Results of Our Celebrity St. Peter’s Fiesta Survey



With St. Peter’s Fiesta close at hand, The Clam asked some notable figures to name what they like and dislike about Gloucester’s signature summer event. Here are their responses:


Donald Trump



Carnival games:  An inspirational refresher course in shady business practices

The Greasy Pole:  A strategically placed basin hooks him up with enough hair pomade for the rest of the year.

The Mass of St. Peter:  The priest has promised that, if he tithes enough, the Church will change the name of that apostle no one remembers to “The Donald.”


The Blessing of the Fleet:  A self-made man depends not on divine intervention, but on loopholes in the tax code.

Seine Boat Races:  Similar to the Republican primaries, there’s a lot of jockeying at the start. But, ultimately, they just test the public’s patience while awaiting the main event.

Nightly raffle drawings:  It’s practically communism.


Kim Jong-Un



The Fiesta 5K:  The pained expressions of lean men and women on the move make him nostalgic for the forced marches of his homeland.

70s-era carnival rides:  Yet more proof of the inferiority of American structural engineering

Sunday Mass parade:  A worthy display of jingoism– though not enough goose-stepping, ICBMs, or throngs of weeping children for his taste.


The airborne portraits of St. Peter:  If he ever finds out who painted the iconography of another man, he’ll feed that individual’s hands to a tiger.

The nightly musical entertainment:  Like in all of his public appearances, everyone is just pretending to enjoy it.

Fried dough:  It makes him gassy.


Saint Peter



The ¾-scale statue of himself that gets lugged around:  Christ can sitteth at God’s right hand; Peter much prefers to standeth on the shoulders of strapping Sicilians.  Plus, it really does justice to his cheekbones.

The Seine Boat Races:  Strip away the halo and all the pomp, and at heart he’s just a hardworking fisherman from Galilee.

His cut from the $60 membership dues at St. Peter’s Club:  Life gets expensive when you have a standing poker engagement with an omniscient being.


The “Viva” chant:  He’s got the eternal life thing locked down. How about “Nice pecs, San Pietro!” instead?

Milling around St. Peter’s Square:  With beards and sandals enjoying a moment, he’s constantly mistaken for an art student at Montserrat.

The pirate ship carnival ride:  Gravity + flowing robes = Another prominent Church official on the sex offender registry.


Main Street Businesses Pledge to Preserve Heritage of Empire Building

GLOUCESTER—On June 1, a pair of exotic new occupants moved into the old Empire building on Main Street. But the owners of these businesses—a yoga studio and a retailer of handmade Asian wares—have promised they’ll honor the traditions that make the property and the City of Gloucester so special.

The promises were issued on Sunday night at a community event in the newly renovated building, home to the Empire department store from 1951 to 2004.

Empire MainSt[The Empire building, Main Street]

“Tonight was about mutual understanding,” said Mark Davis, the 39-year-old owner of The Flouncy Orchid and one of the hosts of the event. “There had been a lot of anxiety—anger, even—among our neighbors.”

Davis gestured toward a few dozen individuals, who were now sampling oolong teas, lounging on meditation cushions, and touring the remodeled interior.

One attendee was 68-year-old Leo Ventura, a Gloucester native and retired fisherman. He expressed concern that “two businesses reeking of incense and West Coast faddishness” would profane the building’s heritage.

Ventura explained, “Empire was the soul of downtown Gloucester. For decades, I bought all my American-made socks and underpants there. Now this Floppy Orchid outfit wants to peddle goods made in Cambodia.” He pawed at a pile of colorful tapestries. “Granted, there’s no better place to weave Cambodian textiles.”

Epiphanies like this one make Davis optimistic that his store—long a fixture on Bearskin Neck in Rockport—will ultimately win over Gloucester.

Of course, compromise is a two-way street.

“Early on in the evening, we realized that the fur vault was a sticking point,” Davis said, referring to the 8’ x 12’ reinforced steel box that once secured Empire’s beaver coats and fox stoles.

