Bears of the USA


Bears are back in New England!



A bear was sighted in North Kingstown, Rhode Island only a few days ago. And there have been bears sighted on Cape Cod too. (Which is interesting, because they’d either have to clamber over one of the two bridges to the Cape, or ride on top of a vehicle to get there. Or swim. Or ride a floating log across the Cape Cod Canal. Or commandeer someone’s Humvee. But nothing’s impossible.)



Well, it’s like the Middle Ages around here.  The bear here in Rhode Island knocked over a chicken coop and made off with one of the chickens!



Our stuffed polar bear, Carbuncle, has his own thoughts on the subject. (Carbuncle, you might recall, won the Financial Times crossword puzzle contest about a year ago. This is a picture of him wandering the neighborhood last winter):



carbuncle winter


First of all: Carbuncle is glad that the bears are back. He’s less lonely now.



Second: Carbuncle wonders what kind of bears are back. Polar bears? Probably not. Ah well. Less competition for those tasty seals:


bear and seal



Also: will this mean less pick-a-nick baskets for Carbuncle to steal from friends and neighbors?



I direct you to the following cartoon for more information:




Edward Gorey


A while back, Google changed its logo to commemorate Edward Gorey’s 88th birthday.



Gorey was an illustrator. I still have a number of paperback books from the 1960s and 1970s with covers drawn by Gorey. (His style is unmistakeable: scratchy, mock-Victorian, mock-Gothic.)



But all the while, quietly, he was publishing his own little books: children’s alphabets, morality stories, horror stories, and limericks.



If you ever watched “Mystery!” on PBS, you’ve seen Gorey’s work; that wonderful animation at the beginning, with sighing women and huge urns crashing on people’s head. Here it is:





Gorey passed away in 2000. He lived on the north shore of Cape Cod, in Yarmouthport, Massachusetts. Partner and I have visited his house; it’s a big rambling structure, with a huge bay laurel tree in the yard.



Gorey collected things. There are buckets full of doorknobs on display! (Older American readers will remember Aunt Clara, on the TV show “Bewitched,” who always had doorknobs in her purse. It’s a sweet affectation to collect doorknobs. To be sure, they can be very pretty.)



I snatched a laurel leaf from the yard before we left, and pressed it in my ancient copy of “Amphigorey.”



Happy 88th, Edward. We miss you.


Snow, glaciers, and the Elizabeth Islands

cape cod elizabeth islands

We here in Rhode Island had a mini-blizzard in the middle of February, which dumped two feet of snow. A lot of it melted right away. But some of it remained, in big chunks and drifts on the roadside.



It melts, bit by bit, and the streets and sidewalks get wider and wider, thank God.



Have you ever noticed what happens when mounded snow melts? It almost always leaves debris behind, like this:







Flashback to the last Ice Age: the glaciers pushed all kinds of debris (rocks, etc.) out to their limits, and then they receded.



What did they leave behind?



Why, Cape Cod and the Elizabeth Islands!






Cape Cod and the Elizabeths are the fringe of debris  – the “terminal moraine” – left behind by the last glaciers.



The last Ice Age left behind all kinds of debris in southern New England: the teardrop-shaped islands in Boston Harbor, the big chunks of stone dropped at random throughout Massachusetts and Connecticut and Rhode Island (“glacial erratics”, and (most especially) the line of debris that created the ridges of Cape Cod and the Elizabeth Islands.



Debris. What a terrible word. Let’s just call it “landscaping.”


Bar people


Partner and I wanted a light dinner one evening on the Cape, so we stopped in at a local bar & grill. It was cheap and cheerful, and very airy, and mostly a local crowd. (You can always spot tourists on Cape Cod: they look – well, they look like us.)


We ate, and we took in the local color:


The young(ish) couple at the bar. He’s sitting on a stool; she’s standing right over him, her face maybe ten inches from his. She’s wearing a little too much makeup. He’s got his knees open, and she’s standing right between them. She’s talking a mile a minute, staring into his eyes, never for a moment looking away . . .


