Sunday, October 31, 2010


I stopped dead in my tracks en route to getting coffee this morning when I saw a hearse. On Halloween. With Dracula in the window and an impressive spider on the roof. The license plate said New Hampshire — "Live Free or Die" — and depicted that poor Old Man in the Mountain, whom I still miss whenever I travel north on that stretch of Route 93. Perhaps the driver had ventured from NH to NPT to attend The Undertakers' Ball at the Elks last night. That'd be my guess, as the hearse was parked on that very block, near the Old Stone Mill, and the Elks' party is a big deal. But I pushed on, with nary another thought about mysterious/precarious stone structures, as coffee is a BIGGER deal. To me, anyway: both intrinsically (I do love coffee) and extrinsically (one never knows what or whom one might see). Like the other morning, when a clerk at "A" Market — the natural foods store on Bellevue where they happen to have good coffee and even better muffins — asked me what I was going to be for Halloween. I shrugged; I had no intention of being anything (other than myself), so I re-routed the question to her:

"What are you going to be??"

"Mother Nature."

That made sense, given her place of work. We even talked about how she would execute it (with lots of leaves). Then I went on my way, thinking Mother Nature was a really good idea, and that it'd be even better if paired with Father Time, though I'm not sure how one would execute the latter. With an assortment of watches and a long white beard?? I had half a mind to go back and suggest to the clerk/cashier/associate/whatever that if she had a boyfriend/partner/husband/whatever, he might want to think about it. But I didn't. I just went home with my coffee and muffin — hooray for small pleasures — just in time to notice a rather large spider web woven between the bushes, but the weaver was nowhere in sight. I imagine she was tucked in the greenery somewhere. And that she was watching. Creepy. Unless she was the one who rode down from NH on (which sure beats in) the hearse ...

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


No sooner does the chill set in than things heat up again; it was downright balmy today. Such fickle weather (!), making me realize/remember it's not quite over yet. And the same applies to politics: things are heating up. I know I shouldn't touch the subject — and I won't; not in any real way — but it's astounding to hear (and consider) the words that are being bandied about. They're harmless enough, I guess; they're just words (right??). And isn't that we were always told and taught and what we sassed back time and again on the playground?? Sticks and stones may break my bones ... you know the rest.

But it's so untrue (!). In many cases, it seems (to me) that words hurt more than sticks and stones. And the hurt may be longer lasting, not to mention farther reaching. They may even hurt the speaker more than his or her subject/object — or not. Who knows??

I'm being vague, I realize, but politics is (are??) a touchy subject. At least some remain local, just as they're supposed to, just as we were always told. My favorite words of the campaign season — just because they seemed relatively harmless though not terribly kind — appeared on a sign propped in a weedy lot alongside Memorial Boulevard. I stopped short on my bike to take a closer look at them. The incumbent's name is Weed, in the event you're not from Rhode Island, which may or may not carry the suffix "and Providence Plantations" by this time next week. And I'm not saying I'm for or against Weed (you could take that in so many ways), or weeds for that matter. Weeds are, um, reality. Sometimes they're even pretty. (It drives Mr. Betty crazy when I say that; he's the gardener in the family, i.e., always weeding.)

Back to the subject at hand: words in election season tend not to be pretty, even though every attempt is made to make them sound pretty, at least initially. But, in the end, a choice must be made. And it sure seems that the way one gets where one wants to go or climbs over someone else to get there is sometimes not something to crow about ...

Just for the record: Mr. Betty planted all those flowers, and they're still blooming like crazy. I had nothing (or very little) to do with them.

Sunday, October 24, 2010


Might as well face it: fall has fallen. That sounds so bleak, if not dangerous; it just struck me as the flip side of spring has sprung. Seriously, the clues were everywhere this weekend: pumpkins, apples, Halloween happenings like those tours at Fort Adams, green reeds turned brown waving fuzzy feathery tops. I even saw a fuzzy bear ... wooly bear?? Whatever you want to call it, I hadn't seen (or noticed) one in the longest time. And after a long, gray, wonderful-if-windless Sunday on the water — I had the good fortune of taking part in a vintage sailboat race, which ended up being more of a drifting match, off Wickford — there were steamed mussels and relaxed company and cider (and rum), all of which helped fend off the chill.

Some seem to welcome the chill — they're prepared for it, anyway. Others fight it at every turn. In this case, in Wickford, there was a simultaneous warm chill (as in a mellow mood) and cool chill (meaning a nip in the air). Then, back in Newport, where both air & atmosphere felt different — that's not a value judgment; I'm just saying — as I was walking from the wharf up the hill past the Pelham toward home, I ran into something that gave me a chill of a third variety ...

The occasion was the Sexy Zombie Freak Show, a fundraiser sponsored by Curl Up and Dye (is that the best name for a hair salon or what??).

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


I plum (plumb??) forgot ­­– not really, but somehow it got buried under more current happenings: I had the nicest sunny Sunday a few weeks back harvesting grapes. I'd go so far as to say it was the perfect day. And it's so important to hold onto such days — mentally and in every possible way — as they're a great place to hang one's thoughts, if such a thing is possible, on days when things are less than perfectly sunny.

And, yes, some grapes were less than perfectly green.

Others were well on their way to becoming raisins.

I happen to be quite fond of raisins ...

Anyway, it all started with an e-mail from Greenvale Vineyards announcing the time was right/ripe for picking Chardonnay. I'd pick Cabernet or Merlot or Shiraz (or just about anything red) over Chardonnay, but that's just me. In any case, I showed up bright-and-early — it was chilly down by the Sakonnet (!) — and got to work. It's the third year in a row I've participated, actually, for all of one day: hardly a drop in the bucket. Oops, barrel.

So there I was, among all those appealingly-parallel rows, in just about the most picturesque setting I could imagine (at that particular moment). And even though my row was somewhat sparsely hung — it had been struck by lightning, I was told, meaning the current of electricity traveled along the wires strung between the ancient posts and zapped the vines — it was nonetheless stunning and so satisfying to snip whatever clumps managed to grow, to knock off the dead stuff ("overripe" might be a nicer way to think about it) and place the dripping sticky clusters in a bright yellow bin.

I had company: both volunteer and professional. Soft voices of people my age and younger, some much younger, some in other languages, even a soft boom box (how oxymoronic), could be heard issuing through the hush. There really was hush, due in part to the beauty and resulting reverence for the surroundings, I guess, but as much because the work requires a certain amount of concentration, lest one cut oneself with the sharp pointy clippers. Still, talking works; it even helps. And I was flying solo that day – I can’t remember what Mr. Betty was doing, but he wasn’t with me – so the vineyard owner, Nancy, came over to be my picking partner for a bit. It works best with a person on either side of the grapevine ....

Which makes me wonder about that idea of hearing something “through the grapevine,” as that’s exactly how I was talking with the vineyard owner: through the grapevine. I guess it’s referring to one thing getting passed along (in whispers??) in some way that isn't necessarily intended for others or without much thought about where it might end up. Must say, people do seem to speak in relative whispers among the grapevines, based upon my limited experience, though I couldn’t say why exactly, except there is some sort of sense that one is talking to oneself, because one can’t really see the person on the other side of the grapevine.

There’s not much else to say about the experience — I mean, there is, but I don't have sufficient time, energy or powers of concentration to do so right now — though I really wish everyone could experience it. Except the part where I ultimately did clip my finger right through my sticky rubber gloves and had to stop in order to head to the barn for Band-aid, as I was bleeding rather profusely …

I’m fine. And the day was so fine. And it was just the morning, if I’m being honest. Just a four-hour commitment. Round about noon-time, we had picked the requisite ton-and-a-half (a very modest amount in harvesting terms), whereupon the group gathered in the barn for payment. Being wine. And there was a wine-tasting. Bottom's up ...

("Sticky" is such a funny feeling, isn't it??)

