Thursday, October 1, 2015

Dig It, No Mark

You can feel it in the air: something's coming.

The crazy breezes, the hide and seek humidity, the sudden cool, the encyclopedia of clouds in the sky, all of it seems to be the opening act for whatever (notice the caps) Weather Event is hitting us this weekend.

I'm the first to say - after qualifications, of course (no one wishes for bad things to happen to good people) - bring it on. We can't stop it, so may as well accept it. Embrace it even.

Walking down Cary Street after stopping in Chop Suey Books, I know I reveled in the warmth and stormy promise of the last of the daylight air. I'd set my sights on Amour's happy hour to feed and entertain me.

A guy at the bar was already working his way through the happy hour small plates, with the intention of doing the prix fixe meal afterwards. I admired his ambition (and stomach), but he explained it had been a couple months since he'd been in and he intended to make up for it.

The owner asked how many were joining me (zero) and made sure I knew that Wednesdays were date nights. Does it have to be a real date, I inquired?

"We're not following you to check on what you do after the meal," he assured me. Later, when another table said they intended to swap plates and they hoped that was acceptable on date night, he informed them, "Who you swap with is not my business now or later."

Like I said, I was dateless, but I did order the three specials: duck rillettes, almond pesto shitake mushroom caps with crumbled bacon and black and blue gougieres, each served with a small pour of the ideal pairing because, let's face it, that's what Amour does incredibly well.

Waiting for my food I got the bar sitter's story which included his career as an ER nurse and 20 years in West Point, leading to an admission that he's spent the past five years trying to regain his sense of smell after two decades inhaling the putrid outpourings of the paper mills on the waterfront.

I wished him luck before he went on to educate me about the three rivers there. Turns out the Mataponi is fresh water and the Pamunkey and York brackish and this is why he, his family and others in the area fought for 15 years against a reservoir to serve Newport News.

"You take out ten million gallons of fresh water and who's to say that river stays fresh water?" he asked rhetorically. The most I could offer was my Pamunkey viewing from a distance story and he approved of the long view

The rillettes got me started, the gougieres dazzled with black olives and bleu cheese and as I all but licked the plate under the shitake caps, a server (the one who'd described the post- bike race city as currently under a "blissed- out chill) gave me the nod, saying, "Told you you'd dig it."

Dig I had, all three, especially so well paired.

We were joined by an EMT and before I could get much more from her, she and the nurse were doing a comparison of who could do what in their respective job, what drugs have to be dripped and why she would never consider working all weekend nights like he happily does.

She shared that drinking heightens her senses, so kitty litter really offends her after a couple glasses of wine. Even her skin is more sensitive when drinking. Well then, I began, sounds like it should be the ideal time to...

"Oh, I do," she said authoritatively, not even letting me finish. Some bars just reliably provide colorful conversation.

By the time I left there (and them discussing intubation), it was to go to Balliceaux for music.

Walking up to the door, I heard my name called and there was the one guitarist friend I'd expected to see tonight, having a smoke with a staffer. My first question was when the show might start since he was talking to the door guy, who, if he was outside, probably meant no time soon.

The all-girl opening band Myrrias, from Philly, had hit traffic so the show would begin shortly. Asking about their sound, my friend cut off the door guy's description, reassuring me that I would like them. After years of talking music, he's someone who knows my sound and theirs, he said, was it.

I stayed long enough to discuss the recent Kepone  ("They were good in the '90s, broke up and got back and didn't embarrass themselves. Those guys can really play, unlike a lot of these younger bands," door man pronounced) show I'd recently missed

Inside, I got half  the length of the dining room before hearing my name called again, this time two music-loving couples I know. Like me, they're loving this beachy breezy blowing we're getting and fondly recalled a past hurricane that involved mushrooms and a prolonged storm-watching session on the porch.

We all have our hurricane rituals. Talk of tropical storm party planning are already ubiquitous on Facebook.

After paying the same door guy I'd already talked to, he asked if I wanted my hand stamped. What was this? He  always draws something on each paying guest's hand.

Since when do I have a choice, I ask? He knows me, he says, so he doesn't need to mark me any more.

Wait, since when? He's known me for years, I remind him. "Since now. Since this moment. It's a new era." I enter the back room unmarked for the first time.

There, I heard about an upcoming show by a cover band and not just any cover band but one that does nothing but Tom Waits and the Smiths. They're called Tom Smith, if you can believe that. I can only anticipate what a hoot that'll be.

Myrrias was a trio tonight of bass, keys and drums, but only because their guitarist had had a family emergency. Even with one less vocal and no guitar, their sound was, as my friend had assured me, right up my alley.

Dreamy, multiple vocalists, vocal effects and, most importantly, that music from a cave sound I adore. I'd love to hear them as a quartet.

Midway through their set, the bass player announces, "I'm really hoping to try the food here It looks really good. I hope the kitchen is still open when we finish." Alas, no, a shame because the food's good, as my friends up front had mentioned, not eaten here myself a couple days ago.

During the break between bands, four guys sat down at the table next to me, unexpectedly providing all kinds of entertainment. One guy told a story of asking s girl to dinner, only to have her cancel at the last minute.

Her reason? She'd found out he drove a 1988 Ford Explorer and told him she didn't want to sound shallow, but it wouldn't work out because they wanted different things out of life.

"What did she think she discovered about me by what I drive?" he asked, a fair question, and a thoughtful one for his tender youth. "I have a job and I love my old car. So what?"

Be glad you found out before you wasted a dime on her, my friend. Girls like that are a dime a dozen and still overpriced.

I gave him credit, though, because when White Laces took the stage ("Thanks for braving the hurricane," leader Landis humorously greeted us, causing the kid next to me to say, "There's not any hurricane"), he went up and stood front and center, leaving his buddies to a back table and their phones.

At one point, he came back to the table, but all three (including no hurricane guy) had their eyes glued to their phones while the band was playing and though he tried to mock them by crouching down to take a picture of them, not a one noticed.

He gave up and went back up front. Meanwhile, I'd positioned myself for near-perfect sound and since White Laces never disappoints, I was like a pig in slop.

Playing songs from their first album all the way to songs from their upcoming album, they did their usual flawless execution, guitars ringing, drums everywhere and keys winding in and out of every song.

I hadn't known, but tonight's their last show until March, with a new album in January, making me doubly glad I'd wandered out on this beautiful night to hear them.

I don't want to sound shallow, but feed me like one of your French girls and rock me like a hurricane.

Sometimes that's exactly what a girl needs out of life.

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