I wake up is a good one. I find it unfortunate that almost cashing in my chips (twice) was what it took to wake up, feeling that no matter what happened that day, at least I was there to experience it.

Now for my second annual report card for our esteemed Board of Selectmen. The grades have changed from the 2009 report. This year has seen some BOS behavior that is both fascinating and repellent. From my point of view and dozens of folks I’ve spoken to, the BOS isn’t listening to the voters who elected them. It’s reminiscent of the feelings many people have about our U.S. Congress.

First up is chairperson Patty Roggeveen. I’ve been a fan of hers until lately. I believe she’s incredibly bright and always prepared. It worries me that too many apparent conflicts of interest could sway her decisions. Say what you will, these conflicts may be legal, or ethical in the eyes of the state, but that’s not good enough. The fact is that the “P” word enters into the conversation. Perception is everything if you’re in the public eye. Then there was the town counsel firing. Here’s my 2010 grade for Ms. Roggeveen, and it isn’t pretty. She dropped to a C+.

Next up is the former chair, Michael Kopko. I’ve known Mike for decades and his first couple of years on the BOS were great. Then I noticed he was becoming too proactive and seemed out of touch with the average person. For the past year, he’s been anything but that. Recently, Mr. Kopko has been a champion for common-sense decisions on the board. He led the fight to look at the town counsel situation in a sensible way and he was shot down by three votes that refused to look at reality and focused on politics. Mike, you get a solid A.

Then there’s Whitey Willauer, another former chair of the BOS. I like Whitey as a person, but as a selectman, not so much. Actually, when he first served on the board, I thought he was average. Whitey is the king of micromanagers, then and now. This new term is worse than the first go-round. Sorry Whitey, you get a C-.

Brian Chadwick appears to be contemplating retirement, though as far as I’m aware he hasn’t said so publicly. Brian, along with Patty, was the force behind edging out Paul DeRensis as town counsel. And, it was done badly. Brian, I am disappointed at the way this was handled. A little more transparency would have made me accept your vote, but I still have doubts about why and how this happened. Brian, you receive a C.

Rick Atherton is what I like to call the “invisible” selectman. He’s more than doing his job, but we rarely see his name in the headlines, unlike the other four BOS members. Rick is the kid in school who kept his head down, was an above-average student and never spent time in the principal’s office. Rick, you get an A.

One of my favorite elected officials is our town clerk, Catherine Flanagan Stover. As always she’s on top of everything and Queen Catherine is user-friendly. Many people in town government are hard to find, but not her. She is available at her office and even at home. Her recent filing of an open-meeting complaint against the BOS is an example of her protecting our rights, versus the usual vote quickly, don’t reveal the facts and go off on our merry way.

The fact is that that Nantucket could face what’s become the norm when it comes to town government: lawsuits because there was no due diligence practiced. How many times does this have to take place before someone wises up? My guess is never. Anyway, Catherine isn’t about to let the BOS walk away from this unscathed. Catherine gets what being a public servant is about. She is elected by the citizens of Nantucket, and her first duty is to look out for us. Thank you, Catherine.

I hope you all had a Merry Christmas and are about to embark on a happy new year.
– Goodman’s Gam appears weekly in this space and periodically in The Inquirer and Mirror

Waterfront News

Wednesday, December 29th, 2010

The Miss China broke free from her mooring Sunday night during the storm and drifted onto the beach at Brant Point where she will stay until a salvage crew is arranged to tow her off. Photos here. I&M story here.

– Martie Mack writes the Nantucket Waterfront News blog

Goodman’s Gam

Thursday, December 23rd, 2010

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There were a couple of dustings from above over the past week and then I awoke to wet snow on Monday morning. To me, this is the absolute worst weather. I enjoy a good snowfall, maybe a foot or two. Even rain doesn’t faze me. At least with snow or rain, you know what to expect. Slushy snow is the in-between weather that makes one shovel walks while you’re getting every bit as wet as if there was a rainstorm.

