Let’s Connect the Dots


First we had a nor’easter. Then we had Halloween. Then we had elections.

Everything is connected.

Part I

I have not lived in New England very long, so I have limited experience with nor’easters. Perhaps some townie can get me up to speed, so to speak, on this fast-paced marvel of nature.

(Weather.com tells me that nor’easters happen when “cold air from Canada meets warm air from the Gulf.” To me, this is a no-brainer. Canadians and Southerners should not date each other. The “temperature difference,” as Weather.com clearly states, “fuels storms.” Mixed marriages! Will people never learn?)

In the case of our late-October nor’easter, the initial wind — before it dropped any water — caught me on 95 northbound, trying to get to Ipswich Middle School in time to pick up my daughter from play practice. The nor’easter’s idea was to lift my very small car off of 95 and blow it 2,700 miles to the west, so I could pick up my other daughter from class at Arizona State. I refused to be detoured. I clamped a death-grip on the steering wheel and wrestled the nor’easter for control. I think the nor’easter was most intimidated by my cussing. In any event, I made it off of 95 onto Route 1 in Danvers, drove through the creepily dark Town of Topsfield (power totally out, border to border), and arrived at the school 10 minutes late — only to find my daughter and her friends laughing and playing in front of the Ipswich Performing Arts Center. The wind was so strong, they were leaning into it, arms outstretched like Leo DiCaprio in Titanic, without falling over.

“This is awesome!” my 13-year-old squealed.

But the wind was only the preview. As we arrived at home, along came the rain. For 36 hours or so, Ipswich was lashed by liquid of biblical proportions. Folks who hadn’t read the Old Testament in decades found themselves re-running the Noah story in their minds. (“He did promise never to drown us again, didn’t He?”) As I peered out from behind the tremulous glass of my 200-year-old windows, it seemed that the rain eventually no longer fell from the sky, but rather was running a continuous 100-yard dash around my antique house, and howling all the way.

When it was over, as we emerged from our homes and surveyed the aftermath, it was clear that the nor’easter’s entire objective was to strip all those lovely early-turning leaves from our New England trees. The luscious reds, the flagrant oranges, the audacious yellows: mostly gone, stripped from their branches, hurled through the storm, and ultimately flung to the earth, to be raked up and swept up and burned up — or composted or otherwise defiled — wherever the evil wind had carried them. Saugus. Swampscott. Sioux Falls. Who knows?

In the end, however, it was perhaps much ado about little. Even as October turned to November, many leaves were still green, hanging on, and turning radiant. There were fantastic displays on High Street, as if our antiquest antique houses were sneering, “Nor’easter? Eh. We’ve seen worse.”

Part II

Scarcely a week after the great wind, we were confronted with ghouls and goblins, blood clots and brain splatter, miles upon miles of children with mock-open-wound prosthetics glued to their flesh.

Here again, my particular background doesn’t inform my New England experience. Where I grew up, in the Chicago area, Halloween logistics were simple: All the kids in the neighborhood trick-or-treated at all the houses in the neighborhood. But here in Ipswich, it’s more complicated. Some neighborhoods are nice and compact, and the Halloweening is easy. But in many areas — like where I live, on Planet Outer Linebrook — houses tend to be far apart. If the weather is bad, parents don’t like to traipse across wet grass and uneven ground with their little green Hulks and little Frozen Elsas.

So it was for nothing that I filled a huge bowl to overflowing with Kit Kats and Whoppers, lit a spooky candle in our mudroom window, and stood in the doorway for two solid hours wearing my terrifying black cloak, under my terrifying black hat, with my face obscured by terrifying black boxer shorts.

(Among my discarded Halloween costume ideas: #3 Go as the Town Manager; dress up as Wonder Woman. #6 Five selectmen — five finger puppets? #8 Dress up as the back of a vending machine and go as Family Dollar. #11 Disguise the house as Little Neck and turn everyone away.)

So in the end, Halloween at our house turned out to be much ado about little. We were visited by a grand total of three trick-or-treaters, one of whom looked at the underwear on my head and said, “Are you Lydia Brendel’s dad?”

Part III

And then, the elections.

The nor’easter failed to rip off our leaves. Halloween failed to rip off our candy. And Election Day failed to rip off… uh…

Well, let’s just say all three experiences turned out to be much ado about whatever.


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