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Rhode Island is a state that is very emphatic about getting Mondays off for Federal  and state holidays.  When I first moved here, I was shocked to get out of school for Columbus Day (which we never got in Minnesota or North Dakota), and even more flummoxed when I realized that this is the only state that still celebrates VJ Day–now called “Victory Day”.

When I asked a native Rhode Islander about this, she just looked at me blankly and said, “Why would we voluntarily give up a Monday off?  We get one Monday off per month for holidays like this, and I’m certainly not going to say we shouldn’t just because it’s a bit insensitive.  We don’t call it Victory over Japan Day anymore, so what’s the harm?”  I can get on board with that, I guess, I like days off.  Plus, when Jewish Friend was working for Brown University over the summer, she told me that their answering machine message for why they’re closed on that day is hilarious in its non-specificity.

Likewise, this year the 4th of July falls on a Sunday, so all 4th of July festivities are postponed until the 5th in order for all of us to get a day off work.  George M. Cohan plaza, just a few blocks from my house, has a banner proudly stating that there are 4th of July festivities July 3, & 5-6.  July 4th is now just a blank day in the middle of these other July 4th celebrations which are not taking place on the 4th.  America’s oldest 4th of July parade, in Bristol, RI, is also taking place on the 5th, which people have started calling the 4th, which is terribly confusing, as you can imagine.

I spoke to my brother on the phone last night, and asked what he was doing for the holiday.

“The parents are coming up for the 4th.” he said.

“Does your town do a big 4th of July celebration?” I asked.

“Well, they do, but it all happened today, so I have no idea what they’re expecting when they show up.  I read the list of all the stuff going on this morning, and it was impressive, but I had to work.  There’s nothing really happening on the actual 4th.”

Part of me assumed that the combination of a heavily Catholic state and a love of Mondays off is what brought the 4th of July to the 5th, but Minnesota, where little brother lives, is not a very Catholic state, and Lutherans are far less tenacious in their church-going.  So there’s that theory dashed against the rocks.  Though it looks like Minnesota may not be getting July 5th off…correct me if I’m wrong.

Rhode Island also recently revamped its laws concerning what kind of fireworks can be bought and used in the state, so things have been all the more boisterous and explodey because of that, making it feel like it’s been the 4th for about two days already.  Basically, it’s the 4th of July right now, and if it wasn’t for a friend’s wedding tonight, I would have nothing going on today.  The fireworks in the park by my house were last night, there may be more on the 5th, who knows?

Am I meant to treat today as a day of reprieve before the revelry re-starts tomorrow?  It’s baffling.

While I would never consider myself an avid journaler, or diarist, or whatever; I have on several occasions in the past kept a journal, and felt those pangs of guilt that come with neglecting that journal.  I like being able to look back at a period in my life, and get reminded of things that happened that seemed really important at the time, or things that made me happy that I’ve forgotten about, but then again there’s the hassle of recording these things every day–who has time/inclination for that?

Yesterday I went to Orchard House, the home of Louisa May Alcott, with Gentleman Scholar and our Canadian Friends.  I’ve been on this tour before, but it rules so hard that when Canadian Lady told me with wide eyes that she never realized that Little Women was based on real people and that there was a house she could visit, I insisted that we get ourselves there post-haste.  The tour guide told us that Louisa frequently expounded on the importance of keeping a journal, not only for writing practice, but also to re-read and gather stories from.  Clearly, it worked for her.

Canadian Lady and I got to talking about our mutual experiences with journaling over lunch, and I started thinking that perhaps it’s something I should undertake again.

When I was very young, Globe-Trotting Friend showed my this diary she had that had about five lines for each day.  the point was, as I understood it, to keep you on task by limiting the amount of writing you can do at a time.  She mostly just wrote down the facts: today I did this, this, and this.  I found this troubling, and decided that I simply couldn’t be limited like this, so I went out and bought a diary the was just blank pages.  I kept it semi-faithfully for a few months and then abandoned it.

Then I read a Babysitter’s Club book where Mallory finds an old diary and uses it to solve a mystery.  This diary was full of intrigue and romance–fascinating stuff.  I went back and re-read my boring and now embarrassing memories, tore out the pages, and promptly started lying to my diary, inventing all kinds of crushes and mysteries that made my life seem  far more exotic than it was.  I later re-read that, found it equally embarrassing as the true stuff, and threw that diary away.

Then I read The Secret Diaries, and became obsessed with keeping a diary in code.  It was only then that I could truly let go and say what I wanted to actually say, I decided.  This was a few years after I read Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl for the first time, paying particular attention to the naughty bits, and deciding that there was no way in hell I could ever keep a diary honestly because what if someone decided to publish it someday, I would be mortified.

