Letter from the Vineyard 7 December 2019 A different kind of Thanksgiving…

December 7, 2019



It is Wednesday, the 4th of December, as I sit down to write this letter.  I’m pretty sure it will take me a couple of days as I am extravagantly tired after 14 non-stop days at the bookstore, stretching myself more than I usually do, amusing myself as much as usually do, and always a bit bemused at the wonderful turns life takes me.

My Thanksgiving is usually spent at my friend Larry and Alicia’s farm in Stuyvesant, NY, a tradition which has evolved from shared Thanksgivings over the last almost twenty years.  It is special and was very hard for me not to be there.

This year, I spent Thanksgiving in the bookstore, unpacking fifty boxes which had come in, working to make the store look a bit like Christmas for the Black Friday crowds, which came, the biggest day the store has had since summer.

Misha, the barista from BTB, the restaurant behind the bookstore, swooped in to help me, cementing friendship.  He made me food so I would have sustenance; my Thanksgiving dinner was his delectable goulash, consumed while sitting at the counter, surveying the store, eating, checking off a mental list of things still needing to be done.

It was not my usual Thanksgiving; unique, not regretted.

Misha is now gone, five months of travel before returning for next season, through Europe before heading to Rwanda, his special place, Madagascar, then back to the Vineyard, readying himself for yet another summer.

Because of the bookstore, I am meeting people, learning about island writers.  The bookstore is a member of the Chamber of Commerce; I attend meetings, good for the bookstore, good for me.  At the latest meeting, a gentleman told me he and his wife had a hoot buying some books from me.  They had just spent a weekend at the Charlotte Inn, one of the island’s premiere places, and somehow the bookstore came up and my name and the people at the Inn said, oh yes, we know Mathew, he came in the other day and introduced himself.

It’s my time of introducing myself as I know very few people on the island and, while I am here, need to make a life for myself so introducing myself is the order of the day.

Janet Messineo, wrote “Casting Into the Light,” about her life as one of the island’s premiere fisher people, and we had a lovely conversation Sunday morning after she had done an event at The Grange, signing books at an author’s table, selling out all the books we had given her.

Saturday morning has now rolled around; I’ve reveled in two days, mostly, away from the bookstore, taking myself out to dinner as a reward to my own self, after raiding the Boy’s and Girl’s Club Second Hand Store around the corner for ornaments, now hanging in the windows of Edgartown Books, as well as Santa in a sleigh holding a doll and Mrs. Kringle singing in red velvet. There are still a few things to be done and I now know, I will actually get there.  The store looks festive and think I haven’t let Joyce down, who is great at displays.

The town of Edgartown is preparing for “Christmas in Edgartown,” several days of festivities drawing people back to the Vineyard.  We will have authors signing books.  Jean Stone will sign on Saturday, autographing copies of “A Vineyard Christmas,” which I read last Christmas to get me into the spirit of the season.  And, on Sunday, the indomitable Janet Messineo will be ensconced in the “Sea” section, signing her books and doing a demonstration on knots.

Life could be much worse.


Now, “back in America,” as islanders sometimes say, the President looks to be impeached.  Only the third time in our country’s history.  No matter what your political views, it is a sad day when a President is impeached.

It is now December 7th, the anniversary of Pearl Harbor. A deep bow.


Until next time…

Letter from the Vineyard 21 November 2019 Reflections from islands…

November 21, 2019

It is evening as my fingers dance across the keyboard, a soft clicking sound rising to my aging ears which, for some reason, made me think of the thunk our Royal typewriter made when I struck the keys, in a day when auto-correct was a fantasy and the mother of Mike Nesmith of The Monkees made a fortune inventing “White Out.”

Freshly returned from a trip to Ireland, my mind is full of things, wonders seen in a land where, as my friend Mike O’Rourke said, “The green is greener there.”  And it is.  Arriving a day early at the god forsaken hour of 4:45 AM, I decided, on an absolute whim, to go to Belfast for the Titanic Museum, one of those happy caprices resulting in cherished memories.  If you get to Ireland, go to Belfast, see the museum, edges as sharp as the prow of the ship, rippled to remind us of the iceberg that sank it, thorough, respectful, multi-leveled, figures from the time, speaking directly to you, almost but not quite, holograms.



