No Snark Sunday: We’re Better People in Blizzards

Disaster movies have given us much. Images of huge, radioactive ants devouring 1950’s police cars, for instance. But to increase the tension and give our heroes something to react to the producers of these films, which serve as the template for how many of us assume a real-life crisis will unfold, have for more than 80 years perpetrated some pretty fucked-up ideas about how humans actually respond when faced with a societal challenge. So, as a public service, The Clam is going to dispel a few myths around human reactions to disasters. Let this be the last word on the subject.

Disaster movies also good for stills when making band gig flyers

Disaster movies also good for stills when making hipster band gig flyers

1. People don’t really panic What? But the classic chest-high shot of a screaming crowd fleeing the scene? What of that? And later in the film, who is the hero going to punch in the face when we realize that the real enemy is not the zombies, but the evil within ourselves? Speaking of zombies, I recently re-watched George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead again, the one from the ‘60s. I had forgotten how little of that movie is actually zombies in favor of the argument between survivors trapped in a house around whether to hide upstairs or down in the basement instead. It’s really the central conflict of the film.

Actually this is an appropriate response to a spider that big

Actually this is an appropriate response to a spider that big

Reality- people usually keep their cool and respond rationally to a real crisis (which is more than you can say for a manufactured one, like losing a hockey game). Think about all the crises that have occurred recently- from Katrina to Hurricane Sandy. Folks are pretty chill, actually. They know what needs to get done and they do it in a remarkably organized fashion. It’s true even here. Sure The Basket is a crowded hellzone before a storm, but it’s only somewhat more of a crowded hellzone than usual. No one is burning down the place or punching people, we reserve that kind of behavior for shopping on Black Friday which interestingly is not a time of real scarcity, but of imagined crisis  among a group of consensual participants (and by participants I mean “idiots”).

In Gloucester the only time I’ve ever seen anyone panic in the face of a disaster was after the Japanese Fukishima meltdown. A clerk in the convenience store where I buy beer started yelling at the TV  about the radiation “It’s in ouah aiah! It’s in ouah fuckin aiah!” and could not be consoled by my sci-splaining that we get more absorbed doses of ionizing radiation from eating a banana (0.1 sv) than we could ever get from the other side of the world. Instead, she told me she’d have to go outside to smoke a cigarette to calm down before ringing me up.

2. Most people think altruistically during crises and help out their neighbors This flies in the face of everything we think we know. It’s just assumed that everyone will hoard food, screw their neighbors over for the last leg of dogmeat (sorry Thisbee) and we are all essentially one step from donning leather outfits and forming armed bands of brigands who roam the countryside in jacked up vehicles.

If you can maintain that hair after the apocalypse, you deserve my last can of Spam

If you can maintain that hair after the apocalypse, you deserve my last can of Spam

The reality is much more like a Unitarian pot luck. Everyone brings something to the table and folks help each other out in whatever way they can (although Unitarians are more likely to label the gluten/dairy free dishes).

In Sandy people with electricity created makeshift charging stations for those without. This in New York of all places, the city where a dude will urinate on you in the subway and then indignantly go “What?” when you cast him a shady glance. In Katrina folks pooled resources as some people went out to find supplies even as resources grew desperately scarce.

There was a lot of that last week, those with snowblowers running around helping out, folk checking in on neighbors, etc. When the whole thing was over one the woman up the street came by with a fresh, hot loaf of bread because my daughter and I literally spent no more than ten minutes on a short section of her walkway she couldn’t get to.

I hazard that in many, even perhaps all of us crave this kind of connection. I get to run around with the snowblower helping out my neighbors while also confusing them by yelling, “I’m going for the power generators!” and she gets to bake and help out that way. A lot of us want more meaning in our daily lives and the storm provided a sense of purpose, a chance to be noble. Also: baked goods.

