Heather Conn Blogs

spoutin’ about by the sea

Bring it on — and they did — at the Bootleggers’ Ball

frank-and-i-with-old-car-rear-low-res1

                                                                                                       — all photography by Jun Ying

My hubby, Frank, and I take a subtle stance outside the Biltmore Cabaret in Vancouver.

They put the fun into flappers, the glitz into gangsters, the va-va-voom into vaudeville. And ah yes, the gin into bathtubs.

The Bootleggers’ Ball, a 25th-anniversary fundraiser for the Vancouver Police Museum, did a great job Friday night of evoking the speakeasy era (not that I’m old enough to remember that), complete with cheeky, Depression-era burlesque and a raid by a  pretend vice squad in fedoras. 

  three-flappers-low-res

Chris Mathieson, the museum’s executive director, and his creative crew offered a quirky line-up of offbeat entertainment, including The Vaudevillians, a troupe of singing and dancing seniors. I liked their deadpan emcee, in white top hat and tails, who told us that their oldest member was in his nineties and that two others recently married at 81. Good for them.

cigarette-women-low-res

It was heartening to see women in their mid-seventies tap dance, do the can-can, and other routines, and I liked the group’s overall campy style. But some of their traditional jokes, many decades old, should have stayed back in their original era. As their announcer explained, these performers were used to doing shows at seniors’ centres, not at a bar full of youngish drinkers. Some of their material was too worn and outdated for this edgy, urban crowd. (I’ve never seen so many tattoos on women in a crowd anywhere, except at Burning Man.  Most female attendees came wearing a great range of flapper gear, truly providing oodles of atmosphere.)

 vaudeville-low-res

A singing act from The Vaudevillians

My fave entertainment of the night was burlesque dancer Lola Frost. Woweee. Did she ever own that stage! Talk about sensual power and keeping an audience mesmerized. Female attendees, in particular, were giving loud hoots of appreciation for her show. She reminded me of a shit-stompin’ version of Catherine Zeta-Jones in Cabaret, except with far more erotic oomph and classic, gritty grinds.

burlesque-low-res

Costume contest judges included Chris Mathieson (left) and Lola Frost (centre) and several others. The woman on the right won the competition. Frank and I were among the finalists.

As a feminist, I feel compelled to defend my viewing of these burlesque entertainers. All three acts — the other two were Darla DeVine and Lacey L’Amour — were performed in classic period style, with no total nudity or toplessness. They were campy, classy, and seemed a fun form of self-empowerment and creative self-expression. And the women in the crowd sure loved them. Were their shows exploitative? I didn’t think so.

b-and-w-group-scene-low-res

The evening featured an excellent silent auction, with offerings from Grouse Mountain and Trialto Wines to Bard on the Beach and Granville Island Beer.

The finale act was the musical group The Creaking Planks (love the name), a bizarre klezmer concoction that had my friends and I scratching our heads. The lead singer’s version of The Police’s Roxanne,  sounded like it was sung by the Cookie Monster from Sesame Street, in a strange, gravelly growl. I’m a big fan of eccentric alternative bands, but this one, which bills itself as “the jugband of the damned”, was offkey and seemed out of whack.. My friends, eager to dance, left after the first few songs, which brought no one to the dance floor.

band-low-res

The Creaking Planks in action

Our middle-aged gang left not long after The Creaking Planks started to play, but we must have missed the good dancing tunes because people packed the dance floor by the second set. Oh well. Our timing stunk.

dancers-low-res

Overall, I loved seeing so many women sashaying around with fringe, boas, and stoles, getting into the flavor of the 20s to 40s. The early mix of recorded music, including Glenn Miller’s In the Mood,  set a stimulating mood of nostalgic rhythms.

b-and-w-flappers-low-res

It was a fun, theme event, emceed by Chris Coburn, the morning show host of The Peak 100.5 FM. I was glad to give money to the Museum through my ticket purchase; the evening raised almost $10,000. I appreciate their effort to save and revive intriguing slices of Vancouver history. I’ve attended one of their forensics evenings and want to join one of their Sins of the City walking tours.

