Listening Tour #1

Dylan Fernandes, state representative elect from the Barnstable Dukes Nantucket district, ran a campaign that emphasized “transparency, accessibility, and community engagement,” so it’s not surprising that a month before he takes office he was already conducting his first “listening tour” of the district. After Falmouth (December 2) and Nantucket (December 5),  the tour made two stops on the Vineyard yesterday: from 3:00 to 4:30 at the Chilmark library and 5:00 to 6:30 at the Oak Bluffs library.

I had a conflict with the later time so I went to the Chilmark gig. Here’s my report. It’s idiosyncratic and opinionated, as you’ve probably come to expect from this blog, but I hope it’s useful, informative, and maybe even interesting.

From left: Chilmark selectman Warren Doty, West Tisbury selectman Richard Knabel, and Joan Malkin, Chilmark planning board member.

From left: Chilmark selectman Warren Doty, West Tisbury selectman Richard Knabel, and Joan Malkin, Chilmark planning board member.

In his introduction, Warren Doty, one of Chilmark’s three selectmen, noted the importance of having a capable, responsive representative in the state house of representatives. (Our state legislature is officially known as the General Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. It comprises a state senate with 40 members and a house of representatives with 160.) Former representative Eric Turkington played a key role in helping the Chilmark library secure state funding for its renovation and expansion project, completed in 2002, which included the program room in which we were meeting. His successor and Dylan’s predecessor, Tim Madden, was similarly instrumental in securing state money after fire destroyed part of the Menemsha dock in 2010.

At the beginning of his own introductory remarks, Dylan acknowledged that in following the widely respected Turkington and Madden he had “big shoes to fill.” Accessibility is among his top priorities. He plans to hold regular office hours on the Vineyard — at least once a month to start with, and in a coffee shop or comparable location, where constituents may feel more welcome than in a formal office setting.

State rep elect Dylan Fernandes

State rep elect Dylan Fernandes speaks . . .

A digital newsletter is in the works, to include news from the state house and around the district as well as ways for citizens to get involved on particular issues. Noting the importance of “going where the people are,” Dylan also intends to make use of social media.

Population-wise, Barnstable Dukes Nantucket is the same size as other districts, comprising about 40,000 people, but logistically? A representative from one of the geographically larger districts in the western part of the state can travel from one end to the other in about 45 minutes, Dylan noted. If Cuttyhunk is included, it takes two days to cover all of Barnstable Dukes Nantucket. Digital media cross the water a lot faster than boats. Dylan’s campaign made effective use of online communication, and I look forward to seeing this expand to include constituents across the district.

Though he hasn’t officially started work yet, Dylan’s been busy. One particularly important task has been the hiring of staff. My understanding is that ordinarily representatives get one staffer, but that previous reps from our district have also had a part-time legislative liaison on Martha’s Vineyard. This is at the discretion of the house leadership. Dylan said he’d already received résumés from more than 50 qualified individuals.

. . . and listens.

. . . and listens.

Committee assignments are also made by the house leadership. Some committees are specific to one chamber, either the house or the senate; the joint committees include members from both. Noting that freshman legislators generally get one or sometimes two of the assignments they request, Dylan said that his requests included committees dealing with the environment, addiction, and housing — all issues that were top priorities for his campaign.

Most of the meeting was devoted to questions from the audience. I was disappointed that of the 38 people in attendance, at least two-thirds were town or county officials rather than unaffiliated citizens (like me). However, the upside of this is that the questions and comments were well informed by the questioners’ experience and expertise. The session turned out to be a valuable short course in issues of concern to Vineyarders, which is exactly what our state rep elect was looking for. I do wish more of my fellow citizens had been there to hear it.

Some of the questions were regional or statewide, like those dealing with the implementation of marijuana legalization, which passed as a referendum on the November ballot, and with the decommissioning of the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Plymouth, which has been controversial almost since it opened in the early 1970s. (For a short history, see “Pilgrim’s Plight” from the Cape Cod Times.)

Chilmark resident Nan Doty, who recently had jury duty, brought up the poor physical conditions at the county courthouse.

Chilmark resident Nan Doty, who while on jury duty couldn’t help noticing  the poor physical conditions at the county courthouse.

