Shut Up and Dance

On Saturday, March 26, 2011 my life was transformed when a 6 lb 11 ounce princess joined my world. When the midwife first placed her in my arms, my daughter rested her tiny hand against my left cheek and stared at me with large, dark brown eyes accentuated by strikingly long lashes. Her look was intense and so attentive, qualities that would only grow deeper as the years passed. It has been almost five years since Emerson Belle was born and not a day goes by where I don’t try to live like “Emmy.”

To Emmy, every day is the best day of her life.  Every chocolate milk she tastes is “the most IMG_5886delicious one ever.”  Every dress she owns is, “the most beautiful gown in the world.” Every cartoon on t.v. is “the funniest show she has ever seen.” Emmy feels everything so deeply that something is not merely good, it’s, in her words, “unbelievable.” And the compliments that this kid dishes out can make you feel like a million bucks. She won’t just say you’re pretty, she will tell you that you’re the most gorgeous woman in the entire Universe.  But times are not always glorious on Granite Street.

When Emmy is upset, “it’s the worst day of her life.”  This comes with slamming doors and loud outbursts.  But her tantrums are short-lived and she emerges from her bedroom apologetic and loving. Emmy has taught me the value of pure and raw emotion. Being vulnerable enough to share your true feelings with another is a beautiful thing, yet it becomes so rare as we age.  Society tells us that mature adults must control their emotions. Adults must not get angry and certainly must not cry.  Adults that do such things are labeled as “emotional” and deemed weak.  Label me then. To share your genuine self makes an ordinary person extraordinary. Through Emmy, I have learned that feeling things so deeply simply means that you are living completely.

Not long after Emmy’s first birthday, I discovered that I was once again pregnant.  Thrilled, I did what most newly pregnant women do, I hit the computer. I found out my estimated due date and started scanning websites for potential names. All the while, I did not feel quite right. Looking back, all the signs of a miscarriage were there, but my optimistic nature refused to pay them any mind.  I was convinced that I was having a baby boy and that Blake Ashton would make his arrival on or around December 9th.  I had no reason to think otherwise because I had such a textbook pregnancy with Emmy. But this time, I was not so lucky. Just shy of two months, I would experience the loss that accompanies a miscarriage.

I was left devastated and full of questions. How could this happen? I thought I was healthy.  Did this mean I will have problems having another child? I wanted Emmy to have a sibling. I felt tremendous guilt and deep sadness all at the same time. Did I have the right to grieve this much when others have carried and lost a baby much later in pregnancy? And what about those women who have faced multiple miscarriages. I felt so alone and it was not until I met with a midwife of Essex County that my healing process would take shape. She listened to all of my fears and questions. She let me cry long and hard and then provided invaluable comfort and guidance with her words. A baby is real the second a woman finds out she is pregnant. Give yourself permission to grieve the loss of your baby.  Your body was healthy enough to reject an unhealthy pregnancy. You will conceive again when you are ready.  It took this loss for me to learn that it’s okay for adults to talk with other adults about what hurts and to even share fears. There are some great listeners out there. Through opening up to others, I learned that I was not alone. In fact, it is estimated that as many as 1 in 4 women experience this same heartache. Time and a shocking surprise helped me to move forward but not forget. Every first week in December I think about the loss I suffered but also pay respect to the Universe for the surprise she brought me.

Not long after that meeting with the midwife, Brandon and I learned that I was once again pregnant. This time around I felt awful, but a good kind of awful. My morning sickness lasted for six months and it didn’t stop at noon. I was nauseous 24 hours a day and I couldn’t be happier about it! It meant that my body was doing what it should, creating a new life. And what a life it would create.

