Gloucester’s Drug Problem is Not a New One

There has been a lot of coverage in the media recently, at the local, state, and national levels,  about the scourge of opiate addiction-whether the addiction is to a street drug like heroin or to highly addictive, opioid based prescription pain medications.

This scourge is taking a devastating toll on individuals, families, and entire communities. Sadly, Gloucester has not been spared that harsh reality.

What is interesting about Gloucester is the problem is not a new one in “Fishtown”. In fact, the problem in Gloucester dates back almost fifty years to the late 1960’s, when Gloucester’s working class young men who could not avoid the draft began coming home from Vietnam – more than a few of them addicted to heroin.

I recall sitting in my office at NUVA at 100 Main Street in the mid 1990’s with a recovering heroin addict who was enrolling in a program to assist him with obtaining his medications for his HIV-Disease.

It was he who educated me about the role his generation’s service in Vietnam played in the entrenchment of the heroin problem on the “island”.

The son of a hard working, Italian fishing family, this man did not have the means to go to college. He had planned to make his living from the sea, as his father and grandfather had done before him, but the draft and Vietnam intervened in devastating and life changing ways.

Talking with this man, who died not too long thereafter as a result of complications from AIDS, opened my eyes as a social services professional as to just how interwoven seemingly unrelated events and issues really are.

In his own journey of recovery, he had begun to make the connections between his life growing up in Gloucester, where life as the son of a fisherman was good but often hard. Harvesting the sea was, he made clear to me, a tough way to make a living and, as a result, many who do so work hard and play hard.

He came to see the inter-generational pattern of substance abuse within his own family, where the men of the older generations often drank hard after a tough stint fishing at sea. His family, he assured me, was not at all atypical.

When he was drafted and sent to Vietnam, substance use/abuse was a common phenomenon and the availability of cheap heroin became just another way to cope with the high stress of war – much the same way throwing back a few too many beers or shots at Mitch’s or the old Depot was a way for the older generations to deal with the stresses of working the sea.

That opiate based “coping” mechanism, as dangerous and deceitful as it was, followed more than a few of those young soldiers home to Gloucester.

In the 1980’s, a young Gloucester Times reporter named Sean Murphy, working with long time Gloucester educator and community activist Phil Salzman, pulled the curtain back and exposed the extent of the heroin problem in “Fishtown”.

The breaking of that story resulted in the CBS news magazine “Sixty Minutes” coming over the bridge to do a feature on the heroin scourge in “America’s Oldest Sea Port”.

The demographics of the problem were both astounding and frightening.

Gloucester, at that time, had, per capita, more heroin addicts within its city limits than the Big Apple.

The community did not respond positively to either the story or the reality and scope of the problem . In fact, many people were angry at Murphy and Salzman for what, in their eyes, was nothing but an attempt to damage Gloucester’s reputation by bringing the problem to light.

At the same time Gloucester’s heroin problem was making both local and national news, another scourge was emerging in America. I am, of course, referring to the AIDS epidemic.

Initially and erroneously written off as a “gay plague”, it was becoming clear by the time the story about Gloucester’s heroin problem broke that AIDS was caused by a blood borne pathogen impacting a growing number of people far beyond the gay community – including injection drug users.

By the late 1980’s, several gay men in Gloucester who were living with AIDS began working with their friends and the growing number of holistic health practicioners making Cape Ann their home to form what became known as the North Shore AIDS Health Project.

At the same time, Ron Morin, who was the executive director of NUVA,  then the city’s leading out patient substance abuse treatment provider, recognized that HIV/AIDS was likely to become an issue in Gloucester among the city’s local injection drug using population and their sexual partners.

NUVA worked with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health to obtain funding for an HIV counseling and testing program, case management services, and a prevention, education, and outreach program.

Shortly thereafter, the VNA of the North Shore received funding for a home care program for people living with HIV, and a variety of other social service agencies on Cape Ann, including  Child Development Programs, Addison Gilbert Hospital, Action, Inc., representatives from the school department, to name just a few, joined with NUVA and the Health Project to form the Cape Ann AIDS Task Force. The task force provided a forum for providers to better coordinate and plan  responses to the myriad needs emerging from a public health crisis that linked the diseases of addiction and HIV in a truly unsettling way.

Within a few short years, that kind of cooperation and collaboration had Gloucester being held up as an example by the state for other communities in Massachusetts to emulate.

That kind of collaboration and cooperation also played no small part in preventing the dual epidemics of HIV and addiction from having a much bigger impact  on Gloucester than they have.

Today, the dual scourges of HIV and opiate addiction are still very much with us, both in Gloucester and across the country.

As a result, there are those who argue funding for programs like those in Gloucester was and is a waste of tax payers’ money.

To those people I pose this question, “Can you imagine what Gloucester might look like today if those programs and the services they provided had not been funded and never existed, as the dual crises of AIDS and addiction came together in a truly unholy alliance on the ‘island'”.

It is a relevant question for several reasons, not the least of which is the fact Gov. Charlie Baker has proposed cutting funding for programs that serve people struggling with both HIV and addiction while at the same time claiming the opioid addiction epidemic is one of his top priorities.

But beyond that, there is growing evidence  the escalating opioid addiction crisis has reignited the spread of HIV among people trapped in the addiction cycle to a degree not seen in more than a decade.

Nowhere is that more evident than in a rural Indiana county reeling from opioid addiction. Since December, public health officials have diagnosed over 80 people in the county as HIV positive. All of them are either opioid addicts who also share needles or the sex partners of people who do.

That explosion of new HIV diagnoses in so short a time has local, state, and federal public health authorities scrambling to intervene on numerous fronts.

