All the News from the Salem Inn and In Salem

Saturday, July 17, 2010

I'm Baaa-ack.

Hey Everyone,

I've been waylayed for awhile whilst wearing the decorative painting hat.  First it was two shows at Summer Theatre at Salem at Salem State College painting sets, and now working at St. Andrew's Nursery School in Marblehead creating murals of birds, animals, and sky in their charming schoolrooms.

While working on the sets, I met and worked with some very talented people and was very impressed with what Salem has to offer by way of local theatre.  Right now at Summer Theatre at Salem, located at Salem State College is Into the Woods by Steven Sonheim, a musical about what happens after "happily ever after."

Thurs-Saturdays, 7:30 pm
Sundays, 2 pm
or 978-542-7555
(Ask about our local chamber of commerce discounts by phone.)

If you simply must have more Sondheim, Marblehead Little Theater will be showing a cabaret revue. Mark your calendar now for Marblehead Little Theatre’s Side-By-Side-By-Sondheim, a tribute to composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim, which will come to 12 School Street August 6-8 and 13-15. Show times are 8 p.m. with an additional show on both Sundays at 2 p.m.

The Griffen Theatre also has several events approaching as well-
The Return of Kid Prov! Kids on Stage, hosted by the always funny Erik Rodenhiser.  My kids really enjoyed this the last time around, and this time the proceeds are being donated to a good cause.
July 31st at The Griffen Theatre, 7 Lynde Street Salem.

Join Erik Rodenhiser on stage at The Griffen Theatre for some fun and laughs. Kids get the chance to show off their stuff with improvisational games and scenes like "slide show" and "kids as props.". Hosted by Erik Rodenhiser. Don’t miss it, reserve tix today.

Two shows: 4pm, ages 4- 12, and 7pm,ages 12-18

Tickets are $12 adults, $10 for teens, and $8 for kids.

Tickets, call 978 825 0222, or email

A portion of the proceeds will benefit “Inexhaustibly for Anya, bring Anya home” Keri Cahill’s cause. For more info on this cause, visit

On a different note (so to speak), August brings the final concert of the Salem Jazz and Soul Festival.  The SJSF is recreating and renewing the vibrant jazz scene from the 1920's, when Duke Ellington and other big band musicians played concerts at the Salem Willows seaside park.  The culmination of the SJSF is a weekend long concert featuring live music, music classes, a beer garden, and a crafts fair, all at Salem Willows Park.  Definitely a show not to be missed.  But just in case you can't make it or just can't wait, the SJSF also has smaller concerts throughout the summer outside the historic old town hall. On Saturday, August 10, Jazz violinist Ben Powell will be playing.

See ya around town!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Coming Home to Roost

Urban Country Design
40 Front Street
Salem, MA

Kate Leavy's creative and outgoing personality has come home to Roost in Salem.  Her nest  at 40 Front Street is lined with carefully chosen design books, candles, pillows, and other home goods, and demonstrates her and husband Jamie Metsch's flair for combining, among other new and retro styles, "old farmhouse" with "repurposed industrial" to created a warm,  funky, and nostalgic environment.  For a very modest price, she and Jamie will share these treasures with you.  They are also not just interested in sharing these items, however.  They want to invite you to  share their space whether it's to shop or just visit and relax on the comfy couch and read a magazine.

 Kate Leavy, co-owner of roOst
"We specifically waited until after October to open," Kate told me regarding the opening of their shop, Roost, Urban Country Design, last fall. "We wanted the people of Salem to know we were here for them."  For those of you not in the know, this refers to the calm after the Halloween madness when the residents of Salem dare to take to the downtown streets again.  "For us, success is creating an environment where community is important," Kate added.

And successful they have been.  Part of this success is due to Kate's presence at the shop, which is her home away from home.  After working for years in restaurant management, and then as a spa manager in Beverly, Kate was searching for something new.  Not only that, after a summer of reading, thinking, and creating jewelry, her husband told her to get a job.  She was on her way to a job interview at Pottery Barn for which she would have been a shoe-in, had a change of heart, and canceled the appointment.  She came home and told Jamie that she was going to open Roost.  Thirty days later, Roost, with its warm colors, chalk-graffitied walls, and charming tchotchkes  was ready to open.

Most of the wares, letterpress to hand-screened cards, organic soaps and body products, bath linens, jewelry, indoor gardening supplies, are under $20, making this a wonderful place to pick up a last-minute gift.  They occasionally have funky old furniture for sale too, again reflecting their urban country chic.  Kate has reined in her willingness to sell all of the furniture however.  "I used to sell the display furniture.  Then everything ended up on the floor."

Stay tuned for part two - Kate and Jamie are opening a second shop next door called The Beehive.  For now all I'll tell you is that the Beehive should prove to be Roost's sassy younger sibling.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Fiery Pool: The Maya and the Mythic Sea Weekend Festival

If you are looking for something to do this weekend, grab the family (or not!) and check out the special events at the Peabody Essex Museum. The PEM is hosting a weekend festival that celebrates their current epic exhibit, Fiery Pool: The Maya and the Mythic Sea, May 22-23. And don't forget if you're a Salem resident, the Peabody Essex Museum is always free!

Maya Dugouts
Boat builder Wade Smith reconstructs a large-scale, speculative model of a dugout canoe based on ancient Maya designs.

Guatemala Maya Sawdust Carpet
Master artist Ubaldo Sanchez creates an alfombra from hand-dyed sawdust, rice, dried beans and flowers on the Atrium floor. Help make the border!

Grupo Awal Noon and 3 pm
Young troupe members represent the Maya culture of Guatemala through folk dances, dress and cultural traditions.

Puppet Theater 1:15 and 4 pm
Gustavo Boada and members of the dance troupe Grupo Awal perform the Maya creation story - El Popol Vuh - with life-size puppets.

Story Time
Rain Player 2 pm
A boy named Pik challenges the Maya god of rain to a game of pok-a-tok - a cross between soccer and basketball - to avert a drought.

Breaking the Maya Code 4:45-6:45 pm  
 Based on the best-selling book by Michael Coe, Breaking the Maya Code traces the epic quest to unlock the secrets of the script across 200 years, nine countries and three continents.

Art activities, docent-led gallery tours, presentations are included with museum admission.  For reservations and a full schedule of events visit

Thanks to Kate Fox of Destination Salem for this blog post.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

North Shore Dish is a great website.  A lot of care and honesty has gone into researching and writing reviews of many of the North Shore's restaurants, markets, cafes, and, yes, farms.  If you are visiting Salem, this is one-stop shopping to decide where you want to eat.  I highly recommend it and kudos to North Shore Dish for a job well done.

Do you know your dish?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Upcoming Theatre Events in Salem, MA


      Sunday, May 16, 1 PM- 2 PM

The Salem Theatre Company, 90 Lafayette St., Salem

Members of the Salem Writer’s Group present readings from this original collection of memories, recollections, and reminiscences about Salem, its history, and the road before ahead. Reading from 1:00 PM-2 PM, tickets are $10.

“Personal Perspectives” is a product of the Writers’ Group that meets twice a month at the Council on Aging, and it’s also the product of decades of memories and reflection from local senior citizens. As writer Regina Ruscio Camarda says in the foreword, “This book contains 111 pages of never-to-be-forgotten true stories that we, mostly octogenarians, have lived through and recorded for posterity.”   

Books will be for sale at the event.

