The Gloucester Clam Presents: TurkeyPalooza 2019!

Unfortunately, it’s no surprise that increased housing prices both statewide and across Cape Ann, coupled with stagnant wages and increasing income inequality, has really put pressure on many of our friends and neighbors here. This year, with a lot of wallets tightening and some at the breaking point, more families have asked the Open Door for help to put food on the table for Thanksgiving. As a result of this increased need, the lovely folks at the Open Door asked us to rally our amazing, snarky community for a great cause- to make sure no family is left out this year. They’re hoping to raise a total of $10k through a group of individual community members who will use their magical powers to raise money.

We want to do our part as a community of helpful nerds and raise $1000 – enough for 32 baskets.

That’s 32 families that don’t have to choose between a Thanksgiving meal and paying their rent on time. That’s about 200 people, give or take, who will enjoy their day with the people they love without the stress involved with budgeting for a Thanksgiving meal.

I previously wrote about the great things the Open Door does.  They serve nearly 1 in 6 residents, most of whom are employed and not making enough. A lot of the people served by the Open Door only use it when necessary, and less than they are allowed by the pantry’s guidelines. Open Door does a lot of heavy lifting in our community, and they’re what I call a “safety trampoline” – they help families bounce back into self-sufficiency as quickly as they can. A “safety net”  is great terminology – it catches those falling through the cracks. But a trampoline is what gets them back where they were before they fell.

 

boing boing boing

Here, use this as a visual interpetation of my theory.

 

Here’s a little personal story about what that safety trampoline can mean.

Not even 5 years ago, when I was going through a divorce, my rent was $1500 and my monthly freelance clients averaged $1700. Because I was a freelancer with varying income and had filed taxes with my ex-husband previously, the state turned myself and my two kids down for SNAP benefits, even though we were income-eligible. I was lucky to have some savings, but it was a pretty trying time for us and we barely made it. Thankfully, the Open Door was there of us, and in 2015, I was one of those families getting a Thanksgiving  basket to cook an amazing meal for my boys with leftovers for days. When I went to the Open Door for help, it felt like the community truly cared about us. I was able to instead use that grocery money to cover my rent, to pay my bills, and to worry about a little less that week.

In the time since, I’ve been lucky enough to do better and become a middle-class homeowner (I have a basement fridge! And an icemaker! And a car with BLUETOOTH!).  This happened mostly through chance, and a little through hard work, networking, and austerity budgeting. The safety trampoline worked well for me. But I will forever be thankful to the Open Door for getting us through what I often refer to as the Crap Year. A Crap Year can happen to anyone, regardless of their background, education level, employment status, or family size.

I remember that feeling, that people in this city cared, and I want other families in this city to feel the same way. So here we are, just a dumb blog that swears a lot, asking you for help to accomplish this goal.

Here’s the link to make a donation.

Even a small donation will go a long way to helping us meet our fundraising goal for The Open Door — and we’ll be making the holidays so much brighter for our neighbors in need. Every $30 provides a basket, so whether you give $10 or $100, we’ll be helping local families set their holiday tables.

Thank you!

Your The Clam Voting Guide – 2019 Salem City Elections

Good morning, Clam Nation! As you know, we’ve got connections here in our Top Secret Gloucester Clam Underground Lair to people all over Essex County, including Salem and Beverly! Our reach is just, wow. Since we know a lot of our readers live down the line and the Clam is all about togetherness, we decided to lock our Gloucester Clam Actual Politician™ into the basement (even more underground, we’re not sure he’s getting enough air but we’ll check later), and we want to prove to you that we’ve been paying attention. We let Josh give us some info on people but we then proceeded to at least partly ignore him. So wrapping up the grand Clamback, below are our Clamdorsements in the Salem City Council and School Committee elections, because you guys are no fun and only make your mayor run every four years instead of two.

