Archive for the ‘Cotuit’ Category

Riley’s Beach

July 29, 2009

Photographer Unknown

If there was one piece of geography that I have to say has influenced my life more than any other, it’s the cut between Riley’s beach and the tip of Sampson’s Island only a few dozen yards away.

I had been there in diapers as a child when visiting my great grandmother who lived on Shell Lane only a short walk away.

Our 1971 Sunfish spent summer after summer there flipped over on the sand with a big red “SKI” painted on it’s bow with some nail polish that my mother agreed to sacrifice for the occasion.

It was where my father would stand fishing for hours and hours at dusk with no-see-ums biting at those of us with him on the beach; my father immune due to the plume of pipe smoke surrounding him as he stood in silhouette out on the rocks catching mainly sea robins and sand sharks, but loving every minute.

It was where I found countless pieces of sea glass that I would bring home to New Jersey and admire for hours wundering where it had journeyed and where it began but loving that I found it in Cotuit.

It was where I exploded an aresenal of fireworks knowing that the police were nowhere to be found and could care less what I was doing unless someone from Ocean View Ave called in a complaint which would take an hour to respond to.

It was where I walked at least a thousand times from Riley’s around Bluff Point to Hayden’s at low tide collecting snails, crabs and every other form of sea life that would fit into a plastic bucket.

It was where my grandfather would drive each morning at 5AM to drink his coffee and assess the weather. It was where he would also go at 5PM to end his day and assess the weather once more. Sitting with him looking out over the Sound he would tell me about a particular local tale entitled “The Cut of Her Jib” where a woman rowed from Loop Beach to Nantucket.  In classic Grandpa style he probably embelished the story with a few comical elements just to see me laugh. One of these days I will read it.

Riley’s was where I would land my Optimist Pram on the next beach over just to say hello to my mother who was sure to have a thermos full of Zarex and a cheese sandwich to fill up on. The thought of Zarex is repulsive at this point, as it was like drinking candy which I would probably be eating along with my Zarex back then.

Standing on Riley’s I would strain my neck to see Submarine Rock, the lights of the Sound, my best friend Christian coming in from Popponesset Bay and fighter jets as they screamed out to defend the free world.

It was where I watched a young Chris Berry get pulled from the water lifeless and bloated while his mother screamed his name asking why, why. why?

It was where I watched Jim Mayne (Freeheart) spend an entire day painting the scene from the jetty with a long cloud in the sky that looked like a lobster tail.  After my standing there and being fixated on it for hours, my mother came over and bought the painting and to this day I can remember each step of its creation from a sketchy outline to when Jim signed his name and handed it to us.

Just off the beach was where my Laser would conveniently tip over with my girlfriend on board forcing us to struggle together to right the craft by slithering around on the dagger board in my attempts at masculine feats of strength and bravado and her not so feminine attempts at assistance.

It was where moonlight races would come to an end with mothers and fathers shining flashlights at their children as they were dropped off by some makeshift water taxi more intoxicated than their parents would ever admit. It was where bonfires would burn into the night for those that were lucky enough to stay.

It was where I would sleep, or not, for many many nights with tales upon tales of the best times of life.

Cupid has his own cove over there!

And lately, it has been where my son had his best fishing experience ever, pulling in snapper blue after snapper blue from the boiling August waters. Many of the fish were caught in places other than their mouth as the hook would catch them before they even had a chance to bite.

He has gotten to go there a number of times over the years even though he’ll never spend as much time there as I did.

I hope that it never changes, but it already has and will continue I’m sure.

Yet I hope that my son and I keep going back and that we might get to experience some of the same.

And, I hope that if I’m lucky, I’ll get to visit it forever.

It will always be hallowed ground to me.

Inspiration Needed

September 3, 2008

My inspiration to write absolutely anything on this Blog has been seriously diminished.

I didn’t make it up to Cotuit once this year which has me morbidly depressed about the whole thing.

Freedom Hall has majorly stalled and I feel the need to walk Main Street from Kings Grant to Oregon in order to try and get back some spark; maybe this winter.

Besides missing Cotuit but not wanting to write about it, I haven’t felt the need to quip about anything around Westfield either. 

Furthermore, since I have not been traveling much this summer for work, my airplane writing time has been non-existent which I depend upon to put finger to keyboard and peck this stuff out. (Right now I am on a trans-con to Los Angeles for a week.)

There is some good news to report however.

