A Signature Move

A SIGNATURE MOVE

Certainly Kareem Abdul Jabbar had one, but so did Richard Nixon and the Lone Ranger.

I first saw Jabarr’s signature move when he was still Lewis Alcindor a skinny 7’2” high school basketball phenom. It was 1964 and his Power Memorial team was in Rhode Island for a tournament. I snuck in to the first few minutes of their practice at Alumni Hall on the Providence College campus. Early on in the intrasquad scrimmage Alcindor gracefully dribbled through the key, turned his left shoulder towards the hoop, raised his right arm in a high arc and flicked the ball, seemingly on a downward trajectory, into the basket. It was the shot that became known as his “sky hook”. As first Alcindor, then Jabbar after his conversion to Islam, he tortured all opponents with this signature move until his retirement from the NBA in 1989 finishing as the all-time leading scorer in the league. I still cringe at the memory of Jabarr’s sky hook over High Henry Finklel that eliminated my Celtics from the 1971 playoffs.

Our 37th president Richard Nixon’s signature move was so identifiable that the comedian/impressionist Rich Little made a fortune incorporating it into his act. In moments of exuberance Nixon would transform himself into an array of “V”s. Arms outstretched in a wide vector, middle and index fingers of both hands forming victory signs, he appeared to be relishing the conquest of his oft imagined enemies. Yet, strangely in the midst of this celebratory gesture Nixon’s head seem retracted, almost turtled into his shoulders. Even in his finest moments he appears to want to distance himself from close contact. Cartoonist captured this signature move on a nearly daily basis in newspapers and magazines.

Can having a signature move give one a competitive advantage? Just look at the Lone Ranger versus Hop-A-Long Cassidy television cowboys from the 1950’s. People still recall the Lone Ranger looking heroic as his white steed reared majestically on its rear hooves as his master commanded, “Heigh, ho, Silver, away!”. A signature move if there ever was one. Hop-A-Long on the other hand just quietly left the room and is now no more than a vague memory.

Is it possible for a person to have more than one signature move or is that a contradiction of the term? When Jackie Gleason would freeze frame his large body into his famous “quick exit” pose while enthusing, “And away we go!”, it was a signal to his audience that more hilarious hijinks were just around the corner.
However, his other signature move was a sinister, now deeply offensive, caricature. As Ralph Kramden in “The Honeymooners” he would clench his fist, feign an uppercut as he threatened his wife with, “To the moon, Alice, to the moon.” . In retrospect these opposing signature moves actually captured the essence of this brilliant, but troubled, performer.

Two other signature moves are more heartfelt and came shrouded with mystery; Carol Burnett’s gentle tug of her left ear lobe and Jimmy Durante’s donning of his fedora as he headed towards the exit door while closing his show with the gravelly invocation, “Goodnight, Mrs. Calabash, wherever you are.”

Burnett finally informed fans that her gesture was a secret greeting to her mother and Durante eventually confessed that Mrs. Calabash was a nickname for his wife who loved the sound of the name of the town Calabash in North Carolina.

I have difficulty coming up with more contemporary examples of signature moves perhaps because the passage of time is required for the moves to become embedded in the public consciousness. Miley Cyrus tweaking? Tim Tebow tebowing? (To cite two extremely disparate examples!) Neither is time tested enough to determine the staying power of their imprints.

Must a person be a celebrity, or at least fairly well known, in order to have a signature move? Makes me wonder, do I have a signature move?

A signature move, by definition, has to be the image people conjure up when they think picture you.

Hmmmn, at the Christmas parties put on by the company where I spent most of my career videos were often part of the celebrations. In fact some years I helped produce these mini-movies which gently poked fun at our company employees and company culture. One year the tables were turned and I became the subject. A “friend” portrayed me. Now, I admit I had a propensity to prefer face to face conversations at work rather than just dialing an office extension or sending an e-mail with my questions. I easily feel desk bound. Oh, yes, I also drink a great deal of coffee. So, my “impersonator” was filmed endlessly wandering the hallways of our building, listing forward at about a 3 degree angle, with a coffee cup in each hand.

Is this my signature move? Oh, well, I guess it is better than the uncontrollable loop at the top of my golf swing which causes all those nasty pull hooks.

