I’m ready for my closeup, Cap’n DeMille

A turkey has a face that only a farmer can love, and then only because the turkey represents revenue.

It was easy for Americans to make turkey the sacrificial lamb of Thanksgiving because turkeys are so ugly. Is this too harsh a judgment? Look again. The dinosaur skin. That spooky wattle waggling. The permanently frowning beak. I stand by my assessment.

But what a hassle to cook one.

I don’t know this firsthand. I only know it from witnessing my wife’s low-grade dread of, and active disdain for, the process every year. She is the family cook; I have experience with the can opener and that’s about it. So I have to trust her perspective on turkey-dinner prep. Unpleasant, I think, would be a kinder, gentler paraphrase of her opinion. Plus, after all that unpleasantness, what you wind up with is turkey meat. This isn’t a dish that thrills either of us.

Our three children are grown and gone — this Thanksgiving, for the first time, none of them would be coming to Ipswich for the holiday — so there was no incentive to prepare a turkey dinner at our place. Our youngest, in acting school in New York, offered a nice alternative: We take the train to the city, she makes reservations for Thanksgiving dinner at some fancy joint, and I pay the bill. Perfect!

So at the appointed hour, we found ourselves seated on an elegant banquette (that’s French, for you country folk) in an elegant restaurant (also French) staring at a prix fixe menu (properly pronounced pree-FEEKS, I can assure you, and don’t contradict me, because I minored in français).

Clearly, le chef in a fancy New York City restaurant finds a turkey no more pleasant than anyone else does. So le menu on Thanksgiving Day didn’t offer simply a traditional turkey entrée. In fact, the ugly, ordinary bird didn’t even get top billing. Why headline your beautiful liste d’options with the ugly and the ordinary, when you’re offering the marveilleux and the extraordinaire?

So I had the monkfish.

I realize, of course, that monkfish is the turkey of the sea. It’s even uglier than its fowl counterpart — in fact, one of the ugliest creatures God ever created: a gaping cavern of a mouth with bands of vicious teeth, skin flapping like seaweed, spiny fins that work like feet as the scavenger scrounges on the ocean floor, eating anything and everything. And it does — thanks to a stomach so expandable, the fish can actually consume another animal its own size.

Monkfish is actually the kindest name given to this ghastly thing; it’s also known as a frog-fish and a sea devil. Fishmongers can’t sell these ghastly things without first beheading them. People feel like if you bring such a horror into your home, you must certainly fall under some kind of curse.

But it’s so délicieuse!

Yes, for all the revulsion caused by the monkfish’s grotesque looks, the meat of the monkfish is properly known as “poor man’s lobster.” It has that same pleasant springy texture, and if you drench it in enough drawn butter, you can almost imagine it’s a hunk of lobster tail.

I was enchanté by my monkfish dinner, accompanied by a lovely array of accoutrements — with not a yam or a green bean casserole to be seen. I have vowed never to go back to a traditional Thanksgiving dinner.

And on a farm somewhere out there, a turkey is weeping with relief and gratitude. Ugly as ever, yet he will live to gobble another day.

Doug Brendel lives on outer Linebrook Road in Ipswich, Massachusetts, where wild turkeys roam with impunity. Follow #DougBrendelIpswich on Instagram.

Coroner’s Report: Death by Column

Rest in peace, Chronicle & Transcript. I’m sorry you’ll cease publication with the December 2 edition. Yours was a long, slow journey to the print-journalism cemetery, and I’m afraid I did this to you. I take full responsibility, and I apologize.

In my own defense, my role in your demise was unintentional.

It was a little over a decade ago when Dan MacAlpine — then editor of the Ipswich Chronicle, one of the Chronicle & Transcript’s precursors — invited me to write a column. I was new to town, having spent nearly a quarter-century in the Arizona desert, and Dan suggested I offer observations on life in small-town New England from the standpoint of a newcomer. He only wanted 500 words or so, once a month. I only wish I had exercised that kind of restraint.

