Fort Square, High Tide, No Wind by Laurel Tarantino

A new entry from Loving and Leaving the Fort

October 29, 2014
3:30 am

Photo by Laurel Tarantino

How many times have I sat here in the small hours of the morning, thinking the whole world’s asleep, only to have the quiet interrupted by the low rumbling of a fishing boat’s engine? Their running lights cut through the darkness, casting a path of light on the water’s surface. It seems as though you could catch the path from shore and run across the harbor to jump aboard the boat. Then you could tell the Captain, “I’m up too,” and let the crew know how much you enjoy the interruption of your quiet time.

What a beautiful sight they are from shore. Pretty soon they’re joined by another boat, followed by another, and they start to form a parade of lights as they head out to sea. They’re headed to work, unknowing of the spectacular show they’ve given me. Oh to have a better camera to capture such a sight, but no photo or painting could ever grasp my sated senses.

We have beautiful sunrises and sunsets in all different corners of Gloucester. Folks oooooh & aaaaah when they’re shown a gorgeous rainbow, perhaps even a double rainbow, that comes from that special light after a rain. A light that seems unique to Cape Ann.

Me, I like the setting Moon, especially when it’s big and full, shimmering across the harbor from Stage Fort to the place where I sit. Why do I love these wee hours, sitting, perhaps only my dog for company? Do I crave solitude? Do I only want this beauty for myself? No, I am not so selfish. I find myself saying to my dog, “Isn’t it amazing Sport? I wish Daddy were awake to see this. I wish everyone could see this.”

~ Laurel Tarantino

The Awesome Gloucester Foundation

The Story Behind the Awesome Gloucester Foundation
by Lois A. McNulty

(left to right)  Patty Reynolds Philbrick and Patti Ameral, representing Light Up Mattos Field, as they received $1,000 cash from Awesome Gloucester, represented by Trustee Jim Tarantino, September, 2014.

A small group of volunteers recently got a thousand-dollar boost in their effort to raise $100,000 to restore the lights at historic Mattos Field, thanks to the Awesome Gloucester foundation. The 20 local members of this relatively new foundation were convinced that improving the much-loved and used playing field would be one way to make Gloucester “more awesome.”
Awesome Gloucester has raised eyebrows in the year since it started giving away wads of cash- with no strings attached-  every month to anyone who comes up with a project that all 20 members of its board can agree will further its missions (innovation in maritime-related  industry and economy, preservation of maritime heritage and culture, community togetherness and appreciation.) 
What is Awesome Gloucester about?

“I guess I have a high tolerance for ambiguity,” Sal Zerilli offers, by way of explaining why he thinks The Awesome Foundation is just what Gloucester needs these days.
In 2012,  Zerilli had returned to his hometown of Gloucester after almost 20 years away, and he became concerned about what he perceived as divisiveness in the city’s culture. Even more so, he was concerned about his friends’ uncertainty and about growing lack of trust between people in the community.  Zerilli, an applied sociologist with a Phd from UCLA, had worked in design, communications, and innovation. He has made six documentary films, including two films about Gloucester’s most revered traditions- the Fort Neighborhood (No Pretty Prayer) and the Grand Banks Dory (Maritime Capsules.)
Having lived in Los Angeles, Seattle and Toronto before returning home with his young family, he saw firsthand how people in other places were responding creatively to similar issues in their communities .  Zerilli had a creative response to the fraught situation he found in his beloved hometown-  The Awesome Foundation – and he started talking up the idea. The Awesome Foundation, launched in Boston in 2009, has spawned  in five years 103 autonomous chapters in 14 countries.  It gives no-strings-attached, no- questions- asked mini-grants of $1,000 every month to people they believe are doing things to build community, to make the place “more awesome.” 
Within ten days of his first conversations about it, Zerilli had 20 people in Gloucester willing to commit to the ideals of The Awesome Foundation, and so a chapter began here, in late 2013.  In October 2014,  Awesome Gloucester will launch its second year.  In its first year, with little publicity but word of mouth, AG received 120 applications, and awarded $12,000 in 12 separate grants, to these projects:

