Sunday, January 31, 2010

More Snowed-In Serendipity

"I work today at 2, so if you know anyone in the hood looking for an open place..." read the (hint, hint) invitation from my bartending friend at Tarrant's, so my postponed music was replaced with a stroll through the neighborhood to see him, eat dinner and enjoy some conversation.

As I was getting cleaned up to go out, a friend with cabin fever called to see if I was willing to venture out and since I was already planning to do so, I told her she could meet me there if she wanted to brave driving the roads.

Noting the desperation in her voice, I felt sure I'd end up seeing her.

Lots of people had the same thought apparently so we had plenty of company.

I had the half rack of baby back ribs and cole slaw, the perfect un-winter-like meal on a snowy Sunday night.

By the time I finished, I don't know what was stickier: my hands or my sauce-smeared napkin.

Mission accomplished!

My friend played copy-cat and got the ribs too, but also a small onion pizza and as we finished up our meal, she began a conversation with another regular sitting nearby.

He was a New Yorker, who consults down here four days a week and was snowed in for the weekend.

He immediately scored points by insisting on buying us dessert and non-stop conversation ensued.

Since he eats out every night he's here, he was great fun to discuss the Richmond restaurant scene with.

I had to give him credit, he's been to a lot of restaurants here; in fact, more than me because his hotel is in the west end, so he occasionally eats outside the city limits, unlike me.

As an astute wine geek, he knew all the best lists around town, as well as where to get a Kobe beef burger at lunch and which places to avoid for one reason or another.

The owners of Bouchon came in on a rare night off, so they joined us for conversation too.

My bartending friend kept things lively with wisecracks, whipped cream and wild tales (turns out the bar is made from the marble in the former urinal stalls at the Jefferson).

It was only my friend's second time at Tarrants' but she's completely smitten with its combination of extensive menu, quirky ambiance and colorful clientele.

As for me, I always appreciate an engraved invitation.

Of Stalkers, Boners and Missed Music

Unlike yesterday's peaceful quiet, my street has been alive with noise all day.

People are out walking and talking, scraping their cars and whirring their tires trying to escape the mounds of snow, so I finally gave in and joined them.

Cleaning off my car was a cinch, but removing the drifts of snow that all but covered the tires took a while (I used a rake, a surprisingly efficient tool for the job of shifting the powder).

I even drove around the block to ensure that I had an exit strategy for later.

And then I set off on foot to see what was up in J-Ward.

My favorite Whiskey Wednesday friend was smoking a cigarette on his porch so I recruited him to inspect the 'hood with me and he was more than willing.

We saw a car parked facing east on Clay (it's westbound), but with no tracks in or out, indicating it was parked pre-snowfall. Interesting choice and for no apparent reason that we could think of.

We noted the absence of snowmen, probably due to the dryness of the snow.

In lieu of being able to pack the snow into recognizable forms, the artistic among us seem to have resorted to writing words on the snow canvas of cars.

We saw "VCU," "peace" and a heart written out on different vehicles, but my favorite would have to be the one that said "boner."

Now I'm just guessing here, but I'd be willing to bet that it was someone with a Y chromosome who was thus inspired (or maybe just over-sharing).

Two well-dressed men came out of their house as we passed, snow shovels in hand.

The one proudly pointed out to the other that he had cleared off both their cars; their intention now was to move the mounds of snow that were blocking them in.

Unlike me and my girly rake tool, they had manly snow shovels.

The one in loafers (you know, the perfect shoe for snow removal) inserted his shovel into a mound, where the scoop promptly snapped off from the handle.

The other guy burst out laughing at him, causing loafer boy to slink inside.

My friend and I walked on before making proper fun of them.

My friend peeled off when we got back around to his block and I kept going the block and a half home.

There was a guy smoking a cigarette and shoveling a walk at the corner house, who said hello to me in an eastern European accent.

"I haven't seen you on your walk every day lately. Like 9-10:00, right? I see you all the time. Where have you been?"

I've never seen this guy before and I have no idea who he is or that he knows about my daily walk.

Creepy or complimentary? You be the judge.

And now I come home to find that the Of Montreal show at the National tonight has been postponed.

Damn, I was hoping for some over-the-top musical spectacle tonight to cap off the snowy weekend.

I saw them in November 2008 and they were great fun.

Now I'll have to find another way to amuse myself.

Bet I can.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Looking for Locals at The Belvidere

One of my favorite perks of living in the city is that when it snows, there's bound to be a restaurant open within walking distance filled with neighbors and locals wanting some snow company.

I'd heard from a friend earlier today that my closest watering hole, The Belvidere, would be open tonight and the owner was concerned they wouldn't have any business.

Far be it for me to be part of that problem and not the solution, so I set off in the snow.

The place was barely half full when I arrived, but neighbors did come, bike kids came, and a really drunk guy with a bright red nose and shorts on made a brief stopover.

I ordered the house-cured salmon (I think it's the best in RVA) and settled in with my book.

Not long afterwards, a guy with a book came in and took the stool one away from me and I'd have bet my bottom dollar he wasn't a local.

He ordered a glass of wine and started reading the menu.

Meanwhile, several people, staff and customers, spoke to me by name and he must have drawn a conclusion, because he put down his menu and addressed me. "Well, it's obvious you've been here before. What's good and what should I order?"

As it turned out, he was an out-of-towner, living three days a week in Toronto and four in NYC.

He was staying at the Omni, had had a mediocre meal there last night and wanted something funky and good tonight.

He'd tried Bouchon first because it was near the hotel, but they were closed, so he went back to his hotel room for more research.

Next he tried Lemaire because of what he'd read online about the recent renovation, but the piped in muzak and hotel guest crowd turned him off.

More research and he hit on The Belvidere, reading multiple enthusiastic reviews.

But this is Richmond, and a snowstorm was in progress, so it wasn't easy to find transportation to the B @ B, but he finally succeeded, a feat in and of itself.

So while I'd left the house expecting to chat away the evening with my neighbors, I ended up talking for four hours to a Canadian.

Since we 'd both brought books, we started there; he's reading How Fiction Works and by the end of the evening he was sure I'd like it.

He also wanted the scoop on what to see here since he's a history buff; he had a surprisingly extensive knowledge of the slave triangle and he was fascinated to hear about the Slave Trail.

His dad was a cartographer and yet he'd never heard of Matthew Fontaine Maury; I felt obligated to clue him in.

Like me, he had years of media experience, including radio, publishing and video (what are the chances?) and shares a love for the dying newspaper.

He wanted to know about Virginia's wine industry and questioned why there were no Virginia wines on the list (Julie, I'll let you take this one).

He mentioned that if he were at either of his homes, he would not be dealing with snow and laughed at the irony of coming south only to be snowed in (no outgoing flights today or tomorrow morning, at least).

He made fun of seeing Richmonders using umbrellas in the snow; I defended myself by saying at least I didn't jump in the James.

I went to hang out with locals on a snow day and instead stumbled on a stuck Canuck who wanted to eat local and chat local.

The neighbors I'll have another chance to talk to; better to enjoy the visitor conversation while it's stranded here.

After all, someone's got to represent.

Midafternoon Dip in the James River

The beauty of my life is that I actually have fiends who call me up in a raging snowstorm and ask, "Want to go down to the James River and watch three friends take a plunge in the water?"

Now that you mention it, I would love to watch insane people strip down and risk hypothermia for the sake of an experience.

What time are you picking me up?

So he ferried me down in his able vehicle, picked up one of the plungers (who laughably told me that once I got caught up in the excitement, I'd want to join in. It was to laugh.) on the way and down we headed to Tredegar for the spectacle.

First they erected a tent, complete with towels, blankets, dry clothes and a jug of chai tea, while the sane among us stood watching in the blizzard.

And then they actually started disrobing; one wore a bathing suit, one wore long underwear, but just the leg portion and one, the guy from Florida who kept saying his friends at home would never believe him without pictures (my friend was using a large lens to capture every single goose bump) wore just his underwear.

Oh, and they all wore shoes of some kind.

And then they went in the James River in a snowstorm while we watched.

The first brave soul stood there up to his knees acclimating and finally just dropped back into the water.

The second was Florida guy, who just dove right in and under, like a lunatic.

The only female participant was more gradual and took her mug of tea in with her.

She slowly went lower and lower until only her tea mug remained.

I admire their nerve, their circulation systems and that they now have a story they can share for the rest of their lives, but, honestly, I enjoyed it just as much from the frigid, snowy riverbank.

I even found myself making painful cold noises in commiseration as they each submerged.

Best of all, I got to watch the experience and I don't imagine I'll forget it any time soon.

Warm and cozy at The Village eating lunch afterwards, my photographer friend and I agreed that some things we only need see, not experience.

Is this a great life or what?

A Blind Take on Snow

Apparently you don't even have to see snow to appreciate it, as I was reminded this morning.

Out walking the beagle around 9:30, the streets were empty except for one neighbor, methodically shoveling his sidewalk.

As we approached, I realized it was Alvin, a middle-aged neighbor and Iraq veteran who is almost completely blind.

He can make out vague forms, but not much more. And here he was working that snow shovel over our brick sidewalks like a champ.

We greeted each other and he leaned on his shovel and started chatting about how my dog liked the snow (he's always loved it) and how brisk he was for such an old dog (14 1/2).

I thought he nailed it when he said we were the only people smart enough to be out enjoying the silence and whiteness of such a serene morning.

Most tellingly, he remarked that what he was doing was for the sheer pleasure of the experience, since he knew it would soon be covered over and have to be done again later on.

