Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Time to Give It Up

Pancakes. It really is all about the pancakes. Okay, and the horns.

Yes, it's Shrove Tuesday and sure, that means Lent begins tomorrow but as a card-carrying heathen with no stake in any of that, all I really care about is having pancakes for dinner the night before Ash Wednesday.

Despite the cold, my plan was to walk over to 821 Cafe for a plate of Fat Tuesday flapjacks, some slathered in butter and syrup and some drowning in butter and strawberry jam. As you may have determined, with me and pancakes it's all about the butter.

I mean, it's not like I'm going to actually fast for Lent so I'll be having just as much butter for the next 40 days as the last, but I like to think it's the thought that counts.

Although 821 wasn't nearly as mobbed as I'd anticipated (although apparently this afternoon it had been a certifiable zoo), the majority of the tables were occupied. I went straight to the counter for a stool next to a young couple.

Waiting for my order to come out and reading a magazine, it suddenly occurred to me that the music was all wrong for 821. For some reason, the dulcet tones of Patsy Cline replaced the usual thrash. It was so odd I asked the bartender for the scoop.

Apparently the breakfast crew likes classic country and while he stipulated that he had very little overlap with their taste, this was the one record they all liked. "It's so sad," he said, explaining his attraction to it. "Don't worry, we'll be back to something obnoxious right after this."

I was fine with Patsy Cline, even more so when he brought my food, three plate-sized pancakes and an order of bacon. Now we were talking. I ate the first half with syrup and the second with jam, a habit I learned from my Dad, but even so, I couldn't manage to eat them all.

Midway through, I saw a familiar face approaching and there was fellow Jackson Ward neighbor and rock star Prabir, coming to inquire what had brought me out tonight. Gesturing at my plate o' pancakes, I reminded him that it was Shrove Tuesday and as a lapsed Catholic, my sacred duty to eat them.

"What's Shrove?" he asked, always eager to learn. Penance, sin, absolution, something along those lines.

When I asked why he was there, he said he'd come to eat with an old friend before meeting a new friend later. Since the "old" friend is married, I guessed that the new one was not, resulting in him making an analogy about how uncomplicated wearing my familiar pink scarf was versus putting on a new scarf and it changing who I was. What?

In other words, I feel fairly certain that he was hoping to get lucky with the later date.

I overheard the woman next to me say to her partner (who was busy on his phone) in a robotic and soothing voice, "No, honey, I've been hanging on your every word since our first date." I waited for the punch line or his reaction and none came.

Turning to her, I told her that I didn't even know her but I loved that she was able to say that even semi-convincingly without looking at him, breaking into laughter or expecting a reaction from him. He looked up and assured me it wasn't true. She corrected him and said that it was a shame that she was the only one who believed it.

Ah, the pleasures of stranger conversation.

I took the long way home, strolling through campus and hearing snippets of student chatter ("Hey, Liz, you wanna go bowling with us?"), meaning every other word was "like" and everything sounded like a question ("So we're really comfortable with each other?"). Tomorrow's leaders.

It's funny, but what struck me walking home was that it just wasn't that cold, or at least it didn't feel that cold, despite being in the 20s. After the arctic-like temperatures over the weekend, 28 feels pretty good.

But not good enough to walk another two miles for music, so I warmed up the car to go to the Broadberry for the Mardis Gras Getdown with the Big Payback and Sleepwalkers. "Bring yo' beads!" the event invitation instructed.

I had no beads, but I felt pretty sure I'd be able to score some.

Nevertheless, I showed up, money in hand, to buy admission from the two guys at the door, only to be asked for ID. I rolled my eyes and claimed not to have it, since they could tell I was plenty legal.

"Really, you don't have it?" asked the younger and more timid of the two. Nope, sure don't, I lied.

"No ID, we're just going to have to spank you!" the other guy says and the first guy looks highly uncomfortable. I think he was appalled at the guy's choice of words.

"She's seen Fifty Shades of Gray," he said, grinning at me. Nope, sure haven't. "But you know," he went on. Yes, I know a spanking reference when I hear one. I was given a wristband and allowed to enter.

Inside, beads were being distributed and placed on tables for grabbing. A handful of people had taken tonight's theme to heart when deciding what to wear, so there were colorful feather boas, hats with feathers and metallic dresses.

The one fashion statement I couldn't fathom was one I'd also seen last night at GWAR Bar: jean shorts and tights. I'm aware of this look but when it's below freezing (and last night snowing), I have difficulty understanding the choice.

Waiting for Sleepwalkers to start, I took a seat on the banquette to people watch. I saw very few people I knew despite some of Richmond's well-known jazz musicians being in the band. It could have been as simple as the snow keeping people away.

I call those people weather wimps.

I'd heard one song by Sleepwalkers on the radio and kind of liked it, but I really had no idea what their sound was like. After listening to their set, I still don't.

Their influences were all over the place with songs pulling from the Jackson 5, Led Zeppelin and a lot of '70s radio. What they did have was multiple singers and great energy and enthusiasm for their music. I would guess they also had older siblings who exposed them to their records.

During the break after their set, a couple I knew arrived and we chatted for a while. They'd just come from the VCU game which the team had apparently won handily. That was good news. said the non-sports person.

It seemed to take the Big Payback forever to get set up, but when your repertoire is pulled from the James Brown catalog, I guess everything has to be just so. Nine musicians and a lead singer dressed nattily in a suit took control of tonight's Mardi Gras festivities.

I bet it didn't take more than 30 seconds before the crowd began dancing, unable to resist two drummers, two guitarists and a horn section. The singer had nailed all the JB moves and vocal inflections (fortunately he didn't wear a bad wig mimicking the Godfather of Soul's hideous hair) to do a thoroughly convincing job onstage.

Our only job on the floor was to dance and swing our beads (I had pink and green strands) and frankly, it was harder not to dance than just to go with it. I saw one guy stand like a stone while his partner tore it up in front of him, but he was the exception.

The singer didn't hog all the spotlight, calling out to others for solos - "Come on, Suzy," to the sax player and "Get down, Bobby!" to the trumpet player. He even called local singer Sam Reed up on stage to sing a few songs and no one is going to complain about hearing her powerhouse of a voice.

He also called for some whisky shots for the band because, you know, sometimes that's what the spirit needs. Meanwhile we just kept dancing.

For that matter, we danced away Shrove Tuesday and were still dancing into Ash Wednesday, despite it technically now being Lent.

Oh, well. We probably all deserve a good spanking for that.

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