Market Basket’s Back: How The Little Guy Won For Goddamn Once In America

After a tough couple weeks for Market Basket’s loyal customer base and employees who were on the brink of permanent unemployment, news broke late Wednesday night that the “deal” had been done – Arthur T Demoulas’s offer to buy the 51% of Market Basket owned by his cousin, Arthur S Demoulas, and family, was accepted.

There was an immediate outpouring of gratitude and elation, followed by feverishly written grocery lists. At home, the Clam family is out of peanut butter, cereal, flour, pasta, rice, chocolate syrup, all kinds of cheese, frozen veggie burgers, and pretty much all meat products except hot dogs. This last week was like when you’re 85% through the Oregon Trail and rations are meager as all fuck and you’re just going hunting every damn day for what you need to make sure your kids don’t starve. Alkali water? Lost the trail? Goddamnit, MECC, you cruel overlords.


If you’re following along at home, this is actually a pretty incredible story that happened locally, but impacts globally.  Here’s why:

1. First off, the little guy won. This doesn’t happen in modern day America, aside from rare instances. Employees without the protection of a union were able to successfully picket for what they wanted – not even a negotiable end goal like salary or benefits, but a concrete thing – reinstate Artie T as CEO. That’s it. Nothing less. While it started slowly, locally, the Market Basket story eventually grabbed nationwide media attention. Our local discount grocery with the never-fashionable floor tiling and the kids with the ties on was all of a sudden A Big Thing.

2. The employees had the backing of almost every single customer. Boycotts aren’t often incredibly successful - in this study, 53 out of 144 publicly-owned firms conceded to boycotter’s demands. That’s a 37% rate. While I couldn’t find the data, I have a hard time believing that any of those 53 cases had the groundswell of bipartisan support that Market Basket’s did. And again, that’s publicly owned firms that ostensibly are very concerned about their public image. Market Basket’s privately held board and double-dose of egregiously godawful CEOS Gooch and Thornton, at first glance, seemed relatively unconcerned about their public image, what with the whole “we will fire whoever doesn’t come to work” thing. This was a mistake. Oh my fuck, was this ever a mistake.

3. The protests were epic. The inmates ran the asylum, for lack of a better colloquialism. At every store, there were huge banners of Artie T’s face, receipts taped EVERYWHERE from other grocery stores, and dozens of protesters outside every entrance. Boycotts happen, but has there ever been a boycott where the upper management was unable to keep their stores from being completely overrun by protest signs? Picket line’s usually not INSIDE THE STORE.

Picture courtesy of the Concord Monitor

Picture courtesy of the Concord Monitor


4. The family background behind the protest, as I have stated before in a thing that kinda went a little viral, is FUCKING CRAZY. The family is straight-up nuts and the fighting was a decades-long sawdust soap opera. Plus strippers and disbarred lawyers. People want a crazy drama background, and holy hell has the Demoulas family ever delivered.

Of course, *record scratch* the fairytale ending isn’t set in stone. Arthur T Demoulas bought the company and operations are returning to normal very quickly, but the devil is in the details of how Market Basket will be paid for. The purchase price was somewhere near $1.5 B.  ONE AND A HALF BILLION DOLLARS. DANG. Artie T and family put up $500m, leaving $1b to be financed – most likely through mortgaging properties. This is going to hurt profits – Market Basket’s key to low prices and relatively good employee benefits was their ability to be almost terrifyingly profitable – they carried so little debt. This is no longer the case. While some of their capital will be saved by not distributing willy-nilly to shareholders on Arthur S’s side like in the past, that’s still not a gigantic chunk of the difference.

In all honesty, though, it may not be perfect, but this ending was the best-case scenario by far. The other options were:

- The stores closing altogether. This would first of all “suck balls” as the kids say, but secondly have a terribly negative impact on our economy – thousands of laid-off workers, plus the ever-expanding lower and middle class that relies on cheap, fresh food to maximize their budget. I don’t want to imagine a world without the Basket, do you?

-Employees giving up and the Arthur S side and its “management” team maximizing profits at the expense of employees and customers alike. The further erosion of worker pay and benefits ticks along and we as a society get used to it. Pete Seeger rolls over in his grave.

It’ll be interesting to see how the whole thing turns out – but the Clam has high hopes for Market Basket in the future. For now, I need a gallon of sour cream and seven pounds of steak to make up for lost time.



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JAWS got rained out and all I got was this lousy T-shirt!

