Archive for May, 2014

May 28 2014

Cotuit Fire District Annual Meeting tonight: Vote Yes on Article 19

Published by under Baseball,Cape Cod,Cotuit

Update: The article passed 75-3.

Tonight the village holds is annual meeting at Freedom Hall (7:30 pm) to work through the budgets of the fire and water departments and the prudential committee (which takes care of Freedom Hall.) The warrant is pretty much the same from one year to the next -- some years the fire department needs a new ambulance (they need one this year) or the water department wants to build a new water tower (which they did a few years ago in Santuit) -- but most of the items are standard items such as salaries, a small stipend to the library, money for the village street lights and some modifications to the bylaws to bring them into the Internet age so meeting notices can be posted on the district's web site.

This year a special article is on the warrant -- placed there by citizen petition -- to ask the village tax payers to purchase a conservation easement for the 19-acres of woodlands behind Lowell Park -- home field of the Cotuit Kettleers. The price tag is $235,000, about $67 in additional taxes for the typical homeowner.

The highlighted fore4st shows the 19-acres to be preserved. (photo from the blt.org by Rick Heath)

Ordinarily I would say it isn't the village's "municipal duty" to preserve open space -- that's a charitable effort usually promoted through the good efforts of the Barnstable Land Trust and private donors -- but this is a crucial investment towards preserving the character of the village and keeping intact an extraordinary greenway that runs from Little River Road past the Bell Farm conservation lands, past Mosswood Cemetery all the way up to the wonderful curve at the Ropes Field. It saves the pristine, uninterrupted outfield of the best ballpark in the Cape Cod Baseball League and it will present a good buffer for the well field. This is the sort of thing my grandparents and great grandparents would have done and I say it is our duty to dig into our pockets and do the same for future generations. Cotuit has a proud history of doing the right thing and this is the right thing to do.

The Barnstable Land Trust is pushing for a Yes vote on Article 19 and with good justification. First of all, this keeps nine homes and their septic systems away from one of the most important sources of our drinking water. Last summer Cotuit had its first "boil order" after the drinking water failed a test. Across the street from Lowell Park, is a dilapidated home that has been a battleground between a local developer and residents -- he wanted to subdivide the property into condos, but eventually gave up after letting the place deteriorate into an eyesore. It also abuts a well field and the village has purchased the conservation restriction to insure no septic systems get built too close to the water supply.

I'd argue that this is the sort of thing that improves property values in the village and is a great investment in our future. The article is going to come to a vote later in the meeting (it is 19 out of 24) and it's the duty of any concerned property owner with an interest in the village to get off their butts and show up. Cotuit's Fire District is essential to keep the village's individual identity intact and to give its residents a truly local voice in the management of the place. While the calls for consolidation into a single Town of Barnstable system continue to be heard in the name of efficiency and economy, we Cotusions need to keep in mind that our Fire District -- granted to us by the legislature in the 1920s -- gives us a degree of sovereign autonomy and control over our affairs that once given up, can't be regained.

 

 

3 responses so far

May 21 2014

Appeals Court ruling favors Mashpee oyster farmer | CapeCodOnline.com

Published by under Clamming

Appeals Court ruling favors Mashpee oyster farmer | CapeCodOnline.com

Sean Driscoll in the Cape Cod Times reports today that the Popponesset oyster farm application approval has been upheld in court. This doesn't clear the way for the applicant, Richard Cook, to start operations. Oh no. The greedhead property owners fighting him can appeal to the Court of Appeals or the Supreme Judicial Court (which their bottomless pockets almost guarantees they will, at taxpayer expense to defend I might add). According to the Times the property owners have another suit pending against Mashpee's ZBA and building commissioner.

"The court stated the homeowners' claim that the Cape Cod Commission must review the project because it is a commercial development was incorrect. The commission's regulations include neither agriculture nor aquaculture in its definitions of a commercial project, the court stated.

The Appeals Court also found myriad other issues raised by the homeowners to be without merit, including claims that Cook had failed to adequately address the safety concerns of his gear potentially washing away in a storm and that the Conservation Commission reached its decision without enough deliberation or consideration."

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May 21 2014

2014 Cotuit Kettlers – Google Calendar Schedule

Published by under Baseball,Cape Cod,Cotuit

Here is this year's Cotuit Kettleer's schedule for adding to Google Calendar. This is unofficial, handtyped by me, complete with any inadvertent errors. Home games are designated in blue, away games in red. You can get to it with this link

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May 21 2014

Bluefish are in (have been for a while)

Published by under General

I forgot to mention the bluefish are back on the shoals off of Cotuit -- my son and I caught a couple big ones on orange plugs off of Oregon Beach on Saturday -- filleted them on the bow of the skiff and cooked them right up that night in what may be the best bluefish recipe I've come across since adapting Paul Prudhomme's blackened redfish recipe to the oily things.  This one is courtesy of the late, great Marcella Hazan -- the grand dame of true Italian cooking who wrote two of the classic cookbooks on my kitchen bookshelf: Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking.

Bluefish are a fairly global species of fish -- and especially popular in the Mediterranean. I've had snapper bluefish in January in Istanbul (cop cop) and legend maintains some unlucky downed American airmen were devoured by schools of monster bluefish off the coast of North African in World War II. So, that Marcella would suggest the oily bluefish as a preferred substitute for fillets of anchovies in her recipe for Genoese Style Bluefish with Potatoes roasted with garlic and olive oil is not a surprise. This is a drop dead simple recipe.

  1. Take two fillets, skin-on, from a big bluefish. Pre-heat the oven to 450
  2. Grease a baking dish big enough to comfortably fit the fish with some olive oil
  3. Peel two pounds of potatoes, slice almost as thin as chips, dry on clean dish towels then cover the bottom of the baking dish with the spuds
  4. Peel and mince four to six heads of garlic. Go nuts.
  5. Mince a quarter cup's worth of flat Italian parsley
  6. Combine a quarter cup of virgin olive oil, with the garlic and parsley. Pour half of it over the potatoes and toss them three or four times. Hit that with some salt and pepper.
  7. Roast the potatoes in the upper third of the oven for 15 minutes
  8. Pull the potatoes (leave the oven on) out and lay the fish on top -- skin side down -- and pour the remaining half of the oil-parsley-garlic over the fish
  9. Roast another ten minutes, pull it out a couple times to baste the fish with the hot oil a few times. Use a spatula to free up the potatoes around the edges and get the less roasted ones some time in the "sun".
  10. Finish off for another eight to ten minutes. Then let it rest five minutes.

Simple and awesome. John Hersey wrote in "Blues" that parmesan cheese is death to bluefish -- totally toxic. And I agree. Don't get tempted to get all Mama Leone on this dish. Hazan explains that in Genoa the holy foundation of the cuisine is potatoes, parsley, garlic and olive oil -- with everything from porcini mushrooms to anchovies to octopus added as the variable. I hate bluefish but dutifully eat one every summer out of some weird ancestral homage to my grandmother Nellie who truly could murder a bluefish. In past homages to the scourges of Nantucket Sound I related my family's traditional recipe for Bluefish.

"Fish was rarely on the menu in my childhood unless it came out of a box, was pre-breaded, and could be cooked on a cookie sheet in under an hour in a 450 degree oven. My father, the original meat-and-potato man, forbade fish or chicken in the house. Chicken, because he had a phobia of chickens due to his World War II duties as the young keeper of the household chicken coop; fish, because his mother would can bluefish with a pressure cooker in Mason jars to lay up some protein for the winter months.

My brother and I took the tale of canned bluefish as pure Cape Cod legend, up there with stealing coal and catching cabbages that fell off of trucks as part of the "penny-saved-penny earned" Depression-Era lectures we were subjected to whenever the old gent finished paying the monthly bills and decided we would live without electricity for the next month (his favorite economizing move was to make orange juice with the frozen stuff but forbid it ever being shaken or stirred. The idea was to add more water over time, allowing the orange sausage of concentrate to hang on the bottom of the bottle, pale orange water above it).

The canned bluefish was just a quaint myth until I cleaned out the cellar last winter and found a sixty-year old Mason jar filled with what appeared to be a pickled demon fetus from the Omen IV. We opened it on the front lawn while wearing heavy rubber gloves. The grass is still dead there, like some sort of crop circle left by aliens.

Here are some recipes from the Churbuck Culinary Academy of Ruined Food, courtesy of my predecessors who never met a fish they could stomach:

Honey, the Dog Is Eating Grass Again Bluefish

  • Take one bluefish, preferably one caught early in the morning and then thrown into the stern of the motorboat back by the scupper plugs where it can curl, get stiff in the sun and baste all afternoon in a rainbow patina of gasoline and two-stroke outboard oil.
  • Filet with a rusty knife, taking care to leave scales and the rib bones in the flesh.
  • Leave the dark meat in the fish. For that is where the PCBs are most concentrated.
  • Take a cookie sheet. Preferably the kind that warps into a pretzel shape with a loud "thwang" when heated. Cover with aluminum foil. I don't know if the shiny or dull side up matters or not.
  • Do not grease the foil. The fish must stick to the foil so your guests will have the electric thrill of finding out what happens when foil meets one of their fillings.
  • With the meat side up cover the bluefish with a one-inch thick layer of Miracle Whip, the evil stepsister of Hellmans Mayo.
  • Bake or broil (it just doesn't matter) until the Miracle Whip is kind of browned like a meringue.
  • Serve, and then remember you forgot to make any kind of side dish. Dig out some freezer-burned Tater Tots and bake in the oven until lukewarm while the fish gets cold.
  • Eat. Feel bad. Then start drinking. Get angry at nothing in particular and call your nearest relation "a leech who contributes nothing" or "an oxygen thief" and then start a mallet fight with the kids' croquet set on the lawn in front of the horrified neighbors. Ask them what they are looking at."

3 responses so far

May 20 2014

Oyster Amendment Omitted from Senate Budget

Published by under General

This in from the Cape Cod Times:
"The Massachusetts Senate's 2015 budget does not include an amendment similar to one slipped into the House of Representatives' version that would kill a proposed oyster farm in Popponesset Bay."

The article further reports the amendment fight in the House budget, tucked there by Rep. Michael Costello of Newburyport, will move to a conference committee where the local delegation has vowed to defeat it.

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May 14 2014

“I hope someone makes them pay…”

Published by under Cape Cod,General

So the response to my screed over the shenanigans in Popponesset Bay drew a lot of traffic into this blog -- about 20X the normal flow over several days and setting the all-time traffic record for this blog since I started it ten years ago as a way to scratch my occasional itch to write. I generally try to avoid politics on this blog. Three years in the statehouse press gallery in the early 1980s sort of washed the taste for Massachusetts legislative politics out of my mouth for life, and as a former bartender, I knew well that religion and politics are the third-rails of civilized conversation. I also am very turned off by the perversion of the medium into very crazed "hate" blogs used to slander local politicians. There are more than enough moon-bats blogging and I don't intend to become one.

statsBut, as the tongue-in-cheek tagline of this blog says, this is a blog about clamming, an attempt to blend my personal and professional writing under one umbrella. A wise man -- Stephen O'Grady -- warned me long ago not to try to maintain multiple blogs. One is enough of a greedy child to feed, let alone several. The result has been a muddy mix of local stuff that I like -- history, sailing, fishing -- and pedantic digital marketing stuff ranging from Olympic sponsorship to tech trends. I avoid blogging about causes or using this to advance some personal agenda. The habits of an old reporter are hard to break, and it would have been unthinkable ten years ago for me to write with the kind of outraged invective I did last week when the news broke that the democratic process was being perverted by some pompous wealthy dickheads.

The story is amusing though. I have to tip my hat to ML Strategies, the lobbying arm of the law firm of Mintz Levin for going beyond the pale and buying off a lameduck State Rep to pull a classic Beacon Hill maneuver of sticking bizarre midnight amendments onto massive things like state budgets. This crap has been going on forever in Massachusetts. The corruption level of the Massachusetts legislature -- especially during my days there when Billy Bulger ruled the senate like some Roman tyrant, and Tom McGee fought reform in the House with every dirty trick in the book -- should never be underestimated. Your average state rep is less likable than a used-car salesman and half as honest.. Massachusetts politics should become the official spectator sport of the Commonwealth, as fun and mind blowing a spectacle as the Bruins or the Celtics.  That some rich guys wrote a wicked big check to keep the groundling proles from cluttering up their oceanfront view is the least of our problems. This is a state of bagmen and angles.

But still, people ask me "what can we do?" I've done my time at the microphone at Conservation Commission hearings opposing rich people's applications to build their piers into the harbor. I've written letters and earned the enmity of countless gaping buttholes who have more money than sensibility. Yet I also know people on the waterfront with hearts as big at the Ritz.  Some give their beaches to the local yacht club for thirty years to use for a sailing program; others make special attempts to minimize their impact on the environment by banning lawn fertilizers and peeing and pooping into composting toilets.Then there are those who put creepy surveillance cameras disguised as bird houses on their beaches, and make our days just that much shittier by posting stern "PRIVATE BEACH" signs to discourage the kind of free access I knew on the Cape 40 years ago.

I've been rattled by screaming homeowners flipping out at me to GET OFF THEIR GODDAMN BEACH, even though I'm within my rights with a fishing rod or a clam license. I know cases where ancient public ways to water -- little paths designated as a way for the public to get to the water to dig a clam or catch a fish -- are obscured by abutting property owners deliberately planting shrubs, or sliding a kid's swingset over the path, knowing as the years go by that the old timers who know those paths will eventually die or forget and the public won't be trudging through their backyards ever again.

The problem on the beaches and the sense of entitlement started in 1650 when the colonists granted waterfront property owners in Massachusetts the unique right to own all of the land down to the "mean low water mark" allowing public access only in three circumstances: navigation, fishing/shellfishing, and fowling. That means you can't walk on any part of the sand, including the wet sand exposed at low tide. You can swim in front of their beach (as long as your feet don't hit the bottom above the nebulous "mean low water" mark. You can wade in the water if you have a fishing rod. You can dig clams. But you can't sit and technically you can't stroll.

Some beaches say "Private Beach. Walkers Welcome." That's nice of the property owner but also a way to forestall an "adverse possession" or taking by granting the public access through neglecting or abandoning their rights. I empathize with them not wanting some family of recent Russian emigres camping on the beach, tossing dirty pampers into the beachgrass and leaving behind their bait boxes while the men folk surfcast. But -- if we want to get back at these jerks for throwing around their money demanding docks, fighting clammers, posting security guards, and erecting creepy spy cameras we need to repeal the waterfront property laws.

And that is not going to happen. The most powerful advocate of repealing the Colonial beach rights was Billy Bulger, who was outraged when some Chauncy Wigglesworth Ass Clown bellowed at him to get off his beach. Bulger filed legislation from 1976 to 1991 to change the law to permit walking between the high and low water marks and finally succeeded in 1991, only to have the state courts overrule the change as an unfair taking of private property without compensation.

If you want the full story about the shitshow that is beach rights in Massachusetts, take the time to read this superb article about the situation on Martha's Vineyard.

I think the only way to take away the tyranny of the waterfront and to stop owners from building jetties, sea walls, hiring guards, posting signs, intimidating strollers and generally being douchebags is to make beach reform a referendum question and let the voters decide whether or not to take it away from them. The legislature is in their pocket so don't expect a letter to the editor and your state rep to have any impact. Both of them are totally in the service of these people along with the massive real estate industry that encourages them to build commission inflating add ons like piers and cabanas. We just need around 70,000 signatures to force the question onto the ballot the way the bottle bill and Prop 2 1/2 and medical weed were voted in and get ready for a well funded counter-campaign the likes of which the state will never see.

Still, it's a nice fantasy to imagine the democratic process truly having the last word on who owns the berm between shore and sea.

 

2 responses so far

May 13 2014

Squids

Published by under Cape Cod,Fishing,General

Cousin Pete and I hit the squid off of Osterville on Friday and brought in a bucket of the cephalopods. He was outcatching me two-to-one but hey, we got the skiff nice and stinky with a coating of angry ink and had the wonderful experience of listening to a guy on a nearby boat keep up a loud, unbroken soliloquy of f-bombs that was so utterly Masshole that it started to sound right, until the f-word was so worn out by overuse that it became like a meditative "Ommmm"

Back at the kitchen I cleaned half a dozen in the sink, cut em into rings and followed Jasper White's recipe for "greasy and spicy Rhode Island calimari" which is basically exactly what it sounds like. Soak the rings and tentacles in a couple cups of buttermilk, roll them around in a flour-cornmeal-corn starch-cayenne mixture and deep fry until golden brown. Then toss that in a garlic butter/hot Italian cherry pepper bath and eat with a habanero remoulade. Take a Lipitor.

Hunter-gatherer season is underway. As the lilacs are out and as yours truly was born 56 years ago today, the bluefish must be back and cruising the flats around Submarine Rock. I see tautog in my future.

2 responses so far

May 09 2014

Following the money

Published by under General

Costello criticized for controversial budget amendment » Local News » SalemNews.com, Salem, MA.

An update

1. The money behind the oyster farm amendment is from Charles "Chuck" Clough, Jr. a Boston stock picker who lives in Concord but who has a starter castle on the Popponesset waterfront.  Your standard yellow-power tie wearing Master of the Universe. Oh, and a recipient of the Myra Kraft Award for his good works. He's also Chairman of the Board of Trustees at Boston College (leave it to a Jesuit to figure out a midnight budget amendment). Guess I'm not getting an invite to next summer's oyster-free clambake at the Clough estate.

2. Rep. Costello says its all about the "environment." Really:

"Costello argues that the proposal seeks to protect a salt marsh that serves as an environmentally sensitive habitat for sea birds. The area, he said, is “much like my district in Newburyport. Quite frankly, I think this is a state issue,” Costello said. “The state has a vested interest in making sure that those waterways remain as open space and undeveloped.”

One response so far

May 06 2014

The Greedheads of Popponesset Bay

Published by under Cape Cod,Clamming,WTF?

House leaders tucked a controversial and little noticed item into the budget - Metro - The Boston Globe.

Today the Globe published a jaw dropping story out of Mashpee. Read it. I am almost too pissed off to type. I am so pissed off I shouldn't type but when I heard about it on a Boston public radio talk show  during a drive to Boston today I did something I've never done before and I actually called and vented (my venting begins around 1:09) like that old guy at town meeting who rants about how the fluoride in the water is causing him to have erectile dysfunction and who smells a little bit like pee in his dirty cardigan and who writes long letters to the editor.

Here's the sordid tale of midnight legislation snuck in the back door on behalf of the rich and mighty. It's the latest in a saga I've been blogging about for a while now.

So there's been an ongoing stink for the past couple of years in Mashpee as a bunch of  waterfront-owning McMansion-squatting greedheads have filed lawsuit after lawsuit to block a commercial oyster grower named Richard Cook from turning a two-acre stretch of Popponesset Bay into an oyster farm. The town, the state, the courts -- all have given the guy the go ahead, but in a classic piece of scumbaggery by a hack State Rep from Newburyport (easily 100 miles away from Mashpee) an amendment was tacked onto the state budget last week that would declare a "marine sanctuary" not in Mashpee specifically, not even on Cape Cod to read the amendment, but at some undisclosed location defined by frigging GPS coordinates. The coward didn't have the spine to actually name the town -- he thought he could cloak it with some frigging latitude and longitude numbers. I'm sure it was an honest mistake. Here's the offending amendment.

And the crowning indignant play by the esteemed Representative Michael Costello is that he further lacked the balls and courtesy to tell the Cape Cod delegation who were actually elected to represent Mashpee -- State Senator Dan Wolf and State Rep David Vieira -- that he was dropping the little turd of an amendment affecting their districts onto the budget. Thank god the Globe got curious and punched the numbers into Google Maps. (Thanks to reader Aaron Welles for checking the numbers in Google Earth and sending this screen shot below)

Costello was recruited to do the deed by ML Strategies, the lobbying arm of the Boston law firm of Mintz Levin, the pettifoggers who represent the abutters who live along the shore where Cook's submerged farm would go.

Costello claims he did it for the environment. Who he did it for was a bunch of pricks who include the owner of the New England Patriots. Who wants to bet Costello gets spotted quaffing a frosty Sam Adams in the owner's box with Gisele at Foxboro Stadium this fall?  What Costello really did when he committed his ethical breach was try to preserve a million-dollar waterfront view, a great view indeed -- across the bay at Cotuit's pristine Ryefield Point courtesy of the Barnstable Land Trust.

Stand in Cotuit and look back at them and what you see looks like a row of tacky beached ocean liners, lit up to beat the band, their chemical lawns, big piers and cesspools poisoning the very bay this guy's oysters might actually help clean up.

These people have no souls. None. They remind me of the time as a Cape Cod Times reporter covering the waterfront when I watched in amazement as a Lily Pulitzer-wearing ehisshewle of a grand dame (btw: great job missing this story Cape Cod Times, yet again the Globe has kicked your butt in your own back yard) tell a Barnstable shellfish committee in 1980 that commercial quahoggers in Osterville's Eel River were a blight on her view and worked close enough to her house that she could "hit them with a nine-iron shot." She wasn't the last of the Littoral Leeches. Then the Ostervillians of Imposterville went after the aquaculture guys in West Bay for daring to float bags of seed oysters in front of their houses. "A menace to navigation!" They lost that fight too.

If I only possessed a Mashpee clamming license I would do my level best to invite all my clammer friends to join me in sitting on these jerks' beach on Popponesset Bay every afternoon around cocktail hour in front of their guests (in a pink Speedo of course) and dig their goddamn clams.  I would fish nowhere else. I would fowl nowhere else. I would do everything in my power to get that now sad but familiar sight of some poor policeman trudging down the sand in his brogans, towards me, telling me, "Please buddy. I know what the law says, but can you just do this someplace else? Please?"

I used to say "yes, sure, don't want to cause a problem." But never again. Take back the beaches and give Mashpee back to the original wampum tycoons, the Wampanoags. They at least took decent care of the place and appreciated a fine oyster.

Cook said it all to the Globe:

“All the way along through the process, I’ve done what the agencies and regulators have asked me to do in filing for permits and et cetera,” said Cook. “And I don’t understand how at this point someone can come in the back door from off-Cape and without any knowledge of local authority and residents, try and create something like this in order to stop my proposal from moving forward.”

34 responses so far

May 05 2014

Cape Cod shark safety flier sparks concerns – News Local Massachusetts – Boston.com

Published by under General

Cape Cod shark safety flier sparks concerns - News Local Massachusetts - Boston.com.

This cracks me to no end as life imitates art once again. I can just see Chief Brody arguing with the president of the Amity Chamber of Commerce under a billboard with a swimmer being chased by a shark, "But chief, closing the beaches will be bad for business."

It's a matter of time before someone gets attacked by a shark in Cape Cod waters. It's happened recently and it will happen again. Some kayaker, surfer, paddle boarder, or hapless swimmer is going to be mistaken for a seal and get chomped. Not telling the rubes on vacation that the Cape is rapidly becoming a Great White all you can eat buffet is not a way to keep the tourism industry on its feet.

 

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