Monday, October 5, 2015

Massachusetts: Good Morning Gloucester

     Welcome back to Gloucester.  You can read the first article on this area by Clicking Here.  For those of you that watch television, I am told this is the setting of a show called "Wicked Tuna."  

     Although Gloucester was the first settled area in Massachusetts, residents soon moved to Salem because the soil was more fertile there.   But the great natural harbor pulled them back and this became the country's first viable seaport.

    Colonial Massachusetts had a requirement that any town with over 100 families have its own school system, and records show that Gloucester complied with this in 1698.  So this has been a thriving community since well before the American Revolution.

      This area is one of those that has been hit hard by federal fishing regulations.  Fishing was a huge part of the economy of the area - some say 80%.  In recent years that has fallen to maybe 20% as fishermen have been unable to both make a living and comply with regulations.  So the area is in transition, looking for its new identity.

      It is often the most unexpected and the seemingly unqualified that rise to fill needed roles in society, and this is the case in Gloucester.  Joey, along with his cousin Frankie are the owners of a small local fishery - a fishery that his grandfather and his father owned before him - has found a positive way to allow both residents and ex-patriots of Gloucester to look at themselves.  That man is Joey Ciaramitaro.     

     A few years ago, Joey started posting photographs he took each morning from his dock on an online bulletin board.  It wasn't long before his photos became a very popular item on the site.  So he decided to take it to a new level and start a blog.

    His blog is titled "Good Morning Gloucester: My view of life from the dock" and has become a staple of local life for many from Gloucester.  In fact the website averages well over 50,000 views a day, some days over 100,000.

     Here is that "view from the dock" - looking toward the harbor and downtown Gloucester.

     And the other direction, looking toward the commercial fishing area at the end of the harbor.

     "A Buddhist woman told me when I started this that the most selfish thing you can do is give" says Joey.  "I had no idea what she meant, but today I understand it.  I don't do this for money - it feeds my soul.  There is enough negativity in this world - it is a great thing when we can push things that are fun and positive and everyone wins."

     And so Joey moves back and forth between running the fishery and running the blog.  He talks about the thrill he gets from being able to help so many of his fellow citizens, and of the deep relationships that have resulted from his efforts.

     On this day the rains had set in, and the few fishermen who went out called it a day early.  It was just too dangerous to be out trying to wrestle lobster traps.  This time of year is the prime season for lobstering and a single day of rain in peak season hurts.  Right now forecasters are calling for 5 straight days of rain.  

     For most in the industry,  losing 5 days in prime time is a good reason to indulge in a little self pity and use as an excuse for a good drunk.  Not for Joey.  Joey is too busy creating new contacts and new content that he can share with his fellow Gloucesteronians.  (Google says that isn't a word, but I like it.)

     So we record a one hour podcast that Joey will post on the website.  The other two people on the broadcast with us were Kim Smith and Toby Pett.

     Kim is one of about two dozen regular contributors to the website.  She, like Joey, is one of those "busy people" that the old axiom says we should ask for help if we really want to get something done.

Photo from Kim's website

     One of Kim's businesses is a landscape design firm.  She has a website that goes into more detail on many of these - you can access that by Clicking Here.  You will see a lot of great photographs - she is a talented photographer as well.

     Her real love though is producing films.  She is just finishing up a big project called "Beauty on the Wing,"  a documentary type film on the life of butterflies.  I cannot do it service in a couple of sentences here - you can access it and other films she has produced by clicking on "films" at the top of her website.  Since we spent a full week on the Heritage back in Maine, you might want to watch the one she recently did on the Gloucester Schooner Festival.  Click Here for that film or for this year's Click Here.  You can see the Heritage front and center in several of the clips. 
Photo from Kim's Website

     Kim is just as passionate about the website as Joey is.  "This is a force for good in our community" says Kim.  She talks about how so many people in the community have gathered together to help create good content for the site and about how far reaching the site has become.

     At the tip of Cape Ann the monarch butterflies rest for a couple of days each year during their trek to Mexico.  Kim was out in the fields photographing one day and a couple from Germany happened upon her.  They had seen her documentary on "Good Morning Gloucester" and had flown into Boston and driven directly to that spot to witness the migration.  They indeed found the right spot and the right person that day.

     Rounding out the crew for our podcast is Toby Pett.