5 PM, May 23rd
Salem Theatre Company, 90 Lafayette Street
Two-time Tony Award winning actress Frances Sternhagen will come to the downtown Salem on May 23rd to give a special performance to benefit the Salem Theatre Company.  Ms. Sternhagen and the Salem Theatre Company's artistic director, John Fogle will present an adapeted performance of Tennessee by Romulus Linney.  The show is at 5 PM and tickets can be purchased online for $75.00 each at
Ms. Sternhagen, a well-known presence on stage, television and film, has received two Tony Awards (nominated for five), two Obies, two Drama Desks, has been inducted into the Theatre Hall of Fame and received the Helen Hayes Tribute in 2007.  Aside from the stage, she is most familiar to some audiences for her television roles as Bunny McDougal (Trey's mother) on HBO's Sex and the City, Kyra Sedgwick's mother Willa Mae Johnson on The Closer, and as Cliff Claven’s mother on Cheers.

Sternhagen made her Broadway debut in 1955 as Miss T. Muse in The Skin of Our Teeth, and has appeared in more than 400 plays including on Broadway: The Good Doctor (Tony), The Heiress (Tony), Equus, On Golden Pond (Drama League Medal), Seascape, Steel Magnolias, Mornings at Seven, The Foreigner, Grownups, Angel; Off-Broadway: Driving Miss Daisy, The Admirable Bashville (Obie and Clarence Derwent Award), The Pinter Plays (Obie), The Old Lady Shows Her Medals, Talking Heads, The Exact Center of the Universe, and Long Day's Journey Into Night.
In 1967, Sternhagen made her film debut in Up the Down Staircase, and was featured in The Mist, Raising Cain, Doc Hollywood, Misery, Outland, Starting Over, and Hospital. In addition to her recurring television roles on Sex and the City, The Closer and Cheers, Sternhagen has also appeared as Millicent Carter on ER, as well as Law & Order, Tales from the Crypt, among others.

“This is a wonderful opportunity to experience Broadway right here in Salem, and to support and celebrate one of our community’s most dynamic artistic and cultural organizations,” said LaParl.

A new play written by and featuring Harlan Baker 
 Directed by Christopher Price
Saturday May 22nd at 7:30p.m and Sunday May 23rd at 4 p.m. 
 The Griffen Theatre 
7 Lynde Street

Set on the eve of the 1960 presidential race, Jimmy Higgins is being interviewed by a college student about his life. Higgins recounts his days as a newspaper boy in Sandusky Ohio during the First World War, his meeting with Eugene Debs and other radicals opposed to American participation in the war, his experiences in the LaFollette campaign for president in 1924 and his experiences a labor reporter covering the union organizing drives of tenant farmers and auto workers in the 1930s.
Baker is an adjunct lecturer for the theatre department for the University of Southern Maine where he has been teaching for the past 24 years. He is a former member of the Maine legislature, where he served on the Joint Standing committee on Labor.

"Jimmy Higgins" has long stood for the name of the rank-and-file union and socialist activist.
Tickets are $15 and can be purchased at the box office or by calling 978-825-0222.
For more information go to

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Ropes Mansion and Garden, 318 Essex Street, Salem, MA

The Ropes Mansion was filmed as Alison's house in the movie Hocus Pocus

This is another little-known jewel in Salem, right across the street from the Curwen House of the Salem Inn.  The Ropes Mansion, a stark white beauty, was built in 1727 in the Georgian style.  The Georgian Style, named for the four King Georges of England, was based on classical Roman architecture that was sparked by the discoveries of Pompeii, Herculaneum, and Nero's Dome. The house was renovated in 1894 in the Colonial Revival style, a nationalistic response to the centennial of the Revolution.  The house was also moved back from the street.  It is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and is owned and maintained by the Peabody Essex Museum.  The house is closed to the public but the gardens are open year-round.

The Ropes Mansion once housed three generations of Salem's Ropes family. The house was built for Samuel Barnard, a merchant. In 1768, Judge Nathaniel Ropes, Jr., purchased the house from Barnard's nephew. The Ropes family then inhabited the house until 1907, when the house was given to the Trustees of the Ropes Memorial for public benefit.

The house is considered to be one of the most haunted in Salem.  Nathaniel Ropes was an unpopular Loyalist judge and died of smallpox whilst his house was being stoned by a rabble outside in 1774. His wife Abigail burnt to death after her dress caught fire from the fireplace in 1839.  Both are said to haunt the house.

