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Today is mine and Spooky's second anniversary. We are two today.

Yesterday, we headed back to Woonsocket. This time, to avoid the frelling tourists, we took back roads instead of going through Providence: State 2 to State 102, through West Greenwich (Spooky tells me there are actually people up here who pronounce that "Green Witch"), Summit, Clayville, past the Scituate Reservoir, through Chopmist, Chepachet, Slaterville. There was some thunder and lightning and very heavy rain, and we guiltlessly hoped it was soaking the beaches. We entered Woonsocket from the west late in the afternoon.

Sprouting from the banks of the Blackstone River, from the mills that fill the narrow valley, Woonsocket has impressed me as a town afflicted with the meanness that too often comes with fallen industry. Imagine a strange fusion of small-town suspicion and inner-city threat. There's a museum of "work and culture" (or something like that) downtown, and some half-hearted attempts at gentrification, but these attempts to foster myths of a heritage of proud workers only seem to underscore the squalor and poverty that one encounters at almost every turn. The big houses along South Main Street, before the descent to the river, have a similar effect. I can imagine nothing good in this place. It seems to radiate slow, smoldering hatred, this town. You can see it in the eyes of the people, especially the younger people. I would not live in Woonsocket for a million dollars. Really. Almost every place I go I see ghosts, but it's not often they seem to possess such a terrible despite.

We stopped first at the dam, a waterfall long used to generate energy for the mills, and I took pictures until Spooky began to complain that the fumes rising from the polluted green-yellow-grey water were actually starting to burn her eyes and throat. The river slips through spillways and thunders down onto the ancient Precambrian rocks below, flowing away beneath a stone bridge built in 1903.

After the Blackstone River, we got shots of the mills, the town in general, and St. Ann's twin bell towers, then headed south again. I actually felt relief at leaving Woonsocket, moreso than I'd felt when we left it Tuesday evening. Part of this was undoubtedly my mood and my need to be home again, but I think we saw more of the town, too, and in a clearer light than before.

Three days to go. I still haven't tried an Awful Awful, a doughboy, or Autocrat coffee milk. I still haven't seen the last house in which Lovecraft lived (originally located at 66 College Street, relocated to 67 Prospect Street). There's still a lot to do, really.

Here are three photos from yesterday:

The dam (or is that "damn"?) at Blackstone Falls, looking west.

Mills along the Blackstone River.

St. Ann's Church.


( 18 comments — Have your say! )
Jul. 3rd, 2004 08:15 pm (UTC)
'I still haven't tried an Awful Awful'

good gods, i didn't even know there were any newport creamery spots left. they all seem to have disappeared from massachusetts, though googling confirms that the chain still survives in rhode island.

too bad you probably won't have time to take in a movie at providence's cable car, otherwise known as 'the theater with the couches.'
Jul. 3rd, 2004 08:55 pm (UTC)
Congratulations to you and Spooky!

Still dwelling on Woonsocket. :::shudder:::
Jul. 3rd, 2004 09:06 pm (UTC)
Happy Anniversary!

Sherilyn and I just celebrated our 2nd wedding (domestic partnership) anniversary and on the 10th we will have been a couple for five years.
Jul. 3rd, 2004 09:50 pm (UTC)
Happy second anniversary kiddies
Jul. 3rd, 2004 10:01 pm (UTC)
Woonsocket sounds just as wrong as those little places in Tennessee that really gave me the creeps. I look forward to it featuring in some of your writings - excellent setting for something absolutely hideous.
Jul. 3rd, 2004 10:55 pm (UTC)
Happy 2nd anniversary!

CL and I celebrate the third anniversary of our first date on Tuesday.

I still have to send those books out to you- I'll do it by Tuesday.
(Deleted comment)
Jul. 4th, 2004 01:09 am (UTC)
Re: Happy Happy Anniversary!
You (or is it Spooky? or both?) take wonderful photos.

Usually it's Spooky behind the camera. She's the one with photography credentials. But I took the Woonsocket photos, mostly because I knew what it was I was trying to capture.
Jul. 4th, 2004 04:08 am (UTC)
There's something about those places...

Just about fifteen minutes down the road from here there's a little town, with only one church keeping it from being just a chanced grouping of houses. The church's stainglass windows are all boarded up, the doors locked, two trailers nearby, with a derelict graveyard in the back, brooding trees all around. My friend and I finally worked up the courage to go and photograph the place, and after circling for awhile, we found an unblocked window.
The inside of the church was a house, with knick-knacks huddled on every free space, bruise-yellow light filtering in through a high window. Looked like an old lady lived there, which was odd considering the sinister look of the outside. What kind of person lives in a boarded-up church, anyways...

Jul. 4th, 2004 02:08 pm (UTC)
In Defence of Woonsocket.
I much prefer an alternate translation of "woon-SOCK-et". I prefer the translation of "the falling off place".

Many people have fallen off in woonsocket. Because of woonsocket. Because of what that very discrete and peculiar society dictates. But not for the reasons you might think. Not from the distorted impressions you seem to have taken from the place.

I'm not saying that there isn't meaness there, but it ain't any more so than any place else in these here "united" states. In fact, I never encountered anything even approaching the meaness and hatred which seems to be a congenital defect of those born/raised on the florida panhandle, etc. But forgive my region-baiting for a moment. I'm talking about Woonsocket.

I worked there for several years, in a way that allowed me access into the intimate lives of those that have been left behind, disenfranchised and driven crazy in that town. And I can understand that you felt an edge. But it wasn't meaness or hatred. It was something called DESPERATION.

The folks up in Woonsocket are warm and friendly to a fault. They may be ignorant of the ways of "kultcha", and may come off as rude because of their ignorance, but at least they are completely devoid of PRETENSE. What you see is what is there. Only you need to look. You should have sat down for a while at Rosie's lunch counter, or had a "dynamite" anywhere in town. Before you wrote the town off as being just another pathetic used-to-be mill town, you should have taken a chance to actually meet the people. You might have found out that many of them would take you home for a couple of pots of coffee if you talked to them for longer than ten minutes.

And you also have to realize that Woonsocket was the dumping ground when RI went through de-institutalization. The mills were dying, and the rent was (still is) cheap. Beyond that, the Kultcha of woonsocket is deeply Kanuck. Replete with inbreeding. Compounded by the chemicals they all bathed in making textiles. The town is crazy.

And I'm not being flip, or making a generalization. Woonsocket (the last time I checked) had the highest per capita SSI/SSDI recipient rate of the entire northeast. Mostly for lack of sanity. And that means New York included...No, the people of woonsocket, those decended from the mill families who went south for work, as well as those 'dumped' there in the seventies by the state, are all certifiable. Which makes for a really interesting culture and society. An entire economy driven by horse-trading in Side-effect meds and Mustang cigarettes. Conversations about things that don't exist, but nobody even thinks to question that very existance. Just about anything is believable there. Not because people are gullible, but because they themselves see and experience simlar things that simply cannot be explained. There are Pterodactyls flying around that city, and most people there can see 'em. Honest.

Superficially, visiting as a tourist, I can see how the finer points, the things that make Woonsocket a magical place, would be easy to miss. But believe me, what you see on the surface is not what that city is all about. What it is about happens in nicotine-stained tenement buildings, in unadvertised diners. At the bank that cashes everybodys govenment checques, and the food stamp office and the food bank.

And the ONLY reason that I rise to this stern defence of Woonsocket is because that NOLA has the very same roots. Maybe not the creepy Marie laveau/ghost-bustin NOLA, but the rest of it. If you took an old-timer out of woonsocket and brought him down to Bayou leBatre, and put him next to a dyed-in-the-wool 'Coonass' not only would they be the best of friends, but would probably be related. Somehow.

And that has a lot to do with why I love NOLA and environs so much. I understand the people, and they understand me. Because I understand woonsocket.
Jul. 4th, 2004 03:38 pm (UTC)
Re: In Defence of Woonsocket.
Re: In Defence of Woonsocket.

It wan't my intention to offend, though I knew I would, or to sell the town short. Most of the things you've said here about the town I either knew or suspected. I'm wary of that whole "they are just good, friendly folksy-folks" bit, especially being who and what I am, but I won't argue the point. You have more experience with the town than do I. I was seeing it as an outsider, as someone who's an outsider almost everywhere but in some places much more than others, and my statements were emotional reactions (which I stand behind). It's a sick town with a dead river flowing through it. Desperation breeds cruelty and anger and despite.

For what it's worth, by the way, I wouldn't live in New Orleans, either.
Jul. 9th, 2004 07:29 am (UTC)
Re: In Defence of Woonsocket.
There are many in Woonsocket that are (who) WHAT you are. They understand. I really hope that my needling didn't detract from your RI experience. Despite what Spooky might say RI is a fantastical place, both in history and lore. There are scads of her Pop's comrades that can attest to this. Thanks for putting up with us, and hopefully someday spooky will realize all she's forsaken... (sorry, but just dipping my toe below the mason-dixon gives ME the creeps...) All My beast. Uncle
Jul. 9th, 2004 03:12 pm (UTC)
Re: In Defence of Woonsocket.
Despite what Spooky might say RI is a fantastical place, both in history and lore.

I think you need to read what I've written more carefully and not make assumptions about things I didn't say.

and hopefully someday Spooky will realize all she's forsaken...

Spooky loves Rhode Island and wants very much to live there again. She hates the South. She's forsaken nothing, as regards Rhode Island.

I also love Rhode Island, and would like to live there, but fear the winters, as I have spent most of my life in the South.
Jul. 9th, 2004 03:22 pm (UTC)
Re: In Defence of Woonsocket.

yeah. what she said.
Jul. 9th, 2004 05:23 pm (UTC)
Re: In Defence of Woonsocket.
I'm sorry. I'm just kinda playing devil's advocate when I don't even really belong here. Let's just call the whole thing off...
Jul. 9th, 2004 06:00 pm (UTC)
Re: In Defence of Woonsocket.
Let's just call the whole thing off...

Works for me.

I generally don't mind when someone disagrees with something that I've said, which is why I allow comments to these entries. But I very much do mind someone not taking the trouble to know what they're talking about before he or she begins disagreeing.
Jul. 9th, 2004 03:36 pm (UTC)
Re: In Defence of Woonsocket.

Despite what I say? And how do you know what I say?
What makes you think that just because I have moved away from a place means I no longer want to be there? That I have somehow "forsaken" it?

I can tell you that I lament aloud at least twice a week the absence of the ocean, that part of the ocean. Never mind the times I only think it. That I miss that history and creepiness that surrounds you at every turn in New England. The slate grave markers. The 18th century houses that line the streets in many towns. The tiny family plots that pepper the state, only some of which actually have historical marker signs posted at the road. I know of at least 3 that don't, in my old stomping grounds alone.

The only things I really hate about RI are the strip malls popping up everywhere, and the way people drive. The tourists annoy me, but I do realise their importance, and know how to avoid the hoards.
Jul. 5th, 2004 03:31 am (UTC)
Happy Anniversary.

Jul. 6th, 2004 03:50 pm (UTC)
Merry 2. And many many many more.
( 18 comments — Have your say! )