Emerson Belle and Ryder Kai Sanborn

Emerson Belle and Ryder Kai Lewis

Ryder Kai entered the world on Saturday, January 26, 2013.  This 6 lbs and 6 ounce baby boy with blonde hair and blue eyes would grow into the coolest kid I have ever met. While I know my daughter like the back of my hand, my son still surprises me constantly. A boy who marches to the beat of his own drum. A very large drum. Ryder knows what he wants and he doesn’t care if everyone else wants something different. No one is changing Ryder’s mind when he sets it on something. He is that comfortable in his own skin. You can imagine the struggles we have faced when trying to convince him to eat something besides butternut squash or chocolate. Through Ryder I have learned how important it is to stay true to your genuine self and that spontaneity can be invigorating after adhering to a schedule dominated by routine.

Ryder is a fearless child who takes risks and has the scars on his chin to prove it. He lives hard and sleeps the same way. In a few weeks, Ryder will turn 3, yet he still naps like a infant, for 2-3 hours every day. Ryd savors mischief and easily finds it countless times in any given day. The kid who appreciates the bad guy. Sher Kan, Scar, and Shredder are among his favorites. My son loves to

Emmy and Ryder Kai Sanborn. Good Harbor Beach .

Emmy and Ryder Kai Lewis
Good Harbor Beach .

swear and I know his favorite song is Shut Up and Dance just because he thinks he’s getting away with saying something inappropriate. Ryder has taught me not to take life too seriously. He has

helped me worry less and lighten up, even when times are tough.  He has shown our family the importance of humor; no one can make us belly laugh quite like Ryder Kai.

It is true that there is no gift like a new baby. But the best gift of all are the lessons these babies teach us as they grow up.



lori sanbornLori 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.

Hear Her Roar

Lori Sanborn

For the first twenty-five plus years of my life, I felt more connected to the male gender. Throughout my middle school, high school, and college years I had way more male friends than female ones. Of course, I had a few girls that I trusted and could tell anything to. And one or two, who I was really close to that I would even smoke Marlboros with and cut class. But overall, at these stages of my life, I felt more comfortable around males. I was even able more readily to

Nancy Sanborn (my Mom), Meagan Sanborn (sister) & me

Nancy Sanborn (my Mom), Meagan Sanborn (sister) & me

admire males over females. But then I turned thirty, and from that point on, my perspective had changed entirely.

During the last five years of my life, I have witnessed countless acts of unwavering courage and unbelievable strength from women in my circle of friends, women from our seaside community, and from one of the most important women in my life, my sister.

I have some badass girlfriends. Not because they ride Harleys or remain standing after pounding five shots of tequila. My friends endure. I have a friend who only cried once after being diagnosed with an aggressive type of breast cancer. When “cancer” entered my world, I was on the bathroom floor unable to move. Yet when recalling her story, she actually smiled and told me she “had two boys to raise and they needed her.” She never looked back but rather dedicated herself to being the best mother she could be. Did I mention that she was also a single mom? Badass.

Another girlfriend of mine had her world turned upside down upon hearing that her mother had been diagnosed with early onset Parkinson’s disease. Honestly, I would struggle to get out of bed if faced with such a circumstance. But in looking at my dear friend, one would never know of her struggle. She maintains a calmness and stick-to-itiveness that is admirable. She goes to work. She takes her mother to all of her doctor appointments, all while managing to hold down her own fort. She values her role as wife and mother. She doesn’t complain and is one of the most genuine women I know. Did I mention that she doesn’t drink? Badass.

Within our Gloucester community heroism is all around us. She is the woman that has the drive to start a new main street business and still raise four kids. She is the young woman that moves by herself to North Carolina to start anew.  She is the woman that can still believe in love after being lied to time and time again. She is the loyal wife of over 30 years. She is the woman that has the courage to file for divorce. She is the woman that can still raise a child after losing one.  She is the woman that can work more than one job to provide for her family. She is the woman that decides to follow her dream or face her fear.  She is the woman that runs for office. She is the woman that chooses to be a stay at home mom. She is the woman that has lost a spouse or sibling unexpectedly. She is the woman that faces a health scare of her own. She is the woman that ran the Boston Marathon. Did I mention that SHE doesn’t always roar?  Sometimes she just shows up, and that alone is enough. Badass.

