It’s not our fault! Those massive signs and lines at Lake and Circuit that everyone is shocked at? It turns out the whole design was cooked up by the state, and the state planners, don’t forget, have only one mandate: Make everything look the same, just as everything in America looks the same.

But Oak Bluffs is not America. That’s why we live here. And it’s time to take to the streets to take back our streets. First, if you haven’t viewed the new downtown crossing area, put on your darkest pair of sunglasses and wrap a scarf around your head because your hair is going to stand up on end. Okay, you see the problem? Here’s what we can do about it. I ran into Oak Bluffs citizen Thea Hansen the other day who reminded me of the time many years ago when the state slapped up a big interstate-highway-sized sign around lower Lambert’s Cove Road. Everyone who saw it did a double take and started complaining. Thea said: “The town got right on it and ordered the sign taken down.”

So let’s get busy restoring our town to the idyllic seaside resort it’s been for the last century and a half. Talk to your favorite selectman. Or collar all of them. Write letters. Speak out. It might take another layer of tarmac or a slicking down of charcoal-colored paint, but we can do this.

Jill Nelson, a lifelong Vineyard summer resident and author of Finding Martha’s Vineyard: African Americans at Home on an Island, will host a six-day retreat from August 31 to Sept. 5, called Making the Third Chapter Fabulous! at her home in Oak Bluffs. Daily yoga and a writing workshop will focus on connecting body, mind and spirit as, in Jill’s words, “we define, articulate and strategize who, what, where and how we want to live our third chapter. We already know when – now!” Ms. Nelson explains: “Each night we’ll have lively conversation over a delicious dinner with an Island guest artist who will talk about how she discovered and implemented her own successful third chapter. If you need to break down, this retreat is not for you.” The six days will offer ample time to explore the Vineyard. Residential and nonresidential spaces are available. For more information go to jillnelson.com.

This is my last column until September. I now pass the torch to the incomparable Bettye Baker who will write the weekly column for the summer of 2010 in Oak Bluffs. I hope to be here for some of the high season, but Jack and I are planning to take a delayed honeymoon in Paris. We have our lodgings lined up, a garret studio apartment on the Rue de St. Peres, or some such street; we’ll find it. We’ve been playing fast and loose with airline fares, however. They’re coming down, but soon we’ll to need to pony up. If you see me in town in August, I’ll be wearing a beret and smoking a Gauloise and pretending Circuit avenue is the Boule Miche. Even Huxley, on his leash, will be responding to “Oo la la! Il est mignon, le petit chien!”

So don’t say goodbye, say au revoir. And from this point forward, you may reach Bettye at bdrbaker@comcast.net or call her at 508-693-1658.