Several Gloucester residents feared the new owners might sell it for scrap.

“What if the mink population explodes, pimps go retro, and the industry rebounds?” said Eva Serafino, a 74-year-old resident of the Fort Square neighborhood. “Gloucester needs to protect its fur infrastructure, because once it’s gone, it’s gone.”

EmpireFurVault2[Empire fur vault, circa 1955]

Standing nearby and nodding her head was Fiona Falcone, the 34-year-old owner of Centered Yoga and co-host of the event. “If it would appease the community,” she said, “why shouldn’t we turn the vault into a Bikram-style aromatherapy chamber?”

Mark Davis was equally enthusiastic about the idea.  “Hop inside with a kerosene heater and a few lavender candles,” he said, “and let the stress just melt away.”

“And if the lavender isn’t enough,” Falcone said, “carbon monoxide should take care of the rest.”

Other residents worried that renovations had destroyed the legacy of the building’s 11-year period of neglect.

Dan McKinnon, another Gloucester native, elaborated: “I have fond memories of strolling past the glass storefront and just staring at the filthy floor and random construction debris. It’s all part of the building’s unique history.”

So Davis has agreed to return one section of his store to its former, derelict state. “We’ll just rope off this corner adjacent to the window,” he said, “and curate a scene that tastefully evokes despair and dilapidation.”

Falcone made some suggestions: “I’d start with a rusty folding chair. Then scatter bent nails and crumpled Keno tickets. Finally, as an accent piece, an overturned can of Shasta.”

“Or maybe a Styrofoam cup from Dunks,” Davis said, rubbing his chin. “We’re striving for authenticity.”

Whereas these concessions prompted immediate applause, the concept of yoga was a harder sell.

“Then I explained that yoga is not unlike fishing,” Falcone said. “To the untrained eye, both involve spending long periods of time in one position, seemingly doing nothing. But each requires great concentration.”

“And both have their accoutrements,” she continued. “The yogi carries her mat, blocks, and cotton strap. While the fisherman carries his rod, tackle, and cooler of Narragansett.”

“This was an ‘Aha’ moment for a lot of folks,” Davis added.

It was also the moment Falcone hatched the idea that swayed the holdouts in the audience.

She explained: “America’s oldest seaport deserves a yoga studio that reflects its traditions. So teachers at our studio won’t ask their students to move into downward dog or tree pose.”

She sat on the hardwood floor and splayed her legs nearly 180 degrees. “Instead, each posture will have a maritime-themed name,” she said, jackknifing forward and gripping her toes with her fingers.

Davis beamed. “Behold!” he said. “The flaccid tuna.”

FlaccidTuna[Falcone, honoring the spirit of Gloucester]

Centered Yoga will offer four classes each day for beginners through advanced practitioners.

The Flouncy Orchid will sell an assortment of clothing, jewelry, furnishings, and musical instruments—as well as freshly cut herring.

A Pollen Advisory: Allergy Season Comes to Gloucester

It takes more than ordinary roadside flotsam to surprise or appall a resident of Gloucester. Around here, a clutch of empty nip bottles is as natural as a tuft of dandelions. Soiled briefs hanging from the neck of a fire hydrant are unlikely to prompt a second glance. Depending on how recently you’ve been strafed by a low-altitude flock, a decaying seagull might stir a twinge of pity—but it will hardly shock your sensibilities. And Gloucesterites accept that over time we will see, discarded in weedy patches of broken pavement, every single product from the incontinence and family planning departments of our local Walgreens.

chairelm[Office space for rent, Elm St.]

Thus, as a seasoned downtown pedestrian, I wasn’t expecting to be stopped in my tracks yesterday, while I walked along Prospect Street and gazed absently at the steeple of St. Ann’s. But suddenly the sidewalk beneath my feet went spongy, a disconcerting sensation for the wearer of dollar store flip-flops. What sprang to mind was a Friday evening at last year’s Fiesta, when I watched a bull terrier drift from an inattentive owner and scavenge most of a cheese pizza left on a row of bleachers. Scarcely a minute passed before the dog barked twice and vomited every last curd onto the paving stones. In the din and dim light, few noticed, and passersby blithely squelched through the muck. Now, here on Prospect, I figured a similar fate had befallen me.  And frankly I would have preferred it to what I did confront: mustard-colored tree pollen, washed up in a tangled shoal of frightful dimensions. Immediately, I unleashed a thunderous sneeze.


For seasonal allergy sufferers like me, springtime doesn’t occasion the joy that it does for others. What it occasions is an annual trip to the pharmacy, where I make for the generic antihistamines like a Pamplonian bull. You might be only a grandmother lingering in the Hallmark section, picking out just the right Easter card for wee Tiffany. But if you stand between me and my 24-hour Wal-Fex, by God I will drop you like a sack of potatoes. This year my symptoms surfaced a little late, and I arrived to find the aisle gutted and my favored remedy out of stock. So I was forced to purchase brand-name Allegra, whose price per ounce rivals that of saffron, a spice derived from the stigmas of the Crocus plant, tweezed one at a time by raven-haired virgins.

More often than not, a careful pharmaceutical regimen is enough to keep my symptoms at bay. Some years, however, the pollen flies in stifling clouds, and I become a sloppy, wheezing mess. Back in the spring of 2011, I had trained aggressively for the Twin Lights Half Marathon, but as race weekend approached, disaster struck. Some godforsaken conifer must have enjoyed a particularly lusty reproductive cycle, because not even a stiff Benadryl-fexofenadine cocktail would release my lungs from hay fever’s vise. On Saturday, I took my last light training run down the Boulevard. Trotting along at 50% of race pace, I ended up doubled over a metal bench, coughing and gasping like a freshly landed trout. Desperate, I sought an emergency, off-label treatment that might at least allow me to finish 13.1 miles.

Sunday dawned cool and cloudy, ideal racing weather.  Bolting from the lot at Good Harbor, I felt utterly weightless—and with steady, unencumbered breaths I cruised to Rockport and back a few minutes ahead of my goal. I crowed to all my friends, until one—a runner himself, as well as a neuro-ophthalmologist—explained that the medicine I’d used, Primatene Mist, is essentially pure adrenaline, a substance categorically banned by USA Track & Field and the governing bodies of every sport except bareknuckle boxing. “Tell me the truth,” he said.  “How many puffs on the inhaler?”

“Two at breakfast,” I said. “Two more at the starting line.”

“Hmm. And I imagine you enjoyed your normal morning espresso?”

“Don’t be silly. I had a double.”

According to him, my record time was something of a disappointment—as this combination of stimulants had given me the lung capacity and pain threshold of a Nepalese Sherpa on Angel Dust.

Sherpa[The author, briefly]

As bad as seasonal allergies can be in New England—and don’t even get me started on fall ragweed—my symptoms were worse when I lived down South. The warm, moist climate of Houston, Texas, is conducive to the growth of every conceivable species of plant and fungus, and the lack of frost means that spores are a year-round menace. One option is to spend all your time inside, ringed by industrial HEPA filters. But that would deprive you of the city’s open-air charms, such as the orange glow of its oil refineries at night, or the tar balls that bob and beach themselves along its waterways like malignant jellyfish.

One fall I bought tickets to the Austin City Limits Music Festival, the famed outdoor concert staged in dusty Zilker Park. Within minutes of passing through the gates, I sneezed for the first time. An hour later, I’d peeled off my cotton t-shirt for use as a soft, absorbent nasal dam. I was sneezing more or less continually, sometimes in bursts of ten or twelve, leaving me unable to eat, drink, or speak more than a few staccato words: “Goddamn. Choo! It.” Moreover, my eyes were sealed behind hot, itchy puckers, obliging my friends to lead me by the wrist through crowds that turned to see what the fuck was up with the shirtless, sneezing guy. I became something of a circus sideshow, passable entertainment during the intermissions between Spoon, Andrew Bird, and My Morning Jacket. I didn’t want to leave. The tickets were expensive, and my ears still worked fine. But as the evening wore on, I feared that the constant clearing of my nose might result in my becoming the first recorded death by self-inflicted dehydration.

