January 27, 2017 (Friday)

by Yule Heibel on January 26, 2018

The sky this morning – fabulous. Pure sculpture – except the sun breaks through those massive forms like a chisel and strikes my head. I try to hide behind the slim shadow cast by a vertical frame on the main big window, a puny piece of wood which separates the large pane from its adjoining narrower one, and which that chiseling, cutting, searing sun would vaporize in a heartbeat, were it to get close enough. I find just enough protective shade to keep from being completely blinded.

I had some weird dreams: of driving to the beach (why?, I can walk there in six minutes), coming by car down P.-Street, where people (including my newly pregnant with baby #3 neighbor) were practically playing in traffic – there was a “resort” or holiday feel, a beach town feel to the whole thing. In no time I was at the beach, which had moved closer for some reason, but what a beach! Sort of like the light and clouds I’m seeing through my window right now: fantastic and so very grand, clouds and a beach like no other. My beach had professional acrobats teaching children how to perform the most daring stunts. It had a casino. A bowling alley and a diner. It had fantastic waves and of course lots of sand. It had architecture and structure, and also just plain old beach. I kept taking photos with my phone, great photos I couldn’t believe were actually real things. Of course they weren’t real things, given that I was dreaming them. But they also weren’t real things in the sense that they were of the past, part of a bygone era now lost. Possibly recoverable, though.

I’m sure my dream must have, to some extent, been influenced by the wonderfully incisive exhibition W. and I saw yesterday afternoon when we drove up to the Cape Ann Museum: photographs from 1978 by Nathan Benn, all Kodachrome, all shot on the North Shore for a National Geographic assignment.

The social range in this exibition is huge. There are “toffs,” for example: Mary Hopkinson Gibbon and Lovell Thompson getting married. It shows the already elderly couple, on the terrace of Sharksmouth, the bride’s family home in Manchester (that’s Manchester-by-the-Sea to you, peon). (To this day, Sharksmouth is available for weddings, special events ,and other bookings.) The groom worked forty years for Houghton-Mifflin, then started his own publishing house in Ipswich. And then got married (again?). Sturdy fellow! And there’s “the other side”: tannery workers at John Flynn & Sons, Sheepskin Tanners, in Salem. I didn’t know Salem ever had tanneries, much less had them as late as the late 1970s. The tanneries were in a neighborhood called Blubber Hollow. Certainly no longer findable on a map, I mistakenly thought. Yet Blubber Hollow is still very much a known entity, sitting at the base of Gallows Hill, which …well, it’s Salem, although it turns out that actually wasn’t the hill where the so-called witches were killed…)

And so on. A riot of social class, status, occupation, and avocation. Religion, custom, trades. Too bad there wasn’t an accompanying catalog available for purchase.

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