Monday, October 15, 2012

Day 5 - Witches and Wine

Day 5 of the cleanse and my first weekend is behind me! The most pleasant first weekend of a cleanse ever! I'm drinking a cup of my own homemade anti-inflammatory chai tea (recipe later) which is always good for a hangover, but just as delicious when I'm clean and sober. At times yesterday, I was so happy I could literally feel the dopamine surging through me. It's so encouraging to be without alcohol ... and not be depressed!

But more from the trip ...

After a stunning drive through the autumn colors out of Vermont, we made our way toward the winding, historic streets of Salem, Massachusetts.  The site of the infamous Witch Trials of 1692 - a period that lasted only a few months and saw at least 20 executions with many others imprisoned - Salem has become the symbol of hysteria, corruption and religious excess.

In the 1600s, the idea of supernatural spirits was common. Farmers used 'magic' to help with their farming - incantations that probably amounted to not much more than modern day prayers. But in a time when Puritans ruled the land, any kind of religious accoutrements associated with the Church of England were opposed, including the simple use of crucifixes during baptisms. It was a time of superstition, fear and control. 

When two young girls began to suffer from unexplained 'fits' in the winter of 1692, a female beggar, a remarried woman who didn't attend church, and a slave were blamed for the behavior and charged with witchcraft.

The first woman to be hanged in the Salem Witch Trials was Bridget Bishop. There was some speculation it had to do with her second husband's property rights, but she was also known to be a bit of a wild woman by Puritan standards. She even hosted drinking and gambling parties (gasp!) at 'unseasonable' hours. Considering how the Puritans frowned on drinking (and fun and freedom of any kind) so started the campaign against people who can only be classified as 'different.' 

I've wanted to visit Salem most of my life. So as we began closing in on the small town of about 40,000 people, I grew excited. Especially seeing the old Federal style and Victorian mansions lining the narrow streets. 

Repeat ... narrow streets. 

Salem might've been the perfect spot for witches ... but it ain't no place for modern day traffic. Because apparently THOUSANDS of other tourists share my fascination for witches - especially on a Saturday afternoon. We sincerely couldn't get within six blocks of the famous downtown streets of Salem, full of witch museums, historical buildings and, apparently, sixty restaurants to feed the throngs. 

It was insane! You know how you're not supposed to 'block the box' in New York? Well, blocking the box is par for the course in Salem - at least when it comes to tourists. And when you're talking about streets that seem about 12 feet wide, flanked by overgrown trees, churches and imposing old mansions - with not a single parking spot for non-residents - it was modern day gridlock trapped in the what seemed like the dark ages.

After several useless circles of the blocks, we said "Fuck this nonsense! Another time!" But the hubby did find a graveyard for me to shuffle into to research a scene for my witch book. The ancient King Cemetery was about the size of a city block, surrounded by old mansions in ironic candy-color shades. It was elevated from the street, with old crypts built right into the weed-infested earth.



With my iPhone in hand I tiptoed around as respectfully as I could, taking shots of the grayed and crumbling stones.  Most of them dated back to the late 1600s and early 1700s. Many of the graves were for children aged five or younger. There were great trees shading the area and one spooky dead one in the middle. 

I knew lunch was still more than an hour away, but I wasn't even thinking about a drink. 

It's amazing to be in this place. Because ten years ago, we couldn't leave the house for two hours without a stop for me to have a glass of wine. I would be miserable and I would make sure the hubs was miserable too. He actually started scheduling wine-stops into our afternoons so that we could get the damn grocery shopping done without a tantrum. I NEEDED to drink - always. 

So it's a wonderful feeling to be able to spend hours on the fiery fall roads of Vermont and then hours more in traffic in Salem or at graveyards and to feel ... fulfilled, happy and free - without a drink. 

Drink #1 for that day came about 4pm in Boston. After another hour of insane traffic - where the GPS took us back and forth across the Charles River several times because of all the one-way streets, we finally pulled the fully-packed car over and went out in search of snacks. (Though I was fascinated to see the Charles River because our cousin, Meghan - an accomplished young woman in many ways - rowed for Boston U back when Facebook was still "thefacebook" at her main competition across the river, Harvard. Super cool!) 

We ended up in Boston Beer Works right next to Fenway Park. It was a cacophony of flatscreen TVs all blaring college football games. The fella had a brew, I had a glass of pinot grigio (not the most generous I've ever had) and we each had a cup of New England Clam Chowder - natch. It was so thick you could stand a baseball bat in it. Not the best we would have (we had clam chowder every day of the trip!) but very tasty. We clicked glasses, happy to be out of traffic, away from witches and sitting down for some refreshments. 

That was the first of many memorable toasts in Massachusetts ... 

Sources:
"A Brief History of the Salem Witch Trials" by Jess Blumberg, Oct. 27, 2007, Smithsonianmag.com
"Bridget Bishop - Salem Witch Trials" by Jone Johnson Lewis, womenshistory.about.com
Wikipedia




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