My Chappy memoir is about the struggle to live around so much beauty and so much dysfunction on a tiny resort island off of Martha's Vineyard. A dark comedy unfolds as narcissistic summer people intertwine with locals who struggle to survive personal and island centric demons.
Chappaquiddick or Chappy as we call it is part of the Island of Martha’s Vineyard, but in name only. It is its own island. Eighteen square miles of sand with one barely paved road that cuts down the middle. Dunes to either side with seagrass swaying in the breeze.
FYI - Martha's Vineyard is actually 87 square miles and 26 miles long - about as big as Manhattan.
My tale mostly takes place on Chappy, but wanted to give readers a lay of the land, point out some places where the action takes place, and just have an excuse to create a cool map.
Caretaker to summer people on Chappaquiddick (Martha's Vineyard) , EMT, firefighter, sailor, and family man.
It is blue sky, sand between your toes, inviting and beautiful.
Strong, resilient and independent - they take living on this island by storm.
It is our Google, our Facebook and our lifeline off our rock.
This is my oasis, the place I go when the craziness of living on a rock gets to me.
It is beautiful and warm and inviting, but underneath it can be cold and vicious and hard to survive.
I roll away from my wife, Melissa, and look at the clock. It’s 11:00 p.m. It’s not that late, but for a couple with young kids and a thriving, hands-on business, 11:00 p.m. might as well be the middle of the night. But I’m expecting this call. I get calls like this more often than you would assume. Sometimes it’s later or on national holidays. One time, a customer cornered me at the hospital, thirty minutes after my wife gave birth to our first daughter, Ilana. Really! So, 11:00 p.m. isn’t a shock. I’m not happy about it, but I’m not shocked. Melissa groans and pulls the blankets away from me in her not-so-subtle attempt to convey she is displeased with the situation.
“Hi, Rob? This is Julie Rodney. I didn’t wake you, did I?”
Of course Julie woke me. She knew she woke me and really didn’t care. Julie is one of 100 customers of mine whose second homes and recreational lives I manage on the tiny isle of Chappaquiddick, off the island of Martha’s Vineyard, off the coast of Massachusetts. With my help, these customers get to experience for a little while what it must be like to be a resident in paradise.
“Well Rob, it turns out that when your cleaners were at the house the other day, they didn’t stock the side bathroom next to the Blue Seashell guest room with toilet paper.”
I’m still trying to wake up, and Julie is hitting me with one of her guest room’s made-up names. You know the house is big when they start giving each bedroom a name. It all starts to fall into place in my head, and I rejoin the one-sided conversation already in progress. I stammer out an, “Uh-huh,” for no reason other than to convey I’m following along. And finally, Julie comes around to why she’s calling.
“So, I’m sitting on the toilet with no toilet paper and no way to get to the pantry downstairs. You’re lucky I had my phone on me when I went to the bathroom.”
I’m lucky? I smile as I mentally take in the scene of an irate, fashionable woman pointing at her phone, talking a mile a minute as she sits with her pants around her ankles on the commode. Julie wants to yell at me, but she’s doing it in a controlled way because she has house guests.
I’m now fully awake, circling back to the facts of the situation, and Julie’s “ask.”
“I need you to come over and rectify the situation.”
Are you getting this? Let’s set aside the fact that my employees were at her house five days ago, not “the other day.” Set aside the fact that house cleaners are not stock boys. Set aside the fact that it’s 11:00 p.m. This woman wants me to drive to her house and fetch her a roll of toilet paper. Her husband is just down the hall.
You would think I would be yelling. You would think I would hang up the phone. But not me. This is my business. This is Chappy Unlimited. This is me—the toilet paper delivery boy. You might still ask yourself, “Did you go over there?” Hell ya! The word “Unlimited” is right in the name of my company.
I always think there must be a place to draw the line, but I haven’t found it yet. In truth, I made a pact with the devil when I decided to live on such an idyllic island where everything revolves around the tourist industry. Of course this pact came with personal wealth, a good home, nature, and beauty all around me. But it wouldn’t be a nefarious pact without its dark side. You have met Julie. Come meet the other animals in the zoo.
I thank many people at the end of my book. Most real–some imagined. But I also want to give a second shout-out here to my fellow writers and beta readers that helped me shape this book into what it is today.
Mary Ross, Fern Friedman Musselwhite, Karen King, Linda Cohen, John DiCocco, Howard Odentz, Christine Giraud, Jana Eisenstein, Patty Caya, Leah Berkenwald, Mayam Keramaty, Kathleen Tumminello, Barbara Nelson, Elle Williams, Bre Power Eaton, Marie Coleman, Miriam Glassman, Bill Barton, Kimi Ceridon, Megan Brake, Shannon McFarland, Jesse Liberty, Prassede Calabi, Deborah Lapides, Barbara Adelson, Sue Hollister, and Kimberly Hirsch.
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