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Saturday, August 22, 2015

Which way to Upis Land?

Up Island on Martha’s Vineyard Island
          I went to town to get my mail and run a few errands.  One of which was to continue my search for a bumper sticker for my son’s car.  The sticker reads, “Which way to Upis Land?”  My son, quite possibly from birth, is navigationally–impaired.  From the beginning, he was inordinately reluctant to enter this world.  My theory was that he was not wired with bearings for North and South. That would explain why, at birth, he seemed to be heading North when an anxious room full of doctors, nurses and his parents were urging him to move South. I have come to accept this particular quirk as part of what makes him special.  After all, why waste my breath bemoaning that I have a child who can lose his car after parking it?  His iPhone has remedied many of the everyday challenges he used to face.  As he says, “These situations are exactly what the GPS on my phone is for, Mom.”  With that little back-story, you can better appreciate what launched me in search of this particular bumper sticker. 

          Martha’s Vineyard is divided in half.  There is Up Island, consisting of: Aquinnah, Menemsha, Chilmark and West Tisbury. The down-Island towns consist of Oak Bluffs, Tisbury (more commonly called Vineyard Haven) and Edgartown.  Recently the Commonwealth of Massachusetts approved funding to standardize road signage across the state. This prompted Island residents to write some irate letters to the Editor of the Vineyard Gazette. People expressed their ire that the perfectly good and serviceable signs that were in place had to be yanked and replaced with new ones.  These letters were as effective as spitting into the wind; the state prevailed and new signs went up.  Something about how the new typeface is set is misleading.  The new signs can leave a near-sighted person with the impression that, when contemplating what direction he or she must go to reach the towns of Aquinnah, Menemsha, Chilmark and West Tisbury, he should head to Upis Land.  Read it out loud.  To regular visitors and Island residents, the sign reads Up Island.  This was brought to my attention when my daughter told me she had overheard someone on a bicycle say, out loud, “Which way to Upis  Land?”  A few months later, I saw a bumper sticker on a vintage Volvo; it read Upis Land. I wanted one, no two, no five.  I thought my son might appreciate the humor of summer people looking for a fictitious place that they will never find.  I thought it might make him feel a little better about his own navigational lapses.  After visiting numerous Island Gift Shops, I took my search for the Holy Grail of Bumper Stickers to Oak Bluffs.  I went into a little tchotchke and gift shop in the building that houses the restaurant called Sharky’s Cantina.  
              Many people call Oak Bluffs the honky-tonk town of Martha’s Vineyard.  It has a small year round population that swells dramatically in the summer.  It is true that, of all the Island towns, it is the one most likely to draw party revelers. The Oak Bluffs harbor, formerly called Lake Anthony, welcomes what seems like a fleet of boats – and their thirsty owners.  The anchor hotel, the Wesley House, is a three- story behemoth built in the 1800s. Whether it is full of car aficionados or eager bass fishermen, the results are the same. The hotel guests head to downtown Oak Bluffs – a one lane, one-way road called Circuit Ave.  The stores on Circuit Ave stay open late to capitalize on the summer visitors.  The town’s unapologetic desire to cater toward being hospitable is why it earned it its reputation as a party-happy, slightly unseemly, town.  The Flying Horses, the Ritz, the Lamp Post, the Lamp Post, the Game Room and Linda Jean’s are among the most popular places tourists to which visitors flock along Circuit Ave. A carousel, bars, a video game room and a restaurant ratchet up tourists’ impressions of fun in Oak Bluffs.   However, having called it “home” for much of my life, I see something else entirely. I was reminded of this when I was on my quest for an Upis Land bumper sticker.
         As I turned to leave the cap store, one of the men behind the counter extended a dollar to me and said, “Would you do me a favor?”
I laughed, hesitantly.
He went on, “Would you buy a lemonade from the kids at the lemonade stand outside the store.”  I peaked out and saw that, indeed, there was a lemonade stand.
Lemonade with Twirly Straw
“Sure,” I said, as I took his dollar. “I’ll be right back.”
“No, no, you don’t understand. The lemonade is for you.”
“That’s nice of you, but I don’t really want any,” I said.
He hurried to correct me. “They are my kids and I want they them to have some business.  Won’t you please help?”
Then, as an afterthought, he added, “But whatever you do, don’t tell them that I asked you to do this!”
“Of course not,” I said indignantly.  “I’m a Mother.  I know better.”
With that, I exited and bought a surprisingly delicious lemonade that included a special twirly straw.  As I walked back to my car, I took sip after sip of lemonade.
I felt a special kind of happy that I live on an Island where kids are still kids and parents are still parents. Budding entrepreneurs and their parents are part of the fabric from which the Island’s future is woven. It is part of the Vineyard’s draw that, whether Upis Land or Down Island, there is a place for all of us here.


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