Yes, I Am Not A Townie: Adventures in Nonlocal Consciousness

 by guest Clamtributor Jeremy McKeen  a most excellent blogger over at

I am not a born-and-bred Townie, but I would literally trade my life to be one. In fact, that is exactly what I’ve done, willingly, along with my wife and kids. These are now our beaches and parks and Boulevard and favorite pizza and Asian cuisine restaurants. Take that, outsiders!

The shirt that inspired my quest

The shirt that inspired my quest

Here’s the story:

To become an accepted Townie I was afforded a chance to go before the secret Townie Council that runs Fishtown. They oversee what non-townies are allowed to run for office, open businesses, and film movies. I was only asking for non-commercial Townie status, so I filled out the right forms and was given my day in Townie Court.

My options were to become an above-the-bridge or below-the-bridge Townie, and to stay as authentic as possible – I hoped to become a Downtownie (plus that’s where we can afford to live). Living within a block of the library, fire station, all the shops and restaurants, and a supermarket is the greatest place to possibly be. Plus we can literally walk to several beaches and parks, which, growing up in New Jersey, was never the case. Imagine, driving two hours to the “Shore” only to walk ten blocks to a beach that you then have to pay for! That is the urban hellscape that is the reality for most states in our Union.

I was told to appear, via a series of tunnels deep below the gazebo at Stage Fort Park, to the chambers of the Townie Council, where transplant “locals” like me can be blessed in to become a true Townie, independent of previous land of birth or residency. The tunnels reach from Magnolia through town, and then end at the Rockport town line, where a better-maintained, cleaner line of tunnels takes over. I was led to the Council chamber by a Freemason-like group of landscapers, housepainters, and fry cooks. They constantly asked what street I lived on and if I was related to somebody’s cousin from Bay View, Riverdale, or East Gloucester. Alas, I was not. My people have never existed in Fishtown before. I began to sweat.

At least the underground tunnel skulls were neatly kept

At least the underground tunnel skulls were neatly kept

Headed by the actual Fisherman-at-the-Wheel Statue, the Council consists of St. Peter himself (in statue form, of course, and always guarded by three elderly men smoking Pall Malls), St. Ann and St. Mary (held up in the air around the Council table by six young men sporting late-1800s Italian boating gear), a Floating Dunks Cup (a non-recyclable Styrofoam cup covering a plastic cup) simply referred to as “Lahge Iced Regulah”, an old, silent Puritan with a gnarled walking staff, and a Marker Buoy covered in fishnets.

Traditionally, the first (and almost only) rule of being a Townie is that you have to be born and raised here. That’s it. Even if you’ve left Gloucester for a considerable amount of time, you will always have townie status. Always. In fact if you left Gloucester at eighteen and returned at seventy-six only to die and rest in peace in Gloucester dirt, you’ll still be considered a townie moreso than if I lived here from age twenty to my death at seventy-six. It is what it is.

But to become a naturalized Townie, the Council questioned my origin, high school, college, young adult life, and knowledge about the area, including how to give directions to someone’s house using only churches and restaurants or both. I almost failed this part when I briefly blanked on where Destino’s was. Oh man.

The Council then drilled me on my affiliations. Not being Italian, Catholic, or from Gloucester, I initially lost points with St. Peter, Ann, and Mary until I reminded them that they too were not from Gloucester, nor Italian or even originally Catholic. I reminded them they had each begun life as Jews from Galilee. We all got a good laugh out of that one. Even the old, silent Puritan in the corner cracked a smile.

Not that much of a smile

Not that much of a smile

I ran through my rich seven-year personal immersion into all things Gloucester. My wife and I even went to college nearby, and not even in Boston! We spent years and thousands of dollars within the north-of-exit-19-through-22 geographical bubble that separates north North Shore/Cape Ann townies from the rest of civilization. Certainly that would count for something? Right? I didn’t sense they were buying it.

The Floating Dunks Cup testily questioned why I didn’t visit their insane drive-thru more often even though I pass them twice a day. I said I try to go to Cape Ann Coffee more often than not in order to really support the local economy. Townies should always distrust outside things, right?

‘Whatevah,” he said.

The large floating Buoy asked about what kind of boat my family owned. I was done for. I’ve only been fishing once, and aside from driving a Buick Park Avenue for a few years, my family has never owned a boat. However my secret knowledge of how to beat the lines at the Causeway obviously impressed the Council (you never eat at the Causeway, you simply order from them and pick it up yourself, double parking in the shitty parking lot).

A few mumbles of approval.

The final round of inquiry came from the Fisherman-at-the-Wheel statue. He was unconcerned with my non-Sicilian, non-Portuguese, non-Catholic background or my inability to fish. He instead only asked what I would do with my townie status once awarded. I stammered that my wife and I planned on living here for the rest of our lives (we even had a cemetery picked out until we decided on cremation), that my parents were moving up once they were retired and would apply for Lanesville Townie membership (a separate, much less forgiving Council I’m told), but most importantly, that we were raising our children in Gloucester, and that they would be, and already are, townies. Who knows what we, as a family of Townies, could accomplish together?

No one uttered a word. One of the Pall Mall guys coughed. The statue moved his gaze from the horizon to my eyes and began to speak. He told me that if I choose to be a Townie, I would just be a Townie. Nothing more. There are no points awarded for running into neighbors and friends at Market Basket or seeing parents your age walking their kids down the Boulevard to Stage Fort. You don’t become something. You just are. Townies just are. Nothing more. Nothing less.


After these words the Council mysteriously vanished into a thick fog. When it cleared I was next to the loading dock at the Downtown Shaw’s wearing a Cape Pond Ice shirt and with a winning $5 scratch ticket in my pocket. I assume I passed.

And a roll of Fiesta tickets! I'm set for life!

And a roll of Fiesta tickets! I’m set for life!

After passing my own Fishtown Kobayashi Maru test to become a Gloucester Downtownie (and I’m still awaiting confirmation by snail mail because Townies would obviously never use email), I’m taking on the Greasy Pole Council next. As a thirty-five year old with a bad back and no Italian roots whatsoever, I’m told I can never participate.

But as a Townie, I can dream.

Jeremy McKeen is a teacher, coach, musician, and writer and can be found on Nerdy Dad Shirt Blog on or walking around town with his wife and children, probably headed toward a park or beach.



Well, Clamskteers, it’s Sunday. The day when your beloved Clam puts aside the snark and revels in all that is truly earnestly awesome. Usually these pieces come easy, but not today for a short list of reasons:

  •  I can’t enjoy Fiesta today I have to go into Boston on a big project my company is working on. It happens every once in a while, and today’s one of those days. So I’m cranky.
  •  I couldn’t go to the wind turbine thing yesterday because of pressing family logistics.
  •  When I finally did get to Fiesta to fly the drone we were pestered by a small group of annoyed elderly people who claimed that the two and a half pound plastic quacopter was “not safe” and could potentially “carry a bomb” in a way somehow more sinister than other remote controlled technology or the several thousand pound boats being dubiously piloted all over the harbor. Meanwhile their grandsons and nephews were pinwheeling their skulls and torsos into a greased utility pole then spiraling down into the unforgiving sea. One guy had to be backboarded and zipped away. Pole 1, Drone 0.
  • Then, at the train station, this guy:

[at the request of a family remember I removed the picture of the dude grogged out on the bench. Not because I believe we shouldn’t show it, but because it’s painful for them. So I’m just putting a picture of a kitty in here. Nice kitty.]

See? Much nicer

See? Much nicer

Oh man.  It’s Sunday. The day I’m supposed to throw my snark-guns into the dust.  So I’m gonna talk about committees.

Shit! Come back! Don’t just click away. Hear me out. Committees, dude. They make everything work. Seriously.

Do you know why there are flowers in public spaces? Fireworks? Parades? How City Hall got rebuilt? How all the school sports and plays and music and teams and extra curricular activities work? Because people sit on committees. Your lesser news outlets will always give you a “Differencemaker” story highlighting an individual whom they can wrap a three minute segment around, and sure there are plenty of those in Gloucester (looking at you, Maggie Rosa), but most of the stuff that really gets done is in fact the result of a bunch of people who met on Wednesday nights, ate coffeecake and hashed out details after taking the roll and reading the minutes of the last meeting.

