Boston Globe: Monomoy, Cape Cod’s desert island

Monomoy Island has been many things over the years: An island, a peninsula, an island again (as storms build and then destroy sand bridges with the mainland), a remote fishing village, a crime scene, a navigation hazard, and a wildlife sanctuary.

Just south of Chatham, at the elbow of Cape Cod, Monomoy is an 8-mile sandbar that separates the Atlantic Ocean and Nantucket Sound.

For now — that is until the shifting sands connect it to Chatham again — the only way to get there is by boat or kayak. To protect the island’s bird habitat, there are just three designated landing points where you can anchor. They’re not marked, you have to find them by GPS coordinates and try not to run aground on the way over.

Depending on where you land, it’s a 2- to 7-mile hike to the lighthouse at the end. The island narrows to just a few hundred feet across as you head south. Near the lighthouse, the land fans out again into a tear-drop shape of about 2 square miles. There are marshes, ponds, and tall grass. From up on a dune, you can see Nantucket on a clear day. Other than that, this is the middle of nowhere.

There’s a year-round chill in the air — from the meeting of warm and cold water at the end of the island — and it’s as if the wind remembers things the sands and waves have long obscured. You get the feeling that yours are not the only footprints here. And that’s true. Walking around the point, you’ll find the slab foundations of some old buildings, abandoned wells, the boat ramp from a decommissioned Coast Guard Station, and a boarded-up lighthouse, which is the only structure still standing.

Continue reading at the Boston Globe

 

Boston Globe: Las Fallas — the fiesta that sounds like a war zone

VALENCIA, Spain — “You simply won’t walk three seconds without hearing an explosion.”

It’s half past midnight, I’m watching a man in a neckerchief up on a ladder wrapping a string of explosives around a flammable statue like Christmas lights. Another man  —  also wearing a neckerchief  —  at the base of the statue, is preparing a Molotov cocktail. As soon as the firemen arrive, they’re going to light the fuses and burn the statue to ash.

fallas-valencia-la-crema

It’s the last night of Las Fallas, and all over Valencia, sculptors set fire to their own creations to mark the end of an eight-day round-the-clock party.

Fallas is a mash-up of several celebrations, including St. Joseph’s day, pagan springtime rituals, and the traditions of local carpenters (for whom St. Joseph is the patron saint).

Fallas is not one big party with a hub, like Mardi Gras on Bourbon Street, but a mess of block parties on every block in the city.

Each neighborhood has its own sculptures and fireworks and dance tents. There’s no need to venture beyond your own corner to see most of what’s going on. There’s no hype, you don’t have to pay for anything, and there’s no need to make plans, because you can just step outside and follow the sounds of explosions.

Like a war zone

There aren’t many places that would compare themselves to a war zone as a selling point. But it says exactly that in the program of events on the Valencia City Guide.

Continue reading in the Boston Globe

Writing All Night in Dublin Airport

Note: the following was written, edited, and published in the middle of an all-nighter. All typos and style fails are strictly rhetorical.
(Dec, 2016)

I’m writing this in Terminal 2 at Dublin Airport at four in the morning. I’ve decided to turn an overnight layover into an espresso-fueled writing spree. Here’s what I got up to during my impromptu residence.

I Observed and Took Notes

What was cool about spending a waking night in an airport is that all the people I was people-watching were doing the same thing, but they were all doing it differently.

Some people clutched their luggage while they slept, some knew my leg-hooked-through-the-pack-strap trik. One young lady seemed to be having a staring contest with her upright rolling luggage, totally paranoid. One guy slept with his feet up on a luggage cart.

Other people didn’t seem worried enough about their bags.

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Irish Farmhouse – a Sketch

The farmhouse two miles out the Beach  road near Bantry belonged to a man named Jackie. The House was built tight against the road, or maybe before the road, and faces the North Atlantic with two fields between the house and a stone beach. Winter gales from the north and west produce waves powerful enough to hurl seaweed and stones the size of bread loafs into the fields. Local farmers add seaweed to their fertilizer. When it rains, the runoff from the fields stains the baywater a tea-with-milk brown.

 

Jackie and his sheepdog used to sit out front and watch the road. Whenever a car or a walker passed, Jackie would wave with two fingers in the shape of an  imaginary pistol. Irish drivers call this “saluting.”An easy way to mark yourself as a tourist, a snob, or a bore is not to salute. Jackie was known for saluting so fast you could almost miss it. And so in town his nickname was “the fastest gun in the west.”

 

 

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