“Goodnight, Mrs. Raftus, wherever you are.”

– End –

Final Out F-9. Published in the Providence Journal

BY JIM RAFTUS
The bright orange roof of the Howard Johnson’s was a benchmark. This particular Ho-Jo filled the triangle formed by the merging of Routes 1 and 1A in North Attleboro. Even at 11, I knew if we were driving this far north of our Pawtucket life, we were heading for Fenway Park! The Green Monster, the CITGO sign, sausage grinders from the street vendors, but, best of all, Ted Williams at the plate.
We’d drive past Ratty’s Car Hop where, if Dad was feeling flush and the Sox won, we might stop on the way home for the world’s best burgers on buttered and grilled rolls. Your order was taken, and your food even brought to your car, by achingly pretty teenage girls gliding on roller skates!
Dad’s hulking green Hudson maneuvered its way through the curves of the VFW Parkway like an armadillo on a mission. Duct tape, secured by faith, held the tailpipe in place. We’d be fine until we hit the rotaries in Brookline, where Dad always managed to exit either one spoke too soon or one spoke too late. Never mind batting practice, we rarely managed to see the first inning.
On this day, July 20, 1958 — 55 years ago today — the Detroit Tigers, my favorite team after the Sox, were in town.
We finally arrived, parked the beast somewhere illegal and scurried down Lansdowne Street. A loud roar poured out of the old brick ball yard as we turned toward the entrance.
“I bet Williams hit one out!” I pouted angrily.
But the crowd noise was unusual. It didn’t quickly spike then fade. Rather, it lingered punctuated with new passion then ebbing away only to reverberate again. This one mystified me. My father, brother and I pushed through the turnstiles and jogged up the tilted, zigzag ramp toward our first base side grandstand seats. The noise was over by the time we shot through the tunnel and finally looked onto the diamond. Umpires were concluding a huddled conference as we found our seats.
“What happened? What happened?” I pestered the man in the seat in front of mine.
“Billy Martin spiked Runnels sliding into second base. All hell broke loose,” he replied.
We had missed a real baseball rhubarb! A bench-clearing, infield-dust-swirling wrestling match. I consoled myself by rationalizing that the donnybrook had delayed the game some, so we’d missed less of the actual action.
The ball-filled afternoon then spun itself out on a tradition-laden web of hot shots to third, 6-4-3 double plays and the rhythmic “We want a hit” chanting and clapping.
Too many decades and too many ballgames have passed for me to recall all the details of the game. However, the final out in the bottom of the ninth is etched as clearly as Catechism lessons in my mind.
Jim Bunning, long and lean, was on the hill for the Tigers. He was one of the best hurlers of his time and I secretly admired him even though he played for Detroit. Heck, in those days, the Red Sox never had any pitchers to root for. Bunning was on top of his game that day, literally unhittable, carrying a no-hitter into the final inning.
If this game had been proposed as a Hollywood script, and the writer cajoled the action into having Ted Williams stride to the plate with two outs, some editor would have red lined it as too clichéd.
But, that’s how it happened, Ted taking languorously smooth half swings for practice as he headed for the left-handed batter’s box. (He would hit .328 that year, with 26 home runs and 85 runs batted in, in 129 games.) I froze, paralyzed by torn emotions, my devoted loyalty to Number 9 punctured by my wanting to see Bunning succeed.
The two baseball icons dueled for a couple of pitches, I think, but can’t swear. Bunning whirled and tried to sneak a fastball over the inside corner past Ted. Williams uncoiled, powerful hips turning into the swing.
“Crack!” The ball resonated off Ted’s Louisville Slugger. From our first base side seats we had the perfect spot to watch the flight of the ball.
I didn’t, couldn’t, cheer. The crowd didn’t cheer. It was eerily hushed as the ball started on its parabolic flight toward right field. Al Kaline, the Tiger’s brilliant right fielder, started drifting back. The ball reached its highest trajectory and began the slow descent as Kaline backpedaled onto the narrow warning track. Did it have enough distance to reach the Tiger bullpen?
Kaline casually lifted his Spalding glove and the ball settled in the pocket. I swear I could hear the “plop” as horsehide met leather. Ted had hit it too far down on the handle. Bunning had “fisted” him just enough. After a moment’s hesitation, the Beantown fans, still standing, started a long ovation for Bunning.
The Howard Johnson’s is gone, Ratty’s has been boarded up for decades, and my father passed away 16 years ago, but I can still instantly recall the triangle of Hall of Famers — Kaline, Bunning and Williams — and that final notation in my scorebook: F-9, which in baseball scoring means fly out to right field.

Jim Raftus, of Cumberland, is a retired marketing executive.

Two Angel(L)s Lost 9/11/01 – First Published in the Providence Journal

BY JIM RAFTUS
My cousin David Angell and his wife Lynn were the first victims identified on 9/11. Tom Brokaw, with unearned solemnity, intoned, “We have learned the name of one of the victims, and he is one of us. David Angell, creator of the NBC show ‘Frasier.’ . . .” Our family had been with David and Lynn at a function on Sept. 8. Twelve years later, I still, irrationally, resent Brokaw’s claim of familiarity. But then, 9/11 was a completely irrational day.
This past June 13, I began reading sections of the Koran. Why? Because even after a dozen years I still have trouble speaking of that day. I still rarely speak of my cousin, although I think of him daily. Most importantly, I need to read the Koran to try and not live the rest of my life with a deep prejudice against an entire group of people. I’ve sought to meld ideals found in the Koran with aspects of the remarkable lives of David and Lynn, who were devout Catholics.
•Humility: The Koran says: “Successful indeed are the believers, those who humble themselves in their prayer.”
David and I were close, born seven months apart. He grew up in East Providence while I was raised in Pawtucket. At Christmas gatherings, his father would sing humorous nonsense songs while strumming an old ukulele.
David’s Hollywood success, as head writer on “Cheers” and co-creator of “Wings” and “Frasier,” came only after five years of struggle and perseverance. Lynn supported his efforts by working as a librarian. By the mid 1990s, I had only seen them periodically. Busy lives and 3,000 miles of separation will do that.
One day I bumped into them at a restaurant in Chatham on Cape Cod. After a fun-filled “catch-up” lunch, they invited me to see the old captain’s home they had just remodeled. Lynn, in addition to being the epitome of Southern grace and charm, was also a very talented amateur decorator. Their new home reflected her refined yet casual style.
As the tour ended, it struck me that nowhere in the house was there a hint of my cousin’s exciting career. I noticed a door in the kitchen and asked if it led to the garage.
David hesitantly replied, “Yes, and I have a little office above. Would you like to see it?”
As we walked up the stairs there were the first glimpses of David and Lynn’s journey. Framed, autographed photographs of the casts from “Cheers,” “Wings” and “Frasier” adorned the walls surrounding the narrow staircase.
More significantly, a three-tiered bookcase came into view as we ascended the final stairs.
On the bottom shelf were various books. The middle shelf contained three of David’s Emmy Awards. (He would win eight.) And there, on the top shelf, was displayed his father’s old ukulele. In that moment, I knew there was no chance of David ever “going Hollywood”
•Charity: The Koran says: “And be steadfast in prayer and regular charity.”
In 2000, I was the director of marketing for Clarke Distribution, which was having a charity golf tournament for a young Providence College graduate paralyzed in a body-surfing accident. Searching for items to auction, I called my cousin’s office in Los Angeles to see if they could donate some “Frasier” memorabilia.
My cousin called me back, and upon hearing the young man was a fellow PC graduate, upped the ante by offering for the auction a cameo appearance on the show. He mentioned that he would be in Massachusetts on the day of the tournament and said he’d love to play “if we had the room.” We made room.
Coincidentally, another auction item was a full-day treatment at a world-famous spa that was located in California, as was the filming of “Frasier.” A potential bidder for the spa item asked if transportation was included. When the answer was “no,” the bidding ground to a halt.
Observing this, David leaned over to me and whispered, “Tell the auctioneer to include two round-trip tickets to the ‘Frasier’ package.” Needless to say, with this addition, the “Frasier” cameo became the most hotly contested item of the day, with the owner of my company, Tom Clarke, and another guest waging a friendly bidding war. Once again my cousin whispered to me, “If they’ll match bids, let’s make it two cameos and four round-trip tickets.”
So, David had taken my humble request for some “Frasier” autographed photos, coffee mugs and T-shirts and had quietly turned it into a spectacular contribution to our efforts.
In 1996, David and Lynn established the Angell Foundation, which continues to this day to support education and arts for youngsters in Southern California and New England. The Angell Blackfriars Theatre at Providence College was a gift from the Foundation.
Two concepts from the Koran: humility and charity. David and Lynn embodied these virtues. Of course, these two words are on the bright side of the Koran coin. Other teachings, such as calls for jihad, with violence implied against those who “make mischief in the land,” etc., can be, and have been, perverted by radicals to perform unspeakable acts.
Religion is like a tool. Like a claw hammer. One end joins together and builds, the other pulls apart and destroys. David and Lynn knew which end of the hammer to use.
Jim Raftus, of Cumberland, is a retired marketing executive.
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Slow Miracles – Published in the Providence Journal

