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Where The Old Boys Play

On Vacation

By Cristina V. Coletta

If you need proof that Harvard's influence and reputation really does extend beyond the reaches of your wildest imagination, take the ferry to Martha's Vineyard this weekend (if you didn't make your automobile reservation in February, you'll have to go standby, but if you don't mind waiting until about 2 a.m., you'll get there). When you get off in Vineyard Haven, drive in the direction of Gay Head--up Island--until you get to Chilmark. Don't stop to look for a town, because there isn't one to look for. Just off the main road you'll find the Chilmark Community Center, a graying Cape Cod shingle building with four ill-kept clay tennis courts out back. In the far court on the left, whipping the ball over the net at breakneck speed, will be a tall young man sporting a vintage 1986 Kirkland House tee shirt with the memorable emblem "Kirkland House: Where Intelligence is Just Another Big Word" emblazoned across its front and back. For anyone trying to escape from the omnipresence of their alma mater, such a discovery can be rather disconcerting.

Until, that is, one realizes that Martha's Vineyard is really a very unusual sort of place in terms of the highly limited but highly visible and well-known crowd it attracts. If you graduated from Phillips Andover, Exeter, Groton, St. Paul's, Middlesex, Concord Academy or any New England prep school within the last five years, chances are that you'll run into someone from your eleventh grade English class waiting in line for ice cream in Oak Bluffs.

Unsuspected encounters with Harvard professors are not unheard of either, due to the fact that a large percentage of them own or rent houses on Martha's Vineyard for the summer. The Island is a great place to get sick, as well as one in which to search out a potential thesis advisor. Drive into the parking lot of any beach and you're liable to find more M.D. plates than in the parking lot of Mass. General Hospital.

Making investment banking deals in between fudge store runs is also possible because everyone who isn't a doctor or a professor is an investment banker or a lawyer, and as everyone who read The New York Times Magazine at Lucy Vincent Beach last Sunday knows, lawyers are really the same thing as investment bankers. If you want to see them in person, catch PBA's 7:10 a.m. flight from Edgartown to Boston any Monday morning and you'll see them being driven to the airport by their madras-clad sons or Lilly Pulitzer-clad wives. If you merely want proof of their existence, venture into the most obscure newspaper shop on the Vineyard and you'll discover they are well-stocked with copies of Barrons and The New York Times. Most stores even post a schedule on the front door of delivery and sold-out times so you'll be sure not to miss out on the latest quotes from Standard and Poors.

If you're not discussing the latest in the philosophy of government with your Social Analysis professor, being sick or making deals, you're probably either at the beach or on the way to or from the beach. People always seem to bring a lot of stuff to the beach--suntan lotion, towel and book to read that you never get around to reading but do get sand in, but beach-goers on the Vineyard seem to bring more than most. This phenomenon is best described as power-beaching. To make the correct impression at a well-populated Vineyard beach, you must bring a whole slew of different accoutrements (not things, accoutrements). First of all, no sexy bathing suits allowed. For women, anything by Ralph Lauren or Lilly Pulitzer (especially the pink zebra bikini) is acceptable. Other than that, conservative one piece suits in solid primary colors or simple prints are okay. For men, no Speedos. These belong in Cannes, not in Menemsha. The College-age-and-under crowd get points for the most outrageous Jams available (read: anything with Fuschia as a principal color). Young marrieds go for the white boy scout trunks--they set off any tan you might have acquired and perpetuate the knight in shining armour/LaCoste bathing suit myth. Anyone over the age of thirty should watch it, because cute suits on not-so-cute bodies is not cute at all.

The bathing suit is only the beginning. If it's Sunday, reading material is key. If you've managed to lug the entire Sunday Times, Globe, Washington Post (which you've had to special order) all the way from the foreign automobile/Jeep to the beach, you've done alright. Extra points go to anyone who can bring all of these plus the lastest Frederick Forsythe novel, anything by Art Buchwald or Andy Rooney or Agatha Christie, plus The New York Review of Books. Do not bring suntan lotion (you're here for two months, so you'll get sun eventually), anything to eat (you'll eat later at home and who wants to deal with the mess) a portable stereo (please, if you need music, bring a Walkman--people are reading). As you can see, the don't-brings are just as important in maintaining and cultivating the image as the do-brings.

So go. It's still a few weeks til Labor Day, you'll get ice cream, fudge and tee shirts, a tan if it's not raining, a thesis advisor if it is, a check-up if you need it, and some financial counseling if you don't. What have you got to lose?

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