Towns around here have gotten concerned about nitrogen in the watershed carried there in runoff from leaky septic systems and over-fertilized lawns. By a process I don't quite understand, the nitrogen causes too much plant growth and when those plants die they release oxygen that somehow kills off fish.
The towns have formed an alliance, the Pleasant Bay Resource Management Alliance, to try to reduce the nitrogen levels or at least prevent them from increasing. Volunteers are wading out to check on the levels and I met a couple of them this morning down on the beach at Rock Harbor in Orleans. Husband and wife team. Their field lab was in the trunk of their car and they were using turkey baster-sized syringes to squirt the samples they'd just taken into squat, Tupperware-style plastic jars. They were not scientists themselves, although she used to teach high school biology before she retired.
I first encountered them as I walking down the beach towards the marsh. They were coming arond the rip-rap breakwater, having finished collecting their samples from the boat channel. He was carrying a heavy-looking blue Igloo cooler and she held a legal-sized clipboard jabbed against her hip. On the clipboard were sheets of yellow paper with lots of boxes and graphs. She was a short, wiry, yellow-haired woman approaching 60. He was very tall, with signs of having once been lean and lanky but now giving in to middle-aged spread. His ball cap was pulled down low on his forehead and he was wearing glasses, which made it hard for me to judge his age, but I put him a few years older. Both were wearing shorts and t-shirts, but she had on a pair of yellow rubber beach shoes and he was wearing a pair of plain old sneakers, which meant that he had been wading barefoot while her toes were protected, which had turned out to be bad news for him and lucky for her.
The woman saw the camera in my hand and said, "Too bad you didn't get here with that sooner. You'd have had a heck of a picture."
"What'd I miss?" At that point, because of her scientific-looking clipboard, I was taking them for a pair of biologists and I was thinking exotic marine wildlife---a lost pilot whale, an adventurous seal, even a wandering shark.
"Him," she said jerking her head towards the man. "Falling in."
Then I noticed that he was soaked from the chest down. He grinned sheepishly but I could tell he was still feeling grumpy about his dunking.
She said, "A crab bit him and he fell over."
"Oh no," I said. "Where'd it get you?"
"Toe," he said.
"What kind of crab?"
"Can you eat him?"
"Too bad," I said, "Revenge can be sweet."
He was dead silent.
Wasn't in the mood to laugh about it yet, I guess.
At the Hot Chocolate Sparrow this morning, young couple a few tables over, sitting across from each other, their open laptops between them. He has an earphone plugged into his computer. She's doing actual work. Has a a sheaf of papers on her lap, a pen between the fingers of the hand she's using to control her mouse. They are both intent on their computer screens, apparently oblivious of each other.
But they are playing footsie under the table and the lids of their laptops lean into each other and kiss.
Out on my bike, making my way up towards town along Cross Street, guy passes me on his bike with his seven or eight year old daughter on a tag-a-long behind him.
I'd heard them coming up. They were having a conversation. He was telling her about Mopeds. Nothing in what he was saying. The words were right. A father telling his little girl about a fad from when he was her age. But the tone was off. And when pulls past me and says first, "Passing on your left," and then "Good morning," the tone of that good morning is off too.
There's an edge, a coldness---a low growl under the words. I know this tone. It's a familiar sound down here. I know it but I don't know it. I can't explain it. I hear it from men just like this one, men in their thirties and early forties, close-shaved, short-haired, neat, gray-skinned under their tans, if they have tans. Something about them suggests both competence and desperation, money and anxiety. I think of them as business types, stockbrokers, corporate attorneys, number crunchers of various kinds, because I see in them the vestiges of the frat guys I knew in college who were business majors and pre-law. Not the beer-drinking louts. The driven guys. The smart, hard-working guys who never seemed able to relax and enjoy a conversation. They were always sizing you up, looking for an advantage, waiting for that moment to tell you what they knew, what they were planning, how they were going in the right direction and from the sounds of things you weren't.
If they'd had a motto, it would have been, Here's what I'd do better if I were you.
I don't know that the men I'm hearing are these guys half a lifetime on. I'm just saying they look like they could have been them.
Whoever they are, wherever I see them, whatever company they're in, they speak with that edge. They use that tone that's always slightly off, with their wives, with their kids, with their friends, with store clerks and waitresses, with strangers they're passing the time of day with, even when they're trying to be polite and friendly, as this guy was.
