Sailor Towns and Sidewalk Cafes

I am a random visitor to small coastal towns. I feel at ease with myself where the water meets the land. To know the real depth of a village one has to put down some roots to find whether the soil is rich or barren. I have enough of that detailed knowledge in the place that I live. As a temporary partaker of municipal life I feel like the best meal is laid before me without having to help with the dishes. Hospitality nourishes the inner person and gives relief from the daily weight we carry about in our hometowns.

One of my favorite places for escape are sailor towns.  There life clusters around the waterfront where civilization takes a living from the sea. The ones I am most familiar with are” Newport, Rhode Island, Annapolis, Maryland, St. Michaels, Maryland, and Port Townsend, Washington. Each one offers ample services for the mariner and his craft. They are old towns with quaint charm by the buckets full and artistry oozing out of every pore. I love them all but Newport was the first of these worthies that I came to know and provided me with a moment that is etched in my mind like a copperplate engraving.

In the mid nineteen seventies I fancied myself a professional woodcarver and sculptor. I made a not very spectacular living haunting art and craft shows in the middle Atlantic States. When WoodenBoat magazine held it’s very first WoodenBoat Show in Newport I signed up as an exhibitor. I had been to Newport before when I bought my San Francisco Pelican. On this occasion I was by myself and found the town steeped in nautical atmosphere that was off the scale. For four days I was in sailor heaven. When the show closed in the evening the social life went on at the bars which closed around midnight. Down at the docks friendly people in summertime mode gathered in amiable groups that made a stranger feel welcome. There were guitars to sing along with and girls amenable to flirtation.

I would roll into town in the morning and spend the time before the show opened wandering the quiet streets. I found a small cafe with tables on the sidewalk. They served a bracing cup of coffee and a passable croissant. Among the snapshots of blissful moments in my life is a picture of my young and happy self, enriched in spirit by a creative streak and in a delightful place of my own choosing. The sky was summer blue as I looked up into it from my chair on the sidewalk by a narrow street. Sparrows coyly paraded in front of me, intent upon my croissant. I was easily seduced and shared my breakfast gladly. There was no care large enough to break the peace that I felt living deliberately for a brief time in one of the great sailor towns I have known.

To Morning From Memory
by Chris Kleinfelter

The morning light in Newport that day
fed to me by the sun embraced my skin
It entered into memory as if the cafe table
was frozen in time.
The sidewalk sparrows
waited on me,
a burning sun
doling out photons
which in my blindness
I saw only as breadcrumbs.
The pastry so fresh and sweet
stirred my restless heart
and I knew then
that mornings had always been
the love of my life.

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