Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Another Special Edition: Ray's Sendoff - Slideshow

When you’re a Washashore,vs. a Cape-born Sandkicker, the premise of how long one has to live here to feel like a Real Cape Codder is pretty subjective.  As the months have turned into years, I reach new milestones that make me feel more and more integrated into that which defines a Real Cape Codder to me.  Last month was a big one, as we joined family and friends to give Ray, our “brother-from-another-mother” his last sendoff.  

His request had been to throw his ashes into the waters where he spent so much time fishing.  As his daughter, Lauren, and family made their way from their home in Germany, the rest of the family and friends put heads together to plan a fitting goodbye.  Now, Ray wouldn't have wanted anything fancy.  “Just toss ‘em in and let me go.”  It would have been easy for Anna and the kids to pick a nice day and go out by themselves, but, when approximately 75 “just close friends and family” wanted to participate, one boat grew into a flotilla of more than half dozen, arranging to meet in Pleasant Bay at a designated time.  My designated job was to bring flowers from my garden so that everyone could have one to toss into the water.  Easy, Ray loved my gardens and I was happy to share with him this last time.  

There’s a good reason why Ron calls me “his seasick mermaid”.  I literally get queasy watching a rocking boat in a movie.  I even get a little green when he describes the time I went out on his sailboat with him.  I am now surrounded by water and friends with boats, but it took Ray to finally get me back on one.  And oh yes, I WAS getting on that boat, much to Ron’s concern.  My determination and a dose of dramamine won out, and so what if I slept the rest of the afternoon when we got back?  Ron and I boarded one of the nephew’s boats with Ray's brother Al, who had requested we ride with them, and as we motored out towards Pleasant Bay listening to one of Ray's favorites, Taj Mahal singing ‘Fishin' Blues’, I pretended I was on a subway car rocking side to side, or riding a horse when the wake shifted front to back, and I focused all my thoughts on doing the best justice I could to photographing Ray’s farewell.  

As the boats gathered close to each other at our meeting point, we all tuned in to marine channel 17 and listened as Ray’s oldest son, Damon, thanked everyone for coming and noted that the day was also Ray and Anna’s 40th anniversary.  We didn't all know each other, but we were united that morning by the love we all had for Ray, which was always returned unconditionally.  Sometime around this point, a beam of light suddenly shone down from a perfectly clear sky and illuminated the boat holding his ashes.  We were too far away in our boat to see it, but I’ve included one of the pictures taken by a family member at the end of my slideshow that clearly shows it.  And then, it became very quiet as Anna gave a kiss to the bag holding Ray’s remains and gently poured them into the water.  As the shadow of what had been our friend was taken by the current, flowers were tossed from all directions to follow along as it dispersed.  A short ride through the Narrows, like ducks following each other finished the simple ceremony, and as we headed back to the dock, and some headed to gather at one of Ray's favorite restaurants in Eastham, aptly named The Friendly Fisherman, I couldn’t help noting with a grateful smile that Ray was also heading towards Eastham.   Farewell, friend, you left the best of yourself behind with us.  

A couple of nights later, we were included in a family birthday party for Lauren’s two year old, Marla.  As usual, the Brunelle home was humming with activity inside and out, a lot of it coming from the new crop of grandkids, nieces and nephews.  The counters and tables groaned with incredibly delectable food, the old stories flowed, and for a special treat, Lauren and her husband, Malte picked up guitars and sang songs they had adapted for the occasion, like “Raymond Rowed the Boat Ashore”, some new verses to Taj’s “Fishin’ Blues” and a special one Lauren said was just for me, “I’ve Got Spurs That Jingle Jangle Jingle”.   Lauren was playing the guitar that Anna gave to Ray on their wedding day.  The night was intimate, bonding, bittersweet, and to tell you the truth,  I’ve never felt more like a Real Cape Codder.  

