Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Dont Tell Me What the Poets are Doing

Wear sunscreen.

Twice over my birthday weekend, I heard that cheesy Baz Luhrman spoken word piece written as a mock graduation speech and played ad nauseum during its heyday. You know, the one written from the viewpoint of an older woman who's fairly sure she's figured a few things out.

Of all the unlikely birthday happenings - and there were several - one had to be the hour spent talking to my aunt/godmother, a woman I rarely see but with whom I share a passion for theater, ballet and the like. At 70-something, she has season tickets to the opera for the first time in her life. That fascinates me, that she's still trying new things.

I hear about the feminist meetings she went to when she was a young woman working at the World Bank on early computers and how strident she found some of the organizers. How even though she never had children, she's appalled at the parenting she sees today. How she resented being picked up from school and missing a school play because I was being born and my Grandfather wanted company at home.

Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth. Oh, never mind. You will not understand the power and beauty of your youth until they've faded.

On the other hand, you will never be younger than you are today, so why not smile when the phones come out for birthday pictures? Although we're still tallying up the results, birthday photos appear to have been taken at Metzger, Nota Bene, L'Opossum, Acacia and Lucca. Only Garnett's was spared.

So. Much. Documentation. ("At least I'm not Instagramming it!" one photographer says).

The tasting menu and wine pairings at Acacia made for a beautifully leisurely meal with exquisite bites -white anchovies over radicchio, skate wing, venison over farro, calamari with curry - following sublime sips (thoughtfully chosen, as with Newton Cabernet Sauvignon or delightfully different as with Kesselstatt Riesling tasting of lime and stone fruit), set to a soundtrack that included Chaka Khan and Barry White.

Came home to a friend's message improvising a song about my extended birthday celebrating, a tuneful message that uses up every second of the recording mocking me.


I do, every day, before I go out to have my evening adventure, having taken up the habit when I read that doing so could add six years to my life. Do you know how much fun I could have in those six years? When I told a friend this is why I took up flossing, she responds, "Of course it is."

We managed to close down Acacia, with Robinson Street long since having rolled up the sidewalks, me clutching three itineraries in my hand. How to choose?

Enjoy your body. Use it every way you can. Don't be afraid of it or what other people think of it.

After a sunny lunch at Garnett's with an old radio friend who insists on double chocolate chess pie to celebrate, I go into full birthday girl mode, meaning I had a massage (hella good birthday gift) and then went to Victoria's Secret to buy bras, including a purple one that fellow Gemini Prince would have given the thumbs' up to.

For that matter, as I got ready to go out tonight I listened to the radio playing all Dylan and Dylan covers in tribute to my fellow Gemini's 75th birthday today.

Understand that friends come and go, but with a precious few, you should hold on. Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle, because the older you get, the more you need the people who knew you when you were young.

That would be Leo and Bonnie, she another fellow Gemini. I love when you two remind me how little and how much I have changed.

Tonight's social companion is another fellow Gemini and when she comes to pick me up, I suggest we walk. My jaw drops when she tells me she's worn cute shoes and prefers to drive. Not ten minutes earlier, I'd chosen sensible shoes over cute, just about certain she'd show up ready to hit the pavement.

"Go put on your cute shoes," she directs me and I do.

Whether anyone at Lucca notices or not is debatable, but the feast we enjoy constitutes all the food - Maryland and Newfoundland oysters, an octopus and potato salad that could inspire poetry, clams in green garlic sauce, mushroom and Gruyere risotto, charcuterie and cheese, roasted calamari with fresh garbanzo beans and mushrooms - leaves us so full that even our shoes feel a tad tight on our feet.

Then I remember my mother's rule that everyone has a corner in their stomach for dessert, so we gorge on chocolate hazelnut crostada and panna cotta.


And travel to romantic places while you still have a romantic bone left in your body. Like Dublin...or Vienna, Prague and Budapest...or Paris and the Loire. But definitely travel, and not with hot rollers or there will be ultimatums.

Advice is a form of nostalgia.

Power and beauty fade, albeit a bit more slowly with judicious use of sunscreen, but birthdays are forever. Or at least a solid week or so.

