August License Plate Report

License plate reports seem to be getting later and later. I aim for the first of the following month, and usually make it within a few days, but not with the July report (August 12), and August’s is even later. September 1 was primary election day in Massachusetts, I worked at the polls in my town from 7 a.m. to noon, and the election went swimmingly from my point of view: I volunteered for Senator Ed Markey in his fight for renomination against challenger Rep. Joe Kennedy, and he won handily 55% to 46.5%.

I could blame this late report on that, combined with a demanding copyediting job that I’m running behind on thanks to various political activities, but that’s not it. It’s late because I’ve been feeling sludgy about writing in general since the Covid-19 shutdowns started in mid-March. Now working on breaking up the sludge and writing regularly again . . .

So back to the report: August was quite a good month in the license plate game. Washington state and Michigan finally showed up, along with Kentucky and Iowa. So the YTD tally stands at 44. Still AWOL are Alaska, Utah, Oklahoma, Mississippi, West Virginia, and both Dakotas. Haven’t seen any of them so far in September, but a third of the month still remains.

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July License Plate Report

The July license plate report is really late. Blame it on the sultry heat, political activities, and (of course) procrastination. Delaware finally showed up, but the encouraging score was Nebraska, one of the hard-to-get stack in the middle of the country. Nebraska is elusive enough that when I thought I spotted it — outside the Methodist parsonage in Oak Bluffs — I went back to check it out. It checked out. As of yesterday, in fact, it’s still there, so if you’re still looking for Nebraska . . .

At this point last year, I was still missing three from that mid-America stack — Nebraska, Kansas, and South Dakota — as well as Alaska, Idaho, and Alabama. So I’m running behind last year’s pace, which isn’t all that surprising given what COVID-19 continues to do both to the Vineyard’s summer season and to the country at large.

Late summer brings doldrums to the license plate game, and fall is even worse, but while at the hospital yesterday for a dental appointment I spotted Iowa and Kentucky. All is not lost!

 

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Who’s a Good Boy?

Tam Lin, aka my Tim-Tam-Tommy-O, was a super good dog yesterday, which also happened to be his 16-month-old day. I told him I was going to blog about how wonderful he was, and he said, more or less, “About time! The last time you blogged about me it was because I ran into your head.”

“Well, you did run into my head, and gave me one helluva shiner,” I retorted, a little guiltily, I must admit.

“Your head was on the ground,” he pointed out.

If you need to win all your arguments, don’t argue with a malamute. Besides, the only remaining trace of our collision last month is a little scar under my left eyebrow, and Tam really was a good dog yesterday.

Tam’s annual checkup was scheduled for yesterday morning. He’s been good on previous vet visits, but COVID-19 has altered my vet’s usual practice: owners can’t come in with their pets. (Her office and surgery are in her home.) Tam has separation anxiety, and as we drove into the little parking area, I was having separation anxiety, like was Tam going to have a meltdown once I was out of sight?

I followed the protocol: don my mask while in the car, leash Tam, take him over to the stair post, hook him to the pink leash tied there, unhook his own leash, and withdraw to at least six feet away. When the vet tech came out, Tam looked over at me, then he went into the building with her. I went back to my car to wait, phone lying on the seat beside me, me hoping that it wouldn’t ring with news that Tam was going nuts.

Tick tick tick

It didn’t. When it rang, it was my vet reporting that Tam had been a good boy but that he’d tested positive for both Lyme and anaplasmosis, another tick-borne disease. This being Martha’s Vineyard, I was not surprised. Treatment is the same for both, so Tam is on doxycycline for the next 30 days. I’m happy to report that the 120 capsules I got from my vet were a lot cheaper than the doxy I got from the pharmacy the last time I needed it for myself. Tam disappears the capsules — two with breakfast, two with supper — along with his food. The peanut butter definitely helps.

Tam’s often waiting at the top of the stairs when I come back from the bathroom.

My writers’ group was scheduled to meet at 2 in the afternoon. In pre-COVID days, we met indoors on Sunday evenings, and Tam often came along. These days we’re meeting outside on Monday afternoons, and since there are hens, ducks, guineas, and occasionally turkeys wandering about, Tam has to stay home. He gets vocal when I’m gone, and when I was working the polls on town election day in June, a summer neighbor called my neighbor-landlady to complain about the howling so I had to go home an hour before my shift ended. Now I do understand that an intermittently howling dog can be annoying, but this particular summer neighbor’s place is the source of almost continual landscaping (etc.) noise when he’s not in residence, and I can’t recall anyone else in the neighborhood setting off fireworks and making whoopee in the middle of the night.