Slide show and short video to follow: 

  Video: Ray's Sendoff

Saturday, August 26, 2017

August, 2017 - Heartbreak Hill

It's time for the perennials to take center stage.
In the Boston Marathon, 'Heartbreak Hill' is an ascent about 20 miles from the start.  For innkeepers, it's the beginning of August during High Season.  Usually by August 1, I'm frankly a bit numb with the coming's and going's of the summer experience.  The faces, names and personalities keep changing every few days, not really enough time to get to know anyone.  The kitchen timer is constantly reminding me that it's time to move the laundry from the washer to the dryer, or is it the dryer to the folding area, or to switch the sprinklers to another flower bed, or check the oven, or what was it set for again?  Who's on first?  I make frequent trips to the grocery store on purpose to be able to provide only the freshest food in the Suites and there's a constant surge of traffic to navigate, except of course, when the road turns into a parking lot full of indignation as we all wait for whatever stopped the traffic to clear up again. My enthusiastic gardening also grew a sinus infection that put more of the burden of chores on Ron for a couple of days, not that he complained, but I truly felt like I'd hit Heartbreak Hill when his Crosswinds tag team partner was down for the count.  

AND THEN, something small happened that was a sweet reminder of why we love what we do, and that August was not only going to be okay, it would be our eighth triumphant High Season here.  One of our guests knocked on our door to let us know she was leaving to go home and to thank us for a great stay.  I was struck by how beautiful she looked, her smiling face glowing and happy in the sunshine.  I remembered what she'd looked like when she got here, a bit haggard and pale.  The transformation was remarkable and also gratifying.  It was worth dozens of trips up and downstairs to the basement laundry and braving the roads.  To be able to play a small part in so many peoples' lives that make them feel comfortable and pampered in a home away from home, while they refresh their spirits and leave happier than when they came is quite simply a wonderful gift for us.  But seriously, it did come just in time.

Some people have service dogs;  I now have a Comfort Fish named Ray.
Another thing I love about hosting guests is the occasional surprise that is left behind for us.  Sometimes it's a gift they found while sightseeing and thought we'd enjoy, other times a wonderfully thoughtful comment in the guest book that makes us feel appreciated.  Once, we got a scrabble tile in the mail from some avid scrabble players who noted we were missing a 'u' in our game.  But some of the most fun surprises are the artwork left behind.  Here's an example of a sketch just left on the guest book by one of our very talented guests, of the other two guests she came with.  It's a keeper!

Back in 2010 when we first opened our B&B for business, we found out about Airbnb quite by accident.  It was a small company founded by three guys being resourceful and making the most of what they had, which at the time was an extra air mattress and an idea to offer it to travelers for a fee.  That's actually where the name 'Air'-bnb came from.  The company has grown by phenomenal leaps and bounds, helping people all over the world become better hosts and guests, but surprisingly their size has done nothing to diminish their stellar customer service, nor to sway their moral compass by money.  Last summer, when they received complaints from guests who felt they'd been discriminated against by hosts because of their race, the owners of Airbnb took steps to make sure all hosts knew and practiced their non-discrimination policy.  They went one better this summer when it came to their attention that someone was attempting to book a large number of Airbnb accommodations for white supremacists attending the unfortunate Charlottesville, VA demonstration.  They quickly denied them services and expelled them from their platform.  This is truly putting your money where your mouth is and I'm proud to continue as a longtime Airbnb host.


Eclipse watchers on Fort Hill
Not to be eclipsed by solar eclipse fever, the month of August is going out on a particularly feisty note.  Eastham caught its share of the giant storm that tracked across the country and we woke up to 8" of rain and many flooded streets and homes.  Thankfully, ours was just the basement, but lightening did put an end to my computer and it's like scratching my head and rubbing my stomach at the same time to figure out how to reach my old files on the new one.  The storm also gobbled up part of a steep dune in front of the iconic Beachcomer restaurant and nightclub, including a car and half of a parking lot.  As for the eclipse, I haven't seen the stats, but I'll bet money that the Salt Pond Center, which hosted a National Seashore Ranger-led program to watch it had a record number of people in the facility.  We took a walk up Fort Hill and found many viewers who offered to share their special safety glasses with those of us who came unprepared.  Then, the following week brought the closest-to-shore shark vs. seal attack on record at Nauset Beach.   It was a bloody spectacle that spotlighted the town of Orleans on the national news.  It wasn't long after that event that Coast Guard Beach in Eastham followed suit, showing shark tooth bites on a local's surfboard on national news.  I'll have more on the subject of sharks vs. Cape Cod in September's blog.  

