Saturday, August 06, 2011

The Far Away Isle

Dressed for dinner in days of yore.  Dolphin Guest House in background

We were in Nantucket for a couple days, and I've decided that July and August are not the months I want to be in Nantucket.  Hordes and hordes of people.  Almost as many vehicles, mostly SUVs, pickups and trucks.  Lots of trucks.  Bumper to bumper.  Bicyclists on the sidewalks avoid the street.  Restaurants so loud you need earplugs.  Everything expensive.  Too many people.  Oh god, the people.  We spent a ghastly amount of money, just 4 people and 2 days.

When lobster was cooked outside by the docks.  Site of current Ropewalk Restaurant
Of course some things never change.  The Nobby shop, Murrays, Tradewinds, Barbara's Bookstore and the Hub.  The Ropewalk seems the same, but I still remember the year they boiled lobsters in huge iron pots in that spot and a folk singer held her guitar and sang.

The "traditional" ferry hasn't changed THAT much, except for, well, the airline type seats and wi-fi and did they always have an elevator?  Leaving the harbor in Hyannis hasn't changed except that the houses look very well cared for and there are so freakin' many of them, like two feet apart.  I love the house with its own lighthouse.  The big monstrosity with the moorish arches is soooo out of place.  What were they thinking?  Where was the zoning board?

Coming into Nantucket one sees the familiar breakwater and the jetties.  Big fat grey houses where some more modest ones used to be at Brant Point.  A couple hold outs.  When we first arrived in Nantucket, the harbor had rotting pilings and a ramshackle ferry dock.    Everything up to date now, of course.  In the old days when you returned from the beach in late afternoon and climbed into the shower, the power usually went out as half the people on the island did likewise.  Now there's a new water tower and a new power plant.  Lots of new stores.  The Mad Hatter is gone, the Opera House is long gone.  Ralph Lauren has a glitzy store where Nantucket Looms (now moved) used to be.

One never did and one still does not cringe at the sight of men in tank tops and black socks, so that is still a Good Thing.  Downflake Donuts are now "mid-island," whatever the hell that means.      Mostly powerboats at the slips, and a few atrociously big sail boats and I wonder if the sails on the current monstrosity are ever actually, like, unfurled.

When the poet asked, "where are the snows of yesteryear," he could have been speaking of The Far Away Isle.  It's airport is the second busiest in Massachusetts.  Private jets, don'tcha know.  Just like East Hampton.  Lots of trophy wives, flaunting their blond hair and skinny legs.  Is this sour grapes?  I used to have blond hair and skinny legs too.  Without the bling, of course.  Definitely without the bling.

There are still blond little kids begging for stuff at The Sunken Ship, and lined up for ice cream.  Those places haven't changed either.  Captain Toby's seems a shadow of itself and 21 Federal is now a pricey Italian restaurant that refers to itself as "affordable."  One man's "affordable" is open to debate.  It's the thought that counts, I guess.  Ice cream cones are $8.00+ if you want large.  Our local dairy store sells them for half that, but then when you see the trucks trundling on and off the ferry you understand why everything costs so much.  Our former boarding house is now a private home, a duplex we think.  The landlady's daughter baby sat for us.  Ah, paradise, enow!  I lost a good pair of sunglasses sailing over the Tuckernuck Shoals.  Wonder how barnacle encrusted they are now.  Those are pearls that were her eyes.

The Ropewalk Restaurant on Nantucket's Dock
Okay, I am getting maudlin.  It's just that the wonderful place, Nantucket, has become a little too wonderful.  I miss the ramshackle restaurant over the water where the seagulls mooched part of your fish, the old Nantucket lightship, the possibility of giving the oldest kid $10 and telling him to take the little kids to dinner, or sending the kids off to a movie while the grownups have dinner.   I even miss the man selling popcorn OUTSIDE the theater.  He put some bright orange goo on the popcorn, and when I asked if it was butter (or course it was not butter) he adamantly declare it was "real butter" and always had been for 30 years.  I don't know what they are building on the old movie house lot.  Looks like another movie theatre, but it will probably cost $12 a head.  I only hope they'll have some g-rated movies so the parents can have a noisy, expensive dinner somewhere without the kids.   Some things never change.

One can thank the many preservation societies for acquiring so much open land, and not letting weird architecture and chain stores (except Ralph Lauren) get a foothold.  By the way, the RL store Is Not your Macy's RL dept, but rather the store of the full page ads in the New York Sunday Times.  Yowza!

A more charming downscale Nantucket
The upshot of this post is that the Far Away Isle that I once knew has disappeared into the mists of time, now further and further away, but never actually . . . gone. 


Anonymous said...

please don't come back

Zelma Williams said...

Would you have stayed at the Dolphin Guest House when Louise Haskins owned it? The picture looks like the right time period.
Louise was my Mom. She operated the Dolphin until 1973 when my step-father died.
I used to babysit for many of the guests children!! :-]
Would love to hear from a "regular" from long ago! <3

Zelma [Cole] Williams
[now back in Maine] :-]

JudyinBoston said...

Hi Zelma! Yes,that is me in front of The Dolphin. I remember Mrs. Haskins well. We all loved her. We began coming to Nantucket "back in the day" in 1967 with our two young sons, ages 4 and 2.
I believe you baby sat for them the following year when we sailed to Martha's Vineyard for the night. We came several times in the 1960's and early seventies and always had a super time. Such a great place for kids!
We always met up with two other couples who sailed from Long Island. At the time we lived in Chicago. Now it seems incredible that we would have only paid $25 a night for a room, bathroom, and sleeping porch! Your mom was so nice to us and genuinely liked the kids. We ate breakfasts at the Downy Flake (original location) and went to Surfside beach a lot. Before the new power plant, when everyone came back from the beach to shower, the power usually went off. We accepted such inconveniences with good nature, because it was Nantucket.
The town was a lot different then, but some of the stores are still there, like the bookstore and the weaving shop. The last time we saw The Dolphin it was a private home, and expanded, I believe.
My kids have such wonderful membories of the island, and when we moved to the Boston area, we celebrated our 20th anniversary with a trip to the Island. Sadly, your mom was no longer operating the Dolphin.
Now my granddaughter loves the island. We usually make ita day trip, *and she likes Surfside (which has gone upscale) and eating in town. We stayed next door to the Dolphin last time we were there.
Fond memories. I am so glad you found my blog and wrote. Thanks for commenting.

*I don't think it is still true that day trippers bring five dollars and a clean shirt and change neither. Do you remember that saying?