Anyhow, I’ve skipped several events I should have attended in order to avoid antagonizing this neighbor, but I was determined to attend my writers’ group meeting; I’d missed the last two owing to looming deadlines. Usually when I go out I leave Tam in his crate, but this time I decided to let him loose in the apartment. In hot weather he likes to sleep at the foot of the inside stairs, where it’s coolest. I closed the windows and door to block as much sound as possible and left Tam inside with his Kong Wobbler and a peanut butter bone.

I also took my phone with me and asked my neighbor-landlady to call if summer neighbor raised a ruckus. If Tam did whine or howl, it wasn’t enough to bother summer neighbor, and when I got home the apartment was just the way I left it.

All the above is to prove to Tam that I blog about him when he’s good as well as when he collides with my head.

Favorite summer snoozing place

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Frederick Douglass, from 1852 to 2020

So many annual summer events have been cancelled due to COVID-19’s imperative to avoid large crowds. Way back in March I wondered if the annual July 4 reading of Frederick Douglass’s “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?” speech would be a casualty of the pandemic.

Frederick Douglass

Informally dubbed “Speech on the Beach,” the reading takes place at the Inkwell in Oak Bluffs and has been happening for some 16 years. My first participation, in 2014, might have marked the first time in my life that I really celebrated the Fourth of July. I blogged about it in 2014 in “Best 4th of July Ever,” and again in 2018, in “Channeling Frederick Douglass.” A year and a half into the Trump administration, Douglass’s challenge to the country was more relevant than ever, and as for this year, 2020? After three and a half years of Trump, racism is more virulent and more lethal than ever, and it’s crystal-clear that Trump and the Republican Party don’t believe that the country belongs to all the people.

Frederick Douglass’s Fourth of July speech, first given on July 5, 1852, is more crucial than ever, and thanks to visionary sponsor Abigail McGrath, producer Makani Themba, video wizard Michelle Vivian of MVTV, and a cast of dozens, it happened again.

On video. As usual, each participant was assigned a portion of the speech. Not as usual, we had to video ourselves and submit the file to Michelle, who would wrangle all the parts into a cohesive whole. A daunting challenge for sure.

In her introduction to the video, Abby McGrath talks about how true art changes you, and why Douglass’s speech is true art: “After you’ve heard it, your mind opens up, and you see things that you hadn’t seen before.” That’s what happened to me the first time I heard it, the first time I participated in reading it, and every time since that I’ve had the opportunity to read Douglass’s glorious, challenging words.

In her intro, Makani takes us back to July 5, 1852, when Douglass delivered the speech to a mostly white audience in Corinthian Hall, Rochester, New York. She evokes the present, of Black Lives Matter supporters rallying, marching, working for change. Then she ties the two together with Douglass’s own words: “Men talk of the Negro problem. There is no Negro problem. The problem is whether the American people have honesty enough, loyalty enough, honor enough, patriotism enough to live up to their Constitution.”

What he said. The original speech was close to three hours long. This abridgment is less than one hour, including those introductory remarks. I miss the live reading at the Inkwell, but I love seeing the faces of all my sister and brother readers close up and glimpsing the spaces they’re reading in. Now listen. See what you see, hear what you hear.

 

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June License Plate Report

Sorry for delay — I’ve had a bunch of deadlines, one of which is still staring me in the face. Only two new sightings in June, both good ones: Indiana and Idaho. (If the I’s have it, can Iowa be far behind?)

The elusiveness of Washington state is perplexing. Usually the West Coast fills in by the end of February — I mean, hey, the West Coast comprises only three states while the East Coast has fourteen. (Speaking of which, I just noticed Delaware is still AWOL. WTF??)

I’m pretty sure the low license plate count is due to reduced summer traffic rather than my not being out much. In June I attended two Black Lives Matter events, both of which involved time on the road. One of them included a three-mile trek from Vineyard Haven to Oak Bluffs on a Friday afternoon, during which I saw lots of license plates, but nothing I hadn’t seen before.

“Reduced summer traffic” doesn’t mean no summer traffic, however. There are still a lot more people here than there were in May, even though none of the big-crowd events are happening this year.

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Voting in the Age of COVID-19

For the first time in anyone’s memory, and maybe the first time ever, West Tisbury held its annual town meeting (ATM — and yes, cash gets dispensed here, but not the way you non–New Englanders may be thinking!) in another town.

On Tuesday, June 23. Five of the six island towns usually hold their ATMs in April; Aquinnah is always the last, in early May. This year they were all held in June.

West Tisbury annual town meeting, April 9, 2019

COVID-19 has played havoc with town meeting season. Take a look at what West Tisbury’s ATM looked like in 2019: see the problem?

Upwards of 300 voters generally turn out for our annual town meeting, which is held in the West Tisbury School gym. In the age of COVID-19, large indoor gatherings are contraindicated, period, and no way could a quorum be accommodated in that space.

Not to mention, the COVID-19 situation had been developing rapidly since mid-March, when the commonwealth shut down all but essential services and shelter in place became a way of life. When would it be (relatively) OK to hold town meeting? How could it be done (relatively) safely? If you’ve ever been to a Vineyard town meeting, you’ll know that the median age of participating voters is probably over 60.

Town officials were also up against a deadline. Allocating town funds is a major part of every ATM, the current fiscal year ends on June 30, and the town’s FY 2021 budget has to be in place by July 1. The commonwealth’s phase 2, calling for a limited reopening, began on June 8 (which happens to be my birthday), and that’s when Town Meeting Season 2020 began: Chilmark, the second-smallest island town, held its ATM on the basketball court at the Chilmark Community Center.

Outdoors was the way to go, with or without tents. Tisbury and Edgartown held their ATMs on their respective school fields. Both Oak Bluffs and West Tisbury held theirs at the Tabernacle, the centerpiece of the Campground in Oak Bluffs, a week apart. The Tabernacle has a roof but the only wall is the one behind the stage.

A bill was passed by the legislature and signed by the governor allowing towns to reduce their quorums (quora?) to no less than 10% of the usual quorum. West Tisbury’s usual quorum (the number of voters who have to be present for business to be transacted) is 120 — 5% of the electorate. For this ATM it was reduced to 30. The number who actually participated was 115.

Town officials sat masked and socially distanced at the front. From left, selectboard members Kent Healy and Cindy Mitchell; moderator Dan Waters; town counsel Ron Rappaport; and selectboard member Skipper Manter.

Town officials did a great job of arranging the ad hoc venue to accommodate social distancing. The Tabernacle seats people on benches. Every other row was blocked off, and in the rows that remained, a social distance of about six feet was Xed out with tape to indicate where we shouldn’t sit.

Microphones were set up in each aisle, with someone sitting by to wipe down the mic after each speaker. Masks block the transmission of the coronavirus, but they also muffle the spoken word, so when we addressed the moderator, we dropped our masks. (Logging in voters on election day, I noticed that masks — which everyone was wearing — made it harder not only to recognize people you knew but also to distinguish consonants at the beginning of names.)

Socially distanced West Tisbury voters

It took less than two hours — about half the usual time — to deal with the warrant, which had been stripped down to focus on essential financial issues.

For me (and for a few others, as I’ve discovered in conversations since), the highlight of the meeting was  Cindy Mitchell’s reading of the Diversity Statement passed by the selectboard earlier this month.

Our town election was held on Thursday. Town clerk Tara Whiting-Wells and her team did a great job of adapting our usual polling place, the Public Safety Building on State Road, to the demands of the age. Instead of using the side door, we entered through the garage bay, allowing us to see our fire engines up close and personal. Check-in was in the hallway; on the usual check-in table just inside the door of the meeting room were a stack of ballots and a supply of pens. You could bring your own pen but they had to be “any color but red,” because the voting machine seems to be color-blind for red.

The check-out table seen from the entrance door. Voting booths on the right, ballot box just visible by the exit door on the left.

In normal times there are two poll workers each at the check-in and check-out tables, divvying up the alphabetized voting roster between them. This year one person at each table dealt with everybody. (This was also true at town meeting.) People maintained social distance when waiting in line, but — as usual in town elections — the lines were minimal. Two of every three polling booths were blocked off.

About 400 people voted, including absentee and early voters, 15.35% of the 2,605 on the voting rolls at the end of 2019. This is about par for the course for a town election with only one contested race on the ballot, but for statewide and national elections our percentage turnout is generally in the 70s. We could, in other words, do better, both in turnout and in the number of contested races.

