Friday 3/15 Swansea, MA- Somerville, MA
Waking up in our first Walmart parking lot (I assume many will follow), was surprisingly glamorous. There wasn’t a continental breakfast or anything but, we opened the curtains and a drab grey sky sprayed our bright red duvet with dullness. We even had access to a real toilet and toilet paper, unlike the pavement just beside the car that was subjected to our night time whims.
I wanted to leave immediately and a sleepy Lukas was grumpy but willing. We drove to Swansea Public library, hoping to breakfast in the nearby park and take refuge among the books and wifi. The nearby park turned out to be a graveyard; all parks in new england are for the dead rather than the living. Thus, we scarfed our bagels and watery pour-over in the gazebo adjacent to the library. A procession of stout librarians plodded through our gazebo without greeting, only side glances with a hint of concern.
We mapped and wrote and downloaded in the library, as kids do. Swansea library owes its quaintness partially to its age and charming size, but also to its residence (I can only assume they live in the building). There are five librarians at any given moment in Swansea Public Library; they’re all of similar stature and character and, contrary to the shooshing trope, are perpetually bickering about livestrong, cable, and the scandals of the Irish romance genre. The key exception is Shannon, the younger librarian. Her desk is riddled with pikachu plushes and she does not speak, but peruses fantasy and anime pinterests with great fervor, comparable to to a squirrel unsheathing a nut.
We sigh goodbye to the Swansea library and begin our drive to Havahd. Petering along Massachusetts backroads, we consume our podcasts and the passing scenery.
On the parts of the East coast I’m familiar with, the scenery fluctuates with the consistent rhythm of ocean on beach. The peak of the wave is a city, then as you hit the trough, you coast into the suburbs. Houses upon houses, first tightly packed then larger and more dispersed.
You hit some smaller waves of wealth as your boat bobs up and down — the small homes near the heart of the city are the most expensive, then the prices fall as you get to the city limits. Once out of the city, the prices rise again– large proper homes just outside, well-kept by suit wearers and their company.
Subsequently, the burbs– prices fall like paint chipping off the houses as you get further out. As the homes become more sullen, the yards grow; then there’s farmland, bovine brethren and cold corn crop crowding the road. The farmland is more inconsistent to me– sometimes the wealth and stature of the homes is directly proportional to the size of the land surrounding it (makes sense). But, then again, sometimes it feels like the farther you get from the city, the more decrepit the homes become and the more depressed the soil seems.
We’ll return to this theory once I find a better metaphor, I realize little of that made sense to anyone reading this but…my thoughts are marinating and eventually I’ll put them in the oven for you.
I mention all this because we were knit between two cities, Boston and Providence, two close peaks (guess I am sticking with the metaphor). Because of the proximity of these waves, we never quite reached a trough of proper farmland. There were some cows, but never more than a dozen. Instead, our drive was those strange little towns, too grim to be cute, full of tenantless structures.
We did make one stop on our way. We saw a parking lot with more cars in it than we had passed in an hour of driving so we had to investigate. Here we came across our first MegaChurch.
For those of you unfamiliar with the concept, MegaChurches are defined by the sheer number of attendants, the threshold being at least 2,000 attendants per week. MegaChurches are known for their showmanship, light shows and massive speaker systems rivaling concert venues. Additionally, MegaChurches often televize their gatherings, which only attracts more attendants.
This MegaChurch was the National Shrine of Our Lady of La Salette in Attleboro, Massachusetts. I was nervous about being here, so we didn’t go into the chapel or other more symbolic structures. Instead, we went into the Church of Capitalism and spent our time in the gift shop.
The rest of the drive is dim next to the lights of La Selette.