Snowy Walk with Dog

I woke up to snow yesterday morning. Three inches of it at least, and still falling lightly. The water in Travvy’s outside dish hadn’t made it past the slush stage, but there was a pile of snow in the corner where the previous day’s ice disk was last seen so I excavated it very carefully. It had survived.

If the term “ice disk” elicits a quizzical look, check out “Ice in August” (2015) for a brief history and some samples.

Friday morning

Friday morning

Thursday afternoon

Thursday afternoon







The slush suggested that the night hadn’t been all that cold, but temperature had dropped enough to make the snow light and fluffy. Martha’s Vineyard is often on the rain side of the snow line: the Cape and the rest of southeastern New England get snow and we get rain or freezing rain. Not this time.

Snow is much more fun to walk in than freezing rain. It transforms my familiar walking routes into something new, so of course I packed my camera.

On Pine Hill, I tucked the handle of Travvy’s retractable leash between my knees and pulled my camera from my hip pocket. The leash was almost fully extended, but Trav was engaged in pawing and sniffing so I figured I had time to get focused.

Wrong. Trav picked that moment to come barreling up the path, which wrapped the leash three-quarters of the way around my knees. Fortunately the resulting tug was enough to stop him but not enough to knock me over.

Was this a photo bomb by a malamute who noticed the camera was not pointing at him? Whatever it was, it got him into the picture. Two of them. You don’t have to look too closely to see that I Photoshopped the leash out of the pictures.












Further on, I stopped several times to take pictures of trees. I love pictures of trees with snow on them.



No more photo bombs by Trav, but I took another picture of him anyway. This is how he looks when I stop to talk with a neighbor and the talking goes on for a while. Taking photos of trees fits into the same category. He knows he’s got to wait it out.


There’s more snow in the forecast for this afternoon and evening. Maybe a lot of it. We’ll see.

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Once upon a time I must have made New Year’s resolutions. Who hasn’t? I doubt I kept many of them. Who does? It’s a cliché how much exercise equipment winds up in the classifieds by the first of February.

I did make one resolution as an adult. I think it was for New Year 2002. I must have had 300 second- or third-draft manuscript pages of The Mud of the Place by that point, but I’d never successfully completed anything longer than 40 pages and I was sure I was going to choke before I finished this one. My resolution? I will work on it every day until it’s done.

And I did. Some days I was so terrified that the thing had turned to crap when I wasn’t looking that I wouldn’t open the Word file till five minutes to midnight. Whereupon I would realize to my astonishment that my ms. wasn’t the crap I’d been thinking all day that it had to be. Thus reassured, I’d then tinker, revise, or write for at least half an hour before I went to to bed.

A couple of decades before that, in my D.C. days, a friend confided that on New Year’s Day she made a list of all the things she’d done for the first time in the preceding year.

I loved this. I grew up with a perfectionist father who was forever ridiculing my mother for getting her facts wrong and supporting insupportable positions. I learned early on that it wasn’t safe to make mistakes. I learned to get my facts straight and make coherent arguments. I’m still pretty good at it.

Trouble is, it’s hard to learn anything new if you don’t dare make mistakes. The list of projects I dropped or never started for fear of looking stupid is very, very long. See why I loved my friend’s idea? Ever since it’s been my way of giving myself credit for overriding the voice in my head that’s sure I’ll get ridiculed, ostracized, or trashed for looking like a klutz.

So here’s one thing I started in 2016: learning to play the guitar. As a teenager I was insanely jealous of my friends who could play the guitar. I had fantasies of going to bed and waking up a guitar virtuoso without ever having to be a beginner. It didn’t happen.

Guitar takes a break.

Guitar takes a break.

This is actually my second attempt. Ten years ago, with huge trepidation, I took a free intro guitar course offered by a local musician. You’re right to be suspicious of my excuses for not keeping up with it, but in that first attempt I did acquire a guitar, the Rise Up Singing book (which has the lyrics and chords to at least half the songs I ever knew in my life, and plenty more besides),  and enough competence to accompany myself on a few songs.

This fall I heard that a free intro course was being offered at the West Tisbury library. I signed up. My fledgling skills had long since faded, along with the hard-won calluses on my left fingertips. At the first class in November I couldn’t remember the fingering for a single chord.

Four classes in, I’m still at it, practicing every day. All the while my endlessly creative mind is inventing excuses for giving up.

My fingers are too short

My guitar’s neck is too wide.

My fingers can’t do that.

Half the people in the class aren’t really beginners.

The other half have more talent than I do.

I’ll never catch up.

I can’t change chords fast enough.

I will never be good enough to play in public.

