Nine years ago I moved to Richmond. I didn’t know much about the city, just that the school I wanted to go to, Virginia Commonwealth University, was in Richmond, that I’d probably be fine because I had a handful of friends already attending VCU and living in Richmond. I didn’t know what to expect and in those first few days, I hated it here. I felt lost. I hated the dirty streets and the potential dangerous city side streets we were all warned of as college freshman and I hated the way I seemed to get lost a handful of times each day.
But then things changed and I grew to love the city. I found friends and learned my way to Target and to my favorite restaurants and the grocery store and suddenly this city didn’t seem so awful more.
I’ve left and come back a few times, always because the Army sent me places outside Richmond’s city limits. I left first to go to Basic Training in South Carolina and Advanced Individual Training in Maryland and then again a few years later when I deployed to Kosovo, but I always knew I’d be back. I always knew this is the place I wanted to be, that this place, finally, was home.
Last Thursday I found myself with Stacey at Hardywood Park Craft Brewery were the weekly food truck court locates itself on Thursdays, and as I people watched, sipping a beer brewed just over a mile from my house, I couldn’t help but be a little overwhelmed with love for this city.
I moved around a lot as a kid, from state to state and town to town, and Richmond is by far the place I’ve lived in the longest, outdoing any other city by a solid 6 years. When you move around a lot you maybe don’t get to know a place that well. You don’t have time to develop lasting friendships or to discover your favorite bar or restaurant or to experience all the wild and wonderful things a city might have to offer you. But when you stay, when you spend years in a place, it’s a whole different thing. You can uncover the hidden gems, declare a place your favorite and take the time to locate a bar with your absolute favorite beers on tap. You can experience a city for more than what it first appears to be and you can make recommendations to friends on where to take their parents when they come to town and you can discover your favorite patios to eat lunch on and you have time to carefully select and identify the best place to get pizza, or sandwiches or pasta or a vegetarian dinner.
When Andrew and I realized we were in love and that we’d like to be together forever, my only request was that we move back to Richmond. He was wary at first, not having had any real experience in this city, but in the more than four years since we first came back to Richmond, he’s fallen in love with this city too. We used to dream and discuss living lives on the West Coast, but now we think this place, Richmond, might be a pretty okay place to stay.
The food truck court is a new thing. It started this summer. Richmond has had food trucks for a bit, but they’ve suddenly exploded and the food truck court is maybe my favorite invention ever, especially when it’s hosted at a brewery I can get to in about 5 minutes. There are few things better or more amazing than a cold, delicious beer, some stupid good tacos and a lady friend to share it all with.