Monday, September 30, 2013

Wooden Swings, Corn Dogs and What I Did for Love

Never commit to a road trip date unless you're sure he's a good conversationalist.

I knew from previous dates that he was, so he picked me up and we hit the back roads going west.

First stop was Satterwhite's for a bite to eat.

I wanted the hot turkey sandwich with gravy and mashed potatoes, but they were out of turkey.

Country music blaring from the radio in the corner, I settled for a club sandwich, described as righteous looking by my date, which it was.

From there we wound through the country to Cooper Vineyards for their Aftershock Sundays, which means nothing more than that they have live music.

Today's was pianist Charlie Kilptarick who provided the soundtrack as we tasted through the wines.

Choosing the Norton reserve 2011, described in the tasting notes  as "exceptional and well-behaved for Norton," we went out to the deck overlooking the pond to start working it down.

With a corner table and a view of the pond and the vineyards, the date was going quite well.

Pleasant as Charlie's music was ("My Dad would have played this music," he observed), we decided to take our bottle and wander the grounds.

We admired the LEED-certified tasting room from all angles, got up close and personal with the low-trellised vines and began walking down toward a grove of trees.

When we spotted two wooden swings, my date said, "We win," as we took the one that had the higher back, prepared to get comfortable.

Nearby was the pet cemetery with the former winery dogs' names on markers over piles of rocks.

It was a gloriously sunny day but we were comfortably shaded by the big, old hardwoods growing over the swing, making it the perfect respite from the crowds on the deck.

Looking back at the tasting room, we talked about their green efforts - water collectors, solar collectors- and segued into a discussion of outdoor showers (hello, Harry) and rooftops water tanks like they have in Barbados.

Like I mentioned, this date is a good talker. So far anyway.

Once the well-behaved wine was gone, it was back on the road again, this time to Doswell for the State Fair.

Driving in to the fairgrounds, a big sign warned that, "General parking, straight ahead. Buses, horses, handicapped, right lane."

Since we were arriving early in the evening, we got slotted into a terrific parking space, no doubt recently vacated by an earlier arrival.

Inside the fair, we wanted nothing more than fair food, animals and maybe to see some blue ribbon winners.

The food was fair, alright.

He'd had his mouth set for Virginia Tech's Block & Bridle lamb-b-cue, but they were out of lamb and told us to come back next Saturday.

Since that wasn't possible, we settled for a rib-eye sandwich from them, a poor substitution.

A huge corn dog was, well, what it was and a fried shrimp combo was plenty good enough.

We ate that at a picnic table overlooking the Triple Crown stage where Redneck Pool Party, a cover band was playing to a scant crowd.

I don't want to be unkind, but they were no Sweet Justice, the cover band I'd seen last night.

And when's the last time I saw one, much less two, cover bands in less than 24 hours?

We wandered around seeing the baby ducks and chicks (where one poor newborn looked close to death), but not able to get close enough to see the racing pigs.

After admiring the giant pumpkins, we sampled local honey, enchanted by the tulip poplar honey, which showed such stellar hints of orange that my date bought a bottle.

Somehow, I even managed to run into a friend who teaches at VCU and the last person I expected to see at the fair.

Just goes to show, you can't judge a fair-goer by their regular life.

We left to the strains of American Idol contestant Casey James singing, as good a reason as any for leaving.

To my date's credit, he drove us home on Route 301, ending a scenic day beautifully.

But what so you do when your date drops you off at 9:30?

If, like me, you've only been up since 11:30 this morning, you get in your car and go to the Ghost Light afterparty for some music and laughs.

The GLAP had been on hiatus for the summer and I'd missed the monthly evening of show tunes, drunken humor and bongos.

When I walked in, Beatbox Annie sold me a ticket, letting me know that I'd only missed the first song.

Well, that was a lucky break.

Naturally, I headed to the bar to get some wine only to find lots of pretty people there and soon found myself chatting like I was at a party. Which I was.

I arrived in my usual seat just in time for Jason and Scott to do "We Can Do It" from "The Producers," a rip-roaring way to start my GLAP evening.

Although I've seen Scott in scads of plays over the years, he'd never been to GLAP before and he was a natural.

Despite the summer break, everyone fell back into their GLAP mindset easily.

A song would begin and someone would pick up maracas, a tambourine or even the bongos and begin playing along unsolicited.

Interpretive dance abounded.

Before we heard "I Need a Hero" from "Footloose," which played at Dogwood Dell this summer, host Maggie got off on a tangent about how fish sandwiches from Croaker's Spot are now available at the Dell, which somehow led to a recent news item about large, testicle-eating fish.

That's a perfect example of how GLAP works. Insanity.

Tonight's best dressed singer had to be Matt, wearing a pink shirt and salmon-colored blazer, who sang "Look Over There" from "La Cage aux Folles."

It was shortly thereafter that host Matt spotted me in the second row, called hello from the stage and announced I was in the house and how fabulous I looked.

All this can be yours, too, with regular attendance.

He also did a terrific rendition of "Wicked Little Town" from "Hedwig and the Angry Inch," pausing between verses to kneel down to where his drink sat on a stool and take a sip through a straw without missing a beat.

The talent knows no bounds at GLAP.

Intermission came early and the pizza arrived late, so there was lots of time to mingle.

I met Princess Di's Prince Charming, got quizzed about my attendance for the Artsies and got invited to a wine and art party.

And ate a couple of slices of pepperoni pizza.

The second act began with the inimitable Georgia who played nervous almost well enough to be believable before breaking into a kickass, full-on version of "Alexander's Ragtime Band."

The cast of "Pop! Who Shot Andy Warhol" came out and apologized in advance, saying, "We haven't rehearsed this since we closed."

"Why would you?" shouted out some comedian before they did the showstopper, "Big Gun."

There were jokes tonight, too.

What did the mermaid wear to math class? An algae-bra.

Why do gay melons hate Virginia? Because they can't elope.

"Too soon!" another comedian yelled.

During a momentary lull, Matt came up, saying he'd been told to storm the stage, as if you can do such a thing in a salmon-colored blazer.

His intent was to do a little R & B ("This is the Last Time I'll Fall in Love"), made even better when Grey went onstage and began to pantomime the woman he was singing about.

Unsolicited, I might add.

At one point, host Matt got on stage, drink in hand, and announced to no one in particular, "If you're thinking of leaving now, that's a really bad idea."

Terry, a self-admitted GLAP virgin, did "What I Did for Love," nearly sending Princess Di into paroxysms of ecstasy,

Evan dedicated Jimmy Eat World's "May Angels Lead You In" to a friend he lost last year, leaving nary a dry eye in the house.

He also closed the show, leading an all-star cast doing Britney's "Hit Me Baby One More Time," just as I knew he would.

Oh, baby, baby, how was I supposed to know?

Thank god GLAP is back in town to provide this kind of killer evening again.

By the time the party ended, I'd still only been up eleven hours, but all good things must come to an end.

If only my key had worked in the front door, that would have ended my night.

Instead, that was me, knocking on my neighbor's bedroom window at 1:30, looking for assistance.

Some nights you need a hero. Boom.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Promises in the Dark

To the date who recently referred to me as "refined," I offer the following.

Yes, I can put on a cute LBD (albeit a $3 thrift store find) and go to a garden party on Northside.

I can admire my hosts' recently and beautifully manicured landscape whilst sipping California wine and discussing architectural integrity.

But after mingling with a yard full of cultural movers and shakers for a few hours, nibbling on perfectly prepared hor d'oeuvres, I can also scoot.

Because, you see, I had a date in the East End.

He had a hankering for Asian food but the first two places we tried no longer existed.

That set the stage for going to one of my favorite East End stalwarts, Carini's, a place I've been many times.

And you know why?

It's not for the corny murals painted in 1986, nor for the arbor hanging with plastic grapes.

No, I love Carini's because they're up front about being a good place to tryst.

It says so right on the website: "Partitioned booths assure privacy and uninterrupted quiet."

We made the most of that, so when asked if we wanted a front booth or corner booth, told our server we wanted to be out of the way just in case my husband came in.

The look on her face was priceless.

Over a bottle of Ruffino Chianti Riserva, we swapped stories while I inhaled an Italian hoagie and he went through three courses.

It was our young server's first shift in a while and after only six hours, Melissa was eager to be off enjoying her Saturday night with her boyfriend.

When I politely asked about him, I got an earful - how the BF's dad had shot his Mom and then himself, how he got mean when he drank too much, and how he had the coolest car because it has diamond-crusted bumpers.

Oh, yes, and he'd gotten stopped by a cop riding a lawn mower, which she interpreted as him getting picked on.

Just another East End love match.

Once properly sated, my date and I went looking for some Saturday night fun of our own and we didn't have to go far to find it.

The parking lot of the Sportsman's Restaurant and Lounge, another place I've been more than a few times, was packed with trucks and muscle cars and with our windows rolled down, we could hear live music.

And not just innocuous music, but a Guns 'n Roses/Journey medley.

Sweet Jesus.

My date looked at me with a satisfied grin and said, "Well, this could be some good entertainment."

That's when I took my refined self in my little black thrift dress and sashayed into the Sportsman, a place that has a closet-sized non-smoking room with no one in it and cobwebs practically the only occupants.

In the enormous main room, we paid our $5 cover for the privilege of seeing Sweet Justice up close through clouds of smoke.

At the bar, I was happy to see Patron, my date got a beer and we moved close enough to see this powerhouse of a classic rock cover band who seemed to be stuck squarely in the '80s.

But not even the '80s I experienced because there was no New Wave, no alternative.

