Yet again, the evening didn't work out the way I had thought it would. First off, my girlfriend and I did not connect.
When she wasn't at the appointed meeting spot, I figured she'd blown me off for better things. So I walked the galleries at VMFA looking for her and finally ended up at the Best Cafe, hoping to salvage the night with time spent listening to Hotel X.
I was as unprepared as the VMFA apparently was for the hordes that crowded the cafe for Hotel X tonight. First of all, the band has a huge following. Second, on New Year's Eve eve, there was not a lot happening in RVA. Hence the mob.
Luckily when I arrived, there was one table open and I snagged it in the name of a music lover, albeit a lonely one. Yes, it was a four-top and yes, I was one lousy person, but I'd been stood up and I was not going to stand for three hours of world music.
Afraid to lose my table if I left it to get wine, I stayed put and enjoyed Hotel X's unique blend of Afro-beat, jazz, rock, pop and world music. Before long, I saw an old friend making his way through the crowd and waved hello from my prime seat.
It was Ken, the man who delivered me one of the unkindest and funniest lines of my life (he's the first one mentioned), here, and he came over to ask if he could join me. Not one to hold grudges against people who don't find me pretty (after all, I'm not), I welcomed him to my humble table.
When he discovered my wine dilemma, he was off like a shot to fetch me wine (well, if you insist). He caught me up on his life and I was impressed to hear that he is planning to leave April 1 to spend a month sailing his boat to Florida and back to get a little ocean-going experience. Sounds like a lot more fun than selling securities (again, why he's not my type).
Just as he was reminding me how I'm the perfect girl for him (believe me, I'm not), a woman approached our table and asked if she could join us. Eager to play nice, we said yes. Then we found out she had two friends on the way. Okay, things were getting a bit crowded, but we could adapt.
They turned out to be a fine addition to our duo, the doctor, the operating room nurse and the interior house painter. They had ties to the old Main Street Grill, knew Hotel X and were eager to swap conversation.
One of the women had been burned badly in her last relationship, necessitating her getting out of town to heal and we shared tales of love lost. The nurse asked me about the Rattlemouth show tomorrow night and the painter wanted to know all about me and my neighborhood. Ken who?
I love Hotel X; their fluidity (lots of musicians in the audience), the genre-crossing sound (is that rock?...they're pretty jazzy, aren't they?...what's that groove?), the way they inspire that crazy butterfly-catching dancing and sideline acoustic-guitar playing.
The place eventually became so jammed that the staff went out on the deck and brought in a additional tables and chairs to accommodate people. Simply put, the joint was jumping.
Once the excellent music ended, I said goodnight to my new harem (Ken having departed earlier due to the late hour...8:30) and they asked for ways to keep in touch.
Leaving the museum, I had a dilemma of where to go and decided that Carytown was my best shot tonight. I rolled up to Bonvenu, busy with a half dozen tables or so and figured they were going to welcome me. And they did.
I took a seat at the bar, was welcomed back (again) and ordered a glass of Tempranillo to start. A quick look at the menu assured me that I needed to finally taste the butternut squash dumplings with chevre, cayenne walnuts and grilled sweet onions in browned butter sauce with crispy sage.
About damn time, too, because the dish was terrific. The dumplings were dense and flavorful, the chevre abundant, the onions cooked to the sweetest perfection and with enough walnuts to satisfy a nut-lover like me. No, I'm not sharing a bite of this.
Mid-dish a butcher came in and sat near me at the bar but didn't speak. I could tell he was eavesdropping when I initiated a conversation with the bartender about the music, but he didn't join the conversation.
The music was a bit dated for my taste (Melanie, "Brand New Key"? Hall and Oates? Wow) , but the discussion thereof caught the interest of the butcher's friend who'd come in and placed himself between me and the meat man.
He was my second Ken of the evening and he was a huge pleasure to talk to (he also didn't mention me not being pretty or my nose being too big). I was set.
We had only minor overlapping music to discuss (although he awarded me major points for my extensive current music knowledge; his stopped at Kings of Leon and Kaiser Chiefs), but it was a start.
We segued into the research skills of the PDA generation (non-existent), the unprecedented turnaround in cultural attitudes toward vets (from dissing Viet Nam vets to celebrating the current crop in a mere 35 years; warp speed for a cultural shift in this country) and the way our parents' generation worked through marital discord rather than resorting to divorce at the first difficulty.
Eventually the butcher left and Ken stayed (I think) for the pleasure of further conversation.
Even so, I could not have been more surprised when he finally asked for his check (his work requires a much earlier wake-up call than mine, but then doesn't everybody's?) and insisted that Miss Karen's bill be included with his. Had I just unwittingly talked for my supper?
I was sorry to see such a fine conversationslaist go but he had a butcher to meet before bed and I understood that. Within moments of his departure, the bartender started telling me about how West Coast drink trends slowly make their way to Richmond and how it says so right in the restaurant magazines.
Specifically, she wanted me to know about the Pickleback, a shot of Jameson's followed by a half shot of pickle juice, which comes to us via Los Angeles. Since I only drink tequila and wine, the conversation between her, the staff and a customer was of no relevance to me.
Until they insisted that I join them in a round of Picklebacks, resulting in my first taste of Jameson's, not to mention my first pickle juice. Who would have thought?
And neither Ken around to witness it. I'm honestly not sure who might have been impressed and who would have been appalled.
Not that it matters either way. I just don't think I'm the Ken type.
Do I look like Barbie?