Maine Course: You Up for Down East?


I have not lived in Ipswich long, but I have now lived here long enough to do what everybody else does, which is vacation in Maine.

Which I did last week.

My wife and I abandoned our children, our jobs, even our cats — left behind not just Facebook but the entire World Wide Web — and rented a cottage for a week in a 16-acre thicket of woods on the Maine coast. Where, you ask? I’m not sure. I believe it was someplace between Acadia National Park and needing a passport. As ignorant a newcomer as I am in Ipswich, I was even ignoranter — an even newercomer — in Maine.

But now, after seven continuous days of firsthand experience, I am an expert on Maine. As a public service, I offer seven fun facts:

  1. Maine produces nearly 90% of the nation’s lobster supply. Maine also produces 90% of the nation’s toothpick supply — because you always need a toothpick after eating lobster.
  2. Maine also has clams, but they don’t hold a candle to ours. They look pretty much like Ipswich clams, but the similarity ends there. Maine clams don’t taste right. They taste like a cross between an oyster and a rubber doorstop — and with a consistency somewhere between a Super Ball and, well, actually, a rubber doorstop.
  3. We thought we had it bad on the North Shore last winter, with 10 feet of snow, but that was child’s play compared to the folks Down East. They got 14 feet. It was not a pleasant time for them. Many ropes were gotten to the end of. Now that the weather is nice, Maine is absolutely wallpapered with For Sale signs. You can buy vast swaths of Maine real estate for rock-bottom prices. Unfortunately, you will neither be able to get onto nor off of your property during the winter, and when you finally do gain access, you will find that the roof collapsed under the tonnage of snow, and your living room is now a fungus farm.
  4. Maine’s state animal is the moose. Maine claims to have more moose per square mile than any other state. They perpetuate this myth with thousands of “Watch Out for Moose” signs along their highways. But the moose are not profuse. In fact, we have never yet seen a single such Down East beast. I now believe that there is actually only one moose, which they move from place to place, and take photographs of, to post the photos online. There is also just one cute little baby moose, who makes it into some of the photographs. There may have been more moose in Maine at one time, but after 14 feet of snow, they have all moved to Florida.
  5. Maine is also famous for its mosquitoes. Their mosquitoes are bigger than our mosquitoes, and growing rapidly. Thanks to the natural processes of evolution, Maine’s mosquitoes are enlarging to take up the space left behind by the moose. This should be no surprise. You’ve seen photos of moose standing in swamps. Mosquitoes breed in swamps. The only difference now is that the mosquitoes are six feet tall at the shoulder. And some are growing antlers.
  6. Maine is larger than the other five New England states combined. I never knew why until I spent a week there. Now I understand. They need the space for all that junk. Here in Massachusetts, we have “antique” shops, but Mainers are not given to such fancified euphemism. For the most part, they just tell it like it is. It’s junk. I saw more than one sign offering — without embellishment — “Old Stuff.” I saw enough junk shops in Maine to worry that we may soon have a shortage of junk in the rest of the country. If there’s a spike in the price of junk, Maine is gonna get rich.
  7. A favorite pastime for people in Maine is to watch for cars with Massachusetts plates and then pull out in front of them and drive 10 mph under the speed limit. Traveling to Maine? Plan accordingly.

I’m back now. It was a beautiful vacation. Really. But I’m happy to be home — for the reasonable weather, for the tasty clams, for the normal-sized mosquitoes, and most of all, for the sensible traffic.



Apparently it’s hard to beat a candidate positioned as “friend of chickens” who serves drinks.

election day 2

(“Skipped” is SurveyMonkey’s term for write-in votes. Write-ins included Susan Brengle, Rachel Roesler, Kitty Robertson, Joni Soffron, Heidi Paek, and Nicholetta Paudelopoulous, the worker killed in Ipswich’s 1913 mill strike.)

24-hour Update on the Big Vote


At the 24-hour mark, the race to place an Ipswich woman’s face on the $10 bill is dramatic indeed. The U.S. Treasury Secretary has not yet announced his decision, so this ballot is still open. Vote here today!

Chicken Lady Deb Clapp is running away with it so far, but there are still more than 13,000 votes to be cast.

(“Skipped” is Survey Monkey’s term for write-ins.)

election day 1

I’ll Take Women for Ten, Alex


(Here’s your BALLOT. Vote today!)

Which woman should appear on the new $10 bill?

Clearly it should be someone from Ipswich. It should also be one of my friends.

With a few well placed political contributions, I’ve managed to get my recommendations moved to the top of the Treasury Department’s list.

The most obvious choice is Town Manager Robin Crosbie. She’s whip-smart, with a reputation for fairness even in tough situations. You get a very clear sense of her no-nonsense approach to town government when you confer with her on an official matter: She has a penetrating gaze and a firmly set mouth, like George Washington, but with darker hair. Of course, George only made the $1 bill. I think Robin is worth the $10.

Another great choice would be the indomitable “Ipswich Watchdog” KelleyJane Kloub. She’s the perennial goad, frequently featured in the “citizen’s query” segment of ICAM’s Board of Selectmen show (Mondays at 7), who famously pushed the town to spend $50,000 on an audit of the schools in hopes of cutting the budget and keeping taxes down. But the auditors found no glaring waste, and instead actually suggested additional spending. To make up the difference, the KelleyJane $10 bill will be worth $11.

A Shirley Berry $10 bill would be very cool, and totally appropriate. Shirley has a long and glorious history with Ipswich — by her own admission, she has waited tables in just about every eating establishment in town — and she served with devotion as a selectman until she took a nasty tumble down a set of stairs, reportedly without the help of any political opponent. The accident left her with medical issues that ultimately forced her retirement; in the meantime, at Town Meetings, she was forced her to wear sunglasses under the glare of the stage lights. Is it sexist of me to feel that having a woman in sunglasses on the $10 bill would be absolutely awesome?

My personal favorite female face for the $10 bill is the Chicken Lady, Deb Clapp. In a relentless yet cheery 18-month campaign of squawking, flapping, and scratching, she almost singlehandedly (or singlewingedly) drove the Town of Ipswich to reform and simplify its convoluted fowl regulations. Since scoring that resounding victory, she has pursued a new career as a producer and purveyor of artisan-style honey-wine, from headquarters at the 1634 Meadery on Short Street. It would be good for the $10 bill to feature a woman who can bend government to her will and then serve up drinks to celebrate.

For sheer cuteness, we should choose Senior Collections Clerk Ann Wright. As you enter Town Hall, she’s the one you see behind the glass window. She sells you your Crane Beach parking sticker. She also graciously allows her desk to double as an information station even though it isn’t. In this way, by sheer coincidence of where she sits, Ann learns just about everything that’s going on in town. Which would give her formidable and possibly dangerous influence, if she had a conniving spirit; however, she seems to be a model of perpetual niceness. She would be a dark horse, certainly, for the $10 bill, but if she doesn’t make it there, I think we should put her on the beach sticker.

So many women, so little currency. Vote for your favorite potential $10 female-face-of-Ipswich here now. It’s free, and mercifully anonymous.

You gotta get THE LOCAL NE.WS!



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Doug Brendel

After Greatness, What Next?


You can’t blame Gerry Dolan for retiring. He must be exhausted.

After all, here’s a man who has served unstintingly as Director of Fine Arts for the Ipswich Public Schools; he’s also Director of Bands, which means conducting the high school Concert Band, the Pep Band, the Jazz Ensemble, and the Sixth Grade Band. Think about it. This means he has also had to listen to all these groups the entire time they were trying to learn the music.

Meanwhile, Gerry has been teaching high school courses in Jazz Improvisation, Computer Music Composition, and Music Theory. He’s also served as Music Director for the North Shore Youth Symphony Orchestra and conductor of their Wind Ensemble. He’s been teaching Instrumental Conducting at Gordon College’s Graduate Summer Degree Program. He’s conducted the United States Youth Wind Ensemble, the Metropolitan Wind Symphony, and the U. Mass. Lowell Youth Wind Ensemble. He’s been Music Director of the Ipswich Community Band and Jazz Ensemble. And he’s active as a guest conductor throughout New England and the U.K.

You try standing up and waving your arms around that much for three decades and see if you’re not ready to sit down for a bit. Or at least drop your hands to your sides.

So now the Town of Ipswich is celebrating this outstanding individual on the occasion of his retirement. But let’s not be simplistic. Retirement is not a realistic option for this remarkable, multiple-award-winning giant of a man. There are too many needs in our world for us to allow someone of Gerry Dolan’s genius to settle quietly into a front porch rocking chair on Newmarch Street and spend the rest of his days swatting greenheads and watching the tide come in and out.

Not that the Outsidah would ever be so bold as to dictate Mr. Dolan’s next moves. However, I do believe it would be reasonable to offer some options for consideration.

Accordingly, I am pleased to present the Top Ten Jobs Gerry Dolan Could Do Next:

#10: Permanent host, Crane Estate summer concert series. He’s charming, he’s erudite, and after so many years in front of student players, he’s long past being picky about the kind of music he listens to.

#9: Five Corners traffic cop. For a rhythmic approach to getting through the intersection.

#8: Whatever position opens up next in the Rolling Stones. To class up their looks and their music.

#7: Manager of Soothing Music for inmates still agitated even after being locked up in those pink-walled cells at the Ipswich police station.

#6: Executive Director, England Youth Tours. A natural next step for the man who got something like 200,000 Ipswich high schoolers to England and back this spring without a single reported death or nervous breakdown.

#5: Celebrity host, IMADA telethon. No, IMADA is not planning a telethon, but if you could get Gerry Dolan to host one, it would probably work.

#4: Strolling minstrel, downtown Ipswich. Maybe our last, best shot at increasing foot traffic for retail businesses.

#3: Host, 24-hour Ipswich YouTube channel. No, there is no 24-hour Ipswich YouTube channel, but if you could get Gerry Dolan to host one….

#2: President of the United States. America needs someone produce a beautiful result by telling everybody what to do, and still come out of it beloved.

And the #1 Job Gerry Dolan Could Do Next: