Monday, December 29, 2014

Making The World A Better Place: Deep-Sea Surfcasting Methods

Duxbury Beach, MA

I'm not really going to make any drastic changes to the world. I'm not a charismatic politician, I'm not a hero like a cop or an EMT, and- pertaining to today's column- I have almost zero skills as an inventor.

I say "almost zero" because I do have an active imagination. Imagination is an important part of inventing, but there are other skills involved in the invention process that I lack, perhaps even aggressively so. I'm sure that plenty of guys thought that it would be nice to build a flying machine, but it was a task left undone before the Wright Brothers came along. I'm sort of in a group with the do-nothing guys.

I do have a few ideas that I wouldn't mind sharing out, in hopes that someone a bit more handy than I am can solve the little problems inherent in the design process. I'd have no problem taking zero credit and seeing zero dollars, if only I could see my beloved ideas brought to life by a better craftsman than myself.

I grew up on Duxbury Beach. Those of you who are familiar with Duxbury Beach know that there is some good surfcasting to be done there. You can pluck a striper or a bluefish out of the ocean while standing on the beach. I actually caught one from INSIDE my house once. It rules.

However, Duxbury Beach is long, flat and it takes a while to get to the deep water. That's not a problem if you have a boat, you just park it somewhere with 45 feet of water under you and see what the ocean has to offer. If you don't have a boat, you can only work the shallows, even if you are an awesome caster.

It's only a matter of time before a fisherman on shore starts to wonder what goodies could be had if he or she could land a cast wayyyyyyyyyyyyyyy the hell offshore. I'm not a real fisherman, not even close to one... but I do love these ideas, and I'd like to float them down the line to a more crafty angler.

Before I start to invent stuff to aid this process, let's find out if it is even worth getting a cast a few hundred yards offshore. There are several factors to consider.

First, your average spool of fishing line is, oh, 300 yards or so. That's further than any human can cast, to my knowledge. Maybe Stan Gibbs could cast further than that, but he's fishing with Jesus now.

300 yards is a lot of friggin' fishing line. Look at a NFL game. That field is 100 yards. 300 yards is plenty of room for potential line snags, caught-on-the-bottoms, and some guy on a jet-ski slicing your line. In that light, it may be better to fish 50 yards offshore.

All of that reeling back and forth also trolls your line through a lot of seaweed. Your 20 pound test won't hold up if you need to tow 50 pounds of seaweed. In New England, you can also reel in lobster pots, which is an offense that I think a lobsterman can shoot you for.

Littering is something to consider. My surfcasting balloon idea may seem like harmless fun, until a duck gets caught in the balloon or whatever and dies. I had similar problems when experimenting with my Empty Six Pack Rings fishing gear.

Deep-sea surfcasting also lines you up for an ass-kicking, as you will be putting a lot of line into the water that might tangle up with that of other fishermen. Inventors might appreciate your deep-sea surfcaster innovations, but a serious fisherman won't be so forgiving if you keep messing up his line. I'm using Duxbury Beach as an example because you can get a lot of empty beach to yourself.

Remember that every cast is an adventure in Cape Cod Bay. You may even snag a Beast. However, you may also go through some ridiculous extremes to get your line out 400 yards offshore, only to have a crab steal your bait or even get your hook caught on the Lusitania. There are 1000 shipwrecks off of just itty-bitty Truro and Wellfleet.

Also, should you catch a fish, you may be in for a 7 hour fight to beach a schoolie fish that you should have to throw back unless you're really hungry and no one official is looking. If you get too much line out there, you may have a fight that runs from Duxbury to Scituate to Plymouth and back to Duxbury. There is a ratio between how long you fight the fish and how big that fish you beach is, and if you are on the wrong side of that ratio, the other fishermen can call you Chumpy.

The question that I actually have to call experts to ask about is if there is a great advantage in Kinds Or Sizes Of Fish You Catch. A good way to get laughed at in the inventor parties is to invent something useless. "Look, I made a seven foot Q-Tip!.... Why are all of you laughing?"

Using this chart of Duxbury Beach as a guide, you can see that a really good human cast would get you in 8-10 feet of water. If you wade out a lot and cast (a dangerous practice, seeing as Great White Sharks work off Duxbury Beach), you may get into 12-18 feet of water.... not too shabby, but we're thinking we can double that if one of our half-fast inventions works.

Generally and disappointingly, you aren't going to get a much greater variety of fish a few hundred yards offshore. You have go deep-deep to get tunas and stuff like that. However, unusual fish do make it close to shore, with "close" meaning "a few hundred yards." Why not take a crack at them, especially if you get to shoot a crossbow (see below) or something?

Anyhow, here are the ideas we have pondered and abandoned.


The vision you're having is correct... attach fishing gear to a crossbow bolt, aim the crossbow at an upward angle, and fire that sucker towards the deep water. The arrow could even act as the bobber, and you'd get the arrow back if everything works out right.

I just chose a crossbow because it looks like the most fun. A longbow may be superior, I'm not really sure. "Agincourt" keeps looking for an avenue into this conversation, although that was more of a rate-of-fire thing than a superiority-of-thrust thing. If Agincourt was a battle to catch the most fish, we might all be speaking French right now.

