The Life of a Snoop

     I couldn’t get the interview with the seals. The seals had no comment.
     I was born a snoop and I’ll always be a snoop. I’m always asking strangers to tell me a story.
     Back in the days when newspapers existed, I got some good stories that way. One day I took my TV in to be fixed and asked the old repairman what was new. Turned out he used to parachute behind enemy lines in World War II. Kill bad guys and sneak back – that kind of thing. He met a woman in the French resistance. She disappeared after the war and he never saw her again. Fifty years later a woman called him from France and said she was his daughter. He’d just got back from seeing her. That was a good story.
     Three times strangers told me stuff about the CIA. Two private contractors said The Company had screwed them good: they were begging to tell their story. An older guy retired from the CIA before Reagan took office. He said it used to be a great place to work.
     You never know what people will tell you.
     My better half is a solo practitioner lawyer and it’s hard to wrest her away from work but last week I succeeded and we went to Cape Cod. I had never been out there before.
     My goodness.
     If I were made out of money I would move to Wellfleet on the instanter. Little old town settled in the 1650s. The Cape is just 1½ miles wide there. “The season” ends on Labor Day, so we had the beach to ourselves at sunrise. Miles of emptiness: sea, sand and sky – a lone fisherman way down thataway, a lone jogger down the other way. Otherwise just us and the seals.
     Miles of the Outer Cape became National Seashore in 1961, and development stopped. (Those damn anti-development Democrats. Whatever happened to that President Kennedy, anyway?) There’s still private houses, from before 1961, but the rental cabins have to be kept as rentals even if they’re sold. So development is nil except on the outskirts of Provincetown, where tiny rentals and condos line up in ugly rows. They didn’t manage to ruin Provincetown, though, where everyone walks through the narrow, colonial streets, and most of the men are gay.
     I don’t mind that. I like gay guys. Most of the ones I’ve known are more amusing than straight guys, and way better read. But Provincetown is not as charming as Wellfleet.
     I dropped in at a realty office in Wellfleet and pretended to be interested in a house. And found out that 90 percent of the sales there are second or third homes for summer people. Real estate prices dropped there during The Crash, but not much. Before 2008 you couldn’t touch a house for under $400,000. Now there’s a few you might touch. We saw an ad for one: “2 BR, a spacious 524 sq. ft. …”
     Every morning we saw seals at the beach. Lots of them, close to shore. They sit on a sand bar and watch the tourists. Very curious critters.
     One morning 20 of them watched us as we strolled down the beach. I waded out until I was 30 feet away – close enough to identify their faces: friendly bright-eyed doglike dudes with whiskers.
     “What do you say, guys?” I said – trying to get the interview – and they sank beneath the waves and disappeared. They resurfaced farther out, then crept back. They like to watch humans as much as humans like to watch them.
     On our last morning there, two old geezers dressed like bums – like me – in shorts and T-shirts and 3-day beards, chatted through the window of an idling pickup truck. They were discussing what to do with a spare $500,000 one of the guys had …
     I didn’t bother to try that interview.
     So that was our vacation on Cape Cod, and what I found about it from snooping around. It’s a great place, though I wouldn’t want to go there in the summer.
     After I got home and knocked out this column I went to the grocery store to take a break before I proofed it. The lady in front of me in line, a pleasant-looking grandma type, was buying 16 pounds of butter.
     “Doing some cooking, are we?” I asked.
     “I have to cook 1,000 cookies by Friday,” the lady told me.
     “My goodness,” I said. “Why?”

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