The Colonial Theatre Tea Garden

The beauty spot of downtown Richmond was, in 1921, the Tea Garden of the brand-new Colonial Theatre. Herein, we recreate the essence of elegance, joy and hauteur that was once found in Virginia's first real picture palace. Bathtub gin is available at the top of the grand ramps.

Thursday, April 08, 2004

I am allergic to cherry trees.

This actually comes as no real surprise; I am allergic to almost any form of plant life. I’m pretty sure that I could even find a way to be allergic to one-celled flora that inhabit the steppes of Siberia, if I ever had reason to be exposed to them. To this end, I’ve even considered taking up residence in Manhattan; at least that unlovely city is fairly low on trees and other plant life. With my luck, I’d manage to find the apartment directly in the path of prevailing winds from Central Park, and I’d sneeze just as much as I do in the lush climes of Maryland and Virginia.

I discovered the cherry tree issue as a side effect of a trip to Washington. A day spent in a different city, even one I don’t like very well, is always entertaining. My friend Lisa is taking classes at Catholic University and spent Tuesday night; hence, I decided to ride back down to Washington with her on Wednesday morning. Since this is my spring break, I felt the need to spend some serious unproductive time and I’d already farted away a couple of days here at home.

I have lived all of my life within a couple of hours of Washington; either in Baltimore, Frederick, Richmond or Williamsburg. And somehow, in all those years, I had managed to avoid seeing the world-famous cherry trees that line the Tidal Basin. I’ve also avoided the Washington Monument, but we have a prettier one here in Baltimore and besides, I’ve been inside plenty of tall buildings. I have decided that if I must climb or elevate twenty stories, there had better be a bar waiting at the top. The cherry trees seemed something ethereal and grand, though, and I wanted to finally see them.

They ARE ethereal. We do have some cherry trees in Baltimore, but we don’t have three thousand of them all lining a placid body of water. Have you never seen them, either? They’re superlative; the color is the most delicate pinkish-white. When the breeze picks up, clouds of the tiny petals swirl around. The light is almost refracted by the millions of little blossoms and so the whole atmosphere around the Tidal Basin is alive with pink light.

Then, of course, I started sneezing and got a headache and realized that I’d found yet another allergy. Oh well. The trees are beautiful beyond belief and, having broken a 34-year cycle of not seeing them, I’ll go back next year armed with Sudafed.

I also made a couple of requisite museum stops; it had been some time since I’d seen the Natural History museum, which has gotten WAY too interactive. I do not need silly little computer screens that show me how hyenas kill and eat things; nor do I particularly want to see fossilized hyena poop. Just show me the stuffed hyena; I’ll figure the rest out for myself. Worse, there is now a museum shop about every thirty feet. In my day, dagnabit, there was one big museum shop downstairs. Now there’s a special shop for each section—and one devoted to baseball. Much as I enjoy our national pastime, I question the validity of a baseball-themed shop in the Natural History museum.

An eternal delight of the National Mall is not related to landscape or architecture in the least. Warm weather in Washington serves as a beacon: All Hot People must go jogging on the Mall! Thus, I also got great visuals for an hour or so. For an added note, the ladies’ well-turned legs and the gents’ granite chests were often plastered with the airborne cherry-blossom petals.

Finally, I did venture into the shopping district of Washington, or what’s left of it. Like most other cities, it’s suffered the loss of its department stores, and the stylish smaller shops have long since fled to either different areas or the ‘burbs. F street is a depressing shadow of its former self. However, one store remains—Hecht’s, my sworn mortal enemy. I must confess, though, that I wandered in and… boughtstuff. I can hold a grudge against a company for twelve years, but it’s hard to say no to a really good sale.