Since mid-March the world as we know flipped over on us, and now we are all seeking to find a sense of normality and stability in our daily lives. We all need and want routines, schedules, timetables, appointments, and deadlines. Things get done because of these daily structures, and because of these structures of time we are able to experience and enjoy our time off from these constraints when they are lifted. The following are some observations involving doing normal things in an abnormal time in our collective history.
Recently, I took a friend sailing who hails from Gulfport, Mississippi. Booth is a guy who has done some sailboat racing on the Gulf, and has sailed out of Newport; however, he’s never sailed north of the Pell Bridge. On the day we sailed out of Newport Harbor we had 10 to 15 knots of northeast wind with clear and brisk conditions with no humidity. As we sailed north toward Mount Hope Bay we discussed sailboat design, racing, J-Boats, the Herreshoff Sailing Museum, women, and our dads. There was no mention of a pandemic; it was simply a couple of guys sailing a boat, eating some grub, having some yuks, and letting the conversation roll as they sailed aimlessly in the bay. Normal stuff. Fun stuff.
My wife acquired a grill about a month ago and one night she rigged it up for us to cook some burgers when I got home from the dock. I became the grill guy! I think the last time I cooked anything on a grill, it was on an old school Hibachi grill my folks had at the summer house back in the 60s. I’m not a cook, but I’ve got to tell you flipping some raw beef, and burning some pre-cooked corn on the cob on the grill and then eating the grub on the porch watching people leaving Galilee, was a blast! Now, this is how the bride and I love to ahem, dine out. More normal and fun stuff
My wife and our neighbor Pam Hull love to do the flower thing. They love to dig in the dirt and plant flowers and they really know their stuff regarding how to place certain plants next to the right plant. (I know nothing of this kind of thing.) When I come home from work at around dusk, the girls will be sitting on the deck, and they’ll be sipping a glass of wine talking to passersby who compliment them on how cool and beautiful their flowers look. Some times I’ll tell people that I’m a landscape architect and a descendant of Fredrick Law Olmstead and that I inherited his genius, and give my wife pointers as to how the flowers should be juxtaposed to each other. With my mask on people can’t see the smirk on my face and I can see that they almost believe me. Now, this is normal for the girls to have a sweet flower set up, And, it’s very normal for me to be a wiseass. Normal and fun stuff, squared.
Reading a good book for me is always a normal thing to do. I just finished Woody Allen’s “Apropos of Nothing,” and it was fun to read; his voice jumps off the page and I was chortling and guffawing aloud. Allen was a sharp Brooklyn guy, who at a young age had the guts to cross the bridge to Manhattan and learn from the best comedy writers of our time. Allen has an incredibly absurd and subtle sense of humor, and we can see how he was inspired by the wit of S. J. Perelman—a Providence guy. I actually student taught at Classical High School up in Providence. Perelman went to Classical before he attended Brown, and that’s how I learned about him. The guy was prolific, snarky and very funny. Moreover, Woody, Larry David, Seinfeld and a passel of other funny comedy guys were inspired by his rapier wit. I love reading about creative writers and how they earned their bones and who their heroes were. Normal stuff.
A new and normal summer routine I’ve taken on is taking my boyo Maddox for his morning scramble down in Charlestown. He hops in the Jeep and we hit the road so Maddox can go raise some terrier hell with his pals at the dog park. Sailor lays low at home, and Cindy will walk him around Galilee later in the day when it’s cooler—there’s too much stimulus for Sailor at the dog park. Yup, dog stuff is always normal.
Going to work is always a series of Hallmark moments in the busy summer months; things can get hectic at the ferry docks. But this summer has many folks spinning their heads while coping with the strain of the safety protocols resulting from the pandemic. (Some folks are doing better than others with this current situation. Just sayin’.) Businesses are looking for normalcy and stability while they move through this awkward summer season. There is one thing I noticed last weekend that brought me right back to the 70s, 80s, and 90s. There were long lines of people waiting to get on the ferry on a stiflingly hot July day. That, is normal stuff, as people need a respite from the heat.
Finally, I wrote a little novella which will be available soon on the island. “Tangled in the Web,” is a simple little beach read set in Newport and Block Island about a guy named Zane Wade, who’s looking for love on the Web. What could possibly go wrong? Yup, more normal stuff.