Somehow amidst what should feel like the middle of summer, I kept getting this feeling that autumn was breathing over my shoulder, ready to take its place.  Surely it was too early to feel that way.  It was still in the 80's and the garden pots were heavy with ripe tomatoes, the hibiscus faces were just starting to pop into full glory, the highways were still full of surfboards, bicycles and kayaks atop cars, so was this just wishful thinking?  And, then I realized that it's starting to get dark around 7:30, the time I usually have to tear myself away from the garden to make dinner.  The sunset times we tell our guests so they can catch a beautiful First Encounter Beach sunset have changed drastically, and one can literally feel the season ebbing as darkness draws us inside for the night, and the occasional group of leaves start to show color and drop.  When Memorial Day comes, Labor Day seems like an ocean away.  And, suddenly that ocean is a small puddle and we wondered what all the fuss was about.        
August sunset over Cape Cod Bay
10 - 9 - 8 - 7 - 6 - 5 - 4 - 3 - 2 - LABOR DAY!


Thursday, July 27, 2017

July 2017 - "On with the show, the show must go on."

July 4th weekend on Cape Cod is known for many wonderful traditions, like family reunions, town parades, clam and lobster bakes with fresh corn from the farm stands, watching fireworks from the beach, movies at the drive-in, playing mini golf, and standing in lines for soft-serve ice cream.  Unfortunately, it's also become synonymous with a constant parade of flashing, whooping, emergency vehicles due to the infusion of thousands of people in a hurry to relax on vacation.  All it takes is one impatient move to edge someone out at a lane merge, or changing one's mind in the middle of a rotary to result in an accident that closes roads for miles and fills the hospital emergency room.  Locals know that the words to remember for summer drivers are "ANTICIPATE" and "PATIENCE". 

The birds get the credit for all the sunflowers.  I've never been able to get them to grow on purpose.

Contrary to most folks, summer's my least favorite season, and I look for ways to uplift my spirit until the cool days of Fall and peace on the roads returns.  I always find solace in my gardens early in the mornings, or after the sun begins its descent.  These days I'm thinning the successes of my "1/2-priced gardens" and spreading the wealth to other areas, including the front bank on the main highway that goes through Cape Cod.  I even find the zen of weeding and deadheading to be relaxing and restorative.  And, just as I'm impulsively prone to moving the furniture and art around inside, so go the gardens as I find out how large the plants grow and how much they spread.  It's an endless dance of color, texture and a lot of water of course.

One of many garden spots at Crosswinds
And, thank you to my beach-addicted friend, who invites me to join her in her few free hours for beach therapy.  This has provided many hours of companionable and therapeutic chatting while digging into the sand with my toes and feeling the sea breeze threatening to take my hat. 
First Encounter Beach-my favorite Eastham spot by the Bay

SHARKS - The Good and Bad News
The National Seashore is doing their part for safety by putting up the now official purple shark flags at the beaches to remind people to stay close to land and away from seals.  At least 150 great whites have either been spotted or beeped transmitters from off of our coast.  
Cisco getting tagged
While all of this adds an element of danger to swimming, especially too far out, I did promise you some good news and here it is:  sharks play a vital role in the health of our oceans' ecosystems, and since the majority of the oxygen we breathe, and much of our protein comes from the ocean, our survival on land is at risk when the health of the ocean declines.  So, thank you Cisco and friends for doing your parts for us landlubbers, and I personally pledge not to crowd you in your home.

Have you ever wondered how sharks get their names?  

There's one named 'Big Papi', named for David Ortiz of the Red Sox, and of course 'Brady', named for Tom Brady of the Patriots.  

'The Rock' was named after actor-wrestler Dwayne Johnson.  

