Monday, October 15, 2012

Tots, Lemaire, and the RTCC Awards, aka my weekend.

It's easy to lose weekends while you're in nursing school. There's always an exam or a project or something that demands weekend time and attention.

But sometimes, you just have to say, screw it. I need a real, whopping, fun filled weekend. This was one of those. I even had an Patho exam on the GI system this morning, and had to study for it last Wednesday and for two hours early this morning. But it was totally worth it. (Also not to brag, but I kind of killed that exam. Maybe being exhausted should be my new test taking strategy).

All of this fit into 72 hours between Friday and Sunday:

-Sticky Rice bday dinner where I tried, as always, to consume my weight in Tots. Yes, capital T, Tots. They have earned that distinction. Those things (and their sauce, oh the dipping sauce!) deserve some kind of civic pride award.

-Argo Friday night. Tense, gripping, and poignant. But honestly my favorite part, other than Jimmy Cooper and spy daddy from Alias in film roles, might have been all the 70s staches and really, really bad hair. God I wish I had been alive during that decade if only to witness the hair.

-The boyfriend took me out for a second birthday dinner (yes, second, and I'm going out for a THIRD on my actual birthday with my family, I am basically Marie Antoinette in my decadence) to Lemaire. Is there a classier restaurant in Richmond? It's one of those places where you want to stand up and applaud the waiters, because they are so darn professional it's like live theater. The food was impeccable. I love that nearly everything in the menu is from somewhere local (and of course I love that one of their salad's is named after my aunt, Jo, of Manikontowne fame). I got egg pasta with mushrooms, artichokes, and basil pesto, plus this gob-smackingly good cinnamon, squash bisque with crab meat. It tasted like fall in a bowl. And if I hadn't been somewhere so fancy I would have licked the bowl.

-After dinner we saw A Bright New Boise. I sadly didn't get to review it. But my mini review is that I loved it. I thought it was powerful and intelligent and bracingly sad. Billy Christopher Maupin is one of my favorite actors to watch in Richmond. His performances always feel like watching an exposed nerve. He plays vulnerable so beautifully and with such precision and restraint. The rest of the cast was wonderful too. I think Saturday was its last night, so I'm very glad I squeezed it in.

-Sunday brunch at Stella's, my new favorite Richmond brunch spot. I am a sucker for anything Greek, especially when it's topped with a fried egg and served alongside a Blood Mary.

-We took a super, long walk on Sunday to Barker's Field by the Carillon. On the way back we looped by the Pump House. And as a lifelong Richmonder, I was shocked to learn this place existed. It felt like something that should be in Holland, old and quaint and surrounded by canals. I hope to God someone, either the city or a private developer, sees the potential in this now defunct building. Signs on the property said it hosted dances and parties in the late 1800s, and I hope that in the near future it gets restored and used again. Because it's so gorgeous and unique and would be a tremendous asset to Richmond.

-If that wasn't all enough, we topped off the weekend by getting all glamorous and glitzy and heading to the RTCC awards. I am in the critic's circle, but I take zero credit for the success of the evening. I voted on nominees and winners and that is about it. I am in awe of what my colleague and event chair, Dave Timberline, put together. This was my second year attending, and it's such a great time. First of all the November Theatre is full of beautiful actors in fancy clothing, so that alone is fun. Second of all, there is a lot of booze and people imbibe freely, so also, fun. But there are so many great aspects of this event. I really loved the acceptance speeches, because it was obvious that it meant a great deal to the winners. They, and all the nominees, were all so deserving. I loved the dance number put on by the SPARC kids to open the show. I loved the best musical numbers sprinkled throughout the show.

I thought the presenters were funny and engaged. I thought overall the night was a huge success, and credit to all of the people who worked very hard to put it on. The night was a personal success, because I managed not to fall on my face when I walked up to the stage during the "perp walk" of critics. I'm also pretty sure no one booed, so that's nice. I am positive no one threw tomatoes at me, so also, yay!

It's a weird thing to be a critic at an award's show, because you're absolutely an outsider. You're invited to the party, because well, your vote is what drives the party. But at the end of the day, you still judge everyone at that party for pay (very little pay, but still pay). And that's a weird barrier to move past. Some of my colleagues are much more familiar with the members of the theater community than me, but I'm still getting the lay of the land and learning names and faces. I am so often in awe of the professionals involved in Richmond theater. There is so much talent, and last night it was all I could do not to wander around and introduce myself with a constant refrain of "I think you're wonderful." That's not a very cool or critic-y thing to do, so I held back, but despite the fact that I review plays, mostly I am a big, nerdy fan.

