Monday, November 30, 2009

Texas de Brazil for The Beginner

A friend once expressed surprise when he learned that I go to Target.

Seems he couldn't imagine me as part of the Target masses, but, really, who isn't a part of that club at least occasionally?

No telling what his response will be when he hears that I went to a West End restaurant tonight; and not just surprised because of the location, but because it was a chain.

Friends had invited me to join them, with the caveat,"You'd better put on your A carnivore game."

That's right, we went to Texas de Brazil at Regency Square. (!)

I'm sure plenty of people have experienced this excess of protein palace, but it was all new to me.

The dining room was over the top, the number of servers who stopped by our table was excessive and the paper hand towels in the bathrooms had the name and logo on them.

Oh, yes, and there was an overwhelming amount of meat offered to us repeatedly.

I tasted what I could: leg of lamb, filet mignon wrapped in bacon, Brazilian sausage, a lamb chop, and Cordeiro so bloody rare as to be carpaccio (my favorite hunk o' meat of the evening actually).

The red light/green light system of announcing your meat lust seemed glutton-like to a neophyte like me, but apparently that's how it's done.

Although I began with a huge plate of greens and veggies so as to aid the digestion of my mega-meat meal, I feel certain that my arteries noticeably narrowed during our three hours there.

I tried to save my heart with red wine, namely the 2005 Vale dos Vinhedos Mioto Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon, but even Brazilian wine couldn't offset so much animal flesh.

Texas de Brazil, I am not worthy.

Or, more accurately, I just don't think you're my type.

Competitive Obedience: Really?

I never know what I'll get when I go to Project Resolution, the free monthly event featuring local filmmakers' films and discussion after each.

It's just about guaranteed to be interesting in one way or another and sometimes I am blown away by what I see.

Last night's event started with a film of stills from the Zombie Walk, set to music by Screamin' Jay Hawkins.

Another, "Blackbeard Attacks Hampton, VA," was shot on a pirate reenactment day and appealed to the (male) filmmaker because of all the guns being fired.

Sometimes the film is a rough cut, as with the "Cupcake" film we saw and the audience made suggestions about how to better end it.

"Red Light Syndrome" was about all the roadblocks that inevitably happen once a person realizes how badly they need to go to the bathroom.

"Santo Diablo" was about "borrowing" a roommate's can of chili and the dire consequences of doing so.

Obviously, inspiration comes from many sources.

One of the most charming was a film about a dog following his ball around town. The film was very much a postcard to RVA, showing various scenic locations as the dog sought someone to play with him.

Afterwards, we learned from the filmmaker that she spent a great deal of time training the dog, who will eventually participate in, get this, "competitive obedience" trials.

I think the term "competitive obedience" could be used in a whole lot of creative ways to describe human behavior, especially in a mocking way.

You know, like, "She dumped her boyfriend because he wasn't competitively obedient enough to suit her."

Think about it.

Project Resolution: not just a movie-going experience; sometimes you can expand your cultural vocabulary at the same time and you're always going to be at least entertained.

There's a bar, free popcorn, a raffle of DVDs and a chance to tell local filmmakers what you really think of their work.

That's a lot of entertainment for a Sunday night, if you ask me.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Wining Away A Beautful Day

When you wake up on the next to the last day of November to discover a warm, balmy day outside and it's three weeks until the official start of winter, it's time celebrate.

I don't know if you noticed, but it didn't even smell like November today. The scent of the warm air overtook the smell of decaying leaves, a truly lovely thing.

But what to do with such a gorgeous day?

In my book, a great way to appreciate a beautiful day is a road trip and it didn't take any convincing at all to get B.G.F. on board and heading west to Pollak Vineyards in Greenwood, on the other side of Charlottesville.

Founded in 2003 and opened to the public in 2008, this small family-owned winery was a first for both us, which is saying something because B.G.F. has made a hobby of tasting his way across the state.

None of the reds had the kind of weight and body I seek out, but they're new to this, so perhaps there will be improvement with time.

After all, you can't expect a 22-year old girl to have the personality and intellect of a 40-year old woman, either.

There's no substitute for time, as a stoned musician once sang.

Heading east to Barboursville, we went to Burnley Vineyards, one of the older vineyards in that area. B.G.F. knows the owners and had visited many times, so we had a very cordial and leisurely tasting as everyone caught up with each other.

There was even some wine geek talk of Thomas Jefferson's wine preferences and drinking habits.

B.G.F. is particularly fond of their Riesling, so some came back with us in the trunk of his car.

I was surprised to see they had a Zinfandel for tasting since it's not a grape grown in Virginia. I was not surprised to learn that they buy the grapes elsewhere.

The last time B.G.F. and I spent the day wine tasting was over the Labor Day weekend and the temperature was much cooler than today.

On the other hand, the drive back that time was in broad daylight and tonight's was post-sunset and getting darker by the mile, despite having left at close to the same time.

Tonight, the darkening sky was really something to behold with a dramatic cloud band of contrasting blues and grays, gradually giving way to those cotton batting type clouds surrounding the moon.

I think the weather gods would heartily approve of our spending today driving the countryside, admiring the scenery and tasting the fruits of the earth.

It certainly worked for me.

Rowland Fine Dining for Live Music Tonight

One of my friends is a multi-instrumentalist, although I'd only heard a recording and never seen him play live.

Tonight he was going to play Rowland's, so the plan was to start somewhere else and end our night there.

Barrel Thief was suggested because they were having live jazz, so the three of us met there for a couple of bottles of Domaine Vissoux Beaujolais Primeur and some snackage.

Two of us had soup (mine was roasted red pepper and crab, his was butternut squash) before we shared the antipasto platter.

I followed with some stinky cheese (the Truffle Tremor) and she had an Italian panini.

I finished with the chocolate truffle sampler.

There were several dates going on around us it seemed, including a woman who both my friends knew, but weren't especially fond of.

It is most assuredly a small town when it comes to running into your past here, isn't it?

Leaving the far reaches of town, for me at least, we headed into the Fan.

As I was approaching Rowland from Shields, I was surprised to hear a great deal of laughter and conversation from within.

There was already a lively crowd in the place, but we managed to grab three bar stools near the front for the best view.

My friends got something to drink and I ordered dessert. Yes, again.

This time it was the chocolate creme brulee and although it wasn't quite as dark as Black Sheep's version, it was quite good.

When the peer pressure became too great, I ordered a glass of Temperanillo.

The problem was more fullness than lack of desire for wine, but then, two desserts will do that to you.

My talented friend and the other two musicians played a variety of covers, a lot of Beatles, some Bob Marley and such.

It was interesting to see them follow each other as they had had limited practice time together, but they made it work.

They played for close to two hours and seemed to be enjoying every minute of it.

I have to say I love what a bowed instrument adds to a rock song... and what six extra strings add to a guitar.

I asked one of the musicians, who was from Asheville, N.C. about his music preferences and he said it was so rare to be engaged in a music conversation by a stranger.

Then he lamented the absence of much besides dance bands and jam bands in Asheville.

The jam band thing I can see from what I know of the town, but not so much the dance thing.

We talked about the evolution of new musicians discovering older material. He was a huge Doors fan, but born in the late 80s, which always cracks me up.

It's probably a good thing that there are people out there willing to listen to the music that I've already heard to death.

But I can always enjoy hearing a talented friend play music, no matter how far back they pull from.

Which is not to say that as soon as I got into my car afterwards, I didn't turn up the volume on The XX, because I did.

Hearing old music, even the truly great and classic stuff, just makes me appreciate the new stuff more.

And sometimes talking to strangers about music is the best way to hear about something new or interesting.

Or even just surprise somebody with my topic of choice; Personally, I love it when people do it to me.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Thankful for Randomness

I didn't do a "what I'm thankful for" post on Thanksgiving Day like so many bloggers did.

It's not that I'm not thankful for my family, friends and health, because I am.

But some of the things for which I have been extremely grateful in the past I no longer have, and that made for some poignant omissions as I took stock.

It wasn't even a pity party, just more of an acknowledgement of less to be thankful for than in the past, so why write it up?

But of course, there are dozens of small things that happen all the time which I could be focusing on.

People say nice things to me on a startlingly frequent basis; this has always been the case for me and I have no idea why (friends have suggested it's my aura, but who really knows?).

This morning, for instance, as I passed a guy on my walk:

Him: I see you out here every single day!
Me: Because I walk every day.
Him: That's spunk! You've got some sass and that comes through when I see you.
Me: Use or it lose it, you know.
Him: And on top of that, you are gorgeous.
Me: Thank you.

As I walked away, I thought about how fortunate I am that I get random compliments like that, especially now that I have no significant other to supply them.

And, let me be clear, I am nothing like gorgeous, what spunk I once possessed has been knocked out of me by 2009 and the sass is just part of my personality.

But even so, it was a very unexpected and sweet thing for a stranger to tell me.

I don't know how often such chance things happen to other people, but for me, it's a cosmic bonus when so much else in my life is lackluster these days.

And for that I am thankful, which, I suppose, makes this yet another banal blogger "what I'm thankful for" post.

Sorry to be so trite.

Prabir and the Goldrush at Six Burner

It was my Beer Geek Friend's birthday and he wanted to see a movie, so we planned to see the 7:30 showing of "An Education" at the Westhampton.

We preceded that with a stop at Cafe Caturra, where I arrived first to a mostly empty room. The bar server suggested I spend the time waiting for B.G.F. by sampling some wines at her bar (the Jefferson Petit Verdot and the Sawbuck Cab) before making a decision.

I accommodated, my friend arrived and we ended up drinking a Zinfandel. Go figure.

To nosh, we had two crostini orders, one braised short ribs and caramelized onions and the other goat cheese, roasted red pepper and sweet balsamic reduction.

The crispiness of the bread made them a bit difficult to bite, but once bitten, the bread was deliciously chewy.It's safe to say we both enjoyed the contrast between the two toppings and demolished all.

