Thursday, May 25, 2017

Pretty in Pink

He didn't, of course, but he might as well have planned it for me.

If I'd wanted to attend a wine tasting class as part of my birthday celebration, chances are I'd want it to be a pink class.

And as Mac just recently pointed out, that's exactly what Amour Wine Bistro was having tonight: Le Rose Wine Tasting: Rhone Valley and Provence.

Birthday schooling of the highest order. Reservation for two, please.

An attendee tonight could be forgiven for thinking that the class was really just a means for the owner to gather a group of interesting women to hang on his every word, because that's what it seemed to be. Not that a restaurant owner would do such a thing.

Every single attendee was female. And eager to learn. Overheard: "Oh, I love eggplant, but I don't know how to cook it."

Looking to start off with something unlikely, the owner poured a tannic 2007 E. Guigal Rose from the southern Rhone valley to prove that some Roses have wonderful aging potential. "It's 2007 again and we're all young!" he joked. "Who was President then?"

The man who never looked so good as he has in retrospect the past 120 days, that's who.

To set the scene for Domaine Pere Caboche Rose, he painted a picture. "For this wine, you should be sitting on a terrace overlooking the Mediterranean, with a barbecue grill over here for the fish you caught this morning - or got at the market - and drinking this," he said, conjuring up a great visual. "Then you have it all!"

I don't know, give me the terrace, the sea and the grilled fish and I'd probably be quite happy drinking anything. With the exception of the woman who called out, "Are you gonna come cook the fish for me because I just can't do fish on the grill," we got his point.

He admitted his favorite was Le Petit Rouviere Rose and that's one I've swooned over for years because of its lush peach notes and long finish.

Lest it sound like we were hunkered down sipping pinks, listening intently to terroir lessons and taking abundant notes, it should probably be acknowledged that we had a steady stream of food coming at us all the while.

White bean, beet and arugula salad segued in to salmon and tuna tartar with capers on thick, chewy crostini and then creamy Dijon mustard sauced chicken with rice kept our Rose-addled attention spans focused until chocolate tart covered in fresh strawberry slices arrived.

Meanwhile, Teacher had moved on to the finer points of Domaine Petit Coeur Rose, so we refocused on the wine's refined elegance instead of drooling over the bottle's sexy shape because Mac and I just aren't that shallow.

That bottle would make a great candle-holder, that's all I'm saying.

It was while we were sipping the summery aromas of blossoms in a glass courtesy of Domaine Mas de la Rouviere Rose from Bandol, that the owner dazzled one and all by bringing out the equivalent of four bottles of Rose in one hand.

You could just see some of the women's eyes go glassy at the prospect of an entire box of Chateau Montaud Cote de Provence Rose and it wasn't long before several of them requested a box of her own to take home. Just don't be too quick to judge.

For those dedicated to the art of Rose, that's what we call homework. For those of us celebrating our birthdays in long form, it's a marathon, not a sprint.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Happy Birthday from the Modfather

Birthday/May 23
This year you warm up the waters with a difficult person in your life. You are prone to the unexpected and frequently can be found responding to situations triggered by surprising events. If you are single, take your time getting to know someone who seems like a nearly perfect suitor. If you are attached, communication flourishes between you and your sweetie. Taurus plays a significant role in understanding what you want from certain situations.

Leave it to the Washington Post to kick off my birthday talking about all kinds of relationships. Like I never give them any thought.

Technically, my parents inaugurated my birthday with a cheery phone call at 10:50 that woke me up and got me out of bed. According to Mom, they'd waited till then to call, thinking I'd be back from my walk, so I didn't bother disabusing them of that notion.

While I was making breakfast, the phone rang an unlikely second time and I picked it up to hear an instantly familiar voice, that of my college friend, biggest booster and, for the last few years, my long distance friend since he's now a Key West resident. Few voices could have surprised me more.

Although he reads the blog regularly and often emails to comment or share a related thought (he picks up a lot of nuances most don't because he's known me so long and so well), we too-rarely talk on the phone, which is a damn shame because we love to laugh together, challenging to do over the interwebs.

My birthday walk was satisfyingly beach-like, alternating damp and drizzle, but with mid-60 degree warmth and a capricious breeze to make it feel like the weather gods were stewing on something. Stew away, as long as I can wear shorts, it's a good birthday.

When I got home, I cut myself a birthday bouquet of lavender and blue hydrangeas, deeply fragrant pink heirloom roses and mauve lilies, putting them in a black vase to tone down the girliness pastel explosion a tad.

Dinner involved all my favorite things - bubbles, oysters on the half shell, crab, good bread, dark chocolate - set to a swinging Sinatra soundtrack over five unhurried hours.

The afterparty revolved around my birthday gift from a handsome friend (and his new bride), who'd thoughtfully brought back from their month-long honeymoon in South Africa a bottle of Spice Route Pinotage for me.

It was a beautiful wine, intense and rich, and the ideal sipper for a record listening party that involved more of my birthday gifts (thank you, Pru and Beau) as well as some of my own recent purchases and golden oldies.

From the gift pile came the number one album from 1982, Asia's eponymous debut, sounding so overblown and prog-pop it was hilarious. A gift nearly 20 years ago, The Pretenders' "Get Close" sounded just as funky as it had in '86. Choosing from Friday's purchases of Marvin Gaye's last two albums, "In Our Lifetime" and "Midnight Love," the latter got the nod.

Since conventional wisdom has it that unless you're desirous of certain results, the one thing you should never put on after Marvin Gaye is Roxy Music, it was inevitable that Roxy's "The Atlantic Years 1973-80" followed Marvin, raising all sorts of lyrical questions.

Can you really dance away the heartache? Who's got angel eyes? Is love the drug? Is it worth waiting till the midnight hour? How can Jimmy John's make a sandwich so fast?

More importantly, will I ever have birthday years where I'm not prone to the unexpected? When I'm not frequently being found responding to situations triggered by surprising events?

Today I woke up to an email from my best friend from college, still my biggest fan and, tragically, a Texas resident.

So, did you have a good night? I was going to call but figured you would be out and about. I hope you enjoyed your special day. I thank your Mom and Dad every year on your b-day for their horniness (I know, very tacky). Love you...

I don't know if it can be considered tacky when my birthday card from Mom and Dad referenced the same horniness: "When it comes to making the world a better place, we've done our part. We brought you into it!"

Out of the mouths of the two people whose relationship I admire the most.  Here's to another birthday year of owning who I am and where I came from.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Getting Busy On My Life Soon

When better than a solo birthday eve to reflect back on the early years that got me here?

Full as the card catalog in my brain may be (both family and friends defer to my collective memory rather than storing memories themselves), much of its archives are so densely packed at this point that they aren't easily accessed.

To the rescue: my handwritten journal, discovered in the bottom of a drawer today.

July 27, 1973
There was a picture on the front page of the Washington Post this morning showing the unanimous vote of the Watergate committee to bring Nixon for testimony. Should be interesting if he does appear.

July 28, 1973
Began Shakespeare's "As You Like It" yesterday and finished it today. I didn't know I had it in me. Really enjoyed it. I'd love to read them all soon, but I haven't got the time.

August 2, 1973
Roger wanted to see me badly tonight, or so he said. That was such a nice thing to tell me. Karen, the incurable romantic.

August 31, 1973
My third big day at University of MD. Botany lab doesn't look very encouraging. All that labeling could mean trouble. The pollution lately has been around 165 (100 being unsafe), which is the alert level. It just hangs in the air...The Watergate committee told Nixon he had to hand over his famous tapes.

September 27, 1973
The news is discussing the current gas station strike. They are closing to protest the prices of Phase IV (the illustrious plan of our wonderful leader)... My first hourly exams are coming up and I should be studying.

October 8, 1973
I heard Jane Fonda and Tom Haydn (husband activist) speak Friday. It was pretty interesting.

October 15, 1973
Agnew resigned last Wednesday and pleaded "no contest" to an income tax evasion charge. Nixon nominated Gerald Ford (minority leader) for the vice presidency. Agnew resigned on the agreement that he'd get court leniency and no more charges pressed...What a sad state of affairs this country is in.

