Stupid Turkey, Crazy Dog

So it’s a glorious late spring morning and Tam and I are crossing Old County Road to Pine Hill Road, the last leg of our morning walk. He spots the turkey before I do, no surprise: it is well camouflaged in the thick scrub and undergrowth.

He wants to go after it, of course, but I am strong like cow and also smart enough to never go walking with an 80-pound malamute who isn’t wearing a walking harness as well as a collar.

Now, if I were the turkey and saw a large predator plunging and almost frothing to have me for lunch, I would skedaddle deeper into the woods. But I am not the turkey, and the turkey clearly doesn’t think like me, because instead of retreating into the woods it comes out into the open at the end of the dirt road. Tam is going nuts. I have both hands on the leash.

The turkey clearly understands the problem but doesn’t seem to get the solution. Instead of running into the woods, it runs back and forth across the end of Pine Hill Road. All I want to do is get Tam past the turkey, but the turkey won’t let us pass. I am afraid it will bolt into Old County Road and get hit by a car.

But the turkey doesn’t bolt in that direction and no cars are going by: hardly anyone’s on the road this bright holiday morning. Tam and I keep walking, or rather I keep walking and Tam keeps bucking and plunging and trying to run after the turkey. The turkey continues to zig and zag up Pine Hill, making no attempt to take cover.

Turkeys are a common sight around here. Over the years I’ve watched several turkey broods grow up. Solo turkeys are unusual; usually they roam in flocks, which may be as small as two or three or as large as almost twenty. (When there are that many, it’s easy to lose count.) Is this turkey perhaps playing decoy for a nest in the woods close by? When that’s the case, the turkey stops decoying when the threat moves out of range.

This turkey doesn’t stop. It keeps skittering back and forth across the road, just ahead of Tam and me. At the first of the two houses on this stretch of Pine Hill, there’s a break in the brush. Turkey starts to take advantage of it, I’m thinking we’ll finally have a chance to pass by — but no: turkey comes back into the road.

Finally, at the second and last house on the road, just before the dirt road turns into a path, the turkey zigs far enough off the road for Tam and me to pass and go into the woods in peace.Tam’s mind slips out of high prey drive and into a lower gear that remembers I’ve got string cheese in my bait bag.

I’m still wondering about that turkey. Why was it alone? It didn’t seem injured in any way. Was it protecting a nest? It’s at least a quarter mile from the beginning of Pine Hill to the second house on the road, and that seems an awfully big territory for one turkey to be protecting. Did the rest of the flock move on and leave it behind?

Any ideas?

Turkeys will helicopter upward to escape danger on the ground, but today’s turkey wasn’t interested. Since restraining Tam required both hands, I did not get a picture of today’s turkey. Photo is from April 2016.

Posted in dogs, outdoors | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

My New Project

If you follow my Write Through It blog or listen to me blather on Facebook, you already know about this, but just in case . . .

I’ve finally got access to a (wonderful) space to do writers’ workshops in, it’s almost all set up, and my first offerings are coming up soon, like next week and the week following. The first one, offered on May 12 or May 15, is Microsoft Word for Writers. It’ll focus on Word’s Track Changes feature, which really is indispensable for writers and which too many writers are intimidated by. The second, offered on May 19 or May 22, is Effective Letters to the Editor.

Each workshop will last about two hours, and for this trial run there’ll be no charge.

Here’s the announcement, with sign-up info:

I have ideas for other stand-alone workshops, and welcome your suggestions, but part of my plan is to offer two ongoing groups. One will be aimed at writers who want feedback on their works in progress (and want to offer feedback to other writers), both fiction and nonfiction. The other will focus more on getting the words flowing, with freewriting in class, reading aloud, and short weekly assignments. If you’re interested in either one, let me know!

Here’s what this very cool space looks like:

Posted in home, writing | Tagged | 2 Comments

April License Plate Report

Seen for the first time in April: Tennessee, D.C., Illinois, North Carolina, Ohio, Georgia, New Mexico, and Texas.

