Tag Archives: Rhode Island

Rhode Rules


It’s not that I haven’t been penning blog posts in recent months, it’s just that I haven’t been posting them to my own blog.

“Guest blogging” elsewhere brings with it many pluses and minuses. There’s no doubt it puts your work and voice in front of new audiences, but it also tends to leave your own blog vacant, dry and silently screaming for fresh content and visitors. Veteran bloggers tell me that the first rule of blogging is that if you have no content, then just trick someone else into writing a “guest post”  for you. And if no one is fool enough to accept your offer (as I frequently do), then simply re-post links to someone else’s work with the same enthusiasm that you might use if you had suddenly discovered Captain Kidd’s lost treasure. “Oh Wow..! Check out this unbelievable blog post on… blah… blah…. blah…”

Hmmm. But what if I could accomplish both? What if I invited myself to guest blog on my own blog, and then simply stole my own original content from somewhere else at the same time? Brilliant!

If there is no crying in baseball, and the first rule of fight club is do not talk about fight club — hey,wait. This is the Internet. There are no rules!

They're more what you'd call guidelines than actual rules...

They’re more like what you’d call guidelines than actual rules…

So without further ado, here are two of my blog posts originally published on Nebraska romance novelist Annette Snyder‘s nifty little blog, “Fifty Authors from Fifty States.” The first was published in September 2013, the other just a week ago.

“Oh Wow..! Check out these unbelievable blog posts on…”

BIG HAPPENINGS IN LITTLE RHODY (by Steven R. Porter) — September 30, 2012
I’m writing this piece near the mythical dark swamp of Chepachet, Rhode Island…”

IT’S A RHODE ISLAND THING (by Steven R. Porter) — August 25, 2013
 “Yo, nobody can’t tell me I don’t feel like no meatball grinder, me.”

But I must warn you. In a couple of weeks, this blog will be the only thing saving you all from the forthcoming zombie apocalypse. Stay tuned.

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Manisses


Manisses by Steven R. Porter

If you want to get technical, summer ends on September 21 each year. Therefore, my new summer novel Manisses is only a few weeks late…. so stop complaining.

“Manisses” is a Narragansett Indian term meaning “island of the little god” and refers to the island we all know and love now as Block Island. (For all you foreigners, Block Island lies just a few miles off the southern Rhode Island coastline.) Although the book’s setting is fictional, I draw on many of Block Island’s legends and true history to bring you the story of the allegedly clairvoyant Clement Bradford, his family, a missing child, and a strange little doll named Otto.

The inspiration for this novel came from many sources, but the setting was selected after I visited the island myself last year. Block Island might be the most historic place you have never heard of, and has played a supporting role in almost every major historic moment our country has experienced. Even most locals aren’t aware of the island’s significance. It made for an ideal setting.

This novel is my second — the first being Confessions of the Meek and the Valiant. Response to my first novel was so overwhelming I couldn’t wait to try it again. Writing fiction is a blast. The book is available in paperback now from Amazon, and in most e-book formats around the web. It will be in bookstores soon. Enjoy!

Manisses
1-47835-480-1
Paperback: $17.00
e-book: $4.99

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You Look Great! Are You Sick?


Steven R. PorterI lost one hundred pounds. Intentionally. On purpose. I am not dying of any horrible diseases. If you don’t believe me, you can read the story in the Providence Journal, because we know they wouldn’t print it if it wasn’t true. (Oops, sorry, no you can’t do that anymore.  You have to pay for an unprintable, unreadable, PDF, e-version now. So go to the library.)

My inclusion in the story, which was mostly coincidence, was part of a P.R. feature they were doing on the National Weight Control Registry, for whom I once filled out a survey.  At some point, I accidentally checked-off that I would be willing to speak to reporters. I didn’t know the ProJo had any of those left.

I was also contacted by Roy Wallack, a journalist, exercise guru, and contributor on fitness to the Los Angeles Times. He is working on a book on weight loss, and shared some interesting conclusions of his own with me, based on a recent Harvard University study.

It took two years, but now, it seems everyone wants to know how I did it. It was actually much easier than I thought it would be. So people will stop asking, here is some advice you, too, can follow to lose your own 100 pounds.

Step 1 — Do not follow my advice. I am not a doctor, I have never played one on TV and what I know about medicine I learned from the Internet and those exploitative shows about conjoined twins on The Learning Channel. I have a primary care physician at the moment  who I like, but the last one treated me with a backpack full of questionable pharmaceuticals, soaked my insurance company, then dumped me and his practice to open a weight-loss clinic. I am medically ignorant, yet abashed by the irony.

Eric Cartman

I am not fat. I am big boned.

Step 2 — Gain 100 pounds — You can’t lose what you don’t have, and if you only weigh 150 pounds to start, this will likely kill you, which may not be a good thing, unless you are that ass who cut me off near Route 37 in Garden City last week. Go eat some lettuce, you scrawny, emaciated  bastard! Gaining 100 pounds can be an enjoyable hobby  — I once polished-off  48 oz’s of prime rib at Austin’s Steakhouse in Albuquerque, and was rewarded by the restaurant with a free dessert — and the dessert was so good, I ate my wife’s, too. Statistically, the weight I lost is equivalent to that of an entire European supermodel (not one of those cute, hair-blowing-in-the-wind, aloof-looking ones, but one of those skanky, sunken-eyed, heroin chic ones). My personal weight gain occurred gradually, 4 or 5 pounds per year  across 25 years. Those who see me every day barely noticed the change. Being 6 ‘4″, I was often told I “carried it well.” And I now know that “carried it well” is a euphemism for “holy crap, you’re fat.”

Step 3 — Eat Less — Don’t put so much food in your mouth.

Step 4 — Don’t Worry About the Holidays. I learned that there are 3,500 calories in a pound of fat. So if you blame those high-calorie Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners as the reason you gained 100 pounds, put on your magic hat and polish off a few more pies, Frosty. I have learned that weight loss and maintenance are about the other 1,000 meals you eat the rest of the year, and whether you have good, daily, balanced eating habits. So instead, put down the Diet Coke and enjoy the eggnog,  then go home and throw away the bag of Ruffles and boxes of Reese’s Pieces hidden in the broom closet.

Step 5 — Run around More. Exercise sucks. In New England, it’s either too cold or too hot to be outdoors, and since no one knows how to drive anyway, every walking or running activity is abound with the stench of danger, fear, doom and Johnston’s Central Landfill. (Little known fact: Hitler could have used the Central Landfill to help build his master race! Just ask our local State Rep. Mike Chippendale…)

Johnston's Central Landfill: Creating a fuhror.

And if you elect to frequent the local gyms, you are more than likely going to bring home  athlete’s foot, head lice, a beefy same-sex date, or all three.  But exercise is a critical and key ingredient in the weight loss brew… but not for reasons you might think.

That recent study out of Harvard University I mentioned suggests that the reason exercise is important as a component of weight loss has little to do with calorie-burning or the alleged euphoric feeling that the compulsive exercise addicts claim (with a straight face) you get from working out. The vast majority of those surveyed who maintained significant weight loss relied on some sort of consistent exercise program. And the most popular? Walking! But wouldn’t you need to walk half way around the planet to burn that many calories? Well it seems that regular, repetitive exercise creates a physiological change in the part of the brain that is responsible for executive function. Simply put, exercising may improve concentration and determination, as an unexpected side effect, not only helping you stay on a calorie-reduction program, but also helping you accomplish great things, start businesses, or finish life-long projects… like writing the Great American Novel.

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Dumps, Bumps & Mugwumps


Working two full-time jobs can take a toll on one’s free time, health, family, household chores — and more importantly — one’s blog. I can’t believe it’s been over two months since my last update, so  to clean out the filing cabinet and get myself caught up, here comes a whole flock of mini blog posts. Ignore them one at a time, or all at once, at your leisure.

Buy Local RI

Shopping Maul

Buy Local — Why do I seem to be the only one not to get the buy local campaigns? On its face, they sound like a great idea — why spend my hard-earned dollar in Providence Place or on Amazon.com  if I can support one of the bustling three or four stores occasionally open right here in Chepachet! I get that part. But doesn’t “shop local” also mean that people from Worcester or Putnam will stop coming to Chepachet, and shop in their own obsolete, dreary downtowns?  The effort all  seems circular to me and represents a collective waste of energy  better focused on improving prices and service.

Things That Go Bump in the Night — An era ended quietly this Fall when The Town removed the speed bumps from the end of Absalona Hill Road near Route 44. No longer will residents be able to sheer off their mufflers and set their minivans onto their front grills as they speed through the countryside. The nearly invisible, badly-signed bumps have been the bane of commuters since they were installed, and we will now, sadly, have only our repair bills and memories to honor them.

Steven R. Porter

"Through tattered clothes, small vices do appear."

In the News — Eagle-eyed friends, relatives, and those who still pay attention to local TV news coverage may have caught a glimpse of yours truly on a number of local stations last week including Channels 11, 12, 10, 6 as well as www.GoLocalProv.com, rallying the cause of my new employer Big Brothers Big Sisters, who were recently victimized by the theft of bins and donations meant to fund mentoring programs for kids. Can there be any act more shameless than stealing from needy children? Perhaps not. But in the spirit of this season of shamelessness,  look for me to make another surprise, self-indulgent media appearance in the feature section of next Tuesday’s Providence Journal.

