Category Archives: Outer Cape

Working Up an Appetite

By Ed Staskus

   New York City’s George Washington Bridge is the busiest bridge in the world. More than 100 million cars and trucks cross it every year. The double decker suspension bridge spans the Hudson River. It opened in 1931, was widened in 1946, and a lower deck was added in 1962. Since then, billions of drivers have sat on the overpass, chewing the cud, their engines idling.

   The speed limit on the bridge is 45 MPH. During rush hour, when my wife and I drove across it, on our way north from Virginia to Cape Cod, it was 0 MPH, or less. There are innumerable stops and starts that stretch time out like silly putty and test a man’s patience. We were glad we had empty bladders, a full tank of gas, and weren’t on any kind of schedule.

   We were on a 2-week end of summer road trip. We first drove from Cleveland, Ohio to Chincoteague Island, planning on Cape Cod the second week. Chincoteague is a barrier island, floating on the Atlantic Ocean shoreline due east of Richmond. We did it in one day, leaving early and getting there late. All the roads in town have signs saying “Evacuation Route” in capital letters and red arrows pointing one way. When we pulled in the lady at the front desk of the Waterside Inn told us the only place still open to get a bite to eat was the Ropewalk. When we walked up to it most of the wait staff and some of the kitchen staff were on the front steps kicking a group of unruly patrons out.

   We waited for the fuss to die down and found a table. It was a sports bar with flat screens everywhere. We had walked in blind, and it looked like we were going to be blind-sided. Our waitress was from New Jersey, there for the summer with her boyfriend. She was friendly enough but hard to see, hidden behind tattoos and piercings.

   “I might stay here,” the young lady said, “except nobody can live here. It’s too expensive.” She lived on the other side of the causeway near Wattsville on Route 175. She wasn’t the first or last person to tell us there wasn’t enough island housing, and what there was of it was too expensive. There were plenty of retirees who had cashed in and old hippies who had cashed out. They had snapped up the real estate from Archie Cove to Hammock Point.

   Ropewalk was on the water. “How cute it would be to sit by the bay,” my wife said, pointing to the side deck. “The deck is closed,” our waitress said. We ate at a table next to a window. Our pints of eastern shore IPA were good, and the appetizer crab egg rolls were tasty. It went downhill from there. “This poke bowl tastes like nothing,” my wife said. Our poke bowls were tuna, corn, rice, and avocadoes. “The corn looks weird, too.” It was about as bland as could be, which was surprising in the home of cornpone.

   We went to Assateague Island the next day. My wife went running on the Wildlife Loop that goes around Swan Goose Pool while I walked some of it. I was breaking in an after-market hip and could only go so far. “No running,” my surgeon had told me. The next day, when we went back, somebody warned us not to hike on the Marsh Trail. “Too many bugs,” he said. While my wife went back on the Wildlife Loop for another 3-mile run, I tried the Marsh Trail. That was a mistake. I was wearing shorts and a t-shirt. I didn’t know one hundred mosquitoes could land on a human being’s arms and legs all at once and all start biting at once. I didn’t know I could walk back to our car as fast as I did, hop-a-long hip and all.

   We went to Captain Zack’s that night. Their motto is “Yum Yum Getcha Some.” The deck was full of diners, so we stepped to the side where there was a take-out window. The kitchen was behind the slide-to-the-side glass. The man in line in front of us said, “Honestly, everything is good.” An older woman in a Mother Goose dress took our order. “I’ll call your cell phone when it’s ready,” she said. We waited at a picnic table on the dark side of the gravel parking lot.

   The soft-shell crabs were good. The sides were too much, literally. There was enough to feed a troop of marching men. We nibbled on some of it, although most of it was disappointing. They had somehow messed up the hush puppies. “How can something soggy be so dry?” my wife asked, adding, “They are supposed to be crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside.”

   We ate at Bill’s on Main St. two nights later. It’s been there for more than sixty years, a squat brick building with windows on three sides and raised slightly up from the sidewalk. The tablecloths and napkins are cloth and the waitresses come dressed in black and white. Our waitress had apple cheeks. “I’ve worked here since I was 21-years old, which was 21 years ago,” she said. She was a single mother and lived on the other side of the causeway. 

   We had oyster stew soup, which was oysters, country ham, butter, and heavy cream. The heavy cream set the tone. The richness of the food on Chincoteague Island was by now not a surprise. It may not always have been tasty, but it was rich, for sure. My wife had crab imperial stuffed shrimp and I had flounder. The crab died drowning in the mayonnaise. The waitress brought twice as much tartar sauce as I needed. By the time we were done and looked around we discovered we were the last patrons still in the restaurant. We waddled back to our lodgings.

   We spent the next afternoon on the beach at Tom’s Cove. The parking lot butts up to the dunes and the dunes slope down to a long beach. We eventually went for a walk, picking up rocks and spiral seashells. We met a German lady from Hamburg who had moved to Virginia forty-some years earlier. “The beach is washing away,” she said. “It’s the storms. The park service brings sand in on barges most years now to keep it from disappearing.”

   Before we left, as we were brushing sand off our feet and getting into our car, a seagull walked up and started squawking. It sounded like maniacal laughter.  We had a half-bag of waffle cone bits and pieces in the back seat, and I emptied them in front of the bird. When I did the food fight was on. Twenty or thirty more birds swooped in out of nowhere and the waffles were gone in seconds. The gulls were crying for more as we drove away.

   We had coffee and croissants several mornings at the Amarin Coffee Shop on Maddox Ave. The other thoroughfare on Chincoteague Island is Main St. The coffee shop was where the causeway from the mainland joins the island. At the other end of Chincoteague Island is another causeway that leads to Assateague Island, which is mostly a sanctuary for migrating birds, wild ponies, and a standing army of mosquitoes. We were sitting on the front deck of the coffee shop when a fit trim man in his 50s sporting a couple weeks’ worth of beard asked us how we liked the coffee. He turned out to be the freeholder.

   His name was Bernard and he had been in the armed forces, specializing in counterterrorism, until he retired. He served in the Middle East and the Far East. “I was in the swamps in the south of Iraq for a while,” he said. “Our job was nabbing foreign fighters trying to sneak into the country from Iran.” He spoke fluent Arabic and knew full well how to say, “Hands up.”

   He met his wife-to-be in Vietnam, got married, and went into his new family’s coffee-growing business. It’s labor-intensive work, grown from seed. Trees take about 5 years to bear fruit. The family grew beans in the Central Highlands, north of Ho Chi Minh City. The French introduced coffee in 1857 when a priest brought one arabica tree into the country. After the Vietnam War ended the newly unified nation became one of the world’s largest coffee producers.     

   Bernard was from Grand Rapids, but when he came back to the USA he settled in Virginia, working for NASA near Chincoteague Island. When he and his wife started importing the family’s coffee beans, he set up a roasting operation. They had a food truck, too, parked in a gravel lot behind the coffee shop. Oz made the Vietnam-themed sandwiches.

   Oz was a stocky man in his 40s who had lived in Vietnam, where his father went to run a furniture factory. Oz had advanced degrees in philosophy and history. “What that means is I know all about unemployment lines,” he said. He taught English as a second language in Vietnam until the 19 virus and his impending divorce back in the homeland brought him back home. He was pining to return to Southeast Asia.

   “It’s my beautiful place,” he said, bringing us spring rolls and a crispy pork belly sandwich on a ciabatta roll. The sandwich was the best food we had in the land of cotton, even though it was the land of corn and crabs. There wasn’t a road without a field of corn planted alongside it and there wasn’t a pit stop without crab cakes.

   The food in the south wasn’t bad, except when it was, but it was too rich for our northern palates. Everything seemed to revolve around butter and mayonnaise. When we went to Steamers for our last supper, we knew enough to split the plates. 

   Steamers wasn’t anything to look at. The front of the house had a hostess station and some desultory tables. Farther inside was a bar and lots more tables. It sounded like a party was going on back there. We sat outside on a slab of concrete surrounded by aluminum fencing. Our waitress was a middle-aged black woman who had lived there her whole life. “I live across the causeway,” she said. We had littlenecks on the half-shell with breadcrumbs and bacon. Then we had flatbread topped with clam dip. We took the waitress’s recommendation and finished up sharing deep-fried rock fish. 