I very possibly spotted Texas earlier in the month, and maybe earlier in the year, but Texas is one of those plates I see often enough that I might have thought I had it already when I saw it for the first time.

2022 was off to a slow start, with ZERO sightings in February, but it’s starting to catch up. Last year I’d seen 36 plates by the end of April, and in 2020 it was 35. This year it’s 30, but 8 is a very good haul for April. In 2021 it was 4 and in 2020 only 2, but in those years February sightings were 10 and 6, respectively, so I’m not holding it against April.

What’s unusual about this map is how solid the Southwest is this early in the year. Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, and Oklahoma tend to be late arrivals, and in 2020 Utah and Oklahoma didn’t show up at all. In 2021 the eastern half of the country was almost all present and accounted for — only Tennessee, West Virginia (surprise, surprise), and Delaware were missing. This year? All four states south of Minnesota are still blank, and there are plenty of other holes in the eastern Midwest and South.

The map at the end of April 2021
The map at the end of April 2020
Posted in license plates | Tagged | Leave a comment

Found in an Unfiled Pile

Lately I have been doing some serious rearranging of stuff. Redecorating it isn’t, because I never decorated in the first place. I rarely rearrange either, because in my studio apartment there’s pretty much only one arrangement that accommodates all my stuff. I did some rearranging three years ago in preparation for Tam Lin’s arrival, so I could set up again the crate that Trav hadn’t used in years.

My multimedia gizmo

More recently, like a little over a year ago, I acquired a handsome gizmo that played not only CDs and cassettes but records. After setting it up — an adventure recounted in “Recovering Musical Treasure” — I had to drag my formidable LP collection out of the closet. It hasn’t really got a new home yet, so it continues to take up a fair amount of floor space.

The latest rearranging has been prompted by a development that I’ll describe in detail in my Write Through It blog, but in brief — I’m now leasing the first-floor space that my second-floor studio apartment sits on top off, and before long I’m going to be offering writing workshops in it.

I’m having more fun than I expected setting it up. Partly this involves buying stuff — so far a rug from Overstock, an easy chair and ottoman from MV Stuff 4 Sale, and the chair I brought home this afternoon from Chicken Alley (the local thrift shop) — but it also involves moving stuff from my apartment down to the new space.

Which brings me around, believe it or not, to the subject of this blog post. Among the stuff I moved downstairs were two of my three venerable file cabinets. Wrangling file cabinets, even two-drawer file cabinets, down stairs is a hassle. They’re heavy and they’re bulky, but I managed to do it solo without either denting the wall or breaking an ankle. The really big challenge has been going through the great pile of paper that had accumulated on top of them. My computer files are very well organized. My paper files? I never get around to filing anything. I just throw stuff on the pile. So far I’ve found Comcast bills going back to 2014 (all marked “paid”), style sheets from editing and proofreading jobs whose titles ring no bells whatsoever, and correspondence from my father, who died in August 2008.

I’ve also found clips of op-eds I wrote, a Vineyard Gazette article about when I ran for the Martha’s Vineyard Commission in 2012 (I lost, but I came very close), condolence cards from when Rhodry died in 2008 and when Travvy died in 2019, and several half-used-up yellow pads with my handwriting on them.

Including this one, which is the real subject of this blog post. (Honest!) The first line tells me that I wrote it on February 28, 1997. Here goes:

My mother died a year ago today, at around 8 pm. My sister and I were hoping she’d hang in till the 29th, because Feb. 29 is definitely more cool than Feb. 28 or March 1, and besides you don’t have to think about it much except every 4 years. She was born on Oct. 31 and I hate to say it but that was probably the most interesting thing about her.* Anyway I got down to working on a rewrite of what is currently Chapter 3 of the novel,** then Nancy Luedeman*** dropped by. She’s been going through Mary’s papers — Mary died on Oct. 28 — and found a folder with copies of poems and some letters I’d sent Mary before our relationship went the way of most of Mary’s mentor-protégée relationships — she trashed me in public then wondered why I had a problem dealing w/ her. Nancy’s been going through papers — not only Mary’s but those of Mary’s late husband Edd (who)**** died maybe a year ago and those of Mary’s parents, who died in the mid-60s. Nancy said there were sometimes when a bonfire seemed the only solution and I had to say I completely agreed.

