Gone to the Dogs: An Even-Numbered Day on Good Harbor


The City Council unanimously voted in favor of adopting a proposed ordinance change that allows dogs to run free on Good Harbor Beach on even-numbered days.   – The Gloucester Daily Times (Nov. 11, 2014)


It is high noon on Good Harbor Beach. The water shimmers in the mid-April sun, and Gloucester’s dogs are relishing their newfound freedom. Stubby schnauzers race alongside loping hounds. A curious Shih Tzu leisurely inspects the hindquarters of an unflappable St. Bernard. Mutts of every conceivable parentage leap and splash and dart, spurning the leashes that dangle pointlessly from the pockets of windbreakers. Everywhere their barks are clear and sharp—almost martial—as if saluting the city council for liberating the four-legged from their six-foot nylon shackles.

Crane-Beach-Dogs[Unleashed on Good Harbor]

Yet somehow the joyful mood has bypassed one pair of dogs, who sulk and slouch against the dunes, passing a paw-rolled American Spirit cigarette between them. Both are AKC purebreds, but neither likes to talk about it. Listlessly, they watch two lab puppies tumble after a tennis ball.

“Christ, what a scene,” says Walter, a white Bichon with a bearded muzzle groomed to a state of artful dishevelment. In lieu of a collar, he sports an organic cotton keffiyeh.

“A travesty really,” says Simone, a standard poodle whose fluffy black pompons are purely ironic. “Good Harbor is officially over.”

“Gawd, is that Coco over there?” Walter indicates a perky spaniel flouncing past some pups of dubious ancestry.

“Ugh. What a literal bitch.”

BichonWalter[Walter at home, ready to enjoy some Dave Eggers]

For years Walter and Simone have frequented Good Harbor in the off-season.  And they had been among the select few who flouted Gloucester’s leash ordinance, scoffing at their tethered peers, running circles around the skittish and pooch-averse. Now, on an even-numbered spring afternoon, they are just another pair of law-abiding family pets, as square as hamsters in a cage.

“If I wanted to frolic with the canine bourgeoisie,” says Walter, “I’d drag my owner to the Stage Fort Dog Park.”

Both shiver at the idea.

Once destined for the show ring, Walter got the boot from private training school at age 2. For a few weeks, he was technically a stray, a biographical footnote he always manages to drop into conversation. Simone too boasts a champion’s pedigree, and her mother’s Best in Class at Westminster furnished a sizeable trust fund. But this detail is strictly on the down low.

article-0-1C6A21B300000578-456_634x445[Simone, delivering a sassy remark]

“It’s like that artisanal kibble stand over on Commercial Street,” says Walter, lighting another cigarette. “One favorable review in The Times, and suddenly the place looks like a puppy mill.”

Just then two human beachgoers—a middle-aged couple in pastels—park their blanket not more than ten yards away. They kick off their dock shoes and proceed to unpack a large wicker picnic hamper.

Simone surveys the contents: fruit salad, a rotisserie chicken, and what appears to be real china and cutlery. “Classy affair,” she says.

Walter avails himself of an extra long drag. “A year ago, I’d be making a beeline for the water,” he says. “Returning with a coat full of sand and saltwater. And shaking off all over that mofo.”

“But now?”

“Not so much.”

Simone permits herself a little snort. “I get it,” she says, snatching the cigarette. “If you’re going to drop a steaming turd on somebody’s quiche, you want it to mean something.”

“Exactly,” Walter says, practically growling. “Fucking with picnickers, nipping at little kids’ fingers—these used to be acts of courage, of resistance against the whole power structure. Now they’re just ‘accidents’ our owners can smooth over with half-assed apologies.” He gestures at a nearby pack and thumps his tail on the sand for emphasis. “These mutts risk nothing more than a waggled index finger.”

“What about animal control? They’re supposed to fine owners who can’t manage unleashed dogs.”

Walter shoots a look at Simone, who is trying to maintain a straight snout. But the notion is just too funny.

By now the picnickers have distributed fruit, slathered the chicken in mint yogurt, and commenced eating. Simone’s black nose twitches, and Walter whines a bit, attracting the attention of the woman.

“Oh, look at that darling little Bichon,” she says, tapping her husband’s shoulder. “He looks hungry.” She holds out a chicken wing and makes kissy noises at the pair.