   The day we left Chincoteague Island we saw a Mennonite woman in a cape dress ride by on Main St. on a bicycle. We had seen them every day here and there, usually with a civilian husband in tow. Three of them with digital cameras and long lenses were on Tom’s Cove taking pictures of the surf one windy afternoon, tugging on their haubes to keep them in place on top of their heads. The weather was the same the day we left as it had been the past six days, 80 degrees, sunny, and humid.

   When we finally crossed NYC’s George Washington Bridge the traffic jam didn’t get any better. There were too few lanes and too many cars. We inched forward like snails. I started seeing pairs of Central American-looking women on the shoulders on both sides of the roadway hawking mangoes in large, lidded plastic cups. They had coolers at their feet. When our turn came, we got a cup of them. They were the right refreshment at the right time.

   Mangoes are the national fruit of India. Apples are New York’s official fruit. We didn’t see any apples in the Big Apple. Mangoes are a stone fruit. The name comes from the Portuguese word manga from back in the 16th century. The ones we ate were red, although they also come in yellow and orange.

   “Don’t sit at home and wait for the mango tree to bring mangoes to you,” Israel Ayivor once said. “It won’t happen.” He was right. We had driven a long way to get our mangoes. The Central American women had gone far out of their way to sell their mangoes. They stood on the sides of the road breathing in rubber tire fumes and exhaust fumes and dealing with tempers fuming.

   A few months earlier, on Mother’s Day, a woman by the name of Maria Falcon was arrested for selling mangoes in a New York City subway station. She didn’t have a permit to vend. “She’s served her customers for more than 10 years,” her supporters said. “Those permits can be near impossible to obtain. There’s even an underground market where permits go for up to $20,000 each.” The police threw her fruit away and let her go. “She took a few days off to recover from her ordeal but is back out there today because she can’t stop working,” said another supporter of the mango rank and file.

   It was sunny and cool when we pulled into North Truro on Cape Cod. We stopped at a fish shack and bought a pound of scallops. We cut corn kernels off the cob, sauteed them in olive oil with diced Portuguese sausage, added seared scallops, drizzled squeezed lime juice with maple syrup over the top, and sat down to eat. We had white wine with dinner. The next night we boiled a pot of fresh linguine, sauteed a bag of clams, and tossed the linguine, sliced garlic, and a handful of parsley into the frying pan with the shellfish. The following night we had pan-fried cod filets with redskin potatoes. We didn’t mix up any fat-based sauces of any kind that week. We didn’t even have salad so that we wouldn’t have salad dressing. We had cleansed our palates on the George Washington Bridge and were keeping it that way.

   We watched the sun go down into Cape Cod Bay. My wife and I had been swimming upstream like fish out of water down in Dixie but were back in the Yankee groove. When the red sky sank that night, we went to bed snug as fishermen cruising in with their holds full to the gills with fruit of the sea. 

Ed Staskus posts stories on 147 Stanley Street http://www.147stanleystreet.com and Cleveland Daybook http://www.clevelandohiodaybook.com. To get the site’s monthly feature in your in-box click on “Follow.”

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Lights Out at the Lighthouse

By Ed Staskus

   “Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got, ‘till it’s gone.” Joni Mitchell

   Starting early in April, lights start blinking back on in stores inns restaurants and businesses of all kinds on Cape Cod. Hiring ramps up for cooks, waiters, waitresses, cashiers, retail associates, merchandisers, front desk agents, landscaping, cleaning services, and even at local airports who park and fuel aircraft. The Sagamore Bridge puts on its best welcome back smile.

   Even though snowfall is slight on Cape Cod, whatever there is of it melts as the weather gets warmer. Purple-blue hyacinths and bright yellow daffodils start to open. In Wellfleet, which is between Orleans and Provincetown, where almost everything shuts down for the winter, almost everything opens up again in the spring. Except when it doesn’t.

   It was early in April when Joe Wanco and his family, wife Laura and daughters Michelle and Jodie, made it known that their Lighthouse Restaurant would not be opening for the upcoming season. The iconic mid-19th century building in the middle of town on Main St. groaned.

   “After many years, many employees, many building renovations, many blueberry muffins, pints of beer, and Boston sports championships, it has been decided it is in the best interest of the family that we no longer operate as a business. This is not a decision made overnight or without extensive consideration. Forty years is a long time and even longer in restaurant years.”

   “Oh, man, this is sad,” said Molly MacGregor. It being springtime on the Outer Cape, dark gray clouds rolled in and filled the sky. “This is worse than closing down Town Hall,” said Steve Curley. “I want to scream, NOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!” screamed Heidi Gertsen-Scheck.

   Forty years in the dining room trade is like four hundred in dog years. It’s a challenge as well as a slog. If you like falling jumping being pushed off the deep end, operating a watering hole is for you.

   Even if your menu is coherent and priced appropriately, and the tables are set nice and neat, and the ambience is what your customers like, but the customer service is sour, customers will remember and go elsewhere. Even if management is ahead of food and drink costs and keeps labor costs manageable, if they don’t notice nobody is asking for slimehead, and don’t take it off the menu, they’re stuck with a freezer full of slimehead. On top of that, even if the grub is outstanding, the staff trained and civil and ready to go, if the front man is slow-mo marketing his restaurant, he ends up with a half-empty restaurant.

   “You have had a great run,” said Jim Clarke, who owned the Lighthouse from 1968 to 1978. “I still have memories and nightmares from those years. I wish I had a nickel for all the muffins I baked.”

   The Lighthouse was a local seafood eatery, with arguably the best oyster stew between Cape Cod Bay and the Atlantic Ocean, a local sports bar and grill where the Patriots Red Sox Celtics ruled the roost on the flat screens. It was a local dive bar with two-dollar cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon and Cape Cod bands livening up the joint year after year.

   “You guys have been a bedrock of this community,” said Sam Greene. “Main Street won’t be the same,” said Donna McCaffery. “We started almost every vacation in Wellfleet at the Lighthouse, starting in 1989 when my now husband met my family there for our vacation-starting breakfast,” said Laura Wardwell.

   Six White House men came and went, while another one got stuck in traffic with a flat tire and only Twitter to keep him company, from the time the Wanco’s landed on Main St. Townspeople and tourists grew up with the Lighthouse. Others were born and had to find out for themselves, peeking in through a window. “I grew up with stories about the Lighthouse before I even knew what it was,” said Amy St. John Ramsdell.

   “Our five children grew up having breakfast at the Lighthouse every Sunday after mass,” said Jodi Lyn Deitsch-Malcynsky. “Your family was always inviting and gracious and fun! Our summers in Wellfleet will be forever changed.”

   “I remember parking my bicycle out front and coming in for a Cherry Coke,” said Matt Frazier, years before he became their trash hauler and recycler. “An extra special thank-you for always treating our crew with snacks and beverages during and after Oyster Festival.”

   The menu wasn’t encyclopedic, the prices weren’t an arm and a leg, even though the plates were chock-full, and the always hot food was more than good, often very good. “The best scallops in the world, as good as Digby, Nova Scotia,” said a man from Boston. “What’s more to say?”

   “I can’t say enough about the Cod Ruben,” said a man from Westfield. “They had a great selection of beer. The service was awesome.” He was crestfallen when he heard the news.    “Where am I going to get a good Cod Reuben now?”

   “They happened to have lobster dinners on a special, super fresh and tender,” said a woman from Worthington. “They were the best lobster dinners we had all summer.”

   The Lighthouse was the only restaurant on the Outer Cape without a front door. There were two side doors, and plenty of windows to sit at and watch the world go by. “Here’s to missing the big picture,” one man said to another, sitting at the bar one September morning, over hearty breakfasts and Bloody Mary’s, their backs to the front window. The bar sat about a dozen and the front room and side room tables sat forty or fifty. The floors were hardwood. There is a big skylight in the beamed tilted ceiling of the side dining room. It isn’t a small place, but it isn’t a big place, either. It was always lively and got even more lively at night.

   “When I was younger it was our breakfast place,” said John Denninger. “As I grew older it was my place to get a drink. When I decided to move here the Wanco’s made it feel like home. I could not have found a better place to hang out.”

