Monday, March 25, 2019

Porch After Dark

Today's glorious warmth translated to the first screened porch report of 2019.

Pru's birthday is Tuesday, but Beau is away on business all week. But since birthdays are a serious gift-giving occasion at the manse, Beau had organized an impromptu gift opening session followed by a simple supper prepared by the birthday girl-to-be.

I'd spent the warm afternoon at a Theater Alliance Panel meeting in the east end, discussing the first half of the theatrical season with my cohorts, a meandering discussion that addressed many things, including the anachronisms of a play set in 1940. A character in the play had been a repeat sneezer who had sneezed into her elbow every time.

As several of the critics had pointed out, no one in 1940 sneezed that way.

The funny part was that, until our discussion, the younger members of the panel had no idea that there'd ever been another way to deal with a sneeze other than projecting it into your elbow.

The times they have a-changed.

I'd barely gotten back from the meeting when I was summoned to the manse for the festivities. And while it was a low key affair in anticipation of the upcoming birthday and the blowout birthday dinner scheduled, any event that leads off with Roderer Brut is a celebration to me.

Even Beau, who's not usually a bubbly fan, had to admit that he liked it and that rarely happens.

I'm not the gift-giving pro that Pru and Beau are, but I'd brought a present nonetheless. Mr. Wright had taken a wonderful photo of the happy couple at Bar Solita - with him laughing heartily and her glancing at him with a knowing smile  - which had been blown up and suitably framed to fit the manse's decor.

But it was one of Beau's gifts that got Pru most excited: a new iPad. Like a kid with a new toy on Christmas morning, she oohed and aahed before peeling off the protective film and trying to figure out how to turn it on. When it turned out that all she had to do to transfer everything on her phone to her tablet was put them in proximity, everyone was dazzled by technology.

My first thought was, I guess setting up an iPad for me would be a bit more labor intensive given my lack of a cell phone.

As her phone told her what to do, we had a front row seat for the process. Eventually, she picked up the iPad and began preening - or at least that's what it looked like from where I sat - looking at herself in the tablet's screen, turning her head left and right and smiling. Then she did it again.

Silly me, the iPad was actually scanning her face from every angle, the better to recognize her. After all, no one wants their technology to be a stranger.

After a lovely supper of beef cubes in au jus, an array of roasted vegetables so good everyone raved repeatedly and a bowl of butter beans procured last summer on the Outer Banks (I love a hostess who plans ahead), we adjourned to the screened porch for the 2019 initiation of the recently redesigned space.

Another of my gifts, two metal candle stands resembling trailing ivy plants, had found a home out there since I'd given them to her at Christmas. Furniture had been rearranged for better conversation acoustics and everything looked fresh and ready for another season of porch parties.

Let the Roderer flow.

Pru regaled us with a story about being sent away to camp, where she was appalled to learn that she was expected to kayak and swim. Instead, she used the camp phone to notify a friend who promptly had her mother drive out to rescue Pru from lanyard-making and group hikes.

Some people are born with nerve, others have to acquire it.

Another of her anecdotes involved the teen-aged Pru zipping around the island on her Peugeot motorbike while on vacation at the family home in Bermuda. Seems she'd had her first bowl of chilled soup - cantaloupe, she recalled - upstairs at Trimingham's, a department store with a cafe on the second floor.

It was about then that Beau deadpanned, "When I was that age, I was going to Indian Acres." Without having any idea what Indian Acres was, I laughed out loud. When he clarified that it was a campground in Stafford County, I laughed harder.

Not all of us have the cosmopolitan teenage life experience Pru did. I know I never spent entire days with my uncle and his best friend Hot Dog sipping alcohol or smoking pot. Ah, youth in Bermuda.

Meanwhile, Beau polled the group about things worth seeing near Jonesboro, Arkansas, which is where he's headed all week. Since Memphis is only an hour away and I've been there, I could at least speak to some good spots there - Gus' Fried Chicken, the Beauty Shop Restaurant, the Absinthe Room - beyond the obvious: Sun Studio, the Rock and Soul Museum and if you're into it, Graceland.

