So maybe I wasn't the very last person invited. Maybe I was just one of the last.
All I know is that when I got home from the beach at midnight last night, there was an invitation to Style Weekly's Best of party at Hardywood awaiting me. As a token of their appreciation for my hard work writing for the issue, two bands (Upper East Side Big Band and Photosynthesizers), lots of local restaurants and beer could all be mine, if I said the word.
I said yes, figuring I'd know a few people, go early and stay just as long as I chose to. Walking out of my apartment, the new guy next door sitting on his porch smiled and gave me an approving nod. "You look really great. Got a hot date?"
Not that I know of. P.S: Second oldest line in the book.
At Hardywood, the party was just starting, so I set out to mingle. I was talking to a restaurant owner about the double whammy of Broad Appetit and today's event, munching on Pasture's ham, pickle and pimento cheese roll, when I heard a familiar voice behind me saying, "I need to say hello to those legs."
You just never know who you're going to run into out of the blue or what's been going on in their life since you saw them last (a tumultuous relationship that didn't sound like much fun and was already over), but it was like old times listening to him critique all the dishes we sampled as we talked.
He was surprised to see I wasn't drinking, having forgotten I don't drink beer. In fact, the first time we hung out over a three-hour conversation, he'd e-mailed me when he got home with a fine compliment: "You'd be perfect if you drank beer." Not true, but flattering.
My friend and former neighbor, the councilman, introduced me to the owner of Paradise Garage, so I got to hear about his fabulous fundraiser parties. Maybe now my invitation will show up in the mail. When we went to try Torero Tapas Bar and Grill's paella, one of the chefs turned out to be a familiar face from another restaurant I frequent.
At the Alamo table, I asked for a sample of everything (although my hands-down favorite is that cowboy caviar) and looked around to see a disappointed-looking singer I've met before. Poor man doesn't eat pork and was having a devil of a time finding anything else at the party. This is a pig-centric town, after all.
Not shy, I didn't hesitate to ask the Alamo server if he had anything non-pig and sure enough, he got barbecued chicken for him from the back. Never hurts to ask...or to score points with a musician
Upper East Side Big Band was playing when I arrived so I caught most of their set, unsurprisingly a lot of clever arrangements of Beatles' songs ("Something" to "Maxwell's Silver Hammer"), and then later, part of Photosynthesizers' set as well. I was honestly amazed at how few people were in the room listening to music at any given time.
It was the photographer I'd first met at the "Man Meat" dinner seven years ago who steered me to Goatacado, where, against his advice, I skipped over the Athena for the Mountain Tropp, a killer bowl of warm quinoa, arugula, smoked Gouda, avocado, black beans, plus apple and sweet corn pico de gallo in lime mango sauce.
Apparently I looked like I was enjoying the hell out of it (true story) because twice strangers came over and asked what I was eating because it looked so good. I sent them straight to the goat.
I decided I'd had enough savory to earn my sweet, a chocolate sea salt pop from King of Pops (the guy who handed it to me agreed). I carried it inside, letting it soften, and ran into the talented and energetic actor/singer I'd come to see here Saturday night.
We talked about that show for a minute and he started razzing me about being at Hardywood so often. "Want a beer?" he said, laughing and already knowing the answer. "Gotta ask!"
Outside, I saw a patient Mom occupying her two little ones with the cornhole boxes and before long, her youngest was smiling at me and trying to impress me with his toddler moves. It was very sweet. Then his hip father steps over to speak to me and says, "Are you still doing your blog?"
Hello! Once again, my past had shown up at the party. This time it was a musician I'd met seven or eight years ago when he'd been in a band I'd really liked. I'd interviewed them, been to plenty of their shows but hadn't seen him in eons. Apparently he'd been busy in that interim.
Just as I decided to leave, a friend insisted I try a beer that had been brewed with a wine component, something still in development, but he was praising it for its integration of the two. Couldn't I taste that? I'll take my wine straight, thanks, although not at Hardywood.
Walking to my car, I realized I'd had a far better time at the party than I'd expected, but then who doesn't like getting reacquainted when it comes with sides of compliments and dinner invitations?
Leaving behind that crowd, my next destination was the great outdoors for live music. It's the first of this series I'd made it to this year, despite frequent attendance the last two years.
Plenty of people had brought blankets (a lot of the Indian print kind we all had in college) and beer (although the girl next to me forgot an opener. Duh), but not me. I found a wooden bench with a good view of the band and got comfortable, scanning the grass for my people. Before long, the organizer came over to say hello and update me on the band tour he's been working on as a roadie.
One thing I noticed right away was that the crowd was larger and more diverse age-wise than it had been in the past, a good thing. Since the organizers insist on no social media about the event, it looks like their goal of community building in real life is working. Hooray for the old ways.
The dance party king showed up and we commiserated about the (possible) loss of Balliceaux. I was certain he'd also been there that last night but I hadn't laid eyes on him. Sure enough, he'd been just as bummed as I was about the loss to the scene
I was happy to see the world travelers arrive, also recently back from their own tour. She thanked me kindly for the blog post about her outdoor birthday party, a laid back and enjoyable night with a potluck supper, a campfire, music on cassette and wide-ranging conversation. I thanked her for providing great fodder for me to write about, not to mention a thoroughly pleasant evening outdoors.
When they didn't recognize the band, Manatree, they asked who it was. "Man, they're babies!" my lanky friend said. If they looked like babies to him, they should have looked like embryos to me.
But of course, they don't because I've seen them plenty of times, although never unplugged like they were in the park tonight. There were even times when the annoying stage-whispering and laughing of self-involved twits near me all but drowned out their voices, guitars, fiddle, flute and tambourine. Only the drum beat out the rudeness.
Do I need to get back on my soap box about talkers not ruining the experience of others? If you go to a show to blather and not listen, at least have the decency to go to the back. Yeesh, I'd swear some people were raised by wolves.
Filling out their sound for the first time tonight were two female singers, also the source of the flute and fiddle playing. It was such a different experience hearing Manatree this way when their usual M.O. is short, hard, fast and loud. Tonight their sound was folky, harmonious and almost pretty.
During one song at dusk, the buzzing insects in the trees around us began humming in time with the tambourine shakes and drumbeats while fireflies lit on and off around our heads. It doesn't get much groovier than that.
It might have been perfect, but I didn't drink beer.