Summer: a time of ripe bodies and ripe berries. The flesh of people and plants are on display. No wonder so many people eat from the short-lived fruit of romance.
1. What a lovely plot you have. Help out with weeding and watering in a charming community garden in the heart of downtown. Located between Marshall and Clay streets at Henry Street, access the garden through the alleyway. Or check out The Tricycle Community Garden in Church Hill for some new friends with green thumbs. Call the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay at 775-0951 or, for general information on community gardens or how to start your own, e-mail Iammarksparks@yahoo.com.
2. Nature's batted eyelashes. Who doesn't know that strawberries are aphrodisiacs? Well, Ashland is making sure that everyone outside the Center of the Universe is well aware of the joys of the little red fruit with the Ashland Strawberry Faire, June 4 at Randolph-Macon College. Plus there'll be brass bands, jazz, pops and other music designed to excite the shortcake in us all. 798-8289.
3. You can pick your friends and you can pick your berries. You know that moment when you reach for that perfect blueberry across the brambles and your hand alights upon its glistening indigo flesh just as the hand of another falls on your own. You don't?! Just get right out to Chesterfield Berry Farm (call 739-3831 or visit www.chesterfieldberryfarm.com) or Swift Creek Berry Farm & Greenhouse (call 739-2037 or visit www.swiftcreekberryfarm.com) for some good old picking and grinning through August.
4. Not to be outdone by the strawberry.... Hanover tomatoes are pretty sexy, too. So much so that the Seventh Annual Shockoe Tomato Festival, July 24 in the Bottom, chooses a Hot Tomato Beauty to represent the fruit (www.17thstreetfarmersmarket.com/specialevents.php). Amidst the orgy of food and music, the tomato inflames our senses. What would salsa be without it?
Take the Plunge
Nix the heat or give in to it by cooling off in one of the area's fastidious suppliers of H2O.
1. Sweet swingin'. The visible break in William's Dam that enables fish to swim upstream means a trickier crossing for humans, but venture north across the James River thereabouts and head east along the shore of William's Island. You'll discover a somewhat-tucked-away rope swing. Much muck-covered fun will ensue. Check www.jamesriverpark.org.
2. Man-made watering holes. You don't have to drive to Williamsburg's Water County USA to join in a kind of communal bath, as it happens when lines of people share water rides. Simply don your swimsuit and flip-flops and cool off with Stony Point Fashion Park's outdoor water jets, which pop up from the sidewalk of a plaza. Or you can wait for the city to turn on its sprinkler at Humphrey Calder playground, 414 N. Thompson St. Be prepared to be joined by pups and tots.
3. Rock the boat. Gather some friends and canoes don't forget the life vests and "put in" at Pony Pasture. Paddle a mile or so east to the crisscrossing currents of Choo Choo Rapids. If you've packed a pole, this is the place to pitch your line and wait for the smallmouth bass to bite. Remnants from nature's Isabel and Gaston abound, meaning plenty of trunks not the bathing kind to grab and climb. Pioneer your own obstacle course. Let your canoe perch for a while on a rock. With the water level just right, the rapids are great for a little bodysurfing. Hop back in your canoe and drift. Look for blue herons and occasional ospreys. Catch lightning bugs hovering along the banks. End up at Reedy Creek by sundown.
Some people may work on campaigns, drink root beer, take scrapbooking classes or play horseshoes. Laugh in the face of such stuff!
1. Eat bravely! It's not often you can stare down at a plate of food and steel yourself before diving in. But Richmond restaurants have a lot to offer the bold of palate. Take the brains and eggs at McLeans Restaurant (4001 W. Broad St.) or the duck tongue or whole octopus at Full Kee Restaurant (6400 Horsepen Road). If you're a die-hard meat eater, face a horde of herbivores at the Richmond Vegetarian Festival, July 30 at Byrd Park. Call 262-8507 or visit www.veggiefest.org.
2. Back-seat-drive boldly! The Richmond Police Department offers ride-alongs for folks wanting a different kind of city tour from the front seat of one of Richmond's finest. If trouble arises, you definitely won't get to play along, though. And you will need to sign a release form. More popular than many amusement park rides expect to wait a few weeks after signing up for your day in the hot seat. Business casual, please. Call 646-6733 or www.richmondgov.com/police.
3. Whitewater, white knuckle. We've got rapids! You've heard the peals of laughter and fear while riding your bike (with training wheels, probably) along the river. Get in there, people! For your first pair of water-wings, check www.richmondwhitewater.org.
Join the Gubernatorial Bandwagon!
Virginia's gubernatorial race is hot, and we don't even hit the primaries until June 14. New Jersey is the only other state in the union that elects a governor in 2005, so our race will be getting plenty of national attention. Why not be part of the action? Just sit back, pick a campaign and watch the out-of-state money pour in.
1. George Fitch (R). Volunteer coordinator Wilson Nash, (540) 341-7900. www.fitchforgovernor.com.
3. Jerry Kilgore (R). Volunteer coordinator Bill Lattanzi, (804) 421-9966, www.jerrykilgore.com.
4. Russ Potts (I). Political director Adam Piper, (800) 919-0281, www.russpotts.com.
Protest Government, and Everything Else
Conventional politics worn you out? Use the summer to get in touch with your inner anarchoradical!
1. Richmond Critical Mass. The practice of gathering together enough bicyclists to affect traffic patterns draws thousands of participants in larger cities. Critical Mass aims to call attention to fuel consumption and bikers' rights. Interested? Wheel over to Monroe Park the last Friday of every month for a bike rally through Richmond. Check posted flyers for time.
2. Paper Street Infoshop. Think of an infoshop as a radical politics community center, a place where you can borrow books, 'zines, periodicals, music and videos from Che to Zinn. Then come on down to Cary Street and celebrate the grand opening of the Paper Street Infoshop with its month-long "Bash the State" festival. Throughout June, Paper Street will host shows, barbecues, vegan/vegetarian potlucks and film screenings. Open seven days a week from noon to 6 p.m. 2506 W. Cary St.
3. Richmond Food Not Bombs. Food Not Bombs serves vegan food to the community in Monroe Park Sundays at 4 p.m. Cooking volunteers should arrive at the Pace Center around 12:30 p.m. A proud Richmond tradition for more than 15 years.
4. Anti-Foie Gras. Local animal protection activists affiliated with the California-based Defense of Animals Organization have made a weekly routine of publicly expressing their opposition to foie gras, a French delicacy made from the bloated liver of a force-fed goose. To get involved, contact your friendly activists at 1 N. Belmont on Fridays at 6 p.m. or Saturdays at 7 p.m.
Get in Touch with Your Inner Lindsay Lohan.
No, don't get drunk, dance on a table at a club and then leave your cocaine in a cab. But why not test out a little teen culture?
1. Get your hair did. The hot look for teens this summer is long hair with lots of short layers, a sexy tousled look of loose waves, says Jennifer Shafer of Nesbit Salon. For highlights, go sun-kissed: Blondes, try colors like light caramel, vanilla cream or wheat brown. Brunettes, try rich colors like coffee or chocolate. Nesbit offers same-day, e-mail specials starting at 25 percent off. Sign up at www.nesbitsalon.com.
2. Angelina's got nothing on you. Every trashy teeny-bopper needs some ink and/or metal. River City Tattoo's running a summer special: Piercings and tattoos are 10 percent off. If you get both, it'll be 25 percent off the piercing. That's hot! www.rctattoo.com
3. Orange is the new bronze. Everyone knows tanning is so bad for you. But you don't have to give up the look. Try Atlantic Tanning's sunless Mystic Tan spray (www.atlantictanning.net) $25 a session, three for $64.95 or five for $89.95.
4. Take a Straight-Edge keg stand. Now that you've got a new look, throw a rager, complete with a home-brewed root-beer keg from Richbrau Brewing Company (644-3018). Or try the guarana soda, a traditional Brazilian beverage similar to cream soda, made with sugar cane and lots of caffeine. Both $33 and superfun!
Document Your Life
If Britney and Kevin can make one for UPN, why not you? From life-changing epiphanies to the most banal party moments, documentaries are hot, just like Mr. and Mrs. Spears. And what's a better subject than yourself?
1. Write your autobiography. Learn how to get real from Rose Elliott, who teaches "Creative Nonfiction," including memoir, personal essay and voice-driven commentary, at the Hand Workshop Art Center. Two sessions, offered Wednesdays, June 8-29, or Aug. 10-31, 6:30-9 p.m. $90. 353-0094.
2. Film a documentary. Tip No. 1: The audio and the story are most important, says Mason Mills, producer/director for WCVE-TV and video teacher at Virginia Commonwealth University's sculpture and new media department. The man who gave us the Doug Wilder documentary says almost any relevant video will work as accompaniment, as long as the story itself is interesting. Other tips: Shoot as wide as you can, zooming out and walking the camera close to the subject. Ask your subject dumb questions, like "What are you doing?" Shoot more than you need so you never miss that perfect shot, keeping in mind you can always edit later.
3. Become a scholar. Associate professor of journalism George Kindel teaches "Journalism Seminar: Documentary" at the University of Richmond's School of Continuing Studies. Tuesdays through Thursdays, from 6:15-9:35 p.m., June 13-July 8, $951. Download registration at www.richmond.edu/scs.
4. Give into scrapbooking. So you're not exactly a crafts person. Scrapbooking's more than that, says Elissa Gellis Mast, whose family runs two Memories Galore stores. It's about preserving family memories. "The key is taking your photos out of shoeboxes and the underwear drawer," she says, "and putting them on archival-safe products, and letting them tell their story." Mast says be sure to add the back-story so future generations will understand what was happening, along with the mood of the day. Classes available. For information, go to www.memoriesgalore.com.
5. Get inspired. Rent one of the most recent movies nominated for best feature documentary: "Born Into Brothels," "Super Size Me," "The Story of the Weeping Camel," "Tupac: Resurrection" or "Twist of Faith." Or another jewel, "Spellbound."
6. Watch and drink. Style film critic Wayne Melton recommends you head to Capital Ale House at Innsbrook June 5 at 9 p.m., where you can drink beer while watching a documentary about a cross-country brew trip, "American Beer." Get an autograph if you can still walk straight from director Paul Kermizian.
Flex Your Second Amendment
Conservative Republicans and rural Democrats work hard to protect your right to bear arms. But why should the gun lobby have all the fun?
1. Kendo, the ancient art of Japanese sword fighting, uses shinai or bamboo and leather sticks. The Koryo Traditional Martial Arts Center carries on the tradition Wednesday nights and Saturday afternoons. To join, call 527-1059.
2. Bow and arrow. It's all fun and games until somebody loses an eye. To make sure that doesn't happen, call the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries for information on bow-hunting classes and safety information. (866) 604-1122.
3. Fencing. Gracious in defeat and humble in victory, the Richmond Fencing Club teaches Olympic swordplay classes at the Richmond Athletic Club. It also offers beginning to advanced fencing classes and recreational fencing. Appropriate for 8- to 80-year-olds. Eight sessions for $75. Call 359-6780 or visit www.richmondfencing.com.
4. Paintball. You can bleach your clothes, but the shame remains until next round, that is. Enjoy representational warfare at Richmond's only paintball field. Paintball Authority offers open play Saturdays and Sundays or 14-person minimum team combat during the week. Call 897-9030 or visit www.pbauthority.com.
5. Guns. Shoot off some steam on one of 19 lanes at Dominion Shooting Range, 106 Turner Road. Take your own gun, rent a pistol for $10 per hour, or check out their shotguns and submachine guns. Take a safety class or get certified. And Tuesday is Ladies Day! Call 276-2851 or visit www.dominionshootingrange.com.
Don't Just Watch the Grass Grow
1. Win with your short game. The golf balls are colorful, like a rainbow: red, yellow, blue and green. Orange, of course, is only for the best. Real putters yearn for the orange ball, awarded to anyone who sinks one of the other colors into a concrete hole with a single stroke. Oh, you know putt-putt? You do not. Not until you see it played by professionals.