Monday, May 23, 2016

A Voice of Reason

We've been through a lot together, and most of it was your fault
~wording on birthday gift (box of out-sized matches)

I hear this a lot, but that stuff wasn't my fault, just a byproduct of, you know, having fun.

Besides, birthdays aren't a sprint, they're a marathon.

They're an opportunity to discuss the Oxford comma, which happened at Metzger while drinking Anton Bauer Zweigelt Rose, eating a cheese plate and a charcuterie plate and listening to vintage soul thanks to a Taurus also obsessed with my favorite New Jersey DJ.

For the birthday girl who grew up in Maryland, the fried softshell crab was a decided highlight.

Sitting five abreast, from the farthest bar stool I overhear, "He's talking about putting tse-tse fly sauce on his sub," and wonder how my friend can be so far along when it's only our first stop.

Oh please, do go on! I could listen to you talk about your blog all night!
~ front of birthday card showing couple deep in discussion

Prom kids commandeered a long table behind us at Nota Bene, where we wound our five-top around the corner of the bar - and I learned that the bartender's prom date 20 years ago had been named Nikki LaRoqua and that she measured up to her name - for ease in hearing each other blather.

Words fell short when a steady stream of food began showing up, a lot of it off the specials board: two bowls of braised fennel with capers and tomato, two more of sugartoads with bagna caude and lots of bread to soak up its buttery, garlicy goodness, pizza of Tellegio and onions, the same roasted cauliflower with lemon, olive oil, capers and fresno chilies I'd fallen hard for just over a week ago and a big bowl of clams and fennel.

People think I'm bossy, too."
~ caption on birthday card image of Ghengis Khan talking to dark-haired woman with glass of pink bubbles in front of her

There was spirited discussion of the difference between a harlot and a strumpet, with the consolation "harlot" t-shirt going to Pru.

Lights were dim but the restaurant was still packed when we arrived at L'Opossum for our final course. Inquiring about the nature of the black bottom, our server summed it up by saying, "It's a circle of life in a chocolate cupcake."

Perhaps not everyone could glean her meaning from that, but I could.

With disco alternating with k.d. lange crooning cover songs, we had three of them, mine with a lit candle, plus creme brulee, fiery chocolate and foie gras bread pudding. I sipped glasses of Cocchi Barolo Chinato while others savored plastic-wrapped Laura Palmers.

Holmes ordered a Glen Moray and our server asked if he wanted it over a  Death Star. He did, allowing us all to marvel over the globe-shaped ice.

It takes a long time to become young.
~ Picasso, but handwritten inside one of my birthday cards

For the second year in a row, we closed down L'Opossum in service of celebrating my birthday.

Today began with a birthday gift being delivered (on Sunday, no less) before motoring through the mist to Upper Shirley Vineyards for lunch. I hadn't expected the place to be so large, but both the packed parking lot and capacity dining room prove that the word was out.

I'll tell you this much: it appears to be the place for ladies who lunch (eat? trash talk?) in the East End. Lots of bling, lots of all-female tables, lots of shrill conversation bouncing off hard walls.

Addressing the Southern half of my heritage with practically perfect ham biscuits sweet with pepper jelly eaten on the couch for lack of a free space, followed by a move to a table of our own, shrimp and avocado salad and then fried chicken and waffles, we saved the wine tasting for afterward in lieu of dessert.

I am too lucky to have you as a girlfriend, companion, confidante, soul sister, advisory. partner-in-crime and voice of reason when I need one.~ sentiment written inside a birthday card

How hilarious is it to hear me referred to as a voice of reason? I'll take it with a grain of salt.

The Tannat was the most arresting of the bunch but it was glasses of Rose we took first to the big porch to get a view of the river, where it was too chilly and damp for the birthday girl before moving back to the couch and eventually to the city for a double hot fudge sundae at Bev's and at Secco, a bottle of Can Xa Brut Rose because birthdays.

A quick stop at En Su Boca made birthday nachos my reality and I finally got to see "Barbershop: The Next Cut," a film I'd gone to see weeks ago only to find it sold out.

