Trying to park on VCU's campus at night while classes are in session is an exercise in futility.
Knowing this, I decided to walk over for an 8:00 reading; it just seemed easier.
And if I was going to walk, I decided that I might as well go earlier and walk first to 821 Cafe for dinner.
The only interesting thing I overheard on the way was a freshman-looking girl telling her two friends, "Well, I read in Cosmo that guys like it!"
It wasn't my job to confirm or deny, so I kept moving.
For a change, I didn't know my server, so I had to actually tell her that I wanted the black bean nachos.
I grabbed a magazine from the rack and got comfy on the center stool, anticipating my food.
When she set a bag with two to-go containers down in front of me, my face must have clarified things for her.
"Oh, you didn't want it to go?" she asked. "I thought you said to go."
She took the boxes to the kitchen and returned with their contents emptied onto a plate.
And since they'd been put into the container right side up, they were now wrong side up.
All the cheese and beans were somewhere on the bottom of the plate.
They looked like hell.
But, what was I going to do, complain about aesthetics?
Instead, I dove in, attempting to pull the good stuff from the bottom and mix it with what I could see.
It was ugly, but it tasted just fine.
Seriously full, I walked over to the Student Commons for a poetry reading by Richard Jackson, a man who has published ten collections of poetry and teaches at the University of Tennessee Chattanooga.
The Virginia Room was small and the audience smaller and Jackson warned us, "This won't be the most uplifting night you've encountered."
He had a hushed voice, causing the audience to lean in to hear his rhythmic language enhanced by the poet's nuanced delivery.
Explaining the poem "Night Sky," he said he found great metaphors in science.
"Sometimes I think we're all hurtling through love at the speed of light."
Such a sad commentary.
"Residence" was particularly moving, as in the line, "And my love starts to ache like a phantom limb."
It's tough to convey just how evocative his language was, both in terms of its beauty and its sadness.
Between poems, he amused us by sharing bad country music song titles ("The thing is, they get paid better than poets") like "I Flushed You From the Toilet of My Heart" and "You Were Only a Splinter as I Slid Down the Bannister of Life."
The hour with this charming and erudite man ended all too soon for me; I could have listened to him read for another hour and then some.
He finished with "No Turn on Red," with a line containing the eternal question, "Who says any love makes sense?"
Walking back toward Jackson Ward with his words still floating around in my head (like "So much of what we feel is habit," from "Otherness"), I had only to decide where to stop for some conviviality.
Comfort won out and although most of the tables were empty, the bar was lively.
As I approached it, I heard my name yelled out accusingly.
"So THIS is where you come to cheat on me on a Tuesday night!"
It was Josh from Six Burner, giving me a hard time because I have been known to spend a fair number of Tuesdays at 6B.
But I was as quick as he was, reminding him that there was no reason for me to go there on a night he wasn't there.
"Well done," he acknowledged. "Here, have my stool."
He was there for "one and done," except that he was on his second PBR.
As is our usual habit, we chatted music; he's beyond thrilled about the just-announced Flaming Lips show.
Actually there's been a flurry of show announcements lately.
We've become a regular stop on the circuit and music geeks like us couldn't be happier about it.
On my other side were a couple from the neighborhood.
We run into each other frequently at our local establishments because we share a fondness for neighborhood dining and music shows.
Like me, they're excited about the progress and potential of the Hippodrome, not to mention Ettamae's adding dinner hours (and liquor!).
We discussed further enhancements to the 'hood and that the Broad and Third Street area is the ideal location for a city Target.
It's so satisfying being with other J-Ward lovers.
Bartender Greg checked to see if we wanted more libations by arching an eyebrow and asking, "Shots?"
To me he inquired, "Mas tequila?" but I explained that one was probably enough for Tuesday night.
"Not for some people," he grinned.
"Well, I didn't say every Tuesday night, either. I don't want to be penned in on future Tuesdays," I back-pedaled.
The couple and I walked out together, immediately feeling and smelling the warmer air.
We're all anticipating tomorrow's mid-sixties temperatures, even if they're only supposed to last a day.
As it was, on the first of February I got to walk to all my evening's pleasures.
Most satisfying of all was hearing Richard Jackson read his magnificent poems while I let them wash over me.
A line from "Residence" said it best: "Words avalanching like clouds on top of each other."
Ah yes, words. One of life's greatest pleasures.