One writer returns from Broadway to Broad Street. 

No Place Like Home

Three months ago I lived near Rockefeller Center and Broadway. Now I live closer to the Carpenter Center and Broad Street. Though I was born and raised here, I have experienced slight culture shock (and allergies — there are TREES here!) since my return to Richmond after several years in New York City. To ease the transition, my boyfriend and I have spent ample time lingering in Carytown and the Fan because they remind us of the East Village, only with considerably fewer drag queens and rats. We are slowly adjusting to the reintroduction of cornbread and sweet tea, as well as the fact that people say hi to you regardless of whether they know you. Even if you're in an elevator.

Upon our arrival in Richmond, we scampered over to Bandito's Burrito Lounge for a couple of Coronas. When the bartender said, "That'll be five dollars," we simultaneously declared, "But we had two beers." Happily, there was no mistake. To celebrate, we had two more beers.

A couple of weeks after we got over the cost of beer (and our hangovers), we couldn't believe our good fortune when we found a fantastic apartment that is twice the size of my former New York pad, at half the price. After we rejoiced in the fact that it boasts an actual dining room and a washing machine that doesn't take quarters, we decided to fill out a lease application. I could hardly sleep the night before meeting with the landlady for fear that she would laugh and shoo us away upon discovering that we didn't have jobs. Instead, she sat us down in her kitchen and casually said, "No problem," as she handed us the lease, offered us mints, then let the dog out.

My boyfriend and I stared at each other, dumbfounded. In New York, this process usually entails convincing a hard-nosed leasing agent that you have a ridiculously lucrative job, an affluent New York guarantor, and that even though you're in your mid-20s, you have very quiet and mature friends who hate to party or make any noise whatsoever. But before you even reach that point, you can expect to sleep on friends' sofas for approximately three weeks and, to save money for the enormous security deposit you will later kiss goodbye, eat a diet consisting solely of ramen noodles.

This brings me to the topic of food. And three little words: I love Ukrop's. The last time I shopped at the Food Emporium in Hell's Kitchen, a bum hanging out in the produce department took grapes out of my cart, put them on his head and ran out the door to Eighth Avenue. The last time I shopped at Ukrop's, a deli worker ran all the way across the store to tell me about the perfect boxed lunch for the road trip I told her I was taking. I practically hugged her. I was also tempted to hug the man who carried my groceries to my car, a welcome change from lugging cumbersome bags as I dodged traffic and tourists between the Food Emporium and my previous apartment.

I must admit that I miss little things like having vegetarian Thai food delivered at 1 a.m., ice skating at Rockefeller Center and catching the occasional glimpse of Susan Sarandon or Eric Clapton on the way to work.

But those things have quickly been replaced by the joys of Bottom's Up pizza, Putt-Putt and rare sightings of Gene Cox or Steve Bassett. And, unlike Ms. Sarandon or Mr. Clapton, they will say hi to you even though they don't know who you are.

Richmond, I've missed you. It's so good to be back. S

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