'Luke' was named in memory of a deceased Martha's Vineyard fisherman.  

Curly', 'Chex', 'Lauren' & 'Doty' were all named by Atlantic White Shark Conservancy donors 

'Salty' was named on behalf of the the Cape Cod Salties sportfishing club, which donated money to buy his tag.  

'Katherine' was named for the Falmouth native Katherine Lee Bates, who wrote the song "America The Beautiful".  

'Mr. Frisky' was named for his temperament and 'Riddler' has a question mark shape on the side of his tail.  

'Lynn' was named after the mother of the fisherman who first spotted her in Ocean City, MD and 'James' was named in memory of a man named James Stratton. 

'Sandy' was named in honor of shark biologist, Sanford Moss, and 'Mola' has a patch on his tail that looks like a Mola-Mola, AKA a giant ocean sunfish.  

'Spc B Arsenault' was named in memory of Spc. Brian Arsenault of the 82nd Airborne, who was killed in Afghanistan the day this shark was tagged.  

'Hollywood' liked the camera, hence his name, and 'Lumpy' has a big lump, which may be a result of another shark bite. 

'Gretel' is the first great white shark to be tagged in the northwestern Atlantic Ocean.  She was freed after being trapped for 14 days in a salt pond on Naushon Island.  

'Curly' has a unique notch on her dorsal fin and many scars on her gills. 

'Large Marge' at 17 feet is one of the biggest to be tagged.  

'Miss Alexandra' was named by her tagger, Tyler McAllister, and 'Quoddy' by the videographer named James Hawkins who filmed her.

'Broken Tail' is self-explanatory, as is 'Scar'

It's not mentioned where 'Mary Lee' got her name, but she's said to have her own Twitter account.  

As for critters of another sort, it's not looking good for my hopes of attracting the Painted Bunting as my 2017 new bird of the year.  Despite being spotted at Orleans bird feeders this Spring, my purchase of their favorite millet seed was not enough to lure them to Eastham.  The hummingbirds arrived late this year and in less plentiful numbers, suspected to be more victims of the industry-wide Trump Slump, but the brave Orioles have taken up their slack, necessitating extra grape jelly runs to the Stop & Shop.  This is also in part because the Catbirds have decided this year that they very much like the jelly, too, not to be confused with our friend Chandler's band, The Catbirds.  And, after googling reasons why one should NOT feed raccoons, I finally got Ron's attention with words like Leptospirosis and Giardiasis that convinced him to stop leaving sandwiches every night for our midnight raiders.  There was still one score to be settled though, and that was blaming the downed bird feeder poles on a possum.  A visit from our son, who lives for technical challenges, clearly exposed the culprit on the automatic video recorder within the motion sensor light.  Case solved, raccoon guilty, possum vindicated.   

Click on: The Night Raider  for proof positive.

and, just for fun...

On this note, I say goodbye to July, which passed in a whirlwind of fervent landscaping, creative driving, folding sheets and towels and an unending appreciation for being able to be part of it all and share it with others.

A chance meeting on the beach with our friend, Larry & Paco.
p.s.  Don't try to kiss a macaw unless he knows and really likes you.

Friday, July 21, 2017

A Special Edition: In Memory of Ray

A friend in Virginia once asked me “Does anyone ever fart on Cape Cod?”  He meant that everything always sounded so rosy in my blogs that it seemed like a place where nothing could ever go wrong. I answered, “Of course it does, but who would want to read about that?”  Well, something enormously wrong did happen this month, and we along with countless others lost a very special, true 'Cape Cod Character'.  His name was Ray, known to us as “our brother-from-another-mother”, a Cape fishing legend, a family man, and a friend to everyone he met.  Many of us knew Ray had been battling an illness for years, but he just shrugged it off saying that he still had a lot left to do.  And, he did. 

Ray was a familiar sight at Fort Hill, enjoying the beauty and checking on fishing conditions.

