Not Very Vineyard

There is a lot that’s Very Vineyard, and it’s all over the map.

I was wandering around Cronig’s Market the other day, looking for organic produce I could afford, when I overheard something that made me stop and think. Did she really say, “Not Very Vineyard?”

What could “Not Very Vineyard” mean?

In the first place, is there something that’s “Vineyard” or “Very Vineyard”?

Disclaimer: I was born off-island, came here in 1970, and so I am not a Vineyard native. My parents didn’t come here or bring me here as a child, so I really am a come-lately on the island. However, I have lived here, on and off, for the past 40-some years, and I have lived most of my life winterspringsummerandfall right here. So I feel a right to have my own sense of what may be Very Vineyard.

There’s the character of the houses in the down island towns – Vineyard Haven’s New England village look, the Oak Bluffs fairytale gingerbread, the Edgartown wedding cake white clapboard topped by a widow’s walk.

Or moving up island, the rolling stretches of green trees and pastures, the farmhouses and farm animals, the sunlight and moody shadows right out of an Allen Whiting canvas.

The funky chic of Chilmark, the salty nostalgia of the Menemsha docks, the windswept austerity of the Gay Head cliffs, I mean the beautiful varicolored Aquene cliffs, the strong brow of Noepe.

There is a lot that’s Very Vineyard, and it’s all over the map. Fishing on the Menemsha jetty, off the North Shore or out on Dogfish Bar. Fried clams at the Bite or the Quarterdeck. Waiting in line on the sidewalk with summer families at Giordano’s Restaurant or at the Capawack in Vineyard Haven for a movie, maybe a Jaws retrospective, or in your car to catch the ferry back from Wasque. Sunday concerts in Ocean Park or the fireworks celebrations in OB and Edgartown. Illumination Night and the West Tisbury Agricultural Fair. Skinnydipping at Ice House in the moonlight or at Lucy Vincent in broad daylight. Dancing at Nectar’s to a reggae band or to a DJ at the Island House or the Dive Bar, or at the Ritz to the island’s own Johnny Hoy or Mike Benjamin. Or grooving up on the Shanty roof to Philly D. Chillin’ at the Pitstop to the rising tide of Vineyard talent, Nina, Willy, and dozens more.

Remember the McDonald’s debacle back in 1979? If you weren’t here back then, you probably would be amazed at the instant eruption of opposition to the Golden Arches. It was such a landmark event that the New York Times recalled it eight years later. Clearly McDonalds was Not Very Vineyard. The Dairy Queen or “the DQ,” as she is locally known, was grandmothered in.

Since then a lot has changed.

Now we have mega-mansions sprouting up like amanita muscaria after a rain, and not just on the Chappy shores. They’re everywhere, they’re everywhere!  Ok, masons and carpenters and plumbers and electricians have to work to live, but I have heard of some nouveau Vineyarders spending more on hardware for their windows and doors than I spent on my first house.

And how do we feed these privileged many who flock here in the summer? $39 entrees and $25 apps in the chic boitesbistros and other bastions of haute cuisine that lately have crowded out the cozy family-style eateries of an earlier day. I guess that’s good for the waiters and the bartenders, the bar backs and dishwashers, mostly summer kids of those same privileged many who also flock here for the summer between semesters.

Shiny new cars like Maseratis, Lamborghinis and custom cars I don’t even know the names of have been spotted up island and on the Chappy ferry. Used to be a beat-up station wagon with rusty bumpers was de rigueur for the island. Just perfect for rattling easily along a gullied country road to the beach in Chilmark.

Which brings me to Oak Bluffs and the annual “Monster Shark Tournament,” held this year the third weekend in July.

There are at least two sides to this triangle: The Humane Society, which opposes it, the Boston Big Game Fishing Club which sponsors it -- and the merchants of Oak Bluffs, who may not like it, but know that the Shark Tournament brings a cool two million bucks into the town over that weekend.

Now I like fishing and have enjoyed it all my life. The Martha’s Vineyard Bass and Bluefish Derby is one the most Very Vineyard events. This place screeches to a virtual halt during the Derby. Nobody sleeps, and the latest record catch is on everybody’s lips. Good stuff!

I will grant you that big game fishing is a challenging and exciting sport. I’ve fished the Gulf Stream, off Kona, and in the Gulf of California. There is nothing quite like hooking a big fish and then having it for dinner later that night. I’ve eaten marlin (not all that good) and shark (to me, a little dry) and tuna (used to be the very best), but really most big game fishing is not about eating, it’s about the trophy. Or the money.

I know the Shark Tournament donates shark meat to the Food Pantry, but big fish isn’t all that healthy as a food anymore because of the high levels of mercury, especially in big sharks. Methylmercury contamination causes neurological damage. That’s really not a good thing.

Meanwhile, the global shark population has declined by 90% over the past 40 years and one fifth of the 550 shark species are now threatened with extinction.

Did I mention Jaws?

I guess that’s why they call the Shark Tournament “Monster”. We all remember the terror that Bruce wreaked on the island town of Amity and how Quint, Hooper and Brody set out to kill the shark on the good ship Orca. Dum dum dum dum.

Three weeks after the shark-killing festival, Oak Bluffs will be the host to the Very Vineyard blowout celebration for the Universal Studios centennial, featuring the movie Jaws. This event will feature shark conservation experts and will sponsor a shark art and poetry contest for children. Children’s poetry is about as far as you can get from the bloody carcasses hanging on the Oak Bluffs docks.

So I guess Jaws is rebranding itself and just in the nick of time because, really, the Monster Shark Tournament is, to my way of thinking, Not Very Vineyard.

Still I know there are other opinions out there, and I am open to hearing them, too. Please do not hesitate to comment if you disagree, but please be nice about it.

Oh, and if you think I missed something else that’s either Very Vineyard or Not So, please let me know.


This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

David Whitmon March 22, 2012 at 07:04 PM
Mathea. That is awesome that you tell your kids that. But that is not by any means typical on Martha's Vineyard. I've put over 15,000 miles on my little yellow bike in the last 28 months. I have lost count of the times that motorists have passed me going over the crest of a hill or around blind corners. I have lost count of the times that I have been passed by motorists when I am doing the speed limit. I have lost count of the times that motorists have pulled out to pass me, forcing oncoming traffic onto the shoulder on strait-a-ways . Even if I'm doing under the speed limit, these all too typical behaviors are not appropriate, are not safe and are indeed breaking the law. A motorist cannot exceed the speed limit to pass a slower vehicle. The written law says that motorists are required to "WAIT" if it is not safe to pass a cyclist. The law says that when passing a cyclist, a motorist must pass completely out of the travel lane as they would with any other vehicle when passing and not reenter it until they are completely past the cyclist.
Michael West March 22, 2012 at 07:27 PM
All right! Let me summarize: Honking - NVV. Aggressive Passing - NVV I do have a question. Are mopeds Very Vineyard or Not Very Vineyard? To my way of thinking, they are automatically NVV because they pollute, drive too slow for their berth, and are usually ineptly handled. On the other hand, bicycles and David's amazing Velo are Very Vineyard. Well, that's what I would say.... Oh, and, to me, hitchhiking is Very Vineyard, particularly when wearing cutoffs or a bathing suit and headed toward the beach -- or back into town with a sandy towel afterwards.
Maggie Dempsey March 22, 2012 at 07:31 PM
A drive down MIddle Road in Chilmark is as "Very Vineyard" as it gets, for me. Just like you mentioned - the scene right out of an Alan Whiting painting - its one of my favorite drives of the island. Maybe after a little hike at a Land Bank trail, after you've checked for ticks. A little sweaty and dirty with all the windows down, driving slowly to soak it all in, and seeing all the cows in the pastures. But then when I try think of things that are "Not Very Vineyard", I'm challenged to wonder why they wouldn't be just that. Perhaps not happy memories like fishing off the Menemsha jetty and eating at the Bite, but like the moment of sheer panic as you round a curve and an oncoming car has crossed the double-yellow into your lane, so they might pass a group of bicyclists and arrive at their beach destination just a little quicker. Of course, the inevitable ferry announcement, "Would the owner of the silver BMW come to the freight deck, your car alarm is going off". We shake our heads and cluck our tongues. While these are more in line with the distaste we experience from events like the Monster Shark tournament, they're things that happen seemingly ever year, without fail. Maybe not Very Vineyard, to me... But undeniably a part of the culture here, and part of other people's happy memories, perhaps.
David Whitmon March 22, 2012 at 07:31 PM
Michael. Try not driving for a month and see the money you have in your checking account compared to a month when you did drive. It's quite an incentive. It's the perceived convenience of being able to jump in ones cars any time they want. It's a rather expensive convenience and getting more so every day. Low and moderate families spend over 30% of their income in transportation, i.e., their automobile. Not driving can be like getting a 30% pay raise.
Maggie Dempsey March 22, 2012 at 07:33 PM
So true! I was backing out of a parking space in Edgartown the other day and accidentally hit the horn. I scared myself, and then upon looking around, everybody else too! I waved, ducking my head apologetically. Oops! Almost forget I had one of those...
Maggie Dempsey March 22, 2012 at 07:37 PM
Mopeds, too would count under this. Is it Not Very VIneyard to those who live here, constantly annoyed and worried about the potential crashes? Probably. Is it Very Vineyard to those who can only afford to day-trip here, and happily scoot around on mopeds? Probably. I guess what I meant to say is, it's all about perspective!
Holly Nadler March 22, 2012 at 07:45 PM
Can't help feeling mopeds are big noisy mechanical pests, Xtremely NVV.
David Whitmon March 22, 2012 at 07:49 PM
Michael wrote"Oh, and, to me, hitchhiking is Very Vineyard, particularly when wearing cutoffs or a bathing suit and headed toward the beach -- or back into town with a sandy towel afterwards". Not hitchhiking but there was the time I stopped while on my tandem with my youngest on board to help three women on bicycles who were lost. My youngest was around 8yo at the time They were on the County Rd bike path and totally turned around as they were meaning to go to the beaches around OB but were headed South on the bike path away from OB. While chatting and giving directions my youngest lets out with "I'm bored." I responded with, "Well, I'm not" as all three were wearing bikinis. Not that I wouldn't have stopped anyway but......(-;
Michael West March 22, 2012 at 07:53 PM
Well I must have the Vineyarder's attitude toward mopeds. They're dangerous and NVV, but I do understand what Maggie is saying. In fact, I always feel a little sad when I see a young couple on a moped cruising around, inviting the scorn of all of us, unwittingly. As Maggie says, what do they know? They haven't read this blog post. They probably think, hey, this is what they ride on in Bermuda, so it must be cool here, and so they putt-putt along, like an angry hornet with a megaphone, getting the moped's-eye-view of the island. And that touches on Maggie's larger point. Who are we to say? That's their experience, and maybe they are entitled to it. Or maybe not, but we suffer it anyway. That's what initially struck me when I first heard the phrase in Cronig's. Not Very Vineyard? What could that possibly mean?
