Notes from a Jersey Girl

by Lisa G Westheimer


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Cape Cod, September 2015

View of Ryder Beach from 7W's

View of Ryder Beach from 7W’s

This September idyll was different than the usual in that the weather was warm, dry and sunny the entire time AND we went the week before Labor Day so there was more social action and human interaction than previous September vacations.  In addition, we had the cat and no human visitors.  There were the usual patterings of little feet skittering in the ceilings and walls to keep us entertained and the dog tortured.

Chipmunk chattering in the wall. Life is just not fair!

Chipmunk chattering in the wall. Life is just not fair!

What’s great about being here in September is, barring any recent injuries, we are both in tip top physical shape, so we are up for any kind of activity and any wife survival test is usually passed with flying colors.  Lots and lots of biking to be had, in particular a thrilling ride on single track through the woods near the ocean.  We had done this ride in September,, “a short reconnaissance ride” that turned out to be an 18 mile wife survival test.  But I passed and we found this really cool segment near Long Nook Beach worthy of further exploration.

Single track parallel to Long Nook Beach.

Single track parallel to Long Nook Beach.

Weeeeee! There's a reason why it's called Paradise Hollow!

Weeeeee! There’s a reason why it’s called Paradise Hollow!

In the early mornings, the routine is, Bill rides to get the paper; Lisa takes the dog jogging for an hour, and once for an eight mile walk on the sand paths in the “hollows” near the house.  Later in the day there is either horseback riding for Lisa and a long bike ride for Bill or some sort of biking adventure for Bill and Lisa while the dog recovers at home and the cat rests up thinking of ways to keep us awake all night.

A tired dog is a good dog. Petey after a long jog.

A tired dog is a good dog. Petey after a long jog.

Don't let that innocent face fool you!

Don’t let that innocent face fool you!

Lots to see and do this time, much of it with our friend Harriet.  There is an entire post devoted just to her.  This time we were very happy to be here to attend her annual Labor Day weekend cocktail party on the farm.  Beautiful setting, wonderful people, good food and drink, lively conversation.  You just can’t beat it.

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I brought her some Cape Cod Lightening that I made out of beach plums picked at 7W’s last year.  It’s a hooch made from fresh beach plums, vodka, sugar and cinnamon sticks from a recipe passed to me from Maysie.  It was a huge hit at the party, not a drop left at the end of the evening.  Many of the ladies in attendance who sampled it said that none of their recipes include the cinnamon, but we all knew Maysie was quite the renegade.

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Nary a drop left at the end of the cocktail party. I didn’t have a label or tape, but first aid tape and a sharpie worked fine!

Bill took some lovely shots of views from the deck.  Plenty of seals paid visits just before sunset each day, and many people were out enjoying the water with friends.

Seal on the move!

Seal on the move!

A boy, a dog, a paddle board.

A boy, a dog, a paddle board.

Perfect weather for kayaking!

Perfect weather for kayaking!

Soon we’ll be packing up the house, packing up ourselves, and packing up the pets to head home for the season, car jam packed with canine nose on feline box,

Beagle nose peeking out behind the seat, chin resting on top of cat box. Cat not pleased.

Beagle nose peeking out behind the seat, chin resting on top of cat box. Cat not pleased.

and a stop at Uncle Willie’s BBQ, exit 42 I-95 in New Haven for a burnt ends on a kaiser roll.

A stop to worship at the shrine of burnt ends on a kaiser roll: Uncle Willie's BBQ!!!

A stop to worship at the shrine of burnt ends on a kaiser roll: Uncle Willie’s BBQ!!!

See you soon 7W’s!

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Summers on Cape Cod: Introduction

7W sunset

7W sunset

When Bill was 10 years old (I was either about to be born or a brand new infant) Bill’s parents bought a house on a dune overlooking Cape Cod bay in Truro, Massachusetts. It cost the un-Godly sum of $19,000, an amount that kept Bill’s father awake at night for several years. So extravagant! It was built in 1900 as a vacation house for a family who took the train that ran on tracks not too far away and schlepped all their trunks and such to their summer idyll by cart. It has a deck facing west with a terrific view of Provincetown and is a front row seat for amazing sunsets. There is a long stretch of tranquil beach at the bottom of a very long steep flight of stairs (longer if you are carrying a kayak) and far enough from the public beach to have the whole place to oneself. Being the bay the water is warm and usually tranquil with wonderful low tides that allow walking and wading far out off the beach.

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Truro, MA
Provincetown, MA

During World War II the house was used for a K-9 division of the Coast Guard, who patrolled the dunes day and night on foot looking for enemy submarines. (Legend has it that a German sub did make it into the bay once, but didn’t get very far.) I have read books about the type of patrols made during that time, imagine, alone on foot on the top of a dune with no lantern, maybe a dog, in an area where at the time there were no lights of cities and towns off in the distance, just you, your dog, the surf and wild animals skittering around in the grass and bushes. Creepy.

