By now Island rental agents have put down their phones, turned their computers to the wall, and have booked up every last available house for the 4th of July weekend, and, in fact, the whole week itself. This year, it runs from July 1st to July 7th, the 4th falling on a Wednesday. I mention the entire seven days because none who own the goosey homes that lay the golden eggs of summer rental income will ever, EVAH! let their places go for less than a week at a time.
The younger agents won’t know about the bad old days, peaking in the year 1997, when Satan himself touched down on these dark shores to host some of the wickedest 4th of July parties, or so some of the more sensitive among us supposed. These were bad old memories, indeed, for rental agents, and law enforcement officers, and landlords. But for the peeps who came here to party, these same memories were awesome, on the level of the Burning Man whoopty-do in Nevada.
No one knows why certain locales are selected as hot spot for young revelers: Fort Lauderdale (‘member “Where The Boys Are”?) and Palm Springs CA for spring break, Times Square for New Year’s Eve, and Martha’s Vineyard, among a bunch of other resorts, for the 4th of July.
But take it from someone who still has PTSD symptoms from her 11 years in the rental biz, and has lived to tell the tales. Hold on a sec. I’ve got to take a few breaths in a brown paper bag.
There, that’s better.
Some of the images that come to mind: In a staid old mansion on Chappy, a living room ceiling is plastered with whipped cream, as if shot up with paint guns. A hillside blaze in West Tisbury is caused by party-hearties tossing their undead coals from the barbie into the bushes. An attic, with a pull-down cord for the trap-door, is packed to the rafters with empty beer cans (and yes, the cord was pulled by a poor unsuspecting house cleaner, and yes, an avalanche of cans fell down).
Plus, two persons may party as vociferously as two hundred.
On July 4th 2011, at 2:30 in the morning (well, technically this was July 5th), a passerby called the police to report a couple having sex on the roof of a Mini Cooper, parked behind Linda Jean’s in Oak Bluffs. Later the caller swore he dialed 911 only because he was worried the lovers might hurt themselves, rasslin’ around on so small a car top.
The couple, too, had a fleeting thought for their safety: When the cops arrived and shined their flashlights here and there, they found all manner of garments, male and female, underwear and outerwear, and high heels, flung around the graveled parking lot, but there was no immodest couple in sight. Turned out they’d disported themselves up a dark staircase, and now were making love – noisily and strenuously, according to witnesses, including two deaf old ladies (I made that part up) – on a second-floor balcony.
The too-sexy-for-their-shirts couple, were told to put their shirts back on. After that they were arrested for, presumably, p.d.a., public display of affection, a grave offense in New England – always has been and always will be. (After the duo’s day in court, with any luck they received a one million dollar advance for a book titled, “How To Get It On In So Sizzlingly Hot A Fashion, It Will Take A Team Of Oak Bluffs’ Finest To Pull You Off One Another.” We’d buy that, wouldn’t we? Especially here in New England)!
The baddest of bad 7/4 parties occurred in the mid-90s in a brand new, contemporary house in Chilmark, deep in the woods.
A hard-core gang from Boston rented the joint. You'll be surprised to learn, they did such an excellent job of hosting, they could have knocked the socks off Martha Stewart! In spite of the fact that they’d nailed posters announcing the big bash in Chilmark all over Boston’s grottiest neighborhoods, and in the event that they ran shuttle busses all night to chauffeur homies and honeys in from Edgartown and Oak Bluffs, and even bearing in mind that they’d hired four or five of the gnarliest hip hop bands from the city to play at top decibel, no one heard them, no one called in with a complaint (turned out the bands blasted away in the spacious man-cave basement.)
Also, the gangstas cleaned up great! I happened to see this for myself. In total innocence about the party the night before, and with the typical atrocious timing that rules my life, I brought a couple from New Jersey to show them the house for the possibility of renting it the following summer.
The NJ husband and wife were, admittedly, discouraged by the yellow crime scene tape and the homicide, narcotics, and firearms squads down from Boston to check up on this gang’s shindig, a gang whose high crimes and treason against the state had bedeviled authorities for years.
The commander of all three units stood with me and my clients in the lovely sky-lit kitchen, and agreed with my assessment, saying with a hint of admiration, “They clean up good.”
I nodded, “They should be getting their security deposit back.”
Maybe stories such as these induced people to wise up about who wanted to lease and when. It always started with a call from what sounded like a 7th grader, usually a male. “I’d like to rent a house for, uh, the first week in July, or maybe it’s the second week? Just me and a couple of friends. We’re math majors.”
Homeowners learned to be cautious, refusing to rent for that single volatile week. “We’ll be coming down ourselves with our Aunt Ginny.”
For years since the infamous July 4th of ’97 when raucous parties, arrests, and drunken brawls came to a such a crescendo that an S.O.S. was dispatched to mainland heat, each season our newspapers report that the holiday was ho-hum, relative to years gone by.
Oh, certainly, there are still some abundantly good parties, but the Where The Boys Are crowds have learned to look elsewhere for their 7/1 to 7/7 crash pads.