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It’s the time of year when people focus even more than usual on food. Grocery stores are stocked with holiday must-haves. Time to bake and shop and simmer. Yet the week before Thanksgiving I was stewing over what I was going to drink with a bottle of Mirilax to get me through a follow-up colonoscopy. Timing is everything.  So with the aisles stuffed with  Thanksgiving necessities, I wandered through the store looking at coconut water and naturally sweetened Vitamin Water and Steaz and Metromint. I had water on the brain. I was thinking about quaffing and quenching even though I knew damned well thirst wouldn’t be involved.  I did three preps last year within 6 weeks, courtesy of a malignant polyp that cost me several inches of my colon, so I have plenty of experience with the ups and downs and rebounds of my gastrointestinal tract. Here’s what I wrote in Richmond Magazine earlier this year about that much fun.

To jazz up what doesn’t sit well with my stomach, this time I thought I’d try  to suck down the prep with less sugary flavored waters from Brazil and Indonesia and Thailand. As much as I like to eat, my gut isn’t a fan of drinking a lot of anything. I’m not a coffee drinker, not a beer drinker, not even a soda drinker anymore (though in a bid to make myself happy during the liquid diet portion of the proceedings I did take a few swigs of Dr. Pepper to see if that transported me back to happy land days of yore). I don’t mean to make too much of what’s one day and night of unpleasantness since I was  lucky to have the opportunity, certainly. And given that too many of my friends are facing radiation and/or chemo after breast cancer surgery, what’s a day of intestinal fortitude anyway? I couldn’t help but hum She’s Got the Whole World in her Bowels except that the coconut water never made it much past my esophagus.  And the chocolate mint-flavored water is a mistake as well. But you knew that already.

2013-11-16 13.03.10

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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

I have been to the mountains and I didn’t want to leave. No cell phone coverage. No internet. Sky–lots of it. Also more maple syrup than I technically needed, but that’s Highland County’s thing, so can’t really argue with it. It won’t make me popular at Monterey’s doughnut-selling shack, but I just think maple-glazed doughnuts are a bad idea. Maple-glazed chicken I could get behind–and my mouth in front of, and maple syrup on buckwheat pancakes tasted as maple trees intended in their infinite wisdom. The folks who still make the syrup the old way are a different sort than most Americans. Spend time outside. Touch trees. Wonder if bears might wake up too soon and cause some trouble at the sugar shack. That sort of thing. The early summery weather made it tough on syrup production this year, FYI.

Ahhhh

During my two night visit last month during the Maple Festival, I was able to come up with t-shirt slogans that will make someone other than me not the least bit rich, tour several sugar camps, stare at countless gorgeous views with sun and shadow and mountains and meadows playing so well together-almost as well as maple syrup and Jack Daniels purportedly get along over ice. Perhaps the highlight was having wine and cheese alongside a rushing creek with some friends. For the rest of the story, you’ll have to read whatever else it is that I wrote in a travel piece for the May issue of Richmond Magazine.

Being suspended 25 stories above the ground with just a couple of ropes holding you just might though. I thought I’d let the suspense build here on the blog , but no one seemed to care, so here’s a photo: 

No photoshop here....

Take a look at a post with a photo by my pal Amy Trenz on the web site of Richmond Magazine to find out more of what I was up to on Friday afternoon.

The thought occurred to me just after I did the deed that I had now completed the (just invented by me) River City Triple Play. I’ve rafted the Class IV rapids through downtown Richmond on the beautiful James River, I’ve run (and completed) the SunTrust Richmond Marathon, and I’ve rappelled the second-tallest building in Richmond for Over the Edge. Now it’s quite possible that I’m not the only one who can claim this title, but I’m fairly certain that no one will ever complete the little known Richmond Grand Slam (since I just invented it on Friday, too). Complete the three feats mentioned above AND get your statue on Monument Ave!

