Posts Tagged change

End Of An Era

After all of my years working on Martha’s Vineyard, I can count on one hand the number of clients that I can still call my “regulars”, those whom I can anticipate seeing whenever they find their way to the island, since my first season. Today that number decreased by one. Mike Wallace, a Vineyard summer resident for more years than many can remember, died last night. Though the Wallace property was sold last year, it is only now that people will come to the realization that an era has come to and end on Main Street in Vineyard Haven.

I must first say that it is not customary for me to invoke the names of my clients, out of a sense of professionalism. But “Mike”, as he insisted on being called, as opposed to “Mr. Wallace”, had a candid demeanor about him and he was responsible for several generations of his extended family, as well as many of his friends, becoming my clients. Truth be told, I always addressed him as “sir”. While I believe it was also Mike’s way to address many people with whom he spoke, whenever he greeted me with a “good to see you, my friend”, I also believe it was genuine and heartfelt.

While exchanging general pleasantries was usually the extent of our conversation, the usual goings on about town was a topic that often came up. Seasonal residents have an entire winter’s worth of changes to catch up on when they first arrive; new businesses that have opened, old ones that have closed, houses that have sold, etc. For many years Mike would leave my office at the end of my work day and he would say that he had a Sopranos episode to watch with “Bill and Artie”.

Often Mike would walk into the office without an appointment scheduled, asking “would Jason happen to have any time for me today?” I could hear his unmistakable voice in the office every time. I grew up watching “60 Minutes” and he was an American institution. Still, I never had the impression that he had an air of entitlement when dealing with him. It was interesting to watch the reactions of other clients that happened to be in the office when Mike was; they were almost always speechless and star-struck. The rapport Mike and I had was professional, but certainly more familiar than formal.

Of all the “notable” clients I have had over the years, Mike endeared himself to me on more levels than many, if not all, of the other such clients. He had that ability with most people he met, I believe, judging by what I witnessed over the years. I feel that it was his ability to be genuine and frank; no pretense, no hidden agenda. While many clients that I have worked with over the years can barely remember my first name, Mike knew my full name.

One time I was chatting with someone on the sidewalk in front of my office in Vineyard Haven when Mike approached me. He explained that he had left he wallet at the house and needed to pick-up lunch; would I be able to front him some money that he could repay when he came in later that day? Certainly, “how much”, I asked. I ended up fronting him a fin, which he promptly returned later that day, when he came in for a session. The person with whom I had been speaking was left speechless. Priceless.

For the two winters I worked in New York City, commuting back and forth every week, Mike was a client there as well. A chance meeting with his wife Mary on the Upper West Side one day made the city seem more like the Vineyard, if only for a moment. Still, it was always summers on Martha’s Vineyard where the Wallace clan would be able to escape and just relax in true Vineyard style.

Now there seems to be a chapter ending for our little island. The “Possible Dreams Auction” has lost the celebrities that were institutions at the annual summer event. Many of the clients I looked forward to catching up with each season will no longer be returning to Martha’s Vineyard. There have been thousands of clients passing through my office over seasons past; hundreds became regulars for a period of time. A few dozen have remained seasonal clients, returning for ever shorter periods of time as the years pass. In all sincerity, I can say without hesitation, that there will only be one Mike Wallace, and he shall be missed.

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Lather Rinse Repeat

The past few days have been unseasonably warm on Martha’s Vineyard. Track & Field season has begun. All signs point to the beginning of the busy season for my schedule. The mental list of things to do will soon morph into a daily routine that will eventually become a grind sometime in August and continue until the tourists decide it is over. We all have our routines that we follow; morning coffee, time in the gym, reading before bed. Whatever the routine might be, it is always good to consider whether you shape the routine, or the routine shapes you.

Often is the case that we continue to do something a certain way because “that’s just the way it’s done”. The zombie-like movements proceed without much thought or consideration; making coffee, driving to work, folding laundry. Still, why can’t it be done differently for any reason, if not simply to break up the monotony? I admit it, I get so engrossed in the processes of my routine that it can sometimes appear obsessive-compulsive at times, but it works for me; so why would I mess with it?

Among the many sayings that I can think of that would explain why one should always question one’s perspective, I favor “seeing the forest through the trees”. Often it requires us to take a step back from the process in order to see it for what it is; mechanical, uninspired, and tedious. Other times someone outside of the process will bring it to our attention that there seems to be something lacking in our routine; energy, awareness, or passion. Whenever or whatever brings this revelation to light, proper action should be taken, as soon as possible.

