Give me a 70-degree day on the first of February and I'll walk all day long, just to be outside. Unfortunately for me, I was on multiple deadlines with a whole lot of writing on my plate, but at least there was my walk.
Given how long it had been since I'd been to Great Shiplock Park, I made a decidedly un-bee line there, only to be gobsmacked when I saw that the canal is still sporting an ice crust over two thirds of it. How is this even possible after the past two days of Spring-like weather? Birds were standing on it, I kid you not.
Heading back up the hill toward home, I passed a man who observed, "Someone is making the most of this day!" Was it the shorts and t-shirt that gave it away?
Total: 4.9 miles
My invitation to join me at the Environmental Film Fest got a yawn from my friend - "Ugh. I know urban farming is something I should be interested in, but just not doing it for me. Blah." - but he didn't hesitate to say yes when I suggested meeting for dinner at 821 Cafe.
Turning down his offer to pick me up, I walked there, umbrella in hand, although somehow, the streets of Jackson Ward were wet while the streets on the other side of Monroe Park were not. More science I don't understand.
Total: .8 miles
He'd already scored a booth for us when I arrived, but the real news of the day was that 821 was playing electronica and not its usual punk or thrash, making for a far mellower atmosphere than I expect there.
That didn't stop me from ordering my usual half order of black bean nachos, but it was a massive full order that showed up instead. When I pointed out the error, our server reached for the platter to whisk it off to the kitchen, but I insisted that that wasn't necessary.
"I want you to be happy," he said, reaching for them again. Making a fortress with my arms, I assured him I was happy and could easily make do by eating half and not bothering the kitchen in the least.
My friend was having a terrible, awful, no-good day, partly because his bum knee was hurting and partly because he'd slept poorly due to his cat waking him up repeatedly last night. Even if I weren't highly allergic to them, that kind of annoying behavior (see also: sleeping on your face, or so I'm told) would keep me firmly in the anti-cat camp.
I told him about my road trip to Norfolk Saturday and that got him reminiscing about Hampton Roads in general because it's his hometown. "You're never far from the water," he said. "I miss that. Even the smell of marshes I miss."
One fascinating thing I'd learned while there had been of a terrific local alternative station and that DJ Paul Shugrue had landed there, something my friend already knew since he's down there far more often than I am.
After Paul left Richmond, I'd unexpectedly heard him on the Coast in Norfolk years ago, but nothing since, so this was great news and I'm already tuning in to listen to his knowledgeable music talk and record selections. My friend was hardly surprised.
But he was in a far better mood by then, buoyed by getting out of the county, addressing his hanger and being in proximity to Suzy Sunshine, so when we said good-night, he was a far happier person than when I'd sat down.
Another job well done.
He took off, sore knee and all, for Carytown while I got out my umbrella and hoofed it over to the main library for the first screening of the Environmental Film Fest, arriving with a decidedly damp left foot thanks to a puddle that I mistook for a reflection.
Total: .7 miles
Tonight's film was a documentary, "Plant This Movie," about the rise of urban agriculture and narrated by Darryl Hannah (now there's a name I hadn't heard in forever), beginning with the horrifying fact that lawns are the #1 irrigated crop in this country.
And this from a country who had rallied to grow 40% of the vegetables eaten in the U.S. in Victory Gardens back during the war years. There were even self-help canneries to help all those urban gardeners can their excesses.
Then came the post-war years with highways, better refrigeration methods and the growth of suburbia (a la Levittown) and the newly-minted state-given right to have a lawn. Easy to see where we got off track isn't it?
Yet - and I found this surprising - in those early years, lawns were made up of dandelions, clover and the like, things we'd now call weeds. It wasn't until the mid to late '50s that grass became the gold standard for lawns, a symbol of upward mobility.
Depressing history aside, the film mostly focused on urban farming advocates all over the world, starting with Cuba, who after breaking ties with USSR, their primary food source, had to suddenly start growing their own.
From there we saw innovative projects (student-run gardens, CSAs, public farming on public lands) all over the world - China, India, Peru - including the U.S., namely Oakland, Portland, Philly, New Orleans and even New York City. Brooklyn Grange is a rooftop garden project, Manhattan has Battery Park Urban Farm and Brooklyn also has Window Farms, a vertical indoor hydroponic vegetable-growing operation.
The smallest carbon footprint award had to go to Food From the Sky, a London rooftop garden over a market that sells the produce below. That's an impressive ten-yard journey from source to shelf.
A middle-aged woman made the point that many of this generation's urban farmers have roots in the '70s' Back to the Earth Movement, while a guy with a green bandanna espoused the benefits of collecting your urine for watering plants. Apparently they'll be significantly greener and lusher inside a week.
There's a practice that may take longer to catch on.
Post-film, there were local speakers on the subject, including a city employee who helps start new community gardens.
Currently they're looking at allowing rooftop gardens in Scott's Addition given the tiny amount of green space in the once-industrial area. She also shared that lead was a serious problem in the yards of Fulton Hill, making it a dangerous place to grow vegetables unless you create very high raised beds with a defined barrier underneath.
We also heard from a chef who passed out fresh carrots (irregularly shaped and better tasting than any carrots I've had in years) from Tricycle Gardens and upon reaching me with the bowl, reacted with a huge smile and announced to the room that we'd met at a movie a few months ago.
You never know if someone's going to remember you so it's always flattering when they do.
Not that I went to the Environmental Film Fest for flattery. I went because I was interested in the topic (unlike my dinner date) and curious to know more. I'm not sure my prodigious oregano growing is enough of a contribution to the cause.
Total: .6 miles
And because, even with a light rain falling, I'd walk almost anywhere on a February day like this.
Seven miles' worth even and worth every step.