Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Out and about, from witches to water

"Fried dough. Welcome to Salem."

That is one of the first signs that caught my eye as I struggled through the crowded streets of Salem, Mass. on a warm sunny day Saturday.

The city is home to the Salem Witch Museum, which contains exhibits about the tragic events of 1692, when more than 150 women – and men – were imprisoned on charges of witchcraft. Fourteen women and five men were hung.

I visited the museum ages ago when it stood in a relatively quiet city. I don't know when this happened, but the place has turned into a zoo. Banners advertise ghost tours, seances, haunted this and haunted that. I nearly bumped into a walking Frankenstein.

I ended up there because I was meeting my friend Katryn from Vassar. Our birthdays, which are in August, are just two days apart, and we try to get together every year to celebrate. So this was our birthday celebration.

Katryn lives in Portland, Maine. We try to pick a half-way point, and Boston or its environs has often been our meeting place.

Katryn said she wanted to see the Chinese house at the Peabody Essex Museum, located in Salem. I wasn't exactly sure what she meant, but I thought, hey, a Chinese house in the middle of Salem sounds interesting to me.

As soon as she saw the commotion, she apologized to me, but I didn't really care, because it made for an interesting visit, and I had nothing pressing on my time.

The museum is an oasis in the middle of this crazy place. It is so odd to walk up to its doors and find an actual regular art museum there. As it turned out, the house, called Yin Yu Tang, is an actual structure, built in China 200 years ago and then taken apart bit by bit and moved to Salem.

It is connected to the museum, and when you enter it, it is like entering a different world. We took a self-guided tour that was extremely informative.
Anyway, after Salem we spent about an hour walking in beautiful Marblehead, about 10 minutes away and home to beautiful harbor views and narrow lanes. The photo shows us in a little park above the water.

From there we headed back south, spending the night at Diane and David's house and then meeting our friend Alice, also from Vassar, for brunch in Newton.Katryn and I have done a lot of things together. When we both lived in Boston, we celebrated our birthdays on a "booze cruise" around the harbor. Once we rode out bikes around Nova Scotia.

Later we were room-mates in Northampton. We lived in a funky apartment with no cabinet doors; the kitchen was perfect for the sprouts we grew in the window. We had some, ahem, interesting parties there.

We've also visited at each other's homes. I have one of those adorable/embarrassing photos of our naked baby children in the bathtub together. Always a good thing to hold over your kids' heads in case you need to blackmail them. (Only kidding.)

We happened to plan this trip kind of last-minute, which is sometimes easier than making plans that often end up being broken. It was so easy to do, we both said we should do it more. I hope we do. It's good to get out and about. But maybe we'll leave out Salem.

1 comment:

Jonny said...

Nice to see that your last several blogs have been devoted to struggles (and fun) other than the toughest struggle.

Wallace Stevens writes in his poem that "the blackbird is involved in everthing that I know". Sometimes it's nice to know that she is roosting elsewhere for a while.

Be well