Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Awake and Barely on My Feet

The dreams that wake you up in the wee hours or the ones you experience just before you wake up in the morning are never the fluffy, frivolous type dreams, at least in my experience.

It's never the being chased, or sliding backwards down a hill or nonsense like that sort of dreams, not for me anyway.

No, it's always the deep, subconscious kind of dreams that force you awake.

The kind of dreams where you're having conversations that you'd never have in real life.

The kind of words that must have been lurking in your subconscious all along but don't actually cross your lips.

But go to sleep, boy, and all of a sudden you're over-sharing and the dream people are responding completely unlike themselves (or maybe like themselves; who knows?).

The kind of dream where you wake up and for a few minutes, you actually believe the conversation happened and you're suffused with a happiness or sadness for no good reason.

A quick adjustment to reality and you file it away in the crazy dream part of the brain, maybe even relieved that you didn't actually say those thing out loud.

I'm not sure what causes the nervy part of my brain to move to the forefront once I check out, but it's always fascinating to see who I direct my secret thoughts at and what I choose to say when there are no possible repercussions.

I think some of the recipients of my dream conversations might be very surprised at what I'd say if social convention didn't relegate my real thoughts to dreamland.

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Here & Now is Coming Round

When the economy sucks, people don't hesitate to share their strategy for getting along on less.

Or maybe they just share it with me in particular because I'm jobless and they figure I can empathize, which I can, but probably no more than anybody else these days.

A local bookseller told me that her strategy is to buy something from a local business every week.

She's absolutely right about doing this and it would b great if more people made that effort to support local businesses right now.

If we lose them to this recession, we may not get them back. Shop rva and all.

I was at Total Wine (pricing decanters, not wine...don't ask) and ran into a wine rep I know stocking shelves.

We chatted about how the economy has changed people's patterns; for him, it's his going out and drinking habits.

The former happens less often and the latter means he chooses beer over vodka tonics.

I told him I know most every wine special in town and which nights they apply.

He told me that consumers are still buying plenty of wine, but it's cheaper stuff in larger quantities.

The owner of our neighborhood yoga place told me that she expects this to be a bare bones holiday season at home and she was referring to Thanksgiving as well as Christmas.

She said her little family plans to cut back almost completely on holiday expenditures, which most people would probably acknowledge have gotten to be excessive anyway.

I always hated mall/big box shopping, my car is paid for and my expenses minimal, so I continue to use my small discretionary income for supporting local restaurants, markets and artists.

When things rebound, I'll just use my increased income to support the same things to a greater degree again.

It'll be interesting to see which habits borne of this recession people maintain once the economy picks back up.

As we've all seen, our collective memory can be very short.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Pop A Squat

How much time can one person spend sitting on their ass in a day?

Well, if you're talking about me and how I spent today, pretty much all of it.

First off I met friends at the Bowtie to see Hitchcock's "Rear Window," a movie I had never seen on the big screen.

Seeing it full size for the first time was the perfect analogy for Jimmy Stewart's nosey neighbor-watching in the film; there was so much more to see with a better view.

It was the restored version, too, so the color was absolutely beautiful; it showed in every detail of every scene.

This afternoon, I went to the Firehouse for their pick-your-price performance of "Boys' Life," which has gotten rave reviews from critics and been recommended by several friends.

I wasn't the least surprised at how strong Joe Carlson's performance was; he had already impressed me in several plays just this summer alone.

He had cut his hair for the role and completely inhabited the witty and immature Jack character. Our seats were in the front row and unbeknownst to me, all the seats had been replaced since I'd last been to the Firehouse. The uncomfortable and very squeaky chairs of yore are gone, so what was another two hours seated?

Coincidentally, my final event of the evening was also at the Firehouse: Project Resolution, the monthly showing and forum for local filmmakers and fans.

The first half of the program is devoted to shorts (5 minutes or less) and the audience offers critique and comments to the director after each.

The second half features a longer film (20-30 minutes) and tonight it was Joey Tran's "The Cyclist."

I find it fascinating to hear the audience's knowledgeable feedback (most are filmmakers and/or film geeks) and observe how the directors handle the opinions offered. Most seem to appreciate it; others become nothing less than snarky.

P-Res always does a raffle, usually of DVDs and tonight I was the lucky recipient of "Talladega Nights," a film I will never watch (I don't have a TV or any desire to see it), but who doesn't love winning something random?

Or supporting a local event I frequently attend?

And, by this point, what was a few more hours with my butt firmly planted?

Take A Picture. It Lasts Longer.

Answer: You post a picture of yourself wearing the new t-shirt (perhaps t-dress would be more appropriate) on your blog and on Facebook in gratitude, then try to decide who to share the wine with.

Question: What's the proper response to receiving a surprise package in the mail from Walla Walla, containing a winery t-shirt (men's, size small) and a bottle of wine you've been lusting after for months, but couldn't afford on your unemployed pocketbook?

Saturday, September 26, 2009

It Begins with an Innocent Question

"Would you like to meet for breakfast?"

He suggested 10 a.m.; I countered with 11.

He was punctual, as is his habit.


He told me to choose the place since he'd picked our last eating destination.

I chose 821.

He countered with McLean's.

It's my turn, so we walked to 821.


I ordered...drum roll... black bean nachos.

He got a crab omelet with bacon and coffee.

He reluctantly admitted that the food was good.

I got my nacho fix.

He whined a little more about McLean's.

We disagreed about music, as usual (please...he loves Boston. Enough said).

He explained the difference in sleeping with someone and sleeping with someone.

Right.

Are you getting a sense of just how much we have to base an interesting friendship on?

If so, please clue me in.

The Good, The Bad and the Ugly

InLight, 1708 Gallery's 2nd Annual annniversary display, turned out to be both more and less than expected.

The three blocks of Broad and Grace from 5th to 8th were alive tonight with outdoor light-inspired art.

Some of it, like the installations at the plaza on the east side of the federal courthouse were imaginative and engaging.

I loved "Reach," a motorized contraption with halogen lights moving in a spider-like motion as viewers moved beneath.

But without question, my favorite was "Tomorrow Stood Just Outside the Circle From Where the Light Did Shine," a collection of black dress shoes with cut-outs illuminated from within and words written on the soles, all hanging across Grace Street.

It was ghostly and captivating at the same time.

There were plenty of interesting light installations, but nothing with the impact of last year's Jackson Ward house, as defined by light.

That 3-D recreation of an 18th century row house using only lights set a standard that may never be exceeded for this exhibit, IMHO.

As if pre-determined by fate, I followed InLight with dinner at the Belvidere at Broad, where I enjoyed seeing any number of fascinating locals.

I knew I'd be seeing Katie, last night's wine rep and bourbon buddy (and her charming farmer friend) again, but also saw Karen of Now Sleepyhead (looking lovely, as always) and Nate, who was performing outside the restaurant as Gull.

I never miss a chance to see and catch up with Nate; he is, without doubt, one of my favorite music people.

Add into this mix a very married neighbor who came early, sat himself down next to me, and stayed late, despite obvious hints from me to go home to wifey.

Residents of nearby bar stools noticed his inappropriately amorous attempts, but told me afterwards that they weren't certain enough to intervene.

Pity, really, because their meddling could have saved me untold fending off of said neighbor.

They stayed out of it as the neighbor got progressively more inebriated and I got more and more bored.

I came home to messages from two friend wanting to catch up with me earlier tonight, but, alas, it's a bit late at this point.

Maybe I can find someone to have breakfast with me in the morning.

We shall see who turns up.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Wine Dinner at Bistro 27 Leads to....

...unbridled wine consumption, superior food offerings, fascinating conversation with wine geeks, wine sellers, catering types and Uruguayan winemaker as well as bourbon tasting for the out-of-towners afterwards.

The wine dinner tonight at 27 had many things to recommend it: the charming presence of Francisco Carrau of Bodegas Carrau, a menu that included, among other things, seared scallops. grilled stuffed quail and breaded pork tenderloin scallopini, sustainable and hand-harvested wines made by a family of ten-generation winemakers and a savvy crowd of wine geeks, sellers and buyers.

Portions were huge, pourings generous and the wine talk exceptional.

Chef Carlos did what many local chefs can't: spoke briefly about the food and wine pairings before the dinner started and then let us find out for ourselves what he intended to accomplish.

No between courses blustering about the upcoming dish or pairing.

Five courses made for a very full group by meal's end, but not too full to organize a party of winemaker, distributor, wine seller, chef and chosen few to trek down a block for an after dinner course of bourbon, tequila and digestifs.

Our honored guest, Uruguayan Francisco Carrau, was most curious about Kentucky bourbon, so we took him to Comfort to sample our country's best.

Three hours later, he seemed satisfied enough with his new-found knowledge of the array of American bourbon and even a little Virginia whiskey.

I was satisfied with an invitation to Uruguay to see first-hand South American wine county. Everybody was happy.

For you green types, Carrau vineyards boasts the highest sustainability index possible. For you foodies, Chef Carlos outdid himself with a menu of five perfectly paired courses.

For you stay-at-home types, you missed an evening of engaging conversation and all kinds of interesting personalities.

Wine highlight?

Bodegas Carrau Tannat Amat, a rich rustic wine with considerable tannins.

It was served with the scallopini with chimmichurri sauce and I requested it be poured again with the dark chocolate tart; the winemaker enthusiastically seconded my motion.

I had to order some for home as well; it was that good.

Uruguayan wine. Who knew?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Feeding the Byrd (Theater)

I can cross another classic movie off my "Need to See" list after taking in "Singing in the Rain" at the Byrd this afternoon.

It was a fundraiser ($7 for admission and all the popcorn you wanted) and, frankly, I'm happy to support anything that gets those god-awful seats replaced sooner.

I saw one rather large woman trying to squeeze herself into a seat and it wasn't going well; I tried not to watch but it was like a train wreck and kind of tough to look away.

The Byrd seats were built for 1928 back sides, not our 2009 super-sized butts.

At the moment, parts of the Mighty Wurlitzer are in the repair shop, so we didn't get the usual pre-movie organ extravaganza as billed, but I was okay with that.

Some people weren't and whined a bit at the announcement.

The best part of the movie was the dancing, of course, with Donald O'Conner's performance a close second.

Fun fact I learned: all that singing in the rain was actually singing in a water/milk mixture, since straight water didn't photograph as well under the lights.

And Gene Kelly did that dance in one take, with six cameras filming.

One take!

Ask a dancer how tough that would be to accomplish.

Then imagine how bad he smelled with watery milk residue all over him afterwards.

I'm singin' in the rain
Just singin' in the rain
What a dis-gusting feeling
I'm pungent again.

Or something like that.

Walking the Walk, Talking the Talk

"Why don't you climb up here and I'll show you how to drive this thing?"
-a guy on a huge excavator near the old Ukrops renovation on Grace Street.
No thanks, sir, I'm not sure the construction company or VCU would approve of that.

"Where were you yesterday? I was sitting on my porch and you never came by!"
-a guy on a bike who stopped me and maybe, kind of looked slightly familiar? And, yes, I did walk yesterday, but no one said I have to take the same route every day, now did they?

"My day is complete now! Good morning."
-a guy restoring a house on Grace Street, usually hungover and always coughing up a lung. I've also heard him talking to his tools as he works and listening to bad classic rock (Styx anyone?).

I walk. They talk. Big wheel keep on turning.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

It's Complicated

You have to love a restaurant where you walk in and the first thing the bartender says is,"I was going to e-mail you and tell you to come worship at my altar." The man was right; I was overdue at Tarrant's anyway, my recent visits having been during the daytime when he doesn't work. And given that this fine bartender and I go back to last summer at least, it was a pleasure to spend some time in his company tonight. We'd recently run into each other at another local spot, reminding me that I enjoy conversation with him.

He told me about an interesting sounding class he's taking (knowing I'm a geek, too) and that he'd taken my recommendation to visit the Chimborazo Medical Museum (I think he liked it as much as I do). We'd seen different late summer movies and compared notes. He even graciously gave me a heads up and a big smile when undesirables approached the restaurant (and thankfully kept on going).

Had I not had somewhere to be at 8, I could have wiled away several very content hours catching up with my friend while he worked. Next time I'll stay longer and play barfly; that'll give him something to e-mail me about.

Poking Fun at the Economy

What do you do if you no longer have your engineering job, but do have a sub-prime mortgage, your 401K is in shreds and you fear for the future of the world economy? If you're Rick Huddle, you create a comedy/commentary routine that uses the ukulele, a slide show, music and lots of humor to make sense of this mess we're in.

Rick's performance of "Spent: Collusion and Prosperity in the World Economy" at Art6 tonight was a wild comedic ride explaining the Great Depression, the credit crunch, deregulation and CEO bonuses in music, stories and assorted foreign accents. His breakdown of the creation of the World Trade Organization was masterfully hysterical; why does everything always come down to American arrogance? Don't answer that.

Rick is traveling the country performing his smart comedy for those seeking a better understanding of today's economic crisis as well as for those who understand it fine, but need to laugh about it so they don't cry. Tonight's audience wasn't nearly as big as it should have been given the talent and creativity on display, but with any luck, he'll be back in rva again and more people will know not to miss his performance. I guarantee you'll laugh out loud and you might even walk away a tad better informed.

Ahh, The Pleasures of Pork Belly

I don't remember my life before I discovered the fatty wonder of pork belly, but I must have had one. Now it's one of those menu items that immediately grabs my attention and causes me to plan the rest of my meal around it.

Phillip Denny from Philly is the new chef at Six Burner and he comes to rva with an impressive resume, including a stint at one of the top five DC restaurants (and, no, I'm not telling you which one. Go in and find out for yourself). He has the letters f-o-i-e and g-r-a-s tattooed on his knuckles; I mean, come on. But that's not the point. The point is his food.

Last night I started with the Cranberry Bean and Bacon soup with Chive Oil, which I can't recommend highly enough. I happen to love cranberry beans, but I'm not sure that's even a prerequisite. It's creamy with an appealing depth of flavor and, as we all know, everything's better with bacon.

Then came the star of the evening: Pork Belly, Pearl Barley, Glazed Carrot Puree, Swiss Chard and Pork Jus with every kind of deliciousness possible on that one plate: the fatty pork goodness of the belly, the addictive saltiness of the Swiss chard and pork jus, the nutty creaminess of the pearl barley and the sweetness of the glazed carrot puree. I didn't exactly lick the plate, but it was embarrassingly clean when Josh cleared it away.

I've said before that I don't know anything about food except what I like. But what Phillip does to a pork belly is a beautiful thing. You know, I must have had some sort of gustatory life before pork belly; can someone please remind me what it was?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Music Geeks, Listen Up!

