Not So Great Gatsby

anchorDear Nick,

Happy Independence, Old Sport. Hope you were able to keep it cool surfing this wave of heat. This state of ours has got to be the best place to celebrate our nation’s birthday, and I would be willing to wager as much. From top to bottom, beach to beach, you’d be hard pressed to find a better place to grill meat, imbibe refreshers and spy fireworks. I can’t imagine calling anywhere else home, and it set me to thinking.

You could ask 20 different people to define home and you may get 25 different answers. I know folks born in New York, but lived elsewhere for all but their first breaths, yet claim the Big Apple as home. For some, it’s where they spent their formative years, others where they studied, and some wherever their families live. I couldn’t dismiss any answers as dubious knowing home is where the heart is. On this very computer alone I have 35 songs about home, so even the jingle that jangles in your head when the word is mentioned could vary from Buble’ to Jay-Z. Some people have hearts on sleeves; for me, my heart belongs to the biggest little state.

Dwell in a home long enough and you stop dwelling over the things you would change. Instead of remodeling, the bathroom becomes good enough. The banister with the loose railing adds character, and didn’t George Bailey have that in It’s A Wonderful Life? We tend to gloss over the flaws with rose-tinted nostalgia. Rhode Island is my home, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t a few things I would fix if I could.

Indulge me while I talk about a few.

We shouldn’t have a car tax. It’s stupid and is basically a slap in the face to everyone who chooses to live in the state. It simultaneously says, “Our government can’t manage its finances so we need to tax you every way we can,” and, “Although the residents of RI talk about having it repealed all the time, your attention spans are so short you will forget and lose interest. Every time.”

New York City has 1.1 million students in its public school systems and has 32 superintendents of schools. Rhode Island has about 150,000 students in its public schools. We have 39 superintendents.  School superintendents are the highest paid public officials at the town level on average. But with a tenth of the students, couldn’t we make do with a tenth of the superintendents rather than seven more?

Like most gents who love their home, I sometimes attempt some home improvement projects. Succeed or fail, I am usually finished in a finite amount of time. Here you may be Rhode Island born and Rhode Island bred, but you’ll be Rhode Island dead before they finish any of these road projects. Can’t we just hire the people who did the roads in Massachusetts? They even have little bumpy things and reflectors in their lanes!

Finally, (I have more, but I don’t want to drone on all night, Old Sport) can we talk about the accolades?  We win all kinds of awards for best food and best place to live, and I agree wholeheartedly, but can we figure out a way to lure some companies to the state? While I can’t agree that giving a chance to the ball player with the bloody sock, who once burned himself ironing clothes (because he was wearing them at the time) was a good idea, at least it was an attempt. We should be rivaling the local sports teams for rumored and potential free agent signings, not watching as both the intellectual and manufacturing jobs get sent out of town. If we can’t woo companies, maybe we should at least play to our strengths. Bring in more tourists, support the arts and restaurants that seem to be our most attractive feature and let them shine against the beautiful backdrop that is our shores and historic cities. I don’t know how to fix it exactly, but I know it needs fixing.

A home is not just where you live. It reflects who you are and it’s where you feel most comfortable.  Most people don’t think twice about saying how much they love their house, but usually have what they would potentially change on the tip of their tongue.

What would you change about Rhode Island? What is the best way to make those changes? We all choose to live here – may as well make it the best place it can be.



Bring Your Personality

By Erin Kayata

While waiting for Bring Your Own Improv to start, the girl who was taking tickets at the door approached and handed me a slip of paper.

“Write your name down and hand it back to me if you’d like a chance to participate in the show,” she explained. This was my first hint of what was to come.

When the show began, our host, Erich, echoed the hint that I’d received earlier when he told us one of the show’s only rules: everyone can participate. The other audience members and I quickly learned that this was not the kind of show where we could just sit back and be entertained. Bring Your Own Improv is an interactive comedy experience that relies heavily on audience participation to create a unique and comical show.

The first activity involved our chosen featured audience member, or FAM, as the troupe calls them. Our FAM was Cesary, who told us interesting bits about his life, like his immigration from Poland when he was in his teens, or his reliance on his iPhone. Throughout the show, bits and pieces from Cesary’s life were drawn into skits, starting with one revolving around the traffic from Poland to America. Eventually, this somehow turned into a skit about a kung-fu movie that takes place on a train.

Even if you didn’t sign up to be a featured audience member, the troupe quickly made it clear that you would not be spared when it came to participating. Following Cesary’s tale, the troupe then told a story that required each section of the audience to make different animal noises. From there, the crew played games such as Trolley Stop, where the crew took on a variety of different characters and World Without a Letter, which required the members to only use words without the letters “M” and “O”. Each time the audience was invited to join, and was even asked random questions to determine which letters would be off limits in World Without a Letter.

