Thursday, September 04, 2008

For Ernie

I have lived in Gloucester for the better part of 12 years, my former residence Salt Lake City, Utah, vastly different in terms of landscape, cultural makeup and economic sustainability. When I first arrived I got unusually lost on narrow, winding streets--in a car and on foot. I came to learn that New Englanders are quieter in many ways than the people I'd met in Utah and California and Colorado, but that many are very loyal and that beneath a reserved facade there are stories. I wandered through Dogtown in search of cellar holes and words carved onto rock and ate early evening picnic suppers at the water's edge of Halibut Point. I visited all of Gloucester's beaches--even the hidden ones and rode my bike around the cape and also downtown to go to work at a local coffee shop. When I took a job teaching English at the high school, I continued to learn about the complex fabric of our community--I taught sons and daughters of fisherman, bankers, local business owners, bartenders, developers, truck drivers, commuters. I heard stories about Italy and Portugal and Brazil and Puerto Rico as passed down from the lips of great grandmothers and great grandfathers. I went to my first Fiesta--including opening and closing ceremonies--and was struck by a deep commitment to family and place. The Fort teemed with confetti and celebration and shouts of joy. I felt part of something bigger than myself.

Soon my children were born, three of them. I made an effort to see Gloucester through their eyes and fell in love with the place all over again. I consoled fussy babies with walks along the Boulevard and through the Fort, stopping at the playground when they were old enough to climb. We watched boats come and go, spirited basketball games between locals, fish being hauled onto rocks by fathers and daughters. We played "I spy" the greasy pole and then made a game of finding the small plaque that marks the place where Charles Olson lived and wrote. We noticed the way the light fell on the ice house in late afternoon and we counted wooden pallets. If the tide was out we'd walk home along Pavilion Beach, crossing the Boulevard near the cut and walking along the canal towards the high school. We have made this walk hundreds of times. We have counted hundreds of pallets. We have seen the Fort and the Boulevard and the canal in fog, in ice, in sunshine. And we never tire of it.

Gloucester is a special place and deserves to be treated as such. It deserves to have care and attention paid to it in terms of development. People need to be smart about the way they choose to change Gloucester. The right people need to be consulted--not just the people who will financially benefit most. Residents need to have a say. It seems obvious that a large, corporate hotel and condos would change the nature of the Fort and Gloucester. It seems obvious that there are other ways to go about developing our city. It seems obvious that we ask the following questions (to name a few): What will this bring our city? What will this take away from it? Is there a better way? What is the price? And is it worth it?

view from the park

ice ice baby

the end of the road

fiesta crowd plus smoky ride

empty

monkey bars

fort reading

i and a

how it begins

up

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