group-scene-colour-lowres

My husband and I had a wonderful time. He rented his costume from BooLaLa in North Vancouver and I highly recommend them. They have a fantastic collection of every imaginable outfit and accessory. I could spend hours in their store. I put together my whole outfit, thanks to Value Village, Dressew, and the costume odds and ends I keep on hand. BooLaLa provided my stylish cigarette holder. (No, I don’t smoke — it was just a prop.)

frank-and-i-with-old-car-side-low-res

Thanks for an evening of creative and historic zest. We need more of ’em.

.             .                  .                .                       .              .                 .              .                 .               .

Good-bye to an old gal

An historic afternote: While all of this Vancouver vaudeville celebration was happening, the city was preparing to demolish its oldest vaudeville/movie house, The Pantages Theatre.

Unfortunately, this once-glorious venue at 144-150 East Hastings near Main suffered too much rot and damage to be revived affordably, after sitting vacant since 1994. With rich stage curtains of billowy red, a salmon-pink arch over its proscenium, and gilt decor, The Pantages, built in 1907-08, symbolized Vancouver’s early desire to create a downtown mecca of enviable construction and cultural hotspots. Alas, another slice of our city’s history is gone.

April 10, 2011 at 3:52 pm Comment (1)

Three memoirs: men in their 80s look back on life and love

In 2010, I ended up editing three memoirs written by three different men in their eighties. They were all intriguing stories:

 

  • On Love and War by Avivi I. Yavin, to be published in 2011 by MW Book Publishers in Garden Bay, BC. This semi-autobiographical story focuses on the moral and political dilemmas of a young soldier fighting in the elite Israeli underground forces in the late 1940s.

 

  •  A Labour of Love: Fond memories of family, friends, and medical feats, to be self-published by Sid Effer. This retired pediatrician recounts delightful adventures from his youth in Cuba and Brazil to his global travels in adulthood. Many decades after he helped countless women through challenging and sometimes life-threatening childbirths, he remains friends with former patients and their children around the world.

 

  • The Magical Playhouse: A conscious exploration of one’s dream reality, self-published by artist Bodhi Drope of Gibsons, BC. This nonfiction limited edition, accompanied by original four-colour digital art, covers the author’s spiritual journey and the powerful role that dreams and dream journalling played in his life. The book offers practical tips on how to use dreams to gain insights into your behaviour patterns and self-defeating beliefs.

I feel honoured that these men have entrusted me to shape the written accounts of their lives, fears, and private thoughts. As a university history grad and a former oral historian, I highly value the anecdotes that our elders carry, embodying the heritage of families, regions, cultures, and nations. That’s why I always encourage people to listen to the stories of the old folks in their lives, and tape them if possible, so that these tales will live on after their loved ones are gone.

 

This year, I continue to edit Sid Effer’s book, which reveals many parallels to the life and medical career of my father, who died in October at age eighty-five. Some of the similarities between both men are uncanny, especially considering that Sid lives in Guelph, Ont., like my dad did until he died. Editing Sid’s book is like sharing in the tale of my own father’s life, one that he never recorded.

 

I feel grateful for the opportunity to read Sid’s poignant words about heartache, love lost, and the joy he experienced at the birth of his children. His memoir is not just a string of medical achievements; it’s a tender account of fond times with family and friends. If my dad had written a similar memoir, I think that it would have weighed far more heavily on his medical career. A brief diary he kept in the mid-1960s, for instance, focuses primarily on his work, with only occasional references to his children and wife. Thanks, Sid, for presenting a balance between your work at the hospital and your life with your loved ones. 

(To find out more about my editing services, click here.)

January 4, 2011 at 4:06 pm Comments (0)

Ecology flag: Who created it 41 years ago?

Ecology 3ft x 5ft Printed...