It was great last night to see this world celebrated and toasted (and get toasted, ba dum dum...I apologize immediately for that). It seems that everyone there last night understood how lucky and fortunate they are to get to play in this world. As a writer, I am deeply envious of actors and lighting designers and directors and everyone involved in theater. I love writing. It is my creative process, and it is what inspires me and pushes me and changes me. But in terms of creative processes, writing is such a lonely one. Mostly we're solitary in our work. Our true moments of inspiration or creativity, our triumphs of art, happen while we type at a laptop alone in an empty apartment.

So last night I watched, with a little jealousy, as this world of collaborative art celebrated each other. I am really happy I get to at least live vicariously through the theater community from time to time. It's been more than two years since I fell down the rabbit hole into this crazy world, two years full of dozens of plays and musicals. I am proud to be even a fringe part of the Richmond Theatre Community. And I look forward, as always, to what's next.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Falling in love with Richmond.

(photo taken by Phil Riggan,

I was born and raised in Richmond. My dad was born and raised in Richmond. Ditto his parents, and their parents, and so on. Richmond is home. It's where my roots are and always will be. And I love it for that.

But in terms of loving Richmond on its own merits, as a city separate from my friends and family and memories, we've had an off and on relationship. I know that I always miss it when I live somewhere else, and there's nowhere I love coming home to more.

But sometimes we're more "eh" than anything else. Richmond is like family. You're obligated to love your family and do so naturally and unconditionally, but sometimes you get on each other's last damn nerve.

Training for the marathon has given me something I never expected, a new and deepening love and admiration for the city I thought I knew completely.

Richmond is at its best, at its most perfect and lovely, on a long run on a crisp and chilly fall morning. I'm falling in love with this city in a way I never thought I would, the way I love Charleston, a soulful, passionate kind of love inspired by beauty.

Today I ran down Monument, with its beautiful homes and stoic statues. I ran down West Avenue, my favorite street in the Fan, where families leave toys out on the sidewalks 24/7, where kids ride bikes in the street because hardly any cars drive down the street. West Ave has that hidden, secret village feel, like the rest of the city forgets its there. It's smack dab in the middle of the Fan and VCU, but it's an entirely different world, calm and soft and impossibly charming.

I ran through the VCU campus, where five musicians were sitting on a sidewalk playing Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings, that beautiful aching heart of a song. I ran past the Cathedral, my favorite kind of Catholic Church-big and imposing and unapologetically gorgeous. I ran up Main Street, past all the pastel stores and businesses, places where people eat and work and live every single day.

I ran past Lamplighter, with the smell of coffee heavy in the air, over the expressway to Byrd Park, with its big, still lakes flanked by packs of ducks and geese. I turned at Maymont, this gorgeous, free park filled with happy, fat, little (and not so little) animals I've taken for granted all my life. I ran past the Carillon, where on this morning bagpipes rang out loudly. I ran past the public tennis courts, past the baseball fields where tiny little children in oversize jerseys "played" baseball.

I ran through Carytown, past all those restaurants and their wonderful, breakfast smells, the doughnut shop, Can Can, Montana Bread Company. I ran up Cary, shaded by big, steady trees, alongside Windsor Farms and then turned over to Grove, another street shaded by big, solid trees and flanked by neighborhood after neighborhood of beautiful homes. I stopped, as I always do, at the Grove Avenue Water Stop, a sight that always makes me a little misty, because it's such a purely nice, decent thing to do, for a stranger to fill up a cooler of water every day for more strangers, with no benefit or gain. I always stop there for water, and it makes me proud of Richmond that a place like that even exists.

I ran past the Libbie/Grove area, full of people getting coffee or seeing a movie or just out walking with their families and their dogs. I ran to Three Chopt, past a farmer's market at St. Stephen's, past St. Bridget's, the church I was baptized in and had my first Communion in, the church I practically grew up in. I ran down Maple to Patterson, past stalls selling fresh produce, past more teams of impossibly cute children playing sports.

I ran back home down Patterson, and ended up in the middle of some kind of charity walk. The streets were filled with smiling, laughing people, filled with my fellow Richmonders, enjoying our city on a beautiful October morning.

This sounds rose colored, and well it is. I know Richmond isn't perfect. I've frequently compared Richmond, rather unfavorably, to a city like Charleston.

But Charleston, for as much as I love it, isn't Richmond. It doesn't have to earn anyone's love. The moment you step foot in that city you never want to leave it. Richmond isn't like that.

