One of the Ways Rhode Island Gets Ya

Mark Patinkin’s recent piece, “18 Things To See In R.I. Before You Die,” highlights one of the ways in which a small place like Rhode Island can grab you: When people talk about places (or events) around the state, you’re likely to have something to add to the conversation.
For example, the second thing on Patinkin’s list is “the draggers at Point Judith.” Not only do I recognize some of the boats that he mentions as among those that I once unloaded, but I actually devoted a chapter of my novel to describing the dockworker experience, which includes some mild griping about tourists looking at us as if we were an exhibit.
Further down the list, Patinkin mentions Gooseberry Beach on Ocean Drive in Newport. As it happens, from the vantage point of my current jobsite, I’ve observed telling differences between those who gather on Gooseberry and those who gather at its (private) neighbor, Hazard Beach. The Gooseberry crowd spreads out, while across the divide, the private-beach–goers huddle closely together, many under large umbrellas. Perhaps a future chapter in an as yet unwritten (and as yet unwritable) novel will make a symbol of that, plumbing the forces that push the latter into such a tight group.
I’ve found Rhode Island to be rife with natural settings on which an author may draw, and I think there’s a corollary for non-writers. A sense of the place and a sense of being part of a place. Never underestimate the draw of shared experiences, or of places that make them likely.

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