I might be the only non-homeless woman in the United States who walks into an Ann Taylor Loft dressing room with a couple pairs of pants and a shirt to try on with a 1/3 of a pound of sliced chorizo in my bag. It was Zoe’s chorizo from Formaggio and it was what I like to think of as an essential styling tool.

Thank goodness the bag is pretty cool–from the Poe Museum in Richmond–a gift from my friend and biz partner, Susan. It gets the people talking in the big cities. I find it lends me (truly I don’t own it) an air of sophistication  even when all else points to a scruffy bag lady. But when one adds the flat-packed chorizo wrapped in plastic and paper, well, heads turn. Or at least well-tuned noses do.

Poe Poe Poe...

Poe Poe Poe…

Even though I’d just walked 2 miles to get that chorizo–ostensibly for my husband–I’d forgotten about it until I lay the bag down in the dressing room. Trying on clothes with what got me there–eating too much to fit into my clothes– (the hot fudge sundae wouldn’t have travelled as well) seemed fitting. Or perhaps, given the state of my clothing, ill-fitting.  I suppose I should have taken the flat-packed chorizo wrapped in plastic and paper and added it to my waistline while I was trying on the pants to make things more accurate. A new, wholly unappealing form of pork belly. The clothes may make the man, but they make the woman insane.

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.

 

It was a dark and stormy night when my husband and I arrived in Cape May for a September vacation, so we didn’t do much gazing off into the distance as we unloaded what we needed to get to bed. The next night, Friday, the 13th as it happened, I was out on the front porch with a friend around 11 p.m. when we noticed  2 orange lights in the sky moving in tandem though not close enough to be on the same object. They headed west along the beach and then turned south over the ocean around Queen Street and soon enough disappeared. Mildly entertaining but hardly anything to talk about–until one of us noticed another orange glow coming low from the east and taking the same track as the other orange balls. And then another and another. Completely silent and steady. We called our other witnesses outside and speculated all sorts of things: something the Coast Guard base was doing, drone testing, UFO’s or a really meticulous wedding planner showing her stuff. The last was all mine.

We looked forward to the next evening with four more friends arriving to either make fools of us or be foolish with us. A little before 10 p.m. on Saturday, sure enough, the orange balls kept popping up to the east, silently coming towards our house before taking a left over the ocean to disappear–seemingly before they were so far away that we couldn’t possibly have seen them. I think we saw 8 that night over the course of 10 minutes. My usually shy and retiring husband went down the porch steps to accost some people walking along on the sidewalk with their backs to the show and they started pointing and blabbing along with us, wondering what the heck it was we were seeing. One of them had a good camera with a telephoto lens and took a shot, which my husband saw, that seemed to show that each orange ball was actually 2 separate lights. We talked about getting in the car to try to find the source of it–perhaps to Poverty Beach where we could glimpse the Coast Guard Station’s beach, but we were too lazy to do that.

This is not that photo.

aha!

Aha!

I wasn’t interested enough to do the research that one of our friends did. Somebody in 2010 noted a similar scene in Cape May and speculated it had something to do with the Electronics Support Group at the Coast Guard Training Center. I prefer the wedding planner scenario, imagining the rehearsal dinner guests and wedding guests on or near the beach oohing and aahing at the pretty lights in the nighttime sky.  We kept looking most other nights we were there, but didn’t see anything other than a beautiful full moon. When my husband and I walked to The Pier House for dinner one night, I couldn’t resist taking a photo of the light at Pittsburgh and Beach to send the friends who’d already headed home–not with the aliens–as far as I know.

Given that one of my most vivid dreams from childhood was of a traffic light near what is now the Heritage Motel in Cape May giving me lessons in how to walk on my heels, you would be within your rights to dispute the truthfulness of my earlier account. But I’d rather you just tell me what it was.

I wish I had something valuable to say. Instead I will have to settle for noting how odd it is that cleaning up one’s house, I mean really going into the bowels of drawers and files and cabinets, brings out the worst in me and more $2 bills than I’d ever expected.  You’d think TJ would get more respect, but nickels and $2 bills aren’t really impressing me. Sure you wrote the Declaration of Independence and the Statute for Religious Freedom and founded the University of Virginia, etc., etc., but what have you done for me lately? $6 bucks? I can find $43 in loose change without even trying.

Can't explain it.

Can’t explain it.

He wears it well!

David Rohrer of WPA Bakery wears it well!

Julia Child didn’t become a famous cook until her 50’s. I didn’t become a t-shirt mogul until 51. There must be a book and movie and television show there somewhere. In all of the writing I’ve done, who knew that 3 words: Capital of the Confectionery, would make my day–or at least our latest Real Richmond Food Tours t-shirt. I’ve seen one disparaging remark on Twitter–from someone who mistakenly thinks the phrase is showing pride in the other phrase most associated with Richmond that makes my skin crawl every time I read a lazy travel writer’s take on our fair city. Poking fun at all of that is my favorite part of all this–not to mention showcasing (on the back) some of our favorite bakeries and sweet spots that we stop by or utilize on our tours.

