I go to Martha's Vineyard to attend JawsFest. The Fest is being held to promote the blue-ray version of the movie Jaws. I go with my friend the King of Crass. He and others call themselves not fanatics of the movie, but finatics.
I arrive on the island and King of Crass tells me to meet him by the Flying Horses Carousel. Of course, I can't find it because I couldn't find my nose on my face. I'm terrible at things like that. So, I ask the gentleman at the information stand where the carousel is in relation to where we are.
"If it waz a beah, it'd bitecha!" he says.
"What?" I reply.
"If it waz a beah, it'd bitecha!" he repeats.
Now I get it. If it was a bear, it would bite you. The people who live here really talk like the locals did in Jaws. Cool. I laugh and tell him thanks as he points me in the right direction.
I'm fascinated by the finatics. I was obsessed with Jaws as a kid because I was afraid of sharks and not allowed to see the movie. So it was both frightening and forbidden. A tantalizing combination. I played with rubber sharks and read books about great whites. When I finally did see the movie at age 12, yeah, it scared the bejeezus out of me. But I loved it.
Did I become a bona fide finatic? Well, maybe not to that extreme. But close.
After a discussion panel called "Women of Jaws," which includes "Chrissie," the girl who got eaten up in the beginning, and "Mrs. Kintner," who slaps Sherriff Brody in the face for letting her son get eaten up, I attend a screening of the movie in an old whaling church.
One thing I notice: There's cheering for Chrissie and Mrs. Kintner, along with a lot of general ruckus. However, even though everyone has seen Jaws a billion times, when Quint goes into his speech about the Indianapolis, the room falls completely silent. Not a sound but Quint's gravely baritone describing a shark's "lifeless eyyyyyes." These folks still love the movie. And so do I.
That weekend, it's all Jaws all the time.
I go for a cup of joe at the hotel's coffee bar and catch a conversation between two old-salt locals. They live here and probably don't need to be scamming hotel coffee, but they say hello to the young lady at the front desk and start filling their cups. I get the feeling they do this every day.
"Ya seen the signs for JawsFest around town?" one asks the other. He's got an oversized raincoat on because it's pouring out.
"Yep," the other says. He's lanky and grizzled and I bet his hand feels hard as a rock and rough as a loofah sponge if you shake it. "My ex-wife was gonna be in it. Volunteered ta be eaten by tha shaaahhk."
I've gotten my coffee but linger to hear more.
"Aaahhhh yeah, that was my waaast mistake. I didn't go ta be an extra. They woulda used me!" Grizzled Guy continues.
I'm thinking, aaahhhh yeah, you're probably right.
"All them Jaws people, they're stayin' right heah. Right in this hotel!" says the guy with the oversized slicker. "They did this in 2005, doin' it again this ye-ah. Sucka all tha tourists."
Well, maybe so. But I think the true finatics are different than your typical tourists. They aren't inclined to get suckered as much as caught up in the whole experience. I come to realize that for many of the finatics, JawsFest is about the movie, but it's also about the people.
"We started out in 2005 talking about Jaws," King of Crass explains. "But now we talk more about each other's lives. Even if they don't hold an official event, we still come every year to see each other."
To me, that sounds really nice.
So, the next time you're on Amity Island...I mean, Martha's Vineyard, there's a good chance that you'll be quite close to a finatic. How close? Well, if it waz a shaaaahk, it'd bitecha!
Juliana Gribbins is a writer who believes that absurdity is the spice of life. Write to her at email@example.com.