The primary reason that I have not had much time to write is because I have been very busy this summer with my son. Nothing takes away depression for me like hanging out with him.

We have been spending every free day cruising the Northern parts of the Barnegat Bay on his Boston Whaler and the Southern parts on my father’s Angler. We have made it out on the water almost every weekend which is far more than I had made it out over the last 20 years.

From that perspective life is great!

In fact yesterday my 10 year old son backed his whaler from the dock, took his grandmother and me for a quick zip around Kettle Creek and returned us to the dock with only the slightest coaching from me as he glided in, eased the engine into reverse and landed us like a professional.

I was beaming.

The week before we had taken my father’s Angler out of Egg Harbor and into the open Atlantic where it was rough with large rollers and whitecaps. To my delight, he liked it as much as I do.

Since one of my main objectives in life is to give him something that is at least close to the experience that I had spending summers on the water in Cotuit, I feel that I am accomplishing my goal.

He is becoming an excellent boater, albeit not a sailor.

Plans to Rehab Cotuit

August 4, 2008

If and when I’m ever super-rich, I’m going to buy up as much of Cotuit as I can, knock down all of the newly constructed crap and put things back the way they were meant to be!

This article explains it better than I can.

Freedom Hall Update

April 6, 2008

I have some bad news for those of you who have been enjoying my Freedom Hall excerpts.

I will no longer be posting any future excerpts as I write them.


Because if I ever hope to actually publish the book, it is not in my best interest to share too much of the storyline.

After having had the extreme pleasure of meeting Carol Higgins Clark last night at a birthday party held by a mutual friend, Carol was kind enough to give me some pointers about writing that I am going to take to heart.

One of them concerns sharing too much of my storyline in a public forum.

So, as much as I have enjoyed writing the story and sharing it online, I will no longer be posting excerpts.

Instead, I will be taking pre-publication orders.

Please email me and I will let you know where to send your check or money order.

Only kidding.

However, I do promise to work on it a little harder and try to get it done soon.


“3 Bays” Needs Our Help!

March 6, 2008


I just renewed my 3 Bays membership!

After reading posts on David Churbuck’s Blog about Cotuit and the situation with the docks in town, I decided it was time to re-up my contribution and try and help keep the most beautiful place on earth just as beautiful as it has always been.

Maybe even better, since I never realized what was actually going on down there at the bottom of the bay when I was a kid.

As much as I hated the eel grass back then, I now wish that it was all back.

If anyone knows of any other organizations that are fighting to keep Cape Cod and Cotuit as pristine as possible, please share.

The Ghost of 72 Ocean View Avenue

January 18, 2008

The following is an excerpt from Freedom Hall…… (Not the one I have been working on but one that I wanted to share)….

Justin didn’t remember the first time that he had heard that his family’s house on Ocean View Ave was haunted, but according to everyone, it was.

Justin never really felt the presence of any ghosts or anything, but the way that everyone else seemed to believe in the story, it gave Justin the creeps.

So the legend went, his family’s house in Cotuit was haunted with a long ago deceased sea captain who was playing cards into eternity in the root cellar buried below the basement.

The basement was creepy! It had steep stairs that decended from a door in the kitchen and had a musty smell that was disticntively salty, which Justin assumed must have stemmed from being so close to the ocean.

The basement was different than any basement that Justin had ever seen. The space that one could walk in only comprised a small portion of the space beneath the house, with the rest of the space consisting of sand and retaining walls.

All Justin knew was that the basement had turned out to be a good place to hide liquor bottles and other contraband, since he could easily hide his booty beneath the sand, far beyond the glow of any lights as the sand stretched out into cold dank space near the edges of the foundation of the house.

If there was a ghost, he must have liked Justin since his treasure was never tampered with.

When Justin thought about the poor old soul, he felt sorry for him. After all, being buried in such a stark place with only a game of solitaire to entertain him, he must have been bored to death, Justin thought.

Justin hated cards.

Justin’s tolerance for playing cards lasted only a few minutes at a time, unless he was beating his little sister in a game of “Knuckles”

The legend that his house was haunted by a sea captain seemed to be corroborated by the fact that there was indeed a patched area of the basement floor that appeared as if it might have gone much deeper into the ground.

Justin’s grandfather telling him that this patch was the sealed “doorway” to where the unfortunate guy had been trapped, only played into Justin’s imagination.

Justin could picture a subterranian space, a lone card table and chair, with a man playing game after game of solitare beckoning for someone to come join him in a game of cribbage.

Although Justin didn’t really believe in ghosts, his grandfather told the tale with such sincerity that Justin couldn’t tell if this was another one of his tales or if, for once, his grandfather was telling the truth.

To make matters worse, Justin had heard the story from another source besides his grandfather.

One day, when Justin was down at the COOP, he heard “Ol’ Man Crocker” telling the exact same tale to his mother as Justin was picking out his candy from behind the counter at the cash register.

Ol’ Man Crocker seemed to know everything about Justin’s house.

Justin doubted that his grandfather and Mr. Crocker were colluding against him since they were not very good friends, so Justin took what the old guy had to say very seriously.

The old man would tell Justin many different stories about his house for as long as Justin would listen. Standing hunched over in front of the shelves, he would speak in his high pitched voice looking up at Justin with the only eye that he could turn far enough to see up with.

Ol’ man Crocker might have actually been there when they founded Cotuit and when the man got trapped in his basement Justin thought, looking older than time to a teenage boy.

Justin imagined that all the years of stocking shelves and taking inventory must have given him the hunch, and hearing a man that looked like something out of a horror movie tell him about how his house was haunted, made Justin shiver.

Besides the slight accumulation of drool on the lower side of his mouth as he spoke, Justin thought that he was a very nice man and he knew that his mother thought very highly of him.

Justin’s mother seemed to believe in the tale so Justin played along.

True or not, Justin ended up appreciating the ghost of the Sea Captain and adopted him as his own personal friend…

One time, when Justin was sneaking into his window late at night and his mother came rushing into his room just as he was pulling the covers up, Justin found a new appreciation for the story of the ghost since he was actually able to pawn off the noises that he had made to the ghost and she believed it.

If there was a ghost, Justin figured that he must have been a pirate and not some tea totaling puritanical sea captain.

He liked that.

Justin had always wanted to be a pirate.

Cotuit in Westfield?

December 30, 2007

The Cotuit Grocery by Robert Edward Kennedy

Picture by Robert Edward Kennedy

Fact is stranger than Fiction!

Last Saturday evening as my son and I were killing some time before going to the movies, we popped into a gallery in Westfield, New Jersey, that is a few doors down from the theater we were going to.

Looking at the artwork along the walls, lo and behold I see a picture by Robert Edward Kennedy of the COOP in Cotuit. It turns out that a local from Westfield had brought the picture in to be framed. OK, that’s pretty strange I thought, to see the COOP in my New Jersey hometown!

However, to make it particularly odd, I just purchased the exact picture for myself only weeks ago from Kennedy’s studio on the Cape as a Christmas present for my son.

But wait, it gets weirder.

After standing in amazement for a few moments, I asked the woman behind the counter just who was having the picture framed and she showed me the ticket.

Now, perhaps I am putting way too much into this, but the last name was the same last name of the girl that I dated from the Cape, whose family owns Crosby Yacht Yard in Osterville. Weird!

Then, just to make it better, the house number of the picuture’s owner turned out to be 727.

This is significant to me because my address growing up as a child was 727 Glen Avenue in Westfield and our Cotuit house was 72 Ocean View…. Weird!

By this time I’m a little freaked out to say the least, but it only gets better.

I called the woman today as I needed to share all of this with her for some reason. Feeling a little odd about calling someone I didn’t know to tell her this odd story, it turns out that we have even more in common than simply liking the same piece of art.

Her son is named John which is certainly a conincidence, but there are lots of Johns in the world.

However, when I gave her my full name, it turns out that she was a patient of my father’s.

At this point we are both freaked out.

We reminisced about Cotuit for a while and she told me that her son lives in Marston Mills and works at Bobby Burns in Mashpee Commons, one of my favorite places and a place I used to take the girl with the same last name.

Life is stranger than Fiction but I am now fully convinced that Cotuit is haunting me and I’m loving every minute of it.

If nothing else, perhaps I made a new friend that I can talk to about Cotuit.

Back in Cotuit

July 6, 2007

Downtown Cotuit

Picture by Jim Mayne Freeheart 

I have had the wonderful opportunity to visit Cotuit once again during this 4th of July week and what strikes me most is how little the place changes in comparison to other places around the Cape.

Yes, there is always the new waterfront mansion to drive by and gawk at.

In fact, many of the homes on the “wrong side of the street” and even “on the wrong street altogether”, have slowly evolved into mansions in their own right, as the masses of millionaires begins to encroach upon the homes of the multi-millionaires.

