Sunday, December 27, 2015

Christmas Day Brought This Pair of Sun Dogs to Skies Over Herring Cove

On the afternoon of Christmas Day, sun dogs made this spectacular halo, seen from Herring Cove Beach. 

A couple of sun dogs appeared in the western sky off Provincetown shores on the afternoon of Christmas Day, giving a remarkable visual treat to those of us lucky enough to be at Herring Cove Beach during these few moments. A sun dog is a parhelion, the bright spot, or false sun, that can appear about 22 degrees to either side, or both sides, of the sun, and at the same elevation as the sun, with ice crystals in the atmosphere refracting the light in a particular way.
As the sun rises or descends, these bright spots follow, or "dog" the sun, which may explain the name. No one can say for certain where the term came from, but it seems to have been in use since the early 1600s, around the time when the Mayflower Pilgrims landed on Provincetown shores. The easiest time to see these bright spots following the sun is early morning or late afternoon, when the sun is closest to the horizon.
In the photo above a couple of sun dogs (a pair of parhelia) give the appearance of two bright spots on either side of the sun, creating a luminous circle, or a sort of halo around the sun, with the area inside the halo appearing slightly darker than the surrounding sky. These halos can appear when flat, hexagonal ice crystals, often in wispy, cirrus clouds, are drifting in random orientations, refracting the light and bending the rays that pass through them. As these crystals sink through the atmosphere they tend to align vertically, refracting the light horizontally, which can produce sun dogs.
A sun dog will always appear at the same height above the horizon as the sun, whether or not the complete halo is visible. This phenomenon can be seen anywhere around the world, in any season, but it seems to me that we have a few more than our fair share of these remarkable displays here in PTown, and I'm going to chalk that up to the unique quality of the light that surrounds us. The light in Provincetown truly is different from the light in other spots on the globe.
Sun dogs will sometimes exhibit a sort of rainbow effect. with a reddish color nearest to the sun, morphing to blue on the outer edge. See my post Sun Dog Appears Over Race Point, from October of last year. You'll find a rather vibrant photo I managed to get one afternoon, illustrating this rainbow effect.
Of course, this cosmic sight was visible from many vantage points around town, but the view from Herring Cove, looking out over Cape Cod Bay, was particularly splendid. One of the greatest things about living in this amazing spot is just how often each of us ends up "in the right place at the right time" to see the spectacular show that Mother Nature puts on for us, several times a day, from any viewpoint one might choose.

Friday, December 25, 2015

My Own Little Bit of Holiday Joy in PTown

When I was a kid this snowman decorated my childhood home
every holiday season I can remember since I was a tiny tot,
and finding it again, 2,000 miles away and 50 years later,
has put a little joy in my heart.

My wish for you is to find yourself a bit of joy in the season as well.
Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Provincetown's First Day of Winter Reaches 58 Degrees

Today is the winter solstice in the northern hemisphere, the first day of winter, and the shortest day of the year. We're not likely to notice the sunset this evening, though, if you can call 4:14 PM evening, since it's likely to be rainy and/or foggy on this unseasonably warm day in Provincetown.
So to mark the occasion, and to glean a bit of joy in keen anticipation of the few moments more of daylight we'll be soaking up over the coming week, I dug out one of my favorite sunset photos from last winter to enjoy in lieu of this afternoon's fog and drizzle. It's the sun setting in my rearview mirror one day last winter as I drove along the edge of the cemetery, on Jerome Smith Road.

