“Make it look shitty.” James Dowd latest screed on cycling in Gloucester

Here is my latest screed on cycling in Gloucester. I had the Big Mikes folks build me “The Ultimate Gloucester Bike.” 

Hope all is well!


James Dowd writes-

“Make it look shitty.”

For those of you who have been following my Fifty Shades of Grey-esque relationship with Gloucester cycling, above is the first instruction I gave to the crew over at Big Mike’s Bikes when I tasked them with building me a custom bike from scratch.

“I want even the most hard-up thief to pass it over in favor of fishing pre-scratched lotto tickets out of the trash. I want the bike to give the impression that the owner dug it out of a pile of dredging spoils from a particularly nasty canal.”

“Can it have surface rust?” Mike asked. I think this was just an attempt to gauge my seriousness in this somewhat odd request.

“Can it? CAN it have surface rust? Michael my good man, if it does not have surface rust we’re going to have to ship it to Hollywood in order to have the professional prop distressers who worked on the Statue of Liberty for The Planet of the Apes have a solid go at it, savvy?”

They savvied. Oh, and how did they both savvy. The whole point of the surface rust was a key component in my secret plan to create the Perfect Gloucester Bike™. A bike that would have the following characteristics:

1. It must not present an attractive theft target to the station-zombies who have already sullied two of my nicer-looking locked bikes left there during my work hours up the line.

2. It has to be durable enough to manage the series of shell-craters and trench networks that pass for roads in our beloved burgh. Prospect Street, part of my commute, currently feels like riding from Lens to Ypres somewhere around 1915.

3. At the same time it would have to be fast enough to outrun the enraged pitbulls and their cleaver-wielding owners, maneuverable enough to evade the erratic traffic during prime self-medication hours and must be an overall a good enough ride to make it all worth it.

“No problem,” said Mike and KT. “Really?” I asked. “Really,” they said. “Really really?” I asked…they both stared at me. Conclusion: the Big Mike’s Bikes crew are very sweet, but are not to be trifled with when bikes are the topic.


And ooh, dawg, were they right. The work of sheer brilliance you see depicted above and dubbed “Professor Farnsworth” is the ultimate stealth bike. It’s a vintage Raleigh Mountain Tour, an 80’s-era hybrid tour/mountain bike back from the day when manufactures weren’t quite so sure that Mountain biking was exactly going to catch on. It’s not surprising, the 80’s were a turbulent time; no one knew what the future was going to hold. The Bell System broke up (people under 40, look it up), Apple launched its Macintosh operating system in order to carve out a small niche for itself against technology titans Wang and Digital and the film Amadeus swept the nation and our hearts, kindling America’s burning passion for classical music and opera that persists to this day.


[Check out this sweet ad for the bike back from 1984. No helmet? Check. Mork Vest? Check. Cargo panniers full of hair teasing products? Double check.]

But the real magic in this bike is not the vintage frame. The magic is the work done in the secret underground laboratory miles below Big Mike’s World Headquarters on Maplewood (next to MacDonald’s). This is where the rubber really meets the hunks of crumbling sidewalk.

This crappy looking bike defies its outward appearance and sports all upgraded components: shifters, bearings, wheels, tires, fenders, reflectors, integral lighting and gear racks making it a sweet and practical ride for commuting and errands, the bulk of my in-town bicycling. But all put together in a way that doesn’t give off the “this bike cost more than a two year community college degree” vibe that one so frequently gets from some of the bikes you see rolling around the wealthier towns of the North Shore.

This solidly-built customized bike, work included, cost me substantially less than even a bottom-line new one offered at a place like Target . Indulge me for a sec while I tell you what you get when you buy a new “bike” at a discount retailer.

First, think about the quality of the other products you get from those places and how you use them. You get a $25 coffee maker from Target, the handle breaks off, makes a mess of your counter and you clean it up and get a new one. No biggie, you don’t expect much more and Hell, for 25 bucks you could buy a new one every six months. Whatevs. Or you get a beanbag chair for the kids and after a couple of weeks (and having been used in an especially active game called “Invasion of the Giant Space Marshmallow”) it starts leaking those little white Styrofoam balls, you vacuum them up and throw it out. Wasteful? Yes. But not much more of a hassle than that.

Now lets think about the failure event that occurs on a cheap bike. It won’t fail sitting in your garage, oh no. It will fail when you’re trying to pull a Millennium-Falcon-in-the-asteroids maneuver that is the essence of Gloucester cycling. That won’t be a mess that will just clean up with a dust-buster and a sponge…unless you head-on one of those diesel freezer-haulers cranking around the wrong side of the blind corner on East Main. Ironically, in that case those are the exact tools the Fire Department guys will use to get the bulk of your remains into a consolidated container.

The point is we’re at a weird phase in the economy. “New” things at the lower and increasingly middle price points are frequently much, much crappier than older products that have been expertly rehabbed. This is just a fact of how things are made and sold now.

