Grab and Go — to Jail


I know you were alarmed, when you got the news, but I’m here to put your mind at ease.

There is hope. There is a way forward. Do not despair.

Life as we know it on the North Shore is not at an end, and Ipswich residents in particular — even though they may be feeling hopeless at the moment — actually still have a future.

I’m talking about the new rules handed down by the Ipswich Select Board about parking in the Town of Ipswich.

You will survive, I’m sure; but your future will need to be adjusted on two significant fronts.

#1: At the Ipswich MBTA lot, parking will now be available 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays for Ipswich residents only.

You Ipswich folks think this is good news? I’m afraid not. This means war. Or it could. Let me explain.

The Ipswich train station parking lot is not your ordinary parking lot. It is one of the very few Town-owned commuter rail parking lot in the MBTA system. Most North Shore train station parking lots are owned by the MBTA. But in Ipswich, the lot is owned and operated by the Town.

So the fact that anybody and everybody has been free to park in the Ipswich train station lot free of charge all these years is only due to the largesse — let’s not call it negligence, let’s call it generosity — of the Town of Ipswich.

While the MBTA has charged for parking in other towns — as much as $4 per weekday (Newburyport, Hamilton) or $2 per weekday (in Rowley) — Ipswich has continued to give away its prime parking real estate.

Since as many as 30 of the 100 Ipswich station parking spaces have typically been taken by non-Ipswich residents each weekday, it appears that the new rules will help Ipswich folks enormously.

Unfortunately, however, this also brings us to the very real possibility of neighboring towns responding with “revenge rules” (kind of like other countries introducing anti-American tariffs because our President introduced anti-other-country tariffs).

So what happens if Rowley, for example, starts charging Ipswich residents $4 to park at Market Basket? If you’re only dropping in to buy a bag of ice and a can of sardines, your grocery bill just tripled. If Boxford sets up toll booths and makes me pay a dollar just to get over to Georgetown, I’m gonna run up quite a bill.

But the Ipswich train station parking lot is the not the only site affected by the rules newly handed down by the Ipswich Select Board.

Here’s #2: A “two-hour parking restriction” beside the bank on Depot Square.

I’m uneasy about being forced to park for a minimum of two hours, aren’t you?

I don’t think I’ve misunderstood this. As report confirms, two-hour parking is being enforced.

Look at how this is going to impact your daily life. Let’s say you want a lox and bagel at Jettie’s. You find a prime parking space across the street — beside the bank, on Depot Square. You go in, you order, you chat with some friends, you get your food, you eat, enjoy your coffee, chat with some more friends — but then you’re done, right? It’s maybe 45 minutes, max. There’s no way you can spend two hours at Jettie’s. (If you spend two hours at Jettie’s, you’re using it as an office, and you ought to be down Market Street at Gathr. Come on. Stop taking unfair advantage of a bagel place.)

But as I understand the Ipswich Select Board, if you don’t spend two hours at Jettie’s, as you drive away you’ll be pulled over by the Ipswich police.

I’m telling you, this is serious. Minimum-parking-time rules are a slippery slope. What’s next? Minimum-spending rules? You park on the south side of Depot Square in Ipswich, you have to spend at least $20 in Market Street businesses or go to prison.

And if Ipswich enforces this two-hour parking rule, how could you blame Rowley for exacting revenge by requiring you to spend at least two hours parked at Market Basket? I happen to see a lot of my friends at Market Basket, but I don’t think even a social animal like me could do two hours. Under such an oppressive law, I would have to leave my car at Market Basket and hike to the bar at Spud’s. Depending on the time of day, who knows what a disaster this could turn out to be?

I’m afraid we’re at a fragile moment in North Shore history. I pray that cooler heads will prevail. I pray that surrounding towns will not pass revenge laws against Ipswich. I pray that I will be able to park at Market Basket free of charge, and leave whenever I want.




Doug Brendel lives on outer Linebrook Road in Ipswich, where he charges guests $4 to park on his driveway. Follow him here at, and sign up for daily emails at


Goats Solve Everything


My friend has a problem.

For generations, her family has owned one of those little islands you see when you look out there. You know, out there. Those Ipswich islands? One of those is hers.

It sounds elegant, sophisticated, even millionairish to own an island, but the truth is more complicated.

Because of the island’s location — in that ultra-protected zone where the land oozes into marsh and the marsh morphs into ocean — my friend has been absolutely prohibited from erecting any structure on the island.

So she’s paying property taxes on a completely unusable island.


Maybe a “glamping” tent — you know, one of those huge luxury pop-ups with all the comforts of home. It’s big, it’s waterproof, with mosquito-net windows and doors, even a watertight floor. You add a nice rug, some bean-baggy cushions, a table, some LED lamps, maybe even a chandelier — voilà! Chez Atlantique.

Only one little problem: The island is absolutely covered in poison ivy.

This, however, is, I think, one of those magical moments when it actually helpsto be an “outsidah” like me — someone relatively new to Ipswich and the Cape Ann area — someone who spent three decades in the Midwest and then a quarter-century in the Arizona desert before moving here. Sometimes you need someone without centuries of New England customs and assumptions baked into his brain. Someone who can think outside the ZBA, and bring fresh, maybe even shocking new perspectives to practical problems.

The first suggestion I made to my island-owner friend was very simple: GOATS. Put goats on the island, to eat the poison ivy. As any of the now-popular goat-rental businesses will tell you, goats will eat anything, but probably most important to you, if you have poison ivy on your property, is that they eat poison ivy. (To them, I guess, it’s like low-grade jalapeño. A special treat, if you’re in the mood for Mexican food.) You can rent a goat, or goats, for some number of days, tether them to a stake in the middle of your poison ivy patch, and within a few days, you’re delighted to find that your property-value kryptonite has disappeared.

Of course, my friend’s island has the disadvantage of being an island. Which means it’s surrounded by water. If goats were seals, no problem. They could swim to the island and start chowing down. But because goats have legs and hooves instead of those funky webbed flippers, they’ll need to be transported to your island. Which leads to my second brilliant idea: BOATS FOR GOATS. This could be a money-making enterprise for anyone who owns a boat. Your potential customer base includes everyone in the world who owns an island overrun by poison ivy.

My friend remained unconvinced. She reminded me that tides come and go, and her island can be nearly submerged at high tide. As the ocean rises, a tethered goat will be a sitting duck — well, not literally a sitting duck, because ducks float, but you get the idea. A tethered goat in the midst of a rising sea would be in serious trouble.

I was undeterred. Such challenges only inspire new sparks of genius. I countered with another brilliant innovation: FLOATS FOR GOATS. Cute little water wings that strap on around the animal, with a springy elastic tether to keep the goat safely connected to the island yet capable of breathing oxygen even on astronomical-high-tide days. Casually drifting on the surface of the Atlantic on a sunny summer day will hardly feel like an inconvenience to a hard-working goat. I think after word gets out, goats will actually vie for astronomical-high-tide duty.

And when the weather turns ugly: RAINCOATS FOR GOATS.

See? Every problem has a solution.



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Live and Let Roast


“No lives were lost.”

A wise New Englander once told me that this is the New England way of gauging whether you should be retroactively upset about an event, and then, of course, deciding, “Eh, no.”

Speaking of which: The Great House on Castle Hill was closed this past Saturday because of the heat wave — an extraordinary move by The Trustees, who own and operate the Crane Estate, and make, I assume, truckloads of money on house tours. My wife Kristina was a costumed tour guide there for four years, and our daughter Lydia Charlotte has now followed in her footsteps, and I can tell you from my vantage point of personal observation that those costumes are multi-layered and not designed for survival in a 95-degree heat wave. So I think The Trustees made a good call. The calculation probably ended up like this: Thousands of bucks made, from tours? Or millions of bucks lost, in a wrongful-death lawsuit? Plus, just imagine the bad press: a chambermaid in her black 1929-era uniform, sprawled prostrate on the imported parquet flooring of the Great House lobby, with EMTs trying to revive her, and John Muldoon of flitting about, snapping photographs.

But yes, it’s true. In the end, no lives were lost. (Unless somebody died of heatstroke on Crane Beach since this was posted, and now you’re sitting there reading this on your device and saying to yourself, “Of all the impertinence!”) It was, however, quite hot.

It was so hot, I saw a squirrel in our backyard negotiating with a blue jay for time in the birdbath.

It was so hot, the wrinkles in my skin smoothed out.