I woke  up this morning with an intuitive prompt to write about the ecology flag, which I remember as a ‘tween in the 1970s. (That was when I wore white go-go boots and paisley, bell-bottomed pajamas and thought that I was cool.) The image intrigued me back then, even though I didn’t fully understand its significance.

 

The symbol first appeared in the Los Angeles Free Press (hurray for alternative media) on November 7, 1969, according to Wikipedia. Creator Ron Cobb, then a political cartoonist for the Free Press, put it in the public domain, bless his heart. One Internet source says that the Paramount Flag Company in San Francisco made the first ecology flag in August 1967, but I can’t verify that. If it’s true, perhaps Cobb adopted it for publication.

 

The yellow symbol is a combination of the letters “e” (for ecology, earth, evolution, empathy, and so on) and “o” (for organism, oneness, om, oracle, etc). Cobb was inspired by the circle or mandala as a universal symbol of timeless unity and harmony, by the yin-yang symbol, the concept of equinox, and the ellipse, “the transcendent unity that pervades all dualities.” (You can find out more details about the symbol and its meaning on Ron Cobb’s website.)

 

The ecology flag reportedly flew for the first time on Earth Day 1971 as a 4 x 6  green-and-white banner. Like her namesake Betsy Ross, who stitched the first U.S. flag, Betsy Boze (now Betsy Vogel) sewed the flag as a 16-year-old environmental and social activist in Louisiana. However, C.E. Byrd High School in Shreveport denied her permission to fly the flag. Like any effective advocate, Boze refused this “no” and sought and received authorization from the Louisiana legislature and governor John McKeithen to display the flag in time for Earth Day.

 

Kudos to Boze for seeking out state power to support her cause. What a great tribute to one woman’s vision and determination, especially at an age when many contemporaries were more focused on acne angst and dating gossip.

 

I’m sad that the flag didn’t gain widespread use, and that Cobb limited his symbol to a facsimile of the U.S. flag. The concept of ecology spans far more than one nation’s borders. If he was truly thinking “oneness,” why not choose a more universal concept?

 

Even though many had ecological concerns in the 1960s and 1970s, it has taken 40 years or more for mainstream thinkers, politicians, and businesses to reflect environmental awareness. It’s sad to me that it took this long but hey, I”m grateful that at last, caring for the earth has become part of mass public consciousness.

July 16, 2010 at 7:40 am Comments (0)

Hands Across The Sands: A Jedediah adventure

hands-across-sands-low-res-1
                                                                                                                      — Heather Conn photos

Four kayaking companions and I, camped on Jedediah Island on British Columbia’s Sunshine Coast,  joined the June 26 global event Hands Across the Sand  to protest offshore oil drilling. From our low-tide beach at Home Bay, we gathered around noon and stretched our hands across a shoreline to support clean energy choices. Like thousands of others around the world, we took this symbolic gesture to draw a line in the sand against the threat that oil drilling poses to coastal economies and the marine environment.

 

The Hands Across the Sand movement, founded by U.S. resident Dave Rauschkolb, began in Florida on Feb. 13 this year. Thousands of residents across the state, representing 60 towns and cities and more than 90 beaches, joined hands to protest attempts by the Florida and the U.S. governments to lift the ban on oil drilling near and off the state’s shores. The movement created partnerships with major environmental organizations such as the Sierra Club, Greenpeace, and Audubon.

 

The impetus for the June Hands Across the Sand event, which involved 860 locations, came from the environmental devastation of the ongoing British Petroleum oil spill. The mission of Hands Across the Sand is to draw attention to our global dependence on fossil fuels and adopt policies that encourage renewable energy sources.

our-camp-1-low-res

 At our  idyllic location on Jedediah, a marine provincial park, tiny crabs scrabbled in the shallows while dozens of live sand dollars wafted in low waters. By the thousands, oysters and periwinkles covered the sea bed, surrounded by thick clusters of mussels and barnacles on nearby rocks. At low tide, three raccoons hunted for food in the mud while red-footed oyster catchers flew past,  screeching like banshees. Ever-present seagulls dropped shellfish onto the beach to break open their food.

 

With such natural richness hinged to the sea, it was disturbing to imagine how an oil spill in these waters could easily destroy this abundance. While hundreds of thousands of barrels of BP oil continue to pour into the Gulf of Mexico,  Chevron is drilling underwater off Newfoundland at almost twice the depth as BP’s rig that blew out.

our-camp-2-low-res

 Meanwhile, B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell wants to drill oil off the northwest coast of the province, by the Queen Charlotte Islands. Along with the federal government and Enbridge, he’s poised to create an oil pipeline from Alberta’s Tar Sands to Kitimat, B.C. This would result in oil tankers traversing the province every day through fragile ecosystems and challenging waters in central and northern B.C. (For more details, see my archived feature “No oil tankers on the B.C. coast” posted Dec. 1, 2009 under “Environment.”)

hands-across-sands-low-res-2

On a more upbeat note, the abandoned wooden building in the background of this photo is the old homestead on Jedediah that once belonged to the Palmers. Mary and Al Palmer bought the island as a summer holiday destination in 1949, then became full-time residents in 1972. They both farmed the land and cherished the island’s 600 acres, which includes cedar, old-growth fir and arbutus, peaceful bays, and stunning views. Mary was determined to prevent any  development. (Palmer describes life on the island, complete with historic family photos, in her book Jedediah Days, a B.C. bestseller published by Harbour Publishing.)

homestead-low-res

The Palmers worked hard to preserve the island, helped by a province-wide fundraising campaign, started by the late Dan Culver’s Follow Your Dream Foundation. Many groups rallied to raise money to create a park, including Friends of Jedediah, the Marine Parks Forever Society, and the Nature Trust of B.C. Countless individuals and organizations provided financial support, which included $1.1 million from Culver’s estate. The B.C. government donated millions more and the Palmers agreed to sell the island for $4.2 million, far less than its market value. Thanks to their generosity and the dedication of so many donors and volunteer fundraisers, Jedediah Island became a provincial park in 1995.

scenic-low-res

Now thousands of people can enjoy this unsullied spot every year. A flock of wild sheep still roams the island and several dozen mountain goats, said to be descendants of those left by Spanish explorers, can peer down at you from rocky bluffs. The island has four registered archaeological sites, including a First Nations fish weir.

gibraltar-low-res1

 I took the photo above from Gibraltar, a rocky viewpoint towards the north-central part of the island. A cairn of stones marks the spot with a heavy plastic tube that contains scribbled notes from hikers over the years. Of course, I added a message from our group. Towards the centre of the island, we wandered through forests pastoral and open, without tangles of thick underbrush. We saw the grave of the Palmers’ beloved horse Will, which bears visitors’ strange offerings and detritus from the sea, from a toy car and flattened soccer ball to a plastic marine float. Elsewhere, the island’s open meadows, pungent with mint-like scent, are still home to neglected fruit trees.

moss-low-res

 Jedediah has frequent patches of startling green moss and clusters of yellow wild flowers. It was wonderful to explore this island and see only a handful of people over several days. Thanks to the Palmers’ vision and commitment to conservation, this quiet wilderness sanctuary will never see development . . .and hopefully, oil will never tarnish its shores.

sunset-low-res

June 29, 2010 at 2:28 pm Comment (1)

Mother’s Day: Remember its original message of peace

 

codepink-low-res

CodePink members in San Francisco in April 2008

 

Did you know that the original Mother’s Day was inextricably linked with a message of peace?

 

Julia Ward Howe, a U.S. poet, feminist, and abolishonist, created the first Mother’s Day Proclamation in the United States in 1870. She wrote this rousing piece in reaction to the  U.S. Civil War and the Franco-Prussian War. She believed that women, particularly as spouses of soldiers and those who bore sons who went to war,  held a responsibility to take a political stand for peace, not war.

 

julia-ward-howe

                   Julia Ward Howe

 

Here is what Howe declared in her proclamation:

 

 Arise, then, women of this day!
Arise, all women who have hearts,
Whether our baptism be of water or of tears!

Say firmly:
“We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies,
Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause.
Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn
All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.
We, the women of one country, will be too tender of those of another country
To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.”

From the bosom of the devastated Earth a voice goes up with our own.
It says: “Disarm! Disarm! The sword of murder is not the balance of justice.”
Blood does not wipe out dishonor, nor violence indicate possession.
As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil at the summons of war,
Let women now leave all that may be left of home for a great and earnest day of counsel.

Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead.
Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means
Whereby the great human family can live in peace,
Each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar,
But of God.

In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask
That a general congress of women without limit of nationality
May be appointed and held at someplace deemed most convenient
And at the earliest period consistent with its objects,
To promote the alliance of the different nationalities,
The amicable settlement of international questions,
The great and general interests of peace.

 

Subtle this proclamation ain’t, nor religiously or spiritually inclusive. But it’s a passionate voice nevertheless, and a remarkable one for its period. (Ironically, Howe wrote the words to The Battle Hymn of the Republic, which became a popular anthem sung by the Union side (the north) during the U.S. Civil War.)

codepink-2-low-res1
                                                                                                                       — Heather Conn photos

Sadly, Howe’s words still bear just as much relevance today, since humanity seems to have learned no lessons about the ravages of war.  Modern sons and daughters are dying in Iraq,  Afghanistan, Pakistan, Darfur.  .  .

 

In honor of this year’s Mother’s Day, I invite all women, mothers or not, and men to support any action or event that promotes peace. Start with yourself and share your message of peace with your loved ones and neighbors, sons, and daughters. We all need this message every day. I support the group CodePink Women for Peace and the practices outlined in the book Nonviolent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg. Remember: There’s a difference between promoting peace and protesting against war, but don’t let language nuances stop your activism.

make-love-not-war

May 7, 2010 at 5:53 pm Comments (0)

Sam Mandala’s memory flows on

I love the synchronicity of the Internet. Last summer, I posted a whimsical entry about the wooden salmon art piece I did called “Sam Mandala,” which played on the word “salmon” and used mandala images as a theme. Well, it turns out that there was a real Sam Mandala, an Italian born in the Bronx. His granddaughter Melissa had Googled his name, and wound up on my blog. Who woulda thunk it?

 

She said that she loved my fish mandala and wanted to know if it was for sale. (It’s not. It was auctioned off and I have no idea who bought it.) She added: “[I]t describes my grandfather’s personality to a ‘t’.”

 

When Melissa emailed me about this, I was skeptical, having been victim of an Internet job hoax several months ago. But I did my own online research before responding and yes, she did exist. When I asked to find out more about her grandfather, here is what she sent in a reply:

 

“I’m from New Jersey, my grandfather was born in the Bronx, then moved to Newark, NJ. His parents and oldest brother were born in Sicily. His brothers were deviants, his brother Paulie was a bookie and his other brother was the type to steal and then fence the items.

 

Grandpa followed a different path. He married Grandma and then went to war in Korea. There are so many pictures where he’s kissing and hugging and holding Grandma on his lap. Every photo, he has a huge smile. I remember when I’d spend the night, he would wake up first, brew coffee, and bring it in to Grandma while she was in bed. He spoiled her and it was cute. Everyone in his senior citizen apartment building knew who he was because he would talk to everyone, but never got involved with drama or gossip. He always had a joke on hand. I think, maybe, he was a bit of a flirt!! So, that’s Sam Mandala as I remember him . . .”

 

What a wonderful story. I encouraged Melissa to write about her grandfather since so many family stories and reminiscences disappear, never told. That’s one reason why I’m writing a memoir and encourage others to do so through my workshops. Thanks, Melissa, for sharing a touching tale. I’m grateful that your grandpa’s memory ended up prompting you to contact me.

