Clamsplainer: Our Schools Are Awesome So STFU, Haters.

A friend of a friend opened his stupid facehole the other day and the garbagewater that spilled out was, “Ugh, you live in Gloucester? The schools are so SHITTY there.” It took a lot of effort to not just throw myself on the floor and roll around yelling insults.

The schools aren’t shitty here. They’re not even CLOSE to shitty. Can we just stop with this dumb myth? I admit, that when I first had a baby and knew no one here, I’d heard that the schools were a mess. I believed it because I didn’t really know any better – and I was pregnant during the “pregnancy pact” bullshit. But oh my sweet crap on a cracker, was I wrong.

The singular data point you need to believe me on this was this weekend’s Gloucester Educational Fund arts festival downtown. Lured in by the promise of robotics and my kid’s art, I showed up – and was BLOWN AWAY. I’m a huge supporter of GEF, although my grinding, ceaseless near-poverty precludes me from donating to them all the money I wish I could.

Recycled plastic art. It's like they know me!

Recycled plastic art. It’s like they know me!


Although it had a ton of amazing arts turnout (including a multitude of bands, and the  EGS Ukulele concert!) what really took the cake for me (because nerd) was the robotics program. As you may know, we here at the Clam were a part of the Great 3D Printer Build last year, where the GEF purchased almost 30 3D printers and we all spent a weekend assembling them and then went delirious at the end from lack of sleep and that fucking clearly stoned guy trying to explain the assembly in a series of aggravating Youtube videos.

Anyway, the HS robotics club had some amazing interactive exhibits that truly showed how above average our Engineering program is. Like, with remote control tanks.

Clamchildren, doing what they do.

Our assorted Clamchildren, doing what they do (fighting over cool toys).

One of the things Maggie Rosa tracked me down to make sure I saw was the sand installation. “A sandbox with stuff projected on it – interesting!” I thought. UNTIL I SAW IT. The sandbox is two 3d cameras that take real-time height information from the kids making hills and valleys in the sand, sends that info to a laptop, that turns it into a real-live topographical map that is projected back onto the sand via overhead projector. High school students made this! HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS MADE THIS.

They will grow up not thinking this is incredible at all.

They will grow up not thinking this is incredible at all.

The presentation by the robotics kids and teacher Kurt Lichtenwald was pretty dang impressive. It had ping pong balls, homemade guitars, and of course, drones.


Our lives are mostly just drones at this point.

Turns out Gloucester High has one of the top engineering departments in the goddamn state. Kids are getting into WPI with no problems because they’re involved in our engineering programs.

Gloucester’s future is technology. The Clam wholeheartedly believes this (and not just because we’re epic super nerds). We’re doing amazing things, and our kids are going to be rock stars if we play this right. GEF is a huge part of this, as well as handfuls of amazing, dedicated, forward-thinking people. Our kids? They’re gonna be just fine.

And the schools are great. So STFU and enjoy it, instead of complaining.

No Snark Sunday: Addicts

When our daughter was born we lived between junkies and a liquor store. It was a gorgeous apartment, the owners of the store were great people. We loved everything about it except for the constant parade of despair seeking one or the other (or often both) fixes.

It was pretty much a nightmare. Our stuff was always being stolen. Sometimes I’d be filling the coffee pot in the morning and look out the window to find people crashed out on our deck. The junkies in residence had literally burned down their previous house trying to convert the hot water heater to propane grill tanks because their natural gas had been shut off, so there was a constant fear they were going to do something similar and endanger us as well. Out on the street mothers left babies in hot cars to go inside and buy (they were selling). As for the booze crowd, there is apparently a thing where you buy two single Twisted Tea tallboys, chug one on the sidewalk, throw the empty into the back of your truck and then crack the other, putting it in the beverage holder, and then take off down the street. This is, like, a normal part of some peoples’ day. I saw this out my window multiple times a given week. I was a regular on the police tip line.

The sad part was, they were less obnoxious before they woke up.

“Daddy, there’s a man sleeping on our porch and he smells like tinkle”

It sucked. We moved.

So, given my experiences, I see a massive challenge for myself at least with our new compassion policy toward addicts here in Gloucester which we here at The Clam whole heartedly support. Namely: Some addicts are frequently really fucking annoying and even dangerous. I’m not blaming here, It’s a disease I get it, I’m just stating a fact. It is a pain in the ass to have people nodded out in your deck furniture and having to check for needles before you let your toddler go out and play in her own yard. It’s dangerous as balls to have blitzed dudes driving around in huge trucks.

What are we supposed to do with our anger and annoyance at the breaking of the social contract that comes with a highly visible percent of a group of people in the full blazing flame of their addictions?

