Delaware, Traveling

The Unexpected Foodie … or not, in a familiar place

Was it really a surprise that food would become the primary attraction on a series of travel adventures in which social activities had to be mostly secondary? I guess not, but it still took me by surprise. While back in Delaware for the first time in nearly a year, and the longest time in 7 years, I wasn’t able to go to my former workplace for a purely social visit, but I was able to get that cup of coffee, that quesadilla, that blondie … and of course, that sales tax free item or two.

Older times of personal state representation!

            Let’s look at that cup of coffee. Brew HaHa wasn’t even my favorite place to go when I lived in the neighborhood. It must have been sometime after I left the ‘hood that the Yin/Yang, a tasteful mix of white and dark mocha, became a must-have drink. So it took a top place on the growing list of “items I must consume while back in Delaware” pretty much from its establishment. This time, Brew HaHa was dutifully one of the first places I hit up … only to find it a shell of itself, with the spacious interior relegated to glorified storage area, and emphasis placed upon online rather than in-person ordering. I got the hang of the system, and eventually was rewarded with a well-timed free beverage on my last visit of the stay. I also noticed the regular barista had learned my name, presumably from reading the slip that she attached to the drink as it was placed to claim, but I didn’t have the heart to tell her I was leaving town.

            And about that blondie. This was also not a new item on the list. The Centerville Café (or is Montchanin Fine Foods?) could be easy to miss or dismiss. In fact, the sandwich I had from them was a major disappointment among my dining out food choices of this Delaware stay. But the blondie is a classic, and hopefully always will be. Key features include NO NUTS, a decent size, and a fresh out of the box emphasis on flavor. At one time I thought the blondies were trucked in from somewhere else, but now I feel they are original.

            You can’t forget the quesadilla. Or the burrito. Or anything else from El Diablo. A proud export of the Wilmington area, yet comfortably staying close to its roots, the small chain was even smaller when I first knew it. Now they have several locations, but the one I had frequented is one of the originals. And, happily, the taste remains the same. It seems hard to believe that a Spanish food item in DELAWARE would be as good as it might be in CALIFORNIA, but I realized the key at El Diablo is their emphasis on natural and not embellished ingredients. I would have gone back on other occasions, but my stomach was well-filled after a single meal.

            Let’s take a detour to the focaccia bread. And back up to Massachusetts, the home state, where a medium-sized statewide group of chain restaurants was born. I was unaware that Not Your Average Joe’s had foraged into the mid-Atlantic, yet pleased when I noticed their logo on the edge of a shopping plaza I had once frequented. They offered outdoor dining and that sealed the deal for a family visit there on a Friday night. As mentioned, the focaccia bread was the main attraction and it did neither disappoint nor negatively affect the memory of previous bites, filled with just the right amount of seasoning and olive oil. The entrée also lived up to the high standards of the bread. On this visit the choice was a stir fry that managed to have enough flavor to not seem bland or over-cooked.

            And since we’re on the subject of chains, a nod is due to my series of visits to the local Starbucks, mostly for a vanilla latte, but once or twice for something else. Before this trip, I’d actually been moving away from the flavored lattes, but it seems the specialty flavors (hello, pumpkin!) lured me back for now. The consistency of the visits – I ended up alternating days between Starbucks and Brew HaHa – also sent me back to a past habit of compiling exact change for the order I would be choosing. A process made easier by lack of sales or meals tax, so the $4.45 for the venti option would be just that. Looking at that routine now, a few weeks later, makes it more apparent that it was mostly one of circumstantial than actual enjoyment or delight. I went to Starbucks because I could (I can’t in my present living arrangement) and not necessarily because it was something I would be doing all the time in another setting. Nonetheless, it was the right choice for that moment.

The coffee comparing actually peaked after my return to Massachusetts.

            I drove away from Delaware with a sudden and surprised realization that I hadn’t been on a highway for at least a 10 day period. It was clear that I’d focused well on what the surrounding neighborhood and surroundings offered, from a culinary, social and exploratory based perspective.

Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, Traveling

Last Morning on the Mainland

I wake up in that jolting way that only happens on a plane. The traditional announcement that “we are starting our descent into Boston” has just come across in a somewhat audible tone. My row-mate is still dozed off. She and I had chatted briefly once onboard, both relieved that the middle seat was unoccupied by chance, but we didn’t go into further detail. It’s always challenging to make small talk on a plane and then usually descend into awkward silence. In this case, a little chat is all that’s needed, especially on a red eye.

