Sorry, Mr. President

I’m not going to be out there on South Road waving when your motorcade goes by, and you won’t notice me craning for a glimpse of you when you visit the fair or hit the fairways or check out some chi-chi bistro for dinner. You won’t notice me, because I won’t be there.

I mean no disrespect, of course. On Martha’s Vineyard, August is the cruelest month. In August most of us are working two or three jobs and/or entertaining a continuous procession of guests from off-island. By the middle of August we’ve been doing it non-stop for two months at least and we’re getting a little stressed. Imagine, Mr. President, if you had total strangers traipsing through the Oval Office 24/7, looking at you, talking about you, and asking you for directions to the Lincoln bedroom. Your tolerance might, just might, get a little frayed.

Photo swiped from Tea Party website

You, like thousands upon thousands of other summer visitors, have come here for a break. The fact that here is Martha’s Vineyard doesn’t really matter. Summer people come here to schmooze with other summer people. Summer Martha’s Vineyard is rather like “official Washington” that way. Movers, shakers, and move-and-shake wannabes pour in from all 50 states and countries beyond to schmooze, glad-hand, back-stab, and generally carry on with other movers, shakers, and move-and-shake wannabes. Unofficial Washington is as far off their radar as year-round Martha’s Vineyard is for the thousands upon thousands of summer visitors now thronging our roads and beaches.

I know this: I lived in unofficial Washington for 11 years. “D.C.: Last Colony” and the Seasonally Occupied Territories have quite a lot in common, not least our invisibility to the occupying forces.

This summer, though, it’s not primarily work or crowds or overload that’s keeping me off the streets. It’s politics. Usually Vineyarders do our heavy politicking in the spring. For obvious reasons we don’t do much politicking in August. This August, however, we’ve got not one but two major issues on our summer table. One involves a roundabout that a few think is the bee’s knees but many, many of us think is unnecessary. The other involves a conservation organization using its financial clout to grab an island couple’s property.

In many ways the two struggles are different, but in one they’re very similar: they’re both about power overreaching itself. Not unlike the Republicans holding the federal budget (and by implication the whole country) hostage during the recent and deplorable battle over the debt ceiling, eh? As above, so below.

I’ve managed to get myself mixed up in both issues, and hence my time is even more limited than it usually is this time of year. And that’s why you won’t see me craning for a glimpse of you when you go out in public.

But if I should happen to run into you on one of the dirt roads near where I live, or out in the woods while I’m walking with my dog, I’d be glad to tell you more. Better still, what say you come back, perhaps incognito, in October? Then we’ll have plenty of time to talk.

About Susanna J. Sturgis

Susanna edits for a living, writes to survive, and has been preoccupied with electoral politics since 2016. She just started a blog about her vintage T-shirt collection: "The T-Shirt Chronicles." Her other blogs include "From the Seasonally Occupied Territories," about being a year-round resident of Martha's Vineyard, and "Write Through It," about writing, editing, and how to keep going.
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5 Responses to Sorry, Mr. President

  1. dabodog says:

    Yeah, his visit to “Bunch of Grapes” gave me a case of “sour grapes”. Several of my clients were delayed getting to their appointments on Main Street (the opposite of stimulating the island economy).


  2. susan robinson says:

    This is beside your main political point, but reading “Sorry, Mr. President” reminded me of when I used to teach at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, VA. I taught in the Wren Building, which was famous architecturally, having been designed by Sir Christopher Wren. As I taught Contemporary Literature (many dark, disjointed and sometimes obscene texts) tourists would wander through the classroom, sometimes covering its perimeters, sometimes pausing to look out the windows or listen in on the class. The students and I automatically went into NYC subway mode: acted like whatever the visitors were doing wasn’t happening.

    Another fact of teaching in a tourist trap was that to get to my office was a repetitive challenge. Once I was so unsuccessful in making my way through the horde at the building’s front door that I just hunched down and thrust myself headfirst through the throng, the members of which acted as if nothing untoward were happening.

    Apparently there is a lot of survival value in seeming obliviousness at the interface of resident and tourist.


    • Hoo boy, I’ll say! I developed not-seeing and not-hearing as strategies for living in an alcoholic/crazy family — if you really noticed something, and other people knew you were noticing it, then you’d have to deal with (a) the something, and (b) other people’s reactions. This turned out to be hugely useful in “real life,” esp. dealing with those who had more power than I did, like bosses, and inn guests when I was a chambermaid. It’s very much part of the tourist/”local” dynamic. I learned long time ago that when a tourist — or, even more so, a summer person — seems to be inviting you to say something true about being a “local,” danger danger danger! Typical exchange: Them: You must be glad when Labor Day comes, huh? Me: Well, yes, it’s nice to get our island back. Them: But you’d all have a tough time without tourist dollars, right.

      You learn PDQ to be polite and noncommittal and never, ever to acknowledge that moving twice a year is a PITA and that at some point you get real sick of answering stupid questions and pretending that they’re intelligent.


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