“Monthly!” I squawked. “Are you serious?” I was fascinated by Ipswich and the North Shore. Polite drivers! Clam wars! Town Meetings! Foeffees and farmers markets and fisher cats! “Dan! I could go daily!” I cried. “Maybe hourly!”

This is how freelance writers are: sickeningly grateful just to get published.

I started cranking out a column a week, often stockpiling multiple columns in a bulging laptop holding bin. And before long, I was pushing the besieged editor to accept 600 words, 700 words, sometimes more.

The truth is, the Chronicle was doing well, from its inception in 1872 until, well, just about the time the Outsidah came along. Even as the print-journalism world began experiencing its first digital-era contractions, the paper held on. Early in 2011, MacAlpine lost some reporters in a corporate cutback, but this move could have set the stage for the Chronicle to surge — if he hadn’t made the mistake of letting an Outsidah in.

There were points, all along the way, when the ship could have been righted. But no. The longer people were subjected to the Outsidah’s clueless commentary — on oyster-shucking and snow-shoveling and the need for a Dunkin drive-through — the more the newspaper edged toward the abyss. 

Then the contamination spread. “The Outsidah” began appearing in the new Ipswich Local News, and sometimes even in the Salem News. People began exposing themselves to the contagion by following Outsidah.com, and finding the Outsidah on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Readers’ brains were atrophying week by week, and nobody seemed to see the warning signs.

The Ipswich Chronicle was eventually folded into two other papers. Now, people in six towns instead of only one were cringing at the Outsidah’s rants about deer drug addiction and the ecology of potholes. No wonder subscription rates lagged. As the paper was sold and re-sold in a series of corporate maneuvers, you’d think at least one shrewd business bureaucrat would have spotted the speck in the X-ray and ordered a resection, or at least a biopsy. Alas, the day came when it was too late.

The Chronicle & Transcript will continue its work online. I admire this. And I will continue to support them in the cause of local journalism in the only way I know how — undermining the entire effort by offering what the Outsidah has always offered: the inane, the annoying, and the obnoxious.

For example: What’s up with that new 20 mph “safety zone” next to the Catholic church on Linebrook Road? Is this religious discrimination?

Doug Brendel lives on outer Linebrook Road in Ipswich, Massachusetts, where the speed limit is an entirely reasonable 25 mph. Follow Doug’s real-life work at NewThing.net.

What do I know, and when?

I was in the front yard this past Friday when a car pulled to a stop at the side of the road in front of my house. The driver, a fine-looking gentleman with a bright smile, rolled down the passenger window. The kind of fellow you want to be friends with.  

“Hello to the Outsidah!” he began, and introduced himself. 

He’s Larry, my neighbor, a few doors down, but we had never met before. 

He joked about his own “outsidah” status: “We’ve only been here 60 years!” he chuckled.

Then Larry had an important question, which set in motion a friendly and fruitful conversation:

“What time is the performance tonight?”

I was nonplussed. “What performance are you interested in?” I asked.

Mary Poppins.”

“Ah, the middle school show!” I replied.

But start time? I had no idea.

I could guess — 7 pm? 7:30? 8?

But it didn’t feel like a guess would really help my neighbor Larry.

“I don’t know,” I confessed.

I pulled out my iPhone and leaned my elbows into the window of his car. “Let me just look here and find out.”

Larry’s smile dimmed — only slightly, because he’s a gentleman, but I think I saw some dimming. I do believe the twinkle in his eye untwinkled a little.

“I thought the Outsidah knew everything,” he said.

I was devastated.

And that’s when it hit me.

I’ve done you wrong.

The Outsidah has been writing and posting for more than a decade, often featuring facts which were, uh, in fact, uh, not facts. Many of those facts were actually, to be honest, opinions. Or, shall we say, ideas. Maybe, actually, just fantasies.

Like back when Robin Crosbie was still Ipswich’s town manager, and I depicted her as Mother Nature, directing snowstorms. The truth is, Robin Crosbie never, ever, directed snowstorms. Not once. She was blamed for snowstorms, but she never generated, encouraged, or orchestrated a snowstorm.

