Saturday, March 31, 2012

Dead Love

The only sure thing at the French Film Festival besides interesting films is the waiting.

In my experience, screenings never start on time and this afternoon's was no exception.

Arriving at 12:30 for a 1:00 film, I was dubbed "line leader" and the lively group that fell in behind me addressed all their questions to me.

Did they have to stand single file (no)?  Did they have to hold hands with their buddy (no)? Could one person hold a place for twelve of their friends (preferably not)? Had I seen "My Week with Marilyn" (yes)? Why don't you just join in our conversation (thanks, I will)?

We were waiting for "Poupoupidou," a mystery thriller comedy set in the coldest village in France and involving a cheese model whose life eerily echoed  Marilyn Monroe's.

During the endless wait once we were seated, I was delighted to see a warning flash on the screen.

"No texting during screening. Violators may be removed."

Amen to that.

Before the film began, we were informed that its star, Sophie Quinton, had had a last minute family emergency so wouldn't be here today to take questions after the film.

Disappointing but not a deal breaker.

The movie began with an excellent cover of "I Put a Spell on You" by Xenia, which was rivaled only by a cover of "California Dreaming" during car scenes in the frozen landscape.

The story was pretty basic: a blocked writer (are there any other kind in movies?) uses the death of a local model as inspiration for a new book.

Along the way he figures out how she died (not by suicide as the local gendarmes claim) and has her life story revealed to him through reading the journals she'd kept since she was a teen.

Note to self: destroy all journals before death.

Of course, everything that occurred did so in a very French (read: unAmerican) manner, which was delightful.

When the writer calls back to Paris to find a letter a fan had written him, he thanks the girl he speaks to (whom he calls "Moneypenny") by saying, "What do I owe you?"

"An 18-pound wheel of Comte" is the offering.

That's a lot of stinky gratitude and I'd happily accept it in thanks for a job well done.

The Snowflake Hotel where the writer stays while he's investigating has a broken boiler, so no heat, a situation hard to imagine an American guest accepting.

The girl who works the front desk comes on to him, brings a hot toddy to him in the bathroom (after taking a healthy swig) and by film's end when he's yet to ask her out, tells him, "It never would have worked between us anyway."

I can't recall the last time I saw that kind of personal service at a hotel here.

It's only after being electrocuted, punched by her ex-husband and bandaging the foot of one of her admirers that the writer discovers how she died.

And by then he's convinced that if they'd met, she wouldn't have died.

Because how can you have a French movie without love?


"It's always by the end that stories begin," he concludes at the end.

Yet it's always at the beginning of a line that all French Film Festival stories begin.

And as line leader, it's my job to remind people to hold onto the rope so no one will get lost.

Crashing and Burning

No matter how you start out, if you end up dancing, it's a good night.

For the record, I began with a worthy opponent and a bottle of Gabrielle Rause Vin Gris, which, because it's made from 100 % pinot noir, is the ultimate sipping wine for a warm day like today.

Yes, it was a perfect day for white pinot noir.

So we sipped and discussed philosophical matters while admiring the skill required for an Italian winemaker working with Virginia grapes.

Gabrielle, I am your obedient servant. Especially where your Vin Gris is concerned.

Acacia was our ultimate destination, and by our, I mean any number of successive dinner companions.

The first was the best, eager to prove compatibility, but also funny and complimentary.

We chose the Gavi to sustain us and were soon joined by a friend who is soon to depart for points north.

She went with bubbles, while we ordered everything on the small plate menu.

Hush puppies with lobster, scallions and jalapeno relish were first, followed by empanadas of sweetbreads, mushrooms and leeks.

I won't even gush over fried bread, but  the addition of lobster was a whole new level of pleasure for fried bread.

The empanada  if served in a more generous portion could have been a meal with its earthy flavors.

The smoked duck ham had an apple and ginger salad with enough spice to speak to the strongest of plates.

A vegetable terrine done in aspic with smoked tomato sauce was notable since your rarely see it on menus.

The soon-to-be departed ordered the Tocco Prosecco (notable for my beloved friend Mike Tocco...we'll say Miami, Matthew Sweet and leave it at that) and Thai-flavored parsnip soup with roasted mushrooms, peanuts and lime.

It's fascinating watching friends meet for the first time, not sure if the common thread of me will be enough to make them appreciate one another.

Once the musical one departed, the girlfriend and I were joined by a favorite couple who are always looking for a good time,

They immediately ordered more Tocco Prosecco as well as dinner (sauteed scallops for her and  sauteed snapper for him) while I enjoyed a sweet course.

After four small plates, I was ready for something dessert-like and happily got the Black Forest, a chocolate sponge cake with Luxardo cream. Kirsch cherries, cocoa streusel and (most awesome of all) a sour cherry sorbet.

The only thing missing was another dessert hound to share it with me.

I managed all by myself before the female half of my favorite couple insisted we indulge in some Green Chartreuse.

My last green chartreuse was in the summer of 1998 and involved an after Jumpin' in July party in my backyard, temperatures of 97+ and humidity of about the same.

No one who came to that party and imbibed of the chartreuse was ever quite the same.

Mine is not to explain why that was.

Tonight's foray reminded me of the allure of chartreuse. Made of 130 herbal elements, it's one liqueur that continues to age and improve in the bottle.

Because, let's face it, not every one thing improves with age.

But green chartreuse is the exception and  the two of us savored it while discussing the new French street photography exhibit at the VMFA.

When it became clear that we were the last customers in the house, we moved on, them to home and me to Balliceaux.

I hadn't intended to. Really.

I was just minding my own business driving home up Lombardy when I saw the crowd and remembered that Black Girls were playing.

Since I first saw them in the overcrowded back room at Sprout in February 2011, the crowds have just gotten bigger and the band has only gotten tighter.

That said, the music is still the same.

So much so that one of the band admitted last night that, "We've been playing the same six songs for the last six months."

But their groove is so infectious that even as many times as I've seen them, I was one of many dancing before long.

Meanwhile I ran into a favorite mixologist who joined me in the center of the dance floor.

Since I was a late arrival, before I knew it, their set was over and replacing the white boys known as the Black Girls was a DJ playing "Word Up."

Surely Cameo couldn't have anticipated the staying power of that song.

I, however, having been around in 1986, wasn't nearly as caught up in it as some.

Besides, I'd had a most pleasurable nine-hour evening and there's really nothing better to do after dancing than crashing.

Unless you can find someone who wants to start a conversation at that hour.

Surprisingly, it's not as difficult as you might think.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Wanna Be Starting Something

I have been thanked in the liner notes of two albums, but I have never been heard on a recording.

After a sufficient amount of bubbly, that was corrected tonight.

At the suggestion of my wine-making friend, we went to Mezzanine to hang out and discuss life.

A bottle of Thibaud Janisson Virginia Fizz had our name on it and we enjoyed our first glasses with the addition of enough Pama to make for a pretty and pink cocktail.

As we discussed the recent spate of Southern-themed restaurants, we snacked on tempura-fried local mushrooms which had been brought in by the purveyor today after a morning gathering trip in the woods.

They were lightly battered and fried and accompanied by a local kale, apple and onion saute.

We were happily wallowing in local.

Over talk of the safety hazards of bottling bubbly, we enjoyed braised beef short ribs with Byrd Mill grits (thank you, Ashland) and hoison jus.

I'm a sucker for short ribs, long cooked and with bits of fat clinging to the meat, while the grits benefited from the addition of cheese.

Our last course was crispy fried barcat oysters, making for a completely local pairing. It is, after all, Virginia Wine and Dine month.

Not to mention ideal with our Fizz.

Walking back to our cars, we chatted about Charlottesville restaurants and the necessity of music to feed one's soul.

You know, the usual stuff people talk about when they're walking through Carytown.

I'd had to cut our evening short because I'd agreed to be part of a recording session tonight.

Let me be clear, it's not like anyone wanted to hear me sing but fortunately singing ability was not a prerequisite.

Walking up to Gallery 5 a few minutes late, I saw Lobo Marino bandleader Jameson out front talking to a few people.

Whew. So the recording wasn't underway, I was happy to see.

"We wouldn't start without you," he grinned, warning me that I'd have to remove my shoes when I got upstairs.

Once up there, I took off my very disco era-looking rope wedges and found a spot on the floor near other barefoot friends.

The shoeless Lobo Marino took their places by their instruments, explaining that they'd been laying down tracks since noon today.

Jameson began by reading us the riot act, so to speak.

"This is now a live recording studio, so if you're the person who knocks over your drink and makes a noise, everyone will look at you."

No pressure.

Luckily my water bottle was plastic, so I wasn't worried about being the culprit.

For the first song, we  were asked to hum/sing a chant sound, even harmonize if we wanted to.

Like I could harmonize. As my Richmond grandmother used to tell me as a child, "Karen, you couldn't carry a tune in a bucket."

Sigh. It took years for me to realize how honest she was.

Even so, I om'd along with the group.

Things got more complicated for the next song, which began with the audience being divided into three groups, one to follow the vocals of each of the band members.

Thankfully, I was assigned to Nathaniel's group, meaning I sang the simplest melody.

Not that my singing mattered next to the amazing tribal-sounding drumming Jameson and Nathaniel were doing.

The beauty of it was the high ceilings and the reverb created in the space with our voices and all that percussion.

Three photographers documented the evening, shooting the band, the audience and the instruments from behind, above and the floor.

During a break between songs, Jameson informed us, "This is also part of the studio experience, just chillaxing."

I was actually quite good at that part.

The beautiful "Young and Old" provided the lyric about kites that gives the new album its name.

Then it happened. A beer bottle fell over.

"You know, on the first song of "Thriller," someone knocked something over but it was on the tempo and Quincy Jones said "Just leave it." So if anyone else knocks something over, do it on rhythm," Jameson informed us.

