“Says Kamina on what’s your word for 2021: “My word is DOG. Because: 1. Dogs only have four modes: sleep, play, eat, and jobs. (This is what I call the intense, self-important focus of a dog in work mode – whether digging a hole or helping a human cross the street.) 2. Whichever mode they are in, dogs are totally focused on that mode. Dogs don’t multitask. 3. Dogs are happy in all modes. Even jobs. Dogs love jobs. I tend to be sulky, distracted and discontent and I want to try to be more dog in 2021” From A Cup of Jo, posted 01.08.21
Needless to say, I find it’s the perfect word for me, too — for this year and perhaps for every year. So many ways of making art with your “OLW/one little word/word of the year/whatever you want to call it”or you can let someone else make it for you. ColleenAttara crafts custom words once a year for customers — and she uses recycled plastic whenever she can to do so. She scripts and cuts your special word for you, and they are simple, but elegant. I’ve toyed with the idea of ordering one myself but have never quite gotten that far (is “gotten” even a word? Well, no matter, it is now😉). Haven’t been able to commit to just one word, but if I could, DOG would be the one I could get behind.
Every Friday for a few months now I’ve been making Fish sandwiches on Fridays. I’ve been calling it Fishwich Friday but because I love the way fish-a-ma-jig rolls off the tongue, I’ve decided that if it’s haddock I’m frying then it’s fish-a-ma-jig Friday. When I use pollock? That’s fishwich Friday.
There used to be a Massachusetts ice cream and diner-type restaurant chain called Friendly’s that was a local favorite in downtown Hyannis. It was one of those places with the best marshmallow topping-hot-fudge-sundae-with-mint-chip-ice cream-and-jimmies, fribbles, frappes, burgers, hot dogs, pancakes, scrambled eggs, and … fish-a-ma-jigs.
A grill cook worked behind the counter, with customers watching and gabbing and spinning on their barstools, waiting for their orders. It was a place where lots of kids began their first job, working the takeout window, counter, booth and kitchen service. The waitress uniform was the classic shirtwaist dress, apron and frilled crown of an atomic age parlor maid. Empty-nesters, older part-timers and old-school management rounded out the crew. Dare I say it? It was a Friendly place and its image in downtown Hyannis is embedded in the memory of my childhood. And that’s my story for today, because, yup, it’s fish-a-ma-jig Friday.
*Jimmies aka sprinkles *Fribble aka milkshake, or is a milkshake also a frappe? Best to look it up. Even I get confused on these New England colloquialisms like fribbles and frappes. Now, as for awful-awfuls, well that’s a story for another day (like never😉).
It’s not that I wanted yesterday to happen, but sometimes people have to see something for themselves — you can’t tell them, regardless of what facts, science, etc. may support. But if they see it with their own eyes? Perhaps. Actions speak louder than words. For those who missed the obvious yesterday — there are still honorable journalists speaking and writing about it. White supremacy and cock-eyed “American” justice was there for all the world to see. Unless, of course, you continue to suffer from snow blindness. For those who don’t but perhaps do continue to believe in an America offering liberty and justice for all — there are a couple of excellent, easy, engaging and engrossing stories about the hidden (and not so very hidden) truths of the foundations of our beloved (still, perhaps?), yet flawed country. If you haven’t yet, please consider reading Lies My Teacher Told Me by James W. Loewen and A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn.
It rained today, and although the rain cleared after a while, the puddles were huge, making our daily walk less than attractive. People have such a lack of awareness of others, as well as themselves, especially when rushing and driving fast —that if my feet aren’t getting soaked wading through the depths, cars flying through make waves that drench me from head to toe. Hence, no walk today, but we did take an extra long one yesterday into Hyannisport, along the shore near where the old train wharf used to go. It was pure blissful solitude, and a perfect opportunity to let Oonagh loose. Whenever we do, as I watch her, I feel such unleashed joy that one of these times (when the surf isn’t so cold), I am apt to join her. I am not a beach girl, but, dang, my girl just makes it look so delicious and inviting.