The federal Centers for Disease Control are concerned the strains of virus being spread are likely to be ones that have been exposed to anti-retroviral medications for years, increasing the likelihood those strains within a new host will be resistant to the medications that slowed the progression of the disease in the original host.

Translation, the opioid epidemic could well be  fueling a new epidemic of HIV infections already resistant to medications that have been such godsends to so many for so long.

I share all this because people should know about Gloucester’s leadership role through the years  in the fight against two of the most serious public health crises the US has ever faced and continues to face today.

That leadership role is something to be heralded and respected, not belittled by those who think trying to address these types of issues is a waste of time and money or somehow an affront to Gloucester’s reputation and the reputations of its residents.

Nothing, absolutely nothing, could be further from the truth.

 

Mike Cook, Gloucester and Provincetown

 

 

 

Mike 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.

mike_cook

Poem by HB (Hilary Frye)

lupine

Lupine Lane

A demure and tranquil lea

Adorned the proffered arm of Sea

A lustful eye

Befell this scene.

A rape of landscape

So obscene

It Chocks

This vista up

With

Blobville;

Blob envisioned,

Blob designed,

Blobs will live there

With their kind,

There breeding clones

To feed us.

(Me ‘n Alfreda will never eat

The market basket Genus!)

HB April, 2015

Conversations- by Laurel Tarantino

482668_503652546337838_18847582_n                                                                                                  Tilted House and Speedboat, John Bonner

A new entry in Loving and Leaving the Fort

April 25, 2015

My husband leaves early for the airport every day now. (Well, not the airport, but “Ocean Air.” To me, it sounds like he’s out at Logan.)   Anyway, my point is that he leaves early, 4:30 am, so he’s up by 4:00.  When he first got relocated to this position I thought I’d be fine with it, since my favorite part of the day is when it starts waking up.   I’d get up, pack his lunch and see him off for the day.  Boy was I wrong.  It seems there’s a big difference between waking on your own at 4:00 to watch the day unfold and waking to an alarm clock with half an hour to pack a “Jethro Bodine” size lunch box with healthy choices for a long day.

I’m not doing that now.  I learned quickly that I would be junk for the rest of the day, so now I’m getting his lunch ready the night before and I’m finding that I’m still junk.  There’s a lot to be said about waking with your loved one, sharing idle talk over coffee and seeing them off with a hug and a “Have a nice day.”

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With our new routine, Jimmy will sometimes lean over and quietly kiss my cheek or forehead before he leaves as not to disturb my sleep.  It’s just the right gesture for me to smile and reposition myself to luxuriate under the warm blankets.  The next thing I know, two hours have passed and I wake alone, feeling empty.  I didn’t get to tell him to have a wonderful day.  I didn’t get my hug.  Something small, but so important is now missing from my every day.  It’s only been a couple of months of this different routine and I need to find that niche that is going to solve my morning lonesomeness.

There’s a loneliness I’ve carried with me out of the Fort too.  How do I explain?  How can one describe an empty emotion?  I find it amazing that something so empty can weigh so much.

 

The house I lived in down the Fort felt like a meetinghouse to me, or more so, a meeting yard. Perhaps because of its location sitting where it does out on that peninsula of a sort.  It’s impossible not to pass by it when traveling around its one- way street.  I spent a lot of time in the yard, be it for the dog’s sake, to mow the lawn, or just to play in the garden while the songbirds chattered away.  Always someone was bound to go by, on foot, bicycle, in a car or on a skateboard, and they’d stop for conversations over the fence.  Oftentimes it was simply small talk, “Beautiful day we’re having…   saw a great movie last night…   had some delicious beets from the garden for dinner…  ”  Sometimes we’d solve the world’s problems or each other’s.  More often than not, these conversations over the fence would lead to the gate opening and pulling up a chair at the table, then someone else would happen by and join us.  Before I knew it, the clothes I’d been washing wouldn’t get tended to for hours.  One of the drawbacks of time spent with friends, chores wouldn’t get done; but what’s more important?  I’ll choose time with a friend any day.  There will always be chores.

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In the mornings I was pretty much guaranteed a visit from some of my four legged friends, Snuggles,  Ceasar, Oso.   Ettore would mosey by with Rona, Lucky Dog with Janine, Bandit would come up from Beach Court, but he was more of an afternoon visitor, could have timed a clock by him and, of course, I can’t forget Lulu with her entire self wagging with joy.  Always these visits ended with “Have a great day, see you later,” and most times I would see them later.

 

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If the weather was nice late afternoons as folks were coming home from work, we’d end up back at the table til the sun went down, laughing, appreciating, reminiscing.  More often than not, people who had grown up down the Fort and since moved away would be driving by to relive their “Fort Days,” and they’d join us too.  New friendships would be formed, old ones reunited.  How the stories would flow, some in broken English, some broken by giggles because the story couldn’t be told without laughing, but always with a sense of a passion for a special time and place.  A small tight community, within a larger one.   Dinner would be late, but that was okay, because my husband would most likely be out rowing around the harbor anyway.  He’d pass by the house, see folks in the yard and pull the dory up onto Pavillion Beach, so he could walk up the house to say Hello, and then off again to enjoy his routine of exercise in the great outdoors.  He always had conversations of his own on the harbor, maybe with Gus and his crew that would just be tying up from days out at sea, or other folk who happened to be out on the water or on the dock when he came into Harbor Cove.

