Equinox, by Lanesville poet Melissa de Haan Cummings

erika hillier lanesville (2)

Erika Hillier, Lanesville

Equinox

Sunny was slipping across the other side
with her black lab and her brown lab
treacherously icy
She was missing the twenty nine people
and seven dogs who celebrated sun
and warmth eight days ago
You counted?  Of course!
I want to tell people about it!
We parted at the foot of
Sunset Point Road after I
told her about the Black Man
found hanged from a tree
yesterday in Mississippi
she told me Judy and her guy
were Freedom Riders
in the Sixties  We passed
their house   I turned back
at the bottom of Ships Bell
met Lisa Dustin and Clayton
by Stowells where Dustin
told me the temperature is
supposed to be forty-seven
at time of year   I told him
we aren’t what we are supposed
to be either   Clayton said
It is what it is   Lisa thumped
me on the arm in a friendly
goodbye  Pirate climbed
under Claytons feet in the
warm Jeepster   I told Dustin
I knew his ex and we admired
her classy sexy way with
clothing   He told me how
an uncle used to have trouble breathing
when Gianna was around
I told him about Wink Sargent
We agreed wear a bikini
if you want   Lusting is
a guy’s problem
Forgetting to tell Dusty
Gianna teaches body combat
And how does he think
she looks then?

Went out on the Flatiron
to observe the clump
of brown weed
pretty much covers
the spot where the dock
rests from about May
to October
Sudden splash!
quick swim toward the gap
like a fish but wait to see
it is a cormorant

Melissa de Haan Cummings

Melissa de Haan Cummings majored in French and English Literature at 
Bryn Mawr. She has published poetry in a number of journals. 
 She describes her interests as including, “much small boating around Cape
 Ann, love of Charles Olson, Hatha yoga practice since 1969.”

Melissa Cummings

Enduring Gloucester Readers- What Does Gloucester Need?

What’s your opinion on this page-one story in today’s Gloucester Daily Times?

Gloucester development: strengths, needs

By Arianna MacNeill,  Staff Writer, Gloucester Daily Times (GDT) 

Posted in the GDT Friday, March 27, 2015

Gloucester development: strengths, needs

ARIANNA MACNEILL/Staff photoNortheastern University economist Barry Bluestone speaksThursday at the Gloucester campus of Endicott College.

As far as city websites go, Gloucester’s fails — at least according to one Northeastern professor and economist.

There are many things that the city is doing right — and many it can also work on — in terms of promoting economic development. But one of those fixes that’s crucial is revamping the city’s website, Barry Bluestone, a professor at Northeastern University and noted economist told city officials and business leaders Thursday morning.

Bluestone visited Gloucester to go through his Economic Development Self Assessment Test — or EDSAT — with city officials and community members and to revisit the answers given on it a year ago.

The survey — 220 questions total — asks about everything from permitting to residents’ levels of education and other matters essential to economic development and attracting industry to the city.

The results are instantly tabulated by computer, but Bluestone said he plans to return to Gloucester in about a month to deliver them. Rockport had the results of a similar survey of that town revealed last week.

Around 50 city officials and community members gathered in one of Endicott College’s conference rooms at its Commercial Street location.

Included were Mayor Sefatia Romeo Theken, Chief Administrative Officer Jim Destino, City Council President Paul McGeary, Councilors Paul Lundberg, Bill Fonvielle and Greg Verga; Economic Development Director Sal DiStefano, Chamber Executive Director Ken Riehl, local developer Mac Bell, and Thomas Gillett, the executive director of the Gloucester Economic Development and Industrialization Corporation.

Along with reviewing the survey, Bluestone told city officials that economic development marketing and timeliness of approvals — such as for building permits — are a very important element.

Website woes

While Romeo Theken said the city is working on a full city website overhaul, Bluestone said Gloucester’s current one doesn’t measure up.

“Your website is one of the worst I’ve seen in Massachusetts,” he said, noting that it was difficult to find a phone number for the mayor’s office or those of elected officials, along with other information representatives from businesses looking to come to Gloucester may look for.

Gloucester doesn’t currently have a dedicated webmaster — the answer to one of the survey questions — though city departments do make contributions to the site.

This could change soon, however, since Romeo Theken said via email after the meeting that her administration is hoping to hire a web specialist who could build a new site. Making it “user friendly” and having the ability to easily “connect (to) other links” were a couple of priorities she mentioned.

She did not provide a timeline for the project.

Other survey matters

The survey reviewed other aspects of life in Gloucester.

Continue reading

The Wealth of a Gloucesterman’s Soul by Thomas Welch

Eastern Rig

The Eastern Rig dragger “Annie,” a Gilardi family boat.

