I find myself telling this story a lot lately, so I’ll share it here. My husband & I went to Smith Island awhile back, which was a first for me. It’s isolated, sitting between the VA/MD mainland & the Delmarva peninsula, & relatively poor, relying heavily on tourism for income. There are areas for tourists & areas for locals, such as the two restaurants you first see when you land. Kurt & I chose to eat at the ramshackle, dicey-looking restaurant for the locals over the white, glassed-in dining room for visitors, mainly because of the tantalizing cooking scents coming from it.
There was a bit of an overflow from the nice restaurant, so we weren’t the only tourists. At one point I got up to find the restroom. It was occupied so I had to wait. When the door finally opened, I was face-to-face with an elderly woman. She appeared to be a well-off retiree & she had clearly dressed for her excursion. She wore a red & white striped shirt, immaculate white capris, white Keds, & tortoise-shell patterned sunglasses on top of her coiffed hair. She gave me a big smile & said, “This is an adventure!” I bit my lip from saying, “No, it’s a bathroom.”
Now, I often tell this story mockingly, mainly to point out how out of touch the upper class is. This story is a more compressed version of conversations I have with richer Northern Virginia people when I tell them I’m from Fredericksburg. “Oh, I LOVE Fredericksburg,” they say, “It’s so quaint. We’ll come down for an afternoon & eat hot dogs at the Rec Center & watch all the characters!” Believe me, there are times when I have plenty of vitriol for the ugly economics of tourism.
But this weekend, I found that sometimes the spirit of that woman’s words ring true. I don’t think I mentioned before that I wasn’t going to make it to AWP this year; I couldn’t get off of work. But, there was a reading on Friday at the Black Cat that included one of my favorite authors, Michael Martone. To say I was excited is an understatement. So we made plans to carpool into the city with friends.
Due to a number of factors, we got there late. We left Fredericksburg later than expected; we ran into Beltway traffic, & the time between Metro stops added another half hour to our trip. On top of that, one of my friends checked the listing on his phone & it seemed that the event was only an hour long, ramping up the pressure. The entire time, my husband & my friends tried to keep my spirits up. Kurt insisted that we would make it. Bobby said that even if we didn’t, we would still have a story to talk about. I half-seriously suggested that if the trip was a bust, we could always go to College Park, search the U of MD campus for the statue of Jim Henson & take pictures.
We finally got to Black Cat nearly an hour after the reading had started & found it was still going on. We paid our cover & went in & I immediately spotted Martone on the floor in the front. Ok, I thought, if he’s already read, I can at least go talk to him afterward, I’m ok with that. Guess who read next? The man himself. I grabbed my friend Courtney in a huge hug & tried to keep from shrieking.
What followed was bliss. The reading was great, I talked to Martone & got him to sign a book of his I had brought & we wandered around the U Street area taking pictures & absorbing the nightlife around us. We metro-ed back to our original stop & ate cheesecake to celebrate. (I even took a picture of the Black Cat bathroom, as seen above.) But the lesson here is that even if things had gone south & I had been majorly disappointed, I had amazing friends with me who were willingly to go do something else, glad to just be along for the ride.
Even when the odds seemed slim, there were back-up plans, but there was also an attitude of “Fuck it, let’s just do this.” That night truly was an adventure & that was the best choice to make, to go & make the most out of what we could. So I say to you, always opt for adventure. Stick around for the band even if the show starts late, make the drive to the reading even if you’re running late, climb on top of the local parking garage so you can look down on the town with your friends. Give yourself the gift of a new experience. And enjoy the view of the bathrooms.