What I Learned On Summer Vacation


Just got back from a weeklong, old-fashioned road trip through New England that included stops in New Hampshire, Maine and Massachusetts. We spent time in Acadia National Park, trespassed at Stephen King’s house in Bangor, learned about witches in Salem and went whale watching in Gloucester. It was quite a departure from my regular vacation itinerary, which usually includes a single destination, followed by some sightseeing, balanced with a lot relaxation.

I’m normally a creature of habit, requiring certain comforts that accompany any stay away from home. I still travel with my pillow I’ve had since I was a kid, much to the chagrin of my wife. It takes me a day or two to get acclimated to new surroundings, so the thought of staying in four different places in seven days caused me much consternation, to say the least.

We also had the challenge of living out of a suitcase for seven days, preventing me from emptying the suitcases and hanging items in the closets. Although there was a learning curve, it was rather liberating not having to pack, unpack and repack. Besides, what’s wrong with a few wrinkles while on vacation?

Here’s what I learned on my summer vacation:

People In New England Are Generally Nice

One night, while venturing out with my brother and sister-in-law, we spied a sign announcing a local firework show on Short Sands Beach in Maine, near the New Hampshire border, but couldn’t locate the actual beach. Stopping on the shoreline, we asked one of the porch-sitting locals about the fireworks. She said the best place for viewing was on her deck out back, insisting the four of us walk through her house, past the kitchen and out onto the deck. We expected her to join us, but instead, she remained on the front porch with her friends having cocktails. How many times have you let complete strangers walk through your house, into your back yard without so much as following them?

Not Much Has Changed In Politics Since 1692

With almost 400 years of history to draw from, the town of Salem, Massachusetts, has gotten a bad rap due to an 18-month period of hunting witches. Apparently, the people in the 1690s weren’t getting all the correct information from the local press, as misinformation and propaganda spread by corrupt politicians and religious fanatics led to hysterics. Talk about the beginnings of fake news!

Turns out, when accused, it was in your best interest to admit you were, in fact, a witch. If you didn’t, they would find a way to prove you were. However, by pleading guilty and snitching on your “witch” friends, you were usually granted immunity. Kind of like today, with the witness protection program. Your crimes against humanity were forgiven if you give up your neighbor. Soon, everyone was being accused of being a witch.

Governor Sir William Phips, who initially established a special prosecutor-type court for a quicker adjudication of the accused witches, also quickly disbanded it. After 18 witches had been executed and with more than 100 awaiting trial, Phips ordered an abrupt end to the special court and the hysteria. Why? Someone had accused his wife, Lady Mary Phips, of being a witch. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Seafood And The Darkness That Is Maine

Everything in New England seems to revolve around lobster. About the only thing we found during this trip that didn’t have lobster in it was ice cream. Seems like there are only five retail establishments in New England—restaurants, bars, ice cream parlors and souvenir shops.

The state of Maine is really, really dark. While driving at night through the state that made Stephen King famous, you realize he could never have become a writer of romance novels. The kind of dark that allows your imagination to run wild. Kind of like every horror story I’ve ever read by King.

All in all, I learned that I’m more adaptable than I thought, as long as I have my pillow with me…

Paul DiSclafani, a Massapequa resident, is a 2018 Press Club of Long Island award winning columnist and an Anton Media Group contributor since 2016.

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