Arcadia…Here, Now, Forever

April 30th, 2011 by Harrumpher Leave a reply »

Bubbles of delusion shade and shelter us from horrors that affect others, but not us.


Even in little Bridgton, ME, the worst of life and death brings comfort through denial. This town of under 5,000 knows that one of their own met a foul death this week. The corpse of was the gelid, murky waters of a pond just over the border in New Hampshire.

Krista Dittmeyer, whose cause of death has yet to be announced, left her infant daughter in her running car and died nearby. Young, pretty and popular, she is immediately the locus of utopian thinking. As the Boston Herald quotes a chum, “It doesn’t happen here. People are safe here. They care about one another. They help one another. You can leave your doors unlocked at night. It affects everyone.”

Well, sprinkle some pixie dust and fly around the room.

Bridgton seems to be one of those the-way-life-should-be towns as ME promotes its exurban self. The tourism site lists 100 things to do there, such as hunt partridge, see a drive-in movie, hike up a ridge to look at see Mt. Washington way over there, and walk along Main Street.

No one seems shocked when Boston teens or 20-somethings stab or shoot each other in gritty neighborhoods or even in Downtown Crossing. Yet even here in the 22nd largest U.S. city, we engage in delusion and magical thinking.

In my decade in Manhattan, I never heard others say what they do in Bridgton or the various Boston neighborhoods we’ve lived — “We never lock our doors. We don’t have to.” Beacon Hill, West End, South End, Jamaica Plain and now Hyde Park, it was the same. Other neighborhoods or sub-neighborhoods may be dangerous and have criminals, but not here.

There is more justification for it in the newish place. On Fairmount Hill, we might call it a variation on the North End’s Copp’s Hill. With the police academy and many officers settled here, this could well be Cops’ Hill.

Sure enough, sections of town and Hyde Park have burglaries, even the occasional murder. Yet up on this hill, folk decidedly feel safe, rather know they are safe.

I think though of perpetrators of robberies and assaults. Frequently they are junkies. The diminished capacity of addicts means obliviousness to the obvious. Just because there is a blue and white or trooper car parked in the driveway doesn’t mean they won’t break-in and do their nasties. For murders, the typical case is high emotion between people who know each other — family or friends fatalities as it is.

In Bridgton or on Fairmount Hill, the need to believe in the specialness of locale, of our very own place and space is strong. In Bridgton, they likely hold that the bad guys are in Portland. In Boston, with few undeniable exceptions, we need to believe it is the next neighborhood over or farther away that is dangerous.

That might be a benign conceit, but it carries risks. If in fact we do not lock our house or car doors, we may eventually guarantee robbery or worse. (…as the mayor of Somerville recently learned…) As I have heard cops and Fortune Society folk alike say repeatedly, break-ins and robberies are almost always crimes of opportunity. Your car or house doesn’t need to be impregnable. It just needs to seem harder to to get into or less attractive (no goodies showing) than the next one.

We can call the belief in personal Arcadia an endearing affirmation of human hope and trust. I still lock my house and car.

Tags: harrumphharrumphercrimedelusionlocks


3 Responses

  1. fausto says:

    You’re wise to lock your house and car, but sometimes not even that is enough. I had a tire and rim stolen right off my car in broad daylight at the Hyde Park commuter rail parking lot a couple of weeks ago. The thieves left the car jacked up in the lot, and didn’t even leave the lug nuts so I could put on the spare.

  2. Harrumpher says:

    Well, that sucks with a mighty wind. That lot should have passersby all day. Who’d a thunk it?

  3. Uncle says:

    I grew up in the sticks, more or less, and we always locked our doors. Didn’t stop us from being burglarised once. I’ve never understood the Arcadian delusion. Geez, Fausto, now I have to carry spare lug nuts too? Bad news.

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