The summer officially began for me tonight with the kickoff of Anderson Gallery's Happy Hour series.
I had a ball at it last year, here, so I was more than ready to start it all up again and see what fresh fun they'd concocted.
Answer: dessert and music. It was an ice cream social with two bands playing and two new exhibits to see.
They might as well have called it the Happy Karen Hour series.
When we arrived Sweet Fern was playing, which meant Allison Self's big, beautiful voice and Josh Bearman's guitar and harmonies.
A diverse crowd (a neighbor, the man about town, WRIR folks, the beekeeper) was already in place, all tuned into what was being played.
I always enjoy watching people experience Allison singing for the first time because she just doesn't sound like anyone else in these parts.
Sometimes the songs were innuendo-filled (although I noticed that with young 'uns in the room, she didn't do her most ribald material) and sometimes straight up.
"I'm Just Here to Get my Baby Out of Jail," pretty much lays it out.
Josh used his quick wit to announce the finale, "I'm Leaving You This Lonesome Song."
Then they did just that.
I scored some Bev's Mexicali chocolate ice cream (the ice cream portion of the social) and took advantage of chocolate sauce and peanuts to top it.
When I returned inside to eat it, I had to explain to several confused guys what the "Mexicali" portion of the ice cream's name meant.
To a man, they were shocked when they tasted the heat behind the chocolate ("What is in this ice cream?" one confused looking guy wailed to me).
I also used the break to check out the tiny show "Summer Mixer," a collection of 1920s to 1970s household appliances and ephemera from the Eclectic Electric collection, which I'd seen in a larger form, here.
Call me mid-century modern, but I love those old Cool Spot fans and Havana shakers, all but emblems of happy housewives and glamorous partygoers of another era.
After satisfying my inner domestic goddess (for I don't have much of an outer one), I jumped ship upstairs to see Rosemarie Fiore's "Fireworks."
The large scale works made by setting off fireworks with dyes were unique, but it was her smoke domes that captured my attention.
Smoke bombs are set off inside molten glass for jellyfish looking creations defined by swirls and embellishments.
They really have to be seen to be understood, much less appreciated. But see them.
Back on the ground floor, River City Band was playing and I've seen them enough to know what good pickers they are.
Meanwhile, audience members looked for seats, many holding both a glass of wine and a dish of ice cream.
That's my kind of cocktail hour.
Guitarist Grant began by addressing Josh and Allison about their mutual admiration, saying. "We should have a Carter Family Festival this summer and sing all Carter Family songs. Maybe August?"
Reason number 85296 I love this town. There are people who think that way.
Seamlessly winding their way through the likes of Bill Munroe and the late, great Earl Scruggs, they dazzled with fast pickin' and strong harmonies.
When they finished, we took off for Aziza's and some chow.
The place was lively when we arrived but we were the only ones at the bar.
Catching the end of happy hour, obviously our second of the night, we chose a bottle of Santa Julia Viognier, which hit the spot with our small plate choices.
Sea bean salad was a must since who's ever heard of sea beans (we asked and were assured they grew in the sea)?
Served with marinated shrimp and tarragon vinaigrette, the dish had a briny crunch from the very slender bean stalks that complemented the zesty shrimp.
Roasted mushrooms with asparagus, pea shoots and a sunny side up egg had an underpinning of lemon and overtones of a rich yolk. Yum.
When our server came to check on us, I mentioned how hard it was to hear the music.
"Want me to turn it up?" she genially offered. "What music? 40s, 50s, 60s?"
I chose sixties and while it wouldn't have been my first choice (no reverb! no horns!), now I could at least hear it.
And while I didn't particularly need to hear "Last Train to Clarksville" again, I definitely got a kick out of hearing "Only the String Survive."
I remember my first love affair
Somehow or another the whole darn thing went wrong
My mama had some great advice
So I thought I'd put it into words of this song
The only way to top that was with Three Dog Night's "Old Fashioned Love Song."
Hey, I couldn't blame anyone but myself. I'd said yes to the sixties.
When she returned later to see if we wanted dessert, all of a sudden the music returned to 40s and then 50s music as we all looked dumbfounded.
After checking to make sure the other server hadn't changed the station, she shrugged it off as, "We have ghosts here."
In buildings that old that have seen that much? I'm not surprised in the least.
Putting aside paranormal activity, we declined a cream puff since we'd begun with Bev's at the Anderson hours ago.
And speaking of early ice cream, I think they should serve Bev's at that Carter Family Festival later this summer.
It'll be the perfect bookend to tonight's start of the season.
And reason 85297.