In the City Council race, they’re super polarized right now. A bunch of the Councilors have gotten the reputation of being total mayor suckups. A bunch more have gotten the reputation of being totally against her. We like Driscoll up here in Gloucester – if Salem gets tired of her feel free to send her our way. We like Sefatia too (hell, we love her), but competition would be nice. Anyhow, in Salem they’ve been fighting over zoning and all kinds of crap all year, and the Councilors from Wards 4 and 6 give each other death stares every meeting. We’ve seen video. It’s bad. And this writer deals with toddlers all day, that’s nothing compared to this crew. We’d like to fix it, so here’s our picks (Clam choices in Bold).

City Council At-Large:

Vote them out. All of them. At least, all three incumbents that are on the ballot (Sargent, Milo, and Dominguez – Tom Furey is stepping down after a long career as an elected official without having used email once). That leaves us five non-incumbents to pick from, and they’re a good lot pretty much. Here’s our four top ones.

Conrad Prosniewski (that’s a frigging mouthful) is a recently retired police captain. Everyone in Salem loves him, he’s gonna win. Vote for him anyway, he’s a good guy. Conrad isn’t on any particular side and that’s healthy, we think. Progressives love him, conservatives love him.

Shark costume

SHARKS FOR PROSNIEWSKI IS SUCH A SALEM KIND OF THING

Alice Merkl ran for office a year ago, losing closely a race for Southern Essex Register of Deeds, a job you’ve never heard of. She’s slumming with this race, but we like her a lot. Super progressive, empathic, and for years has been an active volunteer all over the community on top of her work teaching music. It’s also a lot of fun in Salem when we have majorly progressive people on the City Council because it makes Facebook explode with annoyed conservatives.

In that same vein, we like Jeff Cohen. He ran for City Council two years ago, and came in last. This time maybe he’ll do better. He is the kind of progressive who needs you to know how progressive he is, and how the rest of us aren’t doing it right. Jeff, we’ll have you know that we’ve got people here in the Lair who were out manning the barricades when you were in diapers, and make you look like a right-winger. We give Josh shit all the time for not being progressive enough for us. But he’s fun, plus he’ll also make conservative heads explode. They think Jeff’s a left-wing terrorist. We also like his environmental focus. So we like him, despite crapping all over him here.

And our last pick, but nowhere near our fourth one (more like 1A with Conrad) is Ty Hapworth. Ty checks all the freaking boxes there are. He’s a Army vet living in a beautiful downtown home and married to his high school sweetheart, with a fancy executive job at Microsoft doing something Josh tried to explain to us but it made our heads hurt. And the Housewives of Salem thirst for him. Dude probably ought to run for Governor instead but we think he can’t handle the pay cut.

Ty Hapworth

THE DUDE IS MEME WORTHY

The Clam choices: Hapworth, Prosniewski, Merkl, and Cohen. Some of Team Clam likes George McCabe, too – and if you switched one of your votes to him we won’t hunt you down.

Then there’s the Ward races in Salem. Always interesting, always weird.

Ward 1 features a contest between 6-term Councillor Bob McCarthy and long-time activist James Willis. The Clam endorses McCarthy, though Willis is perfectly fine. The two are almost identical on every issue, our pick is mainly because of experience and entertainment value, Bob turns so red when he’s talking to fools that we worry a bit. You can even see it on the 480p cable access. Even though Willis has been generally a supporter of Mayor Kim, a lot of the people that hate Driscoll are backing Willis because Bob has a long track record of supporting her, too. And with us throwing so many of them out, we need to keep a couple of the better ones around.

Ward 2 has a theoretically unopposed candidate in Christine Madore, who is smart, technocratic, a little too process-driven, and does a good job overall. At the beginning of October the Federal Street crew who religiously oppose Mayor Kim at every turn put forward Federal Street housewife, anti-Driscoll activist, frequently ousted volunteer, and occasional jazz singer Stacia Kraft as a write-in candidate with a massive coordinated effort and a float in the Halloween Parade. It’s ridiculous, but in Salem shit like that happens. Be jealous, North Shore, be jealous. Madore hasn’t given us any particular reason to get rid of her but when the local John Birchers and angry neighborhood activists line up behind Kraft and don tinfoil, that’s a reason to keep Madore as well.

Ward 3

WARD 3, BASICALLY

In Ward 3, there’s an open seat. Incumbent Lisa Peterson won her seat in 2017, decided the City Council was a hot mess (she’s not wrong), and quit to run for Congress instead. You’ll see her next year. Meanwhile, her hand-chosen successor Patti Morsillo is running against local Steak & Eggs guy Bob Camire. Bob doesn’t believe in email (they were almost done with candidates like that when Furey retired) and thinks liberals are ruining Salem. Vote Morsillo.

WE LOVE THIS PICTURE OF CAMIRE THOUGH

Ward 4 has more weirdness. Firefighter Tim Flynn won an open seat in 2017 and since then has been the guy to throw red meat to Salem’s MAGA crowd (yes, even Salem has them). The dude is a walking Blue Lives Matter meme. We’d link you his hot mess of a Facebook page but you’ll tear your hair out. While he continues his war on liberalism, development, taxes, and the No Place for Hate Committee in Salem he’s also dealing with his challenger Michael Cusick. Michael is a really smart retiree who’s pitch seems to be “if you’re going to put a generic white guy in office, it should be a smart one”. We agree. Vote for Cusick. Even if Flynn loses, you’ll see more of him – the last conservative white guy with a buzzcut and a government day job to lose an election came back to run for mayor next time out. Of course, he lost, it was in 2017.

Hannibal Meme

BASICALLY TIM FLYNN ONLINE MINUS THE PASSIVE AGGRESSIVE

Ward 5, Oh well. You’re stuck with Josh Turiel again because he’s unopposed for real (in contrast to the fake unopposed in Ward 2). He told us he’s quitting after this term, so at least you’ve got that to look forward to. We’re stuck with him and at some point have to let him start posting here again. We’ll text you your new password the day after this posts, ok Josh?

Josh

HE DOESNT REALLY NEED A PHOTO BUT THIS ONE IS SO DORKY WE HAD TO

Ward 6 is another open seat. Three-term Councillor Beth Gerard is quitting to spend more time with her cats and less time looking across the aisle at her mortal enemy Flynn. We don’t blame her, and we’re not sure which is the mongoose and which is the snake. The Mack Park Neighborhood Association has united to put forward two-time retread candidate Jerry Ryan as their choice. Jerry was Ward 4 Councilor for a while at the beginning of the decade before running at-large in 2013 and losing. After a term off, he ran again in 2015 and won a at-large seat, only to lose it again in 2017. Having changed addresses in the meantime, now he just can’t stay away and is running for the open Ward 6 seat. We’ve heard about the Mack Park crew, and their endorsement means a big NOPE for us. Fortunately, his opponent that the Clam endorses is Megan Riccardi, who is a political rookie, tech industry pro, and super smart. A bunch of us Clams have met her and you want her elected. Truth.

Ward 7 is Salem’s buffer with Swampscott. And it’s represented by Steve Dibble, who is (in his telling) the most important man in the universe and planted every tree in Salem. He also (if you ask him) wrote the zoning code, teaches chess, and is a blowhard to end all blowhards. Four years of him has been Dunning-Krueger come to life. Andy Varela is his opponent, the owner of Maitland Mountain Farm (pickle experts, not everything experts) – and Andy is everything that Steve thinks he, himself is. Varela is young, dynamic, runs a growing business, and has a perspective shaped by not being a Salem lifer. We like what he brings to the table, plus he has the advantage of not being Steve Dibble. When we have Clam board meetings and Dibble’s name comes up, our Salem members’ eyes twitch.

Pickles

THESE PICKLES WILL CHANGE YOUR DAMN LIFE

Salem School Committee has three seats up for election this year. One of them is open as incumbent Kristine Wilson didn’t run for a second term. Incumbents Jim Fleming and Mary Manning are running for reelection, and Manning is OK, we guess. Fleming, just nope. He’s tied way too much into the whole “neighborhood groups that exist to fight anything Kimmy does” crowd and we’re tired of that crap.