Editorial comments (because you knew I couldn’t leave well enough alone):

* Not fair and not true. My mother was baptized Joan but was known her whole life as Chiquita because she was born in Mexico City (her father was in the Consular Service) and weighed 10 pounds at birth, whereupon the attending nurse reportedly exclaimed “¡Ay, que chiquita!” The name stuck. That’s at least as interesting as being born on Halloween.

** This eventually became The Mud of the Place.

*** I was living in the guest house at the Wooden Tent at the time, where people were always stopping by, usually to see Kathy in her adjacent photography studio, but I knew most of them so they’d often visit me too. Mary is Mary Payne, Nancy’s longtime partner and the founder of Island Theatre Workshop. Loooong story . . . Nancy died in 2010. Her Gazette obituary was also in The Pile. The bit about the bonfire cracked me up. It also reminded me of “The Lapsed Archivist Attends a Housecleaning,” a poem I wrote ca. 1988 after Mary hired me to help clean and paint a room she was getting ready to rent out. Some themes keep coming back because they never go away.

**** I have no idea why I put those parentheses around “who,” but there they are.

Posted in home, musing, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Vineyarders Sing, Loud and Clear

If this heading doesn’t make sense, see my most recent post, “Do You Hear the People Sing?” Or just read on.

On Monday, advocates for the Martha’s Vineyard Housing Bank were staring down a make-or-break week, though no one was calling it that. The Housing Bank needs the support of at least four island towns to be created. “Support” means both at annual town meeting (ATM) and at the ballot box. The Housing Bank was on the warrant in all six towns, four of which — Edgartown, Oak Bluffs, Tisbury, and West Tisbury — were holding their ATMs on Tuesday and three of them — all except Tisbury — were going to the polls on Thursday.

To steal a line from one of my favorite Dylan songs, I was feeling “the stillness in the wind before the hurricane begins.”

I was working the check-in table at West Tisbury’s ATM. For the first time since the advent of Covid-19, the “annual” was back in its usual place, the West Tisbury School gym. Announced start time was 6 p.m., an hour earlier than usual, but, very much as usual, voters didn’t start showing up in earnest till about 5:55. At one point, the line snaked through the school lobby, out the door, and down the walkway almost to the parking lot, even though there were two check-in stations, one toward the back of the gym and one at the front.

Moderator Dan Waters wasn’t able to call the meeting to order till after 6:30. Voters were still finding their seats as the town’s poet laureate recited a poem composed for the occasion and the moderator read the roster of townsfolk who’d died in the last year. There weren’t enough chairs for everybody; quite a few citizens either sat on the floor or leaned against the walls. If it wasn’t the best-attended ATM in town history, it must have been close.

West Tisbury annual town meeting, April 12, 2022. The photo cuts off quite a few people on the left, and you can’t see the people who were sitting on the floor in the aisle or around the perimeter of the gym.

The Housing Bank article was #12 on the warrant. Discussion went on for almost an hour. I was a little bit afraid that a few people would nitpick it to death and more than a little bit exasperated with people who’ve done nothing to shape the proposal over the last year and a half and now wanted to change this or that or, worse, kick the housing can down the road one more time. But it passed overwhelmingly, 324–27, to much applause, some cheering, and even a couple of whistles.

My Facebook post

I immediately posted the news to Facebook (cellphones are seductive). Edgartown checked in a few minutes later; the Housing Bank article passed unanimously on a voice vote (social media are seductive).

Oak Bluffs (where the Housing Bank article was last on the warrant) and Tisbury didn’t come through till I was home and monitoring my Facebook feed and that of other activists. Four for four!

