A Prayer of (Burp) Thanks


Thank You, Lord, that we are safe here in Ipswich.

Thank You for sending beautiful Colleen, patron saint of health regulations, down from her home in faraway New Hampshire to rule over us as our public health director, to keep us safe from Zika, west Nile, black death, botulism, and inadequately polished silverware.

We are grateful that in Your mercy You bestowed upon us St. Colleen’s three angel-minions, our most high Board of Health — Susan and Margaret and Dr. Spencer — so zealously committed to the most excruciatingly arcane health regulations that we are virtually guaranteed never to be laid low by the bubonic plague due to unregistered s’mores or an under-grilled onion. Thank You for sparing us from the horror of any Ipswich eating establishment preparing food the way we do at home, where some of us actually wash our hands and our dishes in the very same sink. Forgive us, Lord.

Thank You for giving us a Board of Health ever vigilant in keeping church fundraising events from serving untagged clams, and deterring B&B’s from serving breakfast out of improperly located refrigerators. Thou hast also kept our Board of Health from the sin of worldly compromise, as they judiciously require an official variance for cheese and crackers served without a bed of ice underneath, because as Thou knowest, cheese can go bad in the twinkling of an eye. I think it was room-temperature cheese that killed my cousin Gary. Or maybe it was the crackers. May our Board of Health never sink to the depravity of the “3 R’s,” for Thou and I both know, Lord, that Realistically Relaxed Regulation would surely be the death of us. Thank you that St. Colleen and the Board of Health angels hath made it so difficult for anyone to cook, serve, or eat food in this town that we are in no danger of imbibing even a single microbe, and maybe not even a calorie. We also thank you, Lord, for the strength to survive without adequate nourishment.

Most of all, we thank You, Lord, that we will no longer be plagued by that scourge of ill health, Five Corners Café & Deli. Only You know, Lord, what infestation might have been hiding between the layers of tomorrow’s daily-special “strada.” And we know, Lord, that Thou wilt comfort the multitudes who adored this popular Ipswich institution, including those who never got sick as a result of eating at Five Corners but kept risking it all these years. Who knows what contagion might have swept through Ipswich if Five Corners Café & Deli had been allowed to continue with that basement floor in such disrepair, or that McDeli sandwich cooked without a thermometer stuck in it, or that spatula washed with ordinary Palmolive instead of Board-approved chemicals, or that delayed paperwork, or those late fees. The goofed-up paperwork was especially likely to start an epidemic, Lord; but You quashed that possibility, and we art grateful. Plus, Thou knowest how much our Town relies financially on those fees, Lord: Verily, they are becoming the backbone of our economy. At the same time, we thank Thee for the additional blessing of another empty storefront — our new trademark, for which Ipswich will soon be known far and wide; and now, thanks to thine agents of bounty and blessing, our Board of Health, we have another.

Thank you that we no longer have to put up with Leslie McCormack’s ceaseless cheer expressed through the window to the kitchen, when we now know she was sowing disease and disaster into our Java Monkey smoothies, endangering our intestinal tracts and possibly even positively affecting our moods. Thank you that the scurrilous Leslie was so exhausted by the health board’s faithful assaults that she decided not to go through the grievous process of appeal hearings and battles with the bureaucracy, but rather simply closed up shop, putting an end to this sad chapter in Ipswich history. The fact that we will never again taste Leslie’s “soup, chowder, and chili prepared fresh daily” is a small price to pay, Lord, compared to our gratitude for Thy wisdom in raising up the Ipswich Inquisition to root out this evil. Thank You for saving us from everything Five Corners foisted on us all these years: the fresh, local, seasonal produce from Marini’s Farm; the warm, fresh bread from Jessica’s Bakery; the fresh dairy products from Richardson’s Dairy; the fresh clams from the Ipswich Shellfish Company loaded into Five Corners’ acclaimed chowder — all produced within a 10-mile radius of the Café, which probably somehow brought in even more germs, now that I think about it.

And finally, I thank you, Lord, for giving my 14-year-old daughter the opportunity, these past few weeks, to work at Five Corners as her very first-ever job, and letting her leave behind that squalid hovel with a first-hand understanding of what it really means to work in the food service industry here in Ipswich: in her own words, “hassles with the Health Department.”