BY JIM RAFTUS
jraftus@aol.com
Last week, on Patriots’ Day, I was standing amidst a group of family and friends at mile 19.5, in Newton, waiting to cheer on my niece, Kathy Raftus Wilder, who was running her first Boston Marathon. In separate conversations with two women, one 30 and another in her early 40s, I recalled how, in 1967, a race official named Jock Semple literally pulled Katherine Switzer off the course because women were not allowed to race. Both young women I was talking to, intelligent and successful, were astounded to hear the story.
This year, there were 16,107 women runners out of 35,755 participants. I consider this a huge evolution within my lifetime, a sort of slow miracle. It made me think of other slow miracles over my 67 years.
Most people picture miracles as events that transpire relatively quickly: Jesus changing the water into wine at a Canaan wedding or Moses parting the Red Sea. Or, on a more secular level: Mike Eruzione scoring the winning goal to beat the Soviet Union at the 1980 Olympics for the “Miracle on Ice” or Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger landing Flight 1549 on a river, saving 155 lives in the “Miracle on the Hudson.”
I believe that slow miracles do exist. Not taking the time to notice and savor them robs a person of a great sense of optimism and faith.
On Dec. 1, 1955, Rosa Parks refused to move to the “colored” section of a segregated bus in Montgomery, Ala. On Nov. 4, 2008, Barack Obama was elected president.
No matter what a person’s political ideology, there can be no denying this miraculous shift in understanding and acceptance. This was a long, slow miracle that needed the Brown v. Topeka Board of Education decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, Lyndon Johnson’s signing of the Civil Rights Act and many other acts of courage to evolve. Of course, it would be naïve to say racism is a thing of the past, but within my lifetime we have moved from government-sanctioned segregation to having a black man in the Oval Office. A slow miracle.
In the 1970s, only 23.7 percent of cancer patients survived at least 10 years. By 2007, that had risen to 45.2 percent. In specific cases, such as prostate cancer, the increases for the same time frame rocketed from 20 percent to 70 percent. The work of places such as the Dana Farber Center, in Boston, and the efforts of organizations such as the Jimmy Fund and many other charities has prolonged the lives of millions who in the past had little hope. While this disease still inflicts turmoil and heartbreak on far too many lives and families, the progress toward stemming the cause continues. This is a still-evolving slow miracle to be savored.
As my niece, Kathy, approached her large, cheering clan at the 19.5 mile mark, her 5-year-old daughter, Erin, held up a handmade sign that read, “Go, Mom.”
Kathy beamed as she spotted us, gave high-fives all around, hugged Erin and continued on for seven more miles, to be greeted by another family contingent at the finish line. As 16,106 other women passed by us, another slow miracle came to mind.
Women in the United States could not vote until 1920. During my early primary and secondary school days in the 1950s, girl classmates were shepherded to continue their education, if at all, at Katherine Gibbs Secretarial School, the Rhode Island Normal School for Teachers or nursing school. This could, and did, lead them to honorable careers, but in hindsight there was an almost institutionalized limitation on higher aspirations. All the talk of future doctors, lawyers and scientists seemed directed toward the boys in the school.
Now, thanks to efforts such as the Equal Pay Act of 1960, the Equal Rights Amendment of 1972 and heroic attempts by women’s groups and their male supporters to make these resolutions realities, not just words, parity, while not yet achieved, is at least in viewing range.
There are currently 20 women in the Senate, the highest number in history, and three women serve as Supreme Court justices. There are finally some female CEOs at Fortune 500 companies. Now, 58 percent of college undergraduates are women.
Our niece Kathy ran her first marathon as part of a project called “Dream Big!,” which raises funds to provide sports equipment and opportunities for young girls living in impoverished areas. Kathy raised nearly $14,000 through her efforts and contributions by others.
When I looked at her daughter holding that sign, all I could think was, “Go, Erin.”
There are miracles slowly blooming all around you. Spend your life embracing them.
Jim Raftus (jraftus@aol.com) is a retired marketing director who lives in Cumberland. jraftus@aol.com

