Sunday, August 30, 2009

Who Needs Clean Water Anyway?

Gloucester has been having a bit of a water problem lately. Since August 21 we have been under a mandatory "boil-water order," which means any water used for drinking, cooking, brushing teeth, and washing dishes needs to be boiled first. The Gloucester Daily Times reports: "The city continues to pump supplemental levels of chlorine into the water system in an effort to drive down the bacteria counts. City officials continue to emphasize that there have still been no traces of E.coli or other fecal bacteria in the water samples. The state's boil-water order is based on the presence of total coliform bacteria." Because there is no E.coli present (yet), the city is not passing out water, which means that businesses and residents have to spend their own money on decent drinking water. It's only water—it's not like we need it to survive or anything.

It's times like these I wonder how we've let it come to this: Why we think everything we've done to make our civilization more "advanced" automatically makes it "better?" Why we'd take a water treatment plant over a natural spring or well? It comes down to convenience. It's more convenient to turn on a faucet than go down to the stream or the well and hoist up buckets of water (if we'd even want to, given the fact that we pollute the streams). And indeed some places wouldn't be able to have wells at all (like San Diego)...and I'll take a page from Tommie's favorite enviro books and say, well, then maybe we shouldn't inhabit places where you couldn't have a natural source of water.

As a citizen of the modern world, I am torn. Of course I enjoy the luxuries of warm showers and faucets (and I'm pretty sure my scrawny pancake arm muscles couldn't pull a bucket out of a well even if I tried)...but where do these advances get us in times like these? I'd be better off going to my aunt's family cabin in upstate New York and drinking from the natural spring in the ground that's covered with decomposing leaves (it is, by the way, some of the best water I've had). Instead I'm in a city, like many others, that avoids bacteria water by pumping extra chemicals into it. So let me get this straight: I can either drink water teeming with bacteria OR chlorine chemical water? Pour me some of that! Maybe, just maybe, those shouldn't be our options.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Recognized For a Poem About Home

The poet laureate of Gloucester, Mass. recently held a poetry contest to recognize the Gloucester Fisherman's Memorial (a statue remembering the fisherman lost at sea) which will be featured on the new Massachusetts quarter.

On a whim, I sent in one of my poems about Gloucester and found out yesterday that though I did not win the contest, I was one of three finalists and that my poem will be mentioned in the newspaper and published online as well as in a print version later this winter/spring. I'm honored for the recognition. I'm glad it was well-received and it makes me happy to have shared my work locally. I know this is where my words belong.

I'll post a link to the winning poems when they are published in a couple weeks!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Curse of the Hobo

If there was a term for the opposite of a gold-digger (dirt-digger?), that might be what you would call the women in my family. I have a big family, we all grew up in different generations, different places and different socioeconomic classes, but one commonality rings true...we are drawn to men who have nothing.

My mom rolls her eyes when my sister and I say we don’t like guys who have money and nice cars because they aren't interesting...being poor builds character. Plus, we all have a "poor” sense of humor: we make fun of each other a lot, we burp in public, we talk about poop...we just can’t relate to people with money and class.

Most women go their whole lives without dating a hobo, but if you ask the women in my family, they’re missing out. Even my mom, who just wants the best for her daughters, knows it’s true—after all, she married our dad who was a young, carefree (and homeless) fisherman when they started dating.

That might explain why my sister and I have a natural affinity for cute and charming vagabonds. Put me in a room with 100 men and I guarantee I’ll find the one who doesn’t have a car, a high-paying job, or even an apartment. I swear I can smell them (no need to make a joke about them not showering).

It’s true I’ve spent the majority of my life with a guy who has it together because in reality I can’t stress out about where my boyfriend is sleeping at night; I worry enough as it is, but there is always a special place in my heart for the lost boys who lead a simple existence, who (despite the fact they have nothing) don’t complain half as much as I do, and who don’t have anything holding them back.

