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.

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