I don’t have any good answers. I’m tremendously glad the police, as a matter of policy, are making a change. I hope beyond hope that those in need take the police and public health system at their word and get help and that it works, that folks get into treatment and their lives and their families lives and the life of our community are transformed as a result. This is a fresh start for us all and I and we here at your favorite snarkblog intend to put all our effort and energy into making the new system successful even past its inevitable hiccups as it comes on line.

But I’m still going to be pissed as fuck when my bike gets jacked at the train station for the fourth time so someone can sell it to one of the scrap dudes for just enough to score on. One of my favorite quotes is by one of the pioneers of quantum physics, Niels Bohr. He said, “The opposite of a fact is a falsehood but the opposite of a profound truth is often another profound truth.” Let’s apply it to this situation:

"I like to think my bike is there even if some jackwad stole it"

“I like to think my bike is there even if some jackwad stole it”

Derek Potocki was ensnared so tightly in the grip of his addiction he donned an absurd disguise and robbed a local bank in a generally safe, trusting community, apparently without any kind of even rudimentary plan to ensure his own success.

Derek Potocki is an idiot jackhole.

Both of these are true. People in the grips of their addictions do things they otherwise wouldn’t. Idiots in the grips of addiction do astoundingly stupid things involving false beards and running around town like some kind of whacked-out Papa Smurf until the cops nab them at the train station in what would make the lamest episode of “The Fugitive” ever.

This kid is heart

This kid is stealing…my heart

So, I’m asking myself, where am I going to find this compassion as the inevitable visible reality of addiction hits me in the face when I’m least suspecting it? I am most certainly going to dig for my better self, but I have to admit I don’t feel an increased need to tolerate the nuisance or dangerous behavior caused by addiction, plain old garden-variety uncaring  stupidity or the all-too-prevalent cocktail of both. I have compassion for addicts as human beings. But I have none for behavior that makes my town feel like a shithole or endangers others. It’s just that simple.

My fervent hope is that the new policies and support systems provide actually less of an excuse for chemically-induced dubmassery as now there is a place where addicts can go for support and thus even less call to steal a bike or rob a bank or pass out on the bench in front of Clammedia Tower surrounded by Dunks cups and sandwich wrappers.

So with that hope in place I’m going to do my best to make this work. I commend everyone involved especially Chief Campanello . It’s not going to be easy and we can’t give up. I want to break the back of addiction in Gloucester and move on to our future, which I know is bright.

Because what we’re doing now clearly isn’t working.


Hipster Running Out of Ways to be Quirky and Original

Cake sleeping. No one is doing that, right?

Cake sleeping. No one is doing that, right?

Tyler McGrund, a hipster, has found himself at a loss for any more things to do that are off-beat and avant garde. Having cycled rapidly through absurd facial hair styles, clothing representing numerous historical periods, a pet skunk and traveling everywhere by pogo stick, he suddenly discovered himself at a loss for new ways to come off as free from the bounds of society.

“It just gets tiring, you know,” said McGrund, eating his lunch of croutons dipped in caramel fondue. “My fixed gear bike was just awful on hills, but then everyone got one and I had to switch to one of those old-timey bikes with the huge front wheel just to keep ahead. Do you know how hard those things are in traffic? And you can’t just stop and put a foot down at a red light, you have to get all the way off it at every stop. I’m actually glad they became a ‘thing’ with yuppies and I had to go pogo.”

And it’s an arms race of originality that has cost him financially as well. Current estimates put his annual spend on terrariums, glass-blowing lessons, trips to Brussels (McGrund claims he’s “All about Belgium right now”) and mismatched patent leather shoes at upwards of 45% of his annual income. It’s also hurt his personal life.

“My girlfriend was all into it for a while saying I was, like, the only true individual she’s ever dated so on our fourteen and a half week anniversary I took her urban spelunking. We wound up to our necks in wastewater in an abandoned electrical service tunnel and after that she stopped returning my texts. Now I only use payphones.”

He was recently fired for showing up to work in a suit of bees

He was recently fired for showing up to work in a suit of bees

McGrund is part of a growing number of urban individuals suffering from what experts call “Hip Check.” Marcia Wellington, professor of Sociology at SUNY explains: “You can only go on so long being the driving force of cultural adoption before you just burn out,” she said on a call to her office in Albany. “You spend all this time discovering a band, restaurant or hairstyle from feudal Japan and next thing you know some asshole digital marketing manager for a pharmaceutical company has adopted it and is telling his friends in sales. At least before social media the process used to take a few months, now you can probably only ride a really good bit of artsy bullshit for three weeks, tops.”

McGrund did not know what the future held as he looked out over his shared backyard full of Chinese dragon costumes, homemade hovercraft and mobiles made from taxidermy.

“I might become a farrier. For a while.”

Making Us Proud: Gloucester Shows The Country How Police Should Operate

It’s no big secret that our beautiful seaside city has a wee bit of a heroin problem.

On my street alone, there have been two fatal overdoses in the last calendar year. A few years back when I rented a retail business space, I went to replace a drop-ceiling tile, and a syringe fell out and skittered across the floor. It’s depressing – occasionally we use gallows humor here at your The Clam in order to not scream about it all or overload ourselves with how deep, and tragic, and just so fucking unrelenting it is. Dealing with junkie neighbors and in some cases family, and the problems that addiction can bring can be draining. Dealing with junkie neighbors at home AND at work is even more draining. Of course, that’s absolutely nothing compared to what families have to go through.

Just a normal beach day. (Photo courtesy of Because Gloucester/Shellee Viator)

Just a normal beach day. (Photo courtesy of Because Gloucester/Shellee Viator)

Our local police force has dealt with opiate dependency, at least from everything I’ve seen and heard firsthand, with an amazing amount of patience, grace, and understanding. I cannot imagine that Gloucester is an easy city to police, especially when it comes to the problems and crimes that addiction leads to. Our country has seen an unacceptable amount of horrific news stories involving police forces acting in unconscionable ways – but here in Gloucester, we’ve been absolutely blessed with a group of caring individuals who still treat people like people. If every police department across the country was the Gloucester Police, we’d be a much better country. I won’t say they’re perfect, but they’re pretty freakin’ awesome overall.

And so, after Saturday’s city-wide opiate summit, the Gloucester Police Facebook page posted the following statement from chief Campanello:

On Saturday, May 2, the City held a forum regarding the opiate crisis, and on how Gloucester has many resources for help. We are poised to make revolutionary changes in the way we treat this DISEASE. Your Police Department vowed to take the following measures to assist, beginning June 1, 2015:

– Any addict who walks into the police station with the remainder of their drug equipment (needles, etc) or drugs and asks for help will NOT be charged. Instead we will walk them through the system toward detox and recovery. We will assign them an “angel” who will be their guide through the process. Not in hours or days, but on the spot. Addison Gilbert and Lahey Clinic have committed to helping fast track people that walk into the police department so that they can be assessed quickly and the proper care can be administered quickly.

– Nasal Narcan has just been made available at local pharmacies without a prescription. The police department has entered into an agreement with Conleys and is working on one with CVS that will allow anyone access to the drug at little to no cost regardless of their insurance. The police department will pay the cost of nasal narcan for those without insurance. We will pay for it with money seized from drug dealers during investigations. We will save lives with the money from the pockets of those who would take them. We recognize that nasal narcan is not the answer, but it is saving lives and no one in this City will be denied a life saving drug for this disease just because of a lack of insurance. Conleys has also agreed to assist with insurance requests from those who do not have any.

– I will personally travel to Washington DC, with the support of Mayor Theken, the City Council, Sen. Bruce Tarr, and Rep. Ann-Margaret Ferrante, on May 12 and 13. There I will meet with Senators Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey and Congressman Seth Moulton. I will bring what Gloucester is accomplishing and challenge them to change, at the federal level, how we receive aid, support and assistance. I will bring the idea of how far Gloucester is willing to go to fight this disease and will ask them to hold federal agencies, insurance companies and big business accountable for building a support system that can eradicate opiate addiction and provide long term, sustainable support to reduce recidivism.

I am asking for your help. Like this post, send it to everyone you can think of and ask them to do the same. Speak your comments. Create strength in numbers. I will bring it with me to show how many voters are concerned about this issue. Lives are literally at stake. I have been on both sides of this issue, having spent 7 years as a plainclothes narcotics detective. I have arrested or charged many addicts and dealers. I’ve never arrested a tobacco addict, nor have I ever seen one turned down for help when they develop lung cancer, whether or not they have insurance. The reasons for the difference in care between a tobacco addict and an opiate addict is stigma and money. Petty reasons to lose a life.

Please help us make permanent change here in Gloucester.

Thank you,
Chief Campanello

Woah. This is a huge step forward for Gloucester – towards compassionate care for people society tend to give up on, or judge harshly having not been in their shoes. Chief Campanello just came out and said “You have a disease, your life matters. It matters enough for us to drop everything and help you. It matters enough that we’re getting anyone Narcan so we can save more lives.”It’s the best outcome for everyone involved to handle things this way instead of turning a blind eye, or arresting people only for the crime of being caught up in a shitty addiction. I’m sure there will be at least one bag of literal human garbage who will write us a dipshit comment about “THOSE people/handouts/free rides”, but that’s why we screen comments. And this novel approach resonated pretty far – as of last count, it had something like 15.5k shares (for a page with 2k likes). People from all around the country have left thousands of comments wishing their local police department would do the same. Maybe they will. Maybe this is the start.

Everyone involved in Saturday’s meeting should be proud of working on this collaboration. We’re proud of you all for putting Gloucester in the spotlight for being Gloucester – the city that bands together and helps each other out like no other place I’ve ever been.