Others were Vineyard-specific, like the physical condition of the county courthouse (which, like the conditions at the county jail, came up in the recent race to replace the retiring county sheriff) and the challenge of getting the state Department of Transportation to deal with a particularly dangerous stretch of road in West Tisbury.

Still others were a bit of both: how statewide regulations and policies play out differently in the Cape & Islands region than they do in the rest of the state. One example was the argument that statewide requirements for Title V septic systems aren’t suitable for Vineyard geological conditions and may be allowing pollution of coastal ponds. Another was that local initiatives to deal with our acute affordable housing crisis may be stymied by statewide real-estate interests.

Disparities exist even within the region: funds earmarked for the “Cape & Islands” tend to stay on the Cape because it has the larger population — but thanks to the challenges of getting around the region, services and programs on the Cape are difficult for Vineyarders and Nantucketers to access.

I was very, very impressed by our new representative’s ability to respond clearly and thoughtfully to all these questions.

Asked about how we can lobby effectively, Dylan emphasized the importance of personal contact. “Legislators are people,” he said. “They’re affected by personal stories.” He sees part of his job as helping constituents reach the right person or agency that can deal with their concerns. As a former staffer in the office of state attorney general Maura Healey, he already knows his way around Beacon Hill, but as a freshman legislator he’ll be expanding his contacts both there and here among his constituents, all in the interest of connecting people who have stories to tell with the people who need to hear them.


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November License Plate Report


I thought about titling this “Nothing to See Here, Folks” but every license-plate-related post in this blog so far has been titled “[MONTH] License Plate Report” and I am nothing if not conservative.

Some of my friends do not believe that I am conservative in any way, but that is probably because they confuse “conservative” with “Republican.” Republican I am not and probably could never have been, not unless I lived in the decades between the Lincoln administration and that of Teddy Roosevelt. Had I lived then, I wouldn’t have been allowed to vote. That being the case, I like to think I would have followed the lead of Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and others, and eventually fallen in with Alice Paul and the National Women’s Party.

But I digress. I conserve, therefore I’m a conservative. I wear things till they fall apart. I hate throwing things out. If I didn’t live in a studio apartment and if I hadn’t moved 12 times in the last 30+ years, I might be drowning in stuff, most especially books. Conservatives are unlikely to throw the baby out with the bathwater. ’Nuff said.

So in the wake of the disastrous, ridiculous, I-hope-not-apocalyptic presidential election (has almost a whole month passed since then? Yikes), I can’t help noticing that last month and every month most of the states still blank on my map are those that voted for Trump. Over the years I’ve surmised that the factors influencing the appearance of a state’s license plate on Martha’s Vineyard include its population, its per-capita income, and its distance from Massachusetts. These factors also seem to correlate with a state’s penchant for voting Republican, especially if one substitutes “distance from either coast” for “distance from Massachusetts.”

Quite a few people on Martha’s Vineyard voted for Trump. I know some of them in person and I know more of them through Facebook. Even more of my Vineyard friends are astonished that anyone on this blue island in a blue state voted for Trump.

If I were more easily astonished, I would be astonished by their astonishment. In the state presidential primary last March, Vineyard Dems (i.e., those voting in the Democratic primary — Massachusetts is an open-primary state) went decisively for Bernie Sanders and Vineyard Republicans went for Trump. As I blogged back then, in “Post-Primary Day,” Sanders supporters and Trump supporters had a few things in common, and the similarities between the two campaigns became more evident in the drive toward the party conventions and beyond.

But I digress again. Back to license plates. It’s dawned on me that if we could get an exchange program going between Martha’s Vineyard and all those Trump-voting states in the nation’s heartland, we all might get to know each other better one-on-one and stop thinking of each other as part of a faceless conglomerate labeled liberal or conservative, Democrat or Republican.

More to the point, if enough of those people from the nation’s heartland brought their cars, I might finally finish a calendar year with all 50 states and the District of Columbia colored in. Maybe I could get the Steamship Authority to offer free passage to anyone from a state I haven’t spotted yet.


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A Liberal Paradox

The other day I overheard a guy I know who most certainly voted for Trump complain that a guy he knows has said he won’t do business with Trump supporters.

