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.



That’s internet slang for “looking for work”? How did I learn this? Why, http://www.internetslang.com/, of course! Did you know there’s internet slang for “person from Zimbabwe”? “Zimbo”. I kid you not. But, I digress.

I am looking for work! Please tell everyone you know within 15 blocks of 326 Main Street, Gloucester, MA. I’m interested in doing pretty much anything that involves working with nice people, learning something new, wearing cute clothes and NOT PRACTICING LAW.

You know, it’s ten years since I stopped practicing law (with a few exceptions), and people still harangue me about it. “Why did you go to all that work and spend all that money not to use your degree? Why would you change to a job with lower pay? How can you stand working for people younger than/less educated than/ less whatever than yourself? Don’t you hate not having status at work? Aren’t you embarrassed when RUDE PEOPLE LIKE ME won’t stop prying?”. (OK, I made that last part up). My answer? MYOFB and DPYN (don’t pick your nose).

This is my final answer. I practiced law for FIFTEEN YEARS!!!! I only went to law school for three (of the most miserable) years (of my life). I’ve paid my dues. Most of the work I did involved hideous situations in which children were hurt, hearts were broken, bad guys got off, and I had to sit knee to knee in jail visiting rooms with people I normally would not touch with a stick.

 Furthermore, my favorite jobs ever have been, in descending order: 1) telemarketer ( I worked them over with my perky voice. I can make myself sound really busty. Lonely old men buy lots of vitamins).

2) singing waitress (the guitar player and I saved enough change to go on a bargain weekend in the Bahamas),

 3) ed tech,

 4) college instructor, and

 5) horse stable mucker.

I could go on for quite awhile before I reached “lawyer”, “paralegal”, “legal researcher”, or “law clerk”. For one thing, the hype around the profession is completely misleading.  I never had those shoes or that briefcase or those legs. One time I had breast milk leak through my cheap blazer when I was standing in front of the bench and, on the same day, pulled a Pampers out of my briefcase, while the relevant file waited for me at home in the baby tote.

Those of you who know me must SURELY be itching to interrupt about now and ask “what about POET? Surely your most true, core calling is that of POET!”. So let me address that, briefly. “Poet” is not a job. If a stranger on a plane asks you what you do for a living, and you reply, “I”m a poet”, you sound incredibly pretentious, plus you are lying. No one “makes a living” being a poet. So there.

Why all this blather? Because I STARTED to write about my morning, and I got distracted.

This morning, I put on a short (for me) skirt, high (for me) heels to show off my tan (for me) legs, and walked downtown to look for work. Not the kind of work where you trot off with a leather case full of  CVs and letters of reference, but the kind where you walk in, ask if they’re hiring, and fill in a one-page, two-sided application with an iffy pen while you sit at the bar and hope you are sending out friendly and competent vibes. These legs would be nothing without Ben & Jerry’s Chunky Monkey, so thanks, guys.

Midway through my journey I dropped in to my favorite gently-loved clothing store, The Dress Code, to ask for job tips, because they know absolutely everyone, and: lo and behold! a new order of kicky skirts had just come in, all in my size. Now, you know you have to look good to feel good and you have to feel good about yourself to get any kind of a decent job so I bagged a few career essentials:
They all have a little lime green thing going on so I had to add this amazing bangle,( only $3, in case my husband decides to read my blog, which he never does).

There were fantastic strappy sandals in this exact same color but they were $30 and I did not buy them, in case you ARE reading this, Honey, after all.

I’ll probably be strolling out tomorrow to fill out lots more of those flimsy, hopeful applications because it’s summer, and the seasonal places are opening up, but, on the other hand, I’m 50, and a chunky monkey, and I haven’t waited tables in 28 years. The last time I did it, I had to put down my tray every 15 minutes, walk up by the front door, and sing Your Cheating Heart, while the industrial dishwashers hummed discordantly in the background.

Do I still have it?
We’ll just have to see about that.