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Champagne dreams, Dirty Banana realities

By LISA SMITH MOLINARI | Special to Stars and Stripes | Published: September 18, 2020

I’ve always wanted to say, teeth clenched with haughty intonation, “We were on the Vineyard yesterday,” as if it were our regular routine now that we live in New England. So, last weekend, the unofficial end of summer, my husband, Francis, and I took a day trip to Martha’s Vineyard, the preppy vacation spot for the rich and famous.

Four years ago, Francis transitioned out of the Navy after 28 years on active duty, and we decided to stay in Rhode Island. Even though we’re technically New Englanders now, we have yet to put a hard “r” on the end of words like “pizza.”  We don’t call water fountains “bubblahs.” We root for the Steelers over the Patriots. And we can’t eat whole-belly clams without getting the willies.

However, we jumped headfirst into New England’s fascinating history. We’re no longer offended when people are shockingly blunt. We understand terms like “wicked smaht,” “carriage” and “johnnycakes.” And we now appreciate bread from a can and pudding made from Grape-Nuts.

However, to be true New Englanders, we must experience its most famous places, so off we went with our bikes to Martha’s Vineyard last weekend.

We caught the first ferry to Oak Bluffs, planning a bike route that would allow us to ogle million-dollar seaside homes, tour the historic whaling port of Edgartown, watch yachts on the harbor and end the day with a pricey but well-deserved seafood dinner.

We were somewhat surprised by Oak Bluff’ honky-tonk vibe: “This must be an anomaly,” we thought, before biking five miles south to Edgartown.

In Edgartown, we spent the day lounging like Kennedys on Katama Beach, window shopping at high-end boutiques, admiring grand sea captains’ houses and paying a premium for fancy coffee.

After riding back to Oak Bluffs, we had three hours before our return ferry — plenty of time to find the perfect dinner. Our mouths watered at the thought of fresh oysters, lobster bisque and trendy cocktails.

For an hour, we walked our bikes through crowded streets in search of an acceptable restaurant. Our standards lowered as pangs of hunger grew.

“What about that place down on the waterfront?” Francis suggested. “You mean that greasy fish and chips joint?” I barked. “No way!”

But after realizing that our only other available option was buying a bag of Fritos and a 40-ounce can of malt liquor at the gas station, we hightailed it to the greasy fish and chips joint.

“May we sit on the deck if we buy a couple of drinks?” I desperately asked the hostess.

“You must purchase food to sit here,” she said, pointing to long lines at the food and drink order windows.

“You gotta try the Dirty Banana!” a man slurred to Francis in the bar line. His drunken companion, slurping the frozen concoction from a plastic cup, added, “It’s got like eight different liquors in it. Delicious!”

A half hour later, we ordered draft beers and fish and chips from an eye-rolling teenager, who gave us an electronic hockey puck that would buzz when our order was ready. For the next half hour, we waited on a sticky bench, watching the guys swilling their Dirty Bananas.

It took another half hour, and an inquiry to the eye-rolling teenager, but our hockey puck finally buzzed. We trudged back to the hostess with an orange plastic tray carrying our fried fish, fries and plastic cups of beer.

“It took me a while, but I finally got that food so we can sit on the deck!” I announced with a grin.

“You can only sit here with premium entrees. With that food, you sit there,” she said, pointing back to the sticky benches being hawked by seagulls.

Back on the ferry, I silently tried to reconcile our dinner experience with the rest of the day. 

“They were right,” Francis said, interrupting my pity party. “These ARE delicious.”  I sipped my Dirty Banana, looked at the stars and smiled at life’s unexpected adventures.

Read more of Lisa Smith Molinari’s columns at: themeatandpotatoesoflife.com
Email: meatandpotatoesoflife@googlemail.com