Sunday, April 3, 2011

Moving Past Suspense

I'm not very good at suspense. I can't do suspenseful movies. I am tortured by watching sporting events where I care about the outcome. By about 8:00, though, I left the house for dinner and a chance to see the end of the game.

Unwilling to be in a roomful of sports fans, though, I decided on Six Burner, knowing that the game would be on their one screen, but confident that it would be an enjoyable experience.

And not surprisingly, the restaurant was full of fans, most of whom had eaten by the time I arrived. In fact, taking up an empty standing spot at the front corner of the bar under the TV, the guy next to me inquired, "Are you here to eat?"

I explained my suspense issues and he suggested I watch his face for game clues; it seemed like a good compromise. I jumped right in with the featured red, Cotes de Ventoux Les Blaques (I can't get away from it lately) and ordered the marinated octopus salad.

A stool became available at the other end of the bar, in front to the service bar, but as the manager said, "At least you're someone we know," so I moved. My octopus arrived  momentarily.

One of the servers saw it delivered and smiled wickedly at me. "It's to die for," she warned. And was it ever, succulently marinated with red onion, capers and an assortment of herbs that made for a savory and toothsome taste of the sea. With some crusty Billy bread, it was the perfect supper.

As the crowd around me alternately cheered and groaned, I chatted with Chef Philip about offal and with bartender Josh about everything but offal. When VCU's fate was determined, I joined with the rest of the room in offering a heartfelt ovation for our team making it to the Final Four.

The end of the game signaled for some to pay their checks and exit stage right and for others to order more drinks; I opted to go with the latter group, getting a Warre's Otime 10, a ten-year tawny port and enjoying it with my hazelnut gelato. I considered it a tribute to the team that had brought so much bonhomie to our city.

When I finally left Six Burner, it was to got to Balliceaux for my music fix.  Playing tonight were James Wallace and the Naked Light and while I was familiar with most of the players, Wallace was new to me.

And, with the exception of my Herradura Anejo being absconded with midway through the set by a an over-zealous barback (an egregious error that was corrected), it was a stellar evening of music and friends.

Describing the band's sound is tough because it ranged between so many genres, There was definitely a folky, almost country sound to it, but the double drummers and sax/clarinet/flute add-ins made for something most unlike folk and country. Wallace's vocals, melodic and plaintive at times, were a beautiful and unique complement to the unusual instrumentation.

The music was infectious, causing people like me to move in place and others to downright dance their hearts out. A drummer friend ogled the two drummers and a horn-playing friend bobbed his head to the clarinet.sax combo. It was all good.

Well, good except for the slightly deflated vibe that almost everyone carried around for the last portion of the evening. On the plus side, everyone seems committed to making the team's homecoming rally the biggest and best it could be. And maybe now I'll stop hearing non-stop fire trucks and fireworks in the Ward.

And so we can return to business as usual in RVA. Of course, that's like me saying I could get back to business as usual in my little life.

There's really no such thing. Thankfully.

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