When I met my husband in Virginia and we decided to make our home on Cape Cod, he promised me that when we got here, I would meet a wonderful friend of his named Ray, and that I would love him.  
Soon after his first visit to our new home, he became a regular.  In fact, if you were a reader of my earlier blogs, he was mentioned often.  Once he discovered Ron’s barista skills, he began bringing friends with him to sit at the kitchen bar and get acquainted.  “Ya gotta try this guy’s coffee.  It’s the best you'll ever taste!”

Some days, he would come by with his truck full of vegetables to give away.  “Get a bag and come pick out what you want, Sweetheart.” 

When the weather was bad, he’d come in soaked and I’d give him dry clothes to wear while I threw his in the dryer, and he and Ron would watch the History Channel together and rehash WWII.  “Sweetheart, while you’re at it, there’s a button missing, do you have an extra you could sew on for me?”

Many times we would come home and find his dog, Tiggie, tied up to the truck bumper in the shade so he wouldn’t dig up my gardens, and Ray asleep on our couch snoring blissfully to a movie on TV with the cats curled up beside him.

Our cats, who are fairly discriminating about people, loved Uncle Ray.
When the weather was conducive to leaving the windows open, we’d hear him singing in his strong, rich voice as he ambled up the walk, “Oh, my spurs go jingle jangle jingle…”  

He would never miss an opportunity to mug for the camera, go for the joke, or share his good fortune. 
Sharing a joke with Ron, his brother-from-another-mother.

Wearing a tinfoil Viking hat, of course, because why not?
Years later, when Ron was flat on his back from chemo treatments, the basement flooded and I needed help moving soaked carpets up into the yard.  Ray was there in 5 minutes and Ron never knew what went on until we had it all cleaned up. 

Ray was one of those people who thought there was no such thing as a stranger.  While some Codders rudely proclaim “We’re Not on Your Vacation” with bumper stickers, we’ve seen Ray walk up to tourists in the summer and ask, “Hi there, where are you all from?”  He took hours getting through Stop & Shop because he greeted every employee as an old friend.  Many of the kids he babysat for later brought their kids to meet him.  He took friends to medical appointments and shared food, money and a nonjudgmental ear.  He thought every woman was beautiful, every kid was cute, every animal was precious and nobody was unworthy of help.  He pretended he was just a dumb fisherman, but he was wise in all the important ways. 
Taking Ron's twin sister and family from San Diego clamming. 
Before we knew it, our vocabulary was peppered with ‘Ray-isms’ like, “Getcha, gotcha”, which meant, I know what you mean.  And, “I stink so.”  Translation: I think so.  Or, "OH, HO, HO, HO...", which just meant he was getting up and on the move.  “Did I ever tell you about my French-Canadian cousins, Jacque and Pierre?” was the only joke he could remember and would tell as many times as you would listen.  He always wanted to know if we had any Canadians or French people staying at the B&B so he could tell them that joke.  If we didn't, he'd walk over and introduce himself anyway, and after asking if they wanted to buy any fresh lobsters he would tell them all about his imaginary cousins.  Nobody ever complained.  As his memory became worse, I learned how to make “Indian Pie” many times, told with the same enthusiasm and detail each time.  

Ray was drawn to a career in fishing when he visited Cape Cod from his home in Western Mass because he said it looked like something he thought he could do. He grew to love the ocean and became proficient enough to support a family.  After befriending the remarkable Cape Cod fishing legend, Tiggie Peluso, who taught him and dozens of others to fish, he became the only person Tiggie ever allowed to fish on his boat with him.  Tiggie’s daughter, Lou, recently related her first meeting with Ray to me:  “My father's health had been declining for a long time and Ray came to visit him at home.  After hearing all about this amazing fisherman and friend from my dad for so long, I was not expecting to open the door to see a little guy about my height with a Santa Claus beard. I thought he would be so much bigger!”   
Ray and his dog, Tiggie, named for Tiggie Peluso
After Ray was not allowed to drive anymore because of his health, we started going through withdrawal, missing his daily drop-in’s, even if it was only for a few moments because, “I gotta get home and make dinner for Anne”, the woman who stole his heart when he first came to the Cape, no matter how many times he found himself “in the doghouse”.  We kept listening for the bells hanging on our door that always jingled when he let himself in.  “Anybody home?  Are ya decent?”  We kept looking for his truck to drive in and hear the slam of the door and his admonishments to his dog, "Tiggie, be quiet and lie down.  I'll get you some water."  We realized that it was our turn to help Ray, and we made “Ray-Play-Dates” to get him out of the house.  By that time, his energy was flagging, and the outings wore him out and were probably more for us than him.  But, he still had so much more he wanted to do and we wanted to help him do them.   We knew his health was failing, but like everyone else, we thought there was more time.  A few more months, maybe a year, or two...but it still wouldn’t have been enough.  