Tonight was the finale of the wonderful movie series we’ve had down at the Harborwalk, and I left my husband at Midori with my kids and a bill for 2 Mai Tais and some spicy tuna rolls to go see JAWS. I have never seen Jaws. Clampadres, I was born in 1983, which probably explains a hell of a lot about my worldview (you know what’s awesome? Weezer. Weezer is awesome. Also, Cabbage Patch Kids. And Pete and Pete). My parents were like “blah blah violent movies probably bad for young kids,” therefore, I have never actually seen JAWS.

Looks totally legit and not fake in any way.

Looks totally legit and not fake in any way.

I was excited. I was a little concerned with the amount of small children present who were about to be horrified for life, but I was excited. As the movie started, I realized THE MOVIE IS RATED PG ARE YOU EVEN SERIOUS. You know what else is rated PG?

  • Frozen.
  • Muppets’ Most Wanted
  • Planes: Fire & Rescue
  • Tangled
  • The Incredibles
  • How to Train Your Dragon

You know, movies you bring your four year old to. Movies with Happy Meal Tie-Ins. Just normal every day kids’ movies. The 70’s were a weird time. Not that I’d know. I usually rely on Ol’ Man James Dowd to regale me with his tales of KC and the Sunshine Band and smoking in elementary schools and whatever else happened in the 70s, because again I was born in 198 fuckin’ 3.

So anyway, some girl gets eaten, a kid gets eaten, there’s an asshole mayor in pinstripes, and it’s all Chief Brody and his terrifying baby that’s totally 10 years older than I am now.



Fun times! And then… it starts to rain. And I’m like well, that’s some bullshit, but I am watching this movie. I crack up at Brody smoking a goddamn cigarette in the ER (is he on the Hard Merchandise? WE NEED THIS FISH!)

But by the time Quinn and Brody and NOAA dude are in the boat, it is POURING BUCKETS. I’m down to stay. Brooke is down to stay. We’re in this, motherfuckers. I hid under my chair. Can’t get me, rain!

And then they finally cut the movie, right as the fucking shark is surfacing right in Roy Scheider’s adorably chiseled fucking face. OH MY GOD.

shoulda bought a chum cutter, bro.

shoulda bought a chum cutter, bro.

But you know, part of my life is lugging sound and PA gear around, and that shit is not happy in rainy conditions or if you drop it on the escalator at the Museum of Science, so I understand and applaud their decision to cut it when they did. I’m super happy with how the movies went, wish I could’ve seen more, and can only hope it happens again next year. Thanks to all the wonderful people like Matt Coogan and Rob Newton and the dozens of others who made this happen. Seriously, you people rule!

Anyway, for those of us who haven’t seen JAWS before, this leaves us hanging! HOW DOES IT END? WHAT HAPPENS? OH MY GOD SAVE US CAPTAIN PLANET!

I came up with a few hypotheses for how the movie ends. I’m not sure, because again, I’ve never seen it, but these scenarios seem the most likely:

1. In an amazing plot twist, it turns out it’s been Brody killing people the whole time. Quint and the Shark team up to stop him.

2. The shark is Quint’s father, who knew of no other way to get Quint’s attention than a killing streak. The film ends in a tearful embrace between the two.

3. Brody is already dead. Everything that’s happened since his drowning as a child has been this dream on the stretcher as they tried to revive him.

4. The shark is captured but it turns out it wanted to be caught so it could destroy the aquarium and kill its director, who had betrayed him when they worked together during the war.

5. The Shark is Russia.

Am I close? I’m probably pretty close. Whatever, I guess I’ll never know. UNTIL NEXT YEAR!









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We’re seeing a lot of these comparisons between what you had to do to get kids ready for school in the ’70s compared to what parents have to do today floating around ye ole Intertubes. Lest anyone get the idea that The Clam is written exclusively by with-it young hipsters, it behooves us to mention this particular Clameditor was alive during the ’70s. We actually attended elementary school in a few of the ’70s. Yeah, it was a simpler time, but so were the Dark Ages.

’70s and ’80s nostalgia always rubs us the wrong way. It’s always heavy-up on VW Beetles and flower decals, but forgets the much, much darker shit going down back then. I know the world seems crazy now, but trust me. Check out the Wikipeda page for any year in that decade and you’ll be faced with horror after horror. Here, for larfs just read the entry for 1972. Actually, just skip to May.

Way less this

The 70s were way less this

Way more this

and way more this

As is the Way of The Clam, we hereby offer our list of the top seven things from the ’70s we are NOT sending our kids off to school with.