We eat it up!

We eat it up!

Besides online, the shirts are available at shops and bakeries around Richmond, including Fountain Bookstore, Quirk Gallery, Pearl’s Cupcake Shoppe, Shyndigz, World of Mirth, Very Richmond and the gift shop at the Richmond Convention Center on 3rd St. Wear it with the proper amount of pride in pie and cupcakes and in Richmond for being worthy of attention for a baker’s dozen of 21st century reasons.

Somewhere in the run-up to my 30th college reunion–which I did not attend–I received a survey to fill out from the alumni office. They’ve never lost me in all these 30 years, but they must keep hoping they have the wrong Maureen Egan (there were two of us in our class at Holy Cross) and figure eventually they’ll find the one who is a billionaire and wants to give it all back to the college. Keep trying.

Of course, they want to know what field people are working in. Under the self-employed spot–after the ones they’re really interested in–investment bankers, stockbrokers, doctors, lawyers–a couple of telling options popped up. There was freelance writer, where it belonged, which is one part of what I do. Right under it was an option I’d never considered and certainly didn’t expect it to have its own line: funeral director. A trick of that pesky alphabet or something more? The two fields have plenty of things in common. Magazines and newspapers keep dying and so do people. Synergy. God knows I’ve been to enough funerals that provide a microphone to people who could use a good writer to make what’s said not make the audience go nutty. See, Yes, I’m referencing my own damned story! It’s sad that I remember the awful funerals as funny stories and don’t remember the good funerals much at all. Perhaps I should write about that….

Getting inspired for the next session.

Getting inspired for the next session.

should be the next big thing. I’m a fan. Especially  drunk yoga on the beach. Tipsy yoga just doesn’t sound right. Hammered yoga–no. But drunk yoga brings the hard sounds and the soft ones together on the beach. Not too drunk. No queasy feeling. Just loose. No mats. Just bathing suit and the sand and the ocean and a drink or two. My father used to sneak over his “funny 7Up” to the beach. You didn’t want to pick up his bottle by accident. It is hard to contemplate putting my father and yoga in the same sentence, but that is the sort of mind-altering stuff that can happen when one is at one with drunk yoga.

Woke up the other morning fuzzy and a little confused about where I was since I’d been out of town a couple of nights before. But clearly through the haze two words came to me: church chocolate. In that order. Related. Unexpected yet it all made sense. Not chocolate church–that’s a different dream. I love alliteration even when I’m asleep. To my mind, especially at 6 a.m., church chocolate combines religion with all that is holy. If only pain au chocolate were the bread that gets broken at church, I might make an appearance now and again.

A chocolate for my thoughts?

16 apostles here

Of course, Jesus didn’t say, “I am the chocolate of life,” but perhaps he’s regretting his turn of phrase. With so many people avoiding wheat and going gluten free, bread is getting stale.

I’ve long had a theory that the whole Last Supper thing was a game of telephone gone awry. Jesus is at the table and says, “The bread tastes fresh.” And around and around the table his comment gets repeated, until it comes out, “the bread made flesh” and transubstantiation had to fill in the blanks. I think my version is every bit as believable.

Good ole Mary S.

Good ole Mary S.

I walked up the backyard yesterday after a walk with a friend in the soft rain. I was already thinking of the next thing I had to do when I walked over the bridge over the gully kwai (not its real name) and had enough sense to pause and see the blooms where they were planted. I felt a calming and a brightening simultaneously. The leafed out Japanese maple was all the umbrella I needed from the rain sprinkling down and the pine straw path hushed my clodhopper footfalls. And then right at eye-level were these babies. Not babies at all, quite mature like myself, but planted by Mary and Stuart decades ago, exactly in the right place for me to get happier just then. I think I’ll go back out there right this second. Our yard is such that if I don’t get right out in it and wander around, I can miss the best of what those Shumates did back there.

Mary’s been gone for a year now, but those azaleas and the phlox and ajuga and vinca busting out all over keep her ever-present. Excuse me, while I go pay my respects to her plants.

 

 

 

I have a job where I walk through Richmond neighborhoods during the day and show off almost anything to unsuspecting folks. Friday I’ll be wandering The Fan in search of good food–not exactly a difficult task. Saturday I head to North Side to show off the eats available on MacArthur and Bellevue avenues. Don’t tell the restaurants, but as happy as I will be to introduce people to their joints, and as fun as it is that we’re starting the tour at my painter friend’s Sarah Master’s studio, I get absolutely giddy thinking about showing off backyard chickens in one generous person’s yard (almost legal, even) and then there’s the creme de la creme, alpacas in another woman’s backyard! In the city. I love this more than makes sense.

 

No eating alpacas on this food tour!

No eating alpacas on this food tour!

Tickets ($44.46) are available and must be purchased in advance here. I wonder how many restaurants on the tour are serving chicken? I do know we will answer the question, Which came first the chicken or the egg?

The egg doesn't come first on this tour.

The egg doesn’t come first on this tour.

Our visit to Little House Green Grocery will settle that!

 

 

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