The movie was good, full of realistic 1961 details such as men taking off their hats upon entering a building and the debate over a university vs. a Mrs. degree.

The plot could be loosely summarized as a story of the inner struggle between enjoying life now or planning for the future, a sort of journal of a young girl trying to establish priorities in her inexperienced life.

It wasn't nearly as cliched as an Americanized version of the same story would have been, and we agreed it was worth seeing.

Later I decided to swing by Six Burner to see Prabir and the Goldrush's set around 11.

This combination rock/classical group of musicians always packs the room; it's the makeup of the crowd that changes show to show.

Tonight, I would guess, there were a lot of visitors and out-of-towners in attendance and an enthusiastic bunch they were.

I ran into Andrew and C.B., which gave us a chance to talk tacky lights, seasonal activities and music until the performance began.

The boys had both worked today, though, so they were beat.

Luckily not too beat to enjoy dessert, however, and for me, it was my first look at new chef Philip Denny's dessert menu.

I had the Red Velvet cupcake, Andrew had the persimmon bread pudding with caramel sauce and C.B. had the eggnog creme brulee with mini gingerbread man cookie.

We all took our desserts down to the dish, as in no rinsing required.

Prabir and the Goldrush put on a rocking show again, using the violin as a kind of stand-in for keyboards.

Prabir loves to rock out (that's always evident) along with belting out his sad-sack, smart-ass and self-deprecating lyrics.

Not to be overlooked is the fact that 6B later in the evening is a great (and free) atmosphere for hearing this kind of music at the perfect volume.

No doubt Goldrush will be back next month with more of Prabir's classical hooks and if you haven't heard them yet, they're interesting enough to make a point of checking out.

If nothing else, it's great fun to watch Prabir enjoying himself so much.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Jump Starting Myself

Lots of people shop on Black Friday, but I'm not one of them.

And not because of the crowds, either, I just hate shopping any time (except grocery/wine shopping) and avoid it like the plague.

Some people would say this calls my femininity into question, but I'm okay with that.

So instead, I found a friend who wanted to accompany me to Bark Park and we loaded the dogs into my car.

But when I turned the key, all I heard was that sickening sound you get when your battery has abandoned you.

J-Ward is still a ghost town, so I couldn't think of a soul who could give me a jump, but then I remembered that I didn't need anyone to get jumped.

Years ago, I had been given the perfect Valentine's Day gift: one of those multiple-use auto devices that checks your tire pressure, puts air in a flat and jump starts your car.


I hooked that baby up and before you could say Happy Valentine's Day, I was off to Auto Zone to buy a new battery. It wasn't how I intended to start my day, but I do consider it an accomplishment to have jumped a car myself for the first time in my life.


Lunch was Carytown Burgers and Fries, because nothing says post-Thanksgiving like red meat.

Clearly, we weren't the only ones craving cheeseburgers; the place was non-stop busy the entire time we were there.

After an alternately pleasantly warm/cold and windy hour at the dog park due to dense and fast-moving clouds, we headed home.

I decided it was basil harvesting time. The basil growing in my dining room window since May is over a foot tall and quite full, so I picked enough to make several batches of pesto.

As the food processor pulsed all that basil, it smelled like summer in my kitchen, especially with the sun shining so brightly through the window.

There's nothing like freshly made pesto to enjoy all winter to remind you that it will eventually be warm again.

Don't be fooled, though, that's not optimism talking, just fatalism.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Bark Park in the Fog

I loved how foggy it was this morning when I was out walking and where better to see fog than from above?

The beagle and I had been wanting to check out the new Bark Park at Chimborazo (one of my favorite city spots anyway) and I was guessing the view of the fog would be great from that vantage point.

And it was.

One of the best parts of the new dog park is the winding walk you take to reach it; for those not so inclined, there is parking immediately by the dog park, but you'll miss some great views, fine, old stone staircases and double back paths by doing it that way.

When we arrived, there were three owners and three dogs in the large dog enclosure and none in the small.

My dog is more small than large, but there'd be no one to frolic with over there so we approached the gang, just behind another dog owner.

He got as far as inside the gate with his pooch when two of the other dogs started snarling and attacking him.

The owner was visibly upset and it took too long to get the other dogs off his. He immediately left the park, so the beagle and I decided to head over to the small dog pen just to be safe.

The light was beautiful behind the overcast sky and the fog was just rolling around below.

One of the prettiest views was of the sunlit rooftops in Fulton Bottom from that overlook. The bare-branch trees against the back lit gray sky looking toward the river were almost etching-like.

I'd brought my camera, so I took pictures of Richmond in the fog on a Thanksgiving morning while the dog sniffed his way around the fence, where he discovered some dog poop, the size of which made it clear that a very large dog had been in the wrong enclosure with a very bad owner who did not pick up after his pet. I'm just saying, it was enormous.

We really liked the new dog park and will almost certainly make it a regular destination from now on.

Looking back up the hill from it, you can see very little identifiable, so it's easy to forget where you are and just take in the view and surroundings.

As we headed out, I spotted an almost perfectly heart-shaped rock on the ground.

As I bent down to grab it, I thought how completely inappropriate it was for me to find such a thing.

And while the front was indeed a perfect heart, when I looked at the back of it, there was a big, jagged chunk taken out of it.

Ohhh, I get it.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

I Came for Comedy at The Camel

Staying in town for a holiday instead of fleeing as most do always affords a different kind of rva experience.

It's not just the abundance of parking spaces in the city, it's seeing a couple playing Frisbee right smack in the middle of Clay Street in the middle of the afternoon.

It's driving through the Fan and seeing most restaurants close to empty (Acacia being the exception; it was hopping), despite nearly everyone being off tomorrow.

It's knowing that no matter where you go, you're going to run into other people in the same boat, looking for a little activity on one of the slowest nights of the year.

Fortunately for me, a friend had organized a comedy showcase at The Camel; he was also performing.

The six comics had different styles and shticks, so it was fun to give each one my full attention and see if they could make me laugh.

Some of the material was groan-worthy and some was quite funny.

One guy was only 18 and very new to this, but acquitted himself well for one so young.

Another guy's entire monologue was based on self-denigration, but he seemed to be okay with that.

One guy read us clever haikus he had written.

There was much talk of sex and weed because, after all, they were all guys.

I laughed a lot at the music jokes, but maybe I just don't get enough music humor in my life.

Talking to my friend afterwards, he admitted he'd been pretty nervous during his set.

After all, it requires him to stand in front of a crowd and put himself right out there.

Of course, blogging can also involve putting yourself out there, but at least you don't have to see your audience's faces while you do it.

I haven't decided if that makes him more courageous or just points to the fact that I'm not nearly as amusing.

No matter.

I prefer being the amused to the amuser any day of the week.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Deluxe Delivers Braised Irony

A good part of the town has already headed out over the river and through the woods to whomever's house they are going.

That much was clear as the streets became emptier and emptier of cars today.

Andrew and I made plans to meet up for drinks and dining and I wanted to choose someplace off our beaten track, so I suggested Deluxe.

Upon arriving, his first comment was, "We're here for ironic reasons, right?"

Of course we were; what other possible reason could there be given the crowd there?

We had no idea who these people were or where they came from (although we had our suspicions), but both bars were full, so there was much fodder for discussion and that was good enough.

And there was one item on their menu I wanted to try.

It was the Braised Short Rib Grilled Cheese (pulled short ribs, Swiss cheese and caramelized onions on Texas Toast), which turned out to be exceedingly tasty.

The sandwich was thick with slow-cooked meat and the sturdy toast held it together well, except for the occasional onion oozing out.

I ordered a side of braised greens which were far better than I anticipated, perfectly cooked, garlicky and just the right tartness.

I wasn't expecting them to be so delicious.

We didn't stay too much longer after eating. Even with a couple glasses of wine, it was just too much like shooting fish in a barrel.

By the time we left, it was raining again, so Andrew set off for the gym to stay buff and I set off in search of dessert, a quest that often leads me to Garnett's these days.

They really do have a superb array of sweets and they're priced better than almost everyone else ($4 pie, $5 cake), so it's practically an engraved invitation for someone like me.

Forgetting all about chocolate, I got the Hummingbird Cake, that southern classic and loaded with my favorite coconut and with a creamy sweet frosting I'd have licked off a beater.

Tonight was the first night that Garnett's has had wine, as good an excuse as any to try Pasion Malbec and San Vito Chianti whilst chatting up F.R.O. about dating and the challenges of meshing lives.

Once we realized there were no solutions there, we moved on to food field trips and making plans for excursions to further our food knowledge.

It's all a learning experience, as someone once told me.

Dessert lovers would be wise to put Garnett's on their radar when they need a final stop for something sweet that won't break the bank and isn't available on most of the dessert menus in town.

And now that there's wine, those lovely desserts have the perfect accompaniment.

For those of the other persuasion, beer should be in house by Monday.

Being a Renegade at the Byrd House Market

I wanted to get as many local foodstuffs for my Thanksgiving feast as possible, so I went to the renegade Byrd House Market this afternoon to see what I could score.

I had no real idea of how many vendors would be there or what they might have, especially given the gloomy, damp weather but it was worth a shot.

I have to say that I think I would get the locavore stamp of approval for my purchases.

I found several bunches of carrots for glazing with butter and brown sugar, potatoes for mashing, sweet potatoes because it's T-day, and perhaps yummiest of all, Brussels Sprouts and beets (and local goat cheese) for roasting.

I know a lot of people are not fans of Brussels Sprouts, but when they're roasted in bacon fat and then mixed with the cooked bacon, walnuts and a little salt and pepper, they're magnificent, whether you're a fan or not (rule of thumb: bacon makes everything better).

Given what a local meal the first Thanksgiving was (and we all know it was at Berkley Plantation and not Plymouth; the Pilgrims just had better P.R.) I thought I did pretty well in gathering a terrific representation of Virgina's finest for my Thanksgiving table.

And, yes, even the bacon is Shenandoah Valley local, from Polyface Farms.


