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The Central Falls Landing Makes a Splash: Kayak rentals, river cruises, educational programs and more

You don’t need to buy a boat in order to enjoy a relaxing afternoon exploring a scenic river. The Blackstone Valley Tourism Council and the City of Central Falls have been hard at work creating the Central Falls Landing, located on the corner of Madeira Ave and Broad St. It runs along the Blackstone River and has a variety of activities on water and land that will be enjoyable for adults and children alike. 

The Blackstone River is an asset to the community because it brings people together and connects them to nature. Bob Billington, president and CEO of The Blackstone Valley Tourism Council, describes a typical boat ride on the river:“Lots of trees, lots of wildlife, lots of fish life, and turtles,” are highlights of the Explorer River Tour. This Nature and Heritage Tour runs on Sundays from 1 – 4pm and the boat takes off at the beginning of each hour. 

The Central Falls landing also hosts The Samuel Slater, an authentic 40-foot canal boat that replicates those popular in the Blackstone Valley in the early-to-mid 19th century. “The Slater was brought here in 2000, to celebrate the Millennium,” Billington says. “It’s there for the public to enjoy a cruise or an overnight on a British-built canal boat. It is the perfect place to enjoy a relaxing evening on the Blackstone River.” Half a dozen people can ride on a cruise and up to four people can stay overnight. There’s even a kitchen and a bathroom with warm water.

Additionally, the Central Falls Landing also has many educational opportunities for kids and teens. 

First is the RiverClassroom which enables teachers to bring their students on board The Explorer to study wildlife firsthand. “They learn about river science — how to protect the river [and] how to check its life status to date,” explains Billington. “They love learning on the river. A highlight is our Remote Operated Underwater Vehicle. This is where kids can control the ROV and see what is living under the boat.”

Second, a program that enables any Central Falls or Pawtucket resident under the age of eighteen to get free kayaking lessons. Billington says, “They will have the life skill of paddling which they will take with them forever. They … learn river safety as well.” 

The Central Falls Landing provides life jackets and all other necessary supplies for participants. Billington explains that safety concerns are minimal, “We have our dam safety line across the Central Falls Dam and that makes it very safe for the public to enjoy Central Falls Landing.” Both programs aim to teach kids the value of the Blackstone River and generate interest in conservation efforts. 

After a long day on the river, people often find themselves feeling hungry; luckily there are two restaurants on location. For those interested in trying something new, there’s Shark’s Peruvian Cuisine and for comfort food, there’s Royal Fried Chicken. Both restaurants are excellent choices for those in need of a hearty meal.
For more information about tours, rates and bookings, go to rivertourblackstone.com.




The Building of Good: A conversation with Karen Gager

If you’ve spent time working for nonprofits, chances are you’ve come across a break room refrigerator magnet with the quotation: Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has. The quote is attributed to anthropologist Margaret Mead. Whether Mead ever uttered those words is subject to debate, but the passion and validity of their meaning is not; although, change for the good rarely happens without support.

Insert Karen Gager, executive director of PVD-based 134 Collaborative, a 501(c)(3) that unites nonprofits and like-minded programs and services under one roof — the roof of Mathewson Street Church in downtown PVD, to be specific. “We are building collaborations for social good,” says Gager. “That’s our tagline.”

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Can you explain the connection between 134 Collaborative and Mathewson Street Church?

The organization was started by the church to oversee the secular programming happening in the building. For years it was overseen by a church member, then the church decided they wanted to have a separate entity with a separate staff; that’s where I came in.

How did you get involved with this work?

I’m a clinical social worker by training. I have a master’s degree in Social Work and back in 2000 I was laid off and this consultant opportunity came along. An organization was looking for someone to evaluate the programs happening in their building and see what else could take place. I interviewed for the position and was hired as a consultant. Then they got funding to hire an executive director and asked me to step into that role.

How would you describe the programs and services you offer?

Most of the programs I’d categorize as social justice or social action programs that serve underserved populations, whether it’s people who are food insecure, housing insecure or financially insecure. Many folks are on disability and not able to work full-time jobs; some have substance use challenges. 

Programs and services we offer need to fit into our mission, which is to bring together social justice and social good organizations and their communities under one roof. They need to fit into that mission and have a willingness to be part of a collaborative. Sharing spaces, working together, supporting one another, those are some of the criteria we look at.

We also have folks who are not necessarily part of the collaborative but rent space in the building such as our black box theater. For example, Brown/Trinity MFA program rented that space and used it for a directing class and some rehearsals. 

What does “community” mean to you? 

Community to me means diversity, people of different backgrounds and experiences coming together to learn from each other, to support one another, to have conversations with each other. Certainly you can have challenges and disagreements, and you may not be on the same page all the time, but community is also an opportunity to figure out how you can work together and respect each other’s opinions and thoughts.

What do you think are the needs RI communities need answered most? 

Homelessness and mental health services. We have Oasis Wellness & Recovery Center in our building and they provide peer-to-peer support for people who are facing mental illness challenges. They have a drop-in center, as well as virtual support groups. As a clinical social worker, I completely agree that there needs to be more mental health services and support for everyone. And not only for people who are homeless or going through other challenges in their lives, but for our whole community, we need a place to go when we’re in need of support.

Having access to affordable food, particularly with sky-rocketing food prices, is definitely another big need. And, opportunities for creative expression and opportunities to engage in conversation are just as important. They’re not necessarily considered basic human needs, but they absolutely contribute to a person’s well-being. As a clinical social worker, I think it’s therapeutic. It’s a kind of counseling in a different venue. Sometimes people just need to share their story in order to heal and move on from trauma. It’s important to tell your story.

Do you ever think about hope? Are you hopeful for the future?

We need to have hope. If we don’t have hope then what motivates you? Hope is essential.

I like the saying: Take it one day at a time. A lot of the folks use that phrase when they come in. Take it one day at a time. And I think that’s a great phrase to keep in mind. Today may not be a good day, but tomorrow can be a better one.

To learn more about 134 Collaborative, including information on its upcoming silent auction, dinner, and fundraiser, Dining for Downcity; how to rent the black box theater; and, how to join the collaborative, visit 134collaborative.org or contact Karen Gager at 401.331.1069.




News Analysis — RI New Gun Laws: Constitutional problems certain to lead to lawsuits

Through a series of weird parliamentary maneuvers, RI hurled itself into a legal nightmare on gun control. Three proposed bills would ban carrying long guns (rifles and shotguns) in public except for hunting (H.7358/S.2825), acquisition of firearms and ammunition by anyone under 21 (for whom handguns were already prohibited) (H.7457/S.2637), and possession of magazines capable of holding more than 10 rounds (H.6614/S.2653). All three were passed by both chambers of the General Assembly, sending them to the governor who said he would sign them into law.

Although the first two proposals passed both the House and Senate easily, the magazine capacity ban faced stiff opposition in the Judiciary committees of both chambers. The House Judiciary Committee on June 9 only passed it 10-8 because the speaker and majority leader used their rarely-exercised power to vote ex-officio (by virtue of their office) as members of every committee to forward the bill to the floor, and the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday deadlocked on a tie vote even with the Senate president and majority leader voting ex-officio in favor. Because a tie vote in committee kills the bill, Senate leadership later in the day used a parliamentary maneuver to take up instead the House-passed bill for immediate consideration and pass it in concurrence, an extremely unusual move that requires a two-thirds super-majority vote and is almost never employed for anything controversial; the Senate voted 24-11 to override an objection to immediate consideration, the thinnest of margins. The Senate session ran almost six hours.

The RI magazine capacity bill is especially controversial because it provides for no grandfather clause that would allow owners of newly-banned magazines to keep them. While courts have generally held bans on manufacture and sales of magazines to be legal, no court decision currently in effect has allowed such a ban without a grandfather clause. California banned large magazines in 2000 but repealed its grandfather clause in 2016, leading to a flurry of litigation (Duncan v. Bonta) now pending before the US Supreme Court; an internal conference May 26 was held to decide whether to hear the case (certiorari), but legal observers expect that a major gun rights case on interpretation of the Second Amendment (New York State Rifle & Pistol Association Inc. v. Bruen) due to be decided by the end of this month will lead to the magazine case being remanded back to the lower courts.

By jumping into this fray, the RI ban on large magazines is certain to drag the state into litigation. The RI bill requires owners of existing magazines to either permanently modify them to reduce their capacity, surrender them to the police, or transfer them to a federally licensed firearms dealer for transfer out of state; violations constitute a felony punishable by up to five years imprisonment, a $5,000 fine, and forfeiture of the magazine. The bill exempts active and retired law enforcement officers as well as active members of the military and National Guard.

Magazines are low-technology devices consisting of little more than a box and a spring, unchanged in fundamental design for more than a century. They are designed to fit a particular firearm, either a long gun or a handgun, so they generally are not modifiable without making them incompatible with that firearm. Highly popular current models probably would be served by manufacturers making new reduced-capacity magazines compliant with the ban, but the vast majority of magazines are old, often decades old, and their sudden unavailability would render their companion firearm itself useless. The generally accepted estimate is that about half of all magazines in private hands hold more than 10 rounds. Because magazines can be swapped in seconds, it is far from clear that capacity limits are effective even if the goal is to reduce rate of fire.

Magazine capacity letter, Attorney General Peter Neronha to House Judiciary Committee Chair Robert Craven, June 10, 2022.

A grandfather clause on the magazine ban was vociferously opposed by Attorney General Peter Neronha in a letter to the House Judiciary Committee on June 10 (the day after its passage by the committee): “Put simply, inclusion of a grandfather clause will render these laws unenforceable, and our public safety gains will be lost. Most high-capacity magazines do not have identifying marks, serial numbers, or registration numbers, which could be used to indicate when they were manufactured or sold. Because law enforcement would be unable to verify whether an individual possessed a magazine prior to the effective date of this legislation, such an exemption would serve as a readily available defense for every prospective criminal defendant.” Neronha in his letter compared the six months owners would have to comply with the magazine ban to the prior one month to comply with “ghost gun” (homemade guns without serial numbers) ban, but of course there are thousands and probably tens of thousands of about-to-be-banned magazines while there are almost no “ghost guns” extant.