Lord, Thou hast done a good thing, protecting us through thy watchful servants the Board of Health. For no one can get sick at an Ipswich restaurant if there are no restaurants left. And not just restaurants, but inns, B&B’s, church events, school fundraisers, and other dangerous enterprises.

Yea, verily, no one in Ipswich will ever get spoiled food, if no food is available.



Doug Brendel lives on unwashed veggies and undercooked eggs in his home on outer Linebrook Road. Click “Follow” to get “The Outsidah” in your inbox.


Gimme a “B” … Gimme an “I”…


There’s a lot of consternation in town these days, about where to put a new elementary school.

But the earliest skirmishes are now over, and they do indeed seem to have decided one critical question: that a certain park — of the people, by the people, for the people — shall not perish from the earth.

Personally, I’m relieved. Not because I had a strong opinion about a school being situated at Bialek Park, but for a different reason altogether. For a newbie like me, the most vexing question of the entire school-location debate was the same question that has troubled me since the very first time I looked at a map of Ipswich, or drove past the intersection of Linebrook Road and Washington:


I realize this is no problem for folks who have lived here a hundred years. Bialek Park has been here forever. “Everybody” knows how to pronounce it. I’ve read that the park is named for the beloved John Bialek, who served on the Board of Selectmen and Recreation Committee, among other official bodies, co-founded Ipswich Little League, and founded Ipswich Youth Hockey, then died an untimely death in 1977. I’ve also read that his widow Sophie died, at 91, in 2007. The many loving accounts of the Bialeks’ contributions to the Town of Ipswich make me truly wish I had known them.

But as a practical matter, they came and went before I arrived in Ipswich — and, sad to say, none of these news accounts came with a pronunciation key.

The awkward fact is, if you’ve moved to Ipswich sometime in the past century, you have not necessarily heard this name pronounced out loud. You have seen and noted the name of the park, yes; but you have not necessarily said the name aloud, or used it in everyday conversation. You may have said, “Let’s take the kids to the park.” But you have not likely said, “Let’s take the kids to the park that starts with the letter B followed by what appears to be three syllables.” You just stick it in your brain, and it’s there, without pronunciation. Like “misled,” which I once thought was pronounced “myzled,” and said it that way, in my head, for years.

The other awkward fact is that more and more newcomers are moving to Ipswich, and they’re as ignorant as I am. Many newbies are willing to just wing it. They say “Bialek” whatever way they think is right. So there are people in town saying it all different kinds of ways, and you have no way of knowing whether the pronunciation you’re hearing is the authentic pronunciation or some garbled concoction thoughtlessly invented by some insensitive outsidah.

When I lived in Chicago, there was little or no park pronunciation problem. If you were taking your kid to the park, it was Grant Park or Lincoln Park. Two Presidents. Pick one. We did not name a park for Eisenhower because it was too hard to spell. But Ipswich chose Bialek. Mr. Bialek was clearly a treasure to the Town of Ipswich; but from my vantage point as a newcomer, all I can say is, “Sorry! I don’t know how to pronounce your name.”

In fact, if we apply the standard rules of English pronunciation to the letters in this name — BIALEK — there are at least 24 different ways to say it. Among them:

  1. bee-AH-leck — rhymes with “we FROLIC
  2. bye-AL-eck — sounds like “buy ALEC
  3. BEE-uh-leck — rhymes with “SEE the Neck”
  4. bye-AY-leck — sounds like “buy ALE, lick”
  5. bee-AL-eck — sounds like “be ALEC
  6. BYE-uh-leck — rhymes with “BUY the Neck”
  7. bye-ALL-eck — rhymes with “why FROLIC
  8. bee-AY-leck — sounds like “be ALE, lick”

Of course it is possible that my newfound friends here in Ipswich will think me foolish for such cluelessness. But I recently spent 8 days vacationing in the far northern reaches of Maine, and I came to the conclusion up there that the unpronouncibility of place names is directly related to the stagnation of civilization.

To inform my ignorance, please send a pronunciation key to Bialek@DougBrendel.com. Until then, mum’s the word.



Doug Brendel lives on outer Linebrook, an easy-to-spell street. Follow him at this misspelled blog site Outsidah.com by clicking on the Follow button right now.


