I've found that the perfect soundtrack for New England is not a soundtrack at all. My radio has been set to NPR for the duration. News shows for Vermont, the car guys for Boston, antique shows for upstate anywhere. In a spot in Vermont that was virtually unpopulated, where there's only trees and rivers, I found a hip-hop station and three NPR stations. In a spot that sparsely populated in California, you'd have a spanish station and three christian stations.
This tells you a few things about New England, and Vermont in specific. First of all, did you have any idea that there were any empty spots in the east? I was under the impression that they were packed like sardines out here! You know, Westward Expansion and all that jazz. We pushed west because there wasn't no more room back east. I suppose if I really thought about it, I knew there were vast logging areas and national forests and such, but I still subconsciously thought the entire eastern seaboard would be as dense as fruitcake.
Secondly, Vermont is a very crunchy granola state. Even in the far reaches of the darkest woods, houses have Tibetan prayer flags and rainbow windchimes, and all the dairy farmers supply Ben and Jerry's. I was having fantasies of a New Zealand-ish type state, left-leaning, clean air, and cheerily neutral, when I noticed all the big signs saying "Take Back Vermont". Turns out there was a conservative backlash to the state's liberal gay partnership laws. Well, no state can be completely perfect.
I stayed with a friend (hi friend!) in New Hampshire with a nice big comfy apartment. I was feeling lonely on Memorial Day, really craving friends, barbecue, and beer, and Aaron provided all three. Well, there was barbecued chicken on the pizza, anyway. We reminisced about San Francisco, which seems to be my favorite subject when talking to anyone, and asked each other Baby Boomer trivia. I used his place for a base for some exploration.
Looking at the maps, I decided that Salem wasn't that far away, and I never had gotten to any of the witch museums. It was a wee bit further than I thought, like two or three extra hours, but it was a lovely drive, with the world's largest chair on the way. I think it was the world's largest chair; there were two towns having a showdown for the title, building larger and larger chairs, and I think Gardner won in the end, but I'll compare my photos using Stripes as a measure.
Salem is beautiful, and the Witch Dungeon had a fabulous re-enactment with appropriately creepy wax mummies serving as townspeople, and even creepier wax witches in the basement dungeon. I'm afraid I didn't get to any of the other 20 or so witch related sites, but I was satisfied.
The fog in the mountains here is really something; I haven't seen the like, even in Daly City. I wandered back roads all day today. At one point, a gift shop and restaurant appeared suddenly about 15 feet to my right. In a few more feet, I was able to make out the sign. "Sightline Cafe - See 3 states from our observation deck!" Yeah, not today.
At lower elevations, it was just drippy and dark. A perfect day for wandering through the Berkshires. Here are the New England small towns I was looking for! Small clusters of big gorgeous old houses, just set back from the street far enough to have vibrantly green lawns with kids frolicking, a corner store where everyone meets, maybe one historic B&B. A doctor's office right out of a Rockwell painting.
Speaking of Rockwell, even though he spent some time in Alhambra, CA, many of his paintings were inspired by and created in the town I'm in tonight. There is a Rockwell museum I plan on hitting tomorrow, and a cafe that is the setting for at least one of his more well known works. This area is as familiar as New York City to me... in a very, very different way.
I like places. I decided that today, after great thought. Places are good. All of my favorite novels are ones that have an intimate knowledge of location. Characters are all well and good, but if an author really knows and loves the area he or she is writing about, a book is made. Don't tell me "Gone With the Wind" is such a bestseller because we all love Scarlett so much. The good ones make me want to travel; the best ones just jump to mind just when I see a particular slant of tree, waters edge, or type of motel. From "American Gods" to "Chesapeake", I love 'em all.
What else... It's been so long since I've written, I feel like I've seen so much, but I can't remember anything! I actually bought a tape recorder at the beginning of my trip, so I wouldn't even have to stop to write a note. The last time I used it? Idaho. Yeah, that's right, about 7 months ago.
Okay, fascinating conversation about constipation. You really don't need to know, but must go now. No, not that kind of go. Go, like the conversation is more interesting than blogging, so I must leave the virtual world. Not go go. As if I'd tell you if that was why I was signing off. Actually I might. In case you didn't notice, I don't edit myself too much.