“This is rather breathtaking. In just a few months, tens of thousands of Rhode Island gun owners could become felons,” the RI Republican Party said in a statement this morning. “Never have so many law-abiding citizens been put at risk for jail time since the days of Prohibition when possession of alcohol was a crime. A few weeks ago, the General Assembly decided to pass a law that expunged any criminal convictions related to marijuana possession even though, at the time, marijuana was illegal. Now that same General Assembly wants to make possession of certain capacity magazines a crime even though the magazine was bought at a time when it was legal in Rhode Island. This makes no sense.”

Entering a similar legal swamp, the RI ban on possession of any firearms by those under age 21 is even more expansive than a ban on possession of some firearms (semi-automatic centerfire rifles) that was ruled unconstitutional by the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit on May 11 (Jones v. Bonta). “Young adults have the same constitutional rights as the middle-aged or the elderly – even if some of them may not necessarily have the wisdom or judgment that age and experience can bring – for the same reason that we do not limit fundamental rights based on supposed intelligence, maturity, or other characteristics” the court wrote, later noting that “young adults have a Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms. Because that right includes the right to purchase arms, both California laws burden conduct within the scope of the Second Amendment.” (The court upheld a second California law that required some purchasers to first obtain a hunting license.) While RI in the First Circuit is not strictly bound by Ninth Circuit precedent, the recent court ruling bodes ill for the survival of the new RI ban.

The ban on carrying long guns in public may likewise face constitutional problems, if as expected the US Supreme Court rules within the next few weeks that there is some Second Amendment right to carry a firearm in public (New York State Rifle & Pistol Association Inc. v. Bruen), thereby making licenses or permits to carry in public a right subject to increased scrutiny if denied. While RI law does contain a provision that local police “shall issue” permits to carry handguns in public, in practice police departments have been reluctant to comply, even refusing to accept applications, without being sued.




Monkeypox in RI: First probable case identified

RI has detected its first probable case of monkeypox virus. The state Department of Health (RIDOH) said in a statement that a male patient in his thirties who resides in Providence County is hospitalized in good condition after testing positive for an orthopox virus, which is a genus of viruses that includes moneypox. The case is awaiting confirmation specifically for the monkeypox virus from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The RI case is believed to be a result of travel to Massachusetts, where according to the CDC one case was previously identified. RIDOH said they are conducting contact tracing to identify individuals who may have been exposed to the RI patient while he was infectious, and contacts will be monitored for three weeks after their last day of exposure.

Interim RIDOH Director James McDonald said in the statement, “While monkeypox is certainly a concern, the risk to Rhode Islanders remains low – even with this finding. Monkeypox is a known – and remains an exceedingly uncommon – disease in the United States. Fortunately, there is a vaccine for monkeypox that can be given before or after exposure to help prevent infection. RIDOH continues to engage in active case finding and we have been communicating the latest information with healthcare providers so that they have the information they need to help us ‘identify, isolate, and inform.’”

States with cases of monkeypox as of June 8, 2022. (Source: cdc.gov/poxvirus/monkeypox/response/2022/index.html)

As of yesterday (June 9), the CDC had confirmed only 40 monkeypox cases in the United States. Worldwide there have been 1,200 cases across 29 countries primarily in Western Europe, including the United Kingdom, Spain, Portugal, and Germany, although 100 were in Canada. RIDOH said, “While anyone who has been in close contact with a confirmed or suspected monkeypox case can acquire monkeypox, people who have recently traveled to a country where monkeypox has been reported or men who have sex with other men are currently at a higher risk for monkeypox exposure. It is important to avoid stigmatizing any groups that may be considered at higher risk of exposure to the disease.”

Because the risk of exposure is so low, precautionary vaccination against orthopox viruses is recommended by the CDC only for clinical laboratory workers or researchers handling animals susceptible to infection, but for anyone actually exposed “CDC recommends that the vaccine be given within 4 days from the date of exposure in order to prevent onset of the disease. If given between 4–14 days after the date of exposure, vaccination may reduce the symptoms of disease, but may not prevent the disease.”

Monkeypox and smallpox

Smallpox is another orthopox virus and until its eradication a half-century ago it killed about 30% of those infected. Monkeypox has a case-fatality rate of 3-6%, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), but there are two known variants commonly termed Central African and West African, the former about twice as deadly as the latter. Monkeypox typically causes death or severe injury through complications such as pneumonia, encephalitis, or sepsis, all highly amenable to effective treatment with modern healthcare, and death outside of Africa is extremely rare. Usually monkeypox patients recover on their own within two to four weeks.

