Saturday, June 30, 2012

We're Having a Heat Wave

It was too hot to go far.

Really, it was too hot to eat, but my evening's companion was starving.

So we met up at Bistro 27 where I was surprised to see the place rapidly filling up.

Clearly, "Spring Awakening:" is good for the local eateries. That, or everyone's too hot to stay at home.

I know I was; it was 96 degrees in my apartment when I left it.

And Bistro 27 wasn't exactly cool. Between the open kitchen and 108-degree day, it was more like tolerable.

Which was plenty good enough in comparison.

A new bartender awaited me and he was good enough to pour me some Gavi.

Everyone was moving a little slowly tonight and that included us.

We spent some time comparing summer colds and discussing various elements of "Spring Awakening" before even giving the menu a look-see.

A salad of Cabbage Farm arugula, red onion, tomato, pickled quail eggs and fried goat cheese was large but light enough to work on a hot day like this.

Afterwards, I saw a friend and we discussed our upcoming trips away.

He's headed to Nashville with his beloved and had been doing his research online, pleased to learn that the city that houses the Grand Ole Opry (which interests him not at all) also offers a smorgasbord of lesbian bars, male stripper bars and drag queen bars.

He expects to have a ball. And to think his favorite thing about time away is drinking and wild sex.

After hearing the specials, we decided to share the halibut with crab in butter and a medley of zucchini, squash and red pepper matchsticks.

It turned out to be a terrific choice; the fish portion was plenty for two and the abundance of crab and butter filled us up easily.

Once it got late, the chef came over, glass in hand, to give us a cultural lesson.

"This is the summer drink in Argentina," he said, offering up a taste.

The mixture of Malbec, coke and ice was surprisingly more palatable than I'd have guessed given the ingredients.

Or perhaps anything cold tastes good on a day like today.

Despite my protestations, we got dessert, the mixed berries in a chocolate cup with zabaglione, but I wasn't able to do my usual share tonight.

Too much halibut, too much heat.

Look, I love summer and I'm the last person to complain about the heat.

But when it gets to the point where your belly is sweaty, something's up.

An Argentine might say it's time to pack up the Malbec and Coke, a bathing suit and take Ivy's advice.

Roll the windows down
Take a look around
Everything is melting in the sun
Nothing's getting done
I don't have the time
Can't you see that I'm
Trying to get out of the city?

Friday, June 29, 2012

Swallow the Leader

Sometimes I have the best job.

Like when a story I'm writing requires me to go to Rappahannock River Company's Merroir Tasting Room on the Northern Neck.

Sure, I was there to interview the owners and spend time with the guy who 's responsible for raising the baby oysters before they go out to the aqua-farms.

But it was with the chef, Pete, that I had the most fun.

So after spending the morning on the porch doing my interviewing, it was time for lunch.

I had a choice of where to eat: the tiny (but air-conditioned) bar inside, the porch (where I'd just been) or the yard under the shade of a huge, old tree.

Three guesses where I chose.

Despite being mere feet from the water, the river was still, almost glass-like today so it was still hot even in the shade.

Near the water's edge sat a giant pile of oyster shells.

My server was the personable girl who was the first oysterista hired when they decided to open the Tasting Room.

A pro.

She didn't even bring me a menu, just sat down across the wooden picnic table from me and started  chatting.

How hungry was I? Did I prefer beer or wine? Did I eat my oysters raw?

When I said wine, she lit up. "Then I have the perfect wine for you! The Wimmer Gruner Veltliner goes perfectly with everything on the menu."

She then punched my order into her phone and was off.

Sure enough, the wine was ideal: aromatic, fresh and just acidic enough.

Moments later, my dozen oysters arrived and I was treated to Rappahannocks (buttery and mild), Yorks (a "skosh saltier than the Stingrays" she said) and the Chincoteague-raised Old Salts (perfectly named).

With them came three housemade sauces: cocktail, tomatillo cocktail and red wine mignonette with shallots.

Good thing I had a dozen so I could try each variety with all the sauces.

As I slurped, two men were measuring all around me for the soon-to-be installed pergola to augment the big tree's shade.

When she brought out my enormous crabcake ("150% crab meat," she'd said), she insisted I keep my cocktail sauce in addition to the remoulade it came with.

"I'll tell you a secret," she said, leaning in. "I put that sauce on my crabcake once and Chef Pete saw me and asked if that was cocktail sauce on his crabcake. I told him so what, he had made the cocktail sauce and that they were great together. He said he couldn't condone it, but I always eat it that way."

You know I did the same after a recommendation like that.

Pete came out to join me once I finished eating and began telling me stories about his life.

My favorite concerned his wife of five years.

They'd lived across the street from each other as kids and he was her protector. They grew up, lost touch and married other people.

They had only occasional phone calls over the years. And then Pete's Dad died.

After a nasty divorce on both of their parts, he called her up out of the blue. He hadn't seen her in twenty years.

After a few long phone calls, he flew out to Colorado where she lived to get reacquainted.

"I fell madly in love with her that first night," he  said, grinning like a man still very much in love.

He immediately moved to Colorado and married her shortly thereafter.

And now they're living happily ever after in a house spitting distance from where he prepares the tastiest oysters in Virginia.

"I got lucky," he admitted as I finished the last of my Gruner Veltliner. "And that's not lost on me."

Ditto.

I may not make as much money as I'd like doing freelance writing, but every time I meet someone like Pete, or enjoy the pleasures of an unexpected lunch by the river on a summer day, I remind myself just how lucky I am.

(insert sound of slurp)

Incredibly so.

All Life is Dancing

This geek was at the Firehouse Theater tonight because of Edward Albee.

That's right, the playwright of "Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolf?" and the man who once said,"What could be worse than getting to the end of your life and realizing you hadn't lived it?" (answer: nothing) was at the root of it.

Apparently back in 1999 at a Firehouse Theater fundraiser, he'd challenged them to hold playwriting contests to encourage new works.

They'd taken him up on it and the result was the annual Festival of New American Plays, which began tonight.

On the bill was "Nureyev's Eyes" by David Rush about the friendship that developed between painter Jamie Wyeth and dancer Rudolph Nureyev back in the '70s.

It wasn't an historical drama but an imagining of what might have happened during their many encounters.

After all, it wasn't like reality TV was around to document it back then.

The premise was deceptively simple; Wyeth wanted to paint Nureyev, who didn't think a dancer could be captured on canvas.

Over years of male bickering, vodka, apple pie and endless sketching, an eventual friendship developed.

The title comes from the artist's belief that "The truth of the man sits in the eyes."

As it does for the woman. Just look.

Because it was a staged reading, the two-actor play required a narrator tonight to provide locations and actions.

Matt Bloch played Nureyev with a believable Russian accent and the wariness of a man who'd defected and couldn't stop watching his back.

One of my favorite local actors, Dean Knight, played Wyeth with the understated persistence of a young artist who came from a family of very well-known artists and had a lot to prove.

Despite it being a reading and not a fully staged production, the interplay between the two worked beautifully

Salty language abounded ("Ballet for the mind is always better than ballet for the dick").

Artistic truths came out ("I don't do the painting. The painting does me").

So did laugh-out-loud humor ("It's not a sin to be straight. Only limiting").

It was even possible to learn about ballet ("All dance begins with the belly").

With a passion for both art and dance, I found it difficult to decide which character appealed to me more.

True, Nureyev was egotistical and guarded, but when asked when the happiest day of his life was, he answered, "Tomorrow."

That's a beautiful kind of optimism. And he could dance.

But I also  found Wyeth's character irresistible.


His frequent references to his beloved wife Phyllis made it clear that he saw her as the center of his life and the reason for not only his happiness, but everything he was.

That's a fascinating man, in my opinion.

At the talkback after the play, I was intrigued to learn that some people hadn't known who Wyeth or Nureyev were.

Not that we don't all have holes in our cultural history knowledge, but Nureyev had been considered "the Beatles of ballet," so I was a little surprised.

I'm sure I wasn't the only one eager to go home and look up the picture Wyeth eventually painted of Nureyev in 1977, who'd complained that the artist hadn't gotten the eyes right.


Because of course he had to complain about something. He was Russian.

The audience was pretty unanimous in thinking that this was a strong play (and it plays again Saturday night) which would make a worthy offering to produce at a future date.

And since past Festival of New American Plays winners have gone on to be produced in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, I'd say Firehouse should jump on it before someone else does it first.

The way I see it, Nureyev said it best.

"What good is potential if it's never made concrete?"

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Playing the Field Every Night

It's a good night when a guy hugs an album.

My plans got scrambled early on when an out-of-town friend called to say she was in Richmond and thirsty.

That led to a rendezvous at Rowland, where she walked in with a gash in her leg that looked like it had a story behind it.

It did.

She was just back from a trip to Greece where she'd had the best french fries in her extensive travels (the potatoes were less than five days out of the ground), she'd stayed in a hotel built into the side of a cliff overlooking the sea (the rooms were essentially caves) and she'd gone on a motorbike ride that ended badly.

From what I heard, her beloved's limbs looked even worse because they were now infected.

We drowned her wounds in bottles of Mumm Brut Prestige while nibbling on plates of pork carnitas spring rolls with tomatillo sauce.

While the Mumm didn't entirely stop the pain, it seemed to be less noticeable, said she.

Such is the beauty of bubbles, said I.

Meanwhile, a woman at the table behind us made a mustache and beard out of her long hair, much to the amusement of her dining companion.

