Islander's Blog

Archive for January, 2011

Waterfront News

Sunday, January 30th, 2011

There was a pretty spectacular sunrise over the waterfront this past Friday. I was able to grab a few shots of it before I headed out scalloping for the day. It was a cold morning. I had to wait until 8:15 before I could head to the grounds. We usually start fishing at 6:30am. Town law prohibits us from starting any earlier. And the air temperature must be 28 degrees before anyone is allowed to fish. Salt water freezes at 28 degrees and the thinking is that if we were allowed to fish in temperatures less than 28 degrees, we would run the risk of the seed scallops we haul up in our dredges freezing and dying before they are returned to the water. When me the guys have to wait for the temperature to make it to 28, We usually pick a spot and raft our scallop boats up and talk about how bad scalloping has become. It’s the same discussion every year. The Marine Department flies a red flag at the Town Pier. We choose a spot in view of the flag to raft up and have a gam. When the flag is dropped, we all charge out to the scallop grounds at full throttle.
– Martie Mack writes the Nantucket Waterfront News blog

Goodman’s Gam

Friday, January 28th, 2011

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We’ve had some very cold weather of late. Compared to most places in the northeastern states, what has visited Nantucket would be welcomed by others. Having spoken to friends in Connecticut and one up near Boston, it’s our time to celebrate. The temperatures are colder than here, plus they have two to three feet of snow on the ground. Black ice is common as the slight melting releases water, which then freezes on roads as the sun sinks in the sky.

Living on Nantucket allows us to avoid traffic jams in icy and snowy conditions. We have our rush-hour traffic problems in July and August, and they take place (mostly) in daylight hours. Whatever one thinks about the solitude of our winter days, the island is preferable to anywhere north of Florida. Actually, Florida and much of the South have had temperatures and weather that in many ways has been worse than ours. At least we have the proper clothing to get through to May.

I have noticed that there is a fair amount of building happening on-island, and carpenters are working in the windy and overly-cold conditions. That tells me work is still somewhat scarce. I don’t have to explain to people in construction what’s next.

Soon customers will be calling for spring work. They could have done so in the fall and early winter. Few people think that having their work done early makes a difference. Now, they’ll all want a winter’s worth of work done by Memorial Day. In the time I’ve lived on Nantucket, it’s always been thus.

When I see that disposing of Miss China could cost the town $20,000, all that comes to mind is how that money could have helped out senior citizens, kids or perhaps kept a teaching assistant on the payroll. Why are we going to pay for a derelict vessel that over the past several years has done nothing worthwhile, and was an accident waiting to happen? The town needs to find ways to prevent this from taking place again.

Recently, I received a letter with part of my column from a couple of weeks past. I had used a term incorrectly and the word was circled in bright ink. The woman in question is one of my favorite people and I enjoyed being caught by her eagle eye. My mother edited my columns for 15 years and she too caught me using the same word in the wrong place. What bothered me was that I thought I was over getting it wrong. I’m an old dog that is willing to learn.

Soon it will be time to begin thinking about Town Meeting. This time around, it would be great if more folks showed up to participate in town and county affairs. I realize how tough it is for many working couples to go out and spend hours sitting in the Nantucket High School auditorium. There are complaints by voters over what did or didn’t take place at Town Meeting.
These complaints are usually from citizens who stayed home, or in some cases showed for a specific article. Of course that’s another problem: voters who wait for a single article and then traipse out the doors in clusters after the voting is complete. You may feel you’ve done your duty, but you haven’t. It has never been more important than now to get involved. People died to ensure that we have the right to govern ourselves.

Next Thursday, Feb. 3 is the first Food For Thought (aka Brown Bag Lunch) at the Nantucket Whaling Museum. The speakers are Charles Clark, head of school at the Nantucket Lighthouse School, and Dave Provost from The Nantucket New School. Their subject is (what else?) “Island Schools.” Show up at the Whaling Museum by noon with a sandwich and a drink and I believe you’ll learn some things about island schools from the experts. There is no charge to attend.
– Goodman’s Gam appears regularly in this space and periodically in The Inquirer and Mirror