Granted, I was that rare Memphis visitor with no need to see Elvis' digs, but to each his own.

Although Beau had requested that the porch heater be put on, it was a surprisingly comfortable evening to be outside until 11:00 or so. When I finally got up to leave, it was only because Beau had a morning flight out and I felt sure Pru wanted to climb into bed and play with her new toy.

Besides, the Roderer was all gone and no civilized porch party is dry. This isn't Indian Acres, after all.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

A Lady's Imagination is Very Rapid

Let's start with the walk.

It was noon and sunny, completely dead in places and abuzz in others. The primary groups I saw were cars headed to brunch and cars headed to the river, a fact I know from several conversations I overheard thanks to rolled down car windows.

Walking down 5th Street on the weekends is always a bit worrisome because of the things I hear parents telling their children. Last week, it was a mom telling her kids  that the building on the hill was the governor's mansion. When I discretely explained that it was, in fact, Ethyl Corporation, she shrugged and said they'd never know the difference.

But why lie?

Today it was a mother and son discussion after she insisted on holding something of his while he rode his bike down the fairly steep hill, especially for a 7 or 8 year old boy. The entire time he was inching down the hill behind me, he was reminding his mother not to hold "it" too tightly. She'd reassure him that she wasn't but he'd repeat the warning again. After the 4th or 5th exchange, she put on her Mother voice and said, "Don't make me sorry I brought you!"

Calling Dr. Freud. Who says that to a child?

After the deluge Thursday, the river is back to full roar, but walking the canal walk meant having a cyclist do a series of S-curves around me, while saying, "Great hat!" I like to think that's because I washed it last night so it looked particularly fetching in the sunlight.

Walking up Broad Street, I spotted a young woman in the kind of embroidered wide leg jeans (in that worn blue color) I haven't seen since the early '70s. The silhouette was similar to  a pair of sailor pants except shorter  and not belled, then with quarter moon pockets and all the embroidered flowers falling out from there down the legs.

When I told her how evocative (and adorable) they were, she lamented that she'd gotten them in Japan and never been able to find a similar pair. Just looking at them, I could tell how comfortable they were and she confirmed it.

In the parking lot of the Richmond Dairy building (where my Richmond grandfather worked, it should be noted), a guy had managed to wedge a good two feet of a parking lot median between his front and rear tires, so he sat there straddling it, trying to back up over the thing.

The whole time, the car is reacting by making horrible sounds and all I could think was, this had to be harshing this guy's sunny Sunday mellow big time. Not my problem, so I moved on.

All of which followed on the heels of last night's outing to Secco, then VMFA to see Quill Theater's "Pride and Prejudice."

Secco's patio was nearly full when we got there, not that we were eating outside. Mr. Wright and I had the same fabulous grains and petit greens salad we'd swooned over two weeks ago, plus roasted vegetables with goat cheese and an entree of rockfish over spaghetti squash pancakes with Romesco sauce, the latter a collection of things I enjoy eating, but would never make for myself.

Pru and Beau made a meal of an earthy mushroom soup, duck rillettes, vegetables and a cheese/charcuterie board that belonged in a still life. Beau and I both finished with a wedge of chocolate chestnut tort over orange marmalade, although I paired mine with Burmester Tawny Port while he got his buzz on with coffee.

On the table was a discussion of Pru's upcoming birthday, not just where and when, but how best to celebrate. How many people can an introvert stand in one evening? Or would it be better just to send out "Save the Date" cards for her next big birthday which is almost a decade away?

Those of us extroverted birthday celebrants never have to go through such machinations to celebrate ourselves.

Over dinner we discovered that not one of us seasoned theatergoers had seen a theatrical production of "Pride and Prejudice," which naturally led to talk about the film versions and then other Austen films.

Colin Firth, Alan Rickman, Richard Grant, how quickly we went down the British actor rabbit hole.

Walking into the VMFA theater, we found a good sized crowd and looked for seats. Explaining to my posse (and not for the first time), I said that I like to see the actors spit. Coming in from the left side, we settled in fourth row center seats, not bad for later arrivals.

