Posts Tagged 'Cape Cod'

Oysters and faint memories of work


We are enjoying the beauty of the Cape and the bounty of its oysters. Last night we brought a dozen home. I tried to shuck them but made a mess and Axel took over. How did people learn, way back when, that inside this hard shell was this slimy thing that would become a delicacy? How did they open the shells without oyster knives and Kevlar gloves (and no emergency room nearby)? 

As we usually do when we attend Cape Cod Institute sessions, we talk a lot. It is what makes this such a rich experience. There are moments when I forget that I don’t have to go to work next Monday and that we can keep living like this – wake up together, have breakfast together, go for a walk together, and keep talking. Such things used to be weekend luxuries. Sometimes I have to pinch myself to remind me this is for real. Of course the missing pay check, every second Friday will pinch us, but I am not too worried about that, at least for this calendar year. A few income generating opportunities are have popped up on the horizon. Some of those have disappeared, but a few (small ones) look like they will stay: one to Japan and one to Zambia. The latter a place I have never been to.

We made arrangements for Axel to accompany me to Japan. It will be a familiar routine: I work and he plays, though we will get to play a bit together as well. We arrive Thursday afternoon. I am busy on Saturday afternoon, Sunday and Monday morning and afternoon. Tuesday afternoon we fly back to Boston.

Next week I will start thinking and talking about the modalities of my new, not quite retired, phase.  There is the choice of how to operate: my own LLC, a partner in my daughter’s LLC, independent consultant. I am consulting with financial, tax and legal experts to figure out what to do. Then I have to figure out how many days of the year I want to work – definitely not full-time. And then the contracting can begin while I sort out my website, new business cards, logo, name, etc. I am very lucky that I have a daughter who does this as a business. I offered to be a training project for my son-in-law who she is training to be a graphic design partner in her venture, Align Graphics. 

Out of the woods

The classes are over. Axel has to show something for it: two etched plates, one with an oak leaf and one with clouds, plus several passes of prints. I have nothing to show for my classes (I forgot to pick up my certificate) except 7 pages of scribbles, some new brain circuitry not visible to the naked eye and two business cards of women I may want to see again, one a judge in western Massachusetts and the other in charge of learning and OD at the Board of Governors of the FRB.

We kayaked twice, I biked every day, we had fish every day, and we slept so-so every night, had rain three of the 6 nights and one and a half days out of our six and a half days of camping. I think it may not have been the last time. Next year I may want to take an art class too.

We broke camp on Friday morning before the rain and before classes, leaving the big tarp up to keep the rest of our belongings dry. At 2:30 we had packed every remaining piece of gear and equipment and were on the road to New York City.

At 3:15 PM we were off the Cape, over the Sagamore Bridge. At 4:30 we were at the Bourne Bridge, a mere 2.8 miles from the Sagamore Bridge. We had wanted to be in NYC for a 8:30 dinner but our GPS indicated that now we’d arrive at 9:30. The trip that should have taken about five and a half hours took us more than 8 hours. Knowing we’d miss dinner in Brooklyn Heights we stopped at a Fusion restaurant somewhere in CT, that had advertised itself as ‘fabulous décor, good cheap food,’ with lots of positive reviews.

Naively we stopped (as naively has having taken route MA 6 West that stopped us in our tracks) and had dinner. The fruit, non-descript soup and crab legs were OK, nothing much to go wrong on, but Axel was more adventurous and came to regret it soon after we got back on the road.

We entered NYC in the rain but then all our worries were over. We even found a parking spot around the corner of our host, and all was well again. The Zugmsith Society’s 30th reunion was in full swing.


Yesterday Axel celebrated his 67th birthday, all day long. It started with a breakfast on Wellfleet harbor in a breakfast restaurant that had just been opened. The mention of Axel’s birthday produced a softly murmured happy birthday by a waitress who claimed she couldn’t sing (but felt compelled to anyways). This was followed by two pieces of baklava in lieu of birthday cake from the wife of the owner and chief cook. We recognized Lebanon in the offering and inquired, to discover that the owners were from Beirut. When we told them that we had met in Beirut 37 years ago, full introductions followed, we dragged up our rusty Lebanese Arabic and were instant friends.

The owner sat with us and poured out his heart and hurt about the situation of his beloved Lebanon. I listened for awhile but I have heard the stories before, about the foreigners (Hizbollah, the Palestinians) who have messed everything up, and soon I turned away, writing my own story rather than listening to his. I didn’t want to be any further infected by the victim energy that came out in torrents. Axel listened on, he is like that.

After day two of my class I biked back to our camp while Axel had a potluck lunch at his etching class in Truro, and completed pass one of the printing process. It’s a better place for him than my covert organizational processes class.

