By ALEXI VENICE—
We visited Cape Cod in summer 2017 to watch The Pitcher, Bootie’s boyfriend at the time, to play baseball in the Cape League.
Not to embarrass my daughter (but I will), we’ve called her a variety of nicknames through the years, including, “Tootie Pants, Bookie, Booboo, Sis and Bootie Pepper.” For purposes of my blog, I call her Bootie Pepper. The name works as well now—when she’s 22—as it did when she was a sassy 12-year old.
Bootie Pepper and The Pitcher. They’re a thing.
That summer, Bootie Pepper took a job at a financial firm in Wisconsin and The Pitcher signed with the Wareham Gatemen in the Cape League, so they didn’t see each other for 4 weeks. FOUR WHOLE WEEKS! (Someone was getting a little grumpy the week before we left for the Cape.) Bootie Pepper had to see The Pitcher, so Bill and I decided to tag along. I’d never been to the Cape and was full of wonder and curiosity.
Over the years, the only news reports I’d seen about the Cape were tidbits on the Kennedy Compound in Hyannis Port. For some reason, I was confused and thought the Bush Family Compound was on the Cape, too, but it’s located 150 miles north in Kennebunkport, Maine. All of this Presidential Compound history made me nervous that I wouldn’t be dressed well enough as a Midwestern tourist visiting to watch baseball. How silly of me. Once I got there, I discovered everyone dresses like we do in northern Wisconsin. The Cape is like Door County or Bayfield.
The Pitcher and Bootie Pepper at the home field in Wareham. We have a pic of them as a couple in every uniform The Pitcher has worn, but he looks especially happy here, I think.
Surprisingly, the weather turned cold (windy and temps in the low 60s), so I bought a Gatemen stocking cap and pullover.
We stayed at the official Wareham Gatemen hotel—the Bay Motor Inn in Buzzards Bay—owned and managed by Fred and Irene. Fred is a hands-on manager, joining his cleaning staff every morning, going in and out of the small cottages. Reminiscent of our northern Wisconsin resorts, these little cabins were as clean as they were rustic.
On Sunday morning, we awoke and opened the door to our cottage, only to discover that we had left the key in the doorknob all night! No joke! How does that even happen? It’s not like we were out late, drinking Guinness, or anything. Classic Touron move!
Fred was cleaning the pool when I came outside, so I pointed to the key in the door and admitted our late-night mistake. The couple next door, sitting on their front porch and drinking coffee, couldn’t contain their smiles.
Fred replied, “Just goes to show ya how safe the Cape is!” But, you know he (and they) were really thinking, “and how harebrained you Midwesterners are!”
No. I don’t believe Fred would think that. People on the Cape are too nice to think like that. As soon as they caught our Midwestern accents, they went into hospitality overdrive. When I mentioned to a lady on the canal how nice everyone had been, it was as if she had to “out nice” everyone else, walking with Bill and me along the paved path, telling us all about the canal. She was so excited when she saw a “bawdge” coming down the canal for a photo op. She insisted that Bill stand with the Bourne train bridge in the background, the bawdge coming toward us.
(For those of you wondering, they lower the bridge for the trains to pass. The main user is the trash train hauling the Cape’s garbage from Yarmouth to SEMASS, a waste-to-energy plant in Rochester, MA.)
Another gesture of generosity came from the salty lady manning the gatehouse at Scusset State Park. She refused to let us pay the $20 entrance fee because we were going to the beach on such a cloudy, drizzly day. Like a good Midwesterner, I offered 3 times, but she politely refused! In fact, on the third time, she looked like she was going to reach into the car and slap me around a little.
Bootie Pepper and the Pitcher climbing the breakwater at Scusset Beach.
Bill with the lovebirds on Scusset Beach.
The Pitcher holding a crab carapace that washed up on the beach. (I use this term only because Bill said it. He majored in marine biology, so he knows all about the critters on the beach. In fact, he almost moved to Woods Hole to become a marine biologist after college, but his career took him in a different direction. Lucky for him, he kept an eye on the Midwest, met me and married up!)
The lovebids outside a marine biology building in Woods Hole. (I think Bill would have enjoyed working in this building. Instead, his current office has a casted leg sticking out of the building.)
As we drove around sightseeing, we were struck by a caution sign that kept appearing in densely populated neighborhoods where children were playing.
Thickly settled?! Who decided on that terminology?
