Tuesday, March 6, 2007

D'Egg and Sparky Donatello

Recently, while planning a three day trip to Williamsburg, my oldest and I mentioned that we'd be near Norfolk, and maybe we could actually see D'Egg. We've been reading about it and its denizens for over a year now at the old blog and the new blog of Wally Torta (Sparky Donatello). The idea grew and grew, amid much laughter and bemused grins from my other kids and my wife, and we decided to actually go even though it would mean over an hour detour from Williamsburg Monday morning.

The whole trip to VA was great - more posts coming - but the trip into Norfolk was one of those rides where you have no idea where it will go. That was part of the draw - we didn't know how this would turn out. It could be a real mess. It would be an adventure either way.

I thought finding our way to East Main would be easy - but downtown Norfolk is just interesting enough that we had to take several detours. In the process we saw the prettifying of downtown that seems to be erasing most of its character. It will end up looking like Norfolk was one of those urban mushrooms that grew overnight in 80s and 90s style architecture. A few buildings are being restored - that was source of some encouragement.

We parked and put way too many coins in a meter and walked to D'Egg. We found it, and a table, and sat down. Immediately we were embraced in the warm greeting and beaming smile of our redheaded waitress, Monica.

After her colorful and heartfelt recommendations, we ordered and I started a sketch. Booths were mostly empty at that moment (except the ones too close to me), so I just started getting them into perspective, etc. I'm new to this, and felt a bit awkward drawing in public (maybe Sparky has a way to do it on the sly), but I was determined to capture something of this place in a way that was more personal than film.
A couple came in and I just drew them on top of the booth I had started. This is my fourth sketch and getting to really like it - but it was weird to chop up drawing with ordering and other restaurant chatter. The results are rushed.

Monica, having heard we were at the beach and had been searching for beach glass, sent her sister Andrea to talk to us, too. It was during that conversation, when Andrea asked where we were from, that I mentioned that we had heard of them from Wally Torta's blog and sketches. It was the sketches that made them recognize who I meant. "Oh, you mean Walter! We have one of his drawings up on the door to the left of the register. He eats here breakfast and lunch most days." (I saw the drawing when I checked out - yep, it's a Donatello, seized by Andrea after Wally drew it on the back of a placemat one day - "It's mine now!") The sisters went on to tell us where he worked, suggested we should go look him up while we were in town... We did actually walk round the curve in Main to look at the building, but we felt going further might cross the line into stalking.

Besides, we already knew that Wally would hear all about our visit - probably twice.

Here are Andrea (left) and Monica (right). They describe themselves as Irish Twins (and the only redheads of five siblings). Andrea said at one time there was another natural redhead waitress there, and then the other two waitresses had dyed their hair red...

We heard about the boat pulled up within sight of the window (a solo around the world race - first one to arrive - a month ahead of the others), about the ghosts in the customs building (because it had been a dungeon), about the work that Andrea's husband does in the port as a longshoreman (he's a rod-man, pulling 40 foot iron rods that lock containers into stacks on those massive container ships), about how Monica went out to the Eastern Shore for the extra low tide during the lunar eclipse last Saturday, about the children's museum over in Portsmouth (the ferry is only a dollar, and runs every 30 minutes)...

The food was good, the service attentive, and the sisters unforgettable. They bring to waitressing the kind of generosity and love of people that make eating out an occasion. (I love to drop into real barber shops in small NC towns for the same reason.) And we found Norfolk has a lot to offer, so we'll probably be back to do more.

After getting home several days later I checked Wally Torta's blog. Sure enough.

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