I believe in the reality of my Rhode Island fantasy. A little over a year ago I moved back to Rhode Island at the age of 42. I lived here before, for nine months during 1973.
I recall my two best friends that were brothers and neighbors. I even have fond memories of the mini neighborhood gang that would chase us and once treed me. I remember one of them called Bubbles because of his big egg shaped bush of red frizzy hair. It made me feel tough to have lived through a gang experience, no matter how scanty the actual physical punishments proved.
I failed sailing lessons. My Mom piloted a sailboat down the Narragansett with her only crew my younger brother and I. Miraculously, we located the boat owner’s dock after what I have been told was a four-hour journey. My Mom told us the huge black rock in our front yard was Plymouth Rock.
My favorite memory is when the tide was out we would lift up deadwood and jump on piers that had broken adrift. Eels would shoot out from under the wood and we would scoop them up with our hands, then deposit them in bucket of bay water and sell them for fifteen cents apiece at the bait store. We talked my little brother into dumping the largest one we ever caught into our neighbor’s pool. He was caught and instantly narced, so we had to go scoop it up out of the pool with a skimmer.
I remember Gatsby days, cemented in memory by my grandfather’s films that contained embarrassing evidence of tights and three-cornered hats. I remember meeting my first Quakers and playing football well past the allotted recess time with our all-time quarterback teacher calling the shots. Lacrosse was an exotic encounter back then. We bought 45s of Dead Skunk in the Middle of the Road and Sweet’s Fox On the Run.
Now, my wife and I are expecting our first child. I haven’t stepped onto any boat decks. I took her by the old house. Its not being kept up and the field across the street where I once climbed a tree to escape from Bubbles and the gang is now filled with condos. I met up with my two best friends from that year and found that any connection between us would take a lot of work to keep alive.
We live on the west side of Providence and I take the bus to work. The ethnic neighborhoods are my idea of what a real east coast city is like. We live in Federal Hill and I had my hair cut on Cranston Street by a guy drinking Sangria and dancing to loud music between snips. We have gone to see the real Plymouth Rock and I think the one in our old front yard is more impressive.
I believe in my Rhode Island fantasy. We are gathering new experiences to sit on the shelves in my head.
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