"It's just such a beautiful day that I couldn't resist being out here admiring it and breathing it in," Alvin said.

Which was exactly why I was out there, but it became that much better sharing the feeling with someone.

Friday, January 29, 2010

I See the Whole of the Moon

I walked into CousCous with a friend tonight and the first thing I heard was my name shouted loudly, followed by, "Why the hell weren't you at the Jason Wembley show last week?" What happened to, "Good evening. Table for two?" But he was hugging me as he said it, so it was almost the same. It was the omnipresent Parker and, to be fair to him, I had planned to be at Gallery 5 for that show but ended up having my idyllic hospital stay instead.

I chose my favorite bar seat, the one under the TV so I never have to know it's there. It didn't take long to discover that the bartender is a neighbor of mine and a whiskey-lover to boot; J-Ward must be rampant with them. I debated telling him about my Whiskey Wednesday friends, but decided against it...I mean it's really not my place.

In between discussing the advantages of city living in the snow and the upcoming whiskey tasting at CousCous, he brought us food: sweet corn fritters with chipotle creme fraiche, my favorite soup, the harira (oxtail, rice and veggie), a lovely cucumber salad with Manchego cheese, curry fries cooked twice perfectly, chicken B'strilla (the sweet and spicy Moroccan pot pie with chicken, eggs, almonds, onions and apricots in pastry) interspersed with explaining the menu to my friend, a first-time customer. Oddly enough, she had no trouble understanding the hazelnut chocolate torte.

Afterwards, we went back to her house for the pineapple-infused vodka she had made for a recent party. I'm not a vodka drinker, so I tasted it for the sake of experiencing her delicious creation, but I'm betting it would be plenty popular with the right crowd. Better than the vodka was the roaring fire she made as soon as we walked in, making for a cozy setting to for her to deliver her opinion on my recent reconnection and all its implications, best summed up as"You go, girl."

Which begs the question: Is there such a thing as resetting your life clock and seeing what happens?

It's All About Your Snow Attitude

Snow is many things in RVA, beautiful, frustrating, calming, a novelty.

So why is it some people get their panties in a wad just knowing it's coming?

It's not like we can change that, so the wise thing seems to be to accept and make the best of the situation.

A good friend told me her live-in boyfriend is a snow curmudgeon, much to her regret. I couldn't agree more.

If you have someone under the same roof with whom to enjoy the weather, you want them to be at least as into it as you are, whether that means being out in it or happily together inside.

I'm lucky to have people in my life who, while not under the same roof as me, have the right attitude about snow behavior.

A fellow city-dweller with a snow-worthy vehicle already e-mailed me with a challenge for a snow day.

"I am free this Saturday until 4 p.m. Do you have the huevos to pick up the gauntlet? Well, do you?"

Don't challenge me, mister.

I will be certainly be needing some Saturday fun, so I threw some suggestions back at him for the day.

I will wear his snowy ass out with inside and outdoor activities by 4 and he can just go to work beat and happy. So there.

Another friend had a more long-term suggestion for what to do in the snow.

He called it "wishful thinking" but the message was pretty simple. "I think you should come here and get snowed in with me."

I know I'm lucky to have friends who can see the fun potential in a snow day or two rather than focusing on the extra trouble shoveling, parking and getting around.

And with tomorrow night also being a full moon, I'm expecting great and wonderful things to happen, or maybe just be talked about as part of my winter wonderland weekend.

We'll call that my snow optimism.

Prabir Tells Me How to Do It/Part Deux

The whole town has already resigned itself to the inevitable; we're going to get another big snow and all the weekend's activities are going to be cancelled/postponed and there's nothing we can do about it...except have a rollicking good Thursday night as a precautionary measure.

Still craving Italian, my friend and I started at Edo's for dinner and arrived to a mob scene.

I used my superior bar skills to score bar stools before anyone else in the place even realized the occupants were abandoning them.

Dinner was a spicy oyster stew and then roasted red pepper and mozzarella for me; my friend had the stew and then calamari.

The bartender is a friend of hers, so we had an intimate discussion of tabloids, the uses of the History Channel and why a guy would ask a female friend to pimp for him.

Our next stop was Six Burner for music, but my friend was still hungry so we enjoyed even more food: crispy duck confit (to die for), risotto balls and a red velvet cupcake.

Before long, my friend Andrew showed up, followed by the masses for Prabir and the Goldrush's show and there was no looking back.

People continued to arrive non-stop until the owner had to do door duty and turn people away.

The temperature inside the restaurant climbed to summertime levels, the bartender stripped to a t-shirt (nice look, Josh) and eventually the air conditioning had to be turned on, despite it being barely above freezing outside.

Seriously, when I think it's warm, it's warm.

As usual, Prabir's show was great musical fun, including original material, of course the Beatles and ending with a robust sing-along version of Bohemian Rhapsody.

I couldn't believe how many in the audience knew every single word (I don't and I'd prefer Bohemian Like You any day, but it was an inspired choice, nonetheless).

And, let me tell you, they were into it, many of them singing at the top of their lungs to a song older than they were.

Laugh-out-loud-hilarious. If you haven't seen this trio tear it up, you should make a point to check them out.

Fortunately, Prabir and I had caught up before he took the stage so I could get the rest of his Grand Plan.

It seems that after steps one through six here, there is more for the lovelorn to attend to, namely:

7. Amend list to include late adds
8. Try out the late additions
9. Eliminate the unsuitable ones
10. Introduce a close, but platonic, friend to the late add who most impresses you.

And voila!

You have arrived at a new love who is acceptable to a trusted friend, who can also secure pertinent information for you from said new love.

I'm on it.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The What If? Lecture

I'm not a true Southerner.

I was born in Washington, D.C. to a native Washingtonian and a Richmonder, so I wasn't raised to worship at the feet of dead white guys.

I do recall my Richmond aunt once referring to the great unpleasantness as the War of Northern Aggression and I couldn't wait to amuse my 4th grade teacher with her quaint Southern phrase.

So while I'm no more interested in Robert E. Lee than I am in any number of dead guys, I was one of hundreds at the VA Historical Society for today's Banner lecture on "Lee's Lessons in Leadership" by Andy Trudeau.

What made it particularly interesting was that the focus was entirely historically-informed speculation; Lee was supposed to have written the definitive book on the war, A History of Campaigns of the Army of Northern Virginia, but he chose not to do so.

Trudeau speculated that it was partly due to his full-time job as President of Washington College, part of a grand plan to prepare future generations of leaders.

But Lee didn't relish controversy and he knew writing the book would be a minefield, preferring remaining silent to inciting discussion on a subject he wanted left in the past.

Apparently, too, the eagerness of Southerners for him to pen the definitive war book was too much of a burden, especially since he was no writer.

According to historical records, Lee purposely chose to read no works on the subject of the war once it was over. None.

You have to respect a man who knew his limitations and although I'm no member of Lee's fan club, a man who took long walks in between battles, had a pet rattlesnake and was wise enough to leave the past in the past, is worth an hour of my time...even with the guy snoring two rows behind me.

Besides, lately I seem to be very much in what if? mode myself...

A Craving for Italian

Since I can't figure out what it is I need to satisfy my recent craving, I'm trying various ways to get my Italian fix.

What hasn't worked so far?

A big old Industrial from Coppola's; it's a fine, oily Italian hero with salami, mortadella, capicola, provolone and the rest, but, aside from major onion breath, it wasn't what I was looking for.

Repeating after my musician friend Chris, who's taking an Italian class and teaching me the fundamental phrases ("May I have a glass of red wine, please?").

It might be good to be able to ask for what I need in Italian, after all.

A sausage and onion pizza from Tarrant's only hours after the Industrial, but still not taking away the craving.

Hearing all the amazing details of my friends' upcoming trip to Italy, right down to specific buildings and art they'll be seeing before I do.


Maybe all I need is an Italian guide to steer me to the best ways to satisfy my craving, assuming I can articulate what I'm looking for.

"Some good Italian" probably isn't descriptive enough, especially for a wordy type like me.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Strange Matter: Music but No Booze (Yet)

Strange Matter, the latest incarnation of 929 West Grace Street, was where I spent my evening, but not because of the vintage 80s arcade games, although Rob, the bartender at Ipanema, told me that they're worth a trip if you're a fan of the old games.

Apparently the Ninja game is just as difficult now as it was in the 80s, not that I'd have a clue about that.

Not sure what Strange Matter would have for food, I'd stopped by Ipanema for the grilled Gouda sandwich and while Rob raved about the games, his enthusiasm for the food at S.M. was, um, more restrained.

Besides, I hadn't had the most popular item on Ipanema's menu in months, so it was time (or, perhaps I should say "thyme," since that's what makes that sandwich combination so sublime).

I was heading to Strange Matter because of their new weekly film series and I was very much looking forward to seeing the documentary All Tomorrow's Parties about the sponsorship-free music festival of the same name held in England.

It's a brilliant idea; musicians, and sometimes artists, are asked to curate the festival, inviting their favorite performers to play.

Thurston Moore called it the "ultimate mix tape" so I was sold right then and there; seeing who chose what bands was fascinating to a music lover like me.

For example:

Animal Collective curated by Explosions in the Sky
Gossip curated by Sleater-Kinney
Lightning Bolt curated by Mogwai
Daniel Johnston curated by the Fans (how democratic is that?)
A Hawk and a Hacksaw curated by Portishead
Iggy and the Stooges curated by Thurston Moore
Akron/Family and Fuckbuttons curated by ATP
Boredoms curated by Sonic Youth

There were also performances by the Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs, Slint, Mogwai, Sonic Youth and too many more to recount.

