Thursday, September 30, 2010


I rode my bike out to Sweet Berry Farm last weekend and found myself, for some inexplicable reason, drawn to warts. Or whatever one calls those irregularly-shaped protrusions on pumpkins. They're weird but compelling in their variety of colors and textures. Some struck me as looking more like peanuts (how does that happen?!?). Then there were the people perusing the ridged and warted and peanutty pumpkins: all ages and sizes, dressed in every imaginable shade. The little pink-shirted girl wearing little pink Crocs and working so hard-if-indecisively to choose just the punkin' (with just the right stem) was my favorite; she drew me right in. As did the dog sleeping not far from the "No Dogs" sign. As did the toad peering out from under a gourd. The gourd was leaning on the toad, actually (and maybe appropriately, as gourds and toads have something in common, right??). And, as I leaned in for a closer look, an older gentleman leaned in toward me and said ... um, uh, well, I can't remember what he said exactly, but it was something to the effect of: "Why are you looking so closely at nothing??" He thought I was out of my gourd. Or maybe a knucklehead (that's a type of warty pumpkin, strangely). Must say, the last time I was so taken with matters of texture was that day, not so long ago, at Reject Beach, when it was covered with little round bumps of a different sort: jellyfish.


But that was another day.
On this day, it was late, so I didn't stay.
I hopped back on my bike and got on my way ...

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

life savers

Way way waaaaaay back when, when I was a teenager, I used to work at the boat show. Every year. Not the new boat show, but the used boat show (a spring event). A good friend and I would stand in a little wooden booth and sell tickets. And there was always this guy, somewhat older, an exhibitor representing Achilles inflatables, who would come visit, chat, joke, shoot the breeze (which sounds nautical enough, but what does it mean??).

I remember he was the Achilles rep., because he always gave us t-shirts — and asked us to wear them — that said ACHILLES INFLATABLES across the front in big bold letters. We didn't hesitate; they were free t-shirts. We wore them.

I thought about that (and that guy) recently when I saw an Achilles inflatable in the street. Yes, the street. Somewhere in the Point. It was being lugged via trailer down the sidewalk toward the water by a guy — not young, but younger than I — in hip sandals. Which made me feel really old. And tired. And, when I looked down at my decidedly beat-up flip-flops, un-hip.

And it made me ask, all the while realizing it's the same question everyone asks: "How did so much time slip by??"

Seriously, I feel old and tired (deflated??) enough at this precise moment, pushing 10 p.m., that I could really use a life saver (if only little round candies had such power), a life preserver (even better!), a tug boat (to give me a pull), an Achilles inflatable (to give me a ride), lest I forget what I'm saying and start repeating repeating repeating myself ...

I'm still friendly with that friend — my fellow inflatable — with whom I sold tickets. We don't get together often, but we do get together. That pumps me up (gets me pumped??). Then there are new friends; one in particular comes to mind, as she and I are in the same boat kid-wise, i.e., no kids at home, and we both saw the same tug boat, a super-cute one, zipping around the harbor during the boat show. The new boat show (a fall event, just past). And we talked about it.

She asked, "Did you see that tug boat??"

"Yes, I did," I said. "But I didn't capture it."

My friend did. And she gave it me — the image, that is. It pumped us both up, as it captured something (maybe a few things) we appreciated ...

Photo (right there ^^) by Kelly Clemens. Thanks, Kel.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


I was walking down William Street not long ago. If visitors stop me "uptown" for directions, I often suggest William as a good way to get "downtown" rather than walking down Memorial. There's just something about walking down the hill — down that or any number of side streets, as opposed to main streets — and seeing a sloping panorama lined with so many tidbits from the past: old houses in assorted colors, big chimneys dwarfing small structures, minor exhibits of perennial patriotism. Perennial gardens, too.

Then, of course, there are air-conditioners, modern street signs, parked cars. (Nothing's perfect.) And those old, chipping murals on the backside of the long-gone East Side Marketplace portraying things that no longer exist — but I consider those a history lesson. The Stone Villa?? That stood where the shopping center now stands. Bath Road?? That was Memorial. Why did they change the name, I wonder. Bath Road sounds much more interesting (to me). It even had an electric railway; how charming. And green (!!). Far preferable to present-day realities of traffic jams and jammed parking lots ...

