A nod to the new way
In early March, I took a trip over to Martha’s Vineyard to see some friends, and grab some slack time before the season cranked up at the ferry docks. I do the same trip every year in late March; however, this year I went early and I’m glad that I did because a series of events were in play; going out to visit friends at the end of the month would not have been possible. While on the Vineyard this year I did the standard visiting and wandering drill, only on this trip I had our dog Sailor with me; the dude needed to get out of Point Judith like his dad. Sailor and I had a swell boat ride from Woods Hole over to Vineyard Haven. A clean, clear and brisk wind was honking from the northwest.
Everything about this getaway was standard issue stuff. I don’t drift from routine, and I’d be visiting friends in Aquinnah, Chilmark and Edgartown, and walking Sailor along some scrubby eroded south facing bluffs out on Chappaquiddick. I’d hit the Aquinnah Lighthouse and take Sailor for a walk there. Moreover, I’d grab lunch with a writer I know in Edgartown. Tom Dunlop is a great writer and a very bright guy; he has interesting takes on the world and the island he calls home. We usually discuss current writing projects, boats and books. On this trip I would also be seeing a couple of friends playing music in Chilmark. The weather was pristine and the temperature along with the color of the ocean, and sound had a touch of a new season in the offing. This was going to be a sweet break before the hectic busy season shifted gears when I got back to Galilee, and my job at the ferry docks.
On this trip to Martha’s Vineyard, what was not mentioned in any context whatsoever was a virus called Covid-19. Perhaps it was buried in the news cycle and my friends and I missed it. In retrospect, however, I remember talking with my daughter from Oakland, California who was telling me about a conference she was attending in Los Angeles. She’d mentioned, “I’m not wild about flying down there, dad,” but I didn’t get her point and really didn’t pay it any mind. (Ahem, I get it now.) My daughter works in the medical field and she and her team were getting red flags about this virus well before March which explains her trepidation about flying. Later in the month I got a snootful about Covid-19 from said daughter, and she was rather direct in her communication with her 70-year old father. ‘’You and Cindy need to be careful, dad. I know you’re very stubborn, but you need to listen to me about this thing and pay attention.” My daughter went big on me with several texts in mid-March regarding what was coming our way. She doesn’t mince words; I paid attention to my daughter.
The music gig I saw in Chilmark was attended by perhaps seventy people. It was a great show with seasoned players, and I heard some excellent songs, had a few yuks, and took a few snaps of the ladies playing. The room was packed and the vibe and music were fun. Also, on this trip there was a little sushi party with friends of mixed company — adults and kids. We ate our sushi like Vikings and had fun as we do when we get together. Moreover, my writer bud Tom and I had lunch in Edgartown where business in the place was brisk. Again, on this getaway these experiences and behaviors were devoid of anything that seemed amiss. They were simple, and standard issue things I do out there. The day I left the island I hit a little seafood joint in Vineyard Haven for lunch. It was packed and was a beautiful day with people out and about in town. It was clear that everyone was ramping up for a big summer season.
When I returned to our place in Galilee from the Vineyard things were normal. The bride and I walked Sailor, hit George’s for supper, sat by the fireplace, and had a burger. There was nothing out of sorts there or in our simple little world. However, the next day at work after the first ferry left for the island, I heard news that said Nantucket was pulling work permits and while further scouting the national news, I started seeing the term Corona Virus. I heard words like quarantine, social distancing, Purell, and hoarding. Then, I was getting texts from the aforementioned and very direct speaking daughter. I called a friend on the Vineyard and asked if there were cases of this virus—there were. Block Island’s news cycle was now driven by this new medical concern, and then I heard the words: furlough, amended schedule, pulled work permits, masks, safety protocols, and Covid 19. Shortly after, Broadway went dark, schools closed, and on 15 April Dr. Tony Fauci talked about the possibility of “Spectatorless sporting events.” I heard the President say he had a “Hunch,” this would go away by Easter, “like a miracle.” (I have medical folks in my family, the word hunch is a word these science minded people don’t use.) Subsequently, the narrative went haywire, and the internet was seemingly filled with medical experts, and that’s when I knew we were in trouble. I knew this wasn’t about nouns, verbs, and political messaging anymore; it was about science and math. I believe in science and math. I don’t listen to politicians; I listen to guys like Dr. Fauci et al.
So, here we are. We’re asked to wear a mask, keep some distance, and wash our hands. This is not a tall order, and if it can keep people safe and shut his thing down, then we should all be on board. Finally, at the end of her life my mom was intubated. This tore me apart and it still haunts me. Finally, I can hear Dorothy Rose Kelley-Houlihan who was a very outspoken woman saying, “Wear the goddamn mask,” just like I can hear her granddaughter saying the same exact thing.