It was just revealed to me at a Ryder Beach cocktail party (so you know it’s true) that the house was “acquired” for use by the Coast Guard due to it being confiscated by the authorities during Prohibition for rum running.  Apparently boats full of liquor would come and go from the house to distribute contraband hooch and the operation got busted and the house taken for more patriotic use.

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7W's sits right on the edge of the dune, don't sneeze! It has been moved back 3 times since it was built in 1900.

7W’s sits right on the edge of the dune, don’t sneeze! It has been moved back 3 times since it was built in 1900.

The house is a shack, plain and simple. It came fully furnished from the time it was first built and when it was the Coast Guard station. (The liquor, unsurprisingly vanished but the house, true to its former use is always well stocked.) There is no heat. There is no dishwasher. Wiring and plumbing are pretty tenuous. The dining room is yellow and the furniture in it orange. It is furnished with junque. Naturally it has wifi, a fax machine, printer, washer and dryer, we aren’t philistines you know. It is a place frozen in time on a dune at the end of a sparsely populated street where most residents knew each other since they were little. Bill’s parents have both passed and now the house is shared by their 5 children and their 5 spouses, “the 5 nieces” (Tom and John’s daughters) and their husbands and their children (8 in total so far.) A great feature of this house is we all get to share and overlap with if we please or not.

It is a wonderful place. It is a bubble frozen in time. It is the unofficial Charles and May Westheimer memorial museum, filled with many of their things. Each of us has our own very special and individual connection to the house. In our own way we are all very passionate about it. What’s great about it to me is that we all share it and its contents: there are tons of flip flops, hats, beach toys, chairs, old bikes, kayaks, flags, a cornucopia of outdated cook books, kitchen appliances, gadgets and tools. It feels as if all the Westheimers are there in residence, including Charles and May, they’re just off doing fun Cape Cod things, be back soon. It also is so rustic and so unpretentious that if something breaks who cares and repairs can be done along the lines of what you would find on Gilligan’s Island.

There are a couple sacrosanct rules: never dare change the color of a room or throw out one of the living room chairs even though sitting down makes one’s butt hit the floor and a crane is needed to exit. And never ever even think inside your head that there should be a dishwasher in the kitchen. That would probably lead to a haunting. May believed that having crowds of people in the kitchen cleaning up at the end of a meal was a great social experiment as important as sharing the bathrooms and not looking out the window when someone is using the outside shower. And please, put the flags back in the correct order in their sleeves on the porch.

Bill and I are allergic to crowds and flexible with our schedule so we go to the Cape at the beginning of June and just after Labor Day, in other words, off season. There are great joys in that strategy. We can get there without getting tangled in seasonal traffic, get into our favorite restaurants, not get too sun burned and sometimes (although I think they figured this out recently) the prices of goods are cheaper off season, and take the dog to the beach anytime. There is a downside: opening the house usually reveals many surprises, like a family of raccoons in residence in the crawl space under the bath tub, nuts and berries literally squirrelled away under bedroom pillows and once, when opening a drawer, I had the misfortune of disturbing a momma mouse and her 5 babies asleep in the kleenex box. Momma leapt out of the box to be caught on the fly in the jaws of Petey our beagle who did not understand why I should run around screaming and waving my arms the way I did after such a fine catch. He also carried the thing around in his mouth with the tail sticking out until Bill came on the scene. Both I and now mouse-less dog were told to go for a long walk while he took care of the orphans. OMG.

Since many fond memories are created at 7W’s and the rest of the Cape sit back and enjoy tales both tall and small of our times in residence there.


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May 2015: Newport Rhode Island

There was a weekly television show on Universal Sports of the 2014-2015 Volvo Ocean Race. Bill and I were rabidly addicted to it. It is a 9 month long 39,000 nautical mile race with about 9 or 10 stops at ports of call all over the world. Typically each boat has 9 crew members, except for this year when Team SCA, the first boat in its history to have an entirely female crew, was allowed 12 crew members (I forget why, it may be based on strength and weight.) All the boats are exactly the same and made by the same manufacturer, thus a level playing field. Any repairs or changes to the boat while it’s underway must be approved by the race committee.  The boats sail 24/7 sometimes in very treacherous areas and under extreme weather conditions. No fresh food is on board, crew members eat from freeze dried reconstituted packages. Each team has a captain and a navigator and a reporter as part of the crew. One boat actually crashed on an uncharted reef very early into the race. Everyone was evacuated and the boat had to be rebuilt and relaunched towards the end of the race. That alone was worth watching.