You don't see them everywhere. They're almost never at the beach. Hardly ever in a bookstore. If they're in the stands at the ball games they don't talk so I can't pick them out of the crowd by their voices. I never run into them on my late walks around town.
They're at the restaurants, usually for dinner, trying not to be brusque with their servers. Sometimes you'll meet up with one in the late afternoon, waiting with the kids outside of a store, growing impatient with their kids' impatience. Mostly, though, you see them in the early mornings. They'll be out for a run or a bike ride. They'll be hurrying back to wherever they're staying with a cardboard tray full of coffee and bagels. They'll be at the coffee shop, with a stroller, a dog, a sleepy-looking young teenager, looking not so much sleepy themselves as just drained---and when you meet up with them at these times they don't talk, not even to say good morning, they just nod. To the baristas behind the counter they grunt and hold up the paper cup they're about to fill from one of the self-serve carafes.
You don't have to hear them to recognize them though, because besides their reflexively challenging voices---challenged's the better word, the edge is defensive---they're identifiable by their looks of distraction. They're here but they're not here. Their eyes aren't on what's in front of them. They're thinking of other things, serious things, things they'd rather not have to be thinking about, but things that have to be thought about nonetheless because that's what guys like them do, think about hard and serious things.
I wish I knew what those things are.
Work? The office? Maybe other people they'd rather be with. The guys from work? A woman from work? Are they that uncomfortable, feeling stuck with their families for whole days on end? Are their lives so built around their jobs that they don't know how to relax, don't to how to talk to anyone who's not part of their work. In our service economy other people are our tools. I'm not saying they're objects. I'm saying that we can only get our work done by going through other people, which must infect our perception of people with a certain utilitarianism. If a person isn't being useful to us, why is he taking up our time? For some of us this becomes a habit that's hard to drop even with the spouse and kids.
I said I think of these men as business types because of the guys I used to know they remind me of. But they are a business type, not the business type. There's a lot of money down here, which means the town must be crawling with people who make it by the sackful and plenty of them must be lawyers, stockbrokers, numbers-crunchers of various types. Not all of them use this tone, wear that look. And a lot of them must be women and I never hear any women using the tone, wearing the look. Women here fall into two groups, those who are friendly and those who aren't. There aren't any who are trying to be friendly but can't manage it for whatever reason, like these guys.
I sometimes think it's just the case that they don't know how to relax. They can't leave work at the office.
But maybe it's not that they don't know how, it's that they don't dare.
Maybe it's that they're not allowed to.
I'm here on vacation. They're here because their families are on vacation.
They have a day or two off so they've come down to be with the family even though they feel they shouldn't. It's going to catch up with them somehow. They're going to pay for the time they've taken away from work. If they've got the whole week, it's an illusion that they've gotten away.
When this guy on his bike and his daughter get back to the house they're supposed to be vacationing in there'll be a package from FedEx or some email or a voice mail waiting, demanding his attention now.
Come to think of it, maybe I'm not observing a type at all.
Maybe I'm witnessing an effect.
An effect caused by a different type. A type of boss.
Five vacations ago, the big story in the local papers when we were down here was the fight between Ted Williams' children over what to do with the Splendid Splinter's recently dead body. Williams' son, John Henry Williams, planned to have it frozen. His daughter wanted it buried. Most people in Red Sox Nation were on the daughter's side. There was plenty of speculation that John Henry had other plans for the body besides saving it until a Dr Frankenstein in the future could bring it back to life,plans that would make John Henry bundles of money. The word cloning popped up in a lot of conversations.
Sitting in the coffee shop early in the morning, five years ago today, I overheard a couple of old Red Sox fans talking it over and one of the men said:
"I wouldn't want to be John Henry, even if I win in court (He pronounces it cawt), because I don't want to be walking across a field some day when that bolt of lightning comes and finds me. Because it doesn't matter if you get away with it now. In time, you always wind up paying for what you done."
Tuesday, July 16, 2002. Two years before I had a blog.
