Friday, August 29, 2014

Take Five

Some nights are all about the simple pleasures.

I set out to check out L'Oppossum, eager to see how the former Pescado's China Street had been transformed.

When I expressed my preference for the bar over a table, the two gentlemen at the host stand assured me that the bartender would be friendly.

That was an understatement. He not only recognized me from eons ago, but even inquired about a mutual friend of ours.

There's really no escaping your past in this town.

Settling into the end stool, the first thing I noticed was all the interesting art on the wall interspersed with "Star Wars" plates. Behind the bar, I spotted a stuffed possum and a painting of Nick Cave.

It was a pleasure to see a restaurant that bore no resemblance to the current restaurant decor trend.

The second was the music, everything from Helen Reddy to the Delfonics "Didn't I (Blow Your Mind This Time) with nary a cliched indie tune to be heard. Absolutely delightful.

The trio nearest me at the bar were soon replaced with the casually dressed director of the VMFA and his wife about the time my pale pink glass of fresh and fruity La Galope Rose Comte arrived.

I was told they'd sold out of nine bottles the first night they were open. Could it be that we are finally becoming a Rose town? Be still, my heart.

Apparently the director and his wife had been there before because I heard her tell the bartender that they were positively smitten with the place, rating it their new favorite.

Since it was my first visit, the menu was a blank slate to me so I began with the obvious: the el dorado low rider, a lobster taco with tomatillo sauce and decadent guacamole.

While there was the option to add the chef's surprise, I opted out of adding tonight's surprise of foie gras, not really needing my arteries to close down before Labor day.

Once I opened the conversational door by inquiring about the about music, the bartender boldly walked through, providing endless opinions and observations about music past and present.

I admire a man who appreciates a good pop song, no matter the genre.

We covered his first show (the Kinks), his thoughts on Television's first album, his recommendation of Comasat Angels and memories of early Cure.

At one point, a man came to the bar, credit card in hand, to order a beer. Seems he'd ordered a beer from his server at the table, but hadn't the patience to wait for it to arrive.

"I need a beer now," he clarified. "I'll still drink the one the server brings me." Off he went, beer in hand.

Man, that's some serious jonesing for a beer, friend.

Meanwhile back at the ranch, I was being asked what I wanted next. His suggestion was to get something I wouldn't want to share in case my next visit involved a companion.

Good thinking. I ordered escargots a la ham biscuit, which was exactly what it sounds like: a plate of escargot (and greens) with a ham biscuit adorned with, that's right, an escargot.

Proving I am my Richmond grandmother's granddaughter, I pulled off a piece of biscuit, slathered it with butter and devoured it to assess the biscuit worthiness.

Before long, it was just me at the bar, leaving the bartender to make drinks for tables and in between, chat with me.

About how Wilco started out aping Gram Parsons. How 20-somethings don't even know who Gram Parsons or the Flying Burrito Brothers are. About what pop gems the Strokes wrote.

I considered death by chocolate, but instead had another glass of Rose to accompany the music talk.

After anticipating a quick, solo meal, I'd been having such a terrific time talking with my fellow music lover, I'd completely lost track of time. Hours had passed and I now had somewhere to be.

Of all the unlikely places, it was with the Baptists. Just don't tell them I'd been imbibing.

I arrived at the courtyard at First Baptist on Monument, already knowing the drill for how this works.

Although tonight was the first of this year's courtyard classics I'd attended (and none last year because they were all cartoon movies), I've seen plenty of movies in the shadow of this church during other hot August nights.

Out host made sure everyone who wanted popcorn had gotten some because, he said, movies are more palatable when you're eating popcorn.

After a prayer of thanks for the nice breeze (I abstained), we were on to a 1954 MGM cartoon called "Dixieland Droopy" about a dog (a beagle, perhaps?) named John Irving Pettybone who loves Dixieland music.

Only problem is no one else does so he keeps getting kicked out of places like the "Good Rumor Ice Cream" truck for playing his Dixieland record.

After the record is broken, he lucks out by having a flea band take up residence in his tail and play non-stop Dixieland.

It was hysterical when the dog tells the flea band to "take five" and they hop off his back and approach some smoldering butts on the street, puffing away during their break and then going back to play.

Thus warmed up, we moved on to the main feature, a Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz classic called "The Long, Long Trailer."

Taking place in the pre-interstate era (1954), the story follows the newlyweds as they buy a trailer and car in which to honeymoon and then live happily ever after.

In a nod to the crowd, it had subtitles so you didn't have to listen too hard to understand the dialog.

Since I spent a good part of my childhood watching reruns of "I Love Lucy," I expected this to be similar so I was pleasantly surprised when it wasn't.

That said, their character names were Tacy and Nicky, but we'll let that slide.

But here Nicky was an engineer (not a bandleader) and Tacy wasn't quite as zany, unless you count hoarding rocks for the future garden she planned to plant once they arrived in Colorado, their goal.

It was very '50s, of course, with Tacy (frequently in hat and gloves) lobbying hard for the trailer purchase (by the way $5,345) so that, "No matter where were are, I could make  home for you."

Aww, how sweetly Eisenhower years is that?

And speaking of that, all the roads were two lanes, policemen directed traffic at intersections and parking lots cost fifty cents.

While it wasn't "I Love Lucy," there was still plenty of physical humor such as Nicky hilariously fighting with the trailer shower head and Tacy trying to make a fancy dinner while the trailer is being pulled.

When she tells Nicky she's making beef ragout and a Cesar salad, he says he'll get out the Roquefort.

"Only boors use Roquefort," she corrects him. "Everyone knows it's Parmesan." Did everyone know that in 1954?

There's even a too cutesy scene of the two of them motoring along, Tacy stretched out on the giant bench seat of their Lincoln convertible, singing a song called "Breezin' Along."

That's how you know they're in love.

Well, that and Nicky says, "You could make me happy living in a cave." Doubtful, but we got his point.

The climax comes when they have to go over an 8,000 foot mountain and Nicky tells Tacy to jettison all the stuff she's been collecting, which of course she doesn't do.

During scenes of the trailer being pulled along high, narrow roads on the edge of a cliff, the crowd around me got vocal.

"Oh, my word!"

"Uh oh!"

"No, no, she's in trouble now!"

When the clouds are the ceiling in your outdoor movie theater, I guess it's just fine to talk to the characters in a fifty year old movie.

I didn't, but I'd also unexpectedly spent a whole lot of conversation at dinner, maybe all I had for the evening.

Doubtful, but you get my point.

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