Saturday, March 5, 2016

As Cloudy As I Wanna Be

Absinthe, it has been too long.

That was corrected at Amuse where I adjourned for dinner with friends I hadn't seen since December, met a deep-voiced Russian and marveled at a middle-aged couple who came in, sat down and proceeded to hold hands, stare into each other's eyes and talk non-stop for two hours.

It was wooing of the highest order and they were completely oblivious to everyone around them.

Meanwhile I wanted to hear about my friends' trip to Fort Lauderdale because they'd hit all the classic beach bars like Coconuts on the Intra-coastal Waterway and Elbo Room, where the classic "Where the Boys Are" was filmed.

I love me a good beach bar.

They wanted to hear about my trip to Sullivan's Island, mainly because he used to be a regular there in his youth because a close friend's family had a vintage cottage. We're talking about the kind of family who would pack up their entire household - including servants, and, yes, he actually said those words - and move to S.C. for three months every summer.

There's a lifestyle I could get used to.

And it wasn't just any old cottage, it was one that had separate servants' quarters that were air-conditioned, so the elderly members of the family had somewhere to stay if they should occasionally decide to come down.

The rest of the time, he and his buddies co-opted the space because it was air-conditioned and their cocaine would clump up in the moist beach humidity of the big house.

You really can't beat '70s stories for sheer shock value...says the woman who's never laid eyes on coke. I am such a lame relic of that era.

Arriving pre-reservation, we took up residence in the mod green chairs at Amuse with a bottle of J. Mourat Collection Rosé and a cheese plate to tide us over while we discussed the local art on the walls and the man who looked like he was straight off of Hawaii 5-0.

We're in the home stretch for the Rodin exhibit, so Amuse was full up with last minute art lovers, but eventually we were seated. At the table next to us was a couple nonchalantly enjoying dinner when my companion looked over and noted, "That's Gary. We used to buy our records from him every Saturday at Willow Lawn."

Not being a native, Gary's record store meant nothing to me, although I recognized his date, a well-known modern dancer I've seen perform several times. When they got up to leave, we chatted with them, sharing our familiarity like old friends.

Over bouillabaisse with scallops, mussels and salmon, mussels with Surry ham, curry fried oysters and fries, we talked about their recent visit to Tay Ho Vietnamese Restaurant, the possible mayoral candidates (all of us would vote for Jon Baliles) and the unfortunate state of Cafe Diem's bathrooms.

"They were like Buckroe Beach in the '60s," my friend observed, cracking us up with references to bad turquoise.

Our late reservation meant that by the time we finished eating, three quarters of the room had cleared and, technically, Amuse was closed. Fortunately, the staff was understanding and when our server came to see what else we needed, didn't blink an eye when two of us asked for absinthe drips.

Even better, he brought the absinthe fountain over to the table so that we could control our own drips through the sugar cubes, making them as cloudy as we liked while the friend who abstained from the Green Fairy indulged in a classic Manhattan.

It was then, during the sipping portion of the evening, that one friend hilariously shared how in his youth, he'd pretended his last name was Finkelstein so that Jewish fathers would allow their daughters to date him. He justified it because his mother's maiden name had been Fink.

Between the absinthe and the story, we thought he was hilarious.

Eventually, though, all good museums must close and even devoted customers leave, so we adjourned to the sculpture garden first and then to hear music.

I'd run into a friend at Amuse who'd asked if I was going to Balliceaux tonight for the Girls Rock benefit with multiple DJs playing 45s, but my friend offered to show off his enormous new-to-him speakers and vintage 45 collection so I took him up on it.

Appropriately since it had been months since we'd heard music together, he began by pouring Rosé and playing several most excellent Bowie 45s: "Underground" from "Labyrinth," "Blue Jeans," "Ashes to Ashes," "Cat People" and, from a film I'd never heard of, "Absolute Beginners," each sounding more spectacular than the last on kick-ass speakers that came up to my waist.

Things took a cheesy turn when he pulled out Starship's "We Built This City, " but he assured us from teh next room that he could top that, and did with "Against All Odds," hyper-corny with a bare-chested Jeff Bridges on the front.

It was only in playing a Jeff Lynne-produced George Harrison 45 that he was able to redeem himself at all.

Explaining that waking up on a day like today made him want to play the Bangles' cover of "Hazy Shade of Winter," he did, justifying the 45 by saying it was the only way he could get the song without buying the soundtrack to a terrible movie.

We left 45s behind only when the estate sale queen pulled out her latest 50-cent find, the original Broadway cast recording of "Hair," skips and all, with its oh-so groovy 1968 song descriptions, as in, "Easy to Be Hard, a pop lament" or my long-time favorite, "Good Morning, Starshine," summed up as "twinkles, shines and glows...join in, flower children."

Oh, some of us joined in, alright, while he who abstained rolled his eyes at the nonsense lyrics of flower children.

Gliddy glup gloopy, nibby nabby noopy la la la lo lo
Sabba sibby sabba, nooby abba dabba
Tooby ooby walla, nooby abba dabba
Early morning singing song

And by early morning, we're talking e-a-r-l-y morning. Green fairy early.

Like sunrise at Buckroe Beach in the '60s, with none of the guilt of youth early.

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