Good life on Chappaquiddick menu


CHAPPAQUIDDICK, Mass. - Note to George Bush: Not everyone swills white wine out here in the islands. Gin with a splash of tonic and a twist of lime will do quite nicely.

But to paraphrase Reggie Jackson, it's not the drink that stirs the jaws, Mr. President. It's the food.

Let's see, will dinner be bluefish caught less than a mile away at Wasque Point? Or maybe a flounder plucked from the ocean and gently immersed in a sea of lemon and almonds. Perhaps we'll start with a chowder made from quahog clams from Katama Bay, not quite 100 yards from the picnic table on which this laptop is perched. Did someone say perch?

Breakfast is accompanied by the sound of the wind, the oyster catchers flying overhead and the incoming tide. Lunch, by Duke Ellington on the boom box. Dinner, by the sounds of the Red Sox doing their annual swoon. (Red Sox fan: "Hey, what are you doing in October?" Second Sox fan: "Nothing.")

News is so much easier to digest when the biggest obstacle of the day is maintaining the seafood level in the kitchen.

Baltimore-Washington lost the 2012 Olympics sweepstakes? Good riddance and better luck next decade. Say, is there any more of the lobster salad?

Scott Erickson out of the starting lineup and off the court docket? Orioles 700 games under .500? Well, the season will be over soon and, by the way, do we need to dig more clams for the clam sauce and linguine?

That's easy. When the tide goes out, a barefoot stroll is the best way to start dinner. Poking a toe or two into the wet sand locates little clams for sauce and bigger ones destined for the chowder pot. The only tool needed to take advantage of the outdoors' bounty is a clam rake with handy basket attached.

Hankering for a striper instead of shellfish? Here as in the Chesapeake, chumming is a sure way to land rockfish. From the point at the southeast tip of the island, an angler can cast into currents that converge in a frothy fishmarket of species.

Then it's back to the house for another round of sun, sand and succulent seafood. One satisfied resident calls it "subsistence existence."

Our neighbors can't be beat. Bev Aaron is a Philadelphia TV producer and top-drawer angler. His wife, Esther Berezofsky, is a crackerjack lawyer who also cooks in the kitchen and digs a mean clam. Their 7-year-old twins, Alexandra and Zoe, are adorable and articulate. The former strikes fear in the hearts of flounder, the latter is our clam guru and future U.S. president.

So it goes on Chappaquiddick, the island off Martha's Vineyard where they still run a tourist tour of Ted Kennedy's favorite drive-ins from the summer of 1969. Just meet at the dock by the Chappy ferry. You remember the one.

There are lots of famous folks out here, so we're told. Nobody stops by our little rental, though, which is just as well. That might force us to pull out a notebook and commit an act of journalism.

The house on the bluff, as we call it, is nothing special to look at. The inside is even less so.

A former fishing shack, it's been added onto over the years in the least expensive way for the most practical of reasons. A bathroom was tacked on so now only the shower is outside.

The bedrooms sit one on top of the other in a farm silo that was floated here by barge in 1965 and nailed into place. You get from top to bottom (and vice versa) by a steep wooden ladder that makes post-midnight bathroom runs as perilous as Himalayan adventures.

The floor pitches this way and sways that way, the perfect excuse for inhabitants or visitors who have punched the happy-hour clock one time too many.

We've dubbed the decor Early American Comfortable, with dormitory accents. The dishes, thankfully, do nothing to upstage the interior decorating. The fear of all renters here is that if they break it, they will own it.

But the view, oh the view. From the gray weathered deck it stretches below, a lush green marsh to the right, the bay ahead. To the left are the dunes, golden at water's edge and topped with a carpet of grass. Just beyond and barely visible is the ocean.

A day at the beach means walking to water's edge, wading across the bay and taking the path between the dunes. One could drive the dirt road that skirts the bay, but that's oh, so mainland.

In the morning, you can watch an osprey teach her youngster to fish on the bay. The two hold their position, suspended over the shallows, looking for breakfast. In a blink, mom folds her wings and dives, her feet extended like landing gear. A clean swipe, and she has the freshest possible sushi.

At the shoreline, herons practice their own form of patient angling, more successful than anything I attempt all week.

Then at night the sky turns black, without a hint of a city's glow, so that the stars appear three-dimensional.

There may be a better way to spend seven days between summer and fall, but no one's managed to serve one up to my satisfaction.

Of course, summer is almost over. The monthlong Martha's Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby begins soon. An ad in the paper says the rug cleaner will be on-island for a few days at the end of the month to remove the sand and shell-particle buildup that began on Memorial Day. A local kayak shop is offering deals to folks who want to buy a rental.

The columnists in the Vineyard Gazette are bidding farewell to long-time summer visitors (by the way, Nancy Wright of Annapolis, the townsfolk of East Chop are glad to see your hip operation went well and that you're back teaching home economics this fall).

And we're already planning menus with Bev and Esther. Same time, next year.

Session on stripers

Striped bass quotas for next year will be discussed by a citizen advisory committee and state fisheries biologists Tuesday at 7 p.m. at Tawes Office Building in Annapolis.

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