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.



Adventures in Vacuum Shopping


I’ve lived long enough to become cranky about one or two things, but I didn’t think that something as simple as buying a hoover this past weekend would be one of them.

My initial problem was accidentally thinking in brand names – the “now pass me a Kleenex, you trollop” or “I Xeroxed my arse at the office party…again” trend of using brand nouns instead of actual, non-trademark descriptors. One of the few ways I had grown up thinking American, forgetting that “Hoover” was indeed a brand name for vacuums, although, according to Wikipedia, isolated only to Blighty.

Carrying out a little recon online proved fruitless. You can check the “in-store only” option and sort by price and check the stock at a specific store all you want, but as soon as you get to the shop and it’s not there, all you can do is try not to roll your eyes at the shop assistant checking stock on their PDA who is genuinely NOT feigning ignorance.  There is nothing anyone can ever do about anything.

So instead of expecting to pay $45 for a simple, sucking piece of plastic, my budget ballooned far beyond $100 and I saw several items of importance drop from my grocery/household shopping list. Who needs food when I could just vacuum up yesterday’s spilt Malai Kofta and drip feed them to myself through the bagless HEPA filter?

Like a child running to her mummy after the bully called her a name she had to look up in a dictionary, I ran straight to the Dyson section and recoiled in horror.

$500 for the same vacuum my Dad just bought? It’s not even a super-fancy high-end one, but he bought it to pick up our adorable fluffy cat’s moultings. It would probably be cheaper to buy a Dyson the next time I’m back home (which, thankfully, is frequently enough to stave off homesickness), and just declare it when I come back through Customs (provided there’s no bloody “agriculture” in it).

A glance of the dregs that were left: something optimistically called “Dirt Devil”, a brand that seemed to festoon every shelf. Horribly dated, bright-red packaging that just reeked of tack, as if they had been accidentally invented by a Walmart drop-out using some McDonalds straws, some empty toilet roll tubes and a fart.

Then there was the leap from mid-priced yet rubbish to disgustingly expensive and uber high-tech – vacuums that NASA could use to hoover up those errant potato chips. Carpet-cleaning sensors, LED thingies, cord-wrapping contraptions and something called HEPA. What is this? Is it that lump of fat that lops over your front bum, but fatter? It was all just terribly confusing business.

In the end I selected something on the lower price end, but still terribly overpriced compared to what I was used to. It had all the bells and whistles, was a name brand (just not familiar to non-Americans), and still had all the extra supercomputer nonsense that apparently my carpet can’t live without.

I figure it needs to be powerful, but now I’m concerned it will pull a Christine and kill me in my sleep.

According to the dry-cleaning delivery man (yes, this exists), and my lovely new neighbours (who recognized the husband by trade), they do not know anyone who owns a vacuum for the very reasons I’ve just spent over 500 words complaining about. I expect I’ll get a knock on my door when it’s time to suck up the post-game Cheetos.

The Black Friday That Never Was


Last year, I wasn’t working, so I got to go to the mall for Black Friday, the biggest shopping day of the year (equivalent to the Boxing Day sales in the UK). I got there at 10am, thinking I was beating the crowds, but the damn place was still packed. At least if I got too claustrophobic (despite the fact that malls are clearly known to have perfect ventilation), I could amuse myself by watching all the angry shoppers trying to nab a parking space.

I had to work today, so I didn’t get to the damn mall until gone 6pm. Take my advice – if you want to get in on any of the good deals, you really have to get there before noon, because it’s not enough that these sales are for one day only (unlike Boxing Day simply being the START of the UK sales), a lot of retailers actually reinstate the original prices as early as 12pm. Last year, H&M had ridiculous discounts (a $50 sweater reduced to $10 AND it buy one get one free with a other similarly-priced knitwear), but cancelled most of their deals at 1pm and the prices went back up. Moreover, most of the stores open as early as 5am. So basically, everybody’s tired, it’s dark and they’re probably still drunk and irritable bowel-y from all the indulgence the evening prior.


They really do call them “doorbuster” deals. As in, it wouldn’t look out of place, if say, a bunch of shoppers busted a door in to get to these insane deals. It’s a funny holiday farce, just like that shit movie I can’t believe I actually like Jingle All The Way! There’s no chance that anybody could actually get hurt!

There is actually a sub-section on Wikipedia regarding the violent incidents that these fucking mental shoppers seem to be getting away with. The worst was a Wal-Mart employee who was actually trampled to death in Long Island, and people didn’t give a shit! They just kept stamping all over his unconscious body, rationalising that they had been waiting too long. Quite sickening, and that’s not the only incident like that at a Black Friday at Walmart. Today, there were reports of a lunatic bitch WITH HER KIDS pepper-spraying her rivals to keep them from getting some Xboxes that were on sale, and a man who was actually SHOT over a TV.

This is why there is a People of Walmart website and not a People of Target or People of Best Buy. The worst of the worst ignorant redneck trash, with no manners, no intelligence, no sense of using the interwebz to shop, no dress sense, no hygiene and no fucking teeth shop at Walmart. It’s disgusting, but that’s another rant entirely. Just know that if you ever shop there, you deserve what’ll inevitably come to you.

Thankfully, I have never set foot in a Walmart. I don’t give a shit if you can safely give birth in one, it is just one of those things that I will never do, like eat live seafood or vajazzle my own mother. There really isn’t a need to ever go into Walmart. Especially not on Black Friday.

The term itself was not, as many believe,  borne out of a reference to the stores “finally being in the black”, credit-wise. They were already in the black. It actually arose from Philadelphia police coining the phrase to describe the insane foot traffic and hassle they had to deal with, and retail staff sympathised with this. There would be jaywalkers, overcrowding and general noise until the one-day-only sales were over. “Black Friday” is not a nice term. It was being used to make fun of shoppers.

You know what I’m going to do, since nothing I got was actually on sale at all today? I’m going to have a nice relaxing weekend and shop the ONLINE sales event – Cyber Monday. Although, quite frankly, I think that every day is cyber.