The good news with bikes is that there are a ton of great ones still around just waiting for someone to apply a little TLC and get them back on the road. Unlike mine, most of them don’t look like they spent the past few years locked to the mainmast of the Hesperus. And doing all this, in the end, leaves you with a much better bike for less money. Win, win.

As for me, I also need it to look shitty seeing as the Big Mike’s crew flat-out refused to build and install the first proposal I brought to them: a remote self-destruct mechanism for my nice mountain bike, centered around stuffing enough Czech-made Semtex plastic explosives down into the frame to disintegrate the thief down to purely elemental particles. So, failing that, (“explosives permits” they said. Bah!), this is a pretty solid plan B.

Night of Poetry

DSCF1860 Willie Alexander reads from “Fred Buck’s Footsteps” by Alexander and the Boom Boom Band at Gloucester Reads Poetry  at the Gloucester Lyceum & Sawyer Free Library Thursday night.  Alexander was one of 16 readers at the well attended event which featured the works of poets ranging from Gloucester’s Peter Todd to William Shakespeare.

Cape Ann Tool Company Is Coming Down Pics From Nancy Shaw

Hi Joey,

Noticed that they have started work on the Cape Ann Tool Company building in Rockport so took these shots to help remember the building. Thought you may want to post some of them.

Thanks for submitting these pics for the GMG community

http://www.goodmorninggloucester.com Do you get it?

Cape Ann Painters and Photographers Group

Happy Spring.

Our Cape Ann Painter and Photographer Meeting will be held on Monday April 8 from 9-11 AM . 9-9:30 is coffee/tea time – please bring your own!

The meeting will be held at our new home on 17 Pleasant Street. Go in the gate which says Beth Williams and Lindsay Welch and go through the door on the left.

Hope to see you.  Welcome to the new people coming for the first time.

The meeting will have the usual check-in time so members can introduce themselves and say what they have be doing or hope to do!

Alice Gardner

Grace Brancaleone Family

With much thanks and appreciation to Grace Brancaleone and Family for sharing thier stories and traditions for the St. Joseph film project.

©Kim Smith 2013

Front Row ~ Grace, Rosanne, Phyllis, and Grace; Back Row ~ Caleb, Cameron, Heather, Aaron, Paul, and Jim

Here’s a CD of kids music that adults can listen to and love too!

OK, this is not your grandmother’s children’s CD.  It’s real!  Real music by one of my favorite local artists, Inge Berge.  It’s billed as Songs for Young Children to Jump, Dance and Move, but don’t be fooled by the little-kid-friendly title, this record has soul.  Not only will it get your kids moving, it also introduces plenty of genres, including rock, disco, country & latin.

In one bluesy rocker, Inge growls these lyrics:
Can you rock rock and roll?
Can you rock your soul?
Can you rock rock rock and roll?

Then in a Latin Baby Snakes, with a hint of bossa nova, his clear deep voice croons:
Baby snakes slither on their belly
Baby snakes feel a bit like jelly

The promo for the CD says, CD comes in a deluxe cardboard case and a foldout with lyrics and instructions!  I’d love to see those instructions.  Maybe they show us how to slither.  You don’t even have to have little kids to want this CD.  But if you do, it’s a no-brainer.  Get it here.

And while you’re at it, get this song too.  It’s got a perfect beat for getting your kids up and jumpin’ around 😉

You can see Inge on Sunday at Rhumb Line.  When you go, maybe you can request Baby Snakes.

Over 2 dozen excellent live shows all over Cape Ann this weekend.  See full schedule here.

Last night’s SingerSongwriterShuffle @ Giuseppe’s 4.4.2013

singer songwriter giuseppes thursdaysupdate

Last night’s players were Brian King, Randy Black, TMax, Christine Baze, Qwill (Jesse Ciarmataro) Bradley Royds, sitting in for Ken Cleveland (who hurt his hand and could not play) and ending the evening Jake Pardee.

Click photos for a lager view

DSC06868Brian King

DSC06896Randy Black

DSC06922T Max

DSC06951Christine Baze

DSC07009 (1)Qwill

DSC07047Bradley Royds


Jake Pardee

What a pleasure to hear all the originals they had to share. Next week singer songwriters are Annette Dion, Ken Cleveland, T Max, AnnMarie Shimanoski, Andy Pratt, Bradley Royds and Joe Wilkins.

Did I mention Giuseppe’s has the best chocolate espresso mousse ever! Best atmosphere, great food and excellent service.

Check em out > http://www.giuseppesma.com/

Meeting artists at the Cape Ann Museum

Last Saturday, the Cape Ann Museum had an event where several local artists demonstrated their work. Due to parish commitments, I arrived late and missed Michael Foley’s demonstration of his stonework. You can find an interview with him here, and see his website here. Michael is both a skilled stoneworker and a talented musician. He will be giving another demonstration towards the end of this month, and I hope not to miss that one!