March 31, 2010 at 10:15 am Comments (0)

Never again: the message of Remembrance Day

“You must be the change you want to see in the world”: Mahatma Gandhi

November 11, 2009

This morning, I attended the Remembrance Day ceremonies at my local Royal Canadian Legion, branch 219, in Roberts Creek, BC. The Legion’s 40-year-old president, Rob Marion, shared a touching tale of how the impact of war first affected him. At age 12, he had his first full-time job mowing the lawn at the local cemetery in Thunder Bay, Ont. For the first time, he was assigned to work in the section with Second World War graves. He said it astounded him to see about eight acres of identical white crosses, row after row, stretching before him. On a visceral level, this showed him how many thousands of lives, just from this one area, had been lost. It made me think of the lines from the poem In Flanders Fields: “In Flanders Fields the poppies grow/between the crosses row on row/ . . .”

 

During his talk, Rob said that when he spoke to any veterans of the First and Second World Wars, their common message was: Never again. They did not want to have the horrors of the battlefield repeated anywhere in the world. And yet Canada still fights in Afghanistan . . .

 

The night before, I had watched the excellent documentary Into the Arms of Strangers, made in 2000 through the National Holocaust Museum and narrated by Judi Dench. It’s about the massive kindertransport program, which sent about 300,000 Jewish child refugees from Europe into Great Britain in 1938-39. They ended up in homes all across England, most siblings separated from each other, living in different parts of the country. They could barely speak English, felt homesick, and worried about the safety of their parents back home.

 

The interviews with adults who had been child refugees, now in their seventies, were poignant and heart-wrenching. One man described how, at about age seven, he had knocked on the doors of  many British estates, hoping that he could find a wealthy family who would agree to bring his parents over and give them a work permit. After countless refusals, he ended up at the home of Baron Rothschild, who without hesitation, wrote out a form to create a work permit. Unfortunately, the Second World War broke out soon after and all such immigration plans ended.

 

One ship full of refugee children left England destined for Canada but was torpedoed by the Germans. It didn’t sink and continued southwards to Australia. (I can’t remember its name.) What the documentary didn’t say was that then-Canadian-prime-minister William Lyon Mackenzie King refused to accept that ship load of Jewish children because of prevailing anti-Semitic attitudes.  What a disgraceful historic record for Canada. (You can find out more about this record in the book None is Too Many: Canada and the Jews of Europe 1933-1948 by Irving Abella and Harold Troper.)

 

Once the war had ended, many of these children returned to Europe, hoping to reunite with their parents, only to learn that they had died in death camps like Auschwitz. This made their photos and letters shared in the film all the more powerful and evocative.

 

I highly recommend Into the Arms of Strangers for anyone who wants to see the human impact of war and hatred. Ironically, one of the British foster parents mentioned in the documentary hated red hair. The Jewish child staying with him lobbied to have him bring over her sister from Europe. When he asked her what color of hair her sister had, she lied and said: “Like mine.” In fact, the sister was a redhead. Once she arrived in England, he was apparently livid at the deception, but subsequently agreed to “keep” her. As a redhead myself, I found this detail horrifying.

November 11, 2009 at 1:32 pm Comment (1)

Mary Jo Kopechne would have turned 69 last week

Accident on the Bridge at Chappaquiddick: Do you know what happened 40 years ago?

chappaquiddick-bridge1

         — Heather Conn photo   

(A condensed version of this post was published in The Coast Reporter in Sechelt, BC, Canada on July 17, 2009.) 

          If Mary Jo Kopechne had lived, she would have celebrated her sixty-ninth birthday last week.   

          Early last month, almost 40 years after Chappaquiddick became synonymous with Kopechne’s name and that of U.S. Democratic senator Ted Kennedy, I peered down from the notorious Dike Bridge in Martha’s Vineyard, Mass. This otherwise innocuous span, about 10 feet wide and 75 feet long, sits by the easternmost coast of the Vineyard, a well-heeled island retreat about seven miles south of Cape Cod.

