Islander's Blog

Archive for April, 2011

Goodman’s Gam

Friday, April 29th, 2011

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Having had to careen off of a dozen other shoppers in the produce aisles at the Stop and Shop, I have no doubt that this area is going to be a total mess come summer. Some of the problems are due to shoppers not knowing where items are and having to go back and forth to find them. Combine that with shoppers entering the store and facing a log jam. Year round dwellers should adapt in a few weeks. Summer visitors are unlikely to suss this out before Labor Day.

Over the past couple of years some words have come to the fore. Here are the ones I’d like to see less, or none of. Iteration has become synonymous (to me) with the Board of Selectmen and others inhabiting the Town Building. There’s nothing wrong with the word, but enough is enough. A word most of us never heard of five years ago is now ready for a long vacation.
In the food world there are two terms that are completely obnoxious. Delish and yummy don’t cut it. I see and hear them used online and on television food shows. These are words that need only be used by adults when speaking to young children or their pets. Even then, please don’t use them when there are witnesses around.

On Friday as I walked through town it was clear to see that spring business is in full swing. Many of our restaurants have reopened as have several new eateries. Merchants are in the process of getting their stores set up for Daffodil Day and a few have opened their doors. Next weekend is the beginning of the summer season. From now until the Stroll, Nantucket is in play.

If you think about it, both Daffodil Day and The Stroll aren’t all that different. They began as low key, locals only events and now have been hyped into cash cows by the Chamber of Commerce and others who like as many parties and social milieus as possible.

I remember a day in the early 1970s, driving out the Milestone Road and seeing a half mile of overturned shovels full of earth. That afternoon, the holes were filled up. The following day, the next half mile was unearthed and again things were back to normal on my way home. Ed “Foxface” Scott was planting daffodils for his sister Cheryl, who at that time was the Siasconset postmistress. Cheryl had contracted the job from Mrs. MacAusland.

Prior to that planting, there were daffodils on island, but nothing like we see today. In addition to the roadside plantings, it seems as if every homeowner has jumped on the bandwagon. Aside from the attractive bulbs, these are one of the few plants or flowers that deer won’t chow down on. On Nantucket, that’s a huge plus. A couple of years after the initial planting, I got to know Ed. Eventually we worked together for years and I was saddened when he passed away a few years back.

The BOS is looking for citizens to apply for Town Committee positions. These are dependant on the Board voting on each member. I’d love to tell you this is a democratic exercise, though judging from past situations often it is a predetermined thing, depending on how obedient the BOS thinks you’re likely to be. If you turn out to be independent, a second term is not going to happen. I usually refer to this as micro managing, a job the BOS excels at.

I’ll be away next week, so when I return, it should be green and hopefully warm by then. Last year at this time New York was very warm. Several days the temperatures were up in the low eighties. Returning home the sixties were what I faced. Over the entire summer, I’m not sure our temperatures got above the low eighties, even in August. Last summer brought with it beautiful weather, so this isn’t a knock. If we get another year like that it would be beyond perfect.

The Celtics beat up on the New York Knicks in their first round of the NBA Playoffs and the Bruins are ahead of Montreal in the first round of the Stanley Cup. The Red Sox have now started to play like we knew they would. We have little to complain about.
– David Goodman’s “Goodman’s Gam” appears weekly in this space and regularly in The Inquirer and Mirror

Goodman’s Gam

Monday, April 25th, 2011

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Some minor asphalt repairs are taking place on island roads over the past couple of weeks. All the patches I’ve seen are tiny ones, maybe a shovel full of mix. Nice to see some action, though there are far worse stretches of pavement that’s disintegrating daily. Hummock Pond Road always has bad spots as do Surfside and Fairgrounds Roads. I’m not going to speak of the Boulevarde to Monohansett to the airport fiasco. Supposedly this is going to be paved in the near future.

Now for the couple hundred yards that have affected pretty much everyone who drives a vehicle on Nantucket. I speak of Lower Orange Street from Hatch’s down to the intersection of Union Street. This is an overused section of road. Semis run through there all day long, and their heavy loads guarantee destruction of the tarmac underneath. Not only are there several businesses with heavy traffic, but many (if not most) people use this street as a way to get into and out of town.