Our last assignment was to provide the crowd noise for the exit song which required nothing more than talking amongst ourselves.

I was a natural.

And then we were through, having provided all the extra sound needed to begin mixing the album.

Best of all, we'd done so in less time than expected.

As a reward, Lobo Marino did a couple of songs off the new album for us as a thank you.

"Celebrate," which boasted drum, trombone and harmonium, was such a great dance song that a few people in the crowd couldn't resist standing up and letting loose.

The song was so short I didn't have time to put my perfect dancing shoes back on and join in.

Too bad.

It would have made for a great picture of my legs celebrating in the liner notes next to my name.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Much Ado About Estrogen

As much of a theater lover as I am, I am devoted to plays turned on their ears.

One of my all time favorite examples was seeing TheaterVirginia do an all-black version of "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof."

Talk about taking Southern dysfunction to a whole new level.

Likewise, last July Firehouse did a staged reading of a gender-reversed "Hamlet," here, that I still rave to people about.

And tonight I got all those girl parts in comedic form with a gender-reversed "Much Ado About Nothing."

I knew enough to arrive by 7:00 to ensure a seat (and a good one, at that) for all the fun. It was a smart move.

"For which of my bad parts didst thou first fall in love with me?"

Tonight's performance was dedicated to Freddy Kaufman, an actor who had originally been part of the cast until he took ill.

Having seen his comedic presence grace more than one stage, I appreciated the loss.

"I wish my horse had the speed of your tongue."

Molly Hood, who had played Hamlet, here deftly played the confirmed bachelor Benedick, even as he fought off feelings for the strong-willed Beatrice.

Director Billy Christopher Maupin doubled as Beatrice, as fierce a girlfriend as I've ever had.

"Thou and I are too wise to woo peaceably."

Unlike the last time girls were playing boys, the crowd tonight made no obvious sounds of disbelief  when certain lines came from an unlikely face.

Granted, there are far more female characters in this play than "Hamlet," so maybe we got used to it more quickly.

"Let me be that I am and seek not to alter me."

It's difficult to make some men understand, but given how male-centric Shakespeare's plays are, it's a huge kick to see one staged with eighteen women and only four men.

With some top-notch local actresses on board, it was a pleasure to hear them speak the words of men.

"For I will be horribly in love with her," Benedick admits.

Horribly in love is so much more intense than terribly in love, I think.

"Do you not love me?"
"No more than reason."

So much of the reading was laugh-out-loud funny because of all the gender issues, relationship and love talk and the stubbornness of the unmarried.

"When I said I would a die a bachelor,  I did not think I should live till I was married."

As the actors moved around (for actors at these staged readings thankfully never actually sit and read) on stage, it was hard not to appreciate the talent involved in selling yourself as the opposite sex.

One of my favorites was Lisa Kotula as the hilarious Dogberry, he of the endless malapropisms ("Thou will be condemned into everlasting redemption for this") and usually played by someone far less attractive.

But aside from all the mistaken identities, trickery, and purported infidelity, it's really just that old chestnut of a hard-headed woman and a confirmed bachelor who are destined to be together.

It was out of their hands.

"Come, I will have thee."

By the end of the play, everyone was married so the dancing and singing began. Whether they lived happily ever after or not, we'll never know.

But surely being horribly in love is a good start.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

When You Need Magical

Say what you want  but some nights the culture comes in the shape of a wine bottle from across the Atlantic.

So despite a stop at Bistro 27 for a glass of Gavi and to hear about new tequilas on order, say hello to some J-Ward neighbors and kiss some favorite staff, the evening's main destination was Secco.

Not that Secco isn't great every day, but tonight they were hosting a "handsome Portuguese winemaker" and offering food to pair with the man's Quinto do Crasto wines.

Honestly, I didn't want to couldn't find a more worthy cultural activity.

We arrived early, found some open bar stools and looked forward to some Portuguese men and wine.

Call me old school, but I thought it seemed wisest to begin with the man's white.

Grassy and crisp. it was a fine start to the evening. so we also ordered the Portuguese plate that Chef Tim had created to pair with it.

Sardine-wrapped olives, salt cod croquettes and house-made sausage arrived and made the wine sing.

This was why we'd come, to taste the food that best suited this wine.

And we weren't the only ones; the local bookstore owner was doing the same as were the affable wine rep and his lovely wife.

Next we tried his Quinto do Crasto Douro Red, a fruity and accessible gem that was seducing us further into his portfolio.

We kept going with food, choosing the house-made goat sausage with red chile-seasoned roasted olives, raisin puree and peanuts.

Sweet and salty; is there a more appealing flavor profile anywhere?

We followed that with the succulent pork cheeks with parsnip puree and beech mushrooms, despite my prior ignorance of beech mushrooms.

Rich and textural, I defy anyone to refuse cheeks if they tasted this dish without knowing what it was.

It seemed a good time to move on to the heartier red, the Crasto Superior, notable for its lovely tannins and long, lush finish.

As much as I am regretting the thermometer heading south the past two days, it did make savoring this mouth-filling red a real pleasure.

As usual, the music was spot-on (Beach House is always a great choice) and we debated about a dessert course.

With the Superior about gone, we opted for one of his ports with a chocolate bread pudding with caramel sauce and sea salt and an orange/cardamon cream-stuffed canoli.

Deep and complex, if the Portuguese can't do port right, who can?

Just to be truly indulgent, we also ordered the Carboncino, not for its proclaimed melty, mushroomy qualities but for its magical ones.

The way I see it, anytime you can find magical on a Tuesday night, you should take advantage of it.

Even when it comes in the form of a cheese.

It was at that point that the winemaker's table suddenly had a few empty seats and we opted to take them over.

Winemaker Miguel Roquette was indeed handsome, proudly unmarried at 45 and unintelligible when he tried to pronounce "Raleigh."

In other words, perfectly charming.

Coincidentally, I also knew a couple of the table's occupants, both the lively former Virginia first lady and her public service-bound son, making for a spirited discussion of running for office, the "Mikado" and temperature controls.

And when Berlin came up in the conversation, I proudly showed off the Berlin tights I was wearing.

Owner Julia had already complimented them when I'd arrived.

It's amazing how much mileage you can get out of a pair of old tights when the conversation goes European.

I heard about next year's schedule for Virginia Opera, why I should write a book and the winemaker's jet-setting lifestyle.

Like I said, culture doesn't always come in the form of a performance.

Sometimes it's just the people around you.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Sound of Chitchat

Leave it to the Japanese to come up with a methodology for the ADD set.

PechaKucha, from the Japanese term for the sound of chitchat, involves a presentation of 20 images discussed for 20 seconds.

Kind of like presentation Twitter, if you will.

Not surprisingly, it's also known as "ignite" or "lightening talk" but no matter what you call it, things move quickly.

The Library of Virginia did a pechakucha event today using members of the staff all talking about their personal collections.

It's tied into the new "Lost and Found" exhibit which examines the changing fabric of the world, what we keep, what gets destroyed and what we toss away.

I'll say this for pechakucha; it's tough for even the briefest of attention spans to get bored in 20 seconds.

A church choir singer was the first speaker and collected old hymnals and tune books, mainly Presbyterian (making for numerous jokes on her part).

Next up was Greg Kimball who collected old 78 records, his first having been acquired for a penny each.

He showed an old Blind Lemon Jefferson record, then others called "Cotton Mill Colic" and "Death's Black Train is Coming."

His was the only pechakucha that included sound. He not only occasionally played music clips, but finished with playing a record on an old Victrola.

One woman collected old school globes, commemorative state plates and vintage telephones.

She got a laugh when she showed a closeup of her Kansas plate.

"Kansas is the plate that rattles every time my furnace comes on," she informed us.

An Air Force brat who'd moved around her whole life showed her collection of childhood memories.

There was doll house furniture, a pretend check she'd written to her grandfather, a notebook of girly stuff (romance tips, a PMS diet, pictures of hottie boys) and her passports since birth.

One woman's stuff revolved around her beloved grandparents.

Granny Franni loved culture, art and travel; her grandfather Alan loved Franni.

When Franni was in her sixties, she commissioned a nude painting of herself which hung in their living room.

"It was unnerving to sit in her house under a nude of my grandmother," she laughed, showing the painting.

She finished by acknowledging, "It's amazing that what belongs to other people can become so important to us."

The last series of slides were from a home movie collector and he showed some great stuff.

His earliest reel was from 1926 and had been found at a flea market.

Footage of a little dog nipping at a kid's leg had the kid in tears. On camera.

You gotta love parents who keep rolling film even when the child is clearly distressed.

He had film of kids having a mock wedding, a flailing baby's first haircut and endless vacation video.

He explained that while finding old home movies on e-Bay wasn't as much fun as discovering them at a flea market, in either case you had no way of knowing what you'd bought until you screened it.

Kind of like I had no idea what pechakucha was until I sat through the lightening fast parade of images and words.

The Library of Virginia is hoping to do another such event and invite the public to share this time.

I'm thinking of digging up old ticket stubs to shows I've seen over the years.

The hard part for me will be limiting myself to only 20 seconds worth of words for each concert story.

Brevity has never been my strong suit.

In fact, now that I think about it, I am so not pechakucha material.

Not that I won't happily go watch others do it Japanese-style.

I do like to watch.

Doctors Who Smoke and Other Laughs

When you go to a FilmRoasters event, you expect comedy, not drama.

What could be funnier than listening to a few improv guys with microphones skewer a B-grade film for an appreciative audience?

And tonight's event was long overdue given that they'd been on hiatus while the Firehouse got renovated and then got snowed out last month.

