Newport, the town so nice, they named a cigarette brand after it in the hopes it would convince the people who were smoking that particular product that they were on a resort vacation. If you’re at all wondering where I was the past few days, there’s your answer.
So why did I go? Pleasure? Leisure? My pleasure and other people’s leisure (pronounced to rhyme with pleasure by the way)? Well, neither or both. Okay, I’ll stop being so dodgy and say that I went to visit the International Tennis Hall of Fame. Why did I go to the International Tennis Hall of Fame. Well why not? If that’s not good enough for you then I’ll just that I went because it was a rare opportunity to see living Hall of Fame athletes participate in the activity for which they are known, as this particular weekend the International Tennis Hall of Fame hosted the Hall of Fame Champions Cup.
With that in mind, I booked a cheap hotel room on the outskirts of town and drove my trusty Honda Civic from Rockland County, where the gas prices on a gallon of regular have reached an astonishing $4.25…though if you want higher grade you’re of course going to have to pay more.
My ride to Rhode Island was a relatively uneventful three and a half hours unless you count the one brief moment where my life flashed before my eyes. Somewhere between New Haven and Stratford I was doing 70 MPH down I95 when I noticed a van riding my bumper….when I looked in front of me the car just to my right was squeeze into my lane despite the obvious lack of room. This prompted me to break in a panic as continuing at my current speed would have caused a definite collision, luckily by the time that happened the car behind me had managed to back off enough as to avoid any accident. Anyway, I was quite surprised by the car’s merging that occurred in spite of my dissension which was made clear by multiple discouraging honks of the Honda horn.
All close calls aside, there were no more bumps in my literal and figurative road to Rhode Island. I checked into the Motel 6 once I got into town without issue. My room was a little musty smelling but for $70 a night I wasn’t complaining.
Upon my arrival into town, I made for the Tennis Hall of Fame to have a walk around. Once my car was parked there was a bit of a drizzle. WIth umbrella in hand I made it to the Newport Casino where the Hall of Fame was located. It was easier to find than I thought since I had parked about a block away from it. The Newport Casino was built as what amounted to a social club. It wasn’t a casino in the non-traditional gambling parlor sort of way. The word “cascina” in Italian means little Summer House and so the Newport Casino was a summery type social club with shops, a theater, a reading room, a card room, and a tennis building to play the more traditional game of court tennis which was played indoor and made use of the walls. It was really a beautiful building…and it was also designed by the same architect responsible for The Hall of Fame for Great Americans, Stanford White.
Outside The International Tennis Hall of Fame
Inside Newport Casino
And Yet Another Angle
Within my first few seconds walking up to the 2nd floor of the Casino where the Tennis Hall of Fame museum was housed I was encountered by some more tidbits of history including a display on the inventor of Lawn Tennis Walter Clopton Wingfield, a name that sounds both privileged and clumsy.
The museum itself had a wealth of information on the displays. Kiosks housed multimedia displays on each of the inductees. You could see a few match highlights, quotes, and their records with the simple push of a button.
The further I walked into the museum the further I walked through the history of the Newport Casino. There was a scene of a card game surrounded by early tennis memorabilia from outfits to rackets to programs, with plenty attention to detail to the games early greats as well as what women meant to the sport.
I watched a short film on the 1937 Davis Cup semi-finals of U.S. vs Germany which came down to a singles match that the U.S. ultimately won. However, the German finalist didn’t just lose the match…he lost his freedom, as he was in opposition to Hitler’s regime and he apparently ended up rotting away in a Gestapo prison. You never think that a subject as seemingly simple as tennis can tell you so much about the history of the world…but the history of modern sports can sometimes serve to as a microcosm to our own societal issues.
Oh, but here I go getting all philosophical. I don’t mean to get boring, so I’ll just gloss over the rest of my time at the Hall of Fame. Two rooms later I found myself looking at a display on the historical Billie Jean King-Bobby Riggs Battle of The Sexes match. In the room I heard a woman with her young son say, “this has to do with grandpa…” The child replied “my grandpa”…The mother started to say…”he was the first….” and then the child ran off to the next room. I’m guessing this woman was either the daughter of Bobby Riggs or the daughter in law…but it was kind of a funny coincidence. In fact, I gathered that most people visiting the museum were not just there on a whim as much as I was. The majority of them were wearng special visitors passes so I assumed that they were there for the tournament that was taking place that week.
