Friday, February 11, 2011

Waylaid at the Wait Station

Attractive older Asian man: You have on very nice socks.
Me: (figuring out he means my tights) Um, thanks.
AOAM: (Slipping a Werther's Original candy into my hand) Are they warm or just fancy?
Me: They're both.
AOAM: Very good.

This is how I was greeted as I walked into the VMFA's Pauley Center for the lecture "The Search for King Midas: Recent Discoveries at Gordion (Turkey)."

So I found a seat (the lecture was sold out), popped the candy in my mouth and waited for Professor Andrew Goldman to share the story of his long-time excavation in search of information about the king with the golden touch.

Excavations have been going on at this site in Turkey since long before Goldman's, one as early as 1950, but since archeology is an imperfect science, there's still no conclusive proof of King Midas' existence, despite myths and hypotheses. End of lesson.

From science to literature, my next stop was the VCU Visiting Writers' series and this week poet David Rivard was reading.

He was introduced as a poet whose words careen across the page brilliantly. Since his last two readings were canceled due to snow, tonight was his official book launch and first reading from his newest book Sugartown.

And, being a poet, he perversely began with the last poem in the book, "Lightening with Stag in its Glare," which covered a wide range of subject matter, as is apparently his preference when writing. In other words, he explained, look at things one way and then turn and look at them from another angle.

Introducing the poem "Coffeehouse, Eastern Standard Time." he admitted that "one of the things I love is eavesdropping on other people's comments." Amen, brother. In fact, the first ten lines of the poem were a direct transcript of an overheard conversation.

He had a rushed way of reading, but that may be due to what has been termed his "irregular and speedy poetry."

In response to being labeled as such, he spent a summer writing poetry in a loose pentameter. It was interesting hearing him read that after the hurried free verse he'd started with.

Sitting in front of me was a woman who had brought with her Rivard's new book, which she used to follow him word for word when he was reading. She didn't look at him while he was reading, she followed along in the book. I don't want to judge, but why come to a reading if not to enjoy being read to?

So much deep thought had made me hungry, so I decided on Six Burner, not sure what to expect. The last time I was in on a Thursday night at 9:15, the place was dead and the kitchen closed. Considering I was hungry, that wasn't going to work tonight.

Instead, I walked into a madhouse with not a free stool in sight and almost every table taken. The hostess was kind enough to insist that I stay and found me a seat at the far end of the bar, actually at the wait station ("I'm just going to move these glasses...").

Singer Fanny Mallonee was singing her vintage country heart out, covering everything from Patsy Cline to old cowboy song classics. It was definitely different than anything I'd heard in Six Burner before, but the crowd was way into it.

Thirsty, I began with the Warwick Pinotage because it's a grape I can never get enough of as I looked around the room to see if there were any familiar faces (a few, as it turned out, including a friend who recently got unexpectedly dumped and wanted advice from me about dealing with it. You talking to me?).

I ordered the mixed green salad with goat cheese, roasted beets, pistachios and balsamic vinaigrette to buy me some time while I looked at the menu. Perfectly dressed, this classic combo tempered my appetite while I chatted up the owners who were enjoying dinner next to me.

When Josh asked what I wanted next, I said I was leaning towards the southern-fried sweetbreads with mole sauce.

"They're not very popular," he informed me. "People are afraid of them, especially when I tell them what they are." That's twice this week I've heard tales of people "afraid" of menu items. What gives?

The sweetbreads were wonderful fried in a crispy breading and artfully arranged over a large swirl of mole. I ate them with no fear and more pinotage.

Since I was sitting at the wait station of a very busy restaurant, it was inevitable that people would end up next to me in their attempts to get libations.

One such person was a guy in a fisherman's sweater who got extra points because his was a cardigan and not every guy can pull off a cardigan. I assumed he was there just to get a drink, but soon learned he was also there to chat me up.

He used that old line about us having met before, except that he cited the place and circumstance and I realized we had met and talked before. Honestly, everyone is better at remembering faces than me.

We got to talking and it turns out he used to live in J-Ward and we know some of the same neighbors. I even remembered seeing him in Abner Clay Park on several occasions. It's such a small world in Richmond.

An invitation was extended (and declined for tonight; I had plans), information exchanged and flattering things said. I'm still working on getting the hang of this, but I'm doing much better, if I do say so myself. And he told me where he was going to be tonight, just in case I changed my mind.

Balliceaux was my last stop because No BS were playing and although I'd technically been at their last show, I never saw them and only sporadically heard them.

The crowds were far more manageable tonight and I was actually able to make it into the back room to see the band, hear them up close and feel the heat of the sweaty bodies around me. And isn't that the whole point of going to a No BS show in the first place?

I mean, sure, I do go for Lance's stellar drumming and the harmonies of so many horns, but it's that room full of energy that gives their shows that indefinable something that keeps the faithful coming back every few weeks.

As a bonus, one of my favorite musician couples were there making the scene, so I had built-in company. I stayed for one set and then headed out through the front room (Interpol's "Lief Erikson" blaring beautifully from the front stereo as I made my way, so I walked slowly) to go.

I briefly considered making one last stop to admire the sweater, but decided against it. I'm not quite that good at all this yet.

Practice, Karen, practice.

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