I'd worn my 2006 Pete Yorn "Nightcrawler" t-shirt - the one with holes under the arms from so many sweaty walks, so admittedly worse for the wear after a decade of use, but still the lightest and most breathable shirt I own - walking this morning and when I got in the car to go meet my dinner date, Yorn's "Life on a Chain" came blaring out of the radio.
There are no musical accidents, so I took it as a good sign that after a day tied to my desk writing on deadline, the night would be a fine one.
Because Pete Yorn never lets me down.
The plan was to meet in the atrium of the VMFA, which I always approach by cutting through the Early 20th century European art galleries - home to French Modern and German Expressionism - an impossibility when I found them closed, the walls bare of art.
Since I'd been under the impression that they were permanent galleries, I made a beeline for the members' desk to get the scoop. "Off-view until September 28th," the knowledgeable staffer informs me, with no further explanation. Hmm...
Pondering what could be going on with the art between now and Wednesday, I almost ran into my evening's companion, only to hear that he'd been killing time waiting for me playing Frisbee outside with a stranger, at least until museum security told them the obvious: to knock it off.
We weren't hurting anything, he protested. Boys will be boys, I suggested.
Since he hadn't been to the VMFA since his Grandmother used to take him (we're talking decades), he put me in charge and I promptly led him to the outstanding "Gordon Parks: Back to Fort Scott" photography exhibit for a shared interest in that era.
Make no mistake, I know how to show a newbie our museum.
From there, I led him to see the glorious American works that make up the new McGlothlin wing and while he had no existing knowledge of the brilliance of John Singer Sargent - or why some of those smaller genre scenes are so atypically Sargent - he strode across the gallery intent on contemplating what I consider a prime jewel of the collection: Julius Leblanc Stewart's "Yachting the Mediterranean."
Part of his attraction was the precariously heeling and enormous sailboat, but he was polite enough to listen to the reasons for my affection for the piece, which had little to do with the boat itself.
Since we still had daylight left, a walkabout seemed in order, and we took off through the sculpture garden, only to hear my name called out repeatedly from the balcony of Amuse.
A friend waved enthusiastically from above as we headed out to stroll around the Museum District where I lived for 13 years and he harbored happy memories of long-ago visits to his great grandparents house on Floyd Avenue.
One story he shared involved his great grandfather, a railroad engineer, and the multi-acre farm he owned a couple miles away, and how once he'd run into cows on the railroad tracks, only to realize they were his own.
Funny, not funny, if you know what I mean.
Ever the devoted tour guide (and, perhaps, over-sharer), I took him to see my hands-down favorite screened porch/side yard combination, explaining that while I'm very much a compact, city townhouse type, I have for 23 years found that this particular yard gives me a zen-like sense of porch perfection.
The house that porch is attached to, though, is large and appeals to me not at all. "What if you didn't have to take care of it?" he asked. I still don't want to occupy that much space on earth, I explained, a philosophy he shares despite living on three acres (but in a renovated house that maintained its original footprint, a fact I find impressive).
Further up Floyd, I randomly glanced at a couple with a baby sitting on their front porch and realized it was the people who'd lived across the street from me for 13 years. Calling out their names, they came over to greet us carrying their first grandchild and bringing me up to date on their six
Of course the youngest has just moved back home while he goes back for his master's degree. Millennial children: gone but never for good.
A block or two up, I spotted a basket tied to a white picket fence with a sign offering up sage and bay leaves. "Take some, PLEASE!" the sign entreated. Grabbing a glossy branch of bay, I thanked the couple on the wide front porch.
"Take more!" she called with a grin, although a woman known for infrequent dinners at home only needs so many fresh bay leaves, you know?
Can Can was mobbed and noisy, so we moved on, opting for Belmont Food Shop and two stools at the very end of the bar, which was lively with Friday night revelers.
It wasn't long before we met the two next to us and dug into their story.
Together 20 years, used to live in Lynchburg, now live in (formerly groovy) Mount Pleasant (parkside condo purchased in 2001 before the real estate bubble priced such things out of their range) and in town for a wedding, staying at an Air BnB on Colonial. Last time they were here, they'd stayed at an Air BnB directly across from Belmont Food Shop but not eaten here, a faux pas they were correcting tonight.
Delightful dinner companions, in other words.
Our food was out just a few beats ahead of theirs, allowing us to eat and continue the conversation about what a dead town Lynchburg had been when they'd both worked at Randolph Macon Women's College and how wildly improved it had been when they'd gone back a couple of years ago.
Part of that, we all agreed, came about solely because crazy Christian Jerry Falwell finally kicked the bucket, leading to spirited conversation about how his son may be even scarier.
Then the unlikeliest and most amusing of sentences came out of my friend's mouth - "I have several Jerry Falwell stories if you care to hear them" - and we were off and running with his hilarious anecdotes.
Turns out he had a close friend who used to live next door to Falwell, resulting in a couple of engaging stories, one involving stealth painting of pot leaves on the evangelical's car (no repercussions) and another with a pie directed at his face (jail time).
Then food arrived and talk ceased.
Warm gougeres got us started, followed by an amuse bouche of cured salmon with trout row, then I had crab and avocado over an insanely flavorful smoked tomato coulis, followed by wrapped, smoked bluefish with frisee.
Dinner was followed with another walk, this one in darkness, as we chatted about the weekend and his plans to hike to a waterfall and get together with fellow musicians to jam. Me, I'll be trying to make a few more deadlines, so not nearly so enjoyable as his.
"Are you going to write a book?" he'd asked me, early in the evening and apropos of nothing.
Fair question, but who doesn't have a book in them by this age? Unless, of course, you prefer your life to be off-view.