Tuesday early mornings are not only for paper retrieving, but also they are trash days. So, i get up a bit earlier, clear the house of trash, recycle stuff, and yard waste, push the bins out from behind our gate, and place them in front of the sidewalk.
Most folk round here put their bins out the day before. Some even have their yard guys put the yard waste bins out front when the yard guys have finished three or four days earlier. Not me. i don’t like the bins out front any longer than they have to be. i owe that peculiarity to one Jake Hughes.
Jake was our garbage man in Lebanon. He would park his mule-driven wagon on the street in front of our house, walk to the backyard, pick up the garbage can, walk back, dump the contents in the wagon, and then return the can to its proper place in the backyard. On numerous occasions i would follow him on his trek and marvel at the mule, the wagon, and exchange pleasantries with Jake. That weekly trip — i think our day for Jake was Tuesday as well, but that just may be a faulty trip into nostalgia — started a long time before i came along and ended when the City of Lebanon bought their first mechanical garbage truck in 1959, i believe. It was a sad day for me because Jake would come no more. Rumor has it that Jake got rich with his garbage business. i hope so. He deserved it.
But our garbage cans were never in front of the house except for that weekly haul to Jake’s wagon. After Jake, Daddy or one of the boys would take that can out to the front of the driveway on garbage day and retrieve it after the riders (surely we didn’t call them “dumpers”) had tossed the refuse from our can into the howling, screeching jaws of the newfangled garbage truck. It was awesome, terrifying in some ways, but it just wasn’t the same.
When i rolled out the bins today, early morning was shrouded in the marine layer. i breathe it in deeply. There are a lot of ports in this world, but there are only a few in my experience that breathing the marine layer is so palpable. San Diego and Long Beach can claim that on days such as this when the marine layer is resistant to moving back offshore to the western horizon, hanging around just so i can breathe it in, smell it. Perth, Australia; Sasebo, Japan; and Hong Kong all could have such mornings. On the east coast, Norfolk had a few when i was there. i’m sure that many others had it. i just don’t remember them, and i certainly don’t remember breathing it in, smelling it.
But the best, or at least my favorite seaport town with that smell, that dampness luring one to the sea, remains Newport, Rhode Island. Perhaps it was because it was in my first Navy experience. Perhaps, even with the rise of high end and high price tourism fancy, it has retained that feeling of history. i could feel that seaport aura, breathe in that seaport air, and connect with the sea.
The White Horse Tavern sits on a hill about a half mile east of Narragansett Bay. The cuisine has varied over the years but for as long as i can remember it has been high end good eating. It is cozy and the bar is — i struggled to come up with the right word. Maureen and i had an armagnac there with a chocolate delicacy and coffee after our meal in ’83, and closed the place down around midnight talking to the bartender, and that word is — perfect. It is even better after i found out it was the home of a pirate quite a while ago. i mean a real plundering pirate who would bury his treasure somewhere on a remote Caribbean island and come home to sip a rum here. i’m guessing he had a white horse. When we emerged from that wonderful evening up on that hill, you could smell it: sea air coming ashore, just like that pirate smelled it, oh, some 300 years ago.
And Hite McClean. Yeh, Hite McClean out of Vanderbilt from Mississippi, the attorney who was attending “knife and fork” school before taking on his JAG duties. Late ’60’s. Hite and i hit Mac’s Clam Shack, when it was a ramshackle real shack on the waterfront next to a small sail craft maintenance shop, and the grit from the sandblasting before painting would find it’s way into your stuffed quahogs or beer, but the best quahogs ever but likely to put you down for a day if your stomach was a bit delicate. And then, Hite and i hit The Black Pearl, sadly gone i’m told, and have a few more so when we got back to his place, i slept on the couch rather than going back to my apartment. Waking up and just a bit queasy the next morning, a Sunday, we had our coffee, walked out to the bluff with the ocean waves crashing below, sending surf up from which mist touched us as we sat on the bluff with our feet dangling over the fifty feet or so to the sea battered rocks. And Hite and i drank our coffee in the cold sea mist damp and told stories of great scope and waxed philosophical or something.
Yeh, Newport is the best seaport.
As i come back in, i go out to the backyard and check our garden for fresh strawberries. Currently, our yield is just about right for a day of strawberries. It’s about to explode and we will be sharing with our neighbors. The tomatoes are doing well, about to start their yield, which will last for about nine months. i felt like a farmer, like my great uncle out on Hickory Ridge, but his early morning tasks were calling in the cows, milking and feeding the hogs, while Aunt Corrine gathered the eggs from the chicken coop, not strawberries, not tomatoes, not onions or herbs, and certainly nowhere near the smell of the sea from the marine layer ashore.
As i turn, the sun is beginning to burn through the marine layer, kicking it out to sea. i can see the skies layer thinning and sun bringing a light to the eastern sky. i look down our side yard where the one stands. i usually first view it when i go into my office with my first cup of coffee and open up the shades. This morning, it struck me it continues to prosper for my viewing pleasure.
Come to think of Bonita in the Southwest Corner ain’t so bad as a seaport place either. i breathe deeply one last time before entering the kitchen door. There’s not any pirate in this house. Wait a minute…