Strangers as entertainment.

Because we hadn't seen each other in almost two months, we gabbed right up until I had to leave for Balliceaux.

On the bill tonight were Rattlemouth, who were already playing for a bustling crowd when I arrived.

Since I'd seen them before, I knew to expect a world beat sound, dancey in a hypnotic kind of way and with lots of Ethiopian grooves.

They delivered all that in the second half of the set which I saw, including their last song, a popular Ethiopian one, described as known to anyone in that country.

Since I know no one there, I can't confirm that.

The Richmanian Ramblers were the stars of the night because it was their CD release show.

The first thing I noticed was that there were more ramblers than the last time I'd seen them.

Five had become seven.

Both the clarinet and violin had doubled to two each with the addition of bandleader Nate's dad on violin and the ubiquitous Jason Scott on clarinet (and also as head cheerleader).

For the uninitiated, the Ramblers play gypsy-influenced Romanian folk music which is both beautiful and hilarious.

Vocalist Antonia (yes, she of the Speckled Bird and The Bird and her Consort) introduced the first song, saying, "This song is about the worst dowry ever."

Can't say I recall the last song I heard about a dowry, good or bad.

It was during the second song about crossing a river and not wanting to pay the toll that I saw a guy in a Smiths t-shirt shush some nearby chatterers.

It was a futile gesture. Too many in the crowd tonight were talking non-stop.

And, yes, it's a bar so people will talk but I'd have thought that once they heard the sound of haunting gypsy music, it would abate.

I was dreaming.

A dance song followed and the crowd was exhorted to do so and Nate's Mom was the first to take to the floor doing steps that clearly looked traditional.

A couple of girls joined in, but Mom had the moves.

Clarinetist Jason was a hard-working guy tonight, leading singalongs and playing beautiful,extended parts to weave the gypsy sound throughout the room.

Later he told me he was just trying to get drunk and have a good time with the crowd.

Well done, sir.

In an odd coincidence, Nate, who'd never heard Rattlemouth before tonight, said he knew one of its members because he'd once bought worms from him.

"He's a worm enthusiast," Nate explained. Now there's a phrase you don't often hear.

The highlight was a song about a girl in a field pining for a sheep and her beloved (she's knitting him a sweater) and contained sheep sounds, courtesy of Antonia.

If you've ever heard her vox saw, you'd expect that a woman who can emulate a saw would have no trouble at all doing a sheep.

She didn't.

I especially enjoyed watching guitarist Clifton play tambourine with his feet. Talent apparently excludes no limb.

They closed with "World, Sister, World," the title track from their new CD but I had to strain to hear over the talkers, sadly including some of the musicians in the room.

Bad form, guys, real bad form.

I ran into the poet who said nice things about my form and my friend and admitted that she'd been hungover all day.

Ah, the pleasures of summer when school is out.

After saying goodnight to her, I got myself to Ipanema, where it was the final night for the Blood Brothers.

And while I've no doubt that something will rise from the ashes of the fabulous Blood Brothers (Blood Blisters was suggested), it won't be the unique dynamic duo of the Blood Brothers themselves.

Duane, the hatted member of the duo, is decamping RVA for Brooklyn, so it was my last chance to hear these two long time friends spin vintage vinyl from the '60s and '70s together.

I always hear a lot of great music and I rarely recognize most of it, but that's the point: to hear great old music I haven't already heard a zillion times.

But, like any good DJs, they always toss in a few crowd pleasers just to show they can.

Hence Archie Bell and the Drells doing "Tighten Up" and Patti Smith doing "Because the Night."

I was busy talking to Blood Brother Jamie when I heard Duane play the Rolling Stones' "Tumblin' Dice."

Surprised, I told Jamie that wasn't something I'd expected to hear Duane play.

"Yea, I brought "Street Fighting Man, but that's not gonna happen now," he grinned.

Blood Brothers never duplicate.

And sometimes they like a novelty, like "Li'l Red Riding Hood," with the lyric, "Li'l Red Riding Hood, you sure are looking good, You're everything a big, bad wolf could want."

Try selling that line, Justin Bieber.

I was introduced to a guy who told me about the "butt fries" he'd had at the State Fair (pork butt over fries with fake cheese sauce...blech), I saw a sous chef I've known for years who invited me to a dinner on his new picnic table so he could read about himself in my blog and, as usual, I got hugged repeatedly by a member of Team Sex.

But that couldn't beat Jamie coming over to sit next to me on the bench clutching a copy of the "Nilsson Schmilsson" album with a goofy grin on his face.

Yes, Nilsson still makes us smile in delight.

I even saw Duane dance with his lovely wife late in the night (when she was obviously tired) and by dance, I mean he held her up while her feet swung in the air.

It was adorable.

At the end of the night, I bade a fond farewell to the Brooklyn-bound, having rolled through meeting a scabbed friend, straining to hear Romanian gypsy music and socializing to the sounds of the sixties before heading back to J-Ward.

Say now, baby, I'm the rank outsider
You can be my partner in crime
But baby I can't stay
You got to roll me and call me the tumblin'
Roll me and call me the tumblin' dice

Rank outsider? Purely in the mind of the beholder.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Fairy Tale for a Fine Day

Sometimes, only a fable will do.

After yesterday's tornadoes or microbursts (they just keep making up these terms, don't they?), today's crystalline skies and dry air made for a day a photographer friend referred to as cool, bright and beautiful.

It's a description I wouldn't mind being called myself.

And by the time I finished doing my necessaries, I wanted an evening just as wonderful, some sort of lovely escapism, something as exquisite as this day.

So naturally I went to see my first Wes Anderson film.

I know, I know, but somehow I hadn't, so there you have it.

Perhaps because it was my first, I found "Moonrise Kingdom" touching, whimsical and earnest.

And since I revel in period details, watching a film set in 1965 was a visual treat, both for the veracity and the occasional misstep.

Coffee percolators weren't electric, they sat on stoves.

Men wore white socks with black shoes,

Men and boys wore shorts that were actually short (no doubt offensive by today's standards).

No one, not even the island's only policeman, used a seat belt.

Kids sprawled on the floor listening to record players and playing Parcheesi all summer long.

Scout leaders smoked, even when they were doing troop activities.

Twelve-year old girls wore dresses that short and knee socks that high.

All perfectly 1965.

But I would argue that a woman, much less one working for Social Services, would not have worn a pantsuit in 1965.

Pantsuits came into vogue in the late 60s and more so the 70s. By the time pantsuits came in, hats were out.

Also, the young hero asks his heroine if she's depressed. I'm willing to bet the farm that no twelve-year old would have asked that question in 1965.

But that's nitpicking and overall, the evocation of the era of LBJ's "Great Society" was charmingly evoked.

And besides charm, there was the wistful depiction of first love, albeit in a most fantastical setting.

The tale of two kids who run away together to the other side of an island was rife with first passion.

After the two go swimming in the cove, they hang their clothes up to dry.

That affords a golden opportunity for him to paint her in her training bra and high-waisted flowered underpants, which he does wearing his own underwear.

She's brought along her record player (and spare batteries) so they play the French singer Francoise Hardy's record her Grandma had given her, dancing to it on the sand.

Despite their youth, both scenes were sweetly romantic.

And certainly their conversation about what they wanted to do when they grew up was.

"Go on an adventure and not get stuck," she tells him, no doubt already aware that her own parents are very much stuck in lives they couldn't have wanted.

Coincidentally, that's exactly what I want to do when I grow up.

Therein lies today's lesson in film.

When it comes to life, Wes Anderson and I are on the same page.

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.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Just What I Needed

It was a perfectly beautiful, understated Sunday.

I'd been fortunate enough to be invited to my second rose' party of the season, this one at a friend's big, beautiful house just south of Carytown.

This time the invitation didn't stipulate the wearing of pink, but I wore a little fuchsia pink skirt just to be on the safe side.

I didn't want to get there and be denied pink because I wasn't wearing any (let's just say it wasn't my first time at the rodeo a rose' party).

And it was a large wagon full of pink for guests to choose from.

The wine industry was well represented in the backyard, both reps and retail, but it wasn't only oenophiles.

Hell, one chef had brought his own cooler of Miller High Life, pointing out humorously that it was the "champagne of beer," albeit at a rose' party.

He turned out to be great company, sharing his journey through the world of food-making and, when I asked, what he'd learned at each stop along the way.

Because, let's face it, with cooking, like with life, if you don't take something away from every experience, aren't you just wasting time?

A favorite artist/wine geek was there, sharing his restaurant gossip and raving about Basque rose' poured from on high (it was deliciously refreshing).

The hostess had made a stellar mix, including everything from The Cars to Peter, Bjorn and John to Michael Jackson to MGMT, making for a constantly changing soundscape throughout the evening and the perfect party mix.

Some people just know how to make a mix tape and I like to know those people.

I have to admit that, social as I can be, my summer cold kept me from doing as much mingling as I usually would, but not from savoring a variety of pinks, none of which I will name here.

Okay, the Lucien Crochet Sancerre was an elegant delight, long in its finish, and my first pink Sancerre, so probably worth noting.

As the late afternoon edged into early evening, my companion and I said our farewells to head over to the Dell for Prime Time Swing, a big band we'd never heard before.

By the time we'd grabbed our picnic, it was an hour and a half into the show, so we decided to skip the music and picnic elsewhere.

The elsewhere became Libbie Park a bit before dusk, a truly magical time to be so high on the hill.