Waterfront News

Monday, January 24th, 2011

I was able to get several shots this past weekend of a calm waterfront. Very rare for this time of the year. We usually experience daily ever-living gales during the winters here. We are finally getting some cold weather after about seven years of mild winters. This morning, it was 5 degrees. The cold will be short-lived, though. In a couple days it is forecasted to be in the 40s with rain. We still have not had any snow this winter. Well, we had one snowfall of about six inches, but that is the only time it has snowed here. The rest of America is getting snowstorm after snowstorm. We completely miss the storms or it changes to a warm rain. Here are a few pictures I grabbed while I was lurking around the waterfront this past weekend.
– Martie Mack writes the Nantucket Waterfront News blog

Finigan’s Findings

Thursday, January 20th, 2011

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“Always remember, Holly,” she said as we walked the beach in Eleuthera, allowing the water to reach her ankles and letting the sun to hit her (SPF 30-covered) face. “Health is wealth.” 

We spent Christmas in the Bahamas and celebrated her, and the fact that the best present we received last year was that she had beat cancer. Again. The topic of new years and resolutions had come up, and she was beaming, enjoying a little vitamin D while sipping some Vitamin C from a Bacardi and pineapple juice. She was speaking slowly, sporadically breathing heavily as she had had most of her right lung removed just eight months ago. Life resolutions, we decided.

Every new year brings the promises of new beginnings and the excitement of a clean slate. There’s the ambition of putting new resolutions to use. (Lose weight! Save money! Eat more veggies! Take more vacations! Be more organized! Lose more weight! Save more money!) When I was younger, I used to have these new year’s journals, where I’d write down resolutions and leave blank spaces next to them and check in periodically over the year to write down whether I did them or not. Watching every episode of “Beverly Hills, 90210” was honestly one of my goals during 1997. Eating better and exercising more has been on my list for the last 10 years. And since “90210” ended a decade ago, I’ve found my resolutions becoming more interesting over the last decade.

During the past month, I’ve heard my friends talk (and talk and talk) about everything they are going to do over the next 12 months. “2011 is going to be MY year,” they all seem to proclaim. Whether they plan on finishing a marathon or James Joyce’s “Ulysses,” obsessing over the importance of fitting into those skinny jeans, or just depressingly discussing overdue bills and the need to pay taxes, everyone I know has a different idea about what a new-year resolution can bring.

So, as for mine?

My new year’s and life resolution is to be happy. (Smile). To breathe more. (Pause). To be able to love and to be loved. (Breathe). To laugh often. (Again, breathe). And most importantly, to take care of myself. These are those little things that we take for granted. And too often, it isn’t until a family member mentions that awful C word, or a loved one has some unfortunate life-changing accident, that we step back to think about what a gift it is to be alive.

Oh, I know what some of you are thinking. Here she is, 27 years young, sitting on her cloud of judgment, trying to save the world with a monologue on health that is best left to the experts. OK. I hear you.

No, I’m not a doctor. I’m not a member of the local gym, or even half as active as I wish I was. I would like to have a more balanced diet, but then I often eat Sour Patch Kids as a low-fat afternoon snack and consider red wine an appetizer, and once in awhile it becomes dinner too. (Oh, don’t judge me). I would love to say I’ve never had a cigarette, and I wish I could tell you that I sleep seven hours a night. 

But when it comes from personal experience, I do know a few things about health. I know that my older sister had heart surgery in her early 20s, both of my grandmothers have had breast cancer, both of my grandfathers died from cancer, and my mom has beat cancer in both 2002 and 2010. 

And with all that hardship has come the realization that life is short and when it comes to health, ignorance is so not bliss.

So be good to your body. To thine own self be true. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. There’s nothing wrong with being a little selfish, and when it comes to your own health, be very selfish. Take good care of yourself. Because at the end of every day, when you can smile, read and move your arms to turn this paper’s page, think of what a gift it is to be healthy. I’ll toast a glass of champagne to that every day of the year.

And I’ll always remember, Mom. I promise.
– Finigan’s Findings appear regularly in this space and periodically in The Inquirer and Mirror

Goodman’s Gam

Thursday, January 20th, 2011

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I was surprised to see how many businesses were open on Monday (Martin Luther King Jr. Day). In past years there were closed signs everywhere you looked. Several years back, I was working on a job and needed supplies. The two places that would have held what my job required weren’t open for business. By that time it was clear that I should enjoy the day off.

When Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, I was in school in North Carolina. In Charlotte, by police order, traffic wasn’t allowed from sunset until daylight. I remember watching news of the tragedy, all the while thinking that we had lost one of the finest orators of the century, not to mention that he was a true peacekeeper.

Sunday afternoon was a shocker. Other than some New York fans, were there any people that believed the Jets had a shot of defeating the Patriots? When the second half began, most people, including myself were positive that New England would come back and whip the Jets into mush. No such luck, so we’ll wait for next year.

Over the past year I’ve heard from dozens of Nantucket folks regarding the soon to be opened police station. Most have been harsh critics of the size and so-called opulence of the new cop shop. I have to disagree with their assessment. If the economy was in better shape, this would be a non-issue. Remember when we approved the high school? People were furious that parts of the school were practically barren. A few years later the school was overcrowded.

The same goes for the new police station. In addition to bringing our peace officers into this century, it won’t take long before the building is fully engaged and filled up to the rafters. I am waiting to walk through the facility and see it up close. I know several cops here and they are trying to perform their job(s) with outmoded and below-standard tools. Remember, we voted for the new station.

I’m pleased to see that the Grand Union (I still call it the A&P) is going to stay in place for the next couple of years, if not longer. Living in town back in the 1970s and 1980s, the A&P was a nicer place to shop than the Finast. Time passed, and the A&P slid downhill. It looked beat.

The Finast was refurbished a couple of times and added amenities that brought many islanders in. Should the Grand Union get a long-term lease and clean up a bit, I’d love to have more of a choice when grocery shopping. Having some products that the Stop & Shop lacks, I go by the GU, mainly in the off-season.

I’ll miss Connie Voges when she retires from town government. Her job is a thankless one. Connie was always candid with me when we spoke, though she was careful to never give away information that wasn’t on the public record. It helped to have a pro explain what and why our town’s finances are what they are.

Nantucket has missed most of the heavy snowfalls that have fallen on the New England mainland. So far. While we have less snow than other spots, our wind never stops howling. Thus far, the storms visiting this area have mauled locales from New Jersey all the way north to Maine. We have missed all but a few inches of snow, with rain and wind being the main culprits.

With the Pats’ season ending early, we’re now free to focus on the Boston Red Sox. Pitchers and catchers report to spring training in slightly over three weeks. It’s exciting to speculate how the team will do, though this year the lineup looks formidable. One good thing about baseball is that the beginning of regular-season play signals that spring isn’t far off.
– Goodman’s Gam appears regularly in this space and periodically in The Inquirer and Mirror

Waterfront News

Friday, January 14th, 2011

Hauling Back a Dredge, Back in the Day: I took a buddy out scalloping with me one day back in 2004. He filmed me hauling back a scallop dredge on my boat. Click Here
– Martie Mack writes the Nantucket Waterfront News blog

Goodman’s Gam

Thursday, January 13th, 2011

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I feel pretty good about myself at this point in early 2011. The first thing is that I have yet to write the wrong date on any checks issued so far this month. The second thing is that I remembered to put the orange sticker on my license plate. Usually, a policeman has to remind me to do so.

The spring political season has begun and several people have taken out papers for town offices. My sole comment is to say how happy I am to see that the town moderator is running once again. Sarah Alger only works a few weeks per year at this job, is paid (at the most) a dollar an hour and absorbs more garbage than most elected officials.

Downtown is in some way quieter than it has been for 30 years. There is more activity in the mid-island section of Nantucket. One reason for this, and I’m not spilling anything new, is because there wasn’t much three decades back to attract people to the mid-island, other than the Finast. Now, town is practically deserted in the off-season and in the peak season, few islanders are to be found in those environs. I’m not counting the people working there.

The winter demise of downtown makes sense, though I wish it didn’t. Other than the banks, insurance and real estate brokers, and a few other niche stores, there isn’t much to hold folks’ attention on a daily basis. There are a few hundred dinosaurs (like me) who refuse to get an out of town post-office box, or go to an out of town pharmacy. Our sole public library is right in the center of downtown.

