When you look in the mirror what do you see?
It is a rhetorical question Damien Palanza of Falmouth Heights and Richard G. Rogers of East Falmouth Highway are asking the entire Cape since launching the website The Real Cape that looks to examine this section of the state from a satirical, humorous and irreverent point of view.
Although the site is still in a fledgling stage—it went live at the beginning of November—it has gained major exposure thanks to the popular Boston Barstool Sports website linking to one of Mr. Palanza’s earlier articles.
The topic? A commentary on a story the Provincetown Banner published on November 9 about a dance Nauset Regional High School senior Chris Wingard organized in protest of the toned-down homecoming dance, where couples dancing closely and grinding was frowned upon. School officials lashed back at Chris, according to the article, even though he used his dance to raise money for a scholarship in memory of Miles Tibbetts, a former Nauset student who was hit and killed by a car while crossing Route 6 in Wellfleet this past August.
“How can any educator with half a brain be mad at this kid?” Mr. Palanza wrote under his pseudonym, “The Hippie,” adding that “He saw a situation where the majority did not like what was happening and he changed it to fit the will of the people. It doesn’t get any more American than that folks.”
That one blog post has been “Liked” by 605 Facebook users and since then Mr. Palanza said he has witnessed a spike in visitors coming to the site on a daily basis to see what spin he has on the news and other happenings throughout the region.
Adding to the content he creates are posts by Mr. Rogers, who goes by “Insane Tony,” that feature videos of local musicians, from the Brothers Rye to Boombasnap to rapper Ceej McElroy, in a re-occurring segment dubbed the “local music lunch hour.”
From Positive to Negative
The tone of the website goes from the positive—two more recent posts highlight a short documentary, “The Summer of Success,” on the Cape Cod Baseball League as well as the quahog-eating contest last Wednesday night at the Quahog Republic—to the negative, attacking Susan Donaldson James for being condescending of Falmouth in a national story she wrote on the town’s wind turbine controversy earlier this month for ABC News.
The website is not for everybody and people will, and have been, offended by some of what they read, Mr. Palanza said. He has already received backlash from visitors for certain posts, including one in which he poked fun at East Falmouth resident Jonathan Nunez’s attempt to rob Kenyon’s Market with a kitchen knife.
His response to those types of complaints is simply for readers to lighten up. “First of all, that story was in the Cape Cod Times and the Enterprise so we’re not zeroing in on him,” he said. “I come back to that quote, I don’t know who said it, but ‘life doesn’t cease to be funny in serious times and it doesn’t cease to be serious in times of laughter.’ Just because it is a serious subject doesn’t mean you can’t laugh at it.”
Just because it is a serious subject doesn’t mean you can’t laugh at it.
But the negative response to the website has been far outweighed by the positive reaction to what Mr. Rogers and Mr. Palanza are producing. Mr. Palanza estimates that the site has received more than 10,000 unique visitors per day and their Facebook page had 2,753 fans as of yesterday morning.
Of all their efforts, Twitter is the slowest growing, with a modest 230 followers, however that is where Mr. Palanza said he finds the majority of his content to write about.
“If something is happening on Cape Cod, I know within 30 seconds basically,” he said. From there he determines whether to write something immediately and post it to the site or wait and take his time on an article.
Both he and Mr. Rogers have been serving as writers, copy editors and editors of the site, but now with the exposure they have gained they also will soon be adding their own original videos that highlight the Cape. That started in earnest on Wednesday evening when Justin M. Andrukonis of King Street and Casey Reed of Cape Woods Drive helped film the Quahog Republic’s quahog-eating contest, content that will eventually be posted onto the site.
Immediate Feedback is Gratifying
The quick growth Mr. Palanza has witnessed in the site is exciting and something he hopes he can continue building upon. “Every time you post something and it gets one like, two likes, three likes, it is feedback being provided in real time,” he said, “It really gets you excited and makes you want to continue to write.”
As a writer he has always enjoyed the opportunity to reach an audience, particularly online where he has dabbled before. Several years ago he launched GO2536.com, a website focused on East Falmouth that had a similar sensibility.
The Real Cape
For more information on The Real Cape visit their website here.
While he said that website was successful, the number of people visiting it was much lower. “We had more like hundreds of people visiting a day. It wasn’t even in the thousands,” he said.
Ultimately he stopped that venture to go into the restaurant business, operating The Burrito Place in East Falmouth, with Mr. Rogers. When that recently closed, Mr. Palanza returned to the Internet with The Real Cape, bringing Mr. Rogers with him.
The concept of the site, Mr. Palanza said, is to show the Cape as it really is. “I feel like the predominant view outsiders have of Cape Cod is that we’re all wearing Black Dog sweatshirts and in REI gear living in million-dollar homes,” he said.
That notion is addressed in the tag line to the site, “summer people, some are not,” which Mr. Palanza expanded upon during an interview last Tuesday evening. “There are two distinct people on Cape Cod: the people who summer on Cape Cod and the people who mow their lawns. That is an extremist way to put it, but we will make fun of ourselves more than anyone.
“We don’t take ourselves too seriously,” he continued. “The outside world may see us as cynical, but we feel comfortable making fun of ourselves.”
That attitude, Mr. Andrukonis said, is being welcomed by the online community that views the site as a “refreshing change to the normal Cape media we have.”
And for Mr. Palanza the fact that the site has struck a nerve will only compel him to find new, exciting and occasionally derisive content to put in front of his readers. “This is something I want to do,” he said. “As far as me personally this allows me to write what I care about... And if you love what you are doing it is not really work.”