Third day at the Cape. Falmouth, MA. First day on the beach.
The plan for this four-day vacationette at the Cape was to park the car at the inn, bike everywhere and spend at least part of each day on the beach, Julia digging and making castles, me, reading and writing. As it turned out, we arrived on Tuesday in time for supper, walked up to the main street, checked out the bike rental store which was closed and found out the they are only doing multi-day renting. No problem, I though. We’d pick bikes up on Wednesday morning and keep them until Saturday. We had a very nice Mexican meal, sitting outside, reading the menu on my phone. I had the margarita that I sorely needed and we walked home.
Wednesday morning it was raining and it rained most of the day. Julia is not one to walk in the rain no matter how light. We caught a break in the afternoon and walked on the beach for almost an hour. I picked up a few shells, Julia did not want to gather any. When we lived in the midwest, I always had a glass jar of seashells displayed somewhere. The jar broken during our move to Newton and I have not replaced it. The shells are stored in a plastic bag. After so many years away, I had forgotten how much I love the ocean, especially the sounds of waves, gulls, people. I forgot the pull of it. I was almost completely cured.
When it began to sprinkle, we rushed back to our room. The room which is very nice at the Beach Breeze Inn, is not full of amusement for a vacation. We watched movies on my laptop and Julia discovered the weather channel and could be anxious about rain and storms all over the United States. She also discovered Star Trek! We’ve watched the latest Picard series a few months ago but Julia was not interested at that time exploring any other Star Trek and I’ve seen them all. She found Next Generation (“Look, Picard when he was young!”) and also Deep Space Nine. I brought some supper in. We ate calamari, onion rings and cole slaw. Watched more Star Trek and went to sleep.
We had gone out for breakfast that morning and because of the rain, sat inside a small restaurant. We were properly distanced and the servers wore masks but it made me anxious. We have kept to ourself and so safe for so long. I worried I blew it to eat eggs and toast. Ugh. Julia did enjoy her chocolate chip pancakes but I resolved not to do it again.
I had researched before we left Newton for some rainy day things to do and finding a few museums, gardens with historic homes attached, felt we could fill a day. According to my phone, there was no chance of rain. I was especially excited to show Julia the Woods Hole Aquarium which seemed to be partially outside which I thought would be a nice break from beach, beach, beach. Most of what I found is closed or open for very limited hours.
Thursday morning we woke up to more rain. I found the Whydah Pirate Museum in West Yarmouth, about an hour away from us. I made our reservation, Julia ate her left over pancake and we had croissants from a bakery and we drove. The Pirate Museum was not crowded, very covid compliant and more interesting than I expected—the Whydah, and 18th century pirate ship sunk in a storm, 500 feet from the shore. Barry Clifford, an underwater archaeological explorer, was determined to find the treasure it was reported to contain. The story of the Whydah’s captain, Sam Bellamy, is somewhat romantic. He was have a very good year—looting and pillaging in and around the Caribbean, possibly making him the wealthiest pirate in history. With a boat load of gold and silver, he turned his ships north to New England and here is the possibly romantic part—he was a New England boy, a poor boy in love with a New England girl whose father forbade a relationship with a poor boy. And so, he may have been trying to return to his lady love—now rich, probably rich enough to get out of the pirate business and settle down. This is, of course, all supposition. There are no journals or letters, nothing like those things survived underwater for 300 years. I don’t think much is known of the lady love apart from her name.
What was most interesting was the museum’s emphasis on the diversity of the pirate crew, actually most pirates crews. Pirating required strength, daring and a goodly dollop of luck. It was a career for young men—mostly because pirates died pretty young. Pirates were recruited from the ranks of ex-naval crews, ex-sea merchant crews, guys who were on ships that were taken over by pirates, escaped slaves, freed or free black men who had few other prospects, and African would-be slaves who were being transported to the slave market. The language spoken on the ship was the nationality of the ship and so most pirates spoke English or French. Every man received the same pay, apart from the captain who got a double share and the quartermaster who receive a one and a half share. How amazing that for all the ugliness of piracy—savage killing and looting—pirates did not segregate or pay according to race, nationality or religion. How positively more than modern! There were a few women in piracy. None on the Whydah, but there were reports and court documents about two women who worked on Calico Jack Rackham‘s ship. In 1720 they were captured and tried. Their shipmates were hung, the normal punishment for piracy. The women, however, “pleaded their bellies” told the judge that they were both pregnant—one of them was Calico Jack’s partner. There is no report of their veracity. The judge, said to be disgusted with the women, sentenced them to prison for the. duration of their pregnancies where at least on of them died leaving no record of offspring. These were not ship prostitutes, one of the women was reportedly a fierce fighter who was regularly assigned as part of the boarding crew where most of the killing and looting took place. I wondered; however, if those women were regularly pregnant and had methods to rid themselves of their conditions. There was no nursery aboard any pirate ship.