1. Lead I’m sending my kids off to school with new notebooks, sneakers and pencils but greatly reduced blood lead levels from those we had in the ’70s. You wacky funsters today harsh on Fluoride and GMOs with a bunch of unsubstantiated arguments as to the long-term effects of each. When we were  kids, we stuck to the classics: Lead has been shown many, many times to cause permanent cognitive damage to kids and it’s been a known toxin for centuries. Yet it wasn’t banned in interior house paint until 1978 and was in everything from gasoline to solders to vinyl and water systems. Lord only knows how it’s going to affect us later in life.

2. Real social strife We’re as concerned here at The Clam about the militarization of police and the crazy-ass stuff going on in Ferguson as anybody. But when we were kids, this kind of shit happened all the time. Kent State, where National Guard troops opened fire on protesters with real bullets killing 4 and wounding 9 happened in the ’70s. 11 days later the police did the same thing at Jackson State killing two more. Here in Boston we had the busing riots. Just take a look at this bullshit going on less than 30 miles from here and try and convince us the ’70s were a better time:

Boston, the '70s

Boston, the ’70s

3. Carpet Bombing Another thing we won’t be packing alongside tree-nut free snacks and tahini sandwiches is the knowledge of our country straight-up indiscriminately bombing the crap out of a foreign land. Yes, the “drone war” gets a lot of attention for killing around 2,500 people in five years, many of them civilians. But the year we ourselves were scampering off to kindergarden in our Toughskins and Buster Browns, the US was dropping literally tons of bombs on the city of Hanoi, the capitol of North Vietnam. In the spate of less than two weeks we’d killed 1,600 civilians. The whole Vietnam War, which wrapped-up in 1975 killed about 4 million people. I know we’re still fighting wars all over the place, but it does seem like the overall body count is going down from the era of “peace and love” which is a good thing.

4. Terrible, Terrible Music Our favorite quote about pop culture of this era is “People of the Seventies thought they were living in a golden age of music. They weren’t. It turns out they were living in a golden age of film.” Yeah, there was some great stuff, but most of it was crap. And most of the great stuff; like the Ramones, the Clash, the Velvet Underground and the rest of the nacent punk movement came in direct response to the rotting possum carcass sausage that was being cranked out of the music industry. Tired of the Frozen soundtrack? How about “Billy Don’t be a Hero”? Or “Seasons in the Sun”? I could go on and on, but I’m happy to sing any Taylor Swift number driving the minivan over the horror that is this:

Update: We read this post to our wife and she kicked us in the nuts. “What about Led Zeppelin? Queen? KC and the Sunshine Band? Joni Mitchell? Marvin Gaye? Neil Young? Fleetwood Mac, Simon and Garfunkel, Bruce Springsteen, pre freaky-Michael Jackson 5?” Ok, ok there was great music. But Captain and Tennille unironcially dedicated to Henry Kissinger is what I’m saying and please stop kicking because pain.

5. Rote memorization One thing that singes our stones is people getting all bent out of shape around “all the technology the kids have to have nowadays…” You know why? BECAUSE WE ARE LIVING ON THE CUSP OF A TECHNOLOGICAL SINGULARITY, THAT’S WHY. In fifth grade we memorized facts and learned simple equations. We took quizzes and tests. They might as well have taught us to sew the oilskin fabric coverings of zeppelins for all the good that will do you today. Within our kids’ lifetimes’ products will be produced by nanoscale replicators and it’s very likely computers will be able to mimic most of the functions of the human mind. So, what’s the complaint about them needing a multi-function calculator along with the colored pencils? Think about the change you’ve seen in just the past ten years and then multiply that by an order of magnitude, then you understand the world our schools are trying to get these kids ready for. We are Amish compared to what they’re going to be seeing.

6. Unsafe everything I know parents today get a lot of grief from older folks for making kids ride scooters in helmets and wear seatbelts and not breathe the secondhand smoke on an eight hour car trip to Maine, but I’m not sure why we hate so hard on reasonable safety precautions. The oft heard “we somehow survived” meme is a weird construct. It goes: “We didn’t have all that safety stuff these kids do today and we survived, right?” Um…anyone else see the problem with that statement? There is a logical fallacy big enough to swallow a Ford Country Squire.