Middle-aged couple standing by the hedges at the end of Bridge Street. He's talking on his cell phone. She's trying to be part of the conversation through sheer attentiveness, standing very still with arms folded. He's white-haired, late 50's. Has his free hand up to his open ear, two fingers pressed to the ear like an old-time radio announcer. He's saying into the phone, concerned, worried he knows the answer:
"Are you happy? (Pause.) What's wrong? (Another pause.) Are you happy? I said (raises his voice to make sure he's heard), Are you HAPPY?"
The town's expanded the beach at Oyster Pond, the inlet off an inlet where we go for lazy swims in warmer and more placid water when we're feeling too battered by the ocean beaches and to hunt minnows, hermit crabs, quahogs, moon jellies, and whatever more exotic specimens have swam in, drifted in, or been dragged in by the tides---the other day it was a rather determined female horseshoe crab heading in to shore to lay her eggs.
To add to the beach the town took out the smaller of the two parking lots, the one on the right side of the bath house---looking in from the water---and trucked in loads of sand that does not match in color or texture the sand on the rest of the beach.
This doesn't make for less parking, however; in fact, there's more. The lot on the left has been widened on the waterfronting edge and lengthened at the far edge up towards Queen Anne Road, operations that involved, but hardly required, cutting down the ten or twelve locust trees that shaded the lot in years past and under which were usually lucky enough to find a place to park so that when it was time to pack up and head home after a day at the beach we didn't have to climb into a large, station-wagon shaped oven.
The bath house itself was enlarged and remodeled a few years ago, a project that included a previous unnecessary reduction of five or so fine shade trees into sawdust.
By the time Henry David Thoreau took his several hikes up the Cape a hundred and fifty or so years ago---the hikes that through a rhetorical sleight of hand Thoreau made seem a single perambulation in his book, Cape Cod, a fact I'm glad I didn't know back in college when I convinced a couple of friends to join me in following Thoreau's footsteps up the whole outside length of the Lower Cape in a single day. I might have felt less inspired and so missed out on the best walk of my entire life--white people had been at work on the Cape with their axes and saws for two and a half centuries and they had pretty much turned every pesky tree into kindling, furniture, houses, and boats. Thoreau walked up a mostly shadeless landscape, encountering tall shrubs he could hardly bring himself to flatter by calling them trees:
As for the interior, if the elevated sand-bar in the midst
of the ocean can be said to have any interior, it was an exceedingly desolate
landscape, with rarely a cultivated or cultivable field in sight. We saw
no villages, and seldom a house, for these are generally on the Bay side.
It was a succession of shrubby hills and valleys, now wearing an autumnal
tint. You would frequently think, from the character of the surface, the
dwarfish trees, and the bearberries around, that you were on the top of
a mountain. The only wood in Eastham was on the edge of Wellfleet. The
pitch-pines were not commonly more than fifteen or eighteen feet high.
The larger ones were covered with lichens, — often hung with the long gray
There is scarcely a white-pine on the forearm of the Cape. Yet in the northwest
part of Eastham, near the Camp Ground, we saw, the next summer, some quite
rural, and even sylvan retreats, for the Cape, where small rustling groves
of oaks and locusts and whispering pines, on perfectly level ground, made
a little paradise. The locusts, both transplanted and growing naturally
about the houses there, appeared to flourish better than any other tree.
There were thin belts of wood in Wellfleet and Truro, a mile or more from
the Atlantic, but, for the most part, we could see the horizon through
them, or, if extensive, the trees were not large. Both oaks and pines had
often the same flat look with the apple-trees. Commonly, the oak woods
twenty-five years old were a mere scraggy shrubbery nine or ten feet high,
and we could frequently reach to their topmost leaf. Much that is called
"woods" was about half as high as this, — only patches of shrub-oak, bayberry,
beach-plum, and wild roses, overrun with woodbine. When the roses were
in bloom, these patches in the midst of the sand displayed such a profusion
of blossoms, mingled with the aroma of the bay berry, that
no Italian or other artificial rose-garden could equal them. They were
perfectly Elysian,and realized
my idea of an oasis in the desert. Huckleberry-bushes were very abundant,
and the next summer they bore a remarkable quantity of that kind of gall
called Huckleberry-apple, forming quite handsome though monstrous blossoms.
But it must be added, that this shrubbery swarmed with wood-ticks, sometimes
very troublesome parasites, and which it takes very horny fingers to crack.
