Have Faith. Keep Going.

Friday night I went (via Zoom, of course) to the M.V. Hebrew Center’s annual service in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel. When I first attended a few years ago, I knew next to nothing about Rabbi Heschel (1907–1972), an eminent Jewish theologian and civil rights activist. I’m not religious, but in these challenging times we all need inspiration and faith to keep going and that service is one place where I find it without fail.

This year was no exception. Between the music, the readings, and the words, this year may have outdone itself. Singing spirituals like “Wade in the Water” and “Keep Your Lamp Trimmed and Burning” connected us all and reminded us that this struggle for dignity, justice, and freedom has been going on far longer than any of us have been alive, and against worse odds.

Rabbi Caryn Broitman spoke of the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt — how with Pharaoh’s armies approaching, the terrified Israelites cried out to Moses and Moses told them not to be afraid, the Lord would save them. The Lord, however, had another idea: “Why do you cry to Me? Tell the children of Israel to go forward.” Whereupon the Red Sea parted, the Israelites crossed over, and, to quote from another song, “Pharoah’s armies got drownded.” (This is all in Exodus 14. Look it up in Bible Gateway, where you can pick your version. It’s a great story.)

Have faith. Keep going. Since I’m not a believer, I don’t think any divine being is going to create our road forward, but I do believe that by moving forward we create that road. Giving up won’t do it, and neither (I love this part of the Exodus story) will expecting God to do the heavy lifting. Have faith. Keep going. The words have been reverberating in my mind all weekend.

As it happens, this weekend I got to experience how this works. The Martha’s Vineyard Democrats, of which I’m currently the secretary, and Indivisible MVY had planned a March for Voting Rights for Saturday afternoon, in response to a call from Martin Luther King Jr.’s family for nationwide actions against voter suppression and in favor of the John Lewis Voting Rights Act and the Freedom to Vote Act (now combined in one bill), which is in danger of not getting through the U.S. Senate. “No celebration without legislation!” they said.

They urged organizers to include a bridge in their plans, to memorialize the crossing of the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, on March 7, 1965. On that day, peaceful marchers setting out to walk from Selma to the state capital of Montgomery for voting rights were brutally set upon by law enforcement. Many, including the young John Lewis, were seriously injured. Television coverage of the event galvanized the nation, or at least some of it, and helped lead to the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. In 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court in Shelby County v. Holder effectively gutted the act, and the Republican Party, nationally and at the state level, has been working hard ever since to limit the access of people of color, poor people, and young people, among others, to the ballot.

The obvious bridge of choice on the Vineyard was the drawbridge between Vineyard Haven and Oak Bluffs, a mile or so up the road from our favorite rallying point at Five Corners, so we went with that.

Toward the end of the week the weather forecast got worse and worse. Rain was forecast for Friday, after which temperatures would plummet into the single digits. The march route was along the Beach Road, where high winds can be high indeed. Friday morning four of us met to make a call. I was for postponing till Sunday afternoon, when the forecast was for sunny, dry, less windy, and not as cold. No no no, said two of my colleagues. They conjured up icy roads, icy sidewalks, people getting hurt. They were adamant. Reluctantly I went along. We cancelled the march.

Saturday morning I woke up to the expected cold and wind, but it was sunny and there was no sign of ice. I was bummed.

Later that morning I was at (via Zoom) the monthly meeting of the Martha’s Vineyard branch of the NAACP. Word had gone around that the march was off — but then a friend from the Racial Justice and Human Dignity committee of We Stand Together / Estamos Todos Juntos announced that some of them were going to march anyway. It seemed that the little daughter of two members had been eagerly looking forward to the event and was crushed that it had been cancelled. So they were going to march anyway. I’m in, I said.

Have faith. Keep going!

My voting-rights sign — OK for a rush job

Between the end of the NAACP meeting at noon and the scheduled start of the march at 1, there wasn’t much time to spread the word and make a sign, but I did what I could. We met at the Tisbury Marketplace and a valiant band of about 15 marched to the bridge and back; the four-going-on-five-year-old who had spurred us on made it the whole way. I probably wasn’t the only one thinking “And a little child shall lead them”! She’ll probably remember the event when most of the rest of us, or at least our memories, are long gone.

This afternoon the M.V. branch of the NAACP held its annual MLK Day membership meeting. In pre-Covid times (remember those?) this was a luncheon, most recently at the PA Club in Oak Bluffs. The guest speaker was James Jette, superintendent of the Milton Public Schools, who did some of his growing up here on Martha’s Vineyard and is connected to the Chappaquiddick Wampanoag tribe.

All in all, the whole weekend was inspiring with a remarkably coherent message: Have faith. Keep going. I’m ready.

Most of the valiant Jan. 15 marchers on the bridge. Between the masks and the winter clothes it’s hard to recognize anyone, but I’m kneeling in front with my yellow sign and the littlest marcher is holding her sign to my right. Photo by Toni Kauffman.
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2021 License Plate Report

The license plate scene was so grim this fall that I never got around to posting an October report. October’s tally was the same as September’s and, as it turned out, November’s: zero, zero, zero. December was on course to be likewise, until . . .

(Spoiler alert!) Notice, if you will, the previously blank rectangle just south of Montana, north of Colorado, and west of the Three Chronic No-Shows. It is now green, and its name is Wyoming.

’Twas a week before Christmas — December 18, to be exact, the day after the late Rhodry Malamutt’s birthday. Around 2:30 in the afternoon I was heading into town on State Road about to hang a right on the Edgartown Road, when I spotted, just ahead of me and making the same turn, a license plate with a bucking horse on it. Only one state has a bucking horse on it, but I tailgated close enough to read it: Wyoming for sure.

As to why I happened to be there on that particular day, well, there’s a bit of a story there. For many, many years my friend Mary-Jean has hosted a holiday Nog & Song party. Thanks to Covid-19, the party didn’t happen in 2020 or 2021 — at least the Song part didn’t. The Nog part did, for which all of Mary-Jean’s friends are grateful because her eggnog is stupendous. She emailed the faithful that eggnog would be available on a drive-by, socially distanced basis, loosely by appointment: (“Hi, are you home?” “Yes.” “I’m on my way, be there in 10.”)

So that’s where I was headed when I spotted Wyoming with barely two weeks to go in 2021. Of course I didn’t touch the eggnog on the way home, but I did have some for breakfast the next two mornings.

For the record, Wyoming is one of the four states that appeared in 2021 but not in 2020. The other three are Utah, Oklahoma, and West Virginia. I spotted Alaska, Hawaii, and Nebraska in 2020 but not in 2021. The two states that didn’t show up in either year are North and South Dakota. Somehow I bet you’re not surprised by that, are you?

So the total for 2021 was 46 plates spotted and 5 AWOL at the end of the year: same as 2020 but a slightly different lineup. (Need I say, D.C. counts in this game.) If you squint at the map, you’ll notice that Wyoming is marked 45. This is because I screwed up the numbering in January and forgot to give Vermont a number. Since I was well into February by the time I realized this, no way was I about to renumber or start a whole new map. So after New Hampshire (number 9), I wrote in Vermont as 9a.

Moral(s) of story: The year’s not over till it’s over, and do not pass up an opportunity to collect some of Mary-Jean’s eggnog.

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Read While You Walk

Early this fall I started noticing black plastic stakes along the path I walk daily behind the West Tisbury School. They were maybe three and a half or four feet high and about a hundred feet apart (that’s a guesstimate — I didn’t think to pace the distance). Usually there were two side by side.

Salamander survey grid marker, with warning. Jan. 2015.

Maybe part of a science experiment? I speculated. In the late fall of 2014, little red flags just off this same trail alerted me to the presence of signs on the ground marking a grid. Turned out the students were doing a “salamander survey”: I blogged about it in “Sign of the Salamander.

Then colorful pictures, laminated to give them heft against wind and rain, appeared on the stakes. After following the trail a while, I realized they had to be pages from a kids’ book. Not a science experiment!

After a couple of days the pictures disappeared. This made me sad: oak leaves were turning brown and falling, and the illustrations gave welcome color to my walk.

One day, near where the story trail had ended, I came across a large vertical container on a two-wheeled cart — think “golf bag,” though this clearly wasn’t one: it contained several of the black stakes.

The mystery was solved the morning Tam and I encountered Stephanie Dreyer on the path, hauling the two-wheeled cart and mounting laminated book pages on stakes. She’s the school librarian, and she’s been doing “story walks” with the kids.

What a great idea, thought I. Even if Covid-19 weren’t a factor, going outdoors during class time has to be fun for the kids, and turning pages becomes a bit of an adventure.

The first pages of Fritz and the Beautiful Horses

Not long afterward, another story walk appeared on my usual morning route, along the dirt track at the edge of the Nat’s Farm field, just off Old County Road. Though at least half a mile from the school, this walk also featured a kids’ book: Fritz and the Beautiful Horses, written and illustrated by Jan Brett. Nearly all the walkers, joggers, and cyclists I see in this area are grown-ups, but the choice was not surprising: adjacent to this field is the former Misty Meadows horse farm, now Misty Meadows Equine Learning Center.