The front seat and the rear compartment had different climates

The front seat and the rear compartment were so far apart they had separate climates

Who the fuck does that statement address, both the living AND the dead? Is this a seance? It’s like saying, “Anyone who lost both upper limbs in a wood-chipper accident please raise your hands. Okay, I don’t see any hands so wood-chippers must be safe!” Talk about your sampling error. Those invoking the “we survived” proof are only able to do so because they are THEMSELVES obviously survivors, correct? There is no way the kids of the 70’s who DIDN’T survive can be represented in this affirmation, right? People who say this: were your parents using the lead paint chips as a salad topping? For fuck’s sake.

Ok, so let’s try this again: “When we were kids we didn’t have all that safety stuff, but we survived, didn’t we? I mean all of us except, for instance, the additional 50% of kids who died as the result of injuries sustained in car crashes because no one wore seat belts and are now buried in the cold, cold ground.” There. That’s better.

Not banned till 1988

Not banned till 1988

7. Alienation I don’t know about other kids of the 70s and 80s, but a lot of us were just left. We were free to roam around and learned a ton about how to get tetanus from old razor wire and which barrels of creosote down at the old factory were best for dipping your head into on a dare, but I dunno… Along with the freedom, which was great, there was a distance, a gulf between the kids and the adults beyond just years and roles.

At holidays we had kids’ tables. We were expected to go downstairs and play ping pong or watch TV while the adults upstairs drank and smoked. There was our music and their music. Until Star Wars there were our movies and their movies. That’s not how it is today. My kids and I play with Legos together, we listen to music together, we read some of the same books, play the same videogames and watch some of the same films. I’m not another kid to them, I’m a real-live authority figure who will turn off the wireless network if the dishes are not done in a heartbeat, thank you very much. But at the same time I won’t feel when I send my kids off next week that these are small strangers who also happen to live in my house.

For those of you who missed it, and I’m glad you did, life in the ’70’s was lonely for a lot of people. Outsiders, victims of abuse, gay folks, anybody different, really, did not find that decade or even much of the next a comfortable place. The communal sensibility of the ’60s had given way to atomized individualism, where you could be “yourself” as long as that fit into a narrow set of descriptors. We still have glaring issues around acceptance, but society  and most importantly kids today are significantly more tolerant than the supposedly “anything goes” ’70s.  As a grateful resident of the 21st century, I’m hoping empathy is something my own kids will carry to school next week, along with the new ergonomically-designed backpacks Grandma sent.

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Gloucester’s Next Reality Shows

With the smashing success of Wicked Tuna on National Geographic and its new spinoff Wicked Tuna: North vs South (which I guess I’ll have to recap… fantastic), we here at the Gloucester Clam realized that many millions of people will apparently watch hours upon hours of people mostly failing to catch fish.

We thought to ourselves, “Gloucester isn’t done cashing in on this trend. It’s been fifteen years of reality shows, and people aren’t tired of it yet. We can bang out a good dozen more reality series in this town alone.”

These were our clearly Emmy-worthy ideas.

1. Laundry Stars (on the brand new Laundry Network coming January ’15). A plucky East Gloucester laundromat owner faces the struggles of organic detergent clogging up the machines, sand and forgotten pocket chum in the dryers, and the constant smell of smugness emanating from somewhere they can’t quite find.

2. Storm Drain Heroes (Science Channel). Just like its predecessors, Storage Wars and Storage Wars: Sewer Edition, Storm Drain Heroes focuses on teams of bidders desperate to find that one lucky storm drain containing the historical maritime relics that will get them the cash to continue buying other storm drains. A true American underdog story, it will also contain hijinks like “Team Deborah finds a family of putrid, decaying raccoons” and “Team Bob Bought 5 cubic tons of dead leaves for $500 and he needs to pay for his daughter’s wedding!”ie

The cold hard cash is so close I can feel it!

The cold hard cash is so close I can feel it!

3. Lobsteriest  Catch on National Geographic. This is pretty much just giving Joey C a show in which he can yell, which we are totally down with for reasons that include “pure awesome”. There will probably be high drama, some epic moments between boats fighting over lobster territory, random cutaways to butterflies and rainbows, and the entire thing will be underwritten by the butter industry.

This was a total stretch, I just wanted to throw a Simpsons reference in somewhere.

This was a total stretch, but I just wanted to throw a Simpsons reference in somewhere.

