Wednesday, July 5, 2017

A Nantucket weekend

Cocktails in the gardens of Polly and Peter Millard's house on Dollar Lane. Photo: JH.
Wednesday, July 5, 2017. It was sunny and very warm in New York on our National Holiday celebrating this nation’s independence from England. Growing up in New England, this holiday represented many simple but special things to the little boy: cookouts, parades streaming with our Flag, brass bands, retired veterans, and if you were lucky, going for a swim somewhere.

All of this was underscored by what we were already learning in primary school: the creation of this country, “Sweet land of Liberty ...” And the sense one had even as a child — or maybe especially as a child — that no matter one’s place in the world, there was an assured hope of something good or better, on paths provided by our Forefathers.

At this age, my sense of things are now unalterably varied. I am as uncertain as anyone else about our world and how it is managed (presumably for the benefit of all citizens). Nevertheless, those early lessons when we were just learning to read and to think, remain my mantra, absolutely certain that “assured hope of something good or better” for all is the only way to Peace on Earth, and Goodwill to All Men.
Walking the tarmac at Nantucket Memorial Airport.
We spent the holiday weekend this year back in New England, on Nantucket, guests of our friend Joy Ingham at her house in town that she rents for the season. Also guesting were Jeff (JH) and Danielle Hirsch, and Marianne and Steve Harrison, two old friends of mine who were up from Beaufort, South Carolina where they have the Rhett House Inn.

Our hostess with the mostest.
Joy is a generous and exquisite hostess. Guests are welcome to do whatever they want on their own but be there for dinner. She has a staff of two very congenial gentlemen Victor Mendez and Peter Hildebrandt who come up from South Carolina for the summer and for the past several seasons have kept Joy’s houses running in tip top shape. In real life, Peter is a writer and has just published his second novel, "A Wolf By the Ears" (you can find it on Amazon), and Victor is a artist/photographer with an eye for beauty. In summertime at Joy's, Victor is the main chef. His Mexican background influences the possibilities on the daily menu, such as an excellent spicy guacamole; or rice and beans and tortillas for breakfast. I always started with scrambled eggs and crisp bacon — something I never have at home.

