Monday, October 24, 2016

Black Fall's Nights

Some last-minute invitations you can't RSVP to fast enough.

Wanna come out to the country and start a fire and listen to Maxwell? Oh! And I have half a bushel of oysters...

If I didn't know better, I'd have thought I was being wooed.

The music alone - Maxwell's latest album, "BLACKsummers'night," which Pitchfork described as detailing "another emotionally complex romantic relationship" and exploring "the full spectrum of love. Curiosity - the desire to dissect and examine a partnership - has always set him apart; Maxwell wants to push far past the surface, almost clinically so, of any easily won emotion" - had me packing tout suite.

Cross your fingers, babe
I know sometimes your love is pessimistic
Oh, baby, baby

There may be women out there who wouldn't drive an hour for a chance to listen to any man who chooses to dissect and examine a relationship, but I'm not one of them.

Nope, I'm the type aiming for favorite guest status by making a pit stop at Rapp Session to pick up mignonette for the bivalves and a whole Branzino for dinner before heading west into the blinding setting sun.

After dropping my bag and the provisions, we parked ourselves in front of a fire on the deck, sipping Prosecco and slurping some of the freshest-tasting oysters we could hope for as dusk settles in around us and Maxwell sings it to us.

Maybe your love is just a big mistake
Maybe your love is what you fabricate
If you get the courage, baby
Someday, maybe, probably, maybe
You'll be mine, all mine

"This is a very civilized way to enjoy oysters and Prosecco," my host observes in between shucking duties.

Before long, our favorite locals show up to sip and slurp to Maxwell with us, ratcheting up the conversation with tales from country life ("Here comes the minutiae," his wife cracks) seen on his daily runs around the county.

A flurry of excitement erupts when I casually mention that my grandmother grew up in the very same county and my grandfather in the next one over, and, again, the wife gets the best line in, saying, "We're probably sisters!"

Strangely enough, it wouldn't be the first time I was late learning that I had new-to-me sisters out there.

They left before the Branzino was grilled over the fire, but it was for the best, really it was, given that we destroyed that fish without any outside assistance.

Sunday's road trip took us to Culpeper, first to the picaresque and tiny Honah Lee Vineyard (because where better to frolic in the autumn mist than in a land called...?) for a wine tasting of their wines as well as a few from Gabrielle Rausse, Well Hung and Michael Shaps, all enjoyed in an otherwise empty tasting room.

From there, we cruised on listening to whatever radio station we could get, which is how we wound up hearing Poco's "Call It Love," a song neither of us had heard in years.

I play my hand
You call my bluff
We push each other
'Till we've had enough
When it's all you've got
Call it love

I put in an immediate request to add Poco's "Legend" to our evening listening repertoire because it was an album I'd loved back when it came out - back when two of my three roommates owned it - so the songs were seared into my brain, yet I hadn't thought of Poco in years.

Then it was on to the farm that sells the best pork chops I've ever put in my mouth, a place I hadn't been in three years, although the farm stand store and a new dog appeared to be the only change from my last visit.

Looking for updates, I was sad to hear that Fred and Wilma, the parents of the past 3 or 4 years' worth of pigs, had been retired, but fortunately, their offspring (Pebbles and Bam Bam) were continuing the family tradition of spawning fine pork.

Talking to one of the farm interns after scooping up every chop in the freezer, my date inquired about the availability of pork bellies, to which she nonchalantly responded, "We've got 'em. I call 'em chef bait."

Predictably, he'd taken the bait and after a stroll over to the tree line (where a bunch of piglets had escaped the enclosure where Pebbles and Bam Bam noshed almost continuously), we left with multiple bellies and additional chops - enough to last until Spring, we're hoping - and brats.

Naturally, evening #2 began with more oysters and Prosecco and after a dignified amount of time, two of those fat chops landed on the fire to become dinner, followed by fireside music.

From the first two notes of "Boomerang" off Poco's "Legend," I was back in Kensington, Maryland, with my former roommates listening to an album funkier than either of us recalled and without a weak song. "Spellbound, " "Barbados," "Little Darling," I somehow still knew every word to every song.

I'll spare you the rabbit hole some people can go down trying to draw the lineage of the country rock genre once they're deep into dissecting a Poco record.

We've got all night
Let's take our time
Tell me your secrets
I'll tell you mine
When it makes us feel better
Call it love

Like Maxwell, I'm inclined to seek out those emotions not easily won. Whatever you want to call them.

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