Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Frank Cook's Big Fish, Caught Near Provincetown's Wood End, c.1910

The black-and-white photo of Frank Cook posing with his 270 pound halibut, c.1910,
was later turned into one of the most popular postcards of the next few decades, shown above.

Somewhere around the year 1910, Frank Cook was out one day in his little dory, fishing with a hand-held line, off the shoreline beyond Wood End. That's out beyond the spit of sand you'll find winding its way around the harbor if you walk out on the breakwater in the West End, toward Wood End Light. This spot got its name, by the way, because when the Pilgrims arrived here in 1620, that's where the woods ended. There were groves of trees and thickly forested areas found in spots all over the cape in those early days, and the forest in Provincetown came right down to the edge of the beach in that spot. 
So Frank was out in Cape Cod Bay, which lies beyond that bit of sand that runs between Wood End and Long Point. He was by himself, dangling a hand-held line from his dory and hoping for a fish to come along. Not all fishermen of the day sailed off with a crew on a large boat. There were many who fished from their own small dories and skiffs, seldom ranging far from the shoreline, since Provincetown is surrounded by deep waters. Good-sized fish were sometimes found quite near the beaches.
When he felt a tug on his line Frank began to pull it in, but he must have been startled as he realized what was on the other end of that line. It turns out a lumbering, 270 pound halibut had taken Frank's bait!
Alone in his boat, Frank somehow managed to land his catch, pulling a fish twice his size into his tiny craft. His dory must have been a "double-ender," having a pointed bow on either end, because hauling a fish that size over the side of a boat with a square stern would likely have swamped the boat. Once his catch was landed, Frank rowed more than five miles around Long Point and into the harbor, heading for a place equipped to handle such an enormous fish. When it had been unloaded and hoisted up to weigh it, Frank posed for this picture standing next to his halibut, holding the hand-line he had used to haul in the fish.
That black-and-white photo eventually evolved into a hand-colored post card that was very popular in PTown souvenir and gift shops for about 50 years, until the newfangled "chrome" style of glossy color photo cards began springing up in local shops in the 1960s. But these old-fashioned, hand-tinted photo post cards are still among those most prized by collectors today. And this is a fish folks still talk about.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

One Last Meal in St Mary of the Harbor's 22nd Season of Community Luncheons

Renowned Provincetown Artist Sol Wilson's painting of the Church of Saint Mary of the Harbor
hangs in its hallway at 517 Commercial Street, in PTown's East End
Come and join Provincetown residents and visitors at the Episcopal Church, St Mary's, at noon on Saturday, February 23, for the last community luncheon of the winter of 2013, their 22nd season providing a meal and a bit of fellowship during the harshest part of this sometimes bleak time of the year.
The cold winds and raw weather we often have in the winter can keep people indoors, adding to the isolation many of us feel during the off-season. When the streets are empty of the enormous crowds of summer visitors, when that chilling wind from the north rattles our windows, and when most of us have no job to get us out of the house every day, we can tend to lead rather solitary lives, sometimes not leaving our homes for several days, or longer. We sometimes tend to go without much human contact during the long winter season, and that can leave us feeling down a bit, maybe a little lonely, or sometimes downright depressed.
Every winter, each Saturday during January and February, you'll hear live music in the East End of town, spilling out of the doors of the Church of Saint Mary of the Harbor, along with the smell of a delicious repast being served by volunteers and enjoyed by several dozen of us who have ventured out to share a meal. Various musicians come to join us, playing instruments like the piano, violin, banjo or guitar, and sometimes all of these, while guests enjoy the food, the company and the music. Saint Mary's has hosted this free community luncheon for 22 winters, providing a social gathering place, a nice dinner, and the warmth of companionship set against the majesty of Provincetown's spectacular harbor.
All are welcome, with no reservations required. See you at noon on Saturday as we have one last meal together for the season, and thank all those who have helped in putting on these wonderful community luncheons over the years.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Oscar Nominated Shorts Play at Waters Edge Cinema in the Whalers Wharf

All 15 of this year's Oscar nominated short films will show at Waters Edge Cinema,
 237 Commercial Street, 2nd floor of the Whalers Wharf, Provincetown
Provincetown has one of the very few theaters in the country where you'll be able to see all 15 of this year's Oscar contenders in the short film categories of live action, animation and documentary, in that order. Thanks to the programmers at Waters Edge Cinema, on the second floor of Whalers Wharf, we'll have a chance to see each one of the shorts nominated for an Academy Award before the award ceremony itself is broadcast on TV this Sunday night. You'll also find these programs of shorts each playing again next week. You can see a minute-and-a-half teaser for these terrific short films by clicking on this link: http://theoscarshorts.shorts.tv
Friday at 4 PM (and repeating Monday at 4 PM) you can see the program of live action shorts, which leans heavily toward the dramatic end of the scale this year. Films will include Death of a Shadow, a dark love story set in WWI, along with Buzkashi Boys, from Afghanistan, and Somalia's Asad, both dealing with growing up in a land devastated by war. Henry tells of an aging concert pianist and the enigma of a past love. Curfew, about a troubled man asked to babysit his young niece for a few hours, has been honored by 33 film festivals in the US and abroad.
The animation program runs Saturday at 1:30 and at 4 PM, repeating at 4 PM on Tuesday. Familiar objects become edible in the 2 minute animated short Fresh Guacamole. In The Simpsons: The Longest Daycare, you'll likely recognize baby Maggie from the long-running TV series The Simpsons, as she spends a day at the Ayn Rand School for Tots. Paperman is a 7 minute romantic comedy about an office worker who uses paper airplanes to meet a girl. In the more serious Adam and Dog, the Garden of Eden is populated by Adam and a dog. Head Over Heels is a charming 11 minute claymation film about a marriage turned upside down, nominated 8 times in festivals and award programs, and poised to win the Oscar with 4 other wins so far.
The 5 shorts in the documentary category play in 2 programs, with Program A running 2 hours and 3 minutes, playing Sunday at 1 PM and repeating Wednesday at 4 PM, while Program B runs an hour and 23 minutes, playing both Sunday and Thursday at 4 PM. These films could practically be mistaken for a 5 part anthology of films revolving around human relationships and tough topics like aging, terminal illness and homelessness, yet they are surprisingly hopeful, and, of course, each film was made independently of all the others, each one with excellent reviews. Films include Kings Point; Redemption; Open Heart; Innocente; and the inspiring Mondays at Racine, with 4 nominations to date and 2 film festival awards so far. It shows us a couple of Long Island sisters who regularly open the doors of their beauty parlor to the laughter, gossip, tears and fears of women who've been diagnosed with cancer.
Trailers for many of the films can be found, along with all kinds of tidbits to feed your Oscar fever, at the IMDb website. The Internet Movie Database is the world's leading authority on film, television, actors, directors, movie plots, production notes and anything to do with the big or the small screen.
Most folks, and probably many members of The Academy, never get to see Oscar's shorts, but this year, over the coming week, you have a chance to see each one of them. And if you camp out at Waters Edge Cinema, you could actually see them all before the awards are announced on Sunday.
Waters Edge has been operating under the direction of the Provincetown Film Society, the folks who bring us the annual Provincetown International Film Festival, since April of 2010, when they began serious fundraising efforts to buy the theater, create an additional theater on the site, and commit to bringing independent and art house films to PTown year round. We thank them for bringing us this spectacular series of short films.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Hot L Winter Menu Offers PTown Some Real Bargains and a Cozy Table by the Fire

