“Summer People, Some are Not.” I think this may have been the title of a book, but I recall it from the enameled surface of the ashtray that sat atop Grammy’s bedside table. Grammy liked to smoke, and she liked her summer people. She was gracious to most everyone, but as her ashtray alluded, there were tipping points to the delicate balance of friendships. Maybe particularly the summer ones.

And here, where the season is so short, summer friendships take on an even more urgent quality than those locations with more leisurely time frames. My summers here as a youth were even shorter than The Season, or even The July or The August. I was fortunate if we had two weeks at the Playhouse, so what few friends I made were of a similar ilk: visitors more than stayers. The Summer Kids had, by my arrival, already established bonds over s’mores and/or sailing adventures. There was very little room in their world for the casual comers and goers. And I witness the same here now with both young and old. There are those that set up camp at Chappy or Edgartown, who the send the wife (typically) down with the kids, and settle in to clubs and activities. They pick up, with ease, where they left off the season before. Plans have been made, dates set via e-mail, text and phone (“James and Timothy will be in the morning tennis lesson — do hope Janelle can do the same. Rum on the porch?!”). But the less fortunate, the one or two-weekers, play the catch-as-catch-can game. Out of the loop, they look toward their compatriots, the other disenfranchised, out-of-the-club folk to hang out with ... be friends with.

And then there are those of us who live here. We are the visited. The anchors. For us, it’s all a flow of come and go. Tide comes in, tide goes out. Some friends we are sad to see go (the lost flip-flop on the outgoing tide), while others get the two handed good-bye (part wave, part shove). Of course, there’s a common thread to these relationships of summer: Need. The ratio of need-to-want is the critical element in the success or failure of friendships. It is great to be needed, true, but not too much. And it is wonderful to want, but one must not display want to openly. There are friends who are there when you need them, and friends who are there when they need you. Summer friends may fall more heavily into the latter category.

The epitome of the summer visitor may be our President. Politics aside, the President doesn’t do a whole lot for us in relation to what we do for him. But he is the President. And as such, it’s really cool that he chooses to visit us. We’re the chosen few. And we can brag about our houseguest to others, but when it’s all over, we’re not all that sad to see him go.

Which reminds me of the words of one of our resident great poets, Elton John (he recently took up residence with Lady Gaga and Jimmy Hoffa on North Neck). “Don’t wish it away, don’t think of it as forever” (actually, though Elton spoke/sang these words, the sentiment originated with Bernie Taupin, Elton’s lyricist. Credit where credit is due. Viva la Bernie!). What do these lyrics mean? Who knows? Probably not even Bernie. If he’s like me, he wrote stuff just obtuse enough for readers to believe in its meaning. But to me, as it applies to Chappy, it’s summer, it’s friends — it means: The season doesn’t last forever. For all its difficulties and irritants, it will soon be past, and in its wake the memories of a unique place in time.

Back to Grammy. There are folks here, summering now on Chappy, old folks, who would consider themselves to be the old hands of Chappy. But before them, and here to greet them when they first came, was Mary Marshall: Grammy. Without exception, she (and Ruth and Bob Marshall) welcomed the newcomers and ushered them through the quirky halls of Chappy. She showed them the clamming spots, made them their first rum punch, fatted them with artichoke dip (long before it was in vogue). They became her and Ham Kelley’s summer friends — good-timers ready for a party at a moment’s notice.

But then Ham got old, not so old, and died quickly. And then Bob. And Grammy. And Ruth. And the funny thing about old people is that they’re just not as much fun. So those friends that drank their rum, sat on their dock, came by to visit less and less often. Until not at all. In all of their last years, Grammy, Ham, Ruth and Bob had us, their family, and a few dear longtime friends. But no more summer friends. True, some had gone the route of old age, too, but others were still driving their Suburbans about — just not turning in at the Big Camp anymore.

And speaking of dear friends, I am of the opinion that one, by definition, may have only a few dear friends. Every friend is not allowed to be dear. I believe dear to mean: important, precious and few. Not the couple you’ve visited twice in Aspen.