Bah! It's Virginia's bounty that will define my Thanksgiving meal.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Julep: Eating and Entertaining

Restaurant choices are limited on a Monday night, but the addition of the rain meant that we were almost guaranteed a quiet night, no matter where we went. We decided on Julep, M.H.F. and I, and it turned out to be an inspired choice. We began with wine because we like wine, but also because on Mondays, bottles are half off. We got the 2008 Nepenthe Sauvignon Blanc, Adelaide Hills, as a concession to M.H.F., who's been having headache issues with red wines lately. It had a lovely floral nose and we were quite satisfied with it.

For salads, I did the field greens with grilled pears, goat cheese, cucumber, apple wood-smoked bacon and lemon balsamic vinaigrette and M.H.F. had the southern Cesar with the pecorino, anchovy butter croutons and Creole Cesar dressing. Both were wonderful.

I followed with sweet water crab soup, with sweet potato gaufrette, mushroom and olive oil poached tomato. This soup was worthy of bowl licking and perfectly seasoned. My friend then got the tempura shrimp and grits, a favorite of mine for the hunks of Andouille sausage and that big, beautful shrimp. I've yet to finish it, but I always try; she couldn't finish the job, either.

At this point, B.S.F. joined us, so we further took advantage of the wine special and he mimicked our orders with the crab soup and the shrimp and grits. I'd like to say he had no imagination, except that I think it was our raving that helped him pick his meal. Two slices of the chocolate marquise followed with a bit more wine as well as brown drinks.

Despite all three of us being single, two of us are absent from the dating pool by choice and the third is just out of yet another red flag short-term relationship. One of our enthusiastic discussions centered on the uses of food to replace sex. Good idea or bad? Break off into small discussion groups and let us know.

As the last two guests from the upstairs dining room came down to leave, the couple told us that they had been eavesdropping on us the entire time. They seemed quite pleased with what they had heard (the woman, especially, said she'd been dying to join our girl talk before B.S.F. arrived) and thanked us for being their evening's entertainment.

And here I thought we were just a couple of unattached women stuffing our faces with Julep's superb new southern cuisine, and we were really doing so much more. Here's to us.

Two Topics To Tiptoe Around

When we look back at 2009, I doubt any of us will remember it as a banner year.

But for me it's been just the worst.

In a matter of eight weeks, I lost employment, health and love.

Happily, the only lingering traces of my extreme pneumonia are an annoying occasional cough, but the other two areas of my life are a bit more problematic.

So for the benefit of others out there like me (my fellow unemployed and dumped), may I suggest that you avoid asking us a couple of questions that only serve to remind us of our state of being and which we really don't want to answer anyway.

The first is, "Any luck finding a job yet?"

Let me assure you, when we are again employed, we will be shouting it from the rooftops, telling strangers and boring everyone with details.

Until then, it's just another time we have to acknowledge our failure.

The other question to be avoided is, "Why aren't you dating yet?"

Uh, because I'm still working through this whole broken-hearted thing? Because I'm not ready to? Because there's no point?

Believe me, if a woman like me is deliberately opting out of trying to find a partner, there's probably a good reason.

Nagging her to make the effort is not going to change her readiness for it, and it's definitely not something she needs to hear.

Or read, as in in my freaking horoscope: A new love is simply a new person awakening the feeling of love that was already inside you. It's nice to have someone unlock it for you, but not necessary. It was always there. 

Oh, really?

Take it from someone who knows, your laid off and dumped friends are happy to talk about almost anything except jobs and love.

I'm sure you can understand.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Liza Kate Sings for Silent Music Revival

What a way to go.

I finished out my weekend listening to the dulcet tones of Liza Kate, providing the musical accompaniment to two silent films at the Silent Music Revival at Gallery 5.

The first was 1967's OffOn by Scott Bartlett, the earliest American work combining film and video; the film cells were hand-tinted with food coloring.

The second was a collaboration between Luis Bunuel and Salvador Dali, both of whom wanted to put their dreams into a film. Un Chien Andalou is from 1929 and was full of graphic and sexual references that would never have been acceptable in the U.S. at such an early date, like, say, eyeball slitting and bare breast fondling.

Liza's beautiful voice was a haunting soundtrack to the avant garde films, pulling the audience in when the visuals didn't.

I've seen her perform many times before, but my favorite memory is a Gallery 5 show she did a couple years ago when she took the stage after the previous performer and the audience paid her no mind, continuing to talk away.

But Liza was having none of it. She addressed the crowd loudly and directly, saying that she was just a girl with an acoustic guitar, so it was going to be necessary for the crowd to shut the fuck up if they expected to hear her.

You never heard a room go so quiet so quickly.

And that's the beauty of the Silent Music Revival, besides it being a free event, of course.

The audience comes for the pleasure of a vintage silent film and an outstanding local musician or band. Who'd want to talk through either of those delightful things?

Harry Shearer: Pushing It Up to 11

WRIR's benefit at the Byrd Theater featuring Harry Shearer and showing the classic 1984 film, This is Spinal Tap, had something for everyone: fans of the Simpsons, fans of Saturday Night Live and, as evidenced by the age of some in the crowd, fans of hair bands and especially Spinal Tap. And like any special event at the Byrd, it began with Lin Lundy playing the mighty Wurlitzer.

When Shearer took the stage, his first comment was, "I actually thought I might rise from the floor and play my organ, but they said that was already taken care of." It was a line that couldn't have been scripted and couldn't have been more appropriate for his Spinal Tap character, bassist Derek Smalls (he of the strategically placed foil-wrapped cucumber in the movie).

Shearer went on to share his opinions of the corporatization of radio ("absolute and devastating"), media monopolies ("Even if C. Montgomery Burns can live forever, Rupert Murdoch can't.") and the recording industry ("A record exec couldn't recognize artistic rights if it crawled up his backside and bit him in the pancreas."). Perhaps most tellingly, he said that he makes fun of this stuff because he is so serious about it.

As for Spinal Tap, Shearer claimed it was the first non-porn movie to make money on VHS. Oasis singer Liam Gallagher supposedly walked out of a screening of the movie because it was too real, a comment Shearer says the creators have heard countless times. He also clarified that there will never be a Spinal Tap sequel and that the Simpsons will never leave the air.

By that point, the WRIR-loving audience was eager to get to the 25th anniversary screening of the rockumentary that gave us the concept of pushing it to eleven. Or, as Shearer encouraged the enthusiastic crowd as he introduced the film, "Rock on!"

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Of Falsettos, Scotsmen and Moons

One of my favorite local bands was playing at Sound of Music Studios tonight, so my bright idea was to walk two blocks to the Belvidere for a glass of wine, then walk two more blocks to hear Marionette play and, at the end of the evening, I'd only be four blocks from home. Brilliant.

As I was walking to the Belvidere (quickly, I might add, because it's freaking cold out there), a guy was riding a bike toward me. When he spotted me, he began to sing in a perfect falsetto, "Hey there, lonely girl...lonely girl." I didn't think I looked particularly lonely, but that didn't stop me from laughing out loud, at which point he told me to have a good Saturday night.

Sipping wine at the bar, a Glaswegian who now lives in Houston sat down next to me. The accent was immediately recognizable because I have a good friend who lives in Glasgow. He was hysterical doing an American accent (it's embarrassing to hear; our vowels are so flat, our intonation so nasal) and admitting to the hubris and drinking prowess of the Scottish male. He was young, attractive and in great shape, that is to say, not at all my type, but a charming conversationalist and I have no doubt that his accent gets thicker as the evening gets later.

Marionette's performance was part of their CD release party and they put on an excellent show as usual, with an enthusiastic crowd who gradually became overheated once the front doors were closed. Everyone just kept removing layers and hydrating more frequently. It is Saturday night, after all, so there was a whole lot of hydrating going on anyway.

And when the show was over and I was walking those four blocks home, I couldn't stop staring at the waxing crescent moon in the sky. It reminded me of a favorite poem about how something as seemingly random as a sliver of a moon has the power to remind a person of distant people and places. Not to sound moony or anything like that, but it's true.

821 Cafe and a Tattoo Tidbit

Despite having had chili for lunch, I was craving 821's black bean nachos; maybe it's the weather. Just as my food arrived, the stools around me filled up with Mike Moses and his fellow tattoo artists. I met Mike about a year and a half ago and was impressed by his abilities outside of being a tattoo artist: musician, gardener, painter and raconteur. I have one of his prints,"Sister Sleep," so I was interested to hear that he just hung a show at Empire which will open December 4th.

I haven't seen it yet, but two things are always guaranteed at Mike's shows: it'll be interesting work and the cost to own one will be minimal. I'd be the first to acknowledge that economic times are tough, but I'd also be the first to say that artists have to eat, too. I'm crazy about having local art all over my walls; I enjoy it on an additional level when I know the artist. It's a reminder of a talented person I know.

But I digress. My nachos arrived, I ate a good three quarters of them and eavesdropped on a conversation about cleaning out the ink wells at a tattoo place. At stake was the issue of whether to use paper stick Q-Tips or plastic stick Q-Tips to clean out the traces of ink. This discussion required a level of expertise I didn't possess, so I stayed out of it, paid the check and was about to walk away when one of the guys finally weighed in.

"Plastic stick's better. Paper sticks get soaked and bent." Now I know.

Sound as Art at 1708 Gallery

Imagine how difficult it is to present sound as art in the very visual art world. This afternoon, 1708 Gallery presented two sound artists, John Henry Blatter and Stephen Vitiello, to discuss the challenge of allowing the ears to work like eyes in perceiving what is art. The two artists had different takes on the importance of the visual element in sound art; Blatter felt strongly that experiencing his sound works spatially is very important. Vitiello, who has been working in sound art longer, preferred a purely aural presence.

Blatter's current site-specific piece, New Works, is a collection of 135 speakers arranged rhythmically and randomly on the wall of 1708. At any one time, 18 channels are playing the voices of people sharing their stories. Blatter was seeking strong emotion in the audio he collected from friends and strangers. Voices come and go as a visitor spends time in the space.

