Tag Archives: ONE DAY IN RVA

ONE DAY IN RVA #7 ANDREW BLOSSOM: KING OF CLERKS

One Day in RVA is a series on the fabulous folks who enrich our city on the daily.

Andrew Blossom, bookseller and video clerk.

Andrew at Video Fan

Andrew at Video Fan

Who are you, really?
I work at Chop Suey Books, an independent bookstore, and at the Video Fan, an independent video store, one of the nation’s few remaining.

I’m also co-editor of the short story collection Richmond Noir, from Akashic Books, and a founding editor of the literary magazine Makeout Creek. We released our latest issue – number five! – last month. And last year we began the move into book production with Jammer Slammer, written and illustrated by former Richmonder R Nicholas Kuszyk. Both are available online and at Chop Suey.

What did you do today in RVA?
Most days, I aim to wake up at 8 am, but April and I have these two wonderful cats who might decide they need to be fed anywhere from 5 am onward. On this day, a Monday, they got started early. I was in and out of sleep for a few hours, and finally up for sure by 8:30.

As I was getting ready, I managed to get on the internet long enough to learn the sad news of Les Blank’s death. Before leaving, I posted a tribute on the Video Fan’s Facebook page. Not that it amounted to much, but as you might imagine, we’re all Burden of Dreams fans over there.

Like previous contributors to this series, I’m fond of Lamplighter in the mornings, but I also very much like Can Can Brasserie. A full-service French restaurant for most of the day, Can Can opens mornings to serve bread, pastries and coffee, which is strong and good. On this day, I stopped in and ordered an iced coffee and a demi-baguette – which at Can Can means one half of a long, thin loaf of bread, served with butter.

At 10 am, I opened Chop Suey with my co-worker Ward, who is the founder and owner of the store. Chop Suey has been in Richmond for almost eleven years. We’re primarily a used bookstore, but we also carry a handpicked selection of 1200 or so new titles. Monday mornings are more focused than most on the new stuff.

Won Ton is Richmond Famous

Won Ton is Richmond Famous


So as usual we fed the cat — Won Ton, who is Richmond Famous and also a minor internet celebrity — set up the dollar books, and hunted down the day’s internet orders to pack and ship. Then Ward and I went over sales for the weekend and ordered new stock, and I prepared our weekly report to the New York Times. All the while there was the usual traffic of shoppers and folks looking to sell books. Chop Suey has an open door policy – anyone can bring in books at anytime – and for some reason, Monday mornings can get as crazy as a Saturday afternoon. Thankfully, this one was a little more peaceful.

Around 2 pm, I had lunch, homemade green salad and leftover pasta from Kuba Kuba, a Richmond institution, serving Cuban and Cuban-inspired food in the Fan neighborhood. They have a crazy delicious penne pasta dish that they serve in a bowl as big as your head, made with roasted tomatoes and peppers, portobello mushrooms, manchego cheese and fat cloves of garlic. It’s almost too much to eat in one sitting, but if you play it conservatively, you can feast for days.

After lunch, I walked over to Plan 9 Music, a block away from the bookstore. They have a great selection of used DVDs, which can be a treasure trove for restocking the Video Fan. I was looking for Fargo – our copy was recently stolen — but had no luck. While there, I purposefully avoided looking in the direction of the used horror section. It’s almost always great, and I was trying to hold onto my money.

The afternoon at Chop Suey was spent at the register and/or pricing newly-acquired used titles to go out in the store. At 6, I was through, but on Mondays and Tuesdays I work these crazy doubles where I go straight from Chop Suey to the Video Fan. I can’t remember anymore how it ended up that way, but I’ve been doing it long enough now that it seems pretty normal. So, after saying goodbye to Won Ton (which I always do), it was off to the second shift.

The Video Fan is located on Strawberry Street in the Fan neighborhood, on a block that mixes businesses and residences. It’s been there renting movies on Strawberry since 1986, and remains viable even in today’s climate due to the incredible support it receives from its neighbors and all those Richmonders who continue to value video store culture.

Next door to the Video Fan is 8 ½, an ah-mazing Italian take-out place that belongs to the same family of incredible restaurants as Mamma’zu, Edo’s Squid and the newly-opened Dinamo. We are unbelievably spoiled to eat this well all the time. You have no idea. It’s like we’ve reached some other level of being by doing hardly anything at all.
lentil
On Monday, headed to Video Fan, I stopped at 8 ½ and picked up an order of the lentil salad, made with lentils (naturally), celery, potatoes, red onions, olive oil and some kind of unholy ambrosia that turns it into just the most phenomenal thing you could ever imagine lentils being.

Sometimes, a Video Fan customer will say, “Hey, all you guys have to do is watch movies and talk about them!”
And we do work at a video store. So, you know, you got us.
But as with every retail job, there’s a lot of busywork. On Monday night, my co-worker Liz and I prepared the new releases, which go out on Tuesday mornings – not the most taxing job, but one that has a lot of little steps and takes some time, particularly if the store is busy, which luckily it was. That said, we do totally get to watch and talk about a lot of amazing things. When Liz and I work together, we tend to think of store viewing in terms of projects. We recently made our way over twelve weeks through the films of Andy Sidaris (lots of guns and bikinis), and we’ve now embarked on a new project of watching the Star Trek movies in order. On this night, it was Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, and in my opinion it doesn’t get better than that.

Around 9, I went back over at 8 ½. There are many, many highlights to the menu, and among them is the best pizza in Richmond, done in red or white style with a thin crust and fresh, flavorful ingredients. (Here’s a definite tip: if you find yourself at any restaurant in the mamma’zu family, ask after the pizza. If it’s available, order one immediately.) While I truly love the cheesy varieties, I also really dig their vegan pizza, made with white beans and broccoletti.
veganpie
Joseph, who was cooking that night, added chopped onions and a bit of lemon juice. It was great, totally delicious, and way too much to finish in one video store sitting.

We closed the store at 11 pm, and on my way home, I stopped at Joe’s Inn, another distinctly Richmond eatery, to have a beer and try to make a bit of headway in the book I’ve been reading. Joe’s is a fun, friendly spot, one of my favorite places to spend some time. On weekdays they close at midnight, so it’s also a good option for having a drink without accidentally staying out all night. But after a long day I found myself losing steam pretty quickly. So I gave up on the book and headed home, where everyone was already asleep, in hopes of catching a few hours myself before those cats of ours start, “Hey dude, feed us, feed us”.

What do you have in your fridge, usually?

Most reliably? Sriracha, San Pellegrino and PBR.

What was the last album/song you listened to?

April and I recently made our way through the whole of Twin Peaks again, and since that time we’ve been listening to the soundtracks for the series and Fire Walk With Me pretty consistently.

ONE DAY IN RVA #5 TRACY & KENNY-THEY’RE MAGICALLY DELICIOUS!

One Day in RVA is a series on the fabulous folks who enrich our city on the daily.

Kenny&Tracy
Who are you Really?

Tracy Wilson – Product Planner at Hohner USA / Owner & Operator at Little Black Cloud Records / Record Slinger at Deep Groove Records

Kenny Close – Account Manager at The Martin Agency / Design dude at Little Black Cloud Records

Together we are 1/2 of the band Positive No.

What did you do today in RVA?

It’s a Saturday which means we get to sleep in (sort of)! Most importantly it is the only day off we have together.

7:30am- For Tracy, that means doing her usual Little Black Cloud post office run.
This morning also entails getting new tires put on her car. Yay.

