…Because Gloucester.

A few years ago, I started saying “…because Gloucester.” to explain to my out of town friends the intricacies and straight-out crazy that took place here.

What I didn’t expect was that it would catch on with the locals.

Fellow Clamtributor Jeremy McKeen took it further: “At the Clam’s first annual gathering at Easter Point Lit house on August 2nd, ‘…because Gloucester.’ became a real-life call to arms on Facebook. The “...because Gloucester.”group has grown to 300 members since, and awaits your lifetime membership on the Facebook. As all things pure and good go, this group will probably jump the shark and become a corporate campaign to move powerful Hollywood types to our weird little fishtown soon enough, but until then, keep posting! Oh, and hashtags are now officially ironic, so we don’t even use them at all. That’s how cool we are. Oh, wait, being cool is in? We’re no longer cool then. We’re something else. Because the Clam. The following are, in our snarky opinion, the “best” of what collectively we write with sentiment, nostalgia, affection, and giant personal offense to local situations and repeated patterns of townie shenanigans and characteristics of our unique ocean hamlet. After each post, listen carefully for a voice saying ‘Because Gloucester.’ in your ear:”


–  A woman hitchhiking in a pink bikini and towel in front of Sullivan Tire.

–  Your neighbor, who you are cat sitting for, leaves his house unlocked for 2 weeks without worry.

– You’re out for a walk with your husband and spot a perfectly good sofa on the side of the road. You take a quick photo and post it to facebook. Your great friend asks where it is exactly because it is starting to rain. He would like said sofa but is worried that it might be yucky because it is getting wet…. Later friend has a new sofa… the free giver covered it with a tarp.

– An Irish guy from Cambridge and his Jewish/German/Irish wife move into a downtown neighborhood dominated by the purest of Gloucester Sicilian families. Recipe for isolation. Then, a funny thing. Knitted sweaters and hats for the babies. Garden vegetables across the back fence. Shared lawnmowers and weed-wackers. Portuguese sweet bread on feast days left on the steps, no questions asked.

– July 4th in Lanesville – it’s pouring rain and we heard a loud noise outside getting closer, so we run to the corner to see 30+ people in the pouring rain playing homemade instruments and noisemakers, drinks in hand, all in bathing suits, throwing candy, and being lead by a guy smoking a cigarette and driving a tractor slowly down the street.

– You put out the old, ripped up and dog stained couch on the sidewalk the night before trash day. Some assweasel steals your bulk item sticker. No matter because an hour later the couch is gone.

– Someone reports your bees to animal control and the officer comes by to see them and says “I love that you have bees.” The bees then swarm repeatedly while you are on vacation but the harbormaster, who is also a bee keeper, comes and takes them to a new home.

– Old dude shows up at your door asking for your wife. She’s at the quarry swimming with the kids. Well, he’s got way too many raspberries and wants to know if she wants to come pick them. He lives roughly 4 or so blocks away. Before he leaves he gives detailed instructions on how to properly freeze them. There are that many raspberries. Because Gloucester.

– A shiny SUV with Florida plates pulls up next to me during an afternoon jaunt. From the passenger window, a well accessorized woman asks with a southern drawl “excuse me mam, can you tell me how to get to the crows nest?”

– When walking downtown you have a constant fear a seagull could use you for target practice.

– Your kids hold a “toy sale” in front of the house and a middle-aged guy drives by, leaning out his car window, barking at them.

– When you loose the hot dog you just bought at the concession stand at GHB to the Sea Gull that just swooped down and flew off with it.

– 2 PM. Driving up Mt. Pleasant Ave. past the cemetery, you see a tawny dog trotting casually down the other side of the street with no owner, no leash, a happy smile on its face. You realize a minute too late that it’s no dog but a coyote, turn back to take a picture. Fat chance. It’s way gone.

– Top five things tourists ask for 1. Bathrooms 2. Lobsters 3. Lobster rolls 4. Lobster ties 5. Captain hats

– When you sit down to eat your ice cream at Long Beach Dairy and realize the guy 2 chairs down is Adam Sandler and his kids.

– After finding a spot in the now-full Railroad Ave Shaws lot you hear a tin whistle. You turn to see that the man playing it is also carrying a ukulele.

– Throwing your trash out on a Sunday morning you find in your shared alley space a collection of items but not limited to : a 1/2 drank can of Budwiser, a bag of ceiling tiles, a brooks brothers button down shirt (that seems to be stained with koolaid) a bag with a scratch pad and #2 pencils and a bottle of Jim Beam.

