Saturday, December 20, 2008

Favorite Places

Christmas Season on Bearskin Neck, Rockport MA

I'd really be out of my element if I ever left the Northeast. I'm a New Englander through-and-through (even though I eschew seafood, but that's a technicality). One of my favorite New England places in Summer or Winter or any season in between is the small town of Rockport on the tip of Cape Ann on Boston's North Shore, just past Gloucester (pronounced locally as "Glosta").

Last Saturday I took my two oldest daughters up there so we could finish up on our Christmas lists in the shops, boutiques, fudge & taffy makers', and artists' studios that run out onto to Bearskin Neck, which extends into the harbor. It's really nice up there this time of year. They have lit-up Christmas trees on all of the telephone poles, and on the weekend before the Gallery Stroll they have a big tree-lighting ceremony and Santa Claus arrives in a fishing boat.

Unfortunately, I didn't take the pictures for this post. I shamelessly pilfered them from elsewhere.

Man, it was cold after sundown, with the wind whipping in right off the ocean, but it was great. We went to the Fish Shack and warmed up with some good hot chocolate and dinner. Then we drove home and sang along at the top of our lungs to the really bad Christmas carols they play on the oldies radio station.

The only disconcerting note... It was really quiet up there. It was late in the afternoon when we got there, but I had no trouble finding a parking spot near the shops, and that's pretty unheard of. One of the local merchants told me that the week after Thanksgiving was brisk business, but that things had dropped off significantly. I saw some gallery and shop owners dozing behind their counters. Others, in a selling point specifically tailored to today's economy, were pleading the case that "art is one of the best investments you can make." I noticed that the artist who made splendid portraits of our kids last year had closed her studio (although I heard that she's still painting). You could feel a real pall of nervousness hanging in the air.

It has been sort of a tough Christmas season to get into, what with all the bad economic news, but still I feel hopeful about the new leadership coming in.

In addition, I've been working huge amounts of overtime this month trying to finish up some end-of-year commitments, so that's made it difficult to get in the spirit too. In fact, I'd better get back to work now...

Our first snowstorm was this weekend, which helps. Yes, White Christmas!

Here's a Christmas Playlist from our local classical music radio station.

(Click image below)


crystal said...

Nice post! It's kind of eerie - that town is like the eastern doppleganger of Carmel or Monterey. How did you make that playlist thing? That's neat :)

Jeff said...

Hi Crys!

Are Carmel and Monterey like that? You know, that's a curious thing... Remember the Hitchcock movie The Birds? I think it was supposed to take place somewhere on the northern California coast, but a bunch of the characters were sporting faux "down in Maine" accents. :) Never could figure that out.

The playlist is just a link off the main page. Just click on the On-Demand Christmas music link.

Garpu said...

This Christmas *does* seem different. Neurotic, not introspective. Things have to get better, right?

Hope you're doing OK with the snow. We're holed up and using it as an excuse to play world of warcraft. :)

Jeff said...


Hey, Beverly is on that map! You guys should take a run up to Rockport.

What a beautiful snowfall, isn't it? It does put me a little bit behind the 8-ball though. I'm not really set up properly for a home office. It's really hard for me to work efficiently from home. I was hoping to finish up all my test cases for a peer review on Monday, but it doesn't look like it's going to happen.

cowboyangel said...

A New Englander who "eschews" seafood?!?!? A technicality?!?!? That's like a Texan who "eschews" barbecue! Man, they run people out of the state for that.

And if one actually uses the word "eschew" when saying bad things about barbecue. . . Oh my. But it's Christmas time, and I hate to think of such ugly, violent scenes.

Are you allergic? Following Old Testament dietary laws? Fish AND shellfish? Tuna? No calamares fritos!?!?

Very pretty town. And sounds like a great day. Sorry to hear about the economic woes. Our cute little tourist town is suffering as well, though not as bad, it sounds, as Rockport. We get a lot of people for our annual Charles Dickens Festival - that helps. Perhaps Rockport should consider a Christmas Clam Bake Festival or something.

I saw the snow in both Foxboro, watching snippets of the Patriots game, and - unfortunately - in Seattle, watching that horrid little affair in which the Jets committed playoff hari kiri on national television.

We got 4-5 inches. And it's still on the ground. Nice to have a white - or off-white by now - Christmas.

cowboyangel said...

BTW, I think "eschews" is a lovely word. I applaud you using it so well. Damn the hooligans.

Jeff said...


I guess you're right. I shouldn't write words that I would never acually use in a conversation, unless I tell my kids to "eschew" their food 40 times before they swallow it.

I know, my seafood aversion is scandalous. What can I say? The smell of fish nauseates me. Luckily, I don't associate it with anything else... I have a mild allergic reaction to shellfish, but that's OK with me. Those bottom feeding lobster "bugs" are nasty critters. The scene of a lobster feast is just a barbaric mess as far as I'm concerned.

A Charles Dickens Festival! Gee, that sounds like fun... What kind of dark satanic mill do they hold that in? Who sponsors it, the Cato Institute? What do they do there, brush soot off of their boots and tophats, beat the children, and serve up one meager helping of gruel?

Seriously, A Christmas Carol is one of my all-time favorite books.

Thos Jets better put an effort in against Miami! Who knows, maybe Matt Cassell will be their QB next year, unless we franchise him.