Sunday, June 30, 2013

Bonne Anniversaire!

An anniversary party made for the ideal sendoff for my vacation.

Amour Wine Bistro was celebrating three years with bubbles and lots of desserts.

If I ever have an anniversary worth celebrating, I'd do it exactly the same way.

Being the eager beaver, I was there right when things were supposed to get started, but an unusually busy dinner hour was delaying things.

Come to think of it, on the drive over, I'd driven past crowds and lines at most restaurants.

While most people seem to be out of town already (my neighborhood is a ghost town), apparently those still around were all out tonight.

It turned out to be a lively night, with pots and pans clattering in the kitchen, the inevitable glass of wine spilled nearby and an errant spoon that went flying.

I took a seat at the bar and began with a glass of Lucien Albrecht Cremant d'Alsace Rose.

The two girls next to me were deep into man talk ("George is the only one I want to marry!") but the guy at the far end perked up when he saw he had someone to talk to.

Once he found out my interests, we had a most interesting discussion of a very old painting of a bishop he'd gotten from his grandfather.

He was eager to find out who'd painted it and asked for suggestions.

Using old letters between his grandparents, he'd found a reference to a Peter Paul Rubens painting his grandfather had bought 100 years ago.

Holy cow, Rubens?

I told him he needed a much higher source than me to start that process.

Like me, he's a regular at Amour, as were all of the crowd who came in tonight to raise a glass to Amour making it three years in a business that's known to chew up and spit out even experienced entrepreneurs.

I saw the cute couple I always see at Amour, the ones who seem to take so much pleasure in each other's company.

Three women came in after seeing "The Comedy of Errors" at Agecroft and we made room for them at the bar.

Turns out they were Carytown merchants as well as regulars, although it was somehow our first time meeting.

Like me, they were tickled to see tonight's dessert menu offering 3 for $3 or 5 for $5.

Now that's a dessert menu I can get behind.

And the choices!

Bourbon maple creme caramel. Key lime tartlette. Plantain cake with avocado buttercream. Chocolate mousse in orange lace cookie. Profiteroles with ganache.

The three of them debated whether they need to order 5 for $5 or 10 for $10, while I kept my order to 3 for $3.

One of the women argued that sharing five small desserts between three women was insufficient.

While they debated, I started on my cake with its delicate flavors and exquisite buttercream.

Next I did profiteroles filled with Chantilly cream, but mine arrived sans ganache.

Then a friend came in (with a friend) and all of a sudden I was moving my bar stool to their bar table to join them for dessert.

They were two, so they chose five desserts.

My friend regaled us with stories of her "crazy" Dad who cuts out the obituaries of his former wife's ex-boyfriends and sends them to my friend, instructing, "Send this to your Mother."

With the cute couple behind us, we discussed playing online Scrabble (she does, I don't), leading her friend to observe that people who play Scrabble on a Kindle can cheat.

I wouldn't know.

You see, I just packed my wooden Scrabble board to take to the beach and there's no cheating with wood.

My last dessert was chocolate mousse in an orange lace cookie with a raspberry, a sublime combination of flavors.

While it seemed fitting to have three desserts to celebrate a third anniversary, I was led astray when suddenly profiteroles with ganache arrived.

I couldn't think of a single reason to resist the dark chocolate-covered delicacies.

You see, it's the contrast of the dark chocolate with the delicately sweet cream that makes a profiterole sing.

As I suspected, all these wonderful desserts were for tonight only and will not be showing up on the regular menu.

You either came and benefited or missed out entirely.

I met a guy who'd read my post about a disco party we'd both attended and we laughed when we heard that the upcoming Bastille day picnic may include another appearance by Amour's smoke machine.

Maybe that's the deep, dark secret of a restaurant making it to the three year point.

Keep things fresh and blow a little smoke every once in a while.

I'll have to remember that if I ever get to a third anniversary again.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Rocky Mountain Hi!

You look like summer personified.

If I'm going to walk into a restaurant and immediately be complimented, it bodes extremely well for the rest of the evening.

The fact that the person holding open the door and commenting on my orange top and floral skirt was a woman mattered not at all.

It's a good week for me and womankind; yesterday, a woman told me accusingly that I looked seductive.

It was one of those things that sounds like it should be a compliment, but really isn't.

She who uttered the kind words ushered me to my visiting friend, the mixologist, here for a few days from Boulder and awaiting me at the bar.

It was an auspicious start to the evening, the weekend, and my upcoming vacation.

After a hug and an order of Bieler Pere et Fils Coteaux Aix-en-Provence Rose, we proceeded to catch up on all that had transpired since he moved to Colorado.

New tequilas (he's sending me a bottle), a busy week in his love life (with France on the horizon) and the pains of being devoted to a high-end clientele all spoke to his new life in the middle of the country.

So far away that when the Anderson's Neck oysters arrived, he admitted sheepishly that they were the first oysters he'd had since he'd left.

Well, except for Rocky Mountain oysters, and, as he acknowledged ruefully, "They're not the same."

Yea, bivalves and balls, not even close.

It was great to see him after so long and, as was our habit before we left, we wasted no time in talking and eating.

We started with the squash blossoms stuffed with braised lamb, a dish as sublimely beautiful as it tasted.

And don't even get me started on the $5 price tag.

Next came andouille-stuffed dates in tomato sauce, arriving in a little cast-iron skillet, the perfect balance of sweet and savory.

All around us, the place never slowed down, with people coming and going non-stop.

It didn't matter to us because we were busy discussing rye with a nearby customer, the benefits of Japanese shaker glasses and the doughnut craze hitting RVA.

I was intrigued by the guy who sat down at the bar and proceeded to read his "Washington Post," an act that would have gotten me talking to him if not for my friend's lively conversation.

Since my friend is the beverage director at a swanky restaurant, we soon found ourselves perusing the wine list for hidden gems.


Friend was intrigued to see the little-seen 2010 Massimiliano Calabretta Etna Rosso on the list.

After explaining to me about its unique site - the terroir volcanic ash and sand - he insisted that this was the wine we needed to drink tonight to celebrate seeing each other after nearly a year.

Boy, was he right. It was a long-aged, easy drinking summer red, somewhat reminiscent of a Barolo and with the most exquisite lingering finish.

A wine I'd likely never have tasted if he hadn't come to town, spotted it and insisted we needed it.

Did I mention what a dear friend this guy is?

Around 9:00, we looked outside to admire the rich, blue sky that refused to give up the last light of sunset.

These endless days are almost magical.

We moved on to the cheese plate, a misnomer if ever there was one.

Cabot cloth-bound cheddar, herb spetzle,smoked duck lardons, apple slices, sunflower shoots, date puree, and a hard cider cheese sauce made for a dish so deep in flavor (that spetzle! those lardons!) that all we could do was eat and sip and smile at each other in satisfaction.

Since it was his first visit to Dutch & Co, the place having opened since he moved away, he was thrilled to discover it was everything he'd heard it was (through Facebook, of course, not the grapevine).

Like the last first-timer I went with, he was surprised at the restaurant's low-key charm, but not at its stellar food since we'd been to Aziza's back when Chef Caleb had been cooking there.

As the restaurant emptied out, we realized it was time to go.

When I came back from the bathroom, it was to discover that his next date was texting him to find out why he wasn't yet at Balliceaux.

By the time I got home, it was to find he had already tagged me on FB with a picture of Dutch & Co's wine list. How appropriate.

I finally made it! Had a wonderful meal with a dear friend, Karen.

Also known as the personification of summer.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

With an Energized Affection

Thunder and Shakespeare, it's a match made in heaven.

On my to-do list this week was seeing "Much Ado About Nothing," further confirmed when a loyal blog reader informed me that if I loved life, I needed to see this.

I shall see thee, ere I die, look pale with love.

With a fellow Shakespeare lover in tow, we found seats in the theater, the one with the giant windows on the side of the building.

Moments before the previews began, the red shades lowered and all was dark.

It was an ideal start to the new black and white version of "MAAN,"

I could not endure a husband with a beard on his face.

As the bickering Beatrice and Benedick proclaimed their distaste for each other, moments of silence allowed the thunder outside to be plainly heard inside.

It was fitting, given the tempestuous nature of their relationship.

And to be merry best becomes you.

The film was exquisitely filmed in black and white, in that way that makes you forget about color entirely.

And for anyone who'd scoff at Shakespeare on film, I have news for you. It was laugh-out-loud funny.

She mocks all her wooers out of suit.

The party scene, especially, was mesmerizing, with "Hey, Nonnie, Nonnie" music and graceful trapeze artists suspended overhead.

It was the kind of party I'd love to attend.

The glory shall be ours, for we are the only love gods.

The beauty of this adaptation was how contemporary it was, not in language, but in setting and dress.

Since we usually see Shakespeare done live, getting to see it up close - facial gestures, whispered phrases, intimate gestures - was much more of a treat than I'd anticipated.

But till all graces be in one woman, one woman shall not come in my grace.

The cast was excellent, tossing off the Bard's English in a way that any moron could understand.

Even the four girls sitting next to us who texted through the pre-film on-screen admonishment not to text or e-mail during the film, laughed occasionally.

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

The whole movie had the feel of a long weekend party with friends, one where something was always happening, but you had to be around to be privy to it.

In other words, the very best kind of screwball comedy.

Every detail was brilliantly conceived, whether bottles on a window ledge, a bouquet tossed on the ground or a nosy Beatrice bumping into everything in the room in her haste to hear what is being said about her.

Thou and I are too wise to woo peaceably.

I was enchanted from beginning to end, caught up in a black and white Woody Allen-world where people say the cleverest things and inevitably fall for the ones who give them the best wordplay.

