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I’m a mild-mannered sort. Until I’m not. Last month while on vacation, I sat on a porch and shamelessly ogled a shirtless guy who ran by the house every day–up and back. Not so surprising in a beach town with lovely weather (the running, that is) but what was odd was that the gentleman in question wore heavy-duty, old-school cotton sweatpants as he ran. The sort of sweatpants not seen since the early 90’s. He was a slow-and-steady runner, of an indeterminate age that made his chest worth noticing all the while not making me seem like a pervert. The perfect combo. I chuckled about him the first day–even being so generous as to point him out to my husband (a well-known appreciator of the human body) when the runner dude made his return trip the first day. Many years ago my father appointed himself the bathing suit police when he sat swinging on the front porch, commenting on all manner of human condition we saw too much of there, so perhaps I was just following in his swing steps.

When guests arrived over the next couple of days, it became part of the routine to be on the look-out for my guy. I fancied that he looked over our way and smiled a couple of times, perhaps because he heard the herd of us  rushing the porch to see him, but I might have been making that up. There was a lot to notice during the week. He alternated his sweatpants from light blue  to navy blue to maroon, but with the exception of one day, he always ran shirtless. I was a little disappointed in him one rainy day when he donned a matching hooded sweatshirt–mainly because of the hood.  I saw him running in different parts of town, but for 8 days straight, he was out there. One of our friends named him Rico for no apparent reason. Perhaps the idea of my running away with Rico–I think I could have kept up–and I did in fact wind up behind him one day on one of my runs–sounded just right.

 

Rico's were better.

Rico’s were better.

And then we were on our way back home. Poor Rico was probably devastated. A week later one of our friends was at a flea market in NYC and found his shirt.

That explains it.

He left his shirt in New York City.

Still, I have to believe–slow and shirtless wins the race.

 

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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!

is a medal. It doesn’t have to be fancy or engraved or even made out of metal. No strings attached necessary. No ribbons. No ceremony. No podium. Just a medal.

The definition of good-for-nothing.

 

For doing the dishes. And folding the laundry. And putting most of the laundry away in drawers. That’s about all I seem to get done these days around this joint I call home though many other tasks beckon–or at least I think they are beckoning but it’s hard to see for sure under the piles of paper and books and such. People get medals for running races–I have acquired several of them over the years–but I think it’s much easier to run a race than to to keep doing the unglamorous day-in-day-out crapola of life where there’s no date to focus on, no cheering crowds, no bands playing, no finish line (in sight, anyway), and no post-doing the dishes snack under a tent. Want to know my folding the clothes time p.r.? That’s what I thought.

Mais non, je ne pas cuss all that much in writing. In speaking–that’s another thing. My roommate in college did not approve of my cussing though it was tame, very tame. I truly learned to cuss when I taught at a Catholic boys school right out of college. And no, cursing is not the right word. Too prim. Anyway, nothing like being one of the few females who wasn’t a nun or obese in a school of hundreds of males to turn one into an expert on Anglo-Saxon phrases. I believe I kept my cool around the boys, but nowhere else. The administrators were every bit as annoying. Of course I cleaned up my coarseness once I had children and haven’t really gone back to serious cussing since. I certainly don’t like hearing blue streaks come out of people’s mouths when I’m in public. The other day as I was leading a tour on Brown’s Island and in no one’s way whatsoever, some runner ran close to our group and let rip with “motherfucking something” seemingly directed at us. It wasn’t even Mothers’ Day. Not nice. But every once in a while, those sorts of words are just the right thing and make me laugh out loud–always a good thing for words to do.

It seemed appropriate that just as I’m barely keeping up with my blog and certainly not doing Tumblr and being exceptionally lame on Pinterest and ignoring Google+ and tiring of Facebook and even Twitter though they sure are handy for the food tour biz, I share this little gem:

Fuck You and Your Blog Journal

Darned right!

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.

You would expect that the writer of Insiders\’ Guide to Richmond would bubble with enthusiasm about good ole RVA, and most days that is certainly the way I see this town–rivery, artsy, quirky, historic, architecturally interesting, and quite tasty. Walking all over town on our Real Richmond food tours, I get the chance to tout what’s going on and what’s coming up.

I’ve been high on Richmond for a while, and rarely turn down the chance to go over the top in my search for unique experiences. Hence this shot atop Monumental Church while I was writing the book–ok while I was researching the book. My hands were gripping the treads pretty tight to get much writing done up there.

Angle of repose?

So when I say something’s coming up, I really mean it. One of my favorite things coming up Oct. 20th and 21st: Over the Edge. Last October I had the distinct pleasure of rappelling down 25 stories of the SunTrust building on E. Cary St. in Shockoe Slip for Over the Edge–Special Olympics Virginia’s extreme fundraiser.