What was cool was seeing how the musicians and the attendees stayed in the same places, making for a totally casual environment throughout.

Sort of a festival for the rest of us, if you will.

The screenings, which are on Wednesday nights at 7:30, are free and although S.M. doesn't yet have its liquor license, until it does, seeing music films in a place where we've all seen countless live shows seems like the perfect use for the space that is always changing names and owners, but remains all about music.

Or, as Patti Smith put it, "Punk rock is back in the hands of the kids again not the big business guys."

As well it should be.

I'm No Science Geek

I admit I go to a lot of nerdy events, but that's what people like me do in between eating out and going to art shows and hearing live music.

But when I do show my inner geek, it's never in the scientific arena, for a good reason: just not interesting enough for me.

Which made today's lecture at the Science Museum of Virginia ideal for me.

The noon lecture, Earth, Wind and Fire: Casting Civil War Artillery, was about iron-making and the prolific weapon industry that came out of the south's largest ironworks, Tredegar, during the war.

But rather than a scientific lecture, the speaker was Andrew Talkov of the VA Historical Society and the exhibit coordinator for Virginia's Civil War Sesquicentennial (just around the corner in 2011, kids).

Any true science types in the audience were undoubtedly mortified when he started explaining the components of iron making, earth, air, fire and water, and how they needed to combine to produce wrought iron and cast iron.

After a labored explanation and arrow-filled diagram, he said to the audience, "And that's how it was done. Did you get that? Cause I don't think I really do."

Of course I didn't get it.

That's why it was my kind of scientific lecture: lots of historical illustrations, interesting photos of artifacts and obscure info.

And no scientific knowledge required.

Like You Had Something Better to Do?

I was overdue to check out live music at Balliceaux, so when a friend suggested we go for Amazing Ghost's show last night, I was all about it, even though I'd seen them play barely a week ago.

I still get a little jolt every time I walk in the former Bogart's; it's like seeing an old friend after extensive plastic surgery, but in a good way, not scary.

The back bar was mobbed, but I managed to get a drink from Austin, the bartender (and talented flier-maker for local band, Marionette) and have a quick chat until my friend arrived and we moved to the less crowded front bar.

The bar is tiny there and, of course, there were no two stools together, but after a friendly request, a guy offered to shift right so we could sit together.

He claimed he was doing it for a "cute face," but considering how quickly he joined our conversation, he may have just wanted some company.

He did acknowledge that the black fishnets didn't hurt, either, but by then he was really trying to be our friend, so it was all a bit much.

He'd just ordered the lamb sausage, a dish I had hoped to try the last time I ate at Balliceaux, and had not left room for.

He was kind enough to insist that I try some of his and procured a plate, and roll up so I could partake.

I did enjoy the sausage's spiciness, although I refused to eat the full third of his plate that he was offering.

The conversation moved on to tennis, something he is apparently fanatical about, a sport my friend despises (despite having grown up with a tennis court in her backyard; how unusual is that?) and, being a sport, of absolutely no interest at all to me.

What is this hand/eye coordination of which you speak?

My friend worked as an intern for Sony Music in college and has the best stories about musicians she got to meet and the behind-the-scenes goings-on of the recording industry, so she entertained me with all kinds of anecdotes, including a triple-bill show she saw back in the 90s with the Chili Peppers headlining and supported by Nirvana and Pearl Jam.

And not only seeing Jeff Buckley, but spending an evening talking to him.

On the other hand, her first show ever was Bon Jovi, so that gave me plenty to tease her about, too.

Once the pretty people started arriving, Balliceaux filled up quickly, as it should, for free live music on a Tuesday night.

But then my feelings on that subject are well known; it's all out there if you want it.

And why would you not want it?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Of Rum Tasting and Nooners at Julep

Before I started working at a radio station, my alcoholic beverage of choice was dark rum.

It was for an interview for a higher position at the station that I was introduced to good tequila and never looked back.

The station manger took me to lunch to interview me, suggested tequila and since I wanted the job, I bravely drank three shots with him during our meal and discussion.

By the time he got the check, I had the job, a buzz and never went back to rum.

So when I walked into Julep tonight to meet a friend for dinner, the last thing I expected was a high end rum tasting.

Unbeknownst to me, once a month Julep's master mixologist does a tasting of one kind or another and I had happened into it.

They were doing a three-course prix fixe menu to accompany the five rums (Oronoco Platinum, Leblon Cachaca, Depaz Blue Cane Agricole, Mt. Gay Extra Old and Gosling's Family Reserve) during the course of the evening.

Was it possible rum was trying to reenter my life at this point?

When my friend arrived, he preferred to go the wine and regular menu route, so, it being half priced bottle night, we ordered the Arrocal Ribera del Duero and were delighted with the Temperanillo's lovely fruit and silky tannins.

We both started with the creamy sweetwater crab soup; he went on to the tempura shrimp and grits while I got the wild-rice encrusted oysters with a roasted shallot tartar sauce and Georgia peach migonette.

Both were wonderful and my oyster portion was enormous (so I shared).

For dessert, we had the chocolate marquise with the rest of the wine.

I had chosen the bar stool directly in front of mixologist Bobby to watch him prepare the three food courses for the rum tasters.

Having seen him turn out amazing- smelling dishes for the rum tasters for hours by this point, it was now time to avail ourselves of his talents.

My friend ordered the Gatsby's Finest (Hendrick's Small Batch Gin, Lillet Blanc, Chartreuse Yellow and Bobby's homemade chili jam), mainly because he had discovered how labor-intensive the chili jam was.

I had a taste only for rum given the evening's focus, so I simply got the Gosling's Family Reserve straight up, which Bobby referred to as "the best rum you will ever taste," so I had to find out.

Considering how many years since I've had rum, I was blown away.

It started out smelling of molasses, then got terribly complex, but never sweet, always dry.

Aged a minimum of ten years in Bermuda (ouch, painful memories there) and a slight burn on the finish, it was like no rum I'd ever had.

The other guests for the tasting were definitely liquor/restaurant geeks and we chatted with most of them throughout the evening.

One, in particular, was wearing the handsomest vintage smoking jacket and corduroy pants I could ever hope to see in Richmond.

As we were leaving, we stopped to speak to him and his date about the rum, the food and his magnificent wardrobe.

As I headed toward the door, my friend lingered for a bit more conversation about the jacket and, inexplicably, their chatting deteriorated almost immediately into the topic of nooners.

Motioning toward my receding back, the jacket-wearer told my friend, "With legs like that, I'd be nailing her for lunch every day."

Just as I got to the door, my quick-thinking friend said, "I know, but I can't. She's my sister."

Final score of the day for the pink tights.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Hey, Pink Legs!

I haven't been doing my daily walks for the past ten days because of being sick, so I haven't had the pleasure of my Grace Street regulars to say inappropriate and hysterical things to me.

But with January spring fever hitting RVA today, it was time to take to the streets and see what people had to say.

Well, and get on with my life.

Before I even got started, a musician friend began it all by messaging to ask if that had been me he'd seen walking at Marshall and Jefferson this morning.

Nope, not me, so I chided him for not recognizing me by now, considering how frequently we see each other (we do live in the same neighborhood, after all).

He pleaded the early hour, his hangover, and the need for new glasses.

In an attempt to redeem himself, though, he promised me the rest of his Love Plan at his show Thursday, so I'll update you once I get steps 7-10; Prabir is an expert, you know.

Walking over to Carver to claim my car (yet again) I got a vehicle full of guys hooting at me, ending with, "Hey, Pink Legs, we love you!"

I'm guessing the hot fuchsia tights were the catalyst for that.

It's not like I haven't worn them plenty lately, but you can see a lot more of them in a jean skirt and hoodie than you can in a winter coat.

Hell, considering how many people I saw in shorts and flip-flops today, I was still overdressed for the weather and the overt spring fever in the air.

A random guy standing outside the garage said hello as I walked up and asked me if I was coming to get my car.

When I confirmed that I was, he said, "They should give you a discount just for showing up in those," gesturing at my tights.

While I agree, no discount was offered, but at least the car is functional again.

And finally, at Supercuts, the very charming guy who always trims my hair told me how fine my tights were, "I only wish I could wear something like that."

It was quite possibly the best comment of the day.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

I'll Take It All

I walked outside a while ago to get some mix tapes out of my basement (it's not an ideal set-up, but I do love having a full basement) and was hit full in the face with a blast of a warm air like I had not expected.

It was 56 degrees when I walked back from Carytown around 4 and it was 63 when I went to retrieve my vintage music gems this evening.

Since there are not many late January evenings that feel this wonderful, I couldn't resist interrupting my e-mail volleying with a fellow music and language lover and taking the beagle for a long walk through the Ward.

I wasn't the least bit surprised to discover other weather-appreciative neighbors parked on their porches, taking in this wet and warm winter weather.

One was smoking a cigar, another few were ending their weekend with some Sunday beer and still others had their front windows open to allow the music inside to be heard on their porch.

Toward the end of our stroll, it started raining lightly, but in that atmospheric rather than cold, unpleasant way and neither of us minded a bit.

I took a hint from the neighbors and immediately opened my bedroom windows a bit when we returned so that I can smell the January warmth and maybe even hear the rain on the porch roof once I go to bed.

The low tonight is only supposed to be 57!

 An unexpected treat like this is to be appreciated and I'm happy to do so.

Maybe things are looking up all around.

NY Deli Brunch & Haiti Benefit @ The Byrd

Waiting out front for my friend to pick me up for brunch today, I saw a car coming west on Clay, turning south on Henry Street, and ignoring the Do Not Enter sign without so much as a sideways glance (it's actually one way north).

