Sister Magic: Massachusetts

November 9 – November 14

The first time I ever was on a plane was with my sister, three years ago. She was headed to New York in July for a business event and I was tagging along for the adventure, for the milestone in my life that would become the floodgate for my love of traveling.

In 2017, we found ourselves together again, driving along a narrow road as twilight turns into a cold evening in a town thousands of miles from home again. She’s following the lagging Google Maps directions from Salem’s waterfront towards an old neighborhood off of Proctor Street. At the corner of Proctor and Pope, we accidentally turn off from the directions down a winding road past a park they call Gallow’s Hill. That’s exactly what we’re looking for now, the true site of the hangings in a time in history so fixated in the imaginations of me and my sister growing up. Except now we’re driving far away from what we came to see, thousands of miles from home, together.

It all starts from a plane bound for Boston, going nowhere near Boston for more simpler, charming pleasures of the old towns along the eastern seaboard. This was a new adventure in the making– my sister hadn’t been outside California in those last 3 years since dating her ex and now since her ex was slowly coming out of the picture, new sights were set for quality time away from the hurt and struggles of work and the breakup back west. Out here, it was all just us.

Milan and Me MA

We’re not the most aligned sisters. She’s outgoing, blonde, and loves her country music. She can’t stand San Francisco. I’m too weird and awkward for her– but to her, that is exactly why we’re on this trip. One night when we’re in the hotel– the charming Inn at Crystal Cove on the shores of little Winthrop on Boston Harbor– she was on the phone with a friend.

“I love being with my sister,” she says. “Her weirdness brings me out of my comfort zone and to have the most fun.”

This whole weekend is out of our comfort zone– 20 degree evenings, frustrating traffic circles at almost every turn, Dunkin Donuts, and rustic names for towns all dated to the 17th century like Lynn, Revere, Marblehead– Salem. I personally found myself drawn to the New England life in these past few months, just as autumn approached. Something about the stiffness, the unchanged tune of these roads and towns sitting among the salty Atlantic air that once was proclaimed the New World. Something charming, that’s what I see. I try my best to plan this trip to the best of my adventurous abilities following preppy bloggers and diving deep into recommended restaurants and activities on their stomping grounds of the North East. Google mapping these cities as if I had lived here my whole life, and that for this weekend I was showing my sister around town.

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It isn’t the perfect time, losing phones in apple orchards and an overcrowded little diner when we were desperately in need of coffee. No Warriors games, but plenty of Patriots fans, flags flying high, knitted beanies snug on the heads of teens and liquor store shoppers alike. Being out of the comfort of the West Coast doesn’t mean excitement at every corner, especially when that next corner might be an accidental exit that nearly drives you into the ocean.

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But, at least my sister is here. No, at least I can be here for her. And together, we enjoy the bumps in this road trip so far from home, along the 95 North towards Amesbury bristled trees with the last of the fall leaves latched to their branches, to the coast where we avoid toll roads and beat the sunset back to our town where Parmesan truffle fries and pistachio martinis await. The memories we share will always flood back when we sip peppermint hot cocoa (“We don’t have syrup,” the young lady at Rockport Fudgery laments, “but I can add some of this peppermint creamer instead?”), listen to Joni Mitchell, and find ourselves in the company of police officers– my sister particularly fond of officers since she exchanged numbers with one. But the best reminders will be Salem, for that was where we both found amusement and true magic in the history of the town, the hanging dried herbs for Wiccan altars and the various stones we plucked from baskets to add to her much-sought Love elixir that we read in the mini red velvet spellbook we were buying. Discussing the formula– stones of different values and energies soaking in drinking water for 7 hours– was the main course of lunch at the Witch’s Brew Cafe. The stones, forever stored away neatly in the cotton satchel embroidered with pretty pink and purple flowers, those we’ll save for when she needs them the most.

Salem is where I conclude this tale of New England, turning back on that dark road past Gallows Hill Park to where the directions tell us that up ahead on Pope Street, we will find Proctor’s Ledge. I know it’s dark out now, and there won’t be much to see, but to be so close to where much of this town’s legacy is rooted will be a wonderful way to pay our respects before we’re called home. Pope and Proctor come up, and onward we drive, 300 feet, 100 feet, 50 feet–

“Was that it?” My sister asks. She’s looking back at the dark hilly patch nestled between big new homes before coming back up onto the corner Walgreens. “That was,” I tell her, realizing the car is too far gone to reverse or make a U-turn or to do anything to redeem and savor those few seconds of seeing the Ledge. Well, it was a shot we took, albeit a shot in the dark.

We’re still at the red light near the Walgreens. “Do you want me to go back?” My sister asks me. I shake my head, she’s already been complaining about her dry eyes and barely seeing the road this late. Still, she turns left and left again back onto Proctor Street, going back through the neighborhood to give me one last, lingering look.

She slows down this time. Still dark, but in the dimness I can make out the slabs of cement where in the daylight you can see the names of the victims from 1692, a single tree at the center of this newly-minted monument to honor them in unison. My view wasn’t much better from the first time. My sister asks if I want to go back and see it again.

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We’ve made it this far, twice now, but that’s all I needed from this last night, a memory that now holds more magic than anything we’ve seen in this Old World. And I’ll only have to look back on a memory, the kind of magic that can never be lost.

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Weekly Wonders: October 30

Weekly Wonders October 30

In less than four days I’ll be heading out on a much-needed sister adventure to Massachusetts! I’m most excited about seeing the historic town of Marblehead, right on the Atlantic. We plan on doing a day of sightseeing in Boston, but my sister and I are over any city sights having been in San Francisco for so long, and are in the mood for a more magical little escape– yes, especially to Salem!

IT’S HERE! The Fall/Winter issue of Marjorie Magazine is available now for your vintage/nostalgic reading pleasure. Our second issue is 48 pages of beautiful photos, featured interviews with Monalogue and Caffe Bianco, a travel guide for Bruges, Belgium, more cocktail recipes by Jennifer Richmond, and a breath-taking cover feature by Jacki Geary Art. It’s ready to be yours now for just $10 at Marjorie Mercantile!

My birthday was just this past Saturday, and boy, was it a happy little celebration, truly. The Bob Ross-themed party in the evening entailed dancing to remixed autotuned videos of Ross and a big canvas on which every party guest added their own fun work of art! Painting soon to be posted; I’m so grateful for the fun friends and incredible family that always make my birthdays so memorable.

Saltwater taffy, I realized, is my favorite candy. Around Halloween the cravings especially bump up. Peppermint and blueberry are definite faves.

This year’s costume was a silly but special one! One of my boyfriend’s favorite movies is The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, and so we decided on being Steve Zissou and the Jaguar Shark. I chose last year’s costumes of being Rick and Negan from The Walking Dead– so this year, not too shabby for his picking. As my boyfriend’s costume was fairly easy to buy and assemble, mine involved a bit more creative approach to making it work, as nowhere sells onesies or costumes for the mythical sea creature. So,  I took a leopard dress (an XXL tank from Target), and cut out/hand-painted a shark fin wth leopard splotches, which, I found, are so easy to draw!

Tea. TEA. I’m starting to crave tea more than coffee– and for my birthday, come Ceylon. I got to enjoy a wonderful birthday tea brunch with my best friend at SIP Tea Room in the Inner Sunset, right across from Golden Gate Park. It’s new, sleek, and encompasses all the feels of an elegant, modern tea room with comforts like mismatched antique china and delicate tiers of petit-fours and traditional sandwiches. Some jokes made: Oooh look at that! High(phy) tea, curds and clots, and getting the tea a Bible because it was so loose.

After finishing the second season of Stranger Things I was a bit indifferent about the direction it went (meh with the new characters like Billy and definitely Max, Bob was Ok as sweet and funny as he was and much-needed to give Joyce some happiness [too much spoilers?]), but looking back now, it was just as good as the first. The different storylines as some characters joined unexpectedly together and others reunited were well done and built up to a beautiful ending– I’m really am glad they ended with the Snow Ball (and that it was not Mike and Eleven’s first meeting since the season 1 finale as the Duffer Brothers originally intended).

Lastly, the wonderful thing about my birthdays now is that I have my boyfriend by my side to celebrate with. He’s given me so much inspiration and happiness and laugher in this past year that really showed me the kind of love everyone should have. I truly love this pearl and southern magnolia necklace he generously gave to me this year for my 26, a true unique handmade gem from Morning Heirloom!

A Twilight of Sorts

October 9 – October 15

It was Sunday around 11 when sleep was ready to take over my stiff body lying down on the couch when I smelled the smoke. I swore I was not crazy; I woke my sister up to make sure she could smell it too. It seemed like it was just above my head, maybe only in my head– but it grew and sweltered in our little apartment, no heat but just the thickness of a smoke nearby, like a wire spark. I opened the fire escape but the alley was dark. I looked out onto the street, nothing. Nothing, but something was up.

And then the ashes fell in the morning. A sheath of crusted gray covered the car and on the tops of tables outside of cafes on Chestnut Street. We wouldn’t be sitting outside in this stinging air except we had Bentley. A week later, whether it was the smoke or just because of his daycare, he would get sick, congested, a bad cough.

All through work I stayed in. I never noticed how cool and sharp the air 41 stories high in this building was. Stepping outside meant your hair would smell like the pack of Camels you didn’t smoke. It meant deeper breaths stifled by the quickly-ascending sick that couldn’t be shrugged off anywhere there was open space. A pink, hellish haze blanketed the skyline, the Golden Gate a clouded patch of whiteness, nothing.

Friday the 13th seemed fitting to fall right in the middle of this nightmare. At least in the city, it didn’t feel like one, but the devastation, the fear– it loomed and made everyone uncomfortable even if cities away from the true hell that was happening north. But it was on the 13th that something spectacular happened. The evenings seemed not darker, but cooler. Smoky, but a mist where pixies waited in the shadows. I was reunited with old friends and they with my new ones, and new friends uniting me with their olds. Walking around those nights as the fires burned bright and deadly far off, but here in this city it was dark and shadows of the night outlined lonely houses and twinkle lights edging the windows of second-floor apartment windows and living rooms. I remember only feeling good on those nights, not sick– not panicked. But I still felt strange. How was it these seemingly magical moments were on the worst of times for this place I called home? To the North, it was all nothing. Nothing was left. Everything was burning.

It is only I realize that, in the wake of these fires dying now, that feeling of hope. Something always magical lingering. All that remains are stories of devastation but just as many stories of love, hope, miracles. Odin and his goats, the wedding rings rising from ashes, the half-charred photographs that still possess those never-forgotten memories of the humans who may have lost everything, except that happiness, those moments. Though I cannot understand the total loss and devastation of what happened beyond the dark, the dark is only fleeting now. In the morning, it will be a different sort of light, the kind that warms without burning, the new day and moving forward and not without lifting up our neighbors in need.

You can find more information on assisting/donating to the Fire Relief for Northern California here