I know because I was one of the dedicated souls who trudged through that wet, sloppy snow to see if the doors were open that cold February night.

So I was eager for tonight's event, as was the FilmRoasters virgin accompanying me.

When we got there, they were showing a Spiderman short from the 70s and already mocking everything in sight.

Stereotypes still abounded in the 70s. The cop was jolly/tough and Irish.

When Spiderman climbs a high-rise and removes window bars to gain entry, someone cracked, "Why do you need bars on the twentieth floor?"

After a lot of corny dialog and bad seventies hair, the short ended and the organizer asked how many were first timers.

The girl next to me was and he asked her how she'd come to be there.

"I googled things to do in Richmond tonight and this came up," she admitted.

Ah, the powers of Google.

They showed a preview for May's event, an hysterical-looking film called "Teenage Mother" with the tag line, "Nine months of trouble" about a girl who was a little too easy with the boys.

I can't wait.

Tonight's main feature was "The Day the Earth Stood Still" and while I'd heard of it, I'd never seen it.

But it had big news like Patricia Neal (Oscar for "Hud"), Robert Wise director (he did the "Sound of Music") and composer Bernard Herrmann (he of all those Hitchcock collaborations).

Not exactly B-movie people.

The film had been made in 1951, so naturally I was fascinated by the period details. Gas station attendants, a radio store, TV announcers all being old guys, every man wore a hat.

When the "glowing flying saucer" arrives on earth and the spaceman walks out of it in his fitted, shiny suit, a guy cracked, "Looks like Bowie."

"Our world, at the moment, is full of tensions and suspicions," the TV anchor warned the viewing audience.

As opposed to, say, now?

When a TV personality is interviewing people on the streets, he mistakenly asks the disguised spaceman what he thinks.

"I am fearful when people substitute fear for reason," he says succinctly and the TV guy moves on, not happy with such a non-hysterical response to space invaders.

Three quarters of the way through the film, there was a series of crashing sounds on the steps down from the bathroom.

A man returning to the film had apparently lost his footing and fallen down the staircase to the first landing.

People rushed over to help, the film was stopped and an ambulance was called. Within twenty minutes, he had been taken to MCV for treatment.

One of the organizers noted, "The day the FilmRoasters stood still."

The film was continued but it took most of us a while before relaxing back into mindless laughter over cheap shots, corny humor and witty commentary.

When the spaceman is shot and taken to a hospital, he miraculously heals in hours due to the advanced planet he comes from.

Two doctors discuss his case, one wondering how he recovered so quickly.

"Their medicine is that much more advanced than ours," says one of the doctors, lighting a cigarette for the other as they both smoke and discuss the case.

You think?

The movie wasn't without partisan commentary, either. "People, my foot! They're Democrats!"

The improv guys were especially impatient with the 1950s style of film making, making frequent comments about long shots, extended takes and showing the viewer everything.

"Okay now every cop car in the force is going to be shown pulling out!" said one attention-short guy.

If it's not quick cuts to some people, it's boring.

On the other hand, their 21st century humor over mid-20th century film was hysterical.

After the earth sands still and everything stops working, one cracked, "Did you try alt/control/delete?"

The movie took place in D.C., where a woman comments, "There's nothing strange about Washington, D.C."

I feel pretty certain that even in 1951 there was plenty strange in our nation's capital.

At the end, the spaceman and his robot leave D.C. and life returns to normal.

Or as normal as it ever got during the Eisenhower years.

My FilmRoasters virgin and I finished off the evening with desserts from Lucille's Bakery.

A tiramisu bomb and Mexican chocolate pyramid were obscenely dark chocolate and paired beautifully with King Family Loreley as we discussed the partisanship of the movie we'd just seen.

It made for a somewhat anticlimactic ending to the evening the film stood still.

Drama, my foot! It was a pretty funny way to spend an evening.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Love Life Luck

I only had to be back in town for an hour and a half to regain my Richmond footing.

Which meant scraping the crab bits, sand and dust off of me in order to clean up and be at Steady Sounds by 6:00.

The occasion was the Diamond Center's 7" release show but the evening was starting with an Athens band.

Casper and the Cookies were apparently old friends of THDC and their power pop was energetic and immediate.

I found them just plain fun but someone with a far better music vocabulary then me mentioned their poly-rhythms.

Favorite into: "This song is about a guy who finds his love life luck in dating villianesses."

Not ashamed to say that the first person who came to mind was Cruella DeVille.

There were assorted mentions of drugs, French immigrants and body odor, making for the best kind of self-deprecating humor.

You could also tell they'd been playing together for a while.

One of the two drummers (always a good thing) said that the keyboard player had won them no fans when he opened up a recent show by asking, "So you're the people who voted for Santorum?"

I love clever stage banter.

They closed with "The Boys are Back in Town," especially satisfying for the female bassist/vocalist, never mind that the song is 36 years old.

As in, practically middle-aged.

After a break where I chatted with a Blood Brother, re-met a guy I'd met at a Hitchcock event a while back and rubbed the cheek of TDC's Kyle to appreciate the stubble of a beard he'd shaved off only this morning when the band returned from tour at 5 a.m., it was time for the main event.

The guy I'd re-met had come because he'd read that TDC was one of the ten best RVA bands and I affirmed that for him before their set began.

It was only my humble opinion, of course.

But then they launched into their distinctive, in the words of someone who makes his living with music, "psychedelic tribal goth." and I felt sure that the first-timer now understood their deserved place on the list.

I will never get tired of Kyle and his Rickenbaker (although I will continue to hope for the day when he has a 12-string Rickenbaker) or not enjoy Tim, the standing drummer.

The fact that half the band is female only adds to what I love because Brandi's voice and stage presence and Lindsay's keyboards are so integral to the experience.

They closed with the two songs on the new 7" (with a very vintage Decca-like looking label), "California" and "Bells," showing everyone in the room why they needed to buy this record.

You have to appreciate a band that gets home from tour at the crack of dawn and is playing a show fourteen hours later for the locals.

Not to mention a touring band who does an early show on an off night, making a Sunday a whole lot better for it.

Likewise, you have to appreciate having a record store that hosts music shows three block from home.

Or a neighborhood bar on the next block where a special of Asian pork is cooked to medium perfection and melts in my mouth like (spicy) butter.

Especially when it's followed by chocolate espresso pudding with white chocolate shavings.

Unlike my recent time in Annapolis, I didn't see any bikes parked under big boats in dry dock.

Just pop, psychedelia, Tomaresca and all kinds of people I know.

You are very Richmond if...
you can fall back into everything you enjoy about Richmond within 90 minutes of walking in the door.

Pshaw. Easy as falling off a log, even for this non-native.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Flaming Beards and Big Meat

Even without my eyes to admire the view or my mouth to enjoy the good eating, my ears would have been well satisfied.

A friend had suggested a weekend trip to Annapolis, a place  I (mis)spent a fair amount of time in my youth, but hadn't revisited in years.

The lure was her new digs located right on the bay. with an all-glass view of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. With only a beach separating her and the sound of all that water.

And even with the gray day, it was a magnificent sight and sound.

And even with the occasional rain and lower temperature, boats were out.

Sailboats moving along at a brisk pace all afternoon. Cruise boats toward evening. Freighters in the distance.

I was helping her get organized in her new place and she was taking me out to one of her favorite restaurants.

But it isn't one of her favorites because of the food, although she's a huge steakhouse fan, but because of the colorful crowd (her words).

I'm always game for colorful.

She'd made reservations at the tiny bar, even choosing the specific stools she wanted to reserve.

Which was great for us, but got us some dirty looks when we sailed right into the waiting crowd and into our stools.

We toasted her new view with a bottle of Domaine Chandon Brut Classic.

Asking if I preferred crab or shrimp, we began with a crab cocktail that arrived on a small platter, looking to be about half a pound of lump crabmeat.

It was heavenly and could have been a meal by itself with the addition of a side or two.

Since we were at a steakhouse, I uncharacteristically chose red meat, opting for a filet mignon and roasted asparagus, while my friend inquired about the availability of prime rib.

The bartender returned from the kitchen solemnly, saying, "Zero prime rib, six baked potatoes."

How does a steak house get down to six baked potatoes by 9:00 on a Saturday night?

I thought his wording, "zero prime rib" pretty funny, but my friend was not amused, called dibs on one of the potatoes and settled for filet, too.

Waiting for our food, we amused ourselves with the bar crowd.

Looking down the bar, I saw an obscenely large steak and blurted out to its owner, "You've got a big piece of meat there."

While his brain fumbled for a reply, his buddy said, "You can't talk to my friend that way!"

They were the driving up from Wilmington, N.C., headed to New Jersey and then to Key West.

It seemed like an odd route at best.

The couple right next to us were waiting for a table and she was clearly eavesdropping on our conversation (not that there's anything wrong with that) and jumped in at an opportune moment.

A psychiatrist, she and her husband had lived in the area for ten years and wanted to talk restaurants with my friend once they heard she'd just moved there.

When they left for their table, another couple replaced them and they were feeling no pain.

They'd had dinner at the bar earlier, gone to a nearby pub and returned for a night cap.

Their story? From Scranton, on their way to catch the auto train to Florida and spending the weekend eating and drinking in Annapolis.

They were hysterical. Former stockbrokers who had met at a company softball game when he complimented her car (that old trick) back in the '80s, they'd extracted themselves from their marriages to marry each other.

She told a great story about working at Clyde's years ago when two members of the Jeff Beck group came in the bar.

They all started talking music and before they left, one of the musicians slid a big chunk of hash across the bar to her.

Not long afterwards, the bartender drank a flaming Galliano and inadvertently set his beard on fire.

After tamping it out and before he left for the hospital, she slid the hash over to him,, saying, "Have this. I think you'll need it more than I do."

