The Fort Hotel is Here

glo panorama

Today we offer a letter written by Fort business owner Ann Molloy to the editor of the Gloucester Daily Times, from November 4, 2011. The perspective of time, and events which have transpired since then concerning the re-zoning of the Fort to accommodate the construction of a luxury hotel there, weights this letter with a heartbreaking realism.

Don’t Throw Gloucester “Off-Balance”

  What makes Gloucester so cool? Why do you love it here? How does it make you feel? What makes it so great?   I like that it’s real. It’s authentic. I like that it was built with hard workers, tough working class men and women. We have something special here, something different. Saltwater runs through our veins.   Tourists come here and recognize we’re different. There’s magic here. We’re as tough as our granite and as powerful as our ocean waves. Our hands are calloused and our clothes worn. We’re the finest kind…   Now I ask-  what are we becoming? Do we really want to sell out? Should people with big money from out of town be able to change our look, our feel, our very existence? They want to pretty us up,  put in a Harbor Walk for the tourists, with kiosks that say, ‘This is where the fishermen “used to” tie up, and “used to” unload their boats.” Words uttered from a Harbor Walk representative at City Hall last summer. Was it a Freudian slip?

crime scene

What is the spirit of Gloucester? Is it a grand hotel and marina down the Fort? Is that really what we want? People from out of town move here because they feel the power here and fall in love with Gloucester. What kills me is the people who move here and then try to change it.   As I think about the days ahead, it aggravates me to know I must take time away from my family and job (a marine industrial job down the Fort) to fight again, for the third time, to save the Fort from rezoning, therefore allowing a hotel. And as the mayor(Carolyn Kirk)  was quoted in the paper saying “Third time’s the charm”.  It honestly makes me sick, and at this point after about four years of fighting this, it feels like harassment.

a 3536

But now the real big bucks have arrived. The third richest man in Massachusetts (Jim Davis,) can afford to sway votes and public opinion with his cool million (half million for the naming rights, and half million for construction) for the New Balance Newell Stadium. Dollar signs in one’s eyes blurs vision sometimes.   Mr. Davis paying double and triple for property will increase all the Fort people’s taxes, by creating a false sense of property values. How many will be forced out? This is what some people want. Is it what you want? Do you want to look like Newburyport, or Newport, RI? Do you want their traffic? Why would anyone pay so much over value for this property? And talk about putting the cart before the horse, especially after rezoning failed in the last two, very recent, attempts. I sure wish he wanted to make sneakers there.   Many will say I’m living in the past. Fishing is never coming back, so I’m dreaming. We’re holding the city hostage. Please look a little deeper, before passing judgment. Look at the thriving MI (marine industrial) businesses that are down the Fort.   If this zoning goes through, it will benefit my family financially, if we wanted to sell out, but at what cost? I’d rather leave our future generations with something real, authentic and of substantial value, like my grandfather and father did for us. Showing us, with hard work and ambition, you can accomplish great things. I think that’s worth much more than selling out, and leaving them a trust fund.   The Fort is basically an industrial park, a marine- industrial park, and the people who live there deal with that daily. Do we want to put tourists and their kids down there with all the big trucks? Sounds like an accident waiting to happen. Do we really want more traffic? Our way of life as we’ve known it will no longer exist. Tourists won’t even want to come here.   So, when you’re sitting in traffic for an hour, trying to get over the bridge, will you think of this letter and say “Wow, what have we done? What have we let our town become?”   If you value what we have here, will you stand up with me and help me “Hold the Fort”, before it’s too late? It could be your neighborhood next.

Ann Molloy

Neptune’s Harvest Fertilizer

88 Commercial Street     (Down the Fort)


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.

Fresh Poetry from Melissa Cummings

queen anne's lace

‘Queen Anne’s Lace’ ~ Mary Maletskos ~ Folly Cove Designers




Stock still and brown

against a background
of granite stones and dirt
rabbit silent turns
a white tail to me
and leaps into the green
chihuahua notices
To the woods
in the steam heat
anxious for shade
finding the cool perfect
paths filled in green
colorful with mushrooms
taupe and ecru splashed
with scarlet with crimson
convex like a dinner mug
concave like a platter
gray with slivers of white
entering from the circumference
Lengthen a leash and stop it
reachable by the left hand
to rub across bites
at the top of my back
plenty of sticks for scratching
Tell a new inhabitant of
Virginia Lee Burton’s home
what it was like to visit
and own Folly Cove Designers
placemats curtains napkins
little towels now in
The Cape Ann Museum
as is the broken tombstone
of John Lane found by poet
Charles Olson downtown
along the railroad tracks
replaced in Lanesville’s
Cove Hill Cemetery


Melissa de Haan Cummings
23 July 2015
74bdd-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."

The Blackburn Was a Challenge!


