My Summers on the Cape

Working, Not “Summering,” on Martha’s Vineyard

man on riding lawnmower on large Cape Cod estateSummer rolling around means vacations for many. But for others it means seasonal migration to restaurant and hospitality work.

When on the Cape recently, I stopped by a Black Dog store, to check to see if the clothing was still made on the island of Martha’s Vineyard. A considerable controversy arose when the son of the founder of the Black Dog Restaurant and store decided to outsource the silk-screening of the T-shirts off the Island, eliminating precious jobs.

The Black Dog symbol does not provoke me to reminisce on my times vacationing on Martha’s Vineyard, because that wasn’t why I was there. For me the image of the Black Dog doesn’t remind me of nostalgic memories of dining but instead of the international kitchen crew: busing, dishwashing and cleaning.

Summer rolling around means vacations for many. But for others it means seasonal migration to restaurant and hospitality work.”

I remember Irish, Russian, Eastern European, Brazilian, Jamaican, Portuguese and American working-class restaurant workers synchronizing our rhythm to the syncopation of affluent diners’ desires. Summertime meant holding down three jobs. I worked at the Black Dog washing dishes, fryolators and the kitchen in the evenings until after 1 or 2 a.m. I prepped food at a deli from 5 a.m. until noon. And in the afternoon, I was landscaping rich people’s yards.

Even living in cramped living quarters, sometimes crashing exhausted on the beach and camping in backyards to avoid the high costs of tourist rents, I still did not make enough to earn any savings after summers of sweat and little sleep.

As you spend time relaxing, please take note of those around you who are supporting your ability to enjoy your vacation. Let’s work together for a future where those who are most exploited have more leisure time.

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