Rooting around Clay Street, that's what the pig was doing.
Walking over to The Basement for TheatreLAB's Roast and Toast, I came to a gray pig rooting around in the upturned dirt of a tiny front yard two blocks down the street.
Wait, a pig?
A guy was riding down the sidewalk on his bike, earbuds in, but that didn't stop me from tapping him on the shoulder to get his opinion on spotting a farm animal in J-Ward. He stopped, stared and looked at me incredulously. "It is a pig!"
Call us agog because we were.
From across the street, a woman called to ask if the pig was upsetting us. Please. It was easily the most unexpectedly charming thing I could have come upon strolling down the street and I told her so. She looked relieved.
Almost at the Basement, I fell into step with a woman who said hello and looked at my feet. "I like your toenail polish," she says of my silver polish, a leftover from a disco party I went to over a year ago but keep using. "It looks like you're really jammin'," she tells me.
Oh, honey, if you only knew.
At TheatreLAB, I found the usual theater suspects - during intermission a girl took selfies with her tongue stuck out Gene Simmons-style - along with breakfast items suited to a noon start to the party: mimosas, yogurt, fruit and granola and, most importantly, doughnuts. When I saw a young woman reach for yogurt, I let her know that doughnuts lurked just on the other side of the group of people next to us.
Putting her bowl back on the table, she looked at me incredulously. "Then why am I wasting my time with this?" she asked rhetorically. I'm here to help, kid.
Taking the stage, Deejay, Evan, Maggie and McLean proceeded to poke fun at everyone from theater critics to play choices to themselves. They played Pictionary with one theater's season, "Gay Family Feud" for another's and "Two Truths and a Lie" with yet a third.
No one was spared spoofing
Categories for Theater Jeopardy included "Actors drunk at other people's plays," "Name that Naked McLean Jessie play" and "Napping during Cat in the Hat Plays," a sweeping indictment of both CAT Theater and HATT Theater.
"Did anyone actually see that play?" our hosts joked. From the front row, a guy said, "I directed it." Ouch.
Such was the nature of all the barbs - sharply observed, honest whether politically correct or not and laugh-out-loud worthy - that eventually every theater type in this town had been skewered. It was easy to miss a crack still laughing from the last.
McLean's big announcement that she's off to DC to get her master's had her lamenting, "It's like I'm leaving just when we have money to finally pay ourselves!"
With visibly shaking hands trying to read from a piece of paper, creative director Deejay ("It's like I never spoke up here before") announced the new season, "Women at War," causing spontaneous applause because they'll all be women-directed performances. The Cellar series will all be one-woman shows.
From the back of the room, McLean had the afternoon's best line: "If all you guys just got disappointed hearing that, that's how it feels."
Right on, Sister Bogeywoman (look it up, kids).
Interspersed with announcements, we saw monologues from the upcoming plays, hearing from directors and actors.
Second best line: director Keri Womald, saying, "This company is the shit." I couldn't have said it better myself.
Walking home with the intent of checking on the neighborhood pig, I passed friends sitting outside enjoying beverages on this delightful afternoon. We spoke through the bars of their fence until they invited me in to chat about their experience at the new Quirk rooftop bar Friday night. Like me, they're hoping to make it a neighborhood stop during off hours when the mobs are elsewhere.
Expecting to impress them with my pig siting, I was thrown off when they said they'd seen someone with a pig on a leash in Abner Clay Park. He'd spotted it and called her over so he had a witness. Crazy.
Back at home, I dipped into today's Washington Post, out on my porch reading about a 70-year old who'd just this February had sex reassignment surgery after a lifetime of knowing he was a girl in a boy's body. Best of all, his wife of all those years was 100% behind him on it. It's gratifying to know that 70 is not to late to change your life and that love extends beyond a previously-defined set of genitals.