Gloucester, July 25, 2015

Enduring Gloucester Contributor  Jimmy Tarantino completed the 22-mile Blackburn Challenge today, rowing alone in a Grand Banks dory, as a tribute to the great Gloucester doryman Howard Blackburn, for whom the race is named.

Tarantino said, before the race, ” I am one of hundreds of rowers and paddlers blessed with the physical ability to be able to compete in the Cape Ann Rowing Club Blackburn Challenge tomorrow. In tribute to Gloucester’s maritime heritage and the great Howard Blackburn himself, I choose to row alone in a Grand Banks Dory. Should Mother Nature smile and provide a fair wind, lifted by the love and support of friends and family, I aspire.”

Rough conditions this morning forced almost 50 of the over 200 registered rowers and paddlers  to forgo the race or turn back within the first few miles.  Tarantino not only completed the course,  but stopped to help two paddlers floundering in the water after their 20-foot outrigger canoe was swamped by the five-to-six-foot waves a few yards from the rocks at  Andrews Point, just before the 8-mile mark at Halibut Point.

“I threw them my stern line and told them to grab it if they didn’t want to get slammed up against the rocks. ” Tarantino said. ” I was thinking of coming in myself,  but then I saw my friend Chad Johnson coming up in the Harbormaster’s boat, and he took care of them from there. I saw five or six boats capsized out there. It was pretty sloppy. The Harbormaster was busy.”




Tarantino rounds Halibut Point, at approximately mile 8, with 14 miles to go.

Lanesville’s Damon Cummings, helping out with the race in his motor skiff at Lane’s Cove, as he does every year, reported that 34 people in all were pulled from the water today.

After the race, Tarantino, who chose to row alone to honor Blackburn, the “Lone Voyager” said that what kept him going was not so much his solitary will, but the support of all the people- friends, family and acquaintances- who wished him well, and encouraged him, who came out to cheer him on.  “If they could believe in me, I had to believe in myself, ” he said.

“And all the other rowers out there alongside me today. They were inspirational. Two men older than myself really impressed me. Fenton Cunningham and Russell Atkinson are in their 60s. They  came down from Clarke Harbor in Nova Scotia to row with us today, and they finished in an amazing four hours and nine minutes- an hour faster than men half their age. that’s the kind of enduring spirit I’m talking about. That’s tradition. That’s community,” Tarantino said.

From the website of the Cape Ann Rowing Club, sponsors of the race:

The Blackburn  Challenge- History

The event both celebrates and helps to keep alive the story of Howard Blackburn’s desperate mid-winter 1883 rowing of a small fishing dory from the Burgeo Bank fishing grounds to refuge on the south coast of Newfoundland. Blackburn and his dorymate Thomas Welch had become separated from the Gloucester fishing schooner Grace L. Fears during a sudden squall and found themselves nearly sixty miles from the nearest land. Over the course of the ensuing five-day ordeal, Welch would give up and succumb to a merciful death, whereas Blackburn would allow his bare hands to freeze to the shape of the oars, and row until he reached land.

Though Blackburn survived he ultimately suffered the loss of most of his fingers and toes due to frostbite. In spite of his handicap, he later went on to twice sail solo across the Atlantic Ocean, earning himself the title “The Fingerless Navigator”. His story is told in Joseph E. Garland’s “Lone Voyager”.

Lone Voyager - Story of Howard Blackburn Lone Voyager :
The Extraordinary Adventures of Howard Blackburn, Hero Fisherman of Gloucester by Joseph E. Garland Paperback – 320 pages Rev Ed edition (July 2000) Simon & Schuster (Paper); ISBN: 0684872633From the Back Cover of “Lone Voyager””Like countless Gloucester fisherman before and since, Howard Blackburn and Tom Welch were trawling for halibut on the Newfoundland banks in an open dory in 1883 when a sudden blizzard separated them from their mother ship. Alone on the North Atlantic, they battled towering waves and frozen spray to stay afloat. Welch soon succumbed to exposure, and Blackburn did the only thing he could: He rowed for shore. He rowed five days without food or water, with his hands frozen to the oars, until he spied the coast of Newfoundland. Yet his test had only begun.So begins Joe Garland’s extraordinary account of the hero fisherman of Gloucester. Incredibly, though Blackburn lost his fingers to his icy misadventure, he went on to set a record for swiftest solo voyage across the Atlantic that stood for decades. Lone Voyager is a Homeric sage of survival at sea and a thrilling portrait of the world’s most fabled fishing port in the age of sail”

-Lois A. McNulty

My Dear Friend Erin From Holly Street

“When thinking about the… qualities and characteristics that are important for young girls, I can’t help but remember my childhood friend, Erin.”


by Lori Sanborn

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From left to right, Amanda (Amaral ) Marr, Susan (Macchi) Hensley, Amanda Ribiero, Lori Sanborn and Erin Ernest. 1986


Raising children is a tough job.  As parents we work tirelessly to bring them up right.  Our days are filled with giggles and belly laughs, questions and crayons, pirate booty and cookies, tantrums and timeouts, spills and spending, and of course, Sophia and Jake.


