My family’s recent trip to Martha’s Vineyard this summer was one that will be remembered for generations to come. We were able to share countless memories with each other in Oak Bluffs, the heart of the island
that has historically been “African-American friendly,” where we bonded with each other on a whole new level than ever before. When I came across the NY Times article below, it triggered all of those memories, especially with the mentionings of several Oak Bluffs landmarks that my family frequented during our short stay.
Martha’s Vineyard, With Presidents, and Without
EACH summer for the last three years, President Barack Obama and his family have headed to Martha’s Vineyard in August for a couple of weeks of vacation. He has golfed with friends like Vernon Jordan and Robert Wolf, eaten seafood at Nancy’s Restaurant and gone shopping for books at the Bunch of Grapes (purchases, according to Politico, included “Rodin’s Debutante” and “The Bayou Trilogy”). All and all, pretty much the way many people spend their time off, except that in this case the vacationer in question comes with hundreds of Secret Service people and a fairly sizable press corps.
This year, however, in the midst of a tight battle for re-election, the president decided to forgo his two weeks off, freeing up hotel rooms and restaurant space that would otherwise have been gobbled up by his retinue. The effect of his absence on the local island economy varies according to whom you speak to, but as this is the high season, no one is exactly panicking.
“It definitely helps the economy when they come,” said Steven Ansara, a manager at Nancy’s. “They’re really nice people, they don’t disrupt the restaurant too much, they bring press corps and people to see them. Some people stay away because of the traffic, but overall it’s a good thing.” (He added that the Obamas like their oysters and fried seafood, but declined to provide The New York Times with a detailed list of items ordered during their previous visits.)
Joanie Levine, a reservationist at the Wesley Hotel, remembers a certain ka-ching factor from the president’s last visit. “We have 95 rooms here, and 70 rooms were taken by Secret Service people for roughly two weeks,” she said. Ms. Levine hadn’t seen the final tab, but with rooms going for an average of $255 a night, some basic math gets it to almost a quarter of a million dollars (excluding discounts) before a single cup of coffee is served.
President Obama, of course, is not the only occupant of the White House to have stayed on Martha’s Vineyard. For the last two decades, Bill and Hillary Clinton have also been frequent visitors to the island; some residents see Mr. Clinton as more sociable than Mr. Obama.
“Clinton liked to go to the ice cream shop and shake everyone’s hand, he went to the fair, he came to the Black Dog,” said Martha Luce, who works at the Black Dog Tavern, one of the Island’s big tourist destinations. “The Obamas weren’t nearly as out and about.”
But Nelson Sigelman, managing editor of The Martha’s Vineyard Times, was inclined to be understanding about this. “Everybody’s different in the way they enjoy their vacation,” Mr. Sigelman said. “When I go on vacation I like to go fishing. Clinton was very gregarious. President Obama tended to spend time with friends in more intimate settings. He appears to be a more private person.”