A few other artists were still doing their demonstrations when I arrived. It was great to talk with them and see their work!

Beth Williams works with glass, and has a studio and gallery practically next door to the museum:

_Beth WilliamsPamela Stratton, whose studio is in Rockport, creates beautiful mosaics:

_Pamela StrattonLeslie Wind makes jewelry, as well as knitting and crocheting (even spinning her own yarn from wool):

_Leslie Wind

Leslie’s demonstration was interactive, helping visitors to make things like jewelry, bookmarks, and coffee stirrers out of thick wire (subsequently beaten flat). I tried my hand at it and came up with this… I’m not sure if it is a drink stirring stick or a bookmark, or something altogether different, but it was fun!

_Wire art with Leslie

Fr. Matthew Green

Yesterday CBS Boston Named The Lobster Pool As One of Four Of The Best Lobster Shacks- Today You Can Buy $30 Worth Of Lobster Pool Grub For $15


Living Social Has This Killer Deal. Click here for the deal


From Living Social-


It’s all right for a crawdad to be a little shellfish, but when it comes to doling out fresh New England catch, there’s room to share — especially with this offer:

• $15 for $30 to spend on food and non-alcoholic drinks

Quintessential New England Seafood
Cozy up in the dining room, or take in breathtaking views of Ipswich Bay as you nosh on heaping helpings of clams, shrimp, chowder, scallops, oysters, and the catch of the day. Or, opt for a salmon salad roll, cheeseburger and fries, or the "Boston" sandwich — fried haddock or sole on a toasted roll served with lettuce and tomato. With two-pound helpings of fresh-from-the-ocean lobster, too, you’ll find no trouble in sparing a claw or two for your first mate.

We bought one.  If you buy one and share the deal with three of your friends who buy it as well you discount will be free.

Community Stuff 4/5/13

Art Haven Supplies and Fundraiser 2

The Deadline for applying to the Cape Ann Shakespeare Troupe scholarship is April 14. For application forms and information contact Ray Jenness, CAST President at kjenness045@netzero.com or call at 978 546 3136.

The CAST scholarship, a cash award of $500 is given annually to a senior at a Cape Ann secondary school, or one who has worked on a CAST production,  who plans to study further in the performing arts. Last year’s recipient, Veronica Bland of Pigeon Cove, is presently studying theatre design at Elon college in North Carolina.

Ocean Alliance call for volunteers

Iain Kerr and his Ocean Alliance colleagues have asked for Barbara Boudreau to coordinate a cleaning party for the “E” building at the Paint Factory on Saturday, April 6, from 10:00 – 3:30, then painting on April 13 and 14. Volunteers should send Barbara an email so that she can coordinate the effort and for the next weekend’s painting party.
Hope to see you there!!


Barbara and Al Boudreau
6 R Mondello Square

Gloucester, MA  01930



Join the AMVETS POST #32 and AMVETS Ladies Auxiliary POST #32 THIS SATURDAY 4/6 in supporting our wounded veterans !!


There will be awesome prizes and lots of fun!!

Check out the facebook event here for more information : https://www.facebook.com/events/131120327065914/

For Questions or to purchase raffle tickets, contact:

Caitlin Kreitman, Team Huskies for Heroes


On April 6 local Rockport photographer Angela Cook of Oasis Rockport will join with PPA Charities (the philanthropic arm of Professional Photographers of America) to promote “Celebration of Smiles Day” at Emerson Inn by the Sea on One Cathedral Ave in Rockport from 10am – 2pm. This national fundraising effort will benefit Operation Smile, which treats children around the world who suffer with cleft lips, cleft palates and other facial deformities.
For your donation of $24, you will receive the gift of an individual portrait session and a desk-size portrait. This donation represents one tenth of $240, the amount needed to help fund a single surgery. According to Lexington, Kentucky photographer Tim Walden, President of Professional Photographers of America (PPA), “Celebration of Smiles Day” is the perfect opportunity to have your portrait made or that of a loved one, because in doing so you are making it possible to truly change the lives of children who would otherwise face a lifetime of pain and rejection.”

For further information contact: Angela Cook at (978) 290-3184.

Oasis Rockport
Angela Cook, Lifestyle Photography
(978) 290-3184
acook@oasisrockport.com | www.oasisrockport.com


International Dory Race Committee  boat maintenance this Saturday

Spring has sprung!

After shrugging off the last of winter’s cold grasp, spring is finally here and it’s time to get our dories prepared for the season.  Volunteer a couple hours this Saturday, April 6th, at Eastern Ave. Self Storage (meeting around 8 AM).  We plan to haul out the two practice dories that have been in the water a full year to dry out and scrape/sand the race dories.  So bring your scraper or sander or just you to help us preserve and beautify our dories for 2013.

See you there!


Jill Art Show announcement3