Got the “Whaddym’I Doin’ Here” Blues

I found this in my old Bloggery while looking for something else. Posted on November 3, 2005. I’ve passed a few milestones since then but the place I’m in now looks a lot the same, even though I’m living in a different town. Figure there was a reason I came across it just now.

You know the feeling — you’re walking round the neighborhood on a brisk sunny day and the umpteenth house being shoehorned into a postage-stamp-size lot looks worse than a toxic-waste dump, and driving up State Road from Vineyard Haven is one long string of useta’s: That’s useta be Portside, best burgers on the island even if the service took forever and it was only open in summer; Wintertide Coffeehouse useta be there, the grass-roots arts community pretty much fell apart when it died; Spinnaker Lanes useta be over there, remember the year the M.V. Times fielded a team?; that’s where the Art Workers’ Guild useta be, remember Helios, the little sorta Greek restaurant?; that’s where I useta live, before it was bought by this adrenaline junkie from New York . . .

New York and Martha’s Vineyard make up one bipolar whole, New York permanently manic, the Vineyard permanently depressed. What could Martha’s Vineyard be if we weren’t the decompression receptacle for all these city-crazed people? Hypothetical question #286. It’s a koan: intuit the answer and presto! imperialism and tourism will vanish from the planet. (Note to Susanna: Maybe it’s time to reread Orientalism? How about The Wretched of the Earth and Pedagogy of the Oppressed?)

Long time ago . . . Notice how slippery time gets on Martha’s Vineyard? I try hard to focus on the few buoys bobbing in my wake: the year I got here (1985), Hurricane Bob (1991), the year Rhodry was born (1994), the year I worked at Webb’s campground (1996), the year Allie arrived (1999), the year my retina detached (2004) . . . Most of the rest is slippery: when did I start working for the Martha’s Vineyard Times, when did I finish my novel, when did I start? Anyway, at some point in the past, there hung on my wall a Pretty Picture Calendar by a Celebrity Photographer, and on one of its twelve months, damned if I remember which one, was a quote from a locally famous/notorious writer. The gist was that at some point he realized that he had married the Vineyard and that any compromises that had to be made were going to have to come from him.

I had a deep and sinking suspicion as I read those words that I — I who had resisted marriage in any form, who thought of all entangling alliances as giving hostages to fortune — had done the same, and the terrifying thing was that I didn’t know what it meant.

I’m singing the “Whaddym’I Doin’ Here Blues” partly because the universe has not given me a clear sign — never mind a clear sign; it won’t even give me a murky runic hint — where I’m supposed to go next, and barring a sign I’m way too lazy and way too scared to start again somewhere else, but partly, mostly because of that marriage thing. If this were an abusive relationship, if Martha’s Vineyard were getting drunk and knocking me around, I’d walk out the door. But it’s more like Martha has Alzheimer’s, combined with a slow-moving but almost certainly fatal cancer, and what kind of shit would I be if I deserted her now?

Besides, the muses have given me this assignment: I’m supposed to bear witness to the rest of the world, including all those junkies who’ve used the place as their karmic waste dump. I kicked and screamed and threatened to quit, then they said the magic words: “But you’re the only one who can do it.”

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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2 Responses to Got the “Whaddym’I Doin’ Here” Blues

  1. Juleann says:

    Excellent summary!


  2. Hal Davis says:

    Listen to those karmic buddy-muses, They have not steered you wrong.


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