Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Massachusetts: Salem (1/2)

      Welcome to Salem Massachusetts.

     We have a host in this area - Rick DiGiammarino.  

      Rick grew up in Marble Head and after extensive traveling ended up back in this area.  Among other things, Rick took 4 years of photography classes in college.  After college he did a stint in the Marine Corp and did a good bit of traveling.

     He both teaches and works as a professional photographer in this area, he is the lead guitarist in a local band, he is a full time fire-fighter, a father and husband to a great lady who teaches clinical nursing at a local college and is just completing her nurse practitioner certification.  He was a joy to spend time with.

     Rick acted as chauffeur for several days, and I will first share a couple of his photos taken while we were exploring Salem, Marblehead and  Swampscott. 

    This one was taken at The House of Seven Gables. 

     And this one was taken lying on his back on the floor, shooting up through a spiral staircase in a local museum.

     And so we start with Salem.  Situated on what locals call the North Shore (the coast north of Cape Cod) Salem boasts a population of about 40,000.

     1626 is when the area was first settled, with one Roger Conant leading the community.  Two years later one John Endecott was sent to run the colony, and as compensation for stepping aside gracefully Conant was given 200 acres of land.  The resulting cooperation between the two men set the tone for a peaceful colony, and the name "Salem" was chosen as it was a variation of a word meaning "peace."     

     In 1639 this became the first beachhead in the New World for the Puritan Church.  The peaceful community was done - the Puritans imposed harsh fines and penalties on anyone who didn't conform to their notions.  By the end of the 1600's their twisted views of life had them chasing demons - literally.  Punishments increased and included shunning, seizure of property and banishment.  It wasn't long before their perversions led them to decide that anyone that didn't fit was to be branded a "witch" and put to death.  The whole story is a bit more complicated than that, but regardless this legacy left a stain on the area.  Ironically, in modern times that legacy has turned into a commercialized identity.

     The sheltered harbor became a haven for "privateers" - which are nothing more than state sanctioned pirates.  They would attack and plunder any ships they could get away with, and locals are credited with "liberating" numerous British vessels.

     The ships used in privateering were too large to use in the coastal trade business, so locals started in the international trade business.  The West Indies, China, Japan India and Africa were popular destinations.

     The prosperity resulted in hundreds of homes being built, many which survive to this day.

     Today Salem celebrates Halloween for a full 31 days, beginning with a parade on the 1st of October.  In the photo below you can see the port-a-potties lining the edge of a park.  

     The House of Seven Gables is a structure built in 1668 that survives to this day.

     It served as inspiration for Nathaniel Hawthorne's 1850 book of the same title.

     His book was a tale full of betrayal, sudden deaths, curses and hauntings, serving to start cementing Salem's reputation for the "paranormal."

    Today this house, along with 5 other homes spanning three centuries are a museum filled with many period pieces.

     There is another museum here in Salem - a world class museum.  

     Starting clear back in the late 1700's, local ship captains began collecting objects of interest from all over the world.  The best of these items along with many other items of historical interest are housed in the Peabody Essex Museum.

     There are many impressive exhibits - I will just share a few that caught my eye.

     By 1825 the group had collected so many items they purchased a dedicated exhibition hall.  The model ship above is almost big enough to be used as a canoe.  The next one is made of ivory.

     The Pacific Northwest provided many treasures - such as this old ceremonial mask.  Shamans would wear the mask and dance themselves into a trance in which they were transported to the spirit world.  Upon their return they would share about their experience with their fellow tribesmen.

     I found this bed from China pretty impressive.

     The whole thing is intricately carved - really quite amazing.

     Sharing its space was an entire elephant tusk that was carved even more intricately.  Here is a table showing some great craftsmanship.

     The wood veneer work is spectacular.

     Unique modern craftsmanship gets a nod too, with several of the "Strandbeest Dream Machines" built by Leo Jansen.

     Propelled by the wind, these machines will "walk" along in a breeze.

    Those of you in South Carolina will appreciate this - the truck below has the logo of a popular local restaurant on it.

     "In a Pigs Eye" - featuring Low Country BBQ.  A bit of Charleston in Massachusetts.

     In a downtown cemetery, a memorial of 20 stone benches commemorates each of the 14 women and 6 men who were put to death for being "witches."

     This is widely considered to be the low water-mark of jurisprudence in the United States.  But today, and especially for the month of October, much of the town's commerce centers around "witches" and "witchcraft."

     Many a door is adorned with a witch.

     Some spookier than others.

     Tomorrow we will wrap up on Salem and look around Marble Head.  

     In response to several people who have inquired how I manage to live in a van on the road, I am including a couple of recent photos.

     The van is a 2003 Dodge Caravan that has 120,000 miles on it.   (Recently, the trip meter used for this journey clicked past 30,000 miles.)

     The brakes have been going bad for a while, and a recent contribution allowed me to replace them along with the rotors, which were too far gone to save.  The battery has been going bad and a few other minor things needed attention.  So I was able to spend a day working on the van.  This is behind an old warehouse last Sunday.

     All the "junk" in the photo above is just what is packed into the top half of the van.  The bottom half has even more.

     Plastic storage bins line the floor.

     These are filled with carpentry tools, auto repair tools, camping gear, office equipment and other miscellaneous items that are necessary but not needed on a daily basis.

     Capping the layer of 8 bins are 2 sheets of plywood cut so that each side can be individually accessed.  Atop that goes some matting, then along one half of the back goes 2 sheets of memory foam.

      Alongside the memory foam goes two big coolers that contain non-perishable food goods.  At the head of the bed is a toolbox with commonly needed hand tools.

      Along the passenger side door are packed a mechanic's socket and wrench tool box, a tool bag and a briefcase with commonly needed office supplies.

     The two front bins are slightly shorter than the rest of the bins, allowing for them to be easily slid out the sides.  The passenger side holds jacks, jackstands, fluids and other items that can be accessed quickly in case of a roadside breakdown.  I have had a couple of those, but luckily every problem so far has been fairly easily resolved.

     This leaves space alongside the bed for laundry bags.  

     Underneath in the back the tripod, first aid kit, jumper cables and a duffel bag into which a wide variety of commonly needed items are stuffed.

     The front seat floor holds a small cooler for perishables, a water jug and a trashcan.  The passenger seat carries the backpack with camera, computer and other electronics.  I know how enticing it looks, but there is only room for one in this rig.

     That brings us to today's "Faces in the Crowd:"

     He looks tired.  And today's parting shot:

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Make it a great day !!

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