Once in a while, when we’re not too tired or robotic, we get the chance to sit back and actually daydream and wonder about the future.  During rare moments like these, I wonder what type of people my daugher and son will become.   How will they act and behave at each stage in their lives? At Beeman? At O’Maley Middle School? At Gloucester High School?


As a woman, I can visualize, with much more ease, the future awaiting my daughter.  Naturally, I worry and hope that my daughter will possess a strong sense of self.  When thinking about the types of qualities and characteristics that are important for young girls, I can’t help but remember my childhood friend, Erin.


Erin was the type of girl who lived life fiercely, every single day.  She was the girl audacious enough to climb trees and pull fire alarms. The girl who always chose “dare” over truth and who was fascinated by the supernatural and the Ouija board.  I admired her fearlessness.  I admired her curiosity.


Erin was the type of girl who welcomed the exploration of the unknown and was never worried by the presence of an unknown place or person.  When others were hesitant, Erin jumped right in.  She was a leader and helped others go outside their own comfort zones. She was adventurous, every ounce of her.  I admired her courage. I admired her independence.


Erin was beautiful and mysterious, even at a young age. The type of girl who was so comfortable in her own skin. Confident enough to make declarations, like “I love Adam,” in sidewalk chalk without concern or second thought.  She didn’t care who saw it or if “Adam” felt the same.  He was cute and she wasn’t afraid to say it.  I admired her boldness. I admired her confidence.


As my daughter enters her second year of preschool, I hope that she shares more than the love of the color purple with Erin.  May she tackle each day with spirit and passion.  May she always show the world exactly who she is and never be afraid to stand out. May she inspire others around her to take risks and try new things.  Above all, may she always treasure her own childhood friends.  Because there is only one thing as special as the memories we make in our youth and that’s the kids that we made them with.


Erin, you left us way too soon.  But know that every single time my daughter laughs deeply, acts boldly or leads her friends,  I think of you, my dear friend from Holly Street.


Erin Ernest’s home at the corner of Holly Street and Washington Street, Gloucester, where her parents established the Willow Rest. She lived there all her life- just 24 years.






lori schaefer

Lori Sanborn was born in Gloucester and returned to live permanently in our seaside community three years ago. She has been a public educator for 12 years,  teaching eighth graders.  Lori is most proud of her role as mother to her children, Emerson and Ryder.




The Russian Speedometer Chronicles- Essay by Jeff Rowe


Russian guide Dima, Jeff Rowe, Alissa Rowe

My goal here is to jump back into my travels of Russia. Not just from the perspective of a subculture, but from the perspective of someone who grew up in Gloucester. A special place in many ways with a culture unto itself, albeit a bit cut off from the world around it. I often feel torn between two worlds; the world I come from, and the world in which I’ve become. I am no longer that kid running through the back yards of Forest Street—that kid whose sole ambition was to get out of Gloucester alive. When I was 12 years old, I was given a gift that would later prove to be my commuter pass to the world. It was the best gift I was ever given. It was a cheap, opaque Mexican guitar. I started playing music at a young age. An age where I knew little about myself, besides my claustrophobic sense of restlessness. I was inspired by punk rock music. By its politics, rage, and loud distortion. Somehow, it felt like a mirror to me. Listening to punk rock may have been the first time I had actually seen myself in a light that I could identify with. With punk rock, I wasn’t the awkward kid trying to assimilate. I no longer felt that I had to deal with the malaise associated with the confining opinions of my little seaport city. I was no longer pledging allegiance to a flag, that in my mind, had destroyed my father like a jack-hammer would a pebble. It was a sense of lawless freedom that I sought, and through this raw sounding music, I was finding it—one chord at a time.


Ukraine Theatre Live

Jeff Rowe performing in a theater in Ukraine


I have many stories to tell that are wrapped up cozily in the expanse of time that it took to get where I am today, which isn’t to say that I’ve achieved some perceived sense of fame or anything like that, it’s to say I’m still here—very much alive. I’ve been fortunate enough to scam my way all around Europe and beyond. I was knowingly using my songs as a conduit for adventure and exploration. The funny part; the real joke of it, is that most of my songs are about Gloucester. So it would seem, while my desire for travel had increased to far off lands, my songs stayed exactly where they started. I sometimes feel like I’m on a ledge, ready to jump into the cooling waters of the unknown, but I’m worried about losing the ballast that ties me to the land. That ballast has been there for so long that I’m afraid to lose it. And these are my songs; the ballast of Gloucester…

“My memory is the history of time” -Charles Olson

The following compilation of stories has been spliced together from two separate trips. Alissa and I have spent a combined six weeks touring through Russia in trains, planes, and hellish cabs. I kept a journal for one of those trips, the rest are memories of a time past, one that I hope to commit to word before it fades into Fantasy. These stories are not on a specific timeline, although some will be back to back, as they happened. I was more hoping to document our trials and tribulations in Russia. All the good, the bad, the awkward, and the scary. For us, that was exactly what they were.

