Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Clipped Corners and Green Tambourines

Funny how life teases you.

Stopping at the light at Williamsburg Road and Main Street while coming back from the East End this morning, I spotted two middle-aged women at the base of the steps to Taylors Hill Park, aka Taylors Hell.

Not surprisingly, they were looking up at all those steep steps with trepidation, like they were willing their feet to start the ascent. Good luck, ladies.

Meanwhile, I get home to a message from Mac suggesting we begin our walk in Church Hill today for a change. So we take the 26th Street steps down and get on the Capital Trail, taking it along the Low Line, past Great Shiplock Park and over to the recently refurbished Sugar Pad.  It's there that Mac asks if I want to turn around soon because her plan is to return via Taylors Hell, I mean Hill, and those bloody steps.

Which, incidentally, in 33 years of living in Richmond, I have never climbed. But it's the unlikelihood of having looked at those women contemplating the steps just an hour earlier that makes me realize that nothing's ever truly random.

Mac warns me that once she starts up the steps, she doesn't stop because of how difficult it is to convince her legs to start up again. I don't doubt it. Even the people coming down the steps look pained, although it may be that they climbed up them first.

Fortunately, we're only going in one direction. Although I won't deny that it's a steep climb, midway up it occurred to me that it felt a lot like climbing a lighthouse - which I love for the views - minus the curved route. Just when your legs are saying they'd prefer not to go any higher, you reach another landing and another set of steps.

And it's not like we don't do hill work every time we walk the pipeline walkway, because being at river level means climbing 3/4 of a mile straight uphill - only having to deal with a short set of steps on Capital Hill - in order to return to Broad Street and head west. But inclines are one thing and steps quite another.

And for the record, we didn't so much as pause.

Once we'd conquered the hill, we walked back through Chimborazo Park, alongside Tricycle Gardens to admire the bounty of the produce and past a 19th century drug store built with a "clipped corner," a phrase we learned only because of the historical sign.

Mere diversions to distract us from our complaining leg muscles.

All I can say is, I'm pretty sure we didn't look anywhere near as worried as those two women I'd seen earlier. But then, Mac and I are walking fools pros.

The universe was still playing with me when I showed up at Holmes' digs before going to dinner at Acacia. I knocked, no answer. A neighbor sitting on her porch a few doors down told me they'd just gone out and maybe I should text them. Explaining that I have no cell phone, she offered to call Holmes for me and leave a message.

Fifteen minutes later, still no word, so she insisted on calling him again. Turns out they'd been worried about Crabcake Week crowds at Acacia, so they'd headed over to snag a table. I dutifully got in my car and drove to meet them before they downed the first bottle of Langlois Cremant de Loire Brut Rose.

I barely made it and when I did, the bartender immediately asked if he should ice down a second bottle. With these two? Good idea.

Again eating for the cause - the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay - tonight's crabcake was a sandwich, notable for the sliced housemade bread and butter pickles that gave the jumbo lump crabcake a sweet crunch that I loved. Given that it came after fried deviled eggs with pimento cheese and a stellar salad loaded with slices of Edwards country ham over Romaine, shaved Parmesan and herbed croutons with a Parmesan peppercorn dressing, it was a miracle I could enjoy it as much as I did.

The inevitable listening party followed at Holmes' man cave, tonight with a focus on 45s dredged up from some deep basement shelf Beloved and I had never been privy to before. What amazed me was what pristine condition they were all in, as if they'd been in a vault since the MTV days.

When Beloved came across the Lemonpipers' bubblegum-sounding "Green Tambourine," a debate about the one hit wonder ensued. I stayed out because frankly, I was a kid in 1967 and knew nothing about the song. But upon hearing it, I felt sure it had to have been a really early use of reverb.

Play [play, play, play, play] green tambourine.

Other 45 gems included Todd Rundgren's "Hello, It's Me," Neil Diamond's "Solitary Man" and the Jagger/Bowie collaboration "Dancing in the Streets,"which Beloved swore she'd never heard before. She got most excited when she came across Dan Hartman's "I Can Dream About You," which came from the "Streets of Fire" movie, which I never saw but sure got a lot of airplay.

To Holmes, it resembled nothing so much as a Paul Carrick song, but then he's a big Paul Carrick fan. To me, it just sounded like pure '80s: big hair, shoulder pads and dancing in clubs every weekend.

Given that so much of what we were listening to was straight out of the Carter and Reagan years and Beloved and I always want to know what year each single or album was from, Holmes came up with a dating system on the spot. When I inquired about a 45 of REM's "Fall On Me," he answered with, "Orwell plus two," a system that only works for the book-literate and math-capable.

Which we mostly were at that point. "Why can't it be Friday night?" Beloved wailed at one point as we agonized over how many more records we could play before they ought to go to bed.

Hello, it's me on a Tuesday night. Maybe not a night for dancing in the streets, but not a night to be a solitary man (or woman), either.

I say when a girl climbs Taylors Hell for the first time, she's entitled to stay up as late as she wants. Sore legs be damned.

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