Friday, June 23, 2017

My Cape Cod Roots

            I feel that I was born at the absolute best time to appreciate Cape Cod for all that it is and was.  I am old enough to remember things ‘the way they used to be’, yet young enough to enjoy the way things are.  For those who are dying to know, I was born in 1977.  I straddle the line between generations that gives me insight into two worlds.  I am of the age where I was able to see and experience a little bit of Olde Cape Cod and watch as my home changed and adapted with the times.

              During my childhood landline telephones and phone booths were common.  I remember waiting for friends to call, and actually having to remember people’s phone numbers.  Yet as an adult I love the convenience and technology of smartphones.  I do not believe I could recite anybody’s phone number today.  However I could still rattle off my old home phone number, my Nana’s number, and a few friends from middle school as well.

            Throughout my childhood I would be tossed outside by my mother during summer to go off and play with my friends, only coming home when it was almost dark.  I do not believe we ever feared being abducted, though I am sure the bad people were not something invented in the last twenty years.  The Cape seemed more innocent though I am sure that it was not.

            I was born at a time when vinyl albums were mainstays.  I had a collection as a seven-year old that might shock people today with artists like Ratt, Twisted Sister, Quiet Riot, Van Halen, and Motley Crue lining my shelves.  Of course I had the first pressing of Michael Jackson’s Thriller as well and used to play it loudly out of my window on my Fisher-Price record player so all of the neighborhood kids could dance in the yard.  I had young hip parents which influenced my style growing up.  However as much as I loved making cassette mixtapes off of stations like Cape 104 and 96.3 The Rose I can honestly say I prefer MP3’s and iTunes to Maxell and Memorex.

            I am old enough to remember walking, or driving, to the video store to rent VHS tapes.  Yet I am young enough to fully enjoy Netflix and Hulu and the instant gratification they provide.  Sure I played Atari 2600 and the original Nintendo but they were bit parts of my childhood.  Admittedly I did spend a good amount of time at the arcade but Rampage wasn’t going to beat itself!  It was a time when walking seemed more common, like after family meals on holidays.  There was always a place to walk as a family.

            I am old enough to have seen the first two schools I attended close.  I went to South Yarmouth Elementary School on Route 28 with Laurence MacArthur as my principal.  The school would eventually bear his name before being closed in 2013 and reopening as a campus for Bridgewater State University in 2015.  I then attended John Simpkins Elementary located on the same plot of land.  It served as the town’s first high school before Dennis-Yarmouth opened in 1957 and housed Grades 3-5 after.  It closed in 2006 and was transformed into the Simpkins School Residences, senior housing, opening in 2014.

            I am old enough to remember the Cape Cod Mall in the days before it expanded.  In those days it was anchored by Woolworth, Filene’s, and Jordan Marsh and had a separate cinema on the property.  I remember spending Friday evenings searching Record Town and Tape World for my next musical interest.  However I am also young enough to enjoy the convenience of what the expanded Mall has brought with so many stores under one roof.

            I am old enough to remember Cape Cod icons such as Thompson’s Clam Bar, Mildred’s Chowder House, Joe Mac’s, and Mill Hill Club.  There were fewer Shaw’s and Stop & Shop’s and more Angelo’s, Purity Supreme, and A&P’s.  I frequented Bassett’s Wild Animal Farm in Brewster and visited the legendary Cape Cod Coliseum, although it was to see Sesame Street On Ice.

            I am old enough to remember the grounding of the 473-foot freighter Eldia at Nauset Beach in 1984 and not believing how big it was.  I saw the breach of North Beach in Chatham in 1987 and am amazed at seeing it healing itself.  Hurricane Bob and the ‘Perfect Storm’ of 1991 made me appreciate the wonders of electricity after losing power for many days.

            My childhood was a time when drive-in theaters were still the norm.  At their peak there were nearly 4,000 drive-in theaters in the United States, as of 2017 that number has dwindled to 338.  The Wellfleet Drive-In is all that remains of their legacy on Cape Cod.  However I have fond memories of being elementary school aged and visiting the Yarmouth Drive-In across from Captain Parker’s Pub.  I was lucky enough to see movies like E.T., Return of the Jedi, and Flash Gordon in the warm summer air.  Other drive-in theaters in Dennis, Hyannis, and Falmouth once dotted the Cape decades ago as well.