It’s true, there are things the Outsidah knows, but there are also things the Outsidah doesn’t know.

For example….

1. Yes, the Outsidah knows when you’re speeding along outer Linebrook Road at 40+ mph. I live there. The posted limit is 25. And I have radar equipment, from a front window of my home, buzzing 24/7.

(But no, the Outsidah doesn’t know when the train is rolling through the Depot Square railroad crossing, and traffic is stalled in three directions, and you’re pushing your vehicle out into the intersection to cut off everybody else the moment the gate goes up, regardless of right-of-way.)

2. Yes, the Outsidah knows when you honk those wild turkeys off of Linebrook Road. You should be ashamed. The turkeys were here before we were.

However, the Outsidah doesn’t know it when you get away with it because nobody saw you do it.

(Also, yes, the Outsidah knows when you see other people’s swooning posts about the New England weather but you hate everyone else’s posts about New England weather. “I love it ‘crisp’ and ‘clear.’ Right. Plus, yes, the Outsidah knows you’re searching online for Florida winter vacation destinations.)

3. Yes, Christmas is coming. The Outsidah knows when you’ve been sleeping, he knows when you’re awake, he knows when you’ve been good or bad so for goodness’ sake etc., etc., etc.

On the other hand, no, the Outsidah doesn’t know what you’re doing when you’re supposedly sleeping. As for when you’ve been good or bad — you’re on your own. It’s you and Santa. Face to face. Good luck.

Eventually, my neighbor Larry pulled away and headed home. But I kept looking on my phone for the answer to his question.

When I finally found the answer, I walked a couple doors down to find Larry.

“It’s next week,” I reported. “Mary Poppins. The middle school production. It doesn’t open tonight. It opens next week: Friday, November 12th. At 7 pm.”

He smiled. I knew he would.

“I would have only been a week early!” he exclaimed joyfully.

Doug Brendel lives in utter ignorance on outer Linebrook Road in Ipswich, Massachusetts. The Outsidah benefits the people of Belarus via the compassionate work of NewThing.net.

Smelled the roses, can we move along now?

Ipswich is a hot town, fast-paced, mile-a-minute, full of razzmatazz, on the go, a rat race. No, wait. That’s the LSD talking.

I tend to be in a hurry. People are forever saying I eat too fast. I always choose “Fastest Route,” never that “Scenic Route” nonsense. I frequently offend people by not giving them time finish what they were — So Ipswich was probably the last place on earth I should have moved. I looked the world over and chose Ipswich. After a lifetime in big cities, I thought Ipswich would be quaint and quiet and charming.

Which it is. But I didn’t account for one other, uh, quality: slow.

Sure, there’s the occasional speeder threatening the lives of our children and grandchildren by tearing around the curves on Outer Linebrook Road, as if Hood Pond won’t be there by the time their tires screech onto the waterfront pavement.

But speed is not generally our problem in Ipswich. Slow is our problem. Well, slow is my problem. You might not mind slow. Maybe you chose Ipswich for the slow. Maybe you don’t care a bit about quaint or quiet or charming, you just wanted slow. Okay, hope you’re happy.

 Of course, slow comes in a variety of flavors. There are certain times of the year when Ipswich offers extra-slow. The school year, for example. If you get behind a school bus on Linebrook Road, you’re going to experience slow. Also stop. And more than once. If you’re heading from my house toward the center of town on a school-day morning, it’s brake, slow, stop, wait, start, slow, repeat. The calf muscle on your right leg had better be in good shape, or you’ll be limping into Zumi’s.

Depending on the neighborhood, the United States Postal Service can complicate things further. If a mail truck pulls out in front of the school bus, your ETA auto-advances. In certain parts of town, the mail truck doesn’t have enough room to pull off the road to deliver the mail. From my impatient perspective, I fantasize about a school bus driver giving those schoolchildren the rollercoaster-type thrill of the bus roaring around the parked mail truck just in time to dodge an oncoming Dodge — children cheering and screaming for more. This is why they don’t let me on the School Committee.