To be fond of dancing was a certain step towards falling in love.

It's no wonder a 196-year old work is still being produced now given how strong and well-written the Lizzie Bennet character is. Even without the context of early 19th century Regent period mores, Lizzie's determination to wed for love not money is role model worthy.

There are few people whom I really love and still fewer of whom I think well.

And of course, a play about parents eager to marry off their five daughters, one that's full of quick wordplay and laugh-out-loud-worthy dialog, is going to appeal to a word nerd who's one of six daughters.

Joe Pabst impressed us all playing Mr. Bennet, his willingness to buck his wife's requests as well as his support for his daughter holding out for true love making him seem like a thoroughly modern man. Irene Kuykenall shone as Lizzie, as content to read a good book as socialize at a party and what reader can't relate to that?

Me, I always enjoy a good love story, especially between two strong personalities with confidence to spare. Where I overlap with Lizzie is that I must learn to be content with being happier than I deserve.

Because like Lizzie, I was in the middle before I knew that I had begun.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

On Compounding Interest

Don't you know that a man being rich is like a girl being pretty? You would't marry a girl just because she's pretty, but my goodness, doesn't it help? ~ Marilyn Monroe

Rich people are not like us.

I know this because I've been slammed all week doing two things: writing close to 7,000 words for multiple assignments and driving all over Manakin Sabot, Westhampton and Park Avenue to interview the aforementioned affluent types.

Don't get me wrong, they were all extremely nice people, but then why wouldn't they be when they don't have to worry about money?

I went to one house that may as well have been an art gallery considering the number of pieces and name-recognition value of what was hanging on the walls and sitting on tables and in cabinets. I'm talking, Chihuly, Hans Hoffman, Grandma Moses and Dali and those are just some of the ones I was allowed to mention. And don't get me started on their original Bob Dylan drawing and Robert DeNiro, Sr. paintings.

At another house on the highest point in Goochland County, I strolled the gardens with the master of the house as he explained his fondness for delphiniums and foxgloves, the former ill-suited for starting in Virginia's climate and the latter a biennial that only blooms every other year. He solves both problems nicely by having a man grow hundreds of both for him and deliver them only once the plants are ready to bloom.

Then there were the owners of the 1850s Italianate mansion who bought the house to save it after extensive water damage had all but destroyed it. Luckily, they'd been collecting paneling, doors, columns, windows and pediments - that's right, pediments - for years before they had anywhere to put them. Ditto the 80 or so chandeliers they'd accumulated, all of which now hang from one of the many high ceilings in their home.

Meanwhile, I'm just happy my landlord is repainting my bathroom, trim and deck for the first time in ten years. Being poor means simple pleasures resonate big time.

And while I love what I do for a living, having to come up with 7,000 words over four days means pulling a lot of verbiage out of my head. You know I'm buried in deadlines when I don't go out a single night because I'm working right through until bedtime.

Recognizing that I'd been under the gun and without fun all week, the ever-thoughtful Mr. Wright had seen fit to reserve us two stools at the bar at Brenner Pass to celebrate me making my seven deadlines.

A little "Reserved" sign greeted us, while around us, there were only a half dozen other people at the large bar.

In the spirit of the evening, we kicked things off with Domaine Eugene Carrel Cremant de Savoie Brut and me finally letting out a sigh that could have been heard in J-Ward. Then I let loose a torrent of words which had been stored up all week because of me staying in except when I was doing interviews.

Luckily, he's a good listener.

Smoked trout, Marcella beans and fermented beet arrived hidden under a fan of radicchio leaves, a light yet satisfying start to the meal, the most surprising part being that by the time we finished it, the couple to our left was already paying their bill.

Wait, kids, it's still light outside.

Next came a platter of pillowy gnocchi gussied up with fava beans, bottarga (salted, cured fish roe) and sauteed greens, a dish that managed to be decadent despite its simple ingredients and a fine pairing with Steninger Gruner Veltliner. A big bowl of the cutest little baby turnips and turnip greens shone with only the addition of garlic oil, a dish that should be everyone's introduction to turnips.

