Morning, world. Thanks to the amazing journalisming of clameditor one KT Toomey on the travails of the Demoulas family and how that translates into me paying double for off-brand snack cakes down at Stop and Shop, suddenly a lot more people are aware of The Clam. Or The Gloucester Clam, to be exact, this here blog is pulled straight from the sea and in most cases immediately ground up for fertilizer.
So we thought we’d give you a little flavor of our beloved island, how we do things a little differently. You should come visit us. We’re way better than that other cape where you have to sit in traffic and dress up for dinner, but you’ll have to bring your own taffy.
So, that having been said, The Gloucester Clam brings you:
9 Things the World can Learn From Gloucester
Your lawn is utility space That space around your house or apartment building- that’s not frigging No. 2 at Pinehurst. That is where you proudly display the evidence you are an interesting person. It’s where you keep your lobster traps, the boat you’re working on or the Fiero you’re going to get running one of these days. It’s where you store parts and tools, the remnants of previous projects and floats from old parades. Our own driveway contains a boat that needs work, a leaf blower-powered hovercraft, numerous balls, sticks, bikes, a modified bike trailer, random container garden plants and the leftover styrofoam rock from the Elementary School production of Midsummer Night’s Dream. Neat lawn = lame occupants.
Mix it up In Gloucester there are no rich neighborhoods except for this one gated mansion area we sort of ignore. The rest of the town is like that ‘Party Snack Mix’ where a handful equals a pretzel, a Dorrito, a single cheez curl and some weird orange ball. The neighborhood of clamtributor Stevens Brosnihan contains a rabbi, a restaurant owner, urban farmers, college professors, professionals who commute to Boston on the train every day, a couple of junkies and this engineer/former CIA dude who assures you he has stories he can’t tell. In town we shop together, go to the same events and beaches, there is one Middle School and one High School. There is no wrong side of the tracks, more importantly, there is no right side either.
Live where there are a lot of Italians We’re not Italian ourselves and I’m sure there are other cultures you can say this about, but these guys have life pretty pegged. They always have espresso shops with pastries and because food is so key you’ll have restaurants all over the place. There will be street festivals, good grocery stores and lots of family-oriented stuff everywhere. People will yell your nickname at you in the street and you won’t be able to go over somebody’s house without getting a full meal and kissing their grandma. Ok, old shirtless guys in chairs on the sidewalk smoking cigars are kinda gross, but you gotta trade something and some of those dudes are pretty cool if you get them talking. On balance, big Italian population is a huge plus.
Owning a boat is a right, not a privilege And it doesn’t matter what kind or in what state of repair it’s in. In Gloucester you never apologize for the condition of your boat and “I was out on the boat” is a perfectly acceptable excuse for all kinds of things, like missing a court date. People get confused and think they have to fish or have some kind of purpose out there, but it’s more of a zen thing. Boating is an end unto itself. A purpose will reveal itself once on the water, like rescuing someone in a slightly shittier boat that is sinking, for instance.
You are not your car As has been thoroughly covered on this blog, driving and parking here are contact sports. You get dents and things get cracked and scraped off and repaired with duct tape. It’s no big. You don’t get judged by your car up here, nobody gives a shit. Somebody with a nice, new, unblemished car is looked down upon. “Guess he doesn’t drive that thing much, huh?”
There is no reason to ever leave the 80s The 80s were the last decade that actively chose to rock. From 1989 on our society has gotten introspective and timid what with the Nirvana and the expensive coffee. But the essentials for 80s living: the cars, the haircuts, the music, essential entertainments like jumping into quarries and riding a bike around without a helmet are all still things in Gloucester. The Amish live in perpetual 1847, but if a group ever emerged wanting to live in forever 1987, this would be the place. Bring your VHS tapes.
Art is a participatory sport You go to some places with artists and they are always hanging around in the daytime, smoking cigarettes and arguing about derivation. No time for that crap here as all our artists have normal jobs. I attended an amazing gallery show for a woman who captures light like Hopper. She also cuts my hair. My train into Boston has ¼ of the cast of our regular Shakespeare performances and occasionally they do a scene on the platform. Sculptors are also lawyers, bakers are novelists. You engage a lot more with a one man show about struggling with sexual identity when the guy is going to be fixing your transmission for some reason.
It’s OK if things go wrong This is a fishing town, that big statue of the Man at the Wheel? That’s a memorial to dudes who’ve died at sea. The town knows loss and that no one is immune to it. Jobs disappear, people get sick, sometimes they die. People do dumb shit and wind up in jail. It happens. Nobody wants to make a habit of life’s letdowns, but you don’t need to put on a happy face in this town if shit is bad. And you don’t need to tell anybody even, they know. Their neighbor’s cousin told them. You find yourself buying bread and the person behind the counter at the bakery won’t take your money when you offer it saying, “My mother had cancer too.”
Normality is for losers Norms are the least happy people in Gloucester. They are forever trying to figure out why the taco place is closed on Sunday (Because the owners are religious), why the farmers’ market is on Thursday (because we get better vendors who go to richer town on the weekend) and why there aren’t any stoplights (because we let each other go in intersections). People here are nuts and somehow it all works once you learn to roll with it. We have a saying when the ice cream truck screeches by the little league game to the dock, starts frantically loading herring on board and then takes off again: