Thursday, December 31, 2009

so so blue

Okay, this makes three days in a row for lifeguard stations, but this one looks like home — sort of. More than the others, anyway. And it's appropriate, since that's where we're headed: home to Newport on New Year's Eve. But before I go (to the airport, minutes from now), have I said even one word about the rest of the South Beach architecture? Could Art Deco be any more different from Colonial if it tried? And what about the way the most familiar, uninteresting things become interesting in their unfamiliarity when you're elsewhere? Like pink sidewalks? Shells in the concrete? A Jetson-worthy Gap? How about the hotel paint colors? The mere lettering? The wild blue of the sea? And sky? And the relentless throbbing techno beat that drives me crazy after a while hammering out from stores and restaurants and cars and convertibles and blacked-out windows and the only place to escape the beat is the beach? How about the great grilled grouper (that's a fish) on Ocean Drive? And did I mention that our primary reason for being here was to see Phish (that's a band) last night with a group of 20,000 other fans swaying not so unlike seaweed to the comparatively mellow beat? Our kids were so jealous; we received repeated text messages and sent them incessant images via cellphone during the show. Neither child (child? who's the child here?) will be home when we get there. They're both in NYC for New Year's. So even when we get home, to the most familiar place of all, it'll feel unfamiliar. And the sad — or not-to-sad — part of it all is growing accustomed to the blue, and pink, and whatever beat presents itself, until it's hard to remember it any other way ...

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

more of the same

Sorry — this is redundant. I talked about lifeguard stations yesterday, and they're hardly a rarity among images of South Beach. But these guys (and girls, I assume) drive to work on ATVs and rescue folks in jet-skis. Cool. It's such a far cry from those classic lifeguard chairs, albeit in bright red, on Sachuest Beach back home. And the cars here are different. Some of them, anyway. Even the sand seems different. Could that be?? I suppose sand is just crunched up particles of its own environment. In Newport, more rocks. Here, more coral (or so I'm guessing). All I know is it's scratchier somehow, or that's how it feels on my bare feet. But, most striking to me, the people are different ... and, no, that's not a comment on local culture, as I know nothing about the local culture. The tables are turned; I'm not a local here. What I mean is that everyone is so different from one another. No, wait, that's not what I mean either, as people are basically the same ... aren't they?? What I do mean to say is that, in my utterly unscientific estimation, seventy-five percent of the words I've heard on the sidewalks and beaches in the last twenty-four hours have been neither English nor Spanish. I've heard languages from all over Europe and Asia plus an embarrassingly large number of others I can't begin to identify. Clothing, too, is different ... and I don't mean short skirts and skimpy bathing suits (though there are plenty of both). There are also head scarves on the beach — saris, too — noticeable mostly because it's quite windy, so they're flying every which way. I'd love to think that's a sign of worldly togetherness as this new year approaches: The world that goes to the beach together, um, stays together. Or swims together. Or something like that. But I'm not so sure ...

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

local color

I traded one beach town for another. Guess that makes me South Beach Betty (for a few days, anyway). And just in time to catch the tail end of holiday spirit twinkling in the palm trees. So much for the slushy remains of white Christmas in New England — white here pertains only to sand. And to white jeans and flip-flops (sequined flip-flops) in the evenings. And to the blinding white light of early morning on the beach, where scattered joggers who didn't stay up/out too late last night thump along the sand past all those cool, colorful lifeguard stations that I always forget about 'til I get here ... then I enjoy each one all over again. Especially the way each one is different despite being the same in essential purpose, and such a critical purpose. Kind of like the days. And nights. And not just on vacation. How to make each one bright and different, and full of purpose, even when they're more or less the same. That's the trick ... isn't it?? Hmmm. I think I'll sit right down on one of these warm, stylin' park benches — so unlike the staid, black, metallic versions at home — and think about that. Or maybe I'll squawk about it ...

Monday, December 28, 2009

warming up

It happens ... snow melts. The holidays end. I run around making returns to the same stores where I made unwise purchases a few days before. And the kids depart (again) to their separate lives and corners. It's really rather violent, emotionally — these wild swings of togetherness and separation. I'm reminded of Frosty the Snowman, who was nothing but a puddle after martyring himself for that oddly large-footed little girl in a hot greenhouse full of holiday poinsettias.
(But I'm no martyr.) Then there was the Wicked Witch of the West, who melted with a casual fling of Dorothy's bucket. (And I'm not a witch ... or not often.) So, they're off: our little boy back to work in the big city; our little girl for a few days with her grandmother and back to college after that. Home is awfully quiet — though it's liberating, too, if/when I'm being honest with myself. Lucky me. I'm off for a couple of warm days with Mr. Betty on a beach farther South ...

But wait: Same day, two hours later ...

And take a closer look at this one to see a truly pained expression ...

Friday, December 25, 2009

church bells

I could hear them from home, last night at midnight ... church bells chiming from nearby Trinity Church. I could/should have been there — at any one of the many churches in Newport, or in church anywhere — but I was otherwise occupied, wrapping presents. Yes, I tend to put things off ...

I called to my daughter, but she couldn't hear them (the bells); she was awake but otherwise occupied, listening to her iPod. My son couldn't hear them; he was out at a local bar with a collection of friends including his bar-hopping grandfather. My husband couldn't hear them; he was asleep.

