I hardly know where to begin.
The shock, the shame, the sheer agony of the situation has left me — me, the loquacious one, the wordy guy — nearly speechless.
As you read these words, I am fewer than 100 hours away from becoming the owner of a business in (I can hardly type the word without shaking my head in amazement) Rowley.
After years of mercilessly using the Town of Rowley as the butt of innumerable jokes in this very column, after deflecting well-deserved barbs via email from incensed Rowley residents, after surviving what I still believe to be a poisoning attempt in a Rowley dining room following publication of a particularly snarky column, after sanctimoniously announcing my vow to forego Rowley put-downs in print, only to fall off the wagon a few brief weeks later — after all of this and more, as fate would have it, I will soon have a Rowley business address.
Coincidence? Or cosmic justice?
My ironic mock-Shakespearean tragedy unfolded as follows.
Wife Kristina directed Time & Tide Fine Art on Market Street in Ipswich for two and a half years. Great vibe, fun events, brilliant artists — but we bled money: good sales per shopper, but too few shoppers downtown. Kristina announced the closing three days after Christmas. Lots of people in Ipswich expressed their grief. I was one of them. (It should be pointed out, however, that not a single Rowley resident sent a message along the lines of “Serves you right, scum,” nor even “Neener neener neener.”)
Soon Kristina heard from a Rowley business, Post Road Framers. They had always operated a gallery in the front of their shop, near Market Basket on Route 1. Would Time & Tide like to move in? Without asking me — and I hasten to point this out, because if this turns out badly, I would like to avoid as much blame as possible — Kristina negotiated a workable agreement, and agreed.
Time & Tide will reopen in Rowley, Massachusetts, on April 1. That’s April Fools Day, by the way.
She will throw a “grand opening” reception on Saturday, April 6 (from 5 to 7 p.m.), and I’ll be there. You’re invited. Whether I’ll be wearing a bullet-proof vest is not a subject I feel comfortable discussing publicly.
For my fellow Ipswich residents who intend to venture out for the party, let me offer a few words of gentle advice.
1. Contrary to a common misunderstanding, you do not need to carry your passport. The border between Ipswich and Rowley is open.
2. When you pass the turnoff for the Ipswich Country Club, breathe deeply. If you feel lightheaded, breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. What you’re experiencing is the heady delight of sensible zoning and permitting, two of Rowley’s most desirable distinctives.
3. After crossing the border into Rowley, continue driving normally. Traffic rules in Rowley are very similar to those in Ipswich. Do not be alarmed by people driving various speeds. Your natural Ipswichian inclination to go 40 mph no matter the speed limit will dissipate gradually after you’ve been in Rowley awhile. Rowley drivers are known to acknowledge speed limit signs. These are white rectangular signs with black numerals, which normally go unnoticed in Ipswich.
4. When exiting your vehicle, continue to behave as you would in Ipswich. Do not look around nervously for “the torch and pitchfork people,” in the words of my friend Tim, who lives across from Rowley Town Hall. You will find the citizens of Rowley to be nearly indistinguishable from citizens of Ipswich. On close examination, however, you may find that their skin is somewhat smoother: fewer wrinkles from scowling and fewer scars from local battles. This is because, for the most part, they still cling to that old-fashioned notion of civil discourse.