Once the shield generator is down we can get the cinnamon buns

Once the shield generator is down we can get the cinnamon buns

A note on looting (and by looting I mean taking jeans and big-screen TVs NOT diapers and soup from an abandoned supermarket in the midst of a major crisis): This is going to sound weird, but I’m going to put this out there: If you’re a criminal or of that mindset then looting is simply a more rational way of getting stuff. The store owners are not at their places of business, the alarms are disabled and the cops are busy or incapacitated. It’s obviously wrong and I’m down with extremely harsh repercussions on them, but it’s not like we see evidence of looters breaking into houses and taking the fresh water and baby food. Usually it’s consumer goods useless to surviving the crisis at hand taken  because they are atypically unguarded. It’s like leaving the back of an armored truck full of cash bags open on a rural road. Some of those bags will be missing after enough time.

3. More info is better than less It turns out when people do panic or act in stupid ways it’s because they don’t know what’s going on and feel trapped. Here I want to both commend and criticize our local response to the last storm. There was a lot of information, and a lot of it was good and even free from the usual “Ohjesusgodit’sfuckingsnowwe’reallgonnadie” local TV news bullcrap. But the communication was all over the place.

Too cold for apes even

What local TV stations tell you

In Gloucester, we need to centralize the official information to one source- it can take feeds from all over, but it all has to be in one place. It can’t be the Mayor’s personal Facebook page, it can’t be The Bridge (?) or Good Morning Gloucester. They can have their own feeds but it has to go to a central location. It should be the town’s official website, official Facebook page and Twitter account along with all-call.

I don’t envy the position of Mayor Sefatia with all the folks who come to her because she is one of the few people who can reliably get shit done in this town. But we’ve got to separate the personal from professional business. Her official statements issued during times like this need to be short and as coherent as possible. I like her “just getting it out there” style a lot, but I’d hate to see one of her personal statements about the storm misconstrued as official and have her excoriated by outside media who don’t get her.

So, the last myth is a twofer- yes more information is better than less, but info has to be consolidated and clear otherwise it will simply frustrate people when a critical bit of info slips past and leave well-meaning people open to criticism if, God forbid, something really bad happens and the press decide to check the “Wayback Machine” of the Internet and find a lot of mixed and garbled communications from official sources.

Since the storm was named “Juno” we can think back to the teen pregnancy scandal and remember what dicks the media were to everyone in Gloucester in pursuit of the most salacious story they could tell. Let’s not give them that chance again.

Because giant, radioactive ant season is coming.



Cape Ann Weather: Serious Business.

Did you know The Clam is a spinoff? Like “Frasier” or “The Colbert Report” or “Joanie Loves Chachi”, this here little humor blog and (if you know the right passwords) mayonnaise fetish hub is a spinoff from Good Morning Gloucester. It’s true. I wrote a bunch of pieces there about my bike(s) getting ripped off, some bits on politics and Gloucester in general and that’s one of the things that inspired KT and I to go ahead and do this (alcohol was another major inspiration). We’d actually met through GMG, her reacting to my bike posts when they owned the bike shop and offering to help me out. And much of our audience, especially early on, was due to folks checking it out from GMG at Joey C’s encouragement and even today we see not-insignificant traffic from there.

Basically, GMG is a huge deal. I think a lot of folks don’t get how huge. Feel free to go to any other town that isn’t a major city and find a resource like it. You will find shitty local politics blogs, an endless supply of extremely narrow special interest sites and no end of people trying to sell you things through shameful web design. Sooooo much terrible web design. But finding a place where the town is celebrated, where people participate at a high level and where the traffic is substantial enough to make the whole thing work is unheard of.

So it was weird this week to find out there was a rift between Good Morning Gloucester and the “Cape Ann Weatherman” Peter Lovasco. The related posts have all been removed but here are the basics as I saw them: Peter had been doing weather for GMG for a while and he’s pretty great at it. A lot of fun, hyper-local, crazy into it. As a nerd I always enjoy watching people who are over-the-top into a topic, especially when they don’t take themselves too seriously.


