Friday, November 16, 2001
Living in a bubble
Growing up on the lower east side of Manhattan, I learned the rules early. I knew that the door to our apartment must always be locked, and never, never opened without first checking the peephole. On the street, I knew to tuck my purse under my arm, avoid dark and empty blocks, leave no visible possessions in a parked (locked) car, and glance over my shoulder before stepping into a dimly lighted hallway a quick check that there was no "surprise" behind me. I didn't live in fear; I simply lived by the rules of the city. Being on alert was normal. And later, when I lived and traveled alone, these habits served me well.
When we moved to Carlisle, I found it incredible that some residents never locked their homes and left their valuables in unlocked cars parked in public places. While it was wonderful to feel safe on streets even without street lights, I worried that my children would believe that wonderful myth of Carlisle "rurality," and grow up naïve and unaware of the realities beyond the town's magic borders; that they would not learn the street smarts that they need to live in the global village.
Today, our President asks us to be "vigilant," and, in last week's Mosquito, a letter to the editor reminded us that a purse is not safe in an unlocked car even in your own driveway. Suddenly, it seems, the bubble has burst. Many who were so very trusting have become very fearful, gripped by the twin threats of crime and terrorism.
The reality in Carlisle was aptly described by a Town Hall employee answering a call in the early afternoon on September 11. "Yes, we're still here," she said. "We're way down the list of targets." While Carlisle is still a (relatively) safe cocoon, we and our children need to learn to live with a set of appropriate, 21st-century survival habits. Life will still be "normal" if we make it a habit to lock the house and car and keep an eye out for the unusual.
The best of the Carlisle Mosquito: The first thirty years
The thirtieth anniversary of the founding of the Carlisle Mosquito falls in 2002. To celebrate the milestone, the Mosquito should assemble a volume of the best stories of the past thirty years.
Market: the households of Carlisle, their friends and relatives. Just as the Mosquito finds its way across the country and into foreign lands, so The Best of the Carlisle Mosquito would follow a similar distribution network. Unlike the weekly Mosquito, The Best would not be given away free.
Opportunity: The Mosquito has had a long and storied career as chronicler of life in Carlisle. One need only recall some of its classic stories, such as the deer in the house on Curve Street, the adventures of the Carlisle bear, and the exploits of the Carlisle police and fire departments. The recent account of the Valentine roundup, with its cows, cowboys, and trucks, would be a welcome addition. We need a volume of these stories, together with a selection of Mosquito photographs, to keep in our own libraries and send to friends and relatives around the country and the world.
Introduction: A short essay would summarize the history of Carlisle, concluding with a short history of the Mosquito from 1972. The thirtieth anniversary would give the The Best the marketing edge it needs.
Front Page News: Articles on the most significant developments of the past thirty years would tell the history of the town, from civic buildings in the town center, to conservation land purchases, to the occasional, racier civic disturbances illustrative of population growth and mounting social pressures.
Letters to the Editor: Quick summaries of issues would introduce sequences of letters on various topics, from violations of the town's wetland laws and the flap over the whiskey barrel planters, to dust-ups over the school, Town Meeting, recreation fields, town buildings, and the like. Careful editing and a good lawyer would make this one of the volume's moneymakers.
Editorials and Op Ed Essays: the most prescient editorials from the past three decades, along with various voices from the community heard.
Police Blotter and Fire Log: Here is the heart of the volume. Classic reports on the prowess of our constabulary would go head to head with photos and reports of the volunteer fire department in action. We could include both serious and light-hearted matters. These reports capture a slice of the sociology of the town.
The Best Recipes: From soup to nuts we've seen the best of everything edible. This could even be a separate volume. In any case, the chefs of Carlisle yield a front burner to no one.
Additions: The Best of Carlisle Capers, and Friends and Neighbors; the Best Features and Advertisements; the Best of Diverse Diversions and Community Bulletin Board. Reports from Finland, Russia, Japan, New Zealand. Profiles of artists, songwriters, performers, writers. And a section on adventures with goshawks, coyotes, deer, bear, ducks in chimneys, wild turkeys, otters and minks is essential. They live here too.
Nothing captures the flavor of Carlisle like the Mosquito. Thumbing through back issues in the library is too time-consuming. A judicious selection from the newspaper's archives, in an attractive format, would be a bestseller in Carlisle. My fee of 25 percent of the take is a modest investment in what would become an instant town treasure.
Ed. note: You're hired.
© 2001 The Carlisle Mosquito