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Blog Anniversary

September 21, 2010 Leave a comment

It’s September 21. You know what that means! I started this blog two years ago tonight. It was a Sunday. We had spent the afternoon watching the third and concluding day of the 37th Ryder Cup golf competition, between the US and Europe, held that year at Valhalla Golf Club in Kentucky and won by the US.

My first post was called exactly that, and said, in its entirety, “Welcome to my new blog. I’m not sure what shape it will take yet. I will be experimenting for a while.” My second post was about the Ryder Cup. If I were writing it now, I surely would have said a lot more. Or been so intimidated by all that happened that I would have said nothing at all. What I did say was:

I can’t believe we have to wait two years for another Ryder Cup. There’s nothing like the final day, with 12 simultaneous matches, in match play format, and the possibility of wide swings in the team scoring from minute to minute. In medal play, you can usually have a pretty good idea of what’s happening all over the course on the final day, as the networks are good at switching around from hole to hole to cover all the contenders. But that’s just the point — everyone’s a contender in the team match play format, because everyone has a chance to earn a point, or a half point. It produces an entirely different kind of excitement than what one has on the final day of a major. I wouldn’t say better, though that’s what the commentators are always saying or implying, and what seem to want the players to say in the interviews. Just a very different experience, and one worth savoring.

See you in Wales in two years.

Now two years have come and gone. Which means, it’s time for another Ryder Cup! Number 38, held at Celtic Manor Resort in Newport, Wales. Normally the competition is held in late September, which would make it this week, but for reasons that no one has explained to me, it will instead take place next week. No doubt I’ll have something to say about it then, but I wish it were now so I could celebrate the blog’s second anniversary with a Ryder Cup post.

And what was my third post? Maybe the less said about that the better. It was titled, and about, Sarah Palin, and was only the first of what turned out to be many posts about her that fall. I have pretty much given up writing about her. Not for lack of things to say, but largely because I have trouble controlling my emotions on the subject, and almost anything I would wish to say is said better elsewhere.

What has most surprised me about the shape the blog has taken is how often I am tempted to write, and do write, on political matters, despite having no particular expertise. But then, I seem to have chosen as my principal topics only those about which I have no particular expertise. The subjects are largely disjoint from my professional life. Then again, it’s not clear what expertise I have on matters in my professional life either. Maybe that’s the point. If I’m going to say something silly, it may as well be on a topic I’m not expected to know anything about.

Here I am writing when I should be celebrating. Champagne and dancing await. The night is young. So long. And thanks for reading.

Categories: Writing

Final Nantucket Notes

September 21, 2010 Leave a comment

Madaket Beach, Nantucket

[I had anticipated writing a post covering our final day and a half in Nantucket two weeks ago. I started it last week, but it has been going nowhere. Let me take what I wrote, add a little more, and bring it to a close.]

A week ago [now more like eleven days ago], I wrote at excessive length about our day in Nantucket the day before. Here’s a quick round-up of how we spent our final day and a half on Nantucket.

Friday, after breakfast at our inn (the Wauwinet), we spent a half hour in the late morning on the porch while the lawn was mowed, then almost three hours on the lawn, relaxing on chaises and reading. I had started Kate Walberg’s A Short History of Women the day before and became engrossed in it. We might happily have spent all day there, but we were waiting for the 2:00 PM delivery by Nantucket Windmill Auto Rental of our car. We had never rented a car on Nantucket before and were looking forward to getting to parts of the island we hadn’t previously seen. By waiting until 2:00, we would have the car for 24 hours, a single-day rental, and then be able to return it the next day as we arrived at the airport for our flight to JFK.

As it turned out, the car didn’t arrive until around 2:25. We signed the paperwork, grabbed a map, and by 2:30 we were off. It was an odd feeling, driving on Nantucket, since previously we had only seen it when being driven around, by taxi to or from the airport and by the inn’s shuttle, between Wauwinet and town. For the first time, we could go anywhere we wanted, turn up and down side roads to see where they led, explore whatever we wished. We knew our first wish: Madaket, the community on the western end of the island. Nantucket town is at the opening to the harbor, centrally located on the north side of the island. The second largest community is Siasconset (‘Sconset), on the ocean shore to the southeast. Wauwinet, where we stay, is on the ocean shore to the northeast, more or less due east across the harbor from town. We have spent most of our time between Wauwinet and town, with a bike ride last year down to ‘Sconset (and a bike ride from town to ‘Sconset on our honeymoon 25 years ago). But we’ve never been west of town.

