Everyone Clam Down Just A Minute

[ed: This is a guest posting from a friend of the blog who wanted their voice heard – and we love it!]

Greetings, Clam Nation.

So unless you’ve been busy stockpiling dry goods for the next pandemic spike, you’ve probably seen Gloucester Health Department Director Karin Carroll’s allegations in the Gloucester Times that Mayor Sefatia Romeo-Theken has been interfering with the City’s COVID-19 response. If you haven’t, here’s the link.

We in the Clam Bunker have had some lively discussions about these and other issues brought forth over the past week and prior. Again, unless you’ve been busy counting rolls of toilet paper, you’ll recall Harbormaster TJ Ciaramitaro’s suit against the City. Community Development Director Jill Cahill has now joined the chorus.

Your The Clam prides itself on its scrupulousness. While the Clameditorial Board was raised on memes and GenX snark, our moral compass is much clearer than the muddy flat we call home. We do stan some good grit.

How’s This for Muckraking?


Mayor Sefatia’s language is unapologetically colorful. She has been this way for her entire two terms in office, not to mention beforehand. She is famous for her colloquial and authentic turns of phrase, from Saint Peter’s Club to the State House. Her unflinching takes on all the issues – all of them – are a lot to swallow for some. There is no denying her love for Gloucester, though. Everyone here is family.

Regarding the Ciaramitaro/Cahill complaints, perhaps that’s the mistake she made. This is a tender time. We are, as a people, tired. Words hurt more than usual. It is tough to remember ourselves. Mayor Sefatia is no exception. She aimed for an open door policy, but a boss also has to draw clear lines. A boss has to be at least a little reserved. This is a tough balance to strike even without the looming threat of an untimely viral death.

Which brings us to the Gloucester Health Department.

The allegations Karin Carroll brought forward are very serious. Your The Clam is waiting to see what happens next. In the meantime, we are withholding judgment. There are accusations, yes, but there must be evidence. With evidence – and with proper oversight from the State – comes clarity and the ability to move forward.

Stay healthy. Wear your masks. Be good to one another. Stay tuned.

CLAMDORSEMENT 2020: The Elections

Greetings Clam-Desperados: 

It’s another episode of what-the-fuck-is-this-political-hell-hole-we-are-living-in and how can we get through this season so we can move on to a nice triumph-of-the-human-spirit -produced-for-Netflix-special where we don’t have to worry about the POTENTIAL FOR IMMINENT COLLAPSE OF DEMOCRACY every waking fucking moment.

Enquiring minds are tired of everything political and wondering who we here at the Clam are endorsing and if we could do a very short Clamsplainer ™ on all things ballot related. YES. Yes we can.  The whole team worked on this one, so give them their props.



Are there Ballot Questions? YES 

Will you have to turn over your ballot to see them all? YES

Should you vote on them? YES 

What should you vote? YES

What about the last two non-binding questions that I didn’t even know existed? YES on those also.

Should I really vote “Yes” on all the ballot questions? YES

Not how we make decisions, but still YES. Look for the How and WHY of ballot decision making in a future post.



We think, correction, we know, if you want a democracy so you can actually vote in the future, you should roll up any doubt, toss it into the dumpster fire that has been 2020 and cast your votes for:

Joe Biden & Kamala Harris. 

Ed Markey. 

Seth Moulton. 


“Wait, what? Shouldn’t I stand up for my beliefs? Aren’t you guys left leaning liberal progressives?”  “Shouldn’t we be writing in…”

Dude, you asked for the short version. Read on if you still need guidance on which candidates to write-in.


As you readers of the Clam know well, we’re not exactly “conservative” here. Unless we are talking about the environment and in that case we are decidedly conservationist ;), but even then we like wind turbines which by the way kill exponentially fewer birds than cats or glass fronted buildings or climate change and the sound of them (the turbines not the cats) does not cause cancer. But we digress. Truly we don’t despise old-school Republicans that we used to have a lot of in New England, we just don’t vote for them. Especially not nowadays, while there’s a literal Orange Turd of Spite in the White (power) House.


Oddly, these are also symptoms from having Trump as a president.


Once again in Massachusetts, all the state-level offices are uncontested. Tarr is going to remain State Senator, Ferrante will remain State Representative, Eileen Duff will remain on the Governor’s Council. AND, wait for it, Pamela Casey O’Brien will remain the Register of Probate which most of you didn’t even know was an elected position until you saw it on the ballot because she’s been in this position since 1996. Seriously. 