Maggie Dempsey March 22, 2012 at 08:04 PM
Michael, that's exactly what I asked the first few times I came here. I kept thinking, "Well they RENT mopeds to you here, if they didn't want you riding them, why would they do that?" Simply said, people don't know any better, and for us to look down on them is just not kind. How can we give ourselves pats on the back for being the quiet, patient, not-honking motorists if we're also feeling above the moped riding couple who've come here for the weekend to spend their vacation money? That should be Not Very Vineyard, too. Everyone must have a different definition of what Very Vineyard or Not Very Vineyard is. And since I'd venture to say that since none of us commenting here (that I know of) is a Wampanoag, we're all transplants. We're all "new" here to someone else, and it's not our territory to say what is and what isn't of this island. And now I have to wonder what do our Native American friends and neighbors think of the Monster Shark tournament? I wonder what they'd say is Very Vineyard.
Michael West March 22, 2012 at 08:16 PM
I haven't heard what the Wampanoag think, and maybe it varies by the individual. In the old days, catching big fish by spearing them was a Wampanoag speciality, but it was later exploited by commercial interests, as whale oil was very big business until the Drake oil well in Pennsylvania in 1859, and by 1890s it was all over for whale oil in this country. But there is a very wide difference between taking whales for subsistence and hooking and killing sharks for the fun of it, especially today when so many sharks are endangered. I am sure Wampanoags say recovering their language is Very Vineyard, drumming circles are Very Vineyard and other expressions of, and acts of preservation of, their culture is Very Vineyard. The cliffs are Very Vineyard. The Tribal Lands are Very Vineyard. I'm sure there is more, much more, but thoes things at least, Maggie, are Very Vineyard.
David Whitmon March 22, 2012 at 08:58 PM
I had some friends who came to the Island for a week. A retired couple and grandparents who were close to 70 years old. They had read about Martha's Vineyard and I had told them even more. They left their car up near the Borne Bridge and rode their tandem to Woods Hole via the lovely roads and Shining Sea Rail Trail. They stayed in a hotel and ate in restaurants for all their meals during their week long vacation here. They spent a lot of money and didn't further impact our road ways with yet another automobile. They traveled all over the Island via their tandem which I might add is worth more than a great many of the cars I see out on the roads. The 8 days that they were here, not a day went by that they weren't honked at or cursed at. They had objects thrown at them and motorists purposely veer at them with their vehicles. The one day that we rode with them, my youngest and I, we rode to the Gay Head Cliffs. On the Menemsha Cross Road we had some guy in a small pickup scream at us to "Get The F*** Off The Road. This one pickup was the only vehicle other than our tandems that were on the road. Twice more that day we had incoherent bellowing from idiot motorists. They wrote a letter to the editor about the behaviors that they encountered. Do you think that they are going to come back here? Nope.
David Whitmon March 22, 2012 at 09:09 PM
About Mopeds. The biggest problem with the mopeds is the intentionally intimidating and dangerous manner in which the people riding them are treated by the Vineyard motoring masses. Motorist may drive on these roads but they do not own the roads. To have a license to drive a motor vehicle on the road is a privilege and not a right. A privilege that can be revoked. I think we need to take a collective look within ourselves and say "Shame on Us." These roads are for all of us to use. If you don't like it, you are just going to have to get over it.
David Whitmon March 22, 2012 at 09:12 PM
I think the self induced motor vehicle grid lock that we subject ourselves to is very not Vineyard.
Mathea Morais (Editor) March 23, 2012 at 12:35 AM
I want a Mopeds are NVV bumper sticker
Michael West March 23, 2012 at 01:04 AM
It really troubles me to hear about abusive behavior toward bicyclists and mopeders on our island roads. I don't like mopeds or the businesses that rent them, pure exploitation, but I am sure the people riding on them are entitled to our respect, not our abuse. In fact I feel certain that if mopeds are NVV, and they are, those abusing them in cars, SUVs and trucks are even more so. Why is everyone in such a hurry? It really makes no sense. Hey, everybody, slow down and enjoy your life. There really isn't all that much of it that you can afford to rush throught it, trampling everything in your path.
Maggie Dempsey March 23, 2012 at 03:09 AM
Michael, That is the advice I'd like to give everyone in the summertime. SLOW DOWN! Endangering yourselves or others, or just being rude is unnecessary. We'll all get where we're going. I talk about mopeds at length in this blog post from last year: http://marthasvineyard.patch.com/blog_posts/why-mopeds
Mathea Morais (Editor) March 23, 2012 at 03:27 AM
I think it's safe to say that not being polite is NVV. Being someone who truly appreciates good manners, I have to say that this is one of my favorite things about living here year round. Kindness is very, very Vineyard.
Sherry Sidoti March 23, 2012 at 11:05 AM
