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.

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.


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, Movies, Theatre, Traveling

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.