Funny and not funny, relevant without being strident, with talking points that come across like an overdue rap session, it's the kind of film that makes you realize that white people don't see nearly enough black movies.

Shakedown 1981 during the scene when the entire barbershop breaks into dance at the first notes ("Can't fool myself...") of Luther Vandross' "Never Too Much" and I immediately flash back to a Christmas party that year when the exact same thing happened, albeit not as rhythmically since we were white.

And can we just have a moment for how good looking - body and face - Common is? It's too bad about that time I didn't get in to see him at the Pit. Needless to say, I also have new respect for Nicki Minaj's bountiful booty. Truly, a masterpiece of human engineering.

And wear some jeans for chrissakes.
~ sentiment written inside a birthday card

I might if I had that kind of booty.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Seagreen Serenades

This weekend, it's Jackson Ward, not Ashland, that's the center of the universe.

So after wandering through "Celebrate Jackson Ward: Past, Present and Future" at Abner Clay Park for a bit, I headed up Adams, looking for a slice before a show. A guy in round-framed glasses sat on the railing of his porch playing an accordion against his bottle green shirt, one leg crossed over the other.

What, your neighborhood doesn't have serenading accordionists?

On Broad, I saw a guy approaching half a block away from Tarrant's with a full bucket of ice, headed toward Max's. What a method, I commented sarcastically. "Yea, right?" he asked rhetorically.

A sleek stretch limo took up all the real estate in front of Tarrant's and a guy in a silver tux posed next to a girl in a lavender gown outside the restaurant. I continue to the back door where, while waiting for pizza, two women came in looking for the sit-down Tarrant's.

Go down the block and make a left at the prom kids, I instructed them. Full service awaits you. The young bucks behind the counter found this hilarious.

Once I'd scored my dinner, I walked it up the alley and over a block to the wooden steps behind the Renaissance Building. My view included blue sky and the two arched towers of the Jefferson while being entertained by snippets of conversation from passers-by.

A sextet of West End-looking young millennials (a distinction I've learned matters to older millennials) passed by, with one woman saying, "When you grow up in the suburbs, you never even think about the city. Then you grow up and find out it's a big city." Cue enthusiastic chatter about how cool Richmond is.

As I munched my pie, clutches of prom-goers appeared in the parking lot headed to their cars post-dinner, pre-prom. All of a sudden a girl in a blue gown ran by in flat sandals at top speed, a boy's green jacket flapping on her shoulders.

The second time she sprinted by, the hem of her gown clutched in one hand, I opened my mouth and out came a comment about all her running. "Yea, I run track," she said without breaking stride or even breathing hard.

Yes, but in a long dress?

A crowd had already begun to gather at Gallery 5 when I arrived and was asked if I'd pre-ordered a ticket, which I had, but the printed list of ticket buyers was not in alphabetic order. "And with 107 tickets pre-sold, it's a pain," the girl said, scanning for my name.

Behind her, a sign clearly laid out the band schedule and stated that the capacity was 150 and not a person over. Good luck to the remaining 43 is all I can say.

I was delighted to run into a favorite older millennial who now lives in Forest Hill and is counting the days until WPA Bakery opens. It was the second time in five days I'd run into the dulcitar player but tonight there was time to actually catch up with him on all fronts: work, love life and music. The scooter queen and entourage showed up, along with a smattering of WRIR DJs.

You could definitely say the older hipster crowd was representing again, no surprise really given that electronic pioneer Silver Apples - formed in 1967, for heavens' sake - was headlining.

Before the big guns we got two hits of Richmond electronica, first Jon Hawkins of Navi, performing with bass and drums as trio Thumper and then the ultra-groovy psych folk vibes of Father Sunflower and the Golden Rays. Guitarist Christian's epic beard and breast-length hair made for a mountain man look while Stephanie channeled Janis in fringed suede boots and rose-colored glasses.

But flute and tambourine player Sara took top prize with her orange, white and blue paisley maxi-dress which (naturally) tied in the back. Their effects-laden set was full of good vibrations.

During the break, my friend shared that he'd been given a Silver Apples CD a decade ago by a musician who thought he should know about the band. He'd been blown away. I admitted that my first exposure had been when I'd gotten the invitation to the show.

This much I knew: drummer Danny died in 205, leaving Simeon to play his homemade synthesizers and sing as Silver Apples. He walked out wearing a black cowboy hat, a wide silver cuff necklace and a black t-shirt, ready to prove that the electronica world owes much to this 76-year old.

I'm honestly not sure how anyone could not move to the music he was making.

I don't even know what was on the table, but what all the playing and knob-turning resulted in was sixties psychedelia filtered through a club beat and Simeon grinned with obvious delight after finishing each song to applause and enthusiastic shouting.

He's having such a great time, I told my friend. "That makes it even better!" he enthused.

Simeon didn't just push buttons and turn things, he did it all with high drama, freezing into a pose for a second or two before changing a sound, reacting as if electrified when hitting something, throwing his head back to mimic a sound.

At one point, he pressed something and what sounded like a ship signal filled the room. Whatever this primitive sound-making machine was, it had a hell of a lot of personality.

But so did Simeon and as my friend pointed out, his enthusiasm could be seen as a reminder of the importance of doing what you love.

Even better methinks if you can do it right here in J-Ward.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Not If You Were the Last Librarian on Earth

It was a night for helplessly hoping, but then aren't they all?

A friend called while I was out, his words barely audible over the Crosby, Stills and Nash box set that's booming in the background. When I return the call, he brings me halfway up to speed on the Nash/Crosby fuel I didn't even know was happening.

Google it, he says, suggesting the 21st century answer to everything.

Walking in to see the 2004 Sundance Festival Documentary Grand Jury Prize winner, the booker looks at me and says, "What're you doing here? I thought I banned you." He's kidding, of course, and we move on to movies that should be shown in public places, with him suggesting "Harold and Maude" and "Being There," two of his favorites

As a fan of strangers and the dark, I assure him I'd attend both.

A friend suggests we meet up and do something fun, something I enjoy. When I tell him I enjoy dancing on a concrete floor for three to four hours watching bands exactly like I did last night but question his interest in doing the same, he comes clean.

"I guess it would depend on the show but, yes, standing 3-4 hours would require me to make a real commitment."

To what, I wonder, having a good time?

"Happy birthday!" a friend messages me. I remind him it's Monday but allow as how he's probably too busy smooching his new squeeze to notice such details.

"I thought I put it in my calendar last year, but no," he writes. "I have missed you this week, even with my new hectic schedule of thinking about her all the time."

I would never find fault with a man who can't stop mooning over his love.

As the film is about to start, a friend tells me his story of seeing "Dig!" in Holland over a decade ago. "We watched part of the movie, then they announced it was intermission and to go get beer." Sounds like a perfectly reasonable request.

"I got curry," he said, still sounding surprised at the idea of intermission curry. "And high."

Well, it was Holland.

The best pre and post-film discussion came from a 29-year old who sat down near me and immediately asked if I'd seen the film before. I hadn't but he had years ago and he was eager to see if his impressions of it had changed since that first viewing.

What struck me about our in-depth conversation on the subject was how much he identified with the '90s ("I'm mildly obsessed with that era"), despite having been born near the end of the '80s (what he referred to as "the plastic era").

"I can't understand how a band like Matchbox 20 were ever big," he mused. None of us could, friend. I have to say, I can't recall the last time a stranger wanted to discuss Sugar Ray, Third Eye Blind and Tonic with me.

More to the heart of the movie, afterwards we discussed whether the Brian Jonestown Massacre and the Dandy Warhols truly mattered musically. When I got up to leave, another familiar face wanted to chat about the same thing. Was either band talented? On the way out, a third brought it up.

Now that's a provocative film.

Today a friend sent me a birthday present, a t-shirt which reads, "I'm a librarian. That means I live in a crazy fantasy world with unrealistic expectations. Thank you for understanding."

Not that I'm complaining about a gift, but far better if instead of "librarian," it said, "I'm a reader" or even "I'm a Gemini," so the first statement would be as true as the second.

I want to be perfectly clear on my commitment to unrealistic expectations.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

So Here We Are/Positive Tension

Every evening should end with a man making the heart sign with his hands at me.

