Rage Against the Machine

Live in an antique house, and you make certain compromises.

The “new” part of my Ipswich house was built in 1817. The “old” part — from 1797 —probably housed animals before it was moved into position as my kitchen. These were apparently not very tall animals, because the exposed beams in my kitchen ceiling have konked many a visitor in the head. People we like, we warn in advance.

Cabinets are mounted above the counters, like in most kitchens. But with such a low ceiling, there’s not much space between the countertops and the cabinet bottoms. All that stuff you keep on your kitchen counters? It all has to be extra-short at our house. A slice of bread popping out of a toaster could ricochet and kill you.

We drink a lot of coffee, so I demanded the biggest possible coffeemaker that would still fit under our cabinets. Kristina went shopping.

If I say “coffeemaker,” what brand comes to mind? On the other hand, if I say “power tools,” what brand comes to mind? Probably not the same as the coffeemakers’, right? But come to find out, a certain popular maker of power tools — drills and saws and leaf-blowers and such — also makes coffee pots. I’m talking about a company whose name you’d recognize the name instantly if I had the nerve to share it — but let’s just call them Bleck & Dorky, to keep their lawyers from using one of their nail guns on me in court. I guess it follows that a maker of big, brawny power tools also makes the biggest coffee pot that still fits under our kitchen cabinets.

The machine arrived to great gladness. We could make 12 cups of coffee at a time! I rejoiced.

But a coffee pot is not a belt sander. This is not a piece of equipment you keep in your garage and make a mess with and clean up when the project is finished. Call me spoiled, but I expect the coffee to drip into the pot, nowhere else, and pour from the pot into the cup, plain and simple. The Bleck & Dorky coffee pot was apparently designed by their weed-whacker division.

Our countertop became a daily wasteland of drips and spills. And that old idea of “good to the last drop”? Forget about it. The bottom of each cup was like your shoes after a walk on Crane Beach. The folks at Bleck & Dorky seemed to lack the delicate touch required to develop a coffeemaker that would keep the grounds in the basket.

I tried to accommodate the technology by learning new skills. Pour more slowly? Hold the pot at a certain angle? Hold your mouth just so while pouring? Whisper a spell while scooping the grounds into the basket?

Eventually, we gave up. I gave Kristina new shopping parameters: We wanted the biggest possible coffeemaker manufactured by people who specialize in coffeemakers. No Toyota “Javamaster.” No Microsoft Brew 2.0. Avoid the Adidas ZipDrip. And don’t even think about the FedEx Filter King.

Our new coffeemaker was made by Krups, the coffeemaker-makers. I was a little nervous to discover that Krups has branched out into waffle-makers and toaster ovens, but they started out (in the 1800s) making scales and industrial balances, instruments requiring great precision, as opposed to lawnmowers and angle grinders and things that make messes. So our Krups keeps the coffee right where the coffee is supposed to be.

Now, with continuous kitchen mop-up off the agenda, we have more time and energy for leisure activities. This must be how people felt in the old days when someone invented Velcro.


Doug Brendel lives on outer Linebrook Road in Ipswich, Massachusetts. To find him, follow the aroma of cinnamon hazelnut. Or visit DougBrendel.com.

Luxury, Location, Convenience — Ready for Move-In!

As festive as we tried to make it, our house on Linebrook Road in Ipswich was a bit subdued this holiday season.

For some 20 years or more, my wife and children have collected large, colorful, hand-crafted nutcrackers, most of them one at a time from the swag stand at the Boston Ballet after annual Christmastime performances of Nutcracker Suite. Fabulous characters with crowns and capes, jewels and sequins, buttons and buckles, mustachios and spectacles, real-hair beards and velvet cloaks and you-name-it. Christmas by Christmas, the mantel over our living room fireplace has been populated by more and more of Tchaikovsky’s fantastic gang. A joy to behold, and a testament to the power of a little girl tugging on your coat sleeve and saying “Just one more? Puh-leeze?

You might expect the nutcracker community to morph from year to year — Uncle Drosselmeyer goes on the mantel this time, the sugar plum fairy moves to the sideboard. Or maybe you just leave somebody out, give the characters on the mantel a little room to breathe. No need to squeeze 20 years’ worth of nutcrackers in, like a police lineup.

