Nantucket Essay
Nantucket Essays

We’ll Keep Digging

~ by Robert P. Barsanti ~

It’s a good summer to give up on watching TV. Most of the good shows have called it a season, and every sport, save baseball, has finally sent their players home to their families and their countries. Baseball rolls on, of course, but baseball is a sport to be enjoyed more on the radio than on the sofa. No other sport is better ignored than baseball, save for the occasional blunder or home run. The only thing better ignored than baseball are political conventions, when the newspapers and Twitter can keep us up to date on the outrages and what they wore.

On a weekday afternoon, the young men and I went to our favorite South Shore Beach. For most of my island life, this beach has been quiet even in the most crowded summer afternoon. You have to drive into the moors beyond the airport, follow the dirt roads past the pines, and then take two unnatural turns before you turn up next to a beach. If anything makes it well known to islanders, it would be the collection of thirty or so flip-flops that have built up on the path through the dunes. We parked with four other cars, dragged various chairs and bags out of the back, and settled fifty yards down the beach, in front of what would soon uncover to be a very pleasant sandbar.

We live in a new age on the island. The economy has turned around and come back to have two more lobster rolls and some of those cookies, too. The visitors come out to their houses and the workers take the boat back to theirs. Further, Twitter, Snapchat, and everything else puts the quiet secrets of the island up with maps and Pokemon characters. Someone had posted the beach on Preppy Buzzfeed and the Yukons came in herds.

So, an hour passed on this quiet South Shore Beach, hidden on a dirt road and tucked between two summer houses. Then the American Horde rolled up with a hundred beach chairs, a hundred coolers, and six dogs.

This is August. This is the end result of a thousand get-rich-quick schemes, ten thousand building plans, and fifty thousand people on the boats. More than fifteen years ago, the call went out to limit the cars and pull up the drawbridge and the call was sniggered into silence. We couldn’t build a wall, they said. If people wanted to come, shouldn’t we let them (and charge fifteen dollars for a hamburger.)

As I sat in my chair, book on my knee, I knew I was part of all this. My car was parked out there as well. I had chosen my section of the beach. But I had been here first.

Still they came. A crew from Kappa Kappa Gamma, set up right behind us, joined by boyfriends, brothers, parents, and house-guests. Like mildew, they spread back to the dunes (for the Spike Ball and Kadima) and up to a foot behind my chair. Madaquecham had become Rockaway Beach or the Jersey Shore, head-to-foot, armpit-toarmpit on the sand. To our right, a forty-year-old man with a short board and a white visor was talking to a friend from prep school about the house he built out here. He played golf at Nantucket Golf in the summer and Sharon Heights out in Cali in the winter. “You should come play,” he said. “Anytime.”

It’s a free country and a freer beach. I could either stand and insist, upon my rights as the first person on this piece of sand, that everyone had to back off fifteen feet. Or I could follow in the best traditions of my ancestors and move west. So I did.

An hour later, we called it a day and decided to make a run for the Juice Bar. Just as there are (or were) sweet spots in the beaches on island, so there are in the hours of the Juice Bar. Should you arrive in the right half hour, you can walk up to the counter and order. You just have to time it and not put it on Instagram.

On our way to one of the great pleasures of an island summer, we came upon one of the great amusements of the summer; a red Suburban was buried up to its hubs on the leeward side of a dune. He had made a fine hash of it, with fully inflated tires and testes. His wife had her hat on, sunglasses down, and children at her feet. Her husband was just out of earshot, having a loud conversation with Harry Larrabee and having the sort of success you could guess from the volume. I took a picture for my own records.

He buried the Yukon smack dab in the middle of the path onto the beach; the only way around was to walk on the beach grass. Behind him, Range Rovers, Escalades, Mercedes, Jeeps, and Landcruisers filled the lot, lined the road, and backed up a half mile onto the dirt road. Harry wouldn’t be able to bring his wrecker in, even if he was of a mind to.

I would like to be a person who walked away with a secret little smile and got ice cream. That person would be a lot more successful and a lot less troubled than I am. But when some other people started digging out the car, and deflating the tires, the three of us joined in. The word spread on the beach, they all had a good laugh at the predicament, and took to digging. Soon, a rusted Ford 350 with a Jamaican landscaping crew was backing up and tying a tow rope to the Suburban and dragging it free. There was applause, good fellowship, and some back slapping. Dad the Driving Dunce opened up his wallet and gave his angels some money, then the boys and I gave them our parking spot. Unfortunately, we had to wait for few minutes for our Watermelon Creams.

We have made some pretty remarkable problems out on our little sandbar. We can be petty, greedy, and as small-minded as they come. But at core, on this island, we are also a generous, big-hearted, hopeful place, where a bunch of strangers can dig you out of the stupidity you buried yourself in.

Articles by Date from 2012