It seemed like a good analogy for my 2010 strategy: try a new way, see what happens and just hope nobody gets hurt.

We were off to Carytown and NYD for brunch and it was mobbed.

As it turned out, most of the people were, like me, headed to the Haiti Benefit at the Byrd at 2.

The host tried to discourage us from coming in because the kitchen was so backed up, but we took our chances at the bar and it worked out just fine, food and time-wise.

I'd chosen NYD because I was in a deli mood, so I got the Patty Melt because the burger, sauteed onions and rye bread combination was calling to me.

Unlike me, my friend hadn't yet had breakfast, so he went the Western Omelet route.

The bartender mistakenly brought me fries instead of chips, but laughed it off as her free appetizer offering for the slowness of the food.

"You looked like you could use some fries, " she told me. Who couldn't, I asked my friend, sharing my bounty.

Looking around as we ate, I noticed for the first time their terrific cocktail shaker and flask collection adorning the back of the bar.

Shades of The Thin Man.

After eating, I went next door and my friend headed home.

The film, Ghosts of Cite Soleil was both a mocumentary as well as containing actual news footage of the political unrest and gang warfare in Haiti up until the coup d'etat in 2004.

Before the film , the audience was warned of the graphic imagery and that this was not appropriate viewing for children (I didn't see any) and it wasn't.

The street gangs in this poorest of countries were at times arrogant and at others, resigned to their fate in such a place.

It was powerful stuff, especially aided by the Wyclef Jean score.

Since I don't watch TV, all the images I've seen of the earthquake has been in print.

There was a video montage sponsored by the Carytown Merchants' Association that preceded the film, showing the recent devastation in Haiti, set to Coldplay's Fix You.

It was a cold dose of reality before the scene-setting horror of Ghosts of Cite Soleil.

The five dollar benefit admissions seemed like such a small contribution to make toward such an enormous cause.

Walking home from the Byrd to J-Ward was a pleasure, given the mid-50s temperature (even without the sun), and gave me some time to digest the brunch and movie.

Here I was hoping for some change in my own life while the lives of an entire country were unwittingly changed for them in moments and undoubtedly forever.

Never mind about me, after all.

He's Got a Face with a View

I am a love child...literally.

When I was younger, I'd ask my mom how I could have been born only seven months after they got married and still have weighed 8 1/2 pounds; she always changed the topic of conversation.

So, back in 2002, when the guy I was dating inquired about the parental dynamic that produced me, I went directly to my Dad for an answer.

And what an answer it was!

"Tell him the dynamic produced you on the first try...that alone is noteworthy! Usually it takes several tries to get something perfect. Truly a work of art born of love!!!" (And yes, I kept that e-mail).

How could I not appreciate so revealing and flattering a statement from Dad, especially when he didn't have to share it (see: Mom's responses)?

Learning that I was the reason my parents got married was never a burden, though, because they went on to produce five other children (all girls) and are still happily married today.

And today was my Dad's birthday, which means the annual birthday dinner extravaganza in Fredericksburg, so up Route 301 I went to celebrate.

Our destination was La Petite Auberge and our reservation was for 7:00.

Arriving, the only unoccupied table was the one laid for us in the center of the room; we'd begun at the Kenmore Inn for cocktail hour and were ready to dive right in amongst the bustling crowd and wait staff.

While assorted bottles of red, white and rose were being ordered and brought to the table, I was pleased to spot my wine of choice for the evening, the Zonnebloem Pinotage, and knew I was set.

The challenge was the menu, which is extensive and rich. I started with the split pea soup with ham and sausage (and bad green soup jokes) when the server warned us of the kitchen being slammed.

The soup, crusty rolls and Pinotage provided an ideal way to stave off hunger for a while.

My dinner choice was the almond-crusted flounder with capers, but since there were no duplications in orders at our table, I also got offered bites of veal, rock fish, flank steak, pork chop, short ribs, mahi mahi, prime rib, crab-stuffed shrimp and even mussels in a Newburg-like broth.

The flounder did necessitate switching temporarily to the Loire Valley from Stellenbosch for a Sauvignon Blanc, but I made the sacrifice before returning to my first love for dessert.

My ever-efficient sister had pre-ordered Baked Alaska for dessert, so it arrived table side to be doused in Drambuie and set aflame, to the surprise and unexpected warmth of nearby tables.

One couple lamented not having the foresight to have ordered their own the required 24 hours in advance.

If this sounds like a meal you'd see in a movie from the 70s, well, it kind of was, but in a charming, retro sort of way.

My folks, after all, are retro, having been very happily married for decades now.

My dad still thinks he is the luckiest guy in the world and that my Mom is the most interesting and attractive woman he's ever met.

He may very well be the last of his kind.

And a man like that is certainly worth celebrating.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Heating Up the Seven Year Itch

Having the Bowtie Cinema show classic movies on the big screen every weekend morning is proving a boon to my film knowledge.

Somehow, I'd never seen "The Seven Year Itch" with Marilyn Monroe, but a friend and I corrected that today; he couldn't believe how small and young (29, but playing a 22-year old)) she looked given the voluptuous image of her he had.

What struck me was the very different world of 1955, with men who sent their wives and kids away for a three-month vacation during the summer and then cut loose smoking, drinking and chasing other women while the fam was away.

I know it was a pre- sexual revolution time, but was it really as male-centric as all that?

And, if so, thank god the sixties arrived and things started to change.

Of course, the premise is that by about seven years into a relationship, the male of the species is bored with his partner (I'd put it more like 5.98 years, but that's just me) and looking for fresh meat.

Of course, in the sanitized Hollywood of the fifties, he resists the temptation of M.M. and returns to the loving bosom of wife and family, as opposed to today, where we just move on once we're bored, male and female both.

Not surprisingly, a little research uncovered the fact that the itch length has been shortened to less than 4 years now.

Apparently boredom sets in much sooner and we're far more comfortable with abandoning the old and seeking out the new.

Who knows, we could be on our way to a two-year itch, and, really, why bother at all then?

On the other hand, a prominent part of the film was about how few and far between air-conditioned homes and buildings were (including the guy's office), causing people to be overheated in the summer time.

Of course, as someone who has voluntarily lived without air conditioning for 18 years, I thought it was pretty cool (bad, I know) to glimpse a time when that was the norm and I wouldn't have been considered the oddity I am now for eschewing it.

And I am definitely hoping to disprove the whole itch thing altogether before I die.

27: Eat, Drink, Listen

It was neighborhood joint night, so I met up with two friends at Bistro 27 and, somehow we outlasted every one else in the place.

But it wasn't just another night at 27, because the menu was recently updated and now there were all kinds of new things on the menu to taste.

Regulars like me love to see things get shaken up and, let's face it, Carlos does everything so well...except my name (on purpose - tonight I was Clara).

In my continuing quest to eat like a lumberjack, I had already decided to go the entree route rather than my usual apps/salad/soup, which was a shame because there were so many tempting new appetizers: crevettes Mediterranees, rillettes of duck, duck and pork pate, baba ganoush and hummus plate, duck and lentil salad and one of my favorites, sweetbreads.

In a perfect world, I would have gotten a couple bites of each, but instead shared the baba ganoush and Hummus Plate with olives.

We all agreed that both spreads were outstanding and sure to be ordered again. The rillettes of duck was another big hit taste-wise.

I ordered the rib-eye, only to be told that the delivery guy hadn't been in, so they were substituting a N.Y. Strip.

Since my goal was meat and potatoes, the substitution filled the bill, along with mashed potatoes and veggies crisply cooked to perfection.

I also tasted my friend's short ribs since they were new to the menu (as was the stuffed quail) and undoubtedly what I would have ordered had I not just had them last night.

They were succulent; I'll be back for my own plate of those.

My music buddy there, Dave, hadn't been working the last few times I'd been in, so we needed to catch up.

He was disappointed not to have scored tickets to Vampire Weekend, which mattered not to me, since they hold no appeal whatsoever in my world (although the Chromeo remix of their "Kids Don't Stand a Chance" I can't resist, but that's thanks to Chromeo, not V.W.).

I'd even go so far as to suggest they rename their latest album from "Contra" to "Contrived," but then I suspect I'm in the minority there.

I'd just read the NY Times review of their show earlier in the week and clearly they don't have much unscripted or loose live.

And is it just me, or don't they seem like well-educated, entitled tight-asses?

But I didn't force my opinion on Dave, instead making empathetic noises about him missing out on the show.

He told me about his upcoming comedy show, which I'll want to see. The comedian I'd seen at his last show, who did the hilarious haikus, will be headlining and I loved his smart humor last time.

Come on, comedic haikus?!

And now I'm starting the rest of the evening, as per my instructions, with a glass of red (the amazing Raquillet 2007 Mercurey Rouge Viellies Vignes and a personal favorite) and listening to my newest mix tape gift, "From a Hundred Miles Away."

I was told its starting point was reconnection followed by a week and a half of 4 a.m. bed-sitting with a laptop, wanting to connect from a distance.

I'm only a few songs in and it's already beginning to put me under its spell.

Ah, music, one of the two essentials of life.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Pig Three Ways at Kuba Kuba

In all the many years I've been going to Kuba Kuba, I have gotten the exact same dish every single time (the mussels in Tasso ham and cilantro broth).

It's not just that I've been called a creature of habit, but it's such a wonderful combination of flavors that I was sure I'd regret not ordering it, so I just always did.

On one occasion when I ate there alone and didn't mention it to my then-boyfriend, George, I was found out.

