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City Life

Best spot to sip and sigh

As the sun goes down over the Sakonnet River, you can take the uncool edge off of being a smitten, simpering idiot. Just be sipping from a nice mug of java in the hand that's not clutching your sweetie's at Coastal Roasters. There are a half-dozen tables outside at which to enjoy the view. When the sun starts down, the lights of Mount Hope Bridge appear, and the sunsets over this stretch of water are the sort that well-caffeinated poets have written wordy odes to. The place roasts some 20 varieties and creates a half-dozen house blends, and also offers several whole-leaf teas. If love amps up all your appetites, you might like their locally made bagels or a fresh croissant from Spring Wharf Bakery, or -- if you're really in love -- one of the fresh loaves of bread they carry on weekends. 1791 Main Road, Tiverton, (401) 624-2343.

Best community-building

A little bit of goofy fun can be a beautiful thing. The first season of the Providence Kickball League brought together a mix of indie-minded folks in a competition at Olneyville's Donigian Park that was equal parts spirited and laid-back. Pint-sized neighborhood kids joined the fray, and Latino soccer enthusiasts sometimes stuck around after their games to watch the kickball action. Several teams adopted distinctive flourishes, such as the fake blood daubed on the uniforms of Big Hurt, and others would work into a pre-game frenzy with mock-serious warm-up exercises backed by boom-box-powered anthems. Give much of the credit to Jed Arkley of White Electric Coffee, who conceived the kickball concept with one of his coworkers and served as a beneficent spiritual leader throughout the inaugural season.

Best grace under pressure

He has dynamic intelligence and a razor-sharp wit. He's perhaps the most astute political analyst in Rhode Island, having predicted days before the gubernatorial election that Don Carcieri would enjoy a comfortable victory over Myrth York. He's cool as a cucumber, relishing his stint as a talk-show commentator on WPRO-AM, even though he might be sent packing to a federal penitentiary in a few weeks. He's our iconic ex-mayor. The courtroom demeanor of Vincent A. "Buddy" Cianci Jr. even drew plaudits from US District Court Judge Ernest C. Torres, who expressed amazement at his ability to keep it all together, presiding over the city while being prosecuted in the biggest political trial to hit the state in years. Faced with his hiring as a political analyst and talk-show chatter, Cianci's critics cast opprobrium on WLNE and WPRO. Cianci seems to be having great fun in spite of it all. Give this to the guy: His ability to maintain a strong front under adverse circumstances makes a lot of our daily gripes seem petty by comparison.

Best self-destruction

The human appetite for self-destruction never ceases to amaze, particularly in the political arena, where the protean leadership ability of elected officials not uncommonly comes with an uncanny knack for screwing it all up. Think Richard Nixon. Think Bill Clinton. Think our iconic ex-mayor. The defenders of Vincent A. "Buddy" Cianci Jr. have valid points in arguing that the Plunder Dome prosecution was selective and it was often difficult to tell the good guys from the bad ones. Yet Cianci, nothing if not a hands-on mayor, still provided grist for the mill with his seeming lack of insight into the chicanery at City Hall and beyond. After he had effectively ended his first mayoral tenure by assaulting his separated wife's lover, and then returned to preside over the nationally celebrated Providence renaissance, it was déjà vu all over again. Not for nothing do some people liken Cianci to a tragic Shakespearean figure.

Best place to kill your Kuwahara

It has been increasingly tough to find a local track for dirt riders to crank around on. Well, we found one. About a half-mile from the chaotic Main Avenue/Jefferson Boulevard intersection in the Greenwood area of Warwick lies a roughly groomed mini-BMX track on a deserted piece of land behind a travel agency and chiropractor (appropriately enough). It's a bit dilapidated this time of year, but a plastic snow shovel has been left behind to touch up the jumps. It's the perfect one-man set-up, with two small berms and a handful of big-ass lifts. It's a tough spot to find (diagonal from the Greenwood McDonald's, in Rhodyspeak), which has its benefits -- you're on your own in terms of embarrassment and busting ass on one of the insanely steep tabletops, so bring the helmet and pads covering every bendable joint. All your crying will go unacknowledged -- there is no lifeguard on duty and no one to sue -- but Kent County Hospital is only a few miles down the road through Apponaug. Post Road, Warwick.