RussiaDostoevski Omsk

Statue of Dostoevsky in Omsk, Russia

The Russian Speedometer Chronicles



It starts like it always does, with the anxiety of packing and potentially leaving something important behind, besides our lives. It’s always the little things that tend to worry me the most in the final hours before leaving for a tour like this. Did I forget my toothbrush? Did I pack enough underwear? Did I forget something that I’m going to really need or miss? Those little things that will eventually amount to big problems. Double check the luggage before leaving, check it again at the airport, though it certainly wouldn’t matter at that point. Alissa is so much better at this game than I am. She is nothing if not meticulous when it comes to being prepared for a long trip. After all, we’ve had a lot of practice. You would think at this point, with all these tours under my belt, that I would be virtually flawless when it comes to this scenario. You’d be wrong. I am forgetful, sloppy, and borderline childlike at the preparation game—hence the warranted anxiety. We’re leaving for several months of who the fuck knows what, and oddly enough, I feel pretty damn comfortable with that. It’s become second nature, really. Every day brings a new city, new people, and hopefully a good experience. Though, over the years, we’ve learned to trade in the term “good experience”, for just “an experience”. Fewer expectations make for a better time. It’s simple math. Set that bar low enough to come out with a smile. Plus, what’s the worst that could happen? Alissa and I have spent a good chunk of a two year span on tour, learning how to navigate this subculture that we’ve decided to immerse ourselves in. It’s been a great experience, but that’s not to say that we don’t wind up with our noses bloody from time to time. I’ve been touring in punk bands off and on since I was 18, or maybe younger. Truth be told—some of it has been a blur. In many ways, I’ve grown up doing this. It’s never been as constant a thing as it is now, but it’s always played a major role in my life—in my desires to reach far beyond my little island. Don’t get me wrong, Gloucester isn’t even close to being the sole reason for my escapist nature. But it would be a lie to say that my upbringing wasn’t somewhere at the center of my nature; creepy and ever-lurking. The damn place from whence I came is at the core of me, like a scar that you sometimes smile at, but most of the time it’s tucked under a shirt sleeve or a pair of pants. Like it or not, it won’t be going anywhere.


Airports have a sterile, doctor’s office-like feel. Maybe more like a doctor’s office combined with a shopping mall. The ceiling are high, and as is the case with most airports, the amalgamation of footsteps leaves a nervous clutter of sound that reverberates off the cold walls. I actually like airports. If you like people watching—you probably do too. Everyone is coming or going, from wherever to who knows where. I’ve grown to recognize the tentative looks that the commuters wear, brought on by the fleeting moments of being in between destinations. And the relieved looks of those who have clearly just arrived at theirs. It’s the same reason that I like places like Vegas and New Orleans. They give you so much to look at when you’re just a part of the scenery. All you need to do is stand in one place and watch the show unfold. Reality television be damned!

Everyone is looking for something. Whether they find it or not matters little. In the long run, I think it just matters that they were motivated enough to look in the first place. We’ve just spent one month touring throughout Europe and now we’re off to Russia. And when I say Russia, I’m not talking about Moscow and St.Petersburg, I’m talking the real Russia. We’ll certainly be going to the big cities, but we want to see the country for what it is. We’re excited, scared, and more than a little road weary from this last month of touring. Though it may seem luxurious to jump from city to city playing songs, there is very little sleep involved. And I’m not afraid to say that we’ve pretty much been drinking our way through each country. It’s the nature of the beast, really. I mean, we get food, beer, and a place to sleep each night. And personally, I’m not in the business of turning down such hospitality.


Last night we stayed in Freiburg, Delaware, in the US. It was a great end to that leg of tour. Our friend, Christoph, plied us with beer and friendship. Maybe too much beer. I woke up with my head still clinging to the night before. Upon waking, Alissa and I go through our routine of packing up our sleeping bags, taking showers, and eating a quick breakfast. But unlike the past month of mornings, there is a timidity to us. We are taking a flight to Moscow in a few hours and all I can think of is how little I actually know about Russian culture. Honestly, outside of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, I’m left with Rocky 4 and Red Dawn. You know, typical American knowledge. Our tour manager for the European leg, Christian, has become like a brother to us. He’s our friend, protector, and translator. I have no idea how his Russian counterpart, Dima, is going to be. That answer will come soon enough. It’s hard to say goodbye to Christian. Alissa and I really do love him. I call him the human chainsaw, due to his unrelenting snoring that would keep us up for at least half of the precious few hours that we had allotted to sleep. The noises that would come from this kind and gentle person stood in defiance of all things related to sleep. But that’s easy to overlook; considering the fact that he just guided us through country after country without major incident. So with a heavy heart and a few tears, we said goodbye to our trusted German companion and say hello to the unknown.