The Wealth of a Gloucesterman’s Soul

From the Maritime Provinces down to Cape May

and every Port in between

His eyes have been blessed, and he’s grateful today

For all the great wonders he’s seen

But it’s the experiences lived, again and again

ingrained in him year after year

The fish, the boats, the places, the men

are the memories his heart holds most dear

He’s seen sunrise and sunsets with no land in sight

Dolphins by the thousands at morning’s first light

Blue sharks feeding frenzy, Humpback whales as they breach

Graceful gannets a-diving, harbor seals on the beach

The delight at first sight of ol’ Thacher’s Light

The crew are beginning to pace

That sight means they’re sleeping home tonight

In their women’s, instead of Winters, embrace!

The deckhand sings, the Cook blows his nose

The bell-buoy rings and the foghorn blows

The cry of a blackback gull

These nautical sounds every Gloucesterman knows

Sure as storm waves will pound on the hull

The growl of the winch, the squeal of the block

The splash of the waterfall under the dock

as the wash-hose melts fish-ice above.

Knee deep haddock on deck,

a fat “shack money” check,

Special moments the fishermen love

The loud, constant rattle of Jitterbug forks

Bouncing over a broken wet floor

The yells from the Hold to the Hatch to the Wharf

keep the fish flowing quickly ashore

Muscles hardened by pulling, a thousand times each:

The oars of a dory, a dory up on the beach

Stern line aft, Spring line forward

Bow line taut, stern in, shore’ward

The Hatch cover off, Boots and Oilskins on

Penboards up and a boom hook down

Fighting sleep, he’s pulled the night watch from midnight ‘til dawn

Storms got bad then he’s pulled into town

A wire basket of whiting, the guts outta Cod

To spread wire on the reel? A heavy steel rod

A net full of fish up and over the rail

A rough wooden box of Large Dabs off the scale

A pallet off the stack, a good Captain’s leg

The Rum jug off a bar and the tap of a keg

Good men gather together

Whenever there’s weather

Northeast Gales keep boats tied to the pier

Fried Grey Sole down Mitch’s

Cold beer by the pitchers

Good friends, laughter, music and cheer

The waterfront abounds with these smells, sights and sounds

Rich memories more precious than gold

Building great strength of character which can only be found

In the wealth of a Gloucesterman’s Soul!

~ Thomas Welch

Equinox Earth Day 2015 is March 20

helen with flag

Helen Garland with the original symbol of Earth Day, the Earth flag (Photo by Bing McGilvray)

Equinox Earth Day 2015

The first Earth Day was celebrated not on April 22, but on March 21, 1971.  April 22, a day with no global significance or connection to natural Earth, has become associated with Earth Day in the US.  However, the original International Equinox Earth Day was established 44 years ago with the ringing of the Peace Bell at UN headquarters in New York at the exact moment of the Vernal Equinox.

Looking back to 1971, the world was just coming to consciousness about humans and our effect on our natural environment. The astronauts had shown us the famous photo of Earth floating alone in space.  We had been shocked by the Santa Barbara oil spill, and by Rachael Carson’s warning of the global impact of DDT, in a detailed scientific report serialized in the New Yorker magazine. UN delegates from around the world saw US televised Sierra Club opposition the new Alaska oil pipeline. They read the New Yorker, which ran features on nuclear and chemical hazards. We learned of a new hazard – Agent Orange. Opposition to the Vietnam War had been mounting. John Denver and Cat Stevens were singing at the UN. In 1967 the United Nations had accepted the Swedish proposal to convene a conference on Global Pollution. Delegates from around the world were meeting at the UN to prepare that agenda. Pete Seeger combined all these issues with his songs and his focus on the Hudson River when he invited the UN delegation, which included Shirley Temple Black, to sail with him on the Clearwater. The two political opposites were pictured listening with earphones to the newly recorded “Songs of the Humpback Whales” The same UN delegation also heard the dire warnings of Secretary General U Thant on that 1971 Equinox Earth Day- that we could no longer ignore the fact which the Equinox symbolizes and proves: that we are all part of a one- Earth system. UNESCO had held a Biosphere Conference. In June 1971, the UN convened a conference on the Environment for concerned students and professionals.

Now, in 2015, on Equinox Earth Day, at a moment of equal impact for all living things on Earth, representatives of the Earth Society Foundation will ring the Peace Bell with me in the Rose Garden at the UN, as we have done every year on the Vernal Equinox since 1971. We will do this to honor the clarity and leadership of Secretaries General Hammarskjold and U Thant and of Sweden with our Current Secretary General Ban Ki Moon in the protection of peace, justice and care of Earth. Wherever you may be at the moment of the Equinox, please pause to honor Earth in your own way. In Gloucester, the moment of the Equinox occurs at 6:45 pm Friday, March 20.

Helen Garland, Gloucester, Massachusetts, Chair of Earth Society Foundation, United Nations.

Drawn Together Toward Earth’s Molten Iron Core by Robert Gibbons

Drawn Together Toward Earth’s Molten Iron Core

Who’s to say we’re not drawn

by the same magnetic force

as any mariner’s compass,

because something drew

me down to the docks

on March 11, 2015,

when the thaw

finally arrived

after one

hundred

& one days

over the longest

winter in recent memory,

temperature of 54 degrees

the highest since December 1st

of the year before: there, just as

suspected, sprawled out for all to see,

the massive double-steel-hulled oil tanker

Atlantic Muse out of Hong Kong, no less!

