January 2023 License Plate Report

Spotting half the states in January is pretty good and not unusual, but will you take a look at the map, specifically at #8 and #10? OMG. #8 is Mississippi and #10 is North Dakota, the eternally elusive, the Holy Grail of the license plate game.

This particular North Dakota is the same one I spotted last August and have seen several times since, always on Saturdays and in the M.V. Hospital back parking lot. Word is it belongs to a travel nurse who’s working at Windemere nursing home on contract till early summer. Mississippi was also in the back lot at the hospital, but I don’t know what its story is.

The East Coast is solid except for Delaware — no surprise there, and I’m not counting West Virginia as East Coast, no way.

Hell, I spotted Mississippi and North Dakota before I scored Connecticut (#11), Maine (#14), and Rhode Island (#16). The New England states are at some disadvantage, though: they’re common enough that I don’t always register them when I see them.

California’s absence from the January map is highly unusual. I’m pretty sure I saw it fairly early in the month, but by the time I realized I hadn’t written it down, I’d forgotten where I saw it. According to my rules, this makes it an unconfirmed sighting. Wouldn’t you know I haven’t seen it since?

Still, it was a good solid January, elevated to spectacular by the appearance of North Dakota and Mississippi. February is usually a slow month, though in 2021 a whopping 10 new sightings turned up in the year’s shortest month, so we shall see.

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2022 License Plate Report

Three states were still missing when the clock ran out on 2022, but it’s a great year when not only Alaska and Hawaii are on the map but so are South and North Dakota. NB: There was no November report because I procrastinated but I did spot Arkansas on the Beach Road that month. Arkansas is a pretty big deal most years, but when Alaska, Hawaii, and both Dakotas are already on the map, it’s a bit of an anticlimax.

The AWOL states are Wyoming, Nebraska, and West Virginia. I don’t think any of my fellow license-plate spotters saw Wyoming, so maybe it wasn’t here. I don’t really believe that; I’m convinced that all 50 states make their appearance on the Vineyard at some point during the year, but you have to be in the right place at the right time to spot them. Liz Cheney, come visit, and bring your car!

Most years the pickins are pretty slim in the fall, but last year’s end-of-year report reminds me that I spotted Wyoming in December 2021. In 2014, Nebraska showed up in Oak Bluffs on the 29th of December. So I don’t entirely give up hope. Yesterday I cruised through the hospital parking lot on my way to OB. The hospital parking lot is reliably a gold mine for out-of-state plates. Saturday, however, it’s pretty deserted, but back in August I spotted North Dakota there on a Saturday. I owed this to a tip from sister spotter Ellen M., who’d seen it the previous weekend. So guess what? North Dakota was there yesterday, around back, where I’d seen it before. Someone from North Dakota must be on temporary assignment at the hospital, or maybe they’ve actually moved here but not changed their registration yet. You bet I’m going to cruise through next Saturday.

So we’re off to a new year of the license plate game. Thanks to the late Don Lyons who got me started, back around 1988 when we were colleagues at the Martha’s Vineyard Times. Here’s what the 2023 map looks like right now. Yes, I know there are four cars with Massachusetts plates out in the driveway, three of which do not belong to me, but I have not seen their plates yet. That matters. The game does have rules, you know. 🙂

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A Fantasy for Greg Abbott

So it seems that Texas governor Greg Abbott, following what seems to be a well-worn page in the MAGA playbook, sent several busloads of migrants to Washington, D.C., and had them dumped in front of Vice President Kamala Harris’s residence. On Christmas Eve. Most of the country is in a deep freeze and D.C. was no exception: the temperature was around 18 F, and the travelers weren’t dressed for it.

According to a CNN article, the group “included asylum seekers from Ecuador, Cuba, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Peru and Colombia.” No one was officially notified that they were coming. Unofficially local churches, nonprofits, and others learned enough to mobilize and find shelter, clothing, and food for the migrants. D.C. welcomed the unexpected arrivals the way Martha’s Vineyard did in September: with open arms.