My sister is one of those women who always shows up. No matter what time the hockey game is, no matter the hosting state, she is always in that rink for her sons.  And she’s probably there two hours ahead of time.  No matter how many times she has faced unfairness or less than desired

My sister, Meagan Sanborn and her son, Timmy

My sister, Meagan Sanborn and her son, Timmy

outcomes, she has pushed on. She never complains about being the sole provider, but rather has always found a way to provide. She always puts her boys first yet somehow finds a way to be there for her family and friends when they need her. She is the type of woman that shoots straight and knows just what you need and when you need it. Intuitively, she knows when to take you on a Backshore ride, grab her Macy’s card, or pour a big glass of wine. She is the woman that picked me up off that bathroom floor after I was misdiagnosed with lymphoma and spoke only this to me, “So, you’ll beat it.” She is the woman that hates hugs but can still make you feel loved and comforted.  Did I mention that she just closed on a new house for her and the boys? Badass.

It may have taken me thirty years to truly connect with the female gender. But in only five years “She” has taught me the real meaning of compassion, loyalty and above all, strength. Imagine what “She” will teach me in next twenty-five.

And this is not some feminist propaganda piece.  I could give you a thousand reasons why I love my Daddy.

~Lori Sanborn

lori sanborn

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.


Tear It Down or Save It- A Tale of Two Cities

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Leading by Example

We accept the fact that Gloucester is America’s oldest seaport but it is easy to take this distinction somewhat for granted.  In addition Gloucester has a rich history in the art world.  The list of painters who came to Gloucester, drawn by the scenery and the special light, is a who’s who in art. Throw into the mix the history of the granite industry, the uniquely ethnic neighborhoods and last, but not least, the architecture.

What are we doing to respect and preserve our eroding collection of old buildings?  Not enough!

We do not have a much needed demolition delay that would slow down the demolition of old buildings with a shot at saving them even if it’s a long shot.  In the most historic and oldest towns in eastern Massachusetts most have long since embraced this tool.  Gloucester has rejected this process several times since the late 80s.

There is a small historic district including part of Middle Street, Pleasant Street and the West End of Main Street.   Those who buy property in this area are aware of the restriction imposed upon the district.  If the guidelines for an historic district bother a potential buyer and they find the rules too restrictive, perhaps they should invest in another neighborhood.  If a buyer does purchase in this neighborhood they enter into the deal with eyes wide open.  However, it is almost inevitable that sooner or later there will be changes that a new owner might like to make to the property and a good chance that the changes will be contrary to basic preservation guidelines.  Unless there is a serious hardship the commission involved must stand their ground and uphold the preservation guidelines.

Just last week it was shocking to see what appeared would be the total demolition of a stately house on Pleasant Street in progress.  Known locally as the Blatchford house it is located in the historic district.

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This dignified house in recent days. Known as the Blatchford House, it is on Pleasant Street, on the same block as City Hall.


This extensive demolition to the building was allowed to happen legally because the façade and the gable ends were preserved saving the streetscape but the back of the house is gone and the interior is gutted.  All of the approvals are in order.  But it sure looks like serious demolition to me!

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The house has no back and the interior is gutted.


At the present time two antique houses on the Boulevard are threatened with demolition,  with no way other than perhaps public pressure to prevent the action that will permanently alter this scenic stretch of roadway overlooking our beautiful harbor.  The Man at the Wheel is an iconic feature of this neighborhood.   (Please see story in Gloucester Daily times here: )

Switching gears, let’s talk about the City of Peabody.  Peabody?  Of all the town and cities on the North Shore what’s historic about Peabody?

The City of Peabody was separated from Danvers and was the scene of leather workers and tanneries.  The tanneries are mostly gone and although that city is proud of its history few would compare it to Gloucester on any level.  It is the city of malls, old factories, busy highways and a central square that is sometimes under water.  Above all it doesn’t have a harbor and any comparison to Gloucester, Le Beauport, would seem to be ludicrous.

Although Peabody doesn’t have much going for it compared to Gloucester,  in one respect it has Gloucester beat hands down!  Here’s why.

