The Telltale Signs of Spring, Gloucester-style

There are few more welcomed moments in life than the realization that spring has finally and unequivocally announced its arrival in our immediate geographic area. We are heartyish Northerners, of course, who grit our teeth through five months of crapbag weather in order to smugly and annoyingly over-enjoy the other seven. But even though the past few days have reverted back to cold, dreary, desolate hellscapes of weather, we know we’re slowly, steadily marching towards nice weather. And damn, it feels good.

It’s not always the cheerful sun and the lack of immediate frostbite that herald the arrival of spring, however. Not in Gloucester. There are other, equally wonderful clues to which we are accustomed. Like the following:

– Potholes. Sweet Potato Chip Jesus, are we ever in pothole season. I keep expecting to see meerkats popping up out of them, they are so plentiful and deep, like they are part of an underground network by which children can run to Ed’s mini mart for candy without ever reaching street level. This is why I never tailgate – I mean firstly because I’m not an asshole, but secondly so that I can see the potholes coming. These motherfuckers will tear out your damn drivetrain. You have 4WD? Not anymore you don’t, also your drive shaft is dragging along Prospect St, you may wanna get that checked out. My favorite variation of pothole is the one stuffed full of cigarette butts and McDonalds wrappers.


Yeah, but there was half a Destino’s sub down there, at least.


– The Detritus Emerges. Here comes the shit we’ve buried deep in our hearts and snowbanks. With the Great Thaw of the last few weeks, our glaciers have receded and the crud is coming to light. Just walking around yesterday, I bore witness to a veritable cavalcade of treasure. I saw a condom, a pair of black underwear, one solitary leather glove, 6 nip bottles, and Pete Rose. This, this is why we can’t dump snow in the ocean. A literal fucking couch appeared out of a snowbank on my street recently. AN ENTIRE COUCH. If we don’t find a cadaver somewhere in this city under some oversized snowbank, I’ll be surprised. If this was the winter I needed to dump a body, I’d be in luck.

Seriously what happened here?

Seriously what happened here?


– There is Life Outside. Earlier in the week, Joey C over at Good Morning Gloucester posted the requisite sign of spring on Rogers St: The return of the men who sit outside the St. Peter’s Club. Like the return of other migrating species, these gentlemen have finally completed their long, seasonal journey from… inside the St. Peter’s Club. It is recommended to leave protein sources nearby so they can regain the calories they spent hibernating, usually in the form of beer nuts.

(h/t to Marty Luster and GMG for this picture)

(h/t to Marty Luster and GMG for this picture, without which the joke would be hard to explain)


It’s not just the return of benchfolk, but the other signs of life outside our windows as well: children playing in the streets, knocking each other off large icy embankments, families literally screaming at each other, people working on their cars. I didn’t think there was any possible way for me to be excited to hear the guy in one of the houses next door shrieking insults at his girlfriend, but it turns out I was kind of glad that it was warm enough for them to take their personal business into the literal middle of the street.

– The Bicycles Return. I am enjoying this one in particular this spring, as most of you know I owned a bike shop for the four years previous, and the dawn of spring meant insane business, which was great, but also overwhelming, and long hours killed us. With that tomfoolery behind me, I am free to notice the beginnings of the cycling season for the heartiest of us all, without the impending sense of dread. Sure, there are the few year-round riders – mostly DUI offenders or lumbersexual hipsters – but even I, Bike Shop Owner, will wait a few weeks until I bring out my cyclocross bike, lest I accidentally end up falling into a crevasse in the paved earth like the beginning of Land of the Lost (I’ll bring back dinosaurs, I promise). They’re coming out, now, some of the braver souls – the ones in Bruins gear and single-speeds, those unconcerned by errant pieces of wet dog poo, driftwood, or finishing nails dropped by the angry weather gods.


Give it five years, these fuckers will be moving up from Davis Square.

Give it five years, these fuckers will be moving up from Davis Square.


I won’t dance around the fact that we still have a long way to go before we can bust out the cargo shorts and flip flops – there is still an entire picnic table buried in my backyard, even the very top of which has not yet been unearthed in the thaw. I still can’t park my cars correctly in my driveway, and I’m still walking in the goddamn middle of the street all the time.

But damn, it’s a start.

Lego Humans of Gloucester



Things that make me most happy: watching my daughter dance, casting on a new knitting project, watching a three year old in my class mix secondary colors, playing ukulele at Niles and most recently, Lego humans of Gloucester.” – Colleen Apostolos-Marsh

Montessori Based Art Classes ages 3-6
Weekdays (choose one) 10:15-11:15 @ Island Art & Hobby
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978 879 4511

KT’s Wicked Tuna Recap: S4, Episode 4, “Harpoon Hellraiser”

Sweet crap, we’re back with another episode of the show no one really wants to admit isn’t that great, our very own Wicked Tuna. I’m here to recap this show so you don’t have to watch it, unless you’re into that sort of thing.

