Where to Watch the 2014 World Cup in Salem!


We’re a couple of days in, but The 2014 World Cup is upon us! In keeping with my stubborn stubbornness to shake off any lingering remnants of my Britishness, I decided to conduct a wee bit of research to see which bars in downtown Salem are showing any/all/some of the matches:

 A&B Burgers (50 St Peter St/Old Salem Jail)
They confirmed on their Facebook page that they’ll be showing every single match on their big screens. Bonus:  They’ve also got a LivingSocial deal on ($30 for $15).

Expat 1UP: They have a shandy on draft! The Narragansett Summer Shandy. And it’s not too lemon-y.

 O’Neill’s of Salem (120 Washington St)
If every post on their Facebook page wasn’t enough to convince you that they’ll be showing every match, go take a look at the giant banner outside announcing that they’re Salem’s World Cup headquarters.

Expat 1UP: Being an Irish pub! Get yer Guinness on.

 The Old Spot (121 Essex St)
Salem’s very own British-style pub will of course be showing every single match, but they do only have the one telly.

Expat 1UP: It’s a British-style pub, so they have Strongbow (the drink of proud students and tramps), Wells Banana Bread beer, and Pimms.

Village Tavern (168 Essex St)
Confirmed that they’ll be showing every match. Along with A&B, they’re one of the few on this list that have an outdoor seating area, so you can pop outside for a pint or five during half-time.

Expat 1UP: If you ask nicely (and I have done), you can get a little side order of a tastier version of the student fare I grew up with: fries topped with cheese and baked beans. If you’re extra nice, they might even sprinkle a few scallions on top.

Salem Beer Works (278 Derby St)
When asked, they said they “have the game on now”, but didn’t clarify if they’d be showing all of them. I’d imagine they’re likely to at least show the USA games, or if there are no conflicts with more in-demand sporting events.

Longboards Restaurant and Bar (72 Wharf St)
From their Facebook page: “Personally, we are not huge fans of the World Cup, however with 70″ TV’s, we see no reason why a little soccer cant be watched! Stop down and enjoy some food and drink specials, its always comfortable down here at Longboards! Cheers!”

Expat 1UP: They used the word “Cheers”.

 Flying Saucer Pizza Company (118 Washington St)
Possibly! But it’s worth an ask. They do only have the one TV that is sports/news-related, but if you ask nicely, they will stick on a game for you (the other telly is reserved for Netflix-y geeky awesomeness).


If You’d Rather Not Mingle With The Peasants:

If you’d rather have the full, British at-home experience, hit up Pamplemousse (185-189  Essex St) for some British beers and ales. They also have an increasingly large selection of English chocolates (hands off the Cadbury’s Fruit & Nut; it’s all MINE). Salem Wine Imports at 32 Church St sometimes has a nice little selection of import beers, too.

Recommended World Cup App:

Having moved from a country that never sees any sun, I often actually go outside and bask in the sunshine (though I learnt recently that even brown people can burn in overcast New England summers). And given that soccer/football’s not that big out here, being out in the sunny world makes it easy for me to forget that I’m supposed to be indoors watching the match.

A mate of mine recommended Onefootball Brasil, which, along with all the usual fixtures/results/etc. that the other apps give you, it actually sends push notifications to remind you about a match that you totally forgot was starting (something I’m perplexed that even the official FIFA app doesn’t provide). Recently sponsored by Volkswagen, you can trust it over the other dubious apps that are flooding the app markets. Oh, and it’s free!



As for me, I’m lucky to have (legal!) access to  streaming UK coverage on those evenings when I feel like staying in. But, given that I’m supporting England, it’s (sadly) not exactly a long-term commitment. England will probably bite it in the quarter-finals, and only after normal play, injury/stoppage time, both halves of extra time, regular penalties, and then sudden death penalties, during which the youngest, most inexperienced player will have a go, miss, and be mercilessly sacrificed to our football gods, after which the process shall begin anew.



31 Days of Hallowe’en, Day 31: Trick ‘r Treat (2007)


source: drespacial.com

Reading the summary of this movie on Wikipedia (intended as a refresher), I’m now ashamed to be reviewing this movie. I’d thought I’d been paying attention, but there were a couple of things I’d missed, mostly about how the stories in this anthology-type film intersect.