Tessa showed up in the early afternoon with her friend Steph who stood in for Steve who couldn’t extract himself from work. Steph is now Tessa’s executive assistant, doing what a primer on ‘running your own business’ told Tessa to outsource. Steph is also an aspiring novelist and screenwriter, holding several jobs simultaneously until the breakthrough which we all know will come.

We had some downtime on the beach in Wellfleet, swimming, reading and snoozing before heading out to P’town to meet up with Axel’s cousin and partner, who happened to be vacationing in a lovely place in the West end of P’town, for the closing part of the celebrations. We stumbled on a kind of block party in a vacation rental complex that used to be fish shacks built on a long and narrow pier jutting out into the harbor. It’s the kind of place where vacationers come year after year and people know each other. There were Brits, Dutch, Californians and plenty of New Yorkers, and much good food and drink. From a Dutch Canadian I learned that Faro is entitled to a Dutch passport since his mom is Dutch. I better keep up the Dutch talking.

When the party appeared to be over we walked over to P’town’s main drag for a late dinner which consisted of appetizers, salads, main meals and desserts. All were served at the same time, and eaten based on where each if us had arrived in the dinner sequence given what we had consumed during the block, or rather, pier party.

Back at the campground we realized that the sheets hanging out to air during the day had gotten a bit damp, but we are experienced campers now. What is a little dampness after Sunday’s buckets of rain? We said goodbye to Tessa and Step who returned to Dorchester and Marblehead respectively and turned into our damp sheets for our fourth night of camping on the Cape.

Dynamic seeds

Memories of my early professional training came rushing in after my first day at the Cape Cod Institute where I am attending a class on ‘covert processes in organizations,’ taught by Bob Marshak from American University. Part of the appeal of the class is the topic (overt) and part is the people who go there, the duration (only in the morning) and the phenomenal breakfast served at 10:20 AM (covert).

Two other classes are taught at the same time. During the break I mingled with two psychotherapists attending a class on therapy of children. One of them was trained some 40 years ago in a new-fangled area of research called family systems dynamics, taught by a man named Minuchkin. I did an internship at that time – mid seventies – still a psychologist in training, at a psychiatric clinic in Leiden which was experimenting with cutting edge therapies. Minuchkin was one of the people we had to study. Family systems dynamics was very new, very exciting and very American.

I remember sitting behind a one way screen with another student and a mentor, watching an intake conversation with a family that had a black sheep, a young boy, who needed to be fixed. I think it is there that my fascination with group dynamics started.

But then I married, moved to Beirut and that was the end of my family systems therapy dreams. Yet also a stepping stone to my international career that bent around to organizational systems (therapy) over the next 40 years.


Within less than 24 hours after my arrival at Logan airport we were stuck amidst 1000s of other holiday makers on their way to Cape Cod. Vacation rentals go from Saturday to Saturday which makes for much congestion on the two and one lane roads in and out of Cape Cod. We had taken the station wagon which is old. Its airco doesn’t work and it has a stick shift I can’t really work because of my ankle. Stick shifts and being stuck in traffic, on a hot day can be pretty awful. Luckily I was in the company of my best friend and we had two weeks of talking to catch up with.

At the Audubon campsite in Wellfleet we checked in 45 minutes before closing time. We picked one of the few remaining sites not paying attention to signs of water runoff and pitched our borrowed tent on a flat surface without too many pine cones and sticks.

Dinner consisted of scallops and leftovers from the Manchester fridge. Axel had to do the dishes as I claimed jetlag and retired. And then the rains started, slow pitter patter in the early morning and then buckets and buckets for a few hours. Our poor camp making skills showed instantly with water running under the tent and the tarp hung up the wrong way which made for periodic dumpings of huge amounts of water which then found its way to the lowest point of our site.

I had also slept very poorly on our thin camping mattress and decided that this may well be the last time camping. Luckily I am reading a great book and I found a small section of the picnic table that was dry enough for sinking into the book and ignoring my surroundings. Things had gone from damp to wet to soaked in a matter of hours.

Alison had invited us over for brunch in her North Truro apartment which made for a nice (and dry) diversion, good food that was cooked for us, dishes cleaned up, and of course great company. By the time we left Truro summer had returned and our wet things in the car had steamed up all windows.

We sorted out where Axel had to be for his printmaking class on Monday, bought his supplies, and the ingredients for a meal that didn’t require a stove since Axel’s ancient camping stove had stopped working when we had wanted our second cup of coffee in the morning.

Once again he did the dishes (last time, he threatened) while I retired early again, still claiming jetlag (avoiding the dishes a nice benefit). This time we had added Steve and Tessa’s camping mattresses underneath ours which made all the difference. When I woke up this morning I was well rested and the sun was out. I think I like camping again.