The first segment this week is pretty much “How Paul Hebert Has Sucked So Far”, including a part where another fisherman totally calls out the fact that Mr. Paul has worked on like seven boats since this show started and hasn’t caught a fish yet this season, and reference “Paul’s drama boats”. They make sure to add that he’s a good fisherman as sort of a half-assed defense. Damn, these bros are harsh, although he deserves it. Probably. I don’t know, I’m barely paying attention.

Oh crap, a brand new fucking boat. Okay, interesting. All of a sudden they drop the harpoon boat Kristiana on me. They introduce the crew, and I’m already bored to tears. Wait, wait! They have footage of a guy so determined to beat Bill “Hollywood” Muniz that he’s been practicing chucking harpoons from the roof of his garage into hay bales.

This is really what reality TV has come to.

This is really what reality TV has come to.

Over on Hollywood Bill’s boat, some talk happens. The only thing I know about this guy is that he did a talk at O’Maley about excellence and said he hated school, only wanted to fish, and all his friends from school were dead or in jail. If all the thirteen year old girls I know are snarking on you, bro, that’s not a good sign. Anyway if you didn’t know (like me), harpooning is different and they have like, a pilot scouting for tuna who has to communicate with the boat so the guy can literally climb up on scaffolding and throw a javelin at it. It’s kind of interesting, but also can’t we use drones? No? Just saying. Drones.

The Kristiana doesn’t have a spotter pilot, so they try to explain they just kind of look from the boat. “You just look for the different funny water.” Fascinating. They also mention that one guy acts like “a little kid, you want to puke and sh*t your pants because you want to go tuna fishing.” Classbag, this boat.

Over on the Kelly Ann, the owner howls, “We hired Paul for one reason” and I shout “TO BE ON TV!” but I guess the real answer was “to catch giant tuna fish!”  Everyone assures one another they are “in the zone”, and then hook a fish, but end up losing it, and everyone blames Paul, who kind of bumbles around endearingly.

Hollywoodbill and the Lily end up spearing the bejebus out of two fish, which is pretty impressive I guess? I don’t know. I don’t understand fish. I just eat them. The Kristiana




“We Need This Fish” Count: 1

“Reel Reel Reel” Count: 2






Casing St. John’s Church—and Other Surefire Ways to Avoid Making Friends in Gloucester

[ Today’s guest blogger is perennial favorite Adam Kuhlmann, who read this story aloud at Fish Tales, held by the Gloucester Writer’s Center on Friday evening at Short & Main upstairs. If you missed that epic performance, here you go!]

In hindsight, it was perhaps naïve to think we’d find—in an abandoned coat factory in Gloucester, tucked between the railroad tracks, a 7-Eleven, and a public housing complex—coastal New England’s version of Melrose Place.  Nevertheless, those were our thoughts as my wife and I sped down the Mass Pike in July of 2008, the final leg of our move from Houston.  She rummaged through the glove compartment and with a flourish produced the lease agreement to our new home.  It was a top floor unit in a brick box rechristened the Gloucester Mill Condominiums—and a place we’d seen only in underexposed Craigslist images.  Yet somehow we conjured a primetime Aaron Spelling soap opera, minus the AIDS and contract killings.

This was our fault, a product of overactive imaginations and underactive research.  We’d spent our post-college lives in cities with an abundance of luxury real estate.  So when we read that Gloucester Mill was located “downtown” and consisted of “converted lofts,” we filled in the details by extrapolating from the hip urban spaces we’d known.  Most of all, we imagined our neighbors.  We weren’t assuming they’d look like Heather Locklear or Andrew Shue.  But it had been four somewhat lonely years in Houston, a city where the progressive few fend off the armies of conservatism by huddling behind walls thatched with the wiry, salt-and-pepper hair of John Stewart.  We hoped that a peaceable blue state would offer better odds for meaningful friendship with folks like us.

It shouldn’t have taken us long to realize that, instead, Gloucester Mill amounted to the longest of long shots.  As soon as we arrived, the clues were all around us—most conspicuously, the signs reading, “Danger: Oxygen in Use, No Open Flames.”  Of the seven doors between the entrance and the elevator, fully three displayed this lurid red and black warning—and one was complemented by a motorized scooter parked beside the threshold.  But my wife and I were preoccupied.  In the lot sat our exhausted Toyota Camry, ticking in the heat and rigged with personal effects, a Japanese-made update on the jalopy from The Grapes of Wrath.  We were in no position to notice that our neighbors were, by and large, individuals who could recall the fanfare surrounding the publication of Steinbeck’s masterpiece.

