Oh God, Fuller Again? Really?

We get it Elrond. We really do.

The editorial in today’s Gloucester Daily Times (paywall to hide their shame) gives us searing insight into the inter-department payment negotiations around the lease of the St. Ann’s school as the temporary site for most West Parish kids during the build out of their new facility. It bears all the hallmarks of the GDT’s recent journalistic area of expertise, the ‘blithering nontroversy’ beat. There is nothing in this story besides the exceptionally routine squabble between two departments who each don’t want to pay 500 large and are saying the other one should. It will get worked out and indeed the editorial itself even calls for them to just split it, like a lunch check. Wow. The whole screed is essentially an excuse to put on the little cowboy hat and take a ride one of the GDT’s favorite hobbyhorses, the Fuller School. From the Editorial:

Neither school nor city officials want to hear it, but — even if renovations to the former Fuller School proved more costly — the city, by renovating Fuller into a temporary home for the West Parish students, would at least be putting money into a building the city already owns, and could use as a future temp site for students from other local schools while their buildings were rehabbed or replaced in the years to come.

Notice anything missing? What don’t you see there? Look carefully and unfocus your eyes like one of those ‘Magic Eye’ books where the unicorn comes out of the blurry dots. See it? See the actual numbers associated with this plan being advocated by the city planning wizards over at Eagle Tribune’s Finest? No? Of course you don’t because they aren’t there.

Let us clamsplain once again: Making Fuller into a temporary home for students was going to cost 14 million bucks. Fourteen. Catorce. This was the number given by trained and certified engineers and architects. You got a better number? Show me your license. That is the number.

Elon Musk will get this baby into space for that

Elon Musk will get this baby into space for that

Getting St. Ann’s up to speed is about $1.2 million and then a $4-500k lease. So we’re out for around a mill and a half. Maybe more, if the project runs long. Lets call it three. According to the calculations of the GDT dropping $14 mill is better because we somehow magically recoup those costs in the ‘years to come’. What the what? How does that work?


So, young numerologists- how many schools would we then need to rebuild at the estimated 3 million cost in order to recoup the 14 million dollar investment? If you said ‘5’ or ‘what the fuck are they kidding?’ you would be correct. This does not include operating Fuller btw, just the buildout.

FIVE for 14 Million. Even if we use it as the temp site for all 5 that that works out to 2.8 million apiece notably THE SAME FUCKING COST AS ST. ANN’S!

Sweet Gillnetting Jesus, do we have to keep doing this? It makes no sense to rehab Fuller even under that logic because we’re not guaranteed to get the money back by any stretch. If we decide to sell or give it to the YMCA, for instance, most of those costs will have been wasted because the Y does not need classrooms and kitchens and a host of other things we would have spend beaucoup dollars on. It takes a lot of cash to make a structure compliant even to temporary school standards. This is like telling a family whose car has broken down to buy a Bentley because they keep their value better than a Camry. Yeah, but not a very practical use of working capital is it?

Question for the GDT: Did you come up with this plan based on the same business logic that determined you should charge as much for your online subscription as the Wall Street Journal’s? You know, the news outfit with 2K reporters in 51 countries whereas you guys can’t even get over to the Mad Hot Ball? Honestly, people.

In the end, our best bet is to do exactly as we have done: keep the temp site flexible and to get rid of the albatross that is Fuller.

I'll drive

I’ll drive

We can put the public safety folks out there, sell or give it to the Y in trade for their downtown building, USE IT TO TEST RADIOACTIVE MUTANT LASER-EQUIPPED WOMBATS we don’t care but it’s never going to make financial sense to use it as a school again.

Additional question: when can we start drinking today?








“As the game played in Boston came to an end, even Montreal police officers stationed on Ste-Catherine Street pumped their fists in celebration. Outside the Bell Centre after the game, someone put a Bruins jersey on a hockey stick and set it on fire as people began stomping on it.”



Five Things it’s socially Acceptable to do in Gloucester but Nowhere Else

A few years ago, we were driving off on vacation with the fam in the minivan. Once we got past the malls our wife let out a huge sigh. “This is the furthest I’ve been over the bridge in six months,” she said. This was an exception during a particularly busy time, but it does serve as an example of how insular our little burg can become. Our isolation can lead to misunderstandings as our habits and customs do not always track with what those on the outside would consider “normal” or even in many cases “particularly sane”.