Just looking at the departures board, seeing Moscow in large letters and knowing that it was our destination was a wild notion. Alissa wore a look of wonderment. She really is an amazing person. The very fact that she would uproot her life to travel to these places with me is nothing short of astonishing. The look of adventure in her eyes makes me wonder if she has ever seen the same look in mine. At moments like this, I’m not really sure what my eyes would project. It leaves me thinking that if we could just for one minute see through the eyes of our loved ones… would that be too much? Too much to know, that is. Some things are better left to be rolled around the mind and filed away in the corridors of our memory; to be thought of when we need to feel the warmth of a smile upon our own face.


The flight to Moscow was, in a word, jarring. It started with hearing the pilot speaking to us passengers in his native tongue, which sounded so foreign to us. It was clear that we were the only ones who could not understand what the pilot was saying. And in the middle of the flight, when the frenzied turbulence started, he could have been saying anything on the loudspeaker and we wouldn’t have known a word. This only added to my budding panic. In my head, the pilot was relaying the following messages: “Prepare for emergency landing!”, “We’re going down!”, “Pray to whatever god you think will help you!”, or simply, “We’re fucked!”. In reality, he was probably telling us that we’ll be experiencing some routine turbulence that only scares you as a passenger because you have zero knowledge of what is actually going on. I just kept looking at the other passengers, trying to gauge what they were feeling. But they were stoic and unmoved by the turbulence. It was so bad that Alissa and I thought that it may very well be the end for us. We’ve been on hundreds of flights together and experienced turbulence, but nothing like this. I tried to stay calm, though inside, I was losing it. The last thing I wanted was for Alissa to see fear in my eyes. I felt it would push her over the edge, but in reality, she’s just as tough as I am, if not tougher. We clasped our sweaty hands tight, wet with fear, and tried not to show each other that panic had set in. When we landed, the passengers began to clap. Not just one passenger but all of them. I was feeling a overwhelming sense of relief that we were still among the living. Alissa and I looked at each other, bewildered by the clapping. We thought that we had just witnessed our first cultural difference, besides being seemingly unmoved in the face of potential death. They clap when they land! How different, yet simple. Of course you clap, the pilots have just flown you from one country to another in a glorified missile, defying gravity at a ridiculous speed. Well, in that case, maybe everyone everywhere should clap for their pilots. Hell, it just seems the right thing to do.


We later learned, from Dima of course, that the clapping was not a cultural experience at all. It was because our fellow passengers had also feared for their lives, but Russians are preset to show little to no emotion, even in the face of death. Upon debunking this cultural myth, Dima, who was apparently not too culturally stoic to display his emotions to us, broke out in a bellowing laughter that went on and on. Welcome to Russia, I thought. We were foreign, confused, and more than a little bit scared. As an American, you rarely get to feel this way. The world seems to buckle to the grand notion that the American is the center of the world. They speak our language, despite us putting zero effort into leaning theirs. They put up signs in English to help ease our senile sense of discomfort. They even levy cuisine towards our bland palates. But this was clearly not the case where we had found ourselves. Nope, not in Russia. This would be our first experience in a completely foreign place. A place that would not buckle to American romanticism, nor its entitlement. A place that rivals the unbridled impertinence of nationalism. A place where we would have to lean on each other for the comforts of home. We were—at that moment—all we had.


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. 



Art is Here!


Art is Here sign being painted on the wall at the corner of Pleasant and Main Streets


Tricia O’Neill

Gloucester’s Tricia O’Neill is the founder of Signs Unique. She and her company have been painting murals, trucks, windows and wooden signs for 30 years from Dublin to Boston and all over Cape Ann. (See some of her work here.) This sign points the way to a newly- designated art enclave in the first block of Pleasant Street,  Artisphere.


Sefatia Announces: “Gloucester for Gloucester!”


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Photo by Louise Welch



Sefatia Announces: “Gloucester for Gloucester!”

Peter Anastas


Today, I announce that I am a candidate for Mayor of Gloucester.

I do so because I love this city and all of our people. And, during the past six months, my team and I have demonstrated that government can be run openly and honestly to serve every citizen in Gloucester fairly, and with respect.

When the City Council elected me Mayor, I didn’t know how much my team and I could accomplish—I had no idea what a difference we could make. While I was humbled and honored to serve as Mayor, I thought then that the best way for me to help the people of Gloucester was to return to my seat on the City Council.

But by working closely over the past few months with Gloucester’s business and community leaders, private industry, and most importantly, the citizens of Gloucester, my team and I have made progress in a number of important areas, including economic development and tourism, the arts, and the health and well-being of our citizens. I believe that great things can be achieved as long as we keep working together.

