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!













This Week is Looking to Be Much Better Than Last Week’s (but that’s not difficult)


It’s been a weird week.

A bit of a stressful up-and-down one, really, so let’s pepper this post with funny cat gifs.


I wasn’t anywhere near the bombings at the Boston marathon last week, but  my work is about a mile or two away from where it happened, and because details were so scant, everybody was panicking, and “news” organizations like CNN and Fox News were busy spreading hysteria-inducing bullshit that was just making people panic even more. Falsehoods about cellphone service being shut down, or explosions at the JFK library, or additional explosive devices found in subways. It was starting to get so bad that the FBI had to publish a statement to bitchslap the media into getting their facts straight.

Shortly after the bombings occurred, I fielded a few messages and phone calls from worried friends and relatives, most of whom didn’t know anything about what was happening. I had sent them each a blanket text just saying “Hey, I’m not dead” or something to that effect – just a quick message to let them know I was OK, so I could get on with work. Unfortunately, anyone who knew my TV-watching habits probably thought I was either referencing Sherlock, or just befuddling people with my morbid sense of humour. Once my mum knew it was neither, she had gone into understandably panicked parent mode.

Later that night, we went to Nerd Trivia night at the Flying Saucer, a trivia night we’d won the first ever two times (and the previous week). Everyone else in our team wanted to stay home and sort of recover from such a horrible day. Feeling resilient, I was hoping to use trivia to get my mind off it, and for the husband, the gravity of that day’s events hadn’t quite sunk in yet. But it wasn’t until I got home and turned on the news and saw the footage, over and over, the smoke, the fire, the screams, the running, the screams…(did I mention the screams…?) that I got shaky, upset, angry, scared, and sick.

But I went anyway, because I had promised my husband (who was going to have to be late because of his tour schedule), and two other friends who were joining later. So for the first 45 minutes of trivia, it was just socially-awkward, sort of PTSD-addled me, frantically scribbling answers while trying not to look up at even more harrowing news coverage on the TV. I’d imagine that many others share this view, but I don’t feel calmer/better about a stressful situation/event until I get more information on how it’s coming to a close. At the time, no-one knew who had done it, or how many of them there were, if the situation had been contained, or if/when the perpetrators were to be caught. The unreliable news organizations weren’t helping, either, and were, in fact, encouraging the post-traumatic culture of fear and paranoia, and might have been more successful if it weren’t for their frequent, unintentional comic reporting blunders.


…Was my work-from-home day, and I was never happier to confine myself to my overly-hot, extremely stuffy-to-the-point-of-suffocating, dated shoebox of an apartment. I don’t think anyone had got any work done Monday, or even that day, to be quite honest.


Wednesday was the city’s free preview of Rob Zombie‘s latest horror offering The Lords of Salem, a movie which, if not for a moderate public outcry over Facebook, would not have been distributed to Salem at all (and it still probably won’t be). Yes, a film that was inspired by the history of Salem, filmed partly in Salem, and even has Salem in the title, was not going to be shown in Salem. Satanic whispers about the movie possibly coming to Danvers (AMC Liberty Tree Mall) probably meant that the filmmakers were one of those hipsterory buffs who still believed that the Salem Witch Trials took place there instead.

As expected, it was weird. Fucking weird. The premise is that a Salem DJ Heidi Hawthorne (Sheri Moon Zombie), receives a strange record and, after playing it on the air, possesses a small amount of Salem’s women through black magic wielded by a trio of witches, and our heroine slowly begins a descent into madness. Zombie has stated that he sees the film as “if Ken Russell had made The Shining” and I guess it shows. A lot of religious-symbolism-as-shocking-parody (including visions of a trio of Catholic Cardinals wanking off neon dildos in their laps), but I felt the movie suffered from under-editing when overlong shots lingered on things like maniacal muddy witches cackling and spitting on newborn babies next to a bonfire.

Zombie definitely has a clear vision of his own style, but it shows that he wanted to make an expensive-looking movie, but just didn’t have the budget. The many ritual scenes with the witches look like cheap soundstages, strategically-lit to give the illusion of being outdoors, and the demon baby looked like a glazed chicken, which appeared as a disappointment after a long, drawn-out scene in which the film’s protagonist walks into a grand, deco theatre lobby (but from an apartment door), to the tune of Mozart’s Lacrimosa. The film’s opening shows the DJs (and receptionist) all wearing ’70s-era clothing, but the exterior shots of modern cars and buses feel jarring.

The Shining‘s influence was definitely present. Everything from the extended slow-mo shots with the protagonist in the centre, the movie’s day title cards (“Monday” etc, which were used inconsistently), the emphasis on trippy decor, the time period of the clothing and even the music, seem borrowed from the movie rather than paid homage to, and by the time the film reaches its Wicker Man-esque ending, I was left wondering what the point of this movie was. Sheri Moon Zombie’s acting was decent, but it had to be, as the film relies entirely on her to carry it, with only Judy Geeson able to make Rob Zombie’s awkward dialogue sound believable. Even screen veterans like Dee Wallace (E.T.), Bruce Davison (The Crucible) and Patricia Quinn (The Rocky Horror Picture Show) read their lines as though they’re just realizing they’re in a movie, and have to try to get on with it in case the director bites them and turns them into a Walker. It’s just…off.


Thursday held some pretty amazing news for me. After five long years, a heck of lot of money, worrying and straining my relationships with everyone, I finally got approved for my 10-year green card. Yay! I am so relieved. And happy! It still hasn’t hit me yet, but when I get my card in the mail, it’ll be drinks all ’round XD

My lawyer had been convinced that we would be called for an interview, especially after we had received an RFE (Request for Evidence) a while back. We had almost no financial evidence to support our case, which, apparently, is the only evidence USCIS wants to support your case. The other alternatives were children, but…I can’t even finish such a ludicrous statement, if only to say that, since we had not been in a position to provide USCIS with reams of joint financial statements, we were clearly not in a position to have any children, either.

Three friends of ours had written personal affidavits on our behalf, the risky wording of which had worried me, even though I staunchly agreed with every word they had said. They had all stated that they did not believe that, to prove a marriage, a couple must go into debt that not even most US citizens would plunge themselves into. We were not struggling by any means, but the reason that almost everything is in my name and not the hippie’s is that his credit is so bad that he doesn’t even have a bank account anymore. Yes, I married someone grossly financially irresponsible. It happens. Sometimes people make stupid mistakes, but I’d like to think I’m trying to help him before he does something stupid again.


The entire city was on lockdown for the manhunt. They killed one of them, and got the other alive. That’s all I cared about. It was over.  On Thursday night, a friend and I had gone to a candlelight memorial walk around Salem Common (there was also a “last mile run” beforehand, but I fear I was not fit enough to participate, so I cheered a friend on), a sombre but respectful event. Then onwards to the Peabody Essex Museum’s April PEM/PM party, which involved Nick Cave (no, not that one)’s soundsuit dancers, people in great big rainbow-coloured shaggy muppet-mop awesomeness dancing and bouncing about. Even though it was disappointing that the PEM didn’t delay the event start time by an hour (to allow for the memorial), the enormous flailing koosh-balls brought a smile to everyone’s faces (including little kids), and museum patrons were invited to basically Harlem-Shake about with them on the Atrium’s dance floor.

And so ended a weary week, leaving the weekend free for the chore that is food shopping, endless TV-watching, and my first ever trip to Gloucester. Man, it’s cold up there.

66 Things to Do in Salem, MA



Halloween - derby st house

The famous Derby St House of fantastic decorations. They make an incredible effort every year that it’s a tourist attraction in and of itself – even on Christmas. Next to Dave Eng’s Flowers, 136 1/2 Derby St.

Because I like lists, and sympathise with the tourist dilemma of “Bollocks! We only have 5 hours to spend here – what do we do first??”, I’ve decided to compile a big fat list of 66* awesome things to do in Salem.

*Yes, this list could have been shorter, but the number 66 is evilly cool, and Salem is a spooky, kooky version of that surreal little hamlet in Gilmore Girls, so ner. (Click “Continue reading” to read more!)

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