Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Classic Rocking at the Franklin Inn

So imagine you get unexpectedly laid off from your job of five years and then a couple of years later you hear that the big wig of that company is giving a lecture. You avoid it like the plague, right?

Of course I went, but not because he was speaking; I went because I always go to the Gallery 5 After 5 soirees. I go for the mingling, the drinking, the cheese-eating and usually the music and lecture. Tonight the music was absent and the lecturer less than to my taste, but all the other elements were in place.

So what can the publisher of the RTD possibly have to say that would be of interest to a roomful of people, 98% of whom don't read the paper?

Let's see, that the old business model is dead (duh) and that print will be around for at least 12-15 more years because that's how much life is left on the RTD's Hanover printing presses. Oh, yes he did.

There was a snappy Powerpoint presentation (noted with tongue firmly in cheek) and talk of satisfying the customer base, most of whom are aging Baby Boomers.

He told us about five people who regularly contacted him (the "Put it back!" guy, the racist, Richard, Mr. Blevins and Miss Ruby) for reasons negative and positive; his point was that experiencing these people is what makes being a publisher so satisfying. Well, that and the paycheck no doubt.

After that less than enlightening time that I'll never get back, there was Q & A period, although there weren't many direct answers to the questions. Never have so many syllables been uttered to say so little. I really must work on curtailing my inner smart aleck. Okay, maybe the outer one, too.

Fortunately next up was comedy which was intended to be at Mr. Silvestri's expense. The Richmond Comedy Coalition was doing a version of their Richmond Famous show where they take a local celeb's stories and improvise on them.

Except that they had almost nothing to go on. When the audience was asked to make some topic suggestions, a guy yelled out "Sex!" Knowing full well that that wasn't going to happen, I shouted out "Dating."

The publisher started talking about how working at a newspaper is like dating or some such meaningless doublespeak. After a roundabout story with no clear ties to sex or dating, one of the comedy troupe members asked him point blank, "Did you ever have a date?"

Yes, he'd had a blind date in college and sent the girl flowers the next day. Tragically, they were left at the front door of a house where the family always used the back door. When he called her three weeks later to ask if she'd gotten them, they were found rotting on the front porch. Tragic, my seatmate noted.

RCC took it from there, doing a take off on a wife sending her husband a singing telegram which led the singer mistakenly to a recently-fumigated house; the poor singer ended up passed out and being gnawed on by rats before being discovered. It was pretty funny.

It was a testament to the improv talents of the RCC that they were able to make as much as they did with so little to go on, but they kept at it with a fair number of comics and newspaper skits; the audience laughed along, grateful to be done with Powerpoint and prognostications.

Dinner with a friend followed at the Franklin Inn, originally established in 1930 and in recent years the home of the Museum District's Corner Cafe.

I liked the clock on the outside post; it looked like it could have easily been inspired by the place's original incarnation.

Inside it was an old photograph of downtown with a huge banner proclaiming "Clean-up Paint-Up Richmond May 4-7" that looked like it was taken in the 30s that most appealed to me as we slid into a booth.

The menu was simple and very reasonably priced (topping out at $19.95 for the Ambassador for Two, 16 oz of French-sliced sirloin steak smothered in sauteed onions and mushrooms), even offering the DC classic Senate Bean Soup.

My friend opted for one of the specials, beef tips in horseradish gravy, which he loved, sopping up the gravy with the accompanying flatbread and then dipping sweet potato fries in it. I teased him about being Northern-born and so inclined to sop.

I went with the Buffalo Nickel Shrimp (spicy shrimp with crumbled bleu cheese over Gorgonzola bacon grits). The shrimp had nice heat, there was ample bleu chese and the amount of grits on that plate would have satisfied multiple Southerners.

Every now and then I had a moment, but only because the cable radio station was set to classic rock. Oh, yes, Journey, Styx and the Eagles were not only present in my ears, but also visible on the large screen TV, which not only told me the name of the song (and who on the planet doesn't know the names of these overplayed anthems?), but a fun fact about each song or band. It was slightly painful, but probably only for me.

But the conversation was good, the food enjoyable and the atmosphere relaxed, so what's a little Steve Perry between friends?

Any way you want it, that's the way I like it. Any way you want it. Yeesh.


  1. i love how bitter you were in your post. but very spot on.

  2. Spot on is what I shoot for...

    And not bitter, grateful. I like my life a whole lot better now than then.