Regardless, the place has an undying charm that is exactly the same as I remember it over 30 years ago, when I was fortunate enough to spend entire summers enjoying all of the recreation that she has to offer.

My mother has told countless stories of her childhood days spent in town with so many of the things being exactly the same. 

Even the stories I recall from my great grandmother, who owned a home on Shell Lane, spoke of things that I can still see as I visit Cotuit today.

Some things have certainly changed, but mostly on the perimeter near Route 28, where shopping centers have grown up on once desolate sandy fields.

The heart of town, where Main Street intersects School Street, is almost identical.

The gas station has been sitting idle now for years, with rumors of a knock down on the way. They say that there will be retail space down below and of course, condos on top to capitalize on the location’s proximity to the water.

The Kettle-Ho looks the same, with a fresh coat of paint and some new decorations inside. It has evolved over the years from being a coffee shop and general store to a restaraunt and bar, but the fellowship to be found inside is exactly the same.

Now that it is under new ownership, it seems like the ol’ place may be getting another chance, or perhaps the ol’ place is giving someone else another chance.

Either way,  if time is a testament of success, the building keeps winning; hands down!

When speaking with the son of an owner, Danny, I expressed my feelings that they have taken ownership of a legacy and I emphasized how important the place is to those of us who remember it “Back when”.

He seemed to understand what I was saying and what was at stake and I could tell right away that the new owners will be good stewards.

The COOP has likewise evolved as it now has a full kitchen, an ice cream parlor and a sitting area that resembles my grandmother’s living room, not to mention the liquor store that has been there for a few years now.  It truly has character!

While sitting there eating a pizza with my 8 year old son, recalling to him what I remembered about the place, I wondered to myself what it will be like when he is 40, perhaps sitting there with his 8 year old and heading out to take a ride on the bay.

God only knows.

The bay, the single biggest constant in town, albeit having a few shifting sand bars and slightly curving beachfront, is just as I always remembered it.

Perhaps there is a little less eel grass on the bottom, a few less oysters to be caught, but all in all she is the one thing that takes me back to the time that I spent skimming from shore to shore in my Optimist Pram; aptly named The Mutt, but not by me.

The smell, the salty taste of the spray as it hits my face, the sound of sea gulls muted by a strong breeze; its just as it always was and as I pray it will always be.

From Rhopes Beach to Cupid’s Cove, from the Narrows to Seapuit, from Inner Harbors to Bluff Point, the time capsule seems intact, with the only real change being the shapes and sizes of the boats that float whimsically upon her.

And as we canvas the bay in my son’s Boston Whaler, (The same boat I lusted after as a youth but could never convince my parents to buy) I soak in every minute, every image, every smell and only wish that I could bottle some up and bring it with me wherever I go.

For those lucky enough to live here, or visit more often than I can, I am forever jealous.

Please take care of her and make sure that she remains forever constant, forever lovely, forever Cotuit.

72 Ocean View Ave

May 17, 2007

8 Ocean View 72 Ocean View Ave

The following is an excerpt from Freedom Hall…….

Captain Leander Nickerson had built the Lotowski’s house in the 1830’s.

Justin found the fact that his house had once belonged to a sea captain of great interest, as it was certainly a much better story than the story of his family’s New Jersey house. The New Jersey house didn’t have much of a story at all.

Everything about the Cape house was better than the New Jersey house, Justin thought.

Justin felt this way even though the house was “On the wrong side of the right street” according to his father. Justin had heard his father say this more than once, when describing the Cotuit house to friends back in New Jersey.

Justin’s father was a very modest man and liked to downplay things that otherwise sounded pretentious, like when speaking about their second home up in Cape Cod. According to Justin’s father, doctors should never outwardly appear to be wealthier than their patients, which explained the Lotowski automobiles as well as their homes.

To Justin, it was a great house, regardless of what side of the street it was on and unlike his father, Justin conveniently and sometimes purposefully omitted what side of the street it was on when whenver speaking about his house. Justin was often pretentious, even though he didn’t really know what pretentiousness was but never did it to be mean.

And, even though Justin loved the houses that were on the water and the though of having a boat tied up in the back yard, as he knew his father really did too, Justin always thought of the waterfront homes as belonging to “newer” families and to ones that simply had too much money. In his experience the people that lived in the waterfront homes were rarely very nice, especially the ones that took offense to having people walk along the beach.