That led to me asking them what their first shows had been (John Denver, who was a friend of hers, for her and Chicago for him) and music talk ensured.

The sous chef was at the end of the bar eavesdropping and jumped in then, pointing at me and asking what my first show had been.

His had been The Police on the "Synchronicity" tour. No wonder he'd been a music lover ever since.

By the time we left there satisfied with the colorful crowd, I was in a red meat coma and couldn't even think about ever wanting to eat again.

We went back to her place and drank more bubbles while listening to the bay.

Even better, I fell asleep to the sound of the water hitting the beach.

The bridge was lost in fog this morning, not that there weren't sailboats on the water anyway.

By the time we got ready to leave for points south, it was lunchtime.

Luckily this meal was more area-appropriate; Cantler's Riverside Inn was a crabhouse.

Originally a rough biker bar from the forties with lots of fights we were told, it had been bought by a guy named Cantler in '74 and turned into what it is today.

A casual place where people come via boat, bike and car to pick crabs.

And I can eat crabs like only someone raised in Maryland can.

They weren't local obviously, but from Louisiana, but they were supers (jumbos weren't to my friend's liking), well seasoned and hot out of the steamer.

So we settled in with a bartender named Karen (also one of six children) and ate Maryland crab soup and crabs.

My friend marveled at my picking speed and I inhaled crabs for the first time in my life in March.

The only thing that was missing was the sound of the water, but my friend was unwilling to sit outside because the plastic was up on the walls of the outside deck.

And as good as the crabs were, and they were meaty and flavorful, I already missed the sound of the water.

Looks like I'll have to go back to Annapolis again soon.

Sure, to eat, but mostly to hear.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Sweating to a Constant Hitmaker

Tonight's show will be remembered for three things: hair, heat and the banana peel.

When it was announced that Kurt Vile would play Strange Matter, many local music lovers were amazed that we'd get to hear him in such a small room and got tickets immediately.

Not surprisingly, by yesterday, the show had sold out and the less proactive music fans were out of luck.

Anticipating a capacity crowd, I arrived shortly before the music was to start at 6:00, which was unusual in and of itself.

Because Strange Matter had already booked a later show before Vile made his plans to come to RVA known, his ended up being an early show.

My timely arrival had allowed me to stake a claim to a piece of the bench on the wall near the stage, key because I knew the place would eventually be mobbed.

A friend soon arrived to join me.

So, with rain pouring outside, pollen-covered puddles everywhere and the humidity climbing in the un-air-conditioned interior, the show kicked off in broad daylight.

Sore Eros began the show and their almost ambient but definitely rock benefited from the lead singer's unexpectedly sweet voice.

I was especially fond of the 90s-like guitar sound which still managed to have a pop sensibility. I was just sorry their set was so short.

And by then it was getting hotter by the minute in the fanless, uncooled room.

Next up were Supreme Dicks, a band begun in 1982 and one both Sore Eros and Kurt Vile admired.

Kind of experimental, kind of noise rock, even psychedelic, these guys had a performance artist as part of their set.

Not far into their set, she began eating a banana in time to the music, eventually mounting the peel on her head where it remained for the rest of their show.

You can't do that sort of thing and not expect the audience to be confused.

"How does that peel stay on her head?" my girlfriend asked. I had to assume the heat had adhered it to her hair.

"I think she's going with a kiwi next," a girl behind me said.

A guy observed, "I want her to officiate at my wedding."

She went on to peel and eat an orange, recite poetry ("I feel so dirty, I feel so flirty, I wanna feel clean"), shake her red tambourine menacingly at the crowd and claw at her face, all while the band played on.

This is when the bench became especially helpful, since it allowed me a much higher vantage point to see the performance art that was unfolding onstage.

Many in the audience seemed confused, but Kurt Vile himself stood by the stage to take in most of their set.

Once they finished, massive texts must have gone out because all of a sudden, the overheated room was at capacity.

One thing immediately became clear onstage; there's a lot of hair on Kurt Vile and the Violators.

"Do you think there's a hair rule that his has to be the longest?" a friend asked looking at four longhairs and a guy with the best curly white boy 'fro you could ever see.

I did think so.

With a much bigger bass drum than usual and guitars drowning in echo and reverb, the band launched into their classic rock-influenced music.

A little woozy, a little psychedelic and all sung behind Vile's curtain of beautiful curly hair.

"He's so pretty," the girl next to me pined. "Is it wrong that I'm lusting after his hair?"

I reassured her that it wasn't.

After a while, the band took their places in the shadows and it was just Vile and his acoustic guitar for a few songs, giving the die hard fans some of the quieter songs they craved.

But the band returned and sadly before long the set was winding down.

"We're going to do two more and then everyone needs to leave as quickly as you can, single file. Then they're going to do it all over again," Vile announced.

Some brave souls were even planning to stay for the next show despite the ungodly heat in the room, but I wasn't one of them.

So I filed out and over to Ipanema in my sweaty sundress, my shrug having been soaked when a friend knocked over a glass of water on it during the show, to help a musician friend celebrate his birthday.

"How are you?" the bartender asked and I responded succinctly with "hot."

"Yes, you are!" he said high-fiving me before delivering Wineworks Viognier and Mexican chocolate pie to revive me after the sauna of Strange Matter.

Of course, plenty of others had headed there, too, making for a chance to discuss the show with people I hadn't even realized were at the show.

The birthday boy drank bourbon drinks with pink umbrellas and opened a gift consisting of bourbon, a lawyer's phone number and K-Y Jelly.

As the giver explained, it was all the essentials a musician could need.

I don't know, I think hair is also a plus.

Just look and listen to Kurt Vile and the Violators.

I happily did.

Friday, March 23, 2012

The Measurement of Lunch

It's bound to be a girly lunch when it starts with taking your girlfriend's measurements.

Upper bust, bust, lower bust, waist, hips, shoulder to knee, nipple to nipple.

Yea, I have no earthly idea why that measurement was required, but who am I to question what she needed?

I was just the one with the tape measure.

From there we drove downtown to La Parisienne where the few tables on the sidewalk were full.

Inside seemed shaded and cool compared to the city street outside, but we chose salads to go with warm weather we'd just left.

I tried La Lyonaise (aka bacon and blue), a blend of frisee and arugula, seared lardons, bleu cheese, red onion and an egg poached in sherry Dijon vinaigrette that gave me all kinds of the strong flavors I crave.

The busty one got La Parisienne with lettuces, roasted chicken, ham, hard boiled eggs, potato, celery and tomatoes in mustard vinaigrette and said it was excellent.

We shared an order of Belgian fries because we have never lunched there without sharing fries and we weren't willing to risk doing so today.

Some records are worth keeping intact.

I always find the crowd at La Parisienne interesting because it's not my usual.

There are so many suits, so many high-maintenance-looking women, so many focused -looking people who clearly have far more important jobs than I've ever had.

And yet they must like crepes and croquettes and zee onion soup as much as I do.

Food, the great equalizer.

My friend was so busy sharing juicy gossip that a server kept trying to take her plate before she could finish eating.

I was so busy listening that I just kept inhaling fries.

By the time we walked out, we'd killed a couple of hours in the blink of an eye.

Walking back to the car, we passed Kanawha Plaza and realized that we should have spent some of our time there enjoying the Friday afternoon sunshine.

Oh, well, live and learn.

It's tough to stay focused when you start out with nipple to nipple.

The Romance of Being a Muse

There are few pleasures that satisfy me on the level that having poetry read to me does.

That it was a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet doing the reading made it all the better.

Add in his deeply resonant and cadenced voice and I was practically ready to swoon.

VCU was hosting poet Yusef Komunyakaa tonight so I called up a fellow poetry lover to take it in with me.

Arriving at the Singleton Center to be greeted by the same smiling face that had greeted me at the Listening Room two nights ago was an unexpected treat.

Inside we found a mostly full auditorium and scored good seats among the crowd of poetry lovers and students.

VCU's head librarian noted that honors students would need to sign a sheet to get extra credit for attending while the rest of us got it automatically.

Because when it comes right down to it, life is all about the extra credit.

And then Yusef Komunyakaa took the stage.

Explaining that poetry for him was about confrontation and celebration, he began reading at a measured pace that commanded the room.

"I am a riddle to be unraveled," he read from "When Eyes Are on Me," echoing a sentiment I've often had.

In "How Is It?" he wrote "My muse is holding me prisoner," acknowledging that "I think she knows with her kisses in my mouth, I could walk on water."

That strikes me as very confident muse.

After years of dealing with his Vietnam war experience in his work, he said that in 2002 he'd promised himself that he wouldn't write about it anymore.

He then proceeded to write "Grenade" about the fourteen young black soldiers who threw themselves on grenades during combat.

"Your body doesn't belong to your mind and soul."

The mental imagery that it conjured up was heart-wrenching.

One poem he recited without reading to a responsive audience reaction, including nodding and clapping, almost testifying.

More than a few people were taking pictures, which seemed a tad distracting given the emotional weight of the man's words.

He closed with "My Father's Love Letters," a poem about the letters he wrote out for his father to his absent and abused mother, before taking questions from the audience.

Walking out afterwards took a minute of adjustment back to the real world after being lost in Komunyakaa's words and voice so completely.

But we made the transition and deposited ourselves at Mint, the only restaurant I know of with four toilet paper holders in each bathroom stall.

There's a certain kind of brilliance in that, I think.

The place was packed, very loud and as lively as could be. We lucked into a couple vacating their barstools and sat down quickly before someone else did.

With Tiamo Pinot Grigio in hand, we raised our glasses to poetry and started ordering food.

I fell hard for the complementary flavors of the pulled pork barbecue, pickled slaw and johnny cake taco, a steal at three bucks.