In the late 1890s J. B. Thomas built a house for his grandson.  He spared nothing to create a beautiful house smack dab in the middle of the city on the corner of Main Street and Washington Street.  It also had a fabulous carriage house in the rear not to mention an enormous and beautiful beech tree in the front.

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The J. B. Thomas-O’Shea house in Peabody


The Thomas family lived in the house for 15 or 20 years before selling it to the O’Sheas.  It then became known as the O’Shea house until sold around 1970 and converted into a furniture store.  After the furniture store owners retired the house was sold to a social agency.

In recent years the house has fallen on hard times and was foreclosed.  Bank owned, it was available for sale.

In a scenario that is far too familiar,  a developer from our own City of Gloucester eyed this high visibility site for redevelopment and negotiated to purchase it.  He made it known that his intent was to demolish the old house. He was so taken with the site he had not initially looked at its wonderful interior. This is when the story takes a remarkable turn.

Unlike Gloucester, this community, Peabody, has a demolition delay ordinance and has had one since 1986, almost thirty years.  It was invoked in an attempt to save the O’Shea house.  But when the City realized that the delay was not long enough to be effective the city council boldly extended the ordinance from 90 days to one year, 365 days, to buy more time; a lease on life for the old house in question.

The trend is for longer delay periods as towns where demolition delay has been tested understand that in order to be effective, longer delays must be enacted and are addressing this finding.  (Meanwhile, remember, Gloucester doesn’t even have a demolition delay ordinance, still rolling out the red carpet for developers who care little for the historical value of the properties they would demolish.)

Determined not to lose this historic house, the City of Peabody, led by the mayor and supported by the Peabody City Council, made a second bold move.  They announced they would take the house by eminent domain!  The house will be saved and it will be interesting to see what happens next.  The City can potentially recover their fair market value purchase price and will have the option to sell it with preservation covenants or easements to protect it into the future.  That is what anyone caring about the house hopes will happen.

Perhaps eminent domain is a tool that Gloucester should invoke from time to time when a historic building is in jeopardy.  How is it that Peabody can take such a decisive step while Gloucester languishes, totally vulnerable with no demolition delay and only a tiny historic district?

Who would think that Peabody would have the foresight and courage to act so decisively?  Why is Gloucester so indifferent?

Is it because Peabody has so much less to save that they are galvanized in making such a bold move?

Regardless of what motivated them,  I say “Kudos to Peabody”.  May they lead by example!


Pru's photo for book (2)


Prudence Fish, of Lanesville, is a published author and expert on antique New England houses.

Read Prudence Fish’s blog, Antique Houses of Gloucester and Beyond.

Please see this related story from the Gloucester Daily Times:

Private residence proposed for the ocean side of the Back Shore











Heroic Voyagers to Niles Pond

john sullivan swans

Swan Family (detail) John Sullivan, Gloucester, 2015

The swans glide across the pond as a family all dressed in white. The two chaperone three fluff balls. The swan woman who wants to guard the young like their parents do tells me their incredible story.

Born not long ago in pond by Pebble Beach they traveled miles across the open Atlantic before coming to Brace Cove and Niles Pond. Just getting the cygnets across the sea of angry waves was puzzling till I learned they climb on the parents’ backs and ride safely there.  Nature has a way. The journey from Cove Beach dividing mass of salt and fresh water to pond must have been easy compared to ocean voyage. They appeared secure but I have heard the coyote calls in the brush, seen the snapping turtles as they laid eggs, and watched hawks soar round.

I too keep a weather eye on the cygnets as I walk by the pond seeing how vigilant the parents are as they stare at me. I could watch the stamping of feet on shallow bottom of pond to raise food but do not move close.  The large wings open aggressively. These wings powerful enough to raise a large swan into flight can also be a weapon to avoid.
My short vigils did not help this family. Whether by predator of nature or disease all three were lost outside my view. The parents, staid, in the pond,  more removed than when they had young.  Heroic voyagers across the ocean to a safe harbor that proved anything but a pond of growth and joy.
John Sullivan

john sullivan (2)John Sullivan “I was born and raised in Maine, got a degree in chemistry before setting anchor in Gloucester some twenty five odd years ago. Got to know town by running two plants on fish pier.”

Nice Place to Visit, But…


Photo courtesy of Document Photo/Morin

Well, my first week or so back in the city was an event filled one – not the least of which was the close race between Sefatia Romeo-Theken and Paul McGeary, as they vied to prevail as the two final mayoral candidates in November.

On September, 29, the voters went to the polls and decided it would, indeed, be a Romeo-Theken/McGeary mayoral contest on the first Tuesday in November.

The city and its people are fortunate in that both candidates have a lot of experience, and they both have demonstrated a deep commitment to, and love for this wonderful but rapidly changing city by the sea.

They may differ on some of  the details on how to best help the city and its people navigate the changes that are coming, but nobody, whether you support Romeo-Theken or McGeary, should doubt the commitment both these capable candidates have to the city and its future.

That said, having just returned from working the summer tourist season in Provincetown, something that would not have been economically feasible had it not been that I rented at a reasonable rate from an old friend; I worry that, as the fishing industry continues to be regulated to near extinction, there are too many people in Gloucester who believe that waterfront related tourism in the form of high end marinas,  ever more chic restaurants and bars, and luxurious accommodations of one form or another, will somehow offset the loss of the relatively good paying jobs the fishing industry and related businesses so long generated here in Fish City.

If the economic focus in relation to how best to use the waterfront in the wake of fishing’s decline is too heavily dependent on that high end tourism, Gloucester is setting the stage for another economic crisis a few years down the road from now. That crisis will revolve around the harsh reality that the people employed in those almost strictly seasonal, tourism and service industries will not be able to afford to live here any longer.


gifts- ernie morin, jeff weaver

Ernest Morin photo of Jeff Weaver mural at Harbor Loop, courtesy Document Photo/Morin

That is because as the waterfront is gentrified, the term is a bit of a cliché but I use it for lack of a better one, one can be sure the gentrification will spread out from the waterfront and up into what are still working class neighborhoods like “Portagee Hill”, the area in and around Middle Street, and all around and above Washington Street heading out toward Grant Circle.

As the gentrification spreads, already rising rents in the city will spike still higher.  It is all but guaranteed, yet the wages most of the jobs in tourism, even high end tourism, pay will not be enough to compensate for the ever increasing costs of housing .

Now, I know Provincetown and Gloucester are very different communities. But they share numerous demographic traits that, when looked at holistically and historically, make it clear that Gloucester can learn some lessons from Provincetown and, hopefully, not make the same mistakes Provincetown did as high end tourism replaced the once vibrant fishing economy there. As the fishing industry declined in Provincetown, old local Portuguese fishing families sold their multifamily  homes and moved away. Investors from Boston, New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco bought up those homes and transformed those once reasonably priced apartments into luxurious condominiums that are rented out by the week for two, three, even four thousand dollars during the high tourist season, only to be left vacant through the winter months – despite the fact Provincetown is experiencing a genuine housing crisis.

So acute is the housing shortage in Provincetown, people my age who have lived and worked there for years in the arts, in galleries, shops, and restaurants are leaving in droves. Even those who were fortunate enough to have bought something before prices went into the stratosphere about fifteen years ago are leaving. Why? Because their property taxes and assorted other fees have been raised to levels they can no longer afford.

The housing crisis is so severe that, increasingly, the employees in the shops, restaurants and galleries are Jamaican or Eastern European migrant workers who live four and five people to a room in bunk house style conditions for which each person pays two hundred dollars a week for the bunk – and little else.

Now, some will say such a development could never happen here in Gloucester, I beg to differ. In fact, a year ago this past summer I overheard two members of the management team at the establishment I worked at for two seasons talking about the need for the owners to start thinking about building dormitory style housing on the property because they understood that, as the economy of Gloucester changes and the city gentrifies, it is going to become ever harder for workers in the tourism and service industries to find housing here.

Gloucester, as Newburyport did twenty five years ago, is at great risk, especially in the wake of fishing’s decline, of becoming little more than a chic, coastal, bedroom community of Boston where most residents work off island for good wages; of seeing multi-family homes bought up and converted into high end condominiums, perhaps even to be rented out only in  the peak summer months at exorbitant rates as has happened in Provincetown, while the jobs created on island in the tourism and service sector industries  don’t pay enough to allow a single person, let alone someone trying to raise a family, to live here anymore.

People who don’t think that could really happen are kidding themselves.

That is why, as this municipal election cycle plays out, it is important for voters to find out where all the candidates stand on these all- important issues pertaining to the city, its people, and the future that awaits both.

Because the future is coming to the city, the only question to be answered is “What kind of future will it be?”

Michael Cook


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

Humbled by Hoops by Lori Sanborn

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Coach Joe Billante with Lori Sanborn at 2015 GHS Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony

sanborn- fishermen logo

Humbled by Hoops

by Lori Sanborn

I still remember the first drill I did with Lisa Olson my freshman year in the old gym at Gloucester High School.  Coach Olson stood at the baseline and rolled the ball out towards half court.  Battling one another, Erika Brown and I charged for the rock looking to score on the other end.   Junior versus freshman. All was fair game.  I loved that drill.  I loved that gym, with its amazing hardwood floors and local history.  I loved how many people crammed into that small arena to watch our boys and girls play basketball.  Khris Silveria and Paula Ryan were my hometown heroes.

But my love for the game did not start here. In fact, it came much earlier.  Somewhere between having CYO practices in the tiny Magnolia Library and going to open gym with all the boys at the Cape Ann YMCA, I fell in love.  To me there was no better feeling than blocking an opponent, finding a wide open teammate on the opposite block or making an unexpected steal that led to an easy lay-up off the fast break.  Although, my all time favorite feeling was the sound that echoed from the hoop after making a “nothing but net swoosh.” That WHITHTHTHTHPPP.  Some of you know the exact sound that I am referring to.  And hearing a swoosh on a chain net, well forget about it….

Simply put, I felt good playing basketball.  So I played whenever and wherever I could get gym time.  The size of the court did not matter.  Nor did the gender or age of my opponents.  I shot my heart out whenever I could.  But my personal drive could only take my passion for the game so far.  I was blessed to be supported by an extraordinary family and an equally dedicated and diverse group of coaching influences.

My mother and father brought me to every practice, game, and AAU tournament in Massachusetts and beyond.  And they did so with smiles on their faces. They supported my wishes to attend camps all over New England and most importantly, talked me off that ledge when I had an awful game.  Their unwavering support for their daughter, would help number 21 to score 30 points after only netting 3 in the game before.

While there have been countless individuals who influenced me during my basketball career, three definitely stand out for helping me to take my game to the next level. Rich Langan, pushed me to become a better post-player, first as my AAU coach and later here, in the gym of the Benjamin Smith Field House as head coach.  Not all players clicked with Rich, but I am one of the lucky ones who did, and his influence motivated me to play this game far beyond its winter season.  Alex “Pep” Borge had a profound influence on my life.  In 6th grade I played for Pep in the Cape Ann YMCA boys league.  Pep’s positive outlook and joyous attitude were infectious.  He made this game fun for me, a gift that every coach should give its players.  I credit Pep for helping me to become the optimist that I am today.

Anyone that is close to me knows how much I love to get yelled at by “old men.”  Why else would I torture myself with the presence of Joe Billante for so long?  All jokes aside, Joe is one of the greatest coaches I know.  No one knows more about the game than Joe B.  And his philosophy is simple.  Fundamentals first and practice makes perfect.  He values the player that works hard.  He values the player that hustles.  Most importantly, Joe B. gives his heart to every player that he works with.  Joe B. has taught me the true value of passion and that if you love what you do, than life will always be worthwhile.