April 3, 1974
The bookstore's still my part-time job and so far, I have no summer job. Roger got one at Greenbelt Park but he has to get a haircut first. And get this: he's going to do it!!! For a job! A year and a half's growth cut off! Oh, Pompidou died yesterday. France is all a-twitter wondering who will succeed him.

September 23, 1975
Kelsey and I went down to a club in Georgetown to dance Saturday night. Danced four straight hours...Bob had a party last week and we all had a great time. Got home about 4:45.

December 1, 1975
Bought a car last Friday! Blue VW, '66 that runs well...Jennie and I have taken up jogging  a mile every morning from 7:00 to 7:30. It feels really good and I don't mind the early hours at all.

December 7, 1975
I called Bob H. the other night to finally clear the air. I'm not sure if it did any good, though. He wants to either date but act the same at work or else continue ignoring each other like we are. I'd like to just be friends... Leo got married Friday at the courthouse. I was really surprised when he told us. Maybe he'll settle down a little, who knows? Leo was the one who told me to make up with Bob. He thought I'd probably blow it, though.

January 28, 1976
 I met a new person. Her name is Bonnie and she lives in Bowie but she's from California. We can talk about anything (and usually do!).

April 23, 1976
One month exactly until my birthday! We've had 80 and 90 degree weather all month. It's really weird. I can't ever remember April being like this...Curt and I saw America at the Capital Center last night. We saw a couple of ballets at the Kennedy Center the week before. Bonnie and I saw Carole King down at Constitution Hall back in March. The weekend before my birthday is the Paul McCartney concert and I'm really looking forward to that. Curt and I saw the Boston Symphony at the Kennedy Center a couple of weeks ago...I've been doing 40 sit-ups every night for the past month or so.

July 27, 1976
I registered to vote. The Democrats nominated Carter. It looks like the Peanut King may be our next President after all...Curt and I went to see "All's Well That Ends Well" at the Folger Theater. It was really super. I'd never been there before (nor had he)...Bonnie is teaching me to play tennis.

August 17, 1976
Curt wants to move to California next year. If he goes, so will I. He's worried I'll miss my friends and family but Bonnie says I'll love California. She's trying to convince Gerry to move out there but he doesn't want to.Who knows? Things could happen in the next year to change everyone's plans.

September 3, 1976
It's so unusual for me to make an entry in this book at night - and a Friday night at that...I saw "Same Time Next Year" with Cheryl at the National Theater Wednesday night. It was the funniest play I've ever seen.

April 5, 1977
Bonnie and Gerry may be moving to Boston in June!  I don't know what I'll do if Bonnie moves away. As it is, I can barely go two days without talking to her.  We're going to the Cap Center to see Boston tonight.

May 12, 1977
What do you do when you're bored all of a sudden and everything is routine? I'm not unhappy but I feel like I do the same things in the same way all the time. I wish I could think of some way to make this summer more exciting. It never does any good to get depressed and feel sorry for yourself (especially like now because I'm unsure why I feel this way) but then how can you stop yourself?

July 15, 1977
Sandy and I are in Guadeloupe...Monday breakfast: first croissant (good). Dancing: met Americans, hot!...Tuesday: beach and sunfish (always knew I'd like sailing)...Wednesday lunch: real Creole meal, stuffed conch (delicious!)...Thursday breakfast: boring, same ham and roll...Saturday afternoon: went to secluded nude beach to lay out...Sunday breakfast: I may turn into a piece of ham....

August 23, 1977
I registered for classes today. Schedule:
Art history -The Renaissance in Italy
Art history - Impressionism
...I am outside now and I am also listening to records.  It doesn't even stay light until 9 p.m. now. I guess Summer is fading fast. "Lemme go, lemme go," that 's the song now playing. P.S. I am listening through open windows...This reminds me of someone: "Baby, baby, I can live without you." Remember now? Tear stained lashes laced the pillow. Oh, my god! I'm turning into a romance writer! ...Elvis died last week. Sebastian Cabot died today...A guy walking his dog just asked, "How's your old man doing?" Etiquette 1977- Not how's your "husband doing" or "boyfriend doing," it's "old man doing." My boyfriend is fine.

May 31, 1978
Bonnie is down now visiting (I love it). She got down on my birthday (my 22nd- what an old lady I'm getting to be!)...Curt and I went through a bad period about a month ago, but that's over. He was feeling neglected  so I've made a point to spend more time with him. Mom gave me one of those talks about "losing a real gem" if I didn't shape up, so I've been thinking a lot about that...He's sweet, kind, patient (hard with me), gentle, generous (to a fault), loving and everything I could want except for deep-rooted male chauvinistic qualities which I would have to learn to live with...And would our relationship change if I did say yes to marrying him? Will we each subconsciously begin to role play? I dread such a thought and yet, who is to say?

November 14, 1978
Old Grandma died on November 2.  It was the saddest day I can imagine...I visited her every day except one during the three weeks she was in the hospital...I always teased her that I was her favorite...One day when I walked into her hospital room, her new roommate said, "You must be Karen, her granddaughter, the one she's always bragging about. She's always telling me how ambitious you are - how busy!" I just smiled but if Grandma had only known how much it pleased me that she would boast to a stranger about me- well, that's made me happy for weeks.

January 3, 1979
I can't believe I've been keeping up with this journal for 5 1/2 years - boy, all the things that have happened since 1973!... I'm going to be 23 this year and Curt will be 30! Boy, rocking chairs, here we come! If I don't get busy on my life soon, it'll be too late.

May 23, 2017
My, my, young Karen, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

I still read the Washington Post every day. Let's see, the lively arts - Shakespeare, ballet, symphony, theater - continue to seduce me weekly. Even now, guys who can pull off long hair, nights devoted to dancing, endless live music and travel float my boat. I'm also just now noticing a thread of Virgos.

No memory of discussing a move to California; botany lab was as awful as I'd expected and, if I hadn't seen it in my own youthful scrawl, I wouldn't have believed I ever jogged - even for a mile - much less at that hour.

Oh, and learning tennis? I only let her attempt to teach me because I wanted a really cute tennis dress I saw in a newspaper ad (no, really). Didn't get it.

At the start of this year's birthday, I could say the country remains mired in a sad state of affairs but the good news is, I'm not yet in a rocking chair (is that even still a phrase?).

And, for better or for worse, I'm still the same incurable romantic I've always been.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

It Shoulda Been You

It's a Saturday night tradition to progressively celebrate my birthday.

The past three years, I've been accompanied by two favorite couples, but this year, I wanted a third dynamic duo added to the mix. The funny part was her comment, "Wow, we finally made the cut! I guess we were just being auditioned up 'till now."

Not true, but their presence was a lovely addition to the party.

Things kicked off at Metzger because Mr. Fine Wine's music never gets old and just after opening is the very best time to enjoy Metzger before it's noisy and overcrowded. I arrived at the bar to find four of my six friends awaiting my arrival with bubbles in front of them in my honor.

I'm not entirely convinced that they wouldn't have been drinking bubbles anyway, but still, it was a lovely greeting. The late arrivals merited ordering another bottle.

With the early evening sun beating down on Metzger's shaded windows, my friends ate through multiple cheese and charcuterie plates, a couple of specials of pork meatballs, Morattico oysters (home to my parents), a salad of English breakfast and watermelon radishes and, most impressively, roasted asparagus over the pinkest of shrimp mousse.

It was here that we learned about the seafood/kiss rule already well-established by the newlyweds. You see, she doesn't care for seafood, so he refrains from eating it until after she's had enough wine not to mind. Such was his rationale for turning down Morattico oysters before he scored an early kiss.

I'd be the first to admit I love to kiss, but I can't see turning down a perfectly delicious oyster, either.

Mowing through food like we didn't still have two more stops to make, I gently reminded my posse not to overly front-load. Not everyone took the gentle reminder well, but part of that is due to the siren song of Metzger.

Our next stop was Nota Bene, where we went from a bright, sunlit space to the dimness of multiple candles and a wood-burning oven. Holmes regaled us with tales from the accounting world, there was talk of men in yoga pants, and, in an extraordinary moment, the entire table voted for Germany over Provence when it came to drinking Rose.

