Monday, May 28, 2012

Explosions in the Sky

What do you do on the Sunday night of a three-day weekend?

Well, you could start at the Shockoe Bottom Jazz Fest where the late afternoon sun had the good-sized audience hovering under the shade of the 17th Street Farmers' market shed.

Giving it their all was the Big Payback, a James Brown tribute band with a lead singer who observed, "Heat-wise, it's a hot day."

Considering that he had on all black, including a black blazer, and shades, I'm sure he knew about some sweating going on.

Standing in the refreshingly diverse crowd to watch the band, I smelled musk and watched as couples got their groove on.

Strangers danced with each other, booties were checked out and loose-limbed kids showed off their Michael Jackson moves.

Despite the sun and heat, there was no shortage of dancers of all ages, shapes and colors.

Although I'd heard of the Big Payback, I'd never seen them, so I was pleasantly surprised to see members of both the RVA Big Band and the funky New Belgians as members of the ensemble.

And if I'm going to stand around listening to a cover band, it may as well be one doing James Brown.

When their set ended, we ambled around the Bottom taking note of new restaurants (a tapas one opening Friday) before landing at C'est le Vin for a glass served by a handsome man in a pink button-down shirt, gray scarf, shorts and bossy sunglasses.

You know, the kind where people do what he says when he has them on.

I managed to score the last taste of the salmon-colored Perle de Roseline, a favorite and sadly out of stock, and instead enjoyed the Vina Altaba Rose tasting of rose petals and peach. Very girly.

After losing my jazz companion to northern Virginia, I was picked up by a favorite couple.

"You look adorable!" my girlfriend exclaimed, proving why I am devoted to her.

We were en route to Chimborazo Park for a picnic and viewing of the Rocketts Red Glare fireworks show for Memorial Day.

Yes, the very same one that was canceled due to inclement weather last year. We call this delayed gratification.

Parking right by the grassy hill, my girlfriend and I relaxed as her talented French boyfriend set up camp.

First there was a table on the edge of the overlook, followed by chairs. With cushions, I might add.

Nest came the loveliest yellow tablecloth, adorned with images of olive trees and flowering lavender.

"I bet everybody's watching us," my friend noted drolly as her beau continued to set up the perfect picnic.

He had a citronella candle in a copper pot, multiple bottles of rose, water glasses and a speaker for his iPod.

Once he'd set up and we sat down to eat and drink, we played host to any number of passersby, all fascinated by the spread.

Or perhaps it was the Mozart playing softly.

"That's looking real good," said a man walking his dog. "He wants some."

Safe to say that both man and dog wanted some.

"We wanted to walk by to see," exclaimed one of two girls who'd especially made a trip over to check us out. "Every time we looked over, you'd added more and we just had to come see."

I tried to be friendly and appreciative of the attention, but mainly I wanted to eat the ham and tomato or olive tarts, the salad, the kabobs and rice and the marinated Vidalia onion, cucumber and tomato salad spread out before me.

"You should do this for people and charge," said one of the girls. "I'd tell my husband to hire you!"

Yea, right.

Except that the Frenchman admitted to having set up rogue picnics under the Eiffel Tower and on the Champs Elysee for other al fresco fans, so I guess it would work.

"We just had to come see what was going on here," a stranger said walking by.

By the time we got to the cheese course, the fireworks had begun at Rocketts Landing and, as it turned out, we had a straight-shot view of them across the Bottom.

And our viewing vantage was ideal - far enough away not have our ears assaulted and close enough to have a breathtaking view of each and every explosion.

Non-stop pyrotechnics were accompanied by apricot tarts and more Rose, and before we knew it, the display was winding down.

But not before I saw fireworks I'd never seen before.

There were circles and squares lighting up the night sky, so different than the typical starbursts.

At the end, there were white-hot explosions that just didn't let up.

And with our distance (half a mile, maybe?) we had a bird's eye view of it all.

The moment the fireworks ended, the crowds dispersed and we were left alone on the edge of the valley to linger over our wine while fireflies flickered all around us.

My girlfriend handed me a birthday card with a gift certificate for Chop Suey inside.

The card read, "Time in a Bottle. Pairs nicely with birthdays and a nagging sense of mortality. Cheers!"

Correction: a yellow-tableclothed picnic on a breezy Chimborazo hill with rose and tarts alleviates any nagging sense of mortality.

Next time I'll bring a date to enjoy time in a bottle.

And maybe the French picnic master.


  1. That was so much fun
    When is the next Firework to repeat this "pic-nique"
    But do we have to wait for the next Firework?
    I hope we will get together with your date soon for another great evening.
    A nice memory day weekend

  2. Indeed it was and no, we don't. I'll start trying to dig up a date.