AN ISLAND VACATION: WHERE SUMMER SEEMS ENDLESS; AND TRUMP'S CRUEL WINTER IS TOO EASILY FORGOTTEN
A BLOCK ISLAND original, the North Light, one of the island's two great lighthouses
WE ARE ON BLOCK ISLAND, a speck of paradise in the Atlantic Ocean, 12 miles off the New England mainland. The weather is fantastic. Deep blue skies, gentle temperatures and a just trace of wind, making it hard to remember that Fall has been officially underway for a while now, with Winter inevitable as it will be savage. But today, you can still taste Summer. Block Island is always described in superlatives: One of the Last Best Places on Earth sort of thing; and truly, nearly half of its nine-plus square miles are preserved, conserved and protected against development, in part because long-ago landowners agreed to give up personal fortunes so the rest of us can be reminded of what a planet should be and could be. My wife and I almost didn’t make it here this year. The remnants of Hurricane Ian, having murdered scores of Floridians and devastated the lives of thousands of others, brushed past New England with towering seas and fierce winds, forcing cancellation on three successive days of the ferries that connect paradise with the rest of Rhode Island. Lucky for us, innkeepers moved our reservations to the following week, the first few days of which have been, as I said, breathtaking.
THE SOUTHEAST LIGHT, moved from eroding cliffs in the 1990s
BLOCK ISLAND IS ITS own kind of world: soaring cliffs, lush glens laced with public walking trails, along with sparkling ponds, miles upon miles of stone walls, big and little beaches, Victorian buildings with cupolas, and two signature lighthouses, one of which is called the Southeast Light and was saved from falling into the ocean in the 1990s, thanks to twin miracles of engineering and fundraising, making it possible to lift up the massive brick structure and move it away from a constantly eroding coastline. Our forever summer, of course, is an illusion. Winter is on it’s way, and more immediately, a fresh assault of rotten weather is in this week’s forecast, so we’re starting to worry that the ferries could again stop running, stranding us on the wrong side of our mini-vacation, temporarily homeless. But on a day like this, the forecast seems like a word that old Joe Biden might use, malarkey.
DOWNTOWN Block Island, with a cupola visible atop on of the large hotels
IN A WAY, today’s mirage of perpetual summer is a metaphor for the dangerous politics from which the nation seems unable to free itself. Today, the election seems far off, which is silly, because it’s only weeks away. And surely we know what could be next: a political Winter that isn’t just harsh, but one that in actuality never ends; the beginning of a new Dark Ages, from which there is no rescue, no Spring, no Summer, and no Fall, a time in which the seasonal pendulum has frozen into permanent polarized Winter. What’s so frustrating is that most of us are like me, vacationers oblivious to the coming storm, and even if we acknowledge that Summer someday could pause, the promise of Spring and all the good stuff that follows, is inevitable. But we know, deep down, what’s really on its way, and that we should have learned our lesson. We barely survived the four-year political Winter of Donald Trump. We’ve seen the remarkable hold that Trump still has on an entire political party, which instead of rejecting Trump’s lawless, cruel, selfish and anti-democratic example, has embraced, and is still perfecting, the Trump Way.
LAND AND SAND as seen from the North Light
WE NEED need to wake up – and fast. Nuclear disaster is again up for discussion, long after the Cold War ended, along with its dire thoughts of an atomic holocaust. Wildfires and hurricanes are signs of a collapsing and unlivable climate. The economy remains unjust, unfair and irreparable as ever. But Republican fanatics are interested in preventing and fixing none of these real catastrophes, focused instead on deliberately, systemically wrecking an electoral process that is the core of the American political ecosystem. Too many Americans are here with us on Block Island, still on vacation, in denial of the coming political darkness, because Summer keeps on churning out warm, wonderful days. You know what season it is? Football season. And, heck, in the unlikely event of a chiller cycle, there are three other nicer ones right behind. So, why vote? And was Trump really that bad? Jan. 6 is history, folks. Gas prices were low beyond belief under Trump. What’s Joe Biden done for us lately? He’s really old; frankly, too old. Really.
TODAY, I'M HERE on Block Island to tell you that temperatures feel like they are in the 70s. The wind is gentle, and that on the long sandy, rocky walk to the other lighthouse, the North Light, you can see the seals frolicking in the calm, glassy ocean. It’s perfect, just as life is supposed to be. It's impossible to imagine that it could be any other way.
THE LONG STAIRWAY, 141 steps down (or up), the cliffs at Mohegan Bluffs
I'VE BEEN a reporter and writer for 58 years, long enough to have learned that journalists don't know very much, although I've met some smart ones. Mainly, what reporters know comes from asking other people questions and fretting about the answers. This blog is a successor to one inspired by our dog, Phoebe, who was smart, sweet and the antithesis of Donald Trump. She died Feb. 3, and I don't see getting over that very soon. Occasionally, I may try to reach her via cell phone.