In fact, the Villa Wolf Rose carried us though multiple plates of sugar toads, braised fennel with tomato sauce and breadcrumbs, the grilled cauliflower with fresno peppers that made Holmes a believer, squid ink pasta with scallops and pizzas of at least three varieties.

Anyone watching our feeding frenzy might have been inclined to judge...and justifiably so.

Once we had hit every possible savory note, we moved on to L'Opossum for dessert at the sole dining room that's actually dimmer than Nota Bene. The next step would've been complete darkness.

Instead we indulged in apperitifs and cocktails - the Laura Palmer, the Violet Femme - and every chocolate dessert on the menu, plus apple tartine and creme brulee. When I blew out my candle, it was with a very specific wish.

Gifts beyond the company of good friends were opened and I was the happy recipient of a very groovy beach towel, loads of vinyl and a bottle of South African Pinotage brought from the source that I hope to enjoy with abandon once I find another Pinotage lover beyond the gift-giver.

He's gotta be out there somewhere. That's what birthday wishes are for, right?

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Midnight Love and Cheap Cigarettes

And other tales from 36 hours with a Kiwi.

One minute I'm at a wine dinner with "my" people and next thing I know, I'm having breakfast for the second day in a row with someone I didn't know a day and a half ago.

Camden's wine dinner Thursday night featured the bounty of Hawke's Bay, New Zealand courtesy of Supernatural Wines and the invitation carried a clear warning, "These are pricey, high acid wines with as much character as the man who runs the company (the ladies will love him! the men will envy him!)."

It didn't take much to round up four wine-loving sots friends to join me for the wine and wisdom of a stylish and soft spoken Kiwi.

His small production wines made for wonderful pairings from a chef who excels at playing food and wine matchmaker.

The "Supernatural" organic and bio-dynamic Sauvignion Blanc sang with oysters and pear slaw, "Spook Light, a skin-fermented Pinot Gris, made for a killer pairing with housemade Merguez, Kielbasa, Point Reye's Bleu and Manchego and finally, "Green Glow" skin-fermented Sauvignon Blanc was swoon-worthy with grilled swordfish over red wheatberry salad with dill butter sauce.

By the time the dinner was finished, I'd learned that our visitor had spent the day being ferried around by wine reps and was hoping to experience Richmond  a tad more fully. Enter yours truly, with offers to show him some of the good stuff in his free time.

Turns out the appeal of a sunny tour guide negates any loose plans he might have been entertaining about getting right to work in the morning. For me, here's my chance to make a visitor love Richmond in record time.

My main challenge is that New Zealanders are unaccustomed to humidity and soon every square inch of his face and arms are covered in beads of sweat. I assure him he'll adjust but the crescent shaped sweat stains on the front of his shirt reappear periodically.

Two topics dominate our walk: architecture and trees. He's agog at the former because so much of New Zealand's is modern and not architect-designed and charmed by the second's lush feel.

We start at Perly's - but not too early because of how late the post-wine dinner salon had gone - because I sense he'll need a sturdy breakfast to overcome last night and stand up to what I have planned.

He immediately orders the Schnorrer, a platter laden with poached eggs, roast beef, his first potato latkes and rye toast, which I suggested he order since we were in a Jewish deli. I don't think I'm exaggerating to say he found the meal life-giving.

From there we walked to a nearby market so he could score cigarettes at which point, sated and with nicotine coursing through his veins, he decided to blow off work entirely. I led him directly to Steady Sounds where we both found some gems in a batch of used records recently arrived while he also picked up the new "Twin Peaks" soundtrack.

It was when I took my records to the counter to pay that I saw the familiar face of the owner as he was busy pricing even more fresh used arrivals. Glancing at my purchases - Janet Jackson, The Persuasions, Marvin Gaye - he inquires, "Karen, need any "Midnight Love?"

If my mind didn't live in the gutter, I might have responded with anything other than "always," but what he meant was Marvin's final studio album from 1982 and, yes, I needed it for $4.

By this point, the visitor had proven his mettle and quite happily accompanied me all over town.

After dropping off our purchases, I led him to the river through the gauntlet of RiverRock preparations, so he could experience the pipeline walkway, to the point that he was even game when I suggested we remove our shoes and wade through the last stretch still underwater.

Don't try this yourselves, kids, I am a pro.

Because other, lesser guides (aka wine reps) had raved about the T Pot Bridge to him, we lapped that, too, but I didn't sense he liked it better than the pipeline. Who would?

By the time I'd walked his Kiwi butt off, he was crying uncle for a seat inside and a glass of wine. I ensured both by landing at Saison Market where we indulged in New Zealand wine, (albeit not his,   which was being stocked on the shelf as we watched), sipping glasses of Cambridge Road Vineyard's orange wine, the appealingly funky Cloud Walker.

And speaking of, the sky suddenly darkened and rain poured down on the hot streets out front for exactly two minutes while we drank, and then it was back to being a sunny day.

We slurped Wicomico oysters and a cheese plate at Camden's while discoursing on literature and indie book stores with the she-woman happy hour chef fan club. Then it was on to music and cocktails at Savory Grain, where Mikrowaves' horn section kept the vibe soulful and lead singer Eddie welcomed all the visitors from other countries in the  audience (I may have mentioned my companion's provenance to him) with a smirk.

Of course there had to be another late night cigarette run, then GWARbar, which was his idea because he'd been taken there Wednesday night at 1:57 a.m. and wanted a fuller experience.

Leave it to me to make sure he had it with Espolon and warm pork rinds.

To the delight of both of us, one of the kitchen guys decided there had been quite enough metal playing at GWARbar for one Saturday evening and proceeded to go pop on us and I mean pop: Whitney Houston, Cyndi Lauper, Starship, Toto.

Kiwi even requested a classic -  America's "Horse With No Name" - and was obliged within three songs. Claims he likes the beat, surely a rare compliment for such a mellow '70s band.

Naturally a former denizen of London is a fan of electronica and dance music.

Eating breakfast at the counter of 821 Cafe this morning to thrash music ("Not exactly your normal cafe music, hmm?" he observes drolly), I pointed out that we'd eaten an awful lot of meals together lately for people who'd been complete strangers as recently as Thursday afternoon.

"When are you coming to visit New Zealand?" he asks in between sips of a Bloody Mary made with Texas Beach Bloody mix, a reference I have to explain since I hadn't included Texas Beach on our stroll. Instagram photos naturally ensued.

Like the rye toast yesterday, the biscuit on his plate was completely my idea since he was unfamiliar with them and needed a lesson on southern eating. "It's kind of big, isn't it?" he wonders before I suggest adding butter.

A tour guide's work is never finished.

At least it doesn't end officially until you've walked your guest to get cigarettes yet again ("They're so cheap!" he marvels, always followed by an earnest, "I'm going to quit very soon")) and waited with him for his train to arrive - mind you, over an hour late - enjoying possibly the last conversation you may have with this person.

Neither love nor envy were on the table, but the 11th hour dynamic certainly made for compelling trackside diversion. How unlikely and ultimately enjoyable to spend such focused time with someone you're unlikely to see again.

It was a pleasure, in other words.

Let's just call it a fabulously accented kick-off to my impending birthday. Character reigned supreme.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Small and Sweet

'Tis the season for reclaiming the 'hood.

Finals are over, apartments are being emptied out and Jackson Ward's true population - those here for more than a few semesters -  gets pared back to its devotees: the musically-inclined scientist, the couple who were original pioneers, the slightly OCD porch painter, the perky dog-walking couple.

All of a sudden, parking spaces reveal themselves where parent-bought vehicles recently occupied valuable real estate. For a change, the VCU circulator vans aren't endlessly circulating outside my open windows.

Practically as soon as the latest rains of May let up, visions of strawberry picking began dancing in my head. Setting my recent mental machinations aside, there's a lot to be said for doing something as simple and honest as picking food from a field, even if it's only 8 pounds' worth.

And if not in May, then not at all, at least in these parts.

At the uncivilized hour of 9:07 (notable in and of itself), I was calling a friend - the one with a fiancee and two kids, so plenty of berry lovers, making him a sure bet to say yes - inviting him to join me for a morning of migrant labor-like activity.

I have plenty of friends I would never think of asking to join me for such a thing, but he's not one of them.