The two we do endorse fully are Beth Anne Cornell and Kristin Pangallo. They’re both college professors (Cornell at Wentworth and Pangallo at Salem State) who have kids in the Salem Schools – and right now there are ZERO parents on the School Committee. Fixing that with college professors WHO ARE ALSO PARENTS seems like a good idea to us.

Also running are Donna Fritz, who is also a Salem parent and a member of the PTO at Witchcraft Heights Elementary, and Jennifer Brown, who attended one debate, confused a rubric with a Rubik’s Cube, and hasn’t appeared at an event, debate, or responded to any media since. So nope. But vote for up to three candidates, and so long as none of them are Fleming or Brown you’re OK with Manning or Fritz. Just pick one of those two.

 

Your The Clam Voting Guide – 2019 Gloucester City Elections

Good day, my dudes (gender neutral).

The Clam is back with a vengeance – (ok, we’re back from a sadbender that lasted all summer while we figured out how to move this site forward for you all), and we’ve still been following things even though we weren’t writing posts. And guess what? Even without our dear leader Jim Dowd who is now mostly space dust and the property of science at large, it turns out the rest of us still have several heavy sacks full of opinions to unload on you all.

And you know, there’s an election coming up. In fact, there’s a shitload of them. In going with the ecumenical multi-city nature of Clam Nation, we’ve decided to expand our horizons for local politics over the bridge, and make Clamdorsements in a few different cities this time but starting with our beloved Gloucester. So if you’re in Beverly or Salem, stay tuned.

If you’re new to our writing or forgot (I wouldn’t blame you), our endorsements aren’t decided by one person – they’re all based on group discussion and shared writing, so there’s a lot more to these than the bylines. But I got the job of collecting it for a post. I wish I could take credit for all the jokes, though. We have people who are way too inside baseball in each town so we’re mostly working around them and just letting it rip. So with that said, here we go back on the track!

Gloucester’s got a lot of uncontested wards this year and the mayor is running unopposed, so that takes a lot of off our plate. Honestly, it’s a pretty quiet year, except for School Committee and At-Large, where there’s a lot of variation that needs to be considered. And this year, we’ve decided that 5 at-large candidates are worthy of our vote for different reasons, so picking just 4 will be difficult.

On the City Council side of things, we had some good change two years ago. We’ve got some great things going for us these days – the beautiful new West Parish school, the absolutely beautiful Biotech lab on the waterfront- but we can do so much more to make this a better city for everyone. Gloucester itself is changing, but it’s also the greater world beyond the bridge that’s changing and Gloucester’s boats are just rising with the tide. This was meant to be figurative but I guess it’s also literal. We’re going to need a new water treatment plant, at least 2 new schools, and a plan to deal with 2030. This city struggles today because of a lack of action that kicked the can down the road in the past, and we need councilors who understand how to best manage that without shying away from a hard discussion and a hard decision.

For your Councilors at Large:

Jen Holmgren

Obviously, she’s going to be our top choice. She’s a good friend of ours, but don’t hold that against her. She’s better than all of us, no lie. Jen has a seemingly endless well of empathy and compassion for everyone in this town, which isn’t surprising, since she’s a nurse. She works tirelessly for issues like affordable and working class housing, in a city where we are so far behind in providing that for our community and a vast swath of our population is indifferent to it. Jen is level-headed and truly researches a topic before rendering a reasonable decision. She’s not afraid to say “I need to look into that further and get back to you.” She’s incredibly bright and dedicated, and she’s had a great first term. She unfortunately has been targeted by a few of the really vocal anti-Espressos folks since she voted yes on that project (a shitstorm we were too busy working, having lives, and baby-raising to really address correctly but holy crap that was ridiculous), and that’s pretty unfair considering she’s working for a lot of the interests the no-vote people hold dear.

