Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Conversation at Winslow’s

I met Tracey Barry Hunt, owner of Winslow’s Tavern,
in the bar of her Main Street restaurant for a chat about my new ebook on the trendy little Cape Cod town where we both choose to live: Wellfleet, Massachusetts. We have something else in common: Vassar College. Tracey is Class of 1994. I graduated in 1969, a whole quarter of a century earlier. Sven and I enjoy dining at Winslow’s where Tracey’s chef/husband Philip Hunt serves up fine cuisine and excellent wine from his native country, South Africa. The walls upstairs are covered with enlargements of old postcards and etchings of Wellfleet. The bar makes the perfect setting for our conversation.

TRACEY: What surprised you the most in doing research for the ebook?

ALEXANDRA: The early history. The fact that what we consider the center of town only dates from the mid-19th century. That there were homes on Bound Brook and Chequessett Neck first. That the Native Americans were moved to Indian Neck. I also didn’t know Champlain came here before the Pilgrims, so I learned a lot about Wellfleet. Imagine what Main Street was back then, an ordinary country road.

TRACEY: That’s why I love the postcards.
This is turn of the century. I think of Bob Finch’s description of his daughter, another Vassar grad, my dear friend Katie. It’s pretty amazing to live in a place where history is ever-present. The buildings have not changed in 100 years.

ALEXANDRA: Pretty incredible!

TRACEY: Did writing the ebook make you see Wellfleet differently?

ALEXANDRA: I’m a member of the Economic Development Committee. That experience made me realize a town full of non-residents is foolhardy. We need young children to keep our elementary school going. Schoolteachers should be able to afford to live here. I’ve started worrying about the lack of housing for low-income families, during the recession. Wish I had the time to look for solutions.

TRACEY: I know. I have a waitress here. She’s 36, with two small kids. Her husband works at Cape Associates. They couldn’t afford to stay where they were living for the summer and moved in with her mom at Harborside. That’s how they’re able to be here. It all boils down to housing.

ALEXANDRA: I touch on that in the ebook. There’s even a photo of a Harborside trailer.

TRACEY: We have to think outside the box. We can’t just bring tourists here. The data storage and tech industries are exploding. Those people can work anywhere. I have a graphic designer who bartends in summer. He chooses to live in Wellfleet, in part because he spent summers here as a child.

ALEXANDRA: In writing my blog, I was struck by how many people remember summers in Wellfleet fondly. Wellfleet still means so much to them. That’s one of the things I wanted to explain.

TRACY: There are advantages for young families here, you know? The schools are amazing. Recreation, safety, natural resources, all are unbeatable. I love the fact that my six-year-old can walk down Main Street and I won’t be terrified … What made you decide to write an ebook?

ALEXANDRA: It was born out of my blog. I originally started the blog as promotion for the B&B but soon it morphed into something more.

TRACEY: Having a point of view and selling it is a hallmark of being a Wellfleetian.

ALEXANDRA: Especially because we’re green. I have all B&B guests fill in a registration form. One of the questions asks how important it is that we’re green. The second is about eating organic. That leads to conversations. As time passed, I became more passionate as I educated myself. I often share what I’ve learned over breakfast, if guests are open to it. And, I give them a copy of Our Stolen Future, by Theo Colborn, the expert on endocrine disruption.

TRACEY: Wellfleet inspires a fierce passion, doesn’t it? I see the cycle of nature ever- present here. I see your eBook as an extension of that. You share information with people.

ALEXANDRA: And my love for this town.

TRACEY: It’s a politically-conscious little town, isn’t it? Why did you decide to donate some of the proceeds to the Food Pantry? Why is that important to you?

ALEXANDRA: You see the boxes at the library and the bank.
It’s hard to realize neighbors go hungry. Last winter 40% of the residents were unemployed. I wanted to do something, so I decided to give 75% of what I earn with this eBook to the Wellfleet Food Pantry. The other 25% will go to my son so he can buy more organic produce for his children. Does Winslow’s have a freezer?

TRACEY: We do. There are nights we have leftovers. We could freeze tomato sauce when there’s excess. Give it to the Food Pantry.

ALEXANDRA: In France they had Les Restaus du Coeur, started by an entertainer named Coluche. The idea was that no one should go hungry.

TRACEY: I could help support the potluck dinners at Preservation Hall in winter.

ALEXANDRA: It can all come together. I’m hoping the ebook will inspire people that way.

TRACEY: What’s the first thing you do when you get back here after being away?

ALEXANDRA: Sven and I like to walk through the woods to Dyer Pond. Getting closer to nature resets everything ...