Before returning to Dublin, I took a Black Taxi Tour, an overview of “The Troubles;” my friend Nick Stuart them covered for the BBC.  The multi-layered, nuanced reasons, old as Ireland and its first interactions with England, boggle the mind, leaving a sense of sorrowful regret lacking a center.  To this day, which I did not know, there is a wall dividing Protestant and Catholic Belfast.  At night, gates are closed, dividing the town, even as it ascends to being one of the safest places in Europe, enjoying a prosperity unknown for a very long time.

On that wall, with a Sharpie, I wrote:



In Dublin, I reunited, briefly, with friends, Lionel and Pierre, spending the weekend celebrating my birthday, dinners at lovely restaurants, days of sightseeing, several museums.

Some food and drink suggestions:  in Belfast, visit The Crown, possibly the oldest working pub in Ireland.  In Dublin, The Green Hen, a delightful place, a mix of Irish and French, Hugo’s where I had an inspired lunch, The Winding Stair, above a bookstore, deeply delicious, and let us not forget Pichet, another wonderful dinner, duck so succulent…

Museums have become hard, showing great beauty created while reminding also of the horrible ways we murder each other.  On view at the Irish Museum of Archeology are corpses, brutally killed for unknown reasons, then tossed into the bogs, which have preserved them for us to “enjoy” now.

As a result, I am almost becoming museum adverse, torn by balancing beauty and brutality.

Having left the island of Martha’s Vineyard for the Irish island, I continued to feel disconnected from events “back in America,” a blessing as those events become increasingly bizarre.

The current impeachment hearings feel Nixonian and a disgraceful mess.

It surprises many who know me, but I was raised in a good “cloth coat” wearing Republican family, as Nixon called us in his Checker’s Speech, and it also surprises many I am an Independent voter.  GASP! I have even voted for Republicans.

That said, I no longer know or own this Republican Party.  It has nothing to do with the Republican Party I once knew.

My father died when I was twelve; his older brother, my Uncle Joe, became a central figure in my life, as steadfast a Republican as you would ever find.  One day, I knew Richard Nixon was done because Uncle Joe had removed the medal received from the very badly named Committee to Re-elect the President, “CREEP.”   If Nixon had lost Uncle Joe, he had lost it all.  Not long after, he resigned.

As this current Impeachment Inquiry goes on, I have asked myself what Uncle Joe would think?  A deeply moral man, he would have been appalled, I believe, from the moment Trump descended that escalator to initiate this debacle.


Letter From the Vineyard 11.11.2019 Life lived with grace…

November 11, 2019


             Sundays have taken on a rhythm, waking around seven, brewing a cup of strong English Breakfast tea, reading a little of the NY Times, the Washington Post, a summation of news from the Wall Street Journal, a few emails and then off to St. Andrew’s, the petite church at the intersection of Winter and Summer Streets, an apt location, it occurs to me, for a church, at the intersection of seasons.

There were a few minutes at the Parish House for coffee and then I drove out to West Tisbury to pick up some books from Shirley Mayhew, who, having now met her, I realize is one of the island’s living treasures, a teacher to multi-generations of children on the island, grand mere to multiple generations, as interesting as anyone I have met along the ricocheting roads of my life, reminding me in many ways of my now long gone friend, Joseph J. O’Donohue IV, a bon vivant from the time he finished his German schooling in pre-Hitler Germany to his death, nearly twenty years ago.  Listening to the Joes and the Shirleys of the world is to have a glimpse into a world we will not ever know, ever understand, but can have, through their words, a glimpse of what has been and touch, through their memories, the worlds we will never know, a past now history to us but, for them, the foundation of their memories.

That’s why she writes, to share for other generations, what she’s seen, experienced, in several books, including the wonderfully titled, “Living Life with the Grace of a Butterfly.”

The woman I met today is living life with the grace of a butterfly, a thing not easily done, accomplished only when one is infused with generosity of spirit.  Joe had that quality, also, though I could never quite find the words to describe it before.

Leaving her to return to the shop, I dawdled, wandering back roads, taking a long path back to Edgartown so I could savor our introduction before surrendering myself to whatever bustle would fill the rest of the day.

It was busy-ish, a young gentleman came in toward the end of the day; we discussed Hemingway and Fitzgerald, both agreeing, of Hemingway’s oeuvre, we both loved “The Sun Also Rises” best.

Children scurried in an unusual number through the store today, two ladies scoured shelves for the next read for one’s book club.  I was reminded this week sees the first new edition in a long time of “The Joy of Cooking,” a bible for the culinary inclined, the one book I always returned to when something in the kitchen seemed unclear.

The weather reports are being watched closely; not wishing to be stranded on the island when my plane departs for Dublin out of Boston on Wednesday.  There, I’ll celebrate another birthday, another marking of the journey called life, moving closer and closer to Joe and Shirley, where my life’s memories are mostly history being taught to those infinitely younger.

It’s my hope, I will not be derided by some millennial, finding my actions ante-diluvian, accosted by the meme: “OK Boomer!”  The youth of the world are looking at us, of grandparental age, as generational failures, worthy of disrespect for our oh so many deficiencies, particularly in fighting climate change.  “OK Boomer,” was the riposte of a twenty-something New Zealander to a senior legislative colleague in Parliament as she was delivering a speech on climate change, with which he found umbrage.  “OK Boomer.”

Jazz plays, I write, savoring the joys of a simple though very rich day, probably not lived with the grace of a butterfly but enjoyed, nevertheless, playing now with words and looking forward to sifting through, “Living Life with the Grace of a Butterfly.”


It is now Monday, November 11th, Veteran’s Day.  A long, deep bow to all Veterans, a holiday started as Armistice Day, to mark the end of World War I, when, at the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month, the guns of the war to end all wars, were to fall silent.  If only it had been the war to end all wars…



Letter from the Vineyard 4 November 2019 Autumnal Dreams…

November 4, 2019




Three perfect fall days, fulfilling wishes for such autumn days, with the light sharp and focused, drawing perfect shadows on the ground of trees still surrendering leaves; occasional fierce winds scattering fallen leaves, an autumnal dream when there are no bad things, and nothing wicked this way comes.

So, it has been here on Martha’s Vineyard, called by author Susan Branch, “Isle of Dreams,” after several lashings from storms and days so drear it almost felt as we were all living in Narnia, when it was always winter but never Christmas.  Then came these glorious days, banishing the drear and raising the spirits of everyone from visitors to residents.

Sitting at the desk at Edgartown Books, there has been a slow but steady stream of folks who visit the island now, specifically this time of year, because it is quiet, the crowds are gone, the air is crisp, enough restaurants open, hotel rates down, and islanders relieved of August stress.

Today, is the first day people announced they were Christmas shopping, a grandmother buying gift certificates for each grandson, another woman buying books by Cynthia Riggs to give as presents to her mother.  I’ve put leaf lights around the store to give it a fall festive feel, featuring some cookbooks on the center table, with other “fall-ish” items.  We have most of the current bestsellers on our shelves.  While I am here, I tend to play jazz with a gentleman yesterday declaring: there is nothing like big band jazz.

At my side is “On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous,” which I am currently reading, by Ocean Vuong, a poet’s first novel, worth the read. When I am dust in the wind, he’ll be a Nobel Laureate if he keeps writing like this.

Next week, I’ll be off to Dublin to celebrate my birthday with Lionel and Pierre; Lionel has already made dinner reservations at some of his favorite places.  Today they leave for Delhi, which is worrisome as the air there is so, so bad, as if you were smoking two packs of cigarettes a day.  Not joking, I told them to wear gas masks.

Settling in, I have joined St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, pastored by Father Chip, which made me think he was from a long line of preppy people but, in fact, he is Canadian – though preppy might well be a thing there.

Preppy has been on my mind since Lisa Birnbach was in the store, co-author of the 1980 bestseller, “The Official Preppy Handbook,” having met her in that long-ago, when she was interviewed by Gary Owens for his show on KMPC Radio, where I worked.  We were nostalgic over him.

Two other customers, island natives, were in, chatting about the books on our “Great Reads” shelves and discussing what was “happening back in America,” as if ‘there “was a different country from “here.”

It is what being on an island does, separates you from “there,” wherever there is from here.  People come here to escape, rest from the turmoil of whatever there they are from, devouring our local newspapers as they are filled with stories of the Vineyard Derby, a month long fishing contest won this year by a ten year old, six years away from being able to drive the Grand Prize, a new Subaru.