Gloucester's full of 'em. Thank Jebus.

Gloucester’s full of ’em. Thank Jebus.

So, great. Local weatherguy. Then we get the weather event of the decade and the guy sort of vanishes. Weird. People were like, “Where’s weather nerd guy?”



Look, no one is getting paid here. The guy didn’t show up and maybe he had to work or something. I don’t know, I was disappointed but more in the way I’m bummed if my neighbor doesn’t grow flowers in her yard one year. It’s a bummer because I enjoy them, but it’s her fricking yard, It’s not like she has to. This is critical to remember because the weird sense of entitlement a lot of people seem to have when it comes to volunteer bloggers is huge. We get emails, texts, semi-freaky people stop us in the street and on the beach to us exactly how, what and when to blog about stuff. Everyone is an expert. Literally two weeks ago a dude on the beach I’d met seconds before literally told me that The Clam “Uses language that is too strong.” Oh, really? Because we play close attention to our analytics and the only thing we really can tell for sure besides the fact that we skew younger and have a nice 50/50 male/female split is you animals like it when we swear.

Back to the GMG saga, apparently it turns out the guy was covering the storm, but on his own social media and not on GMG. That is where things get strange. Joey called him out on it, made a few cracks and the weather guy got all pissed off and ragequit. Then Joey posted an apology.


Joey is a friend of The Clam and I think most people agree he does his best (unlike us) at being a class act. Sure he slips and he goes over a line here and there, but Good Morning Gloucester has evolved to the point where it has to serve the needs of everyone: the butterfly fans, the mommyblog readers, people who like pictures of lighthouses and folks looking for a legit local news source since the Gloucester Daily Times online became a painful vomitous mass of unorganized infosalad all behind a paywall more expensive than the Wall Street Journal’s. And he does this all for free. It’s amazing.

Here is how I want you to think about Good Morning Gloucester: Think of it like a small-city sports team. A winning softball team, maybe. No one is getting paid, but everyone on that team is still expected to perform to high standards, right? What you get is glory, a chance to drink with the trophy and to be part of a winning operation. That’s it. But you have to perform, because all of a sudden thousands of people are watching. Lord knows I’d never do it – at times KT and I can barely get a post off what with our spouses and children and jobs and dogs that need walking, and we’re IMing each other at 11:30 at night trying to figure out which of us is going to do “Top Nicknames for Cape Ann Genitals” before 5:00am (winner: “Woodman”).

So now imagine you have this semi-serious amateur softball team and one of the dudes can’t make it to the big game. If you’re the captain, you get sorta pissed off, right? And then you find out the guy was playing a pickup game in his own backyard during the playoffs? It’s disappointing.  Still, I want to make it clear that no one is getting paid here. No one is under ANY obligation.

And the online commenters who expect others to do something for love alone – and to keep doing it even when life intrudes – are insane, and are the truly entitled ones. Most are not young, by the way – the population always accused of being ‘entitled’. Most are actually fully formed adults ironically from the ‘we-had-to-do-everything-ourselves-back-in-the-day’ cadres.

download (3)

These guys.


 But if it’s true that the guy was under even a gentleman’s agreement to do weather for GMG and was doing weather on his own and not posting to GMG during the big storm, that’s kinda weird. Maybe it’s not true, I don’t know. We welcome corrections here at The Clam and will update this post if we’re wrong (but know that if they are ranty we delete them laughing like Joseph Stalin as he enslaved Eastern Europe).


The larger point is this: If you do a local thing and want exposure the math is simple: Good Morning Gloucester is the place where that exposure will be greatest hands down. Why someone would want to go off on their own with Cape Ann weather of all things (not a sweary politically and socially divisive blog) is beyond me. And to the comments that GMG has “changed” and people don’t like it anymore? Fine. Go elsewhere. We tell this to people all the time. It’s a big Internet, they’re sure to find something they do like or they can go back to the GDT and enjoy the lunatics ranting about fluoride. Have fun with that. Out here is the new reality where dedicated amateurs produce things of great value. Look it up on Wikipedia sometime.

