Category Archives: Massachusetts

Familiarity breeds Excitement

It was such a “wow” moment when Peter Pan/Bonanza bus first introduced wifi service on their buses around 2010, and it was also quite glitchy. Now in 2015 I’m enjoying it without a second thought, and an expectation that it will be smooth!

The computer distracts me from the extremely familiar sights along this Boston —> Martha’s Vineyard bus ride. I was trying to determine in my head how many times I’ve taken this bus ride in my life, and would go for somewhere between 50 and 100, not as much as I might expect, but if you add in private car trips of that same route, the number might go into the thousands.

I remember feeling disappointed when the character of the final stretch of highway (I-495 and MA 25) changed around ten years ago with a switch from side of the road to overhead signs, making it seem to me less like a rural route and more like a standard American highway or freeway. There was also a time when I was a vocal pre-teen passenger and encouraged my parents to vary the route since this stretch of road seemed too boring and repetitive to me, so we’d go via Providence RI and then loop back to it, or join the road at a slightly northern point of the usual onramp in Raynham.

But in the present day, with my not based in Massachusetts life, traveling along the highway – along the whole Boston to Martha’s Vineyard route, really – is the equivalent of an eager mental checklist, and it continues to get me every time.

Exited Boston? Yep.

Turned onto Route 24? Yep.

Curved turn onto 495? Yep.

Transition to 25? Yep.

still to come: cross the Bourne Bridge, go through two rotaries, a few small towns, and one ferry ride…

Bourne Sign

One of the last highway signs before the Bourne Bridge onto Cape Cod

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Late Night in My Home City

I’ve found a conveniently located hotel in downtown Boston to kick off my Thanksgiving homecoming swing. It still tends to feel odd, when I first arrive, to be experiencing my home city on my own terms of adulthood, not rushing to a particular commitment, get-together with a friend, or traveling around with another family member. But that’s been a continually gradual adjustment since 2007 when I last lived full-time in Massachusetts.

It was a stunning moonrise in Detroit.

It was a stunning moonrise in Detroit.

The long day from Michigan to here brought many memorable little moments, and now that it’s the end of the day, I’m a bit perplexed by an aggressive theme that ran through the day … perhaps some sort of travel anxiety coming to the surface? Some examples of this included going through several yellow lights on the way into Detroit this morning, deliberately taking a small shortcut in a parking garage (and then talking back to the attendant who called me out on it), and, later, having a protracted back and forth with a car rental company – both on the phone and in person, at the same time – when they weren’t listening to the adage that “the customer is always right” and making me dance through several hoops to make a (what would be) seemingly simple change to a reservation.

Until the customer service agent at Logan Airport suddenly said “hey, you can just do it this way!” in a total coming to your senses manner, but with more than a hint of the runaround approach that car rental salespeople often employ. And I took him for his word, so I hope the result will be smooth when I see its effect on Friday.

And now a morning return to “The Family Homestead” awaits… can’t wait!

IMG_4070

The Road Geek Returns

US 101

With a familiar highway in California

This week has seen a sudden return to my “old habits” of geeking out about road related matters, specifically road signs. I’d love to know when and where this attraction originated… but it’s been a fascination as long as I can remember, most notably with a long-running childhood project of drawing exit signs.

In this regard it’s exciting to live in Michigan, with its oh-so-slightly different standards of signage to the rest of the US – if anything, more close to European standards than you find elsewhere in this country. Some examples of this include the angular directional signs that are sometimes seen on highways going in different directions (one good example being here on the way into Ann Arbor) and a general penchant for smaller, angular signs that say what they need to say in a more compact orientation than one might find in another state. Finally, those same signs often don’t indicate the cardinal direction of the route, as I memorably captured in the photo below at an earlier point this year.

IMG_1222

BUT, all of this interest in signs somehow generated itself from growing up in Massachusetts, which has its own infamous system of highways that were designed one way and then went another, courtesy of the freeway revolts of the 1970’s and a (rightly) growing sentiment that the region shouldn’t be decimated by a ring of urban highways tearing apart neighborhoods.

The highway to my hometown in Massachusetts

The highway to my hometown in Massachusetts

So this renewed fascination has taken me onto a few highway forums, most notably this one, from which I learned that Massachusetts plans to belatedly convert all of its highway exits to mile-marker based, as opposed to sequential, over the next year or so.