As a public service The Clam offers a short list of five things we do here and nowhere else. Take note if forced to interact with people from further away than Exit 14.

1. Carry Dunkins Cups Everywhere When we would do a thing called “stay out late” we once bore witness to an altercation between two drunken swains on lower Main Street. These dudes were swearing at each other, puffing out chests, offering threats of physical violence and eventually one of them took a poorly executed swing. The guy on the receiving end of the punch dodged it and put other guy in a headlock and they did that intoxicated man-hug shirtgrab deal that passes as a fight amongst the surpassingly inebriated. What made this so incredible to watch was the one guy who skillfully kept his Dunkins upright throughout as if it were positioned in the center of an invisible gyroscope. Of all the times you want two hands free, you’d think a streetfight would be it, but no. Not here.

If they ever bring capital punishment to Gloucester, this thing is going to need cupholders

If they ever bring capital punishment to Gloucester, this thing is going to need cupholders

In Gloucester it is perfectly socially acceptable not just for sidewalk brawlers but for attendees of any event large or small to perpetually clutch a Dunkins in the free hand: A pallbearer, best man at a wedding, a mohel, the defendant at the arraignment, everybody sips coffee at all times. It should be noted this is not cool in the outside world where commuters and patrons are socially allowed to have active beverages, but everyone else is expected to be able to go an hour or so without a regular with two sugars.

 2. Operate a Free-For-All-Rotary With Minimal Signage Every time we turn from the left lane in Grant Circle toward Blackburn we check the car to our right for telltale ‘out of town’ hallmarks such Yankees stickers or lack of duct tape in order to gauge if they will actually turn right or not. We live in a constant fear of a ‘sweeper’ one of those fools with the erroneous belief they have the right to just carelessly amble around the rotary from the right hand lane.

The law is on our side, but in the outside world a two lane rotary merging with a two-lane road is a traffic rarity, like car-swallowing sink holes outside of Florida or a Prius in Texas. You’d think there’d be a sign or something, but no. On the plus side this is not a bad intro to the Gloucester experience in general.

nice try, dude

nice try, dude

 3. Park Frigging Everywhere On sidewalks, up to the ends of intersections, on crosswalks and in front of curb cuts for wheelchairs and strollers (where they exist), in front of driveways if you are only ‘going to be a minute’ and in fire lanes. We have dear friends who live next to East Gloucester School and they regularly come home from work unable to park because strange cars are parked in their actual driveway in front of their house. At the Temple downtown people just straight up park in the private, posted lot and stroll on into the Y. Once one of the folks there went out to tell a guy that the parking is for members only and the guy punched him. Yes, seriously. The thought process that must have been something like: “I believe the private, religious organization in whose marked lot I have left my truck is obliged to provide me with parking to the point where I will physically assault someone.” In other places you park in parking lots or marked spaces and there is resident-only parking on the side streets. In Gloucester we’d park on your grandmother’s grave if it meant a better position in line at George’s.

 4. Yell at Other People Rather Than Just Walk Over and Talk to Them Everywhere else in the world yelling at someone is an effort to warn them of consequential and immediate danger or to signal that you are ready to commit an act of tremendous violence upon their person. Not so here. When we lived downtown we were surprised to find that many people on one side of the street would have long, shouty but otherwise banal conversations at all hours of the day and night with people on the other side:

FIRST GUY, YELLING LIKE A SPARTAN WARRIOR: “Dude, I saw youah brotha yestaday, he was with that chick Stacey.”

SECOND GUY, SHRIEKING AS IF PASSING A KIDNEY STONE: “Ah, shit no, really? I thought she had a order on him?”

FIRST GUY, POSSIBLY ENGULFED IN FLAME: “Naw dude, they were togethah.”

SECOND GUY, LOUDER: “Ah shit. Hey, you got a cigarette?”

FIRST GUY, SUBDUED BUT STILL LOUD: “Yah dude, I’ll come ovah.”

In other parts of the world it is considered polite to cross the street in order to discuss the various chicks with restraining orders against one’s brother.