The confidence and courage I found on the hardwood has transferred over to college classrooms, interviews, and eventually parenthood.  Ball taught me how to think quick, be strong, and trust others.  My parents and coaches, like Joe B., reinforced the value of preparation, practice and positivity.  So having my name hang in this gym, and now on the Hall of Fame Wall means more to me than you can imagine.  I want future generations of girls who have hoop dreams to see the name “Lori Sanborn” and hopefully believe that they can be better than me if they really work hard. This should be the mentality of all aspiring athletes, not to be ‘as good as’ but rather, to be ‘better than.’  And if I am really lucky, maybe my own daughter will be able to out-perform her Mom one day.  We just need her to choose sneaks over heels first.

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GHS Hall of Fame Class of 2015 at September 20 Induction Ceremony

From the bottom of my heart, thank you to the Hall of Fame Committee for choosing me to be among this talented group of male and female athletes and coaches inducted into the 2015 Hall of Fame class.  I will never forget the four years that I played for the Gloucester Girls Basketball program or the teammates that helped me to reach such an accolade. Once again, I have found myself completely humbled by hoops.

sanborn- bio

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.

House Gods

                                                                                               ©Eric Schoonover

I don’t have any house gods—strictly speaking that is. But I do have four garden gods and one car god. My cars have always displayed life-sized lizards on the dashboard; small, alert and attractive creatures, they have kept me company over many thousand miles. My current reptile is a Desert Grassland Whiptail (Aspidoscelis uniparens), mild mannered with a tendency to creep over to my side of the dash where it creates a distracting reflection in the windshield. She (it’s an all-female species, reproduction by parthenogenesis) is probably fifteen years old. Her markings blend in with the dash; passengers rarely comment on her. She is on her second car just now.

Two of the garden gods are also reptiles: small snakes. (One is a baby Yellow-Bellied Water Snake (Nerodia erythrogaster), the other a MadeInChinaSnake.) They’re realistic, so realistic that visitors are often startled:  a tighter breathing, / And zero at the bone, as Miss Dickinson wrote. They make up for the innocuous Whiptail on the dashboard, and I must confess to a somewhat sadistic delight when people respond to them with alarm. They lie atop the cement that encases the two gate posts, so they are most clearly visible. They are the guards of our small urban courtyard; although, save for the startled guests, they are rather ineffectual. I struggle nightly in early summer with a prowling skunk whose malodorous body gives off such pungency that it wakes me. And then there are the cats who are most interested in the soft, cultivated soil of the flower beds that surround the slate courtyard floor.

Last are the other two garden gods. They are the oldest and made an entry into my life as a wedding present many years ago. They were (perhaps) Asian salad utensils, carved from some

house gods

house gods

exotic wood. I never liked them, and they were relegated to bottom drawers and backs of closets. (I suspect that the fate of many wedding gifts.) But then, years later, I thought to stick them in the garden ground. A lovely decorative detail hidden beneath fern fronds, lording it over a quiet herbal world. Years passed, and the fork and then the spoon rotted away, and they were once again retired, this time to a trug, along with trowels and garden gloves.

Over the years I began to develop a liking for these two, male and female. I mounted them on fiberglass rods and urethaned them. They are contemplative, coming perhaps from a Buddhistic world; Burma or Bali—but virtually universal save for their seemingly symbolic postures and attire. Their majesty exudes peace, and although I don’t think that they have much sway with the skunk or the cats, they reassure me and provide continuity to the garden over the years as it wanders, grows differently, and changes its color.

I hadn’t given this matter of house gods much thought until recently, perhaps prompted by my study of a Roman villa. I am neither a spiritual nor a superstitious person, but these familiars bring a feeling of stability that is not always present in my life. People have long touched an object on entering or leaving a house, expecting good fortune. So, too, I view these beings, these non-beings, as objects bringing good fortune.


“House Gods” one of 19 essays in Eric Schoonover’s collection, Telling Tales, to be published later this year.