To Justin, his house was perfect and having a boat only a few hundred yards away was more than ok.

His house, an old grey saltbox, sat just close enough to the water to let him smell the sea air, but far enough away to still have a large grassy back yard and large silver poplar trees everywhere. The trees provided shade in the heat of August and had leave that would rustle violently when the wind would blow in from the bay.

“Those leaves!” Justin would curse whenever his mother had heard them and yell out from the kitchen and comment disdainfully about the weather on the bay. Hearing the leaves she knew that it would be blustery on the water. Blustery was a good thing to Justin, but not so to his mother.

Noticeably missing from the Lotowski’s yard and the general vicinity of the house was the endless amount of sand that seemed to be everywhere else on the cape and throughout many parts of Cotuit other than theirs.

Justin appreciated this fact for one reason more than others, as his mother was obsessed with keeping sand out of the house.

From June until September there was an everpresent tray of water for everyone to use when returning from the beach, as if the sand was a contaminant of some sort.

Justin would routinely ignore the washing ritual as he could hardly be bothered to slow down and use it, unless of course he saw his mother standing in the kitchen watching his every move.

Back in the days that Cotuit had revolved around the sea, few people would ever consider building their homes right on the water. With winter storms and hurricanes, being at least a little inland and up on higher ground was only prudent. Besides, Justin thought, after spending weeks if not months on the water, who really wanted to keep looking at the sea anyway.

“If it was good enough for them, then its good enough for me!” Justin had convinced himself and would say to his grandfather whenever they sat having lunch down at the Kettle Ho and the topic of the house would come up.

“Living right on the water was a foolish idea if one was truly a man of the sea” his grandfather would add, making Justin feel close to his grandfather for his grandfather really was “a man of the sea”.

Some of the homes along Ocean View and the lower parts of Main Street had unusual perches atop their roofs knows as “Widows’ Walks”. These unusual features were where long ago a sea captain’s wife could sit and wait to see if her husband’s ship was approaching.

Justin’s house was just a bit too far inland to have a widow’s walk, thanks to how large Bluff Point stuck out directly in front of their house. Ironically, his house was closer to the water in either direction up or down Ocean View, than it was straight ahead.

Justin often thought about how the woman that lived in his house must have been much more confident about her husband’s safe return, or perhaps it was her husband that was the overly confident one to build his house without any view of the water whatsoever. Either way, Justin felt that his house was forever buffeted from the storms blowing in off of Nantucket Sound better than any other in the area and yet they were actually very close.

It was like a fortification to Justin and Justin though that fortifications were a good thing. The “best of both worlds” as his father would say right after his clarification of what side of the street the house laid. Justin also once heard his father telling someone that the insurance rates were better being where they were but he didn’t really know what that meant either.

The house was as traditional a saltbox as they came, plus a small addition off of the back that was built much later yet looked very much like it belonged.

The house sat literally only a few feet from the street which was perhaps the one thing about the house that Justin did not like that much and he always imagined that someday his father would have the whole house moved back just a bit.

However, being so close to the street allowed Justin to hear the kids that would walk by at night on their way to Loop Beach.

From his room in the back of the house Justin could hear the boys making jokes and the girls laughing and even though his mother told him that he was too young to hang out with “those kids”, he felt otherwise. Often Justin thought about sneaking outside and joining in on the fun if only he could be certain that it was people he knew and liked.

The house had cedar shingles that were stained gray by his grandfather “battleship gray” as he would say, conjuring up images for Justin of the USS Galveston upon which his grandfather was stationed.

The process of staining the house “battleship gray” was a never-ending one that his grandfather tended to lovingly and with great pride.

Once in a while, Justin would help out with this chore but this would only happen for as long as it remained fun, which was usually only a few hours.

Since there was always a section that needed touching up, his grandfather simply rotated his way around the house and did a little bit at a time. When Justin would help out he always did much less painting and a lot more fetching and cleaning up than he would have liked, but since his grandfather always had lots of funny stories to tell, the time went by quickly and Justin spent more time helping his grandfather paint than most chores. The only thing Justin liked more was splitting wood with his grandfather.

Justin knew that their house was relatively modest compared to many of the newer homes in town but it was still very large compared to New Jersey standards. It had 6 bedrooms and 5 bathrooms, even though the two bedrooms off of the back of the house where barely larger than a single bed; the room furthest back being Justin’s and the one next to it being his little sister Krystina’s.

