Saturday, March 09, 2013

forbidden fruit

There are perfect days wherever I travel.

This was one of them.

My friend Beth invited me to breakfast at one of our favorite breakfast spots -- Busick Court.  The type of place that whips up an Eggs Benedict that makes you come back for more.

And if Salem had more mornings like this, I would be coming back north to spend more time. 

It was one of those mornings that could not be improved.  Clear skies.  Daffodils in bloom.  A crisp 46 degrees.  For all of the talk about Melaque being paradise, I have not experienced a single day there as pleasant as this morning.

Of course, having breakfast with Beth is what iced the circumstances cake.  We worked together as a team when I first came to SAIF.  She knows me as well as any of my former work colleagues.  It also helps that she has a jeweler's eye for cant.  That cuts down on the number of masks I can wear with her.

We had a free-wheeling discussion about friends.  Theology.  Our mothers.  American medical care.  Movies.  Plays.  The type of topics close friends can launch into without a lot of conversational overtures.

Salem is almost Rockwellian in its character.  It is easy to imagine someone picking up a village in Vermont and dropping it in the Willamette Valley.

And the analogy is not far from the truth.  The place was settled by New England Methodists in the 1800s.  Its small town character hangs heavy on the place.

Here is an example.  If you are walking the streets, you will encounter several signs trumpeting the city's history.  Like this one -- proudly proclaiming that all of the buildings in the 1939 photograph are still there.

And so they are.  As a photograph from this morning shows.

That is the strength and the curse of Salem.  It has tradition -- a strong link to its past.  But that tradition is also what gives the place a taste of Brigadoon. 

"We tried that once; it didn't work" could be the city's motto.  The fact that several of those old buildings now stand empty -- haunted by specters of businesses long dead -- is a perfect synthesis of the town's split personality.

But there are some changes.  On my walk to breakfast, I encountered this addition to the front of the old red brick YMCA building.   I had never seen it because it was installed two years after I left for Mexico.

It is entitled "River of Peace" and was constructed with the help of local school children.  Made of ceramic tile.  With plenty of whimsical pieces.

Mt.  Hood.  Faces of children and adults.  An elephant.  A panda.

And a reminder that in every paradise, there is a serpent.

In a few days, I will be exchanging ceramic serpents for the fleshy variety.  But I will store up this day.  

A day that was practically perfect in its own way.

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