Edgartown, Oak Bluffs, and my town of West Tisbury all went to the polls yesterday. (Tisbury, aka Vineyard Haven, doesn’t vote till late May, for reasons I can’t remember.) I was working the 4 to 8 shift, and when I turned in at the Public Services Building, I guessed at once that turnout had been good: the front part of the parking lot was full, so I parked at the back.

The line to feed one’s ballot into the machine wasn’t long, but it was a line.

My guess was confirmed by other election workers when I got inside. We were in the conference room again, another sign of pre-Covid normality returning: for the last few elections, including the 2020 presidential election, we voted in the building’s garage, which — once a couple of fire trucks were moved outside — was capacious enough to allow for social distancing.

There were a couple of lulls on my shift, but most of the time voters were arriving at a brisk pace, being checked in, going to the booths, marking their ballots, and feeding their ballots into the machine. A few times there was even a short line at the machine.

Fears that opponents of the Housing Bank would materialize in force at the polls — expressing your position in a secret ballot can be easier than standing up in a public meeting — turned out to be groundless. Support for the Housing Bank on election day was as decisive as it had been at town meeting.

Monday’s “stillness in the wind” has given way, not to a hurricane, but to a huge sigh of relief, and a renewed commitment to get this done. Chilmark holds its ATM and election on April 25 and 27, respectively; Aquinnah follows with its ATM on May 10 and election two days later; and Tisbury votes on May 24. We’re all aware that though this stage is crucial, it’s only the first step. The Housing Bank then has to get through the state legislature, and about that — well, there’s plenty of truth in the quote attributed to Otto von Bismarck, to the effect that it’s best not to watch laws or sausages being made.

Posted in Martha's Vineyard, public life | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Do You Hear the People Sing

Housing bank votes start next week, when four island towns — Edgartown, Oak Bluffs, Tisbury, and West Tisbury — hold their annual town meetings (ATMs), and three of the four (all except Tisbury) hold their elections two days later.

ATMs are always important, but this town meeting season feels almost apocalyptic to me. On the warrant of all six ATMs and on the ballot for all six town elections is the proposal to create the Martha’s Vineyard Housing Bank. The Housing Bank would create a blueprint and a democratic structure to increase the stock of year-round housing, rental and for sale, within the reach of year-round working people: teachers, health-care workers, carpenters, mechanics, etc., etc., etc. You can read the warrant article itself here.

I could go into how desperate the need is, but if you live here you already know it and if you don’t — well, housing is a critical issue in many places, and if you look at a map, you’ll notice that it’s harder to commute to Martha’s Vineyard than to Boston or Worcester or Springfield. Ever-increasing numbers of workers do commute, however, because, you guessed it, they can’t afford housing. I could go on at some length about that. Some other time maybe.

Here I want to do a jump shift. This past Saturday I went to the student production of Les Misérables at the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School. I’ve never seen Les Mis live, only the movie, but “Do You Hear the People Sing” is one of my favorite songs of all time and any story about people coming together to resist oppression is my story too. So Les Mis and the imminent votes on the Housing Bank are all tangled together in my head.

No barricades have been stormed (yet), but the Coalition to Create the Martha’s Vineyard Housing Bank has worked a miracle. I’ve said for years that Martha’s Vineyard couldn’t organize itself out of a paper bag — our six contentious towns have led many a state official and local organizer to despair — but this isn’t true. We’re good at organizing to help individual neighbors in need, and we’re good at organizing to keep things from happening. These efforts may not achieve their objectives, but they do get people fired up and doing all the things that can create change: going to meetings, speaking in public, writing letters to the editor, contacting officials . . .

The Housing Bank Coalition has profited from these examples. It’s big, well-organized, multi-generational and multi-occupational. It involves people from all six towns. It even involves many real estate brokers. (This is noteworthy because the statewide real estate lobby has been a major force over the years in blocking efforts to deal with the worsening housing crisis.)

