Ipswich Builds a Wall

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There are three types of people in Ipswich, Massachusetts.

First, there are people who don’t use the parking lot at the train station because they have no use for a parking lot at the train station. They aren’t getting on the train, they’re not using the train to go to Boston or Newburyport or any point in between. This column is not about them. This column is about people who use the parking lot at the train station.

Second, there are people who use the parking lot at the train station. They commute into Boston on weekdays (saving thousands a year on city parking fees), or they go shopping somewhere along the Newburyport line, or they promised their snotty little nephew they’d take him to the Science Museum, and they can’t put him off any longer.

Third, there are the outcasts, the riff-raff, the wretched refuse of humanity. You might use the term “low-life.” Or even “scumbags.” No, of course, nobody calls you by these names to your face, if you’re in Category 3. But this is apparently the attitude of the Town of Ipswich toward you. In this third category are the folks who want to use the parking lot at the train station, they may even urgently needto use the parking lot at the train station, but they’re banned. Barred. Disqualified. Excluded. Forbidden. And that’s just the first six letters of the alphabet.

Why? you may ask. What crime did these folks commit? What wrongdoing could possibly compel the Town of Ipswich to go to the trouble of establishing actual legal barriers to keep these people from using the parking lot at the train station? Did these hooligans slash tires or spray graffiti on the benches? No. Did they park at an angle and use up two spaces? Wrong again. Don’t tell me they left an empty Zumi’s Macchiato cup on the platform!None of these.

The only people the Town of the Ipswich bars from parking on the parking lot at the train station are the people who want to park there overnight. Which means, by and large, people who work in Boston on the night shift. Those swine. Those no-good dirty rotten graveyard-shift overnighters. We’re talking maintenance workers. Cab drivers. Registered nurses. People who don’t have the common decency to get day jobs, so they can commute with the rest of us normal human beings.

I’m always interested in how underdogs get to be underdogs — this comes, perhaps from growing up in Chicago Cubs territory — so I summoned all my liberal courage and asked Ipswich Planning Director Glenn Gibbs why the Town of Ipswich discriminates against night-time commuters. Glenn is a good friend of mine, a fellow Episcopalian, and as far as I’ve seen, a straight-shooter. Also, he has announced his imminent retirement, so I felt reasonably sure that he wouldn’t take umbrage and pull strings at Town Hall to have me mercilessly persecuted.

Glenn was horrified. He had no idea. The very notion that parking is banned overnight on the parking lot at the train station was disturbing to him. He assured me he would check around with the proper authorities and report back to me to confirm. Overnight parking, he told me, must surelybe allowed on the parking lot at the train station.

Uh, sorry, wrong.

“It appears that there is a ban on overnight parking at the MBTA lot after all,” his email said. “Its apparent purpose is to avoid the problem of parkers staying into the morning peak period and limiting the number of paces available for morning commuters.”

Yes, that’s quite a problem: those damnable night-commuters not getting off their shifts and back on the train and into Ipswich station in time for the fine upstanding respectable daytimecommuters to find their parking spaces.

So the Town of Ipswich said, in essence, “We’ll build a wall.”

I realized as I read Glenn’s email what a blessing it is that the Town of Ipswich protects us from such a threat. A handful of parking spaces taken up by a few overnight commuters, when they’re needed by even the smallest percentage of our multitudinous daytime commuters, could devastate our local economy. Much wiser to force the overnight commuters to drive their cars into Boston, pay exorbitant parking rates, and live in relative poverty, so that the savings can go to the truly deserving: people who work in the daylight. The acceptable people.

“This is an issue that our Downtown Parking Study Committee will be reviewing in the coming weeks,” Glenn added. Well, okay, but I certainly hope that wisdom and justice will prevail, and those who are being rightly discriminated against will continue being discriminated against. Those graveyard shift losers need to know their place.

Sure, sure, I know what you’re thinking: This is a lawsuit waiting to happen. Any class of people unfairly prevented from accessing public services — they just hire a lawyer and off we go to court. But let’s not worry our pretty little heads. We can win this case. It’s entirely possible we’ll get a crooked judge.

