I first moved over to this side of the Atlantic as part of a brisk Transatlantic trade in teen lobster servers. Back then, Scotland’s universities provided a summer supply of clambake attendants, buffet minions and housekeeping underlings to the hotels and resorts of Martha’s Vineyard each May. The Gulf War had smitten all graduate job offers with the hotel companies I’d spent the year courting, and it was either serve and clear lobster loads on Vineyard lawns or go back to the haddock hatch in the Highland chip shop where I’d worked last year for another oil-saturated summer.
It wasn’t a hard decision. Lobster trumped haddock. The thrill of this fantasyland that I’d glimpsed in books, television and movies easily eclipsed the cosy familiarity of home. Scotland would always be there. The opportunity to wear unflattering slacks while serving seafood to Carly Simon and James Taylor might not. I practically galloped onto the first flight out.
Martha’s Vineyard was my introduction to America, its white shingled whaling captains’ mansions, colourful gingerbread cottages, chowder shacks, gentle seaside towns and 25-miles-per-hour speed limit added up to an almost fairytale take on the US. The Vineyard’s quaint distillation of 1950s America might be a US unrecognizable to most Americans, but it made a delightful introduction to the land before I graduated to the mainland and the grittier realities of the modern day US. And lobster really did trump haddock, although it was much harder to get rid of the green snail trail of lobster goo that slimed down my work shirts each day.