Jesse Herman

Coming home. Springsteen would understand.

Jesse Herman visited Israel in 2012. Photo courtesy of Jesse Herman.

“After 18” is an ongoing series written by graduates from the class of 2014. This week’s dispatch is the second from Jesse Herman, who attends SUNY Albany. His first post can be found here.

Well, here I am. Sitting on the bus to Woods Hole, listening to Howard Stern. The bus that I have sat on a countless number of times. I would like to say that this time is different, but it’s not. I leave the Albany bus station, which for those of you who don’t know is a very interesting place. A review I read on Google said, “If squalor were an art form, its great works would be housed at this bus station.” The bus station has aggressive cabbies asking you if you need a ride, homeless people begging for change, and yes, my friends: child abuse. Multiple times I have seen stressed-out parents berating their kids at that bus station. There is also a restaurant in the bus station. The restaurant does not have a name, it just says restaurant and has the greyhound logo over it. It smells like McDonald’s, but worse, and the stench radiates throughout the terminal.

The bus does not take you directly to Woods Hole. You must make a connection in South Station, a place I have been to so many times that I feel like I know the panhandlers. In South Station, there is a restaurant called Cheeseboy that I might as well give some free publicity to. They make great sandwiches and soups.

I was on my way back for the holiday of Passover. It is convenient this year that Passover and Easter are clumped together on the same weekend. So while my gentile friends are eating marshmallow Peeps and hot cross buns, I will be eating what is known as “the bread of affliction.” Since it has no nutrients in it whatsoever, it will be helpful for me tackling the freshman 15. I am not saying I am fat. However, if I kept eating a diet of chicken nuggets and pizza, I could have ended up with a weight problem. Besides, I am short already; if I was fat then I might be completely undesirable to the opposite sex. One reason people get the freshman 15 is because frankly, there are not many healthy options to eat at college. Sure, there is a salad bar. But mainly, you got your pizza, you got burgers that resemble hockey pucks, fried chicken, French fries, etc. Then you combine that with an unlimited meal plan and you get a perfect formula for weight gain. My problem was that I ordered delivery too much, something that I wasn’t used to on Martha’s Vineyard. Sure, it did cost a lot of money and the food was even unhealthier than the dining hall food, but I was spoiled; my mom was a great cook, so I really wasn’t used to eating mass-produced food. I have spoken to other kids and they say their mothers were terrible cooks, so I guess I was one of the lucky ones.

Most people just do not understand what it is like to live on an island. For starters, I noticed that somebody ripped a ticket out of my ferry ticket book the other day. So from now on I treat my Steamship ticket book like the Holy Grail.

When I tell people that I live on Martha’s Vineyard, they don’t know what it is, and if they do know what it is, they think that I am extremely wealthy. That isn’t true. I have to explain to them that the people who live on the Island year-round are strong, honest, hardworking people. We do not scrape to get by, but it is difficult living on a place like this. The premium gas off-Island is cheaper than the regular gas on Island. You cannot get a meal for under $10.

Frankly, I don’t understand why people would want to live here. Well, I do but at the same time I don’t. I do not get why somebody would want to be a slave to the Steamship Authority and be forced to endure such a high cost of living. However, at the same time I don’t understand why anyone would want to live in Albany either. Martha’s Vineyard is extremely safe, and it does have a close-knit community that’s always there to lend a helping hand. However, a close-knit community often includes people sticking their noses in your business and spreading nasty rumors. To be honest, if Martha’s Vineyard was connected to land, like Falmouth, our friendly neighbor to the north, I would pick it over Albany and a lot of other places any day.

Maybe it is because I just felt like I never really fit in on Martha’s Vineyard. I moved to Martha’s Vineyard from Brooklyn at a young age. My mother is the epitome of a New York Jew. She talks with a Fran Drescher–like accent, except less nasal; she whines about how bad the Mets suck, and she loves art, literature, and Zabar’s. So she brought me up to be like that, except I do not have an accent and I am a Yankees fan. To be honest, it is hard to not be around your own kind. I never really had a Jewish friend on Martha’s Vineyard; nobody really understood me. I felt like I belonged more on Ocean Parkway than Edgartown Estates. So, I never really liked it here.

If there is one person who knows exactly what I am talking about it is Bruce Springsteen. Bruce grew up in a resort community too: the Jersey Shore. In his songs and some of the speeches he gives between songs, he talks about how all he wanted to do was leave New Jersey and make something out of himself. After all, that is what the song Born to Run is about. And I am sure many of the kids who are growing up in Martha’s Vineyard feel the same way. They want to leave “the rock” and go to a more exciting place.

Bruce gave a speech between songs at one of his concerts that really applies to me too. In a way, I had the same experience, so I will tell it from my point of view, but I still want to give credit where credit is due. Like I said, growing up here I really didn’t like it. I would complain all the time, and beg my mom to move. So by last August when I went away for college, I figured I would forget about this place, never miss it, and never come back. And in a way I don’t miss it. I don’t miss the hassle, and the closed-mindedness. But when I come back, I feel different. I feel more relaxed, I feel safer, more comfortable. The place you grow up stays inside you no matter where you go. It is a part of you. It helps shape you into the person that you become.

So now I am on the boat. Although Martha’s Vineyard hasn’t changed much, I have noticed that tourist season is becoming longer and longer each year. Now you can see some tourists well into Thanksgiving. The fast ferries are not just limited to New Bedford and Hyannis anymore. There is a Rhode Island fast ferry, and there is a New York fast ferry. Now it is a few days before Easter, and there are cars on standby in Woods Hole. My friends couldn’t get a reservation for tomorrow (the third of April), so they have to leave on Saturday. The people sitting next to me are from Connecticut. It practically is tourist season.

But no matter the season or the year, Edgartown will always be my hometown, and the people I have met and the places I have frequented from the harbor to Depot Market will always be special to me. Like Bruce Springsteen said, “In the end nobody wins unless everybody wins in your hometown.”