Sweet Memories
Nantucket Essays

Sweet Memories

by Steve “Tuna” Tornovish

My wife and I were married in Key West in 1997. This blissful occasion took place in a beautiful little garden at the Chelsea House, a really neat little B&B. The ceremony, such as it was, was performed by a guy who did weddings as a side gig from his main job as a hotel concierge. He buzzed up on his moped, and five minutes later the deal was done, witnessed by Beth’s sister and brother-in-law, Cathy and Tim Lepore. Ah, sweet memories.

Fast forward about 14 years and there we are, back in Key West, with our two daughters who were 13- and 10-years-old. We marched down Duval Street, took a left onto Truman, and returned to the scene of the crime. Surprise—they had paved paradise and put in a parking lot—literally! The beautiful garden had been replaced by asphalt with painted lines. Beth whacked me for pointing out that our royal ceremony had been conducted in what was now a handicapped space. Ouch.

So what’s the point of all of this reminiscing, you ask? Well, I guess it’s to illustrate that things change. It’s inevitable, right? George Harrison told us that all things must pass. Mark Twain said that he’s in favor of progress, but it was change that he didn’t like. David Bowie told us to turn and face the change. Deal with it. I try, Mr. Bowie, I really do, but some days are better than others.

Sweet Memories
photo by Steve Tornovish

This week I got to meet a new friend who had returned to Nantucket after a long hiatus. He’s an architect, an agent of change. Rob Sears was fresh from graduating from Miami of Ohio in 1985. He loaded up his Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme and headed from his home in Michigan to our fair island. “I packed up my car with my stereo and clothes, fibbed to my parents that I had a job here and drove straight through from Grand Rapids,” he told me. Rob’s college buddy was on Nantucket, working at Design Associates, an architectural firm located at 58 Main Street. Rob was hired as well and the fun began.

So here he was, returning to Nantucket after all these years, hoping to show the island that he fell in love with to his family. In keeping with this sentiment, Rob had hired me to take his crew out fishing. I picked his group up for a 6:30 am start. Rob and I agreed that a stop at Wicked Island Bakery was necessary. This worked for the other two members of the morning crew as well: Patrick, the boyfriend of Rob’s old-est daughter, Rachel, and Sam, Rob’s 17-year-old son. As we drove, Rob and I talked endlessly about how the island was back in 1985. Patrick and Sam did a great job of tolerating the two old guys as we drifted through our reminiscing. I sensed that they were glad when the fishing commenced.

We started our fishing adventure on the outside (eastern) edge of Great Point. The howling southwest wind was at our backs and it made us look like heroes as we casted. There were no fish to be had on the easy side, however, so we loaded up and headed to Coatue to cast into the wind. I switched our lures from the Island X Hellfire 180s to heavier metal lures. That change was necessary in order to give my three novice surfcasters a chance at success on the blustery day.

Rob was dialed in immediately. He was getting some very respectable casting distance into the stiff breeze. Patrick and Sam soon got the hang of things as well. It took a couple of moves up and down the beach, along with a change of the tide to finally get on the bluefish. Rob hooked up and landed the first fish, causing a significant sigh of relief from his fishing guide. Several more fish followed. We didn’t exactly crush them but we put fish on the beach. As we left the beach and headed home, Rob and I resumed our trip in the time machine.

“My buddy and I rented the cottage at 17 Surfside Road, right across from the High School.” Rob and his buddies frequented the Muse and the Atlantic Café. Yeah, those were familiar haunts for me once upon a time as well. “I lived here for a year. I was making $200 a week and thought I was king! We worked hard and played hard.”

One of Rob’s playmates that year was Joe Topham, a Nantucket native and fellow architect. I happened to have Joe’s phone number, much to Rob’s delight. The two old friends had a great time reconnecting via the speaker phone in my truck. Joe texted a picture to me as we all conversed, a fantastic memory from their Design Associates days. Rob saw it and whooped with joy: “There I am in that bright red sweater! I was just telling Julie (Rob’s awesome wife) and the kids about this picture!”

“There is a calmness about Rob that just seems to steady a rough day. He was a great asset at Design Associates. We were a great team—Chris, Harold, Scott, Penny (Dey), Joc, Jenny and us two goofy nerds!” Joe laughs about that year and the camaraderie that he and Rob shared. “If Rob stuck around, I think we would have had an architectural business, maybe even a design-build firm.”

Instead of staying, Rob moved on to attend graduate school at the University of Kentucky. That’s where he met his current architectural business partner and wife, Julie. I was fortunate to get to meet Julie, along with their 23-year-old daughter Sophie, when Rob booked a second fishing trip. Julie is a Kentucky native and an absolute joy to be around. Sophie recently graduated from Michigan State University and is heading to law school this fall at either Vanderbilt or the University of Kentucky. I can see how law school will fit Miss Sophie: she is, as we say in these parts, wicked smart. And fierce! Wonderfully fierce, while still being as lovely as her mother at the same time.

Sweet Memories
photo by Steve Tornovish

Our Friday trip to Great Point followed much of the Tuesday script: early morning pickup, Wicked Island stop, casting on the eastern edge and then over to face the wind. Fortune smiled on us for about an hour and a half—the wind subsided, the rain held off, and the fish showed up. Rob led the way once again, hooking up to a bluefish just as he was telling me that he thought we were going to be skunked. Ye of little faith! Sam, the 17-year-old high school senior and football cornerback / safety, finally got on the board with a nice bluefish. Sophie joined the game as well, landing a good sized blue—out of sheer willpower, I suspect. And then the skies opened up and we scurried for the truck, the game called on account of rain.

I was having much too much fun with the Sears family to take them straight home. We toured the Polpis Road loop out to ‘Sconset and poked around for a bit. Julie admired the rose-covered cottages and the wide variety of house styles, Rob and I continued gabbing about summer adventures from years past, and Sam and Sophie most likely rolled their eyes at the two old dudes. I enjoyed this family so much!

I had one final question for Rob as we drove along: “Hey Rob, how would you feel if Sophie or Sam wanted to do a summer working on Nantucket?” Julie spoke up and said that would be great. Sophie said that a family friend has a son who is working as a caddy at the Nantucket Golf Club and loves it. Sam acted nonplussed by the thought, but I suspect he would jump at the chance. As for Rob, you ask? Well, Rob said nothing. And that spoke volumes to me about his one crazy summer spent here in 1985.

Steve “Tuna” Tornovish is a Nantucket native who has spent his life fishing from the beaches of his beloved island. He loves to introduce clients to the joy of fishing with his Nantucket Island Fishing Adventures: stevetuna.com

Articles by Date from 2012