If you’ve spent any time in downtown Providence, chances are your eyes have been drawn to a storefront window packed full of big, weird, and colorful creatures. This is the land of Big Nazo, the brainchild of creature creator Erminio Pinque that has amused, confused, and delighted folks around the city, region and world since the 1980s. Big Nazo even has its own band, which has performed all over, sharing stages with the likes of George Clinton & the Parliament Funkadelic, The Flaming Lips, and Spinal Tap. The Big Nazo Lab is where the creatures are designed, fabricated, and repaired, and it was into this cheerful jumble of foam body parts that Moonie tugged me by the hand, his eyes lighting up at the sight of different shapes and colors. Erminio, who teaches “Creature Creations” at the Rhode Island School of Design and who happily brings his workshops to various schools, colleges and community centers for all ages to enjoy, was there chatting with a new RISD instructor, but not for long. Moonie barged right in, too excited to meet new friends to worry about manners, and Erminio was kind enough to show him around the lab and introduce him to some of the creatures.
He and this creepy little rat thing particularly hit it off.
Right away, he named the rat thing “Cuddles.”
The nice folks at Governor Henry Lippitt House Museum were kind enough to give an evening tour to members of the Providence Athenaeum’s Contemporaries group.
Moonie “oohed” and “aahed” from the moment he stepped inside. Just this foyer is amazing, with the walls and ceilings hand-painted with faux marble and wood finishes.
Henry Lippitt, who served as governor of RI in the 1870s, had constructed the house for his wife and six kids. The details are wonderful, with elaborate patterns painted in each room.
On Thursday night Moonie and I attended the “Endangered Properties” photo exhibit reception by the Providence Preservation Society. Moonie was enjoying seeing photos of various buildings he’s noticed or even been in around our city.
One of these is the Shepard Building, which has one of the coolest staircases around.
Each year, the Southside Community Land Trust holds a big, all-weekend-long “rare and unusual” plant sale. Even plants that seem normal and innocuous have special SCLT powers. In past years, we’ve brought home raspberries that fruited twice a year instead of once, or digitalis that grew lush and beautiful and psychedelic enough to turn anything in our yard into a drug addict. In addition to the fabulous plants of all shapes and sizes, grouped by sun vs. shade vs. fruits and veggies and herbs and others, the plant sale boasts free music. I’ve joined my favorite local band, The ‘Mericans, on their annual plant sale set several times, as it’s impossible even for me to get stage fright playing a low-key setting in front of a tree and a chicken coop.
Moonie was really quite taken with those chickens, by the way.
Also with the random items that were being reused as planters around the property.
One of the most wonderful things about Providence is WaterFire, which started as an art installation in 1994 by artist Barnaby Evans to help celebrate First Night Providence and which has grown in scope and size every year since. Saturday night was the first partial WaterFire to kick off the season thanks to a sponsorship by Volvo. It was also a good trial run for Moonie, as it featured fewer fires, fewer people, and fewer food and drink to stimulate the senses than a full WaterFire lighting, which can easily draw ten thousand people and hundreds of vendors and performers. I wanted to make sure he’d be OK with the smaller version before I blew his mind with a full WaterFire.
We got there just in time for WaterFire crew members to float by us one of their boats, lighting the braziers full of wood on fire. Great timing!
Hey, Moonie, look what’s coming toward us. A boat with a pretty lady on it!
But not just any pretty lady. This one was dancing with fire!
How exciting! Akashic Books has been doing a “noir” series of different cities for years, most known for Dennis Lehane’s Boston Noir, and the publisher tapped successful Rhode Island author Ann Hood to be editor of a Providence edition.
Moonie and I got to see a bunch of Providence Noir contributors read from the compilation tonight at Books on the Square, and it was a supurb event. Ann Hood, Thomas Cobb, Hester Kaplan, Robert Leuci, Taylor Polites, and Pablo Rodriguez all did a fabulous job providing the tone of each of their stories and referencing local sites and businesses, and I can’t wait to read their stories in full.
Ann Hood describing how she became editor of the project and wrote her first-ever noir story
Moonie had a blast at the first-ever Neighbor Days Thayer Street Block Party. If you’re not familiar with Providence, Thayer Street is a hip street that runs near a lot of Brown University property and features a mix of stores and restaurants. Today it was closed to traffic for a beer garden, live music, and all kinds of vendors for a Rock & Roll Yard Sale.
Here’s Moonie showing off his high view of the block party.
Here’s what his head was hiding.
After enjoying several live bands and watching a “living statue,” Moonie was on a hunt for good tunes.
Tonight Moonie and I stopped in at the Roger Williams National Memorial, where dedicated staff like Ranger John McNiff educate the public about “Rog” (as I affectionately call him) and other historical figures and events.
Tonight the RWNM was showing off the last of five original letters written by Rog that they’ve been displaying one at a time over the past few months. This letter was written in the 1600s and referenced the property of one man who’d died and mentioned another man whom Rog had taken in and was teaching to read. I’m grateful that people have worked hard to preserve these pieces of history. Rog was a real person, not just a figure in a book, and it’s fascinating to see him brought to life and to see splashes of ink from his quill pen when he got excited about things.
Of course, it was kind of hard to read all of this with Moonie’s fuzzy head in the way.
Even when he moved, the words were difficult to read, and the Roger Williams National Memorial staff helpfully handed out transcripts of Rog’s letter. Moonie isn’t completely literate, but he likes to pick out words he knows, and he immediately started looking for words like “cookie” and “candy” and a new one he learned tonight, “cake.”
Suddenly he squealed, “That’s me!”
What a wonderful concept: the Providence Public Library is just about halfway through its three-month hosting of “Don’t Stop the Music”, a celebration of music and music making. The library is hosting a mixture of exhibits, workshops, films, and live music (curated by my friend Chris Daltry) in its gorgeous 193-year-old halls. Last night Moonie and I caught three amazing acts of live music among its marbled halls: Chris Daltry and Mark Howard from The ‘Mericans; Allysen Callery; and John Faraone joined by his very tall but very lovely-voiced friend Thomas Woulfe. Moonie was in heaven during the performance, and of course he had to pop up on stage when it was over to absorb the last few notes of music still echoing in the library’s hallowed halls. Apparently the music is easier to hear if you pull some surfing moves on the music stand.
While enjoying today’s beautiful weather, Moonie and I decided to pick up some delicious takeout at Bee’s Thai Cuisine and have ourselves a yummy Thai picnic at India Point Park.
It sure was windy there. Poor Moonie was in danger of blowing away but gamely paused for a photo.
The food was delicious – Bee’s mixes sweet things like mango and pumpkin into spicy things like curry for interesting flavor creations – but Moonie was less interested in the vittles (except for splashing around in the little container of cucumber sauce a bit for fun) and very, very interested in my Thai ice tea.
He only got a sip, though. The last thing the world needs is a hyped-on-caffeine Moonie.