Oscar the Grouch

Trash Talking

Dumps — Is an unpopular “Pay As You Throw” trash program the inevitable result of a poorly operated transfer station, an irrelevant Town Council whose messages are ignored, an apathetic populace too lazy and self-indulgent to sort out their own bottles and cans, or perhaps all three? Despite the grumbling, evidence is clear that “Pay As You Throw” programs not only work but show dramatically positive results — and if you don’t like it, you can just dump your stuff over the border into the woods in Burrillville.

Chronic Town

It's the End of the World As We Know It

REM — In September, after 31 years together, REM announced it was disbanding. The news came as a shock to many who thought the band disbanded years ago. But no matter how irrelevant and uninspired their songs had become in the modern era, their influence on rock is permanent, and deserving of Rolling Stone Magazine once calling them the greatest rock band in the world. REM invented and defined the sound of music for my generation. So beware, that ear-splitting sound you hear in the middle of the night may not be the screeching mating call of the fisher cat after all, but might just be me with my guitar in my basement belting out one last cover of, What’s the Frequency Kenneth.

Rep. Mike Chippendale

Rep Chippendale: Dancing Around the Real Issue

Connecticut Junkies — A rash of serial break-ins in the Foster area in October inspired State Representative Mike Chippendale to alert his friends and constituents, via email,to be alert and lock their doors —  a bit of absolutely wise advice, of which my family has dutifully followed. However, the eyebrow-raising part of his message surprisingly identified the bad guys, “...when we see serial break-ins, it’s usually junkies from over the CT border…” Egad! Who knew all those old people driving down 395 to Foxwoods were heroin addicts! Considering Foster has had its own share of serious crime stories this year, and the recent and troubling raid in Chepachet that netted marijuana, cocaine and two semi-automatic pistols, Rep. Chippendale’s finger pointing at “them” and not “us” not only demonizes whole communities who are more than likely innocent, but also provides a false sense of security in our own communities where the real culprits may lie.

The War on Christmas

Out on a Limb — I have been baffled at the attention everyone is giving Governor Chafee’s big, dead evergreen at the Rhode Island State House. Rather than express my opinion on whether  to call it a “Holiday Tree” or a “Christmas Tree” I’ll say this. I know how hard it is to motivate people to volunteer, coach Little League, help at their schools or mentor a child in need. So when people who are enamored with their own self-righteousness are suddenly motivated to show up and rudely interrupt the Rhode Island Children’s Chorus with a protest-inspired rendition of Oh, Christmas Tree, I know, at least, what I want to call them.

The New Book — Many have asked, and yes, my new novel is underway! But it will not be a sequel to Confessions of the Meek and the Valiant. The new book is titled Manisses and if successful, I hope it will change how people view history and their role in it. But don’t worry, it won’t be some boring textbook — there will be Indians, pirates, spiritual channelers, shipwrecks, lobsters and lots of other fun stuff, too. I promise.

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Making an Author You Can’t Refuse


I owe a tremendous thanks to Liz and her staff at Brown and Hopkins Country Store in Chepachet for allowing me, my wife, friends, book buyers and our rum pudding to invade and occupy her shop for our “Book Release Launch Party” on August 20th.

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If you were one of those who found something better to do on an 80 degree, sunny, summer afternoon, here’s what you missed (besides the chance to buy the next Great American Novel) —  rum pudding, rhubarb crumble, Panforte,  Gamberi e Fagioli, Insalata di Olive, Crema Formaggio all’Olio, Irish soda bread and much more.  All the Irish and Italian recipes were homemade (by Dawn) and were more interesting and popular than the novel’s author.

So if you still need a copy of Confessions of the Meek and the Valiant, Brown and Hopkins has them in stock, as does Amazon in both paperback and for download to your Kindle. And if you would prefer one signed and personalized, I will be doing several bookstore and library readings over the coming weeks, including Barnes & Noble in Warwick and Tatnuck Booksellers in Westborough, Mass. (near Worcester). My next event is at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, September 13 at the Lincoln Public Library. The complete schedule is posted on my website, www.stevenporter.com.

Thank you again to everyone who came by and helped Dawn and I enjoy a great day!

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Salty, Larry and Jerry Mathers as The Beaver


Salty Brine & Larry Kruger

Salty Brine & Larry Kruger

The passing of Rhode Island radio legend Larry Kruger, along with the recent celebration of Rhode Island’s two over-hyped yet venerable parades — Chepachet’s Ancients and Horribles and Bristol’s Annual 4th of July Celebration — revived an old, repressed memory within me much like one might recall a greasy Chelo’s cheeseburger the morning after eating one.

