Saturday, October 23, 2010

A Day in Salem

Hello, readers of October Farm! As I write this, my mother is in the midst of a lengthy drive home from Salem, Massachusetts. She likes to take her time with these drives and give Teddy the chance to conquer new territory like a tiny, furry reincarnation of Genghis Khan, and so it is my distinct pleasure to act as guest editor for today and tomorrow while they are in transit.

It is very exciting for me to have the opportunity to write about what Salem, Massachusetts means to me as a place, and the influence it has had on my life. My family has been visiting Salem virtually every year for a very long time now. I am unsure of the exact year we first made the trek, but it was inspired by the release of the movie Hocus Pocus, which came out in around 1992, so it has probably been about 17 annual visits.

For anyone unfamiliar with the movie, Hocus Pocus was a supernatural comedy about three witches sentenced to death during the Salem Witch Trials, their subsequent resurrection, and the chaos that ensues. This of course did no favors for modern practitioners of Wicca, and its trivialization of a particularly dark period of time in American history might strike some as distasteful, but heck with it, the movie was a lot of fun, and it introduced me and my family to Salem, where much of the filming was located. My family has always been drawn to all things spooky and all things Halloween, and this movie introduced us to our very own Mecca of sorts.
Thank god for that, because without exaggeration, there is no other place on earth that resonates with me as greatly as Salem. I remember being a little kid in maybe 8th grade, laying in bed at night in late september and listening to Dead Can Dance as I looked forward to the Salem trip with something that can only be described as separation anxiety. Sometimes I wonder if it's the feeling you get upon visiting a place that held great significance in a past life; it strikes chords you never knew you had, and the feeling is singular and indescribable. In short: if Salem was a woman, I would have proposed to her a long time ago.
And so, allow me to introduce you all to the place I love the most.

This house borders the old Salem cemetery, and neatly encapsulates a great many of the qualities that I find so charming about this town. As you can see from this photo, it is decrepit. Somehow, the foliage has managed to stain the greying, browning exterior, and if this place isn't haunted, then ghosts don't exist. See this house in a bad part of town, and you figure it's another victim of economic downturn and foreclosure. However, it happens to be situated next to one of the biggest tourist attractions in Salem, with graves that date back to the late 17th century. If the city didn't want this house to look this way, it would have fixed it up by now. That's right: you are looking at a picture of bona fide intentional decrepitude. Think about how rarely the ruling powers of any place encourage parts of its municipality to fall into disrepair because it actually enhances the aesthetics of its location. If you happen to see an apparition in one of these windows, best be sured that it's smiling from ear to disembodied ear.
A picture of the graves next to said house. I love how fragile they look. What a great place to be buried! I like the idea of having my tombstone be the subject of hundreds of grave rubbings and spooky imaginings.

In a photography class I had back in high school, the instructor made a point of mentioning the great volume of student photographs that were taken in cemeteries or bath rooms. He swore that there was a doctoral thesis in there somewhere.
My mother put one of these pictures up the other day, but one can never get enough pictures of my disgruntled sister begrudgingly posing for photographs in less-than-ideal situations.
The pumpkin giggles quietly in the corner.
This picture speaks for itself.
A street in downtown Salem. Many people take issue with how touristy Salem has become, but even crappy Halloween stuff is better than no Halloween stuff, and this is for sure not lame in the slightest.
In the month of October, Salem hosts the Haunted Happenings, a series of Halloween-related events. Here we see one christian church attempt to buck the trend. I hope the humor is intentional, but I fear that it might not be.
The Salem Witch House. Even in broad, sunny daylight, it still looks admirably spooky.
I saw this little number in a Salem thrift store. I'd love to meet the guy who donated it.
This is a house across the street from the House of the Seven Gables, made famous by author Nathaniel Hawthorne. My mother criticized my apparent inability to take good pictures of the House of the Seven Gables, and although I tried, I must say that I harbor a distaste for Nathaniel Hawthorne and I think it sabotaged my efforts. I know that he was the first 'great' American author of fiction, but his cookie-cutter approach to symbolism has all the subtlety of a wrecking ball. Good plots, though.
The House of the Seven Gables is to the left. Past that car. And the tree.
Everyone in Salem seems to get into the spirit of things.

Stay tuned tomorrow for more the second part of my Ode to Salem!

-Blog Tech

***Don't forget to enter this week's giveaway! Click on the button to the right, and make sure to sign up as a follower.