The Gloucester Clam Presents: Tournament of Shitty Intersections, Day 2

If you missed our post on Friday of last week, we’ve begun the Tournament of Shitty Intersections! We’ll be going all bracket-style on the crappiest intersections in Gloucester. Get your votes in!



Flannagan Square vs Washington St & Railroad Ave

Flanagan Square. Oh, my. This is easily one of the worst in town – top 3 for sure. If it gets voted down early, I may cry. Let’s talk first about how the stop signs were re-done like what, six or seven years ago? That just adds confusion to the mess (although it makes waay more sense now). The two-way stop is super hard for tourists to grasp, and then good fucking luck turning left there. The parade of assholes who won’t stop to let you go is deep and endless as the ocean twenty feet away. The best part is when some dick goes across when there isn’t room to clear the intersection and fucks shit up in both directions. HEY THANKS BRO.

Washington St & Railroad Ave is another in a series of intersections for which I would rather eat directly out of a strip club’s dumpster than turn left in.  You have to worry about the stupid train, people zipping in and out of Dunk’s parking lot, and then BLAM, this intersection. No one has ever stopped turning right from Railroad onto Washington since the dawn of time. Cars would willingly broadside you in order to sneak by before the crossing arms go down, or get a French Vanilla extra extra. Another fun thing that isn’t at all life threatening is trying to cross that stupid intersection as a pedestrian without losing a leg.

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 Prospect & Pleasant vs Main & Eastern

Prospect & Pleasant doesn’t seem like the worst intersection upon first glance . But move nearby, and you’ll grow to hate it. Try turning left from Pleasant onto Prospect. Like, within a ten-minute period. You’ll have to dart out because you can’t see who the hell is coming from your left and whoever is is flying, there’s an old man driving 4 MPH on the right, and then randomly a car will come careening across the part where no one usually goes (Left from Prospect onto Pleasant) and not yield or anything. Now that West Parish school is camping out for a few years, it’s not much easier.

Main & Eastern Ave should be simple. “Should” being the key word in that sentence. There are rules of society and the road, and in most other towns and cities, there are few issues. But tourists and the more dense of our pool of in-town drivers make this intersection actually dangerous. For instance, I had to fully lock my brakes up two weeks ago when someone turning left, TURNING FUCKING LEFT, did not yield to me as I was going straight from the fish pier back downtown. He had Maine plates, and looked utterly confused as to what he’d done wrong after I gesticulated wildly and laid on my horn, as is customary in social situations such as that. Do people think there should be a stop sign in front of Lee’s? I’ve been behind people full-on stopping there to let traffic from Eastern Ave take a right without stopping at their stop sign. For fuck’s sake people, this one isn’t even hard to fuck up, how are you fucking it up?

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An Imagined Conversation Aboard the Rebel Flagship, Briefing Room

Setting: The Rebel Flasghip, Briefing room a short time after Princess Leia, Lando Calrissian, Chewbacca, Luke and the Droids have returned from Bespin having lost their friend Han to the Bounty Hunter Boba Fett. Also in attendance are fleet officers including Red Squadron Leader, Higgs Bothkey.

Um, yes. I have a comment. Over here. Higgs Bothkey. It’s funny I was just dressing down the pilots a couple of days ago for questioning the orders of superiors. However believe it would amount to a serious dereliction of my duty if I didn’t point out that this plan to save General Solo from Jabba the Hutt seems massively overcomplicated.

Don’t get me wrong, no one wants General Solo back more than I do. He’s a great pilot and an inspiration to the men. I mean, the things he can do with that near derelict ship of his. I’m always telling them, “You guys are supposedly fighter pilots, but look at what he is capable of doing in a freighter. That thing has a kitchenette and he can still fly rings around you!” and then I encourage them to be as bold and aggressive in their maneuvers as he is. Tremendous pilot, General Solo.

And he can microwave snacks for post-battle munchies

And he can microwave snacks for post-battle munchies

We all want him back and it’s an emotional time since the retreat from Hoth, we need solid leadership, but this is no time to go flitting off on some half-baked rescue attempt. We need discipline now more than ever.

My primary issue (maybe I’m missing something?) is I’m just not sure if I get how the rescue is supposed to work as described. There seem to be a lot of moving parts. I’m going back through my notes on the presentation, tell me if I have this right: Two droids are supposed infiltrate the compound by surrendering themselves to this Jabba character. That’s a good idea actually, it’s smart to have some eyes on the ground and it removes the need to risk actual lives. I like that part.