The plane lands smoothly and there’s a wait for parking at the gate. I see a few flights departing, presumably heading back to the West Coast, maybe going elsewhere. Our plane parks, the unloading is a clunky process as usual. Among the three-quarter full range of passengers, maybe 10 have been wearing masks for the journey. I think briefly about how wearing of masks are moving at rapid speed from a physical question mark to something that is more mandated. I realize, since we’re “early” arriving at 4:50 am, that I’ll probably be able to make the first bus back to the Cape. I remember that my ticket isn’t officially from Logan, though, meaning I’ll have to get on the Silver Line and mosey over to South Station, then wait in the arrivals hall. I have an hour or two to play with, so I feel it’s okay.

I’m off the plane and moving along. I look back at the display to see where the plane is going next. Slingshotting back west to Los Angeles at 8:05. The arrival gate of choice is about as far back as it can be, but it’s not a long walk. I look at the gate I’d departed from six days ago. Today’s plane is going to Detroit, a place now in my past, but still on my “regular visit” list. I move right through the must exit area and check the phone for the time. It looks like I could make that first bus down to the Cape. There’s the bus! I hustle over and make it on, alongside between five and ten other passengers.

The driver notices my ticket is from South Station and gives me a light chiding for boarding at Logan instead, with its corresponding higher fare. I say I hadn’t planned to get this bus – not lying – and that’s fine with him. As it turns out, no one boards at South Station. I remember that the northbound driver last week had been fine, no comment made, about my riding all the way to Logan.

As we leave Logan, there’s also the now-traditional moment of passing under the airport departure signs. In nearly three years of being back in Massachusetts and now going SOUTH rather than the traditional/historical NORTH to “go home” from Boston, the airport has become the only place where it still feels weird for me to do that intentional geographic shift. Except this time, I notice that a new sign has been installed, now adding Lynn instead of only Revere as a featured destination, and for some reason that makes me feel more settled.

Of course it’s dark outside as we settle into the southbound ride along the steady southeast Expressway. I try to doze back off with uneven success. Now my thoughts turn to how to spend the two or three hours in Hyannis. It can be organic once I get there. Eventually the sun starts to rise as we cross the Cape Cod Canal, just after 6 am.

The Hyannis transportation center is quiet when the bus pulls in. My car’s still there, so the weeklong parking experiment worked out. I get the long and short feeling of time passing as I walk back to the car. I catch the sun finishing its rise on the hood and decide to drive around town to see what’s open, and because I have never been in Hyannis at this hour. Main Street is expectedly quiet. I find one place open – the Sea Street Café – as I loop back on the more residential eastbound one-way sibling of the street.

I’m the only customer, unsurprisingly, and choose a seat in the middle of the restaurant. I tell the waitress that I’m settling back into Eastern time after a red-eye flight. I can’t tell if she believes me. I order my traditional diner meal of pancakes with scrambled eggs on the side, plus an orange juice. It goes down well. I continue to be aware of my need to get to the Woods Hole boat, but also feel like I can be as leisurely as I want.

After the meal, the sense of time picks up speed as I go “up” to the more commercial area of Target, Starbucks, Trader Joe’s and additional stores in the Hyannis commercial district. Target is first. It’s my second time in their new store that opened last fall, part of the renewal efforts at the Cape Cod Mall. My impression is the same disappointment that I felt on the earlier visit – the store feels cramped and like the inventory is selective. I get what I need but feel like I’ve forgotten a few items. The last item is a white mocha that I don’t really need, but it tastes good as I go around the corner to Trader Joe’s. It’s a little after 8 am.

I know what I need in the store, and decide to be more modest this time around, except for getting two gallons of lemon ginger echinacea juice. I’ve secured it all, is it time to head back in the direction of “my” island? The closer-to-Hyannis island is on my mind, however, as I realize I could go back “down” to the (other) Steamship Authority terminal to watch the (other) ferry depart to the (other) island. In fact, I’d done that same activity exactly a year ago today, so I decide to do it again.

