Islander's Blog

Archive for March, 2011

Goodman’s Gam

Thursday, March 31st, 2011

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In last week’s column, I jokingly said that our weather would be springlike once May came around. After the quip, temperatures took a couple of steps backward and the wind followed suit. Lately, and for some days to come, we have reverted to early February. March is the “fooler” and though April Fool’s Day is tomorrow, this has become a very long, drawn-out joke.

There are signs of things to come. Trees are budding, along with birds winging their way north to these shores, not to mention more greenery showing itself. Soon there will be reopening and new births of local eateries. As with many people here, the Downyflake has been missed, but they’ll be open shortly. The restaurant out at the airport has been a fine fill-in, though I miss talking sports with Mark.

Town Meeting convenes Monday in the Nantucket High School auditorium. It’s sad that so many people either don’t attend, or there are many that cannot, because they’ve never bothered to register to vote. I am very pleased to see that many high-school students who are old enough have done so.
One line I use on people (to get them to be involved) is that it takes mere minutes to register and about the same amount of time to cast a ballot. It’s free. And, this gives you a chance to weigh in on things that impact the world you live in. This ploy rarely works. Too many people believe that their vote doesn’t count. It never will, if you don’t use it.

T.J. Malvesti will be moving on. As the senior chief at Coast Guard Station Brant Point, he will be missed by many. This is the nature of military life (I know, it’s the Department of Transportation). Every few years it’s time to pack up and go to the next posting. I met T.J. a few times and was on a committee with him. As with most in command, he is level headed and very sharp.

Chief Malvesti took over from Sheila Lucey, who was so taken with Nantucket that she left the Coast Guard to settle here. She is now the assistant harbormaster to another Coast Guard chief that was stationed here. I’d say the Coast Guard, aside from protecting and caring for local mariners, has continued to look over our waterfront in a most positive way. Thank you to all three chiefs. We have been more than lucky in this regard.

I was pleased to see last week’s editorial concerning the Dreamland Theater people asking for an extension to keep working on the exterior past June 15. My belief is even that date is too late. May 15 would be more appropriate. Even now, the area is a mess and once people begin to show up, this will be an accident(s) waiting to happen. They would need half a dozen guards, day and night to combat drunks walking by there at night and college kids, looking for mementos to hang in their dorms. Then, think about those Disneylanders who have no fear of heavy machinery, or huge trucks backing over them. Wouldn’t that make juicy headlines for off-island media sources?

I’ll never get tired of explaining why many decisions by town boards and committees don’t spring from common sense. The BOS are paid, but it’s a pittance and really doesn’t count as income. Other boards and committees truly are working for free. Many members are trying to help our community, but all have something in common: power.

If you attend any meetings and you want something to go your way, remember to let the members have their way. Resistance is futile. Object to them and you will not walk out of the meeting happy. It’s a stone-cold fact of life.

The HDC versus Land Bank kerfuffle is fascinating, to say the least. Both bodies are used to laying down the law. In this instance, neither has the upper hand nor will either budge. The BOS is deadlocked at 2-2 and can’t make the decision. I think the BOS needs to arbitrate this and all involved need to act like adults. Sorry, I got carried away. That will never happen. Again, we have an early April Fool’s Day.
– David Goodman’s “Goodman’s Gam appears regularly in this space and The Inquirer and Mirror

Finigan’s Findings

Thursday, March 31st, 2011

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“You know what we say about the Nantucket winter months,” she said while picking up her dry-cleaning one windy Saturday morning. “We have January, then February, then March, March, March.” She paused to smile and say, “And then June.”

Five months into writing this column and I’ve received the gamut of comments to my “Findings.” 

There have been the goods. (You’re so upbeat! So great with your Nantucket truths! You’re just so positive!) The bads. (You need to stop viewing our island as your own personal Disneyland! This island is ruined by washashores like you!) And the downright ugly. (Here’s to hoping your tip jar stays empty. Ouch.)

Well, I guess I’ll just have to play into it with a good old negative column about what else? The one thing that none of us can control on this island. 

When you’ve got nothing to talk about, I’ve been told you can always chat about the weather. That and baseball, but I can spare myself the embarrassment of pretending to be at all sports savvy. So when it comes to Nantucket weather, I’ve found we’re all a bunch of Goldilockses. 

It’s too windy today! It’s not cool enough! There’s never any snow here! Ah, it snowed way too much last night! It’s too bright today! We haven’t seen the sun in weeks!

