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August 29, 2023

Another summer on Martha’s Vineyard is nearing an end. This was the 30th anniversary of my first unexpected island adventure, and though I’ve missed a season here and there (happened to stay put in NYC for the years surrounding 9/11…), for the most part, this has been my place. This island, I continue to discover, remains a beautiful change-of-pace to the Big Apple.


Or is it the other way around?…


While of course much of my time here is spent hard at work, wherever that might be on any particular year, great fortune has followed me around since the beginning. In fact, that very first season found me chatting casually with restaurant guests such as Walter Cronkite, Ted Kennedy, a retired Robert McNamara, Mike Nichols and Diane Sawyer, Phil Donahue and Marlo Thomas, Judy Belushi - and that’s just off the top of my head.


Other notables through the years, well - let me think…


I have a video of Bill Murray singing “Gloria” along with the Marotta Brothers’ Band from a few seasons ago. My great friend Gerald and myself found ourselves sitting in the new Agricultural Hall watching a complete run-through rehearsal with James Taylor and his band way back when (please check out my story “James Taylor Moments” from “These Stories Are True”, should you be curious for more information!). I’ve worked events at Rose Styron’s waterfront property, featuring rising stars such as Georgia’s Raphael Warnock and Harvard’s own Skip Gates. I’ve seen both Clinton’s, both during and after his presidency (the most recent sighting had me telling Hillary that I was in NYC the night of the election and was really looking forward to attending her victory party - to which she replied with good grace and poise, “well - you and me both!”) I watched Vernon Jordan inform stunned guests in the early democratic primary days prior to this last election that, for him, the question of who should be the party’s Presidential Candidate began and ended with Joe Biden.


And oh yeah - I worked Barrack Obama’s 60th birthday party two seasons ago!


A few of my favorite experiences have turned into annual rituals with each return visit. Testing out the mussels at Nancy’s and the Barn, a plate of cherrystones at Larsen’s, the lobster bisque at the Net Result, at least one perfect sunset at Aquinnah, and checking out musical acts (and the wine…) at the VFW, the PA Club and the Ritz. And for years now I’ve been confronting my own fear of heights by jumping off the Jaws Bridge in Oak Bluffs. So far, so good!


Even this season, notable moments have occurred. Just this past week, I shared my Bernie Sanders Story (from that same book on michaelaba.com!) to an attentive Lawrence O’Donnell from MSNBC. I watched Letitia James deeply impress a crowd with her fervent commitment to justice, despite death threats leveled by people she appropriately deemed to be “rednecks”. And some of those catered weddings I’ve been a part of have been amazing. There is really a lot of beauty (and wealth!) hidden behind some of these rolling hills and dirt roads!


Of course, not every moment is dream-like, no matter where you may be. A huge swastika was perplexingly scratched on the big hood of the used BMW 7 Series I found myself driving one season, a blemish temporally solved by keying the rest of the car to make the damage appear to be a checkerboard. A deer ran alongside my Honda Civic on an early Chappaquiddick evening, only to change course once I applied the brakes to run directly into the drivers’ side (causing more damage to the car than the animal, I must add). And early this season, for the first time ever I detected a tick making a home in my own belly-button. (I took the proper precautions by immediately taking a dose of doxycycline - and hopefully the news will be good once the time has come to test for Lyme Disease…)


But by and large, Martha’s Vineyard appear to be indelibly connected with sunshine, magic and smiles. And the people - the ordinary people! - are every bit as important as the beautiful scenery and welcoming waters. I spend each summer as if it’s my last, because one of these years I’ll be right. And what a great change of pace from my equally-fortunate life in NYC…


Or is it the other way around?…


I’m glad to say my annual ritual of having one frozen mudslide from Donavon’s Reef has already been accomplished as well. (And actually, there’s still enough time on the calendar to treat myself to a second - this year I’ll be staying till the end of September!)


Cheers to the season of 2023 - whether this is the final ride or simply one of many more to come!




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