Vitiello addressed the difficulties of incorporating sound art into galleries and museums focused on visual art. He explained that sound art can not just be listened to through headphones in a room because it is created to be heard in space. He likened the hurdles sound art has had in dealing with the greater art world to those that challenged video artists back in the 70s and 80s, but acknowledged that finally the past nine years have brought about a heightened appreciation, acceptance and understanding of sound art.

Nine years! Not quite a decade, but it's not like it happened in the blink of an ear, either.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Happy 4th Birthday, Bistro 27

My evening got off to an auspicious start when a favorite friend showed up at my house with a bottle of Roderer Estate L'Ermitage Brut 2000. It was amazingly creamy, with tiny little bubbles and a long, crisp finish; in other words, heaven for bubble lovers like her and me and, frankly, we left not a drop. While we sipped our bubbles, she was good enough to do some blog and character analysis for me; I always enjoy her interpretation of life and love because it's so different than mine.

The plan was to meet a friend of hers at Mama Zu's for dinner, but once we arrived, the swelling crush of humanity waiting for tables was overwhelming and F.F. lost all interest in being part of that madness. I've admitted before that Mama Zu's is not a personal favorite, so I had no qualms about finding another destination, although my friend had had enough and decided to head home.

I knew this week was the fourth anniversary for Bistro 27, one of my longest running J-Ward neighborhood hangouts, so I decided to go celebrate with them. And by celebrate, I mean eat obscene amounts of food and wine while engaging in assorted restaurant talk with some delightful bar sitters out for their bi-weekly date night.

My meal consisted of calamari with squid ink over polenta, an earthy and soul-satisfying sausage and potato soup, and a scallop and crab ravioli in tomato cream sauce. I should not have been able to walk out of there after so much excellent food; Carlos' advice was to eat light tomorrow to compensate. My wine of choice for the duration was the 2007 Almira Los Dos Grenache and Syrah and despite being full to the gills, I had a chocolate mousse with fresh berries to finish.

My fellow bar sitters engaged me in conversation to augment their city dining knowledge. It seems they go out every other week to an independent city restaurant and wanted my thoughts on where they'd been and where I'd recommend for future outings. They've been city diners, despite being suburban residents for years, so our discussion included such blasts from the past as Chetti's, Moondance and Bird in Hand, as well as some of their more recent outings, like Edo's Squid, Popkin's and Gibson's. I love the date night tradition (maybe I'll even eventually want to have one myself again) and their willingness to experiment with new places. Wouldn't it be a better restaurant world if more people followed their lead and enjoyed the restaurant bounty our little city has to offer instead of doing the safe, easy thing when it comes to dining out?

Me, I already knew what a gem Bistro 27 is, but a delicious little birthday celebration meal like I had tonight is still an excellent reminder of the stellar food that is to be found in rva...if you get out to enjoy it. As one of my new suburban friends asked, "Do you ever eat at home?"

Why would I with all Richmond has to offer?

A Mid-day March for Women's Right to Vote

One hundred years ago today, a group of women met on what is now the VCU campus to form the Equal Suffrage League of Virginia (later the League of Women Voters of VA). To honor that first step towards fuller rights for my fair sex, I participated in the Votes for Women Suffrage March just now.

It was wonderfully retro, with women especially in vintage clothes and hats, many wearing sashes proclaiming "Votes for Women" and with the Antonia Accordion Suffrage Orchestra leading the way. We wore buttons commemorating the occasion and carried signs and placards proclaiming the goal of the E.S.L. as we marched to 919 W. Franklin Street, the house where Anne Clay Crenshaw and other Virginia women met to strategize how best to go about obtaining the vote for half the population.

There were remarks by Panny Rhodes and Monica Rao before the dedication and official naming of 919 W. Franklin as The Crenshaw House. The women in the audience found much to laugh and cheer about during the event as we acknowledged how far we've come in terms of equal rights over the past century. But we were doing it wearing pants and short skirts and shorts, only one indication of the seismic changes women's roles have undergone since that significant gathering on Franklin Street back on November 20, 1909. Never underestimate the female of the species.

Heard on Grace Street Today

The stretch of Grace Street between Laurel and Lombardy is always fertile territory for a certain kind of passer-by on my daily walks. Today, for instance, three guys were approaching me when one of them stopped dead in front of me, put his hand to his waist and gave me a deep bow, saying, "Hello, Beautiful. You're still walking? You're keeping it tight!" I'm not exactly sure what that meant, but I feel fairly certain it was a compliment.

A block further down, a guy came toward me and said, "Good morning. You are looking sooooo fine!" and there was as much leer in his voice as there was on his face. He looked like an animal licking his chops before devouring something; I kept moving.

But the coup de grace was the guy sitting on a brick wall on Hell Block, taking deep pulls on his 40 oz. at 10:00 in the morning. When he saw me, he said, "If I leave this here, can I walk with you?" Now that's a very generous offer from a man who clearly appreciates his morning drink, but I had to decline. There was no telling if his 40 would have been there when we got back and I couldn't live with myself if I had been responsible for the man's loss.

Do you think it was the shorts?

Mekong Soothes the Unemployed Soul

I heard from yet another friend that she'd been laid off, joining the ever-growing group of us among the unemployed masses. She's the first of my friends in the restaurant business to bite the dust, though, so it was a bit more surprising. She's got an outstanding skill set, though, so I expect she'll have faster luck getting rehired than me. She's understandably nervous at the moment; I guess only time will tell.

We met up last night at Mekong to commiserate about the unfairness of life, the coldness of our former employers and other borderline whiny topics. But the complaining quickly gave way to appreciation for excellent beer and food; I won't bore you with all we ordered (there were six of us) but we had a great selection of beef, pork, chicken and tofu dishes and way too much food to finish. The beer, however, was a different story.

Because so many of the women in the group worked in restaurants, there was loads of gossip and storytelling, some new to me (Enoteca Sogno closing, for example), some confirming previously-held assumptions. Every single person at the table has a mate or close friend who has lost hours or even their job altogether. We all agreed that the absolute worst may be over, but it will take a while to climb out of this very deep recessionary hole we seem to be in.

Until then, luckily there's places like Mekong with big tables, plenty of libations and really good food to distract us from the problems of the real world. And then there's my fortune cookie prediction: If you have a job without aggravations, you don't have a job.

You could substitute a number of other words for "job" and the sentiment would be just as true.

Barrel Thief for Beaujolais Nouveau

It being the third Thursday of November and all, Theater Goddess and I met up at the Barrel Thief at Patterson and Libbie to drink some just-released young, fruity wine, like far too many other people probably did today.

It was as good an excuse as any to celebrate the harvest, in this case, that of Domaine Vissoux Beaujolais Primeur.

No fancy yeasts or added sugar, this Beaujolais Nouveau was clean and ripe tasting and would undoubtedly be a nice addition to the Thanksgiving meal. But neither of us is in charge of bringing the wine to Turkey day, so the sipping was purely for our own enjoyment.

Meanwhile, we asked the kitchen for a variety of dishes that would work well together and would complement our Green and Red Zinfandel "Chiles Mill Vineyard" Estate and were rewarded with an array of smoked salmon, cheeses, olives and a balsamic reduction dipping oil with bread.

Assorted chocolate truffles had to follow.

Conversation on the shelf life of unhappiness and the possibilities of happy endings ensued, while the bottle of wine was emptied.

So now that the Beaujolais Nouveau has been released, we can welcome the coming of colder weather and the upcoming holidays.

In theory anyway, since, while walking the beagle upon my arrival home just now, the temperature in J-Ward was a balmy 65 degrees.

Not that I'm complaining.

I'm just saying, I, for one, will be sleeping with my bedroom windows open tonight.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

An Evening at Gallery 5

I have absolutely no musical talent, so my role is to be an appreciative audience for those who do.

Like my friend Jameson and his girlfriend Laney, who played at Gallery 5 tonight.

They just got back from nine months in South America and while working their way around the continent, wrote some music together.

As Lobo Marino, he plays guitar and she plays accordion; they both sing.

The music was impressive; his guitar showed a lot of Spanish guitar influences and the songs were funny and happy, as if they were having a great time when they wrote them and that came through as their voices blended.

The Hellblinki Sextet (three musicians and a puppeteer) performed their psycho cabaret next.

Part music show, part puppet show and part video montage, H.S. provided a lot to look and listen to.

I'd seen them at last year's Carnival of 5 Fires and remembered just how offbeat this Asheville, N.C. group was. A

nd I mean that in the best possible way.

Last up was two thirds of Arise, Sweet Donkey!

This time Laney was performing with Alison Self and her magnificent voice (and ukulele playing), doing their unique blend of Americana and folk music, those two voices harmonizing perfectly; there was even some a Capella singing.

Such beautiful vocal abilities.

Allow me to clap the loudest in appreciation for so many kinds of talent heard tonight.

The RVA Landscape

I'm a big fan of the Virginia Center for Architecture, a.k..a. The Branch House, on Monument Avenue at Davis. I

've seen every exhibit they've mounted and frequently attend the lectures and talks they put on.

It doesn't hurt that the audiences for these events tend to be predominately male.

Not that I'm anywhere close to ready to date, but there's an outside chance that that might potentially change.



Okay, highly doubtful.

So, at tonight's lecture, "The Richmond Landscape," I was surprised to see a very different demographic.

There was an entire VCU class, mostly female, and quite a few couples, which I can totally appreciate, shared interests and all that good stuff.

Still, it wasn't the usual lecture landscape.

The slide lecture itself was really quite interesting because of the wonderful historic images we got to see.

There were old city plot maps, diagrams of the layers of sedimentary rock in RVA, downtown Main Street looking like something out of the wild, wild west.

And the urban core of Richmond, then and now, is exactly what you would expect: Powhite to Fulton Bottom, Cary to Broad.

But enough of that demographic geekiness.