My last name is Bowden, so I really wanted this invention to work, because I could call it the Bow-Caster and make an informercial. I've got a pretty strange Bucket List, people... be happy that I'm not telling you all of the Bad Things on it. You'd have to sanitize your medulla oblongata if I did.

Before we get into the engineering problems with this, there are two distinct psychological problems.

One, you don't want the joy of casting to surpass the joy of fishing. This might happen is you get too into casting by crossbow. Eventually, your surfcasting experience boils down to something like watching pornography for the wooden acting scenes that bookend the hardcore stuff.

Two, if you get THAT into shooting the arrows, you may as well just buy a wetsuit and go spearfishing. This will take you offshore- and, thusly, out of this article.

The flight of an arrow is really a splendid thing, a little miracle of aerodynamics. You apply great and sudden force to the arrow, and it flies through the air... goddamnit, I'll say it, as straight as an arrow.

That miracle is messed up if you add the weight of a lure, a hook and whatever else you might have on the line. I say "messed up" because I don't know the scientific terms like lift, drag, bouyancy, flight-to-drag ratio and thrust-to-weight ratio. What I do know is that it will slow the arrow down, make it drop faster, and have a poor effect on the accuracy.

The arrow pre-dates recorded history, and is common among all cultures. If this idea actually had any merit, some Navajo or Mongol would have figured it out long ago.

A friend of mine who plays Dungeons and Dragons told me that I may need something called a Ballista.


I look for examples of my ideas being tried out somewhere on Earth while doing my research, and I was really counting on Redneck America to bail me out on this one. I found nothing on it, although it may be done in parts of the South where they don't have the Internet yet.

I like this one because it is almost 100% against the law. The lawbreaking occurs when we realize that a skyrocket only goes 100 yards or so, and that's before you somehow hook fishing gear to it. You need more power than a skyrocket, and at that point, you start getting into a private-citizen-discharge-of-artillery.

The basic idea is to use skyrockets to propel your bait into the deeper water. We'll get to cannons in a moment, but we can use skyrockets to illustrate the problems we have encountered.

The first issue is one of performance difficulties. A single skyrocket will not lift fishing gear, let alone carry it very deep into the sea. No, you can't tie 10 skyrockets together. You'll still only go 100 yards. I don't think that firing them off in a rifled barrel would help either, but I'm also not that into ballistics. Anyhow, at that point, you may as well buy some hip-waders.

A problem we encountered was that the fire-discharge of the skyrocket damages the fishing line. It's bad when you shred the line and it never gets to the water. It's worse when you get it out there in a damaged state, latch onto a fish, and the strength of the fish is the last straw for your damaged fishing line.

We also tried cannon. No, not a howitzer like they use to level Iraqi villages, but a personal-use cannon. If the TSA is really reading our email and Google searches, they'll have a few frightened moments when they see me looking for terms like "personal use artillery."

I had one of these cast-iron cannons as a kid, we used Bangsite to power it, and we could shoot a marshmallow about 100 yards. If we could do that legally, imagine what could be done if we were willing to live outside of the law a bit?

You want to be careful, because it will be very bad for your ego to be at the hospital, telling a nurse, "I was using explosives so I could add 150 yards to my surfcasting." You don't want the surgeon giggling while he's trying to re-attach your fingers.

Like I said, Johnny Law may not share your enthusiasm for alternative casting methods, especially if there are explosions involved with it. Check your local regulations.


This method involves attaching the bait to balloons, floating it out to a desired distance, and then snapping the fishing gear away from the balloon and dropping it into the sea.

This is the only idea I had where I actually found people doing it somewhere. In Australia, bait is floated out on balloons to catch fish such as shark and marlin. A black marlin weighing 200 pounds was caught off of Jervis Bay using balloon casting. They also go after tuna, kingfish, and sharks.

I was thinking more along the lines of a kite, but balloons are the only wind instruments being used in reality anywhere.

Check that... the guys who charter out of Scituate Lobster Pound use kites to fish for tuna, although they are usually off Stellwagen Bank, not standing on the shore.


This would be very similar to kite-fishing, but even cooler. You can kill the Jack Of Spades in Al Qaeda with a fishing rod, but it would be difficult. They kill them with drones all the time, however.

My nephew just got one of these for Christmas, and it is iller than Ben Stiller. It is some hyrdroplane looking device, with 4 mini helicopter turbines. It has a range of a few hundred yards, and even has a camera. If you're a pretty girl laying on Duxbury Beach and a strange machine is hovering over you and filming, it's probably my nephew.

This would be handy to adjust for surfcasting. You'd attach the gear to it, get the gear over the desired fishing spot, and disattach it somehow. You'd even have the camera to spy out the water you're working, maybe even drop the bait right into a school you've seen on the camera.

The problem here is that a good gust of wind could blow your drone into the Atlantic, and they are rather costly. You also don't want to get too technical about fishing. It is a man vs. nature sport, and using a mobile air camera to fish is sort of like Sea Rape. Tuna boats do it, but they're doing it to pay their mortgage, not because they want to cast 300 yards offshore on a lark. They're off the scale.


