Friday, February 28, 2014

Provincetown's Off-season Public Art

Delightful murals adorn many closed shops, brightening PTown's off-season.
Click on photo for a better view of the art spanning John's and Turner's fronts.
A beautiful mural of Provincetown Harbor stretches across the entire front of the building where the order and pickup windows at John's Footlong and at Turner's Candy and Ice Cream are boarded up for the winter. You'll find this bit of off-season public art right in the center of town, on the west side of the street, across from Lopes Square.
There are a few other spots where you'll find artwork rather than just plywood protecting windows of shops and restaurants closed for the winter, if you look for them. Most of them will be found on Commercial Street. This kind of public art makes it a lot more fun for visitors to walk through our streets in the off-season as they look for a spot open for lunch or a shop that's open for business at this time of the year.
More of this sort of art in the streets would begin to attract more visitors, too. And how nice it would be if more businesses gave us something pleasant to look at while they were closed for the season.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Pond Ducks Walk on Water

A trio of ducks splash across melting pond ice during PTown's brief winter thaw.
The recent spring-like temperatures, with a Provincetown high of 50 degrees the other day, have melted a bit of the blanket of ice that has chilled us during the last few weeks.
As the edge of the pond in Beech Forest began to thaw, a soft wind gently blew the meltwater over the ice and several feet out into the pond, splashing half-an-inch or so of water onto the thick layer of ice that had overspread every inch of Black Water Pond during the recent cold snap. We all rejoiced in nearly a week of warmer weather, and a couple of gorgeous, sunny days.
Folks were seen out walking on the trails in Beech Forest, on the Old Colony Nature Pathway and on other trails around Provincetown. As sidewalks thawed people came outdoors again to stroll our neighborhoods, and it was a busy weekend at the dog park. And although we're heading back into colder weather again, along with more snow, the temperatures won't be quite as cold as they have been, and we have the recent memory of a few lovely days to sustain us as we wait for the spring that can come none too soon after the cold and snowy winter we've had this year.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Pizza Hits the Spot Year-Round, Now With Lunchtime Delivery From George's

A mushroom slice from George's Pizza always warms me up.
Open year-round, they now offer delivery from noon till 10 PM daily.
It was past noon, about 22 degrees, and windy to boot,
so I needed to warm up a little.
Nothing sounded better than a hot slice of pizza fresh from the oven.
In the summertime Provincetown offers some 90 restaurants, coffee shops, delis and takeouts where you can sit down for a meal or grab a quick bite to go, but winter leaves us with just a handful of year-round eateries, and in the off-season there's not always something to eat nearby.
So when I walked into George's Pizza (275 Commercial Street) and ordered my favorite mushroom slice, I was happy to find that they had just begun offering delivery service during lunch hours in addition to their usual evening delivery service. Now you can get salads, hot or cold sandwiches, lasagna, soft drinks, and of course, pizza, brought right to your door from noon till 10 PM. For a delivery charge of $2 you can gat a meal delivered anywhere between the Provincetown Inn and the North Truro police station.
You can see in the photo above that I like my pizza sprinkled with all the condiments: crushed red pepper, oregano, garlic and a bit of parmesan cheese. If you remember to ask for these seasonings, George's will tuck them into your delivery order.
Of course, you can drop in for a meal at a table or at the full bar, where you can watch sports or other TV events, play video games or chat with the assortment of Townies that can randomly be found here at any time of day. Or call George's Pizza at 508 487-3744 for delivery day or night.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Provincetown History - Cookie's Tap

Cookie's Bar, 18" X 24" oil on panel, 1948, by Provincetown artist Charles Kaeselau.
I was having lunch at Provincetown's marvelous Soup Kitchen one blustery day last winter, enjoying a great meal and the splendid company of artists, historians, writers, actors, and other assorted Townies at my table. Each of us had been in Provincetown at least 25 years, many of us much longer, and stories of all sorts would pour out as various topics came up. One of those topics on that particular day was Cookie's Tap, a venerable Provincetown institution that got its start in 1927 as a neighborhood bar for Fishermen in the West End, at 133 Commercial Street.
In 1941 owner Frank "Friday" Cook tore down the aging structure and had Joseph Morris construct a new building with upscale touches like maple floors, leading local newspaper The Advocate to publish an article about this swanky new bar in their March 13th issue of that year. In the 1990s this neighborhood landmark housed David Gallerani's much-loved Italian restaurant. Most recently, Lorraine's restaurant had served a very popular menu of upscale Mexican recipes in this spot, and had held a weekly Trivia Night during the winter months, hearkening back to the days when this little joint was a real gathering place. We're hoping Lorraine Najar will cook for us again one day, somewhere in town, having sold the property last summer. We're eager, too, to see what the new owners will come up with for the next incarnation of this building.
As Cookie's Tap evolved into Cookie's Restaurant over the years, they became known for their Portuguese specialties, of course. A favorite meal there was the Vovo Cabral, made with cheese layered over flounder baked in tomatoes and wine. Friday's wife, Clara Cabral Cook, became known for her wonderful kale soup, as well, and worked in the place she loved into the 1980s, well into her own 80s, according to David W. Dunlap on his terrific website/blog/history archive Building Provincetown. Visit his site and read more about 133 Commercial Street and its occupants over the years, and enjoy photographs and other historic tidbits there as well.
Friday and Clara's sons began working at Cookie's in the middle 1940s, with Wilbur joining his folks in 1944, followed by Joe in 1946, after Friday had passed away. Various children of the two brothers also worked at Cookie's over the years, including Tina Cook Wheeler, who assembled a book of Cookie's recipes a couple of years ago. A nephew, Ralph Cook, Jr., recalls earning the tidy sum of $5 washing dishes there as a boy, when he was twelve years old.
This ad appeared in The Advocate in 1948,
the same year the painting above was done.
That afternoon at the Soup Kitchen the topic of hurricanes, nor'easters and other brutal storms that roll through Provincetown came up, and my tablemates talked about all the fishermen and others who gathered at Cookie's Tap to ride out these storms together, since no one would be going to work that day. No one, except, of course, the Cooks, who would always open up the bar when there was a big storm brewing, and put a pot of something or other on the stove to feed the souls who would inevitably turn up over the course of the day. Folks passed the time playing cards or checkers, telling stories, eating a little something, and, of course, having a few drinks, along with a few laughs, as the storms raged outside. Many a terrible gale was softened a bit by the pleasant camaraderie of friends who gathered to bolster their spirits and pass the time, waiting out the treacheries of Mother Nature together.
Provincetown native Mary-Jo Avellar worked at Cookie's Tap, and in her Provincetown Portuguese Cookbook, she tells of rabbits or other game the Cook brothers would bring in after an occasional early morning hunt, and a big pot of stew or a fricassee would be made for customers to enjoy "on the house" while having a drink or two.
The painting at the top of this page seems to have captured the natures of some of the "characters" who were frequent customers of this storied Provincetown hangout. It was painted in 1948 by Kare (Charles) Anton Kaeselau (say Kay-slo,) born in 1889, in Stockholm, Sweden. Kaeselau was a painter, lithographer and teacher who had studied in Chicago, Paris, London, and with Charles W. Hawthorne in Provincetown.
He worked here a good bit in the 20s and 30s, and apparently later on as well. He was a member of the Provincetown Art Association and Museum and an exhibitor there, working in oils, watercolors and wood block prints, and is among the artists whose work is found in PAAM's permanent collection, though even his family doesn't know much about him or his work. But it's evident that he spent some time himself enjoying the hospitality at Cookie's.

Friday, February 14, 2014

A West End Valentine

This charming valentine is found on the ground at 88 Commercial Street, at Valentine's Guesthouse.
Works of art of all kinds can be found around Provincetown, and in spots where you'd least expect to find them. I first spied this one several months ago when I just happened to step out of a taxi right in front of it. This charming piece of stained glass art has been embedded in a patch of concrete just back from the edge of the sidewalk in front of the path that leads to Valentine's Guesthouse, at 88 Commercial Street. I recently talked with family matriarch Helen Valentine to learn the story of this enchanting piece of art within the view of pedestrians strolling in Provincetown's Far West End.
It's just a bit past the bend in the road where Commercial Street passes the Coast Guard Station, embedded in the concrete next to the sidewalk. In the summertime you'll be drawn to this neighborhood by the aromas of Italian delicacies being served to guests at Sal's Place, right across the street. Helen tells me this sidewalk "valentine" is the most photographed spot in the West End, and here's how it came to be…
A number of years ago the Lobster Pot restaurant held a fish dinner as a fundraiser for the  high school, so the Valentine family was there to support the cause, having dinner and buying raffle tickets for prizes donated by local artists and merchants. Helen's son-in-law, Fred Long, won a beautiful stained glass piece by Truro artist Anne Kane, depicting a footpath leading to a cozy cottage with a welcoming wisp of smoke billowing from the chimney, and bearing a resemblance to the yard and the home that made up Valentine's Guesthouse. The scene was done in the shape of a heart, as well, so it seemed to Fred that this piece of art belonged with the Valentines, and he made it a gift to Helen. It adorned the back yard of the guest house for quite some time.
When someone got the idea to put this lovely work of art in a spot where more people would see it, Jeff Holway set it into cement near the edge of the sidewalk. It now ushers guests through the arched gateway leading up the path to the guest house.
The Valentines first opened the doors of their home to summer visitors in 1910, making this spot one of PTown's longest-running family operated accommodations. Make a point of looking for this charming, whimsical bit of public art the next time you're out for a walk in the Far West End.