Saturday, February 21, 2015

Rolling Round till Long after Dark.

On the cabin calendar, it was called a festival.

Three women, including the cabin dweller, had made plans to get together after running into each other at Lamplighter a while back and jabbering for 20 minutes spontaneously. It was decided then that we needed a longer conversation and one accompanied by wine.

The cabin dweller immediately put it on her family calendar, noting it with our names and the word "fest," which her husband took to mean an actual festival. Husbands are so cute.

I arrived first at Metzger and took a seat at the bar, where the bartender looked at me quizzically and asked my name. Because he used to bartend at Gallery 5, he'd recognized me at once. And while it was way brighter there than at G5, his face was familiar to me, too.

Waiting for my friends to arrive, I listened to the vintage soul of Mr. Finewine playing and chatted with him like an old friend.

Once the women walked in, we took a table in the corner, turning a crowded 4-top into a generous 3-top. The musician had just come from an acupuncture appointment and said she had no guilt about reversing the good done there with lots of high-fat food and wine. The artist was stoked about leaving for her hometown of Philly in the morning to give a talk at her alma mater and see her sister.

While it took us ages to decide on libations (Zweigelt and a savory caraway-inflected cocktail called the North Waves finally ), choosing food was a snap.

First, briny Blue Point oysters and a story about how the musician's mother didn't start eating them until she was 50. Now she owns her own oyster glove and shucking knife. With age comes wisdom.

Since three options were offered on the meat and cheese plate, I suggested we each make a choice. Mine was the housemade liverwurst with the artist picking stinky Reblechon because we were promised notes of barnyard (which came across more like someone opened the barn door and you got a whiff of it on the finish than actually licking the barnyard floor) and the musician went with the earthy sheep's milk Ossau Iraty.

We could not have made better selections both in terms of taste and how stinky they made our breath, meaningless for me but they both had husbands to go home to.

That liverwurst was truly a thing of beauty, something everyone who thinks they don't like liverwurst should try (and preferably before age 50) before they write it off entirely.

Since the artist is fairly newly married, I wanted to hear her met-cute story, which involved frequent visits to 8 1/2 where he worked. Seems he didn't get up his nerve to ask her out until a show where the band he, the musician and her husband were playing.

She said he asked her to join the band for a meal after the show. "He stood over me and a molecule dropped in my nose," was how she explained their fateful meeting. She couldn't do dinner that night, but a couple of well-placed e-mails and they became an item.

What struck me about her phrasing was how she'd said he stood over her, easy to imagine because he's about a foot taller. I told them about the years I dated a guy who was 6'5" and twice women came up to me and told me I was wasting a tall guy.

We tried to think of a crushing reply to such rudeness and by the end of the meal, they'd come up with, "It's a small tall woman who needs a tall man." Is it any wonder I think they're brilliant?

In deference to the artist's Jewish roots (and our love for it), we had to have the chicken liver mousse with fennel jam (that jam a masterpiece on its own) and on the side, roasted brussels sprouts with chili flakes. Both were killer and twice a server tried to remove the dishes when a bite remained on each and we united to send her on her way.

It's interesting, I've known these two friends for five or six years, but our contact is always limited to events. Once the artist and I got a drink before a show at her studio, but even that was no more than 20 minutes. Tonight was our longest conversation ever.

And so wide-ranging! Current events, work/life balance, women's choices and, of course, past loves.

The artist told us a wryly funny story about meeting a German lumberjack/carpenter at an artists' retreat. Since she was on her way to Berlin and he was headed home afterwards, he invited her to his house in, naturally, a national park.

With all the romantic expectations of relative youth, she went. They made a lovely meal and talked and then her showed her the minimalist bed where she would sleep. Alone.

"It had a wooden pillow," she lamented. Needless to say, not a thing happened and not because she hadn't been open to it.

You can take the man out of the woods and all that.

Dessert was rum cake with chestnut semifreddo, almond crunch and caramel sauce, a choice made by my friends while I was in the loo, and while I'd have gravitated to the chocolate, that semifreddo was everything a dessert should be in terms of flavor profiles and textural contrasts.

Just as we were finishing up, the smiling scooter queen was at my side saying hello. She'd spotted me across the crowded dining room and waited until we finished eating to stop by. Her man was working the post-hardcore show at the National and she was out with a girlfriend, helping her flirt.

I should think I'd be excellent at helping a friend with that.

Both she and the musician had wanted to know where I was headed next, because they presumed I'd have later plans. As it happened, I did.

The week before Christmas, a stranger had contacted me about some purloined flower bulbs that had shown up on his stoop. Rather than just taking them, he'd tracked me down and returned them to me so I could plant them in my garden.

That was when I'd learned he was a drummer and about some of the bands he played in. Tonight one of those bands, NrG Krysys was playing at Lulu's.

I lucked into a great parking space and made my way along treacherously icy sidewalks to Lulu's, where the guy taking my money at the door warned me that two of the band members were out sick.

When my bulb savior spotted me on the far bar stool and came over to chat, he told me the same, promising it would be entertaining at the very least.

It was that and so much more. The band clearly has a dedicated following who kept pouring in from the frigid cold to grab a drink, dance and watch the band.

Since it was my first time, I've got no idea who was missing because they had two guitarists, a bassist, drummer and keyboard player tonight. I think everybody but the drummer sang, always a plus.

"Hi, we're NrG Krysys Crisis. Two of our members are sick, but it's going to be all right," one of the guitarists said. I liked his can-do attitude.

By the second song, people were up and dancing uninhibitedly. Every time my server walked through the room, she did a little dance along the way to participate.

I had to applaud the band's song choices when I heard killer songs like Sly and the Family Stones' "Family Affair" or the barely-familiar after so long Kool and the Gang's "Hollywood Swinging."

During James Brown's "Hot Pants," the guitarist said in his most seductive voice, "Ladies, we like hot pants for one reason: what you see is what you get." Very nice, a double reference there.

War's classic "All Day" brought out the harmonies and the harmonica, not to mention a longing for the beach, picnics and rolling in the grass mentioned in the song. I bet it's been decades since I last heard that one.

After much instrument switching, they played T Rex's "Bang a Gong," which resulted in a packed dance floor. The song was so raucous that a wine glass danced off the back bar and threw itself to the floor. Luckily, neither bartender was back there at the time. Still, it was very rock and roll.

Oddly enough, it was a '70s song about cheating (Ace's "How Long") that finally got couples slow-dancing and groping. Go figure.

After that, the band began calling for Lulu's owner Paul to join them ("Don't pretend you can't hear me calling your name") and he did, his black turtleneck in sharp contrast to the band's wildly flowered shirts. Taking on the bass, he played "Working in a Coal Mine" with another guest vocalist who'd been standing at the end of the bar.

It wasn't even a one-time shot because Paul stayed up there and sang the Drifters' "Sweets for My Sweet" to close out the set.

There's a distinct pleasure in watching a restaurant owner showing off another skill set. He looked pretty natural at it from where I sat. As did the drummer, obviously as in his element behind the kit as I'd seen him in his garden.

Sort of like me at an estrogen festival or watching a band. What you see is what you get.

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