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  • Writer's pictureMelissa Mooney

Notes from a Clamshell Path | No. 29

Look at that! We zipped through another epic summer here in Provincetown! There were definitely shimmer-y magical times (not one, but two saved Instastories worth.) And there were some seriously overcrowded, my shirt is sticking to me, why are these shark alerts going off constantly?, no I don't want to take a photo for you, use the fucking bike path, ohmygod MOVE!, I HATE EVERYONE kind of days. And, hens, that is the gospel truth about living in this summer resort town. It is awesome AND it sucks.

I read this perfect piece in Griefbacon about "bad summer." If you feel even the tiniest tweak that you didn't have the best! summer! ever!, I suggest you read it. Sometimes we have to give ourselves permission to enjoy an indoor AC day when we don't feel like YOLO-ing. And now, this Summer Cruise Director/Year-round Den Mother is reclaiming her time. Bring your own sunscreen and band-aids, people. I'm off duty.

***** I know I shared that I'd be back with a new edition right after Labor Day. I reached the last week of August exhausted, extremely twitchy, and not at all in the headspace to produce something of quality for you. I gave myself a couple more weeks to cocoon. The day after our last seasonal guest departed, I spent an entire day on the couch napping, reading, and watching those Grantchester episodes. That day turned into a week. I highly suggest you all schedule yourselves a Grantchester Day stat. ***** ALSO, you may have noticed that things look a bit different around here. I've been spiffing things up inside and out. There's a zippy new logo!! And a NEW PROJECT.  While I was folding all our visitors' beach towels, I spent a lot of time thinking about how I was going to make it through the brutal daily destruction of everything decent people value, our collective existential crisis, and specifically, this next election cycle. And I realized many of you might be wondering just how you are going to do that, too, right? Well, I have something to say about that! I'll be kicking off a BI-WEEKLY NEWSLETTER in November -- one year before the presidential election. Maybe we can all make it to the other side of this -- becoming better people (or at least not losing ground on that), having a few laughs, feeding our minds with quality stuff, and leaving a trail of bio-degradable glitter in our wake. I didn't spend 20 years of my life covered in emotional vomit at Harvard for no good reason. Seems this is the perfect time to dig into that treasure trove of human realness to share some life wisdom with all of you. 

Sign up here now so you don't miss the first issue! I hope you'll join us! 

***** Brain:

  • Reading list. The Seas. "We live here because we hate the rest of you." I dog-eared so many pages of this book with passages like this. The story will take you on a ride where you will repeatedly ask, "Wait. What?," followed by a wide-eyed "Oh, wow." (Also this essay/list of books that take place "On, In, or Near the Sea.") // The Last Book Party. Such a delight to read a book where every page takes place in your own backyard. // "20 Small Press Books You Might Have Missed." My favorite section of most bookstores is the small press section where you can find something really special.  The end of Pacific Standard and Topic Magazine (although still has amazing content.) These two were top notch -- PS for its social justice journalism and Topic for its multi-view approach to singular topics, like music or mothers. // The Sentences newsletter. Darcie Wilder sends out her newsletter listing only sentences like this one: "It’s the end of the summer, which can only mean one thing: it’s fall." // "The Crane Wife."  This essay was endorsed everywhere when it was published and for good reason. It's extraordinary.

  • Viewing list. Years and Years. This show has caused much stress in our household. "Watching the HBO drama ... can feel like watching the worst-case scenarios about the world coming to pass, one after the other ... Years and Years makes the choice not to just place us in the midst of a dystopia, but to walk us there step by agonizing step from where we are today." Prepare yourself! // Unbelievable. What a brutal and totally captivating portrayal of what it is like to be the victim of both rape and a system that punishes you because it doesn't believe you. It's based on this article. // The Good Fight. Oh, CBS All Access, I am so close to signing up for your services! Such a brilliant move to run the first season of this fantastic spin-off from one of my favorite shows, The Good Wife, on network TV. // All my favorite shows from my whole life returned all at the same time! Veronica Mars, 90210, The Hills, Four Weddings and a Funeral and second seasons of The OA (still watching), Dark (also still watching), Ozark (GAH!), Succession (I feel like this season is Very Ivanka and I am LIVING for Roman's snark and Tom's bruised ego), and Derry Girls (remember to turn on closed captioning so you don't miss a single quip: “Macaulay Culkin isn’t a Protestant, ma!”). The Weekly 's "Inauguration, Inc." episode. Christ, these people. // The Family. Whether it is greatly exaggerated or not, two important things I learned: 1) why Pence may be the way he is and 2) why Trump gets a pass with the evangelicals (“God always uses imperfect vessels to do his perfect work.") Rachel. This creepy-ass short film is based on a TRUE story with real footage to prove it. I suggest you watch it during the day. // The Wandering Earth. The premise is that Earth is in trouble (thanks to climate change and capitalism) so they MOVE IT. I was on the edge of my seat the whole time! And apparently, it's the second highest grossing film in China.

  • Listening list. The Mueller Report. In July, I went to see Amy Siskind and, in a room filled with activists, only two people had read the entire Mueller Report. Shamefully, I downloaded the free version on Audible and have been listening to a bit every week since then. (Note: as an alternative, you can check out this version by the guy who wrote "Black Hawk Down." He was told, "Tell a story recounting Mueller's report that's so gripping it will hold your attention."// "The Uninhabitable Earth" episode of Why is This Happening?  podcast. This is partially to blame for my increasing eco-anxiety. // The Laughter Permitted podcast episode with Glennon Doyle and Abby Wambach, who are now my favorite lesbians. Exhibit A: this podcast and Exhibit B: Glennon's photos of Abby watching "The Soccer." // The Kamala Harris episode of The Daily. They should just replace those awful debates with interviews like this. // Talkin' Birds podcast. Where my people call in and talk about the birds in their backyards. // The Homecomers podcast. This is the most interesting podcast I've heard about rural America. Catherine Russell. We've adopted a pretty mellow soundtrack to our daily lives and often have Ms. Russell playing in the background. (Her vocals on "No Two Things" by Blue Six, one of my favorite "ClubMed songs," are so good! // Dorothy Ashby. Jazz harp! If we're not playing Catherine Russell, we're playing Dorothy Ashby. My favorite is her version of Moonlight in Vermont (because Baby Boom. Duh.) Although, The Super Mr. says it reminds him of Bugs Bunny when I sing along. // Flow State newsletter. Every morning they send out two hours of music that is conducive to working. I've discovered so many interesting artists -- like the compiled video game soundtracks, Taylor Deupree, and Octo Octa. // The Untz Untz Untz playlist. Filled with tracks at 120 bpms, which is the same point at which endorphins are released when your heartbeat reaches that level. // TOKiMONSTA's new remix of Ólafur Arnald's "they sink." I love everything she creates! // Tyco's Burning Man Sunrise Set. I have mixed feelings about Burning Man (the idea of it and the visuals are intriguing, but the abuse and exploitation issues are awful!). This set is nice, though.


  • Eating and drinking list. Confession: I completely abandoned my new nutritional eating habits for a ridiculous amount of VACATION FOOD that lurks at every corner in this town. I'm back on the program as of last week and I'm doing Sorta Sober September. // The nibbles at Nor'East Beer Garden. My favorite snacks in town live here. I highly recommend the following: toast and olives (pan fried olives with pistachios, lemon zest, and truffle honey toast), chicken wings (with baharat dry rub, date rose-blossom honey, sesame seeds, and green onion), and lemon frites with roasted garlic and herb aioli.   Beach plum jelly. A few months ago Stephen and I headed out to mark locations of the beach plums (you have to do it when they are flowering, because after that they are super hard to locate.) Mid-August I went back to my spots, saw that the fruit wasn't quite ripe for picking, and then returned a week or so later. ALMOST ALL OF THE BEACH PLUMS WERE PICKED! Total beach plum failure this year. However, I stocked up on beach plum jam at the various farm stands on my travels up and down the Cape and have been savoring that. // Thomcord grapes. Have you tried these? They are only around for a few months (July - Sept) and are a cross between seedless green grapes and Concord grapes. No seeds and the sweetest taste! Mark your calendars for next year if you missed them.

  • September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. "Ovarian cancer is known as the deadliest gynecologic cancer in the US, given that it is not usually detected or diagnosed until it has reached advanced stages." Many of you know that my mother is an ovarian cancer survivor and her diagnosis is what lead to my journey towards managing my own high-risk with preventative surgeries. I'm so grateful that I had an opportunity to change my odds and am currently at a lower risk than the general population, less than 5%. Do you know the symptoms?? They can be confused for so many different things that women often experience normally. They key is to see your doctor if you have these symptoms daily for more than a few weeks:

  • Pain or swelling in the abdomen

  • Feeling full quickly while eating

  • Gastrointestinal problems, such as gas, bloating, diarrhea, and/or constipation

  • Abdominal or pelvic pain

  • Feeling the need to urinate urgently or often

  • Shortness of breath (This is the symptom that sent my mother to the doctor; don't ignore it!)

The Intangible:

  • I’ve been keeping ongoing notes of our annual cyclical life here on the Cape — how things affect me personally, how I am feeling week to week, what is happening in nature that signals a shift, and even just seasonal stuff I want to experience. (I'll be sharing this in more detail in the newsletter. It's super useful. Maybe you'll want to start one, too.)

  • White Sage Tarot. I started using a new tarot deck that speaks to me more than the one I had been using. It's illustrated with animals and other symbolism (like sand dollars) that is more accessible for me. I've been pulling a card a day, which gives me a few minutes each morning to focus on something specific in my life.

  • I'm working on my nemesis game. Roxane Gay has ten of them and she cracks me up every time she posts about one on Twitter. She seems genuinely propelled by the competition to do more, be better, and win. I have two -- one that is purely territorial and totally in my imagination that we have been fighting over the title of Pool Hag for ten years. The other? SHE seems just a bit too comfortable with herself and thinks she's too cool for school. I think she's atrocious. And, like Roxane, I'll never tell you who she is.

  • I'm also working on being a better ally. Maybe you've noticed that people are pretty good at keeping their whatever-phobic comments and microaggressions in check when they are in a diverse group of people, but the minute only white people are in the room, they let it fly. I'm speaking up more when this happens and so far it's been a failed endeavor. I often get poo-pooed and accused of being too sensitive and told "it's only a joke." So I'm working on how to be more effective when I call people out.

The Practical:

  • Fall focus. Over the summer, while I was waiting in the long lines of traffic, I thought dreamily of what I wanted out of Townie Summer (September into October here). And I came up with a weekly formula around which I've been organizing my time: a book, a hike, a fiber art project, a volunteer project, a daily writing ritual, and a political action a week. OK, kinda clunky, but so far it's helping me prioritize my life: + I started my 52 Hike Challenge this month. The idea is that you will get outside once a week for a year and hike around in nature. There's even a tracking spreadsheet, swag you can order, and a MEDAL at the end. I, of course, bought myself a hiker costume -- new hiking shoes, a decent and very cute windbreaker, some cushy hiking socks, and my very own pair of noisy pants (which is what I call The Super Mr.'s extremely loud nylon pants.)  Most people start in January but I started now during prime hiking season rather than when its cold and there is snow on the ground. Best to set yourself up for success! + I also started my first fiber art project, a nautical embroidery thingy from hook, line, & tinker. It's a "first-time beginner friendly, level 1" project. With my terrible hand-eye coordination and trouble following printed instructions, I'm having a slow go of it.   HOWEVER, this is printed on the stitch instruction sheet: "One of the basic rules of the universe is that nothing is perfect. Perfection simply doesn't exist. Without imperfection, neither you nor I would exist." -- Stephen Hawking. 

  • Storm prep. For the third time since we moved here, I was sheltered in our basement this summer waiting for a tornado warning to expire. This time, though, it actually touched down in three different places on the Cape. And Dorian brought us winds that we usually only experience in the winter when everything outside is already secured. I've updated our emergency plans (for both shelter in place and evacuation.) Some good information here: + "How to Prep Your Kitchen Before Dorian Arrives." The tip on storing eggs, and really anything stored in a cardboard/paper container (coffee creamer!), has been added to my list.  + "3 Tips for an Emergency Evacuation with Your Dog." I updated Stephen's Go Bag and printed out the checklist to use. + We purchased a WaterBob that we can use to store water in the bathtub, as well as these highly portable collapsible water carriers. Who wants to stand in line to buy bottled water when you can use the water you already have in your home?

  • Clean your coffeemaker with dental tabs. It works really well. Just rinse everything twice to get rid of any minty residue.

  • "Should you shave your dog in the summertime?". Every summer, someone worriedly asks me if I am going to shave Stephen. The answer is no. And this is why!

  • Toppling Trees, Summer of the Cactus, and The Tragic Death of a Plant. One morning I woke up, looked outside and saw that one of our trees had toppled over. It did not die, though, and is somehow thriving horizontally. It's provided an eye-level tree-top view just outside the window next to my birdwatching couch. One evening I even saw a pair of Carolina wrens, a hummingbird, juvenile robins and orioles with their adult parents, some sort of yellow warbler, a yellow finch, a house finch as well as the local catbird clan. It was also the Summer of the Cactus. After I replanted my two prickly pears, FIVE new paddles grew. And a cactus I've had for almost 20 years BLOOMED with gorgeous red flowers. I think I finally got the watering ratio correct (much more than you think, and especially as the paddles were growing) and I hauled all of them inside any time it rained to make sure I had control of their hydration. When The Super Mr. and I first moved in together, we received a plant as a housewarming gift. Until this summer, it thrived and gave birth to four super healthy offspring. Somehow, and I am not sure how, it died in July. I tried everything to bring it back to life because, you know, the SYMBOLISM and my crazy superstitious beliefs. I made peace with its ending and feel good knowing there are four plants in the house from that Mother Plant still making our air healthier.

Cape Cod:

  • Hydrangea University. I have these hydrangeas that we inherited with the house and they drive me BANANAS! Turns out the Heritage Museum in Sandwich has a whole hydrangea learning series, including a program called Hydrangea University, which I attended wearing my Hydrangea Lady costume.