Part of my annual birthday celebration involves a designated birthday show (as opposed to any other live music I happen to catch during the festivities), but what are the chances I'd run into the same two guys I'd met at last year's birthday show?

Both at the National, then it had been Psychedelic Furs and tonight it was Bloc Party - a band I coincidentally saw ten years ago in June at Constitution Hall in D.C. - but the guys were the same, as was the spot where we reconnected: in front of the sound booth. Small world.

The band Oscar was fronted by a baritone Brit named Oscar who wore a knee-length dressing gown with red embellishment on the sides and a giant image of Mickey Mouse on the back over jeans and a t-shirt. Walking in mid-song, I nudged the guy next to me to ask if it was the first song.

"No, it's the third, but they're good!" he enthused, although I knew from the first two minutes of listening how good they were. I'd made a point to be there in time to catch Oscar.

Smart words, poppy lyrics and just the right amount of young man swagger made for an ideal start to my birthday show.

"I got all excited cause I thought Missy Elliott was from here," Oscar said. "She's not, though, she's from Norfolk." The audience begged to differ. "Portsmouth!" several people hollered.

Oscar shook his head. "Norfolk, Portsmouth, Richmond, you do know those were all English before you stole them?" I knew, but I can't vouch for the rest of the crowd. Hell, I was surprised at how many had the badge of youth, a telltale "X," on their hands.

Practically every song was dance-worthy, but "Daffodil Days" was one of those practically perfect ones that marries sunny 60s-sounding pop filtered through strong bass lines, occasional synths and '80s guitars.

Be still, my Aqua Net heart.

"Are you excited about seeing Bloc Party and the Vaccines?" Oscar asked the room. "We're here to. Warm. You. Up." Part blase, part sarcastic, Oscar's attitude was as colorful as his kimono and he'd already made me a fan.

After their set, the guys next to me needed clarification. They'd misidentified Oscar as the Vaccines because they'd never heard of either one and apparently have no access to the Interwebs to research such things.

From what I'd heard of the Vaccines' music over the past few years, I knew it was well-executed and incredibly catchy, but seeing lead singer Justin's bigger than life dramatics onstage - pointing at people in the crowd, dropping to his knees to sing from the floor, hands over his eyes for effect - only upped the ante.

Well, what did you expect from the Vaccines?

The chords of slow burner "Dream Lover" got the full effect with the fog machine, providing eye candy for those of us without slow dance partners, while the clever lyrics of "Bad Mood" ("Oh, am I not as thoughtful as you thought I'd be?") got points from the language geeks.

Part of the pleasure of Britpop is the Brit boys singing it and Justin was no exception. After multiple leans, one foot atop his monitor as his body arched out to the crowd, he showed himself to be a bit of a fop by tucking in his shirt, then blousing it out just a bit and adjusting his pants.

There! His look was complete again.

Naturally the crowd went bonkers for "Post Break-Up Sex" and "If You Wanna" off their first album in 2011, but really, between his theatricality, how tight they were and the catchiest of songs, their entire set was strong.

"So which band was that?" the guy next to me inquires after their set. I thought we'd covered this, but I needed him to guard my spot while I went to the loo, so I had to be nice.

When we got to chatting about Bloc Party, I was surprised to hear that while he loved the band's new album "Hymns," he had never heard any of the old stuff. I, on the other hand, have 2005's "Silent Alarm" and 2007's "A Weekend in the City" and don't know any material from 2012 on.

Together, we made one complete Bloc Party fan. Where I had the advantage was in knowing singer Kele's distinctive accent wherein all "th" sounds become "f."

"Fanks for coming out!' he calls. "It's always fun to get to see real America!"

So while I'd go crazy for "Banquet" ("A heart of stone, a smoking gun, I'm working it out"), he'd get excited about "Different Drugs" ("You're standing in the doorway with a look I used to know") from the new record.

I have to admit, I'd forgotten how shot through with post-punk revival guitar work their sound was, but that is in no way a complaint. Every guitar geek around me went nuts for the solos.

