SALEM — Just call us Witchywood.
Hollywood is rolling into town right under our collective noses.
"Grown Ups 2," a sequel to Adam Sandler's 2010 "Grown Ups" movie, is coming to Salem.
Well, kind of.
Filming is scheduled to start next month in Marblehead and Swampscott, but the really important stuff will be taking place here.
How do we know? Because they've rented a big office in Shetland Park.
"They're basically looking to do all their set production here," said John Kelly, a vice president at Shetland Properties. "We're probably not going to see any of the stars."
OK, so Marblehead may get Sandler, "Twilight" heartthrob Taylor Lautner, David Spade, Chris Rock and the curvaceous Salma Hayek, but we're going to be getting a whole lot of goofy-looking, production guys with thick glasses and silly hats.
Hey, it's a start.
More celebrity news
Those serious folks at National Geographic were in town this week.
They were here to shoot a segment for the National Geographic TV network. No, it wasn't "The Squirrels of Salem Common" or "The Return of the North River Smelt."
This was a shoot for a show called "American Chainsaw." The program features a chain-saw sculptor who goes around the country carving up big chunks of wood into interesting stuff.
A crew from the show parked for several hours on Essex Street in front of Hex, Christian Day's witch shop. (Wonder if they used one of those new smart meters).
Right there in the store, a meeting took place that may never take place again: Jesse "The Machine" Green met Lori Bruno, a Salem witch and psychic.
Green phoned the shop in advance and asked what they would like him to carve.
"What would you like?" The Machine asked.
"How about a dragon?" someone at Hex replied.
And why not a dragon?
"It's the energy current under the earth," Bruno said.
The chain-saw dragon is on view at Hex.
Police Chief Paul Tucker walked out of the station yesterday and headed straight across the street into the old Italian neighborhood.
No, he wasn't abandoning his post. It was Leo Smedile's 91st birthday.
"He's the oldest living retired police officer in the city of Salem," the chief said.
Smedile, who retired in the 1970s, used to patrol the downtown and even rode a three-wheeled motorcycle at one time.
"He's just a very good, kindhearted guy," the chief said.
And sharp as ever.
The right stuff
The Peabody Essex Museum is fantastic at raising money and runs a world-class museum, but isn't always so good at — how shall we put this? — schmoozing with the regular folks.
With a $200 million expansion coming up, along with years of permitting and construction, the PEM went looking for somebody who knows the city leaders, can communicate well, is a bridge-builder and is generally beloved.
Since Mother Teresa is no longer with us, they went with a backup plan, and it was a pretty good one: Claudia Chuber.
They called around for a few weeks seeking advice, and Chuber's name kept coming up. For those of you who don't know, Chuber is a former city councilor and School Committee member who has a reputation for forthrightness, honesty and other virtues.
Currently, she works at MIT in the Philanthropic Partnerships office (read "major gifts").
PEM Executive Director Dan Monroe announced the appointment of the new director of community affairs on Wednesday night at the Chamber of Commerce's centennial celebration at the museum.
If Monroe had any doubts about his choice, they were answered by the resounding response from the crowd of 300.
This time, the museum got it right.
Last Sunday, Salem Troop 83 held a ceremony at St. James Church to honor its three newest Eagle Scouts: Henry Clarke, Robert Dee and Stanley "Stash" Usovicz.
The honors were well-deserved. Clark repaired park benches and picnic tables at Salem Willows; Dee fixed up the old attic at St. James and built a safety railing for the church; and Usovicz cleaned, weeded and planted flowers at key veterans memorials and also produced a guide on the history of the memorials.
Usovicz, by the way, is the son of an old Eagle Scout — former Mayor Stan Usovicz.
One of the readers at last weekend's Massachusetts Poetry Festival, which our city hosted, was none other than Mayor Kim Driscoll.
What poem did she read?
It was "If" by Rudyard Kipling.
What could a modern mayor possibly have in common with the jottings of an old English poet who celebrated British imperialism?
Let's see now ...
"If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you ..."
Oh, yeah, that line.
From the heart
For anyone who attended Monday's School Committee meeting, or watched it on SATV, this was one for the ages.
A presentation was made by Salem High students in teacher Kim Masterson's English classes that put a lump in everyone's throat.
The kids were asked to pick an important artifact in their lives and write about it.
What resulted was a free flow of honest emotions from teenagers whose had been deserted by fathers, survived near-fatal car crashes, and lived through divorces and deaths.
Several of the students cried as they read their essays. One girl only got out a few words when she had to leave the room. Several times, a student not reading stepped forward to place a comforting hand on a classmate struggling to get out the words.
When it was over, a student said the point of the assignment wasn't to sadden the audience, which prompted School Committee member Nate Bryant to say "too late."
"You're not the only ones crying," Mayor Kim Driscoll told the kids, while praising their courage.
By sharing feelings buried deep inside, the students said they got to know and respect classmates they didn't know before, and learned a lot about themselves.
The artifacts project will be on public display Monday, May 7, from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at Old Town Hall.
Go. And bring a handkerchief.