Now I know what it feels like to be the Invisible Woman. Last Sunday I thought West Tisbury Congregational Church members were likely, after services, to go to Alley’s General Store for their Sunday Boston Globe or New York Times. It seemed a perfect place on a sunny day to position myself to sell copies of my souvenir Island book, In Every Season: Memories of Martha’s Vineyard.
Clearly I miscalculated.
First, there was the president. I hadn’t realized, until I was all set up with my antique table and kitchen chair and my carton of books, that he was likely to be passing by en route to Farm Neck to play golf. Therefore I didn’t know that camera buffs, Associated Press and Boston Globe reporters and just ordinary sightseeing types would be coming to Alley’s porch hoping to get a glimpse of him driving by.
I had positioned myself on the curb below the porch, pen poised hopefully in hand. But from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m. no one looked at a book, except the AP and Globe reporters and one cyclist who had stopped to rest. Lots of people asked me where the president was, when would he be coming and where would he be going. Although I am a reportorial sort and covered President Clinton on his Vineyard visits, I wasn’t covering President Obama and clearly I had no answers. Wistfully but hopelessly, I kept trying to attract questioners to examine my book.
Finally at about noon, the presidential entourage of four black cars and an ambulance passed by. After that, at least I was able to inform hopeful president-oglers that they had gotten up too late for a glimpse of the Obama parade. That being the case, they set about buying shovels and pails and boogie boards for their children from Alley’s porch, and coffee and sweet corn for themselves from out back, as advertised on the store slate. But save the reporters and the cyclist, no one asked what I was doing there in my bright red wide-brimmed Chinese hat and my bright red Hungarian dirndl. (I had thought that by wearing red I would stand out even among the red, white and blue pails and orange and green beach chairs.)
But my colorful ensemble made no difference when I was vying with President Obama on a summery Vineyard day with pails and boogie boards and hula hoops and the peach smoothies that were on sale on the church lawn. No doubt under the influence of the smooothies, all the church-goers seemed to have forgotten about their Sunday papers. The reporters did ask me what I thought of the president’s visit and its effect on the Island. Like most Vineyarders, I voted for him and am delighted that he can get away from it all (sort of) for a few days on the Island. I did say it was too bad he couldn’t have found a house to stay in in a more remote location so Chilmark-dwellers didn’t have to be re-routed on their way home. But no one looked beyond the cover of my book.
Richard Caruso was the cyclist. He had stopped to rest after biking from East Chop. He helped while away the time by telling tales of his father playing the accordion as a boy in Heilwood, Pa. (It was the Depression and when he asked his mother for an accordion, she said there was barely food for the table. What was he thinking of?) But she did get him an accordion. To make sure he would learn to play it, he shaved his head at age 17 so he would be too embarrassed to go outdoors and would instead stay home and study the instrument. In time, he was giving accordion lessons in the neighborhood and eventually teaching others to teach. And then he was grown up and going into the music store business, first in Queens, N.Y. and then in New London, Conn.
I learned further that today the two Caruso brothers who have inherited their father’s business are selling reconditioned second-hand Yamaha pianos from Japan and pianos, including Steinways, by mail order. Who ever heard of such a thing?
So while I was invisible as an author and mostly useless as a presidential scout, I didn’t totally waste my Sunday morning.
Better luck next week!