A Friend in Need Is a Friend in Power


When I was a kid growing up in the Midwest, Chicago was a fearsome place, especially in Cabrini-Green, an impoverished, crime-ridden South Side housing development notorious for murder, rape, robbery, and gang violence. Not exactly outer Linebrook, but close, if you count fisher cats.

Cabrini-Green urgently needed help, but wasn’t getting it. I mean, would you want to go there, if you were a cop, a social worker, a streetlight fixer, a pothole filler?

Then Chicago elected Jane Byrne, its first-ever female mayor. When Cabrini-Green went into a particularly horrific spasm — 37 shootings in three months, including 11 murders — Mayor Byrne decided to do something.

As an idealistic youth, I thought the mayor of Chicago could just order the cops, the social workers, the streetlight fixers and pothole fillers to get in there and do their jobs. But apparently not. These folks seemed to be focusing most of their time, energy, and resources on the upscale neighborhoods — like the one where the mayor lived. After all, you want to impress your boss.

So Mayor Byrne decided to try an unusual tactic: She and her husband moved into an apartment in Cabrini-Green.

She knew that city services would swarm, if the mayor was there.

And they did. Suddenly, violent gang members were being jailed. Potholes miraculously smoothed out. Once-broken streetlights glowed to life. Like moths to a flame, city workers fluttered around the Mayor’s blond coif.

The memory of the Mayor at Cabrini-Green gives me hope for outer Linebrook. With the exit of Town Manager Robin Crosbie, former selectman Jim Engel has been named “temporary Town Manager” — and he’s my neighbor. Imagine what good things could come my way, with the high priest of Town government living just six doors away?

  • The pothole guys already do a great job, but I can imagine a whole new regime, where potholes disappear in minutes instead of hours. I drive past Jim Engel’s house every day on my way home, and it’s going to be smooth sailing as soon as the pothole guys realize that their new boss lives in this neighborhood. (Will potholes be more of a problem now on High Street, in front of Robin Crosbie’s condo? I can’t say. But pothole guys only have so many hours in a day, you know. So where are they going to slop that sweet, hot asphalt? Out in front of a condo owned by an unemployed former bureaucrat who wields absolutely no power over their careers? I doubt it.)
  • My pal Chief Nikas will be eager to please the new boss on Planet Outer Linebrook. The Ipswich Police Department might set up a round-the-clock speed trap to snag those crazies who drive past my house at 55 instead of the legal 25. If they do, I’ll bring the cops donuts. Based on my unofficial calculations, speeding tickets assiduously issued on outer Linebrook Road could fund the entire Town of Ipswich public safety budget. And fund the donuts.
  • For the safety and security of my 200-year-old house, the so-called “Linebrook Fire Station” at Route 1 could finally actually house fire trucks instead of just ambulances.
  • The Town of Ipswich Electric Light Department might magically appear and make adjustments to that new blindingly bright-white LED streetlight in front of my house. Yes, perhaps it’s keeping our neighborhood safe from criminals — a burglar would have to squint so hard in such a glare, an actual heist would be impossible. But how can late-night drivers, jerking their eyes away from this white-hot laser-torch streetlight, keep their eyes on the winding road ahead? Our accident rate could go up more than our burglary rate goes down. And our burglary rate on Planet Outer Linebrook is already pretty low. Like, zero.
  • Obtaining a building permit for a backyard construction project, which in the past might be expected to take six or more years, could now take three or less!
  • I don’t think it’s even too far-fetched to fantasize about Senior Collections Clerk Ann Wright bringing my new beach sticker to my door. Taking my $20 with a smile. Driving back toward her office at Town Hall, with a blithe wave toward Jim Engel’s house as she passes by.

It’s who you know! And, where you live!

I’m a lucky guy!




3 thoughts on “A Friend in Need Is a Friend in Power

  1. Elaine Alaka

    very clever. I’ve been looking at your posts. I’m actually a neighbor of yours! run by your 1817 t. morse period house (when I DO run vs. the gym). I live in the new development off howard (“outside linebrook” to randall, to howard to Willowdale Circle.) Moved in last summer and have been reading your posts, looking you up at the Ipswich library. I like the one way back about the “period houses” in Ipswich; but all your posts are fun (and true). We found out early on (from the pastor at Our Lady of Hope!) that this part of Linebrook was considered “outside”. then I found your posts about being the Outsidah, and then a neighbor said that you lived in the period red house on the corner! Thanks for putting a smile on my face……

  2. Margaret Alfoni

    Yep, having Jim as interim Town Manager might help some. But Jim has been active in town government for years and years and years. I think we just need to accept that we may remain “outsidah” forever! I mean, we were last to get power back today! But then again, in Ipswich, one never knows!

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