“Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.”– Robert Frost
It was over a year ago that my wife and I sold our home. I am sure anyone can tell you, selling a home is stressful, annoying, and probably the worst thing in the world. Ok, that might be overdoing it, but it sucks! While our realtor organized an Open House for one weekend in late June last year, my wife and I needed to escape the process and reboot. As the weekend drew near, the thought of getting away seemed more and more necessary. As I am from Massachusetts and my wife is not, she asked where I would like to go. I answered…home.
I had not been back to the town I grew up in for several years. The closest I had come to going back was when I visited my aunt and uncle when I got married in 2011 and ran the New Bedford Half Marathon in 2015. Now was June of 2019. So…it…had…been…awhile. But this seemed the perfect time to go back and reset after a terrible home selling experience. So, with the dog staying with family, my wife and I set out for the South Coast of Massachusetts. We were heading to New Bedford!
I grew up in the town of Fairhaven, just across the bridge from the small city with a deep history, New Bedford. Whaling, abolitionism, textiles, and thriving fishing industry. I had always been inspired by this city, those cobblestone roads, museums, fishing boats, and more. When I first knew I wanted to be a historian, it was growing up near this city and its rich history. I used to see the Sgt. William Carney Memorial Academy Elementary School all the time. I later learned of the school’s name bearer’s heroism at Ft. Wagner during the Civil War. An African American soldier in the historically significant 54th Massachusetts Regiment, Sgt. Carney eventually was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his bravery and service. I adored the Whaling Museum and the history of whaling and America’s connections to the sea. I could go on and on, but the city helped mold my historical ambitions and dedication.
So, I chose to go home to reset my compass. It was an opportunity to see what had motivated me to be who I was and the man I had become. With stress bearing down on me, I sought comfort in these surroundings, which were merely fragments of the past. As a good historian, I recognized that the answers to my future resided in my lived history.
We decided to stay in a beautiful hotel on the waterfront in New Bedford, an area where we could easily see the landmarks in my hometown of Fairhaven. After checking-in, we decided to get lunch and do what I called “a taste of home.” We were going to go to my, and ours, favorite places. I had been living in this area when I first started to date my now wife, so she had places she wanted to go to. The first place on the list was where I brought my wife to during our second date, Me & Ed’s. This classic New Bedford staple, where I could get New Bedford scallops, and she could get a linguica pizza. Oh, don’t forget the garlic bread! It was fantastic, just like I remembered.
After leaving Me & Ed’s, located in the South End of New Bedford, we traveled for ice-cream in Acushnet at an establishment called The Country Whip, which as a teenager, I had worked and for some time, my father had owned. There we got soft serve coffee ice-cream in a plain cone, probably the best-flavored ice-cream on the planet.
After lunch and some dessert, it was back to New Bedford. Rather than going straight to the hotel, we decided to go to Fairhaven and get a delicious coffee at the coffee house The Nook, which had been a breakfast place under a different name when I lived in town. We both got Blue Devil ice-coffees, which were “wicked” awesome and named after the Fairhaven High School mascot, not the Duke one! Even with lunch, dessert, and coffee checked off our list, we both concluded that we needed a treat for later. Therefore, we went to my favorite Chinese restaurant, of all time, Wah May. I remembered this restaurant having the best egg rolls and pork fried rice. We quickly ordered pick-up, grabbed it, and went back to the hotel. My memory proved correct, best damn egg rolls I have ever eaten.
After getting rest at the hotel, we decided to walk around some of the more historic areas of Downtown New Bedford. Walking by Seamen’s Bethel, the Whaling Museum, and the waterfront, we took in the air and calmness this day had gifted us. But it was not long until we needed something else to drink and eat.
Our first stop this evening was Moby Dick Brewing Co., where I got a Belgian White Ale called Captive King. What a flavor this beer possessed! As this was summer, there is nothing better than wheat, or white ale or Kolsch, this time a year. When I am ordering a beer at a brewery, this is the style or type of beer, more than any other, that I select. I had two, refusing to try anything else. I must note that I also got a Crowler to go! For food, I kept it somewhat light since we were going to eat more elsewhere. I ordered a Portuguese Stuffed Quahog. It was great, as always, and with one bite transported me back to eating tons of these at home or my aunt Madeline’s house for the holidays.
After Moby Dick Brewing Co., we headed to Cork Wine and Tapas Bar, which is an upscale wine bar in a beautiful stone building within sight of the New Bedford working docks. There my wife had a mixed cocktail, I had a local craft beer, and we ordered some more food. I had the poke, because why not. If living in Hawaii taught me anything, it taught me to CRAVE poke and order it whenever I see it on the menu. Let’s be clear I have not found a poke dish outside of Hawaii that comes close to battling the poke I had on Oahu. Even so, Cork’s poke was good and satisfied my poke cravings.
After spending a couple of hours at Cork, we called it a night. The next day we would be going to see my uncle and going for classic New Bedford Portuguese food, something I feel only the Whaling City can offer.
The next morning, we decided to go to a local bakery to get a bagel w/cream cheese, a coffee, and we walked around downtown taking in the morning sea air. We went to The Baker, a local bakery, and while we ordered bagels for us, we decided to pick up a bunch of other goodies for later and for my uncle. Then, we checked out of the hotel and headed to get my uncle and have some lunch.
We choose to eat at a local Portuguese restaurant that I had eaten at before, but many many years ago. New Bedford is known for its Portuguese contribution to local history and has a strong Portuguese presence. So, Portuguese food is, not surprisingly, fantastic. We ate at Cafe MIMO, and I ordered my favorite Chicken & Shrimp Mozambique with rice. My wife and uncle both got Steak Micaelense, a sirloin with red pepper, garlic, white wine sauce, and home fries and one egg on top of the steak. My wife’s choice of dish is a classic Portuguese meal. Just seeing the waitress bring it out and place it in front of her brought me back to going to this restaurant years ago.
After a beautiful lunch with my uncle, my wife and I headed home. The weekend had come and passed quickly, and so had the open houses we left town to avoid. In this brief moment, we were able to de-stress, enjoy some creature comforts of food and beer, and for me, especially, reconnect with past surroundings that made me remember who I was. It seemed, as we left, a cloud lifted. We felt that the depressing feelings plaguing us had been broken down and dispersed. Hard days, of course, are not easily eradicated, but we felt recharged, recommitted, and excited to move forward. And forward we loved, that weekend we got an offer, sold the house, and into the future we journeyed. I guess all we needed to do, or at least I needed, to move forward was to rediscover the overgrown path. At least I always know home will be there when I need it.