One thing that I find remarkable about Cape Cod is the insistence of its residents that its best days are behind it. I mean, it makes sense. Cape Cod has a pretty large retired population and an old timey aesthetic to it you know? Like all the ice cream places that have been around since the 30s or all the Kennedy paraphernalia?
Although I usually use these blog posts to show how I’m better than everyone else, I’m not exempt for this either. As a matter of fact, you can use this blog as evidence to that fact. Half the posts on here are about how Cape Cod is going to eventually fall into the ocean and there’s nothing we can do about it.
One of the places where I find the rose-colored glasses of nostalgia to be the most interesting is when talking about the weather. Cape Cod is surrounded by water and filled with ponds, making the climate much more temperate here as compared to the rest of New England and the Northeastern United States. Of course there will be the occasional blizzard, nor’easter, or even tornado, but overall the weather of Cape Cod is mild. But no one ever wants to admit it.
Every Cape Codder who’s old enough has a story about the Blizzard of ’78. You’ll hear stories about being snowed in and playing board games with the family. Putting on snowshoes to walk to the store to bring food to everyone on your street. Having a snowball fight with your brothers and sisters. I mean sure some people died or whatever but it was a blast! And no, this isn’t gonna be some bummer post where I tell people they’re not allowed to have fun memories because other people died.
The thing is, after you hear these stories about the blizzard and how weirdly fun everyone seems to remember it as and it’ll be followed up with “Oh but that could never happen today. These kids would be so obsessed with getting their damn phones to charge!” Try to press them on this issue and they’ll retort with something about how “you had to be there” or “you’ll understand when you’re older”. It’s that weird sense of superiority that you get from thinking you know something that someone else doesn’t, and it can be applied to nostalgia best of all.
Honestly it’s not like they don’t have a point. My generation’s equivalent of the Blizzard of ‘78 was the Cape Cod Tornado of 2019. Cape Cod, if you didn’t know, isn’t the type of place where tornadoes really happen. Like at all. Typically tornadoes happen in flat, windy places that are far away or something like that. Look, I don’t know, I’m not a meteorologist, go read a weather blog if you want facts, I just know that tornadoes don’t happen here.
Anyways when the tornado happened here I was in my basement. I got a message on my phone that told me to get underground if possible. About five minutes later I got a notification that warned of flooding in the area and told me to seek higher ground immediately. I don’t really know what you’re supposed to do when a tornado warning says get in the basement and a flood warning says get to higher ground. There are different schools of thought on this. One says you should pick a natural disaster that you’re better prepared for fighting. That’s what most people would do. You’re good at swimming, so you think “I should stay in the basement” because you stand a better chance against a bit of water than a tornado. Another school of thought says that the two cancel out and you should just go back to the first floor of your house. That’s what I tried.
I didn’t actually think they cancelled out, I was just getting sick of waiting in the basement. It was boring. Everyone else in my family was at work (I had the day off) so I went back up stairs and plugged my phone in. I didn’t have a charging cord in the basement so, you know, gotta do what you gotta do. But I mean aside from some kinda fast wind and a bit of rain nothing really happened. I had to go get our umbrella out of the street and clear up a few fallen branches but we weren’t hit that bad. Apparently there was a motel down the road that got its roof blown off? I don’t know, what I do know is that the very next day, outside of the shopping plaza where I worked, I saw a man selling t-shirts that said “I survived the Cape Cod Tornado of 2019”. I don’t know when he even had time to get those things printed.
Having been one of the lucky survivors of the tornado that I’m pretty sure didn’t actually kill anyone, I can see that this is probably how the Blizzard of ‘78 went. It was a little boring but still a change of pace. Then everyone began to talk about it like it was crazy once it had ended. If anyone asks you about it you’ll say “you had to be there” or “you’ll understand when you’re older.” And then you feel that smugness from knowing something someone else doesn’t know combined with nostalgia.
I’m not saying that you can’t appreciate the past, nor that you should ignore criticism, but just that having an optimistic outlook on the future isn’t the worst thing in the world. Sometimes it’s necessary.
See, places like Cape Cod are interesting when it comes to the past. Aside from some vague connections to the pilgrims it isn’t very historically significant. The guy who said “no taxation without representation” and his wife who was way cooler than him were from here. So was the Kennedy family. They actually weren’t really, they just summered here, but Cape Cod people are very sensitive about that so sure whatever. Plus, Jaws was filmed kinda nearby and it shares a name with Henry David Thoreau’s worst book. Aside from that, there’s not a lot of history here.
I mean, of course there is history here, there’s history everywhere. Cape Cod more than most places is filled with old buildings and relics of the past. But (how do I put this without offending anyone) nobody cares. It’s a sleepy old spit of land where very little ever actually happens, and that’s all it’s ever really been. Cape Cod’s past is boring.
Boring isn’t a bad thing. People enjoy phrases like “born too late to explore the world, born too early to explore the universe” and “may you live in interesting times”. People seem to forget that the “interesting times” phrase is actually a translation of a Chinese curse. Look at a history book. The most interesting times are the wars! And the huge storms like the Blizzard of ’78. Being forced to make your own significance in the time you live in means that the time you live in isn’t forcing significance upon you.
So with that in mind, it’s easy to see why an old Cape Codder who drives around in a brown Toyota from the late 80s that’s covered in bumper stickers and hasn’t been over the canal since the Obama Administration would try to romanticize their past. Even beyond the individual level, it’s easy to see why Cape Cod is like the way that it is, with this nostalgic feeling to it, the whole “if you’re fans of sand dunes and salty air” thing.
The problem comes when we don’t know how to glorify something. We want our past to seem cool, that’s fine. But instead of building the past up, we’re bringing the present and the future down. I’m talking about rhetorically bringing the past and future down, like by saying “kids and their phones I killed Koreans blah blah blah” instead of literally bringing down the present and future by burning fossil fuels and melting the ice caps. Nostalgia is a good thing but it shouldn’t be a weapon.
Yeah so I guess the point of this one is just to be more optimistic. It can be hard but thinking positive can be fun sometimes. Give it a try.