I myself took the participation plunge during a game called Action Figures, where I had to move around a cast member as he narrated a story based off of how I moved him. At first a little hesitant, I found joining into the games made the whole experience much more hilarious. The show is designed so that you don’t necessarily have to be good at improv to join in. Timmy in the Well, a game in which three audience members act as dogs in order to tell their owner an urgent message, and Action Figures, allow those who have no improv experience allow the audience to join in on the fun without necessarily saying a word. All other games have a standing invitation for audience members to join in. Though the troupe did a fine job when standing on their own, audience participation allows for each show to be a completely unique experience.

So bring your personality and your best improv skills. Bring Your Own Improv is great experience for all, but is even better for those who are unafraid to dive in and join the show. The show occurs every Friday at 10 PM at Theater 82 in Cranston and I can guarantee every time will be a unique show. For more information go to http://www.bringyourownimprov.com/


Not So Great Gatsby

cold_summer_1920x1200Dear Nick,

Last weekend, summer finally arrived after a couple of false starts and foot faults. They say that summer is a season for the young, but I would like to make a case for the young at heart. Summertime makes this aging playboy feel like the living is easy. Maybe it’s the short pants on me or the sundresses on Daisy, but the sun makes the snowbound suffering seem somewhat sufferable.

Though Friday was a washout, Saturday was lovely and the weather was perfect for the Gatsby Ball at the Dorrance. Kristen Minsky was the mastermind behind a night of dancing, drinking and debauchery, and a portion of the proceeds went to Room to Read, which promotes global girl power. The attendees dove head first into the theme, dressing in their best Jazz Age duds, and dancing to songs of the era. I may be slightly biased, but I hope it becomes an annual event.

You are well aware of my comings and goings, old sport, but many of the gentle readers of this column have inquired about the goings on in the Ocean State. While there is too much fun in the sun this summer to squeeze into a brief note such as this, I did want to make you and them aware of some of the highlights. There are always cookouts and beachy fun to be had in the biggest little, as my Sunday Funday consisted of Matunuck Oyster Bar cocktails before hitting South Kingston town beach and Bonnet Shores. Forget bar hopping, summer in Rhody is for beach bouncing. You should plan ahead to attend these special events.

On June 29, the West Side has a party. They call it a block party, but it’s spilled over beyond Luongo Square the last couple of years. The West Side is the best side at “come as you are” all-inclusive fun times, and this event is usually the best example. Bands, beers, food and fun are the designs of the day, and the people watching isn’t too shabby either.

At least once a year I like to make it down to Newport to watch the polo players perched on the ponies.  I know you are probably thinking, “Wait, wait, Gatsby, you may be a fancy pants son of a gun, but polo ain’t my bag, baby!” You’re wrong. You like cook-outs and cocktails, right? Well, these polo matches are like international picnics. This family-friendly event costs only $12, but you don’t have to tell your friends who will think that you stumbled into the jet set lifestyle, even though the horses are probably pampered more than you or me.

Another event that I attend every year is the Farm Fresh Fundraiser at Castle Hill, which takes place on August 6 this year. The people behind our local farms that make our restaurants world class bring a culinary cornucopia to arguably the most scenic spot in the state. There is a raffle and music as well as local beer and wine.  The main attraction, though, is the local farms that team up with some of the state’s best chefs to make a signature dish. Attendees go from booth to booth and are treated to bite-sized delights. I never go home hungry, and it’s a fun and affordable way to support a great organization and dine al fresco at Castle Hill.

Summers seem to fly by in the Ocean State, and it’s probably because there is so much fun to be had here. From the Newport International Tennis Hall of Fame to the CVS Charity Classic golf tourney, Thursday night Movies on the Block outside Tazza to the BRU Free Friday Concert Series at Waterplace Park, there is something for everyone’s taste and budget. Make this a summer of no regrets and many memories.

Be safe, be kind, and be happy, because whether you are 8 or 80 you will never be this young again.

Very truly yours,


2013 Newport Comedy Series

The tent at the Newport Yachting Center is a great place to see a show in the summertime, and this summer’s line-up for the Newport Summer Comedy Series offers something for every type of funny bone. Motif gives you the low down on what’s right for you.

July 13 – The Tenderloins

Who: The improv guys from truTV’s Impractical Jokers.

Who will love it: Folks who love improv video segments similar to the show.

July 14 – Bill Burr

Who: A comedian’s comedian who came up in the Boston comedy scene.

Who will love it: People who like their laughs with local flavor.  Burr is one of the funniest guys touring today.

July 18 – Brian Regan

Who: A perfect combination of sophisticated writing and physicality, Regan’s comedy covers a wide variety of topics.

Who will love it: People who prefer their jokes family-friendly. Regan is very funny and mostly keeps it clean.

July 26 – Lily Tomlin

Who: The long-time Emmy and Tony award winner is practically an American comedy institution.

