You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘Providence’ tag.

brown-university_bannerI have lived in Providence for two years now, so I feel like I know the place pretty well.  I don’t know if it’s just that my neighborhood has changed, or what, but I feel like I’m living in a whole new city now.

Since I moved here for grad school, September was the time when things started to get hectic.  I had to remember my new schedule, coordinate jobs, commuting, how and when I could eat over the course of the day, and triangulate where the nearest Dunkin Donuts is along my travel route so I can get my mid-afternoon fix. I stopped paying attention to Providence because I was rarely here.

Also, my old neighborhood didn’t change much when school started.  The two colleges close to me, were still far enough away that none of the students actually lived in my neighborhood (though a lot of the pretty, private school kids frequented a dive bar just down the street from me that looked terrifying. One night a bunch of popped-collared my dad owns a dealership guys got into a small turf war with my friendly neighborhood thugs.  I watched out my window–it was fascinating).  The main difference was the appearance of a few school uniforms and the fact that the streets didn’t start teeming with kids until 2pm instead of all day.

Now that I’m over on The East Side, home of Brown and RISD, with nowhere to go, I can’t help but notice how scholarly everything is.  The douchebags, including Hermione Granger are back in town jaywalking and acting like they know about life.  Everyone else seems to be walking around with more purpose, and I’m finding myself invigorated as well.

It’s almost like those first few weeks of school when you promise yourself that this will be the semester when you finally knuckle down and use those notebooks you always buy, take good notes, do the reading, and become super student.  To go along with that theme, I will be sick of these damn kids and the traffic nightmares they cause in about two weeks–you can time me.

If I still don’t have a real job by the time it starts to get crisp and fall-like outside, my plan is to pass some time walking around purposefully in herringbone and knee-high boots.  Maybe I’ll get a coffee too, and act really impatient in line like I have somewhere else very important to be.

The Quest

Yes, Garden Grill is technically in Pawtucket, but only by a block.  I got a text message from Jewish Friend informing me that Garden Grill serves gluten-free vegan macaroni and cheese, and responded with “that sounds like paste.” To be perfectly honest, I’m not entirely sure what gluten is, but I know it’s in bread and beer, which are two things I need to live, and it seems like an element necessary in macaroni & cheese.  We had to find out.

The plan was to go, be unimpressed with what would surely be orange gloop, and fill up on a second entree– possibly have dessert as well.  What actually happened, is that gluten-free vegan macaroni & cheese is delicious, and we now have a lot of leftovers of the other stuff ordered.

misc-127This picture actually makes it look quite disgusting, but also, quite a bit like normal mac & cheese.  When we flagged the server over and demanded to know “How? How can this be good?”

He told us “Nutritional yeast.”

That sounds like something you’d find in your scary grandma’s cupboard one night after sneaking out of bed in search of forbidden cookies, and though Jewish Friend purports to love nutritional yeast, she cannot tell me what kind of nutrition it provides.

Despite the deliciousness of this meal, I’m still unsure of whether something like this can actually be called mac & cheese.  Mac, certainly, despite the lack of gluten, but there is nothing resembling cheese here, merely a slightly cheesy flavor provided by something that sounds horrifying.  All in all, I feel like I really learned something from this experience. Despite the fact that I haven’t eaten meat (except accidentally and in the name of victory) for 10 years, I’ve never experimented with these vegetarian ingredients– probably because I hate vegetarians so much.  I dare say, I feel a bit pure, and slightly smug.

Decor/Atmosphere:  8 Garden Grill is cute and small and looks like a hippie vegetarian restaurant, and our booth was very cold since it was right by the door.

Service: 9.5 It took a while to get our bill, but the two servers who were working that night tag-teamed our table, which was pretty fun, they were easy to flag down, and perfectly willing to tell us what the hell the deal was with the mac & cheese.  One even said as she was serving it to us, “I swear it tastes better than it looks,” I appreciate that kind of honesty.

Food: 9 Macaroni & Cheese was fantastic, I will eat it again any time, and I feel less full and gross than I usually do after a night questing for pasta.  We also had a pizza and sweet potato appetizer, which were delightful; Jewish Friend got an apple cider martini that smelled like an expensive candle, and tasted like America.