Well, I wasn’t about to wade into that one. I can have interesting conversations with this guy I know about a range of subjects, but politics is not one of them. He’s swallowed he Breitbart line wholesale: Hillary Clinton belongs in jail, Barack Obama is the worst president ever, etc., etc. I don’t know where to start, and even if I did, I recognize a closed system when I see one.

It did get me thinking, though. First I thought about the fellow who doesn’t want to do business with Trump supporters. I get it. We’re supposed to be willing to park our values at the door where money is involved. To keep the job we’ll do whatever we have to do, unless we’re lucky or relatively well-off or very, very brave. To obtain a product super-fast and/or super-cheap we’ll overlook the labor practices that make faster and cheaper possible. Among other things, this pretty much forces us to dissociate our values from the choices we make in daily life. We also tend to get really angry with anyone who by word or deed suggests that we could do otherwise.

The Trumpbusters' work is just beginning.

The Trumpbusters’ work is just beginning.

So on one hand I’m with the fellow who doesn’t want to do business with Trump supporters. When the differences between candidates are primarily philosophical or political, it’s possible to “agree to disagree,” as the saying goes. With the presidential election of 2016, such a position is a cop-out. Donald Trump ran a relatively fact-free campaign devoted to exacerbating fears and fomenting racism, xenophobia, and misogyny. He made promises that the Constitution would not let him keep, presumably because he was unaware of what the Constitution said or thought it didn’t apply to him. And he demonstrated over and over and over again his total unsuitability for high office: short attention span, lack of self-control, grudge-holding, ignorance of history, disregard for facts . . .

I’m flabbergasted by anyone who could disregard all of the above and actually cast a vote for the guy. No way am I going to “agree to disagree” with them. Would I say out loud that I’m not willing to do business with them? Probably not. Martha’s Vineyard comprises six small towns, and in small towns it’s generally possible to know a fair amount about the businesses and tradespeople one deals with and to make one’s choices accordingly. I might edge away from doing business with Trump supporters, or with overt racists, sexists, and fundamentalists, but the chances are good that they won’t even notice that I’m taking my business elsewhere, never mind wonder why.

rainbow-flagSo the guy I know who voted for Trump and was indignant that anyone might decline to do business with him as a result noted a contradiction in the other guy’s position: What about the bakeries who refused to bake wedding cakes for same-sex couples and were court-ordered to pay damages as a result? (FYI, here’s info about one case in Colorado and another in Oregon.)

If I wanted to get legalistic here, I might point out that Trump voters are not a protected category, or that it’s not the act of voting for Trump that people object to but the ugly values that vote represents. I could also wonder, as I did when those wedding-cake cases came up, why any same-sex couple would choose to do business with anyone who challenged their right to marry. Maybe they didn’t know? Maybe there were no equally competent alternatives?

For now, however, I choose not to go there. Instead I say, “Yeah, I get the connection between refusing to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple and refusing to do business with Trump supporters. But listen to what you’re saying, will you? Tolerance of those with divergent views is a liberal value. Laws that require that clients and employees be treated equally regardless of race, sex, creed, disability, sexual identity, and all the rest are liberal laws. And you, my friend, just voted for the most blatantly not liberal candidate to come down the presidential pike in my lifetime.”

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We Stand Together

Word spread quickly, via social media, word of mouth, and flyers in the usual places, that Vineyarders would rally at Waban Park, Oak Bluffs, at 3:30 p.m., Saturday, November 19.

That was yesterday. Of course I went, knowing almost nothing about who was organizing it. The knowledge that feeling was returning to our collective limbs was more than enough. I’m ready to get moving again.

flyer-portugueseflyer-english“We Stand Together: In Solidarity, Resistance, and Resolve” was the theme.

The crowd of about 250–300 was as multi-generational as you can get. The youngest participant I met couldn’t have been more than a month or two old. At the other end of the age spectrum were those in their sixties, seventies, and eighties, many veterans of earlier demonstrations and others new to the game. Rose Styron was one of the speakers. She’s around 87.

The signs, multitudinous and all handmade, were among the best I’ve seen anywhere.

The safety pin has come to be a symbol of safety and refuge.

The safety pin has come to be a symbol of safety and refuge.

We marched around the park, showing our signs and meet-and-greeting each other, then gathered to hear several speakers. Most were connected to the school system, particularly the high school, where efforts are already proceeding to reassure and protect those most threatened by the rhetoric of the Trump campaign and the likely policies of the incoming Trump administration. (Gawd, I hate saying that out loud.)

The tone was firmly opposed to that rhetoric and those policies but opposed also to demonizing Trump voters, many of whom felt they had no other choice. With Thanksgiving coming up fast, plenty of family relationships and friendships are likely to be put to the test.

As dark fell, we lit candles, struggling to keep them lit in the strong breeze off Vineyard Sound, and sang a few songs.

rainbow-flagAlong with seeing a bunch of people I knew and even more that I didn’t, the event introduced me to an ongoing organizing effort that meets on Sunday afternoons at the West Tisbury library. There are at least two Facebook groups exploring ways to act in response to the many fault lines exposed by the presidential election campaign: We Stand Together / Estamos Todos Juntos and MV Pantsuit Nation. As of yesterday the groups weren’t well acquainted with each other, but I think that’s going to change.






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Do We Love Our Freedom?

I’ve written before about my ambivalence about Veterans Day. November 11 was the birthday of my uncle Neville, a gentle soul who came home shell-shocked from World War II, so the family story goes, and never really got his feet under him. As college antiwar activist, I struggled with my hatred of war and what it did to people, and my awe of those who managed to survive it with their humanity intact.

T-shirt close-up. Note blue Trumpbusters T at center and "I'm With Her" arrow on the left.

T-shirt close-up. Note blue Trumpbusters T at center and “I’m With Her” arrow on the left.

Last year Veterans Day was so blustery and wet that the parade was cancelled and the ceremony moved indoors. This year was the exact opposite: a crystal-clear and breezy mid-fall day. It was a perfect laundry day, and that is what I did: laundry. Before three in the afternoon, everything had dried on the line and been folded and put away.

The slogan “If you love your freedom, thank a vet” has been a pet peeve of mine for a very long time. When I consider my freedom, I want to thank Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and hundreds of suffragists whose names I’ll never know. I want to thank civil rights activists and labor organizers and the ACLU.

thank-a-vetThis year, though, I’m looking more critically at that slogan. I’m looking harder than usual at the first part: If you love your freedom . . 

Do we? Really? The country just voted in a guy who admires autocrats and whose idea of freedom seems to be the freedom to fleece, stiff, and exploit.

Not my idea of freedom.

It seems many of this guy’s followers celebrate the freedom to insult and push aside people they don’t like, people they disagree with, people in most cases they know very little about. This may not be what they think they’re celebrating, but the evidence was out there before they went to the polls.

Not my idea of freedom either. Not a freedom worth fighting and dying for. I think many of these people will be surprised if they actually get what they voted for. They’ll probably be angry when they don’t get what they think they were voting for.

Everyone’s the hero of their own story, so the saying goes. Trouble is, our stories overlap, and the hero of your story may be the villain in mine, or at least a frustrating obstruction to progress.

Some people seem to think that their freedom trumps (sorry!) everyone else’s, and that when their freedom to say whatever hateful thing pops into their head is impinged, the republic is on the verge of collapse.

Actually, no — your freedom is not being impinged. Someone may be calling you on your foul language or your foul ideas, but this is not impingement, or censorship either. You have the right to say any damn thing, and I have the right to respond to it.

Do we love our freedom? I think freedom makes many of us very uncomfortable. We’d rather be told what to do than have to make up our own minds. Other people exercising their freedom in our vicinity often freaks us out.

What I’m thinking is that if we love our freedom, we’re going to have to think about freedom means, how the freedoms of diverse individuals can coexist and even support each other. Most of all, we’ve got to give freedom some exercise. Otherwise it will wither and die, and the whole U.S. military won’t be able to save it.

Short version: If you love your freedom, use it. Freedom dies for lack of practice. Thank the vets for their service, but your freedom and mine is mostly up to us civilians.