But we know you aren’t here because of who isn’t in a fight.

You’re looking for the action, that sweet, sweet Clamalysis of how to vote where it matters. 

Well, climb out of that bat-filled cave and join us as we attempt to avert an actual apocalypse.


Let’s work our way up shall we? 

The 6th District House seat is currently held by Seth Moulton – as some of you may have noticed he was not successful in his presidential campaign and he once again decided that being a Congressman was a fine way to serve the people. Despite a lot of Democratic activists being royally pissed at him for his dalliance with the Oval Office, Moulton has a good crew running the district offices. Lucky for him this pesky pandemic kept his challengers from getting traction so Representative (still) Moulton won the nomination and will again be the Democratic nominee. His GOP opponent is John Paul Moran (using all three names is important to him). Moran has distinguished himself by driving a massive red, white, and blue pickup truck and having his allies put signs in public spaces illegally. We’re going to go out on a limb here and say that even though we were pretty annoyed by the Moulton for President pretension, we’d rather have him around than another Trump loving guy with a thing for threes.  

The Clam endorses Seth Moulton for another term in Congress, and we hope he got the message that we want him to focus on the task at hand.


Red, white and blue truck, tree limb, get it?


In the Senate, Ed Markey became the cool uncle of the progressive youth (and a big majority of Team Clam was on his side in the primary). He beat Joe Kennedy by a margin that surprised us all. On the Republican side, Kevin O’Connor beat Perennial (two failures, two write-in campaigns, and too many lawsuits) Candidate Shiva Ayyadurai. We hope O’Connor will be rewarded for his efforts by losing to Markey. 

Not this Mahky

We here at the Clam happily endorse Ed Markey for another term in the Senate.


For President, who whoo shocker: We’re all in for Joe Biden. 

Truth be told, most of the Clam Editorial Board was for Bernie, but that’s not how the primaries went and Biden won. Handily. 

Joe Biden isn’t the most exciting guy on the planet. He’s not going to provide 24/7 entertainment. In fact he’s kinda boring. He believes in diplomacy. He mentors kids with stutters. He prefers conversations to shouting matches. If you want someone in a polo shirt who’ll burn everything to the ground with tiki torches he’s not your guy. 

It turns out Biden is profoundly decent, thoughtful, and empathetic. He cares about people other than himself. Isn’t that enough? But wait there’s more!

He listens to experts and scientists, takes advice, and is willing to change his mind if given facts that justify it. As President, he’ll be a breath of fresh air by not making news cause he’s rage-tweeting. Will he listen to the progressive wing of the party? Absolutely. Will he be giving us everything we want? Nope. But will we make progress toward the shit we care about as a society under a Biden presidency? Praise The Great Flying Spaghetti Monster we will. Biden will help America once again be a country that the rest of the world looks at to lead, not the meme that gets laughed at in international conferences. 

Make America America Again. Vote for Joe Biden. We are.


This will happen when Kanye and Phil get together on their party crossover album.

Look, we know there are a few of you still considering casting your vote for a third party candidate. Fuck your principles. We live in a two-party system that’s at risk of becoming a one not-very-fun-party-at-all system if we don’t overwhelmingly vote his Orangeassholeness out of office. We get it, you want to vote for Phil Collins at the top of the Prohibition ticket, or Kanye and his Birthday Party. But listen. Even Bernie Sanders is voting for Joe Biden.


As one of our heroes, Sir Patrick Stewart said,

“It is what you do from now on that will either move our civilization forward a few tiny steps, or else… begin to march us steadily backward.”



YES, VOTE YES. On all of them! 

YES, It matters


Clam Out


Clam Election Guide: Gloucester’s Question 3

Greetings, faithful voters/troublemakers of Gloucester. We’ve come to you today to help you learn entirely too much about the Debt Exclusion vote – Question 3 in November’s election. Maybe you’ve heard about it, maybe you’ve decided 2020 was best spent consuming no media whatsoever (in which case, good choice). Only Gloucester will have this special question on the ballot. It reads:

“Shall the City of Gloucester be allowed to exempt from the provisions of Proposition two-and-one-half, so called, the amounts required to pay for bonds issued in order to provide the necessary funding for the design, site work, construction and outfitting of a new East Gloucester/Veterans Memorial Elementary School.”

We’re here to break down the true costs of this plan, the alternatives, and why we’ve decided that voting yes is unequivocally the best way forward, even if you may not find it absolutely perfect. When you cut through the rumors and the sky-is-falling melodrama, the choice is abundantly clear.

Ok, The Clam, but how the hell did we get here?

Both EGS and Veterans are very old schools – 1948 and 1956, respectively. The last public data we could find on how old the average public schools are is from the 1990’s, so 30 years ago – and even then only 28% of public schools were built before 1950, and obviously, that number can only have decreased further as schools are replaced at the end of their lifespan. As of 2016, the average age of a main school building was 44 years old. EGS is nearly double that age. 

Veterans and EGS are both functionally outdated by modern standards, EGS being the worst of the two. EGS has far too few classrooms and relies on old, rusting, leaky modular classrooms that will need to be replaced in short order. The space means kids are learning or taking IEP-required meetings in the hallways, which is against fire codes. The safety standards are lagging- there are no central communications and that can’t be retrofitted – in an emergency when seconds count, a teacher’s  cell phone is the only way to alert 911 or the front office. The basement has extreme moisture issues and teachers have to keep windows open nearly year round to get rid of the excess moisture.  There are no art or music rooms, the teacher has to move from classroom to classroom. 


Pretty sure we all saw this room in the Poseidon Adventure.


After the West Parish project was nearing completion, the city took a long, hard look at the projected classroom enrollment, the city’s resources, and what everything would cost to repair vs replace – and since 2014, there have been over 30 public meetings that got us to where we are now – a consolidated school that combines the two smaller schools into one medium-sized school. 

Why Are We Consolidating?

Consolidation can be a hard thing to understand when you’re used to neighborhood schools, but keep in mind, we had nearly 2 dozen small elementary schools at the turn of the last century which eventually consolidated into the 5 we have now. EGS has been a fantastic community school for 72 years, but the demographics of the area are changing, and between 2001 and 2007 the elementary school population dropped from 1865 to 1492.  The best explanation is Jonathan Pope’s letter in the GDT about consolidation.

If the city could afford it, it would take a minimum of 20 years to replace the four elementary schools; in contrast, building two schools will take 10 years. Tearing down East Gloucester Elementary School and building a new school on the same site would cost $51 million. To build a new consolidated school would cost $65 to $69 million. To build four new schools would cost approximately $204 million in today’s dollars. In contrast, the estimate for building two new schools would cost $138 million. Over the life expectancy (50 years) of the new schools, maintenance and utilities costs would be substantially less for two larger schools than for four smaller schools. The delivery of education by specialists — music, art, physical education, special education, language and math coaching, interventions and social and emotional counseling — would be far more efficient in larger schools. Larger schools with four sections per grade also provide more capacity to absorb fluctuations in enrollment, leading to more stable catchment areas, and thus a more stable school community .

It makes sense that some people are concerned that 440 students in an elementary school might be too many, I sure as hell was a bit worried. However, research shows it’s not. The top ranked K-5 public schools in greater Boston (per Niche.com) all have over 500 students per school. (2020 Best Schools in the Boston Area, (Maria Hastings Elementary (Lexington) 454 students, Bowman Elementary (Lexington) 546 students, Elmwood School (Hopkinton) 549 students, Bridge Elementary (Lexington) 541 students (based on U.S. Department of Education data). Fuller had over 500 kids, albeit in a much larger and inefficient building that was closed during the biggest economic downturn we’ve been alive for. 

The final choice after dozens of public meetings whittled the choices for where to put the school down to just a few, and finally, Veteran’s was chosen. According to the citys’ handy Q&A guide, the decision to build on the Veterans’s site was based upon the following: Preserve as much open space as possible;

  • Proximity of the respective student population;
  • Potential for more students to walk to school;
  • Building a school on a site currently being used as a school;
  • Access to utilities; and,
  • Less environmental impact;
  • In terms of Article 97 and the re-purposing of land along with a “no net loss” involving a land exchange, the Veterans’ site is the more viable option.

But Why New?  We Don’t Need That, Do We? Can’t We Fix What We Have?

Nope. You’d think, right? We’re hardy New Englanders, used to fixing what we have. We’re thrifty and not extravagant or wasteful. So the thought of tearing down schools and building new doesn’t sit right with folks, because we’re in a place with old buildings. However, in this case, it doesn’t make any sense – for many reasons, including the major costs to bring the project up to code vs modern, efficient building standards.

The single biggest reason to build a new school is because it’s the cheapest option. 


