Rhode Island: longest name

What’s not to like?

Rhode IslandRhode Island I always favored conceptually because it was founded by Roger Williams in the 17th century. As a kid, I was a sucker for people named Roger: Bannister, Daltrey, Maris, Miller, e.g., but not Taney.

Williams was “a Puritan minister, theologian, and author… He was a staunch advocate for religious freedom, separation of church and state, and fair dealings with American Indians, and he was one of the first abolitionists.” What’s not to like?

Ironically, the smallest state in the United States bears the longest official name. It is the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. The state is the seventh least populous, but the second-most densely populated.

The Ocean State is also the 13th state, the last of the original colonies to ratify the Constitution, on May 29, 1790. In fact, it was “the only state not to send a representative to the Constitutional Convention,” which had approved the document on September 17, 1787. The First Congress subsequently “passed 12 proposed amendments to the Constitution” without RI, most of which became the Bill of Rights.

I have visited Providence a few times. Its view of the Atlantic Ocean was spectacular. My daughter particularly enjoyed it. But back in 2007 or so, a friend of mine tried to wean her from her fear of dogs with his very tame canine; it did not work at the time.

In 2012, many of my in-laws were staying in Newport at a couple of timeshares. We spent a good chunk of time visiting the mansions of the Gilded Age. Very Upstairs/Downstairs, or I suppose now, Downton Abbey.

Some of us also visited the Tennis Hall of Fame. I STILL get emails from the organization, where I give my opinions on who should next be enshrined. I’m a sucker for a good Hall of Fame, and that one definitely qualified.

RI Rhode Island, a US state in New England. Capital and largest city: Providence. I recommend the New England Clam Chowder.

Little Rhody for ABC Wednesday

T is for Tennis Hall of Fame

“Without the guidance of Dr. Robert Johnson, Althea Gibson, Arthur Ashe, and countless others might not have succeeded so mightily.”

When we were in Newport, RI five years ago, we found ourselves at a sandwich shop. I happened to walk around the corner, and there was the International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum. I swore that next time we were in town we’d go, and in April, the Wife and I did.

From Wikipedia: “While the modern game of tennis originated in late 19th century England, most historians believe that the game’s ancient origin is from 12th century France, but the ball was then struck with the palm of the hand. It was not until the 16th century that rackets came into use, and the game began to be called “tennis”, from the Old French term Tenez, which can be translated as ‘hold!’, ‘receive!’ or ‘take!'” One can play “real” tennis at the Hall, though we did not.

There were plenty of artifacts: old racquets of players, videos, newspaper articles (e.g., about the scandalous apparel of women players in the 1920s that showed the knee!), info about the infamous “battle of the sexes” between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs (Hall of Famers both), histories of the Grand Slam and other significant tournaments, and lots of trophies.

But the key is the display of all the players and contributors. Each of them is represented on a kiosk that allows you to see a video of the players, a quote, and their major accomplishments; you can see the info here. Interesting that I recognize some old timers’ names such as Bill Tilden and Helen Wills Moody. Then there were the Aussies I remember growing up, such as Rod Laver, Toy Emerson, Tony Roche, and Fred Stolle, onto the players from the Open Era, which began in 1968, “when the Grand Slam tournaments agreed to allow professional players to compete with amateurs…This has allowed tennis players the opportunity to make a good living playing tennis.”

There was a video of the Hall speech by Andre Agassi, a 2011 inductee. A great player early on, he seemed to waste his talent and sank to a ranking of #141, but found his focus again and became a #1 player. This year’s inductees include Jennifer Capriati and Guga Kuerten, who will join the ranks on July 14, 2012.

At least a couple of players who are in the Hall I got to see play personally: Todd Woodbridge and Mark Woodforde, doubles specialists, who played singles and doubles, I believe, at the OTB Open tournament in Schenectady, NY in the early 1990s.

One person in the Hall who I was totally unfamiliar with was Dr. Robert Johnson, indicted in 2009 as a contributor. “Without the guidance of Dr. Johnson, however, [Althea] Gibson, [Arthur] Ashe, and countless others might not have succeeded so mightily. Dr. Johnson trained, coached, and mentored African Americans from his home in Lynchburg, Virginia for more than two decades.” Dr. Johnson died in 1971.

I’ve been to several Halls of Fame: baseball (Cooperstown, NY), basketball (Springfield, MA), the surprisingly interesting horse racing (Saratoga Springs, NY), the disappointing and now-defunct soccer (Oneonta, NY). The International Tennis HoF is a good one.

ABC Wednesday – Round 10

The Vacation in Newport

He says, “My name is Peter.” I say, “Hi, Peter. Would you like me to call 9-1-1 for you?”

I recently mentioned visiting the mansions in Newport, Rhode Island, but not much else. It was school vacation week, and the Wife suggested that we could go to a timeshare of my parents-in-law there. The Wife, the Daughter, and I had been to visit a friend of mine in another part of the state some five years earlier, and we briefly visited Newport as well.

What she didn’t tell me until the morning we were leaving was that her brother, his wife, and their twin 11-year-old daughters were ALSO going on the trip, staying at a different resort. Not that I minded; I just didn’t know.

We got to Newport in reasonably short order. As you enter the city, the first major street is called Farewell Street. Can you guess what dominates the road?

That’s right, a cemetery; someone with a grim sense of humor. Then we found the wrong part of Thames Street. The street, BTW, is pronounced as though it rhymes with ‘tames’, not like the river in England. The part of Thames we lived on was very narrow, streets like one might find in older parts of Europe. We eventually found our way, via a street called America’s Cup. But it took a while because of the number of one-way streets.

This explains why we saw at least four of the scooters pictured here. We also saw EIGHT Segways in a row; I’d never seen more than two at a time.

On the second night, I was awakened at 12:34 a.m. by someone clearly trying the electronic key in the door at least a half dozen times; my wife, a much more sound sleeper, was oblivious to this. I looked out the peephole, and I see some guy in an orange jumpsuit – not prison garb, just loud colors – lying on the floor. I open the door tentatively, and he slowly staggers to his feet; even from a distance, I could tell he’s been drinking.

He sees me and says, “Is this your room?” I reply, “Yes. Would you like me to call 9-1-1 for you?” He says, “My name is Peter.” I say, “Hi, Peter. Would you like me to call 9-1-1 for you?” He says, “Nah. I must be in the next room.” I had the sense if I hadn’t spoken to him, he might have slept there all night since the resort desk was closed from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. I went back to sleep, but my wife, overhearing my conversation with Peter, was awake for the next several hours.

The great thing about the in-laws on the trip was that we were only about five minutes away from each other, by foot. One night, they watched The Daughter so that The Wife and I could go out to dinner. Another night, we watched the girls while their parents went out. And the final night, we made dinner together, at their place, since they had an oven (we had just a stovetop and a microwave). Their place also had a swimming pool, so the girls all swam together thrice. We also played a card game called Apples to Apples Junior, which was great fun. And we went to three mansions together, which made it easier for the grownups to switch off watching the three girls.

Of course, the worst part of vacation is coming back. This was literally true; we spent an hour stuck on the Berkshire spur portion of I-90, evidently as a result of an auto accident up ahead. But the vehicle looked awful, and sitting on an interstate is not the worst outcome at the end of a trip.

N is for Newport mansions

I doubled back in the Marble House mansion to catch up on items I had passed by quickly while watching The Daughter, which evidently perplexed the staff, as I overheard on their walkie-talkies.

Last week, my wife, one of her brothers, and their respective families were in Newport, Rhode Island, during the school break. Among our activities: visiting the mansions that were built primarily between the end of the US Civil War in 1865 and the beginning of the first World War in 1914. This was dubbed “The Gilded Age” by Mark Twain in 1873, and this was NOT meant as a compliment. By this, he was saying that the period was glittering on the surface but corrupt underneath. But those so dubbed took the term as positive, noting the rapid economic and population growth.

While each of the four mansions warrants its own narrative, there were some characteristics in common. Each was built with money from captains of industry, and most were considered summer homes or even cottages. They were inspired largely by the palaces of Europe and often used Greek gods in the motif.

The families living there had many servants, who were supposed to be all but invisible, as they prepared lavish meals, most of which had several courses which went all but uneaten after a couple of bites. The servants also helped the families change three, four, and in the case of the females, up to seven times a day; wearing a morning dress in the afternoon simply would NOT do!

The end of the Gilded Age, it is generally agreed, came about as a result of the passage of the Sixteenth Amendment to the US Constitution, enacted in 1913, allowing for federal income tax. Suddenly, the unfettered wealth was fettered. These buildings, along with other houses, are maintained by The Preservation Society of Newport County. The four we visited each had an audio component for self-guided tours; it was the same machine in every location, so one could, accidentally or otherwise, catch the details of another building.

The Breakers (pictured above) was built as the Newport summer home of Cornelius Vanderbilt II and is the largest of the properties. It has, among other things, a massive bathtub carved from a single piece of marble.

Rosecliff was built in 1898-1902 by Theresa Fair Oelrichs, a silver heiress from Nevada, whose father James Graham Fair was one of the four partners in the Comstock Lode.

Marble House (right), built between 1888 and 1892 for Mr. and Mrs. William K. Vanderbilt, was a summer house, or “cottage”! “Mr. Vanderbilt was the grandson of Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt, who established the family’s fortune in steamships and the New York Central Railroad. His older brother was Cornelius II, who built The Breakers. Alva Vanderbilt was a leading hostess in Newport society, and envisioned Marble House as her ‘temple to the arts’ in America…The Vanderbilts divorced in 1895 and Alva married Oliver H.P. Belmont, moving down the street to Belcourt. After his death, she reopened Marble House, and had a Chinese Tea House built on the seaside cliffs, where she hosted rallies for women’s right to vote.” There were even dishes that stated messages supporting suffrage. I doubled back in this building to catch up on items I had passed by quickly while watching The Daughter, which evidently perplexed the staff, as I overheard on their walkie-talkies.

The Elms was designed for the coal baron Edward Julius Berwind and was completed in 1901. Berwind coal-fueled, among other things, Vanderbilt railroads. This circuit was somewhat marred by a hoard of bored high school students who poured in shortly after we had started our tour.

These locations are available for weddings and other private parties; I did NOT inquire as to the pricing.

ABC Wednesday- Round 10

The image of The Breakers was taken by Matt H. Wade (User:UpstateNYer) on 10 August 2009, and used under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. The photograph of the Marble House dining room is from the Carol M. Highsmith Archive at the Library of Congress; Highsmith has released her photographs in the collection into the public domain.

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