Saturday, April 23, 2016

Painting the Town

I excel at being the extra woman.

When friends need an extra body (whether warm or hot) or some estrogen to balance out a dinner party's numbers, I'm that person who gets invited to fill the role and it's one I dispatch with great enthusiasm.

Get to know strangers? Entertain visitors? I got this. Years ago, when I was trying to right the capsizing ship that was my life, a friend (seriously) suggested that I offer just such a service to visitors, showing them places to eat, hear music and do fun things they might not otherwise uncover.

Because selling my time sounded just short of selling my body, I didn't pursue it, although I saw the wisdom of her idea. Now I happily accept invitations to share me.

This time, it was Pru and Beau doing the inviting and the occasion was two male house guests, a seasoned one from Phoenix and a young one one from Fredericksburg, and the destination was Can Can.

I got assigned to the male car, meaning three men called for me (complete with a glass of Miraval Rose - a stellar "car wine," I have to say - awaiting me in the back seat) while the other two womenfolk took another car. My kind of odds.

Beau scored heavily in the parking lot when he complimented my ensemble as "adorable," precisely the vibe I'd been going for with the Berlin tights and a more subdued palette than usual.

Brasseries are noisy places and Can Can is no exception, making for a lot of leaning in and repeated remarks while sipping Cotes de Provence Rose "Terra Amatta" and nibbling zucchini fritters and a cheese/charcuterie plate. A Languedoc Rose showed up with dinner - mine a demi plateau of oysters, clams, shrimp and mussels and a forest of greens mounded into a salad - along with an opportunity for the Phoenix visitor to be more vocal.

When Pru, presuming naturally, asked what I'd planned to do after dinner wound down, I copped to plans to go to Balliceaux to hear K-Pop and the visitor immediately let it be known that he loves to dance. I couldn't ask the young visitor to join because he was a month shy of being legal, so my contribution to his RVA experience was introducing him to some new cheeses during our first course.

So the male car dropped Phoenix and I off at my house so I could swap cute shoes for dancing shoes before heading to Balliceaux. I tried but failed to convince my guest that we should walk, but despite being a native Philly boy, a biking enthusiast and in shape, he resisted.

Next time.

The back room was pretty crowded on arrival and only grew more so with each new wave of K-Pop devotees who wandered in throughout the night. He was struck by their solitary dancing habits, their group movements rather than couple movements, but I'd seen it too many times for it to even register.

Last time I'd gone to a K-Pop night, I'd fallen hard for the Asian take on pop music from the '60s and '70s, but tonight's selections drew from the '90s and hip-hop, filtered through a Korean sensibility, sure, but less compelling to ears that remember music before Auto-Tune.

I was barely a couple sips into my Espolon before he was nodding toward the dance floor and why would I say no? Unlike some of the crowd, we couldn't sing along to any of the songs, but we found enough we could dance to to join the throngs in a room that continued to feel hotter, more crowded, more like Friday night.

On the way out, he admitted that he couldn't remember the last time he'd been dancing, never mind that it was his first exposure to K-Pop. See, this is why some people need to meet me.

Dropping him back at his hostess' house an hour after I'd promised to get him home, we solidified morning plans. He'd seen some night life, he'd claimed to be a fan of walking, so the plan was to show him some of my daytime Richmond.

This is where I get good. I wowed him with notable architecture, historic locations, and river views. I led him along the Pipeline Trail, over to Southern States for the Street Art RVA Festival, up to Tricycle Gardens' urban farm and back across the Lee bridge to admire Belle Isle and the river from a bird's eye view.

Lagging slightly behind me coming up Belvidere, he informed me that this was the longest walk he'd been on in ages. Someone needs to get out of the house more or maybe just out of Phoenix more.

As a thank you for the outstanding walkabout and tour, he offered to take me to lunch, so we detoured to 821 Cafe, found two stools at the bar ("You can't sit there!" a male voice growled at me, but it was only the handsome bass player/server razzing me) and let a soundtrack of '80s music (Hall and Oates-based) wash over us while sharing life stories.

"Are you the marrying kind?" he asked me. "Why did you get married?" I asked him. How hard is it to find your passion and follow it? It's fascinating what you can discuss with someone you didn't know 24 hours ago.

The extra woman tells all, but never judges. Also, she has a ball doing it.

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