  The Ropes Mansion, seen from the garden 

The garden was designed and laid out in 1912 by John Robinson, in a style that would have been an appropriate match to the Colonial Revival style of the house.  It is a formal garden, with a symmetrical layout of curving paths that ring a central sundial.  There is a full-time gardener who maintains the impeccable grounds and grows an astounding array of flowers.  Roses, dahlias, delphinium, and hydrangea, to name a few.

There are benches throughout the garden, and a giant beech tree to sit under.  It is the ideal place to sit and contemplate, read, or walk with a loved one.  Kids are welcome here and they love the stocked koi pond.  The garden is open year-round and is free.

One of the many pathways.  The stone edifice is the First Church of Salem, a  Universalist Unitarian church built in 1836

Monday, May 3, 2010

Upcoming Music in Salem

A quick reminder of some of the upcoming musical events coming up in Salem:

SJSF/Berklee Summer Series
 May 8, 2010, 5-7 PM

Derby Square, FREE, rain location inside Museum Place Mall
ANNETTE PHILIP (jazz, fun, experimental)

Annette Philip is an Indian vocalist, composer/arranger, recording artist and choir conductor who thrives on experimenting with the human voice. In 2003, she co-founded Artistes Unlimited (AU) in New Delhi, India, a performing arts ensemble, promoting collaboration among musicians in the city. With a vast repertoire spanning genres such as jazz, rock, R&B, funk, acappella, Gospel, Indian and Western Classical, Sufi and folk music, AU is now India’s largest and most diverse youth platform for musicians, with a rotating line up of over 250 artistes.

Annette is currently recording and performing with her own jazz fusion ensemble, “The Annette Philip Quintet”, now gearing up for the Salem Jazz and Soul Festival in May 2010. She is also touring with the Boston-based vocal group “Women of the World,” as well as working with a big band called "The Makanda Project."


This year Salem’s Historic Old Town Hall will host the festival on Saturday May 15th, 2010
from 11AM until 9PM.
Tickets are $10/$14 at the door. Ticket orders within 5-7 days of the event will be held at the door.
Children under 10 yrs get in for free!

There will be 17 acts of up-and-coming new musicians as well as old favorites.

The Old:
Poor Howard Stith

and The New:

Erik Hartley
Have a listen at this link: just gorgeous!!
Do not miss this!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Cafe Valverde, Not Your Average Joe

 Owner Eleni Valverdi flanked by assistant caffeine suppliers

Cafe Valverde is not where you find your average joe.  Cup of joe, that is.  Eleni and Nelson Valverde, the owners of Salem's newest coffee shop, are coffee experts.  The shop has been open a few weeks now and hopefully will give Starbucks (which I occasionally refer to as Charbucks) a run for their money.

Nelson is from Bolivia, where the coffee grows sweet and mellow.  This is a flavor profile regarding Bolivian coffee that I borrowed from the Roaster's Club website:

Aroma: melon
Brightness: bright and clean
Flavor: sweet, with hazelnut and chocolate
Body: silky and well-balanced
Notes: Higher Ground’s Bolivian Caranavi is a complex and flavorful coffee, grown high up in the De Montaña Co-op. Light and refreshing on the palate, the cup features caramel and milk chocolate undertones, a fruity aroma, and a smooth, nutty finish. 

Hazelnut?  Chocolate?  Smelling like a melon?  This sounds like my idea of heaven.  I enviously think that people who hail from coffee-growing countries have coffee flowing in their veins.

Eleni and Nelson began their coffee adventures in 2004 as self-taught artisan roasters, with a wholesale coffee importing company called Invalsa Coffee.  They have worked hard to develop relationships with small coffee farmers in Bolivia, where the coffee is grown on small farms high in the tropical Yungas region.  They regularly travel to Bolivia where they taste coffees, buy them, and ship them back to West Newbury, MA, where Invalsa Coffee is located.  The coffee is sold online to restaurants, catering companies, and to places as far away as Australia and Antarctica.  (It makes sense that penguins like a hot cup of coffee; I would too if I lived there).  To be delivered as fresh as possible, the beans are roasted in small batches right before being shipped.  They are lightly roasted, as Bolivian coffees' delicate nuances can be lost by over-roasting.

Nelson Valverde "cupping" in Colombia at the Olympics of coffee, the Cup of Excellence contest

Nelson travels regularly to Bolivia, where his brother Jorge lives and handles the exporting end.  Nelson is also an international judge in the "Cup of Excellence" contests that occur throughout the coffee-growing world.  The Cup of Excellence is a strict competition that selects the best coffee produced in that country for that particular year . These winning coffees are chosen by a select group of national and international "cuppers". The final winners are awarded the prestigious Cup of Excellence and sold to the highest bidder during an internet auction.  Nelson will soon be going to Guatemala to participate, and travels to Cup of Excellence contests about 6 times a year.

 Bolivia's Cup of Excellence

Eleni is now running Cafe Valverde here in Salem.  When I asked, why Salem?  She told me that she and Nelson had conducted an exhaustive search over two years to find just the right location, and that Salem had the right combination of elements.  A busy, bustling city with enough people who have a  palate sophisticated enough to appreciate what Cafe Valverde has to offer.

The cafe is warm and inviting and they sell all manner of coffee drinks, teas, smoothies, and baked goods.  The staff is very friendly.  They have free Wi-Fi.  They will be roasting their coffee beans right on the premises soon, and the aroma will be wafting down the Essex Street mall where you can sit outside at the bistro tables in front and in the cool alley next door.  Any ingredients they can buy locally, such as milk and chocolate, they do.  Having tried their coffee several times, I can definitely attest to how delicious it is, and how it would be tough to go back to...what's that place called?  I can't remember.

Saturday, May 1, 2010


Love Your Momma!!
(Bold lettering, largest typeface available, exclamation points, get the idea?)

For Mother's Day, treat your Mom to a wonderful package at the Salem Inn.  She and a guest will stay two nights in a jacuzzi room and receive one of the fabulous spa treatments from LivingWell,  the best spa in Salem.  She'll wake up to the smell of a dozen gorgeous roses, and a $50 gift certificate to the acclaimed Gioia Italian Ristorante or the jazzy Rockafella's Restaurant will guarantee a wonderful night out on the town.  If you are a mom, treat yourself!  What mom doesn't deserve some pampering?

(If anyone wants to babysit my kids while I take advantage of this one, let me know).

$399 plus tax for Monday-Thursday;  $425 + tax for Friday-Sunday.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Modern Millie Consignment Shop

A slideshow of Modern Millie's first fashion show benefit, 9 to 5, for the Northeast Animal Shelter in 2007.  So much fun!

Modern Millie is a boon to those of us who love clothes, to those of us who don't know much about clothes and hate to shop (moi), and those who consider clothing to be the ultimate form of self expression.

Christine Robidoux, owner of Modern Millie's

Modern Millie, now four years old, is a consignment store on Washington Street in downtown Salem.  Owner Christine Robidoux named the shop after the movie Thoroughly Modern Millie, in which the main character sets her sights on marrying for money and not love, apparently making her "modern".  (Still sounds somewhat current).  The movie is set in the 1920's and was made in the 1967.  According to Christine, there were obvious fashion influences from the 60's overlaying the intended 1920's couture.

And that, says Christine, embodies her mission at the consignment store: to combine vintage clothing from the 1970's and earlier with trendy modern clothing.  So the fashion possibilities and combinations range from being able to buy hip clothing at a reasonable price to being able to explore fashion as an art at a reasonable price.  And the great thing about Modern Millie is that you don't have to go it alone: the women that work here know their stuff.  Christine has a self-designed degree from UMass in costume history and design, and any of the staff will give their opinion and help you to find just the right thing to wear- what suits your style, your body, your eye color.  This is the personalized service that brings customers, including me, back again and again.

Modern Millie's window displays make for delectable eye candy

The clothes change daily, so you can too.  Modern Millie has 800 consignors from which Christine carefully chooses what to carry.  She also has many loyal customers, and this base got a big boost last year with her fashion show, The Clothes On Their Backs, a benefit held at the Hawthorne Hotel.  The show had a unique flair as it was choreographed into scenes in which the models were actors as well, miming skits to music.  The skits were funny, moving, sassy, and poignant on top of showing off Christine's skill as a fashion coordinator.  The show was a fantastic success, and raised $20,000 for the Salem Mission homeless shelter.  Christine produced the show without making a dime- the months of rehearsals and organization were a labor of love.  Christine's following deservedly jumped after the wild success of the show, and she was nominated as "Businesswoman of the Year" for the Salem Chamber of Commerce last year.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

An Unlikely Welcoming Committee

As you enter the front hall of the Salem Inn, you might hear soft beeping and cheeping of seven zebra finches coming from the drawing room, or parlor, to your left. When this federalist-style home was built in 1834, this room was the entertainment center and would have showcased the occupants' finest furnishings.  Ladies would have retired here after they had dined, while the men would have stayed behind in the dining room and socialized over stinky cigars and brandy. 

Ladies gathering and chirping like finches.

The room plays much the same function now as it is a place to rest, enjoy the fire and some sherry, and visit.  The beeping and cheeping are the welcoming song of the zebra finches (native to Australia) who have for so many years delighted Salem Inn guests.  In fact, the birds have been there longer than anyone can quite remember.  Dick and Diane, the owners, hazard a guess of 12 years.  They started with about three or four finches in one cage, and the years in between have seen up to four cages full of finches, all descendants of the original birds. There are always one or two nests with eggs at any given time.  When I peeked in the other day, someone had gotten a bit confused and laid her eggs in the food dish.  Occasionally when Jenn, the general manager, cleans the cages, a little escape artist gets away and has to be caught with a designated finch-catching net.

A male zebra finch has bright orange cheeks

When the finches start outnumbering the hotel staff and guests, it's time to give some away.  They have gone home with guests, housekeepers, and bird-lovers from Craig's List.  So far, about 25 baby finches have found new homes.  Since finches can live up to 15 years, some of these birds may be hanging out with their great-great-great (up to about 13 greats) grandparents.

The plainer female, who will compensate for a less-than-superior mate 
by having bigger, stronger eggs with more nutrition inside

And here's an interesting bit of information: researchers conducted a study observing the effect of the zebra finch's song on dopamine reward circuits in its brain. The male bird has two different songs, one conducted in privacy potentially for practice and the other used to attract females.  (I don't think they get any privacy at the Inn...) Surprisingly they found that the bird produced a response in the dopamine reward circuits when singing for a female but not in privacy.

Why would it be more enjoyable to serenade a partner than just to sing to yourself? Evolution can likely be credited for the positive chemical reaction that occurs in the male finch; if he enjoys singing to females, he is likely to do it more often and therefore attract more mates. It is no stretch to imagine that humans should have a similar response to activities that woo a potential mate. If you can’t stop making yourself look nice, putting on nice clothes or showing off your strength, you may well be stimulating the same brain circuitry that can drive dangerous addictions.  Luckily, these evolution-favored behaviors are much safer than drugs.  And given the proliferation of the finches at the Inn, lack of privacy hasn't hurt their song much.

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Old Spot

Hi Everyone,

 Kicking back on the Salem Trolley Tour

I'm back to the blog again as spring comes to Salem.  Last week was taken up by organizing and participating in what is known in the travel industry as a "fam", or familiarization, tour for meeting planners to acquaint them with out lovely little city and its amenities that can accommodate conferences, reunions, weddings.  We took the Salem Trolley tour, went through the House of the Seven Gables,  visited the Witch Museum, as well as sampled really tasty food at Finz and Rockafellas.  What struck me most about both the interactions between the visiting meeting planners and the vendors from different businesses in Salem was how unified Salem is as a community.  Salem was presented as a diverse, interesting, cultured, and a really friendly place to visit.  It made me want to live here.  Oh, wait a minute...I do live here.  I knew there was a reason. 

Which brings me to my next blogging topic, one of my favorite spots to meet friends for a pint.

According to the Old Spot, I am "local colour", which is, to quote the owner, actually fancy talk for a regular.  Located at 121 Essex Street, across from the Hawthorne Hotel, the Old Spot is an English pub with many beers to uphold that assignation.

And it looks and feels like an English pub: low benches with cushions and pillows surround low tables where people gather in groups for a pint and a meal.  There is a fireplace and...only ONE TV!!!  (Yay!)  The wood is dark; so are many of the beers.  They serve Guinness, shandies, black and tans.  (Shandies are beer mixed with lemonade- eww, and black and tans are a stout mixed with a lighter lager.  Black and tans are named after a paramilitary group sent into Ireland in the 20's from England to suppress the Irish.  The Irish don't like the name for this drink).

The food is a mixture of pub fare with more modern and upscale food.  You can order a traditional Cornish pasty- beef, carrots, potatoes, onions, and gravy inside a crust of flaky pastry, or something as nouveau cuisine as their mushroom salad: sautéed portobello, crimini, and button mushrooms, over arugula, with truffle vinaigrette and shaved parmesan.  Traditional English fish and chips or grilled salmon.  I have yet to try the desserts, but there is one I don't even have the courage to ask about- the spotted dick.

Which brings us to the name of the pub.  The Old Spot is the name of the oldest pedigree of spotted pig in the world, from Gloucestershire, England.  We like pigs in Salem- soon I will tell you about In a Pig's Eye, another local favorite bar/restaurant.  And as an aside, my own person artistic path seems to be taking a detour into Piggy Land for some reason; my sketches of pigs have become like a personal diary.  Let me know if you like them and I will publish more as I do them.

Piggies Flirting at the Salem Diner

Piggy Family Camping

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Comedy at In a Pig's Eye

In a Pig's Eye is a great bar, with a very loyal local following.  With a warm, pubby atmosphere, it is a great place to come after walking along the harbor on a foggy spring night.  And to catch some comedy at the same time?  It doesn't get much better.

 On the last two Sundays in April (18th and 25th)
In a Pig's Eye Restaurant 
148 Derby Street


"April's Fools"

A Three-Piece Suite of Comedy/Drama

Featuring Anne O'Neill, Lauren Ashly Suchecki,  Jim Robinson and Georgette Beck
with Eric Reardon on Guitar

Doors open at 7:00

Show starts at 7:30

Tickets $10.00 
Purchase at the Pig's Eye or call 978-741-4436

Monday, March 29, 2010

Local Color II: More North Shore Lore
presented by the Hamilton Hall Ladies' Committee

Thursday, April 1, 11 AM at Hamilton Hall,  9 Chestnut Street, Salem

Jim MacAllister

Hamilton Hall, named for Alexander Hamilton, built by Samuel McIntire in 1805

During Jim MacAllister's 25 years of involvement with local history, he has been a relentless pursuer of the odd and little known fact, the colorful character, the unusual place or event.  Jim will take the stage at Hamilton Hall to share some more of his favorite tales, from the absurd to the magnificent and everything in between, all culled from the annals of Essex County cities and towns.

Tickets may be purchased at Hamilton Hall or at the door the day of the lecture.  Be sure to get there early as these lectures ALWAYS sell out.

Doors open and bullion will be served from 10:00 - 11:00.
Admission is $10.00 per person.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A Walk Through Salem - NOT Your Ordinary Guided Tour

 Mr. Zac, our tour guide

I recently had the pleasure of having coffee with Chris Dowgin, author and illustrator of the book A Walk Through Salem.  A resident of Salem for 18 years, he is as fascinating as his book, with an approachable personality, bohemian dress and hair, and a wide breadth of knowledge of Salem, history and psychology.  (He also has a  penchant for Cadbury bars and milk, like A Walk Through Salem's narrator, Mr. Zac).

A Walk Through Salem features recognizable buildings, people, and places in Salem, rendered in a whimsical, sketchy style. It is a genuine walking tour guidebook, and you can follow the trail and see the sites and sights on the tour.

However, this is not your ordinary guidebook.  For Dowgin has created an alternative Salem that operates on many levels: physical, symbolic, archetypal.  It lends itself to reading more than once to follow Dowgin's take on the classic fairytale structure, which as defined by professor Jack Zipes of the University of Michigan, “awaken(s) our regard for the miraculous condition of life and evoke(s) profound feelings of awe and respect for life as a miraculous process, which can be altered and changed to compensate for the lack of power, wealth, and pleasure that most people experience".

We begin our tour at the Unzipping Tree, in Salem Commons, and urged on by our gnome-like tour guide, Mr. Zac, we are encouraged to enter through the tree into another world.  In this world, we meet the denizens of Salem we may have never noticed before: squirrels that talk, fish and pigs that fly...(what, you've never noticed them before?  That's why you need this book.  You're not paying attention.)  Then getting back home proves to be the hardest part of all...

We visit some of Salem's most famous locations, such as the Lyceum, where Alexander Graham Bell gave his first public display of the telephone, but is now struggling to use his cell phone.  Duke Ellington is playing at the Salem Willows, and the onion domes of the Saint Nicholas Church double as soft serve ice cream, when in season.

What I enjoyed most about this book was Dowgin's sense of wordplay and ironic humor.  As the mom of two little would-be-sugar-addicts-if-I-let-them, this was my favorite page:

Chris will be giving a book signing at Spring Fling at  Old Town Hall.  There will be music, wine, beer, and food from merchants all over Salem. 6-9 PM; tickets $25 in advance, $30 at the door.

The book is also for sale at Pamplemousse, The Salem Inn, the Witch Museum, the Cat and the Fiddle, Remember Salem, the Awakening Guild, and can be purchased online at

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Gulu-Gulu Cafe- Salem Goes Funky

 The patio outside the Gulu-Gulu Cafe

The Gulu-Gulu Cafe (which means Glug-Glug, the drinking sound, in French) is situated on the pretty little park that is home to the Bewitched statue.  The owners met each other in a cafe in Prague with the same name and have done a great job replicating a European flavor here in honor of the cafe where they also celebrated their wedding.

When the weather is fine, (soon to come, we hope), nothing beats sitting outside in Gulu-Gulu's patio seating and drinking a beer from their extraordinary beer menu.  Except, perhaps, indulging in a healthy but delicious panini sandwich as well.

When the weather ain't so good, being inside the Gulu-Gulu ain't so bad.  It is a gathering place for artists, musicians, and other People of Mixed Funkiness and Creativity.  The space is open and big, but the warm wooden trim and cushy sofas make it feel cozy nonetheless. The art on the wall is for sale (and some if it is really, really good).

Apoidea by Glenn Church, for sale at the Gulu-Gulu Cafe

There is also music and movies to be had.  Live music, open mic nights, and old movie nights are scheduled every week with other spicy goodies thrown in- March is Marchstache Month, so grow those handlebars and get ready to compete, or come to the end-of-the-month LGBT Teadance.

So all this is great fun, but let's not forget about the food and the staff.  The menu consists of light meals such as crepes, sandwiches, and salads.  The Gulu-Gulu does its best to buy locally so everything is as fresh as possible, and every meal I've had there has been good.  I thought I'd died and gone to dessert heaven when I had the chocolate mousse cake the last time I was there.  But be prepared to wait; in true European fashion, at the Gulu-Gulu eating is considered a social event and it can sometimes take awhile to get your freshly prepared meal.

The staff is as funky and friendly as the surroundings- piercings, tattoos- anything goes.  Makes an artist like yours truly feel plenty welcome.