Wellfleet and the World

Themes of a Cherished and Threatened Place

From the introduction:

Much of my experience of this place over the years, like that of many washashores, has been pure romance. "Washashore" is what natives in these parts call non-native residents. There are worse things to be called than washashore. You could be, and most of us were earlier in our evolution, a "summer complaint", the old term for varieties of summer people, part-time residents, summer renters, tourists and creatures still lower in the local hierarchy. In the big picture, washashore status is something of an achievement. Nevertheless there is in the term a bit of insult, an implication that, like the flotsam, jetsam, and driftwood that wash up on the beach, you occupy marginal space and might just wash away on the next tide.


With our move here ten years ago the honeymoon begun in 1959 in a tent on the beach was over. My education in the reality of small towns, this small town, began. I think at first in some fuzzy way I thought that by choosing to live fulltime in this town we would be getting an even stronger dose of the romance of our part-time experience—isn't that too often the motive for marriage: Fulltime access to the charms of the beloved? Real life here has of course proved otherwise.

Raising a child in a place is one sure cure for the disease of romance. Since we live only a third of a mile down a beautiful sand road from the elementary school, we imagined that our five year old, who started kindergarten the very week we moved, would walk every day down the sand road to school-perhaps, in season, barefoot, like Tom Sawyer; and surely the local teachers, being Wellfleet teachers, would approve. As it turned out he never once made that walk, barefoot or not. Refusing from the start to cooperate with our romantic vision, he chose to walk up to the paved road to catch the bus for that two-minute ride, his motives bodily ease and social opportunity.


Foreword by Ray Oldenburg
Introduction: Confessions of a Washashore
  • Essential Regional Terminology
  • At Home With Entropy
  • The Kindness of Strangers
  • The Museumification of Uncle Tim and Aunt Sally
  • Varieties of Human Intervention
  • Coyotes Out of Context
  • Rooting for Chaos
  • Nipping Progress in the Bud
  • Two-Thirds Empty Glass
  • Requiem for Shirttail Point
  • Wild East
  • Plastic Donut, Soulful Pizza
  • Dilemma of a Perfect Day at the Ocean
  • Will it Play in Peoria?
  • Stretching the Season
  • Development Blues
  • Getting Real
  • Struttin' Our Stuff
  • Pushing the River
  • Wellfleetland
  • The Safe Place Concept
  • The Implied Ocean
  • Brave Stand
  • Exorcising the Urban Ghosts
  • What's in a House Name?
  • Submitting to Main Street
  • Mystery Fence at Old Pier Road
  • Fairweather Sailor
  • Sharing Words
  • Self-Doubt Here in the Middle Period of Mall Proliferation
  • Yee Haw
  • Natural Socialism
  • Vieques' Navy Base, Our National Seashore
  • Fraught with Appreciation
  • The Plugged and the Unplugged
  • A Juice by Any Other Name
  • Seeing Our Houses as Others See Them
  • More Solution Than Problem Pounce
  • Jefferson's Kitchen and the C-2 Zone
  • The All-town Town Meeting
  • The Absorbability Theme
  • Obliviousness of Things Past
  • Oasis, Speedbump, Guerilla Base
  • People Chowder
  • The Big and the Small
  • All Game, No Sidelines
  • Being a Hot Commodity
  • To Hang or Not to Hang
  • Holes In a Town's Soul
  • Go Play in the Street
  • Marginal America
  • Sleeping Dog
  • New Cow on the Farm
  • Can't Happen Here
  • Honeymoon Over
  • Lame Ducks
  • Electronic Citizenship
  • Transcending Our Grocery Shopping Dichotomy
  • We Hate When We Do That
  • Our OPM Problem
  • Call of the Wild
  • Outsider Fetish; or, Better the T.A. You Don't Know
  • Legislated Diversity in the Latter Days of the Former Beer Capital of the Western World
  • Truro Golf and the Taliban
  • What Happened in Wellfleet?
  • Original Sin
  • Making An Honest Dump Out of Us
  • Jekyll and Hyde
  • T he Little Pharm that Apparently Couldn't
  • Equal Access and the Toilet Analogy
  • Wellfleet and the World: a 9/11 Medley
  • Wabi-sabi
  • Living with Sand Roads
  • Varieties of Pond Pollution
  • T he Aesthetics of Shellfishing
  • The Taboo Logic of Mutual Back-scratching
  • S.T.A.B.L.L.


"Brent Harold writes about his adopted town with uncommon wit and literary grace. Though the issues and principles that Harold writes about in Wellfleet and the World are local, the behavior and principles they shed light upon broadly reflect the current American condition."
—Robert Finch, author, The Cape Itself and Death of a Hornet and Other Cape Cod Essays

"Consider what San Francisco's Herb Caen, Chicago's Mike Royko and New York's Joseph Mitchell did for their towns. Out on the farther reaches of the Cape, Brent Harold demonstrates that civic journalism is as vital to small towns as it is to large cities."
—Ray Oldenburg, author, The Great Good Place

"In Wellfleet and the World, Brent Harold paints a charming portrait of a charming little town on the sea... His book will make the expression 'washashore' familiar and enticing to many readers...a good read for all seasons."
—Howard Zinn, author, A People's History of the United States