And what day of the week is it? What time of day? Is it that magical hour on a garbage pickup route and you happened to arrive at the perfect moment? If you get a garbage truck in front of a mail truck in front of that school bus you’re following, it may be time to check in with your priest and begin figuring out what kind of sins God is punishing you for.

During farm season — and as a city boy, I have no idea what this means — I guess it’s when things are being planted or watered or fertilized or harvested? — you’re also likely to find a tractor on the road. In my neck of the woods, it’s not unheard of for one of those huge Marini Farm vehicles to pull out in front of the garbage truck that already pulled out in front of the mail truck that already pulled out in front of the school bus. I love Marini Farm; I’m a faithful customer. So it’s with all the love in my heart that I mention this: The Marini tractor, topping out at 17 mph, is gonna make your kid late for school.

It’s not all bad, though. Sitting in your Honda behind the school bus behind the mail truck behind the garbage truck behind the Marini tractor, you’ll have time to do your nails, or sort the junk in your wallet, or address this year’s Christmas cards. The reality is, you may have even more time on your hands, because — Darn, the Marini tractor is totally stopped up there.

Wild turkeys.


Hope you used the bathroom before you left home.

Doug Brendel lives an unhurried life on outer Linebrook Road in Ipswich, Massachusetts, only because he has no choice. Follow his real-life exploits at DougBrendel.com.

Lights! Camera! Answers!

At first I thought it was another fantastic idea from Ipswich’s Recreation Director, Kerrie Foley Bates. The night before the lighting up of Ipswich Illuminated, wouldn’t it be just like her to use lights and smoke and mirrors to conjure up ethereal images of Ipswich icons from days gone by? Maybe each figure from the past interviewed by town historian Gordon Harris?

But no, this wasn’t a Kerrie Bates hologram, with thanks to our generous sponsor, Institution for Savings. This appeared to be the real thing.

“Bill?” I asked timidly. “Bill Wasserman? Is that really you?”

“Hi, Doug,” Bill replied with a smile. “Yes, it’s me.”

“Wow! But I shouldn’t be surprised, I guess. You were always known as an indomitable spirit.”

“Eh, you know, I’ve never had much use for flattery. I believe in facts. So of course I’m back! I’m an indomitable spirit!”

“Terrific, Bill. I’m happy to see you. But I gotta say, I’m surprised you’re back so soon. You only passed over a couple days ago.”

“I couldn’t wait any more. I left the day before that damn movie started shooting downtown. Big mistake, I guess.”

“You don’t approve of the movie shoot?”

“On the contrary, Doug. You know I’m always in favor of anything that helps Ipswich. And as far as I’ve been able to determine, shooting a movie helps a community.”

“Actually, Bill, to be honest, I’ve heard quite a few people here in Ipswich complaining about the inconvenience.”

“Nonsense! The money the movie business brings into town more than compensates for any minor, temporary logistical hassles.”

“Then I’m confused, Bill. What’s your problem with the movie?”

“The plot, my friend, the plot!” he replied.

“It’s a Stephen King story, Bill. I don’t think even the legendary Bill Wasserman can question a Stephen King story.”

“Doug, I spent my entire life questioning stories. A newspaper man knows that the story is everything. You don’t build a newspaper empire by shying away from questioning stories.”

“But the movie is ’Salem’s Lot,” I insisted. “It’s fiction.”

“That’s the problem,” Bill answered, a chuckle in his voice.

“You know Stephen King is a horror writer, right?” I persisted. “’Salem’s Lot isn’t a documentary. A guy returns to his hometown after years away and finds that all the people are turning into vampires.”

“Not believable. But it could be, with a minor adjustment. Sometimes a minor adjustment is all an editor needs to suggest to make a story great.”

“Golly, Bill. What do you have in mind?”

“It’s a simple fix. The guy returns to his hometown after years away and finds that all the people are turning into journalists.”


“Reporters, with ominous-looking notepads, and frighteningly sharp pencils, descending on anyone and everyone, investigating the facts! Discovering the truth!”

