Friday, February 29, 2008

Scenes We'd Like to See #2

So Annie and her friend were walking their dogs along the beach at Dionis a few days ago. They decided to cut up to Tuppency links on their way back to town. That meant crossing some property lines, but on Nantucket in February that’s a tradition as firmly entrenched as the Vineyard-Nantucket football grudge-match and the high school parties at 30th Pole. If you live on-island one month a year, you’re not a local, and your right-of-way property rights are suspended during your absence. Most old time home-owners understand this, and they don’t care if you cross their driveway en route to the beach or the bike path, even in summer. Unfortunately this isn’t true of the nouveau riche owners of the trophy palace that adjoins the old golf course. The rumor is they’re Hollywood people. They have the estate guarded as if it were smack dab in the middle of a Brentwood crime wave, complete with key-pad alarms and security fencing. It’s hard to figure out just what these people are afraid of. But apparently the list includes two middle aged women, a yellow lab and a pug.

The owner sighted them and came to the window shrieking. “Get off my property! You’re trespassing! I’m calling the police,” and other equally neighborly but less printable salutations. Annie and her friend fled the area, and over the next couple of days a scene started forming in my vengeful and petty imagination.

Annie’s grandfather was a Commodore of the Yacht Club. Her family have been here since the mid 19th Century. She let her membership in the club lapse, but I couldn’t help thinking of an alternate world where Annie was not only still part of the organization but perhaps the head of the membership board. Wouldn’t it be lovely if this woman from Tuppency came, hat in hand, to the Yacht club -- longing to join, desperate for that final seal of approval from the Nantucket aristocracy.

What might Annie say to her in that fatal interview?

Actually, I’m sure Annie would be perfectly polite and then quietly cast her vote against the egregious woman, behind closed doors. And there’s no real interview anyway – just a big cocktail party where the potential newcomers are casually examined over drinks and canap├ęs.

But this is my fantasy, not hers!

In my version there’s a star chamber with a tribunal of merciless Yankee WASPs and a suitably humbled interloper, standing under a harsh spotlight, trembling in her Dolce and Gabbana dress. And this is what she hears from my girlfriend, the avenging angel of the old Nantucket, the crusader of crumbling old houses and mud rooms full of scalloping waders and tilted kitchen floors with low ceilings:

"Why on earth should we allow you into this club? You have a nerve even asking! You represent the antithesis of everything this club stands for. You are actively destroying everything every member of the club loves about Nantucket. You tore down the geodesic dome house to build your trashy ostentatious eye-sore. That was a crazy place, eccentric and impractical, but it was a landmark and we loved it. It was a bulwark against the sub-zero refrigerator, Mexican tile, fan window, house gutting, money-poisoned tasteless status vultures like yourself. Well, you won that one, lady! The old woman who used to ride her bicycle to 'Sconset every day of the year, rain or shine, lost out and you leveled her house and put up your Grand Guignol Taj Mahal. Have you ever ridden a bike to 'Sconset? Have you ever walked in the moors? Don’t pretend you have because lying will just make things worse for you here. Nantucket isn’t a real place to you. It doesn’t have any history or tradition. It’s just a water view and five restaurants. It’s just a new stage for you to show-off on. Your cathedral ceiling is higher, your deck has a better grade of redwood, your house has more unused rooms and squanders more pristine acres than the house next door. You tramp through it like a kid in big boots, stomping through a fresh snowfall because you like to see your own tracks and its fun to make a mess. And then you have the gall to threaten people because they cross your sacred property line – people who have lived here for decades, who love and understand this place in a way you never will. As if it was even your property! You bought it and you can fence it in, but it will be here long after you’re gone, long after your greedy children sell the place to another load of self-satisfied millionaires. You’re the one who’s trespassing and you always will be. But not here. Not in this club. You’re never going to be allowed through these doors, even as a guest. So go back to your big air-conditioned, private, exclusive high-ceilinged mausoleum and gloat about your paint colors and hire someone cheap from off-island to decorate the guest wing. But never imagine for one second that anyone who really lives on Nantucket wants to hear about it. Because you have nothing in your life but the things you bought and the money you bought them with and that makes you boring and irritating and mostly just sad. All of which disqualifies you from membership in the Nantucket Yacht Club. And don’t try to steal any flatware or linens on the way out. We’ll be frisking you at the door.”

That’s in my world. In this world most of the people who belong to the Yacht club are new money ‘fork-lifters’ – people who don’t sail or even play tennis, and just come to eat and be seen by their fat-cat cronies. People just like the Tuppency lady. She’d probably be welcome these days. She’s probably already a member. She might even be on the membership committee.

But not on my blog.
On my blog she’s stumbling out in tears, selling that pretentious pile of a house and moving back to Brentwood. And not a moment too soon.

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