Chris DiMercurio-Sicuranza

Chris is new to electoral politics, but an old hand. He was really active in Salem when he lived there, and when he fell in love with his husband Frank and moved to Gloucester it was a total win for us. His time working in the Mayor’s office really helped him. He’s smart, a great communicator, and he’s passionate, progressive and pragmatic as can be. You’ll love him once you elect him.

And boy does he have a lot of plans. He sent us a huge list of things he’s planning on addressing: optimization around city services like app-based parking for Main Street and at beaches; Blue economy gains through Community Dev and Econ. Dev to increase support for marine based education (GMGI), research and potential new industries (like Sea Machines, autonomous sea vessels); more cross-collaboration of special events and studying traffic, merchant and tourism data with one centralized source that can help us see patterns by working together and sharing resources – also gaining revenue for all the above. Coastal resiliency, affordable housing, Gloucester 400th and DMO/Discover Gloucester are also critical, too. Getting younger people involved especially on boards on commissions but setting up better web/social media pages across all depts. to make public more aware and easier to follow.

As for schools, he also explained: definitely more in favor of the MSBA supported new school as we need the resources for social workers, special education, theater, arts, etc. all of which will be jeopardized if we put funding toward repairing older and antiquated schools. I want a true facilities manager who can be responsible with realistic budgets for the short term and long term though in any scenario as falling tiles and moldy conditions are not only unsafe, they are disgraceful conditions for our students, teachers, administrators, parents and makes top talent within schools want to leave or not take jobs here.

John McCarthy

John’s best known for being the Chief of Police, and he’s worked his whole life for the city, starting on the waterfront as a kid. Unlike some of the police issues we’ve seen across the country  he set the tone for a compassionate police force and was at the forefront of community policing before that was even a thing. He has been a strong supporter of Action, Inc for years, and he also actively participated in Gloucester s high-risk task force, a coalition of city officials and nonprofit staff members, about 50 people, that meet monthly to discuss strategies on how best to serve our most vulnerable people, including repeat offenders. He is compassionate and understanding toward people who may not immediately elicit empathy from others. And that goes a long way. And as a department head, he understands how the city budget works. In all honestly, this is incredibly important for our elected officials especially over the next few years when some big decisions need to be made. He’s an all-around family man, and we’ve never had a negative interaction with the guy. We hope he gets in, as he checks a lot of boxes for a lot of people and seems like he’ll do a great job of listening.

Melissa Cox

Melissa is involved in so much of this city, and when you have a question or emergency, she’s on top of it no matter what. She excels at being totally accessible. She saved KT’s wedding 2 years ago after she spaced on PICKING UP HER ENTIRE MARRIAGE CERTIFICATE from the clerk’s office. She panicked and messaged Melissa, who immediately contacted somebody on a Saturday to meet her to literally unlock City Hall and help her out. That’s the kind of thing Melissa does without blinking. She’s always had Leslie Knope vibes. However, we don’t always 100% line up with our goals for Gloucester’s future. Her priorities aren’t necessarily bad – she’s warning us we need to cover a new sewer plant first, and seemingly a school second – so we’re worried that a new school isn’t something she’s going to fight for, but she’s also a rational human being who doesn’t immediately respond with passion or emotion. She’ll take a look at an issue from all sides and make an informed decision.

EDIT: She did let us know she’s behind the consolidation and exclusion, just wasn’t 100% happy with the whole process and final choice, which is fair!

A dramatization of when someone dumps a couch on Kondelin Road

Joe Ciolino (alternate)

In the past we haven’t really pushed voting for Joe. He’s voted in ways we liked and disliked, but he hadn’t really moved us in one direction or the other. He’s always pushed downtown business because that’s what he’s personally involved in, which is great for downtown Main St, but can leave retail businesses outside of the Block Party area feeling a little overlooked. Also, he recently mentioned at the GOP meet and greet that he still hands out plastic bags at his store which is against the laws the city council itself created. So he’s either disrespectful or blowing smoke, neither of which are a good look. He’s also stated the reason we have tourists is because we still have a fishing industry, and we need to be protecting that. It’s a common sense idea that is almost low hanging fruit to pander to, because literally no one seeking office is going to say “I don’t care about the fishing industry” if they enjoy having unbroken bones. People come here for beaches, but they also come here for the Wicked Tuna boats and because George Clooney made a movie about the Crow’s Nest and they wanna see that stuff in person. But you know, you keep having your dumb bags blow into the harbor and there aren’t gonna be a ton of fish left here.