“Frighteningly sharp pencils?”

“And in the epidemic of fake news, the tide begins to turn.” Bill’s eyes were twinkling. “It’s not just more believable — because journalists are real, vampires aren’t — it’s also hopeful. It’s inspiring! It’s the restoration of the American dream! The lies and propaganda are finally washed away. Truth in media returns!”

“I don’t know if a director will be open to rewriting a script when the movie is already shooting,” I said. “But I guess it’s worth a try. What steps will you take?”

“A spirit doesn’t take steps,” Bill replied. “I’m going to float over there to the director’s place in the middle of the night and have a few words with him.”

Bill began to glide off into the darkness.

“Farewell, great man!” I cried after him.

“No flattery!” I heard him call back. “Just facts!”

Duly noted, Bill. So here’s a fact:

You’re an indomitable spirit.

Doug Brendel lives on outer Linebrook Road, next door to a cemetery, where he keeps tabs on those who have gone before. Follow Doug’s adventures, mostly among the living, at DougBrendel.com.

Ipswich Robocops?

My wife is an honors student at UMass Lowell, soon to graduate with a degree in Literature, but they fool you sometimes in academia, and instead of just making you read books, they make you watch movies.

So for some class or another, Kristina had to watch the 2014 Robocop, and I watched it with her, because at our house, if there’s a movie, there’s popcorn.

In Robocop, they connect a guy’s brain to the entire database of the Detroit Police Department so he can pull up any criminal case in a nano-second, complete with grainy security video, but of course there’s a problem, because without a problem, there’s no movie.

The problem for the Robocop occurs when the upload of the police database cases gets to his own case — when somebody tried to murder him, but ended up only mutilating him, which is how we got to this charming story in the first place. Robocop freaks out, he can’t handle absorbing the awful details of his own near-death, he melts down, chaos ensues.

Here in Ipswich, we have no Robocops. We have only Chief Nikas and his band of merry men.

They do superhuman work, but they are humans. 

They don’t work in a place as tough as inner-city Detroit, but they certainly do work in a human-unfriendly environment: Our Ipswich police station was built during the Great Depression. And it looks it, in spite of our fine public servants doing their best, under daunting circumstances, to keep the place in tip-top shape.

Years ago, I toured the decrepit police station, and found police files stuffed into old beer boxes. There was literally no place else to keep the stuff. 

Our current police station was not even originally built as a police station. It was a storage facility for the Electric Light Department — a place to park your inventory of light bulbs and extension cords. (Wait. Did they have extension cords in the Great Depression? Maybe everyone was so poor, they only had short cords?)

The reality is, even cops in the middle of the Great Depression would have shown up for work in Ipswich only to say, “What the ****? I can’t work this way.”

You’ve seen enough police movies to know that police work isn’t just cruisers on the streets and sirens blaring and blam-blam-blam. It’s been a long time since we had blam-blam-blam on Heartbreak Road. Police work requires a basic workspace, just like you and I require during our ordinary everyday jobs. A floor you can roll your office chair across. An electrical outlet in a reasonable place because you have to plug in. Need wi-fi? Yes. Duh.

Ipswich, come on. It’s been more than a century — 100 years — since we built anything for our public service people, police and fire and the teams that support them.

God forbid Hollywood makes another Robocop movie, where that guy uploads the Ipswich police records, because I can tell you, he’s gonna choke when the upload finally comes to 2021.

He’s staggering out of the Ipswich police station, choking and falling down and writhing on the floor, and finally he gasps:

“I can’t — I can’t — [more choking] — I can’t find my records in those catacombs!”

And the bad guy smokes him.

Ipswich melts down, chaos ensues.

(Sad music.)

(Fade to black.)

Years from now, some UMass grad student will find my wife’s honors thesis online, and read about Robocop, and the light will go on.

“Oh!” they’ll exclaim. “So that’s why Ipswich looks so much like Detroit!”