There are too many roads to be fixed and insufficient town dollars to take care of all of them. This short stretch is too big to ignore. We shouldn’t have to beat our vehicles to a pulp in this particular area, that’s what cobblestones are for.

Just when you know where everything is stocked in the Stop and Shop, they change things around. This past week it’s major. The first time in there, it appeared that a sale was taking place. Picking up a couple of good deals made me happy. Then, the second go-round, things weren’t as pleasant. I was in a rush and it was difficult to find several items. This was not to be a quick trip to the store before dinner.

Several people I ran into in the Stop and Shop are worried that having the produce right off the entry could cause a bottleneck. I seem to recall that the produce section has always been clogged up with shoppers, even in the slow months.
As I was going down the last aisle and getting ready to check out, a supervisor was speaking to a couple of guys about some of the work being done. The two workmen said that they were going to be putting up staging to change the lights. This looks as if it isn’t simply a case of moving goods from one place to another. I will hazard a guess that the work will be complete by Memorial Day. A few minutes after I exited the store on Monday, there was a gas leak.

Hasn’t this been quite a week? A carbon monoxide leak that could have taken over a dozen lives was averted. Try to imagine the national media headlines had this tragedy taken place. Nantucket is an island with rich vacationers, while poor folks live crowded like rats in a psychology lab. Wait, that’s too close to reality.
The saddest thing is that there are dozens of other houses with people packed like sardines all over the island. A fire could have had the same results as CO in a house crowded to the gills, like the one on Macy Lane. Flossie did a far better job with housing multitudes of folks when she had her flop on India Street.

Day by day we see plants and trees becoming green. Our birdfeeder is packed with feathered creatures and deer come by most evenings to eat the leftover sunflower seeds from the ground. We also have rabbits in both yards. The other morning two of the bunnies spent fifteen minutes running back and forth and then jumping over one another. Was it foreplay or afterglow?

Larry Lema is retiring from the Stop and Shop after 42 years in the butcher shop. His last day will be on next Saturday, April 30th. Good for you Larry!

Our weather is slowly getting better, though the four inches (plus) of rain, mixed in with too much wind has slowed outdoor activity down. Island ponds are extremely full, to overflowing in some instances. May and June have never been known as dry months, so be prepared for more showers. Lots of sunshine between the grey moments is having a definite effect on island dwellers. People are smiling more and that’s the best sign of spring coming this way.
– David Goodman’s “Goodman’s Gam” appears weekly in this space and regularly in The Inquirer and Mirror.

Goodman’s Gam

Thursday, April 14th, 2011

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Town Meeting took place last week, though it seems not many townspeople were aware of it. Having attended all three evenings and seeing so many unfilled seats in the auditorium, you’d have thought there had been a scheduling mistake. Could it be that school vacation was taking place? No, just another case of I don’t give a damn.

On Monday night some folks stayed home to watch UConn win the NCAA basketball crown. Tuesday there was a Boston Red Sox game at Cleveland. I had no qualms about missing an early-season game that the Sox would go on to lose. I am saddened and somewhat disgusted that so few of our fellow citizens are willing to participate in something essential to our way of government.

As one fellow said to me on the closing night, “A lack of voters makes my vote that much more valuable.” How right he is. When less than 10 percent of registered voters weigh in on town business, a single vote is powerful. It’s no longer a drop in the bucket. Most places, a single vote is minuscule in the scheme of things. On Nantucket, we have all seen a single vote pass articles at Town Meeting and local elections decided by one person’s vote.

Recently I commented on how there were fewer political signs in people’s front yards. Sure as the sun will rise each morning, a few days later signs were everywhere. My favorite yard had signs from two opposing candidates. Either there were two inhabitants with differing views, or the household didn’t know which way to turn. One candidate for selectman told me he was going to pull up his campaign signs right after the polls closed rather than sit nervously, waiting for the final tally. Jim Perelman made sure that his signs were gone within a couple of hours after his successful run for sheriff.

This column is going to be turned in before results of the election on Tuesday have been counted. For all the folks who took the time to vote, thank you. Those that couldn’t spare 15 minutes to act like a citizen, shame on you. I (along with fellow registrars of voters Carolyn Gould and Janet Coffin) helped 20 voters cast their ballots at Our Island Home. For many of the residents, just getting up in the morning is an effort, yet they did their duty.

While I’m on the subject of Our Island Home, the activities that are available to the residents are quite varied. I’m most familiar with the art classes conducted by Kathy Duncombe. Kathy was one of the first people I encountered upon moving to Nantucket. She is terrific with the folks in her class. She’s reminiscent of many nurses: tender inside but tough when needed. Her students have an obvious love for Kathy and she for them. Not only that, the artwork is well done.

Then there are two art teachers at Nantucket Elementary School. Karen “Miss O” Olszewski and Rob Head guide their over 600 pupils through art that transcends the stick figures and clay ashtrays we used to turn out. In my case, neither was collectible. That isn’t the case with these kids. They’re not only encouraged by their teachers, but many of the kids are truly talented.

Over the past three years the elementary-school art has been displayed in several storefronts on Main Street and in the Town and County Building on Broad Street. This year, Bob Pollack offered a couple of his windows for displays and I can’t thank him enough for his generosity. Now, it’s time to get ready for his summer displays and I’m trying to find other windows to display the kids’ artwork. Any help would be appreciated.

I received an e-mail this morning complaining about something I’d written two weeks back. To summarize, the e-mailer received a text from a friend saying I had said this, that and the other. I replied that it might be wise to read my column prior to dumping on me and my words, most of which were never said.

To that end, here are the pertinent ways to contact me. My phone number is (508) 228-4325, the mailing address is P.O. Box 1263, Nantucket, MA 02554. No letter bombs, please. If you’d like to e-mail me about the contents of this column (assuming you’ve read it) I can be reached at dgoodman@nantucket.net.
– David Goodman’s “Goodman’s Gam” appears regularly in this space and The Inquirer and Mirror

Finigan’s Findings

Thursday, April 14th, 2011

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“It is what it is.”

I’ve always hated that saying. Maybe it’s because it sounds like such a cop-out for saying what you feel. Maybe it’s because it’s an easy way of waving a white flag when you don’t have the courage or strength to try anymore. Or maybe it’s just because my mom always despised this term. Ask anyone, and they will say I am my mother’s daughter.

Regardless, this expression has come up countless times over the past few months for me. 

I can’t make “Nantucket money” in the depths of March and my bills are piling up. The economy has not completely turned around and the lack of winter population is too easy to blame. There’s too many places trying to stay open year-round and not enough diners to fill the seats. It’s been a rough, windy season. It feels like a constant struggle to be so in love with this island and to try to live out here. It is what it is.

Soon you’re going to thank your lucky stars for a parking spot on Main Street. The Grand Union lot will become a black hole that you can’t understand why you even fathomed you’d get a spot there to begin with. We don’t want a parking garage though . . . There’s too much shift in the downtown. There’s too many people trying to “change” what’s not broken. The island is becoming too expensive for all us “normal” folks to make a home here. The influx of summer residents keep our pockets filled during the eight weeks of August and keep our heat on in the frigid month of February. My best island friend hates the idea of change and she can’t change that. We thought we’d loathe the winter and now we long for the quiet, calm, cold days. It is what it is.

People move off The Rock unexpectedly. Restaurants that were so admired close their doors with no forewarning. Beloved island bartenders change their gigs. New restaurants open causing a stir among the locals. And here comes the often empty promises of college kids arriving back with all the ambition to work, and you just know most of them will dive into the Nobadeer party path. But that doesn’t stop us from hiring them for the short season. It’s going to happen whether you like it or not. It is what it is.

“I hate the weather this time of year,” they exclaim constantly throughout April. That one day in the 50s is followed by four days of fog and gale-force winds. The Gray Lady is in full effect. The bluff is falling. Madaket’s eroding. The daffys are blooming too early. Spring can’t come soon enough. March is three months long. It is what it is.