But for all their comings and goings from year to year, you always have the satisfaction of knowing that they’re all there with you, visible or un. As the husband and father of the family, the primary breadwinner, you have the assurance that the mountains of money you’ve shelled out over the decades are still paying a handsome return, resplendent Christmas décor displayed in your home, reliably inspiring a steady stream of oohs and aahs from visitors. One or two or even three of the nutcrackers may not make the cut in any given season — but you never expect them all to disappear at once.

Until this year.

During the long off-season, our nutcrackers live in their original individual cardboard boxes, stacked neatly and sealed tight and snug in a plastic bin stored on a shelving unit at the back of our garage. I assume the nutcrackers are relieved to finally close their black button eyes and rest from their labors. After all, they’re obligated to be “on” the entire holiday season. The pressure must be intense.

The bin is essentially airtight. The lid snaps shut with such a powerful jolt, you feel silly for putting anything inert in there. This seems like a box made for containing a nasty-tempered poltergeist.

But every year, we drag the bin from the garage to the house and back for the annual unloading-and-reloading routines, and apparently one corner of the box wore thin over time.

This year, opening the bin was like exhuming a body, with a puff of ghastly stink.

The nutcracker boxes had been turned into a condo complex. And the tenants were none too tidy.

Nutcracker beards were tangled and filthy and flecked with bits of garbage. Velvet capes were wrinkled and soggy. Once-elegant hemlines were now merely ragged edges, gnawed into ugly oblivion.

It took only a few seconds for the first of the mice to burst out of hiding, vaulting over the edge of the bin and skedaddling to safety. Once the first rodent made his getaway, the others took courage and followed suit. They moved too fast to count; my conservative estimate would be somewhere in the neighborhood of 14 million.

In the story behind The Nutcracker Suite, the Mouse King is the bad guy. We actually had a Mouse King nutcracker in our collection, and now it seems clear that he beckoned his real-life minions to invade through the tiny gap in the plastic, to avenge the defeat he suffers every year in the Tchaikovsky ballet.

But mice are not natural fighters. Once they arrived and saw the Mouse King’s cozy, cushy surroundings, they forgot all about vengeance and settled in.

Twenty years’ worth of collectible nutcrackers went into the garbage — so smelly, even the garbage collectors winced — except for the Mouse King.

I gave that one special treatment.

He became firewood.


Doug Brendel lives on outer Linebrook Road in Ipswich, Massachusetts, with a supply of nuts and no way to crack them. Connect with Doug via DougBrendel.com.

Should auld acquaintance be forgot, look again

You want to start the New Year on a positive note, with a flash of brilliance or a moment of inspiration or a sense of accomplishment. It doesn’t help that you’re hung over, you sleep through your alarm, and you realize too late you’ve run out of coffee. And toilet paper.

This year, none of that nonsense for me. I planned ahead, in order to increase my chances of experiencing brilliance, inspiration, and accomplishment. I did not imbibe to excess on New Year’s Eve. I made sure we were stocked up on coffee and toilet paper. Yes, I did pamper myself by not setting a wakeup alarm — but this, I promised myself, would be my only self-indulgence of the New Year. Thereafter in 2022, I would be wise, prudent, diligent, self-controlled, productive.

This fantasy lasted till about 10 a.m.

I awoke to disappointment. Glancing out at my driveway, I saw that my Boston Sunday Globe had not been delivered. This happens from time to time; not a big deal: You can request a credit online. And who could blame the newspaper delivery person for failing to make his rounds, or missing one house, on New Year’s, a morning foggy in more ways than one? Just hop in your car, zip down Linebrook Road — thanking God you live less than a mile from Cumby’s — buy a paper, and you’re back home in 8 minutes or less.

The online credit request could wait — I needed the replacement Globe right away. I always like to sit in my living room easy chair with a cup of coffee and make my way at a leisurely pace through the paper and be finished in time to log on for the 10:15 service at Ascension Church. So there I was, sailing into Cumby’s, greeting my worker-friends with a cheery “Happy New Year,” heading toward the rack of newspapers.

