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and here is some of what I thought of it from an online piece for Richmond Magazine: Lincoln Premieres in RVA I’ll tell you more if you come on our Lincoln Legs: Brunch & Brushes with History tour tomorrow, Nov. 11th at 12:30 and we’ll brunch at LuLu’s in between following in Lincoln’s footsteps. I’ll also bring Dixie Donuts. I think Abe would approve. It is my dream to refight the Civil War using donuts, Dixie Donuts vs. Philly’s Federal Donuts. It is the only time I’d want the south to prevail. We’ll run Lincoln Legs again Nov. 25th, brunching at Arcadia then.

Lincoln is loved in VA

Four Play. Yes, it certainly can’t be at the forefront of the homophone to four play. Even the word homophone is making some people in Richmond nervous. And let’s not even talk about anything tongue-in-cheek. Earlier this summer there was the brouhaha over a fun, cheery and slightly cheeky poster that came out of the  i.e. series sponsored by the Greater Richmond Chamber: Get off in Richmond! I attended the initial session where several posters were born though I wasn’t a part of this group. It, even in its early stages, got the best response from the crowd which did not include any grumps, I might add.

The Offending Poster

Because this is Richmond, within 48 hours of a version of this going up on a billboard at 95 and 64, it came down. The innuendo was apparently not appreciated by the powers that bring down billboards in Richmond. Oy vey. Something tells me my latest idea just might get a rise out of  the same folks.

As I’ve written before, I just might be the only person who has done my made-up triathlon, Tri-RVA: I’ve rappelled the SunTrust building as part of Over the Edge Special Olympics, run the Richmond Marathon and rafted the James River through downtown. We could call it RVA Triple Play–and when the Flying Squirrels some year leave Richmond because they can’t get a new stadium built, it could be a typical, living in the past Richmond reference to the good ole days of when there was baseball here.  But that is all a moot point because now that there’s a fourth sporty addition to the scene, Martin’s Tour of Richmond, a Gran Fondo with a 102 mile option that takes cyclists from Henrico County into Richmond and then into Chesterfield, Goochland and Hanover counties on Oct. 6th.

So let’s call it RVA Four Play! I’m doing it–in public. Let’s get it on!

Going to be showing off Richmond’s riverfront (even that phrase seems almost funny as I write it–Richmond hasn’t had a riverfront so much as a river in the backyard) with Off the Eatin’ Path: Richmond’s Riverfront starting this Sunday, May 6th at noon. We’ll start in Shockoe Slip and wander around the canals and Brown’s Island and wind up at Canal Bistro at Off the Hookah for lunch. 1.5-2 hours of art, architecture, adventure and me blabbing in between bites! The RVA Street Art Festival sure spiced up one section of our route with the fun (and possibly ephemeral if a buyer buys the Hydroelectric Plant and wants them removed) multiple murals that live there now. Get down there to see them one way or another, please!

see what's behind the scaffolding...

You know I’ll season the tour with lots of James River Park System info, ways to get out and enjoy the river and the creatures who frequent it–not all of them fitness-crazed people yelling “Hoo-rah!”–and several lesser known historical tidbits. It should be a relaxing yet exhilarating tour. The high school group who were my guinea pigs for this tour in March said I saved their lives by taking them on the tour. I don’t recall pulling any of them out of the rapids, but maybe I was so engrossed by RVA’s riches that I didn’t notice that part of the tour….

All Aboard!

On our typical food tours, I push the river as worthy of a visit all sorts of ways. I’m glad that on this route the James will get to speak for itself.

a flood of interest in the James these days...

Monument Avenue is back in the news–for the always exciting Ukrop’s 10k (presented by Martins) this past Saturday that featured 80, 000+ feet going forward on 40,000+ competitors–and possibly 1 giant step backward if Art 180’s legally permitted exhibit What Do You Stand For? is bullied off the block by April 6th instead of being allowed to stay through May 4th as agreed to originally. Apparently complaints from a few well-placed Monument Avenue residents, one of whom called Art 180’s vibrant and colorful and moving exhibit disgraceful, have triggered a revocation of their permit. Wow. That guy can’t see the grace in this exhibit for the dis in his own eye.

