Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Grab My Alto Sax and I'm Back on the Road

First rule of Karen's storm plan: Always go out.

After this afternoon's horizontal rain, epic wind and subsequent power outages (although not here in J-Ward), the only concession made to Mother Nature's fury was checking with the restaurant where I was meeting friends to ensure they still had power.

They did and even more importantly, my friend Holmes had made reservations for us.

And while a normal Monday night at Six Burner might not require a reservation, tonight was no ordinary Monday night.

The place was packed with lost souls trying to escape their powerless homes. In fact, the couple we were meeting was among them.

So the joint was mobbed.

Our quartet wrapped itself around the corner of the bar so as to be able to both see and hear each other.

Naturally, everyone had arrived at the same moment, so the staff was scrambling to keep up with drink and food orders for so many hungry/thirsty patrons at once.

It didn't matter to us because we had the right attitude and nothing but time. Oh, yes, and Prosecco.

But it also meant that the trio of raw oysters was 86'd by 7:30, minutes after we arrived. So it wasn't going to be a local oyster night.

And since Six Burner recently switched to an all-small-plate menu, it also meant that whatever we ordered came out as it was ready.

We started with sugar snaps, English cucumber, and watermelon radish in Jean Marc citron vinegar, finding it as crunchy and satisfying as when we'd sampled it on opening night.

That was followed by one of tonight's specials, roasted King Mackerel with fiddleheads and baby carrots in an Asian-inspired sauce.

There's nothing like fiddleheads when you can get them.

By the time our panzanella salad of tomatoes,feta, mint and olives arrived, we were too full and it was boxed up to go.

Holmes was explaining that if his power didn't return, he was going to have a freezer party tomorrow night and cook up its contents.

All I heard was lobster tails before I agreed to be a guest should that happen.

When it came time for dessert, nothing on the sweet menu was calling our name, so we opted for dessert at Balliceaux, our next stop.

If it's Monday, it must be RVA Big Band night.

Lombardy was pretty dark when we arrived, but the chalkboard in front said, "We are open!" and we waltzed through the wide-open front doors.

But wait.

While there were a few of the overhead lights on, for the most part the place was candlelit.

As in, they had no power, either.

Waling toward us was a red-haired musician, instrument case in hand, talking into his phone. "So there's no gig," he informed the other end.

But they had a big cooler and a willing barkeep, so we agreed to stay put and make the best of it, even without dessert.

The cocktail list was limited because many of the needed ingredients were in the pitch-black back room and thus inaccessible.

But our group is a flexible one and Negronis and Old Old Fashioneds (New Old Fashioneds wouldn't do) took care of the group's needs.

It was as lovely a night weather-wise as anyone could have hoped for inside.

The wide-open front doors allowed the breeze to move through and escape through the big, open windows over the stairs.

"Man, I hope my house feels this breezy when I get home," Holmes observed.

I knew mine would; I'd made sure to leave every window open.

As we sat there talking about what constitutes pop music and how Italian words must be pronounced with passion, in walked another musician toting his case.

When he was informed that there was no show tonight, he looked surprised.

Turns out he wasn't part of the usual 17-piece but a visiting musician from Hartford, Connecticut in town for the evening.

As long as he was here, he'd hoped to stop by and sit in before he leaves for a three-month flute/sax gig aboard a Holland cruise ship to Alaska.

Not surprisingly, he looked a little bummed when he heard.

And that's when I kicked into storm mode.

"But it would be awesome if you'd play your sax for us anyway," I said in my most earnest voice.

When the devoted music fan in me takes over, she is as sincere as they come.

He smiled, ordered a drink and considered.

"I'll buy you a drink if you do," Holmes said, sweetening the pot, but Pete the sax player was already taking his instrument out and moistening the reed.

With nary an acknowledgement, he launched into Coltrane's "Mr. P.C."

I know that only because I had no shame about asking him what he played after each song.

There was a song called "Dig" (he said it had been done by Miles Davis) as well as Charlie Parker's "Scrapple for the Apple."

Despite the ingrates chattering around him, I savored every note from the impromptu performance.

He eventually settled into a slow burn of the jazz standard, "Body and Soul," much to the delight of Holmes' beloved.

"When's the last time you heard this live?" I asked mischievously as she swooned over the music.

"Never!" she exclaimed wide-eyed and clearly thrilled.

And why not?

We were sitting in a candlelit bar in a darkened neighborhood with a lovely breeze blowing over us while a visiting sax player serenaded us with vintage jazz.

My companion turned to me grinning.

"This kind of thing only happens when I'm with you," he said as if reluctant to state the obvious.

Correction: this kind of thing only happens when you ask for what you want.

I tell you I mean it
I'm all for you
Body and soul

That's the second rule of Karen's storm plan.

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