5. Refuse to Engage in Any Transaction Until it’s Determined ‘Who you are’ This one is weird. You try and engage a local business or service provider and nothing can happen until they figure out where you fit in the great scheme of things. “Who are you again?” they’ll ask. They don’t want your name, they want your pedigree. “Oh, I’m related to the so-and so’s, the one’s who live out by such and such, my uncle is that guy with the thing who used to have the place on…” This is a totally normal way to interact with people in Gloucester. It’s like you are a Viking noble proclaiming your right to the throne: “I claim this seat as Sorgen, son of Galden who won the battle at Borggen Fijord, Grandson of Troddggenn who added consonants wantonly to his last name after sinking the Saxon fleet in the Sea of Blugregnerennn with his kinsman my great uncle Glennnn of the many ‘N’s’ at…”


we could not resist

we could not resist


Most places you can just give them a valid credit card and they’ll do business with you.


We hope this has been helpful.

Ask Howard Blackburn

Our “Ask” series is an advice column with a special panel of guest columnists. Today’s guest columnist is noted 1800’s Gloucester resident Howard Blackburn.

It takes me a long time to type with no hands.

Please excuse me, as it takes me a long time to type with no goddamn fingers.

Dear Howard:

I have a problem at my office with food theft. Three days last week, my lunch was missing out of the office refrigerator! A few of my officemates suspect “Bob”, as the remnants from our lunches are always on top of the trash after “Bob’s” scheduled break. Do we confront him? Go to HR? This is wearing on my nerves!

Hungry in East Gloucester

Dear Hungry:

Ah, I know that feeling all to well. The year was 1883, as you must know. I managed five days without food or water – a vast hell on earth, the frozen wasteland of the sea my only distraction from the corpse at my side. I considered gnawing my frozen hook-shaped hands for sustenance, but knew my blood would not stop gushing until it iced over. I hungered. I hungered for not only food, but for the embrace of my mother, for the feel of land beneath my feet, for the warming flames of a distant campfire. I have hungered in my life, but I go on. I always go on.

Dear Howard:

I am in seventh grade and I like a boy named “Peter”. He is smart and cute and funny! But I don’t think “Peter” likes me. I asked him to go to the spring dance with me, but he said no. How do I get “Peter” to like me? What if he never likes me?

Sad Girl in Rockport

Dear Sad Girl:

You must listen to me! Listen to me now, your life is at stake in these times of desperation. Row, missy! Row, nothing matters but rowing. Not your hands, not the death of your mate, nothing. You must row, finding the strength somewhere for that next movement of the oar, push, set and pull. The minutes, hours, days will be of interminable length. Everything inside you will be screaming for the sweet release of death, but you must continue on.

Dear Howard,

My husband is flirting with other women on Facebook, and it drives me nuts! Most of them are old high school chums or coworkers. He claims he’s just being friendly and since everyone can read it he’s doing nothing wrong or lying, but I hate it! How do I get him to knock it off?

Steamed in Magnolia

Dear Steamed:

Your situation, does, indeed, sound rough. Mind you, not rough as “sailing around the world with no fingers,” but tough nonetheless. I, too, know what it is like to watch something you have no control over. I watched my dorrymate die after the second day of our separation from the schooner Grace. I knew he had no fight left in him, but I could not stop rowing, and I watched the life slowly leave his body and I could do nothing. I carried his body to shore so he would have a proper burial, even though it meant I had to row with an extra 200 lbs, my hands long frozen into hooks. It was all I could do.

Want your question answered in our next advice column? Leave a comment here!

Clamsplainer: The Schools

A Request to The Clam:

“Please explain the Gloucester Schools to me in the simplest way possible. I keep hearing they suck and then I hear from other people that they are good so please help.”

That stove is suspiciously teacher-sized

That stove is suspiciously teacher-sized

Ahh, the Gloucester Schools. We shall do our best.

Gloucester Schools, Part the First

Remember the ‘Mirror of Erised’ in Harry Potter, the secret magic mirror Harry found at Hogwarts? Harry saw the parents he never knew and Ron Weasley saw himself as Gryffindor Quidditch Captain because its enchanted reflection reveals that which you most desire in your heart of hearts. We had one for a while at home, but all ours showed was softcore pornograpy involving H.R. Pufnstuf, so not sure what was going on there.

The Gloucester public schools are like the opposite of that. When observed, people bolt onto them whatever they most fear and loathe. For instance, if you are afraid your kids will become soulless corporate drones then the schools are factories of mediocrity handing out 64 boxes of Crayolas, with all the crayons different shades of tan (‘’Corporate Khaki” is our fav).