At some point “My fingers won’t do that” progressed to “I can’t change chords fast enough.” Gotcha, girl; you’re making progress in spite of yourself. You’ve still got problems, but the problems are more advanced than they used to be.

Travvy and me at a Pam Dennison clinic in 2011.

Travvy and me at a Pam Dennison clinic in 2011.

This is a wonder. My short fingers can actually reach farther than they used to, all because I’ve been practicing.

When I was training Travvy all those years ago, we’d repeat a lesson over and over and over and I’d be sure we were getting nowhere, then all of a sudden he’d get it. He’d know something as if he’d always known it.

Seems like my fingers work the same way.

Part of the challenge is that I keep comparing my guitar playing to my writing and editing, which I’ve been doing for almost 40 years (editing) and more than 40 years (writing). I know writing and editing so well that I don’t know how I know it, and I don’t remember how I learned it.

I will never be that good at playing the guitar, or at doing anything else for that matter. But really it doesn’t matter. Starting from scratch is a good thing because it’s a good thing to fumble and feel like an idiot and realize that you’re getting better.


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Year-End License Plate Report 2016


In the license-plate-spotting department, 2016, a nasty year in so many ways, was nothing to write home about. No end-of-year surprises. After Montana in October, there was nothing, period. Still AWOL as 2016 slipped into 2017 were Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Wyoming, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota (surprise!), Nevada, Alaska, and Hawaii.

Hmm. That’s 10 states. Montana was #40. 10 + 40 = 50, but I always count D.C. so there should be 51. After counting back from 40 to see if I’d misnumbered, I realized that I hadn’t counted D.C. Now I’m really bummed.

However, 2017 is a new year. I’ve printed out a clean copy of the map and written “2017” at the top. The new year’s #2 plate is Vermont. You’ll never guess what #1 was.

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No Man Will Shake Me From This Land

An amazing meditation about place — maybe someday I’ll be able to write as well about New England and Martha’s Vineyard, but meanwhile this expresses so well why I know they’re crucial to my being.


The spirit of my people is wedded to this land.

The bones of my Ancestors lie in a small churchyard in rural Kentucky, a place without cell phone reception and filled with people who may have never seen a plane fly over their heads. There, among those secluded stones, rest nearly every one of my Kin that walked the clays, sand, and dirt we now label the United States.

Generation after generation, all brought to one place, and practically holding hands in union. I can remember setting eyes on it that first time, walking up a hill 860 miles from home to witness the collected essence of the streams my heart rowed upon.

My family is an old one, migrating from Germany to Pennsylvania in 1650, nearly fifty years before the Seminoles ever set foot in Florida. In one generation they moved to the hills of Kentucky, becoming farmers and…

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Rudolph Revisited

rudolph_3As part of a beginners’ guitar class I’m taking at the West Tisbury library (more about that later), I’ve been practicing “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” It’s got a challenging chord transition (Em -> A7 -> D) so I’ve been practicing it a lot, which is to say I’ve been paying more attention than usual to the words.

What a nasty song! Obnoxious reindeer bully the different one then suck up to him when he gets in good with the boss?

This sounded oddly contemporary, so I wrote some new lyrics:

Donald the big-mouth con man had some very orange hair
and if you ever saw it, you would have to stop and stare
All of the other Repubs used to laugh and call him names
They never let poor Donald join in any Repub games

Then one murky ‘lection year Putin came to say
“Donald, we are quite a pair, I don’t mind your orange hair”
Then how the Repubs loved him ’cause he bested Hillary (sorta)
Donald the big-mouth con man you are still a travesty.

Pass it on. Maybe if it goes viral enough, Orangino will trash me on Twitter.


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messiah-poster-smI sang in a performance of Handel’s Messiah on Saturday night. “An Island Family Tradition Returns” said the poster, and so it was.

I’m not a trained singer but I can carry a tune, I like to sing, and if I work hard I can keep up with those who know more than I do.

Besides, I’ve sung in Messiah before. Paperclipped into my tattered score are 10 programs. The earliest is from 1990. The most recent is, I’m pretty sure, from 2001. (Date your programs and posters, people! How are researchers and archivists supposed to sort this stuff out if you don’t?) Most years we sang just Part 1, the Christmas portion, plus the Hallelujah and the Amen. In 2001 we sang the whole thing in April, around Eastertime.

That year was the last. The pickup chorus that gathered every fall to rehearse Messiah had already morphed into the Island Community Chorus, acquired an excellent director, and was performing other music at other times of year. This director had inherited the Messiah tradition but Messiah bored him and, being new to the year-round island, he didn’t understand what he was messing with.

The December Messiah performance was just one of many things that’s gone missing over the years, but I never stopped missing it. From time to time someone would say “Wouldn’t it be great if . . .” I kept my ears open, but didn’t hear anything.