The inhabitants of these towns have a great regard for a tree, though their
standard for one is necessarily neither large nor high; and when they tell
you of the large trees that once grew here, you must think of them, not
as absolutely large, but large compared with the present generation. Their
"brave old oaks," of which they speak with so much respect, and which they
will point out to you as relics of the primitive forest, one hundred or
one hundred and fifty, ay, for aught they know, two hundred years old,
have a ridiculously dwarfish appearance, which excites a smile in the beholder.
The largest and most venerable which they will show you in such a case
are, perhaps, not more than twenty or twenty-five feet high. I was especially
amused by the Liliputian old oaks in the south part of Truro. To the inexperienced
eye, which appreciated their proportions only, they might appear vast as
the tree which saved his royal majesty, but measured, they were dwarfed
at once almost into lichens which a deer might eat up in a morning. Yet
they will tell you that large schooners were once built of timber which
grew in Wellfleet. The old houses also are built of the timber of the Cape;
but instead of the forests in the midst of which they originally stood, barren
heaths, with poverty-grass for heather, now stretch away on every side.
Out of necessity, by Thoreau's day, Cape residents were importing the wood they needed for building and most of whatever wood they burned for fuel was driftwood. Then along came coal and oil and gas and electricity and more and more saplings were left alone to grow into large and spreading shade trees. Farmers, tired of plowing sand, left the Cape or found other livelihoods. Their abandoned fields filled up with aspens then oaks and now there are even plenty of maples. More houses were built, summer homes, belonging to relatively rich mainlanders who planted lawns and all kinds of shade trees and ornamentals---there's a giant catalpa in the yard next door whose long, undulant limbs like a dancing Shiva's reach over here across the fence and practically under the roof of the porch to shade the table at which I'm sitting writing this. This re-forestation happened all over New England and now, I'm told, there are more trees in Massachusetts than there were when Paul Revere made his midnight ride---in fact, the treelessness of the land west of Boston is the reason he could make the ride; all those Middlesex villages and farms that had cut down their trees for building and planting meant no shadows on the road to Concord that night. I wouldn't say that the Cape can spare the loss of a few trees here and there, but it's probably the case that at the same time the town was cutting down the locusts on the islands in the parking lot landscapers were planting at least as many replacements on lawns all over the rest of town. Chatham is not in any immediate danger of looking like the Cape as Thoreau saw it.
Still, besides shading the cars immediately under them those locusts cooled the air over the entire parking lot and made the end of a day at the beach more pleasant for people. And there's almost no need to get into the sheer added ugliness of an increased expanse of treeless tar. They should have left the trees.
But that would have gone against the American ideal of a parking lot.
Somebody in charge of paving the country sure hates trees. I'm not blaming engineers. I learned my lesson. But somebody decided that for the sake of squeezing five or six more cars into the lot the world would just have to put up with that many more square feet of asphalt desert.
Last night, a perfect night weather-wise, I sat out on the porch late and talked to my old pal Margot by phone. Don't remember how it came up but I wound up telling her about my dream of the open road.
It's a fairly ordinary and common dream. Someday, I dream, I will just get in the car and drive.
I plan to drive in a large circle and wind up exactly back where I started from. I'm going to drive around the country and see what I can see.
This is an old, old dream of mine. I dreamed it before I'd ever heard of Charles Kuralt or read John Steinbeck's Travels With Charley. I dreamed it before I had a driver's license. I dreamed it sitting in the back seat of my parents' car enjoying long drives to Cape Cod and Lake George and Washington D.C. I dreamed it whenever we arrived at our destinations when I was always disappointed, at least for the moment, that the drive was over.
Someday, I told Margot, I'm coming out to see you. Margot lives somewhere in the Midwest, way out to hell and gone. I'll arrive late at night after driving all day on the backest of back roads. My dream, of course, is not of highways. When I go, I'm taking the long way to everywhere.
Margot asked if I'd be traveling in an RV.
Margot likes to imagine me making myself look ridiculous.
No, I told her. I'll probably just take the wagon.
If I get ambitious, though, I'll buy a pickup truck and put a camper cab on the back, which is what Steinbeck did. Maybe I'll get a dog to take along for company. I'll need company because I'll be traveling alone. This trip won't work unless I can travel at my own pace and on my own schedule. There can't be anybody in the passenger seat saying she's sick of the back roads, let's just find I-80 and do some flying. There can't be anybody saying when we're looking for an inexpensive motel for the night, "If you say 'We'll leave the light on for you' one more time I will push you out of the car, take the wheel, and run you over, so help me God!"
