Saturday, November 24, 2012

Once is Never Enough

If you're going to repeat yourself, at least repeat good things.

To start it was random compliments and heartfelt gratitude and isn't that why any girl goes to her local art museum?

Walking in the VMFA's Boulevard (and my favorite) entrance, the guard greets us.

I do the same, adding in questions about the museum's attendance today.

"We had a lot of people here earlier today, but they've gone home. We sent them out into the night," he explained.

I made a crack about visiting relatives and the desire to escape and he agreed and as I make for the hallway to leave, he casually observes apropos of nothing, "Those are nifty tights, by the way."

It may very well be my first time I was complimented as "nifty."

After scoring our Chihuly tickets, we head downstairs for some glass.

I've already seen the show, here,  but I was a willing second-timer here with a Chihuly virgin.

We began with those glorious Venetian balls in a rowboat before moving on to the "Persian Ceiling."

Waling in to the gallery, my jaw dropped as we watched three women walk into the gallery, never so much as look up, and pass right through as if a suspended ceiling holding 1,000 (yes, one thousand!) glass objects wasn't directly over their heads.

Maybe they missed the signage and maybe not.

Still, whoa.

It was then that I remembered the artist's recommendation for the best way to see the "Persian Ceiling."

You got it; I stretched out on the floor so as to have an optimum vantage point for the assemblage of Chihuly glass overhead.

Then a funny thing happened.

My date laid down.

Then another couple. And a young guy. And...

Before all was said and done, seven other people followed my lead and got horizontal with the floor, just like I had.

From somewhere near the front of the gallery, a voice called out, "Thank you!"

"You're welcome," I answered, not the least bit afraid I wasn't the intended complimentee.

Moments later, a VMFA guard walked into the room and announced, "You have to get up. I can't let you lay on the floor."

Oh, can't you? Are we really a threat stretched out on the floor?

To our rescue came a man who'd declined to get down for fear he couldn't get up.

"Just let me take a picture," he said commandingly and the very young guard ceded power to him.

None of us hurried to get up (what was the guard going to do, after all?) but eventually we unwound our supine bodies and rejoined the vertical.

Moving through the exhibit, an occasional stranger would smile or nod at me and I had to presume it was someone who had joined me on the floor.

After our encounter of the Chihuly kind, we did the logical thing and walked upstairs to Amuse for a glass.

We'd timed it perfectly.

There was plenty of room at the bar and the dining room was just beginning to fill up.

The bartender confirmed what I already suspected; Amuse had been a madhouse today.

"It was crazy, our busiest day other than Mother's Day," she said wearily, but with a smile on her face.

Whoa. Glad we'd missed the masses.

With a bottle of Portuguese Tinto Rioja, we sampled the amuse bouche, a white bean puree with micro-greens on a flat bread.

It was one perfect bite, just as it should be.

From there we went to Rappahannock curry-fried oysters with a cucumber and mint raita and pickled veggies.

After copious amounts of raw Rappahannock River oysters to start my Thanksgiving day meal yesterday, I  was eager for something different.

The trifecta of curry, cucumber and mint hit a home run in my mouth.

Next up, we did the crispy pork belly with Romesco sauce and fried spinach and were just as delighted.

The fatty belly, sweet Romesco and delightfully crispy spinach made for a an impressive flavor and texture combination.

By this time, the dining room was completely full and we had just enough wine left for dessert.

I used my influence to choose the chocolate pot de creme with amaretto macaroons, for which I was immediately grateful.

The dense pudding begged to be spread on the rich cookies tasting of almonds and coconut.

And, just so you know, chocolate and coconut top my dessert hit parade.

Together, they were sublime. Samoas, anyone?

Sitting at the bar glowing with pleasure after so many stellar tastes, I felt a hand on my back.

"I'm grateful," a woman said, looking directly in my eyes. "That was an amazing experience. I'll always remember that. Thank you."

I seemed to remember her feet near mine when I'd taken to the floor.

Still, I felt pretty full of myself for having created a "happening," not that I had intended for anyone other than me to do it.

And yet they had.

Sometimes it's just about doing what you want and anyone else following is pure gravy.

But then museums close and you have to find new places to do your thing.

Hello, Hi-Steps.

For my second evening with this group of talented local jazz musicians, I made sure to arrive in time to get a good vantage point.

I was happy to find a diverse crowd spanning 20-somethings to probably 50-somethings, all clearly fans of soul music.

Hats were everywhere - a tweed one on bassist Cameron, another on trumpeter Bob and a newsboy cap on trombonist Toby.

Leader Jason in a leather blazer.

Very dapper, indeed.

Lead singer Brittany took it back to the appropriate era with a taupe maxi sweater dress with a yellow ribbon tied at the waist.

Groovy with a capital "G."

There was a new guitarist/male vocalist tonight, doing a fine job trading vocals with Brittany.

It only took the first few notes to remind me how much I enjoy how hard drummer Pinson Chanselle hits the drums.

After the first two songs, bandleader Jason told the crowd, "This is not a spectator sport. I mean, you can watch us if you want, but we'd rather watch you dance."

He was right, of course.

Few spectator sports are as enjoyable as Friday night dancing.

"Ain't Too Proud to Beg" got the room dancing until the break.

A girl I know spotted me and came over to say hello, mentioning that it was her first time at Balliceaux.

Oh honey.

Soon after, a guy walked up to me and started a surprising conversation about flooring.

Seems Balliceaux has glow-in-the-dark floors, the same ones he'd put in his basement around his hot tub.

Then there were the black lights he'd installed down there, he said.

"Pretty '70s, huh?" he snorted, laughing loudly.

Who'd have thought that was a goal?

During "Tired of Being Alone," singer Brittany wasn't needed so she danced along with the the crowd (or her mother, depending on who you listened to).

Nearby, two guys grooved. "I could listen to this song all day," he told his buddy enthusiastically. "On repeat."

Is there any other way?

While the set list had a lot of similarities to the first show I'd seen, all I could focus on was how tight these guys sounded considering they've only played out twice.

Pros. It's that simple.

After "Try a Little Tenderness," guitarist Elliott cracked wise, noting, "And that turkey I had last night, that was tenderness."

Standing nearby me was DJ Mike Murphy, who was playing soul music before, during and after the Hi-Steps.

With the band doing a handful of classics ("Tell Me Something Good," "It's Your Thing," "Chain of Fools") and the crowd singing along, it occurred to me that those were exactly the songs Mike wouldn't play.

Songs like the closer, "Signed, Sealed and Delivered."

Which means both he and the Hi-Steps have the right idea.

If we're going to dance to soul music, let it be to deep cuts on vinyl or else played live.

And, remember, kids, this is not a spectator sport.

But it sure is fun. So fun I put it on repeat.

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