I’ve had disagreements with Paul DeRensis over the years, but he was always a complete gentleman. We had several drawn-out discussions by e-mail and in person, some that were intense, though he never raised his voice and was totally honest in answering my questions. Now that the Board of Selectmen has given Paul and his firm their walking papers, it’s time to forget about past history and concentrate on what took place last week.

What three members did to the selection process for Town Counsel was self-serving and short-sighted. There was no effort on the BOS’ part to investigate what the cost will be (to us) by changing law firms. It was obvious that the three members, who wanted Mr. DeRensis gone, didn’t pay attention to anything other than “we don’t want him,” and everything (such as reality) takes a back seat. At least Paul was enough of a gentleman to thank Nantucket for the decades he served us.

This entire episode taints my (formerly good) feelings about a couple of the board members. The third has never impressed me, so there’s no surprise here. Why the BOS handled this so poorly doesn’t surprise me. Of late, it’s plain to see that the BOS is back to micromanaging, or as I like to call it, meddling. All they should be doing is sticking to their basic job, which is voting on what’s in front of them. Please stop being proactive, because you’re not.

Most BOS ideas are poorly thought out and cost the town money that could easily have sustained more important programs. I see the BOS is going to spend over $10,000 to see if the windmills in Madaket will bother the neighbors. Give me $20 and I’ll explain that yes, there will be people that will complain about huge towers lowering property values, killing birds and making eerie noises. Think about the BOS of late. Are you happy in general with what they’ve accomplished?

A couple of weeks back, James Grieder wrote a letter to this paper, containing a number of complaints about several town committees and at least one department head. James works for the Historic District Commission. He has no sway over HDC decisions, so his view is his view and that’s an opinion from a worker, not an official reprimand from the HDC. Of course, elected, appointed and department heads don’t like to be criticized. Tough, I say!

Mr. Grieder was formerly an assistant town clerk, whose work was outstanding. He’s a very bright guy, with long-time ties to Tuckernuck and Nantucket. There are few, if any people that are as knowledgeable about the history of this pile of sand. Being a student of the past is the best way to figure out what will make the present and future work. When I read his original letter, it was a moment of clarity. James need not have apologized for what he believed was right. I’d like to think he’s protected by the First Amendment.

There aren’t many places open for dinner these days, so I’d like to say thank you to the eateries that are serving this winter. Two spots that I had dinner at last week were not only open, but the food was more than fine. Even Keel during the week was quiet and after having a very good dinner, the check was small, given the two-for-one dinner special.

Then, over the weekend, we tried Pi Pizza. I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you how much I love Evan’s food. As a pizza fan, there are few places in the northeast United States that come close to Pi Pizza. The pizza ingredients are superb and the rest of his menu, especially the specials, make for a tremendous dining experience.

I’d like to wish all of you a very, Merry Christmas!
– Goodman’s Gam appears weekly in this space and periodically in The Inquirer and Mirror.

Waterfront News

Tuesday, December 21st, 2010

While scalloping way up-harbor the other day, I caught a lobster in one of my dredges. I caught lobsters while scalloping around the West Jetty before but never have I caught one up-harbor. And years ago I remember catching big starfish in my dredges all along Hulbert Avenue and the West Jetty. Sometimes I would catch more starfish than scallops. I wonder what happened to all the starfish. I guess if there are no scallops for the starfish to eat, they will move out of the area. Check out the photos here.

There has been some activity around the waterfront lately. A new walkway has been installed between the Angler’s Club and Commercial Wharf. I’m not sure who is doing the work. Usually it has always been AGM Marine but I don’t see them or their familiar barge and crane doing the work this time. The new walkway is a nice addition to the waterfront. I tested it out yesterday. Check out the photos here.
– Martie Mack writes the Nantucket Waterfront News blog

Goodman’s Gam

Thursday, December 16th, 2010

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About a month back, I met a man in the Atheneum. He was sitting at the table to the right of the main desk and was speaking to Eileen McGrath as she worked at sorting books. I came by to speak to Eileen for a moment and before I knew it was conversing with the man sitting there. Lo and behold, the man was going around speaking to island folk about the latest Sconset Beach Preservation Fund plan to “fix” the beach along Baxter Road.

