Living in Downtown Salem

A couple of Hallowe’ens ago here in Salem, I and my lovely roommate at the time were taking one of the husband’s ghost-hunting tours (yes…I know…but most people knew it was just a laugh). There was one portion that takes us down an alleyway off of Essex Street, past the side of the Essex apartments and around the back of the Lyceum restaurant (now called 62). The husband would sit perched on the edge of a stair railing that led into the back of City Hall and tell us a tale of a suspected famous Rhode Island vampire.

It was October, and the crowd was surprisingly plenty. I and our roommate had seen his tour a few times, so our nascent attention deficit could be explained by the fact that we were just girly, unsupportive, bored housemates with not much else to do that night. But when half of his tour group (who were closer to us) were also giggling and not paying attention, the husband couldn’t figure out why a normally hanging-on-his-every-word tour group was now showing the faltering attention span of a kitten with a ball of yarn.

I later explained to him that we saw Batman crouching on a nearby rooftop.

One of the many occasions in Salem when I wished I’d had a camera (especially on a ghost-hunting tour that specifically requests that you snap away with your flash). To this day, I wish I could capture the hilarious awkwardness of this intently-crouching, costumed figure, lit from behind by one of the street-lights, his stoic vigilant pose somewhat orphaned from the moment by some snickering tourists who could only stifle their giggles at the surrealism of it all. But I guess only words will have to do.

Our superhero said nothing, did nothing, and by the time we had turned to walk down another alleyway to come out the other side of City Hall on Washington Street, he was gone like a flimsy CVS carrier bag pirouetting with the night breeze, and we felt oddly safe from the strange man with the beard and long hair and top hat taking us down a dodgy-looking alleyway talking about vampires.

From my new flat, I can see those alleyways from here. I can see City Hall, I can see Essex Street, I can see all the way in the distance to the yucky power plant in the distance. So there is virtually no excuse for what I’m about to tell the husband today: “I just can’t be bothered to go out and do anything”.

It’s not terribly warm today, but I’ve had to keep the windows open all night. The sun blasts in through here and wakes me up on weekends at around 8.30am, which, considering I work at stupid hours throughout the week, is lovely, because it discourages me from staying up too late and screwing up my workweek sleep schedule (wow – I’m getting old). During the week in the morning I get to see the sunrise as I get ready. It’s a humbling sight (take that, double rainbow guy).

I can’t even begin to imagine the convenience this will bring during October. Downtown Salem is a relatively small area anyway, and I have always lived within a decent proximity of it. But I am truly loving the fact that if I have 3 pints and refuse to use the questionable ladies’ facilities at The Old Spot (particularly when they’re out of both soap and loo roll), I can make a crotch-grabbing dash back to my flat and perpetuate this obsessive-compulsive germ shelter. The husband joked that we should charge tourists to use the loo in the same way that greedy homeowners list their own parking spaces on Craigslist in October.

Living downtown also brings new meaning to the phrase “popping out”. I really can “pop out” to get some quarters for the washing machine (ugh) and then pop right back out again when I realise I’ve forgotten to buy some laundry detergent for the washing machine. And then pop back out again to pick up some mini quiches from the little organic greengrocer around the corner, and resist the urge to walk a little bit further and buy some Chipsticks and Cadbury’s from Pamplemousse. Saying, “I’m too tired” just doesn’t fly anymore. It’s all just so close!

Actually, having said that, there is a new excuse I could use:

“I can’t afford to go out today, because I pay for an apartment with this view.”


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