Wednesday, June 30, 2010

white knight??

At some point a few weeks back, when I was meandering through the Shipyard thinking about how big and complicated but still essentially unknowable everything seems lately, I came upon Black Knight. She (boats are always "she" for whatever reason) was up, out-of-the-water, having work done.

I remember Black Knight from America's Cup days, back in the 80s — being the 1980s (given it's the Cup, I could have meant the 1880s) — when she was the Committee Boat for the New York Yacht Club. It was precisely 1980 come to think of it. I was working on a charter yacht for the summer. My title was Deckhand/Cook/Stewardess/Bartender. Hard to believe I was Darling Daughter's age at the time ... not that it was a big job (it wasn't). It was just so long ago ....

I also remember Black Knight from three years later: the oh-so-sad summer of '83.

Black Knight has an inspiring story. Click here to read it. And seeing her back in Newport just when we're really hoping for a white knight — in the form of Larry Ellison, who maybemaybemaybe (hope upon hope upon hope) will choose to bring the Cup back to its historic home in Rhode Island — struck me as an auspicious sign.

No matter what, the America's Cup (the trophy itself) will be in Newport tomorrow, if only for a day. Click here to read about that. I intend to be there: for the viewing, the harbor parade, all of it. I hope everyone intends to be there, to the extent time and distance allow. A huge turn-out might send our white knight a sign/signal/whatever ...

On second thought, white knight is a problematic term; white night is more appropriate. Black Knight, too, carries a certain amount of baggage (cargo??). Click on any of those highlighted words to see what I mean. And, yes, that's Black Knight right there in the background, behind the lobster traps ...

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

closing time II

People sometimes ask where I live in Newport. "Right in the middle, " I tell them. And it's true — but I've talked about that before, and I hate to repeat myself (though I do it all the time), so just click here if you want more on that topic.

The next thing people ask is, "Isn't there a lot of traffic??" I suppose so, but only on weekends in the summer, and even then it's not bad — is it?? I really don't know, if I'm being honest, as I tend to get around on foot or by bike. The car stays parked in the driveway for days upon days upon days.

Third question: "Isn't it loud??" No, actually, it's very quiet — except when the bars let out on Saturday nights. Then, occasionally, we're awakened by conversations on the sidewalk, slamming car doors and spectacles such as raucous football-throwing sessions in the middle of the street. Seriously, that happened (once, a year or two ago). Mr. Betty and I got up and watched out the window at 2 am. It looked like such fun. We were glad these guys weren't getting in cars — after leaving the bars — without some sort of intermediary activity. We like to think Super Son, wherever he is at whatever hour on a Saturday night, is being similarly intelligent. I'm serious!!

But back to the topic at hand, i.e., enjoying the energy of all the downtown busy-ness and revelry, whether or not we're participating, as one can take only so much quiet ...

Thing is: we often are participating. Last Saturday night, for example, we went to a John Hiatt and The Combo concert, just downhill at the Yachting Center; it was part of the Sunset Musical Festival. It was great — even inspiring, as the musicians didn't look too far from us in age. Oh, and they were such amazing masters of their instruments. We even hung around afterwards for up-close glimpses of the artists ... but stopped short of standing in line for autographs. Then we walked across the street to Benjamin's, to the top floor (and we hear there's going to be another floor), where we ran into some friends ...

There's no point in sharing any of this, of course, let alone the fact that on our way home — at closing time — we approached a pair of women from behind. They were, shall we say, weaving their way up the hill, along the brick sidewalk, past all the centuries-old architecture and well-worn steps. When they heard us coming (were we talking loudly??), one said to the other, "Let's stop and let these tourists pass." Nice thought — but we weren't tourists. And said so. Which led to a conversation. We talked about the concert, where they'd been as well. About our kids, in quasi-anonymous fashion. One woman disappeared down a side street, while her friend continued uphill — with some difficulty — 'til we all stood at Mr. Betty's and my driveway, and she asked me apologetically (intelligently) for a ride home.

So my car left the driveway on Saturday night ....

And that (the image right there ^^) has nothing to do with anything: not my car, not my driveway. It's not even current; there's snow on the ground!! Nothing more than a loose association ...

Monday, June 28, 2010

closing time

When I say "closing time," I'm referring to the Flower Show, not the bar scene, although I could talk about the bar scene. Maybe tomorrow ....

Okay, so Mr. Betty and I ran into a friend walking up the street yesterday (Sunday) afternoon at nearly 4 pm. She asked, with all manner of excitement and expectation, "Did you get to the Flower Show??" Stunned silence. We forgot!! Not that we're gardeners — we're very minor-league gardeners — but the Flower Show is cool. Honestly, it's feast or famine around here. Once summer starts, there's so much stuff going on simultaneously that unless one really tracks it, writes down what's happening and makes a plan to somehow take it all in, it's just ...... over.

So, needless to say, after the friend-ly reminder, I jumped on my bike and headed out Bellevue Avenue toward Rosecliff, where the annual Flower Show is held. It's also where The Great Gatsby was filmed. That's old news (as in 1974); just thought I'd throw it out there. And once there — once past the traffic cop and all the people waiting for the shuttle bus back to their cars, as it was closing time at the Flower Show at this point on Sunday afternoon — I did a bad thing: I didn't pay to go in. I didn't even go in, to state it more accurately (and lest you think I'm a bad person), as I got so absorbed by the displays outside on the front lawn, beside what I guess you'd call Rosecliff's driveway. In the traffic circle.

The bouquet in the fountain (where a cherub was wrestling a fish??) was one thing. The cherubs in the eaves playing peek-a-boo were another. But then I spied the display designed by Chaves that included an iguana (unless it was an alligator) made of hens & chicks — I'm partial to hens & chicks — and thought, "What could be better than this??"

The giraffe could be better than this. I've never see anything like the giraffe made of straw flowers. At least, I think they were straw flowers. The mane. The tail. The very pattern of the fur/flesh/whatever. The color coordination of the surrounding plantings. It was a three-part scene — complete with camp site, scary native (actually just a mask), right down to the green Land Rover, all with with Rosecliff in the background. All so Newport ... and not Newport at the same time.

The garden center responsible for the display — The Farmer's Daughter — was identified under the windshield wipers by a fluorescent green placard the same color as a parking ticket. The designer's name stood humbly beside the blue ribbon. And without having seen the rest of the Flower Show, i.e, having no basis for comparison other than the hens & chicks iguana (which I loved), I'd go way out on a limb and call that blue ribbon well-deserved ...

Friday, June 25, 2010


Strange how memory works: Max, the dog on a dock line of yesterday, reminded me of Jane, the dog who catches dock lines at Oldport Marine.

That's not strange, actually; it's logical. It'd be strange if I weren't reminded.

Have you seen Jane?? She rides around town in a milk crate affixed to her master's scooter. But, on the dock, she's the boss. If she sees or even hears a boat bearing down, she runs back and forth awaiting the toss — not of a bone or a ball but the dock line. And when it's thrown, she carries it to the cleat. Jane doesn't cleat the line, but I'm guessing that's due only to the limitations of paws.

Seriously, when we (Mr. Betty, Darling Daughter and I) were sitting at Oldport the other day waiting for a launch, a seriously big power boat was backing away from Bannister's Wharf. It wasn't docking; it was, in effect, pulling out of a very tight parallel-parking space on a narrow one-way Newport street that happened to be paved with water. But Jane was ready. And worried! To the point of panting with nervousness ... unless it was the heat.

The boat came close, giving us a close-range look at anchor and bumpers, but ultimately backed out successfully ...

Thursday, June 24, 2010


At some point last week, I walked down and sat on a wall opposite the dinghy dock at Ann Street Pier. It was early morning. I had coffee-in-hand and a half-eaten muffin beside me — a Glorious Morning muffin, as I recall. And I was watching a nice green dinghy floating left-to-right then right-to-left, as far as its line would allow, before nudging its way forward for a gentle bump on the dock. This happened again and again. There was something mesmerizing about it. To me, anyway.

But I finally pulled my eyes away and started thinking ... about construction no doubt, as just above the dinghy dock is the newly rebuilt-and-reopened Forty One North. I hadn't ever viewed it from this angle. It's rather glorious, yes?? To my right, in stark contrast, was the back of the Armory. To my left, logs and tires piled precariously on a barge. Behind me loomed some lovely gray-shingled condominiums (condominia??). To my right, assorted construction vehicles. And my half-eaten muffin.