  • Central figures in Outer Cape life. DJ Maryalice. Such a great interview with the woman who manages to get pretty much everyone we've ever known on the dance floor at Tea Dance. // "Tony Pasquale and Terra Luna." There is no place like Terra Luna, one of our favorite restaurants. "Regulars speak of the warmth and unique 'Truro-ness' of his restaurant. One says she feels lucky to be there every time she visits; another says the food is so good she secretly doesn’t want to tell anyone." // Joel Meyerowitz' new book of photos of Provincetown in the 1980s. He spent "35 summers in Provincetown living, as he said, 'inside this glowing ball of clear, prismatic, marine light.'"

  • The word of the summer was "predation." The Cape beaches were closed over 90 times this summer after shark sightings. Most of us who live out here have the Sharktivity app downloaded on our phones so we can get some sort of information on where those Great Whites are. Unfortunately, there was extremely graphic proof that they were off Long Point on the INSIDE of our harbor last month. There have been lots of articles written about the sharks this summer. This one gives you an overview of the different views -- and here's an update from a local who was involved in trying to save the life of Arthur Medici last year. She moved to Maine. And a reminder: Peak shark season is August, SEPTEMBER, and OCTOBER!

  • Our new Outer Cape newspaper.  While many towns are losing local newspapers, ours has a new one, the Provincetown Independent. "We are building a homegrown news organization for Outer Cape Cod: the people who live and work in Provincetown, Truro, Wellfleet, and Eastham, and those who love this place from afar." We subscribed!

Across the Bridge/The World:

  • This month's interesting bits from around the country. Fort Lauderdale. " ... fighting [sea level rise in South Florida] looks like more saltwater-tolerant plants and home adaptations like stilts, mounds, floating structures and platforms on higher ground." I wish our town was as invested in exploring adaptations to our rising seas. // Oregon. Giant hogweed found there is so toxic it causes enormous blisters! // Louisville. I love this story about adults learning to swim. // Texas. These zebra mussels are so pretty, BUT "the mussels can spread downstream on their own but only move upstream by clinging to a boat. Once they reach a body of water, there’s NO GETTING RID OF THEM." // Northern Michigan. Rock hunting here sounds incredible! "Michigan is home to the most varieties of stones in the entire world. Glaciers covered almost 200 million acres when they formed and acted like a giant conveyor belt bringing rocks south to what is now Michigan." 

  • Elizabeth Warren's Night School. I just signed up for her "8-week free online training program on the nuts and bolts of organizing." This is part of my political-action-a-week goal for the fall.

List of the Month: A Small Sampling of Things I Heard or Saw in Provincetown This Summer

  • “Because you’re not smart. You’re PRETTY."  One very drunk man to his male friend.

  • A man walking through my neighborhood carrying an elaborate, fully lit candelabra.

  • “I want to stay just in this spot for the rest of my life!!”

  • "I don't understand why anyone would want to live in this town!!"

  • A super fussy guy bringing a ton of colored drink glasses out into the street from a local shop and examining them in the sun to make sure they were the same color. I mean.

  • "What is 'quahog'?"  "It's a clam." "What do you do with it?" A tourist who was reading a MENU outside a restaurant.

  • A young boy having a fit for 20 minutes holding his entire family hostage and then later emerging from the same store with a huge bag and a smile to match. Gurl is in the right town!

  • A tiny bright pink (like NEON) poodle.

  • Girl One: "I told my boss I was coming to Ptown and he said, 'you know it's like SUPER GAY, right?'" Girl Two: "I didn't know that until I got on the ferry and was like only one of five girls." Welcome to my life, ladies.

  • "Provincetown asks us to live more fully because of this light, sea, and sky." A fellow book festival attendee. Lovely, right?

  • "This beer is flat. This beer is flat. Just so you know, it's flat. It's flat. The beer is flat." An annoying complainer at a bar.

  • "Don't you have a glue gun??!!??? That's Gay 101!!" (OK, fine, it was me. I said that.)

  • "Ding! Ding! Fucking ding!" (Again, me. At least once a day. Bikes.)

  • "She is night-night on a Ptown pillow." This one will remain anonymous.

  • "I guess we didn't get the memo." A tourist walking through all of us dressed in white on our way to the White Party.

  • "Are you into sharing?" Some girl starting a conversation with me in which her objective was to get me to relinquish my glitter-beaked cockatoo headpiece so she could wear it for a photo. Me: "No, bitch."

Extra Credit:

Action Plan for the Month Ahead:

Thanks for your patience with this latest post -- I hope it was worth the wait! Also, a heads up: I'll continue to share Notes from a Clamshell Path monthly through the end of the year and then I'll be posting them seasonally (that's four a year). I'm shifting my efforts to the newsletter so if you want more of this, sign up! See you back here in mid-October!

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