As the light faded, the river was changing from blue to grayish, the lights of the city were coming up on buildings and we spotted a bonfire on the banks over on the south side of the river.

Sitting at a wooden table overlooking the railroad tracks, we unloaded the wicker picnic basket and watched impossibly long trains roll by, screeching as they braked.

Fireflies began to appear, followed by the moon and we really hadn't done much more than eat, drink and admire the view.

It was the subtlest of Sundays: a thoroughly satisfying backyard rose' party and a park picnic.

How did I get so lucky?

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Haunted By the Legs of a Woman

"Are you here to audition?"

As if.

Not unless you have to audition to be an audience member, I told the woman at the table with the clipboard.

Actually I was there to get on-stage seats for "Spring Awakening" at the Empire Theater, four blocks from my house.

Once I'd learned that there were a dozen seats available up close and personal with the cast, I was determined to plant myself in one of them.

Well, that and the fact that stage seats are $5 and regular seats are $44, well out of the range of this poor writer's pocketbook.

We were escorted to our seats by the House Manager who instructed us to sit in any seats except those that had drawers on the back.

It wasn't long before two cast members took the seats with drawers next to us and the play was off and running.

What I hadn't realized was that the cast members next to me were going to be singing from where they were,

Sometimes sitting ("Mama Who Bore Me"), sometimes standing on their chairs ("The Bitch of Living"), they were performing inches away.

It may have been the coolest theater experience I've ever had.

And just for the record, while the on-stage seats were not as comfy as the regular theater seats, they were located directly under the box seats, always the priciest seats in the house, so the view was spectacular.

Frankly, for a play dealing with child abuse, masturbation, abortion, suicide and sexual abuse (not to mention a bare male butt), I want a good view.

Of course I was going to love a musical with an alternative music score by singer/songwriter Duncan Sheik, but I was equally as enthralled with having a band (guitars, bass, drums, cello, violin, viola, keys) accompany that music rather than an orchestra.

The story of hormone-driven teenagers ("Why am I haunted by the legs of a woman?") living in repressed 1890s Germany (but one with neon shoelaces, wildly gelled hair and jeweled sandals) took its spark from the energetic young cast, many of whom couldn't legally buy a drink during intermission.

But wow, could they ever dance and sing. And they nailed teen angst magnificently.

From "My Junk" to "Totally F**ked" and whether they were laying on stage singing to the rafters or pulling a mic out of their pockets to sing rock star-style, you really couldn't take your eyes off of them.

During the ensemble numbers, the actors were literally a couple of feet from my face.

I don't want to brag, but I could see them spit. And, yes, I like that.

And John Mincks, your ability to spring from stage to mid-air (mid-note) was nothing short of breathtaking from where I sat.

During intermission, I heard a woman tell someone that she'd seen "Spring Awakening" at a Broadway matinee a few years back and had been so impressed by it that she'd gone back that same night to see it again.

Pshaw. I'd realized that I would do the same before the first act was even over.

And at five dollars a pop, I can easily afford to see it again.

Fortunately, I think I passed the audition to be a stage-sitting audience member.

Pardon my enthusiasm, Virginia Rep, but there's nothing quite like the view from the cheap seats.

Friday, June 22, 2012

You Got to Hold On

I broke down and went to Friday Cheers for the first time.

Ever.

And I've lived here since the late eighties.

You'd think after decades of avoiding the event that it must have been a favorite band of mine that broke my streak.

It wasn't.

What it was was an up and coming band who won't likely be playing $5 shows for very much longer.

A band who blends soul, rock, blues, garage and maybe even a twang or two of country (or is just southern rock?) into a pastiche that is wooing music fans.

A band I'd only heard three songs from but could tell I'd enjoy hearing the lead singer do live.

A band call Alabama Shakes.

Even the Venture Richmond people who book the event were beside themselves, posting, "When we booked these guys, all they had was a Bandcamp page and a few hundred followers."

What a difference some Internet hype makes.

So a fellow music lover and I made the pilgrimage to Brown's Island, crossing the new access bridge to it for the first time, to find a spot of grass to call our own.

Opening was Robert Ellis, a Texan who blends country, rock and bluegrass.

As in, when he says he's doing an old bluegrass song, he does it rock-style.

During his set a gentle rain began, but trusty sidekick and I had had the foresight to anticipate that, so we erected an umbrella fort from which to check out the crowd and listen to the music.

Among the t-shirts seen: King Crimson, Dune Burger and Bad Manners. "Nuff said.

During the break between sets, the rain stopped, making for a better view of the main event.

Alabama Shakes jumped right into the Friday mood with "Going to the Party," and the line, "There's gonna be dancing and there's gonna be a fight."

Well, it is Friday night.

Lead singer Brittany has the lungs of Aretha Franklin and the blues leaning of Janis Joplin and it was clear to see that she'd be a standout no matter who was behind her.

She played her green guitar for the first part of the set before putting it down to do some serious testifying.

She returned to it later in the set, which pleased me no end because you just don't see that many women fronting a rock band, much less playing guitar, too.

"I didn't expect to see so many of you here," she gushed. "Thank you!"

From the roadway above, a photographer shot pictures of the dancing crowd.

From where we stood, the trestle of the nearby railroad bridge framed a watercolor view of the river and south shore.

After a soulful start to their set, Brittany said, "The sun's going down and you know what that means. Rock!"

Which is exactly what they did.

And, no they aren't reinventing the wheel and yes, they wear their influences, numerous as they are, on their sleeves.

But they were young, they're obviously having a ball doing what they do and they did it with enthusiasm and energy.

I'll disagree with the local music writer who said that this will be the best show of 2012 in Richmond, but I'll agree that there was no better place to be tonight than on Brown's Island with fireflies lighting on my arm while listening to Alabama Shakes.

Does that mean I'll return to Friday Cheers?

Probably not.

Yes, five bucks was a steal for the band Jack White recently asked to be his opener.

But as one attendee noted, "Friday Cheers has become talkers and smokers."

And when the band came back out for their encore, a blase-looking guy condescended to his friends, "The popular song has already been played."

Sigh.

As for me, I just took Brittany's advice.

I'm praying, I'm swaying to the sweet melody.

Yes, ma'am. And it was a real pleasure.

When We Two Parted

"I did it. You know what I mean."

If ever there was a cryptic e-mail, or a clearer statement of fact, it doesn't immediately come to mind.

It was a friend's way of letting me know that we needed to talk.

My only plan for the evening was the opening of "Summer Solstice," a group show at Reynolds Gallery, so we agreed to meet up afterwards.

Like any Reynolds show, the galleries were full of Richmond's old guard art elite, both on the walls and milling about.

The array of artists on display was a who's who of known names: Heide Trepanier, Sally Bowring, Richard Carlyon.

The late, great Theresa Pollak was well represented with four pieces in three mediums, a mini-retrospective of sorts spanning 1960-1992.

I was immediately taken with Jennifer Lauren Smith's "Untitled," an archival black and white pigment print done in triptych form showing an upside down beach umbrella floating on the waves.

Wind happens.

With one glance, Janet DeCover's "Lola" struck me as having been created by a woman.

The lipstick-colored background, the white lace doily-looking object and the delicate and feminine robin's egg blue ovals all seemed to have come from the hand and heart of a female.

Much time was enjoyed in front of Bill Fisher's "Untitled," an abstract-looking piece that seemed to me to resemble a houseboat floating on a background of beautiful blue water.

I'm sure the artist had nothing like that in mind when he painted it and I'm equally as sure he'd have no problem with whatever I saw in his oil and wax on panel.

And speaking of, Jack Wax's "Tum-tree," an enormous 80 by 50" was done with ink and coffee on paper, surely the most unlikely medium used in this show.

The tentacle-like roots of the tree extended up and across the enormous work pulling the viewer closer to better understand the visual.

By the time I finished the upstairs gallery's "Almost Famous" show of VCU MFA students, it was time to meet up with Mr. I Did It at Six Burner.

You know, at the corner of Main and Wine.

The place was bursting at the seams when we arrived.

The participants of Plein Air Richmond were meeting nearby at Brazier Gallery and between that and the Reynolds opening, there were lots of thirsty people on Main Street.

The Ghostlight Afterparty's personable host was tending bar and practically knew to pour me some Stefano Massone Gavi before the words came out of my mouth.

My accomplished friend arrived and got the same before I insisted he spill the beans.

Technically, he'd been right; I knew what he meant when he said he'd done it, but I wanted to hear how he'd put on his big boy pants (his words, not mine) and taken care of business.

And while I wanted to hear how it had gone down, mostly I was just happy that he was finally out of a situation that has been highly unsatisfactory for him for many months.

Let's just say he no longer has to lock up the breakfast cereal or the booze and that's as it should be.

What made me rally happy, though, was hearing that that was only one of several good things happening in his life since we'd last met.

He's found a studio interested in putting his many talents to use. He's started online dating and has an out-of-town date this weekend. He's moving back into the city where he belongs.

But my favorite piece of news was that he's decided to be more adventurous in his eating.

A long-time vegetarian, he's decided that if he doesn't start widening his diet, he may never. And he doesn't want to be that person.

Wasting no time, I got a menu and looked for something new for him to try, deciding on the grilled quail with roasted marinated plums.

It did my heart good to see him stepping out of his usual comfort zone enjoying a bird he said he couldn't identify in real life.

Now that's eating.