            I remember there being more salamanders and fewer turkeys and coyotes.  I was warned about jellyfish stings when stepping into the ocean, Great White sharks not so much.  I remember the noon whistle in Yarmouth scaring me on numerous occasions.  I remember more Friendly’s and fewer Dunkin’ Donuts, Bradlees instead of Walmart.  Cape Cod seemed much larger then.  A family trip to Edaville Railroad in Carver felt like a drive across the country.  Today Chatham, Provincetown, and Falmouth feel an arm’s length away.

            Amazingly for all of the changes I have seen in my time there are some things which remain the same.  The scent of Cape Cod Potato Chips cooking as you pass along the Mid-Cape Highway between Exits 6 and 7.  106 WCOD on the radio.  Delicious ice cream during the summer from places like Four Seas, Lil’ Caboose, and Ice Cream Smuggler.  Kids and families sledding on the golf courses during winter.  The Barnstable County Fair in July, the Cranberry Festival in Harwich in September, the Yarmouth Seaside Festival in October.

            Then there is the natural beauty of Cape Cod.  It is everywhere.  The National Seashore is as close as one can get to how the Cape must have looked when it was first discovered.  Summer drives along the shore routes in Eastham up through Provincetown are heavenly.  Route 6A is a blast to the past with its historic homes and tree shaded scenery, just like I remember as a child.

            Yes I feel I was born as the absolute perfect time when it comes to the history of Cape Cod.  I have watched the Cape change in some ways and stay the same in others.  This is only my story though, what things do you remember about Cape Cod as children?  What changes have you enjoyed?  What changes have you not liked?  Thanks for reading.  

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Chris Cornell & My Life

            Another sad, unnecessary loss.  Another voice that hugely influenced my formative years gone.  I know that I am only one of millions who woke up to the heartbreaking news that legendary frontman Chris Cornell was dead.  It makes it even sadder knowing that likely it was suicide.  It’s like a punch to the gut.  Reminds me a lot of Robin Williams, someone who was so loved and so influential yet could not find their own inner peace.
This was going to start off as a tribute to such a great musician and voice, and it still will, but before that I need to address the ‘how.’
            I saw someone on Twitter write today that ‘depression doesn’t care who you are.’  It is so true.  I have dealt with my own bouts of depression over the years.  The worst one came in 2001-2002.  It was at this point that I was on three different medications to combat this illness that is so hard to describe and so hard for people to see.  It is more than just ‘feeling down.’  It is much deeper than something you can just ‘snap out of.’  It just becomes your life, your own prison that you sit in waiting for another shoe to drop, the shoe that brings you back to who you were.
            For me I had a wake up call when my three medications negatively interacted.  I could not get up from my bed, feeling as if my stomach was full of liquid.  I thought it could be a GI bleed.  911 had to be called and paramedics had to come to get me.  They had to literally unscrew my bedroom door off its hinges to be able to get the stretcher inside and wheel me out.  At the hospital when trying to set me up with an IV the nurse missed the vein and ended up filling much of my right elbow with fluid.  It was a bad scene, I was angry at myself, at my head, that I had allowed this depression to take me down this road to where I was being rushed to the ER due to medication complications.  However that was not my true wake up.
            My aha moment was looking off to the right as I was being wheeled out of my house and seeing my 2-year old niece terrified and upset at what she was seeing.  I had never felt so badly as I did then, knowing that something going on with me caused that fear.  She made me fight it.
            I left the hospital and vowed to never take another pill for depression again.  I quit all three meds cold turkey.  Yes, I have had bouts of depression in the 15 years since, including one this year, but no matter what I try to put it all in perspective and keep going one day at a time.  I was lucky to have family and friends who helped see me through it because I let them know what I was going through.
            The sticking point is that last part.  Those going through depression need to summon that strength to tell someone what you are going through.  If not it can mask itself as someone being busy, or being anti-social, or numerous other things.  The thing is Chris Cornell had people that loved him, his wife and two kids and family beyond that who could have helped.  It may feel like you are weak because you are dealing with depression and asking for help, but it is the opposite.  It takes strength to admit you need a hand in life.  I did it and am here today.
            Chris Cornell joins Scott Weiland, Layne Staley, and my non-family hero Kurt Cobain on the Mount Rushmore of Grunge artists who are now gone.  It is amazing how death hits this genre so often.  He had one of the greatest voices I have ever heard in music.  With an unbelievable range and power that could reach through the speakers and slap you in the face.  I will not going into depth about favorite songs, they will be shared below.  Chris could be soft and soothing, or hard and untamable, back and forth.
            His gift was so strong that he made a name for himself with three different bands, Soundgarden, Temple of the Dog, Audioslave, and on his own.  The Seattle scene of the late 1980’s and early 1990’s with Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Alice In Chains, Soundgarden, Mudhoney, and more.  This is the music that I identified with, this is the music I grew up with.  It is sad and yet fitting that the people responsible for creating so much of this music were every bit as flawed and human as me.  This is what made them relatable. 
            I am so sad that Chris Cornell ended his life last night.  His memory will live on in his wife and kids, and of course his music.  Thank you Chris for being a huge part of the years that made me who I am, I will not forget you.  Rest In Peace

