The only reason I knew that today was World Peace Day is because the students at Linwood Holton Elementary School had placed dozens upon dozens of bright, hand-colored pinwheels in the schoolyard beneath a banner. Nikole ran home for the camera when we saw them turning in the sunset during Thea's evening walk.
Driving slightly below the speed limit on Hermitage Avenue near the Richmond Ambulance Authority, I braked suddenly and gawked with amazement as an ambulance -- returning with no sense of urgency to the RAA parking lot -- casually pulled directly in front of us. If I was drunk, picking up a leftover M&M from the floor or not paying attention, I would have t-boned the idiot driving ambulance #77.
That's why I look so serious. Five minutes later. At a stoplight. Stopped.
Friday was Thea's official due date. It also happened to be the day that the Swell Season was scheduled to play at Toad's Place; I bought tickets for the show a while back, optimistic that Thea would already be here and Nikole would be on the mend from her c-section.
For once I was right.
And so -- four weeks to the day since Thea was born, and on her original due date -- Nikole and I went on our first postpartum date.
It was amazingly painless.
We had dinner at Sette and then made our way to the venue. Doors opened at 7:30, we arrived at 8:00 and the Swell Season took the stage at 9:10. (By which time my legs, knees and lower back felt like a collection of calcium chunks decaying in an acid rain shower.)
We stayed through about 8 or 9 songs before exhaustion (surprise) and the relatively late hour for our babysitters (Nikole's mom and stepdad) sent us home.
The Swell Season (essentially the Frames + Marketa Irglova) was brilliant, lovely and Irish. And it was nice to spend a few hours together connecting around each other, not the baby.
If there is a lesson I should learn from this weekend it is this: Don't let the baby sleep while you exhaust yourself, because when the baby wakes up you are doomed.
We experienced all sorts of firsts this weekend, including the first time I seriously considered whether Thea would enjoy living with the Gypsies -- and how much I would have to pay them to take her into their caravan.
It all started well enough. When Nikole went back to sleep early Saturday morning, I grabbed a well-fed and sleeping Thea and headed to Ukrop's. We stocked up on groceries, ran into our friend Sam Messmer and made it home without incident. Pish-posh. Running errands with a baby is breeze!
When Nikole woke, we headed out for adventure number two -- a trip to the new Lakeside Farmer's Market. Guess who slept through that little jaunt, as well? The seeds for a late night had been planted. But we got some incredible strawberries along the way.
While we were hanging out in Lakeside, we ran by Lewis Ginter and purchased Nikole's first Mother's Day gift -- a family membership, so that we could take Thea for flowery strolls in the garden. The fact that the third Thursday of each month is dog-friendly is an added bonus.
In the afternoon, we headed to the Eric Schindler Gallery in Church Hill for Thea's first art gallery experience. Nikole and I wanted to see Ed Trask's latest work, and Thea wanted to nap more.
We had plans to drop by and see Nikole's Craft Mafia friends at the Strawberry Street Festival, but Thea was sounding a bit congested and we weren't sure having 30 of her closest friends laying their hands on her was a good idea.
Dinner was a spinach and red pepper pizza, accompanied by the latest episode of "Battlestar Galactica." Around 10 o'clock, reasonably exhausted, we decided to hit the sack. Thea decided to go into baby overload.
I stayed up with her for about two hours -- gave her a bottle, swaddled and re-swaddled her, sang to her. Nothing worked, and by midnight she was past the point of no return. She was overstimulated, overtired and just plain over it.
Nikole finally got her settled and to sleep, then got up to feed her again at two o'clock.
For Mother's Day, we went to Joe's Inn for breakfast and then rushed home so Nikole could get some sleep. Another first.
Between our birthdays, Nikole and I managed to eat out more this week than we have in months.
We started Monday night with a white sauce pizza from Superstars laden with garlic, spinach and roasted red peppers. I've still not found a pizza place in town that makes pizza as good as the take-and-bake variety served up by Superstars.
On Wednesday morning and on Saturday morning -- our birthdays -- we started our day at Joe's Inn, which along with Perly's has long been at the top of our list of breakfast destinations. For a period of time, we ate at Joe's or Perly's every Saturday and Sunday morning, which probably explains why we're not millionaires. Now I tend to make breakfast for us on weekends.
We almost died of starvation on Wednesday afternoon. The concrete contractor stopped by to talk to us about replacing our porch, which had been damaged last year during the Great Sewer Fiasco, and he talked, and talked, and talked. We made it to Tarrant's Cafe around 2:00 and had an excellent lunch. We'd been trying to find a good reason to visit Tarrant's for a while, and my birthday provided the perfect excuse.
My mom came over on Thursday and fixed dinner for us -- baked potatoes with broccoli and cheddar, or with turkey chili. Strawberries and cupcakes for dessert.
Saturday was a duplicate of Wednesday, at first. We started with breakfast at Joe's, and almost immediately followed breakfast with another lunch at Tarrant's -- this time with Nikole's mom and stepfather. The lunch portion was not as stand-out as it had been on Wednesday, but the massive bowls of dessert -- bread pudding with caramel sauce for Pat and Ed, and a huge brownie with ice cream and whipped cream for Nikole -- were mind boggling.
We had plans to meet 10 friends at Bottom's Up Pizza for dinner on Saturday night to celebrate four birthdays, an engagement and a pending baby. All of us forgot that St. Patrick's Day was going to be celebrated in the Bottom -- until we fought our way through traffic and past very cheery clusters of people in green clothes. The wait for a table -- about an hour.
