So after being frustrated that the bathroom project will take longer than expected, today’s project was to get my home deed.
I called and confirmed the location by phone and decided on a gray dreary day, to walk downtown.
I hadn’t done a walk from 4500 West to 900 East in sometime, but it would be a good way to relax from the previous day’s frustration. Also, my back was acting up, so the walking would be a good way to relax it.
A quick bottle of water (probably should have had more) and a jell-o fruit cup, then apply a thin water resistant jacket for the long hike.
Oh yeah, I fed the fish first. Got to feed the critters.
Turning onto Patterson, I took a path that had been so familiar to me. The same trip I’d used going to college, traveling from my home to my apartment, the journey to friends and lovers, and two job locations.
The mist filled the air and covered the top of the WTVR tower, but the steady pace became a drum track to several songs. Walking will do that. It’s the beat for life.
Stop to retie my shoelace on the Boulevard. Sitting on the short wall next to the full service station where my family would refill and have oil changed, and thought about the former service station turned into a popular sport bar across the street.
Press on as the mist picked up. The Robin Inn’s board was clear. Didn’t know if the rain had washed it clean or the usual Chicken Farmer John special had changed and no one knew how to price it. Well the apartment across the street as been rented.
At intersections, I wait for all (that’s ALL) mobile machines to pass before I cross. Even with the light and the OK sign, I wonder about the lack of turning signals or the driver talking to a device or the thin air. Better safe than sorry. And I was proven right more than once.
At Lombardy, I turn from Park to Franklin. Not many students out, so I must be in-between classes. I do notice every building on campus now has a sign out front. And the gym looks the same, except for huge VCU letters on the brick façade. These fine stone houses covered in intricate details and black forged metal work look the same as when I would enter the glass doors to see in a former living room or parlor, desk with secretaries on a variety desk and sliding doors presenting professors offices with floor to ceiling bookcases and piles of paper scattered about.
And interesting sign states “Private Property. No Trespassing” on the Pace Peace Center welcoming students and anyone interested in “peace” to enter. Which one do you follow?
The pace on Belvidere is the same as when a friend and I would walk to work everyday.
Down past the motel turned to condos and the parking lot which used to be a stone apartment building where my final class thesis was formulated in the basement among mass quantities of beer and pot.
Up pass the apartment building where the Martin Agency started, a man jumped off the roof, and a wonder passionate girl who interested me to the Irish group “Them” lived.
The always-steady 5-star hotel Jefferson stands like a rock symbol of Richmond and across the street the top-of-the-tower restaurant with a similar phone number to my house and where a friend of mine lived after moving out from his family due to his roaming and drinking habits.
The up-dated Y.M.C.A. looks empty, but a few are wearing sweats and headbands in the exercise room in front of large windows. I still ponder about joining to use the pool, but it’s a long way to go just for a swim.
Pass the library and the Linden Row hotel draped in American flags. Row houses turned into a hotel? How swanky can that be?
A turn to Broad Street I view the construction that reminds me of the inside of my house. Cars and buses rumble over the torn up streets going under a remake. Pass the bus stop where I would depart for work. More parking lots dot the area, but they are far from full. The Hilton appears busy even with the old Miller and Rhoades sign still announcing itself to the passing traffic.
I finally reach my destination going into the glass doors and questioning the guards at the reception desk if the elevators went to room LL4. The guard next to the sign that stated “Have Your ID Ready” asked what I was looking for. I stated I had come to get the deed to my house. He quickly responded that they were no longer in the building and had moved to 400 East Cary Street. “400 East Cary Street?” I responded and he confirmed the directions.
Be a trusting or naïve soul, I took the instructions as gospel, turned and proceeded to Cary Street. Upon arrival, there was a parking lot and a Red Cross building. “Humm, I don’t think this is right.” So it was back to my original location on Clay Street.
I started to look for a basement entry when I realized it was the wrong building and the JM Courthouse was across the street. After being searched by metal detector and wand then figuring out the elevator button system, I found the LL4 room and the deed was quickly presented to me.
Ah, satisfaction, I folded the three page document and proceeded to the exit and onto a new adventure.
The mist had picked-up as had the wind. Walking patently down the “wrong side” of Broad, I passed the National Theater, which used to be one of the three movie theaters I would spend every Sunday afternoon watching horror, cowboy, WWII, and newsreels for hours. Across the street was a large stretch of empty grass where Thalhimers used to stand. The rest of the old Lowes Theater and part of the department store have formed the Center Stage performance art center, but it still looks vacant.
I smile as I pass one of the few still open businesses on this main stretch of downtown Richmond, a small thin space with window full of outlandish colors and fabrics of clothing. I remembered, as a youth going to these clothiers searching for wild clothes would not be found at any establishment in the West End. Polka dot shirts, fringe vest, striped pants (usually too short), flowered shirts and pants, and of course the Italian pointed “Beatle” boots. This is what local band members wore to look different and cool.
Then darting into the pawnshops to check out the inventory of musical instruments. No prizes, so onto the next one, then the next one, then across the street to a music store where a previous band use to practice in the empty third floor watching dancing in the street below. Upon entry I noticed a box that looked like a freezer in the grocery store with Fenders Telecasters and Stratocasters. “These must cost a lot” I thought. The two men inside were friendly but not helpful as I roamed through stacks of amps and checked the prices of the electric and acoustic instruments hanging on the walls. No bad prices, but still nothing that caught my eye. “Thank you for the memories.”
Trudging back toward VCU, I decide I’m getting tired and should stop and eat something. The little bowl of Jell-o fruit is not keeping up with me. Pass the old furniture building turned into fancy vacant restaurants, tattoo parlors, and a phone dealer in the old Welsh-Anderson paint building where I lived during my collage art years.
The “mist” was blowing harder, so at the VCU bookstore I decided to duck in and check out any finds. Wiping off my splashed glasses I wandered the rows of books and art supplies. Then off to perhaps find a new VCU ball cap, but didn’t like the designs, so it was a quick trip.
Back to Broad, trying to figure where to stop and eat. My feet are starting to feel the pounding of the cement, when I realized I had left my debit and credit card at home, so if I happen to wander into trouble, I could honestly say, “ I got no money.”
Of course, I did take my checkbook, so continually wiping off my glasses and passing an assortment of street people, I stopped in a back to get a few bucks to pay for lunch. As I wrote the check, the young manager came up and stated, “Our systems are down.” I looked at the Brinks guys who had entered the bank in front of me and was now flirting with the tellers and the guy behind me. The teller waved me forward and again, satisfaction.
More tattoo parlors, a reconditioned kitchen appliance store (but they were all washers and dryers), the gay club with the name fading off the side, the former book binding building turned into cubes and computers.
“Arbys”? No, I’ve already done that. “Lee’s Chicken”? I want to sit down and I don’t know if I want chicken. “Pizza Hut”? That might be good for dinner. “McDonalds?” Tempting, but not today. “Gus’s Sport’s Lounge?” That would be new and maybe….But again, not today. I would have stopped into “Julians” but it is no longer. So I look farther and decide to have breakfast at “McCleans”.
Turning right pass the leftover Subway sandwich drenched in the rain and waiting for the girl writing on a piece of paper and trying to beat the light, my journey continues. Taking a turn to the right pass the eastern influenced dance studio above a photo shop. I remembered walking up the tight dark stairway to a smoky dance floor with some old high school buddies. At the time, it was different to be on the dance floor instead of playing to the dancers.
The Triple-A pool parlor is still there as is the Broad St. Vet center where I spent so much money for the beginnings of the Critter Crewe. Byram’s Seafood and Steak house is an old Richmond landmark, but I’ve only been their once to watch a friend do stand-up comedy.
The pace has now become a trudge. The traffic became more complicated and the rain was blowing sideways, but a stopping spot was in sight, even though I had to go around another block to get there.
The parking lot didn’t look too busy, so I entered simple white brick building across the road from the Department of Fish and Wildlife. Finding a recently emptied booth I strip off the wet blue jacket and notice the second layer of grey fleece hooded sweatshirt was soaked.
I pull out the deed I had tried to protect against the elements and laid it next to the dripping jacket. With a quick wipe of the wooden table and the removal of former occupants plates, a hot cup of coffee was presented to warm me up. Requesting the “Biggest Breakfast” to the pleasant wait lady in t-shirt and jeans, I started to exam the precious paper I had spent such a long travel to acquire.
“THIS DEED OF BARGAIN AND SALE made this 24th day of August, 1979, by and between BLANCHE S. BYRDSONG, window, hereinafter designated Grantor, and CLIFFORD M. LEFTWICH, hereinafter designated Grantee. “
Three eggs over easy, toast with butter, fried potato cubes, link sausage, large orange juice and grits with butter was covered by pepper and slowly engulfed. A second cup of coffee and some people observation entertained me for a while to dry and regroup.
This was the first time I had been in this location alone. There was an interesting story on the “Today Show” this morning about a senator who decided to go to a lone Marshall Island to see if he could survive on his on. He did well swimming with sharks gathering crabs and spear fishing and sleep in a hammock to stay above the climbing rats. The most import part of the story was he said he could live by himself, but sharing the experience.
Leaving a couple of dollars for the delivery person, I slowly moved to a different pace back to the house reflected by the wet deed in my pocket. Up the long block on the acclaimed Monument Avenue occupied by only two monstrous homes and vast yards of formal gardens, I ponder the future and the fate it brings.
Grabbing two wheels and allowing the treasured prize of the day to dry out, I head to the grocery store to use their restrooms and accumulate yard treats for doves, cardinals, blue jays and all the scurrying critters. They went through all this cold and moisture too.
Settling down, bundling up in sweats and changing shoes, I watch the yard consume their treats as I did earlier.
And my dogs are barking from such a long travel and I will sleep well tonight.