I feel like there should be more to say about my home state catching up to the rest of the country in this regard. But … it’s all well and good. And I’ll believe it when I see it.

One post per month at the moment

my current internet living situation is one where there is no connection in the house. so I have resolved that this summer’s blogging will be down to one post per month.

The summer has brought a welcome continuation of being directly involved in theatrical productions – this time here – and I’ve been able to keep up my filmgoing in a slightly modified form, given that most films reach this small island (especially this year with two additional cinemas reopened after an unfortunate hiatus) but some do not.

The best film of the summer so far for me was easily Love and Mercy, an intimate and sharply focused biopic looking at the life of erstwhile “Beach Boy” Brian Wilson. Actors Paul Dano and John Cusack shared the lead role, playing Wilson at different times in his life, and were supported by a game team of skilled actors. Elizabeth Banks appeared in Cusack’s timeline as a new girlfriend who becomes increasingly important in his life, and Banks rose to the challenge well with thoughtful dramatic depth.

My most notable film experience of the summer came about by attending a special sneak preview of the new film Southpaw, which went on general release this weekend. Actor Jake Gyllenhaal was in attendance for the screening, and in addition to giving a question and answer session about the film, he ended up sitting directly behind me for the entire length of the film. Definitely the first time I have ever had the star in the audience and in such proximity while watching a film.

And what else? I kicked things off with Mad Max: Fury Road, quickly followed by Tomorrowland, and then it was… an encore screening of Ex Machina, followed later by Ted 2 and then Inside Out and most recently Trainwreck. So, not as many films as I might think – but a good selection of product.

As for the theatre, we’ve been having a very full summer. Most of my time is spent on an ongoing outdoor production of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare Abridged (Revised) – and if you’re reading this on Martha’s Vineyard, you should come by.

Happy Birthday to Ms. Carly Simon!

Singer, erstwhile Martha’s Vineyard neighbor/charitable resident, and all-around accomplished artist Carly Simon starts a new decade today, which makes it an appropriate moment to re-post an entry I wrote last fall about her enduring appeal.

I’m also glad to be posting this while on Martha’s Vineyard!

____________

I’ve never posted about the #WCW (Women Crush Wednesday) social media trend, but this seems like an appropriately random time to start. The natural starting point for me at least is the enduring appeal of singer – songwriter Ms. Carly Simon, whose music I grew up with, and was semi – fixated on for a time in my younger years. (I acknowledged that in a solo performance a few years ago and was surprised by the warm reaction.)

Anyhow, Simon recently posted a picture on her Instagram account that exemplified her continued aura of beguilement, at least for me. The picture shows her on Lambert’s Cove Beach on Martha’s Vineyard, not far from her home. That beach is also a favorite destination for my family members and I when we can get in – usage is generally restricted during the high summer season. In the picture, Simon seems to strike just the right pose of slight amusement and satisfaction, clearly enjoying the moment but not gloating in it. (It would be a perfect album cover shot for her if she had an upcoming release waiting in the wings.)

This picture perfectly fits Simon’s role in my current musical tastes – someone whom I “come back around again” to from time to time, to paraphrase one of her well – known lyrics, but don’t fixate on with regularity. Nonetheless, her music and persona continue to be emblematic of Martha’s Vineyard, the family homestead, for me, and presumably in a similar way for others. I didn’t shy away from occasionally watching her 1987 concert at Menemsha if I’m feeling homesick, and her song Never Been Gone remains the most iconic example of being home in Massachusetts. A handful of her songs have additional family or home region associations for me.

So that picture brought a brief resurgence in my appreciation of her work, which has been more on the periphery recently as she has maintained a lower public profile over the last several years. Her children Sally and Ben now take the lead in the family business, which she often supports during their Vineyard shows, and I last saw her join Ben onstage three years ago in Edgartown.

Her music remains emblematic of a certain special or cherished time and place, and I’m sure it will always be that way for my family members and I.

Throwback Thursday: Remember Chain Emails?!

I thought I’d pull something off my LiveJournal for a throwback post today, and was surprised to see that I’d made this long-ish post around this time of year back in 2002.

