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Monday, July 7, 2008

Update on Bunch of Grapes Bookstore, and a story about Bill Clinton

The news is even worse - there appears to be no chance of saving the bookstore building, as fire as well as smoke and water damaged the second floor as well. No decisions are being made until the insurance people have seen it -but it appears to be a total loss.
I am personally very saddened to see the demise of this Martha's Vineyard icon. I have given several presentations on the upper floor of the historic building, including one memorable one where the slide projector malfunctioned. It spat out slides like cartridges from a Gatling gun, battering staff and guests alike, much to their bemusement.
It is also the setting of a story about Bill Clinton when he was president, which is probably apocryphal, but also rather sweet. As the whole world knows, Martha's Vineyard was a favorite vacation spot for the family; as perhaps the whole world does not know, the Bunch of Grapes was a favorite place to browse for books. The problem was that the store had to be closed once the family was inside, for security reasons. The people trapped with them didn't mind, and were perfectly cooperative on one occasion when the word was passed around that Bill would prefer to be ignored, so he could sift through the book shelves like an ordinary guy. People walked around him as if he was not there; no eye contact was made, and not a word to him was said. After some moments of this, however, the poor fellow became uneasy. He glanced around with a puzzled frown, then strode up to a customer, and flashed the trademark grin. "Don't you know who I am?" he inquired (or words to that effect), and shoved out his hand to shake.
Such is the stuff of which politicians are made.
Whether the anecdote (which I have heard many times) is true or not, the Bunch of Grapes was the perfect place for something so sublime to happen.

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