Good Times

I have lived on the North Shore of Boston, mostly in Salem, for almost thirty years. While there I have made over 5,000 good friends. Salem was a very walkable town in which a fifteen-minute walk could take up to an hour or more. Every fifteen feet there was another friend and another conversation. In the early 90’s there was a community of a few hundred, between the ages of 21 and 60, that would gather to dance and listen to some of the finest live music in the country. Just in Salem, we had 12 venues within walking distance and about 7 others within a 10-minute drive. In any of these places, you were guaranteed to see at least 50 familiar faces. Planning your day was not necessary, you could just walk out the door and know you were to meet someone you knew and have a grand time.

Then beyond the public sphere, we would entertain each other in our houses with holiday parties and gatherings just to share food and conversation, just because. Ivan would drop a side of beef in my fridge the night before and a case of Nantucket Nectars. Then we would invite 20 people out of a group of 50 that would rotate through for his dinners. He would cook and I would entertain and clear. Many people would stop and chat Ivan up when he was cooking, but he was doing something he loved. Especially since he did not have to fly out into the pasture and butcher a stolen cow in Bolivia like his old group of friends would do. Drinking some malty dark ales and my homebrewed melomel, mead brewed with fruit juices, the conversations just flowed. Then I held the annual Jul time Glog Party where they would bring something goofy to hang on my Charlie Brown Christmas tree. Metal fish, condoms on a stick, barbed wire Christmas wreaths, broken sunglasses, and people on a coat hanger hanged or hung from the tree. That would be followed by the Queercorn Parties. Aquarius/ Capricorn group birthday parties for about 8 of us that shared this celebration month.  On our 40th my friend John Archer let us borrow his mansion that was written up in the New York Times, The Salvaged Mansion,  for the party as Steve and Downey cooked for us all with food from his catering company. Many fine and hilarious moments we shared through time.

Beyond that, we went hiking and swimming. Behind an old mansion in Ipswich we found an old picnic lodge on a Native American spiritual site where we crafted tables and benches within, around a massive fireplace. We sat after hiking and told stories and shared jokes around the fire. This was a place we came out to for a few ‘after family’ Easter gatherings; like old tribes from Norway and Ireland would of done in days gone by. In Boxford, my friends would dress up with capes and swords and sneak through the woods to ‘The Rock’ and set a fire with a goose on a spit. There were many great castles to drive to. Driving up Rt 127 or RT 133 was a way of life. Just follow any state route 1, 1A, 97, 127, 133, or 35 north and you were to find some of the best country roads and attractions for a good old day trip you could hope for. In the winter it might be a sledding park with Greg and his nephew and niece. In the  Spring one of the many fruit stands with fresh bread, fudge, apple turnovers, and such. In the Summer there were trips to Tod’s Farm to pick through their massive antique market spread out on a small farm. Visits to Castle Hill where Pete would stand above a castle wall and ponder the possibilities of his minions gathered on the lawn below. Then fried clams at Essex Seafood and more antiques in Essex on 133. We swam behind the castle of Gordon College and Hood’s Pond in Topsfield. Dove off Thunderbridge. Mountain Biked along Rt 128 in the woods. Walked on Viking ships or seen them sail in the distance. Then in the Fall, we would hit Connors or Russel Orchards for cider donuts and harvest outings. Eerie Events behind the Phillips Library with a fire and ghost stories; we were always up to something after work. We didn’t wait for the weekends.

Then on Tuesdays, we had a roundtable of five or so friends talk over history, current events, alternative history, quantum science, and more laughs and beers. We would sit back in the Irish/Scottish Old Spot by the fire and just enjoy ourselves. Some really good minds expounding on the finer points of life. Just some really good conversation on a quieter night. Fire or campfire, we were not that picky. We just liked the company.

