Posts Tagged ‘Rhode Island’

I try not to be too superstitious. Been working on this for years.

Most are harmless enough, right? Maybe even a bit fun.

Not stepping on a crack in the sidewalk wouldn’t have actually prevented “Mother’s broken back.” But it might have made the boring walk down the street to Cabral’s corner market for a loaf of bread and a pack of Mom’s L&Ms a little less monotonous for a kid.

I remember when a bunch of us kids were passengers in Mrs. Gillett’s car. She was our neighbor but also our friends’ grandmother. That’s the real reason we were in the car. Anyway, when Mrs. Gillett came to the railroad tracks in the road she lifted her feet. Not for long. Maybe just a few seconds. Nope, she wasn’t doing it to strengthen her lower abs. She did it for good luck.

I still do it.

But I falter from time to time. Step on cracks all the time and my Mama is perfectly fine.

Recently, I was in a Delhi shop. Narrow as all get out. One of the employees had a ladder out in the middle of the floor. No way for me to go around it. So I waited. Waited some more. There was no way I was walking under that thing. No way.

Also have this other thing. I should always leave from the same door I entered. Not sure where that one came from but I am always aware of it.

But this is absolutely one superstition that should be left by the door.

Here is why.

In 2003 I was living in Dallas, Texas. On a February evening, many, many miles away in my home state of Rhode Island there was a terrible fire in a night club. It claimed the lives of one hundred men and women. And injured hundreds of others. Like horribly injured.

Young people were just having an evening out, listening to music and enjoying a respite from one of New England’s long winter nights. Like I did many a time. As you probably did.

Pyrotechnics (fireworks) which were meant to add a bit to the show ignited the foam that was used for sound insulation in the walls and ceiling. Within FIVE minutes the Station club in West Warwick was engulfed.

People could not see the exits due to the heavy smoke. There was also a massive crush as people tried to get out the main exit. The place where they entered at the beginning of the evening.

So there were different causes of death that night.

The following is a video, taken ten years ago, of my cousin John who was a firefighter in Warwick. It also features his bandmate (yes, singing firefighters) who was actually present at the Station when the fire began. The video is dated 2007 and John has recently retired as a Lieutenant. But the message in this clip is still as important today as it was then.

You do not need to leave from the same door you entered.

John is still in the band and after the tragic Station fire the group would post a floor plan of each venue on their website. He states how important it is to make note of an exit.

I also learned something yesterday that struck a similar chord.

A family that I knew in Kuala Lumpur was recently on a holiday in Yangon, Myanmar. Yes, the perks of living in Asia.

Seems that on October 19th they were asleep in their lovely, colonial era hotel only to be wakened around 3:00am by banging noises. Sounded like people yelling and pounding on doors. But the family couldn’t understand what they were saying. Maybe drunken revelry? Terrorism?

They tried the front desk. No one answering. Finally someone picked up and told them to evacuate immediately due to a fire in the hotel.

The two teen daughters left first and then the parents a few minutes later. The mom was sort of freaked about the separation but they were soon reunited and safe.

Police were shoving people aside and trying to evacuate but there was no clear communication, very disorganized and pitch black.

I want to just note here that this luxurious, teak and iconic hotel was considered a 5 Star property.  So it doesn’t really matter where you stay. The rules for your personal safety should always be the same. Regardless of the price tag. Or tag line.

Her advice?

“Don’t take for granted emergency exit information.”

She stressed the importance of staying together. Checking to see if there is a fire alarm and sprinkler in hotel room. Having a plan to meet up if separated. The importance of being close to your family and knowing where they are at all times.

This is the time of year when a plethora of seasonal activities will beckon. Many will welcome the opportunity for indoor, festive gatherings surrounded by loads of people. Seeing the Nutcracker, Christmas musicals, plays, concerts, sporting events and attending worship services.

Some will travel and spend time in hotels. Or pass through airports.

All happy as larks to be in places with closed doors keeping out the cold or staving off the heat.

Have fun but take note of exit signs immediately upon entering. Communicate a place to meet with family members if case you ever get separated. Don’t take for granted emergency exit information. Do your homework. And remember you do not need to leave from the same door you entered. Ever.

Wishing you and all of your families a safe holiday season. Hoping you employ these safety measures all year long. Some superstitions should absolutely be left at the door.

