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autumn on the pond


in autumn red

in autumn red


blood moons and strutting herons

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Marvin Barnes at Hope's

Marvin Barnes at Hope’s



by Polly Reynolds


Marvin Barnes was a surprise.  A basketball dream.  A decent guy.  A Providence man child and a tarnished  treasure.

I had the unlikely honor of “coaching” Marvin Barnes when he showed up in Olneyville’s Joslin Center  to play for Hope’s bar in a Providence Rec league game.

I was a regular at Hope’s – a founder and bounder who loved and knew basketball

and Jeff Plunkett, who had played some decent ball for Vermont was barkeeping and Calvin Drayton, a large and limber player and ” the rocking reverend Dick Dannenfelser, who was a pretty good shortstop in his day and really wanted to play. journalist Eddie Gaulin had some skills,  and the Claudios from Fox Point. Kenny Higgins wanted badly to be seen by a basketball recruiter.  And Sterling “Mousey” Washington (who has become one the finest and bravest and very best of community leaders especially with children  I’ve ever  met and continue to follow) was a fine shooting guard.

Hank Holiday  ran a movie/ games shop down the street and was our big man: he was Big Hank … and then there was little Hank(ie) Green – who said “hey, my cousin wants to play. He’s Marvin Barnes”

It was 1981 and Marvin Barnes  (who has somehow always seemed communal property to Rhode Islanders in general and Providencians in particular) was certainly on the downside of his meteoric streak through the highest of hoops clouds (described in David Halberstam’s  Best of the Game as the most perfect basketball player he’d ever seen).

Marvin wasn’t renting any airplanes anymore and was in and out of jails and rehabs and recoveries but he wanted to come home. be home. play ball. have fun. He did that winter of 1981. At Hope’s: my bar: getting back into shape: and bumming money for an off-pink smoking Cadillac.

I was startled by Marvin’s gentility; I was stunned by the way he played the game of basketball.  Marvin Barnes loved the game and wanted everyone he played with to love it too. The guys who played that winter said it was a thrill to be fed the ball by Marvin Barnes.

He was graceful and gracious and generous.  And when we (Hope’s) lost in the Prov Rec League Final Four (under highly arbitrary ref-rulings) Marvin Barnes was the only one of my team that showed for the Championship game



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I  have long thought most of us are just canaries in the mine: Designed to detect dangers and destined to attempt to pass on warning.

We are all pretty freaked out about something, and most of the things are neither insignificant nor small. Even the most innocent and unlikely conversation these days seems to include a personal tragedy of heroic proportions. Cancer. Death. Disloyalty. Red Tide. Childhood pregnancy. Involuntary evacuation.

We are walking, talking  mood rings, animated graffiti,  holographic public service announcements , shills, politicians and felt weather predictors.

This weather causes me to feel shitty my leaded feet reach to my ribcage; above that everything aches. Muscles just lay inert like sleeping cats annoyed you’ve addressed them.

Yawn – stretch

“Stupid human.

Chill.  It’s hot.”

I think the cats are right. Always have. Still do.

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Mickey and the house

There are similarities among professional  craftsmen – masters of their craft .  Easy grace and seemingly graceful ease.

Dennis McCarthy had been making/chasing music for  four decades with the dedication of any smitten swain.  His breadth of knowledge  about and love of sharing music’s joys in all its forms –  snarls and scats,  writhes and writings – its hugs and howls – its dance – was contagious.   It formed  community.

Dennis Mc Carthy and The Dennis McCarthy Band (  whatever keyboards   drummers, strings, guitars, or harmonizers de jour or nuit were part of it)  always transported and delivered  whatever it is good merry-making does.

Whatever canines, ladies, gentlemen, swooners and smoothers  were sharing a shake-down  at Stephanie Finizia’s  dream come true Best Bar Ever  Nick-A-Nee’s (in the Providence jewelry/knowledge/docs/arts/and sharks district) the vibe was always ageless and engaging.    Always  smiles and always finding  common funky beat.

There are people around Rhode Island ( and elsewhere) who talk about  listening and seeing Dennis McCarthy as a necessary therapeutic  exercise.  People who got and stayed married to his unashamed make your-heart-cry ballad-pledge-lament voice,  people who followed him for decades, and people, like me, who only met him  during the last couple of years and owe a whole lot of  late thanks to him for getting even old folk like me (a too sedentary crip)  up-stepping  and tappin’ in   mostly good time.

True masters share true traits; One of the nicer ones is generosity.   In fact, sharing the wa and way of whatever magic it is that  forms your game is  music in the ears, blood in the heart and air in the lungs for such artists.  It is a lifeforce that grows ever larger with practice and use. McCarthy leapt to encourage and include young musicians under his wide and warm wingspan


Dennis McCarthy was a   Master of  vibrancy and public Groove .  He bounced when he walked and he walked in a Samba  Gospel beat, singing songs that struck his fancy or  fanaticism – as in the zone, the drugged,  wired jumping – he can’t help it  zone – a valkyries’  sulky silken  siren.

He danced to his own beat. Always. He cried a little, crooned alot and dared ape the monkeys

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There is a very profitable, job-creating, environmentally outstanding yet often overlooked side to the cannabis question. And while R.I haws and hems, other states are ready to reap.

I’m talking hemp – the B-side, the  sober cousin, the multi miraculous weed that does not get you high but could do wonders for raising Rhode Island spirits.

Hemp, the non-THC side of the cannabis family has been used for centuries all over the world for its many and varied remarkable properties – as food source (more digestible complete protein than soy);  as biomass fuel  (cleaner and cheaper  than coal, wood, or gas;  as a building product  (stronger than steel, malleable and moldable  – hemp built homes are impervious to weather , more energy efficient, and   self air-cleaning).

Hemp cam be used instead of most toxic petrochemicals and will soon be used  to make biodegradable plastics.

Paper made from hemp does not require acid preparation, creates fewer chemical by-products, lasts longer, and can be recycled  more times.. Hemp fabrics  are stronger more durable than cotton  – and  require FAR fewer pesticides. Replacing cotton fields with hemp could drastically increase yield and eliminate 25% of the world’s pesticides.

Hemp is not only a quick and ecologically friendly crop to grow; Hemp actually cleans soils it grows in.  Because of its structure, hemp  is a fast and remarkable bio-remedial agent: it sucks up carbons and chemicals. Hemp has been used   for years to clean chemical spills. It is  now being used for land reclamation  at  both the Chernobyl and Fukushima nuclear radioactive disaster sites.

Our current ignorance about this multi-talented natural weed  is yet another manmade, U.S. government deceit. In fact the founding fathers of the United States all grew hemp. During World War II the U.S. subsidized farmers to step up production.  (watch Hemp for Victory, 1942).

But in the 1960’s hemp, cannabis sativa, got painted with the same bright neon-horror- red  broad ( watch Reefer Madness) brush  that marijuana, cannabis indica, was.   To this day  the United States  is the only industrial nation not growing industrial hemp and classifying it  ( with  its 0.3&% THC ) as a dangerous schedule 1  drug.

Anyone with common sense – and even Republican Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and the conservative American Farm Bureau Federation wants the ridiculous   prohibition lifted, classification  status changed and  hemp grown in the U.S.A. again.

Hemp is still being used in America to the tune of about $500 million dollars a years going overseas to import it.  In fact, the U.S.  government is now increasing its hemp purchases from the Ukraine as an agro-political humane gesture.

President Barack Obama opened university research doors to industrial hemp in February.  Shame on us if we’re not in line to get in the game.  Thirty-two states have hemp bills pending this year.  Bills have already passed in ten (including Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine).

Hemp , or low-THC cannabis, is poised to become the preferred delivery choice for many medicinal cannabis uses and  pharmaceutical companies are already manufacturing in Europe. We could be researching through Brown medical and manufacturing through URI’s  pharmacology program.

RISD and  Rhode Island artisans  could  be growing, designing, and processing textiles and fabrics from hemp, while the plant  could be  reclaiming  the many brownfields created by former textile (and other) industries.

Rhode Island has already made tremendous green strides in restoring waterways and reclaiming lost environmental treasures.  Let’s restore lost agricultural and economic opportunities too.

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winter storm aftermath


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flocking to the game


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ice sketching


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