The crispy cider-braised pork belly was decent, but the collard greens were notable for their exquisite
flavoring in the greens, so good that a friend who doesn't usually like their bitterness said she loves this version.

They were perfectly seasoned I'd agree.

Bacon-wrapped dates took a step out of the ordinary with chipotle butter adding some heat.

The couple next to us, who had never heard of bacon-wrapped dates (!) before, became overwhelmed with the sweet richness of the dates, leaving the last one stripped of its bacon and headed to the trashcan.

At least they didn't waste the bacon.

A grilled baby romaine salad had Creole Cesar dressing and sharp white cheddar, but it was the grilling that distinguished it.

My fellow poetry lover and I were both eager to try the beignet of the day (she was even hoping for a cup of chickory coffee, but alas), even after our server referred to them as "doughnut holes."

Gosh, I don't know why they don't call them that at Cafe du Monde.

Today's flavor was banana, not a favorite flavor for either of us.

Yesterday's flavor had been blueberry (which we'd have loved) and white chocolate preceded that, but we decided to give banana beignets a shot.

The three hot doughnut holes came with macerated strawberries and fresh blueberries and had a distinctly un-banana like flavor, which suited us just fine.

Meanwhile, I said hello to several people I knew: the friend with the tights fetish, the former neighbor who teased me about not going out enough and the new mom showing off baby pictures.

It was only once a guy came up and sat next to me that I decided I wanted to go. He asked me my name, put his hand on my hip and reeked of alcohol.

Looking him in the eye, I removed his hand from my hip and moved away

Undaunted, he proceeded to do the same to my friend.

Walking out together, she and I agreed that there are some places no guy is allowed to touch unless he's your main squeeze.

And your hip is one of them.

Because your body doesn't belong to anyone you don't want it to.

Confrontation and celebration, it's not just in poetry, it's life.

It's just more beautiful in poetry.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Three Patios, No Effort

In my family, we call this a goof off day.

In other words, we didn't have to do anything, so we spent the day doing whatever we wanted.

A road trip took us west, providing time to debate such issues as breaking the law (some people seem to think keeping up with the flow of traffic negates speed limit signs while I beg to differ) and the purpose of artistic endeavor (I don't believe creativity must be shared in order to be considered valid).

But that's what the car ride was for, to loosen our jaws before a little winery hopping.

With nary a miscalculation, we pulled into Pollak Vineyards where an affable guy was eager to pour for us.

We were soon joined by a couple and our pourer started telling them what a fertile area it was for those who enjoy tasting.

"We've got quite the happy liquid area out here," he said, detailing cideries, breweries, wineries and distilleries.

No doubt Thomas Jefferson would be proud. Or tipsy.

The bold and dark 2009 Petit Verdot was my favorite, while my companion had a tough time transitioning from the whites to the reds.

After some wine purchasing, we settled on the patio, admiring the bucolic view of water and mountains.

Next stop: King Family Vineyards.

And once again my endless talking paid off.

Tasting the 2011 Roseland, a blend of chardonnay and viognier, I commented on the wine's floral nose, a clear indication that the 40% of viognier was making its presence known.

"Oh, so you know something about wine," our pourer exclaimed. "Well, since you like viognier, I'll give you a treat."

Despite not being available for tasting due to extremely limited quantities, she went to the back and returned with a barely started bottle of the 2010 Viognier.

The honeysuckle nose and hints of peach made this mouth-filling wine a must-have to take home.

The Crose Rose, made of 100% merlot, was an easy drinking porch or picnic wine that would go down like water on a warm day.

We met the other people tasting, including two Scottish couples and another who split their time between Northern Virginia and a local town.

Explaining their local digs, she said, "We tell visitors to take a left at the silo and another left at the washing machine. No, really."

And while that sounds charmingly scenic and all, I'd slit my wrists living out so far from everything.

I'm more the visit the sticks occasionally type.

Our pourer got inquisitive, asking me what I did and about my life in general. It sort of came out of the blue.

"I want to be you," she said randomly. "I want your life." My guess would be it had something to do with her husband not taking her our very often, a fact she admitted.

We finished with the 2010 Loreley that had brought us to King Family in the first place because I knew it would appeal to my fellow wine taster.

I'm not even going to describe the look on his face after tasting Loreley's tangerine peel and peach cobbler notes.

So we got glasses of that to take to the patio with a mini picnic of a couple of cheeses to enjoy in the sunshine

As we sat facing the polo field, the stables and the mountain.

Just another goof off afternoon in Crozet.

When we finally left with viognier and Loreley in hand, it was only because the winery's patio was shutting down.

A leisurely drive to Charlottesville put us at Mas at the perfect moment.

We initially took seats at the bar and quickly recalculated, moving outside to the patio, our third of the day.

There wasn't another soul out there with us when we sat down and we were just fine with that.

It lasted less than five minutes and within fifteen, every table was taken.

As I've been reminded on several momentous occasions in my life, it's all about the timing.

I was especially enamored of a patio-sitter's t-shirt, which proclaimed, "Loud amps save lives."

Amen to that.

We were getting the benefit of the fading sun shining directly on us, so another rose seemed in order, although admittedly it wasn't going to be Virginian at Mas.

We went Lebanese instead, ordering the 2009 Chateau Musar Rose, which suited me just fine with the late sun warming my back.

To follow up our extensive cheese course, we had the bacon-wrapped dates (cliched, I know, but so good), empanadas of mushrooms, artichokes, chevre and garlic in a flaky pastry crust and thick-sliced Chorizo.

Ignoring the gaggle of chattering girls at the next table (my companion claims he has learned to tune out that frequency, but I don't have that gift), I got more wine and we decided to share a dessert before hitting the road.

Being a sucker for a good story, I wanted the dark, bitter dense chocolate mousse because it was based on the Sephardic tradition of using olive oil from Andalusia instead of dairy.

It was incredibly dark and rich, but the oil gave the finish a different mouth feel than dairy would have.

Which was only half as big a deal as upholding a Sephardic tradition of which I'd been completely unaware.

By the time we rolled back into Richmond, it was time to go to Ipanema for another dessert, more wine, and the turnstyle stylings of the Blood Brothers.

Nothing finishes off a goof-off day quite like vintage 60s and 70s music.

Tonight's was right on point, pulling more heavily from R & B than the last couple times, delivering bass lines you could feel from within.

The place was also far more packed than previous nights where my two favorite modsters crank up the energy in the room to a fever-perfect pitch.

With glasses of Primitivo (almost time to let that grape go until cooler weather returns) and a coconut creme brulee on order, we commandeered the bench for best listening and viewing position.

The server, a friend, arrived with our dessert and asked if we wanted to move to a table to more easily enjoy it.

I told her we'd be fine sharing it on the bench and asked if she'd ever seen me unable to finish a dessert in all the years she's known me.

Pausing, she smiled. "Now that I think about it, no, I can't. You always eat all your dessert."


Which we proceeded to do while listening to the distinctive sound of music meant to be heard on vinyl.

The Blood Brothers are as dedicated to an era and sound as they are to only playing vinyl.

BB Jamie was saying that he tracks down these great songs on vinyl, only to be unable to get them because the 45 is $70.

Even without some of those rarities, what we heard was shake your booty-worthy and as ideal an ending to a goof off day as anyone could have hoped for.

I'm going to have to agree with our pourer's earlier assessment.

I know how lucky I am to be me.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A Hard Hand to Hold

I've been going to the Listening Room since it started two and a half years ago, but tonight was the first time I ever got publicly thanked for it.

And it's not that I need the validation, but it was a kick to hear it anyway.

The evening began at Bistro 27 for a glass of Gavi and Shrimp Bobo, the menu's only tribute dish to Chef Carlos' mother.

I remember having it back before it was put on the menu and being taken with the uniquely African-influenced flavors.

A combination of yucca root, palm oil and coconut milk with jumbo shrimp over brioche is as rustic as it is rich.

Small wonder the man ended up being a chef with that kind of culinary talent at home.

There wasn't time for dessert because it's essential to get to the Listening Room in time to claim one's seat of choice.

I got a bit distracted from that purpose when I arrived because that's also when the homemade baked goods showed up.

Dedicated listeners had brought cinnamon cheesecake bites, chocolate chip cookies, lemon pound cake and mint chocolate chip cookies.

It was a veritable dessert smorgasbord. I wouldn't want it spread around, but I had four mint chocolate chip cookies.

By the time I made it to my usual seat, there was a guy in it and he wasn't holding it for me.

I took the seat next to him and headed back to mingle. By some stroke of luck, when I returned, he'd vacated my seat.

Part of me would like to think that some other regular came up to him aghast, asking what he was doing in Karen's seat and he moved accordingly.

We all make up our own fiction, let's face it.

It was the Listening Room's resident photographer Rob who took on stage duties tonight, acknowledging that, "If you're a regular of the Listening Room, then you know I'm not the regular emcee."

It was the dimpled and bearded Chris who, we were told, is busy anxiously planning his upcoming nuptials, keeping him from his usual duties.

Even a dedicated music lover like me can make allowances for absences based on true love.

Eric Hunter played first and he'd brought two guitars so he wouldn't have to tune it between songs.

You have to admire a man who thinks ahead.

He admitted right off the bat that he was just playing three chords, doing songs about starting over and relationships.

Warning us ahead of time that the next song would sound an awful lot like "R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A." he went on to prove it, even singing a few lines of "the Coug's" (his phrase, not mine) lyrics to prove it.

Favorite lyric: "What's the point of thinking for myself if all I think about is you?"

I could have answered him, but the time wasn't right.

After the break, it was the Dimmer Twins, or "the pretty half of Horsehead," a band I've heard several times before.

A song called "Daddy's Home" benefited from multi-instrumentalist Kevin's fine pedal steel playing.

