Setting the Scene: Perly’s

Perly's

As I mentioned before, I chose to set Neverending Beginnings in Richmond.  When I first started writing, I debated whether or not to create fictional restaurants for my characters to frequent.  When I was writing the original draft, Sex and the City was in the height of its poularity and I didn’t want it to seem like I was copy-catting the restaurant name-dropping trend.  Ultimately I decided that it was infinitely easier to use places I already knew and that as long as I didn’t overdo it, readers wouldn’t be annoyed.  So far I’ve been happy with the reactions from Richmond readers.  Many people have mentioned that it is fun to see places they have eaten at featured in a novel.  Occasionally  it even prompts someone to share their story or memory of the place with me (which I love).

Perly’s is one of my favorite restaurants.  Recently at a conference I attended, one of the out-of-town presenters mentioned having breakfast there and went on the say that you know a restaurant is good when you are already planning your next meal there before you finish the first.  I couldn’t explain it any better myself.  The banana chocolate chip muffins featured in my novel are amazing, as is the curried split pea soup, the baked apples, the fried potatoes and the biscuits.  Ah . . . the biscuits . . .  there could be a whole blog post on those perfect homemade biscuits*.  Seriously.

Here’s a scene featuring Perley’s:

When I first arrived at the restaurant, I felt relieved that this large group might somehow provide insulation from Amy’s mother, until I realized that the only two seats left were right next to her.  Even though I was on time, the other guests had all come together from the hotel and arrived en masse.  I hadn’t gotten a room, since I lived just a few blocks away and didn’t see the point.  Until now.

“Katherine, how nice of you to join us,” Mrs. Moore greeted, somehow making it seem as if my on time arrival was late.

“Glad to be here,” I greeted and waved back at Amy happily seated at the other end of the table.

“Mimosa?”  Amy’s sister asked, holding out a pitcher.

I took the pitcher from her.  Here’s to taking one for Amy, I thought as I filled my glass.

“Now girls, it really is a little early for champagne, don’t you think?”  Mrs. Moore commented.

“That’s why they mix it with orange juice,” Amy’s sister shot back, rolling her eyes at me.  I’m pretty sure I saw Mrs. Moore tense, but she didn’t say anything.  At least I had an ally. 

I ordered my favorite banana chocolate chip muffin, which was just out of the oven according to the waitress, a side of fruit and a coffee so I wouldn’t be tempted to have a second mimosa.  Not so bad.  Fresh muffins, good coffee.  Lots of things to keep my mouth occupied.

“No eggs or bacon or sausage?”  Mrs. Moore asked.

“Nope.  The muffins are absolutely amazing here.”

“Plus, aren’t you a vegetarian?”  Amy’s sister chimed in.

Since far less-opinionated people than Amy’s mother had opinions about my diet I just sipped my mimosa, took a deep breath and waited.

“I just don’t understand that at all . . .” she started and I just shrugged and sipped. 

She was quiet for quite some time, and I started to think that by some miracle I was going to get off that easy.  But I knew better.  She finally added, “I think there is something to be said for balance.  Too much of anything, even vegetables, can’t be good.”

*If you plan to visit Perly’s for a biscuit, get there early – they show up on the 86’ed list quickly!

My Long-Standing Love Affair with Cities

I’m a city girl at heart and I’m not really quite sure how that happened. I grew up in a rural area and I loved it. The blue haze of the mountains in the distance, the green hills that went on forever, the creek with pockets of clay along the banks, the river with the lazy ankle-kissing rapids. I wouldn’t have traded a minute of it. There was never a point where I sat brooding over pictures of cities. I never created a countdown marking the days until I was free to leave and make my home elsewhere. I’m not sure I even knew I was so in love with all that concrete and steel and glass and brick until I found myself in the mist of it.

Shortly after college I moved to the suburbs of Washington, DC. While I learned quickly that my heart was not in the suburbs, I relished my weekend trips into the city. I loved the click of my heels on the Metro platform; the ding signaling the doors closing, the whir of the train as it whizzed through tunnels. The soaring ceilings of the stations and the hop and jolt of tall escalators made me smile in anticipation of the crowded streets above. I took my place among the shoppers and diners and errand runners and I felt energized. Part of something larger than myself; somehow simultaneously anonymous and infinitely connected. New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, San Fransisco, Denver, Seattle, London, Rome, Glasgow, Dublin; no matter the city the feeling is always the same.

As cities go Richmond isn’t the largest or most bustling. It’s no New York; not even DC. But it is the city in which I have the privilege of walking the concrete sidewalks daily, past brick buildings and steel posts, my reflection bouncing off panes of glass. It is the city that offers up its own unique energy. That both excites and frustrates; which frequently seems to offer all or nothing at all.

Yet as juxtaposed as it can be, there is still the love.