Next we have Mr. Calrissian who will already be inside impersonating a guard. Ok, I’m not sure how that happened, but if you have that figured out then fine. Seems like we’re overdoing it on the infiltrating if we already have the droids there, just some feedback.

The next part is where I get concerned. Princess Leia, disguised as a bounty hunter (again with the infiltrating) is supposed to surrender Chewbacca to Jabba. This provides her access to the palace, and she then locates General Solo and unfreezes him from the carbonite.

This seems absurdly dangerous and frankly unnecessary.  First, Princess Leia is our commander and a member of the Royal Family. Sending her into a palace full of armed criminals alone is absurdly risky and if she were to be captured…well if the holobriefing on this Hutt is correct around how he treats the female members of his entourage, it could lead to a humiliating situation at best. As a member of the Officer’s Council I can’t support this under any circumstances. Second, releasing Solo at this point will leave him weakened and likely blind. This seems absurd considering there will be scant support for the infiltrators at this time. Best to leave him in the carbonite, where he will be safest and the least impediment to rescuers.

Carbonite offers advantages over our previous methods, you must admit

Carbonite offers advantages over our previous methods, you must admit

But that’s not the worst of it. I am even more concerned at the description of the next step: “Commander Skywalker enters the palace using Jedi mind powers.” Look I don’t even know what that means. The Jedi have been gone for a generation and even so, we all remember how badly their thing turned out. Best leave the extinct space wizards out of this.

And is this part out of sequence? Isn’t Commander Skywalker supposed to be bargaining for General Solo’s life? Isn’t this Hutt a businessman? Attempting to bargain after Her Majesty has unfrozen Solo risks having to broker a deal for Solo AND Chewbacca AND Her Majesty if they are captured, correct? Does this not put Commander Skywalker in a much less advantageous position?

Why not have Commander Skywalker go in first, attempt to bargain just for Solo and if Hutt agrees then take him out still in carbonite hibernation? If that fails, then we move to a further stage of the plan.

Speaking of which, I’m sorry, but I graduated first in my Strategic Military Tactical Planning level at the Academy and I still simply can’t make out how this next part as described is supposed to work, exactly. A giant monster gets killed? Something about a slave barge and a “Pit of Sarlacc” if I’m reading that right? The plan is supposed to be that the R2 unit throws Commander Skywalker a lightsaber and….it really seems to trail off from there.

I simply can’t support any of this, honestly. I will of course follow my orders, but please, I’m begging you to reconsider this “plan,” if you can even call it that.

Alternative? An alternative? Yes, I have an alternative: Bombs. Bomb the palace from orbit. Bombard the wampa piss out of it, forgive my language Your Highness. It’s out in the middle of nowhere, there is no risk of collateral damage on that near-deserted sand and gravel pit they have mislabeled as a habitable planet.  After the bombs we then sift through the rubble, find General Solo, toss him up the loading ramp of a shuttle and hit the hyperdrive. Later we unfreeze him on the medical ship under ideal conditions. Bam, boom, done.

They're armed with axes. Yes, axes.

They’re armed with axes. Yes, axes.

There is little risk to injuring General Solo, encased as he is he’s perfectly protected. Alternatively we could combine a targeted aerial strike with a raid, the guards there seem particularly undisciplined. Some combination of aerial bombardment and a decisive commando operation should make short work out of this Jabba, his henchmen and the entire Tatooine criminal syndicate, and good riddance as far as I can tell. I hate to say it, but if the Rebellion every gets our own Death Star we should vaporize that whole bloody system for all the trouble it’s caused…uh…no offense Commander Skywalker.

I know that to many in this briefing we’re talking about Han, your friend with whom you’ve been through many scrapes and adventures. But to us it’s General Solo, a key leader and a vital comrade. We must act rationally, and his current capture and imprisonment is a problem befitting a surgical military operation, not a haphazard swashbuckle with oddly comical undertones.

I bet we could fit a dozen thermal detonators in the R2 unit alone

I bet we could fit a dozen thermal detonators in the R2 unit alone

You know what? We could combine your plan and mine! We could put the bombs inside the droids before they infiltrate! They could then detonate right next to Jabba and then the strike teams could…what? Why are you looking at me like that?


