Monday, July 17, 2006

Back Back To Bristol

It's been a year since we traveled to Bristol Rhode Island and wrote about it. Since we've all forgot everything from last week, I assume it's safe to just start all over again.

Bristol's a nice little town, hard by the waters of Narragansett, and Mount Hope.

Bristol has a long and proud tradition of backing the weak horse. Backing the dead horse, occasionally.

It used to be called the Mount Hope Lands, and was home to Metacomet. Metacomet is known also as King Philip. In these parts, that's a very familiar name. We name high schools after King Philip, to further embarrass him with low SAT scores and unattractive football uniforms.

Metacomet decided he didn't like those Britishers hanging around anymore, united a bunch of tribes, and burned 600 houses or so to the ground. Sort of the ELF for the 17th century. After a few weeks of rape, murder, and assorted other frivolity, some of the local inhabitants of those ashy spots where the houses used to be went looking for Mr Metacomet. They didn't go looking as the term is used in birdwatching, either. Mount Hope Lands started over.

Bristol was settled, and they started shipping like all get out to the British Isles, as the water at their doorstep led straight to Old Blighty. What could possibly go wrong?

There was some unpleasantness in the 1770s, as you recall, and as navies tend to do when they're looking for people to make examples of, the British navy decided not to exert themselves overmuch by bothering the inland natives, and took turns looting, annoying, and burning Bristol.

Bristol sifted the nails out of the ashes again, and knocked together some more shacks to wait for further trouble in, and started their newest attempt at prosperity: taking up one side of the rum/molasses/slave triangle that needed ships to serve it. Happy days were here again, sorta.

In 1825, slave trading became illegal, and Bristol went down the hole again.

They wandered into the Industrial Revolution after that, waiting for North Carolina, and Japan, and then China to run them out of business this time.

So now what? What do you do when all you've got is history? You sell it.

Bristol has the oldest continual celebration of the Fourth of July in the United States. We walked aroung there on July 15th, and the red white, and blue bunting was still hanging all over the place. The parade route is painted right on the street, so I figure they're serious. I've never seen the parade.

Bristol has a lot of commemorative parks, many which are going to seed. In general, a plethora of commemorative parks commemorate local politicians giving construction contracts to their brother-in-laws in lieu of allowing real economic activity to happen. I always picture soviet style speeches being made at them; "Funds are just being released for this now;" "The proletariat will bask in the glow of the contributions of others;" Is not the five year plan bearing fruit, comrades?" Oh well, our kid likes the swings, even if they are broken.

At any rate, it's a very pleasant place to stroll, and has lots to look at that requires no admission, and lots more that does; the businesses there have the friendliness to strangers that comes from not knowing if bankruptcy will come tomorrow, and local malingerers in the street are just like you, hanging around for the joy of the place, not to annoy others who come there from distant places. A gang of toughs walked by us in a cloud of cigarette smoke and cell phone chatter, and the most menacing looking one made a googoo face at my toddler and cartoon waved at him, to his delight.

It's a friendly sort of place.

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