November, 2013– Glosta Lobsta- promoting local, soft-shell lobster
December, 2013–  Art Haven’s Downtown Lobster -Trap  Holiday Tree 
January, 2014-Lights, Camera, Nature- getting kids outside to record the natural world 
February, 2014– Giant Chess Game – interactive, inter-generational activity for community events
March, 2014– Backyard Growers School Salad Days- involving schoolchildren in growing and eating vegetables at school
April, 2014- The Cape Ann Social Club- for mentally and emotionally challenged adults
May, 2014- Judith Sargent Murray Comes Alive!- staging a play by local writer and activist of the 1700s
June, 2014- The Phyllis A- providing a dock ramp for visitors to this restored fishing vessel
July, 2014- The Man Who Photographed the Man at the Wheel- a book of photos and remembrances of Louis Blend, from the 1920s and 30s
August, 2014- Private Freedom- support for veterans
September, 2014- The TAG Program- making the art and craft of sewing and fabric art accessible to young people 
October, 2014-  Mattos Field Rehabilitation- local playing field
November, 2014–  Bridge to Workplace- work opportunities for special needs students
“It’s a way of focusing on solutions to the problem of declining trust in community. We move beyond narrow concerns and focus instead on larger values.  This helps evolve the discourse beyond choosing sides.  We’re all about creating common ground.” Zerilli says.  “We give energy to the people who are working on the front lines of community. We trust them. We support them. Most importantly we try to realize our community ideal through action.  No matter what your own perception of what’s happening in the city, most of us can agree that we can use more cohesiveness and more trust in the community, and that’s what we’re all about.”
But Awesome Gloucester is not just a feel-good exercise in positive thinking. It’s a concrete method for building strong alliances within and across a divided place.
It’s one thing to say you support a person or a project you think is “good for the community,” but it’s another thing entirely to reach into your pocket and hand them $50 of your own cash with no strings attached. But that’s exactly what Awesome Gloucester trustees do month after month. Zerilli adds, “The strength of Awesome Gloucester is definitely the Trustees. Smart, dedicated, passionate people all putting their money where their mouth is. In my opinion, there might be another chapter as good as us, but there is none better.”
Who are these people? You may know more than a few of them as neighbors and friends:

Jacob Belcher
Amanda Nash
Deb Pacheco
Jim Tarantino
Greg Bover
June Cook-Madruga
Mike Diliberti
Rick Doucette
Rona Tyndall
Rich Francis
Grace Giambanco-Numerosi
Greg Jaeger
Allison Mueller
Chad Johnson
Walt Kolenda
Ann Molloy
Traci-Thayne Corbett
Sharon Lowe- official AG photographer

(left to right)    Awesome Gloucester Trustees Rona Tyndall, Rich Francis, Rick Doucette, Sal Zerilli.

Awesome Gloucester Trustee  Ann Molloy, sales manager for her family’s Gloucester business Neptune’s Harvest,  believes she gets far more out of her association with Awesome Gloucester than she gives. “It’s positive energy. It’s building up the community.  It’s good people,”  she explains.  “Not just the Awesome Gloucester board,  who are awesome, but the people who apply and come pitch their ideas. I’m always blown away by the creativity and the generosity of people. They come from all walks of life, all political and religious groups.  I thought I knew this town, growing up here, but I get surprised all the time.  People are thinking up amazing ways to make life better, in the face of all the hardships we face here. You can’t get depressed when you see this kind of thing month after month.”
Trustee Jim Tarantino puts it this way,  “Some people here think fishing is dead, and real estate is their hope for the future;  some people think the death of the fishing industry can and should  be prevented and the working waterfront restored.  No matter what we believe,  we can all can learn from each other. Bottom line- we all have families and homes and we all care about this place Gloucester. We’re all trying to do the right thing. Awesome Gloucester is one place where people with opposite opinions on the issues  can learn from each other and work together for the same goal.”
There is now an opening for an AG trustee. If you are interested,
contact AG through facebook (Awesome Gloucester) or by reaching out to Sal Zerilli at
Awesome Gloucester invites members of the community to attend Pitch Night, at 7 pm on the third Monday of each month, at the Gloucester House, Rogers Street,  which supports Awesome Gloucester by donating its meeting space.