You’d come down for breakfast whenever you felt like it and the table would already be set with blueberries, red raspberries, cantaloupe and pineapple plus blueberry and cranberry muffins from the local bakery around the corner which was established by the wife of Eric Schmidt of GOOGLE. Mrs. Schmidt is something of a force in the community, having established a bookstore (that stays open until ten p.m.), a music school, the bakery and the Dreamland Theater.
Coming in for a landing in Nantucket on Jet Blue. I left New York on Thursday afternoon, hoping to beat the mobs leaving on Friday. The air-time of the flight is about 45 minutes from JFK.
After a ten-minute drive from the airport, we arrrived at Joy’s house. The houses in town are mainly very close to each other. There are very strict architecture rules in order to preserve the history of the 17th century whaling village that Nantucket was originally. The result is something that defines the original meaning of the word “quaint.” As a New Englander by upbringing, it restores, or reassures a sense of stability and permanence. The house looks compact and even small from the front but it has three floors (besides a basement) with five or six bedrooms and five and a half baths as well as a dining room, den, a spacious combination of kitchen and family room.
The entrance to the house.
The sign over the front door reads: “Tourists Meals Rooms.” It could also say “Welcome” because our hostess personifies it. The surrounding land is covered with masses of flowers.
Thursday night, Joy, the Harrisons and I went to dinner at Oran Mor Bistro, which is located on South Beach Street, down near the harbor, about a five-minute walk from the house. Joy had reserved this special table – special because it is outside on its own little terrace.
This is Charlotte Hess who is the restaurant's hostess. Charlotte is from Chicago, educated here in the East, and is now a full time resident of Nantucket where she is very enterprising as well as hard-working, but more about that later ... Our hostess with the restaurant's co-owner John Tancinco. John started Oran Mor with Edwin Claflin, an island native who went to culinary school where he met John and they decided to open here. Joy is wearing cashmere shawl and a knitted coat thinking she'd need it.
The table is usually impossible to book because it's the only table that is completely private (and a beautiful location). Thursday night we sat down just as the Sun was about to slip below the horizon and it was a chilly 62 degrees. We moved inside.
The flower boxes surrounding the little terrace. That deep red flower in the middle is actually a ripe strawberry.
My starter: Peas & Wildflowers; Spring Pea Crudite, Favas, Summer Squash & Sunflower Baba Ganoush, Seed Crunch. Delicious.
Dessert was basically a heaping scoop of vanilla ice cream inside a chocolate shell with a side of chocolate fudge. It was gone in about a minute.
The sidewalks are brick and the roads are paved with cobblestones on Main Street and some streets running through them. The flower boxes of the shops and inns were festooning.
An artist's rendering of a Nantucket flower box.
Ramblin' roses often line the fences, roofs and facades.
Flowers abound throughout the village.
Joy especially wanted us to see the Flowers On Chestnut shop. You can get the picture although it doesn't convey the awesomeness of fresh beauty that surrounds you.
Back out on the street – you can see the cobblestone roadway with the brick cross walks.
The sign just around the corner from Joy's house, attached to a tree splendid with ivy growing around its base.
This little house was built 257 years ago, like the sign says, but is especially notable because of the “inspiration” that happened within during a conversation between the author and a fellow whaler.
Community as it was:
John H. Bartlett, Jr.
July 9, 1899 – June 30, 1974
FARMER
He loved the dawn –
He loved the soil –
He loved mankind --
& All Nantucket loved “June.”
The bronze frame is covered with images of the farm, animals, tools, and crops.
Joy's guests arriving at Chanticleer, a very popular restaurant in Sconset owned and run by Susan Handy, who has long been in the restaurant business on the island.
The Halibut special which half the table ordered and devoured.
After dinner: Joy, DPC, Chanticleer's Susan Handy, Steve and Marianne Harrison, and Danielle Hirsch (whose husband was taking this picture).
A man wearing Nantucket Red (a la Ralph Lauren) and carrying a glass of rosé waiting for the guests to arrive at Joy's dinner on Sunday night.
Making plans first thing in the morning.
Good morning glory!
Perfect starter for breakfast.
Catching a few rays before the sun dashed behind the frequent passing clouds.
JH and Danielle went out to see the shopping village and maybe do a little shopping ...
Bartlett's Farm stand on Main Street. Seven generations of Bartletts have been farming the same land since William Bartlett arrived on Nantucket in the early 1800's, making it Nantucket's oldest and largest family owned farm.
At a little shop on Centre Street, the owner happened to come out onto the sidewalk followed by his dog. The dog stayed close to his master and seemed unusually shy for his breed. When I asked his owner about his shyness, he told me that when the dog was still a puppy, in his enthusiasm with people, he made a friendly gesture to a customer who HIT him to make him go away, establishing a fear in the animal that remains.
We then ran into one-year-old lab Olive Darnell who was taking a nap between his ma and pa.
And here's Olive as a puppy with her Great Dane friend Frankie.
Little Olive bonding with big Frankie.
Another sweet lab snoozing under a bench outside a shop down the same lane.
Isobel & Cleo on Centre street, where Charlotte Hess (you first met her at Oran Mor) designs and makes a shawl that you wear like a poncho. Beautiful.
Charlotte at her loom. Frankie, the Great Dane in the photos above, is Charlotte's dog.
The loads of activities on the island posted on the town bulletin board.
The Nantucket Pharmacy is a great old-fashioned full operating drugstore with a soda fountain where people sit at the counter to have breakfast, lunch, a soda, a malt. We all had grilled cheese sandwiches.
I bought a chocolate cone, double dip. Their double dip was more like a quadruple dip in volume. I couldn't eat it fast enough in the afternoon Sun. JH joked that he'd have to hose me down.
An artist capturing the beauty of Main Street.
Passing by Mitchell's Book Corner we noticed an author signing books.
Elin Hilderbrand was the author and she was happily signing copies of The Identicals, her new book about the lives of identical twins who were raised by divorced parents, one on Nantucket, one on Martha's Vineyard.
The Identicals is currently number 3 on The New York Times Best Sellers list. Elin is also the author of 18(!) other novels, ALL set on Nantucket. CLICK TO ORDER>
Me looking through the Social Register Directory & Observer for some information.
JH caught this shot of me in my room reading The Murrow Boys by Lynne Olson and Stanley Cloud, published in 1996. Joy had read it and brought it to my attention. It’s fantastic; more about it on another day.
