We left the Athenaeum about five o'clock, and walked north along Benefit past the Rhode Island School of Design until we reached 187 Benefit, which was once a funeral parlour. This is where Lovecraft's body was taken after his death; these days it's part of the School of Design. Then we walked east up the painfully steep South Court Street before heading back south to the spot where we'd parked the car on Brown Street. The sun was slipping behind the skyline, and the air was cool and sweet and smelled of growing things. I could so easily fall in love with this place. No, I have fallen in love with Providence; it's only the long, cold winters that I fear.
Next we went to 10 Barnes Street, where HPL lived from 1926 until 1933. This is the house where he wrote his most accomplished stories, including "The Case of Charles Dexter Ward," "At the Mountains of Madness," and "The Shadow Over Innsmouth." I don't think the building has changed much in the last three-quarters of a century, in form or function. It still rents one and two bedroom apartments. We took a few photographs, then headed for Woonsocket, about ten miles northwest of Benefit Street.
I wasn't sure what to expect from Woonsocket. I only went because the name means "a place of deep descent" in Algonquin. We took 122 from Providence, and though the land rose to wooded hills, we could see little for the leprous carpet of strip malls and fast-food joints along the roadside. But then we reached Woonsocket, and here was the sort of town I'd always pictured when imagining spooky, old New England towns stranded in modernity. Built along the winding banks of the Blackstone River, its a fine collection of mills (most now abandoned or converted to other uses), cemeteries, and churches. We crossed the river and visited St. Paul Cemetery first, which is predominantly Irish. I've always been impressed at how old cemeteries have distinct personalities. St. Paul's, for example, is rather homely and straightforward. I imagine mostly millworkers are buried here. But then we went to Oak Grove Cememtery, a smaller, almost entirely English cememtery. Hidden atop a densely forested hill above the river, it was secretive and a little creepy (it was getting dark by this time). Next we visited the Sacred Blood Cemetery (or Cimetiere du Precieux Sang, as the wrought-iron archway at its entrance declared), a predominantly French Canadian cemetery, which was haughty, regardless of the grit and soot about it. It wasn't the least bit creepy, despite the advancing night, perhaps because it seemed so very full of itself. Lastly, we went to Union Cemetery (across from a Quaker meeting house), which seemed dominated by no particular nationality. It just felt peaceful, and we examined some of the older (18th century) gravestones as the half-moon rose above the trees. We're going to try to get back to Woonsocket before we leave, as I think it will have some important role in the novel, and there's much I need to learn and see.
It's late, and I'm tired, and I wish I were expressing myself better. Someone's going to get pissed about that last paragraph, someone Irish, or French Canadian, or English, or Quaker, or all of the above. We didn't have time to see the Jewish cemetery, so at least i know that it won't be someone Jewish.
Travel is never easy for me. This trip is no exception. But it is proving very wonderful, nonetheless.
P.S. -- I've not yet had time to see Fahrenheit 9/11, but I am more than a little annoyed at people complaining because Michael Moore's intent is to convince the audience. Well, duh. Yes, he's editorializing, and no, he isn't being impartial. That's the point.