Monthly Archives: July 2011

Cape Cod Architecture Update

Last August I did a post about New England architecture specifically to answer a question concerning what are known as “Saltbox” houses. I also rambled on about the house I grew up in and an explanation of the three different kinds of Cape Cod houses…Half-Cape, Three-Quarter Cape and Full-Cape.

Yesterday my brother Jeff sent me a letter concerning the post and included some information that was new to me.

In regards to our old house I was led to believe it had been built before the Revolution and even after Jeff’s letter exactly when it was built is still murky. However, this is what he says about it.

I’ve always had a keen interest in history so about the time dad sold the house I went to the County Registry of Deeds to look into the records on our property.

Where it said “when built” it had 1812 with a question mark which could indicate the original records are missing and the date is unknown.

From what I’ve picked up the ell (kitchen)  (note: that’s the small part of the house on the right side) is actually the original part of the house and the full-Cape section was added on either late in the 18th or early in the 19th century.

I believe I picked up the following information from our next door neighbor Mrs. Williams.

She was a Nickerson from Eastham and a 5th generation descendant of Nickersons who came over on the Mayflower.

Local hearsay dates the kitchen portion prior to 1650 perhaps 1635 or there about.

If you remember, Skaket creek and the Great Marsh of Eastham was through the woods just across Namskaket Road in front of our house. Almost directly across from our house on the other side of the Great Marsh is the old settlement of Eastham. It’s the first settlement on the Cape and founded by members of the Plymouth colony.

Supposedly, a supply ship crossed from Plymouth once a month with trade goods and supplies bound for the Eastham settlement. Because they where using an open vessel and need quarters while in port what became our kitchen where quarters for captain and crew of the supply ship on the Eastham run.

Why they quartered across the creek from the settlement and not in town doesn’t make sense to me. Perhaps, being rude low-class type sailors, nobody wanted them quartered in their homes or visa versa.

I resent the implication that sailors are crude and low-class types. I’ve always tried to be polite whenever possible.

I also remember mom wanting dad to do something about redoing the floor in the living room. She thought they where ugly because they were painted dark maroon with varied colored paint spackles (it’s an old NE method of hiding dirt on flooring) and wanted something lighter.

To save a lot of work dad decided to take up the old floor boards and refinish the under side. Some of the boards were nearly two or more feet wide indicating old growth lumber. The uneven saw markings on the underside indicated they had been pit sawn rather then mill cut dating them possibly very early 1800s.

Dad found several coins under the floor one being a Canadian 1/2 penny dated 1832 I think (which I have but can’t seem to find to verify the date).

There were also roman numerals about 4-6″ high chiseled into the face of several of the boards.

Dad carefully re-laid  the boards then lightly sanded and clear finished them leaving all the markings intact.

Later someone told dad that the boards may have come from the old salt works on the Bay. The works produced salt for salting cod fish and where disassembled sometime in the 1800s. 

Old pictures of the time show the salt vats marked with Roman Numerals. Apparently, boards soaked in salt water when dried are more durable and good for flooring.

Old frugal Yankees wouldn’t let such good tough lumber like that go to waste. So it’s highly probable that the living room floor was from a recycled salt vat.

Years later Jeff visited the house and discovered the subsequent owners had refinished all the floors including sanding out all the Roman numerals in the living room floor. I shocked them when I told them what those markings indicated. In dismay they told me they wish they had found and talked to me before they had done so much damage.

I remember the original floor and how, just after we moved into the house (I was 11 or 12) we had painted them maroon and what fun it had been dipping sticks into small yellow, green, blue and red paint cans and dribbling them all over the floor. I always thought they looked pretty nice.

It was my understanding from the town’s “unofficial” historian that the boards were, in fact, from the old salt-works but I was under the impression that the works had been dismantled before the Revolution and that the timbers had been incorporated into several of the houses around us, including the half-Cape across the street, a photo of which will be shown below.

Now, here’s something I didn’t know that Jeff had in his letter…

A last cultural note that has a bearing on the different styles of the “Cape Cod” house.

In the old days it was the custom for a father to provide a dowry for a daughter. Apparently a common Cape Cod dowry was to provide a half house to the newly married couple.

(A fine example of a half-Cape. It was owned by a tiny woman named Netty Silva and sat across the street from our house. It, too, had timbers from the old salt works.)

As the husband’ s fortunes increased with his family size so did the home they lived in. Thus, a starter half house turned into a three-quarter Cape

Or a full-Cape…

(Note: The difference in the house designations depends on the number and positioning of the windows in relation to the front door. Half-Cape: door and two windows on the side. Three-quarter Cape: door with two windows on one side and a single window on the other.  Full-Cape two windows on either side of the door. A house with a single window on either side of the door is NOT truly a full-Cape. )

Another common NE element is a barn attached to the rear of the house using an ell.