My dog won't care if I do my impression of Tom Bodett a dozen times every night.
I promise not to name my dog Charley.
You'll notice, as Margot noticed, that in my dream I have enough money that I can stay at a Motel 6 any night I'm sick of sleeping in my camper. That will be a lot of nights. My dream isn't of roughing it. My dream is of driving and seeing what's out there. It's not of pretending I'm a pioneer.
When I get to Margot's I don't expect I will be spending that night in a Motel 6. She and her husband are hospitable folks and they will insist on putting me up for a night or two. Margot's a pal. The fact that I have Margot for a pal has added a new angle to my dream.
Margot, you see, is a blogger. I only know her because our paths crossed virtually in cyberspace. It's about time we met face to face. There are quite a number of you out there it's high time I met face to face.
Since talking to Margot I've thought about all the bloggers I would like to meet and where they live and it turns out that I know enough of you and you are scattered widely enough that I could plot my drive across the country as a drive from one blogger's house to the next. I don't expect all of you to put me up for the night.
That's why they have Motel 6's.
They'll leave the light on for me.
I would leave my house and head South. I would travel down as far as Georgia and then cross over, with several stops in Texas and New Mexico, and then head up the coast of California, where I'd stop half a dozen times, and on up to Oregon and Washington and up into Canada, if I'm invited. I'd come back down along the Mississippi, crossing back and forth as I went, and after visiting Iowa City and St Louis, head back upwards and hit Chicago and then Detroit before coming back home through Ohio and Pennsylvania, with my last stops being Philadelphia and New York City.
All my blogger pals in New York City would throw me a welcome home party.
I'd have been gone close to two years.
I'd have been blogging the whole way, naturally, and I'd return home with the makings of a book. I'm sure I'll come up with a better title, but right now its working title is Travels With Bloggers. If there are any book editors or agents reading this post, I think I can manage this whole trip on a modest advance against royalties.
The blonde thinks this is a great idea.
She's not about to let me go through with it.
But she understands why I'd like to do it.
Maybe if the advance against royalties isn't all that modest...
But writing a book isn't the point. Meeting you isn't the point, although I'd be looking forward to that.
The point, as I said, is driving and looking around.
Some days I'd do a lot more looking around than driving. Some days I'd drive from from sun-up to well past sun-down and then, after a good night's rest at Motel 6, I'd get up and do it again.
Every now and then I'd drive all night.
I like to drive at night, so maybe that would happen more than just now and then.
My liking to drive at night is probably why I like this poem so much. It's by Ted Kooser. It's called Highway 30. The real reason I wrote this post is so I could show you this poem.
At two in the morning, when the moon has driven away, leaving the faint taillight of one star at the horizon, a light like moonlight leaks from broken crates that lie fallen along the highway, becoming motels, all-night cafes, and bus stations with greenhouse windows, where lone women sit like overturned flower pots, crushing the soft, gray petals of old coats.
In my dream I stop at those all-night cafes at two in the morning for pie and coffee before getting on the road again so that I can arrive at your house by dawn.
asked my oldest lamblet if she had a DVD player in her car for those
long trips. She said no, she took books, but other than that, she
preferred to look out the window at the view. "What's the point of
going somewhere else if you're not going to look at the changing
scenery?" she asked.
But since his real subject was light, and his interest in the objects and people and landscapes he painted was in the way they looked in a certain light, I think Edward Hopper would have appreciated the way the light struck these two houses out towards Outermost Harbor at 7:30 this morning.
After mini-golf---I shot a 46, thank you, three under par, but still two strokes behind our leader, Old Father Blonde, and I swear I wasn't letting the old duffer win just because he paid for dinner. I'd have had him if three---count 'em three---of what should have been holes in one hadn't rimmed the cup and shot back out. A fourth near hole in one stopped right on the lip--as I turned in the clubs for our party, there were only two customers in the pro shop. Pair of college-age women. Young college students. I'd say summer between their freshman and sophomore years. And one of them was beautiful.
Michelle Pfieffer at 19 beautiful.
