Tanglewood: Time is Fleeting, Drink it In

Wineglass holders are common accoutrements for any fashionable Tanglewood picnic. Max Hartshorne photo.

Wineglass holders are common accoutrements for any fashionable Tanglewood picnic. Max Hartshorne photo.

Tanglewood almost made the cut last week, except for our fear of pending rains that detoured us to another destination to the north. Every season Tanglewood looms as an important event I don’t want to miss, but when I examine the calendar, the window seems to shrink and shrink.

But once we settle into the comfort of the great expanse of Tanglewood lawn, and set out some of our picnic and get in the groove, we realize that it’s always a good idea to put the concerts on our calendars. Just gotta push the other stuff out of the way.

Summer parties, the Van Gogh show at the Clarke Museum in Williamstown, traveling hither and yon, they all chip away at our dates. We cancelled a 14-day cruise that would have taken us to Maine in order to better take advantage of Tanglewood and enjoy that fabulous lawn once again.

We had a plan last week to go with friends, and then tried to carry over the invite to this weekend. It didn’t work. The pull of Tanglewood is a big part of what makes summer in the Valley so special. We’re on our way! www.bso.org

Two Down in Deerfield

Two local retail businesses have closed down in South Deerfield.  Sadly, it was a chef-owned bistro, a small celebration sort of restaurant, which could not keep going. The staff was notified by a text, then the next day, they were closed and gone.

When MRKT first opened, it took me a while to understand what they were doing with the place. Then after a series of glowing reviews and good word of mouth, they got some people in the door. But there were too many bad nights, and the money ran out.  So the space that once attracted people to come downtown is no more.  So hard. I think their perception that it would be expensive kept some people away, since that location has always been the ‘high priced dining spot.’

Then out on Route 5, the Final Markdown has taken its own final markdown. They closed up on July 1.  They are an ultra discounter, and a great small store with surprisingly cheap stuff.  They still have stores in West Springfield and CT.  So two big spaces no longer occupied. Just up the road from the mostly vacant industrial park.  And the general store, still ‘Now Leasing’ it’s all just sad.  Our town can’t support many businesses!

Ashfield Lake House: Like a Summer Vacation Getaway

I have been reading about CThe Ashfield Lake House has new owners and a new energy!hris and Dre Rawlings’ purchase of the venerable Ashfield Lake House on Facebook for a few months. I’ve followed Dre’s reports of the sad state of the kitchen floorboards, and read many comments from people who have been coming in and raving about the place.  So on Saturday night, we decided that a paddle and a visit to the “NEW” Ashfield Lake House was in order.

We rendezvoused with our friends Charlie and Jen and hit the beach at 5 for a leisurely paddle around the lake.  The only thing that caused a concern was the Canada goose turds that lined the beach.  Later we saw the six culprits–is there any worse scourge then these birds besides mosquitoes?  If I ran that lake, I’d put out poison for these big birds. We got out in the shallow lake and chatted as we paddled around the short perimeter.  When we got close to the Lake house, there up on the deck were familiar faces–WRSI’s Monte Belmonte and local musician John Allen.  I always love it when friends are already in the place we’re about to visit.  Monte had his son Pax in his arms and a big grin on his face.  Yep, as usual, the guy who is everywhere was exactly where we were going.

One thing that I had worried about was a bad review a friend of mine had posted to TripAdvisor.  While I know how some people are particular and tend to exaggerate problems in restaurants, I was almost scared off. But I am glad that we stuck with our plan, and truthfully, we had a completely different experience than he did.  You can read the bad and the good on TripAdvisor.  When we walked into the Lake House, the first thing we noticed was a familiar change. Like we did in our own house, they created large openings in the wall, so that the two seating areas of the restaurant now feel all combined into one. It make the Lake House feel much larger, and was a great improvement.

The menu at this point was still being written, so we tried a few basic items–some grilled cheese sandwiches with tomato and pesto, some of their hand cut french fries, and some drinks. They had Rolling Rock drafts for only 2 or 3 bucks, and the wine was also inexpensive. So far so good!   The grilled cheeses arrived promptly and Dre told us that they got their bread from Bread Euphoria in Williamsburg. YEAH!   Looking out the window we saw three sailboats docked right outside. It felt like we were on vacation in Maine, but we had only driven 30 minutes up Rte 116.  We wanted to try the grilled polenta with veggies but they weren’t ready. Oh well, next time for sure!

