Monday, May 31, 2010


I generally don't do this (whatever "this" is) on weekends, but it's Monday — no longer the weekend, technically. And in Newport, where it's busybusy given that Memorial Day is essentially the kick-off to "the season," it's very much a work day. That's my reasoning. Not that this is work. And not that weekends are my topic. Flags are my topic, and I don't have much to say about them, except there's a big one (and a whole bunch of little ones) flying over Bowen's Wharf this morning. And another bunch at the end of Bannister's Wharf. I saw them en route to the Coffee Grinder, where I'd wandered down to fill my cup ...

But upon seeing the Black Dog flag in the rigging of the Schooner Alabama, thus being reminded of my sweet dog P who at this time last year may have accompanied me on just such a morning journey, I remembered that flags on Memorial Day aren't about big, beautiful loveliness or even the vestiges of patriotism. They're about remembering ... right??

At which point I remembered that I'd seen a number of flags at Fort Adams on Friday, no doubt in preparation for the Big Weekend. One little flag for John Adams (for whom Fort Adams was named), two for William Brenton (for whom Brenton Point was named??), and many little flags for those residing in the cemetery on the hillside. They don't seem like much — these flimsy little flags — after all these people did and/or went through. But they're something. In the end, maybe no one deserves a bigger flag than anyone else anyway. And any flag is better than no flag, I suppose.

That said, we're off!! Let the season begin ...

Friday, May 28, 2010


Look closely, or click to enlarge; there is something there (there ^^).

Mr. Betty and I snuck (or is it sneaked??) down to the Yachting Center last night under a full moon — despite assorted stern warnings and dangers such as drag-racing pedicabs — to check out a really interesting boat. I'm not sure if it's called Stealth, or if that was just Mr. Betty's name for it. If it's not called Stealth, it should be called Stealth. Okay, I just looked it up: It (she, that barely-discernible boat in the dark) is called Stiletto. She's certainly stealthy-looking with her so-called M-shaped hull and Darth Vaderish appearance; and she certainly gets around with a reputed speed of 50 knots. The security guard at the dock let us creep up close. (We didn't creep; I'm being silly.) He told us that Stealth is designed to drop off an aircraft carrier. That Navy Seals drop out of some hatch in the back. Then he told us that Stealth (a.k.a. Stiletto, but that creates a very different image, i.e. a boat in high heels, doesn't it??) was leaving first thing in the morning. She'd be at the Goat Island gas dock at 7am. So, I resolved to get up and see her under brighter circumstances — but I overslept, instead heading out more toward 8 to that vast sloping lawn at Eisenhower House to watch Stiletto pass by on her way out-of-town, hoping to see her step on the gas, as she'd just filled up with gas. No such luck. All I saw on this beautiful beautiful morning at Fort Adams were a few late-in-life dandelions, lots of what looked to be poison ivy, a couple of fishing boats and a muddy puddle. Oh, and that big blue puddle spreading out every which way: Narragansett Bay. I visited (and sympathized a bit) with John Adams, who enjoys a lovely perch and clearly is a perch on occasion. But no Stealth. Or Stiletto. I assume she'd already sneaked or snuck by ...

I know, I know: What does that last image (not the puddle, not John Adams' ponytail, but the image below, on the wall) have to do with anything?? Just that sometimes this whole empty-nester-in-Newport business feels rather, um, cracked.

Thursday, May 27, 2010


I woke up in the middle of the night because it was raining. Pouring. And, no, the old man — being Mr. Betty, who is not particularly old — was not snoring. It was just really pouring.

I thought about getting up and running around to close windows, especially car windows that may or may not have been open — but didn't. And they weren't. Everything was okay, even dry, this morning. As if the rain had never happened. Unlike another morning during that last long stretch of gray wet weather when I ventured to the Cliff Walk ...

I like to start in the middle — at Forty Steps, or thereabouts — as the middle-to-the-end section is the most interesting (in my opinion). On this day, I even went down the steps. And something about their being wet steps made me see or focus a bit more than usual on the names of people represented. Some, but not all, were past-tense. One step said simply: To Our Employees. No mention of whose employees, though perhaps that's the point. Forty Steps is where the employees of the mansions that line the Cliff Walk used to gather after-hours; that's why the site was established in the first place. Another step said: Wm. Wiggy Brown. There are lots of Browns in these parts (given Brown University, etc.), but I'd never heard of Wiggy. I had heard of Louie ... not Brown, but Jagschitz. He's the man for whom the State Fishing Pier at the end of Long Wharf is named. A legendary local lobsterman.

Other writing was totally unintelligible ...

I thought about sitting (deep thoughts, I know) — but didn't. Everything was wet, and that stone wall looked pretty uncomfortable. I thought about walking — but didn't. Ruggles was a whole half-mile away, and the rain seemed to be intensifying. I just got back in my nice dry car and headed home.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


I'm sorry, but my mind's still on the Shipyard — and on all the different shapes and forces and issues of scale and purpose and work that go on there. Just think of all the geometry (and other sorts of math) represented.

I hadn't thought about geometry in the longest time, but I was struggling with an old desk drawer the other day, trying to reach something way in back, this being an overstuffed and very messy drawer. There were so many papers stored — crammed — within it making things difficult that I started pulling them out, one by one, trying not to tear them in the process, in hopes that the drawer would slide more easily, thus enabling me to find what I was looking for ... what a concept!! Among other things, I pulled out an old report card. One of mine, not one of my kids'. It was from ninth grade (yes, I've had this desk a long time), and it was all crunched up like an accordian by virtue of being stuck — jammed — in a tight spot for so long in those far recesses in the back of the drawer. Here's the point (a pointless one, a surprising one, a circuitous one, but perhaps the reason I was struck by all those shapes at the Shipyard): I got an "A" in geometry.

I actually remember ninth-grade geometry: the location of my desk (right in the middle); shapes and proofs and solving stuff about triangles (so satisfying, logical, purposeful); a few specific classmates (frozen in time); even what I was wearing, because we all wore the same thing every day (straight-leg Levi cords and topsiders) ...

But back to Newport (where topsiders still reign supreme): A friend once told me — when we were walking somewhere within sight of the Newport Bridge, meaning we could have been nearly anywhere in town — that she'd heard the bridge's cables form a perfect parabola. In checking that out, and discovering lots about bridge design but not the precise/concise bit of information I was searching for, meanwhile wondering if there's any such thing as an imperfect parabola, also realizing that parabolas fall under the aegis of trigonometry (11th grade??) rather than geometry, I remembered another loose-end pertaining to shapes that I'd been wondering about a few days ago: What is that golden shape/flag/thing on top of Trinity Church??

The answer has nothing to do with geometry or trigonometry, though it does have a tangentially mathematical sound to it: it's a bishop's mitre, not uncommon as weathervane-shapes go (or went) in the days of the British Empire. When Trinity was built, with its "wedding cake" steeple and its "wine glass" pulpit, and that very weathervane I see every day was affixed on top, Newport was part of the British Empire — an obvious fact that nonetheless blows my mind.

It goes without saying (doesn't it??) that one needs to click on highlighted text to see any extracurricular information to which I refer. There will (not) be a quiz on this material ...

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


I was walking around the Shipyard the other day – ogling mega-yachts and grabbing a snack at Belle's — and it occurred to me, for whatever reason, that there are so many different kinds of wheels, i.e., ways to get places. It's complicated, though it doesn't have to be. And requires resources, though it doesn't have to. Certainly power of some sort. But then my thought process got clipped, as something started beeping, and I had to step out of the way — quickly! That mega 330-ton travel lift with the giant wheels was starting to roll, carrying a racer called RAM.

So I, too, decided to roll ... on two feet, with Mango Tango smoothie in-hand (my idea of power, purchased at Belle's), back along Long Wharf and up the hill toward home, where I dragged my bicycle out of the basement, and went for a ride — a free ride, I might add — around Ocean Drive.

At the risk of making a stupid statement (why not??): both the Shipyard and Ocean Drive are awesome. Truly, they produce awe; they never disappoint in terms of delivering new sights and sounds and stuff to think about ...

