Fisherman’s Blues (Rhode Island, Pt 3)

I wish I was a fisherman
Tumblin’ on the seas
Far away from dry land
And it’s bitter memories

A dreary morning in more ways than one.

After being blessed on Monday with beautiful weather – high in the 70s, blue skies – Tuesday was chilly and rainy.  And we all met that morning at the cemetery for our mom’s service.  It was a pretty small gathering: the five of us siblings (one with her husband, another with his daughter), two sets of aunts and uncles, and a few of mom’s old classmates.


My oldest brother delivered a very nice eulogy (in which baseball played a major role), tears were shed, and hugs exchanged.  We spent a little time after the funeral walking around the cemetery looking at other headstones from our family.  I always felt I knew little about my family lineage, and now I’m sure I knew next to nothing.  I picked up some information during this little walk, but it seemed like everything I learned just led to more questions.

From there we headed to uncle Jim and aunt Joann’s house for a reception.  Sweet brunch items were beautifully laid out, and those of us who wanted a beer decided to wait until 11am for some reason. In the meantime, coffee was being enjoyed. I opened my beer at 10:55.

After a while (an hour, perhaps?) the old friends of mom left and all that remained was family.  My sister and her husband made plans with uncle Jim to go by Kenyon’s Grist Mill and the rest of us were invited, as well.  But we had a small detour, first.

My aunt’s brother lives across the street from the house we were in, and he happened to be out of town..  So we were asked if we wanted “to see how the other half lives”  (i.e. a retired ex-CEO who was extremely successful). When in Rome, we said. (More or less.) Not much to add here, but it was spectacular. And it would make a great juxtaposition to the mill we were about to visit.

And, in true Rhode Island tradition, the mill that was about 10 minutes away took roughly 20 minutes to get to.  We drove through beautiful country, which could be said for the vast majority of this entire trip, and arrived at the mill to find that it was closed due to “The Big E Festival” in West Springfield, Massachusetts. (Insert your own joke here.) However, my sister and I still managed to purchase two boxes each of Kenyon’s Clam Cake Mix. The boxes were just packaged, and since I was in my funeral clothes, the woman warned me about fresh powder on the box.  I told her I wasn’t worried and proceeded to rub a box all over my shirt.  After all, those boxes were as close as I had gotten to seafood so far on this trip.

But that was about to change because uncle Jim was ready to take us to a late lunch for clam cakes and chowdah.  Things were looking up!

We ended up in Naragansett at the TwoTen Oyster Bar & Grill, and on the way passed through the campus of the University of Rhode Island, my dad’s alma mater. It seemed weird because we were just driving through a forest, and all of a sudden we were on a campus, and then back in a forest again (albeit for only a little while). Anyway, we sat on the deck (covered, thankfully) and were pleased to learn that the special was a bowl of chowdah and three clam cakes for $8.  And that is exactly what the six of us ordered.

I know… Three clam cakes doesn’t sound like many, but these were pretty big clam cakes and oh, so tasty.  They ran a close second among the three places I ended up getting these wonderful fried bundles of goodness while on this trip. And on any other day, I might say they were the best.

One side of the table ordered chowdah “Rhode Island Style” (clear) and the other side ordered “New England” (white/creamy). With battle lines drawn, we all dug in and in the end proclaimed all of us as winners, though the “creamy” side of the table enjoyed poking fun of the “dirty water chowdah” – which I had and enjoyed very much.

After lunch we all went our separate ways to get ready for a seafood dinner, which was scheduled for three hours after our late lunch.  No problem for me. I was finally getting the food I desired – nay, the food I deserved – and time between meals could be as short as my career as a telemarketer (about 2 hours) for all I cared.

The seven of us from Texas met at 5:30pm at aunt Donna and uncle Rick’s house, and off we headed to Champlin’s Seafood, also in Naragansett but on the other side of the bay or inlet. Whatever it is. I ordered the lobster plate – a whole steamed lobster and red potatoes with a small dab of coleslaw – for $24.  And it was glorious. I realized too late that I forgot to order a side order of clam cakes, but Jerry came through and passed one along to me. Not as good as the ones we had a lunch, but a clam cake nonetheless.

I walked around a bit after dinner taking photos, letting the buttery bottom dweller swim though my body like a graceful mermaid, and watched the sunset to the west.  I reflected a bit on the day that had passed, and smiled to no one in particular.

Mom would have liked this.  And as much as I wish she was physically with us on the trip, a large part of me thinks that she is actually happier that all five of her offspring somehow managed to get together and plan this trip, while enjoying each other’s company, and most likely actually growing closer together in the process, as well as getting closer to our Rhode Island family.  There were tears this morning, and on Friday (which I’ll get to eventually), but for the most part the entire trip was filled with wisecracks, one-liners, and a copious amount of laughter.

The day I was dreading was a good day.

And on that grand and fateful day
I will take thee in my hand
I will ride on a train
I will be the fisherman
– The Waterboys, “Fisherman’s Blues”








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