Over the last year and a half the Housing Bank Coalition has organized down to the grassroots and up to the highest levels of state politics. It has connected with organizations across the commonwealth working on housing-related issues. It has worked with the six town governments to ensure that the wording of the ATM warrant is the same in all six towns. (Someone should write a book or make a movie about how they managed to do this.) They have managed to impress upon our fractious populace and our turfy town officials the importance of going to the state legislature (which has to approve whatever proposal we come up with) unified.

It learned from the failed effort three years ago, which came together too fast and too shallow, in response to a possible funding source — an add-on to the room tax — that was controversial in itself, because quite a few Vineyarders do short-term rentals to help pay their long-term mortgages. This time around, the proposed funding mechanism is a transfer fee on high-end real estate transactions — comparable to how the Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank has been successfully funded since 1986. Several bills to enable such a fee are currently before the state legislature.

Back to Les Mis and a particular line from my favorite song: “Beyond the barricade is there a world you want to see?” Look forward, it says. Dare to imagine. “Mourn the dead,” as labor organizer Mother Jones reportedly said; “fight like hell for the living.”

No, we can’t go back before subdivisions, before “the season” sprawled from Labor Day to Columbus Day to Christmas and beyond. The six towns may retain some of their old character, but no way can they ever be as autonomous and insular as they were in “the old days.” The grassroots theater and music scene of the 1970s through mid-’90s isn’t coming back. Neither are cheap winter rentals. We can mourn their passing, but we can’t go back.

In the world I want to see, people live and work within reach of each other. We range in age from just-born to over a hundred. No one has to work three jobs and/or pay 50% of their income for housing. We all have free time to invest in activities that don’t pay anything (or not much): raising families, making art, volunteering for non-profits, coaching kids’ sports or playing sports ourselves, getting involved in town and regional government, and so on and on. We have thriving public spaces where community can happen: libraries, schools, houses of worship, public land.

We can make it happen. Creating the Martha’s Vineyard Housing Bank is the crucial first step. Here’s the M.V. League of Women Voters schedule for 2022 town meetings and town elections, and also the dates and/or links to candidate forums for contested elections. Be there!

And if you hear someone singing in the woods, it might be me.

Will you join in our crusade?
Who will be strong and stand with me?
Beyond the barricade is there a world you long to see?
Then join in the fight that will give you the right to be free!

Posted in Martha's Vineyard, public life | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

March License Plate Report

If you guessed from the total absence of a February License Plate Report that there was nothing to report, you were right. Coming as it does after the big burst of January, February is always a light month, but this may be the first February that turned up a big zero.

March was better, a good haul if not a big one: Nevada, Minnesota, and Utah.

Looking at the map, I’m almost certain I’ve seen Ohio and Texas, but they probably didn’t register because they’re both pretty common. Next time I’ll write them down.

Events are gradually moving off Zoom and back into the real world — you mean Zoom isn’t the “real world”?? — which means I’m on the road more often, so I expect the pace will pick up in April. We’ll see!

Posted in license plates | Tagged , | Leave a comment

January License Plate Report

The year was off to a worse-than-mediocre start: the month was half over and not only was I not even up to 10, I was still missing three of the six New England states. Clearly I needed to get out more.

So I did. Yes, this did involve a swing through the M.V. Hospital parking lot, particularly the little unpaved section next to Eastville Ave.: I spotted South Carolina, Colorado, and Oregon there for sure, but none of these are especially rare. Most of the rest, including the rest of New England, I saw on the road.

The huge find was Oklahoma in downtown Oak Bluffs, near the police station. Often enough Oklahoma shows up on the back of a U-Haul or other long-distance truck that may have only the most peripheral connection with the state. In 2020 I never saw Oklahoma at all. Michigan is usually the last of the Upper Midwest states to show up, but not this year.

Nineteen is a fairly respectable showing. I like to get half, or close to half, of the states in January, but a glance at the 2021 map shows that #19 (Louisiana) didn’t show up until February. Covid-19 probably had something to do with it, because January 2020, before Covid started affecting travel and everything else in a big way, yielded a bumper haul of 25.

