Once in a blue moon, that's how often I have two reasons to go to southside in one evening.
The first was my annual Christmas celebration with Moira, who lives on that side of the river but works on this side, so we always meet in the city. Not so tonight when our destination was Southbound.
Let the record show, I've been a fan of Chef Lee Gregory's cooking for a very long time. Waaaay before the Roosevelt. I was a regular back at Six Burner when he was the unsung hero there. During his stint in Charlottesville, I drove an hour to eat his food.
So of course I was going to cross the river to see what had been wrought in this enormous new place.
I got there just as they opened and was the sole occupant of the three-sided bar. Moira showed up before long craving a Christmas cocktail, but instead we toasted another year of friendship with glasses of a Macabeo blend Cava (from a list that included only two Virginia wines) and followed with recent tales from our lives. She was bowled over with the Christmas spirit of my flower savior, here. Hell of a guy.
As we tucked into a charcuterie and cheese plate of Mortadella, salami, chicken liver mousse, cheddar and brie (mortadella and onion jam were decided highlights), we watched in amazement as a steady stream of humanity began to fill up the place.
Given the early hour,many in the crowd were older but there were families, too. A mother and elementary-age son sat side by side at the bar. Moira ran into the man who built her new porch and I was surprised to run into the woman I lived next door to for 13 years on Floyd Avenue.
By 6:15 every seat was taken. We were told that 200 people were served last night. Great balls of fire.
The bartender got major points when I gave Moira her gift, a copy of Joan Didion's "The Year of Magical Thinking," because she clutched her hands together in rhapsody at the sight of the book, Didion being a personal favorite she said. Who knew millennials read?
We moved on to the one-two punch of Thai chili wings followed by sticky and crunchy pickled chili smoked drumsticks, at which point Moira had a French 75, satisfying the cocktail craving she'd arrived with. I had a few sips of the heavenly gin and champagne cocktail before returning to bubbles.
That'll get a girl in trouble.
Around us, people were milling about awaiting a table or bar stool to empty, but since we'd been there first and it was our annual fete, we continued our conversation oblivious to them.
"I've had just enough alcohol to go home aglow and affectionate and make a few demands," she announced, giving me the best laugh of the night. We finally gave up our valuable bar real estate only because we had somewhere to be.
With no demands to make, my next stop was the Artisans Cafe at Stony Point Fashion Center, a place I avoid like the plague (truthfully, I avoid all malls).
Tonight was the monthly installment of the Noir Cinema series and NYC filmmaker Stefani Saintonge was showing her short film, "Seventh Grade." Two of her films were being premiered tonight in other cities, so it was a coup that she'd chosen the Richmond premiere to attend.
The brief film chronicled a middle-schooler named Patrice who still happily played with her Barbie and Ken dolls, albeit making the noises for them as they made out, while her best friend had moved on to real boys. Before long, the boy has told everyone in school what service she provided for him in the bathroom and everyone's making fun of her.
Patrice comes to her friend's aid by doing something that becomes the new hot topic and leaving her dolls and childhood behind.
Saintonge took the floor to discuss the film and take questions, saying she'd been trying to convey the culture that permeates the hell that is middle school.
One of the most interesting questions was directed at a member of the audience, a ninth grade boy. He was asked if the film was an accurate portrayal and if now kids used phones and social media to perpetuate the rumor mill at that age. "Yes, definitely," he said.
Reports of the early death of childhood circa 2015 are apparently not exaggerated. This must be a truly awful time to have to navigate the waters of budding adolescence.
The film has already garnered Saintonge a 2014 Essence Black Women in Hollywood Discovery Award and a trip to L.A. to meet film luminaries, no doubt in part because everyone can relate to the horrors of seventh grade.
What I remember about my own experience that year is how mortified I was when a brainy kid named Anthony told me I had food stuck in my braces as we were walking into the school building one morning.
Then, I'd wanted to die of embarrassment. Now, I understand what a favor he was doing me.
Maybe if it had been those killer drumsticks stuck in my braces, I wouldn't have cared anyway.