Justin adored his little room for two reasons. First, it was off the back of the house far away from his parent’s room and being on the first floor he could come and go as he pleased through his bedroom window which he could open and close in complete silence. Second, his room had its own mirror and sink in it which was a leftover from its boarding house heritage and even though he had to share a bathroom with his sister, the bathroom was right across the hall in front of his door so it was almost like it was his.

At the far end of the hallway that connected the two rooms to the kitchen was a screened in porch, which Justin considered his private living room and often would extract homage from his little sister if she dared try to enter it while he was around.

Although his room was tiny, to him it was the best place in the world. It was rarely neat but it did have a certain organization to it. There was his tennis corner, his sailing corner and the corner in which he kept his Mad Magazine collection and his cassette tapes.

Dr. and Mrs. Lotowski’s bedroom was in the front of the house on the other side of the living room and as cars full of young kids would zoom down Ocean View on hot summer nights making their way to The Loop Beach, Mrs. Lotowski would often awaken from the noise. However, she didn’t mind that much as she would always go quickly back to sleep once she began re-reading the pages of her book that she had re-read only a dozen times before as she repeated the process of falling asleep.

Nancy and Sarah each had their own room upstairs and each had their own bathroom. This was ironic to Justin because in the summer they didn’t need bathrooms nearly as much as they did in the winter back home in New Jersey. In New Jersey, where all four kids shared one bathroom, getting ready for school was a veritable powder keg of tempers and Justin was low man on the totem pole when it came to bathroom time.

This summer, even though Nancy had stayed in New Jersey, Justin did not want to move upstairs and loose his easy access to the outside world though his ground floor escape hatch. Besides, with Nancy coming up quite a few weekends, Justin knew that she would insist upon having her room and Justin would end up sleeping downstairs again anyway.

Outside and to the right of the Lotowski house was a long driveway made from crushed seashells that went down to the once old and dilapidated boathouse that had been converted into a guest house shortly after the Lotowski’s had purchased the property.

Justin’s grandmother and grandfather had taken up residency in it shortly after the renovation and it too had been painted “battleship gray”.

The “guesthouse” as it was called even when his grandparents had moved in permanently, had two bedrooms and a bath upstairs along with a living room, kitchen and another bathroom downstairs. It was a cozy little house having been built into the side of the hill that descended from Ocean View to Main Street so that the second floor was at the same level as the back yard of the main house. The first floor, being below grade, was fully protected from the harsh winter breeze that blew in off of Cotuit bay.

Across the street from the main house was a mansion which was majestic in appearance by any standard contrasting the Lotowski house which was “Cape Cod” through and through. Justin’s house heralded back to the humble origins of the town and not its heyday as a retreat for the rich and famous. This was one of the reasons why Justin’s mother loved it so much, Justin thought, figuring that she identified with the house in the same way.

Justin loved that his great grandmother, his mother’s mother’s mother, had a cottage that was only a quarter mile away around the corner on Shell Lane even further away from the water. It was likewise a very traditional structure. Justin’s mother had once told Justin that when she was a child that she had always admired the house at 8 Ocean View and had hoped to live there one day. Although the house was now 72 Ocean View it was originally 8 and was changed for some unknown reason all of a sudden.

“72 Ocean View, When you come please wear blue” Justin could hear his grandfather singing from time to time.

Justin loved to think of his mother as a child in Cotuit. He could easily picture his mother in pigtails and a sundress walking one way or another in front of the house looking up as she passed and hoping that one day the house would be hers. Justin figured that his mother must have always been an ambitious woman and was proud to have a mother that made her dreams come true.

He hoped that all of his dreams came true just the same.

Justin often thought about how the house stood still for all those years as time passed while so many people came and went during the interim. He knew that lots of things must have changed over the years since his mother walked down Ocean View but at times he felt as though nothing had changed and that everything had stayed exactly the same.

This notion of timelessness made him feel very close to his mother yet at odds with her at the same time. In so many ways their childhoods were so much alike yet she seemed incapable of understanding her son or if she did understand him, making a connection that he understood.

The Baby Budweiser

February 21, 2007

The Baby Budweiser 

The following is an excerpt from Freedom Hall….. 

“Please can’t we buy it?” Justin begged his mother over and over again for the week that the rotten hull of an old hydroplane had been laying on the grass in front of Freedom Hall.

As the day of the annual CMYC Auction approached, she would say “Absolutely not!”  over and over as well.

