Posts Tagged relationships

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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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.

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Here we are, scant hours before Christmas, and the anticipation is building. Like some reading of the lottery numbers for which you have bought a dozen tickets that you are sure has the winning combinations, every person waits for that special moment that we release all of the joy and love that we have spent hours preparing for. If only that moment could ever fulfill all of the expectations that we hope to realize; so seldom it does.

This is actually the time that I cherish most, the time before the actual event. If only we could have this energy for every day; without the gifts, without the bother of formalities, without the restrictions of a day that ends the joy. I rise every day hoping that the day that awaits me is better than the last. Now I know that is about as likely as every day being a holiday of some sort, but at least I hope and carry on with that in the back of my mind. I will always work to improve whatever I can, just so that I have made an effort to feel some sort of satisfaction of an accomplishment. I look forward to the challenge, in fact.

So it goes with every aspect of every life, we either look forward to or dread what awaits us; a new job, a new relationship, losing a job, ending a relationship. This time of the year concentrates the joy of various celebrations; Hanukkah, Kwanza, Christmas, Festivus. It also brings us the end of one year where we look back at the year that we leave behind and allows us to look forward to the year that awaits us. The cycle perpetuates with our formal calendar, even though they are simply a series of single days strung together to form that calendar.

How do we determine that these days are those that must be celebrated with so much build up and to what end? If we were to look back in time, we can see how these holidays have become some marketing ploy; from Hollywood with the shows and movies, from Madison Avenue with a never ending ad campaign, from the religious faction looking to guide the lives of their followers. There are aspects of these days that must be noted as being commendable, they almost will us to spend more time with friends and family. Without such wide acceptance and expectation for all of us to spend time this way, it is doubtful that any of us actually would, opting instead to go skiing or travel to a tropical climate, as we tend to do during any other vacation time.

But I digress, as I think that we should want to spend time with our friends and family and that this holiday season does tend to bring out the best intentions from almost everyone. What I wonder is why can’t we do so more often? I mean there was that informal “truce” in the First World War where the soldiers organized their own sharing of rations and actually had a friendly game of soccer between combatants. While it lasted only until the superiors back at headquarters found out, the fact remains that this time of year holds magic. Unfortunately, this spirit quickly wanes when the bills arrive in January. I can only hope that this spirit could extend throughout more of the year.

Until the people of the world can stop and consider the futility of their nefarious deeds giving them spiritual fulfillment, I will enjoy the feeling that I get from the impending festivities. The anticipation feels more real than the actual event; and it lasts many days or sometimes even weeks.

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On Island, On Hold

It is one week before November on Martha’s Vineyard and aside from Irene’s sea-sprayed induced damage; the leaves on the trees remain green. The temperatures remain warmer than average. The tourists still roam the streets (literally) in shorts and t-shirts munching ice cream. My morning run around East Chop can still be done in just running shorts. The entire island seems to be stuck in September mode, which is fine by me.

September on island is quite possibly the best time to experience all there is to offer. This “hold mode” might feel like September in many ways, but there are definite differences; many businesses have closed, for the season or for good. Then again, that might be apropos, as the businesses are frozen in time, for better or worse.

The sunshine is a cruel illusion for those headed to the beach; the sun’s angle is low in the sky, the ocean water has grown colder, and the wind cuts coldly. Still, the brilliance of the light on the water and in the sky has made for some fabulous views at sunrise and sunset, even outside of Menemsha. Increasing the value of such gorgeous days is the fact that they have become so much shorter in the past few weeks, and that will be the case with each passing day, no matter how much longer these gems last.

Personally, I have found that I have more things “on hold” than I would prefer; the business, my finances, career opportunities, and projects around the house. Most of those things will remain status quo for the time being, as my time is not yet my own; I have had only two days off since May at the writing of this blog. I just scheduled a few appointments for medical check-ups, which I have not had for several years. The appointments are for late December, ironically; the end of the year.

Still, I welcome the lingering late summer/ early fall that has captured the Vineyard for the past few weeks. The High School Cross Country Team that I help coach has had a better than expected season; the weather has helped them both mentally and physically. The attitudes of the people on island have seemed to be mellow, as well; more smiles, longer visits, fewer curmudgeons. A few extra days of better weather makes everyone more appreciative of the good fortune of being here.

However, there is that nagging feeling that we will have to pay for this time sooner or later. I’m not alone in feeling this way, I’m sure. Maybe it will mean a colder January or February, perhaps another frigid spring. Everything seems to go in cycles and this is just one of many; weather, economy, and health.

What I do know is that everyone I mention this to agrees that we will take whatever we can get, for as long as it lasts, knowing that it could end at any time, whether we are discussing the weather, our fortunes, or our health. We all should take stock in what we have, for as long as we have it.