Conflict vs. War – Published in the Providence Journal

BY JIM RAFTUS
Now we are dropping bombs and exploding missiles in Syria to diminish the radical group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Thirteen years after 9/11, we have entered a new area of the Mideast quagmire.
The American public must come to some harsh realizations.
There will be no newspaper photograph of a celebratory Times Square kiss between a jubilant Navy corpsman and an unsuspecting, but willing, young lady to signal a victory over ISIL. There will be none of the pomp and circumstance of the June 28, 1919, signing of the Treaty of Versailles hailing the end of hostilities.
A true war requires an opponent that has defined borders, a citizen army and a known hierarchy of evil leaders. ISIL has none of these. It is an evil, amorphous, growing snake that abhors the West and has no concerns about the rules of engagement such as those in the Geneva Convention.
The United States, and a few allies, are engaged in mortal combat, not a war. We will never be able to truthfully unfurl another banner claiming “Mission Accomplished” in this fight against extremist terrorism.
Successive generations of Americans have been brought up with Hollywood versions of great American victories, from Audie Murphy (who was an actual war hero) to John Wayne, Sylvester Stallone and Matt Damon.
Too many of us retain the dangerous illusion that, given enough time, money, troops and munitions, democracy will bloom in the Middle East, tribal differences will disappear and the women will shed their hijabs while attending schools in their Guess jeans. This will not happen. They, and not we, will determine their culture.
The failures in Vietnam and the frustrations in the Mideast have somewhat tempered America’s jingoistic hubris, but ours is still a victory-driven mindset.
Am I saying that we should be isolationist?
No, we cannot stand idly by. ISIL is beheading civilians. If their captured enemies do not instantly convert to their brand of radical Sunni Islam they are summarily executed. They are recruiting disenfranchised Westerners. Splinter al-Qaida cells, such as the Khorasan Group, are plotting direct attacks on the West (they were also targeted in the initial bombing attacks in Syria). Radical groups such as these must be contained.
But, while this is a major global problem, the immediate threats are to Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Jordan, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.
My visceral response mechanism wants to believe President Obama when he declares that there will be no American boots on the ground. Still, because I feel this problem will never have a complete resolution, I consider it never-ending combat, not a war. Therefore, I also think Obama’s strategy is too vague and extends too far into the future.
I would immediately announce four actions:
•The current bombing of ISIL, and other targeted factions, will continue unabated for six months at which time it will cease. While we will do our utmost to limit civilian casualties, such losses will, unfortunately, occur. (I refuse to sanitize this by calling it “collateral damage.”)
•The United States will spend six months training moderate troops from all our allies in the Middle East to prepare for battle. We expect all such allies, including Turkey, with its million conscripted soldiers, to participate as boots on the ground. It is their region and, in the end, their fight. Obama’s one-year schedule is too long and too open-ended.
•If needed, units from the Joint Special Operations Command, such as Navy Seal Team Six, will eliminate specific radical leader targets. Let well-trained volunteers who crave such action do the needed chores, not my pharmacist or postman on his fourth rotation.
•Implement a vigorous, thorough vetting of all travelers going to, or coming from, Middle Eastern countries. If there is a scintilla of vagueness about the purpose of their trip they should be denied their travel. On Sept. 24, the U.N. Security Council passed a resolution requiring member countries to enact laws barring suspected militants from traveling abroad. A good start, but let’s put some real teeth and firm implementation into these regulations.
We face, unfortunately, endless combat against radical terrorism. It is the new reality. We must do all we can to protect our homeland with a minimal erosion of personal individual rights. We will remain a great, but more diligent, nation.
The “war” we must win is one over an illusionary mindset that victory is only possible with a defined end and a completely vanquished enemy.
Jim Raftus (jraftus@ aol.com) is a retired marketing executive who lives in Cumberland. He served in the U.S. Army from 1968 to 1971.