Go see "It Might Get Loud" on the big screen at the Westhampton this week. I don't care if Jimmy Page, the Edge and Jack White are not your favorite guitarists; they're not mine either. Go see this documentary about the guitar because there are moments in it that will grab any true music lover and remind you what made you a music geek in the first place.

Go for the vintage concert footage, the photographs of these bands as young men, the distillation of the creative process, and the complete hero worship on the faces of the Edge and White when Page starts playing for them. Go for the bloody guitar, the ancient four-track tapes played in a kitchen and to see what band's TV performance gave U2 hope for the future of music (I love you, too, Paul Weller). Go to see some extremely unique guitars.

I went with a musician friend so I could ask stupid non-musician questions I knew I'd have afterwards. He loved the film and he understood all of it; a lot of it was beyond my musical comprehension and I loved it just as much.

Go see "It Might Get Loud." You can thank me later.

Monday, September 21, 2009

If It's Monday, This Must Be Lemaire

Given the economy, downscaling is the smart way to appeal to the budget-conscious, so my good friend Holly and I decided to indulge in the lower-key atmosphere that now defines Lemaire. Like always, you still get greeted by a score of smiling employees before you ever even reach the bar, but all that four-diamond charm can be overlooked if the final destination offers up the casual quality promised with the recent renovation. And it did.

Being the locavores that we are, we began with the Kluge Blanc de Blanc because nothing says Monday like Albemarle County bubbles. Next up, I was impressed with the option of wines by the quartino ( 1.5 glasses of wine and a terrific bargain) as a way to stretch one's wining dollar. So while Holly stayed local with Blue Mountain lager, I opted for a quartino of Jade Mountain Syrah ($8 a glass, $10 a quartino).

The bar menu offered choices ranging in price from $5 to $12 and we opted for beef tartare with horseradish sauce and shaved Parmesan, cornmeal crusted Chesapeake bay oysters and slaw and fresh Gulf shrimp. I was craving the Braised Powhatan Rabbit Sliders, but Holly wasn't in the mood for bunny. Next time, for sure, though, I'll order them along with the PEI mussels with Kite's country ham. The guy sitting next to me had the house-ground filet mignon burger with bacon; it looked magnificent and he raved about the flavor.

Lemaire had the de rigueur hand-crafted cocktail list, but since I don't do cocktails, I merely perused it. The bartender did insist we try Domaine de Canton Ginger Liqueur, which had a most unusual flavor, almost digestif-like. It's part of the Major Ginter, a scotch cocktail with vermouth and bitters. Someone please let me know how it is, since it's not anything I'd try.

The ads for the new Lemaire may be corny, but they're accurate: this isn't your mother's Lemaire. The food was terrific, the wine pricing option a steal and the crowd far livelier than you'd expect for the Jefferson. Downscaling rules.

Swimming in the Flood

Funemployment is the recent media-coined term for the attitude some of us jobless are supposedly taking about having no grindstone to put our noses to. Instead of becoming depressed and suicidal, apparently the ten percent of Americans who are currently jobless are finding fun and creative ways to spend our days. Seems we're volunteering, delving into hobbies and community support and taking care of the business of life during the day so we can leave our nights free for fun. After all, when you're unemployed, no night is a school night; the funemployed have no curfews.

I'm guilty as charged of funemployment. I spend time every single day looking for work, sending off resumes and references, crafting clever cover letters and following up on leads. That still leaves a whole lot of time for other activities, as you may have noticed if you've seen me browsing at La Tienda or Tan-A or Tokyo Mart any random afternoon. I have also volunteered more in 2009 than in my entire life so I continue to contribute to society.

Last week, I attended one of the noon lectures at the Virginia Historical Society. The topic was the 1918 Meuse-Argonne battle, one of the deadliest of World War I (65,000 men lost in six weeks). And although the bulk of the audience was a sea of white and bald heads, the speaker was lively, the topic quite compelling and I learned plenty (we funemployed may not work, but our brains still function).

I took in an 11:00 showing of the 1939 film, "The Women," a classic movie any film geek should have seen long before my age. This film is apparently so well-known that many in the audience were reciting lines along with the characters on screen; it did have a lot of great bitchy and campy dialogue. "Get me a bromide...and put some gin in it," for one.

Funemployment allows for a long lunch with a hipster friend at Balliceaux and having plenty of time to inspect the back room, the bathrooms, the decor and dissect the crowd. It also allows time to lunch leisurely in the cave-like Chiocca's with an anti-hipster friend nursing a hangover and eating anchovies on his mondo sandwich.

Funemployment: it's not for everyone, but it sure makes the best of a less-than-ideal situation. And moping around whining about it just isn't my style.

Mama Zu's Goes South

Ed Vasaio is practically Richmonders' favorite chef, right?

I mean, besides me, who doesn't cite Mamma Zu's as one of their favorite local restaurants?

That aside, Holmes and I honored our reservation at Positive Vibe Cafe tonight to enjoy Guest Chef Night with Ed Vasaio and his culinary meanderings.

The menu was simple enough:

Homemade square pasta in broth with chicory and pate on bruschetta
Homemade Broccoletti and Provolone Sausage and Pork Liver Sausage served with Polenta and Mushrooms

It sounded wonderful and it was, but who knew to expect two sausage links each 8 inches long?

The servings were huge (and only $15.99); the brilliant Holmes intends to take his leftovers to work tomorrow along with assorted mustards and a baguette.

After chowing down, the owner came out to chat with us and made a joke about Ed being back in the kitchen with a cleaver, terrorizing the staff, and creating this cartoon version of a sausage serving to freak customers out.

The soup was sublime and the main course absolutely delicious and very generous, and what's not to love when it's all for a good cause like Positive Vibe?

Nothing that Holmes and I could see.

We indulged in Ed's wine choice as well: a bottle of the Donna Laura 2007 Sangiovese de Toscanna Ali and found it to be the perfect accompaniment to our meal.

Seeing as how the food portion of the evening was complete by 8:30, we moved on to Mezzanine for dessert and libations.

We found a lively bar scene, plenty of Patron and brown spirits for Holmes and a chocolate mousse with nuts and almond brittle.

The bartender's Ipod offered a diverse musical background for discussion: Dylan, Counting Crows, Bon Jovi and Cake, to name but a few.

Sure, I made a few cracks about the music, but all in all, we found an interesting bar crowd, some worthy of conversation, a division game (and a fan in a Riggins jersey! Can you say flashback?) and stayed four hours.

So how bad could it have been?

Luckily, Holmes was merely blocks from home, although my commute was more like two whole miles.

The evening gave us a chance to discuss a variety of blogs, dating (his latest: Bombshell Mama), ponytail growing attempts (Holmes' and the bartender's) and drinking habits.

And, oh, did we laugh about a few choice topics.

Sharing a good story with someone who knows where the bodies are buried makes it all the better, especially on a deliciously full stomach.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Velocity Girl*

Since I never gave in and joined the masses by getting a cell phone, I've taken a boatload of crap from friends (and family) over the years about being unreachable. It drives people crazy that they can't just call me when they want me. I like to remind them that they can e-mail me or message me on Facebook and I always respond, but no one I know finds that an acceptable method of communication. The fact is, I hate the phone and don't have any desire to be reachable 24/7.

So you can imagine my surprise when a friend (acquaintance? neighbor?) accused me of being just as connected as people with cells because I have a blog and am on Facebook.I told him that I had friends who would consider those fighting words when it comes to me. As one good friend responded, "Clearly he's never tried to get hold of you in the evening." And it's true; once I leave the house to begin my evening, you'd have to run into me physically to talk to me.