Of course I read the story, station by station, with my canine companion wondering why I was stopping so often. Fritz, it turned out, is an adorable, shaggy, Shetland-type pony. The “beautiful horses” live in a walled city whose citizens don’t allow non-beautiful horses inside the gates. Fritz has to live outside. When he tries to get their attention by emulating the beautiful horses, the citizens laugh at him.

Fritz, I knew at once — no psychic skills required — was going to save the day when the beautiful horses couldn’t or wouldn’t. The only question was how.

Fritz does his best to imitate the elegance of the beautiful horses. The citizens laugh at him. I think he’s pretty cute.

Sure enough, when adults and children from the walled city are out for a ride, the bridge over a rushing stream collapses after the adults have crossed it. The beautiful horses are terrified of the water, and so are their child riders. So sure-footed, dependable Fritz ventures into the stream and ferries the children across one by one. For his heroism Fritz is celebrated, allowed into the walled city, and made much of by the children. The end.

I’m a sucker for horse stories and horse pictures, but Fritz and the Beautiful Horses pissed me off. True, it was first published 40 years ago, but it’s still in print and, if the Goodreads reviews are any indication, most contemporary adult readers love it.

In a way that’s not surprising: as a society we do tend to love tales of plucky underdogs who in a crisis prove their worth, everyone lives happily ever after, and we congratulate ourselves for knowing that beauty is only skin deep yadda yadda yadda.

Thing is, Fritz and the Beautiful Horses provides zero evidence that the people in the walled city have learned anything. They’ve made an exception for the heroic pony, but that’s it. The city’s walls are still up, and only the most beautiful horses are allowed within, but since Fritz is now included, maybe they’ve convinced themselves that they recognize true worth when they see it?

What bugs me most about the story is that both Fritz and, presumably, the author see that, long before the bridge collapses, the children are afraid of their big, spirited beautiful horses. As horsefolk put it, they’re overhorsed. They don’t have the skill and/or the confidence to manage their mounts. Trust me on this: horses pick up on their riders’ uneasiness. It makes them nervous and more likely to spook or bolt. When a thousand-pound horse panics, serious injury can result, to both horse and rider.

And the citizens in the walled city are fine with this! Even after Fritz has proven himself sure-footed and dependable, and after the children have learned to trust him, do they ever ride him again? Not that we see. If I were those adults, I would have scoured the countryside for more Fritzes for the children to ride.

I probably don’t have to say that from the book’s first pages the walled city made me think of — well, a certain island that doesn’t need walls around it because the ocean does the job. Are we collectively as elitist and as clueless as the citizens in Fritz and the Beautiful Horses? No way! But we do have a collective tendency to celebrate plucky ponies while missing the bigger picture.

At the end, everyone loves Fritz, but will the kids ever get to ride him again?
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October & November License Plate Report

If you guessed from the absence of an October report that there were no new sightings that month, you would be right. And as September and October went, so went November.

October’s most noteworthy event came near the end of the month, when I spotted Arkansas and Oklahoma parked within two cars of each other on Circuit Ave. I’d already spotted Arkansas (in March) and Oklahoma (in May), but in late October they were most definitely out of season. Not to mention — Arkansas and Oklahoma are neighboring states, but what are the odds against their plates being seen in such close proximity on Martha’s Vineyard? Could their drivers know each other?

I never consider such possibilities when I see, say, Connecticut and Rhode Island on the same street, or Ohio and Pennsylvania in the hospital parking lot. However, if South Dakota pulls in any of its missing neighbors — Wyoming, Nebraska, and North Dakota — this month, I might think I’m on to something.

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Winter Is Icumen In

Winter has been icumen in for a while now, but in fits and starts. In the early days of the month I put flannel sheets on the bed, turned the heater on for the first time since late April, and before long I’d done the Great Clothes Switch — discovering, incidentally, two new pairs of pants that I have no recollection of buying. I hear that this is a common symptom of the Age of Covid, but it’s possible I’ve got an alter ego that wants to take charge of my wardrobe. Good luck with that . . .

A few days ago the temperature hit 60 F (15.5 C), but 60 in mid-November does not feel like 60 in May so I was not gallivanting around in shorts and a T-shirt. The water in my outside shower was already turned off, but I was not tempted to turn it on.

