It’s been confirmed by study after study: Praecox dementia, which seems to be a fancy term for losing your mind a good twenty or thirty years before you’re scheduled for Social Security, can be brought on super-extra early by trying to earn virtually all your annual income in the two months allotted you in a classic American resort town.
Word on the street, i.e. Circuit avenue, was that many of us were feeling as if we’d been processed through a meat grinder, reconstituted in a thin gruel of cornstarch and formaldehyde, and finally wired with a microchip to stay ambulatory. A little like the Night of The Living Dead zombies, only less attractive.
Among the more common phrases uttered by Oak Bluffs merchants and triple-job wage earners were: “I’m too old to be working this hard,” “I haven’t slept for more than seven hours in 65 days,” and “It’s about time we brought back Dr. Harrison Tucker’s [of 19th century Ocean Park fame] Diaphoretic Compound #59 — I think it had both cocaine and laudanum in it.” (Actually, only one person said that last bit, and it was I.)
But for all the gloom from overwork, there were a few fine moments. Some highlights:
• During that week in August when presidential candidates vied for Vineyard dollars, Dawn Combra came to a halt on a crowd-flurried Circuit avenue around ten o’clock at night, held her cellphone at arm’s distance, and squinted at a text message.
“I’m bummed!” she declared. “At this very moment, Barack Obama is getting ice cream at Mad Martha’s!” It should be noted that Dawn and her husband, Richie, have an ice cream parlor of their own. Note to Hillary on her next visit — sample every last ice cream joint.
• On nights when the Sox had a game and you happened to pass Mister Puggs Mugs, Ernie and his customers had their faces tilted to a high-placed TV screen, and their yells walloped out the screen door. There was a lot to wallop about with Our Team this year. Suggested reading: Esther and Jerry Hicks’s new book, “The Astonishing Power of Emotions.”
• Despite all the weeks of no rain, the grass in Ocean Park was as green and lush as the Emerald City (and all it took was an ultra deluxe sewering system a few feet below the turf.)
• For all the vaunted summer rudeness of a small but ferocious minority of sociopathic tourists, the publishing house Vineyard Stories developed a bumper sticker that expressed our frustration (without the swear words): “On the Vineyard, we don’t do it that way.” You’ll start to see more and more of them on old Island junkers.
• A fun celebrity sighting: A debonair man with a basso, resonating voice discussed jelly bean flavors with Marguerite Cook at her candy store, Good Ship Lollipop. The man looked so familiar, Marguerite simply thought he and she had been in school together until, at his side, his exasperated wife said, “Oh, for godsakes, he’s Morgan Freeman!”
• At Trader Jack’s, the shop with the much-photographed window display of hanging and dragged-and-quartered pirate skeletons, plus a T-shirt inscribed, “It’s All About The Booty,” a grandmotherly tourist ambled inside and asked Erick, Marshall and Inas, “Is this a sex shop?”
• The greatest highlight of all was frequent glimpses of nine-month-old Roger Schilling Jr. He’s the baby with the hazel eyes of his mother, Jennifer, and the dark hair, sans dreadlocks, of his father, Roger. This is a baby whose pre-toothed grin has the elevating powers of a guru’s glance. If on a balmy summer night you happened to sit with Roger and Roger on the stoop outside the Schillings’s shop, C’est La Vie, you would have seen people clustering on the sidewalk and calling out from rolling cars to shower the little cutie with love; he in turn rewards them with his enlightened master smile.
And now, some of the town news for which you’ve all been breathlessly waiting:
The next registration date for the Martha’s Vineyard Figure Skating Club will take place at the arena on Monday, Sept. 24 from 5:30 to 7 p.m. For scholarship information, call 508- 693-0208.
The Oak Bluffs library wants us all to know about its great new acquisition, a new set of encyclopedias that includes a year’s subscription to the Oxford African American Studies Database.
Now that I’m back on the Oak Bluffs beat, I just want to say, didn’t Bettye Baker do a fabulous job covering summer madness on and off the avenue? She’ll be heading back to D.C. next week, but I’m sure she’ll send us updates.
Thanks, Bettye, you’re the best.