Update: My cousin, John, told me that he was actually supposed to be at the Station the evening of the fire. He did not attend because he didn’t want to be the “third wheel.” But a few folks thought he was there. Including his fire chief.

 

 

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When I visit Rhode Island it’s usually for the summer and a haircut/coloring always ends up being a thing. To be honest the thing is actually coloring more than the cut.

I always call the East Side stylist, M., who I’ve known for more than thirty years. I’ll just call her M. since I view going to a trusted salon and swapping life experiences as sort of a sacred thing. Like bookclub.

Anyway, my husband found her when he was a college student. When we married I hopped on board.

So we go way back. Probably still have the present M. sent when my first daughter was born.

M. always fits me in during my summer holidays.

Rhode Island is a small place. My father knew her parents from the Irish circles. We knew some of the same people.

Every time I visit she’s got a mixed bag of clients.

I could meet an older woman going on a trip to Syria or a woman who says my cousin Francis roomed with her husband. Back in the day.

Love it. Usually fun and light hearted. M. and I discuss books, restaurants, travel destinations, politics and family.

This summer day was also about politics, restaurants and family.

M. was talking about her sister. Probably because the previous week was the seventeenth anniversary of her sister’s death.

Her sister sounded so fabulous. A Rhode Island girl who was one of the leading art dealers in New York. A pioneer of the art scene in the East Village, Chelsea and Soho. Who Andy Warhol immortalized in a silk screen back in 1985.

But that is not why I’m writing this post.

I was sitting there with foil strips in my hair and my eyes filling up with tears.

Because this lady had cancer and died at the young age of forty-five.

M.’s sister decided that she wanted to die on Cape Cod and on a Friday. She did both.

This woman’s husband’s called M. the day before she died and said basically that she wasn’t doing great. Maybe something in her breathing. Maybe nothing but he just wanted to let them know.

M. says, ” Thank you.”

She thinks about it and says to herself, “I’m going to the Cape.”

It was midnight.

M. called all the family members.

They all made the decision to head to the Cape.

And that is when the tears dripped down my face.

I just had a vision of this family hopping into their cars for a trip that no one ever really wants to take. But wouldn’t have it any other way.

Surrounding their loved one as she transitioned out of this world.

The last people she saw were those who loved her most. Her husband and her family.

When we are born the first people we see are the ones who absolutely love us most.

If we are fortunate we pick up a few more as we journey through life. Siblings, partners, children or friends.

It’s only fitting that’s the way it should end.

With those who love us most.

 

 

 

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This past summer I was driving to my friend’s home in Rhode Island with my two daughters. It’s a lovely area near the beaches. Tree lined roads winding by horses grazing, babbling brooks and placid ponds. Gorgeous old, clapboard homes on green acres dot the landscape.

My eldest, who is twenty five, says, “This area is so beautiful. Not like the usual creepy New England towns.”

I exclaim, “What?? Creepy like how? A van with no windows is creepy. But not New England!”

Later on, while we are soaking up the sun on a fabulous beach, same daughter proceeds to tell my friend that ever since she was a little kid I’ve told her probably every single ghost story or mystery that took place in our part of New England.

Okay, when you put it like that. I sound like a monster.

It’s true. I might have pointed out a haunted house or two.

The Westport house where folks claimed a ghost resided.  One of the occupants fell asleep in a rocking chair and woke up with a haircut.

I probably mentioned the ghost of the red-headed hitchhiker on Interstate 195.

Most likely gave the background of the childhood rhyme about Lizzie Borden. I did take my youngest (seventeen at the time) to Lizzie’s house last year where the gruesome crimes took place.

I may have pointed out the lovely house that sits at the bottom of Metacomet golf course in my home town. Shared that murders were never a thing while I was growing up but a few years before I was born an elderly widow had been murdered in that very home during a robbery.

Could have mentioned the still unsolved mystery of the “New Bedford Highway Killer.” Eleven prostitutes went missing. Nine were found strangled and dumped in the woods. And that it was very possible a local attorney was the killer and actually indicted at one time. He moved to Florida in 1988 and there were no more murders on that stretch of highway since then.

Yes, I might have shared a story or two.

