A lesson in perception

Thu, 10/08/2020 - 5:00pm

Well, drat, someone pointed out the obvious, that I do not need two hands to type, only a keyboard, although I am finding it a tough adjustment using both hands on a plug-in keyboard. Back to the old system of up and down arrows, which predated the computer mouse, which predated touch pads. Both of which I accepted with great trepidation.

As it turns out, an arm broken far up near the shoulder, even a right arm, thankfully held together with a plate and pins, not locked in place with a cast, does not preclude the use of two hands. Further I am not handicapped by having any manner of serious typing skill, so this limited mobility isn’t as limiting as it might otherwise be.

Yes, for anyone who doesn’t know, I took a bad fall, one of those immediately preceded by a thought that “I am trying to carry too many things.” I tripped and somehow got tangled up with one of the few chairs in my house that would do me more damage than I would do it, a sturdy former restaurant chair that seemed such a cool thing to have, and still does. It was my fault, not that of an inanimate piece of furniture.

It came from the place created I think in the 1970’s from a space that had once been my grandfather’s express office, when folks traveling by rail and boat still sent trunks for prolonged summer visits. Long after he had died and that sort of need replaced by others, my father and uncles, grown men, still maintained one of the other had lost so-and-sos package, or recalled the pretty girls whose families returned to their roots from the more practical places to which they had moved.

The Post Office was on the floor above it, all in a building he owned. The current parking lot was shifting sand more than not anchored by beach grass, a place of fishermen’s shacks, an ice plant, a different sort of working area than it is today.

And the waters of the 1938 hurricane reached only the deck of that lower office. A lesson in perception: the summer after Sandy, especially, visitors would ask if the storm surge had reached Rebecca. No, I would try to point out, gently, she is at a higher elevation than it might seem, hoping to prod their memories to include that slope most of them had traveled coming up from the boat.

We have a different working landing and I used to wonder about what our gateway conveyed especially to first time visitors, then realized it is the front street and beyond they see, a unique collection of older buildings punctuated by our landmark hotels, a panorama sweeping from the Spring House to the Surf.

The most stunningly different piece in a photograph a little over 30 years ago is the little boat, one of the first round of stern loaders I for years blithely dismissed as the dreaded Manitou. I’d talk of how the feeling of the place was unchanged, how a different colored roof, an additional porch, details here and there were just a game when summer on Block Island felt too far removed.

“Isn’t it the Manisee?” someone asked and, to my horror, it was the poor Manisee, sailed away from the Interstate fleet as the larger boats became more practical — and rideable. The vessel appears every now and then on some Facebook page, captured by someone on a trip to a distant locale, and even I feel badly at the condition of the rust-streaked hull, and the loss of the distinguishing catwalks running the length of the freight deck.

It is odd I never noticed; driving past a sort of maritime junk yard on the back side of Staten Island I looked over and thought it was not possible but I thought I recognized the huge stack of the biggest summer boat when I was very little, the mammoth, even so in old photographs that sometimes dispel childhood memories, New Bedford. It was a sighting not confirmed with certainty but one which was a real possibility, another with vast knowledge of such things told me years later.

It was an enormous vessel, still running when Block Island was at its nadir, as though the ferry company, Sound Steamships, I think it was, hadn’t adjusted to reality. In the photos the New Bedford shows to be run down, not the great, grand carrier that is the product of my imagination crossed with memory.

My arm is still broken, my gratitude to all the people who have gotten me this far and I have faith will keep me on course through the healing process is too new to express. But thank you all.