Expect Delays, Plus Bonus Features!


The Linebrook Road project is finally under way, which is a relief, because I was beginning to fear that my part of the $3 million we approved for it was being siphoned off into something else, like a feasibility study for a new beach sticker design. (I just made that up. As far as I know, there’s no plan for a new beach sticker design. Please don’t set up a new Facebook page defending the old beach sticker design.)

With the road work now actually happening, the Town of Ipswich has done the right thing by posting big flashing signs on either end of the construction zone, declaring very clearly (for all drivers who can read; I’m not suggesting whom this might leave out): “Expect Delays.” The lettering on these lighted signs is so big, in relation to the size of the sign itself, that it isn’t realistic for them to describe, at any level of specificity, everything else you should expect. But the fact is, as you approach the construction zone on Linebrook Road, there’s a lot more you should expect than delays. A lot more. A lot.

First, there’s an officer in a lime green vest, who will either motion you to “Come on, come on” or “Wait, whoa, stop, stay there.” If you’re lucky enough to get the “Wait, whoa, stop, stay there” signal, you have an opportunity to sit and ponder the DPW’s fashion decisions. Yes — definitely — you notice the lime green, and this is a good thing, because getting your attention is half the battle when they want you to stop your car before you plow into the front-end loader in the gully they’ve turned the right lane into. But really, lime green? It’s so Laugh-In. Maybe when these outfits finally wear out and it’s time to order new ones, they could go with something more fashionable, say a catchy zebra-stripe. Or sequins would be nice.

Once the fellows in lime wave you through, let me urge you to proceed slowly and carefully. Please. You are likely to be entering a one-lane passageway. It may feel like you’re the king of the road, with a man in a lime-green vest waving you through like a celebrity; but the reality is that the side-to-side space through which you must navigate this work zone is extremely narrow. They call it a one-lane road when in fact it’s something closer to eight-tenths of a lane (the same way Mile Lane is only eight-tenths of a mile long; it’s Ipswich math). Your situation is precarious. On one side of this claustrophobic crawl-through, you have somebody’s front lawn, or what’s left of it. On the other side, you have enormous yellowish-orange machines of varying sizes and functions, which you definitely do not want to challenge to a duel. Furthermore, while you’re driving through this hazardous tunnel of chaos, the enormous yellowish-orange machines are continuing to do their work. Great jaws are swinging to and fro, seeking whom they may devour. Huge wheels are rolling and grinding the earth beneath them. Chunks of New England are being pulverized before your very eyes.

You cannot be too careful. One day last week, I sneaked my tiny car through the one-lane channel like a large red snail, taking every possible precaution not to upset the complicated workings of the DPW, when suddenly a massive construction vehicle swung around into my path. It was a moment of panic for me, so I may not be remembering the details clearly, but as I recall it, this machine was something like a yellowish-orange metallic Tyrannosaurus Rex. It had a massive lower jaw, which could have easily scooped up my very small car and dumped it into the cavernous gorge it was digging along what used to be the curb. I could have been buried in rubble within seconds. I might have been reduced to texting my wife to come dig me out, and hoping she agreed to. I might have gone viral by posting my last words from my iPhone and becoming the legendary “Underground Tweeter.” Legendary, yes, but alas, dead.

So, the bottom line is, it’s not just “Expect Delays.” If they could make a sign big enough to tell you everything, it would say “Expect Delays, Be Patient, Man in Lime Green Will Get to You ASAP, Take Your Time, Prepare to Dodge T. Rex Jaws, No Shoulder, Driving on Neighbor’s Lawn is OK, In Fact, Necessary, Once You Emerge on the Other End of This Mess Please Don’t Spin Your Wheels and Kick Gravel into Man in Lime Green’s Pants Cuffs, Your Tax Dollars At Work, This Project 2% Completed, Enjoy Ipswich, Have a Nice Day.”



Doug Brendel lives on the street in question, and happily. Follow his life-in-Ipswich commentary by clicking “Follow” on this screen.


My Fireworks, ’Tis of Thee


I love my neighbors, here on Planet Outer Linebrook, and never more than on the Fourth of July, when all the illegal fireworks get set off.