Not a dead ringer but the same type. Small, delicate, with a wide heart-shaped face, and long tangled blond curls. She was even wearing glasses like the kind Pfieffer wore before she turned into Catwoman in Batman Returns. And she knew she was that beautiful. She knew how she appeared in the eyes of the two guys working the counter in the pro shop. Being that beautiful was the goal for the night for her. Not dressed for mini-golf, probably here after dinner at a nice restaurant, she was wearing high-heeled sandals and a mini-skirt that showed off her spectacular legs. While her friend paid for the round of golf she walked around and around the small space between the counter and the vending machines against the far wall, wiggling just enough and spinning when she turned in a way that made her skirt flounce, her movie star smile lighting up the shop, full power flirt turned on and aimed at the two guys.
The guys played it cool until she and her friend were out the door and could be seen teeing up at the first hole. Then they exchanged grins, shook their heads together, and laughed quietly. They were both too old for her---or she was too young for both of them---one was in his late 20s, the other nearing 40, old enough, too, that they are probably both attached, maybe even married.
Down at Outermost Harbor you'll find mostly pleasure craft and sportfishing boats docked and at anchor. Stopped off on my bike ride this morning. Out on the pier a man in his forties was giving surfcasting tips to the two old men who might have been in their eighties he was about to take out on his boat to the other side of Monomoy where there is surf to cast in and then some.
The younger man was dressed in shorts and a t-shirt. The old men were dressed for adventure in chest-high waders and khaki shirts with epaulettes. One of the old man was very short, the other was very tall. The short old man wore a green bill cap. The tall old man wore an Australian bush hat.
The younger man was acting out a scenario, pretending he had a rod and reel in hand and a struggling striper on the line. He had reachead an urgent point in his lesson of the day.
"You've got one second!" he yelled, fighting with his imaginary fish. He held up a finger and shook it at the old men. "ONE!"
But they were far away, at the other end of the pier, and after that the younger man lowered his voice and I never heard what the old men had only one second to do.
I guess I could beg off, but I'm not going to. Instead I'm going to change the rules a bit. The meme is now the Eight Random Facts About What I Like to Do Besides the Obvious on Cape Cod Meme.
One. I like to send post cards. I sent a batch out today, as a matter of fact. I have another batch ready to go out tomorrow. If you'd like a post card to go out to you in the next batch, email me your snail mail address.
I also like to get post cards. In fact, my wish is that when I get home from vacation 10 days from now I'll find my mailbox stuffed full of post cards from all around the country and the world. My snail mail address is PO Box 263, New Paltz, NY 12561.
Two. I like to get stuck in the house for a whole day by rain, but there are conditions. This can only happen once per vacation. It can only happen during a vacation when the weather has been almost perfect except for this one rainy day. The rainy day has to occur in the middle of the either week we're here. The almost perfect weather is very important. The rainy day is only fun if it's giving us time to rest up from too much sun and surf and vacation fun and gather strength for the more fun to follow.
Three. I like to win at mini-golf. This has never happened.
Four. I like to go out for coffee at about 10 at night and then drink it while walking around town and spying on the shops as they close up and thinking about past vacations.
Five. I like to read at least one book by a writer who's spent more time here and thought more about life here than I have and that can teach me something I didn't know about Cape Cod. That something can be a fact, but I like it better when it's a new way of looking at a place or a thing I'd looked at a dozen times before without really noticing it.
This year's book is a book of poems. Habitat by Brendan Galvin.
Six. This one starts before I get here. I like to go online the week before our vacation and put a bunch of books on reserve at the Eldredge Public Library in time to have at least a few of them waiting for me the first day we're here. I don't like it when the librarians make fun of me for doing this, which for some reason they always feel a need to do.
Seven. I like to wander down to a beach very early in a morning with my cell phone, pick a friend at random (say, Shakespeare's Sister, who should set her alarm clock now), call them up, and describe the scenery and the weather in detail. Amazingly, every year I have one fewer friend.
Eight. I like to go to Cape Cod League Baseball games at night and watch the Chatham A's win or lose, doesn't matter to me, and stay after the games and watch the stands empty and the players hanging out afterwards on the field talking with friends on the opposing team and the locals whose summers revolve around the games because they volunteer for the club or have given a room to one of the players and the players' girlfriends and the girls who hope to be a player's girlfriend standing patiently on the other side of the fence, waiting for the guys.
One night a few years ago I watched a coach drive a pitcher who had been shellacked in the late innings and lost the game for the A's around and around and around the field in a golf cart while the kid cried his eyes out.
I don't remember the name of that pitcher, but I hope he's in the big leagues now.
Mood on the field after tonight's game was celebratory, at least for the A's. The Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox had been leading, 11-1, going into the bottom of the seventh. The A's picked up two and then scored seven more in the bottom of the eighth. Score was now 11-10 going into the last of the ninth. A's lead off man got a single. Next batter lay down a perfect bunt that he almost beat out. Man on second now. Next batter singled. Game tied. Next player lined out to short. But the batter after him drove one deep into the gap in left center where it fell between the left fielder and the center fielder and skittered to the wall. Runner on first flew home and the A's had won it, 12-11.
Ok, since under my new rules you'd have to be me to do this meme I'm not going to pass it along. Instead I'm throwing open the comments. Your turn: What do you like to do besides the obvious when you're on vacation or have some free time to yourself?
Once upon a time, when the Cape was a bump of rock off North America and a string of islands of glacial till waiting to be connected by sand thrown up by the sea, wooly mammoths lived out this way.
Mammoths lived out a lot of ways, way back when. They were a hardy, prolific, and well-travelled species, until whatever killed them off killed them off. Combination of climate change, disease, and human beings who were very handy with sticks with sharp points, scientists figure. Mammoths lived on every continent except South America and Antactica (although who knows what bones are below the ice cap) but until today I'd never thought of them as living here when there wasn't much of a here here then. But they did.
The tooth of one of them was thrown up when the Cape Cod Canal was being dug 90-odd years ago and that tooth now sits in the Cape Cod Museum of Natural History in Brewster where I took its picture today and where a guide told me it's very much like an elephant's tooth and elephant's teeth, I learned, are interesting.
Elephants have 24 permanent teeth, but only two on each side are at work at any period in an elephants life. As those teeth wear down they are pushed forward in the jaws until they fall out. The teeth behind roll forward to replace them, and when they wear down, they fall out. This goes on throughout the elephant's lifetime until its last teeth are gone, somewhere around the age of 65 and then, the guide told me, without its choppers the elephant can't eat and it starves to death.
Same thing probably happened to mammoths.
The guide was a tall, trim man, in his 60s, with a white mustache that turned up at the ends. His two rings were turquoise and there were turquoise insets in the big silver band of his wristwatch. When he saw me studying the mammoth tooth, looking for the best angle to take its photograph from, he asked me if I was a dentist. He was very excited when, being a reflexive sort of wiseguy, I said I was indeed a dentist and I thought I'd found a cavity, and he was disappointed when, being also no George Costanza and not prepared to fake my way through a pretend career on the spot, I quickly told him I was kidding. I guess he goes into the museum every day hoping to talk about that tooth with a real dentist. If you happen to be one and are in these parts and have time on your hands maybe you could stop in and make his day.
Nice guy. He could have held my being a wiseguy against me and walked off and I'd have had no post tonight. But he stuck around and taught me about an elephant's dentition and gave me some words to wrap around my pictures.
Mammoths disappeared from the Cape and everywhere about 4000 years ago. Other species vanished from the Cape more recently.
The great auk was hunted to extinction, someone bagging the last one in 1844. And the heath hen was wiped out in 1932, the last one dying on Martha's Vineyard in 1932, despite the fact that as early as 1790 people were trying to protect and conserve it. One of the first animals Americans tried to save.
Codfish are in trouble now.
But striped bass are making a comeback, along with piping plover, and wild turkeys.
Three years ago tonight, and two months before I had a blog, we'd just arrived on the Cape and I took a late walk around town.
Midnight and Chatham's shut down. Only other people on the street are two delivery guys unloading a semi in front of the drugstore. They have almost all the contents of the trailer intended for this store stacked on the sidewalk. One of the guys is bringing the last load down on the mechanized ramp, standing awfully close to the edge as it lowers, pushed far to the side by the many boxes. The other guy is wheeling bundles and stacks of boxes into the store, which is lit up inside more brightly than it might have been when the place was open for business earlier.
The delivery guys are young and dressed very neatly in light blue short sleeve workshirts with the drugstore chain's logo on their breast pockets and khakis. Neater than the clerks waiting inside the store to help put things on the shelves for morning. The corporation's trucking department a more tightly run ship than theretail side.
