Arrive Gloucester by 7am and have a look-about in search of boats to paint. Winding through town and I am floored and absolutely charmed. Pull in to the harbor and find a ship yard; take a bunch of reference photos, but looks tricky trying to paint here on the piers, lots of “no trespassing” signs, that sort of thing. Hasn’t always discouraged me in the past, but… well, these are sailors and fishermen and they look fairly tough. I am wearing my “Steppenwolf Theater” tee shirt, you kind of know what I am saying?
So I continue making my way around the harbor, more stops, more boats. I come up to a turn in the road, and here is Rocky Neck Art Colony, one of the oldest in the nation. There also is the Gloucester Stage Company that I just passed; Israel Horovitz was its founding artistic director since the 70’s till 2006. I am becoming more and more enamored of this magical place.
Winding through Rocky Neck, galleries sprawling throughout; make a turn and there is my boat. Holy Toledo, is it beautiful! I march into the yard and make inquiry, asking permission to do a painting. I am directed to the head of the yard, she introduces herself to me as “Viking Gustafson” – okay, that’s rather cool. She is General Manager of Gloucester Marine Railways. I have struck gold – she is entirely accommodating. "We love our artists here. Several painted here the past couple of weeks, one right over there yesterday. Set up wherever you like", she says, "just be careful and mind the open doors where there will be lots of traffic."
I am on fire and ready to paint.
Heading back to the Kia for equipment and I stop in my tracks, not twenty feet from where I just was conversing with Viking. Two pennies – one up, one down; I decide it is yin yang. A show of balance. These are my pennies from heaven. They are a shotgun blast of good luck, good journeys, 'Irie-Mon', I’ve-got-yer-back, guardian-angel style. And they are here on the very spot where I will paint. On closer examination, the up penny appears to be from 1962, year of my birth. Okay. Let’s rock n roll!
This wooden boat arrived in the yard week or so ago and is anticipated to be ready to launch by end September. It is the famed “Highlander Sea,” a Boston pilot ship. It is almost 122’0” in length and the beam mast is 25’ tall. It was built in 1924 and the current owner is selling it for an asking price of $2 million. The crew has been teasing me while I have been painting, having fun. When I hear the guy working on it say its sale price, I reply, “Hey, that’s weird, when I finish this painting, its sale price will be two million. That’s crazy, why don’t we just swap?”
Another guy behind me, a crew member, watching me paint, leans up and says soto voce, in his best Gloucester ‘downeastern’ accent, “If I were you, I’d keep the painting.” I ask, “You mean that if I threw this painting into the water when it was done, at least I would be assured it might float?” “Oh, this boat will float, don’t you doubt it,” he says. “They are just so danged expensive to maintain.”
The accent is infamously: “Paak the Caa in Haavaad Yaad” for Park the Car in Harvard Yard.
And doubly funny to me: these guys working in the yard, all of them, they all bear an uncanny resemblance to Robert Shaw, "Quint" the shark hunter, in “Jaws.” All of them. Talk like him, same teeth-or lack thereof-wearing exactly the same clothes. And, I suspect, many of them perhaps drink much the same as he.
So. I finish the painting, shy of three hours. I want to pose a picture standing with Viking at the painting. She throws a tee shirt at me, “wear it proud.” It reads, “Gloucester Marine Railways.” I am loving it. Put it on, and I begin speaking exactly like Robert Shaw. Just kidding.
I am very pleased with the outcome of the painting. It's a good painting, really. Asking price: $ two million, ha! And I'll give you a ride in my new boat, then drop you off in my new Fiat (you gots ta read the blog, people, to get these references... :)
I finish a bag of trail mix for breakfast and bid all adieu in the yard – they have been very kind to me. Heading out of Rocky Neck, I take a turn into a residential neighborhood, looking for another spot, and I happen on a woman sweeping her drive. I ask if she might have any suggestions. She says, want to look in the back yard and see if you see anything? She introduces me to her husband, George. George shakes hands, he has an empty Heineken bottle in his hand, a tad unsteady and reeking of three days' effort. It’s ten in the morning.
Don’t catch her name, she disappears into the house. I will call them “George and Martha.” However, they have a remarkable and expansive home, impeccably manicured, and now I get it, why I was invited for a perusal of the back yard: the house is directly on the harbor and we are looking into the town and port of Gloucester. It is a spectacular view, this view of George and Martha’s.
As I pull up to the gate and begin unloading gear, up pulls the owner, CEO of the organization, a very charming Scotsman. Oh, this serendipity, it simply astounds! I give my story, he tells me to use the property as I like to get the best perspective, oh, lock up the gate when I leave. I hear him tell someone he is running into town for some garbage bags, something. I grab a five-spot and ask him to bring me two waters as I will be in direct sun the next few hours. Remember my budget, those five dollars are not anticipated, every dollar counts. But he has just told me that he is fund-raising $2 million for the project. I almost suggest that he can have my new boat, also worth $ 2 million....
When he returns about twenty minutes later, bearing two ice-cold waters, he reaches for change and I say, oh, please, put it toward the effort (thinking it will be cents). Tell him kiddingly that I will need a tax write-off receipt. But then I see the bottled waters are only $1.19 each. Shoot, I think, could have used that change. But he is, thanks in large part to my help, well on his way now towards the cool two million in funding :)