Saturday, January 16, 2016

Drinking It All In

There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so. ~ Hamlet

I feel bad as I'm leaving the grocery store and a man approaches me smiling, pleased to run into me again, he says. I don't really recognize him but I don't not recognize him, either, if you know what I mean. Pausing to talk for a few minutes, we cover a lot of ground, ending with laughter.

As we're parting, a woman walking by says, "You two look well together," and he grins with pleasure.

But I'm feeling good when I get an e-mail from a friend with a night off and I invite her to join me in my plans for the evening. Not only is she willing, she offers to pick me up, a rare treat for me.

I'd chosen the new red-striped Boulevard Burgers and Brews, not for any other reason than I'm thrilled with the renovation of that long-ago hamburger stand. I was pretty much certain it would be mobbed (it was) and that we'd have to wait, not a problem since it had been months since we'd gotten together and there was lots to share.

While the music was plenty loud in the parking lot, the cacophony inside made hearing even a snippet of a song difficult and we had to repeat our name to the hostess several times before she heard it and put us on the list (wait time: 45 minutes).

As luck would have it, a single stool opened up at the bar, so we took it as our base of operation during the interim. She's just back from Isla Holbox in Mexico, full of stories (and photos) of the freshest of ceviche lunches, roads paved with sand rather than concrete, and nothing else to do but eat, drink and read.

My heathen ism aside, it sounds a little like heaven to me.

Jammed in as we were, it was inevitable that our neighbors would chat us up at some point. The couple to our left overheard us discussing movies and jumped in to highly recommend Tarantino's "The Hateful Eight" (at the same time warning us about the huge amount of violence) while her date nodded his agreement.

I have to admit, we were the ones who engaged the woman to our right (whose seat I was coveting) when she ordered one of the "adult" milkshakes, the Muddy Beaver, a long, tall glass of Kahlua, Frangelico and chocolate soft serve ice cream with a dark chocolate rim, a concoction she was having for dessert.

The boozy shake took me right back to my 20s in Washington, when I frequented Armand's in Tenleytown, partly for their fabulous deep dish pizza, but just as much for the obscenely alcoholic ice cream drinks they served. It had been decades since I'd thought about them.

Once she left, all was good as I commandeered her stool and we could finally order, in my case, an order of B3s (a recurring theme for the night) and a side of onion rings. My sliders came on sweet Hawaiian bread with sauteed onions, cheddar and secret sauce, while her Cali was festooned with kale, Granny Smith apples, avocado, tomato and apple preserves.

Watching the chaos in the room as we ate, I inquired of the bartender if it had been such a madhouse every moment since opening. Affirmative. "I'm just glad I'm not working the milkshake station," she said with real feeling. "I have nightmares about that." No doubt given the scores of both kid-friendly and adult shakes we saw go by.

It seemed like a bad idea to linger when people were still poring through the doors, so we settled up.

Fed and mostly up to date on each other's lives, we left for Hardywood and Movie Club Richmond's screening of "Strange Brew," a movie, I admit, I completely ignored in 1983 when it came out. In all likelihood, I was too busy drinking strawberry orgasms at Armand's.

I can also say with certainty that I have absolutely no recollection of it being a riff on "Hamlet."

We arrived in time to catch the end of Dirty Bourbon River Show's set, with my friend commenting that the lead singer looked like the strong man at the circus with his mustache and red tank top. "How often do you see a tuba in a band?" she asked of me. Let's see, every time I see No BS Brass band?

Looking around, she mentioned what a small town Richmond is, pointing out a couple her sister knows (and dislikes) and a woman wearing a sweater by an artisan she knows. It's tough to be sneaky in this town, that's for sure.

Once they cleared out and chairs were set up, we nabbed two in the front row, being short and all, and awaited the hilarity of a movie so intentionally bad it was good.

Movie Club's Andrew introduced "Strange Brew," a movie supposedly shot in 3B (that's 3 beers) as "a Canadian cult comic classic and my favorite adaptation of 'Hamlet," while its 1983 production ensured bad facial hair, jeans and glasses.

The setting? Elsinore Brewery, of course, where something is rotten.

Just as good were references to the era, such as, "The brewery business has become very competitive" and "Sounds like a British new wave band" about some odd screeching on a disc.

There was even a Star Wars joke - "He saw 'Jedi' 17 times" - and an intermission, or at least the words "intermission" on the screen briefly, causing some guys in the crowd, to yell, "What the hell? F*ck you!" in response to an intermission in a 90-minute film. That's just Canadian humor, kids.

And because it was SCTV, well Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas anyway, the film was rife with fart jokes, pee humor, steamrolling and hockey references, but their best may have been, "If I didn't have puke breath, I'd kiss you."

After Bob McKenzie puts out the fire at the insane asylum by peeing on it (he has, after all, drunk all the beer in a tank to save him and our heroine from drowning in it), my friend leans over and observes, "My nephews would have loved this. They're 8 and 10."

You don't have to like beer to like "Hamlet" in 3B.

When we get up to leave after the brothers have saved the world, a couple of guys approach us. "How'd you like your burgers?' they ask as casually as if they knew us. No recognition on my part. Turns out they were sitting at a nearby table at Boulevard Burgers, reason enough to chat.

Bad as my memory can be, the good news is, I'm memorable. Or at least thinking makes it so.

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