Awesome Gloucester meets at La Trattoria, Middle Street, during the winter months.

Zerilli points out that “Awesome” turns on its head a traditional model of the philanthropic foundation as a board of remote wealthy donors granting money to anonymous needy people.
“this is an ongoing experiment in community philanthropy,” he adds.  “totally grassroots.”
As a group, Awesome Gloucester’s trustees, for example, come from all walks of life (small business owners, real estate agents, teachers, retail employees, government workers, bank employees, artists, and social and health care workers. They represent varying opinions about the changes coming over Gloucester’s fishing industry and harbor, and sometimes divergent views on the future of Gloucester .  Diversity among members of the board as well as among applicants is the goal and byword for Awesome Gloucester, and it somehow works.
Awesome Gloucester crafted its local mission with three aspects:
innovation in maritime related industry and economy,
preservation of maritime heritage and culture,
community togetherness and appreciation.
Of the 12 grants that have been awarded in Awesome Gloucester’s first year, all but two have been to projects that fit the third goal- community togetherness and appreciation.
Zerilli is hopeful that more of Awesome Gloucester’s grants in the coming year will support its maritime economy and maritime heritage goals. To that end, AG will launch an initiative for December of this year. For one month, AG will consider applications only from a targeted community – Gloucester High School. AG volunteers and high school staff will work with students on their ideas for initiatives, and on writing applications and pitching their projects.
“We’re posing an Awesome Challenge to GHS students in December.  Our model for the challenge comes from the world of design and innovation, and we’re optimistic about the impact our experiment will have,” Zerilli says.
If this experiment goes well, AG will choose two other public institutions later in 2015 for “targeted consideration.”

Sail GHS Enlivens Gloucester Harbor

Sail GHS Enlivens the Harbor

by Hilary Frye, with Patti Page

photos by Hilary Frye

…the sky, a besmudged cauldron, leaking sudden shafts of sunlight; the water, tossing quicksilver. Like crisp white cat’s ears, the sails pop up, and the near-empty harbor dances to life.


This was the scene on Gloucester Harbor on October 30, the last day of sailing for 2014. Sail GHS will be back on the water in the middle of March.

In 2008, Patti Page introduced scholastic sailing to our city. With a harbor as beautiful as ours, she envisioned a high school sailing team as a shining asset for this historic port.

With three donated C420 sailboats, and the quiet authority and guidance of Dr. Damon Cummings, she began to build a racing team.

Page engaged Guy Fiero, a canny, creative instructor, with many years of experience, as the coach. Scouring the environs of Cape Ann, she banded together a crew of intrepid high school -aged sailors who took their place as the new sailing team, Sail GHS, in the Mass Bay League racing organization.


The competitive season for scholastic sailing is early spring, when conditions are cold,  stormy and unpredictable.  Sailing is arduous at best. Page spent many an afternoon with icy winds, stinging rains, and waves breaking over the bow of her 13 foot whaler, tending her skittering flock.

By diligent fund-raising, chasing grants and soliciting donations, she equipped her team with life vests, dry suits, chase boats, insurance, league fees, and a coach, with no cost to its young members.


The Dusky foundation, ever- generous with its community enrichment efforts, endorsed the conspicuous success of the program by donating, (in conjunction with Brown’s Yacht Yard,) six brand new C420s and a fully equipped chase boat.


In 2012,  Page motivated the city to appropriate funds to replace its derelict floats at the head of the harbor with a new state-of-the-art system. The  Sail GHS racing fleet now shares the floats with the Cape Ann YMCA summer program.

With persistent nurture, Patti Page’s one-time wish was emerging as a winged reality.


Page considers Sail GHS to be the foot in the door that keeps the gate from being slammed shut on public access to our harbor. She believes that the harbor is a resource to be enjoyed by all.


Many coastal cities and towns around the country are vigorously embracing Community Boating Centers as prosperous enterprises that invigorate their waterfronts. Patti is an active proponent for just such a center, here in Gloucester.

In light of what she has accomplished with discarded or donated gear, imagine what she could make happen given actual support from the city. Give her a chance, and she just might find a way for the city to enhance the existing harbormaster’s building as a public shore-side facility. Ward Councilors would like to hear your thoughts about programs such as Sail GHS.

Sail GHS is a competitive high school sailing program which is open to the youth of Cape Ann and beyond. Contact info:  Look for Sail GHS  on facebook.

Fort Garden by Laurel Tarantino

Photo by Laurel Tarantino

Photo by Laurel Tarantino

October 18, 2014

Twenty years ago today we got married in my garden, surrounded by friends, flowers and the sea. It was pure happiness from the start.

Leaving now, I cry. How can I leave my garden? So many hours spent toiling away, with my feathered friends nosing around to see what I may have turned up. I talk to them, the birds, and they enjoy it. They’ll show you when they ruffle their feathers and tilt their heads to listen instead of flying away. I am rewarded with birdsong. I wonder if they’ll miss me, and I hope that they won’t, for I wouldn’t want them to be sad. And then there are the bees. How I love to watch them in their labors. They don’t give me much thought; they only fly to the next flower when my shadow falls on them. Perhaps I envy them their ability to throw their whole selves into a flower. Me, I can only stick in my nose.

So many rewards come from raising your own garden. The first green you see popping up through the ground after a long cold winter. Seems like every day brings a new blossom. So exciting if you like simple pleasures, to be surprised in the spring by the jonquils and tulips that have multiplied underground. What joy it brings a dear friend, a pretty nosegay from your own back yard. I could go on, but you probably don’t want to hear about the big fat worms we have here, or the brown snakes and their secret cache of snail shells.

I decide I’m taking my garden with me; I can’t leave it behind. Too much of me went into it. Too many heirlooms from my mom, sister and brother. I don’t know how, I have no place to put it, but I know it can be done. It’s not winter; it’s early October, the perfect time to transplant .

I will give my garden to my friend Ann. In her yard it will be enjoyed. In her yard, I can visit it from time to time. In her yard, it will not be lost to neglect or swallowed by weeds because it has been left on its own.

This will be an enormous undertaking. I’ll need a lot of help. If I invite my friends to this unusual garden party, will they come? Indeed, they arrive in the early morning mist with hot coffee, pastries and spades. Little Wyatt sits on his mom’s lap under the tent while his dad tends to the removal of flowering shrubs. Lois and Joe start with the phlox that are already resting after a spectacular summer exhibition. In no time my husband is off to Magnolia with the first load of fish totes full of rhizomes and roots.

It’s so odd to see the Butterfly Bush, still in its blooming stage, laying on its side waiting for its ride. I’m surprised at how calm I am. I thought for sure I’d be an emotional wreck, but I’m happy, I’m actually joyous I have such caring friends. Even Tommy got himself up early on a Saturday morning to help. He and Dave manage to get the three hundred pound barnacle-laden anchor into the back of Tommy’s truck. A bit of garden ornamentation that fills the entire truck bed.

The weather has provided ideal conditions for transplanting, With so many hands shaking out roots and separating Asters from Autumn Sedum, the work is done in not time. I find the only difficult moment to be the one where I must split my Bleeding Heart in two. My beloved dog Pal lays at rest under it. Five years has been graced with a beautiful resiting ground. I can only hope this flowering remembrance will persevere.

How I have loved my garden. How I have loved this morning and the chatter of my friends as they’ve toiled. Now it is off to Magnolia to plant their future. At Ann’s the work is a bit more difficult. We have to break ground in soil that hasn’t been disturbed in years, perhaps ever, but it gets done. Jimmy finds spots that the bushes can sink their roots into while others plant the perennials in their new digs. Ann mixes up her special elixir of Neptune’s Harvest and feeds each and every one. I am so pleased everything has gone so smoothly and with so much tremendous good will that I can only believe this has been a positive move and that my garden will flourish and live on. Just as the other half of Pal’s Bleeding Heart will take to its special spot beside our Birdseye memorial.

