Storytime with Sten: An elevated discourse


I was visiting Martha’s Vineyard with a few friends. This is a short snapshot of the political undertones of the trip.

Sten Spinella, a weekly columnist and senior staff writer, shares a tale of feigned ignorance during his time in Martha’s Vineyard. (Matt M./Flickr Creative Commons)

The sailboat was named “Cat Eyes” and apparently had quite the reputation in the area. Jill, the UConn friend whose family had the property in the Vineyard, told me after we returned home that her family had owned it since 1945. Islanders and mainlanders alike had stopped to take pictures of the iconic eyes on the front of the boat for decades. The renowned catboat, with the signature painted cat eyes, was the work of a six-year-old family member who, secretly, and to the chagrin of her parents, blessed the boat with a beautiful rendering of cat eyes. It was a move of pure genius on her part.

By the time of my visit, the wooden base of this boat with the mythology of legacy had almost completely rotted through. The family hopes to sell it before next summer. When they do, they will make a fu***ng bundle, and that’s how legacies survive, right?

Before this weekend, not knowing how to sail or play games like Croquet was a pretty big point of pride for me. Now, with Carl and I watching impotently as the five other boys tied, swung and pulled us out into the channel, I wondered why I didn’t mingle with the elite more often. Jill’s cousin Dicky, who was behind the steering wheel, threw me a beer and laughed at my helplessness. I saw the Golden Boy sitting there nobly, captaining the legendary cat boat, his sinewy arms and happy barks to his makeshift crew guiding our course, and I called him Captain Ricky. The name stuck.

We were forced to use the motor due to a lack of wind, but once out onto the open water, the liquor flowed profusely. Coolers were emptied as quickly as they’d been packed. Tentative remarks and nervous smiles toward strangers turned into full-blown political fury. Carl and I nearly fell off the boat laughing about my reaction to photos of Ronald Reagan, Richard Nixon and the Bush boys adorning the refrigerator when we originally walked into The Big House that morning: I looked, looked back in shock at Carl and Jill, looked back to the fridge, then fake fainted into Carl’s arms. As he held me, laughing, I took a long swig from my Rum bottle and calmly intoned – “I am going to rip these all down, right now.” I then strode with purpose to the fridge, only to have Carl and Jill pull me away before I could wreak my righteous havoc.

I’m not sure how it started. Somewhere in-between the laughing, drinking and hot boxing the cabin, good and proper red-haired Joe, another cousin, or a friend of the cousins, took exception to my praise of the politicians I admired.

“You can’t honestly tell me you’re going to vote for Hillary,” he spat her name out as if he were allergic to it.

“You’re right, I’m not,” I responded.

“So who, then? Bernie Sanders?” He and cool calm Pete, another cousin, or friend of the cousins, considered the notion hilarious. The other stoned sailors began exiting from the cabin and out into the open air, excepting Pete, Joe, Carl and I. Carl moved toward the cramped bathroom and shut the door.

“I’m absolutely voting for Bernie Sanders. His belief system aligns well with mine.” The two boys stared at me, mildly confused, before laughing again.

“So what, then?” Petey chimed in. “You’re a socialist? You believe in gun control? Universal healthcare?” He turned to Joe and they burst out laughing again.

“I don’t consider myself a socialist, but yes I believe healthcare is a human right and yes it’s a proven fact that the less guns in the country, the less gun-related deaths. Pretty simple logic there, fellas.”

From there the discussion escalated (or devolved) to loud posturing for our respective political parties. The dull duo laughed heartily at my liberalism and I laughed to myself about the delicious similarities between the reaction of national Congressional and Senatorial Republicans to Democratic propositions and the Presidency of Barack Obama – ridicule and refusal with no nuanced counter-ideas. I’m pretty sure I explained this, in so many words, to my two friends sitting in the entrance of the cramped cabin. They did not take too kindly to my analysis. As they were huffing and grunting their disapproval, presumably soon to offer intelligible words, Carl exited the bathroom. He approached me.

“Sten, it’s not worth it.” I tuned him out, too engrossed in the argument.

“Seriously dude. We’re here to make friends. Not talk politics.” I turned to look at him, face flushed, beer in hand, eyes low, as if woken from a daze.

“You ain’t never lie, Carl.”

We pushed past the two crusaders for cruelty into the light, open air, immediately stripped down to our shorts, and jumped off the boat into the bright blue water. We were impervious to cold.

This is not a story of overcoming differences. It is a tale of feigned ignorance.

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