– Bathtub drain clogged with sand and a cooked hermit crab found in the dryer, because summer in Gloucester.

– Neighbor calls because someone called her to say they saw your kid riding his bike in the middle of East Main Street. Lesson learned, even when moms not watching, someone is.

– Over heard out my window on East Main,”Is this Gloucester?” Because Gloucester.

– You won’t go into your garage after dark because you refuse to cross paths with the rats that come up from the marsh.

– You watch a woman whom you’d guess to be in her early 80s, very spry and dressed to the nines (heels and pearls included), park her saab convertible and walk into the Crow’s Nest.

– You see a guy walking barefoot down an east Gloucester sidewalk in (one assumes) nothing but a bright red towel at 5:30 in the morning. An hour later he’s still going. Made it all the way to the building center.

– A while ago we were pulling onto Eastern Avenue in our family car when an elderly man waved me down and crossed the street to get into my car, thinking I was one of his relatives. We talked a bit, him thinking I was an old local kid or somebody’s nephew, and even though I wasn’t the one he was waiting for, I drove him to Shaw’s like he gets driven every day, I’m assuming.

– A group of teenagers are drinking on the curb on your street on a weekday afternoon. One of them has their entire face painted like the Italian Flag. And it’s not even Fiesta.

– Giant jacked up 4 door pickup truck stopped on main street. Passenger side wheels 2 feet onto the sidewalk, driver side wheels straddling the crosswalk in the street. Undercarriage completely hovering over the handicapped ramp to the xwalk.

– Because living in Gloucester for 24 years taught me how to use the “F” word 26 different ways in polite company.

– If anyone can draw three sea gulls fighting over a loaf of garlic bread, that just happened on my street.

– Shell-shock! That jump you do in your car when a gull drops his clamshell lunch remainder on the hood of your car from high in the sky!

– A police officer knocks on my grandmothers door one afternoon and says he’s gotten several reports of an intoxicated man stuck in a tree so he asks her if there’s been anyone intoxicated in the neighborhood that day to which she replies “there is someone intoxicated up here everyday officer.”

– A couple of guys are tanning their bellies in front of the St Peter’s Club at noon on a Wednesday.

Awesome, right? Jeremy’s been hard at work on the ”…because Gloucester.” facebook page. Share your stories. They’re probably pretty fuckin’ weird.

No Snark Sunday: Master Builder and Commander

Over a thousand people attended the screening of The Lego Movie at I4C2 on Wednesday.

One. Thousand. Plus.

What does that tell you about what the people of Gloucester want, considering everyone there could stream the movie at home online for five bucks and not face the very real risk of being crapped on by seagulls? It tells me that people long for shared experiences in an age when you can get anything you want through a handheld screen. It also tells me that the folks who put on the outdoor film series are awesome. Well done, peeps.

The official Clam Huzzah Goat Scream to you:

The experience reminded me of going to see movies at the Drive-In in W. Gloucester when I was a kid. I remember once on the screen we were facing was Jaws 2 but if you turned around and looked out the back of the car one could see Animal House. We young-uns were instructed that under no circumstances were we to turn around lest we get in big trouble for seeing the horror that are boobs. We were ordered to look straight ahead at images much more appropriate for us pre-tweens: beachgoers being dismembered by a giant shark.

Remember when it ate the helicopter?

Remember when it ate the helicopter?

But the Lego Movie is terrific, we’ve come a long way since 1978 (now the sharks have lasers!). For those of you reading this via teletype from the darkened halls within a rotting mansion deep in the Catskills  (lets be honest, The Clam has some weird fans) for a hundred minute-long commercial for toys, this “kids’ movie” has a message far more relevant to modern society than any film I’ve seen short of Spike Jonze’ Her. It lays bare the differences between consumers and creators in the 21st Century with humor and charm (and lasersharks, see above).

In the Lego movie the main character Emmet is a regular-Joe construction guy whose life revolves around following the instructions provided to him by the corporate government. He likes the popular music, dumb TV shows and pays 37 dollars a cup for coffee. In a Matrix-like plot twist, he finds himself at the head of a dwindling band of “Master Builders” who make things the they want without the constraints of rules or plans.

Sound familiar? It’s the plight of following the herd or breaking free. It’s the story of every creative person, ever. Additionally it features Batman in his first comedic role.

Also features 80's space guy, my favorite

Also features 80’s space guy, my favorite

Ok, so great. Fun movie, a lot of people came, goat scream, Batman, all that. I think this was the third time I’d seen it, maybe the fourth. But somehow taking it in next to the harbor on an inflatable screen with 999 of my neighbors on a lot that we, have been unable to figure out what to do with since before Steven Spielberg first went fishing using Richard Dreyfuss as bait, seemed strangely meaningful.

Later in the week I went to see the O’Maley Musical Theatre Summer Camp show, and I saw more of what I was starting to get a ‘cosmic page’ about. The production used old props that have been lovingly kept (Russ!) and stored for future use, costumes were repurposed from previous productions (kudos to Linda Stockman!) , the set (also built by Russ!) has been everything from a castle to a candy factory to a New York City street. Repurposed, rebuilt, switched around. It’s like a huge Lego set. Once you’re there long enough you start to see the pieces being re-used in new and clever ways. “Wasn’t that a boat two shows ago?”

Then I started thinking about all the house tours I’ve ever attended in Gloucester. I’ve even started doing it myself, when people come over you take them down to the basement and talk about the parts of your house built from other things: “This part of the structure was a fish shack that they drug up the hill once they built the freezers. You can see the floor joists are the spar from a sailing ship, a partially-burned timber from when the HMS Falcon shelled the town in 1775 and the vestigial femur of an extinct Ichthyosaurus…”

See, this guy has one holding up his wall

See, this guy has one holding up his wall

It hit me. Like a diamond brick: Gloucester is made of Legos! Everything (all the cool stuff, anyway); buildings, cars, schools, everything is repurposed, repaired and re-used. Dare I say, that Gloucester is a city of Master Builders. New is frowned on, old is better. Maybe it comes from fishing boats having to be custom-built and repaired at sea or maybe it’s because we’re on the end of the world out here and parts are hard to come by or maybe we’re just sort of wacky, but out here: Repairs are cool and bragging rights go to those who make new stuff out of old.

No, hon, I have not seen your headphones.

No, hon, I have not seen your headphones.

This is why creative people have flocked here for so long. Yeah, sure, they tell you there is “great light” but I never believed photons came in grades. Cheap liquor and an “anything goes” vibe seemed to be more likely culprits. Now, in reality, I think a lot of it has to do with the ‘Master Builder’ mindset. Not just with physical objects, but groups of people forming and reforming into new combinations, the same buildings and pieces of land with different roles and purposes. When your prime mindset is, “Hey we can take this and turn it into that,” rather than, “Tear down that weird, old stuff and build normal, new stuff!” you’re going to attract people who like taking stuff apart.

Not those who want to ditch the old for the new, but those who want to provide legacy with new life.

As an aside that is maybe related, I’ve always thought Gloucester would be a great place to sit out a zombie apocalypse. Partially because it’s easy to seal it off from the mainland, but mostly because folks here would be quick to turn power-washers into flamethrowers and bulldozers into rescue-tanks. Also a lot of us have been planning on one since we turned around in the station wagon to see Dawn of the Dead on the West screen when we should have been watching Superman on the East one.

Google "Superman Zombie" and the Internet willingly oblidges

Google “Superman Zombie” and the Internet willingly oblidges

Gloucester’s Bermuda Triangle of Sketch

I was away camping earlier this week when I got mad texts from my boy Jimmy D.  “Rumor is they found a freakin’ BODY behind McDonalds, dude” he didn’t actually say because usually he speaks like a real adult, but that was kind of how it went. And it ended up being true. I’m sure we all heaved a sigh of relief when there was no foul play apparent, but it’s still a sad day for the city. All lives have value, and Charles Ilges obviously had problems he couldn’t or didn’t get help for.

I was relatively unsurprised at this turn of events, though. I know this area well. Let’s hearken back to ye olden days of 2012 when my daily employment was centered at 50 Maplewood, known colloquially as “the sketchiest parking lot in all of Gloucester.” It honestly wasn’t that bad 99% of the time, despite its reputation. The guy running the Maplewood Carwash is legit one of the nicest, most hardworking folks I’ve ever met. Seriously, go there. His workers are great, and he has worked miracles with my filthy cars for cheap, and he spends a lot of time making sure his carwash is clean. The 7/11 is bright and immaculate inside and also staffed with locals who care. The new McDonalds is pretty decent looking as well, for a fast food joint that sells double cheeseburgers for a dollar.

But while the front parking lot of 5-0 Maplewoodz had its occasional quaint daytime drug deals (so bad that they actually aim a Homeland Security camera at the parking lot), indiscriminate screaming, white people with racist tattoos, and teenagers and adults alike leaving trash everywhere, it’s really what lurks behind that area that’s the most sketch. As of today, the city has contacted the owner to clean it up. But until that actually takes place, this is what we’re dealing with.


The Triangle of Awful

The Triangle of Awful

The above Infographic (by which I mean a google maps screenshot that I then put numbers on in MS Paint) serves to show what a shithole area the Maplewood/MBTA area is.

1. Abandoned Boats For Whatever Reason: Whose boats are these? Apparently there have been people squatting in them, as we all found out. Had no one really noticed or put up a fuss before the events of this week? It’s been like this for freakin’ years. The satellite image shows nine boats and some other large thing. It’s like the sea receded and left a bunch of crap there. We live in a city of fisherman where everyone is up in each othe’s business, you mean to tell me no one knows whose boats those are? No one recognizes any of them? What is this, the boat mob?

2. Tons of cars from the guy running the welding/body work thing back there. Look, he’s a nice enough guy, except that a few of his hangers-on love to speed through the parking lot like this was Dukes of Juggalo Hazzard, barely missing pedestrians. The multiple cars with missing wheels don’t exactly make the place look better. Last I checked, there was a broken-down RV with smashed windows back there someone was legit using as an office.

3. Squatting Homeless Folks.  The upstairs at 50 Maplewood is kind of a mess, and that adds to the problem. Some of the people living there are freeloading on the backs of freinds/family who have legit vouchers to live there though the Gloucester Housing Authority – 4-5 in a tiny studio/one bedroom. Heroin dealers lived upstairs – legit, like “in the police notes” dealers. The tenants had been so sketch that homeless folks had busted open a lock on a boiler room and had been sleeping up there. When we were moving in, we found a syringe above the drop ceiling. Someone overdosed and died up there – thankfully on a day we were closed. I once heard a tenant yelling out the window, “bring the money or you’re gonna get dopesick!” What fun.

4. Marshy Swampland. People dumped bikes and trash there a lot, and there were also random trails leading away from the area by MAC where folks of indeterminate housing status would hang out. The police had gone through a few times looking for folks purported to be living there, but I never actually heard that they caught somebody out that way. It’s not a stretch that people would be living out there, probably on pallets or something away from the damp swamp, since you know, they were living in boats and in the attics nearby.

5. The Gauntlet. There’s a path that cuts through the DMZ back there and into the MBTA lot, which was the fastest way for me to walk home. Unfortunately, it was also an area strewn with abandoned mattresses, chairs, and other detritus. Once in awhile someone would be having their morning public urination session or be fishing half-smoked butts off the ground (hey, free cigarette!) while I walked by. A fun time was had by all. There were also paths through the high weeds there, going to what I can only imagine were beaver-style dens of people awaiting revival by NARCAN.

I won’t beat around the overgrown bushes, it’s a freakin’ disaster back there. But no amount of ignoring it is gonna do a damn thing until the owners are forced to clean it up. I wouldn’t count on that happening soon – sure, the city is telling the owner to do it ASAP, but they have to actually find someone that owns the thing – some guy says it was a trust that he stepped down from years ago.

Until then, if you need a free urine-soaked mattress or boat to live in, well, you know where to go.


Ask A Babson Boulder

Our “Ask” series is an advice column with a special panel of guest columnists. Today’s guest columnists are the Babson Boulders of Dogtown.

Dear Babson Boulders:

I think my husband is cheating on me. He suddenly stays late at work, but when I call his work line, I always get voicemail. Last week, a woman called our house for him and when I asked to take a message, she hung up! I don’t want to believe it – we have four children together and I gave up my career to stay at home with them! Should I confront him, am I being crazy? Help?

– Suspicious in Rockport

Dear Suspicious:




Dear Babson Boulders:

I have a bit of a dilemma. I got into the grad school of my dreams! I was all set to go in a few weeks, and then I found out my girlfriend is pregnant. She wants me to stay here with her and move in together, and her parents agree. But this was my chance! I love her and I did want to marry her someday and have kids, but after I was done with my degree! Should I be selfish and leave for grad school, or leave all my dreams behind and get a low-paying job to raise my soon-to-be kid?

– Choosing on Cape Ann

Dear Choosing:




Dear Babson Boulders:

I’m a teenager entering Sophomore year, and I always have a lot of homework to do. My mom is raising me and my two younger brothers on her own. My dad is on the West Coast touring in a Steely Dan cover band and only sends child support half the time. My mom works a lot of overtime and wants me to make dinner sometimes and clean up. But I have so much homework and then I also want to spend time with my friends. She has threatened to ground me if I don’t help by doing my own laundry or a load of dishes. I want to move in with my dad, who doesn’t ever make me do anything during my time visiting him. What should I do?

