Tuesday, May 8, 2012


There are many points in my life when I was a child that I almost felt like a tiny leaf pushed around by the force winds my parents created. At least that is the sense I get from my vague memories. You are told in a few words where you are going, but then those words do not make complete sense. And so you just end up places. And in the future when you are wondering where the hell you were it is hard to piece together a picture or enough descriptions to try and get an answer out of the adults who took you there.

I think it was a company picnic of sorts, but all I knew that the ride was long and unfamiliar. The parking was a lot of grass, and I got the sense that parking there was wrong as the tires slipped slightly across the relatively smooth surface.

I remember crowds of people and kids around my age of 6 or so. There were ponies fenced in and made to walk in circles with their tiny passengers on their backs. There were inflatable structures in which kids slipped out of their shoes and shimmied into the opening in the mesh. And they proceeded to bounce wildly. Some cracking heads against one another. Loud wails and rushing mothers were the result.

Under the warm sun we sat at weathered grey picnic tables. I gingerly sat on the splintered looking bench. From there I could see the building in which the food was being prepared. The building was grey and weathered like the benches. Battered screen windows showed the shabby interior. And creaky screened doors clacked open and shut as people moved in and out. All I remember of the food were the yellow ears of steaming corn.

Before we left I got a mermaid painted on my bicep. After the long trip home I vividly recall that the paint was already starting to peel from my arm. And I absently picked at the curling edges.

Friday, May 4, 2012


Billy Currington
Being the true Rhode Islander that I am commuting or driving great distances seems like a big inconvenience. Slowly I am building up an immunity. I always had some people in my life that did not mind driving hours to get to their destination. But long car drives to Florida probably do not count if they are a once in a decade event.

For an early birthday present for one of my siblings I decided to take her to see an artist that she liked, one who would be performing in Connecticut. I thought it would be another achievement, another notch in my belt, that I could say that "I drove there and I could do it again."

The first trip always seems like the longest. Your brain is alert and aware of your surroundings, because God forbid you miss your exit. Once you go somewhere you get to know the trouble spots and what the traffic is like. But the first trip is always the worst.

I had been to places in Connecticut when I was young like Mystic aquarium and the Pequot museum. But I am not sure I even knew where they were until drives stopped being just thought as "long" or "short." I noted the gradual change in scenery as we started the drive in Providence. When we got to Hopkinton, the trees and shrubbery looked notably different from the the ones I was used to. And the longer we drove through Connecticut the more different it looked.

At the beginning of the trip the sun was hidden behind a monotonous gray veil of clouds. Clouds that every so often would take time to spit on the windshield a little bit. The wipers squeaked noisily as I flicked them on for a moment. As we crossed into the new state the sun came out and illuminated the pale green of the leafy bushes that boarder the highway. A hill appeared as if plopped randomly down with out a family of similar hills.

We arrived on time, with a half an hour or more to spare. People were tailgating in the small parking lot. A line formed as people waited for the doors to open and they could find their seats. Me and my sister made our way to the general admission pit. We spied a spot right in front of the mic squeezing past a mother and daughter pair that were much sorter than us. The complained that we were blocking their view and told us to "Squeeze in somewhere else." We didn't and for a majority of the show we had them glaring at our backs.

I am always surprised to find people in the crowd that just stand there as if absolutely unhappy. They do not dance, sing along with the music or even crack a smile. The opening acts get much less enthusiasm than the headliner does, and maybe a slight smile forms on those stiff straight-lined lips.

David Nail
The crowd was packed in tight and any movement tends to be a shuffle of some sort. You try to avoid stepping on toes or bumping into anyone too intimately. Your back gets stiff and your knees tend to lock into place. And worst of all it gets a little hot and musty.

There was a girl at the show with half-lidded, sleepy eyes and a hideous cowboy hat. She ended up getting cussed out and threatened by a handful of pissed people. And she goes on to wail loudly and annoyingly that everybody hated her. And at that point quite a few people did hate her. After a few weird encounters with her, one including the girl's boyfriend insisting he was not humping me on purpose, she let out a stinker in the middle of that close and much too hot crowd. Farting Linda, as I have now come to call her, loudly proclaimed that somebody farted and it wasn't her.

The music would drown out her voice as she would complain every so often or try to make conversation with other people whose eyes and attention were focused on the stage. The performers and their proximity drew me in. And my aching back, my cramped conditions and the annoying drunks faded slightly. You can't help but sway to the music, sing enthusiastically with a dorky grin and wave your arms and hands about like you are drowning.