Walter’s body is taut and quivering.

“Easy, boy,” Simone says. Then, at the couple she yips: “We’re vegan, you assholes.”

The woman recoils. “Goodness,” she says, glancing at her husband and dropping the wing. “Not as friendly as they look.”

Walter hears a familiar whistle from the direction of the wooden footbridge. “Guess that’s my cue,” he says, extinguishing a final cigarette and slowly getting to his paws.

Simone waves goodbye and watches as Walter trots past a host of doggie temptations: an unguarded bag of chips, an overfriendly toddler, and—as always—Coco’s shapely rump. Somehow, he manages to leave all this to the mainstream dogs. Somehow, he makes even obedience look cool.

Iconic Gloucester Home Renovation Will Show Just How Great Money Really Is

GLOUCESTER—One of Gloucester’s most notable private residences is getting an estimated $800,000 makeover this spring. Known locally as the Sherman House, it’s the stately 112-year-old colonial perched on the rocks on the south end of Good Harbor Beach.

shermanhouse[The Sherman House]

For many in Gloucester, the house is as much a part of the beach as the surf, the sand, and the ever-hungry seagulls. And that’s the problem, say Jill and Winthrop Morgan, who purchased it in 2005 and have enjoyed summers there ever since.

“At this point, our home just blends into the landscape,” said Mr. Morgan, a 44-year-old retired financier, as he prepared morning martinis in the kitchen. “It doesn’t pop out and say ‘we’re richer than you!’ like it used to.”

WinthropMorgan[Winthrop Morgan with perfect gin martini]

“There’s a reason we purchased this home,” his wife said. Gesturing out the bay windows to an expansive view of the breakers, she explained: “We wanted the thousands who pack Good Harbor every day to gaze longingly at our lunches on the back patio and think, ‘Wow, those people really have it good.’”

“Imagine how much better a medallion of foie gras tastes,” Mr. Morgan added, “when you command a vast audience, all gnawing on clam strips from the snack shack.”

“That’s the primary purpose of the Jumbotron,” Mrs. Morgan said, referring to one component of the planned renovation. “It will display close-ups of our exquisitely prepared food, as well as our blindingly white smiles.”

During the hours when the Morgans are not enjoying a meal, the high definition screen will provide real-time updates on their investment portfolio.

jumbotron[Jumbotron model slated for installation]

Towering 65 feet above the existing roofline will be another key facet of the makeover, a rotating observation deck mounted atop the Jumbotron.

“The engineering was pretty tricky,” Mr. Morgan said. “Pretty pricey, too. But that’s what money’s for.”

While refreshing her martini, Mrs. Morgan explained where the idea for the observation deck came from. “Anyone with a $25 beach sticker can pass the day on a blanket with a fantastic ocean view,” she said. “We spent a lot more on this house. I mean, a lot more. So the quality of our view ought to be proportional. It’s simple algebra.”

According to the Morgans, when they first moved in ten years ago, they would often turn away curious beachgoers who clambered up the rocks for a better look. “Trespassing is the sincerest form of flattery,” Mrs. Morgan said. “Sometimes we even caught them peering in our windows, ogling our Renoirs. Those were the days.”

The Morgans say that interest in their house and extravagant wealth has ebbed in the last six or eight years. But the exact causes of this shift remain unclear.

“Maybe it was the Recession of 2008,” said Mr. Morgan, who cashed out of his Lehman Brothers partnership in December 2007. “And all that nonsense about the 1 percent.”

His wife elaborated: “People put their material aspirations on hold. Almost like they forgot all the ridiculously fun stuff you can do with money.”

“For instance, lighting your cigars with $50 bills,” Mr. Morgan said, flicking a gin-soaked olive into his mouth. “So fun.”

A Gloucester resident enjoying her first taste of spring weather on Good Harbor offered her perspective on the house. “It’s a nice place, but the people are sort of creepy,” said 29-year-old Isabella Costa. “During the summer I always see them waving at the crowds from their backyard. Like they’re flagging down a train.”

Fed up with the apathy, the Morgans have decided to take action, using their high-profile house to prove that money really can buy happiness.

“I know some will say we’re stoking class resentment and petty jealousies. But, ultimately, our mission is philanthropic,” Mrs. Morgan said. “We’re trying to restore people’s hope. Their faith in the American Dream.”