Saturday, 13 May 2017

Salem - Beware of the Witches!!!

Isi and I woke up early, like very early with one wish and one wish only. A softer bed. We slept on what felt like a wooden plank covered in cloth. I usually judge how well I slept these days by checking how much I need to stretch. Nowadays, I can typically touch my toes fairly easily when standing up with my legs straight. The more stiff I am, the less I can lean forward. Today, I could hardly touch my knees, it was that bad.

We quickly decided to explore the possibility of buying cheap, inflatable mattresses to soften our beds. With this in mind and microwaved apple-cinnamon porridge in my stomach, we made our way to Boston's north station to go to Salem and meet Al and Hilary.

I was looking forward to meeting them again so much, as it has been more than 6 years since they have moved to Boston to find better jobs. Hilary grew up in these parts of the world and Al did not mind leaving Scotland behind on account of there being no jobs. Some of you may know that it is the exact same reason that I left bonny Scotland.

As it is habit between Al and myself, we readied ourselves for the occasion by consistently insult each other via WhatsApp. Just to give you a taste, here is the most recent exchange of pleasantries. I have so little chance to talk semi-offensive nonsense at work that I always look forward to this banter ;-)

WhatsApp Exchange
Me: We arrived in Massachussetts :)
Al: I thought I could sense and ungodly unrest
Me. Sorry. I had to fart around New Haven.
Me: We'll try to be in Salem with the train that'll arrive at 10:51
Al: Great. I shall gather the minions and meet you from said vessel
Me: Have you taught your minions to be mischievous yet?
Al: My minions need no such teachings.
Al: It is but second nature
Me: In this splendid case, I shall rest in the knowledge that your life is miserable and await the morrow
Al and Hilary are now parents to two wonderful sons, Cuilin (3 yrs) and Angus (1 yr), which is also the reason why it was fine to meet them early in the morning. For all of you non-parents out there (like myself actually). Bringing a child into the world seems to also mean that you bring an unreliable biological alarm clock into the world that tends to wake you somewhere between 5:00am and 7:00am on any given day of the week. You never know when but it will be earlier than you expect.

Al, Cuilin and myself (from right to left) pretending to be pirates
So they picked us up from the train station and we had a look at lovely Salem. Not sure, if you are familiar with the town, but it has made a name for itself in the year 1692 when it held several witch trials where they accused young women of being witches and subsequently hung them all except one woman that they buried under rocks and kept on piling more rocks on top of her until the weight crushed her body. There are still memorial stones in memory of these deaths in the small town.

This same Salem that was such a staunch defender of God's word and that consisted of faitful, god-fearing men has now turned into a bit of a Mecca for witchcraft, potions, curses and fortune-tellers. In the city center there are more shops about witchcraft than I have seen in all my life before that. Quite frankly, if I had an extra suitcase and a couple of grand to spare, I could have easily spent it on stuff in there. It was quite very awesome :)

Isabel fighting a lost cause in trying to tear open the shackles that hold this long deceased prisoner captive

Isi getting comfortable as a witch :-D
Apart from that it is one of those lovely and idyllic New England towns on the Atlantic coast that you know from many, many Hollywood movies. We strolled through the town and had a general browse while catching up about what has happened since the last time we saw each other. It is always difficult to pack the highlights of a six year period into a couple of hours ;)

One thing that came up, of course, is the effect that Donald Trump's presidency has on life in the US. I mean, I knew it was bad... but I did not know that it was 'that' bad. The change in the healthcare plan that the Trump administration is planning alone has the potential to either bankrupt people or leave them without any healthcare from one day to the next.
In Europe, you can definitely feel a gradual decline in offered healthcare services, but for the critical things, there is still a good support... in the US, it may change from basic care to nothing with one amendment from one day to the next.
It is a crazy and uncertain time to live in the USA at the moment, that is for sure.
Cuilin pretending to be Frankenstein. It was funny to see him combine a lot of Al's gesturing with Hilary's personality.

The toy vikings hats and drink horn/whistle combo was well-received. I wonder if Hilary will still secretly hate me soon, because I gave Cuilin these things.

Delirium elephant hats are always the way to go if not sure
After a meal together, we took a little trip with a bus like vehicle that gave us a tour of Salem with a bus guide telling us a bunch of anecdotes. Seeing the town itself was nice, but the tour guide was a little strange in my opinion.
He had a very strong New England accent and apparently he was a very typical person from this part of the world. Essentially, what I could make out, the tend not to say the 'r's too heavily, but instead extend the vowel, e.g. car is 'caaah'and he would randomly start shouting when he thought what he said was very important. So he gave us a bunch of stories, how Salem and their own were involved in fighting the English for independence and how there were so many kind, social acts that various citizens of Salem did for others, like creating a swimming pool for the workers adn letting them and their families use it for free and give them ice cream for free. While all these feats were very generous, they struck me as odd, because of for one thing, the stark contrast to today's political landscape in the US and also because they did not sound so laudable to me that you should still speak about them about 150 years later.
I was getting quite sleepy by that point so maybe I missed a couple of points. I just woke up everytime he raised his voice again ;)

In the end, the kids were getting tired, so we parted ways with them and decided to try and meet up again before we leave for home. Once back in Boston, we first went to a shop to look at the inflatable mattresses, realise that they are all a bit too expensive for our liking and decided to give it another try to night. Maybe tomorrow's back pain will give us more incentive to buy them ;-)

As a last thing, I wanted to watch a UFC event that is on pay-per-view, so we went to a pub to watch it there. Sadly, they did not show it :-(. The only pub that we could find that "may" show it, was half across town, so we left it and went back home to find out that we bought 3 tins of ready made food but had no can opener :-/ First off, well done, Johannes :-D and secondly, thank you USA for having 24/7 supermarkets where you can buy can openers for $6.99 :-)

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