"Do you need a mask in your life?" my server asked me at Aziza's tonight. It wasn't a metaphorical question; she was handing me a mask drawn on the back of a round take-out container lid. It even came with strings attached for fitting around my head.
Maybe it was that incredibly bright moon with Jupiter shining like a beacon right beside it, because the evening was full of all kinds of little unexpected pleasures.
Like walking into Aziza's, the first person who spoke to me was Chef Philip Denny of Six Burner. I'm naturally curious about where the chefs I like to cook for me choose to spend their off time. I also like having my restaurant picks validated, although I already knew what a treasure Aziza's is.
As the only person eating at the bar, I had the annoyance of the TV screen (the one thing I dislike at Aziza's) inappropriately showing a History Channel program on how McDonald's french fries are grown and processed. Who watches such a thing anyway? But I also had the pleasure of an oven view and both servers' attention for all kinds of great conversation.
Dinner was the Colombo Provence Rose and an outstanding white pizza with free-form pepperoni. As I ate, my server engaged me in a chat about going out to restaurants and the demise of dressing up. I knew we were soul mates when she said, "I just like to eat...when someone else is cooking."
I'd complimented her unique skirt when I came in, which led to the discussion of dressing up to go out. I once dated a guy who would say to me, "Why can't you just wear jeans and a T-shirt when we got out?" Uh, because I like dresses and skirts? Because I get compliments dressing this way?
This girl, though, had me beat hands down. She actually owns a half dozen ball gowns and I don't own a one. And she wears hers, too.
My one full-length dress is black burnt velvet over a long black slip and very fitted, so not at all gown like (and a gift from a former squeeze, so I didn't choose it). But I could appreciate her love of glamour in an era of increasing casual wear, even if I could offer no hope of improvement.
As for the source of the mask, during our chat, she'd said under her breath, "Turn around and look at the kitchen," and there I saw a bored kitchen worker with a mask on his face.
Apparently my reaction was so positive that he'd created one for me, too. The drawing was good; he'd included a lot of facial detail. I guess he needed a mask in his life, too.
After dinner I went to 27 for their new music series, tonight featuring Miramar, that hybrid of Bio Ritmo and Quatro na Bossa. Word had obviously spread about the show and a steady stream of people came through the door for classic Puerto Rican 50s-style boleros.
The first to greet me there was Raul, owner of Nacho Mama's, and someone I've known since he first set up shop in Carytown in 1996. We always seem to run into each other when Latin music is involved and I could tell he was there to dance.
He asked about my relationship status and why, offering his sage advice. "The only way to get over someone is to get under someone else. Believe me, I know." There's not a lot you can say to that.
I made a couple of new friends, both dance lovers, looking for recommendations about what to do and where to go. They'd only found out about Miramar because they'd innocently come in for dinner tonight and then decided to stay. It's funny how often I get asked, "But how do you find out about these things?" Oh, you know.
The owner of La Grotta came in, too, and despite having eaten at his restaurant many times (including a memorable second date in which the guy walked me to my car and then asked if he could grab my ass and a reunion dinner with a guy I hadn't seen in seventeen years), I'd never actually met him. We took care of that tonight.
I met a Persian (he prefers it to Iranian and when he's president of that country, intends to change the name back) with thick curly hair that both men and women asked to touch throughout the evening. I wasn't planning to, but he offered, so I allowed peer pressure to make me feel up his hair. It was nice.
Miramar played two sets with their romantic-sounding music filling that big high-ceilinged space. Although it was clearly Latin, there was also a Middle Eastern element throughout and that was what finally got a few couples on the dance floor.
Raul was the star, inevitably picking up his partner at the end of each dance, which was fine as long as the partners were well-covered under their skirts.
There was one guy doing that Grateful Dead-style of dancing and it was everything a couple of band members could do not to gawk and grin. Watching them fight a smile or laughter was as much fun as watching the guy "catching butterflies" to romantic boleros.
It must have been that harvest moon with Jupiter that summoned the restaurant types, the dancers and the future presidents.
Maybe I don't need a mask in my life, just a front-row table for it all.