Monthly Archives: May 2007

Alastair Crawford

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A Tribute to David Halberstam

This from my oldest and best friend, Larry Hatab, known to many as “Arab”.

I was not a close friend of David Halberstam. We met on Nantucket when I was living there in the mid 1970s. Gene and I came to know him through our mutual friends, Frank and Maggie Conroy. David also frequented the Company of the Cauldron, where I worked in its inaugural season in 1976, the year I left Nantucket in the Fall to teach philosophy at Old Dominion University. David’s renown as a writer was of course well known, but on Nantucket I think he enjoyed the intimately relaxed attitude, where the spirit of the Island was the common bond among all sorts of people and personalities. With David, you engaged a very interesting person who happened to be a world-famous journalist. And he seemed to take an interest in people on their own terms. I suppose he was taken by the fact that I was a philosopher who happened to be a waiter. We had several discussions about intellectual matters, especially the state of higher education in America. One of the reasons why David was such a great journalist and writer was the quality, depth, and range of his mind, which I got to see up close.

When I left the Island, summer visits were my life-line, and I would often see David out and about, but the best times involved Third World Softball games. For the record, Andy Malcolm and I invented the name, which stood for the utter absence of bravado or a skill requirement for players. Anyone could participate, young and old, male and female, able and unable. One summer, my girlfriend at the time was encouraged to join in even though she had never played softball before. She had a very unusual batting technique: When the pitch came she would move toward the plate and flail away at the ball, basically trying to swat it away from her. I walked over to her and said: ‘Remember, this is softball, not dodge-ball. The idea is to hit the ball onto the field, not defend yourself against the pitch.” She was cheered on with great enthusiasm.

The Third World spirit was much in evidence when David came to plate against Frank Conroy, a pitcher of legend. Let’s just say that David was no Joe Dimaggio, and Frank was barely mobile (he needed a pinch runner when he batted). But this match-up was always elevated by the group into an epic Battle of the Author-Titans, often with arcane literary references shouted out as “pepper” by the crowd. David did not usually fare well against Frank, mostly because he was a sucker for Frank’s worst pitch, a moon-shot arc that would just plop down on the plate, almost perpendicular to it. We would yell: “David, don’t swing at that shit!” But it was hard for him to resist. Perhaps there was a touch of literary bravado involved, and Frank would always relish his triumph. We called it the Best and the Brightest playing the Worst and the Dullest baseball. And we loved every minute of it.

As time went on, I no longer spent full summers on Nantucket, only an occasional vacation visit. A few times I would run into David and it was always pleasant and interesting. As I said, we were not close friends, and for about 15 years we barely saw each other. Then, as it happened, David was invited by my university to speak at its President’s Lecture Series, a prestigious public event in the Virginia region. When I learned of this I wrote David a letter to remind him that I taught at Old Dominion and to suggest that we get together for a drink after the lecture, if possible. I hadn’t told anyone that I knew David, and I wasn’t sure if the setting or schedule would allow us to meet up, but I was hoping we could. One feature of the Series was a banquet at the President’s home just prior to the lecture, with 30 or 40 people from the university and community joining to honor the speaker. There was no cause for anyone to think of inviting me to the banquet.

I arrived at the auditorium about 15 minutes before the lecture was to start. It was already packed and I was looking for a seat. All of a sudden the President and other university officials rushed toward me with frantic looks on their faces. Yikes, what was this about? The President said: “We were trying to get in touch with you! Mr. Halberstam was very upset that you weren’t at the banquet. Why didn’t you tell us that you two were friends!” I was amazed at this. I was told that David was in a room by himself getting ready and that I should go to see him immediately. When I walked into the room, David gave me a warm hug and we talked a little, just as if we had run into each other in a bar on Nantucket. We agreed that going for a drink afterwards would be great. After the lecture, I moved toward him amidst a crowd of admirers. I told one of the organizers that David and I were planning to meet and that perhaps some others from the university might want to come. He said: “Oh no, that’s all right. I’m sure you and David would rather be alone.” He assumed that we were close friends. I drove David to his hotel and we spent about 90 minutes together in the bar, having a wonderful conversation about all sorts of things, and Nantucket in particular.

This episode at the lecture was startling to me at first. What had David said at the banquet that got people so embarrassed about my not being there? (One thing related to me was that David made much about our playing softball together on Nantucket.) I came to think of this episode as revealing two things about David: First of all, what a sweet and generous person he was. Secondly, how much he valued Nantucket and the people he knew there. Although we were not close, in an off-Island setting there must have been something quite intimate for him about seeing me and drinking in the spirit of the Island again.