The wind has picked up considerably as I pull into the terminal staging area at 9:13. The Eagle is getting ready to leave, so I snap a quick “selfie” with it in the background. I want to take a video of it reversing out of the dock, too, but I’m a few seconds too late to catch the boat horn, so all that gets recorded is the slightly creaky movement, and the turn to starboard isn’t as pronounced as the Woods Hole routine of the boats.

Time is still moving along but I have a few more minutes to spare. I’ll head back “up” to Whole Foods, located in a different area than where I was earlier, but still relatively close to the other destinations. I only get a few things. The cashier says that one item is two-for-one on Wednesdays. I tell her I don’t consume enough to make the discount a valuable one.

Now it is time to head for Falmouth, after one last stop at the Speedway on the edge of town. Always best to get off-island gas, and to allow a few miles of higher speed driving before the boat and going back to maximum of 45 MPH on the island.

Route 28 is moving at a good clip; I think back to other recent times when it had been slower on this stretch, and the previous time in particular, when I’d been in even more of a hurry. Nonetheless, time is still moving along, so once at Mashpee Commons, I decide to take the more expedient Route 151 bypass route through Mashpee and North Falmouth. That does give me a few extra minutes to take the “back way” into Woods Hole, in part because I like to close the loop differently than I started it and remember that I took the “regular” route out of town last week.

The back way is comfortable, and this time, I take it all the way into Woods Hole. It’s still early, so it’s not busy, but I do see that my boat has arrived, so I loop up and around the hill back down to the ferry entrance. It’s the same two or three people as usual and they still don’t recognize my car or name. I drive around to the line and sit back and wait for boarding to begin.

I don’t know that this is an indefinite one-way ticket back to the island. That the ferry schedule will be drastically reduced 10 days later, or that the coronavirus will soon rear its invisible head at a speed that seems hard to imagine.

For now, another off-island excursion has come to a close. I board the boat and reflect on the successful weeklong adventure as familiar island sights return to view.

Massachusetts, Movies, Traveling

The cinema that becomes the nostalgia

(I started writing this in January, but didn’t get very far into it.)

It may seem strange for a hallway to provoke nostalgia, but that’s exactly what I felt while wandering around Showcase Cinema Woburn on a Friday night in January, a rare weekend night off the island.

From a point in the fall of 1996 (I think this Jean-Claude Van Damme feature was the first of many movies we regularly saw there) until sometime a year later in the fall of 1997 (pretty sure this oh-so-1990s film was the end of the routine visits), this cinema was a regular destination for my dad and me. He did not like the “quality” of our closer-to-home cinemas that were in operation at the time, and thus suggested we drive a little farther afield to the multiplex in Woburn. I grew a bit fixated on the mechanics of going to Woburn (and other cinemas in the area that we occasionally alternated with) and eventually made sure that we were managing to see most if not all of the individual screens in the complex. And with Woburn, we ultimately succeeded in covering all 14 of the individual auditoriums.

Our frequenting of the cinema coincided with a modernization project for the complex, where the interior gave way to a 1990s update, with a lot of blue color, refinements to the screens, and improved carpeting, among other features, but notably NOT the stadium seating that was coming into fashion at the same time in other just-opened complexes around the Boston area.

So the Showcase developed a certain nostalgic place in my memory, being as that I would still see it when on Route 128 and listed in the movie ads, etc, over the years, even though I don’t think I had seen a movie there since 1998 … UNTIL NOW (said in movie trailer voice).

I arrived early for the movie on that Friday night in January. It was the late show, 9:45 pm or something like that, and since late shows don’t exist on Martha’s Vineyard, it’s become exciting for me to attend them when I can. The movie was showing on screen 3, where my dad and I had seen Star Trek: First Contact, The Saint and maybe one other feature in that ’96-’97 period. (We kept a written record of what we saw at each cinema – including which screen, and I remember some of them to this day.) As I walked around the cinema with few other people in sight, the memories of those films and the specificity of the experience came right back.

I doubt that modern audiences would care about the details of the screens as much these days – especially now in mid 2020 as the cinemas fight for their survival – but for this 90’s kid it was an exciting way to learn about different experiences of presentation and make a moviegoing experience somewhat uniquely memorable. I don’t know when I’ll next get back to the Woburn complex, or feel a need to, though clearly those memories will stand strong.

Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts

One summer evening on a jetty in Lobsterville

Today is 33 years since the singer songwriter Carly Simon performed and recorded her iconic concert “on a jetty in Lobsterville” here on our island. While I wish I’d been there in person, if I had, I likely wouldn’t remember it. Instead I know the date because of frequently watching the concert video, which highlights the date (as seen in the screengrab at left) at the start of the recording, between the ages of around 5 and 10. As I moved on to other musical and cultural interests, the concert came to signify a certain unique Martha’s Vineyard feeling and energy that I might want to re-visit when I wasn’t on the island, so I would occasionally watch it when I felt nostalgic. The recording’s arrival on DVD in 2004 also marked a brief but notable resurgence of my appreciation of the concert. Later on in a continued awareness of the “nostalgic” point, I made sure to have the disc on hand and available if I wanted to watch it during my 10 years of living out of Massachusetts. The most energetic song for me was always The Stuff that Dreams Are Made Of, which was noticeably absent from the commercial audio recordings of the concert and so contributed to the wish to watch the video recording again … or for the umpteenth time.

This year, since I’m currently living relatively close to the concert site, I chose to go over this morning and do a brief in-person nod to the musical history. It would have been nice if Carly acknowledged the concert with some sort of anniversary event in years past – whether 2017, 2012, or an earlier time – but she seems less willing to perform in public at present. As for the location itself, the stage was only a temporary one, so it was (presumably) removed soon after the event. Where the performance area was built right on a sand dune, I wonder if the town would have allowed the event to take place a few years later, as ecological awareness grew.

The dune itself sits there unchanged (pictured at right today), in a quiet reflection of its prominent musical and island historical role. The simplicity of the location is calming in some way, serving as a physical note, for those “in the know”, that something can rise to the occasion and fall back into a lower key, perhaps like the peaks and valleys of life itself.

For the DVD release, Carly recorded a retrospective interview about the concert, which included some bonus footage from the second night (June 10, 1987) of recording. The full disc included the interview in three parts, running around 20 minutes, and it was later edited down to a shorter selection of highlights to include online. That version is linked below.

Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, Traveling

Summer Solstice, Summer Sights

it’s become a source of irritation to me that it seems increasingly difficult to get back in the blogging routine. Over the past year and a half I have published TWO posts. And yet, I’m still online constantly, going about my daily digital routines.

But what if I actually sat down and wrote something? On this blog that I continue to pay for? Imagine that.

So, this morning’s heavy rain on Martha’s Vineyard and concurrent status as the first official day of summer seems to be a good time to actually come back to the blog.

But what to write about? In my present full-time islander iteration, I seem to have mastered the art of short off-island trips. Last weekend was the last opportunity for awhile, and this time my sights turned to northern New England, as in New Hampshire and Vermont.

There was something familiar and pleasant about seeing the signs for roads I grew up with while making that same drive with family. The journey to our usual destination in Vermont, in particular, is so familiar that I could create a checklist of where to stop and when. But for this occasion I decided to change it up and go “the other way” all the way north along I-93 through Franconia Notch, ultimately to the road’s terminus in St. Johnsbury, Vermont, where i would be spending the night just north of my intended destination.

There was also something familiar and pleasant about simply having an OFF-ISLAND DRIVING EXPERIENCE where one could go higher than 45 MPH and not have the thought of a ticket go into one’s mind. The lack of geographic limitation – if I had more time I may well have driven on to Canada, just 50 more miles north – also factored into the appeal.

The I-93 route has always had a feeling of being more mysterious and dynamic than the blander I-89 route across New Hampshire. The sensation reaches its apex in the Franconia Notch Parkway, which “required Congress to pass a special amendment to the standards applied across the rest of the U.S. interstate system” as briefly described here, and was originally not even signed as part of I-93. The mystical feel is also evident in a different way at night, when you can’t even see the mountain tops, and I recall feeling that way on my previous evening trip through the notch, near the end of 2015.

This particular pass through also made me notice how the parkway is a rare (for New England) evocation of Southwest and West Coast driving experiences, with the Virgin River Gorge in Arizona being perhaps a particularly close equivalent, which I’ve now seen for myself but had no idea of on childhood trips through.

And then the road widens out again and its onward north into Vermont. The Green Mountain State has always felt welcoming to me, though it had been slightly over a year and half since i was last in the area. As with any state lines, there is a noticeable change in “feel” from the start, and makes me recall the opposite “back to real life” feel of re-entering Massachusetts, which I experienced again on this weekend’s trip.