I've always thought that to love Richmond you have to live here for at least a few years. It has to become your home. And then you love it with a stubborn, dogged kind of loyalty, a love born of routine rather than appreciation.

But maybe I only feel that way because I did grow up here. All the places I ran by today are places I've spent hundreds of hours of my life in or driving past. They've been dusty and dull in my mind because of this over-use, because of the way time can turn things mundane.

But there's something about the effect of a long run, of cool air in your lungs and blood rushing through your veins, that changes your vision. Things that were dusty and routine get clearer and more precise. A city that I've known my whole life, that is profoundly and intrinsically a part of who I am and who my family is, becomes saturated in color and life when I'm running.

When you run, especially on a long run, there are these moments of clarity. It's part endorphins, and partly a result of the fact that the physical task of what you're doing takes so much effort, that you can't waste energy on needless thoughts. You get these razor sharp moments of quiet in your mind, which for me, and for most people, is a rare thing. It's kind of like a mask coming off.

And not to get too Oprah here, but that's what makes running an optimal time for epiphanies, for realization and ah hah moments (I actually really hate the over-used phrase ah hah moment, but it fits here so I'll allow it).

My unlikely epiphany has been that I love my city. Not because it's home. Not because it's where I was born and where so many of my family and friends are. I love Richmond, very much, just the way it is.

And yes, I just bogarted that quote from Mr. Darcy. Sue me, I just ran 13 miles.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012


I've been very sporadic with the blogging this semester, and I could promise that will change, but honestly until finals end it probably won't. It's not just that I've been busy, which I have. It's that this semester, more than any so far of nursing school, is exhausting. Mentally, physically, emotionally. I've loved what I've been able to do and even the super emotionally taxing oncology and mental health rotations. I find what we're learning in class fascinating and engaging. But still, after 8 weeks, in the simplest language, I'm pooped, in every way. I need a vacation and Thanksgiving seems like a long way away.

But I thought I'd just share a few of my most recent and random thoughts:

-I love that it finally feels like fall. From the weather forecast that may soon change, but for the past few days I've been embracing the cold and the clouds and even the chilly rain. I love fall. I love sipping red wine in sweat pants with the heat on in my apartment after a long day. I love wearing cardigans and scarves and boots. I love warm dinners when the air outside is chilly. I love the changing leaves, the smell of fireplaces and burning leaves, the pumpkins outside of grocery stores, the pumpkin in beer. Fall feels like change but not in the way spring does. Spring feels like something new. Fall feels, to me at least, like returning to something old and familiar and warm. It feels like coming home.

-I've been desperately trying to catch up on local theater happenings and saw Regrets Only and Hound of the Baskervilles last weekend. I thoroughly enjoyed both but thought Regrets Only had real, lovely moments of humor and poignance (even if as a whole the story was a little patchy and uneven). Hound of the Baskervilles was silly and slapsticky and perfect mindless entertainment for a Sunday afternoon in Hanover.

-I've gotten up to 18 miles in my training. And I am so ready for November 10, ready to get to 26.2, that impossible distance that has been in my periphery all year, but equally ready for the training to be over. I love running. I almost always feel great after running. But as my training weekend runs have gotten longer and longer, I've realized that I will never be a life long marathoner. Because super long distance running, runs above 13 miles, give me this physically empty, drained feeling I've never encountered in my history as a non-athlete. After 18 miles I felt useless. All I wanted to do was sleep and lie on the couch. And it's not just physical. It takes everything I have emotionally and mentally to get through these runs. I train all week and I eat right and I get enough sleep and chomp gus and drink sports drinks and coconut water. But no matter how prepared I am, running for three plus hours (I'm slow), is just hard. And I'm ready to have my weekends back, to not have to spend Friday night preparing for a long run and Saturday night recovering from one. I just have one long run of 20 miles and a taper and then that will be it. After that I'll be ready to run a marathon. And that is insane and ludicrous and something I honestly never thought I would say.

-My birthday is next Wednesday and I will be 27. I know I should be freaking out and wringing my hands and going through a crisis of some kind, but 27 doesn't freak me out. Sure it sounds old, because I think after 21 any age sounds older than we ever really could grasp when we were young. But I'm okay with 27. 26 has been pretty flippin' great. I'm sort of looking forward to what 27 brings. Now next year when I turn 28 I could be getting Botox and dressing like a 16 year old and generally flipping my shit. But for now, I'm okay with getting a year older.
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