Those kinds of things feel more real, more tangible than all the confusing who-ha that is coming from almost every other place, seeping into the soul like the noxious fumes of Delhi air.

There are upsides and downsides to island life; I am sure I will discover them all but here I am, on Susan’s “Isle of Dreams,” doing what several friends have told me is their dream – to be on the Vineyard and in a bookstore.


Letter from the Vineyard 28 October 2019 Island perspective…

October 28, 2019


“It was a dark and stormy night,” wrote Bulwer-Lytton, opening his 1830 novel, “Paul Clifford.”  It has since become a synonym for bad writing, but some nights are dark and stormy, such as last night, when gale force gusts of wind bent young trees to their will, rain slashing down as I drove home, obscuring both the road and vicious puddles.  It was a night to be huddled indoors, with a good book, curled up with a blanket tucked around oneself.

On Sunday, trick or treaters invaded the store in gangs from 10 to 1, a time moved up from noon to three because of the threatening storm.  My favorite was a little girl, barely walking, dressed as a unicorn. It was, I think, her very first Halloween and she was doing her best to figure it out.  Another favorite was a very young man who had a skeleton’s costume with a mask that made it difficult to see; he literally flung himself into the store, followed by his father, guarding him from tumbles.

It was wonderful.

Good thing they moved the time as, by two, the rain was pelting ferociously and people now flung themselves into the bookstore, looking for refuge and amusement.  Some were biding time until they could get on stand-by for the ferries.  All said there were worse places to be stranded than Martha’s Vineyard, to which I heartily agreed, not stranded here though somewhat plumped here by events, for which I have no regret.

A local writer wrote “Goats in A Time of Love,” which I accepted in June.  We have now sold over a hundred copies, which means it is on the top of our list of best sellers for our bookstore and it keeps walking out the door.  It’s an island phenomenon.  I told Tracey, the author, I feel a bit like an editor who discovered someone.

Yesterday, I mentioned to a customer at the store it was a day to curl up with a cozy mystery, for which there is a category: Cozy Mysteries. And it is, because a cozy mystery is so preferable to the din of the outside world.

When I look beyond this island, I see a world tumbling in chaos.  In Hong Kong, Santiago, Baghdad, there are violent protests raging.  My friend Catherine was to have left for Santiago for a conference, which has now been moved to a time TBD because of the violence.

Al Baghdadi, head of ISIS, blew himself up, along with three of his children, as U.S. forces cornered him.  Ironically, it happened with the help of the Kurds, who feel abandoned by the U.S.

President Trump suggested an alliance with ExxonMobil, or some company, to exploit Syrian oil, which, when I saw it flash across my mobile screen, brought me to the retort in 2003, as were invading Iraq, “No blood for oil.”  It was a comment that left me staggered – though I was not the only one, thank goodness.

Currently, after that comment, the Kurds think we have abandoned them for oil.  But, for whatever reason, we have abandoned them.  The BBC reports from the region are heartbreaking.

Now, we have BREXIT, too, a drama that goes on and on and on.  When I have British customers in the store, I occasionally ask them what they think.  Most are horrified.  One lady was very much in favor of it, and I must admit, she was the first individual from Britain who has expressed support.  My British friends, and I have more than a few, are horrified.

So it is we live in a terribly complicated world which is why, in this moment, it feels so good to be on this currently windswept island, called by Susan Branch, “Isle of Dreams,” which it is to many, a place where, as a visitor, you can forget the turmoil behind, and, as a resident, rejoice there is a slice of water protecting you, a bit, from the madness back there.

Letter from the Vineyard 19 October 2019 Celebrating time…

October 19, 2019


It’s a tad melancholy at the little cottage. Last night I had dinner with Andrea, who ran the restaurant behind the bookstore, aptly named “Behind the Bookstore,” through a successful season.  Andrea had never run a restaurant before and she did it wonderfully; will never do it again.  It was our farewell dinner, at Rockfish, on North Water Street, where we dined six months ago at the beginning of this adventure.

Thursday, a lady arrived in the store; for the first time in sixty years of coming to the island, she was having to deal with stand-by, a result of the storms which have battered us.  She wanted just the right book for her stand-by experience.  We spent some minutes on it and she bought “Dear Mrs. Bird,” a delightful small book about a young woman who stumbles into being the Ann Landers of wartime Britain.  Joyce, who owns the store, recommended to me and I consumed it early in the summer on a quick business trip to D.C.

The week has included several good exchanges with the President of my high school senior class, Mike O’Rourke, who know identifies himself as TBHI, “the bald-headed Irishman.”  He is bald though, in high school, had thick blonde hair I envied.

It has been a time of savoring such things as reconnecting with Mike O’Rourke, of sharing texts with my godson, Paul, who is one of the lights of my life.  We’ve had a history, Paul and I. I lost him, found him, lost him. At eighteen, he claimed me, never leaving me and it is beyond beautiful to have him in my life. At eighteen, he was courageous, and demonstrates courage in so many ways today.

The world outside these personal things roars with confusion.  The dialogue in Washington is hard to follow.  Every hour brings some new crisis as we move into Nixonian times, me fears.  Except, in Nixon’s time, we did not have the constant 24-hour, day in, day out, news cycle that confronts us now.  We had moments of respite.  There is none now.

Mulvaney dazzled.  Whatever you think, whatever side of this divide you are on, it was a stunning performance, so, so ill-advised.  And that seems the order of the day.  We are watching a train wreck.  One member of the administration said the “optics” of choosing the Trump Doral as the site of the next G7 conference might not be good.  You think?

Our current politics have riven us as much as anything I have seen in my lifetime.  One recent article suggested we take to the streets and march again; I marched for the first time against Viet Nam at 17.  Could do it again.

In the meantime, I am on the Vineyard, doing things to calm myself.  When I need to go to Vineyard Haven to pick up shirts from the one island laundry, I sometimes take the longer route, up through Oak Bluffs, past the Jaws bridge, past water and dunes, sometimes witnessing sunsets of staggering beauty; slipping through Vineyard Haven, up State Road.

Ironing shirts is not a strength. I am not, I confess, good at most domestic tasks.  I have spent my life coddled by the people who’ve cleaned and fluffed for me.  What, I wonder, does that say about me?

Probably nothing I want to hear about from any of you.  Thank you for not commenting.

It is interesting; I am entering another new period of my life.  Wowza, another one?  I mean aren’t we supposed to be done by now?  No, I guess not.  I am on another new adventure and that seems to be what has kept me alive and moving through all these years.

Don’t let anyone tell you, you’re too old for new adventures, says someone who is older, on a new adventure, figuring out life as if young again.

Letter from the Vineyard 13 October 2019 A little kindness…

October 13, 2019



Darkness has slipped its ever earlier arms around the little cottage on the Vineyard; the day broke, clear and beautiful after three days of a nor’easter, whipping the seas to a frenzy, ferries unable to cross in either direction.

A bride and groom did not make their own wedding, the family of someone evacuated for a medical emergency could not reach him.  These things happen when you are on an island, not often thought of until they are realities.  The gusts of wind ripped off the gate where “the path” from the cottage meets Katama Road.  Power flickered now and again but didn’t go.  It was short term; no food or fuel shortages.  Next time, though, I will fill the tank when I hear a nor’easter is on its way.

Tonight, Baroque music plays; right for this evening.  Returning home, I wanted something light, with a soupcon of melancholy, the way I felt.

After returning from the bookstore, I have a bit of time which is my “creative time,” when I write, edit, or think deeply about something.

The news of the world repels me, yet I am drawn to it, watching this ongoing train wreck, impossible to turn away from as it happens.  We are drawn to the endless news cycle like moths to flame.

Impeachment, Kurds betrayed, a building collapsing, fires in California. Russians apparently bombing Syrian hospitals.  Typhoon in Japan.

Baroque seemed right.  We live in a Baroque time, filled with complex forms, bold ornamentation, like Versailles, with the complex politics of that court, expressive dissonance in everything around us.

Two nights ago, I used my creative time to write a note to a high school classmate, who I learned is fighting a serious disease, which, from what I could parse, is brain cancer.  His family has invited friends to share memories and so I did.  We carpooled mornings our senior year with four other classmates, mornings I remember vividly, in an older green car called by Steve, who owned it, “the Whorenut,”which, when he placed the name on the side of the car in a subdued decal, resulted in it being banned from the parking lot of our Catholic high school.

Mike was senior class president, popular, able to, in a single bound, leap over and through the complexities of our high school, which brought together Catholic boys from all over the Minneapolis area. He has a laugh that unites, not divides.  He enjoys and does not mock.

In the note I wrote him last night, I told him:  Also know, I am so very, very appreciative you were kind to me back then.  It mattered.

And you see, that was long ago, and I banged my way through adolescence, not very well, but Michael was kind and that has reverberated across the decades.

Be kind, friends.  It will reverberate across decades.



Letter from the Vineyard 5 October 2019 Island perspective…

October 6, 2019

This past week, the New England Independent Booksellers Association held its annual meeting in Providence, Rhode Island. I attended, experiencing a book buyer’s life, coming away with un-proofed galleys of many books, including “Find Me,” by Andre Aciman, the follow-up to his wonderful, “Call Me By Your Name.”

Ocean Vuong gave an acceptance speech for the award he was given for his stunning debut novel, “On Earth, We’re Briefly Gorgeous,” lyric, mesmerizing, reeds rustling in the winds of time, pain and joy delivered in sound; more feeling than meaning.



Driving home, in daylight, I could see leaves changing, yellow and orange displacing summer green, the harbinger of winter, at least part of which I will spend on here, on the island.  Today, the wind blew, strong and cool, the earth sighing, opening its arms to autumn.

In the al fresco restaurant that is “Behind the Bookstore,” morning patrons wrapped themselves in warm blankets against the chill, sipping warm teas and coffees, breakfasting, while clustering around heaters.  In another week, the restaurant will close, one more season gone, the courtyard empty, lonely, waiting for next year’s summer.

With the arrival of Columbus Day, Martha’s Vineyard will begin to curl in upon itself, restaurants shuttering until next spring, seasonal residents departed, perhaps to return for Thanksgiving, perhaps not.  The island libraries will fill their calendars with winter events, residents will sigh in some relief at the absence of the summer people, delighted to find parking on Main Street once again, able to navigate “the Triangle” with ease.  The island has not a stoplight, which makes summer driving reliant on motorists having both sense and courtesy, not always present.

Mail here is always inconsistent, to be sure.  A package from my godson, Paul, was signed for at my post office on the 16th but did not find me until today.  The Vineyard is notorious for postal nonchalance.  He sent me a framed picture of himself with his son, Noah, at hockey camp.  The two of them are more than briefly gorgeous; I am so lucky he is in my life.


           There will be a brief island resurgence come Christmas and then the long, quiet, winter days…

I will see fall become winter on the island, and probably winter to spring, a rotation of the earth, experienced from a base on this island off the cost of Massachusetts, one of the first spots touched by what became a flood of Europeans following Plymouth Rock.

Peggy Lee sings in the background, night has clustered around the little cottage, and I am enjoying being here, confronting the flashing cursor, putting some sense to events around me, most of which have no sense.

It will be interesting to watch this all, reading, thinking, being island detached from the circus unfolding in Washington, over on the mainland.  Whatever the flavor of your politics, it is a circus.  No more to be said on that topic, tonight.

There are mystery writers and books to be ferreted out for our denuded mystery section, new thrillers to be discovered, young writers found to be placed on our “Great Reads” shelves, classics to be replenished.  It was a great year for Herman Melville and “Moby Dick.”  We have had a run on “Fahrenheit 491,” “Brave New World,” and “To Kill a Mockingbird;” all big, apparently, on school reading lists this fall.

Halloween is coming; tomorrow, pumpkins will be carved.  Ghostly lights need to be found to drape the front window. Thanksgiving must have its moment and I have to find a theme for Christmas.  Important things. For me, in this moment of time.


Letter from a Vagabond 09 21 2019

September 21, 2019


It is nearing the end of a scrumptious Vineyard day; warm, sunny without being too hot, a gentle breeze blowing, a kind of “Goldilocks” day, like those worlds out there we are discovering where live might be sustained.  A little over a week ago was the Great Harvest Moon, shining down on us the evening of Friday, September 13th, a day on which nothing bad happened in my world.

