Thursday, May 5, 2016

Beat Around the Bush

Just another evening ending in a history discussion on the front porch with a history major and an international studies major around midnight.

I scored major points in a discussion of British colonialism when I referred to Europeans as an invasive species, a discussion that could be traced back to theirs about the migrating patterns of one guy's Philippine ancestors (psst, there's a Philippine/Virginia pipeline) when I'd walked up.

They, naturally, were chain smoking, practically lighting one from another in that intense, deep discussion manner they probably first saw in an old '80s movie. Don't forget, this is the apartment downstairs that also yielded two guitarists, neither of whom knew much of anything about Prince or his significance musically when I brought up his untimely death.

Guitar players.

I stumbled on the history round table after getting home from an evening out with friends, wherein I found myself introducing two neighbors who live seven houses apart and didn't know each other despite decades in proximity.

Jaws dropped when we heard the story of the crazy neighbor - they all knew her, hell, I recognized her - who'd arrived at the neighborhood "Alley Cat" party, not only dressed as a cat, but pushing a cat dressed as a cat in a carriage. One neighbor used an air whistle to alert a friend of a sighting of her.

That's part of the magic that happens at the seductively-lit (and is that something that only people of a certain age notice?) Pizza Tonight - which deserves the more apt new name it's about to get - as I showed Holmes and Beloved tonight on our first date in two months.

Knowing what the kitchen is capable of with cabbage, how could we not try the cauliflower and capers that wove its spell on Holmes, a confirmed non-cauliflower eater? Or Beloved's suggestion of the warm olives, so far removed from the cheap martini garnish as to be of a separate botanical genus?

When a server went to remove the plate of pits, she checked for missed olives. The bartender scoffed. "That look on her face when she put that first olive in her mouth? No way she was leaving one!" They already had Beloved's number.

Fair to say that they also had Holmes' and mine with the shoegazing, dreampop soundtrack. After several songs so up my music-from-a-cave alley (and Holmes') that we looked for its source: the selfsame observant bartender. Curious, we asked.

"It's a band called Nothing," she said, making sure we knew it was a band, as if we were either 1) musical idiots or 2) clueless old people, reinforced when a woman nearby pointed out, "Or you could have just said, "It's Nothing."

Once we dispelled those notions, the evening unfolded with hours more of good music as she played us more Nothing from their last record, "Guilty of Everything," (and aren't we all?) along with Failure and her favorite, Hum, who were big in the '90s and broke up when the new millennium rolled around.

When Holmes suggested Bob Moses to her, she knew nothing of the band. What kind of electronica do you like, I wanted to know. She thought for hardly a moment and responded, "ELO," surprising the hell out of me because I would go right to prog rock if asked that.

But then this where Holmes, the consummate musician, comes to the rescue, explaining that their extensive use of synthesizers puts them squarely in the electronica camp, which totally makes sense for a woman raised by a Dad who loved Meat Loaf and pre-1990 Springsteen.

Coming highly recommended for the pig parts, the pizza of the week, Porchetta, onions and mushrooms was irrefutable evidence that whatever this place calls itself name-wise, its roots were in terrific pizza (and on the fly, at that).

When Beloved bragged about her latest estate sale find of the soundtrack to "Hair," a staffer jumped in, saying he had two copies, both of which had been mistreated before he got them. You heard right, people were debating their favorite "Hair" song at the bar, as if it isn't common knowledge that "Good Morning, Starshine" is the clear winner there.

We were told a great RVA stereotype story: apparently there are West End women who come to Carytown to brunch, ending their giggling forays buying cards at Mongrel, cards they then return a few days later when sober, unwilling after all to send Mom an Easter card with three forms of the verb "to suck" on it.

Coaxing from me and the staff got my friends trying their first sugar toads, mastering the eating method easily and moaning about the richness of the buttery fish like they'd never had puffer fish before.

Over dessert of an almond cake an Italian would appreciate and a couple of exquisite cream puffs, we grooved to the '90s with Superdrag, another bartender fave ("I should have been born ten years earlier so I could have experienced the whole '90s thing firsthand.") making for interesting music at an appealing volume, an all too rare combination.

More than once we discussed Pop ' Roll, a sub genre of Rock that Holmes is devoted to, and, for the bartender, a different way of looking at her musical taste.

As pre-history debate meals go, it's pretty hard to beat low lighting, honest food and another evening heavy on laughs and early morning singing songs.

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