Fall Road, Falling Rain, Fallen Mood

September 25, 2023 — There’s a heavy corollary to the idea that I might have lost Halloween in the war. It’s that I lost all my joys—writing, reading, movies, oddity treks, my house, my collections, Christmas, candy bars. It all got buried under the rubble when the castle fell.

Everything got ashy for me for a long time, and it still floats about me like sad snow, shaken by whatever maniac holds the ash-globe. But of all my joys, the one that hurt the most to lose on a practical level was the joy of the oddity trek. Losing writing unmoored me from myself. Losing oddity trips unmoored me from the world.

At one point, I wanted to write a book called See Stuff: Travel for the Introvert. It would be a self-help book that lambasts the “travel host” idea of immersive travel. Sometimes you just want to see cool stuff and go back to your hotel room. I wanted to write it because I believed that discovering the ideas behind OTIS really helped my life. I’ve told you before that OTIS pulled me from a slough of despondence way back in the mid-2000s and gave me purpose. I thought maybe it could do that for other people.

But maybe it can’t. Or maybe it only works as long as your life is going well in all the important areas. Everything works when your life is going well.

Still, I’m trying to get out there. At the very least so that I have things to report back on to the OTIS Club on Patreon every week. But I’ve discovered two things: 1) My jaunts are less ambitious than they used to be. Whatever’s closest is usually what I end up at, even as I have way more time to just hit the road and not look back. 2) I’m not seeing new oddities. I’m revisiting oddities that I haven’t seen in five, ten, fifteen years.

Point 2 traps me in a quandary. They aren’t just oddities for me. They’re memories. Good memories. Possibly tainted memories. But the entire region of New England reminds me of my previous life. Every graveyard and historical marker, every art installation and holy relic. It’s really something that I don’t know how to navigate.

Anyway, I always made a big deal about the first road trip of autumn for the OTIS Halloween Season, even though the first road trip of autumn was usually just a week away from the last road trip of summer, and there was rarely much difference between the two because it was far too early for the autumn colors and the sweater-level chill, and chances were always pretty high that we were visiting spooky stuff back in summer, too.

But I guess I went on my first road trip of Autumn on Saturday. Five stops. All in Massachusetts. Five hours, including lunch. Raining gently almost the entire time. I’ve been to every one of the sites before, but I took someone who hadn’t seen any of them, so got to experience their discovery vicariously.

We started in Forest Hills Cemetery, one of the most underrated cemeteries in New England. It’s a gorgeous place south of Boston with lots of trees and a pond. It’s full of amazing funerary statues, some preserved under glass. It’s also the final resting place of e.e. cummings. Saturday was the first time I entered those cemetery gates in sixteen years.

Next it was as drive-by in Dover of the site where the Dover Demon was first spotted back in 1977 by a bunch of kids. It’s a stone wall that divides the road from a field and is across from a house. Until they erect a plaque in honor of the moment, there’s no much reason to do more than a drive-by.

Then it was on to Medfield State Hospital. That complex of abandoned buildings dates to the 1890s and is now a park and sometimes a filming location for Hollywood. We made sure to drive to the nearby cemetery, as well, and visit what was left of the inmates after visiting what was left of their home.

From there it was on to the rocking horse graveyard in Lincoln (which more and more people are calling Ponyhenge—a much less evocative term, in my opinion). While watching my companion straddle one of the horses, I realized that I actually have a rocking horse that I’m trying to get rid of and should have brought it. I’m definitely returning so that I can add to the rocking horse graveyard and add “added to the rocking horse graveyard” to my resume.

The trip ended atop a Viking tower in Weston: Norumbega Tower, erected by a wealthy chemist named Eben Norton Horsford. He believed there were Viking settlements all over the Boston area pre-Columbus and funded memorials dedicated to these phantom settlements. For instance, he funded a statue of Leif Erikson that stands in Boston. Norumbega Tower is 38 feet tall and doesn’t at all mark the site of Viking-Land.

It was a good trip. I had good company. The sites were good. It was all good. Good. Good. Good. Even if I did have to brush the flakes of ash from my shoulders every once in a while.