Dear Norah,

I’m very sorry and hope that you realize it’s not New England that’s creepy. Stuff happens everywhere.

It’s just your Mom who is creepy.

Hope I didn’t do too much damage. I’m just thankful that I spent a lot of quality, non-creepy time with you when you were young.

I absolutely loved cuddling up with you at bedtime every evening while reading you many, many wonderful fairy tales. As you peacefully drifted off to sleep.

Like Snow White and her killer stepmother. The orphaned Bambi who yearns for his murdered mother. Three little pigs trying to protect themselves from the wolf who wants to destroy their home. Hansel and Gretel’s great escape from the witch who attempted to burn them alive in an oven. And so many others.

I pray that, in some small way, it makes up for the ghost stories.

Love,

Mom

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I dropped my daughter off at the Rhode Island airport yesterday.

On the ride, I reminisced a bit.

Said, “Reminds me of all the times Papa (my father) picked us up at this very airport.”

I continued, “Papa knew a lot of people. Whenever we were out with him there would invariably be the hearty hello or head nod to/from some random person.”

Some years ago Dad was milling about the luggage carousel looking for my bags. Think we just arrived from Dallas via Chicago.

Guy walks by, “Hey, Pat, how are ya?”

Dad responds in kind.

Rhode Island is a small state. No surprise that you would run into someone you know. Or their cousin.

Few minutes later a woman strolls by, “Hi Pat! How are you?”

Dad smiles and asks her how she’s been.

Okay, doesn’t stop there. More and more people in our path with same, “Hi Pat, how are you?”

Ummm, Dad, this is getting crazy.

Dad finally clued me in on the situation. These people were all members of an Irish society based in Rhode Island. Can’t remember now whether it was the Irish Ceilidhe Club or Ireland’s 32 Society. Or another group.

Apparently they had been on a trip (and on same flight as me) and were returning back to Rhode Island from Chicago.

Just thought it was a lovely memory. And, according to my kid, I hadn’t shared it before which is amazing in itself. Because I am kind of a broken record with my stories.

Made me remember how I felt when I would first see my father as I was coming down the escalator at the airport after months away.

How he always did the heavy lifting. Not going to let his daughter pick up the heavy bags. 🙂

Brought back the fact that everyone, who knew my Dad, had a smile when they greeted him with nothing but respect.

Made me remember that every time I left him in his later years, he said, with eyes filling, “We love to have you and we sure do hate to see you go.”

How it’s hard to arrive at the airport and no one in that crowd is eagerly and expectantly looking for you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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John Glenn, a true American hero, died at the age of ninety-five. What an amazing human being.

He’ll always be remembered as the first American who orbited the earth.

What he might not always be remembered for was his attempt at running for the presidency of the United States.

Hearing about his death brought back a lot of memories for me.

I didn’t know him personally but I sort of felt like I did. And I’m pretty sure there is a personalized thank you note from him hiding somewhere in my personal files.

Back in the early 1980s my mom was working for Billy who was elected to the State Senate. I remember being at his house on numerous occasions stuffing envelopes with a bunch of people around the table. It was a great experience being a part of something exciting.

Next thing I knew, I was on a bus with two of those fellow envelope stuffers (friends of Billy’s, Mom’s and mine) and about forty total strangers. We were heading to Nashua, New Hampshire to campaign, door to door, for John Glenn.

I was totally out of my comfort zone. The only two people I knew, John and Chip, were organizers of the event so I was on my own. With strangers. Yuck.

The first night I stayed with a host family. It was kind of creepy. I just remember feeling really uncomfortable. First time ever staying in a home with strangers. Did not want to stay another night.

So the second night I stayed in the hotel room with John and Chip. Totally not creepy.

Because I was friends with John. I went to school with him and we belonged to the same parish. He was one of the truest people you would ever want to meet.

Chip was always at Billy’s house or his office so I was also comfortable with him. He was one of the funniest guys.

Anyway, we ate pizza that night and laughed and laughed.

Of course, Chip just couldn’t wait to get back to Rhode Island to tell my mother that he spent the night with me. She got a chuckle out of that one. LOL.

It was over thirty years ago and quite a lot has changed since then.

Except the wonderful memories.

 

John Glenn was a courageous, respectable and decent gentleman. It was an honor to campaign for him.

