Sunday, November 1, 2015

Righting the World's Wrongs

Sometimes the best date isn't even your own.

It's not like I had a date, unless you count my couple date, but he was a fantastic date, even if his devotion did lie elsewhere. He picked me up, took me to dinner, then a play, bought me a souvenir and ended the evening by taking me out for cocktails.

Sure, his actual date was there every step of the way, but I can live with that.

He'd never been to Secco, so that's where we started. He got a unique Secco experience because the restaurant wasn't crowded with a) women or b) west enders or c) really much of anyone at all. In my experience, this never happens.

I'd told him that the beauty of Secco was any wine by the glass (you know I started with bubbles, in this case the lovely Pinon Vouvray Brut "Petillant"), stellar small plates and an absolutely fabulous selection of cheeses and meats.

We covered all those bases, right down to ordering two separate cheese and meat plates.

The first ensured that we ordered the second, with wonderfully funky Roncal (cow), Red Witch (cow) and the divine Roquefort Societe "Bee" (sheep), jamon Serrano and Calabrese (I do so love my salamis, not matter what cancer they're going to give me) to start.

As creamy and stinky as the Roquefort was, my favorite part of it was its description, which I wouldn't mind having on my tombstone, not that I intend to be buried: classic, voluptuous and assertive, it rights the wrongs of the world in one bite.

I wouldn't mind being seen that way by the right person.

Then there was celery veloute soup (dreamy), fried chickpeas (he had to know), and smoked salmon spread (more black radishes and beet mostarda, please) to continue while we admired the staff's Halloween costumes.

They were so clever. One was all in sparkles and sequins (she was bubbly), another in shades of pink (hello, Rose) and a third in shades of burgundy (the red wine queen).

While awaiting the arrival of our second cheese and meat plate - more Roquefort, more Red Witch, VB & C ash rind "Bonne Bouche" (described as "looking like brains"), speck and Bresaola (yes, my choice again), we got on the subject of sailors crossing the equator.

It was my fault for mentioning having seen a student in a slutty sailor costume that in no way resembled an actual sailor. Hello, booty shorts are not the equivalent of bell bottoms, young lady.

Unbeknownst to me, there are traditions that mark a sailor's first trip across that magic line of latitude. You have to "kiss the baby" (the fattest sailor's belly), climb through the birth canal (a tunnel filled with garbage) and turn your clothes inside out.

Thank you, no. Good thing I never aspired to the sail the seas in the service of my country.

I got this information from the horse's mouth (Mr. Not-My-Date had been in the Navy and my friend had old black and white photographs of her grandfather doing the same) while sipping the gorgeous and fragrant Cherriere Pere vet Fils Sancerre.

Needless to say, the Secco virgin (his best line: "I'm not some ingenue from Ladysmith") was reveling in his food and wine options.

We left only because we had a curtain to make, dodging trick or treaters and tipsy parents on the way, at the VMFA for Quill Theater's annual Bootleg Shakespeare.

We weren't long in our reserved seats, not having had to stand in line for tickets (see what I mean about him being such a great date?) when we heard, "Without further nonsense, here's our director, Foster Solomon, " who told us to expect a '50s/'60s B-movie version of Macbeth complete with greasers and Elvis.

I was down for whatever happened, which included the three witches as a girl group, lots of New Jersey accents and white t-shirts, black leather jackets and Chuck Taylors. Macbeth had a magnificent black pompadour.

Much drink may be said to be an equivocator with lechery.

What I love about the Bootleg performances is their sense of spontaneity, hardly surprising given that they only have one day of rehearsal. But tonight's staging was pretty polished with loads of musical numbers interspersed in the Scottish play.

There's daggers in men's smiles.

There were knock knock jokes and a killer James Brown impersonator, but also some actors who just couldn't project far enough in a space the size of the Cheek Theater. Pelvises thrusted throughout and pop culture references were rampant.

It's always a safe bet that actors will forget their lines (most jogged their memory by calling "line!' but the funniest was "hit me!") and that the story will have modern-day additions, like when Macbeth says he's done the deed and Lady Macbeth throws off her robe to reveal a negligee, saying, "Tell me about it."

During intermission, my non-date even bought me a bootleg Shakespeare mug, if that gives you any idea how good he is at this.

The good news was that in the second act, Macbeth projected far better and was more easily heard than in the first. When Banquo gets killed, body parts came flying across the stage, cracking the audience up.

Thou art the best o' the cut throats.

Doo-wop and girl group songs dominated the play, including the "Monster Mash" (featuring everyone from a hilarious bride of Frankenstein to the Mummy to Wednesday from the Addams Family), and Aretha's "Think" with lyrics changed to sing about treason.

At one point, an actor called for a line and then a second time, sending the crowd into gales of laughter. "I can't hear it!" he said, laughing, too.

The final fight scene was set to "My Way," if that gives you any clue where this Macbeth was going.

After that tragedy, my non-date set out to take us out to meet his long-time friend (since third grade) and his wife for cocktails at the Rogue Gentlemen.

On the way, we stopped at a red light where three VCU students stood in costume. Rolling down the window, my friend pointed at the guy in glasses and a Hawaiian shirt.

"Hunter S. Thompson, right?" she asked.

"I knew someone would get it!" he said triumphantly while his pals - a fork and a banana-  rolled their eyes. "I've read all his books!"

Sure you have, kid.

Once at the Gentlemen, we commandeered the corner of the bar, making do with four stools for five people and choosing our drinks from the Mad Lib books listing cocktails.

I chose the spicy and sweet (don't worry, I don't want that on my tombstone) Dracary, an Espolon-based gem with all kinds of ingredients, including toasted walnut orgeat, cream, egg white and dusted with cinnamon sugar.

When a Hall and Oates song came on, my friend blurted out that she'd seen them in 1993. "Don't y'all tell anyone that!" she said fiercely, but it wasn't long before my non-date admitted having seen Pat Benatar with his third grade buddy, so who's shaming whom?

Tasting each other's cocktails, we passed the time doing Mad Libs and reading them aloud, mainly because why have access to Mad Libs and not do them?

My non-date recalled fondly the first time I'd brought him here (sans his main squeeze) and said he'd preferred the Richard Gere drink menu of that time, not for its offerings, but for its theme.

"Maybe a Julia Roberts drink menu?" he suggested. Not likely, I explained to him, along with other important factoids he should already know by his age.

When a Whitney Houston song came on, the women reacted positively and the men acted superior, at least until "I Will Always Love You" began and then even they had to acknowledge the beauty of Dolly Parton's song.

All of a sudden, the song changed to something else entirely and the owner looked at the bartender askance. "You're fired, Paul!" he called from across the room. Paul kept on making drinks anyway.

I became unpopular when the subject of "The Princess Bride" came up because it's a movie I saw once and never bothered to see again, incidentally the same reaction the film got from Mr. Third Grade Friend's wife. We were summarily ridiculed for not appreciating this so-called classic.

Apparently, I am no longer getting cute shoes for Christmas, but a copy of the book from which the film was taken in order to show me the error of my ways. Buttercup who?

It was only after we'd each had a couple of cocktails and multiple Mad Libs had been completed with much innuendo that we realized how late it was and that we all had beds awaiting us. The good news was the extra hour of sleep tonight involves. Mine will be alone, of course.

Tell me about it. With any luck, eventually classic, voluptuous and assertive will get me otherwise.

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