I grew up a mile from Providence but hardly ever went there. (Too busy hanging out in parking lots in high school. Seriously.) When I did hit Rhode Island’s capital city, it was with the hip crowd in high school, who liked to haunt Thayer Street and pretend they went to Brown or RISD. For twenty years, the only place I knew how to get to in Providence was Thayer Street, and getting there was always a crapshoot.

Fast forward 20 years. I’m into the tail end of a month in my homestate, getting acquainted with old friends (attending my high school reunion this weekend), meeting new ones, enjoying the beach, and dining on fantastic cuisine. My athletic pursuits have been mostly confined to daily and nightly walks with my mother and a bit of surfing.

But the artistic experience has been amazing! I’ve met artists, musicians, poets, and glassblowers. Put twelve of these people in a room, add an accordian, bongo drums, a harmonica, and a human beat box, and you’ve got hours of (mostly) clean adult entertainment.

Two events are mostly worth mentioning:

Salsa Night at Black Repertory Theatre

This is a weekly, Wednesday night occurence and features Carlos DeLeon. Like most salsa nights, a class is offered before the main festivities. Their website tells you that the salsa class begins at 8 and the dancing starts at 9. This is slightly incorrect, as the night I was there the class didn’t end until almost 10. No problem, I waited around a little bit and had a beer. By 10:30 the dance floor was packed with salsa dancers. Fantastic, I thought. I’ll just get my little groove on in the corner over here and someone is bound to ask me to dance. I am wearing a new dress, after all.

Didn’t matter. Not a single soul asked me to dance. It could have been the glut of single females in the joint or it could have been that no one knew I could dance. So I asked someone to dance and I chose a self-styled expert, who put up with me for half a song, gave me a few words of condescending encouragement, and released me. I don’t think he realized what an asshole he was.

This happened to me in Mexico in March: I showed up to a salsa night, actually knew how to salsa, only to have every able dancer in the place ignore me.

Lesson learned If one must go to a salsa night by herself, it would behoove her to show up for the lesson beforehand so the guys in the class can see that she can dance and are less shy about asking her.

Still, I’m waiting until I return to Denver next week before braving another salsa class. I’ll drive through southern Utah by myself for ten days, but I will not go to another dance class by myself and pathetically hope someone asks me to dance. Can’t take the rejection.

Possibly the coolest thing to ever happen to Providence. Couldn’t happen to a nicer town in more need of an economic boost.

SoundSession was a weeklong music festival. It crossed all boundaries, genres, and venues. It doesn’t draw stadium acts, preferring Cape Verdean beats over national blues acts. I went to to two events that week: a three-act music extravanganza at Firehouse 13, culminating in the bluesy Chelsy Lau band, a fiery redhead who’s a cross between Bonnie Raitt and Janice Joplin. Her band does original songs and original covers, from Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb” to Michael Jackson’s “Dirty Diana.” The girl can rock.

The final night of SoundSession was a carnivale-style parade. I found myself dancing next to the requisite scantily-clad sequined dancers and behind a Caribbean steel drum band. We danced in the streets until 3AM, moving between musical acts that were 2-3 blocks apart along Westminster Street in Providence. My favorite band with the guitarist with the mohawk and the leader singer on maracas. Didn’t get the name. Best night of music I’ve ever had the pleasure of participating in, and I’ve seen Radiohead at Red Rocks.

If you missed SoundSession this year, go next year. I only went to free events and was blown away. You will not be disappointed.