First a little background for those who are not fluent in the finer points of Rhode Island culture. Larry Kruger is a member of the Rhode Island Radio Hall of Fame, and is best known as Salty Brine’s sidekick on Providence’s famed WPRO morning show. (Larry would be the guy who read all the other “no school’ announcements before Salty would chortle his hackneyed “No School Foster-Glocester” tag line.) Before the Internet era, this was the only way to find out of school was in session following a big snowstorm  — critical information to anyone under age 12.

Back in 1987 while I was on summer break from URI, I and two friends volunteered to drive golf carts for the VFW in the Bristol 4th of July Parade on behalf of several disabled WWII veterans unable to march. It was my second visit to the Bristol parade. A few years earlier, I worked as a frustrated balloon vendor, selling helium-filled fun to drunks at 4:30 in the morning. (I would learn later, that both Chepachet’s and Bristol’s parades are steeped in an age-old tradition of alcohol binging, except in Bristol, the imbibed town fathers don’t drink enough to put on lingerie and join in the parade themselves.)

Ancients & Horribles Parade, 2007

Eat, Drink and be Mary.

I reached the Bristol parade route on time, claimed my golf cart, and took my position in the staging area. A sharply uniformed veteran approached with a cane, assisted by two friends who eased the man, painfully, into my cart. I regret that I don’t remember his name, but he told me he served in the Pacific theater during the war, and had received his Purple Heart at Guadalcanal. He was a stern, thin and proud man, and we chatted for about a half hour as we waited for our turn to join the esteemed parade procession.

As the parade began I was moved by the broad show of patriotism and support these veterans received. The parade route was jam-packed with happy, sweaty, sun block-lathered spectators, and at the site of our small group, without prompting, everyone would jump to their feet and cheer. My veteran waved stiffly, without even a hint of emotion. It was both emotional and inspiring to watch this play out every tenth of a mile.

And then the crowd started chanting, “Salty… Salty… Salty.”

Coming up behind me, on foot at full gallop, was Salty and Larry. The WPRO morning show team were late, victims of the notorious Metacom Avenue traffic,  and had missed their corporate float which was somewhere up near the front of the long procession.

“We need your cart,” Larry said with a sense of panic in his smooth, easily recognizable voice. “You have to get us to our float.”

“I can’t do that.” I responded. “The cart belongs to the VFW. There isn’t room in the cart for all of us. And I can’t leave this veteran behind.”

Before I was aware of what was happening, Larry had pulled the confused yet cooperative veteran out of his seat and helped Salty into it. Larry then hopped into the back of the cart and ordered me forward with the wave of one arm like Custer ordering his horse to charge at Little Bighorn.

“Hurry! We’re in big trouble.”

Without any real options, or considering the consequences, I floored it. The little electric motor hissed. I turned to glance back at my veteran and saw he looked a bit confused and was now limping through the street, chin up, still stoically waving to the adoring crowd. Unfortunately, I realized later, his cane was lying across the floor of my cart.

Deathmobile

The Deathmobile

Eager to return back to my honored and proper place in the convoy, I floored my vehicle into the belly of parade itself, reminiscent of the final scene in Animal House. Salty grabbed my arm and Larry grabbed the back of my shirt. I darted in, about, around and through all manner of parade participant, dodging high school tuba players, skidding past angry fez-adorned Shriners in those adorable little cars of theirs, and almost squashing a little girl holding one of those loathed helium filled balloons I used to sell. When in full pageantry, I discovered the parade route is very narrow. A cheer would rise every few moments as the crowd recognized my uncomfortable, flailing passengers. I believe they assumed we were just part of the show.

“Hey, look! There goes Salty!” People shouted as we zipped past. Salty waved and forced smiles from behind his terror. No one recognized Larry.

It took some time to reach the big WPRO float, a gaudily decorated flatbed trailer pulled be a large Kenworth cab. Salty and Larry hopped out of my cart and climbed through a waterfall of red, white and blue streamers to board the trailer without any acknowledgment or thank you. At least relieved I had delivered my payload alive and unharmed, I drove back through the parade to re-locate my hobbling veteran, hoping he wasn’t lying in a gutter somewhere. If this man could survive Guadalcanal, he would be OK alone in Bristol.., probably.