After going through the modern day tennis memorablilia and highlight rooms and after nearly three hours wandering around the 2nd floor of Newport Casino I finally took my cue to leave the grounds, but not before buying a mug. I was going to walk around Newport a little more but when I looked outside the rain was coming down in torrents. With my trusty umbrella in hand I made my way over to the Hall of Fame Tournament office to get my ticket for the next day’s tennis match on the grounds.
When I emerged from the office I was a little hungry…and semi-drenched. I made my way to the nearest food place which was a place called Pat’s Pub located beneath a restaurant called The Cannfield. When I walked inside the pub I was greeted by empty seats a bartender and a cook. It was 4:45pm, there were no customers; perhaps that’s because they weren’t open, but they let me sit down anyway.
A Friendly Establishment
I began to make small talk with the lovely bartender Emily as lacrosse played for some reason on the TV and Classic Rock played at a reasonable level over the radio. I ordered a burger with sauteed onions and cheddar and a Newport Storm Ale. Between the talk about the appeal of Newport and The Red Sox, I found my time at Pat’s Pub to be more than pleasant. The owner kept sticking her head in and asking how I was doing. I’m not sure if she thought her two employees incapable of handling one customer, but I assured her everything was more than fine. I was well looked after and was a little sad I couldn’t stay for the rest of the evening knocking down the local brew and getting to know the personable drink slinger and any patrons who happened to wander in. Unfortunately, I had driven into town and since I frown upon drinking and driving, I decided that would be a bad idea.
It was a little after 6pm when I left the bar. I left a nice tip and thanked everyone on hand. From there I went on a bit of a wander around town. I strolled down Thames Street where I had some gelato and walked back the other way to turn down Touro Street in the Washington Square section of town where I finally came upon the Touro Synagogue, the oldest Jewish Synagogue in the United States dating back to 1762. I didn’t get to go in as services were beginning just as I arrived and a slew of Orthodox types were making their wqy in at the time. I thought it would be bad form to walk in in shorts and a t-shirt at that point.
Ye Olde Synagogue
On my way back to my car, I strolled down Spring Street towards Memorial Avenue, walking past historic houses dating back from the late 1700′s to early 1800′s, may of which were now bed and breakfast establishements. It was a little after 8pm when I made it back to my car and several minutes later I when I arrived back to Motel 6. I was tired from driving and wandering and was all but ready to pass out. I sat in bed watching the Olympics which I’ve noticed has featured entirely too much synchronized diving.
The next morning I awoke at 10am, showered, hopped in the car and headed straight back to the International Tennis Hall of Fame. I had my tickets in hand for a day of Hall of Fame Champions Cup tennis. I got a $20 ticket for the cheap seats in the south stands. The old woman who ripped my tickets had something peculiar about her. Now, I don’t feel good about making light of the shortcomings of an old woman (so why do it?) but as she directed me toward the area where my seats were, I spied a reasonably hairy upper lip. I didn’t make it obvious that I noticed it but as I scanned her face as to not look at her semi-pencil thin white mustache I scanned down to what resembled the makings of a beard. An honest to goodness old bearded lady ripped my stub and directed me towards the south stands and I didn’t laugh or stare at her facial hair, I just sort of thought to my self, “well what do you know…a bearded lady.” When I made it the south stands, I saw that my seats were located in the midst of a crowd of people in the center location of the stands and it seemed as though the side sections of the south stands were empty. So instead of joining in the crowd I moved to my right where I had a clear angle at all of the action.
The first match was Wayne Ferreira versus Magnus Larsson. It wasn’t exactly a Hall of Fame matchup, but I had remembered them as relatively notable players being ranked 6th and 10th respectively in the world at their heights as singles players. The match itself was not too exciting. There weren’t a whole lot of intense volleys and neither of the players were moving around too much…they more or less hung around the baseline.
Ferreira Returns a Larsson Serve
I on the other, was not content to stay put. I noticed that the box seats in front of me were not being occupied, so I moved up to the 2nd row in the box seats and that’s where I watched the rest of the action. I was joined by an older retiree who spends his summer in the Newport area. He commented saying he liked my curly black hair and asked if I was Greek. I’m not sure if he was a creepy old man, but he gave me a few pointers on things to see while I was in Newport…so I didn’t mind so much…as long as he didn’t want me to go back to his place.
The first match ended with Larsson having picked apart Ferreira (who I was secretly rooting for for a reason unbeknownst to me) 6-2,6-2. It wasn’t nearly as exciting I had hoped and I was looking forward to better tennis being played in the “Champions Cup.”
The next match saw the first true Hall of Fame talent as former #1 player in the world and #1 guy on the older guys tour Jim Courier (a recent inductee into the Hall) faced off against Sweden’s Michael Pernfors another one of the “that guy was in the Semifinals of a grand slam a couple of times” Hall of Fame. Unlike the match prior, this match had plenty to be excited about. Courier and Pernfors traded points and games in which they held serve. There were many excellent points played. I have some video that I’ll stick below when I get the chance. It was pretty exciting to see a player as talented as Courier at work. Ditto for Pernfors who was almost equally impressive as he displayed his soft hands, as both of these players chased down each other’s shots. There were also plenty of minutes of the two jokingly trash-talking over the net. The people in the side stands could probably hear better their dialogue, or at least they were laughing to pretend they could. After a well fought and entertaining match, Courier wound up on top 7-6, 6-4.
I contemplated leaving after that match, but I had paid a good $20…so I stuck around to catch the final match between 1987 Wimbledon Champion Pat Cash and Czech player Karel Novacek. Before the match started, however, I went for a walk to check out the sponsors. I signed up for a Outback Steakhouse drawing as well as one for a free trip to Aruba. I don’t think I won either. I also strolled by the Jonathan Edwards wine tent and sampled an array of their fine reds and whites before getting a bbq chicken sandwich and settling back in my box seat.
Pat Cash Serves It Up
The third and final match of the day was more entertaining than the first, but not quite as captivating as the 2nd. Pat Cash continued the trend of taking the match in straight sets as he defeated Novacek 6-4, 6-1. And with that my day of tennis was over.
Instead of wandering around town some more I went down Bellevue with a purpose, to go to one of Newport’s famed mansions. The first one I came upon was called Kingscote and so that’s the one I opted to take a tour of. For $11 I was led on a tour with six other people of the extravagant home of Charles Noble Jones, a plantation owner in Georgia who commisioned Stanford White’s firm to build his family a summer home in 1839. The house itself was filled with plenty of look but don’t touch opulence and antique furniture; rooms the size of small houses and sterling silver goodies everywhere. That being said, there’s only so much richness you can stare at for a few minutes. I would’ve liked to learn more history of the family, but all I really heard was, this room used to be a kid’s room…or look at those sterling silver wine coolers. I decided against going on any tours of mansions after that, because this one made me sleepy.
Kingscote: You Probably Won’t Live Anywhere This Nice
With my experience at the Newport Mansions behind me…I did a little more wandering until I decided to grab a bite to eat at the Red Parrott Pub, where I had a huge dinner for no apparent reason, which always feels weird when you’re eating by yourself.
Sunset on the Newport Docks…In America
The sun starting to set, I decided to walk towards my car, but also where the shops are along the water. I took a few shots of the sunset near all of the boats. I had a little trouble finding where I had parked, but eventually happened upon the parking garage where my trusty civic sat for the last eight hours. I was a little turned around when I pulled out of garage and accidentally made a wrong turn onto a bridge to Goat Island. This was easily remedied by turning around after the bridge and heading back the right way.
My Wednesday evening mimicked that of my Tuesday evening, sitting in my hotel room watching the Olympics and getting to sleep at a reasonable hour.
Thursday morning my checkout was at 11am. I contemplated heading into town and going for one last walk along the water and not on water, contrary to popular belief. The weather channel helped me to make up my mind otherwise as the report said there might be scattered thunderstorms in the Boston area between Noon and 6pm. I figured some time in there the wet stuff would be hitting Rhode Island and it was probably better for me to get out of there sooner so as to not be driving through it…and with that, my time in Rhode Island came to an end. Three and a half hours later, after a uneventful drive back, I was back in the Empire State…and my mini weekday adventure was over