Okay, my wife and I have been living here full-time for more than three years. I know we can never lose the label of washashore, but is it conceivable we might be at least recognized with a label that advances our status? After all, we have no intention of washing ashore somewhere else. In fact, every time we leave the Island, we can’t wait to get back.
The Urban Dictionary defines washashore as “a newcomer to a coastal or Island community, a non-native, a subject of xenophobia.” I sincerely hope I am no longer perceived as strange. On the other hand, I have spent many years struggling with my xena-phobia – fear of warrior princesses.
But that’s another story. Since we beached in Vineyard Haven, we have had plenty of time to evolve. We have shed our landlocked gills and urban fins. We are now able to stand on our hind legs and walk confidently without fear of being finger-wagged as newcomers or arrested for loitering or vacationing out of season. We love it here and find it fairly easy to navigate the customs and go with the flow of Island rhythms. So why don’t we just call ourselves walkashores — a cut above you know what.
I think we now qualify as participating members of this great Island community, this spirit of we-are-all-in-this-together that lured us here. In hopes of proving my Island cred, I’ve concocted my own citizen litmus test. Let’s go town by town and allow me to tell you what hornet’s nest is being stirred there, at least the way I see it. I hope I have more than a washashore perception of what’s going on.
Let’s start with Aquinnah. The way I understand it is once the money has been raised to preserve the old Gay Head Lighthouse and move it to higher ground, folks there will have a chance to double their money at a high-stakes bingo game that will be held in a brand new casino, which will be located in what was initially supposed to be the Wampanoag community center, provided the tribe can get united behind this idea of mixing social services and slot machines, provide transportation to the casino and supply alcoholic beverages to losers who think they’re winners. Do I have this right?
The way I understand Chilmark is that while folks there agree that the size of houses should be reduced to something slightly smaller than the Taj Mahal, they cannot decide what to do about the shape of Squibnocket Beach. By just two votes, folks there just rejected a plan to relocate the parking lot and build a bridge to the Squibnocket Farm neighborhood. So it’s back to the drawing board. Meanwhile the ocean that caused all the fuss will continue to roil. If they wait long enough, Chilmarkers’ problem could be solved as they watch the parking lot and neighborhood go off to Aquinnah.
The way I understand it, Edgartown has a decades-long standoff with the Hall family over what used to be the Bickerton & Ripley bookstore at the corner of Main and Summer streets. Known as the Yellow House (it’s only that color on Summer street), the place stands vacant and shabby. The owners want to remove a linden tree on the Main street side as an introductory offer to refurbishing. A superior court judge stopped the proposed tree removal. Meanwhile, the town is considering buying the property or taking it by eminent domain. If the decision-making process keeps at this steady pace, in time only that tree may be left standing.
And speaking of the Hall family, this brings us to Oak Bluffs. Here stand — and I use the term loosely — two other examples of the Halls of Shame, two dead movie theatres. These community zombies, the Island and the Strand (or should I say Sand, since the T and the R evaporated into the sands of history long ago), pose at least two threats, thanks to their state of decrepitude: either they will initiate the return of the black plague or injury lawsuits brought on by fallen debris. At the moment they appear to be homes for raccoons and motorbikes. Isn’t there an anti-blight statute in this state?
And speaking of dead movie theatres, let’s now turn to Vineyard Haven. The movie-less Capawock is not the major issue here. What folks talk about is the little market that wants to be bigger. While the debate rages as to what size Stop & Shop should be and whether it should just swap places with the Vineyard Haven Post Office, isn’t there a bigger concern for that market’s location on the aptly named Water street? Are we really discussing expanding a building in a flood zone? In 50 years Stop & Shop’s customers will be rowing in and out of that store. Shouldn’t we be concerned with preparing for the rising sea level to avoid becoming another Atlantis? Someday we may all wash ashore somewhere else.
Finally, as I understand it, West Tisbury has a small contingent wanting to rekindle a relationship it had for 210 years and then broke off for 133 years. They want to rejoin Tisbury and become one town again. This petition drive apparently started with folks residing or doing business in Lambert’s Cove or at the airport who keep listing themselves with every mapping service as being in Vineyard Haven.
At least that’s the way I understand it. But then again, I’ve only been here three years.
Arnie Reisman and his wife, Paula Lyons, regularly appear on the weekly NPR comedy quiz show, Says You! He also writes for the Huffington Post.