Mention Rhode Island to people whose only experience here is of the vacation variety and you're likely to get a longing look and half a smile. They think " Ocean State. " Newport. Yachting. Surfing. Golfing. In a word: Paradise.
Those of us who live here full time know that that's only partly true. It's true in July and August. That's when the chamber of commerce photographers take their pictures.
Donna and I took a short drive today, north of Route 1. We didn't see any chamber of commerce photographers. Route 1 runs along the coast. We're south of that road, as are most of the really nice places the tourists gawk at. What were we doing heading north of Route 1? We were looking for a campground where we stayed back in the 1970s. It's in a town called Ashaway.
Back in the 70s the campground was dotted with tents. Back then when people camped, they really camped. Pup tents and camp fires. These days it's RVs. The closest thing to a tent you'll see is a pop-up camper. Roughing it it ain't.
What we were doing was looking for a place to park our camper for a few weeks or so in the summer. We knew the campground was now billing itself as an RV park. We were curious to see what it looked like.
We headed north a few miles. It took us about 20 minutes to get there. When we saw the sign, Holly Tree Campground, we pulled over and parked the car on the side of the road. There was another car on the side of the road. There was a gate. It was locked. We saw two people, a middle aged man and a middle aged woman walking towards us. It was their car parked on the side of the road.
As we got out of the car, they walked by us.
" How ya doing? " I said.
" You ain't going in there, are you? "
" Well, as a matter of fact we... "
" You can't go in there lessin' you have a trailer in there, " the man said.
The woman gave me a look that suggested she was experiencing a degree of countertranference. In other words, she was looking at me like I reminded her of her cousin. The one who used to get into those conversations with her when they were young uns. Conversations that probably went something like this:
" I'll show ya mine if you show me yers. "
She kind of reminded me of someone, too. I think it was the female guard in that movie, " Cat Fighting Prison Lesbians From Hell. "
As the two of them walked past the two of us, a gray bearded, long haired 60ish guy in a pickup pulled up to the gate.
" We were wondering if we could take a walk through the campground, " I said.
He said " sure " and unlocked the gate. He must have been the caretaker or something. And as Donna and I walked through the park it was obvious he was doing a great job of taking care of the place; it was a mess.
You look up " Seedy Trailer Park " in the dictionary, the sign over the gate at this place is right over there in the margin.
This was no campground. This was no RV park. This was, indeed, a trailer park and we wanted no part of it. We left faster than you can say, " Next thing I expect to see here is a kid on a porch with a banjo. "