Who will love it: People who want to witness a living legend live on stage and prefer to get their laughs Broadway show style.

July 28 – Bill Maher

Who: The brash mind behind HBO’s “Real Time.”

Who will love it: Anyone who wants to get guffaws that are smart, topical and mostly political in nature.

August 1 – Rodney Carrington

Who: Country singer and actor whose eight albums have sold 3 million copies.

Who will love it: Good ole boys and gals who enjoy their jokes a lil’ country and their comedians to sing songs with titles like “Titties and Beer.”

August 2 – Lisa Lampanelli

Who: Comedy’s Lovable Queen of Mean, Lampanelli is a cross between Don Rickles, Archie Bunker and a vial of estrogen.

Who will love it: Folks who enjoy insult jokes and outrageous and sometimes vulgar stories.

August 11 – Jeff Dunham

Who: The master of puppets whose world tours sell out arenas and Vegas alike.

Who will love it: If you like ventriloquism, witty banter and multiple character shows, you’ll love Dunham.

August 18 – Ron White

Who: Ron “Tatar Salad” White is best known as the cigar smoking, scotch drinking, hilarious comedian from the “Blue Collar Comedy” phenomenon.

Who will love it: A man’s man and a master storyteller, White appeals to almost anyone who likes to laugh.

August 25 – Dr. Drew and Adam Carolla

Who: The co-hosts of the wildly popular “Loveline” radio show.

Who will love it: Fans of the show who want the inside scoop or folks looking for some advice about crazy love life questions.

August 30 – Nick Offerman and Megan Mullally

Who: The married stars of “Park and Rec” and “Will and Grace” take the stage together.

Who will love it: Fans of the show who enjoy variety show type comedy, as this offering promises to include singing, dancing and some sketches.

September 1 – John Pinette

Who: Former stand-up comedian of the year and Gemini award winner.

Who will love it: Pinette famously jokes about his weight, and his stories will leave everyone rolling in the aisles.


TJ Curran is a local comedian who will be performing at the Comedy Connection with Robby Printz on June 28 and 29.

Get Your Laughs at the Joke Store

One form of entertainment that often slips the mind of Rhode Islanders is hitting up the local comedy club. According to John Souza aka Johnie Armani, owner and operator of RI’s newest comedy venue The Joke Store, as a state, we have a far less progressive comedy scene than Boston or Connecticut.

After frequenting the few clubs in the state, he began noticing the same circulation of comedians every month. “Comedy here is growing stale,” he says. “We don’t want to change the scene; change is a terrible word. We want to add variety.”

The Joke Store, opening on May 17, is moving in above Cranston’s Stage Door Lounge, which is The Park Theatre’s connecting nightclub. The venue is composed of a bar, lounge and stage opposite intimate family-style table seating.

“Most people only have one or two days a week to go out and have a good time. We don’t want to give them a show, we want to give them a memorable night,” Johnie says. The club will feature both regional and national acts, up and coming local acts and RI’s Speed of Thought Players improv troupe.

The Joke Store’s May 17 opening begins at 5pm with a ceremonial ribbon cutting featuring refreshments. The 8pm show features Nick Albanese, “Everyone’s favorite Goomba.”

The Not So Great Gatsby: Landing on the Right Side of History

Dear Nick,

On March 23rd, I went to the Providence “G” for the Providence Preservation Society bash. The PPS fundraiser is always one of the best parties of the year. Somehow they manage to get people from all walks of life: the young, young at heart, rich, soon to be rich, fashionable and frumpish together under one usually repurposed roof. With the help of a liberal layering of libations, this eclectic group mingles, dances and actually has good old fashioned sincere fun. My congrats to Chris Marsella, Jen Shimkus, Michael Gadzacko and everyone else who put it all together. The music was perfect, and there was just enough merriment to distract you from the fact that you were grooving in a construction site. The theme was prom, and to some degree “a second chance,” and it set me to thinking …

Different cultures vary on when a boy becomes a man, or a girl passes to womanhood. In modern America, for most kids, that moment is unmistakably prom. Nevermind the heightened hormone-fueled atmosphere, the first time most don a tuxedo or gown and ride in a limousine; it’s also the first time most kids have sex, drink alcohol and try drugs. Even if you wore a hand-me-down suit, drove your mom’s mini-van and remained a sober virgin, you still were changed. You made choices and experienced feelings — adult choices and feelings — that were yours alone.

When I was a kid, before I was aware of the rite of passage that teens go through every year, something unusual caused a media firestorm in my sleepy home town. Two guys at the high school had their tuxes selected, the limo on hold and their dates picked out. The only issue is that their dates were one another. I don’t really remember all the details except that the principal did not allow it and they ended up on talk shows. Even then I remember thinking, “Who cares?” I didn’t know what gay was or how important an “institution” prom was to some people. I just knew that these two guys wanted to get all gussied up and dance with each other, and what is wrong with that? Now with the PPS “Second Chance Prom,” some folks got to boogie down with their first choice of gender, and there’s nothing better than that.

As I write this letter, the Supreme Court is hearing arguments about gay marriage, and the RI Senate is entertaining a marriage equality bill. The Supreme Court looks like it will end up on the right side of things. Fifty-eight percent of Americans support marriage equality according to a recent poll. Before you start puffing out your chest with pride in the level-headedness of the good ole US of A, 57 percent of Americans have a relative who is gay, leaving only 1 percent openly open minded. The RI Senate is having a tougher time of things. They were able to pass bills naming calamari the state’s official appetizer and making reefer legal, but seem to stumble when it comes to granting basic rights to some of its citizens.

Why do I even care about this? Good question, old sport. I am not gay. I am free to marry whomever I want without my motives being questioned. But friends of both Dorothy and me are forced to falter before the alter. In the plainest of English, this isn’t fair. In a land that has rationalized its use of “all men are created equal” for centuries, we still have an easier time exalting squid rings than doing what’s right for actual humans. The forest for all these happy little trees is that RI does the right thing, gets to be ahead of the curve on the right side history for once, and maybe boosts the economy with some fabulous new weddings coming to town. I am not sure who gets hurt in this scenario, but if anyone claims to be injured, give them a hit of newly decriminalized pot and tell them to relax. Until next time, old sport.



“The Not So Great Gatsby” is an anonymous first person chronicle of one man’s misadventures in Providence. The events, places, and people (except when necessary to protect the innocent) will all be real. The opinions belong to Gatsby and may not reflect those of Motif magazine.


The Not So Great Gatsby: March Madness

“The Not So Great Gatsby” is an anonymous first person chronicle of one man’s misadventures in Providence. The events, places, and people (except when necessary to protect the innocent) will all be real. The opinions belong to Gatsby and may not reflect those of Motif magazine.

Dear Nick,

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the snow we’ve had here in Providence. Every weekend a new storm with no memory of the last comes at us from a new direction dumping all the powder it can while the markets are hard pressed to keep milk and bread on the shelves. Queer tradition, that of purchasing milk and bread for an impending storm. It makes no practical sense, but the idea of being stuck inside eating French toast isn’t necessarily unappealing. People panic, running around frantically only to be quieted inside beneath the hush of the newly fallen snow.

The frequently furious flurries of flakes has taken a toll on the people here. We are isolated in our homes, bundled under layers of clothes, and at times completely immobilized. And ironically, it’s a winter such as this that we yearn to be closer to someone. In the other seasons you can run free, undeterred by the white walls of Mother Nature, but this is different. We yearn for company and body heat, but know that like the snow itself, these flings are temporary, and will melt with the coming spring.

We’ve gradually become a society of people who give the weather names, because heaven forbid we couldn’t refer to every single thing, even a passing storm, by a familiar first name. Maybe if we used a more formal tense, like “Mr. Blizzard,” Sandy and Nemo would have been a bit more polite while passing through … but I digress.

After the last such storm, the one named for the cartoon fish, I braved the cold and headed out. Sides were chosen ahead of time and you knew who you were getting snowed in with days before the first flake fell. Advice to anyone who spent this one alone, or found the relationship strained after 72 hours of forced civility: find a sexy neighbor who you want to get to know better. Worst case is a new friend and fun story, best case is a fun new friend with blizzard benefits. Either way you can walk home when the blinding white of daylight comes to call, regardless of the presence of plow people.

Not much was open. Parkside was my first stop, and the decidedly older crowd was crammed with couples who clearly couldn’t cook. The mood was merry, and even the bookworms on the end of the bar, traveling with their personal book lights, managed a smile through the less than librarious din. JR wasn’t at the Avery, but his snowblower was. After dark, the roads were a cold pale memory, but that didn’t stop the West Side locals from hitting the the Luongo Triangle of North, then Avery, and then dancing with Zach Drummond at E&O. Those without waterproof shoes spent all night at Julians who boasted he’s never been closed in 18 years, making him a longer running Broadway hit than Les Miserables. No matter where I went, the line clearly was drawn between couples and lone wolves, both being tested by the respective closeness and solitude found in Nemo.

A man wiser than me once said, “Advice is like snow — the softer it falls, the longer it dwells upon, and the deeper in sinks into the mind.” If I could offer you some advice, old sport, it would be: when the cold comes and covers you with its quieting white quilt, be sure to choose with whom you seek shelter wisely. I found myself risking the elements to find kindred single snowfolks to be alone together. You may run out of milk and bread and conversation. She may cheat at cards and he may hog the covers, but you are in it together building memories bigger than any snow bank.

Sincerely yours,


Contact the Not So Great Gatsby at  NSGgatsby@gmail.com.