I always enjoy our discussions because in many ways, we see the world through the same romantic glasses.

Who else I know would bring up Lord Byron as an example of how to live a passionate life?

Or have the patience to explain a Fairlight synthesizer to me and how it impacted 80s music (hello Peter Gabriel)?

Or be excited abut his first floor apartment because in it his piano won't disturb those below him?

Only someone with a romantic soul, that's who.

When he said that he admired me for the way I choose to live my life, I assured him that he has all the necessary parts to do the same thing.

As he put it, "When I read a book, I think to myself 'That could happen" but other people say "It's just a book."

Not so, I told him.

When you stop thinking "That could happen," it stops happening.

All it takes a romantic soul to know what I mean.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Longest Day

How I Spent my Summer Solstice.

1. I watched Balinese dancers in a garden.

They were moving to the Gamelan Raga Kusuma, a community-based ensemble who were playing new and old Balinese music outside the Anderson Gallery.

Which, as you might imagine, is a pretty amazing thing to experience on a very hot and long first day of summer.

The dancers were positively bewitching; they moved different body parts for each and every beat of the music.

And that includes facial gestures, fingers, eyebrows and eyes.

Even smiles came and went with the music, although always controlled smiles, never showing any teeth.

Impeccable timing with small movements allowed them to follow the fastest beat.

In one piece, two dancers squared off trading gestures, even flicking the scarves that hung from their costumes, in a call and response to each other.

And if it was sheen-inducing standing in the garden listening to a Gamelan orchestra play beautiful seven-tone melodies, the dancers in traditional costumes, which wrapped their bodies with heavy, jewel-covered fabrics, must have been sweltering.

They never let on, always appearing placid and pretty in the Summer Solstice sunlight.

Yet again, it was happy hour heaven thanks to the Anderson Gallery's summer series.

2. I had a champagne dinner with two Frenchmen.

Amour was doing a double celebration: their second anniversary and the Summer Solstice.

Best of all, they were doing it with bubbles from Champagne to Virginia.

But what they were really trying to prove is that bubbles pair with every kind of food.

Smoked salmon mousse on buckwheat blinis with candied lemon peel got us started.

Thibaut-Janisson Cuvee D'Etat Blanc de Blanc had the same bright, fresh flavors as the vegetable spring roll with orange/apricot sauce it accompanied.

When it was poured, the owner asked for votes on whether it was a true champagne or not and the majority said French.

The majority were wrong.

An amuse bouche of Comte in puff pastry followed and winemaker Claude Thibaut spoke in his charmingly-accented French to explain his passion for bubbles.

Sole fillet with white and green asparagus and a champagne sauce was paired with Janisson et Fils Brut Rose, a bone dry pink that cut the richness of the fish effortlessly.

From pink we went to blue with Janisson et Fils Brut Bleu and a raisin-stuffed quail on a vegetable nest.

On my way to the W.C., I was introduced to the winemaker and he admitted that this was his favorite pairing of the evening.

With golden raisins in a savory stuffing, and the Bleu enhancing every bite. it was mine, too.

If I were going to start a blue bottle tree, this is what I'd happily drink until I had my tree ablaze in blue.

Brie in puff pastry followed while Claude explained his final wine.

It was everyone's favorite everyday local bubbles, the Thibaud-Janisson Virginia Fizz, with dessert.

Puff pastry with coffee-flavored whipped cream, cherry clafoutis (using Julia Child's recipe) and red berries gratin all worked with the slightly sweeter Fizz.

Replete and completely convinced of the food-worthiness of bubbles, both French and Virginian, the long day sun had finally set into darkness.

By the time I said goodnight to the two Frenchmen, I felt like I'd had the ultimate summer repast.

There was only one way left to celebrate Midsummer Day.

3. I did not dance naked in the moonlight.

Because with all the clouds tonight, there was no moonlight. Luckily, the Druid police hadn't been out.

Anyway, tonight had been all about celebrating the sunlight.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Plein Air Richmond

My pink tank top gave me away.

I wore pink because it was "highly encouraged" for the annual Carytown rose crawl, always a highlight of June.

Festivities began at C Street where I found a pierced and bearded friend serving and opted for the Muga Rose, which tasted of strawberry and rhubarb, much like the pie I'd had on Father's Day.

Sitting on the patio, my friend and I were a tad warm, but the rose went down easily and we chatted up strangers for entertainment.

Before we knew it, we were herded to Amour for stop number two. Wisely, my friend and I were in the first wave, ensuring that we got prime bar seats at Amour.

It was a wise decision. Not only did they have pink menus (nice touch!) but flights and "perfect food pairings."

That would be business as usual at Amour.

Why settle for single pours when you can get three pours, we wondered, ordering two flights and two pairings.

Bieler Pere et Fills had pale color and a crisp finish, Domaine du Pere Caboche was bigger with flavors of strawberry (my friend's favorite of the flight) and Chateau de Valcombe was a beautifully balanced pink.

While we shared stories of high school and mothers, we noshed on bleu cheese melted on baguettes with apple slices (divine) and smoked salmon mousse on cucumber (silky, smokey mouthfeel).

When we finally moved on from Amour to head to Secco, we were delayed by artists painting en plein air along Cary Street.

I'd seen several more on Monument Avenue yesterday and I'm excited to see painters working outdoors everywhere I go.

Walking into Secco, we were easily the last rose crawlers to arrive.

Slow and steady wins the race, my friends.

No matter because we found a spot near the back door and ordered Domaine Brazilier Coteaux du Ventomois, a lovely orange wine which my friend nailed as smelling like peanuts.

There were so many people to talk to: the friend who'd recently seen the Lumineres, the one who'd challenged the guard at the Naval Observatory, the couple who gave me top prize for wearing pink top to bottom.

I'm not certain if it was the array of conversational partners or the endless rose, but all of a sudden I asked the time and realized I had places to be.

An hour ago.

Good thing Richmond's a small town.

Moments later, I was at the Firehouse for the Listening Room, sliding into my seat in time to hear Up the Chain.

Cupid, don't lay down your weary bones.

"This song is called "Something New" and it's just that," the lead singer told us.

We'll stick around and see it through.

I especially liked what the keyboard added to their Philly folk sound.

After their set, I made the rounds to say hello, taking a few moments to score some Dixie Donuts since there were so many laid out for the crowd.

That German chocolate doughnut is worth whatever it does to my body for the dense, rich chocolate cake and icing under the coconut and nut topping.

I teased the photographer, usually late to any music event, who reminded me that he has to be on time for the Listening Room, unlike some of us.

My Old Ways was a Richmond super group of sorts, comprised of member of various bands I've seen.

I need a sign.

Pedal steel looked to be from David Schultz and the Skyline, the singer from Palominos and the drummer, well, I'll just quote the singer about Will, the drummer.

"Raise your hand if you've ever played in a band with Willis," he laughed.

Hands were raised. Lots of hands.

So far, the band had played only one show, at the Ghost of Pop back in December, but tonight was their CD release show.

"This is a song about Jesus," the singer said. "The cool one, not the one who makes everyone feel shitty."

Ohhh, that Jesus.

We got love, but you got logic.

The lead singer was waxing poetic about Richmond, saying, "I recently moved from here," resulting in a few boos for his questionable choice.

"What a wonderful city this is. I hope you're enjoying It, riding your bike in the Fan and drinking a beer on someone's porch. And make sure you go out and see some live music."

It's always satisfying to hear someone remind us how good we've got it. I never forget, but I know some people lose sight of that fact.

I just want to dance.

After their brief set, a girlfriend came over with an "a-ha!" look on her face.

"I know where you've been!" she said, pointing. "You were at the rose crawl!"

Drat! How had she known?

"Your pink top," she said with the satisfaction of a super sleuth.

I admitted as much and asked what especially great things I'd missed with my tardiness.

"Brad Hinton yodeled," she said, knowing how jealous I'd be. "Twice! It was so awesome."

So that about summed it up.

I sold out yodeling for rose.

On the plus side, the pinks were outstanding, the company clever and companionable and the painting en plein air an unexpected pleasure.

But as advised, I always make sure I go out and see some live music.

It's just my (old) way.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Kicking It Old School

It could have been an evening from another era.

Beginning at Garnett's for dinner, our foursome wrapped itself around the end of the bar for dinner.

The low-key Garnett's vibe belies the pleasing little wine list and on a cool June night, it feels like a place my parents could have frequented.

All around us couples are having dinner while '50s music plays and people eat simple, affordable food.

I kept it basic with Gabriele Rausse Vin de Gris and the farmer's salad of romaine, apple, cheddar, bacon and creamy sesame dressing.

No doubt it would have seemed like a very exotic salad back when that lunch counter was first built into that space.

Tonight it just seemed like a classic trifecta of flavors.

The four of us ate and chatted about the oddest assortment of things: a former dance club in the Bottom, the importance of an audience and revisiting old haunts.

As two of the group prepared to leave, two more friends came in for wine and dessert, conveniently the course we were about to enjoy ourselves.

Yellow cake with strawberry filling and strawberry frosting did the trick while listening to their travel plans.

Sure, in 1957 you could do Europe on $5 a day (and there was a guidebook to prove it) but these days the cost is a tad higher, as my friends are discovering.

Their company was an unexpected treat and when we all said goodnight, two of us made our way to Balliceaux.

The RVA Big Band was in full swing but we managed to score a booth in between songs.