Now, the SBPF has a new plan and don’t you worry, it won’t cost us a penny. Well, that’s true as far as the heavy equipment and industrial construction work on the cliff and beaches goes. What isn’t being said is what really matters. Much of the work is slated to be done on our land. That’s correct. We own the beach below the cliff. The SBPF believe that most of us would be happy to allow their heavy machinery to gouge out the beach, then install all sorts of metal and cable, plus textile materials to hold on to a few dozen peoples view.

We’re speaking of a minute group of homeowners with big bucks who believe they have the right to despoil a chunk of what we own for their own purpose. Does anyone remember the dewatering scheme a couple of decades ago? It didn’t work, and removing the materials from the beach took years. I remember the main spokesman at the time telling me that there was no doubt it would work. It didn’t.

Then there was the beach re-nourishment plan. I seem to recall that we, as an island, voted that down by a wide margin. Remember all of the lumber that was washed away and fouled miles of beaches after a storm? If islanders hadn’t scrounged the wayward boards, I doubt the stuff would have been cleaned up. As it was, the trash took months to be taken away. Here we have another situation that reminds me of July and August visitors. We all know that well to do people have to have what they want, when they want it.

In this case, homeowners with big pockets want to trash what used to be a pristine beach and our ownership of the beach be damned. Let’s make sure this ridiculous idea is crushed at Town Meeting. One more thing that irks me about this idea. We have now sat through many hours of the SBPFs ridiculous schemes, and, once again, we’ll have to do so this spring. That’s another reason to hate the SPPF. They’re wasting our time.

Frank Avellino is back in the news, due to his association with Bernie Madoff. The lawyer who is handling the Madoff liquidation is seeking “clawback” money from Mr. Avellino, among others. Unlike many of these so-called investors, Frank allegedly knew this was a Ponzi Scheme and hopefully will be relieved of his ill-gotten gains. I spent the better part of a year working on the Avellino house and never got to know Frank. His wife is very nice and I hope she wasn’t aware of what he was up to.

A follow-up to last week’s comments I made about the flash mob that took place at the Stroll. I have gone online and looked at several other flash mobs. There are a couple of commercial mobs, but most are not. Many of the mobs are where members “freeze” in place. One took place in Grand Central Station. After a minute or two the mob unfroze and went about their business. Onlookers exploded in applause, and everyone seemed energized. No recorded music was used and there weren’t any corporate logos to be seen.

Some other flash mobs where there was music were because the mobsters were singing. Again, there were no logos to be seen. I’m not knocking the people who participated in the Stroll mob. Somehow it seems they were used by nonprofits with corporate logos attached. One last note . . . Why is the Dreamland spending time and money for this, when they have yet to erect anything and are still looking for additional funds to rebuild the theater?

If you’re a Red Sox fan, your holiday gifts came early. Theo Epstein went out and signed Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford to long term contracts. Actually, Gonzalez will be signed long-term shortly. Given how well the Sox did last year, even with three top players injured, this puts them in terrific shape for the upcoming season. Players report for spring training in two months.

At hand, the Patriots have looked unbeatable this season. I’d love to see their last game played at Dallas.
Goodman’s Gam appears weekly in this space and regularly in The Inquirer and Mirror

Goodman’s Gam

Monday, December 13th, 2010

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While I managed not to enter the downtown area after early Friday morning, there was no way to entirely miss Stroll Weekend. Shopping in the Stop & Shop on Saturday, I ran into two women in expensive fur coats, replete with their impatient husbands who were sporting Nantucket Reds. If you think that seeing mink on Main Street is unusual, try the Stop & Shop for off the wall. Maybe I should have tried The Box later on to see if there were some jackets made from four-footed creatures hanging on shoulders. Nothing at The Box is out of the norm.