So far I’d say the new Lake House is off to a fantastic start. Can’t wait to come back for another paddle and dig into more of the menu.

Luna Gale at New Century Theatre: Riveting from Start to Finish

The cast of Luna Gale at a talk-back after Thursday's show at Smith College.

The cast of New Century Theatre’s Luna Gale at a talk-back after Thursday’s show at Smith College. 

“Luna Gale” is the best play I’ve seen New Century Theatre perform in the five years I’ve been enjoying their annual summer slate of shows at Smith College’s Mendenhall Center for the Performing Arts. From start to finish, we were transfixed by the fast-paced dialogue, spot-on characters, and the impressive four-sided rotating set that provided realistic rooms, shifting between a social worker’s office, a home kitchen, a break room and a shabby apartment. There were two other sets on either side, creating rich and realistic environments in which to unfold this complicated and riveting story about a custody battle for an infant named Luna Gale between a mother and her teenage daughter.

Playwright Rebecca Gilman is famous for her on-the-money accurate dialogue–she works in the acronyms, the jargon, and most importantly, the attitudes of the parties involved with such ease that the dialogue almost didn’t seem scripted.

Those in the audience in the social work field agreed at a talkback after the show that the premise, the actions and the conflicts ran true to their experiences in the challenging world of custody battles. Nothing was clear cut, there was no easy answer, and it would have taken a wiser man than Solomon to decide which outcome would be best. But the inherent issue was that everyone in the play has an agenda.

The play begins with Karlie (Ashley Malloy) and Peter (Connor Paradis) waiting in the emergency room with their baby being treated for problems that come from parental neglect. Peter is slumped over and obviously on drugs, and Karlie is fantastically irritated as they wait, and then Caroline, (Cate Damon) the social worker, emerges with bad news. They’re obviously not suitable parents, and we watch as they learn that they are losing their child. The scene switches (with the use of the rotating set, a whole new room is swung into place) to Cindy, (Sue Dziura) Carly’s mother’s apartment.

We learn of her desire to gain full custody and then we begin to get a feeling about who she is. As the actors said afterward, what’s worse–a evangelical Christian or a meth addict? Sadly, in our Universe that’s a Hobson’s Choice, and we follow a complicated series of scenes that reveal each character’s own agenda. For Caroline, it’s a matter of what she thinks should happen, affected by her own terrible childhood memories of abuse. She uses her knowledge of how to work the system to achieve her goal.

But it’s not all smooth sailing, as her boss, Cliff, (Greg Alexander) pushes back since he is friends with her pastor, and shares his Christian beliefs. While Cindy and the pastor talk of the Rapture, and Karlie fails her drug test, there are so many reasons why each of them both do and don’t deserve to have custody. But there is goodness that we see in Peter, which makes it all the more complicated.

Each of these actors are both believable and honest, they are able to evoke true empathy from the audience and they make their cases strongly. Stand outs were Cate Damon’s exasperated social worker Caroline, who is in nearly every scene, and Cliff, who serves up a perfect rendering of the bureaucrat looking to make District Manager while battling with Caroline his challenging employee. Karlie and Peter nail their late teenaged dialogue perfectly. This show kept everyone on their seat’s edge, and with dialogue like this, that’s no wonder. Highly recommended.

Luna Gale continues through July 25 at Smith College’s Mendenhall Center for the Performing Arts. Tickets at www.newcenturytheatre.org 413-585-3220.

KantoorKaravaan Creates a Workplace in a Dutch Forest

KantoorKaravaan, a mobile workplace in the middle of a Dutch forest. Great for those who work at home and need company--like me!

KantoorKaravaan, a mobile workplace in the middle of a Dutch forest. Great for those who work at home and need company–like me!

One thing I wrestle with all the time is the loneliness of working at home. Sure, I have total freedom, and yes, it’s great not having a boss, but after a few years I have missed the camaraderie of my fellow workers, the end of the day banter, and all of the stuff that goes with spending eight hours a day with the same people.  I do have my interns, who come in once a week, and my lunch dates, to see my old pals, but it still gets lonely. I found out about something really cool that’s happening in Holland from the Springwise.com website, where innovative ideas are served up every week.  It’s a little trailer parked in a woodland where people can work together. Brilliant!  Read on..

