Monday, October 06, 2003


Because we haven't gotten desperate enough to go on the Disney Cruise, we went to Newport, Rhode Island this weekend with the kids.

I spent Friday sorting out fall clothes for the kids. The pre-packing chores. I would love to have the kids' clothes all neatly arranged in separate bins labeled by age and season. But that requires a basement. So, I have some clothes stuffed under the bed, some on top of the closet, some in my parents' basement. I spent Friday flushing the dresser and closet of summer shorts and tight t-shirts, and replacing them with sweaters and warm pjs.

The job is still half done. Jonah's old clothes must be returned to my parents' basement. (I'm sure they'll be overjoyed to see me arrive with more junk.) And the baby's old clothes have been placed in three bags: stuff for friends, stuff for Good Will, and stuff that I love too much/maybe someday I'll have another.

That took all day on Friday, so there was much frantic packing on Saturday morning. I put the TV on for two hours while I shoved things in bags. I had to. The kids were tearing the place apart, which is hugely distracting when you're trying to neatly pile up stacks of t-shirts and underwear. Being anal requires concentration.

I was wound pretty tightly as we left the city. Tough week. Being forced to sit still in a car for three hours was a good thing. No computers. No dirty bathroom to annoy me. No phone. I put on awful kiddie music, so no one would talk to me.

Newport is a large island with a rocky coast and a tremendous history. The center of town is full of 250 year old houses all huddled together. Each house has a little plaque with a name of the house and the year it was built. The street names are out of a Steinbeck novel, like Purgatory Road. We walked through some old graveyards (Capt. Wickham, Age 25, 1790), until the children began defiling the graves.

The center of town has been ravaged by cutesy shops. Ye Olde Quaint Crap. Pottery and hand blown glass and dangly earrings. You just have to look past that nonsense to see the old town square on the hill, the narrow streets, the customs house.

By the water's edge, there were some great outdoor bars to eat and lounge. Watch the yachts, drink a pint, and eat chow-dah. I bet you could blow hours of time just hanging and drinking. Of course, we wouldn't really know since we were with the kids. Damn.

We took the little savages out to dinner Saturday night. It was more down scale than the cool lounging place by the water. But they had a local ale and, of course, chow-dah.

Steve and I love chow-dah. Almost as much as we love saying it. Say it with me. Chow-dah. And any trip to New England involves eating bucket loads of it.

The savages, who had been sorely abused by a three hour drive, were not so cooperative in the restaurant. Steve and I took turns eating and minding the baby outside the restaurant.

After a little more exploring, we headed back to hotel. The kids fell asleep. We read by the light of the bathroom.

On Sunday, we went to church at St. Mary's, an old gothic church where JFK was married. Small and perfect.

For lunch, sandwich and chow-dah.

Since Jonah had stoically endured mass, we stopped off for coastal exploring on the other end of the island. Right along the water stretched a great grassy park with extreme kiting. I got some shots of Jonah with long tailed kites diving behind his head. I hope they turn out. Jonah and I ran across the grass and then over to the water. Newport doesn't have sand. Jagged, angry boulders and pools of tidal water instead.

We collected all sorts of "treasure" on the beach. 10 round rocks. 2 sea shells. 1 nasty feather.

Then we drove around the Gilded Age mansions that overlook the dramatic coast. We knew that the savages would only allow us to check out one, so we chose the biggest, Vanderbilt's Breakers. (Required reading: Edith Wharton.)

A mistake. Savages without a proper nap. In marble rooms that have a marvelous echo. On a guided 50 minute tour where they do not allow wandering off. A Germanic tour guide. With no trains whatsoever. After I finish this blog, I have to write a polite note to the RI historical society and ask for a $30 refund.

After beating a quick retreat from the tour, we roamed around the grounds of the estate. Actually, I think the mansions are better from the outside. The grounds and the architecture are still breathtaking. The faux-French furniture inside not so much.

It was a beautiful day and we had fun rolling around the grass of the mansion. Lots of photo ops. Steve and I laughed as we ducked behind a bush to change Ian's poopy diaper. Hmmm. What would Commodore Vanderbilt have said?

The rest of the trip was fine and good. We got back this afternoon. Threw on a skirt and ran off to school.

I have 100 e-mails to sort through. I've already seen some good links and some good candidates for Tuesday reader mail day.

Lileks is in NYC. Check him out for descriptions of landmarks that I've long since taken for granted.

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