   A red and white replica of the red and white Nauset lighthouse is on the flat roof of the front room. “The lighthouse does great service, yet it is the slave of those who trim the lamps,” observed the writer Alice Rollins. It doesn’t go looking for passing ships in the night. It just stands there with its big bright light on. Lighthouses are always lighthouses in somebody’s storm, especially if the fish is pan-fried just right and the beer is cold.

   The Wanco’s came from New Jersey in the late 1970s. They partnered with a friend of theirs in the restaurant so they could “try our hand at a small business in a seaside town in an expression of our own American dream.” Their partner retired after ten years, but the Wanco’s kept the fireplace stoked, carrying on. “It was our family providing a watering hole, meeting place, warm meal, cold beer, loud music, local gossip, friendly banter, and a smiling face.”

   Besides everything else, who wants to lose a smiling face? There aren’t a great abundance of them to begin with. “Ah, Jaysus,” said Jenifer Good. “It’s too much!”

   Owning and operating a restaurant isn’t the same as going to work. It’s more like hard work. Many people start work by checking their e-mails. So do many restaurateurs. Many people check their e-mails all day. Most restaurateurs don’t. They don’t have time. There are too many other things to do.

   After they’ve turned on the lights and checked their mail in the morning they do a walk-through of the restaurant, note what needs to be cleaned repaired replaced, start receiving orders, start food production, say hello to arriving cooks and staff, last minute scrambles because someone is sick hungover missing, breakfast service, take a break, lunch pre-shift, lunch service, move on to more food production, staff meal, dinner pre-shift, dinner service, clean up, wipe down, go over the day’s receipts, stay on top of staffing for tomorrow, and fit in balancing the checkbook, making payroll, checking inventory against reality, making a list of purveyors to talk to, and finally, locking up for the night

   All of this without swearing too much at staff customers passersby and loved ones. Not that working at the Lighthouse wasn’t a happening, spiced by curses out of left field. “Working there was always an adventure,” said John Dwyer.

   “My first waitressing job was 40 years ago here,” said Gina Menza. “I was terrible, but they kept me on. Some crazy memories of living upstairs, sitting on the roof to watch the parade, and sneaking into the drive-in rolled up in a carpet in the back of the company van.”

   The Wellfleet Drive-In has been around since 1957. It’s one of only a few hundred drive-ins left in the USA. Vans and pick-ups back in so the crowd packed inside them can see the screen.

   “What I remember is living in the upstairs apartment while working at the Lighthouse at my first job, smashing my head into the tables while running from the kitchen to the dining room, creamy dill salad and the best pickles on the planet, working down in the bakery, and years later to many post-shift beers,” said Jacqueline Stagg.

   “My most fun job ever,” said Kelly Moore. “Endless pre-games and endgames, situations, life lessons with Pill Bill, meltdowns, bike stealings and returnings, hurricane parties, skinny dipping team meetings, Wall of Shame, family breakfasts, jam sessions, chats with Thomas, high society, beer pong tournaments, roof top nights, off-season regulars, and Mexican meltdowns with Slammo. I will never forget mista sista kissa.”

   Communities are built around their city halls, schools, and businesses. Even though the Outer Cape is known for its guidebook attractions, sun and sand whale watching art galleries seafood summer theater, Provincetown, the Cape Cod Rail Trail, and the National Seashore, its essence is in its smaller neighborhoods and places.

   “They were the center beacon of our town,” said Chris Eize of the Sacred Mounds. “When we became the house band, we became part of the place.”

   Most bands that played at the Lighthouse played where the music sounded consistently better than it should have sounded, resonating better than the written notes and the acoustics, and from Funktapuss to the Sacred Mounds they always lit up the venue. “The Super Scenics always had a blast playing there with our gracious hosts the Mounds and the Lighthouse” said Jeff Jahnke, “Thanks and cheers!”

   “We got to know Michelle and Jodie on an intimate level of trust, honest communication, and friendship,” said Chris, the front man of the Mounds. “I loved how Jodie didn’t really have a filter, and you knew exactly what she was thinking, because she would tell you, whether you liked it or not. We enjoyed the after-show drinks and reflections with Michelle, and that openness will live on with appreciation and fondness.”

   There is always a lot of camaraderie in restaurants, everybody working closely together, all in around the chuck wagon. “The restaurant business, even in the most stable of markets is, frankly, exhausting,” said Joe Wanco. “It’s an ever-consuming extra member of the family. There are no restful nights, even with the help of your favorite tequila.”

   It is a consuming undertaking because of the long days, most of it on your feet, and the competition inherent in the undertaking. The restaurant business is massive, with more than one million restaurants coast to coast. The chances of making it even two years are slim. Most eateries close in their first year. Three out of four close in the next three to five years. Making it four decades is Bunyanesque.

   The Wanco family put their heart and soul into their work. Staying the course means staying steadfast. “Wow, 40 years, that’s awesome,” said Katie Edmond.

   “You and your oyster stew are going to be greatly missed,” said Rob Cushing. “Joe and Laura, enjoy your well-deserved retirement,” said Virginia Davis. “You have served the town well.”

   It works both ways, coming and going, since Main St. is not a one-way street. “We are eternally grateful for the many years of support from our loyal clientele, especially our year-round community,” said the Wanco family, signing off. “Good luck, cuz,” said Joyce Fabiano to the leave-taking. “We sure are going to miss you all,” said Mike Deltano.

   “What I want to know is how will I ever now find my children when I get to Wellfleet since the Lighthouse is closed?” asked Judy Sherlock. “Look for them at the town library?” She thought better of spitting out “Hah!”

   The Wanco’s were the food and drink keepers for a long time. The lights of our favorite places go on and off over time. Every now and then they need a new minder. What Main St. in Wellfleet needs now is a new barkeep to fire up the lanterns at the local public house again, like the New Jersey transplants did forty-some enterprising years ago.

Ed Staskus posts stories on 147 Stanley Street http://www.147stanleystreet.com and Cleveland Daybook http://www.clevelandohiodaybook.com. To get the site’s monthly feature in your in-box click on “Follow.”

Do-Dah Man

 By Ed Staskus

“Keep truckin’, like the do-dah man, together, more or less in line, just keep truckin’ on.”  Grateful Dead

Before there was the Sacred Mounds, before there was Christoph Eize, before there was the server at Moby Dick’s on Route 6 in Wellfleet who knows all the lyrics to all the Sacred Mounds songs, there was Christopher Manulla.

“I don’t even know all the lyrics myself,” said Christopher Manulla, aka Christoph Eize, the singer songwriter lead man on the guitar of the band.

The Sacred Mounds are an eclectic go-your-own-way group as well known on Cape Cod as they are little known elsewhere, even though they have toured the East Coast, Rocky Mountain High, and Ireland.

“They are out of sight,” said Tony Pasquale on his ‘Helltown City Limits’ show on Provincetown’s radio station WOMR. When they are in sight, they are an original undertaking, an agile funky soul-spirited sometime psychedelic sound, sonic on the move, cosmic funny, hardly a cover to be heard, at heart all their own songs from start to finish.

They aren’t live copycats of the Billboard Top 100 Golden Oldies, not when Christoph Eize has more than three hundred songs of his own in his scrapbook.

“You are one hell of a prolific songwriter,” said Tony Pasquale, interviewing Christopher, and Luke Massouh, the drummer, anchor of the band. “You have a ton of stuff.”

“I have to tell myself, no more new songs,” said Christopher. “I’ve got thirty or forty in my head I’m still trying to get a grasp on.”

If time moves in one direction, and memory in another, a question begs an answer. Where is the Moby Dick man on Route 6 going with his storehouse of verse and chorus? Maybe there’s nothing to be all-over about. Like Aeschylus said so far back nobody remembers, “Memory is the mother of all wisdom.”

“When we first saw the Sacred Mounds we were astonished to see such a good band at a small club,” wrote Brian Tarcy in Cape Cod Wave Magazine. “It is as if Neil Young joined the Grateful Dead and incorporated a little bit of jazz. It is quite an original.”

”Am I a man that you recognize – when you see me, I’m a dreamer, and I’ll be what I want to be.”

“The original music being made on Cape Cod, if you take the time to look, will astonish you,” added Brian Tarcy.