Once in St. Johnsbury, I wrote on Facebook later to close out the day:

Back in St. Johnsbury Vermont for one night only, celebrating 30 years of coming to the Northeast Kingdom, recalling two separate instances of considering moving here.

I didn’t realize until today that this Father’s Day weekend trip also honors the memory of a short trip here in 1990 with my dad, possibly also on Father’s Day weekend, when we caught the then-new release DICK TRACY at this very cinema, and friends back at Karme Choling were very interested to hear how the movie was.

And the mix of nostalgia and acknowledgment of the present seems a good way to wrap up this reflection exercise and notation for today.


Martha's Vineyard

A Year on an Island

Well, somehow a year went by without posting on this blog.

I was conscious of the time passing, but, also conscious of making notes of events and activities in other mediums, and so it didn’t feel as necessary to maintain a long-form written presence here.

I’m still on the island and life is busier than outsiders might think it would be. I’ve also been keeping up my travel inclinations when I can, along with making up for time spent parked in the same place (the island) last summer.

I should have used some of those travel opportunities, such as a return to the UK over Thanksgiving break, as an opportunity for longer form chronicling. But on the other hand, I tend to chronicle events more naturally in retrospect than in the moment.

So mayne that means that the next chapter of blogging will offer some combination of present and retrospective. It won’t be a year until I next post, and so I look forward to discovering what may be chronicled.

Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts

Day in the Life on an Island

During some days it may feel like we are “going through the motions” – and so I felt it was a good challenge to compose A Day in The Life at the end of Saturday, January 27.

8:31 a.m.

Up and at ‘em for the day. Breakfast of choice is a lemon muffin from a 4-pack purchased yesterday at Cronig’s Market.

9:35 a.m.

It’s time for my daily walk around “The Loop” – which I’m now accustomed to seeing in a fairly quiet mode. Since it’s Saturday, the Club manager’s car isn’t there outside the Club, where he’s the sole employee at this time of year. There’s a slight variation to the walking routine when I step onto a friend’s property to pick up something he had purchased for me, and then continue along the Loop with that item in hand.

10:40 a.m.

Buzz into downtown Vineyard Haven and find a parking space in the market (central) parking lot, where there’s no guarantee of space as the day goes on, Notice the ferry of the hour about to leave for the mainland, and briefly reflect (as I do periodically these days) about how it’s different to be oriented towards island residency rather than just visiting. End up in a particularly indecisive state about what I want and need to do at the town post office, eventually walking back and forth from the car to the PO five times, but getting the mailing done that I had debated about.

11:30 a.m.

Decide to visit the island’s “Secret Starbucks” for what’s become a weekly visit and dose of a venti vanilla latte. The cashier is someone i have not seen there before. Add a cookie to my order for the first time in a couple of weeks. End up staying at the cafe for another hour or so, wearing down the computer battery, which I’ve taken to showing the percentage of ever since I had to have the battery completely replaced last month.

1:05 p.m.

Arrive for weekly visit with my great-aunt, which isn’t on a formal schedule, but when she asks me if I’ve been away I get the sense I might have waited slightly too long to come back. But she turns out to be in a chattier mood than other recent visits, while I continue to appreciate her even-keeled wise elder presence.

2:10 p.m.

Decide that today is also time for my weekly visit to the Main Street sandwich shop, where, on a previous visit last week, I’d graduated to a “known customer” role coming in at the end of the day and the cashier giving me two slices for the price of one “because you come in here all the time.” This time the meal of choice is a fish sandwich, which I’ve determined to be among the island’s most underrated. I’m particularly pleased to pay with exact change.

2:35 p.m.

It’s on across the street to the gym, where I’ve suddenly vaulted back into a level of higher physical endurance that I did not feel I could come right back into when I resumed the membership two weeks ago. I do a couple of things differently on this particular visit, including focusing more acutely (vs. on the iphone) during the recumbent bike portion, and later completing a longer time at a higher treadmill speed, which leads to a 1.8 mile and 260 calorie endurance total.

4:20 p.m.

Against my better judgment, it’s time for a visit to the coffee shop, where their prices include tax and the payment is cash-only, so it fits my preference for exact change, especially when the total is $6 like today. As I’m drinking it, I feel I shouldn’t have bothered to have the small mocha.