 So I’ll miss the weatherguy, but you know, I only own no fewer than nine devices that give me a pretty accurate prediction of the local weather not including the “window” technology my house has been using for a while. It’s like the Atlantic Saltworks. Sure, it’s nice to have local salt but if it disappears tomorrow it’s not like I’m going to lose much in terms of my sodium needs.

Weather, like salt and bullshit opinions, I can pretty much get anywhere.

Winter Storm, the Aftermath: Sidewalks

Now that we have survived and dug out, feasted on the corpses of the dead and cursed the gods of the sky for setting such evil upon us, it’s time to engage in the most Gloucester of winter traditions: bitching about sidewalks.

Here’s the thing for you non-Gloucesterites we see in our analytics who must be reading this as the fulfillment of some bizarre fetish (which you really should get treatment for): In Gloucester you are required to shovel the sidewalk in front of your home or business, the logic being that if everyone does that, Viola! Clear sidewalks for all!

What could possibly go wrong?


Main Street, this morning

Main Street, this morning

The answer, of course, is everything! We can’t even get people in this town to not wear pajamas to their kids’ graduation ceremonies. Good luck getting them to shovel even when there is only 1/4″ of dust-like snow. Multiply that by 120 and you start to see what we’re up against here.

Let’s use numbers because we love us some bullet points!

  1. The likelihood of even an average responsible owner or tenant being capable of clearing their own sidewalk breaks down after a certain amount of snow. You see, Gloucester is more like the Old City of Jerusalem than the leafy suburbs that surround us. Houses are densely packed together, roads are narrow and sidewalks abut the curb directly. After a storm like the one we just had, the city is now asking is for people to remove literally a ton of snow in the form of a densely packed snowbank plonked directly on the sidewalk and put it… where? That’s your problem, Chester. This is a job more fit for an off-world mining crew than Joe Budsuitcase with his plastic shovel and cheap Home Depot snowblower, but whatever.

    also good for collecting the unobtanium

    also good for collecting the unobtanium

  2. Its unlikely for Joe, but it’s impossible for Edna. You see, of the 300 or so odd towns in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, in terms of age Gloucester is 51st by demographics. So you have a lot of older folks living in property that is not well suited for them, logistically. All those seniors we’re checking up on during storms are now suddenly supposed to get their previously imperiled asses out there and clear it off themselves or call somebody and pay them whatever the price is to cut through the five foot snowbank and create a channel for humans to walk in.

    Hey, it's an ice Box? Get it? Of course you don't, because you are not a sad, lonely geek.

    It’s an ice Box! Get it? Of course you don’t, because you are not a sad, lonely geek.

  3. “Hey, it’s the law!” Sure, you can say that, but a lot of things are the “law” that no one pays attention to. The 55mph speed limit on route 128, for instance. Marijuana or “Longbottom Leaf” as the kids call it. Using binoculars to spy on your neighbor’s hot tub. All of these are “illegal” but still very common and generally unenforced, especially if you keep the lights off and the curtains most of the way down. And in Gloucester, who’s really going to enforce the sidewalk clearing regulations? Example: near our school in East Gloucester not everyone does their sidewalks. So there is a 1 property-length section of cleared sidewalk and that ends abruptly at the next property owner over who is in Florida or infirm or whatever. So everyone just walks in the street with the busses, parents, teachers delivery trucks, plows, that guy Kristof and his reindeer and their ice sleigh and everyone else. Someone is going to get run over. But, you know, the scofflaws are a sweet little old Italian lady and the other is a guy who lost his job so he’s working in Arizona and he’s not there for weeks at a time and… you see where this goes. Everyone with an uncleared sidewalk has a good reason why.

