Good times never seemed so good as a Sunday with nothing more than music on the menu.
Not willing to wait for today's date to get ready, I showed up all but unannounced with a bottle of Kuentz-Bas Riesling and a good attitude.
On the agenda for today was brunch with Diamond Heist at Cary Street Cafe and I intended to catch as much of the band as possible. Except that once we cracked the bottle of spicy and lush mouth-watering Riesling, the "dressing drink" period took away some of the urgency, if you know what I mean.
Eventually, we made it to Cary Street Cafe where an almost full house was swinging to the sounds of classic Neil Diamond songs, which I'm totally into.
I could blame it on my parents who took me to a Neil Diamond concert in 1979 or I could just admit that I appreciate the man's Tin Pan Alley talent and leave it at that.
We found seats at the bar, right in front of the "I See Drunk People" sign and to the right of the ice cold Jagermiester shots tap, appropriating a stool from a nearby table where it was being wasted as a purse holder.
"This is a song about a chair," lead singer Will joked before I began sipping my 1800 to "I Am, I Said."
I think it was while I was eating my Brazilian black bean soup that a photographer appeared and began shooting pictures of people at the bar, saying, "I wait till food gets near the mouth." You know, because few things are as attractive as people chewing.
Nudging me, my date whispered, "See, I told you it was a Dead bar," pointing at a skull behind the bar. Do I care about the Dead when "Sweet Caroline" is being sung? Or ever? I do not.
Unfortunately, we'd arrived not long before the band's break and while it gave us an opportunity to eat, the bonus was that Will (aka Neil) was working the room and stopped by to chat.
His "diamond"-encrusted collar and initial applique didn't go half as far at establishing his Neil credibility as his voice did, with the same distinctive low, gravel-filled sound that defined all those hits.
Once Diamond Heist took the stage again, we heard "Hello Again" and "Holly, Holy," two classics.
But, as Will pointed out, one thing Neil was known for was writing for other singers, so they then did "Red, Red Wine."
After the melancholy "Solitary Man," Will quipped, "If you didn't notice Rebecca's vibraslap solo, she'll do it again." What's key there is that I now know what that thing is called.
Introducing "If You Know What I Mean," off the "Beautiful Noise" album (yep, have it on vinyl), he called it "an oddly arranged album produced by Robbie Robertson." Afterwards, the drummer cracked, "We're going to call a mulligan on that one. Who wrote the set list?"
"Music is hard," Will told us before doing "Shiloh" (dubbing it afterwards, "Success with an awkward moment there"). Meanwhile, a girl came in, sat down at the bar and was handed a copy of a crossword puzzle with no words exchanged.
She worked diligently on it for 15 minutes, slid it across the bar and then turned to watch the band as if her work here was now finished.
"If anyone knows how to polka, this is the standard Neil Diamond polka song," he said about the song, "Beautiful Noise,"
And with what is probably the finest band solicitation I've ever heard, Will announced, "Like most fourteen year olds, we're on Facebook, so if you're ready to commit, we have a page."
How did we commit before the Facebook era anyway?
I'd have to say my only regret of the afternoon was not dancing to "I'm a Believer," but you can be sure that'll never happen again. We live, we learn.
During "Coming to America," the crowd got seriously into it (or perhaps were sufficiently drunk by then) to shout "today!" along with the band. "You are too kind," the drummer said at the end. "Because I f*cked that last one up."
The guy was hysterical.
The final offering, "Song Sung Blue," was a full-on singalong but the crowd was unwilling to accept that the fun was over.
"We literally know one more Neil Diamond song," Will said, half apologetically and they tore into "Brother Love's Traveling Salvation Show," a killer closer.
I mean, really. Who else on earth could sell a line such as, "Pack up the babies and grab the old ladies"? Who? No one but Neil, that's who.
After I saw a few songs of a Diamond Heist show a few weeks ago, I was telling a friend how much I'd enjoyed it and how I intended to go back and see them again. She was incredulous.
"You? You, Miss Must Have New Music, Miss Hates Classic Rock likes a Neil Diamond cover band? Who are you and what have you done with Karen?"
Please. The songs are classic '60s and '70s pop and, as far as I'm concerned, a blast to hear played live.
My parents would be so proud.
Once the band was finished there, so were we. With a couple hours to kill before the next band I wanted to go see, we decided a bottle of Domaine du Pere Caboche Rose and a cheese plate in the garden were in order.
Besides investigating the four kinds of mint - apple, pepper, spear and lemon - growing back there (a regular mojito garden) we got into a philosophical discussion of the proper length of time in a relationship before a man should propose.
My friend had some real life experience to back up her opinion about the danger of a man waiting too long to ask. You snooze, you lose, according to her.
When we left for Commercial Taphouse, we detoured through an alley where I was enchanted to see the most magnificent alley garden I've ever witnessed. And this town has some doozies.
This guy's beds, containers and trellises were breathtaking, with lisianthus (which I've always found tough to grow), stargazer lilies, bougainvillea, orchids, and the first artichoke plants I'd ever seen. Oh, yes, and zinnia,s gourds, tomatoes, herbs and who knows what all.
He had it all - topiary, bee hives, statuary, a koi pond, espaliered fruit trees- and apparently the time to maintain it all because everything looked lush and beautiful, as if we weren't in the middle of a dry spell.
Tearing ourselves away from his wonderland, we continued on, coming across two guys sitting at a table behind McCormack's Whisky Grill who wanted to know where we were headed.
Luckily for us, they approved of us going to Commercial for music and let us pass.
We managed to nab the last table inside (after two grown men apparently raised by wolves snatched the table we were headed for) where Loversville was already breaking hearts and twanging hard, the pedal steel just wringing out every aching note as lead singer Cassandra and her beehive held down the vintage look.
Having seen them before, I was more than ready for old school country music a la Patsy Cline, George Jones, and Everly Brothers. You know, gems like "It's the Bottle Talking,""I'll Do My Crying in the Rain" and the always popular "Pick Me Up On Your Way Down."
They just don't write 'em like that anymore, do they?
"We got an accordion in the house," Cassandra said and we were treated to a drop-in accordion player on the next few songs. Next thing we knew, the pedal steel player switched to fiddle and it was practically a jamboree.
In tribute to Tommy Ramone's recent demise, they even did a Ramones song, at which point my friend told me she'd seen them at the Boathouse in Norfolk in 1993. I had no idea.
The things you find out about a person when you spend seven hours with them.
Or maybe that was just the bottle talking.