Friday, April 1: I travel to my favorite city to see my favorite daughter, Sarah, after not seeing her for over a year. She’s invited me to come down to Richmond to cheer for her in the Ukrop’s Monument Avenue 10K she’s running on Saturday. We eat lunch at the Lamplighter, go shopping, and then give her a chance to carb load on Friday night at Pescado’s, a fine Richmond establishment. Pescado’s presents a vibrant mix of Caribbean and Latin flavors using local, organic, and wild caught ingredients whenever possible. I try some of the amazing Voodoo Shrimp, with wild-caught shrimp, allspice, rum, chorizo, torta round, banana, soft fried egg and Habanero ~ very spicy and delectable!
Saturday, April 2:In the morning, I watch as thousands of people run by me on Monument Avenue. I love the festive atmosphere, the people cheering, the beautiful row houses along Monument Avenue, the rock bands playing festive tunes on every block. The race enticed 41,314 runners, joggers and walkers to the starting corral on Broad Street, adjacent to Virginia Commonwealth University’s campus. Another 1,900 participated in the Virginia 529 kids run. Many competitors and spectators wore gold and black — the colors of VCU’s Final Four basketball team. I am reminded how much I loved living in Richmond back in the mid-to-late 80s, until I moved to northern Virginia in 1988. I seriously think that, since I am currently applying for jobs in the U.S. and abroad, I will add Richmond to my job search location.
After her 10K, which she finishes with flying colors, we walk to Joe’s Inn, her place of employment, for a hearty breakfast and coffee. Soon after breakfast, I head back home.
At this point, Sarah is finally beginning to reach the point where she is finding her waitressing job painfully boring. She’s starting to see what a dead-end it is. My wish for her, of course, is that she comes to accept that she needs to go to school in order to move out of this rut. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that she will come to this realization and take the necessary steps to move on with her life.
May 1 & 2, 2011: Another trip to Richmond. This time it is a belated trip to help celebrate her 27th birthday. We go on a major shopping spree at Urban Outfitters, then have dinner at Edo’s with her friends Daniel and Tommy. The next morning, we do another major shopping spree at Target and then I head home.
July 3, 2011: Another trip to Richmond to see Sarah. She’s like a friend these days, rather than a daughter, and I love having dinner with her and sharing a few glasses of wine and chatting. We’re able to talk about everything. Underlying everything, however, is my constant wish for her to return to school and finish her studies. This evening, we eat at another great Richmond restaurant, Tarrant’s Cafe, where I have fried green tomatoes and cheesy stone ground grits with shrimp, bacon, sausage, onions and peppers. She has a dream to be a food writer and you can find her food blog, Let me bite that.
Because of her love of food, she always knows the best restaurants to eat in Richmond. Sharing this passion of hers is something I truly enjoy, almost as I just simply enjoy her company. She’s smart and creative and she’ll always be the little munchkin who stole my heart.
Thursday, August 25: Today, I get a long formal email from Sarah, addressed to me, her closest friends, and her father and stepmother. In it, she states her intention to go back to school. She has signed up for 4 classes and is apparently, after all her wanderings and meanderings, intent on making a go of it this time. She is cutting back her work hours and is determined to devote time to her studies. We have all heard this before. I hope this time she is serious since, as parents, all we really want is our children’s happiness and success. I think it’s a good sign that she has written out her intentions to all of us. Somehow writing something like this makes it more concrete. It makes her accountable. I hope for the best and wish her all the success she can find in this world.
Saturday, August 27: I’m driving down to Richmond this afternoon, right as Hurricane Irene is slamming into the East Coast of the U.S.A. Halfway there, it’s pouring down rain and the trees are dashing themselves about like trolls in a banshee-fest. Sarah texts me as I reach Fredericksburg a little after noon and says “Just to let you know, my power is now out.” Since it’s not wise to text and drive, I call her. She says, I think you should turn around! I say, no, I’m coming and I’m over halfway there. I’m not turning around! She thinks I’m crazy and as I get closer to Richmond, watching the trees carefully along the highway in case one crushes me into pancake-mode, I begin to wonder about my own sanity as well.
I arrive and we go in the pouring rain to a little cafe called The Village, where we eat dinner and drink beer to drown our sorrows. Driving back to her apartment, we see numerous huge trees down in the Fan, with police blocking off the streets. We decide it isn’t wise to drive around, so we return to her row house where we settle in, put on our pajamas for the long haul, and play Yahtzee by the waning light. There’s nothing to do, so we take long naps. When we wake up, she lights candles through her house, calls her friend Daniel, and along with him and her roommate Dawn, we all drink wine and play a rousing game of Hearts. Sarah decides to cook all the vegetables she has in her refrigerator on her gas stove, and we eat tortilla wraps with the veggies inside. Yum! Then we drink more wine and play Yahtzee.