Rhode Island andLife Long Friendships – Published in the Providence Journal

BY JIM RAFTUS
jraftus@aol.com
Tonight I will be attending a high school 50th reunion. More than 2 million high school seniors across the country graduated in 1964, so I am not alone in participating in this ritual.
Here’s what will make my night somewhat different and Rhode Island-centric.
While there will be plenty of “not quite certain who that guy is” moments, I’ll be seated at a table with several graduates I’ve stayed close friends with since September 1952, on the first day of first grade at St. Leo’s School, in Pawtucket. In fact, a few of them — Bill, Steve and Ed — are often part of my regular golfing foursome. We’ve remained buddies for 62 years.
When I tell folks, especially non-Rhode Islanders, that my foursome consists of mostly friends from first grade they are incredulous. My joking reply to their response is, “Yeah, we can’t decide if we are really loyal or really boring.”
What we really are is Rhode Islanders. I’m convinced that there is something unique to our native Ocean State that tends to cultivate long-term relationships.
In our younger days, the boundaries of parochial school parishes herded us together during these important formative years. The parish school and church were links that bound us together. We navigated the influences, good and bad, of the nuns and priests as a united group.
Left to our own devices during non-school hours, we poured our energy into traditional sandlot and playground sports: baseball, football and basketball.
A few months ago, relaxing at the 19th hole after a round of golf, we reminisced about a “two-on-two” basketball league we organized between the summer of our seventh and eighth grades. My team happened to go undefeated. Steve insisted that it was only because I “towered over all of them.” I am 6-foot-4. I let him keep this fantasy for a week.
The following Saturday, as we sat on the porch overlooking the 18th green, I unrolled, like an old biblical scripture, a faded, crinkled copy of the St. Leo’s graduation class of 1961 photo. There, standing in the second row, separated only by a girl I don’t remember, Steve “towers” over me by at least a full inch. You see, I sprouted three inches the summer after this photo was taken.
Rhode Island’s most often noted feature, being the smallest state in the Union, certainly is a factor in the long-term maintenance of friendships. We are long since removed from the Pawtucket of our youths, “scattered” all around the state: Cumberland, Barrington, West Kingston and East Greenwich. (Scattered being a relative term that folks from other, larger states would find laughable.) Most importantly for our needs, we can all easily find our way to whatever golf course we want to conquer in Rhode Island.
We went to different colleges: Providence College, Bryant and Rhode Island College. We’ve served in the military, Vietnam and Alaska. We’ve had careers: education, finance, insurance and marketing. We’ve attended each other’s weddings, our children’s weddings and funerals for our parents, all now gone.
It has been a long, mostly blessed, journey. Although more than five decades removed, I can still recall the climb up the back stairs to Bill’s family’s apartment in a no-longer-existing building behind Howell Smith’s Drugstore on the corner of Newport and Central Avenues. I can still hear his wonderful mother’s hearty, infectious laugh.
Times have changed. A more mobile society, instant international communication methods and, in general, a more frenetic lifestyle seem to have made such long-term close-proximity friendships less viable. I know my children, while still in contact with old chums via social media, have established newer lives and friends in new locations.
Oddly enough, the reunion my wife and I will be attending, St. Raphael’s Class of ’64, is not the high school I graduated from. Financial circumstances at the time forced me to transfer after my sophomore year, but so strong is the bond with my friends that I’m always invited back to school functions.
So, while I’ll be saying plenty of, “Wow, I haven’t seen you for 50 years,” I’ll also, happily, end the evening with, “See you next week, 8:30 tee time.”
Jim Raftus (jraftus@aol.com) is a retired marketing executive who lives in Cumberland.

Introducing the New 49th State – Published in the Providence Journal 1/9/15

Fellow Rhode Islanders, it is time to face facts. Our lovely state is in trouble. Little Rhody’s condition is the inverse of the saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” There are major issues of high unemployment, horrible rankings for business climate plus state and local financial crises with no discernible solutions. We have become the little engine that couldn’t. It is broke and we don’t seem to know how to fix it.
How about a merger? Not a hostile takeover, but the creation of a new entity from the strengths of two neighbors, Rhode Island and Connecticut.
“No way!” the parochials on both sides of the current border will scream. Let’s block out the cacophony and look at the mutual benefits.
Immediately there will be unique opportunities for some of Rhode Island’s most iconic companies. Imagine the Alex & Ani Aquarium of Mystic. How successful would Del’s Lemonade stands be at every service rest area on the Merritt Parkway?
Politically, Rhode Island suffers from our lack of punch. Who in Washington cares about a paltry four electoral votes? How much can a mere two-person representation in the House accomplish in a body with 435 members? We rank 43rd in population and are one of the very few states which have experienced a decline in residents in the past decade, putting even our minuscule representative number at risk.
Merged with Connecticut, we’d have a population of more than 4.6 million, making us 25th in size. We would have nine electoral votes and seven House members. In this formula, Connecticut gains two electoral votes and two representatives. A political win/win!
Economically, Connecticut shines. According to the Bureau of Business and Economic Research, it ranks first in per capita income at $59,000. Rhode Island comes in at a decent 15th with $45,000 per capita. There are a number of folks quietly making good money in our state, however, nothing like the mavens from Fairfield County the Gold Coast of Connecticut. Most of these Wall Street barons and hedgefund hotshots have rebounded nicely from the Great Recession and are once again practically printing money. What a boon they would be to our economy!
But, with all of Rhode Island’s woes, you may ask, “What’s in it for Connecticut?”
Two words; beaches and tourism!
For a state whose entire souther border is coastline, Connecticut has an embarrassing paucity of beaches. That’s why we Rhode Islanders can’t get into our own state beach in Misquamicut unless we arrive before 8 a.m. We sit on Atlantic Avenue in our overheating cars swearing at all the Connecticut license plates filling up our lot. Oh, Connecticut tries hard, calling spits of land like Hammonasset and Attawan beaches, but it is not fooling anyone.
With the merger, it could also lay claim to the wonders of South County (I know it doesn’t technically exist), Newport, Little Compton and Tiverton.
As for tourism, Connecticut would go from flat line to full vibrancy. Really, how many people a year can you draw to that Mark Twain home in Hartford? I bet more people eat at the Brick Alley Pub in Newport in one month than find their way in a year to Samuel Clemens’s part-time residence in Connecticut.
For this obvious merger to work, some petty but potentially contentious speed bumps would have to be navigated. What to call this combined entity? I suggest the new 49th state (addition by subtraction) be named Fairland.
“Fair” pays homage to the economic engine Fairfield County, which will drive the new state, while “land” denotes the beautiful scenic landscapes that Rhode Island brings to the marriage. As for the state’s nickname, common sense should prevail. Nutmeg State versus Ocean State? Even the most ardent Connecticut native would admit defeat here.
Fairland’s capital city? My vote is Hartford. It is more centrally located. But, cheer up, Providence. One reason to give the nod to Hartford is because Providence can still survive as a nice, sometimes vibrant, mid-sized city, while Hartford, never fully recovered from the shrinkage in the insurance industry, needs the cache of capital status to remain relevant.
Which elected officials should govern? Well, you could field a football team, both offensive and defensive squads, with Connecticut and Rhode Island politicians who have done the “perp walk” over the past two decades. So let’s start fresh and declare new elections for all positions.
Time is wasting. We’ll have lots of signs to change and license plates to make.
Fairland, the 49th state!

Jim Raftus (jraftus@aol.com), an occasional contributor, is a retired marketing executive who lives in Cumberland.

Musings and reflections of a Commentary Writer. Watch for weekly post on Wednesdays.