4. Scrap Metal Men on the Military Channel. Cameras follow Gloucester’s elite team of scrap metal collectors in their 1987 Ford Rangers on their rounds during trash night, picking up stray bicycles that probably still belonged to somebody’s kid, fishing perfectly good beer cans out of the recycling, and ending up at North Shore Scrap Steel with their day’s catch. Each season will have a leaderboard, and the winner (if not predeceased in a terrible tetanus tragedy) will get bragging rights over the rest of the fleet. Kind of like the other show, but MORE METAL.

Exactly. Like. This.

Exactly. Like. This.

5. Seagull Dynasty on Animal Planet. A ragtag “family” of unemployed men living out of campers invents a seagull-calling device to ensure dinner. Slightly less racist and homophobic than Duck Dynasty, but with all the folksy mannerisms and dependence on propane. The show lasts only one year after the creators realize no one actually has a need to call seagulls, and the company is sold for a pony keg of Natty Light.

6. Ed’s Mini Mart Ninja Warrior: A tournament where shoeless folks staggering like zombies, people pushing baby carriages with no babies in them, and rat-tailed men with open shirts picking half-smoked cigarettes off the ground compete in the most basic of physical feats to prove to the staff that they’re totally sober enough to buy $4 of Rubinoff vodka.

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…Because Gloucester.

A few years ago, I started saying “…because Gloucester.” to explain to my out of town friends the intricacies and straight-out crazy that took place here.

What I didn’t expect was that it would catch on with the locals.

Fellow Clamtributor Jeremy McKeen took it further: “At the Clam’s first annual gathering at Easter Point Lit house on August 2nd, ‘…because Gloucester.’ became a real-life call to arms on Facebook. The “...because Gloucester.”group has grown to 300 members since, and awaits your lifetime membership on the Facebook. As all things pure and good go, this group will probably jump the shark and become a corporate campaign to move powerful Hollywood types to our weird little fishtown soon enough, but until then, keep posting! Oh, and hashtags are now officially ironic, so we don’t even use them at all. That’s how cool we are. Oh, wait, being cool is in? We’re no longer cool then. We’re something else. Because the Clam. The following are, in our snarky opinion, the “best” of what collectively we write with sentiment, nostalgia, affection, and giant personal offense to local situations and repeated patterns of townie shenanigans and characteristics of our unique ocean hamlet. After each post, listen carefully for a voice saying ‘Because Gloucester.’ in your ear:”


-  A woman hitchhiking in a pink bikini and towel in front of Sullivan Tire.

-  Your neighbor, who you are cat sitting for, leaves his house unlocked for 2 weeks without worry.

- You’re out for a walk with your husband and spot a perfectly good sofa on the side of the road. You take a quick photo and post it to facebook. Your great friend asks where it is exactly because it is starting to rain. He would like said sofa but is worried that it might be yucky because it is getting wet…. Later friend has a new sofa… the free giver covered it with a tarp.

- An Irish guy from Cambridge and his Jewish/German/Irish wife move into a downtown neighborhood dominated by the purest of Gloucester Sicilian families. Recipe for isolation. Then, a funny thing. Knitted sweaters and hats for the babies. Garden vegetables across the back fence. Shared lawnmowers and weed-wackers. Portuguese sweet bread on feast days left on the steps, no questions asked.

- July 4th in Lanesville – it’s pouring rain and we heard a loud noise outside getting closer, so we run to the corner to see 30+ people in the pouring rain playing homemade instruments and noisemakers, drinks in hand, all in bathing suits, throwing candy, and being lead by a guy smoking a cigarette and driving a tractor slowly down the street.

- You put out the old, ripped up and dog stained couch on the sidewalk the night before trash day. Some assweasel steals your bulk item sticker. No matter because an hour later the couch is gone.

- Someone reports your bees to animal control and the officer comes by to see them and says “I love that you have bees.” The bees then swarm repeatedly while you are on vacation but the harbormaster, who is also a bee keeper, comes and takes them to a new home.

- Old dude shows up at your door asking for your wife. She’s at the quarry swimming with the kids. Well, he’s got way too many raspberries and wants to know if she wants to come pick them. He lives roughly 4 or so blocks away. Before he leaves he gives detailed instructions on how to properly freeze them. There are that many raspberries. Because Gloucester.

- A shiny SUV with Florida plates pulls up next to me during an afternoon jaunt. From the passenger window, a well accessorized woman asks with a southern drawl “excuse me mam, can you tell me how to get to the crows nest?”

- When walking downtown you have a constant fear a seagull could use you for target practice.

- Your kids hold a “toy sale” in front of the house and a middle-aged guy drives by, leaning out his car window, barking at them.

