Editorial : What do we think now?
Backtracking, we were undone in April as we contemplated the spring and summer ahead, having in mind the financial, real estate, and general business recession slithering its way around the globe. In May, we imagined that the size and resilience of the U.S. economy, and the gazillion dollar effort to prop up the banking system might avert cataclysm. In June, the weather dealt the economy here an unneeded body blow. And, in July, we thought, well this is what we've got - rain, clouds, an ailing economy, and an uncertain future.
What do we think now, in mid-August?
How to measure the quality of this summer? There are so many standards, and they are subjective. If you are a gardener or a farmer, you probably wanted the rain/sun balance adjusted in June, more sun, less rain in July and in August. Sun worshippers want the weather dry, sunny, and hot all summer long, and no crowds on the beach, please. The latter wish may have been fulfilled, at least till August and the president's decision to visit and vacation came to dominate the news.
Fishermen want bass, in abundance. It's been so-so. Sailors want fair winds and uncrowded anchorages. Again, the weather and the economy's drag, even on yacht owners, has helped out here.
Your test of the summer may have been whether the contractor got the new addition finished on time. This year, the contractor may have been happy to oblige. Did the landscaper get the flower gardens in shape for the July 4 party and the vegetable garden planted so that you and the paid chef could eat and entertain locally? Did the new furniture arrive?
If you are an innkeeper, it may be a question of whether your rooms were full. If you own a restaurant, were the tables full? If it's a high-end restaurant, maybe sales were down a bit, but if you run a casual place, maybe customers were plentiful. Did the tee-shirts sell? Did you find parking spaces downtown when you went shopping? Did the kids get jobs? Did they save any of the money they earned? Did someone get Lyme disease? Did you sell your house and make a bundle? Probably not. Or did you buy a house and spend too much? Hope not.
Some of the standard measures are open to debate. For instance, it may be deplorable for some of us that Steamship Authority traffic - cars, foot passengers, and freight - are all behind the pace of a year ago. But businesses need customers, and fewer ferry passengers may mean fewer sales. Besides, it's been years since there were more travelers to the Vineyard than was true in the prior year.
Vineyard summers naturally bear some relation to mainland summers. In simplest terms, the weather travels west to east, as do the visitors, in a good year. So, if it's raining in Pennsylvania or west of Boston, before too very long it will be raining here. At least, that's the conventional wisdom. This summer, a lot of the rain tracked southwest to northeast, but northwest of us, so we missed some of it. And if the economy to the vast, continental west is struggling, as it certainly is in places, cash registers will jingle less merrily in Vineyard shops. A Vineyard summer is a species of the American experience, not an entirely distinct genus. There are echoes.
And, of course, all these measures of summer are just your subjective gauges. For this page, using informal but dependable measures developed over decades, the summer of 2009 has been a good deal like many summers past. The weather has been bad, but it's okay now. There were too many cars, too many bicycles, too many people, but it's been fun. Business has been good, but it might have been better. Prices are too high. People, but not us, have been unspeakably rude. The president, the new one, is coming, and that both helps and complicates things. We like presidents who like to vacation here.
Taken altogether it's been a so-so summer, like lots of others. Still, it's too bad it's nearly ended.
Nothing out of the ordinary happened this summer. It's been just another summer, not the most brilliant perhaps, but not the dullest either. And, as for its brief duration, aren't we really ready for fall?