The actions taken to revamp one’s routine, whether they are subtle or revolutionary, they should reflect the need and subsequent anticipated reactions to the changes. For personal changes, it might mean just taking a few extra moments to chew your food at mealtime. Professional changes might mean reconsidering your employment situation, but if you are where you want to be, redesigning your business card or website might be enough.

Where all of this is leading should be toward improvement. After all, progress in life is the ultimate goal; professional, personal, or otherwise. So take a minute or two, breathe a little deeper and look around to see where you are, what you are doing, and decide whether a few small adjustments are needed to make things a little more interesting. Life should be more than following the same steps throughout the day, every day.

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The Other Side

Though the winter that is currently concluding has been one of the mildest that I can recallNew Englandever having, the arrival of spring is welcome. The time between mid- February through late March can be some of the leanest and tedious on Martha’s Vineyard. The barren darkness, the empty streets, the closed businesses all seem to call into question one’s decision to remain on island while so many others do not. The time is not unlike some long journey or menial task, trying the patience, if not the sanity of those brave souls that dwell on it all. Still, once it has passed, the experience will be something that you can say builds character, right?

Unfortunately, I cannot say that I managed my time very efficiently over the past 6-8 weeks. Many of the projects I had hoped to complete never even got started. I could blame it on the mild weather that beckoned me to the mild, sunny outdoors or the sporadic business in the office that drew me into working days I had planned to take off, but that would not be the whole truth. No, for some reason I just did not feel like pushing myself to be as motivated as I normally have been. Call it hibernation, melancholy, or just plain laziness I could not get started on anything this winter.

So now the arrival of spring taunts me, as I know I have precious few days that will be my own. Whatever you call it, spring cleaning, turning over a new leaf, or simply using the arrival of the warmer weather as motivation, now is the time to do all that has been put on hold. Looking around to use the energy of the new businesses on Main Street in Vineyard Haven, I should be optimistic for the coming season.

I have never been one to live in the past, so I must believe that the worst of everything is now behind me; I have made it to the other side. Time to slap on some colorful new paint and hope for the best for every business that has made it to the next season. The “Welcome to Cape Cod 2012” sign is up and soon the boat schedule, along with the rates, will be changing for the summer season. I did not shovel snow more than once this winter and I don’t intend on doing it for a good long while.

Every season I see people return from all over, coming to see the island “in season” when they see fit to partake of all we have to offer them in their time of leisure. Many are “snow birds”, leaving for 2-4 months to avoid the “dead of winter”. For all of those individuals that are part-timers onMartha’s Vineyard, you might ask “how was the winter”, but you will only be told that we made it though; we made it to the other side.

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Holed Up On Island

I just finished off an Italian sausage sub the size of my head. It took me all afternoon, but I did it. I also consumed about a pound of raw string beans, a head of steamed broccoli, a couple of handfuls of pistachios, several tangerines, and whatever I ate for breakfast. I’m still hungry. Before you think that I have given up and given in, you should know I have been doing double workouts every day. Yes, one before work and another after. It’s what I do to pass the time. Borderline OCD, it actually keeps me sane. That and blogging. I have several online. Under various identities, maybe you have already seen them?

Okay, so I do leave the island every now and again to fulfill certain familial obligations, as well as tend to off island business interests. I would rather not leave my island lair, but life is sometimes cruel that way. I wonder how long a reader would continue to read this post if I simply extolled the virtues of my magic bed that remains toasty warm nearly an hour after I drag myself from it’s warm embrace to brew the daily yerba mate’. It calls to me as the Sirens called to Odysseus; threatening to ruin my morning schedule. It is worse in the doldrums of February and March, when then sun does not rise until after 6 AM.

A schedule is the saving grace when the office hardly warrants more than three days of tending each week. Make a plan and stick to it; no distractions, no procrastinating, no excuses. Go to bed earlier rather than sleeping later; stick to getting up at a set time every morning. These are not resolutions, these are rules, people; we all need rules to function in society, or so I’m told.

Getting the morning workout done actually feels liberating. If nothing else is accomplished the rest of the day, the morning workout has been done. The second workout of the day is for those truly motivated individuals that feel the need, like runners and bodybuilders. The best part about working out is the eating; you can eat more to fuel your workouts, which brings me to the food.

This time of the year, the pantry seems to yield staples that have not been seen since I don’t know when. Packets of Indian food from Trader Joe’s get mixed with wild rice that was left behind by some long forgotten roommate. Vacuum packed MREs given as gag gifts are eaten with gusto when given a dressing of green curry. Sure there are occasions when one will splurge on some purchase at Stop & Shop or even Cronig’s, but that is the exception when there are several more months to budget before new revenue begins to roll in to replenish the coffers. I actually set aside one day each week to indulge, just to give me something to look forward to.

