The one question I was asked most about my trip was "Did you see the Obamas while you were on Martha's Vineyard?"
Well, not exactly. Which, I suppose is "no." But it was impossible not to have an Obama vacation during the week we were there. Signs were everywhere! And to be honest, I think I saw everything but!
The first sighting was that of the press bus, known as the "Tweetie Bus." This was parked (more than once) on the perimeter of the Vineyard Golf Club where the president played several times. (He also played at other courses)
I learned later the about controversy versus his vacation and not going directly to Louisiana in wake of the floods and was relieved to here Louisiana's governor say that he had spoken with the president and asked him to not come for a week or so, due to needing to focus their attentions on immediate disaster damage and relief and having a high profile visitor would require diverting security and attention to that. (Not all candidates heeded that advice.)
In an interesting article on Riding with the White House Press Pool in the MV Times, reporter Barry Stringfellow shares what it is like to be on the press bus while the First Family is vacationing. It's an article worth reading. One of the big take-aways from this piece for me was that Vineyard residents (full time) bristle at the perception of the island being considered an "affluent, exclusive enclave." Stringfellow points out that the average wage is 30 percent less than the state average, affordable housing is rare and many residents are barely making ends meet. He points out that this surprised the press corps.
(To be honest, I wasn't seeing that either. I wouldn't describe Martha's Vineyard in summer as a place to have an economical vacation, between lodging and food and all I can say here is that we were very, very fortunate in the generosity of our hosts.)
Stringfellow also mentions a time when the motorcade was followed by a bomb squad truck. And where do they keep the weapons and additional arsenal that may be needed to protect the president when he is on vacation? Try the park-and-ride lot near Edgartown.
Or so we were told by a fellow riding the bus with his parents into town at the same time we were. I don't doubt it. These huge vehicles had electronic sensors (most obvious when we returned to the lot in the dark) and government plates.
You couldn't miss the warmth of the welcome for the First Family with signs on the road and in various shop windows. You also couldn't miss the marketing savvy of shop owners, eager to sell a memory of the president's visit!
Yes, the Obamas went to Aquinnah (but not when I was there!) and yes, they went to Oak Bluffs and the motorcade even drove by streets where we parked for the Camp Ground and later fireworks (but not when we were there) and they attended the same fireworks we would (but nowhere near where we were!).
But I did have an almost-Michelle experience that was really rather fun in an "I'm free as a bird and have nothing else to do but stand on the street for an hour or more" kind of way.
My day started with a return to Edgartown to shop a bit and do some sketching at the waterfront. I wanted to get a daytime look at the lighthouse and check out some Christmas shopping.
I loved being in this charming town where dogs are plentiful and meet up on the sidewalks, owners in tow.
And of course I had to return to the bookstore, because that's just what I do!
I decided to lunch at Among the Flowers (a restaurant that had been mentioned in a NYTimes article on 36 Hours in Martha's Vineyard -- I didn't realize that till I saw it posted on the wall!). My choice was due less to research and more to convenience and the fact that the menu on the door had items under $15 for lunch. (Omelet with fruit and toast, $11).
There was quite a wait but the hostess seated me at the "Friends and Family" table in the back as a single. It was right by the bathroom, which led to interesting conversations and good opportunities to duck in with no line and a bit out of traffic, which was nice.
As I was wandering back, I noticed a crowd forming on Main Street and a line-up of black SUVs. So, of course I had to check it out.
It appeared that Michelle (or Michelle and the girls or all of them) were lunching at the Atlantic (or shopping in the store next to it, or both). It caused quite a stir and people were patiently awaiting for them to emerge.
And waiting. And waiting. And I did, too, enjoying a conversation with a young woman from Florida and two older women who had been there longer than either of us.
I can tell you that the most photographed man (or men) in America, possibly the world, was not the president, prime minister or George Clooney. It was Michelle's Secret Service detail, several of whom looked as though they could step into Clooney's place!
They attracted their own crowd, posing for selfies and answering questions to young women, now and then clearing the streets that would crowd up and make sure those not planning to wait could pass through.
But if you wanted to get into the Atlantic or the hotel behind it, it didn't matter whether you were delivering a bag of corn or boxes of veggies. All was scanned.
Even the Fed Ex guy had to wait for someone to come outside and sign for a package.
After about an hour and a quarter, a fellow walked down the middle of the street dressed in all white to great applause, waving to the crowd. He was the "Fake Obama" -- just a tourist with a good sense of humor, which we all needed by then.
Eventually I bailed before they all emerged, despite a couple of promises of "Ten more minutes." I was headed off to Nancy's Restaurant in Oak Bluffs for dinner with Rick.
This, we were told, was another Obama favorite and seemed a fitting spot to dine. (It was well worth it. Very tasty lobster rolls!)
Soon, we would be returning to the Camp Ground for what is considered their big event of the year -- the Grand Illumination -- it was an experience neither of us will ever forget and I'll tell you about it next time!
This post will be linked to Thoughts of Home on Thursday and Share Your Cup next week. Check out these terrific sites for some other fun links!
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