Hyper-connectivity is messing with my receptivity, which messes with my ability to truly connect, so for this first month of 2021, I am taking a sabbatical from posting on my Instagram page. That’s not really the hard part for me though. The hard part will be resisting that urge to constantly connect or engage in some way. I’ve still commented on a few posts but the goal for me is more meaningful connection, and if I have any presence there in January, it will be connecting with people through their stories or their private messages, rather than on a regular post. I feel lost in the crowd there, and crowds have always overwhelmed my senses to the point of distraction and sometimes distress. I will not be totally gone from social media, but I do find that I need the more contemplative format that blogging allows for — after all, the blog, a web log, a “live” journal of our days — it is what social media once was without all the noise attached. I want to return to that — to its soothing analog pace. I hope for more conscious and deliberate connection with the neighbors in my virtual world, and look forward to meeting some of you here.
I’ve been meaning to get back in the weekly (at the very least) habit of writing on my blog again, partly because I am finding Instagram and its algorithms are not a conducive vehicle for deeper connection. That requires time — analog time — slow time, a slowing down of my time, a slowing down of your time. Social media has a propensity to speed us up rather than slow us down. It’s designed for short quick bursts of momentary engagement. Fine for a brief spell, but not really how I want to live my life. And by that I mean “spend my day,” for as Annie Dillard has written “how we spend our days is how we spend our lives.” I want deeper dialogues, discourses, discussion. I want more intentional connection. I love the luxury of aimless scrolling, don’t get me wrong, it’s how I often tumble down the rabbit hole of exquisite and magical delights, BUT…then it turns in to digital over-saturation, fueling an urgency to participate in it at an ever more breakneck pace. And frankly? I’m not wired for that. Are you? How can my wiring recover from misfiring or have a chance to reboot if I don’t disconnect — from the universal tether that is the worldwide web that ensnares me with wiles, charms, and the promise of always something more. I have to look at it as corporate ownership of my time and headspace. My world shrunk to a tiny screen. Curated. Performative. Without purpose. And I believe we all need a purpose. Writing and sharing is mine.
I’ve been hesitant to share a favorite place we’ve been escaping to for the past few months, mainly because like the South Coast, its open space, deep soul, and serenity may not remain so if non-kindred spirits discover these still-tranquil-trying-to-hang-on-to-what-little-is-left farming communities. Places that follow the slower rhythms of nature, and the seasons, where there is a synchronistic dance that happens between the land and the placeholders who nurture it as it does them. It’s a little village called Shelburne Falls, home to the famous Bridge of Flowers. On our last visit there, we witnessed an unexpected autumn wedding on the bridge, complete with violinist, and a couple of witnesses. We joined the tiny group of spectators gathered around. Magic happens in Shelburne Falls. And not just in Shelburne Falls, but in Turners Falls and Buckland, and other hill-towns in the foothills of the Berkshires. Mountains, hills, woods, and streams and rivers, those are the landscapes buried in my body that sing me alive when I visit.
What saves places like Shelburne Falls, besides those of us kindreds who land there, is its beastly winter weather, frigid and with epic snowfalls. That and its distance from the sea coast, since the majority of the population in the Eastern US lives along the seaboard. Fortunately for us, more folks love the sea and despise the snow. Let’s just not let slip about the spectacular springs, summers and autumns, shall we?
High points in Shelburne Falls for us:
Our delightful Airbnb hosts Marjorie and Peter, walking everywhere and cars stopping for us when we cross the streets, the Blue Rock Cafe and their welcoming staff (we’ve yet to be disappointed), the Sunday afternoon music jam in front of the coop, a morning latte from Mocha Maya’s and old-fashioned donuts from Foxtown Diner. Throughout the day we wander around the neighborhoods, and across the river, up and down, strolling through neighborhoods that are actually inhabited by local, year-round residents. And long about mid-afternoon, we make our way over to Floodwater Brewing for our midday porter, sometimes out on the back porch overlooking the river, sometimes sitting at the bar, chatting with Zack or a local musician, like Frankie. (Still hoping to fix him up with my friend, Diane.) Even our pooch, Bob acts like he belongs in Shelburne Falls. But he’s not telling anyone.