“When your father gets here, he’ll say the same thing!”, was often added to her rebuttal in order to add emphasis.

“Why?” Justin would ask sweeter and sweeter each time in response.

 “Because it’s too dangerous and it looks like it won’t even float” was her standard reply.

“We can fix it, I know we can!” Justin implored. “We can borrow the motor from the dingy and Grandpa even said that he’ll help us. Please!” Justin begged to her this time, using everything he had. Justin always felt that if his grandfather was in the equation, that she would soften. Unfortunately, in reality, it rarely helped.“Absolutely not!” was the reply once again and Justin called a temporary truce.Justin had just about quit and the phone rang.  It was Chris.

“My Dad says we can bid on it if we want and he even gave me an extra $20 to make sure we win!” his friend blurted out.

“Great!” Justin said sarcastically. “You’ll have a nice boat and I can watch you from the shore!”

“What?” Said Chris, “They won’t let you go in on it with me?”

“Nope, my mom says it’s too dangerous and that it won’t even float.” Justin said rolling his eyes at the dog.

“What about your dad?” Chris said with a tone of disbelief. “He said no too? Hold on….” and a few moments passed while Justin doodled a picture of the hydroplane on the pad that was always present on the kitchen desk with at least one hundred writing utensils in the jar behind the phone.

Chris came back on the line with a hurried voice. “My Dad wants to talk to your mom, is she home?”

“Yes, hold on, I’ll get her.” Justin said.

“No, no, he’s going to come over and talk to her and I’m coming with him. We’ll be right there.” he shouted as Justin could tell that the phone was being put down.

Justin hung up too and went quickly into the kitchen where Mrs. Lotowski was cleaning some cucumbers for dinner.

“Mr. Winslow wants to come over and talk to you about the boat. He’s on his way” Justin said knowing that his mother was not someone to be charmed into too many things. At least not this abruptly.

“Great!” said his mother in the same sarcastic tone that Justin used with Chris. “Once again, I’m the overprotective mother denying you from doing anything fun. Who’s going to fix that thing up? Who’s going to make sure you don’t kill yourselves? Your father’s never around and when he is we have other things to do than help you try to dismember yourself or even worse, get killed!.” And with that she put down the cucumber and the knife and took off her apron and went into the living room to await Chris’s father, Patrick.

Suddenly, Justin became optimistic, not having heard her say one more “Absolutely not”. He knew his mother very well and he could feel that the ice had cracked; he could tell.

Jane knew that she was going to have a hard time saying no to Patrick. She had a lot of respect for him and he was always very nice, especially to Justin. Patrick Winslow was a very successful businessman that was teaching at Harvard Business School and although he appeared to be a soft-spoken southerner, she knew that he was a rigid taskmaster with his boys and that he lived the motto of “work hard, play hard”. He had met and married his wife Dagmar while attending Oxford but had postponed the wedding for a year until he attempted his swim across the English Channel. Dagmar was a German born aristocrat whose family had lost much during the war but certainly not their pride. Although Mrs. Winslow and Jane were very friendly when they met at social functions, they rarely socialized with each other except when it involved the boys.

As Jane saw the Winslow station wagon round the bend on Ocean View Ave, she already knew that she was going to cave in. The second that she heard the tires crunching on the gravel as the car pulled up in front of the house it was over. Patrick jumped out of his car with a huge smile on his face as if it were all a big joke. He must have thought at first that swaying Jane was going to be a challenge but to Patrick, there was nothing he liked more than a good challenge.

“Jaaaane!” Patrick said as he came around the back of the car with his arms out as if to embrace a long lost relative.

“Hello Patrick” Jane replied although she kept a stiff posture while he embraced her, trying to stop herself from blurting out her concession without even a fight.

“The boys want to bid on that hydroplane up at Freedom Hall and Chris tells me that you don’t think it’s a good idea” What could be wrong with two young men wanting a shot at fixing up an old boat? I admire their enthusiasm, you should too.”

“I haven’t even had a chance to talk it over with James. He’s been doing rounds all day and he hasn’t returned my page.” But as she said this the tone of her voice gave away her less than stalwart position.

“So you’re open to it?” Patrick probed with his smile widening with each word.

“I don’t like making decisions without James.” She said glumly, but Justin knew that she had said no without even consulting her husband so why couldn’t she say yes? Justin wanted to tell Mr. Winslow that his mother was a liar, but he figured that he was making such solid ground now that he would just leave it alone.