– Put-upon in West Gloucester

Dear Put Upon:



That concludes this edition of our “ask…” series. Stay tuned next time for more advice from well-known Gloucester figures!

Make a Happy HUMVEE

I’m pretty much a huge fan of the GPD. They’ve saved my butt a bunch of times and have always been practical and professional in my interactions with them. Too professional, even. There have been times when I really wanted to see them beat the shit out of some shirtless asshole they were arresting after spending way, way, too long trying to rationalize with a dude who can’t even figure out the basics of torso coverage. Check out my homage to them and how I don’t think they are anything like the out-of-control play-soldiers in Ferguson MO here.

But for a while I’ve been wondering, and in light of the recent events in Missouri I think it’s now worth asking:

Can someone explain why we have not one, but fucking two military-grade HUMVEES sitting out in the police parking lot?

And if the zombies take our our first Humvee, we have the backup...

And if the zombies take our our first Humvee, we have the backup.

What are those things doing here in G-town? What possible practical purpose could they serve? And how is that purpose better served by not one, but two of them? Are we planning on some kind of scenario where the police, who now have multiple SUVs, trucks ATVs and that faux Segway thing that looks like something out of the 1980s Dr. Who series, cannot hack it with the vehicles on hand and need to deploy not one, but a pair of jacked-up war-surplus utility combat vehicles? Are there also crossbows and flamethrowers? What. The. Hell. (Note: Don’t even start with “snow” okay? Snow-equipped vehicles have shit like plows and winches and that’s really the Fire Department anyway. This is the police.)

Chainsaw bike. Do they have chainsaw bikes?

Chainsaw bike. Do they have chainsaw bikes?

The worst thing about them from the perspective of Gloucester Police is, in a word, optics. We don’t need our police force looking like a military outfit, because they don’t act like one. Unlike what we’re seeing out in Missouri, as I said above, our cops are completely different. So looking like a military-equipped police force has become, like so many things where one bad group ruins it for everyone, over. It’s like how hipsters ruined wolf sweatshirts forever.

Also ironically rides a mobility scooter in the grocery store

Also ironically rides a mobility scooter in the grocery store

I assume we can’t get rid of them. So what to do? We here at your beloved The Clam are all about solutions. So if we can’t get rid of them, how about we pimp them? Thus, The Clam offers some solutions for our police parking lot to make it appear less like a Forward Operating Base in Afghanistan circa 2003.

OPTION 1: PINK IS THE NEW CAMO How can you feel threatened by anything this adorable? I recommend gluing pink felt all over both vehicles Then it’s like, this isn’t a tactical response, it’s a tactile one!

Hug assault, on the way!

Hug assault, on the way!

OPTION 2: STEAMPUNK We’ve already explored how the police have moved beyond the practical to pure optics, so why not go all the way? Zeppelins; hot, tattooed, half-Asian chicks in corsets; impractical weaponry. The GPD could embrace both the arts and Geek communities in one simple stroke. And no one is intimidated by Steampunks. Once you put on knickers and a tophat festooned with brass telescopes, your threat posture evaporates.

Stop! In the name of Her Majesty Queen Victoria!

Stop! In the name of Her Majesty Queen Victoria!

OPTION 3: DELICIOUS CANDY So the primary use of these vehicles is for the Horribles Parade? Then go all the way and just coat the thing in gumballs.

Suck on this, lawbreakers and jawbreakers alike!

Suck on this, lawbreakers and jawbreakers alike!

OPTION 4: FRENCH BAZOOKA VESPAS Look, I’m going to level with you guys here. Sometimes at your The Clam the image tail manages to wag the content dog, as it were. I don’t really have much more to say about how this would work for the GPD, I just really googled “impractical military vehicles” and saw this then found I really liked writing the words FRENCH BAZOOKA VESPAS in all caps. Also FRENCH BAZOOKA VESPA would be a funny name for an absurdist comedy troupe. Also: Owl Stretching Time.

The French thought this was a good idea for a weapon. Say no more.

Hey French Army, I think that’s pointing in the wrong direction. Snap!

OPTION 5: LEGO Even the most terrifying looking vehicles become family-friendly fun when made out of the creative bricks from Denmark. Out in Ferguson everything is awful. But with Lego-styled Hummers, in Gloucester everything is awesome!

I only work in Tan. Or very dark Khaki.

I only work in Tan. Or very dark Khaki.

Ok, that’s it. Submit your ideas to make our local enforcement vehicles more approachable and less reprochable in the comments.

Oh, and note to military-hardware pedants: I know that it’s a recoilless rifle on the Vespa, not a bazooka. Save your breath.