Our Great Marsh



Plum Island

Plum Island photo by Judith Walcott


Plum Island Revery


Peter Anastas

“Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness…”

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Salt Pannes, Plum Island photo by Judith Walcott

Gazing beyond the dunes of Plum Island at the Great Marsh, bronzed in late summer light, I thought of that evocative first line of Keat’s poem, “On Autumn”.

It was the last weekend of August.  Each year at summer’s end I love to walk the barrier beach of the Parker River Wildlife Refuge.  There are no dwellings nearby; and except for those who fish the ocean’s edge for striped bass, few beachgoers after Labor Day.  It’s a place where one is up against nature in the raw.  I make it a point to visit the beach often during the year, observing the seasonal changes—-the piping plovers as they propagate, the redwings that arrive by the end of February, the tree swallows who begin their pre-migratory flocking in mid-August, and the purple martins who leave by summer’s close.

The approaching autumn is a special time for me.  It’s a time for reflection.  It’s also a time when one prepares for the year’s declension into winter, a time of mellowness in the air, the light, as Keats’s poem suggests; a time of actual and spiritual harvest.

Stretching from West Gloucester to the borders of New Hampshire, the Great Marsh is a wonder.  As I contemplate its vast fertility from the silent dunes of Plum Island, I think of those early settlers, who gathered beach plums here (hence its name) and took the shellfish.  I think particularly of Judge Samuel Sewell, who in 1697 gave us this description of Plum Island:

“As long as Plum Island shall faithfully keep the command post, notwithstanding all the hectoring words and hard blows of the boisterous ocean; as long as any salmon and sturgeon shall swim in the streams of Merrimack, or any perch or pickerel in Crane Pond; as long as the sea fowl shall know the time of their coming, and not neglect seasonably to visit the places of their acquaintance; as long as any cattle shall be fed with the grass growing in the meadows, which do humbly bow down themselves before Turkey Hill; as long as any sheep shall walk upon Old Town Hill, and shall from thence pleasantly look down upon the River Parker and the fruitful marshes lying beneath; as long as any free and harmless doves shall find a white oak or other tree within the township to perch or feed or build a careless nest upon, and shall voluntarily present themselves to perform the office of gleaners after barley harvest; as long as nature shall not grow old and dote, but shall constantly remember to give the rows of Indian Corn their education by pairs; so long shall Christians be born there…and shall from thence be translated to be made partakers of the Inheritance of the saints in light.”

Those words were written three-hundred and eighteen years ago, yet they describe with perfect clarity what can still be seen and enjoyed today.  Whether or not we share Judge Sewell’s prophetic religiosity, we can still marvel at the acute sense of place evoked in his description of Plum Island and its surrounding forests, hills and wetlands.  We can marvel at this early ecological vision, at its appreciation of nature’s bounty.

Years pass as if they were days, places change and the people who inhabit them disappear.  Thanks largely to the vision and commitment of organizations like the Essex County Greenbelt Association and the Trustees of Reservations, numerous town land trusts, and preservation-minded property owners, Essex County has retained much of its austere beauty.  There is no present without a past, as Judge Sewell understood.  Yet today’s destroyers act as if they were the only people on earth, as if no one had been here before them, preserving what they cherished for us today.  They act as if their greed were a right, instead of a sin against each of us and the land itself.

Tasteless “trophy” houses and out-of-scale McMansions spring up in fields and meadows once husbanded with meticulous care by our colonial forebears.  Signs dot the oceanside warning natives, who have always had access to the shore, that the property is now “private.”  Gates appear where once we all walked with impunity; and greed reigns.   The sense of Commonwealth our puritan predecessors bequeathed us, the belief that the land and sea were ours to use and enjoy together, to preserve for the next generation, has eroded vastly since Judge Sewell’s time.  More than ever, it is our responsibility to secure this covenant once again.  Otherwise, those who come after us may never enjoy the seasons “of mists and mellow fruitfulness” we have accepted as our birthright.


Peter at Museum (1)

Peter Anastas, EG editorial director, is a Gloucester native and writer. His most recent book, A Walker in the City: Elegy for Gloucester, is a selection from columns that were published in the Gloucester Daily Times.




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.