It was so hot, I took a tall glass of iced coffee out onto our screen porch, then went inside to go the bathroom, and when I returned, it was espresso.

It was so hot, the National Belligerence Review downgraded the Ipswich Watchdogs Facebook page to “mild.”

It was so hot, asphalt melted, and a number of North Shore potholes filled in on their own.

It was so hot, there was a clambake on Crane Beach without anyone lighting a fire. Clams were seen on the Rowley flats opening tiny umbrellas and guzzling thimbles full of beer. (Those should be really yummy clams, once the red tide has passed.)

It was so hot, George Blanchette reportedly offered frozen bagel cubes at Jettie’s in Ipswich as a lifesaving measure — which actually worked great in the coffee, and may set off a whole new iced-bagel-coffee craze. Stay tuned.

It was so hot, my mailman wore Kevlar gloves just to open my mailbox.

It was so hot, a beaver on the Ipswich River ordered a mini-fridge from Amazon, and when it arrived, he climbed inside.

It was so hot, ICE raids were suspended because government agents ran out of margaritas.

It was so hot, relatives in the Deep South texted their sympathies to family members living on the North Shore. (There were numerous misspellings, but not because of heat-related delirium.)

It was so hot, my neighbor filled her fire pit with ice cubes and suffered a head injury trying to dive in.

It was so hot, a number of my private demons returned to hell for respite.

It was so hot, the blue jay got a hundred dollars from the squirrel. There is nothing more disturbing than seeing a squirrel kicking back in your bird feeder drinking a margarita and wearing a MAGA hat.

It was so hot, enormous quantities of Down River ice cream in both the Rowley and Essex locations melted and flowed across the Ipswich line, which led to riots on Route 1 and 1A, and a number of medical emergencies, mostly Ipswich residents shocked to find their tongues glued to the pavement.

It was so hot, an enterprising monarch butterfly began selling milkweed shakes.

It was so hot, solar panels were steaming, triggering a number of calls to 911 from people who thought the North Shore was on fire, which it was, sort of, just without flames.

It was so hot, a runaway French poodle from Topsfield showed up at a barber shop pleading for a crew cut.

It was so hot, someone jogged naked through Willowdale State Forest, and instead of being arrested, they got a medal from the National Institutes of Health, even though they had no where to pin it.

Shocking, yes, perhaps. But what does it really matter? No lives were lost.



Doug Brendel lives next door to a cemetery on outer Linebrook Road, so if the heat kills him, he won’t have far to go. Follow him while he survives, daily at and weekly or so here at (In Doug’s other life, he’s trying to help hearing-impaired kids in the former Soviet Union. Please check out his project at


Any Way You Want It


I attended the first Thursday evening concert at Castle Hill in Ipswich this past Thursday, and it was a nightmare, I tell you, an absolute nightmare.

Everybody kept coming up to me and telling me I was wrong, and my wife was right.

Doesn’t this sound like a bad dream to you?

In the natural world, everything was great. This was the 2019 kickoff concert for the Trustees’ annual Crane Estate summer series, originally conceived 22 years ago by the remarkable Trina Schell. Trina has coordinated the concerts all these years, but this year, she’s handing off management of the concerts for the first time, and in spite of unexpectedly huge crowds, Thursday night went smoothly. No fisticuffs that I saw, no children lost without eventually being found, no staggering drunken speeches by partisan attendees mistaking Allée statues for political opponents. Just loads of old Journey hits and other music from that era.

The Great Escape, a Journey tribute band, was enormously entertaining. They had plenty of folks on their feet, dancing or (as in my case) attempting to dance. My wife has always been an awesome dancer, so if I get up on a dance floor, it’s mainly to watch her, and keep my eye on the other guys watching her.

Also, there was the usual array of yummy food and beverage options. I indulged in a massive carne burrito, which pleased me enormously, and made me enormous. I carried water in, in an environment-friendly reusable bottle, which had the additional advantage of enabling me to avoid the line for wine, which at times stretched to Rhode Island.