And when it’s “just right”? Well, that is called September and it’s the shortest month of the year. February, you don’t count. You’re like that Katy Perry song, “Hot and Cold.”

They say March came in like a lion and is going out like a lamb. But I beg to differ. I feel like the month came in like a lamb and is becoming a constant lioness force that won’t seem to leave. Last week felt like January with everyone coming back out in their turtlenecks and scarves. It pained me to see this. The evening before I had just tried on all my summer sandals to make sure they still fit right. 

The following day was hardly better. It started out with a forever bright-blue sky and that big round yellow thing up there. I peaked out my window, smiled and quickly put on my leggings and a sweatshirt for a brisk Sanford Farm walk. As I opened the door and took a few steps outside, my body was swung around the other way as I was spanked back into my house by that incessant howling of that freezing-cold thing called wind. 

I used to find the fog was the bane of my island existence, but I have to say lately it seems to be the gale-force gusts that keep getting the best of me. 

Also, while we are on the topic of Mother Nature, why do so many of these March days include every season? I swear last Thursday we had wind, hail, rain, sunshine, snow and finished the afternoon with sleet. I had to bring sunglasses, a wind breaker, a raincoat, a down jacket, Ugg boots, a hat and an umbrella in my car that day.

A few weeks ago, I realized I hadn’t really been on the beach in months. After a quick walk along Fisherman’s, I remembered why. While I was whipped in the face with sand and the freezing-cold waves were coming dangerously close to my sneakers, I found that there is nothing really enjoyable for me along the shore when my socks are soaked, my eyes are burning and my hands are iced over in my pockets.  

Alas, with everything in my mind in spring bloom, why were my car doors frozen last Thursday night?

Well, like that nice lady said to me at Holdgate’s, it looks like we’re one March down and only two Marches to go.

Wow. Now I guess I found out why it may be “hate month” out here. When you write a column like this, you sound like you need a pina colada and a vacation to somewhere that has a “saint” in it. 

And since that is no way, shape or financial form in this Finigan’s future, I guess I just will keep on hoping that the groundhog was right this year.
– Holly Finigan’s “Finigan’s Findings” appear regularly in this space and in The Inquirer and Mirror.

Goodman’s Gam

Thursday, March 24th, 2011

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March is not Hate Month. There is one thing concerning this month, however, that I do hate. No one expects February to be warm, sunny or pleasant. March begins the same way as February, but at some point, we receive a beautiful sunny, somewhat warm day(s). This occurrence leads many (including myself) to fantasize that winter has left and spring is at our doorstep. We enjoyed a couple of spring-like days last week, only to gaze out on snow falling at noon on Monday. Fooled again. Our weather will soon be better. May sounds about right.

Whenever I see the name Nantucket in off-island news, the news is almost always bad. If it isn’t a sensational murder, then someone is verbally dumping on this eroding sandbar, most often telling the world how expensive and snotty we are. Live here and you know how untrue this is.

This is akin to saying that Tucson is known for mass murders because they had a single incident. In four decades I’ve lived here, there have been four homicides. I don’t believe the most paranoid islander walks around worrying about falling victim to a homicidal maniac. Nantucket has always had crime and always will. Even with the lurid headlines last week, we live in a place as safe as there is.

Are there hordes of very well-to-do people living here? Not really. Most rich homeowners are actually vacationers here. If you count people who live here through the entire year, most live modestly. Year-rounders have to work in order to have a roof over their heads. Nantucket is not inexpensive. Now, for what keeps us from falling apart . . .

Our community is what makes this island special. When I look around and see the cohesiveness among us, that’s the big benefit of living here. We have to pull together for several reasons, the least of which is living side by side with one another. It’s just as easy to make friends as enemies in a small town.

There’s an old saying, “Familiarity breeds contempt.” We see that, though more often, people here help each other out, even when they may not like the other person. I know this better than most, having had several years of medical problems. The support I received was far beyond what anyone, particularly me, was deserving of. You can’t put a price on that. Nantucket is a unique place, with its beaches, moors and wildlife, but it’s the inhabitants that make us a superior community.

Perhaps I hadn’t noticed this until now, or it was recently erected, but the sign over the front door of the Fairgrounds Road town offices is strange-looking. Not that it isn’t recognizable. The colors and lettering are the same as many town and county signs. The problem is that the logo and lettering are squeezed, making the sign somehow appear pregnant, or (if you read “Superman” comics) bizarre.

