Walk, Drive, Remember

Tam and I walked to the post office yesterday afternoon. In my backpack were a handful of postcards urging Wisconsin voters to vote for Jill Karofsky for the state supreme court. The election is April 7, and one of the three required message items was recently changed to encourage voters to vote early. If you’re reading this in Wisconsin, Jill’s website will tell you what to do.

My postcard for Jill Karofsky. I use Avery labels and templates to create the card, then do my writing on the back.

And speaking of Postcards to Voters, there’s no time like the present to sign up to write postcards to help support Democratic candidates and get out the Democratic vote. I’ve blogged several times about PTV, like for instance here, or you can check out the Postcards to Voters website.

When Trav and I walked to the PO, our route led us through the yard of a house that was conveniently vacant for years. That house is now occupied, so Tam and I are improvising an alternative that involves a little bushwhacking before it hits a well-worn path into the Island Farms subdivision. The rest is easy.

In the subdivision, we encountered two little boys, almost certainly brothers, playing on the dead-end road. They admired Tam, Tam made friends with them, and Tam and I went on our way down the dirt road.

I tied Tam to the wooden bike rack by the bus stop where I used to tie Trav. To my surprise and pleasure he seems to be OK with my going out of sight when he’s tied outside. When I walked into the PO, Steve Goodman’s “City of New Orleans” was playing on the PA. This is one of my favorite songs of all time, so I took this as a blessing, not least because I’d just read about devastating rise in COVID-19 cases in the city of New Orleans, accelerated by the Mardi Gras festivities at the end of February.

The version playing in the PO wasn’t Steve. I don’t think it was Arlo Guthrie either; Arlo introduced both Steve and the song to a national audience (Chicago already knew them well). Steve Goodman died of leukemia in 1984, age 36, and this wasn’t the only great song he left behind. Plenty of people know the songs without knowing who wrote them, so here’s Steve singing “City of New Orleans”:

My next venture out was to the beer store, properly M.V. Wine & Spirits. It’s at the airport and just over the line in (wet) Edgartown, but it feels like having a liquor store in (mostly dry) West Tisbury. That’s a bit far to walk unless one wants to make an afternoon of it, so I took Malvina Forester, and Tam rode shotgun.

COVID-19 and the towns’ recent stay-at-home orders have made some changes. My last trip was business as usual, but this time customers congregated outside and staffers came out on the porch (veranda? deck?) to take our orders, go back inside, and return with the goods. I wanted two cases of Tröeg’s Perpetual IPA (current fave, along with Sierra Nevada’s Torpedo and Wash Ashore Beer Company’s Maya Mae) but they were out of cases so I settled for two six-packs of Perpetual and a four-pack of Maya Mae.

The redemption machine was, not surprisingly, closed so I brought my empties home.

The experience threw me back to my childhood. Self-service grocery stores and supermarkets were much the norm by then, in the late 1950s and early ’60s, but my mother got meat from Lamont’s in Auburndale. Lamont’s was also a small grocery where many of the nonperishables were stored on high shelves above the counter and the grocer (Mr. Lamont?) would use a hook on a long wooden rod to deftly separate the packages you wanted from the ones you didn’t.

I just went looking for Lamont’s on the web, not expecting to find anything, so imagine my surprise when I discover that Lamont’s is now on the National Register of Historic Places as a “rare example of concrete block construction.” I don’t recognize the only photo available — not only is it obscured by trees, it’s white! — but there it is. I do recognize the neighborhood, though: Norumbega Park, which was home to an amusement park when I was a kid, and the area off 128 (that’s I-95 to you 😉 ) across the Charles River from the park where we’d go to feed the ducks, and the Middlesex & Boston bus yard where “Comm Ave” (aka Route 30, or South Avenue in my town) and Charles Street forked. My school bus in first grade was what the older kids called an “M&B crate” but after that it was yellow buses all the way.

I still remember my parents taking me and my next younger brother to watch the Riverside Recreation Center burn to the ground. My recollection is that I was seven at the time, which I might have been: an online history of Newton and the Charles reports that it was “destroyed by a suspicious fire in 1959.” If it burned before June 8, I would indeed have been seven. My clearest memory is crossing railroad tracks in the dark with loads of other people, holding my father’s hand, and watching the flames across the river. Hardly anyone knows why the ramp you take off 128 to get to 30 is called Recreation Road, but I do.

All this sent me back to “Philadelphia,” a wonderful song about living in different decades, or even centuries, at the same time. Lyrics by Rudyard Kipling, setting by the late, brilliant Peter Bellamy, performance by Tony Barrand and John Roberts. Naulakha Redux is one of my favorite albums. Who knew a visit to the beer store would set me on the road to “Philadelphia”? or that a walk to the post office would include a ride on the City of New Orleans?

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 Walk, Drive, Remember

  1. Karen Ann says:

    Strange times we’re living in. I have been hoping to visit the Vineyard this summer for a weekend but even that seems questionable given the uncertainties. Loved this post and it’s journey…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Very strange times. The stay-at-home orders were just extended through April (not surprising!) but who knows where we’ll be as Memorial Day approaches and then passes? How much uncertainty can we manage with our livelihoods and even lives at stake?


  2. mhemerson says:

    Susanna, I enjoyed this immensely. Margaret


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