Based on the imagery and setting alone, this movie was the perfect pick for Hallowe’en day. Jack-o-lanterns everywhere (I did this makeup today as a botched headless horseman costume idea), tons of people in costume, and almost every horror staple in the book – vampires, witches, werewolves, ghosts/demons, urban legends, er, serial killers…and boobs. Lots of boobs. But the whole movie is so self-aware and so tongue-in-cheek that it’s kind of easy to ignore this (no spoilers, but there’s one brilliant scene involving nudity that couldn’t be done any other way). Said scene even includes a classic Marilyn Manson  track.

source: zombiehamster.com

But I’m getting ahead of myself. This movie comprises four loosely-connected stories, all set during Hallowe’en in a busy town in Ohio, famed for its spooky festivities. Each story has its own set of characters and sometimes a bit of a twist, but they’re all directed and written by X2 (i.e. X-Men: The Best One) scribe Michael Dougherty; this is his directorial debut. The great thing that I’m just learning about horror anthology movies is that because the individual segments are so short, they’re mostly plot-driven, (and therefore well-paced), and  there’s not too much time for character development or much beyond superficial character-role establishment. This in turn makes it difficult to predict which characters will live or die.

What ties the movie together, other than the bits and pieces that intersect, is a seemingly adorable, child-sized spirit called Sam. He wears a mini burlap  sack on his head and shuffles about in a onesie. Yet he wields pumpkin lollipop-shaped daggers, superhuman strength, and a distinct lack of patience for those who do not abide by Hallowe’en traditions (including shunning trick-or-treaters). Sometimes he sits in the background of a scene, others he’s one of the central characters.

source: drafthouse.com

I still can’t get over the imagery. I wish Salem was that good. But I’ve noticed that a lot of stuff got dropped from the Haunted Happenings calendar this year (the “Bootiful Pets”/”Furry Friends Fright Fest” pet costume contest is no longer around), or things have got outsourced to other cities like Lynn. Whatever activities are left are things that haven’t changed in years (how many more times do I want to hear the same monologues over and over again at The House of the Seven Gables?). I know the movie was, er, a movie set, but I wish the city could have even decorated better; the movie had more than just wilted hay bales strapped sloppily to lamp posts. Also, I noticed there were no “Christian” street preachers screaming hate speech through megaphones (yep, screaming through megaphones or mics attached to standing speakers. Salem’s phoning in Hallowe’en now. The only thing worth it is people-watching for costumes.

Sorry; I digress. The movie was great – just the right amount of spooky, funny, engaging, gruesome, and terrifying. Most of the violence and gore in this film are very much offset by the blackly comic tone, or the deliberately campy SFX, which I’m a bit of a wuss to admit I need when I see that almost all of the people in danger are vulnerable in some way (especially children – how often do you see that on film?). I hate to use the term “instant classic” but I feel that that term can be occasionally valid, and it is here – I just watched it, and I can see myself watching it again next year, though maybe with the sick parts edited out (like the distant sounds of dismemberment, or pretty much everything in the final, not-as-funny-as-the-others segment). I hear there’s going to be a sequel

. Can’t wait!

No more American Hustle movie stars in Salem, MA


And so we are back to normal again. The trucks have gone (I never did manage to score some free food, but if the aforementioned anecdotal comment on Patch was anything to go by, maybe all that delicious bacon would have been lost on me).

While the many recurring stars of David O’Russell’s Abscam movie American Hustle have left us, it was still cool to see how unassuming a location shoot could be. I’d never really got this close to a shoot before, but everything was so laid-back and relaxed (the hippie overheard a crew member saying, “wow, I wish it were as easy to film in Boston [as it is here]”), that if it weren’t for the rigs, all those trucks and vans might have just looked as though someone with a penchant for ’70s clothing was moving into one of the properties on Federal St. Oh, and the costumed extras, I guess:











David O’Russell rushing over to the next building






There weren’t even any spectators until Wednesday, after word started to get out, and even then, it was only a small gathering of local residents that thinned out as the evening grew colder.

I’d rather not post the photos themselves, but here’s a few links from other eyewitnesses so that the original sources can be credited:

Bradley Cooper – Federal St Courthouse:




Jennifer Lawrence – arriving in Salem:


Set photos:

Set workers unloading prop modern art pieces (PEM’s photo): https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=543136525727719&set=a.445074598867246.91757.205951626112879&type=1&theater

They had been filming in Swampscott, Lynn (apparently the entire Newburyport/Rockport line), as well as Worcester and Boston. They may be done in Salem, but according to this OLV thread, they may be back, but most likely on the South Shore.

Salem, MA: The City of Creative Chalk Pavement Street Art


I don’t want to call it “graffiti” in case chalk-drawing is illegal, but I came across these downtown in Derby Square and thought they were kind of cute/funny. If it hadn’t been for the Psyduck one, I’d have thought these were done by a kid (I don’t know…maybe they were).

Psyduck. Conducting a Pokemon seance…?

Very long cat. It stretched pretty far.

A very rabid dinosaur

Yay! Finn the Hueyu-munn

Dear Candy Gods, Please Don’t Let Sugar Rush Become a Carpet Shop


In the village in which I grew up, the very first shop at the end of the downtown strip was the stuff of legend. I lived in an ordinary, quiet, not-quite cul-de-sac so bereft of traffic that children could actually play in the street, and in which everyone pretty much knew everyone.

The trek to the shops was not a terribly big deal, especially after I got my first bicycle. I celebrated my triumph over my training wheels by looking over at my brother cycling in the road, squealing a squee of smug delight and then screaming a scream of “this is the real world” terror as I crashed into a neighbour’s front wall. Refusing to let myself be thwarted by garden brickwork, I soldiered on, knowing that I now had a vehicle with which to traverse the enormous mutant hill that stood at a 40-degree angle between me and the main road like some sort of taunting, concrete, dinosaur bastard.

Onto the main road, past the woods, past the village park, past the village school, past the village church and finally a stretch of shops comes into view. And on the end of that tiny, terraced row of shops, there it was. The mother ship: Carters’ Sweet Shop.

It was a tiny little shoebox of a store, and the way that everything had been crammed into it seemed to us to be some sort of awesome Wonka-esque witchcraft. There was every type of candy imaginable – everything from penny-candy in large jars, to brand-name chocolates and even a decent-sized ice cream section. In the time it took for me to get there, I’d inevitably have amassed a group of friends who were trying to decide whether to spend their pocket money on aniseed balls (yum!), Fun Dips (sugar sticks you could dip in sherbet powder), jelly babies, or all of the above.

My personal favourite were these little guys:

Truly revolting to look at, repulsive to touch, and consumed in questionable amounts, this was even more popular than the fake candy cigarettes that would constantly freak out our teachers. According to my dad, they really did smell and taste of beer, but had no alcohol content, making them about as acceptable as all the other deliciously disgusting crap we ate as kids.

That store was almost a daily pilgrimage, a reliable detour on the way home from school, and the staff were always so lovely. So I was sad when suddenly, one day, seemingly without warning, it closed down. I remember hoping that it was just closing for repairs, or that, according to my primary school understanding of the retail sector, another sweet shop would take its place. It didn’t. Months went by, and the storefront became a carpet shop, and that was it.

It’s a cliche, but a tiny little tuck shop bag of my childhood died that day. It was the only shop in a stretch of opticians and banks and hairdressers and boring takeaways that had any interest to me, and now it had vanished.


I wish I had a photo of the shop, but even identifying it by name online proved difficult. It had been around for decades before I was born, and the tradition of old-fashioned sweet shops can still be found in brick-and-mortar shops today, but of the eye-gougingly expensive variety, because they also sell £7 boxes of imported Lucky Charms cereal. Even the offerings of online shops whose business model is that they’re an old “penny-candy/retro sweet/childhood favourites” retailer is dampened by the fact that it wasn’t really about the range of sellable stock (or even the long-lost price range). It was about cycling my impatient little legs over a mile and a half to get to a magical cornucopia of all things unhealthy, shoehorn it gleefully into my face and then cycle my sugar-bloated little happy demon self back home again.

sugar-rush-sign salem ma

And so enter Sugar Rush, one of the many new businesses opening up in downtown Salem, right on Essex St. Owned by Helen and Gazmend Taka, the former owners of Fountain Place, there’s not been much I can glean about this little shop, but they did let me pop in and snap a photo of the awesome-looking walls that had just got a fresh lick of paint:

When I saw the name, the first thing I thought of was this, but the term’s been around longer than Wreck-it-Ralph, but it would be kind of cute to have some kind of nod to gamer/nerd-related candy (especially if there are some stores downtown that are kind of bending the rules here and there). The store should be opening up soon, and I hope it sticks around, because it could be one of those businesses that’s good for both locals and tourists.

I don’t want another carpet shop usurper in town. Unless the carpets taste like snozzberries.

That Time I Failed To Score Free Film Crew Food


Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence and Jeremy Renner are in Salem, filming American Hustle (2013) . There were also reports that Amy Adams and Elisabeth Röhm were also spotted. Other leads (i.e. Robert DeNiro) were apparently not in town. Tons of vintage cars and trucks lined up on Federal St, but actors are filming on a closed set, doubling for Philadelphia.


A comment on a recent Patch article implied I might be able to yoink free food if I could convince the set caterers that I was a lost extra, but my accidental ’70s hair was in vain, as the mythical munchies had already scarpered.

Instead, we wandered down Federal St and saw a bunch of cool vintage cars (including a cop car) and costumes. I want that coat!













Shy in a Small Town? Nope, You’re “Socially Awkward”.


If you’re new to a small town, you have to make a good first impression quickly. These are not the bustling streets of London, the hectic sidewalks of New York, or even the smashed-in bus stops of Portsmouth; places in which interactions are likely to be short, and where it’s unlikely that you’ll run into people multiple times. Here, the window to impress or revile people is narrow.

Downton Crabby

Downtown Salem is small, quaint and well-kept. While technically a city, it feels like a small town, and the main shopping area can be traversed in less than the duration of a Kardashian marriage (except in October). This time of year, there are no tourist crowds, street vendors, buskers, walking tours or costumed minimum-wagers handing out leaflets for a haunted house. The only people you are likely to see sitting outside on a Tuesday evening are those who cannot smoke cigarettes within 100ft of the shop in which they work.

For anyone who knows me IRL, this is unlikely to be a shock, but I have trouble settling in socially. It doesn’t matter if it’s a new job, a new school or a new workplace – I enter quietly, observe dress codes and personalities, and then try to fit in as best I can. I’d like to think that’s true of most people, but sometimes many times most of the time, it hasn’t worked for me here.


{{wishing I had Sherlock’s intellect instead of just an anxious form of his social aversion}}

Salem has several wonderful places to get coffee. I am a bit of a stickler for my local because the people are lovely and the coffee is brilliantly strong and flavourful without being bitter or too sweet.

The Hippie (to whom I am married) is a daily fixture there (as I used to be), and he often socializes with the regulars/baristas. Therefore, they know him. They know his regular order, they refer to him by name, and they make funny jokes with him. Me? Well, it takes them a while to acknowledge me, and my attempts at small talk are often met with blank stares. They do not know my name. If I make a joke, they don’t seem to hear it, but when The Hippie repeats it, they laugh and congratulate him on how great a joke that was. It’s like I’m not even there.

Perhaps they just don’t like me; perhaps they mistake shyness for rudeness. That’s fine. I am so shy that it feels as though it takes a lot of nervous effort to try to make small talk, even though I am genuinely interested in them as people, so I would rather just bow out of the whole charade altogether if it’s not really wanted. But if I do, then it gets awkward, because it’s a small city, and I see these people regularly. And it gets even more awkward when you’re married to a loud, attention-loving appreciating extrovert who literally walks around town shouting at the top of his voice. It is impossible for anyone to not know him (or know of him).

Either way, the window of first-impression-socializing is over. I am regular who comes in and they serve me my coffee and then I drink it and then I leave. If I left Salem tomorrow, no-one would notice that they might be making a little less skim Almond Joy iced coffees.

Bristle While You Work

The narrow social window of opportunity also exists when you start a new job. In any new situation that involves people, their first impression of you might be that you:

  • are underqualified
  • think you’re too good for the job
  • are incompetent
  • have a bad fashion sense
  • have bad breath
  • eat smelly foods for lunch
  • chew too loudly
  • spend too long in the bathroom
  • make unfunny jokes
  • make inappropriate jokes
  • have no sense of humour
  • have ridiculous taste in coffee mugs
  • are too quiet
  • are too loud
  • are too boring

And so on and so on. What follows is a horrible Sims-like game, in which everyone else is already clued into the office culture, and you’ve got to decipher their bizarre, in-house, inbred, Sims-language to figure out how you are destined to fit in, along with the least socially-paralysing way of achieving this.

Enforced office socialization ensues (especially if it’s a fucking start-up), and as the sole n00b of the company, you’ve got to endure these activities with the working knowledge of someone who knows exactly what “so-and-so got an adoption” means, to roars of applause and whooping. Just laugh and whoop, like you know what’s going on. Because if you don’t, then you will be perceived as an antisocial snob who clearly does not want to network their way to a better job.


Recently, my office had a mini lunch-centric surprise party for two employees. Today, the entire office is skipping the last few hours of work to go out to a bar and celebrate a project-related milestone event, none of which I felt I’d contributed to, because I only started two months ago. I don’t want to go, because I can’t afford to lose the hours (I’m a temp on an hourly wage with no benefits), and in a non-work social situation, it’s just embarrassing to be ignored in group conversations (especially when the person next to you heard you, and thus, saw you get ignored).

Not that this only happens during post-work drinks. This week, one employee, who usually stares past me when she makes conversation with most people on my team, stepped in front of me to face another employee, turned her back (inches from me) and bizarrely began a private, hushed conversation. I was in the kitchen making tea, something I cannot do over private instant messaging chat, secure email, or at one of those two employees’ desks.

Friendships Have Third Wheels, Too

Within seconds of typing this, I hear my Hippie crying out “No, it’s a fifth wheel, because cars have four wheels!”, and then I hear my own voice, between sobs of lonely despair, whimpering, “No, there are three of us, and that phrase has been around since the bicycle, which has two wheels, unless you never took your training wheels off, which might have been a better idea so you wouldn’t crash into the neighbour’s wall while proudly exclaiming, ‘look, I have no training wheels!’…”

My Hippie is very, very good at making friends. Sometimes, he likes to foist me upon some of them, often without my (or their) realization, in a clumsy but well-meaning attempt to get me to “stop being such a hermit”. Even after it becomes painfully obvious to everyone involved that the Friend and I have nothing in common, my Hippie is still blissfully ignorant of that fact that I am only ever invited to do things with said Friend because the Friend feels obligated to extend these invitations to his/her Hippie friend’s wife.


Conversations almost solely revolve around the Hippie, or the Friend, or what the Hippie and the Friend plan to do together. Perhaps smoking occurs (weed or cigarettes or both, neither of which I partake in; I’m just “meh” about them). If the topic strays to include myself, I am swiftly cut off and the Friend returns the focus to the Hippie. It’s fine.

Bowing out of the acquaintanceship becomes increasingly difficult. Much like the First Impression Window, the longer it’s left to fester, the harder it becomes for me to cut myself loose for everyone’s good.

I have nothing to offer in the way of friendship. I am quite OK with this. I don’t have a special talent or a way with jokes or even a car. I have no value in the social sphere. I am simply not a person who has any reason to be preferentially liked or to whom anyone would want to bother with the effort of striking up a friendship, so I am sincerely baffled by the people who seem to want to make plans with me. Surely they have better things to do?


source: tanithlowisme.deviantart.com

And I should note that said friends are in England. I am unable to make friends here, though I had tried. People often drift into cafes and restaurants and shops to say hello to the Hippie by name, even have entire conversations with him, and not once introduce themselves or say hello to me. It’s like I’m not even there.

It’s fine.

I am neither witty nor reliable. I haven’t had enough life experiences to give good advice; I am not attractive enough to elicit attention from random clubgoers (not that I would want that; it’s just that when every. single. friend. in your group has paired off with someone, it’s midly mortifying to be singled out as the Perma-Ugly Duckling standing alone in a corner).

easily forgotten

I am just shy, and I recall growing up during a time when shy didn’t mean “socially awkward” or “has autism/Aspergers”. Shy just meant shy. I am starting to become OK with it; maybe there are some people in the world who are just supposed to be more alone than others. Perhaps if I were in any way gifted, I might figure out what my contribution to society is supposed to be.

Thankfully, with no social life to speak of, I have more than enough time to figure it out – dabble in more sci-fi watercolours, take up piano lessons again or take the plunge and see if I can start learning some programming/coding skills. Who knows?


Life Starts All Over Again When It Gets Crisp in the Fall


Even the little alleys look quaint here.

It’s that time of year again, and this year, I can hear and see it all from my window. It’s October! Unfortunately, that means that I can also hear the proselytizing, preaching prat across the street yelling into his bullhorn about how we’re all going to hell. Well, at least the colours will be prettier.


Today, the streets are busier than I’ve ever seen it, and this year I’ve been more of a tourist than a blogger about it. The view from my apartment really makes me wish this building had balconies (the ones you can actually sit on, not those phony “Juliet” balconies – although we don’t even have those), but all I’ve got to do is step out the door to my elevator and walk outside.

People are already out in their costumes (probably hoping to avoid the maelstrom next weekend’s going to bring). Earlier this month there was, of course, the Zombie Walk (much more organized than last year, and I was a zombie King Henry V – yes, really). Last weekend I saw a couple of Zombie Tellytubbies, and so far today I’ve already seen Marge Simpson, Captain America, Catwoman and a cute little baby Iron Man.

(an odd effect in panoramic mode when switching from light to dark areas; kinda cool)

The Old Burying Point Cemetery (above) has been packed during the day. Tourists are generally pretty respectful of the site, even if they do leave empty Dunkin’ Donuts cups (some of which probably contained coffee or tea) all over the place. Even the weeks have been pretty busy; let’s see what next weekend brings.