Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Party Like It's 1776

One tenet of a stay-cation is already clear: there will be naps, daily naps.

After Monday's rest period, I suggested a sunset viewing party from Rockett's Landing and made sure we got there in time to nab a table with an umbrella (later arrivals were not so fortunate), the better to perpetually adjust our nest of shade from the waning sun.

I don't mind glowing but full-on sweating detracts from a girl's Hawaiian print sundress.

It's such a picaresque setting that I hesitated when my date inquired about the source of bubbles in the water just across river (no one wants to blurt out "sewage treatment plant," just like no one wants to remind you that the pipeline carries sewage and storm water runoff), although even he had to admit that it interfered in no way with the sunset vibe.

From our perch on high at Conch Republic, we watched crew teams glide by (some with an accompanying coach in a power boat), power boats arrive laden with 20-somethings after a big day on the river and even some sort of law enforcement boat scouting for trouble.

The woman at the table next to us explained away the boat cop's mission, saying,"Anybody knows you store your beer in the woods and just go get it as you need it, not bring it on the boat!" Given my sub-par navigation skills, I think it's safe to say I'd never find that beer again, but that's just me.

We toasted the majesty of the sunset with Vino Verde, sesame-crusted ahi tuna and a salad of blueberries, strawberries, craisins and grape tomatoes over mesclun while people came and went from the balcony around us.

I don't know which of us was more surprised when we realized the sun was serious about setting, but it left us no choice but to acknowledge that more than three hours had gone by in the course of a conversation and the James was now a gunmetal green shade headed to even darker night time hues.

Tuesday kicked off with a trip to Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens because Carmax was paying for everyone's admission today and why not celebrate independence with lush plantings and benches strategically placed in shaded tree stands?

What I hadn't anticipated was the thousands of other people taking advantage of Carmax's generosity (cops were directing traffic, it was so jammed), but we solved that little problem by always taking the path less crowded and avoiding the child-centric areas where toddler screams reminded passers-by how natural it is for little ones to yell when water is involved (see: ocean).

Since it had been a few years since I was last at the Gardens, I enjoyed every bit of it. The conifer garden, the tree trail, the new floating bridges (what a kick to feel the bridge give as we strode across it), smelling the heirloom varieties in the rose garden, the contemplative Japanese garden.

The line for the butterfly garden extended too far to even consider, but we didn't miss much else. Meanwhile, holiday-appropriate t-shirts abounded.

Red, white and Dude
United States of Awesome
Do you even 'Murica, Bro?

And that doesn't even count the countless flag t-shirts (flags shaped like hearts, stars and stripes on Minnie Mouse's head bow) or red, white and blue ensembles we saw. At least, unlike at the beach, we didn't have to bear witness to flag-motif bikinis and bathing trunks.

Some things you can't ever un-see.

So, you see, we do have something to be grateful for on this, the anniversary of our independence from a country not nearly as fat or stupid as our own.

There may have been a nap again on Tuesday afternoon, but who's counting?

Since it's been two decades since I've been in Richmond for Independence Day, it seemed only right to spend it at Dogwood Dell for explosions in the sky and whatever came with that.

By our hand, that whatever included chicken schwermas from Donor Kebob, fruit and King Family Vineyards Blanc de Blanc snagged on our road trip Sunday. Because bubbly and freedom go hand in hand.

By Dogwood Dell's hand, that whatever was so much more. And I'm not just talking about the aerial show the bats put on at dusk, though I do like to watch.

Selections from red-hot "Hamilton." Byrd manager Todd Schall-Vass movingly read key parts of the Declaration of Independence (and then touched on the document's other "highlights," a thinly-disguised way of pointing out our current leader's shortcomings and failures). The Richmond Concert Band doing all the patriotic songs we used to have to sing in elementary school ("You're a Grand Old Flag," "America the Beautiful," "Battle Hymn of the Republic"). Veterans and military personnel being asked to stand for protracted ovations.

The comic highlight was the woman standing on the pathway in front of us who turned and immediately ran into a toddler, causing her to trip, flip and roll over on the stone path, Meanwhile, the 3-year old who'd caused the spill laughed uproariously, not understanding that the woman had not meant to fall.

But by far, the program was most seductive while the band played "The 1812 Overture" to the night sky, complete with cannons firing and seamlessly seguing into the fireworks display. We watched from our perch near a crepe myrtle tree, enjoying the pyrotechnics between branches while the rolling smoke cloud grew denser and higher.

We were among the leisurely packing up, in no hurry to join the legions of people exiting Byrd Park. Somehow, it then took us 50 minutes to traverse the 2 1/2 miles to my apartment once the outdoor fun concluded.

All I can say is, I'm going to need a nap.

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