It's time for some music.

Shut Up and Listen Up!

I hate going to a music show and having to listen to people around me shout, argue or even just converse while I'm trying to listen to the musicians.

Many is the time I wished my first grade teacher Mrs. Bixler, would happen by and give them THAT look, putting fear in their hearts and shutting them up.

Last night, I enjoyed a jabber-free evening of live music, thanks to the new free series, The Listening Room.

The show was held at the Michaux House on Franklin Street and while the organizers were expecting about 30 people, they easily had double that.

The set was simple and beautiful; there were four handmade wooden and fabric panels, with a plant and lamp in front and several Oriental-style rugs on the floor, creating an inviting ambiance.

The chairs were curved around this area for a cozy proximity to the audience.

There were three groups: Ferdinand Thomas, Englishman (from Lexington, KY) and The Low Branches.

All three bands played beautiful acoustic folky music and everyone in the audience observed the "No talking during performances please" rule stated on the program.

People arrived between 8 and 8:30, milled about socializing and at 8:29, as if on cue, sat down and just stopped talking. It was a beautiful thing.

Ferdinand Thomas' lyrics leaned toward the dark, with violin, keyboard and drum fleshing out the guitarist's vocals.

Englishman's vocal harmonies were a thing of beauty, very simple with just a guitar and keyboard.

The Low Branches, the only group I'd seen before, have the ethereal voice of Christina to anchor their haunting sound.

All three were ideal for a listening room setting and a rapt audience.

The Listening Room at the Michaux House is a concept overdue in Richmond.

We have so many fine musicians and the creation of an atmosphere in which they can be best appreciated is a gift to the music lovers of the city.

The kind of people who don't need a Mrs. Bixler to shut them up during the music portion of the evening.

The kind who want to shut up and listen.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Save the (Jewish) Delis!

I don't want to alarm you, but we've got a Jewish deli crisis. To give you an idea of the scale of the problem, in 1930 there were 1500 kosher delis in NYC; today there are two dozen. The cultural institution known as the corner deli is on the brink of extinction. This means the places that serve the best brisket, corned beef and pastrami will be no more. Are you concerned yet?

Well, luckily author David Sax was and after much research, has written a book, "Saving the Deli: In Search of Perfect Pastrami, Crusty Rye and the Heart of Jewish Deli." Sax was at the JCC tonight for a deli dinner and to talk about the rise and fall of delis and what we'll lose if they do all go away, namely the properly seasoned and cured meats they are known for, along with chopped liver, knishes and matzoh ball soup. Sax called delis the best ambassadors for Jewish culture in the U.S.

In addition to Sax's talk, we enjoyed a delicious meal of homemade corned beef sandwiches, sliced thick, on freshly baked rye bread. Along side that we had potato knishes, cole slaw, potato salad, a relish tray (sauerkraut, deli pickles and pickled tomatoes) and, for desert, apple strudel. Any good Jewish mother would have approved of the meal; she would also have beamed at me eating every bite and going back for seconds on the potato salad. The corned beef was sublime, the rye bread had a wonderful flavor and even New Yorker Sax had only raves for the knishes.

Sax asked if we had a Chinatown in RVA and the audience said no. "What's a large ethnic group you have here then?" he asked. A quick member of the audience answered, "WASPs," which was a group not much represented at this event (they did let a lapsed Catholic heathen like me in, though). The crowd had a very high percentage of people from Brooklyn and they knew from delis. When asked about the nearest real Jewish deli for Richmonders, Sax said it was Route 58 Deli in Virginia Beach and enough people in the audience nodded approvingly to sanction his opinion.

We're going to have to move the whales to the back burner, I'm afraid and get busy saving the delis before meals like I just had don't exist any more. A pastrami sandwich from Subway is not a pastrami sandwich. Or, to paraphrase Milton Berle, "Every time someone puts corned beef on white bread, somewhere a Jew dies."

Horses in the 'Hood

Nothing in the world sounds like horse hooves.

So when I'm in front of my house raking leaves today and I hear that peculiar sound on a beautiful November afternoon, it makes me ridiculously happy.

Not like falling in love happy or winning the lottery happy, but just happy that I live in a city where mounted police officers (in this case, one male, one female) have been patrolling the streets for over a century.

Happy that horses are still walking Clay Street decades after motorized transportation replaced them in the name of speed and cleanliness.

And it's not just me who is so taken.

A schoolboy walking home from the bus stop is riveted in his tracks.

A young woman walking a dog freezes as she turns the corner and spots them; her dog keeps going and she doesn't.

My raking is completely forgotten.

The only jarring moment is when the police radio squawks.

And then they're off down the street, clopping that wonderful horse hoof sound.

J-Ward, I love you.

Dinner at Mas and Stargazing, Too

I don't know about you, but I think weather like this is practically an invitation for a road trip.

I asked Beer Geek Friend to join me tonight, but he already had beer dinner plans (no surprise, really, some weeks he has two, once three in one week!).

He did, however, counter with a suggestion that we do an afternoon trip today to a couple of wineries.

But, alas, I had a late afternoon appointment.

Not wanting to give up the road trip dream, I asked P.B. Friend to join me and he was game for a drive to Charlottesville for dinner at Mas.

There are so many pleasures to Mas really: the low-light ambiance, the long, wide bar and comfortable stools, the superior tapas and, tonight, Al Green on the sound system.

I knew I loved the place, but it was P.B.F.'s first time there and he said he thought it was terrific.

We took our time eating through courses, cheese and bread here, Chorizo there, bacon-wrapped dates, olives of all kinds, spreads, meats and more bread.

So many distinctive flavors called for a big, earthy wine, which led to choosing the Bodegas Alvarez y Diez Valmoro Crianza.

I really liked this wine.

For dessert, we each got the flourless chocolate torte made with Venezuelan chocolate, with a lovely, creamy mouth feel and a dark, dark chocolate flavor.

We were so full and quite content by this time, so we sat and chatted for a good, long time while I drank wine and he sipped cappuccino, just savoring the meal.

P.B.F. is such a sweet guy and he understands exactly where my head and heart are, so he's a great one to discuss life with.

The other benefit of the trip, besides the excellent meal, was being far enough out to see plenty of stars for the Leonidid meteor showers tonight.

Filmy cloud layer aside, the view was much better out that way than here.

Besides, star gazing aids digestion, I've heard.

And, if not, it certainly put a fine finish on a delicious meal.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Eating at 8 1/2, Seeing Pirate Radio

I have never been the slavish fan of Mama Zu's and Edo's Squid that most of Richmond is. Chalk it up to my compromised palate or perhaps my lack of appreciation for good Italian, but I would not put either restaurant on my top 5 list, nor tell an out-of-towner that they were required eating. Since I'm in the minority on this, clearly I am the misguided one.

But I'd never eaten at 8 1/2 and not because of anything to do with the other restaurants; it's just not often I'm over on Strawberry Street. I corrected that tonight and ended up quite pleased with my simple meal. I got the Italian Hero, which was served on a proper crusty roll and loaded with peppers and more meat than anyone needs on one sandwich; the accompanying potato wedge was an unexpected treat. To justify my meat feast, I got an order of broccoletti, which was divine. I'd have ordered a dessert, too, but they were sold out of everything. Ah, the perils of going for takeout on a Sunday evening. Now I need to go back and try their white pizza... and I will definitely go back.

After stuffing myself, I was looking for a lazy way to spend my evening. I'm an admitted documentary dork and "Pirate Radio" is not a documentary, but I very much wanted to see it anyway. It's based on real events, it has a huge and talented cast and the soundtrack contained dozens of songs, albeit ones I've heard a million times at this point in my life, but which serve the movie well. I went, too, because of Philip Seymour Hoffman and while he was great, as always, the ensemble cast was the true highlight of the film. The idiosyncratic characters came alive with strong performances by every single member of the cast.

The movie is a tribute to music lovers and especially the die hard DJ's who made Radio Rock possible back in 1966, when the BBC was refusing to play the "new" music, even as 25 million people were tuning in every day to the pirate radio ship. The movie is raucous and fun, women definitely play all secondary roles and it's impossible not to get caught up in the story. And the 60s costumes are way cooler than I can describe; they alone are worth seeing.

I'd recommend 8 1/2, but I'm undoubtedly the only person in rva who doesn't already know and love it. So, instead, I'll recommend "Pirate Radio" as a excellent amusement and a fascinating glimpse at a brief but shining time in radio history.

A Walking Tour of the Boulevard

I'll admit I was just as beguiled by the sun today as everyone else in Richmond was. So when a friend asked me to spend the afternoon seeing a play, I declined. Instead, I went on a walking tour of the Boulevard area with Richmond landscape historian Tyler Potterfield (and, oh, is there a story from my past there) to tie in with the publication of his new book, Nonesuch Place; A History of the Richmond Landscape.

The tour group gathered at Black Swan Books, munching on ginger snaps provided by the store ( a fellow tour-goer and I discussed our inability to eat just one). I had run into an old friend from my radio days only yesterday and she was there, as was my delightful landlord/friend Bill and Suzanne Hall, she of the VA Museum, with her little dog accompanying her. We were undoubtedly a geeky group, all sincerely interested in learning more about the planning and design of Richmond's urban landscape. The absolutely perfect weather didn't hurt any, either; what could be better than a two-hour stroll on an afternoon like this?

It was a meandering sort of a tour, taking us up the Boulevard, into the Museum District and back into the Fan and onto Monument Avenue. Along the way, we learned about tenements (no negative connotation; the term refers to rental properties), the uses of different kinds of brick for front and sides of houses, the shame of porch removal and the absence of spires in rva. It was all fascinating stuff, if you care about such and this group did.

As for other people's sunny day activities, I saw sunbathers, a lemonade stand with a line, bikers in shorts, people chilling on and on top of porches and plenty of people just doing a walkabout. And, sure, I could have done any of that, but why, when I could walk around with a big geeky group instead?