It’s not that I am opposed to cross-generational friendships.  At age 34, already I enjoy plenty of activities associated with the elderly, such as reading, gardening, and positively demolishing boxes of high fiber cereal.  But my wife and I learned that, at Gloucester Mill, the relatively youthful were perceived as dangerous interlopers.  Not long after our arrival, I crossed the parking lot to address a shrunken woman struggling with an overloaded grocery caddy.  Too eagerly, perhaps, because when I offered my assistance, she recoiled in terror and clutched her purse as if it were the world’s last box of laxatives.  “Help! Help!” she cried, without apparent irony.

It’s not altogether surprising that I had trouble making friends within the building.  I can be grumpy and aloof—and with my pugnacious, bearded chin and eyebrows like mustaches, I resemble a pocket-sized Bluto, Popeye’s nemesis and a well-documented sexual predator.  But my wife is one of those honest-to-goodness nice people you read about in Bible tracts.  Her smile, which she offers indiscriminately, takes up the better part of her face.  For two years she taught in Watts and managed to win over her students with a combination of absolute devotion and exquisite Southern manners.  Yet even she found herself, more than once, on the business end of a four-pronged aluminum cane.

There were exceptions, of course.  One of our fourth floor neighbors, a chatty spindle of a woman, kept an eye out for our Amazon packages and invited us to her Christmas parties.  Still, it was clear that my wife and I needed to look beyond the Mill for companionship.  During the thirsty month of August, before the school year and our new jobs commenced, we devoted ourselves to visiting a different bar each night.  More often than not, these forays proved less social and more anthropological in nature. So while they yielded few friends, we made some important discoveries—for instance, that New Englanders see gin and tonics in the same way that others do lemon-lime Powerade.  Also, that the Old-Timers Tavern could have deepened its obvious commitment to truth in advertising by calling itself the Piss Drunk Old-Timers Tavern.

Beyond these efforts, we joined the YMCA, frequented the Farmers’ Market, and even attended services at the Episcopalian Church.  My skeptical beliefs notwithstanding, I savored these Sundaymornings.  With the big red door flung open to the breeze, I listened to seagulls heckling the liturgy and admired the sunlight glowing through nautically themed stained glass.  But eventually we learned that churchgoing has a different form and meaning up North.  In Texas, people attend church because everyone does; it’s an opportunity to wear linen, gossip about the truant, and enjoy a tipple beforenoon.  The service itself is just a prelude to the fellowship that takes place afterward over sagging platters of fried catfish and devilled eggs.  But in New England, where church isn’t so much a way of life, regular parishioners seem to be a hardcore, studious lot.  They listen intently to the sermon, scribble notes, and following the benediction shake hands with the priest and hotfoot it home to implement his teachings.  My tendency to hang around the courtyard, sporting a pastel bowtie, elicited only quizzical expressions from the clergy and laypeople alike.  What was so natural down South appeared bizarre, even suspicious, in New England.  Looking back, I worry they imagined I was casing the joint for holy relics or crates of communion wine.



As our first New England summer faded into autumn, I started to feel desperate.  Yes, we had found camaraderie at our places of employment.  But at the warm and fuzzy schools where we taught people were contractually obligated to be friendly.  And most colleagues lived over the Bridge in the surrounding towns.  What we hungered for were local connections, voluntarily bestowed, which would symbolize that we’d truly arrived, that we weren’t the tourists or seasonal residents whom we now saw fleeing for warmer climes.

And so I began to see potential bonds in the unlikeliest of places.  Walking from Gloucester Mill to the Family Dollar for trash bags or a toilet brush, I would pass a dingy garage adjacent to a carwash. Ostensibly, it was a commercial enterprise named Dizturbed Kreationz, which specialized in turning perfectly sensible four-wheel drive trucks into rude metallic beasts that farted jet-black smoke. Business hours lasted between noon and 1:30 PM, after which the young employees would abandon their blowtorches, arrange folding chairs, and pass around a squat red cooler of beer.  Often, a flinty-looking girl or two would join them to sing harmonies on favorite Limp Bizkit tunes.  Meanwhile, the boys held remote control transmitters in their stained hands, sending tiny scale models of their prized vehicles whining through the parking lot.  On the surface at least, I had little in common with this outfit. And they treated my comings and goings with complete indifference.  Yet part of me imagined how pleasant it would be to be hailed with some nickname—“Bones” or “Mongoose” or, hell, even “Little Bits”—and have a cold can pressed into my palm.  One afternoon I plucked up my courage and ventured a little head nod to a heavily tattooed fellow, who was taking a cigarette break next to a completely stripped chassis.  He stared for a moment, spat on the ground, and opened his mouth to speak.  In a way, my fantasy came true—but I admit that “bitch ass punk” was a bit more colorful a moniker than I’d bargained for.