I promptly taught myself to write in Runic (not knowing at the time that any Tolkein fan could probably translate), and faithfully recorded my angst-filled final years of high school.  Every morning, in American Government, I would write until the bell rang.  I would usually start up again in one of the two study halls I had.  I honestly have no idea how I had so much to say, but I hated everything right about then, so I’m sure that found its way in.

Five years of professional coffee making have rendered my ability to write with a pen both painful and unreadable, so my journaling has fallen off completely, though this blog has kind of taken its place.  Unlike most bloggers, I try to have a point, rather than just writing about my day-to-day, so I’m missing all those minute details, but I think what comes out is a great deal more readable.  Knowingly writing for an audience can’t ever be the same as writing just for yourself, but in my case, it may be better.

I finished off my day yesterday with a first-time viewing of Notes on a ScandalNetflix sent it out two weeks ago, and I wanted to watch a movie.  It’s funny how things just sort of work out like that.  It certainly made me think twice about all these new notions of journaling I’d been having five hours before.  I’m still torn.  I’m torn between wanting to be able to look back at an honest account of my life in ten years or something, and complete laziness.  Augusten Burroughs once praised the patience of his long-term boyfriend by saying something like, “I have to spend six hours a day writing about myself to stay sane, that’s a lot to put up with.” I doubt I’d even be able to spend six hours writing anything, but it’s a scary prospect to consider how wrapped up a person can get in him or herself.  Do I really need that much time inside my own head?

I’m still deciding.

Niagara Falls_bannerThis past January, I drove from Providence to Toronto to visit friends.  We were having dinner one night with some of my friend’s family, and they mentioned that they had spent the day at Niagara Falls.  I was intrigued since I remember hearing a lot about Niagara Falls when I was a kid, but completely forgot about it as I got older.

“What do you do there?” I asked.

“We spent most of the day in the casino.” They told me.  “You should stop there on your way back, at the falls, not the casino.”

So I figured that since I was driving by it anyway, I might as well stretch my legs and take in the sight of this magnificent natural marvel.  What I didn’t count on was the fact that parking cost $14 (should have figured), and I was simply unwilling to pay that.  Instead, I drove a couple laps along the “Fallsview road” snapping pictures out the car window.  Eventually, I stopped the car, put the flashers on, and ran up to the protective barrier to snap another couple pictures before heading back to the states.

Despite the short amount of time I spent at the falls, I liked it, and got the notion that I should go back sometime and spend more than fifteen minutes there.  Then I got back home, and promptly forgot that notion.

About three weeks ago, the power of facebook advertising reminded me.  Since I put the pictures that I took of Niagara Falls on facebook, facebook decided that I am a Niagara Falls enthusiast, and told me that hotels might just be cheap there right now, seeing as the summer travel season is winding down.

It is after Labor Day, I thought, still temperate, but probably less crowded and cheaper.  So I hopped on Priceline, found a cheap hotel, read some reviews, and popped my head out into the living room to ask Gentleman Scholar, “Do you want to go to Niagara Falls next weekend?”

He thought for a beat, and said, “Sure.”

misc3 027I booked the hotel, and a few days later, started wondering what the hell one does at Niagara Falls for the entire weekend.  Surely you can’t spend the whole time riding the Maid of the Mist and staring at the water.  So I found a few Niagara Falls themed adventures, but not much else.  The best sites were run by the Niagara Parks Board, and were all water all the time.  The Lonely Planet Guide, didn’t have much more in it either except a snarky quote from Oscar Wilde: “The Niagara Falls is simply a vast amount of water going the wrong way over some unnecessary rocks; the sight of that waterfall must be one of the earliest and keenest disappointments in American married life.”, and the information that Niagara Falls used to be a major tourist destination.

Thankfully, spending the night in a hotel is often adventure enough in the short term, so we figured that if we maxed out Falls adventures early, we could just hang out and watch cable for a while–our hotel was even rumored to have HBO!  What a coup!

Turns out that the area around the falls looks a tiny and less impressive Las Vegas.  It feels like it should have a lot of options for things to do, but kind of doesn’t, except the casino.  It’s pretty, but looks sterile and modern, and was really not what I expected.  I was hoping for a 1950’s honeymoon destination feel–cheesy romantic stuff, buildings that looked like they had been there for more than five years.  I don’t know if Niagara Falls got a facelift recently, but everything felt strangely new.