This morning? Well, this is not the first ice disk of the season, but it’s still standing despite the wind (“how the wind doth ramm” indeed!). Both of its predecessors — one from November 6, the other from the 7th — were puddles before noon.

Supporting evidence: Having padded outside barefoot in my long fleece robe to empty my indoor recyclables into the outdoor bin, I decided to (1) don long underwear and (2) exchange sweatshirt for sweater before setting out with Tam for our morning walk.

These are not things I do in fall. What’s done can in some sense be undone — which is to say that later this week I may shed the longjohns and go back to the sweatshirt — but there’s no undoing the act of taking longjohns out of the drawer or sweater out of the closet for the first time this season.

Tam is, of course, thrilled. He doesn’t have to change his clothes. At the moment he’s snoozing out on the deck, where the temperature is 37 F but, sez my phone, “feels like 28.” Got that right. Now that it’s cooler inside, he spends most of most nights on my bed. Like Trav and Rhodry before him, he’s a great bed warmer, and better-looking than a hot-water bottle.

Out in the woods, what leaves the oaks have left have long since turned brown, but the reds and yellows are holding their own. The Japanese maple outside my west-facing window didn’t turn its most spectacular red this year, but it’s striking nonetheless. It always holds off till November to start showing its colors, then it peaks around the middle of the month. This year the leaves remain both red and yellow, with many more one than the other, but the overall effect is not orange — or, if it is orange, it’s orange the way flames are orange, with reds and yellows remaining distinct, never fully blending.

In the high winds, it’s lost some of those leaves, but this morning it’s still a glorious sight out my window. Fall’s last hurrah before winter takes up residence.

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Another No-Name Blows By

A formidable northeaster blew through earlier this week. I’m pretty sure it’s passed because the leaves are barely rustling and there’s enough sunlight to cast shadows on the road. But it was a big one.

When I went to bed (very) early Wednesday morning, the white lights on my modem/router were glowing. When I woke up, the digital clock on the shelf above my bed stared blankly back at me. The wind was howling, rain was pelting the skylights, and the electricity was out.

I padded across the apartment to the battery-powered travel clock next to my workspace: 6:49, which is about when I’ve been waking up as the dark closes in on daylight. Standard time (“fall back”) returns on November 7, and though the early dark is disconcerting, I love the earlier light. I wake with the light coming through the windows, and if I’m not awake by six, I feel as though I’ve lost half the day.

Tam got his breakfast, but I couldn’t brush my teeth or make my morning tea. No biggie. I pulled on my foul-weather gear, including my rain boots. They aren’t that great for long walks, but when Tam and I went out the night before, most of the paths were already underwater. Tam does not like getting his paws wet so he does his best to stay on the high ground, even when there isn’t any.

My deck chair and a folded-up chaise had blown across the door, but they weren’t hard to push out of the way. (In winter it doesn’t take much snow to block the door, whereupon I have to go out through the downstairs door, come around, and shovel myself out.) It was windy all right. The tall oaks were waving their arms dramatically, their leafy limbs like skirts swirling overhead. A few twigs and very small branches had fallen to the deck.

Out in the woods the damage was noticeable. Lots of small stuff down, a few big branches, and next to Old County Road in front of the school a humongous oak limb had come most of the way down, fortunately not in the road. Along the bike path and around Misty Meadows, the changes weren’t obvious — the state forest comes up to the edge of the bike path, but our route took us around the edge of the big field, where the long grass and wildflowers were holding up fine. The birches and other trees that had turned color already had lost most of their leaves, but the oaks, still green, were holding on to theirs.

The sky didn’t look like eight in the morning or whatever it was, that’s for sure, and the wind was wild. There was no one else on the bike path. That’s unusual these days. I did toss or drag a few branches off the path, so cyclists wouldn’t have to detour around them.

Once we re-crossed Old County onto Pine Hill Road, which is basically a wide path through the woods, the storm was in our faces again, windy and wet. The driveable part of the road, which serves two houses, one seasonal and one year-round, was in pretty good shape, though again I tossed or dragged off some debris that might have slowed people down.

Some people with four-wheel drive and strong suspensions brave the non-driveable part of Pine Hill, but many a non-Vineyarder and delivery driver navigating by GPS turns back, shocked to find that what Google Maps thinks is a through road really isn’t. The damage here was more obvious: one tree down whose branches Tam and I had to climb through; a huge limb broken off another, caught and half-suspended by a lower branch; and a few yards off the track trees no longer upright propped up by those still standing.