Stevens Brosnihan’s Drone Flight

Remember staff photographer Stevens Brosnihan? He was on probation for awhile after the last few “miscommunications,” but we decided to give him one more shot when he said he had a drone. I mean the Clam already has one designated drone pilot, but it couldn’t hurt to have one more. This is what Stevens gave us. 

The Flight of the Analog Drone

In the blogosphere of late, there has been far too much hype about semi-autonomous flying camera platforms. These whirring, digital monstrosities leave nothing to the imagination. At best, they capture every moment: their harsh, crisp, unnerving eyes drinking in vast detail, oozing streams of image and telemetry data that is easily intercepted via man-in-the middle attacks and posted to nefarious servers for later manipulation of our collective histories. At worst, they slake our souls by diverting human vision and understanding through an interface that promises the singularity but leaves us all gasping at the shore of reality with nothing but a false memory tainted by corporate greed.

Robot overlords, you have betrayed us!

Robot overlords, you have betrayed us!

I’ve decided to respond to this trend with my own drone. One that is warm, friendly and approachable. No spinning blades or all-seeing eyes. A drone that your grandmother could understand. A drone you can build with parts laying around the house and a minimum of cash. A drone that is soft of focus and temperament.


That’s hot glue and tape holding the imaging parts together

I started with a 1977 vintage ripstop delta kite that I got when I was in middle school. It was state-of-the art for it’s day with carbon fiber spars and a seven foot wingspan. The design was inspired by hang gliders popular at the time and it was sewn in a full rainbow of fabrics–back when rainbows were just rainbows. I fly it now with proud ambiguity.

12-15 knots getting us off the ground

12-15 knots getting us off the ground

Add to this powerful airframe the following components:

  • A light-weight Chinon point-and-shoot Multi-focus film camera picked up at Second Glance for $5 with it’ auto winder and decent glass optics
  • Some shitty film from Walgreens
  • A $4 servo to depress the shutter release. The camera advances the film!
  • A vintage radio control transmitter and receiver (garage sale or basement find)

Voila! The Analog Drone is born!

Fuji Superia 400 asa color print film cross-processed with ancient Rodinal 50+1 20C 10 mins

Fuji Superia 400 asa color print film cross-processed with ancient Rodinal 50+1 20C 10 mins

If you have a big old kite kicking around, a stiff wind and a few bucks to spare, you can gain entry into the elite drone club. If you lack the kite, fear not. Kites are really simple. They are made of sticks and fabric and string. They make bicycles look like carefully engineered, super efficient mechanical devices made of machined parts, cables and gears. They make semi-autonomous flying robots look like our dark future.


My daughter piloting the drone while I control the camera. Next time, we let out all the string!

No Snark Sunday: The Things I’ll Miss About Owning a Business

Most of you know that for the past four years, I’ve run a local business here in Gloucester with my other half, Big Mike. We started running a bike shop with nothing more than a tax return, getting bigger and bigger every year – literally, we ran out of space twice in two years. This was our best season yet.

However, a few months ago we decided that this would be our last season in business. We’re closing our doors on October 9.

We’re doing it for a few reasons. Obviously, not making enough money to be worth the hours we put in being the top reason, although we didn’t do terribly. We also saw trends in where the bike shop industry was headed, and decided now was the time to get out. We were shortchanging our kids – we really didn’t spend the time with them that we could, because we were so busy working. We have other opportunities already, we’re actually looking forward to our last day so we can relax and take a nice long weekend with our vintage camper and our kids.

I can’t say enough good things about how Gloucester received us. So many people went to bat for us immediately, tried us out, talked us up to their friends, and loved us. It’s been an amazing journey to become part of a community. When we started I knew a handful of people in town. Now, I can’t walk into a bar or restaurant without stopping to chat with someone. I’ve got an amazing group of friends that would never have been on my radar without the shop. Heck, Jason Grow was one of our first customers before we even had a shop. Marty and Michele DelVecchio as well. And if we didn’t have the shop, and Jim Dowd’s bike didn’t get stolen, there would have been no way the Clam would even exist.

I will miss a lot of things about owning a business here.

I will miss selling a kids’ bike, getting it back in on a trade in, and then selling that kid a bigger bike, with the kid saying “man, I loved that bike!”.

I will miss meeting new people. I know, I think I just said that. But there’s been so, so many people I call friends now, who I met when they walked in the door and needed something.