Sweat, heat, bright lights and loud music. Singers' voice heard just about the sound of guitars, drums and even electric keyboards. At the end, after the final encore song was played, the headlining artist made his way to the crowd edging the stage. And the crowd pressed closer, people now were not paying any attention to the brush of strangers against them. As the singer reached out to the people near me I wiggled my hand frantically, knowing if I moved it enough he would see it and grab it. And his sweaty hand did reach for mine. My sister, who loves him, was not happy with my success and lamented that he only brushed past her outreached hand.

The compacted people slowly moved apart and we all made a weird stumbling backward or sideways as people pushed back at as. The floor I noticed was a sloped one, and it now was littered with plastic cups and crushed aluminum cans. I didn't want to leave. I stood in the emptying GA pit until security asked us to leave.

Kip Moore --- Met him twice!
We met with one of the opening acts. A long line had formed in the lobby and people were taking pictures. The place was mostly empty when our turn had arrived. We told him that we had met him before, which was true, and he pretended to remember us. But he he was very enthusiastic that we had "come to see him." I didn't want to mention the fact I bought the tickets without knowing he would be opening.

The drive back was a different route than the one we took there. And in the dark it seemed more alien than it should The road gradually emptied as the time got later and we got farther away from Wallingford. Most of the ride back only a few cars passed us, zooming into the dark their high-beams blinding me as they attempted to part the complete darkness on the road. 395 was mostly absent of any lights. And looking in the rearview I saw nothing. No streetlamps, no moon, no starlight, no silhouettes. Just a forested black behind us and thick fog ahead.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Sun City, Florida

I suppose the idea of visiting or staying at a retirement village is not the most the thrilling of destinations when you I have a vacation in mind. I guess I like the solitude. There is a comfortable absence of human life. And the people you do meet are usually happy to see anyone younger than fifty; I probably remind them of the grandkids they rarely see. But the whole atmosphere is lazy and slow.

When I first visited my grandparents at Sun City I was very much struck by the fact that there were very few kids my age there. There were very few people in general. And every person you did see looked ancient to my young eyes.

Google maps screen grab 
Recently I saw a women here in Rhode Island that reminded me of the particular person you would see down in Florida. The most notable aspect about her was her deeply tanned skin. Her hair was short and had tightly permed curls. She looked healthy and active despite the many wrinkles on her face, wrinkles I tried to use as some gauge to properly judge her correct age. She wore white shorts and a bright pink polo shirt.

I guess I like to look for things that remind me of the place.

My favorite thing to do whenever I go to visit my grandparents is that I like to walk or bike for hours.  The sun draws me out of the house. I grab my iPod, my grandma's beat up bike and pedal down the wide, empty road.

There is something so calming about biking on that black pavement, the bike jolting slightly when you navigate around the sloped gutters that hug the narrow sidewalks. Your hair whips from the wind. And sometimes you just have to get up off the seat of the bike and pedal for all your worth.

I have a wonderful memory of wandering aimlessly and carelessly as the sun sunk into the earth. It glowed bright orange into my eyes. And music beat a tropical rhythm in my ears.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Tall Trees

I was supposed to meet some coworkers for a celebratory dinner. I got lost. I was in my car alone, shivering from the slight chill I could feel, the heat in the car was rushing ineffectually against the windshield of the car. I drove the car through a quiet maze of side streets searching for the road that lead to the restaurant.

I worriedly looked around for a promise placed on a street sign. The streets grew wider and cars would appear now and then. I took a right onto a wide main street. It was strangely still. No people in sight. I drove slowly under a canopy of large shadowing trees.

I made a u-turn when I figured that I was going the wrong way. As I drove slowly I examined the neighborhood. The place spoke of peaceful desertion. The empty streets and sidewalks suggested that no one had been here for awhile. A fact I knew to be incorrect.

Beyond the sidewalk the ground sloped upwards. Green grass leading to a squat elementary school. Alongside it was a playground, a tall chain link fence sprouted from the mulched ground. The absence of children or noise was a touch surreal. And the blank windows of the school building bespoke of a certain serenity, an absence of chaos.

The road was wide, cars parked on one side.  The sidewalk had a row of trees. These trees were tall, with wide reaching limbs. Their trunks were wide and scarred. They bloomed with tiny white flowers. I felt like a kid; for some reason I was reminded of my youth. When you're young everything seems bigger, taller, better and more scary than it actually is. The towering trees shrunk me down to a child's state. And I  got to see this street through younger eyes, when life seemed simple. It was one second of perfection as only a child can see it and how only an adult can remember it.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Clash of Cultures

I was nineteen when I left the country for the very first time. I think it never occurred to me how different the culture would be in a country other than your own. I figured I knew enough about Japan so that I would not feel completely alienated. But I came to realize that the food or the TV will not make you realize the difference in cultures, essentially it is the people that will make you realize that you live in a separate world.

I was in Shinagawa, Tokyo a full day before it hit me. We were staying at a hotel that was about a minute's walk away from a street entrance to the trains. We followed a cement walkway that led from the hotel, past small tourist aimed shops to a main street with restaurants. It was probably a combination sensory overload and jet lag, but the trip as a whole takes on the feel of a dream. We had a native of Japan as our guide, and I felt like most of the time I just floated after her like a ghost trying to absorb everything I saw but unable to commit anything to actual memory. I did not need to struggle to find my destinations or locate a good place to eat. So I feel like I never really paid attention I just experienced things. But somewhere amid my feelings of awe and sleepy fascination I woke up and realized I was far from home.

We happened upon a little McDonald's, and maybe this added to the overall image, but the setting and the surroundings of the restaurant were far from recognizable. And as a mass of people moved towards me in a commuter's rush I felt completely isolated. All the people in my vision were Japanese, no faces like mine were present. They were all uniformly dressed in black. Black suits, black jackets, black purses and skirts. I searched their faces for a hint of some familiar emotion that I could name and latch onto, so I could feel less insignificant, but all I saw was a general disinterest.

A Google maps screen grab. All my photos are gone due to my hard drive crashing.

 The people we met on our trip ranged from overtly friendly and outgoing, to curious and downright rude, to impassive and polite. I do not think I overcame my new frame of mind that I was different and that it would be hard for me to immediately fit in there. But I guess that is were some of my interest comes from with regards to Japan.

The crosswalk leading to the station

Friday, April 6, 2012


The sun was beginning to set as we left, my shorts and cami were starting to feel like the wrong choice for the weather. The feeling of Fall was creeping into August as the wind played with strands of my hair. We were running late and the darkening sky only made it seem so even more.

The highway was surprisingly free of cars as we drove up 95 North. Maybe it was because I was so excited to be going to this show that I had expected droves of cars and aggressive drivers would be blocking my path.

I drove the car through a maze of more rural country. The roads lead into the black of a forested night. The headlights were the only light. We past by dark houses and old graveyards. We finally met up with a promising looking road busy with traffic and glowing harsh under white florescent lights.

When we arrived the place was crowed with cars. A few people loitered around the entrance of the building. As we entered the building we heard the sound of music. Only a few people were straggling in now that the show had started.

The place was packed with people, and we skirted the edges hesitantly. As the first opening band finished their set we wiggled in through the dense crowd, slipping by individuals with their focus fixed on the stage. The dimmed lights and the loud music amped up my excitement level.

When the headliner finally began performing the crowd seemed to pack together even closer. The press of the crowd made the show even more interactive and entertaining. People sang along with the music. People who I can only assume were in some state of drunkenness spilled beer on my flip-flop clad feet.

By the end of it, my ears were humming from the noise of the music. My flip-flops sticky with beer. And our tickets were damp with sweat in my pocket. We waited for the crowd to disperse, revealing empty beer bottles and damp piles of suspicious looking refuse. My eyes lingered on the stage wishing I could stay a little longer.

Thursday, March 29, 2012


The day started off worse than most. I was attempting to sleep a sofa that was much smaller than I was tall. A thin blanket separated me from the cool, slippery surface of the leather. I didn't want to go anywhere. What I wanted to do was sleep for five more hours and preferably anywhere other than where I was currently trying to. The plan had been that me and my sisters would make a day trip with our brother who had to run an errand somewhere near Boston. So we planned, rather they planned and I fretted about their weak, many holed, vague ideas they wanted to carry through. In general I get grumpy when I am being swept along by the fickle and unpredictable winds that are my little sister's plans. Her intense expression and mulling belie the fact that she has little idea of what she is going to or rather the more important question of how she is going to do it.

We stopped off at some courthouse down some unsuspecting road. My brother changed out of the trunk into something more presentable to appear in before a judge. Inside a line of people stood leaning against the walls of the narrow hall. Some people sat in the few chairs they did have. A majority of the people looked at us when me turned the corner in search of the appropriate line for my brother to wait in. Their gaze was that of people with little else to do than to watch others. I was so used to people ducking their heads to look at the screens of their phones it was unsettling to see so many people silently watching each other.

I decided that I did not want to wait around inside and chose to slink out to the car, a car that was already warm from the heat of the sun. With the doors and windows open it was hard to avoid the dodgy couple that walked up to us saying they lost their phone. The guy's eyes shifted around as he talked to us, explaining that he couldn't find his iPhone, that someone must have stolen it. The long scratch on this face came into prominent view whenever his moved his head away from us looking into the brush surrounding the lot as if he could spot the phone from where he stood.

