Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Sample and the Shy Type

It's not that I don't have stories.

I do. And I share some of them online, some in person and some I just keep to myself.

That said, it's essential for a good storyteller to match the story to her audience.

But it's hard to even contemplate telling a good story without a little sustenance first.

Besides, I had to do it sometime.

So I suggested to a willing friend that we try S@mple in the old Sprout location.

So, right off the bat, I had a sentimental attachment to what went before this new small plate place.

And I admit I was curious about how the interior, which used to be so recycled, so charmingly simple and so real, now looked.

It couldn't be much further from Sprout. Stained glass and pallet walls are gone with colored lights and sleek furniture the new replacements.

It's borderline unrecognizable except that I spent so much time in Sprout that I'd know it no matter how it was tarted up.

But it was early and we were the only customers, so I ignored the computer screens at the tables, the flat screen over the bar and in the front room and the Macs for rent.

The good news were that all small plates were $8 on Monday, so I tried the knuckles sandwich (lobster knuckle meat salad, baby herbs, toasted brioche) and Friend got the fried shrimp and baby artichokes (green olive tapenade, lemon ailoi).

My knuckle sandwiches (save the bad jokes; I heard all I needed from the cheap laugh king) were thickly spread and delicately flavored, a perfect amount of food for eight bucks.

I did like the addition of so many windows in the early evening light; they framed some lovely sky views and treescapes.

We finished with a sweet course, the hot cinnamon donut holes with chocolate sauce, berries and vanilla ice cream.

I hadn't had warm cinnamon donut holes since the last time I was at Two Amys on a Saturday when they do them and these were a nice reminder of what a satisfying taste that is.

Rather than rent a Mac, we left for Ballcieaux and secretly Y'All, Tell Me a Story.

Tonight's theme was road tripping and we heard some good yarns in the overcrowded back room.

The great part of that is people have finally joined me in discovering the pleasures of hearing other people's dirty little secrets and offbeat memories.

We heard about a move to St. Louis by a woman who drank too many red-headed sluts, two guys crossing four borders with illegal botanical specimens and lots of weed, about when an American passport didn't mean shit, and how Iowa could be considered heaven (compared to post-Katrina New Orleans, at least).

We heard an "Animal House"-like story of six college boys going to JMU back when it was still an all girls' teaching college and signing out their dates for the day.

That story centered on Clementine, a not too terribly attractive, but very athletic young lady who was the storyteller's date back in the sixties.

The funniest part was that the storyteller's wife was there tonight and it was even her birthday.

Happy birthday, dear.

When the storytelling breaks, the room always erupts into a party with mass ordering of additional drinks, shouted greetings and mingling.

It's during that time that guests can put their name in the hat to tell their own theme-appropriate story.

If I'd been so inclined, I'd probably have shared a story about a road trip that had me dancing in an old man's fantasy, here.

So after settling back into our second row seats with Campari and tequila (all the essentials of life for the moment) we heard from the audience.

One of my favorites was the guy who was in a band traveling to Ukraine when their bus got stopped and searched.

When the border guards insisted on tasting both the suspicious substances (baking powder and Grandpa's ashes), the guy laughed so heard he peed his skinny jeans.

I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried.

There was the cross-country bike trip story ("I'm Rex, like the dinosaur"), the girl who didn't know you needed to put gas in a Prius story (no, really) and the film making trio that set out with grant money to cross the country and drink beer.

Along the way they saw a house made of junk mail and cave houses made of PVC pipe.

Right there, I think the trip was probably worth it.

The evening finished with a storyteller I knew, a photographer friend who did a good job conveying August heat, fear of not getting back to Richmond and appreciation/disdain for a minimalist apartment in NYC.

Kitchen, bathroom, bed, unplugged TV and (get this) book under bed.

At least a minimalist reads.

Because I know him, it was easy to imagine him begging the driver of the Chinatown bus for a seat, getting stuck in the subway turnstile because of his two backpacks and camera case, and his mad dash to catch a second bus.

And the most hysterical part, when he began pulling out Chinese currency to buy a ticket, was completely believable knowing him.

Walking out of Ball0cieaux, I stopped to tell him how much I'd enjoyed his travel tale.

"That's quite a compliment coming from a storyteller like you," he said magnanimously.

Oh, I've got stories. I'm just not putting a microphone in front of me to share them.

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