Dumpster Chronicles 1: A Whimsical and Irreverent Guide to Nantucket

The Dumpster Chronicles: A Whimsical and Irreverent Guide to Nantucket

Kerry Hallam was born and raised in the North of England. He was elected to the Royal Society of Artists and later established his first studio in the South of France. Kerry has lived and painted on the island for the past thirty years. He is represented internationally by Chalk and Vermilion of Greenwich, and has held extensive one man shows in the States, Japan, France and the U.K. His autobiography ÔGetting to NantucketÕ was recently published, and in the past few years, he has issued seven C.D.Õs of own written and performed music. This column will appear regularly in the newsletter.

Nantucket Island; a Brief Overview Part 1

Nantucket is one of several small islands laying off the Southern coast of Massachusetts, these days enjoying the dubious privilege of being a Destination Resort. The very name will conjure visions of endless pristine beaches, quaint cobble streets, bracing clear air, stunning sunsets and overpriced t-shirt shops and restaurants.

I was visiting friends in Southern California last year, and one night at dinner one of the guests asked me from whence I came. I replied Nantucket.

“Oh!” she remarked. “IsnÕt that where all the film stars and rock musicians live?”

“You are mistaken dear Lady,” I replied. “The people who own the film stars and rock musicians live on Nantucket; the film stars and rock musicians live on the Vineyard!”

Nantucket and Martha”s Vineyard have been quietly at loggerheads for centuries, but it is mostly a harmless rivalry – unless we loose the annual football game.

The original inhabitants of the island were the Wampanoag Indians. They were seed gatherers, farmers and fishermen and lived in complete peace and harmony, this owing in no small part to their major crop, marihuana. They lived in a kind of perpetual Woodstockian haze for countless untroubled decades, as was evidenced by their psychedelic costumes, body painting and head gear. Their coinage was wampum and there was consequently no need of banks and therefore no commerce of any kind. A new washer dryer could be easily procured by the fastidious production of sufficient wampum. Nowadays this would see you very quickly transported to Hyannis to await trial and subsequent incarceration.

The island was originally named “Wampaluandupoagsunten” which meant “Far away island just thirty miles by ferry from Cape Cod”. But not even the Indians could pronounce that word, so over the years it was shortened to Nantucket, which loosely translates as “private property; trespassers will be scalped.”

Somewhere around 1066, which was around the time of the Battle of Hastings pre-game show over in the U.K., a group of malcontents from the fiords of Norway were planning a trip. Raping and pillaging was loosing itÕs appeal and life was becoming tedious. Their wives were constantly nagging them “Why don”t you stop all this ravaging and looting and get a real job? Blah blah blah.”

Well that did it. Lead by Ethelred the “IÕve Just About Had It With You”, they set sail in one of their long boats (which by modern standards was, in fact, very short) to see if they would fall off the edge of the world beyond the poison sea. They didnÕt, and raised their voices in thanks to Oden, patron Saint of Norsemen and EthelredÕs second cousin twice removed.

Ethelred, or Ethel to his crusty crew, had a small problem; he was vision impaired, the result of a kerfuffle with one of the more uncooperative villagers on a pillaging trip one Easter Sunday. After several weeks at sea, Ethel thought he caught a glimpse of land off the starboard bow (or perhaps it was the port side; whatever, it was over there.) His crew was somewhat hesitant; this could be another of Ethel”s mistaken sightings. Disregarding the concerns of the crew and standing on the bow with his sword drawn and screaming wild nordic battle cries, he urged the boat forward capsizing, it on the Siasconset bluff to the applause of the delighted Indians. They thought this was the best show they had seen in years. Over time there have been many wrecks of vessels skippered by captains with limited vision.

The band of Norsemen were not particularly happy to find themselves on a nondescript island in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by funny brown people with feathered headgear, painted bodies, and a tendency to fall onto the ground in paroxysms of laughter at the drop of a hat. There were no bars to speak of, and there was nothing worth pillaging. The women were on the scrawny side and not to Nordic tastes. They all thought that they were indeed up the creek without a paddle.

In short, they were substantially more malcontent than when they had set off on this voyage.

True, they had not fallen off the edge of the world and the boat was repairable. Things could be worse, but they all agreed that Ethel had made a right cock-up of the expedition, so they decided to rebuild the boat and leave Ethel with the Indians. They ended up in Las Vagas, but that”s another story.

Ethel became the first King of Nantucket and changed his name to Madaket. See how fascinating history can be.

To be continued.

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