Waiting in line for an ice cream cone. Or a smoothie. We went by this shop a few times morning, afternoon and night. There was always a line.
Another ice cream shop just around the corner from Joy's house.
A message for July 4th in the sculpture garden of the Cavalier Gallery.
Rubber duckies for sale.
Real duckies in the Old South Wharf.
Looking out at the Wharf.
A sizable yacht in the wharf.
Hosing down a cruiser.
What looks like gravel are recycled sea shells.
Shoes in the spirit of the 4th.
Peter England shop at 3 Old South Wharf.
Peter England store manager Gayle holding up the sweater JH bought. Peter England's sweaters have been hand loomed in the USA for over 40 years.
Marianne making sure JH didn't leave without the sweater.
On Saturday night we went to a cocktail party that Polly and Peter Millard gave at her house on Dollar Lane.
The house was built in 1809 by a whaling ship owner named Joseph Starbuck. Mr. Starbuck's house was situated so that he was unable to stand on his roof (on a widow's walk) and spot the arriving ships.
So that he could keep a watch out for his arriving ships, he hired boys who worked in the harbor to alert him of an arrival. For their reports, he paid them a "new dollar." Hence the name of the street: Dollar Lane.
The house today, which has been in Polly's family for four generations now, is famous for the gardens which I believe were begun by Polly's grandmother. There is an unusually large piece of land for Nantucket, and on it there are three other structures besides the main house. The garden, however, is the piece de resistance.
The building was originally Mr. Starbuck's carriage barn. It is now used as an outdoor dining room.
After the party at Polly Millard's, we went to dinner at the Galley which is on the beach. The Galley Beach (its official name) is one of the most popular restaurants on the island because of its location and because of the kind of glitziness (New England style) that draws celebrities and VIPs passing through as houseguests or on their yachts. It's relaxed, very noisy with scores of conversations. The main dining room is covered from the wind but as you can see, the diners can see the beachcombers and beach bunnies and vice versa (if they're looking). So it's relaxed but with its New American menu (which is very good) it has a touch of European atmosphere. Sophisticated, down-homey, a good waitstaff, hard to get a table; pricey but delivers what you came for — to be in the thick of it — at the beach.
Joy loves the place but she had to make this reservation a couple of months ago, maybe longer.
Back inside for dinner.
JH played a round of golf at Miacomet Golf Club on Sunday with Joy, Steve Harrison, and golf pro Tracy Mount.
Miacomet Golf Club is owned by the Nantucket Islands Land Bank, a land conservation program created to acquire, hold, and manage important open spaces, resources and endangered landscapes for the enjoyment of the general public.
Joy on the tee.
They came upon these beautiful little creatures on one of the Land Bank trails that cuts through the course.
Beautiful vistas at Miacomet.
Joy and Tracy ready to move on to the next hole.
The dense fog lifted after the first few holes ...
On Sunday early evening we went over to Susan and Coleman Burke's house overlooking the bay. Great drinks, great hors d'oeuvres, perfect weather and guests delighted to be with each other.
Susan dressed in stars and stripes.
Guests heading to the bar for South Sides.
Susan is famous for her garden, or rather, gardens, beautifully conceived and laid out so as to create an entire natural environment delivering surprises as you move along and through. This was the very first creation, a Ha-ha. It's a landscape design essentially.
Originated in France in the 17th century, it was a practical creation in controlling animals (deer, livestock), giving them space to feed but not to leave. A ditch really, but with a purpose, presented as a beautiful garden. Charles Bridgeman and William Kent in the 18th century. They are today found most typically on grand country estates in England and Europe, in order to keep the deer and livestock out of the gardens, a way to keep that grand vista grand.
Up ahead is the Burke boathouse and henhouse. To the right off to the white, is the ocean and the bay.
A guest taking in the grand view.
The view from Susan's guest house.
An Osprey nest atop a pole constructed for that.
Susan's hens. I forget the type. But each one lays an egg a day. They love their mealworms.
Back at Joy's house after a visit to the Burke's garden (which has been featured in both the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, in case it's ringing a bell with you already) ... here we have Victor organizing the table before the guests arrive.
Victor, Joy's major domo, setting the table for dinner.
At dinner, from left Susie Grote, Lisa Callahan (front), behind her is the forehead of Mrs. Hirsch, then George Davis; this writer; Steve Harrison, our hostess, JH (standing), Don Callahan; Susan Zises Green, Marianne Harrison, and Tracy Mount.
Here we are again (waiting for the key lime pie). Lisa Callaghan either dropped something or moved out of the way for the camera.
Francie Neely is taking a picture of Joy; Don Callahan ducking.
And yet another. Dinner's over and in just a few, the room will change ...
Whatever it is I think it's funny.
Steve, Tracy, Peter (who was celebrating his birthday) and JH apres-diner cigars on the terrace. It's almost midnight. Tracy brought the Cubans.
Monday morning, Victor and Peter are putting breakfasts together. Victor loves creating a variety for you to choose from — "whatever you want." That's beans and rice with some spicy sausage.
Assembling the plate.
Slicing the avocados.
Madam, the chick who rules the roost, serves her guest the dish.
Saffron rice, red beans, scrambled eggs, sausage, and avocado for breakfast.
Victor's tortillas made on the premises while we wait.
After breakfast, Peter showed me the Clark Wellness Passive Exerciser Machine. Peter has been using it for a few years, daily. He said it's lowered his blood pressure, eliminated his sciatica and he found he sleeps better at night. He uses it usually twice a day for fifteen minutes. So I lay down and put my feet up and the machine was turned on and ... it jiggles. That's it. It jiggles and you feel it through your entire body, but gently. It's a simple movement that we are unable to do on our own. I ordered one yesterday. I'll let you know although Peter is one of those guys who is Practical about these things and he wasn't promoting it; I just happened to see him in the den on the floor, after breakfast with his feet up and jiggling. "What's that?" I asked. Now you know.
Jiggling along with the Clark Wellness Passive Exerciser Machine.
Goodbye Nantucket!
Flying over Fire Island en route to JFK.
2:15 p.m, our Jet Blue plane is approaching JFK and in the distance is the Emerald City. A beautiful weekend. A dose of good luck and good friends.


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