As the years passed, my wife and I gave up hoping that any single outlet in town would offer a gateway to an extensive network of friends.  The most promising of these one-stop-shopping approaches—raising a child—seemed like an awful lot of work.  Instead, we resolved to cobble together a social life from disparate materials, to celebrate loose ties as well as strong ones, and—most of all—to not grow discouraged.  Recently, we moved away from Gloucester Mill and into a house closer to Main Street. We have plenty of space, and we can’t wait for temperatures to rise and the roof deck to shrug off its white winter coat, so we can host a party.  Maybe we’ll fill up a kiddie pool and surround it with tropical plants, just like the set of Melrose Place.  As long as you don’t have murder or adultery in mind, consider yourself—and your oxygen tank—invited.


No Snark Sunday: Shameless Plug/Cyberpunk in the Bistro


Starting with Jules Verne and 10,000 Leagues Under the Sea all the way to the Star Trek franchise, science fiction has generally given us an empowering view of our relationship to technology. Yes, there are problems and hiccups, but mostly it’s men doing amazing things with incredible machines. Journeying to the stars, fighting off alien invasions and getting the girl. The technology is all very impersonal and outward-focused: Submarines, Starships, laser guns and robots. You kind of get it when you remember what was going on in the world at the time: great canals being built, skyscrapers, dams, airplanes and rockets. The last of the unexplored places like the Arctic and Everest being conquered. Easy-to-understand wars being fought and won.

But there was another strain that took hold in the 60’s and 70’s when writers led by people like Philip K. Dick,  Paul Linebarger (Cordwaner Smith) and I’d even argue Ursula K. Leguin decided to use the lens offered by this genre to look inward at how the explosion of new technologies was changing us and our perceptions of society and reality. In the 80’s this broke out into a sub genre called “Cyberpunk.” Where most sci-fi took place in space, plots in Cyberpunk revolved around the ultimately mutable concept of virtual reality powered by networked computers. In 1984 cyberpunk author William Gibson coined it “Cyberspace”.

Perhaps you’re familiar?

Cyberpunk is a lot like the Internet, it’s not clean and neat like the work of the old masters like Asimov. Themes weave in and out. The societies depicted are almost nominally functional with huge corporations and insanely advanced tech right alongside massive poverty and the consequences of an increasingly weak central government. You will recognize this world, even thought it was envisioned two decades ago.

I’ll be honest, a lot this genre hard to read. Unless you love computers, code, endless references to Japanese pop culture and dense writing in general (which I do) it’s tough on general audiences.

But then along came Neil Stevenson with Snowcrash. Intended as more of a parody of cyberpunk, this book started out as a graphic novel until he and his illustrator realized that doing it in comics form would be an impossible task. It rolls through themes technological, sociological, anthropological, the nature of consciousness itself and has some amazing action scenes including a villain who rides around on a motorcycle of which the sidecar is a stolen Russian nuclear bomb set to explode if he is ever killed.

There is a tone of fan art because  Internet

There is a tone of fan art because Internet

Stevenson is, in general, a blast (pun intended). He’s kind of like Dan Brown on acid. You can imagine that if you were ever stuck next to him on a cross-country bus trip he’d be amazing till about Ohio, then you’d want to kill him from about there till Seattle. This book takes us to Cincinnati.

I have it on good authority from a first-time cyberpunk reader that it’s totally accessible and she recommends readers “Keep at it till page 70 when it all starts to make sense.”

So, on Sunday March 22 at 5pm we’re going to discuss the book and some of the ideas therin at Duckworth’s. It’s 45 bucks, but if you’ve been to one of these things before you should know Ken and Nichole (Ken is a huge Cyberpunk nerd, btw) go to town with the spread. The last one I did I’m pretty sure about 30% of the people there hadn’t read the book and were just down with an exclusive Duckworth’s meal and were like, “Yes, yes, Jim, do go on about how the idea of the ‘Fool’ character in science fiction has migrated into technology like C3PO and…what? Is that more lamb? Bacon-wrapped figs? Yes, please…”

So make a reservation, read the book and come join us.

Additional radom details:

The Hero's name is Hiro Protagonist

The Hero’s name is Hiro Protagonist



A cool skateboard courier called "YT" short for "Yours Truly"

A cool skateboard courier called “YT” short for “Yours Truly”

There is a robot dog

There is a robot dog