A New England Odyssey

Monday, August 21, 1995

     During the night, the power apparently went out and we ended up getting up late. In fact, we didn’t get up until 10:30 a.m. and checkout was at 11. Under the circumstances, the hotel allowed us to check out later with no additional fee, so it wasn’t a problem.
     Once we had the car all packed up, we headed south on Interstate 95 towards Providence. On the way, we listened to “The Haunter of the Dark" on audio tape from Necronomicon Press. Occasionally, the sound effects overwhelmed the narrator, but it was still entertaining to hear a Lovecraft tale being read. In less than two hours we arrived in Providence and drove directly to the John Hay Library at Brown University to meet up with Dave and S.T. S.T. was out at the time, but Dave said that they’d probably walk down to Geoff’s (a nearby sandwich shop) in less than an hour and have tea--S.T. needs his tea several times throughout the day.
     With some time to kill, we checked in at the Old Court Bed and Breakfast, which Lovecraft describes in “The Shunned House":
Dr. Whipple was a sane, conservative physician of the old school... He lived with one man-servant in a Georgian homestead with knocker and iron-railed steps, balanced eerily on a steep ascent of North Court Street beside the ancient brick court and colony house where his grandfather--a cousin of that celebrated privateersman, Capt. Whipple, who burnt His Majesty’s schooner Gaspee in 1772--had voted in the legislature on May 4, 1776, for the independence of the Rhode-Island Colony.
     The Italianate building was built in 1863 by Alpheus Morse, and our window not only fronts on Benefit Street, but provides a view of The Shunned House itself, almost directly across the street. We dropped our bags off in the room and found that we do, indeed, have a phone so I’ll be able to keep up on these updates. We also found that the B&B has a common room with a television and VCR, so we’ll finally be able to watch our trip videotape, and George can suffer through watching what he’s missed thus far.
     Geoff’s and Checkers Pizza is within sight of the B&B, so we went down to order a pizza and wait for the others to arrive. Two years ago, we tried white pizza for the first time and thought it was fantastic, so we ordered it again. But, what arrived, despite having plenty of tasty looking toppings, was not a white pizza, but a plain red one. The guy behind the counter had seemed a bit dazed, and had to review our order three times, but we figured he’d finally gotten it right. When he took the pizza back to the kitchen, it seemed there was some discussion about what had gone wrong. We suspect that the cook realized how empty-headed the guy behind the counter was and where the blame lay. We’d gotten an idea of his depth when he wrote George’s name down as “Georg," and then, when George asked sarcastically if he’d been to Brown University, the guy said, “Yes... No."
     While we were waiting on our corrected pizza (second edition) to arrive, S.T., Dave, Perry, and Scott walked by. I caught up with them next door at Geoff’s and recounted for them our events of last night, including the trip to the asylum and the fireworks out at Salem Willows Park. George eventually came in to tell me that our pizza was ready, so I went back and ate. We weren’t as impressed as we were two years ago, and wondered if it could be attributed to the toppings we’d chosen or the pizza itself. Either way, we were satisfied, and after eating walked back to the B&B for a brief rest.
     After relaxing for a few minutes, I bundled up the laptop and walked up the hill to the John Hay Library, leaving Pam and George to their own devices. They’d decided to go to the Arcade, considered the oldest shopping mall in the nation, and I’d meet up with them at the B&B whenever. At the Hay, the guys were in a flurry of activity, since it closed within the hour. I sat off by myself and sketched some database structures out for a bibliographic database that S.T. and Dave apparently need pretty badly, as evidenced by their disorganization. When the library began to close down, we all packed up and met Dave’s wife, Gayle, at the van outside.
     S.T. was ready for more of his ubiquitous tea, so it was decided that we should go to Au Bon Pain (“The Good Pain," er, “The Good Bread"). Everyone was of the opinion that we wouldn’t all fit in the van, so Dave, Scott, and I tossed our stuff in the back and walked the few blocks to the bakery. They were out of shortbread cookies (“Mammy’s li’l baby loves shortnin’ bread..."), but I did have an IBC Root Beer. Dave and I discussed more database and bibliographic stuff while everyone else pretty much whooped it up. When we left the bakery, the plan was to go to Eileen McNamara’s house, and we did manage to fit in the van...
     Eileen has a two-story house with one of those odd staircases that goes up a few steps, has a landing, and stairs that continue up to the second floor, or back down to the kitchen. She and her husband, Seth, are planning to move to Virginia, so they were eager to give away things so they didn’t have to transport them. Gayle (Dave’s wife) and Anna (S.T.’s girlfriend) got a number of sweaters, dresses, and nightclothes, and I managed to snag a couple of party games. Anna went upstairs to rest for a while, so I took the opportunity to break out the computer and demonstrate some more things to S.T. and Dave.
     Although I demonstrated some of the same things that I had two days ago, S.T. seemed more interested this time, as well as more impressed at the capabilities of the computer. I’m certain he knows what a useful tool it is, but I still need to convince him that it can do more than he thinks. When Anna got up from her nap, it had been decided that we should have dinner at Shooter’s, a restaurant down on India Point that Eileen had recommended. Once again, we piled into the van and took off to the south.
     S.T. seemed to think he had some idea of where this place was, but his directions to Gayle, who was driving, wound us through street after street without result. When he suggested we turn west into downtown Providence, I finally spoke up and pointed out that the restaurant was on India Street, which would logically be at the end of India Point. After some more wandering, and more of S.T.’s incorrect directions, I made a wager (which no one took) that the restaurant was probably down a street to our right within the quarter mile. After more of S.T.’s directions, which took us then into East Providence, across the Seekonk River, we got turned around and found the restaurant--roughly where I’d guessed it would be.
     Despite all this, I commended S.T. on his choice for the restaurant, as it was built on a tall pier overlooking the Narragansett Bay. The eight of us sat out back in the open air and enjoyed a very pleasant dinner. I had the Chicken Parmigiana, which was a bit overdone but nonetheless flavorful, which sat on a dull bed of egg noodles claiming to be fettucini. As usual, Dave and I talked at length about bibliographic databases, while everyone else talked about more common things.
     Although we toyed with the idea of stopping at Ben and Jerry’s for ice cream, we were all so full that we just headed back to Eileen’s to relax. Once there, Dave and I played on the computer some more, and we also entertained ourselves with Eileen’s very friendly cat. S.T. and I both admitted to being ailurophiles (cat-lovers), as Lovecraft was, and agreed that Lovecraft pretty much said all there was to be said on the subject in his “Cats and Dogs" essay. As Dave and I got more engrossed in the computer, everyone else snuck off to the living room for some readings.
     I wanted to show Dave some things on the net, and looked around for a phone outlet, finding one, but it wasn’t convenient. So, we went into the living room, stood or sat quietly untily S.T. was finished with his reading of “The Festival," and then stole one of Eileen’s exceedingly long phone cords, which we hooked up in the kitchen. Out came the modem, I hooked everything up--and the lines into Primenet were busy. With the modem dialing in the background, I demonstrated to Gayle how to play FreeCell (a solitaire card game for Windows), which kept both her and Dave pretty entertained.
     After about an hour, we finally connected and surfed around for probably another hour. I showed off my Lovecraft web page including my New England photographs and imagemap, as well as such searching engines as Yahoo and the Web Crawler. I also demonstrated my password-protected page for “The Game Game" (the card game I’m developing) as an example of being able to restrict the information shown on a web page. By the time Dave and Gayle were ready to leave and I’d shown Dave everything I wanted to show him, everyone else had retired. So, I returned the phones to their proper condition, packed up the laptop and we sneaked out the front door.
     They dropped me off in front of The Old Court at about 1:30 a.m. and I went upstairs to our room. Only Pam was there, since George had gone jogging. They had just returned an hour before, and Pam clued me in to what they had done. Soon after I left at about 4 p.m., they walked to the Arcade, which I mentioned before. They said that it was a dying Mall, with only a few shops remaining, most of them food shops. There was a GameKeeper store with back issues of Games Magazine, so I’ll have to go check it out. After the Arcade, they walked around downtown, going to the Buck a Book, as well as some record stores.
     Since we didn’t have much sleep last night (when have we?) they then walked back to the B&B and took a nap--for four hours. When they got up at 10:30 p.m., they walked across the hill to Thayer Street where they ate unpronounceable things at a Middle Eastern restaurant. They also stopped at the College Hill Book Store and Pam bought some more postcards. After that, they came back here to the B&B where we met up again.
     Not having gotten a nap myself, I was pretty tired by this time, but Pam and George were a bit, well, wired. So, I got ready for bed and they went out to the Store 24 store to get drinks, which turned out to be the name of the store, not its hours. Instead, they stopped at the Shell gas station and got some goodies there and returned. Tomorrow, I’ll be seeing Dave and S.T. off at the John Hay Library just before noon. Until then...