It was the best seat I've ever had for the big band, ideal for hearing the huge sound ("a sea of sound," a companion noted) of seventeen instruments.

Most songs aren't introduced, but one melody was immediately recognizable. I just couldn't place it.

From what I was sure was a standard, the bandleader went on to say, "I'm going to introduce this one," as they segued into "The Jazz Police," the bass player switching to an electric.

The variety is always part of the appeal.

From the vantage point of the booth, we had a sweeping view of the room and the crowd seems to grow steadily larger every time I'm there.

There was a definite look to tonight's crowd; the women especially were looking very stylish, some almost retro in backless and strapless dresses.

Dare I say "Mad Men"-like?

Despite the enhanced wardrobe, the prevailing beverage of choice in the room for both musicians and patrons was cans of PBR.

I have to appreciate a room that caters to a big band-loving, can-swilling crowd.

A couple came over and asked f they could sit in the other side of our booth and we invited them in.

He could tell she wasn't enjoying herself and when he finally said, "We'll listen to just one more," she rolled her eyes and responded, "Whatever you want."

But then a funny thing happened. She started getting into it and when he picked up his phone to leave, she shook her head no.

A convert had been made to Team RVA Big Band.

During the break, I set off to find out what the name of the song I'd recognized was.

I asked a sax player who had no idea what he'd just played.

I moved on to a second sax player. He, too, was clueless, even after shuffling through the music on his stand.

Alright, boys, if you can't help me, step out of the way and let me ask someone who can.

A woman.

Approaching the slender woman who plays alto sax, I inquired of her what I'd heard and not been able to name.

"My One and Only Love," she informed me.

Of course!

I knew it from a favorite jazz record, "John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman," just the kind of song men would have once used to woo women back in the days of lunch counters like Garnett's and big bands playing local clubs.

And as many times as I've played the record, I'd never heard it live until my favorite seventeen-piece neatly took care of that tonight.

Simple pleasures, mid-century-style. With a PBR chaser.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Theater Killed the Video Star

Let's hear it for the boy.

You know, the one in the white lace glove. And there were more than one.

No big surprise since tonight's theme for the Gostlight Afterparty at Richmond Triangle Players was "Papa Don't Preach (So What if I Got the GLAP)!"

That's right, it was an '80s extravaganza unfolding right before our eyes, with Stacie Reardon Hall as tonight's special guest.

We arrived to a milling crowd, got ourselves a bottle of French rose and took seats in the second row to revisit our youth.

Unlike the usual Ghostlight Afterparty where all the theater people sing show tunes, tonight's was devoted to the decade that gave us so much great music and soooo much schlock.

80s looks were everywhere: gym shorts, athletic socks, headbands. basically, everything we wanted to forget from the first time around.

Hostess Maggie had on a short black Madonna-looking bustier dress which we learned she'd borrowed from co-host Matt, who was sporting a pink Barbie t-shirt.

Am I painting a clear enough picture here?

It was the kind of evening where someone on stage suggested singing the theme song to "The Gummi Bears" and suddenly a dozen people in the audience were singing along to every word.

Judge me all you want, but I didn't even know there was a Gummi Bears cartoon.

Although the music was supposed to be from the '80s, sometimes it wasn't, like David doing "Take Me Home, Country Roads" (accompanying himself on piano), definitely from 1971.

B.C. was called to the stage and said he'd wanted to do a Debbie Gibson song, but only if he had the right headgear and a white grand piano.

Apparently the double pom-pom growing out of his headband qualified and Matt played a white toy piano while accompanist Sandy played the real thing and we heard "Lost In Your Eyes."

Good as it was, it probably brought on mall flashbacks for some people, but I wasn't one of them.

Kelsey did Traci Chapman's "Fast Car," a song that had been inescapable back in the 80s.

Matt and Susan stood facing each other across the audience to begin singing "Endless Love" before holding hands and singing together until they reached the stage.

Mid-song they even did a brief slow dance.

The corny quotient was through the roof and downright hysterical.

There were a few show tunes, like Ally and David's "Tonight You Belong to Me" from the Steve Martin movie "The Jerk."

It was a perfectly lovely song (if 1979) made more special by David wearing a t-shirt with her picture promoting Ally for Student Council vice president.

"My Mom made it," Ally explained. "I did not win."

Such was the heartbreak of the '80s. I know; I was there.

Megan and her Dad did Gershwin's "Summertime," noting, "It's not an '80s song but I'm sure it was sung in the '80s."

Midway through, someone in the crowd yelled, "Play it, Pops" to her dad who accompanied her on guitar.

"Did she say Pops?" Dad inquired mid-strum.

Andrew played "Steppin' Out Tonight" because, "This is the song I play to remind people that they know who Joe Jackson is."

Of course, anyone who lived through the 80s doesn't need a reminder.

Evan was one of the guest hosts tonight and his ensemble was so spot-on I laughed out loud when I saw him first. I'd danced with guys that looked just like that in the 80s.

Introducing the next act he dryly said, "These two want to perform something they have been practicing tirelessly. For fifteen minutes."

It was B.C. and Thomas taking Evan up on his earlier Facebook challenge.

Evan had posted that he'd buy two drinks for anyone who did "Open Arms" by Journey.

The two had a scripted response to Evan's challenge, basically summed up in their succinct responses.

"Check."

"Checkmate."

They then sang possibly the most treacly song Journey ever foisted on the public and that's saying a lot. At least they dd it well.

B.C. and Thomas, that is, not Journey.

Late in the evening, everyone from "Spring Awakening" arrived after their show and were promptly called to the stage.

The young cast treated us to "Totally F**ked," no doubt ensuring that anyone on the fence about seeing the play will now make a beeline for it.

I was already planning to.

After the pizza intermission, always a highlight after three hours of drinking and laughing, host Matt returned to the stage in gym shorts and thigh-high boots.

The pink barbie t-shirt was still there but a black and red cravat had been added for flair.

Just so you know, no one looking like that asked me to dance in the '80s.

Carly did "Get Here," a song huge in the 80s but not often heard since (do you remember Oleta Adams? I didn't think so).

One of my favorite Shakespearean actors, Foster, took the stage to tell us, "Those who know me know nothing intimidates me. This scares the shit out of me."

He proceeded to sing a lovely version of "I Melt With You" to his seated wife, even cajoling the crowd to sing along for the "Mm, mmm, mmm" part.

It was definitely a high point. Afterwards, Matt said, "That was epic," which only barely covered it.

For certain 80s veterans, Modern English trumps Journey and Debbie Gibson then and now.

Stacie and Matt sang "Total Eclipse of the Heart" while Kerry and K.B. did interpretive dance behind them.

Robin's magnificent voice gave us "Making Love Alone," I song I didn't know (Sondheim) but could appreciate, if not want to revisit.

Evan took over the piano (brilliantly, I might add) so he and D.J. could do "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me," a terrific song and excellent version, but definitely from 1974.

'70s, '80s, what's the difference?

Okay, everything, but that wasn't the point.

Andrew returned with Stacie and said, "Somebody mentioned on Facebook a need for Bananarama" before doing a medley of Lovin' Spoonful's "Summer in the City" and "Cruel, Cruel Summer."

There was an '80s costume contest late in the evening with several worthy contenders, but as far as awards go, I'd vote for a couple of standout performances.

Matt did "Faith" with high drama, hand gestures and impeccable timing.

Between his head swivels and arched eyebrows, even George Micheal would have been licking his boots.

My other standout was Lucy with a guitar doing "I Would Die for You," probably my all-time favorite song by the Purple One.

She introduced it as, "This song is from 1984 by the artist formerly known as Prince. If you know it, you know it's all electronic and not a guitar, so you may find this funny."

So not funny. Her slow and soft-voiced version was as beautiful as the original was intense and driving.

The big finale was Queen, with far more people on stage than in the audience, but by 1 a.m., who really cares?

We'd been to the '80s and back, with enough stops in the '70s to ensure that we fully appreciated the Reagan years.

And no banana clips had been harmed in the making of the '80s Ghostlight Afterparty.

Rock on, GLAP.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Smile Like You Mean It

I visit my Dad on Father's Day for many reasons.

As the oldest and the one of his six daughters who lives closest, I feel a certain sense of filial duty.

It's a shared meal.

Lunch is always his choice, often crabs, but this year fried chicken, watermelon, potato salad and corn muffins.

I get pie.

Today's was strawberry rhubarb pie a la mode.

He makes me laugh.

Whether making fun of the conservatism of the Richmond Times Dispatch or saying he'll have to have a come-to-Jesus with their neighbor about his early-morning mowing, the man is funny.

Like me, he gets the Washington Post delivered daily and I mention a recent front-page picture of a tall ship in Baltimore, notable for the men lined up high on the masts.

When he goes to retrieve the paper, he comes back shaking his head and lecturing my Mom about "Newspaper 101."

Apparently in Dad's world, old newspapers should be found in one of two places on the back porch.

This one had been in neither.

Instead, it was discovered under a pile of watermelon rinds in the kitchen. And he was not finding that acceptable.

This resulted in a long-winded but hysterical explanation of how newspapers should be cached while my Mom shook her head laughing at him and I played audience.

And that's probably the biggest reason I go to the Northern Neck every Father's Day.

It's a chance to be the adoring fan every Dad wants his daughter to be.

And considering what he showed me about men, he deserves every bit of it.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Look, He Waved!

As lovely as Summer Solstice sounds, I think Midsummer Day sounds even better.

