Fisherman, Columnist, Cook & Educator
I’ve been a naturalist my entire life, even when I was a little boy growing up in the city of Detroit. I went to Harvard, and one day I took the subway to Revere Beach. I was just overcome by the vastness of the ocean, and the idea that you could theoretically go from there by boat to Singapore, or Madagascar, or who knows. Anywhere. Read more…
Some people have a hard time sharing their stories. They need to be questioned, maybe interrogated. It’s like when a parent asks their pensive child what they did in school today and they answer with a reflexive, “Nothing.” That really means they need to be asked some more questions, a line of inquiry that becomes more specific and more pointed until there’s a satisfactory answer.
Then there are the people who can tell stories at the slightest provocation. Good stories, too. The folks who seem to have the beginning, middle, and end in mind before they open their mouths. They remember the sights, the sounds, even the smells of their deﬁning experiences. And though they remember everything to the smallest detail, they have the good sense to leave out the dull and the extraneous.
John Murphy from Land Ho! in Orleans ﬁts that second description. He is a restaurateur, an accomplished artist, a family man, and a classic raconteur. When I asked him about the origins of the restaurant’s stuffed clams, I thought he might have a story to tell. I didn’t know I’d end up hearing my favorite anecdote involving a heartfelt apology from a rowdy ﬁsherman.
Whether we convey them easily or through effort, we all have stories to tell, and in this issue you’ll ﬁnd stories from folks who live all across the Cape and Islands. You’ll ﬁnd out who they are, what they do, why they came here, and why they stay here. The excellent photography shot by Dan Cutrona and other contributors proves that the words are only part of the story. But if you want to read more, visit www.capecodlife.com for extended cuts of interviews with a few of the most interesting characters.
Also in this issue, we are fortunate to feature an essay by Jay Allison, founder of WCAI, our region’s NPR station; the producer of The Moth Radio Hour, one of the great downloadable conduits of the oral tradition; and a Woods Hole resident. Elsewhere, contributor Donna Scaglione gives us an insider’s view of the best places to eat, beaches to visit, things to do, and hidden secrets of each town. Follow the guide and visit someplace you’ve never been. Afterward, you’ll probably have a few more stories to share.
Jeff Harder, Managing Editor
- Posted in Philanthropy
After the high season ends, there’s a laziness to the traffic along Route 6A that’s transfixing—or, at least, that’s how it seemed when my guest and I peered through the paneled windows of Scargo Cafe in Dennis. Amidst the lamp-lit glow at the handful of tables in one of its quiet dining rooms, my guest and I pondered over the restaurant’s menu of classic seaside fare, carefully crafted over nearly a quarter century in business. We traded slurps from a thick bowl of the butternut squash bisque special ($4.25) and a cup of delicious clam chowder ($4.25). For the main course, my guest ordered the Panko Crusted Scallops ($17.99), whose brittle crust perfectly enhanced the tenderness underneath. I ordered the Grilled Swordfish ($21.99), an exceptional rendering of one of my occasional favorites, served with herbs and lemon butter. The menu shines brightest at dinner, but a casual lunch is a wonderful time to experience the restaurant’s range of sandwiches; just be sure to order their first-rate sweet potato fries on the side.Scargo Cafe, 799 Main Street (Route 6A), Dennis; 508-385-8200, www.scargocafe.com
- Posted in Food
Hyannis is bustling with traffic as we sit down for dinner at the Black Cat Tavern, now under new ownership. We have a full view of departing ferries through the generous dining room windows that look out onto the breezy outdoor dining area and the lively Ocean Street harbor scene. For starters, I enjoy a cup of potato-packed clam chowder ($5.95) as my guest savors her Mediterranean Salad ($9.95), topped with a tasty house dressing that features lots of fennel. Next, the entrees: delicious Char-Grilled Salmon ($19.95), topped with mojo sauce, a Caribbean condiment that emphasizes cumin. My guest enjoys one of a handful of seafood entrees: Sauteed Gulf Shrimp ($20.95), cooked with roasted tomatoes and bathed in white wine sauce, elegantly served over angel hair pasta. We end a great meal with the Rocky Roadhouse Cafe Cake a La Mode ($6.95), a thick, fudgy treat named for its 29-year-old sister restaurant on nearby South Street. And there’s no need to skimp on the tip for the thoughtful service: The Black Cat has free valet parking.The Black Cat Tavern, 165 Ocean Street, Hyannis 508-778-1233, www.blackcattavern.com
