There are two things you need to know when visiting Martha’s Vineyard:
1.) Where to go.
2.) Where NOT to go.
I’ve been on “The Vineyard” – as the locals call it – for five days strong as a writer participating in a lively retreat at the Noepe Literary Arts Center on Main Street. Wait, that’s something you need to know and remember: MAIN STREET.
Like most towns, cities, suburbs, and magical places like Walt Disney World, there is an important thoroughfare that leads to any and everything of substance. My guess is that early city planners were simplistic in thought and collectively agreed, “Let’s call it Main Street.” Guess what stuck and made history?
Main Street in Edgartown leads to the hustle and bustle of bucks and broke. Let’s keep it 100: Martha’s Vineyard is a hoity-toity vacation mecca. If you’re rich, you’re going to feel like you’ve just arrived in a high-end heaven and all the angels and cherubs are robed in Lily Pulitzer, fine linen, and silks.
Edgartown exists just like it sounds:
“EDGAAAH! Meet me on the corner of Church and Main Street at “Alchemy’s” for Duck Confit light fare and a flute of French libations. Bring the Amex Black Card.” Shopping in the “House of Edgar” is an eye-opener only if you’re inadvertently opposed to paying $22 for a lamb burger, $102 dollars for a handkerchief embroidered with the fine-stitched initials, “MV” or if you care to indulge in a banana split for $6.29. Other than that, it’s a “much ado about money” wellspring for the wealthy and a “price tag penalty hell for the poor.”
And for those reasons, and a few curious more, I dropped Edgar like a black girl on a mission to blog and headed to Oak Bluffs where the beaches are beautiful, the asphalt welcomes every sole, and each street corner boasts swag!
I shared with my new friend “Digital Tony” that Edgartown seemed like the town where Martha Stewart was taken on her first date, but Oak Bluffs is where she snuck off to smoke weed with an Island boy named “Marley.” [ that’s not exactly what I said, but I take license to revise my own oratory].
I hopped on a bus in Edgartown that cost $2.50 and offered a :15 minute ride through the streets of “Edgar” and along a winding coastal road that showed off the shore and winked fast at the ocean’s vast sense of forever. How breathtaking and serene and perfectly picturesque. I almost thought I was on the wrong bus headed to a place much different than the “Bluffs” history foretold
Boats were doing what boats do in water and I started behaving like a black girl approaching a paradise that was certain to be the “Bluffs.”
The bus stopped, tourists, locals and a handful of unlabeled others poured out like clowns exiting a volkswagon. I can’t believe there were so many of us on that single bus, but there were and it seemed everyone but me knew which direction to head upon exiting.
Never one to look “black girl befuddled,” I did what I do: took a selfie. It was a gorgeous day of sun shining and temperatures that didn’t exceed 75 degrees. The breeze was light and airy [because that’s the way breeze is always described] and I was ready to become one with the “BLUFFS.”
So, I turned around and composed myself, then walked like a BOSS in the same direction as those “In the know.”
The first thing I see is a POLICE CAR. Not just any police car, but the most pimped-out, black SUV vehicle of crime stopping automation I’d ever laid eyes on. If you’re gonna commit a misdemeanor on an island like “Jay Walking” or “Dripping homemade ice cream on freshly manicured grass,” you may as well ride to the precinct in style.
Without warning and with my welcome the sights across from the sea began to take me in and my stride gained confidence. Suddenly, I was saturated by commercial pedaling (literally) and signs and eateries and people and this and that. It became abundantly clear to me, that Oak Bluffs was the polar opposite of its rich cousin Edgar, but three times removed on Martha’s mother’s side. The “Bluffs” is a bastard, but who cares? It’s got a joint called “Shipyard Brewing Company” that peddles a “Blackberry Bikini” cocktail. I don’t know if I’d drink it, but I love the way it sounds. Then, I happened upon something that made me believe I was in Mayberry R.F.D. – A Route 66 Filling Station. I marveled. One, because it was actually there in my midst and two, because it was such an old-fashioned and nostalgic looking structure. I moved right along to more important things like quenching my thirst and pacifying my palette. For the sake of my key stroke, I will share that I passed by close to eight, inviting restaurants with patios and umbrellas and menus that were so deliciously descriptive, I wanted to lick ’em and be fed on the spot. I settled on “Nancy’s Oyster Bar” where I ordered and devoured a serving of mussels in a “God-Good” broth of white wine, herbs and oil and garlic and a whole bunch of “Mmmmm.” Colossal shrimp floated to the top and linquica sausage chunks swam for life as I went in for the kill. I can’t begin to tell you how fortifying those mussels were.
I finally identified the narrow divide of street that hosted an array of eclectic shops on each side and endeavored an absolute browsing binge. The best “Bluffs Boutique” I can earnestly recommend is “C’est la Vie” which is owned by my newest friend “Roger” and his “Jennifer.” Her name was on the business card, but her definitive status fell silent with the voluminous absence of a wedding ring. It wasn’t enough that Roger was a tall glass of sexy with enough confidence to fill ten cups running over, he was one of the deadliest kinds of man-finds: an African-American-European from Paris, France. He was layered with skin kissed twice by his great-grand mother’s genes, beautiful dreadlocked hair that rested easy on his athletic back and gathered into a perfect ponytail and his broad smile was remarkably brilliant. More fatal than his fabulous demeanor was his command of African-American history and the quick manner in which he dismissed his own charisma to show off original designs. He had cleverly themed a modest inventory of Vineyard t-shirts to trend African-American history. From the “wear your natural hair” t-shirts to the deck of playing cards illustrated with negro trailblazers and icons to the Jonathan Green coloring books, his place was a spectacular treasure. And yes, C’est la Vie offered racks on end of couture designed by African-American designers and all things “Inkwell.” [not the movie, the beach.] As my journey continued, I went in and out of one shop and into the next in high-peruse, Penny-mode.
