Ayn Rand Dead in Gloucester Snowstorm

Rand, smoking

Rand, smoking

110 year old philosopher and novelist Ayn Rand perished in a snowstorm that covered much of the Northeast this week. Thought to have died in 1982, it was revealed she simply faked her own death to avoid paying debts on the successful treatment of her lung cancer which ran into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, her being philisopically opposed to Medicare.

Having escaped to East Gloucester to live under an assumed name, she was known for loudly rejecting help from neighbors. “Do not condescend to me with charity,” she shouted at Bob D’Palazola who just recently tried to remove snow from her driveway with his snowblower as he had for many elderly neighbors on the street.

“I thought she was nuts,” said the plumber and good Samaritan, “Considering how much she smokes there is no way she should be out there shoveling herself. I tried to get her reconsider but she started yelling about how indebtedness corrupting the fiber of the soul of man and I’m like screw it, Ill just go do my brother-in-laws house.”

D'Palazola after giving up on the "Batshit crazy Russian lady" as he called her.

D’Palazola after giving up on the woman he correctly referred to as a “Batshit crazy Russian lady”.

Other neighbors were shunned by the centenarian objectivist when they attempted to bring gifts of fresh baked cinnamon buns and hot cocoa during a “senior wellness check” organized by residents. Mary Ellen Katzen, a local volunteer, claimed to have been berated at Rand’s door. “She started yelling about how the strong owe nothing to the weak and I was just like, ‘have some cinnamon buns’ but she  batted them away told me to blow them into brass coins and spread them at the winds for the poor of spirit. What does that even mean?”

Rand’s long and eventful life was ended by an hit-and-run with a snowplow as she attempted to shuffle down to the Richdale for cigarettes. The as-yet-unidentified truck most likely belonged to an unlicensed plow company and was reported by witnesses to have a Gadsden flag sticker on the back windshield.

Also an out of date inspection sticker

Also an out of date inspection sticker


Rand is survived by several hundred thousand lonely men in fedoras.

No Snark Sunday: Big Things That Can Kill You

We’re at a weird time in our species’ history but anyone with teenagers recognizes it instantly. You go from being a kid where everything is bigger and more powerful than you to having an unprecedented amount of control over the world. And it’s not until a few years later when, as an adult, you realize, “holy crap, what an illusion that was. It’s a miracle I survived.”

Really the whole early history of humans and civilization is about managing or at least coming to terms with big things that can kill you. Unlike most of our fellow mammals, our bodies are under equipped as far as animals go. Put a naked human being next to a bear or a tiger [editor’s note: don’t actually do this] or even an otter or a rabbit and you get a sense of how helpless are. No claws, no fur, not especially fast, not a particularly great sense of smell, of the entire animal kingdom our offspring are the worst helpless idiots and for years. What other species young would willingly walk off a cliff or eat a poisoned berry unless watched and cared for constantly?

I imagine a saber toothed tiger chilling with a cave bear at the base of some glacier a few hundred thousand years ago. They’re gnawing on some bones and just swapping predator talk while  watching a rag-tag band of early humans struggle by in the mud of the effluvial outwash. The tiger points with his paw and says:

Soon hipsters will be dressing like this

Soon hipsters will be dressing like this

“Will you look at those things? Hobbling around on just the two back legs, covered in preyskins  because they can’t even grow their own fur. They’re slow, they’re loud, they are clumsy as hell and it takes like 10 of them to bring down a mammoth. Pathetic, really.”

The bear nods his head and then after a second says,

“Yeah, but have you seen that fire shit they do?”

Fast forward to the present day and the only physical  memory of both of their species is a drawer in a museum and the place where they were chatting is now a moped dealership.

I firmly believe that if human beings had any decent innate tools at all to fight against our early predators besides intelligence we would never have gotten past the “sharp stick” phase of technological development. We develop tools and ideas to protect us from big things that can kill us.

But somehow, in the teen years of our species, before we really know what the hell is going on and are just reacting to the day-to-day, we’re confused about the big things that can kill us. For all our knowledge and technology, most of us are just really bad at pointing out and avoiding the most obviously dangerous things.

Usually when someone makes this point they start talking about auto crashes or heart disease, but I want to spend a minute thinking about trains. Yes, trains, our relationship to trains is more indicative of the problem at hand, I think than cars which for their danger are incredibly useful or fatty foods, which our brains are actually programmed to want.

Trains have been around for a century and a half. One can easily predict where a train won’t be, and even predicting where one will be is limited to a highly defined area called “train tracks.” If you are not on train tracks, which when you think about it are pretty small comparatively, you will not be hit by a train. It’s that simple. Yet people are killed by trains all the time and engage in all kinds of risky behaviors around them.

I commute by train when I go into Boston and have done so for years. You would not believe all the dumbassery that takes place around trains (and I’m not talking about the incredibly sad cases of folks who’ve actively chosen to end their lives this way). People step in front of them, they walk along the tracks, they drive across the tracks when the train is coming and I once even saw a dude go under the  train as it was leaving Gloucester so he could get to McDonalds that much quicker, saving him the time of having to wait for all seven cars to pass.

Essentially, trains are this

Essentially, trains are this

This woman in New York last week who caused an accident that killed five people had stopped to check her car because it had clipped one of the crossing signals. All the details are not out, but it looks like she leapt back into her car and drove even further into the path of the train, maybe with the car in the wrong gear? You’d think she wasn’t trying to gun it across, but in my time as a rail commuter I’ve been on trains that have hit cars on three separate occasions.

Even more unclear on the concept of Newtonian physics was the guy who jumped off the train in Lynn when he realized it was express to Salem and not stopping there. We were stopped for hours and hours as they investigated the scene and the poor bastard ended up losing an arm. When we finally got moving the conductor shook his head and said, “He risked his life to get INTO Lynn? I just don’t get it.”

So why can’t a too-large portion of the population come to grips with the fact that trains are dangerous while at the same time freaking out over things like ebola, which obviously aren’t? I think it’s familiarity. I think if things are too common we forget to be afraid of them. A friend works in an elementary school in Essex where they routinely practice lockdown drills in case of an armed intruder. This is wise and desperately sad, but the shootings are so uncommon that there is not much else you can do. Sealing the place up like Masada is going too far. At the same time, you may not know this, but Essex Massachusetts is currently under a plague of rabid skunks. Read their police notes, it’s like the frikin zombie skunk apocalypse over there. I’m an outdoorsy person, I have an overly-curious collie, I walk in Essex sometimes and the stink-monsters from Hell are far more dangerous to creatures I love and all those kids on that playground than some loon with a gun, who is indeed dangerous but just not common.

Pretty much

Pretty much

We take the common dangers in stride, push them away and habituate ourselves. We append no risk to the boring or the mundane. The snowstorm has to be sold as a howling death fury to get our attention. By March even blizzards will probably fail to get a reaction and they will start giving them dull names. Winter storm “Sheldon”, snow event “Ed.” Maybe to be scared we need a little drama and hype, maybe to take precaution we require some pizzaz. Local media does it with storms, maybe we can get Fox 25 to do a “Deathtrain Watch” or we could combine two boring things together to make them a more exciting and therefor more avoidable threat.

Strap rabid skunks to the front of the trains, is what I’m saying. It’s the obvious solution.


Counterpoint: I welcome the snowy apocalyapse

The Clam is excited to bring you differing views on topics of import. For instance, earlier this week we discussed each of our opinions on the viewership of professional football in light of the recent controversies regarding the NFL and revelations of head injury among even junior players of the sport. Yesterday, KT Toomey, tired of the recent unprecedented snowfall and the numerous difficulties in managing its myriad negative effects, opined that Gloucester would be better off in a tropical location. Jim Dowd provides a counterpoint in today’s entry.

Though my colleague may be a wise and intuitive person, in this case I must stand up and should “I disagree!” I, for one, welcome the time of The Great Wolves and the cleansing of the Earth. The old gods must die. All must perish.




With these past few snows, it has become increasingly clear that Ragnarok is upon us. Soon, we shall hear the crowing of the three roosters. We shall not bother to flee by using bandsaws to float away, for it will only prolong the inevitable death we all so richly deserve. We will turn on our fellow man, and there will be none spared, as the rivers shall run red with the blood of our brothers. Do not beg for mercy, for there will be none when Skoll and Hatt devour the sun and moon and the walls of Asgard fall. The great serpent will rise from the sea, and the sky shall split in two . You will be cold no more when the fire giant sets the world alight.



All your cares of snowbanks, walkways, plowed-in cars and jackholes parking in the Market Basket fire lane because they don’t want to tread through the slushy lot shall seem as nothing when the sky goes black and the shards of the firmament itself fall onto the earth, piercing all living things like spears. The wailing and gnashing of teeth is far better than Costa Rica’s rampant socialism and impressive literacy rate.

From this day forward, nothing but pain shall fall from the skies above. First a torrent of snow, then a hail of ice, then stones, fire and finally water shall cover all. All of your kitschy hipster wall art will be gone, along with everything and everyone you’ve ever known or loved. Even Mick Jagger. There will be a thousand years of stillness. However there will be no giant spiders.

But new gods rise. They shall bring forth life from seed, and the world shall again know green. Two survivors, who survive by consuming the morning dew, shall bear forth many generations and again repopulate our world. We will have a new, beautiful sun that shall shine down on our fresh green and blue world.

But we shall know none of this future, for we are doomed. Our fate has already been decided. There is no hope.

Jim Dowd is a motivational speaker who lives in Gloucester. His first book, “The Thundering Cataclysm: Let Me Explain How We’re All Gonna Die” is in stores now. 



Why I didn’t watch the Superbowl

A lot of terrible things happened in 1968. There was the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King and the My Lai massacre to name just a couple, but there was at least one amazing positive thing: Outside some legion hall in Nashua New Hampshire the Republican candidate for president, a certain Richard Milhous Nixon was about to spend an hour in his limo riding up to Manchester. He was tired, it was late and he just wanted to talk about football during the ride, nothing else. Apparently he loved talking football and none of the hyper-intellectual ivy leaguers in the press corps were even remotely versed enough to engage him save one guy, Hunter S. Thompson.

Did they search him before letting him in the car?

Did they search him before letting him in the car?

So they shared the limo up to the airport chatting about the great game the whole way, having a fine time. They even shook hands as then-candidate Nixon stepped up the stairs into the Lear jet and Thompson flicked his cigarette causing a panic because it landed close to the fueling equipment.

These guys were mortal enemies. Thompson considered Nixon a monster “Straight out of Grendel” and the whole reason he even got into writing about politics was to fight him. On the other side, Nixon stood as a bulwark against the counterculture, drugs, anti-Vietnam, and his path to the presidency was through activating the “silent majority” of American voters who opposed what the good doctor represented. But these two guys shared a passion for professional football and on this they connected. Football has the power to do that, to cross bridges and boundaries. It’s the one thing we share between the classes, the races and the states.

And I hate the NFL for fucking that up.

If I was NFL commissioner Roger Goodell looking at the numbers from Sunday I’d be thinking to myself, “I wonder what it would really take for our ratings to actually drop? Finding out we trade in illegally harvested human organs from kidnapped orphans?” Think about it, you have a game damaging the brains of the guys who play it, you have domestic abuse ignored at the highest level and you have corporate practices that can best be described as “crony socialism” more reminiscent of how businesses are structured in China than any Western purportedly capitalist democracy, And yet the consumer knowing this is pretty much saying, “Yeah, whelp, you know. It’s a beautiful fucking game is all…”

Roger Godell is the real winner Sunday Night.

Wait till they find out the turf is actually made of kitten fur

Next year I’m wearing a suit made out of live kittens because who’s gonna stop me?

Personally, I got to a point with football where I was starting to feel shitty watching games. The video of Ray Rice beating his girlfriend, every new revelation about head injury and the notably non-neurologist denialists who feel the need to butt-in with dumb arguments like “soccer produces concussions too!” without any seeming understanding of the magnitude of the problem borne out by the statistics. The team representing our capital is still named after an ethnic slur, for fuck’s sake. It just seemed like a constant parade of yet another dude arrested for murder followed by another suicide then another sexual assault at a college or a high school. Allowing myself to keep a connection to football was demanding increasingly elaborate mental gymnastics.

So it was time to employ one of my favorite pieces of neural equipment: The Cognitive Dissonator™. This is the mental device that makes it possible for us to do specific things even though we kinda sorta know we shouldn’t. It’s what allows me to write this on a computer that was probably assembled by child slaves, eat a BLT that likely came from a factory farm and run my car on fuel pumped out of the ground by one of the most repressive regimes on Earth, a place where they behead people for “witchcraft”.  I imagine that mine looks something like this:

It's also great for holidays family gatherings

It’s also great for holidays and family gatherings

It’s essential to have because we all live in a state of permanent cognitive dissonance around a number of topics. We are all hypocrites, it’s an essential part of being human. As Physicist Niels Bohr once said, “The opposite of a fact is falsehood, but the opposite of one profound truth may very well be another profound truth.” (Quantum physicists have hyper-developed dissonators, by the way. Manufactured in Copenhagen.)

So employing this device allowed me to live for a while in the dual-reality state of recognizing football for both sides of its coin.

We're entertained just fine, thanks for asking.

We’re entertained just fine, thanks for asking.

But sometime this Spring I found myself having to employ an additional industrial strength dissonator just to keep up with football and the load it was putting on my coping systems.

These are the ones they issue to people working on tobacco accounts at advertising agencies

These are the ones they issue to people working on tobacco accounts at advertising agencies

Still the load was too great. Everything from Sandusky to Stubenvile. From OJ to JoPa. Rice. Peterson. Hernandez. Finding out that the NFL hasn’t paid any taxes since 1966 and that cities use tax free bonds usually reserved for schools and roads to build stadiums for them. Hearing NFL has been running a junk science campaign on CTE and now we learn even high schoolers are being hit hard and repeatedly enough to bring it on. Cheerleaders are treated shamefully. My own high school and the toxic football mania, the quarterback for the Jets ran a dogfighting ring…my dissonator started smoking. It got very warm. There was a noise.

And it just stopped.

Without the protection of cognitive dissonance I found myself having to ask “What would these guys have to do to finally make me stop watching football?” I found that the answer was the steady stream of things they’d already done and continued to do and showed no signs of not doing in the future. I had to cop to the fact that by watching in spite of it all,  I’m giving my tacit approval. The only power I have is to not watch.

So now I’m that guy. I’m the guy who won’t watch football. I can’t say that I like being this particular guy. I enjoyed the pageantry and camaraderie. I loved participating in a thing that could bring even Nixon and Thompson together. So much of our culture, so much great writing, so much hanging with buds and drinking suds. I don’t want to be the precious hipster in art-school dropout glasses who bitches about pop culture. I don’t want to be a dude who can’t instantly bond with the bus driver or the client in a meeting. But…I got overwhelmed. There was too much for me, I know too much about CTE. I live with someone who has a head injury. I grew up in an abusive household in the ’70s when no one gave a shit about domestic violence, just like the NFL today. I did in-depth interviews with 30 neurologists on a project and listened to their stories and their anger at the game they too once loved and are now speaking out against (and some of them even live in Texas).

So I’m not going to debate you and have you be on that side and I’ll be on this side. I’m just telling you that for me it got to be too much. The bad overwhelmed the good. You’d think if Thompson could sit with Nixon for an hour and enjoy each other’s company I could figure out how to put aside my issues and watch a football game, but I can’t.

Then again, Hunter had the benefit of some serious drugs.

No Snark, Supplemental

We ended today’s post with a request for all Gloucester-related communications to be centralized in one location. This strikes home as I sit here at 3:08pm on Sunday after seeing on Facebook that schools will be closed tomorrow. WCVB is posting this:

seems clear enough

seems clear enough

The city is posting this

also crystal clear

also crystal clear

But nothing, not dick about the schools on the city website. Nada. No “all call”.  So folks are asking what’s happening on the mayor’s FB page.
Screen shot 2015-02-01 at 3.11.58 PMThe GDT has nothing.