Sunday, June 19, 2016

By the Time I Get to Richmond

Nature is clearly using the punish/reward system. I ask you, why else would weather this glorious follow so potent and scattered a storm?

Facebook postings had not prepared me to see a car in front of Emilio's with an indentation shaped suspiciously like the nearby tree that had caused the roof to cave in as far as the seats, a perfect groove of destruction. Trees languished across Floyd and on Monument's median.

Nor was I prepared to walk into Target only to find it fully operating, but on battery power. The further back you walked, the dimmer things got, yet shoppers bustled about. Ever shopped for sunglasses in a dimly lit store? I can't recommend it.

There weren't enough hours in the day to accomplish what I needed to in anticipation of tomorrow's motoring to the coast, so I did the best I could, then put on a new thrift store dress and went to dinner and a show.

Holmes was treating me to dinner since I was treating him to music, so I picked Rancho T, resulting in sort of a "you can't get there from here" situation now that Morris and Harvie are one way streets. But we persevered, and joined the unfashionable early Saturday diners (6ish) at a table facing a neon American flag and a partially shuttered window through which the sun was glaring intently (happily, our server corrected the latter).

Intent on seeing what a new chef and menu would bring, we then we gorged our way through dinner.

Chicken liver pate under a pickled rhubarb gel with totems of crispy chicken skin was as pink as it was perfect. Beer-battered maitake mushrooms almost made you believe you were eating something meatier than fungus. The to-die-for pairing of brown butter, capers and raisins elevated roasted cauliflower to swoon-worthy.

Spicy sticky chicken wings were both, but also - and absolutely key, to me anyway - fried up nice and crispy. When I insisted Beloved try one, Holmes tried to interrupt her grazing, causing her to murmur, "Leave me alone, I'm having my way with a chicken wing right now."

After all those assertive flavors, we ended with an elevated take on a diner classic: a tuna melt, but not just any tuna melt, but one made with poached tuna and remoulade on Billy Bread under a blanket of Gruyere, pickled onion and arugula. Classic dish, fresh take on it.

We had just enough time to see if they could possibly deliver as well on dessert as what went before and they knocked it out of the park with (Waring: preposition alert!) two layers of chocolate ancho cake between chocolate frosting next to whipped cream over caramel sauce.

I know it sounds like a lot, but it was exquisite...and just what I wanted after five savory courses.

Our next stop was the historic (and restored) Art Deco Henrico Theater, so we headed to Sandston (several jokes ensued) to see singer/songwriter Jimmy Webb, necessitating a few miles on I-64 and billboards that read, "Have pride in America! Vote Republican."

Speaking of scary people, at one point Webb joked, "I thought it was one of the better concerts we did and I don't always think that. I'm not Donald Trump."

We sat near a local violinist my friends knew from seeing him play, only to hear that he'd played with Webb last night and enjoyed it ("Maybe a little too much"), played golf all day and come home to a message from Webb asking, "What kind of strings do you use?"

Nerdy musician talk, that's what that is.

Holmes praised our seats for the view of Webb's hands on the piano, but the man's got so many hits that it would have been a great experience even if we hadn't been treated to the view.

Beginning with "The Highwayman" and talk of hanging out with Waylon Jennings ("He had his good and bad sides"), he spoke of writing "Galveston" during the Vietnam conflict (a fact Holmes and I only just learned), talked about being a PK (preacher's kid) and how the only place he could listen to his transistor was on the tractor, where he heard the Beach Boys and Glen Campbell, whom he characterized as having a five-octave voice like glass.

He showed off his mad piano skills by first playing the notes of "Amazing Grace" as written and then how it could sound after music lessons with Susan Goddard, his piano teacher (hint: very Rachmaninoff-like).

There was a semi-singalong to Johnny Rivers' "Poor Side of Town," he mocked Leonard Cohen's "Suzanne" in song set to "Suzanne's" melody ("I'm not bitter") and ruminated more than once ("Going into the music industry is like deciding to gamble for a living"). The guy was good at it all.

The show was equal parts stories - writing Art Garfunkel's first solo hit, "All I Know," David Crosby calling him Mr. Balloons because of his Grammy-winning "Up, Up and Away," and Nina Simone doing his "Do What You Gotta Do."

Honestly, the man had a thousand stories and almost as many songs and Glen Campbell recorded 80 of them, several of which we heard ("By the Time I Get to Phoenix," "Galveston," and "Wichita Lineman") over the evening's course.

Toward the end, Webb's mic stand kept unexpectedly drooping and every time he'd get it positioned again, down it would go. "It's been happening more and more to me lately," he quipped.

Of course he had to finish with the masterful four-movement "MacArthur Park" followed by promises to come back and share his Richard Harris anecdotes next time. I have a feeling this guy has stories he's not yet begun to share.

It isn't every day a living legend stops by Sandston to serenade us. Didn't we get lucky this time?

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