This year was better than ever. Yes, outer Linebrook’s vast expanses of woods and meadows were crinkly-dry — a massive tinderbox of fire hazard just waiting to happen — but the wind was blowing gently away from my property on the evening of the Fourth. So I was able to watch the annual neighborhood fireworks from the comfort of my back porch without worrying about the incendiary sparks drifting onto my “back acre,” which at this point in the summer is mostly kindling just waiting to be ignited.

This was a standout year for fireworks out here: well planned, well timed, well executed. In past years, the neighborhood fireworks have been somewhat more amateurish:

Shoot off a few, cops get called, shoot off a few more, cops stop ya, shoot off the last of them, neighbors applaud, it’s over.

This year, it was way better:

Shoot off a few, shoot off some even better ones, shoot off the last of them, neighbors applaud.

Why? I don’t know. Either nobody called the cops, because everybody else in the neighborhood finally decided it was just fun — or the cops are just exhausted trying to tamp down all the illegal fireworks in Ipswich. It’s 32 square miles of land area, for cryin’ out loud. How does a police force of this size clamp down on such a volume of illegal fireworks? It’s like six Davids with billy-clubs against 60 Goliaths with blowtorches.

(Of course, there are also other possible explanations. You understand that fireworks are set off in racks, and if you only have one rack, then you only shoot off a few explosions at a time. If you have multiple racks, you shoot off multiple explosions at a time, and your neighbors go crazy, and you’re a hero. I have the feeling that whoever has been shooting off illegal fireworks in our outer Linebrook neighborhood ever since I moved to Ipswich somehow lost a rack, and this year had to make do with just one. This made the fireworks program a bit less compelling, but it also had the side-effect of confusing the Ipswich police. “Report of illegal fireworks on outer Linebrook.” “Never mind, they’re done.” “Illegal fireworks on outer Linebrook.” “Nope, they’re done.” “Fireworks, outer Linebrook.” “Eh, forget it.” This is a waste of town money. Kickstarter was invented for such a time as this. We could raise money for an Outer Linebrook Illegal Fireworks Rack, to get the illegal fireworks back up to standard, and to give the cops a chance. I’m going to be first in line to contribute.)

If I have one complaint about the illegal fireworks on Planet Outer Linebrook — aside from how it terrifies my cat and sets the neighborhood dogs to frenzied barking for an hour or more — it’s that you’re never quite sure when it ends. You sit on your back porch and comment — “Oh, that was a good one!” “Oh, I love those!” “That was awesome!” — but then you assume something else is coming. (Off in the distance, you may hear the crackling and booming of other illegal fireworks shows, in other neighborhoods, but you know they’re not as good as yours.) So you wait for the next shoosh, the next sizzle, the next whistle, the next flare, the crack, the blast of light, the explosion, the satisfying ka-boom. But when it doesn’t come, when you realize it’s all over for the evening, you have a sickening feeling in the pit of your stomach that you somehow should have timed your last drink to coincide with the end of the show. And since you didn’t, you have no choice but to have another.

We might ask Mr. Hill and Mr. Tarr, our Ipswich representatives to state government, to introduce a bill that says, basically, If you’re going to shoot off illegal fireworks, fine — if you get away with it — but you must finish with something that clearly indicates, “This is the big, final BOOM.” Maybe you could save all the blue ones for the end. In fireworks, we rarely see blue ones. Maybe blue ones are difficult, or expensive, or something. So it would be reasonable to save them for the end.

I hope you had a happy Fourth. We loved it, here on Planet Outer Linebrook.



Hail, Watchman of Democracy!


I thought if you had a constable, you must live in London in the 1800s, and if you had a serious problem, you called on Sherlock Holmes, not the constable, because the constable was a dope.

No. I’ve come to find out, having moved here to beautiful Ipswich, Massachusetts, we actually have more than one constable, and not a dope to be found. We have a Shellfish Constable, for instance. I might be tempted to make light of this job (“No shellfish were cited for public drunkenness this week, the shellfish constable reported”); but if you look at official Town records, this person is clearly doing way more work than he’s getting paid for, no matter what we’re paying him. My (fishing) hat’s off to our Shellfish Constable.

And then there’s our Election Constable. Yes, our Shellfish Constable gets most of the attention — being summoned to public hearings and appearing in the minutes of official meetings and dealing with feedback from clammers in various dialects, sober and otherwise. But our Election Constable bears a serious burden as well. Especially during a season such as this: the election season.