“I’m sure James would say yes.” Patrick continued. “They didn’t have hydroplanes like this back in Brooklyn I bet.”

Hearing those words, Justin thought to himself that Mr. Liles was going right for the jugular. Chris had once told Justin that at a cocktail party after a few scotches, Justin’s dad told Chris’ dad how he always wanted to give his son all the things that he didn’t have growing up in Brooklyn. Naturally, Patrick knowing this, he must have figured that this would be a good place to start and probably to end and it was.

“Driving a hydroplane would sure be a lot more fun than stick ball” he said as he swung his arms like a batter but immediately realized that he had played his hand just a little too far when Jane made a small grimace and turned towards Justin. Patrick knew that Jane admired her husband for what he had achieved but he also knew that she loathed any time that the conversation revolved too much around her husband’s inner-city roots.

Patrick realized that he had made his point and decided that he was finished with this course of attack.

“I really don’t want that thing in our yard!” said Jane and now Justin knew that Mr. Winslow was a saint. She had thrown in a caveat but was no longer saying no.

“Those boys will drag that thing here, tear it apart and leave it as a huge eyesore only to have us pay to have it hauled away at the end of the summer.” As she said this she pointed her arms to the backyard with a back and forth motion as if the entire yard would be transformed into a junkyard as a result of the boys’ efforts.

“Not to worry!” Patrick chimed in. “It’ll go in the unfinished part of our basement. I’ll oversee the rehabilitation project and I’ll test it out before either of the boys ever sets foot in it. It will be a good project for them. Something to give them a real sense of accomplishment, something to write their college essays about” And with that the deal was sealed.

Patrick was, after all, on the admissions board for Harvard. If anyone knew about good college essays, it was Patrick Winslow. Maybe it would make for a good college essay Jane thought, and it might make for a good story to tell her friends in New Jersey, provided the kids don’t kill themselves.

With that, she nodded her head in agreement and Justin ran up to her and almost gave her the biggest hug of his life. In stead, he stopped only inches away from her, looked up at her with a huge smile and said “Thanks mom!” and turned to Chris and ran up to him and they jumped in each others arms with a celebratory “Yeah man!” and then ran to Mr. Winslow and began talking excitedly about their plans.

The day of the auction had come and gone and much to Justin and Chris’s surprise, no one else had even bid on the boat. They ended up getting it for only ten dollars and as if the car had been made to carry her, the boat fit perfectly into the back of the Winslow’s station wagon and it was theirs.

For the next few weeks the boys worked on the boat every day. They peeled old fiberglass, replaced rotten wooden ties that Mr. Winslow would cut for them and then they proceeded to re-fiberglass the entire boat from stem to stern.

It was during these long hours of working together on the boat that Justin and Chris become lifelong friends. Making decisions about the boat, imagining how fast they might go, talking about what the girls would think and then, the all-important decision, what to name her.

It didn’t take long until the two had decided upon “The Baby Budweiser”. With thoughts of the famous Ms. Budweiser on one hand and the two boys’ affinity towards the real thing on the other, the name seemed perfect.

They painted her red white and black, just like the professional boat and put lettering on each side that they bought at Sears in Hyannis putting all 13 letters on both sides of the deck close to the cockpit.

And so she was christened, but not before Mr. Winslow had spend at least an hour zipping across Shoestring bay making sure the craft was seaworthy and at the same time making the boys anxious as he would tease them coming close to shore only to turn back for another run.

Upon coming into shore for the last time, Mr. Winslow had his regular military style grimace on and began lecturing the boys about safety in his military style voice even before he had gotten out of the boat. It was obvious that he was proud of what the two “young men” as he immediately began calling them, had accomplished together.

Patrick knew that these summertime friends would be friends for a lifetime and patted both Chris and Justin on the backs with a heartfelt “Good Job Men!” and the two boys couldn’t wait until they could take her out but Justin knew that he had to get home and Chris was kind enough to not want to go if Justin wasn’t there.

So, the two “young men” put the boat back on the Skiff trailer that Justin’s father had let them use and took her back to the Winslow’s house where she sat alongside the garage, like a prize beyond anything Justin could have ever imagined. Not just a boat, not just fast boat, but a boat that he and his best friend had built together. A tiny craft that had been nearly thrown into the junk heap was now a pristine vessel thanks to their efforts, a vessel was built to carry them off as friends, far further than to just the ends of Shoestring Bay.