 

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Meanwhile, back at 26 Fort Square, it was just easy living with a casual pace about life.  Friends would slowly adjourn the table with “Goodnight, see you tomorrow…  Love you, that was fun… “  and the day would end with a fullness to it.  Some of my favorite talks were with people who are no longer with us.  Paul would come to the fence at the side yard and we’d talk flowers and recipes;  Auntie Philly who I shared a backyard fence with, always had kind words. How I loved to see her.   Her aprons hanging on the clothesline must have heard a thousand stories.  And there was Chicky who would put her head out her second story window to ask across the street how my baby was doing.  My baby is no longer a baby, the table has been sold,  and these days are now gone, but not from my memory.  I like to think that those who are still down the Fort feel the same void that I do, not because I want them to feel any sort of emptiness, but so they know how very much they are loved and missed.

 

To the City’s Youth

An Open letter
To the Youth of the City: A Call to Action

Ernest Morin

 

I took this photograph a few years ago now and it has haunted me since, for it poses a real question about what is actually going on here and seems far more fitting of a Third World port.

Gloucester will be 400 years old, in just nine more years 2023…

What will Gloucester be about in nine more years? Do you wonder as well?

What will you want to celebrate about your city at her 400th birthday ?

I was 13 years old during the city’s 350th celebration and it was a very different city.

No one asked me back then what I wanted the city to be 50 years hence.  If they had, I’m not sure that I would have of thought it would be so different at all at 13, or that being a wharf rat with your Gramps, wouldn’t exist as a common situation.

But the city of my youth is now gone and here we are at a crossroads.  There is no point in lamenting. The question is where do we go from here and how can we best arrive there?

What makes this place special?  How do we hold onto that while also moving forward?

What are the top five or so attributes that make Gloucester unique and a place you want to live in?  Can you hold onto them through the changes you see coming?

What do you see that needs to change to make a life here for your generation to be able to stay here and thrive?

Would you take a moment and consider what you would want as 20- to 30-year-olds living in your city today for work, living places, cultural activity, places to play, and access to shoreline and Dogtown?  How do you define a quality life?  What would it look like and how would it feel?

Because I truly wonder about the type of future we’re building for this child in the photograph, or for the children your generation will raise here.

If you don’t envision it, you won’t stand a chance of making it happen.

If you don’t act on your vision you will lose your city as you know it.

Much like my generation now has.  Despite strong late attempts to forestall the Government’s regulatory schemes, we have suffered the loss of industry along with the proud independent way of life that was prevalent for over 380 years.  How much longer are we to be the “Fighting Fisherman” of Gloucester?

This place has always stood for something.  Since its very inception it’s had strong values for both hard work and hard living and been a vibrant city with entrepreneurial spirit and a lot of creative energies.

Maintaining a city requires dedication and effort and you have to start now as a generation, you can’t leave it to others. You have to take care of your home, and the city is also your home. Few of my generation did so and we are paying the price now.

Pick up the torch, take control of your future, get involved, define your vision

and then commit to acting on it.  Work to see that your city government is transparent and accountable to you.

But don’t let the lack of vision within the city allow it to be less than it could be or be developed into a city you don’t want to live in or don’t see yourselves fitting into.

Many cities across the nation are facing the same challenges. How we respond to it defines character.

Gloucester as a place has never lacked character.

So what do you want your Gloucester to be?

How can you build a future to be proud about in 2023 in 2073?

You have to figure it out, if you are to stay here so that the city can function as the living organism cities are. The older generations will certainly help you along the way, as that is the Gloucester way.

So I ask you to contribute to this blog.  Write about how you feel.  Join the dialog and start working toward building a consensus on how you can affect the changes you want most and make Gloucester endure as a city that you can build a richer quality life in—one you can feel good about leaving to future generations.

Gloucester should endure as Gloucester

It’s your home.  Only you can take care of her and see to that.

 

 


Ernest Morin Is a native of the City and a socially concerned documentary photographer.

Note to Self by Jeff Rowe

FHLaneA (2)

Fitz Henry Lane house. (Bing McGilvray photo)

 

The scorched sky is stretched out before me. It seems endless by nature—like it didn’t have a choice. Like a scar, or a birthmark. It is what it is. I can hear the gulls squawking in every direction. Bellowing out a life of their own among the clouds, stone, and wood. The Fitz Hugh Lane House is as quiet as ever. Free-standing in stoicism, against the dancing purple and red light given by the perishing sun. Below where I sit; some old docks, a coast guard station, green grass, and earth. I could easily sit on another bench, on the opposite side of the property and look at the city, but there’s something grotesque about all that concrete and commerce, especially when you could see what I’m looking at now.

 

In my backpack, lying beside me, are the things that I need; a CD walkman, a handful of CD’s, a six pack of beer, and a few books. I’m here at the Fitz because this is where my group of friends often gather at the end of a raging night. But tonight I’m flying solo. Taking some time to be alone and think a bit. It doesn’t hurt that I love the view. The fluttering fragrance of earth and salt complimenting the cadence of the gulls. Here, I am free to think about whatever it is that comes to mind. I’m also free to not think. The scenery can do that for you, if you let it.

 

I’m seventeen years old. I just moved into my first apartment, on Addison Street, just off Washington Street. I suppose I have the ability to go home and enjoy a book and this six pack without consequence, but damn it, I like it here. My job at the Cape Ann Food Co-op, where I assist in the produce department, affords me the privilege of having evenings to myself. I wake up early, take the produce out of the walk in, and arrange it in the most aesthetically pleasing way that my seventeen year old mind will allow. Truth be told, I’m not really the artist type. I’m just thankful to have work. The produce manager, Maggie, lets me run wild with the display, as long as we keep NPR or Frank Zappa on the radio. We always have a steady stream of conversation in which the radio just provides a soundtrack. Maggie has short, white hair. We make for an unlikely friendship. Me with my punk rock hair, lefty politics, and rootless nature. Her with her LL Bean attire, soft liberal views, and obsession with Frank Zappa. Maggie and I have spent many a  morning chattering on as if in contempt of silence. And as much as I can’t stand Frank Zappa, I really like Maggie.