We’re now watching town offices moving out of town. The police station will for the most part be at Fairgrounds Road and it’s likely that the Board of Selectmen will hold “test” meetings in the community space at the new police station. I believe that keeping as much town business in the core district is essential to having a viable year-round community. We need more, not less businesses and government offices in the Main Street area. At least one landlord has raised the rents so high, that most if not all year-round merchants are priced out of the market.

I’m pleased to see that the discord on the BOS hasn’t died after the new year. Wouldn’t we all be surprised if the five-person board buried the hatchet? Instead of trying to dump all over other members, what if they paid attention to why they’re supposed to be doing? The title “public servant” doesn’t mean trying to rack up points for a finite group. What are needed are smart people, seeking to serve. I miss Matt Fee.

What took place in Tucson over the past weekend was horrendous. As a gun owner and lifelong hunter, I enjoy shooting. A gun is a tool that in the right hands is perfectly safe. Unfortunately, in this country, there are states that make obtaining a gun too easy.

I don’t mind having to wait 30 days to get permission to buy a firearm. Anyone who needs a gun that quickly worries me, as hunters buy well in advance of the season. We all know people that seem unsteady, mentally. Would you want them to own a gun? Yeah, yeah, we know people like that who already have gun(s).

Get ready for a tremendous Sunday, watching the Patriots trying to make it two in a row against the New York Jets. Given the finesse the team is showing, this ought to be a great game. Tom Brady is playing at a level that’s not to be believed.
– Goodman’s Gam appears weekly in this space and periodically in The Inquirer and Mirror.

Waterfront News

Monday, January 10th, 2011

Just a few scenes I grabbed while I was down around the waterfront recently . . .
– Martie Mack writes the Nantucket Waterfront News blog

Goodman’s Gam

Thursday, January 6th, 2011

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So, how many of you have already broken your New Year’s resolutions? I don’t believe in them, so there’s nothing for me to break. Even if I did, why feel bad about it? People do what they’re going to and adding the burden of not keeping a promise to one’s self is simply more angst that is undeserved.

January is normally a quiet time around the island. The beginning of 2011 has been anything but that. Last year we had an attempted bank robbery and now, there was a gas-station holdup. Neither of the larcenous actions appeared to be well thought out in terms of the amount of cash taken. Both appeared to be spur-of-the-moment decisions made by people that were desperate.

I’ve heard people ask if these rip-offs are a sign of the future. This country is suffering and many of our citizens are destitute and in need of help. Having substance-abuse problems exacerbates aberrant behaviors, not to mention the many people with psychological disorders that are no longer being hospitalized and are living on the streets.

On Nantucket, we see very little of this, partly because we’re not an urban society and cities tend to accumulate the lost denizens of this world. Take a trip to places such as Boston or New York and it’s impossible to miss how many of our brothers and sisters are hurting and there’s little being done to help them.

As a matter of fact, travel to Hyannis and you’ll be surprised how many people are on the street. To answer the question of “Will there be more robberies like this?” I say it’s possible we’ll see some, but not many. This windy, sandy pile in the Atlantic is a northern version of Disney World. When reality strikes here, it’s always a shocker.

Speaking of homeless folks, Joe Dooley and his dogs are now at loose ends. I feel bad for him, but not for the position he put the Coast Guard and town in. Miss China was an accident that kept almost happening. Finally, drifting up onto Brant Point was the final straw. Had the derelict sunk in the channel, Nantucket could have lost the ability to receive oil, gas, food and other vital materials for days or possibility weeks.

For the present, Miss China is out of harm’s way and is scheduled to be transported to New Bedford and from there dismantled. I have to wonder who’s going to foot the bill for this long-standing tragedy. I admire people who live life on their own terms. Once this messes with the general population, however, it no longer is about that single individual.

Nantucket Gourmet has been sold and will continue to exist as it has for the time being. I have yet to meet the new owners and hope it stays substantially the same as before.

Tom Fusaro is going to be opening up a restaurant on Old South Road come this spring. Located where El Rincon Salvadoreno used to be, Tom’s menu is going to be Italian at heart.

Then there’s the new restaurant (Mediterranean-themed from what I gather) that’s going to take the place of Sfoglia. I’ll miss Ron and Colleen’s incredible food (the best bread ever), but with any good fortune, this new spot will fill that void.

