My math whiz fifth-grader calculates that, in the short time we’ve lived in Ipswich, I’ve driven Linebrook Road the equivalent of driving cross-country and back: about 6,846 miles.
Indeed, it seems to me that driving across Ipswich is kind of like driving across the United States. If you know your U.S. geography, you might agree that our town is sort of a 42-square-mile microcosm of the entire country. Consider:
- I live in outer Linebrook, that mysterious triangle beyond Route 1, so we’re the West Coasters of Ipswich. “Outer Linebrook” sounds like a forgotten planet, and many folks think of California the same way. And like our Hollywood brethren, we outer Linebrookians loll about in our sunglasses and bathing suits and eat vegetarian and refer to our part of town as “West Ipswich Farms.”
- The Pacific Northwest of Ipswich is out toward the end of High Street. By the time you reach White Farms Ice Cream, you’re perilously close to the Rowley line — just like when you get to Seattle, you’re almost in Russia. (Well, you do have to go through Sarah Palin’s house, but then you’re almost in Russia.) Sad to say, however, even though Seattle is a great fish town, at Sal’s Pizza, next door to White Farms, there’s not a single anchovy on the menu.
- To find Ipswich’s answer to the Upper Midwest, you go straight up Town Farm Road. The further you go, the more Minnesota it gets. “The Land of 10,000 Lakes” has nothing on the Ipswich Transfer Station — our own “Land of 10,000 Recycled Car Batteries.” Minnesota, one of the greenest states in the Union, would applaud our fine facility, where you can recycle everything from paint to poison, fluorescent bulbs to forsythia branches.
- Our Northeast is the Necks: Jeffreys, Great, and Little. Especially Little. Here we find our Pilgrims (staked their claim!), our Puritans (righteous to the end!), and our colonists (who, in the time-tested tradition of John Winthrop, Jr., buy off the natives, take legal control of the land, and henceforth call themselves “natives”). The rest of the country thinks of the Northeast as flinty — stern and unemotional and strict with every nickel. The rest of the town thinks of Little Neck as — hm, sorry, I can’t seem to read my notes here. Let’s move on.
- Follow Topsfield Road through our own Ipswich version of the Great Southwest. Winding up in the Willowdale State Forest, however, is infinitely more pleasant than winding up in the sizzling Sonora Desert. As a longtime resident of the sizzling Sonora Desert, I know whereof I speak.
- To get to our Deep South, follow County to Lakemans to Fellows to Candlewood: You’ll find people sitting barefoot in creaky rocking chairs on half-rotted front porches drinking moonshine from clay jugs and spitting tobacco juice through their remaining teeth at their rusted ’57 trucks up on blocks in their front yards. Well, not all of them. Just my friends who live there. (You know who you are.)
- In the U.S., you go as far as you can to the southeast and you wind up in Florida. In Ipswich, you follow 133 southeast as far as you can, and you wind up at the Great Marsh — our answer to the Everglades.
- And if you follow the interstate from the heart of our nation to the east coast, you come to Washington, D.C., the center of power. In Ipswich, you follow Argilla Road from the center of town to the east, and you come to the Crane Estate, historic destination of the great and near-great. President Taft partied here. To get from my humble abode to the Great House on Castle Hill is a 9.4-mile journey. It takes 23 minutes in my automobile, unless someone ahead of me on Central decides to be nice and gives someone on Market the right-of-way, in which case the ensuing traffic tangle — vehicles on North Main, South Main, Central, and Market trapped in a slow-motion tango of you-go-first gesticulation — will turn my 23 minutes into 42. Almost quicker to drive cross-country.
Just kidding. I love it here.
Doug Brendel, author and minister, lives on Ipswich’s left coast.