Last year, for the first time since the 1970s, two professional putters scored near-perfect 19s at Putt-Putt Fun Center (formerly utt-Putt Fun & Games) on Midlothian Turnpike in Chesterfield County. That's 19 on 18 holes. That's 17 holes in one.
The spraying elephant is still there. The giant cave, the bear, the pelican. Putt-putting used to be for the kids, that first high-school romance. But each Tuesday night, you'll find die-hard putters going for the gold. No kissing on the concrete greens.
Golfers look down on putters, but stupidly. The putt-putt game is one of bank shots, ones that don't work on newfangled courses with pretty rocks and waterfalls. See for yourself June 25-26 when the state championships come to town for the Virginia Open, sponsored by the Virginia Professional Putters Association. If you can shoot under 40 at Putt-Putt, says General Manager Gary Hinshaw, you'll get an invite to the tournament. 272-4373.
2. It hasn't moved yet. The grass is indeed greener at The Diamond these days thanks to a $500,000 field rehab, and unlike with other professional farm teams, you may actually get a chance to witness the next Johnny Estrada swinging a bat for the Richmond Braves. Find a schedule at www.rbraves.com.
3. For kicks. The self-described Happy Dork, Rob Ukrop, still straps on the cleats for the Richmond Kickers (www.richmondkickers.com).
4. Football without the sun. A new arena football team, the Richmond Bandits (www.richmondbandits.com), are playing tackle football on carpet and concrete in the Richmond Coliseum.
5. Iron men. For those who aren't spectators, check out the new Gillies Creek horseshoe pits, near Stoney Run and Government roads, where there's almost always a set of pits open, complete with concrete runways, lights and regulation sand.
Carl Otto, president of the Gillies Creek Park Foundation and head of the Richmond Horseshoe Club, says there's always a pit open "sunrise to sunset."
"Bring your own shoes," he says, but careful with the Buds. "You're not supposed to [bring beer], but people do. We do ask that you don't bring any bottles." For a list of horseshoe clubs in Virginia, visit www.vahpa.com/Clubs.html.
6. It's all in the wrist. Still just flinging the Frisbee back and forth? Take the sport to a higher level. Virginia State Flying Disc Champion Jack Cooksey says you can try Ultimate, which he's been playing since the Richmond club was formed in 1979 (www.richmondultimate.org). It's high-impact, he says, with a combination of rules that blend basketball, soccer and football. And it requires skill. "When you throw for Ultimate," he says, "you have to be able to throw in a number of different directions, which means you have to develop a number of different throws competently." Registration for the summer league is over, but you can play pickup at Dorey Park in Henrico County on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays. You can also try disc golf (www.discgolfdirectory.com). Cooksey's tips for improving your throw: (1) Add more spin; (2) snap your wrist; (3) step into the throw.
See Stars and Bars
1. Get onboard the booze cruise. You, a DJ and 148 of your closest friends can start seeing stars before the end of your first drink. Eagle Cruises runs several public lunch and dinner cruises down the James on its luxury cruiser throughout the summer including the Fourth of July. Call 222-0223 or visit www.eagle1cruises.com.
2. Take in the planetarium. Grab some popcorn and a friend, and check out your living horoscope. The third Friday of every month, "Live Sky" at the Ethyl IMAX Dome gives a monthly rundown of the happenings in our celestial neighborhood. 864-1400.
3. Be a star! Check in with the Virginia Film Office for opportunities to be an extra in Tom Hanks' upcoming series about John Adams. Call (800) 641-0810 or visit www.film.virginia.org. Feel like your acting capabilities are not up to snuff? You can take private acting lessons from local actor Mark Joy (www.markjoy.com). He's done it all, including a long-running stint as Sheehy auto spokesman Mark Down. And he was just cast to take over Paul Giamatti's role in the film "Big Momma Two."
4. Mars Bar serves the rare green liqueur absinthe. To properly imbibe absinthe rumored to be mildly hallucinogenic, and recently tapped by a men's magazine as the drink most likely to start an orgy you must first drop a flaming sugar cube into the glass. Ten dollars will get you a shot of the stuff plus a paperback copy of "Alice in Wonderland." 644-6277.
5. Prepare for 2007. We won't be celebrating America's 400th birthday until 2007, but apparently it's not too early to start celebrating. Richmond Region 2007 says the kickoff begins July 2-3, with the James River Adventure Games (www.sportsbackers.org). It features fishing contests, kayaking and fireworks.
6. Stars and Stripes. Richmonders have always had a funny way of showing their patriotism. For instance, in 1808 our fore-citizens' resolve that only liquor produced in this country would be drunk on the Fourth of July. The Richmond Braves take on the Columbus Clippers and get fireworks win or lose. Brown's Island and Dogwood Dell will host pyrotechnics displays too. We'll fill you in on the festivities in our June 29 issue.
Heat Things Up
"It's a sexy time of year," says Richmond-based romance expert Jason Tesauro, who co-wrote "Modern Lover: A Playbook for Suitors, Spouses & Ringless Carousers" with Phineas Mollod and is a columnist for Cosmo and Men's Health.
1. Move quickly. Relationships tend to get shaken up after Valentine's Day, when the thrill is gone. So by the spring, Tesauro says, people tend to switch partners which means summer's the time to strike. But if things aren't working, get out by Labor Day, he advises: "Once you cross Thanksgiving, you're locked in for that relationship." Why? You meet parents, you exchange Christmas presents, and suddenly you have an automatic New Year's Eve date.
2. Don't overlook the obvious. Dating doesn't have to be complicated or extravagant. Try simple things: movies, dinners, picnics a trip to the planetarium. "At this new, early phase," Tesauro says, "it's easier to hit it out of the park, because expectations tend to be lower."
3. Picnics? "Picnics are underrated," he says. "They've got a cliché attached, ... but what you put in the wicker basket that's your personality. It's the difference between going out on the town and bringing people back to your place." Try a great cheese from River City Cellars or select some gourmet olives. "Finger foods allow you to get a little closer," he says. "Don't be shy."
4. Vineyard seduction. Watch "Sideways." That should be enough to convince you of the romantic power of grapes. Rent a convertible and visit Virginia's wine country.
5. Bocce and baguettes. Italians know romance, and Tesauro isn't afraid to pull out a game from the old country bocce (www.bocce.com). "You're trying to land your balls closest to a neutral ball," he says. "It's a finesse game." It's original, it's European, and you can play it anywhere with a glass in hand. Plus, he says, "you'll show off your hand-eye coordination to a new flame."
Go Out of Town, Out of Mind
As it is travel to pass beyond the borders of the city, so too is it travel to pass beyond the borders of the mind.
1. Expose yourself to art at White Tail Park's 15th Annual Open House and Nude Art Show and Open House, June 4-5, near Ivor. The nudist resort hosts an open house for people to ponder the nude form. The resort also hosts an art show for people to ponder the nude form. It's two naked birds with one naked stone. Call (800) 987-6833 or visit www.whitetailpark.org (and don't go looking for naughty pictures, you little monkeys). If you don't want to go to White Tail, Texas Beach is Richmond's own nude beach on the James. Find it on the north end of the river at the end of Texas Avenue.
2. Red, white and blush. According to Wine Enthusiast Magazine, America is three years away from becoming the largest consumer of wine in the world. Take that, France! (And, to a lesser degree, Italy!) Anyway, Richmond is surrounded by wineries as if they're closing in for the kill. So just give in to it. The wineries make it easy: They have summer festivals and tastings most weekends, plus special events. Head out to the Vintage Virginia wine festival June 4-5 to sample wines from all over the state (http://.showsinc.com/vvwine). Cooper Vineyards hosts a Summer Solstice Festival June 11 call (540)894-5253 and check out the Wine Down the Music Trail in Floyd, July 2-3 www.winedownthetrail.com.