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Bin 22 on a Saturday Night

My evening was spent at Bin 22 in Carytown, drinking, grazing and enjoying the never-ending promenade of people outside. I hadn't bothered to make plans with anyone for my Saturday night and by about 8:30, I was starting to think it was time to eat. I had missed the recent Matthew Broadbent wine dinner at Bin 22 because of a music show, so I decided that it should be my destination.

When I arrived, the place was empty, but the music was good and Interpol was blaring. I was pleased to see that owner Greg now offers wine by the quartino and settled in with a South African Cabernet Sauvignon. My intent was to to eat a little something, but my taste buds weren't screaming for anything in particular, so I began with the roasted red pepper and tomato soup.

For me, tomato soup means Halloween because, growing up, my mom always made tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches for our pre-trick or treating meal. I suppose she purposely planned a light meal knowing we'd over indulge on candy later. Tonight's soup bore no resemblance to the can of Campbell's we ate dressed in costume. This was a thick and rich soup initially tasting of pure fresh tomato and ending with that lovely roasted red pepper taste on the end. The basil and Parmesan on top were a nice touch.

I followed that with the Pepper and Sea Salt Toasts with Artichoke Hearts and Goat Cheese Spread. The oil-brushed bread had just enough salt and pepper on its crust to complement the savory spread. I finished just over half of the creamy goodness and had to quit.

Taking a break to enjoy more wine, I noticed a couple come in and lay claim to the couch. They were being very cozy, lots of PDAs, so I focused on my wine and my reading. Not long after, another couple arrived and asked to sit on the patio. The waitress and I agreed that temperatures in the mid-fifties would be a tad brisk for us, but she let them sit outside anyway. Turns out he was wearing a leather jacket and she was wearing a ski jacket, thus making outdoor sitting more tolerable, if a bit awkward for the business of drinking and eating.

I decided that I was too full for dessert but couldn't resist ordering the Ginger Snap Cookies with Butter Pecan Ice Cream. The bowl was over-sized, the ice cream was full of big chunks of pecan and the cookies, well, they were ginger snaps. I'm one of those people who could eat half a bag of ginger snaps without even thinking about it; that ginger taste is addictive and always leaves me reaching for another. I did what I could with the dessert and finally threw in the towel. I had more than taken care of my hunger.

Greg and I chatted for a while and then it was time to leave the affectionate couple to each other and the outside couple to their shivering and walk Carytown. I saw people I knew, but no one I wanted PDAs from or to shiver with, but I had sated my hunger and enjoyed watching the parade of humanity outside the restaurant, so Bin 22 had scored on both counts.

The Pleasure of Being Read to at Chop Suey

The last time I went to a literary reading at Chop Suey Books, there were four of us in the audience. Not so for today's readings by Michele Young-Stone and and Sheri Reynolds; every seat in that small gallery was taken and there were people standing in the doorway. After listening to these two women read from their new books, it was clear why the room was so full.

Young-Stone's book, "The Handbook for Lightening Strike Survivors," tells the story of two lightening strike survivors and how their their lives unfold until the incidents no longer define them. The author was herself a lightening strike survivor, having been struck at age 11. Interestingly, she told us that the support group for such victims is the same as the support group for electro-shock treatment survivors. Despite one event being intentional and the other accidental, apparently survivors manifest the same sorts of side effects and long-term issues. The first chapter we heard was a compelling start to what sounds like it will be a great read; the book comes out April 13, 2010.

Sheri Reynolds followed, with the first chapter of "The Sweet In-Between," her fifth published novel, although the tenth she's written. Reynolds is originally from South Carolina and her accent was so thick you could cut it with a knife, which was absolutely perfect for a story of a girl on the brink of womanhood and embroiled in endless family and neighborhood drama on the eastern shore of Virginia (Reynolds' current home). With her moonlight and magnolias accent, lines like, " ordinary day, as ordinary as butter in grits" enhanced the prose beautifully (and you should have heard her stretch grits into two syllables).

So, yes, I spent my afternoon listening to writers read. What's your point?

Saving Horses/Slurping Soup

I began my evening with the horsey crowd at the Byrd Theater, at a benefit for the Equine Rescue League. Honestly, I didn't know there was a problem of horses being abused and neglected, but I guess I'm not surprised. It was a showing of "National Velvet," the 1945 movies about a 12-year old girl winning England's Grand National. I knew a very young Elizabeth Taylor was in it, as was Mickey Rooney, and I knew it had to do with horses, so I usually caught the pop cultural references to the film, but that's not the same as actually seeing it.

It was lush with the typical Technicolor over-saturation of colors, some of the sets were so obviously painted on as to be embarrassing and you knew from the beginning that she'd win, but it was rated #9 of the ten best sports movies ever made, right before "Jerry McGuire," a movie I have seen. Number one was "Raging Bull," a movie I have not seen. The list is endless.

After I did my part to save the horses, I went to the Belvidere at Broad for a bowl of soup. Tonight's soup was pumpkin, which didn't particularly grab me at first, but I ordered it anyway. Forgive my lack of vocabulary here; this was a bowl of pumpkin mixed with cream and then there was some cognac in there. To me, it tasted like homemade pumpkin ice cream, minus the sugar. It was so creamy, so pumpkin-y and such a perfect blend of savory/sweet as to be difficult to choose to label it only one or the other. For me, it satisfied both my appetizer and dessert needs, no easy feat (a good cheese plate can do the same for me).

Of course I ran into various neighbors, and discovered that many of them have been mopping up water the past few days (hooray for second floor apartments), but I also got to check out Todd Hale's new show hanging on the walls; this is an artist with a bent for the unusual. The music was vintage rock (not my choice, needless to say) but eminently pleasing to many of those around me. You can't always get what you know?

Friday, November 13, 2009

Artists as Collaborators

"Everybody seemed to be interested in other arts- that was probably the thing that was the most exciting."

That sounds very much like something several artists who have moved to rva have told me about our fair city. Actually, it references Black Mountain College, a N.C. university in which the study of art was seen as central to an education; it was open from 1933 through 1957 and an unusually high number of students and faculty went on to become major influential artists of the twentieth century.

"Black Mountain College: Education and the Arts" opened today at the Flippo Gallery at RMC and it was completely worth going to Ashland for the second time in less than 48 hours. The exhibition of photography, collages, paintings, prints and posters is a fascinating cross-section of the artists that came through BMC and influenced one another during that very fertile period in the late 40s.

The Robert Rauschenberg "Jacob Javitz Center" poster looks like an rva graphic designer's dream, with random images floating in the foreground. The Alvin Lustig Design magazine cover on first glance evokes an "Oh, I've seen that a million times" reaction; then you notice the year it was done - 1946- and you realize how influential this man's work was on subsequent generations of designers. Hazel Larsen Archer's photograph of "Merce Cunningham Dancing" is a study of the line of the dancer's body in mid-air, echoed on the ground by his tiny shadow behind him, looking like that of a doll.

Also fascinating was a look at the women who accompanied some of the men to BMC while they taught, but were really artists in their own right, albeit less well-known. There was an etching by Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence, wife of faculty member and Harlem Renaissance painter Jacob Lawrence. Sue Weil, Rauschenberg's wife, had come to BMC as a student and later married the artist; her "Musical Chairs" was like a Chinese puzzle with squares moved to the wrong places, causing a fractured image.

Probably most arresting were the photographs of the artists themselves; the handsome and artistic faces of composer John Cage and artists Rauschenberg, M.C. Richards and Willem de Kooning. We can only hope today's photographers are capturing current artists as meaningfully.

In the meantime, the exhibit is up through early January and it's a terrific reminder of the importance of creative people coming together and influencing each other. Just like what happens right here in River City.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Joint Was Jumpin'

I had heard from some friends that "Ain't Misbehavin'" at Theater VCU was worth seeing and since I'd never seen it before (despite it having been around since 1978), we braved the remnants of Ida to check it out. This wasn't challenging or thoughtful theater, this was a very cool set, colorful costumes and the classic music of Fats Waller. In a word, it was fun.

The revue was high energy (you could see it in the heated faces of the dancers), all singing and dancing, at times humorous, at times downright raunchy. The five actors that made up the cast were well suited to playing the talented black musicians and singers that figured so prominently in the Harlem Renaissance of the 20s and 30s. But the production is no history lesson, except perhaps a thoroughly enjoyable one in the history of swing. I recognized more songs than I expected to: "Honeysuckle Rose," "I Can't Give You Anything But Love" and "T'aint Nobody's Business," to name a few. I'm more Fats Waller-literate than I realized.

We loved that there were nightclub tables on the edges of the stage where audience members sat during the show and, from which they were sometimes pulled into the action. And then there was the titillation of the fake marijuana smoking (we didn't inhale). We observed all the fun from a slightly higher perch, but you can't go wrong seeing it from any vantage point.

Of Punctuality and Punctuation

Here's the problem with being punctual: you do it for a lifetime and people start to expect it from you.

I'm not kidding.

If you're never late meeting up with someone, they assume the worst when you do arrive a bit late.

It happened to me a couple weeks ago when I was supposed to be meeting a friend at 2, but my noon lunch ran long and it was closer to 2:30 when I got there.

Good god, he'd called out the militia and S.W.A.T. teams before the cat dragged me in.

Today I was meeting up with my English teacher friend for happy hour at New York Deli and I was 12 minutes late.

By that point, he'd already tweeted that he was getting worried and wondering if he had the date wrong in his calendar.

Twelve minutes!

He'd also arrived early, so maybe it just felt like a longer wait, but, as he pointed out, I'm usually early, so anything past the fixed time is worrisome.

We moved beyond the social constructs of time and had a most enlightening chat while we scarfed sliders and basket 'o fries.

And since we're both such blogging geeks, we talked numbers and comparisons, lurkers and followers (he has a killer photography blog at: ).

We actually talked grammar and spelling.

He shared a story about a short-lived but passionate relationship he'd had at 25.

I shared a story about a newly-single friend having far more luck with the opposite sex more quickly than I am.