For the record: On the map at the end of January 2022, spotted in this order, are Massachusetts, Florida, Connecticut, Maryland, New York, California, New Jersey, Arizona, Virginia, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Michigan, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Colorado, Oregon, and Oklahoma.

Also for the record: I’m doing this year’s map in shades of blue. 2022 is a decisive year for U.S. democracy. I’m sick of pundits talking as if the Republicans taking back one or both houses of Congress is not only possible but close to inevitable. So I’m doing my bit to turn the U.S. map as blue as I can.

Posted in license plates | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

January Blizzard

We have had, as you may have heard, some serious snow. It’s been a while since we had snow this serious — the kind of snow where the driveway has to be plowed before you can reach the main road, and where your car has to be shoveled out before you can get to the driveway.

Pristine trail, before we got to the drifty part

Walking ain’t easy either. This morning Tam and I set out down a path we often take. No one had ventured down it yet — this is one fun thing about snow: you know when only the birds and the rabbits have beat you to it — so off we went.

Hard work but OK, till we got to a drifty stretch where the snow was over my knees — at least 20 inches, I figured later. Tam, being only a little taller, was having a hard time too. So we took the easy way out: we were only a few yards from the back parking lot of the West Tisbury School, which had already been plowed.

At that point, the best way home was to walk along Old County till we got to Halcyon Way, our road, which had been plowed and was easy walking. In another day or so, plowed roads will be icy so I’ll put my Yaktrax on, but this morning I didn’t need them.

Today the sun was out, the sky was blue, and the snow sparkled on the branches. Yesterday the walking was easier but snow was falling, the wind was blowing, and the world was so monochrome that my eye was drawn to every bit of color.

This is the entrance to the ABC Disposal’s dumpster yard up the road from me. See what I mean by monochrome?

And here’s a new stone wall that I pass almost every day:

Tam Lin running on the basketball court:

The basketball court offered this bright flash of red:

Bert Fischer’s American flag caught my eye:

Given the way the wind was blowing — and as you can see the wind was blowing — I thought I might get a better shot from the other side of the shed. Tam and I trudged through the snow, only to discover that in order to get a good view of the flag we would have to venture onto Bert and Linda’s lawn, which is very close to their front windows. In other circumstances I would have done it, but boot- and pawprints in the snow would have been a dead giveaway. Not that Bert and Linda would mind, but it still seemed a little bit sneaky to be tramping across someone’s lawn to take a picture of their flag.

Did I say that the lawn, and the shed with the flag flying from it, are very close to the house? After we got home and I’d taken off my layers of clothes and toweled Tam off so he wouldn’t shake snow all over the apartment, I logged on to Facebook and what should I see on my timeline but this:

Photo by Albert O. Fischer

Bert, who is an excellent photographer, had been watching out the window as Tam and I snuck up on his shed and of course he had taken a picture. “Busted!” I wrote, and explained what we were doing there. Now I wish we’d gone a little farther and gotten another shot of the waving flag.

Posted in dogs, home, outdoors | Tagged , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Have Faith. Keep Going.

Friday night I went (via Zoom, of course) to the M.V. Hebrew Center’s annual service in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel. When I first attended a few years ago, I knew next to nothing about Rabbi Heschel (1907–1972), an eminent Jewish theologian and civil rights activist. I’m not religious, but in these challenging times we all need inspiration and faith to keep going and that service is one place where I find it without fail.

This year was no exception. Between the music, the readings, and the words, this year may have outdone itself. Singing spirituals like “Wade in the Water” and “Keep Your Lamp Trimmed and Burning” connected us all and reminded us that this struggle for dignity, justice, and freedom has been going on far longer than any of us have been alive, and against worse odds.

Rabbi Caryn Broitman spoke of the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt — how with Pharaoh’s armies approaching, the terrified Israelites cried out to Moses and Moses told them not to be afraid, the Lord would save them. The Lord, however, had another idea: “Why do you cry to Me? Tell the children of Israel to go forward.” Whereupon the Red Sea parted, the Israelites crossed over, and, to quote from another song, “Pharoah’s armies got drownded.” (This is all in Exodus 14. Look it up in Bible Gateway, where you can pick your version. It’s a great story.)