Sweet Justice was all about some Night Ranger, 38 Special, Foreigner, all music my date had played with his band in high school.

And just so you know, this was not a band who reinterprets classics, oh, no. They played them note for note with the only difference being they had a female lead singer.

Easily, my favorite thing about her was the way her blond hair was constantly being blown back from her face like she was in a perpetual music video.

My date had been right; this was entertainment of the highest order.

The dance floor ebbed and flowed according to the song, but I never convinced him to get out there with me.

We did do a little shared swaying during "Hotel California," but mainly to make fun of the trite and tired song.

At one point, he left to get us more drinks and within 45 seconds, a guy came over to ask how someone like me could be all by myself.

Someone like me? Someone who wasn't smoking? Someone who didn't look rode hard and hung up wet to dry? Someone who didn't have on jeans?

I explained that my date had gone to get me more Patron (a mistake, I realized, when I saw his eyes light up at this information) and would undoubtedly be back soon.

"I'll give him five minutes and then I'll be back over here for you," he said, tipping his cap and moving on to the next refined victim.

My date returned and a Saturday night for the ages continued until the inevitable, Sweet Justice sang their final cover of the evening.

You haven't had a Saturday night until you've listened to Tesla and Pat Benetar while men in shirts with their names on them ogle large women with cigarettes hanging out of their mouths.

I can't remember when I've had so much fun listening to bad music.

The only downside of an East End love match?

That refined, little black dress is going to need a Silkwood shower to ever be wearable again.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Take Me to the River

When someone asks me why I'm so keen on Richmond, the first thing out of my mouth is always something about the scene - music art and restaurant-wise.

After I take a breath, I usually rave about cost of living and quality of life.

What I don't mention nearly often enough is how much the water matters to me.

When I wake up needing not just to see, but to hear and feel water, and it's a day like today when social obligations prevent me from being able to get in the car and drive to the ocean, I realize how lucky I am.

Less than a mile from my house are a river and canal practically beckoning me to come down and enjoy them.

Which is exactly what I did.

But not to my usual Belle Island because there were gobs of people and police blocking 5th Street, but further east to the Pipeline Walkway.

Over the railroad tracks, down the wooden steps to the vertical metal ladder that keeps out the unworthy.

Then that lovely walk past rushing and flat water, past rapids and cascades, past girls in bikinis on the sandy beach (on their cellphones, of course) until the metal walkway gives way to just a concrete path on top of the pipeline.

Usually I stop once the pipeline ends, but today I kept going on the path through the woods, not entirely sure where I'd end up.

Brown's Island, that's where, and whatever event had been clogging 5th Street must have involved all the tables set up on the island.

But as long as I was there, I decided to make a loop around with a detour to walk out on the windy overlook.

Back in the woods, I climbed out on some rocks for a better view, only to find a cute guy out there doing yoga.

Downward for him, onward for me.

Back on the walkway, I stopped to talk to a clutch of fishermen, learning they were catching bait fish in the slow, shallow water to use to go out deeper and fish for big catfish.

When I got back to the sandy beach, I dropped down off the walkway to go down to the river.

I found a big rock, took off my shoes and socks, and  waded into the water. It wasn't nearly as cold as the ocean had been on the Outer Banks in July.

Standing there up to my thighs in the river, smelling that distinct scent of water and marsh, I spotted a blue heron just yards away.

He saw me, I saw him and it was a face-off to see who would persevere.

Don't think you can outlast me. Over the years, I have developed formidable patience, my feathered friend.

After about ten minutes, I backed up slowly to the rock and settled down to see what he'd do.

First he walked from his rock perch into the river and then up into some nearby marsh grass, occasionally looking over his shoulder (?) to see  what my intentions were.

Hell, on a sunny Saturday, my only intention was to listen to the rushing water, smell the wet air and keep as much of my legs wet as possible.

From behind me, a guy eating a sandwich leaning against the pipeline, called out, "He's keeping his eye on you."

His voice caused the bikini girls' dog to come bounding out of the thicket and that was all it took to spook the heron.

Watching that elegant form take flight allowed me to wade back in, the better to see him fly around the train trestle and away.

Karen, 1, heron, 0. I win.

After drying off in the sun, I climbed back up onto the walkway and ascended the ladder to return to city life.

It may not have been a day at the ocean, but it satisfied what needed to be scratched today.

A Richmond re-charge, so to speak. Wet shorts and all.

Tickling My Fancy

You know what makes for a great Friday?

Unexpected props from my editor for chasing all over the western hemisphere to get musician interviews.

A totally unexpected gift of bacon and the best pork chops ever from my favorite farm.

You know how I reward myself? By starting my evening at 4:45 by picking up Moira for happy hour.

She chose Heritage, a place I enjoy less every time I'm there.

Sure, the pork fries are tasty but the chicken liver mousse with beet gelee was so-so and the room became so stupidly busy within an hour that it was like being in a Jersey Italian restaurant, all loud voices and no room to move.

But the company was stellar and since we hadn't met up in a month, we made the best of it, swapping tales of indulgences on the deck, abrupt departures and Pigeon Forge.

Favorite quote: "Can I have some of that?"

The girl sitting next to us couldn't resist sharing what she'd just been texted from a friend who works at a vet.

A Pomeranian ate an entire box of tampons.

Too much information, but thanks for sharing, sweetie.

Moira had a curfew because she was part of a comedy show tonight and, coincidentally, I was also off for some comedy.

Mine was courtesy of Richmond Comedy Coalition (motto: live comedy, dead serious) at their spanking new theater on Broad Street, right here in lovely downtown Jackson Ward.

A short walk and I was there, taking crap from the ticket taker. All in good fun, of course.

Tonight's show was Richmond Famous and the victim was my former co-worker and long-time friend, Andrew, author of the RVA Playlist blog.

One friend told me Andrew had recorded four hours and 39 minutes of music for tonight.

Just so you know, the show runs an hour and a half. But it's a perfect example of what a music geek he is.

As I told friends I saw at the show, I wouldn't have missed seeing Andrew's life made fun of for anything.

The space looked great with a long narrow stage and three rows of chairs, but the best part were the chandeliers.

Three bentwood chairs had been screwed together and hung upside down around globe light bulbs, making for comedic fixtures.

Host Dave began by shaking the imaginary hands of the non-existent people in the front row and then demanded that the people in the second row move up.

According to him, Andrew had it in his rider that the front row had to be filled, along with a request for green M & Ms.

Andrew got up and explained his blog to people who didn't know about it, mentioning his frustration with shows that don't start on time.

That's when I became that heckler and shouted out, "You mean like this one?"

Somebody had to do it.

Then it was his turn to tell a story (to give material to the RCC improv troupe to riff on) about accompanying a band to NYC where they played to four people, got drunk and told off their friends when they finally showed up too late and then discovered their tour van had been broken into.

A nightmare, in other words.

Then RCC was off and running with a bit about a poet doing a reading from his book, The Bitch-Whore of Richmond, about his breakup.

Unfortunately, his ex-girlfriend, fingers snapping, was the only one who showed up for the reading.


Another bit was about a mother and son looking to buy a van, which turned out to the former touring van of the band Cape Cods and Ends.

Come on, how clever is that?

There was an argument at the pearly gates about analog versus digital with St. Peter yelling, "Back in my day, we used to carry symphonies around in our pockets!"

Andrew began his second story about the band Passenger by calling me out, saying, "Karen, you've already heard this story."

I had, but it was a funny one about his obnoxious behavior as an uber-fan at their show.

Their were bits about serial suiciders, an adopti-marriage and naked people in spas before it was all over.

The last piece began, not with another of Andrew's stories, but with his iPod and he apologized in advance for some of his song choices.

Things began with a couple facing off to get ready for the prom (a make-up off) and ended back in that tour van with the supposed lead singer of Cape Cods and Ends smoking pot listening to an 8-track with the kid and the car salesman.

You know, we're damn lucky to have such a talented improv group doing this stuff every week.

Funny stuff and all at Andrew's expense, which made it even more hilarious.

The only thing missing was the Plushgun story with the soccer Moms and glow sticks, but maybe I didn't want him to tell a story that involved me anyway.

After the show I mingled for a while, talking to a favorite handsome musician who admitted to eating pot cakes in Amsterdam and threatened to start Facebooking every time he saw me.

I love that idea.

"I'll say you were wearing black because you're always wearing some black, except maybe in June," he nonsensically promised.

I told him I had to get going so I could call a friend and find out where to meet him, leading to his incredulous realization that I don't have a cell phone.

Hey, I hear the executive director of the symphony doesn't have one, either, so what's the big deal?

Back home, I found a message from Holmes letting me know he was listening to Big Star in the car and he wanted me to know that.

A return call provided his coordinates (Amour) so I made tracks for Carytown and dessert.

Holmes and Beloved were still eating dinner (the seafood special of frog legs and pork belly looking as fabulous as Holmes said it tasted) so I ordered Rose and heard about their state fair quandary.

He wants to go while she hasn't been since she was a child and has no interest.

Even the racing pigs couldn't entice her. I say don't knock 'em till you've tried 'em (and I have).

For dessert, I had one of tonight's specials, dark cherry, walnut and apple bread pudding with vanilla bean ice cream, an appropriate sweet given the sudden arrival of Fall.

Despite Holmes giving me a hard time about practically everything tonight - not having a cell phone, not watching TV, not eating at chains- we made tentative plans for the three of us to spend a day at Merroir soon, while the weather is so perfect for riverside wining and dining.

We'll probably listen to Big Star on the way there...but only because we don't have any Cape Cods and Ends.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Lunch Husbandry

It can be hard to make a date with a husband.

We'd tried earlier this week for dinner and failed, so today's lunch plans were the substitute.

Like me, he's all about trying new places so with the tease that he'd gone back to work, he lured me to the west end to get the story.

Our impeccable timing meant we parked next to each other and walked into Estilo together.

They immediately got points for having the front door propped wide open.

They got bonus points for catering to RVA's penchant for booths, placing them not only along the walls but also right down the center of the restaurant.

It was one of those sideless booths that we chose for our catch-up session in the airy and inviting dining room.

Our sweet, little server must have come over three or four times in hopes of an order before we explained that it had been months and we had loads to talk about.

Eventually taking pity on her, we looked over a menu of appetizers, ceviche, tacos, salads, tortas and entrees representing Costa Rica, Chile, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Uruguay and Peru.

It wasn't easy to make our choices.

Given my meat-heavy meal last night (duck, fish and rabbit), I only had eyes for a salad but all of them had protein.

Our server was gracious enough to say that they could leave it out and my friend decided on tacos.

Finally, we were free to really talk.

"Can I start asking questions now?" he asked, clearly eager to do so, but when I said yes, he clammed up.

"Just start talking and I'll break in to ask when I need to," he modified.

It had been so long since we'd gotten together that I had to go all the way back to the beginning of summer to fill him in.

Yeesh, I should have assigned blog-reading homework before our lunch in preparation.

By the time I covered the past, our food arrived.

My salad of spinach and mixed greens tossed with pepitas, chickpeas and papaya was just what the doctor ordered.

But then he wanted the update on my dating progress of late and that's where the commentary began.

At one point after sharing an anecdote, he shook his head and said, "See, this is why I'm your friend and not dating you."

Actually the reason for that is his lovely wife, whom I've met and to whom he's been devoted for decades, but whatever.

When he'd been sated with my personal life, I inquired about his big news of going back to work.

Not just work, but going back as the big cheese, it turned out.

He explained how a board he sits on had been looking for a new CEO when it occurred to him that he was more than qualified to do the job.

Four interviews later, he had the job.

Listening, I felt like I'd heard this story before.

Wait! This was just like when Peter Gabriel decided to leave Genesis and they started auditioning lead singers until one day, drummer Phil Collins said, wait a hot minute, I can sing.

He was so impressed with my analogy that he said he plans to use it at an upcoming meeting.

"Do I need to give you credit for it when I use it?" he asked resignedly, probably already knowing the answer.

You don't have to but it would be nice. And I'll never know if you don't.

"You'll know," he said confidently, as if I have super-powers or something.

Do not.

I congratulated him and we talked Russian immigration and art exhibits for a while after that.

"You might intimidate other guys but you don't intimidate me," he said after I made a particularly pithy observation.

I am not intimidating, I reminded him. You just like to give me a hard time.

"Yea, but if I don't, who will?" he asked grinning.

You'd be surprised.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Baby, Come to Me

Just another evening feeding body and soul.

Remember 1986?

That's the year I moved to Richmond and the year Adam Gopnik began writing for The New Yorker.

Back in 2000, I'd read and loved his book Paris to the Moon, a series of essays about his time spent living as an ex-pat in Paris.

Tonight he was giving a talk at VCU as part of the annual Windmueller Lecture series, so I made sure to be there early enough to get a seat.

Good thing, because before long the Singleton Center was filled to capacity.

Titled "Doing Things and Doubting Things," his lecture was witty from the get-go.

He spoke of his wife, Martha Parker, remarking offhandedly that she had never changed her name or gotten U.S. citizenship despite 30 years of marriage.

Ha! Wonder how many times he's mentioned that in 30 years.

His talk centered on the mystery of mastery and were drawn from a series of essays he's written on learning to do things like drive a car (still a work in progress apparently), draw and bake bread.

As one who continues to try to learn and do new things, I could appreciate his efforts.

The emphasis was on the role of doubt in doing things, how doubt and error propel us forward.

His conclusion that the liberal arts are the basis for all change and that science follows after was bolstered with example of Galileo and Leonardo.

My opinion of him was bolstered by our shared pain. He, too, has five sisters.

The Q & A after the talk was a highlight, with the inquisitive audience really probing him on his comparisons of art and magic.

He gamely took questions for quite some time before sending us back into the world, our minds whirling with his thoughtfully intense and cockeyed way of looking at things.

Walking back up Harrison Street, I started considering where to eat.

I've been busy with so many restaurant reviews lately that I haven't been able to dine where I please as often as I like to.

But tonight no deadline called and I was free to give in to my whim.

Bingo. It had been too long since the Roosevelt.

On this beautiful evening with a last quarter moon, I walked in to find the bar half empty.

Taking a seat near the end, I settled in for a relaxing evening with nothing more than the staff for company.

It took less than two minutes for a nearby barsitter to overhear the bartender talking to me and insert herself into the conversation, letting us know that she also knew the person we were mentioning.

Next thing I knew, she was introducing herself and we were discussing tequilas.

Isn't that always the way in Richmond?

With Jerry Lee Lewis blaring on the speakers, I ordered a glass of Rockbridge Pinot Noir and fried duck nuggets with sweet and sour sauce and pineapple relish.

I couldn't resist once bartender T told me that it was Chef Lee's take on Chick-fil-A's Polynesian nuggets.

You gotta love a chef who riffs on Chick-fil-A.

Across the street, we noticed Sub Rosa Bakery's owner Evrim standing on his stoop speaking to about 20 people.

No one had any idea what the occasion could be and everyone was too lazy to walk across the street.

Me, I was ready for more food.

One of my restaurant pet peeves is tempting-sounding specials only available in entree size.

So when I heard about seared red fish with plum and salsify in black walnut butter, I politely asked about a half portion.

Not a problem, I was told and while the meaty fish was definitely the star, the contrasting textures of the soft plum and crunchy, tuberous salsify were perfect together.

Meanwhile, my infotainment was coming from T, who was lecturing two new arrivals about emerging east coast Madeiras.

I'd already noticed that there were no longer any Ports or dessert wines on the menu, replaced by ciders, probably because it's the season.

I asked and he let me know that glasses were still available if one was interested.

Good to know, but at this point, more Pinot Noir would do just fine.

Chef Lee came out to chat and ask about all the places I'd recently reviewed, making me think he's too busy to pick up a Style and read it for himself.

Or maybe he just likes to hear it from the horse's mouth.

When I inquired where he'd eaten lately, I got a typical chef answer: carryout from the local Vietnamese place in his neighborhood.

By then I was trying to decide between another small plate and dessert and he swayed me in the savory direction by suggesting an unadvertised special for a great price.

Twist my arm.

It wasn't long before an obscenely rich small plate arrived with rabbit three ways.

Tiny, little pieces of liver, loin, kidneys and slivers of belly sat atop black lentils with golden raisins, fried brussels sprouts and radish slices.

Be still my heart (which the rabbit's apparently was given the other items on the plate), this was a mighty decadent thing to be eating at this point in the evening.

Did that stop me? Perish the thought.

I ate most of it anyway, my arteries clogging and blood thickening as I savored the distinct flavors of each.

So much for dessert. Goodbye, Port.

As for doing things and doubting things, Adam Gopnik would have been proud.

I never doubted that I could eat so much delectable food and I ended up doing it.

Okay, so maybe that wasn't what he meant...

When One is in Town, One Amuses Oneself

I hate people who are not serious about meals. It is so shallow of them.

My dinner date and I were plenty serious about it.

We met at Rowland's and despite them having been open for an hour, he'd taken the first table and already ordered the wine.

Somebody has to.

He was into livestock and I was feeling pescetarian, but that didn't preclude all kinds of food and restaurant talk.

Things like, will we ever have a true Spanish tapas place in Richmond?

After careful consideration, I chose the Sweet Jesus oysters to start, partly because of the name and partly because they come from St. Mary's County, Maryland, site of my last family reunion.

The bivalves were sweet, the mignonette was a hot red pepper and I sucked every bit of juice from the shells while my date ate ravioli.

To each his own.

Next he got the Kick Ass meatloaf (it was an evening of colorfully-named menu items), promising me a slice, and I ordered one of the specials, sauteed soft shelled crab with corn pudding and haricots vert.

The two crispy crabs were smallish, but even sweeter than the oysters and the corn pudding studded with whole kernels underneath every bit as good.

His meatloaf was well-executed and moist, but we weren't fans of the overly sweet tomato sauce topping.

You know what I like cooked into the top of my meatloaf? Onions, that's it.

My date was the curious type, asking my opinion on so many things - patios, New Year's Eve parties, what Richmond needs- and as one who likes to be talked to, I was happy to share my opinions.

I'm a spring inside a clock, wind me up and I'll talk.

When it came time for dessert, we found that we had a shared opinion (dessert = chocolate), but with none on the menu, settled for mixed berry bread pudding with whipped cream and strawberries.

We'd barely finished when it was almost curtain time and we had to jet.

Tonight was preview night for "The Importance of Being Earnest" at Richmond Triangle Players and we didn't want to miss one word of Oscar Wilde's superbly witty dialogue.

Come on, a play with the subtitle, "A trivial comedy for serious people"? Yes, please.

Well, in the first place, girls never marry the men they flirt with.

It turned out to be a unique seating arrangement because I was in the first row and he was in the fourth with the added bonus of my friend Pru in the second.

All very cozy.

The set impressed from the start, moving from Algie's city digs to Jack's bucolic country house, out and in.

The only way to behave to a woman is to make love to her if she is pretty and to someone else if she is plain.

In a magnificent bit of casting, Robert Throckmorton played Lady Bracknell, all spitting righteousness in purple taffeta and painted-on eyebrows.

But the entire cast was strong and dressed beautifully in 19th century costumes.

Though I may marry someone else and marry often, nothing can alter my true devotion to you.

Ian Stearns' Algie was impossibly young, dashing and handsome while Thomas Cunningham (a personal favorite from so many Richmond Shakespeare performances and readings) perfectly evoked the more staid and less confident Jack.

Stephen Ryan, another actor who impresses every time I see him, as the butler Merriman almost stole the show with his understated subservience and well-placed eye rolls.

The very essence of romance is uncertainty.

Because it was preview night, the actors had no idea what the audience's reactions would be and there were times when our laughter prevented us from hearing the next line.

It's a great problem to have and I've not doubt they'll allow a bit more space in between certain lines going forward.

In matters of grave importance, style, not sincerity, is the vital thing.

It was delightful seeing Audra Honaker play Gwen, a very different role than any I'd ever seen her in.

At turns coquettish, her beautiful hair piled on top of her head, and at times a spitfire, afraid her man has betrayed her, she shone every moment onstage, all eyes on fire, pursed lips and longing glances.

If I am occasionally a little over-dressed, I make up for it by being always immensely over-educated.

The play had two brief intermissions and at each one the strangers around me marveled at their delight in the production.

I went to the ladies' room during the second and overheard a woman say to a friend, "Sometimes these previews are a train wreck, but they're doing great!"

That was putting it mildly.

Ripeness can be trusted. Young women are green.

They should have that line put on a t-shirt and sell it during intermission. Looking at tonight's crowd, they'd make a fortune.

Three addresses always inspire confidence, even in tradesmen.

By the end of the play, I think everyone in the room knew that they'd just seen a hit.

With this being the first official production since the merger of Henley Street and Richmond Shakespeare, it's now pretty obvious what a brilliant move that was.

I can't wait for word to get around about what a must-see this production is for Fall.

I'll just sit back nonchalantly and say, yea, I was there preview night, with both a male and female date.

Pretty Oscar Wilde-like, no?

And, just for the record, this ripe woman's favorite line of dialogue?

Oh, I don't think I would care to catch a sensible man. I shouldn't know what to talk to him about.

I mean that earnestly.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Worm Salt and Hard-Working Men

It was like a moment from the 1950s, right here in Jackson Ward.

There I was, eating my dinner surrounded by men, listening to records on the stereo and flipping through Betty Crocker's New Good and Easy Cookbook.

After a day spent playing catch-up, talking to a bouzouki player in Newfoundland and writing about the Spanish civil war, I put myself together and walked down the street to Saison, where I found nothing but the opposite sex.

Pointing out to the bartender that one of these things was not like the other, he arched an eyebrow and asked if I had a problem with it.

I did not.

Part of my motivation to come had been that it was vinyl night (although I'd been too lazy to bring a contribution myself), but, as it turned out, I also made tequila happy hour.

I am helpless in the face of half-priced tequila, even more so given what was already on the turntable: English post-punk band The Sound.

Espolon blanco in hand, I was now ready to consider some eats.

Fried corn with cayenne and gusano salt (you know, salt blended with desiccated caterpillar) gave me a spicy accompaniment to my Espolon and I followed that with greens.

Pickled fig salad with country ham, arugula, orange sections and toasted black walnuts gave me some sweet to go with the salty this time.

My menu had come in a book of old Virginia photographs, but the guy next to me got his in a far more fabulous book.

That's right, I had to ask to look at Betty Crocker's New Good and Easy Cookbook, a spiral-bound classic from 1954.

It was such a fascinating cultural snapshot, I barely even made small talk for a while.

Well, except to say, ooh, look at this menu for morning meal at the ranch! Ranch?

Or, check out this recipe for snow-capped franks (mashed potato and bacon on split hot dogs).

There was an entire section on homey, hearty, happy lunches.

The guys around me found it hysterical.

You don't even want to know where the conversation went once I told them about the menu labeled "lunch for a hard-working man."

You can be sure that the man wasn't making it.

The most interesting thing to me was how dependent the cookbook was on convenience foods- boxed cake mixes, instant mashed potatoes, cream of chicken soup, Bisquick and yet, there was a whole section of recipes on variety meats.

That's right, Betty told you how to make crispy fried livers, stuffed veal heart, tongue, broiled lamb kidneys, even liver and bacon patties.

Thank god there was no recipe fro snow-capped veal heart.

The book closed with a chapter on "fourth meals" also known as snacks, emphasizing how important they were.

Don't I know it. I'm having a snack fourth meal of bacon even as I type this.

While I was taking my trip down culinary memory lane, a guy came in with a newer album to share, one I knew, "In Guards We Trust" and the music shifted from 1985 to 2013.

Unfortunately, I wasn't going to be around at the end of the night to see what else came in and which customer's album was ultimately the staff pick, winning its owner gift certificates to Saison and Steady Sounds.

Like the guy sitting immediately to my left, I couldn't linger anymore because I had to get going to the Listening Room.

Back after a summer hiatus, it seemed like ages since I'd been to the Firehouse for music.

My first order of business was telling a friend how I'd been out at a restaurant when his father recognized me from the Listening Room and spoke to me.

And, no, we'd never met.

From there I reserved my usual seat and began making the rounds to mingle among the familiar and new faces.

The puppet master sat in front of me, the scientist had on his bowtie, the DJ had a drink in both hands and my neighbors brought warm cheesecake bars.

First up was James Harris Moore, from Nashville we were told and now living in Charlottesville.

He was a long, tall drink of water with a shock of curly hair, orange shoe laces and a good voice.

After a couple of songs, he made the inevitable comments about the quiet room. "This is a good challenge for me. I'm used to playing bars where people ignore me."

I get so twisted up sleeping next to you
Wondering what I'm going to be

He talked about songwriting, how sometimes songs come in 15 minutes while others take years to finish.

How sometimes writers get stuck, as he had, and find inspiration in unlikely places, for him a photography book.

For one song, he got all Andrew Bird on us, whistling the melody beautifully.

After thanking us for being good listeners ("Good job! I was afraid you'd forgotten since it's been a while"), he got to his last song.

"The next one's not mine but I love it anyway," he said, launching into a haunting cover of "Moon River."

It was the very best kind of cover, where the artist makes it his own and it was a stellar ending to his set.

Tonight's second act was, as host Chris said, a man who needed no introduction. "He's the godfather of the Listening Room."

Jonathan Vassar was the man who'd originally conceived of the Listening Room and he talked briefly about where it had come from and how the new crew was ably handling it since he and his lovely wife had had a baby.

He began with "Catch Me If You Can" before telling the audience that he had a cold and he was starving it.

Apparently his friend Will had told him cold or fever, the best thing to do was drown it.

We got to hear several songs from his days with local super group Ophelia, including the brilliantly worded, "$10 says I'm Broke" inspired when a friend wouldn't loan him money for a sandwich on the bus back from NYC.

That's harsh.

Jonathan is known for his spare, sad songs, the kind that mention things like Bethlehem Steel, hard-drinking women and the Bay Bridge.

After a few, he felt the need to qualify himself to any newcomers in the crowd, saying, "These songs are not about my family. I'm happily married with an 8-month old who's just about to start crawling. My brother-in-law shot video of him today."

Just when he was about to completely destroy his aching troubadour image for the newbies, he came to. " Of course, the more you have, the more you have to lose."

That's our Jonathan.

He dedicated "Bakersfield" to all the guys in Ophelia there tonight.

Reaching for the wrong harmonica for "Oklahoma Rose," he said, "I saw Kris Kristofferson this summer and he grabbed the wrong harmonica and if he can get the wrong one..."

He closed with "Drive," a song from his upcoming album and his set of beautiful and melancholy songs ended.

Ah, Listening Room #42, a recipe for a homey, hearty and happy evening.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Most Dangerous Game

Let the record show that I have a couple of new notches on my belt.

I like to think I cut a fine figure cutting part of a field on a riding mower, my skirt flapping in the breeze.

Second, I attended my first hunt club show, watching as two Englishmen graded young hounds on their potential as fox-hunting dogs.

I even spent part of a sunny morning on a ladder picking heirloom apples from a tree.

So while I'm not a country girl, I played one for a couple of days, right down to eating pork chops from a farm where I'd met the parents of the pig who gave his life for the best chops I ever ate.

Needless to say, no one was fooled into thinking I was anything but what I was, an invited guest.

Once back in the city, I found an e-mail from a friend suggesting some play time, so I broke bad and picked up the phone.

Mark the date; it's not something I do very often.

Not 45 minutes later, we were meeting up at Magpie along with hordes of other people who'd apparently had the same idea.

Their popularity worked out well, though, because I soon felt a tap on my shoulder and there was a favorite chef on a rare night off.

With him was a recently-promoted craft beer rep and before long, a favorite restaurateur arrived.

Refusing to acknowledge the fact that Fall arrived yesterday, I ordered Villa Wolf Pinot Gris to go with the '80s music I count on at Magpie.

We ended up being a group of three, so we could get lots of food and share.

Since I'd never seen a burger on their menu before, that was our first priority and it got a thumbs up for its juicy, well-seasoned meat.

Next came one of tonight's specials, rabbit loin with braised kale in a garlic sauce with grilled peppadew peppers and fennel pollen, a winning combo if a bit drier than it should have been.

More wine was in order and our latecomer friend took the reins and acknowledged the weather change simultaneously, ordering a bottle of Domaine Gaget Beaujolais for our next dishes.

The barbecue baby back ribs I'd had here before but this time they came with peanut brittle, one of my personal favorites when it comes to old-fashioned candy.

Because Chef Owen is the sausage master, we also ordered his sausage of the day, this one of pork and Chorizo, making for a deeply-flavored sausage.

When we weren't sucking bones or crunching brittle, we talked about American markets versus European markets, server expectations and restaurant weeks.

But of course once we got into the wine, what everyone really wanted to talk about was my dating life, such as it is.

We came up with what we thought was a brilliant idea, a version of speed dating that was slow rather than fast and focused on wine tasting while getting to know other wine-loving singles one on one.

Goodness knows, there's got to be a better way than some of my attempts.

A friend had written me earlier today,"You’ve had a few close calls and I don’t mean on the mean streets of Jackson Ward. Dating is a dangerous game, full of disappointing revelations. Yelp? Heavens!" about my recent lunch date fail.

I still think it's possible to find the yin to my yang.

It's like that book my friend Holmes has, "Man with Farm Seeks Woman with Tractor," but much simpler.

Woman with words seeks man with same.

And she rides a tractor in a skirt.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

One and Done

There are advantages to a lunch date, especially when it's a first date.

I'd met a guy at UR's art opening the other night and we'd ended up talking for a bit about the Leon Bibel show we were seeing.

Anytime someone wants to talk the WPA with me, my interest is piqued.

So when he asked for my contact info, I gave him my e-mail and it didn't take long for him to suggest a low-stress date: lunch.

The problem arose when he suggested a chain restaurant.

No can do, I replied, explaining not only why I don't but why no one should, at least no one with the abundance of independent restaurants we have in RVA.

But when I suggested Garnett's instead, he readily agreed.

We arrived at just the right time because before long they got hit by more people than there was room for.

Some drank their beer at the window counter, waiting for a table, while others sat outside patiently.

The music today was oh-so groovy, all very '60s - "Aquarius/Let the Sun Shine In," "Young Girl," "Dancing in the Moonlight" - and I was getting into it.

Mentioning it, he said he hadn't even noticed it.

It was his first time at Garnett's but before I could make a recommendation, he said he'd already checked Yelp.

"Do you use Yelp? It's so helpful," he said. "I read good things about the German ham sandwich."

No, no I don't ever use Yelp. Never.

Once my farmer's salad and his ham sandwich arrived, we had our most interesting conversation.

As a kid living in North Carolina, he recalled coming into Richmond with his family on the bus, on their way to a relative's house in Maryland.

At the bus station here, they went looking for lunch, some sandwiches or something.

All they found was a dingy lunch counter outside by the bus parking area, but they were hungry so it had to do.

Within moments, a man came over and told them they were at the wrong counter, escorting them inside to the much nicer "whites only" cafe.

Coming out, he spotted the colored water fountain.

This was in the mid '60s, roughly around the time Gary Puckett and the Union Gap were singing "Young Girl."


When our server offered dessert, he had no interest, having already told me that he'd recently eaten a doughnut for the first time in years and it tasted like all fat.

So there was that.

By this time, I was starting to have campers' guilt given all the standing people waiting for seats.

That and I'd done a quick mental tally.  Eats at chains. Trusts Yelp. Oblivious to music. Eschews dessert.

Check, please.

Fortunately, he paid.

You can talk to a man about the WPA, but you can't make him an interesting lunch date.

Even when the moon is in the seventh house.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Comedy Central

Churchill said a joke is a very serious thing.

Which means things were way serious tonight for Ramapalooza, an evening of comedy to determine who's the funniest ram on campus.

Walking to the Singleton Center, a guy drove by me and called out his window, "Are there a lot of spaces around here to park?"

Hell if I know, buddy. Drive around and find out.

Inside, I got my ticket and a Snickers, ready for whatever was to come.

The assistant chair of the theater department got the ball rolling, winning over the students right away by saying, "I'm here so our chairman, David Leong isn't out here giving a speech because no one wants that," and introducing our emcee.

That would be John Porter, he of the purple suspenders and shoes, and a familiar face to me from the Ghost Light afterparty.

Through him we met the three judges, comedians all.

John would introduce a comedian, there's be a blast of smoke and the comedy would begin.

First was Kevin getting everyone warmed up by saying, "Let's all admit I have the body of a god. Okay, the god may be Buddah."

Using a recent cut finger as a starting point, Morris said he'd done nothing for it so naturally the cut got infected. "That's when I realized I'm the absentee father of my body."

Connor, our first female, came out and immediately took a pratfall on the carpet before saying she'd begun reading Fifty Shades of Gray, admitting, "My relationship with household objects has changed."

Sounds like she's pretty rough with them these days.

James had great delivery, saying, "I have a friend who lives near Lowe's. I buy potted plants from in $20 increments."

His rant on texts from this guy always came down to one phrase, "Yea. Come."

Shelby's routine centered on people always wanting to talk current events with her.

"News is hard," she wailed. "I just catch up and the next day, there's more!"

Introduced by the emcee as "Just another punk trying to make it in show business," Glynn, a faculty member, was the oldest performer we saw.

Of course she riffed on that. "I blew past cougar about six years ago. I'm closing in on snow leopard now."

Across the theater, I could see her husband leaning forward in his seat, hanging on her every word.

When she finished, one of the judges indicated he wanted to ask her something, so she paused.

"I just want to hear you say motherf*cker one more time," he said.

As a friend of Glynn's since the late '90s, I couldn't understand the allure, but maybe it's because of how many times I've heard her say it before.

She's a master storyteller, albeit a salty one.

A male Connor (apparently Connor was a big name in the early '90s) came next and used his girth as material.

"So when god was looking for adjectives for fat people, he thought about attractive, but that was used for skinny people. He considered smart, but that's for Asians. So he decided, we'll just make them funny."

Arta told us about his Dad's "gnarly dating advice," which involved squeezing girls' breasts, disturbing because Arta was watching "Sponge Bob" at the time.

Clearly it was tough to be a child of the '90s.

After intermission, Dixon took the stage in full self-deprecation mode.

"I'm oddly proportioned. Perhaps you can't tell because of my trendy layers," he joked, striking a pose, "But I have child-bearing hips."

Grace laid out her plans. "I want to joke about my Mom a little. My Mom is an overbearing Catholic from the midwest."

Knowing laughter followed and she looked at the source. "Yours, too, huh?"

Matthew also went the parental route, mentioning that he had the most masculine father, who must have been surprised by his son.

"You know, The Lion King was the first black Disney movie. No, not because it's set in Africa. Because Simba doesn't have a Dad."

Becky joked about being excited to see a listing for a film called Yo, Robot, only to discover it was a Spanish version of "I Robot."

Saying her mother was from El Salvador, she cracked, "We get in plenty of fights, like any mother and daughter. Mostly physical. She'll say to me, I don't want the blue things."

What's a few bruises between family members?

Afterwards, one of the judges asked how much she'd charge for that yo, robot joke.

Eilis came across as very comfortable.

"Recently I've been having vivid sex dreams. Just like my regular sex life, they're sort of disappointing. Don't tell Dixon."

Mikayla told us about how hard it had been not to be invited to prom.

When she mentioned her disappointment, a friend had told her, "It's because you look like a bitch all the time."

"Oh, okay," she'd said, happily accepting the explanation. Is that all?

Patrick brought props, a cane and a bottle of water, the latter for the purpose of having his notes on it.

His deadpan delivery of, "It sucks when things burst into flames. It would be much better if they burst into a BLT. You'd come home and your house is gone, but there's a sandwich."

The audience about lost it.

Elliot came out in a vest and told us he was part English, part Irish.

"Pretty ethnic, huh? Not really. It just means I should be in an air-conditioned room or in the rain. Or I'll go bad. And that's not good."

He had me doubled over when he went off on why Snickers bars are called that.

"Why call it that unless they're trying to hide something?" I'm not sure that I want to know what.

And with that wisdom, the show ended and it was time to tabulate the judges' decisions.

Our host pointed out that it might take a while since it was being done by art majors who never had to take a math class.

The judges had to whittle the field from 16 to eight and they'll come back tomorrow night to face off for the final round.

We'd seen some funny stuff, so I didn't envy the judges their responsibility, although I had an opinion or two.

I was happy to see the judges determined what I already knew - that my friend Glynn is hysterical, choosing her as one of the eight.

The thing is, I won't be able to be there tomorrow night to see who wins.

Doesn't matter. Winner or not, she cracks me up every time we get together.

Like Ghandi said, "If I had no sense of humor, I would long ago have committed suicide."

And that's the motherf*cking truth.

Don't Sleep in the Subway, Darling

As Petula Clark put it:

When you're alone and life is making you lonely
You can always go downtown

We'll say that's how I ended up downtown at Gallery A for the opening of Jack Solomon's new show, "Incidental Dramas for the 21st Century."

I'd already interviewed Jack about his early years at VCU and now I had a chance to see his most recent work.

The "Small Talk Series" was his solution to needing a more immediate way to express himself when larger acrylic paintings were demanding more of his time.

Sort of like stopping a 900-page novel to read a short story for the simple satisfaction of finishing.

Walking in, I saw more than a few people I knew, including the artist and his wife.

There was one from my past, another from the French Film Fest and another who connected with me solely because of her name - Mia.

The show traces the artist's recent series of abstracts, mellow dramas (as he calls them), abstracts and composites, all executed through complex paintings with layers of imagery and meaning.

Oh, if I could only afford one of his pieces on paper, I already know the one I'd want.

Making my way around the gallery, I was struck by the intricacies of Jack's work and the whimsy which permeated them all.

You have to admire a man who'd been doing what he loves for 60 years and is still producing intriguing work.