A little over two months ago was the last time I sat down and wrote a “letter,” time slipping away into the bookstore and being buffeted by life, not having words to describe feelings as they happened.  My friend Bill Epperson passed away unexpectedly as I was settling onto the island, followed by a series of sad events that are the fabric of any life and no easier when they come.

A friend who I had thought of as a good friend, has now been surrendered; I have been “ghosted” into non-existence. A good friend from California days wrestled with a diagnosis of and treatment for prostate cancer, which had ravaged his father before killing him.  There were a variety of cancer scares among good friends and relatives. Little Caleb, seven years old, the grandson of friend Debbie Dier, son of Eddie Dier, nephew of young Nick, died in a car crash one rainy night near Hudson.

I sent white roses.  His mother, Tia, not knowing who they were from, put one in his casket before it was closed.

Eddie, Caleb and I, often watched Hudson’s many parades together, sitting curbside by the Red Dot on Warren Street.  He was shy and warm, and it seems too cruel his smile has departed this earth.  His death hit me hard.

While I have laughed with customers and loved the bookstore, there has been a toughness to this time on island.  Sheila Manning, a good friend from Television Academy days, passed away, as did Rocci Chatfield, another wonderful figure from that time.  Rex Recka, a Discovery colleague, much younger than I, thought he had food poisoning and it was something else and he is gone.

In the background of summer days, laughing crowds, good talks about books and similar things, it has been a season of loss, fearing illness among those I love, of being supportive to faraway friends, realizing I am in that time of life.

Me?  I continue well, despite the above, working at the bookstore, finally getting a real chance to read the books I have collected this summer, write again, a little, spending time, like now, listening to jazz and ruminating on the world around me.

Every morning, I consume a ration of news, then snap off my devices and head for the shower, always astounded today is sillier than yesterday.  There is a certain detachment an island gives; I think I mentioned earlier this summer. I find it still true.








Letter from a Vagabond 07 18 2019 We all have such days…

July 18, 2019



A morning squirrel outside my door…

We all have them, I think, mornings when we wake up and go, uh oh, something’s not quite right.  I had one yesterday morning, not feeling quite right when I got up to go to breakfast with Comrade Vlad.

We met at the Edgartown Diner, where both of us are known, had a convivial breakfast and went our separate ways, he to The Paper Store, me to the bookstore.  I had a conference call about a non-island project of mine and went up to the office and did it there.

It was the kind of day where nothing seemed to quite fit the way I wanted it to.  Nothing was really wrong, but everything irritated me.  After picking up my shirts at the laundry, I went next door for a haircut, getting in just before the rain fell and people decided it was a good opportunity to do indoor kinds of things, like haircuts.  In other words, I was lucky and didn’t have to wait.

For twenty, thirty minutes, I sat, staring at myself in the mirror while my hair was cut.  And I wasn’t happy.  Who was this old man I was looking at?  And that set off a whole round of not happy thoughts as I drove back down toward Edgartown. I have to have cataract surgery on my left eye when I get back to the Hudson Valley, I gained two pounds, I am almost always the oldest person in the room when I used to be the youngest.  My freshly cut hair is thinning. My muscles ache more now when I do things.  Etc. Etc. Etc. Yadda, yadda, yadda…

Before entering Oak Bluffs, as I was going the long and prettier way, I stopped at the used bookstore on the road between Vineyard Haven and Oak Bluffs and introduced myself to the proprietor, while buying a book on coffee for a friend.

There was a small scheduling kerfuffle at the bookstore, not major but as I was feeling old, ugly, cranky and in bad humor, I did my best to handle it simply, without doing too much because I was afraid I would overreact when overreaction was not called for, just laying low.

Work needed to be done on a couple of other projects and I just wasn’t in the mood but did it anyway.  I texted Joyce I was feeling cranky and old and she told me to take a nap, which I did.

Sleep is medicine, as my friend, Larry, always says and it was.  After a short nap, drifting off to Nat King Cole singing softly in the background, I woke in a much better mood.  I played a game of solitaire, read some news and then stopped as what I was reading was about to cause crankiness to sneak back.

I ran one more errand, came home and continued my current read, “The Parisian Seamstress.” I am a lucky man, and while the hair is thinning and the muscles might ache a little more and, while I am undeniably older, I am a pretty good older, I think.