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Tending our gardens

Bill Murphy and the Corwin Street Community Garden

Sometimes, you just have to get your hands dirty.

For me, that mostly means finding strata of food under my nails after a sweaty day in the kitchen. But on a chilly morning in December, my hands got dirty with real, actual, honest-to-god dirt. As in, from the earth.

Me and dirt are like oil and water. Gardening is not something I have an innate passion for, but there is one garden I have a soft spot for. Tucked between modern apartment buildings on a dead-end street on the slopes of Eureka Valley, the Corwin Street Community Garden is more than a patch of pretty flowers.

As a tour guide in the neighborhood, I often drag my more ambitious groups up the steep incline to the garden and to the Seward Mini-park below. Here, deep in the residential tracts and close to the geographic heart of the city, they offer surprising morsels of our city's history.

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Anchor Oyster Bar


(Sorry for the crappy cell phone shot. Didn’t have the camera handy.)

I grew up in the Northeast, in Schenectady, NY, which I often say is a nice place to be from. You’ll notice I don’t live there anymore. But it has many desirable characteristics — a deep and interesting history, access to locations of great natural beauty and relative proximity to the greatest city on earth, New York. It’s also just a few hours’ drive from the New England shores.

Because my mother is a beach addict and sun worshiper, nearly every summer involved at least one excursion to pray at the shrine. We lolled on the rocky shores of Rhode Island, gawked at mansions in Newport and ships in Mystic, CT, went whale-watching from Provincetown, MA.

Sensations from these trips are emblazoned in my mind. Hot sun prickling on skin. The ionic smell of salt air. Gulls calling overhead. The rush of adrenaline watching a 60-foot humpback whale hurls itself bodily out of the sea, landing in a dull, percussive whomp and casting an enormous watery plume.

And then there’s the seafood.

Crispy strips of fried clams. Cherrystones and oysters on the half shell. Filets of firm, white fish plucked fresh from the sea. To say nothing of the lobster rolls, which I have been pining after for years and which, as God is my witness, I will make this year. Hold me to it, people!

I’m not saying that we don’t get some of the finest seafood in the world right here in good old Ess Eff. But I am saying it’s a whole different kettle of fish than you get back east. But when I get nostalgic for New England seaside shacks, I know I can fix my jones at Anchor Oyster Bar.

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