The young(ish) guy at the bar, maybe three or four beers gone, telling a story to the bartender, so excited by his own story that he’s standing up, almost hopping up and down, getting louder and louder . . .


The old guy sitting at the bar, weathered-looking, with a hat and a shaggy mustache. (“He looks like he’s been here continuously for two weeks,” I whispered to Partner. “Are you kidding?” Partner said. “He’s been here continuously for forty years.”)


The gruesome-looking couple emerging from the back room. He’s big and bearded and looks either angry or constipated, and she looks either despondent or completely out of it. I look away for a second, and suddenly she’s alone at the bar, and he’s nowhere . . .


And most memorable of all:


As we were leaving, a woman was getting out of her car. She gives us a nervous grin, turns, and says in the direction of her car: “I’ll be right back.”


I look at her car, and I see a little dog, maybe a papillon, perched in the back seat, its face pressed to the window, watching her go into the bar. “Look!” I say cheerfully to Partner. “How cute!”


Partner looked at me sadly/wryly. “You didn’t see,” he said. “The dog’s not alone. There’s a little girl in there too.”




The dog was foolish enough to watch Mommy go into the bar, hoping that she’d be back soon.


The little girl didn’t bother to look. She knew better.


Happy Wednesday at the Sand Dollar Bar and Grill, everybody!









Old Cape Cod


Partner and I spent a few days on Cape Cod last week. It’s barely an hour away from Providence, but it’s a different world altogether. The weather is milder. The light is softer. The air is different.



It is so bloody quaint that it makes me want to hold my head and moan. Little white houses buried in rhododendrons and wisteria. Little shingled houses with American flags flying on the porch. Little brick houses with wizened cherry trees in the yard. Oh my God!



Little old ladies are everywhere, having brunch and powerwalking and selling taffy. Handymen and landscapers and lifeguards are everywhere, big and burly and suntanned. And all the convenience stores sell t-shirts three for ten bucks.



We stopped for breakfast at – where else? – The Breakfast Room. “Room,” by the way, was spelled, not with two Os, but with two fried eggs. (Partner: “Well, we gotta eat there. I mean, look at the eggs on the sign!”) We had eggs (what else?) and coffee and toast. An older couple came in after us, sat nearby, and regarded the menu dolefully. “Well,” the husband said after a few minutes, “it looks like they just serve breakfast.”



Even the geography is quaint. Take Dennis, for example, where we stayed. You’ve got South Dennis, and West Dennis (which is also “Bass River”), and Dennis, and Dennisport, and East Dennis (which is just north of South Dennis). I finally found North Dennis on the map; it’s a mile west of East Dennis.



The same naming pattern is repeated for Sandwich, and Harwich, and Yarmouth, and Falmouth. (I won’t even tell you about the Upper Cape. You’re not ready for that. It’s like quantum physics.)



You’ve never seen many birds. I understand now why people go nutsy for birdwatching on the Cape. Eighteen different species of bird were perched on the hotel sign when we pulled in, arranged (I think) either by size, or alphabetically. I lay half-awake one morning, listening to the dawn chorus of birdcalls, and I think some of them were just making the calls up, to show off. I mean, really: “Peep peep peep peep brrr brrr brrr toowhaa toowhaa”? What the hell kind of bird does that? An imaginary one?



We ate at Captain Parker’s in (West) Yarmouth our first evening there, as we usually do. Partner adores their clam chowder, and the fisherman’s platter, which is served on a plate the size of a laundry hamper. I had the mussels marinara; the mussels were local, and huge, and terrifying. (Partner told me later that a kid at the table behind me was watching me dissect and consume my mussels. To be fair, they were prehistoric.)



Take it away, Patti Page!


Patti_Page_-_Old_Cape_Cod.mp3 Listen on Posterous




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