This last Ipswich Election Day was particularly tense, what with the officially unopposed Town Moderator up against an unknowable number of write-in candidates. (No wonder there was backlash from the grassroots, after his high-handed performance at Town Meeting, autocratically dispensing with 26 articles in a scant 4 hours and 15 minutes. The common wisdom is, if you don’t go till midnight, you’re not really doing your job.) Murphy, however, prevailed.

Also on Election Day, there was that little matter of four Board of Selectmen’s candidates running for two available positions. Recognizing the likelihood of riots, our fearless Election Constable Ron Graves girded himself and prepared for the worst. He arrived early at Ipswich’s sole polling place, the Y, armed with a sandwich. The sandwich appeared to be a ham and Swiss on wheat from Five Corners Deli, but this is unverified. It may also have been something his wife Mary threw together before he left the house. Anyway, as a paragon of moderation, Constable Ron didn’t eat his sandwich till midday. Impressive.

Positioned at the entryway to the gym, Constable Ron enforced the law. There would be no campaign signs allowed within 150 feet of the polling station. (He had already posted very scary warning signs on the road out front, at a point 150 feet from the entryway.) He was also watching, with his eagle eye, for campaign literature carried into the building by potentially dangerous insurrectionists, literature intended for surreptitious distribution to voters in order to influence them in their final, most vulnerable moments, just as they entered the gym to vote. This year, thanks to your Election Constable, no propaganda got through.

You may laugh. But the constable’s job is more complicated than you think. During the same time he’s responsible for interdicting electioneering activities and literature in a 150-foot perimeter beyond the front door, he also has to see to it that nobody carries any water or other liquids into the voting area. Imagine an unsteady soul, already jittery over the high-tension selectmen’s race — “Ed or Phil or Bill or Bill?” — stumbling into a voting booth and spilling H2O all over the place. This could totally ruin one of those government-issue Sharpies they give you for blackening the ovals on your official ballot. Swimming in that black glop, who knows what crazy kind of vote you’d cast?

And then Election Constable Ron Graves would have to deal with you. That’s what he does, if you spoil your ballot. Indeed, the most recent serious Ipswich Election Day crisis may have been a spoiled-ballot incident in 2012, when the machine kept spitting out one woman’s ballot. Constable Ron hastened to the scene. After obtaining her permission to inspect her ballot, he informed her of the problem.

“Ma’am, you’ve voted for both Obama and Romney.”

The woman smiled sweetly at the constable.

“I like them both.”

“Ma’am,” the constable replied steadily, “it says ‘Vote for one.’ If you vote for two, the machine knows you broke the rules, and it won’t accept your ballot.”

“But I like them both.”

Constable Ron, doing his duty, issued the would-be voter a stern warning. I paraphrase:

“Ma’am, I’m going to give you a new ballot. Please vote for one. And let me hasten to add, under the rules, if you spoil three ballots, I throw you out of here.”

There is, apparently, a three-strikes-and-you’re-out rule in Ipswich.

The woman obeyed. She voted for one. Her choice, Obama or Romney, remains unknown. But this we know: The machine accepted her ballot. Crisis averted.

Strong leadership. That’s what you need in a constable.



Doug Brendel is a political junkie who attempts to manage his morbid addiction to local politics from his home on outer Linebrook. Follow him by clicking on “Follow.”


The Ed-Phil-Bill-Bill Dilemma


Selectmen five must serve our town.

This year, two run to keep their seats.

Will two, or one, or none go down

In two, or one, or no defeats?


Two others hope to get on board.

Four candidates for just two slots.

It’s sort of a contender horde.

Perhaps we can connect the dots:


There’s Phil, and Ed, and Bill, and Bill.

That’s Goguen, Rauscher, George, and Craft.

It seems we have one Ed, one Phil,

And one Bill fore, and one Bill aft.


Besides considering their claims,

Please read your ballot carefully.

Four candidates, but five first names:

Ed, Phil, Bill George, and Bill. Five, see?


And on Election Evening, will

We wind up with both Bill and Bill?

Or Ed and Bill? Or Bill and Phil?

And if it’s Bill, do tell: Which Bill?