I will miss the gratitude we got when helping folks learn about bikes. We taught a lot of people the basics they needed. We filled a lot of tires for free. A lot.

I will miss field trips from Pathways, where I could show kids how to change a tire, read them a book about bicycling, explain to them all the parts of a bike, and have them color in helmets. Did you know girls can change tires? They do.

I will miss tourists who come in, decide to rent a bike to see our wonderful city, and return with nothing but accolades for everything we have to offer here. Sometimes you forget the beauty of what you’ve got until a German tourist family reminds you.

As refreshing as it will be to move onto the next chapter in our lives – the frustrating moments of business ownership will definitely be a future Clam article – this will be bittersweet as well. It was so wonderful to be woven into the fabric of a community like Gloucester, and I intend to keep that up even without the bike shop.

All I can say is thanks.


The Gloucester Clam Presents: Tournament of Shitty Intersections

Remember our Tournament of Shitty Parking Lots? Well, we’re back again with the next installment of “vote until stuff happens”: The Tournament of Shitty Intersections! Gloucester has some of the most insane, death-defying, and infuriating intersections known to man. We shall, in the coming days, celebrate our miserable infrastructure by voting, tournament-style, on the shittiest of intersections. Join us!



Centennial & Washington vs Barn Ln & Eastern Ave

Centennial and Washington is first for a reason. It’s one of Gloucester’s premier shitty intersections, and it’s the first ones that tourists get a whiff of when they journey to see “the place from the Perfect Storm”. A few years ago there was talk about putting a stoplight in, but then who knows what went on but it never happened. It remains a gauntlet of suck – turning left out of there can take you twenty minutes on a weekend day or at prime commuting time, and if you’re driving down Washington, there are always two or three cars that will attempt to dash out in front of you, causing you to check how well your ABS and child restraint systems work. Even worse is when there’s people trying to pull out of that side street by Tony’s Variety. Every time I have to turn left from there, I say a prayer that Poseidon will just send a flood wave over the entire city because that’s more fun.

Barn Ln & Eastern Ave sucks almost equally as hard as Centennial/Washington, so this might be a tight race. Let’s add a bunch of beach travelers using a GPS to one of the toughest lefts, shall we? No one on Eastern will stop for you. Seriously, yesterday I had to go to Radio Shack (it still exists) and turning took 4 minutes and 32 seconds. At one point, a lady stopped for us, but the other lane of traffic refused and some angry minivan driving woman with her entire back liftgate smashed in beeped at her until she kept going. I always let people go if I have time, but it’s equally annoying when four or five cars take advantage of my good graces. The absolute worst is somehow being stuck at that intersection behind someone who has the space to turn left but stops to make sure left is really where they want to go. No. NO NO NO. JUST GO.

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Tally’s Corner vs Essex/Western/Kent Circle

Tally’s Corner. Oh, god, this might be a long one. Is it a rotary kind of thing? No. Does it make any sense? Hell to the no. Let’s start with the fact that when you’re coming down Washington, the most logical way to get downtown, you’re suddenly forced to take Angle Street to get where you need to go.  And at the end, no one’s gonna stop for you. They will look you dead in the eye as they roll past you. It’s not any easier approaching Tally’s Corner from any other intersection, either. You think you’re gonna get out of the Fort? Not today, bubs. Add in people who have no idea who has the right-of-way, and then a random island cut-through that no one really knows the correct purpose of, and you have the shitshow that is Tally’s Corner. And we’re not even getting into Fiesta week and that area.

Essex Ave and Western Ave and the straight line that is Kent Circle (WHAT EVEN IS THAT) is another clusterfuck worthy of our Worst Intersection. Especially with the bridge. Oh, god, the bridge. No one understands that Kent Circle is two-way because IT BEING TWO WAY HAS NO USEFUL PURPOSE except to make life .25 seconds easier for the people living on Kent Circle. And that’s the way we make our decisions in Gloucester. “Two-way traffic here is unnatural and could lead to a terrible accident!” “True, but if Jim over here has to make 2 quick lefts instead of a right to get home, I will be voted out of office, as is customary in this town.” Anyway, you add in the people trying to turn left amidst traffic hurtling by at Mach Bridgespeed, and it’s just a giant disaster that should go far more smoothly than it actually does. Oh, and biking there is terrifying, because no one, ever, is looking for you.


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Stay tuned for our next four contestants!