August 6th, 2007

Nantucket

When I first came to Nantucket in 1989, it was a place where rich people went not to be seen or noticed. At the lunch counters and bars, it was impossible to tell the rich from the workng class. CEOs gargled down drinks at the Atlantic Cafe sitting next to garbagemen and plumbers...and both benefitted from the interaction. They basked in each other's anonymity and enjoyed each other's company. It was crowded for two months during the summer but not intolerably so. The labor was done mostly by Irish and New Zealanders, whom no one resented because some of them would become island residents and contribute to the economy. There were about 4000 people who lived here year round. The ownership of the buisnesses downtown was diversified, many of them owned by local individuals.

Now things couldn't be more different.

Rich people, most of them new money, come here to be seen by one another. The island is intolerably crowded--there are actual traffic jams, something I would have consideed unthinkable. Most of the businessess are owned by one man, billionaire Steve Carp, who is gradually squeezing out the locals with higher and higher rents. The cab drivers are Russian, and so are the hookers--they operate out of a duplex on Priscilla Lane, and sit down at Captain Toby's on Straught Wharf, drinking Heinekens with a straw (the signal they'e available); the laborers are Brazillian and Dominican and etc., generally Hispanic, who rent houses through proxies and live thirty and forty to a single dwelling, pirate electricity, and have brought a violence with them that is new to the island. They will contribute nothing to the long-term economy. Private clubs have sprung up. You can't even drive past the Nantucket Golf Club--it's gated, hidden at the end of a long access road, and so exclusive, Clinton and Michael Jordan were denied access. A yacht club, similarly isolated, is under construction and is charrging hal a million per membership. Private chefs abound, and this takes a minimum of 12 meals a week per family out of the economy. There is no longer any interaction between the wealthy and the locals. Eventually the island will become a place like Carmel By The Sea, an underpopulated enclave for the super rich, with no parking problems and 2 or 3 people available to wait on each wealthy person. This is because the islanders who don't own property can no longer afford to live here and those who do own property can't afford not to sell, when land they bought for 50k is now worth a million and more. Soon the scallopers and the fishermen and etc. will only exist as photos in a museum.

What's happening here is essentially what's happening to America...to the world. Islanders talk about it all the time. They see it coming. They talk about stopping it, but they can't vote things down because enough of the rich have established permanent residence to where the locals no longer constitute a majority. It would take an act of supreme violence--a raid and slaughter at the Nantucket Golf Club would probably do the trick. The rich are still paranoid, still not quite secure enough to walk through downtown without a touch of fear. A slaughter, a few heads on pikes, might be the biggest strike for Freedom since the American Revolution. But then it's probably too late for that. Homeland Security has the harbor surveilled and probably the entire island. There are enough Important People here to warrant the use of black ops, the CIA, whatever. So we might as well enjoy what we can of tthe decline of the west and join the party because it's not going to be going on much longer.

22 years ago, in the space of a single day, I sat down angry and wrote a 29 page story called Surrender in which I predicted the Third-Worlding of America. I'm sure I wasn't the first to do so, and I won't be the last...It didn't make any difference then, and likely none of it will make a difference. But nonetheless, a raid on the Nantucket Golf Club sure sounds good to me...