« Peter F. Hamilton and too much nonlinearity | Main | Capturing high-quality video with G3D »

A different side of Providence

For the last few days, I've been taking the bus around Providence... because my car is in need of major repairs, (a new clutch, apparently) and I still need to get to and from work. Providence is very different on public transportation. Providence feels more like San Francisco, on public transportation. (At least, Providence in April feels like San Francisco in March-October.) There are a whole lot more people who are not affluent white college students. The bus routes go through the center of downtown Providence -- Kennedy Plaza -- yielding some vistas inaccessible from a car: Waterplace Park and the skating rink, a plaza at the head of Westminster street, the river walk down along South Main Street... Mostly there are a whole lot more green places, public places, and art places from the bus than from a car. The public transportation system seems to be actually designed to pull people into downtown and create a feeling of liveness there; it works.

I remember wandering downtown as a freshman some spring afternoon ten years ago. This was before Kennedy Plaza was renovated, before the mall, before the traffic flow changes on Westminster... I ran into Garth, a rock-climbing artist who lived in the Milhaus Co-op with me, and we had a sugary greasy lunch at a dark Chinese restaurant on an alley. I went on to the Arcade, then, probably; the first glassed-covered shopping area in the United States, where people could walk between several stores and restaurants without getting rained or snowed on. Built in the early nineteenth century, I think, it's now cramped between too many boxy office buildings. The voluminous (but not tall) semi-industrial buildings, combined with one-lane major streets, create an urban canyon effect, like New York on a 1:4 scale, and even more claustrophobic. My memory of Providence, from my undergraduate days, boils down to "Providence is a hole."

Today I saw a different Providence; not a hole but a presence, a place, a personality, a life. Kennedy Plaza is now a real plaza where people gather; Waterplace Park and the River Walk extend public urban space from the north to the south end of downtown; the Providence Place Mall creates a reason for surbanites to enter the city.

Providence is not just a waypoint for me between a suburban youth and a west-coast adulthood; Providence is a real place, and I live here.

Reader Comments

There are no comments for this journal entry. To create a new comment, use the form below.

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>