 

The Co-op isn’t my first job, but it’s the only job that I have had that I actually like. I’m also vegetarian, which means that I work at the only spot in Gloucester where you can get good food if you have any type of diet preference that goes beyond meat and fish. Believe it or not, I don’t eat fish. I actually prefer tofu and tempeh. The few times that I’ve tried eating fish have left me feeling ill. Here I am, born in the very heart of where the best seafood on earth can be found, and I don’t partake. I’ve been in extensive conversations/arguments exhausting this subject. But at the end of the day, I am what I am—a contradiction of sorts.

 

My mother was disappointed that I wanted to move out on my own at such a young age. It was the same disappointment that she felt when I quit baseball to play in bands, or when I quit high school to be anywhere but there. I certainly can’t blame her. She’s the most caring person I’ve ever met. But I’m the restless sort. It’s in my blood. It is, after all, why I’m sitting at the Fitz—slow sipping beers by myself and writing this to a potential future version of myself. It’s a funny place to choose to drink beer when you’re under age. If you jump back to that opposite view that I had previously mentioned, you’re literally looking at the police station. I never much cared for police, it’s true. But I would have no qualms with getting arrested for this view. After all, it would seem as if I’m the only one with scenic aspirations tonight.

 

The first time we stumbled upon the Fitz Hugh Lane House, we were literally stumbling. We wanted to sleep outside under the stars. My group of friends are a baffling bunch. We like to play loud punk rock music, drink in the woods, look at the stars, read books, raise a moderate amount of hell, and of course—play more loud punk rock music. No harm no foul. We’re the conscious sort. Sure, we’ll bring our beer to a beautiful hangout spot, but we take those cans and bottles home. Never sullying the pulchritude of our surroundings. I like that about us.

 

Could you imagine taking a midnight stroll only to happen upon a bunch of teenagers with patches and spikes on their clothing, half drunk, lying on their backs to get a proper view of the stars? I’m literally laughing out loud at the premise. I hope when I’m older I get an experience exactly like that. It would certainly make me think of a past life. One in which I felt like a part of a large, very dysfunctional family. Fingers crossed for old Jeff to get a glimpse of his past, long after his soul has been devoured by the ravenous, un-quenched thirst of the world around it. Deep thoughts.

 

That brings me to what I’m pondering tonight, sitting alone at The Fitz Hugh Lane House: Where will I be when I’m thirty-five years old? Will I be at all? My friend, Melissa, died in a car accident a few months ago. She was the first friend that I have ever known that died. It kind of shattered the whole immortality angle that we’ve all been working for too long. Deep down we all knew that we were very mortal, but it takes someone you know to actually die before it really sets in. She was beautiful and full of life one day, and then, just like that—she was gone. It was like she vanished. It got me thinking about how far our bodies will take us? I’m seventeen and I’m having a hard time imagining being twenty-one, let alone thirty-five. And from what I’ve seen, getting old is no stroll on the boulevard. People lose their youth and it lingers around them like… well, like death.

 

So I’ve been compiling a list of things that I’d like to remind myself of. You know, my old self. Just in case a few things get lost or misplaced along the way. Old Jeff probably has grey hair and kids, or better yet, one of those jobs that makes you sit in a cubicle all day. I wonder just how boring old Jeff is. Does old Jeff believe in god? Does old Jeff still despise authority with the fury of a thousand burning suns? Does the old bastard have a wife? Does he think the glass is half full? All of these are too scary to contemplate.

 

I should be getting back to Addison Street. I have work in the morning and I know that my roommate is going to want to stay up, drink more beer, and talk about his most current failed attempt at a relationship with the opposite sex. Or maybe the apartment is packed with friends. We do call our apartment, “The den of iniquity”. Either way, It’s getting late and I’ve got a list to write.

 

Dear Old Jeff,

     By now, assuming you’re still around, you’ve probably figured out that you can’t spend all your nights at the Fitz drinking beer and reading books. Pretty unfortunate, huh? I wanted to write to you because I’m worried that there are some things that you may lose along the way. Yes, even at seventeen you were worried. The following is a list of reminders that I hope will serve as a map of sorts. Something to help you find what you may have lost.

 

   1.) You love the view from the Fitz, not only because it’s pleasant to look at, but because it represents the gentle side of the city you love. The calm water slapping against the rocks. The late nights spent making the memories of your youth. The way the sun woke you up with its gentle warmth in the mornings that followed the nights you decided to sleep there. If you haven’t been there in a while, you should go back.

 

2.) Remember that time you were arrested? Well, I’m not sure what the world has done to you, but you were in the right. Really buddy, you were.

 

3.) You once had a fire inside of you. One that no one could put out. It burned with anger, fear, excitement, empathy, kindness, and friendship (If that fire has since gone out… you should be able to find most of those ingredients locally, I would think).

 

4.) Remember when you almost fell off the big rock at Stage Fort Park? It was Chipper that saved you from the fall. It would have meant certain death. If you’ve lost touch with Chip, you should find him.

 

5.) When you were seventeen, you always carried a backpack full of things that you thought you would need. This is that backpack.

 

6.) If you ever get a chance to play music for a lot of people, be thankful. While working at the Co-Op I learned about a thing called shelf life. I’m pretty sure that even though this system was devised for food, it applies to everything.

 

7.) You really loved punk rock music. It was way more than the raw angst of the sound. When you felt like you had nowhere to go—it gave you shelter. So please, for the love of whatever bullshit you might have been led to believe, do not abandon it.

 

8.) Melissa was the first friend of yours that died. It hurt. I hope you haven’t lost any more friends. But if you have, don’t forget about her. It changed things.

 

9.) Remember that family is not about blood. It’s about belonging.

 

10.) If for some reason you’re still living in Gloucester, Leave! There is a whole world out there. Plus, I have a funny feeling that you won’t forget this place—no matter where you wind up. If you happen to be estranged from the beauty of Gloucester, remember that you once sat on a bench at the Fitz Hugh Lane House, where you found the view to be so comforting, that you found clarity.

 

Sincerely,

Young Jeff

 

Jeff Rowe (2)
 Jeff Rowe lives on Winter Hill, in Somerville. He grew up in 
Gloucester and has since traveled the world playing music and 
collecting memories. 
He is a brewer by trade and is now in the process of writing a memoir. 

 

 

Grounded in Ground Fish- poetry by Ann Molloy

ann molloy our lady                Our Lady of Good Voyage. Sculpted in 1915 by Angelo Lualdi. (Cape Ann Museum)


Gloucester, Mass. Grounded in Ground Fish.

 

By Ann Molloy

Gloucester, Mass. Grounded in Ground Fish

Was there ever a cooler place in all of the world?

A perfect natural harbor.

A home to all who come from sea.

Welcoming them with arms wide open, like a loving Grandmother to her kin. Embracing them, and comforting them.

Jutting out to the richest fishing grounds in the world.

Passionate like no other place.

We work hard and we play hard, and we have pride because we’ve earned it.

Muscles built on hauling fish. Feeding the world with what is real, valuable, sustaining, nourishing, protein, energy, life-force…

Feeling content, alive, and a little special.

Definitely different.

Humble to ‘all that is’.

Appreciative, thankful, abundance, contentment, happiness, love, glowing, special for sure.

Unique, unexplainable power, energy all around.

Magnetic, self-sustaining…

Air, wind, water, light and Fish.

Grounded in Ground Fish.

ann molloy hatchman                                     Hatchman, 1995. Paul Ciaramitaro (Cape Ann Museum)

Let us fish,

Let us be,

There’s plenty of Fish,

Still in the Sea.

You can’t beat,

Our small boat fleet,

With a factory ship,

Taking all in one trip.

All for corporate greed,

The machine it must feed,

What will be left in its wake?

It won’t taste good, if it’s fake.

Go ahead drill and mine,

Grow Fish on land, it’ll be fine,

A payoff here, a promise there,

Are there enough who truly care?

Let’s stand up and bring us back!

Band together and do not crack.

It’s in our blood, and

It’s in our hands.

This is Gloucester, Mass.

Try as you may,

Nobody can take what we got away.

 

ann photo (2)

Ann Molloy was born and raised in Gloucester. After several years of traveling around the country and world, she settled back here and has been helping run her family business, located down the Fort and on Kondelin Road. For over 20 years, Ann has been in charge of Marketing and Sales for the Neptune’s Harvest division of Ocean Crest Seafoods, which came about as a way to fully utilize 100% of the fish, by turning the gurry (everything that’s left after you fillet a fish) into an organic fertilizer. She has a wide knowledge of organic fertilizers, and the fishing industry. She also loves to paint, write, and see live music.

Ten Ideas for Gloucester’s Future

stephenson unnamed

Gloucester Harbor by Bob Stephenson (b. 1936 )

Gloucester:  Some thoughts as we look to the future

Peter Anastas

April 20, 2015

 