     Toby was born and raised in Gloucester by parents that came to this country as immigrants.  Back in the time era that women were supposed to "stay home and raise children" Toby's mother ran the local PTA and helped start a local radio station.  Back in the 1970's, when Gloucester celebrated its 350th birthday, she arranged for the world's premier Cleveland Symphony Orchestra to play here.  She herself profited nothing - but she insisted that the front 200 seats at the performance were reserved for underprivileged children from Gloucester and the surrounding areas. 

     His father was of a similar frame of mind - he became a licensed medical doctor who cared for the community's least affluent.  He showed up and volunteered his services at all the local high school ball games.  Toby remembers that the shoe maker paid his father with shoes and the fishermen paid him with fish.  Outside of his office, he kept a special room in the house for those that had severe injuries and needed to recover.   He told people what they owed him and they paid or they didn't - he never pursued anyone for money.  As a side note - Toby says the recent negative talk about immigrants breaks his heart - he has seen first hand how much good immigrants have done for this country.

     Toby himself worked for many years as a waiter, bartender and manager of several of Gloucester's finest restaurants.  He has seen the town through a number of decades and can provide a lot of historical perspective to conversations.  He also knows from the inside what makes a good restaurant and does reviews of establishments for the website.  And the frame of mind that one's job is to be of service to his fellows carries on through what his parents taught him as a child.  So the combination of all of these things allows him to bring his own wisdom and insight to the direction of the site. 

low tide on a Gloucester tidal creek

     Toby is passionate about Good Morning Gloucester.   He says Joey is one of those people you want to invite to your house - he will make you laugh, he will make you cry and he will make you think, but you will always have fun.

     He says a year ago Joey decided he needed to learn to cook.  As with everything he does he immersed himself in a short while has emerged as an expert in cooking with cast iron and cooking with hardwood charcoal.  Joey brings this same passion to Good Morning Gloucester, and it is contagious.  

     There are over twenty more contributors, each with their own unique talents and areas of focus, but they all have a few things in common.  None of them want to abandon their heritage, yet they all want their community to be vibrant.  There is no money to speak of involved - it is just positive people from the community giving of themselves to make their town a better place.


     The group works hard to stay positive too.  There is an election going on in town, and the website said that they will post a short video from any candidates that want to share one.  Joey went a step further and said that if any of the candidates couldn't figure out how to shoot and submit a video probably shouldn't be in a responsible position in this day and age anyway.  

     A couple of funny stories about this group - when I arrived the first time at the fishery I was idly standing by waiting for Joey.  There is some construction going on nearby and I idly opened the door or a port-a-pottie and looked in.  As I let the door shut and turned around up walked Toby.  "Whatsa matter, you never seen one of those before?" asked Toby.  I couldn't come up with a quick response so all I could do is laugh.

     And a quick story about Kim - recently she was filming luminescent sea creatures called Salps.  They were attracted to the night lights on several of the fishing trawlers.  So she was laying on the dock behind one of the boats with her camera just above the water.  

     A guy on the fishing boat came out to the back of the boat to take a leak - and spotted her just in time.  The hazards of being a good photographer.  You can see her clip of the salps by Clicking Here.   

     If you want to listen to the podcast, just Click Here and then click the play arrow on the left side of the black bar below the picture of the seagull.  It is my first on air interview, so forgive me if I came off a bit stiffer than my normal self.  This is one of those groups of people that I am really looking forward to seeing again when we do the fund-raising leg of this adventure.

    The Rocky Neck Art Colony occupies a corner of the harbor.  The angle of light here has long been a favorite for artists from all over the world.

     A number of famous artists have worked out of here - the link above gives more information.

      A few little things I found interesting - this is a cliff face where people place old toy trucks and excavating equipment.

I had to do a double take when this ambulance went by - I glimpsed "free estimates" and had to speed up to figure out what that was all about.  

     Photographs were tough here - we had five straight days of rain.  But just as I was leaving Gloucester this scene emerged.

     A community going through deep changes needs positive people to come forth and provide it with a positive vision for itself.  This community has found that - in some unlikely characters who have a blast showing their fellows all of the positive things happening around them.  The rainbow seems to end just over that hill at the end of the harbor - just about where Joey's place is.

    That brings us to today's "Faces in the Crowd" - one of the fishermen who came into Joey's place to unload lobster.  

     And today's parting shot:

     Good thing Kim's fisherman didn't see this sign.

     If you can contribute a few dollars to help me with this effort, please Click Here.  You can email me at

Make it a great day !!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks so much David for featuring Good Morning Gloucester. You lead a wonderfully interesting life and it was a pleasure to meet you. Safe travels and I look forward to the day when our paths cross again!