Another moment of disappointment: The Boston Sunday Globe, normally fat and heavy, was shockingly meager — four emaciated little sections. I know print journalism has been hit hard in recent years, and with mixed feelings I realize that I have contributed in part to its demise, by reducing my Boston Globe subscription from daily to Sundays only. But to see this long-distinguished publication reduced to such a trifle — no longer able to pay reporters, perhaps, or afford so much paper and ink — was heartbreaking.

I brought my newspaper home with a grim sense of woe. First Betty White dies, now this.

Even the full-color comics section, always a highlight of my week, had been decimated. A few spare comic strips were tucked in to odd, awkward spaces inside the final spread. On this first day of the New Year, the world as I knew it was crumbling before my eyes.

In moments of grief, we turn to God. As I logged on to the church’s Facebook page, I felt confident that I would receive solace, the means to recalibrate my sorrow, to begin this New Year anew.

Imagine how shattering it is to find that not only has your newspaper shrunk — your church has disappeared.

Ascension’s Facebook page was just sitting there on the screen, static and silent.

I knew that the church’s leaders had committed strongly to making services available online. And with all their fancy new equipment, added just weeks ago, they couldn’t possibly be blacked out by technical difficulties. Certainly the entire Episcopal Church hadn’t given up the ghost, had it? Serving as a voice of reason had gotten that difficult?

No, in spite of how weirdly this morning was unfolding — a morning worthy of yet another Matrix sequel — there had to be some logical explanation.

And yes, there was indeed. Suddenly, I saw it, on the screen of my trusty iPhone.

It was Saturday, not Sunday.

So much for my grand New Year. On the road to brilliance, inspiration, and accomplishment, first things first: Don’t be a dunderhead.


Doug Brendel lives on outer Linebrook Road in Ipswich, Massachusetts. After he masters the calendar, he plans to work on learning to tell time. Follow his antics at DougBrendel.com.

The hate crime, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind

I awoke on Christmas Eve morning to find that my longstanding “Stop Bruni Project” lawn sign had been unceremoniously jammed into my Christmas-tree-lighted front-yard honey locust tree.

At first I assumed this was the work of pro-Bruni thugs. I imagined a band of pro-development extremists on a middle-of-the-night rampage, surging down outer Linebrook Road, violating “Stop Bruni” properties in a spasm of rage against anyone valuing good sense over real estate profits. Perhaps if I drove further along Linebrook I would find “Stop Bruni Project” signs impaled on driveway reflectors, or signs angrily bent in two and left hanging over “Deer Crossing” signs. The hooligans may have even ripped a sign in two and flung the pieces like Frisbees into the night, leaving the “STO BRU PRO” half on someone’s driveway and the “P NI JECT” half floating on Hood Pond.

Not a logical way, however, to express your support for construction of a massive Bruni World sprawl on Essex Road. If you don’t like being confronted by someone’s opposition to the Bruni sprawl, you don’t pull up their lawn sign and then leave it in plain sight, where it will get even more attention, with the potential for more applause.

So perhaps it wasn’t, after all, the fury of environmentally insensitive capitalists that led to my honey locust hosting my lawn sign. Maybe it was climate change.

Yes, climate change. The vicious late-December wind, perhaps, uprooted my sign from the soggy New England soil and whipped it into the air like a large ace of spades being flicked by a card shark. Then the airborne sign randomly spun into the branches of our festive, twinkly honey locust, where it snagged and came to a very sudden stop. This would make for a much more reasonable explanation of our Christmas tree’s overnight redecoration.

Sure, there are questionable components to this theory. I realize the wind normally blows west to east out here in the Ipswich wilderness — except during nor’easters, of which there wasn’t one that night. Yet in this age of global warming, it’s entirely possible that the midnight wind could have blown backwards the night before Christmas Eve, carrying our “Stop Bruni Project” sign from east to west. If not for the tangle of branches on our young honey locust, our sign might have landed in Amherst by now.

Or — a third explanation, though somewhat otherworldly, might be the truest: An angel descended from heaven, plucked the sign from its place, floated with it over to the honey locust, and deposited it there as a sign unto us.