  1. It is essential that we revisit, revise and update the city’s Master Plan, now fourteen years out of date, encouraging the widest possible citizen involvement.  We must also identify neighborhoods, historic properties, ancient streets and by-ways, “magical places” that resonate in local memory and should be preserved, as essential facets of the legendary character of the city, which not only draws visitors but enhances the quality of life for local citizens. (The planning process must also take into account the importance of preserving Gloucester’s Civic Center, including the retention of administrative offices and meeting spaces at City Hall, as central to the life of the community, along with a vital Downtown, where residents and visitors can meet, shop, walk, talk, eat and enjoy an intimate “village square” atmosphere.)  This process must be conducted in public and out in the open, not by committee or behind closed doors.
  2. We must complete restoration of Stacy Boulevard, the city’s “crown jewel, both the seawall and the boulevard itself; also Stage Fort Park.  The city should be especially careful about renting our public park out for events that cause environmental and aesthetic damage, with concomitant costs to taxpayers.
  3. We should endeavor to develop the I-4, C-2 parcel in a careful and patient way that is consistent with the Harbor Plan and that will create economic return and contribute to the city’s marine-industrial-research needs, (marine-industrial research with a focus on sustainability and organic and non-polluting outcomes,) while also creating well-paying jobs with benefits, not seasonal work.
  4. Since the city appears to have given up on the renovation of Fuller School for academic use, we should work to bring the property back online for economic development.  There should be maximum economic return for the city from the sale and adaptive re-use of the building and use of adjoining property.   Of utmost necessity is the development of an assisted living facility, either at the Fuller site or at Gloucester Crossing.
  5. Continued efforts to preserve Dogtown Common as conservation land and a resource for passive recreation are also essential.  Dogtown is a natural asset that few communities possess, a wilderness in the heart of Cape Ann.  As civilization become more complex and stressful, places like Dogtown., where residents and visitors can walk, hike, ski in winter, pick berries, study nature and hunt in season, will be more necessary.   The city administration and council must work to reinvigorate the mayor’s Dogtown Advisory Committee to oversee the Dogtown Management Plan and also work with the Gloucester Lyceum sponsored group that has been organized to raise consciousness about the value of preserving Dogtown, and is conducting important educational programs to that end.  City ordinances that prohibit off-road vehicles of all kinds from Dogtown must be enforced.
  6. It is essential to revise the city’s arts policy requiring more citizen input into decisions that affect public art and the enhancement of artistic life in Gloucester.  A must is the creation of affordable housing or live-work space for artists, if we are to continue to have a vital artistic community. 
  7. Art should not be considered merely as another draw for tourists.  We must separate art and tourism by embracing the production of art as an indigenous economic and aesthetic activity grounded in the life of the city, its history, its industries, and its natural beauty.  Cultural districts tend to privilege one section of the community over another and should be re-thought if not abolished.  What should immediately be abolished is the inane renaming of Gloucester’s downtown as “Harbortown.”  Gloucester is a real place, not a Disney fantasy.
  8. Instead, we should work to enhance a human-scale, high quality tourism, inviting visitors to come and stay for longer periods of time (not the ephemeral day-trip tourism of bus trips and cruise ships).  More importantly, we must understand that a community exists primarily for those who live in it, not for those who might visit or wish to exploit its resources.   Creating the highest quality of life for residents, including excellent public education, affordable housing, real jobs with benefits not seasonal employment, retail and professional resources and opportunities, a clean, healthy environment, and a sense of belonging and well-being, of inclusion, will ultimately foster the kind of community that others will want to visit or even to live in.
  9. It will be essential to support non-profit cultural organizations like the Cape Ann Museum, the Rocky Neck Cultural Center, Gloucester Maritime and the Gloucester Writers Center.  These organizations and their activities represent an important part of the social, economic and cultural fabric of the city, drawing many people to the community year-round, people who eat in local restaurants and patronize local businesses.
  10.  Finally, but most important of all, the working waterfront must remain as the centerpiece of the city’s marine-industrial, economic, social and cultural life.  The city must support all efforts to support and revitalize the fishing and ancillary industries, while restoring necessary infrastructure.   To abandon the working waterfront to non-marine uses would essentially undermine the life-blood of the city and foreclose our future.

New Poem by Melissa de Haan Cummings!

 

Russell1946.jpg.450x600_q85

The Wonson Twins. c.1846. ~ Moses B. Russell

FOUR HOURS

What to do with four hours
in chilly weather 
Follow Chuang Tzu
read the night before
"Let your mind wander
in simplicity..."*

First Dylan wants 
shootouts names himself
several players from
various teams
achieves tremendous
excitement with his scores
Did you see that?
Did you see that move?
Yar it was me you scored on

Dylan's turn with the iPad
games finds Riley restless
Want to wash the kitchen floor?
You who love pushing 
the Wet Jet button  Yah!
Riley sprays half a dozen spots
says he will scrub later
Yah!  Out of liquid 
Fetch another jet  from upstairs 
Out of energy
Leave them in Damon's
Computer Room

Riley asks for eggs wants more
eats less has an urge
for Butterfinger
so the boys race next door
with an unneeded key
limited to one dollar each
which Dylan gives Riley
who claims Eli stole
forty dollars from his bank

O K take dogs along
insist on walking the whole
block up Tucker
O you eat the chocolate first?
Yah   It's really good this way
I got a Kit Kat Bar!
Guess what my favorite
candy is!  Kit Kat   Yah
Riley asks for batting practice
O K thinking it will be short
lasted two hours in yesterday's 
warm sweatshirt weather 
Dylan thanked me I loved 
pitching buckets of tennis balls
ducking as the hits fired
from aluminum bats
which wintered in 
the outdoor toy box
under a yard of snow
catching  and batting 
gloves inside
on October steps

Riley says he doesn't really
want to do that is bored
Is Sata bored?  Yup
What can we do?
Learn poker?  Yahtzee
is a preliminary 
Go ask D to print poker directions 
Sata to the attic looks for Yahtzee
Dylan goes to call Mum
says she will be home 
in five minutes
Find Yahtzee which is 
a good challenge 

Directions for poker
will take a dozen pages!
No No   Just ask 
for beginning poker
Two pages
You only left me one bottle 
The other one has fluid
needs batteries   
O

Discover that Riley
who has memorized
some multiplication and division
of the fancy Core Mathematics
tutored by Grandfather Ph.D
for the two day examinations
coming this week
cannot add a column of numbers
What about addition?
What use is the elaborate math
for the practical tower
of numbers which will tell
who wins the game?

Riley calls Mum
says she will be home
in half an hour
Riley takes the iPad
Dylan plays Yahtzee
Sata wins everything
not knowing that the next
morning Riley will
score two Yahtzees
earn one hundred
and fifty points!

Mumma does come
In time for a ninety minute
walk to the end of
Bianchini Road
so sweet with south
easterly stung cheeks
and a tired chihuahua 


*Chuang Tzu, Basic Writings, Burton Watson, trans., Columbia University Press,
N Y, 1966, p.91


Melissa de Haan Cummings
8 April 2015
melissa2bcummingsMelissa 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.”

Easter, a poem by Eric Schoonover

Easter

A motorcycle blats down Prospect,

downshifts at Destino’s curve then to

roar off beneath the Virgin’s startled eyes,

the schooner still cradled in her arms

 

atop Our Lady of Good Voyage.

A neighbor’s pool holds koi floating on

their sides amidst great chunks of ice

residue of an unholy winter. Ichthus.