My family jokes that hundreds of years ago, someone put a hex on the female lineage—“The Curse of the Hobo.” At some point, we all seem to have fallen for one.
My grandmother, who recently heard about our theory of the curse, smiled and said, “Oh yes, I never met a hobo I didn’t like.” When I have a daughter, I imagine having to explain this sad fact to her when she inevitably returns home one evening with a boy possessing that irresistible wayward charm.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Express Yourself

Almost everyone has a creative talent/outlet.

Tommie has discovered a recent passion for photography, and I'm not just saying this because I'm fond of the kid (he knows I'm not generous with my compliments), but he really has an eye for it. The other night I was looking at his photography—all serious and beautiful—then I looked over at him on the couch sharing a cheese stick with the dog...then looked back to his photos: sophisticated and polished...then back to him making ugly faces in my general direction, and I thought, "Were these pictures really taken by that weirdo over there?"

I got to thinking about how many of us have a creative form of expression that suite us best. Tommie's photos are better than his words; better than how he speaks and writes; better than how he draws or how he dances (sorry, Tommie, your electric slide is more creepy than talented if you ask me). For me, I think I write much better than I speak. Writing allows me to take my time with words and better express myself. It's also cathartic, but for other people words don't do it at all...they prefer expression through painting or art. I remember a very shy girl in grade school who hardly uttered a word, but man, could she draw. You would never guess the striking sketches came from the same girl. Other people "speak" best through other means such as cooking or through music (or in my sister's case, karaoke—why couldn't her outlet be a little more quiet?).

Maybe we all have a certain way we shine. Sometimes that outlet is underestimated, shoved aside, or may be undiscovered, but it's always telling. It's the way we feel most comfortable, most expressive and most like ourselves.

Friday, August 7, 2009


It's difficult to catch a candid photo of me. While others appear to go about their business oblivious to the cameras around them, I hear the click of a lens opening or see the bright light of a flash about to light up, and I can't help tilting my head, lifting my shoulders, batting my eyelashes and smiling all in time for the shutter to open and close. With a little more warning, I'll hop into an arabesque. I'm normally a pretty reserved person but the camera brings out my shallow, showy side...and after spending some more time with my family, I know where I get it from.

My sister and I are the type who could be in the middle of an argument together, have someone walk by with a camera, and we'd instantly shut up, turn to them, smile the sweetest smile, then jump right back into the fray.

At the family wedding this past weekend there was a lot of posing going on and it mainly involved the women in my family: You have my mom, queen of the hair flip and half-smile. She is joined by my dad's cousin who gives eyes to the camera man. Then you have my grandmother who never passes up an opportunity to express her flashier side; and my cousin who, as we were in the middle of a conversation, tilted her head and smiled in time for me to realize there was someone behind me about to take a photo to whom I spun around with my camera-ready smile already plastered on my face.So much for candid shots in this family.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Clean Canadian Air

We all notice differences in the atmosphere when we travel: The people are different; the architecture is different; the air itself is different.

The city of San Diego is only about 20 minutes away from the border of Tijuana, Mexico. At night you could see the city lights of Mexico shining from atop the hill where my parents live in South Park. It's amazing what a difference 20 minutes can make...the sky just steps into the Mexican side was filled with smog as if there was an invisible border that extended all the way up into the atmosphere.

This past weekend, we attended a family wedding in
Lubec, Maine (where some of my family lives) and we crossed the Canadian border which was only about 10 minutes away. Walking down to the shoreline in New Brunswick it struck me how clean the air was. There was a hint of pine wafting from the trees; the smell was so subtle and fresh it felt like breathing in peppermint.
While the temperature was hot, the air was as crisp as a cool fall day in New England. The smooth stones and the pier pillars were outlined with a kind of natural sharpness that seemed to me like I was looking through a lens that just got put more into focus. It was so clear I swear I could see everything better. Maybe I don't need glasses, I just need to move to Canada.