Nantucket Essays

Deep in the Sand

by Robert P. Barsanti

There is no feeling in the world quite like the one when your car sinks into the sand. The tires will still spin, the sand will fly, but everything else has sunk by about six inches. If you are particularly lucky, you will have an audience that will turn to you with the expectation of a clear solution; “So, Dad. What do we do now?”

First, you sink into a spit-warm bath of foolishness, hopelessness, and inadequacy. You look back to where the road split. You took the one less travelled by and that made all of the difference, especially with the sand firm and warm up against the trans-axle. Your ego, so lily white in a bleach bath of righteousness, has been spattered.

Perhaps you can get yourself out of this mess. You could drop the air pressure, you could unlock the drive train, you could shovel out the car as if there had been a July blizzard. Perhaps if you could just…

After a warm gulp of humiliation in front of the audience, you pick up the phone. One local towing entrepreneur, with the hope of selling fire hoses near a burning house, has dropped 21 business cards, stapled to driftwood around this particular sand trap. Instead, you call AAA and try to explain to them what the address of this particular sand dune is: “Mioxes Pond Road? Is that it?” Then Terry comes out in the Nantucket Auto Body Wrecker, hooks up a cable to the frame, and winches you out.

We are an island of sand traps. For a small little place, the island has more than a few places that can turn you around, tip you over, and leave you suddenly in a mess of trouble. Last week, I sat on the beach at Nobadeer as two people cried “Help” just beyond the sandbar, less than fifty yards from the beach and ten yards from firm footing. Yet, good samaritans swam into the surf, talked them calm, and then Gary Allen put the two on his surf board and paddled them in. Safe, sound, and secure, we all head into town for ice cream. Welcome to Nantucket.

In the summer, the island takes on the airs and the draperies of the Hamptons. The classes neatly separate between Lilly Pulitzer and the Help. One class can pay five hundred dollars for a one hour concert and one class pours wine for them. This island of privilege leads to Vineyard Vines bicyclists
standing in the middle of Orange Street, Land Rovers driving the wrong way down Main Street, and Boston Whalers playing chicken with the Iyannough. We make money off of this fantasy, with every seven dollar ice cream cone, thirteen dollar cheese burger, and twelve dollar mixed drink, we refill the coffers for the winter (or we help balance Karp’s books).

We may have slipped a little too far into the Tommy Hilfiger catalogue. Many of the stores and restaurants are waiting for those lithe twenty year old models in Pima cotton and seersucker to gracefully slide on to a wicker couch and order a plateau of oysters. They will wait for their picture fabulously. Meanwhile the Mommies, Daddies and their strollers read the menu and walk away. The North Shore, Vincent’s, and the Skipper have slipped into fond memory, but the only five dollar cheeseburger shouldn’t be at the St Paul’s Fair.

Lilly, Ralph, Tommy, and the rest of us have built a Richard Scarry dream of Nantucket that we will happily welcome paying customers to. We will sell them $3.00 cherrystones, $30.00 boxer shorts, and $300 bottles of Prosecco.

The island appears to be one gigantic tennis club, but it is only the uniform and apron that we put on by Memorial Day. Beneath the cobblestones and the bricks and under the Bermuda grass and the rosa rugosa is a tough net of humanity that ties us all together. Nantucket is tough mesh; it knits diner and waiter, swimmer and lifeguard, me and Terry the tow truck driver. Out here, it is only us and one good sand trap brings us together.

It’s a hard lesson to learn. Sometimes it takes an early Monday morning in Pink and Green at the courthouse while the clerk reads your name, the judges hears your plea, and the newspaper takes your picture. Then, suddenly, the net stretches far beyond Dad’s checkbook and your friends from
Hotchkiss. Some of us have to relearn this lesson at the end of Mioxes Pond Road, axle deep in sand.

We live enmeshed in the tighter net of time. Each summer the St. Paul’s Fair comes, the roses bloom, the water warms, and the sand bars slowly form off the south shore. Babies are born, grandparents die, and the rest of us ride the waves. The same hooligans, brigands, and miscreants called before the bar on July 6 will inherit their father’s great houses and grounds. Then they will call the police about the noise from the beach.

In my last few ferry rides, the babies have out numbered the dogs. They fuss around, poke at their parents, and doze languidly after snack. They sit behind bright fences, under umbrellas along the shore. I saw one napping in a stroller while his mother idly pushed him back and forth from inside the
fence at the Boarding House. The babies will take over.

They will pedal with the camps, they will scoop ice cream, they will set the jib on the Endeavor, they will drink too much, drive too fast, and learn the lesson of the net. If we are good, and if we are lucky, they will follow the tracks of those who drove before them. They will hold up the net. They will be policemen, E.M.T’s, judges, and selectmen. If we are particularly lucky, we will have plenty of tow truck drivers to pull us out of the deep sand.

Articles by Date from 2012