 

The icons confuse: no baby but a ship,

fish dead but no loaves. What I’d really

like to know, Where is that baby? Perhaps

the Harley hogger on the way to Mom’s

and ham with yams will tell.

erik schoonover

Eric Schoonover is a writer, boatbuilder and watercolorist living in Gloucester. He is the author of the award-wining The Gloucester Suite and Other Poems and a novel, Flowers of the Sea.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hard Luck Danny

 

Jeff Rowe's father Vietnam (2)

Dan Rowe, in Vietnam

 

By Jeff Rowe

The drive to the hospital was rainy and anxiety laden. My wife, Alissa, was driving us up Route 128 at a hurried pace. It was grey, raining, and my father was lying in a bed at Addison Gilbert Hospital—dying. Dying in the same hospital that I’d been dragged to for all my ills and injuries. A very familiar place that brought upon me nothing but dread. It was fitting, really.

 

My  father and I had been estranged for the last three or four years leading up to this day. We used to be like good friends. Always joking and carrying on as if the world around us held little sway. Be it an afternoon beer, an old war movie, or arguing over politics—we were friends. But something fractured along the way. Something that neither of us could fix, or at least that’s what I tell myself. The delicate relationship between father and son walks on a thin wire, on a blustery day, with greying skies that only point to the storm ahead.

 

We were driving from Boston to Gloucester, which is usually a forty-five minute drive down the line. About thirty minutes into that drive, my sister called to say that my father had just passed away. I didn’t cry. I felt anger. Anger that his death would serve as a last act of defiance to me, that he wouldn’t let me sit next to him and say that I’m sorry for the time that we had lost, whether I truly felt that way or not. For in the moment of his death, a cliché was born. A story as old as time itself had once again been played out on the grand stage of life. The bitter artistry of bloodlines and the dissent therein. But somewhere in my own turbulent tidal wave of thoughts there was a crying sister, a concerned wife, and a lost boy who looked like a man, a man that had the same tattoo as the man that was lying in a bed at Addison Gilbert Hospital.

 

My first memories of my father are of him crawling on the floor. Sometimes, but rarely, he would have a knife in his mouth. If you’ve not yet seen the sincere fragility of life, I suggest you live with someone who has PTSD. Back then, that’s not what we called it. We called it depression, anxiety, night terrors etc… Honestly, you can call it whatever you want. But what it really is, at its very core, is the reality of someone who is coming undone. When someone ordinary is forced to do extraordinary things, extraordinary things become ordinary. And somewhere in between, like a boat steadily taking on water, all is lost. It’s a real life human being replicating the sound of a limb cracking off a tree in a violent storm. Just before it fully snaps off, you can hear the splitting. And when it finally does split, the only thing left is the white noise of silence and what was left in its wake.

 

I always wanted to take his place during those fitful nights of waking up screaming. I would wonder if I could take it. I would wonder how long he was going to be able to take it. At some point, he had a valve replaced in his heart and it would make a ticking sound, not unlike that of a watch. Standing in the doorway of his room, I would listen for the tick, waiting to hear the metronome that signified his beating heart. I’m not sure what that says about me, but I would stand there and listen for that tick. In fact, I still have dreams in which the ticking sound plays a walk on roll.

 

Daniel James Rowe, Sr. was once in the 101st Airborne. He served three tours in Vietnam and was so intent on enlisting that he lied about his age, joining up at the youthful age of seventeen. Danny was a scrapper who by all accounts needed a sense of order. People around him thought that going into the service would be a good thing for him. He would stay out of trouble, out of the fights that he constantly found himself in. My mom told me that when my father was about to get on the plane to go to war, his father gave no hug or warm words, he just said, “Do not embarrass us”, coldly. My mother obviously never forgot that. And thinking back to my relationship with my father, it makes sense that he could be one of the funniest people you’ll ever meet in one moment, and cold and callous in the next. Yeah, that was our relationship.

 

My father never talked much about his time in Vietnam. Sometimes, when he would talk in his sleep, I would listen to him reliving his days of war. He would often say that he was sorry, to whom I do not know, but sometimes he would yell out for us to get down, at the top of his lungs. Sleep was a volatile event in the Rowe household. I remember crying for him, then. I would never know what it was like to experience what he went through, but I felt his pain—his agony. I would sometimes wake up to the sound of him falling. I would rush down the stairs to see if he was ok, careful to keep my distance because if he was still at war… well, he was dangerous. It was a delicate relationship that we were forging. There would be times of laughter and memories made, but always deep down there was a weariness—a strain. A feeling of knowing that there is a limit, but wanting to see how far we can get before reaching it. Is that normal?

 

I guess my father never really left Vietnam. He had so many memories, good and bad, wrapped up in that war. I would have loved to meet my father before the war; or if we could alter history, I would have loved to know my father who never went to war. It’s hard to imagine because everything in his life, his politics, his belief, his pride, all centered around the war. I wonder what he would have become. I wonder if he and I would have become estranged at all. It makes little to no sense for my mind to go there, but it does.

 

When I was young, my father would teach me how to walk with my eyes forward, never looking down, balanced on the curb. We would do this for hours. He would also teach me how to restrain someone, how to use pressure points, and how to blend in should a dangerous situation arise. I wanted to be like him. The truth is, we actually shared very few similarities; an intense and off putting sense of sarcasm, a temper, and an ease for which we could become cold. That was really what we shared. I actually liked knowing that we shared that. I would, after all, take what I could get.