“Fear not,” the angel said, “for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people” — and after that, something about the Bruni Project being canceled or banned or disqualified somehow. A Christmas miracle, anyway. “And on earth peace, good will,” etc., etc.

However it happened — a hate crime, a weather anomaly, an act of God, or some other cause you’ve thought of that I haven’t — I’m considering leaving my desecrated lawn sign lodged in my front-yard tree so folks can pose for selfies in front of it. If a guy with wings shows up, we’ll know which theory was right.


Doug Brendel lives on outer Linebrook Road in the house with the sign in the tree. Follow Doug, at a safe distance from neighborhood crime sprees, by way of DougBrendel.com.

No, officer, how fast was I going?

By the time you read this, it may be old news, but as I write these words, it’s the Wild West on Linebrook Road.

They’ve taken down the school zone speed limit signs that used to stand like sentinels as you approached Doyon School.

I understand they’ll be putting up traffic lights, which I assume will operate on actual modern technology. Certainly not in keeping with how the Pilgrims controlled traffic on Linebrook Road, but neither were the signs. Somehow, vehicles need to be slowed from 35 mph to 20 during certain times of the day, when vulnerable kiddos are moving between the schoolhouse and the homestead.

I won’t miss those complicated speed limit signs. They’ve only been gone a few days, but already I can’t seem to remember — when we were supposed to slow down? 8:15 to 9:47 a.m. on Tuesday and Thursdays with out-of-state plates, 8:42 to 9:33 if fully vaccinated? Too much information, too little time. I’m driving, I’m in a hurry. Don’t ask me to read the dang Constitution.

And message wasn’t the only problem with those signs. It was presentation. Big black-on-yellow headline — SCHOOL: good. Under that, big black-on-white SPEED LIMIT: No problem seeing that. But then — trouble.

Underneath the speed limit sign was another sign, half the size, with lines of teeny type, apparently hand-drawn by Snoopy’s bird-friend Woodstock. If I squinted at the sign through the top half of my bifocals, I could vaguely figure out that these lines of type were some indication of the morning and afternoon slow-down periods. But asking me to make out the actual numerals while traveling along at 42 mph — er, uh, 35 mph — well, this was simply not a realistic expectation. As far as I could see, bearing down on that sign at the speed of Chevy, it seemed to me that the Town of Ipswich was asking me to observe the 20 mph limit between mush and smush a.m., and again between shmah and shmuh p.m.

Even if I had been able to read the microscopic hieroglyphics, I would still have only nano-seconds to make the necessary calculations. This system requires more mental gymnastics than I’m normally prepared to perform. I’m a casual fellow. I’m what they used to call gay and carefree. I’m not driving along on Linebrook Road keeping constant track of what time it is, down to the minute. Now, suddenly, the Town demands that I figure out what time it is, and whether the current time is within mush and shmush a.m., process all the data points, and execute the required maneuver. It’s too complex.

I would hate to think that the Town fathers were being disingenuous — making the type on the school zone speed limit signs so minuscule that you had no choice but to slow way the heck down just to read the numbers. But truth be told, ever since I moved to Ipswich, their strategy has worked with me. I can’t count how many times I’ve slowed down passing Doyon in the middle of the day, unsure of what the sign said, still trying to find the clock on my dashboard as I approached Mile Lane.

Now, however, all will be well. Traffic lights are soon to come!

In the meantime, with the signs already down and lights not yet installed, we’re in a strange limbo of lawlessness — nothing to tell you the limit is 20 mph.

So, till the traffic lights go in, will we blast on past the school at 42 — er, uh, 35?

I admonish you, good people of Ipswich, don’t give in to temptation. Even with no sign and no light, the speed limit is 20 — all the way from mush to shmush.


Doug Brendel has lived on outer Linebrook Road in Ipswich, Massachusetts, for shmah years. Follow his real-life adventures at NewThing.net.

Double Winner!

I’m pleased to report that my funny new novel, Praying for Mrs. Mombasa, has won two awards!

I hope you’ll visit DragonheadPress.com to read all about it, and order the book in your format of choice: paperback, Kindle, or audiobook.

