may not find this terribly rewarding unless you're included here, so this is a
good time for casual and random browsers to turn back before they get too caught
up in the sweep and majesty of the proceedings and can't let go.
autumn trip to the USA
to the embarrassing parts of it, though)
see how the Gilded Age elite lived it up before Death overtook them anyway
Inn on Christie's Wharf in downtown Newport, in late November 2005. Lovely place,
Kristin's Web searches seem never to fail us. Shops along the rez-de-chaussée,
but the upper floors all the way along are Harborside rooms, with the elegant
breakfast room at the end of the pier, with windows on three sides . . .
German-style free-for-all for breakfast included in the price. Some of it, alas,
in little orange packets (above), but the best things in big piles of cold cuts,
cheese, and yoghourts. And lots of muffins and sweet-rolls for those with no better
proprietors lay on a late-afternoon tea for the guests, but, well, we didn't come
here for tea! We're here as amateur cultural anthropologists to search out signs
of the predatory capitalist thugs who built this town for their amusement so many
is the landward front side of the Harborside Inn, a parking lot unfortunately,
but . . .
. . here's the view from our room on the back side. That's a capitalist yacht
anchored out in the harbor.
of it's old and renovated, some of it's new, but it all seems to work together
well, along these piers and wharfs through the town. A very nice town, in fact.
high street in late afternoon sun. We're trotting over to the eastern side of
the island to find the start of the famous Newport Cliff
Walk. One begins to tremble just to think about it. This is where the Mighty
Vanderbilts and more than a dozen other predatory capitalist thugs built their
palaces, beginning in the mid-19th century. Where they, their wives, their spawn,
and all of their relations relaxed, leisured themselves in a dedicated fashion,
tennis'd and polo'd, posed and strutted and danced at balls, competed with one
another for the fanciest ball of the season, got old and disgusting even to themselves
and mercifully died. Walk along with us.
the first one along the famous Cliff Walk. Tastefully done. "No public restrooms
please" posted prominently. There are many fine houses along the Newport
Cliff Walk, but this is the one I'm planning on grabbing for myself when the Revolution
most of us would find this old pile grossly overstated (unless it had been built
by parvenus in 16th century England), but in the 1850s the predatory rich in America had not
yet acquired a proper sense of proportion. Some of these things seem still to
be private residences -- well, call it "private", there are probably
resentful servants underfoot everywhere -- but an encouraging number of them have
been turned into museums and colleges (where the resentful servants are called
briars in the foreground grow swiftly up and cover the house, until you can't
see it anymore, but once every one hundred years a knight comes along and cuts
through the briars with his vorpal sword, and there it is again, and the princess
maybe it's this one, maybe it's one of the others (they kind of
all look the same), that was inspired (and funded) by a predatory Gilded Age banker,
Ogden Goelet, as his family's summer residence called Ochre Court (1892), designed
by Richard Morris Hunt, darling of the jaded. The effect was majestic, but the
guilt-ridden progeny of the old capitalist piece of dog-doo donated the place
to the nuns, and thus was born Salve Regina College in 1947, now Salve Regina
University (of course), with a deserved reputation for studies in the restoration
of historic buildings.
the famous Cliff Walk itsownself, the part along the east side of the island.
It's meant to continue all the way round the southern point but this is Bush's
when the going gets really good, there seems to be a checkpoint up ahead.
The Famous Cliff Walk is closed. Everything's changed
since 9/11!! We're certainly not going to risk running into Blackwater Security
Contractors with RayBans, raw southern drawls, and automatic rifles (the
ex-Alabama football players who didn't quite qualify for the letterman's jacket,
but bought one from a letterman), so we'll just give up and go along unobtrusively
and have a nice dinner at the "Red Parrot". With a sampling of the local
microbrewery ales. And perhaps another.
day, another nice walk to the other end of the Cliff Walk. But firest, not a bad breakfast collection after all.
But on the way we're
privileged to discover this burnt-orange ludicrosity parked on an ordinary side
street. It's called a "Hummer"
and is intended to be offensive. It looks very like something I could once have
made with my Erector Set, which though invented by Mr Gilbert of Connecticut
in 1913, and the subject of the world's first serious advertising campaign for
a toy, ruled my life for a brief time in the 1950s. The "Hummer" is
said by the newspapers to be the type of vehicle that Governor Arnold Schwarzenberger
drives. This one appears to have been abandoned, probably because of the rise
in gasoline prices.
attractive private homes on the south shore of Newport that will probably become
wonderful museums after the Revolution.
exploring the southern end of Newport. That's water in the creek, not (as I supposed)
"run-off" from the palatial homes.
lovely in Newport
home on the Newport shore, in a splendid isolation, a closed world of elegance
and conceit, a little corner of the world where the awful noises cannot be heard.
The town map adorns the stretch between us and the house with the legend "Here
on Bellevue Avenue, re-enacting Gilded Age insouciance partially successfully.
jumping up and down a bit to test the load limit sign; the
(The T-shirt says "The 47km
Coast Guard", which is the slogan of the Slovenian navy. No kidding.)
teens acting up again.
Two hooky-players from the nearby high school decided to Hollywood-outrun the
police car through the very centre of town and, not realizing that Hollywood stunt
drivers are highly trained professionals, planted their stolen car into "The
Wave", a real sturdy piece of emblematic sculpture showing a . . .
well, a wave, with two feet sticking out of it as if a person had just plunged
into it. The car, however, rebounded instead. (The sculpture
was pretty much unharmed.)
Time for a look-in at the Black Dog
shed on the waterfront, 29 November 2005. The occupant was not at home -- perhaps
viewing "The Ice Harvest" at the cinema just overtown, as in fact we
were a few moments later, a rather thankless experience, be it said. But I wasn't
generic Newport harbor scene, November 2005
The Boats of Our Betters
having a look about, which is mainly what we came for
misplaced fire service vehicle in Newport --
one of the unfortunate results of the 1938 or 1954 hurricanes perhaps. What a
wind that 1954 Hurricane Carol had! It blew the shingles off the roof of the attic dormitory
over all us kids in Groton Long Point, Connecticut -- we were all lying there,
probably giggling, staring up into the clouds, with rain pouring in. But at least
we didn't fetch up on "Top O' The Brick", where we'd probably be to
this day, and hating it.
Christie's Wharf, across from the Harborside. Seafood, floor shows with lobsters,
look at the Harborside, for
those who may be thinking of going along there: we were made even happier there
for a few days and don't mind putting in a good word.
at night. No, not really. That's New Bedford, Massachusetts, at night. We passed
through on the way back to Boston and stopped for lunch, and it was so good that
we had another lunch, and didn't get away until nearly dark.