How To Be Snowed In

Screen Shot 2015-02-09 at 9.11.50 AMTHE SNOW WILL END, AND YOU WILL SOON BE BACK AT WORK, remembering the shower-less, shovel-heavy days of whatever nor’easter or blizzard we all just lived through. If your pipes don’t freeze, you don’t lose power, and you have Wi-Fi, you are among the luckiest top ten-to-twenty percent of the world’s population.

So in the interest of planning ahead for your two-to-three days of Carpe Diems in your pajamas (or layered boot-heavy shoveling outfit), here’s the breakdown for those a little older than the shovel-your-driveway-for-fifty-bucks-mister crowd, and assuming we all have off work:

Single with roommates: Chances are the landlord will have to shovel, or has hired someone to do it in his stead, so you’re free from a day of shoveling. You know the path to the packie and have cleared out a nice little spot for you to quickly smoke a cigarette outside while finishing off your Irish coffee. Chances are that your roommates will have friends over, and your apartment will become a den of iniquity in no time. Enjoy it while you’re young.

Single without roommates: This seems impossible unless you’re living with your parents and just not considering them “roommates.” You are a rare breed, so live it up. Perhaps you’re living in a studio apartment, or a small trailer in the desert of a Tarantino film, or you’re couch-hopping indefinitely until you grow up and start paying actual rent somewhere. Either way, we have no advice for you because you can do anything you want with only nature as a deterrent (and you don’t even have to watch all those documentaries and “classics” you put on your Netflix queue).

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Married/Living Together: Thanks to the 21st amendment and streaming media, you can do whatever you want, including sleeping in, sexy time, quiet projects in the next room, and avoiding killing each other because, well, you’re snowed in for like three days. This applies to young as well as older couples. If you prepared enough, you can enjoy cocktails all day long while binge-watching your shows or catching up on the dreams you had that you forgot about until you had some time to catch up on life. Todays are those days. You’re snowed in. Just don’t watch news coverage all day of other towns snowed in.

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Married with kid(s): You can play zone or man defense, but you need a plan. This will involve a strict don’t-wake-us-up-until-7-morning decree (that will probably backfire), followed by yelling at the kids to go play in their rooms for a while until you’re ready to take them outside, then fun in the snow to tire them out (that will be short-lived), and then maybe a long afternoon of silent reading or movie watching; no matter what you do, it will go quickly and you won’t want to clean up, so get ready to let the paints and play-doh dry out until you give up the ghost and throw them out (you can only stare at them on the table for so long). By the end of the last snow day, it’s okay to just give up on cleaning and laundry – that’s what spring is for.

If the kids let you sleep in (and they won’t), this gives you roughly thirteen hours to entertain children who need constant stimulation. Do NOT feel bad about screen time. The Puritans wished they had DVR and video games. They also wished they had enough materials for blanket forts. Hopefully you prepared by purchasing exactly the right snacks for them and exactly the right drinks for you and mom. There is no take out for a few days, so you have to prepare for this. There will also be no trip to Target, Starbucks, Ace Hardware, local shops, or the Mall for days, so be ready to suffer at home with the people you love more than life itself. We are also sorry you and the wife will get no sexy time unless you really plan ahead, and if you’re lucky you’ll both at least shower and brush your teeth at some point before we all return back to work and school.

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How To Truly Truly Truly Save Christmas

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EVERYONE KNOWS THAT EVERY YEAR, CHRISTMAS NEEDS SAVING. So here are some real world suggestions that would do exactly that. And by “saving Christmas” I mean writing funny things about the one holiday that the whole Western world and its free markets seem to revolve around.

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1. Move Christmas to February. Jesus can share his birthday with Lincoln and Washington, and we can extend the holiday cheer two more months throughout the bleak midwinter. This way we all stave off the post-New-Years-when’s-the-next-holiday-blues. This will also give us two extra months for savings! And between the new Presidents/Christmas holiday and spring, it’s only like eight weeks! We could keep the Christmas/Winter break vacation AND keep Presidents’ week vacation as well. Wins wins.

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2. Forget the gifts. I would LOVE Christmas if it was like Thanksgiving – family getting together to eat and drink and then eat pie. That’s it. No gifts – no stress over being “thoughtful” for the people in your life. Don’t get me wrong – I love being thoughtful. I just can’t be thoughtful about everyone in my life all at once while rushing through the mall, hoping that my $15 gift bought at the last minute is special enough to warm the heart of someone who already loves me. I just can’t do it. Maybe if it were one gift per person, either home made, drinkable, or something they specifically told me they needed. Moonshine would cover all of those categories. Ok, you’re getting moonshine. All of you.