I will stop your mouth.

The subplot about the hilarious and inane constable Dogberry trying to track down bad guys is beyond hysterical with his mispronounced words and misplaced bravado.

Man is a giddy thing.

It's not just man; this woman was giddy with delight by the time Hero and Claudio and Beatrice and Benedick wed.

The funniest part?

The dumb girls next to me never saw it coming.

"Oh, it's her!" one exclaimed when Claudio's bride was revealed to be his love.

You were right, CW, this is a movie for people who love life.

Besides, I've heard being merry becomes me. Bad parts and all.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Fitting Entertainment for Pints

Turns out people were crying out for theater on the southside.

O'Theater at O'Toole's welcomed in more people than they had chairs for to see a staged reading of "The Playboy of the Western World.'

Touted as "plays and pints," tonight was the first in a series of summer readings.

The organizers must be Irish because they brilliantly got Murphy's Irish Stout to sponsor the series and, even better, 100% of the proceeds from the sale of that stout went to the actors.

There's the way to get actors to work -pay them in beer.

And while I don't drink beer, I'm plenty Irish (hello, O'Donnell)  and a theater lover of the highest order.

With only one rehearsal under their belts, the cast did a terrific job with a 1907 play about a man who stumbles into a pub, claiming to have killed his father.

You're a fine, hearty girl who'd knock the heads together of any men in the room.

The Irish accents took a bit of getting used to, just like they do in a movie.

Two fine women fighting for the likes of me. I'm thinking this night, wasn't I a foolish fellow not to kill my father in the years gone by?

DeeJay Gray played Christy, the supposed murderer, to perfection, marveling at his new identity as a sought-after man for the first time in his life.

Billy Christopher Maupin played Shawn with a big voice and a timid demeanor, the cowering suitor of the pub owner's daughter, Pegeen, and was hysterical, worried about everything possible.

We'd been warned in advance that the play had two intermissions, the better to relieve ourselves of all that stout we were drinking.

I like a theater group that thinks ahead.

It's the likes of me she's only fit for.

In the second act, David Bridgewater showed up as the father who'd been maimed but not killed and immediately made the audience laugh with his ad-libbing.

Revealing his bandaged head where his son had clobbered him, he was asked who'd hit him.

Momentarily losing his place but eyes twinkling, he looked at the audience and paused. "Wait for own son!" and the crowd cracked up.

The father wastes no time in telling the pub crowd what his son was really like, which was nothing like the brave murderer they'd assumed.

He wasn't even the smooth womanizer they'd taken him for.

If he saw a red petticoat coming over the hill, he'd be running away.

As more women clamored for Christy, he reveled in all the attention.

She'll knock the head off you, I'm thinking.

The pints of stout continued to arrive from the bar during the second intermission, a sure sign everybody was having a good time.

I know I was.

I'm taking a fancy to you.

By Act 3, the other pub denizens were getting a bit tired of Christy's boasting.

He's not able to say ten words without bragging about killing his father.

It was in the final act that we also got a limerick, courtesy of Gordon Bass, who played the drunken pub owner, Pegeen's father.

There was a young man from Kent
Whose tool was exceedingly bent
He put it in double
To save himself trouble
Instead of coming, he went

You can imagine the raucous laughter heard from a roomful of stout-swilling people after that delivery.

What is it to make a woman like me fitting entertainment for the likes of you?

When Pegeen scorns Shawn for Christy, she explains to her father why.

There's no savagery or fine words in him at all.

Savagery aside, what woman doesn't want fine words from her beloved?

By the end, Christy is gone and she woefully laments, "I've lost the only playboy of the western world."

Others, however, saw the positive side of his absence.

For the love of god, we'll have peace now for our drinks.

Maybe it's the Irish in me talking, but frankly, peace for drinking is over-rated.

"Plays and Pints," however, is not. Drink on, theater lovers.

Hits, No Runs

Every now and then I get sporty.

For the second time in just over a month, I was at the Diamond to see a Squirrels game.

Last time I got rained out, but tonight the weather held.

A friend was in a sporting mood and invited me to share the nosebleed seats for an evening of entertainment.

I was expecting it to be a dry night since I don't drink beer, the official beverage of baseball, but we found a vendor selling James River Cellars wine and I much preferred a cup of Vidal Blanc over anything else to be had.

Once up the stairs and in the cheap seats, we settled in to see what the game could deliver, finding a lovely breeze at our new altitude.

It wasn't long before a ball went soaring into the stands and hit a guy sitting nearby squarely in the chest.

By that time, I'd already expressed concern that given my pathetically slow reflexes, if a ball came my way, I'd be powerless to do anything but take the direct hit.

Being sporty is hard.

Since it had been years since I'd been to a game, I was unprepared for all the hoopla that happens between innings.

Musical chairs, t-shirts shot out of guns, dressing contests, pigs in wheelbarrows set to the tune of John Denver's "Thank God I'm a Country Boy," the wacky shenanigans didn't let up.

You didn't even have to like baseball to have a good time.

It didn't hurt that the roving vendors accommodate the crowd's every wish, which for me meant water and peanuts (Virginia Diner, mind you) and the occasional wisecrack to go with my wine.

My slow reflexes failed me again when a Squirrels water bottle landed practically at my feet, but the little boy who scrambled up to collect it no doubt deserved it more than me.

Sitting up so high afforded a stellar view of the city skyline and spectacular blue and pink sky as the sun moved lower in it.

I decided my favorite player was #23, not just because 23 is my favorite number, but because every time he came up to bat, the music played was Frank Sinatra.

We watched as the Squirrels surged ahead 5-0 and prevented the Baysox from scoring again and again.

When we finally left, it was only because the Squirrels had the game firmly in hand and we were hungry.

We ended up at Gus' where the tables and bar were full of people in team shirts (all teams sponsored by Gus'), many with eyes glued to the hockey finals.

It was easy to do given that there was a TV at every booth (don't get me started), not to mention all the screens on the walls and over the bar.

Given Gus' Greek roots, the Greek house wine seemed the logical choice and our harried server agreed.

Keeping to the theme, I had a lamb burger with tzatziki and feta and a side of onion rings while the baseball fan had Gus' spaghetti with everything but the kitchen sink.

Despite being no fan of sports, the game capturing everyone's attention was for the championship  so I ended up paying far more attention than I might have.

At the every least, we cheered the fact that both hockey teams at least came from ice-prone areas.

Friend had been hoping Boston would win and send the series into another game, but alas (I guess), Chicago wanted it badly enough to win in Boston and end it all right in front of us.

I was far more into my lamb burger than the game but once things got tense, it was impossible not to watch the last two minutes until Chicago clinched it.

Driving home under the remnants of the super moon centered over Broad Street, I had to admit that for a night centered on sports, it had been an especially enjoyable one.

Where is Karen and what have you done with her?

Monday, June 24, 2013

Strong Tea, No Metaphor

I couldn't decide if it was more about the southern charm or the splendor of location.

A friend invited me to lunch at Homemades by Suzanne in the John Marshall Hotel and since I hadn't been in since the bazillion-dollar renovation, hell, yes.

Walking in off of 5th Street, I loved how they'd kept the stately, old feel of the interior while updating it subtly with contemporary furniture and limited technology tastefully placed.

Lunch is served in the smaller of the two ballrooms and we got a table next to one of the enormous windows looking down on the streetscape.

The room was neutral to the max -beiges, taupes- no doubt so as to be an unobtrusive backdrop for the scores of weddings held here.

The servers wore black catering-type uniforms and were all exceptionally friendly and on point with service.

One very old-school element was the all-inclusive lunch price, providing a main, a side and a drink.

Friend was aghast that they didn't yet have their ABC, but adjusted, while I asked for unsweetened tea, knowing that it would be a well-made one.

It was, strong and fresh-tasting, just the way my Mom still makes it.

Amongst some family members, it's referred to as "black gold" for its pure, unadulterated tea flavor, but it's my standard.

The rolls on all the sandwiches are housemade, which I needed to taste, so I got the club for its country ham, turkey and thick-sliced bacon.

Friend got a sampler plate of cold salads and ate two of those rolls lavishly buttered.

Good rolls, just like my Richmond grandmother used to make.

For a side, I had the housemade potato chips with dip, eschewing cheddar bacon for cucumber/dill dip for no real reason.

All in all, the thick sandwich was a standout, mostly because of that country ham and bacon.

It was an outstanding way to have pig two ways.

Friend found his shrimp, chicken and tuna salads a tad on the wet side, but we both acknowledged that extra mayo is the southern salad way and a standard for many people.

With at least half a dozen dessert choices, we chose carrot cake, which did not have an overly thick layer of frosting, to my friend's delight.

I'll always eat more frosting.

After bringing each other up to date on our lives, we strolled across the lobby to look at the larger ballroom.

While it had a stunning vaulted ceiling it had no windows, although I was almost willing to let the permanent wooden dance floor make up for that.

There was even a balcony around the upper area of the room, a place to get away from the party or take some picaresque shots.

Still, I missed the windows.

Not that there's any chance I'll need a room for a wedding reception anyway.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Degenerate Art and Tin Can Men

You start some things and before you know it, you lose interest.

Other things are so pleasurable, you keep doing them until you look up one day and realize years have gone by and you're still doing them.

That's the Silent Music Revival, for me at least.

I went to my first SMR back in 2007 and somehow six years have passed and I still never miss an opportunity to hear local music improvised to a vintage silent film.

Walking over to Gallery 5 tonight, I found SMR organizer Jameson sitting outside enjoying the beautiful evening.

As we talked about all the SMRs he's done over the years, he mentioned that he needs to add more silent films to his collection or he'll have to start repeating films from the early days.

"Of course, nobody but you would know that I've shown them before," he laughed.

And honestly, I wouldn't mind seeing a silent film I haven't seen in five or six years again.

When last he showed "The Mechanical Man" back in 2007, DJ Mike Murphy provided the soundtrack.

Tonight he'd carried that tradition forward, asking DJ Ohbliv to do the honors.

The evening kicked off with a 1928 Dadaist film called "Ghosts Before Breakfast" and Ohbliv getting warmed up doing music for it.

The nine-minute film, destroyed by the Nazis as "degenerate art" according to the opening credits, was full of the kind of ghosts that would have amazed 1920s audiences.

Flying hats, water going back into a hose, branches sprouting leaves, ties untying themselves.

In other words, stop motion and reverse film, but who knew that back then?

Introducing "The Mechanical Man," Jameson praised Ohbliv, saying, "No one's really holding down hiphop in Richmond like Ohbliv."

Then he explained that we were about to see a 1921 science fiction film that had been lost until a Portuguese print had been discovered in Brazil, albeit only part of the original 80-minute film.

To make up for what we weren't going to see, Jameson offered a "trailer version" to bring us up to speed on the plot.

Basically it amounted to the only way to stop an evil mechanical man was with another mechanical man.


The first thing that struck me about MM was what mincing steps he took; you'd think a big scary robot-looking creature would take big, hulking steps, but he walked like a girl in a tight skirt and overly high heels.

In one scene, two women are taking off their jewelry after a party, putting it in a chest and storing it in a wall safe.

Then a title card tells us, "We were tranquil when suddenly Mechanical Man enters."


Let's just say their tranquility was shattered when MM rips the safe out of the wall as the cowering women watch.

So much for tranquility.

In another scene, MM appears at a party, only this MM is supposedly a costumed guest and he's nice to everyone, even calling for champagne for those at his table.

Not surprisingly, he opened it by snapping off the top of the bottle, upsetting the men at the table, while the woman happily drank the glass he poured her.

Not long after, there was an epic battle between the two mechanical men which got the entire audience tittering over the clumsy effects, but no doubt impressed audiences in 1921 no end.

And through it all, the hospital scenes, the fire, the marauding MM, DJ Ohbliv kept the music apace with the action, whether fast or slow, scary or comical.

You have to appreciate a man who can think on his feet, since, like the audience, he was seeing the film for the first time.

And when our hero, Saltarello, manages to ride a stolen motorbike to the laboratory of the evil criminal Mado and flip a switch to short circuit the MM, Ohbliv's music was right there with the last minute save.

It was so good a climax, I almost needed a cigarette.

Now I just have to wait until October for the next installment of SMR.

I already know it'll be worth the wait.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Mid-Summer Madness

Nothing worked out as expected and everything worked out great.

The plan was to go to Petersburg to have a picnic on the lawn and see Sycamore Rouge's free production of  "Twelfth Night."

Free Shakespeare outdoors, hell, yes.

I mean, yes, please.

On the drive down 95, it began to rain.

By the time we got downtown it was more like a monsoon.

We pulled up right in front of the Petersburg Art League and sat there in the car, hoping to wait out the rain and hope that the play would still begin in just over an hour.

I suppose we were a little obvious, sitting there idling and staring, so when a woman stuck her head out the door, I rolled down my window and asked if the play was still happening.

It was, only inside now and, yes, we could bring our dinner in with us.

Being straight-haired women, we opted to wait out the worst of the rain before making a mad dash for the door.

All at once, my friend had a flash of clarity.

"Wine!" she exclaimed, pulling a bottle of Rose d'Anjou from the back seat.

She's brilliant, that one.

So that was us, the two happy theater lovers sitting in the Mini sipping Rose as the rain fell harder and car tires disappeared into the enormous puddle across the street.

Once we'd gotten into the wine, we couldn't help but get into the food we'd brought from Garnett's and next thing you know, I'm eating a farmer's salad and she's downing a black forest ham sandwich and potato chips which had morphed from extra crispy to slightly soggy in the humid air.

About 7:15, a woman came out of the building, indicating we should roll down the window and said, "If you want to come in, we're going to start in about fifteen minutes."

Food and wine consumed, we soon joined the small crowd inside.

No doubt many people had assumed the outdoor show had been called off by the bad weather, but they'd have been wrong.

You know what they say about assumptions.

We had our pick of seats and choose two in the front row, the better to see the mistaken identities and cross-gartered stockings up close.

The cast, full of fine voices, began the show by singing "Walk Like a Man" before they were off and running.

I heard you were saucy at my gates.

"Twelfth Night" is a play I've seen many times (Scott Wichmann was my first Mavolio, what, over a decade ago?) and one I still enjoy with the right cast.

This was the right cast and the right chaise, the only prop.

O, time, thou must untangle this, not I.

This production included a lot of popular music - "I Wanna Hold Your Hand," "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away," "Leavin' on a Jet Plane," "Get Off of My Cloud"- played to a guitar strummed by the especially well-acted Feste, the fool (whose voice sent both Friend and I into palpitations).

As I am, all lovers are.

Having the Art League as the backdrop for the play instead of the great outdoors meant that behind the actors hung a show by Adam Juresko, an artist with whom I'm well familiar since two of his pieces hang in my living room.

All I'm saying is, you could do a whole lot worse for set decoration.

Let thy love be younger than thyself.

That's always been my M.O.

When intermission arrived, we stretched our legs by going outside during a momentary break in the rain and admired the little park and stage next door where the play is usually performed.

Seeing it made us both want to come back and try the picnic/play thing again.

But indeed, words are very rascals.

During the second act, I got the payoff for being in the front row when the actor playing Sebastian leered at me mid-dialog and inquired, "So, I'm Sebastian. What are you doing after the show?"

It's always nice to be singled out.

When after a discussion with his servant, Antonio, he finds he has an hour and some cash to kill, he leered again, as if to check if an hour would be enough.

I could work with  an hour.

Why, this is very mid-summer madness.

Despite the small crowd and move to the indoors, the cast was energetic, delivering their lines as if to a lawn full of people.

Which is, I bet, what they will have for all their other performances considering how well-executed and hilarious this production is.

I recognized a couple of people since I was practically up in their faces.

Matt as Sir Andrew was laugh-out-loud funny with his big eyes and effortless broad physical comedy, once even knocking the curtain off the opening to the backstage area in his exuberance.

Despite having seen Nick wow me with show tunes at Ghost Light Afterparty so many times, his turn as Malvolio was a treat, as he played alternately egotistical and angry and oh-so dapperly yellow.

McLean's Olivia was funny, self-involved but enthusiastically devoted to the man/woman she thought she loved.

Besides, by the end of the play, everyone had been found out, marriages made and Malvolio clear that he'd be revenged on the lot of them.

By the end of my night, I'd had wine and dinner in a car during a rainstorm and seen a rollicking good play inside instead of out.

Not what I expected, but what you will.

World of Strange Arrangements

On the longest day of the year, I've got nothing but time.

So when a friend calls to suggest happy hour, something she never does, I am on board immediately.

We agree on Bistro 27 and are the first customers at the bar.

Despite the nearly perfect weather, we do not sit on the patio, a choice which later pays off when a keg explodes, dousing the bartender and manager with beer.

It's pretty funny to see the manager's shirt and short hair wet but even better to see the barkeep's longer hair and bangs dripping with suds.

Hazard of the business, I suppose, but highly hilarious.

We dive into the happy hour menu with mussels in red sauce, two kinds of fries and a caprese salad.

There's a lot to be said for dirt cheap food this good.

A large party arrives and mills about but we ignore them to talk to a just-arrived bartending friend about honeysuckle syrup, $2 baguettes and the foibles of ABC agents.

Restaurant people always have the best stories.

When we part, it is half an hour till sunset, so I spend the next hour at home on my balcony, watching the longest day of the year fade into dusky then inky blue.

Once it is fully night and the sky is dark, I head off to Belmont Food Shop to meet a friend in from out of town.

The bar has only one seat free but there's a sweater on the bar stool, so I have to ask.

It belongs to neither the man on my left nor the woman on my right.

Score! We have a winner and I have a seat, close enough to hear the '20s music playing behind the bar.

Eventually people nearby leave and I move to a space with two adjacent stools.

Of all things, I see Virginia's indigenous grape on the wine list, and order a glass of Horton Norton in honor of my friend, the Norton enthusiast.

It's a tad on the foxy side, but it'll pair just fine with the cook's plate I've ordered.

My friend soon arrives from Washington, as does my cook's plate, and I'm good to go with both.

On the slate are sliced lamb belly, crab and avocado, smoked salmon with roe on cukes, chicken rilletes with a duck heart, duck confit, chicken gizzards, pig's feet, buttered radishes, grilled bread, frisse and pickled fennel.

It's both a heart attack and heaven on a plate and I dive in immediately.

The bartender has already told me that the lamb belly is his favorite thing in the restaurant right now and given its meaty goodness (it's better than a steak), I can understand why.

I slather the fatty rilletes on bread, revel in how the gizzards were cooked in fat and in between every fatty, salty bite, have a piece of tart pickled fennel.

My out-of-town friend tries a bite, then another and is soon raving over the quality and the price of the plate, guessing that it would cost more than twice the price in D.C.

Yet another reason why I live here and not there now.

We pick away at the delectables on the slate while he fills me in on his latest project, an homage to his father, and I regale him with some tid-bits from my trip to Italy last Fall.

A couple comes in looking for food only to be told that at that hour, only the cook's plate is being served.

Without batting an eyelash, I become the salesman to convince them to stay for this array of body parts - hearts, feet, gizzards - and they do.

I am not, however, able to talk them into Virginia's indigenous grape.

The chef comes out to have a well-earned beer and we all get into a discussion of farmers' markets.

When I allow as how I only go to the Byrd Market, I am asked what I buy since it does not appear to them that I ever cook at home.

Hello, I do eat meals besides dinner at home.

I sense that my traveling friend is fading fast, no surprise since it took him four and a half hours to get here from Washington.

When he asks about coffee, I insist he wait until our next stop to caffeinate.

Balliceaux not only provides the cup of joe he needs but also great energy with two DJs because tonight is No Richmond, a night of post-punk.

I run into three friends, including the unlikeliest of shoegazers, before I even make it halfway back.

After my visitor sucks back his liquid energy, I order a glass of wine and lead him to the back where a dance party is in full swing.

We find a good spot just outside the glut of dancers where we have room to move in place as well as observe the dance floor action.

My friend comments (and perhaps judges) that none of the guys move their upper bodies when they dance.

The crowd floods the dance floor for "Dancing with Myself" but I get the biggest kick out of ABC's "Look of Love," another song that thrills the crowd.

Before long, my friend comments that it smells like a boys' locker room in there, but for me it's all about sound, so the smell is irrelevant.

I am having a ball dancing in situ, so much so that one friend presumes I'm drunk (not even close) and another tells me how girlish I look (even less likely).

Must be all this beautiful daylight today. Happy summer solstice to me.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Answer Me, Rescue Me

A day that runs the gamut from art to balcony is a memorable one. Romantic, even.

When I woke up this morning, I found an e-mail from a painter friend reminding me that he owed me a painting and had one ready for me.

Modestly, he referred to it as a good "summary."

Even better, he let me know as soon as he got home from work and I walked the block and a half to his house to procure my newest acquisition, "South Beach."

He described it as "South Beach, Miami. Caught in the rain, 4am walks on the beach, not a care in the world. Mojitos. Grace. 1606. sushi samba. Lincoln Rd. Art. A great time. Airline hostesses giving free wine. a surreal list of events. Timeless.....that painting has a lot if meaning to me."

I teetered home with this large format (3' x 4') "painted diary" of a fondly recalled part of his life and hung it on one of my 1876 walls, where it looks magnificent and joins an apartment full of other friends' artwork.

The energy it adds to the room is palpable.

When I left to meet a friend to go out tonight, it was only after one last, long glance at "South Beach" before I departed.

I am so fortunate to have such talented friends.

The one picking me up in front of my house is a terribly talented conversationalist, who never fails to stimulate my intellect while making me laugh hysterically.

From a very local artist to six more of the same I went.

We drove directly to the VMFA to hear a panel discussion with six local artists, "Virginia Artists Live."

All six artists have work hanging in the VMFA (much of which I'd blogged about after a recent trip through the 21st Century gallery) and worked in various disciplines: photography, sculpture, painting, ceramics, drawing and printmaking.

Modern and Contemporary Art curator John Ravenal got things rolling humorously, saying, "We're calling this program "Virginia Artists Live" because here they are."

After each introduced himself and spoke a little about their work, Ravenal asked what was good about working in Richmond.

Former New Yorker and painter Richard Roth said, "I was interested to find such an intellectual community in a place like Richmond."

Relative newcomer Ben Durham said, "It's a great satellite of D.C. and NYC, providing great opportunities you can't find in New York. Here, you have spare time because money goes further here for people to put time into studio practice."

Ceramicist Michelle Erickson explained that living in Virginia had been integral to her learning about centuries-old ceramic processes that had informed her work.

Behind me, I heard an old guy gently snoring.

Trying a different tack, Ravenal asked photographer Gordon Stettinius about how RVA was difficult for an artist.

"I'm gonna go all Jiminy Cricket on you," Gordon laughed. "I have a gallery and I love how the community has congealed around the gallery There are lots of people to bump up against and learn from."

Grinning and emboldened, he went on to suggest that the museum needed to hold a biennial like some other museums do. "It would be a way for artists to have their work seen and probably swatted down."

Speaking in his delightfully South African-accented voice, collector and printmaker Siemon Allen took it down to basics. "In D.C. I could go to a news agent and they'd have the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Chicago papers. When I came to Richmond, I couldn't find those newspapers here."

Sculptor Elizabeth King was more blunt. "What an odd political city this is. It's odd how many people I don't talk to. It's strange and surreal."

Nervous titters all around as she referenced hot-button topics and certain audience members got uncomfortable.

Asked about advice for young people, Roth told them to have high ambitions and low overhead.

That's always been my motto.

Durham freely admitted, "I have no idea how I could function in New York. My studio on southside is a very happy place."

I understand his sentiment; my apartment/office in Jackson Ward is also a very happy place (with, did I mention, a fabulous new painting?).

Stettinius said, "I don't tell people they have to leave to succeed but I do advocate for people to come here because it's a very fertile scene."

There was a short period for audience questions, but they mostly were of the love-fest variety, one praising Stettinius' photography series of himself dressed as various characters, another noting King's resemblance to the museum's bust of her mother.

Ravenal is notorious for keeping his talks to an hour or so ("I like to leave you wanting more") so he quickly wrapped things up and turned us out into the still-lit night.

My fellow art lover and I made a bee-line for Dinamo where a server kindly made space for us at the end of the bar near a man and his Dad trying to finish a hefty and rich looking lasagna.

In a place as Italian as Dinamo, there was nowhere to go but with a bottle of Masciarelli Montepulciano, so we unashamedly did.

Meanwhile, the men next to us threw up the white flag on the pasta and ordered espressos and the chocolate espresso torte all the way, as in with berries and whipped cream.

We looked on enviously, but knew enough to eat in the order an Italian mother would approve of.

That meant starting with the tortellini in brodo, which we'd had on our last visit and couldn't bear not to have again.

It's not just the pasta, it's not just the filling, it's not just the flavorful broth, it's the whole package.

Over a discussion of mixed signals and delayed gratification, we tore into a white pizza with artichoke hearts, so good and so generously portioned.

"Garlic!" my friend enthused, but then nobody was going to be kissing us tonight, so why not?

When the lasagna bolognese arrived, it was the size of a baby's head and so hot the sauce was still bubbling.

"You got the last one," our sever said with satisfaction.

We let it cool just long enough not to burn our tongues and then pulled big, gooey bites off of the platter to cool momentarily.

Mmm, meat and cheese, just what hungry women want after an evening of intellectual stimulation.

Despite working down all of the wine, we both ended up with Chinese take-out boxes of pizza and lasagna, not a bad thing come lunch time tomorrow.

Friend looked at me when our server inquired about dessert.

Although the last time we'd been in we'd gotten the torte naked, the two gents who'd been enjoying theirs earlier had insisted that "all the way" was the only acceptable option for this dessert.

Our arms easily twisted once our server concurred, we were soon facing a mountain of chocolate and cream while Friend also sipped an espresso.

"Wasn't that a great meal?" she asked rhetorically as I slid into a food coma.

I would say so, even if I feel like I'm about to explode as we make our way out to a deserted Cary Street.

When she drops me off, I am surprised to see how early it still is, so I decide to enjoy the summer solstice eve outside on the balcony.

I light a few candles, put on Bryan Ferry's "Taxi" and relax back into a deep and comfy chair to digest.

The air deliciously cool, the candlelight soft and low and Ferry's crooning exquisite, it is everything a summer night should be.

Starting with "I Put a Spell on You," meandering through "Answer Me" and ending with "Because You're Mine," it's an album for romantics.

And after this day, this amazing new painting I was gifted with, this stimulating talk by local artists who all clearly see the wonder of this city much the way I do, this fabulous meal eaten in the shadow of an enormous, shiny espresso machine with a good friend, and this music-filled hour under a not quite full moon, I am feeling all kinds of romantic.

Surely I must be under a spell.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

All My Silver Dreams

Be still, my heart, what an evening.

I got the ball rolling when I met a friend at The Roosevelt for their new early bird menu I'd been hearing so much about.

We took seats at the bar, the only two free when I arrived, affirming how popular the idea of cheap eats done right is.

With a glass of Gabrielle Rause Vin de Gris in hand, I listened as my friend told me all the fascinating stuff she'd recently learned about historical botany.

Now I know if I see elephant's ear growing in a yard, it was probably originally an African-American home.

Same with certain varieties of rose. Who knew?

Looking at the early menu, I forced myself to look beyond the fried oyster sliders and ordered a crabcake sandwich with slaw and spicy mayo while Friend kept it lighter with a salad of watermelon, roasted beets, avocado and Feta over Green Goddess dressing.

Tasty as her salad looked (and I probably will order it next time I'm in), my big fried crabcake sandwich oozing with slaw was just the ticket to kick off a night of pure pleasure.

And at the early bird price, I've no doubt I'll be back to experience more of that special menu.

Over restaurant gossip, hearing about her remodeling plans and a discussion of what poor communicators men can be, we wiled away the better part of two hours.

As the sun got slightly lower in the Church Hill sky, I finished up with a slice of coconut cake, a cake near and dear to my heart, as anyone who has ever been smitten with me can attest.

Then it was down the hill and back up again to the National.

Earlier, I'd gotten an invitation to go see Bio Ritmo tonight, but I'd declined, saying, "I'll be with Local heaven."

Three and a half months after I'd bought a ticket for this show, it was finally happening.

Good thing I'd finally learned patience.

What I couldn't understand was that it hadn't sold out in advance, since Local Natives had sold out not one but two nights back in early April at the 9:30 Club.

I made sure to arrive in time for openers Ex Cops, a five piece with a male and female singer and lots of jangly guitar.

My only complaint with their sunny hook-driven pop was how songs seemed to abruptly end rather than be finished off.

Singer Amalie wandered offstage early on, returning to explain, "I broke my tambourine into 4,000 pieces the other night so I got another one from someone in the audience but now I've lost that. I'm going to use Natives' tambourine but I won't lose it."

And she didn't.

Just as their set of dream pop was ending, there was a huge influx of people to the venue, making me think maybe the show had finally sold out at the eleventh hour.

During the break I stayed put in front of the sound booth so as not to lose my prime position, leaving me free to eavesdrop on those around me.

"I don't want to go talk to those girls. I don't like girls who don't like other girls," a girl said to her boyfriend.

"I don't know what they were 'cause I only heard their last song. It was kind of dark and scary," a girl explained to a newcomer.

Clearly she had heard what I'd just heard through a completely different prism because I had heard neither dark nor scary, just happy indie pop.

Finally the lights were dimmed and, inexplicably, Bowie's "Young Americans" blasted from the sound system.

Even odder, the people around me sang along, many of them singing "young America," but who am I to correct them?

Local Natives took the stage and began their set with the first song off of their new album "Hummingbird," a record I obsessively listened to for the first two months I had it.

That wasn't going to thrill a girl I'd overheard earlier who'd asked her friend if she'd heard "Hummingbird" yet.

"No, I only like their first one, "Gorilla Manor" so I didn't really try to listen much to the new one before I came tonight."

Your loss, honey.

I'd been introduced to it by a music-lover who told me back in February that it was the best album of 2013 so far and I agreed after the first listen.

Tonight's sixteen-song set took nine songs from "Hummingbird," six from "Gorilla Manor" and one, "Warning Sign" from the Talking Heads.

Like I'd predicted, I was in heaven.

The way-too-brief "Ceilings," a song another music lover had told me he couldn't get past on the album because of its gorgeous chords and harmonies, took my breath away live.

Walk around till 3 a.m.
Tell me what I know again
To keep myself from second guessing

All my silver dreams bring me to you

Hold the summer in your hands
Till the summer turns to sand
We were staring at our ceilings

Thinking of what we'd give
To have one more say of sun
One day of sun

Tonight was the band's last night in the U.S. for a while and they said they were happy being sent off from Richmond.

"It's beautiful here," guitarist Ryan said. "I've spent some time with the Ken Burns Civil War series and here it is. We're from California where an old building is, like, 1920."

Next was "Shapeshifter," another from their first album, which inevitably got a part of the crowd worked up every time they dipped back that far.

All the songs feature upbeat guitars, exquisite three-part harmonies and the tastiest of drumming, so while I'd have been fine with them playing "Hummingbird" start to finish, everything else was gravy.

Fact is, their music makes me (and everyone else I saw) want to alternately swoon and dance and if that's not a feat, I don't know what is.

"I see a group of people down there singing every word," observed keyboardist and singer Kelcey. "It's so cool to hear you singing songs we wrote in our bedrooms."

For me, it was so cool to hear live songs that I've been playing endlessly on repeat for months.

After closing with the aching "Bowery," they came back for a three-song encore and with every note, I dreaded the end of it all.

"Sun Hands" was the final song, an appropriate one for its tribal feel and the crowd did their part, singing along at the top of their lungs.

It was such an incredible ending and since I was at the show alone, when the lights came up, I had no one to whom I could express my excitement about what I'd just experienced.

I turned around to the sound guy directly behind me and smiled what surely must have been a shit-eating grin for how satisfied I was with my night.

His face broke out in the widest of smiles and without missing a beat, he reached down and handed me the band's set list for the night.

Heaven, I'm in heaven...

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Legs on a Lily Pad

We went for the glider tables.

A friend suggested the Lily Pad for dinner and while I knew the Osborne boat landing park, I'd never set foot in the simple little restaurant at the waterfront.

We must not have looked like locals since all conversation stopped when we walked in, but with a few comments and smiles in their direction, it was soon back to business as usual.

Choosing a (surprisingly pleasant) Malbec off the cinder block-wall selection, we looked around the quaint little restaurant.

Cloth tablecloths of varying patterns, fresh flowers on several tables, a giant clock to keep track of when the wife expects you home, all the necessities of a local joint.

If I had any complaint with it, it was the radio tuned to oldies because I just don't need to hear those songs anymore.

Turns out Tuesdays are sushi night and we were given a list to choose from.

Thinking that a hearty Malbec was probably not the best pairing for sushi, we settled for a Rivah Roll (with avocado misspelled) and a lovely-looking roll arrived, shrimp tails sticking up and out of the slices.

As the place began to clear out, our server warned us that the kitchen would be closing early since clearly the rain was keeping people away.

Without even asking for menus, we ordered off the specials board, my companion asking for a steak and provolone (also misspelled) sub while I couldn't resist what was described as a "juicy cheeseburger."

For that matter, the chalkboard also suggested asking "one of our lovely servers" for the sushi listing, so adjectives were big here.

My cheeseburger was juicy, mainly due to getting it with everything, a lot of which kept sliding off the roll.

The cook stood at the end of the bar, probably watching us chew so he could clear our plates and get going, so we didn't linger over our food.

Instead, we went outside to one of the table gliders, a covered contraption with a glider on either side and a table in the middle.

And, yep, a gentle push off and the gliders rocked rhythmically while we sat facing each other, both with views of the river behind us.

I fully intend to go back some time when the weather is better and do my eating and drinking out there.

The sun was getting lower in the sky so we walked along the dock to the main one where a family was fishing as the sunset reflected off the still water.

It was amazing to think how far away it felt from the city and yet how relatively close it was.

Heading back into town, Church Hill seemed like the logical place to stop for a drink and since one of us had never been to Dutch & Co., it won by default.

Friend knew the bartender, I knew three of the lovely servers, including one I'd not seen since before she and her boyfriend moved to Maine to work on a farm.

Continuing the red wine theme, we got a bottle of Paul Hobbs Crossbarn Pinot Noir, a lovely accompaniment to the cheese plate of cloth-bound Cabot cheddar, herb spetzle, apple and smoked duck lardons.

Following up my juicy cheeseburger with such a stellar dessert and even better conversation was about as good as it gets on a misty Tuesday evening.

I say that but I also admit that it got even better when one of the servers came over and said in my ear, "I've seen you in tights and leggings so I knew your legs were good, but seeing them bare, I can't believe how beautiful they are."

If you ask me, that's a lovely server.

Damn, if only a man would say that to me, I'd be all set.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Hearing the Licks

If I said it was just another night of gypsy jazz, I'd be lying.

Because honestly, how much gypsy jazz comes to town?

But tonight at Balliceaux, the RVA Big Band was replaced by Kings County Swing out of Brooklyn, a trio of guys playing two guitars and an upright bass.

I was at a front table with a long-haired music lover on either side of me and looking at a band who all wore hats.

I concluded that they were a dapper group.

Turns out they knew how to swing, too.

From the opening notes of Louis Armstrong's "After You've Gone" through multiple Django Reinhardt tunes to a waltz (practically a requirement in gypsy jazz) and "Shine On, Harvest Moon," the music lovers among us sat enchanted while an overly large contingent of talkers drowned out the band.

Happily, it wasn't enough to discourage the swing dancers in the room and whether male/female couples or two women (which left more than a few men helpless not to stare), the music was made for moving.

I just kept hoping the talkers would move to the front room, but no such luck.

During the break, I was chatted up by a guy who works at the National and was full of behind-the-scenes stories.

Like how Sufjan Stevens flat-out refused to come out and meet fans, despite being told they were waiting for him.

How Passion Pit's singer was so sick the first of their two-night stand that the rest of the band went back to the hotel while he slept on the tour bus alone.

About how they're expecting protesters at Ted Nugent's show.

During the break, I also saw a girl trying to work her magic on the band, claiming she was a singer, but when the second set started to a nearly full room and they asked her up for a song, she demurred.

And then gulped back the rest of her drink.

I felt certain her vocals couldn't have compared to lead singer Jordan's distinctive tones.

Fortunately, we weren't subjected to her attempts at singing and the band went back to wowing the crowd with their sure-handed musicianship and wide repertoire of songs.

I'd have to put in my vote for the classic Louis Armstrong tune about pig,"Struttin' with Some Barbecue," as the evening's centerpiece.

Hear that old trombone
And the trumpet ad lib
Love to hear the lick
While I do my pickin'
Pickin' on a juicy rib

When they finished the song, one of the guys next to me turned and observed, "That one made me hungry."

Hell, all those swinging minor keys just made me happy.

Monday, June 17, 2013

I'll Make a Man Out of You

The Ghost Light Afterparty was a drag.

All that really means is that instead of one guy in high heels, there were many guys in dresses/wigs/cute shoes.

The women favored facial hair- fake beards, beards made of cotton balls and lots and lots of fake mustaches.

Our usual hosts, Matt and Maggie, were replaced by people of the opposite gender playing them.

You had to see Nick playing Maggie in a long, striped dress and blond wig, but squatting like a football player on the side of the stage.

So feminine.

It seems that Matt was off at a "brine-through," which is apparently a read-through with much beer and wine added in, so he arrived late.

And more than a little loopy. And scantily clad.

And speaking of, there were a couple of drag queens, one in honor of tonight's festivities (who sang that he aspired to a neighborhood as nice as Scott's Addition to much laughter  and the other committed to the lifestyle (red and white polka dot halter dress and fake eyelashes so heavy his eyes were half closed).

Several newbies showed up and sang tonight, like the soon-to-depart to NYC Brett who sang "And They're Off" while acting out the part.

Bartender Evan, wearing a skintight red dress, blond wig and full makeup, who when he got behind the piano to play "Let it Be," asked of the crowd, "How do you play piano in a dress?"

An audience member answered: "Same way you poop in a dress."

The cross-dressing crowd was all over the musical map, with songs from "Mulan," "Aida" and, get this, Billy Idol's "White Wedding."

Saying, "There's no excuse for a man in a dress to sing Johnny Cash," Evan proceeded to do just that.

Special guest Kerry got called up for 20 questions, about which hostess Audra said, "This is a game but it's just nosiness really."

Best answer: "I thought if I wore knee socks with shorts to work, it would show less skin and seem more conservative. I was told that it was definitely not conservative."

Meanwhile guys around her shook their head no.

Pop music abounded - "Jolene," "I Am the Walrus" and the always-popular evening closer, "Hit Me Baby One More Time."

But there were classics, too - "What I Did for Love," "Old Man River" and "At Last," all three of which garnered much hooting and hollering from the enthusiastic room.

Alex got up and said, "Five years ago in Nags Head, I sang this song to a roomful of drunk people and tonight I can do it again," before screwing his voice up high and starting Queen's "Somebody to Love" which soon had most everyone singing along.

It would be hard to overlook one of the evening's highlights, during the pizza intermission/dance party; just as the music was about to be turned off, there was a rallying cry for the next song.

When Scissor Sisters "Let's Have a Kiki" began, suddenly there was a crew onstage lip-synching and dancing to every note, every gesture.

It wouldn't be an afterparty without bongos, shaker balls and interpretive dance and all three reared their syncopated heads before the evening ended.

Early on, usual co-host Maggie had gotten onstage and said, "Real Matt isn't here yet so I don't want to blow my wad early."

I don't know why she worried. From where I sat, wads were blown all night long.

Honey, that's the beauty of the GLAP being a drag.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Random Access Memories

You never know how you'll be remembered.

I've long said that when all the people who've known and loved me get together at my wake, it's going to be a rude awakening for many of them.

People who think they know all about me are almost certainly going to be shocked/mortified/ surprised/confused/unclear when everyone starts talking to each other

If only someone could film the stories they'll tell about me.

This occurs to me now because tonight I went to see a documentary called "Stories We Tell" at Movieland about a woman who interviewed her family, friends and others who knew her mother, Diane, before she died.

Over the course of the film, we hear from her children of multiple relationships.

In one of my favorite aspects of the documentary, we see old home movies showing the mom as a whirling dervish fixed at the center of everything, always smiling, laughing and moving.

Because she did some local acting, we also hear from people she knew in the theater world.

There's even reenactment footage of significant events in the mother's life.

What gradually comes together is a story of a woman who paid an incredibly high (and public) price when her first marriage ended.

A woman who then met a fellow actor, fell in love with the character he was playing, married him and then had to make do when he turned out to be a quiet, introspective man very unlike the character he'd played.

A woman who later had an affair and carried that secret to her grave.

But the truth is elusive and every single person had a different set of memories, a different version of the history of this woman, Diane.

The film was poignantly narrated by the director's father, her mother's second husband, with a script he wrote.

It was moving to hear him read his memories of all those long-ago years and life events, only to have his director daughter stop him and make him redo a line.

I'm not sure my father would have the patience hers did.

Walking out still thinking about the family saga that had just unfolded inside, I knew instinctively that the story's honesty will haunt me for some time to come.

Then, boom, I was brought back to the here and now abruptly as soon as I stepped outside where a fireworks display was exploding over the Diamond, practically next door.

Standing there watching until it ended, I thought of all the pyrotechnic displays I'd watched over the years - at the beach, on the national mall, over a lake and all the people I'd watched them with.

None of whom probably remember those exploding evenings exactly as I do.

Because everyone has a story to tell.

A Woman of Many Parts

Wait, there was a 008?

That just goes to prove why it's about time I'm getting around to seeing the James Bond series, courtesy of Movieland's Movies and Mimosas.

Two weeks ago it was Dr. No and today, after walking to the theater on an exquisite morning, it was "Goldfinger."

Or, as Shirley Bassey sings it, "Goldfingahhhh."

The movie got my attention (and no doubt that of women for the past 50 years) in the opening scene where James is wearing a bathing suit and getting a massage.

When he stands up wearing those fitted '60s-style swim trunks, that's an impressive hunk of man.

I was especially tickled when he then put on a romper, zipping it up to his hairy chest and belting it.

When's the last time you saw a guy in a romper?

Of course, he was still full of 007 technical information, like, "My dear girl, there are some things that just aren't done, like drinking Dom Perignon '53 above the temperature of 38 degrees Fahrenheit. That's just as bad as listening to the Beatles without earmuffs!"

His advice still holds on the first, although never on the second.

When the location moved to Goldfinger's stud farm in Kentucky, things got all southern.

There was a huge Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant in the background ("Colonel Sanders' secret recipe") and James refers to "bourbon and branch water."

When all was said and done, I didn't like it quite as much as "Dr. No" because it seemed like James spent less time romancing women.

That said, I was terribly impressed that the actress who played Pussy Galore was 37 at the time, especially since back in 1964, 37 was not the new 27 like now.

Once Bond had saved Fort Knox, parachuted from a failing plane and was rolling around making out with Pussy under a parachute, the credits told us that it was the end of "Goldfinger" but that Bond would be back in "Thunderball."

Which probably means I'll be back at Movieland, hoping for a few less dead bodies and a lot more drinking advice and action on the sheets.

Walking back home beside the endless throng of workers always at Redskin Park, I got in the car to go to Manchester.

Blue Bee Cider (Virginia's only urban cidery) and Anderson's Neck Oyster Company (which I'd had at Dutch & Co.) were doing a tasting all afternoon and having recently tasted (and enjoyed) some Blue Bee Cider, I wanted more.

The tasting room had a lively crowd when I arrived, mostly guys but a few of my people.

There were two cider choices, Charred Ordinary, a more traditional cider, and Aragon 1904, an off-dry cider more reminiscent of champagne.

With a glass of the light and crisp (and not at all cloying) latter, I wandered over to the shucking table where I had a dozen Eagle Flats awaiting me.

"How's your day going so far?" one of the shuckers asked.

I told him I'd just seen "Goldfinger" for the first time at the theater.

"Wow, "Goldfinger" then oysters and cider? That's a really awesome Saturday!" he enthused.

Don't I know it.

Unprovoked Limping and Faithful Eaters

It's always flattering when a man accuses you of cheating on him.

But first men (and a woman) read to me at Chop Suey Books.

A friend and I arrived just before 6 and the first thing I did was walk over and open the window to let out some of the frigid air-conditioned air.

It is, after all, as perfect a low humidity June day as we could possibly hope for, so why shut it out?

From there we took the first seats in the room and started to blather like it was, well, Friday night.

A guy soon came in and told us the reading wouldn't start until 6:30 and he was going across to NY Deli for a beer.

Rather than join him, we decided to use our unexpected time to get in some girl talk before everyone joined us.

Oh, if those walls could talk!

Even though she had some good restaurant gossip, I took the prize for most unexpectedly gross story shared.

People begin to filter back into the room and all of a sudden I noticed someone had closed the window.

What a pity.

By the time every seat was taken, someone had re-opened it, so I knew I had a kindred soul in the room.

Or, at the very least, a window fairy.

Our host explained that they were going to decide which order the poets would read in based on drawing straws.

But it wasn't the poets drawing straws, it was their proxies.

Not that everyone was certain who they were standing in for, because they weren't.

It soon became abundantly clear that no one knew much about the drawing straws method.

The whole episode reminded me a lot of the old "Who's on first?" gag.

No one had any idea what was going on.

When Jack's proxy got the shortest straw, he held it up and said, "I got the shortest straw, whatever that means."

No one had planned that far.

But soon Jack Christian took to the podium with a small butterfly bandage over one eye and talk of meeting a doorknob and how much alcohol was in a National Bohemian.

He began with the title poem from his book, "Family System," full of childhood memories and assessments.

"This poem made for an interesting discussion with my parents last year," he laughed. "My Mom said she didn't get it and I said I know you don't, Mom."

We all have our crosses to bear.

My mother can't understand how I eat brains or heart or beets.

My favorite was the poem called "Marie," which he preceded with, "This is a little bit longer, but it'll be good."

And good it was, especially when it began with, "Karen's parents" and went on to name names.

Andrew was impossible to locate.
Clay had gone to Maui.
Sadie preferred barbecue.

By the end of it, he was chuckling right along with us.

Next came Gabe Durham, a long, tall drink of water with a smile that hinted at his understated but hilarious wordplay.

"No Moms for Miles" was about camp life and provided guidelines.

No unprovoked limping.

In the event of some unexpected arousal, play basketball.

"Icebreaker" was about meeting a goat-sacrificing Satanist in an elevator and the moral dilemmas that ensue.

A poem about how people met in the pre-Internet days explained that they "locked beer eyes across the bar" and eventually "said hi."

Yes, kiddies, that's how it was done back in the olden days.

Camp and youth returned for "No Gourd" about how young men will always fall for girls on summer nights.

Wow, your skin looks great in starlight.

Durham was the best possible reader of his own words, inflecting them with a rhythmic, humorous cadence that perfectly suited his poems of life instructions and astute observations.

When he read his last to great tittering, he closed with, "Thanks, guys, this was so fun."

Last but not last was Allison Titus, whom I'd seen read almost three years ago, which seems like ages ago except part of her introduction included that she's been working on a novel.

That'll take up some time.

Referring to the amusing poetry we'd already heard, she began by saying, "I'm going to take it down a notch because I only have one funny poem and I didn't bring it."

We heard from her "Office" series which she'd begun after being laid off and included such disparate topics as accounting and taxidermy.

"Station of the Harness-Maker" included the line, "I rode my bike to the ditch and I ditched it."

You gotta love that noun/verb doubleplay.

She read the poem she'd written for her neighborhood after living almost a decade on 24th Street, "Essay on Urban Homesteading."

Sirens, blackouts and a rampage of little boys throwing rocks.

Her work may not have been funny but it had an evocative subtlety to it that perfectly closed out a blue-sky evening of poetry.

Fittingly, we decided to eat on 25th Street at the Roosevelt, where I was long overdue.

How do I know?

When the chef came out and saw me, he asked if I'd been cheating on him.

It's always nice to be missed.

But the really big news was that bartender T was clean-shaven, his Lincoln-worthy beard now history.

He looked very handsome but it's almost startling when you first lay eyes on him.

Once adjusted to that novelty, we focused on his face long enough to hear the specials.

Stop right there, I told him, we'll start with crispy-fried monkfish cheeks with remoulade.

If any chef in this town can produce the most delectably crusted anything, it's Chef Lee and, as I told my friend, I didn't honestly care what was inside the crust.

Fortunately, though, it was the meatiest monkfish cheeks a person could hope to put in their mouth, delicate in flavor but with an almost streak-like texture.

Nothing says Friday night like cheeks and, yes, that's a metaphor.

Next came the double cheeseburger with onion jam, bacon and rooster sauce with a side of braised green beans with almonds and roasted garlic.

The conversation took a left turn when Friend told me about the burger discussion she and some office mates had recently had.

They'd insisted no one could top Carytown Burger and Fries and here we sat with irrefutable proof that they were wrong.

I saw a friend and her husband having dinner and she mentioned that it had turned out to be "the cool kids' night" with a noted culinary historian, the Kaine staffer who books shows and the director of "Richmond's attic."

I was just happy to be in their company.

By the time we got to dessert, we could reach no accord.

I wanted coconut cake but she doesn't like flaked coconut, only whole or milk.

She doesn't even like Samoas, I discovered, but I'm trying not to hold that against her.

I'm no fan of panna cotta but when I saw it was cocoa, I allowed as how it might be okay and friend was delighted.

She's a panna cotta hound and this one came under a layer of big, beautiful lightly sweetened strawberries over a pale chocolate pudding.

I'd been won over yet again by this man.

What kind of idiot cheats on a chef who makes her cheeks, burgers and pudding?

Don't look at me.

I've got too much poetry in my soul for that.

Friday, June 14, 2013

After the Deluge

It's not often I can help bring the median age of a room down.

But when a friend suggested Tastebuds, a northside restaurant I'd never been to, for dinner, I was game.

First we had to make a stop at the Brook Road post office so one of us could mail a Father's Day card.

For the record, it wasn't me.

Somehow I had never noticed Tastebuds on that little strip before, but given how many tables were already taken, I must have been in the minority on that.

I was inclined to think that a lot of the customers were neighborhood dwellers and I noticed that the overall hair color definitely slanted white, although to be fair, we were eating dinner mighty early.

All at once we were greeted by a familiar handsome face, a former Carytown business owner we both knew, who asked us where we'd been when the thunderstorm hit.

Friend had been stuck in the Carytown Kroger shopping to kill time while I'd watched it from the safety of my Jackson Ward apartment, the trees out back almost horizontal in that incredible wind.

Even better, he shared how as a server at Bistro Bobette, he'd recently waited on our current movie star-in-residence, Rob Lowe.

Nice, polite, slight tan, very fit and overall incredibly handsome in person.

Well, a girl's gotta ask.

We started with a bottle of Rose and fried crab dumplings after our server's recommendation that he could eat them every day.

I'd have liked a little more crab, but then, I grew up in Maryland where we think everything could use more crab.

A spinach and red onion salad with goat cheese and a lemon-parsley dressing followed while we discussed restaurants worth driving an hour east or west for.

My thinking is that an hour is just about the perfect amount of road trip to reach a dining destination when you want to feel like you're getting away without the full commitment of, say, driving to D.C.

Friend had the chicken medallions in a mushroom ragout while I went with something more porcine: pork adobo-filled corn crepe with avocado crema and jicama/radish slaw.

You really can't go wrong with crunchy slaw on pig.

By that time, the white hairs were on their way out so we no longer helped the average age in the restaurant as a younger crowd began coming in.

Just like that, we became the room's elder diners.

Dessert was a chocolate mousse-filled crepe which interested my friend not at all, the better for those of us who can eat an entire sweet course unaided.

That said, when Friend suggested a post-meal walkabout in the neighborhood to help settle dinner, I was more than happy to oblige and help work some of that mousse down.

Everything was still pretty damp from the thunderstorm earlier, but the area is picaresque, if completely quiet and shut down by that (early) point, so unlike my own neighborhood.

Fortunately, Jackson Ward was the next stop for me, the woman who returned home knowing she's now got one degree of separation from Rob Lowe.

Not a bad takeaway after an evening's meal.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Hello, Old Friend

I know you probably thought I dropped off the face of the earth, but it looks like I may be in Richmond this Thursday. Would love to see you and get caught up. I certainly have missed you and your smile when I see your writings in Style and on blogs. Lunch would be perfect.

An out-of-town friend I haven't seen in months dropping by for a mid-day meal with me? Yes, please.

I chose my neighborhood joint, Bistro 27, hoping to show off their new patio to my friend, but, alas, the impending thunder event made it too hot for a civilized woman in a sundress to sit out there.

We took a table by the front door, the better to watch the comings and goings while we talked.

In his line of work, he deals with people who have ridiculous amounts of money, the kind of people who feed their dog lobster and lamb chops.

Seriously, lobster? That just isn't natural for a dog.

The kind who hire someone to stay with their dog every minute when they leave for a few weeks in Italy.

Since my friend hadn't been to Richmond for a while, we started with a dish off Chef Carlos' new summer menu, pear and Brie ravioli with honey and almonds, after hearing that it had been flying out of the kitchen since being added.

The delicately-nuanced savory/sweet flavor combination was a knockout, a light tease for the next course.

Friend couldn't resist the soup du jour, a white bean and Chorizo that sounded delicious but too heavy for me on this warm day.

While he enjoyed his Chorizo, I told him about my recent trips to the northern neck to wineries and, being the Virginia wine pro that he is, he wanted to know which wines had impressed me.

That's easy, The Hague 2009 Meritage Reserve and Vault Fields 2008 Meritage Reserve.

Like me, he knew little about the Middle Peninsula area and I admitted all I know is from multiple trips out that way to drink and eat.

We all learn in our own, special ways.

For lunch, he went with lamb on pita with fries (leading him to wax poetic about starting a place that sold nothing but interesting varieties of fries) while I chose lightly fried chickpea and black bean falafel, topped with a mixed green salad with a chickpea and red pepper salad on the side.

It was just the thing with the mercury in the mid-nineties outside.

Another wine-savvy friend came in, spotted us and joined us for a discussion of the power of honeysuckle, one of my all-time favorite smells.

He related a story about returning from a trip to Italy after an arduous 36-hour trip on, as he put it, "planes, trains and automobiles," saying it was only once he got on his bike in Carytown to ride to his house that he felt home.

It was a one-two punch: first, he said, he smelled the cookie factory and then he smelled honeysuckle.

"I'm home," he remembered thinking happily.

After a little wine talk, he left and we soon followed suit, strolling down sticky-hot Broad Street toward my house before he made a turn to go get his car and hit the road.

There was, after all, a dog expecting his company on the other end.

I wandered home, wishing for some alley honeysuckle, but settling for some fragrant alley roses instead.

My friend had been right. Lunch was perfect.

A Little Wisp of a Scherzo

You start slow and you build on a hot Wednesday evening.

Unlike last week, this week's happy hour at the Anderson Gallery required no brain power.

No talent for interpreting art and music, no ability to read into paintings of historical context.

Just the break I needed to really spend some time looking at the new exhibit, Jacob Lawrence's "The Harriet Tubman Series," and take the time to read all of Lawrence's captions written for the 31 pieces.

As if the paintings weren't painfully and exquisitely evocative of Tubman's life, the text he wrote was every bit as strong.

I took my time reading them and when I walked out of the gallery, there was a friend already sitting with beer in hand.

Like me, he wanted a good seat for GeNDeRS, the duo of singer Nelly Kate and video artist Michele Seippel.

As we sat chatting about his upcoming vacation (a much deserved three weeks), more friends came in and we noticed an unusually high percentage of babies present.

Or as one music-loving friend observed, "I feel naked without a baby!"

The performance began when Nelly emerged from the back room singing a capella and walking toward the front.

Michele's live animation was right there with her, showing on the wall she was approaching.

Once up front, Nelly began recording herself and looping, playing a keyboard and twisting knobs to layer sound at the same time Michele was layering video.

A few babies got restless, one kid licked a Popsicle while mesmerized by the video imagery and the rest of the room was rapt.

Nelly Kate, wowing people with her little girl voice and dense sound since 2011, at least in Richmond.

The addition of Michele's visuals made it even more trance-like than usual.

I thought it made for a very cool happy hour.

Sustenance was next courtesy of Mama J's right here in my 'hood and I arrived just minutes before the place filled up as if on cue.

The bartender recognized me, asked if I wanted the usual (fried chicken) and inquired about my side (collards).

Soon two guys joined me at my end of the bar and the one next to me said hello.

When he was asked for his order, he wanted catfish, but nuggets not a fillet, which aren't on the menu.

And just one fillet, not two.

But as soon as my plate arrived, he called our server over and changed his order to chicken like mine.

It wasn't long before he had regrets, though and, for the second time, changed his order back to catfish nuggets, this time two fillets cut up.

The server checked with the kitchen to see if this was possible and came back to tell the guy that they would cut up one fillet into nuggets but the second one would be whole.

"So you're telling me that's my only choice?" the customer asked, clearly not satisfied.

It was.

Personally, I think the kitchen was putting their foot down, not wanting to be back there making nuggets for this guy.

Or maybe they were tired of doing nuggets after Broad Appetit, although they did win the "To Die For" award for best entree for those very nuggets..

I know because I could see the trophy sitting right there behind the bar.

Fed and full, I wandered down 2 Street to the Speakeasy beside the Hippodrome for Pairs, the second cousin of Classical Revolution.

That's the group that's dedicated to bringing classical music to your local bar, restaurant and coffee shop, worthy aims all.

Last time the pairing had been classical and jazz and tonight's was classical and rock.

Once again, we found coasters sitting on the tables, this month's labeled "Membership Card," with the evening's program on it.

As far as how it came about, it was all about the bass.

Upright bass player Todd of My Darling Fury had mentioned that he had an arrangement of Brahms String Sextet written with a double bass part to replace one of the cellos.

Classical Revolution organizer Ellen ran with that idea, having him perform it with two violins, two violas and a cello and then follow it with a set by My Darling Fury.


The four-movement Brahms piece had plenty of space in a room with 20' ceilings and the only counterpoint to it was the sound of a cocktail shaker being mixed behind the bar.

When they finished, a woman came over and joined me at my table, beer in hand and eager to chat.

"What movement was your favorite?" she asked after telling me she played cello, but "not on that level."

I hadn't considered it until she asked, but my brain told me it had been the third, the scherzo.

She liked the second, the andante, better for the recurring theme that wound its way through it.

Frankly, I was flattered that anyone would even try to talk music to me given my appalling lack of musical comprehension.

She deferred to me, however, when it came to My Darling Fury, since I'd seen them before and she hadn't.

It took an interminable time for the sound man to get it right for them but once the band started, all was forgiven.

Singer Danny has a fabulous voice, emotive and strong, and whether singing "Friendly Parasite" or about "Take her home to Mama," the songs were melodic and tightly executed.

On one song bass player Todd began beating on the back of his bass, causing a fellow bass player to holler from the bar, "Spank it, son!"

Like I said, it was all about the bass tonight.

Being the language geek that I am, I loved "Spilled Milk," full of American idioms  like "big boys don't cry."

During a slow song, there were suddenly three dancers, one woman and two guys, performing in the space between the stage and the crowd.

It was totally unexpected and a few people near me laughed in amusement, so I guess modern dance wasn't their thing.

"You guys thought you were coming to see a rock show, didn't you?" the guitarist joked afterwards.

They did "The End of the World," saying, "We like to place our love songs in different settings and this one's at the end of it all."

The viola and violin players, complete with music stands, and the dancers returned for the closing song, "Magic Creature," making for a melding of the evening's pairs or perhaps a metaphor for something bigger.

I just know it was really beautiful.

My final stop of the evening was Gallery 5 for, wait for it, more music, although I'd missed the first two bands.

I made it in time for Fort Worth's War Party, who were giving it their rocking all in front of a surprisingly small crowd.

That said, there were so many good shows tonight, it was hard to know where to be.

By the time they finished their set (including a plea for somewhere to sleep and smoke), the headliner, locals Hoax Hunters, were up against the clock.

Frontman and guitarist PJ surprised the hell out of me by taking off his hat (a first), obviously anticipating a hard and fast set.

"We're not going to waste your time. We have eleven minutes, so let's do this!" he yelled before the band careened into four or five songs.

It's not every band who could cover so much material and still be finished before Gallery 5's noise cut-off kicks in.

But then it's not every night I can hear everything from classical to punk with minimalist pop and chamber rock in between, either.

Shoot, I consider this night well spanked.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

South by North

I couldn't ask for a better town to be a music-lover in.

As a former Richmonder named Ben who now lives in Nashville told me tonight, "Richmond is this great, undiscovered scene that's still manageable."

He was comparing it to Nashville's well-hyped scene and we were coming out on top.

I broke form by starting my evening on the southside at BK Music for an in-store by Surfer Blood, where I ran into exactly one person I knew (who said, "I wondered if you'd come this far, even though the music is right up your alley").

Maybe it had something to do with the XL-102 van in the parking lot.

At precisely 6:00, an employee got up and introduced Surfer Blood, who walked to the front of the store from all the way in the back, to great applause.

"Dramatic, just like we like it," said lead singer JP.

The occasion for the in-store was today's release of their new album "Pythons," posters of which were plastered everywhere in the store.

Even so they began with an older song, then stopped and restarted. Twice.

"Just so you know, this is day 50," said guitarist Thomas of their tour with Foals, from which they had a night off.

Fair enough.

After exhorting the good-sized crowd to come closer ("That's better already"), they followed the old with four songs off the new album, all power chords, chiming guitars and enough hooks to thrill the crowd dancing in place.

BK is a big store and the sound mix was perfect, so every note was crystal clear.

When their mini-set ended, an immediate line formed to get the new album signed by the band members.

I told my friend I was returning to where I felt more comfortable and high-tailed it back to the city.

After a stop at a restaurant that shall not be named to eat for a living, I pointed the car north, this time for a house show.

Arriving in a stranger's backyard, I was greeted by the hostess who presumed I was a neighbor.

In fact, I'd gotten the invitation from Guion, leader of Nettles, one of the bands playing tonight.

He soon spotted me and came over to say hello, remembering me from the Listening Room I'd curated last summer when I'd chosen Nettles to play.

Besides tubs of beer and bottles of wine, Guion had brought some of his home-brewed Belgian Red beer with rose hips as well as his homemade kombucha with nasturtiums.

It was definitely going to be a groovy kind of evening.

I overheard a guy tell a girl he was going to be a country singer.

"Are you going to tuck in your shirt and wear a belt?" she inquired.

"I don't know, but I know I'm not going to wear a black hat," he stated for the record.

The back yard was charmingly set up for the show with chairs, gliders, a wicker couch, tables with candles and even blankets up front for people to sprawl on.

People mingled and drank until fireflies began flickering around and only then did the show begin.

Opening was NYC's Cat Martino, passing through on her way to Bonnaroo, playing with fellow musician Sven.

This is a woman who'd been in Sufjan Stevens' touring band, for goodness' sake.

"I'd like to say hello, but there's a lot of delay," Cat joked referring to the effects pedals on her mic. "This is such an amazing welcome for us out of New York City. They let us out of our cage!"

Meanwhile, a nearby neighborhood dog barked on.

Using a loop pedal, guitar, keyboards, synthesizer and drum pad, the two proceeded to layer her expressive voice and the array of instruments until dense songs wove their way through the waning light of a Tuesday evening.

"This song is called "I Promise" and I do," she said, beginning a haunting song that stopped every conversation in the backyard.

Can we ever go back to the life we had
Can we ever go back to the life we had
When it's over?

She had to stop after a bit to scratch her legs, which were being bitten by bugs (no doubt all that virgin Brooklyn meat of hers) until someone handed her a can of bug spray so she could carry on.

Their set ended all too soon and she thanked us. "This has been an unbelievable pleasure for us."

Mutual, I'm sure, Cat.

While Nettles got set up, people helped themselves to more beer and a few left, but I stayed put in my comfortable deck chair, admiring the stars in the clear night sky.

We have exactly nine days until the days start getting incrementally shorter again and I am enjoying every moment of it until then.

But as soon as Nettles began I was reminded of the reasons I was so originally taken with their sound.

Multiple voice harmonies. Flute. Poetry for lyrics.

They started with an old song Guion said they'd changed just last night and not practiced since.

Not that anyone could have been able to tell.

Tonight is the first night of their tour and they'll be recording an album at the end of the month, so we were the lucky first audience for a bunch of new songs.

"Anyone ever read "A Streetcar Named Desire" or seen the play?" Guion asked before assigning us homework to do so and playing a song based on it.

Maybe because I have read and seen it, I found the song beautifully evocative.

He explained "Rogue Bodies" by saying, "Do you know about rogue planets? They don't have any orbits, they just kind of go. It's kind of like touring."

It was just the kind of song you'd want to hear while sitting under an inky night sky.

My mother is chaos. My Dad's a black hole.

Explaining that he'd brought his beer because he and his wife were about to leave for the beach, he joked, "We don't usually bring our pagan beverages with us when we play."

Next came "The Knot," another exquisite and poetic new song.

Most of us had heard that this show almost didn't happen because of a prolonged tornado warning for the area tonight.

"But it turned out fine. The weather's great. We have beer. The mosquitoes are manageable with poison."

It's all relevant.

After another song about trauma, Guion called out, "Someone who lives here tell me, one more song or two."

From the wicker couch came, "One!"

"Buzz kill!" said a disappointed voice from over by the hedge.

As the last strains of "Pumps" filled the air, I looked around at all the people still sprawled on blankets and chairs looking blissed out.

As I walked past the glider to leave, the Nashville transplant looked at me and said, "Wow, Karen, you were right about Nettles...that flute, those voices. That was amazing!"

Or, to paraphrase Cat, an unbelievable pleasure for a music lover.