3. Lions and tigers and eerie connections. Take a journey to the Byrd Theatre. The Saturday midnight movies will ship you to the realm of the weird, the kitsch or the cult. A timeless favorite, of course, is "Wizard of Oz," brought to the Byrd screen with a soundtrack by Pink Floyd. The infamous "Dark Side of Oz," playing July 2, celebrates the legend of the synchronization of "Dark Side of the Moon" with the timeline of Dorothy's travels. It should be a trip, all right. 353-9911.
4. Pack in, pack out. Floyd Fest in good old Floyd has a lot of music to pack into some pretty country July 29-31. Headlining is folk-rock queen Ani DiFranco, but expect to hear zydeco, rock, bluegrass, Afro-beat, klezmer, Celtic and country. If you've never been to Floyd before, just roll your windows down and listen for the music in the mountains. Check out www.floydfest.com.
Be So Very Richmond
After all, we are a red state.
1. The sport of kings. Shirley, the ancient and magnificently sprawling Charles City County estate where Robert E. Lee's mother was born and the 12th continuous generation of the Carter family resides, hosts the Shirley Polo Cup Saturday, June 11. Beginning at 11 a.m., tailgating is welcome, or there are options for a fancy brunch buffet before the ponies take the field. Broad-brimmed hats for the ladies are not just de rigueur but practical, since it promises to be hot out there on the banks of the James. The annual polo match benefits the Historic Richmond Foundation. See www.shirleypolocup.com or call 643-7407.
2. Explore the commonwealth. Not all of the excitement on the roads this summer takes place as you exit the city via the interstates to points north, south, east or west. Try a less-traveled thoroughfare at a far slower pace and discover some part of Virginia you haven't explored before. Goochland County isn't just local horse country and an address of choice of the local gentry. It's also home to such penal institutions as the State Correctional Center for Women on Route 6. See your tax dollars at work and a beautiful landscape by motoring through the prison, and wind down the road to the James River and across the bridge that links the state facility with the state penal institution in Powhatan. Beaumont, residence for troublesome youths, is just a few miles west off State Highway 522.
3. Make your afternoon just grand. Mow the lawn, dust off the croquet set, invite a slew of friends and don your whites for an afternoon garden party cum croquet. It is an evil game that brings out, well, shall we say, a mean streak in folks. But in their whites, they look so good being so bad. Be sure to have an ample spread of food and beverages to take the edge off the competition.
See Dead People
Virginia loves its history so much it'll dig it up, dust if off and force it to walk around talking about how to salt meats or blow glass. After all that trouble, shouldn't we learn a little something from the spirits of our ancestors?
1. Don't ruin the ending! Civil War re-enactments really pick up steam in the summer months: Blue and gray are the colors of the season. Henrico County Recreation and Parks hosts its annual Civil War Encampment and Battle June 4-5 at Dorey Park. Check out how both sides lived and fought during the day. And check out how they shook a leg at the dance at night! 501-5520.
2. Pardon me, I believe you have my musket. Pamplin Historical Park in Petersburg will give you that daily fix of living history with interpreters giving you the skinny on Virginia life in the 19th century, from hardtack to hardware to harvesting. The Old Time Fair, June 25-26, offers a glimpse of old-fashioned fun. And for a true immersion experience, the park offers The Civil War Adventure Camp, where you can suit up on the side of your choice, go through drills, handle muskets with your friends, and then kill them, friendly-like, in mock skirmishes. Check for camp dates at www.pamplinpark.org.
3. Ye Olde Road Trippe. Pack a clean pair of breeches for the Virginia Renaissance Faire, weekends in June at the Lake Anna Winery in Spotsylvania. Sir Walter Raleigh will be there, as will the Queen's greyhounds. Music, dancing, large pieces of meat and knights: Party like it's 1599. Check out the Webbe syte: www.varf.org.
4. Dead can dance. And of course we have Hollywood Cemetery, a ghost- hunter's dream. Notable specters include the resident of Poole's tomb, called by some the Vampire's Tomb. Warm nights make for pleasant ghost hunting or ghost-running-away-from.
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