Martha’s Vineyard: Holidaying With The Obamas and AK47s

American hospitality turns out to involve AK-47s and heavy amounts of accent mocking.
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Warning this story breaches homeland security. Really. OK prob’ly.The funny thing about walking around with a massive shiner is that while you’ve forgotten about it everyone who sees you has already made up their own story about how you got it. When my friend was headbutted by her four year old, women in supermarkets and restaurants would give her the ‘So he’s a beater’ look. In America if they’ve heard my accent as well its ‘ah soccer-fan’. Still, a chipped skull is quite the souvenir to bring back from holiday.

I used to see Goofy, an American girl, she lived in a place called ‘The Vineyard’ which turned out to be an island off cape cod. It must really have been very picturesque a couple of building booms ago, it has that New England look, all weathered cedar, field-stone chimneys and the wood work painted in those greeny-greys that posh people were painting their kitchens in a couple of years ago. These days it’s all a bit over-built so you’ll only ever have the illusion of seclusion, the next house is always just the other side of some trees. Once the home of fisherman, who then shared it with an arty crowd, before the filming of Jaws made the island famous.  It’s become a ghetto for rich people, a place where fund managers can congratulate themselves on how laidback they are, marvelling at their own use of flip-flops, whilst sticking rigidly to the out of office dress code of polo shirt with ‘popped collar’, and red trousers. It’s all ‘so informal’ if it wasn’t for the $30,000 wristwatches you’d never be able to tell who was top dog. The trophy wives and his and hers Merc’s are a bit of a give-away too. Democratic presidents holiday there, with their attendant not-so-secret-service body guards never too far away. Hiding out in their Martha’s Vineyard Dry Cleaning Co. van.  The locals will tell you everyone’s been fooled once, “You’re like ‘Really! We finally have a dry cleaning service on the island?’ “Nah it just the secret service guys, same van as last year”.

Fortunately the ‘British’ accent is still a passport to all kinds of good things when travelling in America. People are nice to you ‘just because’.

‘I can really see why you’d date a British guy, is the accent that does it for you?’

Goofy: ‘Oh yeah, it’s just his voice, nothing else, he’s a jerk.’


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Goofy has to work during the day so I spend the time fishing and wandering around main st. eating ice cream watching American tourists in America. A woman walks past, she’s the archetypal American tourist, wearing one of those visors lady golfers and croupiers favour.

Where’dja get the ice cream?

Second left and walk round the block

Oh tell me that’s a fake accent!

Of course it is ma’am I only put it on for the tourists

Goofy is an excellent hostess, while she’s at work she sets me up with a play date. Playing with guns. “Tell British-Guy my wife says it’s a great excuse, were going to the quarry!” It’s an American tradition; drive massive truck to the quarry, and blast the shit out of things with an arsenal that would put a van-load of secret service guys to shame. Big fun.

Having already given me a semi-auto AK47 to batter a watermelon with, my host asks ‘Ever fire a muzzle-loader? Care to?’ These are not the clinical little rifles we shoot deer with in the UK, these fire big heavy .50 [yep half and inch across] bullets which go at lower speeds with a much louder bang. Instead of the powder being inside a case, the powder comes in big pellets that you drop into the barrel and force a bullet down after them with a rod, just like an old musket but with a few modern tweaks for accuracy. My host has already put two of them in when I’m distracted by his pal’s offer of a go with a .45 pistol. When I turn back he smirks ‘This should work’.

The rifle is on a bipod, I settle over the stock and look through the scope. I have to do a bit of wriggling about to square myself up so I can see through it. Inadvertently letting the rifle’s butt come out of contact with my shoulder. Big Mistake. Big, Big Mistake. I squeeze the trigger, sending a big lump of lead downrange and the rifle cannoning back. The scope slams into my face. The noise is deafening even with earplugs in, there’s a searing pain in cheekbone. I can’t see out of my right eye, and blood, lots and lots of it soaks my shirt. Strangely inside my head I can hear the square Yorkshire vowels of my mate back home telling me ‘You’re representing your country’. On the outside just above the ringing in my ears my host says “WTF that must really hurt man!” Trying not to cry all I can say is ‘Er yes it smarts a little”. He looks relived when I turn down a trip to hospital (nasty expensive places full of sick people) and patches me up with a first aid kit that looks suitable for an expedition to Mars, then drops me off at Goofy’s house, feeling more than a little concussed. Goofy seizes the opportunity, takes photos and posts them on Facebook. That evening, the thread is joined by my host’s missus ‘Yeah that’s how we roll in our family – it’s not fun until someone almost loses an eye!’

On the plane home the guy sitting in the next seat takes one look at me and says

‘Soccer fan huh, you have a disagreement over the game?’