2017 Vacation, Day 1: Spooky Drivers and Witch City

I never did blog about my brief vacation trip to Salem, MA this past summer with Diamondqueen and J.Hooligan. I figured Halloween week would be a good time to cover it.

On our 2016 trip I got very depressed thinking it might be the last of our vacations where everyone goes along. I turned out to be right. S.Hooligan did not join us on this journey. Originally, I wasn’t supposed to be along, either.

The plan was for me to accompany S.Hooligan on a school-related European sojourn in June. I was dubious about it; for one thing, S. doesn’t talk much to me and I anticipated a lot of hostile indifference. The other thing was the increasing threat of terrorism, plus I knew the world wasn’t looking kindly on the United States (neither was I) after Trump was elected.

Last winter, S.Hooligan suddenly got cold feet and wanted out. Diamondqueen had doubts because she was worried about disappointing me. When I assured her I was relieved, plans for Europe were immediately axed. I’d also been jealous when I heard Diamondqueen and J.Hooligan were going to Salem, MA for their 2017 trip.

Their primary interest was in everything related to the witch trials. I’ve always been interested in that as well. However, there was another Salem that fascinated me, and I didn’t even make the connection until last winter: I’ve loved the juvenile biographical novel Carry On, Mr. Bowditch by Jean Lee Latham since I first learned of it when I was twelve. I reread it several times growing up, and sometime in the ’80s I found my own vintage copy at a library sale. I tend to reread it every other year or so. Even knowing the limitations of fictional biographies for kids, I doted on every detail and character, but I’d never thought about visiting Salem and seeing where Bowditch actually had lived. When I realized what I’d be missing from the Salem trip, I grew envious and almost wished I was going there instead.

With Europe cancelled, I was hesitant about inviting myself along on Diamondqueen’s and J.Hooligan’s vacation, but Diamondqueen volunteered that I’d be welcome. I was gleeful and started researching everything about Salem.

Because of the expense involved, we limited ourselves to three nights out of town and flew out of Columbus. Our first day went smoothly, with an uneventful drive to Columbus and easy time at a very calm airport, and on-time arrival at a more hectic Logan in Boston.

We planned to rent a car to get around Salem, but that also included having to drive in the Boston area. Somehow I’d never heard that Boston driving is notoriously wild until Diamondqueen mentioned it. We both read up on it and hoped since we weren’t going downtown, maybe she could manage okay.

Being mentally prepared probably helped. Yes, it was wild, and we weren’t as stunned by some of the stunts pulled by drivers as we might have been otherwise. Diamondqueen drove super-self-defensively, and we made it through the afternoon traffic to Salem in one piece. In the meantime, we had beautiful views of the ocean, and the houses were enchanting. Because of one wrong turn, we wound up in a neighborhood of winding streets and small, shingled homes that were delightful, all overlooking a public beach.

Our Salem hotel, within walking distance of everything.

We arrived in Salem to find that Diamondqueen had booked us into a very nice hotel right near the water. Our room was lovely, and there was a pub downstairs that served dinner fare. Exhausted, we chose to check out their offerings instead of venturing out right then.

I’d promised myself two things I’d for sure have on the trip: a Samuel Adams (even though I get Sam Adams frequently here at home) and a real lobster roll. I’d had one in Orlando last year that was atrocious. I’m not sure if it was even real lobster. I wanted the real thing with real lobster, so that’s what I ordered for dinner. It was expensive but delicious, spilling over with flavorful lobster chunks on a buttered grilled bun. The accompanying french fries were a little iffy, but I was happy enough with the sandwich and the beer.

Our original evening plans, assuming we arrived in Salem in time, was to take a “witch walk” presented through Crow Haven Corner, Salem’s oldest witch shop. I’d had every intention of participating, but by dinner time I was having trouble putting one foot in front of the other. As usual I’d had trouble getting to sleep the night before and hadn’t gotten much rest before our early start. The full day of travel had been exhausting. It was warm and humid out, which I knew would be uncomfortable, and there was a storm watch, with a line of turbulence to the west. I was afraid if I did a lot of walking that night, I might be wasted for the next two busy days, and getting caught in a drenching rain would make it even worse.

Instead, I stayed behind in our very comfortable hotel room while Diamondqueen and J.Hooligan made their way to the Salem business area. I thought about at least taking a stroll to look at the ocean or watch for the storm coming in; finally, I just retired to a hot bath with a tourist magazine I’d found in the room. After that I worked on the special cross stitch I’d started before we left home: Two patterns of tombstones showing death’s heads with ravens sitting atop each stone. It was to be my Salem tribute piece.

Diamondqueen and J. returned to the room tired but happy with their tour and the witch circle they’d attended. The storms had never materialized, only a misty light rain that fell briefly. They each had souvenir crystals distributed at the circle, and somehow they’d each managed to get one with a word engraved on the side. They had stopped at a convenience store for soft drinks and snacks, so we noshed and watched some television. I was worn out (“knackered” as the British say), so I had no trouble getting to sleep.

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