The kids go out to the front porch to have a smoke, and as we’re standing out there, a fat guy walks by with his pooch. Sarah has her dog Bagel on a leash, but Bagel bolts for the man and his dog, pulling the leash right out of Sarah’s hands. A lot of growling is going on and it doesn’t help that the fat man is screaming obscenities at Bagel, whose leash has wrapped around his legs, and at Sarah, who has run out after Bagel and is on the sidewalk trying to untangle the leash from the guy’s legs and pull Bagel away. The man screams and yells, cursing the F word in every breath and threatening to kill her dog. He says, This is the 3rd dog that has attacked me this week! He says, I’m going to press charges!
It’s all a very bad scene and Sarah, who gets easily shaken, is visibly upset. She has done everything in her power to remedy the situation, including apologizing numerous times to the idiot. Yet he continues to berate her. He says to his dog in the most effeminate voice imaginable: Are you all right, baby? PUKE! I can’t stand a person like this who is so uptight and has no life obviously. I can’t keep my mouth closed, of course, and I say, SIR! Please calm down! There is no need for this kind of talk. At that, he turns and calls me the B name and then starts berating me.
This is when I can’t stand being in America. When I encounter people like this guy who obviously hold a grudge against the world and who feels he is entitled to do anything he pleases. Bagel never bit the man and never hurt him. And Sarah was nothing but apologetic. She had him properly on a leash, but he just got excited and surprisingly pulled the least out of Sarah’s hands. This is life. Accidents happen.
Later, the guy walks by us again. He’s on the phone talking loudly to the police, who obviously have more important things to attend to after the hurricane this afternoon. He says, “Yes, well please call me back! I intend to press charges.” I say, after he hangs up and walks by, reiterating that he intends to press charges, that we will reverse the charges and press charges against him. He says, “For what?” I say, for threatening to kill!
We go back into the house at which time I advise Sarah that if that man ever speaks to her, she should totally ignore him. I find this is the best way to treat any annoying person.
We finish our game of Yahtzee and drink more wine, trying to recover from this nasty encounter with our fellow-man. What a loser.
Sunday, August 28: In the morning, Sarah fixes us another breakfast of scrambled eggs and mushrooms and spinach on her gas stove. She makes toast in a griddle on the stovetop. She heats water in a kettle and makes coffee in a French press. We are still without power. I leave early as there is no point in sticking around with nothing to do.
Monday, September 5: I originally didn’t intend to make another trip to Richmond, but three things brought me back. One, since we had no power and were stuck inside last weekend during Hurricane Irene, we didn’t get to go out for dinner and imbibe in our usual fashion. Second, I left my watch and my rain jacket at Sarah’s house. And third, I thought I would combine this trip with a journey to Yorktown to visit my dad.
I take Sarah shopping at Urban Outfitters, her most favorite and my least favorite place. After that, we are both hungry, so we go to a place on Main Street called Bellytimber Tavern, a cozy bar with cool and sleek decor, which is famous for wood-fired pizzas. I am bizarrely drawn to the Mexican pizza with chorizo, Valentina (a kind of hot sauce), queso blanco, red onion, tomato, lettuce, pico de gallo, and sour cream. Sarah orders the Shrimp Pesto Pie with basil-walnut pesto, fontina and Parmesan. Yum! We have a few glasses of wine, toasting to new beginnings for both of us: she is back in school now and I am going to Oman.
While there a big burly bald man with a tiny gray goatee strikes up a conversation with us, introducing himself as Mike. I excuse myself for a bathroom break and when I come back, he stops me. “So, you’re going to Oman, huh?” “Oh, my daughter’s been filling you in?” We chat a bit and he tells me I’m very pretty; it’s too bad I’m leaving. Then he asks for my phone number. Strange that, as what’s the point after all? I’ll be gone in 10 days…. 🙂 And I don’t even live in Richmond….
We go back to Sarah’s cozy row house, where we watch several episodes of a TV sitcom I’ve never even heard of: Parks and Recreation, which is quite cute. I’m so out of the loop with American TV. All I’m used to is watching American violent action dramas on Korean TV (CSI or equivalent), or listening to the Korean version of MTV, or having unintelligible Korean dramas on in the background in my little room.
Tuesday, September 6: Sarah makes me a lovely little breakfast of scrambled eggs, mushrooms, and smoked mozzarella cheese along with coffee. I run her to Barnes and Noble and Target for a few school books and household items. I drop her off and then go meet Charlene at River Walk in Yorktown for lunch. It’s great to catch up with her, although I’m afraid I mostly tell her about going to Oman. I’m such a bad friend…. 😦
Then on to visit my dad and Shirley, where we sit and talk, have a lovely dinner, and I take off to read a new book I’ve gotten hooked on, The Likeness by Tana French.
Goodbye to this part of my family. I guess I’ll only see you on Skype over the next year (unless you come to visit)… 😦