8:00am- We have two cats that love to tear up our home, so I tend to start most days vacuuming up whatever mess they have made. I do my morning internet routine and finally give the new My Bloody Valentine LP a listen in full.
coffeekennytracy

9:00am – Tracy is on her way home and I start getting breakfast moving which includes french press coffee. We recently enrolled in a coffee of the month club and we are trying our new beans from PT’s Coffee for the first time. This blend is a little too citrusy for us, but tasty nonetheless. This is accompanied by two bowls of Lucky Charms – they’re magically delicious.

magicallydelicious

10:00am -We recently moved fairly close to Maymont park and a variety of other hiking trails. Our skills aren’t advanced enough to take proper advantage of the North Bank trail system, so we tend to head in the opposite, less treacherous direction. Today, our path is a loooonnngggg walk/hike to Byrd Park and the Vita Course area.
birdpark
In the middle of our walk we stumble across what we find out is the Tree Climbing Championship. We aren’t sure exactly what the event is, but there is a gentleman about 40ft in the air jumping from limb to limb ringing bells. We also learn that it is arbor day. Happy belated Arbor Day, RVA.

toastmenu

12:00 – Return home, freshen up and finally try out Toast for lunch. Toast is located in the Village Shopping Center at Patterson and Three Chopt. It is surrounded by chain businesses and strip mall shops. It seems to fit in from the outside, but the inside has a little more personality to offer. We have the brunch/lunch option today and take advantage of both. Toast is also a Gastropub so we try a couple of beers. Tracy opts for the Weyerbacher Merry Monks which is a yummy Belgian inspired beer brewed in PA. In addition to a favorable Draft, Cocktail, & Wine list, there is also a canned beer menu. I am a sucker for these. I give the Oskar Blues Mamas little Pils a whirl.

mama's lilylla

We start with an order of Truffle Fries (side note: we will eat pretty much anything with truffle oil) and move onto the main courses which are the Meatloaf sandwich (TW) and fried chicken, egg, & sausage gravy biscuits (KC). Our lunch is fantastic and while wrapping up we decide that we want to head out to an antique mall that we fancy.

2:30pm – We make our way to Mechanicsville to check out Cold Harbor Antiques Mall. We always seem to find something out there and today we walk away with a bad ass red, white, and blue mod lamp.

4:00pm – It is nap time. Anytime we know we are going out at night, a nap is necessary. (secrets of old people revealed!) We are both out cold for almost two hours.

7:00pm – We finally pull it together and get out of bed. It’s cocktail hour (again) and Tracy has decided that Rum with Root Beer is a worthy experiment. Holy crap. Rum and Root Beer is so wonderful. You can mix equal parts of both and it tastes fantastic. I would imagine that making a night of these drinks could lead you down a pretty interesting path.
rumNroot
9:00pm – Tracy serves up a homemade Baked Mac & Four Cheese with Bacon. We devour it. All exercise from earlier today has been cancelled out at this point.

10:00pm – We both know if we don’t leave by 10 we are never getting out of the house (more tips for the over 30 set) so we decide to stop in at Balliceaux to see our friend DJ Carlito’s K-POP (Korean pop music) night. What unfolds blows our minds. Portions of the crowd has choreographed dance routines and their energy is contagious. Neither of us know much about the music but find the diverse crowd and sincere enthusiasm for a DJ to be pretty refreshing.
Hi – Five, Carl!

11:30pm – Off to Strange Matter for the Fun Size record release show that appears to be sold out. Fun Size is a pretty popular Richmond pop punk band that existed throughout most of the 90s and has recently re-formed. James from the band also played bass on a recent recording for our band, Positive No. We are particularly excited for him as we know this event means a lot to him and their performance from start to finish is great. The surprise of the night is running into one of the guitar players from Tracy’s first band Dahlia Seed. They were based out of NYC area and the two of them have not seen each other for over for over 15 years. This already sentimental show becomes all the more remarkable.

1:00am – Home sweet home. ZZZzz.

What’s in your fridge?

We tend to keep our fridge stocked based on the recipes slated for the week. Staples include fresh veggies of sorts, garlic, cheeses, coffee, & a few bottles of whatever beer has been picked up on that Monday.
What was the last album/song you listened to?

Tracy – Kit Kats – It’s Just a Matter of Time – LP

Kenny – Emitt Rhodes -S/T – LP

Richmond never ceases to amaze. There is a misconception that smaller cities are sleepy, uncultured, and dull but if you take the time to actually step out of the house and adventure out into it – I mean really take the time to explore it – you too will be amazed.