It is believed those vaccinated against smallpox before routine vaccination for the general public ended in 1972 likely retain significant protection against monkeypox even decades later; the US military continued routine vaccination against smallpox until 1991. “Past data from Africa suggests that the smallpox vaccine is at least 85% effective in preventing monkeypox,” the CDC said, but also cautioned that “Smallpox vaccination can protect you from smallpox for about 3 to 5 years. After that time, its ability to protect you decreases.”

Monkeypox ways of infection and symptoms

Infection with monkeypox usually occurs either from direct contact with infected animals (blood, bodily fluids, or lesions), especially rodents, or from close contact with infected humans (respiratory secretions, skin lesions, or recently contaminated objects). “Transmission via droplet respiratory particles usually requires prolonged face-to-face contact, which puts health workers, household members and other close contacts of active cases at greater risk,” according to the WHO.

Monkeypox can spread “through contact with body fluids, monkeypox sores, or shared items (such as clothing and bedding) that have been contaminated with fluids or sores of a person with monkeypox. Monkeypox virus can also spread between people through respiratory droplets typically in a close setting, such as the same household or a healthcare setting. Common household disinfectants can kill the monkeypox virus,” RIDOH said. “Monkeypox is not known to spread easily among humans; transmission generally does not occur through casual contact. Human-to-human transmission occurs primarily through direct contact with body fluids, including the rash caused by monkeypox. Transmission might also occur through prolonged, close, face-to-face contact. The time from someone becoming infected to showing symptoms for monkeypox is usually 7−14 days but can range from 5−21 days. Infected people are not contagious before they show symptoms.”

“Symptoms of monkeypox include fever, headache, muscle aches, exhaustion, and swollen lymph nodes. Infected people develop a rash, often beginning on the face then spreading to other parts of the body, that turns into fluid-filled bumps (pox). These pox lesions eventually dry up, scab over, and fall off. The illness typically lasts 2−4 weeks. Currently, there is no proven, safe treatment for monkeypox, though the limited evidence available indicates that smallpox treatments may be useful. Most people recover with no treatment,” RIDOH said. “Anyone who has symptoms of monkeypox should call their healthcare provider before going to the office for an appointment. Let them know you are concerned about possible monkeypox infection so they can take precautions to ensure that others are not exposed.”




RI “Don’t Say Gay” (or Anything Else) Bills: Dead in the water

Rep. Patricia Morgan testifying on her bill H.7539 before the RI House Education Committee, Apr 11, 2022.

RI has not escaped the national trend of proposed legislation that would impose restrictions on discussing sexual orientation or gender identity in public schools or on teaching history in such a way as to make students feel discomfort on the basis of race, sexual orientation or gender identity. Rep. Patricia Morgan (R-West Warwick), who has a master’s degree in education and is a certified school principal, introduced H.7539. The bill received a hearing before the Education Committee on April 11 – but the bill has not moved forward and is widely assumed to be dead with no chance of passage; over the course of two-and-a-half hours, numerous legislators and members of the public testified against it so overwhelmingly that the overall impression was that they used the bill as a punching bag.

Rep. Patricia Morgan on Twitter, Dec 28,. 2021.
(Source: https://twitter.com/repmorgan/status/1475844670542467083)

While couched in neutral terminology, H.7539 is so vague as to what it prohibits that it would inevitably chill discussion – which seems to be its real goal. The text provides, “Racial slurs or terms that describe race, ethnicity, gender or religion in a pejorative context shall not be presented or used in schools. Examples of prohibited terms include ‘supremacy,’ ‘racial guilt,’ ‘racial fragility,’ and other racial slurs or terms used to cast negative opinions on individuals based upon race, ethnicity, gender, or religion.” But it would be impossible to teach legitimate history without explaining that slavery and Jim Crow were grounded in and justified by white supremacy, and there is no shortage of primary documentary evidence for that, including the acts of secession by Southern states as to why they joined the Confederacy in the Civil War. The bill text includes a laundry list of political myths that are impossible to reconcile with real history, such as “Meritocracy or traits such as a hard work ethic are not racist but fundamental to the right to pursue happiness and be rewarded for industry.”

In his testimony, Steven Brown of the RI ACLU pointed out that the bill claims to oppose censorship while mandating it, with explicit bans such as “Schools shall not use the 1619 Project curriculum or any other curricula that pursues a predominantly ideological and/or activist outcome… Values, psychological and medical counseling, and political activism shall not be taught in classrooms or in any school setting.” Organized by The New York Times, the 1619 Project offers an interpretation of American history beginning with the date that enslaved Africans were first brought to what would become the United States; historian Nikole Hannah-Jones was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for her contribution. As Brown sarcastically said, eliminating every book from the school curriculum with a viewpoint would result in nothing but The World Almanac.

The bill also takes aim at issues important to the LGBTQ community: “Sex education shall not explore sexual preference, gender dysphoria, or sexual lifestyles.” Schools must notify the parents of transgender children regardless of circumstances and even potential danger: “Children shall be addressed using their common names and the pronouns associated with their biological gender unless parental or guardian permission to do otherwise is obtained.” The bill is closely modeled on similar legislation actually enacted in Florida that opponents have ridiculed as the “don’t say gay” bill because its terms are so expansive as to plausibly prohibit a first-grader telling classmates that they have two mommies or two daddies.

A parallel bill, S.2501 in the Senate, sponsored by Sen. Elaine Morgan (no relation), a South County Republican, seems to have received even less consideration than P. Morgan’s bill in the House, not even scheduled for a committee hearing since it was introduced Mar 1. The E. Morgan bill bans transgender athletes in schools, restricting competition to the sex at birth: “If disputed, a student may establish sex by presenting a signed physician’s statement that shall indicate the student’s sex based solely on: (A) The student’s internal and external reproductive anatomy; (B) The student’s normal endogenously produced levels of testosterone; and (C) An analysis of the student’s genetic makeup.”

The controversy has been fomenting for months. Conservative web site Ocean State Currents reported accusations on Feb 16 by Bob Chiaradio that Westerly public schools were making available “pornographic materials,” citing the books Gender Queer, Fun Home, and Beyond Magenta. These books are not regarded as pornographic by mainstream educators, and they have won numerous awards: Beyond Magenta was named the 2015 winner of the Lambda Literary Award for LGBT Children’s/Young Adult Literature, and the Broadway production based on the Fun Home graphic novel won five 2015 Tony Awards, including Best Musical.

Another conservative web site, Legal Insurrection, published an article by Providence Public Schools teacher Ramona Bessinger arguing that traditional historical subjects, such as the Holocaust, were being pushed out of the curriculum: “American history now is being retold exclusively from the perspective of oppressed peoples during the Revolutionary period through to the Civil War, and also in the literature of the Civil Rights movement. From my position in the classroom, it seemed that much of American history and literature was getting wiped out.” She alleged that false history was being introduced: “In some cases the book covers browned out the faces of historical characters like Lincoln to look black or brown, none of the books were recognizable, and all the booklets seemed to revolve around slavery or oppression. Perplexed, I thought there was a mistake. I asked a teacher leader what was going on and he looked jokingly at me saying ‘Comrade, we were told to remove all classroom sets of reading material in order to make room for the incoming sets of books.’ I laughed, assuming this was a joke. But it was not a joke, this was real and happening in my school, in my classroom.”

Chiaradio and Bessinger were supposed to be the principal speakers and presenters at an event scheduled for the evening of March 16 at Brewed Awakenings coffeehouse in Warwick, but it was canceled due to concerns about protesters showing up. As it happened, many people from both sides attended the event anyway, although Warwick Police kept the opposing groups separated.

Despite all of the attention and controversy given to local versions of “don’t say gay” bills in RI, they appear to have no chance of passage.




Phillipe and Jorge’s Cool Cool World: Ad Nauseum

It’s on, mofos!

We have begun the battle of political TV ads you will be so sick of within a month you will be begging to see even more ambulance-chasing spots by the likes of The Heavy Hitter and Agent 777 instead (if you don’t by now, as they are already brain-numbing and annoying enough).

First out of the gate with TV spots was Republican gubernatorial candidate Ashley Kalus, the carpetbagger from Illinois, running for the chance to step in front of Little Rhody’s Democratic bus. She’s been followed by Helena Foulkes, the former CVS honcho who nobody knows, but is rich enough to run in the Democratic gubernatorial primary on essentially her own dime. But remember, former guv Gigi Raimondo showed how far a dollar will go.

To be successful, as P&J are certain overpaid consultants are advising the pols, you need to tick the important boxes:

  1. Family. If you’re in the race and don’t have a brood, go out and either adopt or rent a band of precious young cuties. 
  2. Public Education. Show unquestionable dedication to our public schools and the needs and joys of a proper education. Even if your own kids are tucked away at exclusive private schools away from the riff-raff one may encounter in your school district.
  3. Economy. Yes, it is the fault of everyone, except your high-end political donors, that we are being price-gouged at the gas pump, smoked by the baby formula drought and undermined by those unaffordable rents – which need correcting that you know you can’t and won’t do.
  4. I’m One of Youse. Total bullshit as a credential, but it will kill Ashley Kalus. And like Ms. Foulkes, who now uses her Italian family name of Buonanno to possibly capture the Federal Hill vote, candidates will work that ethnic/gender/local/legacy angle. And as we have previously said, P&J’s ordained candidate, General Treasurer Seth Magaziner, in his Congressional race, had better move into the district toot sweet. And rightly so.
  5. What a genius you are and always have been. Whether she/he is a Golden Gloves boxer or serious ailment sufferer who has engaged in facing down opponents or beating all odds, best try to not be seen blowing your own horn. As if that is possible for a politician.
  6. I’ve never been arrested for shady deals. Well, besides being a possible lie waiting to happen in all camps, it’s touch-and-go whether this might matter. Although, the fact that Gov. Dan “Who’s He?” McKee – and his deal with his cronies in securing a multi-million-dollar state contract for them one week after he was sworn in – is being investigated by the state’s attorney general and FBI, does not bode well. We’ll see when the gloves come off down the stretch.

Spot the Difference

It’s time for this edition of Phillipe and Jorge’s “Spot the Difference” competition. This is inspired by reading People magazine at our local laundromat, where you better habla español with the wonderful people who run it.  But it is entertaining – in a bizarre way – to read about the “celebrities” People covers (marriages, births, deaths, drug problems, faux traumas, romances designed to fail, etc) among ostensibly famous folks we couldn’t pick out of a police lineup, if we aren’t being too out of touch with who’s what is where, when and how in the modern social media world.

Being your globally aware and superior correspondents, if not important “influencers” (pardon us while we wretch at that term), we have chosen an international theme, in which you can try to identify the differences between two major sources and influences of power. Here ya go, puzzle fans:

  1. The ruling power in Afghanistan, the Taliban, with their trampling on rights of women and subjugating them to totally restrictive laws, which the US government has said they abhor.
  2. The US Supreme Court, with their proposed trampling of the rights of women and subjugating them to totally restrictive laws (take a bow, Texas and Oklahoma governors and legislators) that the US people have said they abhor.

Answer:

The difference is that, while both are brutally repressive, wear long, flowing oversized outfits/robes, and are so full of themselves you need to coat the doorways with Vaseline to get their inflated heads into a room, the Taliban wear those turbans and beards with pride, while the Supreme Court justices choose to go bareheaded. Although both the unspeakable sexual predator, incompetent and totally compromised by his wife Clarence “Frogman” Thomas and Donald Trump’s hired housemaid, Amy Coney Barrett, could use a shave, notably (and preferably) of their brains’ frontal lobes.

(A tip of the beret and sombrero to England’s exquisite Private Eye magazine for the kick-start.)




Downtown Go-Goes Disco: Lace up and skate up at the BankNewport City Center in PVD

When the sounds get louder and the lights get brighter, that must mean downtown PVD is back on with a whole new fuel of fire! Where the wheels grind and the good vibes bind, the pulse starts at the center of the city, or rather, the BankNewport City Center, also known as the Providence Rink. 

As the air gets warmer, the people get cooler, but it starts with a throwback for the rad cats to catch: The Roller Disco. People of all ages and backgrounds lace up and roll out onto the rink with groovy tunes under the glowing moon. What started last year is brewing to be bigger and better, bringing together a multi-skilled community.

“It brings out this funky group of people that are down to skate and teach each other moves,” said Sami Leigh, downtown Providence parks programming supervisor. “There’s like a massive community aspect that comes out for roller disco. It’s really cool!”

Running June 2 through October 29 on Thursday, Friday and select Saturday nights, the BankNewport City Center will host the popular Roller Disco. Open to all, the rink not only provides the hip vibe but offers rentals on skates, helmets and lockers to store your belongings. Just past the lights and disco ball at the entrance, the music will be spun rink-side by a variety of local DJs and be performed at the adjacent Trinity Beer Garden with live bands, flipping back and forth, festival style.

Trinity Beer Garden has also been upgraded and expanded with more tables, chairs, a stage and of course a nice selection of ales and cocktails from the Trinity Brewhouse gang. The grub will be provided by local food trucks that have partnered up with the Providence Rink.

The masterminds behind the disco nights are looking to embellish them on select nights in conjunction with other huge community events such as PRIDE and PVDFEST, further building on the spirit of the city. Also partnering up are a crew all too familiar with wheeling around the flat track, the furious and the friendly of Providence Roller Derby. After having a couple of years off, the league is looking to come back bigger and better. PRD skaters will be at the discos selling merch, answering questions and recruiting new skaters, referees and non-skating officials. Brake by if you dare!

“It’s been so awesome to watch people that don’t know each other, from all walks of life, come together in the center of the city and teach each other, and enjoy each other, and have a good time,” said Leigh. “It’s so cool to provide that for people and watch it grow.”

Beyond just skating, the City Center has upgraded its event calendar with monthly film features, bringing back the vibes of the former Movies On The Block. Setting up the big screen, they offer reserved seating for up to 64 attendees and general admission with provided benches, or you can just bring your own accommodations.  Upcoming films include the musical In The Heights and Halloween favorite Hocus Pocus

For those looking for other exercise options, the City Center operates Monday through Wednesday in tandem with the Super Fun Activities Club, which hosts league games in Volleyball, Dodgeball, Pickleball, Soccer and Roller Hockey. Sign-ups are periodically open on the rink’s website: www.theprovidencerink.com

But the fun doesn’t stop there! Their website and social media are about to unleash a flurry of events all summer and fall currently known as “In The Parks.” Says Leigh, “We’re establishing a lot of new programming outside of the City Center as well [including the 15 parks], to be announced.”

To keep up with rink happenings, follow their social media @BankNewportCC.  




Nantucket is the Tits: Is Rhode Island next?

It’s a hot July day. You enter Scarborough Beach, a South County favorite. Stepping out from the parking lot you feel the heat coupled with the ease of the calm sea breeze. On this semi-crowded beach day you peruse the scene for a good landing spot. Beach towels of all patterns, umbrellas of blues, reds and florals are scattered across the light brown sand. The water glistens and crashes gently to the shore as boogie boarders line up to catch their next wave. 

Now imagine walking up to the same beach, only this time tops are optional for BOTH genders. You enter the beach to see swimmers and sunbathers of all shapes, ages and sizes with exposed chests. Friends, neighbors, your old English teacher perhaps, all shirtless if they choose. You and your crew trudge through the hot sand, trying not to stare and smiling politely as you set out your chairs, towel and cooler, settling in for an epic beach day. How do you feel? Freedom? Discomfort? Equality? Total awkwardness?

For Nantucket this may soon be a reality. Nantucket native Dorothy Stover’s dream of top-optional beaches passed in a Town Hall vote 327 to 242 in the first week of May. It’s not in the clear yet though: For it to become a law the MA Attorney General needs to sign off. “In order to promote equality for all persons, any person shall be allowed to be topless on any public or private beach within the Town of Nantucket,” says Stover. The sexual educator and 7th-generation Nantucket resident believes male and female breasts are not actually that different. 

I remember MY first nude beach experience. In my mid-thirties, mid-pandemic, I’d escaped to Miami to hang with my best guy friend who boasted about his favorite nude beach. Can you guess where we went on my first day of the trip? I peered around the corner from the path to see dozens of bare bodies on a serene white sandy beach with turquoise water. After a few minutes adjusting to new views, I pulled the strings of my bikini, dropping my top onto my towel. A cool breeze whisped across my chest and I let myself sink in and relax. 

Leading up to this experience my mind wandered into overthinking territory. Was I going to be looked at sexually? Was it weird for my male friend and I to hang out in the nude? Would I feel uncomfortable? Self conscious? Would I get sand in the wrong places? These are all valid questions. But strolling the beach topless, I felt accepted and free. Bodies were just bodies, nonsexual and pure.

I spoke to a few locals to gather their comments on public nudity and toplessness at beaches. Here’s what they had to say:

“I’ve been to Europe and the Caribbean and, you know, as soon as you get used to toplessness or full nudity, it loses its shock value very, very quickly. And it just becomes normal. I think it’s just anything that moves towards equality and it’s just a really good thing.” — Charley Francis, 38

“I’ve traveled some in Miami. They’ve got sections of where they have topless and I believe it may be nude. I am all about gender equality and things of that nature but Nantucket… It’s very family oriented. So maybe if they had something as far as sections where it would be cut off, maybe that’d be some sort of something that they can actually work with.” — Jennifer Vinalon, 38

“I have no issues with people who want to go topless but I honestly feel it should be at a designated section of a beach or a dedicated nude beach. I don’t think exposing young kids is a good idea unless they are brought up in that kind of culture.” — Nancy Serpa, 54

“First, I don’t think a child or teenagers should be subject to seeing topless women on a beach. It would be different if we were all raised with that like Europe. It’s not our tradition or custom hence why that would be an uncomfortable situation for me. Don’t get me wrong, a woman’s body is beautiful, however, some things should be left private and not for public display.” — Simmone Mendoza, 55

Could I see topless beaches in RI? Quite possibly, but maybe not as loosely as Nantucket is proposing. Even when I lived in Seattle there were only a few nude beaches, or sections of beaches where clothing was optional. I believe no one should be made to feel uncomfortable anywhere in public areas, regardless of belief, personal values or upbringing. So my vote would be to allow toplessness at some beaches in RI, but only in designated sections. 

Can topless equality with rules and guidelines coexist in the Ocean State? That question is for another epic beach day. Right now, I have some sand to clean off.




FINALLY!: Rhode Island legalizes cannabis for adult use

Pardon my excitement, but WE DID IT!! After years of coordinated advocacy efforts and many months of negotiations between stakeholders, at long last RI lawmakers managed to put a unified legalization bill to a vote on the House and Senate floors, where it passed with minimal opposition and was signed into law by the governor the very next day. Of course, we knew this was coming — not that it was inevitable, as many have opined over the last few years, but that at some point, our legislature would get its act together to join the rest of New England and much of the country in legalizing cannabis for adult use. But even though I meant it every time I said “this is really the year we make it happen,” a part of me was still in shock as I watched the House vote from a wooden bench in the gallery, the back wall lined with police officers standing in solidarity — a thin blue line of stoic opposition. After spending one third of my life advocating for this very moment, it was surreal to see the names of representatives light up in green, one by one, on the Capitol TV screen on the wall. I couldn’t help but well up with emotions as the final gavel fell, signifying the end of cannabis prohibition and the start of a new chapter in RI. 

The Bill That Lived

Whether it was reduced stigma around cannabis due to legalization in 18 other states, continued advocacy work finally making an impact or just an increasingly acute awareness of the tax revenue being lost to MA every day, lawmakers seemed to come to the table with a different attitude this legislative session. 

For the first time in ten years, they managed to put differences aside to come up with a singular bill to file in both chambers – a compromise between the needs and demands of all the various stakeholders, without diluting the best parts of each approach. It’s a tall order, but it was that spirit of collaboration, coupled with some critical last-minute amendments, that brought this legislation over the finish line to become one of the best legalization laws we’ve seen yet in this country. 

Effective Immediately:

  • Possession – Adults (21+) can possess up to 1 oz of cannabis for personal use (maximum of 10 oz in storage per household) and possession of up to 2 oz for adults 18+ and older will be decriminalized, resulting in a civil penalty without the threat of jail time.
  • Home Grow – Adults (21+) can grow up to 6 plants for personal use (3 immature / 3 flowering), as long as safety requirements laid out in the legislation are met.
  • Expungement – While the automatic expungement process is pending (see “Stay Tuned” below), those eligible may petition the court immediately for expedited clearance of their case.
  • Social Equity Fund – All fees paid by legal cannabis businesses will be directed into a dedicated fund to provide assistance to applicants from communities disproportionately impacted by the criminalization of cannabis.
  • Licensing – New license structures will be available and set aside for social equity businesses (with at least 51% of owners or employees qualifying under specific criteria) and worker-owned cooperatives, the latter of which has never been done before – RI may have missed the boat on a lot of firsts when it comes to cannabis, but at least we can say that we led the way in one thing!

The Road to Retail

  • “Hybrid” Dispensaries – Starting August 1, 2022 (mere weeks from now!), the first stores to open for adult-use sales will likely be the ones that are already open. The amended legislation expedites the licensing for existing medical marijuana dispensaries – for a $125,000 fee — in an effort to streamline the path to adult-use cannabis sales.
  • New Licenses – Aside from the nine hybrid licenses that will presumably be granted to each of the existing compassion centers, 24 new retail licenses will also be available right away — of those, 25% of licenses must be awarded to social equity applicants, 25% to worker-owned cooperatives, and all 24 must be divided up equally between the six geographic zones laid out in the state.
  • Cultivation & Vertical Integration – There will be a moratorium on new cultivation licenses for two yearsUnlike our existing dispensary business model, the new licenses will be retail-only, and no single entity will be allowed to possess more than one business license. 
  • Taxes – Retail cannabis sales will be subject to a 7% state sales tax, 10% state excise tax, and 3% municipal tax (the latter of which will only be available to those cities and towns that allow for cannabis businesses).

Stay Tuned:

  • Expungement — The amended legislation mandates for state-initiated (automatic) expungement of criminal convictions for misdemeanor or felony possession up to 2 oz, a process that must be completed by July 1, 2024.
  • Regulatory Authority —  An independent Cannabis Control Commission (CCC) and new advisory board will be created to help craft regulations. Members of the CCC will be appointed by the governor using a suggested list compiled by the legislature — a compromise that was reached after Gov. McKee raised concerns about the constitutionality of too much legislative control over appointees. 
  • Medical Marijuana — All fees associated with application, renewal, and cultivation of medical marijuana for personal use will be eliminated completely as soon as adult-use sales begin, perhaps as early as December of this year.
  • Detecting Impairment — One of the more urgent issues to address as we move forward, at least according to opponents of the legislation, will be the criteria used by law enforcement to detect cannabis impairment in drivers. Proposed solutions include more “drug recognition experts” — a costly pseudoscientific training program, increasingly marketed to police departments in the age of legalization — the odor of cannabis, and blood testing of drivers for THC, but it should be noted that there are no scientifically reliable or valid forms of detecting cannabis impairment yet.

The work of building a stronger, more equitable cannabis industry in RI is far from over, but I believe we have laid a solid foundation with the Rhode Island Cannabis Act. I am sure that I will have plenty of opinions and criticism to offer as we move into the regulation and implementation phases, but for right now, I am quite proud of our small state.




PLEASE JOIN US FOR THE MOTIF 2022 FOOD TRUCK AWARD CEREMONY

Monday, August 15 from 6 -10pm
R1 Indoor Karting, 100 Higginson Ave, Lincoln, RI

Yes, there will be food trucks!

Our Food Truck Awards, now in its 6th year (with time off for pandemics), draws nominations from our food writers, local event planners and food truck events around the state, plus suggestions from the trucks themselves.

This event will be held alongside our second annual Drink Awards.

Both events are celebrations of these crowd-pleasing art forms. For details or to RSVP, visit our FaceBook event.

This year, the following trucks and brewers are expected to be serving:

Hometown Poke
RaRa’s Surf Shack
Hot Potato
Lulu’s Pancakes
Memphis Kelle
RI Spirits
Buttonwoods Brewery
Narragansett Brewery
Beer on Earth
Six Pack Brewing
Whalers
Union Station
Proclamation

Shaidzon