Bill and I were both big sailors, but way before we knew each other.  The only sailing we’ve done together were rental dinghies in Wellfleet Harbor and a wife survival test in the BVI in 2013.  Bill had a 48′ steel hulled ketch named The Pamet that he spent a year sailing with his father and various friends and family up the east coast of the United States from the Caribbean. My father had a string of stink pot steel hulled motor cruisers in Cos Cob Connecticut that we spent our weekends on.  I had a boyfriend and with him and various sailboats (no more than 32′) sailed up the coast from New York to Nantucket and back regularly. He eventually became an open ocean single handed sailor. In 1985 the two of us did the Bermuda 1 – 2, a sailing race that leg 1 was done single handed from Newport, R.I. to St George, Bermuda, then back with 2 people aboard. We came in 4th and broke up the next day. Let’s just say like in the song Mandy, “his life, his love and his lady, is the sea.” He went on to sail himself around the world alone and is still doing so as far as I hear.

Anyway, “The Volvo Ocean Race” show re-ignited the flame for sailing in the two of us. We couldn’t get enough of that show and always looked forward to each installment. I went so far as to become besotted with Team SCA, the all female team. When we did the Bermuda 1 – 2 there was a boat entered with a female captain that would have a female crew member in Bermuda. There was alot of hairy eye balls by the men at her and her boat and it just so happened that hours before the start there was some sort of “paperwork technicality involving insurance certificates” that disqualified her from starting and participating in the race. Yes you young ladies, this was not that long ago! Stuff like this happened all the time in every single profession a woman tried to crack into, including my own in the construction industry.

So Team SCA, for me, was the culmination of a success. I won! It took 30 years, but I, and that disqualified captain and her crew, won, because now, in our lifetime, there is an all woman team racing around the world just like the men in the exact same boat. They even won a leg! I hung on every minute of TV footage of them. I got out the rosary beads when Sophie had her back injury.   I subscribed to their blog. I wrote stupid fan things on it. I wore their team colors.  When Bill announced that we should drop everything and go to Newport to see them arrive I almost died and went to heaven. I haven’t been to Newport since that fateful race, and I have never gone to Newport in a car, only by boat!

Newport covers alot of my bases. It is on the sea. It has very distinctive green, fresh smelling water. It has charming Victorian cottages, it has marinas full of amazing boats. People are boat-centric, they sail pretty much daily, it’s in their blood and ingrained in their culture. When we took the launch to the race village a man was making his way across the harbor bare foot, in May on a paddle board.  They have mansions. They have HORSES. They have bed and breakfasts and restaurants full of good food and wine and dessert and no dishes to do or meals to cook or beds to make. Wow!

So off we set.  We tried to get there to view the boats arrive, but they did so in the middle of the night the day before, but no matter, we were on an adventure.  Besotted tourist idiot that I was I brought my trophy plaque from the 1985 Bermuda 1 – 2 with me and whipped it out at every single opportunity.  People looked askance.  I got looks that I reserve for loved ones with dementia when they tell me about their lives.  I didn’t care.  I made a bee line for the Team SCA venue.  I hung around like a dope.  I wrote a message to them on an official SCA company tissue and hung it on a clothes line.  I drank CHAMPAGNE in the Moet tent from a split bottle afixed with a little gold plastic thing that looks like a megaphone.  I swiped the gold plastic thing and have it squirelled away in my “special” drawer.  I bought an OFFICIAL TEAM SCA LONG SLEEVED SHIRT AND HAT! (I am wearing said shirt with pride in the picture of me on Harriet’s horse Gregor as we rode on Ryder Beach in Truro, Mass, shortly thereafter…)  (it is my FAVORITE shirt, ok?!)  The hat, I wear only when I know I will be clean and when I know I will be in company of people to impress, like Donald Trump or the Pope.

 

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There were so many cool things to see in the race village.  OMG.  There were the BOATS and techies crawling all over them like ants, there were the team tech areas where we saw equipment stuff under repair and asked questions and got answers,  the sail loft where repairs were being made, a replica of the inside of a Volvo Ocean Racer so we could lie in the bunks and mess around with the tiller and get sea sick on dry land!  There was a really fun theater with a great performer giving us all kinds of information about the race and interactive games to play.  Even a self driving car by Volvo!  We had a BALL!!!

I will post when I can find them the pictures that were taken by Bill on this trip.  It was such a fun spontaneous thing for us to do, it was really something for us as a couple because it brought each of us back to a time in our youth, way before we knew each other, that we had in COMMON, that we really never tapped into before.  Such fun my dears, such fun!!!

I just got a post from Team SCA that there will be a TV show about them, on August 15th.  I almost peed my pants.  Bill tried to find it on the DVR but couldn’t.  This is the luck I have.  But my darlings, life is long and I am determined.  I will send this post to Team SCA and to Universal Sports.  I know they will listen.  They have my back like I have theirs.  😉