Meatloaf at Hot L Bar and Grille, a $10 Provincetown winter dinner special!
If you haven't yet discovered Hot L Bar and Grill in the Far East End of PTown, now is the time to go and check it out. The friendly staff and relaxed pace of the off-season, the welcoming bar and the cozy atmosphere around the wood stove all invite you in from the cold, and the tasty, generous portions served with a bit of southern flair will make you glad you ventured out. And there are great dinner specials offered every night of the week during the winter.
Tonight is Monday, so this evening the special will be Hot L's homestyle meatloaf. This photo was taken at the beginning of the off-season, when zucchini and summer squash were at their peak. Now that we're into the winter season, fresh green beans will be the vegetable accompaniment to two thick slices of meatloaf, along with a generous serving of real mashed potatoes, with a luscious mushroom demi-glaze completing the dish. By the way, dinner starts off with hushpuppies with cranberry butter. These are the traditional southern favorite... tasty little balls of deep fried cornmeal dough, but dressed up a bit with a little Yankee flavor, a little New England accent. And this entire dinner is going to set you back a mere $10!
That's right, Sunday through Thursday nights in the off-season there's a different $10 dinner special each night, like Thursday's baked cod with basmati rice and seasonal vegetable, or Sunday night's BBQ chicken with baked beans, cranberry coleslaw and cornbread. Dinner specials start at 5 PM every night, and the kitchen is open till 9, but you'll want to come early in the evening on Saturdays for the Prime Rib au jus, with white truffle mashed potatoes and vegetable du jour, because it's only $20 and it's very popular, and likely to sell out before the night is over.
Friday nights you'll find Hot L's all-you-can-eat fish fry, with haddock, curly fries and cranberry coleslaw for $13. The lunch menu offers a dozen different burgers and sandwiches as well as daily specials, and breakfast is served every day from 8 AM till noon, with a special Sunday breakfast buffet served until 1PM. The social hour  Monday through Friday from 4 to 6 PM brings a lot of folks in for a drink and some of their favorite bar food as well as raw bar. And I haven't even begun to talk about the barbecue. The chef whips up about a dozen different BBQ sauces for various dishes, like the peach BBQ sauce for the ribs (delish!) and the Jack Daniels sauce for the pulled pork, which is my favorite sauce so far, but there are still more barbecues here that I need to try. There are also nine or ten seafood entrees I haven't yet gotten to.
Hot L Bar and Grille, with plenty of free parking, is found at 350 Bradford Street, near the split where Route 6A comes into town and divides into Commercial Street to the left and Bradford Street to the right. Call them at 508 413-9511. This is currently Provincetown's only restaurant open year round for breakfast, lunch and dinner. As you probably know, I go out of my way to eat everywhere in town, but I hope to get back to Hot L for another great meal, soon!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Vintage Postcards and Photos Reveal Provincetown's Rich History and Culture

Before the days of modern refrigeration our early fishermen preserved their catch by salting the fish and drying it on outdoor racks called "flakes." Here we see codfish drying on flakes that stretch from one end of the wharf to the other, and there were dozens of these wharves along the harbor. The wharves not only served the boats leaving shore to catch or trap the fish; they also provided a landing where the fishermen could unload the boats, as well as acres upon acres of space for the fish flakes, where the cleaned catch could be salted and laid out to dry over a period of time. See my post about fish flakes and trap boats on August 18th, 2012, for more about catching and curing the fish in those days.
From its appearance, we can also gather a number of clues about the time period of this old photo post card, even though this particular card was never mailed, and thus had no postmark to provide a date for this scene.
The small amount of blank space on the right-hand edge of this card is all the space that was allowed for writing a message on the card during the era in which it was produced. It was just enough space to write a brief salutation or message to the recipient, literally just a few words, or for the signature of the sender. By law, no message or greeting was allowed to be written on the back of the card in this day. The back sides of post cards were not divided into separate sections for the address and a message until 1907, and writing a message on the backs of cards before that time was prohibited by postal laws, so the undivided back of this post card tells us it was printed before 1907.
Provincetown volunteer fireman
John D. Hilliard, 1876
Some post cards give clues to the date or other information within the image itself, such as an early Commercial Street scene showing a number of Model A Fords in the road, These cars were built from 1928 through 1931, so they would have been seen in photos after those dates, of course, but could not have appeared earlier. Period clothing worn by people in the images can help establish a rough date, as can specific events depicted in photos, such as President and Mrs. Taft walking up the gangway on Steamboat Wharf. We know that they were here for the dedication of the Pilgrim Monument on August 5th, 1910.
Many post cards have been made using paintings, etchings and other images by Provincetown artists, and we can sometimes find dates for these works of art through auction listings and other records kept by sources such as the Provincetown Art Association and Museum. There is a remarkable collection of artifacts and human knowledge to be found at the Pilgrim Monument and Provincetown Museum, where staff members like Curator of Education Laurel Guadazno are walking encyclopedias of the town's history.
Family photos will often have handwritten notes on the back, or depict events that can be traced to a specific date, or are found in a box with other mementos from a specific time period. The image above came from a cabinet photo published by Nickerson Photography Studio in Provincetown. A note on the back, written in pencil,  reads "John D. Hilliard 1876." The photo shows the Provincetown volunteer fireman posed in full dress, including hat and horn. According to Simeon L. Deyo's book History of Barnstable County, Massachusetts, 1620 - 1890, around this time Hilliard was running a store selling general merchandise. The store, along with a wholesale fish business, had been started by Stephen Hilliard in 1836, the year John D. had been born. Hilliard's wharf was erected in 1840, when John was a small child. It was near the spot where Lands End Hardware stands today, and it evolved into the town's main lumber wharf by the late 1800s.
There were a number of Hilliards in town during that period, and numerous Hilliards had run these businesses for more than fifty years, at times with other business partners. And although I've read Deyo's account of all of the incarnations of these various businesses and partnerships about a dozen times, it still isn't clear to me how, or if, all of these Hilliards may have been related. I'm still hoping to find more information from another source or two.
I have a collection of a few thousand photo and post card images relating to the history, artwork, culture and inhabitants of PTown over the years, and I'll be posting many of them here at one point or another. I hope you'll enjoy them, and sorting through Provincetown's rich history, as much as I do.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Writer's Voice Cafe Helps Provincetown Get Back to Normal Following the Blizzard

As we're all digging out from the Blizzard of 2013, some of us are just a little bit desperate to feel "normal" again.
I don't know about any of you, but that would definitely be me. Even though it was only a few days of serious disruption in my life, this storm changed me.
I'll be writing about the blizzard and its effects on me in a couple of days, once I can sort of digest some more of the feelings I'm having about the whole experience. When we lost power again on Monday I immediately got a big knot in the pit of my stomach, my heart sank as it started beating a little faster, and a clammy anxiety began slowly expanding from the center of my body. As the hours passed and the house began to grow cold, again, I began to grow despondent. I've got to figure out how to reshape this new automatic gut response I seem to have developed, given the way the electricity goes out so often around here.
In the meantime, one way for me to feel more "normal" is to get back to writing this blog on a regular basis. Funny, in the summertime when I was up to my eyebrows in the struggle to make enough money to survive another season in Provincetown, I was out every day taking photos, sampling food, visiting beaches, trails and attractions, and writing every day about things to see, do and taste in PTown. Oddly, when my schedule changed at the end of the summer, and the pressure was off, everything sort of shifted a bit, and I got out of the habit of writing. Taking up this blog again is a great way for me to gat a little of that rhythm back, and to shake off some of the trauma of the storm, along with some of the feelings of such vulnerability to the treacheries of Mother Earth. Besides, I have something great to turn you on to, just in case you don't already know about it...
Life in PTown gets back to normal again tonight at 7 PM. Every second Wednesday of the month, from the autumn season through June, the Writer's Voice Cafe meets upstairs at Napi's Restaurant in Provincetown, at the corner where Freeman Street meets Standish. Writers of every stripe gather to read anything they've written, anything that strikes them. We're midway through the sixth season of this monthly showcase for local writers. On any given night you might hear, or read yourself, anything from a comic monologue to an editorial on gun control, from a work in progress to a finished poem, or any other sort of written piece. Each week there's a featured writer, followed by an open mic session for any kind of written work. 
The mission of Writer's Voice Cafe is to provide writers of all media with the opportunity to share their work and to connect with others in the community by providing a public forum for writers, for support and inspiration. The Cafe has featured writers as diverse as members of the Truro Memoir Writers Group on one evening, and 2012 Provincetown High School valedictorian Angela Martinez on another night. The evening is sometimes recored for local cable TV, and you can click on this link to see Angela's reading. Find more of these readings on Vimeo or at provincetowntv.org.
Maria Nazos, tonight's featured writer, lives and
works in Provincetown and in Mal Pais, Costa Rica
Better still, come to Napi's tonight at 7 PM and hear from tonight's featured writer, poet and lyrical essayist Maria Nazos, author of A Hymn That Meanders, published by Wising Up Press. Maria earned her MFA in Writing from Sarah Lawrence College and has been awarded a number of scholarships and fellowships from prestigious organizations such as the Santa Fe Art Institute, the Vermont Studio Center, the Squaw Valley Community of Writers, and our own Fine Arts Work Center, here in Provincetown.
Settle in with a nice cup of coffee and listen as Maria reads this evening's selections, followed by the open mic section and the work of other writers. Or sign up to read something of your own. There's no admission charge. Sometime during the evening the hat will be passed to gather contributions which will go to the featured writer.
If you go early you can have dinner downstairs in the dining room, where you'll find some unusual menu items, and you'll enjoy one of the town's most eclectic collections of art, ranging from fine paintings by John Whorf and many others to the brick mural by Conrad Malicoat and the cartoons of Howie Schneider. We thank Napi and Helen Van Dereck for offering the space for this event, and for their ongoing support of the artists and writers of Provincetown.