Are Abbott and his Republican cronies so clueless that they don’t see the irony in treating refugees like this on Christmas Eve? They claim to be Christians, but what Christian denomination thinks this is remotely OK? Have any of them actually read the Christmas story? I have no trouble imagining the lot of them feasting in Herod’s palace while Mary gives birth in a stable.

Someone on Twitter asked where Gov. Abbott might be sent, to give him an idea of what he was doing to others. I only read a few of the many hundreds of responses. If Dante had seen them, the Divine Comedy would have been considerably more gruesome. My favorite was the one that dumped Abbott in remote Alaska wearing only summer-weight clothing — but I did qualify “remote” with “within reach of dog sled or snowmobile.”

Then while out walking this morning I came up with a better idea: Send him here, to Martha’s Vineyard, with no money, no cell phone, no credit cards, and no spare clothing.

Vineyarders would rally round as we always do, to find him what he needed: clothes, food, shelter, maybe even a cell phone and a debit card with enough on it to buy a plane ticket home.

Once we figured out who he was, we’d introduce him to some of the local Christian clergy, who could give him a tutorial on what Jesus’s teachings were really about.

It might freak him out to learn that most of the folks helping him either were registered Democrats or regularly supported Democratic candidates. In that case — well, the Vineyard is home to plenty of mental health professionals. We could introduce him to some of them too.

At this point the guy would probably be experiencing massive cognitive dissonance, so we’d call on a few of the Vineyard’s Trumpers to interpret and explain what was going on. (I thought about calling on outgoing governor Charlie Baker, but I don’t think they speak the same dialect of Republican.)

At this point, Abbott might — OK, it’s a longshot, but still he might — decide he wanted to stick around a while, even though it was pretty cold and lots of places were closed. Our electric grid mostly comes through in heavy weather. That’s a big plus.

No, we’d tell him. You’ve got a job to do, and it isn’t here. You can come back in the summer, though, if you want. Maybe the Obamas would put you up?

So Abbott flies home and is greeted at the airport by relieved well-wishers, all of whom are Republicans. What happens then?

Well, as I see it, it could go one of two ways. If he’s smart, he keeps his mouth shut and maybe lets on that he was in Florida at a secret retreat sponsored by ALEC or the Federalist Society. If he’s not so smart, he starts going on about those nice people on Martha’s Vineyard and maybe Democrats aren’t so bad after all. At this point his well-wishers turn worried or even surly and start treating him like Rip Van Winkle after his 20-year snooze or Thomas the Rhymer just returned from Elfland. This should smarten him up PDQ.

The incident will stick in some erstwhile supporters’ memories, however. And stories of his stay on Martha’s Vineyard might start to leak out . . .

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Where the Money Goes

The end of the year fast approaches, with the arrival of 1099s and tax time soon to follow. I am a bit ahead of my usual: I have almost finished inputting my credit card transactions into Quicken. This is proving what I already knew: I gave a lot of money to political candidates and organizations this year. Not all that much by absolute standards, but considering my income — it’s a chunk.

ActBlue makes it devilishly easy. You probably know ActBlue. You may very well be, like me, on a first-name basis with ActBlue. It’s a conduit for contributions to liberal and progressive candidates and organizations, including a few nonprofits.

ActBlue keeps pretty good records. This is how I know that I made my first contribution in 2012 — to Sam Sutter, who IIRC was running for Congress in the Democratic primary — but didn’t really get going till 2016. No surprise there! I campaigned for two impressive young men running for office for the first time: Julian Cyr was elected (and still is) state senator and Dylan Fernandes was elected (and still is) state rep. These were the bright spots in what turned out to be a cataclymic year. The country is still assessing the damage done while trying to clean up the mess and prevent its happening again.

But I digress. I set out to make a list of the candidates, causes, and organizations I contribute to. I’m including the publications, podcasts, and Substacks I subscribe to because they’re part of putting my money where my mouth is, and helping ensure that what comes out of my mouth makes sense. I haven’t included books, although they play a significant role in this project. If you want to know what I’m reading, friend me on Goodreads.

I haven’t included links because that would make a mess, and all of those listed should be easy to find online.

