Tuesday, January 31, 2012


I just topped off a trip to First Beach with a trip to the grocery store. That's one of my favorite end-of-day walking routes that happens to kill two birds (how awful!) with one stone. Anyway, the dear sweet teenager working as a cashier in the particular aisle of Stop & Shop where I stood unloading salmon, kale, potatoes and way too many little containers of yogurt onto the conveyor said, "How are you today, Miss?"

Miss? Me?

("Ma'am" is just the pits, by comparison.)

Then, when my favorite teenager — my own kids are 20+, so I can say that — finished ringing me in and I was fumbling in my pocket for method of payment, he said, "Your total is 21 even. Don't you love it when that happens?"

Yes, I really do ...

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

all gone

The phone rang yesterday afternoon. It was Grandma Betty.

"It's warm!" she said. (She was calling from Miami.)

"It's warm here, too!" I told her. "The snow's all gone."

It didn't take long, did it? A day or two tops, and now we're back to normal, or to what feels like normal. If not normal, it's certainly this year's norm: warm. Thus I found myself on a bike ride yesterday afternoon, January 24 (!), after I'd hung up with Grandma Betty ...

I headed out on my usual route — Ocean Drive — just because it never (ever) gets old. There's always (always) something new or at least previously-unnoticed to see. This time it was a sign coming around the corner by that endless construction site, the place that's called The Play House, or The Bird House, or The Bird Cottage, or some such thing. It used to have little round holes (for birds?) up under the eaves; that's why I think the moniker has something to do with birds, but I may be mistaken. Anyway, it's been under re-construction for a year or two or three at this point. It does look great. The site is priceless. The view is awesome (even through a chain-link fence). OK, so there's mud, but that's reality. They'll get to landscaping once springtime rolls around ... unless it takes another whole year.

And, for that reason, when I saw the "SLOW DOWN" sign, I had to smile.

Slow down? Me? I was probably traveling at speeds in the single digits, though I can certainly imagine slowing down, or the desire for things/processes to slow down, in other senses.

The property owners? They're probably thinking quite the opposite: "Hurry up!"

Passing cars? OK, the words of caution certainly apply at that exceedingly tight, shoulderless corner where someone (like me) might be walking along or standing astride a bicycle while peering through a construction fence at the view of the picturesque cove/inlet/whatever.

And around the next corner I saw something else, though I may not have noticed it at all unless I read about it in the Newport Daily News. You know those picturesque — seriously, they've been featured in many pictures and paintings — telephone poles along that straight, reeded stretch near Gooseberry Beach? Well, they're all gone. Local property owners contributed toward putting the power and phone lines underground. Much to the chagrin of all the birds who used to sit there, I imagine, but there are plenty of other places to perch and/or chat with family & friends ...

Grandma Betty called again this afternoon.

"Hello?" I answered, in inquisitive fashion, even though there was no question as to who was on the other end.

"I'm sitting by the pool!" she said, then added quickly (lest I feel badly?), "I wish you were here."

"Thanks," I said, picturing exactly where she was, having been to South Beach myself on more than one lucky occasion. "But I'm happy to be here ... "

See? No more telephone poles. Only flag poles. Works for me ...

Monday, January 23, 2012


It arrived. Finally. Nearly a foot of the white stuff.

And it was beautiful (!) for an hour or two or even three before reality — being the necessity of shoveling and the mess of soggy snowboots and wet mittens drying by the back door — set in. Honestly, I wish I'd gone sledding or something to extend the appreciation, and to delay the shoveling, but I would have felt pretty silly doing so without kids in tow.

Also, I didn't want to get hurt.

Ah, age.

Speaking of which, Mr. Betty and I went to the movies last night. We walked down the hill to the Pickens, where they're showing a series of classics (once a month, on Sundays) at the historic venue which started as a church. Last night's selection was "Sunset Boulevard," which we thoroughly enjoyed (especially the circa 1950 fashions and cars) except for the line toward the end where the strapping young writer lashes out at the aging starlet with the words: "You're a 50 year old woman! There's nothing wrong with being 50. Unless you're trying to be 25."

Here's what he actually said (I just looked it up): "Norma, you're a woman of 50, now grow up. There's nothing tragic about being 50, not unless you try to be 25."

I happen to be 50, so I wanted to get it right ...

And that leads straight to the painful reality of walking along once-snowy-now-slushy sidewalks to "A" Market for a cup of coffee, just a few minutes ago, and encountering an old (older than I, anyway) friend at the checkout.

I said, "Hi, how are you?"

He said, "I'm not doing too well, thanks."

Then he turned in my direction, and I saw that his lip was a swollen, bloody, stitched-up mess. He'd slipped on the ice, apparently. The result was ugly.

In spite of that, and maybe even because of that — i.e., even beautiful things involve risks & realities, and we're all going to get hurt (and old) at some point — I think I'll go sledding later.

At least I'll go watch ...

Note of explanation: Another trip downhill (during the storm) led me to Aquidneck Lobster, beside which lies "Janet" and inside which lies an assortment of fresh fish. Even in winter.

Friday, January 20, 2012

making tracks

I had a funny experience yesterday on Second/Sachuest Beach ...

I set out from Surfers' End, from whence stemmeth (don't ask me where that came from) assorted tracks. I was more-or-less following the only other walker on the beach, the relative solitariness of the situation being not-so-unusual and not-so-unwelcome in January. Anyway, about half or maybe two thirds of the way toward the rocky refuge at the far end, I saw something. Something black. A lens — a long one — protruding from the dunes. And when the photographer removed lens from eye, I realized I knew him. Sort of. I knew his work, to be precise, so I called out, "I know you! You're Jim!"

Perhaps the solitariness of the situation was emboldening.

Then I went on to say (no idea what got into me), "I'm Newport Betty." This photographer and I are friends of the Facebook variety, so I thought he might recognize the name. Or not. But he seemed to. Or he pretended to ...

Anyway (again), after chatting for no more than a minute, during which we compared the impressiveness of his lens to the lack of impressiveness of mine, I went on my way.

OK, so that's not funny. But an hour or so later, when I was home from my walk, upon which I spied nothing earth-shattering but several things I hadn't expected (what's better than that?), I logged onto Facebook and was just scrolling down through the occasionally-enlightening but generally-redundant news when, wait, I saw something familiar. It was .... me!

The aforementioned photographer – we were both eyeing birds at the edge the surf — had caught me from behind, unaware, and figured he'd post it.

As if I were a bird or something.

Ha ...

That one (right there ^) was taken by James Clayton Sattel, the long-lensed photographer on the beach. Many more of his photos can be found by CLICKING HERE. Or you could "friend" him on Facebook, like I did.

You could even "friend" me, for that matter ...

Monday, January 9, 2012


During a mid-afternoon bike ride around Ocean Drive on Saturday, I saw three top-down convertibles, five or six motorcycles, two scooters (not that I know the precise difference between motorcycles and scooters), any number of cars with sunroofs and/or windows open, at least a dozen bicycles other than my own and one unicycle.

Yes, a unicycle.

Oh, and two donkeys (in the interest of mentioning every conceivable mode of warm-weather transport).

And that brings to mind another tally of sorts: the bird count. I don't keep close track, if I'm being honest, but I am privy to a daily e-mail chain that posts what real birders have sighted in the area. Recent excitement has centered on a snowy owl who seems to be wintering in these parts. At Sachuest Point, specifically. Where there's not a snowflake in sight, incidentally. The only place to see snowflakes about now is on the windows of Yesterday's ...

ANYWAY, I've made several attempts to see him, this snowy owl. The first time, as I pulled into the sanctuary parking lot — jammed, by January standards — I ran into a friend, all hatted and mittened on that particularly brisk day (which felt bizarre when it should have felt typical). She was getting into her car to head home.

"I hear there's a snowy owl, " I said.

"Yeah," my friend said. "But no one's seen him since this morning. I think he's holed up in the rocks."

So I took a walk out that way: to Island Rocks, on the northeast i.e. Sakonnet side of Sachuest Point, facing Little Compton. Once there, but still not sure what I was looking for, I asked a few people wielding binoculars what they had seen.

"There were some arctics," one young woman (25ish?) said. "And I think we saw gannets."

I nodded as if I knew what she was talking about, which I didn't, and apparently that truth shone through.

"Would you like to know what gannets are?" she asked.

"Sure," I said.

"Well, they look like seagulls, but their wings are narrower, so they flap more. There's also a V of black on the bottom. And they dive straight down. They get going really fast. We were at, like, the third inlet back that way [she pointed South], so if you think you see gulls, look again, because they might be more than gulls."

Um, right.

I never did see gannets. I did see gulls — lots. I also saw the snowy owl when I returned to the sanctuary on a slightly warmer occasion a few days later. He was nothing more than a white speck (a bit of snow?), barely visible from shore through my decidedly amateur lens. But after waiting my turn behind assorted youngsters in hats of assorted animals likeness to look through a telescope aimed in precisely the right direction, I got a pretty good look at him. And, later, I found a close-up posted on the aforementioned birders' email chain, where I found a nice shot of a gannet as well (!).

Have to say, I'm impressed by the numbers and diversity of folks so engaged in watching birds in general and the snowy owl in particular. I guess there is something pretty special/magical about him. I'm wondering if this has something to do with it: CLICK HERE. I forwarded it (that clickable thing) via e-mail to Super Son, whose response was prompt and enthusiastic.

"Cool!" he said.

Yes, but definitely not cold ...

See the little white spot poking up from the rocks on the upper left?? That's the snowy owl.

That's the unicycle; I wasn't kidding.

That's a gannet (photo credit: Bob Weaver).

And THAT's the snowy owl (photo credit: Bob Weaver).

Oops, forgot the pony!