Registering Voters

Yesterday — a perfect sunny, almost summery Saturday the likes of which we’ve seen few of in recent weeks — I spent six hours at the West Tisbury library sitting behind a “register to vote” table.

This was part of Cape & Islands Vote 2018, a nonpartisan voter-registration effort hatched by members of Lower Cape Indivisible and focused on local libraries. Some 25 libraries participated, including all six on Martha’s Vineyard. On the Cape this was a three-day event, Thursday through Saturday, June 14–16. We Vineyard organizers decided to focus our attention on Saturday, June 16. I was the point person for West Tisbury.

We didn’t register any new voters in my town, but we did give out plenty of information about how to register online, how to apply for an absentee ballot, and the date of the Massachusetts primary: September 4, the day after Labor Day. We also checked some voters’ registrations online to be sure they were accurate and current.

One woman alluded to the recent Supreme Court decision that upheld Ohio’s voter-purge law: If you don’t vote in two consecutive federal elections then fail to return a snail-mail postcard confirming that you still live in the same place, you can be purged from the rolls. Massachusetts is not likely to contemplate doing any such thing, but she’s right: wherever you live, checking to be sure your registration is active and correct is a good idea.

Plenty of library patrons, and the library staff as well, commended us for doing what we were doing. I didn’t feel especially virtuous — spending six hours in the bright, spacious lobby of the West Tisbury library on a sunny Saturday is no hardship — but I do believe that it’s good to make the issue visible in a face-to-face way. Besides, I learned plenty about the voting rules and regs in my state. F’rinstance . . .

  • 16- and 17-year-olds can pre-register to vote. Their town clerks will notify them and add them to the rolls when they turn 18.
  • Massachusetts voters can register or check their registration online on the secretary of state’s website.
  • Voters in any state that offers online registration (about two-thirds of them do) can

    QR code for

    register online via You can also sign up for an absentee ballot, and to receive notifications of upcoming elections. The ultra-complete registration kits each library point person received from the Cape & Islands Vote 2018 organizers included a supply of cards that on one side had 2018 election dates and registration deadlines and the secretary of state’s URL, and on the other a QR code that when scanned with a smartphone will take you straight to (Being smartphone-free and smartphone-illiterate, I learned that a QR-reading app is necessary to do this.)

  • Early voting for the general election starts on October 22. 

Hands-down the most challenging aspect of participating in Cape & Islands Vote 2018 was the nonpartisan part. Not wearing or displaying partisan paraphernalia was easy, despite my growing number of candidates’ buttons, stickers, and handouts and T-shirts directly inspired by the current administration. But the injunction was to not discuss politics at all, even when someone else initiated the conversation. This proved impossible, though we didn’t do it when anyone we didn’t know was within earshot.

Am I surprised? I am not. I’m willing to bet that 100% of the library patrons who commended us for setting up at the library were doing so not primarily out of an abstract belief that voting is a good thing but because voting is particularly important in 2018 because democracy, the rule of law, civil rights, the environment, and everything else is under attack by the current administration and the Republican Party. For sure that’s why I participated, and why I’ve been more involved in electoral politics since 2016 than at any time of my life since 1976, when I volunteered for the (successful) campaign to pass the Massachusetts Equal Rights Amendment.

As I blogged in November 2012, I still believe that compulsory voting is a very bad idea. You will not catch me uttering platitudes like “If you don’t vote, you can’t complain.” Becoming more engaged in electoral politics has not changed my views on this. In fact, it’s made me more aware of how ingenious and persistent the Republicans have been in trying to suppress the vote of people who don’t support them and to rig elections in their favor, for instance, by gerrymandering and by closing polling places in areas that consistently vote Democratic, so that voters have to travel farther and/or wait in longer lines to vote.

Across the country, plenty of citizens don’t see their elected representatives except at election time, and they may not hear much about what those elected officials are up to. I’m lucky: my state rep and state senator are very accessible, and not just to those who, like me, worked on and/or donated to their campaigns. One of my U.S. senators, Elizabeth Warren, hosted a SRO town hall last summer; the other, Ed Markey, is doing one later this month (June 24, 4–5:30 p.m. at the M.V. Hebrew Center — be there!).

Without such accessibility and engagement, it’s not hard to understand why so many U.S. citizens think that “government” is something happening on another planet and that there’s zero connection between casting a vote and even being heard, let alone making a difference.

The upside of the 2016 presidential campaign and election, and all the horrors that have happened since, is that many, many of us realize that the country is in a very dangerous place, and — more important — we didn’t get there overnight. Great work is being done on several fronts to make voting easier and more meaningful. The National Democratic Redistricting Committee, led by former attorney general Eric Holder, is fighting to undo the outrageous gerrymandering that has favored Republican candidates. I Vote for America is promoting Democratic candidates for secretary of state (the official generally in charge of all things electoral) in states where the GOP incumbent has worked to suppress access to the ballot.

