Posts Tagged Martha’s Vineyard life dogs

On Standby

Living on an island, you have to learn to accept certain aspects of daily life that are just facts. Getting a reservation for your vehicle on the boat going off island, for instance, is not always easy, especially when you wait until the last minute. If you are lucky, standby will be open. Now, standby does not mean you WILL get off the island, it just means there is a CHANCE you will get off the island. The days of “guaranteed standby” are long since gone. If you do get in the standby line, try to be driving a really small car; it will increase your chances of being tucked into an otherwise unusable spot on the freight deck. In any case, if the standby line is long, prepare to spend a while waiting your turn.

Beyond the hassles of the Steamship Authority, it seems there are other aspects unique to island living that are fixtures on Martha’s Vineyard. Ever try to get a return call from a contractor? Yeah, if you do, it is from the boat, leaving the island, not returning for two weeks. Last February I emailed my contractor regarding finishing a punch list, from 2008. He stopped over a week or so later and said, “I should be able to get some guys over here next month…” I bumped into him in December and he said, “I haven’t forgotten about you, we have a job coming up in your neighborhood soon…” When I saw him in January he asked, “Are you going to be around in February…?” Now that it is March, it occurs to me I should have asked him if he meant February of THIS year.

Many times over the past couple of summers, I have had clients ask me if I knew what happened to the smoothie shop across the street, as the door was locked and it was within the shop’s usual hours of operation. I shrugged and said I had not a clue as to what the story was. Perhaps there was some personal emergency once or twice, but half a dozen times in a week, for several weeks “in season” does not bode well for the reputation of the business.

The epidemic of being kept on standby might not be strictly an island curse, but it does seem to be more prevalent here. I might need to call, text, email, and eventually stop by an office or worksite in order to get the attention of certain individuals. Even when there is a verbal agreement, there is no guarantee they will follow through, even when doing so would mean either immediate financial gain or future prospects for financial gain. As a business owner, it is difficult for me to comprehend how that business model could possibly lead to success. If I used a similar practice in my office, I would not have very many clients, let alone a business.

While a few summer visitors sometimes think it quaint that small island shops close on short notice for quirky reasons, to have to deal with such annoyances on a daily basis tends to try one’s patience, if not one’s patronage. When I saw a contractor in the grocery store eighteen months after he was supposed to write up a quote for a landscape project on my property, he apologized and said he could stop by next week. “No need,” I replied, “it was done a year ago.” He stared at me blankly and mentioned needing the work. I needed it, too; so I did it myself. I left him standing there, saying I had a reservation on the next boat. He called after me, complaining he was on standby. “Good luck with that,” I thought to myself.short staff


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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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Dog’s Life

Many times when we see people, we tend to “classify” them into one type or another. I tend to define them more as a certain breed of dog. Some dogs are all about fun, others just want to sleep. If you head over to the AKC website, they offer a guide to breed characteristics so that you can better know the compatibility for your particular wants and needs. This makes for a more harmonious household for all involved.

Martha’s Vineyard is know for being very “dog-friendly,” with dog parks, water bowls outside many stores, and of course stores that sell “dog stuff.” People bring their dogs here when they visit and take them everywhere they can. For the most part, people know where their dog will and will not be happy and act accordingly. Often, you can tell a good deal about the person by the dog they own and how they treat their dog.

When I lost my dog, many people asked when I would get another. My answer was, and still is, “I don’t know.” I did not view my dog as “just a dog.” I did have to place him with a family when I had to leave the island at one point and it was one of the toughest things I had ever done. The only thing tougher was when I actually lost him.

My view of a dog is similar to that of a child. They need to be monitored to keep them safe, they need more than just food and shelter, and they should be happy. Anything less would be unacceptable and you should not have a dog. (Or children, for that matter.)

All of that being said, I favor Labrador retrievers for my situation and lifestyle. They are friendly, obedient, and have a love for all things playful and food related. When I was not working, I took my dog everywhere. More often the case, I would plan the places I went based on bringing him and spending time running the trails, visiting the dog park, or going to the beaches that allowed him to romp and swim. He was happiest in water; the ocean, ponds, pools, or puddles. (Much to my chagrin.)

Now, I began this installment matching types of people to types of dogs. While I favor the companionship of a Lab, I would not classify myself as one. In fact, I took an online quiz one time that defined the taker as a breed of dog based on your behavioral characteristics. Turns out I am a German shepherd: task oriented, focused, aggressive, and obedient. I’ll own that and more. I prefer work to play and love a task that I can complete, confident that I will be successful in its execution. I even look at my recreational activities as something to be completed in a given time and manner.

Often I notice that dogs and their owners are well matched. I notice that these pairings occur at locations where both dog and owner are happy. The point of being there is not so much out of duty, but one of wanting to be there. Other times I see dogs and owners that are not well matched. Perhaps the husband is walking his wife’s dog or the dog was something that the kids wanted, only to forget after the puppy cuteness wore off. The latter is a sad situation that I rue to see.

My dog was my alter-ego, allowing me to be a bit more relaxed and not so fixated and serious. He was a big teddy bear of a dog that would do anything for food, not that I wouldn’t. Living on the vineyard with a dog gets you into social circles that most “dog-less” people will breach. You might get a smile from a fellow dog owner in a store where others get scowls, especially in August.

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