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3. Let’s start a new holiday that will actually save the world. I will call it “New Xmas” and instead of getting gifts for people we know, we will ONLY get gifts for strangers in need. Everyone will be assigned a homeless shelter, family in need, and forest to help (you know, buying a tree to put back in the ground rather than the regular Christmas tradition). So whatever you were planning on spending on regular Christmas, you could spend on New Xmas. This could all be done anonymously for various reasons. No tax breaks, assholes. And if you wanted to help a family in another way other than gifts, so be it (helping someone find a place to live or a job or goods).

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4. Reverse Christmas. Between Halloween and December 25th, we would spend as little as possible and only focus on getting out of debt. Then come December 25th we’d all meet at our favorite stores and buy something (just something small and nice) only for ourselves (and maybe finally order that sushi boat for dinner that we’ve been thinking about getting for years now).

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5. HalloweenMas. We combine Halloween and Christmas, and on the big day (date pending), you get tricked or a treat based on your outfit (and possibly your good deeds for the year), which you have spent all Fall and early Winter preparing for the big day. Each neighborhood will get a list of possible gifts to purchase for whomever shows up at your door, and you get to give said gift if you decide that the costume on the neighbor at your door is worthy of it. If not, then you get to keep the gift and “trick” the neighbor at your door by stating “maybe next year” and then shutting the door. Good luck with borrowing their snowblower come January.

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6. Animal Christmas. We all adopt unwanted animals as our one gift and/or go vegan for the Christmas season. At the end of the season you can go back to omnivorism but you have to keep the adopted pet(s). If you don’t want a new pet or to go vegan, then you can celebrate by focusing on another helpless and domesticated population of your choice.

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7. The All-In-UU-Santa-nalia-MythMas…as in we rewrite the “Christmas” story to represent all (and I mean all) the “Christmas” and “holiday” stories including made-up stories featuring magical babies, reindeer, misfit toys, and latest YouTube and Meme trend-Christmas-tie-ins. This would combine all of history’s myths, religions, traditions, and current saccharin cultural tales tied into this magical season. All of them. Get ready for the true tale of a baby elf born on a foreign planet sent to Earth to teach us what giving or retail is all about…and so forth. This could get interesting. Doctor Who Christmas specials would be a guiding force on this one.

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8. Just make it a Winter thing. More than half the “Christmas” and “holiday” songs are about Winter and food and family and making out, so let’s cut the facade and make Christmas just a Winter thing, or at least keep playing the Wintery Christmas songs until late January. Lights, songs, warmth – these are winter themes, not Christmas themes, right? Evergreen trees are popular in winter because, well, almost all the other plant life is dead. So All-Winter-Solstice-Mas it is. Or something catchier. Someone tell Sufjan Stevens, as he will be our official first artist in residence.

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9. Get rid of Christmas all together. Let’s face it: the people who really really really celebrate the real reason for the season are the true non-gift-crazy Puritans who celebrate baby Jesus whenever they can. They don’t need Santa to help with their cause. The rest of us are celebrating a made-up day when we buy that one big gift (and a sprinkling of other gifts) we’d probably save for a birthday or, you know, never. It’s a holiday that demands that if purchasing was spread evenly over the whole year, and we liked seeing our family more than once a year, retail wouldn’t need the get-in-the-black Friday to even out sales and “save” businesses (including Mobil and McDonald’s who love our travel holidays). Just go see your family or buy someone something nice every now and then, or don’t. No need for the big narrative and soundtrack behind it.

Now pass the pie and moonshine. It’s time for a holiday.

I Finally Turned On The Heat

Screen Shot 2014-11-26 at 4.41.57 PMI did it. I finally turned the heat on. I had to – you know, the kids. The Puritanical/woodsman/hermit germs inside my DNA protested most of the way, but in the end, logic prevailed (as did icy bones) and I bowed out of the great invisible race to be the most frugal, unflappable, and hardy New Englander we all hope to be.

You know what I’m talking about – that strange, paradoxical pride that has haunted Gloucester and New England since our ancestors first regretted crossing the land bridge millennia ago: the specter of our collective hubris resulting in a sort-of seasonal affective pride disorder  – that is, the stoic, unflinching, prideful miserly attitude we wear when it comes to “turning on the heat” at the joyous applause of our blue-faced spouses and children.Screen Shot 2014-11-26 at 4.35.06 PM

Winter, damn it. We’re from Gloucester, so bring it on. We’ll out-freeze any hermit from Maine (or wherever else they have snow) before we do anything weak or luxurious as starting to burn oil, gas, or wood. Come late November,  most of us will be essentially paying a second rent to the heating companies until March or, for the hardier stoics among us, from early December until late late February.

