In the main hall of the high school I attended there was a large clock set into a rather large wood frame that bore the inlaid aphorism “Time passes quickly for the joyful; slowly for the sorrowful”.
As I was filling out my rent check yesterday, I realized that it was one year ago to the day that I had signed my lease for my New Bedford apartment and then moved in one year ago today.
Considering how fast that year passed, I would have to admit that so far my time here has been joyful.
I have met some very interesting and fun people at the bar I frequent, the museum at which I volunteer, and the political organization I have joined.
What I thought was going to be a minimal involvement at the Whaling Museum has become teaching a cartooning class once a week in the children’s learning area, Casa dos Botes; being a walk around docent who doesn’t lead tours on another day, a sort of Captain Peacock; and on a third day working on transcribing 19th century whaling ship log books, the first one being that of the Catalpa that, because of its historical importance, has indirectly led to contacts with some prominent people in the city.
My museum involvement also earned me the privilege of being one of the readers during the annual Moby Dick marathon, albeit my time slot for reading being 4:10 am on that Saturday morning.
Living as I do in what is considered the Historical District, I am within walking distance of the whaling and manufacturing tycoons’ mansions; the historical homes of the merchants of the whaling era and other prominent historical people, including the home of Frederick Douglass, the irony of which is rich considering my connection to the high school named after him in Oklahoma City; the various ethnic eateries in the commercial section of downtown that range from the high class to the greasiest of spoons, including one Chinese restaurant that has the type of blue collar Chinese food I used to get from a hole in the wall, below the sidewalk place in Boston, and where I enjoyed the best chow mein sandwich I have ever had; and the cobble stoned streets of the rehabilitated waterfront district that includes Rose Alley where the women of the 19th Century planted a few city blocks of roses by the docks hoping the aroma of the flowers would overtake the odors from the rendering of various whale products.
I am close enough to Cape Cod to keep my friendships alive with the people whom I got to know during my time there. I can attend their events being able to cover the distance from New Bedford to the Mid-Cape in a very short time provided I do not attempt the trip on a tourist turnover weekend in the summer, and I can continue as a docent at the Edward Gorey House Museum in Yarmouth.
If I need to visit a bigger City, I can grab the Commuter Rail two towns over to get into Boston if I don’t want to drive, or make the 17 minute drive to Providence, Rhode Island.
I can walk to a coffee shop connected with the nearby community college, another one frequented by hipsters and millennials, and if I want a normally named cup of coffee and have a pastry that is more substantial than a fancy French name without skipping a rent payment, I can walk to a little mom and pop place for a cup of coffee and a freshly made Malasada.
For all intents and purposes I am living in a huge museum with my choice of snack bars.
Living on a major East/West street that runs from the harbor to the mansions, when I sit in my living room with my front windows open, I can hear passing conversations being held in many languages.
And that goes back to the days when the sailors on whaling ships came from countries all over the world and a man was not judged by race, color, creed, national origin, or any other trait beyond whether or not he did his job, and did it well.
This is the city that began the movement to abolish slavery. It is where Douglass gave his first speech in favor of abolition. And it is the city where a Southern slave owner had signed his slave onto a ship to make money for him by his labor, but when the slave had finished his whaling voyage and was paid for his work, the owner had to file suit for those wages because the Quaker ship owner paid the man for his work, and not the owner who had not done the work. A suit that went through the various stages of the legal system, and was lost at the state’s Supreme Judicial Court finally ending it.
It is a place whose past could teach a lesson today as the tycoons, seeing that they were fishing out the whales, which made voyages very long and expensive, and seeing the industry was dying, rather than bleed the dying industry dry, moved on to petroleum once it was discovered, and brought in manufacturing since the workers, no longer needed at sea, were available for work on land. They moved on to what was needed to make money and keep people employed. If their fossil fuel investments had begun to show signs of losing and the industry showed signs of possible death, these were the men who would have moved on to renewable energy sources. They did, after all, find a way to create a running water source to run their mills when the city had no rivers beyond the tidal one at the head of the bay.
And in spite of my exploring, involvement, and discoveries, there is much more I have yet to find and experience, so I assume this next year will be as swift, if not swifter than the first.