I'd have missed this sunset if I had tried to pursue it, so I stopped smack in the middle of the road to savor it.
When I turned onto that little street precisely as the sun was setting, I knew I'd miss it if I tried to turn around and race out to the beach for the view behind me, and, after all, it is Provincetown, so I stopped right there in the middle of the road to luxuriate a bit in that gorgeous, evanescent moment.
In less than three minutes, that moment was gone, the sky was graying, and that, my friends, is the significance of the tiny bit of extra daylight we'll realize by this time next week. Coming down the road in three minutes less light I'd have missed that view, which turns out to be a moment I can recall to soften my heart and raise my spirits, and it's helped in every case where I've tried this little smidgen of therapy over the past year, which was a doozy, by the way.
In seven days the sun will be setting five minutes later, and by the summer we'll be gaining a couple of hours of morning light, and nearly 4 hours in the evening, so the thought of nearly six more hours of daily sunlight to enjoy the stunning beauty that surrounds us is raising my easily-tanked winter spirits.
This too-mild weather we've been having is really terrible for the planet, but when it's combined with a few minutes more of light day by day, and potentially just about enough money saved up this year to get through an uneventful winter without any major setbacks, (we can dream, can't we?) well, all that has me barely dreading the winter at all.
Now, if we can get away with something less than eight feet of snow over these next 15 weeks… we'll have it made.

Friday, December 18, 2015

It's National Ugly Christmas Sweater Day

Today is the fifth annual observance of an event that is becoming an internationally recognized celebration: NATIONAL UGLY CHRISTMAS SWEATER DAY has been commemorated on the third Friday in December every year since its inception in 2011.
If your Christmas sweater is only moderately ugly, you still have time to dash to the craft store (or the hardware store if you're in Provincetown) and get some pompoms, jingle bells, felt, tiny plastic elves and rain deer, and stitch them artfully onto your sweater before you go out tonight.
The yearly celebration of this day is creeping across the globe, and it's even doing some good around the world at the same time. All of the information below is found on the website of the National Day Calendar.

National Ugly Christmas Sweater Day has grown to be an international event. Now occurring on the third Friday of December, the holiday gives holiday lovers worldwide a chance to wear their ugly Christmas sweaters. In 2014, they partnered with Save the Children in their “Make the World Better with a Sweater” campaign. You can now help children across the world by wearing an ugly sweater on December 18th and encouraging others to go online and donate.

Try these tips to take the prize on National Ugly Christmas Sweater Day:
                  Animal or cartoon characters with a holiday theme are a great starting place. Think reindeer, snowmen, mice, kittens or elves.
                  Select ridiculous colors. The more they clash, the better.
                  Embellish. Scratch that. Over-embellish! Pom-poms, bells, felt, tinsle or any other glittery, jingly items laying around the house.
                  Add a collar, dickey or ruffle.
                  Electrify it! Put Rudolph to shame and go to the head of the team with bright, flashing lights!
                  Give it some 80s flair with shoulder pads.
Wear your ugliest Christmas sweater. Use #ChristmasSweaterDay to post on social media.

National Ugly Christmas Sweater Day was started in 2011 by ugly Christmas sweater lovers as a way to lighten up the busy holidays and to show off their absurdly, ugly sweaters.  The day has grown in popularity and is celebrated worldwide.

So there you have it. We should turn this into a real Provincetown tradition, with folks applying as much dedication and creativity to their hideous sweaters as they do to their carnival costumes, and with prizes to be won as we raise money for our Soup Kitchen, for example.
For a jump start, there's an online shop at, the start-up ugly sweater company that made a TV appearance on Shark Tank, got a deal with a shark, and now is a multimillion dollar venture. Caution: while some of their sweaters are merely ugly, a few others are naughty, and a couple are downright offensive (or laugh-out-loud funny, depending on your sense of humor.)
I'm beginning tonight to plan and create my own sweater for next year. It might take me that long to find all the trimmings I have in mind. In the meantime, Happy Festivus, which, by the way, is celebrated in most of the world on December 23rd, as it was on the Seinfeld episode that aired on this day, December 18th, 1997.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Great PTown Lunch Specials Like Bubbles' Fish Fry Return for the Off-Season

