Monday, 16 July 2007, 9:14 am, Salem, MA
Interesting and varied day.
Downtown Portland is remarkable with its large number of historical buildings converted to modern use. I was much impressed by this kind of conservation and the stylistic integration of new stock. We walked about for nearly three hours, and taking in the shops and the ambiance of looking outward and forward, I came almost instantly to the conclusion that it was time to leave St. Stephen. I bought books by Hafiz and Thomas Merton.
We lunched at a harbourfront restaurant that was pleasant but had a kitchen that was suspect of lack of cleanliness. G. had a crab melt (Brie) and I steamer clams (a massive portion), which tasted fine at the time, and declined in digestive cooperation as the day wore on. The fiercest thunderstorm I have been in bore down upon us while dining so we moved into the 1929 diner and saw the rain fall in torrents, lightning and thunder smashing the sky. We tried to wait out the storm, but at last had to make for the car, which was parked several blocks away on Middle Street in a constant drizzle.
We drove from Salem, but the storms continued and slowed I-95 to a motorized crawl, so heavy was the downpour.
We found our hotel in Salem by five, and then toured the town, which is disappointing and depressed. The well aged apartments are mostly occupied by migrant Latinos and diaspora blacks. Teenagers infest the streets with loud cars. Cellular phones are ubiquitous. Stupidity has a good toehold. A massive coal-fired power plant, with an equally massive and equally ugly wastewater treatment plant mars the seashore. So we brought in food and had hummus and Abruzzo sausage and smoked salmon for an excellent dinner.
We slept well.
A “continental” breakfast was included in the price of the room, so at 8 a.m. we went in search and found ourselves in a dimly lit, television infested proto-American bar (Bay Bridges), complete with fingerprint riddled glasses, a tired stage with Gargantuan television screens and monumental speakers, arrays of pool tables, video games, dart boards, Tiffany lamps, neon signs, a few tables, and music blasting away. The barmaid, however, was most pleasant. Breakfast was coffee and donuts, but luckily a batch of bagels arrived as an alternative.
We took two cups of Dunkin’ Donuts coffee back to the hotel. Outside the drive-through a Vietnam veteran was selling the Boston Globe. We talked about how America was impossible without the automobile.