I found the old man well and reloaded him into my cart. He didn’t speak to me for the rest of the parade, no doubt miffed at my unwillingness to defend him from the impetuous deejays. We pushed forward to the end, and as before, exuberant cheers and applause rose from the masses and greeted our every turn. When we reached the parade’s finish line, it was clear the poor, old gentleman was tired and had had enough. It had been an exhausting day. Other volunteers helped him out of the cart, and he politely thanked me as he hobbled away, cane back in hand. In the rear of the cart, I noticed he had forgot his bag.

Jerry Mathers as The Beaver

Angry Beaver

“Sir, wait… you forgot your bag!” I yelled.

“Sorry. That’s not my bag.” He tersely responded back.

Inside, I found a cardigan sweater and two neatly packed lunches. Oh, great. The bag belonged to Salty and Larry.

I looked ahead at the crowd which now, with hundreds of colorful parade participants randomly mingling together, resembled a scene copied from the pages of a Richard Scarry children’s book. I felt a responsibility to rush ahead and find the WPRO float to return their belongings. My hands now reeked of sun-baked tuna. The cart lurched forward and I began the arduous task of swimming in and out of the great sea of people. The going was slow, and no doubt, the big trailer at the front of the parade was moving farther away. I pulled the cart up onto the sidewalk and made up some ground, clipping a few unmanned lawn chairs along the way. Now spectators were flowing in and adding to the chaos, and cars were trying to edge their way onto the main street. I cut off many of them. I darted, weaved and wiggled my way to the center traffic lane where there was a small opportunity to gain ground through the heart of the gridlock. I struggled dangerously forward.

Richard Scarry's Longest Counting Parade Ever!

Sensory overload can be educational and fun!

I drove for at least a mile, and I saw ahead in the bumper-to-bumper traffic, the rear of the WPRO float at a stop light. I pressed the gas pedal to the floor and tried to catch the truck before the light turned green. I thought I could smell electric wires burning. The cart was not long for this world. If it was a horse, they might shoot it.

When I reached the trailer in triumph, bag held high overhead, it was abandoned, and Salty and Larry were gone. I handed the bag to the truck driver who assured me he would personally hand-deliver the package to them back at the station first thing in the morning. He promised.

***

I slept late that next day, as lazy college kids often do, and was awakened well after noon by a phone call from one of the friends who had volunteered with me the day before.

“Did you hear them this morning?” He asked, ridicule hanging thick in his voice.

“What are you talking about?”

“Salty and Larry. They devoted their whole morning show to you.”

“They did what?”

“They spent two hours this morning complaining about the crazy college kid in a golf cart who nearly killed them and stole their lunches. It was hysterical. They raked you over the coals. And Larry wants his sweater back.”

The moral of the story is to never trust anyone who drives anything in a parade.

***

Now the title of this article includes mention of Jerry Mathers. Jerry Mathers, who everyone knows played the title role in television’s classic Leave it to Beaver, was a special parade grand marshal that day. I have no idea what connection he has to Bristol, or Independence Day, but I do know he has unusually large feet. In my haste to reach that trailer and return the bag, I might have run over one or both of them. I am not sure. I didn’t stop to ask, and I think The Beaver flipped me off.

Call Me Lumpy

Don’t call me Clarence

And then a few years later, I had lunch with Frank Bank at a book convention in Chicago. Frank was promoting his biography: Call Me Lumpy. You may remember Frank as the actor who played Clarence “Lumpy” Rutherford on Leave it To Beaver. I told him this story and he said no, he thinks Jerry just wears large shoes to make himself feel taller, and he invited me to meet him for dinner some night at Boston’s Durgin-Park.

But I guess that’s a story for another day.

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The Off-Road Not Taken


ATV

My friend in Pascoag got an ATV for his wife. He says it was a good trade.

It is an indisputable sign of Summer to see the rich, abundant and majestic wildlife of Northern Rhode Island — deer, squirrel, rabbit chipmunk, wild turkey, raccoon, skunk, geese, fisher, opossum, fox and coyote —  being chased through the wilderness by hooligans on ATV’s. No story there. But faced with a slow news cycle, the intrepid investigative reporters from the big city have ventured forth and uncovered the startling realization that citizens here in the outback actually ride around on these ATV’s for fun, and, on occasion, get in trouble with them.

As reported n the Woonsocket Call and the Providence Journal, police in Harrisville recently arrested five men and an eleven year-old boy for riding ATV’s and dirt bikes through the streets, eluding police and creating a general nuisance. And then in Foster, WJAR-TV Channel 10 reported that a teen was badly injured riding his ATV through the woods when it slammed into a tree. Who knew tress could be so dangerous?!

My God… the uninformed might start to think that’s all we do out here.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I–
I took the one less traveled by,
On a Kawasaki Sport KFX 450R.

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