Many musicians and bands on Cape Cod, from Crooked Coast to The Ticks to the Incredible Casuals, are originals because, like Yogi Berra said, when you come to a fork in the road, take it. Even when they play covers, it’s often songs few have ever heard of. The Ticks say they only know their own songs. There’s no original sin on the sleeveless arm-shaped peninsula. Since they are writing and singing from the inside out, they can’t help being for real first hand prototypal.

Just like every natural pearl from every wild oyster is an original.

Before and after he morphs into Christoph Eize of Sacred Mounds, his alter ego on stage, Christopher Manulla was and still is Wellfleet’s Deputy Shellfish Constable. The Shellfish Department manages the town’s oysters, quahogs, clams, and bay scallops within a three-mile limit, issues permits, promotes crustacea and mollusk propagation, and monitors water quality.

The old whaling town on the seashore on the Outer Cape is a federal no-discharge area, clean as a whistle.

“It’s a complex job, mixing some law enforcement with public education, keeping tabs on our three-acre farm, talking to fishermen every day,” said Christopher. “There’s a little bit of psychology and therapy involved with that. It’s a 90% wake up happy going to work kind of job.”

Except for when he first came to the fair land on the seaboard.

After getting a degree in Park Management and Recreation, he was working at a nature center. On his way to a wedding, at his girlfriend’s friend’s grandmother’s daughter’s house, he was introduced to someone who at the end of the day offered him a job in Cape Cod with the Wellfleet Shellfish Department. However, the work was only part-time.

“I told him, I’m not going to move to Cape Cod for 19 hours a week. That’s crazy. He told me he’d get me full-time sooner than later. I got the job, but then found out the guy didn’t even work for the town. It was like Great Expectations.”

It took him four years to get steady real time full time.

“I just had to hold out. The Grateful Dead taught me how to survive on absolutely nothing, on peanut butter and jelly and pasta.”

In an earlier life Christopher Manulla grew up in Thomaston, Connecticut.

“That’s where I spent my growing pain years, until my parents bought my grandfather’s old place in New Hartford.” The new family home was a half hour north of his birthplace.

“It was a beautiful area.”

“Like a dream I drive on past, the spots where my childhood roamed, like a field seed blowing.”

His father, Randy, worked for the Hartford Courant, the local newspaper, and his mother, Virginia, taught grade school.

“She taught for forty years,” said Christopher.

In his spare time his father sang with Liederkranz, a German choral group, and his mother was in the Thomaston Ladies Choral Group. “Their singing was an influence on me, even though their semi-annual concerts weren’t exactly what a young kid wants to go see. Even still, I could always pick out their voices.”

Singing in a choir or choral group is a kind of therapy bought for a song. There’s a lot of harmony. It’s a sound raising high the roof beams that can heal the heart. It’s healthier than bending an elbow all evening or slouching in front of the boob tube that’s now the dazzling flat screen.

“In the end, for me, singing has become a way of releasing energy, a method of healing.”

By the time he got to 6thgrade he was playing the trombone and being fast-forwarded into the high school band. He quit in the 8thgrade. “At that point I could read and understand music, but the music I was being introduced to was boring. No jazz, or anything. That would have been great.”

“If you quit now, you’re going to lose everything,” his teacher told him.

“If I’m meant to play music, I’ll find it again,” he told his teacher.

He lay low in high school, at least until his senior year. “They were cloudy times,” he said. “I was very shy, until my senior year, when I started to get a little nuts and spread my wings.”

He bought a guitar. He graduated from high school. He attended Northwestern Connecticut Community College, on and off, finally earning his sheepskin eight years later. “I laugh at that, but it was fun. I spent most of my time at school playing chess and having conversations with psychology professors about how the brain works.”

In the meantime, he became a Deadhead, joining the fans of the Grateful Dead, followers who from the mid-70s traveled to see as many of the band’s shows and venues as they could. It was following a siren call. It was 1994 and he was twenty years old.

Jerry Garcia had a year-and-a-half left to live.

‘Dead Freaks Unite! Who are you? Where are you? How are you?’ was the catchphrase of the blues folk country rock jazz psychadelia hippie subculture counterculture movement.

“I’m feelin’ so confused, well, it’s hard, so hard to let it go.”

“I didn’t like my life at that moment. It was a leap of faith. I went with a sleeping bag, a change of clothes, and fifty bucks in my hand,” said Christopher. “I didn’t even know much about the Grateful Dead, but I felt like it was a calling. It was an adventure and I survived most happily for a whole tour.”

He and the friend who had made bold with him worked side jobs. He joined the Falafel Mafia, feeding the faithful from a food truck, the crew sometimes passing a deep-fried doughnut of ground chickpeas along when somebody asked to ‘kick down a kind falafel’, which meant a free falafel.

“It was inspirational for the music, for sure,” he said. ”The music was healing, dancing, and clearing the cobwebs of your mind away.”

Fronting the Sacred Mounds he mainly plays guitar.

“I don’t know theory anymore, I don’t know scales, like my school teacher said would happen. I call it playing blind. I’ve been doing mostly acoustic since 2006.”

His guitars are Martin’s from C. F. Martin & Company, established in 1833, known for their steel-string acoustic models, and led to this day by the great-great-great-grandson of the founding father. If melody imposes continuity, Martin’s are a kind of continuity you can always come back to. They don’t need any history lessons.

“I once got two guitar lessons,” said Christopher.

“You’ll learn faster by yourself,” the instructor said after the second lesson. “I will just keep you behind.”

“He kicked me out.”

When Christopher left Connecticut behind and moved to Wellfleet nearly twenty years ago, at the tail end of the summer season, he moved into a small spare room. He later moved on up, to an apartment of his own.

“It was the size of three pick-up trucks put together,” he said. “It was horrible. It was rough.”

“Remember what I say, why erase the truth, when it already happened?”

He still lives in Wellfleet, his adopted hometown, in a house with a studio attachment, living quarters more than sufferable.

“It is great.”

The Sacred Mounds – the duo of Christoph Eize and Luke Massouh – were almost a sacred mound themselves before they got off the ground. Christopher was in Hobo Village, a local band, playing at a restaurant where Luke was the bar manager. The band’s mandolin player and Luke got into it.

“I only heard his side of the story, so I thought Luke was an asshole,” said Christopher. “After that, every time we played that restaurant, we had it so that he wouldn’t be working that night. We were being assholes, too, I guess.”

One weekend, invited to shuck oysters and croon for a party in New Hampshire, he was surprised to see Luke there. Unbeknown, he had been invited, likewise. It’s a small world when it’s a turn of the cards. They got to talking over cold ones and crustaceans.

“Broken hearts are for assholes,” said Luke about the brouhaha.

“He used a Frank Zappa reference,” said Christopher. It put him in good stead. Christopher not only cites the Grateful Dead, but Chopin, Neil Young, and Frank Zappa as influences on his music making. ”I found out he didn’t mean any harm, was funny and intelligent, a good guy.”

He also found out Luke Massouh played drums.

“I threw songs at him and he played them as perfect as you can, hearing them for the first time.”

They have been the Sacred Mounds ever since.

Finding a bandmate on the 70-mile headland is no mean feat. Even though there is an abundance of talent on Cape Cod, there is a scarcity of people, especially in the off-season. “It’s like Jamaica four months of the year and like Russia the rest of the year,” said John Beninghof of Falmouth’s Old Silver Band.

It’s the sound of silence on the streets in the winter, muffled, chilled to the bone, nearly empty shore towns. Seawater freezes in the goose-bumpy sand dunes.

“This place turns into a ghost town,” said Christopher. “When I first came to Cape Cod I was pretty much a recluse. I didn’t mind being alone. Mostly everything is closed, but we find ways to socialize. Nobody can hide anything, anyway, because people here find out quick what you do. It’s when they don’t that rumors fly.”

Staying the course is no mean feat, either. The duo has been making music together – abetted by Matt Brundett, Jonathan Huge, Floyd Kellogg, and Kevin O’Rourke – for eight years running. “We’re basically two people, playing together, traveling, doing all sorts of fun adventures in the music world.“

They spend their summers on Cape Cod. “We’re the crew that doesn’t leave port,” said Christopher. “Everyone comes here, so instead of touring, we just drive five minutes and get paid, probably five times what we would on tour.” The lawnmower stays broken most of the summer. ”We used to beg to play, but now more often than not we get asked.”