Anyway, a friend suddenly appeared out of nowhere; he rode down the little driveway beside the Armory on his bicycle. He pushed it across the sand (as you can't ride a bike on sand) to where I was sitting, and we talked for a bit ... about construction. This friend is in the construction business. Then another man walked up with a dog on a leash. A long leash. It was just a line, actually, of the marine variety. He had it coiled up as if he were preparing to throw a dock line from boat to shore/dock/cleat/whatever.

So we all chatted amiably for a few minutes until Max — a very large, very sweet golden retriever whose line was a bit too long — got my muffin.

No biggie. It was still a glorious morning ...

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


I sometimes forget (and then I'm kicking myself for another whole week): Wednesday is Farmers' Market Day. In Newport, anyway. It's not a big deal, or a big Farmers' Market, but it's such a pleasure, from 2-6 pm along Memorial Boulevard under all those nice shady trees. It's also a welcome switch from the grocery store as a site to undergo that all-important daily contemplative process: What's for dinner??

So, last week — after I'd managed to remember it was Wednesday, thus Farmers' Market Day — I wandered up, with Darling Daughter and Grandma Betty, only to stumble into (onto) something even more exciting than super-fresh and/or organic veggies and cheeses and breads and flowers. I found the most remarkable game of hopscotch in full-swing. Or mid-hop.

I'd forgotten about hopscotch. Totally forgotten. I used to play endless rounds of hopscotch on sidewalks and driveways as a kid. Doing anything with chalk on sidewalks and driveways was amusing, at least for a while. And don't get me started on jump-roping and hula-hooping and footsie; I was the footsie champ (seriously). And these kids at the Farmers' Market were seriously into hopscotch, despite there being no semblance of rules. No pebble being thrown into Box 1, Box 2, Box 3, etc. No one caring or bickering about if someone had stepped on the lines. A big(gish) girl was drawing the course. She just kept drawing and drawing and drawing; she was up to Box 104 when I last looked. In some spots, one would have needed very small feet or very long legs or even three legs to follow the course as she drew it. But all the younger kids were jumping, all at the same time, with no regard whatsoever for lines or numbers ... but with great enthusiasm. And an even greater variety of footwear.

I was telling Nice Niece about it at dinner last night. We were at Pasta Beach, directly across from the Farmers' Market site on the other side of Memorial, with Grandma Betty and Darling Daughter, having an all-girls night out. I also told her how to play hopscotch "the right way" — all the while fearing I was ruining it. For the most part, I was just trying to remember it. Nice Niece made us promise to take her there today, being Wednesday, to see if hopscotch is going on again. Or still ...

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


It was over so quickly — the Newport-to-Bermuda Race. Speedboat won. Seems fitting, doesn't it?? But I found myself, when we were out there at the starting line with hundreds of other spectators on Friday, wondering at the names of the other boats. Not just what they were named but why they were named what they were named. In most cases, it was obvious ... or seemed so after a quick bit of thought. Based upon the clues. Perhaps a minor amount of research. Though, in a few cases, I really wondered what the owners were thinking ...

The same applies to children's names. Every so often, when I hear one that strikes me oddly, I'll think, "What were those parents thinking?" It doesn't happen often, and I realize it's not my place to comment. All we can do is name our own children.

And boats, as that's the topic at hand.

Coincidentally, I'm not sure what it implies (or why it matters), but it took Mr. Betty and me years to decide upon a name for our modest little speedboat (nothing like Speedboat), the one in which we were riding on Friday. Must say, it felt cool to leave all those big fancy boats in our wake ...

Still, when it was over — "it" being the mere start of race — I was left thinking about canvas. Or sails, more accurately, as none of the high-tech materials used to propel wind-powered vessels these days is canvas. And how I prefer sail to power, though power certainly gets you there. And I wondered: Do people even paint on canvas anymore?? I think (hope) they do, as at least a few things should stay the same through time ...

That's mostly what I was thinking, as I looked up at all that graceful-if-mod and no doubt super-efficient patterning illuminated from behind on sails, head to clew, as they headed South: that it'd be so great if some things (like age at a certain mid-point??) could stop "progressing" ...

Oh, now I get it: Speedboat (and the one just above her) is rather wide, as boats go. To put it nautically, "She's beamy." But some names still give me pause. And 45 would be a great place to pause — wouldn't it??