Best guilt-free tooling around

Sure, squealing wheelies on your Harley hog would be way cool . . . uh, bitchin', man. But think about the pollution. So if you want wind-in-your-face travel in fresh air that you're not thickening with hydrocarbons, and you want to do so faster than a bicycle can speed you, an eGo Cycle from Providence-based eGo Vehicles, Inc. may be the ticket. The gizmo is for city travel, of course, getting you from zero to 20 mph in under four seconds, with a top speed of 23 mph. The range per charge is 25 miles, though you may extend that somewhat by driving in the "Go Far" mode, but then top speed is only 17. A full charge takes five hours, but you may top off intermittently with the on-board charger. The second-generation eGo Cycle 2 costs $1399; replacement battery packs -- the expensive bane of electric cars -- are only $130. (401) 461-2108,

Best political props

Our political life needs more people like Bob Healey. Not only does the Cool Moose know the issues through and through, he injects a welcome dose of fun into the campaign process. During his unsuccessful recent run for lieutenant governor -- which was based on the concept of dismantling the office -- Healey deployed an array of witty props, ranging from a valueless wooden coin ("equal to value of lt. governor's office"), bearing his profile on one side and a Cool Moose on the other, to matchbooks promising that he would be "The best lt. governor you'll never have." There were bumper stickers with his distinctive hirsute image and the motto, "Nothing for me, thanks" and individually wrapped condoms with his name, the title of the post he sought, and the description, "Feels as though it's not even there." Healey ultimately finished third in the race, placing behind Democratic incumbent Charles Fogarty and Republican John A. Pagliarini Jr., even while scoring a respectable 19 percent of the vote. Nonetheless, in a country with a moribund political culture, his mix of style and substance offers an appealing example.

Best reason to crash a chain-link fence and escape 95 South rush hour

Looking for some game? Try the Norman H. Olson Park in Cranston, known to most as the Doric Avenue courts, a noted players' spot in a quiet neighborhood sort of tucked behind Park and Elmwood avenues. And naturally there is no direct route to get there, although the courts are only a bounce pass from the chaos of Route 95. Pop jumpers or call next on a pickup game while admiring the hell-bent commute of Rhode Islanders still struggling with simple concepts of merging, utilizing turn signals, etc. Although the complex is not illuminated, two full-length, relatively unblemished painted blacktop courts are teeming with activity during the long summer hours (a 9 p.m. curfew is "enforced"). Seasonal leagues display some serious game, hence the rims bend forward a tad while long-distance specialists literally shoot the nets off (attentively replaced by Cranston Park and Rec). The well-maintained spot also has a tennis court, and a 1-mile track surrounding the all-purpose field. Doric Avenue, Cranston.

Best good vibes over a financial transaction

Looking for some relief from the homogenized ubiquity of our consumer culture? Few things beat forking over a few bucks for blueberries, tomatoes, corn, herbs, flowers, and other produce at the East Side Farmer's Market at Hope High School. The hard-working growers get direct support, consumer get super-fresh goods without having to go through a corporate supermarket, cooking demonstrations are offered, and with a little bit of luck, it might even be a beautiful summer day. Similar markets take place at other points in the city and throughout the state during the growing season, but the East Side version is noteworthy for the diverse cast of customers. Longtime residents rub shoulders with recent immigrants lured by the availability of exotic vegetables, and everyone tends to be in good spirits, a fresh spring added to their step by the good karma of reconnecting with the earth.

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Issue Date: November 22 - 28, 2002