> Directions
(Don’t try this at home!)
> Place CD-ROM on a small paper cup in the center of the oven. The CD-ROM should be at least an inch above the bottom of the oven and far from the sides.
> Turn out the room lights for best visual effects.
> Caution! be ready to stop the oven when the CD-ROM starts to smoke. The smoke smells bad, and is probably bad for you.
> Set the oven on high for 5 seconds.
> Watch the pretty blue light show.
> Turn on the room lights.
Look at the nifty fractal pattern etched into the aluminum. If you have several CD-ROM’s try some label side up and some label side down. In my experience, CD-ROM’s with thin ink in the labels work best. They are prettiest when the label side is up. CD-ROM’s with thick label ink start to smoke earlier. DEC CD-ROM’s work very well, as they just have a bit of black lettering on a clear background. I have a bunch of other CD-ROM’s with full color pictures that don’t work nearly as well.
> Remember, don’t try this with Mom’s Beatles albums!
>
This won’t harm a modern Microwave oven, unless you cook the CD-ROM too long and coat the oven with smoke. Old microwave ovens may have problems.
> If you can’t easily replace your oven, don’t use it for science
> experiments.
>
> The Science
The aluminum layer in a CD-ROM is very thin. The microwave oven induces large currents in the aluminum. This makes enough heat to vaporize the aluminum. You then see a very small lightning storm as electric arcs go through the vaporized aluminum. Within a few seconds there will be manypaths etched through the aluminum, leaving behind little metalic islands. Some of the islands will be shaped so that they make very good microwave antennas. These spots will focus the microwave energy, and get very hot. Now you will see just a few bright spots spewing a lot of smoke. The good part of the light show is over, turn off the oven. I suspect that if you leave the oven going much longer, the CD-ROM will burst into flame. This will smell very bad and may do bad things to your oven and house. Don’t do it.

HOW TO KEEP A HEALTHY LEVEL OF INSANITY
AND DRIVE OTHER PEOPLE INSANE

Page yourself over the intercom. Don’t disguise your voice.

Find out where your boss shops and buy exactly the same outfits.
Always wear them one day after your boss does. This is especially
effective if your boss is the opposite gender.

Send e-mail to the rest of the company to tell them what you’re
doing. For example: “If anyone needs me, I’ll be in the bathroom.”

Put mosquito netting around your cubicle.

Insist that your e-mail address be:
zena_goddess_of_fire@companyname.com

Every time someone asks you to do something, ask if they want fries
with that.

Put your garbage can on your desk and label it “IN.”

Put decaf in the coffee-maker for 3 weeks. Once everyone has gotten over their caffeine addictions, switch to espresso.

When driving colleagues around, insist on keeping your car’s
windshield wipers running during all weather conditions to keep ’em
tuned up.

Reply to everything someone says with, “That’s what you think.”

Highlight irrelevant information in scientific papers, then cc them
to your boss.

Finish all your sentences with “in accordance with the prophecy.”

Don’t use any punctuation.

As often as possible, skip rather than walk.

Ask people what sex they are.

At lunch time, sit in your parked car and point a hair dryer at
passing cars to see if they slow down.

Specify that your drive-through order is “to go.”

Stomp on plastic ketchup packets.

Holler random numbers while someone is counting.

Honk and wave at strangers.

Decline to be seated at a restaurant, then eat the complimentary
mints by the cash register.

Sing along at the opera.

Go to a poetry recital and ask why the poems don’t rhyme.

Five days in advance, tell your friends you can’t attend their party because you’re not in the mood.

JANUARY 1, 2000
>In honour of Charles Schultz, who’s just retired Charlie Brown and the
>gang: Source: John C. Davenport, The Dallas Morning News
>
>Most cartoon characters remain frozen in time. Though they’ve been around almost 50 years, the members of the Peanuts gang are in some unspecified elementary school holding pattern. But what if they had been allowed to age like the rest of us? With apologies to Charles Schulz:
>
>Charlie Brown:
>Operates Good Grief Counselling Inc., which specializes in manic-depressives and people who are just having a bad day. Moonlights as a pitching coach at high school and college levels. Married to Marcie. They have a roundheaded son who wears glasses.
>
>Linus:
>Developer of Security Blanket Software, which is a hot item on the New York Stock Exchange. Worth millions but is actively involved in charitable causes, including the Great Pumpkin 5K Fun Run every Halloween. Only man who makes Bill Gates nervous.
>
>Lucy:
>Serving her seventh term in Congress. On her third husband. Claims she
>hasn’t thought about Schroeder in years, but the background music on her answering machine is Beethoven.
>
>Schroeder:
>After years on the classical performing circuit, he runs a piano bar in
>Carmel, California. Won’t let anybody lean on his piano.
>
>Sally:
>Never quite got over being spurned by Linus. Has a cat named Sweet Babboo. Sells Mary Kay.
>
>Peppermint Patty:
>Women’s athletic director at a Midwest university. Her fashion credo:
>”Sandals go with everything.”
>
>Snoopy:
>In dog years, he’d be 350. What do you think would’ve happened to him?
>Linus has created an endowment at Daisy Hill Puppy farm in Snoopy’s memory.
>
{I wonder what ever happened to the “Little Redheaded Girl”?]

