Poetry from War Veterans, Sad Facts of Nature, Bra Stuffing, and the Mean Streets of Gloucester

This day really ran the gamut, and I don’t want to trivialize the serious, really meaningful parts by sharing everything but I’m going to share everything anyway. If I put “bra stuffing” in the tit(t)l(at)e I might get more readers, after all.

Got up today determined to get a cool summer job, so I put in the paisley turquoise and green skirt and the bangle (both acquired yesterday from The Dress Code, a hub of Gloucester culture); I have a nice aqua top but the waist to bust ratio wasn’t cutting it. You know those pesky socks that get separated from their pairs? I’m so glad I held on to mine. I helped nature out a bit with one green-striped fuzzy sock and one purple one. I gave Harold an unnecessary speech about how things have not changed so much in the food service business, and took off into the gorgeous, clear-blue-sky day towards the paradise that is downtown Gloucester.

My first encounter of the day was with a VERY relaxed friendly looking couple (did I mention it was 10:30 a.m.?) sitting on a bench outside a tavern across from the water. They greeted me in a friendly way so I said “I’m looking for a job! Do you have any advice?”. I elaborated that I wanted a “fun job”, someplace with food and a bar, and they held forth. Jackie, a 60ish hippie complete with gray pony tail said “don’t be insulted, but it’s all about the cleavage”. Ann, a funny and clearly wise woman who has spent a lot of time squinting into the sun, agreed. “We were in the tavern business. We always loved to have a woman bartender with…a friendly personality”. They shared their thoughts on several places I should try, and I decided they were my good luck angels for the day. A really sweet, cool pair. In 15 years or so it might be fun to join them on that bench.

I walked down the waterfront street and back up Main St. collecting applications and trying my best to simply beam friendliness and competence to everyone I met. After about an hour I passed Dogtown Books, a leathery-dusty-old papery-smelling haven of bliss, and chatted with the utterly charming owner Bob Ritchie. I want you to click this link and see his website right now. It says something about the way this man does business: http://www.dogtownbooks.com/

By which I mean, it’s much better just to walk in and meet him and his ever-changing towering piles of wonderment in person.

I HAD to scope out the poetry and New England history sections, which meant I bought some books: an elderly copy of Spoon River Anthology, an anthology of Russian poetry including lots of Ahkmatova, and a really nice book about the history/architecture of Portland; an out-of-print volume put out by Portland Landmarks a few decades ago. It’s more source material for that book I really am going to write. I’m in the note-taking phase. Please don’t ask me about it. Thanks.

While I was browsing, a very elderly and loud, disheveled, bent-over, eccentrically dressed–which is to say, clearly brilliant–man returned a large volume of Milosz (are you still there? It took me a while to find the right spelling), and proclaimed “I have no use for contemporary poets!”. I gave him the side-eye but decided to let it pass realizing that if I engaged with this man I might be a long time getting dis-engaged.

 I will never return a book by this poet. Just saying.

As I checked out, the Frowsty Old Formalist was still browing, and I admitted to Bob, in a whisper, that I did, on occasion, write poetry, and did he know about the Writers Center? (There is no apostrophe anywhere in that title. I checked. I’m not sure what that implies. By which I mean both the lack of apostrophe and my checking).

Bob praised the Center’s events enthusiastically and reminded me there was to be a reading this afternoon, featuring the poetry of war veterans. I’m so glad he did remind me. More on that.

After this nice interlude I drove to Rocky Neck, THE OLDEST WORKING ARTS COLONY IN AMERICA, because I heard the hippest eateries were out there. I applied at the Mad Fish Grille and now it is the only place I really want to work. I can’t overstate how cool this place is–right on the water, with a deck, a dock, a patio, and even the “inside” part, which is mostly all bar, shows the harbor from every table. They have just opened for the season and might be adding more staff and I sat there and filled out the app in painstaking detail and I just need to work there. They have live music. It has a tiki bar vibe, but tasteful. I’m so glad I checked to make sure I tucked those socks in before I approached the manager. You have to see it so click here and say a little prayer for me. http://www.madfishgrille.com/

Sad part of the day: when I got home, Harold told me that Fred, who is an INDOOR CAT, walked out onto our tiny balcony and snagged a sparrow right out of the air. He trotted in with his prey and Harold tried to save the little bird but, as he kept repeating, “you could see the life just fading out of him”. Harold’s been depressed about this most of the day, and I am, too, if I let myself think about it. I’m also thinking that now that Fred’s had a taste of this sport, I’m going to have to keep the cockatiels caged unless I’m looking directly at them. We still love Fred, he was just doing what cats do, but we’re sad. The sparrows were building a nest next door in the air conditioning housing. Fred is grounded until further notice.


To top off this very eventful day, I walked a sunny mile to the poetry reading at the Writers Center, and the poets were all amazing. The reading was wonderfully well-attended and, in speaking with other listeners at the reception afterwards, I discovered that we were all so profoundly affected by the readings we couldn’t talk about it yet. The poets were, for the most part, war veterans, with one widow of a veteran who was recently deceased and left an incredible legacy of creative work, and one war survivor who survived a bombing by US bombers when he was a 14 year old boy in Italy. I’m going to have to write more about the event tomorrow, because it was so intense, and deserves more thoughtful treatment than I can give it so soon after the experience.

I’m thinking I should take out the part about stuffing my bra. It makes me sound really shallow and it’s probably a blow to my reputation, if I ever had one, of serious feminism.

Still, I’ll leave it in, because no one can tell me what not to write. Nyeah nyeah. Going to spend some time adoring the pets now, and try to persuade Harold that a funny movie might ease our grief and guilt over the little sparrow, just a bit.


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