My trips back to New Hampshire always seem to disappear in a time warp. Last week, upon arriving in Manchester, the skies were overcast and I drove through spot showers on the way to Newport. I believe there were even a few stray snowflakes. Yes, sometimes winter lingers into May in the Granite State.
Once in my hometown, I had to stop for the essentials. At Coronis Market, I purchased two ham and cheese grinders that I've been eating since I was a young child. They still taste the same. I also purchased a six pack of one of my favorite beers that I can't get in Florida. The Shed Brewery Mountain Ale is a brown ale from Vermont and is only regionally distributed. To cap off my order, I grabbed a whoopie pie. Again, this is a delicious dessert that I don't find on every corner in Florida, like I can when in New Hampshire. As you can tell, my diet went out the window in less than two hours after my plane landed.
I was going to make a few social stops on this Tuesday afternoon, but after a 2:30am alarm to catch a flight out of Tampa, I was fading fast. I was off to Claremont where I would lodge at my mother's house for the duration of my trip.
For a couple of days, I stopped in to visit with family and friends, and at more of my favorite eateries like Ramunto's in Claremont, and the Country Kitchen and Salt hill Pub in Newport. There's nothing extraordinary about any of these restaurants aside from consistency and a service that you'd expect from small town venues where you'll always bump into someone you know.
The next two days were the reason for the trip, writing workshops at the Richards Free Library and readings with fellow writers of the Newport Natives Writers Group. Attendance for the workshops was wonderful. Attendees included several students from area schools. The creative minds of the youth of Newport is promising. Our group of writers all presented workshops that prompted writing on the spot. The interaction to discuss the works created during the workshops lead to positive feedback and exceptional discussions regarding all aspects of the writing and publishing world.
This was the first reading that I had done outside of small writing groups. We had in attendance for the evening readings at the Library Art Center many local residents, former teachers, and family. Readings were given by Matthew Guenette, a poet, Derek Catsam, a writer of non-fiction, Christine Almstrom, a writer of children's stories and an illustrator, and Susan Cunningham, a fantasy writer. Or, to break it down in small town terms - two classmates, a new friend, and family. The team at the library were exceptional hosts. As a group of writers, we couldn't be happier to finish our visit with an abundance of positive feedback from all those that attended.
I'm always thankful for the time I get to spend in my hometown. My relocation to Florida was nothing against The Sunshine Town, but more a need for the heat of The Sunshine State. As I write this blog entry, the temperature outside is 96 degrees. Most of my Northern friends would curse that it's too hot. For me, it's just right. And, it's always just right when I go home. I sometimes need to add a few layers to get it just right.
Just over a week from today, I'll return to "The Sunshine Town" of Newport. New Hampshire - my hometown. I'll be joining other writers, the Newport Native Writers Group, for two days of writing workshops, readings, and Q&A sessions.
I always look forward to going home, except for in the winter months. I have family in the area, friends that I typically only see at class reunions, and there are familiar sights and foods that simply bring a comfort to my soul. There will be breakfast at the Country Kitchen, a Village Special at Village Pizza, and cold beer at Salt hill Pub. My daily workout won't be at the gym, instead taking my steps to Main Street, Small Town USA and maybe a few laps around the high school track. There will be time set aside for reflection on a bench, or on the steps on the gazebo, on the Town Common. In all of these places, there will be storylines continuing to develop in my head for current and future works-in-progress.
I hope the sun will actually shine as I know this time of year brings many showers to The Sunshine Town. I'll be returning to jeans. shoes, and a light jacket instead of the shorts and sandals that have become much more to my liking. I'll be ribbed as I shiver if the temperatures are less than 70 degrees, "That Southern weather is making you soft." I'll laugh and say, "Come enjoy the heat during the Florida summer days." We'll see who's soft and call it a draw.
If you are in Newport on May 11th & 12th, join me and other native writers at the Richards Free Library. We'll share stories and laughs. If you want to join a workshop, register here.
The streets are familiar,
The people are familiar,
Yet, some are still strangers or maybe just strange.
A small town of characters
That I’ve known since I was a CHILD –
Friends and acquaintances.
My education was by teachers,
Now retired, now volunteering,
Giving back to their community.
Village Pizza, Salt hill Pub,
Coronis Market and The Country Kitchen -
Great places to eat and shoot the shit.
I’ll take a Village Special, no anchovies,
A Pig’s Ear and Dublin Fries,
Two Ham Grinders and --
A #3, over easy, wheat, and patties.
The ball fields bustle all seasons,
A football town to be certain,
Tailgating in orange, black and white.
Tiger Pride runs deep in tradition,
The cats always hoping to one-up the birds.
Roar, baby roar!
There are four seasons,
Six if you count Black Fly & Mud.
None are as long as winter.
The first snow, so beautiful,
Coating the evergreen trees.
There are always inches, or feet, more to come.
The white stuff, some fluffy, some wet,
Piles up storm after storm and
It’s cold! The Polar Vortex
Dropping temperature, wind chill, or ‘feel like’.
As the calendar is flipped to January,
The townspeople grow weary, some literally angry,
Until the Winter Carnival dampens their spell.
Festivities for a week, bringing
Frigid souls out to the Town Common, bundled up
Ice skating, sledding, and skijoring.
It’s a glimmer in an otherwise gray season.
Many plan escapes to the tropics,
Florida, Cancun, or The Islands.
I did the same for many years,
Reclaiming my sanity on the sands of
A beach with no chance of flurries or frost.
After forty years of winter burden,
I traded in a shovel for sunshine,
Winter boots for sandals, pants for shorts.
It’s early April as I write.
My hometown had snow last night.
I sit shirtless on my patio, surrounded by palms.
I left the familiar for a new town, a new home.
It has been seven months – winter’s duration back ‘home’.
This winter, I worked on my tan.
The departure wasn’t easy,
Leaving family behind never is.
They know where to find me,
Just follow the scent of the sea.
The streets are becoming familiar,
New friendships have been forged.
There are still many strangers and characters,
Yet, that number is shrinking.
Robert Stanhope started creative writing during his Junior year of high school. In his twenties, he became a motorsports journalist and was published in a number of local, regional, and national trade publications. Now in his early 40s, Bob has returned to creatively writing, including embarking on his first novel, The Last Lie.