Publications

  • Washington Post
  • Guardian (US & UK)
  • Boston Globe (got the $1 for 6 months sub so I could follow election news)
  • Martha’s Vineyard Times
  • Vineyard Gazette
  • The Atlantic
  • Slate
  • ProPublica
  • CommonWealth
  • The New Yorker (rarely read)
  • Foreign Affairs (don’t read enough)
  • Liber Review (feminist book review)
  • WTF Just Happened Today
  • Wikipedia (how to categorize this? monthly)

Podcasts

Note: I listen to a bunch of other podcasts at least occasionally, notably the ones from MSNBC or Crooked Media, but these are the ones I pay for.

  • Deep State Radio (David Rothkopf & co.)
  • Cafe Insider (Preet Bharara and Joyce Vance, who succeeded Anne Milgram)
  • Now & Then (Heather Cox Richardson and Joanne Freeman)

Substacks

Note: One thing I love about Substacks (free-standing columns) is that if you subscribe, you can comment, and the comment sections of all the ones I subscribe to are great: intelligent, well informed people who are remarkably civil to each other. If only newspaper comment sections and social media could be more like this!

  • Letters from an American (Heather Cox Richardson)
  • Lucian Truscott Newsletter
  • Public Notice (Aaron Rupar et al.)
  • Civil Discourse (Joyce Vance)
  • Thinking About . . . (Timothy Snyder)
  • The Line (Canada)
  • MessageBox (Dan Pfeiffer)

Campaigns, Etc.

Note: The Massachusetts Democratic primary field was amazing, in part because so many offices had no incumbent running. This contributed to hyperactivity in the credit card department. I’m not including the contributions I made in 2021 because enough is enough.

  • Julian Cyr (state senator)
  • Rob Galibois (Cape & Islands DA)
  • Sonia Chang-Diaz (governor)
  • Andrea Campbell (attorney general)
  • Downballot Progress (monthly)
  • Warren Democrats (monthly)
  • Collective PAC (monthly)
  • Raphael Warnock (U.S. Senate, GA; monthly)
  • Fair Fight (GA)
  • Democratic Party of Georgia
  • Eric Lesser (lieutenant governor)
  • Tanisha Sullivan (secretary of state)
  • John Fetterman (U.S. Senate, PA)
  • Postcards to Voters (monthly)

Other

  • National Women’s History Museum (monthly)
  • African American Policy Forum (monthly)
  • COW PAC (legal support for Devin Nunes’ Cow, a Twitter account that former congressman Devin Nunes [remember him?] is suing for defamation or impersonation or something)
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Giving Thanks

I like the idea of Thanksgiving — a day for counting one’s blessings, giving thanks, and hanging out with friends and family. Reality is more problematic, as reality invariably is. Notice how, in the run-up to the holiday, news outlets and blogs are full of advice on how to get through a meal with relatives you can’t stand, especially relatives with deplorable politics they can’t shut up about.

This year I’m grateful that I’m still hale, hearty (hardy), (self-)employed, reasonably sentient, and trying to figure out what to do with my life.

Still, it’s hard not to be uneasy about the mythology behind the U.S. Thanksgiving, the story about generous Native peoples and grateful Anglos that most of us in the U.S. have grown up with. The mythology becomes more awful the more one knows about the history, which of course is why those who cling hardest to the mythology are the ones dead set against accurate teaching of the history.

Can Thanksgiving be demythologized? History is a powerful disinfectant. Historian Heather Cox Richardson traces the holiday as we know it to early in the Civil War, when things were not going so well for the North. She writes: “The Pilgrims and the Wampanoags did indeed share a harvest celebration together at Plymouth in fall 1621, but that moment got forgotten almost immediately, overwritten by the long history of the settlers’ attacks on their Indigenous neighbors.”

She continues: “The early years of the war did not go well for the U.S. By the end of 1862, the armies still held, but people on the home front were losing faith. Leaders recognized the need both to acknowledge the suffering and to keep Americans loyal to the cause. In November and December, seventeen state governors declared state thanksgiving holidays.” You can read the whole thing here, and please do yourself a favor: subscribe to HCR’s Substack if you don’t already. It’s helped me survive the last few years.