Yes, I followed the unconscious pull, as if my body

adjusted to the magnetic declination mariners

have long been aware of as their compasses

pointed not at True North, but pulled by

variations in magnetic fields according

to each location. The Muse then drew

me back toward the map I’d

recently discovered, that

finely drawn isogonic

chart of the Atlantic

by Edmond Halley

in 1701 showing

lines of magnetic

variation, the

earliest such

publication.

It’s beautiful,

as most maps are

to any eye, but here

the early science adds

precision, & even the wording

of the cartouche drawn & written

there in the right-hand corner running

west from New England & New York down

to the Carolinas square in the heartland of North

America deserves quoting: The Curved Lines which are

drawn over the Seas in this Chart do shew at one View all

the places where the Variation of the Compass is the same.

The Numbers to them shew how many degrees the Needle declines

either Eastwards or Westwards from the true North  ; and the Double

Line passing Bermudas and the Cape de Virde Isles is that where

the Needle stands true without Variation.

There, almost at that point of no

variation, Halley draws a perfect

compass rose radiating wind

points out from the exact

center of the map.

It didn’t stop there, this Muse,

but drove me hard back

toward Olson’s own

handwritten poem

known as The Compass Rose

just to see his hand there hard at work

on November 20th, 1965, showing us the way

migration leads always to a new center, as if today

with temperatures reaching a new high after a long

one hundred & one days one could reach into the center

of oneself corresponding to the molten iron core

of the Earth, which produces those variations

in magnetic fields according to one’s location.

Such declinations in one’s sailing or daily

peregrination must be adjusted to by

what some might call Mind, but

which I prefer to call Soul.

A month later, it’s no accident that Olson,

cartographer at heart, writes his next poem

in which he designates the coordinates of the island

before his eye, that light & heavy jewel, Ten Pound Island

at 207 degrees from magnetic North, intimating that she, the island,

& he, the man, feminine & masculine are linked at the center, & drawn

together toward earth’s molten iron core.

~ Robert Gibbons

Robert GibbonsRobert Gibbons, a former Gloucester resident, is the author of nine books of poetry. In 2013, in addition to completing a Trilogy of prose poems with Nine Point Publishing,  he published Olson/Still: Crossroad, a brief study concerning the similarities in approach to art by Olson in words, and Clyfford Still in paint.

Fort Journal- How to Become Part of the Fort

How to Become Part of the Fort

by Laurel Tarantino

From her Journal “Loving and Leaving the Fort”

March 15, 2015

How to become part of the Fort:

be part of a 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th generation that has always lived there,

find a rental,

buy your way into it,

or marry into it.

 

I did the latter.

jimmy and laurel dating

Jim Tarantino and Laurel Josephson, 1991

 

I was feeling a bit sorry for myself the night I met Jimmy in 1990.  I had it all together, a job- two actually, a beautiful bachelorette pad on Goose Cove, dependable wheels, money in my pocket and a good friend to enjoy free time with.  What I lacked in my life was a loyal dog, a good man, and at that immediate moment in time, a decent meal.  I’d been grabbing fast food in between my day job and more take out for dinner at my night gig.  I was really tired of never having a nice sit-down meal with someone during the week that I decided I would take one night, blow off work and sit down to a nice relaxing meal for myself.  My boss completely understood, course it didn’t hurt that my boss was my mom at the time.  So I never punched in and headed for town, in search of a meal that would sate me.

Now, where to eat?  The first place I came to that made me think, “I’ll try this,” was Antonio’s.  If they didn’t have a nice steak on the menu, at least they’d have Italian,  with a name like that.  Plus that, it looked inviting, and it was.

It was a small place, a few tables in one room with an intimate little bar.  Anyway, I mosey up to an empty chair at the bar, there’s a guy in one of the other chairs who informs me that the bartender will be right back.  He also told me that he could get a drink for me if I knew what I would like.  A glass of wine or beer would have been easy, but I wanted a Bacardi Gimlet, straight up.  Had to wait for the bartender to come back for that order, but I didn’t mind, it gave me a chance to peruse the menu.

So the bartender comes back from wherever it was he had gone.  I thought he was really interesting to look at.  A bit tall, lean, border lining on thin, perhaps a couple weeks overdue for a haircut, but what struck me right off the bat was his polite manner and a set of eyes a girl could get lost in.  I didn’t think he was  handsome, but there was something about him that made you want to keep looking, hopefully not getting caught staring.