- Posted in Food
Inside Riverbend, Donna and Frank Doyle’s 4,600-square-foot home at the mouth of the Herring River in West Harwich, windmills are as much a motif as nautical accessories and the creamy color palette. One windmill in particular-—built in 1924 overlooking a secluded inlet—is a centerpiece here. The windmill is rendered in countless photographs and paintings throughout the home, including several on a wall just past the home’s entrance way. It’s also the subject of an image mounted above the fireplace in the living room, a work supplied by Orleans Camera derived from a photograph Donna’s late father shot of the windmill. This windmill also once graced the cover of an issue of Cape Cod Life. Read more…
Thoreau never did much for Don Wilding. After exploring the dunes and coastlines of the Outer Cape with his wife, Nita, the couple picked up two books, including Henry David Thoreau’s Cape Cod. Wilding was cool to the verbose political tangents that riddled the text. “Remember, Thoreau was getting paid by the word,” Wilding says. “This was a guy who was making pencils for a living, so he needed every cent he could get.” Nita read the other book—The Outermost House by Henry Beston—and told Don he would love it.
“That was an understatement,” he says. “I haven’t put it down ever since.”
Wilding’s passion for the book led the newspaperman to dedicate many of his free moments to the author’s life and career. He founded The Henry Beston Society in 2002. The following year, he published Henry Beston’s Cape Cod, a retrospective of the life of the author and his iconic Eastham escape. Next on the docket: an as-yet-untitled Beston documentary, helmed by Wilding and Chris Seufert of Cape Cod’s Mooncusser Films.
Henry Beston—birth name Henry Beston Sheahan—was a Quincy-based writer and former ambulance driver with the carnage of his experiences in World War I lingering in his memory when he visited Eastham in 1923 on a magazine assignment. He crafted plans for a 20-by-16-foot home on the dunes. Over a series of trips—Beston never actually spent a full year at the house—he chronicled the severe and beautiful weather, the tides’ advance and withdrawal, the wildlife and the landscape. First released in 1928, The Outermost House remains a must-read all these years later.
Beston’s meditation on the natural world of the Outer Cape resonated with Wilding. “Beston basically says it’s okay to go out there and ask questions,” Wilding says. “Not necessarily know all the facts, [but] maybe just ask some questions and wonder about it all. Because the natural world has a lot of unanswered questions.”
The society owes much to Wilding’s friendship with Nan Turner Waldron, the author of Journey to the Outermost House who visited Beston’s beloved Fo’castle numerous times over 17 years, before the Blizzard of ‘78 took it out to sea. Waldron accumulated hundreds of photographs and slides of the home and of Beston—an engineer, she even developed a set of plans suitable to reconstruct the revered shack. After a battle with cancer led to her passing in November 2000, she left her collection to Wilding. “Her work is one of the cornerstones of this organization,” Wilding says. “I don’t know if there’d be a Henry Beston Society if it wasn’t for the work that she did.” Wilding used the material to hold more than 50 lectures through the years.
Those lectures have likely surpassed their need, Wilding says, and a documentary provides a more lasting medium. The central theme of the film is Beston’s role as a “spiritual father” for the Cape’s prominent national park. “My basic message of the film is how The Outermost House was a driving force, a motivating force behind the establishment of the Cape Cod National Seashore,” Wilding says. There is a rich archive to pull from in addition to Waldron’s collection: Beston’s personal correspondence, photographs, audio interviews with the author, even a recording of the 1964 dedication ceremony of the house at the seashore. There’s still about $50,000 worth of fundraising to complete, a sum Wilding hopes to procure through grants and donations. He hopes to have the film released in the “next year
In December 2003, seven years after reading The Outermost House, Wilding moved to Cape Cod permanently. The Clifton, N.J., native and southeastern Massachusetts transplant had designs on moving to the Cape even
before he knew who Beston was. “But when I read The Outermost House,“ he says, “I realized, that’s why I wanted
to come here.”
Poet. Screenwriter. Journalist. Blogger. Author. Ultimately, they are all writers. And whatever the niche, the Conference of the Cape Cod Writers Center likely has a class to make their words read better.
For nearly five decades, the oldest writers group on Cape Cod has quietly held its flagship conference every August at the Craigville Conference Center in Centerville, drawing an array of distinguished instructors and speakers—Kurt Vonnegut, Isaac Asimov, and a host of others have lent their talents to the proceedings—and thousands of scribes eager to polish their craft. This August, the 48th annual conference carries the theme “Books, Bytes, and Beach,” an allusion to the intersection of print and digital publishing. Technology has made it easier than ever for writers to get their words to an audience via blogging and self-publishing, for example. “But on the road to traditional publishing,” says Nancy Rubin Stuart, director of the conference, “the bar is probably higher today than it ever was.”
Getting a story into print is very different than it was in the summer of 1963, when a group of wordsmiths called the Twelve O’Clock Scholars organized a writers workshop. Under the direction of Marion Vuilleumier, a long-time Cape wordsmith, the workshop turned into an annual conference that grew alongside its year-round counterpart, the Cape Cod Writers Center. Today, the center hosts a variety of writers groups and events for its more than 300 members, like Breakfast with the Authors, an ongoing series of talks and book signings from a range of writers. President Kevin Symmons says the constituency ranges from novices who have finished a draft of their first chapter to veterans who have published their seventh book, many of whom need support and guidance after realizing the revelation he made early in his own literary efforts. “Writing is probably the most frustrating and at the same time the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done,” Symmons says.
The crux of the conference remains nuts-and-bolts instruction in the evolving craft of arranging words. Rubin Stuart, who among other achievements has authored six nonfiction books like the award-winning The Muse of the Revolution and served as a contributor to The New York Times, taught two classes at the 2009 conference before signing on as director. The Sandwich resident describes a friendly classroom full of published and aspiring writers alike, an atmosphere brimming with enthusiasm and empty of competition. “The goal is to prepare [the writers] for publication,” she says.
The range of classes is as varied as the goals of the body of registrants. Multi-day classes in nonfiction, humor, commercial fiction, and graphic novels exist alongside one-off courses in travel writing, blogging, digital publishing, and instruction in marketing and business matters. The Young Writers Workshop for burgeoning high-school writers, keynote speeches from the likes of WBZ radio personality Jordan Rich and historical fiction novelist William Martin, and manuscript evaluation sessions fill out a slate of happenings that, quite frankly, is too large to fit on this page. There is no guarantee of success in the fine print on the registration form, but there are success stories. Shutter Island and Mystic River author Dennis Lahane and distinguished Cape Cod writer Anne LeClaire—who teaches this year’s “From Memories to Memoirs” course—both attended the conference earlier in their careers. It’s also where Sally Gunning, author of The Widow’s War, found her agent.
What constitutes “publishing” might be markedly different. E-books, self-publishing, on-demand publishing, and countless other methods are all viable in the 21st century. “It’s our mission to apprise and keep our members’ skills up to date with the changing environment,” Rubin Stuart says.
One thing that has not changed is the appeal of the Cape’s sea-sprayed environment to budding authors. In some ways, this backdrop to the conference is just as crucial as the expert instruction. “It becomes a marvelous source of inspiration for people . . .” Rubin Stuart says. “Art and literature and writing and oceans have always gone together. It’s a natural fit.”
48th Annual Conference of the Cape Cod Writers Center
August 15-20, 2010
Craigville Conference Center, Centerville
For more information and to register,
visit www.capecodwriterscenter.com or call (508) 420-0200.