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We'll Always Have Newport: Chapter 9-Learning My Port

(July 2010)

I love the quaintness of this enchanted seaport. I enjoy strolling through its narrow streets and snapping photos of various piers. The aroma of the beach wafts through downtown Newport.  I spend my first couple of weeks in Newport trying to learn the finer points of its geography.

I quickly discover that navigating this city by foot is relatively easy. There are plenty of landmarks which direct me safely back into my neighborhood. Yet, these same landmarks are useless to me whenever I am behind the wheel of a car.

I seem to get stuck in random roundabouts,  turned around on one way streets which taper off into dead ends, and/or trapped on bridges headed out of town. Both the Sailor and my landlord are somewhat amuse at my struggles to navigate Newport via car.

Thus far, my solution has been to avoid driving within the Newport city limits. I walk everywhere or I have the Sailor chauffeur me around. Unfortunately, gas prices are currently at an all time high and his large sedan is getting expensive to operate.

During one of our informal budget meetings, he decides to eschew driving to work for the summer in favor of riding his bike. His bike is currently locked up at buddy's house near the base.

"So, I am going to drive over with you to his house and ride my bike back to the apartment," He says.

Yikes. The street where his buddy lives  is under construction and there is wacky detour which could possibly place me on a bridge out of Newport. The terrified look on my face prompts him to take my hand.

"It's easy, we are not that far away from the apartment," His voice softens.

He gives me clear directions for getting back on the main road. I repeat them back and feel my confidence returning. He kisses me softly on the mouth and heads to unlock his bike from the front porch.

I drive down the street and take a right. So far, so good. Then, I miss the next turn and am unable to get back to the correct and it all goes downhill from this point. I manage to get back to the original street but, now I am dealing with a whole bunch of tourist traffic. Twenty minutes passes and I am no closer to getting back to the apartment. Van Zandt is the main drag in our neighborhood. All I have to do is get back to Van Zandt and I will be home free.

I find a halfway empty Dunkin Donuts and implore the  dark haired high school girl working the counter for directions back to Van Zandt.  Briefly, I explain my predicament.

"Basically, I can't let him get home before I do. He is riding a bike for Pete's sake."

She giggles whilst drawing a simple map on the back of a napkin.

I glance at the makeshift map and a synapse fires in my brain. I know exactly where I am and how to get back to the apartment.

I stroll outside towards my car with a renewed determination.

Granted, the Sailor and I aren’t really in a competition but, my pride is insistent that I make  it home before he does.

Thanks to the map, I am home within 10 minutes. As I park the car, I glance in the rearview mirror and see the Sailor clad in a bike helmet riding down the street. He slows when he sees me get out of the car.

“So, what you do while I was away,” He asks pulling me into his arms for a quick kiss.

I started to say.

“You know. I did a little sight-seeing,”

But, I am such a horrible liar that I decide to come clean.

“Well, I kind of got turned around on base and it took me 20 minutes to find the exit. Then, I got turned around in Middletown. But, I went inside a Dunkin Donuts and asked one of the clerks for directions,”

He smiles at me.

“You are so cute,” He says.

I don’t feel cute. Instead, I feel something akin to incompetence and it is not a good feeling.

Today, proved to me how much I was dependent on the Sailor to navigate my way around Newport.
“I need to learn this town a lot better,”  I say cuddling up to him on the sofa.

" It takes time to learn  a new place. You’ve lived in a few places. Did you know them perfectly after a month?”

I think back to my first days living in my previous cities of Santa Fe, NM, the Twin Cities, and Los Angeles. It took me at least three months before I felt comfortable navigating those cities.

“You’re right. It’s just so hard to navigate around this place. The streets are so narrow, there are no turnabouts, they don’t even have street lights, and the tourists... don’t get me started on the tourists.”

He lightly places his hand on my wrist.

“Are you sorry that moved here?” He asks softly.

I answer without hesitation.


He gently squeezes my hand.

"You're being kind of hard on yourself. You came here sight unseen. You found a cool apartment, got a good paying job, and have adjusted to quicker than most people could. You're doing fine. The whole navigating Newport thing will come in time."

His kind words offer up some reassurance.

I still feel as though my navigational challenges are a huge burden on him. A few days ago, I tried using a GPS like function on my old school phone and it didn't work for me. Sometimes, Google Maps sends me in a confusing loop which results in me hitting dead end roads or miles of road construction.

 Whenever the Sailor has duty, I either walk to my destinations or I call an out of state friend with GPS to get me where I need to go.

This is the first time that I have tackled a new place with a significant other by my side and I feel self-conscious about my navigational challenges. I feel this internal pressure to exude excellence in all ways. I realize that it is silly and most likely, the product of living in an unfamiliar place and adjusting to being with the Sailor full time.


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