Saturday, February 9, 2019

Crumbs from the Feast of Love

Any day when I hear the Stranglers' "Skin Deep" on the radio - its lyrics even more salient in 2019 than 1984 when it was written - is bound to be an interesting day.

Or at least make me smile.

As usual, my walk to the river and back takes me through Capital Square where I pass the now-omnipresent media trucks - CNN, CBS, NBC, assorted others with no identifying signs beyond the satellite dishes atop the vans - waiting for the dumpster fire that is our current state administration to officially burn out. On Wednesday Mac and I had run into into two female anti-abortion protesters (because, let's face it, they're not pro-life or they'd worry about how those babies would be raised), complete with illustrated signs ("Mama, don't kill me! ~ baby), and a speech being given on the steps of the capital.

Just another day in the Old Dominion.

At Kroger later in the afternoon, I get a shot of youth when I'm behind two VCU guys, each with a four-pack of alcohol in their hand and already anticipating Friday's pleasures. "You gonna do shots or are you just gonna drink tonight?" the big one asks the other. "Both, I think," he responds, but without much conviction.

Ah, the pressures of being young and having a weekend of drunkenness ahead of you.

Serious noise was the soundtrack to an afternoon of writing on Clay Street. Thursday I'd lost the tree directly across the street from my apartment of ten years and today, the tree police showed up and amputated any number of branches on the two large trees on my side of the street, the ones that have framed my view for as long.

The sense of being in a treehouse from my second floor perch, always lesser in winter anyway because of bare branches, will have to wait for the trees to leaf out.

I met up with Beau for dinner at Alewife, followed by "Cyrano de Bergerac" at Swift Creek Mill, Pru having opted out because of the countless times she's seen, read or studied the play. Personally, any play that introduced the word "panache" into the English language is going to call to me.

When we got to Alewife, it was lightly populated and when we headed out two hours later, people were stacked up at the bar, waiting for tables. Sometimes it pays to be obscenely early for dinner.

The evening's wine special was an orange wine, Sebastion Riffault "Akmenine" Sancerre, described as funky and vegetal, which got both our attention. Love the region, love the grape, adore some funk. When our server hedged her bets by asking if we wanted to taste it first, we demurred. Not bloody likely a wine is going to come out of Sancerre that we can't drink.

Creamy with funk and a bit of smokiness suited us just fine.

Although we didn't intend to go rich, our selections took us there. Right off the bat, I wanted to try the smoked whitefish dip (which turned out to be snapper), in tribute to all the smoked fish dips Mr. Wright and I had eaten in the Keys. Alewife's, though, was a horse of a different color, combining, as it did, not just fish and a bit of mayonnaise, but also cream cheese and horseradish and served with pickled onions, celery and house focaccia crisped with oil and some time in a pan.

Truly decadent first course eating, and that's not even allowing for the housemade hummus riding shotgun. It's hard to appreciate good hummus when cheese dip calls its siren song.

What do two friends talk about when the person who connects them - his main squeeze, my long-time friend - isn't present? Why, her, of course. Beau regaled me with tidbits from the early days of their courting, sharing that he'd gotten only as far as their fourth meeting (because they never referred to them as "dates") before stating that he had designs on her and the rest of her life.

I can't say I have a problem with a man stating his intentions, even as early as the fourth face-to-face.

Next came the fried course, which necessitated me switching to bubbles, namely the Catalonian Cava Macaveo Xarel-lo, to keep pace with the fried.

We dove into crab hushpuppies with preserved lemon vinaigrette and crab roe dust and Buffalo sugar toads, the latter a distinctive take on the little fish usually served in a butter sauce. These were fried up in a crispy batter and served with hot sauce butter, pickled celery and bleu cheese and immediately brought to mind Chef Lee Gregory's Buffalo sweetbreads from the halcyon Six Burner days (so, 2009-10?), back when the notion of Buffalo could only mean wings.

Ah, the dark ages.

Just so I could live with myself, our next course was a bowl of beets with a bit of arugula dressed with bleu cheese and sesame peanut crumble, a dish so loaded with beets that it reminded us of a long-ago meal where Beau and I had ordered a beet salad that arrived with nothing more than beet shavings, disappointing us both. Alewife's beet salad was for serious beet lovers.

Meanwhile, Beau regaled me with tales of his work comrades, one of whom wants to cook a meal at the manse for a crowd and only one of whom (his boss) who has the nerve to call him by the nickname they've all secretly given him. "Hey, Bowtie!" Bossman now greets him, which is pretty darn funny if you know Beau.

We closed out the meal with soft-serve chocolate/raspberry frozen custard for me and banana pudding for Beau, who especially liked the mashed bananas under the pudding. The smokey Islay single malt he chose ended up disappointing him, so we made tracks for the play.

Our drive south was accompanied by his "New Love" playlist, which he assured me catered to my tastes because it was full of new songs/bands he'd discovered and loved, like Christine and the Queens and lots of electronica which he and I both favor. Hearing Jade Bird, Beau claimed her heard a Sheryl Crow thing in her voice, albeit without the life experience.

Our seats for "Cyrano" were front and center, third row, making for a fine view. Artistic director Tom Width opened by telling us that "Cyrano" was written in verse for 50 actors. "We're not doing that," he said and got a huge laugh. "We're doing it in prose with sixteen actors."

And with lots of wonderful actors that we'd seen and enjoyed before. Dean Knight never fails to get laughs with his hangdog face and delivery. Jeff Clevenger manages to play drunk in, I think, every role I've ever seen him in and he's always hilarious. It's been far too long since I've seen Thomas Cunningham's expressive face. Debra Wagoner and Jacqueline Jones never disappoint and always delight.

Beau and I differed on Matt Bloch's portrayal of Cyrano, which I found brash and strong-willed, just like the character is written. But no, Beau saw his characterization as bombastic, although he allowed that it was less so in the second act.

The size of a man's nose is the size of a man's spirit...and other parts.

Word nerds that Beau and I are, we'd discussed jackanapes on the drive down, only to hear popinjay not once but twice during the play. What's fascinating is that both words mean the same thing.

No man has ever said more sweet nothings that mean everything to a woman.

For a play about unrequited love, there were some excellent sword-fighting scenes as well as literary commentary. When Cyrano is told that Moliere has been stealing some of his writing for his own plays, he dismisses the thief by spitting out, "Moliere!" with such disgust it sounded like a curse. Hysterical.

Your neck, I want to kiss it.

When all was said and done, Roxanne had been in the convent for 14 years and Cyrano is dying in front of her, Beau turns to me and observes, "Tragedy is always fun."

The end.

Stopping at a Wawa along Route 1 on the way home, I couldn't help but notice a man in a flannel shirt with a gun holstered at his hip climbing into a giant truck. Open carry, my ass, it was time to get out of Colonial Heights and back to Church Hill.

Pru was waiting for us at the manse, showing off how the porch has been augmented and rearranged in anticipation of warm nights ahead (sadly, it was too cold for a porch blather) and humble bragging that she's already read 15 books since 2019 arrived.

Talk about living the dream.

Once we settled in to discuss life and how sophistication is the tie that binds Pru and I together (Beau's theory), time got away from us, at least until my hosts threw me out sometime around 1:30 a.m.

As much as I love a good late night, it doesn't change my need for nine hours sleep, meaning that by the time I awoke, it was going on lunch time. Conveniently, a cursory check of the Interwebs had revealed that today is National Pizza day and Tarrant's was giving away a free slice to anyone who cared to celebrate.

Coming up from the river on my walk, I couldn't think of a single reason not to stop and collect my slice at Tarrant's Back Door. After putting it in the oven to warm, the guy behind the counter rang it up, looked at me and said, "That'll be one smile."

Naturally, I flashed him my most sincere grin, offering that I'd give up 2 or 3 smiles for a slice and then doing so.

"Thanks," he said, smiling back and handing me my slice. "I'll keep the change."

Talk about your panache...

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