After the unqualified success of Ray Larose’s NEWLK in Portsmouth in the spring of 2015, plans of a second meeting were made almost immediately. Happily enough it wasn’t much further than Portsmouth, we were to meet in the historic town of Salem MA. Better yet, we would be meeting the week before Halloween. It was a target-rich environment.
I set out shortly after five am atlantic time. That put me just cresting the mountains on Rt 9 in Maine when the sun broached the hills. I stopped for a few minutes and enjoyed the spectacle. There wasn’t a car or person for miles. I’m not a spiritual person, but I can see why the indigenous would have revered the sky and the sun and the earth. Removed of the static of modern life, just about anything in nature is special.
Bangor came and went (Pro-tip: always take the State Road 46 and US1 cutoff from the 9 to the 395, saves the slow plod along the river through Brewer). I tend to tweet when I’m on the move since I enjoy seeing other people’s adventures unfold in realtime and should bless others thusly in turn. Everything between my front door and the 395 is mighty pretty countryside, after that it’s bland interstate same as everywhere else in America but without the benefit of seacoast, mountains or sweeping desert vistas. Maine deserves to be seen via US1 along the coast, or US2 to North Conway via Skowhegan, Rumford and the White Mountains. Can’t beat the Maine ‘Pike for efficiency, though.
After tweeting something clever about my journey I got a reply from Tyler Constance. Tyler is a recent transplant to Portland ME after a stretch of intense couch surfing. He was soliciting a ride to Salem for the meetup, and I was literally cruising through his backyard within 90 minutes. Picking up stragglers is a typical Canadian quality, and after vetting him thoroughly I replied and told him when I’d be arriving. I’d never heard of a vegan serial killer, so I figured I was safe and shortly after picked him up at a Walgreen’s.
Turns out we had as much in common as you could hope to have with a stranger you’d agreed to pick up out of the blue. Tyler was a pleasant passenger and not once did I suspect he was planning the best way to dispose of my mangled corpse. We navigated the mess of roads leading into Salem and came to a halt on the outskirts of town wth the rest of the traffic. Siri wasn’t aware of arbitrary road closures and event related one-way changes, so we muddled through until a random dude and an old lady offered us parking for $20. Behind a funeral home. In Salem. Close to Halloween. It was perfect.
We got out, loaded up and got our bearings in the busy downtown area. Somehow we had managed to arrive and get parked a couple hours early, so there was time to kill. I got through a couple rolls just strolling through the vendors and displays. People roamed in costume, drunk and rowdy. So, this was halloween in America. Every kook for hundreds of miles had turned up to sell magic crystals, spells, potions and witch-branded junk. All ages, all walks of life, letting their freak-flags fly proudly.
I got word from Ray that he was arriving in town and had scored a coveted free parking spot on the town square. We met up, got reacquainted and made our way down to the meeting place at the harbour slips. A doppo macchiato and a cautious look at the town Bunghole were highlights. People were slow to turn up on account of the wild pedestrian and auto traffic for miles in every direction. Eventually, we all arrived and set off on a stroll that would hit the high-points in town.
As I mentioned in the previous NEWLK post from Portsmouth NH I like taking photos of people in the street though I can’t say what I do is “street photography”. The connotation for me is that street photographers take. I know that’s not accurate, but my perception is that street photography (in its current incarnation) is guerrilla warfare and the photos are the spoils of war. The mounted gazelle head. The necklace of enemy ears. I see myself more like a street-preacher, a doomsday sandwich-board wearing curiosity. I see something I like and make may way over, convey what I’m doing, field the inevitable questions about where I get film these days and ask for a portrait. Its a slow way to make your way through a strange town but it always feels like I’ve gone that much deeper. Picked the scab, so to speak.
In spite of 40,000 costumed fringe-folk, Salem holds all the traditional New England Coastal charm you could hope for. The homes were old, the streets were narrow and there were old churches, statues or headstones within every block.
As the sun started to disappear for the day, we made it to the oldest cemetery in Salem. It was a festival atmosphere with a carnival across the street and dozens of people taking tours and reading grave markers.
I was able to get the rest of my roll exposed before heading to a brew-pub for supper. We chose to eat outdoors under rink heaters instead of waiting two hours for a table inside.
Good-byes were said shortly after and Tyler bravely elected to navigate once again. I was sad to leave my new friends, and have thought often about the benefits of living closer to a proper urban centre. Our family’s travel plans will take us plenty of places, and I’m not prepared to settle anywhere yet. I got my co-pilot back to his new home and hit the 95 again heading north with Mingus on the stereo. I made it all the way back to Bangor before rolling out a Thermarest and catching some kip in the Family Wagon. A half-gallon of strong coffee, trucker breakfast at Dysart’s saw me home by lunchtime the next day.
Monotone images in this set are courtesy of the Rolleiflex MX F3.5 Xenar loaded with Ilford HP5. Processing and scans are Ilfosol3 and Epson Perfection 3200 Photo. Color images are Apple iPhone 6.