Which brings me round to Tom Nichols’s piece in the Nov. 22 Atlantic Daily: “Giving Thanks for What We’ve Averted.” As he puts it, “This is the thankfulness not for the warm hearth or full belly, but the visceral sense of relief, to paraphrase Winston Churchill, that comes from being shot at and missed.” His list:

  • “The economy has not collapsed,” despite the whammy dealt to it by the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic. Inflation and gas prices may be higher than usual, he writes, but “we are nowhere near the economic conditions of even the 1970s, much less the 1930s.”
  • The pandemic itself was “blunted by vaccines in a year” — a tribute to scientific know-how and the ability to get the vaccine to many millions of people, in spite of the denial and ineptitude of the White House and the conspiratorial nuttiness rampant in so many Republican-run states.
  • “We are not living under an authoritarian government.” With each passing day we learn more about how close we came, but Nichols summarizes it well: “Only two years ago, our president was an unhinged sociopath who had just lost an election. He was getting briefed by retired generals and a pillow magnate about crackpot schemes to declare martial law and seize voting machines. After his defeat, he would call on his followers to protest his loss—and the American nation, for the first time in its history, failed the test of the peaceful transfer of power.”
  • “Finally, we are not living through World War III. This might seem obvious, but that is because we have simply become accustomed to the shocking fact that a major war is raging in Europe. Think about that for a moment. A nuclear-armed dictatorship is trying to rewrite history and threatening the peace of the entire planet.” Along with everything else, let’s give thanks for the courage and determination of the Ukrainians, and keep supporting them as they fight for all of us.

Tom Nichols concludes: “Yet America survives, and even thrives. We shouldn’t spend all of our days thinking about disaster, but it makes us better people (and better citizens) if we stop for a moment and realize that we should celebrate not only what we have gained, but also what we have—so far—been spared.”

And I add: 2016 and the years since woke a lot of USians up, even those of us who shed our rose-colored glasses decades ago. As the Ukrainians, and many others around the world, have risen to the occasion, many of us have too. The 2018 midterms, the 2000 general election, and the 2022 midterms testify to the effect that “we the people” have had on so many fronts, some public and many not.

The other day I read that Senator Raphael Warnock (D-GA) had compared voting to a prayer. I was already thinking of the postcards I write (currently for Rev. Warnock in his Dec. 6 runoff election) and the other small things I do to support candidates and strengthen democracy, justice, and equity as a sort of prayer. Today I’m also thinking of them as a way of giving thanks — for all the work and sacrifice of my predecessors who have enabled me to reach this place, and for all those on the front lines, the Ukrainians, yes, but also all of us who are raising our voices to shore up democracy and guarantee peace, justice, and equity to all.

Postcards on their way to Georgia

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Fall Slides Toward Winter

Monday was sunny but cool enough that I kept the front door closed. Clearly it was time to swap the screen insert for its sturdier cold-weather alternative. This I did.

Just in time: Monday night’s temperatures produced the first ice disk of the season, which is to say the water in Tam’s outside water dish froze solid enough to be unmolded and stand up on its own.

This particular ice disk was neither the earliest nor the latest in my personal record, which goes back to January 2012 but got seriously under way in the winter of 2012–13. Last year’s first disk showed up on Nov. 6, my earliest yet, and the latest was around Nov. 22, so this one is about average.

(Note: If you search this website for “ice disk” you’ll learn more about ice disks than anyone needs to know, but here’s a brief explanation of how my cold-weather hobby got started, along with some photos.)

Yesterday I got serious about approaching winter. First step was to put flannel sheets on my bed, along with the quilt that’s too warm from April to November and so spends the summer on a barely reachable top shelf.

The quilt is beautiful but it spends most of its time incognito because Tam, like Travvy before him. likes to sleep on my bed, and though Tam, like Travvy and most malamutes, is a self-cleaning dog, the fur and dirt he leaves behind accumulates and looks dingy. The quilt has to be laundered at the laundromat, and frequent washing will almost certainly decrease its longevity.

Here’s what it looks like at its most pristine.

At that point I was on a roll. Last week I really was wearing shorts and a T-shirt, but long pants and long sleeves have been steadily taking over the laundry line, so it seemed a good time to do the Great Seasonal Clothing Switch.

