KT here. I’ve been away from the Clam for a bit – had to take a break, have a baby, buy a house, adult stuff like that. But, I am back at you today.
For the worst reason.
Our beloved leader, Jim Dowd, who made up so much more than half of the Clam, has shuffled off this mortal coil. He is no more. He has ceased to be.
We knew it was coming, he told us goodbye, but there’s only so much emotional preparation you can do in advance. The weight still hits you like a sack of dead seagulls.
Fuck. Extra fuck. Like super fuck, for the fuck of shit, yabba dabba fucking shit, a pantry full of dicks.
Now that I’ve offended the most delicate among us by getting the majority of the profanity out of the way (IT’S WHAT HE WOULD HAVE WANTED), let’s talk about how much this sucks (spoiler: it sucks major ass) and more importantly, Clam-eulogize Jim in a way he deserves. Snarkily and with no holds barred, but with all the love in the world.
“Don’t say I had a brave battle with cancer,” he messaged me a few weeks back. “I just sat there and did what they told me.” And that’s basically the truth of the matter. Jim believed that we are all just along for the ride on this planet. There’s no battle of inward steeliness that can change the outcome of any random cell mutation, it’s a team of doctors throwing everything at their disposal at the problem. There’s no amount of willpower that can be mustered to overcome an aggressive brain tumor that will keep coming back. I hate that premise as well, that surviving cancer is because someone successfully drew from some well of inner strength to somehow combat cell mutation, and the rest- the ones unlucky enough to have types of cancer where the survival rates are miniscule – just laid down and died. It’s chance.
Jim hated the generic and ultimately useless platitudes, sorries and condolences, nearly as much as he hated Facebook comments from well-meaning acquaintances and strangers that asked if he’d tried CBD oil. In Jim’s world (and in the world of so many others around him and like him), science and the best medical staff in the US were always the answer, and if they had no answer, that was that.
I told Jim that when I wrote something for him, it would be full of sports references and also talk about his lifelong passion for NFL football. That guy definitely never missed a Superbowl and will absolutely not haunt me from beyond by having me miss the last stair on my trek downstairs for coffee fortnightly until I apologize for saying that.
But the truth is, I don’t even know where to start in explaining who Jim was as a person or what he meant to me and my family. We ended up becoming friends over a Good Morning Gloucester rant about his stolen bike wheel, and partnered up for so many things over the last 6-7 years – Snotbot, the Gloucester Clam, marketing projects for diverse clients. And we both were prolific Facebook messengers. It was rare that more than a day or two went by without a message back and forth unless one of us was out of the country (and even then), tens of thousands of them over the years, from snarky to serious, mostly about the Clam, but also advice about starting companies, buying houses, launching careers, managing friendships, and dealing with high-energy redheaded sons and the school system that tries valiantly to keep their penchant for building rockets, massive robots or trebuchets headed in a positive academic direction.
I got a message on vacation last August that he was spending time with my mom, and not for a good reason. For background, my mom has worked at MGH as a Neuro ICU nurse since before I was born, and Jim was transferred into her unit. He assured me the mass they found in his brain was most likely just a breach in the Lord of the Rings trivia containment unit, and not to worry. The surgery would remove the mass, and he also requested they remove the area that held knowledge of the Star Wars prequels. I don’t handle things like normal people, so my course of action over the past 9 months was to keep speaking to him like nothing was wrong, and not to treat him any differently. We joked about death a lot.
After he told me he was starting home hospice care at the end of April, the messages kept up, but as weeks passed, got harder and harder to decipher. He mused that at the end, Keith Richards and Bob Dylan appear in the room, ostensibly to explain the meaning of life and their secret to keep death at bay. He told me that once he slipped into unconsciousness, Morrissey jokes were fair game. I joked that I would keep pinging him like the Opportunity rover, until his battery was low and it got dark. And then the messages stopped.
I will forever miss having someone that i could text at basically any time of day with “ugh, these assholes” and not only would Jim immediately know which assholes I was talking about and what the assholes had said in particular, but also launch into a diatribe about why, exactly, the assholes were wrong, what they failed to grasp about this argument in particular, and how eventually they’d be replaced by robots anyway – so joke’s on them.