The new school’s $66 million price tag will be subsidized by the state to the tune of $26.9 million (thanks to the 5 years of work by the School Committee and the MSBA), the cost of a new school to Gloucester’s taxpayers will be just under $40 million.  There’s a TON of data about the numbers, and if you’re interested in committing several hours researching, start with this handy guide. But turning the decaying schools into something we can use costs far more overall than the new school. Here’s a great take by our good Clam buddy, Stephen Voltz.

If this ballot measure fails, we’ll be facing an avalanche of unavoidable costs including repairing existing buildings at a cost of $18 million per school, $36 million for both – as well as new modular buildings at many more millions. Problems that need to be addressed with the existing buildings include intermittent lack of heat in the winter, structural issues, asbestos tiles that are in poor condition, inadequate wiring including electrical conduit that has corroded, rust and rot in places, copper piping and an HVAC system that needs wholesale entire system replacing (at East Gloucester), an underground oil tank that must be removed, and groundwater infiltration – a literal creek runs through EGS. Not to mention the cost of getting things up to code, like this door that inexplicably drops down and is absolutely not ADA compliant. Surprise, hope your ankles are rubbery.


A full renovation of EGS would help some of the worst problems, but would decrease the amount of classroom space to meet modern codes and make the population problem worse, and that would still cost us $28.4 million. 

Are these costs we could have avoided had we done more (that is, spent more money through different tax increases) in the past to keep them in better shape? Not really. Schools wear out.  In a comprehensive study of school facilities across the U.S. the U.S. Department of Education concluded that “after 40 years, a school building begins rapid deterioration,cand after 60 years most schools are abandoned.” (How Old are America’s Public Schools. NCES 1999-048. U.S. Department of Education – National Center for Education Statistics. 1999). Gloucester passed the 40 year milestone with these schools when school buildings “begin rapid deterioration” a generation ago, and have now sailed on past the 60 year mark when most school buildings are abandoned.  Veterans is 63 years old.  East Gloucester is 72 years old.

The second reason not to go the repair and rehab route is that even after we pay $36 million to fix up our old school buildings we still won’t have enough room. Right now, teachers are teaching in hallways. After a $36 million capital maintenance only project, they’ll still be teaching in hallways in a school that is still massively overdue to be replaced, and has LESS space because of the need to bring everything to current code. And we’ll still be spending more on utilities than we would for a new, LEED, green building.

Not to mention, it’s just a beautiful thing to have for Gloucester.

So Why Are People Against This?

We’re seeing arguments to vote against it. Some is based on not fully understanding that alternatives were already researched and what their costs would be, and a lot is highly emotionally charged feelings about change or not having their particular idea chosen and therefore felt unheard. The worst arguments we’ve seen are accusing everyone from the mayor, the school and city council, the architects and the Vote Yes group of lying about the math, not being transparent or even worse – being complicit in some kickback scheme, and to be honest: that’s absolutely shameful, uncalled for and inappropriate. All the groups above have been painstakingly transparent, as accurate as possible, and if any inaccuracies are brought to light, they are fixed. That’s what they take pride in and that’s their commitment to the city and community. End of story.

But here’s the most repeated arguments we’ve seen, and why it doesn’t hold up under scrutiny:

The people weren’t heard: There were T H I R T Y meetings with public input from the beginning of this process, and boy, there was a lot of input. For instance, the Green Street abutters did a thorough job of respectfully explaining why the school would not work in that area, which contributed to the final decision to place the school at Veteran’s, where a current school already exists and would negatively impact the abutters the least. Even if making a meeting was impossible, our school committee and city councilors are available by phone or email. Everyone who had a point to make could make it several times over, and most availed themselves of that opportunity.  But make no mistake – there were many choices, and the final choice not being what you wanted doesn’t mean the process wasn’t fair or your input wasn’t heard.  Screwing over a whole generation of kids because you didn’t get your way is the ultimate Karen move. 

The project was rushed! This is year 5 of the process. The only time crunch is that if the vote doesn’t get approved, we lose out on the money. To be frank, some people weren’t paying attention to news or city council meetings, the agendas of which are required by law to be listed publicly ahead of time. 

We can’t afford it! Unfortunately, we have to. The Anti-school folks have done a pretty great job at playing sleight of hand games with the math and pretending it’s between a choice of spending nothing and spending millions on a brand new school, so they can get people who don’t want to spend money on their side. But that’s just patently NOT the whole story – we already explained above that the minimum required to keep both buildings running is $36 million. Recently, new superintendent Ben Lummis made a point that seems to have been buried in the avalanche of voices: we don’t have the money even for the upgrades necessary, and if this does not pass, we will likely need another debt exclusion just to keep those schools from closing. The average cost is about $12-15 a month for a home valued at $400-$500k – basically another Netflix or a trip to McDonalds. We can either spend it smartly, or throw it down the drain.

