Sunday, March 20, 2005

Witch Town Am I In?

Today is the first day of Spring. I took Dixie out for a walk first thing this morning and the day looked like it was going to be just like yesterday – gorgeous. Now, looking out the window that faces north and having listened to the radio I find that on the equinox it’s going to be rainy. The rain’s not supposed to start until after Boston’s St. Patrick’s Day parade – luck of the Irish, I guess. Maybe I will be able to get her out again before it does. I wonder if, when it finally does rain later on, it’ll rain green. Regardless, better than yellow rain.

Yesterday, Dixie, the Airedale dog, and I ventured over to Salem for the day. In one fell swoop we also visited Peabody (pronounced Pee-ba-dee), Lynn, Swampscott (pronounced Swamp-skit) and Nahant. Five towns visited for the price of one. Our host took us for a long walk on Long Beach, which is actually in Little Nahant, up to and through the beach at Lynn, which is not as nice as Long Beach which it abuts and for which you’d never know the difference unless you lived there, and then for lunch at Red’s in Salem. Fortunately for us during our beach walk, it was low tide.

People were out walking, jogging, flying kites, letting their dogs run, and essentially doing everything one does at the beach this time of year in New England other than swim or picnic. With the tide out the beach was, from the sea wall to the water, about a hundred yards wide. There was enough room for everyone to have space to do their own thing. One guy was walking his dog and stopped to tell it to sit. He must have told that dog to sit about 10 times. The dog just stood there and looked at him. Finally it sort of backed up a little almost as though it might sit (or want to get farther away from him) and the owner profusely rewarded it. They then continued on their merry way.

We ended up walking from the Little Nahant parking lot where the sea wall was about two feet above the sand and the spit of land not much wider than the road we took to get there up to Lynn, where the concrete sea wall was about 30 feet above the water. It looked like it was also about 30 feet thick, double layered. Altogether, up and back, we walked just about 3 miles. Dixie had a good time running along the water’s edge and in the hard sand, chasing golf balls we found in multitudes along the beach. Dixie won’t fetch; she’ll go after what’s thrown then she wants you to chase her to get it back. A one sided game, for sure. However, since there were so many golf balls washed up on the beach, almost as many as there were Skate egg sacs, getting a sufficient supply for her to run after wasn’t difficult at all.

We left the beach to get lunch and to walk around Salem. Salem is an old sea coast town and a burgeoning tourist mecca. The town is now a combination of maritime history and black magic. It includes a witch museum in an old church, a maritime museum finally large enough to show off all of it’s contents and numerous small shops dedicated to either the sea or witchcraft or appealing to the tourism of both. Among it’s rich history, there’s an historic 3 masted sailing vessel, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s House of the Seven Gables and numerous other attractions worth seeing. We saw one place, maybe a house, that was sort of a museum.

The owner was also an artist, sort of, and made a variety of sculptures out of various and sundry metal parts, many of which came from cars. I saw a dragon made of a car’s camshaft and pistons and other parts gotten from who knows where. There was a perpetual motion water pond complete with a bucket that continually filled then tipped over and emptied itself. The entire house and grounds were covered with metal art. It was definitely something to take a long gaze in awe at. We were standing there admiring and trying to figure out the different sculptures when a person who had been talking to the owner started talking to us. He was a tall thin guy and, on this bright, blue cloudless sky day, wore yellow wrap around sunglasses. As soon as he started talking to us the owner walked away. This guy seemed to want to be more important than the owner was. After politely listening to him for a while, I looked around and noticed a dog walker quietly come up to the edge of the yard and open a can of cat food on top of a concrete piling.

Wondering why he was doing that, since he had a dog with him, I stood there and stared at him. A couple seconds after he dumped the cat food on top of the piling and began quietly walking away a black and white feral cat appeared from out of nowhere. Dixie unfortunately barked and spooked the cat. I decided we had to move on in order to let the cat eat and so cut off the more important guy from his continuing story.

We wandered around the town, meandering through the Common, poking our heads into shop windows and walking out to the lighthouse. We also walked through a fake witches graveyard, where everyone “buried” there was hanged in July, August or September, 1692. As we walked around the area I heard one tourist say to another, “Look, here’s the guy who was squeezed to death.” I read the “tombstone” and it said that so and so had been “pressed to death.”

Our host said that during the actual Salem witch trials, which were really held in Danvers (an adjoining town which disassociated itself with Salem after the trials to escape the rap), persons who would not tell on others’ were tortured in an effort to extract a confession. One way was to literally squeeze a person to death by means of a mechanical press. I started thinking of the 1950’s McCarthy hearings on alleged communists. My father had been a union organizer and had been hunted down by Senator McCarthy himself. It made me shudder to think that, in another time, what having been “pressed” for information about ones affiliations would have meant.

We ate lunch at Red’s, a local eatery worth the visit. My host had a tuna salad wrap (two meals worth) and I had the fish and chips. Lunch for both of us, including coffee and tea, was less than $15. I would recommend anyone visiting Salem to seek out Red’s for either breakfast or lunch. Since they close daily at 3 p.m. you need to get there early. I would recommend visiting Salem anytime.

On the way home I started thinking about all these little towns up here in Massachusetts. It struck me that I live in Waltham and drive down Newton St. to get to the train station. Then, once in Boston I walk down Waltham St. to get to work.


Anonymous Anonymous said...


You're a great writer. Your story is very vivid and is like being there. Hope you are well.
Mark Ford

12:49 AM  

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