A couple days ago I posted “Docu-soaping Martha,” a letter of mine published four years ago in the Martha’s Vineyard Times. It got more hits in a shorter time than photos of sunset, snow, and/or Travvy. Thus encouraged, I’m here reprinting something I wrote even longer ago, in April 1988. It was published in both the Times and the Vineyard Gazette. At the time I’d lived on the rock less than three years. I didn’t know what I didn’t know. Calling myself an “Islander” at that early date now strikes me as more than a bit presumptuous. Another thing I didn’t know was what a PITA traffic to and from the Vineyard is to people in Falmouth. If I had known, I would have proposed an out-of-town location, like maybe the Mass. Military Reservation, aka Otis Airbase, at the Bourne rotary.
Alas and alack, my proposal was never implemented. Now that Martha’s Vineyard: The Theme Park has come into its own on this side of the water, it probably never will be. But perhaps if it included a casino . . . ?
It’s spring, and this Islander’s fancy lightly turns to the usual subject: how to make some money this summer (1) while maintaining some semblance of sanity, and (2) without exacerbating any of the problems related to overdevelopment. Walking home from the post office, I hit upon the following scheme, and since, as a penniless writer, I haven’t the capital necessary to implement it, I offer it to your readers, in the hope that one may put it to good use.
In the Steamship Authority parking lot at Woods Hole, or perhaps one of the two overflow lots in Falmouth (which with any luck will be rendered redundant by the implementation of this scheme), a small theater will be constructed, in order to offer the following (air-conditioned) program to prospective visitors who can’t get ferry reservations, can’t afford hotel and restaurant bills, or don’t want to buck the summer Island traffic or the frazzled tempers of the natives. Upon entering the auditorium, guests choose their seats from those constructed to simulate those found on buses, cars, carousels, bicycles, ferries, hay wagons, or mopeds.
Every hour on the hour, the lights go down and immediately the guest is surrounded by cinematic color and sound. Under his or her feet, asphalt (or, occasionally, rutted dirt) flows dramatically backward, mirrored overhead by the sky, which is by turn blue, clouded, and stormy. On either side pass beloved roadside scenes: forest, farms, fields sweeping down to the sea, horses standing behind split-rail fences and classic stone walls, gingerbread cottages and elegant captains’ homes. Famous people appear in their summer habitats: the airport, Alley’s porch, expensive Edgartown boutiques, and chic up-Island cocktail parties. With terrifying verisimilitude the moving pictures sometimes lurch sideways to make room for a trio of moped jockeys riding abreast. Headsets are available at no extra charge for those who want to know where Jackie Onassis and Carly Simon live or how John Belushi died.
Having toured all six Island towns and some places far off the beaten path, guests will file out into the skylit concession area, where representative Island concerns offer their wares for sale: gourmet vinegars from Chicama Vineyards, raw milk and cream from Fred Fisher’s, beaded jewelry from the Aquinnah Shop, a selection of Henry Beetle Hough’s books from Bunch of Grapes, and commemorative T-shirts from Marianne’s. For an extra dollar mature adults can slip into one of the dark, curtained booths at the back and hear year-round Islanders Tell All About What They Really Do in the Winter.
Child and pet care is, of course, available on the premises and, for those not impressed by scenery, a modest video arcade. The most popular games include “Moped!,” in which a single player attempts to negotiate his or her way from the rental shop to Gay Head and back again without landing in either The Jail or The Hospital; and “King Rat!,” in which two players vie to amass by fair means and foul the necessary permits, environmental impact statements, and funds to squeeze 200 buildable lots into 150 acres of overgrown farmland.
Upon leaving the theater, each guest receives an assortment of authentic Island postcards, a complimentary copy of the Gazette/Harris poll, and a cookie of his or her choice from the Black Dog Bakery. Anyone still interested in actually setting foot on the Vineyard is invited to enter his or her name on the two-year waiting list for round-trips originating in Woods Hole.