People, I am tired. Many thanks to those of you who wrote nice comments about my crash on Tuesday — I’m doing fine, although the bruises are getting uglier. I felt so fine, in fact, that I went on an 81-mile ride today, at a much faster speed than usual for a long, hilly ride (16.7 mph). It was a group ride, with four other people, including Hobgoblin. I started off feeling sluggish and nervous about riding with others — when anyone would yell or wobble in the slightest I would panic — but pretty soon my energy returned and I forgot about the crash on Tuesday and began to ride normally. The only thing that brought the crash back to mind was that whenever I went over a pothole or a crack in the road (which was often, as those of you who know Connecticut will readily believe), the bruises on my arm hurt.
It was a beautiful day, in the 60s and 70s, dry, and sunny, and we rode through beautiful Litchfield county. The riding doesn’t get any better in Connecticut, that’s for sure.
I also wanted to tell you about my day yesterday, which was Hobgoblin’s birthday and was spent taking a day trip to Salem, Massachusetts. The first thing we saw was the house where Hawthorne was born, and the House of Seven Gables, made famous by Hawthorne’s novel. The two houses are now right next to each other, although this is because Hawthorne’s birth home was moved in the 1950s. Both of the houses are great fun to walk through — I love looking at old houses, even if they aren’t historically famous — they have the low ceilings and small rooms you would expect from houses several centuries old. The House of Seven Gables has a secret staircase that takes you from the dining room up to the attic, and it has an interesting history, with additions added and then removed, gables removed and then restored, fortunes of the owners gained and lost, and, of course, Hawthorne’s own visits to the place. I have yet to read the novel, but now feel inspired to try to get to it soon.
Next we checked out the Peabody Essex Museum and managed to see only a small part of it, as it’s surprisingly large and we have limited endurance when it comes to museums. We spent a lot of the time looking at their very cool collection of model ships (which made me feel like reading Patrick O’Brian), and then we headed off to their special exhibits, including one on weddings around the globe and another on Mauri tattoos.
After that we had time and energy for one more museum, this one not as erudite as the other two — the pirate’s museum, which was silly but fun; it wasn’t much of a museum, actually, but more of a tour through some rooms with models of pirates and a guide who told us stories of piratical violence and betrayal.
Salem has a ton of museums, most of them probably like the pirate’s museum, which, although fun, wasn’t a lot more than an excuse to have a gift shop. It’s got several museums about witches, and in fact, much of the town is witch-obsessed. There are many witch-themed shops, and the entire month of October is basically a festival celebrating witches and all things Halloween-related. The irony of this is, of course, obvious. I couldn’t help but wonder what those women accused of being witches would have thought of the modern-day town, and also what Hawthorne would have thought of the place — would he like or hate it?
To recover from our museum-attending, we checked out two of the local bookshops, the first one a good independent store, and the second a used bookstore. The used bookstore is memorable, not for its stock, which was pretty mainstream with its multiple copies of extremely famous contemporary authors, but for the terror it inspired in me. For perhaps the first time in my life I breathed a sigh of relief when we left the shop. Believe me when I tell you that the books there are dangerous. Life-threatening, in fact.
The problem isn’t with the books themselves, but with the way the owners decided to cram them into the shop — most of them are stacked on top of each other rather than shelved side by side, and the stacks tower over you, threatened to topple on your head. I made the mistake of pulling a book out of one such stack and then I panicked because it started swaying towards me. I got my hand up in time to keep it from falling on me, but the stack wouldn’t stay put, and I couldn’t figure out how stabilize it with my one free hand. Thankfully the store owner came to my rescue and fixed the pile himself. I then decided I would look only at books toward the top of the stacks, but I embarrassed myself once again: the aisles are so narrow that as I walked down one of them, my handbag brushed against one of the piles, knocking it over. Once again the owner came to my rescue, restacking the books for me. The owner’s facial expression made it pretty clear that he spends a good bit of every day rescuing klutzy customers from themselves.
I couldn’t believe the place. The book stacks bulged and teetered, making me dizzy. One section was even wrapped in a thick cord to keep the books from sliding off their stacks and onto the floor. There is no cash register in sight; instead, near the door there is a gap in the book piles, about the length of a mass market paperback, through which customers carefully hand their purchases to the cashier, who carefully hands them back once the books are paid for. I went through this process with a P.D. James novel that sounded good and walked out the door relieved that I hadn’t done even more damage.
After that we got dinner, stuffed ourselves with chocolate cake, and headed home. We had such a good time, we’re hoping to head back before too long and see the things we didn’t have time for that day. I highly recommend a visit if you get the chance, but do be careful — danger lurks in some unexpected places.