Monday, September 27, 2010

Healthy snack for delinquents

Somewhere in Lynn
Amid the usual trash of Doritos packets and broken beer bottles…

 From right to left: a soy sauce bottle, two wedges of lime, tofu container, and can of Arizona tea. The arrangement reminds me a Zen garden; seemingly random placement of the objects actually represents the order of the universe…

Yes, I’m happy that you guys are opting for healthy snack. But seriously, if you have a decency to bring the chopsticks back with you, pick up the trash!!


Saturday, September 25, 2010

High Rock Tower and Stone Cottage, Lynn

Added on May 17, 2011: Decision looms for Lynn's High Rock Stone Cottage.
The stone cottage is in a dire need to be rehabilitated or the worst could happen!

First, he chose a perfect location for his experiments. In Lynn, Massachusetts, there is an elevated piece of land believed to have special spiritual properties. Today, we might call it a “power center.”  -- from Passing Strange
High Rock Tower of 1905 and Stone Cottage

Lynn is a curious place; rock (the mineral one) seems to be the part of residents’ everyday life. Stacked rock wall there may be regarded as something equivalent to front yard lawn. Abundance probably is the reason, but there is some spiritual tone in those stacked rocks...

The King of Lynn Rock: Dungeon Rock

Wait, please keep reading. I’m not the only one obsessing about Lynn. The 19th century Spiritualists acclaimed the place as “nature’s warehouse of infinite magnetic force.” And the epicenter of this peculiar force is so-called High Rock section of the town. I learned about the place from a book “Passing Strange” by Joseph A. Cirto, and believe me,  this is one of the most bizarre stories I have ever heard…


John Murray Spear was a passionate, progressive, and talented Universalist minister.Heavily influenced by the Spiritualism Movement, he began obsessing about creating a new form of life, a machine one! He believed his creation would improve human life.

The blueprint was created during a séance session. In 1853, he and his cooperators began constructing the machine (he called it "Electrical Infant") at Jesse Hutchinson property at High Rock. Spiritualists believed they had seen angels at Hutchinson’s Stone Cottage (yes, this place is charged.) Rev. Spear believed the force of nature abundant in High Rock would aid infusing life into his creation.

Circa 1864, Hutchinson's original tower and Stone Cottage on far right

The description of the machine exceeds my imagination. I picture it would be like the creation of Moholy Nagy, but I don’t guarantee. Nine month later in 1854, the machine was complete awaiting for the final step: infusing life. Needless to say, a woman was chosen as a catalyst. A rather short ceremony began by Rev. Spear holding her hand. The result is curiously obscure and somewhat grotesque:
Already a mother by more traditional means, Mrs. Newton no doubt recognized a familiar indications right away. She began experiencing the symptoms of actual gestation accompanied with “some very singular characteristics,” which, perhaps happily, history fails to record. -- from Passing Strange
And, then...the spectators saw the thing moved! Next few weeks, Mrs. Newton diligently took care of the machine like her own baby...Wait, did “the thing” really move? Citro describes that even the most skeptical one admitted it moved, but “most attributed it to magnetic forces, oxidation, and wind.”

Looking from the tower
The tower sits of a huge porphyry rock

 So what eventually happened? The end was sudden and tragic; one day, a mob of angry men destroyed Spear’s creation. He would never attempt to create his "Electrical Infant" again...

The current tower with an observatory on the hill was built in 1905. The Stone Cottage is still there, but seems to be unwilling to draw history goers' attention. And yes, I have to admit the hill was a dizzily surreal space. It was not creepy or unwelcoming, but once you step into the hill you feel this is a special place that not to be treated lightly.


After writing this and uploading pictures, it occurred to me that my faithful Nikon was acting up when I was taking pictures around the tower: bracketing didn’t work, autofocus seemed to have lost its concentration, help guidance pop up like an overbearing mother telling something irrelevant…Well, if the observatory, which needs delicate instruments, is on top of the tower, it must be me thinking too much, right?

