Thursday, May 20, 2010

Live and On the Air

Don't know much about history...Actually that's not true; I know plenty but nowhere near enough, which is why I couldn't resist going to the taping of Backstory with the American History Guys tonight at the Virginia Historical Society. It's a public radio show where they rip a current topic from the headlines and, aided by callers' questions, look at the topic from an historical perspective.

Tonight's topic was taxes so I wasn't surprised to see that it drew a big crowd to listen and challenge the History Guys. When the "on the air" light came on, the theme music started to play and the three guys began bobbing their heads. "Nod your heads together," they told the audience. We did, then we were introduced to the radio audience and clapped to demonstrate our presence. It all felt very old-school radio.

Nest came the clap-ometer to measure the audience's feelings about taxes. First the people who felt they are over-taxed were asked to clap; they made their presence known. Next those who felt we are under-taxed checked in. But when they asked for claps from those who felt our taxing system was just right, not two hands came together. It was a clear demonstration of what a polarizing issue taxes are.

The History Guys consist of an 18th century expert, a 19th century pro and a 20th century know-it-all. They launched into some background information, explaining that tax rates went up because of the American Revolution (no surprise there) and that the ante-bellum American south was one of the least taxed societies in the history of the world (it was mainly slaveholders who paid taxes).

The Guys made several references to the south and, as I've discovered, the VHS audiences tend to be a staunchly pro-southern bunch. At one point, one of the History Guys said, "Some of you may still have Confederate money at home. It's not going to come back." Awkward silence.

Tonight's taping differed from the usual scenario because, instead of being in a studio with a call-in audience, they were at the VHS and had us ask our penetrating questions live. The Guys were knowledgeable and funny; referring to the Constitution, one said, "I revere it too, but I don't read it." It was an analogy about the contents of a sausage (maybe you had to be there).

In any case, the taping was enlightening, entertaining and a terrific way to spend an hour. The VHS hopes to host additional tapings in the future, should you be as big a history geek as I am.

I followed food for the mind with food for the soul, which meant a stop at Six Burner to see bartender Josh and talk music; I'd promised to stop by and rub the Elvis Costello show in his face and he'd been absent my last couple of visits, so tonight I finally followed up on that promise.

To start things off on the right foot, I chose the Tegernseerhof Rose from lower Austria, a delightful dry rose and Josh was attentive about keeping my glass full. My rose was food-friendly, making my amuse bouche of spicy beef tartare over an avocado mousse a wonderful accompaniment to its dry pinkness. Of all the amuse bouches I've had at 6B so far, this was by far my favorite; the flavors were superb.

Next up I had a bowl of the bacon bean soup, redolent of bacon, so much so that my soup arrived practically with Josh's nose in it. It was thick and creamy and oh-so-bacony and with hunks of bread to accompany it, a lovely course. At one point, Josh came over to pour a glass of rose for another customer and asked me under his breath where the wine was from. I supplied the answer and was rewarded with a big grin and another pour; apparently my assistance was appreciated.

I considered the Caribbean banana split (mango sorbet, fried banana and chocolate) for dessert, but after checking with long-time server T, I was told that it did not contain sufficient chocolate for someone like me. Instead I opted for the chocolate gelato to ensure an adequate chocolate quota; it was positively sticky it was so dense. It's gratifying when the staff knows your taste well enough to steer you in the right direction.

Leaving the restaurant was a group of five and one of the women was leaning heavily on her husband as she left. "You're so good to me, " she purred to him. "I was a bad girl." It wasn't my place to ask, but, boy did I want the back story to that comment.

But then I'm always interested in people's back stories. I have no compunction whatsoever about eavesdropping followed by pointed questions to a stranger to learn more about a person. Some might consider me nosey, but I prefer to think of myself as someone with an innate historical curiosity.

Let's just call a spade a spade; if they're the History Guys, I'm the Curiosity Girl. No apologies forthcoming.

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