Entry for October 16, 2007: Salem, birthday

Friends, thank you for the birthday wishes. I've received numerous e-cards, and Janice gave me some henley shirts, Volume 2 of the Loony Tunes Golden Collection on DVD, and a chocolate cake! In the coming year, I look forward to celebrating the 40th birthdays of several friends in my cohort, although I don't know how many I'll be able to travel to.

On Saturday, 13 October 2007, we decided on the spur of the moment to drive up to Salem, Massachusetts, for the afternoon. Since we moved to New England about eight years ago, I've only been there twice: first with college chum Corbin A.Y. and then with Janice about four years ago. However, neither visit was as close to Halloween as this one.

The crisp autumn air was offset by a strong sun as we wandered through a street festival and various shops. Although I'm as big a fan of All Hallows' Eve celebrations as anyone, we should remember the religious zealotry, mass hysteria, and introverted small-town affairs that led to the deaths of 19 colonists.

The juxtaposition of the 400-year-old cemetery and the simple memorial to those killed in the infamous witch hunt with noisy food vendors right outside the cemetery gates and gaudy modern "museums" of witchcraft, piracy, and monsters has to be seen to be believed. Still, we enjoyed the carnival atmosphere (similar to New Orleans at Mardi Gras) and readily joined the tourist crowds thronging Salem.

Among the New Age and souvenir shops, we were pleased to find some good book stores, including Cornerstone Books and Harrison's Comics & Collectibles. For history buffs, there's also the Peabody Essex Museum, the House of the Seven Gables, the sailing ship Friendship, and a few antique and art galleries. We browsed through a neogothic art show.

We had lunch at the New England Soup Factory and dessert at A&J King Artisan Bakery. On the way home, we stopped for dinner at Fuddrucker's, whose hamburgers I fondly remember from college in Upstate New York. On Sunday, between rejoining David I.S. and friends online for City of Heroes and running errands, we had lunch at Stone Hearth Pizza, another new upscale restaurant in Needham, Mass.

Although I won't be hosting the annual costumed session for the local role-playing group this year, I've been invited to a few Halloween parties and look forward to dressing up. As I saw in a documentary last year, the holiday has evolved from a pagan harvest festival to a solemn religious commemoration to a secular event for children to an occasion for adult Saturnalia-style parties.

On my birthday itself, I received telephone calls from my family, and Janice cooked spinach fettuccini and meatballs. Earlier today, I met fellow SUNY-Binghamton alumnus Cliff Y. for the first time since his wife Eliza had given birth to their son Timmy several months ago. We ate lunch at Curry Leaf, an Indian buffet near where we work.

This coming weekend, some of my in-laws will be visiting eastern Massachusetts, and we'll either visit the Southwick Zoo or the New England Aquarium, depending on the weather.