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Last thoughts on Nahant

Okay, finally, I’m going to get back to reality New England rather than Niwe Englaland, and to Massachussets rather than Byzantine Battleships.

On our visit this summer, Martha and I wandered about Marblehead a bit more. Finally, we realized we were hungry. We grabbed lunch at a local restaurant and then drove back to the B&B in Nahant. After that, we had a rest and then, about an hour later. we went out and stood on the patio where we could look down on the town.

Once again, the sky was cloudy. Evening was working its way towards us. There were no rainbows this time, but, on the other hand, there was a lovely cool breeze. We poured ourselves a glass of wine and stood and watched while the sky grew dark, and somewhere behind us, on the other side of the town, the sun sank below the rim of the earth.

About the photos: Two today. First, a view from Bailey Hill Park. If you look at the horizon, you can just barely make out Boston’s towers in the distance.

It was then...while the sky darkened, and the weather got a little cool...that I realized a few more things about Nahant, that curious city by the sea.

Nahant is many communities, some of them somewhat antithetical to one another. First, it is a tourist town. The hotels and guest cottages prove that. Yet, also, somehow, it isn’t. As I said before, tourists are permitted here. But they aren’t catered to. You may enjoy your time, and be welcome. But there will be no souvenir stores or t-shirt shops. You will find no examples of shell “art,” with frogs and pigs made in China from clams and cockles with glue guns.

Second, by like token, there is an hint of artist colony here--at least, if you consider some of the more well-paid creative professions artistry, and I do. The architects and designers and, probably film makers which you can find here...albeit behind the scenes...give it that air. Though, of course, it is hidden. The celebs don’t want too much attention, so they don’t stand out.

Third, there is also a hint of Gold Coast here--the lawyers (like at least one of our hosts), the CEOs, fund managers, these and others give the place the pleasant scent of money. But if the artists are hard to see...the money is invisible. These people did not move to the island to be seen. And believe me, they aren’t seen, unless you look very closely, indeed.

But, fourth, and maybe most of all, it is a big city neighborhood. It may be an island (okay, a peninsula) but you could have airlifted it straight from Roxbury or, even, I suppose, Rhode Island’s Pawtucket. It is that sort of place...with the warmth and the problems that come with it.

That last part struck me as I was standing there and I realized I could hear voices from below. Basically, from that little balcony, you could pick up seemingly every word spoken in the backyards and front porches on the houses below. As in most city neighborhoods, there was no great distinction between private life and public theater.

Thus, I heard that night, from one direction an intense conversation between an adult daughter and her mother about a boyfriend. The mother’s boyfriend, that is. From another direction, there was a spat between a man and woman over finances. It ended, predictably, in reconciliation, a pledge to take better care of the expenses, and a passionate kiss. And, to the left, children played some complicated game that seemed to have something to do with space travel, light sabers, and dragons. I think there may have been superheroes involved as well, but, these days, between Thor and Wonder Woman and Superman, one never knows.

After a time, the growing dark and cold sent us inside. We finished up the bread, wine, and cheese left over from the day before. We read from our books and kindles, and then went to bed.

As I waited for sleep to come, I did have one last thought about Nahant. It was that we had been tolerated here. I mean, the people...the residents...had tolerated our presence. That was good of them. They didn’t have to.

It fact, it struck me, that our visit had felt a little like the times when I’d visited some of the more welcoming Indian pueblos when I was a boy. My mother taught in the town of Bernalillo, New Mexico. That meant that many of her students came from pueblos. That meant, too, that her students frequently invited her to feast days. That meant, finally, that as the adolescent in the family, I got taken along...because, um, if you get invited to a home during a pueblo feast, you darn well better eat something. And since my mother had lots of lots and lots of students...and got lots and lots of invites...well, *somebody* had to do all that eating. And, as the resident teenager, I was the only one in the family that could pull it off.

Anyway, when you went to those pueblos, you knew you stood out. You knew you were observed. You knew you were accepted, but as a visitor. You were welcome, and you knew you were safe, but you also knew that if you did something stupid...or unforgivably rude... you could get into a bit of trouble

Well, that’s how Nahant felt to me. Not dangerous, not entirely unwelcoming...however, you were seen, and there were limits. But... that was fine. So long as you did nothing out of line.

I have felt a lot less comfortable in a lot of other places.

Including, in some parts of the state that I currently call home.

But that’s a story for another day.

Second, a photo which, as per norm, has nothing to do with the story, but I happen to like it. This is from our trip to the Blanton Museum in Austin early this year. It shows Martha looking a bit bemused while her bizarre husband snaps a shot of her in front of a cavalry charge.


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Copyright©2023 Michael Jay Tucker

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