5:05 p.m.

It’s time to begin the day at the theatre with preparations for tonight’s performance, one of two for this weekend of a returning popular community event. I am the first one there and for once that doesn’t seem to bother me as I feel comfortable with what needs to be set up and the amount of time it will take.

6:05 p.m.

Work up a sweat while vacuuming certain public areas of the lobby. The modes on the (not new) vacuum are particularly challenging to adjust, but I manage it, though my fingers feel the effort.

6:40 p.m.

Start a running handwritten tally of how many people are attending the free performance. Some people notice my annotating and some do not.

7:05 p.m.

It’s time to start the show! But as house manager, I stay downstairs for the first half an hour, just in case anyone straggles in. (ultimately we have no latecomers.)

7:30 p.m.

Time to go upstairs and observe the second half. It’s the first time I’ve seen this storied adaptive group in action.

8:40 p.m.

Time to wrap things up as people mingle in the lobby. We manage to leave by 9pm.

9:20 p.m.

Celebrate a full day with my first swig of Lagunitas Undercover Shut-Down Ale since April or May of 2017.

marin county, Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, Movies, Traveling

Twenty Eighteen Renewal

Having lost track of what I wanted to do in this blogging space over the past year or so, I’ve resolved to renew emphasis on filmgoing and dramatic criticism for now, and see what may come of other experiences ahead.

Century Cinema, Corte Madera, CA

While recently back in the great state of California, I enjoyed a few filmgoing experiences. The 2017 moviegoing year ended in the same place where the 2016 moviegoing year had both ended and began: the Century Cinema in Corte Madera, CA. I’ve surely written before about how this particular cinema is the ultimate in big-screen entertainment for Marin County and possibly the entire Bay Area itself, with one single large screen and almost always featuring the latest and biggest blockbuster. Legend has it that the Cinema has always been a top commercial venue of both choice and gross for the Star Wars films, and that tradition continued with its screening of The Last Jedi, the latest installment in the Skywalker Saga.

This was my second and likely last big screen viewing of the film, and I found it more enjoyable the second time around, though not an overall tops experience .If the first viewing was about riding the crest of anticipation mixed with a dose of melancholia stemming from Carrie Fisher no longer being among the earthly realm, the second time around was a way to sit back and enjoy the ride of the story, while also staying present in the flow of the narrative and not over-anticipating elements i already knew were coming around.

The impressive marquee of the Regal Santa Cruz 9

Later in my California stay I enjoyed some moviegoing as rainy day counter-programming. The film of choice, somewhat randomly, was Molly’s Game, a new drama written and directed by Aaron Sorkin, and seeing the film brought back memories of seeing Sorkin’s The Social Network in California for the first time in 2010, which I ought to do a retrospective post about at some point. I wasn’t really aware of the story of Molly Bloom and her self-made poker empire, so that helped to keep the material fresh. Chastain, who seems to have gained a new level of confidence in her public persona within the last year or two, carries the film splendidly but never too show-ily, even letting herself blend into the background of a few scenes and letting the story focus on gender politics along with systematic challenges of business and professional identity, among others.

Unfortunately, the film takes a sharp turn into sentimentality for its final act, and thus caused me to lose interest in its overly pat resolution. Sorkin obviously loves his dialogue, delivered in trademark rapid fire style, but the material could have used some greater editing. The film narrative is one that shifts back and forth in time, making for an absorbing and immediate sensation, but I had to wonder what it would have been like as a more straightforwardly chronological story. (Most likely not as dynamic, of course.)

On a different note, the filmgoing experience for Molly’s Game (in downtown Santa Cruz) was unusual in that a person was being arrested in the lobby as I walked in for my film, and I’d be very curious to know what became of their situation.

My third California film became The Post, a very East Coast story that I had tried to see on the East Coast itself earlier in the holiday break, only to discover that showing was sold out. Related to that general East Coast feeling, my knowledge and appreciation of Martha’s Vineyard history led to an intriguing subtext while viewing this film, which features several real-life individuals – Katherine Graham, Robert McNamara, and more – all of whom summered here on Martha’s Vineyard and socialized together, concurrent with their “real lives” in Washington. The island’s storied weekly paper, The Vineyard Gazette, is even name-dropped in one brief sequence during the film.