This requires using the bed as a staging area.

Here you see why the beautiful quilt spends much of its time obscured by a 30-year-old comforter that is showing its age but still does the job. Those are warm-weather clothes at the back, the hangers they hung on in the middle, and, in the front, a glimpse of the flannels and other cold-weather shirts that are about to take their place in the closet. Tam’s cold-weather clothing is entirely home-grown.

The short stack of T-shirts is there because they fell off their pile in the closet. For many years my ridiculously large T-shirt collection has been stored in two less-than-sturdy cardboard storage boxes that are deteriorating from age and the number of T-shirts stuffed into them. The one on the bottom is, understandably, deteriorating faster from the weight of the box on top of it. One of today’s projects — it’s now Wednesday — is to hit the thrift shop in Vineyard Haven in search of shelves or something similar that will fit in this tight space and make it easier to keep track of my T-shirts. (For those following The T-Shirt Chronicles, progress has been long delayed for reasons that have nothing to do with deteriorating storage boxes, but restoring order in the closet is a step toward getting that blog going again.)

I finished the day by making black bean soup, which is one of my cool-weather staples.

The days are short and getting shorter, but I’m feeling more energized than I have in months. The midterm election results definitely helped. I’m making some other changes too: I’m not running for re-election as secretary of the Martha’s Vineyard Democrats (six years is enough), but I am joining the executive committee of the Vineyard branch of the NAACP.

I’ve also been doing the Great Courses introductory Spanish course, which I like a lot. I’m not a total beginner, having studied Spanish in high school and also having a mother and grandmother who spoke Spanish to each other when they didn’t want the kids to understand them. (I have never entirely forgiven either one of them for keeping it to themselves.) I’m also doing Allen Wyatt’s online course in Word macros, even though I have little need for macros in my editing; stretching my mind is good, and maybe it’ll turn out to be useful.

I’ve got some things to say about the election, but I’ll save that for another time. An amazing number of people have told me how useful my election recommendations were, both before the primary and before the general election. Some of these people I didn’t know at all: they were forwarded my email and blog link by a mutual friend. So I think I’ll be doing that in the future. Nothing like positive feedback to keep me going!

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October License Plate Report

Sorry to be so late with this one: state names have been swirling through my head, but they weren’t on license plates, and I don’t remember ever obsessing so much about Arizona, Nevada, and Georgia in particular. All three of them, you’ll notice, are on the map and have been for some time: Arizona since January, Nevada since March, and Georgia since April.

The last three months of the year are often a wasteland in the license plate game, or close to it, so I was very happy to spot Missouri in October. I was thrilled to see one of the missing four today as I was driving home from getting my second COVID booster at the M.V. Hospital drive-through tent, but I’m not going to say which one it was till next month.

OK, that’s mean. If you’re on Facebook, you’ll find it there. 😉

Tam came with me to get my shot. He got two biscuits out of it and much admiration so he’s probably wondering when we can go the hospital again.

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If you haven’t voted yet . . .

or know someone who hasn’t and maybe could use a little nudge, or more information, or a ride to the polls —

I posted my “Pre-Election Prep Talk” a couple of weeks ago. If you read it, you will recognize the dog in the photos below. (His name is Tam Lin, and he’s a popcorn junkie.) The short version: Please vote Democratic from the top of the ballot to the bottom, and that includes the six candidates on the ballot for Dukes County Commission. I’ll recap my statewide and regional picks below.

This is primarily to let you know about three write-in candidates. You may know about them already, because several people (including me) have been emailing every Vineyarder in our address book about them, but there’s been almost nothing about them in the papers, so here goes. When you write a candidate’s name in, it’s best to include their street address, but definitely include their town.

Julianne Vanderhoop, 682 State Rd., Aquinnah, is running as a write-in for Dukes County Commission. There are six candidates on the ballot and seven seats open. This means that Juli, who’s currently a member of the Aquinnah selectboard and also a Wampanoag tribal member, has an excellent chance of being elected. Please vote for all six on the ballot, then write in Julianne Vanderhoop, 682 State Rd., Aquinnah, and vote for her too.

The Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC) is a little more complicated. There are eight candidates on the ballot and nine seats open, but the MVC rules require that there be at least one elected member from each island town and no more than two. If you read the fine print under the names on the ballot, you’ll notice that none of them is from Aquinnah. This means that write-in Carole Vandal, 6 Waduchuemesmayak, Aquinnah, has an excellent chance of getting in. (She’s a biologist, climate activist, and member of the Wampanoag tribe, among other things.)

If you’re voting for all eight candidates on the ballot, you only get one write-in, but I’m not so I’m also writing in Jennifer Smith Turner, Oak Bluffs (sorry, I don’t have her street address). She’s a novelist (Child Bride, 2020) who has held several executive positions in various companies, including as interim president/CEO of the Newman’s Own Foundation. Unfortunately, the odds are against her because there’s already a candidate from Oak Bluffs on the ballot and for Smith Turner to get a second OB slot she’d have to get more votes than at least one of the candidates on the ballot. I’m voting for her anyway.

Here are the statewide and regional candidates to vote for:

  • Governor & Lieutenant Governor: Maura Healey & Kim Driscoll
  • Attorney General: Andrea Campbell
  • Secretary of State: William Galvin (incumbent)
  • Auditor: Diana DiZoglio
  • Treasurer: Deborah Goldberg (incumbent)
  • Member in Congress: Bill Keating
  • Cape & Islands DA: Robert Galibois
  • State senator: Julian Cyr
  • State representative: Dylan Fernandes
  • Dukes County sheriff: Robert Ogden

I’ve bolded Rob Galibois for DA and Julian Cyr for re-election as state senator because they’re both running in the Cape & Islands region, they both have Republican opponents, and the Cape, especially the Mid-Cape, is rather purple. A strong Democratic turnout from the Vineyard will help put both over the top. Rob in particular is a first-time candidate running for an office that has been held by Republicans since it was created around 1970. He’s a great guy, and (unlike the outgoing DA) he’s already made strong connections on the Vineyard among law-enforcement and social services people, and others.

The Martha’s Vineyard Times, which rarely endorses candidates, strongly endorsed Rob Galibois for DA in an October 26 editorial. I couldn’t have said it better myself. 😉

Light candles, pray, cross your fingers, and do whatever else you can do to ensure a pro-democracy outcome on Tuesday!!

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What We Envision

Like the stillness in the wind before the hurricane begins . . .

Dylan’s “When the Ship Comes In” has been one of my most favorite songs since my college antiwar activist days. I still know all the words, but my mind is playing that line over and over again. I don’t add — I try not to even think — the next line:

The hour that the ship comes in

In the song the ship’s arrival is all about change for the better, a world “where the sun will respect every face on the deck” and “Goliath will be conquered.” The song is a celebration of hope for the future.

I’m afraid that the ship coming in, the one that arrives on election day, is bringing bad news. I’m doing my best to take Dan Pfeiffer’s advice to “get off the Pollercoaster”:

Two weeks until the election, the “Pollercoaster” is in full effect. Every day brings a barrage of new polls and a fresh wave of terror about the outcome of the election. The polls are tightening in races that seem in hand, and they are widening in longer-shot races in which we thought we had a chance. Even the polls with positive news for Democrats are dismissed out of legitimate fears that they are biased against Dems. Political reporters are relishing the opportunity to make Democrats suffer. . . .

Thing is, I’m not obsessed with polls. My fears have more to do with a long string of missed opportunities and a house whose entire structure has gone rotten from lack of attention and endless procrastination.

“The Boy Who Cried Wolf” is in there too. Apocalyptic rhetoric is epidemic during campaign season. I was only 13 when the presidential election pitted LBJ against Barry Goldwater, but I still remember the slogan —

Goldwater in ’64
Cold water in ’65
Bread & water in ’66
No water in ’67

Every time an election rolls around, we hear so many dire predictions of what’s going to happen if our opponent wins that we screen them out. When dire things do happen after our opponent wins, but not to us, we screen that out too. Not until 2016 did many of us start seeing, really seeing, the fissures in the house we were living in. (Anyone else remembering Edgar Allan Poe’s “Fall of the House of Usher”?)

