Nantucket Dumpster Chronicles 11: Figawi

The Dumpster Chronicles: A Whimsical and Irreverent Guide to Nantucket, Being Part 11

By Kerry Hallam

This past weekend saw the beginning of our ‘season’. With careful husbandry and application, the coming months will be heat-warming. Once again we can use our ‘almost forgotten during winter’ deposit slips. If you recall, these are used to put money into your account rather than the brightly colored decorative checks at the front which we have been using in abundance since last September, to take money out.

Memorial Day Weekend and the Figawi Sail Boat Race Kick Things Off

‘Figawi’ is a race for ‘Blow Boats’ with ‘Stink Pots’ in a kind of parasitic attendance. Apparently, as the story goes, it all started many years ago when a group of well lubricated sailors decided to race from Hyannis to Nantucket for a lark. Half way over they were hemmed in by thick fog at which point some worthy soul uttered the phrase ‘Where the xxxx are we’ This seemed to epitomize the general demeanor of the other boaters. With the clever exchange of the offending syllables, that phrase was adopted and became the official title for the race. Over the years there have been no really serious problems resulting from the general merrymaking and as yet there have been no boats lost at sea. Not, however, for want of trying.

I have to say that I have always found it somewhat baffling to have the island inundated for the weekend by raucous groups from far and wide (some extremely wide) who, it would appear, have one sole purpose; that of drinking until they pass out. There is little if any connection to the rather elegant and precise business of sailing, which is what the Figawi race should be all about. (Can I mention the Opera House Cup as a good example?)

Well, there has been a good deal of concern over the years about the excessive alcohol consumption. I used to own a gallery on Old South Wharf which was right in the trenches. On one occasion a gentleman came into the gallery and after a cursory glance at the paintings, slowly and irrevocably slide down the wall and passed out on the floor, taking several painting with him. After we ascertained that he was not dead, we decided to leave him there until a group of his friends came by and hoisted him into a cart to take him back – presumably to start over. After a few years, we decided that discretion would be the better part of valor and closed the gallery for that weekend.

The carousing continues until Monday, at which point the race back to Hyannis resumes and the sailboats glide out of their berths and head for the Sound, followed by the power boats that head off in whatever direction their boats choose. Quite a lot end up on Coatue.

Peace returns to the town

On Monday, there WERE services and events and cenotaph in remembrance of the soldiers who gave their lives for the freedoms that we used to have.

I saw Charley sitting on his bench on Main Street on Sunday morning. His dad was killed during the Great War and Charley survived action in the Normandy Invasion during WW2. He gazes in silence at the straggling gangs of revelers sporting reverse baseball hats, reverse cleavages, reverse mentalities and language that would knock a buzzard off a dung cart. They wobble down Main Street which is now dotted with beer cans, bottles, the occasional item of underwear, the remnants of last evening’s meal and a general detritus.

I feel sure that Charley, like all the other veterans, is wondering why his old comrades gave their lives.

Previous Dumpster Chronicles Here

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 ‘Getting to Nantucket’ was recently published, and in the past few years, he has issued seven C.D.’s of own written and performed music. All illustrations are by Kerry Hallam. This column will appear regularly.

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