 

 

dead trees hopper

Dead Trees, Gloucester, 1923. Edward Hopper (1882-1967)

 

When we arrived at the hospital, I saw his bed surrounded by my weeping siblings, all of whom had even rockier relationships with our father than I. And there he was; he looked so frail and haggard. I remember thinking that maybe beyond the fear of dying, of knowing that your life is about to be over, that maybe there was also a sense of relief. I truly hope there was. His eyes were filled brightly with blood, so much so that I could barely make out the vibrant blue that his eyes usually project. He looked bloated and when I touched his arm for the last time, touched the tattoo that we both share, it was cold to the touch. A definitive cold. I think about that moment on a daily basis. That was when I began to weep, not just because my father was dead, but also for the absence of life in a body, which is so profound that to not be shaken by it—is to feel nothing at all.

 

The doctors told us that he bled out, hence the reason for the blood in his eyes. He had overdosed on a combination of blood thinners and other medications. My whole life he had always taken so many medications. So much so, that it was nearly impossible to keep track of what does what. Lying there, his body looked like one big scar. He had many surgeries in his time, including open heart surgery, which left one raised scar running crudely from his chest to his stomach, which may have been when he was given the tick. Life was not easy for hard luck Danny, and I guess death wasn’t much different. I could wish all day for things to a have turned out differently, but in the end, all we have is the reality that is in front of us. And in that moment, my reality was telling me that my father had bled out and his life had come to an end.

 

While we were at the hospital, I felt a deep sense of resentment toward my siblings. There were five of us: Kristen was the oldest, Daniel James, Jr. came after her, followed by my half-sisters, Ruthie and Rian. I am, of course, the baby of the brood. My resentment stemmed from the years of hearing from them just how much of an asshole my father was. They would go years without talking to him, and whenever they would rekindle their respective relationships, it always ended in an epic fight. It’s funny, now that my father has been gone for some years, I’m realizing that what I just described is exactly how my relationship ended with my father.

 

We stood around his bed and made small talk. I had never seen my brother cry before. It looked awkward, like someone trying on a shirt that’s too tight. Also, I couldn’t recall ever seeing all my sisters in one room. Our family always had a distance about it. It made sense. But I think what was most striking to me in that moment was the fact that we were a family of strangers. That was the truth of it. We were a family of strangers, who were gathered around their dead father, who was also a stranger.

 

     We decided to head back to our father’s apartment as a group to discuss arrangements for a funeral. When we arrived at his place it looked so familiar. I had been visiting there for years, but it had been long enough since my last visit that it was hard for me to recollect the layout. I remembered that he had his walls full of pictures. That was another thing I found odd; he had surrounded himself with pictures of his life’s failed relationships. Was it a reminder? A comfort? I don’t have the answer, but I like to think the walls represented the way he wanted things to be. The smiles and the good memories that were caught in a fleeting moment—how if you could just capture the memory of a certain photograph and clutch it to your heart, you would have captured happiness. That’s what I like to think. Our pictures were a reminder of something that he couldn’t hold onto, but he would have if he had the strength to hold us in a moment, forever.

 

Gloucester carries a weight with it. Not all get to experience it, but most do. We weren’t at my father’s apartment for more than ten minutes before one of my siblings had the idea to rummage around for his pain medication. I’m not sure who had the initial idea to do this, but it seemed that they wanted to ease the pain of his death with the very pills that took his life. Honestly, I couldn’t blame them,  but the irony was not lost on me. Don’t get me wrong, I have my vices and to call me an angel would put you in the realm of science fiction, but this moment ate away at the pit of my stomach. It’s the very reason that I left Gloucester at such a young age. This city would always haunt me with its beauty, but once you peel back the layers, down to the seedy underbelly, she ain’t so pretty.

 

My city has two very distinct faces. One face shows a warming smile that gives the very salt that lingers in the air, like a gift. There is no air like it. This face is the view of the ocean from the Boulevard, Stage Fort Park standing toothed and strong to its right. This face is the ocean, sparkling like millions of pieces of shattered glass, on a spring afternoon. But there is another face. And this face tells a very different tale. One of inherent class division, drugs, and rampant alcohol abuse. A tale of frustration brought about by stagnation. This face has a view that rarely changes for those who see it.

 

I’ve lived with the memory of both faces. I guess in a lot of ways, Gloucester and my father are similar. They both have two distinctly different sides. And in my own way, I loved them both very much. Gloucester is much like the ocean that surrounds it. A thing of staggering beauty, but very dangerous at the same time. I’ve never seen anything like Gloucester, not in all my seemingly endless travels. But then again, I’ve never crossed paths with someone like my father. They have both proved themselves to be two very unique, double-sided, islands.

 

I don’t remember driving home from Gloucester that night. I remember drinking a beer, in the comfort of my apartment. I remember thinking that even though it seemed like we hardly knew each other—I felt his absence. The loss of a parent gave me a different feeling than that of the loss of a friend. It has something to do with shelter, something to do with the expectations of our individual roles as father and son. I fell asleep that night thinking about his sense of humor and his wild streak that brought out a laugh of unbridled freedom. The kind of laugh that you could liken to a dog with its head out the window of a passing car. For that night, I fell asleep with no anger in my heart. I thought of his blue eyes, not clouded by blood. I thought of the way that he would call me “my guy,” as opposed to using my actual name. I thought of the tattoo that we shared and the blood that runs through us all. And somewhere, hidden deep in my heart and imagination, I heard a tick.

 

Jeff Rowe (2)
 Jeff Rowe lives on Winter Hill, in Somerville. He grew up in 
Gloucester and has since traveled the world playing music and 
collecting memories. 
He is a brewer by trade and is now in the process of writing a 
collection of short stories/memoirs of his childhood in Gloucester.