There was no one in the world, no one I will ever meet again in my lifespan, like Jim. Jim was such a larger than life person. Come to think of it, louder than life may be a better descriptor. While most humans learn to modulate the volume of their voice when they are a preteen, Jim never truly grasped that concept, much to our community’s delight and consternation. The last time I saw him in person was at the O’Maley production of Mary Poppins, where we inadvertently ended up sitting next to each other and I had to whack him to be quiet when he loudwhispered about the numerous set changes. Jim was the kind of guy Sefatia would need to tell to take it down a notch.
Jim was a one of a kind friend – and I know everyone who has ever had the pleasure of him diving headfirst into their lives, loudly and without apology, feels the same. We’ve lost so much with his passing. He doesn’t leave holes in our lives, he leaves blast craters.
One of my favorite and most unexpectedly wholesome things about Jim was his unwavering belief that humanity could still solve the climate change crisis. During our trip to LA to film Patrick Stewart for the Snotbot Kickstarter, we ended up at a taco bar around the corner from our hotel, and the conversation over a nightcap turned to how our planet is a sauna and we’re over here squeezing our waterbottles over the coals. Myself as well as Iain, the head of Ocean Alliance, were of the opinion that this is it for us, that humanity has another 100 good years at most, that despite the brilliance of our species and the incredible feats and inventions we’ve accomplished, we won’t be able to work together to keep ourselves alive – despite all of us still trying our best. Jim, however, firmly believed that even if leadership lagged, the incessant research of the scientific community would eventually solve the issues enough to minimize the effects of global warming to continue our species beyond the next century. It’s ironic in an Alanis Morrissette sense that he got to peace out before the ending got spoiled for him.
Jim’s ability to weave a narrative was unbelievable. I don’t know which type of posts were my favorite – angry screeds with snarky photos, or less angry, but still tough-love filled essays about how Gloucester gets to where it needs or wants to be. Jim dunked on Gloucester sometimes, but what a lot of people didn’t understand was the nuance. Jim LOVED Gloucester, and when you love something, you want what’s best for it. You have opinions about where it goes and what goes into it. Sometimes those opinions are peppered with profanity, but they’re just as valid. Thankfully, thousands of people understood his message, and those who didn’t were usually the type of person who has their profile picture wearing sunglasses in the driver’s seat of a lifted truck. Nuance is lost on them, anyway.
One of my favorite No Snark Sundays was a story he retold about hosting his septuagenarian aunt’s wedding to a high school sweetheart and realizing his back porch was completely rotted and filled with larvae. He had two choices: the easy way, to just block the back porch off so no one stepped through a rotted floorboard and push the repair off to some other future time, or the hard way, to completely pull up the rot and fix the deep-rooted problem. And he somehow seamlessly compared this dilemma to our country’s problem with police brutality and accountability when it comes to murdering unarmed POC. And he did it so well.
And so, I’ll leave you with this, from the master himself.
“I know we say this here a lot, but it’s important to stress that we are not a frightened people. We are not afraid of terrorists, though they attack our city. We are not afraid of Ebola even though it’s foreign and scary-sounding. We’re not afraid of our kids mixing with new ideas and different social classes and cultures because this is what will make them real people not just another set of clones blithering around a mass-produced consumer culture. We are not afraid because each of us is descended from brave people who risked everything at one point or another. We owe our civilization to those who pushed back against the darkness. Who stood for justice and equality in the face of what then looked like insurmountable odds. Their blood flows in our veins and their DNA is what 3D printed us out into this crazy place and time. We have the tools. We have the people who know what needs to be done.
So take a breath. Roll up the sleeves. This is going to be hard.
But the fucking door stays open.”
I hope he got to see Keith Richards on his way out the door.
If you have a story about Jim you’d like to share, his family would love to hear it and keep these memories for his children to read. Email firstname.lastname@example.org with funny observations, memories, and so on. JUST NO CONDOLENCES. You don’t want to be haunted by someone that loud.