Until we went looking for a liquor store and stumbled upon Niagara Falls downtown.  We had seen all of these brochures in the hotel lobby for wax museums, haunted houses, Dave and Busters etc., but had no idea where this stuff was. It was in downtown Niagara Falls, which is a roadside attraction promenade on par with the Wisconsin Dells.  Two Haunted Houses, a headshop, Louis Toussaud’s Wax Museum (with a terrifying Tiger Woods waving a golf ball at you from the front entrance), a Hard Rock Cafe, dinner theatres, and more tacky souvenir shops than you can shake a stick at.  It was amazing.

My parents took us on a lot of vacations as I grew up.  That’s one thing I’m really glad of, and we usually did them on the cheap.  This meant a lot of driving vacations like the one to the Wisconsin Dells, or Mount Rushmore, etc. We went to the roadside attractions that included streets of tacky crap, disappointing wax museums– though I’ve still never been in a wax museum–olde tymey picture shops, topiary gardens etc.  So if I couldn’t have my 1950’s chic Niagara Falls experience, this was the next best thing.marilyn_monroe_niagara_lancastria

Overall, I feel like Niagara Falls just doesn’t know quite what to do with itself.  The falls are rad, and even though we scoffed initially and said “It’s not like we’re just going to spend a whole bunch of time staring at the water.” we kind of just wanted to stare at the water, rushing back at different times of day to see how blue it was, or watch the fireworks –which they send up from the bottom of the gorge, so when they explode, they’re pretty much right in your face.  Obviously, if you want to lure people in these days, and keep them there, you need more than just a waterfall–even if it’s a good one.

It feels like Niagara Falls wants to re-evolve from being just a roadside attraction, into the destination it used to be, but maybe I’m just being a jaded asshole.  There were tons of people there for whom English was not a first language.  We stood in line next to a dozen Japanese businessmen, rode the Maid of the Mist with a lovely German couple, and had our photo taken by a group of French students (who may have been French-Canadian, but the point stands).  These people have either made Niagara Falls their destination, or at least a stop–I’m really curious which it is.

Strangely, I want to go back.

new_paltz_bannerSo I went camping.  I camped. I have been a camper.  I now understand the mysterious world of camping–sort of. Jewish Friend and I took to the woods with a moderate amount of success, and strangely, I would do it again.

We arrived in New Paltz, NY around 9pm.  It was darkish–enough to necessitate the headlamps we brought.  Seriously, for this rather low-key affair, I purchased what seems like an exorbitant amount of “gear,” but justified these purchases by telling myself that now I can camp at will.  Think of all the money I’ll save in the long run!

The campsites we were staying at were of the no-frills/free variety.  No toilets, no showers, no well-marked trail, just a small triangle sign and a patch of cleared space.  The idea is, come, pitch a tent, clean up after yourself, which is exactly what we planned to do.  The three campsites are big enough for four tents, and people are supposed to share.  Jewish Friend told me that typically this campsite is full of rock climbers, who go to bed early, get up early, and make little to no noise.

After climbing the steepest hill in the world, we arrived at the campsite.  There were some kids spread out next to the fire pit, and a couple in their mid-twenties a little ways away from them.  “Do you mind if we put our tent back there?” Jewish Friend asked indicating a spot just behind the couple’s tent.

The guy glanced at the spot, and said, “yeah, we kind of do mind.”

Strike one for camper courtesy, but these people were clearly planning on trysting romantically, and with all of the outdoor sex acts I’ve seen this summer, I’m happy to walk away from the chance for more.

So we walked over to the kids, and asked if we could put up our tent near them. There were about eight of them, they were playing a guitar and having a quiet conversation–seemed pretty chill.  They told us of course we could put our tent there, and then marveled to each other about how awesome our headlamps were.

My heart started warming toward these teenagers, but dimmed a bit after they started playing not one, but three Third-Eye blind songs.  Who the hell knows more than one?  How are they even different?

We set up our tent and went into town for late dinner and a beer, getting back to the campsite around 11pm.  By this point, the teenagers were still just sitting around, their fire was dying, and (I thought) they were getting ready for bed.  Jewish Friend and I put on our jammies, played some cards, and decided to call it an early night in preparation for the full day ahead of us.

“Do you think they’re going to be up late?” Jewish Friend asked me. “If they are, I won’t be able to sleep, I can’t sleep if there’s noise.  Do you think we should move the tent?”

“There’s nowhere to move the tent, and besides, how late can they possibly stay up? It will be fine.”  This was the first of so many things I was wrong about that night.

Not only were these kids staying up, but at 3am, they called for reinforcements.  Two boys showed up with a cooler full of beer and a cord of firewood, and got the party going again.  By this point, Jewish Friend and I had our ears stuffed full of cotton balls, I was thinking about draping my clothes over my ears, and she was considering going and sleeping in the car.