Friday at 3 I’ll be up on the roof of the SunTrust building in downtown Richmond, going over the edge for Special Olympics Virginia for good ole Richmond Magazine. It was my idea, sort of, except for the Special Olympics folks coming up with the extreme fundraiser concept and getting the SunTrust building and organizing and coordinating with expert riggers (one can only hope) and inexpert rappellers so we all work together to support Special Olympics athletes. It’s  a good thing it’s a good cause cause otherwise I’m not sure I would get my feet off the ground.

I'm getting dizzy and I'm still on solid ground

Watching the first season of MadMen, with Don Draper tumbling down the side of a skyscraper in the intro, was not necessarily the best training technique for rappeling 400 feet. I’m actually not so worried about the 400 feet, it’s my two feet that will likely be the problem. Making them move in concert with my hands, to be exact. I will not be chewing gum at the same time. As long as I land on my feet…and wear better socks, I’ll be ok.

While chatting with my friends at Webbones yesterday, Stephanie made an off-hand comment about Oct. 23rd being the drop-dead date for a project of mine. Ha Ha. Funny she should put it that way. It is true that Oct. 23rd at noon is my first book-signing/meet the author event at Fountain Bookstore and afterwards I’ll be leading the inaugural (and FREE!) Real Richmond  food tour through the highs and lows of Richmond history in Shockoe Slip, Shockoe Bottom, and the edge of Church Hill, but where’s the near-death experience in that?

Oct. 22nd is more likely my drop-dead date since that’s when, at 3 p.m., to be exact, I’m scheduled to go Over the Edge and rappel from the top of the almost 400 ft tall SunTrust building for Richmond Magazine as part of a Virginia Special Olympics extreme fundraiser. I had several good looks at the building while I lounged on various hills during the Folk Festival, and it doesn’t look so tall from that distance. Up close is another story. 

The top is there somewhere

Of course, it is the second tallest building in Richmond, but I think it’s better if I shrink it down to something more manageable. No biggie, so to speak.

So why worry about what I’m supposed to do Oct. 23rd, when it could all be a moot (and messy) point.  I would be sad to miss InLight the night of Oct. 22nd though.

My first task upon taking the job writing  Insiders\’ Guide to Richmond, VA was to come up with a Table of Contents and outline the book, pitching whatever chapters I thought relevant to Richmond.  Are you surprised I didn’t write one on monuments? Instead I suggested a river chapter since I don’t think you can appreciate Richmond without experiencing the James River here. (and yes I was on the board of the Friends of James River Park when I wrote the book–still am.)

Some cities’ guidebooks combine Recreation and Parks in one chapter. I knew we had more than enough to split that, so I did. I added an Architecture chapter because RVA is so strong and quirky in that area–Agecroft and Phillip Johnson’s WRVA building and Thomas Jefferson’s Capitol, oh my! And for that war you’ve probably heard about, I paired it, a la Future of Richmond\’s Past, with Emancipation, so visitors don’t think we’re living in some twisted, glorified past. What happened here is more complicated than most people realize and there are lots of compelling and illuminating stories that still need telling.

I didn’t like that in the Houston guide, which oddly enough was my template, art galleries were listed only in the Shopping chapter, so I paired our art galleries with museums in one chapter. Historic houses get their bit in the Attractions chapter.

In the Restaurant chapter and several others, I decided to do things differently than most dining guides around here and not go alphabetically. It made no sense to me to let Ashland, no matter how many times I’ve heard it referred to as the center of the universe, get top billing in Richmond’s book when it’s 15 miles out of town. And Brandermill and Chester!!! Um no.  I started Downtown and circled around within the city north of the river and then went south of the river for the rest of the city. Only then was it the counties’ turn.

Let’s not kid anybody–the best attractions are within Richmond’s city limits. Sometimes in the guise of regional cooperation, people fudge that. I put the city front and center as often as it made sense to. There’s just no question where the action is even if the counties offer some interesting and worthy destinations now and again-the State Fair in Doswell is one such event.

I could psycho-analyze Richmond all day long and share my various theories about why we hide our light under a bushel, but I’d rather blow the lid off and show people how worthy we are–even if we’re not  quite ready.

See my article online at Richmond Magazine, Richmond, You are Here, for more of my thoughts on improving the visitor experience in Richmond. I’d love to hear yours.

You probably already know this, but it’s not a good idea to start a new business, sell your mother’s house, do some writing, get involved with a new 501c3, go on vacation, push your new book, dabble in social media, and get the floors refinished in one’s home office at the same time. It might push someone over the edge.

Actually, it has. Virginia Special Olympics has this crazy, fun fundraiser, Over the Edge , October 23rd in downtown Richmond where people who raise $1000 for Virginia Special Olympics get to rappel 400 feet down the SunTrust building.  They are so lucky! And so am I. I’ll be freelancing for Richmond Magazine–doing blog posts and such as we get closer to the event. Then, on October 22, I get to rappel down the building–26 stories and then some. Can’t wait!

It’s impossible to watch the video of folks, especially an amazing Special Olympian, go over the edge last year and not be in awe.  Having no fear is unrealistic. Letting fear stop people of all abilities from finding out what they’re capable of– that’s the thing to be afraid of. Thanks, FDR.

I’ve rappelled a few times before–though 90 feet is as high as I’ve started. On the one hand those experiences make me feel confident. On the other, let’s remember how I looked earlier this year atop Monumental Church.

There will be ropes and harnesses several hundred feet higher, right?

 It’s quite possible that social media will be my downfall, one way or the other; I learned about Over the Edge on Twitter.

Is it that obvious that I got a stupid smartphone 10 days ago and can’t make it do what it ought half the time including make the camera take a photo within oh, say, three minutes of when I press the damn touchscreen thingie and not take photos repeatedly five minutes after I’ve put the camera away?  I thought so. 

I’ve also recently  ripped up the carpet in our office in the midst of three deadlines, ransacking  the joint more than usual. My organizational skills are officially outmatched. Luckily, the wood floor that had been hidden by the carpet looks great underneath all the crap we had to move to rip out the carpet.  I’d show you if I could figure out how to make my phone talk to my computer. Good thing I have a vacation coming up so I can catch up on my user manual reading.

Ok, so I am capable of emailing myself a photo, and here is proof:

A Log Petrifies in Chesterfield

 One of my current projects is writing a piece for Richmond Magazine about Chesterfield History, so as you can see, I did some digging around and found some.  Somebody else can write the book.

After being shamed into it after attending  James River Writers\’ Thursday  Writing Show about social media, I started using Twitter last night. I tweeted my first tweet this a.m. and the earth didn’t shake, lightning didn’t strike, and the world is still spinning round.

I’ve always thought I was a line person–at most a paragraph person–no novel-writing for me, thanks, so Twitter makes perfect sense. Some of my best essays are really lines gone good. Lines gone bad are a whole nother story. I’m happy to be a part of interesting conversations, so what’s there to lose except time?

When I wrote a piece about Richmond tourism that will run partly in Richmond Mag\’s October print  issue and partly online, I wrote several paragraphs about Richmond’s strengths that we need to build on, and then was supposed to do a hundred words or so about things Richmond needs to work on. Hmm. Hard to do that in a hundred words, so I just decided to write some faux tweets. Better tweets than rants. They’re over more quickly. For instance, I could have said, (but didn’t until now) “Richmond CenterStage, um , next time you make a map of downtown, remember to put the river that runs through RIVER CITY on it.” Real friendly-like, right? It was so much fun writing twenty or so tweets about Richmond that I knew Twitter and I would one day make cryptic music together. That day is here.

Still there is a part of me that thinks my handle should be @ughsigh, but I’ll be good…mostly. My handle is @RealRichmondVA–there’s a link to the most recent tweets down on the left  And for the record, no, this is not a faux blog post.

RealRichmond Tweets!

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