So what constitutes “turning the heat on” to these cold warriors? Any one of these qualifiers will knock you out of the competition (while you’re crying on the inside about how much keeping the house at 56 degrees will cost you over the next year of monthly installments):

1. Just so there’s no confusion about turning on the heat, YOU TURNED ON THE HEAT if you:

– turned on the heat

-turned on a space heater (or two or three)

– made a fire in the stove (or kept the oven on for an extra hour after using it for cooking)

– made a fire in the pellet stove

– turned on the heat just above the temperature outside

– turned on the heat

These all count, so no cheating. If you’re in it to win it, put on a second hat or a third pair of thermal longies.

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2. You are not a morally superior person if you wait to turn the heat on. However, here is the spectrum:

Late October Freshmen Townies: if you even think about having a conversation with your roommate or spouse about turning the heat on, or even complain about the cold before November first, there is a palpable shame felt throughout Fishtown. However, if your bones are brittle, you have young ones at home, or you’re simply a weak individual, then we understand. Sweatshirts, hats, insulation, and heavy socks are just not good enough for you. Grow a pair. (Of thermal socks).

First (through third) frosty fishtownies: this is most of us even though we won’t admit it, putting the heat on somewhere between November first and that night when you just need to put the heat on (if it’s November, the heat will be on). It will be too cold for these people to spend any more time outside cleaning up the beach toys and chairs (these can all be bought again next year); they will have just enough energy to clear off the radiators of clothes and books before huddling down on the couch for the winter.

Fourth or fifth-frost frugalistas: you’ve made it to the point where most sane people put the heat on, at least one cold night when it dips down below freezing. But most of us are still wearing windbreakers in 40 degree weather. You know that, right?

Still Frozen around the time of the Town Tree Lighting: you still have the AC in and the windows are cracked just a little; by the time the sun goes down at 4:30 during these days, the air taunts your blood to stop moving so fast (and the walk from the Fisherman statue into town after the annual parade and Tree lighting is physically painful, although you’re already wearing a peacoat and scarf). However, this Chilly Willy isn’t about to break.

– Only Cold By Christmas-Level-Stoic: This hardy Gloucesterite turns on the heat on Christmas Eve, just in time for Santa to forego the chimney and leave the presents outside by the woodpile. Somehow this person will outlive us all or be found, frozen

Those waiting for the “Insulated Igloo” Effect : an urban myth, this person goes from first frost to Valentine’s Day without heat – not even a little for those pipes to not freeze and burst. This must be a legend passed down through the years about a landlord who just got in from Florida to turn on the heat in the summer rental/winter home, or a Batman villain come to life here on Cape Ann. But once we get those thirty-eight inches of snow, your house will be insulated somewhat by the snow itself. It’s science.

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3. So we’re all competing in this yearly unspoken competition. Here’s the correct formula to figure out when you should feel shame for doing the unspeakable and turning over your clams to the whale blubber and oil industrial complex:

– If this were an actual competition (and it is in the minds of millions), everyone has to hold out until at least November 1 unless you’re from a warmer climate that biologically makes it unbearable for you – or you’re from a colder climate that gives you a biological advantage. If you’re not from Gloucester, then you must be from New England or a comparable climate. Adjust for variables one week. We’re on the honor system here.

– Apartment vs. house: knowing how heat travels, if you live in an apartment above people, then subtract a week for every floor above the first floor you’re on. If you live above a pizzeria or restaurant kitchen, subtract three weeks and give the Clam writers a sweet deal on treats. If you live in a house, then good luck heating that thing (no subtractions for you).

– Big people vs. little people: all things being fair, bigger people are warmer, so for every grown person in the house over one person, subtract three days. For every child, add three days, and for every newborn-through-toddler, add ten days. Old people are always cold, so no extra days for them. If you’re co-sleeping with your entire family in a Medieval hut while gathered around a camp fire, you win.

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4. Solutions for a warmer home:

– Live underground, but like close to the Earth’s core, or wherever it’s warmest.

– Build a house around your house, and insulate the area between houses.

– Move out of Gloucester.  Anywhere south of New Jersey is warmer and more obnoxious most of the time.

– Start a pizzeria and live upstairs right above the ovens.

– Stay away from your home from breakfast until bedtime, and then when you arrive home from work, run inside straight to bed, wearing enough clothes or blankets to keep you warm. Shower at the Y or work. Winter is only a few months long.

– Co-sleep with your children. They are little heaters given to you by nature.

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5. Finally, the “winners” are…

– Anyone who rents a second floor apartment whose heat is included in the rent

– Anyone who lives above a year-round pizzeria (they have those in Gloucester right?)

– Anyone who lies about when they turned the heat on

– The oil and energy companies


May the heat index always be in your favor.



Written for The Clam, Gloucester’s premiere blog for brilliant local satire and thoughtful, snark-free social commentary.