The Ipswich Chronicle has said,

You should not vote for Phil, nor Ed,

But no, instead, make Bill and Bill

The two Se-lect-men Se-lect-ed.


Too bad all four can’t go on-duty.

A Board of seven; that’s my wish—

To make it Charlie, Ed, and Judy,

Phil, and Bill, and Bill, and Nish.


It might occur, someday, perhaps.

For now, though, you will have to fill

Two slots from four contending chaps:

Bill One. Bill Two. One Ed. One Phil.


I wish you well. I wish you luck.

May all your votes be good and wise,

Because, for three years, we’ll be stuck

With two you choose from these four guys.




Doug Brendel lives on outer Linebrook Road, where he immerses himself in William Shakespeare and Dr. Seuss. See a “Follow” button on this screen? Click it, and magically get “The Outsidah” in your inbox.


Schoolhouse Rocks the Future


The reconfiguration of Ipswich elementary schools has been, and continues to be, a source of great consternation in our fair town. So I don’t want to make light of the situation. It’s serious business, and I appreciate how seriously people are taking it. I chose to live in Ipswich in large measure because of the quality of the schools, and the quality of the school-age child I was bringing here with me. I felt a strong motivation to do right by her educationally, so she would be well situated to support me in my old age.

And Ipswich has not disappointed. My daughter has thrived in the Ipswich public school system. Now on the cusp of high school, she is knowledgeable, well socialized, well rounded, and fully able to help me operate my iPhone.

As for the future, I feel confident that between the School Committee, FinCom, the Board of Selectmen, Town Meeting, and the actions of the voters at the ballot box, an acceptable and constructive school-facilities resolution will be arrived at, and our children will be well educated in years to come, as indeed they have been lo these many years.

But if indeed the Town decides to build a single new elementary school near the center of Ipswich, and make over the Winthrop school property into a long-awaited public safety facility, it seems the fate of the Doyon Memorial Elementary School property will remain up for grabs. I have a few ideas for your consideration.

My first choice would be for Doyon to be converted into a public transportation hub for the benefit of us folks out here on Planet Outer Linebrook. A train leaving from Doyon station could make stops at Marini Farm, Cumby’s/Wolf Hill at Route 1, Linebrook Church, and my house. If it keeps going west to my friend Dave’s house, even better, because then neither of us would need a designated driver.

If a train line is too expensive, I would happily settle for a trolley. Some of the fine folks in our town still remember with fondness the days when trolleys graced the streets of Ipswich, and I believe the Doyon trolley could become a cherished feature of our western landscape, even a tourist attraction: “Visit Ipswich, go back in time! Not all 380 years, just 100 or so!”

Or even a bus would be nice.

Or just a shuttle service. A couple used minivans.

Anything to end the awful isolation of life in these outer reaches, this netherworld, where people live so far west, even Ipswich old-timers don’t realize it’s actually still Ipswich out here.

However, if a Doyon transportation hub is not to the voters’ liking, the former elementary school could still serve some valuable purpose. We could turn it into the performing arts center that Old Town Hall never became. We could call it New Old Town Hall, and produce plays there, and book big music acts. I can imagine one final Simon & Garfunkel reunion in the gym. Plenty of parking.

Doyon might otherwise become a sort of Visitor Center West, where lost tourists stop in for directions to Boxford, and volunteers offer suggestions for interesting excursions to points beyond, like snorkeling at Hood Pond, or a Hollywood-style drive-by tour of the homes of current and former Ipswich selectmen.

Doyon could also house an all-volunteer emergency brigade to be mustered into service whenever somebody gets lost in Willowdale, which would have been really helpful the day I got lost in Willowdale.

Other possibilities:

  • Roller rink.
  • Rustic wedding location.
  • Medical marijuana farm.
  • Linebrook Road-kill taxidermy shop.
  • More space for EBSCO.
  • Municipal airport.
  • The Doyon Zoo?

I welcome your suggestions, via DoyonForever@DougBrendel.com.



Doug Brendel lives in what cartographers of yore sometimes referred to as the “hindmost quarters” of Ipswich, the “haunches” of Ipswich, or the “rump” of Ipswich, in any case the part of Ipswich where you can only get pizza delivery from Rowley. Follow Doug by clicking “Follow” now.