So now, with many wide-awake and intelligent people warning that “our democracy is at stake,” I have zero trouble imagining plenty of voters thinking “Oh yeah, here we go again” or “So what?” Inflation has a more tangible effect on them than an abstraction called “democracy,” and they know so little about what causes inflation that they think voting for Republicans is their best hope of fixing it, even though the Democrats didn’t cause it and the Republicans have no economic plans worth discussing. Maybe these voters have been so swayed by the continual drumbeat of “election fraud” that they think that the electoral process is corrupt, just like Congress. (They may actually have a point about Congress.) If they do vote and their (Republican) candidates don’t win, the election must have been stolen.

Come to think of it, whenever I hear myself going on about the importance of democracy and how this election probably is the most important one of my lifetime, a little voice in my mind is sneering “Sucker!”

What it comes down to is that I don’t have much faith in my fellow Americans, especially my fellow white Americans, to realize what the stakes are and vote accordingly. Some of them may indeed realize what the stakes are and have decided that if democracy is multicultural, multiracial, and not 100% Christian, they want no part of it.

Yes, there are reasons for hope. The overwhelming Kansas vote in support of abortion right is one of them, and boy, am I clinging to it. Tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands, maybe even millions, of my fellow Americans are canvassing, talking to friends and neighbors, contributing to campaigns, signing up to be poll workers or to help people cast their ballots easily and safely, and so on. The forces arrayed against us are vast, but hey — David and Goliath, remember?

Screenshot of women at Zoom sing
Zoom sing with Susan Robbins, August 2020. Susan is in the upper-left corner and I’m on her right. I’ve blacked out everyone else’s name.

I’m also hoping that the cosmos is on our side. Since the pandemic started, I’ve been participating most Wednesdays in Susan Robbins’s Zoom sings for women. Group singing on Zoom may seem strange because we can’t hear each other, but it’s been pretty wonderful. Susan teaches each song line by line and then we sing it. Some of the songs are from Libana’s repertoire (Susan is the founder/leader of Libana, whose roots go back to 1979 and whose music comes from all over the world), some have identifiable composers, some are “traditional,” which is to say we don’t know who wrote them.

This past Wednesday we sang, not for the first time, “Dark of the Moon,” a three-part round by Karen Beth. It’s all about how the dark of the moon is a time for new beginnings, planting seeds and helping them grow. This is the third part:

Dark of the moon
What we envision
will come to be
by the full moonlight

We were singing, Susan said, in the dark of the moon — and the moon will be full again on the morning of election day, at 6:02 a.m. eastern time. So I’m holding on to that: that all the work, all the envisioning, we’ve been doing during the dark of the Trump years and its aftermath will bear fruit on election day and that what we’ll see is not the death of democracy but a renaissance and recommitment to making democracy work for all of us.

There’s also a total lunar eclipse that night, by the way, which should be complete just before the moon’s peak fullness. Then the moon starts coming out of the earth’s shadow. Since, as Marge Piercy wrote, “the moon is always female,” I take that as a good sign too.

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Trust Your Eyes

People say this all the time. I do too. It’s metonymy: it’s less about your literal eyes and more about your perception, non-visual as well as visual. But my eyes have been crappy since I was in elementary school, and since for the last four decades and then some, I’ve made most of my living in the print trades, it’s also very much about my literal eyes.

About two months ago I noticed that the vision in my left eye was getting blurry, so blurry that eventually it couldn’t distinguish printed words even when I had my reading glasses on. This was serious. My left eye has made my living for me since my right eye had two retina detach-and-reattachments in 2004 followed by cataract surgery in 2008. Since then right eye has been OK for distance but, thanks to what the ophthalmologist called a “perforation” in the reattached retina, imprecise for close-up work, of which as an editor and proofreader I do a lot.

By early September the blurriness was serious enough that I saw my optometrist. To my great relief the problem was common and the fix relatively simple: the lens inserted in my left eye when I had cataract surgery in 2018 was clouding over, but it could be remedied with a quick laser procedure at the Cape Cod Eye Surgery & Laser Center in Sandwich. Having been to this place many times, both on my own behalf and when driving a friend to her regular appointments for macular degeneration, I could find my way there in my sleep. (I started to type “with my eyes closed,” but thought better of it.)

The good news was that I could drive myself home afterward. This was not true of cataract surgery or retina reattachment surgery. The bad news was that my appointment was six weeks down the road: October 24.

My body as a whole has given me remarkably little grief (so far) in my 71 (so far) years. I’ve never broken a bone, despite a few accidents that could have had serious consequences. In my born-again horsegirl days — basically my fifties — I had a horse flip over on me and use my right thigh as a launching pad. The bruise was dramatically huge, but it eventually went away and all I have to show for it now is a hoof-shaped imprint in the flesh of my right thigh. On a horse-sitting job once, a ladder slipped out from under me when I was climbing up to the client’s hayloft. I fell 10+ feet with no ill effects beyond a sore bum.

My eyes and my teeth have required more attention. I seem to have lost the genetic lottery in those departments, having inherited my mother’s myopia and my father’s lousy teeth. In recent decades I’ve taken better care of the latter, which may explain why I’ve still got all of my originals, apart from the molar that broke and had to be replaced by an implant.

The eyes, on the other hand — well, sometimes I do wonder why I adopted a trade like editing that depends on having reliable eyesight along with a brain that does a great job processing detail. Possibly it was fate’s way of teaching me “Don’t panic! Things will work out.” Which indeed they have, even this time. My right eye, for all its imprecision, turned out to be a pretty good pinch-hitter, even though one of my jobs right now is on un-enlargeable paper and the font sizes used range from about 6 point (very small) to 12 (pretty normal). Thanks to a magnifying glass I could clarify whether, for instance, there were two ts or one and whether there was an r tucked in there between the a and the t.

Driving also presented additional challenges. In its clouded-over state, at night my left eye saw half a dozen headlights approaching when in reality there were only two. Right eye was fine for driving, but left eye, being the more dominant of the two, kept trying to horn in, so I’d sometimes see two sets of yellow lines down the middle of the road. (I should add here that my two eyes have never worked together well, but my brain has compensated for the lack of coordination.) This was easily remedied by closing left eye when the duplication got distracting.

I’ve lived on the Vineyard year-round for 37 years and counting, so though I couldn’t literally find my way around with my eyes closed, I do know the roads pretty well (apart from dirt roads in Chilmark. When it comes to dirt roads in Chilmark, all bets are off, and sometimes GPS is unavailable). Not to mention — after Labor Day, and definitely after Columbus Day, the traffic is less, and less crazy, than it is in the summer.

I did worry a little about driving to Sandwich, regardless of how many times I’d been there. After all, I hadn’t driven off-island since 2019 — or been off-island, period, since very early in 2020, just before COVID-19 shut everything down. I worried a little about my one-eyed depth perception driving onto the boat. Once I’d managed that, on the 8:15 yesterday morning, I stopped worrying.

All went well. The Cape Cod Eye Surgery & Laser Center in Sandwich has to be one of the best organized operations around. I’d filled out the required forms online the day before. I got called for my various pre-procedure tests only a couple of minutes after my report time of 11 a.m. The procedure itself took less than five minutes: from my perspective it was all about holding still (easy, given the apparatus you stick your face into) and staring at the red/white light coming at my left eye.

After lunch at the nearby “family restaurant,” I did indeed drive myself home. Having once attempted to drive with my eyes dilated, I knew better to try it again — the glare is terrible — so I wore the extremely unfashionable sunglasses I had in the car, probably from an earlier eye adventure. With them on, there was no glare; the tradeoff was that the speedometer was too dark to read. I took my cues from the other cars on the road and none of us got busted for speeding.

The 3:45 boat got me into Vineyard Haven at 4:30, and I arrived at Animal Health Care in time to pick Tam up; he’d spent the night at the kennel. He tried to convince me that he hadn’t had supper, though the kennel attendant assured me he had. I bought him off with the popcorn I’d brought home from writers’ group on Sunday, because he wasn’t there to enjoy it on site.

Tam seems to have forgiven me, and I’ve got two working eyes again. Life is good.

Me and my dark glasses. Foster Grants they aren’t.
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