Doug Brendel lives on outer Linebrook Road, which is way, way out there; but he depends on the Ipswich Police Department to be there for him. Follow Doug at DougBrendelcom.

Is there a TOOTH fairy?

Music seems magical, but it takes hard work and skill and discipline and some other words I’m largely unfamiliar with.

Growing up in Ohio in the 1940s, my mother took accordion lessons, and we have ancient home movies of her happily playing the instrument, fingers flying, the pleated bellows breathing in and out, in and out. No way to know if she was any good; the old home movies are silent, and we can’t ask her audience because most of them are dead, although presumably not because of the accordion music.

She eventually became a mother — I saw to that — and she insisted that a child must learn to play a musical instrument in order to achieve “well-roundedness.” Piano was designated as the ideal starter instrument. I was in fourth grade when I began private lessons. Even at this tender age, I was a rebellious devil, so in the course of nine months I managed to drive off three piano teachers.

My frustrated mother would only allow the third piano teacher off the hook if I chose a different instrument to learn. The public elementary school in our small Indiana town featured a band program starting in the fifth grade. Perfect timing after the carnage of my fourth-grade piano lessons.

We attended the orientation meeting at Franklin School, and Mr. Sohn — already a demigod in Griffith, Indiana — outlined the various instruments a fifth-grader could start on. Basically, any band instrument was fair game except French horn, which was considered too difficult for a fifth-grader.

Having no interest in learning any instrument, I saw my opening. I insisted to my mother that the only instrument I could possibly study would be French horn. She was undaunted. She went to Mr. Sohn, he quizzed my previous teachers — those creeps exposed me as an extraordinary student — and he carved out a first-ever exception for me. Little Dougie Brendel would study French horn from Day One.

I lugged that wretched thing — 13 coiled feet of brass, 18 miserable pounds, plus a bulky, heavy case — back and forth to school for 8 solid years. Rehearsal every school day, multiple concerts every year, innumerable battles with my mother over my home practice, or lack thereof.

If you’re looking for a sentimental happy ending here, forget it. The day I graduated from high school, I turned in my rented French horn and never looked back.

But of course I did learn a lot, in spite of myself. I learned that dazzling music doesn’t just happen; it requires a massive investment by dedicated people, people who have some special quality that eludes me.

So when a magical musical experience comes along, I recognize it — I can’t do that stuff, but I can love that stuff.

Which is why I found my heart soaring on a recent Friday evening at the Dolan Performing Arts Center in Ipswich. It was a truly astonishing world-premiere presentation of original musical and visual works by six Ipswich composers — produced by The Orchestra On The Hill.

Yes, those initials spell T.O.O.T.H., and these folks wear the silly moniker proudly. But there is nothing silly about TOOTH, the brainchild of artistic director Tom Palance. The Friday event was only the most recent of their consistently excellent musical and visual offerings. Magical stuff, every time.

Yet for a moment or two, sitting in the twelfth row on Friday evening, I thought there might actually be real magic afoot.

As I looked at the stage, where the entire Orchestra was seated, I saw Julie Meneghini. Not all of her, just her face. She was mostly hidden by a thicket of string players.

Julie, a longtime friend, is an acclaimed clarinetist. So I knew the time would soon come when we’d hear a clarinet, and I would see Julie blowing brainily and beautifully into that classy black stick.

Then, before long, it happened: a wonderful, winding clarinet solo. It was lovely. I squinted past the violins and cellos and focused on all I could see of Julie’s face, a tiny square in the Orchestra’s back row.

And then, a chill fell over me. Goosebumps. The clarinet’s melody was wafting magically over us all, but I saw Julie just sitting there. Like any ordinary mom waiting calmly at the bus stop. No clarinet in sight.

Incredible! Julie Meneghini was playing her clarinet telepathically. TOOTH fairy! Truly magical music!

As the thrilling concert came to an end and the house lights came up, I dug into the printed program. I wondered if Julie would get at least an asterisk after her name, honorable mention for playing her clarinet with nothing but mental control.

Instead, I was deflated.