So there are several more weeks to go before the Spring Track and Field season starts, when my time is no longer my own; there will be no “home” meets this year, as the track has deteriorated to such an abysmal condition that it has been deemed “unfit for competition”. Long travel days lay ahead for the entire season. Another reason to continue to make the most of the time that is mine, while I bide my time until the days when the sun inspires us all to “rise and shine” and once again be sociable, possibly even civil, once more.

There is another way to guarantee to make an islander greet you warmly, possibly even invite you in for some conversation, bring food; fresh baked goods, savory slow cooked foods, or rich calorie dense desserts. Enough said, go in peace.

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Once Upon An Island

It has been a short fourteen years of living on Martha’s Vineyard. What amounts to more than a third of my life has flown by at a speed that I can scarcely imagine that it actually happened. During my time living here I have been witness to so many changes; people, stores, laws, economies, fortunes. I have grown older, hopefully wiser, definitely maturing as a result. As I traverse the island on occasion, my memory recounts the changes, obvious and sublime.

I celebrated a rather subdued New Year’s Eve, swapping memories and anecdotes with a few friends. I recalled the “Get A Life Café”, Louis added that he owned what is now “Zephrus” on Main Street in Vineyard Haven before opening “Louis’”. We all commented on the bed & breakfast “Martha’s Place” just up the street, now a private residence. Yes, many of the businesses had changed hands or disappeared over the years; the Red Cat Café, The Feast of Chilmark, Bowl & Board, The Ice House, etc.

Most of the businesses changed hands, others just closed. Still others suffered from the financial downturn that currently afflicts the nation, even though we felt the pinch a bit sooner than the rest of the nation, as our economy is based on a resort economy, for better or worse. I noticed the difference back in the 2005 season. All of the numbers were down, not just with my business, but with the majority of shopkeepers I spoke with concurred. The previous five or six seasons had been so strong, there was really nowhere to go but down. The vibe of the island changed back after the 2001 season, after the September 11th attacks. The Clintons were not the summer regulars they had been, a new sobriety set a pall over extravagant vacationing, and once the financial collapse happened, the season shortened significantly.

My first season on Martha’s Vineyard, I paid $22 one way to get my car to the island. There was “guaranteed stand-by”, meaning if you were in line to get your car on the ferry, they would run ferries until the line was empty, weather permitting. Even though gasoline was not cheap on island, it was less than $3/gallon. I used less than a tank of fuel the entire season, riding my bike everywhere. I didn’t own anything on island other than my car, I was free of debt, and I was free to travel; a twenty-something with endless opportunities. The island was an idyllic paradise, an endless summer. Reality was a swift and cruel harbinger of the future; the end of summer.

They say that all good things must end. On Martha’s Vineyard many feel that happens at the end of every season. Others feel that the end of the season is just the beginning of another season. The only real constant, in my opinion, is change. Time waits for no one, but in our memories we cherish all that we hold dear. Living on this island I have gathered memories of people, places, and things that I will never forget, both happy and sad. To be a part of a place where so many others travel to just to be a part of for even a short period of time is very unique.

What are your memories? What was something that you remember so well that no longer exists? Whether it involves the original Humphrey’s location up island or a romantic weekend at an inn that is no more, the memories are yours to recall and share.

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That Was Then, This Is Now

As I type this blog, a full moon beams down through the large windows of my living room, Cassandra Wilson and Jacky Terrasson provide the music, and I think of an approaching anniversary. On January 14, 2006 my life was interrupted. Not just a minor annoyance like a traffic ticket or a failed romance but a slam into the wall, dead stop. A house fire took all of my possessions and destroyed them. Worse, it took my canine companion of six years, Dabo. Things can be replaced, companions not so much. What could not be measured at that time was what other elements of my character would be altered by the event, which lessons would be learned, and how long it would take to recover and to what degree, because I have come to learn you never completely recover from certain aspects of such a tragedy.

The fire started at a wood stove that got too hot and ignited what surrounded it, as simple as that. I had gone to work a few hours earlier and returned home for lunch. All appeared normal until I opened the front door to a wall of smoke. From there it was all just a matter of calling 911 and waiting for the emergency responders to arrive. A call to my insurance agent brought him to the scene shortly thereafter. After a few hours there was nothing to do but leave. I went to my office and made some incoherent phone calls. I had a place to stay for the night and that’s all I knew.

The days and weeks that followed were tough. Being January, the island was a quiet place and I called people to let them know what had happened. There was no social media back then; no face book, no twitter, no smart phones. I can count on one hand the people that helped me rummage through the remnants of my life and acted as a support system outside of my immediate family. My story was a blurb on the radio, a couple of paragraphs in the local paper, not much else; life went on. After a month or so, rather than repeat the entire event to people that asked “how are things going”, I simply replied that things were fine. I didn’t know if they knew what had happened and I didn’t really care if they did. I just wanted to move on at that point. Most of the people asking that question were clients that asked as casual banter, not of genuine concern.