A bit under $40m gets us a beautiful new school for the next 50 years financed at nearly 1% interest. It’s the best financial option, hands-down. The school committee, a vast majority of the city council, and the mayor all agree on this.

Well, they didn’t maintain the schools twenty years ago so why would I spend money now? I don’t know what this argument even is. honestly. I have asked over and over again, but no one can come up with a concrete example of what counts as purposeful neglect. I work in risk management and with building characteristics on a daily basis, and I assure you, there are no 80 year old buildings that would survive without being taken care of. Maintenance may have been deferred due to budget restrictions, but clearly the answer isn’t “let’s never replace anything”, it’s “Let’s correctly fund it.” A major change, shifting maintenance to the DPW, means that now a ticketing system is in place to spur fixes to maintenance issues as they happen – a welcome improvement. 

Let’s not forget that in 1996, a lot of the same people who are crowing that we didn’t maintain the schools voted down a $1.5 million debt exclusion to put money into Veteran’s. Weird, right?

The Building Doesn’t Matter, the Experience Does!  Oh this one kills me becauses it’s so often said by people in an age group that had a host of brand-new schools at the time. Adequate school buildings absolutely do matter, and there’s science behind it. Not to mention, it’s pretty hard to learn when the heat goes out multiple times in a week and the inside is 40 degrees.

“Researchers at Lawrence Berkeley Labs noted an increase of 50 percent to 370 percent in the incidence of respiratory illness in spaces with low ventilation rates, as are commonly found in schools, compared to spaces meeting industry-accepted standards.Breathing fresh air is not only critical for keeping students healthy but also for keeping them alert. Several studies have linked recirculating air and low ventilation rates in classrooms with lower average daily attendance and slower speed in completing tasks.7 Studies also have found that poor facilities are strongly associated with student truancy and higher rates of suspensions.8 Additional research shows that adequate lighting and good acoustics also help students remain alert and ready to learn. Research has examined the connection between daylight and students’ ability to focus, retain information, and maintain alertness.

But I Want Neighborhood Schools! This is an argument that has merit and is understandable. However, it’s important to note that more than 60% of current EGS kids live closer to Veterans than EGS and many families have to pass Veteran’s daily to get to their school. Veteran’s is truly their local school. It’s important to have a downtown school for downtown kids that make up such a large part of our elementary population. The consolidated school is still very close to East Gloucester. Keep in mind that other parts of downtown are bussed all the way to Plum Cove, and the majority of kids in the downtown core have been flung far and wide to all 5 elementary schools. “Neighborhood Schools” have been out of reach for a huge swath of the population for decades. It’s time more kids were given their own neighborhood school, and this plan does just that. 

But isn’t renovating or rehabbing cheaper? I know we already went over this, but it isn’t! On a cost per square foot basis, simply renovating EGS – which does nothing to solve the educational shortcomings of the building – comes in at a whopping $639 per square foot. In contrast, building a brand new, efficient, consolidated school  that actually meets our needs is $613 per square foot. There are a lot of reasons – ADA and current construction codes, cost of materials, etc. The EGS building envelope – it’s shell – is already rated in poor condition. It doesn’t have good bones. It has weak, brittle, osteoporosis bones. 

I don’t like the layout/bushes/traffic! This is typical of so many late to the party objections.  Neither the layout or outdoor space is on the ballot, and there were multiple meetings where the parking, play space, and layouts were adjusted. People seem to think if they don’t like the kind of bushes planned for the new building’s landscaping they can vote against the debt exclusion, get their pet peeve addressed and then have the city put up another bond measure that includes their favorite bushes, down the road. That’s not how it’s going to work. At the very best, we might have a shot at repeating this 10 year MSBA process in another 5 years, but with the increased cost of labor and materials, and with the very real possibility of higher interest rates and lowered MSBA money depending on the economy over the next 5-6 years, it’s going to cost us a LOT more. Plus, the MSBA is going to shy away from working with us in the future if they think it’s going to be a waste of time because we can’t come up with the money.

Ipswich had so many similar arguments, and their similar new consolidated school plan failed. Our friend Amanda, who is an Ipswich resident, explained what happened next and it’s exactly what you’d imagine.

Combining our two elementary schools would have provided a more equitable education environment for our kids. The plans provided beautiful open spaces, large rooms with all the technology required for kids and educators, natural light, climate control, green-design, outdoor spaces for play and learning, maker spaces. Instead, a vocal minority voted down the plans due to an outdated romantic idea of a neighborhood school in walking distance to only a minority of students and we lost out on the opportunity. They continuously said, “we can do better,” but an alternative plan has yet to be presented. Now we are stuck with outdated buildings with broken furnaces, leaking roofs, and overcrowded classrooms that can’t be retrofitted to suit the technology needs of a modern learning environment. The disparities between the two schools are felt even more sharply now in the pandemic. There’s no way forward now, no plan, no money to upgrade, and no idea how many more generations of students and educators in Ipswich will have to adapt to buildings that were never meant to last this long.

 Listen, there’s a lot of negativity we see out there, but we have to make sure Gloucester stays somewhere businesses and residents want to remain. We need young families to thrive and stay viable into the future so our economy doesn’t lose its middle class, and we need to be attractive to businesses looking to relocate in the area, or the town becomes nothing but AirBNBs and low skill/low wage jobs to support that industry. We have great assets like Gloucester Marine Genomics Institute, but the decaying, 70+ year old schools aren’t able to give kids the technology and skills advantage they need to have successful careers in STEM fields. We have a perfect opportunity to borrow at an extremely low interest rate to keep everyone’s taxes as low as humanly possible. A new, beautiful school will be an asset to our community, not a liability like we have now. 

This vote is a simple YES we build the school, or NO we don’t. If we don’t, we all end up paying for it down the line – and I don’t just mean financially. 


[ed: this was written for us by Jim’s wife, Bo]


Hi Friends, 

We are coming up on the first anniversary of Jim’s death. It is confusing times for all of us amidst a pandemic, one display after another of horrifying social injustice, and the ongoing assault on our democracy.

Yet ordinary things are happening too, birds are singing, the breeze is blowing, a full moon will rise in the sky tomorrow.


Please help me in remembering James Frederick Dowd and how he could hold all of it with wisdom, humor and action.




June 5th, 2019. Jim Died.

It’s almost June 5th again.

We want to honor and celebrate Jim. 

At 8:45 PM EST we’ll be Toasting Jim 

[We’ll put a link up on the Clam, Jim’s FB page and Caringbridge early evening June 5, 2020 so you can join us]



This is what the kids and I will do:


Friday, June 5, sunset is at 8:17 PM EST


At 8:30 PM, Rebecca, Treely, and I are going to have a brief private ritual near water 

We will light luminaria around 8:40 pm

We’ll raise a glass (or more likely a water bottle) to the one and only Jim Dowd

Then our friend will play The Decemberists’ Sons and Daughters on the bagpipe

Then we will spin some fire (think giant sparkler) as a symbolic act of untethering.

Then we will walk home .


I wish we could all be together in one place, warming each other in story and song.

But as we cannot gather in large groups here in Massachusetts, 

we’ll each do our part wherever we are. 

Here’s how to honor Jim’s deathiversary.


Take these three elements:


Find yourself a place that is meaningful. 

It could be on a beach, near a beach, by a water feature, standing over a cactus in a pot, or in front of your kitchen sink. Put the plug in and run the water.

Bring some fire into your life. Carefully.

A candle, a fire-pit, the damn weed you were trying to give to Jim to smoke (or perhaps you’ve got a newer stash), even the lighter you held in the air at that Grateful Dead show.

At 8:45 PM EST we’ll be Toasting Jim [*We’ll put a link up on the Clam, Jim’s FB page and Caringbridge  in the early evening June 5, 2020 so you can join us]

Listen to Sons and Daughters 


That’s it.

Beautiful or ironic as you choose.

IMPORTANT: If you live on Cape Ann


If you discover other Jim Dowd rememberers (Dowdists?), do a special social distance wave (or a fist-bump across the ethers) and go find a spot – with them in heart – but definitely physically away from them in a show of loving, scientific caring. 

ESPECIALLY since Rebecca just wrote THIS opinion piece.




Tune in for the toast by 8:45ish pm EST.   *check back! 

Or make one of your own and post it on Jim’s FB page

You can provide your own version of Sons and Daughters

Or listen to ours.


Hey Bo, I get what you all are doing but what if I can’t get to an idyllic mountain stream?


