Clam Classic: Drivin’ Up The Wall

Okay, I won’t lie, I had a long weekend of obligations and stuff to do, ending with watching I Am Big Bird over at the Cape Ann Cinema (awesome, recommend), so today we’re going to cop out and re-run last year’s piece about driving like absolute shit.

Okay, Gloucesterites. We have to talk. We really need to sit down and have A Serious Discussion about something, and I want you to listen up – but we both already know the truth here, don’t we? It’s the elephant in the room. Our deep dark not-heroin-or-pregnancy-related-for-once secret.

We’re a city full of TERRIBLE DRIVERS.  Just awful. On the best of days, it feels like driving in a post-apocalyptic nightmarish cityscape where if a man flinches, the churning hordes will innately sense weakness and rend him asunder. On the worst of days, there’s beach traffic.



Because I’m a deeply introspective person who tends to think of the macroenvironment surrounding my collection of dented vehicles, I set out on a spiritual journey to understand WHY we drive this way. And by “set out on a spiritual journey”, I mean I cracked open a beer. What I found on my Vision Quest (Sponsored by Downeast Cider) may explain our curious driving habits. Let us begin.

– The abysmally narrow roads. In a normal city like Somerville or Mumbai, a road twenty feet wide would be either two-way with no parking, or one way with parking on one side of the street. In Gloucester, twenty feet wide means two way traffic with cars parked halfway on the sidewalk in both directions, but you have to pull over where you can and let opposing traffic pass. Or they have to pull over.

Plenty of room to park, seriously.

Plenty of room to park, seriously.

Or, you have a “Gloucester Traffic Standoff” which is like a Mexican standoff but with cars and beeping and sometimes a gentle mist of swearing. Apparently, according to a neighbor who turned her car around, followed me to my house, and openly berated me in my driveway, you should also cede right of way to the person who has lived in Gloucester the longest. I could not make this up if I tried.

It’s a constant monster truck rally. I’ve been here for a decade, my entire twenties, a third of my life. Still, to this day, I am dumbfounded at the subset of Gloucester drivers who carry on as if the roads are their own personal demolition derby. Large, somewhat illegal pickup trucks are a dime a dozen ’round these parts. They come equipped with exhausts that sound like whooping cough, and they screech their tires at any available opportunity like a mating call for the perpetually dense. Almost predictably, these classy stallions of the motoring world are driven by white guys under the age of 35, sometimes shirtless, usually wearing a baseball cap.

Be right back honey, off to get trashbags in my perfectly reasonable transportation.

BRB honey, off to get trashbags in my perfectly reasonable mode of transportation.

Let me regale you with a tale from ye olde last week, when my other half got into a very minor traffic accident. He was driving up the mountainous terrain of Commonwealth Ave at a reasonable speed and on the side of the road one is socially obligated to drive on, on his way to pick up our preschooler. Suddenly, a wild truck appeared, cresting the hill. Naturally, the driver thought, “I can’t see the other side of this hill, so it’s a great idea to just drive in the middle of the road as fast as possible! Wee hoo, let’s see if we can catch air at the top!”

Since my spouse has an innate survival instinct, he pulled to the right as much as possible to avoid being smashed like a beer can on a frat boy’s forehead. Unfortunately, he clipped a mirror, and dented our car a bit more. Of course, the offending truck continued blissfully on its path of dumbassery, blind to the consequences of DRIVING IN THE MIDDLE OF THE GODDAMN ROAD, so now our insurance will go up because that guy’s a moron.

Infrastructure designed by sadists. It appears sometime in Gloucester’s past, we may have hired a thorazine-addled Ray Charles as our city’s street planner. Nothing makes sense. We have swirling masses of one-ways that can pull you in over on Washington street and spit you out by Burnham’s Field when you had a preference for ending up on Main. We have fake-rotaries where no particular rules apply and from which a set of makeshift laws governing them have been handed down from generation to generation, an oral history never committed to DOT approved signage.

All roads lead to this.

All roads lead to this.

And for some reason, we have a multitude of completely unsafe, blind, terrifying street intersections and it seems to not even bother people. There’s nothing like the thrill of pulling out of the end of a street where you can’t see more than 15 feet in either direction, and despite “thickly settled” being an understatement, the traffic is going Ludicrous Speed. It’s like a roulette wheel! Most of the time you can get out safely if you whip your head back and forth enough to check both directions without devolving into an epileptic fit, but once in awhile you get nearly pegged by a National Grid truck whizzing around the corner.

People who never leave the island. When I first moved here, I had heard tales of those who never left Cape Ann. I imagined these people as a simple, yesteryear folk who believed trolls, socialists, and hell existed beyond the bridges. And now I am one of those people who barely leave. I am totally part of the problem. I work here, I live here, I shop here – I once went 5 weeks and 2 days without leaving Cape Ann entirely accidentally. But this means that without much outside stimuli, we as a people have our societal habits break down. We forget what it’s like in the big, outside world where you can’t park 2 feet from the corner of a major intersection or take up both lanes of a two lane road because it’s Not Cool elsewhere.

Tourists. In the interest of complete fairness to my people, it isn’t entirely our fault. We have a huge annual influx of visitors, which is wonderful, because our economy needs it to survive and it makes Gloucester awesome. But sweet fuck, tourist drivers are just as bad as the rest of us, if not worse. They don’t use blinkers, don’t wave people through at difficult intersections (THAT’S HOW WE SURVIVE HERE, IT’S THE ONE THING WE DO RIGHT!), and they make sudden movements, like frightened rabbits. They drive 10 under the speed limit all the way to Lanesville because like gosh, Jeff, look at this view, isn’t it just precious? When I see an out of state plate, I have to assume the person behind the wheel has an IQ of “baked potato” and will brake suddenly and swiftly whenever the breeze blows.

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All in all, we have a ways to go as far as our vehicular behavior is concerned. It’s an “all of us” problem – I won’t excuse myself from making questionable-at-best driving decisions (constantly misjudging curbs is my weakness). But with a little humor, and a lot of patience, we can make the roads more tolerable. And by “tolerable” I mean I only shit my pants once in a rolling 24-hour period. We can work towards that. I believe in us, Gloucester.

Even More Google Search Terms That Led People Here

Every once in awhile, we check on the google search terms that led people to click on our website. Some… are weird.

leonard nimoy star trek

old black and white photo of a man sitting in a chair smiling 1800s mems

dumpster fire

wrestlers have them others play with them

is the gloucester clam satire?

what would happen if we put the trash in the bermuda triangle

what is the worst part of tally’s corner

giant truck with confederate flag

pantsshitter mcgee

how to make a clam mascot

what is longform of 3d

is football fans are stupid

running for mayor of gloucester, ma


No Snark Sunday: It’s World Oceans Day And We Kinda Need Them

If you’ve been living under a rock or perhaps down in Magnolia where they pretty much only have dialup internet or WebTV, you may not know that awhile ago I started working as the Social Media Manager over at Ocean Alliance. It’s been a really, really meaningful and fun experience (with a bonus trip to LA for myself and Jim on a Flying Car/Clam/Ocean Alliance SUPER DRONE PROJECT OF AWESOME), and I get to work in one of the most beautifully historic spots in Gloucester – the Tarr and Wonson Paint Factory out on the edge of Rocky Neck.

Paint Manufactory-058

Pretty picturesque, until the seagull poo gets you.

If you don’t know what’s up at the Paint Factory – listen up. Gather your children and elders, and listen to this tale, my friends. You know how everyone in this town likes to save old buildings? Like a terribly built piece of crap school we have little use for? Ocean Alliance is working to save the old, ramshackle, polluted-as-f*ck Paint Factory (oh so polluted). One of the smaller buildings is fully restored as our company’s headquarters, and others have begun the transformation into an oceanographic research institute that will be open to the public, with an educational component – and (our favorite because nerds) a STEM-heavy robotics lab. A lot of the project is finding funding to complete parts of the building, but there’s always work and plans going on, even if you can’t see them. If you like to fund cool things, donate a little bit – it goes a long dang way and most of it stays here in town.

And it’s not like that’s the only goal of Ocean Alliance, to save the Paint Factory from eventually crumbling into the sea. It’s way, way deeper than that. These folks have sailed around the world in the name of Ocean Conservation and toxicology testing, and are heavily invested in the science behind advocating for our oceans and marine mammals. They’ve spent five years in the Gulf of Mexico after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, documenting and testing. They provided the toxicology testing and data for the movie The Cove. Stuff that matters. I started off not knowing much about either whales or ocean conservation when I got here, but now I’m becoming one of those Really Big Environmental Dicks. It happened really quickly and I don’t know who I am anymore.

What this all leads me to is that tomorrow is World Oceans Day, and I want to share with you all the insane stuff I’ve learned in just a few short months, and also things we can do to make sure the ocean keeps doing its thing. This is Gloucester – we are tied to the ocean, it is our reason for being. Every one of us is linked to it. We need it, it needs us – to protect it from a hell of a lot of crap.

1. For the love of god and all that is holy, stop releasing balloons into the freakin’ air. I remember this being a bad idea when I was a kid, and it’s still a terrible idea now. They come back down into the ocean and are mistaken for food and kill wildlife. The ribbons bind up birds and ocean life alike. The worst part is that some companies tout a “biodegradable” balloon, but it’s false advertising so people feel good and buy the stupid balloon, but it takes far too long to “biodegrade”, and animals still eat them or get caught in them. Marketing fail, jerks.

Awesome, good job, fantastic everyone.

Awesome, good job, fantastic everyone.

2. Stop using those damn face scrubs with microbeads. I am guilty of having done this Before I Knew. I still have a travel-sized one on my dresser, mocking me. The truth is, those microbeads are awful. Ocean plastic pollution is terrifying and not only is it going to be impossible and mind-bogglingly expensive to try to clean up, but it’s going to decimate marine species in ways we can’t take back.

3. God damnit, ride a bike or walk somewhere. Again, guilty – I drive an old-ass SUV as an on-island car these days so I’m trying to do better, as well. But our drilling practices really do a number on animals with acoustical sensitivities. We’re really messing up the ocean with this. A deaf whale is a dead whale, and so many species are still endangered. Cool, we can drive places for cheap. We’re just, you know, giant jerks to the rest of the planet. Ugh. And you know, oil spills.

4. Spend a little time cleaning up. Clean Gloucester and the One Hour at a Time Gang are two local groups that meet pretty much weekly to clean shorelines, marshes, parking lots, and pretty much all the trash people in this city dump in stupid places. Think about that – on Saturday mornings while most of us laze around in our underwear, these folks (including the dedicated staffers at Ocean Alliance) are cleaning up the gatorade bottles and empty nips other people toss into the gutter like the garbage humans they are. You spend an hour cleaning up, and you’re going to feel amazing about having done something instead of internet slacktivism.

They cleaned all this gross crap.

They cleaned all this gross crap.

Thanks for listening to my sanctimonious diatribe, Clammers. Basically, don’t be a jerk to the ocean, or an angry kraken will come to shore and eat your family and all the steak in your fridge. Let’s avoid that.