 

 

Doug Brendel lives on outer Linebrook Road, far from the Ipswich train station. By the time he gets there, there’s hardly ever anyplace to park. Follow Doug here at Outsidah.com.

 

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Driver, Do You Go to Utica?

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I have the occasional nightmare about being chased by police, but otherwise, I don’t believe I have anything that qualifies as a criminal tendency. So when I’m reading crime stories — I don’t mean the old-timey Dashiell Hammett novels and the Dick Tracycomic strip; I mean the real ones, at TheLocalNe.ws — I sometimes have a hard time understanding what I’m reading, or even believing what I’m seeing.

For example: Not long ago, a story out of Gloucester puzzled me. “A man accused of holding up a bank Monday morning was later found on a bus in Lynn,” it began. “The suspect had apparently ridden it there while trying to escape from Gloucester.” All of this attributed to the Gloucester Times.

So the robbery allegedly happened around 9 a.m. A man in his 30s “passed a note to a teller stating he had a weapon.” Police reportedly “dispatched multiple cruisers and investigators to the scene and to the area surrounding the bank.” There was surveillance video. There were witnesses. The suspect, as it turns out, was already “known to police.” His name and description were broadcast to law enforcement agencies in the area, and to state police.

At about this point, as I’m reading through the story, I’m thinking, If I’m doing this bank robbery, I’ve only got a couple of choices. I’m either planning to lie low — I’ve got a busty blonde girlfriend waiting for me in a garage somewhere in Dogtown, with a grease-soaked bag of gyros and a case of beer — or I’ve arranged a way to skedaddle out of town in a huge hurry: Assuming I haven’t stolen enough money to cover the cost of leasing a helicopter, I might still have a rented James Bond-type speedboat waiting in one of Gloucester’s 14,786 harbors — or maybe I’ve got a lead-footed henchman in a fast car ready to get me west fast. Lunch in Worcester. Yeah, baby. Count the money over a pastrami reuben at Deadhorse. Then head for the hills. Maybe even Schenectady.

But this was apparently not said perpetrator’s plan. The suspect “was located on a bus in Lynn.”

Not running from the bus.

Not shooting his way out of the bus.

Not clinging to the underside of the bus, like Keanu Reeves in that Speedmovie back in the 90s.

No.

Just sitting on the bus.

Probably paid for his ticket with stolen money.

Do your banking in Gloucester, and look where your money goes.

I don’t know what to make of this story. It’s probably too late to help the bus-riding bank robber of Gloucester, but I do feel I might be able to offer some small measure of wisdom to other bank robbers, here in the Cape Ann area, and possibly even beyond:

  1. First of all, if you need this kind of advice, bank robbing may not be the career for you. Go back to school. In Massachusetts, community college is cheap. Get a normal career. Carpenter. Barista. Think outside the banks. You’ll be happier.
  2. If you decide to forge ahead with your dream of robbing banks, delete your digital copy of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. It’s not a good guide. If you back off your drinking enough to stay awake till the end, you’ll see that Paul Newman and Robert Redford actually end the movie somewhat badly. You don’t want to go there.
  3. Bank robbery is a speed-based enterprise. The bus is not about speed. You need a more nimble alternative. Think Uber. Think your sister-in-law’s pickup truck. Compared to the bus, you might more surely escape the scene of the crime hiding in the cab of a Marini tractor. Forget the bus system. It’s good for a lot of things, but not for bank robbery getaways. (Please tell me you didn’t pay your fare and then say to the bus driver, “Step on it!” That would be embarrassing.)

One final note: If they give you Internet access in jail, feel free to email me. We can talk. I’m concerned about how you’ll fare in prison, dude. I mean, come on. You robbed a bank, and then took the bus. Huh?

 

 

Doug Brendel lives on outer Linebrook Road, where the bus never goes. Follow him by clicking “Follow.”

 

I Loved How You Paused at Pineswamp

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Please help me.

I’m sitting in my car, head bent over the steering wheel, weeping and gritting my teeth.

Will somebody please explain to Ipswich drivers the concept of right-of-way?

I’ve tried, in many of my 266 previous “Outsidah” columns, to explicate this seemingly simple subject. But I guess there’s only so much education that can happen in a humor column. “Haha, look at that, the Outsidah thinks we should observe something called ‘right-of-way,’” readers seem to say whenever I write about it.

