Manchester-by-the-Free

In honor of the current hit film in the “Boston Working Class Ennui” genre going to its streaming service, Amazon just announced they are giving everyone in the eponymous town free Amazon Prime. That’s swell of them, eh?

Whatever. Also: fuck you Amazon.

You see, if you don’t know, the film is not about Manchester-by-the-Sea. MBTS or just “Manchester” as we used to call it before they changed their name as not to be confused with the working-class New Hampshire city of the same name. The film is about Gloucester. My town. It was shot in Gloucester, the vibe is Gloucester and all the issues depicted are straight-up Gloucester.

“I’m sorry sir but town ordinances plainly state lobster traps are only to be used as decorative coffee table bases and must be made of wood.”

in Manchester, our neighbor, you’re going to find less of the “picking fights with cops” sort of thing there and more of the, “people suing each other because someone’s gardener cut the branch of an historic apple tree that was leaning over into their yard”- type conflicts. It’s a wealthy town. Wealthy-as-balls, actually, 8th highest income in one of the richest states in the country.

But, you know, they get free Amazon Prime because of the name. Amazon- who are automating warehouses and killing local retail, is giving free shit to rich people who didn’t even ask for it.

That’s your late-stage capitalism, right there.

I’m not sure why this bothers me so much, but it fucking does. Here in Gloucester this week an abandoned fish pier collapsed into the harbor, which tells you everything you need to know about our core industry in the post-cod era. We’re burying a beloved veteran/cop who left behind four kids. We’re struggling to keep fire stations open, fund schools, care for the elderly and manage our opiate addiction problem. We do this with a lot of heart, tears, fighting, too much pride and never enough money.

But we do it. We do it all. We make it work.

We do it to make sure fewer people end up like the characters depicted in fucking Manchester-by-the-Sea, yet another film made so some studio can make yet another buck on the whole “Bawston” thing, with our constrained social hierarchy and our comical accents. What do you suppose, there are another 30 films in the can depicting a young, troubled, too-smart-for-his-own-good Bay State resident for whom the grip of his past is choking off his ability to live and love in the present? Maybe 40?

Why is it liberals are losing the working class again? I forget.

You know what, never mind. You can keep Prime, Amazon. And Casey Affleck’s SNL “vanilla nut tap” jokes and all that “Uncle Sullying” we locals do. Go give hot stone massages in the bistros to Man-BTSers or whatever the fuck you want to do. I’m glad for the jobs the film industry here provides, I’m thankful that unlike a lot of towns hit hard by the realities of the 21st century, we’ve got economic opportunities due to our proximity to Boston/Cambridge others don’t. I’m even glad for the town of Manchester-by-the-Sea which contains many fine people and provides tons of work for Gloucester contractors adding yoga rooms and wine cellars to houses built by puritans in the 17th century.

But once, for the love of “Gawd”, can you fuckers just go make a movie about Connecticut?

On Housing – thoughts from the Clam’s token politician on the eve of the Fuller vote

Affordable housing.

 

Those two words seem to scare, anger, and confuse most people. Dunno why, though. It’s something every community needs, and precious few have enough of it. Affordable housing also isn’t really so much a specific government program (because lord knows we’re living in an era where, ever since one of our Grand Old political parties picked up a prion disease and started to see their brain dissolve into pudding, convincing themselves that Governmenting Is Bad) as it is a development goal to make sure that communities can have people of all sorts living there. The people who eat in restaurants AND the people who work there. The supermarket shoppers AND the supermarket workers. The Gym members and the gym workers.

 

Everyone needs to live reasonably close to their jobs. The people who sell you your coffee, deliver your newspaper, mow your yard, and help you live your upper middle class lifestyle don’t come from another dimension through a wormhole each day, returning to their tenement universe at night. Nope. They live in your town. If they get priced out of living there they’ll leave. And then the businesses you depend on won’t have employees. There’s more people who need affordable housing, too. People juggling school and work. Single parents. People in entry-level jobs.

She doesn’t live in a pod. She lives in an apartment. And you tip her badly, you cheap bastard.

People in government, too. I don’t know about Gloucester, but do you have any idea what a veteran parking enforcement agent (meter maid) makes? In Salem, after nearly 20 years, ours make about $44k. That’s also what an entry-level firefighter makes here. Make it to Lieutenant? We pay you $67k.