Oak Bluffs reminded me of a place I’ve never visited before, but it is absolutely a locale I’d mentally design if God granted me a magic wand. The other telling sign that this “Black Girl Blogging” had found the most dope spread of tourist-temptation on earth is she bumped into other black girls.
These ladies were visiting from Washington, D.C. and there was one bourgeois so-and-so among them and to the right who didn’t want to be photographed. I guess she lied to the Capital City’s government and was on an extended “Sick Day Holiday.”
When I wasn’t bussing to the Bluffs or eating in Edgartown, the most important aspect of the trip found its purpose. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, we held workshops with Tony Eprile who I’ve decided has earned the right to no longer be called “Digital Tony.” Live and in person, away from distant emails, he is a gifted and learned writer and Lesley faculty member in fiction and nonfiction who gives generously of his time and talent. We were fortunate to celebrate his 34th birthday [ahem!] on Monday and it kicked off a great week with a cake that continued to be a kitchen draw right down to the slim corner slice that still remained this morning. This retreat has been at best “balanced.” An excellent amount of fun complemented by fortifying literary feedback. Enough cannot be written or said regarding the value of engaging with likeminded writers whose literary enterprise models your own, even if your genre, content, and goals vastly differ. I enjoyed [and appreciated] the contributions and rich feedback and sharing offered by Tony, Jana, Wendy, and Grace for workshops that were much more relaxed and “free” than the academic-based, horror-hours endured during graduate school in Cambridge. The latter sounds haunting, but my time at Lesley was for an MFA program…it was school, GRADUATE school, and this is Martha’s Vineyard. There’s not much of a comparison. This has been a better than swell experience [did I just type swell?], it has been both a rewarding experience and a unique opportunity that rivals my life’s many exhilarating others, and I’ve been blessed to enjoy many.
Black girl blogging about the Bluffs and other stuff is signing off. It’s my last and final full day here. The beach beckons my presence.
Penny Dickerson 2015
Wonderfully vivid blog! I was right there walking, eating and enjoying a smooth frozen margarita. So glad you have had an enjoyable week!
Thank you much. The memories are vivid and life-long-lasting. They are embedded in a deep place
where only my heart can hear the “Bluffs” beat!
Sounds like you got everything you wanted from your retreat, and more. What a blessing! For the record, this white girl would rather hang with you in Oak Bluffs than go to Edgah-town any day. Thanks for sharing your experience.
AMY…You, me, Corner Taco in Five Points, Oak Bluffs on Martha’s Vineyard, Black Dog Café in Tallahassee, ANYWHERE “White Girl,” ANYWHERE. I miss you a great deal. Miss our talks, our walks, your mad-crazy laugh. I miss Chris often too. I did not plant a seed as promised, but many a seed was planted in me while there
and I look forward to making room for growth. Love you Wild Woman.
I am reading your lively blog just now, and as soon as I read “asphalt welcomes every sole,” I was so tickled with your turn of phrase, I had to scroll down to see if there was a place to leave a comment to let you know just how tickled I am and can’t wait to scroll back up and finish reading. Wendy
Well, if you gotta “turn” something, it besta betta be a phrase. LOL
I enjoyed writing much of this blog. Tony said, “Have fun.” I had a
ball writing that final assignment and then read it and felt like,
“Is this a funeral? Did I just deliver a eulogy?” Workshops: you gotta love ’em.
Penny! I got a shout-out in your blog! I feel so important! I loved every word of this. After the first couple of paragraphs, I realized I had heard some of these words before in the sitting room off the kitchen! Sorry, I’m not awake yet. Your blog captured so much of my own experience, and the pictures are amazing. Thank you so much for posting this. I can’t wait to show Willie and my friends at home so they’ll be able to experience a little bit of what we did this past week. Sincerely, Wendy
WENDY!!!! You are “shout-out” worthy and more my new friend. I must admit to you all of the following: I totally spooned your sugar, stole exactly six pepperoni slices one night while “jonesin” for something stronger, and was devastated when you didn’t bake that squash with olive oil and garlic. I was looking forward to it. You and Willie were a pleasure to meet and I look forward to the next time. Yes, Yes, Yes please share with others and I have so many more pictures, but got tired of trying to perfectly wrap them around the text. I look forward to our continued online writing life and sharing. Be blessed and take good care. Peace, P.
I miss our time there already! Reading your words makes me hungry again – for the good food and good companionship and good writing of the week.
Also, belated congratulations on your Guggenheim Fellowship!
Jana, Thank you for your kind words and for taking time to both read and comment.
I wholeheartedly concur, I miss our time too: the kitchen, the garden, the screen door that screamed like a witch when you slammed it “just so,” and absolutely everybody’s companionship…and that strawberry rhubarb cake. Peace and best wishes to you always and I look forward to reading more great works from you in your genre: YOUNG ADULT FICTION!
“Oak Bluffs was the polar opposite of its rich cousin Edgar, but three times removed on Martha’s mother’s side.” (Tee Hee). Thoroughly enjoyed your vibrant portrayal of Oak Bluffs. I’ve got to visit. You punked me, through, I wanted to see a photo of Roger and “friend”, lol.
Silver Scrybe,”Friend” is archived to the business card. I wanted to see her too, but during dinner, a mutual confirmed that she was a “petite beauty” but also said, “He used to be married to…” Rock on Roger [witcho cute self]. Thank you for your support always my friend. You are my forever, “my military brat, southern-literary sister of juvenile fiction fame.” P