The Gallery 5 after 5 series may have reached a new high tonight with more people, a bigger spread of free food (courtesy of Cous Cous), discounted memberships to Gallery 5 (just so you know, you are looking at the legs of a new member) and, wait for it, a lecture on tarantulas.
Believe it or not, this combination happy hour/lecture series is not just for nerds (although that's certainly why I go).
It's about mixing and mingling, checking out G5's exhibits in case you missed First Friday and listening to one of Richmond's talented DJs playing music (tonight it was Kenneth).
And tonight it was also about scorpions in cages (alive and glowing under a black light) and in frames (dead, but great for Christmas presents).
I kid you not; organizer Prabir bought four and another guy two.
"They're for my nephews," he claimed. Yea, right.
Wade Harrell, president of the American Tarantula Society, gave a great talk about arachnids, complete with full-screen visuals of these not-so deadly creatures.
The title of this post comes from his explanation of mating rituals, if that tells you how unscientific yet fascinating he was.
The strength of his talk was that he spoke like a non-scientist about a fairly scientific topic (my friend the biologist was impressed with this) so as not to lose those of us who aren't in to the whole species/habitat thing.
I'd taken a seat in the second row with no one around me, but that soon changed.
First the head of Culture Works picked my row after his introduction speech.
Next the Frenchman I'd met at the Renoir movie recently, here, came in and sat down next to me.
He was followed shortly by a friend, another Frenchman, necessitating me moving over next to Culture Works.
I'd gone from being alone in my row to completely sandwiched in by men in bulky coats.
But given the weather and the concrete floor, I was more than happy to have all that body heat nearby.
After the talk, the serious socializing began and for the next few hours, it was a lot like a party, with people drinking, eating, making new friends and chatting up the old.
The Frenchman provided some helpful connections to a couple of friends who are soon leaving for nine months in Europe.
Four hours into the happy "hour" it was time for me to excuse myself and go eat dinner.
At that point, I knew I was staying in the 'hood, so the Belvidere at Broad was the logical stop, being so close to home.
Owner David flagged me down as soon as I approached the bar, motioning to his end and saying, "Come on, met me halfway!"
He'd come in to help out the dishwasher (does a heart good to hear that, doesn't it?) and stayed for some Ommegang Adoration out of the cask.
Plenty of others seemed to be there for the same reason.
I quickly decided on the grilled ahi tuna with spicy sriracha aioli on a crusty baguette with mixed greens, tomato, cucumber and red onion, with a side of Asian slaw.
I'd never had this sandwich, although I still recall the one bite I'd had of a friend's many months ago.
Tonight's was every bit as memorable as that bite (tuna rare and aioli just hot enough) and the slaw was the perfect cooling complement to it.
David saw me tearing into the baguette and asked if it was too chewy.
No such thing, I told him.
I like my bread to require some work.
We talked about buying local art (something we both do), how VCU needs to step it up sculpturally (one of my many soapboxes), offering growlers (I'm a big supporter of the idea despite not being a beer drinker) and parties where everyone else is a musician (he'd recently been to one and was raving about it).
Th new art show is photography by John Fralin and the atmospheric shots of underpasses, buildings and landscapes were beautifully composed.
I couldn't get a good look at a couple of them because they were over top of occupied tables and, for some reason, people don't appreciate having someone lean over them while they're eating, even for art's sake.
Dessert was a sundae with double chocolate ganache and a glass of Pinot Noir while discussing Anthony Bourdain with a neighbor and the alternate bartender, Matt.
Having just finished the underwhelming Medium Raw today, I was far less enthusiastic about the man than they were.
Or maybe it was just that after the high of hearing about the mating rituals of scorpions everything else paled in comparison.
Because as pick-up lines go, don't eat me/let's mate is not only brilliant, but crystal clear.
Two qualities this non-scorpion much admires.