This is cheating, and real fishermen will snap their lines at you and try to hook your ear if they see you doing it. It is essentially like what Rosie Ruiz did in that Marathon. However, if you're not after style points, this could just be right up your alley.

As a boat or jet-ski is leaving the shoreline, have them tow your bait way the hell out and drop it. Make sure they are prepared for your fishing line to suddenly snap back when the line goes taut, lest you catch a 200 pound Angrius Boaterus.

Again, this could be a lot of effort and energy for an affair that might see your bait eaten by a crab in 30 seconds.

Know that real fishermen call this Punk-casting. You won't get your ass kicked directly over it, but the resulting conversation could be filled with many forked roads of potential diplomatic transgressions that would have you reading Nikes. Again, at this point, just buy the hip-waders.

I suppose this is why they invented boats, but that doesn't mean that a guy can't use his imagination a bit.

"Trust in God, but row away from the rocks."... old fishing proverb

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

A Flash Degree In Christmas

We thought that we'd share out a little holiday trivia to liven up your Christmas season. We're not working in any particular order, so bear with us.

The Big Man

- "Christmas" is a compound Middle English word for "Christ's Mass." "Christ" is a Greek translation of the Hebrew word for "Messiah."

- Jesus can, depending on which Gospel you favor, trace his family tree back to Abraham or even Adam. Jesus shares ancestors with David Lee Roth, Bowser from Sha Na Na, Tom Cruise's agent and Adam Sandler, but not Hall of Famer Rod Carew (he converted).

- He had 4 brothers (Simon, James, Joseph and Judas) and an unknown amount of sisters, although this may have been a Brady Bunch family mixing situation with Joseph and Mary. Catholic families tend to be large.

- No one is sure what year Jesus was born in, nor are they sure of what time of year he was born in. Wikipedia kicks up 7 BC-2 BC. Very few scholars claim that there was no historical Jesus, but the only two events of Jesus' life that are universally accepted by historians are his baptism and his execution.

- The three wise men were Melichor, Balthazar and Caspar. M was Persian, C was from India, and B was from Arabia. They are variously referred to as kings and/or scholars, and are saints in Western Christianity. They brought gold, frankincense and myrrh.

- The New Testament doesn't offer much of a physical description of Jesus, didn't discuss race much in general, and rarely has physical descriptions of people mentioned in it. "First century Palestinian Jew" could look like anything, although Jesus would most likely look more like Yasir Arafat than Menachem Begin.

- I have, while researching this, seen Jesus estimated to be between 5'5"-5'7" and to have a sinewy appearance from all the walking people back then did. I even saw references to Jesus most likely being very suntanned. So, you basically have Anwar Sadat meets Moshe Dayan with a bit of George Hamilton sprinkled in, and Michael J. Fox height.

- Jesus is often referred to as a carpenter, or at least an artisan of some sort, and you did all of the work by hand back then... so paintings showing a buff Jesus may not be far off the mark. There are biblical tales of Jesus physically throwing people out of the Temple.

- Judaism denies Jesus as a divine figure, and especially denies him as the promised Messiah. Islam is very pro-Jesus. Denying Jesus is blasphemy in Islam. Islam views Jesus as a Muslim ("one who submits to God's will"), as a prophet/messenger of Allah, and note that Jesus never claimed to be the Son of God.

The Big Day

- The first records of December 25th for Christmas start turning up in Rome by 354 AD. The Council of Tours established the 12 days of Christmas (12/25-1/6) in 567 AD. Christmas was celebrated in Constantinople by 379 AD.

- Even before Christmas, winter solstice festivals were the most popular festivals of the year among people of various cultures. Pagan Scandinavia had Yule festivals, Saturnalia and Sol Invictus festivals were popular in Rome, and elements of all were worked into the Christmas routine.

- Christmas became more prominent when Charlemagne was crowned on Christmas Day 800 AD as emperor of the Carolingian Empire.

- Elements of pagan celebrations such as gift-giving and caroling were brought into Christmas celebrations by the Middle Ages. "Misrule," which was binge-drinking, promiscuity and gambling, were also part of the show. Gift-giving was taken from Saturnalia.

- After the Protestant Reformation, the celebration of Christmas took a big hit. Puritans banned the celebration of Christmas in both England and America. Christmas was not a holiday in Scotland until 1958.

- Christmas was banned in Boston, Massachusetts from 1659 through 1681. Christmas was not widely celebrated in Massachusetts until the 18th Century. Longfellow wrote of the changing attitude towards Christmas among the former Puritans in 1856.

- Christmas became unpopular in the USA during and especially after the Revolution, as the Americans considered it to be an English custom. George Washington had little use for Christmas, and his attack on Trenton the day after Christmas was enabled because Old Dollar Bill Face knew that the Hessians would be celebrating Christmas (drinking), and that his troops wouldn't be.

- Even in England, Christmas was celebrated more by the rich than the poor. An apple was a good Christmas score for a working-class kid in, say, 1800.

- Christmas remained popular in America among German immigrants, and the first Christmas trees and nativity scenes in America were found in Pennsylvania and North Carolina.

