Vermont Country Journal~ ‘By the Sea, by the Beautiful Sea’

Summer! What can be better than the halcyon days of sun and fun? Give me endless summer. Shhhhh!…don’t tell anybody: a Vermonter who doesn’t like the cold!  Nope. I don’t find anything refreshing about cold anything-unless it is in the beverage department. Between you and me, I’ll take planting season and growing season over brief glimpses of a quaint winterscapes seen through arctic-frozen window panes any day.  An integral part of the Joys of Summer is being close to water. Nice large swimmable bodies of water. In the early days, a perfect summer’s day was a long barefoot walk down a country road to a pond with a small raft anchored in the center of it. In order for those of us in the ‘under-3-feet-tall’ set to be able to have fun with the older crowd on the raft, we had to prove we were capable of saving ourselves from going under by swimming the length of the pond back and forth, twice. They didn’t just let any ambitious imp hop in a try the marathon swim- one must undergo swimming lessons first. We would set out from my grandmother’s house bright and early and get there before the sun had gotten a chance to warm the water from the night’s chill. Guess who was the last one in? The peer group pressure from my tiny buddies must have been enough to keep me from showing them my lips blue, but there was some humiliation when I had to be saved in my first attempts to swim the big drink. Yup—had to be saved…by a girl. She was a big girl. And very kind. She had to have been in high school, or maybe even one of those Bennington College gals the town talked about. She took time out in the warmer watered afternoons to help me earn my waterwings, and before long, I was splashin’ & playin’ on the raft with the best of them.

A few of my childhood summers had to be spent in the suburbs of Washington, DC. Sprinklers and hoses and cheesy blow-up kiddie pools had to suffice on hot summer days. Maybe (if we were lucky) twice a season, we took a very long drive over to the Jersey shore. OCEAN CITY: with its long shallow beaches, gentle waves, and throngs of people. I loved it, and of course took home every souvenir I could find in the sand. The smell; the grit; the gulps of salt water forced into our lungs—it was all good.

A trip to Cape Cod as seen thru old postcards. Slideshow by MandT
(Patti Page singing ‘Old Cape Cod’)

When I became older and joined the ranks of the ‘Tall People’, I again found myself in the sweltering City of Washington, DC. I had come down from the north in the fall and, after first landing with my parents, I found myself subletting a small second-floor apartment in Georgetown. Besides my newly budding cooking career, I worked as a waiter in the bistro right below me. As it turned out, by day, the joint was a very popular eatery for every facet of life and position. By night, a very fun gay clientel turned it into a cabaret-especially on weekends. The restaurant was one of several by the same name spread out in the city.  In one of them, Roberta Flack played piano on the weekends. ‘Killing Me Softly’ had just started becoming a hit. She played the Back Room at my restaurant as well as the one on Capitol Hill. Shortly after I’d started working there, I fell under the protectorship of a very warm and worldly gay couple. Upon hearing that I had no alternate plan for the summer than to work at ‘Mr. Henry’s’, they came to me and said “You cannot stay in the City for the summer and we are taking you to Cape Cod with us”. Ah——-how nice to be swept away!

Besides the circus-like atmosphere of Ocean City, I really had never spent much time at the shore. My friends had spent the previous two seasons living and working on the Cape. They knew every secret beach, every hidden freshwater pond. They took me places and enlightened me to beauty I had never before experienced until that point.

The beauty of Cape Cod has much to do with the light in which it is seen. My new destiny was found in the far reaches of the Outer Cape (about as far east as one can get) in and around the the old Portuguese fishing village of Provincetown. Provincetown has long been known as an artistic community-an excentric getaway of fun and culture. It is banked by the Atlantic Ocean on one side and Cape Cod Bay on the other. The air is pure and clear. My first home was a most ideal honeymoon cottage (my ‘protectors’-not mine) situated on a small salt pond in North Truro, which is in the highlands just before decending onto the sand bar, sea-level, last-town-on-the-Cape, which is Provincetown. It was probably the tiniest house I’ve ever been in-much too small for three. My wonderful friends had unknowingly introduced me to someone who was quickly to become my very first grown-up, adult, ‘knock-your-socks-off’ love. Wow!   That was a long time ago…haha

The Cape has a very subtile beauty. Muted colors of pinks, lavenders, golds and greens. Often there is a mist and at night, fog horns fill the silent air with their different tones. Ocean waves are gentle, and the intensity of sunsets build until September when they are absolutely the most beautiful. For many years, Provincetown was home to the Provincetown Playhouse, where many famous actors and musicians would come to perform in summer stock.

The theatre in Provincetown, Massachusetts where Eugene O’Neill’s first play, ‘Bound East for Cardiff’, was performed.

There are very few places that I have been in all of my worldly travels that I would call ‘one of the most beautiful spots on earth’, but Cape Cod is one of them. After my first season on the Cape, I returned for two more years. At the end of the third year, I chose to persue my cooking career, which kept me in Philadelphia and then onto the west coast. But it does not fail that every summer I long for Cape Cod. It is in the blood. It is hard to say what etches such a thing in your heart and soul. Love? Beauty? Destiny? ———– Memories?

Perhaps we shall get there again yet. After Labor Day when the town is reclaimed by the locals. The crowds have gone. The air is still warm and clear and the sunsets spectacular. If you’ve never been, you really should try to. You are in for a treat. But from experience, I will tell you that what Patti Page sings in the song is true:

“You’re sure to fall in love with Old Cape Cod”

(The Provincetown Moors)

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