(See why we’re called “The Ocean State.” We live smack in the middle.)
***Below is a piece of mine that ran on October 1, 2011, in the Providence Journal, the country’s oldest, continuously-run daily newspaper in the United States (another virtue of ours.) It is Rhode Island’s main newspaper. It hypes what many forget.
I straddle two geographic worlds: Western North Carolina and Rhode Island,
spending considerable time in each. The Tarheel State gets us for 5 months of
the year, after we chose it as ‘possible’ retirement location. We chose the
western sector because it has mountains, woodlands and rolling hills, a
topography we love.
But not all people want similarity; some look to radically
alter the lay of their land when families/careers no longer tether them to
For instance, I’ve got a brother who moved from New Haven, Connecticut, to the
deserts of Arizona, close to the Mexican border, whom I just can’t understand.
In his new digs, he shoots rattlers for pleasure (oh, they present and he’s
forced to shoot in defensive mode).
That’s not all he must guard against.He’s some 20 miles or so from that philanthropic rancher shot dead by a suspected drug-runner two years
ago. Now, I know the lure of being one of the Bonanza boys (that TV show in the
50’s where Dad, Adam, Hoss, and Little Joe ride horses endlessly around their
mega-ranch, the Ponderosa), but would I really want to live that life?
Absolutely not. Besides, I don’t do well in the heat and it appears to be an
almost-constant in that region.
Then, too, I have a sister who lives by a pristine lake in Maine and she’s fond
of saying: “There are two seasons in Maine–4th. of July and winter.” Another
favorite line of hers when she dashes from her car, to go into a store (during
the warmer season): “Cover me, honey (her husband), I’m going in.” It’s her
hyperbolic response to the swarms of mosquitoes and black flies that attack as
one goes about daily activity. I couldn’t live in Maine, for bugs are my bane.
They’re not merely attracted to me; they devour me.
Another brother lived until recently in that frenzied corridor right outside
Washington, DC. Despite being of an age when he can retire, he just took on a
new position in an even more congested area, Camden, New Jersey. It‘s safe to
say that while he protects patients from blockages to their physical well-being,
he hurdles impediments of another order–traffic that plugs road arteries for
I steer clear of these at all costs.They all left Rhode Island years ago, and
most likely, don‘t even recall our little state‘s positives, so I‘ll refresh.
It takes a mere 45 minutes to travel from stem to stern (note the nautical terms
for our “Ocean State.”). Weigh that figure against states like Virginia,
Pennsylvania, and Texas where kid passengers ask every few hours, “Are we there
yet?” 6 hours into the journey.
In traversing this tiniest New England state, one sees farmlands, cities,
fishing villages, rocky coastlines…in other words, an eclectic array. You’d need
to cover vast distances for that kind of diversity in other states.
We can actually swim in the waters of Rhode Island, for they don’t necessitate
one don a wetsuit (hear this, Maine?), nor do we fear shark attacks. Counter to
what the movie “Jaws” portrayed, shark attacks are rare here.
Rhode Island offers an array of great restaurants pegged to its ethnic diversity:
Italian, Mexican, Portuguese, French, to name a few. That’s not easy to get
Think “size matters” in pretty much all things? Not so, for Rhode Island’s
produced some heavy hitters on the national landscape: The “Today Show’s”
Meredith Vieira and Elisabeth Hasselbeck of “The View” are both natives of Rhode
Serious news hosts, John King of “John King, USA” and Christiane
Amanpour of “Sunday Morning with Christiane Amanpour” are both University of
Rhode Island alumna (Why aren‘t they on state billboards, advertising the
success of our state university?)
Finally, when all the above get too serious, we have Rhode Island’s Richard
Hatch, first winner of the television “Survivor” series, to provide comic relief
(even if he‘s served time for tax evasion), as well as Seth MacFarlane‘s
lampooning of a ‘typical’ dysfunctional family in “Family Guy.“
Yes, Rhode Island cuts a wide swath of influence that easily dwarfs its size–
an oxymoron of majestic proportion whose too-frequent negative press ignores the positive.
Now, feel free to tell us your own best memories or associations with this littlest state in the nation.