Bubbles serves her famous $8 Fish Fry every Friday at the Governor Bradford.
'Tis the season for tasty lunch specials, filling portions and great prices as we head toward winter in Provincetown. The off-season brings some bargain prices to many local delis and restaurants, along with the time for most of us to finally sit, relax and enjoy a meal with a few friends.
One of the perennial favorites among these seasonal lunch offerings is Bubbles' Fish Fry, served every Friday between now and the spring at the Governor Bradford Restaurant and bar, at 312 Commercial Street. A hearty portion of golden fried fish with a mound of very good fries, with lemon, tartar sauce and coleslaw, will cost you just $8.
Lunch runs from 11:30 until whenever the cook declares the kitchen closed, which could be before or after 2 PM, so don't dawdle on the way there. In fact, on Fridays the Fish Fry has been known to sell out in short order, so get there a little early. You may have to put your name on a list, first come, first served, to make sure you get in on this very popular special, served only in the off-season.
When you walk in, ask the bartender if you're in time for the fish, or just head to the back corner of the room. You'll likely find Bubbles herself behind the counter, doling out plates and to-go boxes, keeping track of how many Fish Fries are left as construction crews, fishermen, cops and shop keepers swoop in to pick up takeout orders they've reserved over the phone. Don't let yourself get lost in the shuffle.
On Mondays through Thursdays, there's a weekday lunch special, something different every day, with a menu on a big board in the front window announcing the week's choices along with Friday's Fish Fry. The other day I stopped in for the BBQ pulled pork sandwich, served with fries and slaw. Sometimes you might find meatloaf or roast pork served with potatoes and vegetables, or a roast beef sandwich, or lasagna, or hot dogs. Could be anything, but it's always $8.  Check the board in the window, or call 508 487-2781 to see what's for lunch, or for to orders to go. Note that this special no longer includes a complimentary soft drink, but you can order those, or a beer, or anything else you'd like, from their full bar, and you still can't beat eight bucks for a hot lunch.
In the coming weeks we'll visit other restaurants, delis and neighborhood markets for more great PTown off-season lunches.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

A Provincetown Path Long Gone

A lovely view of Provincetown Harbor was found down Hollyhock Lane.
At one time there was a lovely little footpath known as Hollyhock Lane between 271 and 273 Commercial Street, between the buildings that are now Tin Pan Alley and Board Stiff.
The path lead from Commercial Street, in front of Town Hall, to the beach and the harbor. It was chock-full of greenery and flowers, mostly hollyhocks, and this scene was the subject of many popular postcards over quite a period of years.

This card had several printings over the years, with
this same photo colored differently at least three times.
The postcard above has no postmark to show its time period, but the white border dates it somewhere between 1915 and 1930, when WW I had caused American printers to begin conserving ink by printing short of the edges, with a colorless border left around the images on the postcards they were printing.
On the left, this popular postcard of the day shows a woman posing on the footpath in the view from the opposite direction, seen as one would walk up Hollyhock Lane from the beach toward Commercial Street, Town Hall and the Pilgrim Monument.
As with other early footpaths around town, this one is gone today. A little trail between the buildings still exists, now hidden by a large wooden gate, but this former flower-lined path is no longer that charming little walkway open to the public, and no longer leads folks to those gorgeous views of the beach and Provincetown Harbor.
There are still a few nice little footpaths to the harbor and to other spots around PTown, though, and I'll try to feature some of them shortly, but in the meantime, keep an eye out for a couple of these that you just might find on your own.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

It's Souper Saturday! 25 Great PTown Restaurants Benefit Our Soup Kitchen

More than two dozen Provincetown restaurants will offer some of their favorite soups
at Tin Pan Alley on Souper Saturday, benefitting the Soup Kitchen In Provincetown.
One of the great traditions of Provincetown's annual Holly Folly celebration is Souper Saturday, with more than two dozen restaurants, delis, caterers and even a guesthouse or two bringing kettles of their best soups to the table, benefitting SKIP, the Soup Kitchen In Provincetown. This year's event takes place at Tin Pan Alley, where just about any kind of soup you can think of will be available at just $5 a bowl, from 11:30 AM till 3:30 PM.

The Canteen makes a great clam chowder.
Will this be their Souper Saturday offering?

Throughout the event there will be a number of choices available at any given moment, and each time a kettle is sold out, another great pot of soup from a different restaurant will be brought out of the kitchen. Chowders, bisques and potages of all sorts will change throughout the day. It's bound to be tough to decide between all the mouthwatering choices, so you might want to try more than one.

Will Mistralina bring a minestrone?

All the money that's raised will go into the coffers of the Soup Kitchen, found at the Methodist Church, at 10 Shank Painter Road. SKIP serves hot, nutritious meals every weekday, from November through April, and provides a welcoming spot for those who are in search of community.

The Mews' chicken with Thai and Mexican
chilis is a soup I hope to have again one day.

I can't predict exactly what soup each restaurant will bring, but I can predict I'll walk out happy after this event, with a warm feeling inside. So to help keep our Soup Kitchen running, come and join us for a great lunch you can feel good about, at Tin Pan Alley, at 269 Commercial Street, on this Souper Saturday, December 5th.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

It's PTown's Public Shellfishing Season

An old man digs clams on the tidal flats in this vintage photo I found in the scrapbooks of Athea Boxell,
book 5, page 7, which is part of the Dowd collection in the Provincetown History Preservation Project.

The shellfish area near the west end breakwater is open for the season.
The necessary permits, area maps, regulations and shellfish gauges can be
obtained by visiting the town clerk's office, at Provincetown Town Hall.
Residents and non-resident property owners will pay $15.00 for a recreational
shellfishing license; non-residents will pay $50.00; residents and taxpayers
65 and older can dig for free, but you must get your license and gauge.

The abundant supply of clams in Provincetown Harbor is said to have saved the lives of Pilgrims and early settlers here, and the gathering of a rich variety of shellfish along our shoreline, there for the taking, has been a time-honored tradition of local people ever since.
To harvest your own shellfish from Provincetown's tidal flats you'll need a shellfishing license, which allows you to gather shellfish on a recreational basis on Sundays or Fridays, in a currently designated area, through the end of March 2016, with a ten-quart limit per week. Areas open to shellfishing may vary during the season, as designated by the shellfish warden.
This license does not allow you to sell your bounty, and shellfish you gather must be of legal size, so you must carry a gauge with you, along with your license. You won't be allowed on the flats without them. You'll also need a shellfish rake or similar tool, and either a ten-quart pail or a one-peck shellfish basket. No other containers are allowed. Tall rubber boots or waders and waterproof gloves will be helpful, and wearing warm, wind resistant clothing is a good idea.
During open periods, shellfish may only be harvested on Sunday or Friday of each week. Permit holders may only shellfish on one of these days per week. Quahogs gathered must be one inch thick, soft-shelled clams must be two inches long, and oysters must be three inches long. The weekly limit for recreational permit holders for any combination of quahogs, soft-shelled clams and oysters is either one level ten-quart pail, or a one-peck basket.
If Bay Scallops are abundant, the Shellfish Warden will post the days and location for their taking, limited to two pecks per week. No permit is required for sea worms, periwinkles, or mussels, which may be taken year-round. Upon leaving the flats, you must report to the Shellfish Warden, who maintains a record of the town's yearly harvest. In any given year, residents might gather more than 1,000 pails of shellfish along Provincetown shores.

Fresh littlenecks, scrubbed and ready to go into the pot.

This weekend should be great for clamming, with sunny skies, little wind, mild temperatures, and daylight during low tides. Friday should bring about 46 degrees with the low tide just before noon. Sunday looks to be about 53 degrees with low tide at 1:47 PM. Winds of a mere 10 miles per hour are predicted for both days, so get your permit and go try your hand at digging shellfish.
There's something especially satisfying about having a meal of seafood harvested through your own efforts. Whether it's a stuffed sea clam baked in the oven, a hearty chowder, or linguine with clam sauce, there's nothing like fresh, local seafood right out of the water, and digging your own clams seems to impart a bit of added flavor when you sit down to such a dinner. Friends can feel an extra dimension of camaraderie in foraging together for a meal they'll share as they warm up from their chilly adventure on the tidal flats.
From a simple pot of steamers or mussels to an elegant platter of oysters Rockefeller, nothing tastes better than a meal that truly results from your own resourcefulness. Bon appétit!