Ultimately, I would be most sad to lose Chappy as a friend. Everyone likes to think of their community as being special — or at least perceived that way by its visitors. But in my experience, communities differ little from location to location. Whether it be the Upper West Side New York or the Lower East Side Pittsfield (home to Teo’s Hotdogs) or all of Chappy — we’re all just one big Cheers, a place where everybody knows your name. Not a whole lot more, not a whole lot less. But Chappy, the place, is special. To me. And others. Those that have made friends with her/him stay friends forever. That is not to say that either Chappy or we always have time for each other, always cherish each other’s company — but few friends do. There are the days where Chappy is displaying its glorious colors that I say, “Yes, yes. Beautiful sunset. Orange. Red. Got it. See it. Well done. Gotta go.” And there are days when I’m marveling at the way Chappy’s field of clover is luxuriating in its photosynthesisetic glory, that a bee is saying, “All well and good, but you’re stepping on my nectar. I will now sting you.” So we may not always get along, Chappy and I — there are days when the sea is not majestic at all but supremely annoying. And there are days when my travels across its sandy soils are nothing but burdensome troddings. But like all dear friends, the good outweighs the bad, and love and respect prevail.

And now back to ashtrays (I can almost hear the collective thought of “Finally!”). I find the smoking of cigarettes to be a despicable and insidious habit. Yes. But I think the ashtray is an unfortunate casualty from its fall from favor. I loved my grandparents’ ashtrays, especially the one with French poodle beside the Eiffel Tower and beneath the words Ooo la la. Now if someone had this painting in their house, they would be roundly mocked. But on an ashtray? Alright! Ashtrays provided a home for all sorts of witticisms and clever graphics that are shelterless now. And the Chappy ashtrays were the best: the accumulation of the whimsy of the wealthy. Pittsfield ashtrays were more likely to be limited to Schlitz or Piels logos that said little more to the casual glance than “drink more beer, smoke more cigarettes.” But a poodle? And the Eiffel Tower? Now there was a smile with every 30 second flick of ash. So engaging was this ashtray that it once went missing, to be found the next morning next to my bed where I had left it after chuckling over it for 20 minutes before sleep (yes, I was that weird). So, goodbye dear friend ashtray, replaced by the unsightly plastic podiums of post-puffing seen outside your local pubs.

In other news: At the Chappy Community Center this week: The film tonight is Man on a Wire, shown at 7:15, free. Sailing classes have ended for this year. Thanks to Katie Clinnin and JJ Phinney for another successful year running the sailing program on our fleet of Sunfish in Cape Pogue Pond. Art classes with Laura Jemison have also finished for the year. Thanks to her and the Old Sculpin Gallery, who sponsored the classes. Tennis classes with Donna DeFrancis will continue through Thursday, August 25. Yoga, tai chi, Pilates, and dance exercise classes continue through next week as well. Mah Jong meets regularly on Mondays from 1 to 3 p.m. and welcomes all level players. The Craft and Farmers’ Market continues on Wednesday from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. The Chappy Book Club will meet on Wednesday, August 24 at 10:15 discuss Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand. Anyone is welcome.

On Saturday, August 27, the Tempest Continuum Ensemble will give a concert at 8 a.m. Admission is by donation. The ensemble is Corrine Byrne, soprano, Matthew Montana, baritone, Anne H. Goldberg, composer, oboist and pianist, and Raphael Lucas, composer and pianist. They will present an evening of music by Ives, Vaughn Williams, Goldberg, Lucas and more.

And Joan Adibi of the Chappy Open Space Committee writes to report: “Nothing would stop the seven intrepid women who hiked the Chappy Open Space Trail to Cove Meadow in the pouring rain on Monday, August 15. Nancy Hugger led the walk over meadows and through woods to see the ponds and nature trail. The hikers, all avid walkers, were enthusiastic about the property. One said, ‘This is the most spectacular addition to the trail system that the Open Space Committee has made.’ To date, $571,000 has been raised toward the three-year goal of one million dollars. This represents what Chappy has pledged toward the Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank purchase.” The Open Space Committee will continue to offer walks and activities for the Cove Meadow Dream. If you’d like to be notified personally, drop them a line be e-mail to or contact any of the committee members. The property is scheduled to be opened to the public on Sept. 8.