The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, July 21, 2006


Forbes says we're number one

"How safe are we?" asked a Mosquito article on April 14, 2006. According to reporter Maya Liteplo, we are pretty safe in Carlisle.

That assessment was seconded by, which just ranked Carlisle number one in an online survey of "the safest zip codes within the most expensive zip codes." To translate the double-speak: published a list of the 500 most expensive zip codes in the country. On that list, Carlisle ranked 207th, according to figures compiled by OnBoard, a New York City-based real-estate data firm. It estimates that in 2005 the median sales price of Carlisle homes was $838,000, our median household income was $144,039 and our population (confirmed by U.S. census figures) was 4,966. Bragging rights for the most expensive zip code belong to the town of Sagaponack, New York, zip 11962, in the ultra-tony Hamptons. The median sales price there in 2005 was close to $2.8 million.

With Carlisle ranking not far from the middle of the 500 most expensive zip codes, it's interesting that we place first in safety among that well-heeled cohort. OnBoard assigned a value of 100 to the national crime-risk average and gave Carlisle a crime index of 2.

Thanks to our police department's proactive approach to solving crimes and the vigilance of residents who often report cars turning around in their driveway, crime in Carlisle is almost a non-issue. This, of course, is a wonderful attribute, and we are grateful to those who continue to keep us safe. But in July 2006, feeling safe in Carlisle is less about freedom from home invasion or car-jacking ­ it is a general feeling of disquiet over the state of the world outside our town limits, a persistent and growing sense of vulnerability.

We feel unsafe driving through any tunnel to Logan Airport in the wake of the recent collapse.

We feel unsafe on our highways when road rage and reckless driving put innocent lives in danger.

We feel unsafe from prying governmental eyes seeking to invade our privacy in the name of protecting us from terrorist attacks.

Feeling vulnerable in the safest zip code in the country is part of living in today's complex world. We have such a complete lack of control over world events that our powerlessness leads to fear, anxiety and often rage. But there is a panacea right here in town when those feelings threaten to overwhelm us ­ take a walk on any of the town trails, notice the flowers, admire the trees and breathe deeply. Or visit the Vivian Chaput Memorial on the Conant Land, a place designed for quiet contemplation and mediation.

These readily available places of peace and safety are immeasurable on anyone's quality-of-life index.

Heat seekers

One day last fall, I came home from work unexpectedly early and discovered what every wife fears ­ my husband had made an aesthetic decision (involving demolition to part of the house, no less) without my consent. Imagine my surprise when I turned into the driveway and saw one workman on the roof extracting a large pipe, another workman holding open the front door and two more carrying out what looked suspiciously like a major component of our family room fireplace. Speechless, I entered the front door, graciously still held open, marched like a zombie downstairs and found two more workmen examining a gaping hole, ringed with broken tiles, in the facing wall. I heard myself politely asking some questions, but what I was thinking (with respect to my beloved partner in life) was, "Justifiable homicide."

Lest anyone get the wrong impression, this story has a happy ending. At its heart is a wood stove. After several months of high gas prices, it seems almost quaint to remember the first spike in oil and the effect it was expected to have on the price of heating in the northern climes. Surrounded by eight acres of our own fuel, we naturally investigated the merits of a wood stove. I had thought we were still investigating, but my husband, the pyromaniac, thought we had a meeting of the minds. With a vast hole in the family room, I reluctantly admitted we had burned some bridges, and we became the proud owners of a Jotul F-500.

Only the uninitiated need ask, "Why write about a wood stove in July?" First, there's the question of whether a wood stove and its accoutrements are ever too far from the hearts and minds of their keepers. Dare I be sexist and speculate that this is primarily a male thing? While most homeowners praise the day they no longer have to turn on the heat, my husband seemed to relish the thought of extending the wood-burning season. He even mentioned that Richard Nixon used to turn up the White House air conditioning in the sultry D.C. summers so he could enjoy a roaring fire. My eldest daughter (who had spent last summer transcribing portions of our 37th president's secret tapes), gently commented, "But Nixon was, you know, Nixon." This exchange followed a previous day's compliment my husband paid to my middle daughter, as he was admiring her long, lustrous brown hair. "Your hair is so pretty. It's likewood."

Then there's wood pile management. Our daily routine starts with a check of the weather forecast, not to advise the children of proper attire, but to answer the Shakespearean question whether to tarp or not to tarp. This is actually a matter of some debate among wood stove owners. And why the bright blue? Might there be an entrepreneurial opportunity in wood-colored tarps? Proper stacking methods are also in question. Some favor the single row, others like cross hatch, still others take the "who cares" approach and keep the untidy pile in the natural state the cords were delivered.

Here's the real reason for the happy ending. Our wood stove became the heart of the home (well, okay, it was our only source of heat). Teenagers we hadn't seen for years emerged from the aloofness of their rooms and clustered around the wood stove to do their homework. Meals became cozier. I began to feel like Laura Ingalls Wilder.

July may seem like the middle of the summer, but the days are getting shorter, we always have chilly nights in August and there's snow in them thar hills.


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2006 The Carlisle Mosquito