More poetic. More musical. More indulgent.

And how satisfying that it was a pagan holiday.

After a stop at Nick's Market for sandwiches ("You put these sandwiches to good use!" I was told) we celebrated Midsummer Day at the Summer Solstice Island Power Jam on Belle Isle.

Walking up the ramp to the suspension bridge, I paused as a CSX train approached overhead.

It must have made me smile because one of the trainmen caught my eye and waved.

My reaction was that of any four year old boy.

Over on the island, the rocks were covered in people spread out for a sunny afternoon's amusement as we made our way to the back of the island.

On the way, we passed two chessboards set up on a table with two guys engaged in play.

Nearby, the sign said, "Super Chess. Are you ready?"

Nope. I just want to get to the power plant.

In keeping with the spirit of the pagans, once there we took the side path, moving through bent saplings dappled with afternoon sunlight (fairy garden-like) before doubling over to go through a low half pipe and emerge at the power plant.

Inside the remains of the building, we found a spot against the wall to watch Bermuda Triangles set up.

Three drums, sax and xylophone (?) made enough sound to hear even in the high-ceilinged stone cave of a power plant.

Then there's the beauty of an all-acoustic show: set-up and breakdown are minimal.

Every now and then, a few guys would appear in the enormous upper windows, causing everyone below to wonder how they'd gotten up there.

Best line overheard in between sets,"You can steal a baby from a hospital."

I know I should have asked, but I didn't.

Second best: "I now have a fashion advisor."

Let the record show that the guy who said this looked better than I've ever seen him look.

The Milkstains came next and it was fascinating hearing their psych-rock done unplugged.

But it worked because I felt just as groovy as usual afterwards.

Between sets, I headed to the Port-a-John where two guys biked past me talking.

"That's where I got that big scar on my leg," one said, pointing to an almost 90-degree angled wall of jutting rocks.

A glance at the wall convinced me I was lucky not to have seen the scar.

Tyrannosaurus Awesome, a garage pop duo, had a good-sized crowd for their catchy drum/guitar earnestness.

Meanwhile, a guy lit a small grill in the corner with too much lighter fluid and the flame shot up two feet.

It seemed like a bad idea.

Next up were the Garbers and singer Allison had admitted that she was planning to use a battery-powered amp.

It's a fine line between unplugged and battery-powered, I said, but she wisely reminded me that she was the organizer of the show.

The Garbers were definitely the easiest band to hear in the cavernous space.

For what that's worth.

I mean, she did organize the whole delightful day of music.

We didn't stay late enough for the dog show, although certainly there were plenty of contestant possibilities sniffing around today.

Instead, we left out through the fairy path and lazily wound our way back toward the river in the late afternoon sunlight, belly and musical souls fed.

Surely that's how a pagan would celebrate.

Party Lines

It's not like I haven't started my day with romantic comedy before.

But today the Bowtie was offering up the fluffy Doris Day/Rock Hudson classic, "Pillow Talk."

1959, holy crap, what a different world that was!

Doris had matching gloves and hats and muffs for every ensemble. Even her jewelry got a credit.

Rock romanced girls by taking them to dinner, then to a club for dancing and then for a drive; who puts that much effort into dating these days?

Single girls in NYC had maids (the always hilarious character actor, Thelma Ritter) and some people had party lines because the city couldn't put in trunk lines fast enough to satisfy the demand for private telephone lines.

Love isn't an opinion, it's a chemical reaction. 

One of the best scenes comes in a diner where a couple of customers are supposed to "punch" Tony Randall's character as he sits consoling Doris.

Apparently, the actor actually hit Randall, knocking him unconscious and the shot was so good the director used it.

I hate to admit it, but it was pretty cool to see a person hit for real and pass out. A girl like me (or a guy like my friend) doesn't often see such a thing in one's daily life (or necessarily care to).

But, who am I trying to kid here? I was there for the romance, not the fisticuffs.

It only takes one sip of wine to tell if it's a good bottle.

The love/wine analogy there was anything but subtle.

As the Thelma Ritter character put it, "If there's anything worse than a woman living alone, it's a woman saying she likes it."

I got what she meant, but we don't think things like that in 2012 anymore.

And while I may live alone, I did manage to have a date for "Pillow Talk."

I dig older women.

Now I'll work on finding a muff.

Vienna Sausage Envy

There's nothing like seeing a grown man cry.

Not that there was anything to cry about at The Roosevelt where the evening began.

We arrived early and had our pick of seats in the light-filled dining room. All we really needed were the two end stools.

I always enjoy being in The Roosevelt early on before the hordes descend. The vibe is so completely different.

'Tis the season, so we got a bottle of Boxwood Rose to ease us into the weekend.

Like we needed easing.

The good news was that the menu had just been tweaked today, making for some new choices for us regulars.

Crostini thick with local ricotta, anchovies and radish slices satisfied us to start.

A new salad of peaches, burrata, hazelnuts and arugula with banyuls vinaigrette delivered the taste of summer fruit and the ultra creaminess that mozzarella only wishes it had.

Hand-cut steak tartare got a richness boost from an egg yolk and charcoal vinaigrette, making for a plate sopped clean with bread so as not to miss a trace of charcoal, beef or egg.

Between discussing Members Only, the local '80s cover band that's got everyone dancing lately and hearing about how to handle a lubricated customer from bartender T, we hadn't noticed how much time had flown.

I should have realized because the dining room was suddenly full.

Coca cola cake and King Family Loreley were requested in short order, giving us the sweet period at the end of the meal sentence.

Properly fortified and dressed appropriately, it was time for the GayRVA third birthday party at Gallery 5.

The party was still very much in the mingling stage when we arrived and the host was giving everyone a bear hug as welcome.

3-D glasses were handed out at the door, tying in to the theme "Attack of the 30-Foot Drag Queens."

It didn't take long to find friends or drinks as DJ Soigne West kept the bass thumping.

And such friends. The handsome theater critic complimented my brief dress, Princess Di ruffled my hair, telling me how much he liked my "sex" hair and a guy I met a year ago told me he reads my blog regularly and loves it.

A girl can't get too much of that kind of attention.

The buffet was courtesy of Crossroads VCU and had a '50 theme: spanikopita, cream cheese-stuffed celery, cheese and Country Club crackers.

But as a friend noted, it also had a particularly phallic theme: pigs in a blanket, meatballs, Vienna sausages.

Yes, Vienna sausages. We'll leave it at that.

Cupcakes came from Delish and the dark chocolate frosted chocolate one I tried was spicy with the heat of cayenne.

It wasn't long before the show started and it was being hosted by Natasha Carrington, self-described as "a fat guy in a dress."

Actually, she had on a bodysuit, a sparkly shrug and impossibly high heels.

Before long, press-on nails were flying off the stage and she was shimmying all over the place.

Women began approaching the stage with dollar bills for her efforts and I noticed more than one woman with a wad of bills tucked into her bra or shirt pocket.

I wish I'd known.

Talking afterwards, Natasha began having microphone issues and insisted to no one in particular that it be fixed.

Once that problem had been solved, she joked, "How many gay men does it take to fix a microphone?''

She paused less than one beat. "None!" she cackled. "Get a lesbian!"

Later when she commented on how warm the room was (the radiators actually felt warm for some reason), she called out, "Any lesbians out there with heating and air conditioning skills?"

Natasha wasn't the only performer; we also saw Scarlet Starlet in red fishnets and eventually her pasties before Deanna Danger took the stage and did the same but with a hula hoop.

But Natasha was our hostess and she never stopped engaging and provoking the audience.

"Will you look at this tuck job?" she asked, looking very feminine down there. So we did look.

When it was time for the big moment, the announcement of GayRVA's Richmonder of the Year, Natasha stood by as publisher Kevin praised the winner as someone who'd been tireless in his work fundraising for HIV awareness and the Fan Free Clinic.

And then boom, the announcement that it was Natasha, aka John, and the tears began to fall.

Accepting a bouquet and goody bag, Natasha wiped her mascaraed eyes and shouted, "F**k you bitches for making me cry!"

It was actually a very touching moment.

Eventually we moved on from burlesque to boylesque with Jebidiah Stone taking the stage dancing in a  cardboard robot costume that was eventually shed for shiny blue shorts, then black briefs and eventually a G-string.

And he never stopped dancing, flipping and flexing.

"Ladies and gentlemen," Natasha roared afterwards, "That's how a man should take off his clothes!"

Okay, maybe not every time, but on occasion, it would definitely have its appeal.

Scarlet performed again and so did Deanna, although this time it was her aerial stylings.

Out of nowhere there was a large metal ring hung from the ceiling and she mounted it, weaving her body in, on and under it in any number of suspended provocative poses.

And speaking of provocative, on a trip to the bathroom, I excused myself by a large group and one woman looked me up and down and said, "Mmm, mmm, mmm!"

I think I knew what she meant, but I'm not sure we're compatible.

I can't fix a microphone.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Let It Bleed

Call me a killer queen.

I drank my Moet et Chandon in front of a pretty cabinet.

Actually, it was a giant safe made over into a wine cabinet, but you get the point.

I was at the new 525, the restaurant in the old Berry Burke space catty-cornered from Center Stage.

Turns out it was their first night of official business and it's where I was meeting a dapper couple for dinner.

I arrived to find the bar in complete disarray since their first liquor order had just come in so they were busy stocking the back bar.

No matter, we took a bar table in the window that faces Grace Street.

Friend suggested the Moet et Chandon Imperial Brut Reservet to keep us occupied until his beloved arrived and who am I to argue with dry, French bubbles I can't afford?

We sipped while checking out the new restaurant, him noticing the absence of art on the walls and me commenting on the music being played (Maroon 5, Norah Jones).

The space is packed tight with tables and banquettes, so it looks to be noisy when full. Menswear accents aside, the design is spare.

Once we moved to a table, we were fronting 6th Street, with a picture perfect view of CenterStage's impressive facade.

A bottle of Rooiberg Sauvignon Blanc was a thoughtful concession to my fondness for South African wines.

The menu made it clear that it was an opening night menu only, so we chose from what was available.

A shrimp cocktail sauteed in butter and garlic came with tartar sauce and was a generous six pieces.

Asparagus with crawfish and shrimp salad followed and then an obscenely rich cream cheese/red pepper shrimp dip with crostini.

Beef medallions ordered medium rare came out well done and just as we finished them, our server arrived with another round of them, these medium rare.

Clearly someone had caught the error, 'cause we hadn't said a thing.

Scallops with pea and lobster risotto got mixed reviews; one hated the green color (and peas) and the other thought it lovely.

Fried green tomato Napoleons with a layer of crabmeat had a corn and pepper relish that was my favorite flavor combination of the evening.

We finished with an array of desserts: chocolate molten lava cake (I know), caramel ice cream and apple crisp a la mode.

The dense, buttery caramel ice cream got the biggest thumbs up from me.

We were on the dessert course before anyone else sat down in the dining room and the absence of humans had made the air conditioning feel excessive, but when I mentioned how cold I was, our affable server made it stop.

By the time we left it was going on 8:00 and the dining room was still filled with light but not yet people.

But it was almost curtain time for the three of us.

Over at Richmond Triangle Players, we got the last three seats together for "8," a play about the suit filed against the state of California for banning marriage for gay and lesbian couples.

The performance, a staged reading, was a benefit for the American Foundation for Equal Rights, so we were also doing good.

The story centered on the closing arguments of the trial, particularly poignant when it dealt with the two women who'd brought suit and had their two sons at the proceedings.

There's really no way to prepare kids to see their parents in a courtroom arguing for the right to be legally married.

Some moments of the script were basic truths, like "Marriage is hard work" and others were laugh out loud funny.

Wait, that one was both.

The reading was short, the actors were strong and the audience receptive to the message, making for a satisfying evening of theater.

After I left the boys, I beat feet to the Camel for the sold-out Jonathan Richman show.

How RVA ended up with the godfather of punk and founder of the Modern Lovers on a Thursday night, I have no idea, but I wasn't missing it, either.

The Camel was packed to the rafters and the room was incredibly hot without air-conditioning.

I'd begun the night shivering and ended it with my dress stuck to my sweaty body.

Even so, I wedged my way up to the second row center, the better to experience this man.

Richman was performing, as he has since 1993, with drummer/percussionist Tommy Larkins and the two were like an old married couple they were so in sync.

After a brief intermission so Richman could go outside and cool off, he did "I Was Dancing in the Lesbian Bar."

Well, in the first bar things were controlled
But in this bar, things were rock and roll.

And they were most definitely rock and roll at the Camel tonight.

The people there were fans: dancing fans, singing fans, cheering fans, all thrilled to have Jonathan Richman so up close and personal.

When there were issues with his guitar mic, he came down off the stage and into the worshipful crowd, strumming his guitar and singing "Santa Lucia."

Allow me to state the obvious. It was frickin' awesome.

I was one person away from him then and could make eye contact as he sang.

What female doesn't want a man to strum his guitar and sing in Italian in her direction?

When he began an extended "Bohemia," he insisted we join in for the chorus and the adoring audience obliged.

"They showed me the door to Bohemia," we sang again and again.

And isn't that a door many of us want to be shown?

Between songs, someone near me lost control of his glass and it crashed to the floor at my feet.

"You okay?" Butterfingers asked.

Looking down at the glass surrounding my sandals, I saw blood on my ankle.

I raised my leg to show him and a nearby artist friend took note.

"It's so Jonathan Richman of you to bleed," he said with admiration in his voice.

When the show ended with a children's song comprised of foreign words of multiple languages sung a capella, the crowd moved outside, gasping for cooler air like fish in a scummy pool.

Outside in the light, I got a few more comments on my blood-stained leg before saying my goodnights.

Sometimes a little blood is the price you pay for having walked through the door to Bohemia.

Fine. I'm completely okay with that.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Yippie Yi Yo

Cowboys and Indians. Them'll get you started.

Belle Voix was the name of tonight's Happy Hour at VCU's Anderson Gallery and how belle it was!

It just happened to feature the Bird and Her Consort, otherwise known as  Antonia and Jonathan Vasser doing a seductive mix of cowboy songs and French cafe tunes.

Could there be a lovelier way to start a Wednesday evening?

We arrived during the second song (I'd only missed one song, but what a song!), got seats and soon heard "Street of Laredo" in Antonia's beautiful classical voice.

When she finished singing it, she admitted,"Okay, I got through that song without crying."

It would have been a shame if she had cried (although the melancholy way she sang it warranted a tear or two) because of how adorable she looked.

A pale blue dress had a white apron detail on the front and a snappy red belt to pull it all together.

She looked like a songbird from the '40s.

Coincidentally, she later sang a lyric, "I wore my apron low" and "I wore my apron high" and I think we can all agree what that means.

They did the song "Ghost," which they'd also done at last year's Anderson event.

From a handful of cowboy tunes to "Plaisir d'Amour," a song I wouldn't have thought I'd recognize, even when Antonia mentioned Elvis.

Sure enough, the melody was instantly recognizable as the King's "I Can't Help Falling in Love with You."

Explaining the song's French lyrics about heartbreak, Antonia recommended, "It's not a good first date song."

Duly noted.

Also noted was Antonia's different expressions; she was wide-eyed and gosh-golly sweet looking for the cowboy material and coquettish and alluring for the French songs.

I also loved watching Jonathan accompany her on guitar since I usually see him playing his own material and singing.

Here he is just the Bird's talented and handsome guitarist. Not a bad consort if you can get one.

After happy hour came comedy at my neighborhood record store, Steady Sounds.

A co-worker from another lifetime, Jeph Kelly, went first and read tales of fireman envy and tongue-in-cheek Oklahoma City pride.

The Checkout Girl, Jennifer Lemons, got points right off for doing Radiohead's "Creep" on ukulele before reading of spelling bee urination and masturbating uncles.

Kenny Wingle began with a jingle (and ended with a tingle) but did his stand-up with uncle-like humor.

Except I don't think uncle humor includes baby mama jokes and balls.

But his explanation  of his Indian heritage ("Feathers, not dots") was hysterical.

That should have been it for the night, but comedian and former Richmonder Sara Schaefer, who's doing a big show at Gallery 5 tomorrow night, dropped by.

Her impromptu discourse on dildos, vibrators and Judy Tenuta left her uncomfortable and some of us laughing too loud.

She said she wanted to get that joke out of her system because her father was coming to the show tomorrow night with his new wife and she wasn't ready for her Dad to know certain things.

At this point, I'm sure whatever my dad doesn't know, he presumes.

A two-block walk put the other loud laugher and I at Bistro 27 for dinner.

The meal began swimmingly with 27's new small batch sangria, a wild cherry, almond and bitters mixture that had none of sangria's usual cloying sweetness.

Easily the best sangria I've ever had and the soaked cherries at the bottom were an unexpected bonus.

It was a simple supper of spot-on flavors: a Caprese with housemade Mozzarella, grilled eggplant with goat cheese stuffing and bacon-wrapped scallops over perfectly cooked lentils.

We had more sangria with a dessert of chocolate excess: hazelnut tart and chocolate mousse.

Never let it be said that I couldn't die happy after a satisfying evening like that.

And, please, bury me not on the lone prairie.

But could I have a pitcher of that sangria to go with me?

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Avoid Blockhead Suitors

I'd have been awful as a founding daughter.

Take Martha Jefferson Randolph, for instance. Daughter of Thomas Jefferson and wife of Thomas Mann Randolph.

The woman had thirteen pregnancies and eleven children. Basically, she was pregnant every two years from the moment she got married.

In that respect, it must have sucked to have been Martha.

Today's noontime lecture at the Library of Virginia was "Martha Jefferson Randolph: Daughter of Monticello," given by author Cynthia Kierner who wrote a book of the same title.

As I've said before, I like my history with breasts.

In a break from the usual eventual focus on T.J., the book and talk approached Martha with the eye of an historian of southern woman.

Because, blasphemous as it sounds in Virginia, all roads don't necessarily lead back to Jefferson.

Not that being his daughter didn't have perks for Martha.

She went to convent school in Paris while Dad was Minister to France.

At a time when few Southern women were educated, she wrote and spoke four languages (Kierner asked for a show of hands of who in the room could do the same. Zero hands shot up).

Her social skills were said to be fit for any court in Europe. Her niece claimed she had a "perfect temper."

Cosmopolitan and used to an upscale social life, Martha was considered an exemplary woman.

I bet the definition of what that means has changed in the past couple of centuries.

Even so, before her marriage at age 18 after a two-month whirlwind courtship, her father openly worried that she might "marry a blockhead."

Turns out her beloved wasn't the best land or money manager, but ole Martha kept both his plantation and Monticello running as well as could be expected considering how in debt they both were.