Likewise, if you hate unions and think the g’vmnt is running our lives by making us eat meat that’s been inspected by red-tape spewing bureaucrats, then the schools are socialist indoctrination camps where the teachers bellow an evil, full-chested laugh as they cash their tax-bloated paychecks after a long day of reading to kids from Mao’s Little Red Book.

Of course neither of these are true, but people believe what they want to believe. On top of this in Gloucester we have some unique challenges. Let’s clamsplore via list, shall we? We love us some lists.

1. Wealth: There are 351 incorporated towns in MA. Ranked by income Gloucester is 160th. Pretty much right in the middle with a median household income of about $60K/year. Our neighbors are in different segments. Manchester is fifth, with an average household income of more than twice that. Rockport is 77th with an average household of about $80K (Rockport is both really old and really tiny, btw. It’s the 17th oldest town in the Commonwealth and has only 7K people). When it comes to educational performance income matters for reasons we’ll get into.

2. Culture: For literally more than 300 years Gloucester has been an extractive economy-  meaning that any single family could scrape together a little cash and create a small concern to extract wealth from a nearby abundant resource. It’s like logging towns in the Northwest or coal towns in the Appalachians. In these environments you don’t need education nor even trade schools. In places like this you need a family that will put its backs together and you need balls made of tungsten-alloy. So it’s kind of a cultural adjustment when that way of life implodes within a single generation and suddenly your education system needs to start turning out huge numbers of people to work in the service, science, medical, financial and technology industries when just a few years earlier they were free to make a fine living catching or lumping right after high school. Cultural shifts take time.

3. Perception: This is the one that annoys the fuck out of me. Because of the ongoing cultural shift noted above, improved state standards and a shit-ton of incredibly hard and largely unthanked work, the schools now are pretty good. Ranking is really difficult, but but by most statistics used to evaluate schools Gloucester scores, not unexpectedly, pretty much in the middle (Hmmm. Coincidence?), especially once you get to the later grades and kids who started out more behind have had a chance to catch up. Gloucester tends to track with places like Saugus and Peabody- towns both regionally and demographically similar to us.

Jeez, with all the social and economic cards stacked against Gloucester schools, with many higher-performing students “choicing” to wealthier neighbors, we do pretty well. How is that? Simply it’s because we have a ton of highly dedicated educators, motivated outside advocates like the Gloucester Education Foundation [give them money!] and near-saint parents who devote untold fucktons of time to the schools. We could do a whole post just on the huge list of people who have gone way above the call of duty for their jobs or their own kids to make the schools what they are in the face of budget cuts and dipshits in all kinds of media constantly bringing them down. Because of these folks Gloucester Schools continue to be a great and successful place for kids from all walks of life. That is a fact.

You need to start there when you have this conversation. It is a very different thing to say, “Gloucester schools are on the balance, average” and then continue “I want better than average” rather than the usual bullshit from the GDT, “The Schoools Suuuuuuk!!! It’s a crisis REDFLAGOMIGOD!!!!!”

And allow us to note that this is effing Massachusetts. When people talk about “The Crisis in US Education” they are not talking about MA, they are talking about Mississippi where schoolchildren are using textbooks that don’t mention evolution mostly because when they were printed Darwin didn’t even have a shitty junior-high moustache yet.

When you look at our schools separately from the rest of the US, as if MA were a country unto itself, we score somewhere right between Finland and Japan who is behind Korea and Singapore (suck it, Lithuania!). Therefore our beloved Commonwealth is distinctly NOT having an educational crisis. Alabama, on the other hand is. So if you, like me, want to get even higher educational performance our of our schools, start with the fact that Gloucester has average schools in one of the two tip-top performing states (it’s us and Connecticut as the two top-ranked) competitive globally with the highest-performing countries.

Warning: If you start any conversation with us about the schools on the assumption that they suck we will know you haven’t actually read any of the actual data and are thus an idiot. Sorry. Facts matter. We don’t give a dingo’s kidneys that someone went to O’Maley in 1990 and it gargled balls and was like a John Huges movie but without the cool soundtrack. It’s a completely different school now. They make sail-cars. They have full classes of advanced math, an MIT partnership and amazing theatre productions. If you can’t get out of the godamed 90’s you need to see a psychiatrist. May I suggest Frasier? (that shot was far too easy and we apologize).

O'Maley can't hear your hating from their awesome sailcars

O’Maley can’t hear your hating from their awesome sailcars

So, what have we learned? That the schools are average at worst. We also saw the correlation between household income and educational outcomes. Is there a causational link? Only if you choose to believe every frigging study ever done.  Why look, here’s one that shows every thousand dollars in household income translates into about six percent difference on math scores from a standard deviation, with the most pronounced effects on kids from low-income families. Huh. It’s almost as if Gloucester, Manchester and Rockport fit perfectly into this model. Whad’ya know?

Here’s one thing I don’t know: How we even got around to debating this. Everyone living in Gloucester knows that this is a city right, not some ‘leafy suburb’? A lot of people who live in our city are (often stridently) not educationally-focused and there is a core of poverty with its attendant social problems and thus our schools have a bunch of kids who start from a weaker position educationally, right? Is this new to anyone?

If it is, here’s the deal: The teachers have to spend a ton of time on the kids who come from homes where there aren’t books, where mom and possibly dad are too busy trying to find the next hit or are tired out from low salary dead-end jobs or just aren’t from situations themselves where education has mattered much. That’s poverty, people. That their kids score lower on standardized tests in the third grade shouldn’t surprise anyone. That it’s going to cost more to get them up to speed also shouldn’t be a huge fucking ‘wow’ moment either.

In our personal experience we have found that even though all the scores (for what ‘scores’ are worth) get lumped together, our own kids have never suffered in any significant way educationally for having a variety of social classes represented in their schools. We think it’s made them into better people, in fact. They continue to be challenged academically, the teachers attend to their needs and we all pitch in to make sure that the kids in financial binds have rides, uniforms, fees and all the same opportunities all the other kids have. Food. Yeah, there have been a couple of times when a family lost an income and we made sure they had food. We are not Christian but that guy had a few good things to say about this particular topic if we remember our “Davey and Goliath” cartoons correctly.

And let us provide as special message to those who have been very upfront about not wanting extra attention paid to kids from struggling families: Go fuck yourselves. At the playground, for instance we have heard parents talk about how providing free meals to poor kids takes away from the families who are being “responsible.”

Never even got to launch the failboat

Never even got to launch the failboat

Metaphor time, bitches! For the purpose of this argument we are just going to skip over the accidents of birth that put almost all of us to where we are in life and simply picture all Gloucester families zipping about the harbor in generally equal quality boats. Now we all know there are responsible boaters and there are irresponsible boaters. Sometimes bad things happen to the responsible boaters and their boats sink. It just happens. And we likewise know that bad things often happen to irresponsible boaters, their boats sink too. They sink a lot more and for avoidable reasons, no argument there. BUT YOU RESCUE THE KIDS OF ALL OF THE SINKING BOATS REGARDLESS, RIGHT? RIGHT YOU SICK MOTHERFUCKERS? THESE ARE KIDS! Are there people who would honestly suggest that the children of irresponsible boaters should be left to drown in order to teach their parents lessons about responsible boastmanship? Really? And don’t accuse us of hyperbole, because we are talking about these kids’ entire futures here. If you ignore one set of kids it trickles down whole generations. This is our society, our tax base, our future nurses or prisoners. Our entrepreneurs or drains on society. We get to have a huge influence on how this turns out.

When people say, “Schools shouldn’t have to be responsible where parents fail” we agree. Yes, that is indeed true. And fire departments shouldn’t have to come put your house fire out because you bought cheap-ass Christmas lights from Walgreens and plugged one thousand things into a single wall outlet where the wiring was installed by some long-dead drunk uncle with materials he ripped out of a grounded collier. We shouldn’t, but we do. And publically-funded ambulances shouldn’t pick up people who smoked two packs a day in between buckets of KFC but they do. Welcome to living in an integrated society.

So, social issues aside as a bottom line we always help kids. All of them. The numbers show that the GPS has been doing just that and pretty darned well thank you very much. Are there things to improve and places to make improvement and problems and issues? Oh hells yes, but we believe the perspective from where you start is critical and that the people yelling “failure” are typically lying assweasels trying to divert money away from the public schools for their own purposes of assweaselism. We, on the other hand, believe in the mission of public schools as the best shot we have at a simultaneously egalitarian and globally competitive society.

Also there are tater tots.

Ok, that was ranty. In part 2 we will talk about individual schools maybe or just go off on idiots more. Maybe both. Right now we need to go drink a beer and watch Frozen again.