Total: 26.5

The Quest

This macaroni & cheese adventure snuck up on me as I was puttering around my apartment putting plastic on the windows to keep out old man winter (that’s seriously the most old man sounding sentence I’ve ever constructed).  I got a cryptic text from Jewish Friend that simply read “Downtown?”  What this meant, I found out when I called her back and said, “I don’t get it,” is that Jewish Friend was downtown and wanted someone to eat with.

Jewish Friend wanted to try Downcity, and I had no idea where that was, which is what makes this an adventure, rather than just two hot bitches having lunch.  When we got there, it was just at the end of the lunch rush, so it was packed and very, very warm, but in the three minutes or so it took for our table to be cleared, I had time to appreciate a beautiful martini that some woman at the bar was drinking, and also the decor which I will describe and being classy with a hint of whimsy.  The walls are bright orange, but not so bright that you feel like they’re screaming at you, dark wood, adequate but low lighting (not enough to make you sleepy, but this was lunch, so…), modern but without feeling cold.  I dig it quite a bit.  Apparently, they host a monthly “drag brunch” as well, as featured in the New York Times 36 hours in Providence.

Our server wasn’t in drag, but since it was Halloween he was dressed up like– Gary Glitter? I’m not sure what he was supposed to be, and felt it was rude to ask.

The lunch special of the day was the macaroni and cheese meal, which comes with salad or soup and a delightful raspberry sorbet all for $12.50.  Jewish Friend and I eagerly agreed to split that along with the deviled egg appetizer.  Unfortunately, the deviled eggs were merely “ok” and Jewish Friend–who has perfected her own recipe for deviled eggs, and is a bit smug about it– remarked “Mine are better than these.”

The macaroni & cheese was decent, but not great.  It was certainly the oiliest mac and cheese I’ve had to date, and I think I’ve isolated the problem.  The menu describes it as: Baked Penne with 5-cheese Sauce and Panko Crust 9–Asiago, cheddar, mozzarella, parmesan, and fontina, which is correct; the major problem is that all of the cheese seems to be on top, and there’s very little in the sauce.  When you eat through the crusty, baked top layer, your noodles are nearly naked.  It’s a very tricky dish to eat well because you stab the top layer and get a lot of just cheese no noodles, and then you have a lot of noodles with no cheese.  Cutting methods need to be employed to achieve balance.

Decor/Atmosphere:  9.5 I love the decor.  When we first got there, and it was really crowded, it was a little overwhelming, but I think that was because it was so hot.  I do not blame the restaurant for that because it was October 31 and the temperature inexplicably climbed to 62 degrees.  Once the crowds cleared out, it was lovely. Mostly I kept thinking about how uncomfortable our server must have been in his silver vinyl pants.

Service:  8  Very good, attentive, costumed.  Our server was quick with the refills, and gave us lots of plates for sharing. For some reason, it took forever to get our sorbet, and he kept touching Jewish Friend on the shoulder, which was upsetting to her.

Food: 7  The eggs were mediocre, the salad and sorbet were good, and the mac and cheese was simply ok. I’d go there again though because there are a lot of other things on the menu that I’d love to try, but I would not get the mac and cheese.

Total: 24.5

I was the last of my really close friends to finally leave Fargo.  My group of oldest friends left right after college, and I stuck around for grad school, and then the rest kind of them trickled slowly away.  I kept thinking that I would leave immediately after grad school, but I had neither a job nor a plan, and so I lingered for another year and a half saving money and making new friends.

It was an odd position to be in because I was ready to leave, but I had to bide my time since I still wasn’t sure exactly where I would wind up and what I would do when I got there.  I felt a little bit embarrassed because among the friends of mine who wanted to leave, I was the last, and that made me feel unambitious in a way.  People remarked over and over how they figured I would be the first one to bolt after college, and how weird it was that I stayed.  Was I all talk?  Would I never finally strike out on my own?  Were the visions I’d had in my head of me bouncing from city to city living life to the fullest not something I actually had the guts to do?

Also, there was recently an article in the New York Times entitled Towns They Don’t Want to Leave, which highlights the five college towns that have the highest percentage of graduates remaining there after finishing school, number two is Providence, number four is Fargo– seriously, what are the odds?  I’m not saying the New York Times will influence whether I stay in Providence or not, but it’s a bit spooky.

I’ve been in Providence a year now, and I’ve made a lot of wonderful friends, but most of us are students and will have to leave to get real jobs.  I actually really like it here and could see myself staying for a while longer, but again, what if I stay primarily because I like my friends, and then they all leave?  I really like Providence as a city, but just like I’d been wrestling with the entire time I was trying to decide where to move: do I really know any better?  I’ve lived a lot of places, probably more than most, but I’ve lived in very few cities, and the fact that I found one I like right away, makes me feel like I can really be happy anywhere.

When I was in sixth grade, I was pretty miserable.  My family had moved about five times at that point, but I had been with the same peer group since kindergarten.  I lived in a very small town, and my dad was the High School principal, which meant that people much older than me knew who I was, and I had no clue why they hated me.  I was tired of all of my friends and their interests that didn’t link up with mine; I was ready for a change.  When my mother told me that they were seriously considering moving, I actually cried because I was so relieved.  I had done all I could do in Hallock, MN and I was ready for a change.

I very much have a tendency to hang onto things until I’m ready to leave them, jobs, towns, etc. I didn’t feel very sad to leave Fargo because I wasn’t appreciating anything about it anymore, I just saw it as a place to get away from.  Leaving my job at Fargo Public Library was actually the hardest thing, because I didn’t hate it and I’ve never left a job without  hating it.

I also don’t hate Providence, but I may have to leave, and that might make it really hard.  I like the idea of being a nomad because one of my biggest fears is complacency, but I don’t quite know what to do with actual contentment.  What if you are somewhere, and you like it, and all of the professional opportunities you need are at your fingertips– that is what I can’t fathom.  What makes a life?  What makes a person say “I’m really happy with my life”? That statement always sounds like a death knell for me, but it seems like a very nice thing to say.

I was talking to a friend last weekend about these thoughts I’ve been having.

“So you’re done in May, and then you move– wherever?” he asked.

“Yeah, except back to the Midwest, but yeah.”

“That’s sucks, man, it would be weird not to have you around.” We sat for a beat, taking this all in.

“Well, when are you leaving?” I asked him.

“Two years.”

I don’t particularly understand the Providence phenomenon of WaterFire. I’ve seen it, but like a poorly written movie, I feel like I’m missing a piece of the puzzle, and I just don’t understand what the draw is. I mentioned once before, that the night I moved into to town last year was the last Waterfire of the season. So after getting stuck in traffic for more than an hour, my Human Traveling Companion and I decided to wander downtown and see what it was all about.

We stood in front of Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse (a name of a restaurant that I still, also, just don’t understand– is that because the name is stupid, or is it some steak-joke that I just don’t get?) and watched the WaterFire. We watched metal baskets of cedar burn on the river, middle-aged men and women ride around them in gondolas, and after five minutes, acknowledged that our eyes were burning from the smoke and it was time for a drink.

I’ve spoken to other people about my lack of understanding, and found that many agree. “There’s really nothing to see, it’s just fire on the water.” a crazy co-worker said once, and I agreed. So, I don’t get it, and she doesn’t get it, but it seems like thousands of people do because these things are very well-attended, and the concept is being stolen by other cities now. When I took the Providence Trolley Tour to acquaint myself with my new home, the driver went on about how expensive a single WaterFire is to put on, and what a labor of love it is etc. I can’t figure out why it’s so expensive because cedar can’t possibly cost that much, and from what I understand, the workers are volunteers…

The website is rather vague as well, perhaps in an attempt to lure people in without giving them a clear idea what they’re coming to, just that it’s free:

“WaterFire Providence®, the award-winning sculpture by Barnaby Evans installed on the three rivers of downtown Providence, has been praised by Rhode Island residents and international visitors alike as a powerful work of art and a moving symbol of Providence’s renaissance. WaterFire’s one hundred sparkling bonfires, the fragrant scent of aromatic wood smoke, the flickering firelight on the arched bridges, the silhouettes of the firetenders passing by the flames, the torch-lit vessels traveling down the river, and the enchanting music from around the world engage all the senses and emotions of those who stroll the paths of Waterplace Park. WaterFire has captured the imagination of over ten million visitors, bringing life to downtown, and revitalizing Rhode Island’s capital city.”

