Yo, Adriaen–Block, That Is

The view from the house

The view from the house

Somehow I spent most of my life in Connecticut and never managed to visit Block Island, that little spot of glacial handiwork just 15 or so miles from the shore. I’d always wanted to, but the logistics never seemed to work out. Then a good friend bought a house there, and even before we moved back to CT she invited us and some other friends over for a weekend stay. And what a weekend it was.

A  master sculptor at work

A master sculptor at work

No, no wild debauchery. Unless you count playing setback and listening to the Red Sox as the height of depravity. Just two days of perfect, perfect weather, beautiful views, friendly folks, and relaxed walks along the rocky shore and hilly trails. I am prone to traveler’s Stockholm syndrome most places I go — that sense of being intoxicated by and indoctrinated into a certain locale’s charms, leading to immediate thoughts that I should move there (worst case ever: Taos). And while I’m not sure I would want to live on an island, the thought of spending many weekends there is pretty tempting.

Sunrise from our bedroom

Sunrise from our bedroom

Of course, it helps to have a great place to stay. Multiple weekends at some downtown (such as it is on Block Island) hotel or B&B would probably not have the same allure. But my friend and her husband have a lovely, comfy home on a hill that offers incredible views of the harbor. On the amazingly clear days we had, you could easily see the RI mainland 12 miles away, and at night the lights of the Newport Bridge arced across a small sliver of the sky. The house itself easily accommodated four couples and one rambunctious but lovable kindergartner, and is an easy walk to the Old Harbor. Nearby is Ernie’s, a local institution from what I gather, and we also stumbled upon a farmer’s market where we all did our part to help stimulate the economy. (Samantha scored some yummy, locally produced cinnamon honey. Who knew there was such a thing? Who knew it would be so good?)

On the jetty

On the jetty

Like any island, I suppose, the pace seems to be much slower than on the mainland. Some people come to party, naturally, and tents hosting several weddings dotted the island. And the recreational sailors, I’m told, can be a particularly rowdy bunch. But at our spot and the houses nearby, it seemed to be a weekend for taking it easy and saying over and over, “Man, you could not ask for better weather.”

Of course, the quality of any stay like this depends on the company you keep, and we scored pretty well on that. I’ve known one member of each couple for at least 25 years, and my buddy Dave and I go back to 2nd grade. We’ve all hung out before, though not for this long a time, and everything felt easy — no disputes on what to do, since we each went our own way at times, no sense of unwilling compromise. This was Samantha’s and my first weekend visit with any couples since before the move, and I forgot how nice it is to spend that much time with people with whom you have shared so much over the years, and whom you still enjoy (as opposed to those you’ve shared so much with and wish would fall off the face of the earth).

Ah, a child's life

Ah, a child's life

We had an unexpected treat on Saturday night, after our dinner at another local institution, The Oar (no, not the setback, though it had been awhile since I played): One or more of the wedding parties on the island had sprung for a professional-grade fireworks show, and we had center-stage seats from the deck. But as good as those pyrotechnics were, they couldn’t stir the same awe I had felt the night before, when I stepped outside and saw the Big Dipper low in the sky, like I could stretch up and touch it. I had not seen it in years, or least not with that clarity. Yes, cities are great, but you do miss the stars.

As is my wont, I pushed the envelope and asked our hosts if they would ever consider letting a poor writer hunker down by himself for a week during the winter, for a retreat of sorts. Being the generous people they are, they said yes. Now, in retrospect, a week of that much isolation, when the weather isn’t 70 and sunny and dry, and the summer folks are long gone and many businesses are shuttered, might be a little spooky. But I think I’m going to give it a shot. And if not that, then any weekend that my hosts and Block Island will have me, I’ll be there.

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~ by mburgan on September 25, 2009.

2 Responses to “Yo, Adriaen–Block, That Is”

  1. It’s a great little community. I was there camping with a Scout troop a few years ago. Some of the boys were goofing around in the scout master’s van Sat eve and left lights on or something. He had to leave early Sunday AM but his battery was dead! So we went to a nearby inn to ask for jumper cables. They didn’t have any but sent us to a house where the island mechanic was staying with his girlfriend. He didn’t have anything there but suggested the local oil company up the hill. Nobody was home there, but a barn was open with a lot of their tools and equipment – and we found jumpers there! So we borrowed them for a bit, got the van going and just put them back where we found them. You couldn’t do that on the mainland!

  2. Great story–thanks for sharing. I guess with only 900 or so year-round residents you definitely have a sense of community, though at times it might be more intimate than one would want. When does tight-knit become strangling? But it beats the anonymous nature of urban life, which I found was the one drawback of city living. I guess I want a balance of community and anonymity that might be hard to achieve these days.

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