Caution: Ipswich Not What It Seems


Please note: Cars cannot fly.

Car commercials tell you this when they show you cars flying. There’s tiny type at the bottom of the screen, warning you not to try flying your car, because cars can’t fly. Disclaimerum ad nauseum.

Telling you “Cars can’t fly” is not about “stating the obvious” taken to an extreme. It is about “reducing legal liability.” Because if they show you a car flying, and you try to fly your car, and you crash, you might blame them for suggesting that cars can fly. Take them to court. Sue them for millions.

So disclaimers are important. Perhaps we need more of them.

When someone moves to Ipswich from elsewhere, as I did, some disclaimers might be helpful, in order to distinguish between what (on the one hand) seems amazing and unbelievable, and what (on the other hand) townies take for granted. Or simply to distinguish between what appears to be, and what actually is. For example:

No, Selectman Pat McNally does not have a lifetime appointment.

No, the High Street bridge is not quite totally, absolutely finished yet.

Yes, you’ll need a permit to change that 100-year-old electrical outlet in your parlor from a two-prong to a three-prong.

No, the building with the huge black letters that spell out “District Court” is not the District Court. Ipswich District Court is in Newburyport. Our “District Court” building is normally referred to as “Old Town Hall.” No, there are no governmental activities occurring inside “Old Town Hall,” unless you count the Town’s lawsuit against the owner.

Yes, Town Manager Robin Crosbie actually has all those facts and figures in her head; she is not making stuff up at Board of Selectmen and FinCom meetings. When you comment on the Town’s $650,000 Stabilization Fund, she will blithely lean into her microphone and — without so much as a glance at her iPad — casually advise you that it’s actually $621,042.76. And she will be right. She will also whip out the maximum balance indicated in Chapter 40, Section 5-B; the amount of money sitting in the OPEB trust; the FEMA storm-related cost threshold target; which day of the week John Winthrop Jr. first landed in Ipswich; the odds of a chimpanzee learning to juggle; and how to make the tastiest possible gluten-free Boston cream pie. She is awesome. She does not actually wear a Wonder Woman costume, but she is still awesome.

No, the High Street bridge is still not quite finished. It will still need curbs, sidewalk approaches, paving, striping, according to the Massachusetts Department of Transportation Highway Division, Bridge Office, Construction Section.

Yes, to add that doorknob, you will need a permit.

Yes, the Ipswich Museum is indeed in Ipswich. You just can’t find a sign pointing you to it. Good luck.

Yes, Appleton Farms does indeed straddle the line between Ipswich and Hamilton. No, milk from cows that graze on the Hamilton side does not taste like money smells. It’s perfectly good milk.

Yes, it was illegal to open that window without a permit.

No, the Witches of Eastwick do not actually live here. Like many former Ipswich residents, they now live in Florida.

Yes, we have superb pothole-filling teams, and they are indeed on the job. If you encounter a pothole in our town (or an entire sinkhole, on Hayward Street), it’s only because the earth under Ipswich frequently opens up and consumes asphalt. This is the same geological phenomenon that makes our terrain so perfect for clams. Those little bubbles you see in the sand at Crane Beach are the ecological equivalent of tiny potholes. If we humans lived in shells underground and breathed through tubular siphons stretching up to the surface, we would be grateful for the pockmarks of Linebrook Road and Central Street.

The High Street bridge? Look, it was officially 96% complete on February 27, according to the MassDOT website. “All substructure elements are complete.” I think this means you can drive on it. You can walk on it. It will not fall down. But no. Sorry. It’s not quite finished. Summer, maybe!

No, you do not need a permit to sit in the sunshine on your front step. It will, however, be voted on at Town Meeting.



Doug Brendel ponders the chasm between what is and what seems to be at his outer Linebrook home. You can contact him via



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