The season of Vineyard disgruntlement is upon us. As it does every spring, Memorial Day weekend opens each summer of resentment. This year, the national — nay, global — economic confusion has cracked the taps on depression, foreboding, whining, and dissatisfaction. Moods may be gloomier than normal.
You recognize the melody. Gasoline is too expensive. Traffic is congested. Parking is impossible. Food is too expensive. The ferry is too expensive. Houses are too expensive. Land is too expensive.
Choices are too few. Jobs are scarce. Wages are too low. You can’t come and go when you like. There’s never a reservation available when you want it. The restaurants are too expensive. The tourists may not come this summer. Or, they may. Either way, it’s an imposition.
There aren’t enough bike paths. The cyclists don’t want bike paths. All the beaches are private. You can’t get a drink in this town. Oh, wait, you can, at least a beer, but you’ve got to buy some high-priced food with it. Each diner must memorize a list of rules before being served the first glass of wine or beer. For instance, cashews are not considered a meal, but filberts may be. The bars close too early. The bars ought to close earlier. There’s no Burger King. You can’t let your dog off the leash in the conservation areas. The taxis cost too much. The band at the wedding can’t play after midnight. The big summerhouses are too big. Why don’t we add an extra tax on the summer residents? There are too few tourists; you can’t make a living.
You can’t get through Five Corners. You can’t figure out where to park at the Steamship terminal in Vineyard Haven. It’s crazy the way they have the luggage cart next to the loading ramps. There are too many tourists. Or, not enough.
These are images I am weaving together in a poem I am writing. My plan is to employ the common, but peculiar, Vineyard vernacular to tell the story of this special place, this precious ‘hood of ours. Actually, the stanzas compose themselves. I hear these evocative fragments everywhere I go. People are rhyming the Vineyard.
To tell you the truth, I’ve gotten a bit weary of poetry. I mean, is there no joy in the Vineyard rhythm? Is there no upside to Island living? Last weekend, working on the final few lines, I found myself burnt out. I had to get away. So, I booked myself into Whole Foods in Boston.
Whole Foods is an antidote to the Vineyard poesy. It’s not Bali, mind you, but it is absolutely not here. It’s crowded as hell, but everyone loves it. The lunch crowd sits at communal tables, meeting one another good humoredly or warily, as the circumstances warrant. Pardon me, your elbow has intruded upon my crispy tofu. Terribly sorry, but I notice that you have inadvertently interfered with my Thai salad with citrus dressing. Choices are myriad. Prices are high, but not higher than here, and no sanctimonious someone tells us they’ve tacked on a few more pennies to save the trees, heh heh, which we should all pitch in eagerly to do, of course. Shame on us. There are no parking places at all, everyone walks. There is considerable hubbub, not just in season, but year-round. No one complains. The zoning is wall to wall, that is, the wall of my store will be the wall of your doctor’s office, whose other wall will be the wall of the apartment next door. They’ve made a 50-year plan to let things happen and have some fun.
Well, that is certainly not the way we do things here.
Don’t misunderstand me. Whole Foods is not life. I know that. It’s a metaphor, which is very important to a poet. You’ve got to have metaphors.
And, I’m not a shopper, not as a general rule anyway. But the Vineyard rhythm was getting me down, and Whole Foods — or Shaw’s, or Costco, or BJs for that matter — is a pick-me-up, a metaphor for choice, congestion without complaint, competitive pricing, happy customers, strange faces, a small place jammed with people of all sorts who cheerfully make a party out of it.
Someone said a few months ago that the way to solve this global terrorist problem is to give the terrorists prepaid gift cards, fly them to the States, and let them shop. Whole Foods would make converts of them all. The Vineyard in-season might not.