Why those green cones were labeled CHAPPY FERRY is anyone’s guess; Tara knows but wasn’t telling. It seems that West Tisbury’s town election, like our town meeting, was a multi-town effort.

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Whacked by a Dog

Going from the sublime to the — well, maybe not ridiculous, but rather somewhat mundane and a little bit gross. WARNING: Grim photos follow. Longtime readers of this blog may recognize that the title of this post harks back to “Whacked by an Owl” from July 8, 2013. That was a better story with less dramatic results.

Friday before last, Tam and I headed out for our usual morning walk. The routine: After reading in bed for half an hour or so (while Tam checks up on me from time to time, and occasionally jumps up on the bed), I get up, throw on my caftan, give Tam his breakfast, then go downstairs to the bathroom to pee and brush my teeth. That done, I come back up, zap the last of yesterday morning’s tea, get dressed, and take a few swallows of hot tea. Then Tam and I head out.

On the way back, I dropped Tam’s leash so he could charge across the backyard, pounce on his soccer ball, and play zoomies to his heart’s content. Tam always wants to do this, but I don’t always let him because his impulse control is a work in progress. This time I did, and just for the hell of it, I ran after him.

My boots. Not hard to see how the loop of one might catch on the hook of the other, unless you remember to tuck the laces in, or fold your sock over them, or tie them off to one side.

Whereupon the loop from one bootlace caught in the hook of the other boot. Down I went. No harm done: I’m here to tell you that landing on grass is much better than landing on asphalt, which I did a few years ago.

However . . .

As I started to get to my feet, Tam slammed into my head. I did not see stars but the impact was major. Force = mass + acceleration. Tam weighs about 80 pounds and was, as they say, bookin’. When I got up, blood was dripping onto my hand. Better check this out, I thought. Tam didn’t get why I didn’t want to play.

I could walk. I could see. I wasn’t dizzy. I knew what day it was and who (unfortunately) the president was.

Ice pack

Back in the apartment, I applied pressure to my eyebrow till the bleeding stopped, which didn’t take long, then wrapped an ice pack in a dishtowel and held it against my eye. “Twenty minutes on, twenty minutes off” I’d been told, which is good, because it’s hard to do much of anything when one hand is holding an ice pack to your eye.

 

 

 

 

Over the next 24 hours the eye grew steadily blacker. Dramatic as it looks, it didn’t hurt exactly, though it felt very puffy — and it did not want to be touched. In the morning I like to splash cold water on my face to wake myself up (even though I’m pretty much awake as soon as I open my eyes). I discovered that it is impossible to do this without hand coming into solid contact with face so I dropped that part of the ritual for the duration.

June 17 (five days later)

June 21 (nine days later)

What’s remarkable is how steadily my body healed itself, with some help from an arnica cream borrowed from my neighbor. The puffiness went down; the blackness receded. Today, June 22, it’s almost back to normal, but the bone under my eyebrow is sensitive to the touch — I guess “bone bruise” is a thing? (Yeah, it is. I just looked it up!)

What’s taking longest to disappear is the bruising along my nasolabial fold, aka laugh line. (I just looked that up too. Nasolabial bruises, it seems, are commonly associated with Botox treatment and facelifts. I hope you can tell from one look at my face that I’ve never had either.) At one point it looked like Harold had drawn my laugh line with his purple crayon.

Once I knew I’d survived in pretty good shape with, most likely, no lasting harm done, I could think about how much worse it could have been. Like what if the retina in my left eye had detached? In 2004 the retina in my right eye did detach — twice. For years the fear that the left might do likewise was never far from my mind. I know that detached retinas rarely result from blows to the head, but it could have happened. (I wrote at some length about that experience, in “My Terrorist Eye: Risk, the Unexpected, and the War on Terror.”)

Concussion could have happened. Brain damage could have happened.

I’ve had a couple of other could-have-been-worse mishaps. In 1999 I was trail-riding with a friend when the mare I was riding stumbled, went down, and flipped over me. I’m not kidding: for an instant I felt like I was inside a washing machine. She then used my right thigh as a launching pad to get up. I still have what looks like a hoof-shaped brand on my thigh. The bruise, which extended from my groin almost to my knee, has long since disappeared.

