“I hope you got a lot of money, ’cause this ain’t gonna be cheap,” Walter barked at me as I pulled myself into the cab of his well-used tow truck which was being rigged up to tow my 1997 Ford Ranger back to the farm. “Back in my day, back when I was drinking like a fish, I would get pulled over once a week. All they would do is take you home to sober up and call in for back-up so a second cop could drive your car home. Now you gotta deal with this crap.”
Walter seemed like a crabapple, but I could tell his insides were maple syrup-sweetened applesauce. He drove me home with the air conditioner billowing cold air on my bare kneecaps and both windows open and we talked about cops and change, while two officers reviewed the inventory of my truck they had so diligently recorded after my registration was found to be lapsed after a missed insurance payment.
I didn’t see their inventory sheet due to the sheepish feeling that comes over you while multiple law enforcement officers sift through your car with their large SUVs lined up, flashing like the nearby lighthouse would if it were on LSD and speed at the same time. I created my own list based on the questions I was asked after informing them that there was nothing of value in the car.
Back of vehicle:
Blue trash barrel.
Orange fish basket.
Contents: green beans.
Cab of vehicle:
No apparent vessel besides entire floor and part of passenger seat.
Eight empty coffee mugs.
Contents: dried coffee residue, one mug contains uncooked lentils.
Value: depends on origin of lentils.
Small scissors stuck into vent.
Apparent use: trimming nose hairs while driving.
Many socks crammed behind seats, all well-worn, some with holes.
Value: Wish I could pay someone to erase that experience.
One pair sunglasses, nonprescription.
Value: don’t care, not aviators.
Bundles of old mail.
Value: mostly bills, could reuse old Gazette for lighting grill later.
After the inventory was completed, damage to the outside of the vehicle was assessed for liability purposes in case the towing process caused more harm. We all laughed at this process and the mood was momentarily lightened. The lack of tailgate was noted, I didn’t tell them that it is somewhere on the side of Edgartown-West Tisbury Road near the state forest. Also noted were extensive scratching on every painted surface and one non-functioning brake light.
On a day that seemed like a vacation — I had only put in 12 hours before taking a drive — the already overpriced ice cream cone I consumed at the Cliffs wound up costing $246, but at least I got to chat with Walter and give him some kale before he unhitched my truck and left me at home to a beautiful sunset.
Walter runs a junkyard and remembered coming up to the farm a year earlier to retrieve two old cars that were no longer worth patching together for an annual inspection. He was waiting for a change in the scrap metal market and by his estimation he had more than 300 cars sitting in his yard waiting for the price to go back up before smashing them into a fraction of their current form with a front end loader, piling them into a tractor trailer and selling them somewhere on the mainland.
Walter doesn’t like change, I can tell. He remembers when you didn’t have to drain the fuel and oil out of vehicles before crushing them and when the cops didn’t put you through the ringer and arrange court dates. But he’s rolling with it and keeping pace with the modern world a little better than I am, judging by his chariot towing my illegal vehicle around the Island.
Change is never ending, and if you don’t anticipate and react accordingly you will be left confused, stagnant and angry, whether watching your kids sprout into young adults or keeping up with who is leading in the AL East (Sox half a game up on the Rays).
Change is also nearly always good. Strawberries come and go before blueberries appear and nourish us. Chervil loves the cold nights of spring, then mint catches pace before parsley comes into its own, asparagus comes and goes and then the beans arrive.
Beans love the weather right now and prosper after a spell of hot days. And the first pickings that are happening all over the Island each day this week yield firm, tender mouthfuls that are best raw. Green beans, whether a bush or pole variety, can be tested for freshness by pressing them into your T-shirt if you have chosen to wear one. If they stick to the fabric they are fresh. If not, they weren’t picked in the last few days and you can do better.
Even the larger varieties of pole beans, like Kentucky Wonder or Roma, are perfect raw if picked at the right moment and will be robust and perfect without the typical blanching or time in a hot pan. For many, green beans evoke memories of frozen, boiled, bland sticks giving color to a less-than memorable plate from their childhood which had to be choked down before permission was given to leave the table.
The season comes and goes quickly and the time for beans is right now, before the healthful heat slowly takes its toll on the plants and causes stress as they mature and turn different shades of yellow and brown and each bean picked is a little tougher than the last. So pick some up today along with some Sungold tomatoes and make a salad, savoring this moment before it’s over.
Green Beans, Tomatoes and Basil
2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon salt
2 cups loosely packed green beans, stem removed if desired but not necessary
1 cup loosely packed fresh basil, torn into pieces
Place tomatoes in a large mixing bowl and dress with olive oil, vinegar and salt. Taste the tomatoes and add more vinegar and salt if need be; they will absorb a lot. Add the green beans and toss well to coat them with the tomato juice, lastly add the basil and toss once to coat but not bruise. Serve with a cold glass of rosÃ©.