Locate High Rock Tower @ Google Map

Passing Strange by Joseph A. Citro
Hi Rock, Location, History, and Legends
High Rock Park, Tower and Observatory

Monday, September 20, 2010

Railroad tracks @ Minuteman Bikeway, Lexington

 The Minuteman Bikeway --a bicycle path connects Alewife and Bedford -- used to be a railroad. One day on my bicycle ride, I noticed a remain of train tracks on my left after passing the Lexington train depot to the direction of Bedford.

Train Depot, Lexington Center
Historical overview of the railroad on the left
The Lexington and West Cambridge Railroad opened in 1846, connecting West Cambridge (modern day Alewife Station) and Lexington Center. In 1873, the Middlesex Central Railroad (a subsidiary of the Lexington & W.C. Railroad) extended the service to Bedford, completing the current bikeway route. I guess the remain I saw is a part of the 1873 addition.

Swamp behind
Looking bikepath from tracks
The Boston and Maine Railroad took over the service in 1887, and the MBTA subsidized it in 1965. Eventually, the MBTA purchased the railroad in 1976 after the B&M’s bankruptcy. However, the passenger service ended only a year later, and the final freight service was in 1981. The railroad tracks were removed in 1991 to make a way for the present bikepath.

A tree between rails has swollen up
How many years abandoned, 20 or 30 ?
The Minuteman Bikeway was completed in 1993. Now, a shout of “On your leeeeeeeft” echos the path like a locomotive whistle.

Locate Railroad tracks @ Google Map

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Salem Village - where Salem witch hysteria began

Witchcraft Victims' Memorial

When I visited Danvers on September 11, a tension was wafting. Is the pastor really going to burn the Quran?  What will happen if he does? He said he's not going to burn but why do I trust him?

Until recently, I didn’t know that Danvers, formally known as Salem Village, is the place where 1692 Salem Witch Trial began. The mass hysteria which lasted for a year executed nineteen people, killed one man by torture, and imprisoned over hundred-fifty people.

Some History
On a winter day of 1692, the village girls gathered at Salem Village parsonage for fortune telling. The house was occupied by pastor Samuel Parris, his wife, four children and a Caribbean slave couple named Tituba and John Indian.

On that day, Parris wasn’t at home, and his wife had been ill. The hysteria began when the fortune telling, conducted by Tituba, went terribly wrong; one of the girls’ future turned out to be ominous. The girls in fits began decrying some of the villagers as witches who were tormenting the poor souls.

Nurse Homestead

Nurse Homestead circa 1678
Looking entryway from the house
I headed to Rebecca Nurse Homestead situated off the main street. On the day of her arrest on March 24, the accused seventy-one year old grandma was sick in bed at upstairs bedroom. She was executed on July 19.

Bedroom - Rebecca Nurse Homestead
On her arrest day, what did she see from this window ?

She was a respectable hard-working old lady who earned a living in a comfortable red farm house.  Behind her house, there is a family graveyard open to public. She is definitely buried here, but the exact location is not certain.

I remember when I previously visited the cemetery on a cold drizzly day in March.  There was a monument engraving the names of people who pleaded Rebecca’s innocence. As I and my husband read the names aloud (it was tough to read), the quiet space became suddenly cacophonous because the birds on the surrounding trees began to tweet in a rather excited manner. Are the birds’ before-lives the people who pleaded her innocence? Okay, I’m being new-agey.

From graveyard: you can see her red house next to the covered hey-rolls
What caused the hysteria?
This is my particular interest.The knowledgeable guide at Nurse Homestead explained that there were two factions in the village: the one wanted to become independent from the neighboring Salem Town (modern day Salem) as a solid farming community, and another wanted to keep the relationship with the town.

Rev. Parris, who was regarded as an unpopular pastor, belonged to the former faction leaded by Thomas Putnam. Rebecca Nurse belonged to the other represented by the local gentry of Porters. To be short, the Putnams used the hysteria to let the other faction down. (Note:  Joseph Putnam, the youngest of the Putnams and also the Porters’ son-in-law, criticized the witch-hunt as gossip went out of control. The Putnam Pantry visible from Route 1 is located next to his house now owned by a local historical society.)

Replica of Old Meeting House, Nurse Homestead
Interior: preliminary hearing was carried out here
Needless to say, there were plethora of external factors that abetted the hysteria. The Indian’s attack was a real threat; the guide pointed out that one of the girls who exhibited the sign of “possession” might have been suffered from PTSD. Mercy Lewis, a servant of the Putnams from Maine, was an orphan girl. She managed to avoid the attack by climbing up to a space above the fireplace. She might have heard her parents being killed... Puritanical life which regarded even fortune telling as heresy doesn’t sound like a fun girl’s life. I would be struck by cabin fever if I stuck with a stressed out father who was regarded as an unpopular guy in the village. Land dispute, small pox, inclement weather...hey, there is even a possibility of ergot poisoning (L!S!D!).

Salem Village Personage

Left: 1681 Parsonage, Right: 1734 Addition
It was little difficult to find the site of Samuel Parris house tucked behind Centre Street. After visiting Nurse’s house, I was surprised how small the remained cellar hole is; it is about the size of my living room. It is hard to imagine how eight people lived there. (However, Frances Hill suggests it was “a good-sized house” that contained only eight people. My suspicion over cabin fever has deepened! )

Entryway to parsonage
It was already 6pm, the nippy, shadowy air reminded me the summer is ending. How strange that I am in the place where the Salem Witch hysteria began. Would I imagine ending up here when I was a little girl in Japan? Definitely, the puritan girls wouldn't imagine so, either.

Locate Salem Village @ Google Map

A Delusion of Satan by Frances Hill
The Devil in Massachusetts by Marion L. Starkey useful site contains a list and map of the places I visited if you read Japanese
Wikipedia links:

Monday, September 6, 2010

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Slayton Tower, Melrose

I must confess that I have a strange fascination with a tower on top of a hill. And yes, please stop mentioning the phallic mambo-jumbo, Dr. Freud.

After spending a few years of my life in the Prairie, a hill -- the mere geographical contour -- obtained a mythical position in my perception. In that very narrow sense, Massachusetts has proven as a magical wonderland. Since I realized a handful of hills have viewing towers,  they have elevated to the equivalent of the technicolor world of the Wizard of OZ.

The very sacred hill of Illinois

I love driving along Route 1 to Newburyport. Hilltop Steak House (cactus !!), abandoned motels, kitschy Chinese restaurants, Danvers State Hospital… it is the epitome of America that fascinates me (including the fact that the Danvers is now a condo). Slayton Tower in Melrose is one of my strange love at Route 1.

The tower  is located at Mt. Hood Golf Club. Together with the golf course, it was build during the 30’s as a part of the Works Progress Administration project.  Compared to the Recovery Act of the 21st century fixing roads and bridges, it sounds somewhat impractical the folks in the 30’s built this tower; don’t worry, it was built to watch out for the German U-Boats. Now Slayton Tower is surrounded by the golfers who play hard during the weekdays.

Stone cladding must be the main architectural theme of this golf course. The tower,  club house, pumping station, and even barbecue pits were stone-clad. The WPA artists painted murals, and the WPA masons stacked stone.


Anyway, amid the happy golfers I climbed up to the top. The  interior was crumbling, and there was a remain of a Halloween party (official or unofficial, how would I know).

The loving memory of Oct. 31, 2009...

Surrounded by cell phone antennas, the view from the top was hazy but great. I can imagine the soldiers watching out for the U-boats. But I still don’t understand what kind of occasion made two men smoke cigars… 

The war is over, and now is the time for cigars.

I have no interest in golf or golf course per se. But it would be difficult to hate this place.

A trash bin adjacent to the tower. Yes, I did enjoy the view.
A water cooler living in a hut named "MT HOOD"

It was way too hot, so I decided to drink the water...

Nice'n cold !!
Thanks for reading, and see you next time.

Locate Slayton Tower @ Google Map