There was friendly banter; he introduced me to his friend who was the other customer at the bar.  I got my delicious ice cold Gimlet and ordered a Steak Au Poive with all the fixings, salad, mashed and green beans.  I’m a meat and potatoes kind of girl.  I’m also, a bit ashamed to admit, a smoker, which I wouldn’t have brought up, but it has to do with my story.  Back then, 1990, you could still smoke in bar rooms, so I went to light up after a few sips of my beverage.  When I did, Jim (the bartender) says, “Hey Chris, what’s wrong with you?  Be a gentleman and light the lady’s cigarette.”  I in turn said, “Oh that’s alright, he doesn’t know any better, he’s from Gloucester.” Boy did I ever say the wrong thing.  I thought the bartender was going to come right over the marble top bar and give me a “what-for.”He says, “Excuse me miss, I happen to be from Gloucester, I’m proud of it and I resent that statement.”  I could not apologize fast enough, and immediately let them know that I was from Gloucester as well.

That’s when Jimmy had me.  From that moment I was completely intrigued by his passion and pride.  All of a sudden his eyes seemed more intense, his hands, graceful, long and beautiful, he had become an instant Laurel Magnet.

Small talk continued, I enjoyed my meal and little by little, the restaurant started emptying out.  I was getting a bit sad that the night was coming to an end and I may not see this guy again.  Then he asks me, “Would you like to dance?” A bit taken back, I say “Yes, but there’s no dance floor.”  Of course, he can take care of that too.  He and a couple friends move the dining tables and chairs that had been recently vacated, he throws some coins into the juke box, he puts his hand in mine, the other on the small of my back and I find myself dancing (honestly-melting) to Sinatra singing “The Summer Wind.”

Great, now I’m all off kilter!  This guy just cleared tables so he could dance with me, but of course, the song ends.  He has to “Z -Out” the register and close the restaurant for the night.  Now what?  Do I ask him where he’s headed?  Is that too obvious?  He’d danced with me, hooked me with fresh bait, but didn’t follow up with what would come next.  I’d already learned in earlier conversation that he sometimes hangs out at the “Blackburn Tavern” or the “Old Timers” down the West End.  I head out to the street and my car and think “Damned, that’s it” as he waves Good-night and heads to his car.  Double Damned!  It’s a way cool silver Chevy Impala!  Did he have to have a nice set of wheels too?  Well, it’s a good thing he did, you couldn’t miss it and I didn’t, when I went “Jimmy Hunting.”He was parked up on Main Street, but I found him in a very empty Old Timer’s and he asks, “What’d you follow me?” I could only be honest and answer  “Yes.”

So, I haven’t a clue what our conversation was about so very long ago.  I do remember once the Old Timers closed for the night, that we drove out to Niles Beach in his way cool Chevy.  We sat across from each other, him leaning on the driver’s door, me on mine.  It was dark and cold outside, I remember wanting to giggle every time he moved, because his leather coat made so much noise against the seat.  Nervous laughter I believe they call it.  I noticed something sticking up awkwardly in the back seat; it’s a child’s sled.  I knew it was too good to be true; he has a kid and most likely a wife too.  He explained his situation, a recent divorce, and the pain of leaving his young daughter with her mom.  The guy just kept getting better and better.  To hear him speak about his little girl, you knew he had a huge heart, with a bit of an ache in it.  We finally called it a night, parted with an exchange of phone numbers and “I’ll call yous,”

I only wanted a decent meal that January night, but I left with Don Henley singing a tune in my head, “This is the last worthless evening that you’ll have to spend…   “ Here we are 25 years later, miles of memories in between, and still enjoying each other’s company.  I also learned something else that night-  I will never, ever stereotype a Gloucester guy again.

 

jimmy and laurel married

Jim and Laurel Tarantino, 2010                  (photo by David Cox)

Gloucester, I Ask You-What is Art? by Ernest Morin

10f47-ernieGloucester, I Ask You-What is Art?

Art—one of the least—defined terms here,  and yet we claim to be an Arts city.

There is no clear answer as to what is meant here by helping or supporting the Arts, which arts, and  at what level of execution ?

What is craft or product versus Art or Fine Art ?

If the city intends to market itself as a center where world class artists can live and work , what exactly does this mean ?

Because depending on what you include, and  at what skill level,  you will be targeting very different people and outcomes.

To blindly go forth is erroneous and futile.

This city has a history that’s often talked about which includes
Painters Winslow Homer, Fitz H Lane, Edward Hopper, John Sloan, Mark Rothko
Photographers Ansel Adams, Harry Callahan, Gordon Parks
Musicians Miles Davis, Herb Pomeroy
Poet Charles Olson

All people at the top of their game in their mediums.

We currently have a number of well -known artists living here,  some with Guggenheim awards, a few nationally or internationally recognized ones without.

Can anyone name them ?

Have they had shows at the local museum contemporary wing ?

Is their work truly supported here ?
Seen here ? Celebrated here ?

In Japan they’d be seen as national treasures of real cultural importance.

What is the general public view of our best artists here ?

Of artists in general ?

Of Public Art recently ?

Is it really a supportive community,  or merely for a certain type of Art  among a small set of people in only minor ways ?

How we define what Gloucester should stand for as a so- called Arts community is of the utmost importance given the number of new cultural district assignments on Cape Ann and what appears to be an intent to use the arts to drive some economic gains for the city.

If what’s meant is Arts and Crafts,  then that needs to be clearly stated and elevated to a height worthy of being an area of destination of distinction.

If it’s meant to be Art of the highest caliber in a medium,  then the focus and support needed to achieve that status has to be properly assessed, planned for, and marketed to.

As an Artist, I’d say Gloucester is not a city I’d deem very supportive of its best talent.  It’s more a place that tends to be proud those people live here,  and offers them the ability to be left alone to do their work.

The city has a history of ignoring its top talent, Hopper and Sloan were refused by the local museum in their time, Charles Olson as well.  I could name existing people working here today who have been shown at Decordova Museum in Lincoln, MA or in New York, but not offered such here.

So it’s always curious to me, as a working artist,  to hear “Gloucester is a real Arts town.”

Please define both Real and Arts before we plunge into marketing for Tourism or Cultural Tourism or Art Therapy Tourism or whatever terms they will apply next, to use the Arts to bring salvation to Down Town.

Excuse me—Harbor Town,  lest I forget we were recently renamed for a smart PR angle already.
Ernest Morin is a native of the City and a socially concerned documentary photographer.
5f21b-ernie

“Yes, We Live Here!” by Mike Cook

This has been a winter of unexpected turns of events, blinding blizzards, and a realization that Gloucester is one special place after all.

I keep a journal on my PC, of entries I share with no one, and of copies of essays and sundry rambling thoughts I’ve written down and shared with Enduring Gloucester, the Gloucester Daily Times, and a couple of other outlets that indulge me in my rants.

I was reviewing the entries and essays I’ve compiled in the two months since I wound up landing in Provincetown, in what I hope is  just a temporary stop gap measure until I can get back to Cape Ann, and I realized that this transitional time has been generating an awful lot of internal angst  in me that has really taken a toll.

The major factor in that angst is the growing realization that this area of the country where I was born and raised, by that I mean the coastal regions of Massachusetts and New Hampshire, is becoming such a desirable and expensive place to live that I may not be able to stay here as I age and my ability to earn the kind of income the region demands to cover even the most basic costs of living is diminished.

It’s a pretty unsettling thought.

I suppose that’s why this morning, with a brilliant sun shining down from a cloudless sky upon the oversized mounds of snow that line every street in Provincetown,  in ways that are both dazzlingly beautiful and quite daunting to boot, I decided to hike out to the National Seashore to drink in the beauty of this place at Land’s End. I could no longer  simply dwell on the very real socio-economic issues confronting this town that have so many people on edge and thinking about joining so many others who have already bade this place farewell.

As I walked the area of Herring Cove Beach the ocean has cleared of snow, I was struck by the enormity and beauty of the National Seashore and how fortunate we all are that people in the past had the foresight to preserve it.

However, there is  also a sad irony in knowing it is precisely because of the foresight to have preserved such beauty that Provincetown  is increasingly becoming a place where only those who are well to do can live.

As I walked along the road back to town, I realized all coastal communities in temperate and tropical climates, from Cape Ann and Cape Cod, to the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica, seem to be on the same trajectory. Living by the ocean is not just a life style choice anymore. It has become a status symbol and the age old law of supply and demand is making it more and more difficult for people who are not affluent to live the coastal lifestyle – even if they were born and bred right along the coast line.

It was on the walk back  to town that I realized as different as Gloucester, Provincetown, and the once sleepy little hamlet of Puerto Viejo in Costa Rica that I called home for fifteen winters may seem on the surface, they are all being impacted by economic forces that are fundamentally changing the very fiber and essence of what made them such unique places for so long.

For an example, when I washed ashore in Puerto Viejo in 1999 one of my greatest pleasures was grocery shopping. That was because grocery shopping was an adventure. There was no “super market”, so when you wanted bread you went to the local “panaderia”. When you wanted meat, you went to see Don Jesus at his “carcineria”. When you wanted fish, you stopped by the “marisqueria”, or you went directly to the beach where the local fishermen kept their boats and bartered with them face to face and, when you wanted fruits and vegetables, you headed to the “verdura”.

The result was grocery shopping could take a couple of hours, but it was a sure fired way to get all the juicy gossip and tidbits about local politics that make small town living so interesting.

But, as the numbers of  American expats coming to “retire in paradise” grew, many of them found having to go to four different  locations to get their grocery shopping done annoyingly inconvenient and the talk soon shifted to the need for a real “super market” in town.

Within just a few years, as the expat community grew  in size and economic influence, that “super market”, known as “Mega Super”,  a Central American subsidiary of, yes, Walmart, opened its doors.