If Christopher Manulla is the long arm of shellfish laws and regulations, on stage Christoph Eize learned his lessons by trial and error. “In the beginning it was scary.” Some performers suffer stage fright, sweating up a storm, blubbering midway through performances, stopping dead, their minds gone blank.

“You’ve got to learn through the falters,” he said.

He learned to get up on stage just the damp side of stone cold sober.

“You learn about what not to do, one of them being don’t be too crazy loud and don’t drink too much. I once early on watched eighty people leave the room. As my ego and heart were being destroyed, I realized it was a huge lesson about not being sloppy.”

“I was singin’ all day, thinkin’ about it all night, when things went wrong, when things went right.”

Sloppy is like a cafeteria tray of fast and loose food nobody cares about. Who wants to listen to an amateur missing the target? Better the professional who is ready to ready-aim-fire.

“I’m confident in our music and I’m confident with the band,” said Christopher. “Being on stage wasn’t always my safety place, but now it’s the most comfortable place for me to be. The minute it starts, I’m erupted with as much energy as possible. It’s a high, even sober.”

Some of his favorite stages are at the Lighthouse, the Harvest Gallery Wine Bar, and the small intimate stage under an old disco ball at the Beachcomber bar club restaurant on top of a dune as fat as a duck on Cahoon Hollow Beach. “It’s for people who figured out it was really cool to make it up into God’s country in Wellfleet,’ said Todd LeBart, one of the owners.

Last summer, as summer was breaking out of its shell on the Memorial Day weekend, and the Incredible Casuals, in some respects the house band, were finishing their first gig at the Beachcomber, Chandler Travis of the band was having a good time.

“That’s my job,” said Chandler. “God, what a great job.”

“Always our favorite summer night party,” said Christopher.

“I think it is fair to say that your life will not be complete until you have witnessed the sheer brilliance demonstrated by the Sacred Mounds,” said Chris Blood, the man who engineers the music at the nearby Payomet Performing Arts Center in Truro.

Although nothing beats seeing them live, the alternative is the new recording ‘Mirror’ by the Sacred Mounds, featuring Christoph Eize and Luke Massouh and Floyd Kellogg on bass guitar, the latter recording and mixing the work, as well.

“In the beginning I wrote poetry and put music to it,” said Christopher. “Then I wrote music and added the words. Now I hit record, play what comes out, I kind of black out, and the next thing you know, there’s a song, pure from the source.”

It’s a short step from the sacred to the profane. One day at Wellfleet’s town dump, the Transfer Station and Recycling Center, dropping off trash, Christopher was beckoned to the nearby Swap Shop.

“Check this out,” said the man who had waved him over. “A CD changer.”

“What am I supposed to do with that?” he asked. “Horrible sound. Everyone’s doing MP3’s, anyway. Besides, I’m thinking of going back to vinyl.”

He checked himself.

“Do I sound like a grandpa now?”

‘Mirror’ is available as a CD, or download, and streams on Bandcamp. It is not available on vinyl. It is available straight from the horse’s mouth all summer long on Cape Cod.

Whether Christopher Manulla is old-fashioned or new-fashioned, plugged in or a grandpa, quiet or gabby, is an open question. “When I first meet people I’m kind of shy stand-offish. When I get to know you, you can’t shut me up.” Whether he is able to shift seamlessly from shellfish constable to musical mastermind is not open for question.

“If neo-pagan, psychedelic, shamanistic fuzz is your thing, look no further than the new Sacred Mounds album,” said Tony Pasquale, aka Tony Scungilli, on WOMR-FM. “Chock full of rock ‘em sock ‘em hooks and sonic soma. It will realign your karma.”

It’s like balancing your tires for the long strange trip ahead.

The getting it done side of the coin of karma is dharma. If karma is the good or bad payoff resulting from good or bad actions, dharma is the choices we make. Making wrong choices, or adharma, leads to bad karma. Making right choices, right action known as dharma, leads to good karma.

What downbeat side or highlight of karma does realignment lead you to if you cue up the rock ‘em sock ‘em of the Sacred Mounds? It’s hard to say. The only way to find out is to get to the starting time of the do-dah man’s show and truck on down to the finish line.

Photograph: Deputy Constable Chris Manulla (left) and Assistant Constable John Mankevetch receive Massachusetts. Shellfish Officers Assn.’s “Deputy Constables of the Year” award from MSOA President Paul Bagnall.

Ed Staskus posts stories on 147 Stanley Street http://www.147stanleystreet.com and Cleveland Ohio Daybook http://www.clevelandohiodaybook.com. To get the site’s monthly feature in your in-box click on “Follow.”

Shoot the Moon

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By Ed Staskus

“Where’s the moon now, we’ve been lost for days, we’re on a trip around the sun, food and drink for everyone.” Leningrad Cowboys

The red and white sign in one of the paired windows slanting toward the road said “Help Wanted”. It was morning, prep time at eateries.

“I had gotten out of culinary school, was living down the street, and riding to P-town to look for work,” said Tony Pasquale. As he passed by he got a look-see at Terra Luna and a glimpse of the bright sign. He turned around and rode his bike up to the front door. Raina Stephani, the owner, and he introduced themselves.

They sat inside at a table next to the front door.

Terra Luna is a restaurant on the Shore Road of North Truro on the Outer Cape of Cape Cod. The two-lane road with sand shoulders is Route 6A, in parallel with Route 6, which interconnects most of the peninsula’s towns. The Shore Road was once called the Old King’s Highway.

“When can you start?” asked Raina, who opened the restaurant in 1993, starting the job interview.

“I can start tomorrow,” he said. “But, don’t you want to see my resume?”

“No,” she said.

He went to work in the kitchen in 1997, as a line cook, then sous chef, and finally kitchen manager. Fourteen years later Raina told Tony, ”I’m done. I don’t want it anymore.” Tony Pasquale bought Terra Luna in 2011. Today he is still in the kitchen, the chef, but at the hardware store, too, the handyman, and the office, doing payroll and the books.

“I’m on the line six days a week,” he said. “Everyone contributes, Paul, Marlene, Carla, who is Raina’s mom. She does the baking. But, I do everything.”

It’s old-school style, the owner’s manual written by the skipper.

On the high rise of the Shore Road, before it dives down to sea level on the way to Provincetown, Terra Luna is an Italian Mediterranean Portuguese cottage-style restaurant. It is a seasonal eatery, open roughly mid-May to mid-October. “Our menu, we call it neo-pagan,” said Tony.

“It’s a funky eclectic fun busy small intimate place, fish very nicely done,” said one diner as last year’s season wound down “They feature Absinthe specials and Sazerac rye cocktails, a real treat.”

“It hasn’t changed much,” said Tony. “It looks like it did in 1997, except we built the bar. The landlord has owned this building forever. Sometimes it needs some sleight-of-hand.”

The northwest corner of the floor is slowly sinking. The large painting on the wall, as a result, began to look crooked. “I put a tack under the bottom left corner of the frame, to hold the painting crooked, so it would look straight.”

The building was once the common room for the Prince of Whales cottages on the other side of the parking lot. Inside, the floor is wood, the walls are wood, and the pitched trestle ceiling is wood. There is plenty of coastal air by way of screened windows and doors. Paintings and glassworks by local artists, who moonlight in the busy summer, serving food, pouring drinks, are on the walls.

Two years ago he donated a dinner to the Sustainable Cape Farmer’s Market. “They asked me if I would do a dinner with Mark Bittman. I said, sure.”

Mark Bittman is a food writer, a former columnist for The New York Times, and author of more than a dozen books. His ‘How to Cook Everything’ was a bestseller and won the James Beard Award.

A year later Terra Luna got a phone call. “OK, they said, it’s for July 5th. I asked them, are we cooking together?”

“No,” said the other end of the line.

“That’s what I want to aspire to, be so famous that the thing I donate to charity is you get to take me out to dinner,” said Tony.

They started with their on-again off-again Bait Plate. ”My friend Jason and I had come up with it as a special. It’s all trash fish, smelts, razor clams, squid, sardines.”