By this point, we were surrounded by a gathering of what we think was realtors, drinking and glad-handing each other- our signal that it was time to clear out.

We also noted that we have gone out together more in 2009 than in the first six years of knowing each other.

About damn time we both made room in our lives for someone whose company we so greatly enjoy.

Hey, I'm talking to you.

How to Watch a Silent Movie

I juts started getting into silent films in the last couple of years.

And even then mainly because of my friend Jameson and his monthly Silent Music Revival, a showing of a silent film with a band providing live music accompaniment.

 He's suggested several films for me to check out since then and now I'm quick to take advantage of an opportunity to see a silent film.

The Richmond Moving Image Co-Op (the people who do the Italian Film Fest, the James River Film Fest, Flicker and more) started a 4-part Silent Classics series last week and today I went to see Buster Keaton in "College" at the downtown library's auditorium.

Keaton was just as stone-faced as I'd been told he always was and the film showed off his surprising athletic prowess as he tried to win the most popular girl on campus.

The film was released in 1927, so there were references to colored waiters and girls being expelled for having a boy in their room.

Very quaint.

VCU's film guru Mike Jones spoke before the film and told the audience that we'd be seeing the film on 16mm, a rare treat these days and only because Randolph-Macon College divested itself of all its old 16mm films about seven years ago and VCU was the lucky recipient.

As Jones pointed out, there's a certain retro pleasure to watching a film accompanied by the whirring of the projector.

To a fan of silent movies, it's as enjoyable a part of revisiting the past as the movie itself.

SWF ISO Rain Fan

While blogging last night, a friend messaged me to say that this weather had made him think of me. He remembered that I like rainy weather and with it pelting down outside, he said I was the first thing that came to mind. I don't even remember telling him that, but he was right. I tried to convince him that it's comforting to go to sleep hearing rain on the roof or street outside.

Unlike practically everyone, I don't hate the rain; in fact, I like rainy days, even when we have several in a row. It does make walking the dog and doing my daily four miles more challenging, but I'd have that dilemma if I lived in London or Scotland, now wouldn't I? I've got my hot pink rain jacket, my warm lined boots and three sizes of umbrella to suit the downpour. My biggest problem on days like this is flooded streets; I'm not very tall and sometimes my legs just aren't long enough to span the bigger puddles.

I've only known one other person who enjoys rainy days as much as I do, but he lives in Williamsburg, so it's not always convenient to meet up on rainy days. Which is not to say that we haven't in the past; we've walked in it, taken drives in it and chosen restaurants with front window seats to admire it as we ate. But it's been at least a couple of years since we've enjoyed those pleasures together.

I'd enjoy having another rain-loving friend, but I've got no idea how to find one. Standing on a corner under my umbrella trying to solicit one just seems wrong. I'll just keep an eye peeled during my rainy outings for someone else smiling and wet besides me.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

When It's Real Love, You Know You Do It for Free

As I drove through the pouring rain and flooding roads on my way to Ashland Coffee and Tea to see Sarah Borges and the Broken Singles, it occurred to me that a cozy coffeehouse for a show was an ideal destination to wile away such an evening.

The weather and locale also dictated my food choices; I ordered the Brunswick Stew, which was made with pork rather than chicken and loaded with limas and corn. Accompanying it was a warm corn muffin double the size of my fist (really), not too sweet and not too moist or crumbly. When I got down to the last of the stew broth, I emptied all the bits and crumbs from the muffin paper into my bowl and watched the muffin absorb every bit, allowing me to enjoy a sort of deconstructed sopping process, using my soup spoon to scoop up the wet crumbs.

For dessert, I stayed with their strengths and got the homemade cookie trio: white chocolate macadamia, oatmeal craisin and chocolate chip, with a glass of cab. I was satisfied.

As I ate and people took tables around me, the discussions were of musicians like Alison Krause, Jerry Douglas and Brandi Carlisle. The type of fans who refer to Merlefest and South by Southwest by the year, because they've been to so many. I was happily ensconced at my favorite table, one from the stage and next to the bar. Later, when the band left the stage, the bass player came over and thanked me for sitting there.

The band got right to it shortly after 8 and it was probably after the second song that Sarah Borges told the audience, "Okay the trains are a little disconcerting. It's like my whole life just flashed before me." I love how beautifully expressive her voice is, but she was also pretty, smart, witty and flexible (she told us that last part, but she moved awfully well, kicking and sashaying onstage). At one time included in the generic alt-country niche, the band's new CD is more straight on indie rock, plus the band did several covers, including J. Geils' "Cryin' One More Time for You." They're both Boston bands, so it made sense as a choice, at least the way she explained it.

The band was terrific; bass player Binky announced to us all his room number at the "quaint little spot called the Day's Inn," the guitar player used a half-filled bottle of beer instead of his left hand to play one song and the drummer requested that they skip something on the set list because it made his head spin. Sarah provided very clever banter between each song, making up ditties and teasing her band incessantly.

And when it was all over and time to head out into the rainy, windy night, Binky's question to me as we stood in the bathroom line after the show resonated in my head; was there really anything better to do on a rainy night than listen to a live band? Binky had a point.

Beer for Art Geeks

If I haven't made it clear in my past posts, I don't drink beer.

I don't like the taste, despite years of beer-swilling friends coaxing me to "just taste this one; it's different" and not liking a single one.

But I did drink an entire beer once.

Oh, yes, I did.

It was at a Cracker show at the Flood Zone back in 1993 and if they had had anything, anything at all, to drink other than beer, I'd have swilled it.

But that night I needed some liquid courage and that one beer was the only way to get it.

I share this as a prelude to trying to describe my pleasure at reading an article in today's Washington Post about cask beers.

Why the sudden interest in a beer topic, you wonder?

Ah, well, it was written by Blake Gopnik, the art critic for the Post and a writer of whom I am inordinately fond.

Granted, he's always writing about art, a topic near and dear to my heart, but I'm also a big fan of his writing.

So when I got to today's Post Food section to find a front page article about cask beers and a new place in Logan Circle that will carry five of them, I read it start to finish and was mildly fascinated.

I don't know that I'm any more likely to like cask beer than I like pasteurized, carbonated beer, but I'm not ruling it out either.

Maybe it was Blake's enthusiasm for the subject or maybe it was the allure of an art geek trying to introduce me to something new.

For all I know, Blake is nothing more than a golden beverage fan and not necessarily qualified to write about beer, but I prefer to think that he's sharing his enthusiasm for cask beer in the hopes of reaching other art geeks like me who wouldn't take the word of anyone else.

Now I'm imagining about sharing some cask beer with Blake whilst discussing art for hours.

And if he wants to throw in some additional beer talk, I'll be all ears.

I might even become a cask convert as his urging.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Moshi Moshi + M. Ward = mmmmm

It was a firsts kind of a night all the way through. A friend had suggested that we meet at Moshi Moshi for dinner and, since I'd never been, I was game for a first trip there. I beat him to the restaurant and, as it turned out, was greeted by a hostess/bartender I knew, but didn't know worked there...she and I go way back and would laugh to admit to anyone else how we know each other.

My friend soon arrived, so we jumped right in with the pot stickers, moved on to miso soup and then shared the Spicy Beef Salad, a Tofu Curry dish and Spicy Salmon cut rolls, all extremely well executed. It was when that last course arrived, full of spiciness, that the subject of my sake virginity and the need to address it arose. My introduction was Momokawa Pearl sake, an old-style roughly-filtered sake, served cold and tasting tropical: pineapple, banana and coconut-like. My friend was well acquainted with sake, but even after my first glass, I felt inadequate to describe the experience. Accordingly, I attempted subsequent Pearl tastings to better solidify my sake understanding. Before we knew it, it was time for us to part ways.

And then it was time to go see M. Ward under the guise of the Monsters of Folk show at the Landmark. I'm not saying he was the focus of my evening, but, yes, I would have paid the same price to see him alone. As the usher was leading me to my seat, she turned around and said, "Wow, you have a great seat!" which was true: it was in the first row, as in, nothing but a stage in front of me, which meant plenty of leg room. Another couple of nice firsts- row and leg room. The night was getting better and better.

It was a listening-room environment, except for the occasional obnoxious Jim James fan yelling out stupid things like, "We love you Jimmy James!" and "You need me to kiss your feet, Jimmy?" But those idiots aside, it was a really good experience all around. Like the Neko Case show, no cells phones were allowed in use, not for texting, not for photographing, not for anything at all and they had attendants to keep watch over the audience to ensure that the policy was adhered to. I loved that.

The show was harmony heaven; when you have three vocal talents like M. Ward, Conner Oberst and Jim James, admittedly, you've got a lot to work with. Mike Mogis, the only member of the group not doing vocals, superbly acquitted himself on anything with strings. But the highlights for me were those songs that featured M. Ward singing lyrics like, "Love will get you in the end" and "What do you do with the pieces of broken heart?" Le sigh. Best of all, when he wasn't out front playing guitar, he was on the piano (and sometimes keyboard), banging his heart out a la Kermit the Frog. It was amazing to witness him standing, sitting, crouching and just tearing up those keys. And that voice of his, well, yes. Oh, yes.

More than one person, when I told them about the show, responded by saying that they didn't really like Conner Oberst much. I'm not the biggest fan, either, but he won a lot of points late in the show when he mounted the drum kit, balanced precariously and wailed on his guitar all the while; then during his dismount, kicked a cup of water out of his way. So rock and roll cute.

Although this was a "folk" show, the latter songs in the set allowed the band to jam in a most un-folk like way, noisily working up the audience as they went. That would be, I suppose, why they're called Monsters of Folk.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Tennis Balls Add Up to Bistro 27

Sometimes a person doesn't even need to decide what's next because Fate offers up a little reminder for them.

As an example, I was out walking the dog this afternoon when I was greeted by two guys playing tennis on the courts near my apartment.

Sure enough, it was two of the staff from Bistro 27 going at it on the courts on a beautiful sunny day.