Until last year. A friend and fellow chorister told me that the Grace Church choir and a few friends were planning to sing “For Unto Us a Child Is Born” at Grace’s Christmas Eve service. Was I interested? Well, yeah! I dusted off my tatty old score and joined the rehearsals. We were pretty good and very well received, if I do say so myself, though watching a video later I thought we altos were a little weak. Best of all, it seemed plans were afoot to do the whole Christmas portion in 2016.

Warming up before the performance. The sopranos are in front, the basses behind. Conductor Wes Nagy is at far left, bass soloist Glenn Carpenter is standing up, and Griffin McMahon is partly visible at the piano.

Warming up before the performance. Onstage, the sopranos are in front, the basses behind. Conductor Wes Nagy is at far left, bass soloist Glenn Carpenter is standing up, Griffin McMahon is partly visible at the piano, and the orchestra is in the pit, such as it is.

And that’s what happened on Saturday night. Director Wes Nagy led a nine-piece orchestra and a 37-member chorus (including eight soloists) in a splendid homecoming performance at the Old Whaling Church in Edgartown. The turnout was excellent, especially considering that at this time of year there’s a holiday-related concert or other event almost every night of the week.

I’m not a believer, so it’s not too surprising that it’s the music that gets through most to me, the power of voices raised together. But being a word person, I’m not exactly oblivious to the text. In 1994, the litter from which my Rhodry came was born three days before the first performance. I didn’t know which one would be Rhodry (1994–2008), but I did know that one of those pups would eventually be coming home with me. So as I sang “For Unto Us a Child Is Born” I was, I confess, visualizing puppies, not baby Jesus. Since Rhodry’s birthday was December 17, I was thinking about him this year too.

But the lines that really settled into me this year were from the bass recitative: “For, behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people . . .” Which pretty well captures what’s going on in this country at the moment. It’s followed, though, by the bass air: “The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light; and they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.”

And, a little later, by the alto recitative: “Then shall the eyes of the blind be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstoppèd; then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb shall sing.”

No, I don’t believe for a moment that a savior’s going to come along and get us out of this mess, and I wish some of my fellow countryfolk would stop chasing after those who promise to deliver them from all their troubles. On the other hand, the light can come from anywhere, and anything that encourages the hope that we can get through this is not a bad thing.

The other half of the stage, altos in front, tenors in back. The empty chair behind the poinsettias is mine.

The other half of the stage, altos in front, tenors in back. The empty chair behind the poinsettias is mine.

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Seen from a slightly (only slightly) jaded angle, Martha’s Vineyard is a theme park. We’ve got theme park agriculture, theme park woodlands, theme park arts, theme park progressivism, theme park charity, and so on, all based on things that used to flourish here for real (I think) so the theme parkery is hard to detect. Money often provides the telltale clue: thanks in large part to the high cost of land, activities that used to be more or less self-supporting now require significant and continual infusions of outside cash, from foundations, affluent individuals, and government agencies.

At the Chilmark stop on Dylan Fernandes’s “Listening Tour” last week, an up-island farmer suggested that because of its self-containment, the Vineyard was ideal for “pilot projects.” Could there be a relationship between theme parks and pilot projects? A question worth pondering.

That said, there are definite advantages to living in a theme park. One of them is goats. Last I heard, there were no fewer than three enterprises that would lease you goats to clear out the overgrown bramble patches on your property where humans hesitate to tread, often because the overgrowth often includes out-of-control poison ivy. One of these enterprises is called Scapegoats Goatscaping, which is one of the best business names I’ve ever heard.

Dog watches goats.

Dog watches goats.

In early November a sizable herd (flock?) returned to the small meadow across from the West Tisbury School. Over the next few weeks the herd moved in stages to the large tract of conservation land up the bike path from the meadow, then to an unused pasture at the adjacent horse farm, then back to another part of the conservation land. Since Travvy and I walk this way nearly every day, we spent a lot of time goat watching.

The goats are enclosed by an electric fence. It’s portable and flexible; it also enables one or two goatherders to, well, herd the goats from one place to another. When the goats moved up the bike path, they left some telltale scat behind.

You probably won’t see goats being herded up Old County Road anytime soon, however, because the goatscapers have wheeled conveyances that look like little barns and can be pulled by pickups. How many goats can ride at a time? I’m not sure. When I asked one herder how many goats there were in this lot, he replied, “Probably close to 200.” My guess is that for the up-the-road moves, they have to make more than one trip.

Goat trailers

Goat trailers

After the goats moved up to Misty Meadows, they had more room to spread out.


And a white goat watches Trav.

Trav watches the goats at Misty Meadows.

Trav watches the goats at Misty Meadows.

We got to watch goats climbing trees.