Atlantic cod and lobster were long the dishes of choice in New England. But, overfishing and environmental changes have led to sharp declines in stock, especially of cod, and a shift toward more abundant species, like scup and spiny dogfish.

“I’ve complained for years that Cape Cod restaurants don’t strut the Cape’s stuff,” Mark Bittman wrote after the dinner.

“I was served a pile of what were once considered trash fish, all sourced locally. The cooking happened to be perfect, kudos to the kitchen, although that’s the easy part. It’s making the effort to deal with local fishers and ensure the product is genuine that’s tricky.”

“He told us, I will definitely be back,” said Tony. “Which was great, because he can be cranky.”

A native of Montclair, New Jersey, Tony Pasquale attended Syracuse University, graduating in 1990 with degrees in English and Cultural Anthropology. “That basically left me prepared for nothing,” he said.

He came to Cape Cod as a lad in the mid-70s when his family started vacationing in North Eastham. In 1988, at the start of summer, he came back. “There was nothing in Brewster, nothing in Eastham, college kids were still coming here to work. I ended up in a dumpy cottage in Truro. I ended up getting my first restaurant job. I got hooked.”

His first job was frying fish at the Goody Hallett, named after a young woman who turned to witchcraft for revenge in the early 18th century after being abandoned by the freebooter Black Sam Bellamy, believed to be the wealthiest pirate in history. Even though the restaurant has long since been torn down, replaced by a bank, sightings of Goody’s ghost are still spun by eyewitnesses in Eastham and Wellfleet.

Three years later he enrolled at the Western Culinary Institute in Portland, Oregon. “I wanted to go west and they were accredited.” Instead of the two-year program, he chose the accelerated one-year program. “I didn’t need anymore spring breaks.”

The cooking school opened in 1983, the brainchild of Horst Mager, who was a local chef and restaurateur. It has produced many acclaimed cooks over the years, including Matt Lightner and Homaro Cantu.

The program was part kitchen work, applying skills and techniques, and part classroom work, studying food science, as well as concepts in baking and pastry. “The instructors were great when you got into the kitchen, but sucked when they did lectures,” said Tony.

“One day it would be, we have a piece of fish. How can you cook it? You can grill it. You can poach it. You can bake it. The next day it would be, we have a piece of chicken. How can you cook it? You can grill it. You can poach it. You can bake it. I remember turning to one of my friends and saying, fuck it, are we really taking notes?”

After graduating he interned in Seattle, at the Alexis Hotel’s multi-star restaurant. He learned the business of making real food for real people in real time. He also learned he didn’t want to work for a corporate restaurant. “They never tell you in culinary school how many meetings and how much paperwork you’re going to have to do. The head chef got great reviews, but it was a nightmare, super competitive. She used to lock herself in her office. She lost it.”

He divided his time for the next several years between the east coast and the west coast, finally settling on Cape Cod in 1997, the summer he spied Terra Luna. “I love it here,” he said. “It’s still relatively unspoiled, even though it’s getting developed more and more. But, it will get to the point where it can’t be developed anymore, and that’s pretty soon.”

He works in Truro and lives in Wellfleet, both once whaling towns, both towns in woods of pitch pine and black oak, both towns the better part of them being the National Seashore.

Although vegan and vegetarian grub is served at Terra Luna, the menu is largely home on the range fare, pork chops, beef, and fish. The so-called neo-pagan larder keeps its cupboard doors open to organic close to home free-range livestock farming. Tony Pasquale supports environmental issues and organizations.

Not everything is neo-pagan, though. Some of it is closer to pagan, like Terra Luna’s Smoked Bluefish Pate. A neighbor spilled the beans about the unique recipe.

“Top Knot was sketchy, lived across the street, in what we call Cannery Row,” said Tony. “He had a peg leg and eye patch, except he switched the eyes. He came in one day, gave me his recipe, which was a special way of reducing shallots with wine, and it was incredible.”

Pirate’s booty isn’t always silver and gold. Sometimes the treasure chest is full of pate. Eat up me hearties!

The small restaurant is usually busy. In the summer they are even busier. “We were brutally busy last year,” said Tony. In the kitchen there are a chef’s table, two stoves, ovens, sinks and fridges, a salad station, coffee and espresso machines. It is a factory-like space, stainless steel and tools of the trade and exhaust fans, making fine delicious food. “It’s tight, streamlined, and we’re all close together, three of us cooking, and the dishwasher.”

Everybody rarely gets a day off. The hours are early Industrial Age-style. It is hard work. It takes a toll. “Some mornings I get up and, Jesus, that’s not working. You’re on your feet 15 hours.”

In common with many employers on the Outer Cape, especially seasonal employers, Terra Luna faces labor shortages. “When I was in college, I came here every summer,“ said Ken Smith, vice president of Red Jacket Resorts. “Me and three other guys rented a small Cape. For whatever reason, it doesn’t happen today.”

Housing, or what little there is of it, has grown prohibitively expensive, there is the dilemma of making money that in the end goes against your student aid, and the no-status summer job has become a resume non-builder. At the end of the day even the close-to-hand are hard to find.

“It’s extremely difficult to find locals anymore,” said William Zammer, owner of Cape Cod Restaurants, Inc. When Terra Luna lost its sous chef at the last minute it had to buckle down. There wasn’t a replacement to be found, not for love or money.

”There was no help,” said Tony. “There was nobody. We all know each other, the other owners, we’re talking all the time, but everybody was getting ready for their opening weekend. Eric Jansen at Blackfish was opening late, so he sent some people over.”

I need them back next weekend was the caveat.

“I did Craig’s List, the whole BS Internet thing, nothing,” said Tony. ”Finally, I put a sign up, ‘Help Wanted’. A guy going by on his Vespa, who was looking for a night job, stopped. He didn’t have a resume. I said, screw it. He’s from Mexico, a trained chef, and he did specials all summer. He was great.”

Even though motels hotels cottages resorts restaurants advertise for American workers, “we get virtually no response,” said William Zammer. Many of Cape Cod’s seasonal workers are from Eastern Europe, Latin America, and Jamaica. They are allowed to work in the United States on a temporary basis as a result of the H2B visa program, which is tailored for entry-level jobs in hospitality and retail.

Tony Pasquale’s dishwasher, Marlene, is from Jamaica. “She and I have been here the longest. She’s the rock, holds the kitchen together.” She comes to Cape Cod in the spring and goes home in the fall. On the peninsula she lives in Little Kingston, which is what the Prince of Whales cottages are known as up and down the Shore Road. She cleans rooms for a hotel in Provincetown during the day and takes a bus back to Terra Luna to wash dishes at night.

When the Jamaican reggae singer Beres Hammond was booked to play at the Payomet, Tony asked Marlene if she wanted to go to the show.

“No, I have to work.”

“We’ll get Roy to work for you.”

“How am I going to get there?”

The Payomet Performing Arts Center is on the other side of North Truro, on the ocean side. They stage professional theater productions and host live music, from Ruthie Foster to Southside Johnny, in a big, big tent. There is an outdoor dance floor for high stepping to the Genuine Negro Jig of the Carolina Chocolate Drops.

“We’ll get you a cab.”

“I don’t have tickets.”

“We got you front row.”

Sometimes you just have to step up to the plate and no ifs ands or buts lay something at someone’s feet.

Terra Luna barters for tickets, as well as catering some of Payomet’s events. The night the rhythm and blues gospel singer Mavis Staples was on stage the kitchen prepared a shrimp plate for her. “I was in the second row when between songs she said my name,” said Tony.

“Boy, you can burn!” said Mavis Staples. “I didn’t finish my shrimps, but I got a microwave up in my room. I’m going to throw that in and have myself a midnight special!”

Although Terra Luna’s haddock and oysters are sourced locally, all of their cod and shrimp come from far away. “There are a lot of licensed fishermen here, so my oysters come from Wellfleet.” Salmon, a staple on the menu, is not indigenous to North Truro’s neck of the woods. “There’s no shrimp here either. I get it from Chatham Fish. Sometimes people ask me if it’s Gulf shrimp. After BP, I tell them, yeah, Gulf of Tonkin.”

The sardines come from Portugal.

The first time Terra Luna fed a band the band was the Zombies. They are a British Invasion rock group from the 1960s, still going strong. When asked in 2015 about the name, Rod Argent, founding member, organist, and still the lead singer, said they all just liked it. “I knew vaguely that zombies were the Walking Dead from Haiti.”

“They were great,” said Tony. “It was an after-party. The problem was, they announced it from the stage. I left during the encore.”

Back at the restaurant he gathered the staff. “We might be a little busy.” A half-hour later close to a hundred people walked in. The bartender got into the weeds almost immediately. Tony ordered the menus be put away. “It was rum and coke and gin and tonic after that. One of us did wine and one on the tap.“ The kitchen fired up all of its burners, all hands on deck.

“It was awesome. The Zombies hung out all night.”

Sometimes singers stop in by themselves.

“I got a call last minute about Judy Collins,” said Tony.

“We need dinner for her.”

“She’s not on my list. I’m not donating.”

“We’ll pay for it. It’s just her by herself.”

“She came in and ordered the Porterhouse.” The Porterhouse is doubling your dining delight. It is the King of the T-Bones. “She put it down. I eat a 16-ounce steak and I have to take a nap. She went and did the show.”

Sometimes it isn’t a singer.

The Truro Vineyards, one of a handful of wineries on the Cape, is two or three miles away on the downside of the road.

“I know you don’t take reservations,” said Kristen Roberts, who with her mom and dad are the winemakers. “But, my parents are coming, three people at seven.”

“I don’t know. Three people?”

“My dad’s friend, Al Jaffee, he’s 93.”

“Al Jaffee? From Mad Magazine?”

“Yes.”

“Come to dinner.”

Al Jaffee is a cartoonist who has drawn satirical cartoons for Mad for more than sixty years. “Serious people my age are dead,” he said. Between 1964 and 2013 only one issue of Mad was published sans one of his cartoons. ”I grew up with Mad. He did the back page fold-in,” said Tony.

“We’ve got to do something special,” said Luke the bartender. He mixed up a new drink and called it The Fold-In.

“Al Jaffee rocked the pork chop and two Fold-In’s,“ said Tony.

The next day Dave Roberts stopped at Terra Luna with a copy of Mad.

“I know you did this for us,” he said. “I went out and bought the new issue. Al Jaffee signed it.”

At other times it isn’t a singer or a cartoonist. Some people, including Tony Pasquale, believe the building that houses Terra Luna is occasionally haunted.

“The jukebox didn’t work for weeks,” he said. “One day, getting ready for service, we heard woooooo all of a sudden. It was the jukebox turning itself on. It started playing ‘I Put a Spell On You’ by Screamin’ Jay Hawkins. We all stopped what we were doing. Everybody was freaked out.”

Another day Tony was in the kitchen in the middle of the day, alone, prepping for the dinner crowd. ”I had music cranking, doors locked, when all of a sudden I got that feeling that someone’s staring at you. I looked up. It was an old lady. She smiled and I smiled. I went back to work. But, then I thought, oh, fuck, there’s someone in here. When I looked up again there was nobody. I’m a hairy dude. All the hair on my body stood straight up. I had to go sit outside for a while. At least she was friendly.“

In the spring Terra Luna is smudged. “My buddies come in, burn some sage.” Sage means to heal and when burned it’s believed to clear away all things negative real and imagined, a balm and seal for the mind and spirit.

Cape Cod is the chin of New England, sticking its neck out into the Atlantic Ocean. When hurricanes roll up the seaboard the peninsula takes it on the chin, taking the brunt of high wind and high water.

“I see a bad moon a-rising, I hear a hurricanes a-blowing, I know the end is coming soon,” Credence Clearwater Revival, guitars jangling and drums steady as a heartbeat, sings out loud and clear in a backwoods yowl on the Provincetown radio show Squid Jigger’s Blend.

Route 6, about a mile from Terra Luna, is the Hurricane Evacuation Route. In 1996, in advance of Hurricane Edouard, state officials declared a state of emergency. An eight-hour 40-mile traffic jam ensued, stretching from Orleans to the bridges crossing over to the mainland.

The peak of the New England hurricane season is early September. If a hurricane were to blow in on any day except Monday, when they are closed, a good place to wait out the end might be Terra Luna on the high side of 6A, rather than 40 miles of gas fumes on Route 6. They have candles in case the power goes out, the roof might leak, but probably won’t blow away, there are ghost stories to go around, and they always have plenty of food and drink.

Terra Luna on the Shore Road, on top of that, has a skipper at the ready who makes the moving parts happen – the self-made year-roun-dah in the black chef’s coat so the blood won’t show when he steps out of the kitchen – who is more than capable of staying the course, help when wanted, foul weather and fair.

Ed Staskus posts stories on 147 Stanley Street http://www.147stanleystreet.com and Cleveland Ohio Daybook http://www.clevelandohiodaybook.com. To get the site’s monthly feature in your in-box click on “Follow.”

Beating the Bushes

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By Ed Staskus

   “Nobody would talk to me at the Lighthouse the first winter I lived in Wellfleet,” said Susan Rarick. “All the other tables were yukking it up, laughing away, having a good time. I sat there alone slouched over a beer, night after night, and nobody would talk to me.”

   The Lighthouse was a bar and restaurant in Wellfleet, Massachusetts, on Cape Cod. It had been there forty-some years at the far end of the peninsula called the Outer Cape. A scale replica of the Nauset Beach lighthouse jutted up from the roof and the menu didn’t lack for crab cakes, littlenecks, and PBR’s. The only towns farther out on the Cape are Truro and Provincetown, on the far fist end of the Cape, which is 14 miles north of Wellfleet.

   The Pilgrims, when they landed in North America in 1620, landed in Provincetown. It is where they first shook hands with the locals and signed the Mayflower Compact. When Thanksgiving was over and done, they shook a holy fist at the locals and went south for better living quarters.

   “It wasn’t until Barbara Jordan, who was then the social director of the town, started talking to me that everybody else did, too,” said Suzie.  “I had only moved to Wellfleet from Provincetown, but it’s very local here, big time. Any small town is like that. But, once you’re in, you’re in for life.”

   Fewer than three thousand people live in Wellfleet, once known as Oyster Port, although in summer the population swells to nearly twenty thousand. Almost half of the town is part of the Cape Cod National Seashore. The rest of the place is a one-horse middle of town, winding residential neighborhoods, and a large harbor.

   The town clock on the top of the Congregational Church is the only bell clock in the world that still rings on ship’s time. The Wellfleet Drive-In is one of the few still standing in the USA. It’s the only outdoor screen on the same coastline where the movie was shot that shows the movie “Jaws” under the stars. The Beachcomber at Cahoon’s Hollow is the only beach bar high on top a Cape Cod dune overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.

   The Incredible Casuals, featuring a transvestite drummer, were the Sunday afternoon house band for many years. But, like the band, not all of Cape Cod where the Beachcomber stands is still there. “When I was a kid, we had to walk forever from the car, lugging all our stuff, to the beach,” said Suzie. “Not anymore. It’s being washed away. The winter before last we had a storm that caused twenty years’ worth of erosion.” The Beachcomber lost its last row of parking. It collapsed into the Atlantic Ocean.

   “It’s extremely fragile here. That’s one reason it’s so special, besides the people. Where else can you live where many people don’t necessarily lock their doors? It’s like going back in time,” she said. Recent FBI crime statistics show that Cape Cod is below the national average in everything, while the murder risk, at a third, and the robbery risk, at a fourth, are both far below the national average.

   “I feel safe wherever I go, even in the woods, at least right up to hunting season, when you have to start being a little careful,” Suzie said.

   You can go everywhere in a small town like Wellfleet, although small towns aren’t for everybody. Since many of them don’t have places to go that you shouldn’t necessarily go to, they are sometimes thought of as small-minded. But no matter where you go, even the world’s big cities, it is only small minds that cling to small things.

   Small town life is like working at home, where everybody knows you and you know everybody. “I know everybody here in the winter,” Suzie said. “New Englanders are private, not show-offy, which sometimes comes off as cold, but I know all the local stories now.”

   Zsuzsanna Rarick vacationed on Cape Cod in the 1950s as a child, after her parents immigrated to the United States in the aftermath of the Hungarian Uprising of 1956. “My parents didn’t even speak English. They said the Massachusetts climate was similar to Hungary’s, so that was where they settled. They went to Framingham with nothing but the clothes on their back. It was a different time to come to the United States. People were welcoming, very welcoming.”

   She has spent every summer or lived year-round on Cape Cod since she was four years old. “My friends had families with summer homes, but our family camped. I always loved it. There’s a picture of me at the top of the Provincetown Monument, my front teeth missing. I used to cry going home over the bridge, I don’t want to go, I don’t want to go, I cried. I would lick the sea salt off my skin to get the last little taste of the Cape.”

   It is in places like Cape Cod that something is everything to somebody.

   After whaling slowly died off in the 18th century tourism began to be promoted in the 19th century. The Cape became a summer place for well-off city folk coming from Boston by packet boat and stagecoach.  When Route 6 was finished as far as Provincetown in the 1950s, and President Kennedy signed legislation creating the Cape Cod National Seashore, the sandy peninsula became a go-to vacation spot for many families up and down the Northeast.

   “I always tell people when they say how much they like Wellfleet, only tell your very best friends about us. It still has character and it’s still a real community.” Some of the townsfolk wear t-shirts saying, “So Many Tourists, So Few Sharks.”  Nevertheless, the driving force behind much of Wellfleet’s economy is off-Cape dollars. Seasonal residents, second-home owners, and tourism account for the better part of the town’s annual income.

   “There’s not a lot of year-round work here, so in the summer everybody is working crazy hours. We’re all complaining about it, too. The roads are a parking lot. All your errands you do on your off hours, somehow or other, or not at all. You go for groceries at the Stop-n-Shop in Provincetown at midnight.”

   It’s where to gossip with your neighbors who you never see in season.

   “But we have to make money, although after September it’s our reward time. We get to be with each other. Cape Cod is your private playground then. You can throw a snowball down the street in January, and you won’t hit a thing.”

   Everybody has to come in from the playground sometime, though, and that’s one of the problems of living in Wellfleet, as well as Truro and Provincetown.

   “There are people who live here who can’t find a place to live,” Suzie said. “If you have a house already, you’re OK.  But, if you’re trying to find a house here, like me, you’re bitter, like me.” Spring, summer, and fall Susan Rarick lives in a three-season cottage, a dwelling without sufficient land around it to qualify as an all-season’s condo. In the winter she is compelled to move to a rental in Eastham, farther south on the Outer Cape. There is a dearth of housing because housing prices have soared, while wages have stagnated.

   “Over the past ten years the median cost of a house rose $200,000 while income rose only $10,000,” said Paul Cullity, the pastor of Wellfleet’s Congregational Church and member of the local housing partnership trust. “Not only are people barely earning more than they did ten years ago, but they can actually buy less and less housing each year.”

   By standards common to the state of Massachusetts the town of Wellfleet should have 140 affordable homes. “But, we have less than 20,” said Pastor Cullity. The problem is so acute that there is an annual “Housing with Love Walk” to raise money and awareness for Cape Cod housing agencies.

   “It’s so friggin’ expensive here, and then, 80%, maybe 90% of the houses are empty,” said Suzie. “The baby boomers are buying everything up. It’s just summer homes for them, someplace where they’ll have a good spot for the 4th of July parade. They don’t live here all year. They live someplace else.” In the race between living and living it up, living it up is winning. “You have to be a certain type of person to live here year-round. We’re not the fast track and our track is disappearing because of real estate. In the 80s a half-acre might have cost $40,000. Today it’s closer to $240,000, or more, if you can find one.”

   Real estate land listings in the spring of 2016 in Wellfleet included 1.4 acres on Route 6, Cape Cod’s spinal highway, for $399,000 and 1.2 waterfront acres on Pine Pond Road for $895,000, while 2.3 acres on Perch Pond Way was a steal at $389,000. Almost half of the homes listed for sale in 2015 in Wellfleet were asking over a million dollars. One of the least expensive was a Sears kit house, the kind folks used to buy from the catalog, priced at $329,000.

   “Wellfleet was a cottage community, but then people started buying the cottages and making them over into million-dollar structures that they use three weeks out of the year,” Suzie said. “It’s good for our taxes and it’s actually not bad either that they’re not here most of the time.”

Far away makes the heart grow fonder.

   “The only saving grace we have is the National Seashore, thank God. Otherwise, there would be condos up and down that shoreline. At least we’re not Provincetown. It’s so sad. There’s nothing there anymore. Twenty years ago, it was a year-round community. It was so much fun. Everybody got along and you could get cheap rentals for the summer. Now, forget it. All the Portuguese sold their family homes for big bucks, walked away, and went somewhere else. You can’t find anything to rent. Everything’s been bought up.”

   Always a popular summer resort town, Provincetown has become increasingly popular since the 90s, so much so that no one lives there anymore. “Locals have been relocating,” said Bob O’Malley of Beachfront Realty. “The prices are driving them out of the market.”

   Although most of the new homeowners don’t live in town in the off-season, they are the newcomers who have more money, much more money, than the locals. “A lot of people had to leave town because they couldn’t find housing, any housing,” said Michelle Jarusiewicz, the Community Housing Specialist for Provincetown.

   “There’s no old-timers, there’s hardly any locals left, at all. There are practically no births anymore and the high school closed,” Suzie said. The last senior class at the Provincetown High School, after more than 150 years of senior classes, graduated in 2013. That was the end of that future.

   In the spring of 2015 Kristin Hatch, a volunteer member of the Provincetown Housing Authority, found the shoe on the other foot when she found out she was going to have to vacate her two-bedroom condo. “The landlord sent me an e-mail that he’s going to sell,” she said. “Hopefully something comes up.” In the meantime, she was moving her possessions into storage and staying with a friend.

   “Living here is not for everybody,” Suzie said. “What is kind of funny is that in the summertime the tourists are all sitting up here and thinking it’s like this all the time, but it’s not. I was doing a catering event in Truro, at a big, modern house that they got out of a magazine, and one of the guys I was working with said, ‘Come winter I’ll be sitting right here on this deck looking out at the sunset because there ain’t gonna be anybody else here.’”

   In winter the shore towns of the Outer Cape go from bustling to evacuated. In summer you can’t park anywhere. In winter you can park anywhere you want. The suddenly empty beaches of the Cape Cod National Seashore are anyone’s for the taking, so long as you take along a heavy coat, boots, and a friendly dog to keep you company.

   In winter in Wellfleet there might not be anything better than spending an hour or two in a neighborhood bar. “It’s a small community,” Suzie said. “One winter when it was bad there were three guys who always sat at a big table at the Lighthouse telling jokes. We would sit around, and they would start telling jokes. They each had a repertoire of fifty of them, maybe more, and they told them for hours. We thought it was great. It’s pretty isolated here in the winter.”

   “Did I ever tell you how Harvey and I tried to set up an anarchist community here in the 1960s, but we couldn’t make it work because nobody would obey the rules,” one of the good old boys drawled between pulls on a Pabst Blue Ribbon.

   “But, if you’re in trouble, somebody’s boat sinks in the harbor, the community is there,” Suzie said. “I was going to drive to Florida one time and there was something wrong with my car. The dealer said it was going to be five, maybe six hundred dollars. I took it to my friend, one of the men who used to tell jokes at the Lighthouse, and he looked at it, said it was no big deal, fixed it, and didn’t charge me. That’s what they are, salt of the earth people.”

   But, before joining the salt of the earth, one needs a little bit of the earth for oneself.

   “I love it here, although you give up a lot to live here. You have got to like yourself because there aren’t many distractions. But I need a house, that’s the biggest thing. I have just got to get a house. I’m crazy about it. I’m obsessed with it. I’ve been looking for years.”

   Of all home remedies, a good home is the best. While it may be true that everybody is stuck with themselves at home, it is where everybody usually feels better than anywhere else. Home is where one starts from early in the morning and ends up at the tail end of the day, where there’s always a candle burning in the window.

   “I’ll get it,” Susan Rarick said. “I’m getting closer, getting closer, and I’ll get there soon.”

Ed Staskus posts stories on 147 Stanley Street http://www.147stanleystreet.com and Cleveland Daybook http://www.clevelandohiodaybook.com. To get the site’s monthly feature in your in-box click on “Follow.”