I was pleased to see that the town Roads and Right of Way Committee has gone ahead and filed a report advocating a refurbished Sconset Bluff Walk. Nantucket has relinquished our rights to too many public-access points all ready. There used to be almost a dozen on Hulbert Avenue alone.

The Sconset Bluff Walk has been nicely maintained and easy to use, with a view that is unsurpassed. Let’s hope that those walking the path never need to hike over man-made steel, rocks and sand dumped from above.

According to some forecasts, we should have seasonable winter temperatures over the next week or so. Being January, 20s and 30s are in our foreseeable future. If we don’t have too much wind or precipitation, a stretch of cooler weather doesn’t faze me in the least. Be well.
Goodman’s Gam appears weekly in this space and periodically in The Inquirer and Mirror

Finigan’s Findings

Thursday, January 6th, 2011

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“You’re going to have to grow up sometime, Holl,” she said through clenched teeth over breakfast at the Even Keel. “You’re just going to have to settle down one day. And I’m sorry.”

And she was sorry. She didn’t like passing judgment on my island and trying to persuade me that “Nantucket is not the real world.” She had a hard time viewing me as a bartender and didn’t see past the Grey Goose bottles to realize how happy this job made me, and how it had changed my life so much for the better. 

They all wanted me to grow up.

They wanted me to change the mahogany bar and oil candles for a cubicle and unflattering overhead lighting. They wanted me to have weekends off and to learn how to go to bed at 10 p.m. They wanted me to come home for Thanksgiving and to stop looking at weddings like a huge pain in my wallet and pebble in my platforms. They would never admit it, but they often wanted me to be like everyone else. And that was the last thing I had ever wanted.

I often find myself on the defensive when someone asks me what I do. It’s not that I mind saying I’m a bartender. It’s just in my experience, many people think a girl with a college diploma should be putting it to good use making the world better. Not drunker. I feel like I have to say that I love to write just as much as I like to mix a martini. I say while all my friends were losing their jobs during the recession, I was, in fact, thriving, as an important person to keep all these out-of-work people in “good spirits.”

There is something very different about the Nantucket restaurant industry, though. It’s not like working at chain places where every person and location seems the same, whether you’re in Boston or Burlington. Clearly, financially it’s a lucrative business. Just ask the seasonal guys and gals of all ages who come bACK every summer without fail. Thanks to the taxing state of Massachusetts, health insurance can often be acquired through a serving gig. It’s not only a great job, it is what shapes confidence. Think about it. Who do you know who thrives off of walking up to strangers and asking them what they want to eat and drink? How many people can look a table of eight in the eyes as they rattle off three specials, each with 10 ingredients, and all from memory? Who can peacefully listen to a husband and wife fight about finances over a filet? Who can casually drop a check on a table that hasn’t finished their entrées because you need that table back? Who can smooth-talk an intoxicated guest into a soda water instead of sauvignon blanc? Waiters and bartenders. That’s who.

Don’t get me wrong. The Nantucket restaurant industry is tough. And it’s definitely not for everyone. In fact, its like Darwin’s world: only the strong survive. Think about how many waiters and waitresses come and go. How transient so many “dime-a-dozen” employees seem to be. In this world, everyone is replacable. Prerequisites for the bar include having a great personality, a good look, and a tougher-than-nails liver. And when you pass the bar, you’ve got a whole exciting life to look forward to. Life is a party. Life is a stage. Actually all the bar is a stage. And we’re all actors and actresses.

What they don’t understand is that I’ve often been awarded for Best Comedic Performance. Our island has won Best Picture. And finally, my supporting cast is more than just Oscar nominees, they’re all serious professionals. And we sure aren’t strangers to one another. We’re not just part of a great business, we’re also part of a great family. 

So this 27-year-old bartender makes more money in four months than some of her friends do all year. She’s in better shape than she was in high school. She owns a car, has her own health insurance, has very little debt, wears designer clothes that she has no business owning, has traveled all over the world during the chilly months and smiles every (late) morning she wakes up. 

Now we ask you, what exactly about us is not grown up?
– Finigan’s Findings appears weekly in this space and periodically in The Inquirer and Mirror.