 

A new police patrolman isn’t paid as badly – they make about $54k. But that still doesn’t go too far in a world where rents for a 3-bedroom apartment go for between $1500 (one single listing on Realtor.com when I searched Gloucester today) and $2500 per month.

 

Your friendly local GOP will tell you that affordable apartments are all set aside for “illegals” or “them”, or “welfare queens”.

Saint Ronald The Spender, after fighting the Welfare War

Affordable housing is for you. And a community that lacks it starts to die, from the inside out.

 

There’s a fiction out there that 30% of your gross income should be the guideline for what you pay in housing costs. So let’s look at that number, shall we?

 

Assume, for a moment, that you’re a firefighter that’s moved up a couple of grades. And you make $60k per year. Pretty good coin, right? So that means you should be able to afford $20k per year in rent or in mortgage+property taxes. That equals about $1660 per month in housing expenses.

You know, these guys? All the feels.

First of all, looking at that Gloucester market (and I don’t know what you pay your firefighters, but it’s not going to be a lot more than Salem – if at all), when I ran the listing tonight there was ONE apartment rental of 3 or more bedrooms at that price. One. Now I’m sure there’s apartments that are on the market by word of mouth, or on Craigslist, or other channels. I’m not pretending that a single web search untapped an entire real estate market for me.

 

But that’s pretty slim pickings, however you look at it. Now assume the taxes paid on that salary (around $15k or so), and you’re looking at, after everything, perhaps $25k per year for that firefighter. Out of that he’s going to have to pay for a car, food, gas, clothing, and a whole life. If he’s married and has a child, that’s going to help pay for childraising as well. Sure, his wife probably works too – and out of those combined salaries you now have (probably) 2 cars, childcare, and a zillion other increased costs.

 

And there are people out there looking at this financial statement and saying “I WISH I HAD IT THIS GOOD!!!”

 

Think about that.

 

Buying a house? That’s even tougher. For a personal example, my wife and I earned, between us, about $100k back in 1993. We bought a single-family house in Salem that spring for $185k.

 

One Hundred Eighty-Five. Thousand. Dollars.

And it looked like this. Really.

Today, it’s worth almost $600k on the open market. That’s a rough tripling in value. Did our salaries triple? Nope. Simply put, if we were in the market for a home today, we couldn’t easily buy our own home that we already have. Real estate prices have not followed the same inflationary curve that most consumer goods follow. If they did, our home would have a value around maybe $300k. High, but within reach. Instead, the $300k home needs a lot of work, may lack things like off-street parking, and is probably in a worse neighborhood. As crazy as rental prices are, home ownership is even tougher. Mortgages are relatively cheap nowadays, but a $320k mortgage will cost you (before taxes and, if you need it, PMI) about $1700 per month if you have amazing credit. Add your property taxes (mine are about $7200 per year – another $600 per month – so a home assessed for less might be half that, or $300 per month) and there’s $2000 per month or $24k per year to stay on the housing treadmill. Not including all the things you have to pay for when you’re a homeowner (repairs and the like).

 

It’s like a Red Queen scenario. You have to run faster and faster just to stay in the same place.

 

So part of the dilemma for Gloucester, Salem, and all sorts of other communities is how to serve these people. We need housing for our workforces. Only in a supply-side fever dream do we actually want a world where there’s a whole subservient underclass who can be shipped in and out of town daily.

Affordable housing, amirite?

Years ago, Massachusetts realized this. And they created the “40(b)” zoning law. To over-simplify horribly, it says this: communities should have at least 10% of their housing stock in the “affordable” category (and I won’t get into the exact way it’s measured – you can look it up). At last measurement, Salem was at about 14%, and Gloucester below 10%. What 40b does is give cities an incentive to place and approve projects with an affordable component – if that number is below 10%, a developer can buy a property, designate a certain portion of the project to be “affordable” by deed, and then bypass all sorts of local approvals and zoning restrictions that would otherwise apply.

 

In Salem, we’re above 10%. Our redevelopment is mostly concentrated around our old brownfields at this point, because we’ve filled just about all the rest of this city. And our boards have full powers over most of it.

 

You guys aren’t. The Fuller School is out there. So are a whole bunch of other open spaces in town. Just saying. Building market-rate housing will help affordability some, by increasing supply. But to really make a difference, you need to build the real deal. As a community, you can get serious about solving this yourselves, or you can try to raise up the bridges. But only one of Gloucester’s bridges is a drawbridge. The other one is fixed-span – and even though it’s under construction all the time, you can’t close it. So other people are likely to solve it for you. There’s money to be made in housing, after all.

The Real Bowling Green Massacre: Journalist and Salem City Councilor Josh Turiel Digs Up The Truth

Today, with the passing of time we thought we could finally get the full story of the infamous Bowling Green Massacre documented properly for the public, fresh off Kellyanne Conway’s assertion that the real media glossed over this tragic event. Well, your Gloucester Clam isn’t just any media source – we’re renegades out to get to the truth behind the Bowling Green Massacre. We contacted the principals and arranged interviews with as many of the people involved as possible. Most agreed to participate. The following is a transcript of the conversations we had.

 

Dustin Henderson, Endicott commuter student: “So me and Chad (Balazzo, also a student) came home after we got wings at the Dog [The Dogbar restaurant] and it was just total chaos.”

Chad: “Duuuuude.”

Dustin: “There were, like, 20 people in our apartment because fackin Tim (Kelly, their third roommate) had scored some really amazing bud. And he was having a party and he hadn’t even texted us to tell us. Not cool!”

 

Tim: “Dude, I figured they’d get back soon enough, it was great weed but I knew they really wanted to go out for wings.”

 

Dustin: “”So I went into my room because it was really too loud with all the people in the living room. I was watching TV and Aqua Teen was going to come on next, and it was one of the MC Pee Pants episodes, so I wanted to be ready for it. I grabbed the bowl and opened the ceramic turtle I keep on top of my dresser, and… NOTHING.”

Chad: “Duuuuuude.”

 

Dustin: “I totally had weed in there. Fuck.”

 

Cody (Peters, a “acquaintance” of Tim Kelly): “So I was wandering around the apartment and the door was open, right? I saw this badass ceramic turtle, and picked it up to give it a look – it had some of the weed in it! So since the bowl was being passed around the other side of the room and never got to me hardly, I rolled one out for my side. I mean, sure nobody was sitting there but me so I smoked it solo, but shit happens, right?”

 

Dustin: “That was really good bud from Kentucky, too, and they just massacred it. How the fuck am I gonna score more of that?

At this point in the evening, Mo (Mohammed) Nadar (American-born), a friend of Dustin’s from Montserrat College of Art arrived with the plan of picking up Dustin and going to the Rhumbline.

Mo: “I don’t know, the Rhumbline is so, like, authentic, you know? No airs and shit? Not like the way Cabot Street in Beverly has gotten all pretentious. So I figured they were keeping things real over the bridge and I’d grab Dustin because he, like, lives right down the street from the Rhumb. And he usually has a stash in that turtle of his.”

Dustin: “Mo’s a solid dude, but he never has his own weed. Says it’s a religious thing. I think he’s, like, Iraqian?”

By this time the lack of weed was coming to a head. Lacking any more to smoke, attention turned quickly to the raging munchies that the partygoers all had.

 

Aimee (Grant), a survivor: “I saw someone with some hummus.”

 

She had assumed that Mo’s vaguely Middle Eastern appearance meant he had brought food with him.

 

Tim: “Aimee looked at Dustin’s friend Mo and said “Guys, he’s got hummus – he’s like, totally Arab!”

 

With this pronouncement, several partygoers surged towards the entrance where Mo was. In the melee, an Xbox was trampled and killed.

Xbox (this was recorded from Dustin’s Xbox Live account): “SYSTEM FAULT”

Already in motion, when the crowd realized that there was no hummus:

Aimee: “So I was wrong, he didn’t have hummus. My bad?”

Someone made the decision to go down the street for more food. People were trampled along with the Xbox.

Savannah Lolapalooza, Rockport High senior: : “By then the dust was setltling. Dustin had a thousand yard stare and was clearly covered in some kind of orange powder, which we later realized was hot Fritos.”

artist’s reenactment

Kyle (Marsh): “So it was like, loud, but it could have just been a truck backing up? You know? Like one of those beepers they have when they back up. But like a really, really loud one. So you couldn’t even hear anything else. And my friend Kendon is like, ‘Dude, get out of the way’ and I’m like, ‘What?’ and he’s like, “That truck is backing up and you need to move,” so I like moved but it was not in, you know, like the right direction because the truck was going to like, curve when it backed up because there was this post it had to get around and Kendon is still like, “Dude, get OUT of the way,” but now I’m like listening to the beeping and the guy is yelling at me, but I don’t think he’s yelling in English. Maybe it’s, like Mexican or, I don’t know, maybe Korean or something. Anyway, I’m standing there…”

(at this point in the interview Mr. Marsh was distracted by a nip bottle on the ground and went to stare at it for the next half-hour)

Dustin: “So with all the food gone and no more green to be had, we said ‘fuck it’, got in the car, and went back up to Cape Ann Lanes to go bowling.”

Chad: “Dude kicked my ass. It was a massacre.”

We asked for comment from Frederick Douglass, but he’d died more than a century before.

Fresh Out of Constitutional Freedoms to Disregard, Trump Eyes Other Notable Lists

WASHINGTON, DC—On Sunday President Donald Trump signaled his desire to continue flouting the world’s lists, whether they be secular or sacred, hallowed or utterly trivial.

Installed in the White House for just over a week, the Trump administration has already managed to breach most of the Bill of Rights.

“With his executive order on immigration, the President finished laying waste to the First Amendment,” said White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer. “That’s not to say it was easy.”

According to Spicer, President Trump had planned on simply lumping “a bunch of terroristy countries” into his 90-day ban. However, the White House legal team noted that more explicit religious discrimination might be required to, as Spicer put it, “take a truly hot dump on the Establishment Clause.”

“So we decided to add that part about Syrian Christian refugees being cool,” said Jared Kushner, the President’s son-in-law and senior advisor.

Steve Bannon, Senior Counselor to the President, had begun the White House’s assault on the First Amendment earlier in the week. On Wednesday Bannon told a New York Times reporter that “the media should keep its mouth shut,” presumably after the newspaper had printed his words alongside the one photo that didn’t make him look like every town’s Peeping Tom.

[Not this photo, obviously]

“Tell you what,” said Bannon, who was appointed to the National Security Council on Saturday. “Compared to the First, the Eighth Amendment was a snap.”

“As a candidate, Trump was already on the record supporting torture,” Bannon explained. “He just needed to casually espouse the government’s use of cruel and unusual punishment while in office.”

Bannon was referring to Trump’s joint press conference with U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May on Friday, when he offered this word salad-cum-policy announcement: “I happen to feel that [torture] does work, I’ve been open about that for a long period of time, but I am going with our leaders and we are going to win with or without.”

According to Kushner, after signing the immigration order, President Trump found himself casting about for additional freedoms to trample.

“Dad got a little carried away,” Kushner said. “He was asking, ‘What’s #2 about again?’ At that point, Wayne popped in from his executive lounge in the Roosevelt Room.” Kushner seemed to be referring to Wayne LaPierre, President of the National Rifle Association.

Bannon elaborated: “Ol’ Wayne shouldered the Remington he was cleaning.”

“Scared the piss out of Pops for a second,” Kushner said. “But we all had a good laugh about it when he realized his mistake.”

It was at this point that Bannon suggested other noteworthy legal frameworks. “Nobody’s really paid attention to the Code of Hammurabi for millennia,” he said. “Seemed like low hanging fruit.”

“It’s not our style to go soft on the whole ‘eye for an eye’ thing,” Spicer said.

So, according to Bannon, President Trump instead opted to violate Hammurabi’s 127th Law, which governs the treatment of faithless wives. Both Bannon and Kushner declined to elaborate.

[Had the Babylonians been serious, they would have carved it into 24K gold]

“The Ten Commandments were next,” Kushner said. “But Dad got bored after ticking off the one about graven images.”

“Naturally, a nude bust of Vladimir,” said Spicer, rolling his eyes.

