I’m not sure it went well.
I admit that on major holiday weekends, I tend to get out of Dodge. So my impression of the Memorial Day holiday weekend was formed by driving back to Cape Town around 8 p.m. Monday evening, and seeing that Cape Town-bound traffic was jammed past Sandwich – even at that time .
It was the year of those who wanted a return to normalcy, for happiness to return. Cape Cod Cares for the Troops held a beautiful ceremony. Almost every town in Cape Town held parades – the one in my own town was dedicated to the memory of Walter von Hone, who was the spark and organizer of our parades for many years.
Cape Cod’s ice cream purveyors were proud and visitors responded by snagging their favorite flavors. The pirates rumbled on the mini-golf courses and in their museum in Yarmouth. The iconic Dunes Tours in Provincetown were back, and you could also take a ride in the new inclined lift to the Pilgrim Monument.
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If the movie “It’s A Wonderful Life” had arrived in July, Cape Cod would have been a great replacement for Bedford Falls. We even had our first sighting of a great white shark, caught munching on a seal like it was an olive from an antipasto.
It’s been a beautiful and happy weekend, emerging from the shadow of The Disease Which Shall Not Be Named (DWSNBN) and its sidekick, the Controversial Covering Garment, which really doesn’t get enough credit as an accessory. fashionable since pulling it down over your chin makes for excellent camouflage for any neck unsightliness in women of a certain age.
Our many visitors were happy and carefree, and we said we were too.
But I’ve seen this movie before.
When I moved to Cape Town about 40 years ago, there was a similar mood among visitors. We were heading into a booming economy then, and people who had bought homes for $10,000 years ago laughed at themselves by selling for more $25,000! Values were skyrocketing and we were taking advantage of tourist dollars as they arrived like never before.
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But even then, there were shadows. As Cape Town became more popular, it was increasingly difficult to find college kids to grab the ice cream or steam the lobsters. The land rush mentality has made it difficult to find a place to rent, even for a winter rental.
The long-term viability of Cape Town’s tourism economy, based on cheap labor and Patti Page glamour, has been called into question. Already, employers had to contribute to rent buses to transport workers to and from Fall River every day.
We played with the Silicon Sandbar mirage for a while, but fell back to an economy based on our natural assets – sun, sea, sky and surf. The savings and loans scandal croaked all abusive real estate transactions. We presented ourselves as a destination of choice, but the bull market had ended. Instead, we’ve become the big retirement destination, and our county’s median age has climbed higher and higher, and seniority has become normal. Golf courses flourished and pickleball remained.
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But just as Top Gun 2 isn’t as good as the original, the boom started by the DWSNBN is a bit more Darwinian. People came here to hide from the most crowded places. And when they discovered they could work remotely, many of them decided to stay. In doing so, they realized that cement and high-rise buildings are not necessary for trading, and that trading stocks or writing a prospectus is much more fun in a lawn chair than in an office.
Also, you can rent the place for about a week to cover the expenses. If you own, great. If you’re not, you’re desperate – almost as desperate as the owners of the Quaint Shoppe or the city beach sticker administrators who can’t find help with love or money.
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Decades-old rental properties are being sold as investments, new owners want the flexibility of weekly rentals to avoid any nasty eviction situations with year-round tenants, who then can’t find housing while they pick up ice cream. So once again the viability of Cape Town’s tourism economy is in question.
It won’t last forever. Personally, I believe that some sort of Bitcoin-Cryptocurrency crash will be the new savings and lending crash that will bring down the wispy values of the cybereconomy. And just as the stock market crash halted real estate speculation, there could once again be fine housing for working families.
But for now, people who are struggling to pick up while keeping a smile on their face may not think things are going as well as the rest of us. And so far, they’re right.
Cynthia Stead is a columnist for the Cape Cod Times and can be reached at [email protected]