Outlook reminds me this morning that we will see Alison in North Truro. I did not need to be reminded, we are there, surrounded by animals, Abby the peppy Corgi and Elan the cat, a creature that came from another place I believe, with its huge and mysterious eyes that seem to reflect a disdain for people other than Alison.

Alison had prepared an all inclusive for us: a traditional Ellis ‘picking lunch,’ followed by an unguided tour of Commercial Street in P’town. It was good she did not accompany us on that tour and took a nap instead because with her we would never have made it very far up Commercial Street – she knows too many people, each requiring a little chat.

All the while it rained dogs and cats. Axel’s old raincoat did not protect him anymore and left him soaked underneath. Over rooibos tea at the Karoo Kafe we discussed what to do about that and returned to the Marine Supply store to buy a 15 dollar yellow rains slicker. Next on Alison’s agenda for us was a dinner at a most elegant restaurant; I felt a little under dressed in my jeans but hey, this is P’town and everything goes. From there we followed her to the Art House to hear  Zoe Lewis (.com) and Alex Pashoian (myspace), two phenomenal musicians.

After Zoe song an ode to Mary Oliver (what are you going to do with your one wild and precious life) Axel found himself in a tender spot and we declined the next planned activity of chasing after music played in bars and headed back to Alison’s house, leaving her twith her gazillion friends, scattered  up, down and off Commerical Street.

The tender space had gone unnoticed to us because so much is happening in our lives that requires the left brain to be on full speed. This has obscured that part of us that is affected in non logical and non linear ways by the momentous transition that is about to happen. We are entering the last week that we can prepare together for this but we have been too busy each in our own little orbit of must-dos, worries and wishes.

Last week has also been an emotional roller coaster ride for Axel as he tries to bring to closure his reign as chairman of Manchester’s Community Preservation Committee. Town politics mixed in with bruised egos, and a multitude of hidden agendas and god-knows what else are colliding like a roiling sea around and with him.

On the way to Cape Cod we talked about the difficult conversation he has had with one of the principal actors in this drama. There is a lot of hurt. I recognize the dynamics; they are the same that play out in a million families, organizations, cities and countries around the world. Our inability to reign in the enraged egos in these dramas has, I believe, a lot to do with the violence that messes up the dreams of these same families, organizations, cities and countries.

It occurred to me that some of the elements of Axel’s micro drama are also present in Afghanistan’s macro drama. The essence, according to Martin Buber is this: all my problems with my fellow men stem from two things: I don’t say what I mean and I don’t mean what I say.

The people she knows

We started the day with a yoga class, that is, the girls did. Axel started it with lots of coffee and frantic work on Gary’s marketing material that had to be delivered before the day was over. As a result he missed the post-yoga picnic on the beach. The drizzle clouds departed and left us with a day more typical of July than May. misc 012

After Axel’s work was shipped to Gary via an old-fashioned modem (transmission speed 24 Kbps), we spent the afternoon reading our haunting books, Axel’s about Afghanistan and mine about genocides until it was time to go into P’town. It took a while for Axel to mentally jump from the Taliban to Provincetown.

First stop was Alison’s friend Ward who was not in a good state of mind. He can be excused because his body is failing him and he has had enough. He should be in the prime of his life but he is not – closer to the end which he constantly invoked. Still, he could not help inquiring about our kids and whether we had educated them about HIV/AIDS. He offered us a glass of wine while we sat in his garden in the middle of P-town in the late afternoon glow and talked about a father who could not accept gayness and a mother who devoted the last years of her life to caring for her sick son.

We left our car at Ward’s and wandered over to our reserved dinner place on the other side of town right along P-town’s main drag – which was also enlivened by a few fabulously dressed drag queens exhorting people to come to the theatre. Alison appears to be well integrated in at least one subset of the year-round gay community and I think we met a good number of her friends – the ones we had heard about in so many stories.

Dinner was a noisy affair. The quality of the food and the location, a table overlooking the sea made up for the extreme noise that came from the very loud party sitting next to us – New Yorkers we think – a tribe that supports the Cape economically but can be a bit trying because they act as if they are the only ones there.

Dessert was planned to come from a different place, the Purple Feather, where another of Alison’s friends is the assistant manager. He offered us a very rich concoction with cookies, cream cheese and chocolate which we embellished even further with ice cream because we couldn’t resist the display. misc 020We consumed our dessert while listening to an open mike array of musicians – a young man from western Massachusetts, who was a bit trying on the ears and a lesbian couple who proudly sung about their coming out late and their newfound happiness together.misc 019

The Post Office Café was next on our list of stops. Here Alison knew the bartender, Dante, who she claims is the best on the Cape. misc 022We had to try at least one of his concoctions: a Cosmo for Alison and for us a dry martini. That drink should have come before dinner but here in P-town everything is a bit out of the ordinary.

April 2019
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