The evening might have been lower key. The weather was supposed to be off-and-on rainy. And not everyone is a Journey fan. You might expect the concert series to start small each summer, and build toward the ever-popular Beatles tribute band HELP! on August 22 and the wrap-up concert with the beloved Orville Giddings and his band on August 29. But the hill was crawling with people — from smiling seniors stepping gingerly to children racing and shrieking with joy. We got there by 7:30 for the 7 p.m. event and had to park in the overflow lot at Steep Hill. By the time we hauled ourselves and our camp chairs up the Allée to the “No drinking beyond this point” rope at the front of the lawn, we had to rest up before dancing.

Everyone seemed to be in a rollicking mood. It’s hard to be grumpy when a band is blasting “Any Way You Want It.” Even when I was being accosted, my assailants were usually bright-eyed and cheerful. It seemed every fourth or fifth person at the concert had to come stand over my camp chair — or stop me on my way to the burrito trailer — or grab me in the middle of the dance floor — and tell me how wrong I was, and how right my wife was. Everyone, it seemed, had seen my “Outsidah” column in the Chronicle & Transcriptthat morning, talking about the confusion at Lord’s Square when vehicles compete to pull out from Linebrook Road and Liberty Street at the same time. I wrote that my wife Kristina feels the person on the right (which is to say, on Liberty) has the right of way. I insisted that the Linebrook driver is already on Route 133 by the time he arrives at Liberty (though only a few feet away), so the guy on the major thoroughfare has the right of way. I had already been bombarded with “no” votes online (you can see them for yourself at But now, at the concert, it was the world’s opportunity to get in my face.

Nobody was buying my point of view, and everybody felt the need to tell me so. And it became clear, over the course of the evening, that this wasn’t just about traffic. This was about love. The over-arching message was not simply “Doug, you are a wrong-headed, insensitive driver, and possibly dangerous.” There was also a sub-current of “Doug, you married well, and you don’t deserve her.”

This part, I must admit, may be true. She could have married a smarter driver. And she absolutely could have married a better dancer.



Doug Brendel practices his moves at his home on outer Linebrook Road. Follow him daily at, and occasionally at


Till Death Do Us Pull Out


My wife and I celebrated our wedding anniversary last week by having an argument about Ipswich traffic.

I now submit to you both sides of the debate, and invite you to cast your vote in favor of my viewpoint. Or otherwise, if you must.

Here’s the scenario:

Two vehicles arrive simultaneously at that awful little wedge of Ipswich where Lord’s Square becomes Central Street. Forget for a moment that people driving east on High Street have suddenly found themselves in a spider web of exits and entrances which must be navigated before they can get to Central. The two vehicles we’re having this fight about, on our 32nd anniversary, have arrived at the only two stop signs on the south side of Lord’s Square: the one where you’re trying to get off of Linebrook Road, and the one where you’re trying to get off of Liberty Street.

Ignore, for the time being, the question of whether either vehicle wants to go (a) left toward High Street or (b) across onto Short Street or (c) right to Central. All we know, for the purposes of this marriage-threatening conversation, is that both vehicles have arrived at the same moment.

So now, both drivers crane their necks to peer northward, hoping for a break in High Street traffic, and then swivel their skulls like owls to see how many cars are coming up from Central Street. You’re either a crane or an owl at this intersection.

Now comes that magical moment, when a gap appears. OMG, there’s a two-car length of empty space behind the guy in that Toyota SUV, and nobody happens to be lurching out of Dunkin’ Donuts. And look! There’s a break in the flow from Central Street — thank heaven for that impertinent Kia Soul driver inching out into the roadway and then losing her nerve — yes, sorry, it’s a woman. (Not a sexist bias, I just report it the way it happens.)

And here, finally, is the great question: Who should dive into that gap?

Who has the right of way? The Linebrook Road driver? Or the Liberty Street driver?

  • You might consider the universally accepted protocol that the vehicle on the bigger, more important roadway has the right of way over the vehicle on the smaller, less important roadway. (Think Argilla Road matron trying to get out onto County at 5 p.m.) Which means the Linebrook Road driver should gun it.
  • Or, you might consider another practice generally recognized at intersections governed by stop signs: When two vehicles arrive at the intersection at the same time, the vehicle on the right goes before the vehicle on the left. (Remember, this is America. Whoever’s furthest to the right gets to make the rules.)

So, at the tangled knot that we call Lord’s Square, who wins? Left or right? Linebrook or Liberty?

My lovely wife has been driving for 43 years. Not continuously, of course. But driving a lot, anyway, ever since Gerald Ford was president. And it should be noted, in all fairness, she has never, to my knowledge, had a traffic accident.

I, on the other hand, have been driving since Nixon’s first term. And I have had plenty of traffic accidents. Some were even my fault. In recent years, however, I would like to point out, my record has somewhat improved. I have learned, for example, to slow down while approaching the Our Lady of Hope parking lot, where the cop cars lurk.

  • My wife says that the ludicrous Lord’s/Linebrook/Liberty mash-up is an awful mess, but it does somehow, ludicrously, qualify as an intersection, so the idea that the vehicle on the right has the right of way is appropriate. Ludicrously.
  • I, on the other hand, say that once you pull out past the stop sign, you’re essentially on Central Street already — which is both 133 and1A — so the poor shmuck trying to get off of Liberty Street is just a hapless wretch trying to get from a tiny, insignificant side street onto a major thoroughfare, and let him keep trying.

I certainly don’t want to influence your vote. But sad to say, after more than three decades looking at the same person across the breakfast table, it can come down to a moment like this. So if I don’t win this vote, I may need to rent a room from you.

Kindly cast your ballot by emailing The marriage you save may be my own.



Doug Brendel lives on outer Linebrook Road, for the time being. Follow him at You’re also invited to check out his humorous new daily blog,


You’re Fired! Oh Wait, Wrong Show

Standard recently carried an awesome idea, from the site’s founder John Muldoon, regarding the presidential race:

“The best way for the Democrats to proceed is for the candidates to vote off one of their own each week. There are 24 of them now, so that would give them 23 weeks of pure publicity that even Trump couldn’t match. Watch as pandemonium ensues with shifting alliances, immunity idols, fiendish challenges — you name it.”

Muldoon is Irish, complete with accent and green card, so one might not expect him to be so precisely in tune with American political shenanigans. But he’s also a newsman, and I guess this more than compensates for any immigrant/non-citizen/interloper shortcomings from which he almost certainly must suffer. With this notion of the presidential candidates voting each other off the island, Muldoon seems to be totally tuned in to our U.S. political scene and, I would say, brilliantly insightful. I hope his idea will go viral and a tidal wave of support for it will swamp the Democratic National Committee, until they have no choice but to order it up. With the Democrats culling their own herd, there will be far less blood in the water come the end of the primary campaign, increasing unity over the course of the campaign, and a heightened chance of survival for our nation and our planet. All thanks to a humble, sandy-haired foreigner living quietly in Ipswich, Massachusetts. Don’t tell me America isn’t the land of opportunity.

Once this musical-chairs odd-man-out strategy has been authorized by the Party bosses, it will be time for ordinary folks like you and me to start campaigning for whatever candidate we want to see die next. This will feel good, I’m sure, the same way the Romans felt as they cheered for the lions over the Christians.

Personally, I hope we can eliminate the most embarrassing candidates in the early rounds. I’m perhaps most disturbed by Marianne Williamson, whom Rolling Stonecalls “a cross between Stevie Nicks, a Tennessee Williams character, and your mom after she took too much Xanax on a plane.” Williamson, who reportedly officiated at the last of Liz Taylor’s eight weddings, has been endorsed by Kim Kardashian — which seems like more than reason enough to eliminate her. Fun fact: Williamson once roomed with Laura Dern, the actress who, in Jurassic Park, famously yelled “Run! Run!” — an admonition Williamson apparently mistook for political advice.

Marianne Williamson arrived at the first debates on the bottom of the polling heap — or, to be more precise, she polled the lowest of the candidates who made the debate cut. As so often happens, however, the debate changed things. The first post-debate polls revealed that Williamson, as a result of her debate performance, had managed to sink even lower. This is a candidate who may not actually need to be voted off the island because she is already thigh-deep in saltwater. When the time comes, please join me in voting for Williamson. Or is it “against”? Anyway, let’s wish her well and say good-bye.

One more advantage to Muldoon’s innovative idea: If we can lose Williamson and a few of the other percentage-fraction candidates in the next few weeks, we won’t have to squint so hard at the polling data. (Which is why, as I understand it, the weekly elimination-round idea is being vociferously opposed by optometrists.)

Anyway, here’s hoping the Democrats embrace the “Survivor” model — except for the nudity.

Thank you, John Muldoon, for everything. I salute you. If, however, the producers bring Hillary back as a surprise repeat contestant, I take it all back.



Doug Brendel lives in the outback of Ipswich, on a primitive stretch of Linebrook Road rumored to have been the location for Season 17. Follow him here at, and at his new daily blog,


15 Ways to Know It’s Pollen Season


I have not lived here on the North Shore very long, but I have lived here long enough to know that “pollen season” happens every year at about this time.

Perhaps I don’t have enough experience to know whether this year’s pollen season has been particularly heavy, but I believe a few basic observations are in order.

Kindly consider the following evidence, indicating, I believe, that this year’s pollen season has been, if not apocalyptic, then at the very least supremely maddening:

  1. People are sneezing more. Granules of pollen get in our noses, which is irritating. But small animals, with much smaller nostrils, don’t sneeze as much. This is because, after inhaling about 14 granules of pollen, they suffocate and crawl under your wheelbarrow behind the garage and die. During pollen season, it’s important to catch your on-site fox, woodchuck, fisher cat, or coyote on the first or second sneeze, and rush them indoors, and into an oxygen tent.
  2. The weather is lovely, so we can have drinks outdoors, but regardless of what you order, you get a dirty martini. My eldest daughter, who lives well out of range of Massachusetts pollen, reports that dirty martinis are far superior with olive juice instead of pollen. She’s texting, not FaceTiming, so I can’t tell if she’s snickering.
  3. There’s a meadow behind our house. The dragonflies that dart and dive and delight themselves there? They always had big bulging eyes, of course — but now they’re wearing goggles. Tiny, tiny goggles — but goggles. With windshield wipers.
  4. As a North Shore resident, you already know that during certain times of the year, we get fog approaching Marini’s Farm, in Ipswich. But these days, when you’re driving down Linebrook Road, approaching Marini’s, if it looks like fog, but the weather is totally wrong for fog, you can turn on your fog lamps, and yeah, it’s totally fog.
  5. The dragonfly-goggle windshield wipers are largely ineffective because the pollen is so thick. Dragonflies are crashing so frequently, insect emergency services agencies are overwhelmed.
  6. Yesterday morning, our screen porch was covered in something that looked like dust. That afternoon, my wife muttered “Pollen!” and got out the vacuum sweeper. By evening, she had diligently restored every square inch of the porch to its original pristine condition. This morning, I had a terrible case of déjà vu.
  7. I saw a backyard deer spit stuff back out. And she had some awful yellow junk caked all around her mouth.
  8. Pollen falls early. Jetties in Ipswich has always been open at 5 a.m., but now customers arriving at 7 a.m. or later are advised to stomp their feet at the door. (As you do, I advise that you cover your face with a handkerchief.)
  9. I’m fortunate enough to work at home, on my laptop; and in fair weather, I love to work outdoors. I can no longer take a bathroom break, however, because by the time I return to my worksite on the backyard bench, my laptop has to be excavated like a scene from Indiana Jones.
  10. It’s outrageous, I know, but North Shore doctors are actually demanding a surcharge for treating respiratory emergencies. Okay, just kidding. But one nurse I know is taking bribes for oxygen masks.
  11. Willie Whitmore took over as chair of the Ipswich Select Board and then promptly disappeared into a puff of yellow smoke (prompting newly named vice-chair Linda Alexson to exclaim, “See? I’m NOTthe wicked witch!”).
  12. Hikers got lost in Bradley Palmer and couldn’t find their way out by following their own footprints because the pollen filled them in so quickly. Rescue operations were complicated by clouds of pollen fooling the GPS. The hikers were finally saved by two aged Yetis who have lived here for years and knew the way out by “feel” rather than sight. (“Only way to survive pollen season,” one of them grunted.)
  13. Dairy Queen customers availing themselves of the outdoor seating on High Street report everything tasting strangely organic.
  14. A Boxford man was hospitalized after beating his Weber grill with a blunt instrument, after wrongly mistaking it for an invading PacMan.
  15. My cat wasn’t yellow this morning.



Doug Brendel lives in a house that appears, at the moment, to be yellow, on outer Linebrook Road. Follow him by blowing the dust off your keyboard and clicking “Follow” here at