We drove from the inn about 7 miles to town, worked out way through its edge, then picked up the road to Madaket, another 7 miles. Madaket sits on the western edge of the south shore. In addition to homes, there are two commercial establishments, Millie’s and, by its side, a tiny grocery store. Millie’s, it turns out, is brand new, having just opened in June. It is named in honor of Madaket Millie, a famed Nantucket figure whose home was just across the street and about whom a children’s book was written. As the Amazon blurb for the book explains,

Millie Jewett was raised in Madaket, the ocean edge of Nantucket Island, by her grandmother, who taught her a lesson that shaped her character: “Where life has set you, make a difference.” And what a difference she made. Knowing there were no women in the lifesaving service, strong-minded Millie demanded to know why not. Turned down by the Coast Guard when she tried to enlist during World War II, Millie proved her mettle in other ways: by training dogs to patrol the beaches, by unofficially staffing the Madaket Coast Guard station when it was closed down, and by watching out for anyone in trouble. “I’ll take care of you” became Millie’s motto. Strong in body as well as in mind, she always followed her words with deeds. Ultimately, the Coast Guard relented and adopted her–or was it the other way around? This beautifully written fictionalization of a true story is an inspiring tribute to a woman who became a legend on Nantucket . . .

The restaurant has waiter service upstairs, or you can order from the same menu at a counter on the main floor and choose a table indoors or out. Plus, there’s an ice cream takeout window. We opted for the upstairs sit-down restaurant, with wonderful views out to the nearby homes, dunes, and ocean. The menu consists primarily of tacos and quesadillas. Gail had the 40th Pole: Grilled chicken and jack & cheddar cheese. I had the Rhode Island Avenue: Grilled skirt steak, mushrooms, poblano peppers, grilled red onions, and jack & chedder. It’s a casual place, but the food is excellent.

From Millie’s, we headed to Madaket Beach. Once on the beach, we had the view you can see up top, looking eastwards along the shore to the house. A couple was heading back our way, so Gail stopped them and asked how far they had gotten. To the house, they said. It’s not occupied, but the furniture is still all there. And there’s a for sale sign, they joked. We didn’t get that far, but we did walk down the beach a bit. It was cool, and a little windy, but lovely.

Next up, a drive back to the other end of the south shore, ‘Sconset. We headed back into town, then took the island’s main road, Milestone Road, the east-west stretch between town and ‘Sconset that also passes just a bit north of the airport. Along the way, we took a slight detour to the south to see another community that we had until then only noted on maps — Tom Nevers. We drove south until the road ended, at the beach, passing through some small streets with houses, then reversed our way back to Milestone. North of Milestone, across from Tom Nevers, are Nantucket’s cranberry bogs. From the website of the Nantucket Conservation Foundation:

Cranberries have been grown on Nantucket since 1857 and were an important part of the Island’s economy until just prior to World War II. Before 1959, all 234 acres of bog were under cultivation on the Milestone Road, making this bog the largest contiguous natural cranberry bog in the world. Since that time, intensive efforts to conserve water resources have resulted in the construction of a complex network of ditches and dikes that subdivide the bog into smaller and more water-efficient units. Unfortunately, these measures led to the Milestone Road bog losing its status as the world’s largest bog.

Soon we were passing the Siasconset Golf Course and pulling into ‘Sconset. The town center is small. There’s a post office, a grocery/general store, a sandwich place where we had lunch a year ago, a more upscale restaurant, a wine store, and not much more, just east of the town’s traffic circle. North of the circle is the Siasconset Casino, a tennis and social club founded in 1899 and serving both members and the community. Across from the Casino, to the north, is Chanticleer, a French restaurant that we somehow missed in our little walking and bike tour of ‘Sconset a year ago. I didn’t want to miss it this time, since Seth at the store Jewel of the Isle had mentioned it the day before as the place where his jazz trio, Opus 3, was playing all summer. (See my post on a day in Nantucket town.) Not that we were going to go in then. It was too early, and we weren’t properly dressed. To our surprise, the posted menu outside indicated that men should wear jackets. The fanciest places in town don’t make such a request, though many diners do. Nor does Topper’s, the restaurant at our inn, which might just be the fanciest restaurant on the island. Or so I thought.

After a half hour wandering around and shopping in the general store, we got back in the car and headed north toward Wauwinet on Sankaty Road, passing the Sankaty Head Lighthouse just outside town, then Sesachacha Pond, two of the island’s landmarks. But rather than continuing to the intersection with Wauwinet Road and taking Wauwinet to the inn, we turned east on Quidnet Road to see the Quidnet neighborhood. Just before going the final four hundred yards or so to the beach, we turned north on a gravel road, Squam, which is narrow and looked a bit iffy. I chickened out, made a u-turn in the driveway north, and returned to the intersection, where a woman who had been watching us asked if we needed help. I knew exactly where I was, so I assured her I didn’t. We were heading to Wauwinet and I didn’t want to take the bad road. She assured me the road isn’t so bad at all, so properly chastened, I turned around again and we drove the two miles on Squam Road until it ends at Wauwinet Road, just below the inn. And I’m glad we did, because we saw a lovely stretch of homes. We couldn’t see over the top of the dune to our right, but I assume the houses on that side look out over the ocean.

That was that, our drive around the island, and we pretty much did make a complete circuit around it. We stayed in for the evening, going down for a late dinner at Topper’s bar.

Saturday, we spent the morning at the inn, enjoying a little more time reading on the lawn, looking out on the harbor. At noon, we said farewell and drove into town, where we were fortunate to get a parking spot right on Main Street just as someone backed out. With Arno’s just on the other side of the street, we didn’t have to think too hard about where to eat lunch.
We hadn’t eaten there for a few years, having gotten in the habit instead, if we’re looking for lunch in town, of going to Fog Island Cafe. It was time for a change.

After lunch, we walked down Main Street to Straight Wharf, going into a few stores, then back up Main to our car, the one hour of allowed parking time having expired. On the way to the airport, we stopped at Surfside Beach, straight south of town on the south shore, which we had last been to on our honeymoon. A quick look, then on to the airport, where we dropped our car just two minutes before the 2:00 PM deadline. Our annual visit to Nantucket was over way too soon, as always.

Categories: Travel

Annals of Courage

September 21, 2010 Leave a comment

The ways of the US Senate are mysterious. Who am I to try to understand them, much less explain them? Today was one of the Senate’s prouder moments, as it managed in its election-season cowardice to defer taking up the military authorization bill, thereby also deferring (or avoiding) debate on repeal of don’t ask, don’t tell. From the NYT account:

The Senate on Tuesday voted against taking up a major military bill that would allow the repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, disappointing advocates of allowing gay Americans to serve openly in the armed forces but leaving open the likelihood of another vote later this year.

The outcome, at a time when Congress is increasingly paralyzed by the partisan fury of the midterm elections, was more a result of a dispute between Democrats and Republicans over legislative process than a straightforward referendum on whether to allow gay, lesbian and bisexual soldiers to serve openly.

President Obama, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have all said they favor repealing the 17-year-old policy. And the House has already approved legislation that would allow the Pentagon to rescind it, while the legal fight is advancing in the federal courts.

But Senate Republicans voted unanimously to block debate on the bill, the annual authorization of military programs . . .

The procedural details are confusing, but the result is the same: DADT remains in force. In anticipation of today’s vote, Wall Street Journal columnist Bret Stephens had a piece urging Republicans to support repeal of DADT. Such a column in the WSJ is itself an indication of how out of touch much of the Senate is. Stephens relies in part on the comments of retired Major General Dennis Laich, who “thinks DADT is nuts.”

“Five years from now we’ll look back at this and say, what was all the fuss?” he says. “These young soldiers, sailors and Marines come from a society where gays and lesbians are readily accepted and work with them and go to school with them.”

In the meantime, it’s worth noting that there are an estimated 48,000 homosexuals on active duty or the reserves, many of them in critical occupations, many with distinguished service records. If they pose any risk at all to America’s security, it is, paradoxically, because DADT institutionalizes dishonesty, puts them at risk of blackmail, and forces fellow warfighters who may know about their orientation to make an invidious choice between comradeship and the law. That’s no way to run a military.

Republican senators are now bellyaching that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid intends to jam the repeal amendment into a bill they have no real choice but to vote for. They should be silently thanking him. He’s giving them the chance to do the right thing while blaming the Democrats for it. It’s a GOP twofer, plus a vote they’ll someday be proud of.

What more is there to say? I would say nothing, but I also want to suggest that you watch the video embedded at the top, containing remarks Al Franken made in the Senate today.

Categories: Politics