We know the origin of that sign. The town librarian (a direct descendant of Plymouth, England who came over on the Mayflower) forced herself onto the Barnstable County Board street signage committee. At her very first meeting, she informed the group that she was taking the 3-ringer binder home that winter night.
She spent the month of January rewriting every sign, using adverbs. A lot of adverbs! The very idea of adverbs excited her!
She toiled at her kitchen table, hiding her work from the prying eyes of her curious husband. He would tell her he was going out to shovel snow, but she would shush him—the librarian in her always simmering just beneath the surface—so she could work on catchy new phrases for the signs.
At the next monthly meeting, half-glasses perched on the end of her nose, her silver eyeglass chain dangling above her wool turtleneck, she stared down the other 2 members of the committee while they flipped through her new naming conventions, her Puritan lineage bludgeoning them into silent submission.
When her little committee presented their 3-ring binder to the Barnstable County board, she did the talking, then sat like a hawk perched in a tree, watching each board member’s face as they masked their shock while reading through her newly proposed phrases for all the traffic signs in Barnstable County—the entire Cape!
STOP was changed to PROFOUNDLY BRAKE
DO NOT PASS was changed to HEAVILY TRAVELLED
DO NOT ENTER was changed to DIRECTIONALLY CHALLENGED
ONE WAY was changed to SINGULARLY MINDED
SLOW DOWN-SCHOOL was changed to INTELLECTUALLY INTENDED
HOSPITAL was changed to GRAVELY ILL
CHILDREN AT PLAY was changed to THICKLY SETTLED
And the list went on and on and on. The chair of the Board quickly entertained a motion to go into a closed session, dismissing everyone in the room and sending the librarian and her committee packing. After she left the room—and they were sure she was well away from the town hall in her practical car—the board members burst into a prolonged laughter, peeing their pants and blowing their noses. Once they regained their composure, however, out of respect for the librarian’s heritage, they approved one of her signs to mollify her.
As we ate and drank our way through the Cape, the only thing that became THICKLY SETTLED was my waistline. Our minds were THICKLY MUDDLED.
In furtherance of adding weight, we had to stop at a Dunkin’ Donuts (founded in 1950 by William Rosenberg in Quincy, MA). I’d never been to a Dunkin’ Donuts. The Cape is the only place on earth where there isn’t a Starbucks on every corner. Instead, you guessed it—there’s a Dunkin’ Donuts on every corner.
I got the Boston crème with chocolate frosting on top. To die for!
Bill didn’t buy anything at Dunkin’ Donuts, but he did buy this at the airport. Hmmm. I knew there was a reason I married him!
Speaking of the opposite sex, I thought the men of the Cape came across as very manly, genuine and practical. Look at this gentleman eating his breakfast at Leo’s Breakfast Restaurant in Buzzards Bay early one morning. See the wrench hanging off his belt?
Now, he’s a handy guy to have around. See his reflection in the mirror? Nice looking, too. You won’t see him in board shorts and flip flops, slouched over a cell phone, staring at Instagram. He’s a real man who can fix things with his hands. Serve him some bacon, eggs and pancakes to power him for a busy day.
Here are some other pics of men who live on the Cape. Fishing was definitely a major pastime.
A fisherman on Scusset Beach.
Proud fisherman along the 7-mile canal. Red Sox fan. (As long as they beat the Yankees, right?)
On the canal by Scusset Beach. (This guy was grumpy and scowling when I asked him if I could take his pic for my blog. He made me describe my blog and where I was from. Finally, he shrugged his shoulders and agreed to a pic, then gave me this pearly white Hollywood smile that transformed his face!)
As we walked the canal and drove around town, we were struck at how the men had fashioned their bikes and cars for the pursuit of fishing.
See the rod holders on the back of the bikes? I asked if I could take their pics for my blog and they were so obliging, standing up a little straighter and smiling.
We just don’t have rod holders on the front of our trucks in Wisconsin. Here’s a pic of the front of my husband’s truck. That’s right—a real deer skull. Men!
I’d recommend a trip to the Cape just for the food, much less the beaches. The restaurants were fantastic: fish and chips at Stash’s Onset Beach; breakfast at Leo’s; lunch at The 41-70 in Woods Hole; pizza at Marc Anthony’s La Pizzeria in Onset; and the charcuterie board at The British Beer Company on the beach in Falmouth. Thickly settled, my friends. Thickly settled.
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