Both of us were flattered when the woman who provided our picking baskets complimented us on our wide-brimmed hats, but once in the fields, we saw that it was more about the novelty value of them than anything else.

Easily 98% of the people out there, adults and children, were hat-less despite the clear sky, bright sun and morning heat. What self-respecting fruit picker doesn't wear a little shade?

I don't want to come across as some sort of expert field hand because I'd never picked a strawberry until I moved to Richmond in '86. For whatever reason, I took to the ritual that led me out of the city every May and got me bent over green rows looking for the reddest berries.

Maybe it's a continuity thing. So much has changed about my life in those three decades, but some habits I hang on to. There's never been a summer where I didn't go stay at the beach. I can't remember the last time I drove over a bridge without having at least one window down, even in winter.

I can't help but acknowledge that picking strawberries satisfies something in me, providing a, what, connection to who I was? Remnant of who I thought I'd be? Excuse to do something mindless and yet productive, so unlike how I earn my living?

Too complicated. Eating warm berries out of the field soothes the soul and stains the fingers.

Does a body good every May.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Whence This Perfume Floating Ev'rywhere

If the poetry that is May in Richmond can be conveyed in one breath, it's the headiness of honeysuckle.

Separating the manicured grounds of Ethyl Corp. from the historic sprawl of Tredegar Iron Works or weaving a dense hedge with brambly pink-flowered blackberries along the Manchester canal, the head-filling aroma provides an olfactory soundtrack to a walkabout.

It's on a May day like this one that Mac and I will see at least a dozen great blue herons who've set up sentinel posts along both sides of the river. Those standing on the north side are tucked into shady nooks near the pipeline, while those roosting on the southern shores seem content to perch on rocks and observe nearby fishermen.

Or...? If you were to ask me, I'd guess that they're all on the prowl for mates. It's the lusty month of May, after all.

Even the crabbiest weather wimps are going on record as being enamored of this particular May weather paradigm - sunny, '70s, cooler nights, low humidity - but, truth be told, I'd like a bit more humidity in the air. The air is softer with extra moisture caught up in it and May cries out for softer days and nights before the serious biz of Summer arrives.

May means that outdoor music is ramping up in earnest and a chance subterranean encounter last evening reminded me that there are times when I would want to make my way to a park at sunset.

The enveloping pleasures of listening to the Marcus Tenney Trio - complete with drum kit (!!), trumpet and upright bass - in a tiny park, under slowly deepening skies that draw out blinking fireflies is a well-composed example of what lies just barely beneath the surface of this offbeat charmer of a town I call home.

It's like that time I went to the Byrd Theater because I needed to laugh, only to well up instead when Bob Gulledge began playing "What a Wonderful World" on the mighty Wurlitzer before the movie.

Richmond, you may not be subtle but you're nothing if not relentless.

After my review of a Richmond institution hits the stands today, I heard from a friend and food writer, who opines, "Hi, I loved your Sally Bell's review today. You nailed it - vibe, food, history. Thank you."

I'm not entirely certain what the appreciation being proffered is about, but I have a guess.

A food establishment that's been around for 91 years deserves a little respect, not to mention context. My review had looked at the restaurant's cult of personality and explained it to those unfamiliar with it in a manner that could only have been done by someone who'd been in Richmond for at least 1/3 of the restaurant's life.

Someone newer to Richmond or even just less familiar with mid-Atlantic culinary cultural history, might have tried to compare it to or look for its place among the artisan and quirky food businesses that have sprouted like fungi after a rainy spell in trendy and trending neighborhoods.

Not this long-timer.

I took it back to my own prehistoric memories and a time of gentler social mores. While not exactly standing on the lawn and shaking my fist, my words were a reminder to more recent come-heres of a world where white cardboard boxed lunches were tied with string and included something as civilized as a cheese wafer.

It's living in a town where someone reads your words and bothers to extend appreciation. It's being able to walk for miles over or alongside the water before rejoining the urban world. It's music in a park in the approaching dark. It's tangles of overgrown honeysuckle that smell like what youthful me thought summer romance should.

It's living in Richmond. It's May, the month of "yes, you may."

Best I get on with it, everyone hints and hopes. Doing my best.