To our right, everyone who'd been in place when we'd sat down was now exiting, soon to be replaced by the next wave. We hung in there.

Just about the time we were checking out the dessert menu, the replacement couple to our left closed out and moved on. For a Friday night, people sure were eating and running.

To accompany chocolate mousse with a crown of coconut, meringue and a dollop of lime sorbet, we chose glasses of Butler Nephew Co. 20-year Tawny Port, which all but guaranteed we weren't going anywhere anytime soon.

In fact, by the time we did decide to move the party back to Jackson Ward, it had been over four hours and the bar was nearly as deserted as when we'd first arrived. There's something to be said for longevity, whether on a bar stool or in a relationship.

A wise man knows that stellar company can keep a girl on a bar stool indefinitely, relaxing and unwinding after a killer week.

I mean, he wouldn't talk for four hours just because he thinks she's pretty, but my goodness, doesn't it help?

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

The Bones of My Priors, an Interpretive Talk

You sign on to make potato soup and next thing you know, you're the unwitting star of "This is Your Life."

Despite that I'm practically drowning in work this week, I'd promised my Mom I'd make my usual trek to the Northern Neck to help her prepare for her annual women's club St. Patrick's Day luncheon. And by "help," I mean do all the potato peeling and dicing, onion and celery chopping, cooking and stirring required for 60 servings of potato and cheese soup.

Mom devoted her energies to making three loaves of Irish soda bread with raisins and caraway seed, only one of which I helped her with, though I did make a pound cake. This collaboration of ours has been going on for over a decade now, with my share of the workload steadily increasing.

I'm fine with that. It's a busy, messy, hot day with lots of conversation, all for a good cause.

But when Mom requested my help this year, she wanted more than a day of my life. She wanted me to stay overnight so I could help her schlep four crock pots full of soup, three loaves of bread, paper products, party favors and two floral arrangements to the Women's Club the next morning.

Of course I said yes.

But then it turned out that Mr. Wright was going to be in Irvington, so I suggested to Mom and Dad that he join us for dinner, an idea they loved. When he arrived with a bottle of Simonet Blanc de Blanc, they liked him even better.

It wasn't an elaborate meal for two reasons: I'd volunteered to make it and the last thing I felt like doing after a full day of cooking and baking was cook some more. Making a Cobb salad and baking a pan of cornbread was about all I could muster.

But the bubbles and the relaxed mood backfired on me once we finished eating. Out of the blue, my Dad begins lamenting to Mr. Wright, "It's a shame she didn't meet you sooner" and goes on to dissect my entire love life before he arrived on the scene.


I'm talking about him going all the way back to my first boyfriend and then discoursing on every man in my life since, although not in chronological order. He'd bring someone up and then start explaining why he knew that man wasn't right for me.

Every now and then, my Mom would chime in, explaining that she never really liked so-and-so, but my Dad was definitely driving the conversational bus (with the aid of more bubbly, of course).

The funny part was, I learned (or was reminded) of all kinds of things from my past that had long ago been misfiled or forgotten entirely.  Meanwhile, Mr. Wright got to hear about my bad choices in excruciating detail, from the one with a motorcycle to the one with multiple tattoos (before ink was cool). The long and the short-term. The ones I married, the ones I agreed to marry and then backed out on and the ones I lived with.

One, Dad claimed, simply wasn't up to the task of handling my large and talkative family. Another, to my surprise, had taken Dad aside and asked permission to marry me. That was news to me. And when Mom shared who her favorite had been, I didn't have the heart to tell her how lousy he was in bed.

Just when I was thinking that the topic was waning, one of my parents would mention another "prior," as my Dad dubbed them the very first time he met Mr. Wright, and the reminiscing galloped off again in another direction.

Truly, I wouldn't have been the least bit surprised if Dad had motioned toward the door and said one of their names and they'd come walking in the room to surprise me.

Fortunately, though, "This is Your Life" only lasted an hour or so before they'd passed judgement on every man I'd ever been involved with. Or ran out of steam, I'm not sure which.

That was when Dad turned his microscope on Mr. Wright, curious about what he'd been doing for the past decade since that's the period my Dad takes the most issue with.

And let me tell you, when you invite your significant other to dinner with the people who spawned you, the last thing you want is to put him on the spot about why he didn't find you when your life fell apart and you first became available.

Even if it turns out he has been available since 2009 and would have been only too happy to have started this relationship sooner if he'd only known.

"She's always been the smart one," Dad informs Mr. Wright, shaking his head. "And she settles for all these duds. How did it take her so long to find you?"

This from the man who just happened to be on a triple date with another woman when he met my Mom and was instantly smitten. Happily ever after is easier - and comes sooner - for some people.

Turns out a few of us have to kiss a lot of frogs first. But as a cyclist once told me, the reward for being a slow starter is a strong finish.

All I can say is, about damn time. And, Dad, better late than never.

Monday, March 18, 2019

The Rest is Herstory

If we established anything this weekend, it's that I'm not hermit material.

I'm not talking about just living alone and away from people, even though I'll admit that's what I thought a hermit was until Saturday night.

It began innocently enough. Mr. Wright and I had plans to have dinner and see a play with Pru and Beau. No big deal. Then Beau asks if we mind if he brings a work cohort. Of course we don't mind. Next he shares that his friend is a former Benedictine monk. Well, as long as he knows he's breaking bread with a band of heathens, I'm fine with it.

But then, after we dodge green-wearing drunks wandering away from Shamrock the Block to get to Peter Chang's, we get the full story. He wasn't just a Benedictine monk, he was a hermit. As in, living away from society. Whoa. And he was part of a hermitage that was silent. As in, zero talking.

And even that's not the reason I'm not hermit material.

It was when he explained about the one meal, two snacks a day rule that I knew with the utmost certainty that I was not cut out for the hermetic life.

Go without three square meals a day plus snacks in service of religious beliefs? Don't make me laugh.

Why, just last week I said something to Mac about our healthy appetites and she was quick with the facts. "You can eat more than I can," she reminded me. She wasn't wrong.

Just yesterday, Mr. Wright and I drove out to the Kilmarnock Inn to have brunch with my favorite sister, her family and my parents, a meal planned to celebrate my Mom's birthday the day before. Now, mind you, we were meeting at 10:30 for brunch, but we had to be up at an ungodly 8 a.m. to make the drive.

So naturally, we had breakfast before we left. As I'm diving into my Stack the Votes (a plate of four enormous pancakes with bacon), I casually mention having had breakfast earlier and Mom laughs in surprise. "Karen!" she says, like I need a good scolding.

I remind her, not for the first time given the length of our relationship, that I can't function for three hours from waking up to having my pancakes placed in front of me, so I did the logical thing and ate first.

What's the fuss about?

I might also point out that after Beau's buddy explained hermit life, he also reminded us that he'd abandoned it. The fascinating part was that apparently being a hermit, even for only a while, gives you a lifetime pass to stay at a monastery should you ever want to.

That's because being a monk, even short-term, makes you a monk forever.

When presented with such unlikely information, all I can say is, pass the scallion bubble pancake.

Unfortunately, the ex-hermit couldn't accompany us to see "In My Chair" at Cadence Theater because the show was sold out, so after a stop at Bar Solita for dessert - in my case, double chocolate cake and Tawny Port - he thanked us for a delightful evening and vanished back to California and the IT security world.

The play we'd come to see had grown out of a TED talk actress and make-up artist Eva deVirgilis had created. Seems every time she has a woman in her makeup chair, the first thing the woman does is apologize.

For her bad hair, for the bags under her eyes, for her thin lips, for everything she can think of that's not perfect about her. Eva calls this "sorryosis" and set out around the globe to talk to women about changing beauty standards, self-esteem and body image.

And, just for the record, I hadn't even realized we were into fourth wave feminism.

Then she came back to take to the stage and make women aware of what she'd been told. She did it through vignettes using the accents and comments of women in her chair. She did it through the arguments she has with her un-confident inner self, who she nicknamed Norma after normative discontent. She did it through interactions with the audience.