Back at home, the power was still out. The travel clock said 8:40. I had a strong hunch that my 9:00 Zoom meeting wasn’t going to happen, but there was no way to find out for sure. I couldn’t make tea or my morning oatmeal; I made do with a banana.

Gazing at all my inert devices, appliances, and lights, I thought I was looking at the relics of a lost civilization: How did these things work? What did people do with them? Or, more to the point, How did people do without them?

I could work on my laptop for a couple of hours before the battery ran out, but instead I fired up a fountain pen and started drafting a new post for The T-Shirt Chronicles.

The power came back on around 9:45. I was lucky: four of the five of us made it to our 1:30 Zoom meeting, but the fifth still didn’t have internet, and some people I know didn’t get power back till the next day, or they got power but no internet. Having lost power for almost 10 days during Hurricane Bob 30 years ago, I think Eversource and Comcast did a pretty good job this time around.

Speaking of 30 years ago — this storm arrived 30 years almost to the day after the No-Name Nor’easter of 1991. Some people refer to it as the Perfect Storm, after Sebastian Junger’s book of that title which was about that storm but came out six years later, by which time it was indelibly the No-Name Nor’easter in my memory and so it remains. As was noted at the time, for plenty of non-rhotic New Englanders it was the No-Name No’theaster, so that too.

The No-Name Nor’easter didn’t take out nearly as many trees as this week’s storm, but that was because Hurricane Bob had done such an astonishing job remaking the landscape only two and a half months earlier. The island hadn’t had a blow like that in decades. It took out everything that was ready to fall, and plenty that wasn’t; almost everything that survived Bob made it through the No-Name Nor’easter.

Which isn’t to say that No-Name didn’t leave a deep imprint in my memory, because it did. Earlier this week the Martha’s Vineyard Times asked for reminiscences about that storm, and I wrote this:

Do I remember the No-Name Nor’easter of 1991? You bet I do. The M.V. Times — whose Calendar editor I was at the time — was all set to move from our digs in the old Spaghetti Pot building behind Woodland Market to our newly refurbished quarters at Five Corners. But the waters rose, and rose, and rose, and pretty soon the newsroom-to-be was underwater. Turned out it had been a good idea to put the electrical outlets a foot above the floor, but the floor itself was ruined and had to be redone. Around the corner, Wintertide Coffeehouse, where I was a regular volunteer, had become a wading pool. Manager Tony Lombardi fished a Wintertide T-shirt out of the water, wrung it out, and gave it to me. The Spaghetti Pot building and Wintertide Coffeehouse are long gone, Tony passed in 2017, but I’ve still got the T-shirt — and the Times is still at Five Corners.

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Fall Finally Got Here

Fall was late getting a foothold this year. Most years, on or about September 1, August humidity falls away and driving down Old County Road I spot at least a hint of fall color in the trees. This year September 1 felt like September 1 — but then the tropical air slithered back in and it felt like August again. A thunderstorm would then clear the air, but never once and for all. Over the course of the month we must have gone through the cycle three or four times.

The days were getting shorter as the equinox approached, but it wasn’t always noticeable because of overcast skies.

Also it rained a lot. My favorite stretch of the Dr. Fisher Road is a pretty good indicator of how much rain we’ve had. This is what it looked like at the beginning of September. At the end of October’s first week, the puddles aren’t nearly as impressive but they haven’t disappeared either.

A few days ago I pulled jeans on for the first time in months. That might be the surest sign that fall has arrived — but on the other hand, the next day I was back in shorts.

At the moment I’m typing this in shorts and a long-sleeved T. I haven’t even thought about doing the Great Seasonal Clothing Switch. Well, OK, I did just think about it, but what I thought was that no way is it actually time to do it.

As always, my laundry line is a good clue to the changing of the seasons. As it happens, I have photos from September 7 and October 7: exactly one month apart. The differences between the two are subtle — nothing so obvious as a pair of jeans or a sweater — but they are there.

Late summer laundry line, September 7, 2021

T-shirts. Lots of T-shirts. So many that they almost didn’t fit on the line. Because in August it sometimes takes two T-shirts, or even three, to get through the day. Take one off at the end of a brisk morning walk, shower — and no way are you putting that shirt on again. Also notice the number of sleeveless T’s and tank tops. My sleeveless T’s are all from the 1980s. They were called “muscle shirts” at the time, I guess because they showed off and/or didn’t interfere with your muscles. Why can’t they be found anymore? Unlike the vast majority of my regular T’s, they get worn and washed a lot, so they’re all showing signs of wear.

