Where Am I? Where Are You? And Why Am I Here, and Not There?

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I’m going to be rich, and I’m so happy.

There’s something of a meadow on my property, and I’ve come up with something to do with it.

I’m going to put a gas station on it.

Not just any old ordinary gas station.

This gas station will service all those poor suckers who get lost in my neighborhood.

Why do they get lost, you ask?

It’s because of the street names.

It’s not really that big of a neighborhood, so it shouldn’t be all that hard to navigate. There are only 50 or so houses in our “subdivision” — the former farmland owned a couple of centuries ago by Mr. Timothy Morse Jr., who built my house in 1817. So this isn’t a sprawling tangle of streets like Boston, or an incomprehensible spoke-and-wheel layout like Washington D.C.

Our neighborhood is more of a paper clip.

Well, not exactly a paper clip.

More like a paper clip that did too much LSD in college, but eventually tried to get straightened out, and didn’t quite succeed.

So here’s why visitors get lost. When you turn off of outer Linebrook Road into my neighborhood, you’re on Randall Road. Then you come to Charlotte Road. If you take Charlotte Road to the right — well, you can only take Charlotte Road to the right, so if you take Charlotte Road — you soon come to Roberts Road. There’s no street sign for Roberts Road; you just have to know that it’s Roberts Road. But let’s say you’re not looking for Roberts Road, so you don’t turn there. You stay on Charlotte Road. Now, almost before you know it, you come to Randall Road.

Wait. You were just on Randall Road. Randall Road is what you turned off on, when you left outer Linebrook Road. Where am I now? you wonder. Nothing looks familiar. You can’t be back where you first discovered Randall Road. You must be someplace different.

Yes.

Welcome to my neighborhood.

So what choice do you have, but to keep going?

So you ignore this new Randall Road, and pretty soon you come to Howard Street. If you’re not looking for someone who lives on Howard Street, what do you do? You keep driving. And now, within a few seconds, even driving at a completely legal 20 mph pace, you find yourself — yes, you guessed it — arriving at the intersection of Randall Road. Again. But not where you were. Someplace new.

There are no less than three intersections of Charlotte and Randall in my neighborhood — and we haven’t even gotten anywhere yet. In fact, when you get to your third successive intersection of Charlotte and Randall, you’re barely three doors away from Linebrook Road again. If you don’t drink and drive, this is a drive that will drive you to drink. My friend Nikki lives in our neighborhood, but she’s on Chestnut Street. How do you get to Chestnut Street? I don’t know. One time I was jogging and found it by accident. Sometimes I see Nikki at the gym, and I have no idea how she got there. Our gym is on Brown Square, which is off of Hammatt, but if you miss the turn for Brown Square, and you keep driving, pretty soon you come to Brown Square. If you turn on any Brown Square you happen to see, chances are you’ll get to our gym. But Chestnut Street? No. Sorry.

This is not a modern problem. It didn’t just start all of a sudden with the modernists who arrived in Ipswich 200 years ago and started naming streets willy-nilly. You can get lost even on High Street, which has been here as long as there have been cemeteries. You can drive toward the river on High Street, and if you happen to glance away from the road at the Ipswich Inn, you’re not on High Street anymore. You’re on East Street. There’s no warning. There’s no reason. You’re just there, looking for High Street. And it’s gone.

So in my neighborhood, where newcomers drive and drive and drive on Randall Road, and never get where they’re going, I figure they’re going to run out of gas, sooner rather than later.

And I’m going to pump it for them. In the meadow behind my house.

I’m going to be rich. And happy.

Because I — thank heaven — know where I am. I stay home.

 

 

Doug Brendel lives near the intersection of Linebrook Road, Randall Road, Charlotte Road, and some other roads, somewhere in Ipswich. Follow him, if you can, via GPS. Or by clicking “Follow” on this screen.

 

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