- The Soviet Union banned Christmas celebrations in 1917, and the ban lasted until 1991.

The Big Comeback

- Christmas made a big comeback in the 1800s, and has been large and in charge ever since. Anglo-Catholicism surged, and the celebration surged with it.

- One of the main factors bringing the celebration to English speakers was when King George III took a German wife, Queen Charlotte. She introduced several Germanic Christmas customs to English nobility, and eventually to regular English folk.

- Charlotte introduced the Christmas tree to Britain, and eventually America. Queen Victoria and Prince Albert also helped popularize the Christmas tree via a widely circulated picture of their tree.

- By the end of the Civil War, the Christmas tree had become popular in America. German-American troops serving in the conflict helped socialize the tradition among non-celebrants.

- Another factor in the Christmas resurgence was the publication of two books between 1822 and 1843,  A Visit From St. Nicholas and  A Christmas Carol. These gave us or helped make popular the concepts of family gatherings, seasonal food and drink, and generosity. Dickens greatly sought to show Christmas as centered on the family, as opposed to the Church or the community.

- The phrase "Merry Christmas" comes from A Christmas Carol, as does "Scrooge" and "Bah Humbug."

- AVFSN, also known by the first line, "Twas the night before Christmas," popularized the giving of gifts. It is seen as the beginning of the holiday shopping season craze. It predates Scrooge by 21 years.

- 1843 also saw the publication of the first commercial Christmas cards. 668 million were sold in 2008 alone, the average American home gets 20 a year.

- The Christmas carol (singing, not the book) became popular in the mid-1800s. "God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman," "Hark The Herald Angels Sing," and "The First Noel" all came from this period, and are mentioned by Dickens in ACC.

- I closed the page and the spelling will be tough, but among the first Middle Ages carols were Good King Wenceslas and the Belichickian Personal Hoodie.

- 1885 saw Christmas established as a national holiday in the USA.

The Big Red Elf

- Saint Nicholas actually existed. He was a Greek Christian bishop in 4th Century Turkey, known for his generosity. His most famous act of giving was to bestow money upon 3 poor daughters for their dowries, so they would not have to become prostitutes. He is the patron saint of children, sailors, archers, pawnbrokers (no, I don't know how), Moscow and Amsterdam.

- The Reformation led to people being opposed to the veneration of saints, which made the people just shift St. Nicholas to Santa Claus or Sinterklasse.

- Santa also owes some debt to Odin, the Norse god. In particular, he is using Odin's winter festival, Odin's beard, and Odin's great hunt, where Odin rode a grey horse through the skies. Odin also entered homes through the chimney.

- Santa got huge right around when Christmas made a comeback, and Jesus definitely owes Santa a steak dinner for all the help. AVFSN made Santa into a rock star.

- The original AVFSN reindeer names were Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Dunder and Blixem. Dunder and Blixem were Germanized into Donner and Blitzen, German words for thunder and lightning.

- Rudolph was added to the team later, in 1939 or so, during a blinding snowstorm or (less fun) the efforts of a Montgomery-Ward copywriter. Rudolph is clearly shown to be the son of Donner in his animated special. 1939 was a high period of US creativity, as 1939 was also the year Batman was created, as well as The Grapes Of Wrath and The Wizard Of Oz.

- AVFSN also establishes Santa landing sleighs on roofs, entering houses through the chimney, and having a huge bag of toys. It also permanently established him as an elf.

- An artist named Thomas Nast popularized Santa's look, as well as him living at the North Pole (many Europeans think Santa lives in Finland). Mrs. Claus turned up in 1889 or so. Coca-Cola did not invent Santa's suit in their colors. The army of toy-making elves came around in the early 20th Century.

- Santa is probably the world's most prominent smoker, followed closely by Frosty (who, I might add, was born on Christmas Day), Clint Eastwood and Jimmy Page.

- NATO paid a settlement to a Danish reindeer farmer after low-flying F-16s killed his reindeer farm stock via a series of heart failures.

- Brockton, MA was the location of Santa's first (1890) department store visit. In 1924, he made his debut in the Macy's Thanksgiving parade, which was when "Santa" was taken to Macy's to meet kids.

The Big Tree

- The decorated Christmas Tree goes back to 15th Century Germany. Martin Luther is often given credit for it. The evergreen tree symbolizes life. It moved beyond the Fatherland in the 1800s.

- "O Tannenbaum" means "Oh, Fir Tree." The German word for Christmas tree is Weihnachtsbaum (pronounced Weihnachtsbaum), which rolls right off the tongue.

- The first Rockefeller tree went up in 1933. It is almost always a Norway Spruce.

- Every year, Boston gets a tree from Nova Scotia, as thanks for her help in responding to a 1917 ship explosion in Halifax. Boston stopped calling it a Christmas Tree in 2005, choosing the non-denomenational Holiday Tree moniker instead.

- Christmas trees were originally not set up until December 24th. It slowly got pushed back, with the dawn of Advent often being the put-up date. Ideally, you should have it down by January 6th, the 12th and last day (Epiphany) of Christmas.

- Early trees were lit by candles, which must have been fun. That's where the tree skirt came from, by the way.