            Below I am sharing my ten favorite Chris Cornell tracks, in no particular order.  Take a listen and see why this loss hurts so much.  Thank you.

Soundgarden - Superunknown

Audioslave - I Am the Highway

Chris Cornell - Sunshower

Temple of the Dog - Say Hello 2 Heaven

Soundgarden - Fell On Black Days

Soundgarden - Outshined

Audioslave - Shadow On the Sun

Chris Cornell - Billie Jean

Soundgarden - Rusty Cage

Soundgarden - Birth Ritual

Monday, February 13, 2017

Hurtling Toward Forty

   I had a choice about what to blog about tonight. Either the impending stress load known as Valentine's Day tomorrow, or a more lighthearted subject, namely getting old.
   I am personally not a big fan of Valentine's Day as I think it puts so much unnecessary stress on a relationship, of any stage.  Rather than pull the petals off of a flower for those who might think tomorrow is the ultimate way to show love I will go with option two of the blog.

   I am going to turn forty this year.  That's right the Big 4-0 is barreling down on me like a freight train.  In 262 days I will no longer be seen as a young man, at least not by anyone under 70.  Sure I have a very youthful appearance, I am routinely mistaken for being ten years younger than I am.  However that does not change the fact that the hands of time are moving forward never to stop until the end.
   When I was on the verge of turning thirty I had only very slight heart palpitations at the thought of no longer being a twenty-something.  It was not a big deal since I was not even half way to being a senior citizen.  Now?  Now I am ten years from AARP.  It's scary when I actually sit down and look at it and look at where I am and where my 18-year old self thought I'd be at forty.  Granted there is still nearly nine months until I cross that line but it is doubtful that some sort of earth shattering event will happen between now and then.  That is not to say things aren't continuing to trend in a good direction, it is just that it's a slower, more organic climb rather than a rocket.
   I look around at the vast majority of my friends, they are all married, many with children, many owning their own homes.  I have none of those things as of this moment.  It does not mean I do not want them, it just means the right opportunities have not arisen yet.  That sounds good.

   Does this mean that I am not where I should be, or where I am meant to be?

   I would love for some folks forty and above to share where they were at that age.  Whether they felt they were right where they wanted to be, or if they felt that they were still getting their lives together.

   I feel I am still getting things put together.  Some days I am frustrated by this, other days I have more patience and tell myself that all things come in time.
   Where do you fall on this?  Is forty the new thirty?  Is age just a number and you're only as old as you feel?  Or are the little creaks and cracks I am starting to feel the beginning of the end of my warranty?

   Okay enough of the seriousness, here is a photo I took at West Bay in Osterville this week.  It was cold but just a reminder that there are only 35 days until spring!