Rose Island

The Newport boat show is underway so there’s no sense in trying to hang out in Newport for the next few days. Instead, we took the water taxi from Jamestown to Rose Island to check out the lighthouse and the island. It’s a flat island between Jamestown and Newport and directly below the Newport Bridge.

The lighthouse, besides serving as a navigation aid, also is a B&B. Comfy rooms right out of the 1890s. Bring your own food. There are few amenities…unless you want to scavenge seagull eggs in the brush. Still, it might make for an interesting writer’s retreat. Just remember: BYOB.

During WWII the island was a military base for making torpedoes. Back then, Rose Island was stripped of vegetation to make way for buildings, barracks, and 500 people. The people, and presumably the torpedoes, are long gone and the foliage has returned with a vengeance. To find and reach some of the old, abandoned buildings, you need a tank or a flame thrower. One of the caretakers showing us around said he had a tractor and a chainsaw. He’s making progress rediscovering bunkers and buildings, old walkways, and long overgrown railway tracks. Cool place. I need to go back for a longer walk around the island.


Lisbon Rental

I used Airbnb to find an apartment for a 19-day stay in Lisbon. But after one look at it, I left. Even knowing I was going to lose all the money I put down, I left. The place was inaccessible except on foot. I had a car. There was no place to park. The location was on a steep hillside, which isn’t uncommon in Old Lisbon. But it was a dark, narrow street that my family and friends would have had a hard time finding, and my wife would have been nervous about. The apartment felt subterranean; After passing through three, dark doorways and stepping down into the place, there were limited views of just other rooftops. It felt like a firetrap. Every trip to my car—assuming I could find parking in a parked-restricted neighborhood—would be a hike. So would carrying groceries from whatever market I might find. It was easier to cut my losses and find a decent French chain hotel with secure parking. I did. It was convenient to the Metro, family and friends, and to my meeting site. It’s true: Location, location, location. 

My only prior experience with Airbnb was using their service to put cash in the hands of Ukrainians by “renting” apartments in various places. I never went to Ukraine, of course; there’s a war on. So, my record to date with Airbnb is four rentals, no stays. Three “rentals” in Ukraine and this last “rental” in Lisbon. On the face of it, this isn’t a great track record. I may have to try Vrbo next time. 

Now having collected my “rent,” without the inconvenience of a post-checkout cleanup or other typical renter problems, the owners of the apartment would like me to pay them another $224.66. I wasn’t able to get the keys back to them to date. The keys must be made of gold; my local hardware store will produce aluminum duplicates for about $5.00. The owners claim these unreturned keys represent a security issue. Sure, if I plan to sneak back across the Atlantic, drive into Lisbon, and unlock the three apartment doors. Seems unlikely. I lost my house keys in southern Africa once. Since 2009, no Swazis or South Africans have tried to break into my Rhode Island house.


A Bit More Lit Tour

“The dearest ones of time, the strongest friends of the soul–BOOKS.”

Outside Emily Dickinson’s house in Amherst, Mass. Traveling through N.E., we stopped and spent the night across the street from the Dickinson home at the Amherst Inn. The problem with visiting these famous N.E. literary sites is the houses are rarely open. Blame the scheduling on Covid, staff shortages, and seasonal openings. Some places are open on weekends; others are open on Tuesday but not on Monday or vice versa. Some are open only a couple of days a week. More often than not, I’m outside looking in. I suppose that’s partly my fault; I go when the mood strikes me, not when house X is open or the snow finally has melted.

Travel, Writing

Back on the N.E. Literary Tour

Concord, Massachusetts is the jackpot when it comes to literary and historical figures. There’s Emerson, Hawthorne, Louisa May Alcott, and of course, Thoreau. Less well-known persons include Harriett Lothrop (aka, Margaret Sidney), Sarah B. Ripley, and the painter, Sophia Hawthrone. Stopping at some of the homes of these famous writers and founders of the transcendentalist movement might cause some initial confusion. You might imagine some of them were housemates. The Wayside, for example, notes it is the home of Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Alcotts, and Margaret Sidney, but Louisa May Alcott’s house (Orchard House) is just down the street or a quick trek through the woods. The Old Manse is where Emerson penned his essay on nature, but he has another house nearby. Hawthrone also rented the Old Manse at one time. These overlapping residences continued on after death as many of these same people are buried together at the nearby Sleepy Hollow Cemetery. Even Thoreau is buried there though he lived alone in a small cabin near Walden Pond for a while. 

My last visit to Walden Pond was about 40 years ago when I was still living in Boston. I should have stayed away. It doesn’t look like the photo below anymore.

It doesn’t look like what I remember in the spring of ’81. Instead, it’s a series of parking lots with a QR code-cell phone parking systems, gift shops, and a beach crowded with visitors and lifeguards, boats, and noise. Thoreau would hang himself if he were alive today. The state, in order—I suppose—to protect it, turned it into an amusement park and thereby destroyed it. Couldn’t they have just hidden it away and let the occasional hiker or bird watcher rediscover it?