Notes from Martha’s Vineyard: Presidential Dip & Town Mania
Greetings from funky Oak Bluffs, Massachusetts – a.k.a., Obama Nation for the past week. Our President keeps showing up in this his favorite town on the island of Martha’s Vineyard, appearing from up-island where he’s safely tucked away in resplendent, cosseted luxury. He comes to our harbor, our restaurants and clam shacks, the Flying Horses, the golf greens, the ice cream shops… and the fine people of O.B. are beside themselves – nay, demented - with glee.
Now, mind you, most Vineyarders were pretty fond of Bill Clinton, too. But it was nothing like this. This is unprecedented. The enthusiasm is even undimmed by the death of the dearly loved senior senator from Massachusetts, for whom there is much mourning.
Rumors of Obama sightings flew up and down Circuit Ave, the main drag of OB, from shop to shop, and person to person, but it was the texting that ensured that the kids and young adults find him before he heads off for his next destination.
Let’s face it, people: our first urban president likes sidewalks, neighborhoods and people on the street, not to mention tasty food. Chilmark is gorgeous and horsey, upscale and classy, and a much easier place for protecting a president from the lunatic fringe. But O.B. has the most fun and also boasts many confreres (and conseours?) - Valerie Jarrett, Eric Holder, Skip Gates, Charles Ogletree.. you get the picture. At first he tried to rent in OB, but the location was nixed by the Secret Service and Coast Guard as untenable for adequate protection from the water, and having too much disruptable traffic.
I walk along the beach on most mornings, chugging past a gaggle of 40 or so Polar Bears who, in fair weather or foul, swim early every morning at the Inkwell (the beach proudly named by its mostly Black beach-goers at the time when white beaches were not so welcoming of the accomplished, upper middle class African American community that collected here in force as early as post-Civil War, but mostly in the early and middle parts of the 1900’s. Actually, for a good history of this fabulous story of how large chunks of O.B. got settled by “Negroes”, starting in the 17th century, click here. It’s an amazing piece of U.S. and Black history.)
But I digress. Back to my tale of the other morning, when I walked past and greeted the happily dripping, towel-blotting, schmoozing, laughing, mostly geriatric morning swimmers – and there’s a huge bunch of them. On my way back, ten minutes later, they’re all gone! Amazingly, the Inkwell had cleared out utterly. What happened?? Yep, you guessed it: somebody had called to say Obama was on Circuit Ave. And whoosh! They all booked into town. Dripping wet, half naked and utterly pumped!
So what can I say? This has been fun. I love this place and I’m proud of what it stands for. My husband and I started coming here in 1967, and just fell in love with it at first sight. Our closest, co-vacationing friends and our son’s godparents were a black couple – friends we met in Hyde Park, in fact, at the University of Chicago - and the four of us were always most comfortable in Oak Bluffs. We never wanted to be any place else for summer vacation. Our adult kids love it now too.
I’m still awestruck by the variety, the beauty, the casual diversity, sense of community, neighborliness and bedrock values of this place – even the miscreants and louts around here – and we have our share - are no racists!
I commend the Obamas for their good taste, and I hope they’ll be back. (I did manage to slip a couple of Secret Service agents our Stop Smoking CD – who knows, maybe it will help him kick the habit when he’s ready.)
Take care and be well!