- When you loose the hot dog you just bought at the concession stand at GHB to the Sea Gull that just swooped down and flew off with it.

- 2 PM. Driving up Mt. Pleasant Ave. past the cemetery, you see a tawny dog trotting casually down the other side of the street with no owner, no leash, a happy smile on its face. You realize a minute too late that it’s no dog but a coyote, turn back to take a picture. Fat chance. It’s way gone.

- Top five things tourists ask for 1. Bathrooms 2. Lobsters 3. Lobster rolls 4. Lobster ties 5. Captain hats

- When you sit down to eat your ice cream at Long Beach Dairy and realize the guy 2 chairs down is Adam Sandler and his kids.

- After finding a spot in the now-full Railroad Ave Shaws lot you hear a tin whistle. You turn to see that the man playing it is also carrying a ukulele.

- Throwing your trash out on a Sunday morning you find in your shared alley space a collection of items but not limited to : a 1/2 drank can of Budwiser, a bag of ceiling tiles, a brooks brothers button down shirt (that seems to be stained with koolaid) a bag with a scratch pad and #2 pencils and a bottle of Jim Beam.

- Bathtub drain clogged with sand and a cooked hermit crab found in the dryer, because summer in Gloucester.

- Neighbor calls because someone called her to say they saw your kid riding his bike in the middle of East Main Street. Lesson learned, even when moms not watching, someone is.

- Over heard out my window on East Main,”Is this Gloucester?” Because Gloucester.

- You won’t go into your garage after dark because you refuse to cross paths with the rats that come up from the marsh.

- You watch a woman whom you’d guess to be in her early 80s, very spry and dressed to the nines (heels and pearls included), park her saab convertible and walk into the Crow’s Nest.

- You see a guy walking barefoot down an east Gloucester sidewalk in (one assumes) nothing but a bright red towel at 5:30 in the morning. An hour later he’s still going. Made it all the way to the building center.

- A while ago we were pulling onto Eastern Avenue in our family car when an elderly man waved me down and crossed the street to get into my car, thinking I was one of his relatives. We talked a bit, him thinking I was an old local kid or somebody’s nephew, and even though I wasn’t the one he was waiting for, I drove him to Shaw’s like he gets driven every day, I’m assuming.

- A group of teenagers are drinking on the curb on your street on a weekday afternoon. One of them has their entire face painted like the Italian Flag. And it’s not even Fiesta.

- Giant jacked up 4 door pickup truck stopped on main street. Passenger side wheels 2 feet onto the sidewalk, driver side wheels straddling the crosswalk in the street. Undercarriage completely hovering over the handicapped ramp to the xwalk.

- Because living in Gloucester for 24 years taught me how to use the “F” word 26 different ways in polite company.

- If anyone can draw three sea gulls fighting over a loaf of garlic bread, that just happened on my street.

- Shell-shock! That jump you do in your car when a gull drops his clamshell lunch remainder on the hood of your car from high in the sky!

- A police officer knocks on my grandmothers door one afternoon and says he’s gotten several reports of an intoxicated man stuck in a tree so he asks her if there’s been anyone intoxicated in the neighborhood that day to which she replies “there is someone intoxicated up here everyday officer.”

- A couple of guys are tanning their bellies in front of the St Peter’s Club at noon on a Wednesday.

Awesome, right? Jeremy’s been hard at work on the ”…because Gloucester.” facebook page. Share your stories. They’re probably pretty fuckin’ weird.

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No Snark Sunday: Master Builder and Commander

Over a thousand people attended the screening of The Lego Movie at I4C2 on Wednesday.

One. Thousand. Plus.

What does that tell you about what the people of Gloucester want, considering everyone there could stream the movie at home online for five bucks and not face the very real risk of being crapped on by seagulls? It tells me that people long for shared experiences in an age when you can get anything you want through a handheld screen. It also tells me that the folks who put on the outdoor film series are awesome. Well done, peeps.

The official Clam Huzzah Goat Scream to you:

The experience reminded me of going to see movies at the Drive-In in W. Gloucester when I was a kid. I remember once on the screen we were facing was Jaws 2 but if you turned around and looked out the back of the car one could see Animal House. We young-uns were instructed that under no circumstances were we to turn around lest we get in big trouble for seeing the horror that are boobs. We were ordered to look straight ahead at images much more appropriate for us pre-tweens: beachgoers being dismembered by a giant shark.

