Martha's Vineyard, in Massa-Chu-Setts (sound ‘er out! sound ‘er out!) is famously known as the 'Playground of Presidents, Pulitzer Prize winners, and infamous movie and rock ‘n roll stars.’ Past and present residents of renown include James Cagney, Mia Farrow, Carly Simon, (You’re so Vain), Sweet Baby James Taylor, Denzel Washington, Sharon Stone, and of course…..the most famous of all, Jackie O. (whose life was a constant spiral of O O O O O)
How the ‘Vineyard’ got its name, (there are actually no vineyards on Martha’s Vineyard) is more folksy than fact.
Popular folk lore has it that in the early 1600’s, 1602 to be exact, sailor Bartholomew Gosnold named the island, the 8th oldest in the States, after his infant daughter, Martha. There is however, no evidence that Gosnold actually had a daughter. An alternative theory is that Gosnold named the island after his mother-in-law, also a Martha, who notably, was the purse-strings-holder for Gosnold’s seafaring exploits.
The mere mention of Martha’s Vineyard, (the Vineyard dah-ling), conjures up images of high society, sailing regattas and of course, all things politics. As far back as the late 1800’s United States presidents have vacationed here, including Ulysses S. Grant, (1869-1877), who stayed in one of Oak Bluffs 300 folksy, intricately-trimmed gingerbread houses. The Kennedys, Clintons, and Obamas are also on the famous visitors’ roster.
There is one main road to get into the down-island town of Edgartown, one of the Vineyard’s six towns, which is where the hippest of hip gravitate. The fact that this is where our girl gang is staying is surely no accident, n’est pas?
We arrive late in the afternoon, in shoulder season, and are quite startled to find the sidewalks rolled up by 5 p.m. With no take-a-pay-day-loan dresses or spangley little thousand dollar tops to buy, what’s a girl to do but window shop her way to one of the local fine seafood restaurants.
(Quick aside: Several years ago I attended a photography course on the Vineyard- I know! I know! What a long-suffering starving artist will do for her craft! I was still shooting film at the time and the rolls had to be flown out every evening, developed in Boston, and flown back the next afternoon, to be repeated the next day. Ahh, the high life of the poor and infamous! But…I digress.)
On my previous trip I discovered the Vineyard makes stellar clam chowder soup- (how stellar you ask???) ….so stellar that my friend schlepped $300 U.S. ($700 Canadian!) packed-in-ice clam chowder soup on the plane home with her. Pumped like a bicycle tire, I could hardly wait to get my spoon dippin’ and my lips slurpin’ on my return trip to the Island. I was particularly excited about the oyster crackers that come with the soup, deliciously perfect little fishies that can be fashioned into tiny synchronized swimming patterns and floated around on top of the soup before eating them tail by tail. (The fishies taste really yum with my beloved Gummy Bears too.)
Because the Vineyard is awash with A-Listers there is a certain etiquette that must be followed if one is lucky enough to spot said star. Get up to speed with Vineyard etiquette in next week’s blog as we travel from down-island to up-island, glorying in the color-palette cliffs of Aquinnah while rubber necking for the rosary of A-List stars.