A Townie By Any Other Name

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I am so confused.

Please help me understand the terms.

I know I’m not a “townie,” but I’m not sure why I’m not.

Some folks here in Ipswich have told me that you have to have been born in Ipswich to be a townie. Which means you were born at Cable Hospital, before they closed it, or you were born in a house with an Ipswich address, perhaps with a midwife in a bonnet calmly assisting, sending your father-to-be out to heat water just to get him out of the way. To these purists, even if your family lived in Ipswich at the time of your birth, if you breathed your first air at Beverly Hospital, you’re not a townie. What you are instead, I don’t know. An infidel?

Then other people here in Ipswich tell me I’m not a townie because I live on Planet Outer Linebrook, beyond the gravitational pull of Marini Farm, across the Great Barrier Reef of Route 1. They use the term “townies” to refer to people who live “in town,” although I’m not quite sure where “in town” ends and “out of town” starts. If you drive from my house toward Five Corners, are you “in” when you get to Our Lady of Hope? Or is Our Lady still “out”? (Could you look Pope Francis in the eye and say Our Lady isn’t “in”?) Certainly if you keep driving east, and you survive Lord’s Square, then you must be in town, right?

But then if you keep going, maybe once you get past Gordon Florist, you’re “out of town” again. Or maybe you have to get past Corliss Brothers Nursery? Gordon is in but Corliss is out? I don’t know. See? I’m confused.

My friend Chris Doktor lives on Town Hill, and walks to work, just over the Choate Bridge. He doesn’t talk about “in town” or “out of town.” He talks about “the village.” This winter, when the snowbanks were higher than the gas prices, while my neighbor out here on the West Side of Nowhere was digging a tunnel to borrow a cup of sugar, you could almost see Doktor’s eyes twinkling impishly over the phone: “You should live in the village,” he chuckled.

Maybe there needs to be a map, with the borders clearly defined. People inside the central area would be “villagers.” People outside the village but not “out of town” could be townies. (All villagers are townies, but not all townies are villagers.) People living outside the “in town” border, but inside the border with Rowley or Topsfield or Essex or Hamilton, can be “locals.”

The specific borders can be negotiated by an ad hoc committee, members to be appointed by the Town Moderator, subject to confirmation by me. The specific designations assigned to residents in each of these areas can also be negotiated. Let’s just agree in advance on what we will not call residents who live beyond Route 1.

  • We don’t prefer to be called “immigrants,” “pioneers,” or “losers.” There is nothing inherently wrong with being an immigrant or a pioneer, but when residents of your own hometown use these terms, they take on a different hue.
  • Kindly steer clear of “savages,” “cave dwellers,” and “Neanderthals.”
  • Also please avoid “carpetbaggers,” “interlopers,” and “those people.”
  • While we’re at it, please steer clear of referring to outer Linebrook as “P.B.” for “Practically Boxford,” or “East Andover.”
  • We are okay with “West Ipswich Farms” but don’t prefer “Hillbilly Heaven,” “The Ipswich Gulag,” or “The Extremities.”

As for calling which people what — townies, locals, natives, aborigines, whatever — I welcome your wisdom, and hope to hear from you soon. Before planting season, when I’ll be with the hands, out in the fields.

Doug Brendel lives in the white border at the left edge of the map of Ipswich. They do, however, have Internet out there. Contact Doug at Outsidah.com.

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