You wanna know what is the result of a committee? Fiesta. Yes, everyone knows the story of Savatore Favazza who had the statue of St. Peter enshrined in the heart of the Italian district in 1927.  But you know who turned it into a three day event with all the celebrations, remembrances and activities? A committee of fisherman’s wives from down the Fort in 1931. A person has an idea and energy and passion. A committee makes shit happen.

All in favor of giving "Drunkie Smurf" the power of levitation say 'Aye'

All in favor of giving “Drunkie Smurf” the power of levitation say ‘Aye’

So I’m going to suggest that next year, before Fiesta on June 22 we give a nod to the patron saint of public service, Saint Thomas More. He’s also the patron saint of large families, stepparents and difficult marriages, so he’d be right at home here. He was (for his time) a humanist, statesman and a guy who dreamed of an island Utopia in the New Word (albeit with slavery and punishing premarital sex with lifetime enforced celibacy so that’s somewhat less ‘utopian’ than one would kind of hope for).

This guy. Looks like a lot of laughs, huh?

This guy. Looks like a lot of laughs, huh?

Also he was beheaded by Henry VIII so that would be cool thing to riff on. I’m picturing beach volleyball with a ball made up to look like his head or something. I don’t know.

I’ll get it in front of the committee and they’ll figure it out.

Take the Clam’s Fiesta Personality Quiz!

I’m Scrappy from Scooby Doo! I’m Admiral Scuttlebutt from Lidsville! I’m the element Yttrium! Everyone loves a Buzzfeed quiz. Dear God, people can’t stop fucking posting the results of them all over social media. So we here at The Clam decided Gloucester’s own signature event needed one. Take it, post the results and annoy your friends! Viva!

click on the saint to go to the quiz

click on the saint to go to the quiz

“Reimagining Railroad” by Staff Photographer Stevens Brosnihan

After his first assignment, we decided to give our staff photographer Stephens Brosnihan another chance at covering the Gloucester news beat. This… is what he gave us.
Beige is the New Black
The Clamtributors asked me to cover the second public hearing of the ‘Reimagining Railroad’ project held this Monday night between 6 and 8 pm. Being so close to the the Golden Hours of pre-sunset light, I was bereft to think of such precious photons being lost to interior shots of talking heads in City Hall. So, I headed down to the locus of the imaginary citadel that is being proposed. In preparation for the shoot I built a pinhole camera, reimagining an oatmeal box into an imaging device. It’s a classic beginner’s project, parting the seas of technique and techné to reveal the essence of the materials at hand. The lens is the only carefully considered element, and it is but a tiny, clean and round hole.
I was graced by an outbound commuter during my first shoot and was immediately transported to post-war Paris and the origins of musique concrète. The girth and power of the diesel locomotive producing seismic emanations evoked Pierre Schaeffer’s Etude aux chemins de fer, 1948. I had found my muse.
For full effect, load this URL in a backgrounded tab in your browser and continue reading:
The paper negative is so well suited to the cardboard camera.  Pulp suits itself. I used some stale Xtol developer to bring the latent images to bear. It ended up being a good paper developer, though still a little fast. Next time I’ll dilute the depleted stock for this purpose. I was certainly on my toes in the red light.


Reimag[in]ing of the core of Gloucester’s public transit gateway? It seems to be well underway with or without our ‘input.’ Beige rectangles (and triangles), while minimalist and demonstrating an economy of imagination, refuse to command a meaningful transition for Gloucester into the next realm of future possibilities (cultural or economic) and certainly ignore that which represents the aesthetic heart or spiritual soul of our fair city. The de facto boatyard abutting the train station provides a bitter richness and self evident reality that is superior and yet will likely be superseded by some soul-depleted franchise. Is beige the new black?
Type ‘beige strip mall’ into google images or if you’re feeling randy, try this for fucking beige: