This post requires a bit explanation. Steve Hofstetter is the creator of a podcast called High Confidence, Low Self Esteem. On it there is a segment called “I Hate Everywhere”, wherein Steve and cohosts Danny Jolles and Camilla Cleese, along with the guest, attempt to disillusion people with a false sense of pride in where they live.
For example, my mother and I were born and raised in Bennington, Vermont. While my mom certainly had fond memories of Bennington growing up, she will still admit that there are things about the town that we could have done without. And that’s all “I Hate Everywhere” really is. It’s not bashing a place they’ve been to, but just pointing out that it’s not the Garden of Eden either.
I got to see Steve live at the Hard Rock in Boston, and I had the chance to meet him after the show and ask him if he would talk about Salem. He had never been to Salem, so naturally, he didn’t have any personal experiences to go on, which is fair. He did promise to talk about Boston though, which he followed through with on the Don Friesen episode. But I’ve had this lingering urge to talk about what I hate about Salem.
I’ve lived here for four years. It has not been easy trying to find my footing, make a living, and do something my life besides breathing and exhaling. Who better to point out the flaws of a town that has had a critical role in American history. Here, on the 1st of October, the busiest month in Salem, I will tell you just one thing that really stands out to me. It’s not the only thing, but I’m writing a blog post, not a novel.
Every year the town gets prettied up for the month of October. Tourism brochures refer to this period as “Haunted Happenings” but we may as well just come right out and say that Halloween is a month long event in Salem, complete with ferris wheels, great food, and a 24/7, non-stop trick-or-treating extravaganza complete with Ghostbusters, pirates, vampires and street preachers.
For the record, I love how much we embrace this time and it’s nice to live in a town where I actually see evidence that the tourist dollars get put to good use. But for the first time in four years, something stood out to me that I did not appreciate. Corn. Or more to the point, the decorative cornstalks around the lampposts in the central nervous system of Salem.
When I say decorative, I do not mean they’re fake. These are very real cornstalks and a closer look will reveal that there very real ears of corn attached these stalks. Being a Vermonter, I’m certainly no farmer, so I’m not an expert on such things. But these ears of corn are clearly edible to birds and other wildlife so I have to ask… could people have eaten those? Would the rustic nature of the cornstalks have been in anyway diminished if we took that corn, made a few meals out of it and used it to feed any of the hungry families struggling to make ends meet?I haven’t counted them yet, but I just feel like we might have gotten a few pans of homemade corn bread out of those ears that the homeless shelters and soup kitchens would have put to good use.
Maybe I’m wrong though. Maybe this is a special breed of corn that is only bred for decorative use, much like there are certain breeds of rats that are specifically for experimentation. If that’s the case, please chime in.
If that corn was edible though, what does it say about a town that we care more about glamming it up for the tourists who will only be here for one month, as opposed to the aforementioned hungry people who live here year round? Those tax payer dollars could have gone to both causes. Rustic fall décor and feeding hungry people. Two great causes, happy people all round.