Sidewalk in front of the Squire is empty, except for one bored green-shirted bouncer, but there's life inside, of course, as it's an hour from last call and probably three before they throw out the last drunk. All the lights are on in the main bar, the juke box's thumping, and a small crowd of twentysomethings, who might be the staff, are partying heartily. Dining rooms off to the side are darkened. One guy, in his 30s, maybe early 40s, sitting alone at a windwo table, arms folded, half-turned towards the bar, but with his eyes on the window not on the gang in the other room, brooding.
Started this walk down by the Mill Pond. Water perfectly smooth. Across the pond a house at the bottom of Sunset Lane has a red light burning in a side window. Only light on in the house. The light is reflected pretty far out in the pond, as clear, round, bright, and still as it is the window, a flaming jewel just under the surface of the water.
Busiest place is town at six-thirty in the morning is often the fish pier.
One or two fishing boats getting ready to put out or coming back in with nets full can stir up more noise and activity than you'll encounter on half a city block, and that's not even including the flocking sea gulls whose calls and whole purpose in life were brilliantly summed up by whoever wrote their lines in Finding Nemo: "Mine? Mine? Mine?"
Took my coffee down there this morning and drank it leaning on the rail of the observation deck half a story up from the water and the docks. Unable to see far to the east because of the hot glare of the low sun or to the north where haze hid Pleasant Bay.
Turns out it's a quiet morning. There's only boat tied up at the pier on which there are any signs of life. The Lady Ocean. And from the looks of things she has unloaded her catch and is preparing to finish for the day. But off to my left a man appears from out behind the prow of the Coast Guard patrol boat wading out to a buoy. He unhooks a line and drags a small skiff in. A few minutes later he reappears at the tiller of the skiff, riding standing up.
The man is about 40, with a thick head of graying blond hair and a bulldog chin. He's wearing narrow shades and a weathered pink t-shirt over olive shorts and sand-colored waders. Husky guy with a big gut. He pilots the skiff around the fish pier and over to the dock on the far side where his partner waits with their gear. Red pickup the partner's unloaded backed up onto the dock. Partner looks a few years older, thinner but bald on top, with his own prodigious gut. Gray hair on the sides of his hair cut very close. Wearing a red t-shirt, khaki shorts, same style and sand-colored waders as his friend.
The first man ties up the skiff and climbs onto the dock. Walks---his walk part waddle and part swagger: a swaddle? A wagger?---his stubby arms swinging, over to the pick-up to move it into the lot where---I'm not kidding, I counted---twenty-six other pickups belonging to the fishermen and clammers already out on the water are parked. The second man climbs down into the skiff and starts pulling gear from the dock to him and lowering it into the skiff. Gear includes two big black chests and a channel marker on a long aluminum pole with a four-bladed anchor on the end with a sharp point that makes it look like a combination missile and harpoon, as if designed for hunting whales from a fighter plane. As far as I can see the gear does not include clam rakes or fishing rods. They're probably headed for their boat and I'm guessing they're lobster men about to spend the morning pulling traps, because of the channel marker and the fact there are only two of them. I think a trawler needs a larger crew.
Ok, thanks for sticking with me because here comes the point of this sketch.
Loaded up the men set out in their skiff and it's the skiff itself that is the whole reason I paid such close attention, because it was the ugliest, most beat-up, most unseaworthy-looking craft I've ever seen---rusted, pock-marked, dented and scratched and scraped, fore to aft, and...
It had no prow.
I mean the front end of the skiff was gone, ripped away as if a bite had been taken out of it by Moby Dick!
I don't know how it stayed afloat while tied up. The only reason I could see that it wasn't taking on water as they rode out is that their weight in the stern kept the bow end lifted several inches.
Neither man seemed to be worried. The first man back standing at the tiller and the second man standing just ahead of him, both staring straight out to sea, and looking, and for all I know feeling, proud and determined as whalers of old putting out from their ship into a pod of bowheads, they rode out towards where their lobster boat waited and I lost sight of them in the glare.
Owner of the Blue Colony Diner insisted I get a photo of the giant apple turnovers too. In a thick Greek accent, he announced to the crowd waiting inside the door to get seated, "They're made with Viagra and Miracle-Gro!"