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Second Winds, Second Chances

When I started blogging, I would often relate many of my life experiences to running, either for training or racing. For me, running is where I can lose myself and regain some insight on what is going on in my life; financially, physically, emotionally, mentally. I have a few loops that I run on a regular basis, as well as a few variations. The parallel for my daily life is that I have a set routine that might seem monotonous, but like the regular courses I run, I find comfort in the predictability. There is so much in life that I have no control over, I take solace in my regularly scheduled events and activities.

Occasionally I just don’t feel up to the daily grind, either mentally or physically. During those times I usually catch myself feeling better, if not energized, for no particular reason. When this happens while I am running, it feels like a second wind, where I can pick up the pace or run a bit further than I had initially planned. Similarly, if I get this boost at work, the day goes by quicker and seems less troubling. Either way, the feeling is always welcome.

It can be the same with second chances in life. Second chances can happen in nearly any facet of our lives; financial, personal, physical, or professional. How a second chance happens can be quite simple, complicated, or somewhere in between. In any case, they are usually both unexpected and welcome, as the present an opportunity to possibly make right a wrong or succeed where there was failure. Who doesn’t want that chance? If only we could pick and choose the where and the when of a second chance.

Well, there is a way to actually facilitate getting a second chance; ask for it. Now there are certain circumstances where this is just not possible; an ugly divorce, a missed catch during the big game in high school, or a bet lost in a casino. No, a second chance often happens when you communicate to others that the second chance is not only deserved, but makes sense.

I worked at a spa for a short period of time many years ago. I was an employee, but earned substantially more money when working with clients rather than just hanging out. When I decided that I needed to move on to greener pastures, many of my appointments with clients were transferred to other employees for the last two weeks of my tenure. Now, while many of the clients had requested to work with me, the manager decided to diminish my presence in the business due to my impending departure. I had a meeting with the manager after learning this and convinced her that ultimately, the client should get precisely the services they request, from the person they scheduled with; that would be in the best interest of the business. She eventually agreed and I regained the sessions that had been taken from me.

When it comes to personal relationships, second chances are more complicated and hard to define. Once intimate, relationships seldom can successfully take a step back to simple friendship or consequently successfully become intimate for any lasting period of time. That’s where second chances involve trust and forgiveness; aspects that go beyond the simple making of money, as in business. The emotions involved in intimate relations, as part of a relationship on the whole, can taint the possibility of a second chance ever happening. Issues of trust, or lack thereof, can preclude any chance of complete forgiveness, forgiveness that would allow a second chance at having a relationship that once was.

So perhaps we need to bargain when we seek a second chance; begin again, start slow, let trust grow, and allow things to progress. Whatever aspect of life we seek second chances in, there should be the understanding that, just like a second wind, we cannot always expect them to happen, but when the do they should not be taken for granted or squandered.

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There comes a point in time where you have to see things as they are or you will never truly be grounded to the world around you. Sometimes it is as simple as seeing yourself as others see you. For me, that happened when I was working as a private investigator. I am not a tall guy, but back then I lived in the gym and weighed in at 220 lbs. I never really noticed that people looked at me differently until the day I stopped to ask directions at a firehouse. There were several guys out in front chatting when I walked up and they all turned to face me as I approached. “What’s up, big guy?” one asked. Another gave me the once over and asked if I was looking for the [football] tryouts at the college down the road. “No, just directions to a house,” I replied. After they helped me out, I turned to go and a third guy called out, “you should go try out anyway, you’d be the biggest guy there!” I laughed and said “no thanks.”

Driving away, I starting thinking about how those firemen saw me, before I even said a single word. I had done the same thing many times before and since; judging a person based on only what I saw at first glance. It was not until many years later that I made a conscious decision to try not to do that sort of thing, if I could help it. Now, I am not so much talking about prejudice so much as I am simply classifying someone or something solely based on a preconceived idea or past experience.

All of the careers I have had involved my assessing a situation and acting on what conclusions I might draw from my observations. My ability to be objective was key to the decision making process. However there were, and still are, times when an informed perspective can make the difference from drawing the wrong conclusion and making the wrong choice.

In my younger days I was a little quick to draw conclusions and even worse, I sometimes lost my temper. Luckily my response was verbal and seldom amounting to anything more than a few rude gestures. Nowadays I pause and consider the situations that confront me and try to view them from different angles to get a better understanding before I react or respond. More often then not, more of the story will be told if you just give it a little time.

I often wonder if I will ever see things for what they are. I have grown cynical from the careers I have had. It was the reason I left two of them, though they paid well with great benefits; they skewed my sense of perception when dealing with people. I see and think the worst, first and foremost. Even though nine times out of ten things may go well, it is that tenth time, the one where things fall apart, that I tend to dwell on and remember most. When that bad event does happen, I feel justified to cling to my cynical attitude toward many aspects of life in general.

I suppose that will be something that I will need to work on if I ever hope to see things for what they are. Until that time I will be viewing life from a perspective that is tainted by my past experiences, not as they actually are. Something to consider each waking moment, isn’t it?

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