We chatted for it a bit and they went back to their match (for the record, Kevin won).

An hour or so later, as B.S.F. and I were trying to decide on a dinner destination for the evening, it occurred to me that I was overdue at 27.

B.S.F. made it to my place by 7ish, spent some time wooing the beagle and chatting me up and eventually we walked over to the restaurant, enjoying the warmer than usual stroll through the November air.

It was a decent-sized crowd for a Monday night, but then a 21-top always makes a big difference on an off night.

I ran into a couple of girlfriends I hadn't seen for a bit and, as it turned out (because this is Richmond-small-town-VA), B.S.F. had at least a half dozen connections to them as well.

Forget seven degrees of separation; in Richmond, it's more like four or five, which is actually pretty cool.

They shared in our conversations of wine, food get-togethers, UR and the joys of 2 Amys.

We eventually got to the point where they suggested we swap wine (for tasting purposes only, of course) and that's always a good sign.

For the record, B.S.G. had the paella and rated it extremely highly compared to others he's had around town.

I had the bacon-wrapped scallops, mainly because I hadn't had them in months and it was what the staff expected of me and I hate to let them down.

The catch phrase of the evening was, "May I speak freely here?" which led to some unexpected revelations...on both our parts.

Rhetorical questions were left unanswered (why state the obvious, after all?) and viola jokes were abundant.

My girlfriends may even have begun to figure out B.S.G. by the end of it all and that's saying something.

And, yes, we were the last four out, for what it's worth.

And all because two guys were batting a ball around on a sunny day.

Funny, that.

My Big Show Biz Break

The call went out for extras for a shoot at Center Stage today.

Who better than those with plenty of time on their hands as well as the culturally curious, two groups that happen to include me, to be those extra bodies?

So I donned my business attire (not often used these days) as directed and reported to the Carpenter Center at 3:00 sharp.

After signing our model release forms, we were herded up to the balcony and told to scatter ourselves throughout the seats.

It occurred to me that sitting that way was going to make it look like none of us had dates at the supposed performance we were attending, which while it's true for me, would hardly represent a typical event audience.

We were told that the shoot was for the Metropolitan Richmond Visitors' Bureau's annual guide, which usually features a new attraction or major upcoming event, hence the focus on Center Stage.

And then the real work of extras began; we waited.

And waited some more.

The actual models arrived late and had to be shot first (natch, they're paid pros, we were just warm bodies).

We were then rearranged into various rows behind the models to simulate the audience, although most of us were guessing that we'd be nothing more than blurred spots behind the actual models.

But then we didn't come to the shoot for a featured role; we knew we were just there to take up space.

And we did a fine job of filling those seats, if I do say so myself.

Besides, I'm much more the audience type than the performer type, in case there was any question.

Live at Ipanema

I hadn't been out to hear live music in over a week. Appalling, I know.

By choice, that's just not the way my world works.

So after a whirlwind weekend away, the Live at Ipanema show last night presented the ideal way to get my music fix and catch up with people.

True, I didn't intend to close the place down, but F.R.O. and I got started and just kept talking (except for during the show, of course).

Assorted people joined us for a while and then moved on, so we had plenty of fresh input throughout, always a good thing.

Nick Coward and the Last Battle were playing (and being recorded) and I love the fullness of their sound: strings, horns, guitar, drums, multiple voices.

The surprise was that they all were even able to fit into that tiny little space.

Last time I saw them, they took up most of Gallery 5's stage, a considerably larger area to put so many musicians.

Their set had been short then, so I didn't want to miss an opportunity to hear them again.

The place was quite full and not everybody shut up, but the music was really well-done and the performance will be posted on RVA News in a couple of weeks if you missed it or need to revisit it.

Luckily, I planned this week to be much heavier on live music than last.

And I purposely plan every week to be heavy on conversation, preferably with those who enjoy verbal discourse as much as I do.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Guys Say the Darnedest Things, Part 2: Strangers

When I last posted on this subject, it was about guys I knew and their unbelievable utterances, here.

But here's the thing: sometimes it's strangers who provide the amusement.

To start my walk every day, I have a to cross Belvidere, no small feat since it's six lanes plus two service roads.

As I was starting to cross, I heard some guy in his car hooting and hollering like crazy.

I had no reason to think it was addressed at me, so I just kept going.

Then he yelled, "Great ass!" just as I reached the center median.

No one else was around, so I glanced back, wondering if it was perhaps directed at me.

"Not YOU!" he yelled, "YOU ain't got NO ass!"

At that second, I spied a woman on the far side of Belivdere with a most ample backside getting into her car.

Clearly, she was his intended.

Before I even had time to be insulted, though, another guy a few cars back leaned out his window and said, "Don't listen to him. You have a very fine ass, miss," and then drove on.

In the space of ten seconds, I had been put down and redeemed.

It's true, men really do say the most extraordinary things.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Think Small...No, Smaller

This is America, so bigger is always better, right?

Not so, of course, as was beautifully demonstrated at tonight's Think Small Exhibition preview party at Art 6 and Artspace.

It was the 5th biennial international miniature invitational and while there were plenty of artists represented from RVA, there were also artists shown from Tuscon, Chicago, Budapest and places in between.

The works accepted could be no more than 3 inches in any direction, but that could mean 3 inches of sculpture, photography, painting and just about any other interpretation of form.

Tonight's preview party included a buffet prepared by some local favorites, including Mekong, Bistro 27 and Kuba, Kuba, among others.

Your ticket purchase also got you drinks at both galleries and there was a cushy motor coach (okay, bus) to transport participants from Broad Street to Manchester.

The event was a fundraiser for both galleries and undoubtedly desperately needed at a time when arts funding is almost non-existent.

But the primary benefit to attendees was the opportunity to purchase the art before the First Friday masses arrive tomorrow and purchase they did.

Many pieces earned a red sticker tonight, signifying that they'd been sold.

And while the art was small, the prices ranged from $35 to $400 to "Inquire," which usually means if you have to ask, you can't afford it.

But there was a great deal of interesting and affordable art to choose from out of the nearly 400 pieces on display.

The exhibit is a perfect opportunity for art lovers to acquire a piece (or two) worth enjoying every day.

And, beware,  if you don't go for it now, it'll be two more years before you have the opportunity to Think Small again.

Unless, of course, you'er thinking about something other than art.

The General Specific

All of a sudden, it's November and the time has changed and it's getting colder at night.

And of course the business of life continues, random, sometimes surprising and always worthy of comment in my world.

I made a point to get out and vote, knowing most people weren't going to bother and most people didn't.

At my polling place there were six poll workers and two voters.

I will never understand people choosing not to exercise such a crucial right, no matter how lackluster the candidates.

Crossing the street during my walk yesterday, a guy drove by and gave me a full-on wolf whistle, just like in the old cartoons.

Really? In yoga pants and a hoodie?

Thanks, but I hardly think I earned it, fella.

The Dashboard Confessional show next month at the National, for which I already had a ticket, got cancelled, er, excuse me, "rescheduled due to family issues."

Seriously? Come on, guys, classic emo knows no freakin' family issues.

Walking through the Kroger produce department, a guy said an unexpected hi to me and I gave him a mega-watt smile and said hi back as I made my way to the cheeses.

From behind, I heard him say, "That smile!" to his friend.

You were right, Mom, people appreciate a smile.

My friend Scott and I celebrated his new marketing job with lunch at Garnett's today (I had the Louisville Hot Brown, the Derby classic, and it was scrumptious) and we finished with the chocolate/coconut cake, undoubtedly my top two favorite dessert ingredients.

Chocolate icing on the sides, dark chocolate ganache dusted with coconut on top and white icing with coconut in the center.

We both moaned a little enjoying it...then took a long walk in the November sunshine to make ourselves feel better about having eaten so much.

Nothing major to report, just the usual observations and oddities.

Something Fishy at Acacia

Last night, chef Dale Reitzer brought together food lovers, wine lovers and marine science geeks to focus on the sustainable seafood movement for an evening.

Marine Educator Vicki Clark and Fisheries Biologist Dave Rudders went table to table sharing their passion for sustainable fishing practices in Virginia and answering questions from the less scientific-inclined among us.

If you're going to get a science lesson, though, how better than accompanied by a three-course wine dinner at Acacia?

First off was a scallop flan with mixed field lettuces and a shallot and caper vinaigrette; it was served with a 2008 Montinore "Almost Dry" Riesling.

The flan was much like a seafood terrine, smooth, creamy on the tongue and tasting of local scallops, in other words, lovely.

Next up was layered scallop and black truffles, baked in house made puff pastry with port wine cream sauce, a rich and decadent dish, served with the 2006 Montinore Gewurztraminer.

The wine's sweetness only added to the lushness of this course.

Finally we had potato-wrapped rock fish on local greens fondue with local crab sauce.

When my friend inquired about the significance of "local crab" sauce, we learned from our science geek visitors that blue crabs are not just a Chesapeake Bay find, but are caught as far north as Cape Cod and as far south as South America.

The point of labeling the sauce as local was to highlight the fact that the crabs used in this sauce were not from those more distant locations, but MD/VA crabs.

The dish was served with a 2008 Montinore Pinot Noir, a beautiful match with the local favorite, rock fish.

Montinore Estate Wines, from a family-owned winery in the Willamette Valley, Oregon, were chosen as part of the focus of the evening for their organic and sustainable practices.

They make wine only from grapes that they grow and all 230 acres of grapes are farmed using the strict methods of Bio-dynamic farming, which utilize ethical-spiritual considerations.

It's as groovy as it sounds, with all the attendant implications that term brings up (Horsetail tea? Check. Valerian flower juice? Yep.).

It was hard to tell from the lively dinner crowd how many people were there for the science lesson and how many just wanted to enjoy another of Acacia's excellent three-course wine dinners for $35.

To be honest, I wanted it all and was amply rewarded with both a learning experience and delicious food responsibly fished.

I believe business types call that a win/win situation.