I missed the so-called flash mob on Main Street, which took place Saturday afternoon. Two different videos have been sent my way showing the “mob.” I had thought that these happenings were somewhat instant and that much of the excitement came from the immediacy of the event. The news of the Main Street mob was on the Internet by Friday and a couple of folks notified me again on Saturday morning.

Watching the two videos, I was struck by a number of things. Seeing that this entire episode was sponsored by corporate types took away the local feel of it. There appeared to be local people dancing and the audience was (mostly) local. When I saw the sign noting that Dreamland and CITI sponsored this, I was instantly drawn into my Scrooge mode.

So why did I feel that way? No big deal about Dreamland, they are doing good things. CITI was one of the financial corporations that almost put this country into bankruptcy. Now they’re trying to buy their way into our hearts by giving us a couple of minutes of ersatz Christmas joy. If you were there, or watched the video, it was obvious that someone had brought in a sound system ahead of time.

The next time, it would be nice to have the “mob” be a true mob, not sponsored by outside businesses, with sound coming from a boom box, not a company on salary. This would be spontaneous, a lot of fun and a real event, organized by unpaid island folks. Does everything need to be about money at Christmas? Let’s not forget the “red ticket” drawing on Christmas Eve. That’s totally about filthy lucre and the bottom line.

So now we’re pretty much out of any touristy things until Daffodil Weekend. We will still see a few extra visitors over Christmas and New Year’s, then there’s Valentine’s Day. I look forward to the lull that’s coming. If you find it’s difficult to hang out with friends, read, watch television or pay on the web, Nantucket is going to be a very long haul for the next four or five months. Most of the people I know have been waiting for this time of year.

I understand going over to the mainland for shopping, taking a vacation, or seeking medical attention. Having the wherewithal to make a day/weekend a big one is a good thing. If going to Hyannis of Boston is a way to cure winters ennui, I’m afraid this could seem far longer than you may have dreamed.

Today’s speaker at the NHA’s “Food for Thought” brown-bag lunch is former Brant Point Coast Guard senior chief Sheila Lucey. At present, Sheila is the assistant harbormaster for Nantucket. Her presentation this noon is on “Navigation and Nautical Knots.” To enjoy this, show up by noon at the Whaling Museum, preferably with a sandwich and a beverage. That’s all there is to it. There is no charge to attend. It’s the best deal in town.

There have been some cool days recently, but in general, we have done well, so far. I’m not expecting a perfect winter. We’re not far into December and January, February and (the worst) March are yet to come. All I want to see is that the harbor doesn’t ice up this year. Cold is all right. Frigid isn’t.
– Goodman’s Gam appears weekly in this space and regularly in The Inquirer and Mirror

Finigan’s Findings

Monday, December 13th, 2010

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“Nantucket is a gift,” she said to me while she hung the latest fashions in her posh Federal Street store window. “I just love everything about this island.”

In honor of the holiday season, I wanted to give Nantucket something back. 

But how do you give a present to our island? 

Some might pick up a piece or two of trash on their daily runs along the Miacomet beach trails. Others contribute to Nantucket’s dedicated conservation organizations, which maintain nearly half of the island as forever-protected open space. I know one amazing woman who organizes and cooks a monthly community dinner to bring all likes of Nantucket people together over a free gourmet meal to both those in need and those in need of a little socialization.

There are so many great charities out here that make this island better, from the Rotary Club to Nantucket Ice to Big Brothers Big Sisters. Heck, we even have our very own Habitat for Humanity out here. 

But for me, it’s all about the words. So here is my present. 

A love letter to my one and only.

He’s the still beaches in Madaket and the dense fog that sweeps over Surfside. He rests with you, while you watch the waves crash on Great Point. He dines with you, at the bar, over a bottle of Chassagne-Montrachet at The Galley and a tuna martini at the Pearl. 

He can be a total gentleman and make you smile at the bright sunsets over Steps Beach. And he can be a jerk, when he brings the nor’easter to the island and stops all the planes and boats from running, and you have to get to Newport for a wedding. 