Ron and Ray on the way up Fort Hill on one of their "play dates".
Kudos to Ray’s wife, Anna, who took the best possible care of the most impossibly strong-willed patient ever, who thought he could live 'his way' forever just by being too busy to acknowledge his illness.  We knew the force of nature you were up against, Anna, and we're so grateful for your Herculean efforts.  Just as wicked Nor’easters blow bits and pieces of Cape Cod away from time to time, the universe saw fit to leave this giant hole in all of our lives who were lucky enough to know Ray.  We know he’s only as far away as our memories... 
Our birthdays were 4 days apart.  The 'Scream' tie was a gift from Ron.

His wife, Anna, planned a fun birthday party for the both of us.

He loved the chipmunk slippers I found for him.
And, the lobster hat...
...which he earned honestly.

He always included us in his holiday fun.

Was always willing to indulge my strange photography experiments.
Teaching Ron how to make pizza dough.

Goofing it up with our boys at Fort Hill.

...but we're still going to miss him, wicked bad.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

June 2017 - It's Summah-time, and the livin' is crazy...

This year's photo exhibit at the Orleans Cape Cod 5
When you spend as much time being seduced by the ever-changing ocean sky as I do, it's inevitable that an exhibit devoted just to that would result.  But, it's too easy here to snap a beautiful sunset over the water and I needed a challenge.  'Sky' is similar to the game we play looking for animals, or faces in the clouds, only I've enjoyed capturing moments of ephemeral modern art, here briefly until the next puff of wind, and then evolving into another display of art.  Thank you to Cape Cod 5 for providing the venue for me to indulge my art.
An Eastham sunset
So, just who is this Dr. Beach, anyway, and what gives him the authority to rate our country's beaches?  Well, Dr. B. is actually Dr. Stephen P Leatherman, Professor and Director of the Laboratory for Coastal Research at Florida International University.  And, if those credentials aren't impressive enough, he has been reviewing and evaluating beaches and coastal areas all over the world for the last 25 years based on a 50-item criteria.  Okay, so he probably knows a good beach when he sees one.  We knew Eastham's Coast Guard Beach was pretty special, anyway, but it's always nice to find a comfy spot year after year on such an esteemed authority's top 10 list.   
Coast Guard Beach in Eastham, MA 

 The war is on...
When we began awakening to find the poles that hold our bird feeders bent down to the ground, I knew that the War of the Critters had begun once again.  We seem to have a bumper crop of chipmunks and red and gray squirrels this year, but they're not even the worst culprits.  This year we have a motion sensor light that illuminates the mischief makers and follows their movements.  I suspected raccoons, but was surprised to see a big possum lumbering away, trying to escape the sudden light.  It wasn't long before the raccoon showed up, too, in broad daylight.  Axle grease seems to have slowed down the nocturnal pole dancing, but they're still quite the gymnasts in order to get to the sunflower seeds and grape jelly.  A visit to google for help suggested soaking rags with ammonia and tying them around the bottom of the pole.  Raccoons are fastidious creatures and don't like anything that smells like urine.  I tried that strategy, but it's gone with the first rain.  Ron has his own ideas of communing with the wildlife, and reasoned that if he left them a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on a plate every night, they'd leave the birdseed alone.  Neither strategies are working.  If you're going to feed the birds, the rest of the animal kingdom will demand equal rights.  To be continued...  