Then a few years later, on a horse-sitting gig, the ladder I was climbing to the hayloft slipped out from under me and down I went, 10 or 11 feet. My dog, Rhodry, and the client’s dog came over to check me out; there were no humans anywhere within hailing distance. Around that time a carpenter in my town fell about 25 feet, broke his back (or maybe his neck), and was laid up for months.

If you can dwell on how much worse it might have been, it means you’ve survived.

The perps: Tam Lin and my boots

 

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Juneteenth 2020

Crossing the drawbridge from Vineyard Haven into Oak Bluffs

There’ve been Juneteenth celebrations on Martha’s Vineyard before, but Friday’s was by far the biggest and most diverse. We gathered at Veterans Park in Vineyard Haven, then marched — well, “walked” is probably the better word — the three and a half miles to Ocean Park in Oak Bluffs.

The gaps in the line can’t be readily explained by social distancing; more, it’s that we move forward at different speeds, and the participants included small children, smaller kids in strollers, and plenty of grownups who chatted as well as chanted while they walked.

And yes, everybody I saw was wearing a mask or other face covering. (By the way, early reports indicate that the protests that have been taking place across the country since George Floyd was murdered in Minneapolis have not led to a spike in confirmed COVID-19 cases. In all the photos and videos I’ve seen, nearly everyone is wearing a face covering. It may be that face coverings are even more effective at preventing transmission than the experts have thought.)

I made my sign on the back of part of the box my new laptop came in.

The signs were many, varied, and nearly all homemade: Black Lives Matter, Silence = Violence, I Can’t Breathe . . . Cardboard has soared in popularity for signage, perhaps because EduComp and other purveyors of posterboard have been closed since mid-March. A pickup drove by with “8:46” printed on the back window in lavender tape: the time George Floyd was pinned to the ground by Derek Chauvin before he died.

Part of the (sort of) socially distanced crowd listens to speakers at the gazebo.

At Ocean Park we gathered around the iconic gazebo, the crowd augmented by quite a few who’d just got off work or who lived nearby; it was a Friday afternoon, after all. Some of the 10 speakers were more audible than others — the “sound system” was a bullhorn that did a surprisingly good job in the open air. Caroline Hunter and James Jennings know how to project, and Amber Henry had everyone’s attention as she spoke of the death of her brother at police hands 10 years ago. Say his name, she said, and we did, over and over: D.J. Henry, D.J. Henry, D.J. Henry . . .

All the speakers emphasized that protesting is not enough. “What are you going to do?” asked Russ Ashton, and the crowd roared back “Vote!”

And more, especially for the white people for whom police brutality is front and center for perhaps the first time: educate ourselves, listen, learn, speak out.

About Juneteenth: No, the current president isn’t responsible for bringing it to people’s attention. Laura Love’s great song “Saskatchewan” tells the story of how word of the Emancipation Proclamation reached Galveston, Texas, two and a half years after the fact. Why did word take so long to travel from D.C. to Texas? Well, true, the Civil War didn’t end till April 1865, so there’s that, but as the Juneteenth history site notes: “Often told is the story of a messenger who was murdered on his way to Texas with the news of freedom. Another is that the news was deliberately withheld by the enslavers to maintain the labor force on the plantations. And still another is that federal troops actually waited for the slave owners to reap the benefits of one last cotton harvest before going to Texas to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation. All of which, or none of these versions could be true.”

I’ve been told that the “Juneteenth” isn’t simply a conflation of “June” + “nineteenth,” the date that General Granger announced emancipation in Galveston. Instead, the story goes, those who spread the word weren’t sure of the exact date or maybe it got lost in transmission, but everyone knew it was in the middle of June, one of those days that ends with “-teenth.” Hence “Juneteenth.” That could be true or not, but it makes sense to me.

As Laura Love tells it, some newly emancipated Texans did head north, reach Saskatchewan, and establish a community there. Her own grandmother, born in Texas in 1880, eventually headed in that direction but only got as far as Nebraska, which is where Laura grew up.

 

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Standing Up for Black Lives

Even when you think you get it, watching a police officer murder a black man on video is shocking. Even when you think you get it, watching two white men take the law into their own hands and stalk and kill a black man for no good reason is shocking.

Belatedly we learn of the murder in March of Breonna Taylor, when plainclothes Louisville police officers executed a no-knock warrant on her apartment. An NPR story reports: “According to [Taylor’s] family’s lawyers, the subject of the investigation was not Taylor, but a man she had dated previously who had once sent a package to her apartment.”

