Saturday, July 14, 2007

A Toast to Witches and Heads

Poor Friday the 13th. No one gets the day off, no family vacations center around it...most people aren't even aware of it and when they are, they just want to get past it.

This Friday, the 13th, however, I sat in the graveyard in Salem, MA and toasted witches, which, I think, is a pretty respectable way to celebrate this disrespected day. We were at a restaurant in Salem-all 30 of us-and six of us got there a little late. We ended up at "The Cool Kids' Table" (we named it shortly, since all 24 others were at a very "adult" table together) and had a great time sharing stories. At the end of dinner, one guy, Craig, whom I hadn't really talked to much yet, said he had brought some wine that he would like to share with some people, so he decided that those of us at The Cool Kids' Table were the lucky ones. Oh, and by the way, his special wine was made by Blondie's former bass player...Craig has been playing in a band with him for some time but didn't know this (evidently, the bass player doesn't talk about Blondie, only about wine). Craig invited us to drink this wine as if he were inviting us into the most precious secret society.

So that's how the six of us ended up "borrowing" wine glasses from the hotel and "sneaking" into the graveyard (my idea) at about ten (convinced we would be arrested or at least "caught" in this retro high school mischief) and drinking wine made by Blondie's former bass player for a few hours.

We toasted the witches, who, by the way, are not buried in the graveyard, since they were witches, you know. They didn't get a proper Christian burial. But there is a memorial to them right outside of the graveyard, and I will post the memorial for my favorite character, Giles Corey. He was not hanged, but was pressed to death, under stone. Instead of confessing to witchcraft (which would have saved him) all he did was ask for "more weight" and he died the most awful of deaths. (I would be confessing.)

After the toast, we told scary stories, appropriately. What story did I tell? Did I have a choice? Of course, I told my Head in the Refrigerator story (refer to previous post if you don't know this story). It was delicious, because by the time I was at the "....and then, I received an email, with the subject line all in caps, that read I WILL NOT BE IGNORED" part, everyone was understandably appalled and freaked out. We were in a cemetery, after all. So when I revealed the prank, what do you think they thought of my "friend" Dennis (pictured in lederhosen..."Crime Scene Photo."

The New Yorkers loved him. Especially Craig. He thinks that all of NY would love Dennis and his wicked sense of humor. You know, because New Yorkers are kinda mean. A few couldn't decide what they thought of him, like me, still. So, Dennis, are you feeling proud now? Your evil prank was a hit at the Salem cemetery on Friday the 13th. Good for you. But it was a great story telling night, which reminds me of another plaque I saw by the library:

When we first arrived in Salem, Sandra and I (the only real English teachers of the group) were so excited to see some witch trial stuff because we both teach Arthur Miller's The Crucible. We had less than two hours to eat lunch and be at the museum with the China exhibit, so we ran over to the Salem Witch Museum. I recommend, say, if someone said you had to choose between a sharp stick in your eye or the museum, I would choose the museum.

It was awful. A bunch of scene recreations in a big dark room lit up as a spooky voice told the story we both knew so well. And then, we traveled into the next room, where the 20 year-old museum employee explained the "evolving perceptions wall." It had pictures of all kinds of witches on it, you know, like Samantha and Glenda and the Wicked Witch of the West, and oh yeah, a painting of a witch by De Goya. "This is the museum's really scary representation of a witch" she told us.

The town was full of witch stuff. A witch village, witch shops and restaurants, witches on brooms flying into telephone poles. Enough about that.

So, the moral of the witches is, if you go to Salem, don't be a modern day idiot (I am one) and pour money into touristy traps that allow other modern day idiots to capitalize on this tragedy and go see the Peabody Essex Museum instead. This holds a "jewel" (word used by our professor, Dr. Knapp). A home from the Qing Dynasty was completely dismantled, brick by brick, tile by tile, labeled, crated, shipped and reassembled as part of this museum. Like the biggest puzzle ever. It was truly fantastic and unfathomable how much work had gone into this project. Most people only get 20 minutes inside the house, but we got an hour, plus a tour by the person who knows everything about it, Nancy Berliner. I couldn't take pictures inside the house, but here is the outside:

I bought some postcards of the inside I will try to take pictures of tomorrow when there is more light, but if you would like, here is a link to the site (it's award-winning):

This house was occupied by one family for over 200 years (I mean generations of one family). When we left the house, I told Ron that I could see why he had such a passion for studying Chinese homes. He really lit up at that. When we were in the bookstore, I found a beautiful book about Chinese architecture and realized that Ron was the author. The person behind the desk said to me, "He's HERE today!" Nice.

We had some great seafood in Salem, on the water at Finz' Restaurant. My Cool Kids' Table was also cool about sharing, so even though I ordered the seared tuna over warm rice cake with crab and avocado wasabi sauce, I got to taste the grouper, the lobster ravioli, the scallops over gnocchi and the tilapia. All delicious, but we agreed that the most delicious taste of all was the fried oysters served in a paper bag. Not even very greasy, just soft and perfect with a great aoli. The only dish that wasn't good...the crab cakes. They tasted like Stove Top Stuffing (which is good unless you are eating crab cakes in Massachusetts and they taste like Stove Top).

It is 1:30 Sat night/Sun morning. I'm pretty sure that it's illegal to be in bed right now if you are in NY City for only one month, but man it was a long, hot bus ride from Salem today --five hours. We had a low-key night and just went to Indian Row, in the East Village, to a place called "Taj Mahal," and New York was dressed up and out. Scores of restaurants just inviting a step down and into amazing food, everywhere. Our dinner was good, but I prefer my Vegetarian Kosher finds on Curry Hill, I guess because they are northern and different. I think I am ready to move onto a new food now. I think humbao, right, Brian?

One more witch story. When we were at the graveyard during the day, this caped boy was leading a tour through the cemetery. I wanted to snap a quick picture. He saw me and said to his group, "Oh, let's get out of the way of this woman's picture." I said, "Um, ARE the picture." He said "Oh." Like it wasn't weird that he was leading people in a cape and torch.

Good afternoon, good evening and good night~


Marjie Bowker said...

OK, my good friend Amy left some great comments, but they ended up only in my email inbox. Brian, do you know why? Here they are, even though they are out of order:

1) Hot dogs: I don't eat them but in Desperation, then they taste great! My previous Dog Eatings were in Auschwitz, Moscow, and Belfast. I don't think I've nibbled a NY dog, but certainly a NY Street Pretzel.

2) Never enough Holden references in life. Thank you for infusing my morning with musings on Ducks, phonies and Jane.

The Norris Clan said...

What... you don't have boys in capes carrying torches in Seattle? Maybe that's just Bellingham. So sorry about the witch museum, but I LOVE the Blondie connection. Once again, let's play six degrees of Marjie B.!

Now get out of bed! It's 3 am!

Brian Bowker said...

Great post, Marjie!

I feel bad for the 24 people that didn't get to sit at the "cool kids table". Poor, poor adults.

I looked up some pics by De Goya:
Strange illustrator. Seems kind of like the 18th century version of a heavy metal album artist.

I don't know why Amy's posts wouldn't have posted. Very odd.

jaci said...

Oh my-what a day in Chelsea and so glad you loved your pork and enjoyed the Garden of Eden and toured the Inn. I love knowing you know our hood now...but the topper was your encounter with the "food cop" and his partner always ready with a pen! What a great story! Of course-your adventure in Salem was absolutely so "Wow!" What a perfect setting to share the Dennis/Head story-only you my dear friend Marj would have such amazing karma. Loved the pic of Cape Boy and hearing how much you enjoyed Rent! Keep up the great sharing my friend-it is so fun to be on this adventure with you! love you-jaci

marjie said...

I should have warned you away from the museum in Salem. Sorry. The only cool touristy thing is one of the gift shops run by a real Salem witch; you can get potions and everything. Something for Dennis, perhaps?

marjie said...

Oops...I meant to write that the above comment is Amy's.

Jessica said...

I like how you told the head in the fridge story without mentioning how you did a similar thing to someone else!

marjie said...

Now Jessica, is a public place like this the right venue in which to bring up such a topic? Should I reveal the whole story, by starting with the viaduct and everything? Reputations get ruined on blogs like this!

Jessica said...

i'm not ashamed, but, ok, ok.

Julie said...

I'm so happy I am not the only person to fetishize fictional people indiscriminately! Holden Caulfield and Giles Corey FOREVER!