Monument Avenue has gorgeous architecture along it–including the amazing Branch House, The Virginia Center for Architecture–a wide median with trees, and those durned statues. Those statues are symbols of  a Richmond set in its way, stuck in the past, standing still, looking backward, clinging to an unjust past. I much prefer an avenue with actual people and dogs out there walking and running, doing a yoga flash mob, painting plein air, being enlightened and inspired by the art and words of these young artists. This exhibit,exquisitely well-timed to include the Monument Ave 10k and Easter on Parade, gives the artists taught by Art 180 staff the chance to have their powerful, vibrant, and meaningful art showcased for thousands of people. This is where the new Richmond–artful, creative, vibrant, all-embracing–is on display.

Can you say juxtaposition?

From a Close Up on Monument Ave. on p. 159 in Insiders’ Guide to Richmond–written by yours truly:

“And then there are those six statues, of Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, J.E. B. Stuart, Jefferson Davis, Matthew Fontaine Maury, and Arthur Ashe. What started as a way to memorialize the Confederate past while jump-starting development to the west of town  in the late 19th and early 20th centuries took on a life of its own, mythologizing the Lost Cause. For the record, the vast majority of people in and around Richmond do not venerate those dead Confederate guys. We mostly joke about them or ignore them and the no left turn signs at some of their intersections. It is no joke that they represent a painful past that Richmond and the rest of the country is still coming to grips with. They do add focal points and drama to the avenue, and sometimes even a protest or two. In 1968, Helen Marie Taylor took a stand against a paving machine that would have covered the original Belgian blocks on the road. She jump-started the movement to preserve and protect the Avenue’s unique character.”

Protests and advocacy got Arthur Ashe’s statue added in 1996. Tuesday evening at 7 p.m. there’s an art walk scheduled to start at the Lee Monument to celebrate Art 180’s exhibit.

Wow. More of this--not less!

It’s an exciting, art-filled time in Richmond with the G40 murals going up downtown now, the Street Festival mural project coming up April 12-14th and What Do You Stand For? in the middle of Monument Ave. I stand for it staying and for more creative and all-embracing uses of Monument Ave. to make it a place that celebrates all Richmonders. That’s a cause worth fighting for.

Time has flown along with those eagles I suppose. Or more likely I’m exhausted from cheering on the VCU Rams at the CAA Tournament. March isn’t about lions and lambs anymore–it’s about the Rams! It is so silly how nutty being in a cavernous place like the Coliseum with many thousands of rabid fans can make me. I am not usually a follower. Not gonna do the Macarena. But give me a V!  C! U! Go Rams Go! and I will wave my arms around and yell and give the important letters of the alphabet all I got. The Coliseum seats are old and ratty, but that doesn’t explain why I jumped out of my seat every other play during the Sunday and Monday games. The excitement (and tension) was contagious.

Not my arms

In the scheme of things basketball games don’t merit a blip anywhere important, but I have loved basketball since I was a little kid, going to hundreds of games. Most of my siblings played, I played from 4th grade through college (let us include intramurals), coached many seasons, my own children played, and way back in the day I went to my father’s alma mater’s games–Mt. St. Mary’s–in the glory days when Fred Carter was playing. We were family friends, so when he moved on to play for the Bullets (in Baltimore), 76ers, Bucks, and coach for the Bulls and other teams, I would on occasion be there, too. I am one of the few females who spent time hanging around outside NBA locker rooms and didn’t get a disease. We did eat some very late dinners after some of those games–on school nights, too! It was sometimes excruciatingly boring–NBA games go on much too long–but I am glad I got to see Walt Frazier and Earl the Pearl and Wes Unseld and Kareem Abdul Jabbar and Larry Bird and Kevin McHale and Michael Jordan and Fred play over the years. Sadly all the watching never translated into me having anything remotely close to a move. A shot, yes. But no move. As a fan, I have a damned righteous fist pump coupled with an explosive jump out of my seat. I’ve had lots of practice.

That is all well and good and old news, but the college boys are where my true fan’s heart lies. There is something about a real team. I’ve seen it all season long. They do not get down on each other. Often their opponents, even when the game is tight and could go either way, show signs of dissension and distrust. Coach Shaka Smart, who should be up for national Coach of the Year, knows how to mold the perfect team. As a pretty good bench player myself, and I mean I was better on the bench than on the floor, I really appreciate the way he, all season long, has played all his guys important minutes. That makes people buy in in a way just sitting there on the bench during a game and practicing with the real players doesn’t. Those coaches who roll over opponents and still only let their bench guys get in for meaningless seconds at the end are not my favorite. VCU is not perfect, but they behave as teammates ought. It really is a thing of beauty to see–when they make the beautiful plays–and when they don’t. I’m going to rest my fist-pump for the NCAAs now.

The pair of bald eagles nesting on the south side of the James River near a part of JRPS, but on private land, have their own paparazzi and don’t seem to mind one bit. The sit and flit and scare off intruders and sit some more. It’s a glamorous life on the south bank. I don’t open the Times-Dispatch Eagle Camera every day since I would not get any work done if it were in my face constantly, but it is pretty fun to pull it up and see and hear what’s going on. Every once in a while I forget I have it up and I am startled by the sound of a coal train rumbling through my office–even if it is 4 miles away to the east.

I’ve caught both ma and pa eagle sitting in the nest together, but more often I see one sitting on the eggs and another flitting around and about. The eggs are due to hatch in a couple of weeks. Just now when I went to the camera, I had it minimized so I could hear what was going on and the eagle started talking to another eagle, presumably her partner. Something like, “Where the hell are you? Get back here now!” Then some faraway sirens started up in reply and the eagle seemed to have more to say.

I have less to say. Listen to the eagles instead.


So I agreed to moderate a Writing Show panel for James River Writers this evening. It’s about food, drink, and romance in writing. You had me at chocolate chip cookie. I am thinking hard about what food I should bring with me to stuff into my mouth in order to prevent me from saying something really dumb. Dark chocolate could do the trick, but it’s so unseasonably warm today, it might melt all over my hands and then I’ll get chocolate all over my notes and then I will have to rely on my brain to come up with something to say of its own accord and there we are back at the saying something dumb issue.

A chocolate for my thoughts?

A vicious circle. That reminds me of cupcakes.

The mocha/chocolate one is my go-to cupcake.

There is no photo of an actual cupcake because as soon as the box gets opened, it’s not a pretty picture anymore. Actually, I have learned to show enormous amounts of restraint leading Real Richmond food tours around town. I don’t partake of everything at every stop. For me to spend time in a cupcake joint, inhaling the aromas of chocolate, coconut, and other good/evil things and not eating a bit is proof of something–I’m just not sure what. It is weird beyond belief, but some of it is vanity. Knowing that putting cupcake to mouth would leave too much evidence on my clothes, in my teeth and around my lips–not to mention elsewhere–helps in the self-restraint department. And then when the tour is over and I walk past said cupcake shop, I pop in and buy a 4-pack to take home. The Virginia General Assembly would do better to focus on issues such as banning driving while eating cupcakes than some of the other things they’ve been messing with. Three panelists, Michele Young-Stone, Andrew Fox, and Kit Wilkinson will be on tonight’s panel. All are novelists, but different genres: Michele writes adult fiction; Andrew sci-fi/fantasy, and Kit Christian Romance and suspense.  There is a joke to be made about Christian Romance and what the Republicans in the General Assembly have been up to of late. I will try to show restraint tonight and not blurt one out. Cupcake, anyone?

One of my favorite parts of running Real Richmond with my pal, Susan Winiecki, is coming up with fun places to start off the food tours. Sometimes, because of the time constraints (and our  learned by doing more than that once) 1.5 mile limit, we start at one of the restaurants we sample at, or on the Cathedral steps for a bit of value-added grandeur, but mostly we start in local bookstores or galleries. I REALLY want people to spend their time and money in these places. If you’ve gotten sucked into the chain thing, give ’em up for Lent and try going local. You will be amazed at how much fun you can have in these joints.


