Salem, MA: In Which it is Easier to Be a Geek than a Goth


Last weekend, I did what any self-respecting nerd would do and went to see The Avengers, a movie I had been patiently waiting to see for a while, but impatiently waiting to see since that delightful Superbowl spot.  So overcome with fangirling was I at such an Event that I couldn’t quite hear most of the 7pm showing over the clear fanboying delight of a super-loud kindergartner behind me, who felt it necessary to narrate every scene – not only during important bits of quietly-delivered expository dialogue, but also during those silent pre-dialogue beats.

My companion and I exited the cinema and returned for the 10pm showing, and our minds were pretty much blown – an eloquent tour guide and (almost) a Master of Letters reduced to “OMG WTF that was awesome”; “Shakespeare in the park LOL” and “HAHA MEWLING QUIM PUNY GOD”, and (highlight for spoiler) “WUT THAT WAZ THANOS OMG DEATH SHAWARMA!!!” (end spoiler).

To me, it was a brilliant movie. Well-made and well-played, crafted by a director whose TV shows I had grown up watching (and BtVS was my first 12-rated movie, even though I was not old enough to get in). The characters and the plotlines of the comics were faithfully-rendered. The hype had been easy to generate because this had been a long time coming; threaded through the Iron Man movies, Hulk, Thor and Captain America was a tease of this movie, built up via each film’s post-credit scenes, as if one were watching a TV show with a weekly cliffhanger.

The local cinema got in on the midnight showings and themed movie drinks (Cinema Salem’s “Thor” – white chocolate mocha with hazelnut was my popcorn companion of choice) and it was funny to notice who stayed once the credits started rolling (about half the audience), and who stayed to the very end of the credits after the mid-credit scene (about seven people).

Last weekend was also Free Comic Book Day, a day in which comic book companies issue special “free” versions of their comics (usually more ads per book than usual), and our local, Harrison’s, allowed just two books per customer. Not two of each book, just two. Two of the free books. Better than last year, I suppose. Although I was in South-East England, in which not only is there just one comic book store, but he didn’t even participate.

Not free, but still awesome anyway.

For a town peddling all manner of ghost tours, psychic parlors, magic shows, illegal/unauthorized Harry Potter merch stores and witch museums, it seems to be harder to get goth supplies than it does to furnish a geek’s closet. Salem has a comic book store (plus The Red Lion’s sizable action figure/trading card/comic section), a video game store and, thanks to the recent spate of comic book movies, related merch is ubiquitous.

I could stroll into CVS and pick up a Spider-Man beach towel but not find anything with Emily The Strange. The aforementioned store that is entirely stocked with 100% illegal/unauthorized Harry Potter merchandise could rival the stock and imagination of actual, legitimate sellers, but there’s nary a Nightmare Before Christmas or horror-themed merch to be found. The Fool’s Mansion has an excellent selection for both the aspiring and seasoned goth, but their prices are not really for the faint of heart.

My bank has s0me awesome Batman cheques available. Where are the graveyard-themed ones? Of all places, The Trolley Depot has some great Doctor Who merchandise (and they’re usually cheaper than Harrison’s). I honestly can’t even think of any commercial goth characters beyond those being misappropriated by Hot Topic (The Crow blankets, anyone?), but for a city teeming with people who clearly keep Manic Panic in business, there isn’t anyone with a creative mind who wants to put their designs out there? Or are all local goths just poseurs who are selling the idea of being a goth but not capitalizing on how mainstream it’s become?

I’ve been to a couple of tiny local goth shows, and a couple of tiny mini-parties in which the same two of three songs get repeated by a goth DJ, and I have to admit I was thrown by some of the choices. The Pet Shop Boys ? Really? American goths really…listen to that? And the dancing…my god, the dancing…I really wasn’t sure how it worked.

There are regular Magic: The Gathering tournaments at Harrison’s, and a few times they’ve even hosted small gigs by Voltaire. The closest thing to a goth club night in Salem was a local Thai food place hiring the same DJ, turning the lights down once a month and enforcing an all-black dress code. When the Thai food place shut down to transfer ownership, the night moved to a local dive bar more famous for its pukey fights than as a place to be seen. Then when that in turn closed down, the club night’s website announced that they are on hiatus. Maybe it’s cursed. T’would be fitting.

On the other hand, it’s extremely easy to be a hipster in Salem. You can’t swing a dead witch’s familiar without running into one, stumbling into one of its open mic nights (and then back out again), purchasing an ironically droll accent cushion or living around the corner from a new place that serves spelt quinoa beet ginger soy tofu sprouted wheat bean kimchi raw flax applesauce granola. Oh, American subcultures, how much you amuse me.



How to Look More Like Corporate America


Yesterday, the shuttle driver asked me if I worked at Dunkin’  Donuts. I have no idea why, because he’s seen me so many times before, and if I were a Dunkin’ Donuts employee, then I would not be getting on a shuttle bus that goes directly to my work, which happens to own the damn shuttle bus company. He only said it to me, then laughed.

Needless to say, I was embarassed, but couldn’t quite figure out why. There’s nothing wrong with Dunkin’ Donuts. There’s nothing wrong with working there. I think it was because I was being singled out like that, and, true to form, it would probably have been an insult to anyone else sitting on that bus.

And I was right – a couple of people looked at me, but while trying to pinpoint how I looked like a Dunkin’ Donuts employee, rather than, “why is this man saying this to her? She’s clearly not a Dunkin’ Donuts employee”.

I was so inexplicably annoyed by this that the driver was made exempt from my parting “thank you”, which I usually mumble while trying not to fall over the steps on the way out.

It was raining that morning. I sat down, and took off my raincoat and rainboots.

Everyone else on the bus was wearing black or grey. Black suits, black shoes, black umbrellas, black coats. It was like beingin The Matrix, only dressed as a clown. Could that really have been what prompted him to say that?

If it made any difference, my trousers were black, made from a good fabric and had a smart centre-pleat. My office dress code is business-casual, but everyone looks quite well put-together and I do often see people wearing bright colours.

Luckily I had decided to make an extra effort today. Underneath Joseph’s LSD Technicolor Nightmarecoat, I had on an exquisite purple, silk kimono blouse and a comfy but fashionable grey shrug cardigan. In my opinion, I looked rather spiffing.

I had also brought a brand new pair of shoes with me (ported over from England, but, as of yesterday, never worn). Yes, every woman has a shoe obsession. Because, men, much like your formal attire, your shoes are dull and have almost no variety.

"tha SHOES-ah!!"

I had tried them on for all of five seconds and had decided that they were the absolute most perfect shoes of all time and the cushioned insole was like being hugged with a spring in my step. Plus, they were perfect for my new Corporate look.

Then, much like that episode of the IT Crowd, I realized that there was no way in hell I was going to be able to walk properly in these things. Stumbling around like a first-time, half-drunken tranny, it soon became clear that these stupid heels just did not compute with my feeble chicken-legs, ruined by years of flat-footed Batman-logoed-Converses and purple glitter spiderweb wellies with no arch support.

Every time I had to get up to go make a cup of tea it was like being on an episode of Gladiators. The pain was bad enough – I could never understand how the women I see on the way to work run in these things. They must have been born without calf muscles.  But the main problems were:

a) balance

b) keeping a normal face through the pain

c) maintaining a straight trajectory from A to B.

d) balance

As you can see, it is much easier when wearing sensible shoes:

I could not cope, clodding around without the slightest hint of grace, my arms flailing and flapping in my fashionably oversized grey shrug in a manner that matched my chicken legs. Thankfully, my weak attempts at all of the above were largely hidden from the rest of the office. I could tell this because the shoes were so unbelievably tall I could see over the cubicle walls of the entire office. Despite this excellent vantage point, the experiment had failed.

As a non-practising Goth, I’m comfortable wearing all black. I even have a black umbrella, just like everyone else on that shuttle did this morning.

But, hey, Corporate America, can your umbrella do THIS?

it lights up in different colours!