When we were finished at the pirate museum, I drove another hour to Provincetown. I had originally wanted to stay there, I definitely wanted to visit, it was raining and if we went right back to Falmouth, we’d be stuck in our room again for the rest of the day.
When we got P-town, I was grateful that I could not find a rental there. The town was crowded. Provincetown was as warren-like as I remember from when David and I visited—maybe more warren-like than I remember. When a fierce shower rained down, we took refuge in a dumpling shop where we ate freshly made dumplings filled with shrimp and fish and greens. Best I’ve had in years and very unexpected. When the rain stopped, we walked the main street and some side streets—I was struck by the similarities among the old market place of Kuranda in Australia, the Old Quarter of HaNoi, the Caruggi district of Genoa and Provincetown—all distinct and reflecting their geography—Provincetown is Cape Cod on steroids—but the gathering of humanity has so much in common among the four. I would like to visit and stay in more of those places—but only after covid, only when the world can return to the travel habits of old. I begin to want to write “if” the world returns, but Florence and Sienna returned after the Black Death of 1348, the United States completely forgot the Spanish Flu in less than a century. This is cause for a strange brand of optimism.
I drove back to Falmouth in the rain, and picked up more takeout for our room. The weather cleared as we arrived home although I had driven too much during the day to go out for supper.
But later, we took a short walk to the beach and watched the red moon rise. I have never watched a moon rise, beginning blood red on the horizon, turning to pick-orange, gold and fading to white as it climbed. The beach which has very small waves during the day was quiet in the dark, almost lake-like, and the moon reflections stretched far from the horizon almost to us. And there were stars.
I was full up with memories of other oceans days and nights. Childhood weeks at Seaside Heights in Jersey—hot days on the beach and after showers, warm nights on the boardwalk. Custard cones and carousels. Teenage weekends on the shore with my friend, Linda, when we snuck into bars and flirted with older guys. I now imagine those times with a Bruce Springsteen sound track but those trips predated Bruce’s fame. He could have been playing in one of those bars. Adult breaks from NYC summers in Kismet on Fire Island with baby and toddler Cheshire. During those times in Kismet, our friends, Jon and Jim, visiting us for weekends. And Jim and I would take beach chairs and big, heavy towels as blankets. We’d sit on setting sun beaches and listen and watch the waves. We would talk as we got colder and refused to go back to the house until the light was completely gone. It was years after Jim died that I dreamt that we sat on the side of a hill like we sat on the beach, our view, people at the bottom of the hill, in line, waiting for something around a corner that we could not see. He told me that the after-life was nothing to be afraid of but that he missed our times at the beach.
And all the times David and I visited beaches on our visits out east and for years before, taking pictures in photo booths marking the times. So much silliness from very early in our relationship. So much easy happiness at the beach.
This Falmouth beach is a new beach for me, ‘though it carries all the memories I bring to it. We will sit on the beach today, under an umbrella until the wind gets too fierce, with sunscreen on too white skin. I will write some and read. Julia will dig holes and lay on a towel. We are not well-equipped and forgot to bring buckets and shovels for Julia to really build anything. Forgot my sun hat too. I will take a dip, Julia will get wet to her knees. We will have lunch and stay as long as we can. It is noisy—so much like the early Jersey memories. Perhaps we will leave for an afternoon nap and come back after some of those here leave. If it is a sun day tomorrow, we will do the same and not leave the Cape until late afternoon.
I have missed the beach and I don’t have to miss it anymore. Perhaps in the fall we will come again.