Rebuilding my life, both physically and mentally proved to be challenging. The financial crisis hit just as the cost overruns for the house went 30% over the estimate. It nearly bankrupted me and my family; the banks cut my lines of credit, my income diminished, the house was not completed. It should be noted that the insurance companies give you two years to either repair or replace all that had been claimed or forfeit the full value for reimbursement, including the house itself; not very realistic.

Now, nearly six years later, I still have yet to even come close to where I was before the fire. Obviously I am not the only person facing financial difficulties, but considering the trials I have faced, I think I am holding my own quite well.

Last weekend, on New Year’s Day, a friend of mine also had a house fire. She was lucky to escape with her life. She had no insurance of any kind. She lost all she owned, quite literally; it’s gone. But she has friends, lots of friends. We are all going to help her through this tough situation. We are organized on face book, twitter, and through blogs like this one. This is how it should be, a community coming together in a member’s time of need. One friend at a time, doing whatever they can to help her out; because it’s the right thing to do, because she would do the same for any one of her friends. Do YOU want to be a part of the Martha’s Vineyard community? Start by helping my friend, Paola Fuller.

http://www.facebook.com/notes/friends-of-paola-ayala-fuller/paolas-story/249569381779176

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Hitting Your Marks

With the holidays winding down, it might be a good time to address the different things in our lives in order to insure that we are where we need to be, when we need to be there.

From the time on a clock, to the steps for constructing some new object that we might have received as a gift there are methods to the madness that permeates all of our lives. As I elucidate below, see if you recognize any in your daily routine.

Living on Martha’s Vineyard, anytime I need to leave the island (I never really WANT to leave the island) the issue of transportation looms large in the plans. I have never taken a plane to or from the island, nor do I ever plan to. That leaves transportation via the water and which of the few passenger vessels would be most appropriate. If I plan on taking my car, I have only ONE “choice”. The Steamship Authority can be difficult to deal with from the perspective that you should always TRY to make a reservation for travel in order to prevent either being stuck in stand-by for endless hours or finding out that there is NO stand-by on the day you wish to travel. That being said, you will need to decide which boat you can have your act together in order to be AT the boat on time. Miss that mark, and all hell could break loose. Trust me, even if you THINK you are ready, think again. I refer you to a December 23rd reservation that was prey to the ravages of the wind, canceling ALL boats, including mine.

When I was training for marathons, I had to maintain a certain cadence to insure that I was “on pace” to make the most of my training. If my heart rate was not high enough, I was not working hard enough, which would tend to negate the purpose of training altogether. If it was too high, I would burn out too soon and not have the stamina to finish the training session, if not the race. So keeping my heart rate in the “zone” allowed me to hit the marks, or splits, during the run. These days my running has diminished to what I refer to as “junk miles” that entail maintaining a pace that allows me to finish the workout before I have to start walking or hitch a ride.

Whether for business or for personal, we all have appointments and commitments that require use to meet with people at a given time, at a certain place. On island you might have to deal with a drawbridge that randomly goes up, even when there are no boats waiting to pass through. Or perhaps a couple of moped riders feel the need to ride side by side from the Aquinnah Lighthouse all the way to the Steamship Authority Lot as you are rushing to make your reservation. Then again, there is always the excuse my clients tend to have most often when they arrive late, there was no parking available. I have always found that it always best to be early than late, but sometimes fate deals you a cruel blow and it just cannot be helped. If you cannot be prompt, be gracious when you arrive. Everyone will appreciate it, trust me.

Dealing with a seasonal economy requires everyone involved to obtain a certain amount of seasonal wealth to carry then through the off season. The most important aspect is to understand that this fact exists before the season has passed; otherwise your options for independence dwindle rapidly. Consider working every day, for long hours, until the business slows to a crawl or until you can no longer function at the given, whether you like it or not. That will be the new “normal” unless you just come to the island to work seasonally, as a parasitic worker, in which case you can be on your merry way whenever the urge strikes you. For those of us with a mortgage, taxes, and a business to maintain, we continue to toil away for fear that it will all end too soon, leaving us short of what we need to pay the bills until the next season arrives. This has been an ever more difficult mark to hit, given that every season seems to be shorter than the last.

As the year comes to a close, I look back and see that I have hit almost all of my marks. Perhaps I could have set the bar a little higher, but given all that I encountered over the past year, I have to be happy that I made it this far. How about you? Here’s to next year!

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