Thursday, October 14, 2010


I got a really nice e-mail message from a friend-of-a-friend. I know her, actually, from a distance. A great distance, as she was writing from South Africa, where her fiancé is working on a boat-building project. But she used to be (still is??) from Newport; her son was in Darling Daughter's class. She said she misses "home." And she sent me a seagull pic, taken at Second Beach. How cool is that?? She even told me I could use it, if I felt it was "up to par." Up to par?? I don't even golf ... but I sure did appreciate her words and the sheer fact that she took the time to send them. And the pic. And here it is:

Now you tell me: whose pic is up to whose par?? Sandra Hale (that's this friend-of-a-friend's name) has me beat by a long shot. I do recall taking some shots involving clams at one point, way back when, but there's no comparison.

And, Sandra, just so you know: it was beautiful here today — clear, blue, warmish, wonderful — but it's forecast to be misty & rainy (clammy??) tomorrow and for the next few days, just like in your pic, which is so beautiful despite, or maybe because of, foggy conditions and subsequent lack of horizon ...

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


I did NOT write that (right there ^^). It's just something I stumbled upon — or, more accurately, stepped over — at the Trinity Church Pumpkin Patch the other day, being John Lennon's birthday. The chalk that enabled the long-gone scribe was still hanging out in the grass nearby. As was an irresistible array of little pumpkins, artfully arranged along the web of brick sidewalks weaving through Queen Anne Square. As were people picking just the right pumpkins for whatever their purpose might be. As was the young couple trying to balance a bizarrely-formed pumpkin on their daughter's head for just the right photo opp. How well I remember such photo opps ... although I never (to my recollection) said to Darling Daughter, as this couple was saying to their young'un: "There you go. Now you're a pumpkin head!" Whatever that means. But it doesn't sound altogether complimentary or encouraging. Not that I didn't say plenty of dubious things when focused on capturing just the right moment of autumnal/familial bliss on film (remember film??).

Anyway, a bit downhill from the pumpkin patch on that picture-perfect lawn (which used to be a neighborhood) is the smash pit. The smash pit! Pumpkin-purchasing patrons are invited to vent their frustrations by hurling their seed-and-slime-filled orbs at a rock. Now I know smashing pumpkins (hey, isn't that a band??) is arguably a ne'er do well activity, and maybe the folks at the pumpkin patch are trying to remove some sort of stigma or help the community by making this tradition-bound reality more legitimate, but I just don't know if it'll work. I'm not sure anyone can curb the appeal of pumpkin-smashing (not that I've ever engaged in it) as an il-legitimate activity.

Chalk it up to good intentions ...

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


I'm still stuck on Saturday, when I took a bike ride around Jamestown, where I ended up climbing that windmill, which wasn't turning, which in turn made me wonder when it turned last. But before I could wonder too hard (let alone seek an answer), a cheerful volunteer asked, "Wanna go up??"

Of course I did, though it turned out to be somewhat creepy. The stairs were narrow, the planks were rickety (with wide gaps), and there were some alarming-looking ropes and trap doors and assorted other contraptions at the top level. But the view was lovely, even or especially because I was looking from shadow into light ...

Then on toward town, where I bought a cookie and a banana for sustenance (as if that matters) and continued southward. I parked myself and my bike just long enough on the sand at Mackerel Cove to eat said cookie and banana and to watch a very cheerful black lab roll in the seaweed, not once not twice but three times, much to the chagrin of his/her master, who kept leading the dog into the water in order to rinse off, just in time for the dog to emerge and do it again. It reminded me of so many trips to the beach with our sweet (late) happy dog, P, who never rolled in seaweed. P never rolled in anything — he never rolled over at all — and he was terrified of the water, as were Darling Daughter and Super Son before each managed to get over the fear and ended up loving it. They both spent HUGE amounts of time in/on/around the water from that point on. Just sitting and watching (while trying not to stare) at the beach reminded me of all that ...

And then it was over — the weekend, that is. It didn't happen quite that quickly, but I know you know what I mean: time flew. I did take time to visit Columbus, before his day was through, at the corner of Bellevue and Memorial, where he stands in the shadows across from Pasta Beach. Can you imagine his journey (and that of everyone else sailing the ocean blue in 1492)?? The waves, the sea, the seasickness, the fear??

Then there are all those Peter Pan-ish notions of planks and hooks and that funny bonnet-wearing dog Nana ...