Many organizations, like Swing Left, Indivisible, Emerge, and Run for Something, have been encouraging, training, and/or supporting Democratic candidates at various levels — and the hugely increased number of Democratic candidates, especially Democratic women candidates, is one of 2018’s big news stories. Others, like my personal fave, Postcards To Voters, focus on getting out the Democratic vote for good candidates.

I don’t want to make voting compulsory. I don’t guilt-trip anyone who doesn’t vote. But I am doing my bit to make voting more meaningful, so that more non-voters will want to vote because they really do believe that, as I keep writing on my postcards, “Your vote is your voice.” And sure, if I’m volunteering to register voters, I’ll register all comers, even those who show up wearing a MAGA cap. But I’m not kidding myself that this is a nonpartisan issue — not as long as one party is fighting hard to restrict access to the ballot while the other is fighting hard to expand it.

Volunteer Susan Phelps (right) and me at the voter registration table, West Tisbury library, June 16, 2018.

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Democratic State Convention 2018

Right up to almost the last minute I was thinking of skipping the 2018 Massachusetts State Democratic Convention. Last year’s convention, my first, was eye-opening in all the wrong ways. You can read all about it, and about how I finally, after several decades of voting Democratic, finally registered as a Dem and got involved in Democratic Party activities.

My newest postcard, for Eileen Higgins, running for county commission in Miami-Dade County, Florida.

This year’s was bound to be better. The 2017 convention was devoted to wrangling about platform planks, a largely symbolic exercise made worse by the enthusiastically ignorant “Our Revolutionaries” and the ineptitude of the MassDems. The 2018 had a clear and non-symbolic purpose: to endorse Democratic candidates for the 2018 midterms. I was a delegate, I had strong feelings about the contests for governor and secretary of state — I collected nomination signatures for Jay Gonzalez and Josh Zakim, respectively — and I’ve written so many postcards to voters in distant states, telling them that “Your vote is your voice,” that the message seems to be sinking in.

The Vineyard contingent at the Mass. Indivisible conference, November 2017. From left: Lorraine Parish, Holly MacKenzie, me, Margaret Emerson, and Kathy Laskowski. Missing: Carla Cooper.

Probably most important, we’re now a year further into the worst, most destructive administration in U.S. history. By last November, when I attended the statewide Indivisible conference, it was clear that the nastiness of the 2016 campaign had mostly receded into the background, at least among those who have thrown ourselves into the many tasks involved in undoing the damage and getting the country back on course.

Still, when my alarm went off at 4 a.m. Saturday morning, I did, very briefly, consider going back to sleep. But no: Trav and I went for our morning walk as the sun started to come up, and I met my friend who was doing the driving on the 6 a.m. ferry. We made it to Worcester in good time.

The convention had actually begun the previous afternoon, with speeches by the candidates who were uncontested in the primary followed by parties thrown on behalf of various candidates and causes. The unopposed candidates included Attorney General Maura Healey and U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren, both of whom are kick-ass speakers, but the hassle and expense of staying overnight in Worcester wasn’t worth it.

Delegates are seated by state senate district, and this year the Cape & Islands district (represented on Beacon Hill by State Senator Julian Cyr) had some of the best seats in the huge DCU Center: in the very front of the floor at house right. Within the section, we were seated by town. Fortunately the six Vineyard towns were seated together; last year we were split up plus there weren’t enough seats, so trying to keep together was difficult.

After all the welcomes and a good speech by U.S. Senator Ed Markey (who isn’t up for re-election this year), the real work of the convention began: first the nominees for governor, then for lieutenant governor, then secretary of state. For each one, a couple of short introductions and a video presentation preceded the candidate’s own speech.

Jay Gonzalez, candidate for governor, speaks. The photo is of the screen at the front of the hall, hence the distortion in the image.

For governor, both Jay Gonzalez (my guy) and Bob Massie gave very good speeches, refreshingly non-acrimonious and focused in the importance of Massachusetts again taking the lead on key issues, as it has in the past but hasn’t under the current Republican governor.

Going into the convention, I was undecided about the lieutenant governor’s race. Both Quentin Palfrey and Jimmy Tingle were solid candidates. Tingle is better known as a comedian than a politician, and he’s one of the few stand-up comics I’ve ever liked listening to, mainly because he’s a lot more than a stand-up comic.

Jimmy Tingle, candidate for lieutenant governor. Photo is of his image on the big screen.

That gave me pause: I wondered why such a talented performer would be interested in the lieutenant governor’s job. Not to mention — since the 2016 campaign I’ve been more suspicious of flash and charisma than ever.

But Tingle won me over. His video persuaded me that he was serious about the job (in 2010 he got his master’s in public administration from Harvard), and his speech might have been the most powerful of the convention.

The speeches by the secretary of state candidates were far more combative than those for the other two offices. No surprise there: When a candidate takes on a 20-year incumbent in the primary, dissatisfaction with the status quo is generally a large part of it. Incumbent Bill Galvin’s delivery was, considering his long experience, surprisingly awkward, as if perhaps he wasn’t accustomed to having to defend his record.

Josh Zakim, candidate for secretary of state. Photo is of his image on the big screen.

Challenger Josh Zakim, in contrast, was fired up and very clear about what Massachusetts wasn’t doing well enough in administering elections (a big part of the secretary of state’s job) and what he would do differently. This is why I joined his camp the first time I heard him speak this past winter.

Then came the voting. We voted the way we were seated, by state senate district. The tellers called us up by town, starting with Aquinnah and proceeding alphabetically to Yarmouth. Since West Tisbury, my town, comes near the very end of the line, there was plenty of time to kibitz before my turn came to line up. One at a time each delegate gave his or her choices for all three contested offices. Tellers recorded the votes both electronically and on paper. “Jay Gonzalez . . . Jimmy Tingle . . . Josh Zakim,” I said. As it turned out, this was how the Cape & Islands delegation went.

It took a while to tally the results from all 40 state senate districts because one district (which was not publicly embarrassedidentified) had had a snafu with the electronic voting so the paper numbers from each city and town had to be counted and verified manually.

Jay Gonzalez decisively defeated Bob Massie for the convention’s endorsement, 70% to 30%. Quentin Palfrey beat Jimmy Tingle less decisively (IIRC Palfrey had 59% of the delegates’ votes), but the huge upset was that Josh Zakim won the convention’s endorsement over incumbent Bill Galvin, 55%–45%. A strong showing would have made Zakim’s point that a more activist, progressive secretary of state is called for, but he won. This may have taken him and his team by surprise, but needless to say everyone was euphoric.

The unendorsed candidates will still be on the September 4 primary ballot: anyone who gets at least 15% of the convention votes qualifies. (I really hope Massie will withdraw. We really need to pull together to defeat Baker, and if there’s an expensive and/or acrimonious primary campaign, that leaves only two months to gear up for the general election on November 6.)

More photos from the convention:

Looking rearward from the Cape & Islands delegation. Paulo de Oliveira, Dukes County register of deeds, on the right; and behind him Edgartown town committee chair Diane Drake.

Edgartown delegate Carla Cooper and me in our convention regalia. Her T-shirt says S.W.A.T. Smart Women Against Trump. Mine should be self-explanatory.


seating arrangements, candidate speeches, voting. Results.

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May License Plate Report

I’d say that in the license plate game, May was six times better than April, but I learned in math class that anything multiplied by zero is zero so instead I’ll just note that May’s haul was much better than April’s.

In order: Missouri, Iowa, D.C., Alabama, Minnesota, and Arkansas. D.C. I’d almost certainly seen earlier in the year, but I keep forgetting to write it down. Missouri, Iowa, Alabama, and Minnesota were all spotted in the M.V. Hospital parking lot, at different times.

MVH is a consistently good source of out-of-state license plates, including the more exotic ones — that’s where I found Hawaii last year — so every once in a while I drive through to check things out. A couple of times I’ve parked the car and taken a walk around. The parking area circles the hospital and includes several sub-lots that are easier, and probably safer, to explore on foot.

Another reliable source is Ocean Park on Oak Bluffs, and Circuit Ave. is good too. Arkansas, however, revealed itself as I drove up Skiff Ave. in Vineyard Haven and prepared to make a left turn into the Edgartown Road. There it was, parked across the street. It pays to keep your eyes open everywhere.

Last Thursday I had successful cataract surgery on my workhorse eye, the left, which had been growing more and more nearsighted over the last year and a half. I’ve already noticed that passing license plates are sharper and easier to read on the fly. This is a big plus, because some states have multiple variations — Florida is probably the worst, because often when I think I’ve spotted a new state, it turns out to be another goddamn Florida. And other states have similar configurations and/or color combinations, so you have to be able to read the fine print. With the cataract this was getting progressively more difficult.

I won’t even go into the license-plate holders that obscure most of the state name. To identify these for sure you have to be on foot and the vehicle has to be parked so you can pick up clues, e.g., the bottom line of the plate holder or something identifying the place of purchase.

So on to June! Washington state is overdue, and Wisconsin and Michigan are too. A friend spotted Montana a few days ago, so I’ve got my hopes up on that one.

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Planting 2018

I’ve blogged it a dozen times if I’ve blogged it once: I am not a gardener. (The record says I’ve blogged it more than once. For starters see “My Dinghy Garden” from 2011 and “Down in the Dinghy” from 2012.)

Rosamond, my paternal grandmother, was a spectacular gardener. My mother, Chiquita, was a pretty good gardener but according to her she didn’t have a green thumb so she wasn’t a gardener at all. I managed to avoid gardening even after I moved to Martha’s Vineyard, where everyone and her sister, brother, parents, cousins, and in-laws has a garden. It is actually easy to avoid something that all your friends are doing, especially if you are cussed enough to think you’re a nonconformist.

However, I was seduced by the green side of the force after my neighbor-landlady moved her horticultural efforts from the little dinghy out back to the much larger garden patch near the compost. My specialties from the beginning have been cherry tomatoes and basil. Basil because pesto. Cherry tomatoes because cherry tomatoes halved, drizzled with olive oil, sprinkled with kosher salt, and slow-baked in a low oven (about 200 degrees F) for a couple of hours are one of the world’s great taste sensations. Who knew?

Since I live in a studio apartment where all available flat surfaces are piled high with books, notebooks, folders, and loose papers, starting seeds in early spring is out of the question. I start with seedlings, and I get my seedlings from Vineyard Gardens, the nursery across State Road from the West Tisbury post office and up-island Cronig’s. Every Tuesday, Vineyard Gardens offers a senior (over 62) discount of 20% off everything, so there I was yesterday afternoon, hauling my little wagon around and collecting plants, potting soil, and a packet of basil seeds.

When I got home, of course I had to drop everything and get planting.

I started with the windowbox, which isn’t attached to any window. It’s built into my deck railing, but “deckbox” sounds funny. Over the years I’ve tried different flowers in the windowbox, but in recent years I’ve gone for petunias with some sort of purple in them.

Hardy 2017 coleus

I love the way coleus catches the light, so I always have at least one in a pot on the deck railing. (One or two have survived tumbles from that railing when the wind blows hard enough.) Last fall I brought my two coleus inside. They made it through the winter in pretty good shape. On warmish early spring days I’d put them out to soak up a little sun, then bring them in at night.

One night I forgot to bring one of them in. I’d set it on the railing for some reason, and when I came home after dark I didn’t notice it. That was an ice disk night so the poor coleus got frosted. It never recovered. Its surviving sister is now outside 24/7 and much prefers direct sunlight to what comes through my west-facing window. Yeah, it looks rather leggy and probably would have benefited from pruning at some point, but since I’m not a gardener I don’t know much about that.

I did bring a new coleus home from Vineyard Gardens yesterday. It’s taken up residence on the deck next to the windowbox. I promise to move it if the wind gets to blowing real hard.

The rest of yesterday’s haul consisted of four cherry tomato seedlings (two Sungold, one Rose de Berne, and one whose name I forget but I think it has “honey” in it), two basil seedlings, a packet of basil seeds, and a two-cubic-foot bag of potting soil. (Two cubic feet of dirt is heavy, by the way, especially when it comes in a floppy bag that’s hard to get purchaase on.)

Cherry tomatoes to come

The seedlings are now duly planted. Two basil seedlings, of course, won’t yield much pesto even if they flourish. This is why three long planters and one medium pot are now sown with basil seeds. The seedlings are mostly harbingers of things to come.

Basil does quite well in containers, I’ve found, though last year wasn’t a great year for basil and the resulting pesto was at best so-so, probably because the proportion of parsley to basil was too high. I think the summer wasn’t consistently hot enough to make the basil happy. Basil likes hot.

Presiding over the dinghy is the grandmother of all chives. I planted it as a seedling in 2011, or maybe 2010, and it’s survived every winter since and come back every spring greener and more tenacious than ever. I’ve tried to thin it out by pulling out strands of it, but no dice: the dirt has firm hold of its roots. It’s still usable, but no way do I need that much chive, and it’s taking up room in the garden that could be devoted to other things — like basil. Maybe this will be the year I dig it up, or maybe not.

If Medusa decided to give up snakes, she could come back with my chives for hair.

Chives gone wild


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Positively Pro Postcards

Back in early February I blogged about writing postcards to Democratic voters. At that point, I was writing for my seventh campaign, for Conor Lamb, running for Congress in Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District. This was, by my count, the 54th undertaken by the volunteer-fueled organization Postcards To Voters. Conor made a big splash when he won the March 13 special election in a district that was handily carried by Trump in 2016.

I’m still at it, and so is Postcards To Voters (PTV). I just finished writing for my 21st campaign. PTV is on its 88th. There are now more than 20,000 volunteers writing postcards from every state in the union, and with election season moving into high gear, more are needed! The more volunteers there are, the more campaigns PTV can take on. Here are several ways to sign up:

  • Use the form on the PTV website.
  • Send an email to
  • Text HELLO to Abby the Address Bot at 1-484-ASK-ABBY (1-484-275-2229)

As a new writer, you’ll be sent complete instructions and asked to write a sample postcard. Once that’s approved, you can get addresses for any active campaign by texting Abby the Address Bot or (if you’re on Facebook) friending Abby and private-messaging her for addresses.

