Too Much

Nikki Giovanni is reading at Ocean Park at 4. A memorial service for John Mayhew starts at the Ag Hall at 5, with potluck and musicale to follow at 6. A friend is hosting a dessert party/house concert for a visiting flutist at 7. Greg Brown is playing Katharine Cornell Theatre at 8.

And these are just the things I really want to go to. If I had time and energy and could split myself in three, I could also go to the Native American Artisans’ Festival in Aquinnah (11 a.m. to 4 p.m.); a minor league baseball game at the high school at 5; a performance of Twelfth Night at the Tisbury Amphitheater, also at 5; and a concert at the Pit Stop at 8.

Not to mention the several other music and dance performances going on around the island, and the artists’ receptions. Oh yeah, and the West Tisbury library’s annual book sale is on through Monday at the West Tisbury School, half a mile from where I sit.

This is summer on Martha’s Vineyard. It’s too much. I’m tempted to blow a (mental) gasket and not go anywhere, but I’ve never heard Greg Brown live (and I’ve already shelled out $27.50 —  big bucks in my budget — for a ticket), and I haven’t heard Nikki Giovanni in many years, and I really want to go to Johnny’s memorial because his widow’s my writing buddy and the stories people tell about his life are going to be wonderful . . .

Off-islanders routinely have at least this many options within driving distance on any day of the week, and probably twice as many on weekends. They deal with the daunting multiplicity of options by not-seeing the overwhelming majority of them, the ones of only peripheral interest or no interest at all.

On Martha’s Vineyard, “driving distance” is 20 miles max. If it’s farther away, you’ve got to take the boat. This changes the calculus significantly. It’s not that you can’t get there from here; it’s that the effort, and usually the expense, increases as soon as crossing the water is involved. So we often use Vineyard Sound as an excuse for not doing whatever we’re not all that excited about doing in the first place. If we ever had the ability to automatically screen out all the options we’re not interested in, it atrophies from lack of use and gradually disappears.

So summer comes as a shock to the system, like emerging from a dark room into glaring sunlight. So many choices, so little time, not enough money . . . Excuse me, I think I’ll go back to bed.

Sure, I sometimes grumble about the limited options of off-season Martha’s Vineyard, but you know what? It’s the limitations that make this a relatively livable place. With fewer options, it’s hard to specialize to the point where you cut yourself off from everyone not in the same specialty. Plenty of people engage in two or more apparently unrelated activities: the carpenter is a volunteer Big Brother, the nurse plays in a blues band . . . The singers in the spirituals choir I joined this year represent a variety of skills and experiences, musical and non-musical.

Our multitudinous, multifarious circles mix and mingle and suffuse each other and create what seems to be, for lack of a better word, a community. It’s not monolithic, it’s certainly not static, but there it is.

Meanwhile summer is here and I’ve got to deal with it. What am I going to do this afternoon?

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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4 Responses to Too Much

  1. Hal Davis says:

    Different places, different rhythms. David Rothenberg said on WBAI in New York, “If you do one thing, you know your missing four others.” That can lead to being very, very selective. In a smaller venue, you’re often hit with fewer, but more varied choices. This is your season of cornucopia.


    • I’m nostalgic for the days when there were three commercial TV networks and (maybe) PBS. Non-prime-time programming might vary a lot from area to area, but we had at most four options for each evening slot (and the fifth option: turn the damn thing off and do something else). I think that encouraged a certain amount of fellow-feeling among fans of a particular show who had little else in common. Like watching a movie in a movie theater as opposed to in your own living room.

      Something that scares me about this country is how little we as a people (if we even are a people) have in common, and how easy it is for anyone with an ulterior motive to turn us against each other. We’ve got plenty of fault lines on this little island too, but mostly they don’t go as deep — and you can usually get everyone onto the same page by recounting your last hair-raising drive to get to the ferry on time. 😉


      • Hal Davis says:

        The late Susan Wood, a science fiction fan and Canadian Literature prof, moved from Toronto to Regina, Sask. She wrote that the cultural fare was more limited, but whatever came to town — traveling performing artists, mostly — was intensely absorbed, then discussed, chewed over, digested. A richer experience than in the more culturally advantaged — at least in quantity — Toronto. It may be harder to make those connections in a more populated scene. It is a proud and lonely thing to be Nancy White fan in New York, I can attest. Then you find a fellow fan, or two….


  2. Nancy Jephcote says:

    I don’t think there is quite as much to have to split yourself between tomorrow when Paul Thurlow and band play World Jazz at the Pit Stop. I’ll see you at the Mayhew memorial!


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