It was a hero’s concert that made me go, and good friends, old and new, who made me want to stay.
My quick trip to this city was the final leg of my six-week tour and it could not have capped my adventure better. Providence is simple and sweet, devoid of the noise and trappings of a mega-metropolis. What I love about it is its size — minute by comparison to Boston, but brims with my favorite things: charming cafes for reading, neighborhoods with a small-town feel, art, artisanal food, historic buildings, water and lots of green spaces. Everything fits nicely.
I arrived early and settled down at a Seven Stars bakery that is situated nicely on a street corner. The huge cafe windows allow natural light to pour in, which is perfect for reading or getting some work done. Visiting tourists like myself can check out the neighborhood without moving while enjoying their delicious gingerbread cookie and free cold brew. They also have what is probably the best kale salad ever. I was hoping that with a few bites I could recreate the dressing in the future (which I am inclined to do) but I accepted defeat right away.
My friend planned a busy night for me. After the concert at East Providence, we headed downtown and carbo-loaded at Friskie Fries. We would need the energy. Our destination that night was The Dark Lady’s drag show, only a week after the city’s milestone Pride month celebration that saw around 10,000 revelers from all over. The city was still high, as explained by the bartender generously serving my drink. He was clearly still reeling from it. He thought I was kind enough to listen to his account, so that drink was on the house. I just thought he was the most interesting man, with or without the drink. There is genuine pleasure in listening to someone I will never see again, much like Uber drivers and their riders who share forgettable conversations.
I also realized that I have not stepped foot in a club in five years. I have become more insular of late. It felt stiff and rusty in there at first, but then the free alcohol kept coming from all these gay people I have just met, so the gyrating and hip-swaying suddenly came naturally. That was so much fun.
Providence looks good in the daytime, especially in the last days of spring. So despite a chaotic evening, we mustered all courage to get ourselves out of bed to grab a coffee and yet another sinful indulgence from Knead Doughnuts. I loved the raspberry fritter, and with coffee, it is divine. I am not exactly a doughnut person, especially with ice cream around. But when paired with coffee I am easily sold.
We checked out WaterFire that evening and found that the rest of the city had the same plan. People descended to downtown Providence to celebrate Barnaby Evans’ sculpture of over eighty bonfires in the three rivers. I saw fire tenders on gondolas pass by the flames to the sound of some world music whose origins I was unsure of. It felt like Venice by the Rialto at night and was kind of romantic. This sculpture-turned-fire-and-music-festival lit up the town, and it was a nice enjoyable walk along the canal.
On my last day, I managed to get a glimpse of an architectural marvel, the Rhode Island State House. In my previous post on the Twin Cities, I had mentioned that the Minnesota State Capitol was inspired by the St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. What I did not mention is that the dome of the Rhode Island State House is the fourth-largest self-supporting marble dome in the world, after St. Peter’s Basilica, the Minnesota State Capitol and the Taj Mahal in India. I had to see that for myself, even if just from a distance, and while a photoshoot was underway by the steps.
My other friend, who is a Brown alum, showed me his campus. It was gorgeous, and the resplendent New England architecture could not help but remind me of my own alma mater. Brown University and the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) are world-renowned institutions of higher learning and have created their own nexus of diverse cultures in this part of the east coast. This is how a tiny US city like Providence can have tremendous power.
I do hope that influence transcends the educational realm, and makes its way to the dining table. I do not think I encountered an eclectic selection of cuisines, though I did have good Indian at Not Just Snacks for lunch. But I also think I was just out of time. When I return next year, I will likely stay longer, hang out more with my favorite people and meet their friends. Or maybe visit in the winter to see what else this city is hiding, and experience the food, the sights and the beauty that exist indoors.