Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Do It for Your Country

Not really remotely important in the scheme of things but, man, this president is totally screwing up our love life. Are any liberals still doing it?

There are myriad reasons I've been friends with Adam for a decade and this kind of comment is but one of them.

Goodness knows, it's a fair question given recent events, yet carrying on in the pursuit of happiness seems almost essential as a way to try to feel normal during these disastrous times.

Because art is a reminder that good abides when things seem bleakest, I began at 1708 Gallery, an easy walk, for the preview of their Cabin Fever fundraiser this weekend.

From Kendra Wadsworth's oil, tar and graphite "Cellular Divide," a jarring abstract expressionist-like composition to Rachel Hayes' "There in One Shot," a series of seductive color stripes on fabric, I only wish I had a purse large enough to choose a piece for my own, maybe Sally Bowring's "Always Blue Skies."

Afterward at Laura Lee's, I'm greeted by a handsome lumber-sexual in a red plaid flannel shirt and a red, curly beard worthy of one of the seven brothers searching for a bride. Pulling out his phone, he shares a photo of himself at 23, beardless and baby-faced, and I'm ogling it when a favorite food-loving friend arrives to join me for an evening's pleasure.

Taking a stool at one end of the bar, our new mayor waves at me from the other, asking if we didn't just see each other two nights ago. Right, Pizza Club. I can't lie, we did. When he gets up to move to a bar table, I ask if it was something we said, but it turns out he needs electricity to continue his endless phone conversations.

The evening kicks off when my friend orders a cocktail dubbed the Illegal Smile, while I take advantage of a glass from a fresh bottle of La Collinna "Quaresimo" Lambrusco, with Mr. Plaid Shirt regaling me with the wine's organic and natural pedigree and the southside residents who supply it to them.

Laura Lee's is a neighborly place, that's for sure.

We begin with what is essentially a banh mi without the bread: pork belly, cucumber, cilantro, pickled carrot, radish, jalapeno and hot sauce, a fiery way to kick off a friendly night. Best to keep the heat on the plate for now.

Next up, I have an earthy salad dressed in  walnut vinaigrette, with burrata cheese, arugula, red grapes and roasted beets over arugula pesto, trading a few bites for some of my friend's entree special of seared scallops over cauliflower and cauliflower puree with greens.

Shamelessly, both plates go back to the kitchen licked clean.

It's while we're trying to decide where the evening should go next that a fellow Gemini arrives, her husband in tow, both basking in the glow of several drinks. It's date night and after a meal at Shagbark, they want dessert and more libations at Laura Lee's.

All of a sudden it's a get-together, so we decide to adjourn to a table in the dining room, with the overly-cautious Taurus and my glass of Lambrusco accompanying me.

Discussing what the menfolk intend to drink, I learn that "Illegal Smile" is actually the title of a John Prine song and not just an intriguing phrase. My appalling lack of musical knowledge spurs the manager to put on some John Prine to school me.

When it's followed by "Teen Dream"-era Beach House and Future Islands' "Singles," I am completely content, although the lion's share of the credit for that goes to my disarming companion and his willingness to roll with the changes.

The cyclists, meanwhile, are contentedly sipping on an Old Fashioned and a Tiger's Eye respectively, while the little woman and I talk about a mutual friend and how we wound up sharing him last week without realizing it. Next time, we decide, it'll be a three-way. Conversation, anyway.

Everyone weighs in on Shagbark only to discover that our opinions are nearly identical, despite having been determined on three separate outings. This naturally leads to conversation about its location and how circumscribed our lives tend to be, with our favorite destinations solidly within a small city range that does not include Staples Mill or Libbie Mill, or whatever suburban-sounding moniker they've slapped on it.

Two of the three occupants of the table seize the moment to razz me about not spending enough time on the south side of the river, yet here I am at Laura Lee's, so their point is a moot one.

The happy couple generously share their desserts - an obscene chocolate turtle cheesecake and cinnamon apple pie with vanilla gelato - as the conversation breaks down by sexes then reconvenes as a foursome, covering everything from the Capitol Trail to the local real estate market to the state of the country.

Which necessarily includes liberals not doing it. Sorry, Adam, but you're picking at a sore here.

On a trip to the loo, I hear my name called and spot a music-loving friend last seen in a Facebook photo at the hospital after a nasty accident that involved being concussed. She admits to still being a little woozy, but in desperate need of a cheeseburger, a feeling I know well.

Still, I'm glad to see she's up and about, not to mention well enough to inhale a double cheeseburger and fries.

Back at the table, I hear about an upcoming pop-up, make plans for Galentine's Day and swap tales of inappropriate behavior near the T Pot bridge (none mine, so you know, but a doozy from my VCU Prof friend and lesser from the Gemini), which led to reminiscing about shared bad behavior in Oxford, Mississippi which only one of us has any memory of.

As is our habit, we practically close the place down, leaving just as the mayor does, begging the question, is his new job screwing up his love life, too?

I wouldn't be surprised if it is and my guess is, Adam and his wife wouldn't, either.

Well, this does seem dire and widespread. No one has yet to reply, "YES, we are doing it!"

In lieu of the real thing, illegal smiles and surreptitious hugs may be all liberals have left. Even given the scheme of things, I wouldn't say that's enough.

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