            Amidst the area’s rural tranquility, it took straining to imagine that this plain structure, which straddles a six-knot channel and leads to Cape Poge lighthouse and a wildlife refuge, ever bore any stain of tragedy. (Kopechne, passenger in a black Oldsmobile owned and allegedly driven by Kennedy, died on July 18, 1969, after the vehicle plunged off the bridge into about 15 feet of water. Kennedy pleaded guilty to leaving the scene of an accident after causing injury and received a two-month suspended sentence.)

 

            Nothing suggests that this planked span ever played a role in the death of a young female campaign worker or ended an ambitious senator’s run for the U.S. presidency. Except, of course, that it’s now one of the most fortified small wooden bridges you’ll likely ever see. With stanchions, thick wooden railings, and huge galvanized bolts jutting from its horizontal sides of  pressure-treated 12 x 12 beams (all added after the accident), this bridge looks like it could withstand a nuclear blast.

 

            (Immediately after the incident, some tasteless souls added graffiti that read “Ted loves Mary Jo” and “Ted’s car wash.” Others hacked off or hammered out tiny pieces of the bridge as mementos. When the car was towed to a local garage, zealous souvenir-seekers stole pieces of it, from its windshield to door handles. Thankfully, e-bay didn’t exist then.)

 

            Some might consider this site a bizarre tourist attraction, but the conflicting accounts of the Kennedy accident have always fascinated me. From everything I’ve read and seen, I certainly don’t believe that Kennedy was driving the car, for instance. I think that Kopechne, likely scared and disoriented, wound up alone at the wheel, in a vehicle unfamiliar to her, in an area she didn’t know.

 

           (Earlier that evening, a police officer had walked towards the vehicle when she and Kennedy were reportedly parked in the dark in the area, but had not approached the occupants.  I think that Kennedy chose to avoid any possible discovery and subsequent damage to his reputation by choosing to walk home, leaving Kopechne to find her way. There has been some suggestion that his nephew, Joseph, might have been involved; he was reportedly seen later that evening in the area, wandering alone on a main road, soaking wet. )  

 

             Curious to see the bridge, my husband and I drove our peppy blue Smart car, rented in the Vineyard’s northeastern town of Oak Bluffs, to the site via the three-vehicle “Chappy ferry.” It took barely two minutes to cross to Chappaquiddick, an island-within-an-island; the Vineyard itself is only 100 square miles. Thankfully, we were there in early June before the summer crowds, when the on-island population swells to 120,000.

 

            I was surprised to find no mention of the bridge in local media or tourist literature; area bookstores did not display any of the many tomes written about the accident. After all, sensationalist stories, even decades old, sell. Notoriety brings tourists, especially during a recession.

 

            But “Hype your infamy” is no Vineyard attitude. Guess that’s one reason why so many Hollywood types flock there for holidays. This laid-back haven of 15,000 yearround residents nurtures the privacy of its celebrities, whether they’re residents or summer visitors, from the likes of Bill and Hillary Clinton to singer Carly Simon.

 

            At the time of the Chappaquiddick accident, Kennedy had spent decades competing in an annual regatta in Edgartown on Martha’s Vineyard. Today, he’s instigated and influenced more positive changes in  the state of Massachusetts than any other politician, according to my husband, a long-time fan and Mass. resident. Yet I’m a west-coast Canadian; in my eyes, Kennedy lied about the Chappaquiddick incident and ignored advice from close friends and advisors immediately afterwards to tell the whole truth. Now it looks as if he’ll die without us ever knowing what really happened. The late Dominick Dunne, a novelist and Vanity Fair crime columnist, said that Kennedy “lived recklessly, performed brilliantly in Congress, and often failed miserably in life.”

 

 

If you would like to read more of my travel stories, please visit

http://www.heatherconn.com/category/travel/ and  http://www.thetraveleditor.com/authors/846/Heather_Conn/

 

July 21, 2009 at 2:50 pm Comments (5)

Newer Posts »