Michael-- i LOVE this post, as it brings a sense of "exhale" for where we live. However, and I do not think Michael you were doing this, however I feel obliged to say--let us please be careful not to set others apart from us for their actions/behaviors. After all, they too are simply a reflection of aspects within ourselves that we either express or choose not to. My facebook update today addresses this exact point: what is community? I wrote: "to me, "community" is not a bunch of people who live in the same geographical region, nor is it about circles who share the same beliefs or lifestyle. Community is a group of people who NEED and support one another other for survival- basic, and at the soul level." I see way too many people wrap themselves around the notion of being part of a certain "community" and by identifying ourselves by being part of that community so are stating that others "don't belong"-- Enough divide. Let's Coexist. every behavior. every mood. every type of lifestyle choice. The pretty and the ugly of it all.
Michael West March 23, 2012 at 11:32 AM
Thanks, Sherry, for reminding us that no matter how other people may upset us, they are still "us" in the larger sense. I think of it the way Charles Eisenstein notes in Sacred Economics that, if the 99% are oppressed, and their lives made miserable by a greedy 1%, even the 1% are oppressed by their own system and probably not all that happy either. Buddhists say our enemies are our best teachers, and if someone is getting under our skin, we probably want to look there to see what our ego is covering up, as it is some deeply personal pain. Of course, Buddhists also say that does not mean let others walk all over you, but rather confront them with love and dignity and respect because we are all one and interconnected. Paul Simon sang, "One man's ceiling is another man's floor." So, if someone makes me angry, it is likely I make another person angry. "Why can't we all just get along," said Rodney King. Love is the answer. You know who said that? I like what Mathea said, "Kindness is Very Very Vineyard." Thanks, Sherry, for dropping over from your blog spot to comment. I'm going to return the favor with a poem I just wrote.
Sherry Sidoti March 27, 2012 at 11:03 AM
Carol March 27, 2012 at 12:02 PM
How about what is Very Vineyard? A women's clothing store that has been in Edgartown since 1987. Or if you don't get to Edgartown you can Google it at VeryVineyard.com .
Michael West March 27, 2012 at 01:36 PM
Hi Carol, thanks for the head's up. I didn't see anything with shark motifs, so I guess you're in the clear. ;-) Seriously, Carol, that's a wonderful introduction to your store. Congratulations for making a success of it over such a long stretch, as other clothing stores have come and gone. Love your website, too. Next time I'm in the market for a batik skirt I know just where I'll go.
David Whitmon March 27, 2012 at 01:50 PM
On a fun note, here is what a fellow Velonaut did with his Velomobile. This is exactly like mind in shape and mechanical parts. His is just way cooler.....(-; This is not a wrap but actually hand painted. http://wimharwig.com/2008/11/15/673/
Michael West April 03, 2012 at 06:29 PM
Beautiful, David. Absolutely beautiful!
Sarah Page Kyrcz July 29, 2012 at 07:09 PM
Seeing Bill Murray cheering on his very own Very Vineyard Martha's Vineyard Sharks your column came to mind. We all know it is Not, Never Very Vineyard to make a big deal of the "stars" amongst us. They, like the rest of us, are here to rest, relax and enjoy everything that is Very Vineyard!
Michael West July 29, 2012 at 10:34 PM
You have it exactly right, Sarah. Stars can be people, too, and cheering on their team, the wonderful Sharks, is a perfectly Very Vineyard thing to do.
Carolyn Murphy July 30, 2012 at 11:20 AM
Rushing to close down the house and racing to the ferry after promising never to let it happen again: Very Vineyard.
Michael West July 30, 2012 at 11:58 AM
Hurry back, Carolyn! That's Very Vineyard, too...
horsewiskers February 18, 2014 at 07:05 PM
I was one lucky lady to have visited your lovely island for a much too brief vacation last June and I came home with vivid memories of beauty and scents and emotions. Ever since, I have inhaled everything Martha's Vineyard...reading the paper, researching historical sites, and enjoying the blogs by islanders. This blog is brilliant, moving, heartfelt, and visual on every level. And humorous, as I never thought, being a visitor, that there was such a thing as Very Vineyard and Not Very Vineyard!! I left my car at home as I did not wish to add to the traffic and pollution. For the same reason I did not rent a dreaded moped and too lazy to rent a bike. I paid a few dollars and rode the shuttle bus all around the island. Stopped in a different town every day and wandered about exploring, visiting the shops, eateries, galleries, bookstores, etc., or enjoyed a beach or two, and was taken with the diversity on the island, the kindness and helpfulness of all whom I came into conversation with and the gentle vibe of the entire island. As a devoted horsewoman, the road to Aquinnah held many spots where I wished I could have stopped and at the least "talked horse" for a bit or at the best, ridden through the woods and fields and enjoyed a picnic lunch. After reading your blog, I wonder if visitors enjoying the benefits of a shuttle bus to get around is VMV or NVMV?! hahaha! I love your island and look forward to coming back, perhaps for a longer period of time, I still won't bring my car or rent a moped but I still want to visit my favorite places while not leaving more behind me than a simple cairn of stone in a private spot. And....since I read this, I understand you are a gifted author and I shall enjoy reading your books. Thank you!


More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something