“If I recall, it was Ivanka who thought of the Buzzfeed lists,” Kushner said.

“Stroke of genius—the president hates those guys,” Bannon said, alluding to the website’s publication of unverified reports describing lewd acts in Russian hotels.

“We just started scrolling through odd-numbered lists,” Kushner said. “You probably saw Dad’s tweet repudiating ‘17 Photos That Prove Cats Are Just Adorable Assholes.’”

Spicer shook his head. “They’re even more misleading than the Park Service’s shots of the Inauguration.”

[Perhaps thinking the right to assemble had already been revoked]

Bannon described a break the group took to receive a phone call from Kim Jong-Un, the Supreme Leader of North Korea. “He wanted to congratulate President Trump on his progress,” said Bannon, adding that Chairman Kim jokingly described the rapid dismantling of American freedoms as “beginner’s luck.”

“He was particularly impressed by the detention of immigrants with valid Green Cards at U.S. airports,” said Bannon. “Apparently, it took Kim more than a month to suspend habeas corpus.”

Kim ended the call by exhorting President Trump to “pace himself.”

“Between the swift erosion of a great democracy and Dad’s even more outrageous hairdo, it’s understandable that Kim’s jealous,” said Kushner. “There’s a new guy in town.”

[President Trump exhibiting his complete indifference to America’s founding list]

What the Fuck do we Do Now?

Greetings, Clampatriots,

It’s 4am in a place I don’t understand. I assume you are as well. It’s raw here, and as someone who’s endured a fair share of tragedy in my life, the only thing I’m sure of at this point is this awful feeling won’t last. Humans are resilient as fuck, especially when pressed, and in the end all of us will scar over, readjust and move on.

So, right now, at our most raw and unguarded, let’s make good use of this.

We’re in undiscovered country. I honestly believe even Trump didn’t know this would happen. In some weird way, he’s stuck here with the rest of us, like some crazy Stockholm situation where the hostage takers and the hostages find common ground in their insane shared reality.

What matters, the only thing that matters from this point on, is character.

Ask yourself: Are you a good person? Am I? Honestly, I can say, “Not as good as I want to be.” And, more to the point, “Not as good as I’m going to need to be.” I’m going to have to get better. So are we all. Times like these are going to call on us all to sacrifice, to put aside pettiness and quick-hit satisfaction. It’s going to be a long four years. And even beyond, who knows? Certainly the damage will linger for generations, the election alone was destructive enough.

Here’s what I know we’re going to need to do:

  1. Defend democracy Part of that will be accepting this outcome. People voted. This is what they wanted. It’s a democracy. If we ever want this undone, we need to accept it was a fair result.
  2. Protect the vulnerable If you’re like me you probably assumed the progress of time meant incrementally more rights and protections for everyone. Nope- there are leaps backward. We’re going to need to circle around those whom this decision directly threatens.
  3. Build bridges And in some cases, re-build. There is no room for grudges, accusations or recriminations. Bubbles need to go. Again, what matter is character, not team. Good people of any persuasion are not going to let folks get hurt unless they themselves feel threatened. Find those good people. Remind them they are good.
  4. Old guard, step aside The system is not working, it has catastrophically failed. Time to start handing stuff over to the next generation.
  5. Hold accountable From here on, everyone is on notice. The question from 11/9/2016 going forward will be: Which direction did you take? Those that choose the wrong path will bear that mark for the rest of their lives.

Will you indulge me in one favor before we get out there and try and put this thing back together?

From here on out I believe we have to be careful about what we put in our brains. I feel like we’ve been feeding ourselves on a steady diet of anti-heroes, “gritty re-boots” and dark takes for years now, from The Sopranos to The Wire, to Breaking Bad to increasingly bleak Batman movies taking place in a universe where it’s apparently always nighttime and raining. We don’t need that shit anymore- start feeding yourself some optimism. Watch some Star Trek, some LOTR, read some Dickens. Re-read the Harry Potter series. Start retraining your consciousness that the good guys win after they’ve been tested. That’s the script you’re going to be reading from for the next few years.  Get a handle on it.

samfrodojpg-7c5542_1280w

“It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end… because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing… this shadow. Even darkness must pass.”

We’re all Hobbits now, motherfuckers.