Season of the Witch

As the constant reader knows, I needed a flippin’ break.  I have been under massive amounts of stress, what with a sick mother, and an apartment hunt, and a new job.  I was even diagnosed with Acute Stress Disorder and my psychiatrist doubled my meds.  As I like to say about the recent situation, everything is on fire, and has been for a few months.  So naturally, when it came time for the girl’s trip I planned last year, I wanted to bail a little. The timing just seemed so terrible…and yet, everyone encouraged me to go, damn the circumstance.  So, I did.  And oh, am I glad I did!

Much in the way that a week in the Bahamas with my sister renewed my spirit many years ago, this little jaunt to Salem, Massachusetts did exactly the same.  We were staying smack dab between there and Boston, and I was thinking we might take in both cities, but there was so much to do in Salem that Boston was easily discarded as a destination.

The first night we had dinner at a bar called The Witches Brew, where the waitress told us where to go and what to avoid-excellent information for the bewildered tourist.  We walked around for a bit and got our bearings, then planned the next day and headed back to the hotel.  In the morning we returned, and discovered Essex St, which is a walkable road with shops and tourist attractions and restaurants.  (PS all of Salem is walkable.  It’s amazing.  Catch up, Buffalo.)  Essex St. is probably the most touristy part of the area…when we were back on Saturday, there were street performers, too (and a ton more people.)  Anyway, we took a red trolley on a ride around the city, where a colorful tour guide named Skip gave us interesting information peppered with corny jokes.  It was nice to ride around and hear the history and see the sights, plus it gave me a sense of direction around the city.  I am used to meticulously planned towns, not the wild growth of villages you find in New England. 

After the trolley tour, we went to a magic shop called Pentagram, where I got a tarot reading.  Oooh boy…that was intense.  She asked if I had any questions and I told her: “Everything is on fire.  When will that let up?” Short answer: next year.  Long answer: the reader saw two issues…sickness and uncertainty.  Further cards told her the sickness was not mine but my mother’s, so score one point for the tarot reader.  The uncertainty cards unfolded to reveal my fears of change regarding “moving on,” as she said…as I am LITERALLY trying to move into a new home.  Then she stops, smiles, and tells me my grandfather is there.  No message…he just wanted me to know he was hanging out.  (Later, when I told this to my father, he laughed heartly and sad “sounds like Dad.”)  At the end, she told me I have power within me that I am not utilizing, which makes her the second psychic to tell me that.   (More on this in my next blog.)  She also told me that this time next year, everything with be different in a good way.  So…only a few more months of fire expected.

Then we went to the Salem Witch Museum.  It was…fine.  They have these tableaus with terrifying mannequins that light up as a narrator who sounds like Vincent Price tells you about the trials.   Then you go into another exhibit where a different loudspeaker narrator shows you three tableaus of witches through the years.  One cool thing they have is a copy of The Wizard of Oz script, but sadly no photography was allowed.  I also really liked that they compared the trials to McCarthyism, which was my term paper topic in high school.  After, you exit through the gift shop.  I very much remember the gift shop from when I went with my parents when I was 9…but I don’t think we saw the exhibit, because that horror would have surely etched itself in my brain.  All in all, I don’t think it was worth the 17 bucks.  Especially if you already know the story and if you don’t…why did you even come here?  But I digress…

That night we had booked a private tour, because I wasn’t interested in the group ones where 50 people follow a man with a blowhorn around.  Instead, I found a night time witch history/ghost story tour, and it was just us three following a cloaked and top hatted man with a lantern through dark city alleyways (we are so clearly not in Buffalo anymore, Toto.)  Truthfully, it was awesome, because he had a tale for every step we took, and it was so cool that it was just the four of us out there when there were like dozens of mass tour groups floating around…we got to see nooks and crannies they literally couldn’t fit into, like a smuggler’s alley, for instance.  The best spot was the Ropes Mansion Garden (the Ropes Mansion is Allison’s house from Hocus Pocus, in case you were wondering.  Sidebar: Salem folk are NOT HAPPY Hocus Pocus 2 filmed in New Hampshire.)  There was a bench there where you could sit and commune with the spirits that I thought was pretty neat.

After the two-hour walking tour, we were beat, and headed back to the hotel.  In the morning, it was the day of the AFSP Out of the Darkness walk.  I was missing the event back home, but I raised $750 this year, so I had to do my part in some way.  We started our morning with coffee and a lovely little nature hike along a birdwatching trail near our hotel.  It was shorter than expected, but since I got like 18k steps in the previous day, I figured I could easily make up the couple miles I would have done for the walk.  (And I did.  We walked like 17 miles the whole trip.)

We went back into the city and parked the car, then schlepped over to the Satanic Temple, fifteen minutes away.  I was very excited for this because I think TST is really cool….and if you don’t, it’s probably because you don’t know anything about them, or you think they are connected to The Church of Satan, who are pretty much the “bad guys” of the Satanic world.  I will go into this at some point in the future, because it would actually make for a super interesting blog post.  Anyhoo, we got there and we didn’t have vax cards on us because we are morons, so we couldn’t go in, which was a dissappointm4ent.

So, then we schlepped back to Salem proper.  FInally, the highlight of the trip: Witch Pix.  Witch Pix is a photography studio that dresses you up like a witch and then takes professional photos. I dressed as a “warrior witch,” with a teal fur cape, black and gold brocade corset dress, and black horns.  The pictures were STUNNING and we had so much fun. 

After some more shopping and such, we headed back to the hotel and had dinner, and then we decided to perform a spell.  Sahar bought a little kit for a healing spell, and we did it for my mother.  The crazy part is that I was ending the spell by blowing out a candle, and the moment I did, Sahar’s bag fell off the table.  Coincidence? I think not.

Anyway, we just hung out for a bit, then slept, and in the morning, I had the best and unhealthiest breakfast ever: fried French toast topped with Nutella and strawberries.  Afterwards, we headed home.  7 hours and 4 pee breaks later, and we were back in the Buffalo.

So.  That was my trip.  Was it fun?  Absolutely.  Will I travel with these awesome women again?  Yup, just tell me when and where, ladies!  Did it change my entire outlook on life?

…tune in Thursday for the answer to this and more questions.

Happy Monday.

Into the Woods

When Mark brought up the idea of a family camping trip, I was firmly against it.  That’s a two on four situation and we would be in the woods with no electricity.  Hard pass.  He suggested we ask my parents.

I asked my parents to take me camping all the time when I was a kid and it never happened once.  My mother did accompany me to Girl Scout camp one year, which was nice of her, and another time we went hiking at Allegany, which was fun but would have been better if we had brought a tent.

So, when I was in the hospital, I thought long and hard about the camping idea.  I was a Girl Scout for my entire young life, and Mark spent his weekend roaming the woods as a child, so we have no problem with the scenario at all.  We’d go camping at any opportunity, if we had a tent.  As for my parents, people tend to go the extra mile for their grandkids, so I don’t know why I was surprised when my mom was all in on the idea.   Now were at a 4:4 ratio, 5:4 if my sister can get off work.  That’s doable.  That’s achievable.  That doesn’t leave me and Mark searching the woods because M wandered off the beaten path.

And so, we’re going camping.  The first task has been to find a cabin, which I have, and am just waiting to book until later today after my mother checks her work schedule.  It has no electricity, which means the children will have to detox.  (And, lets be real, the adults.  We’ve already discussed whether to get a power bank for our phones.)  It is, in fact, the exact same cabin I stayed in during my last camping trip when I was 19.  My mother wanted electricity at first, but booking of those cabins happens a year in advance, and the only available ones I found were outrageously priced.  Instead we will haul out lanterns and flashlights and find a way to make it all work.  The kids will learn new skills that will help them someday, and they will have the experience of camping for the first time.  We will go hiking and fishing and swimming, and we will enjoy our summer days and our time together.

I’m really looking forward to camping.  Which is surprising considering how against it I was in the first place.  Now, though, it seems like a celebration of my family, and that is what I’m really anticipating.