Comments on life, the universe and everything from an aging Sixties survivor.

Location: Massachusetts, United States

Ummm, isn't "about me" part of the point of the blog?

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

No, not your average suburb

One of my fellow beer aficionados said it best: the town I live in may be in the suburbs of Boston, but it is not a suburb. Sometimes, that truth sneaks up and dope slaps you.

When we first moved here, fortyish years back, it was to a neighbourhood called The Shipyard. It had once been what the name suggested: a place of shipyards, sail lofts and ropewalks. It was a predominantly Catholic, mainly Irish, working class neighbourhood, strange though that may seem to people who only see the town's upscale reputation.

Like many such neighbourhoods all around the country in the days that were just then ending, the girls grew up wanting to be housewives, or perhaps teachers, or perhaps nuns. Many of the boys grew up wanting to be cops or firefighters, and many did.

But a good number of them grew up wanting only to go to sea. A number did, as fishermen, offshore or coastwise mariners. Some were catching and selling lobsters before they reached their teens.

One of them was someone I knew only as the grandson of someone I sailed with, and as one wild and playful child in a neighbourhood of wild and playful children.
With the tale of years, this little boy grew into adulthood, then middle age.
And this morning, getting my hair cut, I learned the little boy is lost at sea.
The link will tell the tale, as much as is known. There's a picture there that tears at my heart, because the smile of the middle-aged tugboat captain was still the smile I remember of the little boy.

It's happened here before, in the years we've lived here, though it has not struck so close before.  Sebastian Junger set forth the grim statistics early in The Perfect Storm, of the world's most dangerous occupation. Lloyd's of London still tolls a bell every time a ship is lost anywhere in the world, and that bell is rarely silent for long.

This  doesn't happen in the suburbs; false communities created from arable land. Even here, this sort of thing doesn't really touch the people who move here for the prestige address, whose only connection with the water is the water hazards at the country club on the edge of town. But we lived in the Shipyard, and were drawn into the moment of living by these alert, mischievous children (the Wharf Rats, we called them). Far back of every moment was the thought that those who did follow the sea for their living might be living short but crowded lives.

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