If I'd known how many great things were going to be said to me at the party, I'd have gone the minute the doors opened.
Instead, I began my evening at the VMFA for their sparkler tasting in the Best Cafe.
Me and about a zillion other people, that is.
Nonetheless, I waited patiently for my turn at the tasting table behind a mild-mannered couple who were nice enough to snag me a glass and a spot when they finally achieved front-row status.
Amuse's manager had chosen four favorite bubblies for us to sample.
We started local with the Barboursville Brut and then the Domaine Ste. Michelle from Washington.
Next was the Kenwood Yulupa, my favorite of the quartet and finally the Simonet Vin Mousseux Blanc de Blancs.
Yielding my prime spot once I had my last glass, I heard, "Well, you can't stand around drinking free champagne all night."
This came from a guy I know who's in the business of business, so I'm sure he was thinking about the bottom line.
He had given up on waiting for the tasting and bought a glass in order to cut to the chase sooner.
Like me, he was sparkler sipping before heading over to First Fridays.
I was fortunate enough to walk in the door of Gallery 5 and be greeted by a man who dropped to his knees and kissed my hand.
Talk about a warm welcome!
At the front table was the February fundraiser, four custom-designed Valentine's Day postcards, inspired by famous artists and movements.
Although I haven't got anyone in mind to send a Valentine to, I bought the Roy Lichtenstein and Piet Mondrian-inspired cards.
You know, just in case I get lucky in the next nine days.
Okay, to support the gallery.
Upstairs at GallowLily's was "Bikewords: Recycled Sculptures" by Eric Venditti, a show of such reasonably-priced art that seven pieces had already sold by 7:30.
The unique rose sculptures mounted on wood, some painted and some varnished, were unrecognizable as former bike parts.
Did I mention that Eric is co-owner of the bike shop Recycles?
Leaving Gallery 5, I couldn't resist a stop at Captain Slappy's hot dog cart just outside the door for a bacon-wrapped dog slathered in mustard and onions.
I was only the second customer behind two of the comedy improv performers I'd seen just a few weeks ago inside G5; tonight they seemed to be more hungry than funny, although plenty friendly.
Clutching my foil, I ate my dog as I made my way to the Renaissance for the WRIR Party for the Rest of Us.
As soon as I walked in, a friend spotted me and we made our way to the coat check room.
I'd just hung up my coat and turned to leave when a girl walked in and asked me to check her coat.
She was a little surprised and a lot mortified to learn that I wasn't the coat check girl.
Somehow, I wouldn't have thought I looked like a coat check girl.
Maybe I just looked like the volunteer type.
Yea, that must be it.
From there we went directly to the ballroom for Marionette's set, which I did not want to miss.
I've been going to their shows for over three years now and continue to hear something new every time.
Immediately I ran into guitarist Adam who told me that he'd be playing his grandfather's guitar tonight, which I thought was really kind of cool.
He explained that when his grandfather had originally given it to him, he'd been a teenager who was into metal and he was underwhelmed.
Now finally he appreciated the beauty of the gift.
Marionette played a strong set, at first for the devoted, but gradually for the converted (I saw the same thing happen when they opened for The National last summer).
The huge screen behind them gave plenty of room for their video projections as they sucked in the audience with their soundscapes.
Afterwards, I moved back out into the main area to look for friends who arrived just as the masses did.
Moving around the room, I chatted with all kinds of people.
One guy introduced to me asked me if I wrote ICGOAO, much to my surprise.
I had to know how he knew that.
"Oh, Enzo told me about your blog," he said.
Enzo is a WRIR DJ and old friend.
This guy complimented me for doing so much and sharing it, saying that his introversion kept him from doing quite as much.
When the birthday cake, always a highlight, was rolled out, my friends and I helped ourselves, not realizing the ramifications of doing so.
The black trim on the icing quickly turned our teeth and tongues a horrific shade of blue.
You can be sure when I got my second piece (don't judge), I got one with all white icing.
We were smart to stand in a central location near the food table where everyone eventually made their way past us and said hello.
A beautiful girl spoke to my friends, one of whom went to introduce her to me.
"Oh, we've met," she corrected him and then spoke to me.
"In fact, a friend asked me to vote for her blog on RVA News but when I saw your blog listed, I voted for you instead because your blog is better, even if she is a friend."
Now that's high praise indeed and from someone I didn't even know read me.
Apologies to the friend.
We made our way back inside for The Diamond Center's set (once again enhanced with liquid projections by the talented duo of Greg and Sara...so groovy).
It was truly the first time I'd heard them play in a room big enough for their shoegazing sound.
From the first few reverb-drenched notes, I was in my element, turning to my friend and telling him, "Music from a cave. You know how I love this."
He nodded because he knows that all too well after all these years of music companionship.
One of his friends leaned in during the set to tell me how much he liked the band, whom he was hearing for the first time.
I told him how lucky he was to be hearing them in such a large space.
He also told me he loved my tights, a compliment I was surprised to hear from him.
Apparently so was his partner, who said to me, "I don't know if I should be concerned..."
"Why? Because he's not supposed to notice?" I teased.
"Exactly," he said, laughing.
I like to think that it's okay for everyone to notice everything, regardless of sex.
Sometimes it's just about the tights.
Near the end of the set, my friends were ready to go so I retrieved my coat without being asked to do so for anyone else.
We got as far as the front steps before running into fellow music lovers who'd just come from the Gallery 5 show.
We compared notes with them and headed in different directions.
I made a final stop at Bistro 27 because I'd promised a friend I would, but he'd already left, leaving word that I would be by.
As long as I was there, I enjoyed a glass of Barbera, chatted with those I knew, was prodded to share a funny story about a mutual acquaintance and decided to head home with my art-inspired Valentines and blue tongue.
Perhaps I should send them to the people who said such great things to me tonight.
The blue tongue I'm hoping will just fade away.