That's when she wasn't off in Washington at the White House making Dad look more wholesome after the whole Sally Hemmings unpleasantness.

Which brings up Kierner's whole point. Well-behaved women seldom make history, it's been said.

And yet Martha, the exemplary women, made quiet history without exhibiting any improper actions or habits.

I can admire her, but I sure wouldn't want to have been her.

And I'm guessing that the heavily female audience (so large it went into the back room) felt the same.

You can only ask so much of a woman.

Martha's strength was doing so much more than any modern woman would consider doing.

Exemplary womanhood must be so much more easily attained when you're not squeezing out babies every other year.

No doubt about it. I'd have been an epic failure as a founding daughter.

Hell, I'm still working on acquiring that perfect temper.

He Wants, She Wants

Should I know what do I want to do with the next year, or even five years, of my life?

I got to thinking about that because it's been a day to listen to my friends' plans for the future.

Out of the blue, I heard how they have decided to make sharp turns and try something completely different with their lives.

Although the first had been a surprise, I knew there was news with the friend I met for happy hour. He'd said so when he asked me to meet him at Garnett's.

Although fairly low key on arrival, the joint was soon jumping with a butt in nearly every seat.

And I've been told that that's the goal of a restaurant owner.

I started with the Gabriele Rausse rose, which didn't displace King Family's Crose' as my favorite Virginia pink, but satisfied nonetheless.

While my friend told me about his upcoming career change, we took advantage of the $3 happy hour specials.

Devils on horseback (bacon wrapped dates), tea sandwiches of ham and garlic ailoi on crostini, and white bean spread with avocado on crostini made for a tasty little sampling of flavors.

As I listened to how my friend's commuting miles will go from hundreds of miles a week to barely 50 a week, I could tell he's been overdue for a change.

I don't have commuting issues, but maybe there's some other facet to my life that needs addressing.

For our discussion of winery work, classic French bubbles and over-hyped restaurants, I switched to Gabriele Rausse Vin de Gris.

It's such a familiar and easy-drinking wine.

Which is sort of a description of Garnett's for me: familiar and easy.

In the few feet between our table and getting something from my car, I first ran into my organizer friend having dinner with her mom (Mom said, "I've heard  about you!").

Stepping outside, I then ran into the beekeeper holding a vase of wilted flowers ("Love your hair!").

God knows if I'd walked to the end of the block who else I might have met.

We finished our rendezvous by walking across the street to Meadow Park to discuss Antero, hip-hop versus country (he plays in both kinds of bands) and the suitability of Civil War monuments in the capital of the Confederacy.

Only when the fireflies appeared did we break camp so he could start his long commute home.

With no cultural destination tonight, I decided to revisit Six Burner since the recent relaunching had been too mobbed to get a handle on the new vibe.

Luckily, a holdover from the old vibe is half off on wines by the glass on Tuesdays, so I tried the elegant Stefano Massone Gavi for four bucks.

Glass in hand, the next thing I noticed was how much louder the music was than it used to be.

Amen to that.

Tonight it was set on a Pandora station with Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings as the starting point.


Okay, maybe not my first choice, but way better than the soft jazz that used to be standard play.

It must be a new direction because they're also going to do live music on Wednesday nights. And beer specials.

What? Toto, I don't think we're in Six Burner anymore. Except we were.

There was a lively trio at the bar and he was chiding her about lifestyle choices.

"You said you wanted to participate in my debauchery and reckless behavior. Did we not do that this weekend?" she inquired rhetorically. "Yes, we did!"

Brilliant. Always remind a man what he said he wanted.

I lost interest in them when my arugula salad with goat cheese and roasted beets arrived, notable for the warm, lightly salted beets (red and striped) contrasting with the peppery arugula.

The salad was a conscience salve for my other choice, crispy pork belly confit with a fried duck egg and jalapeno johnny cakes covered in Highland County maple syrup.

The pork belly may have been a tad too salty but the sweetness of the syrup made it less of an issue.

Meanwhile the giant duck egg coated everything in an obscene richness.

Dessert was a moot point because the syrup had more than satisfied my sweet tooth.

But even without dessert, I now had a much better read on the "new" Six Burner.

Louder, cheaper, more varied menu, better music.

Always give a woman what she wants and she'll keep coming back.

Even if she has no idea where she's going forward.

The question is, does she really need to?

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Rainy Indulgence

I consider this a perfect beach day.

If I were there today, I'd spend the afternoon sitting on the porch spring watching/listening/smelling the rain and, depending on the company, drinking something ridiculously quaffable.

A nap might follow depending on my mood.

But I'm not at the beach today, so my Plan B made the best of the weather anyway.

I met a friend at Lunch for lunch, arriving just as the rain began. He was waiting for me at the bar.

He said he was getting the Parker Field, essentially a BLT using pecanwood-smoked bacon and avocado on multi-grain bread.

Growing up, my father, a native Richmonder, had told many stories about Parker Field, which had been demolished before I moved to RVA.

In a nod to my Dad, I got the sandwich too, just so I can tell him I did when I see him Sunday for Father's Day.

It was a fine BLAT with plenty of bacon, the ripest of avocados and sweet, ripe tomato slices.

We also savored one of today's specials, bacon and cheddar deviled eggs, a ridiculously decadent take on the picnic standard.

He told me about the First Annual Bartender Brawl (too costly for my pocketbook) and I told him of my support for spirit tastings as the newest bar trend.

We both want to see a tequila tasting.

After we parted company, I headed home to change into shorts and take my daily constitutional in the rain.

First I had to run the gauntlet of graduation traffic which is wreaking havoc with my neighborhood this week.

But once safely on Grace Street, I was rewarded with not one but two compliments on the loveliness of my umbrella,

For the record, I got it for a buck at Diversity Thrift three years ago.

But it's the perfect size to keep me dry on all sides when walking in a softly-falling rain. And it always gets me comments from strangers.

Which I wouldn't get if I were sitting on the porch swing at the beach during the rain.

Point being, I can find pleasure in a day like this no matter where I am. Try me.

If We Ever Met

In the scheme of Monday nights, I could do far worse.

First there was Carytown's tequila bar, Don't Look Back, for some Cazadores and mariachi music, albeit only briefly.

But that was just setting the scene for a wide-ranging night of music at the Camel, where the topic of ticketed patrons (like me) is still very much a hot one.

I spoke to a friend who'd not discovered the ticket on his car for several days, meaning he'd been falsely lulled into thinking he'd escaped penalty.

It's going to be interesting to see how long it takes to get the outdated "No Parking 11 p.m. to 4 a.m." signs removed.

I can assure the city that as many times as I've parked along that strip to go to the Firehouse or the Camel, I've never once seen any "cruising," supposedly the reason behind the signs.

Inside the Camel, Dave Watkins and his mighty electric dulcitar were already in full epic mode when we walked in.

I joined a group of devotees a few feet from where Dave had set up on the floor.

Within minutes, I could tell who was experiencing Dave's magic for the first time by the look of amazement on their faces.

When his set ended, one of the guys turned around with his mouth hanging open.

"First time?" I asked, knowing the answer.

"Yea," he said, clearly still in awe. "What was that he was playing?"

Electric dulcitar, I explained as smoothly as any tour guide, mentioning that he also has an acoustic one.

With Dave's shows, it's not just that he loops endless sounds to create a lush soundscape coming from a one-man band.

He's also playing a highly unique instrument unfamiliar to most people. The combination is generally irresistible.

Next up was the reason for the show, the Nashville trio Paper Lanterns.

With an instrument arsenal that included, upright bass, guitar, mandolin, ukulele, glockenspiel and accordion, they impressed by trading off constantly.

And then there were the incredible three-part harmonies that defined their sound as they played a set and clearly had fun with it.

"We all have super hero alter-egos," they said by way if explaining the buttons they were giving away.

Before their last song, "Fool's Gold," they said, "Come see us at the merch table and give us a hug...or some money."

I thought they deserved both.

Zac Hryciak and the Jungle Beat followed and they're a good example of a local band with an amazing sound who don't play out often enough.

The affable Zac began by admitting, "I was drunk and then I had three cups of coffee, but I'm gonna be so good for you."

That was a promise he kept, as much because of his sweet-voiced singing as for the well-placed violin and distinctive drumming.

We were asked to pity the poor bass player who was doing a stellar job in spite of recent mayhem.

"He works on a food cart and they went to Bonnaroo and he chopped off part of his finger," Zac informed us.

Ouch. Well done, sir, considering the injury.

For my companion, who'd never heard the band before, it was a delight to hear the tempo changes, gypsy-like drumming and diverse song structures that are Jungle Beat.

And as many times as I've heard them, like here, here and here, I proudly wave my fan flag every time I get a chance.

During the break, I ran into Laney, recently returned from touring Europe and the musician who had organized the show months ago when her band, Lobo Marino, had played with Paper Lanterns.

I don't know which of us was happier to see the other, but it's always good when her positive energy is back in River City.

The last set of the night was by Moonbees and credit went to the fans who stuck around for the fourth band of a Monday night show.

And I don't mean me since what else did I have to do at that hour of early Tuesday morning?

I can never decide which appeals more to me about the Moonbees' sound: the epic guitar playing or the multiple male voices singing.

Songs one part psychedelic made for one melodic gem after another for a set that rewarded those of us who'd hung past midnight.

Luckily, we were parked legally, so we could. How better to ensure not having a Blue Monday?