Throwback Thursday: Reflecting on the Scream Series

Four years ago I was very excited that there was a new “Scream” film. I didn’t note at the time that it had coincidentally been filmed right here in Michigan. I wasn’t living here at the time but had learned of the filming from local friends.

I’m having some giddy enthusiasm over the prospect of seeing SCREAM 4 today at the movies. I’m sure this is due to the memory of the SCREAM series being a big deal “back in the day” and the curiosity of seeing if this film lives up to its predecessors. I’m deliberately holding off reading any reviews of the film and will do so after seeing it. In a few other recent film-going experiences (BLACK SWAN comes to mind) I regretted taking a close look at the publicity before seeing the film.

I never saw the original SCREAM in the cinemas …. in fact, I don’t think it was originally released to the North Shore. This was before the Danvers 20 screen megaplex opened, and screening options were limited. I do remember the runaway success of the film, and watching with interest as it continued to be shown well into mid 1997. I do miss those days of long running movie hits, as the screen to DVD window is so tight now, it’s almost better to wait for the video. I did find out recently that the original film was shot in my area of California. A friend of a friend had a small supporting role. The climax of the film was shot at a house which I have driven by a few times, without realizing its so-called historical significance.

SCREAM 2 was another story. This time, it was a big deal to see the film as soon as it came out, and I eagerly compared impressions with my classmates. My dad and I were regular visitors to the Solomon Pond Mall cinema in Marlborough, MA. This complex had achieved local acclaim as “New England’s first stadium seating megaplex” and was virtually unique for the first 6 months to 1 year of operations. Hoyts quickly opened similar complexes in nearby Westborough and Bellingham, but there was something special about the first space. Or it could have been “never as good as the first time” for film goers. I think I actually saw the film again a few weeks later in Vermont, either sneaking in to the R-rated movie or going with an accompanying adult. The “live” nature of seeing it on opening weekend, with a full sold out audience also looking at it for the first time, stands out very clearly in my memory. It also helped that it was on an enormous cinema screen with stadium seating and perfect presentation.

SCREAM 3 was also a unique experience. This time, we traveled to the Showcase Cinemas in Randolph for my first (and still only) visit to that South Shore megaplex. I could tell from the start that the enthusiasm wasn’t there for the production team in this installment. Neve Campbell’s virtual absence from the story, and the overly tongue in cheek Hollywood nature of the script, suggested to me that there was not a lot of excitement in the tale.

What will SCREAM 4 bring? I’m looking forward to going over to the Larkspur Landing Cinema this afternoon to find out.

The Star Gatekeepers of Martha’s Vineyard are fading into the Menemsha Sunset

The recent death of Mike Nichols, well-chronicled in various newspapers, but most notably to me in a Vineyard Gazette article, reinforces a feeling I’ve had over the last few years.

Martha’s Vineyard’s celebrity gatekeepers – those who come to the island and value their privacy, aren’t intruded upon, but are also willing to stand up for community causes and events when they choose – are disappearing. In his passing on, Nichols joins Art Buchwald, William Styron, Mike Wallace, Katherine Graham, Walter Cronkite, Patricia Neal and others of the literati/glitterati set who were known for their visiting/residing and support of the Island.

To me as a lifelong part-time Island resident/visitor, these were all people who appreciated what the Vineyard has to offer. More importantly for the locals, they weren’t shy about using their cache to improve the life and resources of those who are there on the Island full – time, which was and is perhaps best seen in the long-running Possible Dreams Auction for Martha’s Vineyard Community Services.

But who will take their place? Others remain, with Carly Simon perhaps seen as the primary standard bearer.

But there aren’t really many people my age, or a little older than me, who are taking up the mantlepiece as the celebrity statesman. I don’t know if that’s a pro or con for an island that values its own individual community. But I do know that it’s a change that will continue to be subtly felt.

WCW – Never Been Gone

I’ve never posted about the #WCW (Women Crush Wednesday) social media trend, but this seems like an appropriately random time to start. The natural starting point for me at least is the enduring appeal of singer – songwriter Ms. Carly Simon, whose music I grew up with, and was semi – fixated on for a time in my younger years. (I acknowledged that in a solo performance a few years ago and was surprised by the warm reaction.)

Anyhow, Simon recently posted a picture on her Instagram account that exemplified her continued aura of beguilement, at least for me. The picture shows her on Lambert’s Cove Beach on Martha’s Vineyard, not far from her home. That beach is also a favorite destination for my family members and I when we can get in – usage is generally restricted during the high summer season. In the picture, Simon seems to strike just the right pose of slight amusement and satisfaction, clearly enjoying the moment but not gloating in it. (It would be a perfect album cover shot for her if she had an upcoming release waiting in the wings.)

This picture perfectly fits Simon’s role in my current musical tastes – someone whom I “come back around again” to from time to time, to paraphrase one of her well – known lyrics, but don’t fixate on with regularity. Nonetheless, her music and persona continue to be emblematic of Martha’s Vineyard, the family homestead, for me, and presumably in a similar way for others. I didn’t shy away from occasionally watching her 1987 concert at Menemsha if I’m feeling homesick, and her song Never Been Gone remains the most iconic example of being home in Massachusetts. A handful of her songs have additional family or home region associations for me.

So that picture brought a brief resurgence in my appreciation of her work, which has been more on the periphery recently as she has maintained a lower public profile over the last several years. Her children Sally and Ben now take the lead in the family business, which she often supports during their Vineyard shows, and I last saw her join Ben onstage three years ago in Edgartown.

Her music remains emblematic of a certain special or cherished time and place, and I’m sure it will always be that way for my family members and I.

Vineyard Family Album

I have no idea why it’s taken me so long to write some commentary on Ben Taylor‘s performance at the Old Whaling Church in Edgartown, MA, on August 14th. Since I’ve included previous concerts for this year in my show tally, this was show #45. I was very happy to return to Martha’s Vineyard (and conclude my Cross Country 3 journey) just in time for the concert that evening. I had attended his similar concert in 2010, also at the Old Whaling Church. Ten years ago, almost to the day, my mom and I were also in attendance for his sister Sally‘s concert there. Of course, their family history with Martha’s Vineyard is no secret, and contributes to the appeal of the Island in some people’s eyes.

I later discovered that this concert was in fact Part 2 of a family double bill, coming immediately on the heels of a concert on Nantucket which Ben’s mom had played just the previous day. She made a special cameo appearance during the new song Worlds Are Made of Paper, which I’ve embedded below in a recorded version they made soon after (or just before?) this concert. Needless to say, the crowd went wild for her backup singing, with many smart phones swinging in to action to capture brief live recordings of the song. Meanwhile, many if not all of the supporting musical artists were featured in similar or slightly different roles to how they had performed on Nantucket. The one exception was Ben’s Aunt Kate, who was visible in the pre-show crowd and joined him onstage for the traditional closing family song, Close Your Eyes.

I wondered if the double-header nature of this concert might have contributed to my feeling that last year (2010)’s concert was the superior evening. It’s all in my guesses and assumptions, but I felt that the performance energy may not have been as focused as 2010. There was definitely more of a workman-like feeling to the evening, moving through each song and trying to stick to a schedule. Ben himself did not stick around for autographs as he did in 2010. He featured the same opening act, Julian, who had me feeling strong deja vu as he performed identical songs with the same introductions he’d given last year. However, it does make me consider the performer’s lifestyle and choices – how do you keep something fresh that you have performed hundreds of times or more?

The presence of Ben’s family friend Arnold McCuller definitely enlivened the evening. He brought soulful and enthusiastic vocals to all of his solo tunes, and willingly shifted roles between supporting and lead singer. The Vineyard Gazette published a detailed interview with McCuller in their weekly issue coinciding with the concert, but I see they’ve now made the article available by subscription only.

Despite my mixed impressions of the creative and technical side of the concert, there’s no denying that it was the perfect way for me to come home to Martha’s Vineyard and conclude my cross country journey. I thought frequently during the concert about my lasting appreciation of the Island’s First Musical Family, and felt a sense of gratitude to be able to hear (most of) them in action again.