A little light, much needed
According to the Rhode Island Monthly magazine, even the ferry ride over to Block Island is forbidding, and foreboding. “In between short, flat reprieves, her 11 a.m. ferry dipped and rocked and dipped some more,” is how the writer, Casey Nilsson, portrays the ride in her troubling article about Block Island, called “The Dark Side Of The Sun,” that is in the July issue. The ferry ride was tumultuous enough to cause the “her” in that sentence, a woman named Nancy DeNuccio (who was traveling to the island to talk about substance abuse) to run to a local establishment for a cup of tea. But she is about to make a stunning discovery about Block Island, according to the article: “DeNuccio and [Mental Health Task Force member] Jill Seppa went to the only place to sit down for lunch — a bar — but she never got her cup of tea; that sort of booze-free beverage wasn’t available for purchase.”
In an article stunningly willing to name names, the name of the bar is curiously unstated, but let’s just say that the idea that there is nothing but booze for sale at any of the island’s establishments is, shall we say, factually challenged.
This is the primary problem with the article, which has caused quite a buzz out here: it goes to such strenuous lengths to make the point that there is nothing here to do but drink and take drugs in the offseason that it overstates it to the point of negation. It’s mordant to the point of caricature, which in the end helps no one.
There is probably not a single person on Block Island unaware of the challenges we face from drug and alcohol abuse, and the conversations about what to do about it go back decades. If the Rhode Island Monthly thinks it was opening the island’s eyes to the issue, they are sadly, pathetically mistaken. And if that was not its intent, one wonders what was? Are we an embarrassment to the rest of the state? Is the point that we really are unstable and in need of someone’s help when all the tourists go away? And why, on earth, publish this in July — a time when the vast majority of our issues occur because of unchecked behavior by visitors? Is the island really just a destination during the summer and not a living, breathing, nuanced community?
The article offers no solutions and certainly no context to any of this. We simply become the black cauldron of hell after Labor Day.
The writer also relied on a curiously narrow group of voices.
It would not have taken the author very much time to find a few voices — any number of voices — that find the solace of winter quite comforting, and pass the time with church groups, potluck dinners and other activities. We don’t have “stealth” conversations in the Post Office, it’s actually where we bump into each other during the regular course of life, and where we talk about what's happening. We’re not a “ghost town” in the winter. We’re a small New England community trying as best we can to make our way in a difficult world.
One more thing. The article boldly begins by mentioning the obituary we published about Gregor Smith and the cause of his death. “A Block Island obituary had never been so honest.” Actually, we have published many obituaries just as brutally honest, and they all talked about the rewarding, fulfilling lives people have had, in large part thanks to Block Island.