Monday, November 28, 2011

Merry Christmas From Mystic!

Santa arrives to Mystic by tugboat
 We have now completed our first full year of living in Mystic. We agree with our friend Pam who visited last Christmas time: “You live in a Hallmark movie!”
Mystic's Hallmark Christmas movie begins with Santa coming to town by tugboat, followed by a lighted boat parade; children drop letters to Santa into the special village mailbox marked “North Pole” and are answered by the Mystic Chamber of Commerce (last year’s letters included children asking for jobs for their daddies); the Downtown Mystic Christmas Stroll includes carolers in top hats and ballerinas dancing the Nutcracker in shops serving hot apple cider and cookies; then the community comes out for a sing-along around a large British anchor from the War of 1812 at Mystic Seaport, the  museum where I’ve been working part-time as a historical interpreter. 
Last summer, I worked at Mystic Seaport in the candle dipping shop, where people paid five dollars to dip candles that looked nothing like the slender, colored candles on the poster out front. Most looked like goat teats in need of milking, others like drippy bells, some fell off the wicks entirely because the tourists made them too big, and other candles just wouldn’t thicken because they didn’t believe me that you have to dip the wick quickly in and out of the hot wax so you don’t melt off the wax already hardened on the wick. Other than making sure the tourists didn’t burn their hands in the hot wax, I had to comfort them about how their candles looked when finished. I’d say, “There is no such thing as a bad candle here. They are all special, just like people. Some are just more ‘special’ than others.” I thought of all those misshapen candles during the aftermath of Hurricane Irene. I bet many were brought out of hiding when their families ran out of their sleek, store-bought candles during the six days we had no power.
With “real” jobs scarce around here, I’ve had several part-time ones. I worked for the local weekly paper  writing articles that included the mystery of the large influx of harp seals off our shores this year (normally Harbor seals winter here) and got to march in front of the newspaper’s float in the Irish Parade, where I dislocated the  Mystic Strongman’s back when he lifted me as a stunt; I worked for a wedding photographer (Mystic is a prime wedding site), where I helped film online commercials—my favorite being one about a dog-walker who featured our beagle/basset  hound, Bailey; and I worked once as a T.V. commercial production assistant, where I not only told actors where to find the bathroom, but was used as a dancing extra in a casino commercial that aired during the “Wheel of Fortune” T.V show. Thinking that maybe my next career should be movie star, I tried to get a part as an extra in the recent Meryl Streep/Tommie Lee Jones movie filmed in our area. At the casting call, I fibbed about how much I weighed on the sign-in form thinking I could get down to that weight by the time shooting began. I didn’t get a part, but on the last morning of shooting, I strolled through the set with our hound hoping a director would see how well we represented the local background. No luck there.
Then, I started to write an e-book called, “Getting Thin and Famous Along the Mystic Seafarer’s Trail,” a walking trail I designed to go past the haunts and homes of famous sea captains, but I had to stop walking the 20 miles because I gained too much weight stopping along the way for fried clams strips and ice-cream.
Currently, I help a family get ready for school (I get there at 6 a.m.!), write for Rockland Community College and work for Mystic Seaport. Because together these jobs equal full-time employment, I’m taking a break looking for an office job, much to the disappointment of my friends who enjoyed hearing my humiliating interviewing experiences. The latest fad is to ask candidates “behavioral” questions and I’m not always sure how to “behave.” When called in for jury duty last month in New London, I couldn’t even get picked by a scary-looking criminal and his lawyer after my courtroom interview.
My new hobby is kayaking. My friend Cindy owns three kayaks and regularly takes her friends for a paddle. Having found that fighting against an outgoing tide can be tricky, I text Jim where we intend to embark in case we get swept out to sea. My friend Jules and her fiancé Neal (who works at the nearby Naval  submarine base) just bought a sailboat and promised to take Jim and I along on overnight trips. I feel especially qualified for these adventures because I just learned how to tie a bowline knot, one that Sherlock Holmes always attributes to sailors. Last week, Jules and Neal gave their first official sailing plans to our friend Kate, asking her to call the Coast Guard if she didn’t hear from them by a certain time.  Neal let us know that it would be very humiliating for a Navy guy to be rescued by the Coast Guard, which also has a base nearby.
The publisher of my book, “Anything But a Dog,” has made it into an e-book available on Amazon (where the first chapter is free at: ) and my play, “Ever True: A Union Private and His Wife,” is being produced in Mystic for a dinner theater on Valentine’s Day by the Emerson Theater group.  
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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