"This is Homegrown, the best little store for local art, theatre, poochie treats and anything else I damn well please."
I mentioned the cookies baking smell wafting through the room. Melissa replied,
"I run an underground barbecue here every weekend, but not today. I was too tired getting ready for this Dog Days event. What you smell is my doggie treats baking, you probably don't want to eat those. I tried them once but didn't like them. They're for dogs. I do make the best tea this side of heaven and have some in the back. Would you like a taste?"An underground barbecue? I love a subculture but doubt I've ever heard of anything so awesome as secret pig cooking. "Sure, I'll try the tea," I replied, worrying more than a little that I was agreeing to take the blue pill to Wonderland. I followed her through the front and middle rooms and stopped at a couch in the back. She told me to have a seat and handed me the tea. I'm no tea connoisser, but the goods is tasty.
"Are you doing what you love?" she asked innocently enough, "This store is it for me. My mom always encouraged me to have a family and children. My dad always told me I could have a store. I did the marriage and divorce thing; I was a playwright and we still have plays here in the front room. Now I'm doing what I love."She went on to regale me with her life's path to Homegrown, now 9 months old, while I sipped her tea. It includes a Howard graduation, years as a switchboard operator, a miraculous home, and whispers from God.
In the end, the experience was a bit like Alice's. I left my house believing I'd spend an afternoon with a friend looking at boutique clothes I can't afford and instead learned the story of a fascinating lady and U Street store. You never know what you'll find on a dog day in August.