Thursday, June 19, 2014

Mid-Afternoon Thrash

They pick up their conversation like it was the next day and not a full year since they last saw each other.

His drive down 95 from Washington lasts an excruciating three hours so lunch doesn't begin until 2:45, but fortuitously she has chosen Dinamo because they don't close between lunch and dinner.

The restaurant is cool with air conditioning, a welcome respite from her 90-degree apartment, and devoid of people except staff. Interestingly enough, the music is atypically thrash, not unwelcome but probably not what plays during dinner hour.

Eager to get busy talking, they scan the menu for cool, summery dishes to suit the sweltering day, deciding on the cold seafood salad (easily the best in Richmond), eggs in tuna sauce and after a heartfelt recommendation from the server, squash salad.

His pick for poison is a Negroni (still recalling with fondness the one Bobby K. made for him several summers ago here) while hers is a glass of Trebbiano and with chilled libations delivered, they dive into the conversational pool.

As the plates begin to arrive, he shares experiences -good, bad and ugly - from his recent trip to Africa as well as updates about the book he's currently writing and revising, an odyssey through art, family and choices.

The seafood salad, a wonder of olive oil, red onions and lemon juice over fresh seafood, is worthy of an Italian seaside cafe. The tuna sauce turns the soft-cooked  eggs into something obscenely rich and sensuous. And ho-hum squash transforms into the essence of summer as the centerpiece of a cold dish with tomato sauce and onions. A memorable cold meal.

They use his phone to look at intense, expressionistic paintings by Oskar Kokoschka, an Austrian artist she's never heard of until now but plans to do some research on. He tells her she should be reading Lucky Peach, which he is sure Chop Suey carries, and she makes a mental note to look for it.

When he inquires about coffee, the server tells him it's the best in town, a fact he doubts because it's Illy, not usually a favorite of his, but orders it anyway and is pleasantly surprised at how good it is. A non-coffee drinker, she takes his word for it.

Generously, he tells her she looks younger than the last time he saw her and compliments her longer hair, even the cut of it. When he notices the server's hair is similar, he makes a joke about it being all the rage in Richmond.

Lunch ends (with him marveling at the tab, so different than lunch prices in D.C.) because he has dinner plans shortly and needs to pick up a bottle of wine with which to gift his hostess, a three-named southern woman.

She directs him back to her neighborhood to Saison market where a small group is watching the World Cup, sipping happy hour beer and munching on bread and cured meat.

The visitor winds up with not just wine for the hostess, but a large cube ice tray and a set of vintage Italian coasters he considers under-priced, fearful if he doesn't buy them he will regret it later. Or so he tells himself.

Leaving the market, they see that the sky has darkened to the point of a storm announcement but since they are mere blocks from her house, they make it back before the heavens explode.

People are sitting on the porch next door watching and commenting on the lightening show when he drops her home and minutes later, the rain is pelting down in sheets.

Before he goes, he reminds her that it's her turn to come to Washington for dinner and she agrees, always happy to have a reason to see her birthplace.

Whether that dinner happens sooner or later, it's likely they will continue the conversation where they left off. Mid-paragraph.

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