After a quick consultation with the group, we leapt into our cars and headed to The Phoenician for the most amazing Lebanese meal. We had a nice private room, which meant plenty of space to mingle and an easy space for quiet conversation. As a group, we ordered the mezze and were astonished as the never-ending plates of food made the rounds. I had rockfish, and Nikole had fattoush salad, and we monopolized the room until our stomachs could take no more.
If I needed a reminder that times neither the times or I have changed, last night's big show at Alley Katz might have been it. Action Patrol, those orange jumpsuit-festooned punk heroes of yesteryear, hosted a reunion show that drew hundreds of local scenesters of all ages (though mostly the under 30 set).
I guess one change is that I found out about the show via the Internet, and was reminded of it by email early yesterday evening. Back in the day, the Internet was a magical, exclusive club; I used to carry a 30-pound Mac SE home from my office at VCU just to play online text-based games on a 9300 baud modem.
But the similarities between 1994 and 2007 are eerie. My plans were to spend a cold evening being lazy, curled up with some hot chocolate and the latest Star Wars novel. Exactly like 1994, except that now I live in a house with heat and don't have to choose between groceries and a geeky science fiction novel. (My wife would probably argue otherwise.)
And then the punk rock gets in the way of my evening.
Because Action Patrol was so crazy, and they threw crowds in a frenzy like few others, I felt some odd obligation to pull a stocking cap around my ears and head downtown. I am so happy I didn't have to bike to the show -- ah, those were the days.
There is nothing like standing on a concrete floor in a smoke-filled nightclub by myself, swigging overpriced beer and scanning the crowd for familiar faces, to remind my introspective inner rocker just how much he hates going to shows. (My inner rocker has a similar experience seeing GWAR last winter.) I bumped into my old dance pal Laura Grace at the door; she made me feel significantly older when she exclaimed, "We've loved Action Patrol since almost before middle school!" She was in town for the weekend from her New York haunt, apparently just to rock out.
Then I came home and Nikole refused to come near me until I took a shower and put my smoke-contaminated clothes outside. I finished the Star Wars novel this morning.
The rest of the week was a bit less rock, a bit more work.
Monday: Did not leave work to see the presentation of the new Downtown Plan to the city's Planning Commission, but did print out the entire 187-page report. Came home. Fixed dinner. Read the Downtown Plan draft report and wrote way too much about it. (Here and here and here, in particular.)
Tuesday: I have no idea what I did on Tuesday.
Wednesday: Planning meeting for the Greater Richmond Challenge III, followed by a recruitment discussion for the Challenge with Stephanie Kirksey, followed by an impromptu chat with the Chamber's Jim Dunn about the Crupi Report. When I got home, Nikole wanted baked ziti. I figured Joe's Inn would have some. They didn't, which meant Nikole had chicken parmigiana and I had spaghetti. Basic, but good.
Thursday: Meetings. Meetings. Meetings. Drove to Greene County to chat with two participants in the monthly leadership development program I'm facilitating. Raced back to go to the Art 180 fundraiser, Art Karma, with Nikole (who just joined the Art 180 board). It was a splashy, but not flashy, event -- lots of art, lots of food, lots of familiar faces.
Friday: More meetings. A quick, but exciting, doctor's appointment with Nikole -- week 16 and everything is looking good. Guess who wanted baked ziti again? We made our own this time. We were supposed to go see the premiere of our friend Ed Tillet's documentary on Cuba, but my head was about to explode from a cold and I went to bed at 8:30.
Saturday: A day that my sinuses will remember forever -- first, we stopped by my mom's house in the morning only to discover that it was being repainted inside and almost asphyxiated us both. But the fun didn't stop there, because our next stop was a two-year-old's birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese on Midlothian Turnpike. Could we get any closer to a germ factory than that? We came home and started cleaning, stirring up more dust and pet hair than we deserve. I ran errands -- Pet Smart, Barnes and Noble, the library, Fin and Feather. And then there was the smoke-filled night of rock.
Sunday: More cleaning. Dragged Rilo to the tub and scrubbed her good. Went into the office for a few hours, and then met Nikole at Costco which I now hate more than life itself. Or, as much.
She still felt pretty miserable on Friday, and was beginning to feel a bit nervous, too. We went to her doctor's early in the afternoon to hear the reassuring sound of the heartbeat and make sure things were progressing well. (They are.)
By the time I got home from work on Friday, Nikole was actually feeling functional -- and was craving Mexican food. Off we went for sixteen baskets of chips with salsa at La Casita on Brook Road. We got home shortly before 9:00 and I was asleep soon after that.
I knew nothing about the Waldorf School, but its bazaar sure attracts a lot of people we know. Most of the day was spent socializing and selling; Nikole ended up having her second-best day and didn't feel physically sick. To celebrate, we went to Comfort for dinner.
Shivering in the cold this morning, watching runners muscle their way between miles 20 and 21, Nikole and I realized that we weren't built for public encouragement. Here are some random excerpts from our Richmond Marathon silent boosterism:
"Why don't you cheer for anyone?" "You're not cheering either." "So?"
"My asthma is flaring up. I can't cheer."
"You should get a cowbell. That way you could cheer without actually cheering."
"Why aren't you cheering?"
"Let's go stand in the middle of that crowd of cheering people so we don't look like idiots standing here not cheering."
While Nikole has been battling nausea and exhaustion these past few weeks, I've tried to maintain a somewhat consistent walking schedule for our hyperactive pup. It's been a challenge. Yesterday, I decided to give her an extra workout -- we had a pleasant five-mile walk during the gorgeously sunny afternoon. With four days to spare, October has arrived.