By the time we reached Stonington Village and the Lighthouse Museum, our mistake as regards the heat had become apparent. The sun was broiling. Still, we paid $5 each to see the little museum, but the temperature inside must have been in the high nineties. I was so busy sweating, I hardly looked at anything very closely. A motley assortment of antiques and relics, some related to whaling, some to the business of maintaining a lighthouse, but most having little in common with any single theme or subject. I recall coming down a flight of exceptionally narrow stairs, watching sweat drip from my forehead to the stones at my feet, then realizing that the banister I'd just closed my hand about was actually the handle of an very long harpoon set into the floor. It gave me a chill, though I can't say for certain this was not an effect of the heat. In the gift shop, we did purchase a very charming children's book about a cat — Joey Goes to Sea by Alan Villiers, illustrated by Victor J. Dowling (originally published in 1939). I think that was the high point of the lighthouse visit.
I escaped outside as soon as I felt I'd suffered my full $5 worth and sat on a stone wall, trying to catch a breeze from the dazzling blue-white bay. We'd parked at Stonington Point, adjacent to the old lighthouse. This is, by the way, the setting for the prologue of Murder of Angels, where Walter and Archer Day park. We drove back up Water Street, seeking what shade was to be had along the narrow streets, admiring, in our fevered and delirious way, the architecture and ivy and patches of tiger lilies. I reflected that it was a damned shame for any place with so many stone walls to be wholly devoid of lizards. We'd noticed some sort of craft fair on the way to the lighthouse and stopped to have a look, but at only a little past four, the affair was already shutting down. We spotted Stonington's beautiful library and thought we could escape the heat therein — only it was closed, because of the fair.
Woozy and dehydrated, we left Connecticut and headed back towards Westerly. Spooky took a detour to see a particularly old cemetery (though we didn't get out of the car, as there was no shade), then decided that I needed to be treated to the spectacle of human degeneracy that is Misquamicut State Beach. As if Galilee had not been enough. So, we headed down Scenic 1A to Winnapaug Road to Atlantic Avenue. And by the gods, there ought not be tiki huts and purple palm trees in New England. But there they were, in violation of all natural laws. We saw drunks shouting at bouncers outside bars. We saw a girl fight in the middle of the street. A giant bumblebee on a motorcycle tried to run us down. It was hideous. You'd think these people had never heard of malignancies of the epidermis caused by excessive exposure to rays of ultraviolet light. In horror, I was helpless to look away from the miles of greasy, sun-baked white folk until we at last reached the safety of Weekapaug Road, where we turned north again for 1A. Spooky says Misquamicut is much nicer in the winter, when there are no tourists. But I shall have to take her word for it, as I have seen enough.
I'm not quite sure what happened next. But we ended up back in Westerly at Wilcox Park, more than two hours too early for the play. Not many people had set out chairs and blankets, indicating to me that people in southwestern Rhode Island are more interested in bikinis and surfboards than in Shakespeare. We sat a while on the pink granite steps of the Westerly public library, admiring the gargoyles, smelling pizza cooking across the street, thankful that, at last, there were finally some clouds to hide us from the sun. The library was closed, of course. About six o'clock, we wandered back through the park — an exceptionally fine park — past enormous willows and a fountain and a great pool with giant water lilies, darting fishes, and clouds of dragonflies. A note to amateur entomologists: there are 133 species of dragon- and damselflies in the state of Rhode Island, 19 of which were discovered in 2002, 103 species in South Kingstown alone, and their precise identification is better left to the experts. To do otherwise is to invite madness. Oh, and there was a great bronze rabbit, inspired by the works of Margaret Wise Brown, which I climbed atop, perhaps believing the Runaway Bunny would take me someplace with cold beer and polar bears. By that point, we'd decided we were too far gone for Shakespeare. Hell, we were probably too far gone for the works of Margaret Wise Brown. We retrieved our chairs, exited the park, and drove blearily back to Green Hill. All in all, we drove 97.5 miles yesterday, though it hardly seems possible.
Later, when we were finally feeling a little better, we watched Joseph Cotton and Jennifer Jones in William Dieterle's Portrait of Jenny (1948), a mutual favourite. More than this I dare not say. Except — I also watched a documentary on the Discovery Channel about the Japanese scientist who has managed to photograph live giant squid (Architeuthis dux) in the wild. Oh, and my vintage 1950s nerd glasses, without which my one sighted eye is all but blind, got too hot and the cellulose acetate from which the imitation tortoise shell was molded has begun to outgas. They stink of vinegar and irritate my eyes and skin. Also, should you spy me at Dragon*Con (or anywhere else), do not be surprised at my brown skin; just blame the faulty sunscreen. In conclusion, there are photographs behind the cut, for those among you who've not yet had your fill:
The water lily pond. With fish.
The Lighthouse Museum at Stonington.
Spooky in the bowels of the lighthouse tower.
A Westerleyan gargoyle.
The stage in Wilcox Park. Out of focus, so you can see it the way I saw it at the time.
The trick is to break their spirit...
For a $3.50, this dragonfly agreed to pose for Spooky.