“If you outlaw guns,” they say, “only outlaws will have guns.”
So what happens if you ban Ipswichers from Little Neck? Only Ipswichers will have necks? Only Little Neckers will have guns? I’m already confused, and the column has hardly begun.
The Chronicle reported recently in these pages that Little Neck is now officially closed to everybody in the whole wide world except for the folks who own or rent property there. No Japanese tourist, no Kenyan exchange student, no Tibetan monk seeking to commune with the universe will be allowed to set foot on these 31 or so hallowed acres of Massachusetts rock. Little Neck has become the equivalent of a gated community. Go there without an invitation to someone’s party, and the handcuffs come out.
I have no way in. I had one solitary friend on Little Neck, and he died. I loved him dearly, he went suddenly, far too young. I still feel a lump in my throat whenever I think of him, and I think of him every day. Certainly, if he had lived in Rowley, or North Reading, or West Newbury, I would have felt just as badly. But since he was a lifetime year-round resident of Little Neck, I can’t help but also bear the guilty burden of this additional truth: If he had lived, he could have gotten me onto Little Neck!
Now there’s no way I can get there. There are some 167 properties, none of them occupied by my “friends.” At least none I can call up and casually snag an invitation to wander there on a lazy spring afternoon. Even if I make nice with our selectmen, I can’t brrrrrr in and out of there some Sunday morning hanging onto the back of Pat McNally’s motorcycle. I can’t paddle my damaged boat to the shore of Little Neck and trudge, humiliated, up to River Road, to plead with a local resident for help — for fear of a law enforcement officer appearing, like Columbo, scratching the back of his head: “Excuse me, sir, I couldn’t help but notice your boat here, on the edge of this private property. You know, of course, there’s a trespassing lawr, and you seem to have broken it heah.”
Little Neck is an inside-out prison. The inmates are kept outside.
Of course, there is the Little Neck Condo Association, the homeowners’ group that controls the property now. They could hand down an edict from on high, allowing you as an Ipswich resident to meander in your Nike walking shoes on their sacred ground, maybe even ride your 26-inch Huffy “Alpine” mountain bike on their self-maintained, self-trash-picked-up, self-snow-plowed roads. They could let everyone enjoy Little Neck. They haven’t, but they could.
Still, I have an idea. There are houses for sale on Little Neck. In the same issue of the Ipswich Chronicle in which I first read about Little Neck being closed off to most human beings, I also read that one could purchase a Middle Street property on Little Neck for as little as $565,000. This seems like a good deed waiting to happen.
Here’s what I’m thinking.
Little Neck trespassers will be legion. The allure of Little Neck as a destination for walkers, runners, cyclists, and gawkers (“Look! Look there! An off-limits resident in her kitchen window!”) will be irresistible. Law enforcement? A nightmare.
We will need a jail. Chief Nikas will not have enough of his pink-walled cells available for the overwhelming influx of Little Neck lawbreakers.
I will set up a nonprofit organization — Little Neck, Limited, get it? — buy a property on Little Neck, and set it up as a holding pen for trespassers.
OK, maybe it won’t be an actual jail. Maybe more of a halfway house. A place where the Little Neck Trespass Police drag you, reading you your rights en route, then handcuff you to a chair under a dim light bulb, extract your trespassing fine, and then — here’s a nice touch, I think — start you on rehab. We’ll have a social worker on staff who interviews you, subjects you to a battery of tests, assesses the results, and then attempts to rehabilitate your Little Neck addiction with one of two strategies, whichever is more appropriate for your individual state of mind:
1. “It’s a dump.” The social worker attempts to persuade you that Little Neck isn’t worth trespassing on. She says things like “I had a nicer timeshare in Swampscott” and “Before you know it, this place will be swimming in its own sewage.”
2. “Other fish in the sea.” The social worker takes you on little excursions, to acclimate you to alternative Ipswich walking routes. “See here?” she says gently at the foot of the Cedar Point Trail on Steep Hill Beach. “This is a nice walk, isn’t it? And you can see Little Neck from here. No, don’t look away. It’s healthier to face your grief. Oh, you’re crying again. Come on, let’s try a nice stroll on 133. I’ll buy you an ice cream.”
In days to come, you may strike up a conversation with a stranger in Zumi’s. If they say, “Hi, my name is Doug, I’m a recovering Little Neck trespasser,” please don’t snicker. Just give online, and help me help more of these poor souls.
Wait, wait. My wife has a better idea. Our non-prof will buy the house on Middle Street, and simply invite everybody over as our guests. Everyone in the whole wide world! Much simpler plan.
At the guardhouse, just say, “The Brendels invited me.”
However, while you’re on Little Neck, please — behave well. I don’t want my new neighbors to feel I’m bringing in riff-raff.
Outer Linebrook Road resident Doug Brendel has never set foot on Little Neck. Honest, officer. Contact Doug via the comments button.