I should have known that in these situations, reading material is not required.
After spending the day on the northern neck helping my parents "un-Christmas," an endeavor that also entailed my first trip to the wood yard (with Dad) and baking a cake for Mom (marble with chocolate fudge frosting), it was early evening by the time I got home.
What to do? Music, movie, friend, what? After the drive back, I was in no hurry to get back in the car (that's a whole different story), so my decision was made. Time to check out the new neighborhood bar.
It's only two blocks to GWAR Bar, where there's already always a clutch of people outside smoking. Sidling past them, I made my way to the one bar stool directly under the TV screen so I wouldn't have to look at it. Seriously, TV in the GWAR bar? How very un-metal.
The guy in the stool next to me was just getting his leftovers boxed up, so I figured he was on his way out soon, but he was gracious enough to greet me anyway. When I inquired as to what he'd eaten (it was my first time, after all, so why not seek out the advice of someone who's tested the waters?), he flipped the box open, revealing GWAR's chicken McDuckets.
Except, of course, it wasn't that simple. The crispy rounds were actually a pastiche of duck confit, chicken thigh, truffle and smoked mozzarella with GWARbq sauce (which he insisted I dunk mine in). Curious as to why so many were left, he explained that he and a coworker had gotten two orders because he already knew how good they were.
Two minutes in and I was already talking to a two-time GWAR Bar regular. Of course I took him up on his kind offer and nibbled his McDuckets. When he went to introduce himself, my hands were full of nuggets and sauce, so we tapped elbows in greeting instead.
The place (which holds 59) was busy, whether because of its newness or because of the sheer novelty of it, I don't know but what I do know is that the music - appropriately Slayer, Pantera, Metallica, Megadeth and the like - was playing at the absolute perfect volume: loud enough that you couldn't miss it but not so loud you couldn't hear someone talking to you.
Even if it was a stranger.
Since he was already a GWAR Bar pro, I solicited menu recommendations from him. He had nothing but high praise for the Scum Dog, but they were out of it tonight. He also had fond memories of several of the bar snacks. "Anything with GWARbq sauce," he recommended.
So when the bartender asked what I wanted, I promptly ordered the chicken wangs, eschewing the buffalo and habanero sauces for the GWARbq sauce variety.
This seemed to incense the pro. "You just had GWARbq sauce!" he said as if I'd made a grievous faux pas. Not that I needed to, but I politely explained to him (while the bartender waited patiently) that I've had Buffalo sauce before and knew I didn't want habanero sauce, so I was going to get more GWARbq sauce on my wings.
He rolled his eyes and I told the bartender that this guy was a stranger and I wasn't about to let him choose which sauce I ate.
Once we established that he was not the boss of me, we chatted, first about rum because that's what he was drinking, which led to the fact that he lived in Puerto Rico for three years. Pluses: great rum, excellent surfing.
He was appalled to learn I'd never been to Nashville, regaling me with stories of why it's such a bad music town ("They only get A+ shows or B- shows where no one shows up"), as if that was some kind of incentive to visit.
When my wangs arrived, I let him do all the talking while I gorged on the meaty wings doused in the sweet/hot GWARbq sauce, which resulted in a rant about how Richmond is not a friendly town (oh, really?), how Richmond has a superiority complex with nothing to back it up (sure, some of the old guard) and how impossible it is to break into any of the local scenes (a point made to the wrong person).
One of his chief complaints with our fair city was that he can't find someone competent to clean his house. Asking if I had that problem, I said I didn't because I clean my own.
"My grandmother always said no one on earth should have to change their own sheets." He thought that was a brilliant line but it made me wonder about his grandma.
After using a half dozen napkins to wipe sauce from my fingers, I went about countering his brittle points, suggesting that Richmond has far more to offer than he'd found. As I pointed out, hanging out at Can Can or the near West End is a surefire route to interesting social failure, in my humble opinion.
He was fascinated to learn that I was a native Washingtonian ("Who knew such people existed?"), even more so when he threw out a quip about "the plane going into the bridge," an event with which I am well familiar since I'd been working in Southwest, right on the river that snowy day the Air Florida plane hit the 14th Street Bridge.
His amazement turned to scorn when I told him that I'd had to walk home in the snow that day. "You didn't stop at the Ritz Carlton bar?" he asked incredulously. Nope, walked straight home like an idiot. My only defense is that I was young and inexperienced.
As we talked, bar activity swirled around us with people coming and going, the place constantly lively and full of music. There was a quintessential 21st century GWAR moment when a girl came in to order a drink and was asked for her ID. I didn't blame the bartender; she looked like she was 16.
The funny part was that he looked at her license, squinting trying to read the date, moving along the back bar trying to get more light so he could read it with certainty and eventually going to the back where he finally managed to decipher that she was legal.
What a drag it is getting old.
During the music part of my conversation with the rum drinker, he shared that earlier, I'd missed hearing Metallica doing a Queen cover ("Stone Cold Crazy," no doubt), that his first show had involved Pantera and that he was terribly impressed that I'd seen McCartney in his early years.
"Since you were in D.C. in the '80s, did you ever see Black Flag?" he wanted to know. Sure didn't, not for lack of opportunity just lack of interest. Only then did he admit that Black Flag wasn't all that. I did cop to seeing Henry Rollins on one of his speaking tours and he agreed that he's a ridiculously intelligent, informed man and that listening to his brain work is a pleasure.
We even talked about books ("What's your favorite book and you can't say 'Superfudge'?"), although I didn't buy that John Grisham is an author I must read or that "Wuthering Heights" is the most boring book ever written. I learned that he was a huge Hunter S. Thompson fan when technology reared its head and he pulled out his phone to show me his two latest art acquisitions, both paintings of Chewbaca, one as Hunter S. Thompson and the other as the Dude. They will be hung in his media room.
That wasn't all. He's read all Thompson's books except "The Rum Diary." Why? "I'm saving that one for when I'm in prison," he explained. For what, I had to ask? "Taxes or killing a man who deserved it." His words, not mine.
They were topped only by a later comment about my tights as I was leaving. "How does a woman your age get away with wearing such hot tights?" First it should be noted that I had on the most conservative pair of tights I own (because they're warm and it's below freezing out there). I explained that left-handed insulting comments such as that weren't likely to help him in breaking into Richmond's social scene.
I didn't see a light bulb go off, but he did accept the critique.
We tapped elbows good-bye and then it was out onto the frigid streets of Jackson Ward for my brief walk home.
Pulling out my gloves as I left, I spotted the Washington Post stashed in my purse as a precautionary measure before I left for the bar in case I needed distraction while there.
It might as well have been the most boring book ever written (and just as unnecessary) compared to the colorful character I'd wound up next to. Since the bar can't very well spew bodily fluids and blood like the band did, perhaps the plan is to attract over-the-top customers to provide the unexpected moments.
Brilliantly executed, guys. I'll be back for more, so save a Scum Dog for me.