Its impact was enormous. Most of those old local establishments quickly went out of business. That rippled through the community in a big way because many of the local, low wage workers who clean ex-pats’ houses, work as chambermaids in foreign owned hotels and guest cabins, and chop the flora and maintain the  grounds of such places generally get paid monthly. For most, their wages are so low they do not even bother to open bank accounts.

Those local stores used to extend credit to those workers who would pay their tabs at the end of each month when they got their wages. Don Jesus, for example, kept a spiral notebook by his cash box and recorded the items a family purchased and collected payment on an appointed date each month.

As those small businesses went under, those workers, with no bank accounts, savings, or credit or debit cards, began to find it increasingly difficult to feed their families because the “Mega Super” was not going to extend credit to those workers, and keep track of it in  spiral notebooks  by the cash registers.

As the gentrification brought by the expats escalated, the cost of everything in the community escalated right alongside it.

Increasingly the workers who clean those  expats’ homes, tend their gardens, cook in the restaurants, and change the sheets in hotels and cabinas have been forced to move inland from the coastal towns they were born in because demand for housing near the ocean has  sent rents to unreachable heights for the workers given their low pay.

It is, in many ways, exactly what has happened in Provincetown, Newburyport, and Portsmouth, and could well happen to Gloucester in the wake of the decline of the middle and lower middle income jobs the fishing industry and industries related to it provided workers for so long.

People working in the tourism and hospitality industries , for example, in the years ahead, may find themselves having to move to Lynn because the new gentrified Gloucester will be just too pricey for them to afford on the lower wages those industries generally pay.

It all can get overwhelming and make one feel really powerless, but then that’s when you need to get out and see the beauty that is all around in coastal communities and be grateful for any time and opportunity you have to enjoy it.

That’s what I did today, and it has made all the difference in the world.

mike_cookMike Cook  is a long time liberal and gay rights activist who saw the uniqueness of Gloucester from the first moment he drove over the bridge during his move from Cambridge to Cape Ann in 1991 to run NUVA’s AIDS education and services programs.

Crossing the Bar by Kent Bowker

254c0-ianfactor

Last Catch of the Day – 2012 by Ian Factor (b. 1969)

Crossing the Bar

Crossing the bar again
In the slosh and tumble of waves, around ledges,
at the favored lobster spots close to shore, the white working boat
maneuvers about rocks, gear shift growling,
runs down on pots, the men scooping them up,
hauling traps aboard, pulling the writhing bugs out, checking length
sometimes tossing most of them back in
thinking it's time to shift the pots further offshore.
It seems the hold is never quite full,
when they turn the helm to home.

It’s not all work, for there is a time
for awe and wonder in going
to and fro, in foggy uncertainty, or clear air
when the horizon is crisp and stark,
or when clouds boil, flowering in blue sky,
or when the black of a coming storm menaces,
or in the calm of sunrise, waters flat as can be,
never the same from day to day,

but same never-the-less.
You’re on your own out there.

They do not visit this place
as the yachtsmen do, to pleasure the day,
they live this world, all of it, its peace and hell alike.

Then back home again and out on the town
into dazzling lights, dark bars, a drink
having fun with women
punk rock songs and randy jokes.

Saint Joseph certainly must be there,
with faith’s wafer and wine certainty and protection
warding off threat of wave and rock
in the heave and thrust of swells
uneven footing, a dangerous winch cable
screaming on its spool.

There is a muscle taut energy
in this small 35 foot lobster boat

     heir to the fast Grand Bank fishing schooners, 
     proud large trawlers, the great hauls.

These rock crawling scavengers 
are all that’s left to harvest now,

     bend the muscles to.

It’s traps now, was nets then, always the haul, 
the heft of the prey on the deck 
in the heave and rolling wave of the sea 
The big thing to think about 
what many of us do not 
is who and where we are in this world. 
So few know, but those whose working rhythm 
is embedded in it, do. 

A Saint Joseph medallion dangles from the rear view mirror 
of their pickup loaded with traps and pots 
and its ‘screw you’ bumper stickers. But when some ignorant asshole on autopilot 
with cutters on his flashy yachts’ prop tears through a line of pots 
all the days moneys gone

     What’s Saint Joseph to do then 
     you have to keep asking.'

          Oh, they’re not paying what they used to, 3 buck a pound, 
          not worth it sometimes when they’re 10 bucks afterward.

Everyday, passing by the Dog Bar, offloading the stuff, 
tired, returning to the slip, tie up, disembark 
and, bone hope weary, might take to drink again. 

In the coherence of this life,
     (the faith and ceremonies, a cardinal’s blessing
          once a year doesn’t do much)
     no matter how small it seems
          faith punctuates the daily chores

but it’s the rhythm of the lobsterman’s life 
out and back again, bait and reap 
that sustains as it does for all working men, 
the doing of it.

Kent Bowker

Kent Bowker

 

 

 


Kent Bowker
  started with poetry at Berkeley in the Fifties, then became a physicist working mainly in optics.  His new book of poems is Katharsis: Sifting Through a Mormon Past.  He lives in Essex, next to the Great Marshes and is treasurer of the Charles Olson Society.

