Deathiversary.

[ed: this was written for us by Jim’s wife, Bo]

 

Hi Friends, 

We are coming up on the first anniversary of Jim’s death. It is confusing times for all of us amidst a pandemic, one display after another of horrifying social injustice, and the ongoing assault on our democracy.

Yet ordinary things are happening too, birds are singing, the breeze is blowing, a full moon will rise in the sky tomorrow.

 

Please help me in remembering James Frederick Dowd and how he could hold all of it with wisdom, humor and action.

 

SHORT VERSION:

 

June 5th, 2019. Jim Died.

It’s almost June 5th again.

We want to honor and celebrate Jim. 

At 8:45 PM EST we’ll be Toasting Jim 

[We’ll put a link up on the Clam, Jim’s FB page and Caringbridge early evening June 5, 2020 so you can join us]

 

MEDIUM VERSION:

This is what the kids and I will do:

 

Friday, June 5, sunset is at 8:17 PM EST

 

At 8:30 PM, Rebecca, Treely, and I are going to have a brief private ritual near water 

We will light luminaria around 8:40 pm

We’ll raise a glass (or more likely a water bottle) to the one and only Jim Dowd

Then our friend will play The Decemberists’ Sons and Daughters on the bagpipe

Then we will spin some fire (think giant sparkler) as a symbolic act of untethering.

Then we will walk home .

 

I wish we could all be together in one place, warming each other in story and song.

But as we cannot gather in large groups here in Massachusetts, 

we’ll each do our part wherever we are. 

Here’s how to honor Jim’s deathiversary.

 

Take these three elements:

 

Find yourself a place that is meaningful. 

It could be on a beach, near a beach, by a water feature, standing over a cactus in a pot, or in front of your kitchen sink. Put the plug in and run the water.

Bring some fire into your life. Carefully.

A candle, a fire-pit, the damn weed you were trying to give to Jim to smoke (or perhaps you’ve got a newer stash), even the lighter you held in the air at that Grateful Dead show.

At 8:45 PM EST we’ll be Toasting Jim [*We’ll put a link up on the Clam, Jim’s FB page and Caringbridge  in the early evening June 5, 2020 so you can join us]

Listen to Sons and Daughters 

 

That’s it.

Beautiful or ironic as you choose.

IMPORTANT: If you live on Cape Ann

 

If you discover other Jim Dowd rememberers (Dowdists?), do a special social distance wave (or a fist-bump across the ethers) and go find a spot – with them in heart – but definitely physically away from them in a show of loving, scientific caring. 

ESPECIALLY since Rebecca just wrote THIS opinion piece.

 

EITHER WAY

 

Tune in for the toast by 8:45ish pm EST.   *check back! 

Or make one of your own and post it on Jim’s FB page

You can provide your own version of Sons and Daughters

Or listen to ours.

 

Hey Bo, I get what you all are doing but what if I can’t get to an idyllic mountain stream?

 

Yep. I hear you. 

My mom, who lives in a community that does not allow flame, has this very same challenge.

Her plan is to boil a pot of water on the stove and yell “DIRIGIBLE” as she fist pumps the air. 

Well, actually she’s found a lovely virtual image of a fire by a beach, but feel free to do the boiling water scenario.

 

VERY VERY LONG RAMBLING REFLECTION WITH BACKSTORY AND POTENTIAL THINGS TO DO IN THE FUTURE

June 5th 2020 will be one trip around the sun since James Frederick Dowd took his last breath.

Crazy, right?!

 

Someone suggested I call this day Jim’s “Angelversary”.  I can tell you if Jim made a list of the top 10 things not to call the anniversary of his death. Angelversary would be at least number two.

I’m pretty sure the Edward Gorey angel had a thick yiddish accent, nu?

 

In Judaism we have a word for the anniversary of a death, it’s a yahrzeit, it’s yiddish and it translates to something like “year-time”. 

Because  year + time. 

Which is really the same as anniversary which comes from annual + return.

 

Still I have been caught up in the idea of using this word that doesn’t feel right.

I mean it should be fine. Anniversary. We have come back around to the time of year and there’s nothing in it that says “the annual return to a happy day”  but since mostly in my life it’s been used for joyous occasions,  saying “the Anniversary of Jim’s death” feels a bit like bait and switch. 

Anniversary = happy, festive, celebratory

Death = Dead, no life, kaput. 

I feel tricked. 

So since Jim loved smushing two words to make one better word and “Angelversary” has been nixed, I will henceforth call this day JIm’s deathiversary. My feeling? It’s better to know up front.

