If ever anyone doubted the musical quality of life in this town, I offer the following.
At 4:00, I had no plans. None materialized by 5:00 or even 6:00.
So by 6:30, I knew I needed to start working towards something to do until the late night birthday party I was attending began.
As I showered, I considered my options, looking for low cost.
I could go to a movie or for that same ten bucks, I could go hear the Richmond Symphony.
At 7:15, I left for CenterStage and by 7:30, had purchased a $10 ticket.
By 7:35, I was settled into the very back row with an empty seat next to me.
Before long it was filled by a guy who'd driven in 40 minutes from the far reaches of Hanover County.
When I asked what had brought him out on this slushy evening, he got right to the point.
"I was trying to decide whether to go to a movie or come hear some friends play music, so I decided on this."
Bingo. Here was tonight's soul mate.
Like me, he didn't mind being in the cheap seats.
"I don't need to see their faces," he said with a smile. "Hi, I'm Steve."
Turns out he's roommates with one of the symphony's viola players.
"People ask if that isn't really cool, getting to hear classical music all the time," he said. "But it's a viola, so I hear a lot of background stuff, but never any melodies. And lots of scales."
Before long, the concert began and the new concertmaster was introduced.
And there he was, the guy I'd met at the Mardi Gras party Tuesday, the one whom I'd heard say, "Where are the single women?" just before the host introduced us.
Let's just say he was way more dressed up tonight.
To get us in the mood for tonight's piece de resistance, first we heard Mozart's overture for "The Magic Flute."
I saw my friend Matt, the symphony's librarian and a bass player, come onstage with music and I knew it wasn't the last I'd see of him tonight.
Next came what conductor Erin Freeman described as "a sonic journey," composed in 2007 by John Hedges and called, "Prayers of Rain and Wind."
The cool part was that Hedges had written the concerto for double bass player Joseph Conyers, who also happened to be in the house.
And playing for us tonight.
Hedges had written the piece for Conyers, a weather freak.
It began with "Summer Rain Fantasia," a rendering of a muggy, humid night, a lovely thing to evoke on this frigid evening.
Conyers' bass then offers up a prayer, "Hymn," to the weather gods and a gentle rain begins, followed by horns announcing the hurricane.
It started with winds (think "The Wizard of Oz") and moves on to the eye of the storm and you could almost feel the release as the sky exploded sonically.
For me, it was a lot like watching the weather from my balcony, knowing that the oppressive heat will eventually give way to the release of a good thunderstorm.
After intermission, we got the reason every seat was full tonight.
The symphony, along with the Richmond Symphony Chorus (all 140 of them) and four soloists, was doing Mozart's "Requiem."
My knowledge of classical music is embarrassingly shallow, but even I knew that it was Mozart's last work and left unfinished when he kicked the bucket.
It was an incredibly moving piece that got a standing ovation afterwards.
Walking out, a woman behind me said, "It was all I could do not to sing along."
I only wish I was savvy enough to wish for the same.
Steve wished me a good evening and I had no doubt it would be since I was heading to a musician friend's birthday party at Patrick Henry Pub in Church Hill.
Turns out it was a multi-person party, with not one, but four people being feted, of which I knew two.
There were probably only 25 people when I arrived, but that number soon grew.
As if the birthdays weren't enough to celebrate, it was also Saturday night, so everywhere I turned, I got interesting if not inebriated conversation.
A woman told me about her shoplifting blind aunt who used to take her with her to Woolworth's when she was a child.
"She'd always have a cigarette hanging out of her mouth," she said. It's quite a visual.
Overheard near the bar: "Back in high school drama class, she supported Bush/Cheney, but now she says she didn't, but I know she did."
When the subject of tequila came up, the talented Herschel made a face, saying he couldn't stand the burning sensation going down.
When I asked if he'd tried good tequilas, he looked at me like I was an idiot.
"I'm Prabir's brother. Of course I've tasted every tequila."
Someone walked up to the guy next to me and inquired, "Are you rolling in the deep?" to which my friend responded, "I don't even know what that means."
And, yes, Matt showed up again, this time sans tux, and there was a protracted discussion of attending a bris, something I did once and intend to never repeat.
The party's hosts had promised food "to soak up the alcohol," and I, for one, couldn't resist the array of potato skins, meatballs and wings.
Now, that's party food.
After a few hours with the DJ spinning the Ramones and the like, our attention was called.
"Does everyone know what we're celebrating?" one of our hosts asked.
It's a good bet that most people did not.
I know that when I had walked into the pub next to a stranger and asked if he was coming to Willis' party and he had said, "Who's Willis?"
So that was clarified for all who weren't overly loopy at this point. and then the live entertainment began.
Everyone's favorite ukulele player who wears a ninja hat, Herschel, then proceeded to play while birthday boy Willis held the mic and did interpretive dance.
There was "Beauty Rest," about a girl who was ugly on the outside, but working on it.
Aren't we all?
He introduced the next song by saying, "It's weird that the way you move has so much attraction. So this is like a sex advice column."
Rile #1 was, "Don't talk."
Rule #2 was, "Shake that ass."
So you see where this song was going.
Meanwhile, Willis danced to Herschel's beat, moving the mic up to his mouth and down to his uke and inciting the crowd to sing the "na-na-na" chorus when appropriate.
His last song was dedicated to several friends who'd died, taking Herschel on a tangent about children dying before their parents.
His suggested solution was not to have children.
But then he sang Randy Newman's "Losing You" beautifully and his lecture was forgotten.
Performance over, the DJ cranked it up again and the party started back in earnest.
I wiled away some time with the smokers on the front porch before deciding to slide back down the hill and call it a night.
It had been a hell of a night's entertainment for ten bones.
And how often do you get wings and Mozart on the same night?