“KantoorKaravaan are mobile off-the-grid workplaces which come equipped with work-related necessities including wifi, coffee machines and conference rooms. The project is an off-shoot of SustainsVille — which has been providing alternative, sustainable, working spaces for creatives in tree houses for five years. KantoorKaravaans — run by The Tipping Point Foundation — are traveling around the Netherlands throughout the summer.

The fleet is stopping at various beautiful spots in the countryside, where they set up a solar powered camp complete with compost toilets and kitchens. Companies can hire some or all of the space for a single workday or longer — the offices can accommodate up to 35 people, and workers can stay the night at the campsite. Individuals and groups are also welcome to visit and use the space: those with less funds can help with projects and activities and pay a lower rate.”

The Harbor View Hotel is the Classiest Place to Stay on the Vineyard

The wrap-around porch at the Harbor View Hotel in Edgartown is the best view in town!

The wrap-around porch at the Harbor View Hotel in Edgartown is the best view in town!

We took a tour of the Harbor View Hotel in Edgartown with the lovely Rebecca Bartlett, sales director for Scout hotels who manage this and eight other waterfront hotels, and she showed us the penthouse.  She explained that this 1880s era hotel was once owned by a local man named Bob Carroll, and when he sold it to investors, he had one caveat. He’d get to keep the fourth floor penthouse as his personal apartment, with its commanding view of the Edgartown Lighthouse and the busy harbor, full of passing boats.

Rebecca Barlett of Scout Hotels.

Rebecca Barlett of Scout Hotels.

View from the hotel's Lighthouse Restaurant.

View from the hotel’s Lighthouse Restaurant.

Sunset at Menemsha: worth the one-hour bus ride!

Sunset at Menemsha: worth the one-hour bus ride!

Pretty North Water Street, home to magnificent old houses that once belonged to whaling ship captains.

Pretty North Water Street, home to magnificent old houses that once belonged to whaling ship captains.

The Penthouse at the Harbor View.

The Penthouse at the Harbor View.

Playing on Menemsha Beach.

Playing on Menemsha Beach.

Poolside at the hotel.

Poolside at the hotel.

Carroll lived until he was 90, and died just last year. So far no plans have been made to rent out his former place, but like so many things at the Harbor View, it’s a wonderful memory.  Along the hotel corridors are old photos of old timey bathing beauties all dressed head to toe, enjoying the tonic of the seabreezes.

Once the hotel stood along in its spot, but today it’s all built up on t his very toniest of streets in Edgartown, once one of New England’s richest towns due to the whaling fortunes.

The Harbor View is the most legendary propertes on this big island.  No other place combines the view, a downtown location, and the number of rooms 116, which affords many different choices of accommodation.  There is the main hotel, where room number 216 is the star, perfectly positioned in line with the lighthouse with high ceilings, a large bathroom, and everything you’d want in a luxurious high end hotel room.

With a 98 percent occupancy during their 10-week summer season, this room isn’t very easy to snag, and it goes for about $650 a night.   There is also a newer section called the Governor Mayhew  building which looks more like a modern hotel, but is right next to the pool. This area is great for families and is priced around $400 a night.

There are also six Captain’s cottages which are two story houses with the kind of heavy doors that signal high quality construction, as well as plenty of marble, very comfy beds, and decks on the front and the back. These are available for sale, from $600,000 to $1,000,000,  and just below our unit number 62 is the model home that potential clients can check out if they want a nice place to stay when they visit Edgartown. When they’re not here they can rent it out. You can order room service from the two restaurants and since the hotel is open year ’round, get rental income even in the cold months.

We dined in the restaurant that’s now called the Lighthouse Grill, and it was a memorable experience–everything was fresh, the service was perfect, and we learned from the top chef,  Caleb Lara, how this new incarnation differed from the previous menu, when it was called Water.

“It was hard for people to pronounce the menu items, and some times it took a little too long, ” he explained. Now it’s more straightforward–local seafood and veggies, Bouillabaisse, aged steaks, all at a lower price point.  The woody ambience, view of the lighthouse with the candlelight, and the staff, who are from all over the world, made dinner a wonderful experience.