One could do all the husbandry tasks without going outside to reach the barn.

I have been in such houses where one will find a well head and the outhouse either in the passageway to the barn or in a corner of  the barn proper.

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Misinformation On The Internet

In the last week I’ve received the following link from three different friends who know that I am a child of rock & roll and that I especially love good, old-fashion, whore house piano. The link is always presented as “rare footage of Little Richard when he was just starting out in the music biz’ … from some movie with Van Johnson ..”

Well, I hate to rain on everyone’s parade (if you believe that statement you probably also believe in Santa Clause, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy and that Republicans only work for the interests of ordinary people) but that’s NOT Little Richard.

It’s Frank Isaac Robinson who was known in his early career as Sugar Chile Robinson. He won a talent show at the Paradise Theatre in Detroit at the age of three, and in 1945 played guest spots at the theatre with Lionel Hampton. That clip is from the movie No Leave, No Love. In 1946, he played for President Harry S. Truman at the White House at the, shouting out “How’m I Doin’, Mr President?”

Here’s a clip from when he was playing with Count Basie’s band:

He stopped recording in 1952, later explaining: “I wanted to go to school… I wanted some school background in me and I asked my Dad if I could stop, and I went to school because I honestly wanted my college diploma.” He earned a Ph.D. in psychology at the University of Michigan.

He gave up music for a long time In recent years he has made a comeback as a musician with the help of the American Music Research Foundation.

Little Richard (née Richard Wayne Penniman) on the other hand didn’t begin performing on stage and on the road in 1945, when he was in his early teens although he and his family performed in local churches as The Penniman Singers. At that time he was called “War Hawk” because of his loud, screaming singing voice. In October 1951, he began recording “jump blues” records for RCA Camden.

Little Richard’s first film performance was in Allen Freed’s movie The Girl Can’t Help It in 1956:

The original title of the song was “Tutti Frutti, good booty” but was cleaned up to “Tutti Frutti, aw-rooty”

While the song hasn’t changed in the intervening half century Little Richard sure has:

In early October 1957, on the fifth date of a two-week tour of Australia was flying from Melbourne to appear in front of 40,000 fans in concert in Sydney Shocked by the red hot appearance of the engines against the night sky, he envisioned angels holding up the plane. Then, while he performed at the stadium, he was shaken by the sight of a ball of fire that he watched streak across the sky overhead. He took what was actually the launching of Sputnik 1 as another sign to quit show business and follow God. The plane that he was originally scheduled to fly back home on ended up crashing in the Pacific Ocean which he took as confirmation that he was doing what God wanted him to do and he quit at the height of his career.

rom October 1957 to 1962, Little Richard only recorded gospel music:

As we all know he returned to secular music in the ’80s. Little Richard is a complicated guy and if you’re interested there’s a great biography of him on Wikipedia:

You can also read a lot more about Sugar Chile Robinson, too:

Class dismissed, children. There will be no test on this subject.


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The 99¢ Experiment

I’ve decided to try an experiment with the pricing of my book Despair and drop the price to 99¢ for one month.

This isn’t a desperate move. It shouldn’t be a surprise that I read a lot of blogs written by successful indie, self-published authors. One who has a lot of good advice for the likes of myself is J. A. Konrath and his blog: This guy is literally making tens of thousands of dollars a month from his ebook novels. The fact that they’re good reads certainly doesn’t hurt.

In several of his posts he’s talked about pricing of his books. Naturally there are different royalty payments depending on the price of your book. Sometimes dropping the price of a book and taking a smaller royalty payment you can actually make more money.Konrath had an interesting post about dropping the price of his book The List from $2.99 down to a bargain 99¢.

You can read his post but I’ll give you some of the highlights here.

“At $2.99, I was earning $2.03 per download. And I was selling an average of 43 ebooks a day.”

“At 99 cents, I only earn 35 cents per download. I’m now averaging 205 sales a day.”

“At $2.99, I made $87 a day.”

“At 99 cents, I’m making $71 a day.”

“But in the last few days, The List has been selling stronger, averaging about 250 sales a day. If it can hold that number, or do even better, that’s $87 a day–matching what it made at $2.99.”

It’s not that the book hasn’t been selling. It has and I’ve been surprised to discover that people in Canada, Great Britain and Australia have bought it. Not only that, it’s being translated into Spanish by a couple of students here in Panama who are working on their Master’s degrees in English. Despair has been selling at $2.99 but my short story Sailing Alone To Isla priced at 99¢ has been moving off the rack at a pretty decent pace. I certainly don’t ever expect to match Konrath’s numbers but it should be interesting to see what happens.