After a couple of songs sung seated, singer John returned to his accustomed band  position standing up and seeming far more comfortable.

You don't often get to hear a song inspired by a painting, but tonight's "Night Sleeper" was inspired by an Andrew Wyeth painting of the same name John had seen in Pennsylvania.

Favorite lyric: "Unsuspecting hearts are about to meet their doom." 

During the break, I saw the scientist, who had snuck in late.

He's usually my go-to chocolate source at events, not that I needed anything after a third of a dozen cookies, but I have to ask to keep him on his toes.

"Just came from a Scout meeting," he said, pulling out his empty pockets. "Had to use it there."

Only right that the youth come before the women with the cookie crumbs on their lips.

After the break, Rob got back on stage for more show reminders and thank yous, this time thanking the regular attendees, beginning with yours truly.

It was a lovely shout-out.

James West and the Vendors played last and as is unfortunately often the case when there are three bands, some audience members had already departed.

Explaining that their bassist was new and that it was only his third time playing with them, the band began an energetic set that had them winking at the new bassist for reassurance.

James told us that the next song, "Three Miles Wide" was about when your girlfriend takes acid before you and you have to hurry to catch up with her.

I found that absolutely laugh-out-loud hysterical. You never know where the muse will come from.

When he broke a guitar strong, the drummer popped up saying,"I had the foresight to bring a spare guitar," unzipping the case of one his stepfather had apparently given him years ago.

His humor resurfaced later when James explained that their previous bassist had moved to Portland.

"God rest his soul," the drummer observed dryly from behind his kit.

Their songs covered what can only be described as American Gothic.

You know, haunted plantation houses, foreclosures, tornadoes, suicide and cheerleaders who do blow.

When their set wrapped up, James' shirt was sweaty with the exertion of it all and the others look satisfied with having succeeded at playing "three times quieter than we usually do."

It's key to play quiet so the band can revel in not hearing anyone talk while they perform.

Everyone who plays the Listening Room seems to acknowledge the novelty and satisfaction of having people give them their full attention.

And everyone who comes to the Listening Room is as important as the band onstage.

Chris and Rob have both said so, so it must be true.

Cookie monsters included.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

In the Eye of the Beholder

The art was all about the breakup.

The meal was all about the date.

The music was all about the girl getting it.

I got the ball rolling at an empty Belvidere at Broad with a glass of Gatao Vinho Verde and a Todd S. Hale art show.

There were two distinct groups, the colorful one of acrylics with oil or enamel on wood  panels and the black and white one of charcoal on paper.

The first group were larger and abstract with occasional recognizable features like leaves, bones and drips. There was a certain exuberance to them.

But it was the other six pieces, the charcoals, that really captured me.

The series, called "The Vegetable Mind," began with a feathery branch-looking image, morphing into something fuller and multi-branched.

By the fourth one, it was starting to look head-like. The fifth looked like a guy violently shaking his head, with hair flying everywhere.

In the last was a dark head portrait of a guy with the saddest eyes and mouth.

A server saw me studying them and we got to talking about the series. She said that the artist had said that he had been going through the aftermath of a breakup when he'd done them.

Now I got in. Well, I didn't just get it, I felt his pain.

It was right there for all to see, much like a lot of my writing for several years. Plain as the noses on our faces.

That information led to a discussion with her of art history in general.

It's her major and my degree, so we'd found kindred souls to geek out with about all things art.

And, believe me, that doesn't happen very often.

Let's just say I don't often find someone who wants to discuss German expressionism, so when I do, I'm all over it.

All of a sudden I looked up and realized that I'd promised to be somewhere and I wasn't there.

Somebody was in the mood for pizza, so we made the trek to Stuzzi and found stools at the bar.

Next to us were a couple on a date and she was especially eager to chat us up.

Frankly, she was offering up way more information than I wanted to hear, but there was a once-trapped, now free air to her and she was ready to over-share.

In a nutshell: married at nineteen, three sons in short order, years of boredom and decades later, escapee.

She mentioned that in one of her son's high school yearbooks, a friend of his had admitted that he wanted to have sex with her.

Her son also showed up at Stuzzi shortly thereafter. You know, because everyone wants their 27-year old son on their date.

It's times like that when a person appreciates that a margherita pizza only takes 90 seconds to arrive.

Not that she didn't try to restart the conversation again, but with wine and food now, we at least had an out.

We finished with a Nutella and banana-stuffed calzone as big as my head and oozing sweetly dark creaminess.

My favorite part of everything she was over-sharing came when she looked at me and said, "You're smarter than I am."

I can only hope. And a lot more discreet, too.

Balliceaux called to us next for the RVA Big Band, a seventeen-piece that half-filled the room with its sheer size.

It was my first time seeing this new project, sort of a Devil's Workshop for the new decade.

I recognized several familiar faces in the band (including two favorites, Jason Scott and Marcus Tenney) and even more in the crowd.

The music ranged from newer to classic selections and their rendition of "Back to the Apple" by Count Basie closed out the first set with a swing that could make a person's hips move involuntarily.

It was dance music, pure and simple. Hips should move.

They had a girl on baritone sax and the big, deep solos coming out of her slender form elicited comments like, "Get it, girl!" from fellow musicians and audience members.

During the break, I spoke to a couple of jazz lovers, a student of jazz studies who was playing in the band along with the pros and a music-loving friend who was as impressed with a Monday night show as I was.

I'm thrilled that they're trying it out as a weekly series since it's often tough to find live music on a Monday.

When we finally decided to leave, it was mainly because I'd been up since the ungodly hour of 7 a.m., something I never do and am not very good at.

Looking back at the evening, I was feeling pretty good about myself.

I don't have that sad broken-up look that Hale's art did, I didn't waste decades in a suffocating marriage, and a guy told me I had the legs of a sixteen-year old.

And all that was before I got to hear seventeen talented musicians play music for me while I lounged on a vintage love seat.

You just never know.

Monday, Monday, so good to me
Monday, Monday, it was all I'd hoped it would be.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Not Sleeping while the World Goes By

I can begin an evening as artistically as I please, but chances are I'll end up lost and looking.

And that will be a very good thing.

A short walk to Ghostprint Gallery put me in the thick of a group of writers working on a false memory project.

I found my muse in a telegram, a letter and two old photographs.

Now I must create the poetry, the thought or the story to tell the world. Thank you, Chuck Scalin, for the inspiration.

Leaving the group behind, I found a willing partner and made for dinner.

I love Sundays at Secco because the staff is all female, so you get to talk about things like musicians and photographs.

And some people call you "my dear."

I began with a rose described as like drinking a red, all dark pink and calling for food.

The Mazzolino Brut Rose is a favorite from last year and held up in this unseasonable March.

My companion went  with the Saeti Lambrusco Seco which I'd had the other night.

Little did he realize he was getting the last glass of the secret stash.

In a further repeat of the other night, I insisted on the gnocchi in sea urchin butter, just to prove my point about what it conjured up.

He concurred and provided the rationale.

When comparing food to sexual activity, it's best to find a like-minded soul.

We went on to the pork rilletes followed by the Savoy cabbage wrapped Alsatian-style sausage with Granny Smith apples and Appezeller.

Who could resist a tiny mason jar of pork with fat on top? Not to mention the tomato chutney that accompanies it.

I chatted up the guy next to me who turned out to be the new chef at Blowtoad's, on a break to eat.

Newly arrived from South Carolina, he explained that he was eating his way up and down Cary Street to "see."

We finished with La Peral, a smooth Spanish bleu cheese that served as our dessert.

From that fabulous meal, we moved on to Balliceaux for music.

Walking up to the bar, the bartender went to leave, mumbling something.


"Going to get some Cazadores for you," Sean explained.

Such service!

Tonight was all about Brooklyn, beginning with the Bee and Flower, who managed to sound heartbreaking yet beautiful at the same time.

With a female lead singer, their dark yet upbeat sound with violin and occasional horn was catchy in that way that sneaks up on you.

At one point. Dana, the lead singer, asked the audience to sing along, saying their part wasn't difficult.

"Just sing 'hey now, hey now," she instructed. "Come on, you never know when we'll be back in Richmond."

The Parisian-born singer Blasco joined them for "Send Me Low," lending a vocal along with trumpeter Paul Watson's blowing and singing.

It was a beautiful thing.

When ...And the Wiremen took the stage, it was with three members of the Bee and the Flower and yet the sound was different.

Leader Lynn Wright has a voice that would do Bryan Ferry proud and there's a slightly more urgent note to their sound.

I'm especially fond of Paul Watson's trumpet, adding in a  melancholy or triumphant note as needed.

I loved the lyric, "Shut the fuck up while I'm trying to sing."

Not that I was, but it was duly noted.

Actually, the crowd tonight (including more than a few industry types) were clearly musically-oriented and not there to use music as a backdrop.

It's great when the pretty people don't show up.

For their last song, they covered Sam Cooke's "Lost and Lookin," taking on a nearly fifty-year old song and doing an exquisite job with it.

I'm lost and a-calling for my baby
Baby, won't you please come home?

If the lights had been just a tad lower, I feel sure half the room would have been making out by the time the song ended.

As it was, we were half-swoony ourselves, what with pink wine and Sam Cooke.

Nothing like a little Brooklyn soul with horn on a Sunday night.

Baby, I was home.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Loving Life in the Bubble

Comedy lesson #1: we all have our own reality.

For a unique way to spend St. Patrick's Night,  I joined  a crowd of laugh-hungry people in the upstairs loft at Steady Sounds.

In case you don't know the space, the ceiling is barely over 6' high and the air conditioning was non-existent.

A friend chose to sit on the floor because "the air's a little cooler down here." I braved it in a chair.

In a fortuitous stroke, the organizer of the event brought in two fans to make the cozy space oh-so much more pleasant.

On tap were comedians of all kinds, beginning with Katrina Jones and her brand of female humor.

She was especially funny when parodying Mo'Nique and talking about her coochie.

Next up was Middle Management, comprised of three of the funniest members of the Richmond Comedy Coalition.

With prompts from the audience of "cat penis" and "macrame" (although none of the three knew exactly what macrame was), they were off and running.

Their improv took the form of a redneck couple and his distraught brother who'd buried his hot polio-stricken wife in the backyard.

Along the way, she spouted off pseudo-psychology learned at a community college course (dreams, Jung and reality all came up) and the brothers fought over penis size and what Mom wanted.

Like they reminded us before starting, they had no idea what they were going to say and it would never be repeated again.

You know, sort of like life or love.

They were followed by Corey Marshall, who hysterically played the race card, first reaching into his pocket for notes while warning us what he was doing.

He riffed on a guy sitting nearby who looked eerily similar to a painting hanging on the wall.

"I see you shaved off your moustache," he noted. "You trying to impress your girlfriend having your picture on the wall?"

The main event was Kyle Kinane and his low-key delivery belied his razor-sharp observations.

He promised to share some dum-dum jokes and then release us to our shared holiday.

Using his best Peter Pan attitude, he explained how liberating turning 35 was because you no longer worried about how you looked to other people.

In a related story, he admitted to finally moving out on his own just recently.

What he couldn't decide was whether the motivation had been because no one else wanted him or because living alone afforded the opportunity to do what he wanted unobserved.

The example he gave involved Twizzlers and orifices. 'Nuff said.

He talked about grocery shopping and abandoning TV dinners in the beer aisle; he called it his contribution to street art.

His main monologue began with a stranger in a van asking him, "Do you like Halloween?" and involved him buying a life-size male doll using the $1.63 left over from buying his crappy bargain cigarettes when he was trying to quit.

The van owner had found the doll in a trash can, for what that's worth.

As a kick-off to St. Patrick's Day revelry, I couldn't have asked for a funnier way to spend my evening.

Thank you, Midnight Suggestion.

Afterwards, I strolled down to Bistro 27 to say hello to two of my favorite bartenders, and found a birthday dinner in progress.

Heading to the loo, I came across the charming and handsome guy (and neighbor) I had interviewed only yesterday and got to meet his beloved and discuss all things J-Ward.

Back at the bar, I ordered a glass of Gavi (one of the bartender's prediction for the next big white wine) and the mozzarella salad.

The pinwheels of house-made mozzarella, two layered with pesto and two with sun-dried tomatoes, over mesclun were new to me and just what I needed.

Comedy makes you hungry.

Eating away, I heard about  the pre-Elton John crowds, the Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters, the sons of bankers and sons of lawyers who had come, eaten early to a Candle in the Wind and left for the Yellow Brick Road.

I was surprised to hear that easily a third of them had been under thirty. As in, born after he'd already put out over a dozen albums.

I'm not even going to say how long ago I saw E.J., but let's just say he was till a tenor.

The new cocktail list is impressive, emphasizing, as it does, things like Campari and Aperol over certain more obvious components.

But that doesn't interest me nearly as much as the new extended night hours, meaning I'll have a final resting place after a late evening of music or comedy.

Or whatever.

I'm thinking I'll be able to finish up right in the neighborhood more often and walk home from there.

Or wherever I'm going to create my own reality.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Rebuilding the Bionic Woman

Never make plans because they are always subject to change. But set goals anyway.

I began at Amuse because it was a favorite bartender's last night and far be it for me not to worship at his bar one last time.

The vibe was low key when I arrived and escalated to full-on busy before it was all over.

Even better, a dedicated admirer joined me before long, making for an even better way to enjoy my evening.

We started with the Boxwood Rose despite the plethora of happy hour choices. As if that weren't surprise enough, there was a new prix fixe menu.

Amuse, you've gotten so hip lately.

We couldn't resist the regular menu, though, choosing  the country style duck pate with quince whole grain mustard, pistachios and toasted crostini.

At the bartender's recommendation, we let it sit for a while to warm up, releasing the flavors.

Just as compelling were the house-cured sardines and roasted piquillo peppers with arugula, olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

It was just short of an Italian's wet dream.

Last, but certainly not least, was the grilled polenta with a saute of local mushrooms and creamy sherry with chives.

Meanwhile, we had been greeted by WRIR folk, the bartender's parents ("Didn't we meet in an alley?") and a couple who clarified that they were not engaged.

Because it was the bartender's last night. It seemed only appropriate that he make my last absinthe drip at Amuse.

Okay, maybe not my last, but the last he  prepared for me.

A nearby bar sitter marveled at the process, never having seen it before.

You have to love absinthe virgins.

Because of the later light and the magnificent view, we lingered over absinthe while admiring the fading March light over the sculpture garden.

By then I'd missed the Black Maria Film Fest I'd intended to make.

Eventually, we marshaled our forces and went to see "Visions of France: Three Postwar Photographers," a beguiling show of people kissing, cafe scenes and assorted denizens of Paris' streets.

We were taken with Doisneau's "Kiss by the Hotel de Ville" mainly because of the girl's arm.

Yes, he is holding her shoulder and kissing her hard, but it is the surrender in her right arm that captivated us.

Clearly, she was completely helpless once he started kissing her.

Now, that's street art.

Stopping on the second floor landing, we paused to admire the host of couples tangoing on the lower level.

Every third Friday, they do Tango after Work and watching these couples dance was a beautiful entertainment.

I am probably far too uncoordinated to attempt tangoing, but I couldn't help but admire the beauty of the joined bodies.

And I've got the wardrobe; all the women wore skirts or dresses.

We all need something to aspire to.

Next up, I went to Strange Matter for music because how else do you follow absinthe, street kissing and tango?

In this case, with leg compliments from a girl, libido questions from a guy, a man in the ladies' room and three excellent sets.

Marionette started on time, a rarity at Strange Matter, and played an incredibly tight set of new music.

It's fantastic when old fans get rewarded with new material.

During one song the drummer's girlfriend came up to me and said, "This song sounds like sex, doesn't it?"

When I mentioned her comment to the guitarist later, he said, "I thought it sounded more like victory...or maybe that's the same."

Ocean versus Daughter was next, and while I'd seen them once before, I hadn't known the full back story then.

Hearing her sing "You hurt me. I hate you. I hope you die in a fire" takes on a whole new meaning when I learn that the guy she wrote it about is in the room.

While I liked her voice and keyboards, even better was when she had two members of Marionette backing her up.

During a trip to the bathroom, I came out of my stall to find the singer cornered near the sink by a guy who wanted her to listen to his band.

But really, following her into the ladies' room to make his pitch?

I can't decide if that's very rock and roll or just skeevy.

Last up was Canary, oh Canary and while the vocals weren't quite high enough in the mix, they did their usual superb job with reverb and obtuse lyrics.

So while I'd traded off film for music, I can't come close to matching the record of WRIR's Galaxy Girl, who was there tonight. She's now seen fifteen shows this month and it's March 16th.

I bowed at her feet for such awesomeness.

The best I got tonight was having a musician friend tell me he'd been driving through my neighborhood and was admiring some great legs in shorts when he realized it was me.

We're going to call that metaphorical bowing at my legs for semi-awesomeness.

I know it's not much, but it's hard to compete with a record like fifteen out of sixteen.

Truth is, when it comes to some things, I'd be happy with one out of three.

As long as it's the right one.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Mint Condition

While even I want a win, some of us will be forever grateful for screen-less bars.

Which was not the case at Mint, but that didn't stop me.

A friend wanted to meet and check out the former Davis and Main location and see what had been wrought.

So there we were at the crack of cocktail hour, me talking to a friend of the bartender and her hurrying along, doing her best to be punctual for a change.

The (non) mint green door was propped wide open,a  delightful thing on this very warm March evening.

Inside, the lack of air conditioning gave a tropical vibe to the room, pleasing me no end and making for a comfortably warm room.

Forgive me, but I think air conditioning should be outlawed in March.

I have to admit that like what they've done to the formerly claustrophobic and very '80s space.

The soft green walls, black and white photographs by a local photographer, even the owner's and her children's initials  carved into the bottom step are all indications that some thought went into the new space.

Even better, 60% of the wines by the glass are from Virginia.

The percentage drops to 25% on the bottled list, but, all things considered, that's still a better than average percentage.

But we sold out the Commonwealth for Italy and ordered a bottle of Di Lenardo Pinot Grigio looking for some relief from the warmth.

A known bartender was running the show and he immediately began giving us both a hard time.

On the other hand, it was nice to see him in jeans instead of black pants for a change, so we took it.

It was amazing how quickly the space began to fill up: it's still the soft opening but people streamed in as if it were the be all, end all on a Thursday night.

And not even night; it was early evening and still quite light out.

Have I mentioned how fond I am of the time change?

Despite my friend's plans to leave shortly for a wine dinner, we couldn't help but peruse the menu, finding lots of Southern-influenced dishes on it.

Several are showing up everywhere these days, like deviled eggs, poutine, cracklins and pimento cheese.

But there were some interesting things too. Burrata grilled cheese on sourdough, pulled pork barbecue Johnny cake taco and, my personal favorite, the beignet of the day.

With a limited amount of time together, Friend and I covered the important stuff like men, work and travel plans.

But we did get food.

Mussels simmered in ham hock (or hack, as the menu indicated) broth with fernet, butter and cabbage.

A wedge salad with black pepper buttermilk ranch, bacon and tomatoes topped by root beer batter onion rings.

Their signature fried dill pickle chips.

The mussel broth was buttery rich if overly cabbage-tart, the wedge was under-dressed and the fried pickles provided both a salty and crunchy quality.

I found it interesting that the soundtrack for the most part was dead-on 90s. Occasionally we'd hear a 21st century song, say Modest Mouse, but not often.

Checking with the bartender, I was assured us that this was the chosen mix.

No complaints from me. At least it wasn't classic rock or worse. But still.

Once my friend left for her wine dinner, I enjoyed the company of any number of strangers, most of whom had a direct connection to the owner.

When I got ready to leave, it was with the knowledge that Mint has the potential to do several things right.

They do late night seven days a week and they do brunch both weekend days, long a pet peeve of mine.

Ergo, I'll be back if they can pull both off.

From there, it was on to Secco to escape Mint's two screens. Yes, I wanted VCU to win, but I didn't need to see it happen.

I have faith that it would without me watching.

Secco was far more civilized and I dove right into a wine off their secret stash list, the Saetti Lambrusco Seco, a dry, organic sparkler with a stitched label.

I kid you not, when the bartender let me feel the stitched label (front and back), I was sold. Luckily for me, it also offered tannins and fizz, so I was more than happy.

Things continued to get even better when my house-made potato gnocchi with sea urchin butter and mustard greens arrived.

I'm a huge fan of gnocchi, but this buttery seaside take made me swoon with pleasure at both the mouth feel and the flavors.

I may have even told my server that there was something sexual about it. It was indulgent in the most obscene way.

Naturally I followed that with another taste delight, this time a special. Lightly fried sweetbreads were prepared with onion salsify and sorrel for a unique take on glands.

Or, as a bartender friend once referred to them, grown-up chicken nuggets.

Yes, that's a disservice to sweetbreads, but I understand  where he was coming from on that.

Tonight's soundtrack was especially satisfying after the earlier trip down Memory Lane, offering up, as it did, the XX, Passion Pit and Seawolf.

Thank you, Secco, for saving me from the nineties.

I chatted up the women next to me who had the gall to ask why there was no screen.

Before the bartender could explain that owner Julia would never allow such a thing, I got up on my soapbox and gave them what for.

After a stern talking-to, they agreed that we were lucky to be someplace that didn't have one.

VCU doesn't need us to ensure a victory, so why endure the buzz kill of a screen in a bar?

I guess I showed them.

I finished up with Haystack Mountain Red Cloud, a complex washed rind cheese touted as "not shy," but then who among us is?

Not me, that's for sure.

That said, I don't intend to end up on anyone's screen.

Or watching one.

I'll Take a Seat in the Gallery

Sometimes it doesn't pay to be a female.

It certainly didn't if you were at the Richmond Theater on December 26, 1811. That was the night that the theater caught fire and over 50 of the 72 dead had two X chromosomes.

Like me.

Elaborate and bulky clothing, likely seating in the impossible-to-escape box seats and a decided lack of chivalry ensured that the fairer sex never had a chance.

I know all that only because of today's Library of Virginia lecture with Meredith Henne Baker on her new book, "The Richmond Theater Fire: Early America's First Great Disaster."

She began by rhapsodizing about time spent at the Library of Virginia "at these book talks, in the archives and fighting with the coin lockers."

Ah, memories.

As many of these lectures as I've been to, this was easily one of the largest crowds, so clearly the fire and the resulting dozens of deaths are like a reality history show.

Painful but no one can look away.

I found it fascinating that because free blacks, slaves and prostitutes were relegated to gallery seating, few of them were killed in the fire because they could get out while most of the others struggled to find the limited exits.

I'm sure it didn't help that for a venue that comfortably held 500 people, 580 tickets had been sold that night.

Sounds a little like what the National did the night of the Sufjan Stevens show. Just saying.

No doubt they were eager to see a four-hour performance that began with drama, moved on to music and concluded with a melodrama.

And what a melodrama! Kidnappings! Bandits! Nuns bleeding! Who could resist all that?

Sadly, the sets caught fire mid-performance and moved very quickly to the seating areas where people fought to escape, some even jumping out of upper story windows.

One man who lost his wife and son in the fire referred to the tragedy as "an event that unhinges the intellect."

Monumental Church was the collective conscience's salve to deal with the loss of such a large percentage  of Richmond's population at the time.

Because the bodies had been left where they'd fallen, the ground was consecrated and the church stands as a tribute to the people who never made it out.

But perhaps the biggest surprise of the fire was that people started attending church in droves.

That awful fire opened the door to a new religious climate in Virginia, so there's the unexpected legacy of the fire.

In yet more over-reaction to it, Baker said that Richmond had no theater for the next eight years.

As it was, they enacted a $6.66 fine for Richmonders going to public amusement.

Let's hope our sometimes myopic state government never does something that foolish again. Do I look like I can afford $6.66 every night of my life?

Walking out after Baker's excellent talk, I heard my name called from behind.

"I'd recognize that advance and retreat anywhere," said the history-loving man about town, who was gallant enough to walk a few blocks with me before catching his bus back to work.

He even kissed my hand before climbing on board.

If only there had been more men of his caliber in the Richmond Theater that awful night in 1811. Or any night.

Fortunately, no bulky clothing is ever going to prevent me from escaping anywhere.

Nor are my two X chromosomes afraid to jump.

Preferably into chivalrous arms.

We Hold These Truths To Be Self- Evident

Poetry is the way we live.

Three minutes is enough for certain mollusks.

Ottowans will expect neighborhood wine shops.

Go ahead and leave, but you will return with a new appreciation for here.

No film school is required to make films.

If you're dying of a mysterious illness, never take something from a bottle labeled "The Cure."

Act One

The scene: Bistro 27

The players: Yours truly and a wine-savy friend

The food: Three-minute calamari in a basil tomato sauce over Byrds Mill grits. Cheese-stuffed empanadas with pesto aioli.

The surprise guests: A Canadian couple here for a real estate conference. They were impressed with how friendly people here are and appalled at their inability to find wine shops within walking distance of their hotel (I told them about The Hoppy Dog, a block away).

The conversation: Holding grudges, how a certain bass is a metaphor for a woman and a new winery.

Act Two

The scene: Firehouse Theater

The reason: "Days Gone By," the debut film of John Zhao, who was not a film student and had never made a film. After someone tried to rob him on Broad Street, he took refuge in the Firehouse where Project Resolution was showing local film shorts and he was hooked

The hook: The film was shot in digital, analog and on film.

The sentiment: After having moved to NYC (like countless other Richmonders), he's returned and acknowledged how much he missed this town and how satisfying it was to be back.

The surprise: The short film shown first, made by an HIV-positive black gay man who told his life story and thoughts via spoken word and a desire to make his life poetry, despite every societal strike against him.

The plot: Despairing boyfriend watches girlfriend dying and hallucinates along the way, with a few "A Clockwork Orange" moments thrown in for good measure. Oh, and some David Lynch.

The conclusion; King Family Viognier is good. Drugs mixed in a blender with alcohol and a stuffed animal are bad. Never fall for a girl just because she dances alone and you watch her.

The sweet ending: Limoncello, dark chocolate-drizzled pineapple and cheap laughs for language geeks.

The past, the present and the future walk into a bar.

If my life is a poem, I am hoping it is a rhyming couplet with the slyest of humor.

It was tense.

Too funny...and not at all the way I live.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

As I Like It

"Do you not know I am a woman? When I think, I must speak."

If I were looking for a statement of life philosophy, that might be it, although I'd have to give Shakespeare credit for the wording, if not the sentiment.

So with lots on my mind and the resulting lots to speak, I met a friend at Six Burner after she messaged me, "You have a  lot to share!"

You talking to me?

And while we weren't exactly outside on this gorgeous day, all the front windows in the restaurant were wide open, allowing balmy, spring-like air to waft through the restaurant.

The only thing lacking by not being outside was the exhaust fumes of Main Street traffic.

"Why then, can one desire too much of a good thing?"

Despite my friend's penchant for chewy red wine, even she had to acknowledge that today was not a day for it.

Instead, we went the sparkling route with Fita Azul Passion Rose because who couldn't use a little more passion in their life?

"I pray you, do not fall in love with me, For I am falser than vows made in wine."

Over talk of men with beards that need trimming, terribly attentive dates and homecomings, we slurped up a bowl of P.E.I. mussels with bacon, bleu cheese, white wine and garlic broth.

The  creamy broth was so good we got extra bread for sopping.  My friend wanted to drink it with a straw but thought better of it.

We ran into someone she knows who's doing a piano bar here Brooklyn-style that sounds like something I need to check out.

After all, it's important not to wait too long to do what you need to do.

It's not like anyone is getting any younger.

"Sell when you can, You are not for all markets."

Just when we were trying to make plans for another get-together, I noticed the time and had to beat feet.

Richmond Shakespeare waits for no man (or woman).

This month's staged reading was "As You Like It," or another play about true love (and masked identities).

My favorite kind.

Tonight's twist was that nine of their Young Company were doing the reading, meaning lots of skinny jeans and promising talent.

"That flattering tongue of yours won me."

Nathan Johnson was especially strong as the romantic lead Orlando, but also as the fool Touchstone in a madras blazer.

Could one infer that only fools would wear such a thing?

When Orlando wants to proclaim his love for Rosalind by posting poetry all over the Forest of Arden, the actor stuck pink Post-it notes to the front row's foreheads to simulate what he was doing.

Despite being in the front row, I wasn't one of the few, the proud, the stuck.

"And faster than his tongue did make offense, his eye did heal it up."

Even with a young cast occasionally tripping over the heady language of love, it was hard not to enjoy the story of a man who's willing to woo what he thinks is a guy but is really the object of his affection.

Because doesn't a smart man woo his object any way he can?

"Answer me in one word."