Tuesday, March 1, 2016

In the Zone

Even for my oddly-lived life, today had elements of the truly bizarre.

Of all the reasons I might have to wake up early, today's was among the least likely. I had to go have my picture taken first thing in the morning because of my writing.

Which writing? I have no idea and won't until the Virginia Press Association awards are announced in April, but higher-ups know my name will be among those called, and that, apparently, requires me to show off my dimples when I'd usually still be snoozing.

Say cheese.

That done, my next priority was voting, where I was happy to see a line of eager voters ahead of me. Sometimes it's just me and the poll workers.

As I shuffled forward, something occurred to me. Since it was an open primary, perhaps I should use my vote as a voice against the evil that threatens to overtake our country.

Once at the desk, I inquired if it was possible. Grinning widely, the registrar informed that not only could I have either ballot I wanted, but that I was far from the first person to make the decision to jump party today. "But I can't tell you what to do." Her smile widens.

Heaven help me, I guiltily accepted the Republican ballot and voted, assuaging my conscience with the knowledge that although I have a Democratic preference, I could live with either one getting the nomination and winning, but I couldn't stand it if Trump did.

Never in my decades of regularly voting have I done such a thing and if my wildly liberal ancestors aren't rolling in their graves, they're applauding me.

Later, I told a black friend what I'd done, inspiring him to do the same, albeit with more judgment directed at him. He messaged me, "Sure, it was fine for you, Miss White Woman, but you have seen the look three brothers gave me when they saw me take that ballot."

Truly, I felt his pain.

I was nearly home from my walk when a well-dressed man stopped and introduced himself, explaining that he'd lived on the next block for the past two years and saw me all the time.

Next thing I knew, we were talking about public art, living in D.C.- which we both had - and how much Richmond has changed since the '90s when he left.

When we finally got around to discussing walking, I knew I'd met someone worthy. Sure, I do 6 or 7 miles, but this guy walks to Willow Lawn and back, for an eight mile constitutional. We compared walking Broad Street to Monument Avenue, geeking out on some of the things you see at street level that you miss entirely from a car.

After a half hour or so, he said he needed to go vote, but asked if I'd like to come over for a glass of wine or tea when he got back. Why not? "I'll call you when I'm crossing Belvidere," he said after getting over his amazement at my lack of a cell phone.

I had just enough time to eat a quick bite before the phone rang and I met him out front. "I went for Kasich," he told me, with the same guilt of a lifelong Democrat voting Republican as I'd felt.

So it was then I entered the 1870 house of a man I'd met less than an hour before. Enormous pocket doors, a kitchen where the old washing porch used to be, servants' quarters, a very handsome home, far more ornate than my 1876 house.

Then we sat down with our libations and dove into the deep end of the conversational pool with abandon. He told me how much he'd loved living in Cambridge and hated living in Boston and we compared notes on life in Washington. Since he's only been back for two years, he wanted restaurant and music venue recommendations.

It turns out his sister and I went to the same school, graduating within a year of each other. Like me, he's self-employed so we discussed the self-discipline that requires, along with its benefits, such as impromptu afternoon meet-ups with neighbors.

We were into our second hour of talking about the cultural shifts we'd seen in our lifetimes when I declined a second glass because I had work to do, but we agreed a walk is in order sooner rather than later.

Once that work was finished, I got ready to go to the Valentine for this month's Community Conversation, "Re-RVA: Revitalizing, Recycling and Re-imagining," thrilled that the weather was still so warm for the walk there.

I didn't get two blocks before I ran into my new friend for the third time today, this time returning from a meeting. Now that we've met, I think we're going to find we run into each other a lot in that way you never notice someone until you meet them and then suddenly they're everywhere.

Walking in to the Valentine, director Bill Martin greeted me by asking, "Did you vote?" My voting sticker was still stuck to my walking shirt, so I explained how I had voted a party I detest. "Lots of my friends did that today, too," he assured me.

So I'm not the only one terrified of the future, I guess.

It was by far the smallest group for one of these conversations I've yet to see, a fact no doubt attributable to voting day, but it was a dedicated one. When Bill was talking about re-purposing, he showed an image of the architectural salvage store Caravatti's, asking who'd been there.

Practically every hand in the room shot up. "Gosh, this is a recycling crowd!" he said, sounding surprised. It was, too, with people there who had specific recycling bones to pick with the panel of experts who'd come to speak.

When we were shown images of old WWI and WWII posters, one showed a thrifty housewife doing her part by saving cooking grease, straining it, storing it in a cool place and then, "selling it to your meat dealer."

"Anyone here have a meat dealer?" Bill asked to laughter. No, but my Mom certainly had a grease can with a strainer she kept in the cabinet and reused its contents often.

Shucks, I guess that means we didn't have a meat dealer, either.

Breaking into our small groups, we discussed single stream recycling, compost company pick-ups and why the counties make it so difficult for their residents to recycle, with several people making the point that the problem is not what we recycle but the over-packaging and single-use serving mindset that's overtaken consumers.

Good luck changing that.

Walking home, the air was still warm and while I was hungry, I'd had my conversational jones satisfied earlier and I knew I should get home to work, so I decided to stop at the Cultured Swine for a quick meal.

While I'm waiting for my BLTotally Awesome, the cook asks the cashier to look at the impressive Tarheel taco he's working on, at how amazingly beautiful its presentation is. Of course I'm going to stand up and take a peek at the N.C.-style barbecue he's laid out on a tortilla in three perfect meaty mounds.

"Sometimes I impress myself," he jokes, before finishing the taco off with a mountain of coleslaw and Swine sauce, only to show it off again. "Damn, look at this! Now it's even prettier!"

I came awfully close to changing my order, but I'm a huge fan of his house bacon because it's so thickly sliced it almost crosses out of bacon territory, plus he serves it with the freshest of mixed greens on a a baguette, a combo I love.

By the time my sandwich came out, I was deep into an episode of "Twilight Zone" called "The Four of Us are Dying" about a guy who could change his face to elude people, except that didn't always work out for him when he ran into someone from the face's past, like the boxer's Dad who hated him for breaking his mothers heart by running off and ruining his girlfriend's life.

So despite my intention to grab and go, there I was happily drinking a glass bottle of Sprite (zero profit in glass recycling, by the way), eating my Awesome and watching '60s television after waking up to pose, voting Republican, going to a stranger's house and talking trash.

I'm sure this day could have gotten weirder, I'm just not sure how.

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