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By PROVIDENCE PHOENIX STAFF  |  October 24, 2008

WaltonINSIDE.jpg

Richard Walton
 
WHAT DO YOU DO, AND HOW LONG HAVE YOU DONE IT? I’ve been a writer/journalist for more than 50 years. A dozen books published and countless articles for publications ranging from the New York Times, the Nation, and the Washington Post to Playboy and Cosmopolitan. And I’ve written for the Village Voice, the NewPaper, the Phoenix, and the Providence Journal. Somewhere along the way I made the transition from being primarily a writer to being primarily an activist and teacher. In Rhode Island I have been active with Amos House, the Stone Soup Coffeehouse, the Providence-Niquinohomo [Nicaragua] Sister City Project, the George Wiley Center, the RI Coalition for the Homeless, etc. I’ve helped build a health center and school in Nicaragua and worked with a Rhode Island medical team in Guatemala, taking me to Central America many times. Several times I wrote about the Sister City Project for the NewPaper.
IF YOU’RE NOT A NATIVE, WHERE WERE YOU BEFORE YOU GOT HERE? More than 50 years. I came here at one or two after being born in Saratoga Springs, NY. I was gone for 26 years, returning to RI in 1981. I lived in DC, Connecticut and, for 20 years, New York City. As much as I love New York, this is where I belong.
WHAT DO YOU HOPE TO BE DOING 30 YEARS FROM NOW? Since I’m now 80, I expect to be on “the other side,” looking for Houdini and catching up on my sleep.
WHAT IS YOUR PROUDEST ACCOMPLISHMENT? I’m not sure it’s exactly an accomplishment, but I ran for vice president in 1984 as the running mate of that wonderful radical feminist Sonia Johnson. I don’t think I attracted quite as much attention as Sarah Palin.
FAVORITE THING ABOUT RHODE ISLAND? Its size. So much wonderful stuff is packed into a state so tiny it is used as a unit of measurement: “As Big As the State of Rhode Is-land,” the hilarious song by Bill Harley. It should be the state anthem.
LEAST FAVORITE THING ABOUT RHODE ISLAND? The General Assembly. Rhode Island usually sends pretty good people to Washington, but many in the state legislature are dreary political hacks that, alas, we keep electing over and over again. A disgrace.
COFFEE MILK OR DEL’S? Ooh, a tough one. Coffee milk ... unless it’s a very hot day.
ANY ANECDOTES INVOLVING THE NEWPAPER OR PROVIDENCE PHOENIX? As one of the early writers for the Village Voice, I was so pleased when I returned to Rhode Island in 1981 to find Ty Davis’s NewPaper. It and its successor, the Phoenix, allowed me and many other writers to do pieces that could not be published elsewhere. And they helped keep the Journal on its toes, although that once-fine paper is diminishing before our eyes as so many good people leave.
FAVORITE LOCAL DISH? Whatever catches my fancy on the menu of Apsara Palace on Public Street, the best cheap restaurant in Rhode Island. I’ve taken so many out-of-towners there and they have all loved it. My latest favorite is the grilled shrimp dish.
IF YOU DIDN’T LIVE HERE, WHERE WOULD YOU LIKE TO LIVE? I’ve been to so many wonderful places in more than 50 countries, but I can’t imagine living anywhere else but on “historic Pawtuxet Cove” amidst the boats and the tomatoes that my brother claims are the best in Rhode Island.
FAVORITE FORMER PAWSOX PLAYER? Jacoby Ellsbury!!!
WHAT BAR/RESTAURANT/LANDMARK/PERSONALITY THAT HAS CEASED TO EXIST IN THE LAST 30 YEARS DO YOU MISS THE MOST? Oh, Hope’s. That hangout on Washington Street for the Journal and Trinity Rep and where all the lefties drank and talked. And talked and talked and talked! And I very much miss Leah Reynold’s Custom House Tavern. We went there after the Friday afternoon peace vigil for years.
PHILLIPE OR JORGE? First I have to figure our which is which. And I’ve known them both for decades. They’ve both been so kind to me.
BELIEVE IT OR NOT, I’VE NEVER BEEN TO . . . Wyoming. Not the state, the Rhode Island community. Or if I’ve been there, I didn’t know it. Exactly where is it?
YOUR MOST MEMORABLE [OR HALF-FORGOTTEN] NIGHT OUT IN THE LAST 30 YEARS? Probably the night at Stone Soup when Rosalie Sorrels and Utah Phillips played. They stayed at my house that night and sat up late tell stories . . . and what wonderful stories. And we may have had a drop or two.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PORTRAYAL OF RHODE ISLAND ON TELEVISION, IN A MOVIE, OR IN A BOOK? Probably the television show Providence. It wasn’t much of a show, but that actress with the Greek name I can neither remember nor spell [Melina Kanakaredes] was awfully nice to look at. Or maybe H.P. Lovecraft’s Providence.
WHAT’S ON YOUR WIENERS? The works. At that Coney Island joint on Smith Street near Chalkstone. It’s a year older than I.
IF YOU COULD HAVE THREE RHODE ISLANDERS [LIVING OR NOT] OVER FOR DINNER, WHO WOULD THEY BE? Roger Williams, who introduced to the world separation of church and state, a principle now under assault in the US. Bobby Hackett, who played as tasty a trumpet/cornet as anyone who ever lived. I’d hope he brought his “axe.” H.P. Lovecraft, but I’d want dinner to be over before dark.
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN IN RHODE ISLAND? ASK YOURSELF A QUESTION AND ANSWER IT. What would you do over? I’ve had a wonderful life as writer, activist, teacher and traveller and wouldn’t do much different ... but I would do it more intensely and take more risks. And spend more time with my kids and granddaughter.

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