And the problem is this: There has to be a critical mass for people to actually get out there and clear their sidewalks for everyone to do it. And if not everyone does it and we wind up with a highly limited patchwork of short sidewalk sections, it’s no good.

So we wind up with everybody in the street, the responsible feeling frustrated and everyone else acting victimized. What do we do? I have to say I don’t know. But what I do know is what we’re doing now is not working.

In other towns that utilizing the “clear your own property” system, Madison Wisconsin for instance, they simply have a crew of dudes who shovel your sidewalk if you don’t and then add the cost to your tax bill at the end of the year. That is both a) a pretty good idea and b) likely to send the anti-tax activists into the troposphere with rage and will never happen in Gloucester in six billion years, which is approximately two billion after our yellow sun explodes, scouring our planet clean of all life, even Keith Richards.

But how else is it supposed to get done, are the cops supposed to take a break from unleashed dog patrol duty and become sidewalk monitors now too?

Also useful after Fiesta for getting rid of piles of red solo cups

Also useful after Fiesta for getting rid of piles of red solo cups

I know that in some towns they just clear the sidewalks with a machine, but I also know we’re broke and that is probably in the mid five figures per storm. But the reality remains we need the walks cleared for safety and the current system ain’t cutting it.

An important safety reminder from the Clam

Gloucester is a small town. Not in your “Midwestern” style of small town with isolated farms and a mini-mall at the crossroads but more of your European-style small town meaning “thousands of people crammed together on some geographical feature most of whom are related by blood.” And in this small town, tomorrow morning, at approximately the same time everyone in town except our most retiredest and inoxicatedest residents will all try and get on the road at once. The Clam, as a public service, would therefore like to remind you that:

  1. The streets are now even fucking narrower than they were a couple of days ago. This may mean you need to stop and let traffic by that is coming in the other direction. There was barely room for two cars on 40% of our roads, now you can fit two cars on the 128 extension, maybe.
  2. The roads are going to be slippery and full of people in some kind of semi-urgent distress because they are out of energy drinks and vaping supplies. SLOW THE EFF DOWN. Yes, you in the large black truck who thinks you can just drive around town at 45mph because that logo of Calvin pissing on the competitor truck’s logo proves you’re a TOTAL BADASS. Yes, you. Slow down. Everybody. Me too. For reasons I’m not quite sure of they seem to have not to have treated the roads at all or maybe that’s just East Gloucester. Anyone else notice this? Is that a thing now? When I was a kid they a thing called “sand” but I don’t know if they still make it.

    so, it's consensual then?

    so, it’s consensual then?

  3. Kids are stupid. I can tell you this because I was both once a kid who was stupid and have kids and though they are smart in many ways, in others they are stupid. For instance: During the storm we’re snowblowing out my neighbor. My son was on the snowbank and the truck clearing our street came by.
    basically this with a plow

    basically this with a plow

    It’s a giant military surplus crane with a plow the size of a Dutch seawall came blaring down so I yelled, “Get off the snowbank and get behind me,” so he jumps INTO THE STREET IN FRONT OF THE TRUCK rather than just take a few steps toward the house and then RUNS DIRECTLY AT THE FRONT OF THE 1976-MADE ALL-METAL SNOWBLOWER THAT COULD DICE A MUSK OX INTO CONFETTI WITHOUT BOGGING THE MOTOR DOWN. So kids are going to be running around everywhere, out of driveways and walks and all kinds of places we won’t be expecting. So slow down and pay attention. No one is getting anywhere on time tomorrow, just live with it.

  4. Sidewalks are not getting cleared. We’ll have more to say about the whole sidewalk issue tomorrow, but the reality is only a small portion of them are getting cleared at all, and very few by commute time. Which means the already narrower roads will have people in them as well. Some of those people will be drunk. Can you blame them?

    pictured: you

    pictured: you

Anyway, stay safe out there. Only a few more storms like this to go!