In early December, the goats left for — well, probably not greener pastures, because no pastures are green this time of year. Their last stop in my neighborhood was at the end of the Nat’s Farm field near Old County Road. The path there is narrow and the electric fence ran right along it.

By this point Trav was pretty blasé about the goats as long as they were standing still. Once they started moving — as they often did when they noticed him — it was a whole different story. Malamute imperative: If it runs, chase it. So the goats ran. Trav started bucking and spinning on his short leash at close quarters and, you guessed it, he brushed hard against the electric fence.


Trav was more than shocked: he was offended. It wasn’t his first encounter with an electric fence. He had one when the goats last visited this area in late 2014. Dogs tend to have long memories about these things. The late Rhodry Malamutt was a barn dog for much of his life. Not only did he respect electric fences, he was deeply suspicious of anything that might possibly be electrified. Like a length of baling twine lying across a barn floor.

When Trav gets really excited, his brain isn’t fully engaged and his memory goes AWOL. After this recent encounter, however, he stayed as far from the fence as the scrubby undergrowth would let him.

Trav keeps his distance.

Trav keeps his distance.

The goats have moved on, but last I looked, this sign remained behind. Trav, need I say, is leashed whether there are goats around or not.


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Wednesday, Wednesday

When only a few days’ worth of clean underwear remain in the drawer, I start watching the weather. Hanging one’s wash out at this time of year can be a challenge. Daylight hours are short and getting shorter, overcast skies are not uncommon, and unless there’s a good breeze, when the temperature dips much below 32 degrees F (0 degrees C), clothes tend to freeze before they dry.

Temps are predicted to plunge toward the end of the week, so when today dawned bright and sunny, as predicted, I was pleased, not least because in the off-season Wednesday is two-for-one day at the Airport Laundromat. Two washes for the price of one. I’d hit the jackpot, even before I fed my $10 bill into the coin changer and listened to 40 quarters come rattling down the chute.

This was a typical late fall laundry line: longjohns, long pants, no shorts, lots of turtlenecks. T-shirts are rare at this time of year, but there was one on the line, and a short-sleeve one at that.

Late fall laundry line

Late fall laundry line

If you look closely and can read upside down, you’ll notice that the T-shirt says DON’T BLAME ME, I VOTED FOR HILLARY. For reasons understandable (or maybe not), it did not become available till T-shirt season was over. I have worn it several times, but always over a turtleneck.

Once the laundry was hung, I headed into Vineyard Haven with several missions in mind. Foremost among them: Find out what was happening with Malvina Forester’s tires. The dashboard light indicating “underinflated tires” often comes on with cold weather, I think because tire pressure decreases in the cold so Malvina thinks there isn’t enough air in her tires. I put air in the tires, the light went off — but came on a couple of days later. Hmm, I thought. A slow leak maybe?

Same thing happened again: The light went off, then came on again after two days. I repeated the procedure, but this time the light didn’t go off at all.

At this point I started to get anxious. I am a stereotypical girl when it comes to cars. I trace this back to taking driver’s ed at the local high school when I was 16. This being 1967, the instructor spoke entirely to the guys in the class and for the hands-on demos the guys crowded around the car while the handful of girls hung way back and couldn’t see a thing. Being a suburban kid, I got my license ASAP, but then I became a city girl who got around on foot, bike, and public transportation. I didn’t own a car until I was 37, three years after I moved to the Vineyard and also three years after I got my first PC.

I am reasonably competent with computers, but when it comes to cars, I can add water to the radiator and pour windshield washer fluid in the proper opening, I can check the oil and replace the wiper blades, but that’s about it.

I’d thought I could successfully put air in my tires, but now I was beginning to wonder. As usual, I was torn between the equally unpleasant prospects of exposing myself as an idiot who couldn’t read an air-pressure gauge correctly and having a tire go flat on me, which would expose myself as an idiot of another sort.

So I was hugely relieved when the nice guy at Island Tire said the air pressure in all Malvina’s tires was fine. He reset the dashboard warning light; told me that if the light came back on, the battery for the dashboard light might need to be replaced; and didn’t charge me for the visit.


Onion-walnut loaves ready to rise

When I got home, I added flour, onions, and chopped walnuts to the bread batter that had been rising since late last night, kneaded it well and loafed it. My sourdough rises very, very slowly in cold weather, so I’ll probably be waking in the middle of the night to bake these loaves, but slow rising makes for great texture and it will be so worth it.

In between, I managed to get some work done, do my grocery shopping, and get in a couple of good walks with Travvy.

Happiness is a well-stuffed underwear drawer. It’s been a pretty good Wednesday, all in all.

From left to right: undies, bras, socks.

From left to right: undies, bras, socks.

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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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