Yes, YOU!

Living so close to the water, it makes one acutely aware of how things in nature tend to ebb and flow; the tides, the seasons, tourists, wildlife, all answering to their particular rhythms.  This month, we are having to acknowledge the ebb and flow of time as our wonderful, elderly neighbor across the street is moving back to Ohio to be closer to his family.  And, he's not any happier about it than we are, but in the end, time and concerned children have the final say.  It probably seems like such a a short time ago to him that he and his now-departed wife retired and became Cape Cod residents and together roamed the Fort Hill trails down the street.  Time seems to betray us just as we think that we finally got it right.  And, I will try to pay very close attention to each day, each walk on Fort Hill, each visit to the beach, each drive along the winding roads lined with beach roses because I know that time makes up its own rules and we're never really ready to give up a good thing no matter how long it's been. 

While most people are just looking for a quiet getaway to enjoy the beauty of the National Seashore and the quaintness of "Olde Cape Cod", we have so far this year hosted four surprise birthday trips and an anniversary.   It always feels good to be part of a gift to someone else.  From as far away as France to California, Wisconsin, and points from Maryland to Vermont, the attraction of this tiny finger of land jutting out into the Atlantic Ocean continues to irresistibly beckon people from far and wide.  Providing a home away from home to share this delightful place makes us feel truly worthy of our time here.  With July right around the corner, we're ready to welcome the parade of guests, new and returning, and enjoy introducing them to our Cape Cod.

The Golden Chain Tree decorates the Cottage in Spring 

Thursday, May 25, 2017

MAY 2017 - Lobstahs, and surfboards, and cars, oh my!

First Encounter Beach on Cape Cod Bay welcomes Spring visitors
May is the final wakeup call for businesses to open for the season, and one of Eastham's most popular, well-known and eagerly awaited openings is Arnold's Lobster and Clam Bar.  They combine the trifecta of beach resorts - seafood, mini-golf and ice cream, and get annual accolades and awards for each.  The big date this year is May 19th, and in honor of the revered crustacean, here is some lobster trivia for you:

A female lobster is called a hen.

A lobster that weighs about one pound is called a chicken.

A lobster with no claws is called a pistol.

A lobster's brain is the size of a grasshopper and they are sometimes referred to as "bugs of the sea".

Research suggests that lobsters keep growing forever, but scientists won't be able to tell how long they really live because traps aren't designed to catch the largest ones.  

Lobsters can regenerate lost limbs, but it will take a good five years for a one-pound lobster to grow a claw that's close to the same size of the one that was lost.

Lobsters taste with their legs and chew with their stomachs.

A lobster claw can exert pressure of up to 100 pounds per square inch.  Ouch!

Lobsters are banded because when they're crowded, they become cannibalistic.

Lobsters only turn red after they're cooked.  They're mostly green, although occasionally a rare blue one is caught.

Lobster meat is actually a healthy source or protein and omega 3 fatty acids, if you don't overdo it on the butter.

Lobsters were once so plentiful, they were served to prisoners and servants and they make excellent fertilizer.

The record holder for consuming lobsters is Sonya Thomas, who ate 44 of them in 12 minutes at a contest in Kennebunkport, Maine.

You can actually hypnotize a lobster by standing it on its head with it's tail turned inward and rubbing up and down on the carapace [upper shell] and between its eyes. Eventually, it might stand by itself, but no one really knows why you'd want to do this.  And, on that note, ALL HAIL THE MIGHTY LOBSTER!

If April was all about nature reawakening, May on Cape Cod is all about Memorial Day, the beginning of High Season.  In May, you are just as likely to be driving behind a boat as a car.  Or, if it's a car, there's a good chance there will be a surfboard or 3 bicycles dangling from it.  The Department of Transportation has been racing to finish repaving the main road after 2 years of digging it up to install water pipes for a new town water system.  Fresh, white stripes will finally replace the orange-striped barrels that residents have been dodging all Spring.    

Spring on Fort Hill in the National Seashore
Although Cape Cod is known for fogs that sometimes roll in and sheathe familiar terrain in gauzy camouflage, there's a different kind of cloud casting gloom over the usual anticipation of High Season here, and elsewhere in the country.  'Trump Slump' is the name attributed by travel industry experts to the murky fog that has rolled over the tourism industry this year.  Search engines reported a steep decline [26% according to Market Watch] in international travelers looking for flights to America immediately after his controversial order to ban refugees and immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim countries in early 2017.   Industry experts report that the fall in travel to the U.S. is also thought to be due to political factors, which have made the country "an uncomfortable place for foreigners".  Here on Cape Cod, not only have we witnessed this unfortunate situation, but there are other factors impacting us, as well as other National Parks around the country.  Cuts to funding of the National Seashore are playing havoc with programs that guests have enjoyed for years.  And local businesses, who depend on foreign students with travel visas to help staff their restaurants, hotels and shops because of the shortage of local applicants, are finding that students are unable to obtain the necessary visas this year.  Compared to more dire world issues, this may seem like small potatoes, however, this has a very real ripple-effect on the economy.   Locals who depend on the tourism industry to support their families also support other local businesses, who support larger companies.  Considering the impact of all the funding cuts to every National Park in the country, the resulting repercussions as it travels up the chain to the top could significantly effect decisions on spending, hiring and investments.  The ripple-effect should never be underestimated for both undesirable AND desirable results.

And giving equal time to a story with Major Desirable Ripple-Effect, I'd like to tell you about Sarah Swain, the founder of The Cape Wellness Collaborative, which is funded by her Cape Cod Women's Music Festival.  A lot could be written, and indeed has already been written about this amazing woman, but here's the incredible short story:  Sarah is a very talented local musician, whose mother died at an early age from cancer.  In her honor, Sarah founded an organization on Cape Cod to help cancer patients pay for integrative therapies, which are not covered by insurance, to manage pain, nausea and anxiety, and to increase well-being during their illness.  The collaborative refers to what seems like an endless list of local practitioners for an equally impressive list of therapies to make the cancer patient's road to recovery a little less bumpy.  Approximately 1400 people are diagnosed with cancer each year on Cape Cod.  In this organization's first 18 months, it was able to distribute over $65,000 in wellness therapies to over 200 people, and they're just beginning.  Sarah's wonderful idea, with the support of an astounding network of talented and caring women musicians, created the best kind of ripples that affect whole families and beyond.     

Sarah Swain - center
For more on Sarah's personal story:  "The Big Decision"

After hearing last month that one of my photos was chosen for the cover of the Eastham Chamber of Commerce information booklet, life quickly returned to daily chores, putting pants on one leg at a time, and then totally forgetting all about it.  Until...the new copies were delivered this week and word started getting around.  I'm certainly in no danger of being stalked by paparazzi over this accomplishment, although one friend actually did ask me to autograph her copy.  Honest!  I warned her not to try to sell it on ebay, as it would be a very disappointing experience for her.  I really can't take too much credit, as the magnificent Fort Hill did all the hard work for me, but, here it is in all its glory, and can even be viewed online to read the bio and enjoy other pictures of our beautiful town!


[click the left and right arrows to turn the pages.

As my 8th Memorial Day as a Cape Cod resident looms, I recognize that it's feeling a little different from my first few here.  While I wouldn't consider myself an old-timer, yet, there is a quiet, knowingness from experience that expresses itself with more subtle anticipation.  It's a sharing of recognition with other locals of, "Here comes another one, are you ready?"  The answer to that is 'yes'.  I have my relaxation CD's in the car, ready to soothe my patience as I wait to turn left on the highway, and inch my way through clogged rotaries.  I will try to remember that parking at the back of the lot is good exercise.  Knowing how lucky I am that I don't have to leave after only a week will make room in my heart for visitors who maybe forgot to pack their manners with their swimsuits.  So, maybe I'm not that old-timer yet, but I feel that I've maybe graduated from pre-school. May these lessons please last through high season.

Let the season begin!