Our hurricane simply petered out ...

... another misadventure with the Stringers' daring phototeam

by Don Norris

Last year New England got hit with what was billed as a "devastating hurricane" -- one that had leveled trailer parks in Georgia, threw pine trees across Interstate 95 through the Carolinas, and flooded the coastal plains of southeast America. But by the time it arrived in Boston, it was just a big blow. You know, lots of wind, sheets of rain, lots of noise. The fact is that this was such a pussy of a storm that, when our Stringers' crack photo team stepped out on Revere Beach, we left the storm gear in the car.

It was a bust, but a few of us made the best of it by getting a few flicks of flying debris and junk washed up on the beach. Like that skunky backbone above -- or is it a hunk of sugar cane that floated up from Florida? I saw moderate beauty in that clamshell, subtle colors, not much movement ...

Ask any New England connoisseur of fine foods what his favorite is? "Fried clams," he'll say.

Ooow! Here's a find. A luscious New England Petit Red Crab on Seaweed. Free! Hmmm. Note that blue sand. There's a lot of it along our beaches. It's because the water temperature borders on freezing, but that doesn't bother hardy New Englanders; that's considered normal here, and they just dive in.

Actually we tried to challenge the surf that day, but what breakers there were were halfway to Ireland. It was low tide.

Every dog in Revere is familiar with this diminutive fireplug. In the forties when my family moved to Melrose, Revere Beach was the Coney Island of New England. There were roller coasters, a really neat fun house that blew up the ladies' skirts, bumper cars that we teenagers tried to demolish, a zillion saltwater taffy shops and hot dogs stands. Now the only thing left is Kelly's Roast Beef, which has gone commercial like the late Howard Johnsons.

Now Revere Beach has lots of highrise condos. "If you lived here, you'd be freezing your butt off now," a sign should say.

Oh, my, what a splash of rich color on this gray day on the bay. You know all the action is somewhere else when the only thing left to photograph is detritus of modern-day housekeeping. Or was it hair spray?

You can actually see the small pockmarks from the rain -- which ceased just before the Stringers' crack team arrived. Life is like that. We are blessed with such miracles. After all, our combined age that day was 355, and we deserve some respect.

Here's what a Revere guy looks like. He's sitting there in the cast-iron gazebo, reading his book while the wind is whipping along in 50 mile gusts, sheets of rain suddenly sweep by, gulls stuggle to keep from being dashed upon the rocks below. He was so engrossed in his book that he never noticed this old guy taking his picture. Sometimes I seem to be invisable.

There were five of us that day. Shirley Rabb, Louise Fennell, Elizabeth Sunkees, Lorry Norris -- and me. That's the way it is with the Stringer Photo Team. All these women, and me.

Yikes. A bright blue plastic cap in a bed of rusty green seaweed, mixed with stalks of cattails from the marsh that separates Revere Beach from the mainland. One finds color where one can on a blustery day.

It's funny but when we downloaded our stuff back at Etch Cue, everybody had found this blue bottlecap. Man, you really have to stretch it when your hurricane peters out.  

We had this for supper that night. Kidding of course, but it does look good enough to eat. One day some years ago, I put a couple, three, trash barrels in the VW Kombi, and drove down to the rocks of Gloucester. It was low tide and it took me maybe 45 minutes to fill those cans with seaweed. When I got home, I dumped it all on the cement patio, then mulched it with the power lawnmower. Man, we never had such great tomatoes.

This is the rocky stuff -- that is, the weed that grows in abundance along our rocky shores. Actually, this sand beach is an anomoly; actually, when we were kids, this whole two-mile beach was of round stones. No sand. Just round stones. I think the town eventually brought in the Army Engineers to suck up the sand off the bottom of the bay and spray it over the rocky beach. Anyway, now there is this blue sand ...

I remember we used to come here on hot summer days and spread our beach towels over the goose-egg sized round rocks. I used to reminisce about the fine Jersey shore.

Oy vey. Something purple. Anything purple! Everything else is a shade of hurricane gray. Right opposite this spot was the original Kelly's Roast Beef, but it was closed for this horrendous hurricane. We did find a nearby modern coffee shop. Boy, a cup of coffee never tasted so good. Mid summer and we were freezing and soaked with salt spray.

The trick was to photograph the beach without encrusting one's two-million-dollar digital camera with brine.  

That is one of our key people, Shirley Rabb. Like most of us, only a relatively short time ago we didn't know from computers, much less digital cameras. Now we are leaders in the field. We now know where to find color in the midst of a hurricane. Look for the potted plants.

This young lady is Lorry Norris, my wife for the past 51 years. She is still agile, challenges the crashing surf (see the background) in order to photograph something really spectacular like seaweed. You have to admit, this has been an exciting day. Squalls, boomers, horizontal rain, gusts of wet wind that push you over, bitchy seagulls that attack when we monopolize some tasty morsel of seaweed ...

On the day that the hurricane petered out, we did good.

Words from Don Norris, photos by everybody.

August 5, 2005

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