For the Fan of the Food tour, we start at Black Swan Books on W. Main St. For Carytown/Museum District, it’s Chop Suey Books, and for our Shockoe Slip: Capital of Cuisine tour, it’s none other than Fountain Bookstore. For Both SIdes of Broad we often start at Quirk Gallery, which is both a huge treat and temptation. We also love to sneak in a visit to a theater or special space if we can make it happen. We’ve treated people to mini-tours of The Empire/November Theatre, The Hippodrome, Anderson Gallery, Glave/Kocen Gallery and more. And lately, we’re able to incorporate a visit to the Virginia St. Gallery on the Slip tour and have vendors there with samples for our tour-goers. Lucky us!

So I am late to this party, but it should count that I’ve been stewing about it for weeks, nay, months, nay centuries. Must I say again how tired I am of Richmond being highlighted in the year of 2012 as the capital of the Confederacy when the Civil War has nothing to do with the issue at hand? Long time ago. It’s been the capital of Virginia for well over 300 years–for good and ill when the legislature is in session. It’s been on a beautiful river forever.

I especially cringe at it when a writer or correspondent leads with the C of C when the rest of the story has absolutely nothing to do with history. One of my favorites of late was the real estate segment on The Today Show that shows what homes are listing for around the country. Here is the version. On Jan. 12th, a house from my part of town made the grade, and the lead-in was: “Richmond is the state capital and was also the capital of the confederacy during the Civil War. This home is nestled on a private cul de sac lot within walking distance of the James River….”

Wow.  That is some truly bad writing. The confederacy reference is hysterical. And lazy. And irrelevant. Now if the home were on Monument Avenue or in Jackson Ward or was a grand estate built just pre- or post-Civil War by all means, lay on the C of C as much as you’d like, but a tri-level in Stratford Hills? Unless the house is sitting on the grave of Robert E. Lee, I think it’s just a tad off point. At least walking distance to the James gets in there–which is what will sell that house. Even if there’e no statue of Traveller getting a drink from the James at Pony Pasture.

Worth talking about

I think I’ll do some writing for the next real estate segment. “Boston is the state capital and is where Brits shot a black man at the Boston Massacre. This home is tucked in a suburb nowhere near anything I’ve just mentioned. Dallas is in Texas, which is frightening enough already, but it is also where JFK was shot in 1963. Here’s a lovely house miles from the grassy knoll.”

Within a week or so of the Today Show bit, we were treated to a piece about Richmond as the most under-rated city in the U.S. from the Huffington Post that also led with “As the former capitol (sic–oy vey, these people can’t even spell) of the Confederacy….”  No matter how many complimentary (and often vapid) things the writer says afterwards, I am not amused. I do not deny that Richmond was the capital of the Confederacy for four years. But that doesn’t say what people think it says about Richmond. It was a complicated and fascinating place before, during, and after.  

Doth the lady protest too much? Don’t think so.

Continuing my Twitter RVA Holiday Gift Guide from an earlier post:

Holidays#rva Gift Guide #13 Cool books and jewelry from@Va_Architecture What will those architects think of next?

Holiday RVA Gift Guide #14 Chocolates from @GearhartsRVA@LibbieGrove See the gingerbread house, too! The sum is yum!

Holiday RVA Gift Guide #15 A stay at a @HistoricRicInns Lovely B&BS that are getaways in the middle of go-to places!

Holiday RVA Gift Guide #16 Dreaming of a Light Christmas?Take someone to @lewisginter GardenFest of Lights MT @rvanews

Holiday RVA Gift Guide #17 Insiders’ Guide to Richmond available at @FountainBkstore & Chop Suey Books Read it & leap!

Holiday RVA Gift Guide #18 @vmfa membership so no one will have blue Christmas–Elvis will be in the bldg Dec. 24-March 18, FYI.

Holiday RVA Guide #19 Hanukkah candy: pretty sight-a better bite! Easy to buy @ For the Love of Chocolate in @Carytown

Holiday RVA Gift Guide # 20 Hatch Show Print Posters from@LibraryofVA Letterpress Love!

Holiday RVA Gift Guide #21 Built by Blacks. Book or pamphlet. Fascinating guide. Buy @ Black History @Va_Architecture

# 22 will be sending you to Virginia Street Gallery in Shockoe Slip for goodies of food, art, and handmade cool things. It’s open 11-8 today through Christmas Eve. 

I’m back!