This Saturday was another WaterFire night that I did not attend. Instead Jewish Friend and took the train to Boston. As we were walking to the train station, the driver of a mini-van waved us over and asked if we were going to Waterfire. I thought the fact that we were both wearing backpacks and walking toward the train station made it fairly apparent that we were not, but I didn’t say that.

“We’re going to the train station.” Jewish Friend told him, indicating the building in front of us.

“Do you know where the Waterfire is?” he asked.

“Well, yeah, it’s back there, on the river.”

“What is it?” he asked.

I left that question for Jewish Friend to fumble through, and she gave him a rather succinct response about water, and fire, and experience etc.

“Do you grill at WaterFire?” he asked, “Should I bring my own chickens, or can I buy them there?”

So this guy drove all the way from New Hampshire (as his license plates indicated) to go to WaterFire, thinking it is an event that includes grilling chickens. At least I’m not the only one who doesn’t get it.

A while ago, Jewish Friend and I were at a diner and I noticed macaroni & cheese on the menu. Since we were having breakfast, I didn’t order that, but I remarked how much I love macaroni & cheese and wondered out loud where the best macaroni & cheese in Providence is.

“La Laterie,” Jewish friend informed me, “they have the best, someone sampled all of them a while back and said La Laterie is the best.”

“Don’t you think it would be fun to try them all and compare them?” I asked.

“La Laterie is the best.”

In spite of having been raised kosher (or maybe because of it), Jewish Friend likes to eat as much bacon as she can– clearly sampling all the mac & cheese Providence has to offer is not as exciting for her as it is for me. Nevertheless, she loves to eat out as long as she can sample the mac & cheese that I order, and get her meat fix.

The plan is to write a mini-review of the restaurant as a whole paying particular attention mac & cheese. I’ll note decor/atmosphere, service, and food and assign each a rating between 1 and 10, 10 being the best. After I’ve sampled all of the mac & cheese I can find, I’ll list them in order of best to worst as I see it.

My parents are coming to visit in July. For five days I will have three extra bodies (two of them large, male bodies) crammed into a very hot apartment, three extra people using my shower, and three air mattresses taking up all of my floor real estate. It would be an understatement to say that I’m a little apprehensive about the whole thing, though I am looking forward to free meals (not from Tim Horton’s).

What makes me most apprehensive is the miscommunications we’ve had already in planning this trip. First they were coming in May, but my brother’s work got in the way. Then they were talking about July and asked if there were any dates that didn’t work for me. All I said over and over and over was “end of June through beginning of July, I am going on vacation, I am unavailable those dates. The rest of the whole summer is up for grabs but end of June through beginning of July is off-limits.”

Then I get an email from my mother saying that they’re planning to arrive July 4.

In the subsequent phone call she inquired about the black-out dates on my calendar, and I told her, and I had told my father 1/2 dozen times “I took the time off to go to ALA conference in Anaheim, but that fell through, so now I’m going somewhere.”

“You don’t know where you’re going?”

“Well, we (my Jewish friend and I) were going to go to Montreal, but she doesn’t have a valid passport right now, so we’re re-planning things. If it doesn’t work out that she and I can coordinate schedules– then I’m going somewhere by myself. I have to go somewhere this summer.”

Of course she asked me to switch the days off to coordinate with when they are visiting, but I refused, then she asked, “really, you’d go somewhere all by yourself? Aww.”

This brings to mind another pair of incidents that came one on the heels of the other recently. I was in a class and we had to group up with different people than usual. So I got to meet a couple women from the other side of the room (the room divided itself, rather handily, into the young side and the old side). One of these women had mixed up my friends Mary and Lisa and asked Lisa why in the world she moved all the way to Rhode Island from Texas.

“Actually,” Lisa told her, “I’m from Connecticut, Mary over there is from Texas. But Andria moved here from North Dakota.”

The woman’s jaw dropped and she gaped at me in a way I’ve never experienced before.

“Why did you move here?” she demanded.

“For library school.”

“Had you ever been here before? Why did you pick Rhode Island?”

“No, and because it sounded pretty.”

“You’ve got balls of steel, girl!”

“Erm, thanks ?”

And then she followed with a question that I never thought I would ever in my life hear, “But how do you meet single girlfriends?”

This question perplexed me to no end. I wanted to indicate Lisa, sitting to my left, and say “She’s a girlfriend.” And also assert, “Single or not, I don’t have a very elaborate screening process.” But I was really wondering if she was asking me where to find girls to go clubbing and trolling for men with or something. Do people really do that? Also, she’s a rather tired-looking elementary school teacher, does she do that? What the hell is this conversation about, is she really asking me how to make friends?

“Well, what do you do on the weekends?” she asked.

“Well, I work all week, so on the weekends I do homework and…” These are questions that are very hard to answer. ‘On alternating Sundays I go to pub trivia, occasionally I see movies, or go to parties…’ I mean really.

Thankfully, the professor asked us all to regroup, so I got to shrug off the rest of the grilling, but I was given her phone number along with the offer “I’d love to show you around Providence.”

So that was weird.

Then the following day at work I was having a nice conversation with someone who I genuinely like when she said, “I hope you’ve managed to make at least one friend since you’ve been out here.”

By this point, I’d been in Rhode Island for 7 months– is she kidding?

But I don’t really think that people want to hear that you have a full social calendar and are, in fact, beloved by many. This seems to be a product of never having left a place, and never having had to make friends, although I’m still baffled. Does the woman who asked me where I find single girlfriends actually not have any, or did she just want a new technique? I’m a bit disturbed by the fact that these people seem to picture me sitting home alone, longing for the prairie and the friends I left behind– but that’s their shit.

I am a scandalous woman.

Except about the fact I can’t get a decent burrito except at Chipotle, but I’m working on that. The other day, at the public library, I was sitting at the desk doing some work, when a middle-aged man approached me.GB

“Hey, I’d like to buy one of those stickers.”

This particular library has those round black and white stickers like you see in Europe, but obviously an abbreviated name for the library on them, not CZ or somesuchthing. I walked over to the drawer, got one out, took his dollar, and said “thank-you.”

“I bought a new car so I need to have a new sticker to put on it.”

“I see, well thanks for your support.”

“I work in local government,” he told me, “so you probably want to yell at me.” Then he waited for me to yell at him.

Instead, I said, “No, I have no gripe with Rhode Island.”

His jaw dropped, “That can’t be right.”

Admittedly, that is not entirely true, but I’m certainly not going to yell at this man, and for a number of reasons:

1. I’m at work

2. I’ve had a pretty good day, I’m not too indignant about anything

3. I had 3 hours of work left, I’d rather not get indignant and yell at someone because he can’t solve whatever is presumably bothering me right now, and I’d rather write a strongly-worded letter, or do something else to let my opinions known while he is at work and not buying a sticker.

4. He didn’t even tell me what he does, just that he works in local government. He could be in the mail room, for all I know.

“I’ve only lived here since September.” I told him, hoping that that excuse, lame as it is, would pacify him and just get him to go away.

“You didn’t move to…”

“No, I live in Providence.” Haha! I thought, that will end it, he doesn’t work in Providence, he said he was local.

“Well, certainly you must have been taxed!” he countered.

By this point, I was completely over this conversation, and getting a little creeped out. Was this some kind of librarian fantasy? He didn’t have any book fines, so he had to come up with some reason for me to discipline him? I did not have my hair in a bun at the time, and I was not wearing my glasses, but maybe… Maybe all government officials in this town would rather just get yelled at all day, or wander around complaining than do actual work. I don’t know what to make of all this.

“Of course I’ve been taxed.” I told him, “but clearly not to the point where I’m angry about it. Ask me again in a year.”

That seemed to satisfy him… for now.

Recently, a friend told me that the only way to get people to read your blogs is to make lists. Lists are the answer, apparently. Well, to do a little recap of the year, I’m going to make a list of the things that have happened to me over the past year that are cool. These are in no particular order:

  • I got accepted into the URI graduate school of library and information sciences
  • Upon telling my parents that I was going back to grad school and moving halfway across the country, they cried and disowned me. Then they came around and have gone so far as to say that this was a wonderful decision on my part
  • I moved to Providence, RI, one of the coolest cities I’ve ever seen
  • I got a kick-ass job at the oldest lending library in America (still in its original building)
  • Before leaving Fargo, I worked at 3 jobs, now I only have 2
  • One of the jobs I had in Fargo, Fargo Public Library, is the first job I’ve ever left that I still loved, so I am capable of having a job that doesn’t fill me with rage
  • Watson (kitty), Jill (human traveling companion), and I made it safely and successfully across the country and my car didn’t break under the weight of all my crap
  • I managed to furnish my new 1100 square foot apartment spending only about $75
  • I didn’t flunk cataloging
  • I reconnected with the friend I’ve known the longest (since preschool) via Facebook and via that friend, the friend that I’ve known second-longest (almost, that’s still a work in progress)
  • I decided for sure that the field I’m pursuing is really the one that I can see myself working in indefinitely
  • My scrabble game has improved quite a bit, even though I’m still not very good
  • I just set my Ipod on shuffle, and it landed on the BeeGee’s cover of Islands in the Stream, which apparently includes them actually saying “ghetto superstar, that is what you are”
  • I have free cable, how weird is that?
  • There’s no sales tax on beer in Massachusetts, and you get 5cents back for every bottle you return
  • Dunkin’ Donuts Iced Coffee is a delicious meal in a cup and it’s affordable
  • The other day, one of my new Providence friends told me that she’s very glad to know me and call me her friend
  • I now know the deliciousness of tempeh
  • In the time after I graduated and before I moved, even though I was working all the time, I managed to read a really lot of books and see a lot of movies
  • One of my best friends finally ended a relationship she should have bailed on years ago
  • As much as I hate the commute, I do appreciate the fact that I get to spend time in a city as beautiful and historic as Newport, RI
  • Another friend told me a few days ago that he loves my blogs
  • Although library school is the most tedious thing I’ve ever done, and most of the people I go to school with are the strangest kind of weirdo I’ve ever encountered—I’m one of the cool kids, which is hilarious
  • I just found $20 in one of my pants pockets!
  • This list could go one for quite a while

Since moving out here, I had met some truly tiny people; people that don’t clear five feet, but hover around the 4’8” and lower mark. I didn’t realize that people came that short, especially not so many. It seems logical then, that since so many people I’ve met are short, that makes me tall. For the first time in my life I am described more often than not as “tall” rather than “average”, “short”, or in the drunken words of a friend who seeing me without shoes on for the first time “oh, you’re so little!”

 

It’s a strange phenomenon, especially now that I’ve started to accept it, and actually feel tall. I bought some average length jeans instead of short ones, and they don’t drag on the ground (can it be that Old Navy cuts jeans differently according to region? That doesn’t make any sense) I have the attitude of a girl who is above-average height, and I don’t want to let that go. I even quit wearing heels for a time, although that was more because of cobblestones, and it didn’t last. I guess I can never move again unless I go to a place known for short people, and what place is that?

 

Another New England, more specifically Rhode Island quirk, is the notion that everything is so far away. I really wondered about this before coming out here, actually, if smaller size makes trips seem longer. Interestingly enough, one reason that I picked Providence was because if by some chance I didn’t like that city, it’s close to lots of other cool places.

 

My dad and brother often go on male-bonding road trips across chunks of the U.S. They visit historical sights, eat a lot of hamburgers (cookies in my dad’s case, who while on vacation comes to regard cookies as actual food, for reasons unknown. I’m sure there’s a blog about that coming sometime as I find it fascinating and disgusting). It’s something they do and enjoy, and have invited me on more than once, but I refuse to spend so many hours cooped up in the car with them listening to Lynard Skynard, and finding ways to incorporate a visit to the Baseball Hall of Fame into every trip. The point is that my brother said that when he and Wayne were on their “New England, Niagra Falls, and Some Canada” road trip, they drove across Rhode Island and it took about an hour and half.

 

In Fargo, I know of people (I do agree this is crazy, but whatever), who would drive to Minneapolis in the morning, shop all day, then drive back at night. 8 hours round trip. People in Providence think Boston is sooooooooo far away (an hour, usually less on the train). When I tell people that I work in Newport, they feel so sorry for me; and the people who live in Newport and the surrounding cities on Aquidneck Island, absolutely cringe in they have to cross the bridge to the mainland. I invited a co-worker to trivia night at a local pub, she said, “That sounds really fun, but it’s all the way in Providence.”

 

“yeah, it’s like 45 minutes.”

“yeah.” She just shrugged. We’ll see if she decides to attend.