Every day, I talk with people across the city and test my approach. They tell me that open and honest communication, teamwork, and a sharp focus on what Gloucester needs will move this city forward. That’s my style.

I am committed to Gloucester and all of our people. I am proud of what we have accomplished but I realize that there is much more to do, and I want to continue the work we have started. That is why I’m a candidate for Mayor.

                                    –Sefatia Romeo Theken, July 13, 2015


Though I respect the other mayoral candidates for their service and commitment to the city, I feel a special affinity for Mayor Sefatia Romeo Theken.  Her father, Enzo Giambanco, was president of the Board of Directors at Action, Inc., Gloucester’s antipoverty agency, when I first went to work there in 1972.  I found in Enzo not only a mentor but a person of deep compassion for the low-income families we were serving, including out-of-work fishermen, children who needed a pre-school education their parents could not afford, people who did not have health insurance, and elders who were torn between paying rent and utility bills and eating.  As an immigrant he understood what it felt like to be on the outside, whether you spoke a different language or your clothing was not in fashion.  Along with Executive Director Bill Rochford, Enzo helped to steer the agency through some of its most challenging times, while never abandoning those who depended on our services, whether it was help with fuel bills, home care, or after-school care for the children of working mothers.

Sefatia learned these caring ways from the cradle, and she has spent her entire life helping the people of Gloucester as one of the city’s hardest working councilors and as a health care advocate and human services liaison at Addison Gilbert Hospital.  During her tenure as interim mayor, Sefatia has again demonstrated her skills at reaching out to citizens across the entire social and economic spectrum of the city, listening compassionately to their concerns, hearing the ideas they have shared, and making decisions in a thoughtful and intelligent manner, while relating to all of us in an open, caring and humane way.  When you are hugged by Sefatia you know she means it.

Sefatia has roots that run deeply into the community and its history.  She’s gone to school and raised a family here.  She can walk down the street and recognize everyone she meets.  She knows who their aunts and cousins were, and they, in turn, know her.  She can tell you who lived on which street and who worked where, and what happened to them if they got laid off.  This kind of knowledge that comes from growing up in one place and feeling it in your blood is indispensable when it comes to understanding the needs of neighborhoods and their residents, no matter which part of the city they are located in.  A public official who is not deeply in touch with the culture of the community he or she hopes to serve is already at a disadvantage.

The previous administration, though it helped to move the city in some positive directions, especially regarding our fiscal status, was, in my mind, largely technocratic, corporate in its approach to governing and in its client preferences.  As such, it was often out of touch with the people, especially those whom its policies adversely affected.  Considering the fault lines left in the wake of the Beauport Hotel controversy, Gloucester needs a mayor who does not seek to impose his or her will upon the community, but rather one who respects the will of the people and is not tone deaf to the diversity of local voices.  We need a mayor who will not attempt to manufacture consensus or claim it exists when it does not—a mayor, especially, who will not dismiss a neighborhood’s fight to preserve its own culture as NIMBY, or consider citizens who exercise their right to speak in opposition to projects they feel are inappropriate as “obstructionists.”  Rather, this mayor would listen to their objections and engage them in the kind of constructive dialogue that is the cornerstone of our democracy.

I believe that Sefatia will be this kind of mayor—she has already demonstrated these qualities as a much respected city councilor and during her tenure as interim mayor. We need a mayor, who will advocate for “Gloucester for Gloucester people,” who will lead us toward a more vital sense of community in education, civic responsibilities, historical awareness, fiscal prudence, economic and social self-sufficiency, and love of place. We particularly need a mayor who understands and cares deeply about our fishing industry and the importance of our working waterfront.  I believe that Sefatia will be this kind of mayor.  That is why I am endorsing her candidacy and urging all those who want our city to move forward without losing sight of the heritage that has made us what we are to join me in voting for Sefatia.

Classism in the Gay Community


Office in a Small City, 1953 Edward Hopper (1882–1967)

Recently I wrote an essay for Enduring Gloucester in which I expressed concerns about what I see as the creeping classism within my own community. (See essay here.) 

I actually described  in that essay a conversation I had about it with John Barnes, my late roommate, who died twenty three years ago this month after a courageous battle against AIDS.

John left Gloucester as a young gay man because, coming from his socioeconomic background, being gay was neither easy nor accepted in Fishtown – despite there being a sizable but largely clandestine gay community.

He, by his own admission, led a pretty wild life as a young gay man blessed with a striking resemblance  to Patrick Swayze. He returned to Gloucester for the last years of his life, however, as a brave adult man determined to educate young people from hardscrabble, often abusive backgrounds like his, about the dangers AIDS posed to them if they let the harder side of life determine their most intimate personal decisions.

In the conversation I wrote about, John shared with me his belief that if he had not had AIDS and had he not been a client of a local AIDS services organization (ASO) that was supported by some of Cape Ann’s wealthiest gay men, he would never have been invited to any parties at the home of two very wealthy Annisquam men for purely social reasons – but because he had AIDS and was a client of the local ASO, his attendance at a fundraiser those two men hosted back in 1992 was both financially and politically important.

I initially questioned John’s assertion but, in the nearly quarter century since Johnny’s death, I have, sadly, had to conclude he was on to something and that he was, in  many ways, a man ahead of his time in terms of understanding where the gay community was headed.

Six years after Johnny’s death, my own concerns about the creeping classism within the gay community had reached such a level that I addressed them in a speech I gave at Joe Tecci’s restaurant in the North End, when I accepted the Jeffery Barmeyer Memorial Award for AIDS Activism from the Massachusetts Gay and Lesbian Political Caucus.

Overall, my comments were not well received, but a few people did come up to me after the speech to thank me for raising an uncomfortable issue and to say they shared my concerns.

Shortly after the awards dinner at Joe Tecci’s, I received death threats at my house in Lanesville that were deemed so credible,  both then Police Chief Jim Marr and the executive director at HES advised me to go visit family in NH for a few days until the clouds had passed and the threat fully assessed. It was then realized I had reached a point where I was questioning what the fights against AIDS and for “gay” civil rights were really all about and, quite frankly, the answers coming to me were the primary motivators in my “chucking it all”, as the saying goes, and heading to points south where I worked really hard to shed the largely political label of “gay man” and make some peace with the fact that what I really am is a homosexual.

That sojourn resulted in me meeting and falling in love with a Costa Rican man who, along with his extended family, forever changed the way in which I view myself as a homosexual,  the so called “gay rights” movement, especially in the United States, and the role money, often big money, plays as a guarantor of social and political acceptance in America.

In many ways, nothing exemplifies the reality of just what a role money plays in attaining a modicum of social, legal, and political acceptance  more than the push for “marriage equality” that was largely driven by affluent, well connected, overwhelmingly white, gay and lesbian professionals and political insiders hailing from the Big Apple, Washington, and Los Angeles.

Now, lest anyone misunderstands the purpose of this essay, I think it is great the Supreme Court has ruled that those gay couples who wish to marry have a constitutionally guaranteed right to do so in all fifty states.

But I also worry this kind of upscale, bourgeois bohemian mainstreaming of the so called “gay community” will result in homosexual Americans losing sight of the fact that our long struggle was, from its outset,  one that aligned us with the “others” of society – the poor, the sick, the disenfranchised, and the disliked.

There is a strange irony, for example, in hearing so many gay Americans hail their “equality” in the wake of the Supreme Court decision, when so many other “inequality indicators” in America, like the assault on voting rights, the lack of equal pay for women doing the same work as men, efforts to deny women the ability to exercise their constitutionally guaranteed right to reproductive choice,  increasing housing and school segregation, police violence against minorities, and long stagnant wages and the rapidly- disappearing notion of some security in retirement, are all  ascendant.

Perhaps the greatest irony of all, at least for homosexual Americans, is that the legalization of gay marriage is much less a guarantor of the rights of the vast majority of American homosexuals than the passage of  federal laws that would, finally, end discrimination across the country in relation to issues like housing and employment.

Sadly, gay couples may now be able to marry in all fifty states, but there remain far too many states where they can be fired from their jobs, lose custody of their children, and be denied housing simply because they are homosexual – their being married means diddly.

In addition, many of the well- to -do gays who so pushed the marriage agenda, I have seen this first- hand here in Provincetown at social gatherings, are loathe to talk about harsh realities like the fact new HIV infections among young gay men, especially young gay men of color, are rising at an alarming rate.

At one such gathering, I pointed out that gay rights activists in New York State had raised millions on behalf of the “marriage equality” cause in the years leading up to 2011, when same sex marriage became legal in the Empire State, but had been all but silent in response to a state budget that slashed millions for programs serving homeless youth – despite the fact demographic data revealed  significant numbers of homeless youth are gay or transgendered kids who have been rejected by their families.

Needless to say, my comments went over like the proverbial lead balloon.

Perhaps nothing exemplifies the troubling classism within the gay community more than the visit of Hillary Clinton to Provincetown on July 2.

Mrs. Clinton came to town in pursuit of gay dollars and, man, was she well rewarded.

Two fundraisers, one a $1,000 a head event, the other a $2700 a head soiree, were said to be going to bring in more than a million dollars for a candidate who just last year said the issue of marriage equality was one best left to the individual states to decide. Go figure.

When I learned of Hillary’s impending visit, I wrote a letter to the local paper to ask if, after the elegant soirees, Hillary might want to spend some time walking around town to chat with many of the working class, liberal Democrats, gay and straight, who labor in Provincetown’s tourism and service industries and, thanks to the out of control gentrification I worry looms on Gloucester’s horizon, live in constant fear of losing their apartments, if they are lucky enough to have an apartment as opposed to just a room somewhere, to high end condo conversion, and scrape by in the winter on their summer savings, unemployment, and visiting the town’s soup kitchen for lunch on a regular basis to stretch their budgets.

Needless to say, like my question about events in New York in 2011 at the social gathering earlier this summer, and my comments at Joe Tecci’s eighteen years ago, my letter to the editor was, well, let’s just say, I am not likely to be invited to any dinner parties in certain circles anymore.

But that’s OK.

For me, it is just one more reason why I feel increasingly comfortable whenever I am asked if I am gay saying, “No, I am a recovering gay who remains proudly homosexual.”

-Mike Cook

Mike Cook

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.

Full Circle


By my senior year of high school I had conjured up an elaborate escape plan to leave Gloucester. It would begin with four years in college and after that it didn’t matter. “Anywhere but here,” I told myself. Anywhere but here…So I left.

College came and went. In the following years I moved a bunch of times and traveled all over. My feet walked the majestic lands of Machu Picchu. My eyes witnessed the dramatic and powerful culture of Northern Ireland. I danced my ass off all over Boston. At each new destination around the globe and within our own country, I met some cool people. But I still felt restless. Something was missing.

It wasn’t until I got pregnant with Emerson that I actually figured out what that void was. I missed my hometown. I missed LIVING in Gloucester. I missed the people. I missed the landscape. I missed the food. I missed the traditions. I wanted my children to grow up here.

A place where the people work hard, swear often, love beer, tell the best stories, have the biggest hearts, and use the word “wicked” perfectly, every time… A place where the people are tough and the community always takes care of its own. I would learn firsthand how important this last quality was when I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer last year.

A place that has the best sunrises AND sunsets. A place where the ocean glistens more than anywhere on Earth. Where a classy, historic, and rocky coastline makes its shores the most unique on the planet, just like its residents. A place where the Atlantic surprises the locals daily with her ever-changing colors and temperature.

A place home to the best traditions. Fiesta. Vinegar Fries. July 3rd. Horribles Parade. GHB. The Creek. Boulevard. Seaglass. Fisherman at the Wheel. Backshore. Niles. A place home to the best food around. Where seafood means “fresh haddock” not “Frozen Crab Balls,” (sorry Texas!). A place that still believes in and supports “Mom & Pop” shops.

A place that rallies like no other. Who else but Gloucester can boast that it can raise thousands of dollars for its residents in mere hours! Gloucester is living proof that social media can have a positive impact upon society. Gloucester has given a new meaning to the term “crowd funding.” A place where the locals actually feel empathy for others that are struggling.

And let’s face it….NO ONE can party like we can.

I am beyond proud to say that I am from this city. But I am even prouder to say that I am raising my daughter and son here.

-Lori Sanborn

lori schaefer

Lori Sanborn was born in Gloucester and returned to live permanently in our seaside community three years ago. She has been a public educator for 12 years,  teaching eighth graders.  Lori is most proud of her role as mother to her children, Emerson and Ryder.



Nino Nets Some “Guppies”


Gloucester Dock Scene. Russ Webster (1904-1984)

Back about 1970 when I was just a boy working for my dad at Ocean Crest Seafood, there used to be a retired fisherman who worked for us by the name of Nino Trupiano.  A better man would be hard to find. Always with an interesting tale to tell, he once recounted a story I have not forgotten to this day. Back in the days when fishermen were allowed to ply their trade whenever and however they wished, the only thing that would prevent them from leaving the dock was weather,  and by weather, I don’t mean a little rain, I mean “WEATHER”!  Fishermen of the day would never let someone get the better of them,  so if one man left the dock, all would follow. One particularly foul and windy day the men and boats waffled by the shore, hesitant to brave the turning waters,  when Nino, never one to be indecisive,  cast off the lines and intrepidly braved the waters.

He sailed past Fort Point, past Ten Pound Island, and out beyond the breakwall.
At this juncture, it became abundantly clear that this was no weather to fish in.
Not wanting to be made out as foolish for sailing into foul weather alone, he decided that he would return to the dock under the cloak of darkness ( as it was still before dawn) by turning off his running lights and hugging the shore as he returned to port. As the other boats were waiting at the dock to hear his report on conditions beyond the breakwall, they called on the radio “Nino, Nino what’s it like out there?”   Nino replied “Beauuutiful, just Beauuutiful!”
At this point all men and vessels at the dock cast off their lines and headed for the open sea. Once arriving at the outer shore they realized that the weather was not fit for man nor beast and they called out to Nino imploring “Nino, Nino, where are you?” to which he replied “I’m at the Gloucester House;  it’s too windy out there”.
Leonard Parco
IMG_2269Leonard Parco has been working the Gloucester waterfront for over 40 years and is the president of Ocean Crest Seafoods Inc. He is passionate about “Cape Ann School” art, especially that focused on Gloucester’s maritime heritage.