Pepe was Here.

hh_sba_skunkIt’s been a quiet evening. I’ve been sitting in the living room, drinking tea, watching a movie, playing Words with Friends. And now, it has happened without fanfare or warning: the unmistakable, slow-rising, scent of . . . skunk.

I have learned that skunks are indigenous to the Vineyard. Like a lot of people, they seem to like it here. There once was a campaign to name the species the island’s official bird. Don’t know how that worked out.

They’re bigger than most birds. Up to 18 pounds. My research says they’re born blind, and that they wind up with lousy eyesight but terrific hearing. So, if they can’t see the cars coming on Edgartown–Vineyard Haven Road—especially around dawn or dusk—you’d think they at least could hear them soon enough to get the heck out of the way. It would help avoid snarky answers to the riddle: “What’s black and white and red all over?”

As someone who spent years in western Massachusetts, not far from active farms, I am no stranger to nature’s scents. (Think dairy cows.) Sometimes your eyes sting so badly it’s easy to forget that it’s organic, so it must be good for us.

I’m not sure how much good the skunks are, though, especially since they are primary predators of the honeybee. If we had fewer skunks on the Vineyard, perhaps we’d solve the problem of global bee extinction.

The whole time I’ve been writing this, the aroma has grown stronger. I’m not sure where the culprit is: my backyard, across the street, maybe in the village. Like the sounds of the waves, the scent can carry.

I’ve actually only seen a few live ones. Once while I was on a restaurant patio a big one casually waddled past as if he were one of the waitstaff. Another time I was walking to my car and, apparently, so was Pepe.

I hold no grudge against the skunks, and feel a little sad to learn that their lifespan is a mere two to three years. Which is probably a sign that I’ve adapted to my environment, and that, like them, I like it here.

I think I’ll make more tea now; maybe play another game. And I really should close the window. Maybe that will help.

Rainy Days

FireplaceSometimes it rains here. Torrentially. Sometimes the wind blows. Hard. The surf kicks up, the boats shut down, the temperature drops, and most folks scurry to their homes and crank up the flames in their propane fireplace.
That was me, yesterday.
It was a great day to write, to read, to watch a movie. I did none of those things: I put on my fleece jammies and took a nap instead. Because sometimes, even on Martha’s Vineyard, it’s the best thing to do. No guilt. No second thoughts.
Today the sun is out, the sky is blue, and I really must get to work.

1,000 Clams

1,000 clamsI blame too many years in advertising for the fact I am a cynic. But as a diehard copywriter, I admit there’s one thing I still admire: great ad copy.

“Why didn’t I write that?” I’ve moaned more than once when I’ve seen or heard or read a fabulous, on-target headline attached to a great concept: Just do it. Maybe she’s born with it. Guess what day it is? You know the ones: They call up an instant image, evoke an instant feeling, spark an instant interest in the product.

It’s been a while since I’ve seen a great one. Until the other day.

Subscribe to the VINEYARD GAZETTE and we’ll give 1,000 CLAMS . . .

It turns out that for each new subscription or renewal, the Gazette will donate 1,000 clams to help preserve the island’s coastal ponds. Fabulous, indeed.

Oh, sure, some folks might be disappointed not to get a mug or another tote bag. (My favorite has always been the free calendar with a one-year renewal.) But I think idea of the clams is brilliant, not only as a marketing hook, but also for its environmental effort.

The ad piqued my interest. I researched old Gazette articles and learned that quahogs (pronounced co-hogs, for those not in the know) are now thought to be the “longest-lived animals on the planet” since, a few years back, one was found off the coast of Iceland and determined to be 405 years old. Hmm. Not sure I’d want to pop that one into the chowder.

I can’t find any reference as to how “clams” began to connote “money,” but I suspect it’s connected to “wampum,” the supposed form of currency in 17th century America that was crafted from the purple and white shards of clamshell remnants scattered across the island beaches after seagulls have jack-hammered them for lunch. (Yes, I’ve mentioned that before.)

But I digress.

I don’t know the name of the copywriter who came up with the ad or which actually came first: the idea to donate clams or the clever headline as a marketing tool. But I’d like to send a big Hooray! for a job well done.

I also renewed my subscription for another year. (Good marketing, like good writing, deserves positive results.) When I finished, I clicked “Submit.” Then I shut down my computer, drove to the bookstore, and bought my own calendar.

On the way home, I stopped at the seafood market.