In mid-April during the early days of pandemic isolation, my little brother called to tell me about a place along the south coast of Rhode Island that very few people frequented. It was a little hideout he’d found and he was wanting to tell me about the place to hang out and avoid people and walk Sailor. He had good intentions.
“So, go down toward Watch Hill, get off Route 1 after you take a right near my place, after that take your first left,” Pat said before I interrupted him.
“Wait, what left, before the Wilcox? What the hell are you talking about. You lost me at the loop,” I said.
“Joey, listen to me, take that left and then get on the first right when you loop off 1 and head south and ya take a right where the old barn was. Then, go all the way down past the red house and go over the little bridge, but be careful and don’t pass the road after the bridge. I’m telling ya, no one knows how to get this place. Hey, keep this between us,” he said.
“Pat, listen to me! Do I take the left right after your place and then loop? Or do I loop at the next turn off. I’m baffled. Where the hell are you sending me.” And so it went, until he finally explained his Rhode Island-style convoluted directions. I finally found the place and it was a score; my little brother was right. It was a hideout. These days, this pandemic has forced us to look in our backyards for places to avoid crowds.
In my early years as a kid in Pawtucket, around 1964, a bunch of us kids built a fort in the woods near the horse stables of the Narragansett Racetrack off Newport Avenue. We rigged up a hideout in a huge unused culvert and also rigged up a hawk swing. It was a cool little place for a bunch of kids looking to raise some Cain and smoke burners we boosted from our parents’ stash. And, we did other covert operations like breaking into train cars at the rail head to clip some soda. (Cindy was right in the mix of this gang of young reprobates.) Hey, what are kids to do in a small working-class town; we had to entertain ourselves and be away from any adult supervision at all costs. (In hindsight, adult supervision sounds like an oxymoron. Just sayin’.)
In 1965, the Houlihan family hit Point Judith when my dad wrote a check for a summer place right on the spot which served his family for the next few decades.
“Hey Joey, this is a hideout,” said a retired Coastie from my hometown who I used to sail with in the 70s.
The guy was referring to the aforementioned summer shack we had in Breakwater Village back in the old days. Paul was a steeplejack who would flop there when he was in town, and we’d do some sailing, play cards, drink beer and smoke Camels. The summer shack was a bare-bones deal that my dad scored for short money to get his kids out of Pawtucket in the summer. I lived in the place after college with my border collie, Tinker. It had no running water, and a small heater. In those days I was working at the Point Judith Fisherman’s Co-op in Galilee, and could shower there after work. And, I had a locker at the dock where I could leave my funky work clothes. Back then all of Point Judith and Galilee were filled with little hideouts—Block Island was, too. Over the decades the coastal population jacked up and now this peninsula is no longer the hideout it once was when I was a kid, and many local folks I know would concur. However, for the people who live in this coastal area today, they are surely to believe that they indeed have a hideout. It’s all relative; a hideout is in the mind of the beholder.
Being a Rhode Islander born and bred of old school Yankee stock, I’ve become familiar with cool hideouts all over the state—it’s a small place. Moreover, I’ve found great hideouts on Narragansett Bay where I’ve been sailing since the 60s. Parks, libraries, coves, and harbors, are places I go to escape people. Crowds were alright when I was a young guy, but these days when the herd goes one way, I go the other way. Avoid crowds is my mantra. Sometimes I’ll drift in my sailboat— which I call my Shed—and read, observe and write stuff in notebooks. It’s a great all purpose and moveable hideout; especially during a pandemic. This summer has been a wild ride thus far as people are scrambling to hit the coast which I believe the general population perceives is a hideout. Subsequently, with so many people escaping to stake out terrain at the south coast, what we now have is a communal coastal hideout.
The Houlihan brothers are likeminded guys and we learned some simple values from our parents. They were happy as clams on their little deck at the Breakwater Village shack, while watching boats round Point Judith, or on their porch at home in Pawtucket. In his later years my dad would sit in and old beach chair in the backyard under a tree, and listen to the radio while reading a book. Simple guy. My brother recently rigged up a tent in the woods behind his house in Charlestown. His daughters call it his “fort.” Pat will go there to his hideout after a hectic and crowded surf session at Matunuck or Point Judith. Hey, like father, like son.
“Head south down Route 1, and as far as the Narrow Lane sign, and you’ll notice a clearing. Take that right and go 1.4 miles north,’ said an island resident.
“Ok, 1.4, got it. Then what,” I said.
“Take the left at the cairn and head up the hill, it’s tight so beep at every turn,” he said. “We’re at the top of the hill, the key is under the woodpile west of the porch.”
“Tight road, beep, woodpile. Got it,” I said
“Beep twice, it’s very narrow,” he said. “Take Cindy there. It’s peaceful.”
I found it.