Day 601: Woonsocket Rocket

The day’s destination was Woonsocket, on the Rhode Island’s northern border with Massachusetts. When they left Wickford, Laetitia and her group skirted around the heavily populated Providence area on the freeway to the west, making a stop at Snake Den State Park to hike. Named for a canyon-like fissure that presumably was the winter home of snakes, the park features a working nineteenth century farm and numerous woodland trails. Afterward, the group hiked along Blackstone River Gorge before arriving at Woonsocket.

The city has a population of around 43,000. It was primarily a textile mill town until the Great Depression in the 1930s. About 48 percent of its residents are of French descent, often referring to their hometown as “La ville la plus française aux États-Unis”—the most French city in the United States. On arrival, Laetitia and her group toured the extensive array of historic buildings and districts in the city. The bar gossip that Laetitia turned into the limerick of the day was unreliable as usual, but she used it anyway. When her guests sometimes suggested that Laetitia mostly chose destinations because their names made interesting rhymes, she just smiled.

A man from the town of Woonsocket
Made love at the speed of a rocket
From first until last
It happened so fast
That no one was able to clock it.

Day 600: Almost Day Off

Laetitia was in a good mood as she walked down Raglan Road in the direction of the Emerald Victorian. It was another almost day off, and she was going to a party that afternoon.

Once a year, her friend Morton hosted a lawn party at his lake home. The house actually belonged to his grandparents, with whom he was living until he could afford a place of his own. The quid pro quo for Mort’s grandparents was that they got to attend a party of the twenty-something set that was far livelier than the staid affairs of their contemporaries, which ended at 9:00 p.m. Morton’s grandparents’ lawn was a great party setting, and they contributed to the array of fine food and wine, which was served buffet style. Everyone wore casual clothes, and there was lots of witty repartee.

When she reached the Emerald Victorian, Laetitia posted a limerick to the Mind’s Eye website while the coffee was brewing. Then she took out her book and settled into a comfortable overstuffed chair in the library to read until it was time to go home and get ready for the party.

I love those lawn parties at Mort’s
Filled with trash talk and witty retorts
They’ve food that is fine
And wonderful wine
And all the guests come in their shorts.

Day 599: Black and White Plight

Laetitia and her group crossed back over Narragansett Bay on the Jamestown Bridge, stopping for hiking and wildlife viewing at John H. Chafee Nature Preserve and Ryan Park on their way to Wickford, Rhode Island. The village was settled around 1637, and in the years that followed became an important port and shipbuilding center. Many of the original homes and buildings are intact, so the group spent the greater part of the afternoon exploring the town.

It was a lovely village, but at least one resident found something to go on about. At the bar during happy hour, an elderly man named Rick Ford complained about the paucity of old black and white films available in the village. When he left, Laetitia wrote the limerick of the day.

A fan of old films is old Rick Ford
Who especially likes Mary Pickford
But sad is his plight
For films black and white
Are rare in his hometown of Wickford.

Day 598: Newport Sport

As Laetitia walked down Raglan Road toward the Emerald Victorian, her thoughts were about the evening before. Her grandmother and her contemporaries, “the girls,” had invited her to join them for dinner at one of Hibernia’s restaurants. The conversation always began with one of the girls asking Laetitia what she was doing, and Laetitia politely murmuring something about an Internet company. That response always ended the subject, since the girls didn’t know enough about the Internet to discuss it.

Laetitia’s grandmother had her usual enigmatic smile and then, out of the blue, began talking about Newport, as though she knew that was where Laetitia was touring currently. All of the girls had been there at one time or another, and Uncle Ralph had gone to Naval Officer Candidate School there in the 1960s. The topics ranged from lawn tennis to Newport’s Jazz Festival and then to its Folk Festival, where, in 1965 to his undying shame, Bob Dylan went electric. Then the discussion drifted to Flanders and Swann, the British comedy duo who charmed audiences with their songs and monologues when the girls were growing up. None of the girls had seen the duo perform, but their parents had their songs on vinyl records. The songs tended to be a bit naughty, which automatically made them appealing to young people. One of their favorites was “Have Some Madeira, M’Dear.”

Still thinking about the evening before, Laetitia put the coffee on, went into the Emerald Victorian’s library, and turned on the computer. She found that the Flanders and Swann recordings were out of print, but she was able to find several videos online. She listened to them while enjoying a steaming cup of coffee and planning the day’s tour.

Several of the members of the day’s group were tennis players who wanted to visit the grass courts at Newport Casino Lawn Tennis Club and the International Tennis Hall of Fame. Afterward the group did the Cliff Walk and visited the “summer cottages” built by the East Coast elite during the “Gilded Age,” when Newport was the summer playground of the wealthy. At happy hour that afternoon, the gossip was about Joe, a libertine who might have served as the prototype for “Have Some Madeira, M’Dear.” He became the subject of the limerick of the day.

Joe enticed pretty girls in Newport
With some wine and some cheese just for sport,
From him you might hear,
“Some Madeira, m’Dear?”
But he sometimes serves baked brie and port.