 

So why am I caring so much about what this day is called?

I don’t know

Way back in Pre Pandemic times, Clam Nation had been planning a big memorial celebration for Jim’s first deathiversary. We were going to call it Jimapalooza.

A live Band, Video of Jim shooting Sir Patrick Stewart. Delicious beer. Powerpoints. (what’s a memorial celebration without a few well curated slides?!) But the emergence of a novel zoonotic disease made it seem like a batty idea to bring a few hundred of Jim’s loved ones together in a room.  Even if it was a very big room.

 

As restrictions and Covid-19 cases piled up I lost track of pretty much everything except how many rolls of TP were left.

How many toilet paper angels does it take to change a light bulb?

 

About three weeks ago it occurred to me Jim’s deathiversary was going to arrive and I did not have a plan.

Sidenote: It’s a weird thing to lose your spouse and get a pandemic.

 

Then some very fine people started gently asking how I was, if I had any ideas.

I didn’t. Then I did.

 

Symbolism, things burning up, letting go, 

Ooooh,

I got the idea that the fire should be in the form of 100s of flaming flying lanterns leaving the earth individually but altogether. Those who could meet on Cape Ann would but Jim’s people everywhere around the world could also light and send off (ecologically safe, of course) flaming lanterns into the moonlit sky. I started thinking maybe we could have someone play Sons and Daughters on the bagpipe.

We could livestream it from Flatrocks up in Lanesville

Or a beach. 

At sunset.

 

PROBLEM ONE: Flaming flying lanterns, even the ecologically safe ones, aren’t really all that good for the environment or the fishies and even if they were, if you’ve ever spent time on the coast you know that the breeze during the day pretty much always blows people’s umbrellas AWAY from the water and into the dunes and, according to our fire marshall, rooftops. 

 

So not that. 

I think it would have been fine but since my friend looked up the city codes and lighting those lanterns is illegal and we aren’t supposed to be on the beach at night or gather in groups of more than ten, I said fine. No Flaming Floating Lanterns. 

 

Then life got busy for the living. 

The kids had things that required my help. The house had issues. The dog got diagnosed with a possible brain tumor.

Seriously. Let’s just wait to discuss that another day

 

A week passed. Clamnation came to the rescue again.

Well what if we all lit luminaries instead. They stay on the ground.

 

Yessss, Perfect.

This is a solid alternative

Everyone can easily make a luminary!

All ya need is a paper lunch bag and some sand and a tea light and we’ll all meet on the beach and…

That’s when someone pointed out

 

PROBLEM TWO: 

And by someone I mean everyone in the virtual room. 

“Um Bo, We can’t gather in groups over ten”

 

FUCK.

The idea of this day passing without some kind of connected honoring/celebration/global rant felt fucking awful. 

So much for my wish to be with all of you.
I would have sulked a bit more but Thisbee having just been diagnosed with vestibular disequilibrium syndrome and her massive wobbliness made it seem like a bad time for me to get off balance. But hell if watching your dog veer to the left and then overcorrect doesn’t remind you of watching your beloved husband try to walk from the living room straight into a wall.

 

So yet another new plan was made and now we have:

TAH-DAH!

An OYO deathiversary celebration. Just in time for FRIDAY, JUNE 5th.

(notice the excellent depiction of social distancing)

 

 

OYO is On Your Own.

This is a favorite Outward Bound tradition that Jim and I carried forward. 

It means dinner won’t be served, you have to go to the fridge and look for whatever is available.

Be resourceful.

Clean up after yourself.

In this case I think you’ll find

FIRE, WATER and SONS AND DAUGHTERS 

And I know you won’t leave a trace if you go to some special place.

 

(rhyming was incidental, not intentional, but hey.)

 

So here we are.

We’ve made this circle round the sun without Jim and the only thing you really need to do to honor him is to be your best self.

 

But if you want to create some fire, near some water, 

By land, by sea, by dirigible

We’ll gladly leave our tracks untraceable 

Maybe not near you. 

But with you.

 

————————–

The planet, designated Kepler-413b, precesses, or wobbles, wildly on its spin axis, much like a child’s top or Thisbee when she tries to do anything with forward motion.

Naming Conventions

[Author: Bo Abrams]

My husband, the wonder-man Jim Dowd, was a naming savant. 

He named bands. He named blogs. He named bikes. 

From the day I met him I realized he had an uncanny sense of what would work and what wouldn’t in a name. 

As you might know, the trick is you can’t choose willy nilly (although he seemed to be able to) you have to have guidelines and rules. You have to be willing to free associate and at the same time be ready to cull what might be cherished. Even before Jim was naming things professionally, he instinctively understood constructs were necessary for success.

 

Before Rebecca was born Jim and I were pondering what we might name our soon to be offspring. We’d been calling the in utero creature Saugus, because place names are sexy!

But we needed a name for someone going to public school.

We chose these rules:

 

  1. You have to try it at the top of a resume. 
  2. You have to be able to yell it off the back porch easily.
  3. You have to be able to say it the same in Massachusetts as elsewhere.

(Because of the whole “In Boston you take the “R” off the Chair and put it on the Sofa” thing -it gets you Chayahs and sofers.)

 

All three have to work. 

For example, I worked at Carter Notch Hut in the White Mountains and I thought Carter would be a terrific name. Did I mention place names are sexy?

Anyway, It looked good at the top of a resume. Carter Dowd. It had a nice ring to it. Strong. Simple. Check one.

So Jim yelled it off the back deck into Lanes Cove. 

“CARTER” it carried. It soared.

Until the “In Boston you take the “R” off the Chair and put it on the Sofa” test. 

Total fail.

Sure enough when Rebecca was in kindergarten there was a boy in her class whose name was spelled  C A R T E R.

Through the entirety of elementary school not one person pronounced the R at the end of his name. EVAH.

 

Over the years, Jim’s regular rants and random titling of pets, cars, political campaigns, etc… fostered naming savvy in Treely and Rebecca, so much so, when they heard we were getting a kitten they immediately created a shared google Doc: 

They made one rule: No people names.

 

If you wonder how Jim lives on in his children I offer this:

 

Potential Kitten Names for the Kitten formerly known as Anderson

Lemon

Spoon

Spoo

Lemon Spoonful

Penguin

Dandelion (dandy for short)

Vegetables (veggies for short)

The Goat

Assweasel!

Alf

Lechuga

Mantequilla

ALL the TS Eliot cats

Bumblebee

Pyramus

The Wall

Tigger- only kidding 😉

Uncle Deadly

Colin Meloy 

Dirigible

Scallion

Zucchini (zukey) 

Wham!

Fingies (short for fingers)

Tequila

ÆëîLçæ

Mortimer

Cthulhu (short for Cthulhu Saves the World: Super Hyper Enhanced Championship Edition Alpha Diamond DX Plus Alpha FES HD – Premium Enhanced Game of the Year Collector’s Edition) 

Almond butter

Almond

Musk (short for Elon musk)

Elon (short for Elonian Armor from the game Guild Wars 2)

Bee

Ronald McDonald

Dick Turpin

Cat

Damn Cat

Cut that out!

Pedant

Mr. Meow

La la la Linoleum

—–

Also please note these clarifying questions: If this kitten has an honorific will it be Senator or The Honorable?

Answer: Senator

 

Question: Does the name need to be gender neutral?

Answer: Gender is a human construct

(not recounted here but there was also an extended pedantic discussion about if it’s not a person name how can it be gender based.)

 

Question: What about the name he was given by the foster family.

Answer in slightly pontificatory tone: Cats have more than one name. We can have that be his first name.

 

Question: Shall we tell everyone what we named the kitten?

Answer: Fuck No, Make them guess.

 

Anyway. Clam friends. Jim’s legacy lives.

 

 

 

Introducing Senator Anderson Lemon Zucchini Abrams Dowd

10 weeks old and weighing in at extremely adorable.

 

Zukey. For non resume purposes.

And easy to yell off the back porch. 

 

AOK – Champion of Human Rights?

We’ve been presented with a Clamsplaining conundrum today. And we had to have a full group discussion in order to fully wrap our heads around it. We’re still a bit puzzled, so we’re going to open up the conversation and the problem to you all in Clam Nation.

Do we take the time to explain to the good people of Gloucester, that if you are a fan of Human Rights, you need to send a message today to the City Council, to prevent the appointment of Amanda Orlando Kesterson to the Human Rights Commission? Or, do we explain to that same woman, that this city commission she has applied to join, is in fact, responsible for ensuring the rights of ALL people (gay, straight, trans, cis, undocumented, women and their reproductive rights) are protected, and advanced?

We assume that the good people of Gloucester may need a heads up that the vote is this week, and that we are certain the city can find a person better suited to serving on this commission (or perhaps, couldn’t find a WORSE person). Please, send an email. Make a call.

Upon reflection, we actually don’t think it is possible that AOK understands the function of the Human Rights Commission, nor the responsibility that she would be tasked with. This is not a chance to debate the importance of “men’s rights”, or to affirm the notion of “reverse racism”.

BASICALLY THIS

Briefly, the Commission is tasked with ensuring that:

No person in our city shall be unlawfully discriminated against in matters of housing, employment, education, contracts, purchasing or public accommodations, on the basis of: age, ancestry, citizenship, color, disability, economic status, ethnicity, family or marital status, gender, military status, national origin, race, religion, sexual orientation or source of income.

We feel it might be helpful to help Amanda understand that, by being appointed to this commission, she would be expected to be a loud voice in our community advocating for the right, and ABILITY of all people in Gloucester to live a life of freedom and liberty. The Commission does not debate IF people are worthy of basic rights, but rather, to provide support, insight, and advocacy for people when their rights are at risk.

Her letter asking for consideration to the city council suggests that she is unclear on this aspect of the position. She offers that she can’t know in advance what her positions will be on issues coming before the commission… there will not be debates about who deserves to be treated with equity, it should be pretty easy to say “if appointed, I commit wholeheartedly to offering the full spectrum of my gifts to ensure that human rights are protected, full stop”.

 Seeking political support from people who have fought hard AGAINST the ACTUAL RIGHTS OF OTHERS, IS, IN FACT demonstration of an inability to treat “ALL people with respect, kindness and understanding”.

 In nearby communities, Human Rights Commissions have led forums on Immigrant rights, and Sanctuary. Educational opportunities to enter into challenging dialogues around race, and support for those in our state recently targeted with the efforts to roll back civil rights protections for trans people. We hope and expect the same here in Gloucester.

IS A FRIEND OF JIM LYONS A FRIEND OF HUMAN RIGHTS?

 

It is fascinating to us, that in the same week that her appointment is to be reviewed, she held a fundraiser with Jim Lyons, arguably the most prominent ANTI-LGBTQ politician in the state, before he lost his seat in that liberal hotbed of Andover, he was particularly known for his championing of GAY CONVERSION THERAPY, and his efforts to prevent the state from providing civil rights protections for trans people in MA.

A Human Rights Commission is a sign of a community that cares about those on the margins, and specifically, members of a Human Rights Commission need to be capable of handling difficult and sometimes sensitive information. Members of a Human Rights Commission need to be people KNOWN for compassion, for commitment to those who don’t share the same privileges, and for being willing to step up and step forward for those whose rights are most at risk.

We have seen time and again, how Amanda has leveraged local politics to gain a voice at the state level, and even nationally. Little about her past performance suggests that she has the ability to

“increase mutual self-respect, harmonious intergroup relations and the peaceful enjoyment of life in our diverse community;”

We applaud her desire to stretch and grow in this new and unforeseen way, but until she has had a chance to demonstrate the ability to offer voice and advocacy for those already oppressed, we think her past actions, statements, and fundraisers (as long ago as 1/09/2020) suggest she is not an appropriate fit for this role in our community. And we’d urge Gloucester’s City Council to reject her appointment.

Gloucester Clam Review: Phoebe Potts’ Too Fat for China

 

I know we don’t typically do local reviews here, but hear me out on this one. It’s worth changing the rules for.

I was recently lucky enough to snag a ticket the world premier of Phoebe Potts’ one-woman show, Too Fat for China. A poignant and deeply funny look at the difficult road of adoption after infertility, the show just finished up its limited 2-week run at the Gloucester Stage Company. It debuted on November 23rd, National Adoption Day, and proceeded to sell out the two Saturday shows. It’s not hard to see why it was an instant hit. If you don’t know Phoebe, she’s an amazing storyteller and a genuinely funny woman. She was recently handed the Gloucester Writer’s Center Fish Tales Storyteller-In-Residence baton from our own late, great Jim Dowd. 

Phoebe, who had previously turned her infertility struggles into a brilliant graphic novel called “Good Eggs”, starts her story out by learning who the Mafia was (a close-knit family who would throw you in the East River) while growing up in a pre-Gentrification Brooklyn brownstone. 

She weaves that background story of growing up in the Jewish Faith, her courtship and marriage to her husband Jeff, and the titular issue, her weight gain, into the adoption tale. 

While her fertility doctors explained that her weight wasn’t impacting her ability to conceive, it disqualified her from a Chinese adoption as at 5’3” and 160ish lbs, she would have been at too high a BMI to adopt. 

She explains the judgement involved in adoption -judgement of finances, relationships, medical history, and so many other things we’d rather keep private. And Phoebe admits she’s not immune to judgment of others – including the way they dress, even though she’s aware she “presents as an after-school pottery teacher from the Shire.”

Phoebe’s years-long, winding adoption story, peppered with heartbreaking failure along the way, is compelling and wonderful, as much as it is painful and unfair. All the while, Phoebe must face that every adoption process is rife with racism – from the cost differences in domestic adoption between gender and race, to the nurse in a Cincinnati hospital admonishing a black birth mother in front of her for not loving her baby, to the phenomena of Americans adopting internationally and removing a child from its own country.  She must as come to terms that she comes from great privilege even though she is struggling to get the one thing she wants – a goddamn tiny baby. 

Of course, I’m not one to spoil an ending, but if you’ve ever met Phoebe, you’ve also met her gem of a son, Lemi – so of course, she finally succeeds in adoption. She ends her show with her son’s homecoming, kicking off her shoes and belting out her own version of Etta James’ At Last, while photos of her son as a baby, in a Frankfurt airport, with his exhausted and beaming new parents.

With Phoebe’s storytelling and standup prowess, it’s easy to see why Too Fat for China got a standing ovation from a sold-out crowd. Our only hope is that this sweet and introspective narrative can get the wider showing it deserves.

The Gloucester Clam Presents: TurkeyPalooza 2019!

Unfortunately, it’s no surprise that increased housing prices both statewide and across Cape Ann, coupled with stagnant wages and increasing income inequality, has really put pressure on many of our friends and neighbors here. This year, with a lot of wallets tightening and some at the breaking point, more families have asked the Open Door for help to put food on the table for Thanksgiving. As a result of this increased need, the lovely folks at the Open Door asked us to rally our amazing, snarky community for a great cause- to make sure no family is left out this year. They’re hoping to raise a total of $10k through a group of individual community members who will use their magical powers to raise money.

We want to do our part as a community of helpful nerds and raise $1000 – enough for 32 baskets.

That’s 32 families that don’t have to choose between a Thanksgiving meal and paying their rent on time. That’s about 200 people, give or take, who will enjoy their day with the people they love without the stress involved with budgeting for a Thanksgiving meal.

I previously wrote about the great things the Open Door does.  They serve nearly 1 in 6 residents, most of whom are employed and not making enough. A lot of the people served by the Open Door only use it when necessary, and less than they are allowed by the pantry’s guidelines. Open Door does a lot of heavy lifting in our community, and they’re what I call a “safety trampoline” – they help families bounce back into self-sufficiency as quickly as they can. A “safety net”  is great terminology – it catches those falling through the cracks. But a trampoline is what gets them back where they were before they fell.

 

boing boing boing

Here, use this as a visual interpetation of my theory.

 

Here’s a little personal story about what that safety trampoline can mean.

Not even 5 years ago, when I was going through a divorce, my rent was $1500 and my monthly freelance clients averaged $1700. Because I was a freelancer with varying income and had filed taxes with my ex-husband previously, the state turned myself and my two kids down for SNAP benefits, even though we were income-eligible. I was lucky to have some savings, but it was a pretty trying time for us and we barely made it. Thankfully, the Open Door was there of us, and in 2015, I was one of those families getting a Thanksgiving  basket to cook an amazing meal for my boys with leftovers for days. When I went to the Open Door for help, it felt like the community truly cared about us. I was able to instead use that grocery money to cover my rent, to pay my bills, and to worry about a little less that week.

In the time since, I’ve been lucky enough to do better and become a middle-class homeowner (I have a basement fridge! And an icemaker! And a car with BLUETOOTH!).  This happened mostly through chance, and a little through hard work, networking, and austerity budgeting. The safety trampoline worked well for me. But I will forever be thankful to the Open Door for getting us through what I often refer to as the Crap Year. A Crap Year can happen to anyone, regardless of their background, education level, employment status, or family size.

I remember that feeling, that people in this city cared, and I want other families in this city to feel the same way. So here we are, just a dumb blog that swears a lot, asking you for help to accomplish this goal.

Here’s the link to make a donation.

Even a small donation will go a long way to helping us meet our fundraising goal for The Open Door — and we’ll be making the holidays so much brighter for our neighbors in need. Every $30 provides a basket, so whether you give $10 or $100, we’ll be helping local families set their holiday tables.

Thank you!