The next day we were out taking a walk together in the hot sun and he started sniffing me.

"You went to Kuba Kuba last night, didn't you? I can smell it in your sweat." Such is the distinctive flavor of that dish.

Why do I tell you this?

Because at lunch today at Kuba Kuba I ignored the mussels and had the Kubanaso sandwich, consisting of Roasted Pork, Smithfield Ham, Chorizo, Swiss cheese, pickles and mustard on hot pressed Kuban bread.

I know, I know, not very mussels-like, but huge, filling and with enough varieties of pig to satisfy a much bigger person than me.

So good, in fact, that I didn't give those mussels a second thought.

Naturally, I chose the bar stool nearest the kitchen to watch the action and was rewarded with conversational cooks.

The three of us were at a loss as to why it wasn't busier.

I was told that Fridays are always busy, rain guarantees a busier than usual lunch and yet there were at least six empty tables and four bar stools free when I arrived at 12:30, normally prime time.

It worked out well for me because I got plenty of talk from these guys, while watching them effortlessly turn out food.

As it turned out, I also had a direct connection when one of them insisted on taking my order, completely bypassing my server.

When he was plating my sandwich, though, two of the sections of it collapsed on the way to the plate.

He looked sheepish about it, so I reassured him that I was the last person to care about something so inconsequential. He handed it over with an enormous smile on his face.

I'm guessing he enjoyed the company, too, because as I was leaving, he said, "Have a good day, Beautiful."

That was my dessert.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Rx: Stronghill Dining Co.and Theater

When I was discharged from the hospital last night, it was with prescriptions for steroids, breathing treatments and antibiotics.

But what I really needed was a fattening dinner out and some culture to make up for missing that reading at VMFA last night.

Treating the physical is required, but treating the spirit is just as essential.

The evening began at Stronghill where I enjoyed the Wedge Salad with blue cheese and bacon, followed by coffee-braised short ribs over foccacia with apple-smoked Gouda sauce.

Particularly worthy of mention is that the foccacia was fried, so it was a thin, crispy crust around a soft almost potato-like interior about two inches thick.

While it was like no foccacia I've ever had (btw, one of my absolute favorite breads), it was divine.

During their 5:30-7:30 happy hour, all wines under $9 a glass are a flat $5, so I went Sicilian with the Villa Pozzi Nero d'Avola and later, the chocolate mousse.

I told the bartender I had theater plans and she presumed I meant the Bowtie Cinema, so I explained that I was on my way to Pine Camp to see Henley Street Theater Company do A Servant of Two Masters (and for preview night, so it was only ten bucks!), which led to discussion of how she loves theater and never makes the time for it.

Her best friend is a director and playwright; she had all kinds of theater friends who nag her about not attending and still she doesn't go. But she misses seeing live theater.

We talked about the upcoming run of Wicked, which I'd seen three years ago in Baltimore and she'd never seen, how she's never been to Agecroft for Richmond Shakespeare Company, how the last thing she saw was at Theater VCU, so at least there was that.

We discussed Tom Stoppard, for goodness' sake!

I might have given her a bit of crap about her laziness in not doing something she clearly loves, resulting in her finally saying, "When I get home I'm, going to call my girlfriend and insist we see a play soon. And then she's going to give me shit for listening to a convincing stranger and not her all these years."

A server interjected with, "Sometimes you need to hear it from the outside to actually pay attention."

But she did thank me for the theater pep talk.

I also got into an enthusiastic discussion of Honeybells with another server, but unless you've had one, there's no describing them, so we'll just end that there.

Let's just say we shared the same opinion.

A Servant of Two Masters was written in the eighteenth century by Italian Carlo Goldoni, but the themes of a character evolving, hunger for love (and food) and the differences in generations are timeless.

It's a commedia dell' arte, partly scripted and partly improvised and has lots of physical humor, including breaking wind, breast-ogling, spanking and good old slapstick.

Despite being 300+ years old, the play's language has been adapted and should not put off those uncomfortable with the likes of Shakespearean verse. It's nothing like that. Don't believe me?

Love is our sickness and men the only medicine.
The patient is ready to be given her medicine.

Love makes one do remarkable things.

Everyone else is getting a happy ending. (followed by the servant's saddest face).

Not too tough, huh?

So much of the dialogue is laugh-out-loud funny and the clearly defined characters in their magnificent costumes are each delightful in their own way.

The main character, the servant Truffaldino (played by Richard Koch), with his malleable face, quick quips and physical agility, is hard to take your eyes off of.

A night of hilarity was just what the doctor ordered, my internal doctor that is.

The theme of hunger for food and love didn't hurt its appeal any, either.

I'd have to say that it was ten dollars well spent, so, if like the bartender at Stronghill, you're overdue for some theater, you could do a lot worse and spend a lot more than this rollicking good time.

And it's so satisfying to see everyone end up with their true love.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Literary Loses to Lousy Lungs

I was supposed to be at the Poetic Principles reading at the Virginia Museum tonight. A literary-loving friend was going with me so that we could be read to by writer Randall Kenan, followed by dinner out. I've had my ticket since October and I was eager to hear this man whose fiction focuses on what it means to be black and gay in the U.S. South.

Instead, I was lying in a hospital bed, taking breathing treatments and steroids yet again. Only three days from the one-year anniversary of my 2009 diagnosis of pneumonia and I was back to coughing and wheezing. Only this time, instead of soldiering on, I went to the Emergency Room at MVC where I was told that I did not have pneumonia (whew!), but that my lungs "sounded like crap." Yes, those were the doctor's actual words. WTF?

Returning from my chest X-ray, I smiled at the man in the bed on the other side of my curtain. After my next coughing fit, he asked through the drape if I was okay, which led to a fascinating, but blind conversation. As it turned out he was a "Sir," born in Wales to a British father and Australian mother and since his grandfather had been knighted in 1935, that carried over to him and his oldest son. The things you learn through a hospital drape!

After a couple of breathing treatments, I was reluctantly moved to the CDU (Clinical Decision Unit), aka the Observation Room. I was determined not to be admitted and only agreed to four to six hours there. After my third breathing treatment, I was exhausted and requested food STAT. What I got was penne in a red meat sauce with a side of the kind of gray green beans the color of Army drab uniforms. I'm no fan of tomato sauce, but I ate all the pasta dish, although the beans remained untouched. Luckily the meal had a hefty junk food component (individually sized packages of Oreos, Cheese Nibs, Lorna Doon short breads and Ritz Peanut Butter crackers with a Schweppe's Ginger Ale to wash all those preservatives down) to flesh out the meal.

When I had arrived eight hours earlier, my lung capacity was at a pathetic 140 (optimum is 450) and rose to 220 when I got to CDU, but I wasn't allowed to leave until I got to 300. After my fourth treatment and once the steroids kicked in, I finally made it to 350 and was stripped of my IV and given prescriptions for more drugs than I can afford.

The entire staff was aware that I had one foot out the door, having been told by the ER staff that I was not willing to stay overnight. They praised my response to treatment, told me to avoid smokey places and smokers and walked me to the door.

I'm gratified and appreciative to feel better, if not normal, but totally bummed that I missed a literary evening of Randall Kenan. I wanted to hear him read from works with evocative sentences like this in his southern-raised voice:

They say that day the sun shone while the rain poured -the old folks say that's when the devil beats his wife- the day Estelle Pickett died giving birth to Clarence.

Damn these lungs!

Early Morning Thoughts

When a recently rediscovered friend announces to the world that my devastating combination of wit and charm will render him helpless, I can't help but wonder when he was rendered.

His response?

"About 17 years ago."

That's the kind of answer that puts a smile on my face and does an ego good.

Why is it some guys don't like to compliment?

Beats me, but I'll ponder on that when I get up later.

For now, back to bed and sweet dreaming.

Did I mention his ace in the hole?

He also knows how to cast a musical spell.


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Live Music Heard Right

The first rule of The Listening Room is fairly self-evident, but tonight Josh Small had to explain another rule when somebody's cell phone rang during his second song.

"You can talk on phones, it's okay. That's an amendment to the rules."

His no-so-subtle hint was taken seriously, although the old white-haired guy down the row from me continued to text throughout.

Too bad for him, though because Josh is an energetic performer and well worth watching, constantly tapping his foot and moving his shoulders.

After beginning with a boogie-woogie number with an Ode to Joy riff, Josh told the audience, "I'll continue my tuning show," a reference to the two guitars and banjo he'd brought to play and then launched into the closest thing to a love song he'd ever written, according to him.

There was a song about his grandmother, a pseudo-metal song he qualified with, "I mean, it's not metal but it's serious finger-picking" and finished with a Nilsson cover song, requesting of the other two performers that they also close with a cover.

The lovely Liza Kate's hushed performance began with her saying, "This must be how it's supposed to be.. in a good way."

There was a tribute to her mom, followed by a song that she said was "like four days old. It might be a preemie, I don't know."

Tuning her guitar afterwards, she playfully called it "doing a Josh Small cover."

With Liza's delicate voice and gentle playing, she is the ideal artist for the listening room environment.

The crowd listened with collective bated breath so as not to miss a syllable.

David Schultz, sans Skyline, closed the show by beginning with a tune (The Butcher) that will be on the new Jonathan Vassar/David Schultz collaborative album they're currently recording.

His second song was, like Liza's, a song written specifically for this show, a habit he said began back in the days before he had a band.

He had to pause mid-song to recall how the next part went.

"Tomorrow I'll be unloading a shipping container of latex gloves, " he told the audience, "Nights Ike this make that bearable."

David played songs from all three of his group's albums in stripped -down versions that were beautiful.

Per Liza's request, he finished with a John Prine cover, delighting the audience.

Pitching for all the musicians performing tonight, David said, "And there are CDs for sale in the back. And they're really good!"

The same could be said for the musicians that the nearly full house got to hear tonight.

You may want to mark your calendars for February 23 at 7:30 for the next Listening Room show.

Music begins promptly at 8, so don't be late.

That's the third rule of the Listening Room, just so you know.

Amazing Party with Amazing Ghost

I want to make it perfectly clear that I did not participate in tonight's dance-off, despite being actively recruited and repeatedly cajoled.

What were they thinking, asking me anyway?

The invitation-only party, while held at Ipanema, featured an array and abundance of delicious food from 8 1/2 and the music of Amazing Ghost, whom I'd missed at Balliceaux just a few weeks ago due to prior plans.

Someone asked me if I was familiar with the band and I admitted that I knew of them, but hadn't actually heard them live.

But the fact was that I recognized members of the group from Fight the Big Bull, Bio Ritmo and the Great White Jenkins, so I could honestly say I'd heard over half the band play live before.

This was a group of excellent musicians with songs demonstrating a hilarious sense of humor.

Before they started, we ate ourselves silly and did the mingle thing.

I ran into Amy, whom I hadn't seen in years, and that alone yielded a long catch-up chat filled with love life advice.

I met a friend's new girlfriend, whom he'd met through a dating site, and they both enthusiastically supported the whole online method of finding someone good, even giving countless examples of friends who've met their future spouses that way.

I remain unconvinced, but wish them well.

One of the best conversations I had was with Dan about the difficulties of dating when you have atypical interests.

He's made peace with remaining solo, though, and I can't say that I have.

I got a terrific ego boost from Hunter, who reads my blog regularly late-night and told me he really likes my "city view;" apparently my off-kilter take on RVA keeps him coming back to read at all hours.

Hunter was definitely the star of the dance-off, with his alternately smooth and frenetic moves, not to mention endless energy, so it was kind of like being complimented by the prom king (well, except I didn't go to my prom, but that's another story).

And a man who can cook and dance is a force to be reckoned with, in my humble opinion.

As for me, I'd be more than satisfied if I could eventually find someone who shared some of my nerdy interests.

If he can cook or dance or anything else, it's all gravy.

Of course, first I'd have to be willing to start dating and maybe that would be easier with someone I already know.

Hmm, there's a thought...

Monday, January 18, 2010

And My Friends Call Me Naive. Pshaw!

You know how you go out to walk the dog and next thing you know you're in a strange man's bedroom?

Okay, I didn't either when I woke up this morning, but not so much anymore.

The beagle and I were strolling Marshall Street in the sunshine when, from across the street, a man waves and shouts hello.

I said hi and he starts crossing the street, saying he wants to talk to me, so I pause while the dog does his business.

When he reaches me, he says, "You look like one of the few responsible people in the neighborhood," to which I respond, "I like to think so," all the while thinking "Not even close, buddy."

Seems that my neighbor and new acquaintance is looking to rent his house because he's moving to Bellevue and wonders if I know of anyone looking for J-Ward digs.

Off the top of my head, I don't, but I promise that I'll give it some thought and let him know.

"Well, come inside and see it so you'll know how to describe it," he suggests.

Or does he really mean, "Come upstairs and see my etchings, why don't you?"

Don't try this at home youngsters, but I parked the dog at his fence and blithely followed a strange man into a strange house for a look-see.

Truth be told, it is a great house with huge living and dining rooms with floor-to-ceiling windows.

The charming kitchen had an old 1924 refrigerator I couldn't help commenting on.

It's the kind that actually has legs to raise it off the floor, white enamel trimmed with black and, of course, no freezer.

Vintage stuff.

Upstairs, there were three nice bedrooms; the master bedroom had a big closet and another had a New Orleans-style balcony overlooking the backyard and the off-street parking.

There was a trunk room (!) with a window even, for storing one's luggage and such in between cruises and traveling abroad.

Walking back down the staircase, he asked me what I did for a living and suggested I move in.

Seeing as how my entire household consists of me and a beagle, it seemed a bit much, so I politely declined.

But it was a lovely house and someone will be lucky to enjoy its retro charm, whether or not they have steamer trunks and valises to occupy the trunk room.

If you're looking to become part of the Jackson Ward 'hood, you'd have a prime base of operation (just ask George: 649-7067).

You'd also have me for a neighbor and I could introduce you to the guys who host Whisky Wednesdays.

What more could a newcomer to J-Ward hope for?

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Let Me Distill That for You

I'm old school enough to still enjoy reading a newspaper rather than getting my news online when I can, although I only get the Washington Post these days.

I can attribute this partly to having newspaper-loving parents and partly just to my love of the written word.

But I also once worked for the R.J. Reynolds Lobbying office in D.C., where one of my daily responsibilities was to read the papers and pull out any references to Reynolds or any of their other interests (Seagram's, SeaLand, Delmonte, and others) for the lobbyists.

This meant I started every work day by reading the NY Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal and the L.A. Times.

For a devoted newspaper hound like me, it was an enviable task to call work.

Years later, a boyfriend half-jokingly suggested that I'd be the ideal person to read the papers, culling the choice articles and saving him the trouble of reading the less interesting bits.

That way, we would have the same starting points for a lively discussion of the day's paper.

Although I don't have any particular person to glean for any more, I still have a habit of reading for the best parts, if only in hopes of finding someone to discuss them with.

So it was that I headed to Tarrant's tonight for dessert and to finish today's Post.

There was a whiny piece about leisure time and time management, apparently a huge issue for many people.

But the part that grabbed me was the time-use studies done by John Robinson, a sociologist at my alma mater, the University of Maryland, and a man who says finding leisure time is an act of will; accordingly, he set out to build leisure time into his own life.

But I wanted to embrace this 74-year old man when I read his philosophy of a) not allowing yourself to be rushed and b) his insistence on going out nearly every night.

Or, as he put it, "A day without live music is like a day without sunshine." I bow to this man's brilliant thinking.

Another excellent piece was about Benjamin Latrobe, known as America's first architect.

He would be the architect of the U.S. Capitol and the unbelievably beautiful Baltimore Basilica.

But his first project in the U.S. was the State Penitentiary here in Richmond which embraced some of the newest ideas in penal reform being espoused by Thomas Jefferson at the time (and who was clearly influenced by Latrobe in designing UVA).

Unfortunately, his Richmond work was not even acknowledged in the article, but it was fascinating stuff nonetheless.

His later years were spent in New Orleans (where he eventually died from Yellow Fever), making me wish I'd taken the time to do a Latrobe tour when I was last there.

I'd also recommend the How To Deal article on how to explain a job search when you've moved to a new city simply to be with your boyfriend.

The health care reform piece on how blood tests and weigh-ins to determine individual health care costs work naturally caught my eye, as did the article on Obama's pet speech phrases.

Personally, I'm a sucker for language articles, but I think anyone would enjoy this one.

So if you're one of the rushed majority and need to get right to the good stuff, there are your recommendations for what to read in today's paper.

And most importantly, remember the live music rule.

Of course, I already knew it.

Can Can Conundrum

I have to eat breakfast when I wake up (okay, after I walk the dog, but immediately after I walk the dog).

I'm just made that way; after a night's sleep, my body is screaming for food.

I need first-thing-in-the-morning eats like most people need coffee to be functional.

So when a friend wants to meet for brunch, I am always eating lunch rather than breakfast. In today's case, that meant a 9:45 breakfast and an 11:30 brunch.

Said brunch took place at Can Can, which was mobbed, but we found two bar stools free mid-bar and sandwiched ourselves shoulder to shoulder with other eager eaters.

The girl to my right got her food just as I was trying to decide what to order and the smell was too wonderful for words.

She'd gotten the Ham and Gruyere Crepes with hollandaise sauce with little crisps of bacon sprinkled liberally over the plate and highly recommended them.

I had been considering the cheeseburger or Monte Cristo, but eventually played copy-cat and got those crepes.

Given the portion size, she'd been unable to finish hers, a problem I didn't have, despite being barely two hours from my last meal.

They were that good.

Meanwhile my friend had his usual Eggs Benedict since he is particularly fond of Can Can's version.

I was already finished and dreaming of dessert by this time, so I ordered up a cup of their superb hot chocolate and made short work of it.

I should have been ready to explode, but instead I just used the opportunity to allow my friend to finish up while I talked to the nearby.

I was obligated to thank the girl next door for turning me on to the crepes (she also suggested that next time I try the blueberry pancakes) considering how much I'd enjoyed them.

The guy on the other side of my friend and I our shared a fatalistic take on life.

Nothing we do is going to change our eventual outcome; when it's your time to go, you're going to go.

End of story.

He complimented my burgundy rose-patterned lace tights, saying he was sure he's seen me in them somewhere before.

I've been somewhere, so that's entirely possible.

Who would have guessed that Target tights could be so memorable?

But then, who would have guessed that so many people could wait till noon for their first meal of the day?

Not me on both counts.

A Lu-Lu of a Bar Discussion

Who: Customer and bartender

What : Uncomfortably loud and angry conversation over the bar as bar sitters glanced around nervously and pretended not to pay attention.

When: Tonight around 10

Where: Lulu's

Why: So the customer came in, sat down on the other side of my friend and and started giving crap loudly to Bartender A for something that Bartender A said he didn't say.

There were high volume accusations of embellishment and denial.

Customer finally ordered a drink but insisted that Bartender B serve him just as Bartender A sets the drink down in front of him.

Bartender A scoops up the drink from in front of customer and takes it away, with a loud "Fuck you!" as he goes.

Customer lingers awkwardly and finally exits.

Tension ends; crowd breaks into smiles and eagerly discusses amongst ourselves.

The meat loaf and garlic mashed potatoes with broccolini were really quite tasty.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Hills are Alive with Wine and Film

I've been in an Austrian state of mind here lately, undoubtedly spurred by a book a friend recently sent me.

Knowing my love of old books as well as my desire to see Austria before I die, he found a wonderful glossy-paged book from the 50's, full of pictures and information about what a fascinating place it is (not that I needed convincing).

But I'm guessing that's why I've been drinking more of their top grape, Gruner Vetliner, at least when I do decide to go white during winter.

My local watering hole, The Belvidere, carries the Laurenz Singing Gruner Vetliner for $30 a bottle.

Cafe Caturra has the Huber Hugo Gruner Vetliner for a mere $22 (as well as by the glass).

I think it's the combination of fruitiness and spiciness that appeals to me...or maybe just a lust for all things Austrian.

So how could I resist three hours of Austrian panoramas on the big screen?

I couldn't, so I found a willing friend and we hit the Bowtie for the Movies and Mimosas showing of The Sound of Music.

I might have seen this in the theater during a revival years ago, but all I recalled were wide-screen landscapes that took my breath away, so I wanted to see it in all its big screen splendor again.

It was great and good god, what a fine hunk of manhood Christopher Plummer was in 1965.

Not everyone likes musicals, not everyone wants a history lesson in the Third Reich's takeover of Austria, but who wouldn't enjoy all that magnificent scenery?

And as beautiful as the panoramic views of rivers, mountains and ravines were, it's really the city views that interest me more.

Shots of Salzburg's streets, steeples and fountains proved to me that I need to see the architecture of Austria.

And considering that 75% of the Gruner Vetliner grown in Austria never leaves the country, it should be a cinch to find plenty of good sipping in between wandering the streets admiring the urban landscape.

Don't fret, though, I'll be sure to admire the natural beauty en route to the wineries.

I wouldn't want to miss any of the Austrian experience, excepting perhaps singing children.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Thai, Cake and Solos

Here's the thing: some of the most interesting people I know have limited availability because of their jobs (ah, yes, I vaguely remember the concept). So when we are able to get together for an evening, we try to cram in as much as possible while we enjoy each other's company; that was how it went down tonight. Luckily, we're both Geminis so it's more like having four people trying to do it all, making it far more achievable.

We began in Carytown at Ginger Thai, which was crowded when we arrived and standing room only when we left. First off we had the Spicy Papaya salad and the Spicy Squid Salad, both of which packed a lot of heat. Next up she got Tiger Cry Steak (the name alone was compelling), flank steak marinated in lemongrass and garlic with Num Prik sauce and jasmine rice. I had the Spicy Drunken Noodles with pork because I'm a fan of those soft nat rice noodles. No surprise that we couldn't finish it all.

Our next stop was Ipanema for wine and dessert. I chose the Vanilla Chocolate Cake with Mocha icing; it's the ideal dessert when you want both flavors because it has one layer of each. We leisurely sipped our wine, chatting up some of the contented bar sitters. The question posed earlier today in a comment by Johnny H (the mayor of Ipanema) on my Divine Comedy post was answered: we saw each other there.

After each downing a couple of glasses of Malbec, we moved our cars to my neck of the woods and walked over to Gallery 5 for a solo music performance benefit show for G5. The four musicians, Patrick Ball (of Autocue), Brett Adams (of the Riot Before), Evan Setzer (previously in the Silent Type) and Chris Dowhan (previously in Adara) each did a couple of songs followed by a group performance.

The crowd was annoyingly talkative and my friend and I wished we had had a means of eliminating those who wouldn't shut up. We may be Geminis, but we can get ugly when surrounded by self-involved blabbers. Granted, Gallery 5 was benefiting from them having paid to get in the door, but we couldn't imagine the musicians appreciated trying to sing over the din.

By this time, my overworked friend was yawning and ready to call it a night, so we strolled back to my place, with my "Whiskey Wednesday" neighbors shouting out to me, beckoning me over, as we passed by their front porch gathering.

Of course, for all I know it was "Frangelico Friday" or some such thing, but two of the four of us were ready for bed.

Art for Lunch

Yet another great facet of Richmond is the proliferation of alternate spaces in which we can take in art.

That shows can be found at libraries, restaurants and coffee shops takes away any excuses for not having a schedule that accommodates gallery hours.

So let's just say that's how I ended up taking in the Nathan Motley show during lunch at 821 today.

His artist's statement was a fascinating expose of Nathan's circuitous path that led to the current exhibit.

It's his belief that his early years as a baker taught him the discipline required for art.

With advanced degrees from VCU and Pratt Institute, as well as the requisite attendant restaurant jobs during that same period, Nathan has been showing successfully in galleries for years.

The work I saw today was bold and colorful; clearly the artist favors bright red and yellow, ensuring bold contrast in all his work.

The paint is almost sculptural, layered and thickly applied.

Many of his figures have a Cubist bent, with fractured faces and disjointed body parts.

It's almost as if texture and color are battling it out on the canvas; visually, it's striking.

You can see it for yourself at Nate the Great's current show at 821 Cafe.

And, sure, since I was there anyway, I might have enjoyed a plate of my beloved black bean nachos.

But only because I was already there.


It's Not About Wilco

I'm not a big Wilco fan, although I can appreciate their music and interesting musical journey.

I had no intention of going to the National to see them though.

But I am beyond impressed that a week after tickets for their March 29th show went on sale, it is sold out.

In a town notorious for waiting until the last possible minute to buy tickets, RVA has rallied and scarfed up every single ticket for a show that is two and a half months away.

And, as any regular concert-goer knows, we just don't do that, which makes this particularly notable.

I've been to more than a few sold-out shows at The National, among them MGMT, Neko Case, The Shins, My Bloody Valentine, The Decemberists and not one of those shows sold out so far in advance.

I remember a friend deciding to go to the Shins the day of the show, only to be surprised that it had sold out four days earlier.

Four days!

But Richmond has redeemed itself in my eyes.

True, it's not a show I had any desire to attend (unless I'd been offered a free ticket), but for those who did, committing early is a beautiful thing.

Could we maybe carry this over to future shows, demonstrating to the music world that we are worthy and will support touring bands before the day of the event?

I can only hope.

Getting Up My Nerve

You know how sometimes you want to do or say something that would require you to step outside of your comfort zone and really put yourself out there?

It always starts with taking a deep breath and just going for it, whether it's physical, like grabbing onto a zip line and flying or emotional, like crossing a room full of strangers to introduce yourself to someone who attracts you and you'd love to meet.

That was me this morning and even with a couple of deep breaths, I apparently didn't have what it took.

On the other hand, life is a process and what I lack today I may discover in myself in the future.

I'm usually a pretty nervy person so there's hope for taking that deep breath and just doing it.

And, if not, admit I can't and stop aspiring to it.

I think I can, I think I can...

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Divine Comedy at Gallery 5

Apparently plenty of people were in the mood to laugh tonight.

I say that because of the nearly full house at Gallery 5 for an improv comedy performance by the Richmond Comedy Coalition followed by a screening of Trust Us, This Is All Made Up.

The bar was open, the popcorn was free and this Chop Suey/G5 event drew a diverse crowd, some of whom had never been in the gallery before.

The Richmond Comedy Coalition began by soliciting a location from the audience as a starting point (a New York apartment) and then were off and running from there.

What began with a freelance exterminator showing up to torch mice in said apartment segued into a restaurant called Roofies where both roofies and bread sticks were served to a spoof on perceptions of Germany ("That's so German of you," says one hipster to another. "Do you even know what that means?" the other shoots back) and winding back to all of these plot lines at one point or another.

Next up was the documentary featuring Second City kings of long-form improv, TJ and Dave.

The film began with them discussing how their art develops by wandering the city, both together and alone to observe life, and then parlaying that into an hour-long improv performance, in this case in NYC.

It was kind of amazing how they planned nothing in advance, but relied on what they felt and read from each other at the start of each show.

Playing multiple characters and exchanging roles (they mimicked each other's character's voices and mannerisms beautifully) they wove through a story with subplots and colorful characters.

Most of us were laughing out loud during RCC's performance and again during the film.

As impressive as it is to witness the creativity of improvisation, it's the spontaneous humor that is irresistible.

Besides, I love to laugh.

Ask anyone who knows me

Ladies Who Lunch at Chez Foushee

Sometimes girls simply must put on their pearls and lunch like grown-ups.

Okay, so I don't wear jewelry (much less own pearls) and my friend had no idea where we were going, so hers were at home, but Chez Foushee definitely has the ambiance of a place where those types can be found mid-day.

And, just for the record, I saw three women in pearls there today.

All of my male friends who have eaten at Chez Foushee have essentially said the same thing about it: the chairs and portions are inadequate for their needs.

Having an X chromosome, however, neither of those things have ever been an issue for me.

And it's not like there aren't plenty of businessmen types there on an given day, so clearly some men are able to satisfy their appetites and posteriors there.

I may have fulfilled a stereotype by being one of those women who order a quiche or salad for lunch, but I couldn't resist the Asian Pot Sticker Salad (steamed pork and shrimp pot stickers over mixed greens with Asian dressing, peanuts, red peppers, carrots and crispy noodles).

My pearl-less friend got the grilled salmon with capellini, zucchini and squash matchsticks in a Putenesca sauce with unusually good iced tea.

