Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Hello again, Providence

A little walking tour of Benefit Street, an interesting house on Staples Street near the art gallery; a small jaunt down near the waterfront. Back again to reaquaint myself with Rhode Island.

Sign on a gate outside an ancient yellow wooden house on Benefit Street: "Attention: Chien Bizarre" ... and another, even smaller sign, confirming that here resides a "Chien Lunatique!" ha ha ha. Beware of crazy dogs on Benefit Street!

Houses of the 18th and 19th century, blues and pinks and yellows and grays, of wood or red brick, with shutters, little hidden courtyards, gated gardens--and plaques denoting the original owner and date of construction; houses of merchants and ministers, architects and dignitaries, assembled in a stately row beneath budding trees and impertinent robins atop a sun-drenched hill.

I wonder what the street looked like back then, in their day; what they did of an evening, how they greeted one another, these long-dead residents, what sort of neighbors they were to one another.

It's spring vacation and the colleges have emptied. Last night we ate at an Indian restaurant and this morning visited a toy shop and a Russian food store where the chocolates, jam and newspapers all announced themselves in cyrillic. A large fish on a bed of ice with its head still attached stared blankly from behind a glass counter.

On my last visit here we trekked on over to Swann Cemetery to see where H.P. Lovecraft is buried and despite having a map, we had difficulty finding the exact location. A tiny, simple tombstone, I don't know why I thought it would be larger, more ornate perhaps. I mentioned (silently, to H.P.) that I've enjoyed his books, despite the sheer terror some of his tales seemed to have instilled in me. He lies interred in a magnificent park with hillettes and ponds and peaceful trees, one can get lost there.

Now why would someone find that more enjoyable than, say, traipsing through the ornate mansions over in Newport, with their marble floors and chandeliers and dark, tired wallpaper? (Been there, done that, some years ago, when a chance to see the remnants of the Gilded Age for some reason was of interest at the time.) I had thought about doing the cliff walk, skirting the occasional precipitous hidden drops that had you not been careful could send you tumbling headlong into the ocean below, but I didn't bring the proper shoes and to be honest, I'm kind of walked out enough already.

From the third-floor loft where I'm staying I can see the lights of the city, spread out like a million tiny stars. The absolute quiet is surprising... not even a taxi rumbling by below. Good Lord it's after midnight already. Goodnight Providence.

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