Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts

The Celebrity speaks to you, and what do you say to the celebrity?


2016 chat with Carly

Last week I had the pleasure of seeing my “childhood idol” Carly Simon in person again, right here on Martha’s Vineyard not far from her home. Carly makes few public appearances these days, so it was not surprising that the event was sold out. I expected to be among the youngest in the audience, but, there were a certain number of people in the room who appeared to be at least a little younger than me. The event was held in the one room schoolhouse style Chilmark Community Center, a key gathering place for the “Up-Island” community on the Vineyard, and part of a series of author talks on the island this summer.

At first there was sort of a nervous energy in the room – was Carly here yet? why was the event starting late? After a while her son Ben Taylor appeared from a side door with a guitar, clearly a cue that there would be some sort of included musical performance, and I wondered if Carly and co. were hiding behind a small divider that masked one area of the stage. But when Ben and his sister Sally appeared again from the other side door, this time accompanying their mother, there was no more doubt and wondering. A gradual silence descended as people noticed the woman of the hour’s arrival, though she did not immediately proceed onstage, instead waiting for an introduction from the event coordinator.

Once onstage, Carly proceeded to be unusually forthcoming in her responses and anecdotes to guided questions from local radio host Barbara Dacey. While she’s always been reasonably open to a point in her public life, it seemed that the process of writing a memoir (published last year and the precipitating force behind this event) enabled her to have a new sense of release over her personal history and reflections. I particularly appreciated the focus on her impressions of Martha’s Vineyard – and hearing her anecdotes right there, live, in her own voice – over a nearly lifelong array of memories living and experiencing different parts of the island. She briefly quoted her iconic returning to the island song Never Been Gone and impressively (in quoting the first verse immediately from memory) brought up a more obscure song called We Just Got Here, written as a reflection of the “end of summer” feeling that arrives on the Vineyard after a certain point in August.

The connection to her family members was strong and clear at two poignant moments in the evening. First, son Ben and daughter Sally were invited to comment on childhood memories of the musicianship of Carly and their dad James Taylor. In Sally’s answer, her reflections spontaneously led into a duet lullaby with her mom (Sally sitting in the audience with a microphone and Carly onstage) immediately bringing up a treasured song from memory. As the finale of the evening, Ben, Sally and Sophie Hiller joined Carly onstage to perform her song Rainin’, a perhaps lesser-known Martha’s Vineyard focused composition about what to do when a family faces a rainy day on the island. Carly had noted earlier that they’d premiered the song in the same Chilmark Community Center space in the early 1990’s, so it was clearly meaningful for her to reprise it. And when she was briefly alone onstage after the song, she gave a spontaneous “victory” type gesture with her arms, showing a reflection of her “rock goddess” (as one audience member slyly phrased in the Q&A session) past.


1989 chat with Carly

To conclude the evening, I joined a modest line of attendees queueing to have Carly personalize a copy of her memoir. (She’d actually pre-autographed them a day or two beforehand, and chronicled it on her Instagram account.) When my turned rolled around, about halfway through the line, I had an idea of what I might say, as you have to do in those types of situations, but still ended up being a bit more nervous than I needed to be. I thanked Carly for being a Vineyard ambassador (where did that phrase come from?) and then decided to thank her again for a particularly special childhood memory of seeing her at another Island bookstore where she sang a few bars of her song The Stuff that Dreams are Made Of, which was a particular favorite of mine during those younger years. She smiled in her classic wide grin and went right into a few words of the song again, providing a cheerful bookend and modern day version of another great memory.

Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, Theatre

When the words capture your imagination

Martha’s Vineyard Playhouse (aka “The” Vineyard Playhouse) does many things well in its continued year-round operations, and one of the highlights to me is their summer series of Monday Night Specials, a one-off staged reading of a new script at some stage in its development. This summer I could only see one of the offerings, and so this past Monday I was in the audience for the large cast staged reading of A Month in the Country, newly adapted by playhouse artistic associate Carol Rocamora.


One of LAST YEAR’s Monday night specials at the Playhouse

A large cast of at least 12 actors in a wide range of ages gave life to the story. The Playhouse often brings back actors who have been seen in fully staged productions for their readings, so not only did I know 5 of the featured actors, I had seen a few more of them in other projects, and there were a few that looked familiar from one thing or another.

In a staged reading, sometimes the presence of the script and accompanying music stand can serve as a distraction to the audience, along with the additional actors sitting and reading along. That was not the case with this evening. A subtle attention to detail and character moments, coupled with some quick thinking on account of the actors, ensured that I (and hopefully other audience members) quickly left the “real” setting behind and felt instantly transported into the character’s world.

In the second act, it became even more clear that the actors were comfortable with going the extra mile, as the play included not one but TWO rather passionate kisses between characters, along with implied other entanglements. Relate-ability was key here too, as it was clear that the actors were having fun with those big moments! (as opposed to possibly getting swept up in the heightened drama within a fully staged production.)

The Monday night specials continue to well represent some of the hallmarks of creative live theatre and dynamic in the moment adventuring that often leads to the most rewards.

Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, Traveling

Memorial Day a week later

Wrote this last week without a direct internet connection back on Martha’s Vineyard.

Today brings the pleasure of being the second consecutive Memorial Day where I do NOT have to leave Martha’s Vineyard. This is significant as this holiday often serves as a “back to reality” type of day after the long summer teaser weekend, and that was particularly the case for me growing up, so much so that I continue to associate Memorial Day with “leaving the Vineyard” even on years when I have not been here on the island.

So, how has it been to be back at “The Family Homestead” as I fondly call Martha’s Vineyard on social media? Pretty smooth and pretty comfortable, like falling right back into the best type of routine. This was exemplified on my first day back when a short, spontaneous walk along Main Street in Vineyard Haven (one of the island’s main drags) led to random greetings with several familiar friendly faces, culminating in seeing my godmother from a distance and walking towards each other as if in the celebrated finale of a film.

Visits to the island’s other primary towns have also generated senses of comfort and familiarity, although they have also been mixed with thoughts like “I wish this was less of a rich playground” and “I can’t see myself relating to that particular activity.” I guess what those thoughts mean is that I’m increasingly (but not surprisingly) taking the local position on how various activities impact the Vineyard. That’s not a new perspective for me, but it is refreshing to know that it’s still present and active.


Massachusetts, Traveling

End of this Road for now

Here we are at the end of this New England road trip and I’m attempting to write a post on my Smart phone for the first time in quite a while. Unfortunately it feels glitchy.

But it does feel good to have covered a large number of miles today, possibly my largest ever on a single day of traveling around in this part of the country.

And I think I do want to note an actual “wow” feeling that came at the end of the day when I reached my destination and fought back to realize how far of a distance had come since my start of the day.

crossing from Kittery ME into Portsmouth NH today


The inviting sands of crane beach (Ipswich, MA) today


Martha's Vineyard, 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

Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, Michigan

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!


Massachusetts, Traveling

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.


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.

Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, Theatre

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.

Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts

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.


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:

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.
>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.
>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.
>After years on the classical performing circuit, he runs a piano bar in
>Carmel, California. Won’t let anybody lean on his piano.
>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.”
>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”?]