Yep. I hear you. 

My mom, who lives in a community that does not allow flame, has this very same challenge.

Her plan is to boil a pot of water on the stove and yell “DIRIGIBLE” as she fist pumps the air. 

Well, actually she’s found a lovely virtual image of a fire by a beach, but feel free to do the boiling water scenario.



June 5th 2020 will be one trip around the sun since James Frederick Dowd took his last breath.

Crazy, right?!


Someone suggested I call this day Jim’s “Angelversary”.  I can tell you if Jim made a list of the top 10 things not to call the anniversary of his death. Angelversary would be at least number two.

I’m pretty sure the Edward Gorey angel had a thick yiddish accent, nu?


In Judaism we have a word for the anniversary of a death, it’s a yahrzeit, it’s yiddish and it translates to something like “year-time”. 

Because  year + time. 

Which is really the same as anniversary which comes from annual + return.


Still I have been caught up in the idea of using this word that doesn’t feel right.

I mean it should be fine. Anniversary. We have come back around to the time of year and there’s nothing in it that says “the annual return to a happy day”  but since mostly in my life it’s been used for joyous occasions,  saying “the Anniversary of Jim’s death” feels a bit like bait and switch. 

Anniversary = happy, festive, celebratory

Death = Dead, no life, kaput. 

I feel tricked. 

So since Jim loved smushing two words to make one better word and “Angelversary” has been nixed, I will henceforth call this day JIm’s deathiversary. My feeling? It’s better to know up front.


So why am I caring so much about what this day is called?

I don’t know

Way back in Pre Pandemic times, Clam Nation had been planning a big memorial celebration for Jim’s first deathiversary. We were going to call it Jimapalooza.

A live Band, Video of Jim shooting Sir Patrick Stewart. Delicious beer. Powerpoints. (what’s a memorial celebration without a few well curated slides?!) But the emergence of a novel zoonotic disease made it seem like a batty idea to bring a few hundred of Jim’s loved ones together in a room.  Even if it was a very big room.


As restrictions and Covid-19 cases piled up I lost track of pretty much everything except how many rolls of TP were left.

How many toilet paper angels does it take to change a light bulb?


About three weeks ago it occurred to me Jim’s deathiversary was going to arrive and I did not have a plan.

Sidenote: It’s a weird thing to lose your spouse and get a pandemic.


Then some very fine people started gently asking how I was, if I had any ideas.

I didn’t. Then I did.


Symbolism, things burning up, letting go, 


I got the idea that the fire should be in the form of 100s of flaming flying lanterns leaving the earth individually but altogether. Those who could meet on Cape Ann would but Jim’s people everywhere around the world could also light and send off (ecologically safe, of course) flaming lanterns into the moonlit sky. I started thinking maybe we could have someone play Sons and Daughters on the bagpipe.

We could livestream it from Flatrocks up in Lanesville

Or a beach. 

At sunset.


PROBLEM ONE: Flaming flying lanterns, even the ecologically safe ones, aren’t really all that good for the environment or the fishies and even if they were, if you’ve ever spent time on the coast you know that the breeze during the day pretty much always blows people’s umbrellas AWAY from the water and into the dunes and, according to our fire marshall, rooftops. 


So not that. 

I think it would have been fine but since my friend looked up the city codes and lighting those lanterns is illegal and we aren’t supposed to be on the beach at night or gather in groups of more than ten, I said fine. No Flaming Floating Lanterns. 


Then life got busy for the living. 

The kids had things that required my help. The house had issues. The dog got diagnosed with a possible brain tumor.

Seriously. Let’s just wait to discuss that another day


A week passed. Clamnation came to the rescue again.

Well what if we all lit luminaries instead. They stay on the ground.


Yessss, Perfect.

This is a solid alternative

Everyone can easily make a luminary!

All ya need is a paper lunch bag and some sand and a tea light and we’ll all meet on the beach and…

That’s when someone pointed out



And by someone I mean everyone in the virtual room. 

“Um Bo, We can’t gather in groups over ten”



The idea of this day passing without some kind of connected honoring/celebration/global rant felt fucking awful. 

So much for my wish to be with all of you.
I would have sulked a bit more but Thisbee having just been diagnosed with vestibular disequilibrium syndrome and her massive wobbliness made it seem like a bad time for me to get off balance. But hell if watching your dog veer to the left and then overcorrect doesn’t remind you of watching your beloved husband try to walk from the living room straight into a wall.


