We woke to sunlight reflected from the seawater beneath our window and dancing on the ceiling above our bed. Yellow and blue lobster traps were stacked above the sea wall opposite, like a seaside condo development.
That was six years ago, and we’ve been coming back to Rockport, Massachusetts ever since. The traps are still stacked in the same spot, and many of their former tenants end their days at Roy Moore’s, just around the corner. Roy Moore’s is famous. In sunny weather, people line up all day for lobster rolls, stuffed clams, oysters and whatever else the harbour boats brought in that morning. Patrons sit out back, at three picnic tables, as Roy Moore’s athletic crew shout and laugh, heaving plastic tubs of crushed ice onto the tables of fish and plucking lobster from the boiling water.
You like hot sauce?
Asians love Roy Moore’s, and I’ve been speculating loudly, as I do when I don’t know if a thing is true, that Japanese travel guides to American points of interest must devote entire chapters to the thumb-size shack. After all, they stand so patiently in the street on the little spit of land called Bearskin Neck, waiting their turn for the legendary lobster roll in its fluffy, tasteless bun.
But Ken, the current owner of the business, sets me straight when I ask about the Asians. He gets some Japanese and Chinese tourists, but most of his Asian customers are Thai-Americans who live in the Boston area, less than an hour away.
I am crushed, and not a little embarrassed, because I’ve been to Thailand and thought I could tell the difference.
“You like hot sauce?” he asks.
“Who doesn’t,” I say.
“My Thai customers bring their own hot sauce and leave it here so it’s always in stock.”
He takes a small tub from the fridge and dunks a cooked shrimp into the sauce. I take the shrimp whole and my eyes brim with tears.
A punch in the nose in Gloucester
In previous years my Saturday long run would take me to Gloucester, on the other side of Cape Ann, but now that I’m waiting for my Achilles tendon to heal, I’m reduced to riding my clown-issue orange folding bike.
People who’ve never seen a folding bike point when I ride by. Sometimes I get a thumbs-up, and most cyclists grin and wave. One woman slowed down beside me, rolled down her window and demanded that I “get off the fucking road!”
Rockport is clean and orderly, and a ghost town by sunset. But Gloucester is none of these things.
Down on the waterside and in the boatyards, Gloucester is rusty chains and busted concrete and ancient leaning buildings covered with peeling paint. Rogers Street, a block or so inland, is cluttered with waterfront bars and liquor stores. Men loiter outside. Tattooed, unshaven, of indeterminate age. Wearing old shoes with no laces and pee-stained pants. You see a dozen places where any number of patrons would be glad to punch you in the nose. A folding bike would be provocation enough.
Up the hill, commanding views of the harbour, you find lovingly maintained old houses where the ship and factory owners lived, and where captains’ wives, generations ago, produced needlepoint samplers with homespun sayings, as they waited with a cup of tea in the gathering gloom.
When the whaling ships docked here, the sea was churning with fish. Gloucester ships fed the world, put oil into lamps and stays into corsets, while the lowest-grade fish fed the slaves. There’s still fish, but not as much of it, and the Gorton’s plant (Trusted since 1849) continues to dominate the waterfront.
Up from Rogers, there’s a main street, called Main Street, with shops and restaurants and places to buy second-hand books and costume jewellery. You can get an excellent espresso at a Sicilian café, called The Sicilian Café, but their cookies and pastries don’t measure up to their coffee.
Plaques declare Gloucester to be the oldest port in the United States. Samuel de Champlain came to Cape Ann twice. The second time, in 1606, several hundred Indigenous people met his arrival and offered a hand of friendship. Within ten years, three-quarters of the Indigenous people of Massachusetts were dead from diseases brought by the Europeans. During his second visit, Champlain also drew a map of the harbour, and called it le beau port.
The name didn’t stick.
13 thoughts on “Rockport, Massachusetts”
Yeah! I was so pleased to find this in my inbox this morning!
Wonderful photos! I appreciate your choice of b&w for some. I particularly like the lobster in the tank.
Your vivid, entertaining and informative writing never fails to delight. Thank you for this latest travelogue.
So, I presume you also lined up for a lobster roll? (the specialty in our area is perch roll, no lineups anywhere for those).
Sorry to learn of the Achilles injury. I trust it is healing speedily.
I don’t know if some of what I wrote got sent. I pushed the wrong button at some point. I’m still learning about computers and such. All I wanted to say is thank you and the lobster was consumed on a plate, in its shell, with our bare hands. I don’t line up for food unless I’m in one of those refugee camps along the Mexico/U.S. border.
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So great to have you back Spyro! I really enjoyed this glimpse into your trip. Terrific shots and writing. Looking forward to more!
Thank you, Orit. I look forward to seeing you soon.
Thanks for taking me to the seaside. Remember to be courteous to the drivers cussing at you – they don’t deserve to be rewarded. Let me know when you want company on your clown bike.
Thanks, Gerry. I look forward to seeing you soon. Would I dare cycle with you? We’ll discuss.
Thanks for this Spyro… Everything groovy in your part of town?
I missed reading you. Did you not write for a while or is it me who didn’t get your emails? Anywho! Makes me want to go there again just as soon as Trump is gone :).
Great shots too, that camera of yours sure delivers sharp rich images. Bravo!
Till next time xx
Thanks, all groovy in my hood. Will write when I work less. And, yes, the camera is good. But so is the the film: been using Panatomic X. Much finer grain.
Thanks, all groovy in my hood. Will write when I work less. And, yes, the camera is good. But so is the the film: switched to Panatomic X. Much finer grain.
Spyro – I’m loving the marriage of photos and prose. There is something about the seaside and you’ve put your finger on it. Thanks!
Thanks for reading, Michael. And for commenting. I wish I were back there, in fact, instead of working.