To make matters worse, if that’s even possible, “the subject of the investigation” was reportedly already in custody elsewhere.

On top of this we see a white woman, one Amy Cooper, attempt to weaponize racist law enforcement against a black man who had the audacity to ask her to obey the law and leash her dog. She joins a long, long line of white women who wrongly accused black men of assault. (This is why I believe any slogan that says “Believe women” should have several big asterisks after it.) Unlike so many of all those black men wrongly accused, Christian Cooper is alive and well. He has accepted the woman’s apology. In an NPR interview, quoted in a CNN story, he said, “Now, should she be defined by that, you know, couple-of-seconds moment? I can’t answer that. I think that’s really up to her and what she does going forward.”

What I ask is why, in that “couple-of-seconds moment,” this woman’s reaction to being asked to leash her dog was to call 911 and accuse Christian Cooper of assaulting her. For decades I’ve been quoting a line from The Boys in the Band: “Guilt turns to hostility.” It explains more otherwise inexplicably hostile behavior than anything else I’ve come across. I’m betting that Amy Cooper knew her dog should have been leashed and, well, guilt turned to a hostility that could easily have turned lethal.

Because, well, racism. And the sort of white privilege that assumes that a white person’s lies will be believed over a black person’s truth.

In How to Be an Antiracist Ibram X. Kendi writes that there are two options: racist and antiracist. This avoids the tedious to the point of infuriating habit many white people have of claiming how and why we aren’t racist. (Read this book if you haven’t already. I’m not kidding.) In the wake of the killing of George Floyd, and the killing of Ahmaud Arbery, and the killing of Breonna Taylor, and so many other killings by law enforcement and by people taking the law into their own hands, many thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands, have marched, rallied, and held vigils around the world to protest the murders of people of color and to demand reforms of police departments and policing practices.

Me and my mask. It applies to a lot more than the spread of COVID-19.

About 450 of those thousands were here on Martha’s Vineyard. A Sunday morning vigil at Waban Park was followed on Monday afternoon by the largest rally I’ve ever seen at Five Corners. All of us wore masks (many of them colorful, and some bearing messages), but social distancing was out of the question: All five of those corners were jammed with people. It was the first time many of us had seen each other in person, as opposed to on Zoom, in going on three months.

It was catalyzed by a high school student, Graysen Kirk, who told the Vineyard Gazette that when she first started organizing the event, “I thought it was just going to be me and my sign.” It turned out to be so much more than that. This is what antiracism looked like on Martha’s Vineyard last Monday.

Maybe my most favorite sign: “We must PLOT, We must PLAN, We must STRATEGIZE, We must ORGANIZE & MOBILIZE.”

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May License Plate Report

May was well on the way to being a complete bust — disappointing, but not unexpected since incoming traffic has been down due to the now-familiar reason and I’ve been on the road even less than usual.

Then I pulled into the area behind Kenny Belain’s Mid-Island Automotive to get Malvina Forester inspected. (Malvina usually gets inspected in March, the month I bought her and brought her home, but serious COVID-19 shutdowns began in March and the Registry of Motor Vehicles gave all of us March and April inspectees an extra 60 days to get current.) What should I spot while the mechanic was checking Malvina out but Kansas.

Of course I had to look more closely, because plenty of the vehicles on Kenny’s back lot haven’t been driveworthy for some time and their plates, if any, may be years out of date. But Kansas was current, the plate mounted on an SUV that looked ready to hit the road at any time.

So we’re up to 36 on the year.

One new sighting seemed pretty pathetic for May, so I went back to previous Mays to see how 2020 stacked up. Turns out I only spotted two in May 2019, but I made two off-island weekend road trips that month, one to Boston for my 50th high school reunion and one to Canandaigua to pick up my now-14-month-old puppy.

The haul in May 2018 was considerably better — six! That’s more like it, I thought, till I went back another year: only two new ones in May 2017 — but that report included this note: “The tally was disappointing till I consulted my maps for previous years. They reminded me that May often isn’t a big month for new spottings. 2016 brought just one (Missouri) and 2015 two (Idaho and Utah).”

Turns out my expectations for May, and my disappointment that they were not met, were not supported by the facts, and since “the facts” were gathered by me personally, it was futile to argue with them. Statistics can be used to mislead, distort, and maybe even lie, but they do come in handy sometimes. We’ll see if I remember this when next May rolls around.

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