Leaving the show when the musicians playing at it did, my companion and I headed up to Bistro Bobette for some wine and whatever else they had to offer.


The bar was full when we arrived but all kinds of familiar faces showed themselves.

One server I knew from Carytown, another from a chance meeting at Patrick Henry's two years ago, the affable bartender I hadn't seen in months, plus the mustachioed director from many previous visits to Bobette.

He's presently working on "Killing Kennedy" and tonight he had with him the actor playing Lee Harvey Oswald (no doubt a short role), but he paused talking long enough to say hello with a smile.

Since all we wanted was some wine, it was just a matter of waiting for the bar to clear out.

Once it did, we grabbed stools and settled in to listen to the lounge-y satellite radio station providing the mellow groove.

Although we'd already eaten, it was getting close to dessert time and the chef's dessert du jour, a delicacy of ladyfingers with creme anglaise, whipped cream and hazelnuts, proved to be exactly what we needed.

Sometimes you don't know what you need until it presents itself.

Just listen to the rhythm of a gentle bossa nova
You'll be dancing with them, too, before the night is over
Happy again

No finer place, for sure, downtown.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Across the Universe

A friend recently called me a hedonist.

Giving credence to his theory, I sold out history and literature for wine and conversation.

My intention was to go to the Library of Virginia to hear Dr. Barbara Perry talk about her new book, "Rose Kennedy: The Life and Times of a Political Matriarch."

And wouldn't you just know that as I was getting dressed for that, an e-mail came in asking if I was free for cocktail hour?

Call me what I am, a sell-out.

Off to Lemaire I went for Renoto Feudo Maccari Nero d'Alva and Syrah, a full-bodied wine with a hint of smoke but I at least made it clear to my friend that I had limited time.

I was going to fit in some culture tonight, come hell or high water.

Before long, we had a third join us and because they're both in the business, most of the talk centered around restaurants.

Who's selling what (and why!), stations versus pooling tips (they hadn't seen the NYT article), and the food truck craze.

We ordered sustenance - fried barcat oysters, pimento cheese and tuna tartare- but before I got three bites in, it was time for me to go.

Destination: an art lecture at University of Richmond.

Curator Phyllis Wrynn was giving a talk about "Leon Bibel: Art, Activism and the WPA," the new exhibit that just opened.

I don't know about you, but the WPA fascinates me.

The idea of government stepping in to keep the creative class employed during tough economic times seems as relevant today as it was during the Great Depression.

Wrynn's a New Yorker, so her talk was given at New Yorker speed (fine by me) as she flipped through a presentation of everything from Bibel's work to the Daily Show to a "Metropolis" clip.

The show's themes of racism, unemployment, social injustice, poverty and war could have been taken from today's headlines.

I was particularly struck by her comparison of the Renaissance and the WPA era; both periods represented a spectacularly comprehensive sponsorship of the arts by a governing body.

Oh, if only such a thing were possible today.

Walking through the exhibit, it's impressive how many formats Bibel used, everything from silk-screening (previously only used for posters and advertising), lithography and dry point to watercolor and oils.

And all of them with a message.

By the time I left campus, my brain felt sufficiently fed to allow for more debauchery, so I stopped at Secco for a bite.

The tables were mostly full but there was a lone seat at the bar (hello, beautiful) and the servers and I concluded that it may have been due to Carytown restaurant week, in which they were not participating.

Keeping my Sicilian theme going, I ordered a glass of Fondo Antico "Aprile," a refreshing Rose (if not now, when?) bursting with cherry flavors and got a thumbs up from my server.

The music, as always, was loud enough and appealingly chosen, if a little surprising to hear the Beatles in between the Arcade Fire and Franz Ferdinand.

Not long after I sat down, the couples on both sides of me decided to leave and, I swear, it wasn't two minutes before all four seats were again occupied.

Before I could look for company, though, I had to order, choosing fettucini with rock shrimp, rapini, espelette butter and topped by a fried egg.

When it arrived, the woman sitting next to me took one look at it, laid her menu down and told the server, "I'll have what she has."

It was my "When Harry Met Sally" moment, but without the moaning.

She made a good call because the red chili pepper in the sauce was an inspired choice to update a rich, buttery pasta dish.

The couple on the other side shared that they'd been to the Daily and had been underwhelmed, both by the food and the crowd.

"It'll be interesting to see how it holds up once they're not the new kid on the block," she sniffed. Won't it?

Not that I needed more food, but Chef Mike had come up with a new dish (it was right there on Facebook), so I had to get it.

Paired with a half glass of Bauer Riesling, the seared scallops with parsnip puree, Tuscan kale and pickled mushrooms and cashews was as decadent as my last dish and every bit as delightfully unique.

Fortunately, since I had no capacity to move, that's when a nearby bar sitter began a travel discussion with me, telling me about her escapades in Florence and wanting to hear mine.

Seems she'd gone with a group of twelve and by the fourth day was tired of their company.

She was especially disdainful of those who couldn't get their bearings.

You've got the river here and the cathedral there so you're never really lost, she'd told them.

Right she was, since that's exactly how I'd oriented myself while there. It's not rocket science, kids.

Conveniently, that was the day she met two charming Australians and decided to spend the next 36 hours seeing the city with them.

From what I was told, they were far better company than the group had been.

And I thought I'd had a great time in Florence.

Well, I had, but I'm also a hedonist, so I pretty much have a great time whatever I do, whomever I'm with.

They don't even have to be Australian...and in most cases, one will do.

Green Acres is the Place to Be

Riddle me this: Why would Karen take the Gum Spring exit for the second time in 48 hours?

To hold a chicken, watch cow sex and have dinner with a farmer.

No, really.

My road trip was a picaresque drive up Route 522, right through downtown Mineral where, much to my surprise, there were a couple of horseback riders trotting down Main Street.

Once in downtown Culpeper, I began to recognize places from a trip there six years ago to shoot video.

Back in the prehistoric 9-5 days, god forbid.

Following directions that said to go up a hill, down a hill and up a hill, I eventually I got to the farm, set on a series of rolling hills on 115 acres.

The farm dogs were the welcoming committee: two hounds, a retriever and a miniature Australian shepherd with one blue eye and one brown eye and no tail.

After a tour of the "farmhouse," which looked far more chalet-like than rustic with planed log walls, a magnificent, handset, two-story dry-stone fireplace, heated floors and enormous windows that looked out over pond and pasture, we went for a tour.

That involved a Kubota RTV and a whole lot of driving through fields and wood, my skirt flapping in the breeze.

Thank goodness for leggings.

First stop was the chick house where 70 little balls of fluff peeped and circled our feet, reminding me of the chicks my class raised in the second grade.

I got my first major bonus points when we visited the pigs, where after being shown heritage breeds like Berkshire and Tamworth, I commented to his amazement on what good eating they were.

In. Like. Flint.

Next came the cows, including a very sweet Momma and calf off to the side of the herd, probably a good thing once the bull decided to mount a potential mate right in front of us.

Bulls are in and out faster than you might think...if you ever thought about bull sex.

We stopped by the chickens to collect brown eggs (two dozen of which I was gifted with) and I was told that the enormous double-yolked eggs came from the oldest hens.

Old or not, ouch.

Our final stop was up in the woods where Fred and Wilma lived with two goats.

Fred's a Berkshire and Wilma's a Tamworth and they'd just had eight piglets last month who'd been recently moved away to their own pen, much to Wilma's displeasure.

The Flintstones have the easiest job on the farm as far as I could see: have sex and eat.

That explained their pleasant demeanor.

Once my first RTV ride was over, it was back to the house for happy hour and conversation.

I was as good at this as Fred and Wilma are at their job.

The farmer made it easy, I'll admit. He had a wonderfully sarcastic and self-deprecating sense of humor so once the conversation began, it never really stopped.

"We're a natural. You write about food and I raise it," he said to explain why two people who'd recently met were finding so much to talk about.

For the record, we were talking about his diverse roots and my sisters at the time.

He told me about his mother, who was from Queens, and what happened when she stood with the refrigerator open and the family cat jumped inside.

The imitation of his Jewish mother freaking out had me doubled over.

I heard about the band he used to play in, the epic Halloween parties he throws (got my invite) and his insomnia.

He even showed me his guitar. And, no, that's not a metaphor. It was a Paul Reed Smith.

Once we'd gotten acquainted, it was time to head into town for dinner.

He suggested Culpeper Cattle Co. because his pig is served there and the owner is a friend.

Of course, in a town that size, no doubt everyone is a friend.

The tiny restaurant was off the main drag but it was obvious plenty of people knew about it.

We took a booth and I started to look at the menu, but the farmer took charge.

Asking if I trusted him, I assured him I eat anything so he asked to order for both of us.

Fine by me. Here, take the reins.

At his insistence, we began with hog wings, fat little fried drumettes of pig on the bone.

I was told to eat one as is before adding the house sauce (nine squirt bottles of it a month grow legs and leave, never to be seen again), a stellar Carolina version.

Honestly, if we didn't have so much food coming, I'd have ordered another eight hog wings and been plenty happy.

And it was so much food.

An enormous medium-rare rib-eye.  Six Memphis dry-rub rib tips. Collards, green beans, baked beans, cole slaw, cornbread.

Meals so large they came on tray-sized plates.

I started with the steak and he with the ribs, him seeking my okay every bite of the way.

Midway through, we traded plates so I could have some ribs.

I took a couple of bites before he took control, instructing me to douse the rib in his friend's Carolina sauce.

"Otherwise, it's like a pipe without the crack," he joked, practically making me spit sauce in his face.