All three of us agreed that the turnout was far better than we'd anticipated for a Wednesday evening, the only problem being the late arriving trio who planted roots directly in front of us.

The couple was all hands while the long-suffering friend kept her gaze fixed forward, at least until they suggested leaving and she got furious. They wound up staying for two more songs before the girl stalked out. The funny part was that the couple didn't immediately leave, pausing to suck face hard for a couple of minutes before following what was presumably their ride.

"Peace out, Richmond!" Kele called to end my birthday show and a stellar evening of Britpop.

Walking out through the crowd, I spotted Oscar at his merch table alone. Sliding over, I told him that while I'd seen Bloc Party before and thoroughly enjoyed the Vaccines perky take on '80s pop, his was the performance that made my night.

And that, my friends, is how you get a man to make a heart of his hands and direct it at you.

Fair warning, though: I'm not entirely sure, but it may only work on British men or at your birthday show.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Auntie Gin Would Approve

Dig, if you will, my first pre-birthday get-together.

My friend dubbed it the same for him, mocking me with his December birthday. Mine's next week, yet some people try to make it sound like I milk it by getting a slight early start.

I'm just not sure why this is frowned upon.

In any case, we weren't actually meeting to fete me. A friend was in from out of town, so I was invited to be the fourth - I'm also quite good at being the third or fifth when asked - at dinner, a role at which I excel.

At the opening pow-wow, we decided on Rowland.

Unless you live in the neighborhood, it's easy to forget about Rowland's understated but reliable charm and on a drizzly Spring evening, it was completely welcoming with low lighting, Hopper-esque people at tables and bar and a soundtrack that swung from Marshall Tucker Band to vintage soul.

Rowland, it's been too long, and if you want to know precisely how long, just ask the owners, who informed us exactly how long it had been since each of us had last been in.

I've heard some mothers think it's good to start a meal with guilt.

And impeccable taste. Because where else are you going to get a chilled salad fork except Rowland? Take your time, I'll wait for your answer over here.

The manly one was eager to try the special of softshell crab over corn pudding, but it was when the visitor ordered the Joe chop, a bone-in beauty, that the lovelier of the two owners expressed disappointment. One of her frustrations as chef is that her regulars so often order the exact same dish while she longs for them to branch out.

So you can imagine when a customer who hasn't been in for years still orders her usual that there may be some chef eye-rolling, albeit while acknowledging that the customer is always right. Boring, perhaps, but right.

I got no such look because I ordered the lamb sliders with curry yogurt beside four massive yucca frites riding shotgun, a dish I'd never laid eyes on. Just don't tell her I'd happily eat them again.

On the subject of years passing quickly, a man refers to a couple's trip as having happened "a couple years ago," but the woman quickly reminds him that it was, in fact, six years ago.

In no universe does six equal a couple of anything.

Case in point: I have five sisters and at no point in my life did anyone ever refer to the six of us that way. A brood, yes. A budding sports team, sure. A couple? Nope.

This turns out to be an excellent jumping off point for a discussion of the discrepancy in how men and women perceive time, how I can have a female friend who thinks a proposal is overdue while her hapless boyfriend is still adjusting to the fact that he's now in a real relationship.

Time discrepancies.

It's some time during the chocolate chess pie and ice cream that a Beatles geek-fest begins between two Fab Four obsessives who not only sing the words but the horn parts on "When I'm 64" and debate whether or not it's possible that a young rapper could have absolutely no idea what Paul McCartney looked like, much less who he was.

Or maybe the rapper just didn't want an old guy at his party.

It seemed prudent to point out that someone at our table would not only not recognize Sir Paul, but would most certainly not let him into her party. She confirmed it, looking up his picture on her phone for reference.

Pshaw, I'm not so choosy. If someone wants to celebrate my birthday with me, chances are I'll let 'em in.

Those Beatles fanatics would've loved that one.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Drive It Like You Stole It

No one wants to be Debbie Downer. It gives me no pleasure to find a restaurant disappointing.

Just about everyone who finds out that I write restaurant reviews as part of earning my living as a freelance writer expresses some level of envy, whether about the exposure to the newest spots, the underwriting of meals out or even the questionable role of being an arbiter of taste.

But the truth is, there are times when I go out to eat at a new place and over the course of that one meal, I realize if I weren't being reimbursed, I'd have absolutely no need to return. The problem is that I would never be so cavalier as to review a restaurant based on one visit.

So I return, not just once but twice, so that I can have an informed opinion after a total of three visits. And still sometimes, there just isn't a lot positive to say.

That's when I try to go into humor mode, so at least my review can be a good read of a bad place.

So when my latest review, here, made it clear that I'd been underwhelmed, I braced for a backlash and instead was rewarded with the opposite.

This review is beyond any doubt the most entertaining I've ever seen in Style. Thank you!

No, thank you for getting my humor.

Best restaurant reviewer in town. Always a great pleasure to read. Thank you.

Somebody gets my writing, so this is all kinds of affirming.

Ripped. To. Shreds.

That's a succinct summary, but it makes it sound like I didn't have a single kind word, which I did. The guacamole and tequila were delicious. Period.

But dining out so much also means I have plenty of experience when it comes to picking where I want to eat.

That means when a social companion suggests lunch, I politely ask if they have any preference where, only to be hit with options such as Casa del Barco, Third Street Diner or Bottoms Up, none of which will do and if you'd like to know why not, please ask.

Others wisely defer to my choices, asking simply what place and time and I mull and make a suggestion.

Today's bright idea was My Noodle & Bar, perched in the "treehouse" booth and with a stellar soundtrack of dream pop, except once when a '20's Tin Pan Alley song showed up in the mix and jarred the entire restaurant out of its reverb reverie.

When I immediately questioned our server on this musical gaffe, the woman at the booth next door said an emphatic, "Thank you!" to me because she'd had the same reaction to the shift in musical direction. Don't mess with guitar effects and synths when there are fans in the room.

It was a gorgeous day to be in the "treehouse," with the restaurant's front doors open wide, sunlight streaming down the dragon-painted steps and neither of us on a schedule.

Being the least ladylike eater on the planet, I cleaned my plate of chicken and broccoli with carrots and black beans in brown sauce while my friend and fellow avid reader barely finished half his sesame chicken and required a box.

I could say there's no shame in a hearty appetite, but it was likely the six-mile walk that proceeded lunch that ramped up my appetite. For that matter, when you're going to chat for four hours, a fair amount of sustenance will likely be involved, no?

Walking home afterwards, I run into a J-Ward neighbor and a gallery curator I know. As we approach high Gemini season, I'm discovering I know far more other Geminis than I realized.

One of the best comments on the subject came courtesy of a sunny Gemini who wasn't happy to hear of other people's negative take on our multi-faceted personas, saying, "I think most Geminis use their powers for good."

Realizing the power we wield, I know I try to.

I also try to see all of Irish director John Carney's movies - I saw "Once" in Philly and then got in the car to drive home, ruminating on it for the entire trip - which tonight meant seeing "Sing Street" at Criterion with a crowd of seven people.

The audience was so sparse that when the screen reminder to turn off your cell phone came on, the man behind me joked to his wife, "I'm turning it off even though we're the only people in here."

Turning around in my seat, I asked him what was I, chopped liver, a comment he found hilarious.

Set in the '80s, the movie told the story of nothing more than a boy named Cosmo who starts a band during the MTV era to win a girl (that old chestnut). The distinct pleasure in it was both the inclusion of period music (A-ha, Duran Duran, Hall and Oates) but also music newly written to sound like that period some of us know so well.

Naturally, the band's outfits and make-up follow whatever band is in their sites at the moment.

And the music humor is delicious. The Cure's music is explained as happy/sad music and that's as apt a description of any I've heard since fans began obsessing over it three decades ago.

When older brother Brendan learns that Raphina, the object of his little brother's affection, has a boyfriend who listens to Phil Collins, he assures his brother that the boyfriend won't be a problem.

"No woman can truly love a man who listens to Phil Collins," he advises. Chances are, she'll have a hard time with a man who wants to eat at Third Street Diner or Casa del Barco, too.

No amount of Gemini powers can right some wrongs.