THIS SIDE UP

The power of place

By JOHN HOWELL
Posted 7/16/20

You wouldn't recognize James Herring, ["like the fish," he said] known locally as Buddy Love, from the front-page picture on today's Beacon. But that's him trying to adjust an umbrella to find some shade while he waits for the fish to bite at Conimicut

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THIS SIDE UP

The power of place

Posted

You wouldn’t recognize James Herring, [“like the fish,” he said] known locally as Buddy Love, from the front-page picture on today’s Beacon. But that’s him trying to adjust an umbrella to find some shade while he waits for the fish to bite at Conimicut Point.

I met Buddy Love in a quest to catch the dramatic thunderheads dominating the Monday evening sky. Cast against an azure blue sky, the massive white clouds looked to be boiling from the horizon. They were beautiful and if on a canvas the artist would surely have been accused of exaggerating such a sky.

But these were real and as we know from their reappearance Tuesday can pack a powerful punch with bolts of lightning, rolling thunder, winds and heavy downpours. On Monday, however, they were benign and I was anxious to capture their dominating display.

West Shore Road with its commuter traffic, albeit less during this pandemic, wouldn’t do the clouds justice. Besides there was too much clutter from utility poles to overhead wires, signs, houses and trees. I knew I’d find an unobstructed view of the heavens from the point, so I headed there.

The lot was pretty full until I swung around to where the road parallels the north beach facing the upper bay and Providence. It’s preferred by fishermen and people walking their dogs, although you’ll find the occasional swimmer. This was what I was looking for, an open window to the majesty of thunderheads.

I climbed over the guardrail to feel the soft sand under my feet as I brushed through the beach grass. Except for a half-dozen fishermen by the point, the beach looked to be deserted. Then I spotted the chair with the fishing rod leaning against it and the figure of a man trying to position a sun umbrella. The scene said so much – it was summer, it was the expectation of the catch, it was the solitude of a singular space and yet there was motion, the rivulets on the water, those rolling clouds with their restrained power and this man with an umbrella as blue as the sky.

I snapped several exposures before Buddy Love spotted me. I walked over and told him I was looking to capture a picture of the clouds. I found a fellow photographer.

“Just wait,” he said, “until the sun starts setting.” He described the picture of an orange orb just above the horizon and a sailboat silhouetted in gold sparkling waters. I knew instantly he had an attachment for this place.

Fishing is a means for him to be on the beach. He didn’t talk about what he caught or the ones that got away. In fact, the line with a sinker and bare hook hung from the rod standing by his chair. He wouldn’t be catching anything.

Buddy Love says he’s been coming to Conimicut Point for the 25 years. He enjoys walking the beach and finding stones. He leaves the sea glass for those he knows make jewelry and sun catchers from their finds.

He won’t put up with those who are disrespectful of the beach or its visitors. He relates how he lectured a rowdy group, scolding them for taunting a couple of girls and telling them to be respectful of others. I wouldn’t want to rile Buddy Love and I imagine his message was delivered loud and clear.

He recalled how he used to sit the night out fishing as did others until the late night hot-rodders spoiled it all. He doesn’t blame area residents for being upset and the city for closing the park at dusk.

I told him I didn’t live all that far away, pointing to the distant shoreline.

“Bet I know your place, probably walked by it a thousand times.”

I can’t say I remember him. I’ll recognize him for sure now.

Buddy Love turned to adjust that umbrella once again. I headed to the car.

My quest to capture the drama overhead had planted me firmly on the point and brought me face-to-face with the power of place.

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