By John Urban
She came from Providence, the one in Rhode Island. For some reason, those opening lyrics of Don Henley’s song The Last Resort were an oft-stated part of my youth, long before I married a girl from Providence and certainly long before our arrival at our new home on College Hill two weeks ago.
Why move to Providence? My standard line has to do with the attraction of good government, low taxes, and excellent schools. For those unacquainted with the place, this is roughly equivalent to claiming you admire Donald Trump for his reserve, modesty, and self-discipline.
Providence does, however, have many great restaurants, striking Colonial and 19th century architecture, and the cultural activities that go with being home to five colleges. Oh, and it’s the most populous city in Rhode Island — okay, I guess that’s the equivalent of claiming the honor of having highest ski slope in Alabama, but that’s something, isn’t it?
As a writer, Providence has some benefits, ones that will likely inform my senses and imagination. Already, I’ve emerged from the deepest caverns of suburbia to learn that sometimes Mercedes is a woman’s first name, young people still smoke, and people occasionally ride bikes that aren’t bolted to the health club floor.
From Suburbia to Hipsters
But I am also losing elements of my immediate past. Where did all the Labradoodles go? What happened to the Cayennes and Beamers with ACK stickers on the bumper? Who stole all the tennis dresses and riding britches?
Without realizing it, I also moved to a city on the water. Now, officially, I am writing on the water. And it’s a deep water port. If I ride my bike a mile or maybe two miles down the street I will land at the most northern reach of Narragansett Bay. From here, the world is accessible. Of course you have to first navigate around the oil tanks, beyond the cargo wharfs, and around the by the cement company, but the entire world is beyond.
Henley’s song mentions the search for paradise. For me, there’s a place down the Bay at the tip of the East Passage that many days seems close to paradise, and further down the coast and up around the Gulf there’s another that seems to fit the description. But Henley’s song, that begins with the reference to Providence, carries a warning still worth heeding:
They call it paradise
I don’t know why
You call someplace paradise,
kiss it goodbye
Give it a listen:
The Last Resort
By Don Henley/The Eagles