'Tis a day for avoiding the green.
Setting out on my walk, I couldn't do my westward circuit because of Shamrock the Boulevard and I wasn't going anywhere near Shockoe Slip due to the Sine Irish Pub Festival. The low line and Chapel Island were definitely out because of the vomit-inducing Blarney Bash in the Bottom, which left me bound for the river.
Walking down Fifth Street just before noon took on shades of Bourbon Street when I spotted a middle-aged foursome walking along while sipping on wine from glasses hung from embarrassing neck strap wine holders. That was my reminder that this was the weekend of the Virginia Wine Expo at the Convention Center, but a better point might be, how the hell did they get out of the building with wine in their glasses?
With a little weaving going on and a whole lot of loud talking, it was obvious that since it was only 12:30, they must have been at the Expo the moment it opened. Passing them, I overheard that they were in search of food and slowed down to investigate.
When they told me they were on their way to Penny Lane Pub, I couldn't help but ask why.
"Where should we go?" they asked, as if there were just one answer to that. My question was what they were looking for: filling (probably a good idea given their blood alcohol levels already), healthy ("Do we look like we eat healthy?" the largest guy asked rhetorically), ethnic (no response), within walking distance (absolutely).
My suggestion was Greenleaf's a block away and I backed that up with reasons: the fun and funky vibe that includes an upscale pool hall, the creative and delicious food (that bar toast!), the brightly-colored Mexican artisan-painted portraits of famous pool and billiard players, shoot, I even mentioned how cool the black and white photographs of female pool players from the '50s and '60s hanging in the ladies' room were.
Let's just say they were profuse in their gratitude for steering them someplace they'd never have found on their own. Wishing them bon appetit and continuing down the hill to the river, the large guy called out his thanks again, adding, "Walk a mile or two for me, wouldja?"
A mile or two? Sir, you clearly have a magic mirror at home if you think that's all you need.
When I got near the bottom of the hill, I spotted the female members of a wedding party clustered around the bridge to Brown's Island, the bride wearing a short-sleeved fur jacket while the lavender dresses of her six bridesmaids were partly covered by white shawls.
All of them appeared to be shivering.
As I passed them, the one woman in street clothes looked up from her phone and announced, "They're leaving the limo now," like she was the secret service or something. Presumably, she was talking about the male portion of the bridal party, but the bride didn't look any too pleased at further waiting.
Not the most auspicious start for marital bliss.
Brown's Island wasn't particularly hopping today, although one guy made my day by stopping to ask if he could tell me something. "You're gorgeous," he said apropos of nothing and then moved on. Maybe he'd already been to the Wine Expo, too, though there was no tell-tale glass hanging round his neck so I couldn't be sure.
Near the lip of Brown's Island, not far from where the pipeline begins, I saw movement out of the corner of my eye and realized that two green hammocks were now strung on top of each other between two trees. The occupants looked to be 14 or 15 year old boys and both were staring at their laps.
I couldn't resist.
Are you guys really laying in hammocks by the river in the sunshine looking at phones? Slowly, the top hammock brought his hands up, "I'm carving wood," he explained, holding up a knife and stick. I rained down praise on him, apologizing for my presumption.
From down below, the other boy peered around the side of his hammock. "Guilty as charged," he said sheepishly. "But I'm putting it away now."
My work here was finished.
On the pipeline, I followed behind a couple who, I would wager, were making their maiden foray on the curved and uneven surface, at least judging by their tentative and turtle-like pace. Coming up behind the man, he whispered to his wife and they paused awkwardly so I could pass.
As I was going around the terrified-looking woman trying to perch near the edge so I could pass, she smiled at me brightly and asked, "How are you doing today?" It seemed an odd moment to strike up a conversation but I stopped and answered.
By the time I got to the walkway, they were mere specks in the distance. Like I said, real slow movers.
After climbing the ladder off the pipeline, I heard the thundering bass and drums of a live band nearby the moment I stepped on land again, alerting me to the proximity of green beer and drunken revelers. Turning away from it, I headed across Mayo's Bridge.
Near the end, a man on a bike came toward me smiling and calling out, "Praise the lord, woman, praise the lord!" so I answered in kind and somehow lightening didn't strike me dead.
Instead, the insect world attacked. Just like earlier this week when Mac and I'd walked it, black gnats still swarmed along parts of the floodwall, a tad surprising given temperatures in the 30s today.
Walking toward me along the path under the Manchester bridge were parents with a young son on his training wheel bike and while the kid was clearly struggling with navigating on the gravel-strewn dirt, Mom was cutting him no slack.
"You have to learn to ride on rocks or regular," she told him firmly as he wobbled side to side on the pitted terrain. Feeling a little sorry for the budding cyclist, I reminded Mom that riding on gravel is hard and she gave me that "life is hard" look and kept walking.
Crossing the T Pot bridge, I was a little surprised to see 5 kayakers resting on some rocks near the bridge and another 4 or 5 making their way downriver toward them, while behind them were four tubing groups, easily the first of either activity I've seen on the water since before Christmas.
I'd have been less surprised had I seen them on one of the recent 70-degree days and not a chilly, windy one like today, but what do I know about such things?
It's enough just knowing which parts of the city are safe from the green-swilling mob today. As for the sweet-talking wine-swilling hordes, I can handle them any day.