One of my favorite memoirs from years ago was by an NPR writer, Carol Wasserman titled Swimming at Suppertime. It was about life on the wrong side of Buzzards Bay, in her case Wareham, which for me is actually the right side. But it’s always stuck with me, the title and subtitle — she was mourning the loss of her husband, in between writing, living year-round, and swimming (at suppertime) with her lady friends in the gritty town of Wareham, Massachusetts — a stone’s throw (if you’ve got a good arm) — from chi-chi Cape Cod.
Me, I live on Cape Cod. I grew up here in between my father’s military tours in other places. And Wareham, Marion, Mattapoisett, and beyond — the Route 6 West corridor along Buzz Bay — is more like the Cape Cod I remember from childhood and into my college years. It was more colorful, more real, more of a struggle, and more of a delight for those who survive here year-round, because we were all in the same boat.
We took a ride to Wellfleet a couple of weeks ago, hugging the back roads that wind along the backside of Route 28 on our way east. It was a Saturday on the brink of the full moon, and I was feeling hemmed in, crowded, suffocated, wanting to climb out of the box of this island-peninsula — serene and accessible open space is becoming rarer here, speed and traffic more prevalent. I want slow, meandering, and I feel more of that on the other side, even in the eastern Massachusetts land of more strip malls and industrial parks and more traffic — the sky and roads just seem to open up a bit more, I don’t feel as trapped.
I wanted to be back over the bridge — but as we rolled further along to our destination, I started feeling lighter, a little less encumbered — noticing the undulating marshlands and bogs with the crimsons, golds, and russets of a coastal autumn. As we moved beyond Chatham and Orleans, and on out towards Eastham and Wellfleet, I began to relax more. Off-season on the Outer Cape can be close to desolate, a stark contrast to what it is in the summer. It can truly feel like the edge of the world. Wellfleet was quiet, but not quite yet shifted in to winter mode. We parked down near the wharf, and walked up to and across Uncle Tim’s Bridge, for a walk around the tiny island that sits in the brackish water that empties into Wellfleet Harbor. Ah, peace, although not quite on my “right side of the bay,” but for that morning, for me, it worked. I relaxed, enjoying the view, the air, the outdoors, the ground beneath my feet, and contemplated what it must be like for people who don’t have either the time, or the means for these therapeutic escapes. Wellfleet is an example of what the rest of the cape has become — more of a playground for the wealthy, than a home for the rest of us.
I bought my first-ever, brand-new car almost two years ago and I did it before turning 60! Quite the feat for me.
A Subaru Forester, stick shift no less. Built-in theft protection nowadays. Klaire, from Planet Subaru in Hanover worked with us, and while they aren’t always perfect, they’ve been a pleasure to work with. We bought into the total maintenance/protection plan they offered us because it really forces us to keep up on regular, routine (as opposed to belated, e.g., broke-down) maintenance.
Sooooo, to get to the point, we recently had the 18-month service, and Planet provides a loaner car if you drop off your vehicle for the day.
Our plan was to explore the Bridgewater Triangle area between Bridgewater and Attleboro, winding through the back roads of Hanson, Abington, and beyond. Believe it or not, there are actually still scenic back roads in eastern Massachusetts, despite open space being rapidly gobbled up by endless, repetitive, big-box-store strip mall developments.
Our first stop was donuts at Sandy’s Coffee Corner in Hanson and they did not disappoint. The counter attendant was a friendly lady, the real deal, no pretensions here, just good old-fashioned donuts and bakery. I may be a food snob (among other things), but I like down-to-earth real people, who don’t let the groovy success of their place go to their heads. ‘Nuff said on that.
Next up were twisting roads that took us over to Bridgewater, home of Bridgewater State College, surrounded by farm country, surrounded by — you guessed it — strip malls and industrial parks! But it’s amazing how you can connect to the wild unknown in unlikely ways, through people and places. For me/us (the man was with me), this is usually through food and craft — whether craft beer, craft coffee, craftwork, and more.
In Bridgewater it was coffee at the Better Bean, with latte art created by the charming barista, Peri, who is also a young Reiki practitioner. I loved the fact that her business cards were hand drawn and written by her, and the energy she radiated was so welcoming and nurturing, a loving healer. The coffee and sandwiches are stellar, the interior a bit broody, and sparse, but it has a good coffee shop vibe going on.
