Column: Chris Perry's Thoughts For Christmas

Chris Perry •

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After being off island, it is always nice to return to Nantucket. When I boarded the fast ferry a couple weeks ago, I remember thinking to myself: “man...I can’t get off this island fast enough.”

Yet, when I came around Brant Point on Sunday morning, I was so grateful to be home safely. Like a first-time visitor to the island, I was excited to dock and grab my bags. Moreover, I scarcely remembered all the frustrations that I felt just a few weeks earlier.

I believe all year-rounders experience “Island Fever.” It seems we regularly go through an incredible buildup of frustration and angst that only a trip off-island can cure. Whether it’s a day, a weekend, a week or longer, no pill can satisfy our desire to escape The Gray Lady. It’s the only known cure for what ails us. Nevertheless, upon our return, we jump right back into the fray like a hamster on a wheel and, inevitably, start scheming our next trip off-island. As they say, the vicious cycle continues.

On my way back, I started looking at an accumulation of all my notes for the Current. It is a collection of thoughts, stories started but not finished, and comments from Nantucket Current readers. So, with that in mind and with a tip of the hat to both Santa and Scrooge, I have decided to clean out my desk and pass along a plateful of random “Thoughts for Christmas.”

OK, I’ll bite and address the “Reindeer in the Room” first. In my opinion, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey dropped the ball and her top piece when she approved Dorothy Stover’s warrant article to allow anyone to go topless on any Nantucket beach. In addition to the woke mentality run amuck, this is just another example of why Town Meeting is outdated when 327 supporters at a sparsely attended meeting are able to pass an article like this. I am not opposed to a topless/nude beach in a designated area - knock yourselves out - but does it have to be island-wide on every beach? Now, I guess so. All I can say is SPF 65.

I have been on a feeding frenzy lately with bay scallops. Starting around Thanksgiving, I have been feasting on the tasty invertebrates thanks to Nantucket’s local scallopers, shuckers and the Nantucket Shellfish Association. Just lucky, I guess, but a combination of holiday cheer, good timing and living across the street from Carl Sjolund - Nantucket’s fisherman / scalloper extraordinaire - has made the last month taste pretty sweet. It should be a Nantucket high school graduation requirement that every student must spend an afternoon with Carl. From arrowheads to fishing to local lore, you won’t find a more compassionate fisherman on-island. It’s a good thing to learn something new every day. Spend an afternoon with Carl and you’ll be exposed to a wealth of knowledge.

It’s been about seven months since “Evie” passed away but I miss her. I did not know her that well, but every time I sat down at the Downyflake, I felt Evelyn Sylvia knew me. If she wasn’t delivering a cup of coffee and a sugar donut to your table, you could find her working tirelessly at Stop & Shop. She just seemed so focused yet cheerful, a mood which was served each morning with a side dish of local sarcasm. I appreciated that and I appreciated her. Whether it was stocking a shelf on aisle 12 or remembering that I liked my scrambled eggs with ham & Swiss, I just admired her worth ethic from afar. We often talk about the various people who permanently move off island as a “great loss” to the community. I feel the same way about Evie.

Five stocking stuffers on my list for Santa: a second scale at the landfill; Steamship fast boat service during the offseason; a decent, on-island Chinese food restaurant; all NRTA bus stops should be pull offs; cut-outs from the travelled roads outside of Town; public access to more holes of golf.

Two requests on my list for Santa and the town of Nantucket:

1.) Raise your fees. Whatever fees you charge the owner for a house move or pre-fab, raise them and throw those who are adversely affected by a “temporary interruption of services” a holiday bone.

2.) Avoid the impulse to always hire a “consultant.” Just look around and see how quickly every town committee, board, organization and advisory group runs to hire a consultant to CYA. Oftentimes, common sense and some local knowledge is the best medicine. Plus, it is far less expensive.

One Christmas thank you:

To the individual, organization(s) or department that has made an effort to clean up and remove the deteriorating “signs” scattered about the island over the last month or so - thank you. There’s a few guilty parties out there. I understand the right to free speech, but after a reasonable amount of time, your message becomes more about littering the island than Nantucket Tipping Point’s position against Surfside Crossing especially when posted on town property.

And finally, Nantucket’s Christmas Spirit. There are examples everywhere and “Peace...” alone just doesn’t do it for me.

But, Joel Gonzalez does.

Joel was born in the Dominican Republic and started coming to Nantucket in 2003 on a J-1 visa as a student “to work and practice my English.”

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After a few years, he graduated to a H-2B work visa and settled in working for Walter Sadowski at Straight Wharf Fish Store and Stars Ice Cream. If you ever had the opportunity to get your fish and seafood at Straight Wharf or an ice cream at Stars, it was hard to miss Joel in action. His effervescent personality was infectious, and his love of the island was contagious.

“This is where I wanted to be. I love all the people here”, said Joel. “I had one goal in mind and that was to move to Nantucket permanently. But I also had one dream in my mind and that was to bring my daughter with me.”

Eventually, Joel was able to satisfy both his goal and dream, and for roughly 15 years, he measured it up and scooped it out at the Straight Wharf location making “as many friends as I possible could each day.”

Joel added, “this was the land of opportunity and I knew I wanted to be part of this community.”

But there was one thing gnawing at Joel. He wanted to become a US citizen. So, beginning in 2014, he started the process.

“There were a few moments that I thought it would never work out,” he said. “But, I stayed patient.”

It took almost five years, but in 2018 he was granted citizenship at a ceremony at Faneuil Hall in Boston.

“It was the proudest moment of my life,” he said. “I could not wait to get home to Nantucket and share it with everyone.”

With Straight Wharf closed for the past two years, Joel now works for FedEx delivering packages in the downtown area. If you live or work downtown, you know that “crazy driver from FedEx.” You can’t miss Joel bouncing up and down Main Street balancing boxes on top of boxes destined “for all the store basements on Main Street” while continuing a running conversation with anyone who is willing to engage.

“I'm always runnin’,” he said. “Sometimes, I have to park in the middle of the street so I better move my ass. My best day downtown was 370 boxes on 175 stops. Not bad!”

“Everyone treats me nice. I love this town. I love the people and I am so thankful. To me, every day is Christmas.”

For those of us who know Joel, it’s fair to say that his stocking is always full. You can’t help but cheer for this guy and his Christmas spirit. Grateful for everything that he has earned and thankfully for the community that has supported him, Joel is now part of Nantucket’s Christmas spirit.

Merry Christmas to Joel. And to all, a good night.

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