Then, an hour or so later, on my way back into town, after seeing whatever-inspiring-stuff-I-saw on Ocean Drive, rolling along bumpy-to-the-point-of-treacherous Spring Street on my bike, I found myself behind a posse of pedicabs. I raced to catch up with them, but they beat me around a convertible Jeep to (and through) the light. So I found myself right back where I started: thinking about wheels, different ways to get places, how to get things done ...

Even Ram's inflatable tender is mega — that logo does say "RAM," doesn't it? Unless it says "RAN," in which case it still applies. And that vessel right there, at the dock, with the beakish bowsprit, is Speedboat. Click "Speedboat" to see her in action, though in this instance she's not too speedy ...

Monday, May 24, 2010


Monday, Monday ... and it's a beauty. But there are so many things to do — and I have so much catching up to do after a busybusy weekend (and in general) — that there's really nothing to say. Or no time to say it. No time even to think about it. I have to get myself in gear this morning (and in general). Honestly, it's amazing how fast and how much time has gone by. I mean, I remember seeing Jaws for the first time, soooo long ago (circa 1975), and being scared out of my wits. I also remember Darling Daughter seeing Jaws for the first time, and that was long ago. She, too, was scared out of her wits. Who wasn't?? Really, does anyone ever swim in the ocean without, at some level, thinking about Jaws?? That has nothing do with anything, of course ... except it's amazing to the point of pain to think about time. Good thing summer is approaching; so many things are cropping up, pointing up, even looking up. At long last, the harbor is filling up. Other things are always up, or so we hope, like Trinity steeple, which reminds me: What exactly is that gilded image way up on top?? A burgee of sorts?? That asked, but not answered — although I did just (as in moments ago) learn that the man who built Trinity was named Munday, an interesting finding on a Monday, though I guess the chances were one in seven — I have nothing to say today. Except it really is astounding about time and how things change. But they don't, not really. Everything just keeps cycling/spinning/churning around again. I guess that's what we call seasons. Or maybe life. Jaws of life? How deep.

Friday, May 21, 2010


How could I forget it?? It's definitely part of the Newport scene. Or one of the Newport scenes. There are so many scenes, of course, but one of them plays out along the cobblestones of Thames Street on Friday and Saturday nights. Even when I was a teenager — and I was one of those kids sitting on the wall along America's Cup or dancing up a storm at The Pelham — that was a scene. So, as I walked along the cobblestones last night, for no particular reason (other than to take a walk), I was thinking about that. I could tell a story about that, actually ... about my past-tense scene ... but not today, as it's been a wordy week ... and present-tense is more important.

I will say that Mr. Betty and I were walking along the cobblestones one night a few weeks back, past the sign that he/we never fail to comment on indicating that Pelham was the first gas-lit street in America, and we stopped and stood outside the Newport Blues Café, as we were too cheap to cough-up the cover charge to go in. The performer was Rick Derringer, whom I didn't recognize by name (not unusual), but I certainly recognized his "big hit," and he happened to be playing it just as we walked up: Rock and Roll Hoochie Koo. Really.

There were a bunch of other people (other cheapskates, some with skateboards, kids mostly, some even with guitars on their backs) peering in the windows. Those windows at the Blues Café are really very generous and wonderful, the way they let insiders look out and outsiders look in, but anyway ... let's just say we were enjoying ourselves, standing there, looking and listening to that old familiar tune. Then it was over — except it wasn't. It went on and on and on with a really rather amazing guitar solo/coda for what must have been ten full minutes after the song we all know and love (or not) from the radio from those days way-back-when should have come to an end. Click here — on Hoochie Koo — if you care to hear it, although the version we heard was waaaaaaaaay longer........

Seriously, Mr. Betty and I were impressed. And the kids with guitars on their backs and skateboards by their sides were impressed. Less impressive was the man who walked by in a blue blazer and peered in the window and said, under his breath, "They look pretty good." He never looked toward the stage; he looked only at the women dancing. I know this; I was standing right there. Or the man who approached me last night on the sidewalk — just as I was stooping to chat with a nice dog greeting passersby outside the Pelham — and said, "Excuse me, can you spare some change for food??" By the looks of things (he had a very impressive tummy), food wasn't the problem. I don't say that to be mean. All just part of the scene ...