I knew that the filmgoing experience with this film might be a bit frustrating, as I was heading to a large corporate style multiplex, but I wasn’t expecting to wait ten minutes in line due to limited staffing at their box office. As well, the film was showing in a “premium” cinema, which meant a higher ticket price, and that might have been more irritating if I hadn’t been using a gift certificate.

So I arrived a few minutes late to the film, but it puts you right in to the tense, claustrophobic atmosphere of the early 1970’s. The story eventually falls into the mechanics of leading up to One Big Event, and therein lied some of its problems for me. While undoubtedly well-told, once that Big Event is past, the film seemed to rush along to its conclusion. There’s no doubt either that Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks offer stellar work as the two main real-life characters in the story. But … Streep is obviously Streep, and i had to wonder what a lesser-known actress might have done with the part. On the other hand, Hanks seemed more at ease, and not necessarily being Tom Hanks, than in some of his other work I have seen in recent years.

The Post also lays on the contemporary allegories a bit too thickly, never in the sense of “this is happening again, ahh!” but in a bit too much of a showing the past to make your own judgements about the present. Nonetheless I feel I would still recommend the film.


Mastery of Merchant Ivory

In an attempt to blog more, I’m looking back at a blog post that I started just over a year ago. A bit embarrassing to realize that I never posted it, but why not do so now, with some more context added?

A year ago, the Merchant-Ivory classic film Howard’s End appeared at The Maple Theatre in Bloomfield, Michigan, for a one week re-release celebrating an impending 25th anniversary and digital restoration. Somehow I learned of the screenings, probably thanks to my regular scouting of film listings and moviegoing itself serving as a stress relief at that particular time.

I recall being retrospectively impressed by the film’s use of scale, most notably seen in the lush cinematography and music score. Most of the central cast – Emma Thompson, Anthony Hopkins, Vanessa Redgrave, Helena Bonham Carter and others – felt like they are not as active in the present day, or more selective about their projects (probably a mixture of both) and so looking back at their previous work felt especially revelatory.

The theatre itself – one of my favorites in the metro Detroit area – contributed to my enjoyment as well, where it only has three screens with carefully crafted film choices and isn’t oriented towards mass market entertainment.

Howards End

It feels a bit funny to say that The Remains of The Day was one of my favorite films as a kid … but it was. Somehow I never got to see its immediate Merchant Ivory cinematic universe predecessor Howard’s End all the way through as a whole film … until today at The Maple Theater, which is screening it as part of a special limited run re-release.

I’d forgotten how intricate the Merchant Ivory world was, with elements bursting out of the frame and suggesting a wider visual and active world beyond the story. Such depth was particularly apparent in this narrative, with three parallel stories intertwining, intersecting and then branching out into their own narratives.

Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, Traveling

Nostalgia is Good, Until It’s Not

This afternoon i chose to indulge in some nostalgic activities (as opposed to an activity that provoked nostalgic sensations) here on Martha’s Vineyard. The island has an extensive range of memories for me spanning my whole life, as I’ve undoubtedly mentioned before, and, at this point in my life, it offers a larger array of memories than the area of Massachusetts where I officially grew up. If asked, I say I “partially grew up” here on the island, which isn’t an exaggeration.

I am noting this today because it seems that each time I intentionally go back to a particular area of the island that has a number of memories for and with my paternal side of the family, there is a gradual but noticeable curved sensation of enjoyment. Initially being in that area provokes something like a warm fuzzie: “hmm, yes, there are many memories here and I’m glad to acknowledge and recall them…” which then carries itself on with a familiar mix of past and present. That feeling gives way to one that’s more rooted in the present, like an “okay, here I am, and I’m going to stop what I’m doing and JUST BE for a few minutes, because the present moment involves what feels like lots of running around.” Or something like that. And then, there’s an abrupt shift, which could be provoked by something like a phone call or seeing another person, or it could take the form of a sudden realization, to the tune of “OK that’s enough to look back on for now. Don’t get lost in the past.

I didn’t really realize that those sensations have been chronic, but something about this particular activity today made me recognize that the cycle has played itself out before. And maybe it will again. While I will continue to think that it’s good to be respectful and acknowledging of the past, it’s possible that if the desire for nostalgia comes up in the future – as it probably will – I will be more mindful of how much time and thought I wish to spend with it.