Annye’s Whole Foods

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Mahon About Town Subscriber Party

The first Mahon About Town subscriber party of the season promoted the Grand Opening of the “New” Rose & Crown, Thursday, April 26th, with an island all-star jazz and Chicago blues band with Tom Stoddart on horn, Jake Vohs on drums, Andy Bullington guitar, and Erik Wendelkin on bass.

For more photos, go to the Mahon About Town Photo Pages.

Johnstons Cashmere

This Week on Nantucket

The Figawi’s are thankfully gone, so you can go back to town now.

BENEFITS

Tuesday night the 29th, Don Kolp (Brotherhood), Scott Thomas (Nantucket Inn), Scott Allan (Veranda House) and Meghan Canning (Harbor House), now known as “Team ACK”, have come together for a fundraiser for the Pan Mass Challenge, a 192 mile, 2 day bike ride from Sturbridge to Provincetown, which benefits the Jimmy Fund and Dana Farber Cancer Institute. A minimum donation of $20 gets you in the door, and includes food, cash bar, 50/50 raffle and auction items. Upstairs at the Brotherhood, from 7 to 10. If unable to attend but would like to contribute: www.pmc.org, click on E-gift and donate to Team ACK or the team number TA0051.

Seaside Shakespeare Company presents a one-night-only reading of The Vagina Monologues, a play by Eve Ensler, at the Box this Wednesday night the 30th. Hors d’oeuvres and cash bar start at 6; the reading starts at 7. Laura Gallagher Byrne directs Annie Breeding, Cheryl Fudge, Margaret Hitchcock, Susan Lucier, Meredith Martin and Susan McGinnis. Tickets are $30. 325-7735.


NIGHTLIFE
High energy, percussion driven music from our sister island, Entrain is at the Box tonight, Monday night, May 28. The Boston Herald says “Entrain . . . merges funk, rock, reggae, swamp, and worldbeat rhythm into a sweaty good time.”

Then Tuesday and Wednesday night at the Box, our own Nantucket based Island Fusion, with Burton and Lisa Toney.

Burton is from Trinidad and Tobago, where he was the frontline singer in one of the top Soca bands in the Caribbean, Atlantik. Lisa Toney has also recorded in Trinidad, and received three nominations in the New York Soca music awards. Also in the band is Meghan Trainor, just a teenager, but already a singer, songwriter, and musician. Island Fusion is a fusion of Caribbean music, original material, top 40 music and classic hits. Listen to them here.

Then Superhoney comes into the Box for a three night stint Thursday through Saturday.

The Vagina Monologues

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Opening of the Old South Road Bike Path

The Old South Road Bike Path was formally opened last Friday, May 25. For more photos, go to the Mahon About Town Photo Pages.

Yack

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Nantucket Media Watch

The Nantucket Independent becomes a free weekly newspaper beginning June 13. The paper will also be mailed to all island postal addresses, bringing the weekly circulation in high season to 14,000 copies, 11,000 in shoulder season, and 7000 in winter.


Yack is featured in a Boston Globe article today, entitled “Islanders all come to yack on Nantucket’s online forum. Subjects and views run the gamut on community’s site.” Some quotes:

“At Nantucket’s Town Meeting last month , Selectman Michael Kopko kept one eye on the crowd in the high school gymnasium and the other on the town forum’s online chat room. In the run-up to the annual rite of government, Town Meeting had come alive at YackOn.com, where members debated the Nantucket Sewer Act and the plight of a family threatened with losing its land to eminent domain. Through the interminable proceedings, Kopko monitored the snide chat room banter and answered questions that popped up on the screen.

“Ordinary people have become powerful influencers and creators as the Web has evolved . . . where popular opinion can catapult the lowliest blog posting into the spotlight . . . The effect is especially noticeable on the island of Nantucket, where the virtual community has helped shepherd lost pets back to their homes and compelled civic leaders to weigh in or answer questions.

“YackOn has even become party to official town business — when the Board of Selectmen recently voted to put a link to the forum on the town’s website.

“Nantucket’s forum — affectionately or dismissively referred to as “Yack” — has grown from a Yahoo group into a vibrant online bulletin board that attracts about 2,000 unique visitors each day.

“Before this, the only information was on the two local TV channels and the two local newspapers or just talking to your neighbor or someone at work,” she said. “This gives you access to all walks of life — access to people on-island, off-island, people who have just reams of talent and information and knowledge, and they’re accessible to everyone.”

“Patricia Roggeveen , who was elected to the Board of Selectmen without being involved with the forum, refuses to read or post on the forum. “I don’t believe it’s something that is benign at all,” she said. “It’s just like whispering across the backyard fence, but it resonates out over the Internet.”

Read the full article here.