A B&B guest who planned on coming to the Vineyard for the first time for a memorial service phoned and asked me what the Island’s dress code was for such an occasion.
“Clean jeans and a sports coat,” I told him. “That will get you through the most formal occasion on the Vineyard. No one will bat an eye if you dress less formally, though.”
When he arrived, he had the clean jeans. “I need to buy a sports coat,” he said. “Is there a clothing store on the Island?”
“Yes, but you might try the dump first,” I said.
“Is that the name of the store?”
“No, no. It’s the West Tisbury dump. The recycling area has everything.”
He looked dubious.
“Since the dump is on the way into town, check it out,” I suggested, and drew him a sketch map showing how to get there.
I have great faith in our dump’s recycling area, which is known as the “Dumptique.” Some years back, friends of my sister and brother-in-law planned a trip to England on the QE II. They found, at the dump, the attire they needed for the cruise — a tuxedo that fit him, two cocktail dresses she liked (and that fit her). They wore them on the ship and when they arrived in London, left their newly acquired clothes at Oxfam, since they planned to fly home.
Another friend found her wedding gown, brand new, at the Dumptique. According to the dumpmaster, the disgruntled bride-to-be left the gown with words to the effect of: that was where the erstwhile groom belonged.
The other day Howie was looking for a nice warm coat for his step daughter, Susan, to wear during her visit from sunny San Diego. An all wool, almost new, Abercrombie and Fitch winter coat in Susan’s size was hanging on the rack right in front of him in the Dumptique.
People new to us Islanders’ love of dump-picking don’t understand. Martha’s Vineyard is one of the most severely depressed counties in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, with one of the lowest per capita incomes. Yet our Island is also the playground of the rich and famous, who come here with their designer outfits, and at the end of the season leave their outdated garments behind. Often at the dump.
Shirts, suits, shoes, hats, saddles, sweaters, toys. Top of the line. Dishes, books.
Speaking of books, a visitor from Vienna, Austria, intrigued by the idea of a department store with free-for-the-taking items, was browsing through the Dumptique’s bookshelves. I was checking out the sweatshirt rack when I heard her scream — quite literally. I rehung the shirt I’d been about to take and dashed over to the book shelves. Eleonore was holding a book tightly against her breast and was gazing skyward.
“Are you all right?” I asked.
“All right?!” She had trouble gasping out the words. “I’ve been searching for this book. Vienna. London. Paris. New York. And I come to your West Tisbury dump. . . “ Her voice trailed off. The book was one she’d wanted for her PhD dissertation. The story hit the Martha’s Vineyard Times.
The dump is where we pass out flyers promoting our cherished causes. It’s where we go for signatures on petitions, and where we get neighbors to sign the papers we need when we run for town office.
One year I made a floral arrangement for the Garden Club for the County Fair. The arrangement was called “From the Dump,” and featured goldenrod. Queen Anne’s Lace, chicory, and I don’t recall what else, all displayed in a large and elegant vase, and all from the dump. It won second prize.
Before our rubbish was hauled off-Island, we used to dump our trash into a large pit. Items too good to be tossed so cavalierly in with garbage would be placed carefully on the side of the pit. One year I found a dozen almost new feather pillows laid out in the sun on top of a clean sheet. The owner apparently had developed an allergy to feathers. I gathered them up and we still have them.
Everett, who’s in the Sunday Writers group, said he knows of a family that makes a practice of exchanging Christmas presents strictly from the dump.
Within the last few months, with little fanfare, the graded-over area where we used to toss our rubbish has become a field of solar panels, hundreds of them lined up to take advantage of the free energy beaming down to us.
Howie has a shopping list he takes with him for our dump runs. On it are such items as winter boots, size 13; wool watch cap (he crossed that off when he found one); winter coat (crossed off); knife sharpener; chicken-coop light; binoculars; seat cushions (also crossed off). Knowing my love of boats, he found, at the dump, a beautifully framed knot board. On it are a bowline, a sheet bend, a Carrick bend, and a French bowline, and in the middle is a half-model of a gaff-rigged schooner. He cleaned the glass, oiled the frame, and it hangs in my study.
The building that houses the Dumptique was built by carpenters, who volunteered time and material. Volunteers run the Dumptique, spring, summer, fall, and winter, when the weather is mild enough, since there’s no heat in the building. The volunteers accept scads of stuff people don’t want that’s too good to throw out. They sort the coats and slacks and dresses and sweaters and hang them neatly on racks. They stack the china, organize the toys and children’s clothing, go through the books and shelve them, and, out in front, they display the unwanted bicycles, tricycles, wheelbarrows, and things too large to bring inside. There’s usually an artist among the volunteers. One year the outer wall was hung with a half-dozen discarded crutches, artistically arranged and entwined with discarded artificial ivy.
Back to our B&B guest. He returned an hour later wearing an almost new sports coat that fit as though it was custom made for him.
“Looks perfect for the occasion,” I told him. “You can take it back to the dump after the service.”
He smoothed the arm of the expensive fabric and ran his hands down its front. “Oh, no,” he said. “This is for keeps.”
We who live in West Tisbury love our dump.