Early fall laundry line, October 7, 2021

A month later, there’s only one sleeveless T on the line, and one tank top. There’s also one long-sleeved T, and (though it’s nearly impossible to discern from this angle) at the very end of the line is a sweatshirt. Still no jeans or other long pants, but the fact that there’s more space on the line is significant: In September, one T-shirt would get me through the day, and sometimes the same one would get me through two days. (Keep in mind that I work from home, and who the hell knows or cares what you’re wearing to a Zoom meeting?)

Speaking of T-shirts — The T-Shirt Chronicles has been on hiatus for the last two months because I’ve been hellaciously busy workwise, but I’ll be getting back to it shortly.

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September License Plate Report

Nothing to report except there’s nothing to report. No last-minute sightings, no nothing. It’s disappointing for sure, but hey, we’re talking about September, Covid limitations are still in effect (I don’t see any license plates on my way to a Zoom meeting), and I’ve been intensely busy workwise since the middle of August. (I’ll say more about that in my Write Through It blog.)

So we’re holding at 45. The states yet to be seen: Alaska, Hawaii, Wyoming, Nebraska, and both Dakotas.

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A Red Balloon

Pine Hill is a dirt road. This is a drivable section of it. Its midsection is undrivable, which is not to say that some people don’t attempt to drive it, including new route drivers who haven’t learned their way around yet. If your GPS tells you you can drive from one end of Pine Hill Road to the other, it’s lying.

Yesterday morning, walking down Pine Hill with Tam, I spotted something bright red way up ahead. Huh? It was too bright and too red to be natural — unless it was a mushroom? Not likely: It was too big, and besides, it hadn’t been there the day before.

It turned out to be a balloon. The balloon had a message written on it: I miss you more every day. Love you. It’s signed with a semi-legible first name but I’m leaving that out in case the sender lives on the Vineyard. Word gets around, and that message was not meant for me.

Tam and I were heading out so I left the balloon where it was. This morning we were doing the same route in the opposite direction, so I brought it home.

It wasn’t trash exactly, but it didn’t belong where it was.

I’ve found balloons with messages on or attached to them before, but the last time must have been almost 30 years ago. They were mostly school projects: the sender’s name and address would be included, so you could respond with where and when the balloon was found. These were occasionally reported in the Vineyard papers.

Since then the release of balloons into the wild has been discouraged for environmental reasons. I assumed this was why I’d seen so few of them — until I got home, balloon in hand, and showed it to my next-door neighbor. She’d seen it on her walk yesterday and left it where it was for the same reason I had: she was heading in the wrong direction. I said it was the first message balloon I’d seen in many, many years. She said she saw them all the time on the beach.

My neighbor is a regular beachgoer. I’m not. Here I was thinking that we had all become more environmentally conscious, but it turns out I’m just walking in the wrong places.

The balloon is now tied by its ribbon to my deck railing. It’ll wind up in the trash eventually, but not just yet.

Red balloon, upside down. If anyone knows what the “192” might signify, let me know!
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August License Plate Report

August was looking like a complete bust — which isn’t all that unusual for August — when I pulled into the beer store on the last Sunday of the month and there it was: West Virginia. The parking lot that the beer store shares with a deli and a fish store is not large, but gems do show up in out-of-the-way places. It was almost like spotting Hawaii at the Vineyard Haven dog park last year.

As we head into fall, six states are still AWOL: that usual cluster in the Upper Midwest — Nebraska and the Dakotas — plus Wyoming, Alaska, and Hawaii.

The beer store, by the way, is properly M.V. Wine & Spirits. Technically it’s on the Edgartown side of the Airport Business Park, which is important because Edgartown is wet and West Tisbury — the other, smaller side of the business park — is mostly dry. It feels like having a liquor store in West Tisbury. For sure the two or three miles to the airport makes a quicker round-trip than the ten miles to Oak Bluffs or the nine miles to the outskirts of Edgartown center.

* * * * *

On a more somber note, Don Lyons passed on August 24, age 94. As the obituaries and appreciations make clear, Don was a multi-talented guy: former minister at Grace Episcopal, ad sales rep and sports reporter for the Martha’s Vineyard Times, leading man in countless island theater productions . . . What they don’t say is that he introduced me to the license plate game when we were colleagues at the Times, around 1988 (when the Times was still in the old Spaghetti Pot building, which no longer exists, behind Woodland Market). I’ve been at it ever since. Next time I spot North Dakota, Don, I’ll let you know.

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