I’m never surprised to see what money will do to some people’s principals. Take the Hy-Line. When Cape Wind made application to install a wind farm in Nantucket Sound, one of the most vocal opponents was Hy-Line vice-president David Scudder. Mr. Scudder has changed his mind and now has plans to run ferries out to the site for eco-tourists to look at a forest of industrial towers. I have to wonder whether the image of tourist dollars flowing into Hy-Line coffers has made him change his mind about wind turbines.

Here’s a quote from Scudder dating back to the first hearings on the wind farm: “We have consistently and adamantly been opposed to the project at its present location since its inception because of our concern about public safety caused by potential radar interference, the proximity of the project to ferry routes, and the compression of traffic,” he said at the time. Now they say these concerns have been addressed. Huh?

Scudder and his brothers at Hy-Line say they’re looking into using hybrid technology for their eco-tourism ferries. That’s a nice thought, if they do so. Will the Hy-Line’s day-tripper, tourist ferries continue to use diesel fuel, or will they be hybrids? This is not about ecology. It’s about the Scudders’ – and the Hy-Line’s – bottom line.
David Goodman’s “Goodman’s Gam” appears regularly in this space and periodically in The Inquirer and Mirror.

Finigan’s Findings

Thursday, March 17th, 2011

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“This too, shall pass.” My mother always uses this quote on me when I’m feeling anxious or unsettled with something that is going on in my life that I cannot change, and only that often-frustrating thing called “time” can heal.

I’ve had one of those months that feels like every day has been a struggle, like two steps forward and one giant leap backward is my daily exercise. We’ve all had those weeks where life continually challenges us, and we feel like we’ve done something bad to deserve this. But as they say, when you’re going through hell, keep going, right? 

On one of these March mornings, a friend recently said, “I told you this month would break you. Finigan’s finding out she actually does kind of hate it here during the winter in Nantucket.” Which is when I have to sit back, breathe in through my nose and out through my mouth, and resist the urge to fill up his Diet Coke with a regular one, just to be annoying right back.

I’ve sure felt out of place on Nantucket over the last month. Not just because it’s almost T-shirt weather one minute and puffy jacket weather the next. Not because everyone is getting all geared up for summer and it’s barely spring, or because it was school vacation and while it seemed everyone else was gone, I was still here. I just can’t help but feeling like there’s always some other place I should be. And it’s not on a beach in the Caribbean or watching the sunset somewhere exotic. I really want to spend this “hate” month on our loving rock, but alas, events out of my control have shifted my body and brain other places.

Globally, the earthquake in Japan has saddened me for all the people of that country. All that footage on the TV that makes my knees weak and my head spin. How can this be happening? And then there’s all the explanations of earth shifts, and wave reactions, and speeds that I can’t even fathom. We get back to thinking about the earthquakes in New Zealand over the last year, and remembering the tsunami of 2004. These are moments in life that make you stand still, after you know the whole planet has moved and nothing will ever be the same.

I’ve recently been taking the bus from Hyannis to New York City and it broke my heart to hear about that devastating bus crash outside the Bronx, killing more than a dozen people on their way back to the city from Mohegan Sun. You think about how so many people rely on public transportation, how easy it is to just get in a taxi or hop on a train with a destination of home in mind, but then to end up in the ER? It makes you just question every movement and ask why these people? Why now?

Oh, and the reason I’ve been going to New York City? No, I’m not taking mini-vacations to beat the Nantucket winter blues or trying to find the best new sushi on the island of Manhattan. It’s because my sister has been in the hospital for the last month. Through surgeries and tears, a few times of joy and the depths of deep sorrow, I’ve held her thin hand, trying to radiate positive energy into her, while doing my best not to sugar-coat everything. And you know what I’ve found out? I think every hospital room should be equipped with a closet and a punching bag. Sometimes, life just seems so unfair.

And when it is someone else’s burden, what can we do? We send cards and flowers to those in the ICU. We donate our hard-earned money to fundraisers for people and places hit by catastrophic events. We take our own initiative to raise money by biking cross country or take ourselves to places like Haiti and Africa, trying to make a difference with our own two hands. And finally, we pray. And I often feel so bad when I do pray, as I can’t help but notice that I’m always trying to “talk” to God to help me out only during times of need and hardship and not just have a quick chat day to day.

So yes. This month has just about broken me. It’s broken my heart and tested my sunny spirit. It’s put me in my place when I complain about a few days of windy weather when you think about the devastation of a tsunami. It’s made me think about slowing down and remembering that we all need to drive a little more carefully. And finally, I’ve realized that life is quite a gift and not a given. The best day is the present. So make the most of yours.