It’s 2019 and people still come here assuming this is factually correct. Taking their money is in all of our best interests.

However, we really like that one of his priorities is getting a new school built because we are very pro GET THIS DONE NOW WHILE WE HAVE FUNDING FROM THE STATE. Recently he said he thinks a 71 year old school built before cities were mandated to take all students and you couldn’t send them to institutions anymore will need replacing, which is so true but unfortunately not believed by everyone which is exhausting but that’s Gloucester for you. So maybe if you are dead set against voting for one of the above because they looked at your puppy wrong you can go this way instead.

That’s it. That’s what we have for now. There are other candidates that didn’t make the cut for a myriad of reasons, and we don’t have a strong opinion on the only contested ward to make an impassioned plea (Though we do like Joe Giacalone).

We will throw another post up shortly about the school committee race, for which we will have several other opinions.

Where the hell do we go from here?

Hey there, it’s Josh – second-funniest male regular contributor to the Clam (and third overall, also behind KT). Then again, there’ve been only three regular posters so that should say something.

Losing Jim sucks. It sucks hard. He was the North Star that we guided the site through, and even what he didn’t write himself the rest of us wrote to try and make him proud. We’ve all in Clam Nation known this week was coming, but we all hated that reality.

I’ll share what is the ideal Dowd story – from the last time I saw him out in public. Here in Salem, Deacon Giles Distillery hosts a night of boozy three-minute PowerPoint presentations as a competition about once a quarter. In mid-February, they hosted the event. Jim decided a couple of days beforehand to enter – with his topic being “the difference between being eaten by a shark and brain cancer”.

I Googled “Sharkbite” and went with this because we’re a family-friendly blog here and JESUS THE REAL PICS WERE GROSS

To sum up, shark bite victims don’t need to deal with idiots sending you “Israeli company cures sharkbite!” emails, and the screams drown out morons on shore asking if you have tried CBD oil as shark repellent. But at the same time, there are very few hopeful clinical trials on sharkbite running currently.

I fixed my car’s radiator with CBD, too.

With facts like that, he put together a brilliant and funny presentation that, needless to say, won.

Once he knew his diagnosis last summer, he (and the rest of us) knew that we were on borrowed time, and he continued to work, make jokes about being radioactive, and do what he did best – stir shit up with brilliance and passion. Personally, for me he was the bridge that connected my world of friends in Salem with awesome people down the line on Cape Ann, expanding my universe of amazing, snarky, and sweet people that I remain connected to now. I was on my way home from a business trip to Florida when Jim passed away. That evening, some of his friends gathered to host a spur-of-the-moment memorial party that may still be going on, much like the party in Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy that has lasted for four generations thus far. I sent hugs from my airliner that was lurching around the sky.

Onward!

What will become of the Clam and this website? I don’t think we can answer that right now. But we will. There are still things we are outraged by, things we want to celebrate, and stupidity to highlight. Regardless of what we do here on these pages, Clam Nation persists – because Clam Nation was founded from Jim Dowd’s vision, but it’s really all of you.

The Blast Crater In Our Lives

KT here. I’ve been away from the Clam for a bit – had to take a break, have a baby, buy a house, adult stuff like that. But, I am back at you today.

For the worst reason.

Our beloved leader, Jim Dowd, who made up so much more than half of the Clam, has shuffled off this mortal coil.  He is no more. He has ceased to be.

We knew it was coming, he told us goodbye, but there’s only so much emotional preparation you can do in advance. The weight still hits you like a sack of dead seagulls. 

