Scene 1: An apartment in Jackson Ward, about 6:45 p.m.
Enter a woman, clumsily trying to dress herself with one hand. If the tights take her five minutes to put on, the jean skirt takes at least ten. She is winded and frustrated when the phone suddenly and unexpectedly rings.
Man: Karen? It's your French friend. Want to meet me at Empire?
Well, it certainly wouldn't be her first choice of locations, but she considers the offer for a moment. She was dressing to go out to dinner alone and this is guaranteed conversation.
Woman: Okay, sure.
Man: I have to shave, so I'll be there in half an hour.
Woman: Well, I don't have to shave, so I'll be there in 45 minutes.
Actually, she had tried shaving earlier and it was even more difficult than one-handed shampooing, but infinitely easier than one-handed lotion application afterwards (where is a good lotion applier when you need one? Probably closer than I think).
And that's how I ended up at the unlikely destination of Empire for the evening. The Frenchman was availing himself of the $1 PBR special (the bartender gestured to the case full of iced PBRs, saying, "It'll be empty by the end of the night.").
Looking around at the two other customers, I had no reason to doubt him. Tequila, please, and black bean nachos.
My French friend is an interesting juxtaposition of his Gallic roots and his long-time American home. He's been in this country for over 20 years, but his accent is still a delight and he continues to search for just the right phrase in English on occasion. He's also adept at adopting an accurate but awful American accent, occasionally even sliding into a Southern drawl for comic appeal.
And he's a stereotypical Frenchman in that he loves women, complimenting us, and tonight me, wildly (my hair! my skin! my clothes! my nose?) throughout the evening. Every girl likes to hear that stuff, but preferably from a suitor.
But he's an avid reader, a devoted film buff, and an excellent conversationalist. Because his time in RVA predates mine, he can also share great stories of venues and shows long before I came to town.
Tonight it was about Wendy O. Williams performing in a black leather bikini at the very space in which we were sitting. Those were the days.
And speaking of music, the old-school stuff the bartender was playing was not doing it for me, so when he suddenly came into this millennium with Pinback's "Autumn of the Seraphs," I told him how much better I liked it than the previous stuff.
"You don't like Otis Redding?" he mocked. Sure, for the first twenty years perhaps, but it's getting a bit tired for me now. He grinned and told me how impressed he was that I recognized Pinback. Aw, pshaw, don't challenge me to talk music, my friend. Or, better yet, do.
The Frenchman is in the process of moving out of his house so that it can be gutted and renovated over the next four months. He was trying to explain how difficult it is for him to know what to toss out.
His girlfriend is much less a hoarder, so they finally settled on her doing the winnowing and packing and him doing the heavy lifting and shlepping.
It was those chores which had occupied him all day today and he showed me his cold-chapped hands, looking for sympathy. He lost any chance of that when he suggested that he could put runs in my tights just by rubbing his rough hands all over them.
You can take the Frenchman out of France, but he's still going to want to play friendly footsie with every nice pair of legs he befriends.