And yes, this too, shall pass. 

But until then? I will smile and pray and keep on, keepin’ on. Because sometimes, even though it’s frustrating, it’s the best I can do.
– Holly Finigan’s “Finigan’s Findings” appears regularly in this space, and periodically in The Inquirer and Mirror.

Goodman’s Gam

Thursday, March 10th, 2011

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March on Nantucket is often referred to as “Hate Month,” but I’m convinced that August has far more enmity than the third month of the year. I remember how the term came about. Rather than go into great depth, I prefer to characterize the entire scenario as three real-estate people trying to dump on each other. To me, that’s a good thing.

When Boston Magazine featured the story, it took off and became legend, not just on-island, but in circles near and far. I follow an online forum (that deals with organ transplants) and have replied to comments from a woman in California and another in Florida about “Hate Month.” That, and Nantucket limericks, seem to be why many folks know about our peaceful slip of sand.

Don’t forget to set your clocks and other timekeeping devices ahead an hour on Saturday before you go to sleep. Spring isn’t here, though most of us will enjoy more light each evening with this change.

Last Saturday the NHA held its second annual History Quiz Bowl at the Whaling Museum. Once again, everyone appeared to have lots of laughs while learning Nantucket history. Nat Philbrick is the perfect host for the evening. He’s very funny, knows the answers and is quick on his feet. The ambience of the Whaling Museum and fellow islanders made it a perfect off-season activity.

Nantucket Airport news is hardly happy these days. Well, maybe not so unhappy if you were the recipient of a hefty bonus for working there. Then, we have an employee who was grounded for kidding about that very subject. This was a case where it would have been wiser for the higher-ups to ignore a jest, rather than have it aired publicly.

I’m happy the Nantucket Airport is more solvent than most any other part of town government. I’m unhappy that some of the behavior there is cavalier, to say the least. Just because they’re making a profit doesn’t mean that any excess should be withheld from town coffers. Our airport is looking great and they fulfill needs beyond many other small airstrips. If they would face the fact that we (citizens) are the true owners, and would like the facts and figures to their fiscal state, all would be well.

Now for a town department that was far ahead of its time, led by a man we relied on, that always came through for us. Jeff Willett guided Nantucket’s Department of Public Works into this century, while being a good listener and an even better doer. He was a good man, and an outstanding fly-fisherman. We are less for having lost his leadership.

Thanks to an alert reader, I was informed that the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles no longer sends out license-renewal notices. That is, unless you notify them to do so. Go online here. There are a number of options as to how you may receive a notice from the RMV.

While winter weather has barely laid a glove on us, we have a month to go before the worst is over. Unlike most of the mainland, snow, rain and freezing conditions have made but brief appearances on-island. Nantucket is a windy spot in the Atlantic, but this year has been beyond the norm. It feels as if we have a weekly blow of 30 to 50 miles an hour.

This morning I listened to Vern Laux and he was asked when certain birds would be showing up around here. Red-winged blackbirds were one species mentioned. A half-hour later, a red-winged blackbird landed on our bird-feeder, which hangs on a pussy willow that’s rife with fat buds. The entire tableau is worthy of a greeting card.

Rick and Kim Morcom moved from Nantucket to New Zealand a couple of decades back. As soon as I heard about the horrific earthquake there, I e-mailed them to see how they were. Several days later they replied to my electronic missive. They do much of their shopping in Christchurch, though they live far enough away that they barely felt a tremor. That said, the damage to Christchurch was frightening and affected many of their friends and acquaintances. I was pleased to know they are all right.

I hope you have taken a look at the 2011 Annual Town Meeting Warrant. Attending the meeting is always important, but this year it is particularly so. Articles often sound innocuous, but repercussions from them could make your life more than miserable. Study the warrant and take notes. If you have questions, find out the answers ahead of time.

As a citizen, we all need to be involved in what happens, beginning April 4 in the Nantucket High School auditorium. This is your island and your life. Don’t let special interests make the decisions for you. If you aren’t there, your vote won’t count.
– David Goodman’s “Goodman’s Gam” appears regularly in this space and periodically in The Inquirer and Mirror

(Not so) Waterfront News

Wednesday, March 9th, 2011

It’s been rather slow down at the waterfront as of late, so I planned something different for today’s blog entry. It’s all about bucks and antlers. Over the past few months I have developed an interest and passion for deer. I find the animals fascinating and I study them on a daily basis. Recently, I built an antler trap and set it up in the wild. It’s a shelf attached to a horizontal log. Above the shelf is a piece of wood which forms sort of a roof. Bait is placed in the rear of the trap on the shelf. The idea is to get the bucks to go into the trap after the bait, thus knocking off their antlers on the section of wood above. So far I have not had any results. But most of the bucks I the area of my trap are still carrying their antlers. Time will tell if my experiment works.

I set up my trail camera above the antler trap to see who is visiting it. I get at least five different bucks at the trap on a nightly basis. Also, I have started antler-hunting. I have never done this before. I go to a different section of the island to search for antlers. One day recently I found 7 antlers in an hour of searching. Among those seven antlers were two matched sets! That was a good day. Other days I found as many as four antlers and as little as one or two. So far in four afternoons of antler-hunting, I have found 18 antlers. Not bad for a rookie. It took me a long time to finally figure out where the antlers could be found. I spent endless hours searching in all the wrong places. Now that I know where to look, I am having very good luck. In any event, here are some pictures from my trail camera overlooking the antler trap and a picture of all the antlers I found so far including the biggest one I found.
– Martie Mack (usually) writes the Nantucket Waterfront News blog

Finigan’s Findings

Thursday, March 3rd, 2011

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“In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.” – Albert Camus

I have always hated two things in my life. Mayonnaise and winter. And since I really never have to have the first one, I have learned to accept the second. But I despise cold weather. I can barely wear any of my cute clothes and I loathe spending $350 on a jacket (I don’t care that it comes with a fleece zipped in). Boots, why are you so hard to take off at the end of a long, slushy day? And snow pants? Show me one person who really looks good in them and I just might try on a pair. 

I’ve spent the last four New England winters in somewhere else’s sunshine. From Buenos Aires to the BVIs, to the South Island of New Zealand and the west side of the island of Maui, I’ve certainly been the envy of all my Boston buddies and New Hampshire family. But even the possibility of another endless summer did not stop me from the decision to stay on our tiny island of Nantucket for all four seasons, even that (gasp!) winter one.

Everyone this winter wondered how I’d fare Nantucket in the off-off season. When the sun would set before that five o’clock bell would ring, and the wind would howl more than any animal out here. Yes, it’s true. I’m solar-powered. Over the last half-decade I haven’t really seen Jack Frost, and my March attire consisted of a bikini and a beach bag slung loosely over my tanned shoulders in whatever sandy spot I’d be living in. So it’s no surprise that everyone thought a Nantucket winter would just about kill my sunny spirit.

But it hasn’t. Well, it kind of hurt my wallet and my credit line. Really? a $759 heating bill? Why is our electric bill tripling every chilly month? And $225 for those brown over-the-knee winter boots? Flip-flips and sun dresses really work much better for me.

I’m going to write something that I’m sure all you real islanders and 40-plus-year-round residents will love to beg to differ about. This Nantucket winter hasn’t really been that bad. Yikes! Did I just put that in print?

Sure, there’s that constant wind that strays the planes and keeps my thermostat up and my jackets filled with down. But I’ve counted a few days in the 40s and that really makes me think that spring is just around the corner. I also recently wore a (fake of course) fur vest out as a coat. Sure, you all looked at me funny, but the sun was really shining that day. I’ve taken a picture of the sunset at Cisco this February that rivals the beauty of the evenings I had out during my Hawaiian holidays, and every Saturday night at Lo La this winter has felt like an August one.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ll admit there’s been some vacation envy in me. When I see those pictures of bathing beauties in Boca. And those Australian friends of mine along the sandy shores that I set foot on a few Februarys ago. And my girlfriends that come bACK with that Bahamian tan which makes me cringe with jealousy when the only “sun” on my face is from a chilly walk at Sanford Farm. 

But then I take a step back and think, how lucky am I? I get to live on an island that others only dream about going to. I get to let my (UGG-covered) toes touch the sand whenever I drive out to Surfside. I hardly ever have to see snow, let alone ever shovel out my car. Oh, and if I need that “vacation” feel? I have a rum runner and pretend like I’m on another tropic island during a crowded night at the bar. 

And that’s when I look at my roommate and we smile. Both rookies on the rock for our first winter, but thinking, while some of you may call March “hate month,” we’ve flourished from an ever-warming feeling in Nantucket. And there it is, Camus . . . An invincible Holly.
– Holly Finigan’s “Finigan’s Findings” appears regularly in this space and periodically in The Inquirer and Mirror