Have faith. Keep going. Since I’m not a believer, I don’t think any divine being is going to create our road forward, but I do believe that by moving forward we create that road. Giving up won’t do it, and neither (I love this part of the Exodus story) will expecting God to do the heavy lifting. Have faith. Keep going. The words have been reverberating in my mind all weekend.

As it happens, this weekend I got to experience how this works. The Martha’s Vineyard Democrats, of which I’m currently the secretary, and Indivisible MVY had planned a March for Voting Rights for Saturday afternoon, in response to a call from Martin Luther King Jr.’s family for nationwide actions against voter suppression and in favor of the John Lewis Voting Rights Act and the Freedom to Vote Act (now combined in one bill), which is in danger of not getting through the U.S. Senate. “No celebration without legislation!” they said.

They urged organizers to include a bridge in their plans, to memorialize the crossing of the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, on March 7, 1965. On that day, peaceful marchers setting out to walk from Selma to the state capital of Montgomery for voting rights were brutally set upon by law enforcement. Many, including the young John Lewis, were seriously injured. Television coverage of the event galvanized the nation, or at least some of it, and helped lead to the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. In 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court in Shelby County v. Holder effectively gutted the act, and the Republican Party, nationally and at the state level, has been working hard ever since to limit the access of people of color, poor people, and young people, among others, to the ballot.

The obvious bridge of choice on the Vineyard was the drawbridge between Vineyard Haven and Oak Bluffs, a mile or so up the road from our favorite rallying point at Five Corners, so we went with that.

Toward the end of the week the weather forecast got worse and worse. Rain was forecast for Friday, after which temperatures would plummet into the single digits. The march route was along the Beach Road, where high winds can be high indeed. Friday morning four of us met to make a call. I was for postponing till Sunday afternoon, when the forecast was for sunny, dry, less windy, and not as cold. No no no, said two of my colleagues. They conjured up icy roads, icy sidewalks, people getting hurt. They were adamant. Reluctantly I went along. We cancelled the march.

Saturday morning I woke up to the expected cold and wind, but it was sunny and there was no sign of ice. I was bummed.

Later that morning I was at (via Zoom) the monthly meeting of the Martha’s Vineyard branch of the NAACP. Word had gone around that the march was off — but then a friend from the Racial Justice and Human Dignity committee of We Stand Together / Estamos Todos Juntos announced that some of them were going to march anyway. It seemed that the little daughter of two members had been eagerly looking forward to the event and was crushed that it had been cancelled. So they were going to march anyway. I’m in, I said.

Have faith. Keep going!

My voting-rights sign — OK for a rush job

Between the end of the NAACP meeting at noon and the scheduled start of the march at 1, there wasn’t much time to spread the word and make a sign, but I did what I could. We met at the Tisbury Marketplace and a valiant band of about 15 marched to the bridge and back; the four-going-on-five-year-old who had spurred us on made it the whole way. I probably wasn’t the only one thinking “And a little child shall lead them”! She’ll probably remember the event when most of the rest of us, or at least our memories, are long gone.

This afternoon the M.V. branch of the NAACP held its annual MLK Day membership meeting. In pre-Covid times (remember those?) this was a luncheon, most recently at the PA Club in Oak Bluffs. The guest speaker was James Jette, superintendent of the Milton Public Schools, who did some of his growing up here on Martha’s Vineyard and is connected to the Chappaquiddick Wampanoag tribe.

All in all, the whole weekend was inspiring with a remarkably coherent message: Have faith. Keep going. I’m ready.

Most of the valiant Jan. 15 marchers on the bridge. Between the masks and the winter clothes it’s hard to recognize anyone, but I’m kneeling in front with my yellow sign and the littlest marcher is holding her sign to my right. Photo by Toni Kauffman.
Posted in Martha's Vineyard, public life | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment