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I was riding along with Jewish Friend a while ago as she navigated her neighborhood.  As we turned a corner right behind her house, I saw a rent-a-cop, a series of white awning-type-things, and a bunch of people sitting around at tables under the awnings.  There was a partial barricade, but the rent-a-cop waved us through apathetically.  I careened my neck around.

“Is this a yard sale, or something?” I asked.

Jewish Friend made a face, “No, it’s that damned Brotherhood ruining my life some more.”

“Is that some kind of weird religious group?”

“No, it’s a TV show.”

Turns out The Brotherhood is a TV show on Showtime.  It takes place is Providence and showcases the city’s colorful, mafia background.  It’s the kind of show that if I had seen it before moving here, I never would have moved here.  I got the first disc of the first season from Netflix and within the first five minutes of the pilot the word niggar had been used about ten times, and someone was killed with a shovel.  It’s interesting enough, a bit talky for my taste, but rather fun to watch just to figure out where exactly they are within the city.

For example, the main character, lives 1/2 block away from Jewish Friend in a fictitious neighborhood known as “The Hill” (there are actually seven hills in Providence– can you name them all?); they shoot extensively within the State House (since one of the characters is a politician), and at various familiar locales around town– there was a scene where a girl and her boyfriend got beat up right in front of my favorite bookstore!  It’s kind of like Where’s Waldo.

This morning I was walking to work and I saw two men standing outside of a parked car.  What first made me take notice of them was the fact that they were white and wearing suits.  This could be explained away as they were standing in front of the funeral home, but as I looked closer at the scene of one man leaning down and talking to the driver of the car and one man standing slightly behind him, it all seemed a bit strange.  The man standing completely upright, had a very deliberate posture, and his skin seemed a strange color.  I’ve been sick lately, so I’m a bit slow, but suddenly it hit me, these men were ACTing.

There was another somewhat official looking man, milling around on the sidewalk, and then I noticed an expensive-looking camera mounted on the car.  I recalled how many shots in the one or two episodes I wantched of this show were shot through car windows just like this, and concluded “many.”

As I continued on my route to work, I saw the standard rent-a-cop, trailers with shiny silver signs, and the hateful, hateful white paper signs reading “No Parking, Tow Zone” stapled and taped to poles.  These signs never have dates or times on them, they are just there, and I swear half the time, The Brotherhood forgets to take them down when they change location.  Last time I got a haircut, it took me fifteen minutes to find any patch of street that didn’t have one of these signs, and I was too afraid of being towed to just take a chance.

There was a similar incident this past fall.  Apparently Richard Gere was filming a movie in Rhode Island and needed a few academic looking shots.  An email came out to all URI students telling up that for three days, we would not be able to park near campus.  We were still expected to go to class, of course, but parking would be taken up by movie crews and streets would be blocked off, and we’d best just find another way.  I didn’t have to go to campus any of the blackout days, but still told anyone who would listen to me how outraged I was, and demanded “why aren’t I seeing a cut of the money they must be making from this movie?”

So now The Brotherhood may be leaving Jewish Friend’s Hill to come to my Hill, but I’m really not too bothered by it just yet.  It makes the walk to work a bit more exciting, and maybe if I keep watching the show, I’ll see myself prancing through the background.

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.

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.

Rhode Islanders call shopping carts carriages, drinking fountains “bubblas” (or bubblers, if you pronounce your “r”s, which are optional), and apparently (this I haven’t been able to verify yet), see-saws i.e. teeter-totters are called danglers. Sounds filthy. Then there’s the best one: milkshakes are called cabinets. I’ve only met one person actually from Rhode Island, and I haven’t had the opportunity to interrogate her as to these language differences, I’ve just read them and heard from people who are not from here, but live here.

The other night I was in a car with people from Virginia, Pennsylvania, Arkansas, etc., and I found out about this whole cabinet thing. No one was 100% sure, though, as to whether Rhode Islanders call cabinets milkshakes, or milkshakes cabinets. Do you order a strawberry cabinet? or put your dishes away in the milkshake? I cannot even begin to understand where this comes from since no milkshake ingredients are kept in cabinets, and it’s specific to Rhode Island. I haven’t been anywhere yet that serves cabinets, but I intend to. Also, I don’t know if I would be mocked for ordering a milkshake when I clearly mean cabinet.

In further New England news, I was in Massachusetts Saturday buying alcohol (no tax), and dropping off bottles ($.05 deposit). I’ve never dropped off bottles before and really had no idea what to do. I found an open door labeled “redemptions” and assumed that that was what I wanted. I went in, and saw what looked kind of like a tiny Laundromat covered with bright yellow signs that read “NO RHODE ISLAND CONTAINERS” There was a little old man in there, not redeeming anything, just standing there. I read the sign further trying to understand what the hell a Rhode Island container was, and if this was some other slang that I didn’t get, and he piped up, “no Rhode Island containers.”

“Yes, what does that mean?”

So he showed me that it had to have the MA $.05 deposit printed on the label in order to be redeemed. I loaded my bottles in the machine as he stood there and watched. I have no idea if he worked there, or if he’s a guy who hangs out hoping someone will just give him bottles, which must be a pretty easy (if boring) way to make a little money. Nice guy though.