It was hard for me to believe that they even had a phone. And when the girl came right out and told us to return the phone I knew they had to be just a little desperate. They skulked off after we told them we definitely didn't have their phone. A few minutes later a woman came up to us, prefacing her statement with a touch of incredulity saying, "I don't believe them, but this couple said you stole my iPod."

I have never really liked traffic, especially the kind you bump into after a long day at work. The car and foot traffic while driving around Boston when we finally arrived a few hours later was not something I would want to experience every day. We circled around the Boston Common a few times pretending we might actually find a spot to park before we accepted that we needed to park underground. The parking garage was stuffy and had a low ceiling. Very few people were around and the silence was eerie. The lighting made the place seem dingy and criminal.

I think the only time I relaxed and allowed myself to have a good time was on the drive back to Providence. The traffic had slowed outside of the city. Cars sat under the hot sun, rippling waves of hot air seemed to come off the vehicles as well as the cement. The windows were down, the AC not working and the radio rumbled. The August heat lulled me into a happier state and as the car picked up speed the stuffiness withdrew out the windows and my hair was whipped into a chaotic tangle by the wind.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Spring Break 2012

Whenever March comes around I am more than ready to collapse. I am longing for summer and warmth: my elements. So I have come to see my trip to my grandparents home in Florida as week-long trip to summer. Or at least a small preview of it. I am always amazed at the beautiful weather I am provided with: the temperatures going into the eighties; the sun burning my skin if I am not careful. Being able to swim outside and not be freezing; the bright, hot sun drying my thick hair in twenty minutes.

This year I did not make plans to visit Florida: time and money were not in my possession. So I decided to explore the town in which I work. I rarely bring myself to explore Uxbridge, MA, I just stay in the office. But considering this is my spring break I am entitled to a little excursion beyond the the usual limits I set for myself.

I walked from the office to the main street. When I do go out and walk during my lunch break I always loop around back to the office. I take familiar streets and I avoid the congested intersections. This time I decided to walk down the curve in the street that lead to who-knows what. The black paved street led under a bridge, now rusty and disused. I looked up, cobwebs were threaded through chicken wire that probably had once been securely attached to the underside of the railroad bridge but was now curling back in some places.

I walked along the deserted sidewalk, cars every so often moving past me. I soon heard what sounded to be water. The overwhelming sound of crashing water filled my ears as I moved into sight of it cascading over a dam. The Blackstone river runs through Uxbridge, it had once powered the now defunct mills.

An ornate iron fence was held closed by a small padlock. Behind the fence a worn dirt path, stone steps and short bridges wound closer to the water. My disappointment at not being able to explore was soon quelled when I spotted a low stone wall further down the street, gravestones peeking up beyond it.

The only noise I heard as I entered Prospect Hill Cemetery was the whooshing sound of cars passing, the cries of desperate fun from unseen children at the nearby school yard and the periodic squawks of birds. I walked along the dirt and gravel path; I felt my boots sinking into the ground. The slate gravestones that I passed were so thin they looked like they could snap over just from me walking by them.

The path wound invitingly up a hill and out of sight. I stopped and looked at the remains of the Bernat mill building right across the street. The expanse of concrete and emptiness spoke of abandonment. The gaping wounds of the gutted mill were inviting, and begged the delinquent in me to jump the fence and risk injury inside the crumbling walls.

Instead I continued to follow the cemetery path to see where that lead.

Friday, March 2, 2012


My most exhausting trip was one that I thought would be a new chapter in my academic life. I was planning on attending an out of state college in Tampa, Florida.

I was so excited to actually be going to Florida; that I would staying there for more than just a week or so. But I was nervous too. The night before I left I lay awake: exhausted, happy and scared. Not the best way to start my early morning trip to the airport; I hadn't slept at all. I left my family with tight gripped hugs and dazed goodbyes. I was lightheaded and zoning out but still too nerved up to actually contemplate sleep.

The plane ride was as it always is: cramped and awkward. And by the end I was feeling even more worn down. I arrived at the airport with no one to meet me. I waited for my bulky, wheel-less luggage with a feeling of complete loss.

I had to take a city bus to my next destination, so I lugged the 50 plus pounds of my baggage, the straps cutting into my shoulders to the bus stop outside of the airport. I was the only young person on the bus and I was further made aware of the state of Tampa when a group of homeless-looking men and women got on the bus.

When I reached my stop I was situated right across from the university. A four-lane street and steady flowing traffic stopped me in my tracks. No pedestrians were in sight except for me; my awkward bags biting into my tired shoulders and thumping heavily every so often against my hips. I waited a small eternity to just cross the street. I was fairly dead by the time I reached the other side under the indifferent eyes of young students in nice cars. It felt like a walk of shame especially because I had not thought to change out of my clothes appropriate for Northern weather and into something more suited for late August in central Florida.

Sweating, uncomfortable and worn out I went to get my student ID and other important items so I could actually get into my dorm room. I parked my big bags down in a corner, I was the only student that did not have someone to help them unload luggage, and I was obviously the only student who got here by bus. I felt out of place among these younger kids with bright eyes and no apparent worries.

I queued up relieved that I was in the right place at a decent time and making quick progress. But I was met with a frown and was told I needed to go to another line and pick up my ID, etc, there. Oh, and they had some problems. The problem turned out to be that they needed me to pay the full tuition immediately, up front if I wanted to even get into a dorm room that day. Of course I found all this out after waiting more than three hours in an endless line of students with their parents.

Maybe I was completely delusional thinking things would work out once I got down there. I thought they would be more understanding or more helpful. But if I wanted to attend their school I would have to take out a $10, 000 loan right there in front of them. I sat down in a bit of a hopeless state thinking to myself that this school was not worth getting into debt over.

It probably sounds like I am over-reacting and that taking out loans for school is perfectly normal. Why shouldn't I? But this university was convincing me that the people running this school where in their own dream world. They bragged about the $1,000,000 they spend each year on keeping their historic campus in tip-top condition. They were in the process of building a $20,000,000 religious 'center' to bring the campus together in beautiful diverse harmony.

The bottom line was that the more time I spent on the campus the more I was convinced that I was not supposed to be there. At this point my eyes were bloodshot and irritated from my contacts (and from my appearance I am sure many people thought I had been bawling my eyes out), I was still sweating from the heat and was working on almost 24 hours with no sleep.

From the plane
I lugged my baggage to my dorm building, called up my roommate and told her to come get me. My roommate was nice, upbeat and understanding. But I guess I needed something more than a stranger's sympathy as I blinked my gritty feeling eyes at my bare prison-esque room. I needed sleep at this point. I figured everything would be better in the morning. But it took hours to fall asleep, my roommate five feet away from me getting ready to go out partying; blow drying her hair, playing music off of her laptop and cranking the AC up as far as if could go.

I woke up at an indecent hour, much too early to have recovered at all. My eyes felt swollen and immovable. And my stomach was starting to eat itself I was so hungry. I needed to run away. To distance myself from this campus. I walked to a nearby gas station grabbed some food and walked aimlessly back. I saw a different side of the campus on my way back, what the place could have been for me if I was a different person. But it was not something I wanted.

I felt relieved when I made my decision to return home.

Monday, February 6, 2012


On a cold day in February when I was eight-years-old my family packed the car up and we started the twenty-two hour drive starting in Providence and ending at Tampa, Florida. The plan was to visit my 90-year-old great-grandmother.

The car ride was memorable due to the special torture we all went through. The tediousness of the length of the drive and monotonous pace at which the we drove. The cramped car was full of baggage, toys and whining children. There were seven of us in that vehicle trying to survive  At one point I did fall asleep, it was the restless sleep one experiences when trying to sleep in an awkward place, such as a small seat in an overly warm car. I remember waking up periodically thinking inanely that my feet felt heavy and warm.

My first glimpse of Florida was in the early hours of the morning. We had pulled up to a run-down gas station silhouetted against the backlight of a pink and orange sunrise. Palm trees stood solidly amid the brush just beyond the building. It felt like I was waking up to a new world; as if I was born right there on the pavement, in the weak light of the sun. I stretched and tested my weak legs.

Pier at Sutherland Crossing
The trip was composed of the delight of staying in a nice place that was so unlike our own house. The awkwardness of meeting our cold, stone-faced great-grandmother for the first time in person. The underwhelming experience of Disney World, full of long lines with disappointing ends. And the small thrill of seeing a stingray and blow fish just out of reach of our fingers' touch.

I had no real expectations about Tampa when we first went down there, that is probably why it has become something akin to home for me not at all a place full of disappointment. I never envision sunny, pristine beaches or glorious vistas when I think of Tampa. It may sound depressing that I think of rundown buildings, sterile 'modern' apartments full of elderly residents, scraggly palm trees and hot weather when I think of my trip, and subsequent trips thereafter, but to me that is just the perfect image.

Friday, February 3, 2012

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