Memories of a Highliner’s Son

 
Memories of a Highliner’s Son
 
by Big Tom Brancaleone
 
 
My family fished out of Gloucester on the Joseph & Lucia I, II and III, for over 50 years- as boat owners, captain and crew. They worked hard and were successful in their labors. They were known for being fair to their crews and had a propensity for fishing in bad weather.
 
 
  As a child I can remember the worried look on my mother’s face as our home on the Boulevard shook and the storm windows squealed and shuddered. The boat was out in yet another storm. Their hope was to be the only boat to market and to fetch a big price when they finally made it back to port, and they often did just that. As a boy I did not realize the dangers they faced and the ordeal that life as a commercial fisherman posed. They truly were iron men on those small vessels that earned every penny with sweat and blood.
  I never could begin to understand what my father sacrificed for us and how hard he worked until he actually took me out on my first trip. After two or three days of preparation,  which normally included vessel maintenance and fishing gear upkeep the Joseph & Lucia lll  (J&L III) was almost ready to set sail. The fuel tanks were filled and the food locker in the fo’c’sle was stocked. Thirty-two tons of crushed ice was put down the fish hold and the seven man crew said good bye to their loved ones and braced for eight to 12 days of battle with Mother Nature.
 
 
  I was only 14 in 1972, and it was summertime so the backdrop for my first experience at sea was rather tame compared with what it was like in the winter. My main duty was to keep my eyes open and stay out of harm’s way. I did suffer from sea sickness the first night out but, though it was awful,  it subsided after about 24 hours and wasn’t a problem thereafter.
   We steamed along at about 12 knots for roughly 36 hours to reach the fishing grounds. Crew members were required to take a “steaming watch” when the boat was under way. This is a very important duty and the lives of all on board are in the balance.




 The rules of the ocean and general seamanship are practiced at all times and of course you can never fall asleep. The captain gives his instructions and retires to his quarters to rest up. He will not get much sleep once the fishing begins. The importance of being alert on watch was demonstrated many years later as the J & L lll ,when steaming home after a particularly arduous trip collided with an ocean going barge in the Massachusetts Bay at full speed with 140,000 pounds of fish aboard. The man on watch had somehow dropped the ball. They were very fortunate to survive that mishap with minor damage to the boat and injuries to the men. Crew members suffered a few lumps and the bow was slightly dented. The barge had over $125,000 in damages and the boat got a $1000 fine for speeding in the fog in the bay. The barge was being towed by a tug and was tethered to it by a massive cable. If they had hit the tow cable there is a good chance the boat could have rolled over. An alarm was then installed that warned of a possible collision after that near disaster.
 
