Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Better Yet, How Was Your Night?

One of these things was not like the other. Namely, me.

I was at Rappahannock alone at the end of a work day spent solely in my own company while all around me I could hear people talking about their days and, to a one, all their conversations centered around the annoying other people they work with.

Given the time, we were undoubtedly also all there for happy hour oysters, but I found myself surrounded by people answering the "How was your day?" question with their seatmate or mates, most sounding less than satisfied.

Without so much as glancing at the menus, I ordered my usual and sat back to watch others dissect their days, drink and eat oysters. It was easy to get lost in the minutiae.

Three trays of oysters headed to a four-top and I knew without looking that they'd all go to the worker bee males, leaving the buttoned-up looking woman to turn up her nose. Nearer to me, a guy thoughtfully ordered two beers and a dozen oysters in anticipation of his date's arrival. A guy at the bar sat patiently listening to a woman explain why she cares more about her customers than what her boss tells her to do.

Once the oyster trail opened up and trays of bivalves began appearing everywhere, I watched as the bar and nearby table populations got theirs while I was left still sipping my orgeat lemonade.

With nothing better to do, I discussed the greater brininess of Tangiers over Rappahannocks with a couple who were sure the Rapps were saltier (it's basic geography, do you understand which one is further east?), although they had a tendency to douse all of them in hot sauce which may have affected their judgement.

But it was when the couple near me got their second tray that I gave my affable bartender the "look" and he sheepishly assured me my Old Saltes would be up momentarily.

Mm-hmm, and Old Saltes take this much longer to be shucked? "Actually, they do have tougher shells..." he tried, trailing off.

"You got all Old Saltes?" a guy asked incredulously, as if I'd ordered twelve salt licks. Everybody's got their preference, sir. Mine is to feel like a wave knocked me down and I came up with a mouthful of salt water. What's so wrong with that?

When the bartender came over to check on me, he didn't bother asking anything after I did nodded contentedly, just giving me the smile and saying, "Glad to hear it."

Minutes before happy hour ended, he graciously inquired of everyone at the bar if they'd be needing more oysters, but I told him I thought a dozen would do it for one woman and he had to agree. It wasn't as if I'd worked up some big appetite writing by myself all day.

As luck would have it, sociability was addressed by a message from a musician friend awaiting me, inquiring if I wanted to meet for a drink before seeing Brunswick tonight. "Been too long!"

I could be impressed that she'd somehow intuited that Balliceaux already was my final destination tonight or I could accept that she knows it was likely since we'd seen them together before, not that I haven't gone behind her back and seen them without her.

But not tonight.

Since I had a couple hours before she was to pick me up and I'd just finished reading Charlottesville resident Charles Shields' "Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee" last night, I figured I'd go start Martin Amis' memoir "Experience" on the balcony, at least until sunset, but it was too close to dusk and the mosquitoes were hungry.

Time to move the party inside.

I'd read about 40 pages when I heard her calling my actual name (so often, it's "Stellaaaa..."), brought her upstairs and, talking a mile a minute, left together for Balliceaux. Things immediately got deep on the drive over when she asked if I thought it was possible to keep romance alive in a long-term relationship.

Ever the optimist, I answered in the affirmative. She's determined to try.

All that was dashed once we were at the bar talking to a music-loving regular I know, one who admitted he liked some people solely because of how they looked. Did he mean women, I wondered.

"Well, yes, all the men look the same," he said with typical male tunnel vision. So he admitted to being shallow.

But he also insisted to us both that love comes and goes and sometimes we're glad when a relationship ends. She looked at me for reassurance of what I'd said in the car, but he was faster, making a toast.

"To love coming and going!" he said clinking glasses with us both. Talk about your Debbie Downer, I watched my friend's face sink as we abandoned him to find seats in the back.

With their standard 11 horns plus drums, bass and percussion, Brunswick delayed any further conversation with their high energy blast of originals and covers while a lone girl danced non-stop to whatever they played.

Touchingly, in honor of the passing of the one and only Gene Wilder, they played the "Willy Wonka" theme and, because they could, their version of Frank Ocean's "Super Rich Kids" from "Channel Orange."

Now that's range, kids.

Range! I hear that's exactly what you need if you want to keep love from coming and going. Full report to come.

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