One of the new boys noticed our tent and asked, “Holy shit, are there people in there?  Should we be quiet?”

Maggie, the loudest girl ever born, reassured him, “Yeah, it’s two girls, but we asked if we were too loud and they said it was fine.”

This is a lie.

“Actually,” Jewish Friend spoke up, “We would really appreciate it if you could keep your voices down.”

And they did–all of them by Maggie.  Her other friends had climbed into their tents by this point, though I can’t imagine they were sleeping.  She then spent the next three hours talking about herself in the loudest voice possible, and desperately trying to get one or both of the boys to have sex with her.

“My mother says I was born beautiful, she tells me that all the time…If I want to get a tattoo, that’s like my body, that’s my business. I mean she can tell me not to drink or do drugs, but like a tattoo, that’s my body… I’m not drunk, I’m completely sober, I haven’t done any drugs, I don’t do drugs…The people that camp around here are all rock climbers who go to bed early, so we can totally stay up and party, they’re all sleeping…At the Indian restaurant.  Have you been there?  They have this bread, it’s called naan…There’s no room in the tent, so we can just fucking dogpile, whatever….I’m going to go to college, and I’m going to like, live my life…The lobster roll sandwich at Panera Bread is like, fucking 16 dollars of, like, processed, gross, lobster, fucking processed, fucking cheese. I mean for like 3 more dollars I could go to a real restaurant, I mean, why the hell would anyone want…lobsterroll

Finally, at 6am, Jewish Friend (after hours of shushing Maggie and asking her to keep her voice down) said, “I’m sure the Lobster Roll sandwich at Panera Bread is grossly overpriced, however, it is now 6am.  I would like to get at least one hour of sleep tonight.”

Then, we heard the most glorious sound ever coming from the other tent, “Yeah, shut the fuck up, Maggie! She’s asked you like 10 times and you’ve been talking all night.”

Maggie disregarded this in the way that bossy girls who are never wrong do, but her friends quickly rebounded with, “Seriously, Maggie, shut the fuck up. What is wrong with you?”

We managed to grab about two hours sleep after the mutiny shut Maggie up for good. As we were taking down the tent, the four girls were rather sheepishly cleaning up their space.  After listening to Maggie talk about how beautiful she was all night long, I expected to see a homecoming queen-type rolling up the tent.  Apparently, Maggie is quite plain and rather chubby, which may be why she gets so many compliments only from her mother.

We spent the following night in a hotel.

I haven’t worn a watch in years. I have had a number of them over the years but they always break or I lose them, or I realize that they are ugly, uncomfortable etc.

Quite a few years ago, I was on a cruise and first really discovered Duty Free. I’d bought duty free booze en route to Canada many times, but always bypassed the perfumes and jewelry because even without tax, it was still expensive, and why would I need a giant bottle of Joop!? On this cruise ship, however, all of the duty free shops were located along the Grand Promenade and I had to walk past them to get my free coffee and free fro-yo. Also, on this cruise, we had at least two full “at sea” days, meaning that you are stuck on the ship with nothing to do but eat and watch The Thomas Crown Affair in six languages (English, Italian, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Japanese). Oh sure, the more savvy cruisers had made spa appointments, got up early and grabbed chaise lounges on the sun deck, went to the gym, casino, and didn’t mind paying $22 to play Bingo for an hour. I was not a savvy cruiser, I slept in, got room service, and then had a whole day to fill and no options other than wandering, reading, and eating– I quickly became bored.

So I wandered the length of the ship over, and over. Finally on the last at sea day, the duty free stores had a sidewalk sale, and I found the perfect watch. Small, but not too small, feminine without being girly, it didn’t pinch my arm, and it didn’t weigh me down– only problem was that it was too big around my wrist. I managed to convince the guy in the store to adjust it for free, even though he said he wasn’t supposed to. Then I bought a ton of duty-free scotch.

I decided that this watch would take me through the good times and the bad. This was the watch for me, and would be henceforth referred to as “my watch” the only watch I would ever need again in my life. Whatever else went wrong, I had the watch thing sorted.

Of course the watch wasn’t waterproof, and about two months later I took it off to go skinny-dipping in the Adriatic Sea, and it fell between the slats on the dock.

I got another watch, but it wasn’t the same. It never fit right, and looking at pictures of myself wearing it elicit a what was I thinking feeling. Since surrendering that watch, I just use my phone if I need to know what time it is. This is imperfect in that I look very rude, and if I have a message of any kind, I have to clear it out before I can see what time it is– but it works.

Except when it doesn’t. My phone simply could not get a signal in Montreal. I lost my signal somewhere around Vermont, and then my phone battery started going dead from the monumental task of “searching for signal.” I shut my phone off, and immediately felt reckless and unsafe. What if there was some kind of emergency? What if my mother called and my father had had a heart attack? What if something else bad happened?

Really though, in my family, if something bad did happen, my parents would probably forget to tell me– like they forgot to tell me that my cousin had run away and I had to hear it when I went in to work at TV station, “Andria, this ______, are you related to her?”

“She’s my cousin, what did she do now?”

“She’s been missing for three days– didn’t you know?”

I started feeling a bit free without the burden of cellular technology weighing on my mind.

The first night in town, Wise Lawyer Friend and I just wandered around our new neighborhood. She had visited Montreal annually for Model U.N. when she was an undergrad, but it had been about four years; so she knew the lay of the land, but it had changed slightly. We had a disappointing Mexican dinner (can I never find good Mexican food on the East Coast?), drank a Brazilian beer in some kind of beer garden that may have had something to do with the Euro Cup (?), and returned to our hotel to plan our day while watching Deadliest Catch on the Discovery Channel, which I realize I can do any old time, but it’s more fun in a hotel room.

The following day was a great mish-mash of adventuring made more of an adventure because neither of us ever knew what time it was. We were going purely on instinct and it was really cool.

“I feel hungry, are you hungry?”

“Yeah, a little. What time is it.”

Then we would look around briefly to see if there was a clock anywhere.

“There are no clocks in this town– like Vegas. Let’s go to Little Italy and have lunch there.”

After a while, we got used to never knowing what time it was, and stopped looking for clocks. It was very freeing having no timetable, no set time when you eat whether you’re hungry or not, just kind of remembering what it feels like to actually be hungry, and then seek out food.

We studied the sun like ancient people and approximated, but mostly didn’t care (except that we wanted to make it to the Archeology Museum before closing).

Perfect vacation.

Almost two years ago, on the 4th of July, I went to a demolition derby, in Hatton, ND with D.C. Insider Friend before he was D.C. Insider Friend when he was just wannabe D.C. Insider. It was the first demolition derby I had actually seen, but I’d heard many before since for a while my family lived near the fairgrounds. Because it was a demolition derby, we bought Bud (there’s still some dispute as to whether it was Budweiser or Bud Light), and Jim Beam, and listened to the cars crumple in front of us, got hit by flying balls of dirt, and had a seriously kick-ass time.

Eventually, though, we ran out of alcohol. D.C. Insider said, “I have to go to the bathroom; those people in front of us are drinking, your job is to make friends with them and get them to share.”

This was no problem. While the male half of the couple was a bit aloof, the girl just wouldn’t shut up and was more than happy to share her rum and cherry coke with us. We chatted for quite a while until finally the aloof guy muttered something about “city folk”and gave us a look like we should “get off his land”– we excused ourselves.

Hatton, ND may be a city of 707, but it’s not like Fargo is a teeming metropolis. Also, D.C. Insider and myself had grown up in teeny tiny towns, not unlike Hatton– but aloof alcohol-sharing guy didn’t want to hear that. D.C. Insider was indignant about this turn of events, where I was mostly just confused having never been called city folk before in my life.

Two weekends ago, the Historic Pawtuxet Village in Warwick/Cranston, RI celebrated Gaspee Days and the ritual burning of the HMS Gaspee. The HMS Gaspee was a British ship sent to to colonies to enforce the stamp act. It was a jerk ship, and the colonists had had enough! They burned it in the Historic Pawtuxet Village (back when it was just “Pawtuxet Village”), and this act– not the Boston tea party– started the Revolutionary War. Rhode Islanders are so proud of this feat that they re-burn a miniature Gaspee every year, which does not look as impressive as the burning in this painting.

Being a new Rhode Islander, and a lover of all things a bit ridiculous, I simply had to see this event for myself and make my Jewish Friend see it too. Admittedly, it was a bit slow, the colonial fashion show was rather lame, and Jewish Friend was much happier to ogle all of the cute dogs and try to make friends with them than she was to learn about the history of this historic day.

Finally, as we were waiting by the raffle table to see if we had one any of the 500 crappy (chemical peel), and awesome (basket of wine) prizes they were giving away, the re-enactors wheeled a cannon down to the shoreline and fired it off.

I jumped, and yelped “Jesus Christ, that’s loud!” Then they just kept firing the damn thing over, and over. After about five rounds, I just left my hands clamped on my ears, and muttered “why do they keep firing it?”

“They fire the same number of shots that they fired at the Gaspee.” a woman standing next to me said.

“So, they’re actually trying to set that” (I indicated the fake, miniature Gaspee in the water) “on fire with the cannon?”

“No, some men rowed out there earlier to light it, and they’re hiding and waiting for the appropriate number of shots to be fired before they do it.”

“Well, how many shots is that?” I asked her, thinking that this booming had been going on for quite a while already.

She looked at me a bit like my mother used to when I’d put on an outfit she deemed too ‘wacky’ or like my grandmother when I ordered mashed potatoes with a side of french fries, ” You don’t know how many shots they fire?”

Gaspee beforeGaspee after!  Viva la Revolucion!

I’ve gotten a powerful response to my previous blog about Woonsocket, so I decided to make it a two-fer. Mostly because I’ve been there now! Yay!! Despite all of you doubting Thomasinas, I ventured to this Woonsocket– and found it lovely.

Two friends from the prairie came to visit recently: Heidi and her husband Zac Echola (who wants his name out on the internet as much as possible). I had to pick them up in Shirley, MA and on the drive back to Providence, Zac Echola asked if there was anything we could stop and do along the way. I thought for a bit, then remembered The Museum of Work and Culture in Historic Woonsocket.

“What is that?” Zac Echola asked.

“I believe it’s a museum dedicated to the Québécois who moved here and worked in the mills.”

“Let’s go!” Zac Echola cheered, and his wife rolled her eyes.

So we found the museum, went in, and waited at the desk for approximately three minutes before an old, old man shuffled out of the office and realized we were there.

“It’s only $5 today because there’s a bridal shower going on in the Union Hall.”


“Are any of you students?”

“Yes,” we told him, “We all are.”

“Student rate is $5,” he paused, “but that doesn’t matter to you cause that’s what you’re paying anyway.” He pulled out a map and a fine point crayola marker– purple. “You’ll start here at the farm house, and if you push this button here,” he drew a dot on the map, “you can hear Jessie and Simone’s conversation about leaving Canada and coming to the New World. Then you go here and push this button here,” another dot, “to watch the movie. After that you go here, and then you can go upstairs. Now usually you’d watch the TV in the Union Hall, but there’s a bridal shower in there today, so I moved the TV upstairs and put out four chairs,” he drew four little marks and a box to represent the television, “here. Then you go here, and there are devices to listen here, here, here, don’t use this one, the sound is so low you just can’t hear anything, and here.” He handed us the newly marked map, “Good luck to you.”

So we went into the farmhouse and listen to Simone and Jessie’s good cop/bad cop routine about coming to America:

Simone: “America is a magical land full of opportunity.”

Jessie: “But we’ll lose out culture and our religion.”

Simone: “In America we can work in the mills and make life better for our parents.”

Jessie: “I don’t want to leave our homeland.” etc.

The exchange lasted a good three minutes, and I couldn’t help thinking: Girls, you are going to go with your parents regardless of your personal feelings about it, so quit wasting my time. Thankfully, it wasn’t translated into Québécois as well, though that may have been more interesting. After Simone had pretty much sold everyone on how glamorous life in America is, we watched a brief documentary about how much it sucks to work in a mill. Nuts to you, Simone.

In the children’s portion of the museum, we had a bobbin sorting contest (Heidi won), I punched in on an old-fashioned time clock (Heidi tried to convince me that it was an antique and I wasn’t supposed to touch it– why would they have sample punchcards there then, hmmm??), and the movable displays sprang to life without our having to push buttons (which after Simone kept us all standing in the farm house for way too long, we decided we were just going to skip from now on), and scared the crap out of us.

On the second floor, I flipped through old yearbooks in the schoolhouse, played the piano in the parlor of the triple-decker (we skipped watching the TV that the old man had lugged upstairs for us, but cheered when we saw the four chairs, just like he had told us), and found the listening device that just doesn’t work (although, someone did attempt to fix it with duct tape– my kind of people).

Then it started to snow on Magical Woonsocket. So we watched it come down, and noticed an outdoor skating rink just across the square, which we didn’t go to, but instead, had a conversation about how outdoor skating rinks are pretty awesome.

We rounded out the day with a walk (in the snow) down the sidewalks in Downtown Historic Woonsocket. Zac Echola marveled at the sheer number of signs advertising “hot weiners”, and bargained poorly for a used CD. Here is a reenactment of the bargaining:

Zac Echola: “I want to buy this CD. This is awesome, Heidi, give me money.

Heidi: “I don’t have any cash.”

Zac Echola: “Andria, do you have any cash I can borrow.” I didn’t put a question mark at the end of this question because Zac Echola doesn’t use question marks.

Me: “I have some cash, but I’m not contributing more than $2 for that stupid thing.”

Zac Echola: “I wouldn’t pay more than $2 for this anyway– I’m going to bargain.” Zac Echola walked determinedly over to the purveyor of the pawn shop, “How much for this CD, my good man.”

Good man: “$2.”

Zac Echola: (brief pause) “Sold.”

Zac Echola then walked back to where his wife and I were openly mocking him and said, “I think he heard us.”

Now to give credit to all of the glorious comments I got on Fascinated by this Woonsocket:

Jenna says:

Q: How many lightbulbs can you screw in Rhode Island?

A: One! There’s only Woonsocket.

— haha, very funny, Jenna

Lex says:

Don’t go

–too late, Lex, and I’m going back. You can come with me.

Sarah says:

Just blog surfing here…I live in Woonsocket. There really is nothing spectacular about it. We don’t even have a bookstore. The Starbucks just recently closed. If you like bargains I’d suggest going to the CVS Warehouse Store Mark Stevens (hours are 10-6 now). If you knit I’d suggest checking out Yarnia.

— I did check out Yarnia. It was a bit out of my price range, but I laughed at the name for the rest of the day. Actually, I’m chuckling about it right now. I will check out the CVS warehouse, because I love bargains, and any town that can close a Starbucks is a-ok in my book.

Joanharvest says:

I was born in Woonsocket, R.I. 58 years ago. My mom and dad owned a grocery store on Manville Road.I went to Mt. St Francis which is now a nursing home.I am half French Canadian. The last time I visited there just to see what things were like was about 15 years ago. My mom had 12 brothers and sisters so I am sure I still have relatives there though we are not in contact. Her maiden name was LeMay. When I lived there it was a textile mill town. I would like to visit again someday.

— Very interesting family history Joan. From my limited time in Woonsocket, I can tell you that it still looks like a mill town, but has adapted with the times. I recommend that you do visit again someday, as it is lovely.

Alf says:

I am bummed that the Starbucks closed. I used to stop on my way to work in Cumberland.

On a positive note, I just discovered a really great restaurant in Woonsocket called Vintage.

–sorry about the Starbucks, Alf, I too appreciate a road coffee on my way to work. Also, thanks for the restaurant recommendation.

There you have it, I have my next trip to Woonsocket all planned: Shopping for bargains, maybe going back to Yarnia, driving down Manville road to see if Joan’s parent’s grocery store is still there, and dinner at Vintage. Maybe I’ll go early enough that I can have lunch as well, since I’ve heard that fish ‘n” chips place across from the Museum of Work and Culture is pretty renowned.

I am a Woonsocketeer.

Every house in my neighborhood has a fence. Most are of the lovely chain-link variety that say to me either: beware of dangerous dog, or I want to keep my children off of the street, and this is the only way. My house has a chain-link fence that I believe the purpose of is to slow the momentum of cars that drunkenly, or maybe just recklessly misjudge where the turn is and keep them from plowing into the house. It’s just a theory, but that must be the purpose because it certainly doesn’t keep anyone out.

The house that I share a driveway with has been abandoned for a few months, and was recently repossessed by the bank. This isn’t really a story about the horrible housing market and families losing their homes, but more one of an absentee landlord who moved somewhere tropical and stopped being a landlord who did anything for his tenants, but rather one who just collected rent checks. The family that lived there moved into a new place, and a very nice realtor stopped by a while later to give me her card and say that workers would be coming by periodically.

Wednesday morning, I woke up around 7:30, stumbled into the kitchen to make my coffee and saw that there were two men in a beat-up old car filled with fast-food wrappers parked on the lawn right next to my kitchen window. Then I was that there was a gigantic blue dumpster partially blocking the driveway that my car was still parked in. I started my coffee and got in the shower.

By the time I got out, these guys were flinging items out of second story windows into the dumpster (or not sometimes), and yelling back and forth. It was an unpleasant way for me to start the day, but they looked like they were having a lot of fun. Finally, I was almost ready to leave for work when I realized that the driveway was littered with large, broken objects that I did not want to drive my car over, and a giant child’s rocking-horse. I popped my head out the door and yelled at the workman nearest me, “hey guy!”

“good morning!”

“I’m leaving in about three minutes, can you clear a path for me?”


He did, and I carefully negotiated the very narrow space between the dumpster catching the contents of the abandoned house and the abandoned car that has been parked in the yard since these people left. Seriously.

When I came home that night, the dumpster was still there, but when I woke up, it was gone. Instead of giant dumpster in my driveway, I now had: dirty mattress propped up against house, child’s pink, and adult’s blue bicycles laying forlornly on the ground, and four rusty barrels that must have previously been inside the house– though I can’t imagine why.

This was not an improvement in my mind, though all this new garbage outside kind of created a “white trash” theme along with the abandoned car. I decided my best recourse was to just go inside, close the curtains, and try to forget about the blue mattress interrupting the view from my kitchen window.

Today, I went to the gym and came home to find a truck and corpulent man with a red beard in my parking space. The mattress may not be something I can do anything about (short of moving it somewhere else myself– not going to happen), but corpulent man in my parking spot is. I parked on the street and strode up to him with the angry but polite demeanor of a girl who has just spent an hour on the treadmill and really, really wants a shower.

“Are you about done here?”

“Just got to tighten this up here, gotta keep it tight… lose things on the road.”

Then I realized that this man was taking the offensive mattress and rusted barrels out of my immediate world, and I became a bit more forgiving of his parking-space taking. Then he started blathering on to my about how sad it is that there are all these abandoned houses, but how good it is for him because he’s making a killing picking up this stuff and reselling it. “Two, three houses a day.” he kept insisting as I nodded politely wondering how many more times he could say that. Then I looked at the filthy blue mattress that had been sitting outside for 36 or so hours, through a heavy snowfall, and was now nestled snugly between three rusty barrels waiting to be sold to someone, and I got a little depressed.

Finally he got into his car, started it, then pulled it up further into my parking spot and cut the engine again.

By this point, I decided to just move my car into a different spot that was now accessible since he’d pulled up. So I did, and when I got out of the car, he asked “oh you live here?”

I said yes, and walked toward my house.

“By the way,” he said “you’re cute.”

Normally, I get by without looking like I’ve been beaten with the ugly stick one too many times, but at this moment, with greasy, sweaty hair scraped into a lackluster ponytail, red-flushed face, and the slightly crazy eyes that come with strenuous exercise– I was the opposite of cute. But when a red-bearded, corpulent man calls you cute, what can you really do about it, but shake your head and go inside.

Saturday was the opening night for the exhibit of Carl Van Vechten’s photographs of the Harlem Renaissance, at job #1. It was also my first opening ever at this job. The place was packed with fancy people swilling champagne and munching on canapes. Apparently, one of the Grande Dames of Newport society put in an appearance as well– what a coup!

Rich people wear ridiculous clothes. There were a lot of ascots, and fancy dresses, faire isle sweaters, a tracksuit, and running shorts with leggings underneath. My favorite was a quasi-military ensemble that reminded me of something Michael Jackson would have worn around the time HIStory came out. There may have been some monocles as well, but it was just all so much to take in… I was swilling champagne from a plastic cup behind the circulation desk and trying to look smart even though I had nothing to do. I still haven’t actually seen the exhibit, since I was there in an official capacity and the gallery was packed with bodies.

The highlight of the opening, for me, was right before I left, when I spoke to my boss briefly. Obviously, the following re-creation is not verbatim– we did a lot more gushing and patting ourselves on the back for a job well done.

Me: “I need to get going, but your speech was excellent. This is all so impressive.”

Boss: “Oh, you have to leave? Thank you so much for staying. You know, this is the best turnout we’ve ever had for an opening.”

Me: “Really? Yes, I do need to get back to Providence, I have RENT tonight.”

Boss: “RENT? oh that’s right”

Me: “I’m going from Harlem to AIDS in under an hour.”

Boss: “That’s really going from bad to worse, isn’t it? Have fun.”

And I did have fun, surprisingly. I admit, I was very apprehensive about seeing this play (musical? musicale? show?). I’d watched the movie, and of course, seen Team America: World Police, so I knew what to expect, kind of. I was expecting it to be slightly cheesy and odd, and irritating in a way that only musicals can manage. I planned on scoffing and squirming uncomfortably, but feeling well-rounded for making the attempt. Instead, I can honestly say, I loved it. I loved seeing RENT. And when Angel died, I got a little choked up.

Why do I not have an amazing voice that makes people applaud until their hands bruise? Not fair.

Of course, there was some dumb superfan sitting behind me singing along to practically all of the songs. That pulled me out of the story, as I pictured the home life of a person who would do something like that.

I’m sure she auditioned for all the musicals her high school staged, but never quite made the cut, because her singing voice is weak– at best. I’m sure she has never seen RENT on Broadway, but just watched the movie over and over in her parents basement, singing along, wishing she had AIDS so she could feel ways about things. It’s odd to listen to someone who is not in the production sing to a packed auditorium. She must have known she could be heard, and you’d think the people she came with would have told her to shut up. I don’t go to a lot of musicals, so maybe this is standard and people don’t mind paying $60 to listen to some virgin butcher well-written and catchy tunes. I mind; I mind big-time.