A man who has friends must himself be friendly~ Proverbs18:24
In the past when someone labeled Texans as unfriendly, I bristled, like the spine-fur on a dog’s neck when its territory is threatened. Even in our huge-hearted state, the unfriendly-label-blanket can be thrown over an entire community when visitors encounter town grouches.
My husband David and I would like to give out a “friendly” award to the Northeast town of Gloucester, Massachusetts. Last week in Gloucester, David and his army buddy (Vietnam) Chris Larsen reunited for the first time in nearly four decades. Over the years, phone calls and mail kept them in touch, and we finally met his lovely wife Joan and family.
Of Finnish descent, Chris Larsen comes from a long line of stout-hearted commercial fishermen. Lost at sea, his grandfather’s and uncle’s names are at a cenotaph, a memorial to those whose remains are elsewhere.
One memorial features a fisherman’s wife and two children gazing toward the Atlantic horizon, searching the seascape for the husband and father they kissed goodbye. Some 10,000 Gloucester fishermen have lost their lives since the 1600s. Over 5,000 known names are honored at the memorials.
Chris owns Larsen’s Shoes on Main Street, a much safer occupation. On a touristy Saturday, he didn’t open his store. Instead, he guided us around Cape Ann. We visited granite rock quarries, wharfs, filming locations for the movie “The Perfect Storm” (about the fishing vessel, “Andrea Gail,” lost at sea 1991). I dipped my toes in the Atlantic, just because I could.
At Stage Fort Park, we walked Half Moon Beach, home to a 1600’s settlement. And, moored on towering rocks we photographed an arsenal of antique cannons, jutting toward the Atlantic. There, we climbed atop 50 foot granite boulders.
Driving in any new area can be challenging. In Gloucester, some streets allow for parking on both sides, narrowing the lane for moving vehicles. Traffic rotaries are abundant, road-hubs where—three, four or five—side roads converge onto the paved circle. Rotary vehicles have the right of way, but on other roads, Chris said, “Everyone has the right-of-way.”
When Dave and I drove in town, friendly folk often let us cut in line. We’d be waiting to turn out of a parking lot onto a busy street, and a charitable driver would stop, honk-honk, and wave us into the traffic. Innumerable times.
Soon, we too had our windows down, waving cars into the bumper-to-bumper parade ahead of us. Like a communicable disease, Massachusetts friendliness went around, and we caught some.
While there, we discussed wild turkeys. Massachusetts still has plenty. To our surprise in downtown Boston a few days later from a trolley window, we saw a lone wild turkey foraging with pigeons on a grassy area. The easygoing pigeons seemed to accept him as one of their own.
To glimpse God’s extravagant handiwork and experience pleasant people, visit Gloucester. And I imagine our friend Chris could outfit you with a nice pair of walking shoes, too.