Thursday, June 28, 2007

"Good Lord"

Summer always means Newport to me.
I "grew up" in Rhode Island, and even though I worked in Newport throughout the year, Summer was always the special time. As a college kid, I worked shops, restaurants, and spinning disco in one bar, then ska and reggae in another. I heard a lot of ... questionable statements. It was a town full of white caps chest-thumping to the beat of the Reagan 80's, and between the coked-up bill-tossing mid-level managers who just had to hear "White Lines" ONE MORE TIME! and their prey, the oaths and vociferations ranged from just plain drunken babble to outrageous slander.
Of course, there were innocent naifs. Like the professional Navy guy who would dance for hours to everything from Burning Spear to The Selecter to The Ethiopians, finish his Jack'n'Coke, come up to the booth and shout: "I don't know nothin' 'bout that Raggy, but I shore do love that SKAR music!"
The NY Summer People had their favorite seats in the restaurant downstairs, where they would get blissed, lolling in their G'n'T or Dewar's. In '83, The America's Cup crews added their own color. If you had a facility for language or accents, you could convince almost anyone of anything. Back then, most of my friends were "undocumented" Irish carpenters and painters. Of course, they're all IT and Internet millionaires now, back in Eire and don't return calls. But we had Newport.
I got pretty good at talking myself aboard, and these days, I'll bump into an owner I worked for or a skipper who owes me either money or a beating. (I get neither.) Everybody had a scam running at some point back then. One particular quarterdeck Napoleon I know got proficient with bragging about the size of his ... commission. It was usually to get a bed ashore. Because if he'd been drinking, he just couldn't sleep onboard. So, he spent a lot of time claiming he was Dennis Connor. To really tall blondes, mostly. Lies were the currency, and often paid for a night in a Brick Market or Bellevue Avenue condo.
We locals in the entertainment and hospitality industry found our own entertainments. A mark would enter the bar, a bartender would give me the high sign and I'd mix Gang of Four's Man in a Uniform, hit the strobe, and we'd watch as the Piranha Sisters -- the ones with the "sexy" underbites, Pat Benatar hair and Flashdance outfits -- scammed the rube for cigarettes, Cosmopolitans (served in those days in a glass or paper cup, not a martini glass), and catch the sucker as he peeked down their blouses.
Of course, there was the fateful night walking toward Thames Street from the lot with the eighteen friends I had driven in the Audi and we saw a bunch of girls dressed like Punky Brewster. I quipped -- I hadn't yet developed my current discretionary volume control -- "Who are they, the #&%$in' Go-Gos?"
And then Belinda Carlisle and Charlotte Caffey turned around, flipped us off, and shouted "Yeah, we #&%$in' ARE!"
My ramble down memory lane reminds us that there has always been room for less-than-admirable behavior in the City by the Sea. Also remember that Ike had his Summer place there. So, I'm just disturbed -- but not surprised -- by this:

NEWPORT, R.I. – U.S. President Bush made plain his feelings about Fidel Castro
Thursday – wishing the Cuban leader would disappear.
“One day the good Lord
will take Fidel Castro away,” Bush said in answer to a question after a speech
at the Naval War College.

Hope your Summer's going swimmingly.

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