Taking advantage of the gorgeous day, I walked over to Cask Cafe late, late in the afternoon (early evening?) because Lucy's was doing a burger pop-up, grilling out behind the restaurant. So, yes, I was walking two miles to eat food from a nearby Jackson Ward restaurant.
Not the point.
Walking through campus, I complimented a student on a pair of high-waisted jean shorts that looked identical to a pair I had in 1979, but it was her friend in hip-hugger jeans who wanted to chat about how shallow young people today are.
"I listen to classic rock, like the stuff my parents listen to because I fell like all the current music is so shallow and meaningless. No one knows what came before them." She also thought that vintage fashion beat out today's mish-mash of trends encompassing the past half century, showing me the four pieces she'd just scored for $15 at a pop-up vintage shop. "Everything was better before we ruined it."
Out of the mouths of babes.
The natives (students, mostly male) were restless as I walked up Cary Street past houses with porches crowded with guys smoking, drinking, bullshitting and playing loud music in the late afternoon sunshine.
Cask was buzzing with people, windows up and energy high. Lots of familiar faces - the woman I always see there who once bought a Fitz & the Tantrums ticket from me, the shorn beer geek, a favorite chef not long off a brunch shift, the uber-Mom and practiced server, the bearded and bubbly front of the house manager, the town's best bagel-maker - and plenty of raves for the massive burgers.
Hmm, pork bacon or housemade beef bacon? There's a first world problem for you.
A woman complimented my skort and then noticed my top, ecstatic when she realized it was a Spoon t-shirt. "Ohmygod, I saw them at [insert obscure club I never heard of] and they were a-maze-ing!" she gushed.
"You like Spoon?" she asks nonsensically. Are there people who wear band shirts but haven't seen the band? Recognizing a teachable moment, I shared exactly why they appeal to me: his distinctive voice, decidedly clever lyrics, the unaltered guitars so rare these days.
She high-fives me not once but twice about our shared admiration for Spoon. "You're a-maze-ing!" If she only knew.
It wasn't easy getting a bartender's attention to order, but the subsequent cheddar-dripping burger satisfied me into submission about the wait. Lucy's couldn't have asked for a better grilling out day or me a finer perch than the counter at the rolled up garage door facing the old depot and its pastiche of street art.
"I've decided not to worry anymore about first world problems," I overheard a young woman tell her friends. You'll be a much happier person for it, I told her and she lit up. "Really? I thought so! But it works, right?"
Please, let my life experience work for you and save yourself the trouble.
A woman showed up with sprigs of lilacs, my favorite flower, and questions about how best to do Mama J's, a subject on which I am an expert. The chef sat down next to me, bringing gossip about the rebirth of a classic restaurant and disdain for overly fussy food when the subject turned to sculptural Cesar salads.
It was fairly late in the game when I finally saw tonight's menu and realized I had ice cream sandwich options. How had I missed this? Not for me chocolate chip between sugar cookies (makes my teeth ache thinking about it) but I certainly couldn't resist housemade vanilla between thick, chewy chocolate cookies, now could I?
There's a reason it's the classic, the standard-bearer of all ice cream sandwiches.
Even when I'd polished that off, I stayed on, chatting with friends about the new film "Elvis and Nixon," about customers who don't feel bound by waiting for a hostess to seat them and how, unbelievably, some people have never gone to the Byrd Theater. I can only suggest reasons to correct that, I can't make them sit in those seats.
By the time I said my good-nights, the sun had slid into setting mode my back as I wandered back up Cary, far quieter now than it had been four hours earlier. For the record, I did not make a third visit to check on the local swine, secure in the knowledge that he's apparently a Clay Street fixture.
At home, a message awaited from hours earlier. "Leaving Norfolk now. I come bearing fresh oysters. Meet me at my house?"
There's a reason I wear this toenail polish, friend. Word on Broad Street is that I'm really jammin' so I'm bound to miss a last minute invitation here and there. Thank you for asking, though.
A great burger can make you cocky like that.