Saturday, August 31, 2013

Pass the Roth, Please

Who'd have thought I had so much in common with a lawyer?

When I think lawyers, I think Warren Zevon. You know, "Lawyers, Guns and Money."

My date turned out to be more like, "Lawyers, Reading and Art."

I'm not sure whether to be thrilled or suspicious.

During an outing with friends a few nights ago. I'd met a charming man who'd been e-mailing me religiously for the past 48 hours.

And I'm talking e-mails with punctuation, capitalization and well-thought out sentence structure ("I may be over-matched," he writes at one point).

It's enough to make a language geek sit up and take notice.

I did.

So when he invited me to meet him at Lemaire tonight, I did that, too.

Before he arrived, I ran into a favorite gallerist and discussed the upcoming video installation at her gallery.

Art talk over, I order a quartino of Domaine Sorin 2012 Terra Amata, a refreshing pink tasting of melon and minerals, to await the unknown.

After all, our conversation so far has been online and over the heads of two friends who sat between us at the bar at which we met.

The evening worked out so much better than I could have hoped.

From the moment he sits down, we have conversation to spare.

He's a runner, so I hear about his marathons - Boston, New York and Chicago.

I learn he has looked up my writing online at the Style Weekly website and has insightful comments to make about much of it.

Whoa. I wasn't expecting him to do homework before our date.

He wants to know what's currently on my nightstand and I tell him about the Noel Coward biography I'm reading and how it's particularly compelling to me because it was written in 1976.

I find non-fiction especially fascinating when told through the lens of a past decade since it inevitably provides a reference point for the information.

I love the way your mind works, he tells me.

I love having somebody get my mind, I tell him.

When it comes time to eat, I order tuna crudo with seaweed salad, avocado coulis and flying fish roe of three colors served in a champagne coupe.

It's a fine pairing with my Rose.

I move on to a honey-glazed pork loin chop with spoon bread, roasted apricots, all-day turnip greens and bourbon jus while we discuss childhoods, happy parents and how soft the millennial generation is.

Unexpectedly, I find myself having a far better time than I could have hoped for.

He's not quite as outgoing as me despite his profession, but he's passionate about literature and art.

I can't remember the last time I spent an evening discussing Tolstoy and Nabokov, yet here we are.

At one point, he stops the literary conversation to rave about the appeal of my smile and dimples.

"Keep smiling at me," he says.

Wow, I'd forgotten how good dating could be.

When he brings up "Blue Jasmine," I tell him I just saw it and we launch into a discussion of Woody Allen's filmography.

Like me, he became a fan in college and has been a follower ever since.

Once the wine is finished, we decide to change locations, moving to Secco to finish out our book talk over different wine.

Seated at the end of the bar with Muse and Interpol playing, I select Cuilleron Syrah Rose "Sybel," an old favorite, while he tells me about his deep affection for Haruki Murakami's writing.

Before long we are knee-deep in our appreciation for Updike ("It's like being a voyeur") when I ask him about Cheever ("God, yes!") and then he guiltily admits he's never read Roth.

How could a man this age not have read "Goodbye, Columbus"?

Without hesitating, I picture my bookshelves and offer to lend him "The Ghost Writer" and "The Human Stain."

Despite his Roth shortcomings, I have never been on a date with someone so well read.

When Secco closes down, we walk outside still talking, with him soon promising to send me a list of authors I must read.

I have died and gone to date heaven.

If he keeps this up, he's going to see a lot of the smile and the dimples.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Life is Beautiful

We're getting down to the wire.

My oh-so pregnant friend and I thought it best to schedule a long lunch before she becomes unexpectedly unavailable for lunch or anything else.

It was a no-brainer to end up at La Parisienne, our favorite obscure getaway for its sunny ambiance and patio.

Since we'd been in last, there had been some changes.

Now that they do a regular salsa dancing night, the dessert case is gone and a settee has replaced a couple of the former high tables.

Since we arrived toward the end of the lawyers' lunch hour (the building is crawling with them), we had no difficulty finding a shady outside table.

She orders the exact same salad and fries lunch every time we go while I switch it up, this time choosing the La Parisienne crepe, a combination of city ham and Swiss cheese.

I just like the sound of "city ham."

When I went to pay, she wasn't having any of it.

"My treat because I'm proud of you for starting to date," she said, beaming.

Now that's a good friend.

We sat outside in the afternoon sun talking about the men in my life - a couple of new suitors and a recurring character, someone she remembers me seeing a couple of years back.

From her, I heard about work frustrations and the impending life change of adding a baby to her already-hectic world.

I wouldn't want her life right now and she certainly wouldn't want mine.

On the other hand, in many ways, we are two of a kind.

To that point, a familiar face passed by us, spotted her, looked over at me and we watched as he realized that while he knew us both separately, he hadn't realized we knew each other.

His restaurant and music worlds were colliding right before his eyes.

"Did you see him get that "of course they're friends" look?" my friend laughed. I had.

We lingered outside so long that our poor server kept coming out just to check on us when there was nothing to check.

Eventually we got the hint and moved on.

Since we don't know how much more girl time we have, we were reluctant to end our date.

Instead, we drove to Bev's in Carytown for ice cream, something I'd suggested weeks ago after seeing the Big Star documentary when she'd declined.

Today, looking at the Labor Day weekend and the symbolic end of summer, it seemed like an ideal way to wrap up our afternoon.

She got fudge swirl and I asked for mint chocolate chip, but was served chocolate chip.

Close enough.

Today it was the company and the occasion that mattered more than anything else.

It'll be interesting to see where the two of us are next time we can wile away an afternoon like we did today.

Here's to change and whatever it may bring.

Every Day is Like Sunday

One shot and probably only the hardcore crowd cared anyway.

Movieland was doing one screening of the concert film, "Morrissey 25: Live," tonight and since I've never seen the Moz live (there's a story there because I was secretly given tickets, but didn't find them until after the show), it seemed like the thing to do.

Taking a night off from dating I invited a Smiths fanatic to join me, thinking that he would blend in with an audience of what I was sure would be entirely middle-aged men.

Actually, there was a handful of my gender represented, but Y chromosomes abounded.

The film was shot at a show at Hollywood High last spring and it must have been a show advertised only through a fan site because every person in the crowd was an over-the-top Morrissey fanatic.

Hell, it looked like most of them had some sort of Morrissey or Smiths tattoo (including the friend with me).

For that matter, a surprising number of people in tonight's audience had on Morrissey t-shirts.

The fan fawning sometimes went over the top when the Moz would hand his microphone to an audience member and let them gush about how great he was, but it was hardly surprising.

If he'd handed the mic to me, I'd have told him that he was totally rocking his bold-patterned shirt with no hint of a paunch, despite being 50-plus.

A worthy accomplishment.

He was in fine voice, but then he's really aged from a melancholic youth to a melancholic crooner.

Does the body rule the mind?
Or does the mind rule the body?
I dunno.

He didn't look especially happy or into performing despite the adoring crowd, but he never really did.

And because he is who he is, he repeatedly changed shirts, all of them showing off his fine physique until he eventually just rips his shirt off.

Well done, sir, especially for a 54-year old.

After being reminded that it's my life to wreck my own way and that meat is murder, the show ends and the faithful are turned out into the night, both onscreen and off.

The lesson here? Every day is silent and grey.

But rather than dwelling on misery, we make the short drive to En Su Boca to eat, arriving to hear Interpol playing.

Waiting for the hostess, two armed cops in vests arrive, looking grim.

Just as I am about to ask if there's going to be a raid, one puts his hands up and says, "We're just here to eat."

When they take bar seats, we choose the patio.

The weather is perfect for it and the music mix is to my taste - Twin Shadow, Cat Power and Grizzly Bear.

I order queso fundido cheese dip, which is more like a layer of melted chihuahua cheese over Chorizo and peppers than a dip, but I'm starving by this point, so it serves its purpose.

Anyway, it wouldn't be right for me to feel too happy or satisfied after an hour and a half of Morrissey's moaning about how bad his life is.

To quote the Moz, what difference would it make?

And, to answer his question, the mind rules the body, but only for so long.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Corsets and Helvetica

I needed a culture fix. Badly.

So I waited out the sudden rain shower, only to find that once I crossed Belvidere into Carver, everything was bone dry.

Funny how that happens.

Over on Monument Avenue at the Virginia Center for Architecture, the rain was just as absent.

Curious about the new exhibit, "Mutations: The DNA of 20th Century Design," I wanted to see who was worthy of being included.

They had me at the introduction, which stated, "There are notable omissions - please debate ferociously."

I like an exhibition with an attitude, but then it was curated by Roberto Venturo, from whom I once took a class on 20th century architecture called "Modern Romance," so I knew what a clever man he can be.

For that matter a piece of his art (with poet Joshua Poteat) hangs in my living room.

If he's at the root of this show, I'm in.

The exhibit was laid our chronologically by decade highlighting fashion designers, architects and graphic designers who defined each period.

Like designer Paul Poiret, a name I didn't know, but whose efforts I could appreciate since his dress designs liberated women from the constriction of Victorian-era corsets.

Thank you, Paul.

I already knew a fair amount about architect LeCorbusier, but I hadn't known of his insistence as far back as 1926 that all buildings have roof gardens to improve the air quality of city life.

I'm all for picking up that one and running with it again.

Nor had I learned that the famed Eames brothers, Charles and Ray, had been so obsessed with materials and craft in the '40s that when they tried to design a bent plywood chair and the tools and machinery to do so didn't exist, had designed them.

Their mother must have been so proud of such ingenuity.

I got a whole new perspective on Christian Dior's famous "New Look" in the '50s.

His designs were "unapologetically excessive," I read, sometimes employing as much as 50 yards of fabric in one dress.

What was most fascinating was the reason why; it was a reaction to wartime restrictions, a gesture of resilience post-war.

I thrive on that kind of cultural history.

Looking at Mies van der Rohe's Seagram building from 1958, it wasn't much of a stretch to envision women in beautifully excessive Dior dresses dating men who worked in such a modern building.

While I didn't recognize the name Saul Bass, his movie posters were completely familiar.

Hitchcock's "Vertigo," "The Man with the Golden Arm" and a movie I'd just recently seen for the first time, "Bonjour, Tristesse."

His place in film history was apparently assured by his pioneering title sequences in movies.

Now I know.

Another graphic designer whose name meant nothing but work resonated was Massimo Vignelli.

His system maps from the '70s defined D.C.'s Metro for me growing up.

Seems he'd also done the maps for the NYC subway and his geographically inaccurate but easy-to-read maps were known among the designing set for their use of Helvetica.

What I'm saying here is that this exhibit was chock full of nuggets of pop cultural literacy, pure catnip to a nerd like me.

But lest I appear completely self-centered, the exhibit was also a sterling lesson in how great design speaks to a moment in time.

It's only when design lingers in the collective consciousness because it captures the spirit of the best ideas, expressions and practices of a particular time that it becomes timeless.

I don't know who'd want to ferociously debate that.

Sparks on My Heels

The best friends give the best advice.

I started my evening at Bistro 27 after a friend e-mailed requesting that we meet there for a drink.

Over a glass of Vinho Verde with "Love is Blue" playing in the background, he tells me about his love life and looks askance when I update him on mine.

Keep up, darling, or you'll miss something.

I inhale just enough calamari to tide me over until my dinner date, while eavesdropping on a conversation between two gallerists.

UVA's art gallery has a socialist slant, I hear, but it's now being countered by a new professor espousing a more populist view.

How did I get so lucky to hear art geek talk while sipping wine?

All at once I look up and find two good friends out front waving to me, no doubt on their way home from Tarrant's to their flat.

It's a scene we've replayed many times, but I never tire of seeing them slightly buzzed and always happy to spot me a few doors down as they head home.

After discussing my friend's love life (and the romantic card he found in his bag after his beloved left on a business trip to Ireland), he inquires about mine, necessitating an update and resulting in a raised eyebrow.

When I leave 27, it's to make my way to Rappahannock to meet a favorite couple.

Holmes has forgotten his wallet and must return home, but his girlfriend joins me inside where we order a bottle of Villa Wolf Rose, a lovely pink wine made from Pinot Noir while we await his re-arrival.

Nearby, a solo bar-sitter engages us and next thing we know, he's laughing at our jokes and hinting that he wants to know more about me.

Okay, not even hinting, just flat-out complimenting me and trying to glean information about me.

Soon Holmes returns and unexpectedly accommodates him to a surprising degree.

My admirer is a banking lawyer who lives in Windsor Farms, so he seems an unlikely interest for me except he is also a writer and passionate about reading and the arts.

When he goes to the loo, Holmes takes a moment to give me some love life advice and advises more discretion on the blog.

I couldn't be more surprised at his suggestion for how to share my life.

Still, we've been friends for almost a decade and I know he cares about me, so maybe he knows what he's talking about.

Because Holmes and the little lady are new to Rappahannock, I show them the map and explain where the various oysters come from, trying not to influence their choices based on my own preferences.

Nevertheless, they get half a dozen Old Saltes and half a dozen buttery Rappahannocks, in other words, both ends of the spectrum.

I am more inclusive, choosing not only Rappahannocks and Olde Saltes but also Witch Ducks  to deliver all my salinity needs.

The shucker, a mere 16-year old named Grayson, tells me that his Mom works at Merroir.

When I tell him that that is my preferred RRO venue, he makes me promise I will ask for her next time I'm out there.

With Lou Reed playing, Holmes and my newest fan decide we need to switch from Rose to tequila, never a stretch for me.

Herradura silver arrives and I sense a new respect from our bartender.

I follow my bi-valve course with Heritage Oaks Grange pork terrine over a slice of brioche and served with house pickles, walnut oil vinaigrette, greens and a soft quail egg.

It is rich, earthy and the pickled green beans a real treat, so I finish it all before trying Holmes' Hanover tomato gazpacho.

The beauty of the soup is the addition of watermelon (the color alone is to die for) and Virginia deep sea red crab, making for a sipper that is not only flavorful but exquisitely colored.

And the Zombies play on.

My admirer is bemoaning the fact that he loves our company but worries that he may not run into us again and Holmes mollifies him with another round of agave.

I don't complain.

By the time we reach the dessert course, the bar is beginning to clear out, Holmes is telling stories of a long-ago Janis Joplin concert and the lawyer is laughing at everything.

The female contingent orders a chocolate ganache buckwheat crepe cake, a twelve-layer wonder that pairs savory buckwheat with the richest ganache and real whipped cream.

It is my undoing because when my admirer comes around to my stool and asks how he can contact me, I eventually supply an e-mail address.

To keep myself in check going forward, I ask Holmes to reiterate his proposed dating strategy.

I can do this.

By now it is pouring rain so my gallant friend goes ahead to retrieve the car for his main squeeze while we womenfolk wait at the door.

As usual, I've had a stellar time with these friends and, as a bonus, met a new man who has already made his interest clear.

Moving on is turning out to be far easier and more pleasurable than I anticipated.

Especially with a good friend offering insightful advice on it all.

Perhaps those who know me best know what's best for me.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Lucky Charms

"What's up with that smile?" a guy flirtatiously asked me today.

What, indeed. I've decided to see how I can use my powers for good.

That requires being out and about and seeing who's there.

My interest was piqued by the urban explorer who was talking at Fountain Books.

Author Moses Gates was titillating us with his witty repartee on the subject of his book, "Hidden Cities: A Memoir of Urban Exploration."

The kind of exploring he does involves abandoned buildings and subway tunnels, rooftops and observation decks.

He began by explaining how an ordinary person like himself (or, say, any of us) could make it to the top of the Chrysler Building to see the eagles that adorn the top of it.

Yea, the same ones I saw slides of in art history class in college.

We heard about his exploration of a variety of bridges and how being that high provides a panorama that includes the horizontal and vertical separation of the landscape.

According to him, getting to the top of the Woolworth building is as easy as, "We put on suits and schlepped up 40 flights."

So we see that easy is relative.

Paris' catacombs, which he called "the coolest place in the entire world," provided some of his best stories and a recommendation that we spend a night there.

He showed us a bunch of images of the astounding art that's been created down there and not just painting, but sculpture, too.

Insisting that, "All cities should have a free observation deck on their municipal building," he told of visiting ours today, saying, "You guys are so lucky!"

As one who has been up to City Hall's observation deck dating back to the '90s, I think the man has a point.

I don't know that I need to climb to the top of Egypt's great pyramids like he did, but now I know that the entire top of the pyramid is covered with initials carved into it, something I wouldn't have imagined before.

So now the next time I'm having an in-depth conversation about explorers - you know, Ponce de Leon, Cortez, Balboa- I can throw in "Moses Gates" with some authority.

Leaving the Slip, I tried to make it back to Scuffletown Park in time to catch live music, but with the sun setting so much earlier now (7:46, where has the summer gone?), I barely made it in time for two songs.

Still, two songs heard from a bench in a pocket park where a turtle lives is better than no songs, so I couldn't complain.

What I could do was eat since I was starved.

I'd just been talking about Dinamo yesterday with an acquaintance, so that was my first thought once it was chow time.

Walking in, most of the tables were filled, including one with Ward from Chop Suey, always a friendly face to see.

Life was good.

I found a seat at the bar, today's New York Times in front of me and happily ordered a glass of Ancora pinot grigio, a classic Italian white.

Breathing in the delicious smells wafting toward me, I read an article about an Italian winery's stunning new facility rising out of a Tuscan hill and marveled at how something so contemporary could so perfectly suit a winery that's been around for 26 generations.

But then, the Italians always had a knack for style.

When my white pizza with anchovies arrived, I tore into it in a most unladylike manner, all the while thinking of my friend Pru who likes to come here for lunch when they only have red pizza on the menu.

I didn't finish the whole thing, despite my hunger, but I did enjoy a relaxing meal with the Cranberries blasting and some terrific whites in front of me.

If only there'd been a stray guy at the bar for me to test my powers of goodness on.

Ah, well. Until then, I smile like I mean it.

Because I do.

Following the Lard

For some people, the scent of meat and lard brings me to mind.

I'm sure there's a compliment in there somewhere, but damned if I can find it.

Weeks ago, I'd run into a friend who'd rushed to tell me about a taqueria he'd stumbled on while in search of a beer.

The place didn't serve alcohol, but the smells, while repugnant to him as a devout vegan, reminded him of me.

Why me, of all his flesh-loving friends, I have no idea.

But he was so excited for me to try it that he'd written down the name and a nearby business for a frame of reference.

I put it on my to-eat list and went about my business.

Out on my walk last week, he spotted me on Leigh Street as he began to bike across the intersection.

Riding over, he didn't even say hello, just, "Have you been to Tako Nako yet?"

Answering in the negative, I could see the disappointment on his face.

I'll move it up to the top of my list, I promised.

So on this sticky day, I turned my car in the direction of the southside to satisfy him and have lunch.

The guy at the counter inside the little green building had a basic grasp of English and I conveyed my taco choices in my language, not his.

Tongue, cow head and Chorizo, a mere dollar each.

Did I want onions on them was his only question.

He did look a little surprised when I said I'd be eating in, but the air conditioning felt wonderful and there were plenty of tables, so why not have an immersive experience?

I picked up the Tidewater Hispanic News, not that I read Spanish, but to see what I could glean.

Seems the White House has put in solar panels, not tough to decipher given that those two words apparently don't have a Spanish equivalent.

The big screen was set to a Mexican soap opera and some impassioned, dark-eyed, curly-haired man was repeatedly professing, "Ti amore!" to the comatose blond in the hospital bed.

And speaking of blonds, fully three quarters of the actresses in the show were fair-haired. It seemed a bit odd.

My food was delivered on a tray complete with two grocery store napkins sporting a strawberry design.

All three tacos were tasty. It may have been my first cabeza, Chorizo's always a no-brainer, but I'm a sucker for lengua so I saved the best for last.

When I got up to leave, I saw that the order-taker was deeply engrossed in the soap, so I dumped my debris and made for the door.

"Come back again!" he called, looking up momentarily from the drama.

Maybe. A $3.15 lunch is hard to beat, although it's a bit off the beaten path for me.

But now I can give a full report to the man who hasn't eaten meat since before I met him.

The things I'll do for a friend.

Apologetic Prose

Sometimes the best reason to go away is to see what you find when you get back.

A writing assignment took me to the Northern Neck to visit a cattle farm, a far cry from my usual urban world.

It was my first time seeing a tiny kitten terrorize chickens five times its size.

I had a ball with the woman I was interviewing once we discovered we're both oldest daughters with no brothers.

We commiserated over how strict our parents were with us and how lenient with our youngest sisters.


Just kidding, Nancy and Amanda. Well, sort of.

She leads me up upstairs and through a sliding screen door, a pocket door for a porch, something I've never seen before. I love it.

We sit on what she calls her "sweet potato porch," a place with a view of the creek, her horse and a hummingbird feeder with a non-stop series of tiny birds eating at it.

She tells me it's where she and her husband start their morning, having coffee and planning what they'll accomplish that day.

I don't even drink coffee but I am charmed by the idea of starting my day on a porch like this with someone I love.

After a walkabout on the farm and a highly amusing discussion with her Dad (who kept making analogies between alcohol and cattle feed), I have enough material for three articles and say my goodbyes.

It's mid-afternoon on a beautiful and surprisingly un-humid August day and I have nowhere to be and no one looking for me.

Sounds like a good excuse to visit a winery.

I've been to the Hague before, but it's a pleasant enough place and not overly ostentatious like the wineries who do events.

Going through the tasting, I chat up the young woman pouring, hearing how she has just last night decided to leave the Neck and move to Warrenton to live with her boyfriend

His appeal?

He's a good talker...and listener.

Those are the ones you don't want to let get away, my dear.

Drinking the 2010 Chardonel on the porch with a view of corn fields to the right and grape fields to the left seems like the thing to do after the tasting.

Then the wine is finished and it's time for the next adventure.

As long as I'm out this far on a Monday, I would be remiss not to stop at Lowery's in Tappahannock to eat.

It's not that Lowery's menu is particularly enticing, it's that it's Monday.

And that means all you can eat crabs, an irresistible siren call to this gluttonous crab eater raised in Maryland.

As a bonus, there's more of the Chardonel, brought from the Hague in case there was a wine necessity.

With Taylor Swift blaring from the speakers, this definitely qualifies.

The meal starts with oysters from Bevans, a local purveyor I know well since I'd also interviewed Mr. Bevans for a piece a year or two ago.

They are followed by crabs and more crabs, not large but meaty, and I eat long past the point where I've broken a couple of nails, always part of the collateral damage of crustacean-eating for me.

A small price to pay, but then I don't care much what my nails look like anyway.

Nearby, a little girl leaves her parents eating crabs at their table to play a giant version of Jenga made of sawed-off pieces of lumber, eventually sending the stack clattering to the concrete floor of the patio.

It's getting dark by the time I've had my fill of crabs and am ready to head home.

The hour-long drive home is a good excuse to think about everything that's been going on in my life lately, both negative and positive, and hope that things are finally returning to an even keel.

Walking into my apartment, I realize I've been gone for over twelve hours, a break I really needed after being home far too much over the past week.

My good friend Holmes has left a phone message saying, "Hey, glad to see you're back! I was worried about you 'cause you had dropped off the world, but I'm glad to see the prose is flowing again."

How lovely to come home and have a reason to smile even if no one's around to see it.

Every bit as satisfying, I open up my e-mail and find a message from my past.

It's a guy I shared a few dates with several years ago, whom I'd lost touch with because it wasn't the right time for either of us then.

I'm in a way different place now and he must be, too.

"Hi, Karen. Want to have dinner some time soon? I miss those nice legs."

The smile widens.

Yes, I would definitely like to have dinner with you soon.

And you can be sure I'll bring the legs.

A fine road trip ends on an even finer note.

As my friend Moira likes to say, I'm a lucky girl.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Darwin was Right

A man's friendships are one of the best measures of his worth. ~ Darwin

I'm feeling very worthwhile at the moment.

In myriad ways, a good friend hit all the right buttons today, one right after the other.

Dropping by for a late afternoon visit, she supplied floral and citrusy Mouton Cadet Blanc 2011, an ideal sipper as I told her about my Saturday night.

You move fast, she complimented me.

When I can, I do.

She did show and tell about her Saturday, telling me about the 50% off sale at her neighborhood thrift store and how she'd scooped up all kinds of bargains.

Then she pulled out a dress she'd bought for me, partly, she said, because "it just looked like you" but also because she knew I wouldn't give her too much of a hard time for splurging $3.50 on me.

"I know you don't approve of spending any more than that on a dress," she said. It's true.

The dress is adorable, flounced like a '20s flapper dress below the high waist with a simple bodice on top.

She's so right, it's very much a Karen dress.

Still, it was an incredibly thoughtful gesture.

Back at our conversation, we discussed the difficulty of finding men who like poetry readings and foreign films when it occurred to us that we still haven't seen the new Woody Allen film, despite discussing doing so more than once.

Immediately looking at showtimes, we find a screening of "Blue Jasmine" that starts in thirteen minutes, so we toss back the remainder of our wine and head to Movieland.

Not every friend would chug her wine for a dark look at love and money, although perhaps I'm not allowing enough credit for the lure of popcorn and Milk Duds.

Nothing like an afternoon of wine and talking to prepare us for a film that's essentially a reworking of "A Streetcar Named Desire."

Well, except that Jasmine isn't attracted to her sister's man, and it's set in San Francisco.

As a Woody Allen fan since college, I am fascinated by how vibrant his talent remains, even as he inches toward 80.

In a lot of ways, the film is a look at the difference between the haves and the have-nots, with the formerly filthy rich Jasmine disdainful of her blue-collar sister's apartment when she has to move in with her.

I'm here to tell you that the sister's apartment was utterly charming and while a rich bitch may have found it small, considering the prices of San Francisco real estate, it was roomy (and probably not really affordable on the salary of a grocery store worker).

Watching Cate Blanchett play the unstable formerly rich wife, always dressed to the teeth, flying first class, carrying Louis Vuitton luggage, two things occurred to me.

How is that some people still don't realize that money doesn't buy happiness?

I like my $3.50 dress better than anything I saw Cate wear in the movie.

Okay, make it three.

I'm so lucky to have the friends I do.

Functioning in the Modern World

In a world where the unexpected keeps happening, I'm just staying open to the possibilities.

That meant starting my evening with a date who suggested I show him my neighborhood.

Can do.

Strolling through Jackson Ward, I point out things I love about where I live.

Distinctive wrought ironwork on porches. Galleries he's never been to. Tea roses spilling over picket fences.

In front of a thrift shop, he peeks in the window so long that an employee waves us in, calling, "You look like you want to come in."

He does, so we do.

Our stroll deposits us at Bistro 27 where I point out that he shares a homeland with the chef and the two of them are off and running, talking about cities and settlers.

I hear Portuguese spoken. Vasco de Gama is mentioned.

When the chef goes off to make our food, we talk about music - the bossa nova he grew up with and the fado group I've seen that he didn't know existed in Richmond.

Over Vinho Verde, mussels, calamari and grouper, we end up talking about Catholicism along with the literary and gustatory pleasures of Soho and Park Slope, again with the chef.

My date is entranced with the street theater on Broad Street as only a first-timer can be.

After dinner, he wants me to show him more of the 'hood, so we amble past churches that will be full in the morning, barber shops still cutting hair and students sitting on their porches, music blaring from inside the house.

He says hello to everyone we pass, clearly enjoying the feel of the streets, and sometimes engaging people in conversation.

I can feel him falling for J-Ward with every step.

Mission accomplished. I will convert the masses one by one if I have to.

Back at my house, we sit on the porch for a bit, chatting and enjoying the air, described by my arriving neighbor as "half-summer and half-fall."

When I say goodnight, I thank him sincerely for a most agreeable evening, something I very much needed.

But instead of calling it a night, I decide to continue my night with film.

The Criterion is showing "In a World," a Sundance winner for screenwriting and about the world of voice-over work.

I'm sure it's only because I've worked in radio that it even appeals to me, but it does.

Walking into the theater, I see only four other people and once seated, one of them, a friend, leans over and says hello.

It's the local jazz DJ, munching popcorn and clearly there for the same reason I am.

Just as the trailers begin, one last guy slides in and takes the seat at the end of our row.

And now we are six.

The quirky movie is a screwball comedy, but a smart one about a woman trying to make it in a  man's world.

That would be the voice-over actor world, as financially erratic as the freelance writing world, which she necessarily supplements with vocal coaching, like trying to teach Eva Longoria a Cockney accent.

It's plenty of the moment, with lines like, "I came to get my cell phone. There's no way to function in the modern world without it."

Um, I beg to differ.

But it's also full of sly humor like references to a kiddie rom-com (ew) and a "quadrilogy," a series of female warrior adventure movies (shoot me now).

For radio types, one of the most entertaining scenes shows the three characters vying for the job of voicing the trailers for the "quadrilogy" as they pompously and ridiculously warm up before making their audition tapes.

And don't get me started about our heroine's quest to wipe out adult female baby talkers, those women whose pouty voices squeak as they end every sentence with a question.

As the credits roll and the other four attendees leave, the lone wolf at the end of the row looks at me and asks, "Do you do voice-over work?"

Turns out he does, so when I explain my past radio jobs, it takes less than a minute to discover two people we both knew and have worked with, going back as far as the '90s.

Asking what I do now, he shares that he's also a freelance writer.

"Well, you've got a great voice with no trace of an accent, so you should be doing voice work," he advises.

Coincidentally, my date had also mentioned my accent-less voice earlier.

Asking what had brought him out alone tonight, he says it's his birthday and the movie sounded interesting to him.

Happy birthday, I tell him as we walk out together, him holding the door for me.

It's funny how everything works out in time.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Spirit Like Water

I found the way to right my equilibrium.

It began with, of all things, a telephone call from someone fairly new to my life, a man with a barely-accented, mellifluous voice and an array of conversational offerings I found completely engaging - the Stanislavski method, poet Adrienne Rich, provincialism- that magically occupied me for every bit of an hour.

An hour. And I hate talking on the phone.

Still not sure how that happened, but grinning nonetheless.

With such a stellar first act under my belt, I had no choice but to maintain the high, choosing to take my daily walk on Belle Isle.

Under a bright blue sky full of puffy clouds and a steady breeze, I walked along the river, meeting four beagles I needed to pet (including one in a lime green life jacket - adorable), listening to the especially high rushing water and getting smiles from strangers left and right.

Good vibrations abounded.

The dock over the quarry pond was unexpectedly gone, but people were still casting lines into it.

Life happens and we adjust. There are still fish to be caught.

After a couple of times around the island, I climbed down a path to find an empty rock, took off my shoes and submerged my legs in the river up to the knees.

All around me, people lazed in the sun, dogs frolicked at the water's edge and kids squealed because they could.

There were some brave souls in kayaks working their way through the high water, but that was about the most ambitious thing I saw going on.

I watched a paddleboarder go by with two geese devotedly following in his wake.

Sun on my back, legs in the water, plans later.

Spoiler alert to that regular reader who prefers me sad: Too. Damn. Bad.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Dancing in the Dark

So it turns out the naysayers might have been right.

Only a fool thinks you can return to the scene of the crime and not find the same intersection, even if the hurt and disappointment have been paved over.

Regular readers who've gone on record as saying that they don't enjoy my posts when I'm happy and giddy can rejoice.

Optimism has left the building, replaced by regret and melancholy.

Just when I thought I was finally done with all that.

But if my disconsolate posts please you, dear reader, I don't need to know about it.

And if you're waiting for me to tell you I'm happy to give you what you wanted, that's not going to happen, either.

Sometimes we get what we deserve. And sometimes we don't.

But I wouldn't wish sadness on anyone, least of all for the sake of a poignant read.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Friday Muddle

Pru's back in town after a sojourn at the river so we hit the town.

Stop #1 was Magpie for happy hour.

I got my South African on with Mulderbosch Chenin blanc and an amuse bouche of  feta, cherry and a pickled green tomato in basil oil.

The music was pure bad '80s.

We walked into (shudder) "Heat of the Moment" and eventually heard everything from Hall & Oates to Robert Palmer.

I don't know the last time I heard "Bad Case of Loving You," nor do I care to.

That's what a Pandora station set to Huey Lewis gets you.

Prudence had been at the river most of the week, so we had lots to talk about. And eat.

We began with smoked pork loin and fresh Mozzarella with yellow ball melon delivered today from the farmer, a colorfully pretty dish with the sweetest yellow watermelon.

Next came arugula soup with bleu cheese, a distant cousin to split pea soup, but far more compelling.

The it was time to change wines, going Spanish with the Finca Venta Domaine Quixote Rose.

I can only resist pink for so long.

For my main, I ordered tempura soft shell crab with cherry/leek puree and black mission figs.

It's that time of year when I can indulge my love of figs at every turn and I do.

If I knew someone with a fig tree, I'd be asking to pluck a few from it right about now.

Th crab had been cut in half and set on its center, appearing to be dancing across the plate in a very playful presentation.

Points for creativity.

We watched countless Magpie Muddles being made, marveling that anyone would choose vodka over gin or bourbon.

For us, the pleasure was in the aromatics of the ingredients, the herbs and fresh fruit.

We finished up our conversation about parties, screws loose and "Same Time, Next Year" with a seasonal dessert.

Peach sorbet over rosemary shortbread went over the top with pistachio brittle and bleu cheese.

Our work here over, Pru wanted to return to the scene of her workplace, meaning we crossed the river for a drink.

Stop #2 was Camden's Dogtown Market.

People were still eating dinner at tables, but we staked our claim at the bar for wine.

Rumor had it they were pouring Klein Constantia, a wine with sentimental value for me since I'd visited the South African winery almost a decade ago.

The crisp Sauvignon Blanc we drank was lovely with a long finish, comparable to the memory of a drawn-out meal at the winery on a night just about as cool and perfect as the one outside tonight.

As a bonus, "Mildred Pierce" was playing over the bar, a film I've only seen once, but one with plenty of restaurant jargon.

We heard about a new restaurant coming to my beloved Jackson Ward and talked trash about people with a sense of entitlement.

Don't get me started.

But unfortunately for Pru and me, Manchester closes down earlier than we were ready to, so we moved on.

Stop #3, our final, was Bistro 27.

Over Vinho Verde and a samba soundtrack, we got the details on an upcoming party, talked about Pru's uptick in her personal life and divided the world into us and them.

Live without it? No, I don't think so.

Not while there are wineries playing music outside at night I won't.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Bring on the Dogs

It's been a good week for me and porn.

First there was "Lovelace" and today there was En Su Boca.

Foto Boy and I ran the gauntlet of Redskins Training camp to make it over to the Boulevard and eat in the former porn shop.

I'd heard enough crusty jokes to eschew interior dining for the spacious patio.

That and the temperature was far nicer outside than in.

Nothing could completely make you forget the noisy traffic or worn-looking storefronts across the street, but the high wooden fence at least mitigated them somewhat.

Also helping were the garden, tiki torches and window boxes that filled the space.

Looking at the menu, the winner for best porn-related name was the bacon-wrapped big wiener, so I asked our server about it.

"I love it," she exclaimed. "I had a few drinks after work and it was the perfect thing to keep me from getting drunk."

High praise, indeed.

I inquired about the bolillo roll it came on and she said they split the roll and tucked the dog inside.

Her other recommendation was the carne asada burrito so FB got that.

A bit later, our server came back and asked if we'd left our dog in the VW in the parking lot.

We figured she had concerns about the heat of the car, but, no, actually she just wanted the owner to know that their patio is pet-friendly and invite the dog in.

Given how few RVA patios welcome man's best friend, we were impressed with this.

But no, it wasn't our dog.

She left us to our discussion of moods, friends with benefits and cocooning and while the two of us had plenty to talk about, eventually it became clear that our food was not forthcoming.

People who'd arrived after us were now eating.

When she did come back, it was with a pained look to say that the kitchen was out of bolillo rolls and did I still want it without it?


Once you've got your sights set on a big wiener, it's hard to settle for anything else so I agreed to having it on a tortilla, which sounded slightly more appealing than naked, the other option she offered.

It came covered in drunken beans (cooked in beer), lime mayo and onions with a tiny little Key lime half on the side.

All I can say is that a big wiener really doesn't belong on a tortilla, nor should bacon be cooked to the point of shattering, at least in my opinion.

I took a bite of FB's burrito, leaving a lipstick print on it, much to his amusement, and finding it, well, pretty safe.

Two orders of chicken wings al pastor landed at two tables nearby and I wondered if they knew something we didn't.

Our server returned to clear our dishes, noting that much of my tortilla remained and sweetly offered to give me a popsicle to compensate for the missing bolillo.

Who am I to turn down a free popsicle, especially one hand-made by La Michocana over on Midlothian Turnpike?

The large white bar was made of frozen yogurt and full of fruit- cherries, kiwi, grapes, strawberries, peach- with a crooked stick coming out of the bottom, adding to its charm.

Once it softened, the combination of sweet yogurt and all that fruit got two thumbs up from us.

And what could be more appropriate than finishing our meal in a former porn shop licking and sucking?

The lesson here? A big wiener only takes you so far.

Are the Stars Out Tonight?

Last night it was stars of the celestial kind watching the Perseid meteor shower out in the country.

Tonight it was a star of the culinary kind, celebrating what would have been Julia Child's 101st birthday.

Things were hopping when I arrived and slid into the only available bar stool at Secco, in between a poet I've heard read to my left and a large, tattooed man wearing a tooled leather wrist cuff to my right.

I like to think that Julia would have appreciated the diversity.

A special menu culled from Julia's "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" seemed like the only way to go so I did.

Starting with a glass of Domaine de Noire Chinon and a bowl of chilled garlic soup, I felt appropriately provided for.

The soup delivered the best kind of garlic breath and was adorned with hard-boiled egg yolk and whites with a center of pickled garlic.

As a bonus, I got one perfect escargot in a pate a choux cup with parsley/garlic butter.

I wasn't getting kissed any time soon, so there was no such thing as too much garlic tonight.

The tattooed man and his date soon left and a new guest sat down one stool away from me.

Without missing a beat, my server greeted him and gestured to me. "This is Karen," he said, probably anticipating that we'd end up talking.

A transplant from New Orleans, this guy had recently moved from Chester to the Fan and was systematically trying to get to know his neighborhood.

He'd tried to get in the Daily but there had been no seats so he decided to try Secco.

I assured him he'd made a far better choice.

When he asked for a dessert recommendation, I didn't hesitate to steer him toward that luscious hazelnut gelato with cocoa nibs.

He thanked me later.

The two of us were soon joined by another single, this one a guy who just moved a mere two blocks away and was out walking his dog when he decided to stop for some wine.

Pooch was tied up out front while we chatted.

We got on the subject of walking and he told us he walked from Carytown to Rockett's Landing for brunch.

And back.

The Fan newcomer was aghast at the distance, but as a daily walker, I could see the appeal of an all-day walk with brunch and drinks sandwiched in between.

And, yes, I do realize that C-town guy and I are in the minority for thinking that.

My new friends wanted to know why I was out having dinner by myself, so I brought them up to speed on whose birthday it was.

I told them that I was a fan of Julia's not just for her passion for cooking, but because I thought she'd had one of the greatest relationships I'd ever read about.

I'd picked up her autobiography, "My Life in France," to learn more about her development as a cook and been blown away by the terribly romantic story of her relationship with her husband, Paul.

They were two people utterly devoted to each other.

A couple who were passionate about eating, drinking, conversing and traveling together.

"That's it!" said the Carytown dweller. "I just bought a new house with this beautiful kitchen so I'm going to look for a woman who can cook or at least teach me to cook! That's my new requirement for dating."

I wished him good luck in his endeavor, admitting that I'm partial to men who cook.

After two glasses of Nebbiolo Rose, he felt like he'd better get on with walking the dog and said goodnight.

Fan man lingered a while and we chatted about how I manage to live without a cell phone and how challenging it's been for him to live without TV the past two weeks.

In other words, we didn't have a lot in common except a shared appreciation for gelato.

When he left, I took the opportunity to finally eat my Julia Child-inspired dinner.

Hanger steak au poivre came with sauteed potatoes and watercress in a cognac sauce, the richness of the sauce a beautiful foil for the peppery crust of the meat.

As I sat there savoring each bite, suddenly the music stopped me mid-chew.

Of all the unlikely songs to come on, between the Shins and the XX, it was the Spinners' "I'll Be Around."

Much as I prefer new music, I found it absolutely charming.

Whenever you call me, I'll be there
Whenever you want me, I'll be there
Whenever you need me, I'll be there
I'll be around

It was such an unlikely-sounding song to hear that I asked the staff who'd put it on the Secco iPod.

Not a soul would admit to it.

Actually, it sounded like exactly the sort of romantic lyrics Paul would have sung to Julia.

Ghost selection, so to speak.

My meal finished with a miniature orange spongecake with white chocolate buttercream, one perfect bite to represent Julia's birthday cake.

Happy 101st, old girl. I only hope I do as well in love as you did.

Until then, I'll be around.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Pretty Fly for a Tongue-Eater

My evening in ten words or less: From pop-up to porn, with a fly finish.

It was tres amigos night for the girlfriends and me at Pasture because they were doing a Hispania Bakery pop-up for their Taco Tuesday spectacular.

As if that wasn't enough of an incentive, DJ Marty of Steady Sounds was providing the appropriate mood music.

The girls and I took a table by the wall for a good view of the room as two of us sipped Spanish rose and the third tried tonight's special drink, a mango/Thai chili margarita.

I'm no cocktail expert, but the subtly sweet start and slow-burn finish made for a nicely balanced sipper.

Because inquiring minds want to know, co-owner Michele stopped by to give us the backstory on the inspiration for tonight's fun.

Seems she'd fallen in love with the desserts Maria makes for Hispania, but found getting up early enough to make it to the farmer's market to get them too challenging.

I felt her pain.

There are many things I'd like to try at the farmer's market but there's not a snowball's chance in hell I'll be up early enough to do it.

Cleverly, Michele brought the desserts to her...and to us.

A funny story about her birthday gifts to two of the kitchen staff ended with the hysterical, "I'm not Paula Deen, I'm just inappropriate!"

I don't know if the sombrero the chef was wearing helped his cooking skills, but tonight's specials suited us just fine.

My favorite were the tongue and guacamole tacos, but I also enjoyed the shrimp tacos and the elotes al estilo Mexicano, a mayo-rubbed ear of corn, spiced and with cheese.

I love $3 food.

While the restaurant continued to get busier, we gave each other love life advice and talked about musicians we know.

It required more Rose and a Pulaski (whiskey and a pickleback) while we wished the din of the room wasn't drowning out Marty's smooth sounds.

As we discussed, there can be no possible relationships with men who don't share our passion for music.

But we also couldn't lose sight of the reason for the evening (dessert, hello?!), so two of us ordered cookie plates, which came with a glass of horchata.

It may have been my first horchata, but it was not my friend's.

Seems when she was in California on her honeymoon, she (and her cute husband) made it her mission to try as many horchatas as possible.

She deemed tonight's excellent and while I sipped some of it with my spicy chocolate diablo cookie (dark chocolate ganache, cinnamon, habanero) and cinnamon-dulce de leche cookie (sprinkled with sea salt), I found my second glass of Rose went almost as well.

I have to say, it sure was delightful getting to eat Hispania Bakery treats without having to get up at the butt crack of dawn.

Before we got ready to go, one friend insisted on knowing what I was doing next.

Since I didn't yet know for sure myself, I had to throw out some options.

As it turned out, I went for porn.

It wasn't much of a crowd for "Lovelace" at the Criterion, but then not everyone wants to see a film based on the biggest-grossing porn film of all time.

But "Deep Throat" came out in 1972, so I was curious to see how well depicted that era would be.

Judging by the age of the other seven attendees tonight, they might have been wondering the same.

They certainly did a good job with the music, using everything from "Got to Use My Imagination" to "Get Ready" to "Fooled Around and Fell in Love."

And the clothes - the bell bottoms, the cutoffs and Keds, the jumpsuits, even a flowered bathing cap - nailed the '70s look.

Two tickets at a NYC theater to see "Deep Throat" cost six bucks.

Remember $3 movie tickets? Yea, neither do I.

TVs were large wooden consoles and kitchen wallpaper was yellow, orange and avocado green daisies.

The story, needless to say, was tragic, as a young woman was used and abused by a smarmy man with awful facial hair who complimented her shamelessly to win her trust.

And then proceeded to make a buck on her oral sex skills.

What was amazing was how a week-long film shoot defined her for so long - right up until she escaped him and wrote a tell-all book sharing her side of the ordeal.

Foe which she had to take a lie-detector test to satisfy her publisher.

It occurred to me how difficult it might be for a generation of digital natives to fully comprehend how culturally significant it was for a XXX movie to be shown at mainstream movie theaters back in the '70s.

Or how a song like "Spirit in the Sky" could have ever made the Top Ten chart.

Guess you just have to use your imagination, kids.

I have to assume that's what my neighbor was doing when I got home from the movie.

Crossing the street to my house, he waved and called out, "I was telling my friend here, that's my next-door neighbor's car. She always gets out looking so fly...and you do."

Fly? What is this, 1972?

It was right about then I tripped on the curb. So not fly.

Did I mention he has bad facial hair?

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Postcards from the Edge

I took a walk on the warm side.

It wasn't that far - only to Balliceaux - and passing by Edo's, a handsome man in a gray suit (no tie), gave me a courtly head bow and smile as I passed.

Some gestures never go out of style.

At the bar at Balliceaux, I found mixologist Bobby K., who greeted me by telling me he'd heard about my escapade at Heritage.

Except I hadn't been to Heritage anytime recently.

As the rumor mill had it, a food writer was alone at the bar (which is why they'd suspected me), as were two very inebriated restaurateurs-to-be who proceeded to drunkenly tell her she knew nothing about food writing, a tactical error which apparently resulted in them being ejected.

I was happy to inform him that I was definitely not the food writer involved, despite my penchant for dining out alone.

Before leaving him to his puzzlement, I got a glass of discounted pinot grigio from Alto Adige (the wine list is being overhauled so it's out with the old and in with the new) and made my way to the back room for a special installment of Secretly Y'All, Tell Me a Story.

Tonight, GWAR member Dave Brockie was doing an evening called "To the Volga and Back," which turned out to be part history lesson and part twisted travelogue.

He began by talking about his parents who'd both joined the British armed services at fourteen (they both lied about their ages) to be part of WW II, factors he think influenced his lifelong fascination with war.

Virulently anti-war, this information was a prelude to his tale of visiting Stalingrad.

The trip began by flying to Amsterdam with a friend to pick up two Dutch buddies and do what people do in Holland.

Showing a colorful slide, Dave said, "Holland is known for its windmills and you can get drunk in this one. And we did."

Judging by the slides, they might have also made stops at a few Amsterdam "coffee shops," judging by the slide of apothecary jars of weed and hash.

Apparently it was great stuff, too, because he told of  smoking and then trying to find his hotel room on a floor with only ten rooms.

"I could read numbers and I knew what room I was in, but I couldn't figure it out!" he said.

Special moments like that punctuated his talk, like when he left the stage, mic in hand, observing, "This cord is long enough that I can walk to the bar and get another beer."

It seemed he needed fortification for the next leg of his journey to Moscow.

"There are two types of women in Moscow," he explained, showing a  slide of himself ogling two pretty girls. "Babushkas and hotties. If they're not scrubbing floors by 9 a.m., they're wearing high heels."

An oversimplification, perhaps, but we got the idea.

Since the guys naturally ate at a McDonald's, he was able to assure us, "I'm here to tell you that a quarter pounder with cheese in Russia tastes the same as a quarter pounder with cheese in America."

Now there's something to fight for.

The highlight of the guys' trip to Moscow seems to have been the tank museum and a big part of Dave's talk was devoted to slides and descriptions of what he called "death machines."

"We were like kids in a candy store," he grinned, but looking around at the male members of the audience, they looked just as enthralled.

I don't want to insult Dave, but as far as I could tell, one tank looks pretty much like another.

He did point out that German tanks were far more deign-oriented while Russian tanks were merely utilitarian hulks that eliminated everything in its path, but I just couldn't see it.

When we finally moved on from the wonders of tanks, it was to hear about the group's 29-hour train ride to Stalingrad (now Volgograd to be PC).

They were on a  pilgrimage to see what was the largest free-standing sculpture in the world when it was built in 1967, "The Motherland Calls,"  a colossus of a figure of a woman, sword in hand, to commemorate the Battle of Stalingrad.

Actually, it was this battle that had been the reason they wanted to visit the city in the first place.

"It takes effort and time to get to see it," Dave explained, showing slide after slide of the slow journey up a hill and then 200 steps to the top, where his pictures showed men looking like gnats at the bottom of the statue.

And despite making it to the top, he admitted, "If I went looking for answers, I'm not sure I found them."

Their visit to Stalingrad coincided with the May 9th Victory Day holiday, marking the surrender of the Germans to the Soviet Union in WW II, so we saw slides of the celebration and pageantry of Victory Day.

Even so, he was no clearer on historical context than before he'd left.

"I still feel the same way about war as I did before I went. The only way to fight war is to battle against it. I utilize my rubber sword in GWAR to wage a love war," he said, sounding very peace, love and groovy.

He said he wanted to end by reading a war poem called "Wait for Me" to us.

"And no, that's not a trick ending," he grinned. "You're not about to be squirted with jizz."

Thank god and the motherland.

It was warm enough walking home on a hot, August night without that kind of stickiness all over me, too.

Monday, August 12, 2013

The Shock of the News

Outside. Waiting. Scared. Cold.

That's the sarcastic message my friend had just sent me when I looked out the window and saw him downstairs.

We had lunch plans and I was running a few minutes behind getting ready when I spotted him outside.

Dressing in record time, I came flying out my front door to his commentary about me "upstairs in my ivory tower," inaccessible to all.

So I had my doorbell disconnected. So I don't have a cell phone.

And my house is yellow, not ivory.

All he really had to do was call my name and I'd have heard him through the open window, but he claims he wasn't raised in the "holla."

We agreed on 821 for lunch, wanting to take advantage of the last little bit of non-student opportunity left.

Once at a table, Fleetwood Mac in the background, our server inquired if I wanted my usual nachos, starting to write the order before I even answered.

I did.

The shock came when she inquired if I wanted a half portion.

A what?

I've been ordering those black bean nachos exclusively at 821 for, oh, four or five years now, and never once has anyone offered me a half portion.

Color me surprised and more than a little thrilled.

Friend got his usual burger and we began the business of catching up on each other's lives.

It had been close to a year since we'd last met up and the original reason for our get-together was because he'd noticed we had a mutual friend on Facebook.

And not just any mutual friend, but the unlikeliest person he'd ever expected to see show up as one of my friends.

First off, he wanted that story.

After sharing how that unholy union had come about, he filled me in on his life.

The least I could do was the same and while I generally prefer to wait for people to inquire about my life rather than assuming they want to hear about my business, I've been chided for that quality.

So, my friend, here's what's been up with me.

Ah, the pleasures of dropping a long-time friend's jaw.

He was agog, so much so that when the check arrived, he scooped it up, insisting, "For that story, I'll buy you lunch!"

Since the lunch rush was winding down, we sat there chatting even once our food was gone, with him saying, "For this, I've got time."

Funny, I didn't hear a bit of sarcasm in that.

Inside. Talking. Shocked. WTF?

Jazz Hands and Birthday Pink

Sometimes you just have to cross people off your list.

So when I got offered tickets to the Richmond Jazz Fest at Maymont, I said yes so that I could cross two musicians off mine. I'd invited a friend to join me and since I was supplying the tickets, his job was to provide the picnic.

Given the changeable weather, we decided to cut our losses by arriving mid-day, hoping to miss at least some of the rain. We walked into Maymont about 3:45, just about the time the colorfully-clad Tiempo Libre took the stage.

It hadn't been that long since I'd seen them - March with the symphony- so I knew to expect high-energy Cuban music brought to us by classically trained musicians. I don't know how they did it, dancing and playing non-stop in the afternoon sun, but they even managed to make it look fun. Their set ended with a conga line and a long string of attendees snaking behind the lead singer, dancing in the grass.

During the break, we strolled over to the "bar" to get ID'd, buy tickets and finally (ta-da!) qualify to buy a bottle of wine. It wasn't an easy process, but sometimes you have to persevere for the cause.

Given the humidity, we opted for a bottle of Chateau Ste. Michelle Riesling, taking it with us as we wandered through the craft area (lots of jewelry, something I don't wear) and the bistro area (lots of fried food with Mama Musu's and Croaker's Spot the only recognizable names) before returning to our chairs.

Not long after, Dr. John  and the Nite Trippers took the stage, thereby satisfying one of my must-see needs. The good doctor wore a hat over his trademark be-ribboned ponytail and got right down to business.

Four or five years ago, a friend had advised me that the only place to see Dr. John was in New Orleans, but I figured it was best not to wait indefinitely for that opportunity.

The man is, after all, 72 years old.

That said, he sounded exactly like he did when he first sang "Right Place, Wrong Time" in 1973.
He proved it by singing it tonight and as a guy sitting nearby observed, "If you closed your eyes, it was just like hearing it in the '70s."

The crowd today would know about the '70s, since it appeared that most of them came of age then.
In fact, at one point my friend looked at me and said that we were at the young edge of the average age, no small feat.

I would say that hearing Dr. John's distinctive gravel of a voice was a most satisfying experience as he tore up the skull-adorned piano in the muggy afternoon sun.

We decided to use the next break to eat, enjoying fried chicken and coleslaw with our Riesling while a gentle rain began to fall. No problem; along with other necessaries, I'd made sure to bring a small umbrella, if only to keep the raindrops out of my wine glass.

My planning skills are among the best.

At this point, many people began packing up to go while just as many arrived to set up camp. Depending on your taste, the main event had either just happened or was just about to.

Next up was another 72-year old, this one, Chick Corea, another musician I had to see for posterity's sake. His group, the Vigil, looked to be less than half his age and my friend noted that they might as well have been his "class."

His master class, maybe.

The man who was once part of Miles Davis' band in the '60s walked out looking easily 20 years younger than he was and proceeded to show the youngsters how it's done. With an almost constant smile, he showed his mastery, never dominating the sound, but always clearly the one driving the bus.

It's exciting to see someone of his age still so obviously enjoying what he does.

When their set ended, we decided to pack it in, both of us having already seen Michael McDonald.
You know, the great jazz artist, Michael McDonald. Yea, right.

Our original intent had been to make it to somewhere less populated after the music to watch the Perseid meteor shower, but the lingering cloud cover made that impossible. Instead we finished the evening at the late evening birthday party of a friend, drinking Rose from Provence, listening to Madonna and watching a Queen concert on a big screen.

One guest wore white pants and shirt, his glowing cell phone in his pocket beaming its light from his thigh. Another told me how much he liked my writing, citing a specific article I'd written almost six months ago.

Did I mention there was a smoke machine to set the birthday mood?

Yah mo B there, wherever the most fun can be found.

I only hope that's still the case when I'm 72.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Saturday, So What?

Sometimes all I want is a simple Saturday night.

No high culture, no trendy foodstuffs, no company required.

Chalk it up to yet another of my eccentricities, but I just don't see the last day of the week as the highlight.

So instead of trying to think of what fabulous things I might enjoy tonight, I considered how to have a low-key evening alone.

Step one: dinner at Garnett's.

After claiming a counter stool, I went to the window and rifled through the newspaper box, extracting all the New York Times arts sections.

Back at the counter, I ordered a grilled Gouda with tomato and bacon, the pig-sporting cousin of my favorite sandwich at Ipanema.

Sans company, I was able to read and eat without conversational responsibility.

I read a review of "Lovelace," since I'd just seen the preview at Bowtie two days ago.

I read a piece called "Marriage is Yard Work" about a San Diego couple who have spent four years turning the backyard of the house they rent into an outdoor room, building most of the furniture themselves.

And then a couple sat down at the counter, having just come from the Sound City festival down at Tredegar.

Okay, so I hadn't gone out for conversation, but when it drops in my lap, what's a poor girl to do?

So I inquired. They liked that it wasn't particularly crowded. They were there early enough that the beer-pouring staff didn't yet know to pour half-full cups, so they got two full beers before someone caught on.

They thought the James Badfellows used too many cuss words (her term) for 2:00 in the afternoon. They wondered if El Vez really had an accent. They enjoyed Leagues.

And they didn't stay for the Breeders.

I knew everything I needed to and I could continue with my reading.

After finishing my deliciously gooey sandwich, I returned the newspaper to the box, thanked my server and headed home.

Step two: Warren Hixson.

Keeping it simple, I then walked three blocks to Black Iris Gallery for music.

It's the space that used to be Sound of Music and although I'd been to shows when it was SoM, I'd never gone beyond the front room.

Tonight the girl who took my money told me to head to the back "because there's beer there," and while I don't drink beer, I was curious about the unknown parts.

It was nothing like what I expected.

The room with the bar had beautiful wood wainscoting all the way around and it made me think of those walls where you touch a hidden button and the wall opens and allows you into a secret passage.

A mounted deer head over the bar, which in some ways resembled a rec room set-up.

Tall, narrow staircases continued up a few flights and this is apparently where the recording studios were.

So now I knew.

People continued to arrive, get beer and mingle until finally it was decided that we'd reached critical mass and the show could begin.

Frequenters of music shows knowingly refer to this as "Richmond time."

Nelly Kate, one of the organizers, made the point that Richmond needs to start shows when they say they will or else it's not fair to punctual arrivees.

My friend Dave Watkins often makes the same point.

So they didn't start on time, but it wasn't all that long before Warren Hixson took the stage in the front room.

As they began to play, I heard an annoying sound behind me and turned to find someone's iPod plugged into a small speaker and still playing.

Unnecessary, I deemed, and pulled the plug as if I were in charge.

It's so easy to take control sometimes.

Every time I see these guys (and girl, since Nelly's in the band), I hear how their sound has evolved even further.

Take one part garage rock, add in some almost grunge-like guitar, killer keyboards and before you know it, it's a pastiche with no discernible genre beyond their own.

Every time I think they're veering too close to classic rock for my taste, they start sounding groovier, a tad psychedelic and I am sucked in again.

And it wasn't just me; everyone I could see was dancing in place or bopping along to the sonic delights.

During one extended jam, a girl near me broke free of the crowd, went to the back of the room and began doing the hippie dance, catching non-existent butterflies with her eyes closed.

Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Maybe she was just looking to steer clear of company.

Sometimes that's a perfect Saturday night.

Pride and Gluttony

Believe it or not, I'll be in the Smithsonian.

Of course, I didn't know that when the evening began.

Yes, I knew I was one of the lucky ticket-holders to see "Herb and Dorothy 50 x 50" at the VMFA.

I even knew that Dorothy Vogel, half of the legendary couple whose art collection has now been consigned to the National Gallery and a museum in every state, would be taking questions afterwards.

My excitement went with me to Bistro 27 beforehand to enjoy a glass of Mekan Molisse Rosso and a stellar bowl of watermelon gazpacho to make up for the Watermelon Festival I'm not going to Sunday.

A nearby bar sitter asked what my evening held and I shared that I was going to see a film about this amazing couple who'd collected art for decades and then donated it to the world.

""That sounds fabulous. I'm jealous," he admitted after he heard their back story.

You should be, friend.

Picking up the tickets I'd ordered weeks ago at the VMFA, I was surprised to hear that people had shown up tonight expecting to be able to still get tickets.

We settled into the fifth row.

There was never any doubt in my mind that Dorothy would get a standing ovation when she walked out and she did.

"The last time we packed the house like this was for the Elvis Presley exhibit," our host Trent said. "I think it's safe to say Dorothy Vogel is our new Elvis."

But she was way better than Elvis because he's dead.

Plus here we were getting to see the film about her and her late husband a full month before it goes to the Big Apple, making the VMFA even cooler than it already is.

The film picked up where the first documentary left off and I'd fallen in love with that one two years ago, here, unashamedly admitting I wanted a man just like Herb (devoted and art-loving).

No surprise that these unlikely Medicis, supporting artists and purchasing their work when no one else was, had had a hand in choosing some of the museums who were to receive their gift.

We saw artists like Chuck Close talking about the Vogels' collecting habit in their tiny one-bedroom apartment.

"The bed got higher with their accumulation of art," he said, remembering their overstuffed apartment.

Herb himself said, "Knowing the artists was as, if not more, important than the art itself," a testament to the long friendships that developed during the Vogels' collecting years.

Because Dorothy spent her career as a librarian, she had been meticulous about keeping files about their art collecting.

Saving postcards about gallery openings, newspaper articles about their collection, letters to and from artists, she'd amassed 42 boxes of paper related to their collection, all of it now stored at the archive of American art.

By the time this film was made, Herb was in a wheelchair and not terribly talkative, although when he did have something to say, it was always pithy and spot-on.

"What we did then is now art history," he observed in the understatement of the year.

Herb died last year and Dorothy is shown a month after his death, clearly still grieving, but beginning to organize the apartment and take down the art that will be distributed.

She makes it clear that her collecting days are over because, "That's something I did with Herbie."

During the Q & A, filmmaker Megumi Sasaki surprised a lot of people by saying that before the Vogel films, she had never made a film.

Nor did she know much about art.

You wouldn't know either from watching the film.

When Dorothy was asked about the VMFA's 50 works, she thrilled the audience by saying, "I'm very happy the collection came here. The installation upstairs looks great."

She was asked about her husband's fish tank ("I appreciated it, but I had nothing to do with it"), how she'd met him (at a camp reunion although he'd never gone to the camp) and asked if she missed the art.

"I don't feel like I gave it away," she said in her well-spoken and low-key humorous way. "It's still mine, it's just not in my apartment."

You had to love her spunk.

When asked if she and Herbie ever disagreed about buying a piece of art, she was quick to say, "We might have had a few disagreements about other things, but never about art."

Theirs was a match made in heaven.

We gave her another standing ovation when the talk ended and slowly began filing out, everyone chattering about their excitement at having heard Dorothy share her thoughts.

Then just when I thought it couldn't get any better, it did.

Walking out, the VMFA's director of communications saw me and held up a manila envelope labeled "Dorothy Vogel"

Telling me that my Style Weekly article on the Vogel exhibit was inside the package destined for Dorothy meant that my words are headed for the Smithsonian's archive of American art.

Sure, it'll just be another piece of paper in the 42 boxes, but it will also be my words on that paper in the Smithsonian's archives.

There was nothing to do but go celebrate my accomplishment.

I chose Secco for its recently-appointed chef (who'd been a personal favorite when he was the sous chef), Mike, and walked into a teeming throng of Friday night revelers.

Two barstools had just emptied and we appropriated them.

My celebratory libation was Aloque Rosato, a lovely rose of Tempranillo with the color of strawberry Kool-aid.

My friend went with a Nebbiolo rose, hers a pale salmon color.

To each, her own.

Our meal began with seared padron peppers with Manchego, brown butter and sherry vinegar, in my opinion, the perfect accompaniment to my Spanish wine.

Our handsome server put them down, saying, "They're Russian roulette peppers. Most are sweet but you might hit a spicy one."

I had seven or eight and never a one that wasn't satisfyingly sweet but my friend (who calls herself "a baby" about spicy things) got the one wild card hot padron.

Isn't that always the way?

On the other hand, as I told her, the decadent brown butter and Manchego more than made up for the heat, at least after a minute or so.

Next came the prettiest dish I've seen in a while, an heirloom tomato salad with (insert sound of moan) housemade mascarpone, radishes, capers and herbs.

I could write a sonnet to those 'maters- the stunning array of colors, the impossible juiciness and the incredible sweetness that only comes at this time of year- which almost, but not quite, but almost made the to-die-for mascarpone superfluous.


Run, do not walk, to eat this salad.

Next came hanger steak. sliced against the grain and beautifully medium rare, with snap peas and ribbons of summer squash.

The fact is, meat like this is exactly why I will never be a vegetarian.

Langa la Tur, a cheese made with goat, sheep and cow's milk delivered a triple threat with every earthy, redolent bite.

"That's about the best meal I've had in a while," my friend said, looking as pleased about the eats as I felt about my article heading to the archives (and the eats).

With attitudes like those, there was nowhere to go but straight to hazelnut gelato with cocoa nibs.

Not one, but two scoops of mouth-coating indulgence had me rhapsodizing to my friend about the pleasures of ice cream in summer.

Not to mention my sentences in matter what the season.

Friday, August 9, 2013

August and Everything After

It was one of those evenings when I had to pay the piper.

Since I'd gone to see a documentary this afternoon, that meant that instead of happy hour, I was busy working.

I hate when that happens.

It's bad anytime, but especially during the summer when all I want is to be out having a good time.

So I plowed through my work so I could get to something more pleasurable.

And with nothing on my calendar tonight, that meant I was free to find a friendly spot to linger, eating and drinking.

Hello, Amour.

I strolled in to French gypsy music, past tables of happy-looking diners and took up residence at the end of the bar.

There was one guy at the other end of the bar already eating and drinking.

While he had an array of glasses in front of him, I zeroed in on the Le Petit Rouviere Rose, dry and tasting like berries.

I adore this time of year when my Rose choices are as plentiful as Hanover tomatoes and watermelons.

August, in other words.

By this point, I was hungry so before I crossed over into hangry territory, I started ordering.

Deviled taters brought herb-roasted baby red potatoes filled with deviled egg salad and drizzled with lemon truffle honey, a sweet touch to complement the savory base.

Crispy baked prosciutto cups with shaved Parmesan and tomato/basil soubise sat on tiny slices of fresh tomato, each a perfectly flavorful bite.

Giving in to temptation, I couldn't resist having the watermelon gazpacho I'd loved last time I'd had it.

My fellow bar sitter was having it for the first time and moaning in delight at the delicacy of flavor, the hint of sweetness and the accompanying pickled yellow pepper.

"This is too good to be on a bar menu!" he insisted before I pointed out that as bar sitters, we, of all people, should appreciate an elevation of bar food.

"This is almost worthy of a Michelin star!" he protested.

Shut up and eat, I suggested. Be glad there's bar food this good available.

Last up I had the house-smoked pork belly with creamed cannellini beans, a barbecue-inspired gastrique and candied bacon.

The south had finally risen in Amour.

It was time for some more wine and this time I went with La Bastide Saint Dominique Grenache, which the owner recommended as an easy-drinking, fruity, summer red.

Given the month, the time of night and the kind of day, all three of those descriptors suited me.

A man I recognized came in; we'd met at Belmont Food Shop a while back and he not only remembered me, but my occupation.

He claimed his memory was due to a pretty face, but I'd heard that line before.

A lawyer, he was working on a brief that was due by 8 a.m. tomorrow, but he affably joined our conversation, drinking coffee while we forged ahead with our wine.

I can feel for an early-morning wake-up call, but I cannot drink caffeine in solidarity.

Eventually the conversation moved on to the restaurants of Rockett's Landing and Casa del Barco's extensive tequila list.

I was pleasantly surprised to discover another tequila devotee at the bar and he told me of his attempts to find what are considered the ten best tequilas in the U.S., only to be thwarted by the Virginia ABC.

Now there's a surprise.

Favorite line of the night: "If you don't share wine, you're just an alcoholic."

Oh, there was sharing.

And with the piper paid, a lovely evening surely worthy of a Michelin star.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

#1 Record

Different friends, different interests.

So when I saw I had one chance to see "Nothing Can Hurt Me" about the seminal '70s band Big Star, I knew who to call.

"Oh, yes! That sounds awesome!" she responded.

I know I must have other friends who like Big Star, but none immediately come to mind.

Or at least none who are free for a matinee, which was the last screening of the film here.

For this documentary dork, the thrill is what I can learn and there was plenty to learn here.

And admire. Big Star was made up of four good-looking guys very easy on the eyes, even decked out in such '70s attire.

And the snapshots of the era!

I was blown away to hear that there had been a National Association of Rock Writers convention held in Memphis, purportedly to discuss unionizing the business.

Only in the '70s.

As one rock journalist recalled, "That was kind of like trying to herd cats."

But what did happen was Big Star played for that room full of music writers and they went so crazy, the unthinkable happened.

"They got a roomful of rock writers dancing!" one who was there exclaimed.

It's hard to imagine such a thing, but it points to the power of Big Star's distinct and compelling sound especially in the context of the time.

A lot of the film centered around Ardent Studios in Memphis, first its storefront location and then the bigger, state-of-the-art facility where so much magic happened.

And if the band's name sounds grandiose and affected to unfamiliar ears, they should know that it was chosen because they'd recorded a bunch of music and still had no name.

Fortunately, there was a Big Star supermarket nearby and that was enough of an inspiration.

And speaking of Memphis businesses, it was the local TGI Friday's (the first franchised location after the original in NYC) where the band would hang out to drink and drug  once liquor by the drink became available.

Naturally, they ended up in the studio afterwards because that was their passion.

And they had the keys to it.

I loved seeing an ad for a Big Star show, saying, "Upstairs at Max's Kansas City- Big Star- Also appearing, the Butts Band- and introducing Ed Begley, Jr."

I'd like to think that that made Ed a lifelong fan of the band.

As musicians and producers talk about Big Star, it's clear that it was only the most unfortunate of chances that allowed a band as talented as they were to slip past the notice of the general public.

While all of the band members except the drummer Jody Stephens are dead now, the filmmaker had plenty of audio of interviews from over the years to give critical context to the stages of a band career that lasted from 1971-2011.

And then there was the joy of listening to Big Star music for two hours.

Has young man music ever sounded as innocent and starry-eyed as "Thirteen"? As touching as "My Life is Right? As sweetly simple as "Kangaroo"?

My friend was happy to hear "You Get What You Deserve" because it was her favorite.

If only that sentiment had applied to Big Star.

Love is a Grand and a Beautiful Thing

So there goes the title of my autobiography.

"Still Mad About the Boys" had been appropriated by Billy Christopher Maupin for an evening of cabaret.

The fun was to be at Richmond Triangle Players, so I invited my favorite theater-lover to join me.

Knowing that songs, stories and a bar were in our future, we stopped at Lunch for a nosh first.

Within fifteen minutes, the restaurant was full of people I recognized from going to the theater.

A one-block proximity is hard to resist.

Inquiring of our soon-to-be harried server what Rose they had, she checked and responded, "The Seeker," a Rose Prudence and I had discovered on the Rose crawl two weeks ago.

"The Seeker?" we gasped in unison. Yes, please.

Dinner was a shared bowl of brown sugar bacon chili and corn griddle cakes with pulled pork and cole slaw.

I don't know that I've ever eaten lightly at Lunch, but then that's the pleasure of it.

Leaving the Cure blaring and the other theater-goers finishing up, we headed over to Richmond Triangle Players.

There we found a room full of actors, directors, dancers and a few people like us, mere theater-goers with no actual talent beyond fandom.

Our seats were separated by a table, just the place for a bottle of Sciarpa Pinot Grigio.

We saw a guy in the shiniest of jackets and asked if we could touch him (he said yes), only to find it was a brushed fabric, almost velvet-like, but shiny silver with thin black stripes.

He even took it off for us, looking for a fabric tag (there was none) and sharing the story of how he'd arrived in Rome but his baggage hadn't, so he'd headed down the Spanish Steps and found a shop open.

There he'd bought this beautiful Versace blazer ("Back when Versace was alive," he clarified, so pre-1997) which we were now stroking.

Ah, the pleasures of a theater crowd.

The reason for the evening, Billy Christopher, I'd seen act, direct and sing at the Ghost Light afterparty.

Tonight he walked onstage in a black shirt, jeans and barefoot and proceeded to sing a well-chosen program interspersed with the moving story of his coming out and love life.

It was nothing short of extraordinary.

"It's just you and us," he said gesturing at his two musicians. "For the next hour and a half. I think I just peed in my pants."

That was the beginning of the self-deprecating humor that pervaded the evening.

He said he'd last done a solo cabaret in 2008. "I've become much more terrified as a performer since then," he admitted before breaking into song.

After introducing his pianist Joshua and his guitarist Tristan, he spoke about his upbringing and college years in his hometown of Campbellsville, Kentucky.

It is apparently a school where homosexual acts were punishable by expulsion when he went there and are now punishable by mere suspension. A hard place for a gay kid to go to school, in other words.

Luckily there was a mall an hour away and on his first visit to Hot Topic, he locked eyes with a blue-eyed boy who became his first boyfriend. The rest was personal history, as we heard tonight.

He spoke about his farmer father, a simple man very different than himself, and one he clearly adores, saying, "Dad is possibly the boy I'm most mad about."

BC did a beautiful version "I'm Beginning to See the Light" before talking about his "forever fiancee" Jackie Jones and how their relationship had developed.

His best tribute to her was singing her standard audition song, an hysterical one about Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle's seafaring, salty dog of a husband.

Getting everyone going with "Bring On the Men" from "Jekyll and Hyde," he couldn't resist playing the ham, running his hands through Tristan's thick hair or stroking Joshua's back as he sang.

So let's bring on the men
And let the fun begin
Another touch of sin
Why wait another minute?

There was nowhere to go from there but to intermission.

Starting the second act, he put on the sandals of a woman in the front row (marveling that they fit) and sang "Mad About the Boy."

That was followed by a monologue that began with, "I really hate camping."

I feel your pain, BC.

This was an introduction to a story about camping with a former boyfriend in Crabtree Falls, where he was promised a hike, a waterfall and an air mattress.

After explaining how the air mattress deflated and he ended up on vinyl over twigs (his worst fear), he sang the perfect song, "Good Thing He Can't Read My Mind," a feeling anyone in a relationship has probably experienced.

The song about suffering along to the opera ("I don't understand a word, even when it's in English"), skiing ("There's no exhilaration, I'm only feeling terrified") and sushi ("I'm poking with a chopstick at a living, breathing fish stick") was laugh-out-loud funny and we did.

From those hi-jinks, he moved on to telling us about the only man he'd ever called "partner" and how once they acknowledged their feelings, "I never slept in my bed again."

As we all have learned, even the best relationships sometimes end, but his acceptance and memory of the relationship was touching, to say the least.

"That was perfect and I'll never have that again and that's okay," he said and sang "Once Upon a Time."

Just as we were all ready to cry, he lifted us back up again, saying, "Every act has a great medley. I made that up because we have a medley."

And not just any medley, but a reconstruction of a reconstruction of a medley from his first solo cabaret.

Even better, it was a Richard Rodgers medley.

By this time, I thought I was going to explode out of my seat, except the woman next to me was even more crazed than I was about it, whistling and yelling.

BC kicked off with "Wonderful Guy" from "South Pacific," went on to "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered" from "Pal Joey," and then did "I Wish I Were in Love Again" and "My Funny Valentine," both from "Babes in Arms."

The crowd was hooting and hollering with delight at his renditions.

"Tonight's been about love for me," he said to wind up the show. "I challenge you each to love someone or everyone. Why not?"

His last song was "The Rose," achingly sung and the perfect finale to an evening of soul-baring and classic song-singing.

To take it over the top, certain appointed people in the audience rose one by one and joined him, singing harmony or background and giving the rest of us chills.

One guy even lit his lighter in tribute.

After a standing ovation for both him, Joshua and Tristan, who had added immeasurably to every song, BC bounded back to inquire if we wanted an encore.

Why, yes, we did as a matter of fact.

Could there be a better way to end a cabaret than with a song from "Cabaret"?

"Maybe This Time," with its hopeful and poignant lyrics sung with every ounce of his heart and soul brought the house down.

Maybe this time I'll be lucky
Maybe this time, he'll stay
Maybe this time for the first time
Love won't hurry away

There's nothing like hearing someone sing it like they mean it.

I do hope Billy Christopher is lucky.

I know very single one of us in the audience felt that way by the time he finished with us.