A Connecticut Yankee (still) Lives In Rhode Island (and you should, too)

Screen Shot 2012-12-30 at 9.50.19 PMYesterday morning seemed to be a good time to reflect about my twenty years in Rhode Island. I was driving to an appointment I inadvertently scheduled for next Saturday, making me seven days and ten minutes early, when all of a sudden a rusty-red truck cut me off, nearly knocking me into next week (which would have made me only ten minutes early for said appointment).

The truck felt the need to zip in front of me, avoiding me by a fraction of a micron, though there was not another car on the road, then proceeded to slow down to a half a mile an hour, take both lanes, and navigate a ninety-degree turn in just under fifteen minutes, sans blinker.

“Rhode Island drivers,”  I exclaimed, nodding my head.  Actually, I didn’t say that at all, and that wasn’t the gesture I made–I made the real one in my mind because I think such gestures, though deserved, lack class and dignity. But I did say the word out loud.

Rhode Island has such a unique little culture–once called Rogue Island by the other 12 colonies, it was so difficult in all matters of trade, intercourse, and politics, that Connecticut threatened to invade it and wipe it off the map.

Perhaps you find yourself in Rhode Island currently. You might be attending one of our excellent colleges like Brown, RISD, Bryant, Providence College, URI, Roger Williams, Johnson & Wales or RIC. Perhaps you are stationed in Newport at the Navy base. Maybe you’re thinking of moving your business here. I have a friend from Brooklyn who came to Rhode Island just because, and appears to be stuck forever.

So, in case you are driving through, not realizing Rhode Island is a bona fide state, and you get a flat tire, I’m here to help you consider the possibility of spending even more time in the Ocean State.  You can develop an appreciation for the “biggest little state in the union” and its culture while you are waiting for AAA. You know you want to live here forever. Here are some reasons to stay:

It’s cheap. Compared to Connecticut, New York, and Massachusetts, you can afford a lot. A house that’s a half a million dollars in Massachusetts is sure to be a couple hundred thousand here. Many people commute to Boston from Northern Rhode Island as a result. We even have connections to the Boston commuter rail (the “T”), an Amtrack to New York, and a real honest-to-goodness airport where you will only be delayed sometimes, and when you are, there’ll be plenty of Dunkin Donuts coffee.

We have great food.   Federal Hill has some of the best restaurants in the country. I’m partial to little establishments tucked away in remote neighborhoods, but don’t be mistaken–we also have a list of heavy-hitters a mile long in the five-star department.  It’s just that, well, not many five-star chefs enjoy sharing their art with five-year olds who only eat noodles with butter, so I don’t get to these often. Guy Fieri has recognized the Rhode Island culinary scene–he’s been here twice!

In addition to restaurants, we have farmer’s markets, like the summertime market at Casey Farms in South County, which is more like an event than a market, showcasing food, music, and artisan crafts. South County is really Washington County but no one knows that–it got nicknamed “South County” because it’s–well, south of the other two counties, and it’s easier to spell on a form than “Washington.” Casey Farms has been active since 1750.  It now has a community supported agriculture program in addition to the farmer’s market.

There is a wintertime farmer’s market in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, in what is called the Hope Artiste Village.  “Hope” is a motto of Rhode Island, as in “I hope I can find my way out of this place,” “I hope I can understand you people,” and “I hope I don’t lose a tire to a pothole.”

The Artiste village is really inspirational, though. This is an old mill converted into loft and artist space, where you will find everything from artisans and businesses to the New Harvest Coffee Roasters.  Just follow the hippies and sustainability people (you spot them easily because they carry their own canvas bags) and Brown students (you recognize them because the expression on their faces is a unique combination of pride at their intelligence mixed with sadness since they are about to spend the rest of their life paying student loans). It’s every Saturday morning. Incidentally, I used to live a few blocks up the street, but when I lived there, there were no hippies and Brown students, just people trying to steal my car.  Ironic twist of fate–the cool stuff comes when I leave.

You’ll save on gas.  This is because the state is only three feet wide by four feet long.  Local Rhode Islanders don’t see it this way, so you’ll have a decided advantage when immigrating. You’ll say, “Wow, I can get there in a half-hour.”  Driving a half hour or crossing one of the state’s three main bridges will cause a Rhode Islander to pack an overnight bag–no joke.  “Mainlanders” going over to Newport, a drive of twenty to forty minutes depending on the point of origin, often incur hotel fees, but if you come from any other state, you’ll jump up and down for joy at how little time it takes to get anywhere and how silly-short your commute will be.

Believe it or not, despite the size of Rhode Island, there are many drivers in this state that do not use highways, and prefer only to enjoy the scenic back roads. This gives you more space to cruise down 95 from pothole to frost heave, making your commute even shorter.  Beware, though–Rhode Island and Massachusetts have a long-standing feud from on who has the worst drivers. Blinkers are optional but middle fingers mandatory. If you have a good imagination, you can pretend you’re participating in one of those NASCAR adventure excursions without paying a dime. Be safe!

You won’t have to watch mobster movies anymore.  They say that Rhode Island corners the market on two things–mobstas and lobstas.  Both are true. If you’ve been watching too much reality TV or an excess of Godfather reruns, you’ll save time with your move to Little Rhody. Turn off your Goodfellas and Jersey Shore. Read a few days of the Providence Journal and your craving for these things will be satisfied.

You can visit all the important places from “Family Guy.” Although it might look like a cartoon, it’s real. The Big Blue Bug exists. I lived two miles from the Quahog Convenience Store. For real.

It’s easy to make friends here. You won’t have to memorize many names. If you forget one, you can call everyone “my friend.” All male names have only two conjugations–the “ie” conjugation “Vinnie, Joey, Ralphie, Nicky… ” and the slightly less common “o” conjugation “Dino, Rocco, Bruno, Vito.” This makes it very easy to bond quickly and remember everyone, which is important if you want people to like you.

If you do move to Rhode Island, however, the first thing you’ll want to do is get an accent coach. He can double as a translator for learning words like “kah,” and “bubbla” or when you are puzzled to discover a “cabinet” isn’t something that stores dishes, it’s something you drink. This is costly but essential to your successful integration to the state because Rosetta Stone’s Rhode Island course won’t be ready until 2014.

All in all, Rhode Island is a great place. There are a million things to do–hike the woods, go to the ocean for clams, eat the best food in the nation, pretend you’re in Venice, drop a couple hundred grand on a prestigious institution of higher learning, or pretend to be a mobsta. Prices are cheap, the economy is rebounding, commutes are short, and in a week or two, with hard work and a friendly attitude, you can meet most of its citizens.

If you get a chance, come visit. If you get lucky, stay!

[That is my public service announcement for Rhode Island, the only state smaller than Connecticut.  For more great info, visit my Learnist board “About Rhode Island”]

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