Even beyond this, I recall my mother’s stories. She grew up in Norseville where the Norwegians moving out of Brooklynn built up bungalows on the weekends until they could move in full time. They had a local church that organized their social life. Strangely enough, the church was not that churchy, but a community center. They put together the roller skating and bowling night weekly. They had the dances you could meet your spouse at. The harvest home carnivals that brought the town together. The Norwegian dinners with the young girls dressed in traditional dresses serving their elders who missed Norway. In my time so far, I have not experienced this. I have not tried the Mason Lodge, the PTA, the Elk or Moose, Book club, or food pantry. I mostly have experienced the organic social gatherings outside of an organization. Now I am wondering if that is all that is left.

For there is no more time, at least that is what the people I know think. No longer do we gather at each other’s homes, hike, or swim. I drive or more often than not bike alone up all of those routes. Antiques are left for later generations and Tod’s Farm has gone out to pasture. I see most of my friends yearly and ask what have they been up to; working is the usual answer. Which makes catching up easy… People don’t call, but text. You feel connected to them through their posts. Those few friends I get out, is after several false starts. It does make me feel much more grateful for my Wednesday lunch with Don and my Thursday game of pool with Roger which are always steadfast. I just have Monday, Tuesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday where the biggest conversation I have all day is ordering my Lapsang Souchong tea.

Somewhere in between a hope and a joke I wish I was a horrible person and all of these great people I have called my friends are having great adventurous lives without me. That I was so horrible that they just can’t put up with me; because that would mean they were not just working and sleeping their lives away. That social activity was not displayed within a 6′ x 3′ device, depending on your wifi signal.

I have read the secret to having peak experiences is to be around others that are having peak experiences. So I am about to set forth through America and see where I would like to build a home. A place where they still see their close friends weekly if not daily. A place that has time for each other. After the light is returning after the Winter Soltice of Christmas I am looking for a rebirth this Spring as I head out around Easter. I will be looking for those people who are having peak experiences. I am not sure if I will find it, but I am looking for Northern Exposure, Evening Shade, The Goonies, the cèilidh in Nova Scotia, the family Pow Wow (Not the trinket variety), the lake where everyone gathers, the wood everyone tromps through, the porch with the fiddle and flute, the midnight Yahtzee game, the Callaloo with the endless pot of rice, the tea kettle left behind the open kitchen door waiting for friends when you’re out.

If you interested too, follow this blog and see where I have been and the people I have met. Maybe I will come across a place you might have been looking for? Maybe a place you felt like you have been to already, maybe not in this life though. Somewhere just out of reach of your memories. Somewhere you almost could touch. I will be posting pictures of the places, the events, and the live music. I will also be posting about the great souls, musicians, authors, inventors, and the like when I come across them. Maybe I will even get to the strange places Tyler Franks keeps posting about…

So keep following this blog. Who knows you might find a community too!

Cheers,

~Chris

P.S.~ The funny thing is, most of the good times were before we had cellphones to capture the events ad times we had. So the really good times are just left to our memories. Strange all of the gatherings stopped happening after we had easy means of recording them…

Exciting Climax to Murder on the Common!

Its Christmas, Dearborn Street is all lit up, families are filling up the tunnels traveling to friends and families, but…

There is word that Joseph Knapp Jr. will die mysteriously like his brother within Salem Prison before his New Year’s Eve execution. This is the climax of the story where we find out who committed the murder of Captain Joseph White. Will Henry be able to make it in time though the packed tunnels to save Joseph; so he can be properly killed by the State…

Come back every Tuesday to read the latest installment of “Murder on the Common” featuring everyone’s favorite immortal, Henry Sinclair, and his reincarnated third-generation Viking ragtag crew.

New Installment

 

Is There Community Still in America or are we all Overworked?

Small Town Big City

Franconia Notch

Today we are faced with an overpriced housing market within San Francisco, New York, and Boston which is leaking out to the Midwestern cities of Des Moines, Pittsburgh, and others. Why should this be?

In this weekly blog post, Or at least an attempt at it, we will try to offer alternatives to this reality for many. We will proposition you to think differently; asking you why should we still focus on transportation hubs on rivers and oceans as the only centers in this nation for a profession and greater wealth. With the advent of the internet, working remotely, and We Work there is no need to exclusively center ahead these traditional hubs for commerce.

Granted, manufacturing, illegal drugs, and distribution companies will always rely on these traditional hub cities models; but, why should all the other industries that do not cater to them? Why does a software company need to be on the ocean? Why does Uber need a corporate headquarters on a river? Does Apple need to be in a big city? We can move back to the country.

Everything cycles in this world. At the turn of the twentieth century, there was a demand for factory workers, so many moved off the rural farm and centered on these transportation hub cities. Now in the 21st, these towns are so dense it is time for them to Super Nova. In doing so we will see a trend for people to move back into the interior of this country. Everything in this universe is reactionary. It gets too dense it either implodes or explodes. So will society.

So what would this new rural living look like? If we can get high-income wage owners to work remotely inside the areas once populated with more deer or cows than people, they will bring a demand for the amenities that once were only found within the cities to the little towns. Then others will follow and build restaurants, theaters, music venues, boutiques, and coffee shops that will provide for them. Would this ruin a small town?

One of the things that happen when major cities get oversaturated, the little boutique towns fill up and push the locals out; not if we make all the towns boutique-like. Outside of Boston, you have Salem, Newburyport, Portland, and Portsmouth in MA and NH. These are the quaint beautiful towns that offer the amenities you expect to find in Boston within a beautiful rural setting though. Why can’t Haverhill, MA or Danvers, MA have the same culture?

No, we should not have Starbucks brand the look of these downtowns making them cookie-cutter catering to an elite, but make them vibrant and offering something for everybody in town to be entertained and fulfilled by. For some this could be a top-notch sportsman center like Kittery Trading Post, for others this could be an Opera House, and then still some would just like a place like the “Brick” on Northern Exposure.

Now the Brick, it offered a place to meet the whole town in. It had the old world general store feel. A place you did not have to purchase something every time you entered, but you had to provide a good story though. Recently in urban centers, they are making little parks out of parking spots on the side of roads, but who has time to sit in them. Before these towns have been placing patio furniture in parks for people to enjoy, but no one uses them. Why?

To have a community, we need time. One way to get more time is to cut the commute. The walk from the bedroom to office in your bunny slippers cuts frustration, saves the planet, and makes driving a joy again when you cut the number of cars on the road by 90%. Working remotely could do this. It would be the first step to community again. Do we need to guilt people into community at first?

My mother’s church in Norseville, NJ built a community she still returns to at least once a year. They provided the carnival, the smorgasbord dinners, dances, bowling, ice skating, and many more events where they met their spouses and kept their families together with. Granted the church provided the guilt to do so… If you have a good church that works for you that does this still, great! But, we can provide these things without the church as well. So should we guilt people to be selfish and then share their free time?

Trouble. Trouble eliminated trouble. It was a game of pure luck. There was no real skill, just a bubble, and a bouncing dice. It provided the excuse to gather and bullshit without any real competition or sore feelings. Everyone got a turn to win as the conversation flowed. For poker night, a board game night, or fishing is just the vehicle for people to gather and have a good time bullshitting. It helps us forget the trouble in our lives and keeps us close enough to help remove the trouble that arises.

Honestly, I am just fed up seeing my best friends once a year for them only to tell me they have been working lately! We need to get back to living like humans and not bees. Plus, if it wasn’t for all of them turning into hermits I would be angrier that I am being forced out of my town due to the high rents leaving and the poor situations to live in. I need to find a place where there is community once more.

I find myself limited in my potential happiness if I am the happiest in town, and my happiness is sinking. For to have peak experiences you must be around others who are having peak experiences as well. When you are around those just getting by or find themselves stressed or depressed, guess where you are heading…

So this weekly post will discuss things I have mentioned in more detail and offer examples where good things are happening. It will also offer ideas for towns to become self-sufficient without taxes. Imagine a town that has a sever farm that pays for the roads, schools, and hospitals? We might have a town that pays its citizens instead… So come back next week and see what we come up with to improve our lives.

Viva da’ Vinci

Leonardo da’ Vinci Drew this….

Landscape drawing for Santa Maria della Neve was painted on August 5th, 1473. It is the oldest know work by the master. This is is the earliest known drawing by Leonardo. It now hangs in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. The landscape is of the valley of the Arno and Montelupo Castle. This was his backyard when Leonardo was still living with his father’s family: his stepmother, his paternal grandparents and his uncle Francesco, his first playmate.

Before Leonardo, a drawing of a landscape without human figures and symbolism would have been unthinkable. The first complete painted landscape is credited to Peter Paul Rubens, almost two hundred years after da’ Vinci’s drawing was made. He was way ahead of his time and still is.

In Richard A. Aliberti’s Universal Man: Da’ Vinci’s Soul Reborn we look into his world and his contemporaries that he inspired and which inspired him. You will find many great minds that have been forgotten to time and those you will be surprised knew da’ Vinci. You will also have a unique look into this man’s spirit at this pivotal point on the 500th anniversary of his birth. Join in the celebration and pick up this great book today!

How an Illustration is Made

Here is a series of illustrations illuminating you on how art for picture books are created. This picture will be in the second Mr. Pelinger’s House story: Speak Softly and Carry a Sticky Wicket. This is one of two stories in Tales from Mr. Pelinger’s House.

a process of making an illustration image.

7 Great Stories that Weave in and out of Each Other: Poe, Lovecraft, Dowgin, Maguire, Garrett, Hawthorne, Deschenes, and Poe!

Check out a free sample of our latest issue of Arkham: Tales from the Flipside featuring a story from Hawthorne, Poe, and Lovecraft for free. Plus sample our new stories by Matt Maguire of Wolverine and Heavy Metal fame, Lisa Deschenes, and Christopher Jon Luke Dowgin. Check out the latest Sinclair Narratives featuring everyone’s favorite immortal, Henry Sinclair, and his reincarnated third-generation Viking ragtag crew.

In this story, Henry has to solve the murder of the man who died just days after President Taft rented his house as the official White House in Beverly Ma. Many strange things have been happening in Beverly since his arrival centering on the Skull & Bones and Lovecraftian monsters. Come read how Teddy Roosevelt, Rough Rider Keno Crowninshield, Nikola Tesla, and Henry solve this murder.

Also, read new installments every Tuesday of Henry’s case in Murder on the Common where he must solve the most infamous murder of the 19th century involving the strange murder of Captain Joseph White which involved the highest members of our government. This is the murder that inspired the game Clue and Poe to write the Tell-Tale Heart.

Comic panel.

Vampires and Werewolves in Boston this Week!

Yes, we have another installment of Murder on the Common. Every Tuesday we bring you the latest from your favorite immortal, Henry Sinclair, and his reincarnated third-generation Viking ragtag crew. This week it is Thanksgiving and we have Native Americans throwing gourds at us white folk, tales of werewolves, and vampires attacking in Boston. It is another thrill-seeking installment this week. So come back every week and see if Henry can solve the murder of Captain White. The most infamous murder of the 19th century that influenced the game Clue and Edgar Allan Poe’s Tell-Tale Heart.

To read this week’s installment click here!

Chinese Vampires in front of Old Town Hall Boston.

The Sinclair Narratives is a regular serial inside the pages of the quarterly Arkham: Tales from the Flipside. To read a sample from our Winter edition click here.

Whistling in the Pines at Double Trouble State Park

This week I traveled to Double Trouble in Berkley, NJ deep in the Pines. This was the home to a lumber and cranberry operation. The town was named for the fact that muskrats breached a local dam twice in one week.

The Double Trouble Historic Village was originally a cranberry farm and packing plant. The Double Trouble Company was formed by Edward Crabbe in 1909 to sell timber, millwork products, and cranberries. Many sawmills have been in the town since the mid-18th century. The village consists of cranberry bogs and fourteen restored historic structures dating from the late 19th century through the early 20th century including a general store, a schoolhouse, and houses. The sawmill was restored in 1995, and the cranberry sorting and packing house were completed in 1996.

Here is a little light flute from that day: