Where We Went This Year! (22,000 miles of driving!)

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Monday, April 27, 2009

Providence, RI

Providence - “prä ´– vuh – dens: n., the protective care of God or of nature as a spiritual power. From the Latin providere, meaning ‘forsee,’ ‘attend to’.”

As in, "I suffered from a lack of providence when I bashed my right pinky toe on the hard plastic suitcase at the end of the week and it looked like I had dipped it into Tammy Faye Baker’s makeup kit."

But I get ahead of myself. Let me start from the beginning.

Providence, Rhode Island.

Home of Roger Williams. No, not the Welsh soldier of fortune (b. 1540) , the chemist at Du Pont (b. 1890), the biochemist (b. 1893), the aviator (b. 1894), the pianist (b. 1924), the organist (b. 1943), the UK politician (b. 1948), the US politician (b. 1949), the British liver specialist, OR the Welsh playwright (Roger Williams being such an uncommon name) but Roger Williams, the Puritan preacher and theologian who, among all his fellow clergymen, actually lived the doctrine of ‘all faiths equal before God,’ not ‘my faith’s a little more equal than yours.’

Home of John Brown, legendary progeny of a slave trader’s family who later became a galvanizing force in the abolition movement, and whose death by hanging, following his trial and conviction for John Brown’s Rebellion, was attended by none less than John Wilkes Booth himself.

Home of the art-rock band, the Talking Heads, from which sprang such 80’s high-school anthems as “Road to Nowhere,” “Once In A Lifetime,” “Stay Up All Night,” “Psycho Killer,” and other songs which never fail to bring to mind wide, wide, very wide shoulder pads …

Home of Brown University, the second largest employer behind Rhode Island Hospital, just ahead of the US Post Office, and the leading academic distribution point of Doc Martens shoes and Ché Guevara t-shirts.

Home of one of the largest LGBT communities in the United States, with a rate of reported gay and lesbian relationships 75% higher than the national average, named among the “Best Lesbian Places to Live", and whose mayor, David Cicilline, is the first openly gay mayor of a US state capital.

Home of the aptly named Raymond Patriarca, head of one of the largest organized crime families on the East Coast from the 50’s to the 80’s. Great at parties, but a little intense…

Home of …

OK, it’s a small state. Naturally, it’d be a small home.

Earlier, I’d made mention of a truism in touring that many readers of this blog will appreciate, those of you in ‘the business’ – that sometimes when you’re on the road, no matter how much you enjoy the traveling life and the getting-out-and-seeing-the-new-town-you’re-in of work on the road, sometimes a week is just seven days.

What with lousy weather, cold & rainy days, a relative lack of public transportation, the one-week visit coming off of a 5-week stay, the inevitable minor let-down that was bound to follow having completed one of the most anticipated stops on the tour – it was a little bit like that. Through no fault of its own, I must include, as Providence looked like a much cooler town than we had time, resources, or inclination to discover this time around.

And we also had a four-hour rehearsal that Friday, during which we were all called to listen to the band play. Because it was supposed to inspire us. To hear the music anew. And it was lovely, actually. Great to hear the music by itself, and all the intricasies in the orchestrations. Especially for the adults. Who don't sing, except for the big group number at the end of the show. Or for the adult understudies. Who don't sing at all. Who really could have used those four hours. Yeah…

One thing I can say – downtown Providence on a Saturday night looks a lot like downtown New Haven on a Saturday night. Be careful where you light your cigarette – the hairdos are highly flammable.

Oh yeah – Providence, Rhode Island – home of Haven Brothers Diner, one of the oldest restaurants on wheels in America, which began in 1893 as a horse drawn lunch wagon. Every evening at 4:30p. the diner car (the last time they ought a new one was 1949) is parked at the corner of Dorrance and Fulton & stays there 'til 5am, when it's returned home.

But let me add one more. Providence, Rhode Island. Home of two of the 500 Ritz Cameras closing their doors (out of 800 nationally) and having a-MAZ-ing sales on digital SLR cameras such as the early birthday present that yours truly bought himself while in temporary residence… (So yours truly, gentle reader, will be filing some lovely photos in the following Boston entry…)

The audiences were enthusiastic, for the most part. Odd town, though. You kind of got the feeling that there’s a lot of tension there boiling just below the surface. They say that violent crime has dipped in recent years, and that may be true, but in the seven days we were there I saw a full-on gang fight get busted up on the street in the middle of the day. Fortunately it was all very West Side Story, with fisticuffs only, but there were some serious punches getting thrown until the cops swooped in. There was some petty theft around as well, but then property theft in Providence is 50% higher than the national average for a town of its size. (That stat courtesy of Wikipedia, so don’t hold me to it…)

Roger, they hardly knew ye…

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