So it’s up to you, dear reader. Please, I beg you, please: It’s time to take matters into your own hands. As follows:

Please, somebody, explain to Ipswich drivers that when two vehicles are facing each other on Linebrook Road, preparing to cross Route 1 when the light turns green, the vehicle going straight across Route 1 has the right-of-way, while the one turning left onto Route 1 is obligated to wait — that means WAIT— which means SIT STILL— which meansYOU DON’T GO FIRST— until the car moving straight across Route 1 has passed you by.

It also means as I pass you going straight across Route 1 — exercising my right-of-way while you, dear left-turner, are sitting there waiting, with your left blinker blinking, signaling your intention to turn left onto Route 1 (yes, I see your turn signal; I understand your intentions, but this doesn’t change the fact that I HAVE THE RIGHT-OF-WAY) — as I head straight across Route 1, passing you, there is no call for you to blast your horn at me in indignation simply because I had the temerity to exercise my right-of-way and cross ahead of you, instead of pausing to “be nice” and let you turn left in front of me, in violation of the law. You jerk.

Coming of age in Chicago, learning to drive in the big city, did me no good when I arrived here in small-town New England. Here, drivers have an ongoing unofficial competition to see who can be nicest. In Chicago, when I was growing up, essential driving gear included a jack, a crowbar, and a gun. Here, drivers slow down at intersections to make sure there’s nobody coming from another direction whom they can demonstrate their niceness to. Oh, look! There’s a Volvo, heading my way, 110 yards off to the left! Maybe it’s someone I know! Maybe someone from my church! I’ll hesitate here and let them go first, just in case I cross paths with them at Zumi’s this week, and with a simple nod they’ll acknowledge that I’m officially “nice,” because I let them through the intersection ahead of me on Thursday afternoon.

Meanwhile, the traffic behind this nice person is backing up to Georgetown.

Somebody please explain to Ipswich drivers that the law is the law, and the overall fastest way for traffic to flow is if everybody obeys it, and if you don’t obey the right-of-way laws you are endangering yourself and all those around you. If you pause to be nice at an intersection when there’s no other reason to pause, the other drivers approaching that same intersection — including the string of vehicles closing in on your rear bumper — have no reason to assume you’re going to hesitate. They’re operating on the assumption that the law is the law. They’re not sitting there behind the wheel hoping you’ll have some beautiful opportunity to demonstrate your niceness to a random Buick crossing Broadway onto Brownville. They’re assuming you’re going to keep moving at a reasonable speed. When they plow into your backside, I predict your niceness will suddenly give way to rage — or at least despair. And honestly, I hope to be there, by some felicitous convergence of serendipity and cynicism, so that I can step up to the wreckage of your vehicle, first to inquire as to your well-being — “You all right? Okay, good” — and then to have the honor of pointing out that you got rear-ended only because you failed to observe certain traffic rules which extend back in history just about as long as we’ve had automobiles. To put it another way, you’re the ignoramus, not the guy who smushed you.

Not to mention the millions of dollars in lost revenue you’re costing Ipswich businesses, especially on weekday mornings, as you stall miles of traffic — dozens, maybe millions, of cars standing like gravestones behind you on High Street, or on South Main Street and County and Essex, or on Market Street and Topsfield Road.

Yes, I know. My wife has already scolded me. I write way too many “Outsidah” columns about traffic. On the other hand, I only speak the truth. Last week a guy stopped me in Market Basket and reminded me of a column I wrote years ago about a family stranded at the stop sign on Liberty Street, whose children graduated from Ipswich High School, went off to college, married, and had children — all while the family car was still sitting at the stop sign on Liberty, hoping to get out onto Lord’s Square. “We’re doing fine,” the guy told me. “Yeah, still there. Still hoping to move on, someday. But look!” he exclaimed, pulling an iPhone from his pocket. “I got pictures of the grandkids!”

See what I mean? If we don’t do something about the Ipswich traffic situation — if we don’t get people to observe the right-of-way regulations, so some sense of order is restored to our intersections and our emotional lives; if we don’t turn our one-way Liberty Street around, and make it go the opposite way, away from Lord’s Square, so people can finally escape; if we don’t begin driving the actual speed limit, instead of everybody doing 40 mph, regardless of whether the speed limit is 50 or 25 — we will doom our town to a suspended Brigadoon-like limbo. We’ll be trapped in a 380-year-old time warp, where our lives are permanently shackled to an arcane colonial-era system of convoluted rules and regulations utterly incomprehensible to all outsiders.

Oh, wait. That was the whole idea, wasn’t it?

Never mind.

 

Stranger Danger Re-Arranger

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My identity was stolen last week, and I’m so grateful.

When my bank notified me that someone had appropriated my Visa, I was horrified — because they wanted to prosecute the devil who did it.

“No!” I cried. “Wait!” I immediately realized that this might be my big chance. Could I let this guy keepmy identity? Take over the lease payments on my car? Answer my telemarketing calls? Put my kid through NYU? Could this be a way around buying my own Town of Ipswich surplus-garbage bags? There might even be a way to finesse this person into taking my workouts at the gym.

There was no issue about getting my money back. My bank offers “fraud protection.” (As it turns out, this phrase doesn’t mean what it actually says. They don’t protect fraud. They protect you fromfraud. It would be silly, I guess, to protect fraud. It’s illegal, after all, and presumably doesn’t deserve protection — at least not beyond “You have the right to remain silent” and all that.)

But I wasn’t really eager to get my money back; I was more interested in answers.

  • Who was this person?
  • What drove them to such a heinous crime?
  • How much of my precious money did they spend?
  • Did they get anything good?

I imagined somebody shady but glamorous: an international playboy, wearing an Armani suit, using my Chase bankcard to lease a Learjet for a flight to meet his Czech mistress at his villa in Rio. The kind of fellow Pierce Brosnan would have played in a movie, except it would be a hit.

As it turned out, my fantasy was only a fantasy. My credit card, bank investigators advised me, had been used to obtain $27 worth of dental work. I thought this must be a typo. At the very least, an identity thief would spend 27 HUNDREDdollars and get a full set of dentures. What can you get from a dentist for $27? Now I imagine investigators searching for a middle-aged part-time parking lot attendant with bad teeth. I feel sad for him: a guy lucky enough to score someone else’s identity, but unable to hightail it for Tahiti because he’s got too many cavities, and possibly gum disease.

I figure when they finally zero in on the perpetrator, my iPhone will buzz, and a bank detective will ask me if I want to press charges. Well, I’m not going to be too hasty to respond. Maybe this craven criminal would be open to negotiation? You can keep my identity if, for example, that means you’ll take my kitten in for its last two vaccinations. Or maybe clear the mountain of dead oak leaves piled up against my garage door. And then there’s the matter of that ongoing little disagreement with my neighbor about the rats in the compost heap; if you can sort that out, take my identity, andthe rats, and more power to ya.

Meanwhile, I’ll take on a brand-new identity. If you see a guy skipping lightheartedly down Central Street — a guy who appears to be utterly carefree, possibly even debt-free — a guy who waves back at you when you yell “Hey there, Chester Moschloskowicz!” — that’ll be me.

I think Chester Moschloskowicz will be one of those people who always pays cash.

 

 

Doug Brendel, alias Chester Moschloskowicz, lives on outer Linebrook Road, at least till his identity replacement moves in. Follow Chester by clicking “Follow” on this screen.

 

I Am Wherever I Am

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I was sitting at the bar in Choate Bridge Pub when I met a married couple I’ll call Chauncey and Clementine, who recently moved to Ipswich from someplace out West — Billerica, I think.

As it turns out, Chauncey and Clementine are neighbors of mine, sort of: fellow residents of outer Linebrook. In fact, they live further out than I do. I wasn’t surprised to learn this, because of that telltale dazed look on their faces. They’re still trying to get their bearings here in our marvelous, terrifying wilderness, where Ipswich, Topsfield, and Boxford all mash together. Chauncey and Clementine are in the process of making adjustments that most Ipswich residents will never have to make, because the vast majority of Ipswich residents live east of Route 1, where there be no dragons.

You can imagine how unsettling it must be for them. No matter how comfortable and contented they try to seem — Welcome to our home! We love it here!— a stomach-churning miasma of disturbing questions swirls sickeningly in the murky backrooms of their minds: How does one live here, on the frontier, in “the sticks,” in the neighborhoods where folks once settled their differences by accusing each other of being witches? How do you survive in a place where there are more groundhogs than people, a strange netherworld where the four seasons are leaf blower, snow blower, lawnmower, and Weber grill?

Actually, however, as I explored the matter with Chauncey and Clementine, I discovered that the look of bewilderment on their faces was related mostly to the fact that they have found themselves living on the Mysteriously Disappearing Street — which is also the MysteriouslyReappearingStreet — also known as outer Linebrook Road.

It’s true. (I offer the following simply as a public service — so if you’re ever heading from “Ipswich proper” out to, say, Tractor Supply, and you decide to take a detour into Cumberland Farms for a cup of iced coffee, and then while pulling back out of the parking lot you get confused and turn the wrong way, you ultimately find yourself passing Hood Pond on the left and wondering where the heck you are, and how long it will be before a Sasquatch descends upon you and defiles your Volkswagen.)

In order to properly orient you to your new outer Linebrook reality, let me provide you this primer:

If you’re driving west on Linebrook Road, about 4 minutes west of the Route 1 Cumberland Farms, you’ll pass Pillowlace Lane on the right, and that’s the moment to start paying close attention, because you’re about to arrive at the Mysterious Point of Linebrook Road Disappearance. In a few hundred feet, you’ll be invited to take a left. The street sign says you’re turning left on “Linebrook Road.” In other words, if you keep going straight on Linebrook Road, you’re no longer on Linebrook Road. You’re still in Ipswich, but now you’re on Boxford Road.

And as you keep going on Boxford Road, things get even weirder — because about 500 feet before you arrive at Route 97, you cross the invisible line into Topsfield — and what do they call those last 500 feet of Boxford Road? They call it “Linebrook Road.” Why? I think they just did it to mess with us.

They also decided to give Route 97 the most confusing possible name. What do they call it? Ipswich Road.Thank you very much.

All of this means that when Chauncey and Clementine visit Mawmaw in Billerica and then return to their new home here in Ipswich, they drive up something called Ipswich Road, turn left on something called Linebrook Road, then it’s no longer Linebrook Road, then it’s Linebrook Road again, and then — well, let me just put it this way: I think Chauncey and Clementine are very brave to move here from Billerica.

 

 

Doug Brendel is grateful to live on east outer Linebrook, because it’s so much simpler than west outer Linebrook. Follow him by clicking “Follow.”

 

How Much Time Will You Waste Reading This?

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There was snickering in heaven the day God, or his management team, got to the agenda item of Creating Doug Brendel. First they arranged for me to inherit my father’s efficiency gene; then they put me in Ipswich, Massachusetts.

My father, now 86 and sharp as ever, was never an efficiency expert officially or professionally, but he has always been oriented to efficiency. He’s interested in getting the most done in the shortest length of time with the least possible expenditure of energy. Lay out all your tools, in the order you’re going to need them, before you start the job, so you don’t have to zigzag back and forth across the garage over the course of the project. That sort of thing.

To this day, as a result of Richard Irving Brendel’s DNA imprint, I have a hard time walking through my house.

  • If I’m crossing the living room on my way to the kitchen, and I see a magazine on the couch that ought to be on the coffee table, I have to grab it and toss it on the coffee table on my way by.
  • If then I happen to see a scrap of paper on the floor — perhaps something turned into a cat toy by our enterprising felines, and now abandoned — I have to pick it up too, en route to the kitchen because, after all, that scrap of paper needs to go into recycling, and the recycling bin is in the pantry, in the kitchen, where I’m headed. (Where I’m headed at that very moment! What luck!)
  • A stray baseball cap left by our teenager on the armrest of the couch? That will need to wind up on a peg in the mudroom, which is beyond the kitchen, so it makes sense to pick that up on the way as well.
  • That book I’ve been meaning to dive back into, which I’ll read later on the screen porch? Pick that up too, because the screen porch is beyond the kitchen too. Getting it as far as the kitchen counter will move it closer to its eventual destination. Efficiency!

At this rate, a trip from the bedroom to the screen porch can take 20 minutes. Nothing is simple for an efficiency nerd. But at least no movement was wasted! God forbid any unnecessary backtracking!

Consider the essential daily (or multiple-times-daily) challenge of making a pot of coffee. Our obsolete little 10-cup Philips machine — they don’t even make this model anymore — sits on the kitchen counter just under the cupboard where the coffee lives in its designated canister, next to a tall, slender porcelain vessel which I have designated for holding the black plastic spoon which I have designated for coffee-scooping. Also in this cupboard, in the spot I have designated for it, is the plastic bag full of Market Basket #4 filters. (Keep these guys standing up against the left wall of the cupboard, please, tucked in there next to my tea-drinking daughter’s tea canister, so they don’t fall down and — most important of all — don’t take up any more space than they need to.)

Now, take note: The sequence of somesteps of the coffee-making process cannot be negotiated. You must, for example, put the filter into the machine’s little basket before you put the coffee in. But there arecertain details in this process which are wide open to examination, if you’re looking to save time. Here’s one critically important question: Do you put the water into the machine and thenput in the coffee, before throwing the “on” switch to start the brewing process? Or do you put the coffee in first, thenthe water, and finally turn the machine on? One approach saves multiple millisecondsover the other, my friend, based on which item is left in your hand at the moment it’s time to flick the switch. Think! Think carefully! Don’t squander cumulative minutes of your life making your morning coffee inefficiently! (Answer: water first, then coffee. Throw the switch while the spoon is still in your hand; then put the spoon away.)

A trip to the mailbox is an exercise in multi-tasking. That little package you’re sending to your kid at camp should definitely notbe carried all the way to the mailbox on the street until you’re sure you don’t have anything else that needs to be mailed. On the other hand, you have to get out there before the mailman comes. If it’s garbage day, bingo!You can put your daughter’s package under your arm, swing through the garage, grab the handle of the garbage bin with one hand, the recycling bin with the other, drag them both to the street, stick the package in the mailbox, and head back to the house — all in a single, fluid motion. Brilliant! You just saved yourself 128.9 feet round-trip. Do it every week, and you’ve saved yourself more than a mile and a quarter over the course of a year. That’s half an hour of walking time. Half an hour — that’s enough time to dash to Cumby’s, or phone your mother, or make a macramé plant hanger. Anything you want! It’s yours! Free time!

The invention of GPS was a boon. No more taking the obvious main roads, when a cut-across on Mill will get you to Beverly 45 seconds sooner. God forbid you should arrive in Beverly 45 seconds later than you had to!These three-quarter-minute savings add up, I tell you. Over the course of a week, you can write another novel in the time you save.

Now superimpose this low-grade obsessive-compulsive behavior over a simple journey through Ipswich, Massachusetts. I’m driving down Linebrook Road from the west, heading toward Ipswich Center. Up ahead is a Marini Farm vehicle. These are fabulous vehicles, with a top speed sometimes approaching 18 mph. I love Marini Farm. I’m grateful for their farm stand, and their commitment to growing corn for me and my family. But my next novel will come out a year later than scheduled because I live in Ipswich, Massachusetts, and got caught behind a tractor.

Efficiency? Don’t get me started on Lord’s Square. Or Depot Square. Or that anguished dogleg at High Street and Town Farm Road — an impossible hairpin if you’re coming from the northwest. (Of course, it’s a beautiful glide if you’re coming from the southeast — and zipping past all those unfortunate folks lined up on Town Farm waiting to get out onto High Street.)

And that place where County Street becomes County Road, and South Main can’t decide whether to go straight into Poplar Street or bend south into County? You could grow old sitting at that intersection wondering whether it’s your turn to go.

Oh, for a helicopter!

I’m sure my father could figure this out.

 

 

Doug Brendel lives on outer Linebrook Road. How to get there? Don’t even ask. From where you are now, it’s probably impossible. Just follow Doug here at Outsidah.com. Click “Follow.” It’s efficient.