When Jon Baliles dropped out of the RVA Mayor race I felt lost with only a few days to go in the election. I swayed back and forth between Jack Berry and Levar Stoney almost daily, hourly, by the minute. i questioned Levar's reasons for running. I questioned Jack's history of championing shiny projects that were not in the best interest of Richmond citizens. I started to feel down that I was casting a vote to stop Morrissey instead of a vote for someone who would be best for Richmond. That all changed today when I met Levar Stoney.
Living in the 3rd district we've been a hot bed for RVA Mayor activity. I could talk about this election for days, so I was more than happy to keep canvassers hostage on my porch as I spewed different scenarios about how the districts could shake out. Today, after a talk with Stoney canvasser and passionate good guy Brill, he invited us to a near by house to talk with Dorothy McAuliffe, Levar and other other supporters.
I don't always accept invitations from strangers to houses I don't know, but he had a Levar Stoney sticker on, so what could go wrong?
There, we got to hear Levar talk to his team of canvassers and newbies like us.
I got to witness his passion and energy first hand. It was inspiring.
I got to have my doubts and questions answered honestly.
I got to find a Mayoral candidate that I'm excited to cast my vote for on Tuesday. Once Jon dropped out I wasn't sure I was going to be able to find that.
I respect Jack Berry. I went to his picnic this weekend to learn more about him and meet his supporters. The difference in vibe and tone in the two events was staggering. I left Stoney's event educated and excited. My mind was racing about how even more amazing our city could be if we harnessed 25% of his ideas and energy. I left Berry's event feeling like "Well, I guess I could vote for him. He might beat Joe."
One reason it took me so long to come around to Levar was that I always thought that he was seizing on a political opportunity to be Mayor of Richmond rather than inspired by a passion for the City of Richmond. I was wrong with that assumption. He got impatient watching the citizens of Richmond be patient - with things like basic city services, schools, etc. (abridged from his own words today). It's time for a leader who isn't going to give us more of the same.
He has the passion for Richmond.
He has the leadership skills to make our city government respected again.
He has my vote.
You can recite the menu by heart, but you peruse it for a bit so you don't look like a weirdo. The glassware shows its wear from years of being tossed around in the overfilled dishwasher. The table is clean, but it still resembles a fly trap in certain areas that catch the palm of your hand. The greeting from your server is "Are you all set to order?" You order your usual, and survey the packed house with a level of contentment that can only be brought by your neighborhood restaurant.
Their Facebook page has as many likes as the one you created for you dog 3 years ago. The only difference is you've updated your dog's page more recently. With 2 posts in 3 years it shines like a bat signal saying "We are what we are, and we aren't going to try too hard to be anything else". The page is sprinkled with upset comments from people who ventured in from outside the neighborhood. Each comment feels like a personal verbal attack on a loved one. "They just don't get it" I think as I stop myself from writing a snide comment back that I'll regret.
While we're waiting for our food the table is turned into a train track for the Thomas toys we brought. They careen off the table and loudly hit the floor. No one hears or cares. The food arrives. You quickly push your junk aside to make room. "Do you have everything you need?", you would normally utter some condiment, but not here, it's on the table. "Looks all good, thanks". This will be the last time you see your server until you've danced your french free through the last bit of ketchup on your plate.
It's refreshing that they don't fawn all over you and coddle to your every demand. If you ordered your burger medium well and it comes out medium, toss it in some ketchup and suck it up. This spot doesn't have to try too hard because it's real.
This place isn't going to get reviewed (It's last review was in 2007) You're not going to take pictures of your food to share with your friends to make them jealous that you dine at the hippest places. It's going to be here when those places are gone. Desserts in plastic wrap, burgers cooked to any temperature besides the one you request. This only adds to the charm. You overlook the faults because it means more to you than food. It's your neighborhood spot.
The imperfections are what I love best about my grocery store.
It's hard to see the faded parking lot lines, but I assume I'm in a spot based on the spacing of the other cars. It's raining and smoke is rising from a group of people huddled outside the front door of the store. An alarming sight if you don't see the "hot dog fundraiser" sign as the group douses mystery meat slathered in classic yellow mustard. I smile, politely pass on a dog, and the doors open to my grocery store.
What I Look For In A Grocery Store:
I pick my shopping cart and pull the assorted trash out pretending that there wasn't a dirty tissue in there. When rolling, it slightly leans to the left, but it's better than the inevitable broken wheel. Deflating graduation balloons adorn a beverage display. I think oddly placed deflating balloons might be the design theme of this place and I love it.
As I zig zag aimlessly through the aisles I realize my shopping trip has synced up with another shopper. I see this person in every aisle. I immediatly get paranoid that they think I'm following them. Person, I wasn't following you. I peruse the half stocked shelves with brand loyalty only to anything with a sale price.
Then....What the hell are these? One dollar for these wannabe Slurps. Sign me up. I'm certain after drinking this your mouth will look like you brushed your teeth with red markers.
My grocery store even has a tiny Richmond merch section tucked away in an awkward dark corner.If you were looking for a tiny teddy bear in a generic Richmond shirt, this is your spot.
As I'm leaving a worker is pushing a long line of carts. She moves them towards me and then moves them away saying "Wooooo" like a game of chicken. We share a laugh as she peaks through the hood of oversized yellow rain coat to say "I'm having too much fun out here" I think, "I love this place".
It's sad to see it go, but we didn't think it wouldn't last forever. Thanks for all the encouragement while it was going up. Richmonders support artists like no other city I've lived and it's inspiring.
Here are some of my favorite pics from people from this past year:
The family coming by:
I get a lot of inspiration from food. Probably because I love food and basically hate anything else that isn't food. Below are some pieces that have been inspired by Richmond's food scene over the past 3 or so years. It's a mix of Style Weekly cartoons, commissioned pieces and some "Just For Funs".
(Images link to the restaurant's website)
All the above cartoons were originally seen in Style Weekly