Pinoy in New England

A repost from 2012

Wedding in Riverside Farm, Pittsfield, Vermont. July 2012.

By Lorenzo Paran III

Like many people in the U.S.—whether Pinoy or not—I dream of visiting all fifty states. I must quickly add, though, that I and, I suspect, most others who have this dream don’t take it too seriously. It’s a pipe dream, in other words. No one—outside of a few hard-core travelers—would really want to literally visit every state. It would be impractical, I think, given the busy lives we all lead, not to mention unaffordable.

Besides, I’ve often heard that some states are not worth visiting. They’re “boring,” it’s often said. Nebraska, for example, is a frequent victim of this unflattering assertion and is thus a frequent butt of jokes concerning U.S. geography.

But I doubt that: I think there’s always something interesting to see anywhere you go. If there’s none, maybe it’s the visitor’s fault. Maybe he isn’t really looking.

But then there are some states that really do stand out for their beauty and history and simply for pure overall charm.

Recently, my wife and I had the opportunity to visit some of them (and thus add to the list of states that we have visited). Namely, some of the New England states.

New England refers to the Northeastern region of the U.S., just above the more well-known states of New York and New Jersey, where incidentally large populations of Filipinos reside.

Jamestown Harbor, Rhode Island. July 2012

It’s made up of six states: Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont. Of these perhaps the most famous is Vermont, whose multicolor foliage in the fall brightens many a postcard, calendar or personal photo—and for good reason. It is really a sight to behold, autumn in Vermont. Imagine a whole landscape colored in different hues of brown, red, orange and green. It’s really nothing short of a painting by a master. And that master, as some have rightly pointed out, is none but the Creator himself.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t the sight we saw on this trip. As it is the height of summer, we saw green foliage pretty much throughout the areas we visited. It was still pretty but there’s nothing like the Green Mountain State in the fall.

The reason, incidentally, we were in Vermont was a cousin’s wedding. And just to prove the state really does offer spectacular scenery, the bride and groom chose to have the ceremony in the middle of a farm high up in the mountains. During the ceremony, I kept thinking how lucky I was to get to take part in such a beautiful and, incidentally, such an “American” tradition. And in Vermont yet! An aunt attending the wedding with us correctly pointed out that you see this kind of thing only in the movies. Maybe “My Best Friend’s Wedding” or “A Walk in the Clouds,” she said.

So that was why we were in New England. And since my wife and I were going to be in the area we decided—smartly, I thought, because we might not get another chance in a while—to see the rest of the area as well. So a few days before the wedding we flew into Manchester, New Hampshire, and drove down to our first stop, Rhode Island.

Rhode Island is the state with the longest name. Officially it’s known as the “State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations.” It’s also the smallest state. Friends who knew I was going to be in the area kept telling me that driving there isn’t like driving around California, where it takes hours and hours to get anywhere. If you wanted to, they said, you could explore the whole place in a day.

Breakers mansion, historic home of the Vanderbilts. Newport, Rhode Island. July 2012

In Rhode Island, you could drive minutes and you’re in a different locale. One minute you’re in downtown and the next you’re in the historic district or on the beach. Drive a few blocks or cross a bridge and you’re in the next city. An hour and you’re in the next state. It’s no wonder that it’s one of the most densely populated states, too. More significantly, though, it’s where my wife J. was born, which is another reason we were there: to visit her birthplace, which she has no memory of, having been whisked away as an infant by her parents, who were temporarily living there in the late 1970’s.

We did see the hospital where she was born, but it looked modern and new, and most probably had been expanded and may not look familiar to her parents, so we took some pictures to show them and off we went to explore the rest of the state.

Rhode Island, like Vermont, is just pretty all around, with picture-perfect harbors and marinas and stately mansions. I often tell my wife whenever we find ourselves outside our home state of California that I can see myself living here (wherever we happen to be at the moment). It’s a joke, but I really could see myself living in Rhode Island—maybe in Newport, one of its major cities, or Jamestown, even perhaps in the state capital of Providence. Waking up every day in such a handsome state, to a sight of the sea, would be heavenly.

The water is the state’s primary attraction (the state’s nickname is “The Ocean State”). It has countless beaches and bays, inlets and bridges, marinas and lighthouses. If those things are your liking, you’ll have more than your fill in Rhode Island.

One of the highlights of our stay in the state has to be meeting the two Pinoys manning the front desk of the hotel where we stayed. It was late and we were tired from a day of traveling when we got in, so it was refreshing when the guy at the desk, recognizing we were a couple of Pinoys, asked us, “Kamusta po kayo?” That brought a smile to our faces.

In the morning, another guy had taken over his post, also a Pinoy, and he also spoke to us in Filipino, sending us off on a cheerful day of exploring Newport and Jamestown. It’s been said many times before, and its truth only gets clearer: It’s different when it’s someone from back home who smiles at you when you’re in a foreign land.

After two nights in Rhode Island, it was time to head to Vermont, but not without making a stop in Boston.

Boston is pretty too, though for entirely different reasons. In popular culture perhaps, it’s best known as the home of the Celtics and the Red Sox. But its role in the formation of the United States itself is undeniable. I’m not going to get into that right now. Not only is my knowledge of American colonial history scant, but, to be honest, we didn’t really get to see as much of the city—or the state of Massachusetts—as we would have wanted. I’m afraid that if I talk about it outside of the fantastic lunch we had in a little café in downtown and our drive through the city’s streets I would be misrepresenting myself. And I’m no liar.

It was on to Vermont after that, and after the wedding, back to New Hampshire.

In New Hampshire, we saw the Contoocook Railroad Bridge and Depot, the world’s “oldest-surviving covered railroad bridge”—or so according to the sign we saw. Covered bridges, I’ve failed to mention, is another staple in the New England states. There’s a bunch of them strewn across the region. Quaint and historic, they’re attractive in their own right, and to go to New England and not take a picture with one of them in the background would be sacrilege. And we’re no sinners, my wife and I, so we took pictures, and went our way.

So after six days of travel, we bagged four states. That brought my grand total of U.S. states visited to nine (11 if I count the states where I’ve had to transfer flights). My wife has one state more than me so she has 10. I’ve got 41 more to go. I’m not really counting, as I said, though I realize I just did.

Oh well. Let’s just put it this way. I’ll take any state that I can get. If not, no big deal. As a wise man once said, “You’re always somewhere anyway.” And that is better than nowhere.

At the Contoocook Railroad Bridge and Depot, Contocook, New Hampshire. July 2012