Sunday, September 20, 2015

Wellfleet Drive-In

Pretty much anyone who's ventured onto the lower end of Cape Cod has at least noticed, if not been to, the Wellfleet Drive-In. I happen to live about 5 minutes away from it. It is one of my favorite things about summers on the Cape.

Many of my best childhood memories happened at the drive-in. We'd go in my dad's Ford truck with the back filled with blankets and pillows. Back in the good old days, the playground was a bit more dangerous and fun. The best thing about the playground is no longer there, and I almost cried when they took it away. It was a huge fully metal merry-go-round of wonderful. I don't have any pictures of the giant yellow beast, but this is the closest I could find on the internet.

This thing was a serious piece of equipment. Getting hit in the head by one of the bars was concussion material. My brother and I would each grab a handle and wait for a bunch of WILLING kids to jump on. Then we'd start running around as fast as we could to see how many of them we could make go flying off. It was the most fun I had as a kid. The other kids loved it also. If any of them called out, we had a system to slow the merry-go-round-basically grabbing on and letting ourselves get dragged. But it worked, and the scared kid could get off unharmed and we could start it going again. We did this with the supervision of adults. Yes, kids fell off. Yes, kids scraped knees, got winded, were hurt. There was sometimes blood and tears. It makes me sad that if  we tried to do the same thing now, my brother and I would be sent to juvy and put in intensive counseling. It bothers me how we put a bubble around the next generation. I grew up bouncing around the back of a truck with no seat belt, falling off metal merry-go-rounds, jumping off of swings, and eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch. I lived through my childhood, and I never had anyone drop dead from being too close to my food. End mini rant.

Anyway, back to the drive-in. We'd go early so we could get a good spot, seeing as my Dad's truck was large and could only be parked by a yellow pole. Yellow poles are the first 3 rows and the last 6. For those who can't understand why a tall vehicle should have to park in a certain space, go in a car and park behind a truck and you'll get it. We liked being up front, though it did put us farther from the playground.

Attached to the poles are speakers, which no one really uses anymore because the sound comes in over the radio. Even when I was a kid the radio was better than the speakers, but I love that they are still there, even if only some of them work. Though I didn't appreciate them one evening when running back to the truck as the second movie started, and getting clothes-lined by a wire going from pole to car window. The guy who's window I nearly broke wasn't all that happy about it either.

After the movies, because it's always a double feature, we'd leave through the back entrance, which happens to let out onto the road my house is on. Dad would leave us curled in the back of the truck (no seat belts, no seats for that matter) and drive home. I loved looking up at the stars during that ride. I don't know many constellations, but even as a child I knew the big dipper and I could find it. I was always kinda sad when the drive was over and it was time to go inside. I wanted to sleep in the back of the truck.

I've seen some wonderful movies there, but honestly, it's the rare occasions that they play classics that are the best. Watching Aliens on that huge screen in the dark was so much fun.This weekend they have Raiders of the Lost Ark and Jaws playing together! 

I'm so happy that the drive-in is still here. I can't wait to take my future children to it and point at the empty spot where the death-trap metal merry-go-round used to be. I can go on about the glory days, and let my kids cuddle in the bed of my truck for the drive home...

Friday, September 4, 2015

Cape Cod Lawn

There is an iconic image of children rolling down grassy hills and sitting in lush fields of green. Cape Cod doesn't have large open spaces and fields of grass. There are some, of course. Golf courses, manicured government maintained yards outside public buildings, and some private yards doted on by grass-loving-expensive-sprinkler-system-buying people. But in my humble opinion, based on my experience growing up in the working class blue collar Cape Cod community, what most people have is what I call a Cape Cod lawn. Here's an example.
This is a section of my back yard. There are several species of grass out there, none of which arrived due to intelligent design or intention.  It grows without our involvement. only gaining out attention when it becomes tall enough to require the lawn mower. It doesn't grow all that fast or well, because Cape Cod is sandy, and we don't get a lot of rain. So some species turn brown, while others flourish and are bright and green well past the summer months. And it's all patched together in a crazy quilt of nature akin to what a blind person might create if given quilting materials without any instruction.

I love my yard. I love the weird little blank patches where it's sandy. I love the tall green grass growing next to the stubby darker colored patches. I even love the dried brown stuff. Every spring I go about the chore of trying to fight back the wisteria that is insidiously invading from the other side of the fence. I also make an attempt to remove the millions of lucust tree roots that criss-cross the yard. When successful, long thin lines of collapsed section appear in the yard where the thick roots were wrenched out of the ground by a swearing person (I could make a trucker blush when properly irritated). I make a halfhearted attempt to close in the gaps, but not really, so the yard is uneven and ends up with more and more little patches of empty sand spots. But I hate locust trees with a passion, and the chipmunks and squirrels seem to enjoy the obstacle course that is my yard.

Like most of New England, Cape Cod is an intricate weave of meandering roads that make no sense and are not for the faint of heart or easily confused. Most yards are smaller, due to the limited space. I'm used to having a short view of my surroundings, disrupted quickly by scrub pine, lucust, and struggling oak trees. Most roads are so narrow you can't pass a biker unless the other side of the road is clear. The houses are right up against the roads, with very few of them set back. There isn't room to set them back in most cases. Too many things crammed into a skinny little space.

I discovered something when I traveled to Arizona and Colorado. It was beautiful there, and I'd love to visit again, but I found the large open spaces very disconcerting. What I found the most difficult was the order and simplicity in the roads. They made sense. Plots were square. There was intelligent design. And it freaked me out. I require twisting roads that change names three times for no reason, stop for a half mile to become something else, then resume, and four way stops that are really six way that might as well have signs saying "Close your eyes, floor it and hope" rather than "Stop." I like that Cape Cod yards go right up to the roads. Planned communities are so alien to me, they make me uncomfortable. I like chaos, which is probably why I love my Cape Cod yard.