I swear I'm there

I’ll do it again Oct. 21st. People do this nutty thing to raise money and awareness for Special Olympics and all the good work they do year-round for the thousands of Special Olympians in Virginia. It’s really not much of a challenge to be pampered and outfitted and safety-checked and instructed to do something for 30 minutes that lots of people would kill to do. Poor word choice.

People with special needs handle much tougher challenges every darned day, and more often than not they don’t get cheered and acquire goodie bags and t-shirts for their trouble. Special Olympics activities–the big ones we hear about–and the smaller, more routine ones we don’t–offer the chance to exult in effort and accomplishment and cameraderie. That always feels fantastic. If you want that feeling to have staying power, please support Special Olympics. It will give you a natural high, too.

I am the person who runs on Riverside Drive with a bouquet of leaves in my hand this time of year. It adds flexibility to my work-out as the leaves are all the way down on the ground. Also makes me stop suddenly and backtrack. And look goofy. Nothing unusual there.

Hard to pass up

 

Last week I was at the beach briefly and decided to run back on the sand which is not the most graceful look, but the sky and ocean were steely and the beach was pretty empty and summer was waning, so I needed to get lots of sand in my Nike Frees one last time.  The sand near the incoming tide was the firmest so I stayed in those parts. I hadn’t run far when right in my path was a perfect black conch shell. I’ve never scene one in my life, so I picked it up. Gorgeous. I ran on with it. A minute later a smaller also black conch shell, missing half of itself, but still so cool looking, appeared. So I was a two-fisted shellrunner. I kept going, and yes, found THREE more, without veering from my course or even trying. By this time, it was completely ridiculous that I was running with all five in my hands, trying not to smash them to bits against each other or drop them and trample them myself. Nobody seemed to be living in any of them, and I can’t believe I didn’t take a photo of all of them. They are stunningly gorgeous. Or were–the shells could withstand the ocean, but doubt they can handle my young niece and nephews.

Just one. I left the better ones for my nephews and nieces to smash.

 

 

 

Ducks do it:

What's the big deal?

Yesterday at Pony Pasture, the ducks couldn’t be bothered by the to-do surrounding the 15 or so die-hards who arrived at the boat ramp at noon for the 4th annual Polar Plunge. Air temps were fairly kind, but still the chill was on the skin and faces of the cheery crazies even before they took the plunge.

Showing some guts, so to speak!

And at the stroke of noon, they were in, in honor of Wayne Goodman, RA-More stalwart and trail-builder extraordinaire, who is recovering from a spinal cord injury he suffered in Forest Hill Park. 

in the drink

Don’t expect to see a photo of moi in the James…maybe next year. It’s too bad I didn’t jump in wearing only James River Park license plate applications. That would have made great TV.

Where's Grandma Moses when I need her?

 

‘Twas the week before Christmas when all through the park, all the creatures were stirring; they like it in the dark. The applications were set in the mailbox with care in hopes that a James River Park license plate soon would be there.

The salamanders were nestled all snug in the mud while visions of license plates danced in the crud. And FOJRP board members in our kerchiefs and I in my cap had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap.

When out in the park there arose such a clatter, we sprang to the river to see what was the matter. When what to our wondering eyes did appear, but a miniature truck and actual deer, with a little old driver so lively and bright, we knew in a moment it must be Ralph White.

He was dressed all in khaki from his head to his toe except for the kneesocks if you really must know. A bundle of presents he had in his truck but he said the park needed a couple of bucks. His eyes–how they twinkled! His dimples how merry. His cheeks were all bearded–park employees are hairy.

He spoke a few words, but went straight to his work, and filled us with awe; then dealt with a jerk. As anyone who loves the James River Park knows, we’d all be so lost without Ralph’s poetry and prose.

He sprang to his truck, to his team used his bullhorn and away they all drove like the scrape of a sharp thorn. But I heard him exclaim ere he drove out of state, Happy Christmas to all, and to all a JRPS license plate!

Actually, I’m up at 2 in the morning, not dreaming at all, but if I were, I would set it to music, with a surprisingly Bing Crosby-esque voice:

I’m dreaming of a James River Park license plate–just like the ones I’ve never known.  Which plate-less cars and drivers covet, and we’ll just love it, showing pride in Richmond’s very own.

I’m dreaming of a JRPS license plate, with every Christmas drive, I wait. May your walks, runs, paddles, and bike rides be great, and may all RVA vehicles get JRPS license plates.

It’s only a matter of insomnia till you see the Twelve Days of James River Park Christmas. The only way to make me stop is to help us hit our goal of 350 completed JRPS license plate applications by mid-January. All the info and applications are available at jamesriverpark.org

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