He helps you clear your head over a long walk to Altar Rock, and he takes your breath away over the pink November skies. He makes you laugh when you realize that you two haven’t been apart in months and you have no concept of the “real world” anymore. And he makes you cry, as you throw that penny off the Grey Lady at Brant Point when another season comes to an end after Stroll. 

He’s a beautiful chameleon, covered in daffodils during April, sailboats and smiling children in summer, veils and red pants throughout the fall, light snow dustings in December, and a constant still calm throughout the winter. 

He’s Nantucket, and oh! How do I love thee?

I will forever write the ways.
– Finigan’s Findings appear weekly in this space and regularly in The Inquirer and Mirror

Goodman’s Gam

Thursday, December 2nd, 2010

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Another year’s end is upon us and for whatever reason, this one seems to be early. I realize that as one gets older, days, months and years fly by. In this instance, the spring and summer seasons were nearly perfect. For me, it was a dreamy, slow-moving time. Wonderful weather will do that to you. Perfect climes make people forget about time passing and what will come next.

All too soon, reality sets in and before you have time to ponder the situation, those seemingly endless days have worn down to a handful of nice days every now and again. Before you know it, a “good” day is bright, with little wind and in the mid-40s. We are now there. Nantucket feels comfortable and remains a small New England town.

That’s now. Tomorrow, this will be a small New England town with several thousand visitors, most of whom will be looking for an experience (the Stroll) not to be found where they come from. Unlike years gone by, I’ve become less bothered by this influx of tourists looking for something that isn’t found in a particular piece of ground, but what’s inside a person, or a community.

If coming to Nantucket and spending money to travel, eat, obtain lodging and buy gifts makes folks feel more in the spirit of the holidays, so be it. If something feels real, then that’s the only reality needed. For many islanders, this is a weekend to stay out of town and let the visitors take over the core district. Give them their moment. Besides, the crowds have fallen off to a more reasonable measure over the past few years.

I certainly don’t mind. How is this different than a day in July or August? We know better than to brave Main Street when crowds are there. A December hiccough is a minor inconvenience, and some of our neighbors will be able to pull in some extra cash to get them through the winter months. With luck, they’ll spread the money around to the rest of us.

While Stroll Weekend is right in front of our faces, shotgun season for deer is already happening and will continue for another week. On Tuesday, I took a ride to discard my recyclables at the dump. Other than a single hunter clothed in orange who was driving out of town, I didn’t spy anyone on the ground along Madaket Road. I remember when there would be dozens of orange blobs every few hundred yards all the way along the ride going west.

I believe that the lessened pressure out that way could be due to fewer off-island hunters, and more posted land. Or, it could be that I was at the wrong end of the island. A couple of people have told me that there appear to less hunters coming to Nantucket each year. Not as many people have the wherewithal to take a week from work and pay for a place to stay out here these days. A poor economy could lead to a higher deer population on-island.

Speaking of deer populations, the southeastern part of Massachusetts is becoming almost as overpopulated with the four-footed critters as Nantucket. For many hunters used to taking the boat over here, a drive to the Cape is easier and less expensive. We have posted so much acreage, year by year, that finding a place to hunt is diminishing.

Seeing a notice in the I&M that Melo had passed away was a shock. I first met her in 1973. She left the island a while back, and like many people who come and go, I often wonder where they are. Melo was a sweet, funny woman. That’s how I’ll remember her.

The passing of Ernie Davis was sad. Even though he was almost 90, Ernie was in better shape than many folks half his age. He ran a nice, old-fashioned guest house, an entity that is close to extinction around here. Ernie will be missed.
Hanukkah began at sundown last night. This is a great holiday for kids.

Happy Birthday, Beth.

– David Goodman
Goodman’s Gam appears weekly in this space and periodically in The Inquirer and Mirror.

Finigan’s Findings

Thursday, December 2nd, 2010

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“So what are you going to do here all winter?”

If I had a dollar for every time I have been asked this question over the last month, I’d be able to buy dinner at Topper’s. For 12. For a month.