We break from our labors to enjoy a greatly appreciated and much needed lunch that Ann has prepared. I am blessed. No one is in a hurry to be somewhere else. They’ve enjoyed each other and being here for me, and for this task I’ve handed them. These fine folks gathered around the kitchen were not going to see me leave my garden behind.

Aside, Ann tells me, “You can visit your garden any time now, and once you’re settled, come dig up what you want.”

I tell her it’s hers now, that I thought I’d be sad, but I’m anything but. I’m looking forward to the next chapter in my life, you know the one where I become a famous writer and photographer! But I have to learn a few more adjectives.

I laugh while I sip my Prosecco. The old dreams of a 17-year-old girl are back. Being a photojournalist sounded good back then, and still does on this day, with my toy camera and my ink pens that are given freely at banks. Maybe, just maybe it’ll happen.

For now, I plant a “ring-a-rosey” of Autumn Sedum around the Hydrangea my husband gave me on our first wedding anniversary. Such a lovey day. Such amazing friendships. I have so many surprises to look forward to come spring. I fall asleep to the sound of rain, sweet sweet rain, blessed with another perfect day from beginning to end.

Things Are Changing by Laurel Tarantino

October 9, 2014

Fort community garden. Photo by Lois A. McNulty

Things are changing rapidly around here.

I am leaving home; I am leaving the Fort.

As I wait for Ann to come pick me up, I stand in the front yard and drink it all in. It’s about 5:30; she’ll be here in a few minutes. I anticipate a fun evening with her, an escape from the sadness that has entered my life.

Photo by Laurel Tarantino

Photo by Laurel Tarantino

It’s about an hour away from sunset, still warm from a beautiful October day full of sunshine. The asters blooming in my garden are full of activity with hundreds of bees lazily going about their business. If you get close you can hear them, happy in their labors in the warmth of the sun.

Out on the breakwater, the waves make their way over it. I’m surprised by this. I know the tide is way up but there hasn’t been a storm. I guess it’s just a natural swell sending the water up and over. Lucky me- it’s so pretty to watch.

I’m surprised how quiet it is- almost as though it were planned just for me, giving me that private kind of moment to appreciate my love for this place. Something just jumped and slapped the water. Must have been a good-sized fish to make such a loud noise, breaking up the tranquility, or adding to it.

It causes me to look out over the harbor more thoroughly. Perhaps I’ll see more. What I do see is about thirty Snow Egrets coming in for the night to land in the tress of Ten Pound – a familiar sight I’ve been watching for years. Soon they’ll be gone for the winter. I will miss them.

I’m so surprised to see only one boat coming in, in a body of water so vast. Again I think selfishly, it is because it is “my moment,” a much-needed moment. As the boat comes past the red nun buoy, the sounds of stays hitting the masts of sailboats moored between Rocky Neck and Ten Pound catches my ears and focuses my attention in that direction. Must be about thirty sailboats over there. Funny how some sounds are so distinct to an area. I look back to see if the boat will pass by me heading in, but it’s just off the corner by the playground. There are seagulls bobbing behind it. I see now that it’s my friend Vito baiting traps. No wonder the gulls are following him. There’s a lobster trap balanced on the stern of his boat which is “side to” to me now. A brave gull lands on top of the trap. I am totally amazed that his wing span exceeds it. Vito’s standing not three feet away from him, probably grabbing a bait bag. I think to myself, “That gull, if stood on edge, one wing tip to the sky, the other to the ground, would be about as tall as Vito.” Do I get my camera out? No, this will be one for my mind’s eye. Those special pictures you keep with you and revisit any time you want.

Photo by Lois A. McNulty

Photo by Lois A. McNulty

And here comes Ann. I’m so glad to have something to tell her over dinner. It was such a short while waiting for her, but so completely full. She’ll “get it” too. I love that my friends understand how I love to see and share it. As we drive around the Fort, she tells me how it’s her first time seeing the ruins of where the Birdseye stood. Yes, things are changing rapidly around here. The writing is on the street- the graffiti of the Dig Safe markings for what is to come.