One summer, I lived in a little house off Vineyard avenue in Oak Bluffs. Away from the sea breezes with no air conditioning in the house, I took up walking each evening after work. I told myself it was to drive less, but really it was out of sheer excitement and curiosity. For an up-Island girl, the downtown novelty of Oak Bluffs never wore off. So I walked down June avenue to the Lagoon. I strolled up School street (which no longer houses a school), to get a new book at the library, or just to see who was out and about. I walked up Pacific (funny, I thought, since the Island is on the Atlantic) and read the old gravestones in the cemetery before the sun went down.
On each walk, I passed a white, hand-painted sign for Potato Farm Road. It soon became a landmark that I looked forward to. I smiled at the thought of a potato farm, an old potato farm at that, next to the waterworks. So I added it to my list of favorite Vineyard road names.
The list starts with Obed Daggett Road and ends with Jane’s Way. I keep it in my glove compartment and take it out sometimes when stuck in traffic.
The top spot on the list goes to Obed Daggett Road, because I like to think of the nicknames Mr. Daggett’s mother must have had for him. The next three spots go to Middle, South and North Roads. The names are a triumph — not creative, but reliable and practical, so completely Chilmark. The fourth spot is for Tiah’s Cove. Moshup Trail is number five simply because the road is so far from a trail and, with the ocean on one side and the cliffs up ahead, it is the best stretch to drive on when the house gets too crowded. Also on the list is Music street; it evokes images of sidewalks strewn with sheet music. Last on the list is Jane’s Way. Jane is my mother’s name and it makes me think of her.
There are others, but those are my favorites.
In November I moved to Boston and was ready to start a new list of favorite road names in my new city. After a month, the list was empty. The names were uninspiring: Newbury street, Sutherland Road, Memorial Drive. They left nothing to the imagination. And then, on a cold night, I found it. After getting hopelessly lost for 45 minutes, I turned down a side street, just to get off the main road. This never would have happened on the Vineyard, I thought. I know all the roads there.
And then I looked up and there it was: Gay Head street. I finally found my favorite street in Boston. I predict it will remain number one, a reminder that although I did not know where I was going, I knew where I was coming from.
Julia Rappaport is a freelance writer and former reporter for the