 
  The haul back bell rang and all hands got up from their bunks put on their oil skins and boots then readied the net to be set out. We were on Browns Bank in what is now Canadian waters in June of 1972. There was no Hague line at that time and the ocean was not as restricted as it is today. The crew on my families’ boats were for the most part expert fishermen. Browns Bank was notorious for being “hard bottom” that often teemed with haddock. I was instructed to keep clear of all wires and blocks and the many dangerous things that were going on, on deck. Not long after that trip the dangers of working on deck were vividly brought to light when my oldest brother Joe had his arm severed while setting out the net aboard the J & L ll. He had just gotten out of the Navy after four years as a quartermaster aboard nuclear submarines. My mother was oh so worried about him being on a sub. The deck of an eastern rigged dragger is a far more dangerous place. I will relate that story later because it merits its own chapter in human drama and endurance.
Once the net is set out it will be towed or dragged along the ocean bottom for about three hours. Often on hard bottom like Browns the gear will hang up and suffer varying degrees of damage. Sometimes nets  needed immediate repair, but sometimes they could be fixed at the end of the tow when the net is hauled back on deck. In those days there were lots of fish and lots of damage incurred during normal fishing operations. This required expert crews with mending skills and the ability to get the gear back over and catching fish again. The men would often mend the damaged net for hours, then re-set it. Then they would still need to cut, gut, wash and ice down the fish and wash the deck. Less than three hours later the alarm would sound once more and it was time to do it all over again. They worked around the clock on a rolling deck in all kinds of weather for days on end. They missed being home when their children were born and many other wonderful events that we on land take for granted. I knew rather quickly that this would not be the life for me!
The first tow was completed and I was seated in the pilot house with the captain, my Uncle Tom. He was a high line skipper who had been fishing for over 30 years at that point and had earned a great deal of respect from fishermen up and down the east coast. As the crew brought the trawl aboard, the cod end popped up and confirmed a good haul. The bag of fish had to be split and swung over the rail in two parts. The deck swarmed with over 7,000 pounds of haddock and scrod. The crew re-set the net and began to cut fish, and the gulls followed the J & L lll as she plodded along in the dark of night.
It was during one of these nights when everyone had just gotten off the deck and we heard a loud BANG!  We hung up hard and parted the main wire while also causing serious damage to the net. Back on deck to recover the gear and put the net back together. This appeared to me to be a tricky procedure that the veteran crew handled with just a bit of difficulty. I had the greenhorn job of filling mending needles with twine as the men fixed the net under the watchful eye of the first mate, Frank D’ Amico who had been fishing with Captain Tom from day one and was one of the best twine men in the business. They used up the needles almost as quickly as I could fill them. After an hour and half or so the net went over the side, a lot more fish would soon be on the deck.
As instructed I watched and tried to learn and be aware of the endless toil that is part of being a dragger-man. I was only 14 and was allowed to go out fishing,  not to learn to be a fisherman, but in order to dissuade me from ever becoming one. My father was the engineer aboard the J & L lll and was known as “The Chief.”  He knew very well that it was a hard life filled with danger and hardship and wanted me to find that out for myself. I quickly did.
The trip continued, and within 3 days the J & L lll had over 40,000 pounds of fish iced down in her hold. We hauled the gear aboard and proceeded to steam to another fishing ground to the south to concentrate on a different species of fish. Here we caught more of mixed variety including flounder and red fish. As I became more aware of my surroundings and possible areas of danger I was allowed to venture out on deck and help the crew with cleaning fish and picking trash fish out of the pens on deck and tossing them over the side. We ate three square meals a day prepared by the cook Gil Roderick. The cook’s job aboard a dragger is a difficult one. He has his duties on deck as well as feeding seven or eight hungry men for the duration of each and every long trip. A small stipend for the extra work seemed hardly worth it to me. He has to order the “grub,” stow it, and prepare it in some sloppy conditions. He is also responsible for cleaning up after every meal. Tough job. A few more days passed with far less damage to the net and another 30,000 pounds of mixed fish.
Again we put the gear aboard and headed to the #8 buoy for some codfish. After about a 12 hour steam we neared our destination as the night was ending. This place, I was told, was fished during the day time and there were a number of vessels waiting for sunrise before setting out. Several were Gloucester boats I recognized. At that time there was a limit on cod. You could catch 30,000 pounds per trip. It was a beautiful summer day and all the boats set out together at sunrise. You could see the faces of other crew members on deck close by and it became a race to see who would catch their limit first. The cod were there and we quickly hauled back and put 5,000 pounds aboard on the first set. By late afternoon we had our 30,000 pounds aboard. The deck was full,  the net was aboard, and as we steamed out of there you could see and hear other men on the other boats waving and hollering at us as we passed. We were the first to leave and head for home! I felt such pride and accomplishment as we sailed out of there, and I will never forget that moment. The Joseph & Lucia lll was headed home!
I for one was extremely happy to be on our way in. I was tired and had never worked so hard in my life. I had witnessed some things that I had never imagined and got a small taste of the fishing life. We finally arrived in Boston in the wee hours of the morning and prepared the vessel to take out fish. The fish hold man was veteran Gaspar Palazolla, whose job it was to ice down the fish and also to give the skipper an accurate tally as to the amount of fish by species that were in the hold. At the pier an auction took place in the morning to determine the price of the fish on hand that day and to document which dealer bought what and how much. The names of the vessels in that day and the amount of fish was written on a huge chalk board grid,  and then bid on. There were a few boats in port that day and J & L lll topped the board with 106,500 pounds. Not a bad trip. I was responsible for washing pin boards and did perform this somewhat tedious task that day. By 3:00 pm we were finished taking out.  We untied the lines and headed for Gloucester. I can remember climbing down the fish hold with my cousin Joe,  and Gaspar and rebuilding it with pen boards. We were a bit giddy by this time and Joe and I began to sing in high pitched voices as we worked, much to the chagrin of Gaspar! After that I went up in the wheel house with my dad and uncle and enjoyed the ride home. As we sailed past the dog bar breakwater I could see my house on the Boulevard. I wondered what my friends were doing and how my mother was. I knew she was more worried than usual this trip, with my dad and me out together. We got to the dock at Rocky Neck and as I put my feet down on solid ground I let out a sigh of relief.
I got home and my father asked me if I wanted to go on the next trip-  in about three days.  My immediate response was no. I wanted to ride my bike and go to the beach and enjoy school vacation. He did not press me at all. Three days later the captain called with orders for 8:00 am for another trip. I traveled down to the ice wharf on Harbor Loop with my brother and mother to see my dad off. As they untied the lines and the boat pulled away from the wharf I began to cry. For the first time I had an idea of what he did for my family. Year in and year out, trip after long trip he and all working fisherman put their lives on the line and endure.
 
 
 
Vice President of  St. Peter’s Club,  and a director of the Gloucester Marine Railways Corporation since 1998, .Tom Brancaleone resides with his family overlooking the “Man at the Wheel” on the Boulevard.

Editor’s note:

 “Highliner”  is the commercial fishermen’s term for their own elite, the skippers and crews who bring in the biggest hauls.