Being outside the connected mainstream doesn't necessarily make me a bad person (maybe slightly old school). Back in the mid-90s, long before everyone carried their own phone, I bought a t-shirt with a 1950s- looking guy pictured, pointing and saying, "I'm out of the loop and that's the way I like it."

The more things change, the more they stay the same...for some of us. So what?


(*With apologies to Sarah Shannon, whose voice I love. No comparison between Sarah and me was intended.)

Saturday, September 19, 2009

All Folked Up

What's the proper lead-up to a superb evening of folk music? Hell if I know, so here's how I went about it.

I went to the wine tasting at River City Cellars, as I so often do, with the usual result that I saw some people I knew and met a few new ones. They were pouring a selection of Louis/Dressner wines, mostly organic/biodynamic, low yield, hand harvested and sustainably raised. I ended up buying the Famille Peillot 2007 Bugey Pinot Noir from eastern France (owner Julia instructed me to decant it for a good while to fully enjoy it and I defer to her greater wine knowledge). I've got a refrigerator full of white wine but with the cooler nights, I've been wanting something heartier to share with friends before an evening out. The tasting ended with one of my new acquaintances, Jason, telling me a particularly ribald joke; don't you love it when people can gauge how far they can go with you within moments of meeting?

Then there are the people who latch onto you despite there being no particular interest or connection on your part, as was the case for me at dinner last night at 27. The couple who sat down next to me at the bar mercifully arrived after I'd eaten and was just finishing my wine and proceeded to tell me way more about themselves than I cared to hear, even cajoling me to join them for a cigarette outside so we could continue our chat (I don't smoke, btw). But the veal and mascarpone ravioli in sage butter sauce was divine, so I guess it was all some sort of cosmic trade off.

Lastly, I headed to Gallery 5 for the folk extravaganza of Paul Watson/Low Branches/Nick Coward/Vandaveer/Jonathan Vasser and the Speckled Bird show. I've seen Paul Watson, Jonathan Vasser and Low Branches before, so I already knew how terrifically talented they all were and I'd heard great things about Vandaveer. This folk duet from DC was everything I'd read about them and more, with two beautiful voices, a guitar and some reverb. As the female half, Rose's voice was magnificent as a counterpoint to main guy Mark. He explained away her coughing, "Rose got the consumption in Burlington. You should hear her when she isn't coughing." It was tough to imagine her voice sounding any more ethereal than it did. The audience kept telling them to move to rva; no doubt they'd be a stellar addition to our folk scene. Nick Coward's seven-piece ensemble was also wonderful: the back and forth of voices and all that instrumentation, soft and loud, was beautiful ear candy.

Walking home, the neighborhood was hopping; I got invited to two parties in full swing within a half a block of home, so all in all, I'd have to say it was a fine night.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

So Sorry, But the Motorcade'll Have to Go Around Me

On ageism:
I ride my bike up to the National to buy some tickets for upcoming shows.

There's no one in the box office, but a guy sticks his head out of the theater door and assures me that she'll be right with me.

He then makes a quantum leap assumption and asks if I'm there for Hornsby tickets.

Excuse me?

Uh, no (not that there's anything wrong with Bruce, but I've seen him. Twice.)

When I tell him which shows I am there to buy for, it's like the scales fall from his eyes.

"Wow, those are going to be amazing shows," he tells me, shaking my hand, introducing himself, asking my name, telling me he's production director and insisting I look him up next time I'm at a show.

Which I just might do, if only to give him crap about jumping to conclusions about ticket buyers and their musical taste. Yeesh.

On two compliments in ten minutes:

"You look beautiful tonight, not that you don't look great all the time."

Always nice to hear, even if the speaker is just blowing smoke, as he is known to do.

"You look amazing.. I usually see you in shorts and a t-shirt working out." (a neighbor)

Boy, this thrift store dress is really working for me tonight. Three bucks well spent.

On trying a new restaurant:

Beer Geek Friend and I checked out Bouchon in the Slip tonight and found lots to love about it.

The owner's wife was welcoming and chatty and the place had a nice crowd for a Thursday evening.

We were a bit bummed that they were out of their signature mussels (a lunch rush) and that they had no by-the-glass wine listing, but had to smile when we were on our second course before the food runner, not even our server, finally asked if we wanted more bread.

More? We hadn't had any yet.Yes, thanks, we'd love some.

My friend was highly amused when the server leaned clear across him to scoop up my plate on the far side of the table (maybe it was her proximity, but I think he liked it).

He also noted that after finishing his first glass of wine, he asked to taste the rose (which he declined after tasting it and requested another glass of the same), she went off on a reverie about how the rose was her absolute favorite and how she expected to like Spanish roses better, but this French one was so tasty that she just loved it.

It was completely random and unexpected, so Beer Geek felt he had to remind her that he still wanted another glass of the same, not the rose.

But at least now we knew her preferences.

As for the food, I was delighted with all my selections.

The veal sweetbreads were delicious, my tomato and avocado salad was exquisitely ripe and perfectly seasoned and the chocolate marquise was surrounded by a top and bottom layer of meringue, a sweet, crunchy treat I love but rarely see on dessert menus.

I'm already planning to bring other friends to Bouchon to taste even more French goodness.

On to the weekend!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Poetry and Grits

I have had poetry written for me by exactly four guys in the course of my lifetime.

I still have copies of them all (the most talented wrote me more than one).

And while this has nothing to do with my love of poetry readings, perhaps it does show that I'm inclined toward the poetic.

Tonight's Poetic Principles reading at the Virginia Museum featured Betty Adcock, a Texas-born North Carolinian with a southern drawl and a beautiful way with words.

Her mission statement ("So many things happen. I just write them all down.") was so simple and true, but it's the way she writes things down.

After reading a recent poem, she explained, "I interrupted that poem with some post-modernist pondering...but I think it survived intact," the entire audience was eating out of the palm of her hand and justifiably so.

A southern poet should be followed with a southern meal, so I had mine at Julep, where I get to enjoy the company of my good friend Holly (it's even more fun when we're both on the same side of the bar, but that'll happen next week).

I began with a salad that included grilled peaches and loads of bacon, followed by a bowl of Grilled Andouille Sausage and Grits too big to finish (I came close, though).

Multiple glasses of Barboursville Rose kept the southern theme going and I was almost ready to call it a night when new chef Brandon Levine came out and insisted I try his Bittersweet Chocolate Marquise Torte.

He didn't have to twist my arm too hard, but I did have to leave the south and switch to a heartier red wine for the dessert course and afterwards.

The torte was unlike any chocolate dessert I've had; it was incredibly dark chocolate and as light as a feather, even with the almond whipped cream and raspberry coulis.

I was southern stuffed and feeling just great about it.

Given, poetry isn't everyone's cup of tea, but tonight it was mine, even if it wasn't written for me specifically.

Dead end after dead end
is the only way into the high places.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Waiting for the Signal

After three years of living in Jackson Ward, I finally committed to being part of the decision-making group by attending the JW Civic Association meeting tonight.

They were nothing if not welcoming and I met a host of neighbors I'd not met before, who introduced themselves and enthusiastically sought out my input on a number of local issues.

I am looking forward to making choices about neighborhood options as we move forward.

Hey, who finally got the big "Road Construction Ahead" sign off our block after it stood there for a year beyond the work's completion date?

That's right.

Afterwards, I headed out to support a local business, as did several other meeting participants.

I was meeting up with Andrew, he of the improved physique and stellar love life, to catch up on men, holidays and music.

As a writer for a local niche website, I thought he might want to inform his constituency about a hot new place and, in fact, he did.

The B at B impressed him with its excellent food (he had the Gouda burger; I had the bruschetta for the first time), creative pink tequila shooters (the bartender's idea, not ours) and reasonable prices.

I was rewarded with tales of girl kissing (!) and stripping on the beach; I had nothing nearly as good to offer, but I'm working on it.

I ran into a nearby gallery owner who was just discovering the place with a friend for the first time, another local bartender with whom I'd broken bread and his friend from whom I'd borrowed a book for vacation, and even got the history of the B@ B's talented chef (trained in San Francisco, worked at the Frebnch Laundry and a computer geek to boot).

I hear that a couple of the staff are now an item, too.

Civic responsibilities: check. Local business boostering: check. Catching up with friend: check.

All missions accomplished for the evening.

Up On the Roof Again

The theme for the day was trains, as I met up with the handsome and happy Scott for lunch and assorted afternoon activities.

We met at the Railway Deli, downtown and a block from his place, because it was new to me.

I had no idea what to expect, so I was pleasantly surprised by the sheer number of lunching choices in the larger-than-anticipated space: pizza, paninis, salads, subs, pasta, wraps and god knows what else I didn't even notice.

It was obviously a worker bee lunch place at noon, with men in suits ogling women in sundresses, not that I was complaining.

We took advantage of the lovely weather by eating at an outside table in the shade, only to discover that the corner of 14th and Virginia is undoubtedly the loudest intersection in the city.

Between Harleys, crotch rockets, trains and trucks, it was tough to have a continuous conversation for long, so we mostly just ate.

Not really needing an excuse to jaywalk, we did anyway and crossed over to La Diff to browse and do some catching up.

We were overdue for ex updates, new boy stories and picture sharing.

Meanwhile, we walked barefoot on rugs made of recycled silk ties, rocked ourselves suggestively in the Swing Glide chair (absolutely amazing, holds 450 pounds and only $4000) and tried out backless bar stools (a really poor idea, we decided).

These Four Walls followed with teak root chair sitting, goat milk lotion rubbing, Manly Man soap sniffing and Scott discovering a chair marked down from $800 to less than $200 that he absolutely must have.

It looked like a Scott chair, too.

I hadn't seen his apartment of a month at the Lofts at the Canal Walk yet, so that was our final stop.

He has terrific views from his windows, but the stop-you-in-your-tracks views came once we went up to the 8th floor roof.

I'm a sucker for heights with views and earlier this year had thrilled to lighthouse and cathedral roof views, both outstanding, but that was out of town so it wasn't like I could pick out landmarks from up above.

From Scott's roof, I had a 360 degree view of RVA in all directions.

A four-engine train pulling 71 cars passed by as we counted cars and watched it disappear into the distance.

Besides views, his place has a big courtyard pool...but since someone neglected to tell me to bring my bathing suit, I'll be going back very soon to partake of that particular pleasure.

But I think I'll do it in the evening so I can also take in those heady views with the lights of night to glam it up.

It'll be harder to count train cars, but I'm thinking there will be enough visual trade-off to make it well worth my while.

I can let you know.

Monday, September 14, 2009

That's A Good Start?

I was out walking my dog and as I rounded the corner to my block, I noticed a guy across the street talking on his phone. All of a sudden, he started talking really loudly into his phone.

"THERE'S THE MOST AMAZING WOMAN WALKING DOWN THE STREET!"

I'm feeling badly for the person on the other end because this guy is seriously shouting. But for my part, there's no way to respond to that, so the dog and I keep walking.

"SHE MUST BE MARRIED BECAUSE SHE HAS A LITTLE DOG!"

Since when is there a correlation between dog size and marital status? And, just to be clear, my beagle is no purse dog; he's 17" high and weighs 25 pounds. He's no killer, but he's no yippy dog, either. But the nonsensical nature of what he's saying makes me smile inadvertently and that must have been his goal.

"YOU JUST MADE MY DAY! THANK YOU!"

Without missing a beat, I turned and yelled right back, "NO, YOU JUST MADE MINE!"

And walked on, still pitying the poor soul on on the other end of that call...and fervently hoping this guy isn't a new neighbor. Awkward.

They Say It's Your Birthday

Once upon a time, I had a boyfriend named Curt and his birthday was September 13th. I dated him for three years and broke up with him six months before we were to be married (I returned the wedding gown). In an odd coincidence, I spent tonight celebrating another Curt's September 13th birthday at Ipanema, although we have no wedding plans. Tonight's birthday boy was still hungover from his birthday eve celebration, but managed to join in for extended merrymaking and more Patron than any of us probably needed. Not to worry, though, because I'd had the sense to start my evening by laying down a base with the Sunday Supper at 6B; I was ready.

What are restaurant owners to do on nights that their restaurants are closed, but show up on the Ipanema patio for some R & R? In this case, they even brought along a couple of employees to spice things up. As you might imagine, there was much restaurant discussion, eccentric customer talk and pro-level imbibing. I was the unexpected recipient of some note passing (not that I'm sharing what the notes said, much as the writer would probably want me to) even as I discussed film project ideas and restaurant renovations with one of the owners. By then yet another restaurant owner had joined the patio party.

Did I succeed in convincing Birthday Boy that older women trump younger ones every time? Maybe not, but I at least made inroads. Did I finally get some extended conversation with the less people-oriented half of the restaurant-owning couple? I did and discovered that he excels at bringing projects to fruition. Did I once again enjoy the serendipitous arrival of unexpected but most enjoyable guests? Duh. Happy birthday, Curts of the world.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Of Readers, Drum Circles and Guerilla Art Shows

Not that I ever need an excuse to buy local art, but given the beautiful September weather, how could I resist a trip to Byrd Park for the Guerrilla Art show Terry Rea was hosting this afternoon?

When my dog and I arrived, Barker Field was crawling with canines so there was no shortage of company for him to play with.

And at the ripe old age of 14 and being a beagle, he really just wants to sniff and mark territory anyway.

As we strolled past the Dogwood Dell stage, I noticed a guy sitting on the edge of the stage reading a book.

Why hadn't I ever seen the potential of this excellent reading spot before?

Duly noted; I'll be back with my book.

By now we were hearing the sounds of the drum circle nearby.

Multiple drummers and a flutist were providing the accompaniment for hula dancers and anyone else moved by the music.

They had a prime space under a huge old shade tree not far from the stage.

It's clearly a very popular gathering; drummers were still joining the group over an hour later when the beagle and i finally left.

When we arrived at the Ha'Penny stage, it was alive with art: paintings, prints, posters, and ceramics.

Next to it, a man was carving the most beautiful walking sticks and he tried to talk me into one, but I'm still getting around fine on these two legs.

I took my time perusing Terry Rea's offerings because I've been wanting to add one of his pieces to my collection for a while.

I've known Terry for a decade at least; our relationship goes back to when I was an editor and he was writing for us.

Then there's also a fair number of conversational nights at the Bean in our shared history.

Terry is a walking encyclopedia of RVA and has had his hand in many pots over the years, so I always enjoyed being an audience for his stories.

After much vacillating, I finally chose an original piece called "Zism," which I plan to have framed and hang in the same room with my Brandon Peck and Adam Juresko.

It's about time I added some old-school local artistry to my walls.

It makes me happy that it's Terry who will provide the representation.

Tonight I Have To Leave It

Probably the only advantages of being dumped by someone you love madly, but can be difficult to get to know, is that out of the blue, certain people seek you out and want to be your friend. Such was the case with my pre-March neighbors who said they'd always wanted to socialize with me but didn't care for my partner (although, to be fair, they didn't really know him). I'd run into them recently and yesterday found me at a big party at their house, a place I'd always longed to see from the inside. The building was originally a butcher shop and now it's an art collection in which they make their home.

The house is chock-a-block with the owner's extremely inventive sculptures and extensive collections. No surface and no wall is not full of art and/or history. There are vintage signs and clocks, historical artifacts like coins and cannon balls and the most amazing poison bottle collection adorning every window. There was a mobile taller than me, original works by underground and comix artists and an insect collection of scarab beetles. I was given two tours of the place and wanted a third because there was so much to see.

But it was, after all, a party, so I denied myself more art ogling and went back to socializing with a most eclectic crowd: a restaurant owner, several artists and writers and a soon-to-be farmer, among others. The owner has a single cowboy friend he wants me to meet. I had intended to spend an hour at the party and was there for much longer. Luckily, my friends know how to throw a party right: an obscene amount of alcohol, an enormous and varied food spread so guests could graze constantly without getting trashed and music loud enough to enjoy but not overwhelm conversation. When I finally left, it was with the assurance that we'd meet up again and that I would definitely attend their holiday soiree.

Next up was the Bro-Down at the Camel, to benefit Big Brothers/Big Sisters; in a brilliant musical stroke, the show featured five sets of local musical siblings. I was treated to the company of Micheal (of Now Sleepyhead and Pedals on Our Pirate Ships) for the first few sets and enjoyed the benefit of his musician's take on the show before he had to go work the sound.

It began with the Burton brothers, Scott of Glows in the Dark whom I've seen many times and Taylor of Cold Toast, whom I've only seen once. Their set was the perfect start to the evening. Next up were the Scolero sisters and jeez, what beautiful voices those two have. Then came the Hyrciaks (Josh of Mermaid Skeletons and Zach of the Jungle Beat) and that, too, was vocally mesmerizing. The Shultz brothers followed with their always excellent music and then Prabir and Herschel took the stage for covers and banter. The big finale was All You Need is Love, performed by all the sibling groups.

At that point, I hadn't left enough time for stool sitting and socializing, so I came home like a good girl. I even started this blog post before deciding it could wait until morning. So good morning.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

I Heart Polyface Farm

The Byrd House Market is usually my farmer's market of choice, but I finally gave in to the siren song of Polyface Farms' stand at the St. Stephen's farmer's market today. I've seen their meat on restaurant menus (just last weekend, Blue Mountain Brewery had a pizza with their sausage on the special menu) and it's always the most amazing tasting meat you've ever put in your mouth.

Foolishly, I stayed out late last night and slept in this morning, so by the time I arrived, they were sold out of the bacon and sausage I so desperately wanted. I did get my eggs and just let me tell you, there is no comparison between grocery store eggs and their pastured eggs. To make up for my disappointment, Wendy did take my order for multiple pounds of their bacon and sausage, so I only have to wait 7 days to enjoy a pure Pigaerator Pork breakfast.

Last year, Polyface raised 500 turkeys for the holiday season and sold out quickly; this year they're doing 1800 and I have no doubt that the same thing will happen. Lucky me, mine is already on order.

Polyface has been lauded for its non-industrial food production methods by everyone in the food and restaurant industry who matters. I'm just an average consumer who can taste the difference and respects what they are accomplishing. And then there's their attitude; my favorite Polyface quote is, "Respecting and honoring the pigness of the pig is a foundation for societal
health." That's the society I want to be a part of.

Following Richard Carlyon

As I was standing at the Anderson Gallery admiring a Richard Carlyon painting from the 1970s, a man approached me and asked if I remembered the paintings from that period. I didn't because they were before my time; I didn't get to rva until the late 80s. He looked like he felt sorry for me, but introduced himself as a former art history student and fan of Carlyon's work.

Minutes later I was inspecting a large work, intrigued by the pencil-looking lines etched into the flat color plains of the painting when another man asked me if I thought the lines were intentional (I did). He was an artist and also, it seems, a Carlyon admirer of many years. We backed up from the work and admired it from a distance, losing sight of the lines and seeing nothing but color.

The retrospective I saw tonight at Reynolds Gallery, Visual Arts Center and the Anderson Gallery (I ran out of time and didn't make it to 1708 Gallery by 9:00 for the fourth part of the show) was a fascinating look at a major local artist whose work mirrored all the important periods in modern art. The transition from the art of his senior portfolio to his post 9/11 work was staggering and inspiring at the same time.

I loved that his actual studio, in which he had created art for over 50 years, had been fully recreated, down to his house slippers and music collection. As I admired paint brushes of all sizes and shapes and more art supplies than I even knew existed, it wasn't difficult to get a real sense of Carlyon's devotion to his art.

And my goodness, walking home just now, wasn't that a beautiful moon?

Friday, September 11, 2009

If Ever There Was Someone

My tall friend Thomas and I finally started spending time together the last six months, after years of not. Back in his bartending days, I was able to worship at his altar bar twice a week and made a point to do so. I was rewarded with smart conversation and killer wit, not to mention the occasional backhanded compliment or dig; I thoroughly enjoyed his company (and book discussions). Actually it was devotion to the pleasure of his company that led me to meeting someone I eventually became daft about but whom he tried to warn me against. Then life and circumstance (not of either of our own doing, btw) intervened and we only occasionally ran into each other.

Happily, that's all been corrected since February and we meet regularly now for lunch at the most varied of eating establishments (821, Mojo's, Bistro 27, The Village...are you getting the idea?), usually to eat fattening, fried or greasy foodstuffs. Today's destination of choice was Cafe Gutenburg (PBRs, Leo Hillinger Welschriesling and platter o' fries) and I'm just now home.

We always have plenty to talk about cause we know lots of the same people and yet hear different gossip. Even better, he's shared some of our conversations with his smart wife, so I get the added benefit of her take on the people and happenings we discuss. Naturally, there's also the topic of music. At the moment, I'm very much looking forward to a mix CD he's making me featuring some of his current favorites. Friends who give me music are the best.

When we finish our marathon lunches (luckily we both have flexible schedules), we amuse ourselves. We got to Carytown to shop for vintage clothes. Thomas takes pictures of my legs. He drives me home so we can discuss jam-making.

As usual, today's pithy discussion and analysis reminded me again why I have had a friend crush on him since 2002. Shh, don't tell.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

I Can Be Green and Drink Later

Read my blog long enough and you might presume that I spend all my time out eating, drinking and carousing. Actually, I'm a big geek and I prefer to spend my evenings being intellectually stimulated by the kinds of events (poetry readings, documentary screenings, author readings, gallery talks and, god knows, enough music shows to deafen a lesser pair of ears) that bore the pants off most people...and then go out eating or drinking or carousing. Just so you know.

Tonight, for instance, I attended the opening of the new exhibit, "The Green House: New Directions in Sustainable Architecture and Design" at the Virgina Center for Architecture. It was really a most compelling exhibit, despite the dry title. While it was impossible to imagine any of the houses pictured being built in Richmond, the advancements in green technology and energy systems were all within the range of achievable goals for new buildings and renovations, even in rva. My favorite was probably the 1500 square foot house in the Bahamas, which also boasted an additional 1500 square feet of terraces and outdoor room space and had the most unique shutters for battening down when hurricanes blow through. Saw a wine-loving couple I know and got some insider building info from a guy I had to presume was an architect and knew what he was talking about. The exhibit is up through November, in case I've made it sound enticing enough to check out.

And, just for the record, sometimes instead of going out to eat, drink and be merry, I just invite friends over and we do it within the confines of my excellent apartment (Melissa's favorite term for my home). The beauty of living in Jackson Ward is that no matter how late you play music or how many people are laughing loudly late (geeks love alliteration) into the night, no one complains.

Okay, now I'm going out.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

If I Be Your Model, Will You Behave?

I start my day by walking 3 to 4 miles, usually down scenic Grace Street. As you might imagine, that means I have a certain level of familiarity with a colorful cast of Grace Street characters. When people see you most every day, they presume a level of intimacy that doesn't actually exist. As long as they keep their comments fairly inoffensive, I accept their compliments, answer their questions or just say good morning. I've even had my picture taken at 8:00 in the morning on Grace Street.


One of my regulars works for VCU and has been chatting me up for months now, having introduced himself, told me a bit about his background and interests and generally starting up a pleasant enough conversation when I see him. My friends will know him as "Pink Floyd poster guy" because that was too good a story not to share. The latest development is that PFPG is apparently an artist when he's not working for VCU and he wants me to model for him so he can paint me. I know, flattering, right? Or is it a tad sketchy? I can't decide and I don't want to agree to it and then back out, so I'm trying to decide what the worst case scenario would be.

It's an experience I've never had, so right there it has appeal for me. And it might be kind of cool to have a painting of myself by a local artist. Am I reaching here?

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Secret Meeting in the Basement of My Brain

Started my evening at Gallery 5 for a showing of "Popaganda: The Art and Crimes of Ron English," about the artist who put his own perverse billboards up over commercial ones in order to subvert the message and get people thinking/talking. His reinterpretation of McDonald's and cigarette billboards (he single-handedly brought down Joe Camel and the campaign to attract kid smokers) were especially provocative and scathingly honest. The documentary included others who followed in his footsteps, like Shepard Fairey and the BLF (Billboard Liberation Front) as they worked with English and spread their messages, both political, anti-corporate and religious. The film was shot guerrilla-style, much the way they mounted billboards. It was a fascinating look at a man determined to share his alternate universe with the masses.

Ended my evening at the local bar chatting up the friendly yet cynical bartender and discovering that he knows way more about me than even my blog reveals. Perhaps I can do some damage control at Chiocca's later in the week. Or maybe he just wants to watch "Blue Velvet" with an older woman. All kinds of possibilities there for film discussion.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Sparkles and Flies

I know Labor Day is traditionally a day for family get togethers and backyard barbecues, although what that has to do with labor is beyond me.

In any case, being one of those people not engaged in labor at the moment, I decided instead to celebrate National Salami Day today by doing some winery hopping out past Charlottesville.

I chose as my companion a friend with a much better developed palate than I.

He even offered to drive, thereby relieving me of any effort on my part beyond swilling and passing the drive dreaming of salami.

We began at Afton Mountain Winery since it had recently changed hands.

The new owner and his son were pleasant enough considering the wines they were pouring were not of their own making.

Next up was Veritas and good god, what a lot of money those people must have.

Forget standing at the bar to taste like the common people do; we were seated at a table by ourselves and the pourer came to us.

We took a short break to tour the winery and returned to the taxing task of tasting 14 wines.

My favorites were the Viognier (big surprise, huh?) and the Claret, so I felt compelled to buy.

By now food was in order, so, as planned, we lunched at the Blue Mountain Brewing Company which was most enjoyable.

The view was stellar and made for a good excuse to linger.

As a perk, I was able to pick up a six-pack of the Full Nelson Virginia Pale Ale (in cans! how cool is that?) for my beer geek friend.

Our last stop was Cardinal Point Winery, where I know the winemakers, Sarah and Tim, and have even poured for them on a couple of occasions.

I know their wines pretty well, but they had a new rose which was interesting and two new dessert wines, named for their dearly-departed winery dogs, Tess and Sophie.

Obie, their present pooch, came out to sniff the beagle scent I carry and laid down to nap nearby.

We made record time getting home, despite 64 crawling with cops pulling over speeders.

But instead of dreaming of salami, I was thinking about what would have made a boring drive like that much more enjoyable and the answer is the right person's hand on my thigh for the drive (I mean, my friend is a great guy and all, but we're not like that).

That doesn't seem like too much to ask and even if it is, I want it anyway.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Can You Hear the Beat?

Few things can entice me to go to southside; I generally start hyperventilating as I begin to cross the river.

However, I wouldn't have missed Lee Gregory's going away dinner party for anything, so Extroverted Gemini, her Paramour and I met up and headed out to Ghengis Khan Mongolian Grill (turns out Lee is a huge fan of cheap food...he also loves Taco Bell).

To give you an idea of the grandeur of the occasion, Alyssa, the vegetarian, ate meat as a tribute to Lee. And by meat, I mean 3 plates worth of grilled meat and veggies; her digestive system is going to hate her tonight.

For the rest of us, it was sort of bittersweet, saying so long to such a great and talented guy.

Bonus thrill of the evening: seeing Lee minus the ever-present hat and in a real shirt. He cleaned up nicely.

I followed up that with music at the Camel, stopping by on my way home to hear The Pharmacy, a New Orleans trio that leans toward psychedelic poppy punk.

They were a lot of fun with clever but ultimately smart songs, melodic enough to suck you in and short enough not to challenge the audience (not that I mind being challenged).

My only complaint was how short their set was.

Listen to me, always wanting more.

He Said Her Hair Smelled Like Heather

Lacking any romance in my real life these days, seeing "Wuthering Heights" at Movieland's Movies and Mimosas this morning seemed as good an idea as any. It was my first time for one of their weekend classic movie showings, but friends had recommended them as a great way to see older films on the big screen. And since I don't have even a small screen, why not?

I'd read "Wuthering Heights" but knowledge of the book had no relevance since the movie left out about half the story. Ah, Hollywood. Merle Oberon played Cathy and, frankly, she left me cold. Laurence Olivier as Heathcliff, on the other hand, was ungodly handsome and appropriately tragic. What passed for the moors was clearly a California set, but we don't expect realism from a 1939 movie. Good thing, too, because the costumes looked more Civil War-era than Regency, despite the book's setting being late 18th/early 19th century.

So the story of a couple who loved each other their entire lives but couldn't be together because of prejudice (he was a foundling and poor) and circumstances (she was a climbing social bitch who married money) moved me only sporadically, on the few occasions when she let down her defenses and admitted he was her soul mate. Unfortunately for both of them, the rest of the time she buried her true feeling and lived a shell of a life.

My favorite quote from the movie came when Cathy was recovering from being out in a rainstorm overnight looking for Heathcliff. The doctor comes to check on her and his advice amounts to, "Keep her in the sun. And feed her lots of cream and butter." Now that's a prescription to love.

Romance and drama finally intersected when she died in his arms at the end, which is when many women in the audience started crying. I couldn't get into Oberon's wooden performance, though, so I was just glad to see her go. Clearly I do need more romance in my life.

The Final Three

Tonight was Lee's last night cooking so, of course, he outdid himself. Buffalo-style sweetbreads with ranch dressing and celery salad, roasted bone marrow with toasted bread and fresh greens, and cured foie gras with strawberry compote made up my dinner and I couldn't even tell you which was the most impressive because they were all so incredibly good.

It was interesting, too, to note who came to pay homage to Lee (in his Lynyrd Skynyrd t-shirt and taking crap for it) on his last evening. Let's just say he was mightily impressed when I told him my story of having seen Skynrd as a drunken opening band too many years ago. Who'd have thought Lee could envy me anything?

Met the new chef, Phillip Denny from Philadelphia, and he seems quite charming. It'll be interesting to see how he picks up Lee's mantle and carries on.

As for Lee, I'm really going to miss this man's cooking now that he will be doing it in Staunton. Plans for a road trip are already in the works.

Friday, September 4, 2009

It's How I'll Know. It's Where I'll Go

So here's the other problem with writing a blog: people actually read it and then are able to throw things you write back in your face. What's interesting is how far back they read and how much they ultimately discover about you...not that it isn't all out there and up for grabs if you blog in the first place. I have to assume that one wouldn't read it unless they found it interesting or are stalking me, but correct me if I'm wrong.

Since I'm part of the group, I started early with the Richmond Women's Collective gathering in the courtyard at Adams. The bands were still setting up, but I met several out-of-town artists and ran into the delightful Elliott (he of the superior oatmeal preparation) who lives in one of those courtyard apartments and offered me any number of libations: wine, beer, vodka. Next up I met a friend (with the cutest new shoes on!) at home to catch up over a bottle of al Bacio Erbaluce di Caluso and was gratified that she put her wine geek stamp of approval on my choice. We eventually made it to ADA, Ghostprint, Visual Arts and Gallery 5 as well as an ad-hoc gallery devoted to art of the health care debate (talk about topical!).

By then the wine was affecting my friend, who had been too busy working to eat all day (some of us had not worked and eaten plenty), so we naturally headed to the Belvidere at Broad so she could experience what I already knew I liked. The smoked salmon was superior, so good, in fact, that she felt compelled to ask about its preparation. I just ate, but then I'm not the gourmand that she is.

She followed that with a Gouda bacon burger she deemed delicious (my bite was terrific) and I moved right on to the dark chocolate brownie, since I had yet to experience dessert there, despite repeated visits. When offered, I even accepted additional chocolate sauce and enjoyed every chocolate -coated bite.

Bottom line: yet another excellent meal at the B at B. Another customer (and gallery owner) challenged me on my regular status, but since it was only his third visit and my fourth, his devotion paled in comparison. As for the bartender, I think it's safe to say that for those who seek out a bartender to give them a hard time, he knows what he's doing.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

We're So DIsarming , Darling

Start with two friends, one male, one female, who spent the afternoon at a Cobblestone wine tasting at the Berkely.

Add in a friend you haven't seen since before she ditched her boyfriend after a stay in jail from his third DUI.

Sprinkle in wine of all colors.

Agree that a foursome of men and women (two in relationships, two single) is the best pairing for substantial conversation.

Accept waiter's offer of a free round. Move from bar to table.

Mix in escargots, scallops and calamari and begin a conversation about the opposite sexes.

Fold in two kinds of ravioli and steaks with Gorgonzola.

Continue with discussion of unsatisfying relationships, women with trust issues and the joys/trials of being single.

Stir in chocolate mousse, grappa, 20-year old port, tequila and espresso.

Beat in talk of men who self-satisfy rather than pleasure their partners and the joys of morning sex.

Move from table to bar.

Include single malt scotch and additional wine, while suggesting manager remove his tie and coat and join the conversation.

Say goodnight to waiter and staff because they are leaving before we are.

Continue debating virtues of emotional versus physical satisfaction and hooking up with past loves.

Reluctantly bring conversation to logical conclusion after five hours: satiation of hunger, thirst and need to have both sexes in on analysis of love and sex.

Good night.

Road Trip Quickie!

I have a friend from college who considers me the perfect woman. And by that, I mean, he provided me with a list of all the reasons he considers me the perfect woman (and let me make it perfectly clear that he has been happily married for ages). And as the man who's known me since I was 19, he probably knows me better than any man on earth. So it's probably not surprising that, despite him living in Maryland, we meet for lunch or dinner every single month, usually in Fredericksburg, sometimes in DC.

Out usual F-burg destination is Bistro Bethem on William Street; it's a great place with a vaulted ceiling, a 300-year old heart pine bar and a wood-burning pizza oven. The food is always fresh and seasonal (and they have amazing house-made charcuterie) and did I mention they have an excellent wine list? It's more than worth the scenic drive up 301 for a meal. At this point, my friend and I are such regulars that the staff knows us and considers a certain table "our usual." Today we did lunch and ate our way through avocado stuffed with crab meat over mesclun, barbecue sliders with homemade potato chips and an 8" slice of coconut cake.

I'd be the first to acknowledge that I'm not the perfect woman. Actually, everything about me on his list is true, but what he considers the qualifications for perfection would not necessarily be everyone's. Do I care? Would you?

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

From the Backseat of My Life

The recent change in weather has everyone enthusiastically switching to cool-weather gear: boots, jeans, sweaters. I actually saw a VCU student in a fleece this afternoon! I, on the other hand, refuse to accept that it's time to pack away warm weather clothing. For a hot minute, I considered putting on leggings under my jean skirt before I headed out tonight, but I just couldn't do it; better to have a few chill bumps on my legs than give in to full body coverage at this point. I even wore sandals.

Of course when I arrived to meet my hot, smart companions for the evening, they looked September-appropriate: jeans, layers, a sweater. Did I feel foolish in my lighter attire? Hell no, although leaving the place a few minutes ago, I could tell the temperature was within spitting range of 60 degrees. That's why there's hearty red wine, to thicken up the blood for cooler temps when I leave skin exposed.

I do like this weather for sleeping, though. The two big windows in my bedroom let in plenty of night air and although I can't get excited about the cooler days, I find a lot to like about the cooler nights.

Nate's Taco Truck Meets Sally Belle's

I was way overdue to try Nate's Taco Truck and with a day as beautiful as today, it was the perfect opportunity to join the line at Linden/Park/Grove and change that.

I debated as I made my way to the front of the line: tacos? quesadilla?

Or give in and have what I'd been told was Nate's piece de resistance, Frito Pie?

We're talking a bag of Fritos topped with pinto beans, shredded beef, cheese, lettuce, salsa and sour cream.

Lunch in a bag!

I had no choice because the Fritos were calling to me, so I ordered this $4.00 bag o' goodness, did my best to stir its contents and was rewarded with a melange of flavors with just enough salty, crispy goodness under perfectly cooked beef and beans to satisfy the most discerning palate (that would not be me, btw).

I find it absolutely necessary to follow salty with sweet, so I took my stuffed self a few blocks north to Sally Belle's Kitchen for a traditional Richmond upside-down cupcake (chocolate on chocolate, as it happened).

Sally Belle's is as old school as Nate's is new wave and standing inside that Grace Street institution, you lose all sense of the real world outside (a metaphor for rva in general, perhaps?).

I swear, those women who work the counter there have been there since Sally Belle's opened...not that that's a bad thing.

Might I suggest that the next time you have a hankering to enjoy lunch outside in the VCU area you consider Nate's (the Sally Belle stop is up to you)?

This is a guy who really enjoys his cooking (just ask him) and it comes through in every delicious bite.

For you health-conscious types, Fritos are optional.