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Heading to Marblehead

Okay, last time, I had just gotten us to the island town of Nahant. We had gotten to our AirB&B, met our host, and had had a walk around. Now we needed supper.


Which, we soon discovered, was easier said than done. We had planned on finding a little restaurant and going there for dinner. But, when we whipped out the phones, and then my Chromebook, we discovered...guess what...by golly...there wasn’t much about.


Oh, there were a few restaurants, but for some reason they were already shut. There were a few grocery stores--small ones, more like your corner shops, not the vast food emporiums you find in a lot of places. But, small or big, it didn’t matter. They were closed, at least according to the web.


It was then that we began to understand how little retail there is in Nahant. Oh, don’t get me wrong. There is some. But not a whole lot--and certainly nothing like the retail districts that you find in tourist towns, like Rockport with its port and Bearskin Neck.


I’m guessing that space was just too precious. What land there is here, is devoted to housing. And that makes Nahant unusual among sea-side towns in New England...or, for that matter, in many places. It remains a town of the sea, and yet also, a neighborhood with a distinct character unshaped by the vicissitudes of the tourist economy.


I wonder how long they will be able to manage that. I suppose it will depend on whether families will be able continue to own the properties here, and how long they can pass it along from parent to child--keeping land and houses away from the developers who have transformed so many seaside towns in New England, and who must be salivating as they look at Nahant, the forbidden fruit just off shore.


But, speaking of fruit...we still had dinner to consider. So, we got ourselves back into the car and headed back across the causeway and into Lynn, where we found a handy grocery store and a liquor store. We collected our obligatory bread, wine, cheese, prosciutto rolls, and pinot grigio...and soon we were back in the B&B, watching a mystery on streaming, and prepping ourselves for the following day.


In the morning, we decided against touring the island right way...since, of course, there was the issue of breakfast, which we might or might not be able to find on the island. Besides, we had plans...


So, back across the causeway we went, and this time headed to the town of Swampscott, another seaside community at which we used to spend quite a bit of time.(1) There are great beaches there, as well as a number of thriving businesses. We found breakfast there at a local diner/bakery--Zest Friends. It was quite good...but, alas, I’ve learned that since then it has closed, apparently permanently.(2) Another victim of Covid and economics, I suspect.



About the Photos: Two today, and for once they have something to do with the story. First, we have a shot of Martha just across the street and a little ways away from where we had breakfast in Swampscott. In the shot, we are on the road just above one of the town beaches.


But, that morning, we ate well, and then headed to Marblehead--yet *another* community on the ocean, but one which has made its peace with the tourist economy. There are restaurants and cafes and shops of every sort to be found there. Again, when we lived in Massachusetts we used to go there a lot and I will write a bit more about the town next time, but, for now, let’s just say it is a remarkable place.(3)


Quick story: Marblehead’s restaurants range from the simple to the very expensive. One year, when we were much younger, and our son David was much smaller, my parents came to visit from New Mexico. We took them to Marblehead to explore the stores and area. They, in turn, took us out to dinner. We went to one of the fancier restaurants...and got a rather snotty waitress. I think she was probably a graduate student at one of the universities and thought her part-time job was beneath her. And certainly she thought my parents were some sort of country bumpkins. Never mind that my mother had a Ph.D. in education and my father was an award winning physicist in one of the leading research labs in the nation.


Anyway, we ate. The service was consistently awful, and the food wasn’t great. Finally, we finished and my father paid the bill. He left a tip -- about 15%, which was standard at the time -- in cash.


We started to leave and the waitress came trotting after us. The tip, she said to my father, wasn’t nearly enough.


He looked at her and...if looks could kill...she would have been splattered across the greater Boston Metropolitan area. Then, he walked quietly back to the table, pocketed the money he’d left for her, and walked resolutely out the door.


End of story and, I suspect, end of the waitress’s career in the food services profession.


Fortunately, we had nothing so unpleasant happen during this visit. Instead, we had a lovely time wandering about. We shopped and window shopped. We found a store which catered to “mothers and babies,” and bought there a small dinosaur-themed jigsaw puzzle for our granddaughter. At the moment, she loves dinosaurs. T. Rex and Triceratops populate the playroom with great abandon. The puzzle had both, plus a Pteranodon to boot.


And then, having finished, we drifted toward the sea...going down State Street, then along Front, and, finally, to the street and the place named...no kidding...”Tucker’s Wharf.”


No relation, I’m sure. But it was the scene of at least one of my more exotic fantasies ...where all things silly and strange could dwell.


More to come.




Second, we have a shot of the street in Marblehead. You can see something of the town’s architecture. But, fear not, it isn’t always this empty. We just go lucky.


Footnotes:


1. For more on Swampscott, check out the town’s Wikipedia entry here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swampscott,_Massachusetts

2. The restaurant posted an announcement to this effect on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Zestfriendz/posts/pfbid0RWswPENXVu3hkVeViewqezaWcj226Hu95Gg3o94D8FJPSvCzTeGHfcqGz286cZBbl

3. Marblehead’s Wikipedia entry is here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marblehead,_Massachusetts


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~mjt



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Copyright©2023 Michael Jay Tucker

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