SALEM — That was some kind of crazy party April 5 at the Hawthorne Hotel. Those folks from the Salem Education Foundation may look like boring, bookish types, but once the sun sets, look out.
Take Giovanna Grinarml.
By day, she is a mild-mannered Carlton School parent. But around 7 p.m., as a huge throng milled about at the SEF auction in the hotel's ballroom, she was the blonde in the red sweater who stepped out of the crowd and started gyrating like a dancing fool.
For you old folks, think Goldie Hawn on "Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In."
For you young folks, ignore that dated reference and keep reading.
Within seconds, Grinarml was joined by a man, then a woman, then rows of 27 dancers, all part of a "flash mob," a group that assembles suddenly in a public place and starts singing, dancing or doing something wild.
The SEF could not have picked a better dance leader than Grinarml, a fitness instructor. Boy, can she dance! Or maybe we should say: Girl, can she dance!
A lot of credit goes to Carrie Cabot, a math teacher at Salem High, who helped organize the mob. Cabot even recruited her husband, Doug, a film teacher at the high school.
In fact, it was Doug Cabot's students who made a video of the flash mob and posted it on YouTube. Just search for "Salem Education Foundation auction flash mob" and take a peek.
Other familiar faces among the dancers included Rosario Ubiera-Minaya, who is active in the new Latino coalition, and Eric Wollin, head of collection management at the Peabody Essex Museum.
While on the subject of the auction, the Salem Education Foundation deserves a lot of credit. The parent-led group raised about $60,000 and is well on its way to its goal of a $100,000 gift to the School Department.
Rita Lebrecque of Salem won the $5,000 reverse raffle, and Dan Randall of Salem won the "Food for Thought" raffle and its grand prize of dinner for two anywhere in the world. No word yet on where he's headed.
Robert Booth, author of "Death of an Empire," a terrific account of the rise and fall of maritime Salem, has won the top prize for historical nonfiction from The New England Society in the City of New York.
Founded in 1805, the NES is one of the oldest cultural and charitable organizations in the country. Over the years, it has honored Mark Twain, Ralph Waldo Emerson and David McCullough, among others. The award recognizes books that celebrate New England and its culture.
Booth beat out some tough competition, including Nathaniel Philbrick's "Why Read Moby Dick?"
Booth will be honored at a luncheon Wednesday at The Grolier Club in New York City.
After all the serious questions had been asked and answered at this week's public meeting on the proposed $31 million commuter rail station, a woman rose to ask the most important question.
Will the parking garage have a bathroom?
That was followed by a brief but awkward silence, the kind almost always generated by bathroom questions.
Finally, an MBTA official said, yes, the garage will have a bathroom, but, no, it will not be for the public.
Let's rephrase that. The bathroom will be for station employees, but the public can use it if they knock on an office door and get permission.
A million unpleasant images rush to mind.
A man has had three cups of coffee with breakfast, has a long wait on the platform, dashes for the bathroom, finds the door locked, goes to the office, waits to find the attendant, waits again for the door to be unlocked, rushes back only to find the train pulling out of the station, misses an important meeting and gets fired from his job.
But let's look on the bright side. There's no bathroom there now, so even a semiprivate privy is a plus.
The death of Mike Wallace stirred memories here.
The veteran journalist of "60 Minutes" fame spoke at Salem State in the fall of 1996. He was 93 when he died, which makes him about 78 when he came here.
He was very friendly and genuine.
One person called him "authentic."
"I remember him holding the door for me going into Presidential Hall," said Karen Cady, a spokeswoman for the university. "He was just a nice person."
Tell that to the crooks exposed by Wallace over the years.
WGBH will air a prize-winning documentary April 21 called "Circus Dreams." It chronicles Circus Smirkus, the heralded youth circus.
Although not a main character, our own Isabel "Izzy" Patrowicz, a trapeze artist appearing now in Boston with the Big Apple Circus, appears in the film.
April 21, if you didn't know, is World Circus Day.
Rick Santorum wasn't the only prominent Republican to step down this week.
John Hayes exited after eight years as chairman of the Salem Republican City Committee.
But the 71-year-old Hayes isn't necessarily retiring from politics.
"I may run for some office," he said, "but I don't know what."
Asked if his wife, Sally Hayes, a former city councilor and proud Democrat, might be his campaign manager, Hayes replied: "She'll probably be my opponent."
And now for something completely different.
The Ben & Jerry's on Washington Street is selling something called 3 Potato 4.
They're like french fries, except they're not French and not fried. In fact, they're thermo-heated, cholesterol-free and have no fat. And they come with all these pesto, curry and mustard honey sauces.
Pomme frites, a similar product, are a big hit in Amsterdam, which is where owner Guenevere Blanchard got the idea. It's also the reason she asked Rinus Oosthoek to sample them. Oosthoek, the Salem Chamber executive director, is from the Netherlands.
So if you're wondering why Oosthoek wasn't at Tuesday's Rotary luncheon, he was over at Ben & Jerry's filling his face.
Hey, it's all in a day's work.
The Salem Rotary Club, which is always helping somebody, served dinner recently to nearly 200 kids from the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Salem.
And talk about a gastronomic melting pot. Cafe Polonia, a Polish restaurant, prepared American chop suey.
It was a big hit.
Baseball returns to Fenway Park today, which reminds us ...
Former schools Superintendent Ed Curtin rushed back from Florida to begin his 11th season as an ambassador at Fenway Park.
In that role, Curtin does a bit of everything, from answering fan mail to working around the office at Fenway Park.
A crooner who used to sing at school events, Curtin has sung the national anthem five times at Fenway, twice at games. He performed once at "Grandparents' Day" with eight of his grandchildren on the field.
"How can you beat that?" he asked.