I can’t seem to find (m)any normal relationships out here. They all take too much effort and I can’t put enough in. The island is too small. We’re all so interconnected. We struggle to get over our Polpis pasts to move on to our next Nantucket future. We can’t swing a Tory Burch clutch at LoLa on a Sunday without hitting an ex-boyfriend with a new fling. There’s no reason to go on a Match.com dating site when you already have gone out with most of the people in your 30-mile radius. The most important relationship to have is a good one with yourself. It’s frustrating. It hurts to see them all. It’s half of what keeps me here and the other 50 per cent thinks the idea of the Back Bay is appealing. I will not leave here. It is what it is.

I love this island. It isn’t for everyone. I love my island family. They ain’t normal. I love my island job. It ain’t easy. I love my island life. It sure ain’t cheap. But after all, all good things come with some bad, and all grand plans come with big sacrifices. Nantucket isn’t for everyone. But it is for me. Alas, It is what it is. 

And I am who I am because of Nantucket.
Holly Finigan’s “Finigan’s Findings” appears regularly in this space, and periodically in The Inquirer and Mirror

Goodman’s Gam

Saturday, April 9th, 2011

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Slightly less than 600 voters took the time to show up to the first evening of the 2011 Nantucket Town Meeting. Looking around the auditorium and seeing empty seats was a sad thing. There isn’t an excuse for this. Town Meeting is often slow and feels ponderous, but nobody said that running a government was going to be a day at the beach.

It would be easy to ask what’s going on with the Board of Selectmen and some of their crazy meetings. I don’t ask. I know one main problem they have and unfortunately this is an all-too-common affliction affecting state and federal government political bodies. Instead of doing their job as public servants and coming together to do what’s best for us, they spend time trying to score political points. Today I’m seeing little true public service and far too much micro-managing from all five members of the BOS.

When it comes to our Board of Selectmen, there are two primary camps opposing one another. Two members appear to be trying to achieve transparency and the other trio is far more concerned in grabbing more power for the BOS. As it is, members of appointed boards owe their tenure to vote in a manner that pleases a majority of the BOS.

Raise an issue or vote the wrong way and you will not be reappointed by the BOS. Permitting no dissent on these boards (or you’re not going to be reappointed) means board members are virtual puppets for the BOS. I believe we need boards with independence, otherwise let’s dispense with them and let the five selectmen run the entire island. Except for some BOS members, I’d like to think citizens of Nantucket never want to see that happen.

We have an election coming up on Tuesday. I’d like to say that your votes could turn this Selectmen around, but that’s highly unlikely. Regardless of my observations, we all need to show up at Nantucket High School and cast our ballots. I always vote, therefore I then have the right to complain about our elected officials; excuse me, public servants. Please take the time to vote.

One move the Selectmen weren’t able to totally screw up was signing Libby Gibson to another contract as town manager. Gibson does an amazing job for us and she has forsaken a raise for this three-year contract. Town manager is an enormous job and we should all thank her. How would you like to take the blame for the BOS when they’re wrong, and then have them take the credit when you perform your job well?

I’m pleased to see (or is it not see) as many political yard signs alongside our streets and roads. Between now and the election, they could sprout up as abundantly as daffodils. I prefer yellow and white blossoms to cheesy silk-screened ads on a stick.

Look at our infrastructure, much of it is falling into disrepair. We were fortunate to have had a mild winter, otherwise our paved roads would be a total wreck. As things go, the numerous potholes and divots are fairly minor annoyances. The DPW has filled small spots with asphalt, but these are temporary bandages where surgery is required.

Another area that’s breaking down is the fencing along the Polpis Road bike path. When Jack Gardner ordered the fencing, a huge outcry was raised as to why it wasn’t split-rail fencing. As things turned out, the new fences worked well. Time has passed, the wood is old and it’s rapidly beginning to crumble in spots.

Some of the worst places on the bike path are the parts with the flimsiest fences. Out west at Second Bridge, between the entrance to Long Pond and the bike path, the fencing is leaning precariously over the water’s edge. The bike path is suffering from erosion under the asphalt as well.

I was saddened to hear that the carnival that sets up each summer out by the old Navy base is going to bypass Nantucket this year. The expense of the Steamship Authority freight rates has made it tough to make a living on our expanse of sand. I’ll miss the greasy food.
– David Goodman’s “Goodman’s Gam” appears weekly in this space and in The Inquirer and Mirror