Monday, November 21, 2011


I was sitting on the lawn between the King House and the library on a warmish morning a few weeks back ... doing nothing in particular except sipping coffee and taking periodic bites of one of those ginormous, super-healthy (I presume) muffins from "A" Market ... just minding my own business, basically, while looking out over the gentle downward slope and sleepy late-fall scene with no more than the occasional car rolling/bumping past on Spring Street below ... when someone pulled up behind me in a pick-up truck.

The driver got out, moved to the back (the bed?) of the truck and started tugging on a large, limp, lifeless bag. At this point I recognized him and got up to help. It was a sail bag, of course, and as we hauled it onto the grass I learned that this local captain had purchased a new (to him) boat — an 80-foot ocean racer of some sort — with another captain/friend and sought to check out the condition of the spinnaker.

So we stretched out the bag, slid out the sail (it took some doing), tied head and clew to two trees, and let the wind do the rest ...

Thursday, November 17, 2011


The first and only time I did karaoke in a bar, I sang "It's My Party and I'll Cry If I Want To." Don't ask me why: why I chose it, why I sang at all. Truth be told, I recall getting pretty into the whole feel of the thing by the last chorus ...

Which has nothing whatsoever to do with the fact that the It's My Party Bake Shoppe on William Street is closed as of today. Not that it's gone; it just moved next door to Newport Chocolates. Yes, the two shops have merged (products, logos, location) to form something new — sweet! — though I'm so glad they preserved something old at the same time, that being the pineapple, Newport's symbol of hospitality.

I said as much to Patrick, one of the owners, who was standing on the sidewalk outside the new shop(pe) this morning as I walked past with ritual coffee in hand. Patrick had just taken down the white paper that's been making a mystery of what's going on behind the windows of the new/old destination to reveal some very sweet tables and pink chairs, meaning we can all sit and eat cupcakes (among other things, but the cupcakes are especially yummy) in comfort and style, starting today.

And I assume they'll still carry Mr. Betty's and my favorite: 72% dark chocolate covered blueberries a.k.a blueberry cordials ...

Which, in turn, has nothing to do with the two, sweet girls I encountered in Touro Park the other day. I really dug one girl's boots — they were pink — and told her so. Then, feeling badly about singling her out in the company of her friend, I complimented the friend's look, too. I wasn't being insincere; both girls had style.

The two were standing, posing, taking a photo before the Old Stone Mill. Apparently, one of the pink-booted girl's friends back home (she's from Russia) is putting together some sort of birthday card for yet another friend, in yet another distant/distinct location, i.e., the message will be pieced together with words from around the globe — how sweet is that?? So the contribution being held up before Newport's oldest and most mysterious structure said something to the effect of "who has qualities such as." That's it. Just a piece of a sentence, the message, the puzzle ...

Which, of course, has nothing to do with my own puzzle, my own life (or yours) or the whole collective worldwide party for that matter. Except, somehow, it does ...

Oops, I left out what started this whole train/chain of thought in the first place ...

Sunday, November 13, 2011


On a typical Sunday morning at this time (9:25), I'd be sitting in the kitchen flipping through the newspaper while sipping coffee and waiting for the bells to start ringing their weekly mini-concert from Channing Church, on nearby Touro Park.

That IS, in fact, what I'm doing at this precise moment, although the morning has been entirely atypical otherwise. I've been up for hours upon hours ... and I'm no early bird (just ask Mr. Betty). I'm thinking of changing my ways, however, thanks to some inspiring words from Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, who addressed the 2000 or so runners gathered at the base of the Newport Bridge — the Jamestown side — just before sunrise. According to Whitehouse: "Anything worth doing is worth getting up in the middle of the night for."

Or something like that. I wasn't paying very close attention, and I didn't have a pencil or even a smart phone handy to take notes, because I was getting ready to run – not that I'm a runner, but who could resist the opportunity to take part in the Citizens Bank Inaugural Newport Pell Bridge Run?

Well, in all honesty, I could have resisted, but Mr. Betty made me do it. Scratch that: he strongly suggested. And he was right, of course; it was special. Really special. The public hasn't been allowed/invited to cross that bridge (on foot, en masse) in decades.