Next stop was Black Hat Brew Works. We had the stout which was quite good, and we would have stayed longer, but one thing we’ve discovered on our jaunts is that no matter how excellent the product may be, if the hospitality is nothing remarkable to write about, we tend to move on, and move on we did, to Crue Brew Brewery in Raynham. It’s the heart of this story, a family-run brewery owned by brothers Keith and Kevin Merritt, along with Kevin’s wife, Tammy. It’s in an industrial park, as are many breweries, and it is a large space, perfect for many of the events they host — music, yoga, cornhole, and more with the friendliest brewermaster and hardest-working owners you could ask for. Both Kevin and his wife still work other jobs, Kevin as a schoolteacher in Boston. They are also raising two adorable girls who get in on the act, and their dog reminds me of our dog, Bob!
Kevin was happy to share his crue brew mojo magic with us, and I find it particularly special that he is a hometown Raynham boy, who was determined to keep the business there. Needless to say, we bellied up to the gorgeous bar, while Randy, the redneck brewmaster (his words, not mine!), pulled some porters for us. We had some good laughs, and I learned how cans are filled, sealed and labeled. According to Kevin, Randy belly rolls the labels on!! Joking, joking! Crue Brew was definitely one of the high points of our day, and while we popped into a couple more spots on our ramble, nothing quite measured up to our Crue Brew experience. And on that note, hope to see you there on our next visit. Looking forward to some oatmeal or maybe a coffee milk stout, Randy and Kevin! And don’t worry, if you’re into IPA’s and lighter brews, Crue Brew has plenty of those!
Saturday, October 19, probably around the same time, my niece got married on a beach in Kitty Hawk, NC while Jennifer Lawrence married in a mansion in Newport, RI. Needless, to say, my niece was the star in my story. She looked like a Greco-Roman goddess, and as a Helen, she was definitely one who would have launched a thousand ships. Most of our family were there, with a few exceptions, us being two of them. Before the wedding, I had lots of mixed feelings about not going, but I loved how everyone kept me in a texting loop so I could feel a part of things, and what with photos and everyone’s updates, I thoroughly enjoyed it.
So, what did we do instead to celebrate her day up North here? We took off for Westport Vineyards, one of our favorite destinations. On the way, we stopped off in Padanaram, a sweet little hamlet in South Dartmouth, that’s part of the town of Dartmouth. Less than ten years ago, Padanaram was a shell of what it is now. Rather abandoned and forlorn. Not anymore, it is experiencing a fabulous revival, a bit upscale, and while not totally to my taste (I like a little more grit and diversity), I appreciate it, and I wouldn’t turn my nose up at a chance to live there.
One unexpected delight on this venture was happening upon the newly opened shop of Shara Porter Designs. We were thrilled to stumble upon her here — to me she’s one of the original trailblazing artists of the New Bedford Artists and Lofts Renaissance. Once upon a time, we had a wee store in downtown Hyannis, and Shara’s was one of the lines we carried, along with one of her earliest studio mates, Moontide Dyers.
Shara screen-prints quirky, offbeat images onto vintage cloth, leather and vinyl accessories— pocketbooks, keyfobs, wallets, suitcases, you name it. She also used to do clothing but her primary focus now is accessories, — vintage, custom, and new. Her convertible crossbody bags are the best — functioning as a waist pack, a wristlet, or a crossbody. I could not stop thinking of the one I wanted once we left her shop, kicking myself for not just buying it already! But, it’s a good excuse for a sooner-rather-than-later return trip. The shop is bright and beautiful, and the product lines are super affordable for the average budget. I can’t wait to see how it all evolves.
To be perfectly frank, moving on the Westport Vineyards, was sort of an anti-climax, but if you’re going for an anti-climax, it’s the best kind. Gorgeous weather, lush vineyards and rolling farmland, coupled with bonhomie, and cousins out for their monthly wine club, what’s not to love? The wines are light, crisp and refreshing, the tasting rooms are the best I’ve experienced on the South Coast, and enjoying a glass of wine outside on their grounds is heaven for me. The view, the light, the air; an effervescent moment that lingers long after it’s over. Thank you Shara and Westport for a beautiful, ordinary sparkling day!