Every person I’ve encountered has had a different opinion on my decision to stay on Nantucket for the chilly months. Some of the comments I’ve received include a vehement “Don’t do it!” and a sarcastic “Can’t wait to talk to you in March.” There’s been the ever-so-judgmental “What are you thinking?” and the cynical “Oh, you must be in love.”

But those are just the glass-half-empty of it. The others, all the “so excited you’re staying” and “you’re going to love the off season,” come from the community of year-rounders who consider “townies” a term of endearment. So over the last month, I’ve started collecting ideas and things I want to do during my rookie winter on The Rock.

My morning routine? How does a cup of organic coffee and a breakfast burrito from The Green sound while I drive the Jeep to Surfside to watch the waves on a crisp December morning? Sounds like I’m pretty lucky to see the ocean every day.

Looking to save a little dough? How about win a few prizes that will make your winter worthwhile? On Mondays, you can get a $5 burger at the Brotherhood of Thieves for dinner and follow your thirst over to the Starlight where you can play Bingo. And who doesn’t love hanging out at the Starlight where you can eat, drink, watch the latest movies and be merry with all your Nantucket friends? You can’t find these sort of “Cinema” experiences everywhere on the mainland.

And for all those hoping to avoid putting on the 10 pounds of winter weight, gym memberships for the off-season are hot commodities. You’re likely to find your best friends trying to stave off the chill in the steam room after the latest craze of that Zumba workout. Heck, if that dance class makes staying in bathing-suit shape a little easier, I’m game.

Cisco Brewery is open until 7 p.m. again, and if you want a Grey Lady or a Gale Force gin and tonic, you can have them any day of the week while playing cribbage or Shut the Box with your friends. You’d never get everyone together in July. But in January? Definitely.

How many of you out there love looking out at those crisp Nantucket stars? The clear skies of this island can be scanned at the Maria Mitchell Association’s Loines Observatory. Over a century of star-gazers have enjoyed this spot.

Other advice I’ve received states the importance of getting off The Rock for little breaks. Trips to Portsmouth, N.H., a weekend in the Big Apple, renting a ski house in Killington, or a week in Bermuda can cure a little island fever.

But wait. Isn’t this how everyone survives winter in their hometown?

Whether you live in Sconset or Syracuse, Madaket or Montpelier, Polpis or Pennsylvania, Wauwinet or Washington, winter is what you make of it. It’s those mini-vacations that make the snow and ice on the windshield all that more bearable. And the off-season is for reading books and getting healthy. It’s all about reconnecting with old friends over dinner parties, and enjoying the occasional jam band at Cambridge Street. It’s never waiting for a drink at The Box and always being able to make an advance reservation for dinner at Lo La.

The winter might make others scowl and complain, they may frown at the desolate sandy beaches or wish they would have chosen a life in Natick over Nantucket. But at the end of every day (which seems to be at 3:30 p.m. lately) you can find me getting a frozen pizza, waving at all my Nantucket family at the bustling metropolis of the Stop & Shop and getting a good bottle of Malbec at Hatch’s. I arrive home to my roommates, not regretting a second about choosing this island over the Bahamas or Bali.

And for all you out there that merrily come bACK for Stroll, you smile at our Main Street lined with Christmas cheer and dine at the restaurants buzzing with holiday libations and enough Nantucket bay scallops to satisfy every seafood palate. Please remember that these local smiles last for more than a bustling three-day weekend.

I guess you’re all right. I am in love. With Nantucket. Every season of it.
Holly Finigan
Finigan’s Findings appear weekly in this space and in The Inquirer and Mirror

Waterfront News

Thursday, December 2nd, 2010

I’ve been off the water for a while finishing up a job on land. I was able to get out commercial scalloping for a few days last week. The season doesn’t look promising in the least. I am able to get my five-bushel limit but I have to work at it. The days of getting my limit in one or two tows are long gone. There seems to be a bit of seed scallops showing up lately. If they survive the rust tide next summer it will be a miracle. In any event, here are a few pictures I took lately.
– Martie Mack writes the Nantucket Waterfront News blog