Friday, June 24, 2011

It's a Small World in RVA

The best time to go out with a girlfriend is when her guy's away.

That way, she doesn't have to leave early to see him and we can eat, drink and gab for as long as we want without any guilt about him.

We did happy hour at Balliceaux, possibly my first time ever, but enjoyable for how peaceful it was. Usually when I'm in there, it's in full show mode and the crowds dominate.

She opted for Legend Brown and I went with Verdicchio di Castello di Jesi Classico, a soft white with hints of almond that suited me just fine.

Among the more interesting topics were men with lizard-size brains, barflies and reading between the lines. In other words, men. We might have also touched on beach reading and book swapping.

By our second glasses, we were craving munchies and ordered the smoked bluefish dip (a perennial winner there) and the cheese plate (the goat cheese brie being our favorite).

When we parted ways, her plan was to go home and read a book and crash. Mine was up in the air.

After a change of clothes and shoes, I opted to head over to Gallery 5 for the Girls Rock RVA show featuring three female-centric bands.

Upon arrival, it was clear that the first band was a ways from playing, so I headed down the street to Comfort to kill some pre-show time.

And here's the part where Richmond gets small. The last time I'd been in Comfort had also been just before a show and I'd met an engineer-type guy there who had been quite friendly. He'd insisted on giving me his number, not that I'd used it.

Taking the only open bar stool tonight placed me at his side again with one small difference. He had a female companion.

We said hello and I ordered a Hornitos. Ignoring his companion, he began wildly chatting me up. It was great to see me again, was I on my way to a show, how had I been kind of stuff.

I found it a bit awkward as he ignored his date and enthusiastically talked to me. Finally, in desperation probably, she leaned over him, extended her hand and introduced herself.

They were about to order food and he turned and asked if I was hungry. Would I consider joining them for dinner? I declined politely, hoping to finish my drink and go.

The moment she left for the ladies' room, he leaned over and said, "This isn't a date. She's an old friend I call sometimes for dinner."

What do I say to that? This is not a person who owes me any explanation. We had a conversation once and that's it.

When she returned, he insisted on buying me another drink , despite my insistence that I hadn't finished my first.

"Better to plan ahead," he warned. This was getting odder by the minute.

I got a respite when their food arrived and shortly thereafter a bartender I know from, of all places, Balliceaux.

He sat down next to me and I happily engaged in conversation with him to allow the happy couple their space.

After a few minutes talk of a daggering show at the Hat Factory, it seemed like a good time to leave and return to Gallery 5 for the show, so I said my farewells.

My new best friend grabbed my arm and told me how wonderful it had been to see me. His date looked on.

Over at Gallery 5, I learned that I'd entirely missed the first two bands. Disappointed, because I hadn't been gone that long, I asked someone if I'd missed some good ones.

"I'm taking the fifth," he said demurely. Now I felt better.

But I'd made it in time for the Diamond Center and a friend showed up with a companion to provide some rational company.

All was right with the world again.

As usual, the Diamond Center put on their psychedelic best and rocked the crowd magnificently. I think it was the first time that Kyle played the twelve-string for the entire set and not just the first three songs, pleasing me no end.

Launching into a crowd favorite, my friend noted, "I love this song."

"It sounds like sex," I pointed out.

"Ideally, yes," she said with a grin. Oh good, it's not just me then.

Unlike the Cous Cous shows where people are so jammed in that there is no view of the band and people talk throughout the set, tonight's audience was attentive and even dancing along at times, making for a most enjoyable show.

And unlike the low-slung Cous Cous, Gallery 5's high ceilings gave the Diamond Center's big sound somewhere to go instead of swallowing it.

Walking home after leaving my friends at their car, I ran into a neighbor who had left J-Ward last summer for Cumberland County. And here he was walking his dog on Marshall Street.

I was thrilled to see he was back and said so. He has, hands down, the best art collection in the Ward and his presence in the 'hood had been sorely missed.

We chatted for a while, updating each other about our lives, with me enthusing about his return.

I told him that I'd just left friends who had asked me where my car was; I'd explained I was two blocks from home.

"You should have said 'My sandals are my car,'" he quipped. "We should have bumper stickers made saying that. My sandals are my car. Jackson Ward."

Makes sense to me. As we hugged goodbye, he acknowledged, "This is what I missed. Running into friends and neighbors on the sidewalk at midnight."

Amen, brother. Welcome back to the Ward.

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