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Dear Vineyarders Who Haven’t Voted Yet

I’ve been trying hard not to give in to apocalyptic rhetoric this election season, but these much-quoted words from Lord of the Rings keep running through my head: “But this, I deem, is our duty. And better so than to perish nonetheless–as we surely shall, if we sit here,–and know as we die that no new age shall be.”

We’re not going into battle, only into the voting booth. Two roads lead out from the other side. One is veiled in mist and fog; we can’t see more than a mile or two forward, but the sun is shining on the other side. The other road leads into a mosquito-infested swamp.

im-with-herI doubt anyone reading this has chosen the latter road, though probably a few are reluctant to set foot on the much more promising one. So I’ll just say “I’m with her” and have been for about a year now, ever since it dawned on me that my intense dislike of Bill Clinton (a) was not entirely rational, and (b) had nothing to do with Hillary Clinton.

A major sign for me is that a new age is already coming into existence is the caliber of the candidates running for local office. This year I’m better informed and have met more of the candidates in person than is usually the case. So here are my picks, along with a couple of hedges. At the end I explain how voting works for the Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC), one of the great mysteries of Vineyard electoral politics.

trav-signDylan Fernandes for state representative. You knew that already, right? Barnstable Dukes Nantucket is the most challenging house district in the state: two islands and a small chunk of the Cape Cod mainland. We have a lot in common, but we don’t know each other very well. Dylan, a Falmouth resident, has connections in all three places and has been expanding them with an inspiring grassroots campaign. His top priorities include the affordable housing crisis, the heroin-opioid epidemic, and the effects of climate change on our sea-level district. He’s accessible to his future constituents and well respected by both local officials and his future colleagues on Beacon Hill. Nuff said.

trav-cyr-2Julian Cyr for state senate. The Cape and Islands state senate district that both islands are in has four times the population of our house district. Having grown up in Truro, on the Lower (Outer) Cape, Julian knows the district well, and having been a deputy director of the state Department of Public Health, he also knows Beacon Hill. In addition to his public health background, he’s demonstrated his commitment to environmental protection, affordable housing, and equity and fairness for all.

Paulo DeOliveira for register of deeds. This is seriously a no-brainer. Paulo is currently the assistant register of deeds. The current register is retiring two years early because she thinks Paulo is that ready to take over. He’s respected by his co-workers and by many, many of the attorneys and real estate brokers who use the registry regularly. Please vote for him.

Neal Maciel for sheriff, probably. For me neither candidate stands out, and either will probably do an OK job. Here I give the edge to the outsider, who’s running unenrolled (i.e., with no party affiliation), because there’s enough dissatisfaction with the way the sheriff’s department has been run that “stay the course” doesn’t seem the best idea.

Undecided for 9th District congressman. At the head of our state ticket is Bill Keating, a four-term Democratic congressman whom a friend described, rather politely, as “a placeholder.” Unfortunately, his opponents in this election are an independent who’s nothing to write home about and a Republican who’s even less promising. In other words, you’re on your own, kids. I’m not sure what I’m going to do either, besides wish that Gerry Studds, who once represented us in Congress, were still around.

Martha’s Vineyard Commission. It’s a rare voter who understands how MVC elections work. The ballot says “vote for nine.” What it doesn’t say is that each of the six island towns must have at least one elected commissioner and no town can have more than two. This is why I wasn’t elected when I ran in 2012: I was 8th in total votes, but I was the 3rd highest from the town of West Tisbury and only the top two could serve. So don’t vote for more than two candidates from any one town, and if you’re strongly for someone, don’t vote for anyone else from the same town.

If there’s only one candidate running from a particular town, it’s safe to vote for that person because s/he’s going to be elected no matter what you do. This applies to Aquinnah, Chilmark, and Edgartown. Theoretically write-ins have a chance, but in practice incumbents (which these three commissioners are) have a huge edge, not least because they’re at the top of the list and each is identified as “candidate for re-election.”

My problem this year is that I’d happily trade one commissioner from my town of West Tisbury, where the pickings are slim, for one from Oak Bluffs, which has three good candidates running, none of them incumbents. I’m supporting Susan Desmarais, who I’ve gotten to know on the campaign trail. If I vote for a second candidate from OB, it’ll be either Brian Smith or Richard Toole. In other words, you’re on your own here too, but do pay attention to the candidates’ towns of residence. They’re listed on the ballot.


Because no one ever gets tired of Travvy pictures

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October License Plate Report

201610-oct-license-platesFall is never great for license-plate spotting. The hard-to-find states are even harder to find when the island population drops. However, in the course of a day it seems that all the world passes through Five Corners, Vineyard Haven. Virtually every vehicle going to or from the ferry dock, which is literally a stone’s throw away (as in, even I can throw a stone that far), has to navigate Five Corners. Ditto all traffic between Vineyard Haven and Oak Bluffs.

So it’s not all that surprising that I spotted Montana while standing at Five Corners in mid-October, holding a sign at the stand-out supporting Democratic candidates on the general election ballot.  As years go, 2016 has not been outstanding, but Montana two years in a row is worth noting. Not to mention — there are more reasons than one to get out and support the candidate(s) of your choice.

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No One Ever Gave Women the Right to Vote

This isn’t especially about the Vineyard, but it speaks so powerfully to why I am so caught up in this particular election.


Women weren’t “given” the right to vote.

Our great-grandmothers and grandmothers clawed it for us from the Patriarchy, one beating after another, one force feeding after another, one terrified night in a jail cell after another.  One wife threatening to tell what she knew, to never sleep with him again, to leave.  One mother guilt tripping her son, one sister calling in the childhood favor, one mistress swearing she’d go to the papers, one farmwife writing off the debt she couldn’t afford to write off and crediting it all to her great-great-granddaughters.

Here, at Samhain, when the veil between the worlds is thin, if you stop for just a moment, you can hear the women of your own blood calling out to you.  The women of your own line will talk to you:

I was too afraid to join them, but in my heart, I knew we deserved the vote…

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I spent a couple of hours yesterday knocking on doors in Oak Bluffs on behalf of Dylan Fernandes, Democratic candidate for state representative from our district, and Julian Cyr, Democratic candidate for state senator.

Cute dog campaign picture

Cute dog campaign picture

Knocking on strangers’ doors is way out of my comfort zone. I’m a written-word person after all. However, I’m excited by the caliber and the potential of both these guys. I’d already given money, put up flyers, sent emails, and worn out my Facebook friends with shares and cute dog pictures. Maybe there was something else I could do?

I’ve also got Eleanor Roosevelt’s words firmly embedded in my memory for those times when I’m afraid that I’m unequal to the task or that the task will blow up in my face. “You must do the things you cannot do,” she said. And “You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face.”

Both Fernandes and Cyr are running grassroots campaigns that emphasize one-on-one contact with the citizens they aspire to represent.  They’re knocking on doors and appearing regularly at house parties. They’re emphasizing two-way communication, listening as well as talking. Most campaign methods are strictly one-way, like speeches, rallies, TV and radio and newspaper ads, and robocalls.

Going door to door becomes less and less feasible as the size of the district increases. In large cities, states, and the whole USA it’s pretty much impossible.

But the average state senate district in Massachusetts contains 163,691 citizens (according to 2010 census figures) and the average house district 40,923. (Figures from Ballotpedia, where it’s much easier to find Massachusetts election-related info than on the site. Go figure.) Last I heard, Fernandes et al. had knocked on some 3,000 doors on the Vineyard alone and well over 7,000 in the district as a whole.

This is impressive enough in itself, but the Barnstable Martha’s Vineyard Nantucket district has to be the most geographically challenging in the commonwealth because it comprises two islands and a chunk of the mainland. The issues that confront us are similar in so many ways, but getting from one place to another is daunting enough that most of us on the Vineyard have little contact with Nantucket, and Falmouth is the local equivalent of a flyover state: we drive through it on the way to somewhere else. The relative dearth of personal connections leads to the mutual suspicion I blogged about last month in “Ballot Box Exceptionalism.”

In this particular election year, the word “campaign” provokes groans and eye rolls and heartfelt wishes that it were over yesterday. But what’s going on in this district — and I bet in many others across the state and the country — is cause for celebration. “Campaign” derives from the military: its roots mean field, open country, battlefield. It’s now understood more generally. Says the American Heritage Dictionary: “An operation or series of operations energetically pursued to accomplish a purpose.”

