I very much hope electric cars are here before the liquid fuel runs out, because taking to the road with the promise of sun and fun on the horizon always gets us riled up and grinnin'. When Nancy and I were getting to know each other back in 1978, one bright morning I dropped the top of our Fiat 124 Spider with one hand, slid the shifter into first with the other, and we zoomed out onto Patterson Avenue on our way nonstop to Montreal. Nancy had her light blue Fun Hat on. Just for the hell of it.
A New York state cop stopped us on the New York Thruway with the question, "Do you know how fast you were going?" -- to which I answered, "Yes, sir. 85." Costly, but worth it. You're going to curb your enthusiasm while in an Italian roadster with a long-legged beauty on a perfect sunny Saturday??
Montreal in mid-June is a lovely piece of Europe within easy reach. We saw an outdoor art exhibition in a large park, Gothic and high Victorian buildings strewn with sculpture, a fast-food stop with the sign, Poulets Frites a la Kentucky -- but best of all was the outdoor table at a tiny bistro where we discovered Pinot Noir and Salade Nicoise. That was the door to a big world outside our limited suburban mindset, and we've been touring that world ever since.
This Easter weekend we headed south on a truck-infested I-81 to Richmond, in search of an elusive Spring, hoping to find sunshine, flowers, and old friends neglected far too long. It turned out we didn't need to long for the ragtop; a persistent cold front dragged its miserable self over the entire East. No matter; we were on a mission to find some craziness (and found Cliff in MansLand -- Dr. Demento yet lives!) and see the old haunts and hangouts again.
We met Bob Antonelli at American Bistro on MacArthur in Northside (what a menu!), then slid next door to Shenanegan's where the Bopcats were playing. Mason Wyatt and Jim Wark, whom I've seen on Facebook, were there; having been in the music scene in Richmond for decades, Bob knows everyone, and they made us feel right at home. Janet Martin was there, and in one of those spontaneous moments that make the night memorable, took the stage with Bob and her bass player to play two numbers. This August Bob is returning to France with the Martin group to tour -- how cool is that? Bob filled us in on some of the momentous events in his life in the past many years; if there was ever an indomitable spirit, it's his.
On Saturday we went back to Strawberry Street Cafe for a lively lunch, with Cliff, to relive our first date there. It's sad to see Bogart's gone, but how has Richmond kept almost all the old gold, while adding the silver all along Main, Cary, Broad St.? The Cafe, New York Deli, Farouk's, Crazy Greek, Robin Inn, Ciocca's, Shockoe, Westhampton Theater, The Phoenician, Cary Court, Agee's Bicycles -- all still there! Stuart Circle Hospital, the Little Sisters Convent, and Lee School reborn as condos. Grace Street at VCU is a wreck, and the old Village is a haunting sight; except for the lonely, elegant Victorian buildings left, VCU itself has lost its mojo. Carytown has got it, though; when I lived a few blocks south on Sheppard, it was Sleepytown and I would not have predicted anything like what I just saw.
The three of us wandered around the Fan, found Nancy's old place at 1405 Grove, Cliff's legendary original MansLand at 1024 Franklin, and the hulking former Asparagus Farm building (Richmond's Avalon Ballroom) behind where the Safeway used to be. The color may have faded a bit from our mental pictures, but they are vibrant...the music still plays.
We're all still here, still crazy after all these years.