So yet another new plan was made and now we have:


An OYO deathiversary celebration. Just in time for FRIDAY, JUNE 5th.

(notice the excellent depiction of social distancing)



OYO is On Your Own.

This is a favorite Outward Bound tradition that Jim and I carried forward. 

It means dinner won’t be served, you have to go to the fridge and look for whatever is available.

Be resourceful.

Clean up after yourself.

In this case I think you’ll find


And I know you won’t leave a trace if you go to some special place.


(rhyming was incidental, not intentional, but hey.)


So here we are.

We’ve made this circle round the sun without Jim and the only thing you really need to do to honor him is to be your best self.


But if you want to create some fire, near some water, 

By land, by sea, by dirigible

We’ll gladly leave our tracks untraceable 

Maybe not near you. 

But with you.



The planet, designated Kepler-413b, precesses, or wobbles, wildly on its spin axis, much like a child’s top or Thisbee when she tries to do anything with forward motion.

Naming Conventions

[Author: Bo Abrams]

My husband, the wonder-man Jim Dowd, was a naming savant. 

He named bands. He named blogs. He named bikes. 

From the day I met him I realized he had an uncanny sense of what would work and what wouldn’t in a name. 

As you might know, the trick is you can’t choose willy nilly (although he seemed to be able to) you have to have guidelines and rules. You have to be willing to free associate and at the same time be ready to cull what might be cherished. Even before Jim was naming things professionally, he instinctively understood constructs were necessary for success.


Before Rebecca was born Jim and I were pondering what we might name our soon to be offspring. We’d been calling the in utero creature Saugus, because place names are sexy!

But we needed a name for someone going to public school.

We chose these rules:


  1. You have to try it at the top of a resume. 
  2. You have to be able to yell it off the back porch easily.
  3. You have to be able to say it the same in Massachusetts as elsewhere.

(Because of the whole “In Boston you take the “R” off the Chair and put it on the Sofa” thing -it gets you Chayahs and sofers.)


All three have to work. 

For example, I worked at Carter Notch Hut in the White Mountains and I thought Carter would be a terrific name. Did I mention place names are sexy?

Anyway, It looked good at the top of a resume. Carter Dowd. It had a nice ring to it. Strong. Simple. Check one.

So Jim yelled it off the back deck into Lanes Cove. 

“CARTER” it carried. It soared.

Until the “In Boston you take the “R” off the Chair and put it on the Sofa” test. 

Total fail.

Sure enough when Rebecca was in kindergarten there was a boy in her class whose name was spelled  C A R T E R.

Through the entirety of elementary school not one person pronounced the R at the end of his name. EVAH.


Over the years, Jim’s regular rants and random titling of pets, cars, political campaigns, etc… fostered naming savvy in Treely and Rebecca, so much so, when they heard we were getting a kitten they immediately created a shared google Doc: 

They made one rule: No people names.


If you wonder how Jim lives on in his children I offer this:


Potential Kitten Names for the Kitten formerly known as Anderson




Lemon Spoonful


Dandelion (dandy for short)

Vegetables (veggies for short)

The Goat





ALL the TS Eliot cats



The Wall

Tigger- only kidding 😉

Uncle Deadly

Colin Meloy 



Zucchini (zukey) 


Fingies (short for fingers)




Cthulhu (short for Cthulhu Saves the World: Super Hyper Enhanced Championship Edition Alpha Diamond DX Plus Alpha FES HD – Premium Enhanced Game of the Year Collector’s Edition) 

Almond butter


Musk (short for Elon musk)

Elon (short for Elonian Armor from the game Guild Wars 2)


Ronald McDonald

Dick Turpin


Damn Cat

Cut that out!


Mr. Meow

La la la Linoleum


Also please note these clarifying questions: If this kitten has an honorific will it be Senator or The Honorable?

Answer: Senator


Question: Does the name need to be gender neutral?

Answer: Gender is a human construct

(not recounted here but there was also an extended pedantic discussion about if it’s not a person name how can it be gender based.)


Question: What about the name he was given by the foster family.

Answer in slightly pontificatory tone: Cats have more than one name. We can have that be his first name.


Question: Shall we tell everyone what we named the kitten?

Answer: Fuck No, Make them guess.


Anyway. Clam friends. Jim’s legacy lives.




Introducing Senator Anderson Lemon Zucchini Abrams Dowd

10 weeks old and weighing in at extremely adorable.


Zukey. For non resume purposes.

And easy to yell off the back porch.