- The first tree decorations included apples, flowers, and cookies cut into various shapes. The Germans also made the first glass ornaments.

- The angel on top of a Christmas tree is supposed to represent Gabriel, who was the guy who had to explain the whole Virgin Birth thing to Mary. The star is supposed to represent the Star of Bethlehem, which the Magi used to track down Baby Jesus. Tree-toppers came into popularity in Victorian England.

- Stringing popcorn on an outdoor tree was originally done as a treat to the winter birds. New Englanders used cranberries when they adopted Christmas celebration again.

- Popular trees for Christmas include many varieties of spruce, pine, and fir.

- Artificial trees came around in Germany in response to deforestation in the 1800s. The first ones used dyed goose feathers. We sold 17 million artificial trees in the USA last year, 20 million live ones. As you might imagine, artificial trees are more popular among urban types.

- The art of spraying fake snow on tree branches is called flocking.

The Big Feast

- Roast turkey is the most popular Christmas dinner in English-speaking countries. Ham, goose, pheasant, prime rib, roast beef and even a call to the Chinaman are alternative Christmas dinners.

- Turkey started showing up on English Christmas tables in the 1500s. They got the taste from the Middle East, who got it from Spanish traders. Henry VIII was the first English monarch to have turkey as a main course on Christmas.

- Scrooge sends Tiny Tim's family a turkey, not a goose. Poor families would save up all year for their Christmas goose, an early form of layaway. Scrooge sprung for the good ish.

- Richard II of England had a Christmas celebration in 1377 AD where 28 oxen and 300 sheep were eaten.

- Muslims have a Christmas feast, the main course in Lebanon is usually turkey.

- Swedes work herring into Christmas dinner. Slovakia favors carp. Italians often celebrate the Night Of The Seven Fishes on 12/24. Romanians prefer pork.

- Meatless dinners are served on Christmas in Poland. The Dutch often have everyone prepare their own meal, rather than having a host preparing for everyone. Southern Italians will eat eel on Christmas day. Austrians favor carp. Danes eat duck.

- Iceland's typical Christmas meal is, I'm sorry to say, reindeer.

The Big Sale

- Christmas is the absolute peak season for retailers all around the world. Christmas Day, however, is the slowest business day of the year.

- The average American spends $800 on Christmas, 73% in gifts.

- Department stores are expected to do $616 billion in sales for the 2014 US holiday season.

- There is a phenomena known as Christmas Creep, in which retailers are gradually extending the Christmas shopping season. It has extended presently to the day after Halloween.

- FDR set the official date of Thanksgiving specifically with extending the Christmas shopping season in mind. It is the date we still presently use.

- Despite the imposition of commercialism on Christmas, the Christmas shopping season is set via religious dates. Officially, Christmas season runs from the Advent (November 27) through the Epiphany (January 6th).

- Wal-Mart, Sears, JC Penney, Lowe's, and Sam's Club all put out Christmas stuff in October, via store policy. Halloween and Thanksgiving gear doesn't fill enough shelf-space once the summer merchandise is put away.

- The 20th Century generally saw Christmas music appear in radio programming by the second week of December. The turn of the century saw the onset of certain radio stations playing nothing but Christmas music from the day after Thanksgiving through Christmas Day. Recently, some major-market stations turn to an All-Christmas format by November 1st, and Internet radio stations like AOL Radio offer Christmas music stations year-round.

- 40% of Americans start their Christmas shopping before Halloween, and a smaller % get a great deal of their shopping done during the after-Christmas sales.

- Black Friday is a mass shopping event, held the day after Thanksgiving. $50 billion was spent on the 4 day Thanksgiving weekend in 2014, down from $61 billion the year before. People have been killed in Black Friday shopping incidents. The term can be traced back to Philadelphia.

- Black Friday just recently (2003) passed Super Saturday (the last Saturday before Christmas) as the busiest shopping day of the year in the United States.

- Grey Thursday is a shopping day based on post-dinner Thanksgiving.

- Cyber Monday, an online sales marketing ploy, churned up $2 billion in business in 2013.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Making The World A Better Place: Improving The Cape Cod Canal

We'll be dropping a few ideas onto those Internets over the next few days, all designed to improve our region. We have already done some culinary discussion, and it is now time for some frivolous Suburban Planning.

Today, we'll be looking at the Cape Cod Canal.

The CCC is 7 miles of coastal river, man-made to save everyone the bother of sailing around the ship graveyard that is Cape Cod and the Islands. It runs from Sandwich to Bourne, and connects Cape Cod Bay to Buzzards Bay. It is home to a power plant, a Maritime Academy, several parks, and several visitor centers. It is straddled by hotels, gas stations, and coffee houses. All of Cape Cod's main roads run over it. Very important, our little Canal is.

It pays for itself by shortening the trips our goods have to make between Boston and the rest of the eastern USA, but it can and should be improved. Improvements cost money, so any ideas we have had better make money or lure in tourists.

Otherwise, there is no reason to mess with a perfectly good canal region. The only reason to risk messing with the gift horse is if we can make it bleed dollars. There is almost never anything wrong with maximizing a natural resource, and it would be a shame to leave money laying on the table in this rotten economy.

Let's see what's on the old drawing board, shall we?

Light Up The Bridges

I got this idea out of the blue when I was thinking of questions for an interview we did with Cape Cod Commission CEO Wendy Northcross back at the old rag. She said it was a good idea, which is notable because she told me when my ideas were bad ones.

Think of Boston, in the Big Dig era. What was the aesthetic highlight of the whole thing? Lots of people would tell you that it is the Zakim Bridge and her cool blue lighting. It sort of defines the night skyline in Boston as much as the Prudential and the Hancock rule the daytime horizon.

Why can't we get us some of that here on Cabo Coddo? Shoot, we have not one, not two, but THREE bridges, and we may get a 4th if they decide to expand the Sagamore. We have a lot to work with.

From what I remember reading about the Zakim, making it that blue color wasn't that difficult or expensive. You get a few lights (maybe solar powered?) , put some color filters over them, and aim them up into the upper bridge. It;s basically how Commissioner Gordon summons Batman when he needs him, but we'll just use color and skip the logo.

What colors should we use? Mr. Zakim sort of owns blue, so we'd just be riding jock if we chose blue. It's tempting to go for a tricolor with the current trio of bridges, but a 4th bridge would render it obsolete. This prevents us from going full Uncle Sam and having it be red/white/blue, and it prevents us from going full Malcom X and getting a red/black/green bridge or set of bridges.

Likewise, our three (Bourne, Sagamore, and the railroad) bridges prevent us from doing two part color schemes, so no Boston Celtics green/white or Coca-Cola red/white.

I'm not above accepting corporate sponsorship. If someone like Pepsi were willing to pay big moolah, I'd have no problem with a Pepsi-colored bridge. Likewise, I'd color a bridge for the right cause. Think of all the breast cancer awareness we'd raise if we had a pink bridge. Why not a yellow ribbonish bridge to honor the troops, or even a camo bridge?

Lighting up a bridge won't make us any money directly, but it will become an iconic landmark for Cape Cod. It will impress the tourists, and please the locals. That sort of pays for itself after a while.

Crikey.... I'm looking at the Bourne Bridge right now (12:10 AM). It's a line of dull streetlights, and one red light on the top so planes won't crash into the bridge. It sucks. Who wouldn't rather have a bit of a light show there?

Someone should be working on that, pronto.

Import Cooler Foliage

This might not be possible, and I may actually call the Sandwich Tree Farm guy if I haven't published by morning. If it can be done, we could do it on the cheap if we are willing to wait a generation for the payoff.

Doing what on the cheap? Why, stealing New Hampshire's foliage, of course. Why would we do that? To line the Cape Cod Canal with it, silly.

Fall foliage is big business, and many people consider it to be the only reason to go to upstate New Hampshire. Why shouldn't Cape Cod get a taste of that action? Two reasons... our late foliage season and our wealth of evergreen, non-foliage-making pine trees. We can't do anything about October or autumn windstorms, but we can take steps to balance out the tree populations.

How? I don't really know how trees work, which is a shameful way to be this far in Suburbia. From what I'd gather, they drop acorns and pine cones and so forth, which lodge in the ground and begin sprouting. Over a century or so, you end up with a big tree that gives us a color show every October.

Trees that we need here are beech, birch, baldcypress, red sugar maple, aspen, witchhazel, gingko, smokebush, dogwood, persimmon, sycamore and hickory. No, I don't know which ones will work here, but someone does, and that man/woman can be our leader.

You'd need an army of trucks to haul sapling trees down to the Canal from the White Mountains (and that may be illegal), but a few packs of Boy Scouts could gather enough acorns to drop 10000 new trees along Old Man River. After that, we'd have to wait until the trees were old enough to give impressive foliage.

I'm not sure if a Vermont maple tree would give the same foliage in Burlington that it gives in Bourne. I have read that New Hampshire trees have been transplanted to Georgia before, without the resulting Autumn foliage show. That's Georgia, however, and not 100-miles-away Bourne.

The end result is our planting a line of trees down the Canal that show ridiculous color in foliage season. This gives us a tourist attraction, and perhaps- best case scenario- the best foliage walk in America... down an ocean river, surrounded by all of fall's colors. Why go to Maine when you can go to Cape Cod?

I think- and I could totally possibly be wrong- that it would be the largest purposeful foliage planting in world history. I think all other foliage is located where God put it. If we steal enough acorns, we can maybe bleed New Hampshire dry and take over the market entirely.

I'm like MLK with this, because I may not make it to the mountaintop with my pet project. It will take some time to bear fruit, so to speak.

However, future generations will thank us if it works out, and they won't even notice if it fails to work out. We'd only be out 10000 acorns or so if it fails. If it works, we'd have stumbled onto that rare instance where money DOES grow on trees.

More Fishing Piers

We have a unique recreational opportunity with the Cape Cod Canal. It's an ocean river, and all sorts of creatures swim through it. Whales, dolphins and sharks have been seen in the Canal.

However, the fish we can profit from are stripers and bluefish. These are our big game fish, and they love the Canal. People come from miles around to fish for them, and we should exploit that fact for every penny that it is worth.

There is a fishing pier in Sandwich, and it is almost always full. Fisherman love the pier, because it lets you not have to cast and reel in over the rockpile that lines the Canal.

Maybe, if we build a few more piers and promote them properly, we can become a Fishing Destination. I'd put a pier everywhere that has a parking lot, including Scusset Beach, the Herring Run, Buzzards Bay Park, and wherever else I'm leaving out.

I'd definitely be open to carving up some of Sandwich Road to make some parking for the piers we erect on the Cape side of the Canal. You just have to space out the Cape piers and the Mainland piers so that people aren't casting halfway out and hooking the other side's lines.

Fishing piers would need bait shops, liquor stores, Houses of Pizza, gas stations, hotels, and all sorts of support services. It's not like a few piers will turn us into Disneyland, but we don't NEED to be as big as Disneyland. We have enough traffic already.

We could even use the Boston train to import city fishermen to work our piers and patronize our businesses. I taught in the city for a while, and my school had fishing classes. Dudes are fishing behind the squalid Boston Garden area. They'd kill to work the Canal... especially if we had brightly colored bridges and cool foliage (see above), or whatever I write about below this paragraph.

Even the construction of the piers would create local jobs, although any financial success with this project would be won one fisherman at a time.

Faux Sea Monster

I love this idea, and always have. If I were a better man, I'd have already done it.

Name a lake in Scotland. Name one that isn't Loch Ness. That's my point.

Monster Tourism (or Legend Tripping, which is sort of like Monster Tourism but not really) could fill our coffers with the dollars of the dumb. No one ever went broke aiming for the Dumb. Dumb people pay the same (sometimes more, actually) money we do for the same services, and it all looks green to me when I'm depositing it or using it to fund local high schools and police departments.

All that it would take is one small series of special effects. We'd need to make a monster which is perhaps a bit more realistic than the shark from the first Jaws movie was. We need it to make a very public appearance in the Canal, in front of a gang of tourists and at least one very civic-minded person working a video camera. We would also need it to make enough subsequent Canal appearances to make sure that the public knows that the Beast is exclusively our Baby.

We'd need several people playing along. We'd need someone at the Discovery Channel on our side. We'd need to get someone on Coast To Coast AM. We'd need to get a guy named Loren Coleman on board. We'd need a scientist who is willing to say that we have a legit sea monster on our hands. If Leonard Nimoy is still alive, we may need him on the team. We'd need a chief of police who can spin an impressive yarn, and we'd need a complicit populace.

This could backfire, as Beach Tourism might suffer if people think that a plesiosaur is going to eat them if they go swimming here. It might be very, very important for the public to be led to believe that the Beast only appears in the Cape Cod Canal, where there is no swimming by humans allowed.

I'd go with a Loch Ness-style monster, which the public already has a visual image of. We could also go Giant Alligator, Monster Anaconda, Megalodon, Sea Yeti, Godzilla, the Host, the Mongolian Death Worm, marshland Lizard Men, Colossal Squid, or perhaps even some combo platter of the menu items listed above.

Regardless of what we choose for the visual, we should make sure that the scientific name is Capecoddus Canalosaurus. His nickname should be Saggy, as in the Sagamore Bridge.

If the town should somehow come to foreclose on some property near the Canal, we should use our monster to come ashore and wreck a house. It would be tough to fake fatalities, but we could work around that. 

Look, there he is!

Other Ideas

- Waitresses on jet skis, serving food and drinks to ships using the Canal.

- Use chemicals to freeze the Canal, and host the NHL All Star Game on it.

- Use the Canal to steal our bad selves that Head of The Charles Regatta from Boston.

- Race a pair of tall ships down the Canal every July 4th, loser gets sunk. This would be better with celebrity yachts, and we have lots of fringe Kennedys running around.

- Underwater glass pedestrian tunnel.

- Canal Triathalon, with a 7 mile swim against the current.

- A floating mall.

- Host the 4th of July parade on the Canal.

- Build a temporary dam, and threaten to unleash the pent up water as a tsunami onto Buzzards Bay beach towns if they don't pay us ransom.

- Needless but authentic-looking lighthouses and foghorns.

- Become the Mecca for some obscure water sport like sailboarding or water polo.

- Host an Oyster Festival the same night that Falmouth is hosting their pilfered Scallop Festival.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Making The World A Better Place: The Irish Sandwich!

I'm 46, and I don't have children. My girlfriend has a son and I do my best for him, but he's not my blood. Beyond him, I have no legacy at all.

That's not a bad thing. If I'm dead, I'd imagine that I'd care very little about my family line continuing. However, as I near death, it would be nice to have some kids visit me in the nursing home... but to speak frankly, people with my lifestyle don't make it to the nursing home very often. My present retirement plan is "suffer a heart attack at the desk."

That legacy thing does chew at me some, though. It's not even a physical thing. There is nothing in my life that makes me think that the world would be a lesser place without my DNA running around. I don't really matter that much, and I kind of like it that way.

What I need to do to silence the desire for a Legacy is think of some way that people will be forced to remember me after I'm gone. I know that sentence sounds like something you'd write before you went to slaughter everyone at the high school, but I mean it in a far more positive manner.