All school children in the western hemisphere know that “in 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue.” Other than that ditty few people know that the Admiral of the Ocean Sea made three subsequent voyages to what was to become known as “The New World.” It was probably the most interesting of the four. It was the stuff of fiction: battling fierce storms, contrary currents and hurricanes. Pitched battles with hostile natives and former companions. Ship wrecks, marooning, mutiny, trickery, deceit, greed, dashed dreams, despair, extraordinary heroism and rescue. But truth is stranger than fiction. All of it is documented. The only license I’ve taken with the story is to create the fictional narrator of the events.

The book is available at: I just made the change and it may take a day or two for the change to appear on their site. If you don’t want to wait you can get it at: where it’s available for download to a Kindle or Nook reader.







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La Viajera Encantada (The Enchanted Traveler)

I recently came across an extremely well-written blog by a young Peace Corps volunteer, Jessica Rudder, who is working in the Comarca Ngabe-Bukle (more often written as Ngöbe Buglé). A Comarca is a semi-autonomous region in a country with a substantial indigenous population. There are five Comarcas in Panama, three of which are of substantial size.

The country’s first Comarca was that of the Kuna Indians of the San Blas archipelago.

The Kuna have become the symbol of the indigenous peoples of Panama through their colorful molas and they are often depicted in travel posters and brochures. They have a population of around 50,000 and are often seen in Panama City.

Then there is the Emberá-Wounaan of the Darien jungle who number around 15,000. They live more traditionally than the other tribes, it seems. They, too, have wonderful craft traditions of basket making, some of which cost hundreds of dollars

And wonderfully tagua nut carvings like this one I bought on one of my early exploratory visits.

By far the largest indigenous group is the Ngöbe Buglé who make up 63% of the nation’s Indian people with a population of well over 110,000. Their Comarca takes up a large area of Chiriqui and Bocas del Toro provinces. Ngöbe women and their daughters all wear a mumu-style dress foisted upon them by the earliest religious zealots. There is rarely a time riding the bus from Potrerillos Arriba to David that there aren’t at least a couple of Ngöbe women on board though they rarely go farther down down the mountain than Dolega.

Jessica is a good writer, has some wonderful photos illustrating what life is really like in the interior of Panama from the perspective not of a tourist but of someone living in a semi-isolated community and of how things work there.

Anyone looking for a good read (I’ve spent hours fascinated with her story) should check out her blog, La Viajera Encantada. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

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My cyber friend, Linda, has a new post on her blog titled “Let the Haunting Begin.” Her mom died Friday and, well, read her post to find out what the title refers to.

It got me to thinking about haunting. I think horror story writers over the centuries have done a terrible disservice to haunting and given it a bad rap. Why does a haunting have to be a bad thing? The dictionary defines the word haunt as, “to visit habitually or appear to frequently as a spirit or ghost.” Also, “to recur persistently to the consciousness of; remain with”…”to frequent the company of; be often with.”

I don’t subscribe to any formal religion but I do believe that the soul is immortal. I believe that there is something that happens to that soul after it’s finished with these mortal remains and I believe that soul has the ability to haunt us and visit those of us here as a spirit or ghost. To “recur to the consciousness of” we who remain behind, but I don’t believe those visits are accompanied by strange noises, the clanking of chains or poltergeist shenanigans. I think they’re more subtle than that. Let me give you a couple of personal examples.

A couple of years ago my roommate, Kevin, was fixing our dinner of hot dogs and baked beans. This happens to have been a traditional New England dinner at one time. It wasn’t the first time we’d had this fare for supper but for some reason THIS time it reminded me of a family story about my mother’s brother, Howard, and the first dinner his new bride, Betty, prepared for him. Howard, it was told, loathed hot dogs and baked beans for dinner. So, you’ve probably already guessed what his blushing bride put on the table that first night. Of course his reaction was “why this is absolutely delicious, dear.”

Why should that story have come so vividly to mind that evening? I hadn’t thought of Howard and Betty for years. But in telling that story to Kevin my aunt and uncle’s memories came flooding into my consciousness. I remembered the Thanksgiving dinners my family and theirs had shared half a century earlier. I remember Howard giving my brother Gary a set of his old golf club which changed Gary’s life. He went on to become a golf pro and the first director of Golf at the Olde Barnstable Golf Course on Cape Cod. And I remember Betty’s radiant smile and easy good nature. The memories of them lingered with me for most of that evening.

A week or so later I got an email that said my Aunt Betty had died, and the stunner was that she had died the same day that all those memories came flooding back. Howard had died years earlier, and Betty had been afflicted with the cruelest of all illnesses, Alzheimer’s and hadn’t uttered a word to anyone for close to 20 years.

I am TOTALLY convinced that her spirit, freed of the constraints of this world, came and visited me that evening to say goodbye.

