The Block Island Times

Southern New England is my oyster

By J. V. Houlihan, Jr. | Oct 19, 2011
Photo by: Peter Pan Joe Houllihan and Mac

When I have time off these days, I do lots of aimless things: bike riding, sailing, and dog walking. These activities are done with no concrete destinations. I’ll sail my boat aimlessly in large triangles in Narragansett Bay; ride my bike anywhere it appeals to me (the bike is always in my truck); and walking Mac our Scottish terrier can be done anywhere he needs to do his business (smelling things).

Now to some, this aimlessness may seem aimless. To others, it might seem Aristotelian. Perhaps, I sometimes tell myself, it could be a path to a larger truth.

One thing I know: participating in non-agended pursuits can lead to some great cheap entertainment. Last week, I decided to take Mac to Mystic and walk him to exhaustion and distraction, to relieve him from a flea allergy that was giving him an itchy rear quarter. He walked and sniffed around Mystic while I aimlessly watched him. I was going to take him to Long Point Groton, for another stroll, but at the last minute I decided to take a cruise through Stonington Borough. I hadn’t been there in about five years.

As we rolled down Main Street heading toward the little beach facing Fishers Island, we were rerouted by a traffic cop to another street. It turned out that a feature film was being filmed in town. I parked the car, and Mac and I proceeded to aimlessly walk down Main Street.

I got yammering with another dog guy about fleas, Frontline and other doggie topics. As we were engrossed in our conversation and our dogs looked aimlessly on, a woman I know who works in the film business came tearing by on a bicycle. I yelled her name, excused myself to the other dog guy, and had a talk with my friend Meaghan, whom I know from Block Island. The last time I was aimlessly walking Mac on a day off in Newport in front of Trinity Church, I saw Meaghan working on a different feature film. So there we were chatting about the project being filmed and Mac’s itchy hind quarters. Meaghan said she had to get back to work: “I have to go do a wet down for a scene, so I’ll see you later.” Mac and I found a little dog-friendly café and I grabbed a cup of coffee.

With Mac on my lap, we aimlessly watched the comings and goings of all the members of the film crew. Several people with radios and arms filled with equipment were hustling up and down Main Street. A crew of guys came down the street driving a crane used for staging cameras. It was great to see all of these people working, earning a good per diem and enhancing the local businesses. Having studied theatre in college, and worked on building sets, I suddenly became aware of the stagy look of the facades on Main Street. It then dawned on me that Mac and I were right in the middle of where the film would be shot that night. The production designer did a great job giving Stonington an austere small-town feel. I was having a blast doing nothing with my dog at the café.

I finally took Mac for a walk down to where my friend Meaghan was heading earlier on her bike, and came to where they were shooting. I asked a production assistant what the film was about. “Kind of a love story I guess,” he said. “Who’s in it?” I asked. “Steve Carell, Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones,” he said.

Great, I thought, how can you miss with a cast and premise like that? It will no doubt be a funny kind of love story if Carell is in it, that guy could make me laugh reading a phone book. I’ll definitely go see this one — word is it’ll be called “Great Hope Springs.” I saw Meaghan standing with a passel of important looking people near where they were shooting the film. Mac and I walked over to say good-bye because it was time to go home.

As we were walking back to my truck, a group of onlookers admired Mac. I told the group of several men and women that Mac was a well paid “talent” in the film and that I was his personal wrangler. On a roll, I couldn’t resist adding that Mac had just shot a scene with Meryl Streep and needed a break. The group ooh-ed and ahh-ed while I walked Mac back to the truck, giggling.

As I left Stonington with my tired dog, who almost instantly curled up in the front seat for a nap (he was asleep before we hit Route 1), I thought how easily amused I’ve become and how I had such a fun day doing nothing. My wife is a big traveler; the world is her oyster. Her next trip is to Russia. I will not set foot on an airplane — period, non-negotiable. So while she wings off to see foreign places, I will continue to wander aimlessly in my slack time, and Southern New England will continue to be my oyster.

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