And don't forget Newport Chocolates. That's a present-day reality making a walk down William Street worthwhile all by itself. (I'm partial to dark-chocolate covered blueberries and cranberries.)

Anyway, as I was walking down William Street — the last mural being of a somewhat puzzling enterprise on a utilitarian back corner (it is the backside of the shopping center) — I looked up (or maybe down, or maybe out, from my spot atop the hill) and saw a cruise ship. It's an obvious statement, to the point of absurdity, but cruise ships are big.


They tower behind Goat Island in such an otherworldly way. And they bring so many visitors from out-of-town asking directions from uptown to downtown and vice versa.

Only later, when I was driving home from somewhere (I can't recall where) through the Point, did I realize there were in fact two cruise ships. They sat silently, at anchor, looming over the Washington Street Pier, assorted fisherpeople, scads of sailboats, the Goat Island lighthouse, the whole scene ...

Skies were gray that day. Not unlike today. But, toward the end, things cleared up. And, when I found myself downtown, down the hill, for the third time that day (it happens), there was even a nice sunset. I failed to capture it clearly — when I tried to focus, it became fuzzy — but that's okay (with me). The impression is/was sufficient. There's so much to see, and it's so hard to make sense of it. Why must everything be clear??

I never knew this, but the derivation of "bonanza" (from Spanish, with Latin and Greek influences) is "calm sea" ...

Sunday, September 26, 2010


This may have been our last summery weekend ... or not. One never knows. So when it is summery at the end of September, it seems important to grab the bull by the horns (or, more reasonably, the horse by the reins) and go to the beach. Problem is: horses aren't allowed on the beach for another week.

I've always been afraid of horses anyway (they're so big!).

Still, I rode to Third Beach yesterday. On my bike, not a horse. I had my sights set on Second — seriously, I stood there and looked at it — but it was too windy to be inviting. Third is just around the corner yet another world. Once there, I saw ... nothing in particular. Just people; not many. They were dressed in everything from bikinis to blue jeans & windbreakers. One or two were swimming. And one or two dogs were swimming, although dogs aren't allowed either. Not technically; not mid-afternoon; not unleashed. I say that having read the sign(s) to which I'd locked my bike, granting me an up-close look at the rules.

(You can have an up-close look, too, if you click any image to enlarge ...)

But the oddest sight on that unremarkable-if-lovely day was the narrow sandbar of sorts that had appeared, however mysteriously, since my last visit; perhaps it was the result of a storm or weird tide. Winter does result in shifting sands. But it's not winter (!!). Not yet. And this was above the high-tide line, so perhaps it was the result of something less mysterious, like a bulldozer.

And walking along that sandbar/dune/barrier/whatever, which worked really well as a windbreaker for those of us not ready to don windbreakers of the nylon variety, were three young girls. Sisters?? I can't be sure, but they appeared to be sisters, unless they were three friends of diverse ages, which seems less likely. And it really doesn't matter ...

What matters is that it was warm. Bright. And pleasant. And the three girls were emitting such warm, bright and pleasant energy as they ran, laughed and balanced along the dune, man-made or otherwise. Despite a few minor beach rules regarding dogs and horses being broken — and an unknown language being spoken (or written); one language on the sign reminding everyone to keep the beach clean seemed totally unfamiliar — I couldn't imagine that any harm was being done ...

Could someone please click to enlarge, then tell me what language is second from the left?? I'm at a loss.

And I'm certainly at a loss to understand why riding a huge, reluctant horse into the water seems like a good (or comfortable) idea ...

Thursday, September 23, 2010

night & day

There's little to say:
It's just night and day,
in more than one way.
That's all for today.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


I've mentioned it before, unscientific and almost comical as it sounds: the whole notion of "puddingstone" being the conglomerate dominating the scene at Hanging Rock, at Crab Town, at Purgatory Chasm. I was sitting below that significant puddingstone outcropping at Surfers' End a week or so ago, as it's a great place to seek shelter from the wind (and to run into people one might know), when I looked up and saw St. George's chapel in weathered gray, with its four weathervaned spires, looming above and behind the rocks. They're omnipresent in these parts, those spires; one sees them from everywhere, in many lights, under many conditions — sun, sunset, fog — high upon their hilltop. The scene atop the puddingstone was omnipresent, too: a young family. One baby on hip, another on the way. Grandmother in attendance. Dad taking the picture ... was that really me/us, so long ago??

No, I'm not blonde. And I was shy about wearing a bikini. Grandma Betty, too. Though we both wear bikinis now. (Why not?? Who cares?? If not now, when??) I'll admit to feeling weird about it: not the bikini-wearing so much as the people-watching. I try not to stare, but it's hard, as it's like looking back in time. It's impossible not to look back in time.

That chapel, too, has watched over so much time, so many people (bikini-clad and otherwise), all those endless waves, large and small, roaring and crashing, or just gently-if-inexorably lapping, toward the beach, the sand, the puddingstone ...

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


There's been much talk about cats lately, if "cats" can be taken to mean catamarans. As in two-hulled vessels. As in the choice of the America's Cup powers-that-be who have chosen to race the next go-round in catamarans, much to the chagrin of some in the yachting community.

But I'm not sure "cats" does apply to catamarans. It certainly could apply to catamarans, if one considers the stability that presumably is shared by the four-legged creature and the two-hulled boat. I'm pretty sure — gee, I suppose I should research it — that "cats" more typically refers to catboats, which are also relatively stable, or so it would seem given their wide-body stance. I'm going to take a huge flyer here and say that "cats" could/should apply to both categories: catboats and catamarans.

I have limited experience with cats. My grandmother hated them (I'm talking felines now); she said they were like living fur coats (creepy). Mr. Betty and Super Son are both allergic to cats, so I haven't actually had a cat in a long long time. When I was very young, I remember sailing on a Hobie Cat with my dad and hanging on for dear life to the trampoline slung between two bright-yellow pontoons as we flew — and I mean flew — through the water while Pop and his buddy talked about how catamarans can cartwheel end-over-end if the lower pontoon happens to dip too deeply into a wave.

I was sure we would cartwheel.

That's a far cry from catboats, something else with which I have little experience but a fair amount of fondness from a distance. There's something really sweet about them: that comfy classic shape. That single gaffed sail. That solid sturdy slowness. At some point, when I was a teenager, I ventured out in a friend's Beetle Cat and got stuck in a tide sweeping me away from where I wanted to go. That being home. Ultimately, I had to beach the boat and wait for the tide to turn or the wind to come up. I don't recall how I got home, to be honest, but I think about it every year when I hear about the Beetle Cats being restored at IYRS.

And last weekend I was reminded of it — the cat question — as I saw cats everywhere, all about town: at the boat show, in the harbor, in the bay, even a black one crossing my path (oh, no!) and padding silently up a few steps before jumping atop an old wall to turn and peer at me. Perhaps sweetly, perhaps creepily, I wasn't sure ...

"Bingo"... that's sweet.

"This Side Up" ... one would hope (!), and not just for cats, though they tend to land that way.

My other grandmother loved cats, come to think of it. I guess people are of two minds. Speaking of which, I read something quasi-relevant (in Wikipedia) that I didn't know — though perhaps everyone else did — about the history of catamarans. There's a Rhode Island connection:

Although the name came from Tamil, the modern catamaran came from the South Pacific. English visitors applied the Tamil name catamaran to the swift, stable sail and paddle boats made out of two widely separated logs and used by Polynesian natives to get from one island to another.

The design remained relatively unknown in the West for almost another 200 years, until an American, Nathanael Herreshoff, began to build catamaran boats of his own design in 1877 (US Pat. No. 189,459), namely 'Amaryllis', which immediately showed her superior performance capabilities, at her maiden regatta (The Centennial Regatta held on June 22, 1876, off the New York Yacht Club's Staten Island station[2]). It was this same event, after being protested by the losers, where Catamarans, as a design, were barred from all the regular classes[2] and they remained barred until the 1970s.