Fuck. Extra fuck. Like super fuck, for the fuck of shit, yabba dabba fucking shit, a pantry full of dicks.

Now that I’ve offended the most delicate among us by getting the majority of the profanity out of the way (IT’S WHAT HE WOULD HAVE WANTED), let’s talk about how much this sucks (spoiler: it sucks major ass) and more importantly, Clam-eulogize Jim in a way he deserves. Snarkily and with no holds barred, but with all the love in the world.

James Dowd, EGS Santa. Because you’re gonna want a Jewish Santa.

 

“Don’t say I had a brave battle with cancer,” he messaged me a few weeks back. “I just sat there and did what they told me.” And that’s basically the truth of the matter. Jim believed that we are all just along for the ride on this planet. There’s no battle of inward steeliness that can change the outcome of any random cell mutation, it’s a team of doctors throwing everything at their disposal at the problem. There’s no amount of willpower that can be mustered to overcome an aggressive brain tumor that will keep coming back. I hate that premise as well, that surviving cancer is because someone successfully drew from some well of inner strength to somehow combat cell mutation, and the rest- the ones unlucky enough to have types of cancer where the survival rates are miniscule – just laid down and died. It’s chance.

 

Jim hated the generic and ultimately useless platitudes, sorries and condolences, nearly as much as he hated Facebook comments from well-meaning acquaintances and strangers that asked if he’d tried CBD oil. In Jim’s world (and in the world of so many others around him and like him), science and the best medical staff in the US were always the answer, and if they had no answer, that was that.

 

I told Jim that when I wrote something for him, it would be full of sports references and also talk about his lifelong passion for NFL football. That guy definitely never missed a Superbowl and will absolutely not haunt me from beyond by having me miss the last stair on my trek downstairs for coffee fortnightly until I apologize for saying that.

 

But the truth is, I don’t even know where to start in explaining who Jim was as a person or what he meant to me and my family. We ended up becoming friends over a Good Morning Gloucester rant about his stolen bike wheel, and partnered up for so many things over the last 6-7 years – Snotbot, the Gloucester Clam, marketing projects for diverse clients. And we both were prolific Facebook messengers. It was rare that more than a day or two went by without a message back and forth unless one of us was out of the country (and even then), tens of thousands of them over the years, from snarky to serious, mostly about the Clam, but also advice about starting companies, buying houses, launching careers, managing friendships, and dealing with high-energy redheaded sons and the school system that tries valiantly to keep their penchant for building rockets, massive robots or trebuchets headed in a positive academic direction. 

and this. remember this?

 

I got a message on vacation last August that he was spending time with my mom, and not for a good reason. For background, my mom has worked at MGH as a Neuro ICU nurse since before I was born, and Jim was transferred into her unit. He assured me the mass they found in his brain was most likely  just a breach in the Lord of the Rings trivia containment unit, and not to worry. The surgery would remove the mass, and he also requested they remove the area that held knowledge of the Star Wars prequels.  I don’t handle things like normal people, so my course of action over the past 9 months was to keep speaking to him like nothing was wrong, and not to treat him any differently. We joked about death a lot. 

After he told me he was starting home hospice care at the end of April, the messages kept up, but as weeks passed, got harder and harder to decipher. He mused that at the end, Keith Richards and Bob Dylan appear in the room, ostensibly to explain the meaning of life and their secret to keep death at bay. He told me that once he slipped into unconsciousness, Morrissey jokes were fair game. I joked that I would keep pinging him like the Opportunity rover, until his battery was low and it got dark. And then the messages stopped.

I will forever miss having someone that i could text at basically any time of day with “ugh, these assholes” and not only would Jim immediately know which assholes I was talking about and what the assholes had said in particular, but also launch into a diatribe about why, exactly, the assholes were wrong, what they failed to grasp about this argument in particular, and how eventually they’d be replaced by robots anyway – so joke’s on them.  

There was no one in the world, no one I will ever meet again in  my lifespan, like Jim. Jim was such a larger than life person. Come to think of it, louder than life may be a better descriptor. While most humans learn to modulate the volume of their voice when they are a preteen, Jim never truly grasped that concept, much to our community’s delight and consternation. The last time I saw him in person was at the O’Maley production of Mary Poppins, where we inadvertently ended up sitting next to each other and I had to whack him to be quiet when he loudwhispered about the numerous set changes. Jim was the kind of guy Sefatia would need to tell to take it down a notch. 

Jim was a one of a kind friend – and I know everyone who has ever had the pleasure of him diving headfirst into their lives, loudly and without apology, feels the same. We’ve lost so much with his passing. He doesn’t leave holes in our lives, he leaves blast craters.

 

 

One of my favorite and most unexpectedly wholesome things about Jim was his unwavering belief that humanity could still solve the climate change crisis. During our trip to LA to film Patrick Stewart for the Snotbot Kickstarter, we ended up at a taco bar around the corner from our hotel, and the conversation over a nightcap turned to how our planet is a sauna and we’re over here squeezing our waterbottles over the coals. Myself as well as Iain, the head of Ocean Alliance, were of the opinion that this is it for us, that humanity has another 100 good years at most, that despite the brilliance of our species and the incredible feats and inventions we’ve accomplished, we won’t be able to work together to keep ourselves alive – despite all of us still trying our best. Jim, however, firmly believed that even if leadership lagged, the incessant research of the scientific community would eventually solve the issues enough to minimize the effects of global warming to continue our species beyond the next century. It’s ironic in an Alanis Morrissette sense that he got to peace out before the ending got spoiled for him.  

Jim’s ability to weave a narrative was unbelievable. I don’t know which type of posts were my favorite – angry screeds with snarky photos, or less angry, but still tough-love filled essays about how Gloucester gets to where it needs or wants to be. Jim dunked on Gloucester sometimes, but what a lot of people didn’t understand was the nuance. Jim LOVED Gloucester, and when you love something, you want what’s best for it. You have opinions about where it goes and what goes into it. Sometimes those opinions are peppered with profanity, but they’re just as valid. Thankfully, thousands of people understood his message, and those who didn’t were usually the type of person who has their profile picture wearing sunglasses in the driver’s seat of a lifted truck. Nuance is lost on them, anyway.

 

One of my favorite No Snark Sundays was a story he retold about hosting his septuagenarian aunt’s wedding to a high school sweetheart and realizing his back porch was completely rotted and filled with larvae. He had two choices: the easy way, to just block the back porch off so no one stepped through a rotted floorboard and push the repair off to some other future time, or the hard way, to completely pull up the rot and fix the deep-rooted problem. And he somehow seamlessly compared this dilemma to our country’s problem with police brutality and accountability when it comes to murdering unarmed POC. And he did it so well.

 

And so, I’ll leave you with this, from the master himself.

 

I know we say this here a lot, but it’s important to stress that we are not a frightened people. We are not afraid of terrorists, though they attack our city. We are not afraid of Ebola even though it’s foreign and scary-sounding. We’re not afraid of our kids mixing with new ideas and different social classes and cultures because this is what will make them real people not just another set of clones blithering around a mass-produced consumer culture. We are not afraid because each of us is descended from brave people who risked everything at one point or another. We owe our civilization to those who pushed back against the darkness. Who stood for justice and equality in the face of what then looked like insurmountable odds. Their blood flows in our veins and their DNA is what 3D printed us out into this crazy place and time. We have the tools. We have the people who know what needs to be done.

So take a breath. Roll up the sleeves. This is going to be hard.

But the fucking door stays open.”

 

I hope he got to see Keith Richards on his way out the door.

 

If you have a story about Jim you’d like to share, his family would love to hear it and keep these memories for his children to read. Email heyjimdowd@gmail.com with funny observations, memories, and so on. JUST NO CONDOLENCES. You don’t want to be haunted by someone that loud.