As I was mindlessly driving down the highway towards Florida, I kept seeing myself as Nic Cage in”Raising Arizona.” No, I didn’t see myself as an ex-con baby snatcher with bad hair (although I did like his shirts). It was more like I saw myself heading down a new highway of my life. This trip was going to be a new adventure for me. I had no idea what the future held. I had no idea what new things I would accomplish, what great events I would experience, what new people I would love, or what new food I would relish (Let’s not fool ourselves, this last point is by far the most important).
I can’t say enough about my time in Richmond. I had life there. True Life. I had 14 years of wonderful memories. I had a band of friends, both old and new, who were always around and involved and kept me feeling loved all the time. I had great experiences with the food scene. I got to know restaurant owners and chefs and in most cases they became friends. I had a fun writing gig that allowed me to explore my interests in the dining industry. I developed a familiarity and an affection for a city that had become a part of me and I had grown to love.
“Grown to love” is the important part here. It was not love at first sight. Actually for the first 5 years, RVA felt like entrapment (that could have been the job or struggling through the first few years of marriage. OR it could have been the fact that for some reason I thought Pasta Luna was amazing!). I thought Richmond was the first stop on a ride to bigger and better places (there were thoughts of Paris or Grand Cayman or Boston. The first two I get, but Gawd, could you imagine if I had to suffah that awful accent and obnoxious fan base?), and life just kept me there. One day I woke up and realized that while I would love to travel and experience the wonders of the life outside, Richmond was home and that was cool with me.
Then life kicked me in the ass. Some would say the sudden change in my family situation would be a blessing, and while that remains to be seen, I knew my life was going to be drastically altered as my clan prepared to migrate south. And so – Welcome Tampa, FL! I know you have a great steakhouse (Yes, I’m talking about Bern’s and not Outback; however, who doesn’t love a fried onion, prime rib seasoned and seared with a side of tiger dill sauce?), an underappreciated baseball team (maybe because they play in a shitty dome and all the damn Yankee fans seem to think Tampa Bay is just another borough), and more adult clubs that I will hopefully never have to visit (yet I somehow seemed to visit them through the film “Magic Mike.” I had no idea that it took place in Tampa, but now I have the pleasure of having that connection to the city).
I have a new town to love. I have perceptions that may or may not be accurate but are begging to be tested. I have new experiences around the bend. I have new dining adventures (apparently there are other restaurants other than chains and beachside seafood shacks). And over time, I will have new friends to love.
I also realize that I now have the time and energy to try new things. While writing is as new to me as thinking that trying calamari fritte is adventurous, I do have the opportunity to let people catch a glimpse into my life as I make this transition from the River City to Tampa (I must admit that I have no idea what other names the area is referred too).
My plan is to document my first year in Tampa through the eyes of fifty-two restaurant visits. I figure that the basic memoir is overdone and I’m just not funny enough to keep it interesting anyway. However, I do know restaurants, so I figure that if I write about my dining experiences and in the process mix in a little bit about myself and my perspective on life, maybe, just maybe, you could learn two things at the same time. (And that makes me awesome!) And maybe, just maybe, I can find a better way to tell you my crazy thoughts without the overuse of parentheses (unlikely).