Volunteers donate postage and postcards (and/or the material to make postcards) as well as our time, but Postcards To Voters welcomes donations of money to keep running and to help grow the volunteer ranks so we can write for more campaigns between now and November. You can donate via PayPal or the old-fashioned way, by check; I just used my credit card to make a modest monthly donation. Here’s how to do it.

So why am I (still) so excited about Postcards To Voters?

  • For each campaign I participate in, I learn something about the district. So far I’ve written for candidates in Alabama, Iowa, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Missouri, Oklahoma, Illinois, Tennessee, New Mexico, New York, Massachusetts (Emily Antul for Chelmsford board of selectmen — she won!), Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Nebraska, Georgia, Mississippi, and California.
  • I’m awed by the caliber of the candidates. The statistics alone are impressive, of how many Democrats, especially women, have taken up the challenge of running for public office. Learning about some of the individual candidates adds depth to the statistics. They’re a pretty amazing bunch.
  • I never realized how many special and local elections take place around the country between one November and the next.
  • I’m now paying more attention to state legislative and other “down-ballot” races than I was before.
  • The postcards are positive. After consulting with each campaign, PTV sends out instructions to volunteer writers. Typically these include three “must-haves” for each card, which include the candidate’s name and office, the fact that s/he’s a Democrat, the date of the election, and a key talking point. They also include a longer list of optional points, from which each writer can devise a personalized message. The message and address are always handwritten, and the focus is always on each candidate’s experience and what they want to do in office.
  • Postcard parties are fun, and a great way to get new people engaged in writing postcards.
  • Every Tuesday is election day somewhere. PTV writers and friends get together in the Postcards To Writers Facebook group to hear the results for the candidates we wrote for and for Democrats running in other races across the country. We also share images of the postcards we wrote. This is a positive, upbeat, and creative group — a great antidote to the pervasive gloom-and-doomery of the national news.

Many PTV candidates win, sometimes in races that receive national attention, like Doug Jones in Alabama, Patty Schachtner for Wisconsin state senate, Conor Lamb in Pennsylvania, Rebecca Dallet for the Wisconsin supreme court, and Helen Tai for Pennsylvania state representative. Those who lose often have done better than any Democrat in their districts in years, even decades; in some cases, no Democrat has even run recently.

Here are some of my recent cards. At first I personalized them for each race, but some people thought they looked too professional, as if they might have come from the campaign itself (which is never the case), so I started making them generic. So far I’ve managed to devise a different one for each campaign, using templates and my own messages, but with more and more campaigns to write for, I’m thinking of having a bunch of my favorites printed up instead of printing them on my sometimes finicky inkjet.

For Emily Antul, board of selectmen, Chelmsford, MA

For Javier Fernandez, FL state representative. This is one of my faves so far.

For Helen “Give ’em Helen!” Tai, PA state represenative. This is my #1 favorite card so far.

For Machaela Cavanaugh, NE state legislature

For Geneviéve Jones-Wright, San Diego County district attorney, CA. The election’s coming up!

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New Station on the African-American Heritage Trail

NOTE: I sing in the M.V. Spirituals Choir, part of the U.S. Slave Song Project, and also manage its website. This post is a reprint of one I posted there yesterday. If you’re on the Vineyard and like to sing, join us! We rehearse from 6 to 7 p.m. every Wednesday at the Windemere recreation room. Singing these songs and learning their history is an ongoing inspiration.

The Spirituals Choir’s presentation schedule generally doesn’t begin till mid-June. Through May, we’re learning the songs we haven’t sung before, getting reacquainted with familiar ones, and coalescing as an ensemble. Our summer members often don’t return till the end of the month.

But when we were invited to sing at the unveiling of the plaque marking the 28th stop on the Martha’s Vineyard African-American Heritage Trail, no way could we turn it down.

Stained-glass windows in the Grace church sanctuary honor the Rev. Absalom Jones (left) and the Rt. Rev. John Burgess.

The 28th stop on the trail is Grace Episcopal Church in Vineyard Haven. Grace Episcopal has demonstrated its commitment to local African-American history in multiple ways. The plaque that has been mounted near the Woodlawn Avenue entrance to the parish hall commemorates the Rev. Absalom Jones (1746–1818), first African American priest ordained in the Episcopal Church; the Rt. Rev. John Melville Burgess (1909–2003), first African-American diocesan bishop in the Episcopal Church; and liturgical artist Allan Rohan Crite (1910–2007), whose mural was installed in Grace’s children’s chapel in the 1950s.

The parish hall was packed with attentive listeners as speakers introduced each of the honorees and the church’s commitment to local African-American history and the struggle for racial justice. Elaine Weintraub, co-founder with Carrie Tankard of the M.V. African-American Heritage Trail, spoke of how the trail began with a promise she made to a young student who asked where the black people were in Vineyard history. Elaine said she didn’t know but she would find out. And she did.

In the mid-1990s it seemed astonishing when the trail dedicated its fourth or fifth plaque. But the research has continued, our knowledge of the Vineyard’s African-American history has broadened and deepened, and now the trail has 28 stations on it. Now in its second edition, Elaine’s book Lighting the Trail: The African-American Heritage of Martha’s Vineyard, written with Carrie Tankard and with photographs by Mark Alan Lovewell, covers the first 26 stops on the trail.

Leigh Ann Yuen read from the powerful, inspiring Beatitudes from Slavery to Civil Rights, by Carole Boston Weatherford — published for children, but this adult was deeply moved by it. Singing the slave songs one can’t help but acknowledge the importance of faith and religious imagery to the enslaved and those escaping slavery. This little book makes it real.

After the program, everyone trooped outside to watch the unveiling of the plaque, presided over by Julia Burgess, Bishop Burgess’s daughter, a Vineyard resident. Then everyone trooped back in to hear the Spirituals Choir sing “Rise, Shine, for the Light Is a-Coming,” which celebrates the approach of the Union army during the Civil War; and “Done Made My Vow to the Lord,” in which those preparing to escape slavery on the Underground Railroad vowed that they never would turn back but would press on to “see what the end’s gonna be.”

Allan Rohan Crite’s mural in the children’s chapel at Grace church. The banner at the top reads “O ye seas and floods, O ye whales and all that move in the waters, bless ye the Lord, praise him and magnify him forever.” Adapted from the “Benedicite omnia opera.”

Posted in Martha's Vineyard, music, public life | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Rally for Gun Safety

Note: This post first appeared on the new website of the Women’s Committee of We Stand Together / Estamos Todos Juntos (WST/ETJ), which I manage; it has been updated and revised. If you live or spend time on the Vineyard (or even if you don’t!) and want to keep informed about events and activities of particular interest to women, please stop by and follow it (aka “subscribe”).

Before Friday morning was out, news arrived of yet another school shooting, this one at the Santa Fe, Texas, high school. Eight students and two teachers were killed and ten others wounded, including a school resource officer who at last report was in critical but stable condition.

Once again the shooter was a white man: 17-year-old student Dimitrios Pagourtzis surrendered to law enforcement at the scene and has confessed to the crime. And once again a (white) shooter was taken into custody alive, as opposed to the numerous black non-shooters who are shot and killed for carrying cell phones, reaching for their driver’s licenses, etc.

Also in the déjà vu department, it’s been reported that the alleged shooter had a grudge against women, particularly Shana Fisher, a student who had declined to go out with him. She was  one of the dead. Pagourtzis has also reportedly said that he targeted people he didn’t like and spared people he did. One of the dead was Sabika Sheikh, an exchange student from Pakistan. I can’t help wondering if this has any connection to the guy’s posting of neo-Nazi imagery on social media.

News of the latest school shooting spread quickly on social media and via email, and despite the short notice about 15 Vineyarders gathered at Five Corners at 5:30 to mark the event, honor the dead, and call for stronger gun-safety laws. Both the Martha’s Vineyard Times and the Vineyard Gazette covered the event.

Many passing vehicles honked, waved, or called out their support. One fellow, however, driving a late-model pickup that was almost big enough for a tiny house, held up traffic while he vociferously protested the protesters.

By the way, there was a school-related shooting in Illinois on Thursday, fortunately with no fatalities; the only injury was to the gunman, a 19-year-old — you guessed it — white guy. While fleeing the scene, this fellow fired at a pursuing school resource officer, yet the officer managed to bring him down by wounding him. Interesting, no?

Friday night in the Atlanta area, one woman was shot and killed and another wounded near a high school graduation. Reports are still sketchy, and it’s not clear if the shooting had any connection to the graduation.

That’s me near the middle, just to the right of the signpost.


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Laundry Doesn’t Lie

Seems everyone’s mumbling and grumbling and wondering “Where’s spring?” as if chilly weather in mid-May were unusual, alarming even.

Ghost flowers

Every year in early May I’m convinced I missed the shadbush blooming, ghost flowers floating in woods where the oaks are just beginning to bud. I’m convinced they’re supposed to bloom by the end of April.

I noticed the first ones around the 5th. Within a couple of days they were everywhere I looked. They’re still out there, just beginning to fade and fall.

Photographs I’ve taken in past years tell me that May 6–10 is about right. Could be I got the late April idea in my head when I was living on the Vineyard Haven side of the West Tisbury line. Spring — meaning the flowering of forsythia and daffodils and the sudden brightening of the winter landscape — arrives earlier in Vineyard Haven than it does in West Tisbury, and it arrived earlier in West Tisbury center than it did on my road, but it is arriving.

Last year, in “Is That You, Spring?,” I blogged “Most of the time it’s been feeling like mid or late April” — on June 2, facrissakes.

This is why I don’t believe myself or anyone else when we swear this is the coldest spring, the snowiest winter, the driest summer ever, or at least in years. Photographs or the written word usually tell me otherwise.

I get why some people don’t believe in climate change. Our year-to-year memories are unreliable, and often influenced by other people’s perceptions. Photographs, or written words, and the patient recording of statistics year after year — these are essential to temper and even contradict our extravagant claims.

Undies on the drying rack. Socks are on the backside, bras somewhere in the middle.

So I track the changing seasons with the clothesline in the back yard. (From November to April I do it with ice disks, but “Ice in August” appears only in my blog.) There’s a two- or three-week lag between the clothes on the line and the actual weather because I do my laundry at the Airport Laundromat whenever I’m about to run out of underwear, and I’ve got an almost three-week supply of that.

The clothes at the bottom of the laundry hamper, in other words, haven’t been worn for up to three weeks. This time of year, that’s where you’ll find the longjohns and sweaters. In late fall it’s T-shirts and shorts.

Note that there were only three pairs of longjohns on last Friday’s line, and no sweaters. One warmish day in mid-April I didn’t put my longjohns on before my jeans. Once I’ve taken this momentous step, the pressure is to leave them off, even when the wind is blowing hard enough to cut through denim.

Turtlenecks share the line with long-sleeve T-shirts, and even three regular Ts. The latter include my two newest: WTFJHT, for What the Fuck Just Happened Today, a daily e-newsletter that I love and do some volunteer copyediting for; and S.W.A.T. / Smart Women Against Trump, a local issue that I acquired by being in the right place at the right time. My T-shirt collection has been out of control for a long time, but there’s always room for another good one.

I could actually use a couple more long-sleeve Ts. They’re perfect for the swing seasons, mid-spring and mid-fall, but they don’t come my way very often.

Laundry line, May 11, 2018

For contrast, here’s the line from April 5. No T-shirts anywhere, long- or short-sleeved. To the trained eye (e.g., mine), the telltale sign is the number of longjohns: only four. I’ve got twice that many, and in midwinter they’re all out there.

Laundry line, April 5, 2018

Trav watches me hang laundry.

And here is the line from February 27 — Travvy’s 10th birthday. He hit double digits and all he got was a trip to the laundromat. While my clothes wash, we take our morning walk around the county airport.

Winter clothes tend to be as drab as the woods, which is why I love seeing that yellow turtleneck flapping on the line. Its cuffs and neck are frayed beyond wearing in polite company, but I don’t spend much time in polite company. Not only does it still keep me warm, it brightens my winter laundry line.

Laundry line, February 27, 2018


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Cows Uncowed

Most mornings Travvy and I walk around part of the big field at Misty Meadows. Owned by the Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation, a conservation group, it’s leased to two Chilmark farms, Mermaid and North Tabor. From time to time, thanks to the wondrous portability of electric fencing, livestock take up residence in some part of the field. We’ve seen goats and we’ve seen sheep, and just now we’re seeing cattle — not for the first time, but it’s been a while.

When we passed by yesterday, most of them were grazing or snoozing.

Then one cow took notice and came over to check us out. Another made ready to follow suit.

Trav does not find cows as fascinating as he does either goats or sheep, possibly because they tend to move slowly and deliberately. He also has a healthy respect for electric fencing, having accidently bumped into it on a narrow path a couple of years ago. The late Rhodry, being a barn dog for more than half his life, had so much respect for electric fencing that he was reluctant to go anywhere near anything string-like lying on the ground.

This one had the most interesting face. If she were a horse, her coloring would be described as “high white” — white above the knees and hocks on an otherwise dark animal — and attributed to the sabino gene. I don’t know how color genetics works in cattle or what the various color patterns are called. (If you do, please clue me in!)

This one was noticeably smaller, her horns less developed, than the others, so I’m guessing she’s a youngster.

These guys were less interested in us than in something off to the right. I’m still not sure what it was.

By this point, most of the herd was moving in our general direction. They seemed to have no interest in testing the fence, though I did wonder if they might inadvertently lean too hard on it. Clearly Trav and I were a distraction from grazing and snoozing, so we went on our way.

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Not Stranded

For days I’d been planning to head off-island this past Sunday afternoon for State Rep. Dylan Fernandes’s 2018 campaign kickoff in Woods Hole. The venue, the Captain Kidd, is an easy walk from the ferry dock, so no big deal, right?

Ordinarily the Steamship Authority (SSA) ferries are drop-dead reliable, at least for walk-on passengers. All you have to do is know the schedule, get there on time, pony up $8.50 each way (frequent travelers get a discount by buying 10-ticket books), and, well, walk on.

Lately, however, it’s been harder to take passage across Vineyard Sound for granted. Saturday afternoon the ferry Martha’s Vineyard lost power shortly after leaving Woods Hole. It managed to get back to the slip, but that caused further complications. Due to the ongoing construction of a new Woods Hole terminal, there is only one working slip at Woods Hole. This meant that the Island Home couldn’t leave Vineyard Haven for its 5 o’clock run because there was nowhere to dock on the other side.

People were stranded for up to four hours on one side or the other, and the boats weren’t back on schedule again till Sunday morning.

State Representative Dylan Fernandes speaks; State Senator Julian Cyr (left) listens.

Taking the 1:15 boat to a 2:00–3:30 event and hopping the 3:45 home is not a big deal. Having it turn into an overnight stay would have been a very big deal, not least because my writers’ group meets every Sunday at 7. Also Trav was out on the deck and would be looking for his supper around 5:30.

As it turned out, the trip over and back was uneventful, the kickoff was fun, Travvy got fed (and walked), and I got to my writers’ group on time. As usual, we Vineyarders got extra creds for making it to an off-island event. This time we might actually have deserved some of it. For sure there were a few cracks about where we could spend the night if we got stranded.

Maybe the only thing all Vineyarders have in common is a relationship with the SSA. The ferry docks in Vineyard Haven and Oak Bluffs, and in Woods Hole across the water, are on the psychic map of every one of us. We grumble frequently about the inconveniences, and the more knowledgeable express concern about SSA management’s long-running lack of transparency, but mostly we get along OK.

So the ALL CAPS headline in the March 22 Martha’s Vineyard Times was startling:


The two front-page stories above the fold — “Martha’s Vineyard out of service” and “Passengers stranded for five hours” — were devoted to the tribulations of the ferry Martha’s Vineyard, the same one that screwed up Saturday, some six weeks later. Below the fold the front page chronicled the mishaps of the Woods Hole: “Ferry runs aground, bounces in and out of service.”

At the time, the third full-size ferry in the fleet, the Island Home, was out of service for scheduled routine maintenance. The freight boats are much smaller. Their main purpose is to carry, you guessed it, big trucks back and forth across the sound. Of course they carry passenger vehicles as well, and a few walk-on passengers, but they’re meant to supplement the scheduled ferries, not substitute for them. So a fast ferry (which doesn’t carry cars) was pressed into service to transport passengers to and from the island.

To put it mildly, it was a mess. And it went on, and on, and on. As another M.V. Times story put it: “14 days of chaos — and counting.”

March was a trying month weatherwise. Plenty of ferry runs were cancelled thanks to high winds from our several nor’easters: the one that rolled in as families were returning from school vacation was especially disruptive. Weather-related cancellations we generally take in stride, though a few will second-guess the SSA, the Coast Guard, and the weather reports and insist that such-and-such boat should have run.

These ongoing mechanical problems are something else again. If gale-force winds had been blowing on Sunday, that would have affected my calculations: If I manage to get there, will I be able to get back? But these breakdowns and run-agrounds come out of nowhere. It’s disorienting.

For many, it’s worse than disorienting. Plenty of off-islanders are employed on the Vineyard, and quite a few Vineyarders commute regularly to work elsewhere. Tourism isn’t a huge deal in March, but when the snafus happen in May, everyone with a connection to the summer economy — in other words, most working Vineyarders — gets nervous.

My connection to the summer economy these days is minimal: As I blogged in “O is for Online” last month, I do most of my traveling in the virtual world. Clients send me work electronically and I return completed jobs the same way. So I was a little surprised by how very many people I know have been caught up in one or more of these mishaps, going to or from work, coming back from or going on vacation, heading off for medical appointments, etc.

The mid-March mess affected the dozens of Vineyard high school students who were traveling to D.C. for March for Our Lives, to demand more effective gun control. The two buses they’d chartered would be waiting on the other side, and the schedule didn’t leave much wiggle room. We all held our breath and crossed our fingers. (They made it, some having taken earlier-than-necessary ferries to make sure they got to Woods Hole.)

The Woods Hole, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket Steamship Authority is a quasi-public agency, but its lack of transparency has been an issue for at least as long as I’ve lived here. It’s very much subject to the political winds blowing on Beacon Hill, and though residents of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket are the most affected by its operations (or non-operations), we’ve had very little clout at the state level.

The short version is that in this intensely political year, we’ve got another battle to make our voices heard, and I’m glad we’ve got legislators who’ll help us do it.

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