Joyce Wagner is a freelance writer and author of the book, “Random Overthoughts: The Best (Give or Take) of the Humor Column ‘Overthinking.’” She resides in West Tisbury and is currently at work on two historical novels. Once a week, she will ponder certain Island truths and institutions in “Overthinking.”
Some people just don’t get it. In a recent article on the Wall Street Journal’s Market Watch website, an article titled, “Retire Here, Not There: Massachusetts,” proposed that there are more economical places to retire than Martha’s Vineyard or Nantucket. And they offer “natural beauty and plenty of cultural activities.” Author Anya Martin suggests four “reasonably priced” alternative areas for the golden years: Northampton, Barnstable, Pittsfield, and New Bedford. All really nice places. Really. And, no doubt, reasonable. But as any Islander will tell you “reason” has nothing to do with living here. Of course we know we can get more bang-for-the-buck almost anywhere else. How often are we told, “You can get almost twice the house for the same money in Willoughbytown Village, Mass,” or “If you lived on the mainland, you’d be paying a dollar less per gallon for gas”?
It’s a little like telling someone, “Don’t vacation in Paris. You can get more for your Euro in Minusculebourg.” Or “Rio? Save your reals. Much cheaper in San Não Encontrando.” Right.
So what do Ms. Martin’s reasonable areas have that can be switched out for a life on the Island?
Ms. Martin defines it as a “college town with big-city arts, culture and amenities.” In fact there five colleges in the area. Oh, boy! Let’s retire where there are thousands of young adults away from home for the first time. We have Oak Bluffs for that. There’s also a mall, restaurants, bookstores, galleries, gift shops, and coffee shops. Other than the mall, we pretty much have the rest of those things in spades. And malls are kind of what we don’t want here.
Close, but no cheroot. It’s on the Cape, so there’s water handy. Beaches, hiking trails, fishing, bird-watching, oystering, and a huge mall. Got it, got it, got it, got it, got it, don’t want it. Houses are cheaper, though. Still, it’s not an island.
Are you kidding? Western Mass? Berkshires? Certainly if you were thinking about living on an Island, this would be your best alternative. People who love water sports and ocean views naturally gravitate to cross-country skiing and mountains. It’s inland. Waaaaay inland. Mountains. Not even close.
Whew! We’re back to seaside. New Bedford is quaint and has a lot of the amenities of MV without the sticker shock, but still – it’s not an Island.
And that’s what they don’t get. There is something magical about living on an island that trumps all reasonable considerations. Poor people live here – people who would not be poor on the mainland. Whether retiring CEO of Megacorp, Inc., or washashore landed for a summer job, we’re here because we arrived here and fell in love with the joint. We heard the siren song of the Island and were hooked.
It’s not an easy life. We complain a lot about the isolation of winter and the hustle of summer. High prices. Small town politics. Having to go back to the mainland for certain services. But we don’t leave. The few that do, frequently find their way back.
But we’re calmed by the remarkable blue-tinted light that artists from everywhere come to paint. We’re lulled by the lap of water all around us. If it’s not in our immediate hearing, it’s in our souls. We’re amazed at the natural beauty that pops up when we drive around a bend in the road. And what could replace showering under the stars on a summer night?
So, Ms. Martin, I challenge you. Visit the Island. Stay for a weekend. I’d be willing to bet my rosa rugosa that you’ll be printing a retraction quicker than you can say, “Northampton/Barnstable/Pittsfield/New Bedford.” And it won’t be buried in the back of the paper.