But it did occur to me how many people had heard church bells ringing in the wonder of Christmas over the centuries in Newport ... a vast assortment of church bells, since RI is a true seat of religious freedom, even though Massachusetts gets so much of the credit. There are five steeples visible from my home alone, including a tiny blue one with a tiny bell (that never rings) and a sign saying, "First Lutheran Church." Was it really the first?? First in what way?? Just one more thing to figure out if/when I get around to it ...

I do realize I shouldn't be doing this (this!) on Christmas morning, but the kids (kids?) are still sleeping. And how and when did that happen?? That they sleep late ... even on Christmas morning?? We'll nudge them at 11 and say, "C'mon, plleeeeeaase?? Can we open stockings??"

Meanwhile, Mr. Betty and I sit sipping coffee by a cozy fire. It's even a white Christmas for a change. Peace and love to all ...

Thursday, December 24, 2009

holiday wonder

Okay, I give up ... what's a yule stump? Why do I care? Why should you care? And, while I'm wondering stuff, why did Santa Claus crash his historic (that's how we say "old" in Newport) truck into the back of my car as I sat stopped at a red light outside Flo's Clam Shack yesterday on my way home from a completely unnecessary trip to Staples? And why was Santa so visibly upset as he frantically fingered his long white hair and beard flowing from beneath his red hat with fuzzy trim waiting for the police to arrive? I mean, no one was hurt (!!) ... least of all the little elf/grandson who hopped out of Santa's big gray truck with a small rolling suitcase and walked away. Down the street. All by himself. What was that all about? Is Santa in some sort of trouble? Under-insured? Over-extended? Hiding a fugitive? Is he afraid he'll lose his license at his age? Wasn't Mrs. Claus going to be upset when the elf/grandson arrived home on foot? Was the elf/grandson headed home, or were he and Santa on their way to the bus or train (or sleigh) station? Were they now going to miss that bus or train or sleigh? Was the elf/grandson now walking to catch the bus, train or sleigh? Was Santa so upset because he's just too busy on Christmas Eve Eve for such unfortunate happenings? Or is it precisely such unfortunate happenings that remind him/me/anyone of what really matters, on Christmas Eve Eve or any other day of the year??

Seriously, I found myself apologizing to the upset Santa — who hit me from behind. Then I drove away with a shattered rear window and crunched bumper to hug my own elves all safe and warm and home for the holidays ...

And what will tomorrow bring??

A yule stump??

Looks more like Patagonia than the Bahamas or Brighton — doesn't it??

Stumps (and other lovely stuff) aside, how about some blue skies??

That'd be plenty.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


So many clams ... and my shopping has just begun. I finally felt the crunch of the holiday deadline yesterday and dashed downtown to some of my favorite shops, where I threw money at the problem (or that's how it felt). And not the best way to solve the problem, but the best way to put a few presents under the tree. The shopkeepers made a quick killing, at my expense.

And so many clams — or clamshells, to be accurate — on First Beach. I couldn't walk without crunching them underfoot. My husband, Mr. Betty (who likes the name Mr. Betty, believe it or not, and I figure I've taken his name all these years, so he can take mine in this one little instance), said he'd read something in the paper that there was some sort of unexplained "kill." How sad. Maybe the clams couldn't handle snow on the beach for some reason. It is weird — snow on the beach — but why would that make a difference to a clam??

In any event, the seagulls were making a killing, at the clams' expense ...

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


Just when I thought my eyes were open (to all manner of snowy images in unwitting black-and-white), something happened. The sky — the whole sky — turned pink.

Neither my camera nor I could handle it ... our eyes only half-open, as it turns out, due in part due to half-spent batteries and in part to coldcold air as I ran slipping and sliding down the familiar hill from home with utter impatience for any/all signals saying, "Wait."

I ended up on my tummy, on purpose (!), at the end of the Ann Street Pier, beside the dinghy dock, behind the Armory containing untold numbers of antiques — to be replaced, potentially, next summer, by a salvage museum. And there I attempted to capture it: the pink.

But, by then, the pink had faded (brightened?) to yellow, where it hung for what seemed like a very long drawn-out moment before melting, despite the temperature, into reflections of purple and ultimate black. My fingers were frozen beyond feeling, beyond functioning. And one of my favorite woolen mittens was missing. It had blown/flown off the pier, across the dinghy-less dock, and was floating (still floating!) toward the ice-and-trash-littered beach.

We — my camera and I — managed a rescue, with some focus.

We rescued the mitten, I mean ... with that sort of focus.

As for the pink, perhaps it's not all about focus ...

Monday, December 21, 2009

black and white

My daughter's last comment to her 800+ Facebook friends before heading home from her semester abroad was, "Snow in London?!?" As one of those 800+ friends, I responded by asking her to bring it (the snow) home with her. Ask and ye shall receive ... sometimes. Nearly two feet fell here in Newport the day after she arrived. And while the magically wintery images around town were really something, the buried elements of summer were something else — to my mind, anyway, as I ventured out on my own heavily socked-and-booted two feet.

Traipsing around knee-deep on the docks was weird. A guy who lives year-round aboard a vintage wooden sailboat invited me to help with his shoveling.

"No, thanks," I told him. I'd spent the morning on our driveway, and the sidewalks remained to be done. But the dock, I guess, is his sidewalk ... and he has neighbors, just as we (all) do, including some with differing aesthetics ... though who's to judge??