Unlike the real ladies who lunch, we are not old money, nor do we plan charity events.

What we do after a delicious girls' lunch out is order dessert, in this case the bourbon chocolate pecan pie with Chantilly cream.

We also aren't Southerners, but a little bourbon on the palate after lunch sits awfully well with both of us.

Despite neither of us having actually been there, we imagine the Miller & Rhodes Tea Room must have been a lot like Chez Foushee feels today.

We'll call it nouveau southern fem.

Good iced tea, appealing girl food and bourbon-soaked dessert.

Pearls not required.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Sax at The Belvidere at Broad

I went to my friendly neighborhood corner bar tonight because they were starting a new music series and, good god, I hadn't been out for live music in five days.

Please don't judge me.

Playing tonight was the guitar/saxophone duo of Alan Parker and Roger Carroll and the gig looks to be a regular happening on Wednesdays at The Belvidere at Broad.

When I walked in shortly after 7, every table was taken and there were only a couple of bar stools available.

I picked a corner stool, with a clear view of the musicians, with good and bad results.

Fortuitously, the couple on my left were wine-savvy foodies and terrific conversationalists.

Sadly, the guy to my right was rapidly becoming drunk and overly friendly.

The first question out of his mouth was, "You're gorgeous. How old are you?"

Now there's a way to make a first impression.

To my utter delight, The Belvidere had added some new items to the menu and deleted a few.

After five months in business, they were ready to shake up the menu a bit (fear not, that magnificent smoked salmon and award-winning burger are still there).

The Roasted Red and Golden Beet Salad with Maytag Bleu Cheese, Toasted Pine Nuts and Micro-Greens and Beet Puree was generously sized and a great value.

The Roasted Stuffed Mushrooms with Spinach, Tomato, Herbed Cream Cheese, Parmigiana Reggiano over a Red Pepper Cream Sauce was decadently rich (and gluten free).

The Grilled Tenderloin canapes were crostini topped with a mound of grilled tenderloin, caramelized red onion, chives and house horseradish sauce.

The tenderloin was melt-in-your-mouth wonderful. They come five to a plate and are a meal in and of themselves, so order it for yourself at your own risk.

Also new on the menu was the poached pear dessert, which I was too full for, but the charming couple shared it and raved about it.

Of course, in my world additional dessert choices are always a good thing.

The music was clearly a draw as the crowd stayed or left and was replaced for the entire three hours it was being played.

The occasional person stood outside to listen through the window.

At times the wail of the saxophone got loud, but was so well done that the crowd just backed off on their noise level.

Meanwhile, the obnoxious drunk guy continued his assault, repeating himself endlessly and asking me everything from whether or not I'd go outside and smoke weed with him to how I managed to look so good when he was 13 years younger and looked so awful.

I had a few theories, but mostly pretended like I was deaf.

I've got no problem ignoring one bad apple when the rest of the evening includes well-prepared food, live music and interesting people to talk to.

That's three things I inevitably find at my corner bar.

Carytown Cupcakes in the Sunshine

Let's face it, with the temperature hovering at a balmy 46 degrees this afternoon, it might as well be Spring after the tundra-like weather of the past few weeks.

And that was as good an excuse as any to hit sunny Carytown and take care of some business, namely cards and Carytown Cupcakes.

You can challenge me on this, but there's no better place to buy a card in rva than Mongrel.

If you prefer the pablum of Hallmark, that's your business, but when I need to translate my feelings into the snarky card format, Mongrel is where I have the most choices to do so.

I'd have to get busy awfully quickly to need any Valentine's Day cards, so I bypassed the entire front of the store for the year-round sentiments in the back and scored a couple of appropriately sarcastic ones.

After the arduous card procurement process, I strolled around the corner reveling in the sunshine to Carytown Cupcakes.

This little pink store carries six regular varieties of cupcakes and two weekly specials so it came down to choosing at least one of each.

From the regular offerings, of course I had to get the chocolate/chocolate with sprinkles but I couldn't resist the Red Velvet because it was undoubtedly the prettiest of everything in the case.

From the specials, I got the Peanut Butter/Reese's Pieces extravaganza.

They do have a couch and table, sort of a cupcake lounge, at which two girls were giggling and eating their cupcakes, but I opted to take mine back out into the sunshine.

Facing the sun, I tore into my treats.

The chocolate was very chocolaty, but a little dry, with the kind of old-school chocolate icing my mom taught me to make when I was 10.

The Red Velvet was magnificent, cake and icing alike, both of which oozed a rich butteriness.

I had to stop there, so I can't yet give a report on the peanut butter/Reese's specimen.

When I come down off my sugar buzz, I'll reopen the little white box and let you know.

Romance, Grace Street Style

Sex and romance must have been in the air on Grace Street this morning, judging by the sights and sounds I encountered on my walk.

Grace Street Still Life: A long-stem red rose next to a Bud Light tall boy with the bag pushed down.

Maybe the two things were a thoughtful gift and by the time she finished the beer she forgot all about the rose.

Or maybe he was drinking to get up his nerve to present the rose to her and never quite worked it up.


Sing Me a Song: A guy walking towards me singing "Me and Mrs. Jones" at the top of his lungs and in fine voice, I might add.

When he reached me, he threw his arms out dramatically and circled me, singing full-on.

I stopped long enough to be the recipient of a chorus and then clapped and moved on.

A Lesson in the Important Stuff: The window of Exile had a must-read book on display, A Study of Group Sex in Wife Swapping: Sex groups, Free Love, Voyeurs, Exhibitionists, Discipline, Homosexuals, Lesbians.

The subhead keeps going, but I think you get the idea.

Judging by the original price of the book (95 cents) I'm guessing it's a self-help gem from the 60s.

Looking for a bedside reference? Now you know where to find it.

Okay, it wasn't as good as morning sex, but it all had its charm, nonetheless.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Take Her Wheels. She's Got Legs.

One of the reasons I love living in the city is so I can walk to most of my necessary and pleasurable destinations.

So with my car in the shop for two full days, I've been walking everywhere while I'm car-less.

Every time I take my car into my mechanic Curtis, he reminds me what great cars Nissan Altimas are.

He says they're well-built and reliable and I shouldn't begrudge my 9 1/2 -year old vehicle with 119,000 miles on it the occasional mechanical malfunction.

But when the car's needs are being addressed and it's friggin' freezing (or more accurately, below friggin' freezing) I am naturally more inclined to choose a nearby restaurant, the sooner to get to the warmth.

Of course, seeing a couple in shorts out jogging on my way over sent an additional chill through my body, but, hey, more power to them and their frigid little bodies.

All this is just a prelude as to why I ended up at 27 for dinner yet again.

The fact is, the food never disappointments, the staff knows me all too well and there are almost always other bar sitters for companionship during my meal.

It's hard to resist soup in this weather and the Three Bean with Chorizo was everything I could hope for in a large bowl.

Add to that the crusty bread and red pepper dipping oil and I was a happy camper and quite full afterwards.

I used my Malbec/Shiraz blend to bridge the gap until I was ready for dessert. After much deliberation, I ordered the mixed berries served in a chocolate cup with Zabaglione.

I've loved this dessert since first having it at Amici back in the 90s.

Truly, I wanted to lick the plate (but restrained myself).

The entire staff was hungover from Chef Carlos' birthday party the night before and looked it.

I was thrilled to hear the restaurant's soundtrack had finally changed with the addition of four Beatles compilations, replacing the ancient mix that the staff and I had long ago memorized.

Love, love me do.

One of the servers rushed over to tell me that he was waiting on a couple of gay lobbyists on the other side who, when asked what they wanted for dessert, replied, "The chocolate gelato and the raspberry sorbet.

And you and the bartender on top of our table." I think there should be an extra charge for that.

Coincidentally, the bar diner two stools down had already brought up the topic of RVA's gay bar scene and its weaknesses.

He expressed a desire for the day when there is no distinction between bars based on sexuality.

It's a lofty goal, but I hope he doesn't hold his breath.

You must admit, a person doesn't need a car with such terrific food and entertainment value within a short chilly walk.

And I'm not foolish enough to wear shorts to get there, either.

On Nick's Deli and Naps

When you're entertaining until 2:30 but have to get up at 6 a.m. and you're not a coffee drinker, some adjustments are in order.

The energy's got to come from somewhere and for me it's food and lots of it (and doubtlessly a little nap before I go out tonight).

And not just any food, but the kind of eats that will distract me from my fatigue and keep me going long enough to get a few things done before giving into it.

Despite a crack of dawn breakfast, that meant a mid-morning chocolate chip scone hot out of the oven at Garnett's.

They bake their scones fresh every morning and while it's true that most baked goods are better fresh out of the oven, scones are sublime when they're warm and steaming.

The variety of scone changes daily but with my chocolate sweet tooth, I lucked into the ideal taste delight for me today.

And when you get up at 6, you're ready for lunch by 11.

I hung on until after 11:30, but not by much, and then I made the two-block dash to Nick's Deli on Broad Street (okay, Nick's Produce and International Market, if you want me to be specific).

As a recent commenter to one of my restaurant posts wrote, "...nothing in the world beats a sandwich from Nick's."

I heard that and today I needed an 8" ham, turkey and bacon sub doused in oil and vinegar.

What a huge and delicious sandwich; with a pile of potato chips almost as big as the sub, I got enough sustenance to be relatively productive before shifting into siesta mode.

At the counter being rung up, I was asked how my day was going.

I explained that it was a 3 1/2 hour night with an early morning wake-up call.

Handing me my bag, the girl empathetically said, "Eat this and then take a nice long nap."

You know, I think I will.