I want to make an improvement to the world, a permanent change that will benefit people long after I'm gone. I'm not smart enough to cure Ebola, not charismatic enough to become a great President, and not rich enough to build a hospital or something. As I size this task up, I think that my chief positive trait is that I know my limitations.

That said, I have a few ideas that wouldn't be that hard to do, and which would make people happy long after I'm gone. I'll even share them out for free, because I'm good like that. We'll hit you off with several over the next few days. We'll start in you local deli.


This idea has been kicking around in my head for decades. I just can't cook worth a damn (I once went over 2 years without preparing my own food, instead relying on take-out and girlfriends who like to cook), so me opening a sub shop to force this change on the world would be a fool's errand.

Go to any sub shop, deli, or what have you. Check the menu. Every sub shop or House Of Pizza that is worth a damn has an Italian sub on the menu, often as the leadoff hitter. This iconic sandwich is some combination of salami, mortadella, prosciutto, bologna (I'm working off Word with no Internet connection, so forgive me if I get the Dago words wrong, I mean no disrespect), cheese, oil, and vegetables. I'd be amazed if you have made it this far in life without having tangled with Old Man Italy at some point.

Most places will also have an American sandwich, which I never actually order, but I assume is some form of ham, bologna and whatever. You may also have the French Dip, which is roast beef au jus. Locally, you may get a Portagee, which is a linguica/onion/pepper beauty that is often incorrectly marketed as a Fenway sausage sandwich.

What about the Irish?

Granted, I am a product of the Irish Riviera. I may see the world through a green shade. However, there are a lot of Irish in America, especially up here in Cranberry County. The Irish Riviera would actually be the northeastern border of Cranberry County, which in reality exists only in these pages.

There may be great truths to running a sub shop which don't make themselves apparent to me, but I would never miss the chance to appeal to a large % of my potential customers. I would also not pass up what seems to be a pretty good chance to have my deli be known forever as the birthplace of the Irish Sandwich. Trust me, you can trace down the exact places where Buffalo Wings, French Dip sandwiches, and New England Clam Chowder were invented, and being the birthplace of something iconic has always been good for business.

So, what would be in an Irish Sandwich?

It is very tempting to say "corned beef," but there are two problems with that. One, corned beef isn't a very good sandwich meat. You order almost everything else on the menu before you get to corned beef, and many people only think of eating it on St. Patrick's Day. You need something tastier than that if you want it on the menu everywhere in America.

Two, corned beef isn't Irish food. People from actual Ireland only have to go back a few generations to find a potato famine victim, and those people (and their often destitute descendants) couldn't afford beef. While Ireland produced lots of corned ("corn" = salt grains) beef, they consumed very little of it.

Corned beef became associated with the Irish who came to America, because it was often the cheapest thing on the menu for the poor bogtrotters. In Ireland, corned beef production took the best farmland for beef pasture, forcing the Irish into 100% reliance on the potato. This killed them by the millions when a potato blight hit Ireland. Therefore, the actual Irish who know their history view corned beef with disdain, and that's before you factor in corned beef's heavy involvement in the Irish-wage-killing Atlantic slave trade. In fact, most Irish had their first taste of corned beef while fighting the American Civil War, where shoddy, maggotty "salt pork" left a rotten taste in their memories.

Only bacon can save this sandwich.

While bacon isn't associated with the Irish, it is a popular item and is very much disresspected on the menus. Beyond the BLT, it is basically just a section of a club sandwich. Let's show bacon the love that it deserves and make it the centerpiece of the Irish Sandwich.

We'd also need cheese, and I would go with "cheddar" for no other reason than it is a funny word to hear Irish Riviera people say. If it can be done (and I have no idea), the cheese should be soaked in a beer bath overnight.

Pickles would have to be involved, as the oft-pickled Irish are veterans of many a well-fought bottle. Pickles also add necessary Green to the sandwich. I'd throw in onions, because onions make everything better. I'd say Yes on tomato, but No on lettuce. You don't want a redesigned BLT, and "lettuce" to an Irishman is what the priest says before "pray."

The sandwich needs potatoes, but french fries don't belong IN the sub. Why not potato chips? A sandwich made of beer-cheese and 10 slices of bacon is already trying to kill you, so why not add potato chips?

Since "Mayo" is an Irish name, we have to coat this monster with mayonnaise. Again, you left your diet at the door once you even pondered trying an Irish Sandwich, so you may as well try to equal the daily caloric intake of an IRA cell.

There we have it. The Irish Sandwich. Almost immediately upon her introduction to the menus of sub shops everywhere, the Irish Sandwich will take over. It will instantly become the most popular sandwich on the menu, and will maintain that spot once the novelty wears off. The popularity will be such that it may spell the end for some less popular sandwich on the menu, like Liverwurst.

I'd love to have had a hand in inventing the Irish Sandwich, and would be pleased to have that as my legacy. Come sit by my grave after I'm gone and eat an Irish Sandwich in my memory... although I may reach up through the ground like that witch at the end of Carrie and try to grab that sucker from you.

You have been warned.