Sunday, May 6, 2012

Tales from Urban Bohemia

Chapter 1: In which there is a reprieve

With news that Ettamae's was closing, my J-Ward buddy and I went to lunch with heavy hearts.

Our server greeted us by saying, "You know it's our last day?" I called dibs on the last shrimp BLT and we ate on the balcony where it was muggy, hazy and bittersweet.

By the time we were paying, it was announced that they'd be open through Mother's Day brunch.

It makes me sad that a favorite neighborhood spot isn't being supported. "Sorry about Ettamae's. You did the most to keep it going!" a friend writes.

And here I thought their house-made corned beef and fruit tarts were enough. Hang on, Ettamae's. We need your kind.

Chapter 2: In which thoughts turn to Girl Scout campouts

Holmes and his main squeeze wanted escorts for the First Fridays artwalk so I rounded up a fourth and we began with Michel Chiarlo Barbera d'Asti here before heading to Corporate Museum and Frame to see Holmes' friend's show.

"River Road" by John Henley encompassed all kinds of river views, some familiar and some not. The Belle Isle quarry was instantly recognizable (although not to all, sadly) but Huguenot Woods not so much.

A photograph of Dutch Gap reminded me of the last places I went kayaking and rowing.

I run into a handsome theater critic friend who gulps mid-conversation, saying, "My date just walked out the door!" before doing the same.

Ghostprint Gallery's show by Juan Perdiguero, "Perros Indalo," was captivating for the classically-posed, almost portrait-like drawings over photographs of dogs.

The Spanish artist was in the building, telling of how he photographed the stray dogs that wandered into his studio space and superimposed them over photographs of indigenous vegetation

At one of the G40 pop-up galleries, I couldn't help but notice "Saturday Night Soldiers," an image of people happily lost on a dance floor.

A girl came up behind me to look at it, turning to her companion and asking, "Do you have an extra $900 on you?" He did not.

In a basement (my first under Broad Street) at another G40 pop-up, I saw a Lichtenstein-like mixed media piece with the prophetic "The world is mine. Now what?" sentiment as its message.

My question exactly.

Dinner was at a back booth at the Belvidere with Vinho Verde, smoked salmon and beef tenderloin.

Pat Benetar ruled the women's bathroom and in the restaurant, it was Rolling Stones. Holmes claimed it was the best rice he'd had in Richmond.

Final stop of the evening was at Bistro 27 for cocktails, although mine consisted only of Cazadores with a large slow-melting cube.

The treat was $1 dessert, made by mixologist Bobby Kruger. Huge homemade marshmallows on sticks were rolled in dark chocolate and then graham cracker crumbs.

Nothing like it before tequila. Music was appropriately indie and non-restaurant like (hello, XX and Empire of the Sun) and conversation ensued over Death in the Afternoon and gin/dark rum Negronis.

Walking home, a  magnificent moon foreshadows Saturday's super moon.

What else can a person do but play Pet Shop Boys and imagine domino dancing?

Chapter 3: In which we are not wristband-worthy

With RVA Beerfest at Gallery 5 and barely three blocks from my front door, the afternoon was all about bands and beer-slicked floors.

Paying our admission, we were asked for IDs. We'd not brought ours since we weren't drinking beer. We were allowed in without benefit of an identifying bracelet.

Who comes to Beerfest not to drink?

The New Belgians were playing their brand of funk/soul/jazz with Marcus Tenney doing triple duty on sax, tambourine and vocals.

Black Girls followed and the crowd increased exponentially, although not in that dance-y way they respond at Balliceaux.

Party in full swing, Beerfest immediately changed their end time from 6:00 to 7:00. I saw my favorite Beer Betty who marveled at seeing me in summer attire.

Fact is, in this kind of humidity and stickiness, everyone who possibly can settles for shorts and a tank top.

Even dress-wearers...when prodded.

I saw bags of Frozen Water being delivered to the kegs and people getting endless samples of beer.

One guy sampled and recommended it to his friend who demurred. "Aw, come on, try it," he cajoled. "Oh, wait, is that beer pressure?"

Groan. Some people's jokes remind me of corny uncle humor.

Chapter 4: In which there is no celebration of Cinqo de Mayo

Walking from 13th Street to Bistro Bobette, I pause at the door of La Grotta. Seeing it's raining, a well-maintained looking woman starts out and stops, turning to her group.

"Oh, it's raining. Our fireworks will be canceled."

I'm pretty much positive I will never utter those words in my life.

Inside the restaurant, I find one stool and an amiable bar crowd. I kiss the bartender's cheeks and later he introduces me to a guy apropos of nothing.

Turns out the guy had inquired about the source of the bartender's lip prints and I was being introduced as Exhibit A.

Meanwhile, the bar crowd yields a variety of people with whom I can chat.

There's a Brit currently building a house in the south of France.

There's a familiar dachshund owner raving about a Sichuan restaurant near Staples Mill.

There's a French gendarme ("It's like your C.I.D.") who has jurisdiction in any French territory in the world.

I eat off the bar specials menu, particularly enjoying hearts of artichoke over micro-greens.

The creamy texture of the hearts in ailoi makes for a rich indulgence. Swordfish bites with onion and tomato benefit from a dipping sauce.

The gendarme moves over and joins me, using his accented English to make small talk, or as small as you can get when discussing Spinoza or Alain.

After explaining where he has authority, I conclude that I can break the law in Bobette and he will be unable to do anything about it.

He says should that happen, he will advise me of my error and allow me to make my own mistakes.

I have ordered Kaffir lime ice cream based on the chef's recommendation and when it arrives, I offer the gendarme a bite.

"Francis says this is wonderful," I offer.
"Have you been to France?" he inquires.
"No," I admit.
"Then how can you say it's wonderful?" he asks.
"I said Francis says it's wonderful," I correct, pointing at the ice cream.
He grabs my face and kisses my cheek.
"You are honest. For that you get a kiss," he explains.

He orders a bottle of Moutard Pere et Fils Rose, presumably for its pink fruitiness but also because he is recently returned to this country after time in the Middle East.

I am happy to have a glass and talk about our favorite authors.

I run into a girlfriend who is stressed and make a joke that transforms her.

"That's the biggest smile I've had in weeks," she says. "Thank you for that."

Just doing my job.

Chapter 5: In which I do not see the whole of the moon

Leaving the restaurant, there is a sax player filling the air and the sidewalks of the Slip are bustling with people.

The temperature is just about perfect and the humidity is still curling my straight bangs.

A mile and I'm home where I linger outside hoping that the super moon will be visible, but alas.

I'll have to hope for something super tomorrow instead.

Chapter 6 should do just fine.

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