Julie had been assigned bass clarinet for this concert.

She’s not TOOTH fairy for nothing. Besides the five variations of clarinet, she plays alto and tenor sax, flute, violin, bassoon, and — horrors — piano.

That beautiful clarinet solo? Turns out it was played by Marguerite Levin, the old-fashioned way: she puffed into a mouthpiece with nothing but her mouth and worked the keys with nothing but her fingers. Ho hum. Human.

Yet TOOTH made magic. Thank you, Orchestra on the Hill.

Glad they’re here. With or without a tooth fairy.

Visit TheOrchestraOnTheHill.org. Meanwhile, Doug Brendel lives on outer Linebrook Road in Ipswich, Massachusetts, still recovering from the trauma of his childhood music lessons. Find him at DougBrendel.com.

A little more, a little more, you’re good

There’s clearly a serious labor shortage. Everywhere you go on the North Shore, you see Help Wanted signs.

Now I know where all the workers went.

My longtime best friend David G. Brown came up from Virginia to visit me over the Labor Day weekend, and I took him to Crane Beach on Saturday morning. As I pulled my vehicle onto the vast gravel parking lot, we were greeted by a long string of parking lot attendants. Every few feet, there was another able-bodied worker, swinging arms, gesturing and gesticulating, pointing us toward that one parking spot deemed acceptable for my little car. Their goal was clear: squeeze as many cars onto the parking lot as humanly possible. 

Of course I immediately saw the flaw in this setup. These parking attendants are all people who could be making your donuts or walking your dog or cleaning your teeth but no, they’re guiding cars into place at Crane Beach.

To send these parker-people back into town to respond to our Help Wanted crisis would not have to mean chaos on the Crane Beach parking lot. There are alternatives. And most of the alternatives would be highly economical.

For example, as I suggested to my companion David G. Brown: For far less than the cost of employing hordes of parking lot attendants, you could paint lines on the parking lot — make them really narrow if you want to, to squeeze in the maximum number of cars — and let people self-park.

My friend David G. Brown, however, has experience in parking lot work. He makes his living running information security at a huge hospital in the D.C. area, but at the beginning of the Covid vaccination process, he and other hospital personnel volunteered as parking lot attendants to help manage the multitudes of vehicles descending on the hospital. David G. Brown was out there 20 hours a week, experiencing parking-lot dynamics firsthand, and his natural intelligence soon led him to become the team leader. Now he wasn’t just waving his arms at drivers; he was teaching other parking attendants how to wave their arms.

I can’t say exactly how many parking attendants were employed: 60? 70? Maybe 200; I’m not sure. A lot, anyway. Who knows, this may be where we got the term “parking lot.”

And he saw for himself why just painting lines won’t get the maximum number of vehicles onto the parking lot.

“People don’t park inside the lines,” he observed sadly.

The best friendships are between people whose temperaments complement each other’s. David G. Brown is insightful and gentle and full of grace. I balance him out.

Unwilling to settle for a fat payroll full of parking attendants, I proposed a simple alternative. Hire a single parking attendant, equip them with a blade, and have them patrol the lot for cars parked across the lines. You wouldn’t have them just slash the tires savagely; this isn’t Detroit, after all. They would carefully cut from top to bottom, excising only the part of the tire that crosses the line. Word would get out pretty quickly, I think, and people would start parking with extreme care, wouldn’t they?

But once again, David G. Brown demonstrated his insight and gentleness and grace. He countered with a superior idea, a plan that would avoid violence yet achieve a similar deterrent outcome:

Simply give the parking attendant a can of paint and a brush, and where a car is parked across the line, let the line be painted again, right over the car.

The wisdom of Solomon, I’m telling ya. Too bad this guy doesn’t live here. We could use such brilliant, balanced discernment in so many local situations.

To submit your own dilemma for David G. Brown to resolve, at low cost and with minimal violence, email PracticallySocrates@DougBrendel.com.

Doug Brendel lives on outer Linebrook Road in Ipswich, Massachusetts, where there’s plenty of space for parking.