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.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Once upon a time, there was a very old college with a very good football team. The college was small and known mostly to Virginians and history majors, but its football team was called--for several years following the second World War--the Terror of Dixie.

That college, naturally, is William and Mary, and its football team is still reasonably good, though I don't think that we've been able to lay claim to the title of "Terror of Dixie" for quite a few years now. One thing you should know, if you ever intend to bet on college sports that don't involve a giant Midwestern school, is that if W&M is winning in the first quarter, they WILL lose the game. The Tribe's best defense is a panicked rally sometime in the second half.

I therefore take it as a good omen for future races that, in my first race of the season, my horse came in dead last.

Pimlico's Season opened today and I hightailed it to the track the minute that school let out. Opening Day is always on a weekday and so the melange of humanity is interesting to say the least. The Clubhouse dining room is full of those who do not have to have jobs, but the trackside seats and grandstand have a different set. Every little old lady in Maryland is there happily placing her two-dollar bets. There are a few Young Exec types who manage to invent a late afternoon meeting to escape the Redwood street offices, but mostly the grandstand crowd is given in vast numbers to those who don't hold a nine-to-fiver.

Construction workers generally work by the hour anyway and so they can get off early enough for the 1 PM opening race. (Unfortunately, few of them bother to shower before heading out Park Heights avenue...) City cops and firemen, and their brethren from surrounding counties, must draw lots in advance to get the day's shift off. They're all there en masse. Shortly after three o'clock, the teachers start showing up.

Baseball may be the American pastime, but it is only racing that seems to appeal to Marylanders across the board. While chugging beer and waiting for the 8th (on the turf), I observed two English teachers from Patterson High, the heir to about one-third of Frederick County, and a guy who was obsessively picking up discarded tickets, trying to find an accidentally-lost winner.

I watched and bet on four races and only one brought me any return whatsoever, and that was fairly dismal. Let's hope that the W&M paradigm holds fast: if it does, I should be doing pretty well by Preakness Day, and the last day of racing season should allow me to retire within the year.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Isn't it always exciting to discover someone whose birthday falls within one or two days of your own, or especially on your own? I think it is, and even more so if that person was born in the same year, and really exciting if you were born in the same city. Several years ago I met a girl who was born a day before I was, in the same city--and since metropolitan Greenville has but one hospital, we were surely there at the same time.

I do not know why this is so surprising. Even taking the population of Baltimore into consideration, there are a mere 365 days in the year, eight hundred thousand in the city, and nearly two million in the metropolis. Natch, there are more people born at other times of the year than others, so a plain division doesn't truly work, but my calculator tells me that in a metropolitan area of this size, chances are that somewhere in the neighborhood of fifty thousand other people were born on the same day of the year that I was.

And so, the idea of a momentous occasion taking place on my birthday should really come as no surprise whatsoever, but it's always interesting.

For eons now, I've entertained the idea of having my portrait painted. I am an extremely vain being. In my day, I could actually turn some heads; now I still can, but the heads in question tend to be a little bit more whiskey-enriched these days. If I get someone to paint the picture, I'll have to have editing rights to make sure that the portrait shows a dashing young man about town in evening clothes, and not something resembling a bratwurst stuffed into black wool and white pique.

Barring the idea of a portrait, for now--if you can actually find a portraitist worth a damn, these days, it's frightfully expensive--I thought that I might take the rather more proletarian route of a nice studio portrait. Now, there were several nice studios in Baltimore once upon a time, but they've long followed Hutzler's (but not Hauswalds! see previous post) into the grave. Richmond is still possessed of the wonderful old Dementi Studio and it is there that I'll have my soft-focus, sepia toned picture made. The good people at Dementi have made crusty Grace Street dowagers beautiful for ninety years, so they'll surely do a good job of me. No one will recognize me, but the picture will look handsome even if I don't.

In a perfect world I would live in Richmond anyway, and I'd have simply telephoned Dementi and set up an appointment, but it's not a perfect world and I don't, but the imperfect world does offer the 'net, so I found their site. Of course they can do exactly what I want. They also have some pictures from their archive online. I like few things more than views of my favorite city so I spent some happy minutes looking at pictures of Richmond "way back when." There's a picture of Miller and Rhoads in the '20s, before the top two floors were ethereal picture of the Hotel Jefferson, towers rising above the linden trees... a picture of Broad street with about three hundred people busily shopping. And what's this? The thumbnail was titled "Richmond's Last Streetcar."

Well, I couldn't resist that. I'm quite proud of the fact that my two favorite cities made streetcars happen. Richmond had the first electric streetcars in the world and Baltimore had the first fully electrified streetcar system. Both have sadly lost this most effective and useful form of transit. So, I clicked.

Guess when Richmond's last streetcar ran? Precisely twenty years before I was born. I do have a tendency to be late for things, but twenty years late is a bit ridiculous, don't you think? Here's the link to the picture:

That picture, if you're not an habitue of Richmond, is on Main street in front of the Post Office. And very clearly dated: November 29, 1949.

It's often said that I'll be late for my own funeral. Unfortunately, I missed the funeral of GRTC by twenty years--to the date.

Monday, April 10, 2006

The first couple of days of Spring Break are over and I have to start being a productive life form for a while. This house looks like a war zone. I haven't cleaned in eons, even by my own lackadaisical standards. I believe firmly that no respectable Southern person ever has a really clean house. The "nice people" of the South regard excessive cleanliness as a creepy Northern trait. If one has no bloodline, one makes up for it in Lysol. Thus, I see absolutely nothing wrong with four inches of cat hair and dust blanketing the whole house, as long as the silver is impeccably polished. Unfortunately, my own argument is getting the better of me. Not only are there six inches of cat hair on every square inch of red velvet sofa, the silver is looking absolutely leprotic.

Knowing that Monday means a frenzy of attempted housekeeping, I spent today doing as little useful activity as possible. First of all, I blew off going to Mass, which is probably not scoring any brownie points with God. Blowing off Sunday Mass is bad enough, but on Palm Sunday it's probably landing me some serious extra time in Purgatory. I then proceeded to fart around for the rest of the day and drive around aimlessly with Steve and Amy.

At some point in the day's wandering, after checking out bookstores, test-driving overpriced cushy mattresses and funky stuff at Sunny's Surplus (they actually have surplus MREs, so I'm thinking I need to have an Armed Forces dinner party soon), we needed some cold drinks and ducked into a Royal Farms store. If you are not from the Mid-Atlantic region you're probably not familiar with this chain. It's a big improvement on 7-Eleven, and it has better hot dogs.

Like all convenience stores, Royal Farms peddles some basic food items for those who discover that they need such things at weird hours of the night. And what, to my wondering eyes should appear, but...

Hauswald's bread. Two days after I waxed sentimental about the old bakery chain, I was confronted with a giant display of the stuff. They haven't changed the wrapper one iota in thirty years. I didn't buy any today (I don't happen to need any bread at the moment), but I may just change my shopping habits to allow the time-honored old brand back into the house. Maybe if I keep haunting the Royal Farms baked-goods aisle, I'll even find some "Let's Streak" cookies.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

I love my friends.

Oh, I know, everybody does; if you didn't, they wouldn't be your friends, ja?

But, browsing through some old photos, I marvel at how much we've changed--and how much we remain the same--and how much we still love each others' company.

I found a picture from Jen and Stew's wedding. There we all are, except the bride and groom. It is an inevitable fact of weddings that no one ever gets to actually hang out with the bridal pair. They're so busy greeting everybody that they never really get to visit with anybody. This is, I believe, a necessary evil.

What I do remember about Jen and Stew's wedding is that Jennifer had never looked more beautfiul and radiant (and she is a rather lovely woman), and that Stewart (who I'd always known as a quiet and reserved gentleman) was suddenly the man of the hour. The hochzeitspaar (remember your German, now!) danced beautifully and, to their eternal credit, have continued to dance well and often in an era when social dancing is no longer fashionable. I think I owe Jen several drinks; last summer when we all went to Glen Echo Park for an afternoon, she did a yeoman's duty dancing with Stewart, Mike, Kirk and me. Dancing with me is no fun if you don't like wild Charlestons, but Jen is a good sport and put up with it all.

Anyway, back to the topic at hand. In the photograph I found, here we all were in fine form and dressed for our friends' wedding. Here is Alex, looking very suave (he always lends the California dash to our otherwise stodgy Virginia affairs). Beside him is Anji--now his wife and, I'm proud to say, my ex-girlfriend, beautiful as always and full of vivacity. I'm in the middle of the photo. After all, I do like to be the center of attention. I seem, in the picture, to be herding my flock around me, just the way I like it! Bill and Pam are there too, still almost newlyweds themselves, the perfect image of the young and happily married couple. Oh, and there's Whitney--I know she'll hate the term "bubbly," but she just is that and it shows so well in the picture. Beside us are Mike (with usual goofy smile--sorry, Mike!) and Catherine, who'd just lately entered the group and had not yet become Frau Dolinska. Mike is looking rather bubbly himself and Catherine is--as always--poised and elegant, probably not yet sure what to make of these idiots to whom she'll soon be attached.

This is a great picture. Here we all are, about ten years ago, all of us happy and full of life. I treasure this photograph. Everybody in it has suffered pain and heartache since the camera captured us. All of us have known joy as well. There have been births and deaths. Some have moved to different climes. We've drifted apart a little bit, but not too much. We still gather once in a while and the aura is the same as always. These people in that photograph are the ones who I know will surround me always, in spirit if not in person. There may be no more Hotel Chamberlin and no more Delta Gamma Golden Anchor Ball; no Sig Ep Sweetheart Dance or Confederate Ball at the Jefferson, but my people will be with me forever.

I know that this is a rather maudlin post, but I know that most of the people reading it are among those aforementioned, so I know you'll forgive the weepy sentiment. When I kick it for good, I'm not sure if I'll end up in Green Mount (with my family) or Hollywood (overseeing my beloved Richmond), but I do know that I want everbody to see that one photograph from Jen and Stew's wedding.

Damn, we were all hot and we knew how to have a good time.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Aha. The blog seems to have returned to existence; it got lost in cyberspace for a while. Damn, that was close.