Cape Ann, MA: Nervousness, Magnolia Harbor, The White Elephant

Fifteen miles north of Boston on Route 1, I found Danvers (later called “kind of a random armpit to wander into” by my friend). In Danvers I chatted for a while with the manager of the local Motel 6, Cindy, who gave me coffee from the back room and let me use their laundry facilities. After thanking her probably a little too sincerely for the much needed caffeine fix, I got Cindy talking about her own overcome caffeine addiction.

She spends most of her day working with learning disabled kids, so to power through when afternoons drag she used to drink a TON of Coke – sometimes even more than a six-pack a day. Despite an otherwise healthy diet, Cindy was diagnosed with diabetes a couple years ago and had to quit the cola cold turkey. She said she lost like 60 pounds in just a few weeks after cutting soda out of her diet. Crazy! A mid-size problem has been her intense fear of needles, since most people with her diagnosis need to receive regular injections of insulin. After a long negotiation, she got her doctor to agree to let her stay on pills as long as she kept a very regimented diet, which so far she’s been able to handle without a problem as long as no one steals her food at work (of course that can sometimes be a pretty big “if”).

With diabetes on the brain, I headed southeast to meet my friend Sarah at the Cheesecake Factory in Peabody for lunch. I got there a little early so I checked out the Northshore Mall off of Route 114 and ended up getting new hiking boots at EMS (Finally! And on sale!) and new sneakers at Journeys (Similar to my old broken ones! And also on sale!).

The Cheesecake Factory was large and crowded, but Sarah and I chatted semi-casually about long-term and short-term future plans. She’s currently teaching at a small private school for children with learning disabilities (maybe the same one where Cindy works? I forgot to ask…), while she works towards her Masters degree. She LOVES her job and lives in a town called Manchester-by-the-Sea, which sounds like it’s out of a romance novel or something. And this summer she’s heading to ECUADOR for five weeks to backpack with her boyfriend!

She’s almost done with school, and as things really start to come together for her she’s begun to have some anxiety. Which I think is kind of interesting! I know a couple other people who are having the wait-the-next-5-to-10-years-of-my-life-are-beginning-to-reveal-themselves-to-me panic. Or maybe panic’s the wrong word? The people my age that I know seem to fall into one of the following categories:

  1. Very definite plans for the future, staying on track, probably in professional school.
  2. Very definite desires for the future, not sure exactly how to achieve them, so trying all kinds of paths.
  3. Had absolutely no plans coming out of college, now a few years later they find things starting to fall into place in the form of a real, actual adult life. But are they ready to commit to making grown up decisions?? This is the question.
  4. Still have absolutely no plans, could be employed, could be unemployed, kind of nervous and floundering. (Idea: move to the opposite coast? Ok!)

So there’s anxiety all around if you think about it. Which kind do you have?!

I left Sarah and wandered deeper into Cape Ann. I got off at a random exit to check something on my car and ran into these kids sitting on a wall trying to get cars to honk at them:

What a fun mom right?? I decided to check out the the town that birthed this scene, so I wandered around turning down little side roads and taking them wherever they led me.

Almost all the houses had little magnolia trees in their front yards, it was so cool, if a little confounding. I soon realized though that I was in the TOWN of Magnolia! So it’s maybe a town mandate or something to have many Magnolia trees?

The best part of Magnolia by FAR is Magnolia Harbor, it was this tiny little man-made harbor tucked into the town. I found a place to park and went to sit on a rock near the beach. There were couples walking their dogs, older women exercising and chatting, and as I was sitting there a father pulled up with his 10 year old daughter for a picnic!

Across the harbor was this totally haunted house built right on the rocks, with waves crashing up against it and all these crazy spires and chimneys and attic spaces. Creepness.


I rested in Magnolia for a little while longer before winding my way around the rest of the cape and finally passing through Essex on my way up to Portsmouth, NH for the night. I’m lucky it was pretty late already because I passed this antiques shop called The White Elephant that I DEFINITELY would have had to stop in if it were still open. Check out this front porch! Did anyone else only learn the meaning of “white elephant” when they read that Hemingway short story “Hills Like White Elephants“?


3 responses to “Cape Ann, MA: Nervousness, Magnolia Harbor, The White Elephant

  1. C’mon back and check out all Gloucester has to offer. All our funky shops and eateries and real people.

    There’s much to do and see.

  2. Please tell me that you got several handprint stickers at Journey’s and put them all over your backpack like we did back during the Middle School Ages.

  3. i think that house may have been the one in casper. creepy!

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