When I wrote to my cousin Jeannie to tell her I was sure her mother had paid me a visit she didn’t poo-poo the idea. She told me she completely believe it had happened and told me about an incident that happened to her. Howard was a die-hard birder. Kept logs of his sightings and all that. On the first anniversary of his death Jeannie was washing the dishes from her lunch when a Baltimore Oriole, Howard’s all-time favorite bird, came and settled on the windowsill where she was working. She said the bird stayed there for about five minutes looking at her before it took off and she said she had no doubt whatsoever that it was her father come to visit.

Hauntings can be very subtle and we have to be open and receptive to them when they happen. I believe they are VERY real. So, Linda, it might take a while before your mom comes to haunt you. She will. Just be ready to say hello.

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Why This Year’s Birthday Is Oddest Day Of The Year

I just found this out…

Every day is weird, but July 9, 2011, is truly the oddest day of the year — from a calendar standpoint.

If you wrote the date in numerical form, it would look like this: 7/9/11 — all odd numbers.

To make things odder, there are only six days EACH CENTURY  when three consecutive odd numbers make up the date.

The odd sequence of events began on Jan. 3, 2005 (1/3/05), which was followed by March 5, 2007 (3/5/07), and May 7, 2009 (5/7/09).

Other than July 9, there will only be two days — Sept. 11, 2013 (9/11/13), and Nov. 13, 2015 (11/13/15) — left to celebrate this, well, odd series of calendars quirks.


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Me, Tom Hanks and O. J. Simpson

It’s our birthday today. I think Tom and I are having a better day of it than O. J.

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Going Green Could Be Dangerous To The World…<br /><a href=”,20876/&#8221; target=”_blank” title=”In The Know: Coal Lobby Warns Wind Farms May Blow Earth Off Orbit”>In The Know: Coal Lobby Warns Wind Farms May Blow Earth Off Orbit</a>

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No Fireworks On The Fourth

I’ve seen, online, that there are several states have cancelled Fourth of July Firework display mainly because of the very real threat of fires brought on by severe drought conditions.. I guess that’s quite reasonable though it seems almost sacrilegious when viewed through the perspective of Founding Father John Adams who wrote to his wife about the signing of the Declaration of Independence (though he was off by two days) that the day should be…”solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.”

While it might not have happened more than once or twice, it seemed that the small town I grew up in on Cape Cod, Orleans, only had fireworks displays every other year.

The reason for the cancellations were quite political and caused by people who would, today, be quite comfortable being labelled as “Tea Party” members, i.e. short-sited, moronic dunderheads.

Our fireworks were shot off down at Nauset Beach for several reasons among which were you can’t set the Atlantic Ocean on fire, the beach had the biggest parking lot in town and the town’s bandstand was there for concerts put on by the Town Band (to which I, and later my brothers, all belonged).Coincidentally it was also where my family had its restaurant. The only one on the beach.

Orleans had what is called “Town Meeting” form of government. Truly the most democratic form of governance there is. Every year a couple of weeks before the Town Meeting registered voters and tax payers of the town would receive the annual “Warrant.” The Warrant contained all the issues that were to be faced by the Board of Selectmen for the coming year and all the spending issues that were to be expected: school budget, how much money was going to be spent for the library, the fire and police departments, road maintenance expenditures, that sort of thing. There would also be an appropriation for such things as Fourth of July fireworks.

At Town Meeting anyone could get up and have their say as to whether or not such funds should be appropriated and spent and one of the early “Teabaggers” would get up on their hind legs and say that the town shouldn’t spend money on fireworks at the beach because all it was doing was giving Jim Philbrick’s Snack Shack a huge pay day at tax payer expense, what with the crowd going to the beach and buying popcorn, sodas, hot dogs, etc. at my family’s restaurant. There would generally be enough people to agree that the money could be better spent on other things.

So, that year we’d have to go to a neighboring town if we wanted to partake of a grinchless Fourth.

Then, of course, the following year’s Town Meeting there would be someone else who would get up and ask why there wasn’t any money being set aside for a Fourth of July fireworks display? “When I was a kid,” they’d say, “we always had a fireworks display. Whatever happened to them?” Then there’d be a special appropriation made and we’d have fireworks again for a year and this pattern seemed to go on year after year. Or at least so it seemed that way to me.

The interesting thing was that while the Fourth always WAS a big day for our business, in the 35 years my family operated the Snack Shack the Fourth was NEVER the busiest day of the year. It was almost always beaten by just an ordinary day that peaked with a simple Wednesday night band concert.

Here in Panama, of course, the Fourth is just the day sandwiched between the third and the fifth of July. But over in Gringolandia, better known as Boquet, a couple of restaurants are holding Fourth of July parties for the expat community.

For those of you who aren’t going to have a fireworks display this year I leave you with this from the Concours International Feux d’Artifice pyromélodiques @ Monaco 2010, part of an International fireworks competition held every year with the display synchronized to music. Enjoy and have a happy fourth.




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