Thank you for your service to our nation. Thank you for your authenticity and thank you for making me travel down memory lane today to fondly recall special people and moments.

You most definitely had “The Right Stuff.”

Rest in peace.

 

 

 

 

 

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There are all sorts of illnesses and diseases out there. Some worse than others.

Many folks lose their memory but have good physical health for years.

Others have a keen mind and yet are trapped in a body that fails them.

I really don’t know which one is worse.

This past summer my husband joined me in the U.S. He doesn’t get to Rhode Island too often. Sometimes years pass.

But he tries to connect with friends from “back in the day” when he has the chance.

Petie worked at a local college (Providence College) in the IT Department. My husband sold computers to the school. They met there and became friends. An unlikely pair. A skinny Jewish kid with long hair and an earring and a well-groomed Arab salesman in a suit. But whatever. It worked.

He would come over to the house. I remember him bringing my daughter a huge stuffed bunny when she was little. It was bigger than her at the time.

Back then Petie (that’s what my husband always called him) was a slender and very fit young man.

Visited us in Texas after we moved there in 1994.

But as is wont to happen people lose touch. Especially pre-Facebook.

Happens to all of us. Get busy. Move far away. Don’t take the time to touch base.

He received a message from Petie during this visit but when it popped up it was dated November of 2014. Like eighteen months ago. Not sure how that happens?

It read, “Hey, stranger… how you doing? It’s been too damn long!!  Would love to catch up! Here’s my number.”

Petie didn’t pick up the phone and he wouldn’t be receiving any return texts from my husband.

Because he was dead from a horrific disease at the age of 50.

Petie was in great physical shape. A runner who put in miles each day.

Then came ALS. A disease that can target the most fit among us.

You don’t lose your mind. Just your body.

It’s ravaged.

Petie was diagnosed at the end of 2013. Gone by March of this year.

And there’s nothing he could have done differently.

Read Pete’s story here.

It will help put a face to the “ice bucket challenge” that you’ve all heard about in the past couple of years.

In the end my husband could only make a donation to ALS in his old friend’s name. With the hope that some day soon, with more research, there will be no need for any more “ice bucket challenges.”

RIP Peter Weiblen

Celebration of Life

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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tower

This tower has been around for as long as I can remember. At Route 1 and 138 in South Kingstown.

My friend Sean drove me to the beach town a couple of weeks ago to check out some homes for sale. As we were stopped at the intersection’s traffic light I looked around for it. Because that’s what everyone does. I couldn’t see it from where we were positioned. The area looked a bit overgrown with trees and bushes.

I asked Sean if that was the location of the tower. And if it was still there.

Wasn’t sure. He’s a native New Yorker so he wouldn’t have driven by the landmark every summer and automatically look for it.

Later in the day I did a bit of googling. Didn’t take me long to get results. I sent a photo to Sean and he totally remembered the tower.

It’s sort of a unique thing on the side of a road. And not something you forget.

The tower is still there.

Here’s the interesting part.

There’s a story behind it.

It’s called Hannah Robinson’s Tower.

Hannah was the beautiful and beloved daughter of a very wealthy man named Rowland Robinson.

He sent his daughter to school in Newport. She soon fell in love with her French tutor. His name was Peter Simon.

Rowland did not think the teacher was a suitable match for his daughter and she was not allowed to see him.

The couple continued to meet secretly. With the help of someone in the family they eloped and moved to Providence.

Her father was furious and even put up some money as a reward to find out who helped them escape.

Hannah would have nine children. They lived in extreme poverty.

Her husband, realizing that he would never get his hands on a penny of the Robinson fortune, had affairs and eventually abandoned his wife and children.

The poor woman became sickly due to her living conditions.

Hannah’s father was still angry. Wanted to know who helped her leave and would only let her back in the family if he was told. Rowland headed toward Providence to see Hannah.

But his heart melted when he saw his child near death. He packed her up and brought her back home to Narragansett.

She asked her father to pull over at James Mc Sparran’s farm so that she could sit and look over her homeland. With a view of Narragansett Bay.

This is the spot where the tower now stands.

Hannah Robinson died at the age of twenty seven on October 30, 1773.

Seems there’s always a story.

 

 

 

 

 

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