Along the way, she shared her life story, including the part where she had to put up with a controlling boyfriend before meeting the love of the life, who also happened to be sitting in the front row that night, cheering her on.

Once during a Patriots' game, she'd asked him if he'd ever been body shamed, but he said no, other than being called short (which he is), he never had. I can't imagine there's a woman who hasn't been body shamed at least once in her life and probably more often than that.

Eva touched on many related issues, probably none so important as when she talked about accepting compliments, something many women, myself included, do poorly. "A compliment is a tiny gift someone brought to you," she explained. "Why would you drop kick it?"

Why, indeed? I had to admit, there's no good answer for that and I left hoping that's one bad habit I can unlearn.

Last night, Mr. Wright and I closed out the James River Film Festival by strolling over to Gallery 5 for the Silent Music Revival, but only after chowing down on fish tacos at Tarrant's Back Door. Don't tell my Mom, but it was technically my fourth meal of the day.

The thing is, when your first is at 8:15 and your second at 11 a.m., you've got to have something in the afternoon to tide you over until tacos show up at 7:30, am I right?

Life in the hermitage, clearly not for me.

Showing tonight was Jean Vigo's "Zero for Conduct," a 1933 French short film that was immediately banned for its content, with live music provided by the Wimps, whose lounge-like '60s vibe somehow made for the ideal accompaniment to French boys tying up their teacher, trashing their dormitory and marching through the streets victoriously.

Vigo was moved to make the film because of the repressive days he'd spent in a boarding school where he suffered with mean teachers. frequent punishments and, wait for it, insufficient food.

There you have it. Deny a person food and they might make a subversive film or they could return to the dark underbelly of IT security. Either way, they're hungry.

I'm better off just eating as frequently as possible. As for apologizing for my appetite, no sorryosis here.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

With Apologies to Great Grandma

I should have enough of my Great Grandmother O'Donnell's blood in my veins to sense it a mile away.

Instead, a row of cars parked along Leigh Street with yellow "RMC parking" passes was my first clue. Next came a thumping bass and beer trucks. And cops, so many cops and I'm talking bike cops, motorcycle cops and cops with boots on the ground.

Holy mother of bad ideas, why had I walked west today instead of my usual river walk?

By the time I'd started up Meyers Street, parallel to the Boulevard, the music had morphed to smooth jazz and I saw my first cotton candy vendor. It was barely noon so things were just getting cranked up and the cops looked bored.

Meanwhile, people in green attire gravitated to the Boulevard with purpose. They meant to get their green beer on sooner rather than later.

Once I reached CVS, I could see the main stage and hear the emcee welcoming the early arrivals. "Hey, there! You guys ready to shamrock the block?" The band behind him kicked into Cee Lo Green's "Crazy," which struck me as an ideal song with which to launch a drinking festival.

St. Patrick, give me strength.

Walking east on Broad Street, a guy on bike pulled up next to me to question why I had on pink and black rather than green. Um, because it's not St. Patrick's Day yet? After digesting that bit of intel, he suggested we meet up in the same place tomorrow, except with me in green. When I declined, he asked if I was married. I clarified.

"Oh, okay, well tell him he needs to see you in a green dress tomorrow," he instructed, pedaling off and waving back at me.

So now I'm taking wardrobe instructions from a stranger?

He had seen me in a black dress last night when we landed at Secco to celebrate us both being in the same city two nights in a row for what feels like the first time since February, an occasion that called for the fresh minerality of Raventos i Blanc Brut Rosat de Nit to start.

But good as it was, dinner was every bit as stellar. Housemade pita drizzled in olive oil showed up with spinach falafel and pickled vegetables, simple but winning. Chapitre Touraine Sauvignon Blanc replaced pink bubbles to whet my whistle.

In what can best be described as a salad for salad lovers, a bowl of farro, lentils, wild rice, pepitas, smoked almonds and petite greens with a killer cranberry vinaigrette revealed a smorgasbord of textures and tastes.

We'll just call it as close to my salad ideal as I've come and leave it at that.

And I might have ordered another except that the Spanish octopus with housemade fettuccine, olives and chili oil in a decadent Bolognese sauce arrived and completely distracted me. If everyone's first octopus experience included octopus this tender and meaty red sauce this deeply flavorful, everyone would be an octopus fan.

Well, except for the part that they're smart and feel pain, but besides that.

We closed out with a chocolate chestnut torte set atop a pool of orange marmalade and festooned with preserved kumquat, a dessert with as high a percentage of dark chocolate - it was only barely sweet - as I've had. It was the marmalade's job to bring the sugar.

Apparently tomorrow, it's my job to bring the green dress. I know, I know.

No great granddaughter of Mrs. O'Donnell (as my grandmother always called her) would make that rookie mistake.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Never Too Much

76 degrees today and it's a whole new world.

Of course, that meant the ants arrived in my kitchen, not the full colony but definitely a scouting party out on a sunny afternoon. I don't know where they've been all these cold months, but they're baaack.

The real pleasure was in getting to take my first shower in 2019 with the large bathroom window fully open (and by large, I mean 3' x 3' not bad for a room often designed with notoriously small windows). What was truly glorious was getting out the shower and not feeling cold. I could get used to this.

When Mr. Wright showed up, we ambled over to the Main Library for a presentation by Adventure Cycling Association, a group that does everything it can to get ordinary people on two wheels and doing cycling trips that involve overnight stays.

So, as you can imagine, I fit right in like a sore thumb.

That's not true because on the table next to all the cycling magazines laid out for the taking were boxes and boxes of Red Eye cookies and I can eat with the best of them, so I snagged a chocolate chunk cookie and got out of the way of cyclists looking for fuel.

When the presentation began, the first thing the guy said was, "There's one cookie left, so if you're a sprinter, go for it now." With my cookie tucked safely inside a napkin, no sprinting was required on my part.

First there was a video showing two non-cyclists setting out on their first cross-country trip and documenting it, like millennials do. The video showed them hot and sweaty, eating everything in sight at a restaurant, facing the mountain they were about to climb ("Death," she predicts) and having a dance party on a deserted road. When they finally got to the 1,000 mile mark and he got excited, she pointed out that, "It only took us, like, 48 days."

Apparently such are the pleasures of cycling as transportation.

Next came a passionate cyclist/big cheese with ACA who basically waxed poetic about the joys of bicycle travel and bicycle tourism while showing us what he called, "Bike travel porn." Heart-stopping views of two people next to their bikes in Switzerland, pedaling along the Rhine River, laying in a field in Tuscany with their bikes laying on the ground near them.

As to how he got all those great shots, it's part of the ACA ethos to send them a photo of you on a cycling journey.

But every now and then, he'd slide in something to fuel the movement. He shows us a picture of him and the Professor of Bike Tourism in Australia, gushing, "That's a job!"

Reminder: we can make this happen.

Then back to a shot of Quebec bathed in golden light and some very happy and tired people posing next to something interesting, their bikes at their side. The return of bike travel porn.

He tells the audience that Alaska was the first state to pave roads for cyclists. I heard about the new Johnny Cash Trail that loops around Folsom, with public art (like a 30' high rendering of Cash) and trail markers shaped like guitar picks. About the Underground Railroad Bicycle Route which starts off in Mobile, Alabama. He showed maps featuring all the new trails and how they're driving cycle tourism.

"And cyclists go to small towns, not just big cities," he enthused. "And they eat a lot!" Tell me about it. Those cookies were history just like drunk women's shoes after the wedding ceremony is over.

One guy went cross country and carried a hand lawnmower so he could earn money along the way to pay for his ride.

By the time the talk was over, every cyclist in the room (so, everyone in the room except me) was psyched, pumped up, feeling the call of the multi-day ride. So many routes, so many vistas, so many potential Instagram posts.

And adventures, I know, I know.

Afterward, conversations sprung up between less experienced people wanting to talk to cross country pros, while I had my eye on the prize. Food. Bike travel porn only get a girl so far.

We dipped into Bar Solita where every booth was taken but the bar was completely empty, sort of Edward Hopper-ish. Not a bicycle in sight.

And we ate. A lot. Maybe I do have the makings of a cyclist after all.