As a kid growing up in Virginia, my allergies were equally bad. Or perhaps it’s just that I lacked the discipline to abstain from tumbling headlong down grassy hillsides, playing in leaf litter, and adorning myself with brittle pollen wreaths and bangles.  Following an afternoon of such recreation, I’d spend the next few days in bed with a cool washcloth over my eyes, sucking on a nebulizer, while my friends continued their frolics. It outraged me that I could be enfeebled by something as harmless as a plant—that it was, in fact, my own oversensitive immune system that was primarily to blame. People would sometimes listen to my pitiful sneezes and chirp, “I bet you’ll grow out of those allergies!” Those people were dirty sons of bitches.

But today I have a different mindset. No longer do I shake my fist at the red oak or box elder. And I’m more judicious when it comes to exposing myself to the worst seasonal triggers. Most of all, I simply accept that allergies are a part of living close to nature, especially nature that’s pretty enough to spend whole lazy days within. Because, ultimately, this is the main reason I left the South for the North Shore, where around every bend in the road is a scene of unspeakable beauty. Where, like a mole on a model’s cheek, an abandoned commode only enhances the overall effect.

A Petition to Rename Stacy Boulevard, Signed by Women Named Stacy


Dear Stacy Boulevard:

Like us, you had your heyday. Like us, you were once the “it” girl in town. For years, your name evoked the best that Island life had to offer. Specifically: cruising in a Camaro T-Top on balmy summer evenings, the stereo pumping Whitesnake over the clang of the Cut Bridge signal, and—with the stick shift quivering in neutral—Joey D working his fingertips into a fraying rip in our stonewashed jeans. There was a synergy between us, Stacy, and it was an honor to share your name.

But no longer. Despite the worthy efforts of noble volunteers, you have fallen on hard times. No quantity of tulips or fluttering American flags can hide a roadbed that is pockmarked or a sidewalk that crumbles underfoot. Where once there was grass, now storm-tossed gravel mingles with brittle doggie shitcakes. A scabrous light post stands with its glass globe slumped against its shoulder, like an octogenarian nodding off. Lengths of your metal railing are missing, perhaps having been yanked from their moorings and wielded in the heinous crime that one section of flapping yellow caution tape seems to demarcate.

StaceyCrimeScene[Chalk outline erased by high tide]

The crowds still come, thanks to force of habit and the stark beauty of the seascape. They shuffle past, saluting the Man at the Wheel, even lingering on a bench to scan the horizon. But, honestly, prudence dictates that your broad seaward esplanade be negotiated only by those with steel-toed boots and up-to-date tetanus shots.

Here’s the deal, Stacy. It’s hard enough being a 44-year-old divorced mother of two. We shouldn’t also be saddled with a name that reminds everyone that, like you, we’re a little worse for wear. Time is fickle. We may have stuck with our feathered bangs and side ponytails long enough to see them come back into style. But we harbor no illusions. We know our waistlines are gone, and our prospects are diminished. We know Joey D will never again hold us in his loving arms or croon our name in menthol-laced exhalations. Stacy. Oh, Stacy.

Our circumstances are direr for the absence of a new generation of Stacys, fresh-faced girls who might charge the name with a bit of glamour. Today it’s all Olivias and Sophias—or else Audrey or Evelyn or some other anachronism, names of great-grandmothers long past saving.

So: we’re asking you not to make a bad situation any worse. Like most Massachusetts byways, you have several alternate designations: Western Ave, Route 127, and the road to Manchester-Go-Fuck-Itself. Aren’t these good enough? If you insist on a name with feminine allure, may we suggest Lisa Boulevard? You know, as a lesson to that bony little home-wrecker? Let us have ‘Stacy’ to ourselves, along with the world’s remaining pints of Ben & Jerry’s Oatmeal Cookie Chunk.