Especially on the local level, a political campaign can accomplish so much more than getting a worthy candidate elected to public office. In addition to introducing the candidate to the people, it introduces the people to the candidate. It fosters a two-way communication that can continue long past the counting of ballots if “we the people” do our bit to keep the conversation going. Often we don’t, then we blame the officeholder for being out of touch.

Playing a bit part in this effort was enough to push me out of my comfort zone, and you know what? I wasn’t bad at it, and it wasn’t all that scary.

Canvassers about to hit the streets of Oak Bluffs. I'm second from the right. Dylan Fernandes is at the far left of the back row. Campaign manage Amaury Dujardin isn't in the photo because he took it.

Canvassers about to hit the streets of Oak Bluffs. I’m second from the right. Dylan Fernandes is at the far left of the back row. Campaign manager Amaury Dujardin isn’t in the photo because he took it.

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Deer on the Road

Last Sunday, on my way to writers’ group, I hit a deer. After dozens of near misses over the years, it finally happened. Long time ago I learned that when a deer bounds across the road in front of you, slow way down because there’s usually another one close behind. That’s saved me more than once.

The deer’s head appeared directly in front of me, as perfectly framed as a portrait, its big brown eye in the middle, surrounded by tawny-brown fur. I had just enough time to register Wha—? I’m going almost 40 on Old County Road and there’s a deer right in front of me? before I felt a bump. Then the deer vanished. My car was still rolling forward. I didn’t want to be late to writers’ group. There was nothing I could do about the deer in the dark. I kept going.

Did the deer’s eye see me through the windshield?

No dent

No dent



It wasn’t till the sun came up the next morning that I saw the dent, down low on Malvina Forester’s front fender, just to the right of the driver’s-side fog light.

After I got home Sunday night, I mentioned the incident on Facebook. Several friends offered their sympathy, and their own deer-collision stories. The next day a neighbor commented that in the previous few days he’d seen two dead does along that stretch of road — Old County near Misty Meadows, with open field on one side and woods on the other — one of them around 8:30 that very morning.

That almost had to be the one I hit. Travvy and I had walked that way around 10 a.m., looking for traces. From far across the field I’d spotted a white SUV parked on the grassy shoulder not far from the little parking area. Could it have something to do with the deer? If someone were collecting a deer carcass, a pickup would have been a more likely vehicle. By the time Trav and I got that far, the car was gone. Trav sniffed vigorously at the scrubby undergrowth, but this is not unusual. I saw no traces, but I’m no tracker either.

Last January a deer carcass appeared on a trail Trav and I walk most days, a stone’s throw from Old County, not far at all from where I hit the deer last weekend. Trav noticed it first and of course wanted to investigate. I caught on soon enough to reel in his Flexi. Deer hunting season had been over long enough that I guessed it had been hit by a car. Cold preserved it intact till spring thaw brought it to the attention of the neighborhood carnivores. Over the next few weeks the carcass was reduced to a scattering of bones. By then even Trav had lost interest, though even now he sometimes glances in that direction, as if longing for the feast that might have been.

When in my early years as a year-rounder I lived on the West Tisbury side of the Chilmark line, quite a few down-island friends refused to come visit after dark because they were afraid they might hit a deer. By then I knew that deer-car collisions could cause serious damage and human injury, but since I regularly drove back and forth between home and work in Vineyard Haven, often at night, without incident, I had a hard time taking this excuse at face value.

Malvina Forester sustained minimal damage in my deer-car collision, and I none at all, but Tuesday morning I called my insurance company anyway. The incident, I learned, was covered by the “comprehensive” part of my policy, the deductible was $500, and since I wasn’t at fault, it wouldn’t affect my good-driver rating or my premium. The appraiser came out Thursday to take a photo of Malvina’s bumper. If the estimate is more than $500 I’ll get a check, but I’m guessing it’ll be less so probably I won’t.

The deer wasn’t at fault either, but the deer is, most likely, dead. I still see that eye meeting mine through the windshield.

Travvy meets a deer in broad daylight.

Travvy meets a deer in broad daylight.



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