Remember when it ate the helicopter?

Remember when it ate the helicopter?

But the Lego Movie is terrific, we’ve come a long way since 1978 (now the sharks have lasers!). For those of you reading this via teletype from the darkened halls within a rotting mansion deep in the Catskills  (lets be honest, The Clam has some weird fans) for a hundred minute-long commercial for toys, this “kids’ movie” has a message far more relevant to modern society than any film I’ve seen short of Spike Jonze’ Her. It lays bare the differences between consumers and creators in the 21st Century with humor and charm (and lasersharks, see above).

In the Lego movie the main character Emmet is a regular-Joe construction guy whose life revolves around following the instructions provided to him by the corporate government. He likes the popular music, dumb TV shows and pays 37 dollars a cup for coffee. In a Matrix-like plot twist, he finds himself at the head of a dwindling band of “Master Builders” who make things the they want without the constraints of rules or plans.

Sound familiar? It’s the plight of following the herd or breaking free. It’s the story of every creative person, ever. Additionally it features Batman in his first comedic role.

Also features 80's space guy, my favorite

Also features 80’s space guy, my favorite

Ok, so great. Fun movie, a lot of people came, goat scream, Batman, all that. I think this was the third time I’d seen it, maybe the fourth. But somehow taking it in next to the harbor on an inflatable screen with 999 of my neighbors on a lot that we, have been unable to figure out what to do with since before Steven Spielberg first went fishing using Richard Dreyfuss as bait, seemed strangely meaningful.

Later in the week I went to see the O’Maley Musical Theatre Summer Camp show, and I saw more of what I was starting to get a ‘cosmic page’ about. The production used old props that have been lovingly kept (Russ!) and stored for future use, costumes were repurposed from previous productions (kudos to Linda Stockman!) , the set (also built by Russ!) has been everything from a castle to a candy factory to a New York City street. Repurposed, rebuilt, switched around. It’s like a huge Lego set. Once you’re there long enough you start to see the pieces being re-used in new and clever ways. “Wasn’t that a boat two shows ago?”

Then I started thinking about all the house tours I’ve ever attended in Gloucester. I’ve even started doing it myself, when people come over you take them down to the basement and talk about the parts of your house built from other things: “This part of the structure was a fish shack that they drug up the hill once they built the freezers. You can see the floor joists are the spar from a sailing ship, a partially-burned timber from when the HMS Falcon shelled the town in 1775 and the vestigial femur of an extinct Ichthyosaurus…”

See, this guy has one holding up his wall

See, this guy has one holding up his wall

It hit me. Like a diamond brick: Gloucester is made of Legos! Everything (all the cool stuff, anyway); buildings, cars, schools, everything is repurposed, repaired and re-used. Dare I say, that Gloucester is a city of Master Builders. New is frowned on, old is better. Maybe it comes from fishing boats having to be custom-built and repaired at sea or maybe it’s because we’re on the end of the world out here and parts are hard to come by or maybe we’re just sort of wacky, but out here: Repairs are cool and bragging rights go to those who make new stuff out of old.

No, hon, I have not seen your headphones.

No, hon, I have not seen your headphones.

This is why creative people have flocked here for so long. Yeah, sure, they tell you there is “great light” but I never believed photons came in grades. Cheap liquor and an “anything goes” vibe seemed to be more likely culprits. Now, in reality, I think a lot of it has to do with the ‘Master Builder’ mindset. Not just with physical objects, but groups of people forming and reforming into new combinations, the same buildings and pieces of land with different roles and purposes. When your prime mindset is, “Hey we can take this and turn it into that,” rather than, “Tear down that weird, old stuff and build normal, new stuff!” you’re going to attract people who like taking stuff apart.

Not those who want to ditch the old for the new, but those who want to provide legacy with new life.

As an aside that is maybe related, I’ve always thought Gloucester would be a great place to sit out a zombie apocalypse. Partially because it’s easy to seal it off from the mainland, but mostly because folks here would be quick to turn power-washers into flamethrowers and bulldozers into rescue-tanks. Also a lot of us have been planning on one since we turned around in the station wagon to see Dawn of the Dead on the West screen when we should have been watching Superman on the East one.

Google "Superman Zombie" and the Internet willingly oblidges

Google “Superman Zombie” and the Internet willingly oblidges

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Gloucester’s Bermuda Triangle of Sketch

I was away camping earlier this week when I got mad texts from my boy Jimmy D.  “Rumor is they found a freakin’ BODY behind McDonalds, dude” he didn’t actually say because usually he speaks like a real adult, but that was kind of how it went. And it ended up being true. I’m sure we all heaved a sigh of relief when there was no foul play apparent, but it’s still a sad day for the city. All lives have value, and Charles Ilges obviously had problems he couldn’t or didn’t get help for.

I was relatively unsurprised at this turn of events, though. I know this area well. Let’s hearken back to ye olden days of 2012 when my daily employment was centered at 50 Maplewood, known colloquially as “the sketchiest parking lot in all of Gloucester.” It honestly wasn’t that bad 99% of the time, despite its reputation. The guy running the Maplewood Carwash is legit one of the nicest, most hardworking folks I’ve ever met. Seriously, go there. His workers are great, and he has worked miracles with my filthy cars for cheap, and he spends a lot of time making sure his carwash is clean. The 7/11 is bright and immaculate inside and also staffed with locals who care. The new McDonalds is pretty decent looking as well, for a fast food joint that sells double cheeseburgers for a dollar.

But while the front parking lot of 5-0 Maplewoodz had its occasional quaint daytime drug deals (so bad that they actually aim a Homeland Security camera at the parking lot), indiscriminate screaming, white people with racist tattoos, and teenagers and adults alike leaving trash everywhere, it’s really what lurks behind that area that’s the most sketch. As of today, the city has contacted the owner to clean it up. But until that actually takes place, this is what we’re dealing with.


The Triangle of Awful

The Triangle of Awful

The above Infographic (by which I mean a google maps screenshot that I then put numbers on in MS Paint) serves to show what a shithole area the Maplewood/MBTA area is.

1. Abandoned Boats For Whatever Reason: Whose boats are these? Apparently there have been people squatting in them, as we all found out. Had no one really noticed or put up a fuss before the events of this week? It’s been like this for freakin’ years. The satellite image shows nine boats and some other large thing. It’s like the sea receded and left a bunch of crap there. We live in a city of fisherman where everyone is up in each othe’s business, you mean to tell me no one knows whose boats those are? No one recognizes any of them? What is this, the boat mob?

2. Tons of cars from the guy running the welding/body work thing back there. Look, he’s a nice enough guy, except that a few of his hangers-on love to speed through the parking lot like this was Dukes of Juggalo Hazzard, barely missing pedestrians. The multiple cars with missing wheels don’t exactly make the place look better. Last I checked, there was a broken-down RV with smashed windows back there someone was legit using as an office.

3. Squatting Homeless Folks.  The upstairs at 50 Maplewood is kind of a mess, and that adds to the problem. Some of the people living there are freeloading on the backs of freinds/family who have legit vouchers to live there though the Gloucester Housing Authority – 4-5 in a tiny studio/one bedroom. Heroin dealers lived upstairs – legit, like “in the police notes” dealers. The tenants had been so sketch that homeless folks had busted open a lock on a boiler room and had been sleeping up there. When we were moving in, we found a syringe above the drop ceiling. Someone overdosed and died up there – thankfully on a day we were closed. I once heard a tenant yelling out the window, “bring the money or you’re gonna get dopesick!” What fun.

4. Marshy Swampland. People dumped bikes and trash there a lot, and there were also random trails leading away from the area by MAC where folks of indeterminate housing status would hang out. The police had gone through a few times looking for folks purported to be living there, but I never actually heard that they caught somebody out that way. It’s not a stretch that people would be living out there, probably on pallets or something away from the damp swamp, since you know, they were living in boats and in the attics nearby.

5. The Gauntlet. There’s a path that cuts through the DMZ back there and into the MBTA lot, which was the fastest way for me to walk home. Unfortunately, it was also an area strewn with abandoned mattresses, chairs, and other detritus. Once in awhile someone would be having their morning public urination session or be fishing half-smoked butts off the ground (hey, free cigarette!) while I walked by. A fun time was had by all. There were also paths through the high weeds there, going to what I can only imagine were beaver-style dens of people awaiting revival by NARCAN.

I won’t beat around the overgrown bushes, it’s a freakin’ disaster back there. But no amount of ignoring it is gonna do a damn thing until the owners are forced to clean it up. I wouldn’t count on that happening soon – sure, the city is telling the owner to do it ASAP, but they have to actually find someone that owns the thing – some guy says it was a trust that he stepped down from years ago.

Until then, if you need a free urine-soaked mattress or boat to live in, well, you know where to go.


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