Thank you!

Doug Brendel

And toxins under the tree

[Rrrrring!]

“Hello?”

“Hello, is this Mr. Brendel?”

“Yes! Did I win?”

“Uh, I beg your pardon?”

“Did I win a tree?”

“Win? A tree? What?”

“Aren’t you calling from the Marini Farms Christmas Tree Jubilee?”

“No, Mr. Brendel, this is Brandon calling from Kill-Safe Home Services. I hope you’ve been having a nice day. Can I talk to you for a few minutes?”

“Oh, rats. I thought you were calling from Marini’s.”

“Actually, rats are the reason I’m calling you! Kill-Safe can help you eliminate the rodents in your life. Our system uses a poison that kills rats and mice so quickly, it qualifies as humane.”

“Look, I really need to get off the phone. I’m waiting for a call from the Jubilee. I put $50 in tickets on the Ipswich Maid Services Christmas tree, the one mounted on a Roomba.”

“I understand your concern, Mr. Brendel, but our Kill-Safe poison is completely safe for your house pets, because it comes in a dispenser too small for them to get into.”

“I’m not interested, thanks.”

“Unless you have a Great Dane or some kind of Mastiff — in which case, to keep them from wolfing the whole thing down like a Chewy Purina Milk-Bone Sausage, we offer a super-sized version that’s huge instead of tiny. This is a foolproof way to poison only the creatures that deserve to be poisoned.”

“No, no, no! I bid on a Christmas tree at the Jubilee to benefit animals at the Ipswich Animal Shelter! I’m not in the mood to talk about poisoning anything!”

“Ipswich, yes. I understand there’s quite a serious rat problem in Ipswich. What part of Ipswich do you live in, Mr. Brendel? Some neighborhoods are being more heavily infested than others.”

“I’m hanging up now.”

“Mr. Brendel, let me send you a sample of Kill-Safe at a terrific 75% discount.”

“I can’t miss the call from Marini’s! Good-bye!”

“Mr. Brendel, I realize you have many pest-purging options these days, but Kill-Safe comes with a 100% money-back guarantee.”

“If I win, they call me — If I don’t answer the phone, they’ll move on to the next person!”

“Mr. Brendel, as you may know, rats and mice are vermin.”

“I gotta go.”

“Mr. Brendel, vermin can carry rabies, and if anything is sure to ruin your property values, it’s an outbreak of rabies.”

“I’ll risk it! I had a feeling at the Jubilee. I felt like that Roomba tree was mine. It spoke to me.”

“Mr. Brendel, I’m happy to report that Kill-Safe is an award-winning home services company. This past year in the National Vermin Eradication Competition, we won the Angel of Death Award in the Creative Contaminants category.”

“Stop! Stop! Stop! Not interested!”

“Mr. Brendel, I have good news. We’re running a special today exclusively for residents of towns adjacent to Rollee.”

“I think you mean Rowley.”

“Rowley, yes. Mr. Brendel, to introduce our excellent product to you and your family, I can send you a sample of Kill-Safe, completely free of charge, with a 73% chance of driving your rodents across the town line.”

“Gah! I never pick up the phone. I only picked up the phone because it’s the night they call the Tree Jubilee winners!”

“Mr. Brendel, this free sample won’t cost you a dime.”

“It’s costing me a fully decorated 6-ft. Christmas tree mounted on a brand-new Roomba!”

“Mr. Brendel, let me just confirm your street address.”

[Click.]

[Rrrrring!]

“Hello?”

“Mr. Brendel?”

“Yes! Did I win?”

“I beg your pardon?”

“Aren’t you calling from Marini’s Tree Jubilee?”

“No, I’m with the Ipswich Tele-Danger Alert Campaign. We’re warning our neighbors about the possibility of telemarketers taking advantage of the Marini Tree Jubilee.”

“Sheesh. You got to me too late.”

“Well, we tried and tried to get through.”


Doug Brendel lives on outer Linebrook Road in Ipswich, Massachusetts, and never answers his phone, so don’t bother. Follow Doug’s exploits phone-free at DougBrendel.com.

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.