Who knew farmers were so funny?

By the time we were in a food coma, our server came back asking about dessert.

I had no room for it, but he wanted my opinion.

As a customer at the restaurant since it opened a couple years ago, his only criticism of the food had been the lackluster cheesecake they served.

As a former New Yorker, his cheesecake standards were high and he suggested to his friend that he find something better than what he'd been serving.

He had, so we had a slice of the classic cheesecake, delicately flavored, not overly sweet or heavy.

I had three bites, but the farmer, who'd been driving tractors, moving pigs and stacking firewood all day had no problem polishing off the rest.

Waddling out to the street, he was already telling me about the next restaurant we need to try, but I suggested it be in Richmond.

Not a problem, he said, I'll get in the left lane on 95, break the law and be there in no time.

It was a mighty sweet offer to contemplate.

Before we'd left for the restaurant, he'd wanted to make sure I couldn't forget what a lovely day I'd had on the farm, so he'd insisted on sending me home with pig, chicken and rabbit to go with all those eggs we'd collected.

About to put two chops in a bag, he'd stopped, grinned and asked, "Do you have a boyfriend? Should I increase it to four?"

Can't say that I do.

Two will be plenty, thank you very much.

For the moment, anyway.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Worlds Collide

It was a Monday night for celebrating.

Holmes had met his deadline and Paul was reopening Amour, having just returned from two weeks in France.

Ergo, we planned to meet up at Amour for dinner and wine to blow off some steam.

It is, after all, Carytown restaurant week.

Arriving at the bar, I was surprised to find Pru already in residence.

What are you doing here, I asked of her. What are you doing here, she asked of me.

You just never know who's going to turn up on a Monday night.

I got a glass of Mas de la Rouviere Bandol Rose, a nod to owner Paul, who'd just come back from Provence.

When Holmes and his lovely girlfriend arrived, we rearranged ourselves at his request so I could sit next to him.

He came out of the gate strong, telling me a story he'd heard with me in it and following that with, "I want to to know who this Pru is you mention in your blog."

Holmes, meet Pru. Pru, Holmes. Well, that was easy.

He took issue with her credo that wine at lunch is civilized, taking her to task for suggesting drinking during the workday.

She defended her thesis adamantly. I stayed out of it.

Speaking of drinking, it didn't take much more than a sip out of my glass to convince my dinner dates to follow my lead with the Bandol, its hints of raspberry and citrusy finish sealing the deal.

Once everyone had ordered wonderful things like coq au vin and shrimp with scallops off the restaurant week menu, we got down to admiring vacation pictures.

There were so many to see, each a testament to the pleasures of visiting Paris and Provence with a native.

Delectable food porn from Parisian bistros, incredibly colorful market shots of fruits and vegetables, the Eiffel Tower at night.

One thing was clear: the French are as artful with food presentation at markets as an artist arranging a still life.

No mere pile of fresh fish for them; instead they were laid out in a sunburst pattern, almost as if they were jumping into the sea in a series of arcs.

The shots of Provence- Cyprus trees, outdoor meals spread on colorful blue and yellow tablecloths, distant mountains- and Monaco- casinos, bright blue waters, boats that looked as expensive as houses- were breathtaking.

In one of those oddly coincidental moments, a woman at a nearby table spotted a picture of a five-masted boat and told us it was named the Maltese Falcon.

Like the movie I just saw for the first time? Yup.

Someone told Paul he should have blogged about his trip instead of just documenting it photographically and he responded saying next year he'd take someone along to write it all down for him.

Ooh, ooh, pick me! Pick me!

I could have gotten lost in eating my mixed mushroom medley in puffed pastry while watching scenes of France go by, but Holmes was in far too raucous a mood for that.

I was accused of being a hedonist.

He chided me for not watching TV, for holding out to see movies in theaters rather than at home, even my looks, saying that my bangs needed a trim.

About the kindest he got was telling me that he'd really liked all my recent posts about dating, finding them fascinating and wanting more information about the men I've been seeing.

I filled in details where I chose to, but he preferred to jump to conclusions rather than accept vague answers.

Over shared desserts of dark chocolate creme brulee and today's special, a mouth-watering combination of fall apples and brioche with chantilly cream and vanilla bean ice cream, we got off on a tangent about old theaters.

Like the Biograph on Grace Street, leading to the revelation that not one of us besides Pru had ever seen "Rocky Horror Picture Show."

As Pru is wont to say, horrors!

A nearby two-top chimed in for this conversation, the woman saying she always went dressed as Columbia.

Pru's costume of choice, it seems, was Magenta.

I am completely out of the loop on this one.

Someone brought up the former Regal Cinemas Regency Square and everyone had a story to tell about the theaters.

My favorite came from a server who worked a summer there.

Apparently Joe Morrissey used to come in on busy weekend nights, always with some youthful arm candy, and slip him a $20 bill to be let in the theater early to claim a good seat.

"I was making five bucks an hour, so sure, I took the money and let him in," he shrugged, grinning. Duh.

Imagine if a man took me out and slipped the usher a bill so we could be the first in.

Now that could lead to a good dating story to post.

Actually, the most romantic moment of the evening came when Holmes' beloved told him to kiss her.

Grabbing her head, he swiveled her neck around and planted a kiss on her that had the rest of us watching slack-jawed.


If that ever happens to me, Holmes, you can be sure my post won't leave out a single detail.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Dancers Do Roam

It didn't come close to the trip itself, but it was a damn fine way to spend a bodacious Sunday.

On the plus side, it was a 45-minute drive rather than a 21-hour flight to get to the South African Food and Wine festival at Grayhaven Winery.

So my ankles didn't swell.

Driving out to Gum Spring, I was surprised not to see other cars on the back roads leading to the winery.

Pulling into the field near the grape vines, there were only four or five rows of cars parked.

Clearly this was going to be one civilized festival.

I handed the woman at the booth my ticket, she checked my ID and it was time for an immersion in all things South African.

At the wine tent was an array of south African wines - Indaba, Kanonkop, Warwick- and even an attractive winemaker.

Francois Bezuitenhout, winemaker for M.A.N. Family Wines in Paarl, a place I'd been, but since the winery doesn't have a tasting room, it was wonderfully convenient for him to show up here with his wines.

One of my favorite discoveries during my stay in South Africa had been the Pinotage grape, infrequently but occasionally found in Richmond restaurants, so it was a treat to taste through three of them.

Another winery pouring was Fairview, makers of the cleverly-named Goats Do Roam White, Rose and Red and the Goats Roti, a tantalizing blend of Shiraz and Viognier.

I can't resist the floral beauty Viognier brings to the Shiraz.

They even had a picture of a familiar sight, the brick tower at the winery, the one where you're likely to see goats roaming up and down the spiral stairs that encircle the tower.

I talked to a couple who had recently decided while in Italy that their next trip would be to South Africa, answering their questions about which cities and game preserve I'd visited.

My passion got the best of me and by the end of our chat, they thanked me enthusiastically,her saying to her husband, "After hearing that, we are definitely planning a trip."

Wandering around afterwards, I saw a lamb on a spit and heard someone say it looked like a greyhound.

There were South African cured meats to taste, biltong, a kind of jerky, and a chili version that tasted like a really good Slim Jim without the additives and preservatives, and a handsome, smiling South African to answer my every question about the them all.

Lunch was a mixed grill of lamb, chicken and Boerewors sausage, a South African sausage spiced with coriander, with yellow rice with apricots and green peppers.

With a glass of Badenhorst Secateurs Rose, it was time to spread a throw and enjoy some South African entertainment.

All around, the crowd, many with dogs, migrated down under the shady trees to do the same.

South African Mirka and her rock band went first, followed by activist and singer Sharon Katz but the highlight was Tuelo and her Cousins.

Her soulful voice and enthusiastic dancing, long skirt swirling around her, got the crowd up and dancing on the grass before long.

No, I didn't join in then but before the day was over I did some dancing on the grass of my own.

One of my favorite memories of that 2004 trip to South Africa was dancing under the stars at a winery, so maybe it's just something in their grapes that affects me that way.

Give me some Warwick Old Bush Vines Pinotage and there's no telling who I'll ask to dance.

Or maybe there is.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Fill Up the Flask, Son

Some nights are so Richmond, it's impossible not to be in love with this city.

Like on an exquisitely beautiful, fall-feeling evening under a deepening blue sky watching chimney swifts swoop overhead in the courtyard next to Quirk Gallery.

But, wait.

As if the weather, location and scenery weren't plenty to feed the soul, there's more.

The occasion for this gathering three blocks from my house was a Huckiddy puppet show.

If that doesn't sound like too much fun for a Saturday night, then you've obviously never been to one.

I've been to three so I know to count on puppet sibling rivalry, death and music, not necessarily in that order. Complete with beer and popcorn for sale.

What I hadn't expected was how many friends would be there.

My favorite J-Ward couple.  The bowling birthday boy from last Sunday. The fetching GLAP hosts, one's hair newly banged. A couple of WRIR DJs, both with gigs tonight.

For that matter, you couldn't swing a dead cat without hitting a musician I knew.

The entertainment began with one of my favorites, Dave Watkins, doing his incomparable sound layering with dulcitar and drum.

While he wowed the crowd looping his intricate melodies, I noticed that some people had brought their own fun.

One brought wine in a small bottle labeled 100% juice (not a lie), another had a silver flask she took nips from.

It was all very civilized.

Hard as it must be to follow Dave, Josh Small did a grand job by employing a cartoon theme (a nod to the puppets) for his song selections.

"My Favorite Dream" came from a WWII-era Mickey Mouse short and two songs were drawn from "Robin Hood," his personal Disney favorite.

At the end of one, "Love," he wound the song down by singing progressively softer, eventually calling out, "Analog fade-out!' to the amusement of the audio geeks in the audience.

Dave came back for a couple of songs and then it was show time.

Chris Hulbert and his sister Cat manned the puppets while a quartet of bass, cello, guitar and trumpet provided the musical accompaniment.

And in case you can't imagine it, listening to the aching strings of Josh's cello or the mournful wail of Bob's trumpet in a brick-walled courtyard where the sound has nowhere to go but skyward is a distinct Richmond pleasure.

As is usually the case, the puppet show began with Huckle complaining and his sister, F'funia, having none of it.

Huckle's first complaint was that he lived in the ghetto where all the people in his neighborhood were hot, 20-something college students, a line that reduced me and my J-Ward neighbors to near tears with its familiarity.

Except we would never call J-Ward a ghetto.

But F'funia never lets Huckle feel too sorry for himself, bringing him up short by reminding him about the time he shot her three times.

"I pulled myself up, son!" she told him to an explosion of laughter.

She soon discerns that Huckle's problem is that his heart is gone and maybe that's why he's sad and tired.

Songs abound and the band's contribution to the unfolding story is considerable.

The two bicker back and forth, about his nicknames for her (babe, chunky, fatty fat), about finding a pig or old lady heart to replace his and about how a "whatever" attitude prevents Huckle from seeing the humor in life.

With their big red lips, expressive hands and Huckle's earring (mirroring puppeteer Chris'), the puppets interact so naturally it's easy to forget there are two people behind the stage busy every second making that happen.

"That's funny. It's not super-hilarious, but it's funny," F'funia tells Huckle at one point.

Actually, a Huckiddy puppet show is super-hilarious pretty much start to finish.

Well, except for the heartbreaking moments, but those just make the whole show feel more real.

When you're sitting outdoors under the stars laughing at foul-mouthed puppets and listening to a quartet play into the cool night air, maybe a reality check is in order.

The beauty of being reminded of reality is just how lucky we are to be in Richmond where a sublime confluence like tonight happens surprisingly often.

Just another Saturday night in the ghetto, kids.

You're a Good Man, Sister

It was a beautiful day for the RVA Street Art Fest.

But since I'd already been to it two of the past three days, I opted for a dark theater instead.

Movieland was showing "The Maltese Falcon," yet another classic I'd never seen.

But apparently everyone else has (or they were at the festival) because when I walked in, there was one couple in the theater.

"We're all full up," the husband called down to me, employing his best corny humor.

Once the pre-movie advertising began, I discovered just how much I had in common with the couple.

After a particularly atrocious commercial for a new ABC series, the husband said, "I'm glad we don't have a TV!"

Amen, I called up to them, knowing I had found my people.

Once the movie started, a smattering of other people came in, but I can't be sure they were of our ilk.

As so often happens when I see an old movie for the first time, I learn cultural history tidbits.

I had no idea that the names for the two atomic bombs dropped on Japan came from characters in this movie.

First Bert and Ernie and now this.

The beautiful black and white cinematography, the creative angles from which it was shot (looking up at Fatman's jowls as he talks) and the frequency with which everyone smoked (giving many scenes a hazy, film noir look) made for a whole lot of eye candy.

Not to mention how handsome Humphrey Bogart was in 1941...especially when he smiled

"That's the stuff that dreams are made of," he says at the end.

From Shakespeare's pen to Bogey's lips. Now I know that, too.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Getting My Fix

I've come to the conclusion that the VMFA is an enabler.

When Friday rolls around and I want something to do but I don't want to be bound to an event or a fixed time, there it is, offering up its siren call.

So when it's been a few weeks and I'm looking for a fix, it's my automatic default.

Talk about first world problems.

As an unabashed photpgraphy lover, I'd been eager to see "Unreal: Conceptual Photographs from the 1970s and 1980s" since it opened a week after I returned from the beach.

The idea of artists intentionally manipulating the medium and constructing their subject matter made for a show all about the artificiality of photography.

Annie Leibowitz's "David Byrne" showed the perennially awkward-looking Byrne in a jacket made of leaves.

Nancy Burson's "Warhead" used early digital technology to create a face made up of world leaders' features, the percentages determined by the amount of war materials their country possessed.

Let's just say the face was 57% Ronald Reagan and leave it at that.

I recognized the style of Deborah Turbeville's photograph of fragmented horse sculptures, part of her "Unseen Versailles" series, part of which I'd seen at Ghostprint Gallery a while back.

Betty Hahn's "Betty, Passport" was the most un-photographic-like because she'd printed her picture on fabric and then outlined her face with needlework.

If it sounds like there were nothing but female artists in this show, that wasn't the case but it was a distinct pleasure to find women artists so well represented for a change.

Perhaps having a female curator helps (wink, wink).

From photographs of recent decades, we moved downstairs to "Catching Sight: The World of British Sporting Prints" for something completely different.

Hounds and horses, how can you go wrong?

The exhibit was an eclectic mix of artists, some more journeyman-like and other masters of the print.

Hogarth's "The Cock Pit" showed a roomful of upper crust types watching birds go at each other, but was striking for how the composition mimicked that of Leonardo's "The Last Supper."

Irreverent and brilliant at the same time.

Close inspection of the detailed prints revealed all kinds of sly wit and commentary on both upper and lower class Brits.

Sometimes the print's name said it all: " One of the Wrong Sort who Goes Out with the Hunters Because it is the Fashion."

No judgment there.

Some of the colored prints came across more like paintings than prints, making it easy to see why they would been collected by those who could afford to do so.

By the time I'd checked out the over-sized anatomical drawing of a horse, I could feel my cultural jones restored by a few hours at the museum.

Like a drug with feel-good results, but no cost involved.


Figs and Dates

My lunch date scored big on two points.

Between his vertigo and my schedule, we'd been trying all week to set up a third date.

When it seemed like nothing was going to work, he cut right to the chase, not mincing words.

"But I so want to see you!"

Suddenly my Friday lunch hour opened up and I suggest Bistro Bobette, a place he's somehow never been.

Then he shows up with The New York Review of Books, eager to discuss Martin Scorsese's article on the language of cinema.

Well done, sir.

When he suggests wine for lunch, I agree based on my friend Pru's theory that wine at lunch is so civilized.

That and a good Rose from Provence is tailor-made for a mid-day date.

We start with a special of charred octopus, chanterelles, bacon, arugula, white beans and red pepper, a dish that could only have been better if eaten on a seaside balcony.

(imagine soft breezes of salty air)

Instead, he tells me about one of his all-time favorite movies, "Paris, Texas," a film that had been showing in Europe on his post-college trip but one he'd waited to see until he got home.

Ah, the mistakes of youth. But I add another Palme d'Or winner to my list of must-see movies.

For my next course, I have another of today's specials, this one a killer salad of heirloom tomatoes, beets and figs in a balsamic reduction.

I will continue to order figs as long as the sweet beauties keep showing up on menus, determined to savor their particular late summer ripeness.

We get off on a tangent about travel because it's been years since he was in Italy and less than a year for me, so he wants my take.

When I tell him about the Vermeer exhibit I saw in Rome, I am surprised at what a Vermeer fan he is and how much he knows about the artist.

This leads to a discussion of Amsterdam, a place he loves and one I've never visited.

Even so, I have been avidly reading about the recently-completed 10-year renovation of the Rijksmusuem there, home to Rembrandt's "Night Watch."

Of all the unlikely topics, he's been keeping up with the re-opening of the museum, too and tells me about his memories of visiting it years ago.

Well, this is going awfully well.

For lunch I have tuna tartare with my Rose, enjoying an Asian-inspired dish in a French bistro almost as much as I'd enjoyed a Dutch artist in an Italian museum.

Too full for dessert, we linger as the dining room begins clearing out, talking about everything and nothing.

"I just love hearing what's in your head and talking to you." he says toward the end of our afternoon.

He sure knows how to ace a third date, that's all I'm saying.

Cool Girls Meet-up

Sometimes the best nights start with a question.

"On the unlikely chance that you don't have plans, I'm available for supper tonight."

The fact was, I did have plans tonight to meet up with my Style Weekly compatriots at Southern Railway Taphouse.

The new bar/restaurant in the former deli was tough to find a place to park, but easy to spot the group of writers and sales people.

And while I was late to the party, I arrived in time for the door prizes (I didn't win) and the trivia contest (my food editor did not go to Woodstock, despite many guesses that she had) and an over-priced Don Julio ($12).

At the bar, I ran into a man who recognized my name, remembered my byline and professed to be a regular reader of my work.

"I read you all the time, " he claimed. "And I recognize you!"

That's just creepy, sir. We've never met.

The good news was I had a blast getting to meet all sorts of people I knew only by name and heard stories of a Carver resident who never goes to the Camel and the real Woodstock attendee who saw a guy (tripping) waggling his member against a girl's nose.

The new hire who'd moved from Boston got a lecture from me about being more active in the scene.

I also heard details of several people's trip to Hopscotch, San Fermin being a decided highlight, and joined the discussion of what the Folk Fest coverage should be, at least ideally.

Until we get the Folk Fest right, we can't possibly begin to plan an alternative music festival a la Hopscotch.

And that's definitely one thing we need to do in order to put Richmond on the map.

In the mean time, I'm just trying to meet my co-workers and have some conversation.

"It's always the cool girls who get left behind," the music writer observed once the higher-ups had cleared out, leaving us to dish about discovering bands, ears ringing and day drinking.

Ain't that a shame?