I’m a downtown sorta gal, if we’re using fifties slang to describe ourselves (and we are, goddamnit). I lived at the same spot near the train station and Shaws for ten years – the entirety of my twenties – but recently I moved to the woods of West Gloucester. Not entirely on purpose – you try finding a goddamn year-round rental in May in this town. You take what you can get, and you like it! I ended up lucking into an adorable tiny house near West Parish school, or “the bones of the new West Parish school” as it were. It’s been… a change. My first day here, a tractor rumbled down my street, loudly, with several SUVs honking maniacally behind it. “This is just life now,” I said out loud, to no one in particular.
The first thing I noticed, of course, was that out here in bumblefuck, I could no longer overhear the coughing of my chain-smoking neighbors, their entire animated conversations from my bedroom window, or their two-hour vocal symphonies calling their feral cats that pooped in our yard home for dinner. It turns out that when you’re 150 feet from the nearest house, there’s far fewer domestic disputes and/or drug transactions you overhear. Of course, that has been replaced by birds. A lot of birds. Birds that start their jibberjabbering at two in the fucking morning. It’s not even close to light out at 2 AM, birds, are you drunk or lost? So either way, earplugs. No net gain there.
Being out in the woods after so long in an urban core (before Gloucester, I lived in downtown Lowell) is honestly kind of weird. I feel like at any given moment, a pack of coyotes, wolves, coywolves, bears, or woods-people are going to show up on my back deck and just maul me. And no one would hear me scream.
I’ve noticed that no one in two weeks has thrown trash in my yard. Nary a Fireball nip bottle has shown up in a potted plant. No stray work gloves, bottles of bleach, empty packs of Virginia Slims, nor individual skis have sullied my driveway or yard. It’s uncanny. But here in the boonies, everyone has land in which to keep their own detritus – mostly in the form of ramshackle falling down sheds, 1985 Dodge Ramchargers, and thousands of empty pots that probably once held flowers but now hold standing water and mosquito larvae.
But the lack of litter and quiet isn’t without its pitfalls. No people means no fun. Downtown has walkability – I could tuck and roll out my front door and hit a couple bars, four pizza places, two chinese restaurants, six nail salons, and five convenience stores within a few blocks. Here? We have, uh, a church, and a variety store like a mile away. Dislike.
It’s not like I forgot car culture existed, as I drive several piece of shit vehicles around Gloucester on any given day (wave, everybody, there’s KT with half a bumper!) – it’s that I honestly can’t get ANYWHERE without a car around here. Except for the variety store, if I want to spend an hour walking to go get a soda and an ice cream. Do they have Keno? I don’t even know. Probably. This is America, after all.
In the end, I miss downtown. I’ll probably be back eventually. Just as long as I don’t end up in Rockport. God, not Rockport.