Maybe this will be temporary. We’ve heard that Gloucester has won a grant to give you quite the makeover. There’s talk of cosmetic improvements—new lighting, new sod—but also real structural enhancements, and even public restrooms to replace the city’s two most fetid port-a-johns. In a way, we’re jealous. $5.6 million in state cash could buy us all tits and asses worthy of a Katy or Selena.

Club-launches-rocket-powered-porta-potty[Is there a line item in the grant for this?]

Yet we also know that public works projects in Gloucester have a penchant for delay. Phase two of the 128 Bridge repair is slated to wrap up in 2017, almost ten years after the project’s launch—and just in time for the latest round of Nor’easters to prompt phase 3 repairs. So we’re not holding our breaths as the engineers dither and our ankles thicken.

Come Memorial Day, we’ll be cruising down your pavement once again—this time, in a kid-laden fleet of Grand Caravans. And when that drawbridge goes up, we’ll be all-too-happy to idle in the bottom of a pothole, just as long as we can call you by any other name.

Yours truly,

Stacy Mondello

Stacy Ferrera

Stacy Lowe

et al.

The Skin I’m In: Yet Another Reason I Was Never Cut Out for Baywatch

Given the unrelenting bleakness of the winter of 2015, it’s no surprise that May 1 will come and go without a viable beach day on the coast of Massachusetts. At this rate, July may get underway before Gloucesterites once again savor the charms of Good Harbor—most of all, the heady feeling when one slips past the “Residents Only” sign, the fee kiosk, and a queue of overheating Cherokees stuffed with lax bros from Peabody. A potent mixture of self-congratulation and Schadenfreude, this feeling never fails to make me swoon.

Compounding my general impatience to hit the beach is a worry that seems to afflict me alone. It is rooted in my modest knowledge of science, as well as the habits of my fellow citizens. To wit:

1) The high temperature on May 1 could register, technically speaking, as colder than the dark side of a newt’s ass. Nevertheless, the Ultraviolet Index, which measures the strength of the sun’s rays, may peak at almost 9.0. This is roughly the same number it will reach on always sultry August 1.

2) Many residents of Gloucester project a rather laissez-faire attitude when it comes to sunburn. That is, even though they will have packed the Grand Caravan with six kids, four folding chairs, two sets of Paddle Ball, and a cooler the size of a magician’s trunk, they will leave the sunscreen at home. In fact, the only sunscreen they’ll have at home is an ancient two-ounce sample they once picked up, mistaking it for a travel size tube of Aquafresh.

This combination of factors means that, once the droves do come to Good Harbor—exposing their delicate, winter-pale skin for the first time—it is certain that most will poach themselves scarlet.

I can vividly recall the first beach day of 2012. It was only mid-March, but the mercury was holding steady at 80 degrees when I arrived at Good Harbor in the late afternoon. Cresting the dunes and observing the scene below, I was reminded of a favorite painting by Hieronymous Bosch: “An Angel Leading a Soul into Hell.” Often hanging on the nursery walls of evangelical Southerners, it depicts the damned lying about in states of undress, their skin tinged an angry red by Lucifer’s sulfury fires. The only difference is that, in Bosch’s version, these individuals are quite conscious of their doomed condition; their postures indicate a certain writhing agony. In contrast, the Good Harbor beachgoers seemed either oblivious or simply unconcerned. They moved only to shoo a pesky gull or to apply a fresh coat of Crisco.

(c) Wellcome Library; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

[Good Harbor, March 2012]

I have a neighbor named Al, a retiree and a native of Gloucester, who exemplifies this insouciant approach to sun protection. He spends all of his daylight hours in his sizeable vegetable garden, perhaps the most fecund quarter of an acre in the city. And each day he conducts his efforts in nothing more than a pair of fraying denim shorts whose cut is so brief and yet so roomy that little is left to the imagination. Al happens to be blessed with a manly tunic of hair on his torso and arms, good for at least SPF 20 by my back-of-the-envelope estimates. Yet he always burns savagely on his first full days outside. After a few weeks, he has developed a mahogany carapace that, in addition to functioning as a UV barrier, deters mosquitoes, horseflies, and the fangs of your lesser snakes. Last July, I asked him about this technique. Thrusting his head from between the vines of a summer squash, he replied with perfect matter-of-factness: “Just like seasoning a cast iron pan.”

When I go to the beach, I am generally more circumspect than most Gloucesterites—indeed, more than most people with albinism. I favor the early morning or late afternoon shift, when the light is gentle and golden. Moreover, I drag along a garishly striped umbrella that could shelter an entire Bedouin caravan. Steeped in shadow and the sea breeze, things can get a little chilly, so I end up wearing a long-sleeved shirt and—sometimes—a towel over my legs. Suitably mummified, I am free to plow into a novel or perhaps to enjoy a nap untroubled by the specter of an uneven tan.

I do not pass judgment on my lobster-toned neighbors. Nor do I shy from the sun for the usual reasons: a melanoma scare or visions of future wrinkles and liver spots. Rather, it’s that I have absolutely no faith in the capacity of my skin to protect me from harm—and a corresponding impulse to avoid offending it in any way. For the same reason, I’ve never considered a tattoo for myself, despite my self-consciousness at being the only ink-free man under sixty at my gym. I’m aware that this may sound a little kooky. But the mistrust arises from two decades of betrayals, circumstances when my skin was my worst enemy.

The first and most painful treachery came to pass during the summer after my freshman year in college, when I was working as a camp counselor in the deep woods of western Virginia. One morning in the shower, I noticed a small red bump at the lowest, dangliest point of my scrotum. Initially, this wasn’t particularly concerning. The deciduous Southeast is home to all manner of spiders, flies, and biting insects of which New England is blissfully unaware—for instance, the noble chigger, a species of mite that likes nothing so much as the moist, clement depths of a college boy’s underpants. I assumed I had a few days of awkward scratching to look forward to—but nothing serious. This outlook changed the following morning, when I woke up with a hot, leaden sensation between my legs. Visual inspection revealed a testicular pouch the size, firmness, and hue of a ripe mango.


[Pretty much]

I was driven posthaste to the nearest emergency room and subjected to a series of medical examinations, which included vigorous palpation of the affected region, as well as an exceptionally unpleasant ultrasound. The technician was an older woman with ropy forearms and a smoker’s cough, and as she varnished my balls with conductive gel, the following exchange took place:

Her: “They say scrotums get this big on chimpanzees.”

Me: “Yeah?”

Her: “Mm hmm.”

Ultimately, I was diagnosed with high-grade cellulitis, an aggressive skin infection that I must caution you against Googling. But, amazingly, this was the least harrowing phase of what turned into a six-month cascade of horrors. I will not recount them all here. To do so would require a waiver indemnifying The Clam for trauma inflicted on its readership. But I will say that, at my lowest point, I considered whether surgical castration might be a sensible plan of action. Instead, the doctors opted for a cocktail of antibiotics, fungicides, and ’Nam-era defoliants, capped by an intensive course of topical steroids that left my scrotum as soft and smooth as a flapper’s chemise.


[One of my specialists, Dr. Kilgore]

It turns out that all sorts of cysts and nodules can grow on the human epidermis, and I have been beset by most of them. Indeed, if I were to wake up tomorrow morning with something truly bizarre germinating from my shoulder—a tiny cartilaginous bust of Jimmy Durante, let’s say—I would not be the least bit surprised. Still, when that first beach day arrives and I am stuck beneath my giant umbrella, I will inevitably feel a pang of envy. A flush may even come to my wan cheek as I watch the scantily clad masses frolic in the surf and sun—imperfectly safe, but perfectly comfortable in their own skin.