Friday, August 30, 2013

the last chapter - Providence

view of downtown Providence from Providence Place
I hate this part. Really. I do. I've reached the last chapter of my fifth novel, which takes place in Providence - one of my favorite cities.
 
For the past year and a half or so, I've escaped to the fictional world of Ronnie Reyes, the young optimistic reporting intern from Miami Manhunt who fell in love with a Miami movie critic. In this new story, Ronnie, now a features writer, finds himself reassigned to the Business section at Rhode Island's biggest newspaper where he deals with his quirky, paranoid, nail-biting supervising editor while exploring the Ocean State's capital city. During one of his reporting assignments, Ronnie meets a new love interest, a handsome McDreamy-type executive who shows him Providence from a native's point of view.

The novel also follows Ronnie's bestfriend Elias who seeks to regain his footing after being laid off from his Miami cable TV network job as a news photographer. When Elias learns of a summer volunteer project in Germany, he signs up. And in Germany, Elias rediscovers himself with the help of his host roommate, a cute local educator. Though worlds apart, Ronnie and Elias have each other's backs - giving advice via text messages, long-distance phone calls, Skype (and in person during one fun wild weekend in Providence.)

I think I feel attached to this book and these characters because they've accompanied me on my own journey from Boston to Miami last year. Whenever I felt stressed out, missed New England seasons or had difficulty in readjusting to life in the tropics (which is a book in itself), I found myself cranking up my computer and delving into the adventures of Ronnie and Elias. My favorite chapters though have been in Providence.

That's me during a recent stroll in Providence
Over the years, some folks (even people who live in the city and my family and friends) have been surprised by my fondness for the Providence, a great small town with infinite photogenic charm.

There is so much understated beauty and appeal there that Providence is often overlooked because of its bigger neighbors - Boston to the north and New York City to the south. Providence is like Boston's unappreciated little sister (a mini Beantown) with the same red-bricked looks, a small cluster of skyscrapers (but with wider streets, less traffic and more parking.) The city has a small grid-like downtown with a mix of industrial and colonial buildings that dot the riverfront.



During my 10 years in Boston, I often hightailed my Jeep down to Providence for weekend day trips. Whenever I pulled off exit 22C from I-95, the city's colossal mall Providence Place beckoned like a stacked wedding cake with its various parking levels. Once inside the mall, I strolled under its bright skylight windows where I heard a mix of English, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian and Irish from fellow shoppers riding the stacked escalators between Macy's and Nordstrom. I usually began my visit by stopping by Nordstrom's upper level cafe to catch a sweeping view of the hilly area of homes that overlook the mall. Nearby, the state's capital building lorded over the city and the train station like a giant white church.


The Statehouse in downtown


I also enjoyed cycling along the grand Blackstone Boulevard to India Point Park where I climbed to the top and watched families and couples picnic and kayakers churn the bay's tranquil waters. This was one of my many Zen spots in the city.

India Point Park
Whenever I walked along Angell Street, one of the few thoroughfares that cut from one end of the city to the other, I marveled at all the charming triple deckers and grand Victorian homes, each drenched in pink, crimson, gray and blue hues. 


I hiked up and down the steep streets that hug the Rhode Island School of Design (RISDY) and Brown University. Crossing Thayer Street, a small stretch of burger places, restaurants and Brown’s bookstore, students lingered in and out of the coffee and sub shops and clothing stores hunting for good deals. One favorite spot was standing at the peak of Angell Street to take in the view of the rising downtown skyline.

I snapped this during a recent stroll by RISDY
At night, I ventured to the local watering holes  (The Stable, Dark Lady, the new and old Mirabar clubs where everyone was down-to-earth and friendly making me feel at home in their home city.)  And with its bright red-lighted sign, The Biltmore Hotel greeted visitors like the city's unofficial ambassador.

So here I am, writing the last chapter of this book as I begin to say goodbye to Ronnie and Elias. Like a parent, I feel like I am tucking these characters into bed, turning off the lights and closing their bedroom door. (although I will get to hang out with them some more as I edit the chapters). Hopefully, this won't be my last story about Providence or New England.


PS
For those of you wondering when the book will be published (hopefully this fall), I am still weighing whether to shop it around to publishers (like I have with my previous four books) or whether to self-publish (which a lot of my fellow authors have been doing lately) To be continued.