So the scene was this: runners took shuttles starting at 5 a.m. from Newport to Jamestown, where they were treated to coffee and snacks and a rousing soundtrack: the theme from "Rocky" and the like in addition to Senator Whitehouse's encouraging words. And coffee leads to, um, certain needs. So there was a long line (even longer than what you see at the Folk Festival) at an impressive row of porta-potties under the nearly full moon and still-illuminated bridge in the distance, i.e., everything about this event was incredibly organized & picturesque. Then the crowd — it was a mob, really: a sea of colorful Ts, black leggings, bobbing ponytails and baseball caps — took off gently/gradually/quietly in quasi-dark conditions around the ramp, through the tolls and on toward those familiar gray trestles (if that's the word for them). It was a long hill up — at the peak, I venture to say everyone experienced a real "top o' the morning" feeling — then a long hill down. To be honest, I thought I'd end up walking, but I didn't. I kept running. Not too fast, admittedly. With much appreciation for the long hill down. I even accepted a cup of water from a volunteer on the sidelines at one point, toward the end — just like you see real runners do on T.V. — but when I tried to drink it while still running/bobbing and dodging pedestrian traffic, I couldn't do so without spilling all down my front, so I just dropped the cup on Farewell Street with all the other cups, even though it felt vaguely awful to the point of unnatural to engage in littering.

The finish line, by comparison, felt fine ...

Suggestion (added later): Check out Tillerman's take on the bridge-crossing and all manner of other stuff including but not limited to Laser sailing. As it turns out, Tillerman & I crossed the finish line four seconds apart. We didn't know it, though, as we haven't met. Yet. Could he be one of those guys right there (<<)??

Thursday, November 10, 2011

lost & found

Even a bike ride to Sandy Point didn't remedy the funk I felt earlier this week ... for which there was no excuse. Seriously, the weather's been unbelievable. Life is good. I have no right/reason whatsoever to complain ...

That said, all I saw at Sandy Point — where the beach is all rocks, and sand is limited to that found in the empty rutted parking lot — were a pair of apparent friends engaged in conversation. Watching them (I try not to watch people, but sometimes I can't help it) led my eyes to that pair of nuclear-looking towers on the horizon, toward Fall River. That didn't help the funk either. Then, when I was almost home again, just as I was pulling out to pass another cyclist on Memorial and thinking it wasn't such a bright idea to do so, especially with the blinding late-afternoon light in drivers' eyes, I put my hand to my head for some reason and realized I wasn't wearing my helmet. What?!? I had it when I started out. I know I did. Where was it? Did I leave it at Sweet Berry Farm, where I'd stopped for a snack on my way home? Did I leave it on the lawn of that home near the corner of Third Beach Road and Green End, where I'd jumped off my bike to follow some seasonal birds? Where that cute bald guy in the truck with an even cuter dog hanging out the window had slowed to a stop — it probably looked like I was having some sort of trouble — and asked, "You OK?"

That's when I started to feel better, now that I think about it.
The whole idea that a stranger took time to stop and ask.

But what really helped me turn the corner was today's rain, in which I made my way (solo, as Mr. Betty's out of town) to a presentation at the Colony House by John Adams and his wife, Abigail. Really. It was called "Love Letters," and it was GOOD. Apparently, unlike other couples of yore who burned all their personal communications, J & A saved them. Hundreds of them — many written while he was on an extended trip to Philadelphia for some sort of convention. Anyway, within this presentation, the Adams sipped cider (hard, I presume) and read their letters aloud. That was the gist of it. And they never came out of character, even when pressed by audience members after the show. One gentleman in particular didn't get it. He kept asking, "How many letters were there in all? In your whole life? " John Adams kept replying with something to the effect of, "Sir, I'm at a disadvantage. It's the year 1777."

I love stuff like that.

Oh, and I found my helmet, too: back on the rocks at Sandy Point ...

Tuesday, November 8, 2011


How can it be that I rode my bike who-knows-how-many-times to Surfers' End this summer but never noticed the aged a.k.a. classic 10-speed that, by the looks of things, was parked there all along?

Is it because I was so bent on my own purpose (being the locking of my bike) that I failed to notice anyone else's purpose (being the offering of beachy sustenance of which it's now too late to partake)? Is it because there were so many other bikes on the rack that this one, however colorful, remained invisible? Is it because, quite simply, I'm a space shot?

All of the above, no doubt.

That's what I was thinking during a walk on Second Beach yesterday, during which I encountered all manner of treasure (trash?): buried, washed up and otherwise.

And I was still thinking about it — somewhat crabbily, I admit — back in the parking lot, back at the bike rack, where I looked with envy upon a gentleman sitting in his truck in some sort of sublime state of mind as he puffed on a cigar.

How to get it back (the state of mind, not the cigar)? To unlock/untangle the momentarily elusive satisfaction engendered by run-of-the-mill stuff, past and present? Stuff that's utterly unfancy & unworthy but remarkable in that it's utterly evocative of, um, home? Stuff that it's easy to deem silly/crazy/bananas to notice, but maybe it's even crazier NOT to notice?

Sigh. I think this calls for another bike ride ...

Speaking of bananas: